Midnight Maroon: Dark, Mysterious Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’…

August 13th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

When you’re strange, no one remembers your name – Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’

Oxblood, maroon, deep violet and ebony; dark plants are one of my greatest horticultural passions. From the statuesque Cimicifuga racemosa ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ gracing my Secret Garden, to the massive, dark cloud of Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’ forming a shadowy hedge at the back of my perennial borders, I wholeheartedly embrace the gothic beauty of black foliage. Earlier this year, in my posts, “A Heart of Darkness” and  “The Gothic Gourmet: Black Beauties and Dark Delights of the Potager”, I revealed a bit about my obsessive preoccupation with these strangely curious and hauntingly beautiful plants. But you needn’t be Edward Gorey to appreciate the darker side of horticulture. Deep, rich hues are incredibly useful in garden design; offering a counter-point to subtle silver and sophisticated chartreuse, as well as a striking contrast to variegated foliage and boldly colored flowers. Dark, elegant plants enrich a garden’s beauty  in much the same way as late afternoon shadows enhance a sun-drenched landscape. Think of them as the minor chords in your favorite song…

Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’ at the back of my casual, mixed meadow border in August

One of my favorite native plant cultivars, Physocarpus opufolius ‘Diablo’, (as well as cultivars ‘Center Glow’ and ‘Summer Wine’) is just such an endlessly versatile plant. Stunning as a single specimen within a mixed border, I like to take the drama up a notch in larger gardens, combining this burgundy-leafed shrub in groups of three or more to form a dark and mysterious backdrop for other plants (particularly gold and chartreuse-leaved specimens, as well as those with variegated foliage). Perennials in shades of blue, violet, gold, magenta —as well as many other bold and subtle colors— stand out against the intense, maroon-leafed ‘Diablo’. One of my favorite, striking garden combinations plays the nearly black color of Physocarpus opufolius ‘Diablo’ against the feathery, chartreuse leaves of Sambucus racemosa ‘Sutherland Gold‘ (Golden elderberry).

Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’ forms a soft, dark cloud at the edge of my terrace

Physocarpus opulifolius (also known as common ninebark) is an extremely hardy shrub (USDA zones 2-8) native to North America. The dark, burgundy-leafed cultivar ‘Diablo’ (sometimes listed as ‘Monlo’ or ‘Diabolo’) will reach a height of 6-10 feet, with a similar spread. Physocarpus opulifolius presents a graceful, upright-vase shape in the garden, with softly arching branches. Adaptable to many garden situations, ‘Diablo’ offers dramatically dark foliage throughout the growing season, burnished shades of rust to bronze in autumn, and textural, peeling bark in winter. The pinkish white blossoms appear in late spring, and are a favorite, natural food source for honeybees and butterflies. Later in the season, as the tiny red fruits ripen —strangely beautiful against the dark foliage— common ninebark becomes a living feeding station for birds and small mammals. Physocarpus prefers even moisture and neutral, well-drained soil. This native cultivar is an easy to please, disease and pest resistant plant suitable for sun to partial shade (if worms/caterpillars become a problem in late spring, defoliating branches, treat the leaves with OMRI approved Btk only as necessary).

Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’ Leaf and Stem Coloration

Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’s’ Beautiful, Peeling Bark

Autumn Color Variation Ranges from Oxblood Red

To Sun-Burnished Bronze…

In addition to its striking presence in the garden, Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’s’ leaves and branches add sophisticated beauty to floral arrangements. When combined with citrus-colored flowers —such as the Bells of Ireland shown below in a vase by raku artist Richard Foye— ‘Diablo’ is a real knock-out. The sturdy stems also offer excellent support for more delicate flora, and a lovely vertical compliment to blowzy hydrangea blossoms — Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ is especially lovely with the maroon leaves of ‘Diablo’.

A vase by Richard Foye, filled with Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo, Bells of Ireland, Baptisia foliage, Queen Anne’s Lace and Apricot- Hued Foxglove

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

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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

***

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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Isn’t She Pretty in Pink? A Peek at a Few of June’s Blushing Young Beauties: Mountain Laurel, Lupine, Indigofera, and More…

June 16th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Kalmia latifolia ‘Pink Charm’ with Sambucus racemosa ‘Sutherland’s Gold’ and Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’ in the background, and Rudbeckia hirta and Miscanthus in the foreground… Garden Design and Photo © Michaela at TGE

Kalmia latifolia ‘Pink Charm’ – Photo © Michaela at TGE

Kalmia latifolia ‘Pink Charm’ in the Entry Garden – Design and Photo © 2010 Michaela at TGE

There’s something of a pink-fizzy-explosion going on in the main entrance to my garden right now. From bashful blush and shocking rose, to coral, crimson, and pale petal; the garden is looking very pretty in pink. At this time of the year, my wildflower walkway is filled with the lighter shades of red, including two-tone-pink lupine, pale penstemon and other cerise colored flowers. This spring, the wild roses have really taken off, clamoring over the big ledges, and spilling out from the juniper edging into the gravel path. But the reigning queen of the moment in the entry garden is Kalmia latifolia ‘Pink Charm’; a gorgeous pink selection of our native mountain laurel. I am very fond of Kalmia, and I grow both the native and various cultivars. Mountain laurel has developed a reputation for being a somewhat tricky plant to grow, but I have had great success with the genus. In my experience, proper siting and soil are key to pleasing this beautiful, native evergreen. For more information on Kalmia latifolia, including how and where to grow and use this plant in the garden, travel back to last year’s post on Mountain Laurel here.

Indigofera kirilowii on the terrace edge. Photo © Michaela at TGE

And on the northwestern side of my garden, Indigofera kirilowii -which I also posted about last summer in an article linked here- is producing an outrageously romantic display at the edge of the terrace. This gorgeous small shrub is literally covered with lilac-pink panicles, spilling in dramatic fashion on to the thyme-laced stone at her feet. Indigofera is putting on her show earlier this year, as are many other plants in my garden. What’s the hurry ladies? We have all summer. Why not slow down and stick around awhile?

Still, in spite of the early rush to bloom, I must say I am loving the profusion. When my garden gets to blushing like this, I can’t help but think of girlish things like prom dresses and bridal showers. I suppose it’s just that time  of the year  – when everything is pretty in pink….

A closeup of our native North American mountain laurel, Kalmia latifolia, in bloom. Photo © Michaela at TGE

A natural wonder, smothered in blooms – Kalmia latifolia – native mountain laurel. Photo © Michaela at TGE

Lupine put on a reliable yearly display in the wildflower walk. Photo © Michaela at TGE

Lupine hybrid – Bicolor pink in the Wild Flower Walk – Entry Garden Design and Photo © 2010 Michaela TGE

A wild rose in the entry garden – Photo © Michaela at TGE

Budding Beauty – Photo © Michaela at TGE

Pretty in Pink in the Rain – Photo © Michaela at TGE

Seashell Pink Colored Coral Bell Blossoms (Heuchera sanguinea) Dance in the Morning Breeze. Photo © Michaela at TGE

Lavender-pink Indigofera kirilowii edges the north facing terrace, planted here with wooly thyme. Photo © Michaela at TGE

You know I was thinking about it when I typed the words. I had to pull out the Molly Ringwald for this post…

Pretty in Pink Molly Ringwald

Pretty in Pink on DVD

***

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

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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…

***

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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Front Yard Gardens: A Peek at the Design Process…

May 26th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

Front Yard Garden Design Proposal – Early Autumn View – Drawing © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Just look at this sweet little house! It’s easy to see why my clients Laura and Dan fell in love with this place, isn’t it? I was instantly charmed by this classic New England home. From the slate-covered hip roof and romantic front porch to the spacious back yard surrounded by elegant old trees – including a knock-out old Acer palmatum alongside the drive- it’s the perfect small town residence…

The Front Yard Garden Before Removal of Hemlock and Yew

But although the house itself has both a beautiful interior and exterior, the lack-luster, green-on-green entry garden -pictured in the ‘before’ shot above- didn’t do the place justice, and the new owners knew that it just had to go. Laura and Dan are both enthusiastic do-it-yourselfers, however they lead busy, professional weekday lives, and want to keep weekend gardening chores to a minimum. When they called me to consult on their first landscaping project, Laura and Dan were more than eager to pull the ho-hum hemlock and yawn-inducing yew populating their front yard. From our earliest email communications, it was immediately clear that Laura and Dan both wanted to add color and life to the front entry of their pretty home.

Located on a busy downtown street, the front yard of this home is surrounded by a concrete sidewalk, two driveways, and a heat-generating asphalt road- but the side and backyard gardens are sheltered by the shade of mature, graceful trees. Owners Laura and Dan have modern, minimal taste, and their desire for a low-maintenance landscape made them ideal candidates for a combination of native plants and easy-care ornamental grasses with season-spanning interest. I instantly connected with Laura and Dan, and their clean aesthetic sensibilities, and I was excited when they pulled out a copy of one of my favorite gardening books,(see below for links), Nancy Ondra’s Grasses, (read my review of this book and The Meadow Garden, here in this week’s Garden Variety blog at Barnes & Noble online ), during our first meeting.

Nancy Ondra’s Grasses is available online at B&N or Amazon

Two compact, deciduous shrubs, (Viburnum trilobum and plicatum ‘Newport‘), will soften the edge of the building, providing changing interest with foliage, pollinator-friendly flowers and bird-attracting fruit, while maintaining trans-seasonal garden structure with their attractive, contrasting forms. A gorgeous golden hops vine, (Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’), will add a luminous, romantic touch to the seductive shade of the front porch. Other key plants filling out the front yard garden plan -designed with an emphasis on form, color and movement- include mass plantings of flame grass, (Miscanthus purpurascens), blue fescue, (Festuca glauca), low maintenance daylilies, (Hemerocallis ‘Entrapment’), and ground-covering stonecrop, (Sedum). This fall, I recommended that the owners add daffodil bulbs to the front beds, to provide early season color and fragrance to their garden. At the opposite, protected corner of the house beside the front steps, a pink flowering dogwood, (Cornus florida rubra), will provide balance to the asymmetric design, with a flattering horizontal shape to soften the edge of the house and break up the vertical line. Dogwood is a great small-scale landscape tree, perfect for framing a home, and this particular selection, with its pink flowers and red autumn foliage and fruits, will really light up against the charcoal-brown siding.

One of the key new plants in this desgin: Miscanthus purpurascens, aka ‘Flame Grass’

And for contrast: Blue Festuca Grass from Spring Hill Nursery Online

Also in the works, a shady side yard garden to compliment the gorgeous, mature Japanese maple on the property. I will be back soon with more details on this fun, upcoming project, including a report from the owners on the do-it-yourself installation process. For more information on ornamental grasses and their use in the landscape, travel back in blog-time and see my earlier post on the subject here. See you with more on this easy-care garden design project soon…

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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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Season-Spanning Garden Design: Springtime Shrubs to Enjoy Now and Love Again Later – Three Favorites…

May 11th, 2010 § 5 comments § permalink

Fothergilla major ‘Mt Airy’ in May – Native American Witch Alder

Is there anything more delightful than the sweet scent of blossoms on a sparkling spring morning? Nature never ceases to amaze me. I often marvel at the seasonal cycle here in my cold climate. In spite of my garden’s success, I still find it hard to believe that some of the more delicate-looking plants can survive winter’s wrath on this exposed hilltop. And yet every year, after months of frigid temperatures, brutal, blasting winds, and crushing snow topped with cracking ice, winter recedes and the blossoms return again. To me this is nothing short of a miracle.

The growing season in the Northeast is quite short. And the familiar, tongue-in-cheek saying, “New England has nine months of winter and three months of darn poor sledding”, never fails to bring a short, nervous burst of laughter amongst the locals. The temperatures here in Vermont have changed dramatically over the past few days, and over the weekend, I awoke to find a dusting of snow on my hilltop. Late spring snow always seems to stand out more in my memory than tardy autumn frost. Needless to say, in my work as a garden designer, and here in my own garden, extending seasonal enjoyment of the landscape is a big priority. And there are benefits to this multi-season approach no matter where you live…

One of my favorite early-spring blooming shrubs is very high on my list of ‘bests’ for autumn foliage. The native witch alder in my garden, (Fothergilla major and the compact Fothergilla gardenii), is currently smothered in beautiful white flowers and buzzing with honey bees. My tiny, winged garden guests are attracted to Fothergilla’s sweetly scented bottle brush blossoms and the ample pollen they provide in the early season. I absolutely adore this good garden ‘witch’, and long-time readers may recall my obsession with her late season color from my post on the subject last fall. If not, travel back and read more about this wonderful, woody plant by clicking here

Fothergilla major ‘Mt Airy’ , (in closeup at top of post), is a lovely treat for bees in May…

And she also glows again with various perennials in early November, luminous in the grey light…

When it comes to my love-affair with the next shrub on my list, Viburnum carlesii, I am almost at a loss for words. As I pause to think back on our romantic history, I believe that my passion for the genus can be traced back to a Korean spice shrub planted beside the farmhouse next door to my childhood home. The slightly spicy, delicately sweet flowers of this lovely shrub were both familiar and exotic to my curious little nose. Every spring, I would invent excuses to ride my wobbly bike down the road, just to catch a whiff of those delightful blossoms on the breeze. Over time, I became acquainted with other members of this large and varied genus, and I have to admit that even now, no other woody plant -even the beloved Acer palmatum– can compete with my affection for viburnum.

Why such devotion? Well to begin with, although these shrubs aren’t always fragrant, some of the earliest blooming, and most beautifully scented flowers are produced by species of viburnum. The intensely fragrant Viburnum bodnantese ‘Dawn’ blooms at roughly the same time as the witch hazel in my zone 4/5 garden, filling the air with the most wonderful, almost edible, scent. Closely following V. bodnantense in flower is V. carlesii, (hardy in zone 4-8), better known as Korean spice shrub or Mayflower viburnum. This intoxicatingly fragrant shrub is the coveted Viburnum of my childhood memory, and her gorgeous great-grand daughter now occupies a prominent spot near my front door. Come autumn, her leaves will turn brilliant orange-red, (see photo below), and her shiny black fruits gleam amongst the glowing foliage like polished obsidian jewels….

Viburnum carlesii – Beautifully fragrant pink blossoms delight in the spring garden…

While ebony fruits and bright color make Korean spice a favorite come fall…

And the last spring-bloomer on today’s season-spanning shrub list -oh yes, you know there will be more coming- has to be Daphne x burkwoodii ‘Carol Mackie’. As a whole, Daphnes have a well-earned reputation for being somewhat temperamental garden plants. However, given the right siting -excellent drainage and protection from crushing snow and burning winter wind, is key- this season-spanning beauty will perform well in zones 4-7. There are other, equally lovely Daphne species and cultivars, however ‘Carol Mackie’ remains at the top of my list of favorites due to her glorious variegated foliage, which turns a honey-gold color in autumn; beautiful against the cool, dark stone landing at the entry to my Secret Garden. And the fragrant flowers in spring? Well, that is really the hook. I have a botanically-obsessed friend who cradles the blossoms in her hands every May, as if they were the rarest commodity on earth – and with good reason! The perfume is sensational; slightly musky with hints of clove and subtly sweet fruit. If only it could be bottled…

Daphne x burkwoodii ‘Carol Mackie’ – Lovely, fragrant pink blossoms and golden edged green leaves, this shrub turns a lovely golden hue in autumn..

As shown here, (with Acer palmatum), in autumn

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Article and photographs copyright, Michaela at TGE. 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 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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Mother’s Day Brunch? Garden Fresh Ingredients & Ina Garten’s Chive Rissoto Cakes Help to Make it Special…

May 8th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Do you love breakfast in bed? I sure do, and when I was growing up, sometimes my sister and I would serve it to our mom as an unexpected treat – especially on Mother’s Day. Part of what made it so special was the ritual of harvesting fresh flowers and herbs from the garden, and arranging them in petite bouquets on a tray filled with fresh squeezed orange juice and homemade treats like eggs over-easy, French toast or homemade muffins. There’s something about enjoying a decadent meal, without leaving the comfort of warm covers, that can make a girl feel really special. And every mom deserves to feel like a queen on Mother’s Day…

The herbs in my potager are overflowing their boundaries this year; mainly due to the unseasonably warm temperatures we are having in the Northeast. With all of the extra chives on hand, I decided to give Ina Garten’s Chive Rissoto Cakes a try; substituting them for the usual potatoes with my eggs for brunch. Not surprisingly, I was once again blown away by Ina’s ability to turn a few simple ingredients into a knock-out dish. This rice cake recipe will definitely be added to my regular brunch -and dinner- rotation. I think the flavor and texture of these cakes make them the perfect accompaniment to almost any main course -especially fish or shrimp-  or simple light meal, such as a garden salad.

I wish I could cook something special for my sister tomorrow, since this is her first Mother’s Day with baby Morgan, but we are many hours apart, and I will be working the holiday this year. Hopefully, I will be able to make it up to them on a more leisurely weekend. Someday, I will show my nephew how to arrange a special tray, like the one pictured above, for his mom. I know she would love it.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the Mothers out there. Enjoy your day. Thank you for the love and care you give to your children all over the world…

A fragrant bouquet of Viburnum ‘Anne Russell’ makes a lovely centerpiece if you decide to dine at the table… (raku vase by Richard Foye)

Chive Risotto Cakes

From: Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics

Ingredients:

1             cup Arborio rice

4             quarts fresh, cold water

1/2         cup plain, Greek-style yogurt (or sub. sour cream)

2             extra large eggs at room temp

3             tbs freshly minced chives

1 1/2      cups grated Fontina cheese, (or sub. 5 oz Gruyere)

1/2          tsp fresh ground black pepper

1 3/4       tsp Kosher salt

3/4          cup Japanese panko/ dried bread flakes, (or sub dried bread crumbs)

Good quality olive oil

Directions:

In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil, add 1/2 tsp salt and Arborio rice. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until the grains of rice are soft. Drain and run rice under gold water in a sieve until cooled. Drain and set aside.

While the rice is cooking, mix yogurt, cheese, eggs, chives, pepper and 1 1/4 tsp salt in a medium sized bowl.

Add the cooled rice to the yogurt mixture and and thoroughly combine ingredients.  Wrap the bowl in plastic and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours until the mixture is firm.

When you are ready to begin preparing for your meal, preheat an oven to 250 degrees. Spread the dried bread flakes, (or crumbs), in a working dish or bowl with low sides. Form rice balls from the mixture using a large spoon or ice cream scoop.

Using a patting motion, flatten the balls into round patties approximately 3/4″ thick, (about 3″ diameter). Place a half dozen or so patties into the bread flakes and turn to coat both sides. Heat 3 tbs of oil in a skillet set to medium-low heat.  Add the patties to the hot oil and cook 3 minutes or so on each side until golden brown. Cook in batches and add to a heat-safe dish in a warm oven.

Patties may be kept warm in an oven for a half an hour or so, and should be served hot. Try them with eggs and a special mimosa for Mother’s Day Brunch, or with dinner anytime. The patties may be made and refrigerated in advance.

Travel back to this post to find my favorite Mimosa recipe...

Time to Relax Mom …

From Ina Garten’s Endlessly Inspirational: Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics

Fresh flowers from the garden…

And chives from the spring potager…

***

Words and Pictures copyright 2010 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 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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Thunderstorms and Beautifully Saturated Spring Color…

May 5th, 2010 § 6 comments § permalink

Wind-Driven Rain at Forest’s Edge…

Spring thunderstorms kick up suddenly in New England. One minute the air is still and the birds are singing, and the next -WHAM- a bolt from the blue! Such was the case yesterday afternoon when I went to work in my garden. The passing storm was spectacularly violent and brief; passing through within minutes, but knocking out electricity for hours. Fortunately, my camera and laptop batteries were charged up and ready to capture some of the intense, water-saturated colors and sparkling, jewel-like effects of the wind-driven rain…

Moody Terrace Beneath the Mountain Silverbell, (Halesia)…

Watching the Coming Storm through the Studio Window…

Rain-Battered Glass Creates and Impressionistic, ‘Painted’ Landscape…

Sparkling Halesia tetraptera – our native, Carolina silverbell…

Raindrop Bejeweled Lady’s Mantle Catches First Light After the Storm…

Droplets Ripple the Water Bowl in the Secret Garden as the Sun Emerges…

Trout Lily, Lenten Rose and Daffodils: A Subtle Spring Medley in the Secret Garden, Enjoyed Between Raindrops…

A Puddle of Blue Muscari Pools at the Base of the Secret Garden Steps…

Daphne ‘Carol Mackie’, Delightfully Fragrant in the Humid Air…

Heuchera ‘Stormy Seas’ …

The Secret Garden Refreshed…

A Colorful Carpet of Chartreuse Euphorbia Lines the Secret Garden Path…

***

All Photographs this post © 2010 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 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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Happy May Day!

May 1st, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

Image © 1895, Walter Crane, via Yale University Library online

Welcome, welcome, sweet month of May! Melodic bird song and the intoxicating, clove-like scent of Mayflower viburnum, (also known as Korean spicebush, Viburnum carlesii), were the first pleasures to greet me on this first day of one of the loveliest months of the year. Special thanks to photographer Tim Geiss for his beautiful shots of Common Lilac, (Syringa vulgaris), and Mayflower viburnum, (Viburnum carlesii)

Image © Tim Geiss

Image © Tim Geiss

Image © Tim Geiss

Image © Tim Geiss

***

Photographs are courtesy, and copyright, Tim Geiss. All rights reserved by the artist.

Article copyright 2010, Michaela at TGE, photographs copyright 2010 Tim Geiss, (exceptions noted). 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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Mimosa Pour Moi? Oui, Oui, Oui. Sunday Afternoon Delights in the Early Spring Garden…

April 4th, 2010 § 6 comments § permalink

La Mimosa de Minneola de Michaela

Could there possibly be a more lovely weekend for Easter Egg hunts, Sunday brunches, garden strolls and chilled mimosas? I think not. Here in New England the weather is simply spectacular, and swollen flower buds are bursting open to greet the glorious day. The pink bodnant viburnum ‘Dawn’ at my Secret Garden door perfumes the air, and a carpet of starry blue Chionodoxa sparkles upon the path. Finally, the sleepy Narcissus are awakening and the early Crocus and Galanthus are blooming their pretty little heads off.

It’s a perfect day for a leisurely mid-day meal on a sunny stone terrace. And for a refreshing accompaniment, what could be more appropriate for Sunday brunch than a classic Mimosa? By now it’s no secret that I love sparkling wine and champagne. However, I dislike sticky-sweet cocktails -and until recently the perfect Mimosa has always eluded me. Named for the famously fragrant blossoms of the tropical Acacia, this popular champagne cocktail is rumored to have been invented at the Ritz Hotel in Paris circa 1925. The original concoction contained Grand Marnier, (orange flavored cognac), French champagne and fresh squeezed orange juice. The key to getting a good balance of floral aroma, pleasing effervescence and a clean finish is using the freshest juice, dry sparkling wine, and tasting your ingredients in advance.

After experimenting with a few different Mimosa recipes, I have decided that although it isn’t an orange at all, the Minneola tangelo, (a Dancy tangerine x Duncan grapefruit hybrid dating back to the 1930s), makes the perfect juice for this cocktail. Minneola are plentiful in markets at this time of the year, so although I can not grow a tree of my own here in Vermont, I have easy access to the fruit for this special treat. In addition to substituting fresh squeezed Minneola juice for the traditional orange, I’ve made a few more modifications to the classic recipe, (which follows below). If you too have been searching for a more satisfying Mimosa, give this version a try. I think it is a garden-strolling, flower-lover’s fantasy…

Crocus Petals Unfolding © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Narcissus ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’ © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Striped Crocus © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ in Early April © Michaela at TGE

The Fragrant Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Chionodoxa luciliae (gigantea) – Glory of the Snow © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Crocus in the Dried Grass © 2010 Michaela at TGE

***

The Making of a Fresh Squeezed Minneola Mimosa

La Mimosa de Minneola de Michaela


Ingredients for one cocktail, (multiply for many):

Fresh Squeezed Juice of one Minneola Tangelo

2 dashes of Cointreau

Chilled Maschio Prosecco Brut (Italian sparkling white wine)

Directions:

In a full sized champagne flute, add the fresh squeezed Minneola juice, (this should be about 1/3 of a glass). Add a couple of dashes of Cointreau, (some prefer Grand Marnier, a cognac, which is sweeter. I prefer the slightly bitter taste of Cointreau). Fill the glass with Maschio Prosecco. This sparkling wine has an aroma of orange blossoms and tastes lightly of fruit, without adding extra sweetness. However you can of course substitute any brut champagne or sparkling wine.

Garnish with a wedge of Minneola and serve chilled with brunch or as a lovely afternoon surprise in the garden…

***

Fresh Minneola tangelo

Mimosa Pour Moi? Oui, Oui, Oui !

Crocus © 2010 Michaela at TGE

***

Words and Pictures copyright 2010 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 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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A Rhapsody in Blue: Selecting and Planting Vaccinium corymbosum, (Highbush Blueberry), Plus a Favorite Recipe for Blueberry-Lemon Bread…

March 31st, 2010 § 11 comments § permalink

A Rhapsody in Blue 

What would you say if I told you that I know of an amazing cold-hardy shrub, with creamy, bell-like spring flowers, glossy green leaves, brilliant fall foliage, colorful winter stems and an attractive, well-rounded form? Interested yet? It may come as a surprise that the shrub I am describing is none other than the common highbush blueberry, (Vaccinium corymbosum). Of course, the highbush blueberry is widely cultivated for its delicious fruit, but it’s often overlooked as a useful addition to ornamental gardens. Native to eastern North America, this gorgeous shrub can be found growing wild in acidic soil from central Canada all the way down to Florida, with a western range from Minnesota, south to Louisiana. Typically reaching a mature size of 8-12 feet high and wide, highbush blueberries are most commonly found in USDA zones 3-7. Although lowbush blueberries,(Vaccinium angustifolium), are also a fine and quite hardy shrub -famously grown for fruit in the state of Maine- they too are are rarely grown in ornamental gardens. This is a shame, as lowbush blueberries make a fine ground cover, producing pollinator-friendly blossoms and very sweet fruit. They also display beautiful autumn color.

If you live in a climate with lengthy cool seasons, highbush blueberries are easy to cultivate either in the vegetable garden, berry patch or mixed border. This is a relatively long-lived shrub, with few pests and diseases. When provided with the proper conditions, blueberry bushes make fantastic garden plants. Although Vaccinium corymbosum are generally trouble-free, a few growing tips will help increase berry yield and plant health…

Vaccinium corymbosum autumn color

In life, I often find that a group of diverse, mixed company creates great culture. With blueberry varieties this is especially true. When buying plants, keep in mind that for best pollination and fruit set, you should choose two different varieties of blueberry bushes that bloom at the same time. If you would like fruit throughout the season, try growing several different varieties in the same patch. When choosing plants, ask a local grower which varieties grow and produce best in your area. Some excellent early to midseason varieties include ‘Blueray’,’Duke’ and ‘Berkeley’. For later fruit try ‘Jersey Blue’ and ‘Elliot’ varieties. Again, ask your local grower for some recommendations. Remember that every variety will have a slightly different flavor.

When growing blueberries, one of the most important aspects of cultivation to consider is soil acidity. All blueberry bushes prefer a pH below 5, with an ideal range between 4.5 and 4.8. Be sure to test your soil pH with a kit. If your soil is more alkaline (even neutral is too alkaline for blueberries) you may lower the pH by adding sulfur, pine needles and/or other naturally acidic materials both to the soil and as a regular top-dressing in mulch. Blueberries are shallow-rooted plants and they require moist, but well-drained soil. Unless your garden receives at least an inch or two of rain per week, you will want to water your shrubs. The best way to keep soil moist and plants weed-free is to apply a wood chip/pine needle mulch. When planting new blueberry bushes, be sure not to plant too deeply. Keep the top of the pot level even with your existing soil, and add 1/3 peat moss to the planting mix when you backfill the dirt. Be sure to saturate the soil and peat, as well as the planting hole, with water. Do not fertilize your blueberry bushes for 2-3 months after planting. Once the plants are established, use an organic fertilizer in spring at bloom time, and again 3 weeks later while fruit is setting. Plants should not be fertilized later than this, and never in summer  or fall as the shrubs may suffer winter damage on soft wood ….

Fresh washed blueberries from the garden

In general, when grown for fruit, highbush blueberries should have 5-10′ of spacing, (depending upon variety). But if you are planting in rows, space plants 4-5′ apart in rows with 8-10′ separation. Some growers recommend removal of flowers in the first season for a better crop the second year. This is optional. No pruning is needed in the first three years, but in the fourth season, thinning may begin during dormancy, (late winter/very early spring). Remove weak branches, and any branches restricting sunlight and airflow at the center of the shrub. If fruit is your primary goal, aim for 12 healthy, strong canes per plant. The younger wood will produce the best fruit, so choose a good mix of branches, removing older sections each year.

By following these simple tips, delicious and health fruit will soon be on the way! But beware: birds love to eat blueberries too. If you grow Vaccinium corymbosum solely for ornamental value, then maybe you will leave the fruit on these shrubs for our birds to enjoy. However, if you are growing blueberries as a crop -perhaps as a hedging plant in your potager- you must cover the shrubs from the time of fruit set ’til the point of harvest. My father always used tobacco netting on his highbush blueberries, and I tend to recommend it or the modern-day equivalent, Remay. Plastic netting is hazardous to birds and other creatures, and I find Remay or tobacco netting work as well, or better.

And now, what do you say? Shall we use up some of those plump and delicious blue fruits? Oh, of course! Why not? A couple of weeks back, I featured a favorite recipe for Blueberry Hill Hotcakes and Syrup. They are scrumptious. Over the weekend, I was feeling the blues again, (maybe it was all the rain?). So I took to the kitchen. But this time around, I whipped up my favorite blueberry-lemon bread. This versatile recipe can also be used as a muffin mix, if you’re in the mood for a tasty-treat to-go. The lemony-sugar-syrup is optional, but I find it provides an extra bit of moisture and an added kiss of sweetness – plus I love the shimmery-effect on top. And although frozen blueberries work well here… there’s nothing quite like the fresh berries we will be enjoying later in the year. On a quiet weekend morning, I’m always in the mood for a rhapsody in blue…

Blueberry-Lemon-Bread-Muffins-thegardenersedenBlueberry Lemon Bread / Muffins, photo © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Blueberry-Lemon Bread with Lemon Syrup (or muffins)


Ingredients for one loaf of bread or one dozen average sized muffins:

2          cups all-purpose flour

1          teaspoon baking powder

1          teaspoon baking soda

1/4       teaspoon salt

1/4       cup sugar

2          eggs

1 1/4   cup sour cream

1/4      cup melted butter

1          tablespoon fresh lemon zest

2          cups of fresh or frozen blueberries

Lemon Syrup:

1/2      cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

1/2      cup of sugar

4          tablespoons water

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Butter one 9″ x 5″ x 3″ bread pan or two muffin tins.

To make batter: Toss flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. In a larger bowl, combine eggs, sugar, sour cream, melted butter and lemon zest and beat until well mixed. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix until just blended. Add blueberries and stir lightly to combine.

Pour the batter into the bread pan or muffin tins, (each muffin tin should be filled to 2/3 full). Bake bread for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until top is golden brown and a wooden stick comes out clean after inserted at center. If baking muffins, 15-20 minutes in the hot oven should do the trick.

To make the optional lemon syrup: combine the ingredients in a small saucepan and boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and set aside.

After removing bread or muffins from the oven, prick the top with wooden stick, (all over for bread, or in 3 or 4 places per muffin). Drizzle the lemon-syrup slowly over the surface. Allow the lemon-bread or muffins to cool for 10 or 15 minutes before slicing or removing from the tins.

Serve warm with Earl Grey tea and fresh blueberries if they are in season. If you skip the syrup, the muffins also taste great with a bit of butter and honey.

Mixy, mixy…

 For further inspiration, there’s always…

Gershwin: Rhapsody In Blue/An American In Paris

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

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How To Describe the Beautiful Scent of Bodnant Viburnum ‘Dawn’ ?

March 27th, 2010 § 6 comments § permalink

Anticipation! Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ – buds swollen in cold spring rain…

I have always found it a bit frustrating that -at least in English- fragrances don’t have names of their own. Have you noticed? When we describe smells, we use similes, (smells like…), or we borrow other words, because scents have none. Often we use flavors -which have their own definitions- like “sweet” and “sour”, or “spicy” and “tart”. Sometimes we employ tactile and visual comparisons, like “soft”, “sharp” and “delicate”, or when we describe a scent, we lean on other adjectives such as “fresh”, “rotten”, “pungent”, or “beautiful”. Why are there so few words to exclusively define scents? I can’t even think of one! Can you? In fact the more unique a scent is, the harder this task becomes…

Spring rain drops shimmer like diamonds on V. bodnantense ‘Dawn’..

These thoughts occurred to me today as I paused to admire the swollen buds on my beloved Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’. It seems that her velvety, cerise petals will begin unfolding any moment now, and the anticipation is driving me crazy. I stood outside in the cold air for a long time this morning, wondering how to describe this beautiful fragrance to you. How? Words fail me, and there is no “scent” button on my laptop to transmit the odor. Clove-like with a hint of sweet berries and and musk? Hmm… it’s better than that. Pink? How can something smell pink? Yet it’s true – this blossom actually does smell pink to me. The scent is feminine and familiar, yet hauntingly, almost maddeningly elusive. It smells like a memory; something from childhood; something you know and long for, but can barely remember; something you can almost visualize, but can’t quite pull into focus; something you ache and reach for, but can’t quite touch…

Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’, within hours of opening…

Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ in winter – buds encased in icy globes…

The bodnant viburnum is a gorgeous shrub, not so much because of its form -it can be quite coarse and should be softened with other plantings- but because of its beautiful foliage and flowers. One of the first, and most fragrant flowering shrubs to bloom in my garden, Dawn’s ice-coated buds often glow bright pink in winter – even on the darkest days. On a warm January afternoon, this shrub’s magical buds dangle like glassy-globe ornaments from snow-covered branches at the Secret Garden entry. It’s possible, with even the slightest bit of imagination, to gaze into those crystal-blossom-balls and see the future – a beautiful springtime just around the corner. Impatient by nature, I often cheat a bit and force cut branches of V. bodantense ‘Dawn’ in late winter…

Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’, foliage in autumn, here paired with golden Lindera benzoin, (spice bush)

I’ve certainly waxed poetic enough about this viburnum’s delicious blossoms – but there is more. In autumn, the brilliant foliage of ‘Dawn’ slowly morphs from bright-red maraschino to dark-cherry-fizz; glorious in combination with golden spice bush and technicolor witch alder. Although this plant can be gangly and awkward in adolescence, (aren’t we all?), with proper pruning it will achieve an attractive and shapely mature form. Climate and growing conditions will influence overall size of course, (V. bondnantense is hardy in USDA zones 5-9), but at maturity, something in the neighborhood of 8-10′ high and wide can be expected from this shrub, (my zone 4/5 specimen has grown to 8′ in as many years). Position this treasure where you will pass her frequently in the early days of springtime, and I imagine you too will stop and wonder why we have never created specific words for scents…

Forced branches of Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’…

How I wish it could be click-and-sniff…

***

Article and photographs copyright 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 express written consent. Inspired by something you see here? 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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The Sorceress of Springtime: Spellbinding Witch Hazel ‘Diane’…

March 23rd, 2010 § 11 comments § permalink

Hamamelis x intermedia, ‘Diane’ blooms mid March in my garden. Photograph © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Today’s grey clouds ushered in the first spring rain, and with it, the slightest breeze from the south. It’s still quite chilly, but every morning I am drawn outside by the promise of chartreuse-green bulb-tips, glowing as they break ground. Distracted by emerging snowdrops as I meandered down the walkway, suddenly I stopped; halted in my tracks by the sweetly scented air. Springtime’s sorceress, witch hazel ‘Diane’, beckoned from the edge of the path. Like magic, I was drawn in, enchanted by her fragrance. Up close, hundreds of ruby to copper hued blossoms explode like tiny fireworks in the dim light. This crafty witch is a relatively new addition to my garden, and she is a real show-stopper; lighting up the dull, barren landscape.

When it comes to performance-art in the garden, ‘Diane’ is proving to be a true A-lister. Fragrance; color; elegant form: what more could you possibly ask for in a first act? But there’s so much more. This spectacular, sensory display is only half of her magic-show. Later in the year, ‘Diane’ takes the stage again, pulling out her fine autumn cloak and dazzling late into the season with brilliant, technicolor foliage. I am giving her a five star review, and if you love early reds and sweet, honey-scented fragrance as much as I do, then I know you will fall in love with her too.

Hamamelis x intermedia, ‘Diane’, (hardy from USDA zone 5a-9b), has proven herself here at the northern edge of her hardiness range, (USDA zone 4/5 with a wicked, windy exposure). A large shrub or small tree 8-12′ high with a similar spread, this early blooming witch hazel prefers moist, acidic soil and moderate sun to light shade. ‘Diane’ responds well to artful pruning and combines well with other woody plants and perennials. She is a knock-out with spring ephemerals such as winter aconite, (Eranthis hyemalis), early blooming narcissus, and snowdrops, (Galanthus). Brilliant late season pairings might include blue asters, violet-hued monkshood, (Aconitum), and chocolatey-colored Joe-Pye weed, (Eupatorium). Or perhaps you might match her up with autumn fern ‘Brilliance’, (Dyopteris erythrosora), and in a wild-garden, the hayscented fern, (Dennstaedtia punctilobulua), forms a beautiful golden carpet at her feet after the first frost.

Welcome sweet witches of springtime…

Hamamelis x intermedia, ‘Diane’ in March. Photograph © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’, autumn color varies from mixed orange hues..

to brilliant scarlet, on the same plant, (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’) Photographs © 2009, Michaela at TGE

***

Article and photographs copyright 2010, 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 in any way without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? 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, Soft Harbinger of Spring: Oh Come to Me, My Sweet Willow…

March 19th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Salix discolor: North American native pussy willow © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Salix discolor, North American native pussy willow – Pitcher by Aletha Soulé. Photo © Michaela 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 in March? I should probably install a blinking sign on the back of my vehicle; “Warning: I break for pussy willow”. Yes, it’s true. I am quite the springtime roadside hazard. Fortunately, the mud-slicked trails I travel in search of Salix discolor, (as our North American native pussywillow is formally called), are usually avoided by traffic at this time of year. Yesterday afternoon, after a bit of swampy adventure, I returned home with a flush in my cheeks and armfuls of downy-budded branches. I love the beautiful, soft texture and the sculptural quality of pussy willow arrangements.

Salix discolor is a North American native shrub or small, understory tree, (5-15′ tall and perhaps 8′ wide). Often found beside brooks and forest streams, or in low-lying thickets and 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 have been carefully harvesting where shrubs are plentiful, and making clean cuts with my Felco pruners.

Pussy willow are easy to propagate from 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. 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. Remember, these native shrubs are fantastic cover for small birds in the garden too. 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. Plant Salix discolor in a garden low spot, where it will catch spring run-off and moisture throughout the seasons…

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

Salix discolor – vase by Aletha Soulé. Photo © Michaela at TGE

***

Article and photographs copyright 2010, 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. Inspired by something you see here? 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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Bringing Nature’s Beauty Indoors: Force Early Blooming Branches for a Bit of Springtime on a Winter Day…

January 21st, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

Forced Blossoms – Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’

An Early Whiff of Spring

Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’,  forced in a turquoise vase…

What a gift! A beautifully warm, clear, blue-sky day in midwinter. I am itching to pull on my boots and go play. The frost coated snow drifts outside sparkle and tempt like cream-puffs with sugar icing. I have so much mid-winter pruning to do. This week, I will begin with my own garden, and next I will move on to a few others in my care. One of my favorite parts of midwinter pruning is the left-overs. Oh how I adore all of the gnarly, crooked branches loaded with swollen buds: pink apple blossoms; vibrant purple redbud; intoxicatingly fragrant vernal witch hazel; and my favorite, the spicy-seductive bodnant viburnum. My cellar is already loaded with branches, and I am greedy for more, more, more!

So, out come the hand pruners, the bow and folding saws, the oil can and whetstone. This is prime-time for thinning and shaping the branches of deciduous fruit and ornamental trees. If there is any garden task I truly adore, (and I am passionate about many!), it is pruning. I love the art of sculpting living things and I am eager to get outdoors after so many weeks of cold weather. One of my clients has nick-named me Edwina Scissorhands. It’s no joke. Edward and I have a lot in common. I frequently write about pruning and last year I presented my first seminars on the subject. You can read last year’s essay and notes on pruning basics by clicking through here…

Of course, you needn’t be an obsessive pruner to enjoy forcing blossoms. All you need is a pair of sharp, clean by-pass pruners and a spring-blooming tree or shrub, (see some good candidates below). This is the perfect time to harvest yourself a little bit of May in January. Now, because I am a professional gardner, I am going to emphasize that you must do this correctly, especially if you are working in your garden, (remember never take too many branches from any one specimen!). But even if you are harvesting wild pussy willow in an abandoned lot, think of this as an opportunity to learn or practice an important horticultural skill. Have a good look at the branch that you are about to cut before you snip, snip. Do you know what it is? Try to id your branch before you cut. Are the twigs or buds lined up opposite one another on the branch, or are they alternating like a pole ladder? If they are opposite, cut straight across the branch, ( about 1/4 inch or so), just above the pair of buds beneath the length of branch you are cutting, (not too close or you may injure the buds, not too far away or the stem will die-back leaving an unsightly stub). If you are cutting from a specimen with alternating buds, cut at a shallow angle, sloping away from the bud, (this is for shedding water, to prevent rot of the bud ). If you are intimidated, just go on out and practice on some scrub or brambles first, then move on to more desirable plants. This is fun – trust me …

If you have never forced branches before, be on the look out for swollen buds on warm January days. Sweet-scented witch hazel, early blooming viburnum and forsythia are all great choices for forcing. Crab apples and other ornamental fruit trees are very popular with florists, but you may also want to try quince, azalea, redbud, juneberry, magnolia, and of course, fuzzy pussy-willow. Leave the lilacs and summer bloomers alone, (you want small flowered, early blooming shrubs like plum, for example, with full, swollen buds), and remember that you will get better results if you harvest on an above-freezing day, (the work is also more pleasant this way!).

Once you harvest your branches, bring them inside and pound the stems with a mallet or hammer, (see picture below). Not only is this kind-of fun, but it’s also important to help the branch with water uptake. Collect the branches in a bucket of slightly cool – room temperature water, and place them in a cool room with low light or, ideally, a cellar. After a few days, bring out a few branches at a time, and arrange them in vases filled with water. Once moved to warmer rooms, the buds will swell and the petals will slowly unfurl. This is such a beautiful process, and if you keep your house on the cool-side, you can prolong the show. If you change the vase water every few days, many forced flowering branches will last a month or longer. Adding a bit, (just a teaspoon per gallon), of environmentally safe bleach-substitute will keep the water fresh and also aid in extending the life of the blossoms…

Pounding woody stems helps with water uptake in the blossoming branches

Felco 6 by-pass pruners for small hands

How lovely to enjoy the beauty of two seasons in one! I wish you should smell the bodnant viburnum blossoms in my kitchen. I wonder if there will ever be a way to transmit fragrance via the internet? Only the good smells, of course! Well, I am off to harvest more branches now. I will meet you back here soon…

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Article and photographs copyright 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 express, written consent. Please contact me before using images or text excerpts from this site. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Thank you!

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On a Cold, Wet November Morning the Red Twigs of Tartarian Dogwood are Still Burning Bright…

November 24th, 2009 § Comments Off on On a Cold, Wet November Morning the Red Twigs of Tartarian Dogwood are Still Burning Bright… § permalink

red twig dogwood

Tartarian dogwood, (Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’), at Ferncliff in November…

There’s nothing like a dose of brilliant scarlet color to lift the spirits in dreary weather! On this damp, grey November morning, the twigs of Tartarian dogwood glow like red-hot embers in a bonfire. Isn’t it spectacular? Nature can be quite the artiste! This glorious woody shrub grows wild from Eastern Russia to North Korea and Northeast China. Here in North America, Tartarian dogwood is a well-mannered introduced species, hardy in USDA zones 2 – 7. Best massed for color-effect, each shrub will grow approximately 10′ high and wide. Although I occasionally use a single red twig dogwood in a small garden design, I prefer to see this beauty grouped, (as shown above), for a naturalized look.

Tartarian dogwood, (Cornus alba), is a close relative of our native Redosier dogwood, (Cornus sericea), and although they are difficult to distinguish, (even for trained horticulturalists), in this case I prefer the non-native species to our own. My favorite Russian native, pictured here, (Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’), tends to be more upright in habit than our native red twig dogwood, and to my eye, it is a bit brighter in stem color. The rounded form of the shrub is very attractive in summer, forming a natural looking, verdant backdrop for other plantings. In autumn, Tartarian dogwood holds its burgundy foliage until late fall. And when the leaves drop in late October, the stems shine brilliantly in the gloomy landscape. But this beautiful show is only just beginning! Come winter, the red twigs will make a stunning display against a backdrop of snow white. I like to cut about 1/3 of the stems to the ground in early spring, in order to encourage new woody growth. The younger stems shine brightest in the landscape…

red twig dogwood ll, march 19, 2009

Tartarian dogwood, (Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’), at Ferncliff in March…

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

Please do not take, use or reproduce my photographs or words without contacting me for permission.

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

Thank you !

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Must be the Season of the Witch Alder : The Spellbinding Late Autumn Color of Fothergilla…

November 16th, 2009 § 4 comments § permalink

Fothergilla gardenii by the wall in NovemberWitch Alder, (Fothergilla major, ‘Mt. Airy’), in the sunny entry garden in mid November; luminous against the Secret Garden wall…

Oh, would you look at this beauty. Look at the magical, bright orange and yellow color, glowing in the grey November light. Is it any wonder they named her Witch Alder? She’s completely enchanting. All around her, the other shrubs have lost their foliage; standing naked in the garden. But in the last weeks of October, Witch Alder just begins to cast her autumn spell. From Halloween right on through Thanksgiving – I like to celebrate the season of this witch.

North American native Witch Alder, (Fothergilla major and Fothergilla gardenii), is one of the first shrubs to bloom come springtime, and one of the last to drop its leaves in late fall. Not only is she beautiful, but Witch-alder also provides a rich source of early-season nectar for bees and other insects; all held within pretty, bottle-brush, green-white blooms. Hardy in USDA zones 4-9, Witch-alder prefers moist but well drained soil, and performs best in sun to light shade. Dwarf Witch-alder, (Fothergilla gardenii), is an excellent small-scale garden shrub, reaching a height of 3-6 feet and a similar width. There is a beautiful, moody cultivar called ‘Blue mist’ that I saw for the first time, a few years back, in a friend’s garden. I was envious then, and I am still longing to add her to my garden. Large Witch Alder can reach 15 feet tall and 6 feet wide in ideal conditions, but the largest specimen I have seen here at the northern edge of the hardiness range was about half that size. I have a number of witches in my garden, (including the closely related Witch Hazel), and one of my favorites for autumn color the intermediate sized Witch Alder hybrid known as ‘Mt. Airy’, (shown here as noted).

So although they have the fake, fluffy snow and blinking Christmas decorations decking the halls at the Home Depot, I am choosing to ignore all that for now. It’s November, after all. There is so much to enjoy in the late autumn garden – why rush? My, it’s downright hypnotic out there on a warm, sunny day. Slow down and delight in all of this season’s magic and wonder. And don’t forget – it’s still the season of the witch…

Fothergilla leafThe technicolor foliage of Witch Alder, (Fothergilla major, ‘Mt. Airy’),  in early November…

Fothergilla gardenii inside the secret garden in NovemberDwarf Witch Alder (Fothergilla gardenii) in mid November, planted in a shady location inside the Secret Garden – note the difference in size and fall foliage color between cultivars…

Red twig dogwood, fothergilla, miscanthus, sedum, etc...Native Witch Alder, (Fothergilla major ‘Mt. Airy’) in a mixed border of shrubs planted for season-spanning bloom, color and texture…

fothergilla gardenii, early springWitch Alder (Fothergilla major ‘Mt. Airy’) provides early spring bloom in the entry garden

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Article and photographs copyright 2009, 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 express permission. Inspired by something you see here? 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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Late Autumn Texture Studies, Part Two: Plants that Play with Low Light…

November 2nd, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

Morning Light at the edge of the forest

The native forest on an early November morning…

Native Beech in Morning Light, October

The light of late autumn is pure poetry – bathing the forest in bronze radiance. In the early morning fog, dark, vertical tree trunks move in and out of focus; playing off the back-light and textural forest tapestry. A walk through the woods reveals stunning seasonal change – November has arrived.

As foliage falls away, stripping bare garden bones, structure is revealed. Now, skeletal elements of the garden begin to take center stage, delighting the observant with geometric shapes, abstract forms and patterns. There is a melancholy beauty amid all the decay, enhanced by the dwindling hours of daylight. When the November wind picks up, long shadows dance across the lawn, and bleached grasses sway in the sun’s low, sparkling rays. This is a different garden now – a landscape filled with dry, empty pods, bleached stalks and grasses, bare branches, dark silhouettes and flickering light…

Artemesia 'silver mound'

Dried, lacy flower heads of Artemisia schmidtiana, ‘Silvermound’, set against a shimmering backdrop of Fothergilla gardenii foliage in the morning light…

butterfly weed pod

The cracked paper-pods of Asclepias tuberosa, (Butterfly weed), open to reveal feathery white seeds – a delicate and fleeting textural contrast…

dried ornamental mentha

Remnants of Nepeta siberica ‘Souvenir D’Andre Chaudron’, stand stark and bristly, picked clean by greedy finches…

Miscanthus purpurascens in the last days of October

Tawny Miscanthus purpurascens catches the morning light on the first day of November

Taking my cue from the natural world, I like to design gardens in layers. The bones of the garden, (trees, shrubs, stonework), support a constantly changing wardrobe of foliage throughout the seasons. As winter approaches, the underlying framework of the garden begins to appear. Now, horizontal branches and vertical trunks really stand out in the landscape. Trees and shrubs, especially those chosen for their colorful twigs, stems and exfoliating bark, hold the garden together as the ephemeral elements fade away.

The entry garden, dividing the car-park from my home, (pictured below), was designed with naturalistic, season-spanning interest in mind. Throughout the growing season, red-twig dogwood, (Cornus alba ‘Siberica’), provides a pleasant, but unobtrusive green back-drop for three seasons of perennial display. Come autumn, the foliage of this shrub slowly morphs from orange-red to rust, holding until late October. Finally, when the leaves drop, the surprising beauty of this dogwood is revealed. Now, brilliant red bark glows from behind the flame-grass and the late-season color of Fothergilla gardenii. Suddenly, what was an unremarkable background shrub has become a key player in a dramatic vignette. This luminous, red screen of dogwood emphasizes the textural beauty of ornamental grass, drying sedum and the needle-like foliage of golden amsonia…

Red twig dogwood, fothergilla, miscanthus, sedum, etc...

Clockwise from left: Miscanthus purpurascens, Cornus alba ‘Siberica’, Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’, Fothergilla gardenii, Amsonia hubrichtii, Sedum ‘Matrona’

Although some trees, (such as the Japanese maple, ‘Seiryu’, below), continue to offer stunning foliage-effects in late autumn, their more important, structural roles will be revealed in the coming months. Japanese maple in particular is highly valued for its beautiful, architectural form. In my garden, the Blue Green Dragon’s arching limbs and delicate branches gracefully play with light and shadow. For now the dark silhouette of this tree contrasts with its luminous foliage. Later, bare twigs will catch raindrops and dusty, white snow. Throughout the year, the striped bark and elegant shape of this magnificent tree adds tremendously to my garden…

Acer palmatum x dissectum 'Seiryu' backlit foliage

Acer palmatum x dissectum 'Seiryu'

Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’, is positioned to take advantage of the stained glass effect, seen when late-season sunshine backlights her orange foliage, and silhouettes her sinewy branches..

Ornamental grasses and other textural plants play a key role in the late-season garden as well, holding interest as flowers pass and foliage withers away. Planted in large groups, stands of flame, porcupine and maiden grass are stunning at this time of the year. The tufts of ornamental grass, called inflorescence, expand and puff up as they cast their seed. These ‘flowers’ make for a brilliant sunlit display, and also provide a rough surface for catching frost, snow and frozen rain drops later. Two of my favorite fall plants, wild-oats, (Chasmanthium latifolium) and blue-star, (Amsonia hubrichtii), continue to add autumnal beauty to the garden throughout November.

I will be back soon with more notes and images gathered from the late-season garden. Until then, here is a bit of what I am enjoying as the season continues to change…

Amsonia in afternoon light

Amsonia hubrichitii glows orange-gold in the low light

'Heavy Metal' in November

Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy metal’ in November…

Miscanthus sinensis

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Strictus’ with Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’, standing seed pods and dried flowers…

miscanthus sinensis against sky

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Strictus’ plays with November light…

oat grass with blue sky in meadow

Chasmanthium latifolium, Wild-Oats…

Miscanthus purpurascens tassel

Miscanthus purpurascens inflorescence

milkweed

Asclepias tuberosa, butterfly weed

miscanthus inflorescens

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ inflorescence

Miscanthus purpurascens

Misccanthus sinensis ‘Strictus’, Porcupine Grass

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Article and photographs copyright 2009, 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 express written consent. Inspired by something you see here? 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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Late Autumn Texture Studies, Part One: Plants Sparkling with Sugary Frost…

October 26th, 2009 § 4 comments § permalink

Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’ – Sweet Treat of the Sugar Plum Fairy…

Jack Frost and the Sugar Plum Fairy had a party in my garden the other night.     I wasn’t invited. But my naughty guests did leave behind plenty of outrageous evidence and a few party favors. In the morning I awoke to find powdered-sugar puffs, candied flower petals, jimmie-sprinkled leaves, fruity rock candy and other champagne-sprayed remnants from their chilly midnight ball. It seems that I missed quite the soiree. Everywhere, just everywhere – glittery bits of lace and satin laid strewn about the walkways and flower beds. As I wandered through the empty garden rooms, scantily-clad branches shamelessly greeted sunrise – all flaunting sheer, sparkling robes. Why, even the walls and cars were dotted by crystal-confetti and draped with jewel-encrusted sashes.

Shocked? You shouldn’t be. This happens every year – sometimes without warning. I’m sure Mr. Frost and and his cool band of gypsies have traipsed through your neighborhood at one time or another. Jack and his lady-friend Sugar really get around, especially at this time of year. While it’s true that I once despised these uninvited hedonists, (blind, all I could see was the mess and the waste), I slowly came to my senses. Who am I to spoil the fun? So I casually began to set the stage for their late-night romp and revelry, waiting for a response. I filled my garden with soft pillows of downy foliage and feathery decorations, paying close attention to texture and detail. Jack is fond of lace and velvet, and Sugar seems to have a thing for candy colored decor. I noticed by the first autumn that they were paying attention to my newfound efforts. My late-night guests left me a beautiful thank you note in a sparkling envelope of glitter.

Jack Frost and the Sugar Plum Fairy have really grown on me. These days I find myself anticipating their arrival. Although I have never seen their chilly white fingers and toes as they dance about caressing my garden, evidence of their gratitude grows each year. Living vicariously through abandoned voile and tulle, I edge my pathways with velveteen lambs ears and lady’s mantle, taking care to carpet the garden floor with wooly thyme and delicate moss. Screens of ornamental grass seem particularly popular during these freezing midnight balls, as do the dried-flower arrangements I always leave standing as a welcome. I have noticed that Sugar is especially fond of plum colored sedum, purply coral bells and richly colored berries. Of course Jack Frost charms all the ladies in my garden, both the smooth and the more rough-around the edges. But he seems to spend most of his time with the the fashionistas – The Bells of Ireland, Liatris, Black-eyed Susan, and of course Queen Anne and her lace.

Yes it’s true – I am still just the party planner. No one has requested my RSVP. Jack and Sugar seem more than content with our anonymous arrangements. But how can I complain? For now I drift to sleep on frigid autumn nights, snug with sweet dreams of their wild comings and goings –  fantasizing about what I will find with the sunrise…

Below you may find some inspiration for your own late-night party decor – and there’s plenty more to come…

Alchemilla mollis, (Lady’s mantle), is always a hit with Jack and Sugar

Heuchera micrantha var. diversifolia ‘Palace Purple’  looks a bit like a sugar plum herself

Rudbeckia hirta obviously did some dancing at the late night hoar frost this October

Alchemilla mollis – Lady’s mantle leaf-edge, here enhanced with cold crystals

Heuchera ‘Green Spice’, kissed by the Sugar Plum Fairy

Ajuga reptans ‘Brocade’ with a smattering of sugar jimmies

Acer griseum – Paperbark maple leaf with delicate ice crystals

Juniperus procumbens ‘Nana’, (Japanese dwarf garden juniper), lured Jack in with her texture

A warm honey Beech leaf glistens in early light on the morning after the first hard freeze

In the soft morning light, Lupine seedlings shine like misplaced rhinestone pins

Rudbeckia hirta after a late-night rendezvous with Mr. Frost

Allegheny spurge leaves, (Pachysandra procumbens), glisten like salted caramels after the party

Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurascens’  – Sage with an icy crust

Thymus pseudolanuginosus –  a carpet of wooly thyme, sugared with sweetness

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Article & Photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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Autumn Brilliance Part Three: Plant Partners for the Late Show and Early Winter Marquee…

October 23rd, 2009 § Comments Off on Autumn Brilliance Part Three: Plant Partners for the Late Show and Early Winter Marquee… § permalink

Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’ in late October

By late October, much of the foliage in the forest surrounding my garden has passed its peak. Although the woods are still basking in the glow of golden birch and poplar, lemony striped maple, rusty red oak and amber colored beech –  the vibrant orange and red maple leaves are now carpeting the woodland paths, where they rustle in the wind and crunch beneath my feet. Walks through the forest in late autumn are a fragrant affair; scented with musky dampness and memories. There is a beautiful sadness in the woods at this time of year – a melancholy enhanced by frequently-foggy mornings and low-lit afternoons…

Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’ foliage in late October

In my garden, most flowers vanished with the recent hard frost – but the ornamental fruit and foliage, stars of autumn’s late-show, are still going strong. Now through mid November, the leading role belongs to my favorite tree, Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’. This Japanese maple, commonly known as ‘The Blue-Green Dragon’, (currently the only upright dissected-leaf cultivar), is planted at the bottom edge of a slope near my studio where it arches over the Secret Garden door. The Blue-Green Dragon is prized for its lacy, delicately cut foliage and its late season color. A true chameleon, this dragon changes from sea-green to golden chartreuse before lighting a brilliant blaze of orange. Finally, in mid November, the dragon’s heat simmers down to a coppery hue as her leaves slowly drop to the hidden walkway below. Nearby, Daphne x burkwoodii, ‘Carol Mackie’, has begun her own transformation; morphing from variegated green and white to a citrusy blend of lemon yellow, sweet orange and sour lime. The contrast between these two plants is particularly stunning in the last week of October and the first few days of November. Closer to ground-level, Bergenia ‘Bressingham Ruby’, planted at the foot of the entry wall to the Secret Garden, shines like a candy apple. Glossy green and elegant during the summer months, by late autumn Bergenia’s foliage has shifted hues from green to orange to cherry red – until finally settling on the ruby-wine color she will hold throughout the early winter months….

Bergenia ‘Bressingham Ruby’

Secret Garden door in October

Further along the garden path, nestled into the nooks and crannies between ledgy outcrops bordering the main garden entrance, Calluna and Erica have begun to turn up their heat just as temperatures here dip below freezing. Calluna vulgaris ‘Multicolor’ has shifted to a shocking shade of vermillion, emphasized by the contrasting blue-tinted foliage of nearby Calluna vulgaris ‘Silver Knight’ and Juniperous horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’. Tiny lavender blossoms continue to flush the tips of the ‘Silver Knight’ heather, in spite of the cold – I gather them up in tiny bouquets for my kitchen table.

Ground covering woody plants, such as Calluna, Erica, Stephanadra, and Cotoneaster, offer vibrant late season color that combines well with with a wide variety of evergreens. Some of my favorites include juniper, (of all sizes and habits), Siberian cypress, (Microbiota), hemlock, (Tsuga), spruce, (Abies) and yew (Taxus). Blue-green masses of foliage and bronzing needle tips provide a soothing foreground or lush, calm backdrop for the more intense, late -autumnal hues in perennial and shrub borders…

Calluna vulgaris ‘Multicolor’ and ‘Silver Knight’, planted with Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’, (Blue rug), along the ledgy walkway at Ferncliff…

Calluna vulgaris ‘Multicolor’, forms a blazing carpet against the gray ledge in late October…

Juniperus squamata ‘Holger’, along the Secret Garden steps in October

Stephanandra incisa ‘Crispa’ glows golden-orange against the gray stone wall steps in late October

Stephanandra incisa and Juniperus Pfitzeriana ‘Aurea’ make a beautiful autumn pairing…

Of course fruiting shrubs and trees play an important role in my garden at this time of year and throughout the winter months. Yes, I fully admit to an obsession with colored berries. I collect and treasure fruiting shrubs for their shimmering, confetti-dot effect. While these plants are a feast for the eyes as winter draws near and color grows scarce, more importantly, their berries provide natural food for birds including the finch, cedar wax wings, cardinals and many others. As mentioned in my previous posts, (Autumn Brilliance Part One and also Autumn Brilliance Part Two), Callicarpa dichotoma and Viburnum, including the black-fruited V. carlesii, (Korean spice viburnum), provide berries for many of my feathered friends. As late fall shifts to early winter, other fruiting plants, such as Cotoneaster, begin to stand out in the garden. Ground-hugging Cotoneaster is a great partner for stonewalls, particularly in late autumn, when the bright red fruit and rusty foliage radiates in vibrant contrast to the rock’s cool, gray surface. I like to combine horizontal juniper cultivars with Cotoneaster, allowing both to trail down the side of retaining walls. Bright blue juniper berries sparkle on frosty mornings until they are devoured by hungry chipmunks and song sparrows. Ilex verticillata ‘Red sprite, a long-standing winter favorite, is just beginning its show-stopping performance. This mass of winterberry in my entry garden never fails to lift my spirits during the cold, raw days of late November. In the foreground, blue-tinted Juniperus chinensis ‘Sargentii’ enhances the orange-red brilliance of the berries and the beautiful gray-tones of Dan Snow’s stone wall rise up from behind. When snow finally dusts the winterberry branches, the red fruits float like cherries in a bowl of cream…

Ilex verticillata, and Juniper Sargent in October

Ilex verticillata ‘Red sprite’ with Juniperus chinensis ‘Sargentii’ in late October

Ilex verticillata 'Red sprite' close-up

Ilex verticillata ‘Red sprite’ with Juniperus chinensis ‘Sargentti’ in late October

Juniperus squamata ‘Holger’ and Thymus

Cotoneaster dammeri ‘Eichholz’s, leaves turn burgundy red after the hard frost in October

This Juniperus horizontalis provides blue berries in addition to sea green foliage

Viburnum carlesii, (Korean Spice Viburnum), provides late autumn foliage and black fruit. A small sized shrub, (3′ x 3′), Korean Spice Viburnum is generous with her fragrant flowers in spring…

Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Issai’, shown in an earlier post with golden foliage, is pictured after the hard frost in late October- looking even more magical than before…

Rich brown and subtle bronze tones also begin to appear in the late season, creating opportunities for harmonious pairings with brightly colored foliage and fruit. The cobalt violet hue of Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Issai’ berries, (above), seems even brighter once the shrub’s foliage turns a warm copper brown. Likewise, Microbiota decussata, (Siberian cypress), slowly burnishes from forest green to warm bronze as temperatures dip, playing beautifully against the orange-chartreuse tones of nearby moss and the pyrotechnic-color display of Enkianthus campanulatus ‘Red Bells’, planted at the corner of the walkway…

Microbiota, Thyme, Moss, Path to Northwest meadow in autumn

Microbiota decussata, (Siberian cypress), with Thyme and Moss on the path to the Northwest meadow in October…

Enkianthus companulatus ‘Red Bells’, in October

Microbiota decussata, autumn color close-up

Northwest path to the meadow with a view of amber colored beech in the distance

Although most of the flowers in my garden have faded away, some, such as Geranium ‘Brookside’, continue to surprise me past the first few frosts. When a fuchsia veined, blue-violet bloom appears amid the bright orange and yellow leaves of this gorgeous cranesbill, it can light up a gray October day almost as brightly as the sun. Placed near the golden autumn foliage of Amsonia illustris‘, this plant can easily stop me in my tracks with or without her stunning flowers. The dark hues of Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’ foliage, (or P. opulifolius ‘Summer wine’, or ‘Coppertinia’), pair nicely with these brighter plants, as do many ornamental grasses, dark violet colored sedum and verdigris tinted juniper…

Geranium ‘Brookside’ foliage turns brilliant orange and scarlet. and continues to produce violet blue blossoms with fuscia veins well past the hard frost…

Amsonia illustris, in the entry walk – golden autumn color enhanced by the late frost and nearby orange-hued ornamental grasses in October

Physocarpus 'Diablo' color variation 2

Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’ foliage color, varies from deep oxblood red…

Physocarpus 'Diablo' color variation

to burnished amber…

May the colors of late autumn lift your spirits and encourage you to venture out into the garden with an eye toward extending the season. With a bit of effort and planning, almost any patch of earth can provide a season-spanning garden, filled with color and texture throughout the year. I will meet you back here in just a bit, with more design inspiration for the coming months…

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

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the sole property of The Gardner’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express, written consent. Inspired by something you see here? 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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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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