Endless Summer: A Garden Designed for Season-Spanning Beauty & Interest . . .

August 28th, 2012 § 2

Late August in Susan & Bob’s Front Entryway Garden. Geranium ‘Rozanne’ Mass Planted for a Beautiful, Long-Blooming Lavender-Blue-Haze. A Background of Coreopsis, Heuchera micrantha, Echinacea purpurea, Eupatorium maculatum, E. rugosum & Thalictrum, Round Out the Late-Summer Color-Scheme. Ceramic Vessel: Stephen Procter

Endless summer. Yes, I realize the phrase might seem a bit odd for a Vermont-based gardening journal. After all, we are heading toward autumn, and New England is rather famous for “nine months of winter and three months of damned poor sledding”. But the fleeting days of balmy weather needn’t cramp a northern gardener’s style. A well-designed landscape remains beautiful every month of the year, and by choosing the right plants, colorful, textural compositions can enliven gardens throughout the growing season and well into the dark days of winter.

Designing a four season garden does require a certain amount of experience or research and usually involves more than one-stop shopping at the local nursery. Over time, seasoned gardeners develop an understanding of  how plants change throughout the growing year. When foliage begins to shift from the greens of summertime to the gold, red and burgundy hues of autumn, opportunities for new vignettes appear. Later —as winter chill settles in and leaves disappear altogether— texture, underlying color and structure is revealed; offering endless ways to play with glistening snow and ice.

Dry-Laid Stone Retaining Walls (By Massachusetts Artist Curtis Gray) Provide Ample Opportunities to Play Plant Textures & Colors Against Rock (Plantings Include: Eupatorium maculatum ‘Gateway’, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’, Eupatorium rugosum ‘Chocolate’, Baptisia australis & Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’)

In the Front Entry, Rich Colors and Textures Keep the Garden Lively in August (Plantings Include: Eupatorium maculatum ‘Gateway’, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’, Amsonia illustris, Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’, Baptisia australis, Eupatorium rugosum ‘Chocolate’, Coreopsis and Huechera)

The Entry Garden –Pictured Above– in Late Spring (Blooming Here Are Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker’s Red’ and Coreopsis grandiflora ‘Early Sunrise’)

As beautiful as blossoms are, in order for a garden to remain interesting in autumn and winter, the design must contain more than flowering plants. Perennials and grasses with colorful foliage and sensual textures, trees and shrubs with great structure, bright berries and unusual bark are the keys to creating never-ending beauty in the landscape.

Featured here is a young garden I created, in several stages, over the past year. The oldest part of the garden —welcoming entry walk and perennial-filled retaining walls— was planted for my clients late last summer. In autumn of 2011, I created a bulb plan for the front gardens and began designing borders for edging the back meadow and a soft, breezy screen to surround the stone terrace and sunken fire feature. Work continues with a second bulb plan this autumn, and preliminary sketches for another garden room with a water feature, to be created next spring. The gardens change dramatically from season to season, with colors and textures shifting from pale and delicate to bright and bold.

A Mass Planing of Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’) and Russian Sage (Perovskia antriplicifolia) Softens the Edge of a Deck, Facing the Meadow and Hills Beyond

Blooming Brightly from Early August Straight Through Early Frost, Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ is the Perfect Perennial for Mid to Front Border, Late-Summer Compositions (Planted Here with Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’)

To Soften the Edge of the Stone Patio/Fire Pit and Benches (Stonework by Curtis Gray), I Created a Summer-Screen of Fine-Textured Grasses and Meadow Flowers, Backed by a Beautiful Wind-Breaking Wall of Viburnum. Eventually, this Outdoor Room will be a Semi-Enclosed, Three-Season Space for Grilling & Entertaining. In Winter, the Snow-Catching, Sculptural Beauty of Ornamental Grasses and Horizontal Lines of Viburnum plicatum will Remain Visible from the Indoor Living/Dining Space (Plantings Include: Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’, Heliopsis helianthoides ‘Venus’ and Veronica)

Many new gardeners focus on spring-blooming perennials —iris, peonies, roses, etc— creating fragrant, floriferous gardens that, while beautiful in June, fizzle out by Fourth of July. If you are new to four-season gardening, have a look at some of the later blooming perennials –Fairy Candles (Actaea simplex), Asters, Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia), Coneflowers (Echinacea), Russian Sage (Perovskia), Sedum, Windflowers (Anemone), The Rocket (Ligularia), Toad Lilies (Tricyrtis), Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum & E. rugosum), Globe Thistle (Echinops), Sea Holly (Eryngium), Turtlehead (Chelone), Phlox, Tick Seed (Coreopsis), Sneeze-Weed (Helenium), False Sunflower (Heliopsis), Yellow Waxbells (Kirengeshoma palmata) and Bush Clover (Lespedeza), to name a few— as well as ornamental grasses, ferns, berry-producing plants, and shrubs and trees with fall foliage, interesting bark and sculptural form for winter interest.

An Early Tint of Rusty-Red on Viburnum trilobum ‘Bailey Compact’ is Accented by Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’, Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ and in the Foreground, Salvia nemerosa ‘May Night’ (Second Flush of Blooms Brought on by Timely Pruning of Spent Blossoms from the First Wave) Brightens the Meadow-Edge

The Front Entryway Garden —Pictured at Top of Post— in Very Early Spring of its First Year

And Later in Spring of its First Year, with Sunny Perennials Blooming on the Left and Shade Garden Plants Emerging at Right (Hosta, Ferns & Astilbe Beneath Stewartia)

Detail of Front Entryway Garden Walk in Late August

All Stonework: Curtis Gray.

Hardscape Materials/Site Prep & Plants: Turner & Renaud.

Ceramic Vessel: Stephen Procter.

Garden Design & Installation: Michaela Medina Harlow.

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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A Long Weekend in the Garden & Breakfast on the Misty Terrace …

May 28th, 2011 Comments Off

Fallen Silverbells and Breakfast on the Terrace

A Pot Filled with Calibrachoa ‘Callie Orange’ Brightens the Morning

And a Bottomless Cup of Coffee & Bright Red Chair Help to Wake the Sleepy Gardener

There’s much work to do in my garden this weekend. I’ve annuals and vegetable starts to plant out in the potager and weeding to catch up on. Somewhere around here there’s a big old basket… Maybe it was tossed to the tree line by Thursday night’s thunderstorm?  And the wheelbarrow… Where on earth is my wheelbarrow? I’ll be needing it to spread a fresh layer of compost mulch…

Oh, never mind. It’s a long weekend and there’s plenty of time to play catch up. For now, I’ll watch hummingbirds in the Carolina Silverbell; darting and dancing in the blossoms while I enjoy breakfast on the terrace. Perhaps just one more cup of coffee…

But there must be plenty of moments to just relax

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

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

The Gardener’s Eden received no compensation for the editorial mention of any products or services mentioned in this post. Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links here (including Amazon.com book links). 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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Un-Flower Pots: Designing & Caring for Spectacular Succulent Container Gardens

May 9th, 2011 § 12

Beautiful Container Gardens are all about Color, Form and Texture. Great Designers Work with both Contrasts and Harmonies to Create Stunning Results. Hanging basket available at Walker Farm.

Saturday morning I spent the better part of an hour and a half listening to enthusiastic oohs and ahhs at Walker Farm’s Succulent Container Gardening & Hanging Basket Design seminar. I had so much fun watching Karen Manix demonstrate how to create a container garden of succulents and listening to Daisy Unsicker talk about how to care for these gorgeous plants, that I just had to share a bit of my experience with all of you here today…

Pretty, dark-violet hued Aeonium arboreum and orange-tipped, chartreuse leaved Sedum nussbaumerianum (opposites in the spectrum of colors) make a stunning color combination

Last week I mentioned how much I’ve come to love succulent container gardening. My new-found obsession started innocently enough a few years ago, while expanding my indoor gardening pursuits during the cold winter months. Because I am so busy with gardening during the growing season, I’ve traditionally kept houseplants to a minimum; with only windowsill herbs, and a few tough ferns to satisfy my horticultural-urges from December through March. Then, after creating a Secret Garden Room, and experiencing much joy and success with my expanded indoor garden pursuits —and a passion for epiphytes and terrariums— I began to develop an interest in succulents…

Click on the photo above to read a previous post on indoor gardening with succulents

I’ve been teaching myself about cold-climate container gardening with succulents as I go along. And much to my delight, this expanding indoor-outdoor collection of tropic, sub-tropic and desert region plants has thrived and grown, thanks to a lot of research and a little help from my friends. I’ve discovered that succulents are remarkably easy, undemanding plants to grow —even for cold-climate gardeners— both indoors and out. But like all living things, succulents and cacti do have specific requirements and preferences all their own. Getting the container, potting mix and combinations right are the first step toward success with succulents. By learning about each plant, and continuing to provide these beauties with what they need —and never more— a gardener can achieve long term success and satisfaction from their investment.

And here are two of the plants pictured from the previous photo, now transferred to a larger pot which I’ve moved outdoors

Lucky gardeners in attendance at Walker Farm’s free seminar last Saturday got a real head-start on the subject by learning how to care for succulent containers from real pros! I’ve mentioned before that local Walker Farm is a world-class horticultural destination for rare plant connoisseurs throughout New England, New York and even further afield. Beyond the fact that their plants are unusual, healthy and beautiful, we hortimaniacs love Walker Farm because their staff is incredibly friendly, unpretentious and truly knowledgable about what they sell. The owners and staff at Walker Farm have a real passion and enthusiasm for what they do and generously share their experience without a trace of the dread ‘high brow’ attitude that so often tuns new gardeners away from horticulture. The excitement and creativity at Walker Farm is downright contagious, and it’s one of the many reasons why their loyal fans keep coming back for more.

Karen Manix began the talk by covering the basic principles of container garden design, with succulents in mind. Quickly covering the five most important aspects of composition —scale and proportion (finding correct sizes and structure for the container), balance (creating a sense of unity and point of view), contrast (using different colors, textures and forms to create interest), rhythm and flow (repeating color, form and texture plays) and fullness (giving a sense of lushness to satisfy the senses)— Karen immediately jumped into a wonderful demonstration from a dynamic display of containers and plants…

Karen Manix, owner of Walker Farm, demonstrates the basics of container garden design, using a variety of succulents in different sizes, shapes, textures and colors. Isn’t that clam-shell container gorgeous? Perfect for topping an outdoor living room table…

Succulent Container Design in Action. Isn’t this a beautiful pot?

While filling a gorgeous, clam-shell inspired planter with growing medium, Karen discussed the importance of proper planting mix for succulents. Because these fleshy, shallow-rooted plants need to dry out between waterings, it’s important to choose a light-weight, fast-draining container medium; such as cactus mix or a home-made equivalent. Regular potting soil is too dense and holds too much moisture to keep succulents and cacti happy. As a general rule, planting medium for succulents must contain 1/3 to 1/2 pumice or coarse sand —such as builders sand or poultry grit— for proper drainage. Some succulents prefer slightly more porous planting medium than others. Always read up on the plants you are growing and know their soil preferences prior to placing them in pots. Before you begin designing your succulent container, Karen recommends filling the pot 3/4 full of growing medium, and adding a small amount of time-release fertilizer (which you can mail order or pick up at most garden centers).

Just a few of the beautifully tempting terra cotta pots available at Walker Farm

And speaking of pots, getting settled in the right home, with a location you love,  is just as important for your plants as it is for you! Although terra cotta is the best choice for succulents and cacti, due to its porous nature, it’s equally important to choose a pot that suits your plant’s style, and satisfies your eye. Try playing the colors and textures of your chosen pot against the colors and textures of foliage, as well as your overall design and composition. Check to be sure that your chosen pot has a good drainage hole (although pots without holes can be modified with a base of pumice, but this is more advanced). Karen mentioned covering the drainage hole in pots with screening, rocks or broken pottery. Although this isn’t always necessary to prevent soil-loss, it can definitely come in handy when you are moving pots in and out of your home, or when you are dealing with large sized drainage holes.

This spiky, ice-blue Senecio serpens would be nice in combination with a terra cotta pot or another plant with peachy toned foliage or flowers. Red-orange and green-blue are opposite on the color wheel, and they make beautiful music together…

Once you have your container and growing medium ready, feel free to play around with individual plants while they are still in their nursery containers, until you find a combination you like. Perhaps you might combine a dramatic upright specimen with a mound shaped plant and a couple of trailers in colors chosen to contrast with your pot. Like a dusky-purple echeveria? Look for a chartreuse colored species to settle in next to it, and make that violet color sing. New to container design? Don’t be afraid to look at photos for ideas or imitate other gardeners until you get the hang of it. The process should be fun and relaxing. And remember, you can always move the plants around and try again if you aren’t quite happy.

Choose pots to bring out the best in your plants. Walker Farm has incredible selection in their potting shed, but if you live far from here, you can find some real beauties online in Etsy shops; such as those made by Vermont artist Virginia Wyoming (click here to visit her lovely shop). And there are plenty of gorgeous containers melting my heart at Terrain as well.

Satisfied with your arrangement? Karen advised us to tuck in all the plants; gently adding potting mix to fill in gaps, and bring soil level approximately 1″ below the container rim. Top dress the container with a decorative mulch to help keep soil stable during watering and conserve moisture. Some designers like to use glass pebbles or marbles, others prefer to use colored gravel or natural stone. Whatever you choose, when you are finished, brush growing medium away from leaves and gently water, rinsing dust and soil from the foliage as you go.

At this point in the seminar, focus shifted to long-term care of succulent containers. Both Karen and Daisy (pictured below) emphasized that over and under watering —particularly in tandem— are a recipe for plant woes. Keeping soil moist —but no wetter than a wrung-out sponge— and allowing the planting medium to dry out a bit between waterings is key to success. Keep in mind that these conditions mimic the natural environment of these semi-tropical and desert region plants. The foliage of plants like succulents and cacti has evolved to hold moisture, in much the same way as a camel stores its water in humps to provide hydration between stops at the oasis!

Daisy, head propagator at Walker Farm, discusses the maintenance and care of succulents and container gardens…

Daisy covered all of the keys to success with container garden maintenance. In addition to balanced watering and regular fertilizing —probably the two most important chores in gardening— one of the major points Daisy covered in her thorough over-view was container size as relative to plant size. It’s always important to educate yourself about the plants you are working with. How big is that cute little button going to get in a year? How long will that enchanting vine trail… Will it visit you in your bed at night? With scissors in hand and orders to clip away at plants for fullness and to promote flowering, Daisy declared: “You control your plant, your plant doesn’t control you”. Now there’s some advice worth taking! Potted plants looking scraggly or leggy? Then it’s time for a haircut. Prune and pinch plants frequently, she advised, to keep them looking great and in proportion with the container. There’s no reason to struggle with an unmanageable plant.

Keep hanging plants attractive and manageable with regular pruning. Manage growth in confined containers, such as wreaths or baskets, by limiting fertilizer.

Of course, Daisy emphasized the importance of knowing both yourself, your location, and the plants you choose. Are you away from home a great deal? Lower maintenance, drought-tolerant succulent species are the best choice for your containers! Sunny spot with six or more hours of direct sunlight? Choose plants that can tolerate such hot, dry conditions. Cacti and many succulents from the American desert regions are a good choice for full sun. Partially sunny location? Most container plants thrive in this situation; including many succulents from the tropics and subtropics. Shade? The vast majority of succulents do not like full shade, and with a few exceptions —such as sansevierias— plants other than succulents will be a better choice for containers in shady situations.

Aphids are sometimes a problem for succulents, particularly when they are brought inside to overwinter. A lack of natural predators allows outside pests to grow un-checked when carried indoors. Here, they cluster and feed on a Kalanchoe in my studio. Click on photo for details on how to deal with succulent garden pests….

Pests aren’t usually a big problem for succulent container plants outdoors, but aphids, scale and mealy bugs can occasionally trouble some plants; particularly during and just after over wintering. Daisy, Karen and I all strongly advise using organic methods to deal with pest problems, and always try the least aggressive method first. During summer, try removing aphids by spraying plants with a strong blast of water from a hose. Often this will knock back pests long enough for natural predators —like ladybug larvae— to take on the battle. For particularly troublesome container pests —like mealy bugs or spider mites— or serious infestations, try insecticidal soap with neem oil or hot pepper in the mix. See my previous post (click here) for more ideas.

The Jewel Box Garden – Thomas Hobbs

Looking for more design ideas and care tips for succulent containers? We’re all big fans of Thomas Hobbs’ gorgeous books. I especially love his colorful Jewel Box Garden (pictured above). And of course, as I recently mentioned, Debra Lee Baldwin’s Succulent Container Gardens is a wonderful resource for the creative container gardener. Walker Farm’s seminars and the regular support of their friendly staff are a great resource for local gardeners here in southern Vermont. I’ll be reporting more from their wonderful gardening seminars in the coming weeks. And if you live in the area, I encourage you to take advantage of these fun and free events for gardeners of all ages and stages…

Succulent Container Gardens – Debra Lee Baldwin

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Gardening Seminars at Walker Farm are Free and Open to the Public. The Gardener’s Eden received no compensation, of any kind, for editorial mention of businesses or products in this post.

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 (including Amazon.com book links and Terrain Garden & Home). 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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Behold the Brilliant, Jewel-Like Treasures! How Will I Contain Myself? Playing with Pots: An Annual Obsession

May 4th, 2011 Comments Off

Echeveria ‘The Pearl’, Kalanchoe pumila and Portulacaria afra variegata – An indoor garden pot, slowly acclimates to the great outdoors on my steel balcony

It’s an annual question. How will I contain myself? Although the vast majority of my gardening takes place in the ledgy pockets of soil here on my land, every year I create seasonal, potted displays and vignettes to punctuate the landscape. I started moving my vessels, urns and bowls outdoors a couple of weeks ago… And oh, there are so many pots to fill! In addition to the container designs I will create for my clients, I have many garden rooms of my own to accent. There’s a steel balcony to drape, several stone terraces, walls, walks and stairways to soften, shady niches to illuminate, decorative chairs to adorn and dining tables to fill with color.

Ever on the lookout for fresh inspiration, this weekend I will be attending a seminar, “Succulent Container Gardening & Hanging Basket Design and Care”, at Walker Farm in Dummerston, Vermont. The talk is being presented by long-time friends and colleagues, Daisy Unsicker (head propagator) and Karen Manix (owner) of Walker Farm. For nearly a decade, I worked maintaining the mixed borders of trees, shrubs and perennials at Walker Farm. And for years, I have been admiring —and enthusiastically collecting— their gorgeous, nursery-proagated plants. This historic farm has long been a favorite horticultural resource for connoisseurs of unusual annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs. But this season, I have to say, Walker Farm has really taken its always-spectacular greenhouse to a whole new level with an amazing display of succulents, tropicals and unusual foliage plants…

Mixed Succulent Container Garden (Starring Aeonium ‘Kiwi’) – Designed by Daisy Unsicker for Walker Farm

Beautiful Succulent Bowl (Staring various colorful players; including Aeonium ‘Kiwi’, Cryptanthus acaulis, Senecio rowleyanus and Echeveria) Designed by Karen Manix for Walker Farm

Another Gorgeous Succulent Bowl (Starring several divas and supporting acts; including Sedum and Aeonium)  Designed by Daisy Unsicker for Walker Farm

In an earlier post, I mentioned Walker Farm’s talented, long-time head propagator, Daisy Unsicker. When it comes to raising young plants, Daisy really has a special touch, and succulents are clearly her passion. If a gardener truly loves plants, and dotes on them with tender-loving-care, they tend to show their appreciation in the most beautiful ways. I can’t wait to hear Daisy’s design tricks and maintenance tips for succulent-pots, and to see what she and Walker Farm owner Karen Manix have cooked up for this Saturday’s container gardening seminar. Walker Farm isn’t able to ship plants, but if you are gardening in the area, I hope you will check out their beautiful garden center and greenhouses, and join them for their fabulous —and free— garden seminars (click here for details).

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to preview some of the gorgeous plants now filling the lovely glass greenhouses at Walker Farm. In addition to the extraordinary selection of exotic plants in nursery containers (see some unusual examples below), Daisy, Karen an the staff at Walker Farm have designed and pre-planted some gorgeous, ready-to-go succulent bowls and other to-die-for container gardens. With colors bright as gem stones and exquisite, jewel-like forms, these plant-filled pots are like living treasure chests. From hanging baskets dripping with ‘Strings of Pearls’ (Senecio rowleyanus) to sapphire blue bowls filled with shimmering Jade (Crassula ovata cvs.) to hand-thrown pots overflowing with faceted pink-tipped Aeonium and amethyst-tinted, silvery Echeveria, Daisy has truly outdone herself.  Can you imagine such a delightful accent to your entryway or given as an exquisite Mother’s Day gift?

Solanum pyracanthum would certainly look sharp in my sunny terrace pots!

And Ozothamnus diosmifolius ‘Rose’ would be dreamy on the balcony

This sensual-looking Carex comans ‘Bronze Curls’ would move beautifully with the summer breeze

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you know that I’ve been singing the praises of succulent container gardening —indoors as well as outdoors— for a few seasons now. In fact, much of my indoor garden is filled with these dry-climate, jewel-box gems. The container atop this article —as well as others on the Indoor Eden page— is literally packed with succulents from small, local greenhouses and online sources.

So then, how will I contain myself this year? Well, I haven’t quite decided. But, I do know that in addition to the usual urns and vessels overflowing with colorful blossoms, my garden will be decorated with a large number of succulent containers, grass-filled barrels and an assortment of what I like to call, ‘un-flower pots’. No matter what I end up planting, I’m certain that I’ll return back here with plenty of new design ideas and maintenance tips to share after the weekend workshop at Walker Farm

A planter of my own design, featuring Sempervivum hybrids ‘Purple Beauty’ and  ‘Kalinda’ with river stone mulch

An oxblood red container on my terrace provides a lovely color contrast to the ice-blue Echeveria ‘The Pearl’, here today with a shimmering rain drop

Sempervivum hybrid ‘Kalinda’ on my terrace

A Succulent Pot of My Own Design (plant details listed in text below photo at top of this article)

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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Dusting Off, Cleaning Out, Taking Stock & Getting Ready for Gardening Season… Plus Another Giveaway!

April 18th, 2011 § 33

The bright gold of Kalanchoe blossfeldiana is a cheerful welcome in a chair beside my front door. I like using natural baskets as decorative covers for inexpensive, recycled plastic flower pots. I do a similar thing with plants placed outside in summer, using everything from wooden crates and baskets to tin cans and flea market finds to add color, texture and interest to plants with less-than-attractive interior containers.

Ah, fog, mist, sunshine and April showers. What a mixed jumble the forecast is this week! My schedule seems to be at the mercy of the elements lately. But, undaunted by the moody weather, I’ve decided to take advantage of the unpredictable situation and use any rainy days or hours this week to sort through and give a spring cleaning to the growing collection of baskets and pots in my Secret Garden Room.

I love accenting my garden with colorful pots and overflowing baskets, but moving containers in and out every season results in a bit of wear and tear. Each year a few woven baskets are retired to the compost pile, and I lose one or two clay pots to a ‘whoopsie’. For the most part, I’ll replace those containers with new ones found at flea markets, tag sales, curb-side freebies and recycling centers. But sometimes a special handmade vessel catches my eye and I will add to my collection of beautiful clay pots, ceramic urns and stoneware containers. Right now I am admiring a few gorgeous pots I spotted at the lovely online garden store, Terrain, and last fall I also spied a bunch of fabulous pieces at Virginia Wyoming’s pottery studio in Westminster, Vermont. There are so many wonderful handmade pots on Etsy and local craft fairs. I like supporting independent artists when I can, and I always encourage others to do so as well…

Sometimes an Empty Vessel is as Lovely as a Container Filled with Plants. Here, a Cracked, Old, Clay Pot Adds Character to a Shady Nook Filled with Perennials (Including Kiregeshoma palmata and Astilbe) in My Garden

I Like to Create New Container Garden Vignettes Every Year. Here in Front of My Painting Studio, a Collection of Pots, Urns and Vessels Brings Color and Life to the Stone Terrace and Tobacco-Stained Barn Siding. All of these pots came from local, Vermont sources like Walker Farm and A Candle in the Night

Here’s Another Empty Vessel in the Walled Garden. I Love Contrasting a Smooth Surfaced Pot with Intricately Textured Foliage. Here, Indian Rhubarb (Darmera peltata) Provides a Lacy Skirt on this Beautiful Piece of Pottery.

Like many gardeners, I’ve recently become enamored with succulent container gardening. And why not? Succulents –and their close relatives, cacti– are so easy to care for. Last year, my studio’s steel balcony was filled with all sorts of dramatic pots (including the one pictured below), crammed with outlandish, colorful beauties and textural curiosities. Like ornamental grasses, succulents make great container plants for hot, dry spaces; think stone terraces, decks and windy balconies. Of course not all succulents are cold-climate hardy, so they must come inside if you live in a wintry region. But some cacti and succulents –including many sedum, sempervivum and others– are quite tough, and can be overwintered outdoors. Most of these fleshy, shallow-rooted plants are easy to propagate, and in cold climates, cuttings can be taken indoors before the frost in autumn and saved for next year’s container display. If you live in New England, I recommend signing up for Walker Farm’s free, succulent container gardening seminar on May 7th (click here for details). Daisy Unsicker, who will be leading the seminar with owner Karen Manix, propagates some incredible succulents at Walker Farm. Daisy creates gorgeous and inspirational succulent containers. Click here —or on the photo below— to see my previous post on “Un-Flower Pots”, for more unconventional, lower-maintenance, container gardening ideas.

A Collection of Plants (including Sempervivum and Haworthia) From Last Year’s Succulent Container Garden – Click Here for Post with More Details, Photos and Plants

A few years back, The Jewel Box Garden, one of my now-favorite container gardening books by Thomas Hobbs (author of the also gorgeous garden book, Shocking Beauty), inspired me to look at unconventional ways to use pots and vessels in my landscape. And more recently, I’ve found some fabulous ideas in Debra Lee Baldwin’s book Succulent Container Gardens from Timber Press. If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you may remember that I’ve mentioned this title before; both here and over at Barnes & Noble’s now-archived Garden Variety. This is a fabulous book, and a real must-have for any cacti/succulent lover or container gardening enthusiast.

Order Succulent Container Gardens by Debra Lee Baldwin from Amazon.com image courtesy of fabulous publisher, Timber Press

Because I love this book so much, I’ve decided to purchase one to give away as part of this blog’s second anniversary celebration. To enter, simply leave a comment on today’s post, and in your comment, tell me what you like to grow in containers: ornamental plants, vegetables/herbs, or both. Be sure to correctly enter your email address so that I can contact you if you win the giveaway (your email won’t be visible to others, nor will it be shared or sold). Your entry must be received by 11:59 pm Eastern Time, Friday, April 22nd. A winner will be randomly chosen from the entries received in comments, and announced 4/25 here, on this site’s Facebook page, and also on Twitter. Due to shipping restrictions, this giveaway is open to readers in the United States and Canada only.

Good Luck! xo Michaela

The Winner of Debra Lee Miller’s Succulent Container Gardens is Lisa N. Congratulations Lisa!

Thank you to everyone for playing. If you didn’t win, please stay tuned for another chance this month!

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

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

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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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Winter Dreams and Frosty Fantasies: Magical, Snow-Covered Tree Houses…

December 16th, 2010 § 1

Treehouse by Amazon Tree Houses – UK – This UK-based company designs and builds some of the most beautiful treehouses I have ever seen. They are truly fuel for fantasies and fairytales…

Imagine being awakened by a gentle rocking sensation as wind sways your nest; watching snow flurries dance, high up in the treetops. Could there be anything more magical than a holiday spent in a treehouse, nestled in the snow-covered boughs of a deep-green conifer? Childhood fantasies were re-ignited this morning when, after a bit of inspiration from Lace and Tea, I toured the fantastic websites and blogs featured here {click on attached image links or text directly below). If you’ve ever entertained the notion of building a treehouse in your garden, these web-resources and books {linked below} will help get you started.

Building a treehouse is a long-standing dream; one I share with many, no doubt. And wouldn’t a homebuilt nest —cloaked in icicles in the limbs of an ancient tree— make a great guest-house? {sigh}. For your winter-garden dreams and frosty-forest-fantasies…

Treehouse by Takashi Kobayashi – Treehouse People –  Japan – Organic and extraordinarily beautiful, the treehouses designed and built by this Japanese artist seem at one with both nature and the imaginary world…

Treehouse by the Treehouse Guy – Peter Lewis – USA – I could spend days on Peter’s wonderful blog. Both the author’s story and his beautiful treehouse studio are utterly captivating…

Treehouse by Baumraum – A German-Based Design Firm. This is the website that initially launched my research. Baumraum has built a solid, international reputation for gorgeous, innovative design and beautiful treehouses…

More Tree House Resources & Gift Books…

New Treehouses of the World by Peter Nelson

Treedom: The Road to Freedom by Takashi Kobayashi

Treehouse Chronicles by S. Peter Lewis

How-To Build a Tree House: Home Tree Home by Peter Nelson

A new book is also now available from Baumraum, but not yet available through Amazon.com. Please see their website for details.

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All photo-links in this source list and review are copyright as noted. Please visit respective websites for more information.

Article ⓒ 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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The Gilded Table: Shimmering Gold Garden Remnants Make Holiday Dinner Settings a Little Bit Glamorous…

November 15th, 2010 § 2

The Gilded Table – Golden Sago Palm Leaves by Candlelight

Gilded Pine Cones

Golden Sago Palm Leaves Shimmer and Glow by Candlelight

Candle lit dinners, cocktails by the fire and evenings spent with good friends; it seems like I will be spending less time in wellingtons and more time in high heels this month! Yes, it’s getting to be that time of year again, and my dance card is really beginning to fill up. I do love the holidays, and one of my favorite parts —beyond spending more time with the special people in my life— is the extra bit of shimmer and glow added to special occasions.

I like decorating for the holidays, and because I have a big garden —filled with interesting bits of this and that— I like to use what I have on hand to add a special touch to my home and dinner table at this time of year. Before snow flies, I always gather up remnants from my garden while I am working outside. I like to collect pinecones, seedpods, dried flowers, twigs or branches and other odds and ends from the beds, borders and surrounding forest.  I also save things from my indoor garden. One of my favorite potted plants, the sago palm (Cycas revoluta), occasionally tosses off leaves in spring and fall when I move it from indoors to out, and vice versa. For the past year or so, I’ve been saving those pretty, fern-like leaves in a box. They remind me a bit of ostrich feathers, and they seemed like the perfect choice for a bit of gilding with metallic paint. After spraying a few of the beautiful leaves with a soft shade of gold, I tried arranging them simply with a candle for a glamorous, but understated table setting…

Dried and Gilded Leaves of Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta)

Isn’t it lovely? I think this would be pretty way to decorate a Thanksgiving dinner table, or for any occasion though out the winter holidays. At the moment, the sago palm leaves are definitely my gilded favorite -but I also like the look of gilded hydrangea, pinecones and many of the other dried bits and pieces I’ve tried. I used spray paint on my remnants (see tutorial below), but you could also brush the paint on by hand or dip cones into a pail or bucket…

How to Gild Garden Remnants

You will need: Dried garden remnants (see suggestions), pruners, newspaper, gloves, a mask, a well-ventilated work-space, spray paint (in gold, silver, bronze, copper, etc). Optional are: wire, wire cutters.

Start the project by collecting clean, dry remnants from outdoors or indoor garden spaces. Pinecones, palm leaves, dried leaves, seed pods, nuts, dried flower heads, shriveled berries and gourds all look beautiful when lightly gilded with gold paint.

Once you have collected a basket full of garden left-overs, bring them into a well-ventilated space. I work with paint in a studio equipped with a fan (and I also open doors and windows). You can use spray paint in a garage or cellar, or outdoors. Whatever you do, be sure to protect your clothes with an apron, your hands with gloves, your lungs with a mask and your floor or table with newspaper.

Spread everything out on newspaper and pick the remants over. Check your leaves over for spiders and bugs and send those little guys back where they came from. Be sure everything is completely dry and solid enough  to handle while painting and later, arranging. Clip off any wayward or unattractive pieces with pruning shears.

Select your spray paint (I like bronze, soft gold, copper, silver and pewter for gilding. I also like to use white spray paint on garden remnants and for even more drama, try black! Krylon manufactures acrylic spray paints which are a safer-health option, and more environmentally friendly. In the United States, CFCs are no longer used in aerosol spray paints of any kind). Shake the can well and test on a spot of paper. Then spray over the dried bits and pieces in a steady, fluid motion. It’s better to use several light layers of paint than one big, heavy, globby one.

Let the pieces dry for several minutes, then turn them over and do the other side. Some things —like pinecones for example— may need to be held up. Again, be sure your hands are protected with gloves, and grasp the cone with a bit of newspaper to hold temperamental bits steady. If you want to add more depth, use a couple of different shades of paint. white looks pretty with a light coat of silver, and brownish bronze looks nice with a bit of gold. I have seen “fuzzy” paints work well too. But keep in mind that just a touch of color often looks most elegant. You want to enhance the nooks and crannies on your garden remnants, but always let nature’s beauty stand out!

Once everything is well coated in paint, let your remnants dry out for an hour or until you can handle them without smudging paint on your hands. Then, gather things up and start playing with your table arrangements. You can wire things together or leave them loose. If you are going to add candles to the table setting, be sure they are always behind glass, (and, just as a reminder, of course open flames are never left untended -especially with small children and pets!).

Gilded leftovers from the garden make beautiful additions to wreaths, door swags, or in vases. In addition to all-gilded arrangements, try combining a bit of shimmer with evergreen boughs or fresh flowers, dried berries and fruit and/or vegetables. Fresh pumpkins, squash and gourds also look pretty with gilded items from the garden.

I like to reuse items from year to year, so I box them up and store them on shelves in my cellar. I have amassed quite a collection of pinecones, so I will be making a couple of gilded wreaths to give away as gifts. Because I’m always rearranging things, I like to leave my dried garden remnants loose when I store them in boxes, and I cushion the more fragile things with newspaper or bubble wrap.

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A Simple and Pretty Holiday Decoration from the Garden

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Article and photos are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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

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Inspiration: The Japanese Tea Garden… Water Bowls Reflect Quiet & Calm

July 24th, 2010 § 1

Image ⓒ Linda Younker from Gardening with Stone by Jan Whitner

Calm, cool and serene; even the tiniest pool of water can create a quiet, contemplative mood in the garden. In summer’s sweltering, mid-day heat, a few stolen moments in a shady oasis can refresh and rejuvenate the spirit. Whether constructed from hypertufa, carved from natural stone, or assembled from man-made materials, small water features can attract wildlife and provide birds, bees and other creatures with a cool drink. However unless the pool is sloped and very shallow —like the one above from Jan Whitner’s inspirational book, Gardening with Stone— be sure to provide an escape route to prevent the drowning of bees and small mammals.

Building a small water feature from stone is a relatively simple project, even if the pool will be recirculating. Helpful tips can be found in the final chapters of Barbara Pleasant’s Garden Stone (see image excerpts below), a beautiful title with many creative ideas for both small and larger stone and water combination projects. The author has included a useful plant list for water bowls, which includes water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes), lily (Nymphaea), lotus (Nelumbo), iris, water clover (Marsilea mutica), and more. Foliage and flowers add an extra touch of beauty to miniature water gardens, and they also provide a handy resting spot for dragonflies, honeybees and butterflies…

Image ⓒ Dency Kane from Barbara Pleasant’s Garden Stone

Image ⓒ Dency Kane from Barbara Pleasant’s Garden Stone

In my search for Japanese-inspired water features, I turned up several beautiful books filled with creative hardscaping and layout ideas for even the smallest courtyard. Pocket Gardens by James G. Trulove contains both stylish, urban, modern and classic, traditional design-inspiration for small gardens – including many miniaturized water gardens. And one of my all-time favorite garden books, Haruzo Ohashi’s stunningly beautiful title, The Tea Garden, (currently out of print, but available used) features ritual water bowls on nearly every page…

Image ⓒ Roger Foley from Pocket Gardens by James G. Trulove

Image ⓒ Haruzo Ohashi from The Tea Garden

Image ⓒ  Haruzo Ohashi from The Tea Garden

On days when a dip in the lake or splash-down at the river isn’t possible, a shady garden room provides cool respite. A glistening pool surrounded by ferns and moss calms the eye and soothes the senses. Below, positioned at the corner of my Secret Garden, a reflective water bowl mirrors the sunlit wall…

Secret Garden Reflecting Bowl at Ferncliff ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

Many solid bowls and vessels can be filled with water to create a tiny pool. Adding steady movement to the water will require the installation of a pump. Below are some pretty, pre-made water bowls and fountain kits I found online at Amazon…

Stacked Slate (lightweight stone veneer) Fountain at Amazon

Laguna Water Bowl Fountain available via Amazon

Water Fountain available at Amazon

Click here for Gardener’s Supply Company’s Organic Mosquito Control Rings for Still Water Features

**Mosquitoes will breed in rain barrels, bird baths, water bowls, and untreated still pools. Mosquito dunks are a safe, biological control utilizing Bti, a naturally occurring bacterium (Bti targeted usage is OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) approved. See site linked above for more details. For more information on Bti and it’s usage, please click here to read this well-written article with an explanation of Bt strains from Colorado State University**

Image excerpts from reviewed publications and/or products are copyright as noted and linked. Article and all other photographs © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden.

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

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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Adorn: Flea Market Finds, Discarded Pots and Vessels, Inexpensive Lamps and Found Objects Enhance the Garden…

July 20th, 2010 § 2

An Eclectic Collection: Pots, Urns, Vessels and Lamps – Image ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Most gardeners are obsessed with beautiful flowers, and as you’ve probably noticed, I am no exception. But in truth, there’s more to a great garden than plants. Adding a few artful objects to your garden can bring color, texture, structure and style to your outdoor space throughout the seasons. Over the years I have accumulated quite an eclectic collection of pots, vessels, urns, lanterns, old chairs and other three dimensional curiosities in my garden. And while it is possible to spend a fortune on garden art, you needn’t be Daddy Warbucks to decorate your outdoor space with style.

The Rudbeckia Seat at Ferncliff – Created from a Cast-Off Chair Salvaged Long Ago – Image ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Found objects from the roadside or town dump, bargains from flea markets and tag sales, and treasures from old Aunt Agnes —yes have a look in that cluttered basement, garage, barn or junk pile— can be repurposed and recycled into great garden art. Rusty old metal drums make great annual planters (be sure to drill drainage holes and perhaps insert a plastic liner pot) as do old wood or metal desk drawers and post boxes. Virtually anything that can hold soil will work as a garden container, and with a bit of paint, recycled junk can flatter most any decor. Old chairs make great trellises for small annual vines, and those with missing seats can be used to support tall, floppy plants. And when brightly painted, chairs of all kinds can add a cheerful splash of color to a garden.

Rust and Nicked Edges add History and Charm to Tiny Garden Vignettes – Image ⓒ Ingram/Holt – BHG – Flea Market Decorating

We are at the peak of flea market season, and besides being great entertainment, Sunday stops at swap meets will often yield end-of-weekend bargains. Though out-of-print, Vicki Ingram’s Flea Market Decorating remains a great resource for both do-it-yourself ideas and inspiration. The back section of the book contains a wealth of flea market listings, many of which remain accurate-to-date. I love the garden section in the final chapters of this book, which features simple and inexpensive flea-market-style ideas (a few of which I have scanned here as an appetizer). Tiny tot chairs, old toys, rusty bed frames; all can add character and a touch of mystery to the garden…

Outgrown Objects from Childhood are Repurposed in the Garden – Image ⓒ Ingham/Holt – BHG  – Flea Market Decorating

Recycled ‘Junk’ Drawers, Postal Boxes and Metal Bins Work Great as Planters with Pot Inserts or Drilled Drain Holes – Image ⓒ Ingham/Holt BHG – Flea Market Decorating

Red Chair – Image ⓒ Ingham/Holt – BHG – Flea Market Decorating

As an artist, I love the idea of recycling found objects into new work. Broken fountain at the landfill? Why not take it home, paint it, and turn it into a giant, three tiered planter like the one below? Creativity knows no bounds! I found this inspirational project in (the no-longer-in-publication) Budget Living’s Home Cheap Home, along with dozens of other inexpensive landscape design ideas…

One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure – Recycled Fountain Becomes and Herb Garden – Image ⓒ Home Cheap Home

And of course, to continue this month’s garden lighting discussion, it bears mention that inexpensive lanterns —whether purchased new or at tag sales and flea markets— can add a touch of artistic ambience to outdoor rooms by night as well as by day. A quick search on Amazon yielded dozens of pretty options. Here are a few of the charming, bargain lamps that caught my eye…

Moroccan Birdcage Candle Lantern$16.90 at Amazon.com

Metal Star Lantern, $10.99 at Amazon

Amber Glass Moroccan Lantern, $11.44 via Amazon

Cupola Tin Lantern$31.99 via Amazon.com

An Urn Beside the Wall Brings Subtle Color and Texture to a Quiet Garden Setting – Image ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

Guardian of the Forest at Fercliff – Image ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

Chips and Cracks in Old Pots Add Character and History to a New Garden – Image ⓒ Michaela at TGE

***

Image excerpts from reviewed publications are copyright as noted and linked. Article and all other photographs © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

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

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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Art Inspired by Nature – Raku Masterworks by Artist Richard Foye

September 30th, 2009 § 10

R Foye, Raku metallic glaze vase

~ Large raku vessel with bronze metallic glaze ~

R Foye pot firing~ A raku urn with lid during glaze firing ~

R Foye at studio~ Artist Richard Foye at his South Newfane, Vermont studio ~

I caught up with my friend, artist Richard Foye, on a beautiful September afternoon while he was busy at work in his South Newfane, Vermont studio. Last month, I featured one of Richard’s beautiful raku vessels in my post, “Bringing Nature’s Beauty Indoors”, and I received a number of emailed questions about his work. Richard’s vases and vessels make stunning centerpieces for the table, where they function as either a solo act or center stage for floral arrangements… and his dramatic urns make intriguing ornaments and focal points for the home or seasonal garden. Many of us are as eager to bring the beauty of nature indoors as we are to enhance it within our gardens, especially at this time of year. In light of the interest, I gave Richard a call and asked him if he might be willing to give us a tour of his studio and share some of his inspiration and creations on The Gardener’s Eden. Richard very generously allowed me to observe and photograph him working in his studio while he turned pieces on his wheel, and later fired several urns, vases and vessels. As he worked, the artist took the time to explain how his beautiful, naturally inspired pieces are created. I have collected Richard’s work for a number of years, and while I thought I understood his technique, after spending the afternoon at his studio I realized there is so much more to this artist’s work than meets the eye.  I couldn’t wait to share his amazing process with you in this third installment of “Art Inspired by Nature” on The Gardener’s Eden…

(click to enlarge any photo in this essay for a closer view)

Ninebark,(Physocarpus) 'Diablo', False Indigo, (Baptisia foliage) Foxglove, (Digitalis davisiana),Queen Anne's Lace'(Anthriscus sylvestris Bells of Ireland, (Moluccella laevis)

Richard Foye began making pottery in 1969, during his senior year at The University of Vermont. A philosophy major, Richard accompanied his friend Ken Pick to pottery class one day, where he discovered his life’s passion. Watching this artist at his wheel in the late afternoon light, it was easy to see why his vessels are so spectacular. Richard is in love with his work. His hands move in a steady yet fluid motion, instinctively molding curvaceous lines and sensual forms from the clay. Throughout the 70’s, Richard worked primarily with stoneware and porcelain when, after nearly a decade, he began to experiment with raku. From that point on, Richard found himself focusing on this Far Eastern technique he has come to favor for both its immediacy and serendipitous results. The word raku loosely translates to ‘unexpected, joyful surprise‘. My conversation with Richard naturally turned to philosophy at this point, discussing the difference between what Westerners might call ‘accidents‘ and what Easterners refer to as ‘incidents‘.  The raku method was originally developed in Korea, and later adopted by Japanese artisans. In raku, a pot is drawn out from the fire while still hot and then allowed to cool quickly, producing unexpected, often dramatic results. The ‘incidental’ finishes found on raku pieces are inherent to this quick cooling process. Over time Richard developed his own fascinating techniques and signature glazes, (inspired by ancient Near Eastern and Japanese methods), to create the exquisite works of art shown here.

Although he describes himself as impatient, Richard is in fact very methodic in his process. The white stoneware clay he uses is a proprietary mix he creates with rainwater in his studio. After working his pieces into sensual forms, influenced by travels to Southern Spain and Andalusia among other places, he sets them aside to dry-cure before he begins the bisque firing and finishing process. The time to complete a series of pots, from start to finish, is generally six weeks…

R Foye clay~ Richard’s white stoneware clay is hand mixed with rainwater  ~

R Foye hands at wheel 2~ Richard working at his wheel ~

R Foye uncured, unglazed pots

~ Unfinished clay pieces will dry cure for before bisque firing ~

After curing, Richard’s vessels and urns are bisque fired to 1,800 degrees fahrenheit and then coated with a hand mixed glaze. His signature metallic finishes are a combination of naturally occurring minerals, (including feldspar and calcium borate), inspired by those used in ancient Near Eastern civilizations. Once they are dry, Richard’s pieces are glaze fired to 1,600 degrees fahrenheit, and quickly removed with tongs while still hot. The process makes for a dramatic show…

R Foye pot firing~ Glazed pieces are fired at 1,600 degrees fahrenheit ~

R Foye firing pot

~ Richard monitors the urn, gauging temperature by time and color ~

R Foye removing fired pot

~ According to the Far Eastern raku technique, the piece is removed while hot ~

From here, Richard’s process becomes positively fascinating to anyone inspired by nature and her beautiful botanical world. While still red hot, Richard places his vessels within a nest of hand harvested straw and wild grasses from his field – he also tosses pine cones into this smoking, combustible mix. When a lid is placed atop his make-shift ‘double boiler’, the resulting heat, smoke and flame put on quite a show. Meanwhile, inside the vibrating pot, the straw fuses with the glaze to form exquisite, unpredictable patterns on Richard’s shapely vessels.

R Foye natural materials, pinecones~ Richard adds natural materials, including pine cones, grass and straw ~

R Foye materials before and after

~ Natural materials help create the one-of-a-kind finishes in Richard’s work ~

R Foye Raku process

~ The white-hot piece is placed within a pot of natural materials ~

R Foye Raku process 2

~ Resulting combustion makes for dramatic smoke, vibrations and sound ~

Once the pot cools down from the secondary glazing process, Richard removes the lid, and brushes away the burned botanical remnants to reveal what are always delightfully inexact results. Raku – the art of joyful surprise…

R Foye Raku process smoking kettle

~ At last, the lid is removed to reveal raku’s surprise… ~

Raku process emerging pot

~ A finished piece, still hot, surrounded by the natural, burned remnants ~

R Foye Raku vase

The cooling vessel, (note the grass still attached where it has burned in lines)

Richard uses the raku method to create a wide range of extraordinary pieces – from large metallic-glazed urns, (works of art suitable for the indoor display of flowers, branches and grass), to statuesque crackle-glazed vessels, ( I envision them beckoning at the end of a garden path or shady corner), to smaller pieces, including beautiful table-sized vases and ewers. Richard also continues to work with stoneware, creating garden-art such as the all-season lantern pictured below…

R Foye urn, metallic glazed

~ A large, metallic glazed raku urn ~

R Foye Raku urn, turquoise crackle glaze

~ A large, crackle glazed raku urn ~

R Foye Raku handled vessel

~ A metallic glazed raku ewer with handle ~

R Foye Lantern~ One of Richard’s very popular stoneware lanterns, here in his garden ~

Richard Foye shows his work in galleries and craft exhibitions throughout New England, and at home in Vermont. The Rock River Artists group holds an open studio tour every summer, and to many a gardener’s pleasure, Richard’s studio is conveniently located one door down from Olallie Daylily Gardens. The combination is more than tempting to this nature lover on an autumn day. If you would like to make a visit to Richard’s studio, be sure to call ahead, as he participates in a wide variety of craft shows and artisan exhibits throughout the year. But if you tell him you read about his raku process on The Gardener’s Eden, I am sure he will be more than delighted to give you a tour when he is back at his studio home.

Thank you Richard, for generously sharing your time and your work with us, and always for your deep understanding of natural beauty…

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*Richard Foye does not have internet access at his studio, but he may be reached by calling 802-348-7927, (Richard’s South Newfane, Vermont studio is open by appointment, please call for directions). He is represented in New England by the Rice/Polak Gallery in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

* Richard Foye’s pieces are currently priced at $35 -$410 *

The artist’s work may also be seen at the following craft festivals in New England this October:

October 2, 3 and 4, 2009, Hildene Foliage Art and Craft Festival,  Manchester, Vermont

October 9, 10 and 11, 2009, Stowe Foliage, Art and Craft Festival, Stowe, Vermont

October 17 – 18, 2009, Roseland Cottage Annual Arts and Crafts Festival, Woodstock, CT

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

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