Bye, Bye Boring… Hello Blackbird! Euphorbia Euphoria in Pots

June 24th, 2012 § 4

Euphorbia hybrid ‘Blackbird’: Here on the Studio Balcony in an Oxblood Pot with Senecio mandraliscae and Sedum ‘Sunset Cloud’

Oh my, would you look at this smoldering, velvety loveliness! What a dark, gorgeous beauty! From the moment I saw this stunning spurge, my heart went a flutter and all I could think was, “Bye, bye boring container… Hello beautiful Blackbird”. I think I have found true Euphorbia euphoria! While out shopping for my client’s containers, I couldn’t help but notice that there are some gorgeous, marginally-hardy spurge hybrids moving into garden centers in my neck of the woods. And among them, so far ‘Blackbird’ is my absolute favorite.  I always fall hard and fast for the dark ones!

If you are lucky enough to live in zone 6 or a warmer locale, this beautiful Euphorbia hybrid will be easy to overwinter in beds and borders. But here in zone 4/5, I will be enjoying ‘Blackbird’ and her sexy friends —colorful Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’ and succulent Senecio mandraliscae— sunning on the deck. Given good drainage and full or mostly sunny locations, spurge are easy plants to please. Stunning in springtime with their contrasting lime-green to chartreuse-gold blossoms, the Euphorbia have long been among my perennial garden favorites. But why limit yourself to terra firma and zone appropriate choices? Wild combinations and experimentation on your mind? Well, that’s what containers are for! Summer love with no commitments! And what seasonal fun I am having up on my Secret Garden’s roof!

Euphorbia hybrid ‘Blackbird’ is hardy in zones 6-10, requires excellent drainage, ample sun and a lover of bold color. At maturity, she forms a lovely 18-24″ mound, so give her plenty of room and situate her near some colorful companions. Imagine the shimmering gold, copper and ice-blue possibilities! Kaleidoscopic, eye-popping candy for the container garden!

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photographs, articles and content on this site, (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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Return of the Black Dragon…

May 21st, 2012 § 2

Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Wu Long Peng Sheng’  (Tree Peony, “Black Dragon Holds a Splendid Flower”)

The Black Dragon has returned to my garden, and this year he was generous, holding many splendid flowers. I have but a few tree peonies in my garden, and I hope to continue adding to the collection. The tree peonies bloom a couple of weeks earlier than the herbaceous peonies in my garden, and the Black Dragon is always the first to arrive.

Saturated with morning dew, the heavy, delicious fragrance of this peony fills the air with a rose-like scent. Peony blossoms are one of this gardener’s greatest pleasures. But the tree peony season is short; each flower to be savored for a few precious days. And with rain in tonight’s forecast, the petals will soon scatter to the ground. I wonder… Will the Black Dragon mind if I snip just a few of his splendid flowers, to place atop my desk?

Read more about Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Wu Long Peng Sheng’ in my previous profile post, by clicking here.

This year, The Black Dragon was Generous, and Holds Many Splendid Flowers (P. suffruticosa ‘Wu Long Peng Sheng’)

Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Wu Long Peng Sheng’  (Tree Peony, “Black Dragon Holds a Splendid Flower”)

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photos, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions) are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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Black Dragon Holds a Splendid Flower …

June 8th, 2011 § 7

Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Wu Long Peng Sheng’: Black Dragon Holds a Splendid Flower

Wu Long Peng Sheng. Translated from Chinese, the name means, ‘Black Dragon Holds a Splendid Flower’. I haven’t seen the black dragon, but I keep looking. Maybe he’s hiding in the fern covered ledges; waiting to pounce if I pick this beautiful, magenta blossom? I wouldn’t blame him for being upset. His flower is, without a doubt, the most splendid in the early June garden. So if I’m found later this week —smoldering near the Japanese maple— you’ll know why. I couldn’t resist. The fragrance is incredible…

P. suffruticosa ‘Wu Long Peng Sheng’ blossoms late May through early June

Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Wu Long Peng Sheng’ is a glorious tree peony from China. Hardy in USDA zones 4-8, it will grow 5-6 feet tall and slightly less wide over as many years. Tree peonies bloom about a week before most herbaceous peonies, but I have a bit of overlap in my garden with many of the early blooming, P. lactiflora cultivars. Tree peonies are among the longest-lived garden plants, and have been cultivated in China and Japan for centuries. Unlike their herbaceous relations (Paeonia lactiflora), tree peonies will tolerate a bit of light shade. In fact, they perform best and their delightfully fragrant blossoms last longer, with protection from hot afternoon sun. Be sure to prepare the soil well, with plenty of compost, and site all tree peonies in moist, but well-drained locations. Pruning of winter damaged wood should take place in very early spring, and pruning for shape should happen immediately after the blossoms have faded. P. suffruticosa ‘Wu Long Peng Sheng’ makes and excellent cut flower, and when I look closely —deep inside the petals— I can almost see the Black Dragon’s fire…

Fiery Heart of the Black Dragon’s Flower

Words & Photographs ⓒ Michaela Medina – The Gardener’s Eden. All photographs, articles and content on this site, (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reposted, reproduced or reused in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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Springtime’s Shimmering Silverbells: Halesia tetraptera in Full Bloom…

May 28th, 2011 § 2

Carolina Silverbell (Halesia tetraptera)

Carolina Silverbell Blossoms Attract Bumble Bees and Hummingbirds

Looking up from the Terrace Dining Table, Into Thousands of Tiny White Bells

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Halesia tetraptera

When it comes to the springtime show in my garden, Carolina Silverbell really knows how to steal the stage. Smothered in tiny white chimes —which, although they do not ring, are filled with buzzing bumble bees and whirring, chirping hummingbirds— the two Halesia tetraptera on either side of my studio door begin to bloom in mid-May and peak around Memorial Day. As the blossoms open fully —cascading from a dream-like canopy and falling to the table and stone terrace below— stepping through the tunnel of white bells feels a bit like a dream.

North American native Carolina Silverbell is a gorgeous tree for all seasons. With it’s glorious spring flowers, handsome green foliage, colorful, patterned bark, golden autumn color and curious orange drupes; this is a great landscape sized tree. Read more about Halesia tetraptera and her cultural requirments in my previous post, by clicking here.

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A Warm Welcome to Spring: Blossoming Beauty at the Smith College Bulb Show…

March 20th, 2011 § 2

Tulipa ‘Blue Spectacle’

Narcissus, tulips, hyacinth, freesia, iris and clivia; from the brash and bold to the delicate and ethereal, all of spring’s finest ladies were on display this week at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. The Bulb Show at Smith College’s Lyman Conservatory —where thousands of bulbs are carefully arranged and artfully displayed with flowering trees, shrubs and exotic plants— is an annual rite of spring for this gardener. Never one for crowds, I notice that somehow I always convince myself to brave the sea of curious characters, enthusiastic gardeners and focused shutterbugs in order to take in this annual floral exhibit. The Vernal Equinox marks the beginning of spring today —March 20th at 7:21 pm ET (23:21 UT)— and in honor of her arrival, I thought it fitting to share some highlights from The Bulb Show at Smith College. Enjoy… Soon the bulbs will be in full bloom outdoors and I can hardly wait!

Welcome Sweet Springtime. We Greet You with Open Arms and Unfolding Petals!

Delicate Charm: Narcissus ‘Hawera’ (one of my favorite garden bulbs)

Wild Color: Red Hot Tulips and Violet-Colored Anemone

Exotic Beauty: Veltheimia bracteata (South African Forest Lily, Sandui)

A Stunning Combination: Iris ‘Blue Magic’, paired with Tulipa ‘Jackpot’ (must remember to try this one)

Always Elegant: Clivia miniata ‘Grandiflora’

A Rhapsody in Blue: Hyacinth, Muscari, Anemone, Ipheon and Tulipa

Color-Saturated Flamboyance: Tulipa ‘Sensual Touch’ (I love growing the more outrageous tulips, particularly the parrots, for cutting)

Dark Drama: Tulipa ‘Queen of the Night’ (one of my all-time favorites)

Exquisite Edging: Tulipa ‘Lucky Strike’ in a sea of pink, rose and purple

Delicate and Lacy: Tulipa ‘Cool Crystal’ (so girlish)

Thank you to the faculty and staff of Smith College for such a beautiful and inspirational show.

Wishing You All a Very Beautiful Spring!

xo Michaela

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If They Were Flowers: Ode to the Oscars Presenting The Gardener’s Eden’s Second Annual Academy Award Horticouture Fashion Review…

February 28th, 2011 § 14

Dress by Aechmea tillandsioides (Bromeliaceae)

As Worn by Radiant, New Mother Penelope Cruz (Gucci) with Javier Bardem. Photo: Matt Sayles/AP via Yahoo

Last year, at the time of the Academy Awards, I was conservatory-sitting for out-of-town friends. The day after the show, while tending to the exotic beauties contained within the tiny greenhouse, all I could think about was how much they resembled the designer frocks I’d seen the night before. Like a crazed paparazza, I dashed from aisle to aisle, snapping photos of the tropical starlets in my care. I documented my red carpet observations in the post ” Ode to the Oscars: If They Were Flowers…” (click here to revisit the photos & essay from last year’s Oscars).

The dazzling display of gorgeous gowns at last night’s 83 Annual Academy Award show —red carpet blossoming with a parade of flamboyant hot-house flowers and sparkling ice-queens— inspired yet another evening of horticouture dreams. Sensational as the Oscar gowns were in silk, tulle, sequins and satin, imagine —if you will— what if they were flowers?

Dress by Camellia japonica

As Worn by Hostess Anne Hathaway (Valentino). Image: John Shearer/Getty via Yahoo

Dress by Iris

As Worn by Elegant Amy Adams (L’Wren Scott). Image: John Shearer/Getty via Yahoo

Dress by Abutilon hybridum

As Worn by Stunning Jennifer Hudson (Versace). Image: Jason Merrit/Getty via Yahoo

Dress by Phalenopsis

As Worn by Sultry Scarlett Johansson (Dolce & Gabanna). Image: Matt Sayles/AP via Yahoo

Icy Tulle Dress by Jack Frost & Rudbeckia Hirta

As Worn by Sparkling Halle Berry (Marchesa). Image: John Shearer/Getty via Yahoo

Dress by Paeonia lactiflora ‘Raspberry Sundae’

As Worn by the Sweet Hailee Steinfeld. Image: Jason Merrit/Getty via Yahoo

Gown by Kalanchoe ‘Mangini’

As Worn by Striking Jennifer Lawrence (Calvin Klein). Image: Steve Granitz/WireImage via Yahoo

Dress by Fothergilla ‘Mt. Airy’

As Worn by Floaty Hillary Swank (Gucci). Image: Jason Merrit/Getty via Yahoo

Dress by Hibiscus

As Worn by Last Year’s Best Actress Award-Winner: Ravishing-in-Red,  Sandra Bullock (Vera Wang). Image: Steve Granitz/WireImage via Yahoo

Dress by Allium schoenoprasum

As Worn by Ethereal Mila Kunis (Eli Saab). Image: Jason Merrit/Getty via Yahoo

Dress by Helleborus x hybridus ‘Royal Heritage Strain’

As Worn by Academy Award Winner for Best Actress, the Lovely, Expectant Natalie Portman (Rodarte). Image: Jason Merrit/Getty via Yahoo

Did you watch the Oscars last night? Which star do you think was best dressed? What flower do you think they resembled?

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Seasonal Prelude: The Scent of Spring…

February 17th, 2011 § 2

Forced Blossoms: The Intoxicating Scent of Narcissus ‘Grand Soleil d’Or’

Remember the fragrance of spring; warm air carrying the sweet perfume of new blossoms on the breeze? Distracted by day dreams of earth-scented pathways; chilly melt-water gurgling up from stone?  Finding yourself stalking the swollen buds of witch hazel, viburnum, azalea and other fragrant, flowering shrubs? Take heart, friends… She’s coming. The garden’s tender love letters are waiting for her; ready to burst open and unfold their sweet adoration… All for Spring.

Narcissus ‘Grand Soleil d’Or’ is one of the most exquisite scents of springtime. The sweet perfume of the blossoms fills my studio entryway with fresh fragrance…

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For a tutorial on how to force Narcissus (as shown in photos above), click here.

For a tutorial on how to force spring-blooming tree and shrub branches, click here.

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What’s Love Got to Do With It ? Confessions of Lust, Longing & Orchid Obsession…

February 14th, 2011 Comments Off

It Always Starts so Innocently… Water Droplets on a Pure White Phalenopsis

When I say ‘Valentine’s Day’, do you think red, long stemmed roses? Many people do. After all, roses certainly are lovely and romantic. But sexy? When I think about Valentine’s Day —and that naughty, naked, imp Cupid: flitting about and firing off poison darts laced with love potion number nine— I think about lust, longing, and mind-melting passion. And roses? Well, they seem just a little bit too buttoned-up for all that.

Now the orchid —there is a sexy flower! Exotic, fashionable and elusive; if orchids could speak, they would whisper blush-inducing phrases in breathy, foreign accents. Suggestive looking? Oh yes. And to the insatiable orchidophile, this seductive flower is a much more accurate symbol of passion and desire than a prim-and-proper rose…

Paphiopedilum orchilla ‘Chilton’ at Lyman Conservatory

Phalenopsis Beside the Bath

Paphiopedilum primulinum at Lyman Conservatory

My long-standing love affair with orchids began rather innocently —sparked some years ago, by a pure-white Phalenopsis— and slowly, it has morphed into something I can only describe as obsession. The barely-restrained desire I feel for these plants is most evident on visits to the local conservatory, where —instead of relaxing and enjoying the warm, tropical environment— I find myself breaking out in a cold sweat; mentally-mortgaging my home in mad pursuit of the ultimate orchid house. From the common, easy-to-grow Cymbidiums, Oncidiums, Phalenopsis and Paphiopedilums, to the luminous-violet, musky-scented Bollea coelestis and the fiercely-fantastic Draculas: I love them all.

A Lusty-Looking Cymbidium (C. ‘Tiny Tiger’ ) at Lyman Conservatory

Orchids have a reputation for being difficult to grow. And while it’s true that some of them are indeed, quite challenging —even for experts— the degree of difficulty varies by species. Choose your love wisely, and you won’t be disappointed! Phaelenopsis are not only inexpensive as orchids go, but they are among the easiest to care for and grow —there’s a reason you find them at Home Depot— and they also offer some of the most seductive, beautifully colored flowers. Phalenopsis are tolerant of low-light conditions, which makes them a good choice for those of us living up north. This Asian tropical does like moist air, so place her on a bathroom vanity or in a steamy, humidifier-enhanced boudoir and watch her glow. The roots of this plant should be kept moist, but never soggy —bark mixtures are a good growing medium— and a liquid fertilizer (one intended for orchids and other ephiphytes is best) applied weekly will result in enhanced vigor, and healthy growth. Cool fall temperatures trigger Phalenopsis’ bloom (50 F or so), and recreating these conditions will increase the likelihood of repeat flowering.

Of course, not everyone loves epiphytes the way I do, but they certainly are sexy. So, if you are looking to inspire a bit of passion in your Valentine, consider a trip to the orchid room of your local conservatory later today. Or better yet, why not wrap up an exotic Paphiopedilum or Phalenopsis, and send a message that’s just a bit more racy than a rose-is-a-rose-is-a-rose….

Happy Valentine’s Day xo Michaela

Now Here’s a Come-Hither Glance, If I Ever Saw One!

And for the true Orchidophile, consider giving the one and only ‘little black book’: William Cullina’s Understanding Orchids

Article and photos are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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A Warm Wash of Fragrance: Dreaming Of Lilies and Sultry Summer Evenings…

February 5th, 2011 § 6

Dreaming of Warm Summer Nights and a Garden Filled with Softly Blushing Lilies…

Asiatic, Oriental, Trumpet, Species or Hybrid: I’ve yet to meet a lily without falling in love. And while my weekend may be filled with practical matters —shoveling, clearing hoop-houses of snow, cleaning grow lights and sorting seed packets— there’s sure to be a certain amount of summer fantasy slipping in…

Soaking in Summer Fantasies…

Yes, I confess. Dozens of summer-blooming bulb catalogs drape the rim of my claw-foot tub, where —surrounded by bubbles and steam— I find myself lost for hours; conjuring sultry August evenings and heavy-scented-air, filled with the fragrance of Black Beauties, Brasilias, Casa Blancas and Salmon Stars. Oh, those deliciously intoxicating Oriental lilies… Could there be a more glamorous summer flower? I’ve found great prices on lilies (and other summer flowering bulbs & tubers, like Dahlias) at Dutch Gardens and a fantastic selection at Brent & Becky’s Bulbs online, and I will be ordering them early to get a jump on the crowd! For me, this will be a year of mass perennial and bulb planting. And I plan on adding great waves of lilies —both for cutting and enjoying in the garden— this year.

The Colors of a Summer Sunset (Lilium ‘Pretty in Pink’)

Cultural Notes for Lilies

When planning your springtime lily plantings, keep in mind that these perennial bulbs prefer to be planted deeply –in rich, well-drained soil. Most lilies require full sun, but like their roots cool. Companion planting with other lush, leafy perennials —and mulching with clean, fresh organic material— helps to shield roots from the heat of the sun’s mid-day rays. Lilies are fantastic flowers for attracting pollinators like hummingbirds, butterflies and bees. However, lily leaf beetles (bright red nemesis of this gorgeous plant, and other flowers) can be a problem in some areas (emerging in March-June from debris surrounding lily plantings). I treat lily leaf beetle infestations organically with neem (targeted to lily foliage every 5-7 days when new growth and beetle larvae both emerge in spring).

Article and photos are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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Fashionably Late & Dressed in Maroon: Sweetly-Scented, Autumn Fairy Candles Light Up the Shadowy, Secret Garden…

September 16th, 2010 § 6

Actaea simplex/Cimicifuga simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty {also known variously as Fairy Candles, Black Snake Root & Black Cohosh}

Actaea simlex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’, here in the Secret Garden with Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’, Lamium maculatum, Helleborus x hybridus ‘Royal Heritage Strain’, Paeonia mouton x lutea ‘High Noon’, Stewartia pseudocamilla, and a background of bronzing Matteuccia pensylvanica {native Ostrich fern}

True, there are those who say it’s rude to be tardy, but it seems to me that the more interesting characters always arrive a wee-bit late to the party. Of course, they are always gorgeous, a bit mysterious, and often wearing something dark and dramatic. Well, such is the case with Actaea simplex {aka Cimicifuga simplex} ‘Hillside Black Beauty’, in my Secret Garden. Clad in exquisitely-cut, deep, velvet-maroon, the Fairy Candles —as I like to call them— saunter into bloom in September; wearing their lilac-tinted, flower plumes the way an old-fashioned bombshell might drape her shoulders with an exotic, perfumed boa. Filling the cool, misty air of the Secret Garden with the most delightfully intoxicating scent, {noticed and adored by hungry bees and other early autumn pollinators} Actaea simplex arrives late on the garden-scene with the kind of laid-back elegance of which modern Hollywood starlets can only dream…

Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ in the Secret Garden {see companion plant listing above}

Known by various intriguing aliases —including Black Snake Root, Black Cohosh and (my favorite) Fairy Candles— Actaea simplex was formerly categorized in taxonomic circles as Cimicifuga simplex (sim-e- sih-few-gah sim-plex); a delightful tongue-twister that, once mastered, I actually came to adore (In fact, I still refer to her by the original botanical name – the Latin just seems to capture her… Je ne sais quoi). Native to the moist, cool woodlands of eastern North America, this statuesque beauty will easily reach 4-6′ tall — spikes in full bloom— when she’s given the conditions she prefers. Hardy in USDA zones 4-8, Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’, and the similarly beautiful ‘Brunette’, require a consistently moist and amply shaded location to really strut their stuff. Too much sun will bleach and burn-out her gorgeous foliage , and dry soil will quickly do her in.

It’s a shame the fragrance of Actaea simplex’s blossoms can not be transmitted electronically. I wish you could sample the delicious scent…

A classy beauty like this demands fine company. And with her year-round, velvety, maroon attire, chartreuse and gold foliage make gorgeous music with her in the low-light. I like to combine the dark foliage of  A. simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ and ‘Brunette’ with low, spreading, golden Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’ or ‘Aureola’), mound-shaped Hosta ‘August Moon’, and for serious drama, I play her against my favorite chartreuse -stunner, Sambucus racemosa ‘Sutherland Gold’ (European elder). Yes, Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ is a true garden bombshell – but of the dark variety, not the blonde— like Hedy Lamarr. She’s sultry, she’s elegant, and she really knows how to bring down the house in style….

Inspiration: Hedy Lamarr {image: still from ‘The Strange Woman’ United Artists 1946 (public domain)- via improbable research}

Hedy Lamarr {Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1938 – image via zimbio.com}

Hedy Lamarr {image via zimbio.com}

Hedy Lamarr was an Austrian-born actress popular in films of the 1930s and 40s. Read more about Hedy Lamarr on her IMDB page by clicking here.

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Article and photos (excepting portraits of Hedy Lamarr) are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Star of Secret Gardens & Shady Dells, Kirengeshoma Palmata: Late Summer’s Graceful, Golden-Yellow Waxbells…

August 17th, 2010 § 2

Kirengeshoma palmata (Yellow waxbells) in the Walled Gardens at Ferncliff

As the last wisps of fog melted in morning’s brilliant sunlight, I slipped outside through the Secret Garden, eager to gather my tools and begin the day. But there, rising from the damp shadowy walls, stood graceful Kirengeshoma palmata in a sunny spotlight; swollen-yellow buds sparkling with diamond-dew. Oh – deliriously-beautiful distraction! I simply had to stop and enjoy the moment of pure poetry…

Kirengeshoma palmata – Yellow waxbells drenched in morning sunlight…

Like most fashionably-late starlets, this beauty has perfect timing. Exotic, delicate, ethereal; held on slender, arching stems, her blossoms nod above magnificently cut, peridot-green foliage. This is true horticultural haute couture at its best. Who could have come up with such an exquisite gown; such a perfect ensemble? Valentino? Yves Saint Laurent? And where did this beauty come from? Oh, but of course —her name gives her away—  she must be… Japanese!  Kirengeshoma palmata: elegant and subtle, but show-stoppingly gorgeous, yellow waxbells; dancing in the Secret Garden like a kimono-clad geisha…

Kirengeshoma palmata – Yellow waxbell blossoms, opening in the morning dew at Ferncliff

Yellow waxbells, as Kirengeshoma palmata is commonly known, are hardy in USDA zones 4/5 to 8. This unusual, August-blooming perennial prefers partial to mostly-shady locations and rich, slightly acidic, moist (but never boggy) woodland soil. Once established, Kirengeshoma palmata will form mounding 2 1/2′ tall clumps, perhaps reaching 3-4′ wide at maturity. Here in Vermont, Kirengeshoma’s waxy, yellow bells appear in mid August and her blossoms extend through early fall, when most other perennials are wilting and withering away. She combines well with other late-season beauties; including Hydrangea quercifolia, H. paniculata, Hakonechloa macra, Tricyrtis formosana, Ucinia egmontiana, Cimicifuga racemosa ‘Brunette’, Rodgersia aesculifolia, as well as ferns and many other perennials, shrubs and trees…

Kirengeshoma palmata (Yellow wax bells) from Heronswood Nursery

Although this lesser-known plant can be hard to find, I located it online at Heronswood Nurseries. Click on the photo-link above —image from Heronswood— for more information or to order this plant (The Gardener’s Eden is not an affiliate of Heronswood Nursery, however, I am a indeed a happy, long-standing customer). Inspired by the gem-like beauty of Kirengeshoma palmata? Whenever I look at her, I can’t help but think of Keira Knightly in Atonement; floating across the lawn in her impossibly lovely, emerald-green gown. Like Keira draped in verdant silk, this ethereal garden beauty whispers and enchants, lingering at the edge of summer like the dreamy, sparkling starlight of August memories…

Keira Knightly wears a bias-cut gown by Jacqueline Durran in the film,  Atonement

Like a flower in the night garden – just look at the moonlight on Keira’s beautiful gown…

All movie-stills are from the film Atonement, produced by Working Title Films and distributed by Universal Pictures

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All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Time Standing Still: The Immortal Beauty of Duchesse de Nemours and the Pleasure of Peonies in June…

June 14th, 2010 § 2

Creamy white Paeonia lactiflora ‘Duchesse de Nemours’ picks up some blush from pink-tinged ‘Mother’s Choice’ and an unidentified rose-red cultivar. Vase by Aletha Soulé.

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Duchesse de Nemours’ © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Oh, Victorie Augusta Antonia de Saxe-Coburg-Gotha -better known as the Duchesse de Nemours- you must have been an extraordinary woman to have such a deliciously fragrant, beautiful blossom named for you. Was your skin the color of luminous cream… Was it smooth and silky to the touch? Were you quietly seductive; luring your admirers from all corners of the room with your languorous beauty and intoxicating perfume? You must have been dangerously voluptuous; teetering right on the edge of outright sexiness, but far too elegant to ever step across the line in society. Of course you were well-mannered and Victorian, with an air of mystery and a hint of sadness. Then, suddenly, your life was cut tragically short when you died at the age of 35, shortly after the birth of your fourth child; a daughter named Blanche. The Duke, it is noted, was dazed and lost without you; left to grieve with four small children – one just a tiny babe. And after your cruel and untimely departure, your childhood friend, Queen Victoria, spiraled into a deep, dark melancholy. Soon, as the sad news quickly swept across the sea, the people of France joined England in mourning your loss. More than just a figurehead, you were deeply loved, and greatly missed. And in time, the French named a gorgeous, fragrant blossom in your honor: Paeonia lactiflora ‘Duchesse de Nemours’, a luminous, creamy-white, sweetly perfumed peony. Your namesake flower was well chosen, for garden peonies are one of the longest lived perennials. And in spite of your sad misfortune, the memory of your spirit lives on when, each spring, your flower blossoms in gardens throughout the world; conjuring your great beauty and rekindling the passion you inspired…

This is a portrait of Victorie, Duchesse de Nemours, with her friend, Queen Victoria in the foreground – Franz Xzver Winterhalter – 1852

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Duchesse de Nemours’ © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Image via Walker Art Gallery, National Museum of Liverpool

“Here lies Victoria Augusta Antonia de Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Duchesse of Nemours, by whose death one more sorrow was added to so many doleful burials of the House of Orleans. She was of excellent soul, brilliance and great beauty, equally admirable both in fortune and of kindly and humble heart, devoted to her God, and a most loving wife and mother, lamented by her relatives and all notable people. She died suddenly at Claremont in Britain, an untimely death, on 10 November 1857 at the age of 35. May she rest in peace.” - From the inscription on the tomb of Duchesse de Nemours

As you can see, I am obsessed with the Duchesse. The peony is my favorite flower… But you will almost never observe it blooming in my garden. Why? Because I am greedy. Well, OK – most of the time, I am a generous person – but not when it comes to my peonies. I am greedy about peonies. I won’t even share them with the rest of my garden. The blossoms never stay outdoors long enough to open. Impatient by nature, I always cut the buds and bring them inside just as soon as they begin to swell and unfurl. I don’t mean to be selfish. Really I don’t. It’s just that the peony season is so short, and the entire experience can be wiped out with one heavy rain. A thunderous downpour, which almost always happens at the peak of peony season in June, will easily snap the delicate neck of an open flower. Double peonies are so fragile, that in fact even the slightest shower will cause their voluptuous, top-heavy blossoms to droop down into the mud. Well, I can’t have that. Not a chance. So the ‘Duchesse’ -as well as the pink bombshell ‘Sarah Bernhardt’, and that fiery, rose-flecked swan ‘Festiva Maxima’, among my many favorite peonies- is quickly whisked indoors where she can linger, mingling with the other blooms and extending my pleasure for weeks.  I like having them all around me; lounging beside the sofa, propped up in the powder room, spilling from stools in the studio; and of course, filling every available space in the boudoir. Why practice restraint? Life is short -as the Duchesse always reminds me- and no matter how much we might like to, we can never truly make time stand still. But we can learn to drag it out a little, can’t we? Of course we can…

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Raspberry Sundae’ © 2010 Michaela at TGE

When cut in early morning, just as the petals begin to curl open, each peony can last more than a week in a vase. I also like to tuck a few buds and blossoms in my refrigerator, pulling them out slowly for arrangements as others fade. By planting peonies with staggered bloom times, it’s possible to enjoy picking them, at least in cooler climates like mine, from late May straight on into the first few days of July. The tree peonies are first to flower in my garden, followed by the singles and early doubles; all of course setting the stage for the late arrival of those bodacious beauties, the ultra-feminine, big-bomb-types. Is there a bombshell-type peony named Marilyn? Delores? Sophia? Ava? Well there should be. What are those hybridizers thinking? Plant names can be so boring. Surely they could come up with something better than Big Red? Come on… Call a peony Rita Hayworth, for heaven’s sake. Why not use some imagination…

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Kansas’ © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Mother’s Choice’

So now that I have -once again- revealed my hopeless hortimania, you are probably wondering where this peony-obsessed gardener goes to find the most delicious cultivars? Well online, White Flower Farm always has some beauties, and then there’s peony grower, hybridizer and resource extraordinaire, Klehm’s Song Sparrow Perennial Farm. {Warning: peony collecting is addictive}. Although these perennial garden favorites are available as potted plants throughout the growing year, peonies are really best planted bare-root in fall. Set these long-lived plants in a sunny spot with well prepared, humus-rich garden soil (amended with good compost). Take care never to plant the “eyes” of the peony root too deep (1.5-2″ below the compost, at most). Hardy, reliable bloomers  in zones 3-8, when properly planted and cared for, herbaceous peonies and their woody relatives, the tree peonies, are some of the longest lived garden plants. Once established, they resent division and dislike relocation. But when handled with care, they will adjust to change, although they may refuse to bloom for a season or two following a move. Below are some classic garden favorites – but why stop at a few, when there are oodles more to choose from? I am ordering an entire box of peonies this fall, because I can never get enough of their sweet fragrance in June…

Paeonia Duchesse de Nemours at White Flower Farm Online

Paeonia Raspberry Sundae at White Flower Farm Online

Paeonia ‘Festiva Maxima’ at White Flower Farm Online

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Article and photographs © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

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Ode to the Oscars: If They Were Flowers Botanical Stars Shine on the First Annual ‘Conservatory Awards’ Red Carpet…

March 8th, 2010 § 9

Dress by Agapanthus, ‘Lily of the Nile’ © Michaela TGE

As worn by ethereal Rachel McAdams © Steve Gratnitz/Wireimage via Yahoo.com

The great Bard Shakespeare once wrote that “all the world’s a stage”. Well, the thought certainly crossed my mind today as I worked, surrounded by hundreds of surreal beauties inhabiting a small greenhouse temporarily under my care. Last night’s Academy Awards ceremony was attended by some of the most beautifully dressed women in the world, yet none more spectacular than the least of the lovely ladies I encountered in the conservatory today.

So as the watering wand drifted from delicate bud to flamboyant blossom, my inner paparazzo got the best of me. Snap. Snap. Snap. At each and every turn I spotted a starlet resembling one I remembered from the night before. Look there’s Demi’s dress! Oh my God, that must be Helen Mirren’s silver gown. Aisle after aisle, it was a breathless whirlwind of divas and ingenues; with diamond dewdrops-a-sparkling and heady perfume filling the air. What a rush. Best dressed? Why, I simply can not decide. They are all beauties to my eye. So you be the judge. Who is the winner here? And who did I miss as I spun my star-struck head this way and that?

Dress by Pelargonium filifolium © Michaela TGE

As worn by delicate beauty Zoe Kravitz © Steve Granitz/Wireimage via Yahoo.com

Dress by Fuchsia ‘Angel’s Kiss’ © Michaela TGE

As worn by the stunning Queen Latifa © Steve Granitz/Wireimage via Yahoo.com

Silvery dress by Kalachoe pumila © Michaela TGE

As worn by elegant Helen Mirren © Jason Merritt/ Getty via Yahoo.com

Gorgeous ruffled gown by Begonia panasoffkee © Michaela TGE

As worn by ever fabulous Demi Moore © John Shearer/Getty Images via Yahoo.com

Dress by Impatiens namchabarwensis © Michaela TGE

As worn by alluring Mo’Nique © Kevin Mazur/Wireimage via Yahoo.com

Dress by Amaryllis ‘Ema’s Grans’ © Michaela TGE

As worn by radiant Jane Seymour © Frazer Harrison/Getty via Yahoo.com

Dress by Streptocarpus ‘Black panther’ © Michaela TGE

As worn by the mysterious Kristin Stewart © Steve Grantiz/Wireimage via Yahoo.com

Dress by Phalenopsis, The Moth Orchid © Michaela TGE

As worn by the exquisite Meryl Streep © Jason Merritt/Getty Images via Yahoo.com

Dress by Dahlia ‘Karma Choc’ image via White Flower Farm

As worn by ravishing Penelope Cruz © Frazer Harrison/Getty Images via Yahoo.com

Dress, (detail), by Begonia parviflora © Michaela TGE

As worn by triumphant beauty Sandra Bullock © Jason Merritt/Getty Images via Yahoo.com

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All floral images, (with one noted exception) © Michaela at TGE

All Academy Award photos are copyright as noted, used in accordance with the Fair Use Doctrine

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced in any way without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world an link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Autumn Brilliance Part Two – Plants for Spectacular Fall Color…

October 13th, 2009 § 4

Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Issai’ (Purple Beautyberry)

Could a gardener be diagnosed with OCD if she compulsively checks her ornamental shrubs for changing berry color? Can a collector’s passion for a particularly beautiful cultivar cross the line, where she becomes a stalker of plants? Sometimes I fear I’ve gone too far; slipped off the raft; teetered past the point-of-no-return. But I think you are with me, aren’t you? We can’t help ourselves. The itch simply must be scratched.

I am obsessed with Callicarpa dichotoma, (Purple Beautyberry). Truly, I am. And who wouldn’t be? Her fantastical berries are pure, poetic inspiration; begging to be written into myths and fairy tales. Just look at all that temptingly plump fruit, beckoning the unsuspecting in a glorious shade of shimmering purple. Why I can hear the old witch now… “Come sample the sweet violet berries my pretty.”  *POOF*  Deep sleep for decades. The gullible heroine slowly becomes enmeshed by lacy vines, lost in a trance, awaiting her handsome prince.

For years I have coveted the bright purple fruit of our native American Beautyberry, (Callicarpa americana), but this autumnal prize is hardy only to zone 6. In my desperation, I have killed several plants while attempting to over-winter them here at Ferncliff. Undaunted, I also tried my luck growing Japanese Beautyberry, (Callicarpa japonica), with similar, necrotic results. But last year, just south of here, I was visiting a nursery display-garden when I spotted something that stopped me dead in my tracks. Yellowing leaves, cobalt violet fruits – my heart raced as I rounded the corner and pushed past the browning hydrangea – could it be… ?

Indeed, it was the elusive Callicarpa. Only this time, the shrub I encountered was a hardier member of the family, Purple Beautyberry, (Callicarpa dichotoma). Graceful, arching, elegant in habit, the leaves of the Purple Beautyberry were just turning gold when I met her, highlighting the candy-like quality of her glossy, purple clusters of fruit. There are two excellent C. dichotoma cultivars, ‘Issai’ and ‘Early Amethyst’, both reliably hardy to zone 5. I have been warned to expect a bit of die-back; to be pruned in spring when I fertilize to encourage new growth. I snatched the last ‘Issai’ from my wholesaler’s lot, and placed it carefully in the garden, protected from wind by the American cranberrybush Viburnum, and alongside the blazing fall foliage of fragrant Abelia, (Abelia mosanensis). The color combination is delighting me this October. Will she survive the brutal winter? Only time will tell if Purple Beautyberry is a permanent addition to my garden. But for now, the fantasy is all mine.

So today I will leave you with images of some other bewitching favorites here in my autumn garden. I will elaborate on some of these woody plants over the coming weeks, as I continue to share my favorite design recipes for fall color …

Acer griseum  (Paper bark maple)

The Hay-scented fern, (Dennstaedtia puctilobula), after hard frost

Buddleia davidii, (Orange-Eye Butterfly bush), blooms past the first frost

Abelia mosanensis, (Fragrant abelia), autumn color

Cotinus coggygria, (Smokebush), with a rosy leaf-glow

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’ (Peegee Hydrangea)

Hydrangea paniculata, ‘Limelight’, turns mauve-purple in cool weather

Hydrangea quercifolia, (Oakleaf hydrangea), foliage variation

Hydrangea quercifolia (Oakleaf hydrangea), drying flowers

Oxydendrum arboreum, (Sourwood tree), a coveted autumn red hue

Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Seiryu’, (Blue Green Dragon), begins to color

Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’, all ablaze in backlit orange and scarlet

Vibrant Stewartia pseudocamellia with gilded Rodgersia aesculifolia

Stewartia pseudocamellia, (Japanese stewartia)

Article and Photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden 

All content on this site is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express written permission. Inspired by what you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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