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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From April Showers to May Flowers…

May 1st, 2012 Comments Off

Trout lily (Erythronium tuolumnense), Daffodils (Narcissus ‘Snipe’), Coral Bell Leaves (Heuchera americana) and Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaricata ‘Clouds of Perfume’). (Click here to read more about Erythronium)

Happy May Day! Here in Vermont, we begin the new month with a day of much-needed rain.

May is a busy month for gardeners. Thirty one days of planning, prepping, planting, weeding and harvesting early crops. Luckily, longer days make all of our harried, summer-time preparations possible. Temperatures in the northeast can still be quite chilly at this time of year and I always check the forecast on clear nights and protect tender plants when the mercury drops.

Still, as we steadily wind our way toward summer, the May nights grow warmer and sweeter. We shed our layers, kick off shoes and wiggle our bare toes in newly-mown grass. It’s May Day at last, and the gardener celebrates; dancing to the percussive beat of raindrops and the symphony of birds in springtime song…

Lovely, dark, Lenten Rose (Helleborus x hybridus ‘Royal Heritage Strain’) Blooms Along the Mossy Stone Wall (Click here to read more about the Lenten Rose)

Trout Lilies Blossom Amongst Fragrant Blue Woodland Phlox (P. divaricata ‘Clouds of Perfume)

With Clusters of Pale, Pinkish-Hued Sisters Nearby (Helleborus x hybridus ‘Royal Heritage Strain’)

Pulmonaria saccharata ‘Raspberry Splash’ and Narcissus, Dance in the Wind-Driven Rain (Click here to read more about Pulmonaria)

The Return of Cooler Temps Extends the Bloom-Time of This Deliciously Fragrant Burkwood Viburnum (V. x burkwoodii ‘Mohawk’)

Creamy-White Witch Alder Blossoms (Fothergilla major ‘Mt. Airy’) and Golden Spicebush Buds (Lindera benzoin) Add Scent to the Damp, Thick Air. (Click here, and also here, to read more about season-spanning beauty of North American native Witch Alder, and click here to read more about North American native Spicebush)

And at the Secret Garden Door, a Water Bowl Catches Raindrops as They Bounce from the Mossy Rock

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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Silvery Heirloom Treasures for the Vase: Nodding Stars-of-Bethlehem …

June 6th, 2011 Comments Off

A late spring bulb for cutting: Nodding Star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum nutans) sitting pretty in a vase by New Mexico artist Heidi Loewen

They are commonly called the Nodding Star-of-Bethlehem, and I think it may be the perfect name for this beautiful, silvery flower. Five autumns ago, with my late-spring cutting garden in mind, I ordered and planted a handful of these heirloom beauties (circa 1594) from Brent & Becky’s Bulbs, even though they are listed as only marginally hardy this far north (USDA Zones 5-8). And although the exotic looking little stars haven’t naturalized as they do in warmer locations (see warning & plant information at bottom of this post) they have returned each and every year; forming three small clumps near the studio foundation. Striking in the garden, to be sure, I actually prefer this green and white flower in a vase; where I can appreciate her subtle charms. Gathered in a porcelain vessel by New Mexico artist Heidi Loewen, I happen to think these silvery stars are just the picture of late spring loveliness…

Some flowers are even more striking in a vase than they are in a garden. To my eye, Ornithogalum nutans is just such a beauty

I like to display the Nodding Star-of-Bethlehem very simply, here gathered in a porcelain vase by New Mexico artist Heidi Loewen

Nodding Star-of-Bethlehem (Orinthogalum nutans) from Brent & Becky’s Bulbs

The beautiful, sea-green vase by New Mexico artist Heidi Loewen was purchased on a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1999. The Orinthogalum nutans bulbs were purchased from Brent & Becky’s Bulbs. And although neither source is an affiliate of The Gardener’s Eden, I am a happy customer of both.

***Nodding Star-of-Bethlehem (Orinthogalum nutans) is native to Europe and Asia and although it is not currently on the USDA invasive plant/noxious weed list, it has been reported as potentially invasive in certain Mid-Atlantic states (Pennsylvania, Maryland, DC & Virginia) and in some counties of other states, including Washington state. Please note: this species should not be confused with Orinthogalum umbellatum (African origins) which is on the USDA noxious weed list and is widely reported as invasive in natural areas.***

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

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The Moment of Spring: A Walk Along The Secret Garden Path in Magical May

May 11th, 2011 § 3

Pretty is the Cool Morning Mist; Softening the Landscape and Intensifying the Fragrance of Springtime

So busy is the month of May… Days pass so quickly, I can barely remember to flip the pages of my desktop calendar. Things in the garden change rapidly from day to day, and I try to take a different path to the driveway each morning, so I won’t miss a single unfurling leaf or flower. But no matter how hard I try, I can’t put sweet springtime on pause to wait for me. And even if I could, would I want to restrain the exuberant sprint of nature, even for a day?

The Pink Buds of Koreanspice Viburnum (V. carlesii) Swell on Graceful Branches; Draped Upon Grey Stone

Only a Week Ago, Trees Stood Bare and A Few Blossoming Shrubs Played Solo…

Now, Everywhere I Look, New Leaves Appear

The Bold Colors of European Beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Riversii’) Sing…

In Perfect Harmony with Blushing Daphne (D. x burkwoodii ‘Carol Mackie’)

Her Sweet & Spicy Scent Seducing all Who Draw Near…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Favorite Combinations Reemerge… Delicate Foam Flower & Cimicifuga… Woodland Phlox & Ferns…

It Seems Everything is Springing to Life at Once. Breathless, I Barely Keep Up…

Creating Vignettes in Summertime Spaces…

And Drinking In the Beautiful, Fleeting Moment of Springtime…

Sanguinaria canadensis – Bloodroot Blossoms

Moonlight Hydrangea Vine (Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’) Leafs Out- Sprawling Over a Candle Niche in the Secret, Walled Garden at Ferncliff

Helleborus x hybridus ‘Royal Heritage Strain’

The Fading & Falling Blossoms of Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’

***

Secret Garden Walls and All Stonework at Ferncliff is by Vermont Artist Dan Snow

Secret Garden Design and Installation by Michaela (for details on plantings see Ferncliff and Secret Garden pages at left)

Article and 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!

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Narcissus & Nostalgia…

April 24th, 2011 Comments Off

Narcissus in April Snow at Ferncliff

Late April snows always bring me back to my mother’s rocky, alpine garden in early spring; colorful bulbs poking up through chilly, crystalline white glazes. Here in New England, spring often arrives in fits and starts, and this year is classic. Winter-weary though we may be, there’s still something undeniably beautiful and poetic about blossoms dusted in snow.

With yesterday’s unexpected, icy precipitation, many children in the northeast are searching for the Easter Bunny’s treasures in snow-covered gardens this year. Nostalgic, my mind drifts back to chilly-fingered egg hunts on the old town commons and frozen, chocolate bunnies in tulip-covered baskets. I can still recall the gleam of patent-leather mary janes; slipping and sliding across slick green and white lawns. This morning, as I bent down to breathe in the fresh scent of narcissus in my frosty garden, I was instantly transported to another time; golden daffodils parting as I reached beneath the green foliage, to claim my colorful, dip-dyed prize.

Happy Easter, Happy Passover & Happy Springtime Hunting, My Friends. Have a Beautiful Weekend!

Snow Melting Beneath Viburnum Reveals Narcisuss ‘Lemon Silk’

Article and 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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Hazy Color Drifts Carpet the Garden: Tiny Gifts of Early Spring…

April 16th, 2011 § 4

Spring Heath (Erica carnea) Begins Blooming in Early April (click here to revisit my Erica carnea plant-profile post from last year). Here, Sprawling Across the Ledge  in the Entry Garden…

The Pink, Hazy Blur of Spring Heath is Particularly Lovely Against Grey Sky and Cool Stone. On a Blustery Day, I Can’t Help but Think of Katherine and Heathcliff, Wandering the Bluffs of Wuthering Heights.

In New England, sparkling blue skies and warm, sunny days are few and far between during the month of April. More often than not, the heavens are filled with dusty grey clouds, and the tawny, bare land lies chill and dormant, waiting for milder days. Such is the scene this weekend, with cold, raw air nudging me indoors every half hour or so, to huddle beside the warmth of a blazing fire.

Yet despite the blustery wind and cool temperatures, there are signs of spring here, and color has begun to return to my cold-climate garden. Tiny, early-flowering bulbs and ground-covering blossoms —mass planted in drifts for effect— carpet the walkways and ledgy outcrops. Spring heath (Erica carnea) is the earliest of the low-growing woody plants to blossom here. You may recall my post about spring heath, “Love on the Rocks”, from last April. Bold sweeps of spring heath and various heather ( including Calluna vulgaris ‘Multicolor’ & ‘Silver Knight’) were planted in the shallow pockets of soil between the stone; combined with ‘Sea Green’ juniper (Juniperus x pfitzeriana ‘Sea Green’), and creeping juniper (Juniperus horizontalis ‘Blue Rug) along the entry walk. These tough, resilient shrubs and ground-covering woody plants wake up from winter slumber looking every bit as beautiful as they did when they retired for their nap. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all roll out of bed looking so lovely?

Opening at About the Same Time as Snowdrops (Galanthus) and Crocus, Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa) Carpet the Shrub and Perennial Borders Along the Walkway in my Garden…

On the other side of the entry garden, where the soil is deep, moist and rich, a mixed border of shrubs and perennials springs to life from the ground up. Eager to greet the new season, the tiny blue blossoms of Chionodoxa —commonly known as ‘Glory of the Snow’— begin forcing their way through the frozen earth before it has had time to thaw. A welcome sight to these weary eyes after such a long winter, I note that honeybees and other pollinating insects happily greet my emerging drifts of early-blooming bulbs and ground covers as well.

Native to the alpine regions of Tukey, Cyprus and Crete, Chionodoxa (a member of the hyacinth family) is extremely cold tolerant, and tough (USDA zone 4a-9b). When mass planted in moist, well-drained soil in autumn, the blue, pink or white bulbs will slowly multiply, naturalizing beautifully beneath trees and shrubs (this bulb prefers neutral soil, but will tolerate slightly acidic to slightly alkaline conditions). In cool seasons, blossoms will last approximately 4 weeks, and when planted between later-emerging perennials, glory-of-the-snow’s foliage will fade and wither without drawing attention, as it slips into summertime dormancy. This low, ground-covering bulb (2-6 inches high, depending on species and cultivar) is one of my springtime favorites. For such a tiny flower, it sure makes a big impact. In particular, I find  blue Chionodoxa especially lovely when planted in great sweeps across lawns. Viewed from a distance, masses of these blue, starry flowers form a moody haze; ethereal, wistful and undeniably romantic in a rainy landscape…

They Remind Me of Fallen Stars, Scattered on the Garden Floor.

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Article and 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!

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

March 20th, 2011 § 2

Tulipa ‘Blue Spectacle’

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

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

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

Wild Color: Red Hot Tulips and Violet-Colored Anemone

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

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

Always Elegant: Clivia miniata ‘Grandiflora’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing You All a Very Beautiful Spring!

xo Michaela

***

Article and 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.

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A Warm, Sweet Welcome for February: Forcing Narcissus Indoors…

February 1st, 2011 § 6

Hello February – Golden Greetings in the Entryway {Forced Narcissus}

A Bit of Golden Color to Brighten Stormy, Grey Days…

Welcome February…

It’s the first day of February, and outside my front door, snow is falling steadily and the sky is a gloomy, powder grey. Overnight, a winter storm swirled in, and the forecast warns of a wintry mix with more than two feet of new snow. For those of us living in northern climes, this can be a long, tough month. Dingy snowbanks, endless shoveling and bitter, cold days can take a toll on even the sunniest of dispositions. And much as I love the spare landscape, winter sports and cozy nights by the fire, I always crave a bit of bright color at this time of year.

Every fall, while ordering and planting my bulbs, I plan a little indoor extravaganza to help me through the long winter months. Many spring flowering bulbs can be forced indoors, bringing a bit of April’s garden to my world in February. Most bulbs require a cool, dark period prior to blooming in spring (exceptions to this rule include paper white narcissus, which may be purchased, planted and forced right away). And with a bit of planning, it’s possible to mimic those natural conditions and enjoy a little prelude to spring. I pot up left-over bulbs in all sorts of containers, water them well and cover with black plastic and an elastic band. Store potted bulbs in a cool dark place (a garage, basement, root cellar, outbuilding, etc), and check on them in about a month, watering enough to keep bulb roots moist, but never soggy. After 8-10 weeks, you can begin bringing the bulbs into your living space (cooler rooms are best). I like to bring them out in waves, saving the bulk of the show for the dreariest New England months: late February and early March.

Pre-Chilled Narcissus Grand Soleil d’Or and a Glass Bowl filled with Decorative Stone/Charcoal for Drainage.

But even if you haven’t planned ahead, you can still enjoy the pleasure of forced bulbs. Pre-chilled bulbs and paper white narcissus —purchased and potted up now— will begin to bloom in a month or two; ushering in spring a little earlier! With prepared bulbs, the forcing process is foreshortened, but the first few steps are quite similar. Practice this way, and next year, write yourself a forcing reminder for late fall. This is a fun project to share with kids, and a great make-your-own gift for Valentines Day, Passover or Easter. A pretty container will make the arrangement extra special, and it can be recycled after the blooms are spent. Remember not to expect bulbs forced in gravel to grow and bloom the following year. Compost these plants and start again next year, as you would with annuals in your outdoor containers.

Many garden centers, florist shops and online retailers offer pre-chilled bulbs and paper whites. Brent and Becky’s Bulbs has a fantastic selection (click here for link). Think of these bulbs as you would annuals: meant for growing and enjoying for this season only. Some good choices (among many) for forcing in gravel, include: Paperwhites, Grand Soleil d’Or (pictured above: produces sweetly fragrant flowers with golden petals and bright orange trumpets 6-8 weeks after planting), Angels in Water, Craigford and Chinese Sacred Lilies. Keep in mind that some narcissus —including the delightful miniature Tete a Tete— perform best when potted up in soil as opposed to gravel. When in doubt about how to force a particular cultivar, check with the retailer for advice on proper growing mediums/procedure. Brent and Becky’s Bulbs is a great online resource.

Pre-Chilled Grand Soleil d’Or Settled into a glass container filled about 1/3 full with a base of pea stone and a few pieces of horticultural charcoal (for freshness).

How to Force Narcissus in Containers Filled with Gravel

Materials:

Bulbs specifically prepared for forcing (pre-chilled in a dark place) or paperwhites

Horticultural charcoal

Decorative pea stone, gravel, rocks or glass

A bowl or other container without drainage holes (glass is lovely if you like to look at the stone). Size will depend upon the type of bulbs you have chosen to grow. Using a deep container can be helpful in supporting taller bulbs.

Green wire plant supports for taller bulbs (available at florist or craft supply stores)

Instructions:

Wash the container and stones thoroughly and dry. Fill the base of the container with a small amount of decorative stone. Add a handful of charcoal bits and then fill the container about 1/3 full. Make planting space for bulbs, and nestle them in; packing them tight together for support. Add more decorative stone or glass until the bulbs are about 2/3 concealed (leave the ‘shoulder’ and green tips free). You can use all one kind of stone, or get creative and mix it up.

Fill a jug with lukewarm water and fill the container about 1/3 of the way up. You want the water at the roots, but not soaking the bulb itself. Eventually, the roots will extend down toward the base of the container. Even prepared bulbs grow best when given a bit of darkness (exception: paperwhites). Place the container in a basement or cool closet for 2-3 weeks, checking the water level every few days as the roots extend. IMPORTANT: Never let the roots dry out.

When watering, rumor has it that adding a bit of vodka or gin to the mix can assist with stronger stem and leaf growth. But keeping the bulbs in a cool, dark place (for a 2-3 week period before forcing) seems to work just as well if you lack a stocked liquor cabinet.

Forced bulbs last longest in cooler rooms. I keep mine near the entry way door, where they provide a cheerful welcome and never mind the drafts. If the stems begin to flop, it can be helpful to hold them up with green florists stakes and tape (discreetly position the supports toward the center of the container and pull up slightly – a bit of droop looks natural and relaxed). Be sure to keep thirsty bulbs well-watered but never swamped.

Enjoy!

Forced Narcissus Tete a Tete, Beside the Entryway Door

A Prelude to Spring

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Article and Photographs are copyright 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, with noted exceptions, is the property of The Gardener’s Eden Online Journal, and my not be used or reproduced without express written permission.

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Mellow Yellow: Lovely Lindera Benzoin, North American Native Spicebush…

September 27th, 2010 § 1

Lindera benzoin (Spicebush) in front of the Secret Garden wall at Ferncliff (see complete plant list below)

The question comes up every September in my garden. The meter-reader, oil delivery driver and countless guests have asked: “What’s that bright yellow shrub over there by the wall… The one covered with birds and red berries?” When I ask, “Have you heard of Lindera benzoin, North American spicebush?”, the answer is invariably ‘no’. And no matter how many times I make the introduction, it’s always surprising to me that this gorgeous shrub isn’t more widely known and used in the landscape. Spicebush’s season-spanning, informal beauty makes her the perfect choice for naturalizing along woodland boundaries and in countless other transitional situations. But as you can see from the photo above, this native plant also works beautifully in a mixed-border; with other trees, shrubs, bulbs and perennials.

Lindera benzoin, autumn leaf detail

The show begins in first weeks of April, when the spicebush’s lightly-fragrant, lemon-yellow blossoms begin to open on the dreariest of days. These early flowers are an important source of nectar to pollinating insects —including native and honey bees—and a welcome sight to my winter-weary eyes. The specimen pictured above — in front of the stone wall surrounding the Secret Garden— has developed a round, mounded shape in full sun (I prune very lightly after the early spring blossoms fade). Lindera benzoin will also tolerate light shade, and the groupings here at the edge of the native forest have developed a more open, but graceful habit. After the early flowers fade, attractive, blue-green foliage (the leaves have a delightfully spicy, masculine fragrance when crushed, and can be used to make tea, herbal sachets or potpourri) makes a fine backdrop for other players in front of the perennial border.

Lindera benzoin at Fercliff in late September (planted here with Juniperus chinensis ‘Sargentii’ and Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’)

As pretty and uplifting as this shrub is when blossoming in April, come September, spicebush really turns things up a notch in the garden when its foliage shifts from cool green to brilliant, lemon-gold. The female plants (this species is dioecious and a male must be planted nearby for the female to produce fruit), with their bright red berries (edible/substitute for allspice), are especially fetching in autumn; attracting birds from the nearby forest by the dozen. Combinations with other showy, autumn shrubs and trees —such as bold red viburnum (particluarly V.bodnatense and V. trilobum), dogwood, witch hazel, and red vein enkianthus— are always gorgeous. And rich purple or deep-blue blossoms —including monkshood (Aconitum) and asters in autumn, and glory-of-the-snow (Chinodoxa), crocus and grape hyacinth (Muscari) in spring— make lovely, perennial and bulb pairings with spicebush on either end of the growing season as well. Conifers, particularly deep green hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) and blue spruce cultivars (Picea pungens) also provide a striking contrast to luminous Lindera benzoin, both in texture and color. And keep in mind the design possibilities of deep violet foliage when choosing a spot for spicebush. Dark, burgundy shrubs, including Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’, P. opulifolius ’Summer Wine’ and Cotinus ‘Royal Purple’, really bring out the golden hues in Lindera benzoin; as do perennials like purple fountain grass (Pennisetum rubrum) and Sedum ‘Matrona’ or S. ‘Purple Emperor’. In a shadier situation, try spicebush in combination with the purple foliage of Heuchera cultiavars (like ‘Plum Pudding’ and ‘Palace Purple’) or perhaps Actaea racemosa (aka Cimicifuga racemosa ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ or ‘Brunette’).

Lindera benzoin provides a luminous, gold backdrop for other autumn colors (here with Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’)

Hardy in zones 4-9, Lindera benzoin is a native of N. America from the north into Canada and on south to Florida; into midwestern Michigan and Kansas, and southwest to moderate climate zones of Texas. As a landscaping plant, spicebush is relatively trouble-free in the garden or naturalized settings; forming a mound-shaped shrub (6-12′ high and wide) when planted in a sunny location. In the shade the shrub tends to form a more open shape (a bit like Amelanchier); absolutely lovely, though subtle, when in bloom. Lindera benzoin prefers even soil-moisture (dry conditions make for a scruffy looking specimen) with cooling mulch about the root-zone (helpful to preserve even soil temperature and moisture)

Perhaps you’re already acquainted with lovely Lindera. If so, remember to pass on the good word. Mid to late fall is a great time to add shrubs to the landscape (see related post here). This native plant is an important part of our natural, North American habitat, and a significant source of food for insects (bees and butterfly larvae) and birds. But it seems to me that the spring blossoms, red fruit and glorious, golden, autumn color of Lindera benzoin provide all the promotional material any plant could ever need…

North American Native Spice Bush (Lindera benzoin) – Shown here at Ferncliff with Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ (and in the background Cornus kousa, Ilex verticillata and Juniperus chubebsus ‘Sargentii’, seed pod remnants of Rudbeckia. And to the left Fothergilla major ‘Mt Airy’ and various Sedum)

Lindera benzoin bloom  Photo is via PIWO (CreativeCommons license Flickr)

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Article and photos (one exception as noted) 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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A Tall, Cool Drink for the Eyes: Quiet, Calm Camassia – Wild American Beauty of the Marshland and Meadow…

May 24th, 2010 § 4

Camassia quamash, North American native Camas Lily, © 2010 Michaela at TGE

A few years ago, at the low edge of my garden where open meadow meets slow transition to cultivated borders, I planted a handful of native camas lily bulbs, (Camassia quamash). The first spring after planting, an orphaned fawn wandered into my life, and he nibbled the tops off my camas lilies before they could bloom. Did you just gasp? I probably would have too, if I’d never met “L’il Deer”. My reaction may surprise you. I’m not denying that I winced -loudly- when I caught my voracious guest browsing my garden – but I quickly fell head over heels in love with that fawn, and his presence in my life was more than worth the sacrifice of a few blue blossoms. Funny how that works…  isn’t it?     (I promise to tell you more about my friend the fawn another day.)

Beloved by bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, camas lilies have a long and interesting history as a food source for many creatures – including humans. Before the arrival of Europeans to the North American continent, sweet camas bulbs were harvested and eaten raw by Native Americans. Although I have never tried them (it’s hard to pull them up when they produce such beautiful flowers) the flavor is described as chestnut-like, with a creamy, pleasant cooked texture…

Camassi quamash © 2010, Michaela at TGE

Camas lily species are all useful garden plants. Some, such as Camassia cusickii and leichtlinii, are stunning in perennial borders, and others, such as C. scilloides, (wild hyacinth), and C. quamsah, (common camas lily), are perfect for naturalizing at the edge of a pond, meadow or forest. Camas lilies are difficult to propagate from seed -and also challenging from divisions- but they are easily grown and readily available from most bulb companies for planting in fall. C. cusickii, (Cusick’s camas), as well as C.leichtlinii, (Leichtlin’s camas), and variously colored cultivars, from white to lavender and deep violet, form beautiful, well-mannered clumps in the garden.

Native to North America, from Canada to the southern plains, camas lilies range in hardiness from 3-9, depending upon the species. These beautiful and graceful flowers prefer locations with ample moisture in springtime, and later, as they go dormant in summer, they like for their soil to remain a bit drier. Position Camassia species and cultivars where they can be enjoyed blooming in late spring-early summer, and where other plants can fill in for them as their foliage dies back in dormancy. Once established, blue camas will create a soothing visual oasis in the garden, moving like water in a gentle stream with the slightest breeze. While they are blooming, I will forever picture a delicate fawn, drinking at a forest brook…

Camassia at the Edge of the Meadow © 2010, Michaela at TGE

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

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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Thunderstorms and Beautifully Saturated Spring Color…

May 5th, 2010 § 6

Wind-Driven Rain at Forest’s Edge…

Spring thunderstorms kick up suddenly in New England. One minute the air is still and the birds are singing, and the next -WHAM- a bolt from the blue! Such was the case yesterday afternoon when I went to work in my garden. The passing storm was spectacularly violent and brief; passing through within minutes, but knocking out electricity for hours. Fortunately, my camera and laptop batteries were charged up and ready to capture some of the intense, water-saturated colors and sparkling, jewel-like effects of the wind-driven rain…

Moody Terrace Beneath the Mountain Silverbell, (Halesia)…

Watching the Coming Storm through the Studio Window…

Rain-Battered Glass Creates and Impressionistic, ‘Painted’ Landscape…

Sparkling Halesia tetraptera – our native, Carolina silverbell…

Raindrop Bejeweled Lady’s Mantle Catches First Light After the Storm…

Droplets Ripple the Water Bowl in the Secret Garden as the Sun Emerges…

Trout Lily, Lenten Rose and Daffodils: A Subtle Spring Medley in the Secret Garden, Enjoyed Between Raindrops…

A Puddle of Blue Muscari Pools at the Base of the Secret Garden Steps…

Daphne ‘Carol Mackie’, Delightfully Fragrant in the Humid Air…

Heuchera ‘Stormy Seas’ …

The Secret Garden Refreshed…

A Colorful Carpet of Chartreuse Euphorbia Lines the Secret Garden Path…

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All Photographs this post © 2010 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 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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Smooth Moves: Gliding Through Spring Cleanup with a Sweet Adjustable Rake. Tool Talk Part Two…

April 5th, 2010 § 3

Cleaning Up Without Damaging Bulbs (After photo)

Cleaning up with an adjustable rake pulled to a tight setting (During)

OK. So I am feeling a little sore tonight. I admit it. Shoulders; triceps; middle back = Ouch. I have been busy with spring clean up in a few of my client’s gardens, among them, the lovely Walker Farm. But that isn’t why I’m feeling sore. A saner person would probably come home, have a tall glass of ice water and hop in a hot bath. Me? Oh no. When I get home from my garden work, I go out to work in my own garden. So, I am burning a few calories these days, and I am left with more than a few burning muscles.

I tidied up the Secret Garden today, which until recently was still too wet to disturb. It’s important to tread lightly in early spring, for although the weather may be dry, your soil may still be saturated. But, a bit of clean up is usually necessary to air out beds, and create an attractive backdrop for emerging bulbs. One of the most challenging aspects to this spring chore, is raking around delicate narcissus, crocus, and other ephemeral beauties. I knocked a few heads off today, (sorry girls), but overall, the improvement was worth the light collateral damage.

Last spring when I presented one of my garden seminars, “Waking Up the Garden in Spring”, (coming up again April 17th, admission is free at Walker Farm in VT, please call to pre-register), I demonstrated what I consider an indispensable tool in both my own garden, and the others under my care. This isn’t an expensive object, by any means. In fact at most garden centers and hardware stores, the adjustable metal rake usually rings in under $15. There are more expensive versions, but I actually like this cheap one the best. And last year, about a week after the seminar, I stopped in at the local hardware store to pick one up for a friend, and they were sold out. “Someone gave a garden maintenance talk in town last weekend”, said the clerk, “and now we’re sold out. I wish they would have warned me in advance”. Rut-ro. I avoided eye contact, sheepishly added my name to the waiting list and slipped away before the nice lady figured it out. I guess I should warn her about that this year? I keep forgetting…

Adjustable rake in open position on a pile of debris

In case you’ve never tried one of these little babies, I will give you a quickie demonstration here. See the photo just above? That is my adjustable rake in the open position, resting on a pile of debris from the Secret Garden. There are no bulbs up in this shady room -since the snow only recently receded-so I can use the rake in its wide position and move quickly through the courtyard. However, moving out into the entry garden, there were many narcissus to dodge, (see the photos, top of the article). So, in order to handle this delicate situation, I simply pulled the lever, reducing the width of the rake, (see photos before), and the length of the tines. The rubbery red handle then moves back to the locked position. Sweet! When raking out perennial beds, I always advise gardeners to use a light hopping-motion, never pull and/or drag. Gently pop up debris and lift it out with an aerating motion. This is easier on your body, and the garden…

Rake adjustment handle

Adjustable rake in closed position, (good for tight spots around bulbs and perennials)

This little rake is also handy for spreading mulch around perennials and for tidying up steps and tight corners in the garden. I love the thing. Bamboo rakes are very cute, but I trash them in a matter of weeks. And those flexible-fingered adjustable rakes are never strong enough to really move debris. And forget plastic. Plastic is fine for lawn, but it just isn’t strong enough for the rough terrain in my garden. So here you have it. The ultimate dance partner for your perennial garden clean-up chores. It could be the Fred Astaire to your Ginger Rogers, or vice-versa. Just put on some music and go to town….

You can buy a adjustable rake like this one, (mine is Greenthumb brand), at many True Value and Ace Hardware stores, as I did. Or, you can order one online. They are inexpensive, (usually around $10-$12) and easy to use. Keep yours dry and well oiled and it will last for years.

Here is a link to an,($9.99) Adjustable Steel Rake at Amazon.com

There may be other sources online, but I think I am going to go run a hot bath now. I will catch up with you again soon..

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Mimosa Pour Moi? Oui, Oui, Oui. Sunday Afternoon Delights in the Early Spring Garden…

April 4th, 2010 § 6

La Mimosa de Minneola de Michaela

Could there possibly be a more lovely weekend for Easter Egg hunts, Sunday brunches, garden strolls and chilled mimosas? I think not. Here in New England the weather is simply spectacular, and swollen flower buds are bursting open to greet the glorious day. The pink bodnant viburnum ‘Dawn’ at my Secret Garden door perfumes the air, and a carpet of starry blue Chionodoxa sparkles upon the path. Finally, the sleepy Narcissus are awakening and the early Crocus and Galanthus are blooming their pretty little heads off.

It’s a perfect day for a leisurely mid-day meal on a sunny stone terrace. And for a refreshing accompaniment, what could be more appropriate for Sunday brunch than a classic Mimosa? By now it’s no secret that I love sparkling wine and champagne. However, I dislike sticky-sweet cocktails -and until recently the perfect Mimosa has always eluded me. Named for the famously fragrant blossoms of the tropical Acacia, this popular champagne cocktail is rumored to have been invented at the Ritz Hotel in Paris circa 1925. The original concoction contained Grand Marnier, (orange flavored cognac), French champagne and fresh squeezed orange juice. The key to getting a good balance of floral aroma, pleasing effervescence and a clean finish is using the freshest juice, dry sparkling wine, and tasting your ingredients in advance.

After experimenting with a few different Mimosa recipes, I have decided that although it isn’t an orange at all, the Minneola tangelo, (a Dancy tangerine x Duncan grapefruit hybrid dating back to the 1930s), makes the perfect juice for this cocktail. Minneola are plentiful in markets at this time of the year, so although I can not grow a tree of my own here in Vermont, I have easy access to the fruit for this special treat. In addition to substituting fresh squeezed Minneola juice for the traditional orange, I’ve made a few more modifications to the classic recipe, (which follows below). If you too have been searching for a more satisfying Mimosa, give this version a try. I think it is a garden-strolling, flower-lover’s fantasy…

Crocus Petals Unfolding © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Narcissus ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’ © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Striped Crocus © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ in Early April © Michaela at TGE

The Fragrant Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Chionodoxa luciliae (gigantea) – Glory of the Snow © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Crocus in the Dried Grass © 2010 Michaela at TGE

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The Making of a Fresh Squeezed Minneola Mimosa

La Mimosa de Minneola de Michaela


Ingredients for one cocktail, (multiply for many):

Fresh Squeezed Juice of one Minneola Tangelo

2 dashes of Cointreau

Chilled Maschio Prosecco Brut (Italian sparkling white wine)

Directions:

In a full sized champagne flute, add the fresh squeezed Minneola juice, (this should be about 1/3 of a glass). Add a couple of dashes of Cointreau, (some prefer Grand Marnier, a cognac, which is sweeter. I prefer the slightly bitter taste of Cointreau). Fill the glass with Maschio Prosecco. This sparkling wine has an aroma of orange blossoms and tastes lightly of fruit, without adding extra sweetness. However you can of course substitute any brut champagne or sparkling wine.

Garnish with a wedge of Minneola and serve chilled with brunch or as a lovely afternoon surprise in the garden…

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Fresh Minneola tangelo

Mimosa Pour Moi? Oui, Oui, Oui !

Crocus © 2010 Michaela at TGE

***

Words and Pictures copyright 2010 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 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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A Year in the Life of a Gardener: Celebrating Our First Anniversary and Giving Thanks to All of You…

April 1st, 2010 § 4

Snowdrop I © 2010 Michaela at TGE – all rights reserved

One year ago this month, I started keeping an online journal -somewhat sporadically at first- and I named it The Gardener’s Eden. What began as a labor of love, and a way to share information with my gardening friends and clients, has quickly blossomed into a beautiful web of friendship across many time zones and continents. Most of you know me simply as Michaela, a somewhat quirky gardener living on a mountaintop in Vermont. Some of you have met me in person and we have become friends; maybe we met in a meeting, or perhaps we were briefly acquainted at one of my gardening seminars or workshops. A great number of you have never met me at all. It’s possible that you first heard about this online journal from a gardening friend, or you may have found me through another blog. Many readers have connected to The Gardener’s Eden through social networking sites, where you have encouraged my writing and photography with thoughtful comments, and propelled me forward with article suggestions and challenging, thought-provoking questions. And dear readers, in only a year, you have grown from a small handful of devoted followers to a relatively large audience numbering in the thousands. Some of you chime in regularly through blog comments, or on Facebook or Twitter, but the vast majority of you follow along quietly. It’s nice knowing that you are out there, and I am so grateful for your company…

Crocus © 2010 Michaela at TGE – all rights reserved

Snowdrop II © 2010 Michaela at TGE

If you have been following along for awhile, then you are likely aware that in addition to creating and maintaining Ferncliff -the garden I often feature here- I also work professionally as both a gardener and garden designer. My line of work is seasonal in New England, and although I do a bit of ornamental pruning work in late winter, there is a long, quiet period from November through March. In years past, I have found that the winters pass very slowly -but that has changed. This year was less lonely, with all of you keeping me company…

Melting Ice on the Frog Pond © 2010 Michaela at TGE

And now that spring has finally arrived -ice melting and bulbs blooming- I have returned to my seasonal gardening work. Today, as I headed out for my first day of spring clean up at a client’s garden, I found myself thinking about all of you. As I clipped back ornamental grasses, and dodged emerging narcissus and blooming hellebores, I wondered about how I will find the time to share everything with you in the coming weeks. This is a busy time of the year – and it is a beautiful time of the year. Things happen so quickly in early spring. I always feel a bit breathless trying to keep up.

Today at my garden, Ferncliff, the first ‘Tommies’, (Crocus tommasinianus), opened in the bright sunshine; all puffy, golden pollen and silky lavender petals. And after all of the heavy rain and today’s warm temperatures, the vernal pools sprang to life beyond the vegetable garden. I thought I was being sneaky, tip-toeing down the hillside with my camera -but I was wrong. As soon as my shadow extended across the sparkling melt-water, dozens of frogs and salamanders squiggled, hopped and wiggled into the muck and mire below the surface. But I waited. And I waited. And slowly the frogs rose to the surface for air…

Seasonal Pool © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Frog in the Melting Pond Water © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Seasonal Pool II © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Frog Swimming Away © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Welcome sweet April. Doesn’t it finally feel like spring now? A new year is just beginning; filled with hope and promise. But, who really knows what the future will bring. I like to breathe in the fresh air of the moment. We are all just passing through, and… isn’t it a lovely ride?  Thank you for joining me. I hope you will find beauty here in The Gardener’s Eden. Sharing my little slice of paradise with you gives me great joy…

***

Words and Pictures copyright 2010 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 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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A Prelude to Spring: Getting Intoxicated at the Smith College Bulb Show…

March 18th, 2010 § 3

Tulipa © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Lyman Conservatory, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts

Situated in one of the prettiest small towns in America -Northampton, Massachusetts- Smith College’s crown jewel, Lyman Conservatory, is a pleasure to visit at any time of the year. This beautiful oasis has always been one of my favorite horticultural destinations. When I was in college, (at the University of Massachusetts, just a short hop across the river from Smith), I spent a great deal of time at Lyman Conservatory and the Smith College Botanic Garden. One of the joys of furthering your education in the five-college area is the number of shared-resources, (known as the five college consortium), between schools. This spectacular glasshouse at Smith is one inter-collegiate-perk I didn’t miss, and I continue to enjoy it as often as possible.

Every year in March, Smith College presents a very popular spring bulb show. Although the theme remains the same, the annual displays and tandem-exhibits vary from year to year. This time around, the spring the show included an opening lecture by Lynden Miller, author of Parks, Plants, and People: Beautifying the Urban Landscape, and continues with an on-going exhibition of photographs, The Inner Beauty of Flowers, (PDF catalogue link), by retired radiologist Merrill C. Raikes MD.  I will write more about the Raikes exhibit next week. Overall the show is extraordinary, and well worth visiting if you are in New England. But beware: the visual and olfactory stimulation proved quite intoxicating…

Smith College 2010 Bulb Show

Although spring-flowering bulbs are planted in the autumn, now is a great time to pull out a calendar or garden notebook and jot down design notes and ideas for next year’s show. I don’t know about you, but I am always far too busy in September to think about ordering bulbs. Usually, I order my spring-blooming bulbs before July in order to secure the best selection, and price. For example, you can save a bundle by pre-ordering “The Works”, (a top-shelf daffodil mix), before July 1st, from White Flower Farm, in advance. Attending bulb shows is a great way to familiarize yourself with newer bulb introductions as well as other spring-blooming beauties. Also, keep your eye out for some of the lovely plant-partners that will complement spring flowering bulbs. As foliage begins to yellow, it’s important to allow your bulbs to die back naturally. Never clip or braid or tie up bulb foliage. The best way to conceal the unattractive decay is with large-leafed companion plants, (think ferns, coral bells, hosta, rogersia, etc).

I will be paying Lyman Conservatory a few more visits over the coming weeks, so there will be more images and thoughts to share. To start, here are some photos I snapped at the bulb show. The experience may require a ‘caution, potentially addictive‘ warning label…

Tulipa II © 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Fritillaria © 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Tulipa III © 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Primula © 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Camellia © 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Smith College Bulb Show © TGE

On my shopping list: Bulb by Anna Pavord -Beautiful inspiration

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Article and photographs copyright 2010, 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 or reproduced without express written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world, and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Art Inspired by Nature: The Luminous Allure of Bill Dwight’s Flowers…

February 9th, 2010 § 1

The delicate silk of a white tulip, luminous petals unfolding in morning light; freesia caught in a glowing rouge blush; the timeless, feminine allure of flowers, all beautifully captured here by artist Bill Dwight. Intoxicatingly fragrant and sensual to the touch, flowers can change a mood, stir a memory, calm the senses. The undeniable, transformative power of the blossom is revealed on a cold midwinter’s day. Thank you Bill Dwight, for a glorious prelude to spring…

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Photographs © 2010 Bill Dwight – All Rights Reserved

For further information about Bill’s photography, please visit the artist’s Facebook page: Bill Dwight

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Guilty Pleasures: Dreams of Spring and Pretty Little Things …

January 26th, 2010 § 2

Narcissus ‘Lemon Silk’ in the walkway last spring…

Springtime. Why yes… you do remember springtime? The smell of fresh narcissus and damp earth? It’s not so far away. Really, (or so I tell myself). On those blissful days when the mercury rises a bit, and the walkway fills with slush, I can almost picture my path carpeted in bulbs. Still, in January, it’s hard to believe that those pretty little daffodils are sleeping beneath the ice and snow. But they are. I have faith. I can wait.

This is the time of year when I really revel in my guilty pleasures. The White Flower Farm catalogue hangs, edges damp and crinkled, from the rim of my claw foot tub. I close my eyes and as I breathe in the lavender scented steam, visions of bluebells and moody hued violets color my dreams. Heaven. I’m in heaven. The garden, in my bubble-bath fantasies, is of course weed-free, and bug-free and completely devoid of all disappointment. It’s a lovely place.

Winter is a necessary down time. We all need our rest, don’t we? It’s a good time to take stock; to plan; to make lists. Kicking around the potting shed, I notice a few things need replacing. Many of my watering cans seem to have gone AWOL, and my rain-gear is looking a bit tatty. Then I spot my old, ugly garden clogs in the corner and I remember how they pinch and hurt my toes. I could use a new pair of shoes this year. I reach down to have a closer look at those nasty clodhoppers, but there is a box in my way. I lift it. Oh, what a light box. I read the label. “Dahlias”. Oh… Dahlias. Yes – that’s how it always starts. You see, I had to move the box. And now, I am thinking about them. I go back into the kitchen and put on some water for tea. Dahlias. Swan Island Dahlias. Time to fill my cup with summertime dreams…

Hunter Women’s Original Clog, Red

OXO Watering Cans in Rainbow Bright Colors

Packable Rain Poncho

This is Swan Island’s ‘Honeymoon’. Do you think I have to get married first? Look at all the suitors… how can I commit to just one?

Swan Island Dahlia’s ‘Sheer Heaven’. Mmm. I’m not going to argue with that name. Can you believe the blush?  Sigh.

Well hello lover. My, my, my. Won’t you be my Valentine? I think I have the perfect spot for this one. Just look at the violet tint on the petals!

***

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is copyright The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express written consent. Please do not use photographs or text excerpts without permission. Thank you. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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I Believe in the Promise of Tomorrow…

September 25th, 2009 § 5

A basket of mixed narcissus bulbs, ready for planting

The first member of my family’s next generation was born a few short weeks ago. His name is Morgan; my sister’s first child and my first nephew. When I met Morgan on the morning he was born, August 13th, my heart felt like a swollen dam, barely containing a flood of emotion. My love for my nephew is for him of course, but it is also for tomorrow – for the future. From the moment he arrived I realized that, simply put, this new member of my family embodies my faith in a world beyond myself. The name Morgan has two meanings, but in this case, my nephew’s parents took his name from the Germanic word ‘morgen’, meaning tomorrow. The poet in me delights in this choice – and lately, because of Morgan, I have been thinking a great deal about the future.

To plant things in the soil is to believe in a new day; perhaps not my day, but another day, for another generation. Gardening has never been an instant gratification activity. Sometimes when I walk beneath ancient trees in city parks, botanical gardens and cemeteries, I think of the hands that placed them there. Unlike works of nature, gardens planted by those who came before us were not created by chance. They were imagined into existence by hopeful souls, dreaming of a future; dreaming of our future. Can you feel love for tomorrow? Can you feel love for people you have never met, and will never meet? My answer is yes, I can and I often do fall in love with tomorrow. That love is called hope. And although we never met, when I touch the weathered bark of a tree planted in a park 100 years ago, I can feel the love someone else felt for the future; for me, and for everyone else enjoying the tree today. One day my nephew and the rest of his generation will inherit this great garden we all share. And when I am long gone, I hope Morgan will still walk the paths I have made here in my garden. Maybe he will pick the daffodils I plant every year, or rest his back against the tree I wrestled up the hill. And in time, perhaps his child will play in the secret garden I created, and discover the tangled rose hidden at the foot of the wall.

The word ‘garden’ can be defined in many ways. In the most basic sense, a garden is simply a place where things are planted and grow. I garden because I like fresh produce and flowers… I love nature and being outdoors. I also garden for the feeling of peace and connection it gives me. I am inspired by botanical beauty, and I enjoy expressing myself  by creating living art. I garden for many reasons, but most of all I garden because I take great pleasure in time’s power. I anticipate and delight in the coming seasons, and I look forward to the changes they bring over the course of years. I believe in the future, and my garden is a collection of hopes and dreams rooted in the earth.

The natural world is inherently hopeful. Seeds break free and blow in the wind; scattering far and wide, carrying with them the promise of a new forest or a new meadow. A robin lays eggs and warms them, instinctively waiting for her chicks to hatch. The future takes flight on hope. When we garden, we connect to that natural expectation and desire – the hope, that life will go on. Like the gardeners of generations past, I am a part of the natural world, the society of humankind, and history. I am also a part of the future, and it is a part of me. I believe that I am a part of something much bigger, much greater than myself, and this belief gives me strength and comfort. It gives me hope. I believe in that hope, and I believe in the promise of tomorrow…

And so I set forth, into the garden; bulbs beneath my arm, trowel in hand, basket full of dreams…

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Very early blooming Narcissus ‘February Gold’

Crocus tommasinianus emerging from Ajuga and Heuchera in early April

Narcissus ‘Lemon Silk’

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My garden, Ferncliff, is filled with the beautiful promise of spring…

For many years I have purchased unusual varieties of narcissus and many other early-season garden delights from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs. The Heath family bulb farm is located in Gloucester, Virginia, and it has been in operation for many generations. In fact, the Heaths trace their involvement in daffodil farming all the way back to the beginning of the twentieth century, when Brent’s grandfather Charles Heath began growing daffodils near their present location in Gloucester.

I have purchased hundreds and hundreds of bulbs from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs. And although I have never met the Heaths, I think of them every fall when I am planting, and every spring when I am enjoying their beautiful flowers emerging magically from the thawing earth.

Over the coming weeks, I will be writing more about planting bulbs. But for now, if you are new to bulb planting, or looking to add some excitement to your garden for next spring, I can recommend a couple of books to help expand your knowledge. The first is  Rod Leed’s The Plantfinder’s Guide to Early Bulbs, published by Timber Press. And for Daffodil enthusiasts, I suggest Brent and Becky Heath’s book, Daffodils for North American Gardens, published by Bright Sky Press, and available at their website: Brent and Becky’s Bulbs.

I think planting bulbs is a great fall activity to share with kids of all ages. Beyond the pleasures and rewards of a day spent outdoors working with the earth, the simple act of planting bulbs can help to create a connection to the future, and to instill values like patience, forethought and respect for nature, (to name but a few). Fall planting is wonderful tradition to share with younger generations, and a love of gardening is a value I certainly hope to pass on…

Scillia siberica, early spring at Ferncliff

Narcissus ‘Rip van Winkle’

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

* All products and books recommended on this site are based upon my own personal experiences. I receive no compensation for mentions of any kind *

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