Endless Summer: A Garden Designed for Season-Spanning Beauty & Interest . . .

August 28th, 2012 § 2

Late August in Susan & Bob’s Front Entryway Garden. Geranium ‘Rozanne’ Mass Planted for a Beautiful, Long-Blooming Lavender-Blue-Haze. A Background of Coreopsis, Heuchera micrantha, Echinacea purpurea, Eupatorium maculatum, E. rugosum & Thalictrum, Round Out the Late-Summer Color-Scheme. Ceramic Vessel: Stephen Procter

Endless summer. Yes, I realize the phrase might seem a bit odd for a Vermont-based gardening journal. After all, we are heading toward autumn, and New England is rather famous for “nine months of winter and three months of damned poor sledding”. But the fleeting days of balmy weather needn’t cramp a northern gardener’s style. A well-designed landscape remains beautiful every month of the year, and by choosing the right plants, colorful, textural compositions can enliven gardens throughout the growing season and well into the dark days of winter.

Designing a four season garden does require a certain amount of experience or research and usually involves more than one-stop shopping at the local nursery. Over time, seasoned gardeners develop an understanding of  how plants change throughout the growing year. When foliage begins to shift from the greens of summertime to the gold, red and burgundy hues of autumn, opportunities for new vignettes appear. Later —as winter chill settles in and leaves disappear altogether— texture, underlying color and structure is revealed; offering endless ways to play with glistening snow and ice.

Dry-Laid Stone Retaining Walls (By Massachusetts Artist Curtis Gray) Provide Ample Opportunities to Play Plant Textures & Colors Against Rock (Plantings Include: Eupatorium maculatum ‘Gateway’, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’, Eupatorium rugosum ‘Chocolate’, Baptisia australis & Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’)

In the Front Entry, Rich Colors and Textures Keep the Garden Lively in August (Plantings Include: Eupatorium maculatum ‘Gateway’, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’, Amsonia illustris, Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’, Baptisia australis, Eupatorium rugosum ‘Chocolate’, Coreopsis and Huechera)

The Entry Garden –Pictured Above– in Late Spring (Blooming Here Are Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker’s Red’ and Coreopsis grandiflora ‘Early Sunrise’)

As beautiful as blossoms are, in order for a garden to remain interesting in autumn and winter, the design must contain more than flowering plants. Perennials and grasses with colorful foliage and sensual textures, trees and shrubs with great structure, bright berries and unusual bark are the keys to creating never-ending beauty in the landscape.

Featured here is a young garden I created, in several stages, over the past year. The oldest part of the garden —welcoming entry walk and perennial-filled retaining walls— was planted for my clients late last summer. In autumn of 2011, I created a bulb plan for the front gardens and began designing borders for edging the back meadow and a soft, breezy screen to surround the stone terrace and sunken fire feature. Work continues with a second bulb plan this autumn, and preliminary sketches for another garden room with a water feature, to be created next spring. The gardens change dramatically from season to season, with colors and textures shifting from pale and delicate to bright and bold.

A Mass Planing of Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’) and Russian Sage (Perovskia antriplicifolia) Softens the Edge of a Deck, Facing the Meadow and Hills Beyond

Blooming Brightly from Early August Straight Through Early Frost, Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ is the Perfect Perennial for Mid to Front Border, Late-Summer Compositions (Planted Here with Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’)

To Soften the Edge of the Stone Patio/Fire Pit and Benches (Stonework by Curtis Gray), I Created a Summer-Screen of Fine-Textured Grasses and Meadow Flowers, Backed by a Beautiful Wind-Breaking Wall of Viburnum. Eventually, this Outdoor Room will be a Semi-Enclosed, Three-Season Space for Grilling & Entertaining. In Winter, the Snow-Catching, Sculptural Beauty of Ornamental Grasses and Horizontal Lines of Viburnum plicatum will Remain Visible from the Indoor Living/Dining Space (Plantings Include: Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’, Heliopsis helianthoides ‘Venus’ and Veronica)

Many new gardeners focus on spring-blooming perennials —iris, peonies, roses, etc— creating fragrant, floriferous gardens that, while beautiful in June, fizzle out by Fourth of July. If you are new to four-season gardening, have a look at some of the later blooming perennials –Fairy Candles (Actaea simplex), Asters, Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia), Coneflowers (Echinacea), Russian Sage (Perovskia), Sedum, Windflowers (Anemone), The Rocket (Ligularia), Toad Lilies (Tricyrtis), Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum & E. rugosum), Globe Thistle (Echinops), Sea Holly (Eryngium), Turtlehead (Chelone), Phlox, Tick Seed (Coreopsis), Sneeze-Weed (Helenium), False Sunflower (Heliopsis), Yellow Waxbells (Kirengeshoma palmata) and Bush Clover (Lespedeza), to name a few— as well as ornamental grasses, ferns, berry-producing plants, and shrubs and trees with fall foliage, interesting bark and sculptural form for winter interest.

An Early Tint of Rusty-Red on Viburnum trilobum ‘Bailey Compact’ is Accented by Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’, Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ and in the Foreground, Salvia nemerosa ‘May Night’ (Second Flush of Blooms Brought on by Timely Pruning of Spent Blossoms from the First Wave) Brightens the Meadow-Edge

The Front Entryway Garden —Pictured at Top of Post— in Very Early Spring of its First Year

And Later in Spring of its First Year, with Sunny Perennials Blooming on the Left and Shade Garden Plants Emerging at Right (Hosta, Ferns & Astilbe Beneath Stewartia)

Detail of Front Entryway Garden Walk in Late August

All Stonework: Curtis Gray.

Hardscape Materials/Site Prep & Plants: Turner & Renaud.

Ceramic Vessel: Stephen Procter.

Garden Design & Installation: Michaela Medina Harlow.

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

July 30th, 2012 § 1

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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Musings on the Merry Month of May…

May 14th, 2012 § 1

The Secret Garden Steps and Path, Yesterday Evening (Blooming Here and Below: Phlox divaricata ‘Clouds of Perfume’, Muscari armeniacum, Ajuga reptans ‘Purple Brocade’, Daphne x burkwoodii ‘Carol Mackie’, Fothergilla major ‘Mt Airy’, Viburnum lantana ‘Variegatum’, in a Sea of Emerging Wildflowers)

It’s a rainy Monday morning in May, and I’m at my desk catching up on all of the things that have fallen by the wayside during this garden designer’s spring rush. Overwhelmed with professional commitments, projects, and twelve-hour planting shifts, I find myself a stranger in my own garden these days. But yesterday evening, after hanging the hammock between trees at forest’s edge, I took a break from my chores to stroll around the garden; drinking in the delicate beauty of May…

Having self-sown along the wildflower walk, fragrant woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata ‘Clouds of Perfume’) fills the air with a ever-so-subtle, spicy scent, accented by sweet and fruity grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum). Bees buzz and bounce about the ajuga-lined stone path, gathering pollen from the rich, violet-blue carpet of blossoms. Nearby, hummingbirds —just recently returning from their winter travels— sip nectar from the throats of silverbells, dangling from twin Halesia trees (H. tetraptera). As I walked, I realized that my personal experience of spring is no different from all of nature; it’s quite simply a bustling, beautiful time of year…

Inside the Secret Garden, Emerging Tufts of Golden Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechola macra ‘All Gold’) Adds a Bit of Bright Chartreuse to the Woodsy Tapestry: Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia pensylvanica), Spurge (Euphorbia), Grape Hyacinth (Muscari ‘Valerie Finnis’), Coral Bells (Heuchera ‘Purple Palace’), Foam Flower (Tiarella Cordifolia), Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), Tree Peony (Paeonia mouton x lutea ‘High Noon’, Summer Snowflake (Leucojum aestevium) and various Narcissus

Silverbell Blossoms on a Rainy May Morning (Halesia tetraptera). Read About This North American Native Tree by Clicking Here and Following Hyperlinks Below the Photos & Within the Essay

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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Seduced by Springtime Sunshine & Sweetly Scented Air …

March 24th, 2012 Comments Off

Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ Scents the Air & Reflects in the Water Bowl at the Secret Garden Door in March {Stonework by Vermont Artist Dan Snow}

Seduced by the sweet scent of springtime and early morning’s soft light, chores in the Secret Garden —raking, weeding, edging and mulching— hardly resemble work at all. After filling the water bowl beside Dan Snow’s moss-kissed walls, I stand back to drink in the fragrance of bodnant viburnum, perfuming the cool spring air …

Narcissus ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’ Glows in Morning Light, Filling the Air with the Incomparable, Fresh Scent of Spring

In Full Bloom: The Intoxicating Fragrance of Bodnant Viburnum ‘Dawn’ Lures Me Into the Secret Garden

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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Sticks, Stones & Magical Forest Mystery

December 28th, 2011 § 4

Sticks and Stones: A Forest of Mystery 

Winter has arrived —swirling snowflakes and glazed pools all around— and yet the earth remains open in much of New England. Patches of snow dot my Vermont hillside, but elsewhere —in fields and forested areas nearby— the ground has yet to freeze and there’s nary a trace of white stuff. Woodland walks through leaf-stewn paths reveal glowing green moss and shining, emerald-colored Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides).

With long shadows stretching out in winter light, this week of mild weather has provided a perfect opportunity to explore the quiet of nature. And what delights have I found? Along the woodland pathways of someone else’s forest, I discovered tiny surprises crafted from sticks, stones and seed pods. Inspired by the magic of this mystery forest, I found myself falling in love all over again with the simple, artistic power of sticks and stones …

More artistic inspiration —and beautiful, master works in stick and stone— may be found in these long-time, favorite books …

Andy Goldsworthy: A Collaboration with Nature

Dan Snow: Listening to Stone

Stone by Design: The Artistry of Lew French

Early Winter Reflections

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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Romancing the Season’s Velvety Nights: Candles Flicker & Darkness Falls …

November 5th, 2011 § 8

Lanterns and Twining Bittersweet Add a Bit of Romance to Long Nights

There’s a chill in the air tonight as I light my fire; woodsmoke curling to the twilight’s blue hour. Darkness falls so early now, and tomorrow it will begin even sooner. At two o’clock in the morning, November 6th, we turn our clocks back an hour and Daylight Savings Time ends. I always mourn the loss of that last golden hour of late afternoon light at the end of my work day, but over the years I’ve learned to embrace the sparkling frost of an early sunrise. So it’s farewell for now to the summer clock and autumn’s lingering sunsets, and hello to a season of long, velvety nights …

A Warm Garden Path on a Chilly Evening

My Beautiful Lanterns are from Verde for Garden & Home in Brattleboro, Vermont

Stone Steps and Terrace by Vermont Artist Dan Snow

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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Weaving Garden Dreams into Reality: The Art of Designing a Landscape …

September 5th, 2011 § 8

Sketching with Dahlias for Color Inspiration

Rainy days are studio days. I’ve been indoors on this wet Labor Day, working on a bulb order for a garden I designed and planted last week, and putting together preliminary sketches for two upcoming projects. My painting studio doubles as my garden design space; filled with all of the supplies you would expect in an artist’s work room. On my desk, drafting tools and calculators mingle with watercolors, colored pencils and pastel chalk. Plant encyclopedias and a laptop are close at hand, as are nursery stock lists and contractor phone numbers. There’s a view of the entry garden and steel balcony from my studio, but I always bring a few flowers to my desk for inspiration, whenever I’m working indoors …

The Original Design Drawing, Presented to the Homeowners (My original design included four different shrubs in the back border. The owner has a strong affection for blue hydrangea, so the final design eliminated the varied shrubs in favor of H. macrophylla ‘Endless Summer’)

Some of my clients —particularly those more familiar with my work— commission garden designs from me without requiring preliminary drawings or plant lists. They just wave their hands around to show where they want improvements and give me a few dos, don’ts and budgetary guidelines. And sometimes —when I’m both designing and installing a garden— a basic sketch and plant list is all that my client requests. But when a project is larger and involves subcontractors —stoneworkers and other hardscaping— I always do sketches, full-scale drawings and planting plans with complete lists. Late last year, I almost caved in to industry ‘Sketch Up’ pressure. Why buy a program to create drawings when I can do them myself? Well, to some, the results of computer-generated design programs are great selling tools; after all, they look slick and impressive. I suppose they inspire confidence. But are they really better? After playing around with ‘Sketch Up’ for a week or so —although I thought it was quite cool and useful— in the end I decided that I genuinely prefer hand drawing garden designs and planting plans. I like sketching out what I see in my imagination … I find that it informs my creative process. And you know what? When I mentioned this to one of my clients —who’s garden design you see featured here— I discovered that my drawings are part of what attracted her to my work.  And after a thorough survey of my wonderful clients, I found that they prefer my hand-made drawings over generic-looking, computerized mock-ups; some have actually framed them.

I Don’t Have Trouble Seeing Three Dimensional Space. But, Drawings Help Me to Communicate What I See in My Mind’s Eye

Before: A Pretty House with a Blank Canvas for This Garden Designer. Large Scale Design Drawings Helped My Clients Visualize Proposed Changes

With a drawing like the one directly above, I can show my client exactly what my garden design will look like when it matures. I can also use an overlay (done on vellum) to show where a foreground tree will be placed. Call me old-fashioned, but as much as I am a computer person, I still adore books and I will always love paper.

Once my client approves a design —drawings always help with visualization— I set to work on scale planting plans. These plans help me to space plants properly and order the correct number of plants. Of course, there’s always tweaking to be done in the end —that’s half the fun of garden design, really— but planting plans are dimensionally correct keys, allowing me to come up with estimates and stay on budget. All of the plants are drawn into the plan at their mature size to insure correct spacing, and they are represented by their approximate shape and leaf color (or bloom color). Sometimes, a subcontracted landscaper or a client will install part or all of the garden I design, and in such cases, it’s critical that all of this information be clearly communicated. Usually there are multiple revisions and many copies …

Preliminary Site & Planting Plan I

Secondary Site & Planting Plan, II (there is yet another, final plan for this project)

A detailed site plan and list of materials also helps with financial decision making; allowing me to estimate costs for hardscaping, nursery stock and installation. I use dimensions and plant counts to calculate the amount of compost/loam, mulch and the number of plants I need for a project. Once the final plan and budget are approved, the site plan and plant lists serve as a guide when purchasing trees, shrubs and perennials at nurseries. A copy of the site plan is also on hand during layout and planting. Even if I don’t create a complete set of watercolor or pencil drawings, I always create a basic site plan when I am designing a garden; even one of my own. 

As Plants Go In, Overturned Pots Hold the Places of Those Yet to Arrive. A Stewartia pseudocamilla Anchors the Center of This Semi-Shade Garden

The Back Deck is Softened by a Sweep of Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides)

The Curve of the Perennial Border Echoes the Natural Stone Walkway and a Dogwood (Cornus x rutgan ‘Stellar Pink’) Softens the Corner of the House

I’ll be back with more photos of this project when it’s completed. Plus, stay tuned for how you can create and use a planting plan to modify an existing, or design your own new garden …

Photos 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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Renovate! How the Garden Next Door Went from Just Grass to Just Gorgeous …

August 23rd, 2011 § 3

A Prim & Proper Arbor Goes Drop-Dead Gorgeous in a Sexy New Shade of Sangria

It’s been awhile since I last featured one of my residential garden design projects on The Gardener’s Eden. And to be completely honest, I’ve been too busy planning and installing gardens to do much writing these days. But over the next couple of weeks, I hope to showcase more real, residential gardens which I designed or redesigned and helped to revamp this summer; all located in everyday, suburban neighborhoods. I love planning and planting all kinds of gardens, but my most rewarding projects usually involve collaborations with do-it-yourself homeowners —regular people with average gardening skills— ready and eager to roll up their sleeves and get to work. I get a great deal of pleasure from helping others by designing beautiful, low-maintenance gardens which make outdoor living more enjoyable …

Durable and Beautiful Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’) Catches the Late Afternoon Light at the Edge of the Driveway

A Garden of Mostly-Native, Lower Maintenance Plants, This Section Features a Screen of Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summerwine’, Liatris ‘Floristan Violet’, Asclepias tuberosa, Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’ and Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’

Ornamental Grasses are Great Problem-Solvers for Hot, Dry, Sunny Locations. Fountain Grass Softens Hard Edges and Works with the Riverside Setting of the Property

The front entry garden featured in this post —home of Geri and Stan Johnson in Western Massachusetts— was a particularly fun project this summer.  The couple recently renovated the interior of their sweet, riverside ranch home, and this year they decided it was time to take action on the outside. When I first met with them to discuss revamping their front landscape, I asked them about project scope, goals, style and budget. Geri is a successful real estate professional and she clearly understands the value of a well designed landscape, but a home is more than just an investment; it’s a place for family, friends and relaxation. Geri and Stan took the time to think about what they wanted from this landscape renovation before calling me for a consultation, making my job much easier! But even more important, working with open-minded clients like the Johnsons —who were willing trust my design recommendations and guidance, and take imaginative leaps at every turn— makes designing gardens fun and rewarding …

Front Entry Before, and After …

After coming up with  a master plan, I broke this front yard landscape renovation into three distinct areas for ease of installation: the entry garden, main walkway/foundation border (I’ll talk about this section in a future post) and retaining wall/arbor garden. Geri and Stan wanted several things from their new landscape. Because both homeowners are busy people, low-maintenance design was right at the top of their list. Creating a buffer from the road, and adding a bit of privacy was also important to them, but they wanted the first impression to be welcoming and attractive as well. Thoughtful neighbors, they requested that the new plantings not block the view of the river from the rest of the community. An existing, mature hedge of hemlock directly in front of Geri and Stan’s house provides protection from radiant road heat and the sound of passing cars, as well as a safe-haven and nesting space for local birds. I’m quite fond of our native hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) —a great choice for creating a soft, feathery garden backdrop and living privacy fence (click here for more info about my favorite conifer)— and used it as a jump-off point for a new garden design featuring mostly native plants. The backbone of the new entry garden is formed by a relaxed grouping of Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’, which extends the line of the existing hedge with a soft curve. To this anchor, a low-maintenance grouping of pollinator-friendly, long-flowering perennials and ornamental grass was added …

Welcoming but Protected: The New Garden Provides a Pretty and Durable Screen from the Road without Blocking the View to the River Beyond (Natives like Rudbeckia, Veronica and Sedum combine with Perovskia atriplicifolia and ornamental grasses to support local bees, hummingbirds, butterflies and other pollinators and seed-seekers throughout the seasons)

With a Meadow of Wild Bluestem Grass and Oaks Across the Street, It Seemed Right to Use Mostly Native Plants When Designing this Welcoming Garden

Viewed from Inside, this Garden of Mostly-Native Plants is Soft, Cool and Colorful (Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’, Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’, Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’ and Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’ provide food for pollinators at different times of the year)

Once the Plantings Fill-In (most designs take about three years before they begin to hit their stride) This Garden Will Provide a Soothing Drift of Low-Maintenance, Season-Long Color

Stan (who, among other things, owns and operates Songline Emu Farm with his wife Geri and her sister, Dee Dee Mares) was such an enthusiastic and hard worker (with the muscle and speed of three twenty year olds and far more attention to detail), I wish I could take him along on every landscaping project! Work began about one week after I marked out new beds with spray paint, cut English-style edges, and applied two doses of Nature’s Avenger (a non-toxic, organic herbicide used to kill crab and turf grass). Once the soon-to-be replace lawn turned orangey-brown, Stanley, his brother and nephew spread 6″ of loam/compost mix on top of the dead turf to build up raised planting beds; feathering the borders to meet the edges I’d pre-cut. I find this method of creating new garden beds to be both easier and less disruptive than manually removing sod and tilling soil.

While I went about the work of selecting and shopping for new, low-maintenance, native plants and installing the first garden, Stanley and his nephew removed an undesirable grouping of scraggly Spirea from the retaining wall garden and prepared the other beds for planting by moving existing plants, weeding and spreading fresh loam/compost. Once planted, the guys came back through and spread a 2″ thick layer of natural (un-dyed) hemlock bark mulch. The end result was a complete transformation of the front yard. But perhaps the most dramatic change in the garden happened near the very end, when Stanley brought up the refinished garden arbor from his garage. Although the original white color of the arch was perfect for niece Meagan’s wedding, this romantic landscape feature went bold and sophisticated in a fresh, vibrant shade of deep maroon; a much better match for this colorful, contemporary new garden. Amazing what a difference a few cans of spray paint can make!

Left-Over from Their Niece’s Wedding, This Garden Arbor Makes a Great Argument for Spray Paint Makeovers in This Dramatic Before (above) and After (below) …

Without Hesitating at My Suggestion, Stan Painted the Garden Arch a Deep Maroon (Which Seems to Change Hue with the Light) to Better Blend with the House and Enhance the Colors of Their New Garden. It’s a Real Knock-Out …

Plantings Surrounding the Maroon Arbor Flatter in Similar Hues and bold Pops of Color (Including this Liatris ‘Floristan Violet’and  Eupatorium rugosum ‘Chocolate’)

Fine textured maiden grass shimmers in the afternoon sunlight, accenting either side of the arbor and leading the eye down the garden path (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’). Nice work on that paint job, Stanley!

A Bold, Mass Planting of Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’) Glows on the Opposite Side of the Richly-Colored Arch

Between the two mirroring sides of this long, road-side screen is a sunny to semi-shady walkway garden running the length of the house. I filled this last section of the garden —which I will cover in an upcoming post— with bold new perennials and a few colorful, season-spanning shrubs. I’ve many more projects to share, but in meantime, if you have any questions about the how-to end of this project, please feel free to post them in comments!

By working with a garden designer —who can help you create a site plan and shop for and perhaps place or even install plants— but doing the bulk of the physical labor/hardscaping yourself, you can save a tremendous amount of money on landscaping projects. Before you call in a professional, take the time to think about a few things; including your goals (how you hope to use your outdoor space, and your project time frame/deadline), your personal as well as your home’s style (formal, informal or somewhere between), your budget (remember that professional landscaping can add 10-20% to your home’s value, and immeasurable curb-appeal), and how much of the work you are willing and able to do yourself (experience and muscle matter here, so be brutally honest with yourself). Many landscape designers and garden coaches enjoy working with do-yourselfers. Need help finding a garden designer? Word-of-mouth is one of the best ways to find a landscaping professional (if see a garden you love, send or leave a note for the owner asking the designer’s name), but local garden centers/greenhouses, building contractors, stoneworkers, realtors and garden clubs are great sources of information as well.

A Big Thank You to Geri and Stan Johnson for All of Your Enthusiasm, Support and Hard Work! I Hope You are Enjoying Your New 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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Reining in the Tumbling Floral Chaos: Mid-Summer Garden Maintenance …

July 29th, 2011 § 6

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

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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The Play of Sunlight and Shadow: Through the Secret Garden Door …

July 13th, 2011 § 2

Golden Flowers in a Pool of Sunlight: Through the Secret Garden Door …

It’s a busy, busy week here at my studio. With two large garden designs, and three smaller projects shifting from dream to reality, there’s much work to be done behind the scenes. I must confess that paperwork and numbers are not terribly exciting to this creative personality type, but desk duties are very necessary to insure smooth sailing in the says ahead. And, how can I complain? Looking through the Secret Garden door —sunlit gardens sparkling beyond a shadowy frame— I know how lucky I am to have a room with a view …

Peeking Through the Secret Garden Room Door

Outside, Looking In …

View from the Desk in my Secret Garden Room …

Looking Through the Secret Garden Door, Beyond the Wild Flower Walk, the Sun Slides Behind the Shadowy Stone Wall

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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Notes on Nature’s Bold Artistry: Brilliant, Blooming Butterfly Weed & Her Colorfully Patterned, Wild Guests …

July 9th, 2011 § 4

Asclepias tuberosa – Our Beautiful, Native Butterfly Weed Catches the Golden Light of Summertime Along the Wildflower Walk

In search of inspiration for your next creative project; pattern, form or color play? Sometimes, you needn’t look further for fresh ideas than your own backyard! While out admiring the blooming butterfly weed in my Wildflower Walk yesterday, I happened to notice five examples of nature’s bold artistry on one garden plant. Asclepias tuberosa —as our North American, native butterfly weed is known in the botanical world— blooms in beautiful clusters of bright, citrus-punch orange. The tiny, nectar-loaded blossoms are popular with pollinators of all kinds; including bees, butterflies —like the fritillary pictured below— and hummingbirds. But other parts of this plant serve important purposes to wildlife as well. The leaves and stems of both butterfly weed and milkweed  —filled with sticky sap— provide sustenance to butterfly caterpillars; including the boldly striped larvae of the beautiful Monarch Butterfly. Asclepias sap is toxic to many of this caterpillar’s predators, providing the insect with natural defense. Small Milkweed Bugs —colored in bold red and black patterns— also look to Asclepias species for food; feeding upon the seed of this important native plant. Lady luck must have been walking with me yesterday as I strolled through the garden, because I happened upon not only eye-popping, orange blossoms, but wild black & yellow stripes and bold, modernist patterns all on one plant … talk about artistic inspiration!

A Bumble Bee and Fritillary Butterfly Share the Same Dining Table at Their Local Asclepias tuberosa

Last summer, I featured this beautiful, long-blooming summertime flower  —Asclepias tuberosa—  in a plant profile. You can view additonal photos of butterfly weed in flower, and find more about this wonderful garden-worthy member of the milkweed family, by clicking back to that profile post here.

A Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar (Danus plexippus) in my garden, munches on its favorite host-plant:  Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Weed). I am more than happy to plant plenty of flowers for both of us!

Yellow and Black on Orange: Another Beautiful & Colorful Guest, the North American Native Bumble Bee, Visits Asclepias tuberosa in Search of Sustenance 

And on the same plant, a Small Milkweed Bug (Lygaeus kalmii) scurries about beneath the leaves. This brightly colored bug feeds upon the seeds of milkweed and butterfly weed. Because milkweed is considered an agricultural weed, this insect is often regarded as a beneficial

Fritillary Butterflies Flock to the Nectar in Asclepias tuberosa – No Wonder It’s Commonly Called Butterfly Weed!

Asclepias tuberosa makes a great garden plant: pictured here along the Wildflower Walk with Amsonia hubrichitii, Asters, Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ and Clethra Alnifolia ‘Ruby Spice’. Try it in combination with blue and violet flowers for a bold contrast. Or cool things off with a bit of silver, and white!

To read more about Asclepias tuberosa and its cultural preferences click here.

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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Strolling Along the Wildflower Walk …

July 6th, 2011 Comments Off

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 Peek Inside the Misty Moss Walls: Springtime in the Secret Garden …

May 22nd, 2011 § 4

By May, a cool tapestry of springtime color carpets the Secret Garden path…

This week my design studio and office began slowly migrating back down to the Secret Garden Room, where plants and paperwork happily mingle from late spring through early November. Each day on my way to and from appointments, I pass through the walled garden and along the plant-lined, stone path leading to the drive up and down my hillside. It only takes a few minutes here —engulfed by cool air and familiar fragrance— to shake off the cares of the outside world. This Secret Garden is my sanctuary and my muse. Care to step inside for a peek? Come follow me along the path and in through the moss-covered walls…

To the Right of the Walled Garden, An Old Chair Stands Ready to Support Emerging Rudbeckia Seedlings (other plants here include Muscari, Sedum ‘Angelina’, and Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’, and in back, Abelia mosanensis)

A Crow –from Virginia Wyoming’s Series by the same name– stands sentry, perched atop a wall along the Secret Garden path (click here to read more about the artist and her work)

A favorite old urn sits nestled at the foot of a Moonlight Hydrangea Vine (Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’), rising Fairy Candles (Actaea racemosa ‘Hillside Black Beauty’), bright ‘Caramel’ Coral Bells (Heuchera americana ‘Caramel’) and sweet-scented Lily of the Valley (Convularia majalis), in a corner of the garden filled with with bulbs and emerging fiddleheads…

Brushing past the cranberrybush (Viburnum trilobum ‘Baily Compact’), along a path filled with woodland phlox, grape hyacinth, stonecrop, ajuga, daphne and emerging rudbeckia seedlings, the glow of new Japanese forest grass and the nodding heads of jonquil within the Secret Garden beckon…

Between Raindrops, Sunlight Illuminates New Leaves and Coral-Colored Branch Tips on the Blue Green Dragon (Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’), Arching Over the Secret Garden Door…

Lady Ferns (Athyrium filix x femina ‘Lady in Red’) and glossy bergenia (Bergenia ‘Bressingham Ruby’) line the damp, mossy threshold into the walled garden…

And the next step reveals the bottlebrush-blossom tips of dwarf witch alder (Fothergilla gardenii) to the right, chartreuse-colored spurge (Euphorbia, various cvs), the unfolding leaves of a yellow tree peony, (Paeonia mouton x lutea ‘High Noon’), ostrich fern (Metteuccia pensylvanica), Narcissus (N. ‘Sterling’) and Japanese forest grass’ green-gold glow…

Hard to See in the Larger Photos are Some of My Tiny Treasures, Like This Muscari ‘Valerie Finnis’ (click to image to enlarge)

Another View of the Center, Secret Garden Wall…

Stepping Inside, A Moment’s Pause to Gaze Upon the Reflecting Bowl Beside the Stone Wall

Deep Inside the Far Corners, Tender Plants Begin to Migrate, Mingling with the Secret Garden’s Full-Time, Outdoor Residents for the Summer Season. Plants from the left: Moonlight Hydrangea Vine (Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’), Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia pensylvanica), Hosta ‘Patriot’ and on the chair, a young Streptocarpus hardens off…

Japanese Hydrangea Vine (Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Roseum’) Creeps Along the Moss Covered Wall, Moving Slowly but Steadily Toward the Doorway and the Reflecting Bowl; Shimmering Beside the Prized Japanese Wood Poppy (Glaucidium palmatum, featured in last Friday’s post).

Looking back from within the Secret Garden Room, where my summer-season office is already overflowing with design plans and plant lists for landscaping clients…

And tender plants like this asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus ‘Sprengeri’) waiting ’til all danger of frost has passed to return to the outside world…

A Special May Pleasure Along the  Secret Garden Path: One of My Favorite Fragrances of Springtime, the Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaricata ‘Clouds of Perfume’)

Inside the Secret Garden, Peering Out Beyond the Threshold of the Stone Doorway

For a  Summertime Preview of the Secret Garden Click Here to Visit a Post from last Season.

All Stonework in the Secret Garden and throughout Ferncliff is by Vermont artist Dan Snow

Secret Garden Design & Installation: Michaela Medina. For design inquiries, see my professional services page at left.

Article and All Photographs ⓒ Michaela at 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 reproduced or reposted without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

The Gardener’s Eden received no compensation for the editorial mention of any products or services mentioned in this post. Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links here (including Amazon.com 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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The Mysterious Moods of ‘Mrs. Moon’…

April 28th, 2011 § 4

In the Beginning of the Garden Romance, ‘Mrs. Moon’ (Pulmonaria saccharata) Blushes, Shy and Tender in Spring Rain…

Meet ‘Mrs. Moon’, the garden coquette. Hot, cold. Hot, cold. Just when you think you have her figured out, she up and changes her mood. Surely you’ve encountered such a fickle flower; blushing and eager one moment —seducing you in with warmth and tenderness— then suddenly turning cool before fading away? Of course, when I put it like that, it sounds a bit like torture –but it’s not. No, the human heart is indeed curious. Many of us like a bit of mystery in romance; a few clouds to make us long for the sun…

Rosy ‘Mrs. Moon’ (Pulmonaria saccharata, commonly known as Bethlehem Sage or Lungwort) shares space with lovely, old-fashioned Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis) in my garden

Pulmonaria saccharata ‘Mrs. Moon’ (Bethlehem Sage or Lungwort, as this plant is commonly known) is just such a classic flirt. Her pink buds swell and open in a soft, delicious shade of pink. And then —the moment you get used to her warmth— she suddenly cools off; blossoms shifting to violet blue. Clearly, this character has more than one side! But —in spite of her shape-shifting ways— Pulmonaria saccharata is one of those endlessly useful plants that every gardener should know about. Hardy in USDA zones 3-8, with an early bloom time and frost-resilient petals, Bethlehem sage makes a wonderful companion for spring flowering bulbs (gorgeous with deep violet or pale yellow). And with her lovely, semi-evergreen, silver-white-spotted foliage, P. saccharata ‘Mrs. Moon’ continues to hold this gardener’s interest, long after her initial hot-cold act has faded. Tolerant of dry shade and clay soils, ‘Mrs. Moon’ has become one of my favorite ground covers for low-light garden designs. And as an added bonus, she’s even resistant to nibbling deer!

A native to Europe and Asia, Bethlehem sage is a lovely edger for a shady walkway or seating area (blossom stems and foliage reach approximately 12″ in height, with variable spread) and she combines well with so many plants; particularly perennials with maroon-tinted foliage or colorful ferns like Japanese painted (Athyrium nipponicum ‘Pictum’) and Ghost (Athyrium x ‘Ghost’) ferns. ‘Mrs. Moon’ is an old-time garden favorite, but of course, not everyone is comfortable with her indecisive ways. Some gardeners prefer a fixed color scheme, and they dislike surprises. But, if you —like me— prefer your sunshine mixed with fog and sudden downpours, —and if you’re drawn to less-predictable characters— then a romance with ‘Mrs Moon’ may be right for you. Wink.

Just when you think you have her figured out, slowly, ‘Mrs. Moon’ cools off;  her color deepening to rosy-violet…

And then –a true coquette– Mrs. Moon’s blossoms shift further to a moody shade of violet-blue, just prior to fading away. But her tantalizing foliage continues to flirt with us all season long (Pulmonaria saccharata ‘Mrs. Moon’ is available online through Bluestone Perennials. Click photo for details).

Alchemilla mollis (Lady’s Mantle) makes a lovely companion; young leaves catching glistening raindrops

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Image four is courtesy of Bluestone Perennials as linked and noted. The Gardener’s Eden is not professionally affiliated with Bluestone Perennials, but is indeed a fan.

Article and all other photographs are copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent. Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links here. 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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Garden Structure & Seasonal Texture: White Lace and Sparkling Silver Tulle Dance and Flirt in a Prelude to Winter…

December 11th, 2010 § 4

The Entry Garden at First Light on December 11th

I often wonder why I bother to mourn the end of autumn when there’s so much magic and beauty to be found in the garden during this quiet time of the year. As we near the winter solstice, I find myself every bit as enchanted by the garden as I am during the spring and summer months. My morning walks are cold —no doubt— and my finger tips burn a bit as I run them over the frosty stone walls. But the rich, visual rewards of those nippy strolls at first light make every shiver worthwhile.

Some gardeners prefer to cut back the perennials in their beds and borders in late autumn and early winter. And there is an argument to made for this approach. Certainly, there are places within the garden where I fuss over tender plants; protecting them from cold with mounds of compost or blankets of evergreen boughs. But by and large, I prefer to leave perennials standing throughout winter; that I might enjoy both the bold and delicate textures and how they sparkle with snow and ice after storms. Vertical lines, relief and pattern, both in the garden’s hardscape as well as in the more ephemeral plantings, are key to creating structure and beauty in a winter garden.

Seed Pods Provide Food for Birds and Beauty for Human Eyes: Rudbeckia hirta and Solidago with Sparkling Frost and Snow

Textural Grass Catches Light, Snow and Ice in the Quiet Season. Switch Grass (Panicum virginicum ‘Heavy Metal’) with A Light Morning Glaze…

Climbing Hydrangea (H. petiolaris) Adds Texture and Color to A Grouping of Boulders, and Provides Nooks and Crannies for a Dusting of Fresh Snow…

I often talk about the “bones” of a garden when I discuss design with my clients. This framework, or skeleton, is what gives the landscape shape throughout the year. Walls, fences and arbors, trellises and obelisks, benches and chairs, sculpture and boulders are all examples of objects that add to a garden’s hardscape and structure. Living plants, particularly dramatically shaped trees and shrubs are also helpful in creating a season-spanning garden design. In terms of defining outdoor space, hedges —both formal and informal— alles, espalier fences, and other features are useful in building permanent trans-seasonal walls.

Sculpture and Lichen-Covered Stone Catch Snow: Here, the Guardian Stands Sentry at the Edge of the Forest

The Rusty Color and Grid-Patterned Seat Make this Bench a Valuable Winter-Garden Object

Perennials May Fade at Autumn’s End, but Dan Snow’s Stone Seat and Evergreen Conifers Remain (Young hemlock: Tsuga canadensis)

Here in New England, field stone has long been a popular material for dividing garden spaces, and it will always be my personal favorite. From retaining walls and steps, to formal and free-form sculpture, I am most fond of this natural and versatile material. Throughout the seasons —but especially during the quiet season of winter— Dan Snow’s stonework is the central architectural feature and design element in my garden. Because Dan’s walls are comprised of subtly colored and textured rock —often softened by blueish lichen and emerald moss— they seem quite alive, even though they are technically inorganic. Whats more, the arrangement of the stonework itself —whether stacked horizontally, vertically, or arranged in dramatic and shifting pattern— adds artistry to the garden’s bare architecture in winter.

Steps and stairs —though they can be constructed from a wide variety of materials— must safely function and enhance a garden throughout the seasons. What we call “hallways” in our homes are the “pathways” in our gardens. These frequently-traveled spaces are as important outdoors as they are inside the house. Stepping stones, pea stones and gravel all add texture to the garden throughout the year. And in winter, walls, pathways, steps and other architectural features become highly exposed design elements. As crazy as I am about plants (and we all know that’s pretty crazy) my primary focus when designing a garden is always on the underlying structure. Build your garden before you decorate it with plants –and build it well, for it will hold, protect and exhibit your botanical treasures as your house contains, shelters and displays all of your worldly possessions! In winter, outdoor rooms are as stark as an empty house. And usually, the more attractive the garden’s architecture, the more beautiful the winter garden…

Stone Wall and Juniper Line the Winter Garden Walkway. Dan Snow Added both Candle Niches and Seats within the Wall, Creating Opportunities for Rest and Display Throughout the Seasons…

Stone Steps by Dan Snow Look Beautiful with a Dusting of Snow, and the Varied Height of the Sloped Setting Makes a Lovely Display for Frost-Proof Pots and Evergreen Plants…

Winter is a Fine Time to Enjoy Works of Art —Both Large and Small— in the Garden. Dan Snow’s Fire Sculpture Looks Particularly Beautiful in the Snow…

Structural elements and textural interest provide nature with a three-dimensional canvas for wintery works of art. And although it’s possible to spend a fortune on architectural details and plants, keep in mind that even the humblest cast-aways —flea market benches, unwanted boulders, simple fences and wire cables, twig teepees and homemade works of art— are just as effective when it comes to creating spaces and adding tactile elements in the garden. The rusty surfaces and cracked edges of second hand and found objects often enhance a snowy landscape. Set things out in the garden and move them around until you find a spot that feels right. Begin by using what you have on hand and playfully experiment with the beauty of the winter garden…

The honey-colored remnants of Golden Hops Vine (Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’) add beautiful texture to a simple cable rail along a deck in winter. Be on the look-out for perennials and vines with persistent papery, dried flowers and seed heads -these textural elements are key to winter garden detail…

A Mass Planting of  Flame Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘purpurascens’ ) Forms a Season-Spanning ‘Screen’; Adding Texture and Color to the Garden Throughout the Seasons, in Addition to Providing Enclosure and  Natural Transition to the Meadow and Mountain Tops Beyond

Old wire chairs, even if they are no longer functional, provide endless interest in the garden throughout the seasons. In winter, this ivy-patterend chair casts a gorgeous shadow in the snow…

At the Garden Entryway, the Texture of Juniperus horizontalis and the Natural Stone Ledge Both Stand Out with a Dusting of Snow and Create a Backdrop for Other Plantings Throughout the Seasons…

Boulders —Remnants from Site Excavation— Make a Pretty Vine-Covered Grouping at Garden’s Edge (Hydrangea petiolaris)

Dan Snow’s Stone Steps Dusted in Snow

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All Stonework Featured Here is by Vermont Artist Dan Snow

Article and Photographs 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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Behold the Beautiful Autumn Tapestry: A Kaleidoscopic Carpet at Our Feet…

November 16th, 2010 § 3

Geranium ‘Brookside’ shows off in sensational shades of red and orange in mid-November

Near-metallic gleam: Dryopteris erythrosora ‘Brilliance’ (Autumn Brilliance fern)

Our native ground-covering Pachysandra procumbens (Allegheny spurge) provides beautiful and variable autumn color beneath shrubs along my garden’s entryway and along the shady parts of the path

Now that I have accepted the skeletal lines and architectural drama of the November forest, it’s hard not to fall in love with late autumn’s incredible beauty. One morning it’s foggy, moody mountaintops and the next it’s the surprise of sparkling hoar frost at sunrise. The last weeks of autumn can be a truly magical time in the garden. Walking along the paths, digging holes here and there for spring bulbs, my eyes are drawn to the kaleidoscopic color surrounding my feet. Bronze, vermillion, gold and violet; the ground looks as if it’s covered in a collection of precious, spilled jewels. Some of these late-autumn beauties always provide rich garden color -often in the form of variegation or lacy leaves. But many garden ground-covers, including Bergenia ‘Bressingham Ruby’Geranium ‘Brookside’ (Cranesbill) and Dryopteris erythrosora ‘Brilliance’, wait until late in the season to put on their most vibrant show.

When designing a garden, I always give careful consideration to the flooring. In much the same way an interior designer thoughtfully selects wood or marble or carpeting for a space, I purposefully choose my ground-covering options in outdoor rooms. Of course, knowing a bit about how the tapestry of foliage will change throughout the seasons is invaluable. Will the green leaves of a particular plant become gold or orange in October, playing off violet-hued shrubs? Will the rusty, late-season tones of a low-growing conifer help to bring out the blue-tint of a statuesque spruce towering above? As I made my rounds in the garden this morning, I snapped a few photos to give you a better idea of how ground-covering foliage can add to the late season garden. And much like the exquisite Oriental carpets and Persian rugs found in beautiful homes, low-growing plants can add amazing warmth and texture to garden rooms, not only in autumn and winter, but at any time of the year…

Pachysandra procumbens (Allegheny spurge) mottled green and bronze in patterns like marble

Sedum ‘Angelina’ continues to glow in all of her orange-tipped chartreuse glory, as she creeps along the stone pathway

Bergenia ‘Bressingham Ruby’ at the Secret Garden Door (Other plants include Galium odoratum, Euphorbia, Heuchera, Lamium maculatum and Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’)

Microbiota decussata is just beginning to show off the beautiful, bronzy, late autumn and winter color I so adore

Along the Secret Garden path, green and white Lamium maculatum ‘Orchid Frost’ and Pulmonaria saccharata ‘Mrs. Moon’ combine nicely with the glossy and  verdant leaves of  Helleborus x hybridus ‘Royal Heritage Strain’ and the gorgeous late season yellow of Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’

Heuchera americana ‘Green Spice’ takes on lovely orange veining and shines beside the low, gold Euphorbia along the path

Calluna vulgaris ‘Multicolor’ glows in electric shades of orange —intensified here by the blue-green color of Juniperus horizontalis ‘Bar Harbor’— while the Spring Heath (Erica carnea) softens the impact with its medium green

Geranium ‘Brookside’ blazes brightly in the garden amongst the brown and tan of fallen leaves

Microbiota decussata with Thymus Pseudolanuginosus (better known by the easier-to-pronounce common name, ‘wooly thyme’)

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Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 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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Spicy Cream of Carrot & Ginger Soup And the Last Rays of Golden Sunlight…

November 14th, 2010 § 4

Spicy Cream of Carrot & Ginger Soup

Alas, another late autumn weekend is drawing to a close; November sun flickering as it slips beyond bare tree-tops. The wood has been stacked, the bulbs all planted and sweet carrots harvested for soup. What a gift, these late-season days of warm weather. I love working in the garden until the last light of day, watching the low sun as it dances across the garden; illuminating the bright red twigs of dogwood and buff-colored tufts of ornamental grass…

Stacking Wood on the Terrace

The Entry Garden in November: Tufts of Miscanthus sinensis ‘Variegatus’ illuminated against a background of  dark green juniper (Juniperus x pfitzeriana ‘Sea Green’), delightful, glowing red-twig dogwood and the stark white bark of paper birch (Betula papyrifera)

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ and Fagus sylvatica ‘Riversii’ against the November sky

Before I slip back outside for a stroll through the caramel-colored forest, I want to share this delightful recipe I concocted at lunchtime. My carrot-based soup was inspired by a recipe featured in this month’s Martha Stewart Living, which I’ve been wanting to try (and still will). In the end though, today’s soup became something entirely different, because I didn’t have the harissa —a chile sauce from North Africa, which is included in that recipe— and instead of leeks, I decided to use up some of my onions. I definitely wanted spice, and I always seem to have Sriracha sauce in my kitchen, so I used that to generate heat. And in addition to my freshly harvested carrots, I just happen to have a bit of ginger root on hand —I love the combination of carrot and ginger— so I added a bit of that to the mix. Then, at the last minute I thought, well, why not add some warm spices and heavy cream to this and see how it goes. Mmmm. I really liked the ginger-carrot/spicy-creamy combination, and I think you will too. It’s just the right mid-afternoon pick-me-up, and I bet it would be a delightful start to a harvest dinner. Give it a try and let me know what you think. If you are looking for a lighter, healthier soup, simply omit the cream…

Spicy Cream of Carrot and Ginger Soup

Ingredients (serves 4-6):

1         Medium onion, peeled and diced

2         Cups fresh young carrots, peeled and sliced

1         Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1         Two inch piece of fresh ginger, grated

2         Cloves of peeled and crushed garlic

1/2      Teaspoon Sriracha sauce (more or less to taste) or sub other hot sauce

2          Cups homemade vegetable or chicken broth

1          Cup of heavy cream (sub w/ another cup of stock for low-fat soup)

1/8      Teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg

1/8      Teaspoon fresh grated cinnamon

1          Tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped for garnish

Fresh Ground black pepper and salt to taste

Directions:

In a medium stockpot or large saucepan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil on medium. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, or until soft. Add the carrots and Sriracha sauce, reduce the heat a bit and cook about 10 minutes. Add 2 cups of stock (use three cups if you are omitting the heavy cream) and bring turn the heat back up to medium. Add the ginger, garlic, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for approximately 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and add one cup of cream if you would like a creamy soup. Very carefully puree small batches of the soup in a blender. Warning: DO NOT attempt to puree large batches of hot soup or you may burn yourself. This soup may be completely or partially pureed, as you like.Try pureeing a cup or two at a time. Add the pureed soup back to the pot and warm on low heat.

Ladle the soup into shallow bowl, garnish with freshly chopped parsley and serve.

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Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 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…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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