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

May 28th, 2011 § 2

Carolina Silverbell (Halesia tetraptera)

Carolina Silverbell Blossoms Attract Bumble Bees and Hummingbirds

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Halesia tetraptera

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

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

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Article and photographs are copyright Michaela Medina 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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Oh Sweet, Sweet, Sugar Moon: Celebrate The Vernal Equinox & Celestial Beauty With a Seasonal, Maple Syrup Cocktail…

March 19th, 2011 § 2

The Sugar Moon: A Maple Syrup Cocktail to Celebrate the End of Winter & March’s Full Moon at Perigee

With the full moon at perigee, Winter’s end and Spring’s beginning, it seems there’s plenty to celebrate this weekend. Last night —eager for a preview of tonight’s celestial events— I took a tour of the local Connecticut River Valley, seeking a spot to watch the big moon rising. I wasn’t disappointed. With the sky still blue and clear, La Luna rose proud and full on the horizon. What a spectacular dress rehearsal. And tonight —with beautifully clear conditions in Vermont— I am looking forward to bundling up and taking my front row seat on the terrace here at home.

Moonrise is at 7:23 pm ET tonight, and as the glowing orb inches over the horizon, objects in the foreground will have a tendency to magnify her already super-sized appearance (click here for an article explaining tonight’s “super-moon” at perigee from Space.com). With the silhouetted maple trees —swollen buds on full view— for inspiration, I decided to concoct a special end-of-winter/super-full-moon, cocktail. And at this moment of seasonal transition*, it seemed only natural to combine the sweet flavor of locally produced maple syrup with the earthy, warm taste of bourbon; creating a special, celebratory drink. Meyer lemon adds a perfect floral note to this delicious, golden cocktail, and offers the slightest hint of sour to contrast with maple’s rich sweetness.

So enjoy the evening, whatever your pleasure. And wherever you may be, I hope the skies are clear and the moon is bright and the new season brings you health and happiness

Cheers! xo Michaela

*The Vernal Equinox will occur at 7:21 pm ET tomorrow, March 20th (23:21 UT), making today the last full day of Winter in North America.

The Full Moon Over Budding Trees

The Sugar Moon Cocktail

Ingredients

(makes one cocktail)

2 Ounces of Bourbon

1 Ounce Fresh Squeezed Meyer Lemon Juice

1 Ounce Grade A Vermont Maple Syrup (+/- for sweetness)

Lemon peel for garnish

Method

Pour maple syrup, bourbon and lemon juice into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake, shake, shake. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a bit of sliced lemon peel (or a twist).

Toast as the Full Moon Rises

Sugar Moon, Sap Moon, Lenten Moon, Crow Moon or Worm Moon. Call it What You Will… This One is Sure to be Super!

Photo ⓒ Anita from “The Croggery” via  In the Company of Stone: the Art and Work of Dan Snow (click here for a peek at the maple sugaring process in this post by Dan Snow)

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The Sugar Moon cocktail is an original variation of an old, New England classic known as the ‘Maple Leaf’

Article and photographs (with noted exception) 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 written consent.

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The Sweet Scent of Springtime: Bewitching Hamamelis Vernalis…

March 7th, 2011 Comments Off

Sweetly Fragrant Hamamelis Vernalis: North American Native Vernal Witch Hazel, Cut from My Garden and Forced Inside

Copper-Orange Tassels of Witch Hazel Glow in the Afternoon Light

March, much like November, is a different month every year in New England. Some seasons, March skies are grey and late winter winds are cold; heavy snow falling long past the vernal equinox. And then there are years when March is soft; weeks of misty skies, melty temperatures and warm sunshine dancing on snow banks as they slowly disappear. This morning, I awoke to yet another ice storm —a quarter inch glaze coating trees and threatening my electrical supply— and a firm reminder that the chilly season of winter yet reigns.

Still —in spite of the relentless cold, freezing rain and mountains of snow— I know that spring is slowly coming. And during this time of transition, my anticipation always reaches a fever-pitch. I stalk the woody plants in my garden, watching for hints of color and swollen buds. And this year —with so much snow on the ground— I am especially grateful for the maturing shrubs and trees in my garden, rising above the frozen terrain…

In warmer years, Hamamelis vernalis —vernal witch hazel— blooms in early to mid-March. In colder years, this harbinger of springtime may be delayed past the equinox

Many of my favorite garden plants have two stellar seasons: spring and fall. And among my favorites, the family of Hamamelidaceae (the witch hazels) ranks very high indeed. Hamamelis vernalis —sometimes called Ozark or spring witch hazel— is native to the south-central regions of the United States and hardy in USDA zones 4-8. This is a tough, colonizing shrub; tolerant of poor, scrappy soil and a wide range of moisture levels. Vernal witch hazel is a great native plant for informal hedging, naturalizing along a woodland boundary or even for something as mundane as stabilizing a steep bank. Although her flowers aren’t nearly as large and showy as those of her more flamboyant Asian and hybrid cousins (read my post on Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ here), the perfume of her early, coppery-orange blossoms is so sweet and delightful that their petite size is easy to overlook. She’s also a glorious sight in autumn, when her softly mounded form turns brilliant gold; shimmering against the blue autumn sky.

When warm temperatures arrive early in Vermont, the bloom of vernal witch hazel sometimes coincides with, or even precedes the spring equinox. But winter seems a bit tenacious this year; unwilling to loose her grip on the sleeping green mountains. Feeling a bit weary, I decided to give myself a spring prelude —as I often do— by forcing the branches of a few early blooming favorites. Late last winter, I pruned my Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ rather heavily; bringing a large armful of branches indoors for forcing. The scent was intoxicating. This year I allowed myself but a few wayward twigs from the delicious bodnant viburnum, and instead harvested a mass of Hamamelis vernalis (read more about how to force branches here)…

Freshly harvested branches of Hamamelis vernalis cut for forcing indoors

Once harvested and prepared, I placed the bundle of witch hazel branches in my cool cellar. Slowly, I am bringing branches upstairs to enjoy their honey-sweet fragrance —strong enough to scent an entire room— and delightful, sculptural form. By month’s end, various species of witch hazel will begin unfolding their blossoms outdoors, in my garden. But for now, I can enjoy a bit of spring here inside my home…

Wonderful warm color, festive form and intoxicating fragrance: who could ask for more than a visit from the good witch on a drab-grey day

Forced witch hazel branches fill my bedroom with the delicious honey-scented fragrance of springtime

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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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The Wonderful Wizard of Winter: Native, Snow-Draped Canadian Hemlock

February 10th, 2011 Comments Off

Tsuga canadensis – Native Canadian Hemlock

I try very hard not to play favorites with the plants growing in and around my garden. In fact, you may have noticed that I’ll refer to a preferred species as ‘one of my favorites’, as opposed to ‘my favorite’. After all, I truly love each and every one of them, and I wouldn’t want to hurt any of their feelings. Still, there are a few stand-out, four-season beauties that I can not imagine living without. And in the great world of conifers, I must admit that I am quite partial to our native Tsuga canadensis, commonly known as the Canadian or Eastern hemlock. Though graceful and verdant year-round, Canadian hemlock is a true stunner in the winter garden. After a snow storm —when Tsuga canadensis is cloaked in a fresh coat of powder or ice— it’s impossible not to think of the enchanted forests of fairy tales. I absolutely adore this feathery, magical evergreen.

A few years ago —when I was planting an informal hedge of Canadian hemlock at a private residence— one of my garden clients told me that the shape of the hemlock tree reminded her of a wizard’s hat. Well I already liked this woman, but as soon as she said that, I knew I was going to love working with her. For long as I can remember, I’ve always thought of the Canadian hemlock as a Winter Wizard or even a Warlock (a masculine witch). And as a child, I loved playing beneath the tent-like boughs of hemlock stands; draped in heavy, sparkling white robes after a snow storm. Hemlock is a magnificent native tree; one I never grow tired of praising.

The pliant boughs of Tsuga canadensis are less likely to break when covered in heavy snow and ice

The outer branches of hemlock trees, as well as the tip or leader, are narrow and flexible. The pliant boughs give hemlock the distinctly cascading, somewhat melancholy appearance I find so enchanting. But more importantly, the springy quality of the outer wood gives this native tree an ability to shed snow and ice, avoiding winter breakage –a common problem for other conifers, such as white pine. Hemlock needles are softly rounded; blue-green on the top and silvery on the reverse (the shiny-whitish color is created by tiny openings along the backside of the needles called stomata, which —for lack of a better word— allow the tree to ‘breathe’). When breezes blow through a hemlock’s bows, the pale undersides of its needles are exposed to light; creating a subtle, shimmering effect. Growers have worked with this trees beautiful cascading habit and needle coloration, developing cultivars with mint-tinged branch tips and weeping forms. And because it responds well to pruning, eastern hemlock offers four-season privacy screening when grown as a soft, ever-green hedge in semi-shaded, moist sites. The feathery, deep green needles provide a lovely contrast and sensual backdrop in many of my garden designs.

The Tops of Canadian hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) boughs are covered with dark, blue-green needles

On the reverse side, Tsuga canadensis needles have a light, almost silvery-green color. And when wind blows through the branches, lifting and exposing the undersides of needles to flashes of light, the Canadian hemlock takes on a subtle, gorgeous, two-tone appearance.

With a North American range spanning from Nova Scotia southward to the mountains of Alabama and westward to Minnesota (USDA zones 3 – 8/9) Tsuga canadensis is commonly found in moist, shady woodlands; often along forest streams or cool, north-facing ridge lines. Because of their wide-spread but shallow-root tendency, hemlock are vulnerable to drought, but are less likely to be knocked down in high winds. Here at the northeastern crest of my ledgy site, substantial stands of native hemlock provide a safe haven and nesting habitat for local birds as well as food (seeds, twigs, bark and needles) and shelter for various mammals (including squirrels, porcupines and deer). Although hemlock can grow over 100 feet in ideal conditions, they typically reach 40-70 feet within their native range. When grown as a specimen tree in the open —or planted in small groups—hemlock will develop a soft, full, conical shape (yes, shaped quite like a wizard’s hat).

Because hemlock trees produce acidic tannins, they are quite disease and insect-resistant. However, there exists one recent and notable exception: the wooly adelgid (Adelges tsugae). Closely related to common aphids, this invasive insect pest —introduced from Asia— has the potential to wipe out native, eastern hemlock populations (read more about this pest and how infestations are treated at the UMass Extension Service website here). Although I have not seen the wooly adelgid in my immediate area, I am constantly on the lookout for this destructive insect when pruning hemlock hedges for my clients in early spring. Currently, the only effective, organic treatment for wooly adelgid is thorough, repeat applications of horticultural oil. Entomologists continue to search for natural, biological adelgid controls, and I have high hopes for the tree’s survival. I simply can not imagine the northeastern landscape without my beloved Winter Wizards…

This Canadian hemlock trio forms a soft, four-season screen at the northeastern edge of my garden

Here in late November, the Tsuga canadensis trio provides color and textural contrast and backdrop to the red-twig dogwood, birch and ornamental grasses in the foreground of the entry garden

This beautiful, weeping hemlock (Tsuga candensis ‘Pendula’) —pictured here at The Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts— is one of the finest examples, and uses of the pendulous form, that I have ever seen. See more photos, and read a bit about The Bridge of Flowers by revisiting this post (click here).

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Article and photos are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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Papery, Peeling, Striped & Shaggy: Textural Bark Brings Warmth & Beauty To Stark, Wintery Landscapes…

December 15th, 2010 § 1

From peach and cream to reddish brown, the peeling bark of our native, paper birch (Betula papyrifera) is one of my favorite textures in the winter landscape…

Brr… It sure is cold outside. With temperatures hovering around 15 degrees fahrenheit here in Vermont, it takes an awful lot to stop me in my tracks for more than a minute or two. And yet this afternoon, as I walked up the garden path from the driveway, I couldn’t resist lingering outside to enjoy the light and snap a few quick photos to share. Winter is an incredible time for appreciating the subtler forms of botanical beauty -particularly the colors and textures of twigs and bark. Although most of the trees and shrubs in my garden were chosen for the quality of their form, foliage, flowers and berries, bark always plays a part in my plant selection as well.

Living in a remote forest-clearing, I’m lucky to be surrounded by woodlands filled with beautiful, native trees –including one of my favorites, the dramatic, white-barked paper birch (Betula papyrifera). Paper birch trees are gorgeous any time of the year, but in winter, the peachy-cream and cinnamon hues of their peeling bark really stand out against dark hillsides and brown tones in the landscape. The trunks of other native trees, including the common striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum) with its snake-like bark, and dramatic shagbark hickory (Carya ovata), also add tremendous beauty to winter’s fine tapestry of hues and textures. Naked though they may be —stripped of their foliage for nearly six months out of the year— the deciduous trees and shrubs of New England remain a constant source of fascination to my eyes.

A dusting of snow enhances the cinnamon-colored bark of this oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) like a sprinkling of sweet sugar

Taking my cue from nature, I’ve added a wide variety of trees and shrubs with peeling, papery, striped and shaggy bark to my garden; adding visual interest throughout the quiet season. In winter, the surfaces of these textural plants enhance the beauty of outdoor spaces —including beds and borders, paths and walkways— as well as the views from the doors and windows of my house. Come December —as snow and ice begin to settle into the nooks an crannies on tree bark, woody stems and twigs— the colors and textures of these plants are intensified; adding to the winter-wonderland surrounding my home.

Now is great time to bundle up and make note of the subtle details in your home landscape. Conifers, as well as the brightly colored twigs and berries of deciduous trees and shrubs add an immense amount of beauty to the winter garden –of course. But also, keep the texture of shrub and tree bark in mind as well. In addition to the specimens pictured here, you may wish to consider Striped Maple cultivars (Acer pensylvanicum cvs.), Japanese maple (Acer palmatum), River birch (Betula nigra), Katsuratree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum), Cinnamon Clethra (Clethra acuminata), Dogwood species and cultivars (Cornus), Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), Black Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica), Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum), and one of my all-time-favorite trees (and recent garden addition) Persian ironwood (Parrotia persica), among other texturally dramatic choices for the garden.

Come and take a peek at some of the beautiful colors and textures I enjoyed outside in the garden today; snapping photos until my fingers grew numb…

The peeling, cinnamon colored bark of Hydrangea quercifolia stands out beautifully against a backdrop of Juniperus squamata ‘Holger’ and Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’

The reptillian-looking bark of this Mountain Silverbell (Halesia tetraptera) is beautiful year-round, but when the leaves drop, it really stands out against a back-drop of snow…

The textural branches of native ninebark and cultivars (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’) adds color and movement to the winter landscape. Here, a tiny strip of peeling, patterned bark catches the wind on a December day…

Although the trunk of this Stewartia pseudocamilla will develop far more texture and color as it matures, the bark is still beautiful and interesting in youth…

Both the luminous cinnamon-red color —particularly when backlit as here— and curling texture of beautiful paperbark maple (Acer griseum) make it one of my favorite trees…

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Article and Photographs are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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

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Garden Structure & Seasonal Texture: White Lace and Sparkling Silver Tulle Dance and Flirt in a Prelude to Winter…

December 11th, 2010 § 4

The Entry Garden at First Light on December 11th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dan Snow’s Stone Steps Dusted in Snow

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All Stonework Featured Here is by Vermont Artist Dan Snow

Article and Photographs are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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

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Welcome November…

November 1st, 2010 Comments Off

Young American beech (Fagus grandifolia)  and eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides) trees in the November morning mist

November. Beech and cottonwood trees —colored butterscotch and rum— warm the misty hills and blue-grey clouds. The season has changed -almost overnight. At night the wood stove flickers and glows and the smell of pumpkin pie and mulled cider fills the air…

American beech (Fagus grandifolia) in delicious shades of golden butterscotch and rum

Firelight

Flame grass shifts to burnt orange (Miscanthus sinensis purpurascens)

American beech (Fagus grandifolia)

Lingering maple leaves in a sea of orangey beech, along my country road

Autumn Brook, Filled with Leaves

October Swirls Away…

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Article and Photographs ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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Golden Autumn Beauty & Springtime Silverbells: Our Native and Ever-Graceful Halesia tetraptera…

October 25th, 2010 § 8

The Golden Leaves and Rusty Drupes of North American Native Halesia tetraptera, (Carolina Silverbell or Mountain Silverbell)

Carolina silverbell. With a name like that, you’d invite her into your garden for the poetry alone, wouldn’t you? I did. Well, sort-of. Although I was familiar with the silverbell clan, I wasn’t really sure of which Halesia I was getting when I tied and bound the branches of two glorious specimens three years ago, and rolled them in back of my trailer. It was late autumn, the leaves had long-ago fallen, and summer sunlight had faded my nurseryman’s chicken-scratch Latin from the tag. Some silverbell species are hardier than others, and some grow larger than others, they are notoriously difficult to differentiate, and the nomenclature and taxonomy of this woody plant have been further confused by a recent name-change (Halesia carolina is now referred to as Halesia tetraptera). I wanted Carolina silverbell, which is a small, understory tree native to the Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. Normally, I’m quite particular about confirming the identity of anything I plant in my garden. But, this was an end-of-season sale at a nursery an hour south of my home, and I only had the trailer for the day. I couldn’t resist…

The graceful form of Halesia tetraptera can be sculpted and enhanced with annual, late-spring pruning

As it turns out —in this case— my impulsive decision was a very good one! Three years on, two lovely Carolina silverbell trees are slowly filling out on either side my studio entryway; their rich, yellow-green foliage providing dappled shade for summertime lunches on the terrace. And now –in late October— the leaves are shifting from gorgeous chartreuse to brilliant gold. In addition to the beautiful autumn color, delightfully curious orange-tinted drupes (pictured above) decorate the Carolina silverbell in fall. Even after the foliage and seed pods have fallen, the striped bark (much like that of Moosewood, Acer pensylvanicum) remains an interesting feature…

Halesia tetraptera, striped bark and golden autumn foliage – both stunning against the dark siding of buildings or conifers (particularly Hemlock – Tsuga canadensis)

But as beautiful as Carolina silverbell is in autumn, I have to admit that the reason I sought this tree out had far more to do with her incredible springtime show. In mid-May (usually just before the dogwood flowers here in my VT garden) the entire tree is covered in glorious blush-tinted, white blossoms. The ‘Silver Sisters’, as I call them, are a most breathtaking sight -particularly on a rainy day (see close-up of blossoms photo below). Entering and exiting my studio when the Halesia tetraptera sisters are blooming, is like stepping through a poem…

It’s easy to see why this tree is commonly called the Silverbell. The beautiful blossoms of Halesia tetraptera emerge in mid-spring, usually just before flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)

Because of the variability in size and shape, some silverbell species are grown as multi-stemmed shrubs, and some are pruned and trained as single-trunk trees. In its true, native-range (West Virginia to Central Florida and west to Texas USDA zone 4/5-8/9) silverbell, particularly the ‘Mountain Silverbell’ (once known as Halesia monticola, now also grouped as H. tetraptera var. monticola) can become a medium-sized, understory tree reaching 30 to 40 feet (in the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina, some native, mountain silverbell trees have been recorded at up to 80′ tall). When grown in the northern-most range of its hardiness zone, (USDA 4/5) Halesia tetraptera will remain smaller. I expect the mature size of my silverbell sisters to reach no more than 25-30′ here in the Green Mountains of Vermont. All silverbells, large or small, prefer cool, moist, acidic soil and protected sites (I have my silverbells planted on the eastern side of the studio). If grown in the deep south, be sure to protect silverbell trees from the hot afternoon sun and mulch the root-zone to retain moisture.

Silver in springtime and gold in fall, Halesia tetraptera remains a rare and subtle jewel in gardens. She’s not flashy, like a common, hot-pink crabapple (Oh no, we are far too elegant for that!), and it does take a bit of  time for her to settle in. But as is often the case with native trees, patience pays dividends in the garden. To know her is to love her. Carolina silverbell… She’s a true, four-season beauty.

Article and photographs ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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October in Vermont: The Painted Forest

October 22nd, 2010 § 3

Red maple (Acer rubrum) with golden colored striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum), paper birch (Betula papyrifera) and American beech (Fagus grandifolia)

A week of notes from the Vermont forest, where the kaleidoscope of color changes from day to day and hour to hour. Scarlet red maples leaves, now fallen and scattered about the mossy paths, swirl back to life in wild October wind. The bronze-orange beech, honey-colored birch and lingering gold maple leaves transform the woodland to a gilded cathedral; striking against cerulean skies…

A cathedral of gilded arches – Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) leaves

October Sky and Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

Fagus grandifolia: Leafy Gold and Bronze at the Door to the Woodland Pathway

Beech Branch (Fagus grandifolia – American beech)

Lingering Color in the Afternoon Light

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Article and photographs ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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Singin’ and Dancin’ in the Rain….. Vibrant Colors on a Late September Day

September 28th, 2010 § 1

Raindrops on Birch – Late September at Ferncliff

Grey skies and fog… Are those downpours drumming on my roof? Why yes! At long last, the heavens have opened up; two days and a forecast filled with showers! Suddenly saturated, the colors of early autumn seem to be singin’ and dancin’ in the rain. Chinese orange and plum, cherry red and dusty violet, saffron and rust; a rainbow of beauty without a trace of sun. So now, pull on your rain boots and pop on a bright yellow jacket. Come join me beneath my big umbrella and let’s go for a stroll ’round the September garden. It couldn’t be prettier outside. Why not splash in the puddles and have some fun…

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ and Viburnum trilobum ‘Bailey Compact’

Rodgersia aesculifolia and Stewartia pseudocamillia in the Secret Garden

Miscanthus purpurascens (Flame Grass) with Viburnum trilobum ‘J.N. Select – Redwing’

Viburnum setigerum with berries, planted with Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ and Rudbeckia hirta {remnant seed pods on view}

In the Entry Garden: Amsonia illustris and Juniperus horizontalis ‘Blue Rug’

Raindrops on the coral twigs and multicolored foliage of a young Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’ beside the wall

The golden timothy meadow (Phleum pratense) and beyond, hayscented fern (Dennstaedtia puctilobula) edge the woodland

A half-lit sugar maple (Acer saccharum) glows in front of the native forest to the south

Purple-red ash (Fraxinus americana) and tangerine-tipped sugar maple (Acer saccharum) line the gateway to the native forest

A red maple (Acer rubrum) is all aflame on my hilltop, standing before the native forest to the north

Miscanthus purpurascens and Amsonia illustris (planted with Fothergilla gardenii, Rudbeckia, Sedum and in the background Cornus alba)

Hayscented Fern (Dennstaedtia puctilobula)

Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diabolo’ and Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ and Fagus sylvatica ‘Riversii’

Raindrops on Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ (Fountain Grass)

Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota)

Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’, Sedum, and Eupatorium ‘Chocolate’

Viburnum trilobum ‘Bailey Compact’ and Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ (detail)

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ and Viburnum trilobum ‘Bailey Compact’

Clethra alnifolia (Summersweet) and Miscanthus purpurascens with Weigela florida ‘Red Prince’

Early Autumn Colors in Vermont

Hydrangea quercifolia (Oakleaf hydrangea), Juniperus squamata ‘Holger’ (Holgers Juniper) and Solidago (Goldenrod)

Inspiration…

Singin’ in the Rain…

In Pretty Red Wellies !

Article and photographs (with last two exceptions) ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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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 Toast to the Last Day of Summer: Greeting the Autumnal Equinox with Spiced, Heirloom Apple Cider Martinis…

September 22nd, 2010 Comments Off

Spiced Apple Cider Martini with Dolgo Crab Apple and Cinnamon Stick Garnish

Farewell to summer! The autumnal equinox will occur at 3:09 am UTC (GMT) on September 23rd this year. So —depending upon where you live—autumn will officially begin sometime this evening, September 22nd, or in the wee hours of September 23rd. Here in New England, fall will begin at 11:09 PM EDT. Coincidentally, the Harvest Moon will be full tomorrow, on the first day of autumn. Yesterday evening, I caught the beautiful, glowing orb, just as it rose –nearly full— above the treetops at twilight. Oh, what a beauty…

The Nearly-Full, Harvest Moon…

As if in anticipation of a grand, autumn party, the northeastern fields and forests have already begun to change into traditional fall costume, greeting the equinox with the all the rich hues and glorious textures of the season. Fall truly is my favorite time of the year, but it always seems to pass too quickly. So, I try to soak up as much natural beauty as I can, taking daily walks through local fields and forests, and my own woodland trails here at Ferncliff. Below are some highlights from sunset strolls this week…

Colorful Maple Leaf on the Forest Floor

A Bleached Hayscented Fern in Late Afternoon Light

A Colorful Ash Seedling

Maple Leaves in a Natural Pool

A Meadow of Native Bluestem

I began my week with a visit to Scott Farm in Dummerston, Vermont (see my post about this beautiful Vermont orchard by clicking here). In anticipation of the autumnal equinox, I decided to pick up some heirloom apple cider, and create spiced-apple martinis; the perfect cocktail to celebrate autumn’s arrival. Heirloom apples have such delightful colors, textures and flavors; ranging in hue from light gold to deepest violet and varying in taste from tartest-of-tart to honey-sweet. A walk through an old orchard is one of the greatest early autumn pleasures I know…

Apple Orchard – Scott Farm, Dummerston, Vermont

The Orchard at Scott Farm

Zeke Goodband’s Heirloom Apple Cider, Lemon and Warm Spices

Zeke Goodband’s apple cider is the best I have ever tasted, and it makes the most delicious base for an autumnal twist on the traditional apple-martini. The golden color of this cocktail is beautifully enhanced by the addition of a pretty, ruby-red, heirloom Dolgo crabapple garnish. Of course, if Dolgo crabapples are nowhere to be found, any tiny red apple —or slice dipped in lemon juice— will do. But, if you prefer a non-alcholic drink, travel back to my post on hot mulled apple cider, another delicious way to enjoy this fruit of the season!

Enjoy the last, golden hours of summer, and the beautiful season of autumn yet to come…

Cheers!

Spiced Heirloom Apple Cider Martini

Ingredients for 2 Cocktails (multiply or divide to suit):

4 ounces heirloom apple cider

4 ounces excellent quality, ice-cold vodka

2 ounces excellent quality brandy (apple brandy if you like)

2 ounces orange liquor

1 ounce fresh squeezed Meyer lemon juice

2 cinnamon sticks and/or 1 tsp freshly ground cinnamon (optional)

2 tsp artisan honey

Directions:

Place all ingredients in a jar and cover.* Shake well to mix before serving. When ready to serve, pour the mixture into a cocktail shaker with crushed ice. Shake and pour into 2 chilled martini glasses. Garnish with a crab apple (or slice of apple) and a cinnamon stick. Serve.

*The basic cocktail may be mixed a few hours ahead (in a large jar) if serving cocktails at a party. Keep well chilled and shake cocktails in ice individually before serving.

Spiced Heirloom Apple Martini

The last, golden days of summer – A meadow of native bluestem

Sunset in a Meadow of Wild Bluestem

September’s Harvest Moon…

You may also enjoy last year’s Autumnal Equinox post and the Vintage Rose Cocktail. Click here…

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Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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

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Welcome, Soft Harbinger of Spring: Oh Come to Me, My Sweet Willow…

March 19th, 2010 § 4

Salix discolor: North American native pussy willow © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Salix discolor, North American native pussy willow – Pitcher by Aletha Soulé. Photo © Michaela TGE

Welcome! Oh welcome sweet, silver-tipped harbinger of springtime. Is there anything that makes a heart race faster than the sight of the first pussy willow catkins in March? I should probably install a blinking sign on the back of my vehicle; “Warning: I break for pussy willow”. Yes, it’s true. I am quite the springtime roadside hazard. Fortunately, the mud-slicked trails I travel in search of Salix discolor, (as our North American native pussywillow is formally called), are usually avoided by traffic at this time of year. Yesterday afternoon, after a bit of swampy adventure, I returned home with a flush in my cheeks and armfuls of downy-budded branches. I love the beautiful, soft texture and the sculptural quality of pussy willow arrangements.

Salix discolor is a North American native shrub or small, understory tree, (5-15′ tall and perhaps 8′ wide). Often found beside brooks and forest streams, or in low-lying thickets and swamps from Canada to Georgia, the pussy willow is hardy to USDA zones 4-7. Stands of Salix discolor form important wetland habitat for nesting birds and other creatures. Mindful of this, I have been carefully harvesting where shrubs are plentiful, and making clean cuts with my Felco pruners.

Pussy willow are easy to propagate from springtime cuttings, (this is a good project to try with kids!). Simply harvest pliant, year-old branches, (approximately 18-24″ long), and keep stems in a vase of water in a sunny spot. Plant whips outside when roots have formed, right after the last frost date in your area. This year I harvested some branches to use in everlasting arrangements, and some to propagate for my garden. Pussy willow make wonderful, textural-interst shrubs for wetland transition areas in the naturalized landscape. I hope to propagate enough for future cutting as well as for enjoying in the permanent landscape. Remember, these native shrubs are fantastic cover for small birds in the garden too. If you harvest pussy willow for arrangements, and would like the catkins to remain in their silvery, bud-like state, place them in a vase without water to halt development. The preserved twigs and branches can be used in wreaths or other decorations, and will remain beautiful throughout the year. If placed in water, the catkins will slowly develop a greenish cast or “bloom” and eventually, alternate, oval-shaped leaves will spout along the branches. Plant Salix discolor in a garden low spot, where it will catch spring run-off and moisture throughout the seasons…

Salix discolor, North American native pussy willow © Michaela at TGE

Salix discolor – vase by Aletha Soulé. Photo © Michaela at TGE

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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 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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The White Witch Cometh…

February 27th, 2010 § 5

The Morning after the Storm…

The White Witch roared back up the hill last night in her icy chariot. My oh my, is she a beautiful and treacherous queen. She was angry, and she swirled her crystal scarf and heavy cloak in a fit of rage. Behind her, the cold sorceress dragged a wet blanket of snow so thick that even the greatest trees bowed beneath the weight of her power. “Did you think I would leave so soon?”, she hissed and cackled all night into the howling wind. “How dare you flirt with my younger sister…“. I could almost hear her shaking with laughter in the forest. Yes, she has banished my Spring dreams. This is her season after all, and she is not yet ready to hand over her crown. Fierce Winter will take her leave of us when she is good and ready, and she will likely slam the door…

To the south, the oak and ash stand like ghostly skeletons in the morning light…

And to the west, a towering pine bows in submission…

The hillside traced in snow…

Sunlight makes an early morning appearance through the icy fog and mist…

The Japanese Maple as a Jackson Pollock…

The remains of Miscanthus sinensis ‘purpurascens’

Broken and battered, the last papery petals cling to Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ in the snow…

Pointy as a wizard’s hat, native hemlock has always been my favorite winter conifer…

Low clouds break to the east…

The glorious, burnt orange leaves of native beech still cling to her snow coated branches…

Viburnum trilobum ‘Bailey Compact’ reminds me of a porcupine, all prickly in the soft snow…

Stewartia pseudocamilla strikes a graceful silhouette against the snow drift in the Secret Garden…

Three Magical Warlocks…

Regal pines stand sentry on the western slope…

The tree lined forest path, draped in fresh white lace…

A young spruce droops beneath the weight of a heavy new coat…

Gorgeous, horizontal lines of beech amid the vertical striped forest…

Grey clouds make for a dramatic backdrop after the storm…

Pale morning light…

The door to the Secret Garden…

The velvety black remains of Physocarpus ‘Diablo’, sparkling in ice crystals…

Top of the snow-covered drive…

The forest at Ferncliff in all the White Witch’s Winter glory, {and 3 feet of snow}

Inspiration: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

Article and photographs © 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, All Rights Reserved.

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Tracking Animals in Snow and the Woodland Garden in Winter…

January 8th, 2010 § 6

The woodland path at the edge of the garden…

On a wintery day earlier this week, after a fresh snowfall, I headed outside with my warm alpaca hat and a pair of Atlas Snowshoes. In January, the native forest at Ferncliff is living fairytale; papery beech leaves rustle in wind, and lacy shadows dance on sparkling snow. Although the woodland appears empty in winter, this is only an illusion. All around me I find evidence of busy forest inhabitants. Both hunter and hunted, the strolling fox and scampering mouse, leave tell-tale footprints in the snow. Louise Forrest’s Field Guide to Tracking Animals in Snow, has been my constant companion on winter walks for years now. Tracking guides are useful year-round to help identify local animals and follow their activities.

Following the trails of forest animals, both in the wild and around the garden, has become a favorite winter pastime. And a long hike along the ledge is a good excuse for a big mug of hot chocolate with whipped cream later…

Traffic jam in the forest – some rodent activity at the base of a tree…

The carnivore, I suspect a red fox, close behind…

Evidence of the hunted:  foraging mice…

Lichen covered ledge – brilliant green in the monochromatic landscape…

Shadows, delicate as lace on the snow-covered forest floor…

The tracks of humankind – I just discovered that someone with initials “JTA” passed through here eight years ago…

Somehow a woodland aster remains, through wind, ice and snow…

The guardian, standing silently at forest’s edge

Rudbeckia remnants – January 2010

Miscanthus sinensis and Viburnum in the morning light – January 2010

Cotoneaster berries in snow

Winter shadows and rust

***

Article and photographs copyright 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 express, written consent. Please do not use photographs or excerpts without permission. 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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Autumn Brilliance Part Three: Plant Partners for the Late Show and Early Winter Marquee…

October 23rd, 2009 Comments Off

Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’ in late October

By late October, much of the foliage in the forest surrounding my garden has passed its peak. Although the woods are still basking in the glow of golden birch and poplar, lemony striped maple, rusty red oak and amber colored beech -  the vibrant orange and red maple leaves are now carpeting the woodland paths, where they rustle in the wind and crunch beneath my feet. Walks through the forest in late autumn are a fragrant affair; scented with musky dampness and memories. There is a beautiful sadness in the woods at this time of year – a melancholy enhanced by frequently-foggy mornings and low-lit afternoons…

Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’ foliage in late October

In my garden, most flowers vanished with the recent hard frost – but the ornamental fruit and foliage, stars of autumn’s late-show, are still going strong. Now through mid November, the leading role belongs to my favorite tree, Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’. This Japanese maple, commonly known as ‘The Blue-Green Dragon’, (currently the only upright dissected-leaf cultivar), is planted at the bottom edge of a slope near my studio where it arches over the Secret Garden door. The Blue-Green Dragon is prized for its lacy, delicately cut foliage and its late season color. A true chameleon, this dragon changes from sea-green to golden chartreuse before lighting a brilliant blaze of orange. Finally, in mid November, the dragon’s heat simmers down to a coppery hue as her leaves slowly drop to the hidden walkway below. Nearby, Daphne x burkwoodii, ‘Carol Mackie’, has begun her own transformation; morphing from variegated green and white to a citrusy blend of lemon yellow, sweet orange and sour lime. The contrast between these two plants is particularly stunning in the last week of October and the first few days of November. Closer to ground-level, Bergenia ‘Bressingham Ruby’, planted at the foot of the entry wall to the Secret Garden, shines like a candy apple. Glossy green and elegant during the summer months, by late autumn Bergenia’s foliage has shifted hues from green to orange to cherry red – until finally settling on the ruby-wine color she will hold throughout the early winter months….

Bergenia ‘Bressingham Ruby’

Secret Garden door in October

Further along the garden path, nestled into the nooks and crannies between ledgy outcrops bordering the main garden entrance, Calluna and Erica have begun to turn up their heat just as temperatures here dip below freezing. Calluna vulgaris ‘Multicolor’ has shifted to a shocking shade of vermillion, emphasized by the contrasting blue-tinted foliage of nearby Calluna vulgaris ‘Silver Knight’ and Juniperous horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’. Tiny lavender blossoms continue to flush the tips of the ‘Silver Knight’ heather, in spite of the cold – I gather them up in tiny bouquets for my kitchen table.

Ground covering woody plants, such as Calluna, Erica, Stephanadra, and Cotoneaster, offer vibrant late season color that combines well with with a wide variety of evergreens. Some of my favorites include juniper, (of all sizes and habits), Siberian cypress, (Microbiota), hemlock, (Tsuga), spruce, (Abies) and yew (Taxus). Blue-green masses of foliage and bronzing needle tips provide a soothing foreground or lush, calm backdrop for the more intense, late -autumnal hues in perennial and shrub borders…

Calluna vulgaris ‘Multicolor’ and ‘Silver Knight’, planted with Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’, (Blue rug), along the ledgy walkway at Ferncliff…

Calluna vulgaris ‘Multicolor’, forms a blazing carpet against the gray ledge in late October…

Juniperus squamata ‘Holger’, along the Secret Garden steps in October

Stephanandra incisa ‘Crispa’ glows golden-orange against the gray stone wall steps in late October

Stephanandra incisa and Juniperus Pfitzeriana ‘Aurea’ make a beautiful autumn pairing…

Of course fruiting shrubs and trees play an important role in my garden at this time of year and throughout the winter months. Yes, I fully admit to an obsession with colored berries. I collect and treasure fruiting shrubs for their shimmering, confetti-dot effect. While these plants are a feast for the eyes as winter draws near and color grows scarce, more importantly, their berries provide natural food for birds including the finch, cedar wax wings, cardinals and many others. As mentioned in my previous posts, (Autumn Brilliance Part One and also Autumn Brilliance Part Two), Callicarpa dichotoma and Viburnum, including the black-fruited V. carlesii, (Korean spice viburnum), provide berries for many of my feathered friends. As late fall shifts to early winter, other fruiting plants, such as Cotoneaster, begin to stand out in the garden. Ground-hugging Cotoneaster is a great partner for stonewalls, particularly in late autumn, when the bright red fruit and rusty foliage radiates in vibrant contrast to the rock’s cool, gray surface. I like to combine horizontal juniper cultivars with Cotoneaster, allowing both to trail down the side of retaining walls. Bright blue juniper berries sparkle on frosty mornings until they are devoured by hungry chipmunks and song sparrows. Ilex verticillata ‘Red sprite, a long-standing winter favorite, is just beginning its show-stopping performance. This mass of winterberry in my entry garden never fails to lift my spirits during the cold, raw days of late November. In the foreground, blue-tinted Juniperus chinensis ‘Sargentii’ enhances the orange-red brilliance of the berries and the beautiful gray-tones of Dan Snow’s stone wall rise up from behind. When snow finally dusts the winterberry branches, the red fruits float like cherries in a bowl of cream…

Ilex verticillata, and Juniper Sargent in October

Ilex verticillata ‘Red sprite’ with Juniperus chinensis ‘Sargentii’ in late October

Ilex verticillata 'Red sprite' close-up

Ilex verticillata ‘Red sprite’ with Juniperus chinensis ‘Sargentti’ in late October

Juniperus squamata ‘Holger’ and Thymus

Cotoneaster dammeri ‘Eichholz’s, leaves turn burgundy red after the hard frost in October

This Juniperus horizontalis provides blue berries in addition to sea green foliage

Viburnum carlesii, (Korean Spice Viburnum), provides late autumn foliage and black fruit. A small sized shrub, (3′ x 3′), Korean Spice Viburnum is generous with her fragrant flowers in spring…

Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Issai’, shown in an earlier post with golden foliage, is pictured after the hard frost in late October- looking even more magical than before…

Rich brown and subtle bronze tones also begin to appear in the late season, creating opportunities for harmonious pairings with brightly colored foliage and fruit. The cobalt violet hue of Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Issai’ berries, (above), seems even brighter once the shrub’s foliage turns a warm copper brown. Likewise, Microbiota decussata, (Siberian cypress), slowly burnishes from forest green to warm bronze as temperatures dip, playing beautifully against the orange-chartreuse tones of nearby moss and the pyrotechnic-color display of Enkianthus campanulatus ‘Red Bells’, planted at the corner of the walkway…

Microbiota, Thyme, Moss, Path to Northwest meadow in autumn

Microbiota decussata, (Siberian cypress), with Thyme and Moss on the path to the Northwest meadow in October…

Enkianthus companulatus ‘Red Bells’, in October

Microbiota decussata, autumn color close-up

Northwest path to the meadow with a view of amber colored beech in the distance

Although most of the flowers in my garden have faded away, some, such as Geranium ‘Brookside’, continue to surprise me past the first few frosts. When a fuchsia veined, blue-violet bloom appears amid the bright orange and yellow leaves of this gorgeous cranesbill, it can light up a gray October day almost as brightly as the sun. Placed near the golden autumn foliage of Amsonia illustris‘, this plant can easily stop me in my tracks with or without her stunning flowers. The dark hues of Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’ foliage, (or P. opulifolius ‘Summer wine’, or ‘Coppertinia’), pair nicely with these brighter plants, as do many ornamental grasses, dark violet colored sedum and verdigris tinted juniper…

Geranium ‘Brookside’ foliage turns brilliant orange and scarlet. and continues to produce violet blue blossoms with fuscia veins well past the hard frost…

Amsonia illustris, in the entry walk – golden autumn color enhanced by the late frost and nearby orange-hued ornamental grasses in October

Physocarpus 'Diablo' color variation 2

Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’ foliage color, varies from deep oxblood red…

Physocarpus 'Diablo' color variation

to burnished amber…

May the colors of late autumn lift your spirits and encourage you to venture out into the garden with an eye toward extending the season. With a bit of effort and planning, almost any patch of earth can provide a season-spanning garden, filled with color and texture throughout the year. I will meet you back here in just a bit, with more design inspiration for the coming months…

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

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the sole property of The Gardner’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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Behold the Beauty in a Technicolor Dreamcoat: Rhus Typhina, our North American Native, Staghorn Sumac…

September 28th, 2009 § 6

Rhus typhina ‘Tiger eyes’ ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Wow. Will you take a long look at Lady Rhus typhina? Isn’t she beautiful ? And she is such a keeper. What gardener wouldn’t welcome this stunning, autumn beauty with her technicolor dreamcoat? But there is a catch. I am afraid this lady has a bad reputation. It’s not her fault, mind you. She hasn’t done anything wrong herself. It’s just that she comes from a long line of toxic relatives. It’s sad really. I hate to say it, but her kin will really burn you if you don’t watch yourself. They are beautiful, but only from a distance. Up close, they are quite a nasty group. Perhaps you know the type? Maybe you have met them – I am certain you would remember. A close encounter with her two most famous cousins, Poison ivy, (toxicodendron radicans/rhus radicans), or Poison Sumac, (toxicodendron vernix/rhus vernix), will likely produce an unforgettable, blistering rash. Thankfully, botanists have taxonomically separated these nefarious relations from Lady Rhus, and this has helped to clear up confusion in horticultural circles and classrooms. But word on the street is little changed – the Sumac name still gets a bad rap.

staghorn sumac, september, fruit and early hint of colorRhus typhina, North American native Velvet/Staghorn Sumac, in September ⓒ Michaela at TGE

So lets see what we can do to help her out. In case you haven’t been properly introduced, this is North American native Rhus typhina, better known as Velvet or Staghorn sumac. And as you can see, she is drop-dead gorgeous. All summer long, Velvet sumac charms us with her tropical looking foliage. In fact, as you will observe in the photo below, she almost looks as if she came from a distant jungle, or perhaps an exotic South Pacific island. But she really is just the proverbial, beautiful girl-next-door. In the Northeast, when days shorten and nights chill in the latter part of the year, Rhus suddenly pulls out all the stops when she dons her autumn finery. Her cloak is quite a knock-out. Chartreuse, gold, vermillion, scarlet; impossible hues all blend together to form the most magnificent tapestry you have ever seen. She is quite the fashionista. I think she almost puts the Paris runways to shame. Rhus typhina also produces clusters of hairy fruit that turn a beautiful, dark crimson – a stand out feature in the gray days of mid November and early December. Even in late winter, her velvety stems are worthy of notice, when they catch the hoar frost and glimmer in winter light.

staghorn sumac, up Rhus typhina, looking more Bali than Boston, but a North American native all the same ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Like most wild-things, Rhus typhina must be properly understood to be fully appreciated. A North American native shrub, (or small tree), Velvet Sumac is hardy in zones 3 – 8, (some cultivars have a wider range), and can reach a height of 15-20′ or more, with a similar spread. I think she prefers to be positioned at the outer edge of a garden; perhaps alongside a drive, or a natural boundary. Although this is a suckering plant, and perhaps a bit coarse in winter, she is easy to please and quite benign. Only her name, not her human-compatibility, has been tarnished by the poisonous members of her family. Fantastic cultivars, such as the featured Rhus typhina ‘Tiger eyes’, and hybrids, (often crosses between R. typhina and R. glabra), like ‘Red Autumn Lace’, have proven to be fantastic garden plants. Just imagine the beautiful color combinations in an autumn garden. Violet, magenta and cerulean Asters; deep purple monkshood, (Aconitum); golden Amsonia; ornamental grass – the possibilities are limited only by imagination.

I think it’s high time we put out the good word for our native beauty, Rhus typhina. Autumn just wouldn’t be the same without her…

Rhus typhina, (Staghorn Sumac or Velvet Sumac) ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Close up of Rhus typhina’s technicolor autumn wardrobe ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Rhus typhina ‘Tiger eyes’ begins its autumn alchemy  ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the sole property of The Gardener’s Eden, and may not be used or reproduced for any reason without express written consent. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Welcome Autumn…

September 22nd, 2009 Comments Off

The first golden leaves. American Beech, (Fagus grandifolia).

Thought I would take you along for a stroll through the woodland path on the first day of autumn here at Ferncliff. Early morning fog lifted briefly to reveal a slice of heavenly blue sky and a season’s worth of kaleidoscopic color just beginning to develop in the forest. Welcome to Autumn…

A backlit branch of beech leaves stands out like a stained glass masterpiece by Henri Matisse…

Sky blue hues of Aster oblongifolium, ‘Raydon’s favorite’, brighten the woodland edge at Ferncliff…

Leaves shed early by two nearby maple trees stand out against the gray stone in a washout…

Hay-scented ferns, (Dennstaedtia puctilobula), just beginning to turn gold along the forest path…

A red maple leaf, (Acer rubrum), settled into new moss along the edge of the woodland…

A common puffball mushroom, (Lycoperdon perlatum), brings to mind a sea urchin when viewed up close on the mossy forest floor.

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~ Click to enlarge photos ~

To learn more about American woodland gardening, and North American deciduous forests, I highly recommend Rick Darke’s beautiful book, The American Woodland Garden, published by Timber Press. Although we have never met, Rick’s gorgeous photography, insight, and the beautiful woodland garden he created in Pennsylvania with his wife Melinda, has been a great inspiration to me. To learn more about Rick Darke and his work, please visit his website by clicking here: rickdark.com. Thank you for your many fine books Rick.

cover

Rick Darke’s The American Woodland Garden from Timber Press

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

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

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