Slip Beyond the Misty Walls & Linger Within My Secret Garden…

June 16th, 2012 § 9 comments § permalink

Weigela florida ‘Red Prince’ Tumbling Over the Secret Garden Wall. Stonework by Vermont Artist Dan Snow. Read More About W. florida  by Clicking Here.

It’s mid-June —showtime for some of the season’s prettiest perennials, flowering trees and shrubs— and the garden is always dressed to the nines. Even within the shady depths of my Secret Garden walls, blossoms appear and scent the balmy air. As a garden designer, June is also my busiest month, and finding leisure time to tend my garden —let alone enjoy it— can be a challenge. Still, Mother Nature is kind enough to keep extending the daylight hours, allowing me a few stolen moments in the early and latter part of my day to snap a few photos and pull a few weeds.

Would you like to go for a little stroll with me, before the sun sinks low? It’s almost summertime, and this weekend seems a fine prelude. I’ll pour you a glass of rose-scented prosecco. Remember how we celebrated with a vintage cocktail at the other side of the season? Come, the rain has finally stopped, and sunlight is playing with a kaleidoscope of color; bouncing off shimmering foliage and mossy rocks…

A Kaleidoscope of Hues Accent Dan Snow’s Walls with An Ebony-Glazed Crow by Vermont Artist Virginia Wyoming (Plantings, Clockwise from Lower Left: Hosta ‘August Moon’, Umbrella Plant (Darmera peltata), Fairy Candles (Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’), Moonlight Hydrangea Vine (Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’), Heuchera villosa ‘Caramel’, Athyrium nipponicum ‘Pictum’ & Alchemilla mollis)

Deep Within the Secret Garden, Golden Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’) Illuminates the Mossy Path (Also planted here: Heuchera micrantha ‘Palace Purple’, Single Japanese ‘Le Charme’ Peonies (Paeonia lactiflora ‘Le Charme’), Rodgersia aesculifolia & Ostrich Ferns (Matteuccia pensylvanica) surround a Young Stewartia pseudocamellia)

Much as I Adore the Over-the-Top Voluptuousness of Double and Bomb Type Peonies, the Delicate Beauty of Japanese Singles —Such as the Exquisite Paeonia lactiflora ‘Le Charme’ in the Secret Garden— Appeal to My Deep Attraction to Asian Simplicity

Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium nipponicum ‘Pictum’) Planted in the Secret Garden with Coral Bells (Heuchera micrantha ‘Palace Purple’), Spurge (Euphorbia cyparissias ‘Fens Ruby’) and Dead Nettle (Lamium maculatum ‘Orchid Frost’)

On Sunny Evenings, Prince Pickerel Often Sits at the Edge of His Throne, Awaiting A Kiss at the Secret Garden Door

And on Rainy Days, Prince Pickerel Disappears within the Secret Garden’s  Mossy Stone Walls

A Tall Urn Accents a Shady Corner of the Entry Wall Along the Secret Garden Path (Surrounding Plants include: Heuchera ‘Caramel’, Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’, Hosta ‘August Moon’). All Stonework by Vermont Artist Dan Snow.

Meanwhile, Just Outside the High Stone Walls, June Flowers Reign Supreme along the Petite Lawn. I’ve Nicknamed this Beauty ‘Veronica Lake’. Stunning in Blue Isn’t She? This Veronica Truly is a Wispy & Ephemeral Flower, With a Short but Unforgettable Showing. In Spite of this Peek-a-Boo Quality, Veronica austriaca subsp. teucrium ‘Crater Lake Blue’ Will Always Have A Place in My Garden. Once Finished Blooming, I Simply Cut Her Droopy Foliage Back to a Tidy Mound.

Prelude to Summer: A Garden of White in Lingering Light. Valerian officinalis, Aruncus dioicus & Hydrangea petiolaris in Evening Sun

One of My June Garden Favorites, North American Native Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia cutivar ‘Pink Charm’), is Blooming Her Pretty Head Off in the Entry Garden Along the Ledges; Attracting Dozens of Swallowtail Butterflies with Her Sweet Nectar and Bright Color (Also in this Garden: Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’, and in the Background, Miscanthus sinensis cultivars)

Wild, Rambling Roses & Horizontal Juniper Along the Ledges (Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’ and an Unidentified Old Rose Cultivar). Every Year, I’m Asked About the Fragrant, Rambling Rose Along My Secret Garden’s Entry Garden Walk. This ‘Wild’ Rose was Discovered in the Ruins of an Old, Crumbling Stone Foundation, Located on the Property Where I Grew Up. I’ve Taken A Slip With Me Each Time I’ve Moved, and It Seems Particularly Happy Here Along the Ledges, Growing in Harmony with the Blue-Green Juniper. Can You Spot the Floating Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly?

The Pretty June Bloom of this Geranium ‘Brookside’ is Often Followed by a Second Showing in Autumn —Particularly When Clipped Back Hard to a Tidy Mound— When Her Foliage Turns Brilliant Orange and Scarlet

The Smoldering Glow of Sunlit Foliage on this Smokebush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’) in the Entry Garden is Radiant as Stained Glass in the Long Daylight. Also Illuminated in the Background is Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’

Pretty Blue Flowers from Chance Seedlings of Perennial Bachelor Buttons (Centaurea montana) Sparkle Against the Deep Maroon Foliage of Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’)

Back Inside My Studio, Double and Bomb Type Peonies Fill the Room with Heavenly Fragrance from the Garden: Paeonia lactiflora ‘Sarah Berhardt’, P. lactiflora ‘Raspberry Sundae’ & P. lactiflora ‘Duchesse de Nemours’

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

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Seduced by Autumn’s Alluring Scent …

September 25th, 2011 § Comments Off on Seduced by Autumn’s Alluring Scent … § permalink

Deep Within the Secret Garden, the Delightful Scent of Fairy Candles (Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ and ‘Brunette’ aka Cimicifuga racemosa) Perfumes the Air, Luring Me Down the Dim, Winding Path. (Other plants here: Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’, Daphne x burkwoodii ‘Carol Mackie’, Viburum bodnantense ‘Dawn’, and beside the Actaea simplex: glowing, chartreuse Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’)

There are many things to love about Autumn, not the least of which is her enviable wardrobe of fine perfume. Earthy notes of musk, moss and damp leaves play against heady florals to create a most alluring bouquet. Just outside my studio door, Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis paniculata, aka C. terniflora) scents the damp morning breeze with a cloud of fragrant white blossoms. Nearby —along the edge of the stone terrace— swoon-inducing Damask Roses (Hardy Portland Damask cultivar, Rosa ‘De Rescht’) fill the air with their unmistakably rich scent as they come into a second wave of seasonal bloom; mingling with the nearby vanilla of Henry Eilers Sweet Coneflower (Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’). Further down the garden path —luring me into the shadows— the slightly-fruity fragrance Fairy Candles (Actaea simplex cvs ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ and ‘Brunette’) swirls about, blending at the edge of the damp walls with base notes of moss and fern to balance the sweetness …

One of the lofty delights of fall, Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis paniculata, aka C. terniflora) twines about my studio entry door. Here in my zone 4/5 garden, this old-time favorite produces clouds of fragrant, white blossoms throughout the month of September and often into early October. Sweet Autumn Clematis is hardy in zones 4-8 and can reach a height of 30′ or more (easily contained and kept tidy by vigorous spring pruning, as this clematis blooms on new wood)

The old roses, particularly Damasks, are well known for their exquisite perfume. In early autumn —and often straight through the first frost— this Portland Damask Rose known as Rosa ‘De Rescht’ (the right rose, in German), is particularly sweet. Read more about this hardy cultivar and find a Vintage Rose Cocktail recipe by clicking here.

An unusually fragrant rudbeckia, Henry Eilers Sweet Coneflower (Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’), lightly perfumes the air with the subtle scent of vanilla, when planted en masse

The Fruity Scent of Fairy Candles (Actaea simplex ‘Brunette’) Wafts Up from the Stone Walls Along the Secret Garden Path. Read more about this Autumn blooming beauty by clicking here.

Late-blooming flowers are not only attractive, but vitally important to the support of pollinators as well. As sunlight fades in the September garden, I often find drunken bees and butterflies lingering about the Fairy Candles and other blossoms, long past the sunset. And can you blame them? With all the voluptuous fragrances of fall —and many more yet to come— a stroll through the Autumn garden can be a deliciously intoxicating experience …

Find the recipe for this Vintage Rose Cocktail and read about my favorite Autumn Damask Rose, ‘Rosa De Rescht’ by clicking here

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photos, 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. Thank you!

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September’s Soft, Autumnal Serenade … The Beauty of Japanese Windflowers

September 19th, 2011 § 4 comments § permalink

Anemone x hybrida ‘Serenade’ in My Garden

Ah, September; low, golden light, amber colored fields and fragrant orchards laden with fruit. I love this time of year, especially in the garden. Some of my favorite colors come to life in late summer and early autumn; bold red, burnt orange and bittersweet, saffron and gold, plum, wine and cerise. Playing vibrant fall foliage against late blooming flowers is a great way to get maximum impact from the end-of-season garden show. Asters, Monkshood (Aconitum), Fairy Candles (Actaea simplex), Toad Lilies (Tricyrtis formosana) and single flowered Chrysathemums are some of my preferred autumn blooming knock-outs. But when it comes to fall flowers, I must admit a weakness for the delicate beauty and rich color of Anemone.

Just now, the Japanese Windflowers are beginning to unfurl their pretty, pink petals in my garden. Anemone are gorgeous perennial plants, and although I admire all species and cultivars, Anemone x hybrida ‘Serenade’ is probably my favorite among the Asian hybrids. In early September, beautiful silver-tipped buds —striking in moody, low light— begin to open; revealing silken petals in the most gorgeous shade of deep pink. Windflowers are lovely in combination with many plants, and I delight in experimenting with all sorts of color and texture harmonies and contrasts. Actaea simplex ‘Brunette’, Athyrium niponicum var. pictum, Eupatorium rugosum ‘Chocolate’ and Hosta ‘August Moon’ are lovely partners for Anemone x hybrida in partial shade. In sunnier locations, the deep pink flowering cultivars are striking when played against the golden autumn color of Amsonia hubrichtii or A. illustris, or backed up woody plants like Lindera benzoin or Clethra alnifolia (both of which produce beautiful yellow autumn leaves). A screen of blue-green conifers provides gorgeous contrast to A. x hybrida ‘Serenade’, ‘September Charm’ or ‘Robustissima’. All Anemone are lovely cut flowers in the vase, but I find that they are so beautiful in the late season border, that I rarely cut them.

The Silvery-Tipped Buds of Anemone x hybrida ‘Serenade’ Unfold Deep Cerise Petals, Slowly Fading to the Softest Shade of Pink

Japanese Anemone and hybrids (sometimes listed as A. japonica, A. elegans or A. hupehensis var. japonica x A. vitifolia) are very low-maintenance, disease-free plants once established. All prefer moist, deep, well-drained soil and shielding from hot, mid-day sun. Most Japanese Anemone hybrids are hardy in USDA zones 5/6-10, with some sturdy varieties toughing it out as far north as zone 4. I typically grow the hardier Anemone cultivars in my garden (including A. x hybrida ‘Robustissima’ and ‘Serenade’), but I always provide winter protection for the more delicate plants in my garden; applying a thick layer of composted leaf mold or shredded bark mulch. Japanese Anemone are attractive garden plants year round; forming neat mounds of lovely, cut foliage (some cultivars produce blue-green leaves). Taller cultivars (such as 4′ A. x hybrida ‘Whirlwind’) sometimes require staking in windy sites. However, properly sited —at the back of the border or in a protected spot— I find they are self-supporting in all but the wildest of weather.

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

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First Hints of a Changing Season …

September 12th, 2011 § Comments Off on First Hints of a Changing Season … § permalink

Shimmering Bronze Beauty in the Morning Light: Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’

As the last days of summer swirl by in a golden haze, the first hints of a changing season have begun to appear in my garden. Dusk settles in this quiet forest clearing a bit earlier each evening, and although days are still warm and bright, nights are much cooler now. Hooting owls and the cries of distant coyote have replaced the songbird’s twilight serenade. Each morning –greeted by the slow sunrise, heavy as honey– I stroll the garden paths and woodland trails, noting subtle shifts in color. I watch with a touch of sadness as Summer packs her luggage —folding up her gauzy, floral wardrobe and tucking away her perfumes— while Autumn, with her musky scent and leafy, golden crown, approaches the garden gate …

The Mauve-Violet Tones of Maiden Grass are Luminous at Dawn (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’)

The Blossoms of Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ Have Developed a Rosy Blush

Favorite Late-Season Combinations, Such as This Pairing of Sedum ‘Matrona’ with Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’) and Rudbeckia hirta, Once Again Take Center Stage in the Garden Show

Cornus kousa Fruits Glow Between the Glossy Green Leaves …

So Many Fill the Branches, Dangling Like Brightly Colored Pom-Poms

The Autumn-Kissed Leaves of this Doublefile Viburnum (V. plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Shasta’) Glow Like Stained Glass

Scarlet Leaves (V. plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Shasta’) are a Striking in the Agains the Blue Horizon as a Westerly Wind Rustles the Shimmering, New, Metallic Tufts of Flame Grass (Miscanthus sinensis purpurascens)

The Fragrant Blossoms of Fairy Candles (Actaea simplex ‘Brunette’ /aka Cimicifuga racemosa) Perfume the Secret Garden with a Soft, Sweet Scent

The Blossoms of this Variegated Bushclover (Lespedeza thunbergii ‘Edo Shibori’) Spill Like a Waterfall, Over the Rusty Bench and Onto the Stone Terrace

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

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Cooling Off in the Dappled Shade: Deepest Violet and Shadow Blue Hues …

July 23rd, 2011 § Comments Off on Cooling Off in the Dappled Shade: Deepest Violet and Shadow Blue Hues … § permalink

Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ with Fothergilla x intermedia ‘Blue Shadow’

Out working in the field during this week’s scorching heat and high humidity, I found myself dodging the sun whenever possible; ducking beneath the cover of every shade tree and arbor in order to hide from burning, mid-day rays. Over the past couple of weeks it’s been so hot, it really does feel as if you could fry an egg on the side walk. I can barely keep up with watering these days, and I find myself longing for the sweet relief of summer rain.

During the dog days of summer —seduced by the undeniable allure of cool hues and dappled shade in the Secret Garden— I like to spend as much time as possible working from my shadowy office-nook. Cool shades like sea-green, violet-maroon, silvery-blue and burgundy —some of my favorite colors— fill this shady oasis. And on hot days, I love to pull a chair into the tall ferns and surround myself with lush, sensual foliage, in soothing, deep, dark hues. Previously, in posts such as “A Heart of Darkness”, I’ve mentioned my infatuation with nearly-black plants. And while the hues are anything but hot, my dark passion for shadowy foliage shows now sign of cooling. Currently, I’m loving the color play of silver-blue leaves against deep maroon, and two long-time favorite, shady ladies, Fothergilla x intermedia ‘Blue Shadow’ (USDA 4-8) and Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ (USDA 4-8), are the latest, cool-hued additions to my garden (foliage of both pictured above). 

Athyrium niponicum var. pictum with Cryptotaenia japonica atropurpurea (aka variously: Japanese Mitsuba or Japanese parsley/honewort)

The pale pink plumes of Astilbe x arendesii ‘Europa’ also combine well with bronzy-maroon Cryptotaenia japonica atropurpurea

Elsewhere in the shade gardens, I like to combine astilbe and silvery ferns —particularly Athyrium niponicum var. pictum and Athyrium ‘Ghost’ (both ferns, USDA 4-9)— with the deep, violet-maroon leaves of Cryptotaenia japonica autropurpurea(aka Japanese Mitsuba/Honewort, USDA zones 4-9*), Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’, H. ‘Stormy Sea’ and statuesque Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ (which I featured in this post –click here– last summer). Chartreuse/gold leaves and blades also play beautifully in contrast with darker foliage; bringing a bit of light to shady vignettes. Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’ and Hosta ‘August Moon’ are two favorite bright-contrast plants in my dimly-lit Secret Garden.

After a long day in the hot sun, there’s nothing quite so soothing as a cool glass of lemonade in a lush, shady nook…

Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ (aka Cimicifuga), Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’ play beautifully with the chartreuse-blades of Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’ and to the far left, silvery, variegated Lamium maculatum ‘White Nancy’

Hosta ‘August Moon’ with Cryptotaenia japonica atropurpurea

One of my long-time favorite, leafy ground covers for dappled sunlight, Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’, combines well with many other shade garden plants. And I particularly love the leathery-maroon leaves beneath Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’

*Cryptotaenia japonica atropurpurea is a culinary herb, known variously as Mitsuba, Japanese parsley or honeywort. It is closely related to North American Cryptotaenia canadensis. Although it is not considered an invasive plant by the USDA, C. japonica freely seeds and in shady, moist locations can become aggressive (much like mint). Plant this herb with caution and dead head to prevent self-sowing seed troubles.

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

Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to this site, helping to cover web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you so much for your support!

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Fashionably Late & Dressed in Maroon: Sweetly-Scented, Autumn Fairy Candles Light Up the Shadowy, Secret Garden…

September 16th, 2010 § 6 comments § permalink

Actaea simplex/Cimicifuga simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty {also known variously as Fairy Candles, Black Snake Root & Black Cohosh}

Actaea simlex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’, here in the Secret Garden with Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’, Lamium maculatum, Helleborus x hybridus ‘Royal Heritage Strain’, Paeonia mouton x lutea ‘High Noon’, Stewartia pseudocamilla, and a background of bronzing Matteuccia pensylvanica {native Ostrich fern}

True, there are those who say it’s rude to be tardy, but it seems to me that the more interesting characters always arrive a wee-bit late to the party. Of course, they are always gorgeous, a bit mysterious, and often wearing something dark and dramatic. Well, such is the case with Actaea simplex {aka Cimicifuga simplex} ‘Hillside Black Beauty’, in my Secret Garden. Clad in exquisitely-cut, deep, velvet-maroon, the Fairy Candles —as I like to call them— saunter into bloom in September; wearing their lilac-tinted, flower plumes the way an old-fashioned bombshell might drape her shoulders with an exotic, perfumed boa. Filling the cool, misty air of the Secret Garden with the most delightfully intoxicating scent, {noticed and adored by hungry bees and other early autumn pollinators} Actaea simplex arrives late on the garden-scene with the kind of laid-back elegance of which modern Hollywood starlets can only dream…

Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ in the Secret Garden {see companion plant listing above}

Known by various intriguing aliases —including Black Snake Root, Black Cohosh and (my favorite) Fairy Candles— Actaea simplex was formerly categorized in taxonomic circles as Cimicifuga simplex (sim-e- sih-few-gah sim-plex); a delightful tongue-twister that, once mastered, I actually came to adore (In fact, I still refer to her by the original botanical name – the Latin just seems to capture her… Je ne sais quoi). Native to the moist, cool woodlands of eastern North America, this statuesque beauty will easily reach 4-6′ tall — spikes in full bloom— when she’s given the conditions she prefers. Hardy in USDA zones 4-8, Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’, and the similarly beautiful ‘Brunette’, require a consistently moist and amply shaded location to really strut their stuff. Too much sun will bleach and burn-out her gorgeous foliage , and dry soil will quickly do her in.

It’s a shame the fragrance of Actaea simplex’s blossoms can not be transmitted electronically. I wish you could sample the delicious scent…

A classy beauty like this demands fine company. And with her year-round, velvety, maroon attire, chartreuse and gold foliage make gorgeous music with her in the low-light. I like to combine the dark foliage of  A. simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ and ‘Brunette’ with low, spreading, golden Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’ or ‘Aureola’), mound-shaped Hosta ‘August Moon’, and for serious drama, I play her against my favorite chartreuse -stunner, Sambucus racemosa ‘Sutherland Gold’ (European elder). Yes, Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ is a true garden bombshell – but of the dark variety, not the blonde— like Hedy Lamarr. She’s sultry, she’s elegant, and she really knows how to bring down the house in style….

Inspiration: Hedy Lamarr {image: still from ‘The Strange Woman’ United Artists 1946 (public domain)– via improbable research}

Hedy Lamarr {Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1938 – image via zimbio.com}

Hedy Lamarr {image via zimbio.com}

Hedy Lamarr was an Austrian-born actress popular in films of the 1930s and 40s. Read more about Hedy Lamarr on her IMDB page by clicking here.

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Article and photos (excepting portraits of Hedy Lamarr) are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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