A Moment of Verdant Bliss

July 16th, 2015 § 4 comments § permalink

IMG_5596.JPG Cool, lush, verdant: a moment of mid-summer bliss in the Secret Garden

It’s been an incredibly rewarding, but also a busy and stressful week at my studio. I bite my nails when anxiety rises and I know that worrying about tomorrow robs me of today. Gardening has taught me to slow down and stay in the moment. After an hour or two of weeding therapy, I realize that I’m exactly where I need to be, right now.

  IMG_1924.JPGJapanese Painted Fern (Athyrium nipponicum ‘Pictum’) & Astilbe ‘Europa’ (A. arendesii), beside the Secret Garden water bowl

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

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Silverbells Upon a Moonlit, May Night: Planning an Enticing Evening Garden . . .

May 22nd, 2013 § Comments Off on Silverbells Upon a Moonlit, May Night: Planning an Enticing Evening Garden . . . § permalink

Moonlit_Halesia_ tetraptera_(Carolina_Silverbell)_Michaela_Medina_Harlow_thegardenerseden.com Silverbells Swing in May Moonlight (explore Halesia tetraptera here)

“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine.”  
William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

After the Sun slips below the horizon, tossing her golden farewell to the tree tops, a different kind of garden romance begins. Slowly, indigo-blue twilight sweeps in, enveloping the garden in long, velvet shadows. As darkness falls, lady Moon often makes a dramatic, evening entrance; seducing us with her ever-changing glow and mysterious platinum charm. Overflowing with shimmering, fragrant blossoms and leafy silhouettes, there’s something irresistibly enticing about a moonlit garden. Many of us spend our daylight hours busy with work, leaving our gardens for late afternoon and evening enjoyment. So why not make the most of the night? When designing outdoor rooms for busy clients —particularly entryways, porches, balconies and dining terraces— I like to add a bit of moonlight garden surprise into my planting plans.

Halesia_tetraptera_Blossoms_2013_michaela_thegardenerseden.com Silverbell Blossoms —Pretty as Crystals Dangling from a Handblown, Glass Chandelier— Sway in the Breeze Above the Outdoor Dining Table on a Moonlit Evening

A wide variety of trees and shrubs —including the Carolina Silverbell (Halesia tetraptera), pictured here—produce white and light colored blossoms; perfect for catching glints of moonlight. In spring, Serviceberry (Amelanchier x arborea), Dogwood (Cornus florida, C. alternifolia and C. kousa), Cherry (Prunus), Apple (Malus), deliciously fragrant Daphne (D x burkwoodii) and many Viburnum come to mind. Climbers, like self-clinging Moonlight Hydrangea Vine (Schizophragma hydrangeoides), and Clematis (particularly white-flowering moon-garden-classic Clematis Henryi), are invaluable for adding height and glow to the evening garden. Flowering perennials —such as fragrant Oriental Lilies (Lilium ‘Casa Blanca’ & ‘Star Gazer’), Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata) and Fairy Candles (Actaea simplex)— especially those with lush, variegated leaves, as well as ferns (particularly Athyrium x ‘Ghost’), foliage plants and ornamental grasses in shades of silver, white and gold are also helpful in creating nighttime drama.

Queen-Annes-Moon-ⓒ-2012-michaela-medina-thegardenerseden.com- Queen Anne’s Lace, Silhouetted in the Late-Summer Moonlight

But often, in the stillness of late spring and summertime air, it’s the light, lacy silhouettes and fragrant, evening-blooming annuals that we find most enticing in an evening garden. For alluring scent, try fragrant, flowering tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris), delightful Datura (Datura meteloides ‘Evening Fragrance’), Heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens), Night Phlox (Zaluzianskya capensis), Four-O’Clocks (Mirabilis jalapa), Angel’s Trumpts (Brugmansia arborea), Night-Blooming Jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum); all among my favorites. And for some reliable, light reflection, add classic Moonflowers (Ipomoea alba), Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota) and sparkly, white Spider Flowers (Cleome hassleriana), for more night-dazzling pizazz.

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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In Late September’s Low Sunlight, Autumn Dons Her Golden Crown . . .

September 26th, 2012 § 1 comment § permalink

The Garden’s Golden Hour: Miscanthus sinensis purpurascens & Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’

Sunset to twilight: a favorite window of time for a slow garden stroll. Quick, grab a sweater to throw off the chill, and a camera to capture the beauty. Early autumn and the golden hour —a garden drenched in honey-hued light— sweet moments to savor and share …

Chocolate-Colored Pom-Poms: Rudbeckia Remnants with Sun Spots. In My Garden, Seed Heads Remain Standing to Provide Winter Sustenance for Birds and Add Textural Interest to the Garden

The Entry Garden in Late September Sunlight: Maiden Grasses are Positioned to Catch Morning & Early Evening Light

Warm Hues of Early Autumn in the Entry Garden: Plantings Include; Amsonia illustris, A. hubrichtii, Miscanthus sinensis purpurascens, Betula papyrifera, Clethra alnifolia, Aster oblongifolium ‘Raydon’s Favorite’, Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’

Sun-Washed Seed Pods: Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa)

When designing a garden, I usually make several site visits, scheduled at different times of the day. Observing sunlight helps me to position certain plants –such as ornamental grasses or Japanese maples– for maximum effect. When planning your garden, watch the sunlight and plant accordingly to take advantage of backlight in morning and early evening. You will be rewarded for your efforts with luminous garden rooms filled with ‘stained glass’ windows.

Garden Design & Installation: Michaela Medina Harlow

Photography and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/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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Weaving Garden Dreams into Reality: The Art of Designing a Landscape …

September 5th, 2011 § 8 comments § permalink

Sketching with Dahlias for Color Inspiration

Rainy days are studio days. I’ve been indoors on this wet Labor Day, working on a bulb order for a garden I designed and planted last week, and putting together preliminary sketches for two upcoming projects. My painting studio doubles as my garden design space; filled with all of the supplies you would expect in an artist’s work room. On my desk, drafting tools and calculators mingle with watercolors, colored pencils and pastel chalk. Plant encyclopedias and a laptop are close at hand, as are nursery stock lists and contractor phone numbers. There’s a view of the entry garden and steel balcony from my studio, but I always bring a few flowers to my desk for inspiration, whenever I’m working indoors …

The Original Design Drawing, Presented to the Homeowners (My original design included four different shrubs in the back border. The owner has a strong affection for blue hydrangea, so the final design eliminated the varied shrubs in favor of H. macrophylla ‘Endless Summer’)

Some of my clients —particularly those more familiar with my work— commission garden designs from me without requiring preliminary drawings or plant lists. They just wave their hands around to show where they want improvements and give me a few dos, don’ts and budgetary guidelines. And sometimes —when I’m both designing and installing a garden— a basic sketch and plant list is all that my client requests. But when a project is larger and involves subcontractors —stoneworkers and other hardscaping— I always do sketches, full-scale drawings and planting plans with complete lists. Late last year, I almost caved in to industry ‘Sketch Up’ pressure. Why buy a program to create drawings when I can do them myself? Well, to some, the results of computer-generated design programs are great selling tools; after all, they look slick and impressive. I suppose they inspire confidence. But are they really better? After playing around with ‘Sketch Up’ for a week or so —although I thought it was quite cool and useful— in the end I decided that I genuinely prefer hand drawing garden designs and planting plans. I like sketching out what I see in my imagination … I find that it informs my creative process. And you know what? When I mentioned this to one of my clients —who’s garden design you see featured here— I discovered that my drawings are part of what attracted her to my work.  And after a thorough survey of my wonderful clients, I found that they prefer my hand-made drawings over generic-looking, computerized mock-ups; some have actually framed them.

I Don’t Have Trouble Seeing Three Dimensional Space. But, Drawings Help Me to Communicate What I See in My Mind’s Eye

Before: A Pretty House with a Blank Canvas for This Garden Designer. Large Scale Design Drawings Helped My Clients Visualize Proposed Changes

With a drawing like the one directly above, I can show my client exactly what my garden design will look like when it matures. I can also use an overlay (done on vellum) to show where a foreground tree will be placed. Call me old-fashioned, but as much as I am a computer person, I still adore books and I will always love paper.

Once my client approves a design —drawings always help with visualization— I set to work on scale planting plans. These plans help me to space plants properly and order the correct number of plants. Of course, there’s always tweaking to be done in the end —that’s half the fun of garden design, really— but planting plans are dimensionally correct keys, allowing me to come up with estimates and stay on budget. All of the plants are drawn into the plan at their mature size to insure correct spacing, and they are represented by their approximate shape and leaf color (or bloom color). Sometimes, a subcontracted landscaper or a client will install part or all of the garden I design, and in such cases, it’s critical that all of this information be clearly communicated. Usually there are multiple revisions and many copies …

Preliminary Site & Planting Plan I

Secondary Site & Planting Plan, II (there is yet another, final plan for this project)

A detailed site plan and list of materials also helps with financial decision making; allowing me to estimate costs for hardscaping, nursery stock and installation. I use dimensions and plant counts to calculate the amount of compost/loam, mulch and the number of plants I need for a project. Once the final plan and budget are approved, the site plan and plant lists serve as a guide when purchasing trees, shrubs and perennials at nurseries. A copy of the site plan is also on hand during layout and planting. Even if I don’t create a complete set of watercolor or pencil drawings, I always create a basic site plan when I am designing a garden; even one of my own. 

As Plants Go In, Overturned Pots Hold the Places of Those Yet to Arrive. A Stewartia pseudocamilla Anchors the Center of This Semi-Shade Garden

The Back Deck is Softened by a Sweep of Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides)

The Curve of the Perennial Border Echoes the Natural Stone Walkway and a Dogwood (Cornus x rutgan ‘Stellar Pink’) Softens the Corner of the House

I’ll be back with more photos of this project when it’s completed. Plus, stay tuned for how you can create and use a planting plan to modify an existing, or design your own new garden …

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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