Of Sunshine and Swallowtail Butterflies…

May 30th, 2011 § Comments Off on Of Sunshine and Swallowtail Butterflies… § permalink

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

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

Papillon. Poetry in Motion…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sitting in the Catbird Seat …

May 29th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 28th, 2011 § Comments Off on A Long Weekend in the Garden & Breakfast on the Misty Terrace … § permalink

Fallen Silverbells and Breakfast on the Terrace

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

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

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

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

But there must be plenty of moments to just relax

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

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

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

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

May 28th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

Carolina Silverbell (Halesia tetraptera)

Carolina Silverbell Blossoms Attract Bumble Bees and Hummingbirds

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Halesia tetraptera

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

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

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

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Nesting Plans…

March 15th, 2011 § 4 comments § permalink

Nest Photograph ⓒ  Tim Geiss at Poltergeiss

Chirping, cawing, calling and singing; suddenly, the forest has come alive with the sound of migratory birds. Soon, it will be nesting time and you know what they say: the early bird catches the best real estate. OK, so maybe that’s not quite what they say, but Cornell Lab of Ornithology does advise backyard birders to begin placing their nest boxes in February (warmer climates) and March (cold climates like mine). So, I like to get my rental units ready early, to attract as many spring and summer tenants as possible. Birds provide beauty and entertainment in my garden —to be sure— but my feathered friends also play a key role in natural insect control. I prefer to take advantage of this free service that nature provides for us, rather than use potentially hazardous, unnatural and expensive substances to control insect pests in my garden.

Finding the right house for both bird and landscape is important. I’ve found some really pretty, functional options amongst the ever-changing selection available at Terrain online (image courtesy Terrain).

When it comes to nesting boxes and bird houses, all species have different preferences and requirements. Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a great source of information, and you can find tips on what kind of bird house you will need and how to place it to attract a specific species (like say, a bluebird) by visiting this page on their site, linked here. Online retailers like Duncraft provide excellent pre-made birdhouses and kits for backyard bird enthusiasts, and I recently found some very stylish avian homes at Terrain, pictured below. So get out your feather duster and your screw gun, it’s time to ready the real estate!

Terrain’s Weathered Birdbarn $28.95

Nest in Hemlock Boughs. Photograph ⓒ Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Terrain’s Thatched Roof Nest House $24.00

Tufted Titmouse  ⓒ  Tim Geiss at Poltergeiss

Learning to identify and protect backyard birds helps kids develop a respect and greater understanding of the natural world and balance of our shared ecosystem. Read more about the Tufted Titmouse and listen to its echoing and distinctive voice here at Cornell Lab of Ornithology. And please share the link with a child you know.

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Thank you to Tim Geiss for his beautiful bird and nest photos.

Birdhouse photos are courtesy Terrain.

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

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The Living Garden: Crow Feasting Upon Staghorn Sumac Berries…

March 13th, 2011 § Comments Off on The Living Garden: Crow Feasting Upon Staghorn Sumac Berries… § permalink

Crows feasting upon native staghorn sumac berries (Rhus typhina) in my garden this morning…

This morning while lingering over my breakfast, I heard some loud caw-caw-cawing coming from the edge of the back garden, and then noticed a pair of American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) enjoying an early meal of fruit from staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina). With its velvety branches, brilliant fall color and bright red fruits, North American native Rhus typhina will always be high on my list of favorite four-season shrubs (read my detailed plant-profile post about this under-appreciated plant here). And beyond its value as a large-scale, landscape ornamental, sumac is an important source of food for birds and other wildlife. In late winter and early sping —when natural sources of sustenance are becoming depleted— sumac fruit and seed provides food for many returning and over-wintering birds; including crow, raven, robin, thrush, cardinals, vireos, catbirds, warblers, juncos, grouse and others.

Interested in learning more about how to attract birds to your yard with landscaping? Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a great site called All About Birds, with all sorts of great tips and resources. I love their free and easy to use sound-library and identification guides. Living here in the wilds of Vermont (happily without television reception) bird and wildlife watching is one of my main forms of visual entertainment, and I am particularly fond of the dark, beautiful and intelligent crow and raven. Click here to listen to the call sounds of the American Crow and take a tour of the fantastic Cornell Lab of Ornithology website.

Staghorn sumac fruits (Rhus typhina) persist through winter, offering sustenance to hungry over-wintering and migratory birds.

Read more about Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) here.

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

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through the affiliate-links here. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to The Gardener’s Eden, and will help with site maintenance and web hosting costs. Thank you!

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Butterflies on My Mind: Top Three Summer Blooming Plants for Attracting Fluttering Beauties to Your Garden…

March 11th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

Asclepias tubersosa (Butterflyweed) and Asclepias syriaca (Milkweed) are important sources of nectar for bees and butterflies. The leaves of Asclepias are also a source of food for monarch and other butterfly caterpillars.

With my seminar, “Gardening to Attract Birds, Bees and Butterflies” coming up on Monday night —and last week’s visit to Magic Wings Butterfly Conservancy still in my thoughts— you might say I have a fluttering of winged-creatures on my mind. Of course I’m always thinking of how to support honeybees in the garden (follow the Honeybee Conservancy blog here) and what’s good for the bees is often good for the birds and the butterflies. But when it comes to attracting monarchs, swallowtails, painted ladies and other kaleidoscopic, winged-beauties to your garden, there are three key “butterfly magnets” to consider in your planting plan. Butterflies enjoy many cluster-flowered plants, but Asclepias (Milkweed), Verbena —particularly Verbena bonariensis— and Buddleja species (Butterfly bush) are simply irresistible to them. Plant any one of these beauties in your garden and you will always get a landing and never just a fly-by. And as an added bonus, they are among the favorites of bees and hummingbirds as well…

Verbena bonariensis is a tropical plant grown as an annual or semi-annual (sometimes self-sowing) in cold climates. It’s popular with butterflies and bees alike.

Asclepias, more commonly known as milkweed, is a wonderful group of plants; including many natives. Last year I featured the gorgeous Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed) in a post on mid-summer color (click here to read more about this North American native plant). I love bold color combinations in sunny, summertime perennial borders. Why not combine the sweet orange of butterfly weed with drifts of ethereal, lavender-hued Verbena bonariensis? Commonly known as purpletop vervain or tall verbena, Verbena bonariensis is a tropical plant native to Central and South America. In cold climates, Verbena bonariensis is usually grown as an annual or semi-annual plant (blooms the first year from seed and it will sometimes successfully self-sow), and in warmer climates it is grown as a tender perennial (hardy USDA zones 7-11). This is a tall, airy, elegant plant (approx 3-4.5′ tall and wide) with strong, slender stems (I like to grow plenty both in my perennial borders and in the potager for cutting). Purpletop vervain looks best when planted en masse for a hazy, purple cloud-like effect, and it prefers well-drained soil and plenty of moisture (will tolerate hot and dry, midsummer conditions once established).

Buddleja davidii (Orange-eye Butterfly Bush) lives up to its name. It is a favorite of butterflies, hummingbirds and bees.

Butterfly bush, or Buddleja (B. davidii pictured above) is perhaps the most popular plant for butterfly and hummingbird enthusiasts. Native to Chile and China, these flowering shrubs are long-standing, easy-to-grow garden favorites. Butterfly bush species are tolerant of poor, alkaline soil, polluted, urban situations and stress, making them a good choice in some areas. However, gardeners should be aware that one Buddleja species, Buddleja davidii, is listed as a “noxious weed” in certain areas of the United States (Oregon and Washington specifically list B. davidii as a noxious-weed, and it is possibly invasive in southwestern, coastal Canada) because of its free-seeding ways (it’s best to check with the USDA state noxious weed list online —linked here— or your local USDA Extension Service —linked here— before planting Buddleja davidii; particularly along the west coast and possibly in warmer states on the eastern seaboard)*. If you live in Oregon or Washington, or in another area where Buddleja davidii is considered invasive, consider a non-aggressive butterfly bush species, such as Buddleja globosa (USDA zone 7-11, orange ball tree/ball butterfly bush), or in cooler climates, consider planting native Clethra alnifolia (see my previous post & article on this shrub here). Buddleja davidii (synon. Buddleia davidii) is hardy in zones 5-9, and in cold climates (where it is far less likely to freely colonize and become weedy) B. davidii is treated as a perennial plant; cut back to the ground in late fall or early spring. New growth will emerge in spring and flowers will form on fast-growing young wood in the first year. Fountain butterflybush, Buddleja alternifolia, and Buddleja globosa (and other Buddleja species) produce blossoms on old wood, and should be pruned for shape in late spring or early summer after they have flowered. Buddleja alternifolia is considered to be a somewhat hardier species than Buddleia davidii. I have observed B. alternifolia growing in zone 4.

I will be writing more about how to attract butterflies, bees and birds to gardens in the coming months. But, if you are planning your garden now, you may want to add a couple of these sure-fire butterfly magnets to your shopping list!

*Buddleja davidii is not currently on the USDA federal invasive plant list. However, it is currently considered a “noxious weed” in Oregon and Washington (check state noxious weed/invasive plant lists here) Many plants considered “weedy” or “invasive” in one area are non-threatening in other areas. It is the responsibility of the individual gardener to know and respect the laws and environmental guidelines within their respective states and communities.

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

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through the affiliate-links here. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to The Gardener’s Eden, and will help with site maintenance and web hosting costs. Thank you!

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Birds, Bees & Butterflies in the Garden: A Seminar on Attracting Winged Beauty! Brattleboro Garden Club in Vermont

March 11th, 2011 § Comments Off on Birds, Bees & Butterflies in the Garden: A Seminar on Attracting Winged Beauty! Brattleboro Garden Club in Vermont § permalink

I’ll be presenting a free gardening seminar with slide show & discussion: “Gardening to Attract Birds, Bees & Butterflies”

Please note that the Brattleboro Garden Club has changed the time of this event to 6 pm. Thank you!

This event is sponsored by the Brattleboro Garden Club and will take place Monday, March 14th at 6pm, Green Mountain Chapel, 480 Western Avenue, Brattleboro, Vermont. The show & talk are open to the public.

For information on my gardening seminars, or to schedule a workshop, please see the “Garden Workshops” page at left. Workshop & Seminar information will be updated regularly as the spring schedule becomes available.

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Come to Me, My Sweet Willow…

February 24th, 2011 § 7 comments § permalink

Salix discolor. Pitcher by Aletha Soulé. Photo © Michaela at TGE

Welcome, oh welcome sweet, silver-tipped harbinger of springtime. Is there anything that makes a heart race faster than the sight of the first pussy willow catkins? I love the beautiful, soft texture and the sculptural quality of pussy willow branches artfully arranged in a vase. Now is the time to pull on your knee-high boots and gather these beautiful branches by the armful. Just look at those softly luminous, shimmering beauties!

Salix discolor (as our North American native pussywillow is formally called) is a North American native shrub or small, understory tree, (5-15′ tall and perhaps 8′ wide). Often found beside brooks, forest streams, low-lying thickets or swamps from Canada to Georgia, the pussy willow is hardy to USDA zones 4-7. Stands of Salix discolor form important wetland habitat for nesting birds and other creatures. Mindful of this, I carefully harvest where shrubs are plentiful, and make clean cuts with my Felco pruners.

Salix discolor: North American native pussy willow pollen (the greenish bloom comes after the silver) is an important source of early spring pollen for native bees and honey bees  © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Salix discolor, North American native pussy willow – Pitcher by Aletha Soulé. Photo © Michaela TGE

If you harvest pussy willow for arrangements —and would like the catkins to remain in their silvery, bud-like state— place them in a vase without water to halt development. The preserved twigs and branches can be used in wreaths or other decorations, and will remain beautiful throughout the year. If placed in water, the catkins will slowly develop a greenish cast or “bloom” and eventually, alternate, oval-shaped leaves will spout along the branches. The pollen from blooming pussy willow catkins is an important source of food for bees in the earliest weeks spring (thanks to Deb reminding me to note this!). Like the idea of growing your own stand of pussy willow?

Pussy willow are easy to propagate from late winter/springtime cuttings (this is a good project to try with kids!). Simply harvest pliant, year-old branches, (approximately 18-24″ long), and keep stems in a vase of water in a sunny spot. Plant whips outside when roots have formed, right after the last frost date in your area (rooting hormone is not necessary). Be sure to keep the root-zone moist with a mulch around the base and check on them regularly. Willow naturally prefer moist garden environments (like their native wetlands), so position your young Salix discolor in a garden low spot, where it will catch spring run-off and moisture throughout the seasons.This year I harvested some branches to use in everlasting arrangements, and some to propagate for my garden. Pussy willow make wonderful, textural-interst shrubs for wetland transition areas in the naturalized landscape. I hope to propagate enough for future cutting as well as for enjoying in the permanent landscape. As well as supporting native and honeybee populations and other wildlife as an important, early source of food, these native shrubs are fantastic cover for small birds in the garden too. And I just love watching wild birds in my yard.

Salix discolor, North American native pussy willow © Michaela at TGE

Pitcher/Vase by Aletha Soulé. Images © Michaela at TGE

Photographs and cultural information in this article were originally published on this blog in 2010.

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

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through the affiliate-links here. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to The Gardener’s Eden, and will help with site maintenance and web hosting costs. Thank you!

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Dreaming of Springtime’s Sweet Veggies: Planning a Lush, Welcoming Potager…

February 16th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

A tumbling jumble of nasturtiums creates a warm welcome for people and pollinators alike

Sweet seats! In June, the potager becomes my outdoor living/dining room

Wide pathways and mounded-earth beds give me plenty of room to work and maneuver about with carts and wheelbarrows

Winter is a wonderful season —I’m still having fun snowshoeing and enjoying quiet time indoors— but I have to admit that there’s one thing I’m really starting to miss about summer: leisure time in the vegetable garden. I love hanging out in my pretty little potager, and every morning —spring through fall— I head outside with a big cup of coffee to do a bit of weeding, watering and harvesting before work. My pets usually join me —rolling around in the warm, golden straw pathways— while I garden. Later on in the day, I often return to the potager and settle into my comfy wicker chair with a glass of wine to enjoy the sunset hour. On warm evenings, I sometimes eat my dinner in the garden; surrounded by the fragrance of sun-warmed herbs and the sound of summertime birds. Vegetable plots always grow best when they are frequently visited by the gardener’s shadow, and to me, this is no trouble at all —it’s pure bliss…

I like to try different varieties of vegetables and fruits every year. But some old-favorites make it into the potager every year. My favorite tomatoes include Early Girl, Orange Blossom, Lemon Boy, Brandywine, San Marzanos. I also love cherry tomatoes; particularly Sungold and Sweet 100s

Home grown hot peppers are both beautiful and tasty. I like to experiment with this crop too, but I always grow plenty of jalapeño, ancho and serrano chile peppers.

My diet is mainly vegetarian, and one of my favorite things about summer, is that I can completely avoid the grocery store for months (I buy my eggs and dairy products from a nearby farm stand). Growing basics, like potatoes, makes it easy to create impromptu, garden-fresh meals every day.

Now that I’ve begun sowing some early crops —herbs and onions indoors & arugula, spinach and lettuce in the unheated hoophouses— I’m really starting to get excited about the growing season ahead. I’ve ordered most of my vegetable seed —packages have already begun to arrive— and I just sent in my seed potato orders to Ronnigers and The Maine Potato Lady yesterday afternoon. Mid-late winter is a good time to begin planning and plotting out your vegetable garden on paper (1/4″ square grid paper works great for this purpose, with each standard box equalling one square foot of garden space), and to finish purchasing seed if you haven’t done so yet. Back in December, I mentioned that I enjoy the process of keeping an annual gardening journal and calendar. Not only is it fun to look back on my successes —and important to analyze failures— but my garden calendar & notes also remind me of things I want to plant (more potatoes and berries!), improvements I want to make (more vertical supports for peas, beans, melons and cucumbers, a new set of compost bins, and a garden shed!), and things I need to re-stock (like fish emulsion, twine and other supplies). Keeping a copy of what I planted —and where I planted it last year— is key to crop rotation (and avoiding pests and diseases). Drawing up a plan and listing everything out also prevents over-ordering or forgotten crops!

Building a pretty potager need not be expensive! My garden fence —pictured above— was built from saplings harvested on-site. And the wicker furniture in my garden was found —wearing a “free” sign— on the side of the road.

When laying out your garden, remember to include space for companion flowers and herbs. Although companion planting has become one of the more hotly debated horticultural topics —with some gardeners believing in its value, and others questioning the scientific proof of success— there is no doubt that flowering plants attract and support pollinating insects —like bees and butterflies— to your vegetable garden. And no matter where you stand on the companion planting issue, it’s pretty hard to argue with the horticultural value of pollinating insects and the beauty of flowers in the vegetable garden. Zinnias, sunflowers, cosmos, shasta daisies, calendula (particularly the French marigold) and nasturtiums are easy-to-grow, and all make gorgeous vegetable garden additions. In addition to planting flowers in and around my vegetables, I grow extra blooms in my potager —just for cutting. Climbers are also pretty in the vegetable garden, especially if you have a rustic fence or trellis (vertical supports are particularly useful if you have limited space). Old-time, deliciously fragrant sweet peas are best sown directly outdoors as soon as the ground can be worked, but many flowers —including climbers like morning glories— can be started indoors for earlier bloom. And if you like to decorate with dried flowers in late summer and fall —or want to make wreaths— consider growing globe amaranth (Gomphrena), love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena), Bells of Ireland (Moluccella laevis), statice (Limonium sinuatum), and other everlasting blooms in your cutting garden.

I love flowers in the vegetable garden, and fresh-cut bouquets in my house. So I grow plenty of beautiful bloomers in my potager.

I can’t imagine life without a vegetable garden. I grew up with horticulture —my family raised and sold organically grown strawberries and other produce— and teaching me how to grow my own food —and more importantly, the joy and value of gardening— is one of the greatest gifts my parents gave me. If you have children of your own, I encourage you to involve them in as much of the gardening process as possible. When planning your spring garden, order a few extra seed packets —both flowers and vegetables if you can make the room— just for your kids. Children will always remember early gardening experiences like sowing seed, and harvesting their first crop of peas. Even the smallest task —like carrying the harvest basket or looking for bugs— teaches children that their contributions matter to the family. With kids, it’s important to focus on the process of gardening —not so much the product— so that the entire experience is rewarding.

Sunflowers are a fun, easy-to-grow crop for children

Here, my friends Myriah and her daughter, Dharma, moisten seed their starting mix together

Make Gardening Come to Life: Sow Seeds, and Watch them Germinate

I plant my vegetable garden in 3′ x 8′, raised, earth-mounded beds. I try to keep enough space between the beds to comfortably maneuver around with a weeding basket and to pass through with a wheelbarrow or garden cart. This system works well for me, but I have seen many other successful vegetable growing methods. Urban gardeners may grow in pots or planters, and some suburban gardeners like to build wooden boxes to contain vegetables in the square-foot garden style, and many country gardeners simply till soil and hoe rows. There is no right or wrong way to set up your vegetable garden: experiment, do what works best for you, and enjoy the process. If you are new to gardening, it is a good idea to start small and grow your space as your confidence increases. Over the years, as I’ve become more interested in cooking and baking, my vegetable garden has doubled in size. It’s such a pleasure to create meals with beautiful, ripe, organic vegetables, grown and harvested fresh in my own backyard. This year, I plan on adding more hard-to-get, gourmet produce in my potager. I’ll be planting crops that store well in winter (like gourmet potatoes and onions, garlic, squash, carrots and beets), as well as seasonal, enjoy-at-the-moment produce like heirloom tomatoes, lemon cucumbers, and other unusual fruits and vegetables from around the world. I love eating fresh food all summer long, and by adding row-covers and unheated hoophouses to the garden, I’ve been able to extend my growing season; harvesting some produce —like root vegetables and leafy greens— year-round. I can’t wait to dig back in! This week, I’ll be posting more details about my spring garden plans, and I look forward to hearing about yours both here, and on Facebook and Twitter!

Remember fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes?

Helianthus annus ‘Autumn Beauty’ – Sunflower in my Potager

Remember the smell of the earth? It’s coming… Soon!

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Special thanks to Tim Geiss for his fantastic seed starting photos. Visit Tim’s site here.

Article and potager photos ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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Bright, Red Winterberry & Juniper Magic: Lovely, Native Ilex verticillata Sparkles & Glows on Grey, Chilly Days…

November 21st, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’, paired here with Juniperus chinensis ‘Sargentii’

In the last weeks of late autumn —after the leaves have all fallen and deciduous trees stand naked and rattling in cold wind— the conifers and fruit-bearing shrubs reign supreme in my garden. Late fall and early winter days —laced with hoar frost and sugar-coatings of fresh snow— are brightened by the glow of colorful berries, twigs and richly hued conifers. All of the delicately textured remnants —needles, seeds and tiny twigs— catch falling ice crystals and snow flakes; like sweets coated in confectioners sugar.

One of my favorite late-season shrubs, the Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’ (common, dwarf winterberry holly) planted in front of my Secret Garden, is a knock-out at this time of year. With bright red fruit ripening in September and holding through January or longer, this shrub is invaluable for color in the winter landscape. Chosen for its charmingly petite, compact size (about 3-5 feet high and wide)  I. verticillata ‘Red Sprite’ is a great choice for softening the edges of walls, buildings and fences. I grow several winterberry cultivars, including the beautiful, statuesque I. verticillata ‘Winter Red’ (9′ x 9′), in my landscape; combining them with conifers and other shrubs and trees to create season-spanning interest in the garden. Juniper make great companions for winterberry, and Juniperus chinensis ‘Sargentii’ forms a lovely, contrasting blue-green carpet in front of the dwarf I. verticillata ‘Red Sprite’. Winterberry are extremely hardy shrubs, (USDA zones 3-9) native to eastern North America. These shrubs are long lived and trouble free; provided they are planted in rich, moist, freely- draining, acidic soil in full sun. I use a thick, organic mulch to conserve moisture and keep the root zone of my shrubs cool on hot summer days. When planting winterberry, it’s important to remember that a male cultivar will be needed for pollination -but only the female plants will bear fruit. In the grouping pictured below, the bare twigs in the background are the branches of a male cultivar. The pollinating shrub needn’t be planted in the same grouping -anywhere nearby will do just fine.

In front of my Secret Garden, Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’ looks like a tasty treat in a confectioner’s window. I snapped this picture the morning after the first snow…

Birds love plump, red winterberries, and will often gobble them up before the end of December. I keep planting more to please the crowd…

The bright red winterberries are even more stunning when snow drifts cover the carpet of juniper in a soft, white blanket

Rock candy mountain – Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’, the morning after an ice storm

Our native winterberry (Ilex verticillata) can usually be found in wet, low-lying areas —places like marsh and swamp land or natural, open drainage areas— where it forms dense thickets. In the later part of the year, the shrubs are filled with colorful, red fruits, which hold until late winter unless they are picked clean by wildlife. Although winterberries are inedible to humans (mildly toxic) they are extremely popular with small mammals and overwintering birds. Gathering winterberry for holiday decorations is a tradition for me, as it is for many cold-climate gardeners. If you are collecting these berries from the wild, please be sure to check with the property owner before harvesting — and never harvest from public parks or protected lands. Always gather branches responsibly; leaving enough for the wildlife depending upon this important source of food. Remember to use sharp pruning shears and make clean cuts at a slight angle (clean pruners with rubbing alcohol after use to prevent spread of disease), as you would on ornamental shrubs in your own garden. Because I have a large garden of my own, I grow enough winterberry to both enjoy in holiday decorations and in the landscape, where I can share with local birds. And when January rolls ’round, I deposit my discarded, decorative branches in the snow for field mice and feathered friends.

If you have the room, it makes sense to grow extra winterberry for holiday decorations

Bright red winterberries sparkle in a vase here in my dining room

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Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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Ladybird, Ladybird, Fly Away Home…

November 10th, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

Ladybird beetles seeking shelter in my studio siding for winter’s hibernation

“Ladybird, Ladybird, fly away home. You’re house is on fire, your children have flown”… Oh my goodness, but how that little ditty always freaked me out as a kid. Even now, although I do love it —especially when sung in a hushed and raspy tone— the song can still give me the heebie-jeebies. There are many myths attached to ladybird beetles —or lady bugs if you prefer— and according to one old-wives-tale, if you sing this song, the ladybirds will all fly away. Call me superstitious, but I happen to believe another common ladybird beetle myth… Have you heard that spotting a lady bug is good luck? And if it’s true, boy did I hit the jackpot! Last week, when temperatures rose (to around 60 degrees fahrenheit after the hard frost) ladybird beetles suddenly began filling the air —flying this way and that in the sun— seeking a sheltered place to congregate. Soon, thousands and thousands of lady bugs covered the siding on my studio, where they quickly aggregated in nooks, cracks and crannies. It was quite a colorful spectacle!

Of course ladybird beetles are one of the most familiar beneficial insects, and with the exception of only two harmful Coccinellidae species (the Mexican bean beetle and squash beetle) they always mean good luck for gardeners. There are near 200 species of lady bugs in North America alone, and with both larvae and adults feeding upon garden pests like aphids, mealybugs, scale and spider mites, they are one of the most effective garden-pest predators. I don’t want them to fly away! Please stay right here at my home lady bugs!

Two of the more common aggregating lady bug species, the convergent and Asian ladybird beetles (Hippodamia convergens and Harmonia axyridis, respectively) seek protection from cold temperatures in both natural and man-made shelters. Some homeowners consider the multicolored Asian ladybird beetle a nuisance, but if the the insects are a problem, they can be collected —gently with a vacuum cleaner—and moved a different location (encourage others to relocate lady bugs by emptying the vacuum in a cool shed, garage or other outbuilding – but not killing them!)

Although lady bug larvae are primarily carnivorous, most species of adult ladybird beetles are omnivores, and also feed upon pollen and other sources of sweet nectar. Throughout the growing season, ladybird beetles are attracted to flower and vegetable gardens, where they feed, mate and lay tiny yellow-orange eggs near food sources (like aphid-infested plants). Beware: lady bug larvae look very different from adult beetles. Immature lady bugs have long, tapered black bodies with yellow or orange markings, (click here to see a photo and previous post on beneficial insects).

During hibernation, lady bugs survive off their own stored body fat. But, if there are indoor pests to consume, they will eat those as well! Active ladybugs require moisture in order to survive. During winter, our houses tend to be hot and dry, and unless they have a source of water, lady bugs often perish. If you enjoy hosting over-wintering lady bugs in your home, be sure to run a humidifier and leave some sources of water available (shallow flowerpot saucers with rocks and a bit of drainage water work splendidly). Once spring arrives, the lady bugs will depart and begin hunting outdoors. Each individual beetle may live approximately two years! You can also make or purchase special, cute houses for lady bug and other beneficial insect-hibernation (including special houses for butterflies and bees).

Ladybug Hibernation House available at Duncraft

To learn more about insects —both beneficial and ‘bad bugs’— and how to recognize and manage them, I recommend checking out the following blog posts and books: My post today on Barnes & Noble’s Garden Variety, “Carts of Outdoor Plants Arriving Indoors? Watch Out for Stowaways!”, has a couple of great book recommendations and cultural tips, and further back on Garden Variety, check out “Good Bug or Bad Bug? Let’s See Some ID Please”. Also check here on this blog under the ‘Beneficial Insects’ header and ‘Entomology’ headers on the right side bar for previous articles, like this one on helpful insects, and other useful online resources. You will also find more entomological (the study of insects) book recommendations on the ‘Library’ page at left!

Ladybird Beetles Seeking Shelter in Numbers in the Siding!

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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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I Spy a Beautiful, Scarlet-Red Dragonfly! Meet the Autumn Meadowhawk…

October 15th, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

An Autumn Meadowhawk Dragonfly (Odonate sympetrum vicinum) Rests in the October Sun

Look, it’s a red dragonfly! Actually, to be specific, this dragonfly is commonly known as an Autumn Meadowhawk (Odonate sympetrum vicinum). I got so excited when I saw this beautiful creature lighting beside me on a lichen-covered stone the other day, that I almost dropped my camera. I can’t believe I got the shot without scaring it away! I love dragonflies —as well as their close relatives the damselflies— and I find them completely fascinating. However, in spite of my attraction to these amazing insects, until recently I knew next-to nothing about them. And then, I took the picture above.

I’ve discovered that one of the more interesting things about owning a camera —and there are many— is that when I photograph something, I want to know as much as possible about it. No longer is it enough to know that it is “a frog” or “a snake” or “a butterfly”, now I’ve developed an obsession with identifying each thing that I photograph. Fortunately, the photograph makes re-examining a fleeting subject —close up in macro— and identifying it, much easier. So, after taking the photograph above, curiosity got the better of me and I began researching the Odoante order of insects (which includes damselflies as well as dragonflies) in my guidebooks as well as on a couple of great websites listed below…

This photograph was taken by my friend Tim Geiss. For identification purposes, all I have to go on here is this dragonfly’s intense, iridescent green eyes. Based on the eye color and spacing, I think it may be an Emerald Dragonfly, but in order to properly identify it, I would need to look at the wings and body, and know something about the environment in which it was found…

The Autumn Meadowhawk (red dragonfly at top), was fairly easy to identify with a macro photo in hand. First of all, I knew it had to be a dragonfly (suborder Anisoptera) as opposed to a damselfly (Zygoptera) because while it  rested, its wings were spread out and extended horizontally, perpendicular to its body (damselflies hold their wings together and parallel to their bodies when at rest). You can see photos of damselflies and dragonflies, and learn more about their differences on this great website, called Odes for Beginners (click here). Once I determined that it was a true dragonfly, I broke down the identifying details about the insect by various physical characteristics, listed here and discovered that this is a meadowhawk (a member of the skimmer family). To find the exact species, I jumped over to Bugguide (a great site for bug identification) to compare my photo with others submitted by readers. Based on habitat, and the distinctive yellowish/tan legs, and red stigmata (dots on its wingtips), I determined that this bright red dragonfly must be an Autumn Meadowhawk. Here in New England, the Autumn Meadowhawk is a late-season dragonfly, often found in grassy meadows and wetlands from early October through November. This species is widespread in the United States and southern Canada, from the east coast (as far south as Georgia), throughout the midwest and westward to the pacific northwest and northern California.

Dragonflies and damselflies serve an important environmental role as beneficial insects, providing significant and natural mosquito control. Dragonflies spend most of their life-cycle as waterborne nymphs. During this immature stage (which can last anywhere from two months to five years, depending upon species) dragonflies inhabit swamps, ponds and slow-moving streams, feeding mainly on mosquito and other fly larvae. After metamorphosis, dragonflies continue to serve as adult mosquito predators for the remainder of their lives (some species can live up to six months). Dragonflies are so effective at mosquito control, that many municipalities, parks and private estates purchase and release dragonfly nymphs into wetlands.

I’ve always loved watching these tiny biplane-like creatures as they dart about fields and ponds, hunting for an airborne meal. And now that I have been properly introduced to the Autumn Meadowhawk, I am eager to know more about the other dragonflies and damselflies in my area. If you are curious as well, and would like to learn more about dragonflies and damselflies, I suggest checking out this Odonate page provided by UC Berkley, as well as the other, helpful entomological sites I have linked above. One of the things I love most about nature and gardening is the endless sense of new discovery I feel. What a wonderful world.

Please Pass Along the Bug ID Sites to Friends with Children. Identifying and Learning About Insects is Great Fun for Kids!

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Second Dragonfly Photo Courtesy of Tim Geiss at Poltergeiss

Article and Autumn Meadowhawk photograph ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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Mellow Yellow: Lovely Lindera Benzoin, North American Native Spicebush…

September 27th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

Lindera benzoin (Spicebush) in front of the Secret Garden wall (see complete plant list below)

The question comes up every September in my garden. The meter-reader, oil delivery driver and countless guests have asked: “What’s that bright yellow shrub over there by the wall  …The one covered with birds and red berries?” When I ask, “Have you heard of Lindera benzoin, North American spicebush?”, the answer is invariably ‘no’. And no matter how many times I make the introduction, it’s always surprising to me that this gorgeous shrub isn’t more widely known and used in the landscape. Spicebush’s season-spanning, informal beauty makes her the perfect choice for naturalizing along woodland boundaries and in countless other transitional situations. But as you can see from the photo above, this native plant also works beautifully in a mixed-border; with other trees, shrubs, bulbs and perennials.

512x768xLindera_benzoin_North_American_Native_Spicebush_michaela_medina_harlow_thegardenerseden.com_.jpg,Mic_.d56oqQ6fMB.jpg.pagespeed.ce.d56oqQ6fMB Lindera benzoin blooming in my garden 

The show begins in first weeks of April, when the spicebush’s lightly-fragrant, lemon-yellow blossoms begin to open on the dreariest of days. These early flowers are an important source of nectar to pollinating insects —including native and honey bees—and a welcome sight to my winter-weary eyes. The specimen pictured above — in front of the stone wall surrounding the Secret Garden— has developed a round, mounded shape in full sun (I prune very lightly after the early spring blossoms fade). Lindera benzoin will also tolerate light shade, and the groupings here at the edge of the native forest have developed a more open, but graceful habit. After the early flowers fade, attractive, blue-green foliage (the leaves have a delightfully spicy, masculine fragrance when crushed, and can be used to make tea, herbal sachets or potpourri) makes a fine backdrop for other players in front of the perennial border.

Lindera benzoin, autumn leaf detail

Lindera benzoin in late September (planted here with Juniperus chinensis ‘Sargentii’ and Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’)

As pretty and uplifting as this shrub is when blossoming in April, come September, spicebush really turns things up a notch in the garden when its foliage shifts from cool green to brilliant, lemon-gold. The female plants (this species is dioecious and a male must be planted nearby for the female to produce fruit), with their bright red berries (edible/substitute for allspice), are especially fetching in autumn; attracting birds from the nearby forest by the dozen. Combinations with other showy, autumn shrubs and trees —such as bold red viburnum (particluarly V.bodnatense and V. trilobum), dogwood, witch hazel, and red vein enkianthus— are always gorgeous. And rich purple or deep-blue blossoms —including monkshood (Aconitum) and asters in autumn, and glory-of-the-snow (Chinodoxa), crocus and grape hyacinth (Muscari) in spring— make lovely, perennial and bulb pairings with spicebush on either end of the growing season as well. Conifers, particularly deep green hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) and blue spruce cultivars (Picea pungens) also provide a striking contrast to luminous Lindera benzoin, both in texture and color. And keep in mind the design possibilities of deep violet foliage when choosing a spot for spicebush. Dark, burgundy shrubs, including Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’, P. opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’ and Cotinus ‘Royal Purple’, really bring out the golden hues in Lindera benzoin; as do perennials like purple fountain grass (Pennisetum rubrum) and Sedum ‘Matrona’ or S. ‘Purple Emperor’. In a shadier situation, try spicebush in combination with the purple foliage of Heuchera cultiavars (like ‘Plum Pudding’ and ‘Palace Purple’) or perhaps Actaea racemosa (aka Cimicifuga racemosa ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ or ‘Brunette’).

Lindera benzoin provides a luminous, gold backdrop for other autumn colors (here with Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’)

Hardy in zones 4-9, Lindera benzoin is a native of N. America from the north into Canada and on south to Florida; into midwestern Michigan and Kansas, and southwest to moderate climate zones of Texas. As a landscaping plant, spicebush is relatively trouble-free in the garden or naturalized settings; forming a mound-shaped shrub (6-12′ high and wide) when planted in a sunny location. In the shade the shrub tends to form a more open shape (a bit like Amelanchier); absolutely lovely, though subtle, when in bloom. Lindera benzoin prefers even soil-moisture (dry conditions make for a scruffy looking specimen) with cooling mulch about the root-zone (helpful to preserve even soil temperature and moisture)

Perhaps you’re already acquainted with lovely Lindera. If so, remember to pass on the good word. Mid to late fall is a great time to add shrubs to the landscape (see related post here). This native plant is an important part of our natural, North American habitat, and a significant source of food for insects (bees and butterfly larvae) and birds. But it seems to me that the spring blossoms, red fruit and glorious, golden, autumn color of Lindera benzoin provide all the promotional material any plant could ever need…

North American Native Spice Bush (Lindera benzoin) – Shown here in my garden with Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ (and in the background Cornus kousa, Ilex verticillata and Juniperus chubebsus ‘Sargentii’, seed pod remnants of Rudbeckia. And to the left Fothergilla major ‘Mt Airy’ and various Sedum)

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 permission. Thank you!

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Late Summer’s Garden Delight… Lespedeza thunbergii ‘Edo Shibori’: Beautiful Bush Clover, Buzzing with Bees

September 3rd, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

Lespedeza thunbergii ‘Edo Shibori’ (bi-colored bush clover)  A Bee’s Delight from Late Summer through Mid-Autumn

Ever notice how there always seems to be at least one hopping joint in every town, where the locals routinely gather for their morning coffee or to grab a quick bite at lunch? Yesterday afternoon, I met up with a friend at a just-such a café, and as usual, it was just buzzing with activity. I thought about that place this morning, when I went outside to water the pots on my terrace; noting that my garden has a similar hot-spot. Popular with all the busy bees, my bush clover, (Lespedeza thunbergii), is conveniently situated at a busy garden intersection, between the long perennial borders and the wildflower meadow. From dawn-to-dusk, this elegant-but-relaxed place is just packed with bees and butterflies. The nectar must be very sweet indeed…

Lespedeza thunbergii, ‘Edo Shibori’ – Bicolor blossoms

Lespedeza thunbergii, ‘Edo Shibori’

Of course, this is an undeniably gorgeous plant. And, I’ll readily admit that I planted Lespedeza thunbergii ‘Edo Shibori’ for purely selfish reasons. Five years ago, when I picked her up at the garden center, I was —and still am– smitten with her beautiful bi-colored blossoms and soft, graceful form. I also grow the more common cultivar, L. thunbergii ‘Gibralter’, which produces stunning, cobalt-violet hued blossoms; equally popular with the the cool-bees in my garden…

Bush clover softens the edge of my terrace here at Ferncliff

The graceful branches of bush clover sway beautifully in the breeze

Lespedeza thunbergii, which also goes by the name ‘bush clover’, is a relatively uncommon shrub —sometimes classified as a herbaceous perennial plant— native to Asia. Hardy in USDA zones 4-9, in colder climates —like mine— bush clover behaves similar to Russian sage (Perovskia antriplicifolia) and butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii): it dies back to the ground, or nearly so, every winter. In spring, I cut the shrub back hard, and it rewards me each August with a beautiful, airy shape and cascades of tiny, pea-like blossoms from late August through the end of September (Vermont). Bush clover can reach a mature size of 36-48″ high x 48-72″ wide. There are many lovely cultivars, including L. thunbergii ‘Gibralter’ —a popular and beautiful, cultivar with cobalt-violet hued flowers. Bush clover is a non-native species, and although it was introduced to the United States as a valuable food-source to wildlife, it should be noted that this plant may be considered an invasive in some areas (mainly in the southeastern US). Be sure to check with your local cooperative extension system before ordering or planting bush clover if you are in a potentially-vulnerable area (check highlighted links above).

Lespedeza thunbergii is a constant swarm of bee activity in late summer and fall

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Article and Photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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The Good, The Bad and The Ugly! Insect Enemy Number One: Tomato Hornworm Wanted Dead or Alive!

August 4th, 2010 § 8 comments § permalink

The Hornworm (Manduca sexta) – Image ⓒ Tim Geiss at Poltergeiss

Wanted Dead or Alive: Manduca quinquemaculata (and also Manduca sexta) aka The Hornworm. Although he looks almost clownish in Tim Geiss’ photo (above), this garden pest is no laughing matter. The hornworm feeds on tomato plants and their relatives (other nightshades of the Solanaceae family; including peppers, tomatillos, eggplants, tobacco and the like) and a gang of these caterpillars can easily defoliate entire plants in a matter of days. Give these garden-thugs a week unchecked, and you can kiss your tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and tomatillos goodbye all together.

As you can see from the photo, Mr. Hornworm is a master of disguise. It’s nearly impossible to spot him as he crawls down the backside of leaves and stems, munching as he goes. In fact, most of the time, it’s easier to detect the tomato hornworm’s presence by the dark green droppings rapidly accumulating at the base of host plants. With this in mind, carefully inspect the soil/mulch in your garden as you weed and water. The best method of control is to handpick these caterpillars from garden plants manually (don’t worry about that menacing-looking horn – this bug looks tough but it’s all coward in the end). Step on ’em and squash ’em, or drop ’em in a bucket of soapy water and it’s bye-bye Joker!

The Hornworm (Manduca sexta) Tail Detail – Image ⓒ Tim Geiss at Poltergeiss

Gardener’s Supply Company Organic Thurcide: Btk Solution

Organic controls for tomato hornworm include Btk (Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki) and spinosad (saccharopolyspora spinosa). Btk is a naturally occurring bacterium found in soil. When correctly handled and applied only to targeted foliage where caterpillars are feeding, Btk is both a safe and effective  organic solution for controlling tomato hornworm and other destructive caterpillars. However, it is important to note that Btk kills all worms and caterpillars —including butterfly larvae— when ingested. With this in mind, gardeners should never blanket-spray with Btk. Remember that the bacterium only works if the tomato worm actually eats it (and then it will take a few days). Target-spray the undersides of leaves and plant stems where the worms have been observed feeding. Spinosad is another biological insecticide product manufactured from a naturally occurring organism. When ingested (by caterpillars and other pests) spinosad will kill the host within a day or two. This is a low-toxicity product, but as with all organic pesticides, it should be used in a targeted manner and only when absolutely necessary. Try hand-picking first.

Gardener’s Supply Company Organic : Spinosad Pest Control Spray

Of course, as is often the case with villains, the hornworm has natural enemies. Birds will eat hornworms, so keeping bird houses and bird baths in your garden is definitely to your advantage if you’d like to encourage an aerial assault on the enemy. And, the appropriately named Assassin Bug (there are hundreds of individual species on the North American continent) should be welcomed to the garden as a member of your posse. In addition to the tomato hornworm, the assassin bug hunts down and kills many other ‘bad bugs’; including Colorado potato beetles, cut worms, aphids, Japanese beetles and many others. But in spite of his name, the Assassin bug isn’t the number one killer of hornworm. If you really want to see a hornworm taken down, you need to see the Braconid wasp in action…

No one stands between me and my golden tomatoes. Bring in the mercenaries: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly!

**   Click Here To Cue The Theme Song! **

The parasitic wasp (including the hornworm destroying Braconid) is a natural, female mercenary extraordinaire. Non-stinging and pollen-eating, parasitic wasps are attracted to flowering plants in your garden, where they will happily co-exist with other beneficial insects and animals. Draw braconid wasps to your garden with creative companion planting. Adult braconids are attracted to the pollen and nectar of flowers such as Queen Anne’s Lace and tansy, and herb blossoms; including dill, fennel, mint and parsley. So plant lots of flowering herbs, edible blossoms and posies for picking in your potager.

The braconid wasp is a clever killer. As you can see below, it’s not the delicate wasp herself who actually does the dirty deed to the hornworm. Oh no… She tasks her voracious off-spring with the job; depositing her eggs on the backs of her unsuspecting caterpillar victims! Gothic garden? Yes, indeed. This Kafkaesque process is true inspiration for a stomach-churning horror-flick. After the adult wasp lays her eggs on a wormy, slow-moving host, the tiny larvae hatch and burrow into the skin of the victim, devouring the caterpillar from within and pupating on its back. Warning: this process (captured below by photographer Tim Geiss) may be upsetting to some viewers. Sorry folks, Mother Nature isn’t always pretty! But, you really ought to take a close look to become familiar with your mercenary friends. You want to leave the parasite-infested caterpillars near your garden, protecting the living ‘nursery’ beneath nearby leaves and grass. The Braconid’s parasitic children may be the stuff of true hornworm nightmares, but they are a tomato lover’s best friend….

Braconid Wasp Larvae Eating a Hornworm – ALIVE ! – Image ⓒ Tim Geiss at Poltergeiss

It’s important for a gardener to know the difference between the good and the bad, and to learn to tolerate the ugly. Not sure of whom to trust? For some great resources, check out my post, “Good Bug, Bad Bug? Let’s See Some ID Please…” over at Barnes & Noble’s Garden Variety blog, and round up your posse. When it comes to protecting my veggies, I’ve learned to work with Mother Nature’s big gun mercenaries, and to show no mercy… Just like Clint…

Whom Do You Trust? YouTube Clip from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Finale…

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Tomato Hornworm photographs are ⓒ Tim Geiss – many thanks to the artist for his patient stalking of the dread caterpillars!

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly images are ⓒ Untied Artist Pictures

Article ⓒ Michaela at TGE. All product images are courtesy of linked retailers.

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The Secret Garden’s Shadowy Allure & Mysterious Prince Pickerel’s Charms…

August 3rd, 2010 § 7 comments § permalink

Prince Pickerel at the Edge of the Water Bowl in the Secret Garden – Image ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Cool, quiet and calm; a shady oasis whispers seductively on hot summer days. While blazing orange and yellow hues burn bright as wildfire in the meadow, my Secret Garden shimmers like an emerald in the dappled light beneath a steel balcony. High walls, constructed seven years ago by artist Dan Snow, are now veiled with verdant moss and delicate, lacy vines. In mid-summer, emerging as if from a fairytale, the reigning prince of the Secret Garden is the beautiful, copper-tinted pickerel frog (Lithobates palustris), who resides in and around the water bowl at the foot of the entry wall. Although he is usually quite shy, I have been catching glimpses of him now and again, as he basks in the late afternoon light.  Yesterday, just before sunset, he paused long enough for me to snap a quick photo. And isn’t he just enchanting? I am absolutely fascinated by frogs. Their gorgeous colors and soothing voices are charming of course, but I also value the frogs’ beneficial role in controlling insects and slugs in my garden.

The pickerel frog —commonly found in the United States from the midwest on east to the coast— is a particularly interesting species. After a bit of research, I discovered that this is the only poisonous frog native to the US. But don’t worry, the pickerel frog isn’t harmful, he simply produces a skin-secretion to protect himself from predatory birds, reptiles and mammals. This toxic substance is quite poisonous to many small animals —including other frogs, which will die if kept in captivity with pickerel frogs— but it is only mildly irritating to a human’s skin (it’s always wise to wash your hands after examining a pickerel frog, or any wildlife for that matter). The pickerel’s surprising defense mechanism might explain why he is able to survive in my garden alongside the ribbon and garter snakes, as they are both well-known predators of both frogs and toads.

Welcome to my Secret Garden, Prince Pickerel…

A Peek Inside the Secret Garden – Image ⓒ Michaela at TGE  (Foreground plantings: Daphne ‘Carol Mackie’ and Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’)

The Hidden Secret Garden Door – Image ⓒ Michaela at TGE  (Foreground plantings include Daphne ‘Carol Mackie” and at the wall: Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ and Galium odoratum)

The Water Bowl at the Secret Garden Door – Image ⓒ Michaela at TGE  (Plantings include foreground: Glaucidium palmatum, Heuchera ‘Stormy Seas’, and to the background: Euphorbia, Hosta ‘August Moon’ and Fothergilla gardenii)

Glossy Bergenia ‘Bressingham Ruby’ at the Foot of the Secret Garden Wall – Image ⓒ Michaela at TGE

The Secret Garden Shady Oasis from the August Sun – Image ⓒ Michaela at TGE  (Plants from left to right Lamium maculatum ‘White Nancy’, Cimicifuga racemosa ‘Hillside Black Beauty’, Helleborus x hybridus, Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’, Paeonia suffruticosa ‘High Noon’)

The Secret Garden, Viewed from the Balcony Above ⓒ Michaela at TGE  (Plantings: Background Paeonia suffruticosa ‘High Noon’, Foreground: Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ and Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’)

Secret Garden Vignette – Image ⓒ Michaela at TGE  (Plantings: Foreground Persicaria virginiana ‘Painter’s Palette’ and Lamium maculatum ‘White Nancy’, Background: Matteuccia pensylvanica. Potted is Hedera helix ‘Variegata’)

Colors and Patterns Carpet the Secret Garden Floor – Image ⓒ Michaela at TGE  (Plantings: Lamium macuatum ‘Orchid Frost’, Hosta ‘August Moon’, and Cryptotaenia japonica ‘Atropurpurea’)

A Glimpse of the Garden from the Balcony – Image ⓒ Michaela at TGE  (Plantings left to right: Paeonia suffruticosa ‘High Noon”, Hakonechloa macra ‘Aurea’, Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’, Stewartia pseudocamillia, Matteccia pensylvanica)

Persicaria virginiana ‘Painter’s Palette’ in the Secret Garden ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Roseum’ clamoring up the Secret Garden Wall – Image ⓒ Michaela at TGE (Other plantings include Cimicifuga racemosa, Hosta ‘August Moon’, and in pots: Agapanthus, Hosta ‘Remember Me’ and Asparagus densiflorus)

Secrets within the Secret Garden – Streptocarpus ‘Black Panther’ Image ⓒ Michaela at TGE  (Read more about the ‘Black Panther’ in the post “Hello Lover” here…)

A Glimpse at the Sunlight Beyond the Secret Garden Door ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Two Worlds, Divided by a Moss-Coverd Wall – Standing at the Secret Garden Threshold ⓒ Michaela at TGE (Plantings to the edge of the walk include, to the left: Euphorbia and Bergenia ‘Bressingham Ruby”, and to the right, again B. ‘Bressingham Ruby’, and Filix femina ‘Lady in Red’

Rosa ‘Bibi Maizoon’ Blooming at the Secret Garden Door ⓒ Michaela at TGE

View to the Wildflower Walk from the Secret Garden Steps ⓒ Michaela at TGE (Wildflowers in bloom: Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mixed’ and Adenephora confusa)

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Inspiration from my childhood: “Der Froschkönig” from Grimms Märchen

The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett and Inga Moore

The Secret Garden on DVD in Keep Case

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Image excerpts from reviewed publications and/or products are copyright as noted and linked.

All other images and article © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden.

The Secret Garden at Fercliff is the author’s design and installation.

For more images of my Secret Garden (throughout the seasons) see the Ferncliff page at left – or type Ferncliff into the search box. All images here, (with three noted exceptions) are copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. Except in the case of critical and editorial review and/or notation, photographs and text on this site may not be reproduced without written consent. If you would like to use an image online, please contact me before posting! With proper attribution, I am usually happy to share (See ‘contact’ at left). Thank you for respecting my work and copyrights.

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden. 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 site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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Delightful Doublefile Viburnum ‘Shasta’: Ripe with Fruit & Filled with Songbirds

July 27th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Shasta’ ⓒ Michaela at TGE (fruits in July)

Graceful, elegant and generous are but a few of the words that spring to mind when describing Doublefile Viburnum, (V. plicatum var. tomentosum); one of the most delightful species in my absolute favorite genus of woody plants. Although this shrub wears no perfume in springtime, she more than makes up for her lack of fragrance with four-season beauty and an easy-to-please manner (this species shows greater resistance to the viburnum beetle than other members of the genus, but prefers evenly moist, woodsy soil – it blooms equally well in full sun to partial shade). Doublefile Viburnum’s tiered, horizontally branching form reminds me a bit of another Asian native, the lovely Korean dogwood (Cornus kousa). The shape of this woody plant is truly stunning —especially in winter— and it can be used to great effect when positioned to soften the edge of a building. Triangulated in groups of three or more, Doublefile Viburnum creates a sophisticated, yet natural-looking screen; the dense, twiggy framework concealing eyesores almost as well as a conifer hedge.

My favorite large-sized cultivars, V. plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Shasta’ and ‘Mariesii’ (10′ x 12′), and the compact ‘Newport’ (3-4′ x 4-5′) —all hardy in USDA zones 4/5-9— fill the garden with a constellation of starry, white blossoms from mid May to late June. A magnet for bees and butterflies in spring and early summer, during the summer months of July and August the large Doublefile Viburnums are loaded with bright red berries, which attract cedar waxwings, sparrows, mockingbirds, thrushes and a wide variety of other songbirds to the garden (compact cultivar ‘Newport’ can be a bit stingy with fruit production). Although the fruits eventually mature to black in late August, the shrubs on my property are usually picked clean long before the berries deepen to black. Later in the season, as days shorten and temperatures cool, the foliage of this species begins to subtly shift. First lightening to chartreuse and cherry, then deepening to burgundy red, and eventually burnishing to a fine shade of oxblood, Doublefile Viburnum puts on a fine fashion show before shedding her cloak for winter….

Doublefile Viburnum (Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum) ‘Shasta’ in June ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Shasta’ at the edge of the meadow in July  Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Although Doublefile Viburnum’s red berries eventually ripen to black, the shrub is usually picked clean by birds long before the ruby fruit turns ebony.  Photograph ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Shasta’ in late September. Foliage color slowly morphs from chartreuse and cherry red to burgundy, eventually deepening to oxblood over the course of autumn. Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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

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

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Asclepias Tuberosa: Bold, Beautiful Butterfly Weed is the Life of the Midsummer Garden Party…

July 7th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

Butterflyweed, North American native Asclepias tuberosa ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

Oh to be a butterfly! Just imagine fluttering upon this delightful blossom; saturated in golden-orange color and loaded with sweet nectar. What a feast! Why I’d flit from flower to flower, happily sharing precious pollen with hovering hummingbirds and buzzing bees, from sunrise to sunset. Butterflyweed in the garden? Yes, yes – don’t let the ‘weed’ moniker fool you! North American native Asclepias tuberosa (aka Aesclepias tuberosa) is a wonderful garden plant, forming neat and tidy, mid-sized mounds in the perennial border, where it blooms its pretty little head off on even the hottest of summer days (and boy are we having those right now – 97 degrees in the shade yesterday).

Afraid of bold hues? Much like an acquaintance with a strong personality, many gardeners have an uneasy relationship with orange. Perhaps due to worries about dis-harmony and possible conflicts within the garden group, some might hesitate –or even flat-out refuse– to invite such a colorful character to the party. This is sad really, because when used creatively, a splash of orange can work wonders in a garden. Having trouble imagining it?  Well, just think about the allure of a bright tangerine on a dark-blue ceramic plate, or the intensity of Vincent Van Gogh’s golden Sunflowers and his swirly gobs of luminous orange in the Starry Night. Hard to argue with the beauty of orange, now isn’t it? Blue-violet hues are never more spectacular than they appear when combined with orangey saffron and brilliant vermillion. Whether in the form of leaf or blossom, I am always looking for ways to play with the hot-cool combination. But orange also looks spectacular in a simple sea of green, her natural, attractive opposite on the color wheel…

Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed) begins to blossom in July

Of course, if you love butterflies, this plant really deserves a place in your mid-summer garden. Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed) provides long, summer sustenance to pollinators of all kinds, including, of course, the butterflies. Hardy in zones 4-10, butterflyweed prefers neutral to slightly acidic soil. This is a very drought tolerant plant; an excellent choice for hot, sunny spaces and naturalized areas, where it may be allowed to self-seed and form colorful drifts. At approximately 24-36″ high and 18″ wide, butterflyweed combines beautifully with other summer-fall blooming plants in rich colors; including speedwell (Veronica spicata), Russian Sage (Perovskia), gayfeather (Liatris), deep violet butterflybush (Buddleia cvs), monkshood (Aconitum), daylily (Hemerocallis), and many others…

And then, later on in the season –when the sun sinks low and tickles the garden with golden light– pretty dried-pods crack open on butterflyweed, releasing silky, parachute-like seeds into the air. It’s hard not to be charmed by such a sunny plant. She seems continually surrounded by a crowd of graceful movement; hummingbirds, bees, butterflies and drifting white tutus filling the air. Perhaps if you give her a chance, Asclepias tuberosa will add just the right touch of exuberance to your quiet beds and borders. Who knows, maybe you will even find her to be the life of your garden party…

Butterflyweed Seed Pods – Asclepias tuberosa – ⓒ Michaela at TGE

A single parachutist – Asclepias tuberosa ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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

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

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Penstemon, Rudbeckia and Veronica: An Easy, Breezy, Flowering Combination for Mid-Summer Meadow Gardens…

June 29th, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

A Sunny Combination of Meadow Flowers for a Long-Blooming, Informal Summer Garden. Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Bees buzzing in the garden, sun-tea brewing on the terrace, and books piled high beside the hammock; sweet summertime is here at last. I love waking up to early morning sunshine playing upon the warm, summery colors in my garden. Right now I am particularly smitten with the entry garden, where cool shades of blue and violet are sparked to life with bright flecks of yellow and orange. “Hello, and welcome home again”, they seem to say, as I pull my work totes from the car at the end of a long, hot day.

Bright and cheerful black-eyed Susan, (Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mixed’), sky-blue speedwell, (Vernonica spicata ‘Sunny Border Blue’), and season-spanning beard’s tongue, (Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker’s Red’), perform beautifully together in a pretty trio that lasts throughout July and well into August, with little effort on my part. Bee, butterfly and hummingbird magnets, all three; these flowers delight the eye as they sparkle in the sunshine and sway in the warm summer breeze. What genius thought of this combination? Well, I wish I could take the credit, but only Mother Nature could come up with such a sensational mix. Although the grouping featured here blends three selected cultivars, these are all North American native plants. Meadow flowers tend to be drought-tolerant by nature, and once established, they need little care. Rudbeckia and Penstemon will self-seed with abandon, making them the perfect choice for a wildflower walk or naturalized planting. And delightful Veronica provides this low-maintenace group with a heavenly dose of mid-season blue…

Veronica spicata ‘Sunny Border Blue’ plays in poetic, harmony with bees – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mixed’  with Veronica spicata ‘Sunny Border Blue’, backed by Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker’s Red’- Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker’s Red’ provides both blossom and stunning, purple-hued foliage to the meadow garden ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Hardy to at least zone 4 (Penstemon digitalis and Veronica spicata are cold tolerant to zone 2 and 3, respectively) all three plants pictured here are mid-sized perennials, with Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mixed’ reaching a variable 8- 24″, while Penstemon digitalis and Veronica spicata mature to a consistent 2′-2 1/2′ size.  I like this trio backed by all varieties of Miscanthus, but particularly the shimmering, light-catching cultivar ‘Morning light’. And as an added bonus with this group –  no matter the heat and blazing sunshine, there is nary a droopy bloom in sight. This trio of top summertime performers is a true dog-day’s delight…

A sunny, summertime entry garden at Ferncliff – Design and Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

A bee visits Veronica spicata ‘Sunny Border Blue’ ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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

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

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Plow & Hearth

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Seduced by the Charms of Old Fashioned Flowering Weigela…

June 6th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Weigela florida ‘Red Prince’ tumbles over the wall at Ferncliff, spilling blossoms into the Secret Garden below. Stonework by Vermont artist Dan Snow

To look at the voluminous cascade of crimson blossoms spilling over my Secret Garden wall this week, you’d never guess that this Red Prince (Weigela florida) is positioned in the toughest, most exposed corner of my blustery, ledgy site. Bearing the full force of the northwest wind as it blasts across the ridge straight from the Green Mountains, I fully expected my Weigela to perish in its first winter. Five years later, in spite of sub-zero temperatures, snow drifts, thick sheets of ice, and the doubts of a rather pessimistic mistress, the prince of my garden is once again greeting June cloaked in the most glorious red robe I have ever seen. As you can see, there he sits; sprawled out in the sun, high atop the Secret Garden wall, where his funnel-shaped flowers attract legions of hummingbirds, bees, butterflies, and countless sighs.

Old-fashioned in both form and habit, Weigela florida has gone in and out of garden style for years. Because of its sturdy nature -rarely troubled by pests and disease- certain Weigela cultivars have become somewhat over-used in municipal landscapes. Once again a victim of its own success, many designers now consider this shrub a bit common – perhaps even a garden cliché. As for this hortimaniac? Please… Give me a break! I find the whole notion of garden fads more than a little ridiculous. Every plant has its place. And as they say – a thing of beauty is a joy forever. A knock-out in bloom and a fine green presence throughout the growing year, Weigela’s flower-show lasts three weeks in my garden, with sporadic repeats later in the season. And as if this generous floral display weren’t enough, newer Weigela cultivars, including maroon-leaved and dwarf selections, have expanded this shrub’s three-season design potential with stunning foliage. My collection of ‘cardinal bushes’ -as they are sometimes called- now includes ‘Java Red’, (see photograph below), ‘Variegata’, ‘Alexandra’, ‘My Monet’, and of course the ‘Red Prince’, among others…

Weigela florida planted in a woodland-edge setting for one of my garden design clients 3 years ago…

Weigela florida on the far side of my client’s garden, forming a cascading, flowering boundary between hillside garden and the shaded forest beyond…

Hardy at least through zones 4-9, (certain selections offer a greater hot/cold hardiness range), and tolerant of many soil types, (Weigela prefers slightly acidic, moist, but not wet soil), this is a perfect shrub for gardeners in cold, moderate and mild climates. When positioned in full sun to partial shade, Weigela rewards the gardener with a cascade of flowers from late spring through early summer. Spectacular spilling over walls or embankments, larger cultivars are also perfect for the center or back of sunny borders and for creating informal hedges. Dwarf selections, such as ‘Minuet’ are ideal for smaller gardens and tight garden situations, including containers. With dozens of handsome cultivars to choose from, including many with spectacular, variegated and mottled foliage, (such as the knock-out introduction, ‘My Monet’), there is a Weigela suitable for almost any temperate garden climate. Yes, my ‘Red Prince’ Weigela may be old-fashioned, but he sure knows how to charm…

The ‘Red Prince’ Weigela florida Atop the Secret Garden Wall in June. Stonework by Vermont artist Dan Snow

Weigela florida ‘Java Red’s  bright fuchsia colored blossoms are a  favorite of hummingbirds, butterflies and bees…

Weigela florida ‘Java Red’ takes center stage after Syringa vulgaris ‘Mme. Lemoine’s’ blooms have faded…

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

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

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 site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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