Somewhere Over the Ascot Rainbow, Beyond the Sunset Clouds . . .

July 30th, 2012 § 1

Euphorbia x martinii ‘Ascot Rainbow’ & Sedum telephium ‘Sunset Cloud’ Catch the Morning Light out on My Balcony 

Oh, delicious, dynamic duo! Clearly, you can see that Euphorbia x martinii ‘Ascot Rainbow’ and Sedum telephium ‘Sunset Cloud’ are a match made in heaven. But in the late days of spring, this pairing wasn’t so obvious to me. Many plants take time to develop their full foliage coloration and tantalizing blossoms. Luckily, I have these two beauties planted in pots, out on my balcony. One of the many delightful opportunities provided by mass container plantings is the ability to move plants around and experiment with various design pairings. By keeping some perennials in containers —conveniently decorating the steel balcony outside my studio— I can play around with various combinations throughout the growing season. Come autumn, I will decide on the best pairings and settle my beauties into the garden before the ground freezes. This little game of container-plant-checkers also helps me to create a visual file of color combinations and style possibilities for my garden design clients.

Earlier this summer, you may recall that I featured Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’ in a plant profile post. Although ‘Blackbird’ Euphorbia is truly stunning, she isn’t perennial in my climate, but luckily, her colorful friend Euphorbia x martinii ‘Ascot Rainbow’ is!  Hardy in USDA zones 5-9, at maturity this vibrant plant will form a 20″ x 20″ mound of lemon-lime edged foliage with hints of peachy orange at the tips. In late summer, colorful bracts form in a cloud above the rainbow of leaves. Gorgeousness! Like all euphorbia, ‘Ascot Rainbow’ requires excellent drainage and air circulation. In northern climates, position this plant in full sun. But if you live in a more southerly location, a bit of mid-day shade will preserve ‘Ascot Rainbow’s phenomenal leaf coloration. This euphorbia plays well with many colors; from orange and rust to sea green, turquoise blue and purple. I really love dusty violet shades with chartreuse hues, and I like the pairing of citrusy ‘Ascot Rainbow’ with plummy Sedum telephium ‘Sunset Cloud’ (USDA zone 3-7) so much, that I think I am going to give it a try along the stone walkway in my perennial garden. To me, the combination like a refreshing glass of sangria on a late summer afternoon; bold and fruity flavor for the eyes!

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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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!

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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!

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Strawberries & Homemade Granola: Fresh Fraises des Bois for Breakfast …

June 9th, 2011 § 1

Fresh Picked Alpine Strawberries or Fraises des Bois (Fragaria vesca) & Homemade Granola

One of the best things about June —besides peonies— is fresh picked strawberries from the garden. I have a small but productive patch of fraises des bois (Fragaria vesca) —better known as alpine strawberries— in my potager (click here for more information about this wonderful berry). And right now, the alpine strawberry plants are producing so many plump, juicy fruits, I hardly miss the few that I know Mr. Catbird is snatching. For the past few days, I’ve been strolling down to the kitchen garden at dawn to fill a basket with these sweet, ruby red beauties for my breakfast. I love them tossed on top of homemade granola in the morning, and later —if it’s hot— they are wonderful mashed up in a strawberry mojito (click here for recipe) or a strawberry flirt (click here for that little number). Alpine strawberries are easy to grow in patio pots or window boxes; making them the perfect fruit for container gardeners.

The still, early morning hours are ideal for pulling a few weeds and watching butterflies. This week I spotted a viceroy (which looks like a miniature monarch), several painted ladies and more tiger swallowtail butterflies. All of the pollinators seem drawn to the chives and sage in particular, but also to the recently planted cosmos, calendula and ageratum. Which reminds me, I need to get back over to Walker Farm. I have a little extra space around the fence line, and I aim to fill it with more fresh flowers for cutting!

Alpine Strawberries (Fragaria vesca) and My New Red Chair

Alpine Strawberries (Fragaria vesca) are the Sweetest of June Treasures

Top Two Photos: Viceroy Butterfly.  Above: Chives for Butterflies, Bees & Me

In winter, I like to add raisins and other dried fruits to my granola. But in summer, I think fresh berries are the way to go. So at this time of year, I prefer a honey-nut granola recipe to complement the tart taste of fresh fruit. The blend below is based on a simple recipe from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, which I discovered while reading Adam Roberts’ very funny food blog, The Amateur Gourmet. This is a fun recipe to make with kids, because the granola turns out best when you mix it with your hands!

Alpine Strawberry (Fragaria vesca)

Cultivated Alpine Strawberries (Fragaria vesca) are Larger Than Truly Wild Fruit but Smaller Than Standard, Cultivated Varieties

Honey-Nut Granola with Fresh Alpine Strawberries

Ingredients: (makes about 3 1/2 cups, multiply and add twists, as you like)

2          cups rolled oats

1          tsp cinnamon

1          tsp salt

3 1/2   tablespoons vegetable oil

1/4      cup honey, plus extra for drizzling

1/4      cup brown sugar

1         tsp vanilla extract

1         cup (+/-) of lightly chopped nuts (cashews, macadamia, etc)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325° Fahrenheit. Select a large baking sheet (or cookie sheet) and line with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, mix together the vegetable oil, brown sugar, honey, vanilla with a fork or whisk. Set aside.

Mix oats, nuts, cinnamon and salt together in a large bowl.

Pour the liquid mixture over the dry ingredients and combine. The best method for even coverage is to use your hands.

Spread the mixture out over the parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake 10 minutes, remove pan and drizzle with a little more honey. Turn the granola with a spatula. Return to oven for another 5 – 10 minutes. Watch carefully, as it’s easy to burn. Remove from oven and turn the granola again. If the mixture looks less than golden brown, return to oven for another 5 minutes. Remove the granola from oven and allow it to cool completely.

Serve with fresh berries and milk or yogurt, and a drizzle of golden honey on top. Store extra granola in an airtight canister (it keeps well for a couple of weeks, if it lasts that long).

Ever-Bearing Alpine Strawberries/Fraises des Bois (Fragaria vesca) Produce Delicious Fruit All Summer Long

Succession Sowing of Seed and Planting of Vegetable Starts Continues All Summer Long to Insure a Steady Supply of Greens, Root Vegetables and Fall Crops

Looking Past the Garlic Greens, Peppers, Bean Pole and Into the Heart of the Potager

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.com book links). A small percentage of each sale will be paid to this site, helping to cover web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you so much for your support!

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A Peek Inside the Misty Moss Walls: Springtime in the Secret Garden …

May 22nd, 2011 § 4

By May, a cool tapestry of springtime color carpets the Secret Garden path…

This week my design studio and office began slowly migrating back down to the Secret Garden Room, where plants and paperwork happily mingle from late spring through early November. Each day on my way to and from appointments, I pass through the walled garden and along the plant-lined, stone path leading to the drive up and down my hillside. It only takes a few minutes here —engulfed by cool air and familiar fragrance— to shake off the cares of the outside world. This Secret Garden is my sanctuary and my muse. Care to step inside for a peek? Come follow me along the path and in through the moss-covered walls…

To the Right of the Walled Garden, An Old Chair Stands Ready to Support Emerging Rudbeckia Seedlings (other plants here include Muscari, Sedum ‘Angelina’, and Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’, and in back, Abelia mosanensis)

A Crow –from Virginia Wyoming’s Series by the same name– stands sentry, perched atop a wall along the Secret Garden path (click here to read more about the artist and her work)

A favorite old urn sits nestled at the foot of a Moonlight Hydrangea Vine (Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’), rising Fairy Candles (Actaea racemosa ‘Hillside Black Beauty’), bright ‘Caramel’ Coral Bells (Heuchera americana ‘Caramel’) and sweet-scented Lily of the Valley (Convularia majalis), in a corner of the garden filled with with bulbs and emerging fiddleheads…

Brushing past the cranberrybush (Viburnum trilobum ‘Baily Compact’), along a path filled with woodland phlox, grape hyacinth, stonecrop, ajuga, daphne and emerging rudbeckia seedlings, the glow of new Japanese forest grass and the nodding heads of jonquil within the Secret Garden beckon…

Between Raindrops, Sunlight Illuminates New Leaves and Coral-Colored Branch Tips on the Blue Green Dragon (Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’), Arching Over the Secret Garden Door…

Lady Ferns (Athyrium filix x femina ‘Lady in Red’) and glossy bergenia (Bergenia ‘Bressingham Ruby’) line the damp, mossy threshold into the walled garden…

And the next step reveals the bottlebrush-blossom tips of dwarf witch alder (Fothergilla gardenii) to the right, chartreuse-colored spurge (Euphorbia, various cvs), the unfolding leaves of a yellow tree peony, (Paeonia mouton x lutea ‘High Noon’), ostrich fern (Metteuccia pensylvanica), Narcissus (N. ‘Sterling’) and Japanese forest grass’ green-gold glow…

Hard to See in the Larger Photos are Some of My Tiny Treasures, Like This Muscari ‘Valerie Finnis’ (click to image to enlarge)

Another View of the Center, Secret Garden Wall…

Stepping Inside, A Moment’s Pause to Gaze Upon the Reflecting Bowl Beside the Stone Wall

Deep Inside the Far Corners, Tender Plants Begin to Migrate, Mingling with the Secret Garden’s Full-Time, Outdoor Residents for the Summer Season. Plants from the left: Moonlight Hydrangea Vine (Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’), Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia pensylvanica), Hosta ‘Patriot’ and on the chair, a young Streptocarpus hardens off…

Japanese Hydrangea Vine (Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Roseum’) Creeps Along the Moss Covered Wall, Moving Slowly but Steadily Toward the Doorway and the Reflecting Bowl; Shimmering Beside the Prized Japanese Wood Poppy (Glaucidium palmatum, featured in last Friday’s post).

Looking back from within the Secret Garden Room, where my summer-season office is already overflowing with design plans and plant lists for landscaping clients…

And tender plants like this asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus ‘Sprengeri’) waiting ’til all danger of frost has passed to return to the outside world…

A Special May Pleasure Along the  Secret Garden Path: One of My Favorite Fragrances of Springtime, the Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaricata ‘Clouds of Perfume’)

Inside the Secret Garden, Peering Out Beyond the Threshold of the Stone Doorway

For a  Summertime Preview of the Secret Garden Click Here to Visit a Post from last Season.

All Stonework in the Secret Garden and throughout Ferncliff is by Vermont artist Dan Snow

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

Article and All 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!

The Gardener’s Eden received no compensation for the editorial mention of any products or services mentioned in this post. Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links here (including Amazon.com book links). A small percentage of each sale will be paid to this site, helping to cover web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you so much for your support!

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Un-Flower Pots: Designing & Caring for Spectacular Succulent Container Gardens

May 9th, 2011 § 12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Jewel Box Garden – Thomas Hobbs

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

Succulent Container Gardens – Debra Lee Baldwin

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

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

Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links here (including Amazon.com book links and Terrain Garden & Home). A small percentage of each sale will be paid to this site, helping to cover web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you so much for your support!

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

April 18th, 2011 § 33

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good Luck! xo Michaela

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

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

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A Warm, Sweet Welcome for February: Forcing Narcissus Indoors…

February 1st, 2011 § 6

Hello February – Golden Greetings in the Entryway {Forced Narcissus}

A Bit of Golden Color to Brighten Stormy, Grey Days…

Welcome February…

It’s the first day of February, and outside my front door, snow is falling steadily and the sky is a gloomy, powder grey. Overnight, a winter storm swirled in, and the forecast warns of a wintry mix with more than two feet of new snow. For those of us living in northern climes, this can be a long, tough month. Dingy snowbanks, endless shoveling and bitter, cold days can take a toll on even the sunniest of dispositions. And much as I love the spare landscape, winter sports and cozy nights by the fire, I always crave a bit of bright color at this time of year.

Every fall, while ordering and planting my bulbs, I plan a little indoor extravaganza to help me through the long winter months. Many spring flowering bulbs can be forced indoors, bringing a bit of April’s garden to my world in February. Most bulbs require a cool, dark period prior to blooming in spring (exceptions to this rule include paper white narcissus, which may be purchased, planted and forced right away). And with a bit of planning, it’s possible to mimic those natural conditions and enjoy a little prelude to spring. I pot up left-over bulbs in all sorts of containers, water them well and cover with black plastic and an elastic band. Store potted bulbs in a cool dark place (a garage, basement, root cellar, outbuilding, etc), and check on them in about a month, watering enough to keep bulb roots moist, but never soggy. After 8-10 weeks, you can begin bringing the bulbs into your living space (cooler rooms are best). I like to bring them out in waves, saving the bulk of the show for the dreariest New England months: late February and early March.

Pre-Chilled Narcissus Grand Soleil d’Or and a Glass Bowl filled with Decorative Stone/Charcoal for Drainage.

But even if you haven’t planned ahead, you can still enjoy the pleasure of forced bulbs. Pre-chilled bulbs and paper white narcissus —purchased and potted up now— will begin to bloom in a month or two; ushering in spring a little earlier! With prepared bulbs, the forcing process is foreshortened, but the first few steps are quite similar. Practice this way, and next year, write yourself a forcing reminder for late fall. This is a fun project to share with kids, and a great make-your-own gift for Valentines Day, Passover or Easter. A pretty container will make the arrangement extra special, and it can be recycled after the blooms are spent. Remember not to expect bulbs forced in gravel to grow and bloom the following year. Compost these plants and start again next year, as you would with annuals in your outdoor containers.

Many garden centers, florist shops and online retailers offer pre-chilled bulbs and paper whites. Brent and Becky’s Bulbs has a fantastic selection (click here for link). Think of these bulbs as you would annuals: meant for growing and enjoying for this season only. Some good choices (among many) for forcing in gravel, include: Paperwhites, Grand Soleil d’Or (pictured above: produces sweetly fragrant flowers with golden petals and bright orange trumpets 6-8 weeks after planting), Angels in Water, Craigford and Chinese Sacred Lilies. Keep in mind that some narcissus —including the delightful miniature Tete a Tete— perform best when potted up in soil as opposed to gravel. When in doubt about how to force a particular cultivar, check with the retailer for advice on proper growing mediums/procedure. Brent and Becky’s Bulbs is a great online resource.

Pre-Chilled Grand Soleil d’Or Settled into a glass container filled about 1/3 full with a base of pea stone and a few pieces of horticultural charcoal (for freshness).

How to Force Narcissus in Containers Filled with Gravel

Materials:

Bulbs specifically prepared for forcing (pre-chilled in a dark place) or paperwhites

Horticultural charcoal

Decorative pea stone, gravel, rocks or glass

A bowl or other container without drainage holes (glass is lovely if you like to look at the stone). Size will depend upon the type of bulbs you have chosen to grow. Using a deep container can be helpful in supporting taller bulbs.

Green wire plant supports for taller bulbs (available at florist or craft supply stores)

Instructions:

Wash the container and stones thoroughly and dry. Fill the base of the container with a small amount of decorative stone. Add a handful of charcoal bits and then fill the container about 1/3 full. Make planting space for bulbs, and nestle them in; packing them tight together for support. Add more decorative stone or glass until the bulbs are about 2/3 concealed (leave the ‘shoulder’ and green tips free). You can use all one kind of stone, or get creative and mix it up.

Fill a jug with lukewarm water and fill the container about 1/3 of the way up. You want the water at the roots, but not soaking the bulb itself. Eventually, the roots will extend down toward the base of the container. Even prepared bulbs grow best when given a bit of darkness (exception: paperwhites). Place the container in a basement or cool closet for 2-3 weeks, checking the water level every few days as the roots extend. IMPORTANT: Never let the roots dry out.

When watering, rumor has it that adding a bit of vodka or gin to the mix can assist with stronger stem and leaf growth. But keeping the bulbs in a cool, dark place (for a 2-3 week period before forcing) seems to work just as well if you lack a stocked liquor cabinet.

Forced bulbs last longest in cooler rooms. I keep mine near the entry way door, where they provide a cheerful welcome and never mind the drafts. If the stems begin to flop, it can be helpful to hold them up with green florists stakes and tape (discreetly position the supports toward the center of the container and pull up slightly – a bit of droop looks natural and relaxed). Be sure to keep thirsty bulbs well-watered but never swamped.

Enjoy!

Forced Narcissus Tete a Tete, Beside the Entryway Door

A Prelude to Spring

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

All content on this site, with noted exceptions, is the property of The Gardener’s Eden Online Journal, and my not be used or reproduced without express written permission.

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

July 20th, 2010 § 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moroccan Birdcage Candle Lantern$16.90 at Amazon.com

Metal Star Lantern, $10.99 at Amazon

Amber Glass Moroccan Lantern, $11.44 via Amazon

Cupola Tin Lantern$31.99 via Amazon.com

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

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

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

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

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

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Un-Flower Pots: Modern Ideas for Low Maintenance Container Gardens…

June 10th, 2010 § 4

Sempervivum ‘Purple Beauty’ (Hens and Chicks) and Haworthia in a Glazed Pot with River Stone Accents, Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE

Although I have an unabashed love of colorful, fragrant blossoms, flowering plants aren’t ideal in all garden situations and circumstances. At times, I reach for the color, texture, form and/or movement of other plants -such as ornamental grasses and succulents- when designing a garden. Container gardens, particularly in dry, windy locations, can be very high maintenance unless the right plants are chosen for these challenging locations. Often, before I plant containers for my clients, I experiment with the design’s durability in my own garden first. This is an outrageously fun process of course, and a fine excuse to purchase annual plants for the steel deck outside my studio…

Stipa tenuissima (Mexican Feather Grass), Garden Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE

Ucinia egmontiana (Orange Hook Sedge), Garden Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE

Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’ and Stipa tenuissima in a Modern Deck Arrangement, Garden Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE

The hot, dry, windy conditions on this sunny deck make it the perfect test-lab for low-maintenance container garden experiments. Over the years, two of the more successful annual combinations on my deck have been ornamental grass arrangements, and the succulent containers pictured here. This year, after reviewing Debra Lee Baldwin’s Succulent Container Gardens for Barnes and Noble’s Garden Variety blog (“Sweet Succulent Sensation – Ready for Some Outrageously Beautiful Container Inspiration”) I was inspired to take my easy-care succulent containers to a whole new level. But do I miss the flowers? Hardly. I find the jewel-like colors and textures so fascinating that I think adding flowering plants to these dramatic containers would be gilding the lily. Many succulent plants do in fact blossom, of course, and an number, such as Sempervivum and Echeveria, produce sensationally beautiful flower-like rosettes. Their shocking beauty is more than enough for me…

Sempervivum hybrid ‘Kalinda’. Garden Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE

Sempervivum in a Pot with Stone Accents, (this frost-proof container is left outdoors year round). Garden Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE

Close up of Sempervivum hybrid ‘Kalinda’. Garden Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE

Sempervivum – The Rock Rose – Photograph © Michaela at TGE

Sempervivum in a permanent, frost-proof outdoor container. Garden Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE

Sempervivum and Stone-Accent Mulch. Garden Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE

Over the winter, you may recall my experiments with indoor container gardening, including dry-terraria arrangements, such as the one pictured below, (featuring three different plant forms: tall and spiked, mounded and trailing), and cactus bowls. Now that the warmer months have arrived, I have relocated these plants to larger-scale pots -accented with natural river stone- to my rusty steel deck. So far, the transition has been quite successful, with only one minor loss due to the well-known, ‘rambunctious labrador retriever effect’. If you too have a hot, sunny deck or terrace to landscape, and little time for maintenance, consider adding some easy-care pots to your seasonal arrangement. A large vessel, filled with tall ornamental grass works well as a backdrop for smaller containers filled with herbs or flowers. And small clusters of pots in a uniform color, such as the oxblood containers shown here, combine beautifully when grouped on terraces or arranged along the edges of steps. I will feature more container gardening ideas in the coming weeks, but if you are serious about creating a succulent oasis of your own, I suggest checking out the two fantastic books linked below…

Plants from an indoor succulent bowl, (read article here), can be moved outdoors to fill containers in warmer months. Pictured here: Echeveria ‘Pearl’, Sanseveria trifasiata ‘Laurentii’ and Portulacaria afra variegata from The Old School House Plantery. Container Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE…

In summer, the indoor cactus bowl goes on summer-deck-ation…

Order Thomas Hobbs’  The Jewel Box Garden from Amazon online…

Order Succulent Container Gardens from B&N or Amazon online.

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Article and photographs © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

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

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It’s Fiesta Time & A Cactus Bowl Centerpiece adds Life to a Party …

December 28th, 2009 § 1

Cactus bowl centerpiece with desert rocks and decorative straw flowers…

It’s fiesta time in my kitchen. I am planning a holiday party with a menu of Mexican-inspired dishes. To set the mood for margarita sipping and chip dipping, I decided to create a celebratory cactus-bowl centerpiece. Making a dry, table-top garden filled with desert plants is a fun and inexpensive indoor gardening project, (total cost was less than $10). And the best part? This little planter will add a low-maintenance touch of life to a desktop or dresser long after the party is over…

A bowl of cactus is modern and pretty in any room…

To create my cactus bowl, I found a shallow container large enough to accommodate a few inexpensive cacti, (such as fairy castles and barrel cactus found for $1 – $2.50 at Home Depot). You can use any kind of planter; from terracotta to glass to tin – and beyond. The bowl pictured here does not contain a drainage hole. So, I filled the bottom with an inch of pea gravel and lined the sides with sand. In the center of the bowl, I added a layer of cactus potting soil, (a special mix created for good drainage, you can find it anywhere plants are sold), and then I positioned the plants, (I kept the plastic pots on for the designing part)…

Removing cacti from pots can be a painful process if you aren’t careful ! A good solution is to use a thick, smooth towel or a paper-collar to protect both your hands and the plant as you slip it from the plastic nursery-pot. Be sure to warn any young helpers and guests to your home – cactus look soft and tempting to little hands ! OUCH !

Once the plants are positioned, the spaces between cacti were filled with fast-draining potting soil, (a kitchen spoon is helpful with little projects like this). The top and edges of the planter were mulched with decorative sand and pea stone, (also found at Home Depot). To add an authentic desert touch, I added a few colorful stones from my rock collection, (gathered on various trips to the southwest)…

 

Add a few chile lights, some salsa on the playlist, hot tapas, chilled margaritas – and you have a party ! Isn’t it amazing what a few plants can do to change your mood !

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

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Art Inspired by Nature: The Colorful, Botanical World of Artist and Gardener Virginia Wyoming…

November 18th, 2009 § 1

Virginia Wyoming holding flower pot with grass markings in studio

Virginia Wyoming holds one of her beautiful stoneware flowerpots, etched with grass-like markings and finished with a multilayered earth-green glaze…

Virginia Wyoming’s studio lies at the far end of a long and winding, interrupted road in Westminster, Vermont. When I say interrupted, I mean that the road literally stops midway, broken by forest. Naturally I headed up the wrong direction. As is often the case with an unplanned detour, I met some colorful characters and animals along the way, including a turkey. Of course one of the things I like best about getting lost, is finding my way again. There’s usually more than one way to get to where you are going. And often the round-about way is far more interesting…

Meet Virginia Wyoming, the subject of this week’s ‘Art Inspired by Nature’ at The Gardener’s Eden. A retired elementary school art teacher, Virginia is now a full time studio artist. She was educated at Douglass College, Rutgers University, initially studying painting and drawing. Later, Virginia became interested in sculptural work and pottery while living in New York. The artist began making pots of her own in 1969, and developed a desire to create ‘useful things’.

After moving to Vermont, Virginia continued to create pottery while teaching art full time in a New Hampshire elementary school. She shows her stoneware pieces in Springfield, Vermont at The Vault Gallery, and in Brattleboro, Vermont at Cai Xi Gallery. Her work may also be seen in her Etsy shop online. Through our afternoon conversation, I discovered that Virginia is particularly interested in modern Chinese ceramics. She has taught herself some Chinese through independent study, and hopes to travel to Beijing.

Over the course of years, Virginia has found a niche for her work by creating flower pots and planters, as well as vases and kitchenware. Her work is quite beautiful, rich in both color and texture. These pieces are also an exceptional value. The artist now sells her work on Etsy in a shop she calls Virginia Wyoming Eclectic Studio Pottery. Her work ranges in price from under $20 for small pieces to a high of around $500 for large sculpture. The very popular flower pots in her Etsy shop are priced between $24 and $54, (for a three piece set)…

Virgina Wyoming holding flower pot with leaf motif in studio

Virginia holds another pot with leaf detail…

Virginia Wyoming, studio windowsill pots

Virginia’s botanical motifs and natural palette make her work enormously appealing both as functional objects and as works of art…

Virginia Wyoming holding flower pot with floral motif in studio

A detailed flower pot with attached water cache…

Virginia Wyoming studio:pottery

Some of the beautiful flowerpots, plates, mugs and dishes in Virginia Wyoming’s studio…

The artist’s work studio is quite small, and although it is a multipurpose space located in the basement of her home, I found it rather cozy. As I entered the building, I spotted a wood stove in the corner, and I could hear classical music playing softly in the background. Shelves and tables overflowing with her finished work lined the left side of the space. To the right sat her wheel and her tools, and beyond, more work shelves lined up with bisque-fired pieces ready for glazing…

Virginia Wyoming, studio tools and wheel

The artist’s wheel and tools in her tiny studio space…

Several tables near the studio windows were scattered with works in progress, (including the to-die-for experimental, floral lace plates pictured below). Throughout her workspace and home, Virginia has decorated the windowsills with her own flower-pots; filling them with various succulents, cacti and exotic conservatory plants, many from The Old School House Plantery, (see link below).

Virginia Wyoming, leaf ornaments

Virginia’s delicate leaf ornaments in subtle green and grey hues, and below, some of her newer experiments with botanical imagery…

Virginia Wyoming, floral lace experiment

Virginia’s floral lace experiments on her plates – I love these, (click for closer view)…

Virginia Wyoming, Lace plate 1

One of the finished floral lace plates on the artist’s Etsy shop…

Virginia Wyoming flower pot with cactus

Cacti and other succulents fill myriad flower pots in Virginia’s Westminster, Vermont studio…

Virginia Wyoming flower pot with succulents on studio windowsill

After touring the studio, and discussing her process, Virginia and I walked to her glass greenhouse atop the hill. Not surprisingly, (with just a little bit of help), Virginia assembled the structure herself from a kit. In this beautiful space the artist is currently growing edibles, (including leafy greens and herbs), amongst a collection of ornamental plants. Here in the conservatory, I was able to get a peek at some of her larger containers, including gorgeous vessels, alpine strawberry planters, urns and other stoneware items in practical use…

Virigina Wyoming greenhouse 2

Virginia’s glass greenhouse, (photo courtesy of the artist), is a tiny, botanical jewel-box; filled with lush foliage and gorgeous pottery…

Virginia Wyoming, greenhouse strawberry planters

Virginia’s alpine strawberry planters and a gorgeous sea green urn, shown below as the artist rubs the smooth surface with her hand…

Virginia Wyoming, greenhouse:pot

virginia wyoming, pot in greenhouse

Beautiful planters in every imaginable shape and size, all in the most gorgeous, richly saturated colors, fill the conservatory tables, benches and floor…

Virginia Wyoming, greenhouse pots

Virginia Wyoming, Greenhouse 1

Virginia’s greenhouse in summertime, (photo courtesy of the artist).

An avid gardener, Virgina comes from a long line of horticulturalists. She considers her planters and garden art a personal contribution to the family’s horticultural history, which traces back five generations. Below, garden sculpture from the ‘Awareness’ series and one of Virginia’s large flower pots are displayed in her lovely perennial gardens, (photos courtesy of  the artist)…

Virginia Wyoming, Awareness Series

Virginia Wyoming blue green flowerpot

Virginia Wyoming, Awareness Series 2

Although Virginia’s work is all quite beautiful to my eye, there is one sculpture series that truly stands apart. While discussing her ‘Crow’ series, Virginia told me about a dream she had some time ago. While she was sleeping, two crows appeared. The birds were tormented and distressed; caught up in plastic, croaking, ‘Evermore‘, (as opposed to ‘Nevermore’, a line made famous by Edgar Allan Poe). In response to the dream, Virginia began creating the ‘Crow’ series pictured below. This work is quite different from her other series’. The crows are hand built from weather proof stoneware. They are wonderfully animated, with expressive features and etched detail. Because I am quite fond of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, “The Raven”, I was immediately taken with both the story and the work. Then, when I saw the amazing birds grouped in Virginia’s autumn garden, I was completely bewitched. The artist has captured the spirit of a cackling flock of crows, exactly…

Virginia Wyoming, crow

One of Virginia’s crows in the studio, (photo courtesy of the artist)…

Virginia Wyoming Crows Gathering in Garden

And here, a group of crows from the series congregates in amongst the leaves in Virginia’s garden…

Virginia Wyoming Crow Close Up One

After touring Virginia’s studio and greenhouse, we sat down in her kitchen for a spell. The artist’s home is warm and welcoming – dozens and dozens of her colorful, beautiful stoneware mugs, plates, bowls and cookware line the shelves of her sunny kitchen. Plants from The Old School House Plantery and nearby Walker Farm fill the room with life and fragrance; her lovingly tended collection all nestled within beautiful handmade flowerpots…

tea in the artist's kitchen

Virginia Wyoming, kitchen, pottery

Virginia Wyoming pot in kitchen

Virginia Wyoming pots in studio home kitchen

Virginia Wyoming, kitchen:flower pot

Virginia Wyoming, kitchen flower-pot with scented geranium…

Although this visit ended far too soon, I am planning to return to Virginia’s studio before the holidays select some of her work for holiday gift giving. Spending time with Virginia is a real pleasure. Her love of horticulture and her devotion to her craft have inspired a beautiful life in the countryside of southern Vermont. If this brief introduction to Virginia Wyoming has sparked your curiosity, I hope you will visit her Etsy shop, Virginia Wyoming, Eclectic Studio Pottery. What you see here is just the beginning – there is so much more on her site! Thank you for spending an afternoon with me Virginia, it was a joy…

Virginia Wyoming in her garden

Virginia Wyoming at work in her favorite garden hat. (Photo: VW)

Virginia Wyoming three flowerpots

A trio of lovely pots in a tray, (photo by VW), available at Virginia’s Etsy shop…

For Further information about Virginia Wyoming and her work, or to purchase any of her available pieces online, please visit her very lovely Etsy shop here :  Virginia Wyoming Eclectic Studio Pottery

For information on the beautiful conservatory plants featured, please visit The Old School House Plantery online at Estsy shop, Eclecticasia

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All articles on The Gardener’s Eden are purely editorial. No compensation, (of any kind) is received for features on this site.

Article and photographs, (exceptions noted), are copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

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

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Hello Lover…

August 7th, 2009 § 7

Cape Primrose, (Streptocarpus ‘Black Panther’) in the Secret Garden at Ferncliff

I love a little flirtation in the garden. Yesterday, my cape primrose ‘Black Panther’ reminded me of just how much fun it is to be teased and surprised. I was dutifully weeding the Secret Garden path when I noticed something dark and mysterious peeking out from between the Streptocarpus leaves. Earlier this summer, I placed this tropical houseplant in a glazed pot and set it out on the chair beside my door. All sumer long, in spite of my potash rich fertilizer, ‘Black Panther’ has been reluctant to bloom. I blamed this shyness on the cool, rainy weather and resigned myself to his indifference. Imagine my surprise when I saw that violet shadow on the other side of the foliage. I quickly spun the pot around to have a better look. And there he was, that sneaky devil! Gorgeous. Just look at that deep, dark velvety beauty. Can you believe that color?  Some things are so worth waiting for.

Cape primrose ‘Black Panther’ belongs to the genus Streptocarpus, a rather large group of annual and perennial tropical plants containing more than 100 species. Streptocarpus come from the rain forest originally, growing on rocks and along banks in moist, humid forests and tropical rivers. This exotic plant can be found growing wild in China and South East Asia, southern Africa and Madagascar. But here in North America, Cape primrose is a conservatory plant; preferring warm, humid conditions and steady filtered light. I bring the ‘Black Panther’ inside each winter and I reduce watering a bit. As soon as outside temperatures moderate in early summer, I water the pot deeply and fertilize, placing it outside in my protected Secret Garden where he receives low-light, filtered by the steel balcony above.

I am so enamored with this mysterious, solitary blossom… And of course I am greedy for more. Will he spoil me, now that he is in the mood ? I can only wait and see. Anticipation… It can be so delightful.

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Streptocarpus ‘Black Panther’ from Proven Winners @ www.provenwinners.com

Proven Winners *find a retailer near you link*

~ Copyright 2009 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden ~

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Sculpture and Artful Objects in the Garden…

June 6th, 2009 Comments Off

pot-indian-rhubarb

Every now and again, I encounter a place in a garden where something seems to be missing. Usually, the space is calling for artful punctuation. I have discovered that sometimes the design element  I am looking for in a garden isn’t a plant at all. On occasion the smooth terra cotta surface of an urn, or the roughness of a grey tufa pot, will provide just the right contrast in texture or hue to bring out the subtle beauty of a leaf or a flower. Juxtaposing objects against plant life can bring out the character in both.  The beautiful vessel above is from A Candle in the Night.

hedera-and-ostrich-fern

While a space filled with collectibles has never been attractive to my eye, I do like to see things other than plants in a garden. Sometimes an empty chair or a tilted vessel can give a garden a poetic presence; hinting at rest, mystery, calm, magic, history, and many other things. Adding a mossy urn or a water bowl can create a calming mood in a garden room. I also like to use objects as focal points in corner niches, or at stopping places on a path or walkway.  Some garden objects can be simple, such as a bowl filled with smooth stone set in contrast to the spiky texture of a conifer. Other times the contrasting orange-tinted color of a rusting metal bench or basket might catch my eye as a way to bring out the saphire blue of a flower, such as salvia, in a nearby pot.

rusty-bench

water-bowl-secret-garden

vine

With larger objects, such as a commissioned stone sculpture, an entire landscape might be designed around the strength of a single feature. As a focal point or destination in an expansive lawn, or as a dramatic centerpiece in a minimalist garden filled with verdant ground cover, a piece of sculpture can provide essential depth and interest to a quiet design. Below, set in a simple lawn at forest edge, a fire sculpture created by artist Dan Snow becomes a gathering place during evening parties. While not everyone is lucky enough to have sculptor create a piece of artwork for their garden, the spacial concept is simple enough to borrow.  A thoughtful arrangement of stone or steel, or even an arched skeleton of saplings can bring a strong sculptural element to a garden.  For further inspiration, look to books on Japanese Zen gardening and large scale sculpture, and to the land art projects of three dimensional artists such as Andy Goldsworthy, Robert Smithson, Donald Judd, and Dale Chihuly

fire-sculpture1

And then, sometimes an object suitable for a landscape will appear before a space is available. When in possession of such an interesting or unusual object, it is often wise to hold onto it and wait until the ideal position presents itself. A few years ago, a friend gave me a piece of statuary – a cast guardian angel. I struggled with what to do with this thoughtful gift, since my garden is not the sort of place you might find such a large, classical object. The angel seemed sadly out of place, no matter where she sat. For several years, she waited in the cellar for her new home. Late one afternoon, while on on a walk, it occurred to me that the angel simply needed a bigger room… something like a cathedral. She now makes her home on the edge of my forest path, where she is quite striking and unexpected. With the trees arching 30 to 40 feet above her, the melancholy angel no longer looks awkward or out of place. My hauntingly beautiful forest guardian seems right at home amongst the native ferns and foliage.

forest-guardian

I will be featuring more sculpture and artful objects on The Gardener’s Eden over the coming months. In meantime, give a second look to those chipped or rusty, cast-offs in the garage and cellar. Perhaps there is a garden-worthy object hiding amongst the cobwebs in an old barn or shed.  The garden can be a good place to recycle many things when you think creatively. A piece of found-art or sculpture can be a fantastic springboard for a new garden design, or a way to breathe new life into an old space. When designing a garden, stretch your imagination beyond plant life…  and watch your ideas grow.

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Do you know of some great garden objects, sculptors or artists you would like to see featured on The Gardener’s Eden ?  If so, please email your thoughts to:

michaela at  the gardeners eden dot com

Article and Photographs copyright 2009 Michaela at TGE

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