Beauty by Design: New Gardeners Plant A Welcoming, Four Season Entryway …

October 27th, 2012 § 3 comments § permalink

Mary Kay & Greg’s Entryway Garden, One Year After Planting. Garden Design: Michaela M. Harlow

Season-Spanning Color Lights Up the Stone Entry Steps & Landing. Stonework: Alec Goldschmid. Garden Design: Michaela M. Harlow

With Properly Prepared, Edged & Mulched Planting Beds —Provided Here by Turner & Renaud— As Well as Diligent Weeding and Adequate Watering (Soaker Hoses Here Provide Water at the Root Zone; Preventing Evaporation and Delivering Moisture Only Where Needed) This DIY Entry Garden Planting Has Grown to Impressive Proportion in Just One Year. Garden Design: Michaela M. Harlow.

 I enjoy taking on the challenge of DIY projects in my own home and garden. But DIY projects with garden clients? Why not? As a garden designer, I frequently work with DIY landscapers at all levels —from absolute beginners to midlevel plant connoisseurs and fellow hortimaniacs— to create beautiful gardens. There’s no better way to learn how to garden, develop new landscaping skills, or brush up on rusty technique than by planting a garden of your own. Of course, taking on a big landscaping project can be intimidating, no matter your level of gardening experience. Knowing what you can realistically accomplish yourself and what might be best left to professionals, as well as deciding how and when to begin, are things we all need to consider before starting a DIY home project. In need of some inspiration? The garden pictured here was planted by my design clients —both relatively new gardeners— one year ago. Curious? Read on …

Windflowers (Anemone x hybrida cvs.) Blooming in Mary Kay & Greg’s Garden in Mid October, 2012. Garden Design: Michaela M. Harlow

Over the past few years, with revived interest in homesteading, victory gardening and self-reliance, the number of gardens I’ve designed for do-it-yourself landscaping clients has increased dramatically. I’m extra proud of these new friends and their projects, because they involve two of my favorite things: designing gardens and teaching others how to garden. Over the years, I’ve discovered that anyone with desire and dedication can learn to garden. I simply do not believe in “black thumbs”; those rusty digits just need a little polishing and training, and they will be verdant in no time!

This Photo of Mary Kay, Watering in Ligularia ‘Britt Marie Crawford’, Was Taken in the Summer of 2011. Stone Steps by Alec Goldschmid. Site work & Perennial Bed Preparation by Turner & Renaud. Plants from Walker Farm in Dummerston, Vermont.

One of my favorite, recent DIY projects came about when I met Mary Kay and Greg at Walker Farm in Dummerston, Vermont, after presenting a Four Season Garden Design seminar last year. I’d stayed on at the farm for an hour or so to answer questions after my talk, and Mary Kay and Greg happened to be simultaneously shopping for a Japanese Maple (one of my favorite trees). As fate would have it, Greg’s mother —an experienced horticulturalist and plant hybridizer— struck up a conversation with me about Acer palmatum. She mentioned that Mary Kay and Greg wanted to plant a new garden for themselves, but were in need of some professional guidance in the form of a garden designer. She introduced us and we discussed the possibility of a designing/garden coaching arrangement. My spring schedule was already filled with full service garden design projects, but I really liked Mary Kay and Greg’s DIY enthusiasm, so we spontaneously arranged  to meet at their place for a garden design consultation later that day.

Meanwhile, Greg Plants Hakonechola macra ‘All Gold’ and Ligularia ‘Britt Marie Crawford’ on the Opposite Side of the Stone Steps, According to the Planting Plan.

When I arrived at Mary Kay and Greg’s home, I had the opportunity to meet a few additional members of their family. Although the couple were relatively new to ornamental gardening at the time, they’d been successfully growing edibles at their place for a couple of years. I’d already learned that Greg’s mother is a retired, professional horticulturalist, and I soon discovered that Mary Kay’s father is also an avid, and experienced gardener. I was encouraged to know that my new clients would have plenty of gardening support and advice available from “green thumb” parents on both sides. As all DIYrs know, one-on-one assistance and tips from an an experienced helper are truly invaluable when you are learning a hands-on skill.

My first step with Mary Kay and Greg was to have a look at the big picture of their landscape, in order to develop long term plans/goals and prioritize immediate needs/desires, as well as to assist in determining what parts of various projects they could do for themselves, and what they might need professional help with. I sketched out a few design ideas and we decided that with a garden design, planting plan, materials/shopping list, together with a bit of coaching and some help selecting contractors for hardscaping, they would be able to take on the entryway as a first DIY landscape project. Once I drew up a plan, we were ready to roll on our next steps together …

Mary Kay & Greg’s Garden Design, Planting Plan, Materials/Shopping List on Layout Day 2011

Local stoneworker, Alec Goldschmid was contracted to construct new drystone steps and a landing area for the front entryway. In the future, a stepping stone path and patio may be added, so the garden was designed and planned with this in mind. Once the stone entryway steps were completed, Turner & Renaud Landscaping came in to prepare the site for planting a new perennial garden. Poor-quality fill is often used at building sites when homes are constructed, and after examining and testing the soil, we decided to have Turner & Renaud remove the existing topsoil in the planting area and bring in a high quality mix of 50% compost and 50% screened loam. The crew used a tractor to scrape away the old base and build new beds. English edging was used to define the raised bed and separate the planting area from surrounding lawn. With the site work completed, Greg and Mary Kay went shopping at Walker Farm, where they found the majority of plants on their plan. I always advise my clients to buy locally when possible, and other tri-state garden centers —including Bay State Perennial, Rasheds Garden Center and Dynamic Landscaping— filled in the remaining gaps on the shopping list. Once they’d collected all of their plants, I returned to the site to help coach Mary Kay and Greg on the final layout and give them some planting tips and advice. As you can see, they did a fantastic job! Later, Turner & Renaud returned with enough natural bark mulch to spread a 2+” layer on the newly planted beds. Using some form of mulch is essential to conserve moisture, keep down weeds, and moderate temperature at the root zone in summer, as well as prevent heaving in winter. Soaker hoses were also set up to keep the new plantings well watered during the growing season (more newly installed plants die from dehydration than any other cause).

A Close-Up View of Mary Kay & Greg’s Entryway Garden, One Year Later

Inspired by Mary Kay & Greg’s success story? Autumn is a great time to design, plan and prep sites for new gardens. In an upcoming post, I’ll share more tips on how to begin a landscaping project on your own, or with the help of a garden designer and/or contractors. Although there are challenges, the rewards of hands-on-involvement in the creation of your landscape far outweigh the difficulties. Now’s the time to get outside and assess your site. Grab big a pad of 1″ graph paper, a pencil and measuring tape. I’ll meet you back here next week and we’ll get started!

A Glorious Stewartia Lights Up Mary Kay & Greg’s Front Entryway in the October Sunlight 

Garden Design & DIY Coaching: Michaela Medina Harlow

Site Work, Hardscape & Perennial Border Preparation: Turner & Renaud

Stonework: Alec Goldschmid, Vermont

Perennials & Shrubs: Walker Farm (VT), Baystate Perennial (MA), Rasheds (VT) & Dynamic Landscaping (NH)

Installation by Homeowners & Gardeners, Extraordinaire: Mary Kay and Greg

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

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Bavarian Purple, Spanish Roja & More: Selecting & Planting Gourmet Garlic …

October 24th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

Gorgeous, Gourmet Garlic! Bulbs, Clockwise from Top of Ceramic Bowl: German White, Russian Red, Bavarian Purple & Spanish Roja. On Table: Two Heads of Doc’s German & One Each of German Red & Music. In Basket: A Combination of All Garlic Varieties, Plus Continental.

Creatures of the night, beware: I grow garlic! Garlic and onion braids hang from the wooden beams of my kitchen, and they inhabit colorful ceramic keepers on my shelves. I have garlic galore planted in my garden, squirreled away for winter use upon shelves in paper bags and hanging from floor joists in my cellar. Vampires dare not kiss me, for I cook with this delightfully stinky herb most every night.

Every autumn, I plant many varieties of cold hardy, hardneck garlic in my potager (hardneck garlic is the best choice for climates with long, cold winters). It’s a good idea to purchase garlic grown close to your own home (this insures the hardiest selections for your climate and local growing conditions), and traditionally, each October, I visit the annual Garlic & Arts Festival in nearby North Orange, Massachusetts, to select a few more gourmet bulbs for my garden. One of my all-time favorite garlic varieties, which I finally found at the festival a few years ago, is Spanish Roja (a rocambole hardneck garlic). This beautifully colored, hot and spicy selection possesses a true garlic flavor and easy-to-peel cloves, making it one of the most popular —and sometimes hard to find— bulbs at market. This zesty variety and others —including German Red, Bavarian Purple and Russian Red—-  tend  to be my favorite types for roasting and cooking. But I also love the milder varieties of garlic —including smokey, medium heat Continental— for salad dressing, salsa, cold pasta and other recipes calling for raw cloves, and for use in subtler dishes.

Garlic Bulbs are Harvested in Late Summer, When the Tops Yellow, Wither and Flop (Also True for Onions). Once Lifted from the Earth with a Garden Fork, Excess Soil is Shaken from the Bulbs as They ‘Cure’ for Two Weeks in a Warm, Dry Place.

Many hard neck garlic varieties (including rocambole, porcelain and striped) store beautifully in cool, dark, dry conditions. Porcelain garlic bulbs, such as German White and Music, are exceptionally good selections for long-term (up to 9 months under optimal conditions) storage. Russian Red, another good-sized porcelain hardneck variety, is also a top-notch keeper. I hang garlic braids in my kitchen and always have a few bulbs on hand in ceramic keepers, but most of my garlic is stored on shelves in a cool (approximately 55 degrees) part of my dark, dry cellar. After harvest and curing (for more detail, see previous post by clicking here) I like to store my garlic bulbs in braids (click here for my popular onion/garlic braiding tutorial with step-by-step photos) and in loosely folded, brown paper bags (this provides ample air circulation). I mark the name of the variety on the outside for quick reference. Some bulbs return to the garden every autumn, and the rest remain in stock on my shelves for winter and springtime use.

Preparing to Plant Garlic: Breaking a Basket of Large, Firm, Hard Neck Bulbs into Cloves

Mid-autumn is the best time to plant hardneck garlic in my climate. Each year I rotate my crop; preparing a new garlic bed with fresh compost in late September. Selecting large, firm bulbs from my crop, I carefully separate the cloves and prepare tags for each variety. On a cool, dry October day, I plant each clove approximately 2″ deep and 4-6″ apart (space wider for big, porcelain bulbs like Music). Mulching is very important in cold climates like Vermont. I use throughly rotted compost and clean straw or ground oak leaves for a nice thick mulch. Read more about garlic planting, and find a link back to removing and using garlic scapes, in my previous post “A Thousand Mothers Set Into Earth” by clicking here.

Of Course the Best Part of Growing Garlic is Eating It! Click Here for a Delicious Garlic and Potato Soup Recipe

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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Summer’s Sun-Kissed, Freckled Blush … Campanula Punctata ‘Cherry Bells’

July 16th, 2011 § 4 comments § permalink

Sun-Kissed & Freckled, Summertime Beauty: Campanula punctata ‘Cherry Bells’ (Spotted Bellflower)

There’s a new girl in my garden, and she’s got quite a rosy blush going on. Yes, I spied this Spotted Bellflower (Campanula punctata ‘Cherry Bells’) while out shopping for a client’s new garden, and —immediately and completely charmed— I snapped up a few pots for myself. But although my beautiful ‘Cherry Bells’ look well-mannered and shy, rumor has it these girls have an aggressive side —spreading by both vigorous rhizome and seed— particularly in warmer climates. I’m afraid she may be a bit of a Scarlett O’Hara. So for now, she will remain a potted guest on my patio, while I observe her habits. I hope she behaves, because I sure don’t want to toss her from my home in that pretty gown!

Like most fine ladies, Campanula punctata ‘Cherry Bells’ prefers to settle her roots in rich earth, with protection from the mid-day sun. Dappled shade is what she likes best, really, in a spot with plenty of moisture and room to stretch. When content, ‘Cherry Bells’ will form a dense —and reportedly vigorous— floriferous ground cover; blooming her pretty little head off from early to late summer. Hardy in USDA zones 4-8, I snapped up my ‘Cherry Bells’ at a local garden center. Tempted? Well after a bit of research, I also found this beautiful bellflower online at Bluestone Perennial.

Remember, just be careful where you put her: there’s nothing mousy-Melanie about this Cherry Bell …

The Ultimate Belle: Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind (Cherry Colored Gown by Walter Plunkett). Film still: MGM/Warner Bros.

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

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Spring Brunch from the Kitchen Garden: Shirred Eggs with Shiitake & Arugula …

April 30th, 2011 § 6 comments § permalink

Shirred Eggs with Homegrown Shiitake Mushrooms & Garden-Fresh Arugula

I’ve always been a breakfast person. French toast, waffles, eggs, potatoes, pancakes; I enjoy them all. Sometimes, in fact, I would like them all at once. Because of my love affair with breakfast foods, I have developed some pretty liberal ideas about when they should be served. Brunch is a great idea of course, but I also happen to think huevos rancheros make a fine dinner. And those restaurants with the round-the-clock breakfast menus? Those are some of my favorite places.

During the growing season, my work day usually starts before sunrise. I love the early hours, but they seem to go by too fast. Often, I’m juggling a couple of different jobs, scrambling to get things done here in the office or out in my garden, and running off to appointments with landscape design clients. I don’t have time to sit down for a leisurely morning meal. So when I have a free weekend or morning off,  I treasure the opportunity to create an old fashioned breakfast or relaxing brunch. And at this time of year, I especially enjoy cooking with fresh, early-spring produce —mushrooms, arugula and fiddleheads— from the garden and surrounding forest.

Shiitake Mushrooms Emerging in the Woodland Garden at Ferncliff

The woodland mushroom garden began as a small experiment here, but has since blossomed into a full-blown production. There are so many mushrooms popping up right now, that it’s probably time to start selling them. Shiitake mushrooms are surprisingly easy to grow, and early-spring or autumn is the best time to begin a mushroom garden of your own. Wonderful when harvested fresh in spring and fall, shiitake can also be air-dried and stored for later use (soaked in water or wine they are easily reconstituted for use in myriad recipes; including soups, sauces, pasta and rice dishes). If you are interested in how shiitake are grown, travel back to last year’s post —by clicking here— for a step-by-step tutorial on the process. Of course, I have plenty of space for full-sized mushroom logs here. But if you enjoy cooking and eating mushrooms, growing them is within the realm of possibility for any gardener; even one with very little, or no outdoor space. Small, pre-inoculated mushroom logs can even be purchased online (in season) from retailers like Gardener’s Supply Company and Terrain. There’s nothing like the taste of fresh mushrooms, and with the cost gourmet food items like shiitake, it’s really worth your while to start growing your own!

After Great Success with the First Dozen Shiitake Logs – The Mushroom Garden Grew Again Last Fall

This Morning’s Crop

Another Favorite, Seasonal Crop: Ostrich Fern Fiddleheads (learn more about fiddleheads, and find a recipe for a fiddlehead omelette, by clicking here)

With a basket full of fresh shiitake and fiddleheads from the forest –and of course baby arugula from the kitchen garden— I had plenty of delicious produce for my late-morning breakfast today. I decided to save the fiddleheads for tomorrow’s omelette, and made shirred eggs with shiitake, arugula, cheddar cheese and cream. Shirred eggs —baked in ramekins or muffin tins— make a delicious meal; perfect for entertaining a crowd at brunch. And with Mother’s Day coming up next weekend, I thought I’d share this recipe and give you a chance to practice before you making it for company (once you taste this delicious combination of flavors, you will definitely want to share). Earthy shiitake have a wonderful, rich flavor that works well with the fresh zing of baby arugula. But if you don’t have access to your own or locally grown shiitake (yet) you can substitute a different mushroom or vegetable of choice . Have access to freshly foraged fiddleheads? Perhaps you’d like to try the Ferncliff Fiddlehead Omelette, which I featured last spring in this post ( click here ).

Shirred Eggs with Shiitake Mushrooms, Arugula, Cheese & Cream

An original recipe from my own kitchen

Ingredients (Makes 12, average muffin-tin sized baked eggs):

12          Fresh, medium-sized, organic eggs

3            Cups baby arugula leaves, freshly washed

3/4        Cup shiitake mushrooms washed & chopped into bite size pieces

3/4        Cup heavy cream (optional)

3/4        Cup cheddar cheese, grated

Softened butter for tins or ramekins

Fresh ground black pepper & salt to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325°  Fahrenheit

Generously butter 12 ramekins or 12 regular size muffin tins. At bottom of each container, add one tablespoon chopped shiitake mushrooms, approximately one tablespoon baby arugula leaves (torn into bits if necessary) and 1/2 tablespoon of cheddar cheese. Pat ingredients to settle them in, and (optional) add one tablespoon of heavy cream. Carefully crack each egg over the top of the other ingredients. Place ramekins or muffin tins into the hot oven.

 

Bake at 325 F for 10 minutes or until the eggs are just starting to set. Remove from oven and sprinkle each egg with 1/2 tablespoon of cheese. Return to the heat for approximately 2 – 3 more minutes or until cheese is melted.

Meanwhile, arrange a nest of arugula greens on each plate.

Remove tins/ramekins from the oven and gently scoop each shirred egg from its container with a rubber spatula or large spoon (it helps to loosen each container around the edge with the tip of a rubber spatula or butter knife).  Settle each egg atop a bed of greens and garnish with a few arugula leaves, freshly ground black pepper & salt to taste. Serve warm.

These shirred eggs are wonderful with a fresh-squeezed minneola mimosa (click here or on the photo below for recipe)

Minneola Mimosa

You may also enjoy the Ferncliff Fiddlehead Omelette (click here or on photo below for the recipe and more about fiddleheads)

Ferncliff Fiddlehead Omelette

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Article and all 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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Simply Lovely: Etched-Gourd Cachepots

January 25th, 2011 § Comments Off on Simply Lovely: Etched-Gourd Cachepots § permalink

This Pretty Etched-Gourd Makes a Lovely Cachepot for Peperomia caperata ‘Raspberry Ripple’ (and on the right, Colocasia affinis ‘Jenningsii’)

Displaying plants indoors can be as creative and fun as arranging pots outdoors on porches, patios and balconies. Whenever I spot an new and interesting vessel —natural or man-made— I log it in my mental-file cabinet as a potential cachepot for a plant. Two years ago, while traveling in Vieques, Puerto Rico, I picked up this etched gourd from an artisan at a street market. Sure, it makes an interesting bowl for collecting spare change or keys, but why not use it as a cachepot? I sealed the inside of this gourd to waterproof it (wood-sealer or shellac work well) and filled it with a lush Peperomia caperata ‘Raspberry Ripple’ —and wow! The purple-red stems jump out when played against subtle golden-undertones on the surface of the dried gourd. You may remember how much I love this plant from a previous post (To read “Hello, I Love You, Won’t You Tell Me Your Name” click here).

A great mix: Crafter’s Gourds from Renee’s Garden Seeds

Like the look? There’s no need to travel to the Caribbean to get it! Growing gourds is fun and easy —a great garden project with kids— and when dried and sealed, they can be used in all sorts of creative ways. I plan to etch and carve many more gourds this year to use as indoor cachepots. Just imagine the possibilities! Of course, dried gourds can also be used as serving bowls/dishes, desk accessories or jewelry holders, and in addition, bottle-type gourds are often used as small bird houses. Gourds do require a long growing season —they are harvested in fall— so in cold climates these decorative delights are best started indoors before the last frost date. Now is a good time to order gourd seed from one of the many catalogues filling your mailbox. Renee’s Garden Seeds has a great “Crafter’s Mix” which includes larger, smooth-gourd varieties -these seeds are specially selected for creating vessels of all kinds. An excellent selection of gourd seed, as well as organic gardening supplies can also be found online at Burpee (and they sell luffa gourds: perfect for drying and using in the bath). Gourds grow on vines in full sun, and they can be trained up a trellis in a small space, or left to sprawl in a larger garden.

Read more about the lovely Pepperomia caperata ‘Raspberry Ripple’ here.

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Article and Photographs (with noted exceptions) are copyright Michaela/The Gardener’s Eden. All Rights Reserved.

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