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

November 29th, 2012 Comments Off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lupine Leaf: Green Star in a Sea of Sparkling Crystals 

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

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

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

Garden Design: Michaela Medina Harlow

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

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Sparkling Texture & Dramatic Structure: Creating A Beautiful Winter Garden …

December 18th, 2011 § 2

The Entry Garden at First Light in Early December, After a Dusting of Snow

I often wonder why I bother to mourn the end of autumn when there’s so much magic and beauty to be found in the garden during this quiet time of the year. As we near the winter solstice, I find myself every bit as enchanted by the garden as I am during the spring and summer months. My morning walks are cold —no doubt— and my finger tips burn a bit as I run them over the frosty stone walls. But the rich, visual rewards of those nippy strolls at first light make every shiver worthwhile.

Frosted Viburnum setigerum (Tea Viburnum) Fruits

Some gardeners prefer to cut back the perennials in their beds and borders in late autumn and early winter. And there is an argument to made for this approach. Certainly, there are places within the garden where I fuss over tender plants; protecting them from cold with mounds of compost or blankets of evergreen boughs. But by and large, I prefer to leave perennials standing throughout winter; that I might enjoy both the bold and delicate textures and how they sparkle with snow and ice after storms. Vertical lines, relief and pattern, both in the garden’s hardscape as well as in the more ephemeral plantings, are key to creating structure and beauty in a winter garden.

Seed Pods Provide Food for Birds and Beauty for Human Eyes: Rudbeckia hirta and Solidago with Sparkling Frost and Snow

Textural Grass Catches Light, Snow and Ice in the Quiet Season. Switch Grass (Panicum virginicum ‘Heavy Metal’) with A Light Morning Glaze…

Climbing Hydrangea (H. petiolaris) Adds Texture and Color to A Grouping of Boulders, and Provides Nooks and Crannies for a Dusting of Fresh Snow…

I often talk about the “bones” of a garden when I discuss design with my clients. This framework, or skeleton, is what gives the landscape shape throughout the year. Walls, fences and arbors, trellises and obelisks, benches and chairs, sculpture and boulders are all examples of objects that add to a garden’s hardscape and structure. Living plants, particularly dramatically shaped trees and shrubs are also helpful in creating a season-spanning garden design. In terms of defining outdoor space, hedges —both formal and informal— alles, espalier fences, and other features are useful in building permanent trans-seasonal walls.

Sculpture and Lichen-Covered Stone Catch Snow: Here, the Guardian Stands Sentry at the Edge of the Forest

The Rusty Color and Grid-Patterned Seat Make this Bench a Valuable Winter-Garden Object

Perennials May Fade at Autumn’s End, but Dan Snow’s Stone Seat and Evergreen Conifers Remain (Young hemlock: Tsuga canadensis)

Here in New England, field stone has long been a popular material for dividing garden spaces, and it will always be my personal favorite. From retaining walls and steps, to formal and free-form sculpture, I am most fond of this natural and versatile material. Throughout the seasons —but especially during the quiet season of winter— Dan Snow’s stonework is the central architectural feature and design element in my garden. Because Dan’s walls are comprised of subtly colored and textured rock —often softened by blueish lichen and emerald moss— they seem quite alive, even though they are technically inorganic. Whats more, the arrangement of the stonework itself —whether stacked horizontally, vertically, or arranged in dramatic and shifting pattern— adds artistry to the garden’s bare architecture in winter.

Steps and stairs —though they can be constructed from a wide variety of materials— must safely function and enhance a garden throughout the seasons. What we call “hallways” in our homes are the “pathways” in our gardens. These frequently-traveled spaces are as important outdoors as they are inside the house. Stepping stones, pea stones and gravel all add texture to the garden throughout the year. And in winter, walls, pathways, steps and other architectural features become highly exposed design elements. As crazy as I am about plants (and we all know that’s pretty crazy) my primary focus when designing a garden is always on the underlying structure. Build your garden before you decorate it with plants –and build it well, for it will hold, protect and exhibit your botanical treasures as your house contains, shelters and displays all of your worldly possessions! In winter, outdoor rooms are as stark as an empty house. And usually, the more attractive the garden’s architecture, the more beautiful the winter garden…

Stone Wall and Juniper Line the Winter Garden Walkway. Dan Snow Added both Candle Niches and Seats within the Wall, Creating Opportunities for Rest and Display Throughout the Seasons…

Stone Steps by Dan Snow Look Beautiful with a Dusting of Snow, and the Varied Height of the Sloped Setting Makes a Lovely Display for Frost-Proof Pots and Evergreen Plants…

Winter is a Fine Time to Enjoy Works of Art —Both Large and Small— in the Garden. Dan Snow’s Fire Sculpture Looks Particularly Beautiful in the Snow…

Structural elements and textural interest provide nature with a three-dimensional canvas for wintery works of art. And although it’s possible to spend a fortune on architectural details and plants, keep in mind that even the humblest cast-aways —flea market benches, unwanted boulders, simple fences and wire cables, twig teepees and homemade works of art— are just as effective when it comes to creating spaces and adding tactile elements in the garden. The rusty surfaces and cracked edges of second hand and found objects often enhance a snowy landscape. Set things out in the garden and move them around until you find a spot that feels right. Begin by using what you have on hand and playfully experiment with the beauty of the winter garden…

The honey-colored remnants of Golden Hops Vine (Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’) add beautiful texture to a simple cable rail along a deck in winter. Be on the look-out for perennials and vines with persistent papery, dried flowers and seed heads -these textural elements are key to winter garden detail…

A Mass Planting of  Flame Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘purpurascens’ ) Forms a Season-Spanning ‘Screen’; Adding Texture and Color to the Garden Throughout the Seasons, in Addition to Providing Enclosure and  Natural Transition to the Meadow and Mountain Tops Beyond

Old wire chairs, even if they are no longer functional, provide endless interest in the garden throughout the seasons. In winter, this ivy-patterend chair casts a gorgeous shadow in the snow…

At the Garden Entryway, the Texture of Juniperus horizontalis and the Natural Stone Ledge Both Stand Out with a Dusting of Snow and Create a Backdrop for Other Plantings Throughout the Seasons…

Boulders —Remnants from Site Excavation— Make a Pretty Vine-Covered Grouping at Garden’s Edge (Hydrangea petiolaris)

Dan Snow’s Stone Steps Dusted in Snow

This design article was adapted from a previously published post which appeared on The Gardener’s Eden 12/2010

All Stonework Featured Here is by Vermont Artist Dan Snow

Garden Design by Michaela Medina

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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Autumn’s Burning Beauty: Flame Grass Heats Up the Mid-October Garden …

October 16th, 2011 Comments Off

Showing Off Ribbon-Candy Colors in My Garden: Miscanthus sinensis ‘Purpurascens’ (Planted with Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’/’Monlo’ and Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’ on Left. That’s Rhus typhina, Occurring in a Natural Stand Behind the Border)

If you’ve been following this journal for awhile, you are probably quite familiar with my passion for the sensual beauty of ornamental grass (see previous post here). When it comes to four season garden design, the versatility of these graceful perennials can’t be beat. There are ornamental grasses for sun, for shade, for dry places and even bogs. Some species of grass grow to become great giants –towering well over six feet— and others are diminutive as little leprechauns. I love them all, and use ornamental grasses in most every garden I design. Of course, to every thing there is a season, and for every time of year, I do have a favorite. In the autumn landscape, Flame Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Purpurascens’) is my top choice…

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Purpurascens’ Living Up to the ‘Flame Grass’ Moniker! Planted Here in My Meadow-Edge Garden with Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Shasta’, Viburnum trilobum ‘J.N. Select/Redwing’ and in the foreground, Juniperus x Pfitzeriana ‘Sea Green’ 

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Purpurascens’ is a mid-sized ornamental grass; growing to a height of approximately four or five feet, with similar —or less—spread. Although this species will tolerate a bit of shade, best results are achieved by positioning Flame Grass in full sun and well-drained soil. Graceful and attractive throughout the growing season, Flame Grass really begins to strut her stuff in August, when the shimmering, silvery-plum inflorescences appear. As temperatures drop and light changes, the color of this grass heats up like an autumn bonfire.

Though beautiful on its own, I prefer to use Flame Grass in combination with other perennials, deciduous trees/shrubs and conifers to bring out her ribbon-candy-like colors (blue tinted Picea pungens and many Juniper species are particularly lovely conifer companions for this Maiden Grass). Backed up by deep maroon or red, this autumn stunner becomes nearly electric (Physocarpus opufolius ‘Diablo’ or ‘Summer Wine’ and Rhus typhina provide a stunning backdrop for ornamental grass). The fiery vermillion and scarlet shades found in many Viburnum species play equally well with Flame Grass, as do violet-purple flowers (think autumn blooming, blue asters, deep purple monkshood, and darker flowered, maroon-tinted mums).

Though Flame Grass (Miscanthus purpurascens) is Beautiful Planted Solo, Combining This Autumn Beauty with Perennials (like the Amsonia illustris, bright yellow on the left) Colorful Fall Shrubs (like the still-green Fothergilla gardenii in this grouping), as well as Evergreen Trees and Shrubs (like this Juniperus x Pfitzeriana ‘Sea Green’) Makes for Truly Spectacular Fall Garden Design (Photo of My Front Entry Garden in Mid-October)

Given the stunning beauty of Flame Grass, I’m always surprised by how difficult it is to find at nurseries. In fact, I’ve had such a hard time locating this particular cultivar of Maiden Grass, that I’ve taken to growing my own from divisions, for use in my clients’ gardens. It should be noted that some cultivars within the species Miscanthus sinensis (commonly known as Eulalia Grass or Maiden Grass) can become aggressive in warmer climates, and although not restricted, a few are considered potentially invasive, in certain areas only, by the USDA. If you are gardening in the more southerly regions of North America, this is a situation for you to monitor and consider. However most forms of Maiden Grass are only marginally hardy in colder climates (most are USDA listed for zones 5-9), and are therefore unlikely to become weedy or invasive in northern areas. In my own Vermont garden, and in the New England gardens under my care, the Maiden Grass species —and M. sinensis ‘Purpurascens’ in particular— is well mannered and incredibly useful from a design standpoint.

Morphing to a Beautiful Burnt-Orange, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Purpurascens’ Catches Frost, Ice and Snow, Remaining an Alluring Feature in the Winter Garden

Flame Grass –To the Front, Right and Center, of My Garden– with Early Snow. For More Winter Garden Design Images and Ideas, Click Back to This Post.

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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Reining in the Tumbling Floral Chaos: Mid-Summer Garden Maintenance …

July 29th, 2011 § 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Moody, Pale Lavender Haze … Heather-Covered Ledges Soothe the Eye In the Softest Shade of Summer …

July 18th, 2011 Comments Off

The Soft Beauty of Lavender-Colored Heather: Calluna vulgaris ‘Silver Knight’ 

Calluna vulgaris ‘Silver Knight’, Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’ and Juniperus x pfizerianna ‘Sea Green’ Along the Ledgy Walkway

A Hazy Slope of Heather (Calluna vulgaris ‘Silver Knight’) in the Palest Shade of Lavender 

While much of my garden blooms in brilliant, sunny shades of gold, yellow and orange throughout the summer, there are many quiet, soothing spaces here as well. Along the exposed ledges —where water drains freely and sun heats thin pockets of soil— a wide swath of Heath (Erica carnea) and Heather (Calluna vulgaris) sprawls along the stoney slope. Throughout the wet and chilly month of April, Spring Heath (Erica carnea) blossoms here in a tender shade of pink (plant profile post/photos here and more photos here). Later, in mid-summer, Heather (Calluna vulgaris) —Heath’s natural companion— colors the outcrop in a hazy shade of lavender. 

Heath and Heather make wonderful, low, ground-covering plants —6″ -24″ high—  for dry, sunny slopes and rock gardens. I grow several cultivars of Erica and Calluna here in my zone 4/5 garden; using them in combination with blue-green junipers, sedum and other plants to paint a colorful carpet along the ledges. Native to Europe and Asia, Calluna vulgaris prefers acidic, sandy soil with excellent drainage and, unlike many garden plants, this tough little shrub actually prefers low soil fertility. Although cold-hardy to zone 4, Heather dislikes heavy soil and wet, humid conditions; making this plant a poor choice for gardeners with shady, wet sites and for those south of zone 6/7. The long-lasting, slender flowers are beautiful planted en masse in the garden or gathered up in fresh or dried arrangements. With so many cultivars to choose from, I am tempted to keep adding to my ledgy tapestry. Calluna vulgaris ‘Silver Knight’ is one of the finest, and my favorite of the pale-lavender heathers. Blooming long and late in the season —just coming into flower here now, in mid July— ‘Silver Knight’ continues to add beauty to the garden, even in early winter (click here to view photos of various heath and heather wearing a coat of ice.)

Heather-Covered Ledges: Calluna vulgaris ‘Silver Knight’

Photographs and Text (with noted exception) ⓒ 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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Strolling Along the Wildflower Walk …

July 6th, 2011 Comments Off

A Stroll Through the Wildflower Walk in Late Afternoon

The Wildflower Walk may have started as an accidental feature in my garden, but —second only to the Secret Garden— it always generates the most oohs and ahhs. And when the sunny drifts of Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) hit their crescendo in July, it’s easy to see what all the commotion is all about. The softening effect of randomly strewn, bold sweeps of wildflowers is truly magical in a landscape, and although my dog Oli is responsible for coming up with this design, I have not only run with the theme in my own garden, but used the idea in other designs as well (minus the method of installation, see previous post for that story). I’m sure that if he only knew how popular one of his ‘bads’ has become, Oli would be begging for bones every day when he passes through his wondrous Wildflower Walk.

Of course —not to take away from my dog’s true genius— but one of the things that makes all of this unplanned wildness work from a design standpoint, is the underlying structure of the garden. The hardscape and bones of the landscape —which includes the stonewalls, loose stone paths, and structural trees and shrubs— give shape to the space; allowing ever-changing elements to take center stage at any given time, while the constant ‘theater’ holds everything together. And though they stand in the background throughout the summer —steady and central— the structural features always take over the show in late autumn and winter…

Rudbeckia and Nepeta tumble in a colorful jumble along the Wildflower Walk. Bees, butterflies and other pollinators love Nepeta and Rudbeckia. And later in the season, finches will stop by to feast upon Rudbeckia seed (I leave many of the stalks standing for my feathered friends). Meanwhile, in the background: the spilling green Juniperus horizontalis provides bright blue berries for wildlife, as well as a pretty green foil for the wildflowers. And though it’s barely visible in high summer, Dan Snow’s retaining wall holds everything together —both figuratively and literally– throughout the year.

The walkway surface is 1″ natural round stone —slightly larger and more grey-blue than pea stone— which allows wildflower seed to germinate just beneath the surface. The walk does require some weeding, but it isn’t as labor intensive as you might think. Rounded, natural stone makes a great surface for seating areas and walkways; in both formal and informal spaces. I particularly love this look in lawn-less, Mediterranean gardens.

The main walkway —to and from my home/studio— is wider than the Secret Garden path and the rest of the Wildflower Walk. And though the Rudbeckia reigns supreme here in early summer, this wave of bloom is preceded by Lupine and succeeded by Adenophora. Other wildflowers and shrubs play supporting and cameo roles along the way… 

In reality, getting wildflowers to succeed in a garden over the long-haul usually requires a bit more planning than Oli put into his work. Many self-sown bi-annual and meadowy perennial flowers —such as Lupine, Poppies, Asters, Black-eyed Susans and the like— prefer fast-draining, thin soil in full-sun. These flowers thrive on natural, seasonal weather conditions. When it comes to sunny-meadow flowers, sites with poor soil often work better than sites with rich soil (take note of those wildflower drifts along the highway: talk about thriving on neglect!), but there are wildflowers adapted to wet, rich soil as well. Recognizing wildflower seedlings (to avoid accidental weeding or over-mulching) throughout the season, and allowing seed heads to remain standing until they mature, is absolutely critical to the maintenance of wildflower drifts (this is particularly important in true meadows, which must be mown after the flower heads have browned and are ready to release seed). All of these things tend to go against the grain of super-tidy gardeners, so in the beginning at least, a leisurely attitude toward maintenance may work to your advantage when it comes to wildflowers. However in long term, lazy Susans would not be successful here. I am the sole gardener on my property, and as ‘wild’ as this walkway may look, I can assure you that it does demand some weeding time; particularly in the early spring, after rainy periods. Clover, grass and other thin-soil-lovers germinate well between the loose stone, and rise up in competition with the wildflowers along the path. I simply keep them in check (often in the early morning hours while talking on the phone with a client or contractor, or late, late in the afternoon with a glass of cold lemonade or chilled wine).

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mixed’ will reach its summertime crescendo this month in the Wildflower Walk

A different perspective: looking down the Secret Garden path from the main walkway. This shot was taken on an overcast morning, when the bright yellow and orange of the just-opening Rudbeckia really stood out.That’s Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ on the right, backed up by Viburnum trilobum ‘Bailey Compact’ (that dynamic duo really lights up in the autumn, see this post for photos).

Looking Through the Wildflower Walk and Into the Secret Garden Beyond (Foreground: Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mixed’ and Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’).

Tempted to give wildflower drifts a try in your own garden? Want to replace your front lawn with something less water/chemical dependent and more colorful? Would you like to support pollinator and bird populations with a natural food source? Well, you could ask a rambunctious dog like Oli to install a Wildflower Walk for you, or you could consult some inspirational books on the subject of Meadow Gardens. The one I am currently ogling, and constantly praising, is The American Meadow Garden, pictured and linked below. Beyond its obvious beauty, this book is also genuinely useful; offering meadow/wildflower planting suggestions by region, soil type and exposure. Self-sown wildflower drifts are lovely both in meadows and within designed gardens. Isn’t it amazing what your dog can teach you?

The American Meadow Garden (John Greenlee/Saxon Holt) from Timber Press

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 Mysterious Moods of ‘Mrs. Moon’…

April 28th, 2011 § 4

In the Beginning of the Garden Romance, ‘Mrs. Moon’ (Pulmonaria saccharata) Blushes, Shy and Tender in Spring Rain…

Meet ‘Mrs. Moon’, the garden coquette. Hot, cold. Hot, cold. Just when you think you have her figured out, she up and changes her mood. Surely you’ve encountered such a fickle flower; blushing and eager one moment —seducing you in with warmth and tenderness— then suddenly turning cool before fading away? Of course, when I put it like that, it sounds a bit like torture –but it’s not. No, the human heart is indeed curious. Many of us like a bit of mystery in romance; a few clouds to make us long for the sun…

Rosy ‘Mrs. Moon’ (Pulmonaria saccharata, commonly known as Bethlehem Sage or Lungwort) shares space with lovely, old-fashioned Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis) in my garden

Pulmonaria saccharata ‘Mrs. Moon’ (Bethlehem Sage or Lungwort, as this plant is commonly known) is just such a classic flirt. Her pink buds swell and open in a soft, delicious shade of pink. And then —the moment you get used to her warmth— she suddenly cools off; blossoms shifting to violet blue. Clearly, this character has more than one side! But —in spite of her shape-shifting ways— Pulmonaria saccharata is one of those endlessly useful plants that every gardener should know about. Hardy in USDA zones 3-8, with an early bloom time and frost-resilient petals, Bethlehem sage makes a wonderful companion for spring flowering bulbs (gorgeous with deep violet or pale yellow). And with her lovely, semi-evergreen, silver-white-spotted foliage, P. saccharata ‘Mrs. Moon’ continues to hold this gardener’s interest, long after her initial hot-cold act has faded. Tolerant of dry shade and clay soils, ‘Mrs. Moon’ has become one of my favorite ground covers for low-light garden designs. And as an added bonus, she’s even resistant to nibbling deer!

A native to Europe and Asia, Bethlehem sage is a lovely edger for a shady walkway or seating area (blossom stems and foliage reach approximately 12″ in height, with variable spread) and she combines well with so many plants; particularly perennials with maroon-tinted foliage or colorful ferns like Japanese painted (Athyrium nipponicum ‘Pictum’) and Ghost (Athyrium x ‘Ghost’) ferns. ‘Mrs. Moon’ is an old-time garden favorite, but of course, not everyone is comfortable with her indecisive ways. Some gardeners prefer a fixed color scheme, and they dislike surprises. But, if you —like me— prefer your sunshine mixed with fog and sudden downpours, —and if you’re drawn to less-predictable characters— then a romance with ‘Mrs Moon’ may be right for you. Wink.

Just when you think you have her figured out, slowly, ‘Mrs. Moon’ cools off;  her color deepening to rosy-violet…

And then –a true coquette– Mrs. Moon’s blossoms shift further to a moody shade of violet-blue, just prior to fading away. But her tantalizing foliage continues to flirt with us all season long (Pulmonaria saccharata ‘Mrs. Moon’ is available online through Bluestone Perennials. Click photo for details).

Alchemilla mollis (Lady’s Mantle) makes a lovely companion; young leaves catching glistening raindrops

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Image four is courtesy of Bluestone Perennials as linked and noted. The Gardener’s Eden is not professionally affiliated with Bluestone Perennials, but is indeed a fan.

Article and all other 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. 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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Golden Light & Glistening Gardens on a Frosty Winter’s Morn…

January 12th, 2011 § 2

Sunrise on the Frosty Tufts of Miscanthus sinensis

As a winter snow storm swirls about outside, my thoughts drift back to yesterday’s frosty morning, and the glistening, pink-gold sunrise. If today she reveals her wild fury, I am reminded that this tempestuous season more often shows us her beauty…

Morning Light on Humulus lupulus (Golden Hops Vine) with Frost Crystals

Silhouetted Branches of Viburnum x burkwoodii ‘Mohawk’ at Sunrise

Frost Crystals on Rudbeckia hirta, Gleam and Glisten in the Golden Sunlight

Gilded Korean Dogwood Branches (Cornus kousa) and Luminous Viburnum x burkwoodii ‘Mohawk’ at the South-Eastern Edge of My Winter Garden

Silver-Tipped Twigs Strung Along a Chilly Cable-Rail (Humulus lupulus)

These Star-Dusted, Feathery Plumes Seem Fit for the Most Glamorous of Shoulders (Miscanthus sinensis purpurascens)

The Beautiful, Crystal-Flecked Tea Viburnum Berries Remind Me of Shoulder-Grazing, Ruby Chandeliers

In this Moment, Could January be Upstaged by June?

Perfect Prisms – The Delightful Geometry of Frost Crystals in Pink-Gold Sunlight

At the Edge of the Garden, Saplings Form a Crystal Curtain

The Frosty Red-Twigs of this Japanese Maple Glow Brightly Against the Native Hemlock Forest

The Stillness of a Frosty Morning and a Perfect Winter Sunrise

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Article and photos are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent.

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Sparkles, Drifts, Patterns & Shadows: The Beauty of a Frosty Winter’s Morn…

December 30th, 2010 § 4

Frosty Holiday Decorations

Oh, the shimmering, glimmering glamour of a frost-covered garden! After days of howling wind, I awoke to a still hush and brilliant sunrise. I simply had to rush outside to greet the glistening morn. Of course, there was no time to change into snow boots and jacket. Oh no. So I grabbed my camera and ran, bundled up in my fluffy robe and fuzzy slippers, to enjoy the first light of day. If it was cold, I never noticed. Such is the power of beauty. Even in winter, the garden beckons her faithful servant with a seductive call. And even in the quiet season, she never disappoints…

Sparkles, Drifts and Shadows (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’, Juniperus sargentii and Rudbeckia hirta shadows)

The Frost Covered Fire Sculpture Awaits New Year’s Eve Celebrations

Rudbeckia and Solidago Dance in Sparkling Snow

Frost-Coated Furniture on the Stone Terrace

And Color? Oh Yes. The Garden Still Sings in Red, Green and Gold (Cornus alba ‘Siberica’ and Kalmia latifolia)

Golden Miscanthus sinensis Shines Against the Violet-Grey Mountains, Bare Tree Branches and Cerulean Blue Sky

The Delightfully Shiny, Bright-Red Fruit of Viburnum setigerum

Rudbeckia Hirta Seed Heads Soak Up the Sun

Two Paths Diverge – Dramatically

A Wind-Blown Patch of Bare Textured, Lawn

And Piles of Sensual, Sparkling Snow

The Tippy Tops of Hosta Seem to Rise from Winter Slumber to Greet the Shimmering Morn…

Winter Borders Gleam, Greeting the Wandering Gardener

A Beautiful Way to Begin the Day…

With Sparkles and Shadows on Snow Drifts

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

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Garden Structure & Seasonal Texture: White Lace and Sparkling Silver Tulle Dance and Flirt in a Prelude to Winter…

December 11th, 2010 § 4

The Entry Garden at First Light on December 11th

I often wonder why I bother to mourn the end of autumn when there’s so much magic and beauty to be found in the garden during this quiet time of the year. As we near the winter solstice, I find myself every bit as enchanted by the garden as I am during the spring and summer months. My morning walks are cold —no doubt— and my finger tips burn a bit as I run them over the frosty stone walls. But the rich, visual rewards of those nippy strolls at first light make every shiver worthwhile.

Some gardeners prefer to cut back the perennials in their beds and borders in late autumn and early winter. And there is an argument to made for this approach. Certainly, there are places within the garden where I fuss over tender plants; protecting them from cold with mounds of compost or blankets of evergreen boughs. But by and large, I prefer to leave perennials standing throughout winter; that I might enjoy both the bold and delicate textures and how they sparkle with snow and ice after storms. Vertical lines, relief and pattern, both in the garden’s hardscape as well as in the more ephemeral plantings, are key to creating structure and beauty in a winter garden.

Seed Pods Provide Food for Birds and Beauty for Human Eyes: Rudbeckia hirta and Solidago with Sparkling Frost and Snow

Textural Grass Catches Light, Snow and Ice in the Quiet Season. Switch Grass (Panicum virginicum ‘Heavy Metal’) with A Light Morning Glaze…

Climbing Hydrangea (H. petiolaris) Adds Texture and Color to A Grouping of Boulders, and Provides Nooks and Crannies for a Dusting of Fresh Snow…

I often talk about the “bones” of a garden when I discuss design with my clients. This framework, or skeleton, is what gives the landscape shape throughout the year. Walls, fences and arbors, trellises and obelisks, benches and chairs, sculpture and boulders are all examples of objects that add to a garden’s hardscape and structure. Living plants, particularly dramatically shaped trees and shrubs are also helpful in creating a season-spanning garden design. In terms of defining outdoor space, hedges —both formal and informal— alles, espalier fences, and other features are useful in building permanent trans-seasonal walls.

Sculpture and Lichen-Covered Stone Catch Snow: Here, the Guardian Stands Sentry at the Edge of the Forest

The Rusty Color and Grid-Patterned Seat Make this Bench a Valuable Winter-Garden Object

Perennials May Fade at Autumn’s End, but Dan Snow’s Stone Seat and Evergreen Conifers Remain (Young hemlock: Tsuga canadensis)

Here in New England, field stone has long been a popular material for dividing garden spaces, and it will always be my personal favorite. From retaining walls and steps, to formal and free-form sculpture, I am most fond of this natural and versatile material. Throughout the seasons —but especially during the quiet season of winter— Dan Snow’s stonework is the central architectural feature and design element in my garden. Because Dan’s walls are comprised of subtly colored and textured rock —often softened by blueish lichen and emerald moss— they seem quite alive, even though they are technically inorganic. Whats more, the arrangement of the stonework itself —whether stacked horizontally, vertically, or arranged in dramatic and shifting pattern— adds artistry to the garden’s bare architecture in winter.

Steps and stairs —though they can be constructed from a wide variety of materials— must safely function and enhance a garden throughout the seasons. What we call “hallways” in our homes are the “pathways” in our gardens. These frequently-traveled spaces are as important outdoors as they are inside the house. Stepping stones, pea stones and gravel all add texture to the garden throughout the year. And in winter, walls, pathways, steps and other architectural features become highly exposed design elements. As crazy as I am about plants (and we all know that’s pretty crazy) my primary focus when designing a garden is always on the underlying structure. Build your garden before you decorate it with plants –and build it well, for it will hold, protect and exhibit your botanical treasures as your house contains, shelters and displays all of your worldly possessions! In winter, outdoor rooms are as stark as an empty house. And usually, the more attractive the garden’s architecture, the more beautiful the winter garden…

Stone Wall and Juniper Line the Winter Garden Walkway. Dan Snow Added both Candle Niches and Seats within the Wall, Creating Opportunities for Rest and Display Throughout the Seasons…

Stone Steps by Dan Snow Look Beautiful with a Dusting of Snow, and the Varied Height of the Sloped Setting Makes a Lovely Display for Frost-Proof Pots and Evergreen Plants…

Winter is a Fine Time to Enjoy Works of Art —Both Large and Small— in the Garden. Dan Snow’s Fire Sculpture Looks Particularly Beautiful in the Snow…

Structural elements and textural interest provide nature with a three-dimensional canvas for wintery works of art. And although it’s possible to spend a fortune on architectural details and plants, keep in mind that even the humblest cast-aways —flea market benches, unwanted boulders, simple fences and wire cables, twig teepees and homemade works of art— are just as effective when it comes to creating spaces and adding tactile elements in the garden. The rusty surfaces and cracked edges of second hand and found objects often enhance a snowy landscape. Set things out in the garden and move them around until you find a spot that feels right. Begin by using what you have on hand and playfully experiment with the beauty of the winter garden…

The honey-colored remnants of Golden Hops Vine (Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’) add beautiful texture to a simple cable rail along a deck in winter. Be on the look-out for perennials and vines with persistent papery, dried flowers and seed heads -these textural elements are key to winter garden detail…

A Mass Planting of  Flame Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘purpurascens’ ) Forms a Season-Spanning ‘Screen’; Adding Texture and Color to the Garden Throughout the Seasons, in Addition to Providing Enclosure and  Natural Transition to the Meadow and Mountain Tops Beyond

Old wire chairs, even if they are no longer functional, provide endless interest in the garden throughout the seasons. In winter, this ivy-patterend chair casts a gorgeous shadow in the snow…

At the Garden Entryway, the Texture of Juniperus horizontalis and the Natural Stone Ledge Both Stand Out with a Dusting of Snow and Create a Backdrop for Other Plantings Throughout the Seasons…

Boulders —Remnants from Site Excavation— Make a Pretty Vine-Covered Grouping at Garden’s Edge (Hydrangea petiolaris)

Dan Snow’s Stone Steps Dusted in Snow

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All Stonework Featured Here is by Vermont Artist Dan Snow

Article and Photographs are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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

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A Morning of Sunlit Snow Flurries & Quiet Moments of Wintry Beauty…

December 8th, 2010 § 2

Golden, Sunrise Snow Shower

Sunlit snow flurries, stark, white tree trunks and icy sparkle at the tips of my toes; it seems that every morning I awake to find yet another golden dawn, illuminating a crystal-and-snow-coated wonderland. And now, as late autumn gently fades —heralding the arrival of early winter— I am dazzled-as-always by the beauty of the changing seasons. The remarkable quality of light, the clear, crisp air, and the sharp lines of the early December garden make this month as beautiful and varied as any other…

Violet pastilles or Labrador violets (Viola labradorica)? Sugar-coated delight, either way.

Black Raspberry Sherbet or Frosted Coral Bells (Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’)?

If this oakleaf hydrangea ( H. quercifolia) had a flavor, I think it would taste something like frosted rum-raisin ice cream. This year, the pretty specimen by my front door is really holding onto her regal-colored cloak…

Allegheny spurge (Pachysandra procumbens) sparkles like frosted fruit leather in the morning light

Paper birch (Betula papyrifera) and Juniper (J. x pfitzeriana ‘Sea Green’) in a sparkling, golden snow squall

Frosty Flame Grass (Miscanthus purpurascens) at Forest-Edge

Crystal-Coated Coral Bell Color (Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’)

Chilly Little Lamb’s Ears (Stachys byzantina)

Snow-Dusted Secret Garden Steps

Delicate Snow, Like Fine White Powder, Coats Lacy, Evergreen Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) and Ledge

Rodgersia aesculifolia with a fresh white-wash

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For more winter-garden inspiration, check out my post today for Garden Variety  (click here).

***

Article and Photographs are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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Jack Frost and the Sugar Plum Fairy Debut Sparkling Holiday Horti-Couture At Last Night’s Spectacular & Exclusive Secret Garden Icicle Ball…

November 26th, 2010 § 6

An Explosive Night of Decadent Elegance at the Chilly, Secret Garden Icicle Ball     (Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’ and Juniperus squamata ‘Holger’)

My old friends Jack and Sugar were here again last night with their chilly and fabulously chic entourage. As usual, they danced and partied ’til dawn. From the look of things in the garden this morning —dozens of popped corks and champagne sprayed everywhere— they really outdid themselves. Countless scantily-clad ice-nymphs must have been in attendance; traipsing carelessly in and out of the flower beds and dropping their sequined underpinnings. When the sun rose, fashionable bits and pieces of attire could be found here and there —crystal-studded trinkets, sparkly shawls and brilliant baubles— flung far and wide. Shocked? Never. This happens every year {you do remember last year’s inaugural evening of excess, don’t you?}. Of course, the exact date and time of this exclusive nighttime debauchery always remains somewhat amorphous —just as the horti-couture fashions change from year to year — and those cold-hearted party-goers always seem to misplace my invitation…

Glamorous Holiday Gowns and Jewel Encrusted Accessories (Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’ and Juniperus chinensis ‘Sargentii’)

The Icicle Ball began around midnight, and it lasted ’til sunrise; spilling out of the Secret Garden and into the wild forest beyond. And this year, those naughty and elusive frost-fairies must have lingered a bit longer than usual —tempting daylight in the shimmering tree tops— for in hasty departure they left behind some of their most beautiful accessories, jewelry and hand beaded gowns. Oh they’ll be back to reclaim their belongings -no doubt. You see, Jack and Sugar are regulars around here in the late autumn. They like to raise a wicked ruckus in the garden with their frosty-chic friends while waiting for the White Witch of Winter to arrive in her icy chariot.

I won’t lie, it’s disappointing to be left off Jack and Sugar’s guest list. But in spite of the fact that they consistently give me the cold shoulder, I never mind their outrageous hedonism. After all, they always leave me with the most delightfully decadent displays…

Blue-Black Saphire Solitaires, Suspended from Saffron-Silk Cord (Viburnum lentago ‘Nannyberry’)

Diamond-Studded Brooches (Rodgersia aesculifolia)

Ruby and Diamond Cluster Pendants (Viburnum setigerum)

Hand-Beaded Lace Shawls (Erica carnea and  Calluna vulgaris ‘Multicolor’ with Juniperus horizontalis ‘Bar Harbor’)

Sparkling Gold Tassels (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’)

Shimmery Red Sequins and Gold Stitching (Cotoneaster and Deschampsia flexuosa)

Chrystal Seed-Beads and Delicate Lace Detail (Heuchera americana)

Bright Coral Cuffs (Acer palmatum)

Exquisite Emerald Velvet with Luminous Silver Embroidery (Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’ aka ‘Blue Rug’)

Sleek Honey-Colored Silk Wraps with Sparkling Fringe (Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’ Switch Grass)

Flocked Velvet Bodices and Bronze Lace Collars (Microbiota decussata and Wooly Thyme)

Sequin-Studded Satin Apliques (Kalmia latifolia ‘Pink Charm’)

Glittering, Burn-Out Detail in Red Velvet Ribbon and Metallic Lace (Cornus alba ‘Siberica’)

Dazzling Diamante Decadence  (Rodgersia aesculifolia)

Crystal-Laced Corseting (Acer palmatum)

Delicious Champagne-Colored Feather Puffs (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’)

Delightfully-Cut Diamond Danglers (Heuchera americana)

Shoulder-Grazing Chandeliers, Jammed with Gemstones (Viburnum setigerum)

Shimmering Lace Shawls (Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’)

And Brilliant Baubles, Strewn All About (Crataegus {Hawthorn} Berries)

Yes, the Party-Goers Made Quite an Entrance…

In Fact it Seems that Some Careless Little Ice-Nymph Left Behind Her Fluffy, Golden Puff at the Secret Garden Door (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’)

And After Partying All Night, They Made Quite an Exit As Well

Au Revoir ’til Next Time Jack and Sugar {Please Don’t Stay Away Too Long}…

Paper Birch Trees (Betula papyrifera) in Ice at Sunrise

The Icy Hilltop and Fog-Filled Green River Valley at Dawn

After-Party – The Gleaming Green Mountains

All Stonework is by Vermont Artist, Dan Snow

Article & Photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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

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Restful Rodgersia: A Tall, Dramatic Beauty for Secret, Shadowy Nooks and Damp, Dappled Shade…

June 22nd, 2010 § 2

Rodgersia aesculifolia in the Secret Garden with Matteuccia struthiopteris and Heuchera – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Although you will usually find Rodgersia hiding out in dappled corners, boggy nooks and shadowy glens, it’s not because she’s exactly shy. In fact, when you stop to consider her dramatic foliage and statuesque size, Rodgersia is really quite bold. But she’s definitely not the kind of flower you find screaming for attention in a common, suburban lot in blazing sunshine. Oh no. This exotic-looking beauty prefers moisture and protection from the heat of the day, or she begins to look disheveled- wilted even.

Rogersia is a knock out garden plant when you give her what she wants. And since it’s difficult to find a well-mannered, delicate presence in such a big, bold plant, I am more than happy to satisfy her modest demands. I love how her palmate, horse-chestnut-like leaves contrast with the texture of ostrich fern (Mettecuccia struthiopteris), in my shady Secret Garden; her creamy blossoms rising above an elegant skirt of bold and starry leaves. Later, in autumn, she burnishes to a bronzy-gold, combining beautifully with her stunning, near-by neighbor, Japanese stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamillia), as she blazes in all her vermillion glory…

Gorgeous, horse-chestnut-like foliage and tiny, star-shaped white flowers in June. Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Rodgersia aesculifolia in the Secret Garden – late June. Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Rodgersia combines beautifully with Stewartia in the Secret Garden – here again in mid October. Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

A genus of six species native to the woodlands and moist mountain stream-side banks of Asia, Rogersia is hardy in zones 5-9. R.pinnata, the toughest species in the group, is reportedly cold-tolerant to zone 3. After my successful experiment with Rogersia aesculifolia, I will certainly be adding more shady ladies -perhaps bronzy-leaved, pink flowering Rogersia pinnata ‘Superba’, and elder-like R. sambucifolia- to my garden this year. Of course I would grow this beauty for her knock-out foliage alone, but her sweet-cream flowers are also a lovely addition to the Secret Garden -even when dried-out brown in winter, and dusted with new-fallen snow…

Rogersia aesculifolia in June ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Rogersia aesculifolia dusted in snow ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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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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Lovely Lenten Rose: The Secret Garden’s First Blossom of Springtime …

April 19th, 2010 § 4

Helleborus x hybridus © Michaela at TGE

Delicate, feminine, mysterious and shy; while it’s true that these words perfectly describe the beautiful Lenten Rose, there is so much more to this gorgeous harbinger of springtime. I could just as easily describe her -much less romantically- as strong, reliable and tenacious. Helleborus x hybridus, known more often as the Lenten Rose, or the Christmas Rose in warmer climates, is the first plant to bloom in my Secret Garden in early spring. Throughout winter, her starry, leatherette-like foliage remains deep green, catching frost and snow in a most delightful way. Then, just as the Glory of the Snow and Narcissus reach their peak, the silky, speckled blossoms of Lenten Rose begin to unfurl in shades ranging from deep violet and mauve to blush pink and peachy cream…

Helleborus x hybridus © Michaela at TGE

This isn’t a bold or obvious flower, so often it can take awhile before a gardener discovers the subtle charms Lady Hellebore. This plant seems to demand a more discerning eye; a mature sensibility, if you will. However, once introduced to Helleborus, many a plant collector has developed a full-blown obsession with the genus. Easy to cultivate given the proper conditions, the Lenten Rose prefers dappled shade and  moist -but never water-logged- humus-rich, fertile soil. Special points? Deer and rodent resistance certainly top the list of her fine qualities, and she also tends to be long-lived, producing beautiful colonies beneath trees and shrubs. Although slugs and aphids can cause a bit of damage, with vigilance on the part of the gardener, these troubles are easily controlled. And although Helleborus x hybridus is sometimes listed as hardy from USDA zone 6 – 9, I have had no trouble overwintering this species here in the protected Secret Garden of my zone 4/5 garden…

Helleborus x hybridus ‘Royal Heritage Strain’ © Michaela at TGE – Just look at that alluring blush…

Falling in love? Tempted to add this shy beauty to your springtime collection? I know I will be including more Helleborus x hybridus cultivars to my Secret Garden collection, including a few delightful plum, black and other dark-flowered specimens. Yes, her petals may be chilly and frost covered, nipping at my finger tips as I cup them. But you know what they say: cold hands, warm heart…

Starry foliage of Helleborus x hybridus, dusted in snow, © Michaela at TGE

For further exploration of this lovely genus, I recommend Burrell and Tyler’s Hellebores: A Comprehensive Guide

***

Photographs and article copyright 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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Greeting the Wolf Moon on a Chilly January Night with Warm, Creamy Garlic and Potato Soup…

January 31st, 2010 § 3

Creamy Garlic and Potato Soup with Fresh Herbs

Watching the full moon rise is something of a ritual for me. I note the waxing and waning lunar cycle on my calendar and I pay close attention to the forecast as the moon grows full. Lunar myths and legends have always fascinated me, and I usually to refer to the monthly moon by its name. Although April’s Pink Moon and Autumn’s Harvest Moon tend to be my favorites, I am also quite fond of January’s full, Wolf Moon. When the weather is clear in mid-winter, as it has been for the past few days, evenings in Vermont can be spectacularly beautiful. Sub zero temperatures may be difficult to bear, but they also create some amazing atmospheric conditions. With a warm bowl of soup and a dramatic celestial show on the horizon, I’ve come to embrace and even enjoy my cold nights on the mountain…

January’s Full Wolf Moon

Dried Grass and Staghorn Sumac on a late afternoon in January

Cinnamon colored remnants in sparkling snow at sunset

Creamy Garlic and Potato Soup with Fresh Herbs

(makes approximately 4 quarts of soup)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup garlic cloves, (about 12 cloves), peeled and chopped to a paste in a food processor
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 cups vegetable stock or chicken broth
  • 2 cups milk (2% or whole, as you prefer)
  • 1 cup of heavy cream (optional – you may sub all 2% milk for low fat diets)
  • 6 cups peeled and cubed yukon gold potatoes
  • 4 whole, fresh sage leaves, (plus extra for garnish)
  • 2 whole bay leaves
  • 2 tsp fresh chopped thyme, (plus extra for garnish)
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp fresh ground pepper

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a large stock/soup pot over low heat. Add the garlic paste and carefully cook until the paste begins to turn gold, stirring constantly. Add in the vegetable/chicken broth and bring the mixture to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat, add herbs and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the potatoes and simmer for 20-30 more minutes.
  3. Scoop out the bay and sage leaves, and carefully pour batches of the hot soup into a blender, (do not overfill the blender!). Puree each batch until smooth and return to the saucepan. Simmer the soup for 15 minutes. Add milk and cream and simmer for another 20 – 30 minutes.
  4. Pour the soup into bowls, and garnish with fresh thyme and sage leaves. Serve with a side of fresh, crusty bread.

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

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is copyright The Gardener’s Eden, and may not be used or reproduced without express written consent. Please do not repost or republish photographs or text excerpts without permission. 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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The Dawn of Winter: December Notes from Ferncliff…

December 17th, 2009 § 3

Winter Dawn

Winter’s Dawn at Ferncliff

The morning after a storm. Silent. Pristine. After months of drowsy, frost-covered mornings, at long last the garden has fallen to sleep. Lulled by a by a shifting blanket of snow, the flowers have all drifted away now; their pods empty; stalks broken. Summer’s song is hushed; notes frozen in chilly stillness. A long winter’s night lies ahead. Sleep tight Callicarpa. Stay warm beneath your mulch, toad lily. I’ve tucked you in with care – very tightly.  Soon the forest will howl and snap, ushering in Winter’s sharp, bitter cold…

Microbiota in snow storm

Russian cypress, (Microbiota decussata), lines the path to the north meadow…

Ilex verticillata in snow

Ilex verticillata, ‘Red sprite’ sparkles in the morning snow…

forest in snow storm

The native forest caught in a snow squall…

fountain grass and sedum in snow

Shadows play upon the snow and bleached remains of fountain grass…

chair and basket

Snow coats rusty patterns – sharp, steel slats and curved lines…

miscanthus sinensis close up in snow

Impossibly delicate, tiny snowflakes cling to tufts on ornamental grass…

miscanthus sinensis in snow storm

The hardy perennials remain standing, swaying in the snow…

entry garden, first snow

The entry garden plantings continue to add color and texture to the landscape, and in the background, eastern hemlock stands stately, newly cloaked in white…

echinacea, rudbeckia and miscanthus in winter

Garden remnants in light and shadow…

cotoneaster in snow

Cotoneaster, still holding plump, ripe fruit, cascades down the retaining wall…

Hydrangea paniculata lime light in snow

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ rests in a bed of snow…

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Article and photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. Please do not use my words or pictures without contacting me first. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardner’s Eden, and may not be used or reproduced without express written permission. 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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Walking in a Winter Wonderland …

December 1st, 2009 § 6

ornamental grass, first snow

Sleigh bells ring… are you listening ?

“When it snows, ain’t it thrilling, though your nose gets a chilling? We’ll frolic and play the Eskimo way, walking in a winter wonderland”…

Welcome December !

Hellebores dusted with snow

Hellebores gleam and glimmer like stars in white glitter…

cotoneaster with snow

A branch of Cotoneaster, loaded with red berries, reminiscent of a ruby necklace, dusted with snow…

Beech stand, first snow...

The twinkling forest on a frosty morning…

Stone steps dusted in snow

The Secret Garden steps look as if someone carelessly ripped a bag of powdered sugar while sneaking sweets inside…

Ilex verticillata and Juniperus chinensis 'Sargentii' dusted in snow

Ilex verticillata ‘Red sprite’ and  Juniperus chinensis ‘Sargentii’ dusted with snow…

Juniperus horizontalis 'Wiltonii'

Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’,(‘Blue Rug’), could pass for fine white lace…

Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight'

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’, delicately powdered…

Heuchera seed with ice in November

Heuchera seed-pods with ice droplets, sparkle and gleam in morning light

Rodgersia dusted in snow

Rodgersia remnants strike a feminine pose beside the stone wall…

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“Winter Wonderland” melody by Dick Smith and Felix Bernard – 1934

Article and photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (exclusive of notations), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced for any reason without express written permission. 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…

Thank you !

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Autumn and Everything After……. Designing Beautiful Late Season Gardens with Ornamental Grass…

September 3rd, 2009 § 4

Autumn is a Second Spring, When Every Leaf is a Flower” – Camus

A Grouping of Miscanthus sinensis, ‘Morning Light’, ‘Variegatus’, and Miscanthus ‘Purpurascens’ in Mid-October at Ferncliff

Pennisetum alopecuroides, (fountain grass), with sedum and juniper in the entry garden at Ferncliff  in early September, just before the inflorescence appear.

Much as I would like summer to drag her feet a bit when departing this year, I find myself looking forward to the brilliant beauty of fall. Living in New England has its benefits, and the months of September, October and November are three of them. Autumn has always been my favorite time of the year, and in no place is my seasonal preference more evident than the garden. As the writer Camus once said, “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower”. Indeed. I truly savor this second spring, for although I do love the early buds and bulbs of April, pastel hues don’t really excite me. Dark red is my favorite color, and bitter orange, rust, deep violet and burgundy aren’t far behind. The cerulean skies and stained-glass forest canopies of autumn bring a touch of heaven straight to my little paradise on earth. In September and October I feel as if I am living in a paint box, surrounded by a palette of colors so brilliant that simply going for a walk is all the inspiration any artist could hope for.

I cherish the fall gardening season. Some of my most treasured trees, shrubs and perennials reach their peak beauty in autumn. Of the many late-season plants in my garden, the ornamental grasses are high on my list of favorites. Grasses are useful though out the gardening season, of course. Beginning in mid-summer and continuing throughout winter, ornamental grasses provide dramatic foliage, texture and form to my gardens. But come autumn, the shifting hues of foliage and beautifully textured spikes, racemes and panicles of ornamental grass create the potential for a spectacular garden show that can not be beat. By early September, when many perennials and annuals have petered out in the garden, my ornamental grasses are just warming up for their crescendo. As the days shorten and nights cool, chemical changes are triggered in many deciduous trees, shrubs and other plants in the northern areas of the United States. Ornamental grasses also respond to these changes, and many begin to take on subtle tints and vivid hues as dramatic as the trees.

Miscanthus purpurascens, (close up), early fall color, (click to enlarge)

When I design a garden, I try to keep this spectacular late-show in mind. September blooming pepper bush, (Clethera alnifolia, a native shrub I featured here last month), sculptural spice bush, (Lindera benzoin), and and the lovely native paper birch, (Betula papyrifera), all turn brilliant yellow in autumn. I like to combine fall’s seasonal gold foliage with the purple-burgundy-red kaleidoscope-like hues of flame grass, (Miscanthus purpurascens), the brilliant orange of Japanese forest grass, (Hakonechloa macra, cvs. ‘Nicolas’, or burgundy tipped, ‘Beni Kaze’), for example. Witch alder, (Fothergilla gardenii), and many viburnum species, including the arrow wood, (V. dentatum), the American cranberrybush, (V. trilobum), and the European cranberrybush, (V. opulus), turn brilliant shades of red and orange in autumn. This makes them great companions for a wide variety of grasses including switch grass, (Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy metal’, (a blue grass in summer, turning gold in fall), wild oats, (Chasmanthium latifolium), green in summer and red-bronze in fall), and again, flame grass, (Miscanthus pupurascens). Late blooming perennials, such as asters, rudbeckia, mums, sedum and monkshood  all make great companion plants for ornamental grasses.

Hakonechloa NicolasThe summer color of Hakonechloa macra ‘Nicolas’,above, intensifies further in autumn

Unless you are a more experienced gardener, companion planting for autumn interest can be a bit difficult. How can you predict color-shifts and texture changes? Nursery tags are often stingy with clues. A good encyclopedia is useful for learning about ornamental grasses and their seasonal changes. And if you know the name of a cultivar, you can easily research information on a web-site such as Dave’s Garden. But for the true ornamental grass aficionado, Rick Darke’s The Color Encyclopedia of Ornamental Grasses (see library) is a great asset. This book will help you to identify more unusual cultivars of sedge, rush, restios, cat-tails and bamboo as well as the gorgeous grasses native to North America and beyond.

Miscanthus purpurascens, (Flame grass) in late September

When I want to add texture and movement in a garden design, no matter the season, I often look to ornamental grass. The larger garden grasses, such as miscanthus, panicum, and calmagrostis, bring important vertical interest and essential structure to perennial gardens. From the fine, delicate foliage and sensual lines of maiden grass, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ to the bold geometric presence of Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’, can make a dramatic, sculptural statement in a garden. Grasses can be used to soften modern buildings and camouflage unattractive architecture. A natural choice beside lakes, ponds, streams and pools, grasses also bring a relaxed line to hard-edged water features. Many species of grass are drought tolerant, and a number will survive roadside conditions in even the most inhospitable environments. Alone or as a group, settled into a garden or spilling over a pot, placed at a juncture or to mark a final destination, ornamental grass can provide great focal points in many garden design situations. Ornamental grasses planted en mass can blur the edges of a garden, helping to ease the transition between formal and informal areas. Because of the dramatic stature reached by many large ornamental grasses, they are also very useful as living screens, helping to conceal unsightly necessities such as fuel tanks and air conditioning units. It is easy to understand the growing popularity of this diverse group of plants.

North American native, Bouteloua curtipendula (side-oats grasss), backed by taller Pennisetum alopecuroides in the entry garden at Ferncliff, early September

striped grass and juniperMiscanthus sinensis ‘Variegatus’, here used as a specimen and below, a different cultivar used in a large grouping at the eastern-edge of the garden.


karl f. backed up by viburnumCalamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’, backed by Viburnum trilobum

Miscanthus ‘Purpurascens’ grouped at the edge of the northwest meadow in August…

And again, in late September…

miscanthus morning light back lit from the eastThis two year old grass specimen, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning light’, catches the early sun as it rises to the east at the edge of the wildflower walk in early September

Although ornamental grasses have become quite common in sunny perennial gardens, they are still surprisingly overlooked in shade garden designs. This surprises me because grass exists naturally in all but the darkest of shady woodlands, and they can add tremendously to the subtle beauty of low-light gardens. In the shade, I often add fine textured ornamental grass to contrast with larger, broad leafed foliage, such as the leathery, smooth surfaced leaves of hosta. I also like to include bright colored grasses to shade gardens in order to illuminate dark corners and shadowy areas beneath trees. Japanese woodland grass, (Hakonechloa macra), is one of my favorite plants. The golden cultivars, ‘Aureola’ and ‘All-Gold’ are very useful in low light areas, and in contrast to violent-tinted foliage. Newer cultivars, such as ‘Nicolas’ and ‘Ben Kaze’,(mentioned above), are rich in bitter orange and burgundy hues. These are truly spectacular plants with enormous design potential. Sedges are also useful in partial shade. I count orange-hook sedge, (Ucinia egmontiana), among my favorite low-light grasses, although it is marginally hardy in New England, (I usually place it in pots for summer and move them inside for winter).  Sedges will also tolerate more sunlight, provided they are given ample moisture, and I like to use them in brighter locations as well, (see pots on deck below).

A close-up of Hakonecholoa macra ‘All Gold’ in the shady Secret Garden at Ferncliff

hakonechloa in morning lightHakonecholoa macra ‘All-Gold’, (Japanese forest grass), catching the morning light in the Secret Garden at Ferncliff

hakonechloa macra 'aureola' with cimicifuga r. 'hillside black beauty'The golden color of this Japanese forest grass brings out the violet hues in the companion plantings of Cimicifuga racemosa ‘Hillside black beauty’ and the young foliage of euphorbia on the left

Many ornamental grasses also make great potted plants. I particularly like sedge and stipa in massive groupings on decks and terraces, where they catch the slightest breeze. A sedge commonly known as fiber-optic plant, (Isolepis cernua), looks very dramatic in a pot. I like to allow this mop-like grass to spill over the edge of a planter, emphasizing its pendent form. Whenever I set a fiber-optic plant out on a pedestal, it becomes the focus of attention and conversation, like living sculpture. Personally, I have grown a bit tired of cleverly designed, over-planted pots. I prefer simplicity. Over the past few years, I have been limiting my planter-compositions to a few species of plants, and ornamental grasses are often featured in my current designs.

Stipa tenuissima, (Mexican Feather Grass)

Orange Hook Sedge, (Uncinia egmontiana)

Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’ and Stipa tenuissima Catching the Breeze and Afternoon Light

Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’ up close

Like many cold-climate gardeners, I try to enjoy my garden for as long as possible. And I consider ornamental grass and important part of the winter garden as well. Although some people prefer their gardens to be tidy, cut, and thoroughly mulched come winter, I like to leave my hardier grasses standing until spring thaw. Frost, ice and light snow emphasize the delicate patterns of ornamental grass, and for this reason I consider them a four season plant. I continue to enjoy the tassels and the rust, buff and wheat hues of bleached out grass well into winter. By December, when little color remains in the garden, ornamental grass continues to add subtle, creamy tones. I particularly like the way wheat colored pennisetum draws attention to the red berries remaining on my winterberry, (Ilex verticillata ‘Red sprite’. Because texture and color are so important in the winter garden, I prefer to cut many ornamental grasses back in spring. Why not enjoy all the beauty nature has to offer us, autumn and beyond?

Grasses remain beautiful well into winter. Above, pictured in the entry garden at Ferncliff, fountain grass and side oats look particularly magical in December when coated with ice or snow. Below, the tassels of Miscanthus sinensis, frozen with ice, catch the January light…

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Dr. Goof in the native meadow garden with rudbeckia and Deschampsia flexuosa, (hair grass)

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Article and all other photographs ⓒ 2009 Michaela at TGE

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

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