Enkianthus campanulatas ‘Red Bells’ Rings with Rosy, Late Spring Blossoms & Glorious Beauty Beyond Bloom . . .

June 7th, 2013 § 2

Enkianthus_ campanulatas_Red_Bells_michaela_medina_harlow_thegardenerseden.com Enkianthus campanulatas ‘Red Bells’ with Baptisia australis, blooming in the background

June is a fantastic month for flowers. Everywhere you look —from sunny meadows to shady nooks— something seems to be blooming. At this time of year, many gardeners spend their weekend hours strolling through nursery rows, choosing blooming plants based upon their flower color. This is a tried and true method for selecting optimal bloom-time combinations, however, because most gardeners shop exclusively in spring and early summer, many gardens look great in June, but then fizzle out by early July. I like to encourage my clients to look beyond the beauty of May-June flowers; planning monthly, inspirational visits to nurseries and botanical gardens, straight through October. Keep in mind that as beautiful as they are in bloom, the majority of trees and shrubs in a well-designed garden should offer more than a brief, 1-2 week flowering period. When I plan gardens for my clients, I look for trees, shrubs and perennial plants with beauty-beyond-bloom; offering form, foliage (especially those with dramatic fall foliage), and structure, as well as gorgeous flowers.

Enkianthus_campanulatus_'Red_Bells'_with_Baptisia_australis_in_June_Rain_michaela_medina_harlow_thegardenerseden.com I love the way Red Bells Enkianthus (Enkianthus campanulatus ‘Red Bells’) catch raindrops and blend beautifully with the blue and violet springtime hues in gardens

Take Red Bells Enkianthus (Enkianthus campanulatas ‘Red Bells’), for example. Native to Japan, the beautiful, red-pink blossoms of this lovely shrub —opening in late May here in Vermont—  attract pollinators —such as hummingbirds, butterflies and bees— and the tiny bell shaped flowers last well into the middle of June. Even after the flowers fade, Red Bells Enkianthus’ shiny, green leaves and its pleasing form offer a verdant backdrop for flowering perennials and foliage plants throughout the growing year. But the real bonus comes in autumn, when the leaves turn brilliant color; with hues ranging from red-orange to sizzling scarlet. Frosted with ice and fresh snow, the delicate twigs even look lovely in early winter.

Enkianthus_campanulatas-Red-Bells-leaf-ⓒ-michaela-medina-thegardenerseden1 Late October Enkianthus campanulatus ‘Red Bells’ foliage in my Vermont garden

Hardy in USDA zones 4a-7b, Red Bells Enkianthus is a medium-sized garden shrub; with a mature size of 6-8′ high and 4-6′ wide. This ericaceous plant prefers moist, woodsy, acidic soil and partially shady to mostly sunny locations. Great in combination with spring-flowering perennials and bulbs —particularly in blue-violet and clear yellow colors— I also like to position Red Bells Enkianthus near indigo, purple and blue fall bloomers and shrubs or perennial plants with maroon, burgundy or gold hued fall foliage. Used as a knock-out, solitary specimen or clustered in a group for an informal hedge, Enkianthus’ three-season beauty can bring bold color to a shady garden and lend a cooling hand to a sunny spot. It’s a great choice for extending beauty-beyond-bloom in your garden design.

Garden Design: Michaela Medina Harlow

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

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Return of the Black Dragon…

May 21st, 2012 § 2

Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Wu Long Peng Sheng’  (Tree Peony, “Black Dragon Holds a Splendid Flower”)

The Black Dragon has returned to my garden, and this year he was generous, holding many splendid flowers. I have but a few tree peonies in my garden, and I hope to continue adding to the collection. The tree peonies bloom a couple of weeks earlier than the herbaceous peonies in my garden, and the Black Dragon is always the first to arrive.

Saturated with morning dew, the heavy, delicious fragrance of this peony fills the air with a rose-like scent. Peony blossoms are one of this gardener’s greatest pleasures. But the tree peony season is short; each flower to be savored for a few precious days. And with rain in tonight’s forecast, the petals will soon scatter to the ground. I wonder… Will the Black Dragon mind if I snip just a few of his splendid flowers, to place atop my desk?

Read more about Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Wu Long Peng Sheng’ in my previous profile post, by clicking here.

This year, The Black Dragon was Generous, and Holds Many Splendid Flowers (P. suffruticosa ‘Wu Long Peng Sheng’)

Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Wu Long Peng Sheng’  (Tree Peony, “Black Dragon Holds a Splendid Flower”)

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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Celebrating Glorious Glaucidium… Blossoming of the Japanese Wood Poppy

May 16th, 2012 Comments Off

Raindrops Glisten on the Glorious Glaucidium palmatum in My Secret Garden Today. This Delightful Perennial is More Commonly Known as Japanese Wood Poppy. Read More in My Perennial Profile Post, Here.

While tip toeing through the raindrops this morning, I happened to spot the gorgeous, lavender blossoms of Glaucidium palmatum opening in my Secret Garden today. I’ve written about the Japanese Wood Poppy before in a perennial profile —“Lovely, Lavender Lady of the Shadows”— and it has also been featured prominently in the photograph below; blooming beside the Secret Garden water bowl. In life, some small things are worth savoring. To me, the opening of this glorious flower is a fleeting moment, worthy of lengthy pause…

Japanese Wood Poppy Blossoms in a Gentle Shade of Lavender in Late May. Throughout the Summer and Into Autumn, the Lovely Leaves Combine Beautifully with Other Shade Plants, and Make a Perfect Accent to the Nearby Water Bowl and Mossy Walls in My Secret Garden.

Over the Years, Glaucidium palmatum has Become One of My Favorite Perennials for Dappled Shade

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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Oh, Sweet-Scented Orchard Blossoms! Selecting & Growing Fruit Trees at Walker Farm with Zeke Goodband…

April 29th, 2012 § 2

Apple Blossoms at Scott Farm in Dummerston, Vermont

The Sweet Scent of Spring: Filling My Hands with Fragrant Apple Blossom Petals as They Fall from the Trees

A Inspirational, Springtime Stroll through the Heirloom Apple Orchard at Scott Farm in Vermont

Many gardeners dream of an orchard filled with homegrown peaches, plums, pears, quince, cherries and apples, fresh for the picking. Fruit trees make wonderful additions to the home landscape, and given proper selection and care, they will provide both beauty and sustenance to the gardener for many years. Spring is the best time of year to plant young fruit trees, and I’m often asked to incorporate them into my garden designs. It’s important for all gardeners —including professionals— to refresh and supplement their horticultural knowledge from year to year, and stay on top of trends. So over the weekend, I joined an eager audience of backyard gardeners at Walker Farm in Dummerston, Vermont, to listen to our local fruit tree expert and orchardist extraordinaire, Zeke Goodband of Scott Farm, share his tips on selecting, growing and pruning fruit trees. I always learn something new from Zeke, and here’s a bit of what he had to offer by way of advice on choosing and caring for young trees in the home orchard…

Orchardist Zeke Goodband demonstrates proper technique for staking young, semi-dwarf fruit trees in the first two years after planting. Pointing out the need for care when strapping trees to stakes, in order avoid damaging the living cambium layer of the tree, Zeke explains that wire, twine and rope may cut through this important layer of bark. Never tie directly to the tree. Zeke recommends using soft, pliant material —such as cloth or rubber— to create a sling around the bark, in order to protect the tree when anchoring and tying it to stakes.

The most important step to take when planting fruit trees —whether an entire backyard orchard or a single specimen tree in the garden— is to properly assess the site. Fruit trees of all kinds require full sun and excellent drainage. In order for trees to flower and develop fruit, they need light from sunrise to sunset throughout the growing season. A little bit of shade in early morning or late afternoon is acceptable —though not optimal— for fruit trees, but a half day of sun or full shade will not provide fruit trees with the conditions they need to grow and produce fruit. In addition, keep in mind that all fruit trees are intolerant of wet soil. So before you get your heart set on a backyard filled with apples and peaches, explore your site with a shovel. Is it poorly drained? If so, choose another site. When the roots of fruit trees sit in wet soil, the tree will slowly decline and eventually die. Equally important, be sure to provide your fruit trees with plenty of room to grow. Even though many modern fruit trees are referred to as semi-dwarf, they still need to be positioned at least 10′ from buildings and other objects, and 15-20′ from other trees. This is important. In order to grow and flourish —and avoid diseases— trees need ample sunlight and airflow.

Another site issue worth considering when planting fruit trees is the presence of wildlife. Deer can cause a tremendous amount of damage to unprotected fruit trees —both to fruit and branches in all seasons— so if deer are common guests to your property, building a fence —at least 8′ tall— is advisable to protect your home orchard. Apple trees are particularly vulnerable to deer browse. For a single tree or small grouping, a more economical, shorter fence may be used to surround and protect the trees.

Zeke discusses some of the differences between the cherry tree varieties available at Walker Farm, and talks about how to select, and care for young trees after planting

Once a site has been carefully chosen, fruit trees may be ordered bare-root —from an online source or mail-order catalog— or they may be purchased in pots at local orchards, nurseries and garden centers, where they may be hand-selected. Walker Farm sells many kinds of beautiful, hardy fruit trees —apples, cherries, peaches, plums and pears, to name a few— and most are three years old. Peaches begin to provide fruit at a very young age, and although they are short-lived (Zeke suggests re-planting peaches every 10 years or so), they are quick to provide a sweet reward; making them a great choice for that first tree.

Once your fruit trees arrive to their new home, how well they are cared for will determine your success and future yield. Bare root trees will need to be planted soon after they arrive. If you must wait, be sure to keep the trees in a cool, dark place (such as the box in which they arrived). Soak the roots briefly —while digging the holes— and settle them in with a long, slow drink of water after planting (a 5 gallon bucket of water with small hole for steady drip works well). When planting fruit trees —bare root or potted— Zeke discourages improving the subsoil with compost or manure. The goal is to get the trees to settle in; spreading their roots beyond the planting hole. If the soil is over-enriched, the roots of the tree will likely remain confined to the planting hole, instead of spreading out and properly anchoring the tree. When planting a potted tree, dig the hole slightly bigger than the container and back-fill with the same soil. When settling the tree into the hole, be sure to leave the graft-union —looks like a knobby elbow— exposed 2-4″ above the soil, and then back-fill completely —avoiding air pockets— tamping the soil very lightly with your foot when complete. There’s no need to fertilize or add compost as top dressing until the tree leafs out. Once it does, fertilizer (10-10-10) or compost may be sprinkled around the root area and lightly worked in. Young trees do like nitrogen for the first 3-4 years (and peaches grow and fruit best when given nitrogen every year, throughout their lifetime) but never feed your trees after the 4th of July (and always avoid using tree spikes. Zeke really dislikes these —as do I— because in seasons with dry springs and wet falls, they neglect feeding when needed and then provide it at the worst possible time: when trees need to go dormant). In order to discourage pests and eliminate root competition, it’s very, very important to keep the root area of fruit trees clear of weeds and grass. So, a layer of mulch (2-3 inches at the base), plus regular weed patrol, is a good idea.

Voles and string trimmers —both of which damage the tender cambium layer of bark— are the enemy of young fruit trees. Protect your trees by creating 18″ high, circular wire cages from hardware cloth. Avoid use of plastic tree-wraps, as they harbor harmful pests, including borers. Hardware cloth (made from 1/4″ metal mesh), settled into the ground surrounding the tree, is what Zeke recommends to protect young trees from girdling by hungry rodents and/or nicks from unwieldy lawn crews. You may recall my mention of wire tubes for protecting ornamental trees in winter. The construction of hardware-mesh protection for fruit trees is quite similar (click here for previous post).

Young, semi-dwarf trees should also be supported with stakes for the first couple of years (fully dwarf trees should be supported throughout their lifetimes). Be sure to use a non-binding and non-chafing sling when strapping the tree to the stakes. Never use wire or twine —which may cut through the tender, outer bark— and avoid tying twine directly around the tree. Rubber or canvas slings, secured to the stakes with twine, work well to support young trees and prevent them from toppling or rocking in the wind.

Zeke demonstrates fruit thinning on a peach tree  —to one peach every 6″ or so— and explains the importance of this technique. Failure to thin heavy crops of fruit may result in broken branches or limbs and poor fruit production the following season

When selecting young trees, buy early in the season from a reputable orchard, nursery or garden center, and always have a careful look at the entire tree, including the root zone (lift gently at the base and slide the rootball from the pot to insure a healthy, non-pot-bound tree). Also, have a look at the leaves, bark and the basic structure of the tree. Does it look healthy; free of wilted or skeletonized leaves? Avoid bringing trouble home to your garden, and once planted, keep a regular look-out for tent caterpillars and other pests by checking on your trees, and supplying water if necessary, every few days.

Zeke demonstrates how vertically-inclined branches on this pear tree are trained to a more horizontal shape through tying techniques

After fielding some pest-management questions, Zeke went on to demonstrate formative pruning and tying techniques for training young fruit trees for best production. Pollination of fruit trees by honeybees and other insects is very important, and although many fruit trees are cross-pollinated by wide variety of local, flowering trees, Zeke points out that planting fruit trees in multiple usually gives the best results in terms of fruit production. Getting young, upright trees to flower and produce  —particularly upright pear, plum and apple trees— can be a challenge. To encourage fruit production —which takes place on horizontal branches— Zeke demonstrated how vertical limbs are gently trained in a more horizontal or angled position and tied down. This technique can be used with the more upright varieties of pears, apples, plums, peaches and other fruit trees, to encourage a more horizontally-tiered shape. If you have ever trained a climbing rose to flower (using horizontal fan shape) you will be familiar with this concept. Some trees have a naturally open, horizontally-branching framework and require little tying or pruning to produce fruit. For example, the Japanese ‘Shiro’ plum (Prunus ‘Shiro’) has a lovely, open shape; making it aesthetically pleasing as an ornamental and productive as an edible. In addition to tying, Zeke explained the process of thinning apple blossoms from the average of five per cluster to one or two blossoms per cluster. What about pruning? Zeke advises that over-pruning young fruit trees is a mistake. Other than correcting tight crotch angles and removing competing leaders —or other obvious problems like rubbing or broken branches— avoid pruning fruit trees for the first few years. Later on in the life of your fruit tree, prune trees during winter dormancy to keep the shape low, open and horizontally branching, as well as to remove diseased or seasonally damaged wood.

Zeke demonstrates how he would prune this young Honey Crisp apple tree; selecting a strong, central leader and removing a competing, vertical branch

If a gardener is hoping to harvest fruit in the near future, adding a few early-to-bear peach and pear trees would be a great place to start. Walker Farm had several varieties of each on hand; including golden ‘Bartlett’ pears and north-hardy, sweet and juicy ‘Redhaven’ peaches. Zeke  discussed some of the best varieties of cherries for our area, noting that trees producing tart fruits —such as ‘Danube’ and ‘Montmorency’— do better than the sweet cherry varieties this far north. But he quickly dispelled the myth that hardy fruit trees grown locally will do better than those grown outside of this region. Because fruit tree varieties are genetically identical, and grafted upon rootstock, a tree raised in Washington (hardy to your zone) has as good a chance of survival as one grafted and raised up the road. Still, I plan to shop for fruit trees locally to take advantage of the expert advice given by lifelong farmers like Zeke Goodband and Jack Manix. An experienced, successful farmer’s words-of-wisdom —and quick wit— are worth their weight in gold.

Thank you to Zeke Goodband for an incredible seminar, and to Walker Farm for sponsoring a spring’s worth of Saturday morning gardening seminars, free to the public! (Click here for information on upcoming seminars, and register to save your seat)

To read more about Zeke Goodband & his work at Scott Farm Orchard, click here and explore my previous posts (including recipe posts).

 Autumn Apple Harvest at Scott Farm in Vermont

Heirloom Apple Treasures

And of Course, the Best Part of Fruit Trees is … Experimenting in the Kitchen with Orchard-Fresh, Heirloom Fruit! Click here for French Apple Cake Recipe 

Resources for the Home Orchard …

The Best Apples to Buy And Grow (BBG)The Best Apples to Buy and Grow (Brooklyn Botanic Garden All-Region Guide Beth Hanson

Growing Fruit RHS Harry BakerGrowing Fruit (RHS Encyclopedia of Practical Gardening Harry Baker

the Backyard Orchardist stella ottoThe Backyard Orchardist: A Complete Guide to Growing Fruit Trees in the Home Garden Stella Otto

The Apple Grower, Michael PhillipsThe Apple Grower: Guide for the Organic Orchardist Michael Phillips

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

July 23rd, 2011 Comments Off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hosta ‘August Moon’ with Cryptotaenia japonica atropurpurea

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

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

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

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Black Dragon Holds a Splendid Flower …

June 8th, 2011 § 7

Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Wu Long Peng Sheng': Black Dragon Holds a Splendid Flower

Wu Long Peng Sheng. Translated from Chinese, the name means, ‘Black Dragon Holds a Splendid Flower’. I haven’t seen the black dragon, but I keep looking. Maybe he’s hiding in the fern covered ledges; waiting to pounce if I pick this beautiful, magenta blossom? I wouldn’t blame him for being upset. His flower is, without a doubt, the most splendid in the early June garden. So if I’m found later this week —smoldering near the Japanese maple— you’ll know why. I couldn’t resist. The fragrance is incredible…

P. suffruticosa ‘Wu Long Peng Sheng’ blossoms late May through early June

Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Wu Long Peng Sheng’ is a glorious tree peony from China. Hardy in USDA zones 4-8, it will grow 5-6 feet tall and slightly less wide over as many years. Tree peonies bloom about a week before most herbaceous peonies, but I have a bit of overlap in my garden with many of the early blooming, P. lactiflora cultivars. Tree peonies are among the longest-lived garden plants, and have been cultivated in China and Japan for centuries. Unlike their herbaceous relations (Paeonia lactiflora), tree peonies will tolerate a bit of light shade. In fact, they perform best and their delightfully fragrant blossoms last longer, with protection from hot afternoon sun. Be sure to prepare the soil well, with plenty of compost, and site all tree peonies in moist, but well-drained locations. Pruning of winter damaged wood should take place in very early spring, and pruning for shape should happen immediately after the blossoms have faded. P. suffruticosa ‘Wu Long Peng Sheng’ makes and excellent cut flower, and when I look closely —deep inside the petals— I can almost see the Black Dragon’s fire…

Fiery Heart of the Black Dragon’s Flower

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

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Moonlight & Shadow on the Rocks … Mysterious Japanese Hydrangea Vine

June 6th, 2011 § 4

Moonlight & Shadow on the Rocks. Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’ in The Secret Garden

Moonlight Hydrangea Vine. Her name evokes silver-lined clouds in a velvet sky, and midnight strolls through the Secret Garden. I picture a heroine with long tousled tresses, holding a candle by the forest gate. It’s a fairytale of course, and in the distance, wolves howl and trees echo with the shrieks of yellow-eyed owls. There’s a chill in the dark woodland air, but the maiden’s young lad is due to arrive and, in spite of the late hour, she wanders down the length of stone wall to loose the iron latch. As her long, graceful fingers trace the mossy walls, clouds part and the moon appears from behind shadows. Hours pass and time stands still, but her suitor is nowhere to be found. Tenacious and faithful, night after night, she clings to the rocks; lighting the stoney passage with her luminous glow; waiting in moonlight and shadow….

Moonlight Hydrangea Vine (Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’)

Moonlight Hydrangea Vine (Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’) is a delightfully mottled, self clinging climber; attaching itself to walls, fences, trees and most any other surface with self-adhering, woody stems. Hardy in USDA zones 4-9, this perennial vine prefers light to near-full shade and moist, woodsy soil (though it will tolerate a range of conditions). Although this isn’t a true Hydrangea, eventually —given the right conditions— Schizoprhagma hydrangeoides will  –after as many as four to five years— produce lovely, white, hydrangea-like blossoms in early June. Of course, I look forward to seeing the flowers, but the blossoms are really a small bonus. In the dark recesses of my Secret Garden, it’s all about foliage! Frosty and luminous throughout the dog days of summer; the leaves take on a bronzy cast with the approach of autumn’s chill. Moonlight Hydrangea Vine is a true woodland beauty, beyond compare. I love using this gorgeous climber in my shade garden designs, and if you too are looking for a stunning vine for low-light spaces, it’s high time you make this mysterious lady’s acquaintance. Soon, Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’ could be lighting a candle-in-the-night just for you…

The Leaves of Moonlight Hydrangea Vine (Schizophragma hydrangeoides) Take On a Bronzy Cast by Early Autumn in the Semi-Shade of the Walled Garden

The New Leaves of Moonlight Hydrangea Vine Emerge Light Green in Early May, And Quickly Develop Gorgeous, Pewter-Hewed Mottling

Moonlight Hydrangea Vine (Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’) Along the Outer Walls of the Secret Garden in June

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

All Stonework is by Vermont Artist Dan Snow

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

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Spring Clean-Up Part One: Pruning Damaged Limbs in Tight Spaces Using The Handy, Folding ‘Grecian’ Saw, Plus… A Special Giveaway!

April 9th, 2011 § 15

A young Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’ in my garden. This photo was taken last spring during a passing shower, just as the beautifully vibrant red leaves began to unfold

I love all trees, but I have to admit that in particular, I am a very, very fond of Japanese maples. And in spite of the fact that they can be difficult to grow in cold climates, every year I add a new, hardy specimen to my garden. The first Japanese maple I planted when I bought my land ten years ago was Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’. A lovely tree with dark, oxblood colored leaves and fine structural form, ‘Bloodgood’ is a commonly grown Japanee maple cultivar in the northeast; mainly due to its hardiness. But in spite of this tree’s tolerance for cold, one of the biggest challenges to growing Japanese maples in the northern climates —breakage due to heavy snow and ice accumulation— remains a problem with this and many other ornamental trees with complex branch angles and patterns. Preliminary pruning and training helps to set up a strong framework for ornamental trees —to withstand winter’s weighty precipitation— but some breakage is inevitable during ice storms with heavy accumulation.

Perhaps you’ll recall this image, of the Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’ in my garden, taken during the last of many ice storms in late winter of this year. Fortunately, only one branch cracked beneath the weight of the ice, and it was one I’d considered removing late last summer anyway.

When damage does occur on a Japanese maple, and on many other trees, one of the toughest maintenance tasks is pruning out broken limbs without damaging the bark and healthy wood on the nearby trunk and branches. Making cuts in tight spaces (like the one pictured below) can be difficult unless you have the right tool on hand. Hand-held bypass pruners (like those shown in the last post) are fine for branches and limbs up to 1/2″  in diameter. But when the limb is thicker, it’s best to switch to a pruning saw. When I need to cut a moderately sized limb —several inches thick— particularly  in tight and awkward spaces, I reach for my handy folding saw. Sometimes this pruning tool is referred to as a Grecian or Japanese-blade pruning saw. This type of saw has teeth —arranged in an arc on the inside of a blade— and folds up neatly into a compact size (see photos below). Designed to cut on the pull-stroke, these saws makes quick, clean work of tree limb removal.

This limb is too large to cut with bypass pruners, and the angle is too tight for my bow saw. So, the tool of choice?

The handy folding saw! This type of saw is sometimes called a ‘Grecian’ saw, or a ‘Japanese blade’ pruning saw.

Here’s what it looks like fully extended. When I’m finished using it, I can just close it up an put it in my back pocket (no worries about stabbing myself!)

Sometimes —when a branch is split or badly mangled by a storm, weak or crossing and rubbing a near-by branch—  it’s necessary to completely remove the tree limb. Knowing how to properly make this type of pruning cut is very important to the long term health of trees in your garden. Cut too far from the trunk and you are left with an ugly stub, which invites disease and further breakage. Cut too close to the main trunk, damaging the branch collar, and you risk exposing the entire tree to disease and opportunistic parasites. But, fear not. This cut isn’t difficult to make when you take your time, follow a patient process and use the right tool. To remove the damaged limb on my Japanese maple, first, I made a preliminary cut on the branch, removing the weight and leaving a long stub. Next, I undercut the remaining limb with a short 1/4″ deep cut. This will prevent cracking and tearing of the limb when I make my final cut from the top. Carefully observe where the ridge meets with the main trunk, and look for the wrinkly collar’s edge. Just beyond this spot is where the limb should be cleanly and neatly cut. Find your line and cleanly cut through as shown. Any ragged edges should be cleaned up with a sharp pruning knife. Soon the open area on the Japanese maple trunk will grey up, callus over and blend right in with the rest of the tree. At this time of year in cold climates, a Japanese maple (And other maple trees, and sap running species like birch) will weep when cut. This will not harm the tree. This wounded tree was weeping sap from the jagged break anyway. However, I do try to limit my cuts on trees with actively running sap at this time of year. I only remove what I absolutely need to, in order to prevent disease and speed up the ‘healing’ process.

When removing a long limb, particularly a heavy one, I begin by taking off some of the weight and making room to work with an initial cut farther out on the branch. Reducing the weight also decreases the likelihood of tears in my final cut near the branch collar.

Next, I make an undercut on the branch. This cut will be approximately 1/4 through the branch. This is another insurance cut; preventing a crack in the wood or tear in the bark when I remove the stub branch from the top.

This photo is little bigger, because I want you to really see the wrinkly edge of the branch collar. Do you see the ridge just to the left of the blade, where where the main trunk meets the limb and the wrinkly ‘collar’ just past that? Well, it’s important to get nice and close to that wrinkly collar with a clean, flush cut. But, it’s equally important NOT to saw into the branch collar. The cleaner and straighter the cut, the faster and easier it will be for the cells to quickly cover the open wound and for the callus to protect the tree from insects and disease.

Cut clean and close, this wood will quickly callus over and soon blend in with the surrounding trunk. Sometimes, a limb will break right at that collar margin. If the tree injury is located in this area, carefully cut as straight a line as possible, and clean up any ragged edges of wood with a pruning knife. The more even the wood, the less area will need to be covered by new cells, and the faster the tree will callus.

Felco’s Folding Saw is the right tool for pruning branches and limbs up to 3″ in diameter, particularly in tight places. You can order one from Amazon.com by clicking on the image or text link here. Or….

In honor of this blog’s second anniversary this month, I will be giving away several gifts at random, starting with a pruning saw, like the one pictured above. For your chance to win this handy tool, simply comment on this blog post before 12:00 pm, noon Eastern Time, April 11, 2011. Be sure to leave your email address (will not be visible here, nor will it be shared or sold) so that I can contact you if you win. And, one last thing… Let me know what your favorite thing is about this blog, and what you’d like to see more of this year! I’d love your feedback. Thank you for following The Gardener’s Eden ! xo Michaela

The winner will be chosen at random from comments received prior to noon ET 4/11/2011. One entry per household, per giveaway please. Drawing will take place and winners will be announced here, on Facebook and Twitter, on Tuesday, 4/12/2011. Saw will be shipped to the winning reader at the end of the month. Due to shipping constraints, this giveaway is open to US and Canadian readers of The Gardener’s Eden only. All taxes, tariffs, duties or fees not directly associated with shipping and handling will be the responsibility of the winner.Good luck!

The Winner of the Folding Pruning Saw is: Michelle Kraetschmer! Congratulations, Michelle.

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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. 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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Arnold’s Promise of Springtime…

March 16th, 2011 Comments Off

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold’s Promise’ is stunning against the blue sky on a late winter day

Though it’s a bit grey and dreary here today —melancholy low fog and freezing drizzle— the promise of spring is in the air. A sure sign? Sweetly scented Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold’s Promise’. This gorgeous shrub literally lights up the pathway on a moody afternoon. Reliably hardy to -20° F (USDA zones 4b/5a – 9b), H. x intermedia ‘Arnold’s Promise’ is one of the more sensational and reliable hybrid witch hazel cultivars for softly fragrant, early springtime blossoms. Producing generous quantities of large, bright yellow flowers and excellent, golden fall foliage, Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold’s Promise’ is a great choice for the four season garden and a favorite of early season pollinators like honeybees. If you are tempted to try a witch hazel in your garden, this is a good cultivar to begin with. Earlier and more prolific in bloom than my other favorites —including Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ (pictured with profile & plant source link below) and H. x intermedia ‘Jelena’— ‘Arnold’s Promise’ takes its name from one of my favorite horticultural destinations —Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum in Boston, Massachusetts— where the cross between H. mollis and H. japonica was discovered in 1928.

The witch hazels are a tough group of woody plants, tolerant of many locations and conditions. Given the choice, they prefer slightly acidic, moist but well drained soil that is rich in organic material. Positioning this large shrub or small tree (12′-20′ high and perhaps 15′- 20′ wide at maturity) in a protected spot (near a wind buffering, dark green conifer or warming stone wall) will increase the likelihood of a brilliant spring display and prolonged autumn foliage. Never much enchanted by the dingy yellow of the ubiquitous forsythia hedge, I much prefer the bewitching blooms of springtime Hamamelis. Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold’s Promise’ and other witch hazels are available online (here) at Wayside Gardens.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ (click on photo above for plant profile post) Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ and other beautiful witch hazels are available online (here) at Wayside Gardens

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Preparing the Garden for Winter: Protect Young, Ornamental & Fruit Trees from Gnawing Rodents…

November 11th, 2010 § 3

My young Royal Frost birch (Betula populifolia x Whitespire ‘Royal Frost’) tree’s golden-orange foliage in November

Several years ago, when my father had heart surgery at the VA hospital in Boston, I was away from home quite a bit during the last three months of the year. Preoccupied with my dad’s health and juggling various responsibilities during his recovery, I neglected end-of-season chores in my garden. Later on, as the first month of winter passed and my father’s condition improved, I found myself staring at a box of unplanted bulbs and a check list of unfinished tasks.

Soon, spring arrived. Waves of forced bulbs —potted and chilled in late December— began to emerge from the depths of my refrigerator. Although I regretted not getting my little treasures into the ground, I was grateful for the bright color of early tulips and tiny, fragrant narcissus when the snow began to recede; exposing muddy patches of half-frozen earth. Later, as I began rummaging around my cellar in search of gardening tools, I made a grim discovery: an entire box of wire cages that never made it around the trunks of my young trees. My heart sank. I looked out into the Secret Garden —at my still-buried Japanese maple— and I knew that I was in trouble. Immediately I raced out the front door and down the steps to my beloved Blue Green Dragon (aka ‘Seiryu’) at the Secret Garden Door. I began furiously digging at the foot of ice and snow still mounded ’round the tree trunk. My cold, raw fingers felt of the smooth bark for tell-tale signs of mouse-damage; scratches, gouges or ridges. Eventually, after clearing the entire base of the tree, I breathed an enormous sigh of relief. No rodent damage here. But then, I turned my attention to the Japanese maple inside the Secret Garden -my beautiful ‘Butterfly’.

The gorgeous spring colors of Acer palmatum ‘Butterfly'(from Almost Eden Plants)

I went inside to grab a pair of gloves and shovel. Snow always drifts and piles higher inside the Secret Garden, and the shade prevents early melting. As I began digging, I quickly uncovered a cylindrical channel leading from one of the stone walls toward the tree. Drawing closer to the trunk, I could see tiny bits of bark scattered about the white tunnel. I slumped down in the snow. Still digging, as I uncovered one side of the stripped trunk, I started to cry. I knew what I would find, and I was right. The tree had been completely girdled (living bark gnawed clean off in a full circle around the trunk). If you’ve never seen this kind of rodent-damage before, my reaction may seem a bit over-dramatic. But if you’ve ever experienced the heartbreak of losing a beloved tree or shrub to winter girdling, you will understand. The rodents must have begun their chewing after the sap started to run in late February. As the weather warmed, the tree began to leaf out. What a pathetic scene. The gorgeous crimson-tipped leaves and coral-pink stems taunted me as I watched them unfurl; knowing that this would be my beautiful, young tree’s last spring. I couldn’t bear to dig it up, and I couldn’t stand to walk through the garden.

The beautiful leaves of The Blue Green Dragon (Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’) in Springtime

Eventually, I came to accept reality, and I removed the ‘Butterfly’ from my garden. I could not find another specimen, so I changed course, dug up the earth, and planted a young Stewartia pseudocamilla in her place. She is, of course, stunning in that spot. And one day, I will create another protected nook and bring a new ‘Butterfly’ to my garden.

If you have young trees and shrubs with tender bark in your garden, protecting those valuable plants from winter rodent damage is absolutely essential. Every November, I pull out my homemade wire tubes and surround the base of my precious plants. You can buy protective tree tubes at many garden centers, or easily make your own from fine wire mesh sheeting (available at most hardware stores). I had extra metal lath leftover from several construction projects, and that works well too. The important thing is that the spaces between the wires be small enough to prevent the tiniest of mice from slipping into the tube. Make the width of the cylinder about twice the diameter of the tree, and at least 18″ tall (depending on average snow depth, you may want to make your cylinder two feet tall)  For extra insurance, I often spray the bark of my trees with hot pepper wax before securing the wire tubes, and I also pour a few inches of sharp gravel around the base of the tube to prevent tunneling.

Gently settle the tube around the tree and push slightly into the mulch. Take care not to damage shallow-rooted trees like Japanese maple by pushing wire into the tender roots at the surface.

Secure the tube with medium-guage steel wire. Gasp! Put down those Felcos! Use wire cutters to snip that steel!

Secure the tube well, tucking the wire beneath itself to prevent injury to your fingers in springtime

This is what the tube looks like when properly installed around the base of the tree. Once you have made them, you can easily recycle them from year to year. Replace them every November. Larger trees can withstand a bit of mouse gnawing. Mature trees, with tough bark, rarely experience gnawing. But, I protect all of my smooth-barked specimen trees. It only takes about a half an hour to do my entire (very large) garden.

Japanese Golden Forest Grass (Hachonechloa macra ‘Aureola’) continues to provide late season color in the Secret Garden, and…

It also provides a bit of camouflage for my Stewartia’s protective, wire tree-tube

Before long, the silver-grey tubes in my garden will be buried beneath the snow. But because I am a garden designer, I am very preoccupied with how the garden looks throughout the seasons. So, I try to plant a ‘screen’ at the base of my young trees to help conceal these seasonal tubes in late autumn. In the photo above, golden Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’) and Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’ provide a fine camouflage.

And although I still pine for my ‘Butterfly’, I accept that sometimes accidents happen. My garden is important to me, but my family and friends are far more important. I’m happy to report that thanks to the team of medical professionals at the VA Hospital in West Roxbury, MA, my father made a full recovery from the heart surgery that saved his life. And every year on November 11th, as I go out in the morning to faithfully wrap my trees, I am reminded of the many veterans I met during my father’s stay at the Veterans Hospital four years ago. Thank you for your service to our country dad, and thank you to all of your brothers and sisters in arms. We are ever-grateful for your sacrifice, and we salute you.

A Time of Reflection- Veterans Day, November 11th

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Article and Photographs (with exception noted & linked) ⓒ 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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Fire and Ice: The Flaming Red Foliage of Abelia Mosanensis Sizzles Beside Cool Blue Juniper Horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’…

November 4th, 2010 § 3

Fragrant abelia (Abelia mosanensis) and Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’ (aka ‘The Blue Rug’)

They say opposites attract —think Bogie and Bacall, Hepburn and Tracy, Lady and the Tramp, Bert and Ernie— in passionate relationships.  And it’s certainly true that sparks tend to fly in nature, as well as on the silver screen, when something hot and fiery comes into contact with the cool, calm and steely. In the late autumn garden, such contrasts are particularly spectacular when blue-tinted conifers are played against orange and red-colored deciduous beauties. In October and early November, the magnetic charge between red-orange abelia and blue-green juniper produces some serious, show-stopping drama in my garden; especially on a moody, overcast day.

The Brilliant Autumn Color of Abelia mosanensis Holds Straight Into November

Fragrant, hardy abelia (Abelia mosanensis) possesses some of the most brilliant fall color in my late-season garden. Beginning in mid to late October, her lustrous foliage —medium green and glossy throughout the growing season— slowly shifts from glowing orangey-red to fiery scarlet. The color of her autumn leaves is so brilliant, it literally glows like a campfire on a foggy day. You may recall my affection for Abelia mosanensis from a post in late spring, when this delightful plant produces beautiful pink, intensely fragrant blossoms (beginning in late May here int VT) that rival the sweet scent of lilac and daphne. If you’ve never met Abelia mosanensis, you should know that this is not a beautifully shaped plant —requiring careful positioning and June pruning to maintain an acceptable presence in a more formal garden situation— but her sweet, springtime blossoms and glorious fall color more than make up for her rather scrappy form. Listed by most growers as hardy in zones 5 to 9, here on my windy, exposed hilltop (zone 4/5), she has performed very well for five seasons with no absolutely no effort on my part. When her modest requirements are met, (moist, well-drained, average garden soil) fragrant abelia can reach six feet high and wide in full sun -but she’ll also tolerate partial shade, where a gardener can expect the mature shrub to be of somewhat smaller stature.

Fragrant abelia, draped in May blossoms (Abelia mosanensis) with ‘Blue Rug’ at her feet (Juniperus horizontalis ‘Blue Rug’)

And the perfect yang to fragrant abelia’s delightfully feminine yin? In both spring and fall, I adore the contrast of steely, blue-tipped conifers with Abelia mosanensis. In the entry garden, sprawling at fragrant abelia’s feet, the ‘Blue Rug’ (Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’) looks particularly lovely to my eye. Tough as nails, this splendid ground-cover is extremely hardy (USDA zones 3-10) and tolerates many soil types as long as it is provided with full sun and excellent drainage. Although it may sprawl to 10 feet or more, like most juniper, the ‘Blue Rug’ is easily contained with regular pruning.

Juniperus horizontalis ‘Blue Rug’ in November, with a Frosty Coat of Ice Crystals

When I’m pairing plants in my garden, I usually end up thinking about characters in a film.  To bring out the best qualities of one plant, it often helps to place it beside another with opposing charms. There’s nothing like watching the sparks fly between a feisty leading-lady and a cool and classic leading man. Why not follow suit in the garden, and watch your late-show sizzle to life.

Inspiration: Romantic Opposites…

Bogie and Bacall

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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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Late Summer’s Garden Delight… Lespedeza thunbergii ‘Edo Shibori': Beautiful Bush Clover, Buzzing with Bees

September 3rd, 2010 § 1

Lespedeza thunbergii ‘Edo Shibori’ (bi-colored bush clover)  A Bee’s Delight from Late Summer through Mid-Autumn

Ever notice how there always seems to be at least one hopping joint in every town, where the locals routinely gather for their morning coffee or to grab a quick bite at lunch? Yesterday afternoon, I met up with a friend at a just-such a café, and as usual, it was just buzzing with activity. I thought about that place this morning, when I went outside to water the pots on my terrace; noting that my garden has a similar hot-spot. Popular with all the busy bees, my bush clover, (Lespedeza thunbergii), is conveniently situated at a busy garden intersection, between the long perennial borders and the wildflower meadow. From dawn-to-dusk, this elegant-but-relaxed place is just packed with bees and butterflies. The nectar must be very sweet indeed…

Lespedeza thunbergii, ‘Edo Shibori’ – Bicolor blossoms

Lespedeza thunbergii, ‘Edo Shibori’

Of course, this is an undeniably gorgeous plant. And, I’ll readily admit that I planted Lespedeza thunbergii ‘Edo Shibori’ for purely selfish reasons. Five years ago, when I picked her up at the garden center, I was —and still am– smitten with her beautiful bi-colored blossoms and soft, graceful form. I also grow the more common cultivar, L. thunbergii ‘Gibralter’, which produces stunning, cobalt-violet hued blossoms; equally popular with the the cool-bees in my garden…

Bush clover softens the edge of my terrace here at Ferncliff

The graceful branches of bush clover sway beautifully in the breeze

Lespedeza thunbergii, which also goes by the name ‘bush clover’, is a relatively uncommon shrub —sometimes classified as a herbaceous perennial plant— native to Asia. Hardy in USDA zones 4-9, in colder climates —like mine— bush clover behaves similar to Russian sage (Perovskia antriplicifolia) and butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii): it dies back to the ground, or nearly so, every winter. In spring, I cut the shrub back hard, and it rewards me each August with a beautiful, airy shape and cascades of tiny, pea-like blossoms from late August through the end of September (Vermont). Bush clover can reach a mature size of 36-48″ high x 48-72″ wide. There are many lovely cultivars, including L. thunbergii ‘Gibralter’ —a popular and beautiful, cultivar with cobalt-violet hued flowers. Bush clover is a non-native species, and although it was introduced to the United States as a valuable food-source to wildlife, it should be noted that this plant may be considered an invasive in some areas (mainly in the southeastern US). Be sure to check with your local cooperative extension system before ordering or planting bush clover if you are in a potentially-vulnerable area (check highlighted links above).

Lespedeza thunbergii is a constant swarm of bee activity in late summer and fall

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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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Star of Secret Gardens & Shady Dells, Kirengeshoma Palmata: Late Summer’s Graceful, Golden-Yellow Waxbells…

August 17th, 2010 § 2

Kirengeshoma palmata (Yellow waxbells) in the Walled Gardens at Ferncliff

As the last wisps of fog melted in morning’s brilliant sunlight, I slipped outside through the Secret Garden, eager to gather my tools and begin the day. But there, rising from the damp shadowy walls, stood graceful Kirengeshoma palmata in a sunny spotlight; swollen-yellow buds sparkling with diamond-dew. Oh – deliriously-beautiful distraction! I simply had to stop and enjoy the moment of pure poetry…

Kirengeshoma palmata – Yellow waxbells drenched in morning sunlight…

Like most fashionably-late starlets, this beauty has perfect timing. Exotic, delicate, ethereal; held on slender, arching stems, her blossoms nod above magnificently cut, peridot-green foliage. This is true horticultural haute couture at its best. Who could have come up with such an exquisite gown; such a perfect ensemble? Valentino? Yves Saint Laurent? And where did this beauty come from? Oh, but of course —her name gives her away—  she must be… Japanese!  Kirengeshoma palmata: elegant and subtle, but show-stoppingly gorgeous, yellow waxbells; dancing in the Secret Garden like a kimono-clad geisha…

Kirengeshoma palmata – Yellow waxbell blossoms, opening in the morning dew at Ferncliff

Yellow waxbells, as Kirengeshoma palmata is commonly known, are hardy in USDA zones 4/5 to 8. This unusual, August-blooming perennial prefers partial to mostly-shady locations and rich, slightly acidic, moist (but never boggy) woodland soil. Once established, Kirengeshoma palmata will form mounding 2 1/2′ tall clumps, perhaps reaching 3-4′ wide at maturity. Here in Vermont, Kirengeshoma’s waxy, yellow bells appear in mid August and her blossoms extend through early fall, when most other perennials are wilting and withering away. She combines well with other late-season beauties; including Hydrangea quercifolia, H. paniculata, Hakonechloa macra, Tricyrtis formosana, Ucinia egmontiana, Cimicifuga racemosa ‘Brunette’, Rodgersia aesculifolia, as well as ferns and many other perennials, shrubs and trees…

Kirengeshoma palmata (Yellow wax bells) from Heronswood Nursery

Although this lesser-known plant can be hard to find, I located it online at Heronswood Nurseries. Click on the photo-link above —image from Heronswood— for more information or to order this plant (The Gardener’s Eden is not an affiliate of Heronswood Nursery, however, I am a indeed a happy, long-standing customer). Inspired by the gem-like beauty of Kirengeshoma palmata? Whenever I look at her, I can’t help but think of Keira Knightly in Atonement; floating across the lawn in her impossibly lovely, emerald-green gown. Like Keira draped in verdant silk, this ethereal garden beauty whispers and enchants, lingering at the edge of summer like the dreamy, sparkling starlight of August memories…

Keira Knightly wears a bias-cut gown by Jacqueline Durran in the film,  Atonement

Like a flower in the night garden – just look at the moonlight on Keira’s beautiful gown…

All movie-stills are from the film Atonement, produced by Working Title Films and distributed by Universal Pictures

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Article and all photographs (with noted exceptions) © 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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Gourmet Gardening: Springtime Adventures in Shiitake Growing…

May 28th, 2010 § 2

Shiitake and spinach fresh from my garden at Ferncliff…

Oh the delicious flavor of fresh shiitake mushrooms. I enjoy most fungi, but I have a particular fondness for the earthy, rich taste and firm texture of the shiitake mushroom. Early spring crops, such as snow peas, sprouts and bok choy combine wonderfully with shiitake in healthy stir fry dishes and soups. However until recently, limited supply made shiitake mushrooms a pricey gourmet delicacy. In the winter of 2008-9, I became curious about growing shiitake mushrooms after experimenting with a few wonderful Asian dishes in David Thompson’s Thai Food cookbook, and I decided to do a bit of research.

Originally discovered in China, the shiitake, (Lentinula edodes), has been consumed in Asia since the beginning of recorded time. Although these delicious fungi were initially harvested from the wild, the Chinese soon began cultivating shiitake, for both medicinal and food use, approximately 1,000 years ago. At first, shiitake were eaten raw, but soon they were steamed and simmered, finding their way into a variety of Asian dishes including Chinese stir fry, Japanese miso soup and dozens of Thai, Korean and Vietnamese dishes. Eventually, as European explorers discovered the delights of Asian cuisine, the shiitake made its way across the globe, and into the ‘New World’.

Fascinated by the history  and  seduced by the flavor of this freshly harvested, gourmet delight, I quickly developed “mushroom growing fever”. Late one February night -curled beside a fire on my blustery hilltop and connected to a world of information and commerce via satellite- with the click of a button, a kit was ordered, and my mushroom gardening experiment began. In the spring of 2009, the first crop of shiitake were planted, (hardwood logs inoculated with spawn-plugs -see details below), and with a rainy season ahead, nature simply took its course. Shiitake require one season to maturity, so there is a bit of a wait for the first crop, but after this delayed start the logs will produce mushrooms for many years – until the logs completely deteriorate. Fast forward to spring 2010, and I am now enjoying and sharing the fruits of my first shiitake harvest…

The first Shiitake – Spring 2010…

The Shitake Garden at Ferncliff

How Shiitake are Grown

After doing a bit of research, I ordered my shiitake-spawn-plugs from a company called Mushroom People online. The shiitake spawn arrived in an express package from the USPS in the early spring of 2009. Looking at the tiny packet for the first time, it was hard to imagine delicious shiitake mushrooms resulting from such humble beginnings. When the weather moderated -above freezing- it was time to get started!


Hardwood logs with a diameter of 4-8″ were gathered from storm-damaged trees on the property -oak and beech work well- and cut to 40″ lengths with a chainsaw. After collecting the logs and assembling them in a production line on saw-horses, holes were drilled with a 5/16″ bit to a depth of 1″ to accommodate the size of the plugs. A grid pattern was used to maintain proper spacing -roughly 6-8″ between the holes- for the shiitake.


Next, all of the shiitake-spawn-plugs were set into the pre-drilled holes and gently tapped into place with a hammer.


When set, the top of each plug is flush with the surface of the log, ready to be coated with a warm wax seal …


Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, the cheese wax was melted in a recycled tin can set in a double boiler. Once liquified, the wax is stirred with a clean, natural-bristle paint bush and brought out to the logs to seal the shiitake-spawn-plugs…


Here, as you can see, the tiny plugs are sealed and the logs are ready to be moved to the shiitake garden in the forest…


As a final step, each log is tagged and dated. Here, a photograph of tags placed on the second set of logs, inoculated this spring..

 

The shiitake garden at Ferncliff, 2010

The first shiitake mushroom emerging in Spring 2010

My inspiration: David Thompson’s Thai Food

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Article/photos copyright 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All Rights Reserved.

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Happy May Day!

May 1st, 2010 § 2

Image © 1895, Walter Crane, via Yale University Library online

Welcome, welcome, sweet month of May! Melodic bird song and the intoxicating, clove-like scent of Mayflower viburnum, (also known as Korean spicebush, Viburnum carlesii), were the first pleasures to greet me on this first day of one of the loveliest months of the year. Special thanks to photographer Tim Geiss for his beautiful shots of Common Lilac, (Syringa vulgaris), and Mayflower viburnum, (Viburnum carlesii)

Image © Tim Geiss

Image © Tim Geiss

Image © Tim Geiss

Image © Tim Geiss

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Photographs are courtesy, and copyright, Tim Geiss. All rights reserved by the artist.

Article copyright 2010, Michaela at TGE, photographs copyright 2010 Tim Geiss, (exceptions noted). 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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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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Tricyrtis formosana ‘Dark Beauty’ ….. The Late Blooming Perennial Toad Lily

September 18th, 2009 § 3

Tricyrtis formosana ‘Dark Beauty’ in the Secret Garden at Ferncliff

The first time I encountered Tricyrtis formosana she had been stripped of all foliage and was displayed dramatically with coppery toned twigs in a Japanese vase. It was lust at first sight. I was standing at the front desk in an elegant hotel lobby, and although I had plenty of things on my mind, I was driven to distraction by this flower. I suspected this was no orchid, but I could not identify her. Completely possessed, I had to know everything about the plant immediately. I peppered the hotel manager and staff with questions, and of course, no one could help me. In fact, I am certain the concierge thought me quite mad. He was busy and completely indifferent to my horticultural distress.

So I lurked about the first floor of the hotel, lingering in the bar with a late afternoon libation until the uncooperative employees departed. When the hotel staff changed shifts, a sympathetic face appeared behind the long slab of marble and I seized the opportunity at hand. This time I carefully tempered my enthusiasm so as not to appear too odd, and I simply inquired about the hotel’s florist. Much to my delight, after disappearing around the corner, the rather dashing fellow returned with a business card. “They are open tomorrow until noon”, he said. It was then that he must have noticed my aching gaze toward the vase, for he said… “Wait here just a moment”, and he disappeared once more. “Here…”, he smiled conspiratorially and presented me with three gorgeous stems, “These were on my boss’ desk”, he said, “and she has gone for the weekend”. I offered him a tip but he waved his hand. “My mother is obsessed with flowers, I understand”.

When the florist’s shop opened the next day, I learned that the object of my infatuation was a cultivar of Tricyrtis formosana. And although she may look like a member of the orchid family, she is not. Her swollen buds and speckled, waxy petals do bear a striking resemblance to Cymbidium, or perhaps Phalaenopsis, but her alternate lance-shaped leaves and hairy stems are a dead give away. This dappled beauty is actually a lily. A toad lily, in fact. And although I do find warty amphibians quite charming, I think this name is completely unsuitable. Other than Tricyrtis’ preference for a moist location, there is nothing toad-like about this elegant plant.

Tricyrtis formosana ‘Dark Beauty’ and Uncinia egmontiana, (orange hook sedge)

This initial introduction to Tricyrtis formosana was some years ago, before I finished college. When I finally had a garden of my own I was back in New England and Tricyrtis formosana was nowhere to be found. Although I heard there were hardier cultivars, (most range-out at zone 6), I could not find one to match the beauty I met in the hotel that day. Time went by, and I moved on to other botanical loves, but I never forgot my “orchid-lily”.

I shop around quite a bit for plants every year, and I try to keep an open mind when it comes to sources. You never know. Sometimes the most unusual things will turn up at a garden swap, or even a yard sale. I am no shop-girl snob, and I am certainly not above looking for botanical treasures in the most common of places. But I have to admit I was taken aback when I ran into my old love at the Home Depot. Of all the box stores in all the towns in all the world…

There she was, Tricyrtis formosana, the ‘Dark Beauty’.  Needless to say she came home with me. Native to Japan, this lovely lily brings a touch of exotic, Asian elegance to my shady northern nook. Much to my delight, this cultivar is hardy in zones 4 – 8.  She likes partial shade and constant moisture, and when happy her rhizomatous roots will spread out to form 2 to 3 foot colonies. Best of all, the ‘Dark Beauty’ blooms in early to mid fall, when few other flowers remain in my garden. I believe she likes taking the stage all to herself in the late show. And I am more than happy to supply her with a vibrant supporting cast.

The bold orange tones of Japanese forest grass, Hakonechloa macra ‘Nicolas’, strike a beautiful, contrasting chord when positioned beside the violet hues of Tricyrtis formosana ‘Dark Beauty’. A similar effect may be achieved when she is combined with orange hook sedge, (Ucinia egmontiana). Although you might not expect a dramatic late season finale when the pair are viewed throughout the quiet days of summer, ‘Dark Beauty’ will stand out in bold contrast to the orangy-gold autumn color of  our native cinnamon fern, (Osmonda cinnamonea), in fall. Tricyrtis formosana reaches a height somewhere between 18 and 28″, and she combines beautifully with other perennials. I might choose coral bells (Heuchera), for the foreground and perhaps position her beside a dark violet monkshood, (Aconitum, various cultivars), to create a dramatic autumn vignette. Her glossy green leaves play nicely against the feathery foliage of Astilbe, or the statuesque Goat’s Beard, (Aruncus dioicus), who backs up ‘Dark Beauty’ particularly well.

So here we are together again. Me and my old flame Tricyrtis formosana. So why not play it Sam? This looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship …

Tricyrtis formonsana ‘Dark Beauty’ with Orange Hook Sedge

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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 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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