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

November 21st, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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

November 16th, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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

November 14th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Spicy Cream of Carrot & Ginger Soup

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

Stacking Wood on the Terrace

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

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

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

Spicy Cream of Carrot and Ginger Soup

Ingredients (serves 4-6):

1         Medium onion, peeled and diced

2         Cups fresh young carrots, peeled and sliced

1         Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1         Two inch piece of fresh ginger, grated

2         Cloves of peeled and crushed garlic

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

2          Cups homemade vegetable or chicken broth

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

1/8      Teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg

1/8      Teaspoon fresh grated cinnamon

1          Tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped for garnish

Fresh Ground black pepper and salt to taste

Directions:

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

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

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

***

Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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

November 4th, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

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

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

The Brilliant Autumn Color of Abelia mosanensis Holds Straight Into November

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

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

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

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

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

Inspiration: Romantic Opposites…

Bogie and Bacall

***

Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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

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Must Be The Season Of The Witch…

October 30th, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

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

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

“Must be the Season of the Witch…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can You Catch the Witch?

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

Donovan – Season of the Witch

“Season of the Witch” Lyrics are ⓒ Donovan 1967

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Oh, Tutti Frutti: It’s Candy Land Time! Magical & Colorful Ornamental Berries…

September 24th, 2010 § Comments Off on Oh, Tutti Frutti: It’s Candy Land Time! Magical & Colorful Ornamental Berries… § permalink

Circus-like baubles on candy-coral stems, literally cover this (Viburnum lentago) nannyberry viburnum in my garden

Red twig dogwood berries (Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’) bring to mind mini marshmallow bits and and rainbow jimmies

Just like orange-flavored Tic-Tacs – The sight of these Chinese-orange berries on my tea viburnum (V. setigerum ) always gives me a little lift

Oh goody gum drops! Would you look at the garden? Why it’s a living Candy Land out there! Just like an old-fashioned sweet-shop —penny-jars filled with confections— my shrubs are overflowing with orange candy, red candy and purple candy galore. Yes, it’s that time of the year when the woody-plants at Ferncliff go all tutti frutti. And the birds? What a racket they make! If I had an avian translator on hand, I wonder what phrases I would hear?  “Jay, come over here and try some of this grape fizz candy”. “Wait a second Goldie… Get a load of the gob-stoppers this year”.  The autumn garden is a sweet feast for my eyes and, more important, for the bellies of my feathered friends.

With one variety of ornamental fruit ripening right after the other, this confectionary show will go on in the garden for months. September, October and November are always bird-berrilicious in the garden, and later on in winter —when ice and snow coat the remaining branches of fruit— my hilltop turns into a virtual Rock-Candy Mountain. After the heavy freezes in December and January, the crystal-covered red and orange berries sparkle just like sweets in glass jars…

Gummy Gobs – Viburnum trilobum, ‘J.N. Select Redwing’

Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Issai’ – grape fizz candy meets honey-wafer foliage. Read more about this favorite shrub and other autumn beauties here.

Viburnum carlesii – Looks Like Licorice Drops and Hot Balls

Some of my favorite spring blooming trees and shrubs —including Malus species, Prunus, Aronia arbutifolia (red chokeberry), the entire Viburnum genus (especially V. carlesii, V. lantana, V. nudum, V. plicatum, V. setigerum,V. trilobum) and others too numerous to list— are also prolific producers of colorful, bird-attracting ornamental fruit in late-summer, autumn and early winter. Hip-producing roses, such as R. rubrifolia (redleaf rose), R. rugosa, and R. virginiana, provide fruit for wildlife or for human-consumption (usually in the form of jelly or tea). And elderberries, some of which produce both spectacular year-round foliage, are also worth including in a gardens for their berries; both for birds and humans.

When considering berry-producing shrubs for the garden, keep in mind that some of the less-stellar spring bloomers —particularly Pyracantha (firethorn), Callicarpa (purple beautyberry), Ilex verticillata (winterberry holly), Cotoneaster, Cornus alba (red and yellowtwig dogwood), and Rhus— produce some of the most vibrant late-season fruit. (For more information about purple beautyberry — the Callicarpa pictured above— click back to this post here). Always research the cultural requirements of each genus and species carefully before planting, and remember that some shrubs —especially the hollies (Ilex)— will require that you plant both male and female specimens in order to produce fruit…

Juniper Berry – Blueberry Bombs

Cornus kousa… or ch,ch,ch, ch, ch,ch, ch,ch Cherry Bomb?

The berries of  my Variegated Wayfaring Viburnum (V. lantana) could be topping a mint-swirl sundae

Rosa rugosa hips (a relative of the apple) are not only beautiful, but add delightful flavor to tea and jelly, as well as providing food for wildlife

Mid to late autumn in a great time to plant trees and shrubs in the garden, and it’s also a fantastic season to grab great deals at your local garden center or favorite online nursery. Once temperatures cool, and the rainy season returns, dormant trees and shrubs will have time to settle into the garden; all ready  to get growing in spring. For information on planting shrubs in autumn, travel back to last year’s post on the subject by clicking here.

Although most of the berries pictured here are edible or harmless to humans, it goes without saying that you should always use common sense in the garden. If you have small, curious children, be sure to research what you are planting and avoid poisonous fruits. And teach children early —as you would teach them about tiny objects— that all we see should not go in our mouths! Never eat berries unless you are certain that they are fit for human consumption. Enjoy the autumn season, the birds visiting your garden, and all of fall’s beautiful ‘Candy Land’ delights…

Just like Cherries in the Snow! Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’ – Rock candy for birds in January at Ferncliff

Cotoneaster dammeri ‘Eichholz’ – looks like cinnamon dots and red candy apple

Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’

Viburnum nudum ‘Winterthur’ at Ferncliff

For more autumn color-inspiration, you may enjoy traveling back to last year’s series of three posts —The Autumn Brilliance Series— by clicking here.

Inspiration: Why, Willy Wonka {images Paramount Pictures/Tim Burton Productions credit as linked to films}…

The Runaways Cherry Bomb {image from linked soundtrack cover}…

And of course, the original Tutti Frutti himself, Little Richard {image from linked soundtrack}

***

Article and Botanical Photographs ⓒ Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

{ All plant photos in this feature were taken at my private garden, Ferncliff }

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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

***

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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Long-Distance Garden Design: Creating Structure & Year-Round Color for an Elegant Residence on Long Island…

July 17th, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

A summertime border of mixed colors and textures: Deciduous and evergreen shrubs anchor a perennial garden planned for season-spanning interest…

In winter: Red rose hips and glowing dogwood twigs will add brilliant color to the entry garden, punctuated by verdant conifers and broadleaf evergreen shrubs…

Rosanna, my new friend and client, lives on Long Island and works in New York City. I live and work in Vermont. We met by chance this spring at Walker Farm after one of my seminars, when I stayed on for the afternoon at the garden center, answering questions about trees, shrubs and perennials. Rosanna and her gardener were shopping for —and spontaneously designing— a new garden for the front of her weekend place in the nearby Mount Snow region. I helped Rosanna choose trans-seasonal plantings for the Vermont garden, and shortly after, she began to follow this blog. Meanwhile, back in New York, Rosanna was faced with an unexpected problem: re-working the garden in front of her house without help. After seeing Dan and Laura’s garden design posted here this spring, an unusual idea came to her mind. Given the overlay design-drawing and photographs presented in that post, Rosanna thought perhaps I could design a garden for her —long-distance— and she contacted me about the idea…

Have you ever played Battleship? You remember, the game where you and your partner have identical grids —which you conceal from each other— calling out blind coordinates, striking at unseen targets? Well, that’s kind of what designing a garden long-distance is like, except we are working with living plants. It’s challenging, a little scary, strangely thrilling and great deal of fun, all at the same time.

This probably wouldn’t work in every situation —and certainly not with every client— but after talking with Rosanna about the project, and getting to know her a bit by phone, I had a hunch that she was going to be a really good general contractor. Rosanna is a self-described “type A personality”; highly organized, super efficient, and extremely attentive to detail. When I gave her an initial task list —including soil testing, sunlight charting, dimension recording and multiple-angle photographs— she came to our next phone conference not only with her homework completely done, but also emailed to me in advance. Impressive. I decided to take on the project with Rosanna, even though I knew we could —and likely would— encounter a variety of un-forseeable challenges…

The (almost) clean slate. Photograph by Rosanna.

With Rosanna’s site information and photographs in hand, I began to work on a new design for the front garden. Meanwhile, my enthusiastic game partner sought out a new gardener —to help her remove the existing plants, rebuild the soil and install the new design— and a local nurseryman willing to work with us to fulfill the plant list and/or help with available substitutes if needed. After Rosanna approved the design pictured at the top of this post, Santos, her new gardener, prepared the site (see photo above) and I presented a plant list for her local nursery. As always, the most important part of any garden is establishing an architectural framework. With this in mind, I began with three key woody plants.

Prior to Santos’ fantastic clean-up and refurbishment of the front bed, the garden contained an overgrown holly (situated beside the Picea glauca), a few small Chamaecyparis and a hodgepodge of perennials. Rosanna wanted structure and season-spanning color for her front garden. The existing holly threw the garden off-balance, with too much visual weight at the far end of the house. Green, green, green = boring. It had to go. In a garden this small, it’s important to choose woody plants with as much year-round pizazz as possible. I looked at several variegated shrubs to fill the holly-void, and settled on Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’; selected for it’s softly mounded form, creamy blossoms, subtle green and white variegated leaves, and brilliant red stems to provide winter color. This gorgeous shrub will stand in striking contrast to the evergreen Alberta spruce  (Picea glauca) and the backdrop of white siding throughout the year.

After introducing some subtle leaf pattern to the border, I decided to play with shadow against the black and white exterior of the home. With Rosanna’s Italian heritage, (and of course her name!) I couldn’t resist South Central-European native Rosa glauca. This ‘red-leaf rose’, as it is commonly known, has always been one of my favorites. Of course, the dark, blue-green foliage and delicate pink and white blossoms are a stunning combination – but the arching form is also useful, and in winter, spectacular deep red rose hips provide dramatic color until they are gobbled up by hungry birds. This shrub will work with several dark leafed perennials in the front of the design, and it also echos a Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) nearby on the property.

Beneath the bay window, I needed a low-growing, horizontally spreading woody plant with season-spanning interest to soften the architecture and provide structure for perennials to the front and either side. Rosanna loves hydrangea, and has several on her property. Because of this, I knew she would like Viburnum plicatum ‘Newport’ (sometimes listed as V.p. ‘Newzan’). With creamy white blossoms early in the season and red autumn foliage, this compact cultivar often comes to mind when I am designing a small garden. The design also includes a pair of boxwood globes flanking the Rosa glauca.

As I expected, we ran into a few snags, starting with our plant list. By July, most nurseries are a bit picked over, and some of the key plants were unavailable. Although the local garden center was able to provide a fine Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’, the owner was unable to locate Rosa glauca and Viburnum plicatum ‘Newport’. Not one to be deterred, Rosanna found a small but healthy red-leaf rose online, and I located a Newport viburnum in nearby Massachusetts, which she will pick up from me in early autumn. Most of the perennials —or acceptable substitutes— were found by Rosanna and her nurseryman, and the others will be added later this season or next spring. So far, so good. Next up, details on the plant installation (last weekend), the irrigation system and the mulch. Did we succeed in our mission or did we sink the battleship? We break now for Rosanna’s scheduled vacation to Italy. Stay tuned, this story will be continued in an upcoming post later in the season…

Milton Bradley’s Battleship. I will never look at this game quite the same!

***

Image credits: Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’: Krysztof Siarnek Kenraiz via Wikimedia Commons, Rosa glauca: Franz Xaver via Wikimedia Commons, and Viburnum plicatum ‘Newport’: Sooner Plant Farm

Article and Garden Design Drawings © 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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“Native Plants: Why We Love Them and How to Use Them” – Free Seminar – This Saturday at Walker Farm in Southern Vermont – Please Join Me …

May 13th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

Native mountain laurel, Kalmia latifolia, (here a cultivar named ‘Pink Charm’), are durable, evergreen plants suitable for ledgy, exposed sites… far more hardy than their more tender cousins, the rhododendrons. To read more about Kalmia latifolia, click here.

I am very fortunate. This place in Vermont, where I live, is a true paradise and I cherish it. Every morning I wake up to the beautiful sights, sounds and smells of the Northeast American native forest. The songs of the veery, hermit and wood thrush, the mist rising from the Green River valley and the fragrance of the woodland surrounding my home relax and comfort me. Of course, I am not alone – many people, including a great number of my friends, share this passion for the native forest, and I love hearing about their woodland hikes, experiences and discoveries. I have also traveled throughout North America, and I know that every spot I have visited on this continent -as well as those I have yet to see- has it’s own unique and irreplaceable natural environment. This great love of nature is part of the reason that our native plant species are so important to me. There are many, many beautiful trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants all over the world -and I do have quite the collection of exotics growing here in my garden- but none more beautiful or important than those growing naturally outside my front door.

As is often the case with horticultural terms and phrases, native plant can have different definitions and meanings, depending upon the source of the information. In the strictest sense -and according to The New England Wild Flower Society–  when describing woody plants and perennials on this continent, the term native “refers to plants growing in North America before the European settlement”. Does this definition include species cultivars that have occurred since the European settlement through natural selection? I imagine so. But I would expect that the NEWFS definition excludes individual cultivars and hybrids created via the hand-of-man. My own definition of  native plant is somewhat looser and more tolerant of the various seedlings and crosses commonly found in gardens and in the nursery trade – but I’m no research scientist. Perhaps because one of my favorite North American native trees, Serviceberry, (Amelanchier) , is a horticultural wild-child, (freely hybridizing with neighboring species within the genus), I see the process of plant evolution as inevitable and fascinating. Mother nature seems to approve of variety, as do I !

Beautiful, spring blooming trees of the forest understory, such as North American native Halesia tetraptera, are excellent choices for home landscapes…

Beyond their obvious importance in the natural ecosystem, native plants also make fantastic additions to the garden. In fact so many North American native species, such as coral bells, (Heuchera), coneflower, (Echinacea), gayfeather, (Liatris), and cranesbill, (Geranium), have become such superstars in the nursery trade, that many gardeners have no idea that many common garden center plants are actually wild-flower cultivars. As far as I am concerned, that is good news because native plants, and nursery-grown native cultivars, provide season-spanning food and habitat for local animals and insects, and they also tend to require less water, commercial fertilizer and chemical support than imported plants. And again, I am no purist when it comes to my own garden. I have a great passion for exotic plants – especially Japanese maple! However, I make every effort to garden responsibly, both in my own private paradise, and in the various landscapes where I work as a professional gardener and designer.

This Saturday morning, (May 15, 2010, from 9:30 – 10:30), I will be presenting a free, introductory seminar on native plants for home gardeners at Walker Farm in Dummerston, Vermont. If you are in the area, and you would like to learn more about how to use some of these incredibly beautiful and hardy plants in your own landscape, please stop in and join the fun. The emphasis will be on home garden design; creating season-spanning interest, and wildlife support in your back yard oasis, by choosing trees, shrubs and perennials native to the Northeastern United States. Examples of lesser-known native plants will be on display, and free color handouts, (including design tips, plant information, and online resources), will also be provided. Visit Walker Farm online or call 802 – 254-2051 for more information.

Native Lady fern, (athyrium felix feminina), and selected cultivars such as ‘Lady in Red’, shown here, provide shady habitat for toads and frogs, and durable but delicate beauty for dappled gardens… Especially in combination with other natives such as Heuchera and Phlox divaracata.

An excellent ground-covering choice for acidic, shady areas, native labrador violets are stunners whether blooming or not…

Clethra alnifolia, our native summersweet, is a low-maintenance shrub producing pollinator-magnet flowers in late summer…

Clethra alnifolia ‘Ruby Spice’ is a lovely, select pink-flowering cultivar of our native summersweet shrub, shown above

Aruncus, commonly known as the ‘goat’s beard’, is a statuesque June bloomer for perennial borders and woodland edge…

Fothergilla major, (witch alder), and Lindera benzoin,(spicebush), provide a changing backdrop for gardens all season long…

By combining native shrubs and cultivars, a natural but dynamic, sustainable design can be achieved…

Fothergilla gardenii, our native witch alder, lights up the garden in spring and again in late autumn…

***

For further information on native plants, I highly recommend the following books by Allan Armitage and William Cullina; two accomplished, renowned, horticulturalists and brilliant and poetic authors I admire…

William Cullina – Wildflowers

William Cullina – Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines

Armitage’s Native Plants for North American Gardens

Article and photographs copyright 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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***

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…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through links here. 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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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

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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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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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Tracking Animals in Snow and the Woodland Garden in Winter…

January 8th, 2010 § 6 comments § permalink

The woodland path at the edge of the garden…

On a wintery day earlier this week, after a fresh snowfall, I headed outside with my warm alpaca hat and a pair of Atlas Snowshoes. In January, the native forest at Ferncliff is living fairytale; papery beech leaves rustle in wind, and lacy shadows dance on sparkling snow. Although the woodland appears empty in winter, this is only an illusion. All around me I find evidence of busy forest inhabitants. Both hunter and hunted, the strolling fox and scampering mouse, leave tell-tale footprints in the snow. Louise Forrest’s Field Guide to Tracking Animals in Snow, has been my constant companion on winter walks for years now. Tracking guides are useful year-round to help identify local animals and follow their activities.

Following the trails of forest animals, both in the wild and around the garden, has become a favorite winter pastime. And a long hike along the ledge is a good excuse for a big mug of hot chocolate with whipped cream later…

Traffic jam in the forest – some rodent activity at the base of a tree…

The carnivore, I suspect a red fox, close behind…

Evidence of the hunted:  foraging mice…

Lichen covered ledge – brilliant green in the monochromatic landscape…

Shadows, delicate as lace on the snow-covered forest floor…

The tracks of humankind – I just discovered that someone with initials “JTA” passed through here eight years ago…

Somehow a woodland aster remains, through wind, ice and snow…

The guardian, standing silently at forest’s edge

Rudbeckia remnants – January 2010

Miscanthus sinensis and Viburnum in the morning light – January 2010

Cotoneaster berries in snow

Winter shadows and rust

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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 do not use photographs or 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…

Thank you !

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The Dawn of Winter: December Notes from Ferncliff…

December 17th, 2009 § 3 comments § permalink

Winter Dawn

Winter’s Dawn at Ferncliff

The morning after a storm. Silent. Pristine. After months of drowsy, frost-covered mornings, at long last the garden has fallen to sleep. Lulled by a by a shifting blanket of snow, the flowers have all drifted away now; their pods empty; stalks broken. Summer’s song is hushed; notes frozen in chilly stillness. A long winter’s night lies ahead. Sleep tight Callicarpa. Stay warm beneath your mulch, toad lily. I’ve tucked you in with care – very tightly.  Soon the forest will howl and snap, ushering in Winter’s sharp, bitter cold…

Microbiota in snow storm

Russian cypress, (Microbiota decussata), lines the path to the north meadow…

Ilex verticillata in snow

Ilex verticillata, ‘Red sprite’ sparkles in the morning snow…

forest in snow storm

The native forest caught in a snow squall…

fountain grass and sedum in snow

Shadows play upon the snow and bleached remains of fountain grass…

chair and basket

Snow coats rusty patterns – sharp, steel slats and curved lines…

miscanthus sinensis close up in snow

Impossibly delicate, tiny snowflakes cling to tufts on ornamental grass…

miscanthus sinensis in snow storm

The hardy perennials remain standing, swaying in the snow…

entry garden, first snow

The entry garden plantings continue to add color and texture to the landscape, and in the background, eastern hemlock stands stately, newly cloaked in white…

echinacea, rudbeckia and miscanthus in winter

Garden remnants in light and shadow…

cotoneaster in snow

Cotoneaster, still holding plump, ripe fruit, cascades down the retaining wall…

Hydrangea paniculata lime light in snow

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ rests in a bed of snow…

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Article and photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. Please do not use my words or pictures without contacting me first. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardner’s Eden, and may not be used or reproduced without express written 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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Walking in a Winter Wonderland …

December 1st, 2009 § 6 comments § permalink

ornamental grass, first snow

Sleigh bells ring… are you listening ?

“When it snows, ain’t it thrilling, though your nose gets a chilling? We’ll frolic and play the Eskimo way, walking in a winter wonderland”…

Welcome December !

Hellebores dusted with snow

Hellebores gleam and glimmer like stars in white glitter…

cotoneaster with snow

A branch of Cotoneaster, loaded with red berries, reminiscent of a ruby necklace, dusted with snow…

Beech stand, first snow...

The twinkling forest on a frosty morning…

Stone steps dusted in snow

The Secret Garden steps look as if someone carelessly ripped a bag of powdered sugar while sneaking sweets inside…

Ilex verticillata and Juniperus chinensis 'Sargentii' dusted in snow

Ilex verticillata ‘Red sprite’ and  Juniperus chinensis ‘Sargentii’ dusted with snow…

Juniperus horizontalis 'Wiltonii'

Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’,(‘Blue Rug’), could pass for fine white lace…

Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight'

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’, delicately powdered…

Heuchera seed with ice in November

Heuchera seed-pods with ice droplets, sparkle and gleam in morning light

Rodgersia dusted in snow

Rodgersia remnants strike a feminine pose beside the stone wall…

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“Winter Wonderland” melody by Dick Smith and Felix Bernard – 1934

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

All content on this site, (exclusive of notations), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced for any reason without express written 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…

Thank you !

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