In Late September’s Low Sunlight, Autumn Dons Her Golden Crown . . .

September 26th, 2012 § 1 comment § permalink

The Garden’s Golden Hour: Miscanthus sinensis purpurascens & Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’

Sunset to twilight: a favorite window of time for a slow garden stroll. Quick, grab a sweater to throw off the chill, and a camera to capture the beauty. Early autumn and the golden hour —a garden drenched in honey-hued light— sweet moments to savor and share …

Chocolate-Colored Pom-Poms: Rudbeckia Remnants with Sun Spots. In My Garden, Seed Heads Remain Standing to Provide Winter Sustenance for Birds and Add Textural Interest to the Garden

The Entry Garden in Late September Sunlight: Maiden Grasses are Positioned to Catch Morning & Early Evening Light

Warm Hues of Early Autumn in the Entry Garden: Plantings Include; Amsonia illustris, A. hubrichtii, Miscanthus sinensis purpurascens, Betula papyrifera, Clethra alnifolia, Aster oblongifolium ‘Raydon’s Favorite’, Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’

Sun-Washed Seed Pods: Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa)

When designing a garden, I usually make several site visits, scheduled at different times of the day. Observing sunlight helps me to position certain plants –such as ornamental grasses or Japanese maples– for maximum effect. When planning your garden, watch the sunlight and plant accordingly to take advantage of backlight in morning and early evening. You will be rewarded for your efforts with luminous garden rooms filled with ‘stained glass’ windows.

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 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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In Concert: Fall’s Brilliant Fantasia …

October 18th, 2011 § Comments Off on In Concert: Fall’s Brilliant Fantasia … § permalink

Flames of the Apprentice: Cotinus coggygria (Smokebush) Turns up the Volume on the Mid-October Music

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been fascinated by the relationship between color and sound. My mom had a fairly eclectic record collection —from classical to kitsch— and as a child, I loved listening to music while playing with crayons; creating wild works of art in response to the high and low notes I was hearing. I still listen to music while working in my studio, and the auditory language of color seems instinctive to me. When I hear the sound of an oboe —an instrument I love— I’m swept away by rivers of dark indigo and waves of velvety violet. I also adore cello, and while not as dark as oboe, it still conjures deeper hues, like chocolaty maroon and port wine. Some instruments, like guitar and piano, can cover the entire range of the rainbow, while others, like the bagpipes and the penny whistle, seem to stick to one end of the spectrum or the other. Individually, these sounds are all quite interesting, but when you put them all together … Well, we all know that’s when the fun really begins. Colors, like music, stir moods and feelings …

Viburnum lentago’s Dark Indigo Berries Sing a Streak of Rainy-Day Blues Against a Jazzy Backdrop of Red and Orange (Backup Singers, From Left to Right: Viburum plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Shasta’ and Miscanthus sinensis ‘Purpurascens’)

The colors of autumn seem particularly euphonious, bringing to mind one of my favorite animated, musical films, Fantasia. And as we move toward the end of October, I’m inevitably reminded of the best part of that Disney Classic, The Sorceress’ Apprentice (click here to watch it on YouTube). Although I remember being terrified by parts of the film when I was very young (leaping flames, hooded monks, yikes!), the contrast between the light and the dark is exactly what made it fascinating as I grew older. I still relate to the apprentice’s experimental nature, as I play with my own color magic in the garden. As with art and music, contrasts are what make autumn garden design compositions beautiful …

Meanwhile the Garden’s Head Sorceress —That Wild-Colored Child, Witch Hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’)— Hits an Electric Chord Beside Deep and Sultry Summer Wine Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’) with Juniperus chinensis ‘Sargentii’ chiming in with a bit of the blues. Note the Background Chorus: Harmonious, Honey-Hued Clethra alnifolia ‘Ruby Spice’, and the Screaming Red Notes of Cornus alba ‘Siberica’. Read More About the Witch Hazel ‘Diane’ by Clicking Here.

Purple Percussive Profusion: Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Issai’ (In Truth, the Candy-Colored Fruits & Golden Wrapping of Beautyberry Always Remind Me of Another Film: Something Fizzy and Slightly Naughty from Willy Wonka’s Factory) Read More About the Aptly Named Beautyberry by Clicking Here.

Dahlias Dark Delight: This ‘Karma Choc’ Brings to Mind a Raspberry-Infused, Chocolate Cordial Cello

Early Halloween Costume Drama? Even the Insects Get in on the Act: This American Dagger Moth Caterpillar Shows off a Fuzzy, Mustard-Hued, Fantasy Cloak (Click Here to Read More About Autumn Caterpillars)

Abelia mosanensis (Fragrant Abelia) Puts on a Spectacular Show, Starting with Seductive Orange Heat, and Working Up to Fever-Pitch Red; Bouncing off Viburnum lantana ‘Variegatum’s (Wayfaring Viburnum) Yellow-Green, Percussive Notes. Meanwhile, Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’ (Blue Rug Juniper) Plays it Cool with a Hint of Blues to Steady the Two Drama Queens (Read More About Fragrant Abelia by Clicking Here).

Hakonchloa macra ‘Beni-Kaze’ (Japanese Forest Grass ‘Red Wind’) gets Jazzy on Improv with Pulmonaria ‘Raspberry Splash’ and P. ‘Mrs. Moon’. Hosta and Heuchera Playing Backup for This Dynamic Duo (Read About the Springtime Beauty of Bethlehem Sage —And Pulmonaria ‘Mrs. Moon’ in Particular— by Clicking Here)

Inspiration: Walt Disney’s Fantasia: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Film Still ⓒ 1940 Walt Disney Productions

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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Heavenly as October Skies at Sunset: ‘Raydon’s Favorite’ Aromatic Aster Sparkles in My Autumn Garden …

October 12th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

Raydon’s Favorite aromatic aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium ‘Raydon’s Favorite’/ aka Aster oblongifolius) in the front entry garden in mid-October (Shining gold in the background here: Amsonia hubrichtii and Clethra alnifolia ‘Ruby Spice’)

When it comes to North American native wildflowers, there’s just no way I could ever choose a favorite. My plant infatuations are many; varying by season, weather pattern and even time of day. But in autumn —when beautiful blue and violet flowers are so magnificent paired with gold— I simply can not resist heavenly-hued, ‘Raydon’s Favorite’ aromatic aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium ‘Raydon’s Favorite) …

Symphyotrichum oblongifolium ‘Raydon’s Favorite’ (Other plants in this design are listed clockwise from bottom left: Rudbeckia hirta seed pods, Pennisetum alopecuroides, Amsonia hubrichtii, Clethra alnifolia ‘Ruby Spice’, Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’, Solidago, and Betula papyrifera)

Although less well-known than some of the flashier species and cultivars, this North American native, aromatic aster (USDA zones 3-9), is a garden designer’s dream. Unlike many of her gangly cousins, this densely mounded, 16-36″ beauty keeps a neat profile in the border (though they don’t require snipping to promote bushy form, I like to shear the front-row plants back in early summer to create a two-tiered effect in the garden). Drought tolerance, deer resistance and late-season interest are but three of her many charms. Provided her modest requirements are met —full sun and well drained, average to lean garden soil— she’ll bloom her pretty head off from late summer straight through the early frosts. ‘Raydon’s Favorite’ combines so well with autumn colors, I’d be hard-pressed to find an unattractive fall pairing. I love this flower with rich golds, saffron and chartreuse (see photo above), but she’s equally stunning with eye-popping red and orange or deep maroon. Backed up by a dark Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’, fiery Viburnum plicatum (Doublefile Viburnum), lemony Lindera benzoin (Spicebush), or a technicolor explosion like Fothergilla major (Witch alder), she completely steals the show. And have I mentioned the birds, bees and butterflies? Why this is the most popular pollinator pit-stop in the October garden!

The best part of this lovely plant? Passing by ‘Raydon’s Favorite’ aromatic asters on my way to and from the studio is a true-blue mood lifter. Even on the greyest and cloudiest of autumn days, the delightful, lavender-blue flowers always bring a smile to my face!

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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“Autumn is a Second Spring When Every Leaf is a Flower” – Albert Camus Welcoming the Month of October …

October 1st, 2011 § 3 comments § permalink

Welcome Scarlet Reds: Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’ in the Secret Garden 

Welcome October …  A Favorite Month, in a Favorite Season !

And Glowing Orange: Rhus typhina ‘Tiger Eyes’ in the Border at Meadow’s Edge …

Luminous as Stained Glass: Cornus kousa (Kousa Dogwood) and the Remnants of Daucus carota (Queen Anne’s Lace) in the Garden …

Vibrant Plum and Violet: Hydrangea quercifolia (Oakleaf Hydrangea) in the Entry Garden …

All the Colors of the Rainbow in Fields: Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ (Fountain Grass), Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Weed) and Amsonia hubrichtii (Arkansas Blue Star) …

And Forests: Viburnum lantanoides (Hobblebush) in the Forest

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

August 23rd, 2011 § 3 comments § permalink

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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After the Rain …

August 16th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

The Vibrant but Subtle Detail of this Beautiful Leaf (Cotinus coggygria ‘Grace’) is Even More Striking when Sprinkled with Water Droplets on a Rainy Day

Ah, soft, sweet showers! At last, gentle grey clouds have delivered a long, cool drink of refreshing rain! I can almost hear my drought-parched garden singing a joyful song. And with silvery raindrops sparkling on trees, shrubs and vines, it’s a wonderfully romantic time for a stroll along the misty garden path, beneath a wide umbrella. Won’t you join me for a spell?

Hearts and Teardrops: The Leaves of This Old-Time Favorite, Dutchman’s Pipe (Aristolochia macrophylla), Look Fresh and Lovely After the Rain …

I’m Pretty Crazy About ‘Bonfire’ Euphorbia Any Day of the Week (Euphorbia polychroma ‘Bonfire’), But I’m Particularly Smitten with the Jewel-Toned Leaves on Rainy Days, when They Sparkle and Shimmer Like a Vintage Brooch

The Ripening Berries on this Tea Viburnum (V. setigerum) Dangle Like Diamond-Studded Chandelier Earrings

Delicate New Inflorescences on this Switch Grass (Panicum virginicum ‘Heavy Metal’) Shimmer Between Showers (Backed up by Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’ aka ‘Diabolo’/’Monolo’)

One of the Great Beauties of Late Summer: Blushing Tufts of Smoke Bush (Cotinus Coggygria) Gleam and Glimmer Like a Cluster of Pale Pink Sapphires

The Simple Beauty of a Single Leaf: Silverbells are so-named for their beautiful white flowers, but after a summer shower, this over-turned Halesia tetraptera leaf also conjures a metallic finish

Near the End of the Walkway, Calluna vulgaris ‘Silver Knight’ Glows Like Lavender in the Mist

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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Cooling Off in the Dappled Shade: Deepest Violet and Shadow Blue Hues …

July 23rd, 2011 § Comments Off on Cooling Off in the Dappled Shade: Deepest Violet and Shadow Blue Hues … § permalink

Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ with Fothergilla x intermedia ‘Blue Shadow’

Out working in the field during this week’s scorching heat and high humidity, I found myself dodging the sun whenever possible; ducking beneath the cover of every shade tree and arbor in order to hide from burning, mid-day rays. Over the past couple of weeks it’s been so hot, it really does feel as if you could fry an egg on the side walk. I can barely keep up with watering these days, and I find myself longing for the sweet relief of summer rain.

During the dog days of summer —seduced by the undeniable allure of cool hues and dappled shade in the Secret Garden— I like to spend as much time as possible working from my shadowy office-nook. Cool shades like sea-green, violet-maroon, silvery-blue and burgundy —some of my favorite colors— fill this shady oasis. And on hot days, I love to pull a chair into the tall ferns and surround myself with lush, sensual foliage, in soothing, deep, dark hues. Previously, in posts such as “A Heart of Darkness”, I’ve mentioned my infatuation with nearly-black plants. And while the hues are anything but hot, my dark passion for shadowy foliage shows now sign of cooling. Currently, I’m loving the color play of silver-blue leaves against deep maroon, and two long-time favorite, shady ladies, Fothergilla x intermedia ‘Blue Shadow’ (USDA 4-8) and Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ (USDA 4-8), are the latest, cool-hued additions to my garden (foliage of both pictured above). 

Athyrium niponicum var. pictum with Cryptotaenia japonica atropurpurea (aka variously: Japanese Mitsuba or Japanese parsley/honewort)

The pale pink plumes of Astilbe x arendesii ‘Europa’ also combine well with bronzy-maroon Cryptotaenia japonica atropurpurea

Elsewhere in the shade gardens, I like to combine astilbe and silvery ferns —particularly Athyrium niponicum var. pictum and Athyrium ‘Ghost’ (both ferns, USDA 4-9)— with the deep, violet-maroon leaves of Cryptotaenia japonica autropurpurea(aka Japanese Mitsuba/Honewort, USDA zones 4-9*), Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’, H. ‘Stormy Sea’ and statuesque Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ (which I featured in this post –click here– last summer). Chartreuse/gold leaves and blades also play beautifully in contrast with darker foliage; bringing a bit of light to shady vignettes. Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’ and Hosta ‘August Moon’ are two favorite bright-contrast plants in my dimly-lit Secret Garden.

After a long day in the hot sun, there’s nothing quite so soothing as a cool glass of lemonade in a lush, shady nook…

Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ (aka Cimicifuga), Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’ play beautifully with the chartreuse-blades of Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’ and to the far left, silvery, variegated Lamium maculatum ‘White Nancy’

Hosta ‘August Moon’ with Cryptotaenia japonica atropurpurea

One of my long-time favorite, leafy ground covers for dappled sunlight, Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’, combines well with many other shade garden plants. And I particularly love the leathery-maroon leaves beneath Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’

*Cryptotaenia japonica atropurpurea is a culinary herb, known variously as Mitsuba, Japanese parsley or honeywort. It is closely related to North American Cryptotaenia canadensis. Although it is not considered an invasive plant by the USDA, C. japonica freely seeds and in shady, moist locations can become aggressive (much like mint). Plant this herb with caution and dead head to prevent self-sowing seed troubles.

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 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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A Bolder Shade of Summertime … Sambucus racemosa ‘Sutherland Gold’

July 5th, 2011 § 3 comments § permalink

 Sambucus racemosa ‘Sutherland Golden’ with Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’ in the Entry Garden

Some like it hot. And, some wither and fade in the mid-day sun. Blossoms come and go quickly at this time of year, but beautiful foliage lasts all season long. Does your garden go through awkward phases throughout the summer; gaps between flowering, when things look a little ‘blah’? Consider experimenting with colorful leaves to add a bit of season-spanning interest in your garden. A verdant backdrop is always lovely, of course. But there’s more than one hue in your box of Crayolas, so why not pull out a few and play around?

Like most gardeners, when I began planting perennials in my first garden, I was very flower-centric. Of course, flowers have evolved to seduce us —as well as birds, bees and butterflies— so it’s hard not to focus on all of those gorgeous blossoms. Peonies, roses, iris; I adore them all. Trouble is, even when employing various cultivars for staggered bloom time, the flowering season of most perennials is really quite short. Now, when designing gardens for myself and for my clients, I am quite ruthless when selecting plants. “What’s in it for me ?” I ask. “What’s in it for me all season long?” Sambucus racemosa ‘Sutherland Golden(aka ‘Gold’), answers at the top of her lungs: “Look at me … Over here in the flamboyant chartreuse gown!” Brilliant as a sunlit lime, from spring until frost, this gorgeous European Red Elder has become one of my favorite plants for dappled shade and mixed borders. Just look at her glowing, cut leaves…

Sambucus racemosa ‘Sutherland Golden’s Lovely, Tropical-Looking Leaves are Saturated in Luminous Chartreuse

There are several interesting Sambucus racemosa cultivars available; including dark beauties like ‘Black Lace’. I’m attracted to them all, and after experimenting with several in my own garden (which always serves as a testing ground for my garden design work), I’ve found that S. racemosa, ‘Sutherland Golden’ is the best of the yellow-chartreuse cultivars. I love playing the striking foliage of ‘Sutherland Golden’ against coppery and maroon hued plants like Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’ and Cotinus coggygria ‘Grace’ (or for more intensity, C. coggygria ‘Royal Purple’). Chartreuse foliaged plants like this one also work beautifully against dark green hedges (or dark sided houses), and blue-tinted conifers. And just imagine the perennial possibilities! Deep blue and purple flowers, like Geranium ‘Brookside’ or late-blooming Aconitum sing against the golden backdrop of ‘Sutherland Golden’. And orange flowering plants —like butterflyweed and brilliant daylilies— are stunning against this shrubs feathery, bold backdrop. Always luminous, even casual, happenstance pairings with ‘Sutherland Gold’ can be striking. Take a look at the photo below, for example. Notice how the chartreuse color of the Sambucus leaves brings out the brilliant green moss on the ledge in the background. Color works such magic in a garden design …

Treated as a Woody, Perennial Plant (cut back hard in early spring), The Fresh, Vibrant Foliage of this European Red Elder Emerges Rusty, Copper-Orange Before Shifting to a Hue Bright as the Summer Sun…

Hardy in USDA zones 3-8, this fast growing shrub can quickly reach 10′ tall and 12′ wide. However, I almost always treat this ornamental Sambucus as I do woody perennials like Russian Sage and Butterflybush; cutting them back hard and early each spring to encourage low, bushy, new growth. Managed in this way, Sambucus can fit into very small spaces; making it the perfect plant for semi-shaded courtyard spaces and even larger container gardens. The golden foliage can burn out in full sun, so some protection at mid-day will give best coloration. And although flowering, fruiting and golden coloration are diminished in full shade, this lovely shrub thrives in dappled light conditions. Even moisture and a pH of 6-6.5 are her soil preferences; adding woodsy leaf mold and/or good compost will encourage healthy, rapid growth. Attractive to bees, butterflies and birds, Sambucus offers the garden fragrant flowers and fruit for wildlife (beware all parts of S. racemosa –including green and red berrries– are mildly toxic when ingested; particularly in great quantities. Avoid this shrub if you have grazing pets or small children. Take care not confuse this species with our native, S. canadensis, as the black fruits of our native elderberry are commonly used for jam).

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

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Al Fresco Dining in the Garden: Fireworks Restaurant’s Lush New Courtyard & Bold Container Design …

June 25th, 2011 § 4 comments § permalink

My Tiered Container Garden Design and Installation at Fireworks Restaurant in Brattleboro, Vermont

Wrapped up a busy work week in the pouring rain yesterday with finishing touches on my garden design and installation for Fireworks Restaurant in Brattleboro, Vermont. This lush, outdoor dining space will soon feature a stone water bowl created by a local artisan. But all good things take time. So, while waiting for completion of the handmade water feature, I placed a shallow bowl of brightly-colored annuals from local Walker Farm (bold orange Cherry Lantana & curly New Zealand Hair Sedge) atop the pedestal to hold its place.

Fireworks Restaurant is my favorite, local place to enjoy a delicious cocktail and relaxed dinner with friends, leisurely weekend brunch or romantic evening with my beau. So when über-talented chef/owner Matthew Blau asked me to design a courtyard garden for his wonderful eatery, I immediately began sketching as we spoke. Much to my dismay, my initial design idea for a corner fire bowl was nixed by local safety codes. However, I quickly decided that a water feature would be equally romantic and inviting in this lovely outdoor space. The project involved a second re-design when it was determined that the pre-existing flag stone patio had to be replaced with cedar decking. Last autumn, I drew up plans for a deep, tiered corner planter (constructed of cedar with an interior base liner) and narrow, matching boxes to screen the alley way and accent an existing mural. This spring, Matthew commissioned a local artisan to create a handmade, stone water bowl (currently being carved in his studio). Over the past couple of weeks —between numerous thundershowers— I set to work filling the planters with potting soil and a combination of boldly colored shrubs, sensual grasses and bright annuals. It’s been so much fun working on this project. If you find yourself in the tri-state region (VT/NH/VT), please stop in for fabulous dining in the new garden! As for me, well, I can hardly wait for a clear evening, to enjoy my first dinner at Fireworks Restaurant beneath the stars …

Just installed this week, the plantings will fill out and form a lush backdrop for the planned water bowl (Permanent plantings include Hydrangea vine {Hydrangea petiolaris}, Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Coppertinia’, Sambucus racemosa ‘Sutherland Gold’, Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’. Annual plantings include Cherry Lantana {Lantana camara}, New Zealand Hair Sedge {Carex camans ‘Frosted Curls’} and Orange/Red Butterfly Weed {Aesclepia curassavica ‘Silky Deep Red’} All annual and tender perennial plants are from Walker Farm.

Although the centerpiece of annuals will eventually be replaced by an artisan-made stone water bowl, the design would also work with a variety of focal points. At one point, we hoped for a fire bowl, but local fire codes ruled that out early on in my planning.

The double alley-side planter boxes were designed to screen the view and provide enclosure on the backside, and to both soften the fence and add style to the inside of the courtyard garden. Plantings in front planter include Dwarf Zebra Grass, Butterfly Weed.

I designed an extra planter for the backside of the fence, and filled it with three Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’. Eventually these shrubs will reach the top of the fence and screen the courtyard dining space from the back alley/parking space. With a bit of pruning, they will form a dense, dark, living wall; highlighting the boldly striped grasses and annuals on the interior side.

Original Design Sketch for Alleyway (Modified to Slightly Longer Planter Box)

Soon, the central, tiered-corner planter will feature a handmade stone water bowl, created by a local artisan

The original design sketch for an interior planter (now raised and modified to suit cedar decking)

Details & Notes…

All annual and tender perennial plants are from Walker Farm in Dummerston, Vermont

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

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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