Pots in the Garden, Part Two: Tips for Maintaining Hanging Flower Baskets…

July 27th, 2012 § 3

A Tumbling Cascade of Grape & Cherry Hues: Hanging Basket by Walker Farm

Ah, the seductive power of summertime annuals! With all of the lush foliage, boldly colored flowers and twisting, trailing vines tumbling from covered porches, it’s hard to deny the romance of flowering baskets. And now that we are in late July, those container-grown annuals should be at their vibrant best. But this has been a tough growing season in North America, with long dry spells and scorching heat testing a gardener’s skill and stamina. How are those annual containers looking these days? Things seem a little worse for the wear?

More than any other type of plant, basket-grown annuals truly rely upon the gardener for life-sustaining water and nutrients; and during the hottest part of summer, they are particularly demanding. Left untended during a week-long vacation, a lush hanging basket will quickly shrivel to a crispy, brown mass. But even when hanging baskets are regularly and properly watered, unless they are given regular TLC, they can begin to look a bit straggly by late July; losing some of their early season pizazz. So how does a gardener keep those baskets beautiful all season long? Follow the checklist below for a few helpful tips…

Baskets of Promise: Colorful, Trailing Annuals on Display at Walker Farm

1) Water, water, water: In summer, it’s usually necessary to water hanging baskets daily; particularly when rain is scarce or when pots are hanging beneath covered porches. During hot spells, sometimes plants will need water twice a day. The ideal time to water plants is in early morning. Check moisture levels in the center of the plant and around the side of the container. I like to use a hose with a wand attachment for watering; positioning the rose at soil level in order to avoid wetting foliage. Dry foliage is less susceptible to fungal infection. I use a two-step approach to watering baskets; soaking the pot until water drains from the base —waiting a few minutes— and then soaking again.

2) Assure good drainage: As the season progresses, annuals have a tendency to form dense root balls. Sometimes, root balls become so congested, that water can no longer penetrate and instead rolls off the top of the basket. Last year during her seminar on container gardening at Walker Farm, my friend Daisy shared a great tip for solving this problem. Using a simple wooden dowel or skewer, push down through the root ball in several places to allow the free passage of water. It’s amazing how well this works to revitalize a hanging plant!

To Keep Annual Baskets Flowering All Season Long, It’s Necessary to Fertilize Every 7-10 Days

3) Feed me Seymour: During the growing season, it’s important to fertilize plants once a week.  I like to feed annual plants with a water-soluble plant food, in the early morning, before the heat of the day. I water the basket first, and then water again with the fertilizer-mixture. In addition, I find that a once-monthly application of Epsom Salts solution (see recipe below) makes for a particularly enthusiastic floral display.

4) Right Plant, Right Place: Hanging basket not blooming? Most annuals require full sun to produce flowers, but of course there are some exceptions to this rule. Most fuchsia and begonia plants prefer partial shade, but lobelia and petunias demand full sun. When selecting a hanging basket, it’s best to make a note of how much light the chosen spot will receive, in order to select the right plant for the location. Check the plant’s tag if you are unsure of the species you are growing, and if care instructions aren’t given, Google that plant to find out what it needs!

5) A snip, snip here & a snip, snip there: Pruning and deadheading hanging baskets can do wonders for improving their mid-season appearance. Use a clean, sharp pair of scissors or pruning shears (a rag soaked with rubbing alcohol works well for cleaning garden tools) and cut away any straggly vines, withered, broken or dead stems and spent flowers. Some annual plants will actually go to seed and stop flowering if they aren’t deadheaded, so I like to pinch off withered blossoms daily, just below the pod.

6) Emergency Rx: Even the best gardeners sometimes forget their plants. Unplanned absence from home? Bring your withered basket indoors and set it in a tub of tepid water; letting it soak until it begins to revive. Drain water and bring the plant back outdoors to a shady spot while it continues to recover.

By Mid-Summer, Dense Root Systems and Shallow Containers Make for a Thirsty Basket. Loosen Dense Roots by Pushing a Dowel Through the Plant in Several Places; Allowing Water to Pass Through, Rather than Roll Off the Top of the Basket

Epsom Salts Super-Flower Solution

1/2 cup Epsom Salts

1 Gallon Sun-Warmed Water

Fill a gallon sized watering can with tepid water (or warm a can of water in the sun) and mix in 1/2 cup of Epsom Salts until dissolved. After watering as usual for the first round, return to each basket with the Epsom Salt solution. Avoiding the foliage, pour about a half a quart of solution into each hanging basket. Repeat monthly throughout the growing season.

Photographs 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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Bye, Bye Boring… Hello Blackbird! Euphorbia Euphoria in Pots

June 24th, 2012 § 4

Euphorbia hybrid ‘Blackbird’: Here on the Studio Balcony in an Oxblood Pot with Senecio mandraliscae and Sedum ‘Sunset Cloud’

Oh my, would you look at this smoldering, velvety loveliness! What a dark, gorgeous beauty! From the moment I saw this stunning spurge, my heart went a flutter and all I could think was, “Bye, bye boring container… Hello beautiful Blackbird”. I think I have found true Euphorbia euphoria! While out shopping for my client’s containers, I couldn’t help but notice that there are some gorgeous, marginally-hardy spurge hybrids moving into garden centers in my neck of the woods. And among them, so far ‘Blackbird’ is my absolute favorite.  I always fall hard and fast for the dark ones!

If you are lucky enough to live in zone 6 or a warmer locale, this beautiful Euphorbia hybrid will be easy to overwinter in beds and borders. But here in zone 4/5, I will be enjoying ‘Blackbird’ and her sexy friends —colorful Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’ and succulent Senecio mandraliscae— sunning on the deck. Given good drainage and full or mostly sunny locations, spurge are easy plants to please. Stunning in springtime with their contrasting lime-green to chartreuse-gold blossoms, the Euphorbia have long been among my perennial garden favorites. But why limit yourself to terra firma and zone appropriate choices? Wild combinations and experimentation on your mind? Well, that’s what containers are for! Summer love with no commitments! And what seasonal fun I am having up on my Secret Garden’s roof!

Euphorbia hybrid ‘Blackbird’ is hardy in zones 6-10, requires excellent drainage, ample sun and a lover of bold color. At maturity, she forms a lovely 18-24″ mound, so give her plenty of room and situate her near some colorful companions. Imagine the shimmering gold, copper and ice-blue possibilities! Kaleidoscopic, eye-popping candy for the container garden!

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

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Pots in the Garden: Designing, Planting & Placing Containers in the Landscape… Part One: An Introduction to Color!

May 29th, 2012 § 7

Weathered to Sweet Perfection: The Red-Orange Hue of an Old Terra Cotta Urn Complements a Carpet of Springtime Blues (Muscari armeniacum in foreground and Phlox divaricata in background)

Late spring is the time of year when I begin planting and placing pots in the garden. Over the years, I’ve amassed quite a collection of urns, vessels, second-hand terra cotta pots and various other containers. I find that even before they are filled with colorful annuals and exotic tropical plants, their shapes, hues and textures add a touch of beauty to the landscape. In my career as a garden designer  —using my own landscape as a design lab— I’ve created a wide variety of seasonal containers for my clients. And every year, right around Memorial Day, I head out to the garden center with an open mind, looking to try something new…

Colorful, Dramatic Pots Add a Welcoming Touch to My Studio Entry and Stone Terrace (Stonework by Vermont Artist Dan Snow, See Below for Complete Listing of Container Plants)

Earlier this month, I presented a seminar on container gardening,”Pots in the Garden: Designing, Planting and Placing Containers in the Landscape” sponsored by Walker Farm. Creating beautiful, annual garden displays with potted plants need not be difficult, time consuming or expensive. However, understanding the basic principles of design —as well as how to properly plant pots and follow-up with care and maintenance— is key to success with container gardening at any level. Balance and proportion, form and mass, texture and color, and line and repetition are some of the more important elements to consider whether designing a single pot, or large group of containers.

The Gardener’s Color Wheel

There are many decisions to make when designing a container garden, but color is always right at the top of my list. Color, like music, evokes feelings and sets mood. When designing a garden of any kind, I think about how the space will be used and what sort of feeling I want to create. If you are unfamiliar with how to work with color, the gardener’s color wheel (pictured above) can be a useful guide. When choosing a color scheme for a container garden, I keep in mind not only the foliage and flowers, but also the color of the pots, the surrounding space and nearby objects. Look carefully at walls, floors, arbors, shrubs, trees and furniture. Keep those hues in mind when designing containers for your outdoor rooms.

Monochromatic and Analogous Color Relationships Need Not be Boring. In Fact, By Working with a Limited Palette, a Gardener can Emphasize Other Design Elements; Such as Texture, Form, Mass and Placement. Here, a Mass Planting of Orange-Hook Sedge (Ucinia egmontiana) in Oxblood-Colored Pots, Creates a Soothing Screen in Bold Color. Notice How the Orange-Red Colors Bring Out the Rusty Undertones of the Steel Deck. Bold Harmony.

When I want to set a calm and relaxing mood, I usually opt for a monochromatic color scheme; using a single color on the wheel, playing with only a few, subtle variations of tone. Notice how each color on the wheel is shaded, working toward the center? A pot with foliage and flowers in only one color can be quite beautiful. To keep such an arrangement interesting, I would play with the other elements —like form and texture— to create a dynamic design. Analogous color relationships —side by side colors on the wheel above— such as green and blue or violet and red, are also quite soothing in combination, but offer a bit more design drama…

A Broken, Turqoise-Blue Vase adds a Bit of Drama to this Calm Arrangement. Quiet Harmony.

Things really start to get interesting in the garden when complementary colors are played off one another in a design. Opposites on the wheel, complementary colors tend to bring out the best in each other when placed close together. The more intense the hue —or strength of saturation— the more dramatic the result. For example, I like to play gold against violet. Purple, plum, maroon and lavender all look richer when they are placed near mustard, gold, honey and wheat. To bring out the beauty of violet hued foliage and flowers, I choose pots with mustard-colored glazing or add plants with golden foliage to my container design. Complementary color schemes tend to be bold and attention grabbing; use them to draw attention to an area or create a an energetic mood…

The Golden-Chartreuse of Lysmachia nummularia (Golden Moneywort) Enriches the Angelonia (A. angustifolia ‘Angelface Blue’) in this Arrangement, and Enhances the Purple-Hues of Nearby Stobilanthes dyerianus (Persian Shield) and Verbena (Glandularia canadensis ‘Homestead Purple’)

Simple, Mustard-Glazed Pots Work to Bring Out the Beauty of Lavender Colored Asters in This Cascading Group

Polychromatic relationships —or mixtures of many colors— create something of a pinwheel-effect. These arrangements tend to be very bold. When I want to really jazz up a space, I will reach for the most dramatic relationships on the color wheel and spin them into a frenzy. Think outrageous succulent arrangements, tropical plants with fabulous flowers and candy colored containers. Fun!

Blue-Hued Mexian Rose, (Echeveria ‘Pearl’) Plays off the Orange-Red Pot and a Trio of Silver and Gold-Tinted Foliage. Also Pictured Here: Variegated Elephant Bush (Portulacaria afra variegata) and Kalanchoe ‘Pumila’ 

Read More about Creating Beautiful, Bold Succulent Container Gardens by Clicking Here

Colorful pots can accent outdoor tables and dress up stairs, change with the seasons or to suit special occasions. Container gardens offer great opportunities to experiment with design, and yet they require minimal investment in terms of time and money. Don’t like a particular arrangement? Remove a plant or two and try something fresh! Little garden design experience? Begin with a few, inexpensive annuals and a simple pot. Fill your container with soil, keep the plants in their original pots, and try various arrangements before planting. Have a great, colorful container? Try enhancing the hue with annuals in an analogous or complementary color. As you grow more confident, reach across the color wheel for more unusual combinations and visually stunning results.

Bright Orange Flowers Against Green Foliage are Mother Nature’s Finest Example of the Power Complementary Color Relationships. Here, My Mustard-Glazed Pot Provides an Analogous Backdrop to this Simple but Bold Display. Calibrachoa ‘Callie Orange’ Tops the Terrace Dining Table in Late May

For more inspiration, design ideas, maintenance tips and planting ideas check out some of these great, container gardening books…

Container Gardening A Great Guide Book with Useful Information & Beautiful Photos from the Editors of Fine Gardening

Pots in the Garden Beautiful & Inspired Design Ideas from Ray Rogers (Timber Press Publishing)

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

Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links (including Amazon 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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Gathering Beauty Before the Storm …

August 27th, 2011 § 2

Riding the Storm Out: Fragile Pots & Plants Gathered Safely Inside {plants, clockwise from bottom left: Verbena canadensis with Stobilanthes dyerianus (Persian Shield), Asclepias curassavica ‘Silky Red’ (Butterfly Weed), Angelonia angustifolia ‘Angelface Blue’ with Lysmachia nummularia (Creeping Jenny) and repeat}

Sunlight & Calm Before the Storm {Asclepias curassavica ‘Silky Red’ and Verbena canadensis. Campo de’Fiori pots available at Verde Garden & Home and Walker Farm in VT and online at Terrain.}

Lovely Lavender Haze: Verbena speciosa ‘Sterling Star’ Beside the Door

With voluptuous hydrangea blossoms gathered by the armful, and fragile pots all collected safely inside, there’s little left to do but wait out the storm. It feels a bit eerie, looking out at the summertime terrace –dining table and chairs folded neatly away–  the empty expanse of grey stone, naked without its bright riot of floral color. But here inside –nestled in every nook and cranny– potted plants and freshly cut blossoms fill the house with beauty and fragrance. At the moment, I feel like a guest in an extravagant hotel conservatory, which gives me all sorts of delightfully outrageous ideas…

Freshly Cut Hydrangea from the Garden (H. paniculata ‘Limelight’)

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

Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links (including Amazon 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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Helianthus: Radiant Halo of Gold …

August 8th, 2011 § 2

Helianthus annuus ‘Double Quick Orange’ in the Kitchen

Sunflowers: welcome, radiant, golden beauty of the late summer garden! Is there anything quite so uplifting as a vase filled with their bright, nodding faces? I’m a big fan of annual sunflowers, and every year I grow a wide variety of Helianthus annuus in my potager; both for cutting and for simply enjoying while I work. Giant flowering types like ‘Double Quick Orange’ and long-stemmed cultivars like ‘Sonja’, ‘Sunrich Orange’ and ‘Autumn Beauty’ are some of my favorites for cutting. I also adore the darker sunflowers, such as ‘Moulin Rouge’, ‘Chocolate’, ‘Velvet Queen’, ‘Little Becka’. If you are short on space or gardening on a deck, terrace or balcony, dwarf varieties like ‘Sunny Smile’ and ‘Big Smile’ are great for even very small containers …

Helianthus annuus ‘Lemon Queen’ on the Dining Table

Provided full sun (8 hours a day is best) and good, compost-enriched soil, sunflowers are easy to grow, and a fun way to introduce children to gardening. When growing small numbers of sunflowers, some gardeners like to germinate seed indoors between damp paper towels. However starting sunflowers too early will often result in long, spindly, weak stems. I prefer to direct-sow sunflowers in my potager after the danger of frost has passed and the soil is thoroughly warmed (sunflowers require heat to germinate well). Wide spacing is important —particularly for large varieties like ‘Mammoth’— and providing a means of support —such as fence, wall or other structure— can help prevent toppling in high wind. When planted in May, I usually apply an organic fertilizer to my sunflowers —such as fish emulsion— mid-way through the gardening year.

Common sunflower pests include aphids, caterpillars and powdery mildew. Aphids can often be controlled with the blast of a hose or spot applications of insecticidal soap. It’s best to hand-pick caterpillars when possible, or target munched leaves with Btk (caution: Btk kills all caterpillars, including butterfly caterpillars, so use with discretion and in a targeted manner only). Powdery mildew can be treated with a homemade remedy (click here for previous post and scroll down for instructions on how to mix a home-made, anti-fungal treatment). Because fungal infections can be a problem for sunflowers, it’s a good idea to rotate their location in the garden each year. In addition to their stunning beauty as cut flowers, sunflowers also attract beneficial insects —such as bees and butterflies— to the potager. See a sunflower you like at the farmers market this year? Make a note of the variety and give it a try in the garden next year. I love growing a wide range of colors and sizes, planting early and late-maturing Helianthus annuus to span the entire growing year…

Helianthus annuus ‘Sunrich Orange’ Beside My Potager Seat

Helianthus annuus ‘Teddy Bear’ in the Cutting Garden

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

Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links (including Amazon 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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Reining in the Tumbling Floral Chaos: Mid-Summer Garden Maintenance …

July 29th, 2011 § 6

Summer’s Wild, Tumbling Jumble (Juniperus squamata ‘Holger’, Hydrangea quercifolia, Amsonia hubrichtii, Adenophora confusa, Rudbeckia hirta, Sedum, Hosta and Adiantum pedatum)

While out enjoying a morning stroll around the garden, taking in a blissfully cool and misty start to my day, a few flower stalks and juniper branches caught my attention by snapping at my ankles and tickling my knees. Ah, the tumbling jumble of summertime garden chaos! I do love a lush and laid-back garden, but every year at about this time, I embark upon a bit of disciplinary activity in my flower beds and shrub borders. After all, there’s a fine line between beauty and beast in the garden!

I begin my annual, mid-season grooming by pulling out a pair of hand-shears and bypass pruners —giving them a quick once-over with a whetstone and oiled rag— and heading out to the garden with my mobile beauty-salon (a basket filled with rags, oil, rubbing alcohol, natural twine and a few bamboo stakes). Like many seasoned hairstylists, after years of experience, most of the tasks I perform are so instinctive to me, that I fall into a state of gardening-zen while giving late July haircuts. But now that I’m doing more teaching and garden coaching, I’ve started to actually think more about the how and why of this horticultural beauty routine, in order to communicate the process to others…

Agastache, a bird, bee and butterfly favorite, always benefits from a mid-summer haircut. Shearing the spent flower heads from this plant now encourages a second wave of bloom later in the summer. Because this is an aromatic plant, it’s quite a pleasant job. But try to do this very early in the day, in order to avoid disrupting foraging bees.

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mixed’ is still in full bloom on the Wildflower Walk. As the flowers fade, I will leave most of the seed heads standing for finches and other small birds, as well to enhance the winter-garden. But if flower stalks fall into the path, tripping or whacking passers by, I will cut them for vases to keep the walkway clear.

The ever-narrowing Secret Garden stairs! Time for some haircuts! Heuchera and Adenophora self sow, and cutting them back early will prevent their spread. Spent blossoms spilling into the stairs are snipped off at the base. However, I happen to like the excess, so I allow those flower heads to the sides of the steps to multiply as nature intended. Prickly new juniper growth is cut all the way back to the main branch. Remember to clean pruners with rubbing alcohol between specimens

If you are relatively new to gardening, probably the most important thing to remember is that getting to know the plants you care for —their identities, growth habits and blooming routines— is key to making them look their best in your garden. Think like Edward Scissorhands for a moment and imagine vegetative growth as hair. Ironing curly hair straight may be fun once in awhile, but when it comes to day to day style, the best looks work with nature. What’s true for people is also true for plants. If you need help identifying the plants in your care, a good encyclopedia —like this one from the American Horticultural Society— is a great garden-library investment.

Once you are familiar with your plants, it’s much easier to decide how and when to spruce them up. Some plants need very little tending. In fact, many perennials are best left to do their own thing until they finish blooming, or until they are cut back to the ground in early spring. For example, after Hosta finish blooming, I remove the spent flower stalks to keep the plants looking tidy. However, I leave the seed heads of most Echinacea and Rudbeckia standing, in order to provide food for birds. Actaea simplex is left to do her own thing in the garden, while Asters are Chrysanthemums are pinched back until mid-July in order to encourage fuller, more floriferous plants (but never later, in order to avoid nip by early autumn frost). Nepeta, Veronica, Agastache and Geranium are sheared back after blooming to encourage a second wave of blossoms, while Aruncus dioicus and Valerian are cut back simply to make the plants look tidier. Many annual flowers, particularly those in window boxes and hanging baskets, also look best when given a mid-season haircut (and remember to keep fertilizing weekly for best bloom). Miss any opportunities this season? Remember to make a note of it in your garden journal for next year…

Veronica spicata –a pollinator favorite– is a long-blooming perennial. Because of its front-and-center location in this border (backing up Rudbeckia hirta and dancing with the slender blades of Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’) this plant is a very good candidate for mid-season maintenance. Shearing the top blooms off this cultivar, V. spicata ‘Sunny Border Blue’, will help keep the plant tidy, and encourage another full wave of bloom in a couple of weeks.

I try to leave flower heads standing as long as possible in the garden, even if they seem a bit faded. Flower nectar and pollen still provides sustenance to garden guests —like this bumble bee— even though blooms may be past their prime. Later, seeds of this Echinacea, and many other flowers, provide late season food for finches and other small birds.

When cut back after flowering, Geranium ‘Brookside’ will look tidier and often produce a second, if slightly less lush, wave of bloom in autumn.

Learning to work with plants and maintain an attractive garden is a life-long process for all gardeners. Most experienced green thumbs are happy to share their knowledge, and many local garden clubs, botanical gardens, greenhouses and nurseries offer free or low-cost workshops and seminars on garden maintenance. When working with perennial gardeners at all experience levels, I often recommend two excellent books for further study and reference. First, The Well-Tended Perennial Garden by Tracy DiSabato-Aust (pictured and linked below) is a classic how-to and when-to manual for every gardener’s bookshelf. And last year, while reviewing gardening titles for Barnes & Noble, I discovered Nancy Ondra’s The Perennial Care Manual (also pictured and linked below) which I now consider the definitive plant-by-plant guide (includes an encyclopedia with many of the more popular perennials) to perennial maintenance. The macro-photos in this book include pruning details, pest ID shots and clear pictorial guides to division, propagation and more. This book would make a great gift for new gardeners, mid-level perennial enthusiasts and experienced horticulturalists alike!

Garden looking a bit loose, shabby, blowzy? Pull out the shears and pruners, a tarp or wheelbarrow and channel your inner Edward Scissorhands! Have a quick question? Feel free to drop me a line in comments and I’ll pass along what I’ve learned. Have fun out there…

My top recommended how-to with great pictures: Nancy Ondra’s The Perennial Care Manual

A classic for every gardener’s bookshelf: Tracy DiSabato-Aust The Well-Tended Perennial Garden

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

Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links (including Amazon 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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Al Fresco Dining in the Garden: Fireworks Restaurant’s Lush New Courtyard & Bold Container Design …

June 25th, 2011 § 4

My Tiered Container Garden Design and Installation at Fireworks Restaurant in Brattleboro, Vermont

Wrapped up a busy work week in the pouring rain yesterday with finishing touches on my garden design and installation for Fireworks Restaurant in Brattleboro, Vermont. This lush, outdoor dining space will soon feature a stone water bowl created by a local artisan. But all good things take time. So, while waiting for completion of the handmade water feature, I placed a shallow bowl of brightly-colored annuals from local Walker Farm (bold orange Cherry Lantana & curly New Zealand Hair Sedge) atop the pedestal to hold its place.

Fireworks Restaurant is my favorite, local place to enjoy a delicious cocktail and relaxed dinner with friends, leisurely weekend brunch or romantic evening with my beau. So when über-talented chef/owner Matthew Blau asked me to design a courtyard garden for his wonderful eatery, I immediately began sketching as we spoke. Much to my dismay, my initial design idea for a corner fire bowl was nixed by local safety codes. However, I quickly decided that a water feature would be equally romantic and inviting in this lovely outdoor space. The project involved a second re-design when it was determined that the pre-existing flag stone patio had to be replaced with cedar decking. Last autumn, I drew up plans for a deep, tiered corner planter (constructed of cedar with an interior base liner) and narrow, matching boxes to screen the alley way and accent an existing mural. This spring, Matthew commissioned a local artisan to create a handmade, stone water bowl (currently being carved in his studio). Over the past couple of weeks —between numerous thundershowers— I set to work filling the planters with potting soil and a combination of boldly colored shrubs, sensual grasses and bright annuals. It’s been so much fun working on this project. If you find yourself in the tri-state region (VT/NH/VT), please stop in for fabulous dining in the new garden! As for me, well, I can hardly wait for a clear evening, to enjoy my first dinner at Fireworks Restaurant beneath the stars …

Just installed this week, the plantings will fill out and form a lush backdrop for the planned water bowl (Permanent plantings include Hydrangea vine {Hydrangea petiolaris}, Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Coppertinia’, Sambucus racemosa ‘Sutherland Gold’, Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’. Annual plantings include Cherry Lantana {Lantana camara}, New Zealand Hair Sedge {Carex camans ‘Frosted Curls’} and Orange/Red Butterfly Weed {Aesclepia curassavica ‘Silky Deep Red’} All annual and tender perennial plants are from Walker Farm.

Although the centerpiece of annuals will eventually be replaced by an artisan-made stone water bowl, the design would also work with a variety of focal points. At one point, we hoped for a fire bowl, but local fire codes ruled that out early on in my planning.

The double alley-side planter boxes were designed to screen the view and provide enclosure on the backside, and to both soften the fence and add style to the inside of the courtyard garden. Plantings in front planter include Dwarf Zebra Grass, Butterfly Weed.

I designed an extra planter for the backside of the fence, and filled it with three Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’. Eventually these shrubs will reach the top of the fence and screen the courtyard dining space from the back alley/parking space. With a bit of pruning, they will form a dense, dark, living wall; highlighting the boldly striped grasses and annuals on the interior side.

Original Design Sketch for Alleyway (Modified to Slightly Longer Planter Box)

Soon, the central, tiered-corner planter will feature a handmade stone water bowl, created by a local artisan

The original design sketch for an interior planter (now raised and modified to suit cedar decking)

Details & Notes…

All annual and tender perennial plants are from Walker Farm in Dummerston, Vermont

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

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

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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.

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A Visual Feast: Beautiful, Edible Flowers

May 23rd, 2011 § 1

Pansies (Viola × wittrockiana) are lovely atop cakes, in salads and especially when floating in cocktails…

Or Cocktails, Like this Sunset Mangotini (click here for recipe)

(Viola × wittrockiana ‘Matrix Purple’)

Candied rose petals, lavender ice cream, hibiscus tea, chocolate cupcakes laced with violets; some flowers are more than a visual feast, they’re actually good enough to eat. It’s fun to decorate food with colorful blossoms, and it always feels a bit naughty too —eating something so pretty— when I pull the tiny flowers off a slice of cake and gobble them down. “Don’t eat the daisies“, they say… But that’s part of the fun, now isn’t it?

I grow flowers in my potager for a wide variety of reasons —to support pollinators, provide fresh bouquets for the table, and add beauty to the vegetable patch— but one of the best reasons to grow flowers in the kitchen garden, is to eat them! I enjoy spicy nasturtium and chive blossoms in salads, scarlet runner bean and rosemary flowers in soup, and many other blooming beauties as both ingredient and garnish to dishes from spring to fall…

Bright Orange Calendula Brightens this Garlic Scape Pesto (click here for recipe)

Nasturtiums Add Bold Color and Spicy Flavor to Salads

Fresh From the Potager: Nasturtium, Lettuce and Radishes Make a Colorful Salad with Zing

Never tried eating a flower? Think again. Broccoli and cauliflower are two of the most popular edible buds! Some other, commonly consumed edible flowers include nasturtium, dandelion, violets and pansies, geranium (Pelargonium spp), daylily, squash blossoms, calendula, chamomile, lavender, chive, mint, sage blossoms and of course rose petals. But many other flowers can be grown and used in a wide variety of dishes. Try citrusy bee balm (Monarda didyma), fruity red bud (Cercis canadensis) and apple blossoms, spicy anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), fresh red clover and scarlet runner beans.

Thinking of adding a row of potager posies to your backyard garden? If you’ve never grown edible flowers before, I’d recommend stopping at an organic nursery or farm stand in your area to shop for plants. Do a bit of research before you collect your six packs and ask a knowledgable staff member at your local garden center for a bit of guidance. Two of my favorite edible flower gardening resources in print —by Cathy Wilkinson Barash and Rosalind Creasy— are listed below. Both books contain great cultural and culinary information; including recipes and tips for storage!

Edible Flowers: Desserts & Drinks by Cathy Wilkinson Barash

The Edible Flower Garden by Rosalind Creasy

And although it should be common sense, I must emphasize that not all blossoms and buds should be consumed. In fact, some flowers —and many berries, leaves, roots and sometimes entire plants— are quite toxic. So, never eat a flower or any plant unless you can positively identify —with 100% certainty— that it’s safe for human consumption. If you have very small children frequenting your garden, or as members of your family or household, never grow anything toxic in your potager. In fact, I recommend  that all gardening adults keep a copy of the Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants in an easy to locate place. If you are growing your own food, it’s always a good idea to become familiar with both edible and inedible plants, and it’s never wise to grow anything poisonous around small children.

The Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants

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Maintaining Defined Beds & Borders: English-Style Edging is the Secret to Elegantly Dividing Lawn and Garden

May 18th, 2011 § 4

English_Style_Edging_ in-Cottage_Garden-michaela-medina-harlow-thegardenerseden.com One of my client’s gardens: simple and classic cottage design in springtime with  a crisply edged border and dark, shredded bark mulch

Later in the season: perennials, herbs and annuals spill casually over the edged border. This garden’s edge holds even with no summer maintenance.

I snapped the top photograph above while working at my long-time gardening client’s weekend home here in Vermont, in late May, just after edging. Every spring I design a new combination of annuals to play in concert with the perennials in this country-casual mixed border. By July, the garden is a riot of orange and deep violet —color plays chosen to please my friend’s preference for a bold, exuberant palette— with sunflowers, verbena, dahlia and cleome exploding like fireworks everywhere. So what keeps a border like this looking neat and tidy all season long? The secret is in the English edge, and a thick layer of weed-supressing mulch…

Tightly planted perennials and pockets filled with annuals leave little room for weeds. Meanwhile the English edge keeps a clean line between turf and border all season long.

A classic English-style edge is a simple and clean-looking way to define the line between lawn and garden. Although the look is quite precise, English style edging is appropriate in most any garden setting; from formal to country casual. Inexpensive to create and blissfully easy to maintain, I just love the way a sharp edged line brings the bold shapes, colors and textures of a mixed garden border into focus. When designing new gardens in landscapes with sweeping lawns, I often opt for the English edge to maintain distinct, weed-free boundaries between grassy pathways and perennial borders. Crisply cut edges help to keep a garden looking great all season long.

Penstemon-digitalis-Huskers-Red-Heuchera-Veronica-Coreopsis-Photo-Copyright-michaela-medina-thegardenersedenUsing an edging tool to follow curves really brings out the beauty in my client’s one-year-old garden

Notice how the English edge defines the lefthand curve of the pathway, yet blends with the planted borders. This photo was taken in early autumn, yet the edging on the left held throughout the year with no maintenance.

Large landscaping companies often use mechanical edgers to create deep, sharp-lined trenches between a lawn and garden and then dress these trenches with mulch. Mechanical tools work very well on big projects, but they are quite expensive and consume unnecessary fossil fuels. For home landscapes, I have always used a manual half-moon edger edger and my own elbow grease to create and maintain perennial borders in the English style. It’s great exercise!

Here’s a photo of a new gardener’s perennial border —which I helped one of my coaching clients to create— cut with a half moon edger.

The line of the garden is measured and, if new, marked out with chalk dust or string. A straight line is then cut (with the half-moon edger or a straight blade spade) through the sod to a depth of about 6 inches. When working a new bed, the sod is then removed from inside the cut line, and compost/loam is added to the planting bed. In a renovation of an older bed, re-establish the line by digging a new trench to a depth of 6 inches. I rock the tool back and forth a bit to create a “v” shape. New mulch is mounded up from the center of the “v” and into the garden bed to create a weed barrier.

Here’s a close up of the “v” shaped trench and the mounded compost/loam with new perennial plants. This photo was taken before mulching, so you can see both the line and the trench. Nice work on this gardener’s first effort!

Although some gardeners like to fill the trench with aluminum or plastic strip to hold border edges, this isn’t really necessary. With with yearly maintenance and mulch, the earthen edge will hold back weeds on its own.  In my own garden I prefer to keep the earthen trench filled with mulch, and maintain it twice a year with touch ups from the half-moon edger. The first round of edging happens along my lawn/garden borders every spring during April clean-up, just before seasonal mulch (I use well rotted compost mulch mixed with just a bit of dark, natural bark). The second round of edging usually happens in early to mid July, when perennials borders begin to look a bit blowzy and need a bit of deadheading and primping. But twice yearly maintenance isn’t always necessary. In the cottage garden atop the article and the minimalist garden pictured above and below, a crisp edge is cut and mulched along the borders once a year in early spring. In landscapes with lawn and perennial borders, I’m  very fond of English-style edging. This clean but natural look works well with many different garden styles and it’s both inexpensive and easy to maintain.

Here’s the garden two years later. You can see how the English-style edge blends in naturally with the overall landscape in this contemporary garden; creating a clean, minimalist line.

Article and photographs are copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site (with noted exceptions) is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent.

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Fresh Starts & Colorful Patterns at Walker Farm in Dummerston,Vermont…

March 24th, 2011 § 2

Like Farm Fields Viewed from Above, Flats of New Seedlings at Walker Farm Create Brilliant Geometric Abstractions

Yesterday, I spent a few happy midday hours and an exciting lunchtime meeting with my friends Karen, Jack and Daisy at Walker Farm in Dummerston, Vermont. The 241-year-old farm has long been a popular and beloved local resource for organically grown produce and vegetable starts. But in its more recent history —having been featured by Anne Raver in The New York Times and other well-known publications—  family-owned Walker Farm has become well-known amongst horticultural connoisseurs throughout New England and New York as an insider’s source for high-quality, rare and unusual annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs.

Inside nineteen greenhouses along the Connecticut River, each year Walker Farm grows more than 1,200 varieties of annual and perennial plants from seed. Walker Farm will be open on April 8th*, and at this time of year, the farm is literally buzzing with activity; with seed starting and vegetative propagation of plants in full swing. I’ll be writing much more about Walker Farm in the coming weeks, but for today here is a sneak peek at some of the young annual and perennial seedings and colorful succulent starts growing at the farm. As my eye took in the abstract, geometric shapes, patterns and delightfully saturated colors, I couldn’t help but compare the greenhouse landscape to that of agricultural fields, viewed from above.

With much of the outside world still covered in snow, I found the fresh rush of color particularly uplifting…

Just Imagine These Beautiful Colors, Trailing from Baskets and Balconies…

Endless Spring Planting Combinations and Container Design Possibilites Spring to Mind When Gazing Upon the Gorgeous Succulent and Begonia Starts at Walker Farm

A Bird’s Eye View of the Landscape Inside the One of the Many Greenhouses at Walker Farm

* Walker Farm‘s early opening date is for sale of cold-hardy pansies, seeds and garden supplies. The sale of annual vegetable & flower starts and perennials will begin as local weather permits. Please see the farm’s website here for details, plant lists, directions and other helpful information including a free, seed germination guide.

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Article and photographs are copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent.

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Butterflies on My Mind: Top Three Summer Blooming Plants for Attracting Fluttering Beauties to Your Garden…

March 11th, 2011 § 2

Asclepias tubersosa (Butterflyweed) and Asclepias syriaca (Milkweed) are important sources of nectar for bees and butterflies. The leaves of Asclepias are also a source of food for monarch and other butterfly caterpillars.

With my seminar, “Gardening to Attract Birds, Bees and Butterflies” coming up on Monday night —and last week’s visit to Magic Wings Butterfly Conservancy still in my thoughts— you might say I have a fluttering of winged-creatures on my mind. Of course I’m always thinking of how to support honeybees in the garden (follow the Honeybee Conservancy blog here) and what’s good for the bees is often good for the birds and the butterflies. But when it comes to attracting monarchs, swallowtails, painted ladies and other kaleidoscopic, winged-beauties to your garden, there are three key “butterfly magnets” to consider in your planting plan. Butterflies enjoy many cluster-flowered plants, but Asclepias (Milkweed), Verbena —particularly Verbena bonariensis— and Buddleja species (Butterfly bush) are simply irresistible to them. Plant any one of these beauties in your garden and you will always get a landing and never just a fly-by. And as an added bonus, they are among the favorites of bees and hummingbirds as well…

Verbena bonariensis is a tropical plant grown as an annual or semi-annual (sometimes self-sowing) in cold climates. It’s popular with butterflies and bees alike.

Asclepias, more commonly known as milkweed, is a wonderful group of plants; including many natives. Last year I featured the gorgeous Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed) in a post on mid-summer color (click here to read more about this North American native plant). I love bold color combinations in sunny, summertime perennial borders. Why not combine the sweet orange of butterfly weed with drifts of ethereal, lavender-hued Verbena bonariensis? Commonly known as purpletop vervain or tall verbena, Verbena bonariensis is a tropical plant native to Central and South America. In cold climates, Verbena bonariensis is usually grown as an annual or semi-annual plant (blooms the first year from seed and it will sometimes successfully self-sow), and in warmer climates it is grown as a tender perennial (hardy USDA zones 7-11). This is a tall, airy, elegant plant (approx 3-4.5′ tall and wide) with strong, slender stems (I like to grow plenty both in my perennial borders and in the potager for cutting). Purpletop vervain looks best when planted en masse for a hazy, purple cloud-like effect, and it prefers well-drained soil and plenty of moisture (will tolerate hot and dry, midsummer conditions once established).

Buddleja davidii (Orange-eye Butterfly Bush) lives up to its name. It is a favorite of butterflies, hummingbirds and bees.

Butterfly bush, or Buddleja (B. davidii pictured above) is perhaps the most popular plant for butterfly and hummingbird enthusiasts. Native to Chile and China, these flowering shrubs are long-standing, easy-to-grow garden favorites. Butterfly bush species are tolerant of poor, alkaline soil, polluted, urban situations and stress, making them a good choice in some areas. However, gardeners should be aware that one Buddleja species, Buddleja davidii, is listed as a “noxious weed” in certain areas of the United States (Oregon and Washington specifically list B. davidii as a noxious-weed, and it is possibly invasive in southwestern, coastal Canada) because of its free-seeding ways (it’s best to check with the USDA state noxious weed list online —linked here— or your local USDA Extension Service —linked here— before planting Buddleja davidii; particularly along the west coast and possibly in warmer states on the eastern seaboard)*. If you live in Oregon or Washington, or in another area where Buddleja davidii is considered invasive, consider a non-aggressive butterfly bush species, such as Buddleja globosa (USDA zone 7-11, orange ball tree/ball butterfly bush), or in cooler climates, consider planting native Clethra alnifolia (see my previous post & article on this shrub here). Buddleja davidii (synon. Buddleia davidii) is hardy in zones 5-9, and in cold climates (where it is far less likely to freely colonize and become weedy) B. davidii is treated as a perennial plant; cut back to the ground in late fall or early spring. New growth will emerge in spring and flowers will form on fast-growing young wood in the first year. Fountain butterflybush, Buddleja alternifolia, and Buddleja globosa (and other Buddleja species) produce blossoms on old wood, and should be pruned for shape in late spring or early summer after they have flowered. Buddleja alternifolia is considered to be a somewhat hardier species than Buddleia davidii. I have observed B. alternifolia growing in zone 4.

I will be writing more about how to attract butterflies, bees and birds to gardens in the coming months. But, if you are planning your garden now, you may want to add a couple of these sure-fire butterfly magnets to your shopping list!

*Buddleja davidii is not currently on the USDA federal invasive plant list. However, it is currently considered a “noxious weed” in Oregon and Washington (check state noxious weed/invasive plant lists here) Many plants considered “weedy” or “invasive” in one area are non-threatening in other areas. It is the responsibility of the individual gardener to know and respect the laws and environmental guidelines within their respective states and communities.

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Article and photographs are copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent.

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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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Shelter Me: Keeping the Kitchen Garden Warm and Productive as Temps Drop…

October 11th, 2010 § 3

Basil and Calendula cozy up beneath a misty dome in my garden…

The first frost of autumn sparkled on my lawn when I awoke Saturday morning. And although it wasn’t a true ‘killing-frost’ —the morning glories slipped right through Jack’s chilly hands— a few things were nipped here and there in my potager. Most of my tender crops are now covered with hoop-house cold-frames —mainly tomatoes, peppers, basil and other herbs— and later, the cool-season crops like spinach and lettuce will be covered as well…

Tomatoes, ripening inside the hoop-house cold-frame in October, are safe from Old Jack Frost

Beneath greenhouse-grade plastic, purple and green basil, tomatoes and other herbs are protected from chilly nights, and given a ripening-boost during the day

I will be enjoying these ‘Lemon Boy’ tomatoes soon —not fried and not green (though that IS an excellent way to use them up!)

Last year I posted a tutorial on building hoop-house style cold frames, and if you have a free afternoon and some basic carpentry tools, I encourage you to give them a try (click to here to see tutorial post). I now have four hoop-houses in use, and although these miniature-greenhouses are unheated, they actually get quite toasty inside during the day, and the temperatures stay well-above freezing overnight. To keep things from getting too hot, the temperature inside each of my hoop-houses is moderated with a easy-to-install, automatic back-vent. Of course later in the autumn, unless I provide supplemental heat, these tomatoes will eventually succumb to overnight cold. But other crops —including lettuce, spinach, arugula, kale, chard and broccoli— can make it straight through the Winter Solstice in an unheated hoop-house (and even beyond in some years)!

There are many other ways to extend the vegetable growing season in cold climates, and I will continue posting ideas on how to stretch that post-frost ‘Indian Summer’ for as long as possible. Also, keep in mind that even if you don’t fancy the idea of a building project yourself, you can easily purchase cold frames, kits and other garden shelters from companies like Gardener’s Supply Company online.

Have you had a killin’ frost in your area? Do you try to keep things going past the freeze?

Sungold and bright red cherry tomatoes will continue to ripen beneath the plastic, well past the hard-frost

A hoop-house protects tender vegetables in my fall vegetable garden, while cold-weather crops remain uncovered.

Still Glorious – ‘Heavenly Blue’ Morning Glories in the Potager, October 11th

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Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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Musical Arrangements for the Vase… Autumn Rhythm and Lavender Mist

September 10th, 2010 § 3

Autumn Rhythm…

And Lavender Mist…

Harmonious late-summer floral arrangements in lavender and gold strike a rich and resonant chord on a grey September afternoon. Gathered from the woodland edges and surrounding meadow, gypsy wildflowers and late garden bloomers fill the house with vibrant color. Whether grouped together in a classic orchestra, jazzy duet, or soulful, solo performance, improvisational floral arrangements are music for the soul…

Solidago Solo…

Chords and Composition…

Texture and Feeling…

Gathering the Session Players, from Garden and Field…

Hitting the Right Notes and Improvising an Artful Composition…

Late Summer Arrangements for the Studio Vase, in a Slow and Soulful Mood…

** Click here to listen to Duke Ellington’s ‘Lady of the Lavender Mist’ via Myspace Music iLike (It’s a free sample – but wait for the loading delay. No need to click the ‘buy’ button)**

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Liner Notes and Album Credits…

Floral Players, from the top: Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mixed’, Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diabolo’, Viburnum setigerum, and wild Polygonum pensylvanicum (smart weed). Second photo: Playing ‘Lavender Mist’ – Verbena bonariensis, solo in a vase/pitcher by Aletha Soule. Third photo: Solidago in a solo act. Fourth photo: Rudbeckia hirta, with a Martin steel-string guitar. Fifth photo: Verbena bonariensis for an encore. Sixth photo: Audition shot with players from the garden and field, Rudbeckia hirta, Physocarpus opulifolius, Viburnum setigerum and wild Polygonum pensylvanicum (smart weed). Seventh photo: My old clarinet and Solidago in a sweet duet. Eighth photo: The players, together in a studio session. And last photo, the Lady of the Lavender Mist: Verbena bonariensis and a little link-love…

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Article and photographs ⓒ 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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Closing the Circle: Save Your Seeds! Special Guest Post by John Miller ….. Plus Seed Saving Books & Resources

September 6th, 2010 § 2

It may only be September, but guest-blogger John Miller of the Old Schoolhouse Plantery is already thinking about next spring…

Come January, the main horticultural activity for many gardeners —myself included— is thumbing through the newly arrived seed catalogues; dreaming of warm summer days and freshly-picked produce from the garden. A trip to the supermarket in January —where almost all that is on view in the produce section is vegetables and fruits shipped from far around the globe— leaves me pining for those wonderful varieties selected for their bouquet, taste and texture, rather than varieties that will withstand —on average— a 1,200 mile trip to the display shelf. Many of the finer varieties of produce —grown primarily for epicurean qualities— are difficult to find, or completely unobtainable commercially. The supply of rare fruits and vegetables continues to be maintained by seed-saving enthusiasts, who distribute their treasures at swaps or passionately give them away.

Heirloom ‘Red’ Cucumber (brought to the US with the diaspora of the Hmong people from Laos. It proved to be very popular at the Farmers Market. Note to self  is so that I would not inadvertently pick it!)

With this in mind, I always save seed from some of the vegetables I grow. Most of my collected seeds will be for personal use. Why pay a seed company 65 cents a seed for a tomato seed —yes, I did pay that price for a rare tomato seed this year— when I can save 100s for myself with just a few minutels work, and the excess I can perhaps swap with someone who has another rare variety which I would like to grow? There is also the huge satisfaction —with no fiduciary benefit— of completing the circle from seed to harvest and back to seed again. If providing an entire meal at this time of year with vegetables grown less than 100 feet from my back door, then how much more local —my passion for 30 years— it is to use vegetables where the seed never came from more than 100 feet away! My definition of an ideal summer is to make ratatouille with completely home grown vegetables, adding only Cabot cheese and olive oil from afar.

The 60 cent seed tomato: Chinese Heirloom Qiyanai Huang, and below, its seeds…

In western society, there exists almost a mystique about promulgating life; whether it be human, other animal or plant. With plants, the work is almost unquestioningly left to ‘experts’, even though the processes are natural and have gone on since time immemorial. I would be the first to admit that experts do indeed serve purpose: I use F1 hybrids to suit (see my previous post on semi-leafless peas) and I know I am alive thanks to the National Health Service in the UK. But when it comes to indulging in the incredible diversity of vegetables available, backyard seed-savers also deserve due recognition. When I look at my slowly ripening ‘Evergreen’ tomatoes —with all the splits and cat-facing— I know I will never see them on shelves of even the most taste-discriminating store. But what flavor I would miss if I didn’t grow them just for myself and save some seed, just in case they become unavailable.

Saving the seed from any heirloom vegetable is easy. If you have a favorite variety, or even just want to try seed saving for the fun of it, take a few minutes to learn about the process and give it a go. You may even want to take the procedure a step further and develop a totally new variety!

Heirloom Radish ‘Il Candela di Fuoco’. Above photo showing immature pod, mature pod and a split pod with seed.

Article and noted photos by John Miller 

Thank you John, for your contributions to The Gardener’s Eden! In addition to operating The Old School House Plantery, the Millers also grow and sell gourmet produce, including many heirloom vegetables. The Miller’s produce may be found in Vermont at The Brattleboro Farmers Market.

Save Your Seeds, Part Two – Useful Notes & Resources from The Gardener’s Eden

Many of us learn about the basic principles of seed saving in grade school. Kids are usually taught how to collect seed by drying and picking apart enormous sunflowers, shiny cobs of corn, or by threshing pods filled with colorful beans. These are all wonderful, hands-on projects for children, which teach practical, sustainable, real-world lessons. But as adults with busy lives, we often lose touch with many of the simple processes of nature. There’s nothing complicated about saving seed, but if you’ve never tried it —or if it’s been two or more decades since your last experiments— you may want to read up on the subject, or refresh your memory a bit before starting. Many seeds can be saved by simply drying, threshing, separating and storing them in a sealed jar in a freezer or refrigerator, or in a dry, cool and dark place in envelopes, bags or jars. Some easy seeds to begin with include all of those mentioned above, plus squash, pumpkin, melon, pepper and peas. Other seeds, such as tomato and cucumber, are most successfully saved using a wet-method (seeds are scraped with a spoon into loosely covered jars, where they are stirred for a few days – then rinsed of pulp, strained and dried for several more days on paper towels).

Dried Peas and Beans

Curious to learn more about the process of saving seed? There are some excellent resources for gardeners both in print and online. Two of my favorite books on the subject, Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners, by Suzanne Ashworth & Kent Whealy and The New Seed Starter’s Handbook by Nancy Bubel (both pictured and linked below) cover the basics for those just starting to learn about seed collecting. Great online resources include the fantastic Seed Savers Exchange, which in addition to providing information about how and when to collect and save seed, also publishes wonderful blog-articles like this one on planning your garden for seed saving (click here). The Seed Saver’s Exchange is a non-profit which began in 1975, collecting and selling an enormous variety of heirloom seed through their wonderful catalogue (which you can download from the site). Another good resource is the non-profit Organic Seed Alliance, which has an abundance of free and useful information, including downloadable seed-saving publications and instructions, available online. I also enjoy the useful and free International Seed Saving Institute, which has a handy, detailed list of how to save seeds organized by plant. A very useful chart for seed saving is available online, free of charge, from Fedco Seeds here.

Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable GardenersBy Suzanne Ashworth & Kent Whealy

The New Seed Starter’s HandbookBy Nancy Bubel

Seed Saving Notes & Resources and photos as noted are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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What Lies Beneath: Floating Flowers Submerged in Watery Glass Bubbles…

August 26th, 2010 § 1

A Bouquet of Floating Asters Submerged in a Glass Water Bowl

Sparkling August light sent me on a late afternoon trip to the potager, and suddenly my arms are overflowing with voluptuous, late summer blooms. The cutting garden is bursting with dahlias, salpiglossis, dianthus, bachelor buttons, and asters, asters, asters – everywhere! This week’s steady rain showers sent a number of  oversized blossoms crashing to the ground. A great way to use those shortened stems? Why not submerge them in glass bowls to create a dreamy water-bubble effect…

Glass and Water Reflect the Rich Hues of Late Summer

To get this look, I placed clear glass pebbles at the base of a globe vase, filled the bowl 3/4 full with water, then arranged the stems by forcing them deep within the hill of glass at the bottom of the vessel. No glass chips on hand? This look can also be achieved with a base of marbles (clear or colored) or river stones. Experiment with all kinds of cut flowers, foliage and fruit; from the beautifully bold to the delicate and small. Try this style of arrangement with round, square or cylindrical glass vessels. An obvious choice for celebration table settings, these floating flower bubbles can also add a dreamy water-nymph’s touch to an everyday bedside table or desk…


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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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Preserving the Harvest: Fresh-Frozen Herbs in Oil, Butter, Broth or Water…

August 26th, 2010 § 51

Frozen Herb Cubes with Olive Oil: Photographs Copyright Michaela Medina – thegardenerseden.com

At six o’clock this morning, I was rather annoyed to be awakened by a gang of squawking bluejays. But when I rose, I discovered a beautiful rainbow on the western horizon. Suddenly, I found myself feeling more than grateful for the wake-up call from the noisy, blue boys in my ‘hood. The rain has ended for now, and the morning sun is warm on the terrace, where I have set up my office for the day. But before I start work on plant lists for a garden design I’m working on, I have a neat garden project to share with you. Inclement weather kept me indoors early this week, providing me with a bit of free time and the opportunity to freeze fresh herb-cubes for winter. This project is simple and fun; easy as making fruit-pops and a great way to teach children about preserving food from the garden. If you also make a few juice pops at the same time —to reward the little helping hands— so much the better!

Fresh Herbs from the Garden

Begin by gathering empty ice cube trays (or egg cups or small freezer molds), zip-lock or other storage bags, and bundles of fresh herbs from the garden. Bring the herbs inside, and as you wash, dry and pick through the leaves, think about how you might like to use them over the coming months. Do you make lots of soup in winter? Set aside a few bundles of your favorite soup herbs. These can be frozen in cubes of room-temperature water, vegetable broth or chicken/beef bouillon. Do you like to fry or roast with herbs? Bundles of your favorite cooking herbs can be preserved by freezing them in vegetable oil (I like to use light olive oil for high-temp pan frying). If you like to use herb butters or herb-infused oils for bread dipping, you can freeze them in butter (softened or melted over very low heat and cooled a bit) or in extra virgin olive oil, to pull out of the freezer later and enjoy at room temperature all winter long.

Separating Fresh Herb Leaves for Simple Frozen Oil Cubes

Tear or chop the herbs into small pieces or individual leaves, depending upon how you plan to use them at a later date. Next, load ice cube trays, egg cups or other freezer molds with the clipped herbs. You can separate individual herbs into molds or you can mix them in combinations you frequently use together. I make both individual herb cubes and various combinations. I started with olive-oil cubes for pan-frying this time. Once my compartments were filled with herbs, I began filling the cubes with oil, topping each herb mold with one or two tablespoons of light (frying) olive oil. Then I made herb cups with melted butter and extra virgin olive oil. Finally I put away large quantities of herbs preserved in vegetable broth (you can use any kind of broth) and water (for herb tea and soup).

Simple Cubes of  Olive Oil with Fresh Basil and Olive Oil with Fresh Rosemary – Ready to Stick in the Freezer

Once the molds are filled, freeze them overnight. You may wish to make a note of the herb content and oil/water measurement in each tray. Once frozen, it can be tricky to identify the herbs. I do freeze in batches and make notes to avoid confusion later. Once removed from the freezer, pop the cubes from the trays and slip them into labeled plastic bags. I write the name(s) of the herbs, the fluid measurement, and the date on my bags. Then, I store them flat in the freezer (they should remain in separate units, unless they melt – so work quickly!). Now, you can enjoy fresh herbs in your cooking all winter long, at a fraction of the market cost!

After Freezing for 24 Hours – Remove the Cubes from the Trays and Separate into Labeled Ziplock Bags. Store Flat in the Freezer.

There are many ways to preserve and store your garden produce. This particular method of freezing herbs has been around for a long time —my mother and grandmother used to preserve them in this way— and it works very well. If you are interested in learning more about how to preserve your garden produce, I highly recommend the two books pictured and linked below, which I reviewed for Barnes & Noble’s Garden Variety Blog in June (click here to read the post on B&N, where you can also purchase either book). Both titles contain new & old ideas —freezing, drying, root-cellaring and more— for preserving the harvest.

Buy How to Store Your Garden Produce from Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble

Buy Putting Food By at Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble

An Early Morning Visit to the Potager – Gathering Herbs and Edible Flowers for Lunch

Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela Medina – The Gardener’s Eden

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CONTACT INFORMATION IS AT LEFT. THANK YOU! MICHAELA.

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