Sunday Musings on Art & Garden Design

October 20th, 2013 § 2

Golden October Halesia Leaves - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.comGolden Silverbell Leaves (Halesia tetraptera) on the Sunlit Terrace

It’s Sunday, and after a several weeks of intense fall planting —and many more to go— I decided to give my hard-working muscles a day off. I spent a quiet morning and luxurious, early afternoon sipping coffee, enjoying a home-cooked breakfast and musing on the relationship between art and garden design. I’ve been thinking about this subject a great deal lately, because as both garden designer and professional artist, I often find myself struggling to find balance and separation between the two worlds.

Rudbeckia fulgida, Amsonia illustris, Physocarpus opulifolius and Other Autumn Favorites in the Entry Garden - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Texture and Color Play are Great Ways to Extend Season-Spanning Interest in Perennial Gardens. As a Painter, I Love how the Chocolatey Pom-Pom Remnants of Rudbeckia fulgida, Echo the Dark Mystery of Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’, and how the Feathery, Citrus-Hued Foliage of Amsonia illustris Brings out the Purplish Cast in Both Plants

Those of you who know me personally, and some long-time followers of this journal, are aware that in addition to my work in landscape and garden design, I am a painter. During the growing season —late April through mid November here in New England— I spend the vast majority of my days designing and planting gardens. Come winter, I switch aprons and move back into my art studio full time. I have been exhibiting and selling my drawings and paintings for near twenty years, but it has taken me awhile to feel comfortable linking the two careers online. These creative passions are constantly informing one another, of course, and suddenly, I feel an irrepressible urge to unite and present them as one.

Blackhaw Viburnum and King Cycas in the Turquoise Pot - October - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Blackhaw (Viburnum prunifolium) Leaves Catch the Morning Light at the Edge of the Steel Balcony. A Potted King Sago (Cycas revoluta), Basks in a Turquoise Pot, Just Beyond

Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight' and Halesia tetraptera in October Sunlight - Michaela Medina Harlow - thegardenerseden.com  Along the Studio Walk, Hydrangea paniculata, Acer palmatum and Halesia tetraptera Share a Moment of Brilliant October Sunlight

Viburnum trilobum, Miscanthus sinensis and Lindera benzoin in the Front Entrance Garden - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Fall Colors and Textures in the Studio Entry Garden: Miscanthus sinensis, Viburnum trilobum, Lindera benzoin, Rudbeckia hirta Remnants and a Carpet-Edge of Sedum ‘Angelina’

Over the coming weeks, you will begin to see a blending and merging of my professional worlds. Not surprisingly, my paintings —like my photographs— are inspired by the landscape, natural elements and botanical world. A lifetime spent studying, sketching, drawing and painting the lines, shapes, textures and colors of the landscape has directly influenced the way in which I design and select individual plants for gardens. I’ll be creating a separate page for my artwork on the left sidebar —with links to my other website— to connect these two parts of myself.  And in addition to regular inclusion of my photography (which is a very new form of artistic expression for me), I’ll be sharing more landscape sketches and drawings, as well as studio paintings, here. I hope you will enjoy the addition of more artwork to this site.

Eupatorium rugosum 'Chocolate' with Euphorbia polychroma and Rudbeckia hirta - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’, Eupatorium rugosum ‘Chocolate’, Euphorbia polychroma and Rudbeckia hirta in the Front Entry Garden

Garden photos above were all taken with iPhone 4.

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

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

June 7th, 2013 § 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Garden Design: Michaela Medina Harlow

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

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Crystal-Coated & Sugar Plum Kissed . . . . Late Night Garden Party with Jack Frost

November 29th, 2012 Comments Off

The Entry Walk and Ledges, Sparkling in Sunlight After Jack Frost’s Midnight Ball

I love surprises. A life lived predictably seems terribly boring to me and a garden kept under tight control leaves little room for romance. For months now, I’ve been encouraging readers to leave seed pods and other garden remnants standing over winter for the sake of wildlife. But I have an ulterior motive of course . . . Beauty! Whenever I design a garden, I like to keep the work of the great artist, Mother Nature in mind.

Mountain Laurel and Maiden Grass, A Sparkling Duo on the Rocks (Kalmia latifolia & Miscanthus sinensis)

November is often a spectacular month for hoar frost, and this year has been exceptional so far. Why bother cutting back the garden and then decorating for the holidays, when Mother Nature and her seasonal assistants are more than happy to do the work for you? Have I been late to meet you this week? Well now you know why! I just can’t help but stop and admire the work of Mother Nature’s coolest apprentice, Jack Frost! At this time of year, Jack’s handiwork is simply a masterpiece in the early morning light. Care to sneak a peek at his beautiful surprise?

Beautiful Throughout the Garden Year, Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’ adds a Spectacular bit of Neon to the Ground in November. Isn’t She Just the Definition of Fire & Ice?

Sugar Plum Kisses: Jack’s Lips Leave their Mark on Violet Leaves and Citrus Blades (Heuchera & Carex)

With Many Shrubs Already Stripped Bare by Hungry Birds and Rodents, the Frost-Coated Red Berries of This Cotoneaster Really Catch the Eye (C. horizontalis var. perpusillus)

The Gift of Beautiful Surprise: Why I Encourage Über-Tidy Gardeners to Leave Seedpods Standing! (Agastache & Rudbeckia)

Creeping Blue Rug Juniper and Fallen Oak Leaves Sparkle in Icy Blue and Rust (Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’)

Spiked Remnants of Black-Eyed Susan and Fluffy Goldenrod Capture the Crystalline Spirit of Wintry Festivities (Rudbeckia hirta and Solidago)

Lupine Leaf: Green Star in a Sea of Sparkling Crystals 

Delicate, Sparkling Lace: Heath, Heather & Juniper on the Rocks (Erica carnea, Calluna vulgaris, Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’ and Juniperus x pfitzeriana ‘Sea Green’)

Native Labrador Violets with a Shimmering, Sugary Coat of Ice (Viola labradorica)

A Prelude to Winter: Siberian Cypress (Microbiota decussata), Canadian Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) and Juniper (J.x pfitzeriana ‘Sea Green) 

Garden Design: 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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Late November’s Smoldering Hues: Radiant Rust, Shimmering Copper, Burnished Bronze & Winter Blonde

November 28th, 2012 § 2

Tea Viburnum (V. setigerum) Berries, Dangling Against a Backdrop of Honey-Hued Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis)

It’s late November, and the garden is growing quieter now. Gone are the high chrome colors of October, but the show is far from over. Late night visits from Jack Frost and the Sugar Plum Fairy are just beginning; coating the skeletal remains of summer in a fresh coat of crystal and lace. Copper, bronze, gold, silver and rust hues dance in the late afternoon light. And by early morning, paper-thin petals, ruby berries and feathery boas shimmer as the day breaks. It’s a glorious time of the year . . .

Even More Spectacular with a Coat of Ice Crystals, Allegheny Spurge (Pachysandra procumbens) Glows in Autumnal Shades of Marbled Copper  on the Garden Floor (Here with Wind-Strewn Hydrangea Blossoms)

My Long-time Love, the Coral Bells (Heuchera), Hold Delicate Seedpods into the Early Winter. I Adore the Way They Catch the Light and Bronze Up in Late Fall (Planted Here Along the Entry Walk with Carex morowii variegata)

Rust Never Sleeps in the Late November Garden. Here, Siberian Cypress (Microbiota decussata) Catches a Dusting of Late-Day Snow.

Blondes Definitely Have More Fun in the Late Autumn Landscape. Just Have a Look at This Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’). Isn’t She Sexy, Surrounded by All of the Black Pom-Pom Seed Heads, Ruby Sedum and Green Velvet Conifers? She’s Such a Bombshell.

Speaking of Bombshells… Is There Ever an End to Hydrangea’s Beauty? (H. paniculata ‘Limelight’)

November Does Have a Reputation for Being Grey and Dreary, But Some Mornings Shimmer in Golden Glory. Bare Silverbell Branches (Halesia tetraptera)  in Radiant, Early Morning Fog.

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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Farewell to Late October’s Splendor . . . A Quiet Calm Before the Storm

October 30th, 2012 § 2

Leaves Catch Fire on the Blue Green Dragon and Fall to the Secret Garden, Below…

Here, in the Cool, Quiet Between Walls of Stone, The Dragon’s Flames Dance Upon Inky, Dark Water

Late-Blooming Ladybells (Adenophora confusa) Defy October’s Frosty Nights and Whisper Softly in the Mist

Some years, Autumn’s radiant colors linger till late November in my garden. The season of the witch is often long and dazzles with glistening frosts. Not so this time. Oh no. Sandy had other plans. But modern meteorology allows us the luxury of planning for inclement weather; time to stock up on groceries and batten down the hatches, or slip outside for just one more glimpse at the garden before the wind starts to blow …

Autumn in the Entry Garden, Beyond the Secret Garden Wall

A Shock of Red Virginia Sweetspire and Geranium Leaves Flicker Like Flames Amid the Rust, Gold and Brown 

Bees of All Kinds Continue to Fill Late Blooming Asters with a Steady Hum, Foraging for Pollen in Autumn’s Chill Air

Golden Clethra alnifolia and Oxblood Physocarpus opulifolius Romance the Sea Green Juniper Along the Wildflower Walk

Shimmering Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’) Against a Backdrop of Burgundy-Hued Physocarpus opulifolius

One of My Late-Autumn Favorites, Oakleaf Hydrangea (H. quercifolia), Turn a Lovely, Leathery-Maroon as Temperatures Drop 

A Delicate Rustling Sound Adds to the Autumn Charm of Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’) in the Secret Garden

And Ever-Dazzling Stewartia pseudocamillia Against the Secret Garden Wall 

Garden Design & Installation: Michaela Medina Harlow

Stonework by Dan Snow

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

October 27th, 2012 § 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Garden Design & DIY Coaching: Michaela Medina Harlow

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

Stonework: Alec Goldschmid, Vermont

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

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

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

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The Perennial Maintenance Question: When Should I Cut Back the Garden?

October 15th, 2012 § 6

Rainy-Day, Autumn Maintenance in My Wildflower Walk: Cutting Back Withered Perennials & Removing Weeds

Ah, October. One minute it’s freezing cold and you’re pulling on the wooly socks, and the next you’re stripping to your t-shirt and slathering on the sunscreen. I wonder… Do gardeners in other regions talk about the weather as much as the folks here in New England? A few years back, I was enjoying a live Lewis Black rant on meteorological events, when the comedian turned his attention to the peculiar phenomenon known as New England weather. Only in Boston, he fumed, can one experience: “…thunder, lightening and snow— together”. The audience groaned in unison and filled the room with nervous laughter. It’s true: no matter what the season, you just never can tell what’s in store in our unpredictable climate. Mother Nature certainly has a varied bag of tricks reserved for those of us living in the northeast, and last year, she brewed up a nasty Halloween blizzard; knocking out the power for days and canceling trick or treating (visit last year’s post for photos of the beautiful horror). So with all of this zany New England weather, deciding when to put what “to bed” in  the garden can be a bit of a challenge.

In Mid-October, Seed Pods and Dried Flower Heads Add Textural Interest & Contrast in a Garden Filled with Autumn Foliage (Doctor Woo Relishes an Afternoon of Fall Mouse-Hunting while I Spread Mulch and Tidy Up the Garden)

Last year’s early snowfall caught many gardeners —including this one— by complete surprise. Ornamental grasses, textural seed heads and dried flowers were all crushed by a heavy, white blanket. It was the first time in many years that my garden shut down early. Normally, hoar frosts and light, November snow squalls add seasonal beauty to the garden; tracing skeletal forms in delicate, glistening layers of ice crystal and white lace. For this reason, as well as a desire to attract wildlife, I prefer to leave most textural plants —such as Rudbeckia, Coreopsis, Eupatorium, Miscanthus, Echinacea, Rodgersia, and Asters to name a few— standing throughout the winter months, and cut back whatever remains of these perennials in early spring. However there are some perennials I trim back fairly soon; such as the “melter” plants, including Hosta and Ligularia, and the “scraggle dogs”, like Aruncus, Phlox maculata and Heliopsis. After the first hard frost, I try to critically evaluate the landscape and cut back perennials that no longer provide sustenance to wildlife or add structure, texture or color to the overall garden design and composition. And although I clip back certain woody plants to within 4″ of the ground —Hydrangea arborescens, Perovskia atriplicifolia, Lespedeza thunbergii, etc— I leave most structural pruning for late winter and detailing of woody perennials for early spring.

I Prefer to Leave Certain Dried Flowers —Such as Rodgersia (Shown Above) & Astilbe— Standing in the Secret Garden, to Catch Frost, Ice and Snow. These Perennial Plants will be Cut Back in Early Spring

One of the Great Joys of Ornamental Grasses is the Winter Beauty They Provide in the Garden. Shown Here, Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’) Coated in a Layer of Ice

Two of My Favorite, Architectural Flowers —Rudbeckia and Echinacea— Provide Sustenance to Overwintering Birds. Seed Producing Flowers are Always Left Standing in My Garden. What Remains will be Cut Back in Late April or Early May

Deciding which perennials to cut back when is often a matter of personal preference and garden style. The seed pods and drooping, dried flowers that one gardener thinks poetic, another might consider a terrible mess! You may like your garden neat and tidy, but in terms of protection, most perennials are quite hardy and need very little TLC. Zone marginal and newly transplanted perennials should always be cut back and mulched for winter protection, but established perennial borders are far less fussy. In my own garden, I leave most plants standing and clean up remnants in early spring. Do you have a specific question about when or what to cut back in your perennial garden? I spent the first 15 years of my professional, horticultural career maintaining gardens, and I’m happy to share what I’ve learned. Please feel free to ask about autumn perennial maintenance in the comments, below!

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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In Late September’s Low Sunlight, Autumn Dons Her Golden Crown . . .

September 26th, 2012 § 1

The Garden’s Golden Hour: Miscanthus sinensis purpurascens & Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’

Sunset to twilight: a favorite window of time for a slow garden stroll. Quick, grab a sweater to throw off the chill, and a camera to capture the beauty. Early autumn and the golden hour —a garden drenched in honey-hued light— sweet moments to savor and share …

Chocolate-Colored Pom-Poms: Rudbeckia Remnants with Sun Spots. In My Garden, Seed Heads Remain Standing to Provide Winter Sustenance for Birds and Add Textural Interest to the Garden

The Entry Garden in Late September Sunlight: Maiden Grasses are Positioned to Catch Morning & Early Evening Light

Warm Hues of Early Autumn in the Entry Garden: Plantings Include; Amsonia illustris, A. hubrichtii, Miscanthus sinensis purpurascens, Betula papyrifera, Clethra alnifolia, Aster oblongifolium ‘Raydon’s Favorite’, Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’

Sun-Washed Seed Pods: Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa)

When designing a garden, I usually make several site visits, scheduled at different times of the day. Observing sunlight helps me to position certain plants –such as ornamental grasses or Japanese maples– for maximum effect. When planning your garden, watch the sunlight and plant accordingly to take advantage of backlight in morning and early evening. You will be rewarded for your efforts with luminous garden rooms filled with ‘stained glass’ windows.

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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“Autumn Is A Second Spring, When Every Leaf Is A Flower” – Camus

September 22nd, 2012 § 1

Dwarf Witch Alder (Fothergilla gardenii) & Hosta ‘August Moon’

Wisps of cool, grey fog, softly greet color-tinged leaves on the first morning of a new season . . .

Welcome Autumn! 

Cranberrybush Viburnum (V. trilobum ‘Bailey Compact’)

Doublefile Viburnum (V. plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Shasta’), Cranberrybush Viburnum (V. trilobum ‘JN Select Red Wing’), Flame Grass (Miscanthus sinensis purpurascens), Coneflower (Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’) & Arkansas Blue Star (Amsonia hubrichtii) 

Doublefile Viburnum (V. plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Shasta’) with Hosta ‘Blue Angel’

Tea Viburnum (V. setigerum) with Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’)

Cut Leaf Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’)

Fragrant Abelia (A. mosanensis)

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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Swing Season: Falling for September’s Slow, Sultry Color Shift . . .

September 14th, 2012 § 1

Bits of Early Color: Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Shasta’ and Miscanthus sinensis purpurascens Glow Like Stained Glass in the Last Rays of Low Sunlight

The last days of summer: golden light, cricket chorus, scampering squirrels and vibrant colors. It seems Mother Nature —ready to rest from a long growing season— has decided to stretch out in a meadow of tall grass and soak in the warmth of September’s sun. This is the swing season. Nights are getting nippier and a star-filled blanket of inky darkness spills out across the sky earlier and earlier with each passing day. In her final transition from summer to fall, the garden is slowly shifting hues and textures. Once opaque green, even the forest canopy is showing signs of early color; tints of autumnal scarlet, saffron and bittersweet kiss leaf edges and margins.

Although I look forward to all of the seasons, It’s true that I enjoy autumn more than any other. Viburnum, Windflower, Fairy Candles, Flame Grass, Yellow Wax Bells, Asters, Toad Lilies, Monkshood and Glowing Moss; at this time of year, my favorite plants are just beginning to get gussied up for for their grand, garden soiree. And I’m ready to pour myself a glass of Sweet September Sangria and join Mother Nature for a moment in the late summer sun. Here, a few of my current, swing-season favorites in the garden . . .

A Floriferous Late Summer Favorite, Bush Clover (Lespedeza thunbergii ‘Edo Shibori’), is Popular with September Pollinators as Well. I Often Include This Blowzy Beauty in My Garden Designs, and Grow Several Cultivars Here at Home; Including the Glorious, Fuchsia-Colored ‘Gibraltar’.

Windflowers are Some of the Most Beautiful Late-Blooming Perennials. ‘September Charm’, ‘Party Dress’, ‘Robustissima’ and Silver-Tipped ‘Serenade’ are Among the Loveliest. Pictured Above: Anemone x hybrida ‘Serenade’

Ornamental Grasses are Truly the Queens of the Late Season Garden. Here, Mauve-Tinted Tips of Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’) Echo the Colors of a September Dawn

I Like to Position Ornamental Grasses Where Their Late-Season Tassels Catch the Low, Golden Light. Pictured Here is Flame Grass (Miscanthus sinensis purpurascens)

Light Filters Through Maiden Grass Tassels in the Late Afternoon, Greeting Me Home

Late Summer Colors Grow Richer in the Shade as Well. On Cool, Still Evenings, Luminous White Fairy Candles (Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’) Fill the Secret Garden with Beautiful Fragrance; Reminiscent of Ripe Concord Grapes

Though the Golden Flowers are Stunning from Late August through September, Beautiful Kirengeshoma palmata (Yellow Wax Bells) Grace the Dappled-Shade Garden with Emerald Green Foliage Throughout the Year

With Their Exotic Looks and Late-Season Resilience, Toad Lilies Have Earned a Special Place Among My Favorite Flowers. Tricyrtis hirta is Particularly Hardy (tolerating extreme cold temperatures to -30 Degrees Fahrenheit – USDA zones 4-9). Though a Bit Less Sturdy, Tricyrtis formosana ‘Dark Beauty’ Has Always Stopped Me in My Tracks

With Late Winter to Early Spring Blossoms, Leathery Green Leaves, Ornamental Berries and Vibrant Fall Foliage, Viburnum x burkwoodii ‘Mohawk’ is a Four Season, Garden Beauty. But to Me, the Autumn is When She Always Shines Her Brightest

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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Autumn’s Kaleidoscopic Color Wheel: Glorious Patterns & Back-Lit Beauty …

October 27th, 2011 Comments Off

 Purple Beautyberry, Smokebush and Maiden Grass Make a Brilliant Grouping (Callicarpa dichotoma, Cotinus coggygria and Miscanthus)

Though it Often Spreads Aggressively, North American Native, Hay Scented Fern (Densntaedtia punctilobula) is a Gorgeous and Durable Ground Cover for Tough, Shady Spaces. Taking My Cue from Mother Nature, I Like to Position this Autumnal Favorite Where it will Catch the Long, Low Light

For Intense, Late-Autumn Foliage Color, One of My Favorite Woody Plants is North American native Fothergilla (Here: Fothergilla major ‘Mt Airy’). The “Witches” —As I Often Refer to Members of the Hamamelidaceae family— in My Garden Include Fothergilla, Hamamelis, Parrotia, and a Few, Lesser-Known Apprentices. Due to Her Chameleon-Like Costume Drama, Fothergilla Plays Well with Physocarpus, Cotinus, Ornamental Grass, Conifers, and Most Other Autumn Beauties. Read More About these Spellbinders in my Past Post, “Must Be the Season of the Witch”.

Late October. Cold winds are kicking up now, lifting leaves high into topaz skies where they twirl about as if riding on a Ferris Wheel. And on rainy days —when the air is damp and still— moody fog swirls about the high walls and along the pathways, softening the hard edges of stone and the skeletal remains of flowers. The second half of autumn can be a dramatic time for late season garden color; with Witch Hazel, Smokebush, Dogwood and Japanese Maple foliage coloring up in fine, fiery hues. The sensual ornamental grasses and colorful Viburnum — so many shrubs, loaded with plump, brilliant fruit— continue to perform beautifully, while the Beautyberry, Cotoneaster and Winterberry are just beginning to put on their seasonal show. Here’s a quick tour of what’s going on in my garden, with notes on some favorite ways to use valuable, late-season plants; making the most of their theatrical talents …

Japanese Maple Leaves (Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’) Offer Stunning Autumn Color and Sculptural Form Throughout the Seasons. Many Japanese Maple Trees are Smaller in Stature (A Number Reach 15′ or Less at Maturity), and Most Prefer a bit of Shade, Making them a Perfect Choice for Shadowy Urban Courtyards and Gardens with Limited Space

Reliable as the Change of Season Itself, The Blue-Green Dragon (Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’) Always Hits It Out of the Park. This Small Tree (approximately 14′ high at maturity) is a Rare, Upright, Cut-Leaf Form of Japanese Maple. Beautiful When Backlit and Combined with Autumn Golds, the Color of This Specimen Shifts from the Color of Ocean Waves to Fire to Smoldering Embers 

Mossy Stone Walls Offer a Subtly Beautiful Contrast for These Fiery Leaves (Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’)

Some Trees are Natural Show-Offs in Autumn Sunlight, and for Spectacular, Stained-Glass-Like Fall Foliage, it’s Hard to Compete with Japanese Maples (Dancing in the Sunlight Here: Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’). For Best Effect, Position Japanese Maples and Similar Trees in Places Where the Foliage will Filter the Rays of Light in Morning and Late Afternoon

Ever-Beautiful, North American native Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum) is Particularly Stunning When Positioned to Capture Light. When I Work Delicate Grasses Like This One into a Garden Desing, I Like to Place Them Where They Can be Seen, Touched and Enjoyed Throughout the Autumn and Early Winter. This Mature Specimen. Located at the Edge of a Pathway Junction in My Garden, Captures Light at Sunrise and Again at Sunset (The Textural, Dried Flower at the Bottom of the Photo is Solidago)

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ Changes Hue from Pale Ivory with a Hint of Lime to Rose-Kissed Ivory to Rust. To Make the Most of Her Color Changes, I’ve Positioned Her Beside the Dark Foliage of Fagus sylvatica ‘Riversii’, and Surrounded Her Feet with Colorful Ground Covers (Hakonechloa macra ‘Beni Kaze’ and Pulmonaria ‘Raspberry Splash’). I Love the Relaxed Mood Created When Blossoms Spill Upon an Autumn Walkway

Somehow Escaping Jack’s Icy Fingers, these Morning Glories (Ipomoea tricolor ‘Heavenly Blue’ ) Look Just Stunning Against a Backdrop of Scarlet Sumac (North American native Rhus typhina)

Surrounded by the Confetti Hued Leaves of the Burkwood Viburnum (V. x burkwoodii ‘Anne Russell), Doctor Woo Looks Like Part of a Seasonal Display as She Surveys Her Vole Hunting Domain (Also in this frame: Frost-Kissed, Yellow Hosta Leaves, Rudbeckia & Adenophora Seed Pods and North American native Hydrangea quercifolia in Back of the Border)

The Border Pictured Above Contains Two North American Native Favorites,:Oakleaf Hydrangea and Arkansas Blue Star (Hydrangea quercifolia with Amsonia hubrichtii); Work Together to Create Drama with Their Contrasting, Autumn Foliage Colors and Textures

Hinting at Large-Scale, Design Possibilities, the Scarlet and Chartreuse Patterns on This Japanese Maple Leaf (A. palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’) Command Attention in the Shadows, Especially on a Drizzly Day!

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. 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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Misty Mornings & Golden Afternoons: The Burnished Beauty of Indian Summer

October 23rd, 2011 § 4

Soft Light Through Morning Fog at Woodland Edge

Indian Summer —that deliciously warm, golden season between the first, light frost and the killing freeze— is like a sweet dessert after a perfect meal. Oh how I delight in these last, precious weeks of mild weather. Usually, I host an open studio and garden tour in autumn, but this year —with a washed out bridge that will remain closed until next year and a network of back roads badly damaged by tropical storm Irene— my house and garden are strangely quiet. Some days —when torrential rain pours down my patched up driveway in a river— I barely make it home myself. Still, I so enjoy the sensual beauty of October —with all her musky fragrance, shimmering, low light and brilliant color— that it  feels unfair to hoard it to myself. So a short, misty-morning tour of some of this week’s highlights in a garden just warming up for a grand and colorful season finale …

Waves of  Golden Amsonia Sway with the Lift of Morning Fog (Amsonia hubrichtii in the entry garden with Clethra alnifolia, Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’, Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ and the seed heads of Heliopsis helianthoides ‘Sommersonne’. Beyond, Juniperus chinensis ‘Sargentii’, Cornus kousa and Juniperus x pfitzeriana ‘Sea Green’)

The Beautiful Color of Redvein Enkianthus (Enkianthus campanulatus ‘Red Bells’) Lights Up the Morning Fog

Where Forest Meets Clearing (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Purpurascens’, Miscanthus sinenensis ‘Morning Light’, Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’, Rhus typhina, Solidago) 

My Favorite Autumn Hydrangea, H. paniculata ‘Limelight’, Is Putting on a Sensational Display This Year. In the Background You Can Catch Just a Glimpse of the Heath & Heather Ledges with a Sea Green Juniper at the Crest …

Here You Can Just Spot Her, Rising Beyond the Stone Wall and Secret Garden Door, the Scarlet Heuchera (H.villosa ‘Palace Purple’) and the Variegated Daphne (Daphne x burkwoodii ‘Carol Mackie’)

In Spite of Last Week’s Battering Winds, the Paper Bark Maple (Acer griseum) at the Entry Garden Edge is Still Putting On a Good Show. Soon, the Leaves will Blaze a Glorious Scarlet

In the Entry Garden, Amsonia illustris Glows in a Mound of Lemon-Lime. At this Time of the Year, a Shot of Citrus is Always a Warm Welcome at the Edge of the Drive (Beyond: Symphotrichum oblongifolium ‘Raydon’s Favorite’, Rudbeckia hirta, Lysmachia clethroides, Fothergilla ‘Mt Airy’, Amsonia hubrichtii, and Miscanthus sinensis ‘Purpurascens’ against a backdrop of Juniperus x pfitzeriana ‘Sea Green’)

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Purpurascens’ & ‘Variegatus’ are Really Putting on a Stellar Show Together this Season

Decked Out in a Sparkling, Tasseled Golden Gown that Would Turn Fappers Green with Envy, Seems This ‘Heavy Metal’ Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum) Is Adding Few Finishing Touches for the Fall Party (that dark and mysterious hedge in the background is a mass planting of Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’, with a lacy slip of ferns peeking out at the bottom)

Just Warming Up: Viburnum trilobum ‘Bailey Compact’, a young Callicarpa dichotoma (couldn’t resist adding another purple beautyberry to the garden ), Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ and the remnants of summertime Rudbeckia

This Younger Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’  is Already  Painting Her New Space in Bold Shades of Gold, Orange and Red (Planted here along a slope of Juniperus x pfitzeriana ‘Sea Green’ and a carpet of Juniperus chinensis ‘Sargentii’)

Hanging On to Indian Summer: My Hammock Still Swings Between Maple Trees, Surrounded by Bronzed Ferns

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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