Flickering Like Flames: Scarlet Red, Brilliant Orange & Burnished Gold … Early Signs of Change in the Garden…

September 14th, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

The bold vermillion of late summer: Rosa rugosa’s bright and beautiful hips

Cobalt-Violet Annual Asters Fill Beds Planned for Cutting in the Potager…

This morning, I watched as a flock of sparrows splashed joyfully in a tiny pool on the stone terrace. Showers passed through the area yesterday afternoon and evening; refreshing the garden and leaving behind a temporary bird bath for my winged-guests. Every day now, when I look out the window, I notice more and more traces of red and gold in the meadow and along the distant hillside. Changes are evident in both the flora and the local fauna. The seasonal shift has started a bit early here; caused, perhaps, by unusually hot and dry conditions this summer. The natural world is changing rapidly now; heralding the arrival of a new season.

Trees and shrubs planted in shallow soil along the northwestern corner of the garden are already beginning to shift hues. Red leaves outnumber green this week on one ‘Shasta’ viburnum (V. plicatum var. tomentosum) in particular, and the tea viburnum (V. setigerum ) is loaded with Chinese-orange berries. The viburnum genus includes many species with fantastic autumn color —both in terms of foliage and fruit— and planting them in and amongst perennials is a great way to add late season pizazz to a garden.  It’s no secret that these are my favorite shrubs. Not only are common and rare species and cultivars of the genus planted everywhere in my garden —and in almost every garden I design for others— but I post viburnum photos on this blog and talk and write about them constantly. Two lovely swing-season plants, among the many possible options to use when designing a garden around viburnum, are asters and ornamental grass. ‘Raydon’s Favorite’ asters bloom here every September and October in the most exquisite shade of blue imaginable; like the sky itself on an early autumn day. These flowers are beloved by bees and butterflies, especially in the latter half of the year, as natural sources of food begin to grow more scarce. Beautiful in the vase as well as in the garden, annual asters —packets of seed sprinkled about the flower beds in early spring— are an easy way to add bold color and vary the seasonal tapestry in a mixed border. And I also like to use mound-shaped ornamental grasses, with their soft textures and varied hues —particularly the pennisetums— to add a softness and grace at the foot of leggier viburnums, such as the tea (V. setigerum) and bodnant (V. bodnantense)…

Viburnum plicatum tomentosum ‘Shasta’

Aster oblongifolium ‘Raydon’s Favorite’ Pulls the September Sky Down to Earth…

The Gorgeous Chinese-Orange Berries of Tea Viburnum ( V. setigerum )

I find it impossible to pass by Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ without running my fingers through her downy tufts. They remind me a bit of another local resident…

Red Fox – Meadow’s Edge at Ferncliff

Wild Turkey – Forest Boundary at Ferncliff

Sparrows Splashing on a Terrace at Ferncliff

A Passing Shower Provides Temporary, Late Summer Bathing for Birds

***

Article and photos are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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

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Glorious, Late Summer Garden Design: Combinations Featuring Light-Catching Texture and Bold, Contrasting Color…

September 8th, 2010 § Comments Off on Glorious, Late Summer Garden Design: Combinations Featuring Light-Catching Texture and Bold, Contrasting Color… § permalink

Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’ and ‘Matrona’, stunning in combination here at Ferncliff with bluish hues, such as the Juniperus chinensis, sargentii glauca (shown above) and later, with the tawny tufts of Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ (also pictured above, prior to inflorescence)

It’s early September, and the garden has only just begun to glow with a warm, bronzy radiance. Late summer’s golden, honey-tones and rich, violet hues sing in combination with dusty blue conifers and turquoise-tinted foliage. Some of my late-season favorites, particularly the delightful toad lily, ‘Dark-beauty’ Tricyrtis formosana, (read about my obsessive-love here), and velvety-violet monkshood (Aconitum charmichaelii ‘Arendsii‘), are never more beautiful than when combined with orange and yellow wisps and needles. And the richly colored hues of early autumn sedum —especially exquisite plum and magenta saturated cultivars like ‘Matrona’ and ‘Purple Emperor’— are stunning when settled into a garden filled with shocking blue fescue or a back-drop of icy-colored conifers. Oh, such delicious, painterly possibilities! The summer-to-autumn transition is a colorists delight…

Tricyrtis formosana ‘Dark Beauty’ photographed here at Ferncliff, with Ucinia egmontiana ‘Orange Hook Sedge’

Monkshood (Aconitum napellus or charmichaelii ‘Arendsii’)  is stunning backed by gold. Consider planting it in front of spicebush (Lindera benzoin). Monkshood is available widely through nurseries and online from retailers including Stork Road Farm (image above) – Gorgeous in combination with shrubs and perennials that turn red, orange, rust, yellow and goldin autumn, including: Spicebush (Lindera benzoin), Amsonia hubrichitii (Bluestar – see below), and Switchgrass ‘Heavy Metal’

Amsonia hubrichitii – Thread-leaf Arkansas Bluestar – turns brilliant gold in late -summer and holds its delightful color throughout autumn

Looking for some inspirational ideas? There will be plenty to look forward to here in the coming weeks. In meantime, try looking back at some of last year’s posts, beginning with this one on ornamental grasses (click here). I am passionate about late-season garden design, and my own beds and borders were specifically planned to peak in this season. Creating an end-of-summer to late-fall garden crescendo isn’t difficult, but it does require some research. Knowing what to expect from woody plants and perennials —and how to play changing hues to their best advantage— is something a gardener learns with thoughtful observation, experience and exposure to well-designed late-summer and autumn gardens.

At Ferncliff, Amsonia hubrichitii is planted in combination with Geranium ‘Brookside’ (above). The cobalt-violet blossoms and flame colored foliage are a stunning combination in the entry garden throughout fall.

Pay close attention to how the light filters through your garden. Position luminous plants, such thread-leaf Arkansas bluestar (Amsonia hubrichiti) flame grass (Miscanthus sinensis purpurascens) and blue switchgrass (Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’) to play with the sun’s rays, and the shadows of nearby trees and dark buildings. Make note of how your perennial foliage changes color in late summer and fall. Plan planting combinations with autumn-blooming perennials —especially in contrasting colors— to make the most of the late season transition. Will the green or blue foliage of a large plant shift gold? Position it behind a violet or blue-colored fall flower, such as an elegant monkshood or wild-looking aster. Does the cool weather bring out the arctic-blue of a favorite conifer? Next year, remember to plant orange-colored dahlias nearby or, for a softer-look, think about adding rosy-hued windflowers, such as Japanese anemone (Anemone x hybrida ‘Serenade’ – also beautiful with gold leaved hostas) to your borders….

Anemone x hybrida ‘Serenade’ (Japanese windflower / anemone)

Panicum virgatum, ‘Heavy Metal’ switch Grass – available in the UK (and above catalogue image via) the RHS online shop. This ornamental grass is widely available in nurseries and garden centers throughout the US.

The same plant as pictured above, Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’ swichgrass, here at Ferncliff in November

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Article and photos (vendor link exceptions as noted) are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

The Gardener’s Eden is not an affiliate of the RHS, nor of Stork Road Farm. Product image links to these fine garden suppliers are provided for reader online shopping convenience only.

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

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

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Barefoot August: Splendor in the Grass and Sweet Bohemian Dreams…

August 1st, 2010 § Comments Off on Barefoot August: Splendor in the Grass and Sweet Bohemian Dreams… § permalink

Splendor in the Grass – Impromptu Straw Bale Seating from Paige Gilchrist’s    The Big Book of Backyard Projects Image ⓒ Janice Eaton Kilby

Long, languid, hazy days… August and everything after. Grab a baguette on the way home and some herb-scented cheese. Toss aside your iphone and kick off your shoes. Spread an old quilt in the meadow, open up a picnic basket and pop the cork on a split of champagne. Listen to the songbirds, marvel at the dragonflies, and watch the golden sunlight dance along the tips of tall grass. It’s high summer and the season is ripe –so squeeze out every last, sweet, juicy drop…

‘Tis the Season for French Lemonade, Sun-warmed Blankets and Rustic Picnic Baskets ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Gather your friends up for a spontaneous, August soirée. Autumn will be here all too soon, so why not buy your mulch a bit early and create a temporary outdoor living room of straw bale lounge chairs and sofas? Add a few bright, comfy blankets and pillows —and perhaps a couple of cocktail trays to your improv tables— and you have the perfect scene for a late summer party. The best part? Not only is this seating a true bargain, but it’s 100% recyclable as well. Simply cut the twine and add the straw to your kitchen garden for a winter mulch, or slowly sprinkle the remains in your compost pile…

Image ⓒ Janice Eaton Kilby from The Big Book of Backyard Projects

Inspired? I found this quirky furniture set —complete with easy instructions for assembly— in The Big Book of Backyard Projects, which I recently reviewed in my weekly post for Barnes & Noble’s Garden Variety Blog (click here to read review/buy book from B&N). This particular project is one of my favorites, but editor Paige Gilchrist has included literally hundreds of other creative ideas for building, repurposing and recycling items in the garden —including some fantastic furniture plans and project patterns— all for less than $20.

Summertime Picnic in the Meadow ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Jet-Black Jewels at the Edge of the Meadow ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Zucchini Bread and Blackberries on Curious Old Bavarian Plates ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Wild Blackberries ⓒ Michaela at TGE

A Slice of Sweet Bread and a Tea Cup Full of Berries ⓒ Michaela at TGE

August Meadow Hues ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Wildflowers ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Sunspots in the Flame Grass (Miscanthus sinensis purpurascens) ⓒ Michaela at TGE

***

Image excerpts from reviewed publication are copyright as noted and linked.

Article and all other photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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

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

June 29th, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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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Un-Flower Pots: Modern Ideas for Low Maintenance Container Gardens…

June 10th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Sempervivum ‘Purple Beauty’ (Hens and Chicks) and Haworthia in a Glazed Pot with River Stone Accents, Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE

Although I have an unabashed love of colorful, fragrant blossoms, flowering plants aren’t ideal in all garden situations and circumstances. At times, I reach for the color, texture, form and/or movement of other plants -such as ornamental grasses and succulents- when designing a garden. Container gardens, particularly in dry, windy locations, can be very high maintenance unless the right plants are chosen for these challenging locations. Often, before I plant containers for my clients, I experiment with the design’s durability in my own garden first. This is an outrageously fun process of course, and a fine excuse to purchase annual plants for the steel deck outside my studio…

Stipa tenuissima (Mexican Feather Grass), Garden Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE

Ucinia egmontiana (Orange Hook Sedge), Garden Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE

Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’ and Stipa tenuissima in a Modern Deck Arrangement, Garden Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE

The hot, dry, windy conditions on this sunny deck make it the perfect test-lab for low-maintenance container garden experiments. Over the years, two of the more successful annual combinations on my deck have been ornamental grass arrangements, and the succulent containers pictured here. This year, after reviewing Debra Lee Baldwin’s Succulent Container Gardens for Barnes and Noble’s Garden Variety blog (“Sweet Succulent Sensation – Ready for Some Outrageously Beautiful Container Inspiration”) I was inspired to take my easy-care succulent containers to a whole new level. But do I miss the flowers? Hardly. I find the jewel-like colors and textures so fascinating that I think adding flowering plants to these dramatic containers would be gilding the lily. Many succulent plants do in fact blossom, of course, and an number, such as Sempervivum and Echeveria, produce sensationally beautiful flower-like rosettes. Their shocking beauty is more than enough for me…

Sempervivum hybrid ‘Kalinda’. Garden Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE

Sempervivum in a Pot with Stone Accents, (this frost-proof container is left outdoors year round). Garden Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE

Close up of Sempervivum hybrid ‘Kalinda’. Garden Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE

Sempervivum – The Rock Rose – Photograph © Michaela at TGE

Sempervivum in a permanent, frost-proof outdoor container. Garden Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE

Sempervivum and Stone-Accent Mulch. Garden Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE

Over the winter, you may recall my experiments with indoor container gardening, including dry-terraria arrangements, such as the one pictured below, (featuring three different plant forms: tall and spiked, mounded and trailing), and cactus bowls. Now that the warmer months have arrived, I have relocated these plants to larger-scale pots -accented with natural river stone- to my rusty steel deck. So far, the transition has been quite successful, with only one minor loss due to the well-known, ‘rambunctious labrador retriever effect’. If you too have a hot, sunny deck or terrace to landscape, and little time for maintenance, consider adding some easy-care pots to your seasonal arrangement. A large vessel, filled with tall ornamental grass works well as a backdrop for smaller containers filled with herbs or flowers. And small clusters of pots in a uniform color, such as the oxblood containers shown here, combine beautifully when grouped on terraces or arranged along the edges of steps. I will feature more container gardening ideas in the coming weeks, but if you are serious about creating a succulent oasis of your own, I suggest checking out the two fantastic books linked below…

Plants from an indoor succulent bowl, (read article here), can be moved outdoors to fill containers in warmer months. Pictured here: Echeveria ‘Pearl’, Sanseveria trifasiata ‘Laurentii’ and Portulacaria afra variegata from The Old School House Plantery. Container Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE…

In summer, the indoor cactus bowl goes on summer-deck-ation…

Order Thomas Hobbs’  The Jewel Box Garden from Amazon online…

Order Succulent Container Gardens from B&N or Amazon online.

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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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The White Witch Cometh…

February 27th, 2010 § 5 comments § permalink

The Morning after the Storm…

The White Witch roared back up the hill last night in her icy chariot. My oh my, is she a beautiful and treacherous queen. She was angry, and she swirled her crystal scarf and heavy cloak in a fit of rage. Behind her, the cold sorceress dragged a wet blanket of snow so thick that even the greatest trees bowed beneath the weight of her power. “Did you think I would leave so soon?”, she hissed and cackled all night into the howling wind. “How dare you flirt with my younger sister…“. I could almost hear her shaking with laughter in the forest. Yes, she has banished my Spring dreams. This is her season after all, and she is not yet ready to hand over her crown. Fierce Winter will take her leave of us when she is good and ready, and she will likely slam the door…

To the south, the oak and ash stand like ghostly skeletons in the morning light…

And to the west, a towering pine bows in submission…

The hillside traced in snow…

Sunlight makes an early morning appearance through the icy fog and mist…

The Japanese Maple as a Jackson Pollock…

The remains of Miscanthus sinensis ‘purpurascens’

Broken and battered, the last papery petals cling to Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ in the snow…

Pointy as a wizard’s hat, native hemlock has always been my favorite winter conifer…

Low clouds break to the east…

The glorious, burnt orange leaves of native beech still cling to her snow coated branches…

Viburnum trilobum ‘Bailey Compact’ reminds me of a porcupine, all prickly in the soft snow…

Stewartia pseudocamilla strikes a graceful silhouette against the snow drift in the Secret Garden…

Three Magical Warlocks…

Regal pines stand sentry on the western slope…

The tree lined forest path, draped in fresh white lace…

A young spruce droops beneath the weight of a heavy new coat…

Gorgeous, horizontal lines of beech amid the vertical striped forest…

Grey clouds make for a dramatic backdrop after the storm…

Pale morning light…

The door to the Secret Garden…

The velvety black remains of Physocarpus ‘Diablo’, sparkling in ice crystals…

Top of the snow-covered drive…

The forest at Ferncliff in all the White Witch’s Winter glory, {and 3 feet of snow}

Inspiration: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

Article and photographs © 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 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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A Heart of Darkness…

February 12th, 2010 § 5 comments § permalink

Dahlia ‘Karma Choc’, available online at, (and image via):  White Flower Farm

Some gardeners adore bright colors, and other plant collectors crave pastels. There are those who prefer dramatic plants painted silver and gold and a few indecisive types who seek out green tonal shifts and mottled white variegation. These hues are all quite lovely, and they occasionally catch my eye, but I fully admit that I have more shadowy desires. The truth is that deep within me, hidden from the light of day, beats a heart of pure darkness – I confess that I have a passion for black plants. Rich, dark purple and velvety red; bitter chocolate and silky maroon; ruby wine and exotic ebony: these are the colors I covet. And wouldn’t you agree that on a hot summer day, it’s easy to be seduced by a mysterious garden filled with shadows?

Cryptotaenia japonica atropurpurea backs up Athyrium niponicum var. pictum in my Secret Garden…

I love the cool, quiet of my shady, Secret Garden – but even in full sun, I like to paint shadows with dark foliage and black plants. While stunning on their own, when used in artful combination, these raven-hued beauties of the plant world can make the other flowers and foliage in a garden truly sing. Beside maroon and deep purple, sky blue blossoms sparkle, and when paired with orange and yellow, wine toned foliage is a bold and dramatic choice. Variegated plants, as well as the dusty, marbled whites and soft silver tones, all appear more striking when positioned beside darker colors. Imagine ghostly white ferns floating in a sea of dark foliage, or icy silver-tipped ivy winding about the base of black snake root, (Cimicifugia/Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ or ‘Brunette’). Dark beauty shyly beckons in the shade…

Streptocarpus ‘Black Panther’, seduces from the shadows of my garden on a hot day..

As for the dark blossoms – oh my, but how I’ve fallen; hopelessly deep, and madly in love, with all of their seductive charms. Ruby red, tipping toward blackness, the deep colored dahlias delight me, and the ink-stained petals of iris can drive me truly wild. But pair the velvety allure of maroon roses with a subtle, spicy fragrance, and I will begin to truly swoon. Yes, I know it is an obsession – but you must know my passion for plants by now. I simply can not help it. In fact , as some of you may recall, I have revealed my personal weakness for dark flowers, when I wrote about the mysterious Black Panther Streptocarpus last summer, (pictured above). So, come along with me, won’t you ? Let’s wander away on a tour of the dark-blossoming underworld. Others may only be charmed by bold birds-of-paradise or delicate little, fluttering flowers. As for me, I will always prefer the slightly sinister beauties, like the dark temptress Odile, a shadow drifting silently across Swan Lake

Ipomoea ‘Sweet Heart Purple’,(image via): White Flower Farm

Aquilegia ‘Black Barlow’, available online at, (and image via):White Flower Farm

Colocasia esculenta ‘Black magic’, (image/avail. via): White Flower Farm

Heuchera ‘Obsidian’, available online at, (and image via): White Flower Farm

Angelica gigas, available online at, (and image via): White Flower Farm

Sambucus ‘Black Lace’, available online at, (and image via): White Flower Farm

Ricinus communis ‘Carmencita bright red’, available online at, (and image via): White Flower Farm

Begonia Rex ‘Fireworks’, available online at, (and image via): White Flower Farm

Ipomoea batatas ‘Blackie’, available online at (and photo via): White Flower Farm

Iris chrysographes, available online at (and image via): Wayside Gardens

Ophiopogon ‘Nigrescens’ (Black Mondo Grass), available online at: (and image via) Wayside Gardens

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Odile, the black swan, as portrayed by Julie Kent. Photo by Roy Rounds via Thought Patterns.

For further exploring the shadowy side of your gardening personality, I recommend both of these dark, delicious titles…

Karen Platt’s Black Magic and Purple Passion

Paul Bonine’s Black Plants

***

Article and photographs (except where noted and linked to external websites and products) are copyright 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved.

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Greeting the Wolf Moon on a Chilly January Night with Warm, Creamy Garlic and Potato Soup…

January 31st, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

Creamy Garlic and Potato Soup with Fresh Herbs

Watching the full moon rise is something of a ritual for me. I note the waxing and waning lunar cycle on my calendar and I pay close attention to the forecast as the moon grows full. Lunar myths and legends have always fascinated me, and I usually to refer to the monthly moon by its name. Although April’s Pink Moon and Autumn’s Harvest Moon tend to be my favorites, I am also quite fond of January’s full, Wolf Moon. When the weather is clear in mid-winter, as it has been for the past few days, evenings in Vermont can be spectacularly beautiful. Sub zero temperatures may be difficult to bear, but they also create some amazing atmospheric conditions. With a warm bowl of soup and a dramatic celestial show on the horizon, I’ve come to embrace and even enjoy my cold nights on the mountain…

January’s Full Wolf Moon

Dried Grass and Staghorn Sumac on a late afternoon in January

Cinnamon colored remnants in sparkling snow at sunset

Creamy Garlic and Potato Soup with Fresh Herbs

(makes approximately 4 quarts of soup)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup garlic cloves, (about 12 cloves), peeled and chopped to a paste in a food processor
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 cups vegetable stock or chicken broth
  • 2 cups milk (2% or whole, as you prefer)
  • 1 cup of heavy cream (optional – you may sub all 2% milk for low fat diets)
  • 6 cups peeled and cubed yukon gold potatoes
  • 4 whole, fresh sage leaves, (plus extra for garnish)
  • 2 whole bay leaves
  • 2 tsp fresh chopped thyme, (plus extra for garnish)
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp fresh ground pepper

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a large stock/soup pot over low heat. Add the garlic paste and carefully cook until the paste begins to turn gold, stirring constantly. Add in the vegetable/chicken broth and bring the mixture to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat, add herbs and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the potatoes and simmer for 20-30 more minutes.
  3. Scoop out the bay and sage leaves, and carefully pour batches of the hot soup into a blender, (do not overfill the blender!). Puree each batch until smooth and return to the saucepan. Simmer the soup for 15 minutes. Add milk and cream and simmer for another 20 – 30 minutes.
  4. Pour the soup into bowls, and garnish with fresh thyme and sage leaves. Serve with a side of fresh, crusty bread.

***

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

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is copyright The Gardener’s Eden, and may not be used or reproduced without express written consent. Please do not repost or republish photographs or text excerpts without 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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Bringing Nature’s Beauty Indoors: Dried Flowers and Grasses Catch Light and Play with Shadows…

October 30th, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

dried queen annes lace

Dried flower heads from a field of Queen Anne’s lace sparkle against frosted glass…

The last days of October have arrived and the natural world outside my door is slowly bleaching, bronzing and browning to a warm patina. Gorgeous distractions demand my attention at every corner. Still, there is much work to be done in the garden before winter arrives – so I wander about the flower beds daily, preparing for next season’s long slumber. As I gather up pots, toss spent annuals, and attend to various autumn gardening tasks, warm rays of sunlight illuminate ornamental grass and dried flowers, highlighting their texture and form. The stark and skeletal remains of Queen Anne’s Lace and the honey colored needles of Amsonia hubrichtii seem to call out for individual attention. As I work I often collect some of nature’s gifts for indoor display. Placed in delicate vases without water, these bits of frilly, feathery foliage will last for weeks on table and desk tops, where they sparkle in the late afternoon sun as I write. Larger souvenirs from my garden, (such as Hydrangea paniculata and Miscanthus sinensis), fill Aletha Soule’s vasesRichard Foye’s vessels and various old, terracotta urns placed near brightly lit windows and doors where they catch the long, golden light.

Now is the perfect time to collect ornamental grass and dried flowers by the armful. Gathered garden remnants can be hung upside down from attic beams and garage rafters to be used later for wreaths and table displays throughout the winter months…

Amsonia in Vase

Golden Amsonia hubrichtii sings in blue blown-glass…

Native Hair Grass

Deschampsia flexuosa, (Common hair grass), from the meadow catches light in my kitchen on a late afternoon. Raku vessel by Richard Foye.

Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight'

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ in an Aletha Soule gunmetal glaze pitcher…

Miscanthus sinensis strictus (Porcupine grass)

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Strictus’, (Porcupine grass), in a urn by the studio door…

R Foye Urn in studio

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Purpurascens’, (Flame grass), in a Richard Foye urn beside the patio door…

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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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Autumn and Everything After……. Designing Beautiful Late Season Gardens with Ornamental Grass…

September 3rd, 2009 § 4 comments § permalink

Autumn is a Second Spring, When Every Leaf is a Flower” – Camus

A Grouping of Miscanthus sinensis, ‘Morning Light’, ‘Variegatus’, and Miscanthus ‘Purpurascens’ in Mid-October at Ferncliff

Pennisetum alopecuroides, (fountain grass), with sedum and juniper in the entry garden at Ferncliff  in early September, just before the inflorescence appear.

Much as I would like summer to drag her feet a bit when departing this year, I find myself looking forward to the brilliant beauty of fall. Living in New England has its benefits, and the months of September, October and November are three of them. Autumn has always been my favorite time of the year, and in no place is my seasonal preference more evident than the garden. As the writer Camus once said, “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower”. Indeed. I truly savor this second spring, for although I do love the early buds and bulbs of April, pastel hues don’t really excite me. Dark red is my favorite color, and bitter orange, rust, deep violet and burgundy aren’t far behind. The cerulean skies and stained-glass forest canopies of autumn bring a touch of heaven straight to my little paradise on earth. In September and October I feel as if I am living in a paint box, surrounded by a palette of colors so brilliant that simply going for a walk is all the inspiration any artist could hope for.

I cherish the fall gardening season. Some of my most treasured trees, shrubs and perennials reach their peak beauty in autumn. Of the many late-season plants in my garden, the ornamental grasses are high on my list of favorites. Grasses are useful though out the gardening season, of course. Beginning in mid-summer and continuing throughout winter, ornamental grasses provide dramatic foliage, texture and form to my gardens. But come autumn, the shifting hues of foliage and beautifully textured spikes, racemes and panicles of ornamental grass create the potential for a spectacular garden show that can not be beat. By early September, when many perennials and annuals have petered out in the garden, my ornamental grasses are just warming up for their crescendo. As the days shorten and nights cool, chemical changes are triggered in many deciduous trees, shrubs and other plants in the northern areas of the United States. Ornamental grasses also respond to these changes, and many begin to take on subtle tints and vivid hues as dramatic as the trees.

Miscanthus purpurascens, (close up), early fall color, (click to enlarge)

When I design a garden, I try to keep this spectacular late-show in mind. September blooming pepper bush, (Clethera alnifolia, a native shrub I featured here last month), sculptural spice bush, (Lindera benzoin), and and the lovely native paper birch, (Betula papyrifera), all turn brilliant yellow in autumn. I like to combine fall’s seasonal gold foliage with the purple-burgundy-red kaleidoscope-like hues of flame grass, (Miscanthus purpurascens), the brilliant orange of Japanese forest grass, (Hakonechloa macra, cvs. ‘Nicolas’, or burgundy tipped, ‘Beni Kaze’), for example. Witch alder, (Fothergilla gardenii), and many viburnum species, including the arrow wood, (V. dentatum), the American cranberrybush, (V. trilobum), and the European cranberrybush, (V. opulus), turn brilliant shades of red and orange in autumn. This makes them great companions for a wide variety of grasses including switch grass, (Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy metal’, (a blue grass in summer, turning gold in fall), wild oats, (Chasmanthium latifolium), green in summer and red-bronze in fall), and again, flame grass, (Miscanthus pupurascens). Late blooming perennials, such as asters, rudbeckia, mums, sedum and monkshood  all make great companion plants for ornamental grasses.

Hakonechloa NicolasThe summer color of Hakonechloa macra ‘Nicolas’,above, intensifies further in autumn

Unless you are a more experienced gardener, companion planting for autumn interest can be a bit difficult. How can you predict color-shifts and texture changes? Nursery tags are often stingy with clues. A good encyclopedia is useful for learning about ornamental grasses and their seasonal changes. And if you know the name of a cultivar, you can easily research information on a web-site such as Dave’s Garden. But for the true ornamental grass aficionado, Rick Darke’s The Color Encyclopedia of Ornamental Grasses (see library) is a great asset. This book will help you to identify more unusual cultivars of sedge, rush, restios, cat-tails and bamboo as well as the gorgeous grasses native to North America and beyond.

Miscanthus purpurascens, (Flame grass) in late September

When I want to add texture and movement in a garden design, no matter the season, I often look to ornamental grass. The larger garden grasses, such as miscanthus, panicum, and calmagrostis, bring important vertical interest and essential structure to perennial gardens. From the fine, delicate foliage and sensual lines of maiden grass, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ to the bold geometric presence of Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’, can make a dramatic, sculptural statement in a garden. Grasses can be used to soften modern buildings and camouflage unattractive architecture. A natural choice beside lakes, ponds, streams and pools, grasses also bring a relaxed line to hard-edged water features. Many species of grass are drought tolerant, and a number will survive roadside conditions in even the most inhospitable environments. Alone or as a group, settled into a garden or spilling over a pot, placed at a juncture or to mark a final destination, ornamental grass can provide great focal points in many garden design situations. Ornamental grasses planted en mass can blur the edges of a garden, helping to ease the transition between formal and informal areas. Because of the dramatic stature reached by many large ornamental grasses, they are also very useful as living screens, helping to conceal unsightly necessities such as fuel tanks and air conditioning units. It is easy to understand the growing popularity of this diverse group of plants.

North American native, Bouteloua curtipendula (side-oats grasss), backed by taller Pennisetum alopecuroides in the entry garden at Ferncliff, early September

striped grass and juniperMiscanthus sinensis ‘Variegatus’, here used as a specimen and below, a different cultivar used in a large grouping at the eastern-edge of the garden.


karl f. backed up by viburnumCalamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’, backed by Viburnum trilobum

Miscanthus ‘Purpurascens’ grouped at the edge of the northwest meadow in August…

And again, in late September…

miscanthus morning light back lit from the eastThis two year old grass specimen, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning light’, catches the early sun as it rises to the east at the edge of the wildflower walk in early September

Although ornamental grasses have become quite common in sunny perennial gardens, they are still surprisingly overlooked in shade garden designs. This surprises me because grass exists naturally in all but the darkest of shady woodlands, and they can add tremendously to the subtle beauty of low-light gardens. In the shade, I often add fine textured ornamental grass to contrast with larger, broad leafed foliage, such as the leathery, smooth surfaced leaves of hosta. I also like to include bright colored grasses to shade gardens in order to illuminate dark corners and shadowy areas beneath trees. Japanese woodland grass, (Hakonechloa macra), is one of my favorite plants. The golden cultivars, ‘Aureola’ and ‘All-Gold’ are very useful in low light areas, and in contrast to violent-tinted foliage. Newer cultivars, such as ‘Nicolas’ and ‘Ben Kaze’,(mentioned above), are rich in bitter orange and burgundy hues. These are truly spectacular plants with enormous design potential. Sedges are also useful in partial shade. I count orange-hook sedge, (Ucinia egmontiana), among my favorite low-light grasses, although it is marginally hardy in New England, (I usually place it in pots for summer and move them inside for winter).  Sedges will also tolerate more sunlight, provided they are given ample moisture, and I like to use them in brighter locations as well, (see pots on deck below).

A close-up of Hakonecholoa macra ‘All Gold’ in the shady Secret Garden at Ferncliff

hakonechloa in morning lightHakonecholoa macra ‘All-Gold’, (Japanese forest grass), catching the morning light in the Secret Garden at Ferncliff

hakonechloa macra 'aureola' with cimicifuga r. 'hillside black beauty'The golden color of this Japanese forest grass brings out the violet hues in the companion plantings of Cimicifuga racemosa ‘Hillside black beauty’ and the young foliage of euphorbia on the left

Many ornamental grasses also make great potted plants. I particularly like sedge and stipa in massive groupings on decks and terraces, where they catch the slightest breeze. A sedge commonly known as fiber-optic plant, (Isolepis cernua), looks very dramatic in a pot. I like to allow this mop-like grass to spill over the edge of a planter, emphasizing its pendent form. Whenever I set a fiber-optic plant out on a pedestal, it becomes the focus of attention and conversation, like living sculpture. Personally, I have grown a bit tired of cleverly designed, over-planted pots. I prefer simplicity. Over the past few years, I have been limiting my planter-compositions to a few species of plants, and ornamental grasses are often featured in my current designs.

Stipa tenuissima, (Mexican Feather Grass)

Orange Hook Sedge, (Uncinia egmontiana)

Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’ and Stipa tenuissima Catching the Breeze and Afternoon Light

Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’ up close

Like many cold-climate gardeners, I try to enjoy my garden for as long as possible. And I consider ornamental grass and important part of the winter garden as well. Although some people prefer their gardens to be tidy, cut, and thoroughly mulched come winter, I like to leave my hardier grasses standing until spring thaw. Frost, ice and light snow emphasize the delicate patterns of ornamental grass, and for this reason I consider them a four season plant. I continue to enjoy the tassels and the rust, buff and wheat hues of bleached out grass well into winter. By December, when little color remains in the garden, ornamental grass continues to add subtle, creamy tones. I particularly like the way wheat colored pennisetum draws attention to the red berries remaining on my winterberry, (Ilex verticillata ‘Red sprite’. Because texture and color are so important in the winter garden, I prefer to cut many ornamental grasses back in spring. Why not enjoy all the beauty nature has to offer us, autumn and beyond?

Grasses remain beautiful well into winter. Above, pictured in the entry garden at Ferncliff, fountain grass and side oats look particularly magical in December when coated with ice or snow. Below, the tassels of Miscanthus sinensis, frozen with ice, catch the January light…

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Woo in the native meadow garden with rudbeckia and Deschampsia flexuosa, (hair grass)

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Article and all other photographs ⓒ 2009 Michaela at TGE

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

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