September Charmer: Chelone lyonii’s Late-Blooming Beauty Spans the Seasons

September 2nd, 2013 § Comments Off on September Charmer: Chelone lyonii’s Late-Blooming Beauty Spans the Seasons § permalink

Chelone lyonii 'Hot Lips' with Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight' - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Chelone lyonii ‘Hot Lips’ with Lovely ‘Limelight’ Hydrangea (H. paniculata)

September is a mostly summer month, and yet, there’s something about Labor Day weekend that signals the unofficial start of fall. Well, much as I love autumn, I’m just not ready yet and neither is my garden! Although the beds and borders look a bit blowzier —tidy mounds of springtime green now spilling voluptuous into the walkways— there are still plenty of blossoming beauties to be found in September. One of my favorite transitional blooms? She’s a lipstick-pink-clad, girly-girl known as Chelone lyonii ‘Hot Lips’; one of my favorites for late-summer to early-fall color in the garden.

Turtlehead - Chelone lyonii 'Hot Lips' Blossom - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Chelone lyonii’s Beauty Transcends the Seasons with Gorgeous, Deep Green, Leathery Foliage and Long-Lasting, Vibrant Blooms

Native to the wetlands and moist, shady woodland regions of eastern North America, Chelone lyonii is hardy in USDA zones 3-8. With shiny, deep-green foliage and mid-size stature —2′ high and wide at maturity— this is a great perennial for filling the center of a semi-shade border or for naturalizing in difficult, water-logged sites. A fast-maturing, reliable August-September bloomer, turtlehead is the perfect perennial for impatient gardeners.

Because of her lovely, leathery foliage and late-seaon bloom, Cheloni lyonii combines well with many other perennials, shrubs and ornamental grasses. Try placing her in mixed company as a mid-border plant with Little Lime or Limelight Hydrangea (H. paniculata cvs) in the background and Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra cvs), up front. She also pairs beautifully with silver-tinted foliage and black seedpods of Wild Blue Indigo (Baptisia australis). If your garden has moist soil and gets a bit of morning light, but is partially protected from hot afternoon sun, try Turtlehead in combination with Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis cvs), as a backup and   place a bit of Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis), Foamy Bells (Tiarella species) Coral Bells (Heuchra species & hybrids), at her feet to add some mound shapes and edge the border. Spring-bloomers with season-spanning foliage and other textural plants make great companions for late-season flowers. In my garden, I’ve paired Turtlehead with Fairy Candles (Actaea simplex cvs), Yellow Wax Bells (Kirengeshoma palmata), Rodgersia, Ligularia ‘Britt Marie Crawford’, Bethlehem Sage (Pulmonaria species & hybrids), Barrenwort (Epimedium), Bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ and other cvs) Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium nipponicum)  Ghost Fern (Athyrium  x ‘Ghost’), Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamonea), Sedge (Carex species).

Turtlehead - Chelone lyonii 'Hot Lips' - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com At Maturity, Chelone lyonii ‘Hot Lips’ forms a Compact 2′ x 2′ Clump – Perfect for Mid-Border Placement in Semi Shade Gardens or Naturalized in a Damp, Cool Spot Beneath a High Canopy of Trees

Turtlehead’s snap-dragon like blossoms make great cut-flowers, and as an added bonus, this bubble-gum pink beauty attracts and supports a wide-range of late-season pollinators; including butterflies, bumblebees and hummingbirds. Although it remains upright in my garden, Chelone lyonii may need a bit of staking in some situations. Although largely pest and disease resistant, I did notice a bit of grasshopper damage this year (what is it with those hungry critters this season?). For best performance, mature clumps should be lifted, divided and replanted in replenished soil once every three years. Once established, a seasonal dressing of mature compost and thick mulch are all this pretty, reliable, late-summer knock-out desires to remain content for many years.

Why not invite a pink-lipstick wearing gal to your end-of-summer garden party? She’s cheerful, pretty and mingles well with others. I think she’s great company!

Turtlehead - Chelone lyonii 'Hot Lips' with Bumblebee - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Like Many Late-Blooming, North American Native Perennials, Chelone lyonii Provides Critical Support to Butterflies, Bees and Other Pollinators. On a Late Summer Day, Blossoms are Buzzing with Bumblebees and Hummingbirds

Garden Design & Photography Michaela Medina Harlow – Click Here for Information

Photography & Text ⓒ Michaela Medina Harlow/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, 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. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

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Summertime’s Sweet Carolina Lupine: Basking in Her Graceful, Golden Glow

June 25th, 2013 § Comments Off on Summertime’s Sweet Carolina Lupine: Basking in Her Graceful, Golden Glow § permalink

Carolina Lupine (Thermopsis caroliniana) michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Lovely North American Native, Carolina Lupine (Thermopsis caroliniana, aka Thermompsis villosa) with Goat’s Beard (Aruncus dioicus)

Oh sweet, sweet Carolina… I love how your golden blossoms illuminate the evening garden like the glow of candlelight. And on these early summer days, Carolina Lupine (Thermopsis carolina, also known as Thermopsis villosa), is quite literally covered with butterflies and bumblebees. With beautiful, long-lasting flowers —elegant and sturdy in a vase—beginning in late spring/early summer, upright/durable habit, ornamental, grey-green foliage; what more could you ask for in a perennial plant? Oh, did I mention that this gorgeous, low-maintenance beauty is a native plant? Yes, Carolina Lupine (Thermopsis caroliniana/Thermopsis villosa), is a North American wildflower!

Bumblebee on Carolina Lupine (Thermopsis caroliniana) michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.comBumblebees and Swallowtail Butterflies are Regular Visitors to the Carolina Lupine Blossoms in My Garden

 A favorite flower of butterflies and bees, Thermopsis caroliniana is native to the open meadows and prairies of Tennessee, Virginia and the Carolinas. This 3-4′ tall, 3′ wide perennial dislikes humidity and performs best in gardens at the northern edge of its hardiness range (USDA zones 4-8); particularly those with good air circulation. High temperatures, humidity, still air and overcrowding can lead to fungal diseases and decline (try this organic, homemade remedy if fungus is a problem), so give this beauty room to move in the wind. I find the post-bloom, hairy seed pods interesting to look at, but if they aren’t to your liking, just snip them off. In addition to airflow, Carolina Lupine requires full sun and well drained soil.

Carolina Lupine (Thermopsis caroliniana) and Goat's Beard (Aruncus dioicus) michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Soft, Summer Hues: Thermopsis caroliniana & Aruncus dioicus in the Native Garden

Carolina Lupine’s bright, light yellow blossoms and pretty foliage work well with many garden design compositions. I like to combine this false lupine with ornamental grasses and other native wildflowers; including Goat’s Beard (Aruncus dioicus), Beard’s Tongue (Penstemon digitalis), Gayfeather (Liatris spicata), various Coneflower cultivars (Echincacea purpurea), Meadow Sage (Salvia nemerosa), Queen-of-the-Pairie (Filipendula rubra), and the list goes on. Dark-leafed Ninebark cultivars (Physocarpus opulifolius cvs.), such as ‘Summer Wine’, ‘Diablo’ and ‘Center Glow’ provide a dramatic, maroon contrast to bring out the yellow. If you like a bit more subtlety, try planting Carolina Lupine against a backdrop of deep, blue-green conifers or a weathered fence. Gorgeous!

Garden Design: Michaela Medina Harlow

Photography & Text ⓒ Michaela Medina Harlow/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, 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. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

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Somewhere Over the Ascot Rainbow, Beyond the Sunset Clouds . . .

July 30th, 2012 § 1 comment § permalink

Euphorbia x martinii ‘Ascot Rainbow’ & Sedum telephium ‘Sunset Cloud’ Catch the Morning Light out on My Balcony 

Oh, delicious, dynamic duo! Clearly, you can see that Euphorbia x martinii ‘Ascot Rainbow’ and Sedum telephium ‘Sunset Cloud’ are a match made in heaven. But in the late days of spring, this pairing wasn’t so obvious to me. Many plants take time to develop their full foliage coloration and tantalizing blossoms. Luckily, I have these two beauties planted in pots, out on my balcony. One of the many delightful opportunities provided by mass container plantings is the ability to move plants around and experiment with various design pairings. By keeping some perennials in containers —conveniently decorating the steel balcony outside my studio— I can play around with various combinations throughout the growing season. Come autumn, I will decide on the best pairings and settle my beauties into the garden before the ground freezes. This little game of container-plant-checkers also helps me to create a visual file of color combinations and style possibilities for my garden design clients.

Earlier this summer, you may recall that I featured Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’ in a plant profile post. Although ‘Blackbird’ Euphorbia is truly stunning, she isn’t perennial in my climate, but luckily, her colorful friend Euphorbia x martinii ‘Ascot Rainbow’ is!  Hardy in USDA zones 5-9, at maturity this vibrant plant will form a 20″ x 20″ mound of lemon-lime edged foliage with hints of peachy orange at the tips. In late summer, colorful bracts form in a cloud above the rainbow of leaves. Gorgeousness! Like all euphorbia, ‘Ascot Rainbow’ requires excellent drainage and air circulation. In northern climates, position this plant in full sun. But if you live in a more southerly location, a bit of mid-day shade will preserve ‘Ascot Rainbow’s phenomenal leaf coloration. This euphorbia plays well with many colors; from orange and rust to sea green, turquoise blue and purple. I really love dusty violet shades with chartreuse hues, and I like the pairing of citrusy ‘Ascot Rainbow’ with plummy Sedum telephium ‘Sunset Cloud’ (USDA zone 3-7) so much, that I think I am going to give it a try along the stone walkway in my perennial garden. To me, the combination like a refreshing glass of sangria on a late summer afternoon; bold and fruity flavor for the eyes!

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, 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. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

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

June 24th, 2012 § 4 comments § permalink

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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Late Summer’s Bold Crescendo …

August 19th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

The Large Drift of Native Cutleaf Coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata) in my Garden Glows Bright as the Late Summer Sunset

After the recent rain –almost overnight it seems– the gardens have exploded in a new wave of bloom. Stepping out with my morning coffee, I am seduced ’round the corner by the sweet and spicy fragrance of Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) and the intoxicating perfume of exotic lilies. It’s time for the garden’s late summer crescendo; a bold and flamboyant show in shades of gold, chartreuse, brilliant orange and flame. As if painted by a wild-eyed expressionist, the beds and borders have taken on a jazzy new rhythm; bold color bands and vibrant drifts so full of exuberance, they sometimes spill right out onto the lawn. I am particularly fond of the maroon and gold combinations –a prelude to September– and the new shapes and textures emerging in the form of seed pods and fluffy inflorescences. Here are a few of my favorites and favorite pairings —with links back to previous plant profiles– from the mid-August garden…

Hazy Color Drifts in Maroon and Gold in the Long Border: Cutleaf Coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata) Shimmers Before Shadowy Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’). Beyond the Bands of Color, Spikes of Miscanthus strictus Catch the Last Light of Day. (I love the taller forms of Rudbeckia; particluarly R. lacinata ‘Herbstsonne’)

With so Many Late-Summer Blooming Perennials in the Garden, Sometimes I Take the Daylilies for Granted. And Then –Suddenly– One Just Knocks Me Out. This Unnamed Cultivar is Part of the Woodside Daylily Mix from White Flower Farm. The Daylilies Always Provide a Warm Welcome at the Edge of My Drive

A Fresh Fountain of Green & White, Striped Beauty: Eulalia Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Variegatus’) at the Edge of My Wildflower Walk (read more about ornamental grasses for perennial gardens by clicking here)

Heliopsis helianthoides ‘Sommersonne’ & Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’ (click here to read more about one of my favorite native shrubs: Physocarpus opulifolius)

Kirengeshoma palmata (Yellow Wax Bells) with the Leaves of an Acer palmatum (click here to read more about Kirengeshoma palmata)

Echinacea purpurea with Eupatorium rugosum ‘Chocolate’ and Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’

One of My Absolute Favorite Late-Summer Combinations? Kaleidoscopic Cushion Spurge (Euphorbia polychroma ‘Bonfire’) with Dark-Leafed Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium rugosum ‘Chocolate’). They Make Beautiful Music Together. 

I’ve Planted Hummingbird Clethra/Dwarf Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) Beside My Studio Steps. Here the Spicy/Sweet Fragrance Gently Wafts in the Window and Perfumes the Garden Path. When Morning Light Illuminates the Spiked White Blossoms They Glow Like Candles. I Grow a Number of Clethra cultivars (click here for a profile of this beautiful and beneficial native plant)

A Favorite Spot for Morning Coffee, the Steel Balcony –Enclosed by a Golden Hops Vine-Clad Cable– Sits High Above the Secret Garden Room. Here, I Enjoy the Early Light of Day, as It Dances on the Garden and Forest Below

Golden Hops Vine (Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’) Brings a Chartreuse Glow to the Steel Balcony Throughout the Summer. And in August, the Blossoms Catch Light, Raindrops and Lots of Attention (click here to read more about this glorious, perennial vine)

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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The Loveliest Ladies of August: Summer’s Beautiful, Late Bloomers are Well Worth the Wait …

August 10th, 2011 § 4 comments § permalink

Blush-tinged blossoms and gorgeous, season-spanning foliage make Hydrangea quercifolia one of my favorite native plants (shown here with Juniperus squamata ‘Holger’ and the lingering blue flowers of Adenophora confusa) . Check out this shrub’s autumn coloration here!

After last night’s much-needed rain, I awoke to the sound of hermit thrush, sweetly singing in the hemlock stand beyond my bedroom window. Slowly the morning symphony of songbirds is subsiding; soon-to-be completely replaced by the cacophony of crickets and squawking blue jays. Late summer migration is already beginning, with geese flocking in fields and nearby lakes. Many songbirds will take flight this month; starting their long journeys south by the light of the August 13th full moon. Indeed, late summer is upon us, and even the garden is relaxing into vacation-mood; with lazy-day looseness replacing the tightly uniform patterns of early summer …

When Other Shrubs Look Past Their Prime, Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’  Shines in August Spot; Here Beside Co-Star Fagus sylvatica ‘Riversii’, (read more about this dynamic duo here)

Of course for those of us staying on in colder climates —to weather all four seasons— there’s still much fair weather yet to be enjoyed. I so look forward to these golden, halcyon days of summer; work slowing down, days on the river, dinners from the garden and long flights over the valley at sunset. Of course, if you’ve been following this journal for awhile, you already know that the late season is my favorite time of year in the garden. Many of my garden’s largest beds and borders are planned for a late August through November color crescendo. I love the play of rich purple, maroon, chartreuse, fuchsia and saffron in the last weeks of summer and early days of autumn. And now that we’ve arrived in the second week of August, some of my favorite plants are budding up and coming into bloom. Included in this post are some of my all-time favorites. But really, the show is just beginning. Stay tuned for more late summer show-stoppers. But for now, to travel back to this post for a few late summer garden-design and plant combination ideas (click here). Or, for more past-posts and late-season plant profiles, click on the August through November archives; listed in the sidebar along the right side column …

Actaea simplex or Cimicifuga racemosa/simplex? Matters Not How She’s Taxonomically Categorized, Fairy Candles (favorite cultivars include the above: ‘Hillside Black Beauty and also, ‘Brunette’) are a Season-Spanning Delight with Swoon-Worthy Late Summer Fragrance! To read more and see Fairy Candle photos: check out this plant-profile (click here)

Tricyrtis formosana ‘Dark Beauty’ with Ucinia egmontiana (Click here to learn more about the Spotted toad lily, shown here in my garden with Orange Hook Sedge)

Read more about Bi-Colored Bush Clover, Lespedeza thunbergii ‘Edo Shibori’, in this post (click here

With Her Emerald Gown and Stunning, Late-Season Blossoms, Kirengeshoma palmata (Yellow Wax Bells) Will Always be a Shade-Garden Star (see more photos and get details on this lovely perennial by clicking here)

I adore this time of year in my garden, and keep adding more and more late season perennials and shrubs to expand and enhance the show. What are some of your August blooming favorites? Do you prefer the cool tones, the muted colors or the eye popping brights? Hope you will enjoy the glorious days of late summer while they last!

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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Reining in the Tumbling Floral Chaos: Mid-Summer Garden Maintenance …

July 29th, 2011 § 6 comments § permalink

Summer’s Wild, Tumbling Jumble (Juniperus squamata ‘Holger’, Hydrangea quercifolia, Amsonia hubrichtii, Adenophora confusa, Rudbeckia hirta, Sedum, Hosta and Adiantum pedatum)

While out enjoying a morning stroll around the garden, taking in a blissfully cool and misty start to my day, a few flower stalks and juniper branches caught my attention by snapping at my ankles and tickling my knees. Ah, the tumbling jumble of summertime garden chaos! I do love a lush and laid-back garden, but every year at about this time, I embark upon a bit of disciplinary activity in my flower beds and shrub borders. After all, there’s a fine line between beauty and beast in the garden!

I begin my annual, mid-season grooming by pulling out a pair of hand-shears and bypass pruners —giving them a quick once-over with a whetstone and oiled rag— and heading out to the garden with my mobile beauty-salon (a basket filled with rags, oil, rubbing alcohol, natural twine and a few bamboo stakes). Like many seasoned hairstylists, after years of experience, most of the tasks I perform are so instinctive to me, that I fall into a state of gardening-zen while giving late July haircuts. But now that I’m doing more teaching and garden coaching, I’ve started to actually think more about the how and why of this horticultural beauty routine, in order to communicate the process to others…

Agastache, a bird, bee and butterfly favorite, always benefits from a mid-summer haircut. Shearing the spent flower heads from this plant now encourages a second wave of bloom later in the summer. Because this is an aromatic plant, it’s quite a pleasant job. But try to do this very early in the day, in order to avoid disrupting foraging bees.

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mixed’ is still in full bloom on the Wildflower Walk. As the flowers fade, I will leave most of the seed heads standing for finches and other small birds, as well to enhance the winter-garden. But if flower stalks fall into the path, tripping or whacking passers by, I will cut them for vases to keep the walkway clear.

The ever-narrowing Secret Garden stairs! Time for some haircuts! Heuchera and Adenophora self sow, and cutting them back early will prevent their spread. Spent blossoms spilling into the stairs are snipped off at the base. However, I happen to like the excess, so I allow those flower heads to the sides of the steps to multiply as nature intended. Prickly new juniper growth is cut all the way back to the main branch. Remember to clean pruners with rubbing alcohol between specimens

If you are relatively new to gardening, probably the most important thing to remember is that getting to know the plants you care for —their identities, growth habits and blooming routines— is key to making them look their best in your garden. Think like Edward Scissorhands for a moment and imagine vegetative growth as hair. Ironing curly hair straight may be fun once in awhile, but when it comes to day to day style, the best looks work with nature. What’s true for people is also true for plants. If you need help identifying the plants in your care, a good encyclopedia —like this one from the American Horticultural Society— is a great garden-library investment.

Once you are familiar with your plants, it’s much easier to decide how and when to spruce them up. Some plants need very little tending. In fact, many perennials are best left to do their own thing until they finish blooming, or until they are cut back to the ground in early spring. For example, after Hosta finish blooming, I remove the spent flower stalks to keep the plants looking tidy. However, I leave the seed heads of most Echinacea and Rudbeckia standing, in order to provide food for birds. Actaea simplex is left to do her own thing in the garden, while Asters are Chrysanthemums are pinched back until mid-July in order to encourage fuller, more floriferous plants (but never later, in order to avoid nip by early autumn frost). Nepeta, Veronica, Agastache and Geranium are sheared back after blooming to encourage a second wave of blossoms, while Aruncus dioicus and Valerian are cut back simply to make the plants look tidier. Many annual flowers, particularly those in window boxes and hanging baskets, also look best when given a mid-season haircut (and remember to keep fertilizing weekly for best bloom). Miss any opportunities this season? Remember to make a note of it in your garden journal for next year…

Veronica spicata –a pollinator favorite– is a long-blooming perennial. Because of its front-and-center location in this border (backing up Rudbeckia hirta and dancing with the slender blades of Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’) this plant is a very good candidate for mid-season maintenance. Shearing the top blooms off this cultivar, V. spicata ‘Sunny Border Blue’, will help keep the plant tidy, and encourage another full wave of bloom in a couple of weeks.

I try to leave flower heads standing as long as possible in the garden, even if they seem a bit faded. Flower nectar and pollen still provides sustenance to garden guests —like this bumble bee— even though blooms may be past their prime. Later, seeds of this Echinacea, and many other flowers, provide late season food for finches and other small birds.

When cut back after flowering, Geranium ‘Brookside’ will look tidier and often produce a second, if slightly less lush, wave of bloom in autumn.

Learning to work with plants and maintain an attractive garden is a life-long process for all gardeners. Most experienced green thumbs are happy to share their knowledge, and many local garden clubs, botanical gardens, greenhouses and nurseries offer free or low-cost workshops and seminars on garden maintenance. When working with perennial gardeners at all experience levels, I often recommend two excellent books for further study and reference. First, The Well-Tended Perennial Garden by Tracy DiSabato-Aust (pictured and linked below) is a classic how-to and when-to manual for every gardener’s bookshelf. And last year, while reviewing gardening titles for Barnes & Noble, I discovered Nancy Ondra’s The Perennial Care Manual (also pictured and linked below) which I now consider the definitive plant-by-plant guide (includes an encyclopedia with many of the more popular perennials) to perennial maintenance. The macro-photos in this book include pruning details, pest ID shots and clear pictorial guides to division, propagation and more. This book would make a great gift for new gardeners, mid-level perennial enthusiasts and experienced horticulturalists alike!

Garden looking a bit loose, shabby, blowzy? Pull out the shears and pruners, a tarp or wheelbarrow and channel your inner Edward Scissorhands! Have a quick question? Feel free to drop me a line in comments and I’ll pass along what I’ve learned. Have fun out there…

My top recommended how-to with great pictures: Nancy Ondra’s The Perennial Care Manual

A classic for every gardener’s bookshelf: Tracy DiSabato-Aust The Well-Tended Perennial 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!

Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links (including Amazon book links). A small percentage of each sale will be paid to this site, helping to cover web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you so much for your support!

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A Moody, Pale Lavender Haze … Heather-Covered Ledges Soothe the Eye In the Softest Shade of Summer …

July 18th, 2011 § Comments Off on A Moody, Pale Lavender Haze … Heather-Covered Ledges Soothe the Eye In the Softest Shade of Summer … § permalink

The Soft Beauty of Lavender-Colored Heather: Calluna vulgaris ‘Silver Knight’ 

Calluna vulgaris ‘Silver Knight’, Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’ and Juniperus x pfizerianna ‘Sea Green’ Along the Ledgy Walkway

A Hazy Slope of Heather (Calluna vulgaris ‘Silver Knight’) in the Palest Shade of Lavender 

While much of my garden blooms in brilliant, sunny shades of gold, yellow and orange throughout the summer, there are many quiet, soothing spaces here as well. Along the exposed ledges —where water drains freely and sun heats thin pockets of soil— a wide swath of Heath (Erica carnea) and Heather (Calluna vulgaris) sprawls along the stoney slope. Throughout the wet and chilly month of April, Spring Heath (Erica carnea) blossoms here in a tender shade of pink (plant profile post/photos here and more photos here). Later, in mid-summer, Heather (Calluna vulgaris) —Heath’s natural companion— colors the outcrop in a hazy shade of lavender. 

Heath and Heather make wonderful, low, ground-covering plants —6″ -24″ high—  for dry, sunny slopes and rock gardens. I grow several cultivars of Erica and Calluna here in my zone 4/5 garden; using them in combination with blue-green junipers, sedum and other plants to paint a colorful carpet along the ledges. Native to Europe and Asia, Calluna vulgaris prefers acidic, sandy soil with excellent drainage and, unlike many garden plants, this tough little shrub actually prefers low soil fertility. Although cold-hardy to zone 4, Heather dislikes heavy soil and wet, humid conditions; making this plant a poor choice for gardeners with shady, wet sites and for those south of zone 6/7. The long-lasting, slender flowers are beautiful planted en masse in the garden or gathered up in fresh or dried arrangements. With so many cultivars to choose from, I am tempted to keep adding to my ledgy tapestry. Calluna vulgaris ‘Silver Knight’ is one of the finest, and my favorite of the pale-lavender heathers. Blooming long and late in the season —just coming into flower here now, in mid July— ‘Silver Knight’ continues to add beauty to the garden, even in early winter (click here to view photos of various heath and heather wearing a coat of ice.)

Heather-Covered Ledges: Calluna vulgaris ‘Silver Knight’

Photographs and Text (with noted exception) ⓒ 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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Summer’s Sun-Kissed, Freckled Blush … Campanula Punctata ‘Cherry Bells’

July 16th, 2011 § 4 comments § permalink

Sun-Kissed & Freckled, Summertime Beauty: Campanula punctata ‘Cherry Bells’ (Spotted Bellflower)

There’s a new girl in my garden, and she’s got quite a rosy blush going on. Yes, I spied this Spotted Bellflower (Campanula punctata ‘Cherry Bells’) while out shopping for a client’s new garden, and —immediately and completely charmed— I snapped up a few pots for myself. But although my beautiful ‘Cherry Bells’ look well-mannered and shy, rumor has it these girls have an aggressive side —spreading by both vigorous rhizome and seed— particularly in warmer climates. I’m afraid she may be a bit of a Scarlett O’Hara. So for now, she will remain a potted guest on my patio, while I observe her habits. I hope she behaves, because I sure don’t want to toss her from my home in that pretty gown!

Like most fine ladies, Campanula punctata ‘Cherry Bells’ prefers to settle her roots in rich earth, with protection from the mid-day sun. Dappled shade is what she likes best, really, in a spot with plenty of moisture and room to stretch. When content, ‘Cherry Bells’ will form a dense —and reportedly vigorous— floriferous ground cover; blooming her pretty little head off from early to late summer. Hardy in USDA zones 4-8, I snapped up my ‘Cherry Bells’ at a local garden center. Tempted? Well after a bit of research, I also found this beautiful bellflower online at Bluestone Perennial.

Remember, just be careful where you put her: there’s nothing mousy-Melanie about this Cherry Bell …

The Ultimate Belle: Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind (Cherry Colored Gown by Walter Plunkett). Film still: MGM/Warner Bros.

Photographs and Text (with noted exception) ⓒ 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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Strolling Along the Wildflower Walk …

July 6th, 2011 § Comments Off on Strolling Along the Wildflower Walk … § permalink

A Stroll Through the Wildflower Walk in Late Afternoon

The Wildflower Walk may have started as an accidental feature in my garden, but —second only to the Secret Garden— it always generates the most oohs and ahhs. And when the sunny drifts of Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) hit their crescendo in July, it’s easy to see what all the commotion is all about. The softening effect of randomly strewn, bold sweeps of wildflowers is truly magical in a landscape, and although my dog Oli is responsible for coming up with this design, I have not only run with the theme in my own garden, but used the idea in other designs as well (minus the method of installation, see previous post for that story). I’m sure that if he only knew how popular one of his ‘bads’ has become, Oli would be begging for bones every day when he passes through his wondrous Wildflower Walk.

Of course —not to take away from my dog’s true genius— but one of the things that makes all of this unplanned wildness work from a design standpoint, is the underlying structure of the garden. The hardscape and bones of the landscape —which includes the stonewalls, loose stone paths, and structural trees and shrubs— give shape to the space; allowing ever-changing elements to take center stage at any given time, while the constant ‘theater’ holds everything together. And though they stand in the background throughout the summer —steady and central— the structural features always take over the show in late autumn and winter…

Rudbeckia and Nepeta tumble in a colorful jumble along the Wildflower Walk. Bees, butterflies and other pollinators love Nepeta and Rudbeckia. And later in the season, finches will stop by to feast upon Rudbeckia seed (I leave many of the stalks standing for my feathered friends). Meanwhile, in the background: the spilling green Juniperus horizontalis provides bright blue berries for wildlife, as well as a pretty green foil for the wildflowers. And though it’s barely visible in high summer, Dan Snow’s retaining wall holds everything together —both figuratively and literally– throughout the year.

The walkway surface is 1″ natural round stone —slightly larger and more grey-blue than pea stone— which allows wildflower seed to germinate just beneath the surface. The walk does require some weeding, but it isn’t as labor intensive as you might think. Rounded, natural stone makes a great surface for seating areas and walkways; in both formal and informal spaces. I particularly love this look in lawn-less, Mediterranean gardens.

The main walkway —to and from my home/studio— is wider than the Secret Garden path and the rest of the Wildflower Walk. And though the Rudbeckia reigns supreme here in early summer, this wave of bloom is preceded by Lupine and succeeded by Adenophora. Other wildflowers and shrubs play supporting and cameo roles along the way… 

In reality, getting wildflowers to succeed in a garden over the long-haul usually requires a bit more planning than Oli put into his work. Many self-sown bi-annual and meadowy perennial flowers —such as Lupine, Poppies, Asters, Black-eyed Susans and the like— prefer fast-draining, thin soil in full-sun. These flowers thrive on natural, seasonal weather conditions. When it comes to sunny-meadow flowers, sites with poor soil often work better than sites with rich soil (take note of those wildflower drifts along the highway: talk about thriving on neglect!), but there are wildflowers adapted to wet, rich soil as well. Recognizing wildflower seedlings (to avoid accidental weeding or over-mulching) throughout the season, and allowing seed heads to remain standing until they mature, is absolutely critical to the maintenance of wildflower drifts (this is particularly important in true meadows, which must be mown after the flower heads have browned and are ready to release seed). All of these things tend to go against the grain of super-tidy gardeners, so in the beginning at least, a leisurely attitude toward maintenance may work to your advantage when it comes to wildflowers. However in long term, lazy Susans would not be successful here. I am the sole gardener on my property, and as ‘wild’ as this walkway may look, I can assure you that it does demand some weeding time; particularly in the early spring, after rainy periods. Clover, grass and other thin-soil-lovers germinate well between the loose stone, and rise up in competition with the wildflowers along the path. I simply keep them in check (often in the early morning hours while talking on the phone with a client or contractor, or late, late in the afternoon with a glass of cold lemonade or chilled wine).

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mixed’ will reach its summertime crescendo this month in the Wildflower Walk

A different perspective: looking down the Secret Garden path from the main walkway. This shot was taken on an overcast morning, when the bright yellow and orange of the just-opening Rudbeckia really stood out.That’s Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ on the right, backed up by Viburnum trilobum ‘Bailey Compact’ (that dynamic duo really lights up in the autumn, see this post for photos).

Looking Through the Wildflower Walk and Into the Secret Garden Beyond (Foreground: Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mixed’ and Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’).

Tempted to give wildflower drifts a try in your own garden? Want to replace your front lawn with something less water/chemical dependent and more colorful? Would you like to support pollinator and bird populations with a natural food source? Well, you could ask a rambunctious dog like Oli to install a Wildflower Walk for you, or you could consult some inspirational books on the subject of Meadow Gardens. The one I am currently ogling, and constantly praising, is The American Meadow Garden, pictured and linked below. Beyond its obvious beauty, this book is also genuinely useful; offering meadow/wildflower planting suggestions by region, soil type and exposure. Self-sown wildflower drifts are lovely both in meadows and within designed gardens. Isn’t it amazing what your dog can teach you?

The American Meadow Garden (John Greenlee/Saxon Holt) from Timber Press

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

February 5th, 2011 § 6 comments § permalink

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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Glorious, Late Summer Garden Design: Combinations Featuring Light-Catching Texture and Bold, Contrasting Color…

September 8th, 2010 § Comments Off on Glorious, Late Summer Garden Design: Combinations Featuring Light-Catching Texture and Bold, Contrasting Color… § permalink

Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’ and ‘Matrona’, stunning in combination here at Ferncliff with bluish hues, such as the Juniperus chinensis, sargentii glauca (shown above) and later, with the tawny tufts of Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ (also pictured above, prior to inflorescence)

It’s early September, and the garden has only just begun to glow with a warm, bronzy radiance. Late summer’s golden, honey-tones and rich, violet hues sing in combination with dusty blue conifers and turquoise-tinted foliage. Some of my late-season favorites, particularly the delightful toad lily, ‘Dark-beauty’ Tricyrtis formosana, (read about my obsessive-love here), and velvety-violet monkshood (Aconitum charmichaelii ‘Arendsii‘), are never more beautiful than when combined with orange and yellow wisps and needles. And the richly colored hues of early autumn sedum —especially exquisite plum and magenta saturated cultivars like ‘Matrona’ and ‘Purple Emperor’— are stunning when settled into a garden filled with shocking blue fescue or a back-drop of icy-colored conifers. Oh, such delicious, painterly possibilities! The summer-to-autumn transition is a colorists delight…

Tricyrtis formosana ‘Dark Beauty’ photographed here at Ferncliff, with Ucinia egmontiana ‘Orange Hook Sedge’

Monkshood (Aconitum napellus or charmichaelii ‘Arendsii’)  is stunning backed by gold. Consider planting it in front of spicebush (Lindera benzoin). Monkshood is available widely through nurseries and online from retailers including Stork Road Farm (image above) – Gorgeous in combination with shrubs and perennials that turn red, orange, rust, yellow and goldin autumn, including: Spicebush (Lindera benzoin), Amsonia hubrichitii (Bluestar – see below), and Switchgrass ‘Heavy Metal’

Amsonia hubrichitii – Thread-leaf Arkansas Bluestar – turns brilliant gold in late -summer and holds its delightful color throughout autumn

Looking for some inspirational ideas? There will be plenty to look forward to here in the coming weeks. In meantime, try looking back at some of last year’s posts, beginning with this one on ornamental grasses (click here). I am passionate about late-season garden design, and my own beds and borders were specifically planned to peak in this season. Creating an end-of-summer to late-fall garden crescendo isn’t difficult, but it does require some research. Knowing what to expect from woody plants and perennials —and how to play changing hues to their best advantage— is something a gardener learns with thoughtful observation, experience and exposure to well-designed late-summer and autumn gardens.

At Ferncliff, Amsonia hubrichitii is planted in combination with Geranium ‘Brookside’ (above). The cobalt-violet blossoms and flame colored foliage are a stunning combination in the entry garden throughout fall.

Pay close attention to how the light filters through your garden. Position luminous plants, such thread-leaf Arkansas bluestar (Amsonia hubrichiti) flame grass (Miscanthus sinensis purpurascens) and blue switchgrass (Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’) to play with the sun’s rays, and the shadows of nearby trees and dark buildings. Make note of how your perennial foliage changes color in late summer and fall. Plan planting combinations with autumn-blooming perennials —especially in contrasting colors— to make the most of the late season transition. Will the green or blue foliage of a large plant shift gold? Position it behind a violet or blue-colored fall flower, such as an elegant monkshood or wild-looking aster. Does the cool weather bring out the arctic-blue of a favorite conifer? Next year, remember to plant orange-colored dahlias nearby or, for a softer-look, think about adding rosy-hued windflowers, such as Japanese anemone (Anemone x hybrida ‘Serenade’ – also beautiful with gold leaved hostas) to your borders….

Anemone x hybrida ‘Serenade’ (Japanese windflower / anemone)

Panicum virgatum, ‘Heavy Metal’ switch Grass – available in the UK (and above catalogue image via) the RHS online shop. This ornamental grass is widely available in nurseries and garden centers throughout the US.

The same plant as pictured above, Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’ swichgrass, here at Ferncliff in November

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Article and photos (vendor link exceptions as noted) are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

The Gardener’s Eden is not an affiliate of the RHS, nor of Stork Road Farm. Product image links to these fine garden suppliers are provided for reader online shopping convenience only.

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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