A Hauntingly Beautiful All Hallow’s Eve: Darkness Falls Across the Land . . .

October 31st, 2012 § 1

Darkness Falls Across the Land, the Midnight Hour is Close at Hand …

Happy Halloween !

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

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Farewell to Late October’s Splendor . . . A Quiet Calm Before the Storm

October 30th, 2012 § 2

Leaves Catch Fire on the Blue Green Dragon and Fall to the Secret Garden, Below…

Here, in the Cool, Quiet Between Walls of Stone, The Dragon’s Flames Dance Upon Inky, Dark Water

Late-Blooming Ladybells (Adenophora confusa) Defy October’s Frosty Nights and Whisper Softly in the Mist

Some years, Autumn’s radiant colors linger till late November in my garden. The season of the witch is often long and dazzles with glistening frosts. Not so this time. Oh no. Sandy had other plans. But modern meteorology allows us the luxury of planning for inclement weather; time to stock up on groceries and batten down the hatches, or slip outside for just one more glimpse at the garden before the wind starts to blow …

Autumn in the Entry Garden, Beyond the Secret Garden Wall

A Shock of Red Virginia Sweetspire and Geranium Leaves Flicker Like Flames Amid the Rust, Gold and Brown 

Bees of All Kinds Continue to Fill Late Blooming Asters with a Steady Hum, Foraging for Pollen in Autumn’s Chill Air

Golden Clethra alnifolia and Oxblood Physocarpus opulifolius Romance the Sea Green Juniper Along the Wildflower Walk

Shimmering Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’) Against a Backdrop of Burgundy-Hued Physocarpus opulifolius

One of My Late-Autumn Favorites, Oakleaf Hydrangea (H. quercifolia), Turn a Lovely, Leathery-Maroon as Temperatures Drop 

A Delicate Rustling Sound Adds to the Autumn Charm of Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’) in the Secret Garden

And Ever-Dazzling Stewartia pseudocamillia Against the Secret Garden Wall 

Garden Design & Installation: Michaela Medina Harlow

Stonework by Dan Snow

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

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Beauty by Design: New Gardeners Plant A Welcoming, Four Season Entryway …

October 27th, 2012 § 3

Mary Kay & Greg’s Entryway Garden, One Year After Planting. Garden Design: Michaela M. Harlow

Season-Spanning Color Lights Up the Stone Entry Steps & Landing. Stonework: Alec Goldschmid. Garden Design: Michaela M. Harlow

With Properly Prepared, Edged & Mulched Planting Beds —Provided Here by Turner & Renaud— As Well as Diligent Weeding and Adequate Watering (Soaker Hoses Here Provide Water at the Root Zone; Preventing Evaporation and Delivering Moisture Only Where Needed) This DIY Entry Garden Planting Has Grown to Impressive Proportion in Just One Year. Garden Design: Michaela M. Harlow.

 I enjoy taking on the challenge of DIY projects in my own home and garden. But DIY projects with garden clients? Why not? As a garden designer, I frequently work with DIY landscapers at all levels —from absolute beginners to midlevel plant connoisseurs and fellow hortimaniacs— to create beautiful gardens. There’s no better way to learn how to garden, develop new landscaping skills, or brush up on rusty technique than by planting a garden of your own. Of course, taking on a big landscaping project can be intimidating, no matter your level of gardening experience. Knowing what you can realistically accomplish yourself and what might be best left to professionals, as well as deciding how and when to begin, are things we all need to consider before starting a DIY home project. In need of some inspiration? The garden pictured here was planted by my design clients —both relatively new gardeners— one year ago. Curious? Read on …

Windflowers (Anemone x hybrida cvs.) Blooming in Mary Kay & Greg’s Garden in Mid October, 2012. Garden Design: Michaela M. Harlow

Over the past few years, with revived interest in homesteading, victory gardening and self-reliance, the number of gardens I’ve designed for do-it-yourself landscaping clients has increased dramatically. I’m extra proud of these new friends and their projects, because they involve two of my favorite things: designing gardens and teaching others how to garden. Over the years, I’ve discovered that anyone with desire and dedication can learn to garden. I simply do not believe in “black thumbs”; those rusty digits just need a little polishing and training, and they will be verdant in no time!

This Photo of Mary Kay, Watering in Ligularia ‘Britt Marie Crawford’, Was Taken in the Summer of 2011. Stone Steps by Alec Goldschmid. Site work & Perennial Bed Preparation by Turner & Renaud. Plants from Walker Farm in Dummerston, Vermont.

One of my favorite, recent DIY projects came about when I met Mary Kay and Greg at Walker Farm in Dummerston, Vermont, after presenting a Four Season Garden Design seminar last year. I’d stayed on at the farm for an hour or so to answer questions after my talk, and Mary Kay and Greg happened to be simultaneously shopping for a Japanese Maple (one of my favorite trees). As fate would have it, Greg’s mother —an experienced horticulturalist and plant hybridizer— struck up a conversation with me about Acer palmatum. She mentioned that Mary Kay and Greg wanted to plant a new garden for themselves, but were in need of some professional guidance in the form of a garden designer. She introduced us and we discussed the possibility of a designing/garden coaching arrangement. My spring schedule was already filled with full service garden design projects, but I really liked Mary Kay and Greg’s DIY enthusiasm, so we spontaneously arranged  to meet at their place for a garden design consultation later that day.

Meanwhile, Greg Plants Hakonechola macra ‘All Gold’ and Ligularia ‘Britt Marie Crawford’ on the Opposite Side of the Stone Steps, According to the Planting Plan.

When I arrived at Mary Kay and Greg’s home, I had the opportunity to meet a few additional members of their family. Although the couple were relatively new to ornamental gardening at the time, they’d been successfully growing edibles at their place for a couple of years. I’d already learned that Greg’s mother is a retired, professional horticulturalist, and I soon discovered that Mary Kay’s father is also an avid, and experienced gardener. I was encouraged to know that my new clients would have plenty of gardening support and advice available from “green thumb” parents on both sides. As all DIYrs know, one-on-one assistance and tips from an an experienced helper are truly invaluable when you are learning a hands-on skill.

My first step with Mary Kay and Greg was to have a look at the big picture of their landscape, in order to develop long term plans/goals and prioritize immediate needs/desires, as well as to assist in determining what parts of various projects they could do for themselves, and what they might need professional help with. I sketched out a few design ideas and we decided that with a garden design, planting plan, materials/shopping list, together with a bit of coaching and some help selecting contractors for hardscaping, they would be able to take on the entryway as a first DIY landscape project. Once I drew up a plan, we were ready to roll on our next steps together …

Mary Kay & Greg’s Garden Design, Planting Plan, Materials/Shopping List on Layout Day 2011

Local stoneworker, Alec Goldschmid was contracted to construct new drystone steps and a landing area for the front entryway. In the future, a stepping stone path and patio may be added, so the garden was designed and planned with this in mind. Once the stone entryway steps were completed, Turner & Renaud Landscaping came in to prepare the site for planting a new perennial garden. Poor-quality fill is often used at building sites when homes are constructed, and after examining and testing the soil, we decided to have Turner & Renaud remove the existing topsoil in the planting area and bring in a high quality mix of 50% compost and 50% screened loam. The crew used a tractor to scrape away the old base and build new beds. English edging was used to define the raised bed and separate the planting area from surrounding lawn. With the site work completed, Greg and Mary Kay went shopping at Walker Farm, where they found the majority of plants on their plan. I always advise my clients to buy locally when possible, and other tri-state garden centers —including Bay State Perennial, Rasheds Garden Center and Dynamic Landscaping— filled in the remaining gaps on the shopping list. Once they’d collected all of their plants, I returned to the site to help coach Mary Kay and Greg on the final layout and give them some planting tips and advice. As you can see, they did a fantastic job! Later, Turner & Renaud returned with enough natural bark mulch to spread a 2+” layer on the newly planted beds. Using some form of mulch is essential to conserve moisture, keep down weeds, and moderate temperature at the root zone in summer, as well as prevent heaving in winter. Soaker hoses were also set up to keep the new plantings well watered during the growing season (more newly installed plants die from dehydration than any other cause).

A Close-Up View of Mary Kay & Greg’s Entryway Garden, One Year Later

Inspired by Mary Kay & Greg’s success story? Autumn is a great time to design, plan and prep sites for new gardens. In an upcoming post, I’ll share more tips on how to begin a landscaping project on your own, or with the help of a garden designer and/or contractors. Although there are challenges, the rewards of hands-on-involvement in the creation of your landscape far outweigh the difficulties. Now’s the time to get outside and assess your site. Grab big a pad of 1″ graph paper, a pencil and measuring tape. I’ll meet you back here next week and we’ll get started!

A Glorious Stewartia Lights Up Mary Kay & Greg’s Front Entryway in the October Sunlight 

Garden Design & DIY Coaching: Michaela Medina Harlow

Site Work, Hardscape & Perennial Border Preparation: Turner & Renaud

Stonework: Alec Goldschmid, Vermont

Perennials & Shrubs: Walker Farm (VT), Baystate Perennial (MA), Rasheds (VT) & Dynamic Landscaping (NH)

Installation by Homeowners & Gardeners, Extraordinaire: Mary Kay and Greg

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

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Sunlit Saffron, Rose & Brilliant Bronze: Fleeting Moments of Garden Beauty…

October 25th, 2012 Comments Off

A Moment’s Reflection and I’m Off to Work, Through the Secret Garden Door

My garden misses me, and I miss my garden. Autumn days are growing shorter, and with so many projects to finish before the ground freezes, I only have time to catch a glimpse of her sunlit beauty on the way to and from work. And oh, the low, golden light is so spectacular at this time of year… Don’t you wish we could bottle a bit and pull it out on one of February’s most dismal days?

So sorry for my absence, friends! Things have been a bit hectic, but I will be back soon to catch up …

Burnt Orange & Sunlit Saffron: The Blue Green Dragon is Breathing Fire at the Secret Garden Door (Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’)

Golden Silverbell Leaves, Scattered About the Table On A Frosty Morn

Cold Roses (Rosa de Rescht)

Secret Garden Design & Installation: Michaela Medina Harlow

Stonework by Dan Snow

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

Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate 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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The Perennial Maintenance Question: When Should I Cut Back the Garden?

October 15th, 2012 § 6

Rainy-Day, Autumn Maintenance in My Wildflower Walk: Cutting Back Withered Perennials & Removing Weeds

Ah, October. One minute it’s freezing cold and you’re pulling on the wooly socks, and the next you’re stripping to your t-shirt and slathering on the sunscreen. I wonder… Do gardeners in other regions talk about the weather as much as the folks here in New England? A few years back, I was enjoying a live Lewis Black rant on meteorological events, when the comedian turned his attention to the peculiar phenomenon known as New England weather. Only in Boston, he fumed, can one experience: “…thunder, lightening and snow— together”. The audience groaned in unison and filled the room with nervous laughter. It’s true: no matter what the season, you just never can tell what’s in store in our unpredictable climate. Mother Nature certainly has a varied bag of tricks reserved for those of us living in the northeast, and last year, she brewed up a nasty Halloween blizzard; knocking out the power for days and canceling trick or treating (visit last year’s post for photos of the beautiful horror). So with all of this zany New England weather, deciding when to put what “to bed” in  the garden can be a bit of a challenge.

In Mid-October, Seed Pods and Dried Flower Heads Add Textural Interest & Contrast in a Garden Filled with Autumn Foliage (Doctor Woo Relishes an Afternoon of Fall Mouse-Hunting while I Spread Mulch and Tidy Up the Garden)

Last year’s early snowfall caught many gardeners —including this one— by complete surprise. Ornamental grasses, textural seed heads and dried flowers were all crushed by a heavy, white blanket. It was the first time in many years that my garden shut down early. Normally, hoar frosts and light, November snow squalls add seasonal beauty to the garden; tracing skeletal forms in delicate, glistening layers of ice crystal and white lace. For this reason, as well as a desire to attract wildlife, I prefer to leave most textural plants —such as Rudbeckia, Coreopsis, Eupatorium, Miscanthus, Echinacea, Rodgersia, and Asters to name a few— standing throughout the winter months, and cut back whatever remains of these perennials in early spring. However there are some perennials I trim back fairly soon; such as the “melter” plants, including Hosta and Ligularia, and the “scraggle dogs”, like Aruncus, Phlox maculata and Heliopsis. After the first hard frost, I try to critically evaluate the landscape and cut back perennials that no longer provide sustenance to wildlife or add structure, texture or color to the overall garden design and composition. And although I clip back certain woody plants to within 4″ of the ground —Hydrangea arborescens, Perovskia atriplicifolia, Lespedeza thunbergii, etc— I leave most structural pruning for late winter and detailing of woody perennials for early spring.

I Prefer to Leave Certain Dried Flowers —Such as Rodgersia (Shown Above) & Astilbe— Standing in the Secret Garden, to Catch Frost, Ice and Snow. These Perennial Plants will be Cut Back in Early Spring

One of the Great Joys of Ornamental Grasses is the Winter Beauty They Provide in the Garden. Shown Here, Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’) Coated in a Layer of Ice

Two of My Favorite, Architectural Flowers —Rudbeckia and Echinacea— Provide Sustenance to Overwintering Birds. Seed Producing Flowers are Always Left Standing in My Garden. What Remains will be Cut Back in Late April or Early May

Deciding which perennials to cut back when is often a matter of personal preference and garden style. The seed pods and drooping, dried flowers that one gardener thinks poetic, another might consider a terrible mess! You may like your garden neat and tidy, but in terms of protection, most perennials are quite hardy and need very little TLC. Zone marginal and newly transplanted perennials should always be cut back and mulched for winter protection, but established perennial borders are far less fussy. In my own garden, I leave most plants standing and clean up remnants in early spring. Do you have a specific question about when or what to cut back in your perennial garden? I spent the first 15 years of my professional, horticultural career maintaining gardens, and I’m happy to share what I’ve learned. Please feel free to ask about autumn perennial maintenance in the comments, below!

Garden Design & Installation: Michaela Medina Harlow

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

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A Slow Dance with Oboe and Cello: Celebrating the Beauty of October …

October 3rd, 2012 § 6

Raydon’s Favorite Aster (Aster oblongifolium ‘Raydon’s Favorite’) Shines Against Grey Skies and a Backdrop of Amsonia (A. illustris), Flame Grass (Miscanthus sinensis purpurascens) and Golden Birch Leaves (Betula papyrifera)

Come blue skies, drizzle, fog or pouring rain; October will always be my favorite month. From start to finish, the colors of the season rise to a fever pitch in October. Citrus yellow, chartreuse, brilliant orange, copper, deep plum, flame red; the list goes on and on. Much as I love the garden in springtime, in Vermont, it will never hold a candle to autumn. I focus my energies on extending the season’s beauty as long as possible; seeking out cobalt violets to pair with clear golds, sky blues to counter flame orange, and brilliant scarlets to light up deepest green. And then there are the textures. Early in the month, dewdrops dance upon flower clusters and seed heads. By Halloween, hoarfrost will coat garden remnants, creating a crystal coated ballroom.

Could there be anything lovelier than the sound of Mother Nature playing oboe and cello?  A slow dance with a garden full of beauties to celebrate the most dramatic of seasons . . .

A Dewy Web in the Goat’s Beard (Aruncus dioicus); Subtle Reminder of Nearing All Hallow’s Eve

October’s Fiery Meadow Border: Doublefile Viburnum (V. plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Shasta’), Cranberrybush Viburnum (V. trilobum ‘Redwing’), Arkansas Bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii),Flame Grass (Miscanthus sinensis purpurascens), Coneflower (Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eiler’s’) & Juniper (Juniperus virginiana ‘Grey Owl’)

Rust, Rose and Cream-Edged Stripes: The Bold, Autumn Colors of Stripe Eulalia Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Variegatus’), Fragrant Abelia (A. mosanensis) and Panicle Hydrangea (H. paniculata ‘Limelight’)

The Lemon-Lime Foliage of Beautiful, North American Native Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) Lights Up the Entry Garden on a Foggy Morn

Fountain Grass Inflorescences Collect Raindrops Amid Rudbeckia Flowers and Seed Heads (Pennisetum alopecuroides & Rudbeckia hirta)

The Inflorescenses of Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis) and Seed Heads of Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) Bring Subtle Beauty to the Entry Garden & Provide Sustenance to Feathered Friends

Between the Raindrops, Silverbell Leaves Begin to Burnish Gold (Halesia tetraptera)

Garden Design & Installation: Michaela Medina Harlow

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

Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate 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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