Native Beauty of the Forest Understory: Our Graceful, Flowering Dogwood …

May 31st, 2011 § 2

Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) Photograph ⓒ Tim Geiss

In my work as a garden designer, I am constantly singing the praises of native plants to my clients; encouraging them to soften the edges of their landscape by blurring the boundary between the wild and tame. As an unofficial PR agent for our beautiful  native trees and shrubs, I have to say that Cornus florida (our North American native, Flowering Dogwood), is one of the super-stars in my book. All I need do is show photos of this graceful beauty in blossom, and she’s in…

Horizontal Branching Pattern Gives this Native Tree a Graceful Presence in the Forest Understory or Garden Edge. Tim Geiss

Beautifully Formed, Delicate White Bracts. Tim Geiss

Dogwood Tim Geiss

Part of Cornus florida’s timeless appeal can be attributed to her poetic, horizontal branching pattern. When positioned in her preferred location —a semi-shaded spot with evenly moist, woodsy, acidic, well drained soil— Flowering Dogwood’s natural structure and springtime bloom is truly stunning. And in addition to her fine April/May show —which also provides sustenance to pollinators of all kinds— Flowing Dogwood shines again in autumn, when she produces colorful red fruits (attractive to many birds) and scarlet foliage. Once mature, the graceful, tiered branches of Flowering Dogwood catch snow and ice in winter, adding beauty to the barren landscape.

Native to the understory of moist, deciduous, North American forests from southern New England all the way down to Florida, and west to Ontario, Canada and the Texas/Mexico border (USDA zones 4/5-9), Cornus florida is a perfect landscape-sized tree; reaching an average height of 25-35′, with a 20′ spread. This isn’t the right species for hot, dry places in full-sun or windy, barren sites. When positioned in such a location Cornus florida will struggle and suffer; never achieving her full glory. When under stress, Flowering Dogwood is more susceptible to diseases; including borers, cankers, powdery mildew, anthracnose. In more exposed spots —or marginally hardy zones– I prefer to plant C. florida x C. kousa hybrids; including cultivars ‘Constellation’ and ‘Ruth Ellen’.  The more durable —and equally lovely, though non-native— Cornus kousa (Kousa Dogwood is native to Asia and hardy in USDA zones 4b-8) is an excellent choice for four-season landscape interest as well. Our other native, flowering dogwood, Cornus alternifolia, is also quite hardy (USDA zones 3-7), but with a distinctly different look.

Given the proper site —as pictured here at the shady edge of a clearing— Cornus florida is a stunning landscape tree. Photo ⓒ Tim Geiss

Special Thanks to Tim Geiss for All of the Beautiful Cornus Florida Photographs in This Post

Original Zone and Cultural Detail Resource: Dirr’s Manual of Woody Landscape Plants

Article ⓒ 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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Of Sunshine and Swallowtail Butterflies…

May 30th, 2011 Comments Off

A Perfect Spot for Sampling Lilac Nectar – An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) on Syringa vulgaris ‘Mme. Lemoine’

Sunshine at last! Finally, after weeks of rain and fog, golden light returned to the garden this week. And suddenly, the sultry air is filled with Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies —bright as the sun itself— fluttering about blossoming trees, shrubs and perennials; looking for a place to rest and a sample of sweet nectar. Here in my garden, the voluptuous French white lilacs —Syringa vulgaris ‘Mme. Lemoine’— seem to be the flavor of the week.

Papillon. Poetry in Motion…

Thank you, sweet papillon, for pausing to show off your bright, beautiful colors

***

More Information on the Tiger Swallowtail, and How to Attract this Beauty to Your Garden

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is commonly found at the edge of North American deciduous forests from early-mid spring through autumn. Adult females lay their eggs on host plants; including Ash (Fraxinius), Basswood (Tilia), Birch (Betula), Black Cherry (Prunus serotina), Lilac (Syringa), Mountain Ash (Sorbus), Poplar (Populus), Sweetbay (Magnolia) and Tulip Trees (Lirodendron). When caterpillars emerge, they hungrily eat their way through foliage, pupate and re-emerge as beautiful butterflies. The entire process takes little more than a month. In springtime, adult swallowtails feed on the nectar of flowers —particularly those forming clusters— such as lilac (Syringa), wild cherry trees (Prunus serotina), phlox, daphne, abelia, and viburnum. Later in the season, they feast upon the nectar of verbena (particularly Verbena bonariensis), butterflyweed and milkweed (Aesclepias), sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia), asters, stonecrop (Sedum), butterflybush (Buddleja species*), Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium), bee balm (Monarda), phlox, heliotrope, pincushion flower (Scabiosa), Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota), gayflower (Liatris), and many other cultivated trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals and wildflowers. Provide a continuous supply of flowers and caterpillar host plants throughout the growing season to keep swallowtail butterflies in your neighborhood.

Sadly, a large number of butterflies are inadvertently killed each year —particularly as caterpillars— through the use of pesticides. Even organic methods of pest control can be harmful to beneficial insects, and should only be used in a targeted manner. Although Btk is an organically approved pesticide (made from a bacterium found naturally in soils), commonly and safely used to control harmful worms, it will kill beneficial caterpillars if used indiscriminately. So please, use organic pest controls sparingly, and with great caution. Familiarize yourself with all stages of the swallowtail butterfly lifecycle and pass along the information to your neighbors and friends.

For more information about butterflies and how you can attract them to your garden, visit my previous posts here: “Butterflies on My Mind”, and also here: “On Magic Wings”. More free information about lepidoptera (butterflies) may be found online at the non-profit website,  Butterflies and Moths of North America. In addition to these resources, there are also many excellent books available on gardening with butterflies in mind, as well as books on the butterfly lifecycle and identification for both children and adults. Click here to browse top rated butterfly titles at Amazon.com.

*Caution: Buddleja davidii is considered an invasive plant species in some regions of the United States and Canada. Please see my previous post,  “Butterflies on My Mind”, for more information on butterflybushes, and useful USDA links.

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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Sitting in the Catbird Seat …

May 29th, 2011 § 2

Sitting in the Catbird Seat: My Resident Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)

There’s a broken branch in my doublefile viburnum (V. plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Shasta’). The leafless eyesore is driving me crazy —this otherwise beautiful shrub sits right outside my kitchen window— but I’m not going to prune it. No, I won’t touch it, because it doesn’t belong to me. That tall, naked bit of wood sticking up straight from the center of  all those lovely flower buds has become the perch of my resident crooner, Mr. Catbird. Birds are a beautiful and important part of my garden, and this musical little fellow sings —an endlessly varied and clever repertoire— from dawn to dusk. I wouldn’t dream of disturbing his stage.

Are you familiar with the Gray Catbird and his family? The species is common throughout much of the United States and Southern Canada during the nesting season. The catbird takes its name from his call; a distinctive, raspy-sounding “mew”. His song, on the other hand, is quite creative; like that of his cousin, the Northern Mockingbird, which has a similar stylistic habit of sampling bits of other bird tunes in his compositions. But the gray catbird looks noticeably different from the mockingbird —smaller and darker with a deep gray color, black cap and no white markings— and if you look closely you’ll notice a flash of rusty red feathers beneath its tail as he flits between low branches.

If you enjoy listening to catbirds, draw them into your garden by planting fruit-bearing trees and shrubs. In addition to a wide range of insect pests, the catbird and his cousin mockingbird are particularly fond of  fruiting Viburnum, Serviceberry (Amelanchier), Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) and Dogwood (Cornus sericea, C. alba, C. alternifolia, C. florida and C. kousa). But beware, they will also sample your blueberries, raspberries and strawberries (I cover mine with old fashioned tobacco cloth). Catbirds avoid flight over wide open spaces —preferring to hop from one low shrub or tree to the next— and they typically nest in thickets 4′ or so off the ground. I like to keep my garden neatly pruned and tidy —leaving the catbird’s branch is a test of my nature— but remember, a little imperfection in a garden is often exactly what it takes to make it the perfect place for our wild friends.

Listen to the songs and calls of the gray catbird by clicking here —Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s “All About Birds”— where you can research almost anything you ever wanted to know about our avian friends.

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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A Long Weekend in the Garden & Breakfast on the Misty Terrace …

May 28th, 2011 Comments Off

Fallen Silverbells and Breakfast on the Terrace

A Pot Filled with Calibrachoa ‘Callie Orange’ Brightens the Morning

And a Bottomless Cup of Coffee & Bright Red Chair Help to Wake the Sleepy Gardener

There’s much work to do in my garden this weekend. I’ve annuals and vegetable starts to plant out in the potager and weeding to catch up on. Somewhere around here there’s a big old basket… Maybe it was tossed to the tree line by Thursday night’s thunderstorm?  And the wheelbarrow… Where on earth is my wheelbarrow? I’ll be needing it to spread a fresh layer of compost mulch…

Oh, never mind. It’s a long weekend and there’s plenty of time to play catch up. For now, I’ll watch hummingbirds in the Carolina Silverbell; darting and dancing in the blossoms while I enjoy breakfast on the terrace. Perhaps just one more cup of coffee…

But there must be plenty of moments to just relax

***

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!

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

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

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Springtime’s Shimmering Silverbells: Halesia tetraptera in Full Bloom…

May 28th, 2011 § 2

Carolina Silverbell (Halesia tetraptera)

Carolina Silverbell Blossoms Attract Bumble Bees and Hummingbirds

Looking up from the Terrace Dining Table, Into Thousands of Tiny White Bells

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Halesia tetraptera

When it comes to the springtime show in my garden, Carolina Silverbell really knows how to steal the stage. Smothered in tiny white chimes —which, although they do not ring, are filled with buzzing bumble bees and whirring, chirping hummingbirds— the two Halesia tetraptera on either side of my studio door begin to bloom in mid-May and peak around Memorial Day. As the blossoms open fully —cascading from a dream-like canopy and falling to the table and stone terrace below— stepping through the tunnel of white bells feels a bit like a dream.

North American native Carolina Silverbell is a gorgeous tree for all seasons. With it’s glorious spring flowers, handsome green foliage, colorful, patterned bark, golden autumn color and curious orange drupes; this is a great landscape sized tree. Read more about Halesia tetraptera and her cultural requirments in my previous post, by clicking here.

***

Article and photographs are copyright Michaela Medina 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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Hedonistic Garden Pleasures: Lilac Lust

May 27th, 2011 § 2

Fresh Lilacs (Syringa vulgaris): the Fragrance of Springtime

Lilacs, Lily of the Valley,Viburnum, Daphne and Woodland Phlox; the fragrance of springtime swirls about me throughout the day as I tend to my work. One of my newer projects is a garden restoration and renovation. Oh how I love this detail. Ancient lilacs tower above me —dripping like gigantic grapes from branches— and in order to bring them down to nose level, I must prune! Oh, delightful rewards of my labor: fresh lilacs fill the kitchen sink. I’ve loaded a vase on the dining room table and gathered an armful to place beside my bed. Bliss…

The Gardener’s Reward

Native to Southern Europe and Persia, the common lilac (Syringa vulgaris) is hardy in USDA zones 3-7. This old fashioned shrub prefers neutral soil enriched with good organic compost and full sunlight. The blossoms should be removed and the shrub should be pruned in late spring; while flowering or just after the blossoms have faded. Never prune lilacs later than the first week in July or you will forfeit next season’s flowers! For notes on how to prune this old time favorite, click here to visit my previous post on the subject. The Syringa vulgaris pictured above is an unknown cultivar (the house and garden I’m working in is more than 200 years old). I love lavender, blue, deep violet and white lilacs. My favorite white is S. vulgaris ‘Madame Lemoine’ (pictured just below) and Zeke Goodband just introduced me to an intensely fragrant, lavender colored cultivar called S. x hyacinthiflora ‘Pocahontas’ (image at the bottom of this post).

Lilacs often stir childhood memories for gardeners. As children, my sister and I would raid the shrubs across the street from our home, where an enormous stand of fragrant blossoms stood screening a dilapidated outhouse in back of an old, ramshackle hunting cabin. Lilacs will always bring me back to my sister and our days of wild, horticultural plunder. Do you have a special memory associated with this lovely fragrance?

Syringa vulgaris ‘Mme. Lemoine’ in my Garden at Sunset. This white lilac is one of the most fragrant, double-flowered, French hybrids

If you love lilacs, you will adore Father John Fiala’s classic Lilacs: A Gardener’s Encyclopedia; recently revised and updated by Freek Vrugtman for Timber Press.

Syringa x hyacinthiflora ‘Pocahontas’ (French hybrid) at Scott Farm. This intensely fragrant lilac will be the next addition to my garden!

***

Article and photographs are copyright Michaela Medina 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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Dramatic Darmera Peltata: A Native Beauty for Bog Gardens & Damp Shade…

May 26th, 2011 Comments Off

Darmera peltata’s pretty, pink spray of airy inflorescence

Darmera peltata… What a lovely, musical name. Often the botanical labels for plants pale by comparison to their intriguing and creative folk monikers. But in this case, I think the name Darmera peltata is far superior to the common alternatives (Indian rhubarb and umbrella plant). Just look at this elegant beauty’s richly textured leaves! And the pink spray of blossoms on tall, elegant stems? Isn’t she gorgeous? The name Darmera is perfectly exotic sounding, even if she is an American girl.

Native to woodland streams and swampy wilderness areas in the western half of North America (Hardy in USDA zones 5-7) Darmera peltata prefers moist conditions, rich soil and filtered light. If she were to choose a home, she’d settle herself in dappled sunlight beside a pond, brook or bog at forest’s edge. However, this lovely, low-maintenance perennial will tolerate drier conditions —actually, she suffered mightily in my garden last summer during the drought— if she is placed in a cool, semi-shaded location. The more moisture she receives, the larger and more lush she will grow (3-6′ high is typical, with a similar spread).

I grow Darmera peltata (commonly known as Umbrella Plant or Indian Rhubarb) for her magnificent, textured-emerald leaves

I grow Darmera peltata for her large, dramatic leaves —lovely in combination with forest grasses and colorful Japanese painted ferns— which are stunning from spring through fall, when they turn a rich, bronzy color. But in a rainy year like this one, Darmera produces and abundance of delicate, pink flowers held high above the foliage on strong, narrow stems. I may be imagining things, but I suspect she wants to cheer this gardener up in gloomy weather with her pretty ensemble. And you know what? It’s definitely working…

Darmera peltata blooming at the foot of the Walled Garden with Moonlight hydrangea vine (Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’) and a self-sown Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis)

Darmera peltata offers a lovely contrast to smooth textured, contrasting foliage or —as shown here— the surface of a smooth terra cotta vessel

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

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A Visual Feast: Beautiful, Edible Flowers

May 23rd, 2011 § 1

Pansies (Viola × wittrockiana) are lovely atop cakes, in salads and especially when floating in cocktails…

Or Cocktails, Like this Sunset Mangotini (click here for recipe)

(Viola × wittrockiana ‘Matrix Purple’)

Candied rose petals, lavender ice cream, hibiscus tea, chocolate cupcakes laced with violets; some flowers are more than a visual feast, they’re actually good enough to eat. It’s fun to decorate food with colorful blossoms, and it always feels a bit naughty too —eating something so pretty— when I pull the tiny flowers off a slice of cake and gobble them down. “Don’t eat the daisies“, they say… But that’s part of the fun, now isn’t it?

I grow flowers in my potager for a wide variety of reasons —to support pollinators, provide fresh bouquets for the table, and add beauty to the vegetable patch— but one of the best reasons to grow flowers in the kitchen garden, is to eat them! I enjoy spicy nasturtium and chive blossoms in salads, scarlet runner bean and rosemary flowers in soup, and many other blooming beauties as both ingredient and garnish to dishes from spring to fall…

Bright Orange Calendula Brightens this Garlic Scape Pesto (click here for recipe)

Nasturtiums Add Bold Color and Spicy Flavor to Salads

Fresh From the Potager: Nasturtium, Lettuce and Radishes Make a Colorful Salad with Zing

Never tried eating a flower? Think again. Broccoli and cauliflower are two of the most popular edible buds! Some other, commonly consumed edible flowers include nasturtium, dandelion, violets and pansies, geranium (Pelargonium spp), daylily, squash blossoms, calendula, chamomile, lavender, chive, mint, sage blossoms and of course rose petals. But many other flowers can be grown and used in a wide variety of dishes. Try citrusy bee balm (Monarda didyma), fruity red bud (Cercis canadensis) and apple blossoms, spicy anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), fresh red clover and scarlet runner beans.

Thinking of adding a row of potager posies to your backyard garden? If you’ve never grown edible flowers before, I’d recommend stopping at an organic nursery or farm stand in your area to shop for plants. Do a bit of research before you collect your six packs and ask a knowledgable staff member at your local garden center for a bit of guidance. Two of my favorite edible flower gardening resources in print —by Cathy Wilkinson Barash and Rosalind Creasy— are listed below. Both books contain great cultural and culinary information; including recipes and tips for storage!

Edible Flowers: Desserts & Drinks by Cathy Wilkinson Barash

The Edible Flower Garden by Rosalind Creasy

And although it should be common sense, I must emphasize that not all blossoms and buds should be consumed. In fact, some flowers —and many berries, leaves, roots and sometimes entire plants— are quite toxic. So, never eat a flower or any plant unless you can positively identify —with 100% certainty— that it’s safe for human consumption. If you have very small children frequenting your garden, or as members of your family or household, never grow anything toxic in your potager. In fact, I recommend  that all gardening adults keep a copy of the Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants in an easy to locate place. If you are growing your own food, it’s always a good idea to become familiar with both edible and inedible plants, and it’s never wise to grow anything poisonous around small children.

The Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants

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

May 22nd, 2011 § 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another View of the Center, Secret Garden Wall…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lovely, Lavender Lady of the Shadows: The Japanese Wood Poppy Blossoms in The Secret Garden…

May 20th, 2011 § 9

Glaucidium palmatum, the Japanese Wood Poppy in my Secret Garden today

At times, it felt like a never-ending courtship. I prepared a special spot for her beside the wall; moist, mossy and protected from harsh sunlight and drying winds. I surrounded her with complimentary beauties; maroon leaves and burgundy-tipped ferns. I gave her the darkest, richest compost and protected her in winter with a thick, warm mulch. But there she sat for years —in her gorgeous, emerald ensemble—unwilling to favor me with a flower. And then, when least expected, a pair of mauve-tinted, dew-kissed buds stopped me in my tracks. Some things in life are more than worth the wait…

Glaucidium palmatum, the Japanese Wood Poppy, began blooming in my Secret Garden three springs ago. At first, she only offered two lavender blossoms. But each year, more and more of her beautiful flowers appear. Of course her foliage is stunning all on it’s own; deep green, textured and exquisitely cut at the edges. But once her breathtaking flowers begin to open in late May —one of the Secret Garden’s sweetest moments— I find myself  thinking about them for the rest of the year…

Glaucidium palmatum buds with dew drops in the Secret Garden

Beautiful Even Without Her Lovely Lavender Blossoms, This Gorgeous Plant Stops Visitors Mid-Stride When in Bloom

The Color and Shape of the Japanese Wood Poppy are Nothing Short of Stunning

Listed as hardy in zones 5-9, Glaucidium palmatum does very well in my 4b/5a garden with winter protection (compost/leaf/bark mulch mix). She’s made for the shade, and prefers moist, neutral to acidic soil with plenty of well-rotted compost worked in. Although this 18-24″ perennial plant is stunning on its own, her textural foliage combines well with many shade plants; including Heuchera, Tiarella, Athryrium nipponicum ‘Pictum’, Actaea racemosa ‘Hillside Black Beauty’, and more. But be warned, not only is she slow to flower (sometimes up to 4 or 5 years), she’s also a bit rare, and often hard to find. Of course, with the hard-to-get, the rewards are sometimes so much sweeter…

The Japanese Wood Poppy is Having Her Moment in the Spotlight. And Oh, What a Star…

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

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A Stroll Through the Blossom-Laden Apple Trees & Petal-Strewn Paths … Scott Farm & Springtime in Vermont

May 19th, 2011 § 4

The Gardener on a Rainy Day Stroll Though the Blossom-Filled Orchard at Beautiful Scott Farm in Southern Vermont

Delicate, Pink-Tinted Heirloom Apple Blossoms Perfume the Damp Air

The Orchard and Misty Mountain View at Scott Farm

A busy, wet morning gave way to a brief window of opportunity between showers. With a list of errands and a calendar jam-packed with appointments and responsibilities, there’s little time to spare. Still, the moment of spring is brief, and I couldn’t resist the siren song of a favorite place, calling to me from the shrouded hills above the highway. Make time, she whispered, make time…

Scott Farm Orchard. A spontaneous stroll through petal-strewn, verdant paths in May. Fog and mist draped hills, heavy air perfumed by heavenly-scented apple blossoms; this orchard is a magical place in any season, but I find it particularly enchanting in the vernal {and later, autumnal} months. And so, showered by sparkling raindrops and cascading flower petals, I found myself lost for a blissful hour in springtime’s sweet, seductive company…

Peak Beauty: Pink Buds and Fragrant Flowers Still Bloom Amongst Fallen Petals

Apple Petal Puddles

Pink-Tinted Perfection

Some readers may recall my previous post on historic Scott Farm in autumn, with photographs of orchardist Ezekiel Goodband’s heirloom apples along side his historic and poetic descriptions of their origin, color, fragrance and flavor. Later used in a slide show and article on heirloom apples, “What’s Driving Our Favorite Fruit Into Decline”, written by Gary Nabhan for Grist.com (click here to visit Grist), the story “Original Sin?…” remains one of the most popular posts on this blog. I’ll be writing more about heirloom fruit, apple trees and Scott Farm in the coming weeks, but for now, enjoy the simple beauty of this wonderfully magical place on a rainy day in May…

Apple Orchards are Beautifully Fragrant in Springtime, and Again in Autumn, When Fruit Hangs Ripe and Blushing on the Trees

Peeking Through the Branches into a Magical Forest of Blossoms

Busy Bees Work the Trees, Devoted to the Work of Their Alchemy

And the Gardener Pauses to Appreciate and Give Thanks to Her Muse…

***

Special thanks to Zeke Goodband for allowing me beyond the magical orchard gate at Scott Farm

Photos of Michaela for The Gardener’s Eden by W.B.

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

The Gardener’s Eden received no compensation, of any kind, for editorial mention of any businesses or products in this post.

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

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Maintaining Defined Beds & Borders: English-Style Edging is the Secret to Elegantly Dividing Lawn and Garden

May 18th, 2011 § 4

English_Style_Edging_ in-Cottage_Garden-michaela-medina-harlow-thegardenerseden.com One of my client’s gardens: simple and classic cottage design in springtime with  a crisply edged border and dark, shredded bark mulch

Later in the season: perennials, herbs and annuals spill casually over the edged border. This garden’s edge holds even with no summer maintenance.

I snapped the top photograph above while working at my long-time gardening client’s weekend home here in Vermont, in late May, just after edging. Every spring I design a new combination of annuals to play in concert with the perennials in this country-casual mixed border. By July, the garden is a riot of orange and deep violet —color plays chosen to please my friend’s preference for a bold, exuberant palette— with sunflowers, verbena, dahlia and cleome exploding like fireworks everywhere. So what keeps a border like this looking neat and tidy all season long? The secret is in the English edge, and a thick layer of weed-supressing mulch…

Tightly planted perennials and pockets filled with annuals leave little room for weeds. Meanwhile the English edge keeps a clean line between turf and border all season long.

A classic English-style edge is a simple and clean-looking way to define the line between lawn and garden. Although the look is quite precise, English style edging is appropriate in most any garden setting; from formal to country casual. Inexpensive to create and blissfully easy to maintain, I just love the way a sharp edged line brings the bold shapes, colors and textures of a mixed garden border into focus. When designing new gardens in landscapes with sweeping lawns, I often opt for the English edge to maintain distinct, weed-free boundaries between grassy pathways and perennial borders. Crisply cut edges help to keep a garden looking great all season long.

Penstemon-digitalis-Huskers-Red-Heuchera-Veronica-Coreopsis-Photo-Copyright-michaela-medina-thegardenersedenUsing an edging tool to follow curves really brings out the beauty in my client’s one-year-old garden

Notice how the English edge defines the lefthand curve of the pathway, yet blends with the planted borders. This photo was taken in early autumn, yet the edging on the left held throughout the year with no maintenance.

Large landscaping companies often use mechanical edgers to create deep, sharp-lined trenches between a lawn and garden and then dress these trenches with mulch. Mechanical tools work very well on big projects, but they are quite expensive and consume unnecessary fossil fuels. For home landscapes, I have always used a manual half-moon edger edger and my own elbow grease to create and maintain perennial borders in the English style. It’s great exercise!

Here’s a photo of a new gardener’s perennial border —which I helped one of my coaching clients to create— cut with a half moon edger.

The line of the garden is measured and, if new, marked out with chalk dust or string. A straight line is then cut (with the half-moon edger or a straight blade spade) through the sod to a depth of about 6 inches. When working a new bed, the sod is then removed from inside the cut line, and compost/loam is added to the planting bed. In a renovation of an older bed, re-establish the line by digging a new trench to a depth of 6 inches. I rock the tool back and forth a bit to create a “v” shape. New mulch is mounded up from the center of the “v” and into the garden bed to create a weed barrier.

Here’s a close up of the “v” shaped trench and the mounded compost/loam with new perennial plants. This photo was taken before mulching, so you can see both the line and the trench. Nice work on this gardener’s first effort!

Although some gardeners like to fill the trench with aluminum or plastic strip to hold border edges, this isn’t really necessary. With with yearly maintenance and mulch, the earthen edge will hold back weeds on its own.  In my own garden I prefer to keep the earthen trench filled with mulch, and maintain it twice a year with touch ups from the half-moon edger. The first round of edging happens along my lawn/garden borders every spring during April clean-up, just before seasonal mulch (I use well rotted compost mulch mixed with just a bit of dark, natural bark). The second round of edging usually happens in early to mid July, when perennials borders begin to look a bit blowzy and need a bit of deadheading and primping. But twice yearly maintenance isn’t always necessary. In the cottage garden atop the article and the minimalist garden pictured above and below, a crisp edge is cut and mulched along the borders once a year in early spring. In landscapes with lawn and perennial borders, I’m  very fond of English-style edging. This clean but natural look works well with many different garden styles and it’s both inexpensive and easy to maintain.

Here’s the garden two years later. You can see how the English-style edge blends in naturally with the overall landscape in this contemporary garden; creating a clean, minimalist line.

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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A Beautiful Garden & Time to Enjoy It: Low Maintenance Landscape Design… Free Saturday Seminar at Walker Farm

May 17th, 2011 § 2

Maintenance. I’m going to be honest: if you want a beautiful garden, there’s just no way around certain chores. But in spite of the fact that every landscape requires some upkeep, there are an almost endless number of ways to design and plant gardens to reduce labor while enhancing four-season interest. In my fifteen years of professional garden maintenance, I learned a few things about both human and plant nature, and those insights have helped make me a better landscape designer.

Interested in learning a few tricks of the trade? I will be speaking on the subject of Low Maintenance, Four Season Garden Design this Saturday, May 21st –from 10-11am– at a free seminar sponsored by Walker Farm in Southern Vermont. The talk will take place inside the gorgeous, display greenhouse at Walker Farm in Dummerston, Vermont. If you are gardening in the area, please join us (visit Walker Farm’s website –by clicking here– for directions and details on how to reserve your space).

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you know that autumn gardens and winter landscapes are as important to me as those we enjoy in spring and summer. By choosing the right plants for your landscape, you can not only reduce your garden chores, but also extend your seasons of enjoyment. Over the coming months I’ll be covering more landscape design techniques to lower the overall maintenance and enhance the beauty of your garden. In meantime, you may wish to flash back to my past post —“The Zen of Weeding”— for some tools and techniques on the particularly unpopular chore of weeding. And stay tuned for upcoming tips on how to minimize garden labor and maximize your hammock time this season! I also highly recommend the following books, which I have read, reviewed and own…

The New Low-Maintenance Garden by Valerie Easton is a great resource for both homeowners and landscape designers, from favorite publisher, Timber Press.

50 High-Impact, Low-Care Garden Plants by Tracy DiSabato-Aust mentions many of my favorite plants. This book is just one of many fantastic Timber Press titles by this well-known and beloved garden designer and writer.

Spend More Time Relaxing in Your Garden with Smart, Low-Maintenance Landscape Design. Stay tuned for tips and techniques, coming soon!

***

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

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

Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links here (including Amazon.com book links). 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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Rainy Day Musings & Beautiful Colors… Sauteed Beet Greens with Caramelized Onions, Balsamic Vinegar and Pine Nuts

May 15th, 2011 § 4

Sauteed Beet Greens with Caramelized Onions and Balsamic Vinegar

Rainy days, slow and soft. With deadlines looming and a long list of chores to complete; must confess I feel a twinge of guilt when allowing myself an afternoon of luxury in the middle of a busy season. But it sure feels good. The sound of acoustic guitar plays along with percussive showers on my tin roof. There’s no where to go, and there’s nothing I can do. Fresh beet leaves from the garden —in brilliant, gemstone colors— inspire a late lunch of fresh greens, crusty homemade bread and good, red wine. Sweet surrender…

Nature Provides the Busy Gardener with a Day of Rest

Springtime greens —saturated in brilliant hues— are beautiful, both in the potager and on the plate. I’ve been working in gardens all my life and yet I am still astonished by all of the gem-like colors emerging from earth at this time of year. Ruby and rainbow chard, red-stalked rhubarb, fuchsia veined beet greens; impossible beauty all around.

I love sauteed baby greens of most any kind, but beet greens are truly a favorite. When thinning rows, I like to toss the tiny beet leaves in a salad. But when larger, they are delicious steamed or quickly blanched and sauteed with a bit of olive oil and garlic. Today, looking to jazz this favorite side dish up for lunch, I decided to combine my fresh beet greens with caramelized onions and reduced balsamic vinegar. Just look at the colors…

Sauteed Beet Greens: A Treasure Trove of Edible, Gemstones

Sauteed Beet Greens with Balsamic Vinegar, Caramelized Onions & Toasted Pine Nuts

Ingredients:

1          Pound Beet Greens

1          Tablespoon Butter

1          Cup chopped sweet onion

1          Garlic clove, minced

1/4      Cup Artisan Quality Balsamic Vinegar

1/2      Cup Water

1/4      Cup toasted pine nuts (optional)

Fresh ground pepper and salt to taste

Directions:

Freshly harvest and wash beet greens thoroughly. I like to use a three rinse method. Drain and chop leaves into pieces. If your beet greens are fresh, young and tender, you can leave most of the stems attached. Otherwise, remove and chop the stems separately and set aside.

Heat one tablespoon of butter in a large skillet on medium heat. Add the onion, spreading evenly across the skillet. Reduce heat to low and allow onions to cook slowly, occasionally stirring, for about 30 minutes (until soft and golden brown). Add 1/4 cup of artisan quality balsamic vinegar and continue cooking onions and reducing vinegar on low heat for another 20-30 minutes. Raise heat back up to medium, and add garlic. Cook for a another couple of minutes. Add 1/2 cup of water and raise heat to high. Bring the liquid to a boil while stirring and scraping to loosen bits of sticky onion from the bottom of the pan.

If your greens are all very tender, add them all at once. If the beet stems are thicker, add them to the pan first and cook for a couple of minutes before adding the chopped leaves. Toss everything together in the skillet, and reduce the heat. Cover and cook on low heat for 5 – 10 minutes. Be careful not to overcook (a visual, not to mention culinary crime)! The fresher the greens, the less cooking time you need.

Remove from heat and toss with optional pine nuts. Place the greens in a shallow serving bowl. Allow the greens to cool a bit before serving. This recipe is great alone, or it can be used in pasta or even on pizza.

If you are a meat eater, I highly recommend Elise Bauer’s version of this dish: sauteed beet greens with bacon. Like many of Elise’s recipes, this one gets rave reviews from the omnivores in my life. If you aren’t familiar with Simply Recipes, visit Elise and find her tasty spin on sauteed beet greens here (click for link).

Potager Beauty: The Beet Leaf

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Gunmetal Glaze Bowl by California Artist Aletha Soulé

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

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Inspiration: Cottage-Style Charm… Flowers, Fruit & Vegetables Combine With Whimsical Touches to Create a Colorful, Welcoming Potager…

May 13th, 2011 § 4

A Riot of Annuals (Mixed Zinna) Creates a Bold Splash of Color in the Center of Carol Hillman’s Country Potager

One of my favorite, near-by New England farms is a one-hundred-and-twenty-five year old orchard, belonging to the owners of New Salem Preserves, Carol Hillman and Robert Colnes. Together, this couple has created a beautiful homestead, tucked into the hills overlooking the Quabbin Reservoir in Western Massachusetts. Visiting their orchard after a hike in autumn —with the sugar maples surrounding their two-hundred-and-sixty year old farm all ablaze— is one of my most treasured seasonal traditions. After taking a stroll through the magnificent old, McIntosh apple trees, I always pick up a gallon or two of fresh cider, homemade donuts and as many of Carol’s preserves as I can manage to juggle in my arms. Even after all these years, and dozens of visits —every late September or early October for more than a decade— I marvel at the simple perfection of their landscape and the beauty and whimsical, personal details in Carol’s potager.

Proving that outstanding design needn’t involve outlandish expenditure, let these images inspire you toward the creation of a garden that blends in with your surrounding landscape; capturing the spirit of place. With a vegetable garden design seminar coming up on the weekend, today my mind happens to be on old farms, gorgeous orchards and pretty, welcoming potagers. If you are attending my vegetable garden design talk at Walker Farm on Saturday (see bottom of post for details) this is a bit of a sneak peek at the visual part of the presentation. But not to worry, if you can’t make it, you can catch up right here next week. I’ll be writing much more on the subject of enchanting edible landscaping all summer long…

Where Deer Aren’t A Problem, A Low, Hodgepodge Fence Works Well to Keep Out Wandering Dogs, Geese or Chickens. A Fence Like This One Sets the Country-Casual Tone, Yet Helps to Keep Things Looking Ordered…

With A No-Nonsense, New England-Style Layout , the Beauty of this Garden is all in the Artful Details. Frog Faucet by Flora & Fauna

Both Practical and Whimsical, the Birdhouse Attracts Organic, Winged Pest Control and Offers a Bit of Charm

Annuals are Perfect Potager Companion Plants: Attractive to Pollinators like Bees, Butterflies and Other Beneficials, They Also Provide Armfuls of Flowers for Colorful Arrangements All Season Long (the whitish film on the Zinnia leaves is a homemade, organic fungicide: click here to find a recipe for this homemade remedy)

This Pretty, Productive Vegetable Garden is Welcoming Throughout the Seasons. I Snapped All of These Photos Last September

And to the Side of the Fence, a Well Planned Raspberry Patch Remains Orderly with Two, Neatly Pruned Rows and Wire Guards to Hold Canes

And Here’s Proof That Even Compost Bins Can Be Attractive When Kept Tidy and Crafted with Natural Materials That Weather Beautifully Over Time…

And With a Sweet Bird Faucet, Trips to Fill the Old Watering Can Seem Like Less of a Chore and More of a Pleasure…

Simple. Pretty.

Isn’t it Lovely? Working in This Garden Would Hardly Seem Like Work at All!

A Weathered-to-Perfection Red Stain Feels as Comfortable on this Outbuilding as Old Blue Jeans on the Weekend (Note the Bat House on the Upper Right Corner Near the Eve)

I Couldn’t Resist Including a Photo of Their Old Chevy Truck. Oh What a Beauty!

Together with organic farmer and owner of Vermont’s legendary Walker Farm, Jack Manix, I’ll be talking about the Art and Science of Vegetable Gardening, this Saturday morning, May 14th at 10am (click here for details).  And on Sunday, May 15th, Scott Farm orchardist, Zeke Goodband, will be discussing “The Beauty of Shade Trees”, from 10-11 am, at Walker Farm (read more about Scott Farm and its heirloom apples in this past post: click here). Gardening Seminars at Walker Farm are Free and Open to the Public. Please see the Walker Farm website for details and to reserve your seat.

Many thanks to Carol Hillman of New Salem Orchards for her kind hospitality over many years. Visit their website here.

***

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!

The Gardener’s Eden received no compensation, of any kind, for editorial mention of any businesses or products in this post.

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

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The Moment of Spring: A Walk Along The Secret Garden Path in Magical May

May 11th, 2011 § 3

Pretty is the Cool Morning Mist; Softening the Landscape and Intensifying the Fragrance of Springtime

So busy is the month of May… Days pass so quickly, I can barely remember to flip the pages of my desktop calendar. Things in the garden change rapidly from day to day, and I try to take a different path to the driveway each morning, so I won’t miss a single unfurling leaf or flower. But no matter how hard I try, I can’t put sweet springtime on pause to wait for me. And even if I could, would I want to restrain the exuberant sprint of nature, even for a day?

The Pink Buds of Koreanspice Viburnum (V. carlesii) Swell on Graceful Branches; Draped Upon Grey Stone

Only a Week Ago, Trees Stood Bare and A Few Blossoming Shrubs Played Solo…

Now, Everywhere I Look, New Leaves Appear

The Bold Colors of European Beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Riversii’) Sing…

In Perfect Harmony with Blushing Daphne (D. x burkwoodii ‘Carol Mackie’)

Her Sweet & Spicy Scent Seducing all Who Draw Near…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Favorite Combinations Reemerge… Delicate Foam Flower & Cimicifuga… Woodland Phlox & Ferns…

It Seems Everything is Springing to Life at Once. Breathless, I Barely Keep Up…

Creating Vignettes in Summertime Spaces…

And Drinking In the Beautiful, Fleeting Moment of Springtime…

Sanguinaria canadensis – Bloodroot Blossoms

Moonlight Hydrangea Vine (Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’) Leafs Out- Sprawling Over a Candle Niche in the Secret, Walled Garden at Ferncliff

Helleborus x hybridus ‘Royal Heritage Strain’

The Fading & Falling Blossoms of Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’

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Secret Garden Walls and All Stonework at Ferncliff is by Vermont Artist Dan Snow

Secret Garden Design and Installation by Michaela (for details on plantings see Ferncliff and Secret Garden pages at left)

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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Designing an Enchanting Edible Garden And a Workshop for Vegetable Lovers…

May 10th, 2011 § 4

My Backyard Potager – An Edible Oasis in Mid-July

Like a butterfly flitting about the garden before deciding where to settle, I found myself drifting in and out of greenhouses and garden centers last weekend, ogling possible additions to my backyard potager. I couldn’t help but notice that the aisles of my favorite farm stand and local nurseries are filling up with annuals, perennial herbs, vegetable starts, berry bushes and fruit trees. Ah yes, it’s that time of year again. Time to plant the vegetable garden!

There are so many things I love about growing my own produce, but my favorite summertime pleasure has to be settling into a comfy garden chair at the end of the day —glass of chilled white wine in hand and dinner fixings in a basket at my feet— as I watch the golden rays of late afternoon sun illuminate the beautiful flowers, fruit and vegetables in my potager. Of course the best part of edible gardening is doing just that —eating it! And by mid-June, I needn’t make a special trip to the grocery store to create a gourmet meal. Everything I need for a great breakfast, lunch or dinner is growing in my own backyard. On sunny days, I often enjoy alfresco meals in the garden itself, overlooking the beautiful vine-covered fence and swaying sunflowers…

Heavenly Blue Morning Glories are Attractive to People and Pollinators Alike!

An Alfresco Lunch – Last Summer in my Sun-Drenched Garden

Calendula Blossoms Not Only Add Beauty to a Garden, But Also Attract Beneficial Insects and Deter Undesirable Pests…

Heirloom Tomatoes Begin to Produce in July and Continue through October

Working in a Beautifully Designed Vegetable Garden is a Treat for All Senses

I Plant Sunflowers Partly for Decorative Reasons, But Also Because They Provide Food for Birds, Bees and Other Beneficial Garden Guests

Pathways Edged with Herbs are Beautiful and Fragrant Additions to the Potager. Why Not Make the Walk to the Vegetable Garden as Lovely as the Destination?

I’ll be presenting a free seminar on the art and science of vegetable gardening this Saturday, May 14th at Walker Farm, together with owner and organic farmer Jack Manix. We’ll both be discussing a wide range of edible gardening topics. The seminar will begin at 10am with Jack covering the basics of organic vegetable gardening. Jack will review the practical side of growing your own produce; with topics ranging from soil chemistry and compost, to pest management, specialty crops and succession planting. There will be plenty of opportunity to ask questions and have a look around the farm. Then after a brief tour of the fields, I will pick up where Jack leaves off; discussing ways in which you can make your vegetable garden a beautiful, welcoming multi-use space for your family, friends and other garden guests; like birds and beneficial insects. We’ll talk about edible, living walls and other fences, raised beds and borders, vertical structures and vines, bird, bat and toad houses, companion flowers and herbs, plus all the little details that will make your time in the garden less work and more pleasure.

To find out more about Rosalind Creasy’s Edible Landscaping or purchase a copy, click here

I hope you’ll join us this Saturday, May 14th at beautiful Walker Farm (click here for details and to save your seat) but until then —or if you live too far away to make it— I have a few beautiful and inspirational books on edible gardening to recommend. Rosalind Creasy’s Edible Landscaping (pictured above) is a great book, just chock full of gorgeous garden design photos and practical, inspirational ideas. I mentioned it in this post (here) earlier this year and I still highly recommend it. And landscape designer Jennifer Bartley —who will be speaking on Contemporary Kitchen Garden Design in Wilmington, Vermont on June 24th at the Sixteenth Annual North Hill Symposium —- author of one of my favorite potager design books Designing the New Kitchen Garden, has just released another beautiful and informative title, The Kitchen Gardener’s Handbook, from Timber Press.

Jennifer Bartley’s The Kitchen Gardener’s Handbook

I’ll be writing much more about creating enchanting edible gardens in the coming weeks. And, if beautiful and productive vegetable gardens appeal to your senses, you may want to revisit my potager page at the left (click here) and past-posts; including The Art of French Vegetable Gardening (click here) and Dreaming of Springtime’s Sweet Veggies: Planning a Lush, Welcoming Potager.

***

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

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

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

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

May 9th, 2011 § 12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Jewel Box Garden – Thomas Hobbs

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

Succulent Container Gardens – Debra Lee Baldwin

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

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