Bringing Nature’s Beauty Indoors: Festive Autumn Centerpieces from Garden to Table…

November 20th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Curious Dinner Companions: Dried Leaves of Sago Palm Add a Light, Golden Touch to Traditional Gourds and White Pumpkins

At long last, it seems that the season of feasts and festivities is finally upon us. And like many of you, I am looking for ways to bring the garden’s bounty to my dinner table: pumpkins, squash, carrots and potatoes from the root cellar; peas and berries from the freezer; and fresh greens and alpine strawberries from the hoop houses in my potager. But the garden offers endless delights for the eye as well as the taste buds, and I always like to dress up the house, holiday buffet, and even everyday place settings, with arrangements from the natural world.

From bittersweet-twined jars and low bowls filled with floating candles and cranberries, to luminous hurricane lamps surrounded by pinecones, crabapples and seedpods, I continue to bring a bit of nature’s beauty indoors throughout the late fall and winter. And in creating a few new festive, table-top scenes, it occurred to me that I should pull up some of last year’s photos and decorating ideas from the blog archive. Though many of us are living on tight budgets these days, with a little creativity, a beautiful centerpiece for the dinner table is always within reach. Autumn walks along riverbanks, train tracks and woodland paths last week revealed tangles of bright orange bittersweet, resin-tipped pinecones, bright red hollyberries and a jumble of seedpods amongst the tawny meadow grasses. Bring a bag or basket along next time you take a stroll through the park or walk the dog through the wastelands. You may be surprised and delighted by the natural curiosities you will find. And while it’s possible to spend a fortune on holiday decorations, I often find that bits of twine, recycled jars and old wine bottles topped with candles are just as pretty as more expensive ornaments.

Here are some free and inexpensive ideas from the archive, and you can bet there will be more to come! After all, I always find that getting ready for the party is half the fun!

Bittersweet Vines Wrap Around a Glass Jar to Create a Floating Candle Centerpiece

A Minimalist Centerpiece: Floating Cranberries and Candles in a Low Bowl

Gathered Pinecones and Crabapples Make a Festive and Elegant Centerpiece, Indoors or Out (shown here on a table near the entry to my studio)

Golden Amsonia shimmers in a hand-blown glass vase I brought home one year from Italy

Winterberry Holly Branches Fill an Old Urn (Ilex verticillata)

Ornamental grasses (like this Deschampsia flexuosa) catch the light beautifully, indoors as well as out

A Homemade Terrarium Filled with Native Plants (See more terrarium ideas and step-by-step tutorials here)

A Vase Filled with Dry Hydrangea Paniculata Dresses Up a Stack of Books at the Foot of the Stairs

See More Garden Remnant Ideas from the Archive By Clicking Here and Here Too!

***

Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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Behold the Beautiful Autumn Tapestry: A Kaleidoscopic Carpet at Our Feet…

November 16th, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

Geranium ‘Brookside’ shows off in sensational shades of red and orange in mid-November

Near-metallic gleam: Dryopteris erythrosora ‘Brilliance’ (Autumn Brilliance fern)

Our native ground-covering Pachysandra procumbens (Allegheny spurge) provides beautiful and variable autumn color beneath shrubs along my garden’s entryway and along the shady parts of the path

Now that I have accepted the skeletal lines and architectural drama of the November forest, it’s hard not to fall in love with late autumn’s incredible beauty. One morning it’s foggy, moody mountaintops and the next it’s the surprise of sparkling hoar frost at sunrise. The last weeks of autumn can be a truly magical time in the garden. Walking along the paths, digging holes here and there for spring bulbs, my eyes are drawn to the kaleidoscopic color surrounding my feet. Bronze, vermillion, gold and violet; the ground looks as if it’s covered in a collection of precious, spilled jewels. Some of these late-autumn beauties always provide rich garden color -often in the form of variegation or lacy leaves. But many garden ground-covers, including Bergenia ‘Bressingham Ruby’Geranium ‘Brookside’ (Cranesbill) and Dryopteris erythrosora ‘Brilliance’, wait until late in the season to put on their most vibrant show.

When designing a garden, I always give careful consideration to the flooring. In much the same way an interior designer thoughtfully selects wood or marble or carpeting for a space, I purposefully choose my ground-covering options in outdoor rooms. Of course, knowing a bit about how the tapestry of foliage will change throughout the seasons is invaluable. Will the green leaves of a particular plant become gold or orange in October, playing off violet-hued shrubs? Will the rusty, late-season tones of a low-growing conifer help to bring out the blue-tint of a statuesque spruce towering above? As I made my rounds in the garden this morning, I snapped a few photos to give you a better idea of how ground-covering foliage can add to the late season garden. And much like the exquisite Oriental carpets and Persian rugs found in beautiful homes, low-growing plants can add amazing warmth and texture to garden rooms, not only in autumn and winter, but at any time of the year…

Pachysandra procumbens (Allegheny spurge) mottled green and bronze in patterns like marble

Sedum ‘Angelina’ continues to glow in all of her orange-tipped chartreuse glory, as she creeps along the stone pathway

Bergenia ‘Bressingham Ruby’ at the Secret Garden Door (Other plants include Galium odoratum, Euphorbia, Heuchera, Lamium maculatum and Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’)

Microbiota decussata is just beginning to show off the beautiful, bronzy, late autumn and winter color I so adore

Along the Secret Garden path, green and white Lamium maculatum ‘Orchid Frost’ and Pulmonaria saccharata ‘Mrs. Moon’ combine nicely with the glossy and  verdant leaves of  Helleborus x hybridus ‘Royal Heritage Strain’ and the gorgeous late season yellow of Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’

Heuchera americana ‘Green Spice’ takes on lovely orange veining and shines beside the low, gold Euphorbia along the path

Calluna vulgaris ‘Multicolor’ glows in electric shades of orange —intensified here by the blue-green color of Juniperus horizontalis ‘Bar Harbor’— while the Spring Heath (Erica carnea) softens the impact with its medium green

Geranium ‘Brookside’ blazes brightly in the garden amongst the brown and tan of fallen leaves

Microbiota decussata with Thymus Pseudolanuginosus (better known by the easier-to-pronounce common name, ‘wooly thyme’)

***

Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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

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Spicy Cream of Carrot & Ginger Soup And the Last Rays of Golden Sunlight…

November 14th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Spicy Cream of Carrot & Ginger Soup

Alas, another late autumn weekend is drawing to a close; November sun flickering as it slips beyond bare tree-tops. The wood has been stacked, the bulbs all planted and sweet carrots harvested for soup. What a gift, these late-season days of warm weather. I love working in the garden until the last light of day, watching the low sun as it dances across the garden; illuminating the bright red twigs of dogwood and buff-colored tufts of ornamental grass…

Stacking Wood on the Terrace

The Entry Garden in November: Tufts of Miscanthus sinensis ‘Variegatus’ illuminated against a background of  dark green juniper (Juniperus x pfitzeriana ‘Sea Green’), delightful, glowing red-twig dogwood and the stark white bark of paper birch (Betula papyrifera)

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ and Fagus sylvatica ‘Riversii’ against the November sky

Before I slip back outside for a stroll through the caramel-colored forest, I want to share this delightful recipe I concocted at lunchtime. My carrot-based soup was inspired by a recipe featured in this month’s Martha Stewart Living, which I’ve been wanting to try (and still will). In the end though, today’s soup became something entirely different, because I didn’t have the harissa —a chile sauce from North Africa, which is included in that recipe— and instead of leeks, I decided to use up some of my onions. I definitely wanted spice, and I always seem to have Sriracha sauce in my kitchen, so I used that to generate heat. And in addition to my freshly harvested carrots, I just happen to have a bit of ginger root on hand —I love the combination of carrot and ginger— so I added a bit of that to the mix. Then, at the last minute I thought, well, why not add some warm spices and heavy cream to this and see how it goes. Mmmm. I really liked the ginger-carrot/spicy-creamy combination, and I think you will too. It’s just the right mid-afternoon pick-me-up, and I bet it would be a delightful start to a harvest dinner. Give it a try and let me know what you think. If you are looking for a lighter, healthier soup, simply omit the cream…

Spicy Cream of Carrot and Ginger Soup

Ingredients (serves 4-6):

1         Medium onion, peeled and diced

2         Cups fresh young carrots, peeled and sliced

1         Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1         Two inch piece of fresh ginger, grated

2         Cloves of peeled and crushed garlic

1/2      Teaspoon Sriracha sauce (more or less to taste) or sub other hot sauce

2          Cups homemade vegetable or chicken broth

1          Cup of heavy cream (sub w/ another cup of stock for low-fat soup)

1/8      Teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg

1/8      Teaspoon fresh grated cinnamon

1          Tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped for garnish

Fresh Ground black pepper and salt to taste

Directions:

In a medium stockpot or large saucepan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil on medium. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, or until soft. Add the carrots and Sriracha sauce, reduce the heat a bit and cook about 10 minutes. Add 2 cups of stock (use three cups if you are omitting the heavy cream) and bring turn the heat back up to medium. Add the ginger, garlic, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for approximately 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and add one cup of cream if you would like a creamy soup. Very carefully puree small batches of the soup in a blender. Warning: DO NOT attempt to puree large batches of hot soup or you may burn yourself. This soup may be completely or partially pureed, as you like.Try pureeing a cup or two at a time. Add the pureed soup back to the pot and warm on low heat.

Ladle the soup into shallow bowl, garnish with freshly chopped parsley and serve.

***

Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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

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November Garden: Late Autumn’s Sunny-Day Chores & Pleasures…

November 13th, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

Glowing Tufts of Ornamental Grass (Miscanthus sinensis)

My Trusty Old Garden Cart ( from Gardener’s Supply Company )

Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’ (Switch Grass) – Golden Color Illuminated by November Sunlight

Days of beautifully warm, sunny weather, a free weekend, and a list of end-of-season garden chores = Michaela in Bliss. I’ve had a really busy week —filled with deadlines and end-of-season projects to finish up for my design clients— so I’m looking forward to a weekend’s worth of work and relaxation in my own garden. The fun began yesterday afternoon, when I planted 400 landscape-size Narcissus bulbs; 200 N. ‘Ice Follies’ in the long border and 200 premium mixed daffodils in the entry garden. Yes, I am still planting bulbs, and I will continue to do so until the snow flies. I did warn you that it’s compulsive. Plus, with all of the end-of-season sales, how can I help myself?

But Daffodils, Michaela? Aren’t they a bit… pedestrian? Bah. Don’t you believe that nonsense. The genus Narcissus is one of the most amazingly diverse groups of bulbs. If you don’t believe me, just have a look at Brent and Becky Heath’s incredible collection of Narcissus on their beautiful website. And not only are Narcissus long-lived and gorgeous, they are also tough as nails; resistant to mice, deer, insects and cold. I like to plant a cheerful mix of yellow shades where the entry garden meets the driveway to greet springtime guests. And in the long border — as well as the other flower beds near my studio and kitchen windows— I prefer to plant bulbs in single-color drifts for a calm, soothing effect. Yesterday, I added 200 landscape-size N. ‘Ice Follies’ (below) in the long perennial border, which I am currently renovating (pulling out old ‘holding tank’ plants and re-designing).

Narcissus ‘Ice Follies’ (photo from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, where I bought mine)

Narcissus ‘Ice Follies’ bulbs from Brent and Becky’s. If you have small children, planting daffodils is a great way to share the experience of gardening with them.

Narcissus ‘Ice Follies’ with winter aconites (photo from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs)

Narcissus ‘Ice Follies’ belong to the division 2 group (large cup daffodils). These long-lived perennial plants are perfect for beds and borders, as well as for naturalizing in large landscapes. Because division 2 daffodils are so popular, they tend to be less expensive -perfect if you have a large area to plant on a tight budget (yes, and yes). I believe that one of the keys to good landscape design is understanding the big picture -and I do mean the really big picture. Specialty bulbs are lovely indeed, but you needn’t spend a fortune in order to have a beautiful garden. What you do need is to develop your eye, and to train yourself to think creatively.

Budget only allow you a few bags of landscape daffodils? Work with what you’ve got. Plant those bulbs in clusters of 5, 7 or 9 —I like to dig oval or circular holes and plant in irregular patterns— between your perennials. Work with the timing and colors of other flowering plants (and foliage!) in your border to maximize impact. Have forsythia in your garden? Instead of planting solid yellow daffodils, why not try a subtle contrast instead. Plant white, two-tone, or a combination of darker, orangey-yellow daffodil bulbs beneath your yellow-flowering shrubs. Is there a white-flowering tree or shrub in your early to mid spring garden? Add a pool of lavender-blue grape hyacinth (Muscari ‘Valerie Finnis’ is particularly gorgeous) beneath the branches to create a soothing scene. Muscari (grape hyacinth) bulbs are very inexpensive, and they multiply freely over time. Look back at pictures of your garden from last spring. See spots that could use a little umpf or more color-play? Let those photos be your guide this fall during bulb planting.

Cluster’-planting Narcissus bulbs helps to create a full and natural look in the garden and landscape. Much better than wimpy little polka-dots of yellow! Be sure to mix a bit of bulb-booster into the top layer of back-filled soil for best results.

Have a daylily patch (or a neighbor with one in need of dividing)? Hemerocallis make great planting companions for Narcissus. As the foliage of your daffodils dies back, the daylily leaves and flowers will conceal the yellowing and dormant Narcissus (never braid or tie daffodil foliage after flowering, and until it has completely withered and turned yellow/brown before cutting back). And while it’s certainly true that the dividing and planting of perennials is best done a bit earlier in the season, most tough-nut daylilies can be divided and replanted late (oh how they take the abuse!). Other good and inexpensive daylily companions? In semi-shade areas, I like to combine Narcissus with native ferns —particularly cinnamon (Osmunda cinnamonea) and ostrich ferns (Matteuccia pensylvanica)— and other big-leaf beauties like Hosta. Daffodils prefer dryish soil during their dormant period, but they are fairly tolerant of less-than-ideal conditions. The daffodils in the drier sections of my shade gardens are all doing quite well.

Here in the Secret Garden, Muscari ‘Valerie Finnis’ (grape hyacinth) and Narcissus ‘Misty Glen’ (white daffodils) are well-timed spring companions

Also keep in mind that bulbs can make great companions for other bulbs. If you are new to gardening, it may not occur to you to plant bulbs in ‘layers’. Some bulbs, like most Narcissus, are large, and need deep planting holes. But other spring flowering beauties emerge from tiny bulbs, (like crocus, grape hyacinth and snowdrops) requiring minimal planting depth. Of course this creates an opportunity for a ‘bulb sandwich’, and I love this planting method! Simply plant your larger bulbs first, then backfill until you reach the depth required for medium-bulbs, then —if you have them— finish off with shallow-planted bulbs. Here’s an example….

Plant three big bulbs, like these daffodils, 7 inches deep, between a grouping between perennials (these are spaced a little tight in this photo, be sure to give bulbs enough room to grow). Then backfill with about 3 inches of soil, to just cover the bulbs. Next…

Plant Three Muscari 4 inches deep, staggering them between the daffodils (you can feel around for the tips of the Narcissus, but it’s OK if they overlap a little. Bulbs will find their way around one another)

Another example of bulb companions with spring blooming perennials (Narcissus ‘Misty Glen’ with Erythronium and Helleborus x hybridus)

As I plant my bulbs each fall, I sometimes unearth previously planted daffodils, grape hyacinth or other spring bloomers. If this happens to you, don’t worry —no harm has been done, unless you chop it up!— just replace the bulb and keep going. Do remember to water your bulbs thoroughly after planting, and continue to water until the ground freezes if nature doesn’t do so for you. OK. Back to the garden -there’s more work to be done! I’ll be back with bulb-a-rama II later! Don’t you just love this time of year? It’s so lovely out there…

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Variegatus’ beside Viburnum x burkwoodii ‘Mohawk’

***

Article and photographs (exceptions noted an linked) ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

***The Gardener’s Eden is not an affiliate of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs. But, Michaela is indeed a very happy customer!***

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

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

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Preparing the Garden for Winter: Protect Young, Ornamental & Fruit Trees from Gnawing Rodents…

November 11th, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

My young Royal Frost birch (Betula populifolia x Whitespire ‘Royal Frost’) tree’s golden-orange foliage in November

Several years ago, when my father had heart surgery at the VA hospital in Boston, I was away from home quite a bit during the last three months of the year. Preoccupied with my dad’s health and juggling various responsibilities during his recovery, I neglected end-of-season chores in my garden. Later on, as the first month of winter passed and my father’s condition improved, I found myself staring at a box of unplanted bulbs and a check list of unfinished tasks.

Soon, spring arrived. Waves of forced bulbs —potted and chilled in late December— began to emerge from the depths of my refrigerator. Although I regretted not getting my little treasures into the ground, I was grateful for the bright color of early tulips and tiny, fragrant narcissus when the snow began to recede; exposing muddy patches of half-frozen earth. Later, as I began rummaging around my cellar in search of gardening tools, I made a grim discovery: an entire box of wire cages that never made it around the trunks of my young trees. My heart sank. I looked out into the Secret Garden —at my still-buried Japanese maple— and I knew that I was in trouble. Immediately I raced out the front door and down the steps to my beloved Blue Green Dragon (aka ‘Seiryu’) at the Secret Garden Door. I began furiously digging at the foot of ice and snow still mounded ’round the tree trunk. My cold, raw fingers felt of the smooth bark for tell-tale signs of mouse-damage; scratches, gouges or ridges. Eventually, after clearing the entire base of the tree, I breathed an enormous sigh of relief. No rodent damage here. But then, I turned my attention to the Japanese maple inside the Secret Garden -my beautiful ‘Butterfly’.

The gorgeous spring colors of Acer palmatum ‘Butterfly'(from Almost Eden Plants)

I went inside to grab a pair of gloves and shovel. Snow always drifts and piles higher inside the Secret Garden, and the shade prevents early melting. As I began digging, I quickly uncovered a cylindrical channel leading from one of the stone walls toward the tree. Drawing closer to the trunk, I could see tiny bits of bark scattered about the white tunnel. I slumped down in the snow. Still digging, as I uncovered one side of the stripped trunk, I started to cry. I knew what I would find, and I was right. The tree had been completely girdled (living bark gnawed clean off in a full circle around the trunk). If you’ve never seen this kind of rodent-damage before, my reaction may seem a bit over-dramatic. But if you’ve ever experienced the heartbreak of losing a beloved tree or shrub to winter girdling, you will understand. The rodents must have begun their chewing after the sap started to run in late February. As the weather warmed, the tree began to leaf out. What a pathetic scene. The gorgeous crimson-tipped leaves and coral-pink stems taunted me as I watched them unfurl; knowing that this would be my beautiful, young tree’s last spring. I couldn’t bear to dig it up, and I couldn’t stand to walk through the garden.

The beautiful leaves of The Blue Green Dragon (Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’) in Springtime

Eventually, I came to accept reality, and I removed the ‘Butterfly’ from my garden. I could not find another specimen, so I changed course, dug up the earth, and planted a young Stewartia pseudocamilla in her place. She is, of course, stunning in that spot. And one day, I will create another protected nook and bring a new ‘Butterfly’ to my garden.

If you have young trees and shrubs with tender bark in your garden, protecting those valuable plants from winter rodent damage is absolutely essential. Every November, I pull out my homemade wire tubes and surround the base of my precious plants. You can buy protective tree tubes at many garden centers, or easily make your own from fine wire mesh sheeting (available at most hardware stores). I had extra metal lath leftover from several construction projects, and that works well too. The important thing is that the spaces between the wires be small enough to prevent the tiniest of mice from slipping into the tube. Make the width of the cylinder about twice the diameter of the tree, and at least 18″ tall (depending on average snow depth, you may want to make your cylinder two feet tall)  For extra insurance, I often spray the bark of my trees with hot pepper wax before securing the wire tubes, and I also pour a few inches of sharp gravel around the base of the tube to prevent tunneling.

Gently settle the tube around the tree and push slightly into the mulch. Take care not to damage shallow-rooted trees like Japanese maple by pushing wire into the tender roots at the surface.

Secure the tube with medium-guage steel wire. Gasp! Put down those Felcos! Use wire cutters to snip that steel!

Secure the tube well, tucking the wire beneath itself to prevent injury to your fingers in springtime

This is what the tube looks like when properly installed around the base of the tree. Once you have made them, you can easily recycle them from year to year. Replace them every November. Larger trees can withstand a bit of mouse gnawing. Mature trees, with tough bark, rarely experience gnawing. But, I protect all of my smooth-barked specimen trees. It only takes about a half an hour to do my entire (very large) garden.

Japanese Golden Forest Grass (Hachonechloa macra ‘Aureola’) continues to provide late season color in the Secret Garden, and…

It also provides a bit of camouflage for my Stewartia’s protective, wire tree-tube

Before long, the silver-grey tubes in my garden will be buried beneath the snow. But because I am a garden designer, I am very preoccupied with how the garden looks throughout the seasons. So, I try to plant a ‘screen’ at the base of my young trees to help conceal these seasonal tubes in late autumn. In the photo above, golden Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’) and Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’ provide a fine camouflage.

And although I still pine for my ‘Butterfly’, I accept that sometimes accidents happen. My garden is important to me, but my family and friends are far more important. I’m happy to report that thanks to the team of medical professionals at the VA Hospital in West Roxbury, MA, my father made a full recovery from the heart surgery that saved his life. And every year on November 11th, as I go out in the morning to faithfully wrap my trees, I am reminded of the many veterans I met during my father’s stay at the Veterans Hospital four years ago. Thank you for your service to our country dad, and thank you to all of your brothers and sisters in arms. We are ever-grateful for your sacrifice, and we salute you.

A Time of Reflection- Veterans Day, November 11th

***

Article and Photographs (with exception noted & linked) ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. Advertisers do not pay for editorial placement here, but do remit a small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden affiliate links to this site. All proceeds will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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The Grand, Fall Foliage Finale: November Photo-Notes from Ferncliff…

November 8th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’ and Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’at the Secret Garden Entry in Early November

It seems to me that the first week of November flew by in a complete blur. This morning I awoke to howling wind and the unmistakable sound of sleet blasting the windowpanes. In one short week, the vast majority of deciduous trees surrounding my home have shed their late autumn foliage. Looking out at the hillside today, only rust-colored beech leaves and deep-green conifer needles remain.

As I watch the high winds whipping about my garden  —stripping leaves and knocking plants to and fro— I’m glad that I made time to snap a few photos during last week’s grand, color-finale. For although I do love the subtle textures and muted hues of winter, I always mourn the end of autumn’s brilliant color-spectacle. The season is changing quickly now, shifting toward the darkness and stark, skeletal landscapes. But before it all slips away, let’s take a walk through the colorful foliage in the garden; soaking up the warm color and glowing light…

Vibrant Late-Season Foliage – The leaves of Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’ change slowly and hold long at the Secret Garden Door

Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’ and Daphne x burkwoodi ‘Carol Mackie’

Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’ – The Reflected Red Foliage Flickering Like Flames in the Water

As the flame grass fades to tawny bronze, Amsonia illustris (foreground), Lysimachia clethroides, Fothergilla ‘Mt Airy’ and the golden color of Hemerocallis foliage light up the entry garden and walkway against a backdrop of Juniperus x Pfitzeriana ‘Sea Green’

Although the majority of birch leaves (Betula papyrifera) have fallen, colorful plants —including those listed above as well as Aster oblongifolium ‘Raydon’s Favorite’, Clethra alnifolia ‘Ruby Spice’, Amsonia hubrichtii, and Cornus kousa— continue to provide autumn color in the garden

Close-up of Miscanthus sinensis ‘Purpurascens’, Fothergilla ‘Mt Airy’, Lysimachia clethroides and Rudbeckia hirta seed pods, against a backdrop of  ‘Sea Green’ Juniperus x Pfitzeriana

The same grouping of plants pictured above, viewed from the opposite side of the walkway

In front of the Secret Garden wall, Cornus kousa glows like a bonfire (backed here by Juniperus x Pfitzeriana ‘Sea Green’ and fronted by Juniperus sargentii). As the last yellowing leaves fall from Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’, her beautiful red berries stand out like bits of luminous confetti against the blue-green juniper. Throughout November, Fothergilla ‘Mt Airy’ and Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ add a splash of orange and gold to this garden’s foreground.

In my garden, two of the very last trees to drop their leaves are the Cornus kousa in front of the Secret Garden wall (from Walker Farm in Dummerston, VT) and the Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’ at the Secret Garden entry (see list above for other plants in this border)

The high stone walls (built by artist Dan Snow) provide a buffer from the wind. This bit of extra protection is at least partly responsible for the lengthy autumn foliage display in this garden.

A. palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’ forms a flaming red arch above the Secret Garden door

Looking inside the Secret Garden on a rainy, early November day. In autumn, the chartreuse color of Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ intensifies to an even more luminous-hue. I love gazing upon its beauty on rainy days. For a listing of other plants in this garden, see the Secret Garden page at left.

The beautiful autumn color of Cornus kousa was my primary motivation when planting this tree (purchased from Walker Farm) five years ago. Now that it has reached a more substantial height, it can be enjoyed from inside the Secret Garden and Garden Room as well as from the front walkway. Plants visible in the foreground include Rodgersia aesculifolia and to the right, Paeonia mouton x lutea ‘High Noon’ (both from Walker Farm).

The reflected foliage of A. plamatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’. This semi-frost-proof water bowl will remain outdoors until early December, when I empty it and bring it inside for the winter.

Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Roseum’ in November’s Secret Garden – In late autumn, the deep green foliage lights up the dark stone wall with its brilliant-chartreuse fall color

Although the native forest (background) has shed most of its leaves —save the burnt-orange beech in the background here— the Secret Garden continues to celebrate with a grand finale of color (A. palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’, Fothergilla gardenii, Hosta ‘August Moon’ and various ground covering perennials; including Heuchera, Euphorbia and Bergenia)

A Last Look at Autumn’s Beautiful Reflection

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Article and Photographs ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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

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Fire and Ice: The Flaming Red Foliage of Abelia Mosanensis Sizzles Beside Cool Blue Juniper Horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’…

November 4th, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

Fragrant abelia (Abelia mosanensis) and Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’ (aka ‘The Blue Rug’)

They say opposites attract —think Bogie and Bacall, Hepburn and Tracy, Lady and the Tramp, Bert and Ernie— in passionate relationships.  And it’s certainly true that sparks tend to fly in nature, as well as on the silver screen, when something hot and fiery comes into contact with the cool, calm and steely. In the late autumn garden, such contrasts are particularly spectacular when blue-tinted conifers are played against orange and red-colored deciduous beauties. In October and early November, the magnetic charge between red-orange abelia and blue-green juniper produces some serious, show-stopping drama in my garden; especially on a moody, overcast day.

The Brilliant Autumn Color of Abelia mosanensis Holds Straight Into November

Fragrant, hardy abelia (Abelia mosanensis) possesses some of the most brilliant fall color in my late-season garden. Beginning in mid to late October, her lustrous foliage —medium green and glossy throughout the growing season— slowly shifts from glowing orangey-red to fiery scarlet. The color of her autumn leaves is so brilliant, it literally glows like a campfire on a foggy day. You may recall my affection for Abelia mosanensis from a post in late spring, when this delightful plant produces beautiful pink, intensely fragrant blossoms (beginning in late May here int VT) that rival the sweet scent of lilac and daphne. If you’ve never met Abelia mosanensis, you should know that this is not a beautifully shaped plant —requiring careful positioning and June pruning to maintain an acceptable presence in a more formal garden situation— but her sweet, springtime blossoms and glorious fall color more than make up for her rather scrappy form. Listed by most growers as hardy in zones 5 to 9, here on my windy, exposed hilltop (zone 4/5), she has performed very well for five seasons with no absolutely no effort on my part. When her modest requirements are met, (moist, well-drained, average garden soil) fragrant abelia can reach six feet high and wide in full sun -but she’ll also tolerate partial shade, where a gardener can expect the mature shrub to be of somewhat smaller stature.

Fragrant abelia, draped in May blossoms (Abelia mosanensis) with ‘Blue Rug’ at her feet (Juniperus horizontalis ‘Blue Rug’)

And the perfect yang to fragrant abelia’s delightfully feminine yin? In both spring and fall, I adore the contrast of steely, blue-tipped conifers with Abelia mosanensis. In the entry garden, sprawling at fragrant abelia’s feet, the ‘Blue Rug’ (Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’) looks particularly lovely to my eye. Tough as nails, this splendid ground-cover is extremely hardy (USDA zones 3-10) and tolerates many soil types as long as it is provided with full sun and excellent drainage. Although it may sprawl to 10 feet or more, like most juniper, the ‘Blue Rug’ is easily contained with regular pruning.

Juniperus horizontalis ‘Blue Rug’ in November, with a Frosty Coat of Ice Crystals

When I’m pairing plants in my garden, I usually end up thinking about characters in a film.  To bring out the best qualities of one plant, it often helps to place it beside another with opposing charms. There’s nothing like watching the sparks fly between a feisty leading-lady and a cool and classic leading man. Why not follow suit in the garden, and watch your late-show sizzle to life.

Inspiration: Romantic Opposites…

Bogie and Bacall

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Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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

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Welcome November…

November 1st, 2010 § Comments Off on Welcome November… § permalink

Young American beech (Fagus grandifolia)  and eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides) trees in the November morning mist

November. Beech and cottonwood trees —colored butterscotch and rum— warm the misty hills and blue-grey clouds. The season has changed -almost overnight. At night the wood stove flickers and glows and the smell of pumpkin pie and mulled cider fills the air…

American beech (Fagus grandifolia) in delicious shades of golden butterscotch and rum

Firelight

Flame grass shifts to burnt orange (Miscanthus sinensis purpurascens)

American beech (Fagus grandifolia)

Lingering maple leaves in a sea of orangey beech, along my country road

Autumn Brook, Filled with Leaves

October Swirls Away…

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Article and Photographs ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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

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Must Be The Season Of The Witch…

October 30th, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

“When I look out my Window, Many sights to see. And when I look out my window, So many different people to be …That it’s strange, so strange.”

“You’ve got to pick up every stitch, You’ve got to pick up every stitch, You’ve got to pick up every stitch …Mm, must be the Season of the Witch, Must be the Season of the Witch, yea…”

“Must be the Season of the Witch…”

Witch Hazel (Hamamelis vernalis) – Turns Brilliant Gold in Late Autumn

Dwarf Witch Alder (Fothergilla gardenii) – Radiates an Eerie Orange Glow in the Secret Garden

I caught her last night in the garden; blowing around in the wind and casting her spells in the drizzly shadows. She’s a changeling and she’s a wild thing. You never know how she will appear from one minute to the next. Red? Orange? Yellow? Perhaps all three hues will turn up in her autumn brew. Yes, she’s the garden witch, and this is indeed her season…

Witch Alder (Fothergilla major ‘Mt Airy’) is My Answer to Burning Bush in the Garden

Hamamelis (witch hazel) and Fothergilla (witch alder) are two of the most spellbinding woody plants in my garden. The magical blossoms of Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ light up the gloomy days of March with color and scent, and later her cousins, the Fothergilla, take over with bewitching blossoms in April and May (read more about Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ by clicking here, and Fothergilla by clicking here). But it’s the witching hour — late October and November in my garden— when these sorceresses truly light up the gathering gloom…

The Wild, Red Witch (Fothergilla ‘Mt Airy’) raging along the walkway in late October

The family of Hamamelidaceae is a large group that includes both spring and autumn blooming Witch Hazels (native Hamamelis vernalis and Hamamelis mollis) and their cousins, the Witch Alders (among other woody plants). Although the spring-blooming Witch Hazels tend to me more dramatic in the early part of the year, the autumn blooming species provides both stunning foliage and fragrant flowers in fall (it is definitely harder to spot the sweetly-scented yellow blossoms on my autumn blooming Hamamelis mollis behind the golden foliage). Some of the most gorgeous autumn color in the garden belongs to the Witch Hazel hybrids; particularly H x intermedia ‘Diane’, ‘Jelena’ and ‘Arnold’s Promise’. Although a separate species, Fothergilla is equally magical, and often more flamboyant in her end-of-season color display. A dwarf Witch Alder (Fothergilla gardenii) is planted in the corner of my Secret Garden, where she is just now turning brilliant orangey-yellow. Elsewhere in the garden, Fothergilla major ‘Mt Airy’ glow red, orange, yellow and every imaginable shade in between…

Witch Hazel ‘Diane’ (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’) – Autumn Color Variation

Witch Hazel ‘Diane’ (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’) – Autumn Color Variation

Witch Alder (Fothergilla major ‘Mt Airy’) Leaf Color Variation

Most members of the Hamamelidaceae family prefer moist, semi-acidic soil and mostly sunny to partially shady conditions (in nature, they are forest edge and understory trees and shrubs). Some Witch Hazels and Witch Alders are quite hardy in northern climates; all of those mentioned here are reliable in USDA zones 4-9. In the garden, they are enchanting in autumn when paired with late-season flowers (including anemone and aster) fall-blooming crocus, ornamental grasses, and conifers (including shade-tolerant Microbiota). Catching a rooted witch is far easier than snagging the airborne variety: no net is necessary, simply stop in your local garden center and poke around the sales aisles…

Can You Catch the Witch?

This Story’s Inspiration Comes from ‘Season of the Witch’ by Donovan

Donovan – Season of the Witch

“Season of the Witch” Lyrics are ⓒ Donovan 1967

Photography & Text ⓒ Michaela Medina Harlow/The Gardener’s Eden. All photographs, artwork, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of Michaela Medina Harlow and/or 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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Aerial Boundaries: Exploring the Autumn Landscape from Above…

October 28th, 2010 § 9 comments § permalink

The Connecticut River from 1,500′ AGL

Maple, Birch and Pine Along the Riverbank

Departing Turners Falls, Runway 34, Heading Over the River

Farm fields and autumn colors along the Massachusetts/Vermont State Line

Our Little Shadow in the Blue Stem Fields

Sunset Hours Above the Banks of the Connecticut River

Swampland Along the VT/MA State Line

Looking Down at the Pioneer Valley and the Surrounding Hills, Reflected in Carlos’ Tail

October in New England

Inspiration: Earth from Above, Third Edition Yann Arthus-Bertrand

The  Story-Behind-the-Story:  Aviation…

After posting an aerial photo of  a local corn maze last week, I received a couple of emails asking about how I managed to get the shot. Well, the short answer is that I took the photo from my airplane. But of course, there’s much more to the story than that. So, if you’re curious about my flying, read on…

Photo by KQ777 via Photobucket

I’ve been a licensed pilot for more than a decade now, but I fell in love with aviation when I was just a little girl. Growing up in rural New England in the 70s and 80s —with farms, orchards and forests all around— the sight of small, agricultural aircraft was commonplace. Spotting a yellow ‘crop-duster’ — the pilot buzzing our house on the way to neighboring corn and potato fields— was a regular occurrence on summer days. I can still remember the hazy, white clouds of acrid, chemical-laden dust hanging in the air after the little yellow biplane made a few low passes over the farm next door. When my mother heard the plane coming, she worried out-loud about pesticides the Ag Cat was dumping on her children —as well as her berry crops, vegetables and freshly washed laundry— and if she could catch us, she always made us come indoors. Of course, like most children, my sister and I were far more interested in the excitement of the airplane than the potential threat of toxins in the air. So, if we were out of ‘assumed ear-shot’, we would run —arms waiving wildly— to the path leading to our neighbor’s corn fields. We had no sense of the many dangers, and we loved to watch that yellow biplane dip and rise in gravity-defying arcs on the horizon. It just looked like such a blast. Years later, when I was training for my own pilot’s license, I discovered that the yellow biplane flying over my house was a Grumman Ag Cat (see photo-link above).

Taylorcraft image via Letsfly.org

By the late 80s, when I was a teenager, the neighboring corn fields had vanished. First, a house was built, and then the remaining land was subdivided into more lots. No more corn, no more biplane, and no more crop dusting. By this time I was 15 or 16, and I’d grown wise to the dangers of pesticides. Although I once loved watching its aerobatic maneuvers above my house, I was happy to see that toxic little airplane go. Cancer eventually took the lives of my neighbors, solidifying my distaste for chemical farming and my mistrust of agricultural chemical companies. Sometimes I’m surprised that this didn’t discourage my love of flying. But I suppose even then, I knew full-well that aviation made many good things possible; like spotting and fighting forest fires, search and rescue missions, agricultural and environmental research, mapping and of course travel, to name but a few. Airplanes remained a source of endless fascination and my interest continued to grow. A few miles from my home, two local pilots had a pair of pleasure planes stored in a big, old dairy barn. One airplane was a yellow J3 Cub, and the other was a beautiful, cherry-red Taylorcraft (see photo-link above). On days when the airplanes were pulled out —gleaming in sunlit fields— I was filled with the most indescribable longing. I wanted to get up there. I wanted to see everything…

Cornfields Along the Connecticut River

Years passed, and after college at UMass Amherst, I lived in the Bay Area of California for a time. While out west, I took a number of scenic flights in the Eastern Sierra Nevada, Inyo and Death Valley. Eager to continue exploring on my own, I started setting aside money for flight training, and when I moved back home to Vermont, I decided to take to the air. I joined the UMass Collegiate Flying Club (open to the alumni, faculty and staff of UMass and five college consortium), and started taking flying lessons in the club’s little red and white Cessna 152. Six months later, I had my private pilot’s license. Four years ago, I bought an old, neglected airplane (A 1946 Luscombe 8A Silvaire), which I am currently restoring and flying in my spare time. I love to get up in the air and experience the beauty of the landscape from above. It’s great inspiration…

The Pioneer Valley from Above (Airport runway is on the upper left… see it?)

Final Approach to Landing at Turners Falls municipal airport

Carlos: my 1946 Luscombe 8A Silvaire, after many hours of restoration-polishing

That’s me with ‘Carlos’ in 2006 – Photo credit: William Bonnette

If you live in, or are visiting New England, and would like to see the landscape from above, I highly recommend a photo-flight with William Bonnette at Pioneer Aviation in Western Massachusetts. A one-hour photo flight is a fun and affordable way to experience the Connecticut River Valley and surrounding landscape (a photo flight or intro lesson also makes an unforgettable gift – certificates are available on his website here). Located right in the heart of the Pioneer Valley in Western Massachusetts, Turners Falls Municipal Airport is just a short car ride from most points in southern New Hampshire and Vermont, and less than two hours from Hartford, CT and Boston, MA. While it’s true that the views from a small airplane are a colorist’s delight in autumn, they are just as beautiful at any other time of the year. Bill Bonnette taught me to fly ten years ago. He’s been flying for more than thirty years, and he’s both an amazing pilot and flight instructor (he doesn’t need to pay for my recommendation, and he didn’t).

New England Photo Flights, Introductory Flight Lessons, Pilot Training and Gift Certificates

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Article and photographs (with noted exceptions) ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. Advertisers do not pay for editorial placement here, but do remit a small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden affiliate links to this site. All proceeds will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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Golden Autumn Beauty & Springtime Silverbells: Our Native and Ever-Graceful Halesia tetraptera…

October 25th, 2010 § 8 comments § permalink

The Golden Leaves and Rusty Drupes of North American Native Halesia tetraptera, (Carolina Silverbell or Mountain Silverbell)

Carolina silverbell. With a name like that, you’d invite her into your garden for the poetry alone, wouldn’t you? I did. Well, sort-of. Although I was familiar with the silverbell clan, I wasn’t really sure of which Halesia I was getting when I tied and bound the branches of two glorious specimens three years ago, and rolled them in back of my trailer. It was late autumn, the leaves had long-ago fallen, and summer sunlight had faded my nurseryman’s chicken-scratch Latin from the tag. Some silverbell species are hardier than others, and some grow larger than others, they are notoriously difficult to differentiate, and the nomenclature and taxonomy of this woody plant have been further confused by a recent name-change (Halesia carolina is now referred to as Halesia tetraptera). I wanted Carolina silverbell, which is a small, understory tree native to the Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. Normally, I’m quite particular about confirming the identity of anything I plant in my garden. But, this was an end-of-season sale at a nursery an hour south of my home, and I only had the trailer for the day. I couldn’t resist…

The graceful form of Halesia tetraptera can be sculpted and enhanced with annual, late-spring pruning

As it turns out —in this case— my impulsive decision was a very good one! Three years on, two lovely Carolina silverbell trees are slowly filling out on either side my studio entryway; their rich, yellow-green foliage providing dappled shade for summertime lunches on the terrace. And now –in late October— the leaves are shifting from gorgeous chartreuse to brilliant gold. In addition to the beautiful autumn color, delightfully curious orange-tinted drupes (pictured above) decorate the Carolina silverbell in fall. Even after the foliage and seed pods have fallen, the striped bark (much like that of Moosewood, Acer pensylvanicum) remains an interesting feature…

Halesia tetraptera, striped bark and golden autumn foliage – both stunning against the dark siding of buildings or conifers (particularly Hemlock – Tsuga canadensis)

But as beautiful as Carolina silverbell is in autumn, I have to admit that the reason I sought this tree out had far more to do with her incredible springtime show. In mid-May (usually just before the dogwood flowers here in my VT garden) the entire tree is covered in glorious blush-tinted, white blossoms. The ‘Silver Sisters’, as I call them, are a most breathtaking sight -particularly on a rainy day (see close-up of blossoms photo below). Entering and exiting my studio when the Halesia tetraptera sisters are blooming, is like stepping through a poem…

It’s easy to see why this tree is commonly called the Silverbell. The beautiful blossoms of Halesia tetraptera emerge in mid-spring, usually just before flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)

Because of the variability in size and shape, some silverbell species are grown as multi-stemmed shrubs, and some are pruned and trained as single-trunk trees. In its true, native-range (West Virginia to Central Florida and west to Texas USDA zone 4/5-8/9) silverbell, particularly the ‘Mountain Silverbell’ (once known as Halesia monticola, now also grouped as H. tetraptera var. monticola) can become a medium-sized, understory tree reaching 30 to 40 feet (in the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina, some native, mountain silverbell trees have been recorded at up to 80′ tall). When grown in the northern-most range of its hardiness zone, (USDA 4/5) Halesia tetraptera will remain smaller. I expect the mature size of my silverbell sisters to reach no more than 25-30′ here in the Green Mountains of Vermont. All silverbells, large or small, prefer cool, moist, acidic soil and protected sites (I have my silverbells planted on the eastern side of the studio). If grown in the deep south, be sure to protect silverbell trees from the hot afternoon sun and mulch the root-zone to retain moisture.

Silver in springtime and gold in fall, Halesia tetraptera remains a rare and subtle jewel in gardens. She’s not flashy, like a common, hot-pink crabapple (Oh no, we are far too elegant for that!), and it does take a bit of  time for her to settle in. But as is often the case with native trees, patience pays dividends in the garden. To know her is to love her. Carolina silverbell… She’s a true, four-season beauty.

Article and photographs ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. Advertisers do not pay for editorial placement here, but do remit a small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden affiliate links to this site. All proceeds will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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“He Who Walks Behind the Rows”… Lost in a Labyrinth of Stalks & Tassels: Exploring the Art of the Corn Maze

October 23rd, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

“He Who Walks Behind the Rows”…

Clouds gather, dark and low on the horizon. The daylight is fading. You’ve been driving through miles of cornfields and back country roads. Suddenly, something  —a child?— darts across the cracked pavement and into the corn rows. Immediately, you pull over and step from the warmth of your car. A rush of cold air scrapes across your face; the rustle of cornstalks rising and dragging behind you in the wind.

Tentatively you call out, but there’s no answer. Were your eyes playing tricks on you after hours of travel? Why hadn’t you stopped for a break? Wait… What is that sound? You step from the grassy roadway margin, into the long, shadowy corn rows. There —there it is again— off in the distance. Is it a cry, or is it laughter? The voice of a child or an animal’s wail? Once more it rises from the stalks —pitching higher now— calling up from beyond the swaying tassels. And then… Silence. Your hair rises at the back of your neck. You pause, and —in a moment of instinct— rush breathlessly down the narrow pathway —heart pounding into your throat— racing against the twilight…

A quarter mile in, you hear a crack and you call out into the empty field – but there’s no answer. Turning toward the sound, you dash through the stalks to the left, then to the right. Racing down a wider path —breathless— you suddenly stop; eyes stinging from the rising dust. This must be a main corridor, but there’s no end in sight. There, blowing across the ground on the pathway ahead, you spot a piece of paper. As you unfold it —examining the wobbly dotted line— you wonder: is this a child’s drawing, an attempt at simplistic map? You clutch the torn paper —palms clammy-cold— and press forward. The map seems accurate, but then, there’s no indication of what lies ahead: a divide in the road…

One side seems smoother and a bit wider. Slowing down, you begin to stop and start; futile attempts to get your bearings. The sky is growing darker, and the path narrows again. All around you —above and to the sides, before you and behind— there is nothing but hollow stalks of corn. Then, straight ahead: an improbable staircase. Quickly, you scramble to the top…

As you near the highest point of the platform, your heart sinks. Taking in the monochromatic vista, you suddenly realize that your car, the road and the surrounding landscape have completely vanished. As far as the eye can see, there is nothing but an endless expanse of bleached stalks —knocking  to and fro — rattling like bones in the wind. Is there no way out? Will you ever be found? Wait. There it is again. A low and plaintive cry. Something is moving out there. Something is calling for you. Is it… Malachai ?

Inspiration: The 1984 film, Children of the Corn, based on Stephen King’s short story by the same name

All photographs in this story were shot especially for The Gardener’s Eden by Tim Geiss at Poltergeiss.com. Images were made on location at Sauchuk Farm Maze in Plympton, Massachusetts. For maze and farm hours and directions, visit the farm website by clicking here.

The  Story  Behind  The  Story:  Those  Amazing  Corn  Mazes  &  The  Farms  They  Help  Support

Gaines Farm, Haunted Corn Maze in Guilford, Vermont (Aerial Photography ⓒ Michaela at TGE)

Mazes (sometimes called corn maizes or, historically, labyrinths) are believed to have originated in Europe, where they have been a popular form of amusement for centuries. Although mazes and labyrinths may be constructed using various materials —from grass and clipped hedges to earth and stone— most modern mazes are created with corn. In mid to late May, corn —usually special varieties selected for stalk strength and height— is planted in rows and later (usually in June) cut or tilled into patterns; creating elaborate designs and pathways in fields. Many years ago, patterns for labyrinths were drawn out on paper and cut by hand with sythes. Today, most mazes are cut with tillers or other machinery when the corn is knee-high (some farms use herbicides). Some modern maze designers use computer graphs and GPS coordinates to create elaborate grid patterns. However, many mazes, such as the walking puzzles pictured here —created by the MAiZE company based in Utah— continue to be designed and cut by hand.

It all begins with corn kernels in May…

My closest maze is located at the Gaines Farm —the bicentennial dairy farm pictured in the aerial photograph above— in nearby Guilford, Vermont. The Gaines Farm corn maze combines a MAiZE Co. designed labyrinth with haunted hayrides and other Halloween attractions every fall. Corn mazes are fun for kids and families of all ages, and visiting one is a great way to help support your local farm. Autumn corn mazes have become an important and growing source of revenue for small farms and agricultural communities throughout the United States and Canada. Maize labyrinths also continue to be popular in Europe —particularly England— and are a growing trend in other parts of the world as well. To find and experience a corn maze near you, try searching the MAiZE Co. database online, or this puzzle listing on About.com. If your local maze is not listed on the About.com site, be sure to submit it so that others may enjoy the experience!

John Deere Tractor at Sauchuk Farm

Sauchuk Farm’s “Walk Around the World” Corn Maze in Plympton, Massachusetts Photo: Sauchuk Farm Website

Please help support your local farming community by attending harvest-season events!

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Photography in this story (exceptions as noted) ⓒ Tim Geiss at Poltergeiss.com

Article and other photographs (as noted) ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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

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

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Autumn Brilliance Part Two – Plants for Spectacular Fall Color…

October 13th, 2009 § 4 comments § permalink

Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Issai’ (Purple Beautyberry)

Could a gardener be diagnosed with OCD if she compulsively checks her ornamental shrubs for changing berry color? Can a collector’s passion for a particularly beautiful cultivar cross the line, where she becomes a stalker of plants? Sometimes I fear I’ve gone too far; slipped off the raft; teetered past the point-of-no-return. But I think you are with me, aren’t you? We can’t help ourselves. The itch simply must be scratched.

I am obsessed with Callicarpa dichotoma, (Purple Beautyberry). Truly, I am. And who wouldn’t be? Her fantastical berries are pure, poetic inspiration; begging to be written into myths and fairy tales. Just look at all that temptingly plump fruit, beckoning the unsuspecting in a glorious shade of shimmering purple. Why I can hear the old witch now… “Come sample the sweet violet berries my pretty.”  *POOF*  Deep sleep for decades. The gullible heroine slowly becomes enmeshed by lacy vines, lost in a trance, awaiting her handsome prince.

For years I have coveted the bright purple fruit of our native American Beautyberry, (Callicarpa americana), but this autumnal prize is hardy only to zone 6. In my desperation, I have killed several plants while attempting to over-winter them here at Ferncliff. Undaunted, I also tried my luck growing Japanese Beautyberry, (Callicarpa japonica), with similar, necrotic results. But last year, just south of here, I was visiting a nursery display-garden when I spotted something that stopped me dead in my tracks. Yellowing leaves, cobalt violet fruits – my heart raced as I rounded the corner and pushed past the browning hydrangea – could it be… ?

Indeed, it was the elusive Callicarpa. Only this time, the shrub I encountered was a hardier member of the family, Purple Beautyberry, (Callicarpa dichotoma). Graceful, arching, elegant in habit, the leaves of the Purple Beautyberry were just turning gold when I met her, highlighting the candy-like quality of her glossy, purple clusters of fruit. There are two excellent C. dichotoma cultivars, ‘Issai’ and ‘Early Amethyst’, both reliably hardy to zone 5. I have been warned to expect a bit of die-back; to be pruned in spring when I fertilize to encourage new growth. I snatched the last ‘Issai’ from my wholesaler’s lot, and placed it carefully in the garden, protected from wind by the American cranberrybush Viburnum, and alongside the blazing fall foliage of fragrant Abelia, (Abelia mosanensis). The color combination is delighting me this October. Will she survive the brutal winter? Only time will tell if Purple Beautyberry is a permanent addition to my garden. But for now, the fantasy is all mine.

So today I will leave you with images of some other bewitching favorites here in my autumn garden. I will elaborate on some of these woody plants over the coming weeks, as I continue to share my favorite design recipes for fall color …

Acer griseum  (Paper bark maple)

The Hay-scented fern, (Dennstaedtia puctilobula), after hard frost

Buddleia davidii, (Orange-Eye Butterfly bush), blooms past the first frost

Abelia mosanensis, (Fragrant abelia), autumn color

Cotinus coggygria, (Smokebush), with a rosy leaf-glow

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’ (Peegee Hydrangea)

Hydrangea paniculata, ‘Limelight’, turns mauve-purple in cool weather

Hydrangea quercifolia, (Oakleaf hydrangea), foliage variation

Hydrangea quercifolia (Oakleaf hydrangea), drying flowers

Oxydendrum arboreum, (Sourwood tree), a coveted autumn red hue

Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Seiryu’, (Blue Green Dragon), begins to color

Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’, all ablaze in backlit orange and scarlet

Vibrant Stewartia pseudocamellia with gilded Rodgersia aesculifolia

Stewartia pseudocamellia, (Japanese stewartia)

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

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