Sweet-Scented Seven-Son Flower: Heptacodium miconioides Blossoms Welcome Autumn . . .

September 23rd, 2018 § 4 comments § permalink

Heptacodium miconioides in and amongst September garden favorites: Rudbeckia, Solidago, Miscanthus and Physocarpus opulifolius

It’s no secret that we northeastern gardeners struggle with a limited growing season. Bare trees for nearly six months is a bit much to take. We want to hold onto the glory of autumn. Where winters are long and summers are short, early and late blooming plants —especially those with expanded foliage/bark interest, spring through fall— are key to getting the most out of the gardening year. When it comes to extending interest in the latter part of the gardening season, it’s hard to beat the beauty of Heptacodium miconioides. Commonly known as Seven-Son Flower, this unusual, low-maintenance shrub or small tree (hardy in USDA zones 5-8 with a preference for full sun and average, well-drained garden soil), is just beginning to turn on her charm in early September, when many other blooming trees and shrubs have long since faded away.

Seven-Son Flower (Heptacodium miconioides). September’s Sweet-Scented Bloom 

Fountain-shaped and substantial enough for the back or center of a large border (approximately 15-20′ high and 10′ wide), Seven-Son Flower may be grown as a multi-stem shrub or trained as a small tree. Shiny, medium green leaves cover branches throughout the growing year and then come late summer, Seven-Son Flower welcomes migrating Monarch butterflies. hummingbirds and bees with sweetly fragrant clusters of white flowers (each whorl containing seven blossoms).

But wait, as they say in late-night infomercials, there’s more! Although we gardeners would be more than happy with any shrub blooming this late in the growing season, the deliciously fragrant flowers are only half Heptacodium miconioides‘ surprise. After her blossoms fade, reddish purple fruit appears, surrounded by brilliant rose calyces. These spiky, sepal-like casings spread wide open, giving the appearance of a second flowering flush. I love the cherry red color against bone white tufts of feathery Maiden Grass. October surprise indeed! And just when you think the show is over, beautiful, two-tone exfoliating bark will take you by surprise as you stroll through the garden on the first frosty mornings of late fall and then continue on throughout the winter months.

Rose Calyces with Wide-Open, Sepal-Like Form, Persist Late into the Autumn

Although this beauty can be a bit hard to find, she’s worth seeking out. I love her planted beside Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’ and Miscanthus sinensis purpurascens, supported by a cast of simple, late blooming perennials like Rudbeckia, Solidago, Aster and Chrysanthemum. Color and texture to extend garden beauty from late summer into autumn and early-mid winter. What a delight!

Article and Images 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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A Garden Made for Winter

February 17th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

A Winter Wonderland, Just Outside My Studio Door

Winter in New England can be long, dark, cold and dreary, to be certain. But if you are a lover of magical, frozen landscapes, beauty also abounds. By mid-February, I often find myself feeling a bit house-bound and restless. The cure for cabin fever? Why a garden walk and a bit of mid-winter pruning, followed by hot cocoa in the lounge chairs of course! If you design your landscape with winter in mind —keep those frost-proof pots and weather-proof furnishings in the garden— there’s plenty of beauty to take in while stretching your legs out-of-doors. Things looking a little ho-hum out there? Well now’s the time to take notice. Grab your camera, as well as pen and paper, then head outside for a good, critical look.

Dogwood Branches (Cornus sericea), in the Garden with Hoary Ice Crystals

When shopping for plants this spring, pay close attention to bark color and texture. Perhaps it won’t matter much in May —especially when compared to all of those bodacious blossoms at the garden center— but come January, you’ll be grateful for the advice. Some of my favorite shrubs, such as Cornus sericea or Cornus alba, while not unattractive during the growing season, are really nothing much to look at in June and July. But when those autumn leaves drop and the fog rolls in? POW.

 Winter Walkway with Layers of Textural Plantings

Another design tip worth sharing? Think texture! Layer your garden with nubby, fluffy, spiky and bristly trees, shrubs, perennials, vines and grasses. Plants with rough textures really catch the frost, snow and ice. There’s nothing better for creating a magical, winter wonderland. Mix conifers among the deciduous shrubs and perennials —especially those with colorful textures, bark and/or berries— to create contrast and depth. Creeping, horizontal and upright Juniperus, Taxus, Microbiota decussataPicea abies ‘Nidiformis,’ and Pinus mugo are just a few garden-worthy species that will add tremendous winter delight. Looking for shrubs with colorful fruit? Travel back in time to my post, “Oh, Tutti Frutti: It’s Candy Land Time! Magical & Colorful Ornamental Berries” for more ideas.

Siberian Cypress (Microbiota decussata) along the Northwestern Walkway, with Miscanthus sinensis and Viburnum Hedge, Beyond

 

Miscanthus sinensis Always Puts on a Great, Autumn-Late-Winter Show

In addition to trees and shrubs, there are so many winter-garden-worthy perennials plants, vines and ornamental grasses to consider when designing a four-season garden. Pay attention to species with semi-evergreen or evergreen foliage, large or plentiful seed pods —particularly the tough, bristly types and dark, smooth ones!— as well as grasses with durable stems, tufts and blades. Some long-standing, perennial favorites? Actaea, Amsonia, Baptisia, Coreopsis, Echinacea, Echinops, Echiveria, Eryngium, Eupatorium, Humulus, Hellebore, Liatris, Nepeta (especially taller species), Rodgersia, Rudbeckia, Salvia, Sedum and among others. As for ornamental grasses …Oh my, where do I start? I love our natives —including Panicum, Pennisetum, Calamagrostis, Carex, Chasmanthium, Festuca and Schizachyrium— but also adore exotics, such as Miscanthus and Hakonechloa. It all depends upon the location and look you are trying to create.

Tea Viburnum (Viburnum setigerum), is a Knock-Out from November through February. Colorful Berries Really Show-Off Planted with Buff-Colored Grasses or Green-Grey Conifers. Delight!

Of course, the most important aspect of winter garden plantings is location! Place these valuable additions to your garden design where you will be able to enjoy their colorful bristles, bark, berries and structural lines. I like to locate plants with winter-durable fruit, interesting seed pods, peeling bark and texture outside my favorite windows, where I can enjoy them throughout the year. Entryway gardens are always good spots for plantings, to be sure, but also mix winter interest plants thoughtfully along main walks and garden pathways; positioning them near kitchen windows, bathrooms and in places where you might spy them while doing paperwork at your desk. It pays to plan now, and make notes for spring planting season.

Rosé for Breakfast? Why Not? Even if I’m Stuck Indoors, This Garden Vignette, Visible from My Windows, Fills Me with Joy.

When high temperatures struggle to reach freezing, and feeding the wood stove is a round-the-clock chore, time spent outside is short and to-the-point. Leisurely garden strolls? They truly are of the question some days. Still, I find ways to appreciate the beauty of nature, even from indoors. Trees and shrubs planted near the house —especially those just beyond the windows and doors— catch glistening snow, ice and sunlight, and playfully dance against the wall as shadows.  And if all else fails? Well, there’s always the magic of Jack Frost to help us through the winter…

Halesia tetraptera Through Jack Frost’s Newly Embroidered, Lace Curtain

 

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Photography copyright Michaela Harlow 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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Solstice Season in the Secret Garden

December 11th, 2017 § 2 comments § permalink

Solstice Season in the Secret Garden

 First snow. Powder swirls about the Secret Garden, dusting peaks, tracing lines and filling every crevice. The forest, enchanted, drifts softly off to sleep . . .

Winter bares her beautiful bones

Article & Photography copyright Michaela Harlow 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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Farewell to February . . .

February 28th, 2013 § 5 comments § permalink

February Sunrise ⓒ 2013 Michaela Medina - thegardenerseden A Soft, Snowy Farewell on the Last Day of February

A foot of new snow fell on the hilltop yesterday, coating the last morning of February in a blanket of soft white. With longer days and warmer temperatures ahead, there’s much to look forward to in March. But for now, there’s the beautiful stillness of my sleeping garden to enjoy at apricot-tinted dawn and smoky-pink sunset . . .

Sunset in the Winter Garden ⓒ 2013 Michaela - thegardenerseden.com A Dramatic Season from Start to Finish . . .

February 28th in the Garden ⓒ 2013 Michaela - thegardenerseden.comWinter Still Holds the Garden Seat . . .

Winter at the Secret Garden Door ⓒ 2013 Michaela Medina - thegardenerseden.com Laces the Treetops . . .

Cornus kousa with a Dusting of Snow at Sunrise ⓒ 2013 Michaela Medina - thegardenerseden.com Blushes the Sky . . .

Blonde-Streaked Garden in Late Winter ⓒ 2013 Michaela Medina Harlow - thegardenerseden And Paints the View

Snow in the Back Garden ⓒ 2013 Michaela Medina - thegardenerseden February is the Shortest Month . . .

Southern Hills in Snow ⓒ 2013 Michaela Medina  - thegardenerseden.com But She Always Seems to Linger the Longest . . .

Winter View to the North ⓒ 2013 Michaela Medina - thegardenersedenClinging with Chilly Fingers to the Hills

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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Brightening the Winter Landscape with Bold Bark & Colorful Conifers . . .

January 15th, 2013 § 2 comments § permalink

Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus sericea) in a Sea of Green Conifers ⓒ 2013 Michaela Medina Harlow - thegardenerseden.comA Shot of Luminous Color in the Wintry Landscape: Cornus sericea Lights Up the Entry Garden in January

It’s easy to create a colorful garden in June, but can beds and borders still be bright in January? Of course! While undoubtably more subdued than midsummer, a midwinter landscape can include a complex variety of hues. When perennials are fast asleep beneath snow and deciduous trees and shrubs stand skeletal in the wind, the winter landscape relies upon broadleaf evergreens, conifers and the pigment-rich bark of deciduous woody plants for color. Individually, these trees and shrubs add tremendous interest to the winter garden, but when used together, even more dramatic results are possible. I like to play green, blue, rust and gold hues of conifers against one another, and in combination with the colorful red, yellow, orange and multicolored bark of deciduous trees and shrubs to enhance their impact.

Microbiota decussata (Siberian cypress) with a Dusting of Snow ⓒ 2013 michaela medina:thegardenerseden.comSiberian Cypress (Microbiota decussata) is a Long-Standing Favorite. Form, Texture & Four-Season Color: This Gem Has it All! Shown Here is a Section of a Mass Planting of Microbiota in My Own Garden. Notice How the Background of Canadian Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), Brings Out the Rust-Red Color of the Siberian Cypress. Proper Pruning of Both Plants is Critical to Keep the Edges Feathery and Light.

Some of my favorite trees and shrubs for colorful, stand-out bark include red osier and red/yellow twig dogwood (Cornus sericea and Cornus alba, respectively), willow (Salix), striped maple (Acer pennsylvanica), paperbark maple (Acer griseum), and paper birch and river birch (Betula papyrifera and Betula nigra, respectively). When it comes to conifers —although I have a tough time choosing— I admit a soft-spot for feathery Canadian hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), colorful Siberian cypress (Microbiota decussata) and brilliantly hued false cypress (Chamaecyparis), as well as textural Juniperus (juniper) of all species and colors. I’m also quite fond of the silver-blue spruce clan, spiky, multicolored pines and dramatic, two-toned firs.

Betula papyrifera with Juniperus in snow ⓒ 2013 michaela - thegardenerseden.comThe Peeling, White Bark of North American Native Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera) Creates Beautiful, Peachy-Cream Vertical Lines in the Landscape. When Played Against Green Conifers, the Effect is Quite Stunning on a Winter’s Day.

Never one for wrapping, tenting or coddling woody plants, I demand a great deal from all of the trees and shrubs in my own landscape, as well as in the gardens I design for others. In New England, deciduous trees are bare for nearly half  the year. So when designing gardens for my clients, four season beauty is always a top priority. In addition to color, many deciduous trees offer textural interest with exfoliating and curling bark. These elements add wonderful dimension to the landscape, even during winter dormancy. When choosing and positioning woody plants in the landscape, consider placing shrubs and trees with colorful or exfoliating bark in front of or near conifers with complementary and contrasting hues to bring out the best in both. If space allows, plant in masse for greatest impact, and combine with a foreground or side accent of sturdy, ornamental grasses (such as Miscanthus) for buff and blond hues and softness. For more about textural bark, click back to my previous post on the subject, here.

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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