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

July 30th, 2012 § 1

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

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

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

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

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Dilly Dallying in the Pickled Beans: An Intro to Canning with Jennifer Audette

July 28th, 2012 § 7

Delicious Dilly Beans

Dilly Beans: Easy Entrance to the World of Canning      Guest Author – Jennifer Audette

Here in New England, a moment exists each growing season when the stars align and your local farmstand, farmer’s market or (if you’re really amazing), own garden suddenly has all the necessary ingredients for the first batch of Dilly Beans. I have the fortune of working in the ‘stand at Walker Farm in Dummerston, VT and this past Thursday it happened. On Wednesday, the fantastic field crew picked seven bushels of beans and then four more the following day.  That means beans coming out our ears for a few days. The first, shy harvest of red chilies appeared in a small bowl, bouquets of dill heads made my mouth water in anticipation of eating pickled things and the garlic has been harvested and waiting patiently for several weeks now.  It’s time to pickle those beans!

As a kid, I spent a lot of time helping my Mom can things like peaches, pears and applesauce. I was a master of slipping skins from blanched peaches; sliding the glistening, sunrise-colored orbs into a mild vinegar bath to keep them from discoloring.  In the autumn, I looked forward to the smell of warm, cooked apples wafting up to meet me as I managed the Foley Food Mill from my perch on the stool. My mom’s palate tends toward the sweet; she’s been known to sprinkle sugar on salad greens deemed too bitter. She doesn’t do hot peppers or vinegar in large quantity and she’s only recently discovered the joys of garlic. Dilly Beans were not part of my childhood canning experience.  But I crave the savory world more than I crave the sweet world and so several years ago, after my Mom had set me up with all the paraphernalia for canning, I found the recipe for Dilly Beans in the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving and entered my very own world of canning…

Slender, Verdant Beauties, Await Morning Harvest

Home Grown Herbs & Spices: Hard Neck Garlic, Chili Peppers & Dill

Freshly Harvested, Washed & Trimmed Haricots Verts from the Potager

This is where I’m supposed to give you a nice tutorial about making Dilly Beans; a specific recipe, step-by-step instructions and such. Unfortunately, I’m not that kind of person. I’m not very good at specifics and I almost never following directions exactly and I certainly don’t do anything the same way twice. But, if you were here with me, I would be happy to show you how I do it. Side by side, you would help me find eight wide-mouth pint jars in the storage space under the stairs, wiping away cobwebs and hoping no mice scurried out.  You would fill the dishpan with hot, soapy water and then wash the jars, the brand new lids and the old screw caps. Together we would wait a long, long time for the half-full kettle of water to come to a boil, discovering while we waited that I didn’t have enough white vinegar for the recipe. I would send you to the store for that.  Thanks, it’s so nice to have a helper!

I’d want to show you how I organize my workspace so that the jars are being sterilized in the large pot of water on the left front burner, the lids are simmering for 10 minutes (not boiling!) in their own separate pan on a back burner and the pickling liquid is simmering on the other front burner.  We’d remove one jar at a time from the hot water and pack them with the beans I’d prepared the night before (washed and trimmed), garlic cloves, chili peppers and dill. We’d fill the jars to a ¼” from the top with the hot pickling solution, remove any bubbles, wipe the top, slap on a lid and load each one into the canner basket.  Likely, there are much better ways to go about packing jars with garlic, chilies, dill and beans. I’m not very good at it and it takes me way longer than it seems like it should. (Maybe if you were here you would have come up with a more efficient way to stuff all those beans into jars!)  But eventually, all 4 pounds of beans and spices would be nestled into jars and lowered into the canning pot. Once we reached a rolling boil, we’d set the timer for 10 minutes. Tick, tick, tick….ding! After a short rest, we’d use the super-cool jar tongs to remove them from the hot water. Then we’d high-five and tell the cat to clean up the mess while we sat out on the porch toasting our efforts with a cool beverage. I’d give you your very own copy of the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving and you’d eagerly look through it for your next canning project (balsamic caramelized onions, sweet and spicy pepper relish, bread and butter pickles, tomato sauce, tomatillo salsa, hot peppers for sandwiches, barbecue sauce), knowing how easy it is to preserve the summer’s bounty, once you learn the ropes.

Dilly Beans

Dilly Bean ingredient list*

Ingredients to be Evenly Distributed in Each Jar:

4 pounds green beans, washed and trimmed

8 cloves of garlic

8 small red chilies

8 dill heads

Pickling Solution:

5 cups white vinegar

5 cups water

½ cup pickling salt

*For all the important canning safety basics and full recipe with directions, please take the time to locate a good book from the canning canon and do your homework.  The previously mentioned Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving is a very approachable, easy-to-use introduction, full of inspiring recipes. It’s a reasonable $9 or so and you might even find it at your local hardware store along with all the necessary canning supplies. Have fun!

 Today’s guest blogger, the multi-talented writer Jennifer Audette, is author of the always entertaining and often humorous Cozy Toes Blogspot. When not experimenting with canning, baking, cooking, horticulture, entomology or other scientific pursuits, Jennifer can also be found hiking, making music, writing and delivering smiles to her very fortunate friends.

Thank you Jen! xo

Some Great Resources for Learning to Safely Preserve the Harvest…

Putting Food By

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving with 400 Delicious and Creative Recipes

How to Store Your Garden Produce

Tips for Growing and Harvesting Tasty Green Beans

Haricots verts —or French-style filet beans— are slender, deep green and very flavorful. All beans should be picked frequently in mid-summer —daily when hot— to insure they don’t go to seed. For best flavor and texture, harvest beans when they are no thicker than the diameter of a pencil. As with most crops, I think it’s best to pick beans very early in the morning, before the heat of the day. Marigold and Summer Savory —believed to improve the growth of bush beans and deter beetles— are fantastic companion plants for haricots verts. Enrich soil with well rotted compost and provide plants with regular foliar feeding (applying liquid fertilizer to leaves in a spray or shower) of Neptune’s Harvest or fish emulsion to insure strong, healthy plants and a beautiful, tasty crop. Always wash beans thoroughly when harvesting, especially after applying fish emulsion or any fertilizer. Green beans provide their best yield during the first three weeks of harvest. With this in mind, I like to succession plant this crop for a steady supply of tender young beans straight through the killing frost.

Dilly Beans: Easy Entrance to the World of Canning ⓒ 2012 Jennifer Audette. Photographs ⓒ 2012 Jennifer Audette and Michaela Medina for The Gardener’s Eden, as noted. 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 use photographs without permission. Thank you! 

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Pots in the Garden, Part Two: Tips for Maintaining Hanging Flower Baskets…

July 27th, 2012 § 3

A Tumbling Cascade of Grape & Cherry Hues: Hanging Basket by Walker Farm

Ah, the seductive power of summertime annuals! With all of the lush foliage, boldly colored flowers and twisting, trailing vines tumbling from covered porches, it’s hard to deny the romance of flowering baskets. And now that we are in late July, those container-grown annuals should be at their vibrant best. But this has been a tough growing season in North America, with long dry spells and scorching heat testing a gardener’s skill and stamina. How are those annual containers looking these days? Things seem a little worse for the wear?

More than any other type of plant, basket-grown annuals truly rely upon the gardener for life-sustaining water and nutrients; and during the hottest part of summer, they are particularly demanding. Left untended during a week-long vacation, a lush hanging basket will quickly shrivel to a crispy, brown mass. But even when hanging baskets are regularly and properly watered, unless they are given regular TLC, they can begin to look a bit straggly by late July; losing some of their early season pizazz. So how does a gardener keep those baskets beautiful all season long? Follow the checklist below for a few helpful tips…

Baskets of Promise: Colorful, Trailing Annuals on Display at Walker Farm

1) Water, water, water: In summer, it’s usually necessary to water hanging baskets daily; particularly when rain is scarce or when pots are hanging beneath covered porches. During hot spells, sometimes plants will need water twice a day. The ideal time to water plants is in early morning. Check moisture levels in the center of the plant and around the side of the container. I like to use a hose with a wand attachment for watering; positioning the rose at soil level in order to avoid wetting foliage. Dry foliage is less susceptible to fungal infection. I use a two-step approach to watering baskets; soaking the pot until water drains from the base —waiting a few minutes— and then soaking again.

2) Assure good drainage: As the season progresses, annuals have a tendency to form dense root balls. Sometimes, root balls become so congested, that water can no longer penetrate and instead rolls off the top of the basket. Last year during her seminar on container gardening at Walker Farm, my friend Daisy shared a great tip for solving this problem. Using a simple wooden dowel or skewer, push down through the root ball in several places to allow the free passage of water. It’s amazing how well this works to revitalize a hanging plant!

To Keep Annual Baskets Flowering All Season Long, It’s Necessary to Fertilize Every 7-10 Days

3) Feed me Seymour: During the growing season, it’s important to fertilize plants once a week.  I like to feed annual plants with a water-soluble plant food, in the early morning, before the heat of the day. I water the basket first, and then water again with the fertilizer-mixture. In addition, I find that a once-monthly application of Epsom Salts solution (see recipe below) makes for a particularly enthusiastic floral display.

4) Right Plant, Right Place: Hanging basket not blooming? Most annuals require full sun to produce flowers, but of course there are some exceptions to this rule. Most fuchsia and begonia plants prefer partial shade, but lobelia and petunias demand full sun. When selecting a hanging basket, it’s best to make a note of how much light the chosen spot will receive, in order to select the right plant for the location. Check the plant’s tag if you are unsure of the species you are growing, and if care instructions aren’t given, Google that plant to find out what it needs!

5) A snip, snip here & a snip, snip there: Pruning and deadheading hanging baskets can do wonders for improving their mid-season appearance. Use a clean, sharp pair of scissors or pruning shears (a rag soaked with rubbing alcohol works well for cleaning garden tools) and cut away any straggly vines, withered, broken or dead stems and spent flowers. Some annual plants will actually go to seed and stop flowering if they aren’t deadheaded, so I like to pinch off withered blossoms daily, just below the pod.

6) Emergency Rx: Even the best gardeners sometimes forget their plants. Unplanned absence from home? Bring your withered basket indoors and set it in a tub of tepid water; letting it soak until it begins to revive. Drain water and bring the plant back outdoors to a shady spot while it continues to recover.

By Mid-Summer, Dense Root Systems and Shallow Containers Make for a Thirsty Basket. Loosen Dense Roots by Pushing a Dowel Through the Plant in Several Places; Allowing Water to Pass Through, Rather than Roll Off the Top of the Basket

Epsom Salts Super-Flower Solution

1/2 cup Epsom Salts

1 Gallon Sun-Warmed Water

Fill a gallon sized watering can with tepid water (or warm a can of water in the sun) and mix in 1/2 cup of Epsom Salts until dissolved. After watering as usual for the first round, return to each basket with the Epsom Salt solution. Avoiding the foliage, pour about a half a quart of solution into each hanging basket. Repeat monthly throughout the growing season.

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

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Welcome Home! Johnson’s Garden: Revisiting a Renovation, One Year Later

July 24th, 2012 § 5

A Welcoming Garden of Color: A Hedge of Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine is Fronted by Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’, Perovskia antriplicifolia, Rudbeckia  fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ and Sedum telephium ‘Munstead Red’, Among Other Plantings Facing the Residential Street

After taking an early morning stroll through a garden I designed and installed last summer, I decided the visit was simply too delicious to keep all to myself. When Geri and Stan Johnson invited me to create a colorful and welcoming garden for the entryway to their riverside home, I leapt at the opportunity. The Johnsons gave me complete creative freedom throughout the process —allowing me to choose the plants best suited to their site and budget, without any restrictions in terms of color or form— and I enjoyed every moment. You may recall this garden renovation featured here last year (click to view the post). One year after planting —thanks to Stan’s excellent site prep and both Johnsons’ diligent maintenance and tender-loving-care during dry-spells— the garden is already full, lush and vibrant. Come have a look, and see how things have grown (click images to enlarge)…

A Hedge of Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’ Makes a Fine Backdrop for Perennial Plantings on Either Side of the Road, Providing both Privacy and Beauty to the Residence (Interior Perennial Border Plantings Include: Sedum Spurium ‘Dragon’s Blood’, Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’, Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’, Penstemon digitalis ‘Huskers Red’ & Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’. In the Background, an Gorgeous Hedge of Tsuga canadensis Towers in a Cool Shade of Forest Green)

Two Sunny Borders Skirt the Entryway Walk, Providing Non-Stop Color from Spring to Late Fall with Vibrant Foliage and Bloom (For Plant Details, See Lists Above and Below). Solar Lanterns are from BJs (See similar solar lanterns here at Amazon.com)

Euphorbia polychroma ‘Bonfire’ & Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’ Along the Hot, Sunny Walkway 

Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) & Wild Blue Indigo (Baptisia australis) 

A Quiet Place to Read the Morning Paper (Plantings Left to Right: Liatris ‘Kobold’, Asclepias tuberosa, Eupatorium rugosum ‘Chocolate’, Baptisia australis, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’, Backed by Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’). Geri and Stan Love Color in a Garden, and I Couldn’t Agree with Them More! Wine and Chocolate Play Against Citrus and Berry Hues in this Bold Garden; Saturating the Verdant Backdrop with Colors so Ripe You Can Almost Taste Them!

Veronica spicata ‘Purpleicious’ Backed by Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’

The Long Border, Leading to the Maroon-Painted Arch and Retaining Wall Gardens, is Filled with Classic Perennials; Including Artemisia schmidtiana ‘Silver Mound’, Ligularia dentata ‘Britt Marie Crawford’, Heuchera micrantha ‘Palace Purple’ and various other cvs, Geranium x gerwat ‘Rozanne’, various Astilbe and Blooming Shrubs

At the Far End of the Garden, Ornamental Grass, Sage and Rudbeckia Fill a Retaining Wall Garden in Full Sun (Plantings Front to Back: Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’, Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’, Perovskia antriplicifolia, Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’ and to the right, Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’)

Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine is Fronted by Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’, Perovskia antriplicifolia, Rudbeckia  fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ and Sedum telephium ‘Munstead Red’

Thank You to Geri and Stan Johnson for Your Support, and for Sharing Your Garden with The Gardener’s Eden!

Garden Design & Installation, Michaela Medina Harlow – For Inquiries See Contact at Left

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

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Light & Shadow: Sunset Color Play …

July 23rd, 2012 Comments Off

The Colors of a Summer Sunset (Clockwise from Bottom Left: Rudbeckia hirta, Heuchera micrantha var. diversifolia ‘Palace Purple’, Cotinus coggygria, Fothergilla ‘Blue Shadow’, Fagus sylvatica ‘Riversii’, Chelone lyonii, Filipendula ulmaria ‘Variegata’, Hakonechloa macra ‘Beni Kaze’)

Pale yellow, brilliant gold, violet-maroon, mauve, blue-shadow and thunder-cloud grey; the colors of a summer sunset. Stormy skies —filled with ominous clouds— create some of the most memorable late afternoon displays. Light and shadow combine to bring out the best in one another. Taking this cue from Mother Nature, I like to build cloud-like backdrops in gardens with bold strokes of rich-colored foliage. By thinking beyond basic green, I can create a framework for dynamic color play in a garden design. Remember the color wheel from my earlier post on designing container gardens? Have another look at color relationships and apply those principles to a ho-hum border and spice up your summertime garden.

In Romance, Opposites Attract & Often Form Passionate Unions, But When it Comes to Family, You Might Not Seat Fiesty Aunt Flora Directly Beside Prickly Cousin Curt at a Reunion. Add Quieter Members of the Same Family to the Seating Arrangement to Keep Hot Pairings from Duking it Out, While Allowing a Bit of Lively Debate Across the Dinner Table. Here, Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ and Rudbeckia hirta Happily Mingle in a Party of Mauve, Dusty Blue and Maroon.

The sunny, saturated hues of late summer flowers —gold, red-orange and cobalt violet— play dramatically against shadowy foliage in complementary colors. Add drama to a garden by choosing woody plants with bold foliage, and then have a look to the other side of the color spectrum when selecting perennial plants. It’s often said that opposites attract, so why not get creative when playing matchmaker in the garden? Worried that things might get garish? When working with this much color, it’s important to keep things from going too far off the deep-end. Avoid solar-glare and the need for sunglasses by adding cool splashes of silver, blue-grey and sparkling mint to balance the show. Like the idea? Have a look at smokebush (Cotinus coggygria), blue-leaf witch alder (Fothergilla ‘Blue Shadow’), copper and maroon-hued beech (Fagus sylvatica cvs), ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius cvs), and ice-blue conifers for a bit of storm-cloud inspiration and contrast for summer’s brightest colors.

Foliage in Moody, Storm-Cloud Hues can Balance Out the Blinding Brightness of Summer’s Hot Floral Explosion: Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ and Fothergilla ‘Blue Shadow’ form a Soothing Backdrop for the Garden’s Bright July Flowers.

Garden Design & Installation: Michaela Medina Harlow – For Inquiries Please See ‘Contact’ at Left

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

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Chill Out: Refreshing Soup & Salad Days

July 17th, 2012 § 1

Roasted Beet & Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese and Balsamic Glaze Dressing – Click Here for Recipe Post

Ninety Five Degrees! That’s hot for anywhere, but it’s particularly hot for Vermont. We don’t see many 90+ days here in the Green Mountains. Yes, it looks like this will definitely be a long, hot summer. And although I don’t mind the heat, I am hoping for a break from the sun. We need a few days of soaking rain across North America to ease the pain of drought.

Fortunately, I’ll be spending most of this week working on garden design drawings and consultation notes from the comfort of my Secret Garden Room. That means lunches at home, with fresh produce from the garden. Plentiful herbs add pizazz to even the simplest of salads —click here for a great, garden-fresh herb vinaigrette for greens— and early, sun-gold tomatoes make fantastic Golden Days of Summer Gazpacho. I’ve been experimenting with some new recipes, but until I have time to post more, I thought I’d share some favorites from the archive (click on any photo or caption and follow the recipe link). You can find more garden-fresh recipes on the “Potager and Recipes” page at left sidebar, in the “Recipe Archive” link in the right sidebar —there’s also a Cocktail Recipe link for the twilight hours— and find even more by scrolling down the main page here. Last night I enjoyed fresh, roasted beet salad and over the weekend, I made a large bowl of my Tante Maria’s famous gurkensalat (well, famous in my family, anyway).

Vinaigrette with Garden-Fresh Herbs – Song of Summertime Salad – Click Here

In summertime, I often have soup or salad, perhaps with a sandwich and Lemon-Mint Sun Tea, for lunch. And when it’s hot outside, sometimes a big salad will be my main evening meal. How about you? Do you chill out with cold meals in the dog days of summer? What are some of your favorites?

Tante Maria’s Gurkensalat (German Cucumber Salad) – Click Here for Recipe Post

Golden Days of Summer Gazpacho – Click Here for Recipe Post

Chilled Haricot Vert Salad with Garden-Fresh Herb Vinaigrette & Feta – Click Here for Recipe Post

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

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Summer Hide Away: A Shady Nook & Dreamy Gardening Books …

July 16th, 2012 Comments Off

Hosta Leaves in Soothing Shades of  Blue-Green and Lime Cool Things Down on a Hot Summer Day. I Love Creating Shady Vignettes Outside of Entryways. This Grouping of Shady Ladies on the North Side of My Studio Includes: Aruncus dioicus, Hosta ‘Sum & Substance’ and in the foreground, Hosta ‘Blue Ice’

A gentle rain fell here last night, providing a bit of respite for my parched garden and the forest beyond. And it’s a good thing Mother Nature quenched our thirst with a modest drink, as it seems New England is headed into another heatwave. In an effort to remain comfortable and productive, my cat-like nature leads me from room to room with the change of seasons. During the hottest months —when there’s no breeze blowing through the dogtrot— I often retreat into the cool shade of my Secret Garden Room. Here —French doors flung open wide to a view of mossy walls and verdant plantings— I work from my desk throughout the heat of the day. The temperature in this sunken shade garden is noticeably cooler, and with blue-green foliage and soft textures soothing the eye, it’s a welcome relief to spend time here…

My Secret Garden Room/Office: For More Photos, Visit Previous Post Here

Inside the Secret Garden Room, Which is Really Just a Walkout Basement I Designed with a Wall of French Doors, Leading to the Walled Courtyard Beyond. For More Images of This Room, Click Here.

The Secret Garden Room Serves Many Purposes: Potting Shed, Shady Conservatory, Summer Office and Occasionally, as Seasonal Guest Room

I Design Many Shade Gardens —Secret Gardens are One of My Specialties— so I’m Always Researching Great, New Plants for Shade. I Often Spend My Free Time Reading Garden Books. At the Top of My Stack These Days? Inspirational Titles from Monacelli and Timber Press; including A Clearing in the Woods by Roger Foley, The New Encyclopedia of Hostas & Gardening with Woodland Plants by Karen Junker

When I’m working on a garden design for a client, or even when I’m just relaxing on a day off, more often than not, I am surrounded by a stack of books. My over-flowing shelves and teetering stacks include a great number of shade garden reference books. Secret gardens and shade gardens are two of my specialties as a garden designer. In fact, it seems I’m almost always working with shade — currently designing three shade gardens— so I’m constantly researching the latest and greatest new plant introductions for low light conditions. Familiarizing yourself with zone and site appropriate plants is not unlike learning about possible ingredients before you begin creating a new recipe. I make endless lists of plants when I visit local nurseries and garden centers, and I keep  a running file of photo notes on my iPhone and iPad, for future reference. For more inspiration, revisit my previous posts on shade gardening here and posts listed by topic in the lower right sidebar. See more images of the Secret Garden here and browse through more photos of the Secret Garden and other garden rooms at Ferncliff, throughout the seasons, here.

Needless to Say —Given the Name of My Garden— I’m Ridiculously Infatuated with Ferns. Delicate as a Voile Curtain, this Lady in Red (Athyrium filix-femina) Catches Every Breeze at the Secret Garden Door. Notice the Reddish Hue of the Stems, From Which this Cultivar Takes It’s Name. The Effect is More Pronounced in Early Spring, When the Sanguine Fiddle-Heads Unfurl.

Inside-Out: Now the Asparagus Fern has Become too Large to Move Back & Forth, It Stays within the Secret Garden Room Year-Round; Bringing a Touch of Verdant Beauty to the Plastered Walls Within. I Love Adding Metal, Stone and Clay Objects to Shade Gardens, Where They Often Rust or Collect Moss; Adding Subtle Color Contrast and Texture to Quiet Vignettes.

Blossoms of Astilbe x arendesii ‘Europa’ Offer Beautiful Color to Contrast with the Violet Undertones of Japanese Mitsuba Leaves (Cryptotaenia japonica atropurpurea). Herbal Mitsuba is a Lovely Perennial Ground Cover, but Self-Sows with Abandon. I Suggest Clipping the Foliage short and Dead-Heading Before the Insignificant Blossoms Emerge to Prevent Re-Seeding.

Texture and Foliage Color are the Keys to Creating an Interesting Shade Garden. Shade Tolerant Ornamental Grasses are a Soft and Elegant Option. Among the Best? Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra). I Love the Many Cultivars and Frequently Use Them in My Designs. My Favorites Include H. macra ‘All Gold’ —Pictured Here in My Secret Garden— and the Subtly Variegated H. macra ‘Aurea’. In Areas with a Bit More Sunlight, I Often Opt for H. macra ‘Beni Kaze’ or H. macra ‘Nicholas’. Both of the Latter Cultivars Have Brilliant Autumn Coloring.

Stonework: Dan Snow (click here for information)

Garden Design: Michaela Medina (click here to contact)

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

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Forest Jester …

July 15th, 2012 § 6

Ozzy, My One-Year-Old, Resident Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) 

Here’s lookin’ at you kid! Every now and then, a gardener needs a bit of comic relief, and Ozzy provides plenty of laughs…

I’ve always enjoyed red squirrels, but my special relationship with Ozzy has deepened my love for the species. Life is hard for young squirrels, and less than 25% survive to maturity (American red squirrels are considered sexually mature at age one, and have a life expectancy of 3-8 years in the wild). You may be surprised to learn that —although they have many predators; including hawks, owls, fishers, weasel, coyote, fox and both wild and domestic cats— most young squirrels die of starvation during the long winter months. Many bird lovers and gardeners resent these hungry rodents, but squirrels will always be welcome both in my garden and at my feeders. After all, this woodland belonged to them first. Did you know that red squirrels play an important role in the forest eco-system as seed dispersers and tree planters? Read more about this intelligent, humorous and endlessly fascinating animal by clicking here.

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

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Wild at Heart . . .

July 11th, 2012 § 5

Day Lilies from White Flower Farm’s Woodside Mix: Blazing Sunset Shades in the Entry Garden

English gardens, Asian gardens, European, Cottage and Modern fusions: I create all sorts of gardens to earn a living, and I find beauty in them all. Formality and structure appeal to my love of architecture and my need for professional challenge. And oh yes, I can prune and edge and deadhead with the best of them; in fact, when I worked maintaining gardens, one of my longtime clients dubbed me ‘Edwina Scissorhands’.

Back at home, the bones of my garden were set strong and sound, but as time goes by the truth is revealed: I will always be Wild at Heart…

Every Nook & Cranny :Whenever I Plant Between the Stones He’s Lain, I Find Myself in a Kind of Slow-Moving, Artistic Conversation with My Friend, Master Waller and Sculptor Dan Snow. Here, I’ve Crammed Rock Roses (Echeveria) and Stonecrop (Sedum) Between the Steps Dan Built for My Studio. Nature Likes to Toss in Her Two Cents for Good Measure, and I Try Not to Interrupt Her (Self-Sown Rudbeckia Blown in from the Wildflower Walk)

In High Summer, the Cool and Shady Secret Garden Door is Nearly Obscured by the Bright, Tumbling, Wildflower Jumble in the Main Entry Garden and Walkway, Just Beyond the Mossy Walls. 

Stonework: Dan Snow (click here for information).

Garden Design & Installation: Michaela Medina Harlow (click here to contact)

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

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Keeping Cool with Lemon-Mint Sun Tea

July 8th, 2012 § 3

Lemon-Mint Sun Tea in the Garden

The dog-days of summer have arrived, and they sure can wear you out! Gardening is hard work, and it’s easy to over do it on a sweltering day. Digging, weeding, lifting and endlessly refilling the watering can are physically demanding tasks. When temperatures rise and the sun is strong, it’s best to take a break in the shade. Throughout the peak of summer —when it’s particularly hot outside— I limit my physical work to the early morning and late afternoon. During the mid-day hours I can usually be found in my breezy dog-trot, designing gardens and researching new plants for fall projects. Retreating to the lake is tempting, but when projects loom and paperwork is piled high, I need to keep my focus. As a motivator, I often make myself an ice cold, mid-day pick-me-up, like this Lemon-Mint Sun Tea, to enjoy at lunchtime …

Sun Tea Brewing on My Terrace

If you’ve never made sun-tea, you are in for a treat! All you need is a sunny day, a clear glass container —gallon size is best— fresh water, black, green or herbal tea sachets (loose tea works in a ball infuser), organic lemons and honey. Variations on the theme are limited only by your imagination. Sun tea can be flavored with a wide variety of herbs, from the lemon verbena and mint used here, to thyme, lavender, rosemary, basil and beyond. Fresh fruit, such as oranges, limes and lemons can all be added to sun tea to enhance the flavor. I often use lemons, since I usually have them on hand and I love their flavor in tea. Early on sunny mornings, I gather fresh herbs —such as peppermint (Mentha piperita), and lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora) or lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) — from the garden and mix up a pitcher of my favorite summer-time refreshment, Lemon-Mint Sun Tea. I brew my tea in a clear glass pitcher out on the terrace  —it takes about four hours— and then chill it in the fridge until lunchtime, when I fill a glass with ice cubes and enjoy homemade refreshment throughout the afternoon. The recipe and method are below.

Making sun tea with fresh herbs is one of those simple pleasures I learned in childhood and have enjoyed every summer since. I’ve tried many recipes for sun tea, but this one, with refreshing mint and lemon balm, has become my favorite. Peppermint and lemon balm are easy to grow perennial herbs (in fact members of the mint family can become aggressive in gardens, so be careful where you site them), and they are endlessly useful in the kitchen. I also grow tender lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora) outdoors in summer, and bring it inside for the winter. Enjoy the warm weather and remember to take it a bit easier when gardening on hot days. Take the time to relax and enjoy the pleasures of a bountiful herb garden. Why not spend your lunch hour kicking back in the shade or strolling through the garden with a cool glass of Lemon-Mint Sun Tea …

The Golden Days of Summer in My Garden: Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mixed’ and Veronica spicata ‘Blue Charm’ Backed Up by Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’

Lemon-Mint Sun Tea

Ingredients (enough for a gallon sized pitcher of tea):

Syrup:

1/2 c honey

1/2 c water

Tea:

3/4 c peppermint leaves, lightly crushed

1/2 c lemon verbena or lemon balm leaves, lightly crushed

3 – 4  lemons, sliced

5 bags of black tea, (herbal or green are fine if you prefer)

1 gallon size clear glass pitcher and fresh water to fill

Method:

Honey, Lemon and Freshly Harvested Herbs

1) Lightly crush mint and lemon verbena or lemon balm leaves and thinly slice three or four lemons.

2) Toss these ingredients into an empty 1 gallon, clear glass pitcher.

lemon mint tea twolemon mint tea three

3) In a small saucepan, combine 1/2 c honey and 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil over medium high heat while stirring.

4) Remove saucepan from heat and slowly pour the hot syrup into the pitcher, coating the herbs and lemon. Tie 5 tea bags to dangle into the pitcher, or toss the bags straight in. Slowly fill the pitcher with cold water and stir. Set the pitcher outside in the full sun for 2-4 hours or until the water turns a deep honey-gold (I cover mine at the top to keep out insects). Bring the pitcher back inside and remove tea bags and chill in the fridge for 2 or more hours (chill serving glasses for a frosty experience), or until cold. Fill chilled glasses with ice and pour in the sun tea. Garnish with a sprig of mint and/or lemon and serve.

Additional Notes:

Sun tea can be made without sweetener, but I like to add the simple syrup above, made with honey. Pouring the boiling syrup over the crushed herbs and lemons helps to release their oil into the tea, and the fragrance is wonderful! I always muddle the ingredients a bit with a wooden spoon.

Gathering Herbs in the Potager

This Recipe for Lemon-Mint Sun Tea was Originally Published on The Gardener’s Eden in August 2009

Photographs and Text ⓒ 2010-2012 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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The Beauty of Sunlit Valerian …

July 8th, 2012 Comments Off

From Garden to Table: Fresh Cut Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)

Dreamy, soft, relaxing; flowering herb valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is every bit as beautiful as it is useful. The botanical name of this medicinal herb comes from the Latin word ‘valere’, meaning to be well. Since the fourth century —and perhaps even earlier— valerian has been used as a medicinal herb to treat a variety of ailments; from anxiety and insomnia to hypertension, eczema and migraine headaches*. Recently, tablets made from the rhizomes and roots of this herb have regained popularity as a natural sedative and anxiolytic (read more here). Oil, extracted from the flowers, has long been used as a food flavoring and fragrance in perfumes…

Valeriana officinalis and Aruncus dioicus Form a Flowering, Semi-Transparent Screen in My Garden

One of the most fragrant of all garden perennials, Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is a graceful, tall (4-6′), flowering plant (USDA zones 4-9), which can be grown as an herb, ornamental, or both. Stately yet ethereal, Valerian blooms from July through August, and can be used in mass plantings to create a light, summery screen between garden rooms; an effect I love. Beloved by many bees and butterflies (particularly Tiger Swallowtails), lacy, white valerian flowers have a sweet, musky smell; similar to fragrant heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens), but with woodsier, mossier notes. It’s one of those fragrances you either love or hate, and I happen to like it very much. I enjoy filling my home with valerian during the summertime; cutting armfuls for mixed bouquets or solo arrangements, like the one featured in the photo at top.

Valerian officinalis, Used as Semi-Transparent Screen at the Edge of My Potager

I have grown Valeriana officinalis in my herb garden for as many years as I’ve been gardening. However, when planting this species, it’s important to exercise caution, as it does self-sow (however, unlike mint, I find it isn’t aggressive, and volunteers can be easily pulled from the ground). It should also be noted that this plant is listed as potentially invasive by a few U.S. states. Normally, I avoid all free-seeding, non-native plants, but I have mixed feelings about the inclusion of this medicinal herb (and other non-native herbs, like mint) on the invasive plant watch list. I have not observed herb valerian crowding out native species in the natural areas where I live. Much like domesticated apple trees (Malus domestica), most earthworms and those delightful, domesticated honeybees (Apis mellifera), herbal valerian (Valeriana officinalis) was introduced to North America by European settlers —themselves invasive, by the way— when they arrived. Three hundred years is long enough, in my humble opinion, to prove that this plant is no Kudzu (Pueraria montana). Many introduced species have benefits that far outweigh their risks, and until proven to be harmful to native species, I will continue to grow herb valerian in my garden.

*Always Check With Your Doctor Before Consuming Any Medicinal Plant or Herbal Medicine!

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

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Preserving Summer Garden Delights: Tips for Freezing & Drying Produce …

July 3rd, 2012 § 2

Homemade, Sun Dried Tomatoes –  For Easy Tutorial Post Click Here

It’s Fourth of July weekend. Barbecues are sizzling, picnic baskets are filling and fireworks fill the night skies. Summer is here at last and, as they say, the living is easy. Fresh produce flows from the garden in a steady stream and fills the table at every meal. It’s hard to imagine that the rich bounty will ever end. But wait… What of Winter… Remember last year’s early Winter? Oh I know it’s hard to think about that chilly, White Witch now, but before we know it, Jack Frost will be having one of his late night parties and all of the fresh herbs and sweet tomatoes will be but a memory again. Well, don’t let it all slip away so fast! Preserve a bit of summer here and there —whenever you have an spare moment— to savor when snowbanks are piled a mile high and bitter winds howl outside your windows.

Frozen Herb Cubes in Oil, Butter, Broth, Juice or Water – For Easy Tutorial Post, Click Here

Imagine popping a few of your own homemade, freshly-frozen herb cubes into the sauté pan; inhaling the delicious aroma of summertime basil as the olive oil melts on the stove. Perhaps you’ll add an onion or a clove of garlic pulled from the handmade braids dangling from your ceiling, or even better, a few of those sweet, sun dried tomatoes you put up in late July. There’s nothing like being transported to summer in the middle of a cold winter night…

Stored in Jars of Olive Oil, Sun Dried Tomatoes Make Beautiful Gifts – For Easy Tutorial Post, Click Here

Dried Herbs Add Great Flavor to Teas, Sauces, Soups and Many Savory & Sweet Dishes. Preserve the Best Flavor by Cutting Fresh, First Thing in the Morning, Sorting and Bundling Before Hanging to Dry – Easy Tutorial Post, Click Here.

So, now that all the time you’ve invested is beginning to pay rich dividends in the garden, be sure to set something aside for the future. Harvest extra herbs from the garden, and freeze as many as you can in cubes of butter, olive, coconut or other oil, juice, broth or water (see tutorial here). Later, you can pull those fresh-frozen herb cubes from the freezer and pop them into all sorts of savory and sweet dishes, or simply add a cube of minty freshness to your morning tea. Still more herbs? Bundle, tie and hang the rest to dry in a closet or attic (click here for herb drying tutorial), drape some from the beams beside the braids of garlic and onions, or add them to bottled vinegars and oils. Click on the other photos posted here for addition tips on putting food by, and stay tuned for more ways to preserve the harvest throughout sweet, sweet summertime!

Onions and Garlic are Beautiful When Braided and Hung from Kitchen Beams. For Longer-Term Storage, I Hang or Box Them in My Cellar. Click Here for an Easy How-to-Braid Onions and Garlic Tutorial.

Braiding Onions and Garlic is a Simple and Attractive Way to Store Produce Where You Need it Most: In the Kitchen! Click Here for Step-by-Step Photo Tutorial Post.

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

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Celebrating Independence . . .

July 3rd, 2012 § 1

Happy Birthday America!

Happy Independence Day America! I’m a patriotic sort of gal, and Fourth of July will always be one of my favorite holidays —picnics, barbecues, the Boston Pops— what’s not to love? Of course for many of us, fireworks are the high point of our nation’s birthday celebration. After all, there’s nothing like a brilliant pyrotechnic display to bring out the inner child

To me, fireworks resemble beautiful, neon-colored flowers —not a big surprise given my vocation— and I love watching them explode in the night sky (see past post here). Even better? Homemade strawberry-mint mojitos to enjoy with the week’s electrifying entertainment (click here for recipe). Enjoy the celebrations!

xo Michaela

For Strawberry Mint Mojito Recipe & Pyrotechnic Fourth of July Flowers Exploding in the Night Sky, Click Here

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

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July Dreams . . .

July 1st, 2012 § 1

Sweet Summer Slumber…

A Few Days of Quiet Repose…

A Shady Spot Beneath the Boughs of a Silverbell. Perhaps a Bit of Time for a Long Overdue Tête à Tête

Hello July… You’re here already? I’ve been so busy, I nearly missed your arrival. Usually you roll in with a few claps of thunder and at least one bolt of lightning. This year, you snuck up on me. Maybe I was out mowing the meadow? Of course, of course… I’m happy to see you… But I’m still a bit unprepared. The picnic basket has yet to come down from its shelf and I’m sure the cooler needs a scrub. Yes, yes… There’s time for all that later. Kick of your shoes and grab a pillow from the closet. Follow me back outside for a swing in the hammock. I’ve got homemade sangria chilling for later… Let’s shirk our responsibilities and go have fun for awhile.

And a Late Afternoon Stroll Through the Garden with a Glass (Or Two) of Sweet Summertime Sangria – For Recipe Click Here

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

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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