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

October 27th, 2012 § 3

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

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

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

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

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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A Tough Broad for all Seasons: This Sulfur-Tipped, Ice-Blue Chameleon Really Knows How to Wear the Pants…

January 14th, 2011 § 7

Juniperus squamata ‘Holger’ atop the Secret Garden Steps in January

It’s easy to get gardeners excited when I talk about big stars like hydrangea, azalea and viburnum. And most everyone swoons over those voluptuous and intoxicating bombshells: the roses, French lilacs and tree peonies. But junipers? Why they’re a lonely and oft-neglected group of garden workhorses who’s only claim to fame seems to be gin. It’s sad really, because once you get to know them, they’re such a great bunch of broads to hang around with in the garden…

Juniperus squamata ‘Holger’ atop the Secret Garden Steps the Morning After a January Snow Storm

Take single-seed juniper ‘Holger’ for example. What a stunner. Like all great broads, she’s tough as nails, a bit cool-looking and often prickly when you try to push her around. You’d best put your gloves on if you want to mess with her. But she has a soft side of course, and in this case it comes in a gorgeous shade of mellow, sulpur-yellow; which she shows off against her icy needles in the springtime sun…

Sulphur-Tipped New Growth Glows Atop Ice-Blue Needles – Juniperus squamata ‘Holger’ and a Carpet of Thymus

All the year round, Holger juniper offers stunning blue-green color; a gorgeous, cool and soothing contrast to almost anything planted nearby. A medium-sized, moderately spreading conifer (3-5′ high and wide), Juniperus squamata ‘Holger’ is easy to care for and drought resistant once established. All this tough shrub (USDA zones 4-8) requires is full sun, well drained soil, and good air circulation. Useful as a ground cover, wind break, slope stabilizer and outdoor room divider, the design possibilities of Holger juniper are limited only by a gardener’s imagination. Looking for a way to enhance blue or violet hued flowers in springtime? The sulphur-yellow tips of this conifer are the perfect contrast. Want to show-off bold autumn colors in the landscape? Plant Holger juniper near deciduous shrubs and the icy-blue needles will bring out the electric orange and red of fall. Need a reliable, deer-resistant screen for a less-than-attractive air conditioning unit or other household utility? This year-round beauty could be the answer…

Holger juniper not only stabilizes this slope, but it also gives structure and soft definition to the lines of this hillside planting surrounding the Secret Garden Steps

The Ice-Blue Tips of Holger Juniper Stand Out in the Landscape, and Contrast with Other Warm-Toned Plantings Throughout the Seasons

In Autumn, Holger Juniper’s Blue-Green Needles are a Gorgeous Contrast to Red, Gold and Rust (Here with Hydrangea quercifolia and Solidago)

Sunny, cloudy, rainy or dry; Holger juniper looks clean, fresh and pulled together. Like all members of the juniper clan, Holger can be occasionally troubled by insects or disease —spider mites, scale or aphids, or perhaps cedar-apple rust, twig blight or wood rot— but such problems can usually be avoided when her humble requirements (listed above) are met. She’s got great style and requires only the occasional bit of pruning from artfully handled secateurs to maintain her shape here at the edge of the path. A great conifer like Holger juniper helps to give a garden year-round structure. Consider a grouping of juniper as an evergreen wall or low, living fence; a way to define the garden in addition to hard-scaping…

And later, during the quiet season, when most other garden plants have shed their leaves and withered to the ground, juniper carries on the show; shrugging off the ice, the snow and the cold. I have many juniper species and cultivars in my garden, but for season-spanning beauty, ‘Holger’ truly tops the list. She’s tall enough to rise above a drifting white blanket in winter, and interesting enough to hold her own beside the most vibrant of garden companions. Never underestimate the tough broads –they’ll never let you down…

Holger Juniper Holds Her Own, Draped in a New White Cloak on a Cold Winter’s Night

Holger Juniper Atop the Stairs with a Light Dusting of Snow in December

And Like Most of Her Cousins, This Tough Lady Can Carry a Heavy Load

A True-Blue Beauty Throughout the Seasons – Juniperus Squamata ‘Holger’

Come to think of it… If she were human, I think Holger juniper would be Katherine Hepburn. She’s a tough, bristly beauty and she really knows how to wear the pants. Photograph Alfred Eisenstaedt/Time & Life Pictures via Lifetsyle.MSN.com

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

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Beautiful Gardens Beneath Glass: Terrarium Care and Maintenance…

January 7th, 2011 § 7

The Allure of Moisture – Mist and Water Droplets Inside a Garden Beneath Glass. Nephrolepis cordifolia ‘Duffii’ and Begonia ‘Trade Winds’ with Sphagnum moss and Ceramic Ornament in an Apothecary Jar.

We are expecting a bit of snow this afternoon in Vermont. Nothing major is predicted by way of accumulation, but there will likely be a blanket of white covering the ground tomorrow morning. I love snow, but there’s a long, cold season ahead of us, and I know that soon I will begin pining for the smell of moist, fresh earth. Already my skin and hair are crying out for lotions and potions. Of course, I’m not the only one craving moisture. Many of my houseplants prefer humid conditions, and in a dry house heated with a wood-burning stove, it’s difficult to meet their requirements.

I count Orchids (like this gorgeous Paphiopedilum hybrid) among my most favorite plants!

One of my favorite winter activities is terrarium making. I love to create and maintain beautiful gardens beneath glass. Many plants love the humid micro-climate provided by an enclosed terrarium, including some of my favorites: begonias, ferns, ivy, moss, orchids, and violets. And because they are relatively easy to care for, I often give terrariums as gifts. Over all, a simple Wardian case or glass jar terrarium is the perfect indoor container garden for someone new to horticulture. Of course most living things have needs, and a bit of care is required in order to keep all plants, including those enclosed inside a terrarium, healthy and beautiful. However, if you carefully construct your garden-beneath-glass —click here for a tutorial— you can avoid many of the more common pitfalls (stagnation, rot, fungal/bacterial infections and/or insect infestations).

Peperomia make excellent terrarium plants. This Peperomia griseo-argentea (Ivy Peperomia) would provides a lovely color-contrast amongst darker leaved species, in a larger-sized terrarium. It can be found and purchased at Glasshouse Works online here.

Choose your plants carefully. Be sure to consider the mature size of each species and cultivar you place in your terrarium; especially if you are working within a small apothecary jar or glass cloche. Look up plants online, or consult a knowledgable greenhouse grower to be sure you have the correct information about your plants’ requirements and mature size. Always purchase terrarium plants from a reputable grower. If you aren’t certain of your plants’ history, it’s best to quarantine new specimens and monitor them for pests and disease before introducing them to a terrarium.

Visiting greenhouses —like the Lyman Conservatory at Smith College, a tiny section of which is pictured here— is a great way to learn more about horticulture. It’s also a fantastic place to get ideas and information about growing plants beneath glass!

If the soil in your terrarium is properly watered at the time of planting, and specimens are housed in a fully enclosed container —such as a Wardian case or apothecary jar—  then your terrarium may not need additional moisture for months. But if your terrarium is partially open, you will need to monitor the soil’s moisture level more carefully. Gardens surrounded by glass should be checked regularly to insure that the soil remains moist, but never soggy. The riskiest season for terrariums tends to be summer, when it tends to be hotter and brighter indoors.

Some plants prefer low-light rooms. For more information about this open-terrarium, click here.

The best location for most terrariums is a warm, indoor spot with indirect light. If you choose to fill your terrarium with plants that require bright light, then your terrarium may be situated closer to windows. But keep in mind that containers located in bright, sunny spots or near heat-sources should be checked regularly for proper moisture. Most enclosed-terrarium plants prefer low-light conditions. Cases and jars containing ferns, moss, and other forest-floor plants can be located in dimly lit rooms (see an example of a low-light terrarium here). If the container receives uneven light, occasionally rotate your terrarium in order to prevent lopsided growth.

Think of your terrarium as a tiny conservatory, and tend to its maintenance with as much love as you would any other garden in your care.

Although fertilizing most terrarium plants is unnecessary, it’s important that you groom and maintain your plants as you would in any other garden. Keep things tidy inside and out by cleaning the glass and picking out debris. Remove spent flowers and yellow, withered leaves with scissors or tweezers, and prune plants when necessary to maintain attractive shape. If one or more of the plants becomes too large for a small terrarium, remove it and place it in a larger case or container. And if a plant should begin to fail, or die, extract it immediately to avoid the spread of disease. Not sure of how to identify insects or what to look for in terms of disease? The books I mentioned in my previous post (below) can help with the general care of houseplants the very-useful, What’s Wrong With My Plant? will provide even more help with troubleshooting horticultural problems indoors and out.

Theoretically, enclosing a garden should eliminate most horticultural pests and diseases. But this is only true if the plants are pest and disease free upon entry! If you follow the yellow arrow in the photo above, you will note a stow-away I discovered on this Begonia. See the tiny white dot? Hard to notice, isn’t it? That is a mealy bug! (you can click to enlarge the photo, and look at the image below for more detail)

Of course, even the most cautious gardener occasionally runs into terrarium troubles. Sometimes, tiny insect eggs, microscopic bacteria and mold spores will escape detection and —unless you monitor the plants on a regular basis— develop into serious problems. At the first sign of trouble, attack insects and diseases by either treating or carefully removing the infected specimen. If your terrarium is large enough, insecticidal soap, horticultural oils and other treatments may be applied directly to the plants contained within, but in most cases, the safest and best course of action is to remove the plant.

Here’s a closer look at the mealy bug on my Begonia. So long, pal. It’s time to say goodbye with a good hit of insecticidal soap! I’ll be back to treat your kin to another soapy bath later!

I will be writing more about terrariums and indoor container gardening —including design, planting and care— over the coming weeks. For more ideas, posts, resources, links and information, visit the Indoor Eden page. In addition, Tovah Martin’s The New Terrarium is both an inspirational and useful resource for terrarium design, construction and maintenance. I own and highly recommend this beautifully photographed, well-written book.

Ferns and Moss in a Wardian Case at Smith College Lyman Conservatory’s Fern House

Nephrolepis cordifolia ‘Duffii’ and Begonia ‘Trade Winds’ with Sphagnum moss and Ceramic Ornament in an Apothecary Jar.

Nephrolepis cordifolia ‘Duffii’ and Begonia ‘Trade Winds’ with Sphagnum moss and Ceramic Ornament in an Apothecary Jar

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Terrain is a great online source for terrarium supplies and beautiful, artistic containers.Click here or their image above to visit their website.

Find more indoor garden and terrarium ideas on the Indoor Eden page. Or visit the retailers linked below – all are known for fine garden products and terrariums.

Article and Photographs (with noted exception) ⓒ Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden.

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Bright, Red Winterberry & Juniper Magic: Lovely, Native Ilex Verticillata Sparkles & Glows on Grey, Chilly Days…

November 21st, 2010 § 4

Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’, paired here with Juniperus chinensis ‘Sargentii’

In the last weeks of late autumn —after the leaves have all fallen and deciduous trees stand naked and rattling in cold wind— the conifers and fruit-bearing shrubs reign supreme in my garden. Late fall and early winter days —laced with hoar frost and sugar-coatings of fresh snow— are brightened by the glow of colorful berries, twigs and richly hued conifers. All of the delicately textured remnants —needles, seeds and tiny twigs— catch falling ice crystals and snow flakes; like sweets coated in confectioners sugar.

One of my favorite late-season shrubs, the Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’ (common, dwarf winterberry holly) planted in front of my Secret Garden, is a knock-out at this time of year. With bright red fruit ripening in September and holding through January or longer, this shrub is invaluable for color in the winter landscape. Chosen for its charmingly petite, compact size (about 3-5 feet high and wide)  I. verticillata ‘Red Sprite’ is a great choice for softening the edges of walls, buildings and fences. I grow several winterberry cultivars, including the beautiful, statuesque I. verticillata ‘Winter Red’ (9′ x 9′), in my landscape; combining them with conifers and other shrubs and trees to create season-spanning interest in the garden. Juniper make great companions for winterberry, and Juniperus chinensis ‘Sargentii’ forms a lovely, contrasting blue-green carpet in front of the dwarf I. verticillata ‘Red Sprite’. Winterberry are extremely hardy shrubs, (USDA zones 3-9) native to eastern North America. These shrubs are long lived and trouble free; provided they are planted in rich, moist, freely- draining, acidic soil in full sun. I use a thick, organic mulch to conserve moisture and keep the root zone of my shrubs cool on hot summer days. When planting winterberry, it’s important to remember that a male cultivar will be needed for pollination -but only the female plants will bear fruit. In the grouping pictured below, the bare twigs in the background are the branches of a male cultivar. The pollinating shrub needn’t be planted in the same grouping -anywhere nearby will do just fine.

In front of my Secret Garden, Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’ looks like a tasty treat in a confectioner’s window. I snapped this picture the morning after the first snow…

Birds love plump, red winterberries, and will often gobble them up before the end of December. I keep planting more to please the crowd…

The bright red winterberries are even more stunning when snow drifts cover the carpet of juniper in a soft, white blanket

Rock candy mountain – Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’, the morning after an ice storm

Our native winterberry (Ilex verticillata) can usually be found in wet, low-lying areas —places like marsh and swamp land or natural, open drainage areas— where it forms dense thickets. In the later part of the year, the shrubs are filled with colorful, red fruits, which hold until late winter unless they are picked clean by wildlife. Although winterberries are inedible to humans (mildly toxic) they are extremely popular with small mammals and overwintering birds. Gathering winterberry for holiday decorations is a tradition for me, as it is for many cold-climate gardeners. If you are collecting these berries from the wild, please be sure to check with the property owner before harvesting — and never harvest from public parks or protected lands. Always gather branches responsibly; leaving enough for the wildlife depending upon this important source of food. Remember to use sharp pruning shears and make clean cuts at a slight angle (clean pruners with rubbing alcohol after use to prevent spread of disease), as you would on ornamental shrubs in your own garden. Because I have a large garden of my own, I grow enough winterberry to both enjoy in holiday decorations and in the landscape, where I can share with local birds. And when January rolls ’round, I deposit my discarded, decorative branches in the snow for field mice and feathered friends.

If you have the room, it makes sense to grow extra winterberry for holiday decorations

Bright red winterberries sparkle in a vase here in my dining room

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Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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

October 25th, 2010 § 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article and photographs ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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I’ve Got Sunshine… On a Cloudy Day: Humulus Lupulus ‘Aureus’, Beautiful Golden Hops Vine

August 24th, 2010 § 7

Luminous Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’, the Chartreuse Beauty of Golden Hops Vines

Gloomy morning. Shifting, filtered light — melancholy as an old bow, dragging across a cello— traces murky shadows in the morning fog. The garden’s saturated colors —maroon, deep green, burgundy and rust— hint at summer’s end. There is a touch of sadness within the garden walls. A beautiful wistfulness hangs heavy in the air; clinging like raindrops to the dark, moss-covered rock. The somber mood lifts when, through the grey sky and lingering mist, a golden, chartreuse glow appears; like the light of paper lanterns filled with a million fireflies…

Tiny buds capture raindrops and glow like paper lanterns in the morning fog…

Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’, commonly known as the golden hops vine, has become one of my favorite perennial climbers. I like to use it in unexpected places —modern fences and dark, masculine structures– adding a luminous touch of feminine lace. Hardy in USDA zones 4-8, this twining, citron-beauty prefers full sun (for best color), and even soil moisture. Rapidly clamoring up walls, fences and pergolas, the golden hops vine can reach a height of 15-20′ in a single season. Brilliant in combination with dark colors —black, maroon, burgundy and dark blue are particularly lovely— Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’ brightens gloomy spaces and sings against tobacco-stained wood. Although the vine dies back each year, the papery buds persist throughout winter; adding delicate, textural interest to structures when traced with snow or ice. In spring, golden, new shoots appear from the base of the plant, rapidly covering nearby surfaces as it races to its mature height before blooming. For a neat appearance, old growth can be cut to the ground as soon as new shoots appear (usually by April here in New England). In more casual spaces, I leave some of the old vines (tidied up a bit) to serve as a guiding ladder for new shoots…

Tendrils of Golden Hops Glow Against the Blackened Siding

Although the golden hops vine is a vigorous climber, it’s no garden-thug. Easily trained, each year I encourage the vine’s shoots along each cable-rail of my balcony, where it softens the hard structure and contrasts beautifully with the rusting steel, oxblood planters and charcoal-colored siding of the studio. Wayward tendrils, weighted with little lanterns by midsummer, droop from the balcony, dangling into the Secret Garden below. As temperatures cool with autumn’s approach, the chartreuse leaves will slowly burnish to rusty-speckled yellow and orange; eventually deepening to a warm, golden brown…

Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’, off at a rapid pace, twining across the balcony in mid May

Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’ in late autumn rain

Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’, Dressed in a Cloak of Ice

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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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Lovely Lenten Rose: The Secret Garden’s First Blossom of Springtime …

April 19th, 2010 § 4

Helleborus x hybridus © Michaela at TGE

Delicate, feminine, mysterious and shy; while it’s true that these words perfectly describe the beautiful Lenten Rose, there is so much more to this gorgeous harbinger of springtime. I could just as easily describe her -much less romantically- as strong, reliable and tenacious. Helleborus x hybridus, known more often as the Lenten Rose, or the Christmas Rose in warmer climates, is the first plant to bloom in my Secret Garden in early spring. Throughout winter, her starry, leatherette-like foliage remains deep green, catching frost and snow in a most delightful way. Then, just as the Glory of the Snow and Narcissus reach their peak, the silky, speckled blossoms of Lenten Rose begin to unfurl in shades ranging from deep violet and mauve to blush pink and peachy cream…

Helleborus x hybridus © Michaela at TGE

This isn’t a bold or obvious flower, so often it can take awhile before a gardener discovers the subtle charms Lady Hellebore. This plant seems to demand a more discerning eye; a mature sensibility, if you will. However, once introduced to Helleborus, many a plant collector has developed a full-blown obsession with the genus. Easy to cultivate given the proper conditions, the Lenten Rose prefers dappled shade and  moist -but never water-logged- humus-rich, fertile soil. Special points? Deer and rodent resistance certainly top the list of her fine qualities, and she also tends to be long-lived, producing beautiful colonies beneath trees and shrubs. Although slugs and aphids can cause a bit of damage, with vigilance on the part of the gardener, these troubles are easily controlled. And although Helleborus x hybridus is sometimes listed as hardy from USDA zone 6 – 9, I have had no trouble overwintering this species here in the protected Secret Garden of my zone 4/5 garden…

Helleborus x hybridus ‘Royal Heritage Strain’ © Michaela at TGE – Just look at that alluring blush…

Falling in love? Tempted to add this shy beauty to your springtime collection? I know I will be including more Helleborus x hybridus cultivars to my Secret Garden collection, including a few delightful plum, black and other dark-flowered specimens. Yes, her petals may be chilly and frost covered, nipping at my finger tips as I cup them. But you know what they say: cold hands, warm heart…

Starry foliage of Helleborus x hybridus, dusted in snow, © Michaela at TGE

For further exploration of this lovely genus, I recommend Burrell and Tyler’s Hellebores: A Comprehensive Guide

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Photographs and article copyright 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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Welcome, Soft Harbinger of Spring: Oh Come to Me, My Sweet Willow…

March 19th, 2010 § 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Article and photographs copyright 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Hello, I Love You. Won’t You Tell Me Your Name?

March 5th, 2010 § 1

Peperomia caperata ‘Raspberry Ripple’

Look at this dark, smoldering beauty ! Have I introduced you to my latest crush? The mysterious, maroon-hued Peperomia caperata ‘Raspberry Ripple’ ? No ? Oh, I’m sorry. I’ve been so distracted, I think I forgot. Shame on my recent preoccupation with mundane, practical things like snow removal. Well, here she is now- and isn’t she something ? Meet the gorgeous, tropical thief of my melting heart. You’ve likely seen her pretty sister, commonly known as ‘Emerald Ripple’, here and there; perhaps on a friend’s windowsill or maybe tucked beneath a misty cloche or glass terrarium. She occasionally produces subtle, white, bottle-brush flowers. But of course it’s her foliage that really steals the show.

Peperomia caperata, easy-care relative of the pepper plant, comes from a large family; stalwarts of greenhouses, conservatories and every-day households. These rugged little Central and South American beauties rarely grow taller than 6″, making them perfect plants for desktops, brightly lit bedrooms and other indoor spaces. Delicate looking ? Hardly the case. Peperomia may occasionally be pestered by mealy bugs, but generally, if kept moist but not soggy, these plants are very trouble-free.

Surprisingly seductive isn’t she? Yes, I’m just mad about this moody P. caperata cultivar, ‘Raspberry Ripple’. And I’m obsessively searching for the perfect, burnished-gold pot; one that will bring out the violet undertones of her leaves and her ruby-hued stems. I think she’d be a knock-out beside the bed, don’t you? Or perhaps in a mid-sized Wardian case filled with shimmering bronze orbs or cherry-colored blossoms. She wants something glamorous, but subtle. This is no shimmy-shimmy-ra-ra bombshell. She’s the sexy but understated, sneak-up-on-you type. If she were human, I think she might be a young Rita Moreno.

Where did I find her? Where? Where? Where? Well, I spotted this particular gem at The Old School House Plantery, (They sell rare plants online at their shop, Eclecticasia on Etsy). The owners are friends and they happen to have a great little greenhouse located near me. I don’t think they have resumed seasonal shipping just yet, but they will soon. Their plants are well worth the wait.

And that perfect pot? Let me know if you see something. All in good time my pretty. All in good time…

Peperomia caperata ‘Raspberry Ripple’

Peperomia caperata ‘Raspberry Ripple’

Peperomia caperata ‘Raspberry Ripple’

Heart shaped face with dark waves and Latin American roots? Why I think this beautiful plant may be part Rita Moreno

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

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

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Gourmet Gardening: Seed Potatoes – Plus an Easy Recipe for Oven Roasted Fingerlings with Fresh Herbs and Parmesan Cheese…

January 16th, 2010 § 1

Oven Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Fresh Herbs and Parmesan in an oven-table baking dish by Emile Henry…

Look a little tempting? I confess I just finished off my second bowl of fingerlings about an hour ago. Mmmm. Delicious. As you may remember, last week I touched on the subject of gourmet potatoes in my post on potato leek soup. My country-neighbors, the Millers, operate a small greenhouse called The Old Schoolhouse Plantery where they grow and sell rare conservatory plants, annuals, herbs and gourmet vegetable starts. John also sells his organic produce at the local farmer’s market. Throughout the winter, his booth is a popular place to find gourmet root vegetables  – particularly potatoes. This past spring, upon John’s recommendation, I grew a few gourmet potatoes from seed purchased at Ronnigers Potato Farm, and they were the tastiest spuds I have ever eaten. I tell you, there is nothing like the reward of a delicious crop to motivate a gardener to keep on planting. After cooking a few dishes with gourmet fingerling potatoes, I am convinced that an entire corner of my potager should be dedicated to these tubers. I tried oven roasting some fingerlings with an olive oil/parmesan coating today, (pictured in the baking dish above), and they were lip-smacking good!

This year, I am planning to add many more gourmet potatoes to my potager; including ‘rose fin apple’ fingerlings and other colorful varieties, such ‘all blue’ and ‘purple viking’. Although winter has only just arrived, I am already thinking about this year’s seed order. Seed potatoes are planted in the garden when the soil temperature reaches approximately 45 ° F, (7° C). Usually, the soil reaches this temperature by mid-spring here; about three weeks before the last frost-date. If you live in a warmer climate, potatoes may go in by late winter, (check zone maps and potato seed catalogs for specific location planting times). When plotting out your vegetable garden, remember to rotate your crops each year. To avoid disease and confuse pests, it’s best never to plant potatoes in last-year’s tomato bed. Marigold, bush beans, corn and cabbage are a few good potato companions. But again, in order to avoid insect pests and diseases, locate crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and pumpkins in the opposite corner of your garden as they are not good companions for potatoes. Many gardeners start potatoes in shallow trenches and then ‘hill’ them as they grow. I will go over this method and the straw-mulching hill method as we get closer to planting time.

Right now I am obsessively thinking about all the delicious gourmet potato varieties I want to grow and how much room I can devote to this versatile crop. Seed potatoes are planted approximately one foot apart, so they take up some space in the garden. Last season, I had great success with the ‘Desiree’. This is a beautiful pink-skinned potato with yellow flesh; one that stores well and holds its texture when cooked. Easy to grow, this popular European-gourmet potato is resistant to many diseases, including blights. Of course the fingerling varieties have definitely become favorites. When it comes to flavor and cooking texture, (especially when pureed in soups), it’s hard to beat the ‘Rose Finn Apple’ fingerling potato, (pictured in this post). ‘LaRatte’ is another great gourmet potato, with firm texture and a unique, nutty flavor. Both of these varieties are on my shopping list.

If you haven’t tried growing gourmet fingerlings, you may want to give them some space in your kitchen garden this year. Perhaps you’ve never tasted these delicious potatoes? Well then… I encourage you to pick some up at your local winter farmer’s market – I think you will quickly come to understand what all the fuss is about…

‘Rose Finn Apple’ Fingerling Potatoes from Ronniger’s – before and after a scrub down with a bristle brush…

Ronnigers Potato Farm Online

Oven Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Parmesan and Fresh Herbs

Ingredients:

(serves 4, double recipe to increase quantities as you like)

2 lb           Fingerling potatoes, washed and cut in half lengthwise

1/4 c         Olive oil

1/4 c         All purpose flour

1/4 c         Reggiano parmesan cheese, grated

1 tsp         Sea salt, fresh ground or regular table salt

1 tsp         Black pepper, fresh ground

sprigs       Fresh rosemary and thyme, a few sprigs to taste

(try this with a clove of garlic and other herbs if you like)

Directions:

Preheat oven, (rack toward the top), to 475 degrees fahrenheit.

In a small glass bowl, (or in a large plastic bag), measure in olive oil, flour and parmesan. Add salt and pepper. Stir or shake to mix well.

In a large bowl, toss cut fingerlings with 1 tbs olive oil to lightly coat. Add dry mix to the large bowl, (or add potatoes to the large plastic bag), and toss with hands, (or shake bag). Be sure the potatoes are thoroughly and evenly coated.

Coat an oven-to-table baking dish with the remaining olive oil and arrange the potatoes cut -side up. Sprinkle with fresh rosemary and thyme.

Roast for approximately 15 minutes, Turn the potatoes and roast for approximately 15 more minutes more. Turn one last time and roast until crisp and golden brown, (approximately 10-15 more minutes).

Cool dish for a few minutes, garnish with a few more sprigs of herbs and serve hot with a tablespoon of sour cream if you like.


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

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

Thank you ! Michaela

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Autumn Brilliance Part Two – Plants for Spectacular Fall Color…

October 13th, 2009 § 4

Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Issai’ (Purple Beautyberry)

Could a gardener be diagnosed with OCD if she compulsively checks her ornamental shrubs for changing berry color? Can a collector’s passion for a particularly beautiful cultivar cross the line, where she becomes a stalker of plants? Sometimes I fear I’ve gone too far; slipped off the raft; teetered past the point-of-no-return. But I think you are with me, aren’t you? We can’t help ourselves. The itch simply must be scratched.

I am obsessed with Callicarpa dichotoma, (Purple Beautyberry). Truly, I am. And who wouldn’t be? Her fantastical berries are pure, poetic inspiration; begging to be written into myths and fairy tales. Just look at all that temptingly plump fruit, beckoning the unsuspecting in a glorious shade of shimmering purple. Why I can hear the old witch now… “Come sample the sweet violet berries my pretty.”  *POOF*  Deep sleep for decades. The gullible heroine slowly becomes enmeshed by lacy vines, lost in a trance, awaiting her handsome prince.

For years I have coveted the bright purple fruit of our native American Beautyberry, (Callicarpa americana), but this autumnal prize is hardy only to zone 6. In my desperation, I have killed several plants while attempting to over-winter them here at Ferncliff. Undaunted, I also tried my luck growing Japanese Beautyberry, (Callicarpa japonica), with similar, necrotic results. But last year, just south of here, I was visiting a nursery display-garden when I spotted something that stopped me dead in my tracks. Yellowing leaves, cobalt violet fruits – my heart raced as I rounded the corner and pushed past the browning hydrangea – could it be… ?

Indeed, it was the elusive Callicarpa. Only this time, the shrub I encountered was a hardier member of the family, Purple Beautyberry, (Callicarpa dichotoma). Graceful, arching, elegant in habit, the leaves of the Purple Beautyberry were just turning gold when I met her, highlighting the candy-like quality of her glossy, purple clusters of fruit. There are two excellent C. dichotoma cultivars, ‘Issai’ and ‘Early Amethyst’, both reliably hardy to zone 5. I have been warned to expect a bit of die-back; to be pruned in spring when I fertilize to encourage new growth. I snatched the last ‘Issai’ from my wholesaler’s lot, and placed it carefully in the garden, protected from wind by the American cranberrybush Viburnum, and alongside the blazing fall foliage of fragrant Abelia, (Abelia mosanensis). The color combination is delighting me this October. Will she survive the brutal winter? Only time will tell if Purple Beautyberry is a permanent addition to my garden. But for now, the fantasy is all mine.

So today I will leave you with images of some other bewitching favorites here in my autumn garden. I will elaborate on some of these woody plants over the coming weeks, as I continue to share my favorite design recipes for fall color …

Acer griseum  (Paper bark maple)

The Hay-scented fern, (Dennstaedtia puctilobula), after hard frost

Buddleia davidii, (Orange-Eye Butterfly bush), blooms past the first frost

Abelia mosanensis, (Fragrant abelia), autumn color

Cotinus coggygria, (Smokebush), with a rosy leaf-glow

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’ (Peegee Hydrangea)

Hydrangea paniculata, ‘Limelight’, turns mauve-purple in cool weather

Hydrangea quercifolia, (Oakleaf hydrangea), foliage variation

Hydrangea quercifolia (Oakleaf hydrangea), drying flowers

Oxydendrum arboreum, (Sourwood tree), a coveted autumn red hue

Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Seiryu’, (Blue Green Dragon), begins to color

Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’, all ablaze in backlit orange and scarlet

Vibrant Stewartia pseudocamellia with gilded Rodgersia aesculifolia

Stewartia pseudocamellia, (Japanese stewartia)

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

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

Autumn Brilliance: Plants for Spectacular Fall Color, Part One …

October 5th, 2009 § 4

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

What an impossibly beautiful morning. The sky is a scraped palette of blue-grey-violet, and the world all around me is a swirling kaleidoscope of orange and chartreuse, scarlet and vermillion, saffron and violet. I began my day with an early walk through the garden – savoring the ephemeral beauty of windflower and monkshood, and the delicate tufts of fountain grass.

My favorite woody plants, autumn’s radiant viburnum, shine against the moody sky as if lit from within. Viburnum trilobum ‘Bailey compact’ and V. nudum ‘Winterthur’ are particularly beautiful in early October. In fact, Bailey reminds me a bit of those rainbow colored confections found in old-fashioned candy stores. Do you know the ones I mean… the long, translucent cone with the stick? I can’t recall their name. The spice bush, (Lindera benzoin), has turned lemon-drop yellow, and her neighbor, the Bodnant viburnum, (V. bodnantense ‘Dawn’), is slowly shifting from maraschino to dark-cherry-fizz. But at the moment, the real stand-out in the garden is the flame-grass, (Miscanthus purpurascens). This glorious plant is a giant swirl of orange, yellow and grape hued ribbon, ready to be wound into a psychedelic lolly-pop. Delicious. Perhaps Willy Wonka collected plants in the fields beyond his factory?

And speaking of candy-shops – it seems my garden has turned into a feathered-foodie mecca. Every bird in the forest, from cedar wax-wings and cardinals to finches of every hue, has turned up to feast upon seeds and berries. The tea and nannyberry viburnum, (V. setigerum and V. lentago), are a beautiful sight with their brilliantly colored berries and stems, and the American cranberrybush viburnum, (V. trilobum ‘J.N. Select’ and ‘Baily compact’), is loaded with shimmering red fruit – all bright as gum-drops.

Oh dear. All of this talk about candy is making me hungry. But before I slip away to rustle up some breakfast, I will leave you with some ideas for autumn planting. This month I will be focusing on ornamental trees and shrubs, grasses and perennials for brilliant fall color. Take a peek at some of the colorful plants and combinations here. The key to successful late-season garden design is anticipating the color-shifts of autumn and winter. So let’s have a little fun with garden alchemy, shall we? I’ll meet you back here in just  a bit…

flame grass at edge of north garden : meadow edge 2Miscanthus purpurascens (Flame grass), and Viburnum trilobum, edge the meadow

amsonia, close upAmsonia illustris (Ozark Blue Star), glows against blue-green, ground-hugging juniper

viburnum setigerum, tea viburnumViburnum setigerum, (Tea viburnum), fruit in September

Anemone ‘Serenade’ (Japanese Wind Flower), harmonizes with golden hosta

Berry and stem coloration of North American native Viburnum lentago, (Nannyberry viburnum)

witch hazel 2Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ (Witch Hazel), color variation

witch hazelHamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ (Witch hazel ), color variation

Lespedeza thunbergii bicolor bush cloverLespedeza thunbergii bicolor, (bush clover), provides late-season bloom

autumn color lindera bLindera benzoin (Spice bush), turns lemon yellow in early October

Viburnum bodnantense 'Dawn' autumn color, companion Lindera benzoinViburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’, shines cherry red against Lindera’s gold

Rosa rugosa hipRosa rugosa’s (Rugosa rose) fruit is a knock-out in September

Viburnum plicatum var tomentosum 'Shasta' begins to colorViburnum plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Shasta’ (Doublefile viburnum)

Lindera b. fall color close upNorth American native Lindera benzoin, (Spice bush)

Viburnum trilobum J.N. Select RedwingViburnum trilobum ‘J.N. Select’ Redwing – American Cranberry Viburnum fruits

Viburnum trilobum JN Select 'Redwing' and Miscanthus purpurascensViburnum trilobum ‘J.N. Select’ Redwing, (American Cranberrybush viburnum), with Miscanthus purpurascens, a radiant combination on a misty morning

amsonia hubrichtiiAmsonia hubrichtii (Thread-leaf Blue Star), a glowing North American native plant

Cornus kousa fruitsCornus kousa, (Korean dogwood), fruit in September, slowly turns from green to scarlet

Humulus lupulus, "aureus'Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’ (Golden hops), is bright all season long

Viburnum nudum 'Winterthur'Viburnum nudum ‘Winterthur’ turns a knock-out red with bright blue fruit

Dryopteris erythrosora autumn fern  'Brilliance'Dryopteris erythrosora ‘Brilliance’, (Autumn fern), is one of the stars of late-season shade

entry walk, viburnum, miscanthus, lindera b, viburnum b, autumn perennialsEntry garden: Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’, Viburnum trilobum ‘Bailey Compact, groundcover ajuga reptans,’Brocade’Background: Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’, Fothergilla gardenii, (still green), Lindera benzoin,(gold), Cornus kousa. Background perennials: Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, Rudbeckia hirta.

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For more on ornamental grass, see ‘Autumn and Everything After‘…

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…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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Calling all Bargain Hunters: It’s Time To Scoop Up Great Deals On Shrubs And Start Your Fall Planting!

September 15th, 2009 § 2

Weigela florida ‘My Monet’ & Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’

Pst… Want to know a secret? I really must confess. I have been having a bit of fun lately with other people’s money. No, no. It’s nothing like those scoundrels on Wall Street that you have been reading about. Permission has been granted. You see, for several weeks now, I have been shopping for my clients’ new gardens. Day in and day out, I have been oohing and ahhing, ogling and caressing, row upon row of ornamental shrubberies. OK, OK, I know. Don’t roll your eyes. It’s not everyone’s idea of a guilty pleasure. But as you may have noticed, I am a little horticulturally obsessed. To me, wandering around nurseries for weeks on end is pretty close to bliss. And while I am shopping for all of these soon-to-be installed gardens, you know of course that I am also scooping some things up for myself.

So, I really must let you in on my pleasure. And do you want to know the best part? It’s the sales. Seriously. Get out there my friends! There are some shocking deals and discounts to be found at garden centers in late summer. And now is the perfect time to take advantage of slashed prices on trees and shrubs – during fall planting season.

September is usually a super busy time for gardeners. The weather has started to cool down, and there are things to divide, move and cut back. This is also the ideal time to fill in newly designed and renovated gardens with perennials like peonies and all of those gorgeous spring blooming bulbs. And best of all, if you are in the market for some garden structure, it’s prime time for planting ornamental shrubs. Other than very early spring, autumn is really the safest time to plant, (or move), shrubs in cold winter climates like New England. Fall planting should be carried out when temperatures have cooled, but at least a month before the ground freezes. In New England, I usually begin my fall planting in early September. I use September 30th as a cut-off date for planting most evergreens or conifers, and October 31st as a last planting date for deciduous shrubs, (some years, the temperatures are more flexible than others). In the more southerly parts of the United States, the planting and moving of shrubs can begin later in fall and continue throughout winter, (as long as the soil remains frost-free and workable). Why plant shrubs in fall? As temperatures cool down and the growing season draws to a close, woody plants begin to go into seasonal dormancy. Shrubs planted at this time of the year, (early autumn in the Northeast and longer, into early winter in other regions of the US), have weeks or months left to settle in before the ground freezes. With energy no longer directed toward above-ground growth, early fall planting gives shrubs plenty of time to develop strong root systems. And as an added bonus, many garden centers and nurseries begin to mark-down shrubs in September, in order to reduce stock before winter. The selection may be a bit diminished, but if you keep an open mind, there are fabulous deals to be found! So, if you have been coveting some new cultivar at the local greenhouse, or if you would like to add a bit of season-spanning interest to your garden design, this is the perfect time to consider a planting plan and to shop for bargains.

Viburnum lentago (Nannyberry viburnum)Viburnum lentago (Nannyberry viburnum), at a nursery, showing hints of fall color

Now that I have stirred up the pot, I should give some fair warnings. Before you run out the door with checkbook and credit card in hand, it is very important that you have a close look at your garden. Remember that shrubs and trees are more permanent additions to the landscape than annuals and perennials. Once a shrub is settled in, it is difficult to move. So, spend some time thinking about your available space, light and growing conditions. If you think you see a good spot for a new addition, take careful measurements of the space and stick a reminder in your wallet. Now is a good time to note other conditions as well. Is your garden protected from or exposed to wind? Is the site sunny, shaded, or somewhere in between? Do you know your soil pH, (is it acid or alkaline or neutral)? Make time to do a soil test if you are unsure. Are you familiar with your USDA hardiness zone, (see NGA’s map here)?  And last but not least, consider your garden design. What is your landscape missing? Do you want to add vertical interest to a relatively flat topography? Do you need to blend your garden into the edge of a woodland, or to create a background in order for your perennials to stand out? Is your garden lacking season-spanning interest, (in the form of flowers, fruit, foliage, bark, varied shapes)? Whatever your garden-design needs, shrubs have a lot to offer. It is easy to get overwhelmed in the middle of all those gorgeous plants. Thinking clearly about what you want and need before you head out to bargain-hunt is a really good idea.

Viburnum sargentii 'Onadaga'A nice Viburnum sargentii ‘Onadaga’ specimen at a local nursery

When shopping for woody plants, I would like to offer you some advice from years of end-of-the-season buying. I know all to well how tempting those slashed prices can be. But. Does the shrub should look healthy? Really check it over. Look for evidence of new growth, (shoots of soft wood from the summer), and healthy foliage. Of course we have to be a bit less critical in the latter part of the year. Some brown or dried leaves are to be expected on deciduous shrubs in autumn. However, a pot filled with weeds, suckers and exposed roots indicates that the plant was not well cared for at the garden center throughout the summer. Think twice about scraggly looking shrubs. Certainly, if you find a rare-gem at an absolute fire-sale, or favorite cultivar you have been seeking for years, you may want to gamble. (Full disclosure: I have found some great plants in compost bins). Just keep in mind that acquiring a diseased plant can bring trouble into your healthy garden, so proceed with caution. Any plant infested with insects or fungus isn’t worth the risk. Once you get your shrubby new treasures back home, it is important to immediately begin caring for them. Never leave your shrubs in a hot car or in the middle of your driveway. Place your new plants in a cool spot, water them thoroughly and try to plant them as soon as possible. When you are ready to begin planting, thoroughly water your plants one more time and set them aside while you prepare the site.

unteased root ball of shrub and planting hole dugDig a wide planting hole (at least 2 to 3 times the size of the root ball), as shown here

Dig a good hole for your shrub, (see photo above). You are preparing the ground where your plant will spend the rest of its life. Be sure to dig deep and wide. Remove rocks, roots and sticks. Never try to cram a shrub into an inadequate space. You want loose soil beneath the plant, and on all sides. I never add commercial fertilizer to planting holes, nor do I feed shrubs during fall planting. I like to add slow release fertilizer to my new shrubs in early spring. However, I do add a bit of high quality compost to the unearthed soil before returning a few inches to the bottom of the planting hole and the remaining backfill for the plant (I also top-dress the soil with a layer of compost once planting is complete).

Now you are ready to remove the shrub from its pot. Carefully examine the plant’s roots and ‘tease’ them a bit if they are exposed and matted at the edges of the soil (see photos below). If the roots are very dense and tangled, (pot-bound), you may need to cut (root prune), the roots with a knife. Make small vertical slits in the root-mass, (about 1/4-1/2″). This is very important. In order for the roots to move out and down into the surrounding garden soil, they must be unbound or they will strangle. Next, set your shrub into the planting hole. Be sure that the top of the root ball is even with, or ever so slightly below the top of the hole. If you are uncertain of planting depth, ask your retailer for guidance before you leave the nursery. Adjust the soil in the base as necessary.

unteased root ballA season’s worth of tightly bound roots. These need to be loosened by ‘teasing’

teased root ballRoots loosened with vertical slices, then ‘teased” free with fingertips

Once a plant is properly positioned and ready to be settled in, I like to add water to the plant and the planting hole as I back fill with soil. This helps to avoid hazardous air-pockets without compacting the loose dirt. When I reach the top of the hole, I create a low soil-berm around the plant, and I fill it with a water. If I have the time, I will allow the soil to settle for a couple of days, and then check for air pockets and add dirt if needed before I spread a thick, (2-3 inch), top-layer of mulch over the root-zone. Unless you receive regular (twice weekly or more), soaking rain, it is very important to water your new plants regularly (provide large shrubs with at least an 5 gallons or more of water, twice per week), until the ground freezes. I can not stress this enough. More shrubs die from dehydration than any other cause.  Protect your investment by installing a soaker hose on a timer if necessary.

planted viburnumNewly planted Viburnum plicatum ‘Newport’ in a hillside grouping

Check your plants regularly to be sure they are adjusting well to their new homes. Watch for insects and fungal infections and address any symptoms immediately before they grow into larger problems. If you live in a cold climate with long, harsh winters, it is wise to double check mulch at the root zone of your new shrubs and replenish if necessary. Some shrubs may also need protection from gnawing rodents, (such as wire-mesh base-collars for example). Your new shrubs will benefit from a slow-release fertilizer in spring (follow manufacturer’s instructions), so make a note in your calendar if you think you might forget. I hope you will take advantage of the bargains out there if you can. There is nothing like a great deal, and the memory of springtime’s magic, to inspire a fall planting-spree. Good luck, and have fun out there !

Viburnum trilobum 'Bailey Compact'(American Cranberry Bush Viburnum)Viburnum trilobum (American Cranberry Bush Viburnum), ‘Baily Compact’

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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August: Seeking the Thrill of High Summer…

August 3rd, 2009 Comments Off

honey bee / rudbeckia / late summer

~ A bee visits Rudbeckia hirta “Becky mixed” in the perennial garden ~

Is it just me or does it feels like summer is passing too quickly this year? Here we are at the full Sturgeon Moon, (rising tonight, August 5th,at 8:56 pm EST), and it seems like the warm weather is just getting started in New England. Many song birds begin to flock in August, and some of them even start their migrations south. I associate the Sturgeon Moon with the departure of my beloved wood thrush, and the final weeks of other ephemeral pleasures here in Vermont. Perhaps because we endured such a rainy June, (the rainiest on record in New England), I feel an urgency to soak up as much of this short season as possible, before it fades away.

Ordinarily I slow down a bit in August. Usually, I cut back on work hours during the dog-days, and allow myself long, lazy afternoons in the garden room; lounging about with tart, ice-cold lemonade, books and languid pleasures. Over the years, I developed a habit of slipping into my kayak at day’s end. I came to love spending long summer evenings on the water; paddling to catch the last rays of sunlight and aimlessly floating in the lavender mist. But this year it seems I can hardly catch my breath. There is so much to squeeze in and so little time. Competing demands and rain-delayed projects all seem to be clamoring for my attention at once. I feel like I am still coming into early July, and yet nature is telling me we are in high summer. The garden here at Ferncliff hit its mid-season crescendo this week. Liatris and Black-eyed Susan; Daylilies and Ox Eye; Russian Sage and Veronica; Bee balm and Phlox; the garden is exploding with primary colors, begging me to stop for a moment and to share it with you. And how can I resist? There is an opportunity here…

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~ Liatris spicata ‘Kobold’, (photo copyright 2009, Tim Geiss) ~

c. 2009 Tim Geiss Hemerocallis

~ Hemerocallis ‘Apple tart’ (daylily), (photo copyright 2009, Tim Geiss)~

By late summer, many gardeners begin to ask me how to breathe life into their tired perennial borders. What can I add to jazz up my lilies? Everything has passed by already, how do I add more color to my backyard? I start to hear these familiar questions in late July and early August; when flower beds have become neglected and weedy, wilted and lack-luster. Garden projects that began in May with a great deal of enthusiasm often fall to the wayside by July. Weekends fill up with family picnics, weddings, back to school shopping, days at the beach and vacations. It’s hot outside. No one really wants to think about digging in the garden, and it really isn’t the time for planting anyway.

No. Enjoy the summer while you can. But let me stir your imagination while you make some notes for the future. By the time the weather cools and your weekends loosen-up, garden centers will be advertising fire-sales, and many perennials will be available for a fraction of the cost. Look at your fading garden with a critical eye, and make a list. What you add to your garden in early September will reward you richly next summer.

Rudbeckia fulgida sullivantii,'Goldsturm' (Black-eyed Susan)

~ Rudbeckia fulgida x sullivantii, ‘Goldsturm’ (Black-eyed Susan) ~

rudbeckia 'becky mixed'

~ Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky mixed’, in full bloom on the wildflower walk ~

rudbeckia hirta late summer, (with lysimachia clethroides)

~ Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky mixed’ at the edge of the walkway with lysimachia clethroides~

Start by considering all the possibilities. Let’s begin with some late summer classics. By boldly pairing lavender Liatris, (gay feather), with orange-yellow daylilies, a gardener can reap the benefits of contrasting texture and opposing color. One year I received a generous White Flower Farm gift certificate, which I used to purchase several daylily collections, including their beautiful and reliable Woodside mix. The bold oranges, reds and bright yellows look stunning in combination with Veronica ‘Goodness grows’ or native obedient plant, (Physostegia). My gardens are also home to some spectacular named daylily cultivars from Olallie Daylily Gardens. Lavender-rose colored obedient plant, (Phystostegia ‘Bouquet Rose’), combines well with every lily hue, hot to cool. Similarly, North American native bee balm, (Monarda), strikes a harmonious chord when settled into the garden near Russian sage, (Perovskia atriplicifolia), where they are both frequented by butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. Blues are much less common at this time of the year, but lady bells, (Adenophora confusa), and another bee and butterfly favorite, hyssop, (Agastache), also provide some violet-tinted blue to the garden. And then there is the beloved classic garden phlox. Without a doubt, fragrant phlox is a memorable scent to be enjoyed at its peak on still mornings and humid summer evenings. Variously colored and charmingly old-fashioned, garden phlox should be positioned where it receives ample moisture and airflow to avoid powdery mildew, making it an ideal partner for moisture-loving joe-pye weed, (Eupatorium). Some garden phlox boasts creamy white and green variegated foliage, beautiful when contrasted with Eupatorium rugosum, ‘brunette’. And no summer perennial garden seems quite complete without old-time favorite, black-eyed Susan, (Rudbeckia fulgida x sullivantii); a fail-safe performer in my garden every summer. With so many varieties to choose from, there is a rudbeckia to suit every garden. A stand out in borders, free-seeding Rudbeckia hirta, ‘Becky mixed’, adds a bit of whimsy along the wildflower walk here at my home. Every spring I have to smile as seedlings appear at random, planted here and there by the wind; emerging from the most unlikely locations, even straight from the gravel path. Rudbeckia and her cousin Echinacea, (commonly known as coneflower ), are important, natural food sources for honey bees. I am quite certain if they could ask us, the honey bees would request gardens overflowing with native plants. Personally, I am happy to oblige. Echinacea purpurea is a lovely garden plant. When viewed up-close in a vase, the flower is every bit as dramatic as a Georgia O’Keeffe abstraction. With a costume of orange, spiked cone center piece and bold fuchsia rays pointing out in all directions, it’s hard not to stare at this drama queen. And for cooler spots in the garden, Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’ or ‘Fragrant Angel’ are perfect for lending a touch of elegance. This year I have also seen a new double-flowered white form of Echinacea named ‘Coconut Lime’. It is definitely on my list.

Echinacea purpurea 'Magnus'

~  Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’ (purple coneflower) ~

Adenophora

~ Free seeding Adenophora confusa, (Lady bells), with Heuchera ‘Palace purple’, (Coral bells) ~

Striped eulalia grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'variegatugatus')

~ Miscanthus sinensis ‘Variegatus’, paired with Rudbeckia hirta~

Although they have become more popular of late, ornamental grasses are still largely underutilized in perennial borders. Miscanthus sinensis ‘Variegatus’ and ‘Morning Light’ are two of my all-time favorites, and the splotchy green and yellow stripes of Miscanthus ‘Zebrinus’ make a bold statement when paired with primary-colored coneflowers and violet phlox. The contrasting hues and narrow blades of variegated ornamental grass catch the light and play off many perennials and nearby shrubs. All tall grass has a lovely way of swaying in the breeze, but none quite so poetically as buff-tasseled Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’. Last year I positioned Karl along the edge of my wildflower walk, where he adds movement and a delicate shimmer to a solid grouping of Viburnum. Further along the path, fountain shaped Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ adds sculptural elegance where the casual meets the more formal entry to my home. Foliage plants such as ornamental grass, along with structural shrubs, help to create the framework for an entire garden. As spring and summer plantings fade and make way for mid-season and early fall perennials, the statuesque form, alluring texture and seductive movement provided by ornamental grass can be key to anchoring a great perennial garden design. Tall grass can also be used as a living screen, concealing unsightly necessities such as compost bins, plastic vents and air-conditioning units throughout the growing season, and into winter.

miscanthus morning light

~ Miscanthus sinensis “Morning Light” punctuates an intersection ~

Kalimeris

~ Kalimeris ‘Variegatus’, (Japanese aster) ~

kirengeshoma palmata (yellow wax-bells)

~ Kirengeshoma palmata, (yellow wax-bells) : swollen buds in golden yellow ~

More experienced gardeners may have already mastered the art season-spanning bloom in their perennial gardens. But even for the most versatile designer, there are always new ways to visually explore the far-end of the seasonal bloom-range. Filipendula ulmaria ‘Variegata’ as well as the lovely Kalimeris ‘Geisha’ and ‘Variegata’ are knock-out foliage plants throughout the garden season. And as an added bonus, these plants provide pale blossoms to cool some of the hotter-hues in the late season border. One of my new garden favorites, yellow wax-bells (Kirengeshoma palmata), adds a pale golden hue to the garden in August, contrasting with the burgundy-violet foliage of closely planted bugbane, (Cimicifuga racemosa ‘Hillside black beauty’). Yellow wax-bells add interest to this spot before the wind-flower, (Anemone), and bugbane come into flower later this month. Other dark hued garden plants, including shrubs such as ninebark, (Physocarpus) varieties ‘Diablo’, ‘Summer wine’ and ‘Coppertinia’, are endlessly useful for bringing out the golden colors of late summer flowers. Eupatorium rugosum ‘chocolate’ and Heliopsis helianthoides ‘Sommersonne’ is a favorite contrasting, late season combination along my walkway.

filipendula variegata

~ Filipendula ulmaria ‘Variegata’ foliage ~

filipindula variegata flower

~ Filipendula ulmaria ‘Variegata’ flower ~

eupatorium rugosum and heliopsis helianthoides

~ Eupatorium rugosum ‘Chocolate’, paired with Heliopsis ‘Sommersonne’ ~

Combining late season perennials with neutral-hued foliage plants such as Artemisia schmidtiana ‘Silver mound’ helps keep the August garden from becoming too riotous and loud. Spring and early summer blooming favorites, such as coral bells, (Heuchera), and lady’s mantle, (Alchemilla mollis), continue to play an important role in the garden by adding color and texture, holding a perennial bed together at the edge. Gardens designed to include foliage plants such as these rarely look tired, even during lulls in the bloom season.

rudbeckia, artemisia schmidtiana, kirengeshoma, sedum...

~ Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky mixed’, in a mixed planting with Artemisia schmidtiana,(silver mound),  Kirengeshoma palmata (yellow wax-bells) and Sedum ‘Ruby glow’ ~

While I am fairly certain that my schedule will not be be easing up any time soon, I will continue to seek out the pleasures of high summer this month. This week I promise to make time to stop and enjoy my late summer garden as I pass through the wildflower walk each morning, and stroll along the long perennial border on my way to the vegetable garden. I too will be making notes for fall planting this year. Perhaps this cool, wet season in New England will reward us with a warm and vibrant autumn. But for now summer reigns, if but for a few brief weeks, here in my garden home. Enjoy tonight’s full Sturgeon Moon. Happy Gardening.

physostegia, (obedient plant) 'Bouquet Rose'

~ Physostegia ‘Bouquet Rose’, (Obedient plant) ~

Hemerocallis, (daylily from WFF Woodside mix)

~ Hemerocallis, (Daylily), unnamed variety  from the White Flower Farm ‘Woodside Mix’ ~

perovskia atriplicifolia

~ Perovskia atriplicifolia, (Russian sage) ~

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~ Special thanks to  Tim Geiss at Poltergeiss.com for flower photos as noted ~

~ Article and other photographs copyright 2009 Michaela-The Gardener’s Eden~

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