Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison, Plus a Springtime-Fresh Garden Recipe: Peas with Baked Ricotta & Breadcrumbs

April 23rd, 2013 § 6

Madi_Vegetable LiteracyVegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison

As organic vegetable gardeners, we know how important it is to become familiar with the various plant families and to develop an understanding of how they relate to one another in the garden. Botanical knowledge is key to avoiding many pests, diseases and cultural problems. Having recently reviewed the topics of crop rotation, companion planting and intercropping in the organic vegetable garden —Kitchen Garden Planning, Part One, followed by Kitchen Garden Planning, Part Two— now seems like the perfect opportunity to discuss how this same botanical knowledge can guide creative use of homegrown produce in your kitchen.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been devouring Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy, sent to me for review by publisher, Ten Speed Press. One of the most highly-regarded vegetarian cooks of our time, Deborah Madison is author of eleven cookbooks. In her most recent title, Madison explores the relationship between botany and cooking, and how that knowledge can serve us as we prepare produce in our kitchens. A new gardener herself, the author takes a down-to-earth approach; with stories and observations that will be both familiar and inspirational to those who, like Madison, are just beginning to grow their own food. More experienced green thumbs will be delighted by new botanical discoveries and unexpected, creative ways to use the fruits of their labor.

Late_Spring_Potager_michaela_thegardenerseden  Nothing will improve your culinary skills faster than growing fresh produce in your own backyard, and learning how to use those edible flowers, fruits, vegetables and herbs, creatively in your kitchen

New gardeners will quickly observe that some natural companions in their potagers —tomatoes and basil or garlic and potatoes, for example— are also delightful partners in recipes. In fact, the joy of experimenting with garden fresh ingredients in the kitchen is often what leads a gardener’s hands to soil in the first place. By learning the ways in which edible plants relate to one another, a gardener can become a more versatile and confident cook. Out of onions, spinach or some other key ingredient and need a quick substitute? Looking for a way to jazz up a simple plate of carrots, but haven’t a clue what might work with them? With a bit of coaching from Madison, gardeners may find the creative answers to these culinary challenges, right in the backyard vegetable patch!

Filled with delicious, vegetarian recipes and gorgeous, full-color photographs, Vegetable Literacy is as beautiful to behold as it is delightful to read. Chapters in this cookbook are divided by plant families (Apiacea, Lamiacea, Asteraceae, Brassicaceae, etc.). In addition to 300-plus recipes, the author has included a chef’s notes about her favorite varieties of each edible plant, as well as interesting and useful botanical details for gardeners. I’ve flagged a number of dishes to try with my early crops, but the one featured below, “Peas with Baked Ricotta and Breadcrumbs”, simply couldn’t wait. Although it’s a bit early here in Vermont for garden-fresh peas, I did try this recipe with some of last fall’s bounty (stored in my freezer), and was thrilled with the result. I can’t wait to enjoy this comforting dish again; only next time, with the incomparable flavor of hand-shucked peas, plucked straight from my garden . . .

Peas with Baked Ricotta Peas with Baked Ricotta & Breadcrumbs from Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy. Photo © 2013 Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton

Peas with Baked Ricotta and Bread Crumbs

A light supper for 2

Olive oil

1 cup high-quality ricotta cheese, such as hand-dipped
full-fat ricotta

2 to 3 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs

4 teaspoons butter

2 large shallots or 1/2 small onion, finely diced (about 1/3 cup)

5 small sage leaves, minced (about 11/2 teaspoons)

11/2 pounds pod peas, shucked (about 1 cup)

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Chunk of Parmesan cheese, for grating

Heat the oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a small baking dish; a round Spanish earthenware dish about 6 inches across is perfect for this amount.

If your ricotta is wet and milky, drain it first by putting it in a colander and pressing out the excess liquid. Pack the ricotta into the dish, drizzle a little olive oil over the surface, and bake 20 minutes or until the cheese has begun to set and brown on top. Cover the surface with the bread crumbs and continue to bake until the bread crumbs are browned and crisp, another 10 minutes. (The amount of time it takes for ricotta cheese to bake until set can vary tremendously, so it may well take longer than the times given here, especially if it wasn’t drained.)

When the cheese is finished baking, heat the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. When the butter foams, add the shallots and sage and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the peas, 1/2 cup water, and the lemon zest. Simmer until the peas are bright green and tender; the time will vary, but it should be 3 to 5 minutes. Whatever you do, don’t let them turn gray. Season with salt and a little freshly ground pepper, not too much.

Divide the ricotta between 2 plates. Spoon the peas over the cheese. Grate some Parmesan over all and enjoy while warm.

With Pasta: Cook 1 cup or so pasta shells in boiling, salted water. Drain and toss them with the peas, cooked as above, and then with the ricotta. The peas nestle in the pasta, like little green pearls.

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Reprinted with permission from Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison. Copyright © 2013 by Deborah Madison. Photographs © 2013 Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.

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

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The Seasons are Changing & It’s Time to Begin Burying Our Bulb Treasures …

September 16th, 2012 § 5

A Tisket, A Tasket, A Basket Full of Narcissus . . .

Anticipation. True gardeners really know how to revel in the wait. We are, essentially, pleasure-delayers. Gardening differs from many modern-day activities in one significant way: it is not an instant gratification activity. Not at all. Gardeners do a lot of waiting, watching and wondering. And really, this waiting becomes a way of extending our pleasure; a key part of the fun. What will the new Narcissus smell like? Will the white Erythronium blossom at the same time as the rose-tinted Hellebore? How long will it take for the Muscari to form a blue pool of blossoms at the base of the stone wall? Will the voles eat all of the crocus this year? I like wondering about things. I love forgetting about a buried treasure and then, in spring, thrilling upon the re-discovery.

Patience. Gardening has taught me many things, and I would say that whatever patience I possess —and heaven knows I am not known for it— I developed through the practice of gardening. Working with nature helps me to balance my impulsive nature, and has —quite literally— made me a more grounded person. I have a fiery personality. The act of gardening calms me down and soothes my moods. I learned this in childhood, and perhaps that is why I feel so strongly about connecting children to the non-instant-gratification pleasure of gardening. Waiting six months for a tulip to bloom is the exact opposite of waiting a nano-second for a text message. And I think that is a good thing…

Crocus Petals Unfurling

The ritual of planting bulbs is, to me, a most delicious process. First, there is the hunting and then there is the choosing. Of course, the catalogues from fine companies, like Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, arrive in early summer, and I fill them with sticky notes and scribbles. Then —usually by mid-July— I begin filling my virtual carts online (the earlier you order, the better the deals). And oh, the wonderful, wonderful pleasure of selecting from amongst all of the beautiful, jewel-like treasures. With a garden as large as mine, I order most common bulbs in great quantity. But there are many opportunities for small-scale vignettes, showcasing those rare little surprises here as well; particularly in the Secret Garden.

Most spring-blooming bulbs perform best when planted after the soil has cooled to 50 degrees or lower (usually in mid-autumn here in VT) but before it has begun to freeze. (If your bulbs arrive earlier, store them in a cool, dry place until it’s time to plant). Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. Winter aconites (Eranthus), trout lilies (Erythroniums), iris, and certain other corms, rhizomes, tubers and bulbs, (Galanthus for example) should be planted in late summer or very early autumn. Take care to give these species more time to establish. In fact some bulbs and corms, such as snowdrops (Galanthus), are best transplanted ‘in the green’ (meaning, they do very well when divided and transplanted in spring, after blooming). If you are new to the world of bulbs, pay close attention to the fine-print when selecting and ordering; taking care to research the cultural requirements of each species, to avoid disappointment…

Leucojum aestivum (Summer Snowflake) in the Secret Garden – This Gorgeous Flower Takes My Breath Away…

Scillia hispanica  (Spanish Bluebells) are Beautiful Both in a Vase and in the Garden, Planted Here with Companion Hosta, Emerging in May

Narcissus ‘Fragrant Rose’ in the Northwestern Garden, Beneath the Syringa ‘Mme. Lemoine’

When designing with bulbs —for myself of for my clients— I rely heavily upon my garden notes and photos, carefully taken the previous spring. I try to provide all plants, including bulbs, with their preferred, natural growing conditions. Most bulbs, particularly the Tulips and Daffodils, need good drainage. This is especially important in winter and again in the summer. So, I try to avoid low-spots in the garden, where water will settle. Other ephemerals, such as the woodsy Erythroniums, prefer a cool and shady spot in the garden. Snowdrops, Winter Aconites and Erythroniums do very well beneath the shadowy canopy of shrubs and trees. When planning a springtime bulb-show, it’s very important to remember that most bulbs will eventually go into summer dormancy. Companion planting is the most effective way to conceal withering bulb foliage (never cut foliage back until the bulb has completed it’s yearly cycle, your daffodils and other bulbs need to photosynthesize).  Some easy combinations to begin with: daffodils planted between day lilies on a slope, trout lilies (Erythronium) planted amongst coral bells (Heuchera), and bluebells planted between ferns or late-emerging hosta. There are many, many great combinations (see some pictured below). Some companies, including Brecks, Spring Hill, Dutch Gardens, Old House Gardens and Brent & Becky’s Bulbs, offer great companion suggestions. I encourage you to look back at your garden photos and notes, and experiment with perennial combinations all your own. Remember, the experimentation and surprise is part of the pleasure! Plant bulbs that prefer full-sun and good drainage with similar perennials, such as ornamental grass and day lilies. Find shady spots between broad-leafed perennial plants, shrubs and trees for woodland bulbs. You will be delighted with the results all season-long…

A Pool of Blue Muscari has Formed Around the Base of Dan Snow’s Retaining Wall. In summer, Sedum ‘Vera Jameson’ will Take Over the Show, Concealing the Yellowing Muscari Foliage, Until it Withers Away.

Narcissus ‘Lemon Silk’ planted with Sedum, near the Base of the Secret Garden Steps. A nearby Daphne and emerging coral bells (Heuchera) will conceal the yellowing daffodil leaves as they die back later in dormancy.

A Common, Striped Crocus in Radiant Violet and Orange (from an unnamed bargain batch)

The Spike-Hair of Narcissus ‘Rip Van Winkle’, a Spontaneous Purchase from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, Always Makes Me Smile.  Daffodil Foliage Goes Yellow in Dormancy so I Plant Them Where They Will Disappear Between Perennials

Camassia quamash is an Early-Summer Blooming Beauty. I Love Using It in Meadow-Combinations with Ornamental Grass and Other Native Wild Flowers. Read More About This Beauty in My Post About Camassia Here.

Fritillaria, One of My Favorite Spring Flowers, Does Very Well When Planted in Ornamental Grass Gardens and Meadows

As the Snow Recedes, Crocus tommasinianus (aka ‘tommies’) Burst Forth from the Earth in a Luminous-Lavender Hue. Here Planted with Ground- Covering Heuchera Along the Entry Walk.

Galanthus ‘S. Arnott’ – If You Aren’t Careful, Snowdrops Can Become a Special Obsession All Their Own…

Chinodoxa luciliae gigantea – Glory of the Snow will Always Have a Special Place in My Heart. The Blue Flowers Bloom Very Early, and Multiply to Form Carpets. Low-Growing Chinodoxa Do Very Well Planted in Lawns (delay first mowing for best results) or Beneath Spring Blooming Shrubs and Trees. Imagine Them Combined with a Red Flowering Witch Hazel (such as H. x intermedia ‘Diane’)

Bulbs and Companions in the Secret Garden (Here, ‘Sterling’ Narcissus is planted with Euphorbia, Heuchera and Matteuccia pensylvanica beneath Stewartia pseudocamilla)

Bulbs and Companions in the Secret Garden (From left: Erythronium, Narcissus ‘Sterling’, Helleborus x hybridus ‘Royal Heritage Strain’, with Emerging Actaea simplex and ferns)

Erythronium (the species is also known by various interesting common names, from dog-tooth violet and turk’s cap to trout lily) in the Secret Garden. Read More About Erythronium by Clicking Back to a Special Post on These Hat-Like Spring Beauties, Here.

Muscari at the Base of the Secret Garden Steps in Early Spring. Note the Emerging Perennials, Surrounding the Blooming Bulbs.

Scillia siberica  (Siberian squill) Makes an Early Appearance Beneath Shrubs in the Entry Garden 

Bulbs and Companions form a Colorful Carpet Along the Secret Garden Entry in Early Spring. (Daphne ‘Carol Mackie’ is the fragrant, mounded shrub on the left, and lavender-blue Phlox divaricata ‘Clouds of Perfume’ scents the air. Also here, Muscari, Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’ and various Sedum)

Ground-Cover Companions for Bulbs Can Play with Foliage and Flower Contrasts. Here, Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ offers a bit of drama in this Secret Garden vignette when combined with Tiarella cordifolia (foam flower) and Leucojum aestevium (Summer Snowflake)

The Secret Garden in Early Spring: ‘Sterling’ Narcissus, various Euphorbia, Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’, Matteuccia pensylvanica, Tiarella cordifolia, Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’, Paeonia mouton x lutea ‘High Noon’, Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’, Helleborus x hybridus ‘Royal Heritage Strain’, all beneath Stewartia pseudocamilla

Pulmonaria saccharata ‘Mrs. Moon’, here in the central garden (planted with Alchemilla mollis) is a great companion plant for early bulbs…

Crocus Emerging from Winter-Dried Grass

For Springtime Dreams & Obsessions: Bulb by Ana Pavord

Garden Design and Installation: Michaela Medina Harlow

Stonework: Dan Snow

A Version of This Post First Appeared on The Gardener’s Eden in September 2010

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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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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From April Showers to May Flowers…

May 1st, 2012 Comments Off

Trout lily (Erythronium tuolumnense), Daffodils (Narcissus ‘Snipe’), Coral Bell Leaves (Heuchera americana) and Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaricata ‘Clouds of Perfume’). (Click here to read more about Erythronium)

Happy May Day! Here in Vermont, we begin the new month with a day of much-needed rain.

May is a busy month for gardeners. Thirty one days of planning, prepping, planting, weeding and harvesting early crops. Luckily, longer days make all of our harried, summer-time preparations possible. Temperatures in the northeast can still be quite chilly at this time of year and I always check the forecast on clear nights and protect tender plants when the mercury drops.

Still, as we steadily wind our way toward summer, the May nights grow warmer and sweeter. We shed our layers, kick off shoes and wiggle our bare toes in newly-mown grass. It’s May Day at last, and the gardener celebrates; dancing to the percussive beat of raindrops and the symphony of birds in springtime song…

Lovely, dark, Lenten Rose (Helleborus x hybridus ‘Royal Heritage Strain’) Blooms Along the Mossy Stone Wall (Click here to read more about the Lenten Rose)

Trout Lilies Blossom Amongst Fragrant Blue Woodland Phlox (P. divaricata ‘Clouds of Perfume)

With Clusters of Pale, Pinkish-Hued Sisters Nearby (Helleborus x hybridus ‘Royal Heritage Strain’)

Pulmonaria saccharata ‘Raspberry Splash’ and Narcissus, Dance in the Wind-Driven Rain (Click here to read more about Pulmonaria)

The Return of Cooler Temps Extends the Bloom-Time of This Deliciously Fragrant Burkwood Viburnum (V. x burkwoodii ‘Mohawk’)

Creamy-White Witch Alder Blossoms (Fothergilla major ‘Mt. Airy’) and Golden Spicebush Buds (Lindera benzoin) Add Scent to the Damp, Thick Air. (Click here, and also here, to read more about season-spanning beauty of North American native Witch Alder, and click here to read more about North American native Spicebush)

And at the Secret Garden Door, a Water Bowl Catches Raindrops as They Bounce from the Mossy Rock

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photos, 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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Bavarian Purple, Spanish Roja & More: Selecting & Planting Gourmet Garlic …

October 24th, 2011 § 2

Gorgeous, Gourmet Garlic! Bulbs, Clockwise from Top of Ceramic Bowl: German White, Russian Red, Bavarian Purple & Spanish Roja. On Table: Two Heads of Doc’s German & One Each of German Red & Music. In Basket: A Combination of All Garlic Varieties, Plus Continental.

Creatures of the night, beware: I grow garlic! Garlic and onion braids hang from the wooden beams of my kitchen, and they inhabit colorful ceramic keepers on my shelves. I have garlic galore planted in my garden, squirreled away for winter use upon shelves in paper bags and hanging from floor joists in my cellar. Vampires dare not kiss me, for I cook with this delightfully stinky herb most every night.

Every autumn, I plant many varieties of cold hardy, hardneck garlic in my potager (hardneck garlic is the best choice for climates with long, cold winters). It’s a good idea to purchase garlic grown close to your own home (this insures the hardiest selections for your climate and local growing conditions), and traditionally, each October, I visit the annual Garlic & Arts Festival in nearby North Orange, Massachusetts, to select a few more gourmet bulbs for my garden. One of my all-time favorite garlic varieties, which I finally found at the festival a few years ago, is Spanish Roja (a rocambole hardneck garlic). This beautifully colored, hot and spicy selection possesses a true garlic flavor and easy-to-peel cloves, making it one of the most popular —and sometimes hard to find— bulbs at market. This zesty variety and others —including German Red, Bavarian Purple and Russian Red—-  tend  to be my favorite types for roasting and cooking. But I also love the milder varieties of garlic —including smokey, medium heat Continental— for salad dressing, salsa, cold pasta and other recipes calling for raw cloves, and for use in subtler dishes.

Garlic Bulbs are Harvested in Late Summer, When the Tops Yellow, Wither and Flop (Also True for Onions). Once Lifted from the Earth with a Garden Fork, Excess Soil is Shaken from the Bulbs as They ‘Cure’ for Two Weeks in a Warm, Dry Place.

Many hard neck garlic varieties (including rocambole, porcelain and striped) store beautifully in cool, dark, dry conditions. Porcelain garlic bulbs, such as German White and Music, are exceptionally good selections for long-term (up to 9 months under optimal conditions) storage. Russian Red, another good-sized porcelain hardneck variety, is also a top-notch keeper. I hang garlic braids in my kitchen and always have a few bulbs on hand in ceramic keepers, but most of my garlic is stored on shelves in a cool (approximately 55 degrees) part of my dark, dry cellar. After harvest and curing (for more detail, see previous post by clicking here) I like to store my garlic bulbs in braids (click here for my popular onion/garlic braiding tutorial with step-by-step photos) and in loosely folded, brown paper bags (this provides ample air circulation). I mark the name of the variety on the outside for quick reference. Some bulbs return to the garden every autumn, and the rest remain in stock on my shelves for winter and springtime use.

Preparing to Plant Garlic: Breaking a Basket of Large, Firm, Hard Neck Bulbs into Cloves

Mid-autumn is the best time to plant hardneck garlic in my climate. Each year I rotate my crop; preparing a new garlic bed with fresh compost in late September. Selecting large, firm bulbs from my crop, I carefully separate the cloves and prepare tags for each variety. On a cool, dry October day, I plant each clove approximately 2″ deep and 4-6″ apart (space wider for big, porcelain bulbs like Music). Mulching is very important in cold climates like Vermont. I use throughly rotted compost and clean straw or ground oak leaves for a nice thick mulch. Read more about garlic planting, and find a link back to removing and using garlic scapes, in my previous post “A Thousand Mothers Set Into Earth” by clicking here.

Of Course the Best Part of Growing Garlic is Eating It! Click Here for a Delicious Garlic and Potato Soup Recipe

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photos, 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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First Hints of a Changing Season …

September 12th, 2011 Comments Off

Shimmering Bronze Beauty in the Morning Light: Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’

As the last days of summer swirl by in a golden haze, the first hints of a changing season have begun to appear in my garden. Dusk settles in this quiet forest clearing a bit earlier each evening, and although days are still warm and bright, nights are much cooler now. Hooting owls and the cries of distant coyote have replaced the songbird’s twilight serenade. Each morning –greeted by the slow sunrise, heavy as honey– I stroll the garden paths and woodland trails, noting subtle shifts in color. I watch with a touch of sadness as Summer packs her luggage —folding up her gauzy, floral wardrobe and tucking away her perfumes— while Autumn, with her musky scent and leafy, golden crown, approaches the garden gate …

The Mauve-Violet Tones of Maiden Grass are Luminous at Dawn (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’)

The Blossoms of Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ Have Developed a Rosy Blush

Favorite Late-Season Combinations, Such as This Pairing of Sedum ‘Matrona’ with Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’) and Rudbeckia hirta, Once Again Take Center Stage in the Garden Show

Cornus kousa Fruits Glow Between the Glossy Green Leaves …

So Many Fill the Branches, Dangling Like Brightly Colored Pom-Poms

The Autumn-Kissed Leaves of this Doublefile Viburnum (V. plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Shasta’) Glow Like Stained Glass

Scarlet Leaves (V. plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Shasta’) are a Striking in the Agains the Blue Horizon as a Westerly Wind Rustles the Shimmering, New, Metallic Tufts of Flame Grass (Miscanthus sinensis purpurascens)

The Fragrant Blossoms of Fairy Candles (Actaea simplex ‘Brunette’ /aka Cimicifuga racemosa) Perfume the Secret Garden with a Soft, Sweet Scent

The Blossoms of this Variegated Bushclover (Lespedeza thunbergii ‘Edo Shibori’) Spill Like a Waterfall, Over the Rusty Bench and Onto the Stone Terrace

Photos 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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Late Summer’s Bold Crescendo …

August 19th, 2011 § 2

The Large Drift of Native Cutleaf Coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata) in my Garden Glows Bright as the Late Summer Sunset

After the recent rain –almost overnight it seems– the gardens have exploded in a new wave of bloom. Stepping out with my morning coffee, I am seduced ’round the corner by the sweet and spicy fragrance of Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) and the intoxicating perfume of exotic lilies. It’s time for the garden’s late summer crescendo; a bold and flamboyant show in shades of gold, chartreuse, brilliant orange and flame. As if painted by a wild-eyed expressionist, the beds and borders have taken on a jazzy new rhythm; bold color bands and vibrant drifts so full of exuberance, they sometimes spill right out onto the lawn. I am particularly fond of the maroon and gold combinations –a prelude to September– and the new shapes and textures emerging in the form of seed pods and fluffy inflorescences. Here are a few of my favorites and favorite pairings —with links back to previous plant profiles– from the mid-August garden…

Hazy Color Drifts in Maroon and Gold in the Long Border: Cutleaf Coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata) Shimmers Before Shadowy Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’). Beyond the Bands of Color, Spikes of Miscanthus strictus Catch the Last Light of Day. (I love the taller forms of Rudbeckia; particluarly R. lacinata ‘Herbstsonne’)

With so Many Late-Summer Blooming Perennials in the Garden, Sometimes I Take the Daylilies for Granted. And Then –Suddenly– One Just Knocks Me Out. This Unnamed Cultivar is Part of the Woodside Daylily Mix from White Flower Farm. The Daylilies Always Provide a Warm Welcome at the Edge of My Drive

A Fresh Fountain of Green & White, Striped Beauty: Eulalia Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Variegatus’) at the Edge of My Wildflower Walk (read more about ornamental grasses for perennial gardens by clicking here)

Heliopsis helianthoides ‘Sommersonne’ & Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’ (click here to read more about one of my favorite native shrubs: Physocarpus opulifolius)

Kirengeshoma palmata (Yellow Wax Bells) with the Leaves of an Acer palmatum (click here to read more about Kirengeshoma palmata)

Echinacea purpurea with Eupatorium rugosum ‘Chocolate’ and Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’

One of My Absolute Favorite Late-Summer Combinations? Kaleidoscopic Cushion Spurge (Euphorbia polychroma ‘Bonfire’) with Dark-Leafed Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium rugosum ‘Chocolate’). They Make Beautiful Music Together. 

I’ve Planted Hummingbird Clethra/Dwarf Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) Beside My Studio Steps. Here the Spicy/Sweet Fragrance Gently Wafts in the Window and Perfumes the Garden Path. When Morning Light Illuminates the Spiked White Blossoms They Glow Like Candles. I Grow a Number of Clethra cultivars (click here for a profile of this beautiful and beneficial native plant)

A Favorite Spot for Morning Coffee, the Steel Balcony –Enclosed by a Golden Hops Vine-Clad Cable– Sits High Above the Secret Garden Room. Here, I Enjoy the Early Light of Day, as It Dances on the Garden and Forest Below

Golden Hops Vine (Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’) Brings a Chartreuse Glow to the Steel Balcony Throughout the Summer. And in August, the Blossoms Catch Light, Raindrops and Lots of Attention (click here to read more about this glorious, perennial vine)

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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The Loveliest Ladies of August: Summer’s Beautiful, Late Bloomers are Well Worth the Wait …

August 10th, 2011 § 4

Blush-tinged blossoms and gorgeous, season-spanning foliage make Hydrangea quercifolia one of my favorite native plants (shown here with Juniperus squamata ‘Holger’ and the lingering blue flowers of Adenophora confusa) . Check out this shrub’s autumn coloration here!

After last night’s much-needed rain, I awoke to the sound of hermit thrush, sweetly singing in the hemlock stand beyond my bedroom window. Slowly the morning symphony of songbirds is subsiding; soon-to-be completely replaced by the cacophony of crickets and squawking blue jays. Late summer migration is already beginning, with geese flocking in fields and nearby lakes. Many songbirds will take flight this month; starting their long journeys south by the light of the August 13th full moon. Indeed, late summer is upon us, and even the garden is relaxing into vacation-mood; with lazy-day looseness replacing the tightly uniform patterns of early summer …

When Other Shrubs Look Past Their Prime, Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’  Shines in August Spot; Here Beside Co-Star Fagus sylvatica ‘Riversii’, (read more about this dynamic duo here)

Of course for those of us staying on in colder climates —to weather all four seasons— there’s still much fair weather yet to be enjoyed. I so look forward to these golden, halcyon days of summer; work slowing down, days on the river, dinners from the garden and long flights over the valley at sunset. Of course, if you’ve been following this journal for awhile, you already know that the late season is my favorite time of year in the garden. Many of my garden’s largest beds and borders are planned for a late August through November color crescendo. I love the play of rich purple, maroon, chartreuse, fuchsia and saffron in the last weeks of summer and early days of autumn. And now that we’ve arrived in the second week of August, some of my favorite plants are budding up and coming into bloom. Included in this post are some of my all-time favorites. But really, the show is just beginning. Stay tuned for more late summer show-stoppers. But for now, to travel back to this post for a few late summer garden-design and plant combination ideas (click here). Or, for more past-posts and late-season plant profiles, click on the August through November archives; listed in the sidebar along the right side column …

Actaea simplex or Cimicifuga racemosa/simplex? Matters Not How She’s Taxonomically Categorized, Fairy Candles (favorite cultivars include the above: ‘Hillside Black Beauty and also, ‘Brunette’) are a Season-Spanning Delight with Swoon-Worthy Late Summer Fragrance! To read more and see Fairy Candle photos: check out this plant-profile (click here)

Tricyrtis formosana ‘Dark Beauty’ with Ucinia egmontiana (Click here to learn more about the Spotted toad lily, shown here in my garden with Orange Hook Sedge)

Read more about Bi-Colored Bush Clover, Lespedeza thunbergii ‘Edo Shibori’, in this post (click here

With Her Emerald Gown and Stunning, Late-Season Blossoms, Kirengeshoma palmata (Yellow Wax Bells) Will Always be a Shade-Garden Star (see more photos and get details on this lovely perennial by clicking here)

I adore this time of year in my garden, and keep adding more and more late season perennials and shrubs to expand and enhance the show. What are some of your August blooming favorites? Do you prefer the cool tones, the muted colors or the eye popping brights? Hope you will enjoy the glorious days of late summer while they last!

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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Cooling Off in the Dappled Shade: Deepest Violet and Shadow Blue Hues …

July 23rd, 2011 Comments Off

Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ with Fothergilla x intermedia ‘Blue Shadow’

Out working in the field during this week’s scorching heat and high humidity, I found myself dodging the sun whenever possible; ducking beneath the cover of every shade tree and arbor in order to hide from burning, mid-day rays. Over the past couple of weeks it’s been so hot, it really does feel as if you could fry an egg on the side walk. I can barely keep up with watering these days, and I find myself longing for the sweet relief of summer rain.

During the dog days of summer —seduced by the undeniable allure of cool hues and dappled shade in the Secret Garden— I like to spend as much time as possible working from my shadowy office-nook. Cool shades like sea-green, violet-maroon, silvery-blue and burgundy —some of my favorite colors— fill this shady oasis. And on hot days, I love to pull a chair into the tall ferns and surround myself with lush, sensual foliage, in soothing, deep, dark hues. Previously, in posts such as “A Heart of Darkness”, I’ve mentioned my infatuation with nearly-black plants. And while the hues are anything but hot, my dark passion for shadowy foliage shows now sign of cooling. Currently, I’m loving the color play of silver-blue leaves against deep maroon, and two long-time favorite, shady ladies, Fothergilla x intermedia ‘Blue Shadow’ (USDA 4-8) and Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ (USDA 4-8), are the latest, cool-hued additions to my garden (foliage of both pictured above). 

Athyrium niponicum var. pictum with Cryptotaenia japonica atropurpurea (aka variously: Japanese Mitsuba or Japanese parsley/honewort)

The pale pink plumes of Astilbe x arendesii ‘Europa’ also combine well with bronzy-maroon Cryptotaenia japonica atropurpurea

Elsewhere in the shade gardens, I like to combine astilbe and silvery ferns —particularly Athyrium niponicum var. pictum and Athyrium ‘Ghost’ (both ferns, USDA 4-9)— with the deep, violet-maroon leaves of Cryptotaenia japonica autropurpurea(aka Japanese Mitsuba/Honewort, USDA zones 4-9*), Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’, H. ‘Stormy Sea’ and statuesque Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ (which I featured in this post –click here– last summer). Chartreuse/gold leaves and blades also play beautifully in contrast with darker foliage; bringing a bit of light to shady vignettes. Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’ and Hosta ‘August Moon’ are two favorite bright-contrast plants in my dimly-lit Secret Garden.

After a long day in the hot sun, there’s nothing quite so soothing as a cool glass of lemonade in a lush, shady nook…

Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ (aka Cimicifuga), Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’ play beautifully with the chartreuse-blades of Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’ and to the far left, silvery, variegated Lamium maculatum ‘White Nancy’

Hosta ‘August Moon’ with Cryptotaenia japonica atropurpurea

One of my long-time favorite, leafy ground covers for dappled sunlight, Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’, combines well with many other shade garden plants. And I particularly love the leathery-maroon leaves beneath Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’

*Cryptotaenia japonica atropurpurea is a culinary herb, known variously as Mitsuba, Japanese parsley or honeywort. It is closely related to North American Cryptotaenia canadensis. Although it is not considered an invasive plant by the USDA, C. japonica freely seeds and in shady, moist locations can become aggressive (much like mint). Plant this herb with caution and dead head to prevent self-sowing seed troubles.

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

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A Carpet of Tiny, Jewel-Like Treasures: Hardy, Ground Covering Succulents …

July 21st, 2011 § 6

Sedum spurium ‘John Creech’ Blooming on the Ledges

Nature hates a vacuum, and when she sees one, she usually fills it as quickly as possible. As gardeners, we often find ourselves at odds with Mother Nature’s plant choices, and when we really dislike them, we call them “weeds”. Spaces between stepping stones, pockets between rocks and ledges, cracks along walkways, and various other crevices at ground-level create wonderful planting opportunities. Rather than allow crab grass or white clover seed to take hold in these spots, I choose to get a jump on Mother Nature; filling them with plants of my own choosing. Low-growing, hardy succulents, like Sedum spurium and other species of stonecrop, are great for filling nooks and crannies; creating beautiful carpets of color throughout the seasons.

Although many gardeners think of succulents as desert plants —suitable only for warm, sunny climates— many species are actually very cold hardy and a great number will even tolerate dappled shade. Have some rocky spaces to fill? Pictured here are a few of the hardiest species growing in my garden; plants that can take a beating from snow, ice, cold, pets and people. And for more great design ideas —including ways to use sedum ground covers and other hardy, succulent plants— check out Debra Lee Baldwin’s Designing with Succulents and Hardy Succulents by Gwen Kelaidis and Saxon Holt. Crowd out weeds and create a tapestry of jewel-like color at your feet with beautiful, ground-covering sedum …

Sedum spurium ‘Dragon’s Blood’ forms a brilliant, scarlet carpet; brightening the grey-stone walkway

Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’ takes on an orange-cast in hot, dry, sun

Chartreuse-Gold Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’ makes a pretty filler-plant along the edge of the Wildflower Walk

Sedum spurium ‘John Creech’ with Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’ and Ajuga reptans ‘Purple Brocade’ in a dry, sunny spot along the walkway

Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’, glows in the shadows; planted here in a semi-shade location with Ajuga reptans ‘Purple Brocade’

Designing with Succulents by Debra Lee Baldwin

Hardy Succulents from Gwen Kelaidis with photographs by Saxon Holt

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

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A Bolder Shade of Summertime … Sambucus racemosa ‘Sutherland Gold’

July 5th, 2011 § 3

 Sambucus racemosa ‘Sutherland Golden’ with Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’ in the Entry Garden

Some like it hot. And, some wither and fade in the mid-day sun. Blossoms come and go quickly at this time of year, but beautiful foliage lasts all season long. Does your garden go through awkward phases throughout the summer; gaps between flowering, when things look a little ‘blah’? Consider experimenting with colorful leaves to add a bit of season-spanning interest in your garden. A verdant backdrop is always lovely, of course. But there’s more than one hue in your box of Crayolas, so why not pull out a few and play around?

Like most gardeners, when I began planting perennials in my first garden, I was very flower-centric. Of course, flowers have evolved to seduce us —as well as birds, bees and butterflies— so it’s hard not to focus on all of those gorgeous blossoms. Peonies, roses, iris; I adore them all. Trouble is, even when employing various cultivars for staggered bloom time, the flowering season of most perennials is really quite short. Now, when designing gardens for myself and for my clients, I am quite ruthless when selecting plants. “What’s in it for me ?” I ask. “What’s in it for me all season long?” Sambucus racemosa ‘Sutherland Golden(aka ‘Gold’), answers at the top of her lungs: “Look at me … Over here in the flamboyant chartreuse gown!” Brilliant as a sunlit lime, from spring until frost, this gorgeous European Red Elder has become one of my favorite plants for dappled shade and mixed borders. Just look at her glowing, cut leaves…

Sambucus racemosa ‘Sutherland Golden’s Lovely, Tropical-Looking Leaves are Saturated in Luminous Chartreuse

There are several interesting Sambucus racemosa cultivars available; including dark beauties like ‘Black Lace’. I’m attracted to them all, and after experimenting with several in my own garden (which always serves as a testing ground for my garden design work), I’ve found that S. racemosa, ‘Sutherland Golden’ is the best of the yellow-chartreuse cultivars. I love playing the striking foliage of ‘Sutherland Golden’ against coppery and maroon hued plants like Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’ and Cotinus coggygria ‘Grace’ (or for more intensity, C. coggygria ‘Royal Purple’). Chartreuse foliaged plants like this one also work beautifully against dark green hedges (or dark sided houses), and blue-tinted conifers. And just imagine the perennial possibilities! Deep blue and purple flowers, like Geranium ‘Brookside’ or late-blooming Aconitum sing against the golden backdrop of ‘Sutherland Golden’. And orange flowering plants —like butterflyweed and brilliant daylilies— are stunning against this shrubs feathery, bold backdrop. Always luminous, even casual, happenstance pairings with ‘Sutherland Gold’ can be striking. Take a look at the photo below, for example. Notice how the chartreuse color of the Sambucus leaves brings out the brilliant green moss on the ledge in the background. Color works such magic in a garden design …

Treated as a Woody, Perennial Plant (cut back hard in early spring), The Fresh, Vibrant Foliage of this European Red Elder Emerges Rusty, Copper-Orange Before Shifting to a Hue Bright as the Summer Sun…

Hardy in USDA zones 3-8, this fast growing shrub can quickly reach 10′ tall and 12′ wide. However, I almost always treat this ornamental Sambucus as I do woody perennials like Russian Sage and Butterflybush; cutting them back hard and early each spring to encourage low, bushy, new growth. Managed in this way, Sambucus can fit into very small spaces; making it the perfect plant for semi-shaded courtyard spaces and even larger container gardens. The golden foliage can burn out in full sun, so some protection at mid-day will give best coloration. And although flowering, fruiting and golden coloration are diminished in full shade, this lovely shrub thrives in dappled light conditions. Even moisture and a pH of 6-6.5 are her soil preferences; adding woodsy leaf mold and/or good compost will encourage healthy, rapid growth. Attractive to bees, butterflies and birds, Sambucus offers the garden fragrant flowers and fruit for wildlife (beware all parts of S. racemosa –including green and red berrries– are mildly toxic when ingested; particularly in great quantities. Avoid this shrub if you have grazing pets or small children. Take care not confuse this species with our native, S. canadensis, as the black fruits of our native elderberry are commonly used for jam).

Words & Photographs ⓒ 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 reused, reposted or reproduced in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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Ephemeral Woodland Wildflowers & Return of the Ethereal Hermit Thrush…

April 25th, 2011 § 22

Red Trillium (Trillium erectum)

There’s no place quite like New England for experiencing three seasons in one day. Sunday morning I rose to find a chilly house and snow covered gardens. Soon –with the sun shining brightly outside– temperatures soared to 63°. Breakfast in the snowy garden … Well, why not? I threw open the entryway doors, soaked up the warm rays, and sipped my morning coffee.

As I sat gazing upon the blushing hillside, taking in the quiet still of morning air, I heard a sweet, long-anticipated sound in the distance. Rising and falling —a mystery in shadowy hemlock boughs— the ethereal song of the hermit thrush echoed through the trees. Flute-like and gently warbling, the sound of this bird’s melancholy voice always bring tears to my eyes. All thrushes have beautiful songs —I’m particularly fond of the twilight serenade of the veery and the haunting, melodic and supremely beautiful voice of the wood thrush— but the return of the hermit to my mountain top signals spring like nothing else. The hermit thrush is the sound of childhood memory —dusky riverbeds and humid, rainy mornings— and it will always be my favorite (click on name of bird to listen to its song at Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology online).

Sanguinaria canadensis (Bloodroot) takes its name from the bright red sap of its roots

This morning, seduced by woodland’s springtime song, I pulled on my raincoat and ventured into the damp darkness —filled with the musky scent of leaf mold and dewy moss— to find an explosion of life emerging on the forest floor. Busy bees hummed about in the mist and silver-tipped fiddleheads shimmered in the dim light. The first two flowers I spotted were Red Trillium (Trillium erectum, pictured at top of article) and Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis, above). Sometimes called ‘Stinking Benjamin’ due to its odor (personally, I don’t find it all that offensive, even close-up), Trillium erectum blooms a beautiful, maroon-red color. Hardy in USDA zones 3-9, the trilliums —members of the lily family— prefer moist woodland soil and make lovely shade garden plants (be sure to purchase trillium from a reputable grower – never dig plants from the wild). Due to its summer-time dormancy, this perennial is best combined with other shade plants. Red and White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) are particularly lovely companions to lady fern (Athyrium filix feminina) and cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea).

The beautiful, starry flowers of Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis, pictured above) are among the earliest blossoms both in my garden and surrounding forest (USDA zone 3-9). Rich in pollen, early-flowering Bloodroot flowers are an important source of food for bees and pollinating flies. Although its white flowers are lovely in combination with many early-blooming bulbs and perennials, this is one springtime ephemeral that needs no leafly companion for summer-time camouflage. Bloodroot’s intricately-edged, long-lasting leaves make an excellent ground-cover in shady situations (particularly beneath shrubs and trees, in well-drained soil).

Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) – one of the earliest blooming North American wildflowers in my forest

The last flower I spotted this morning was the charming Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria, pictured above). Dutchman’s Breeches —as well as fragrant Squirrel Corn (D. canadensis), Wild Bleeding Heart (D. eximia) and other members of this lovely group of wildflowers— are an important source of springtime nectar for pollinators like bumble bees, honeybees and other long tongued bees. Various dicentra species are native to moist woodlands throughout North America (most are hardy in zones 3-8), and these delicately textured native plants make fine additions to the shade garden. Like most springtime ephemerals, the foliage yellows and withers in dormancy, so it’s best to combine these perennials with large-leafed companions (ferns, astilbe, coral bells, etc).

Trillium erectum: So what if it doesn’t smell nice! I still think it’s one of the prettiest springtime flowers

Native forest flora and fauna have always fascinated me –a childhood interest nurtured by my knowledgable woodsman father– and while growing up here in New England, I learned to identify most native plant and animal species from my dad. My love of woodland wildflowers and native plants only grows deeper with each passing year, and I enjoy sharing my passion with others. The Ladybird Johnson Wildlife Center and The New England Wildflower Society are two great, non-profit, online resources for native plant enthusiasts. Learning to identify, protect and grow native plants helps support wildlife; including bee, butterfly and bird populations.

William Cullina’s Wildflowers

I’ve mentioned favorite horticultural author, William Cullina’s books here many times, and his book, Wildflowers, with The New England Wildflower Society, is never far from reach during the growing season. An excellent native plant resource for North American gardeners —including those in the west— this book serves as both an encyclopedia of plants and growers guide-book to perennial wildflowers. In honor of The Gardener’s Eden’s anniversary this month, I will be giving away a copy of this beautiful book.*

To enter, simply leave a comment on today’s post, and in your comment, name your favorite wildflower and why you love it. 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 29th. A winner will be randomly chosen from all entries received in comments, and announced 4/30 here on this post, on The Gardener’s Eden Facebook page, and also on Twitter. Due to shipping constraints, this giveaway is open to readers in the United States and Canada only.

Good Luck! xo Michaela

*This is an unsponsored giveaway- book purchased by Michaela. All reviews are purely editorial, and are based on the personal experience and opinions of this author.

congratulations to wendy, winner of william cullina’s wildflowers!

Article and Photographs ⓒ Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

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

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Hazy Color Drifts Carpet the Garden: Tiny Gifts of Early Spring…

April 16th, 2011 § 4

Spring Heath (Erica carnea) Begins Blooming in Early April (click here to revisit my Erica carnea plant-profile post from last year). Here, Sprawling Across the Ledge  in the Entry Garden…

The Pink, Hazy Blur of Spring Heath is Particularly Lovely Against Grey Sky and Cool Stone. On a Blustery Day, I Can’t Help but Think of Katherine and Heathcliff, Wandering the Bluffs of Wuthering Heights.

In New England, sparkling blue skies and warm, sunny days are few and far between during the month of April. More often than not, the heavens are filled with dusty grey clouds, and the tawny, bare land lies chill and dormant, waiting for milder days. Such is the scene this weekend, with cold, raw air nudging me indoors every half hour or so, to huddle beside the warmth of a blazing fire.

Yet despite the blustery wind and cool temperatures, there are signs of spring here, and color has begun to return to my cold-climate garden. Tiny, early-flowering bulbs and ground-covering blossoms —mass planted in drifts for effect— carpet the walkways and ledgy outcrops. Spring heath (Erica carnea) is the earliest of the low-growing woody plants to blossom here. You may recall my post about spring heath, “Love on the Rocks”, from last April. Bold sweeps of spring heath and various heather ( including Calluna vulgaris ‘Multicolor’ & ‘Silver Knight’) were planted in the shallow pockets of soil between the stone; combined with ‘Sea Green’ juniper (Juniperus x pfitzeriana ‘Sea Green’), and creeping juniper (Juniperus horizontalis ‘Blue Rug) along the entry walk. These tough, resilient shrubs and ground-covering woody plants wake up from winter slumber looking every bit as beautiful as they did when they retired for their nap. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all roll out of bed looking so lovely?

Opening at About the Same Time as Snowdrops (Galanthus) and Crocus, Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa) Carpet the Shrub and Perennial Borders Along the Walkway in my Garden…

On the other side of the entry garden, where the soil is deep, moist and rich, a mixed border of shrubs and perennials springs to life from the ground up. Eager to greet the new season, the tiny blue blossoms of Chionodoxa —commonly known as ‘Glory of the Snow’— begin forcing their way through the frozen earth before it has had time to thaw. A welcome sight to these weary eyes after such a long winter, I note that honeybees and other pollinating insects happily greet my emerging drifts of early-blooming bulbs and ground covers as well.

Native to the alpine regions of Tukey, Cyprus and Crete, Chionodoxa (a member of the hyacinth family) is extremely cold tolerant, and tough (USDA zone 4a-9b). When mass planted in moist, well-drained soil in autumn, the blue, pink or white bulbs will slowly multiply, naturalizing beautifully beneath trees and shrubs (this bulb prefers neutral soil, but will tolerate slightly acidic to slightly alkaline conditions). In cool seasons, blossoms will last approximately 4 weeks, and when planted between later-emerging perennials, glory-of-the-snow’s foliage will fade and wither without drawing attention, as it slips into summertime dormancy. This low, ground-covering bulb (2-6 inches high, depending on species and cultivar) is one of my springtime favorites. For such a tiny flower, it sure makes a big impact. In particular, I find  blue Chionodoxa especially lovely when planted in great sweeps across lawns. Viewed from a distance, masses of these blue, starry flowers form a moody haze; ethereal, wistful and undeniably romantic in a rainy landscape…

They Remind Me of Fallen Stars, Scattered on the Garden Floor.

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Article and Photographs ⓒ Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

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A Warm Welcome to Spring: Blossoming Beauty at the Smith College Bulb Show…

March 20th, 2011 § 2

Tulipa ‘Blue Spectacle’

Narcissus, tulips, hyacinth, freesia, iris and clivia; from the brash and bold to the delicate and ethereal, all of spring’s finest ladies were on display this week at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. The Bulb Show at Smith College’s Lyman Conservatory —where thousands of bulbs are carefully arranged and artfully displayed with flowering trees, shrubs and exotic plants— is an annual rite of spring for this gardener. Never one for crowds, I notice that somehow I always convince myself to brave the sea of curious characters, enthusiastic gardeners and focused shutterbugs in order to take in this annual floral exhibit. The Vernal Equinox marks the beginning of spring today —March 20th at 7:21 pm ET (23:21 UT)— and in honor of her arrival, I thought it fitting to share some highlights from The Bulb Show at Smith College. Enjoy… Soon the bulbs will be in full bloom outdoors and I can hardly wait!

Welcome Sweet Springtime. We Greet You with Open Arms and Unfolding Petals!

Delicate Charm: Narcissus ‘Hawera’ (one of my favorite garden bulbs)

Wild Color: Red Hot Tulips and Violet-Colored Anemone

Exotic Beauty: Veltheimia bracteata (South African Forest Lily, Sandui)

A Stunning Combination: Iris ‘Blue Magic’, paired with Tulipa ‘Jackpot’ (must remember to try this one)

Always Elegant: Clivia miniata ‘Grandiflora’

A Rhapsody in Blue: Hyacinth, Muscari, Anemone, Ipheon and Tulipa

Color-Saturated Flamboyance: Tulipa ‘Sensual Touch’ (I love growing the more outrageous tulips, particularly the parrots, for cutting)

Dark Drama: Tulipa ‘Queen of the Night’ (one of my all-time favorites)

Exquisite Edging: Tulipa ‘Lucky Strike’ in a sea of pink, rose and purple

Delicate and Lacy: Tulipa ‘Cool Crystal’ (so girlish)

Thank you to the faculty and staff of Smith College for such a beautiful and inspirational show.

Wishing You All a Very Beautiful Spring!

xo Michaela

***

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

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

March 11th, 2011 § 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dreaming of Springtime’s Sweet Veggies: Planning a Lush, Welcoming Potager…

February 16th, 2011 § 1

A tumbling jumble of nasturtiums creates a warm welcome for people and pollinators alike

Sweet seats! In June, the potager becomes my outdoor living/dining room

Wide pathways and mounded-earth beds give me plenty of room to work and maneuver about with carts and wheelbarrows

Winter is a wonderful season —I’m still having fun snowshoeing and enjoying quiet time indoors— but I have to admit that there’s one thing I’m really starting to miss about summer: leisure time in the vegetable garden. I love hanging out in my pretty little potager, and every morning —spring through fall— I head outside with a big cup of coffee to do a bit of weeding, watering and harvesting before work. My pets usually join me —rolling around in the warm, golden straw pathways— while I garden. Later on in the day, I often return to the potager and settle into my comfy wicker chair with a glass of wine to enjoy the sunset hour. On warm evenings, I sometimes eat my dinner in the garden; surrounded by the fragrance of sun-warmed herbs and the sound of summertime birds. Vegetable plots always grow best when they are frequently visited by the gardener’s shadow, and to me, this is no trouble at all —it’s pure bliss…

I like to try different varieties of vegetables and fruits every year. But some old-favorites make it into the potager every year. My favorite tomatoes include Early Girl, Orange Blossom, Lemon Boy, Brandywine, San Marzanos. I also love cherry tomatoes; particularly Sungold and Sweet 100s

Home grown hot peppers are both beautiful and tasty. I like to experiment with this crop too, but I always grow plenty of jalapeño, ancho and serrano chile peppers.

My diet is mainly vegetarian, and one of my favorite things about summer, is that I can completely avoid the grocery store for months (I buy my eggs and dairy products from a nearby farm stand). Growing basics, like potatoes, makes it easy to create impromptu, garden-fresh meals every day.

Now that I’ve begun sowing some early crops —herbs and onions indoors & arugula, spinach and lettuce in the unheated hoophouses— I’m really starting to get excited about the growing season ahead. I’ve ordered most of my vegetable seed —packages have already begun to arrive— and I just sent in my seed potato orders to Ronnigers and The Maine Potato Lady yesterday afternoon. Mid-late winter is a good time to begin planning and plotting out your vegetable garden on paper (1/4″ square grid paper works great for this purpose, with each standard box equalling one square foot of garden space), and to finish purchasing seed if you haven’t done so yet. Back in December, I mentioned that I enjoy the process of keeping an annual gardening journal and calendar. Not only is it fun to look back on my successes —and important to analyze failures— but my garden calendar & notes also remind me of things I want to plant (more potatoes and berries!), improvements I want to make (more vertical supports for peas, beans, melons and cucumbers, a new set of compost bins, and a garden shed!), and things I need to re-stock (like fish emulsion, twine and other supplies). Keeping a copy of what I planted —and where I planted it last year— is key to crop rotation (and avoiding pests and diseases). Drawing up a plan and listing everything out also prevents over-ordering or forgotten crops!

Building a pretty potager need not be expensive! My garden fence —pictured above— was built from saplings harvested on-site. And the wicker furniture in my garden was found —wearing a “free” sign— on the side of the road.

When laying out your garden, remember to include space for companion flowers and herbs. Although companion planting has become one of the more hotly debated horticultural topics —with some gardeners believing in its value, and others questioning the scientific proof of success— there is no doubt that flowering plants attract and support pollinating insects —like bees and butterflies— to your vegetable garden. And no matter where you stand on the companion planting issue, it’s pretty hard to argue with the horticultural value of pollinating insects and the beauty of flowers in the vegetable garden. Zinnias, sunflowers, cosmos, shasta daisies, calendula (particularly the French marigold) and nasturtiums are easy-to-grow, and all make gorgeous vegetable garden additions. In addition to planting flowers in and around my vegetables, I grow extra blooms in my potager —just for cutting. Climbers are also pretty in the vegetable garden, especially if you have a rustic fence or trellis (vertical supports are particularly useful if you have limited space). Old-time, deliciously fragrant sweet peas are best sown directly outdoors as soon as the ground can be worked, but many flowers —including climbers like morning glories— can be started indoors for earlier bloom. And if you like to decorate with dried flowers in late summer and fall —or want to make wreaths— consider growing globe amaranth (Gomphrena), love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena), Bells of Ireland (Moluccella laevis), statice (Limonium sinuatum), and other everlasting blooms in your cutting garden.

I love flowers in the vegetable garden, and fresh-cut bouquets in my house. So I grow plenty of beautiful bloomers in my potager.

I can’t imagine life without a vegetable garden. I grew up with horticulture —my family raised and sold organically grown strawberries and other produce— and teaching me how to grow my own food —and more importantly, the joy and value of gardening— is one of the greatest gifts my parents gave me. If you have children of your own, I encourage you to involve them in as much of the gardening process as possible. When planning your spring garden, order a few extra seed packets —both flowers and vegetables if you can make the room— just for your kids. Children will always remember early gardening experiences like sowing seed, and harvesting their first crop of peas. Even the smallest task —like carrying the harvest basket or looking for bugs— teaches children that their contributions matter to the family. With kids, it’s important to focus on the process of gardening —not so much the product— so that the entire experience is rewarding.

Sunflowers are a fun, easy-to-grow crop for children

Here, my friends Myriah and her daughter, Dharma, moisten seed their starting mix together

Make Gardening Come to Life: Sow Seeds, and Watch them Germinate

I plant my vegetable garden in 3′ x 8′, raised, earth-mounded beds. I try to keep enough space between the beds to comfortably maneuver around with a weeding basket and to pass through with a wheelbarrow or garden cart. This system works well for me, but I have seen many other successful vegetable growing methods. Urban gardeners may grow in pots or planters, and some suburban gardeners like to build wooden boxes to contain vegetables in the square-foot garden style, and many country gardeners simply till soil and hoe rows. There is no right or wrong way to set up your vegetable garden: experiment, do what works best for you, and enjoy the process. If you are new to gardening, it is a good idea to start small and grow your space as your confidence increases. Over the years, as I’ve become more interested in cooking and baking, my vegetable garden has doubled in size. It’s such a pleasure to create meals with beautiful, ripe, organic vegetables, grown and harvested fresh in my own backyard. This year, I plan on adding more hard-to-get, gourmet produce in my potager. I’ll be planting crops that store well in winter (like gourmet potatoes and onions, garlic, squash, carrots and beets), as well as seasonal, enjoy-at-the-moment produce like heirloom tomatoes, lemon cucumbers, and other unusual fruits and vegetables from around the world. I love eating fresh food all summer long, and by adding row-covers and unheated hoophouses to the garden, I’ve been able to extend my growing season; harvesting some produce —like root vegetables and leafy greens— year-round. I can’t wait to dig back in! This week, I’ll be posting more details about my spring garden plans, and I look forward to hearing about yours both here, and on Facebook and Twitter!

Remember fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes?

Helianthus annus ‘Autumn Beauty’ – Sunflower in my Potager

Remember the smell of the earth? It’s coming… Soon!

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Special thanks to Tim Geiss for his fantastic seed starting photos. Visit Tim’s site here.

Article and potager photos ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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A Tough Broad for all Seasons: This Sulfur-Tipped, Ice-Blue Chameleon Really Knows How to Wear the Pants…

January 14th, 2011 § 7

Juniperus squamata ‘Holger’ atop the Secret Garden Steps in January

It’s easy to get gardeners excited when I talk about big stars like hydrangea, azalea and viburnum. And most everyone swoons over those voluptuous and intoxicating bombshells: the roses, French lilacs and tree peonies. But junipers? Why they’re a lonely and oft-neglected group of garden workhorses who’s only claim to fame seems to be gin. It’s sad really, because once you get to know them, they’re such a great bunch of broads to hang around with in the garden…

Juniperus squamata ‘Holger’ atop the Secret Garden Steps the Morning After a January Snow Storm

Take single-seed juniper ‘Holger’ for example. What a stunner. Like all great broads, she’s tough as nails, a bit cool-looking and often prickly when you try to push her around. You’d best put your gloves on if you want to mess with her. But she has a soft side of course, and in this case it comes in a gorgeous shade of mellow, sulpur-yellow; which she shows off against her icy needles in the springtime sun…

Sulphur-Tipped New Growth Glows Atop Ice-Blue Needles – Juniperus squamata ‘Holger’ and a Carpet of Thymus

All the year round, Holger juniper offers stunning blue-green color; a gorgeous, cool and soothing contrast to almost anything planted nearby. A medium-sized, moderately spreading conifer (3-5′ high and wide), Juniperus squamata ‘Holger’ is easy to care for and drought resistant once established. All this tough shrub (USDA zones 4-8) requires is full sun, well drained soil, and good air circulation. Useful as a ground cover, wind break, slope stabilizer and outdoor room divider, the design possibilities of Holger juniper are limited only by a gardener’s imagination. Looking for a way to enhance blue or violet hued flowers in springtime? The sulphur-yellow tips of this conifer are the perfect contrast. Want to show-off bold autumn colors in the landscape? Plant Holger juniper near deciduous shrubs and the icy-blue needles will bring out the electric orange and red of fall. Need a reliable, deer-resistant screen for a less-than-attractive air conditioning unit or other household utility? This year-round beauty could be the answer…

Holger juniper not only stabilizes this slope, but it also gives structure and soft definition to the lines of this hillside planting surrounding the Secret Garden Steps

The Ice-Blue Tips of Holger Juniper Stand Out in the Landscape, and Contrast with Other Warm-Toned Plantings Throughout the Seasons

In Autumn, Holger Juniper’s Blue-Green Needles are a Gorgeous Contrast to Red, Gold and Rust (Here with Hydrangea quercifolia and Solidago)

Sunny, cloudy, rainy or dry; Holger juniper looks clean, fresh and pulled together. Like all members of the juniper clan, Holger can be occasionally troubled by insects or disease —spider mites, scale or aphids, or perhaps cedar-apple rust, twig blight or wood rot— but such problems can usually be avoided when her humble requirements (listed above) are met. She’s got great style and requires only the occasional bit of pruning from artfully handled secateurs to maintain her shape here at the edge of the path. A great conifer like Holger juniper helps to give a garden year-round structure. Consider a grouping of juniper as an evergreen wall or low, living fence; a way to define the garden in addition to hard-scaping…

And later, during the quiet season, when most other garden plants have shed their leaves and withered to the ground, juniper carries on the show; shrugging off the ice, the snow and the cold. I have many juniper species and cultivars in my garden, but for season-spanning beauty, ‘Holger’ truly tops the list. She’s tall enough to rise above a drifting white blanket in winter, and interesting enough to hold her own beside the most vibrant of garden companions. Never underestimate the tough broads –they’ll never let you down…

Holger Juniper Holds Her Own, Draped in a New White Cloak on a Cold Winter’s Night

Holger Juniper Atop the Stairs with a Light Dusting of Snow in December

And Like Most of Her Cousins, This Tough Lady Can Carry a Heavy Load

A True-Blue Beauty Throughout the Seasons – Juniperus Squamata ‘Holger’

Come to think of it… If she were human, I think Holger juniper would be Katherine Hepburn. She’s a tough, bristly beauty and she really knows how to wear the pants. Photograph Alfred Eisenstaedt/Time & Life Pictures via Lifetsyle.MSN.com

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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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Bright, Red Winterberry & Juniper Magic: Lovely, Native Ilex Verticillata Sparkles & Glows on Grey, Chilly Days…

November 21st, 2010 § 4

Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’, paired here with Juniperus chinensis ‘Sargentii’

In the last weeks of late autumn —after the leaves have all fallen and deciduous trees stand naked and rattling in cold wind— the conifers and fruit-bearing shrubs reign supreme in my garden. Late fall and early winter days —laced with hoar frost and sugar-coatings of fresh snow— are brightened by the glow of colorful berries, twigs and richly hued conifers. All of the delicately textured remnants —needles, seeds and tiny twigs— catch falling ice crystals and snow flakes; like sweets coated in confectioners sugar.

One of my favorite late-season shrubs, the Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’ (common, dwarf winterberry holly) planted in front of my Secret Garden, is a knock-out at this time of year. With bright red fruit ripening in September and holding through January or longer, this shrub is invaluable for color in the winter landscape. Chosen for its charmingly petite, compact size (about 3-5 feet high and wide)  I. verticillata ‘Red Sprite’ is a great choice for softening the edges of walls, buildings and fences. I grow several winterberry cultivars, including the beautiful, statuesque I. verticillata ‘Winter Red’ (9′ x 9′), in my landscape; combining them with conifers and other shrubs and trees to create season-spanning interest in the garden. Juniper make great companions for winterberry, and Juniperus chinensis ‘Sargentii’ forms a lovely, contrasting blue-green carpet in front of the dwarf I. verticillata ‘Red Sprite’. Winterberry are extremely hardy shrubs, (USDA zones 3-9) native to eastern North America. These shrubs are long lived and trouble free; provided they are planted in rich, moist, freely- draining, acidic soil in full sun. I use a thick, organic mulch to conserve moisture and keep the root zone of my shrubs cool on hot summer days. When planting winterberry, it’s important to remember that a male cultivar will be needed for pollination -but only the female plants will bear fruit. In the grouping pictured below, the bare twigs in the background are the branches of a male cultivar. The pollinating shrub needn’t be planted in the same grouping -anywhere nearby will do just fine.

In front of my Secret Garden, Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’ looks like a tasty treat in a confectioner’s window. I snapped this picture the morning after the first snow…

Birds love plump, red winterberries, and will often gobble them up before the end of December. I keep planting more to please the crowd…

The bright red winterberries are even more stunning when snow drifts cover the carpet of juniper in a soft, white blanket

Rock candy mountain – Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’, the morning after an ice storm

Our native winterberry (Ilex verticillata) can usually be found in wet, low-lying areas —places like marsh and swamp land or natural, open drainage areas— where it forms dense thickets. In the later part of the year, the shrubs are filled with colorful, red fruits, which hold until late winter unless they are picked clean by wildlife. Although winterberries are inedible to humans (mildly toxic) they are extremely popular with small mammals and overwintering birds. Gathering winterberry for holiday decorations is a tradition for me, as it is for many cold-climate gardeners. If you are collecting these berries from the wild, please be sure to check with the property owner before harvesting — and never harvest from public parks or protected lands. Always gather branches responsibly; leaving enough for the wildlife depending upon this important source of food. Remember to use sharp pruning shears and make clean cuts at a slight angle (clean pruners with rubbing alcohol after use to prevent spread of disease), as you would on ornamental shrubs in your own garden. Because I have a large garden of my own, I grow enough winterberry to both enjoy in holiday decorations and in the landscape, where I can share with local birds. And when January rolls ’round, I deposit my discarded, decorative branches in the snow for field mice and feathered friends.

If you have the room, it makes sense to grow extra winterberry for holiday decorations

Bright red winterberries sparkle in a vase here in my dining room

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Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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