Solstice Season in the Secret Garden

December 11th, 2017 § 2 comments § permalink

Solstice Season in the Secret Garden

 First snow. Powder swirls about the Secret Garden, dusting peaks, tracing lines and filling every crevice. The forest, enchanted, drifts softly off to sleep . . .

Winter bares her beautiful bones

Article & Photography copyright Michaela Harlow 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, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent.

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Upon a May Night . . .

May 25th, 2014 § 5 comments § permalink

Upon_a_May_Night_2014_Copyright_Michaela_Harlow_thegardenerseden.comJPG An Evening Stroll to the Secret Garden, through a Carpet of Wild, Blue Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaricata)

Awake before the dawn this morning —listening to the forest come alive with the songs of hermit thrush and the yelps of young fox— my mind drifted back to yesterday evening, and a few stolen hours in the garden at twilight. A glass of wine and few moments to  collect fresh Lily-of-the-Valley, Daphne, fragrant Viburnum and Wild, Woodland Phlox for beside the bed. Spring is such a fleeting season, and oh, how I treasure May nights.

Memorial Day is the biggest gardening weekend of the year in New England, and yesterday was a busy work day for me. I spent the day shopping at nurseries and making multiple trips to and from growers with truckloads of plants. Hours in my own garden are so limited in May; with available time for maintenance confined mainly to early mornings and evenings. Thank goodness for lengthening daylight hours and French-pressed coffee to greet the sunrise.

Secret_Garden_with_Ostrich_Fern_and_Sterling_Narcissus_copyright_Michaela_Harlow_thegardenerseden.com The Secret Garden: from Fiddleheads to Feathery Fern, in the Blink of an Eye

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 asking first. Thank you!

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Autumn’s Kaleidoscopic Color Wheel: Glorious Patterns & Back-Lit Beauty …

October 27th, 2011 § Comments Off on Autumn’s Kaleidoscopic Color Wheel: Glorious Patterns & Back-Lit Beauty … § permalink

 Purple Beautyberry, Smokebush and Maiden Grass Make a Brilliant Grouping (Callicarpa dichotoma, Cotinus coggygria and Miscanthus)

Though it Often Spreads Aggressively, North American Native, Hay Scented Fern (Densntaedtia punctilobula) is a Gorgeous and Durable Ground Cover for Tough, Shady Spaces. Taking My Cue from Mother Nature, I Like to Position this Autumnal Favorite Where it will Catch the Long, Low Light

For Intense, Late-Autumn Foliage Color, One of My Favorite Woody Plants is North American native Fothergilla (Here: Fothergilla major ‘Mt Airy’). The “Witches” —As I Often Refer to Members of the Hamamelidaceae family— in My Garden Include Fothergilla, Hamamelis, Parrotia, and a Few, Lesser-Known Apprentices. Due to Her Chameleon-Like Costume Drama, Fothergilla Plays Well with Physocarpus, Cotinus, Ornamental Grass, Conifers, and Most Other Autumn Beauties. Read More About these Spellbinders in my Past Post, “Must Be the Season of the Witch”.

Late October. Cold winds are kicking up now, lifting leaves high into topaz skies where they twirl about as if riding on a Ferris Wheel. And on rainy days —when the air is damp and still— moody fog swirls about the high walls and along the pathways, softening the hard edges of stone and the skeletal remains of flowers. The second half of autumn can be a dramatic time for late season garden color; with Witch Hazel, Smokebush, Dogwood and Japanese Maple foliage coloring up in fine, fiery hues. The sensual ornamental grasses and colorful Viburnum — so many shrubs, loaded with plump, brilliant fruit— continue to perform beautifully, while the Beautyberry, Cotoneaster and Winterberry are just beginning to put on their seasonal show. Here’s a quick tour of what’s going on in my garden, with notes on some favorite ways to use valuable, late-season plants; making the most of their theatrical talents …

Japanese Maple Leaves (Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’) Offer Stunning Autumn Color and Sculptural Form Throughout the Seasons. Many Japanese Maple Trees are Smaller in Stature (A Number Reach 15′ or Less at Maturity), and Most Prefer a bit of Shade, Making them a Perfect Choice for Shadowy Urban Courtyards and Gardens with Limited Space

Reliable as the Change of Season Itself, The Blue-Green Dragon (Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’) Always Hits It Out of the Park. This Small Tree (approximately 14′ high at maturity) is a Rare, Upright, Cut-Leaf Form of Japanese Maple. Beautiful When Backlit and Combined with Autumn Golds, the Color of This Specimen Shifts from the Color of Ocean Waves to Fire to Smoldering Embers 

Mossy Stone Walls Offer a Subtly Beautiful Contrast for These Fiery Leaves (Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’)

Some Trees are Natural Show-Offs in Autumn Sunlight, and for Spectacular, Stained-Glass-Like Fall Foliage, it’s Hard to Compete with Japanese Maples (Dancing in the Sunlight Here: Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’). For Best Effect, Position Japanese Maples and Similar Trees in Places Where the Foliage will Filter the Rays of Light in Morning and Late Afternoon

Ever-Beautiful, North American native Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum) is Particularly Stunning When Positioned to Capture Light. When I Work Delicate Grasses Like This One into a Garden Desing, I Like to Place Them Where They Can be Seen, Touched and Enjoyed Throughout the Autumn and Early Winter. This Mature Specimen. Located at the Edge of a Pathway Junction in My Garden, Captures Light at Sunrise and Again at Sunset (The Textural, Dried Flower at the Bottom of the Photo is Solidago)

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ Changes Hue from Pale Ivory with a Hint of Lime to Rose-Kissed Ivory to Rust. To Make the Most of Her Color Changes, I’ve Positioned Her Beside the Dark Foliage of Fagus sylvatica ‘Riversii’, and Surrounded Her Feet with Colorful Ground Covers (Hakonechloa macra ‘Beni Kaze’ and Pulmonaria ‘Raspberry Splash’). I Love the Relaxed Mood Created When Blossoms Spill Upon an Autumn Walkway

Somehow Escaping Jack’s Icy Fingers, these Morning Glories (Ipomoea tricolor ‘Heavenly Blue’ ) Look Just Stunning Against a Backdrop of Scarlet Sumac (North American native Rhus typhina)

Surrounded by the Confetti Hued Leaves of the Burkwood Viburnum (V. x burkwoodii ‘Anne Russell), Doctor Woo Looks Like Part of a Seasonal Display as She Surveys Her Vole Hunting Domain (Also in this frame: Frost-Kissed, Yellow Hosta Leaves, Rudbeckia & Adenophora Seed Pods and North American native Hydrangea quercifolia in Back of the Border)

The Border Pictured Above Contains Two North American Native Favorites,:Oakleaf Hydrangea and Arkansas Blue Star (Hydrangea quercifolia with Amsonia hubrichtii); Work Together to Create Drama with Their Contrasting, Autumn Foliage Colors and Textures

Hinting at Large-Scale, Design Possibilities, the Scarlet and Chartreuse Patterns on This Japanese Maple Leaf (A. palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’) Command Attention in the Shadows, Especially on a Drizzly Day!

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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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!

Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links (including Amazon book 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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The Play of Sunlight and Shadow: Through the Secret Garden Door …

July 13th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

Golden Flowers in a Pool of Sunlight: Through the Secret Garden Door …

It’s a busy, busy week here at my studio. With two large garden designs, and three smaller projects shifting from dream to reality, there’s much work to be done behind the scenes. I must confess that paperwork and numbers are not terribly exciting to this creative personality type, but desk duties are very necessary to insure smooth sailing in the says ahead. And, how can I complain? Looking through the Secret Garden door —sunlit gardens sparkling beyond a shadowy frame— I know how lucky I am to have a room with a view …

Peeking Through the Secret Garden Room Door

Outside, Looking In …

View from the Desk in my Secret Garden Room …

Looking Through the Secret Garden Door, Beyond the Wild Flower Walk, the Sun Slides Behind the Shadowy Stone Wall

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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Honoring National Public Gardens Day – And Breaking Ground on My First Public Garden Design Project…

May 7th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

New Beginnings at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center and Marlboro College in Vermont…

LaRock Excavating at Work…

Today is National Public Gardens Day, the second annual celebration of a day set aside to honor the importance of community gardens throughout the United States. Over the past year, I have occasionally written about public gardens in New England, and my goal to visit more of them. However, there has been a research-oriented reason for these visits which, until now, I have neglected to tell you about. National Public Gardens day seemed like the right moment to let you in on a very exciting project I have been involved with over the past year. This week marks a small, but special moment in my local community, and a satisfying professional milestone in my career. On Wednesday, LaRock Excavating broke ground on my design for the new Brattleboro Museum and Art Center Garden, a small public sculpture park and landscape honoring Linda Rubinstein’s service to this landmark of creativity and culture in the heart of downtown Brattleboro, Vermont. I was recruited by Judy Freed, chair of the BMAC garden committee, for this volunteer project approximately one year ago. My role on the garden committee has involved landscape consulting, the drafting of several garden design plans, and working with contractors to secure bids and scheduling. Now, at long last, we are finally breaking ground!

Although I have created many private, residential gardens, this is my first public garden design. This is also the first time I have worked with a museum board    -and committee- on a landscaping project. The garden will be important to many people, but because it occupies a prominent location between the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center and the Brattleboro campus of Marlboro College, it has a special communal and aesthetic significance.  The garden design has also been something of a logistical challenge, as it is situated at the corner of a busy downtown traffic intersection, (a hub serving as commuter rail station, Connecticut River bridge and VT/NH, MA state-line), serving an interstate community with various cultural, educational and commerce-driven activities….

A look at the base of one seating/planting area…

Public gardens are important for many reasons of course, but two of the most significant are the valuable green space provided to the community at large and of course the environment. I will be writing more about this challenging and rewarding project over the coming weeks; covering various design aspects of the multi-use space including the display of three dimensional artwork, support of local ecosystem with native plantings, creation of inviting social areas with wireless network access, communal seating and more…

A clean, fresh canvas for the new BMAC garden serving my local community…

Some of the most beautiful public gardens in the United States, large and small, were designed and constructed by volunteers, using funds raised through grants, gifts and private donations. My favorite large-scale public gardens in the U.S. include the Arnold Arboretum in Massachusetts; Brooklyn Botanic Garden, New York; Mt. Cuba Center, DelawareThe Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Arizona; and Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania. What are some of your favorite national public gardens? And, what is your favorite local, community garden. How often do you visit these special places and how do you support them?

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All Photographs this post © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All Rights Reserved.

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

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Design Inspiration: A lesson in planning, editing and restraint… my visit to the private garden of Phyllis Odessey and Peter Mauss.

July 24th, 2009 § Comments Off on Design Inspiration: A lesson in planning, editing and restraint… my visit to the private garden of Phyllis Odessey and Peter Mauss. § permalink

phyllis' garden

~ The Stone Garden House sculpture, by artist Dan Snow, at the  Mauss~Odessey Garden

Beautiful, isn’t it? Visiting this magical garden last weekend, created by my friends Phyllis and Peter, was truly inspirational. Phyllis Odessey is an incredibly talented garden designer with a knack for making large open spaces seem both intimate and calm. Her beautiful garden seduces with serpentine, alluring paths, dramatic sculpture, unusual specimen trees and shrubs, and sweeping plantings in a serene palette. Over the course of many years, Phyllis and Peter have created a living work of art on their property. This is my favorite kind of garden; designed with a singular vision, and developed patiently over time. It seems that each time I visit, a new area has been developed or refined, and yet the garden always retains its overall harmony. This garden is a perfect example of how to grow a space slowly, while maintaining an overall sense of garden style.

Even for professional gardeners and designers, it is difficult to practice restraint with plantings. Phyllis is an excellent editor, and this is one of the reasons her garden is such a success. While strolling down her newly laid stone path, (yes, she did it herself), I was impressed with the artistry of the flowing line, and the way the new walkway was planned to separate and edge a sweep of bearberry, (arctostaphylos uva-ursi), from the rest of the garden. Overall, this garden is large, and yet it is never overwhelming to the eye. Why is this? Careful observation reveals one of the keys to success is mass plantings of carefully chosen perennials in a limited palette. The Mauss-Odessey garden is a perfect example of how to successfully manage a large space.

I visit many private gardens as a consultant, and the most common design dilemma I encounter is a lack of over-all structure and flow. Many gardeners have a habit of visiting nurseries and plant sales on impulse, falling in love with a half dozen or more plants, and bringing them all home. Once back in the garden, things are hastily planted without a plan and quickly forgotten. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. The end result of this compulsive shopping is often a patchwork quilt carved out of lawn; a chaotic hodge-podge rather than a soothing garden. Sometimes, a gardener is lucky enough to have an intuitive sense of space. When this happens, (and it is rare), the plant collecting becomes a whimsical but orderly garden. For most people however, it is essential to plan out a space before planting gardens, in order to avoid feeling overwhelmed and disappointed later on.

When trying to create a sense of calm in your garden, it is wise to take a cue from successful designers like Phyllis Odessey. Look at your space carefully before you head out to the garden center. Are you in the habit of buying one of this or two of that on impulse? The next time you are tempted by a plant sale, try to remind yourself of the photographs pictured here. When shopping for plants, instead of buying 14 different perennials, try buying at least seven of one kind. In order to do this, of course, you will need to do a bit of planning first. Know the size of your space. Take measurements and sketch an outline of your garden. Check your soil condition and sunlight.  Make a rough plan to help guide you in your purchases and keep it in your wallet. This will be the first step in training yourself to practice the kind of restraint you need to in order to create a garden like the one pictured here.

Considering vertical space is another important aspect of successful garden design. In a garden of any size, it is critical to think beyond ground level. Shrubs, trees, vines and structures are essential to three dimensional garden space. Many works of art are included in Phyllis and Peter’s garden. Some of the artistic structures were created by the gardeners themselves, and other pieces were created by friends. There are hydrangea-wound pergolas and kiwi vine-clad-huts throughout the garden to stroll through and pause beneath. Living works of art, such as a weeping larch and pendulous beech, are used as dramatic focal points, drawing the eye up and out. Weight and substance are given to this garden with the addition of stonework. A large sculpture, pictured above, was created as a major garden feature by artist Dan Snow.  The mass of this dark and mysterious shelter is softened by airy cat mint (nepeta), sage and delicate meadow rue (thalictrum). Climbing hydrangea, (h. petiolaris), planted on the reverse of the structure, is slowly winding its way over the top, lending an organic touch to the stone.

When I returned home from this spectacular garden I was filled with a sense of calm, (I am sure the champagne helped with this as well), and a determination to practice more restraint in my own space through careful editing. I have resolved to look around with a critical eye. Is something weak or dying? Time to get ruthless. And what about that long, chaotic border/holding tank? Time for some editing this fall.  Visiting a well-designed garden is always an inspiration, and a great-way to jump-start new plans for your own space.

phyllis garden 3

~ Masses of perennials in rich colors make for a dynamic, yet soothing garden experience ~

phyllis garden 2

~  One of the softly curving paths winding through the Mauss-Odessey garden ~

phyllis garden, upside down leaf

~ Turned~Leaf Sculpture by artist Dan Snow ~

For more information about Phyllis Odessey, and her design process, visit her website and blog at www.phyllisodessey.com. Peter Mauss and Dan Snow have collaborated on two beautiful and inspirational books, In the Company of Stone, and Listening to Stone. Both of these books are available through independent book sellers, and Amazon online. Interested in reading more about stone work? I hope to feature an article on the subject later this year. Stay tuned.

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~ Article and photographs copyright Michaela H. 2009 ~

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Romancing the Garden: Indigofera…

July 13th, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

indigofera 2Indigofera kirilowii, laden with raindrops

Poetic. Indigofera absolutely glows in the damp, darkness of rainy days and the shadowy, low light of early mornings and late afternoons. This is a romantic flower; reminiscent of castle-bound heroines and hidden, walled gardens. The weeping form and cascading flowers create a slightly wistful, but classically beautiful presence. Although the habit of this little-known Asian shrub is quiet different, the long, lavender panicles of indigofera blossoms remind me a bit of wisteria. And the hue of this gorgeous flower, slightly rosier than wisteria, positively sings against rusty metal, stone and darkened wood. Striking combinations with physocarpus ‘Diablo’, (or ‘Summer Wine)’, and other burgundy-hued, foliage plants immediately spring to mind. Clearly, I have developed quite a fondness for this woody plant over the past few years. When I first sited indigofera on my windy hilltop, I was uncertain that it would survive the brutal winters here. But survive it has, proving tough as nails in spite of its delicate appearance.

At 3-5 feet high, indigofera is a small, colony-forming shrub, (or a woody, herbaceous perennial in very cold climates, where it can be cut back to the ground in spring). It is rugged and undemanding, (hardy in zones 4-8), adapting to a wide variety of soil types and conditions. In spite of its sturdy constitution, it is also well-mannered and non-aggressive in the garden. Indigofera is beautiful in many design situations; as an accent or solitary specimen, in groupings, or even as a high-ground-cover. The attractive, bright green foliage, long bloom time, (late June – July here in Vermont), and unusual color makes indigofera an excellent choice for perennial gardens and mixed borders. Although this beauty can stand a bit of shade, to encourage the strongest growth, and maximum bloom, position indigofera in full sun, and give it well drained soil amended with good compost.

Because it is relatively uncommon, indigofera may be hard to find in some areas. But like most treasures, this one is truly worth seeking out.

indigoferaIndigofera blooms, as seen from above…

indigofera 4Indigofera, (two year old specimen at Ferncliff)

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

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without 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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Finding Inspiration in Public Gardens … The Bridge of Flowers, Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts…

June 25th, 2009 § 2 comments § permalink

view-of-bridge-from-the-bank-long

Above, The Bridge of Flowers viewed from the bank of the Deerfield River.  Below, a gravel path leads through The Bridge of Flowers in June…

view-of-path-village-on-bridge-of-flowers

Visiting public gardens has become something of a luxury for me over the past few years. I am a professional gardener and designer, and the busiest season in my line of work tends to be in the spring and early summer. Like most gardeners, any spare hours I have at this time of year tend to be spent in my own backyard. Sometime over the course of this past winter, as I was pouring over gardening books and magazines, I realized how much I miss visiting public gardens. How did I forget what a pleasure it is to take in a garden for which I am not responsible?  This year, I resolved that visits to both public and private gardens would become part of my weekly schedule. By stepping away from my own garden, and the gardens under my care, I am able to return to the places I create with fresh eyes. Whether you are just starting your first garden, or editing one you have tended for years, visiting other gardens is a great way to stir up your creativity and continue your horticultural education.

My first garden visit this spring was to  The Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. This one-of-a-kind design was conceived by Antoinette and Walter Burnham in 1929 when they envisioned a public garden crossing an abandoned, 400-foot trolley bridge built in 1908. The Shelburne Falls Woman’s Club took on the bridge of flowers project, and remains the steward of this beautiful garden to this day.  The Bridge of Flowers spans the Deerfield river and connects the towns of Buckland and Shelburne. Over 500 different varieties of annuals, perennials, shrubs, vines and trees are included in this unusual and beloved public landmark.

view-down-path-bridge-of-flowers

roses

This was not my first visit to this special place. I have been enjoying The Bridge of Flowers on and off since I was a little girl, and I have watched as both this garden and the village of Shelburne Falls have evolved over time. Through the years the garden has grown more beautiful and sophisticated, and yet it has never lost its calm, relaxing simplicity. The Bridge of Flowers is home to some spectacular plants; including trees, shrubs and vines. Among the stand-out woody specimens on the bridge is a cascading hemlock (tsuga canadensis, pendula), (spectacular when viewed from the Buckland side riverbank), a lovely Japanese snowbell, (styrax japonica), a pair of gnarly-trunked wisteria floribunda, a very fragrant butterfly bush, (buddleia alternifolia), an enviable climbing hydrangea,(hydrangea petiolaris), and a number of glorious rambling and climbing roses ranging in hue from red to purest white.

tsuga-c

buddleia-alternifolia

The mixed borders on either side of the walkway crossing The Bridge of Flowers are in continual bloom from early spring through fall. The gardens are beautifully designed and meticulously tended by a professional head gardener, assistant gardeners and volunteers. Modern additions, such as ornamental grass and exotic Asian introductions are creatively combined with old-time cottage garden favorites and ecologically minded native-plants. Shrub roses are interspersed throughout the design, adding a bit of  classic beauty and fragrance to the early summer display. On my recent visit, the beautiful David Austin rose, ‘Ambridge’, was all aglow in a luminous peachy-wash of color; it’s alluring, near-intoxicating fragrance filling the damp air and leading me down the path.

david-austin-ambridge-rose

view-looking-off-bridge-with-perennials

The color harmonies and textural combinations seem particularly beautiful this year on the bridge. I admire the creativity of these gardeners, working with a limited budget raised by donations and gifts. They have created such simple, dynamic vignettes; playing with focal points of saturated color and repeating the rhythm with subtle echos running through neighboring selections. Stunning, yet un-forced combinations abound along the walkway. Golden hued petals of baptisia playing off yellow edged ornamental grass, and deep rose-traced peonies enhanced by a blooming backdrop of spirea ‘Anthony Waterer’, are some examples of their thoughtful garden design.

peony-and-spirea-anthony-waterer-at-bridge-of-flowers

view-down-river-bridge-of-flowers

As my stroll though the garden concluded on the Shelburne side of the bridge, I was pleased to discover the development of the shade garden. A wide variety of plants now thrive in the dappled light at this tree lined end of walkway. Gorgeous perennials, including many with dramatic foliage color and varied texture, create a quiet conclusion to the garden along the water’s edge. Delicate ferns, bold hosta, feathery goat’s beard, (aruncus), and shimmering, smooth leaved ginger, (asarum), are among the inspired plantings.

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The Bridge of Flowers is wonderful inspiration for gardeners of all ages. According to the website, the bridge receives over 20,000 visitors each year from all over the world. This beautiful garden will always have a special place in my heart, and clearly I am not alone in my infatuation. Although the garden is at it’s peak now, it is worth keeping in mind that come autumn, the vibrant fall foliage reflected in this river setting is truly spectacular. The village of Shelburne Falls has much to offer visitors, including natural sites, such as the glacial potholes, artisan shops and galleries, (from glass blowing and pottery to candle making), fine restaurants, bookstores, coffee shops and more. A visit to The Bridge of Flowers and the village of Shelburne Falls is a great day trip from Boston, MA, Keene NH, or Hartford, CT.  What a great place to start my summer garden tours this year!  A great, big thank you goes out  to the gardeners at the bridge and to all of the kind donors and visitors supporting The Bridge of Flowers with generous financial contributions.

For further information about The Bridge of Flowers, please visit the website HERE, and for infomation about other attractions in the village of Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, visit their website HERE.

bridge-of-flowers

View up the river…

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View down the path on the bridge…

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A last look at the beautiful bridge of flowers setting…

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Know of a special garden you would like to see featured on The Gardener’s Eden?

Please email your suggestion to michaela @ the gardeners eden dot com

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Article and photos copyright 2009 Michaela H.

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June Flowering Shrub Spotlight : Our Native Mountain Laurel, Kalmia Latifolia

June 15th, 2009 § 3 comments § permalink

Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia, ‘Pink Charm’) in a naturalistic planting between boulders…

One of the great native shrubs of North America, mountain laurel, (Kalmia latifolia), is also a beautiful and versatile garden plant.  With nearly 100 cultivars ranging in size from the diminutive, (12″ high plants suitable for small spaces and rock gardens), to the imposing, (a grand beauty at the North Carolina Arboretum is reputed to stand 25 feet high), mountain laurels are useful in garden designs of any scale. Kalmia latifolia is a member of the heath family, and much like it’s cousins, rhododendron, azalea, and pieris, it prefers slightly acidic, sharply drained, hummus-rich soil.  Mountain laurel exist naturally in both woodland settings and exposed rock ledges. The evergreen foliage of mountain laurel tends to be more durable in cold climates than many other members of the heath family. Most Kalmia cultivars are hardy in zones 4-8. The beautiful buds and flowers of mountain laurel, ranging in color and pattern from white to nearly red, reach their peak in June.

Kalmia latifolia ‘Pink Charm’ – Beautiful Geometric Blossoms

Kalmia latifolia ‘Pink Charm’ with companion plantings in ledge

North American native mountain laurel, Kalmia latifolia, flowering in June

Mountain laurel can be a useful addition to gardens of virtually any style, including rock gardens, Japanese zen and formal designs. However to my eye, laurel is particularly suited to naturalistic-style gardens in both urban and rural settings. Because laurels are native to North America, they tend to blend and blur the boundaries between man-made and natural environments in this part of the world. Kalmia latifolia is very useful in transitioning from a more formal garden to a woodland setting, (naturally occurring or designed and planted by human hands). When regularly pruned, 6-12′ stands of laurel lend sinewy line and structure to garden designs, and form elegant screens, loose hedges and quiet backdrops for outdoor rooms. In a city garden, a mountain laurel can be a cool,calming, evergreen reminder of the quiet forest; beautiful and soothing in combination with ferns, woodland flowers and moss. In a more rural setting, Kalmia latifolia links a garden to woodland surrounds, balancing more exotic plantings and keeping a design in context with the naturally occurring plants of North America.

One of the few reliably hardy, broad-leaf evergreens, Kalmia has much to offer in terms of variety. Beyond the lustrous green foliage and the curvaceous wood, mountain laurel cultivars possess some of the most fascinating blooms in all of nature.  The geometric shapes of the flowers, in both bud and blossom, make mountain laurel a real stand-out in gardens. Names like “Kaleidoscope”, “Carousel”, “Pinwheel” and “Galaxy”, (all cultivars bred and introduced by the great horticulturalist Richard Jaynes), hint at the diverse flower patterns and colors developed by the creative breeders of this beautiful shrub.

Kalmia latifolia on a dark winter day

Mountain laurels are quite striking when planted in combination with rocks, boulders, ledges and other natural and man-made stone features. When combining Kalmia latifolia with other plants, I like to take cues from nature, mixing this native plant with conifers such Tsuga, (hemlock), and deciduous shrubs providing contrasting autumn color, such as Clethera alnifolia, (sweet pepperbush), Hamamelis, (witch hazel), and Fothergilla, (witch alder). Perennials of all kinds work with laurel in partly sunny locations, and I am particularly fond of late blooming combinations, such as asters and lilies. In dappled shade, forest ledge natives, including Polystichum acrostichoides, (Christmas fern), Polygonatum, (Solomon’s seal), Hexastylis and Asarum canadense, (wild-gingers), all make good ground-level companions for Kalmia latifolia.

I continue to be surprised by how underutilized this native shrub remains in North American gardens.  For form, foliage and colorful bloom, the genus Kalmia is a handsome and versatile design selection for many garden settings and styles.

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Kalmia latifolia, ‘Pink Charm’, in a rock garden setting at Ferncliff

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For further information about Kalmia latifolia, see Kalmia: Mountain Laurel and Related Species by Richard A. Jaynes

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Article and Photographs copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

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Sculpture and Artful Objects in the Garden…

June 6th, 2009 § Comments Off on Sculpture and Artful Objects in the Garden… § permalink

pot-indian-rhubarb

Every now and again, I encounter a place in a garden where something seems to be missing. Usually, the space is calling for artful punctuation. I have discovered that sometimes the design element  I am looking for in a garden isn’t a plant at all. On occasion the smooth terra cotta surface of an urn, or the roughness of a grey tufa pot, will provide just the right contrast in texture or hue to bring out the subtle beauty of a leaf or a flower. Juxtaposing objects against plant life can bring out the character in both.  The beautiful vessel above is from A Candle in the Night.

hedera-and-ostrich-fern

While a space filled with collectibles has never been attractive to my eye, I do like to see things other than plants in a garden. Sometimes an empty chair or a tilted vessel can give a garden a poetic presence; hinting at rest, mystery, calm, magic, history, and many other things. Adding a mossy urn or a water bowl can create a calming mood in a garden room. I also like to use objects as focal points in corner niches, or at stopping places on a path or walkway.  Some garden objects can be simple, such as a bowl filled with smooth stone set in contrast to the spiky texture of a conifer. Other times the contrasting orange-tinted color of a rusting metal bench or basket might catch my eye as a way to bring out the saphire blue of a flower, such as salvia, in a nearby pot.

rusty-bench

water-bowl-secret-garden

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With larger objects, such as a commissioned stone sculpture, an entire landscape might be designed around the strength of a single feature. As a focal point or destination in an expansive lawn, or as a dramatic centerpiece in a minimalist garden filled with verdant ground cover, a piece of sculpture can provide essential depth and interest to a quiet design. Below, set in a simple lawn at forest edge, a fire sculpture created by artist Dan Snow becomes a gathering place during evening parties. While not everyone is lucky enough to have sculptor create a piece of artwork for their garden, the spacial concept is simple enough to borrow.  A thoughtful arrangement of stone or steel, or even an arched skeleton of saplings can bring a strong sculptural element to a garden.  For further inspiration, look to books on Japanese Zen gardening and large scale sculpture, and to the land art projects of three dimensional artists such as Andy Goldsworthy, Robert Smithson, Donald Judd, and Dale Chihuly

fire-sculpture1

And then, sometimes an object suitable for a landscape will appear before a space is available. When in possession of such an interesting or unusual object, it is often wise to hold onto it and wait until the ideal position presents itself. A few years ago, a friend gave me a piece of statuary – a cast guardian angel. I struggled with what to do with this thoughtful gift, since my garden is not the sort of place you might find such a large, classical object. The angel seemed sadly out of place, no matter where she sat. For several years, she waited in the cellar for her new home. Late one afternoon, while on on a walk, it occurred to me that the angel simply needed a bigger room… something like a cathedral. She now makes her home on the edge of my forest path, where she is quite striking and unexpected. With the trees arching 30 to 40 feet above her, the melancholy angel no longer looks awkward or out of place. My hauntingly beautiful forest guardian seems right at home amongst the native ferns and foliage.

forest-guardian

I will be featuring more sculpture and artful objects on The Gardener’s Eden over the coming months. In meantime, give a second look to those chipped or rusty, cast-offs in the garage and cellar. Perhaps there is a garden-worthy object hiding amongst the cobwebs in an old barn or shed.  The garden can be a good place to recycle many things when you think creatively. A piece of found-art or sculpture can be a fantastic springboard for a new garden design, or a way to breathe new life into an old space. When designing a garden, stretch your imagination beyond plant life…  and watch your ideas grow.

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Do you know of some great garden objects, sculptors or artists you would like to see featured on The Gardener’s Eden ?  If so, please email your thoughts to:

michaela at  the gardeners eden dot com

Article and Photographs copyright 2009 Michaela at TGE

The Art & Science of Designing a Vegetable Garden…

May 25th, 2009 § 3 comments § permalink

potager-furnitureCreating a beautiful and bountiful potager

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A vegetable garden can be an incredible source of pleasure.  Every sunny morning, my four-legged companions and I take a walk to the potager where we enjoy each other’s company while I sip my morning coffee.  I like to start my day listening to the mocking bird and watching the butterflies flutter about the herbs and vegetables from the comfort of my old wicker chair. Although my potager is relatively small, it provides me with enough vegetables for myself, and extra to share with friends and family.  For a modest plot, the garden is quite productive.

The renewed interest in vegetable gardening this year is exciting to observe. Jack Manix of Walker Farm presented a seminar on vegetable gardening earlier this May, and the turn-out was so overwhelming that he and his wife Karen decided to add a second session.  For those of you unable to attend the talk, this article will pass along some of Jack’s tips, as well as some of my own creative ideas and experiences for designing and planting a beautiful, productive and welcoming potager.

Bountiful harvests in the vegetable garden are usually the result of good planning. Full sun, attentiveness, regular deep-watering, disciplined weeding, and most importantly, good earth, make for success. Vegetable plants generally prefer deep, loose, well-drained soil. And the most delicious crops tend to grow in mineral rich earth with plenty of organic material worked in. Dark, fertile soil is home to aerating, fertilizing earth worms and microscopic life invisible to the naked eye. But the soil’s texture and quality is only one part of the good-dirt equation. Just as important to your plants is the soil’s fertility, provided by the nutrients in the earth. Natural, organic soil chemistry is what makes for fertile soil. Good garden soil provides balanced nitrogen, potash, and phosphorus.

Green, healthy, steady growing leaves are the result of proper nitrogen, (N). Nitrogen provides plants with nutrition, and its presence results in deep green foliage and balanced growth. Too little nitrogen and plants will be yellowish and stunted; too much nitrogen and plants will become jolly-green-giants, growing an over-abundance of lush foliage but little produce.  An excess of nitrogen can also result in poor quality fruit and plant disease. Overly fertile conditions and rapid growth also tend to attract pests like aphids. In addition to nitrogen, plants also require potash, (K), for strong, healthy growth.  Soil rich in potash will produce colorful, flavor-rich vegetables and fruit.  A lack of potash will result in poor root systems, curled and spotted leaves, and low yields. Phosphorus, (P), is another key nutrient in the garden. Like potash, phosphorus plays an important role in healthy, vigorous plant development. Cold, heat and disease resistant plants are the product of adequate phosphorus. Conversely, stunted growth and slow maturity are often signs of phosphorus deficiency.

It is important to check garden soil fertility at least once or twice a year.  As soon as the soil dries out in spring, pick up a soil testing kit for N, P, K and pH to test your soil.  The process is quick and easy with a kit from your local farmer’s supply store. Or if you prefer, you can send a soil sample to your local university extension service.  Test in early spring and amend your soil according to the kit’s instructions. It also makes sense to test your garden again in fall, and amend the soil before mulching the vegetable beds for winter.

Balancing plant-diet is as important to garden health as it is to our own.  But no matter how nutrient-rich the soil, plants need to be able to make use of what is available to them in order to grow. Checking both the soil pH, and the preferred pH of plants within the garden, will let the gardener know if the plants are able to absorb the nutrients in the soil. Correcting pH is best done in fall or early spring, but if you are building your garden at a different time, this is the first step to take no matter when you plan to begin, or what you plan to plant.  Even the most optimally textured, fertile soil can not help plants if the nutrients can not be absorbed.  Soil may look dark, rich and moist as chocolate cake, and it may contain a wealth of nutrients, but the improper pH will keep those nutrients out of the reach of the plant system. Incorrect pH will cause poor seed germination, and a weak, disappointing garden.

Building great garden soil is an ongoing process. Regularly adding compost to the soil helps to retain moisture, improves air circulation, and attracts earthworms and microscopic organisms. Another great addition to garden soil is green sand, which loosens clay soil, binds sandy soil, supplies potassium and helps soil hold water. Green sand is a great soil conditioner containing loads of minerals. It can be added directly to the soil, or sprinkled into compost.  Mined from ancient ocean floors, green sand is a little-known garden secret to building great soil.  Once I began using green sand, I was amazed at the difference in my garden.

At his vegetable gardening seminar, Jack Manix stressed the importance of waiting for proper temperatures to plant out your vegetable garden.  This is very important. Working wet soil too early can lead to compaction, and seeds planted in cold earth will fail to germinate.  If you must get a jump on the season, start plants on your windowsill or in a cold frame, and wait until the recommended planting dates for your area to sow seed. The Farmer’s Almanac is a great online source for planting dates. All you have to do is enter your zip code. Following the garden calendar and measuring soil temperature is an easy way to avoid disappointment and crop failure.

Planting the right plants for your area is also key to your success. Ask long-time residents about favorite crops, and buy your plants from a local grower. When buying seeds, Jack Manix recommends buying from companies testing in the Northeast, (or wherever you live). Some of these companies are listed under the seeds section on the links bar to the right of this post. I buy my vegetable starts from Walker Farm because they grow what they sell, so I can be certain that what I am buying has been tested and proven on the farm. I also care that my crops are raised organically, and it is important to me to support my local organic farm, and the people employed there. Why gamble money on a pretty picture in a catalog when I can see, touch and smell a plant at my local farm before I buy it ?

When planning your garden, try to make notes in your calendar as a reminder to rotate your crops each year.  Planting vegetables in the same location makes it too easy for insects playing hide and seek in your garden.  Make things more challenging for pests by moving crops around, and by using companion plants like calendula, (marigold), nasturtium, thyme, sage, chamomile, and other herbs and flowers. Beneficial insects are attracted to companion plants, and this helps to naturally protect your veggies from not-so-desirable creatures.  Organic gardening starts with good planning.

Regular weeding and thinning in the vegetable garden are so important, that I make them part of my daily routine. Every morning, I spend a half hour or so gently thinning extra seedlings, and removing tiny little weeds with my hand cultivator. Removing competition from weeds and excess seedlings is essential to a plant’s success. The paths between my mounded vegetable beds are lined with straw. This makes a comfortable, dry place to sit while tending to my plants. The straw paths also retain moisture and keep down weeds.  Weeds: the not-so-glamorous secret to successful gardening is weeding. Learning to love weeding, and making it a relaxing, meditative process, will help both you and your garden.  In this respect the old advice, “the best fertilizer for plants is the gardener’s shadow”, couldn’t be more true. I do some of my best thinking and problem solving while weeding.  And on my favorite days, I leave the garden thinking about nothing at all.

With this in mind, why not make your potager a truly desirable destination? Properly siting your vegetable garden is the first place to start. Almost all vegetables require full sun from dawn to dusk. This also makes the garden a pleasant place for people. An artful, winding path leading toward the potager is attractive to the eye. Make the path wide enough to easily transport plants and soil supplements via wheelbarrow. It is often true in life that the more pleasant the journey, the more frequent the trip. Adding a couple of chairs and an old table will make for a warm gardener’s welcome in a vegetable plot. Nestled amongst the fragrant herbs and flowers, a table and chairs set in the garden can be a place to read, talk on the phone, or share a glass of wine with a friend. One afternoon as I was driving home from a visit with family, I spied some cast-off wicker furniture wearing a “free’ sign, sitting on the side of the road . Now that I have found a new home for that furniture in my vegetable garden, I find that I spend much more time there. Adding annual flowers, particularly those attracting butterflies and hummingbirds, will also make a potager more inviting. My rustic fence also looks much more attractive to me with sweet peas and morning glories scrambling up the wire and winding round the saplings. A few old wicker baskets scattered about the garden are helpful for collecting weeds and spent vegetable plants for compost. And when my baskets show too much wear and tear for carrying debris, I often position them in corners to be filled with soil and trailing annuals until they decompose. This year and next, adding berry bushes and fruiting trees to the potager  are on my list. I love having a fresh pantry right outside the kitchen door, and I find the more time I spend in my garden, the happier and healthier my summer.

potager-big-viewThe potager, June 2008…

potagerRaised beds (earthen mounds) of vegetables.  Here, last year’s radish, lettuce, bunching onions and hot peppers happily mingle.

teepee-in-potagerCopper-wire teepee with pole beans

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Potager and fence design : Michaela M

Fence construction : William B / Michaela M

All vegetables starts : Walker Farm or grown from seed

Article and photos ⓒ 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Beauty in the Shadows

May 21st, 2009 § Comments Off on Beauty in the Shadows § permalink

glaucidium-palmatum

Glaucidium Palmatum

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Native to Japan, this beautiful perennial prefers light shade and rich, moist earth.  Glaucidium Palmatum is hardy to zone 4 and can reach 16-24″ in height.

 

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“That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet”….. Shakespeare

May 18th, 2009 § Comments Off on “That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet”….. Shakespeare § permalink

wild-rose

Selecting and Siting Roses in Cold Climates

Damask, Moss, or Gallica?  Modern, Old or English? Call them what you will, many gardeners fall in love with roses early on, and the infatuation never ends. The moist, velvety petals and heady fragrance of this fabled flower are powerfully seductive.  It is easy to to understand the allure of roses. A garden in June, with roses climbing walls, tumbling over fences and nestled into perennial borders, is a beautiful sight. During the long, dark months of winter, many northern gardeners curl up with spring catalogues, fantasizing about the vast array of rose offerings.  I too have been tempted by this fragrant queen of flowers, and having succeeded in my first garden with a luxurious climbing-beauty named “Constance Spry”, I know the sweet rewards of success. But as a professional gardener, I also know that growing roses can be a real challenge in cold climates. And unless the rose-lover takes as much care in the planning and planting phase as he/she does in the dreaming stage, there will often be great disappointment. Healthy, vigorous roses of almost all types can be grown in New England with a bit of research and proper care. The first steps in successful cold-climate rose culture are choosing the right location for the rose within the garden itself, and of course, selection of the best plants for hardiness

Choosing and siting a rose with it’s individual lifetime requirements in mind is wise for many reasons.  A rose planted in a proper site will receive ample sun, water, nutrients and protection.  The site should also allow the rose enough space to reach its full size and shape, and provide ample air movement for healthy foliage and adequate drainage of soil for healthy roots. Focusing on the process of gardening, by providing a proper environment, is key to success no matter what the gardener wishes to grow.

Soil is important to all plant life, of course.  And roses, like most plants, have preferences about the soil in which they grow.  It is wise to test your soil pH level, as well as nitrogen, phosphorus and potash levels, and adjust your soil chemistry accordingly. Roses prefer soil rich in minerals, nutrients and organic matter.  Like most garden plants, roses prefer a slightly acid soil with a pH between 6 and 7. When soil pH becomes too low or too high, nutrients become less available to plants. A pH test is easy to do, and takes just a few minutes. Soil testing kits are readily available at most garden centers and through online vendors and more extensive soil tests can often be done through your local university extension service. Getting pH and nutrient levels right is the first step toward making sure that your roses are receiving what they need from the soil in order to grow and thrive.

Soil texture is also very important to roses. And while it is true that roses prefer mineral-rich soil, it is also critical that they receive proper drainage and air circulation at their roots.  For these reasons, it is often helpful to closely examine your garden soil, and modify the texture if necessary, before planting roses.  Clay rich soils provide the minerals roses prefer, but unless organic matter, (such as compost and peat moss or other fiber), is added to the soil,the rose will rot and suffocate in water-logged, poorly aerated root conditions. Conversely, sandy soil will provide the rose with the drainage and dry roots it prefers, but the plant will suffer as minerals and nutrients wash away from the roots in quickly draining sand. Organic matter such as compost and other fibrous materials will hold moisture, minerals and nutrients in the soil, allowing the plant time to absorb them into it’s root system.  Adding compost and other organic material will improve your soil, be it clay-like or sandy.

Protecting the root zone of roses in climates like New England,where wildly fluctuating temperatures are common, will help prevent many problems. Compost-mulch shields roots and soil from heat and cold, weeds and insects, wind and erosion.  Bare soil is not natural, and stresses plants. Caring for the parts of the rose beneath the ground is as important as the attention we give to the plant we see. The rewards of good soil-science are strong, healthy root systems and roses with access to good nutrition. a few inches of compost mulch, and perhaps the addition of herbal companion plants such as thyme and lavender, (herbs provide some natural insect resistance, and attract beneficial insects), will go a long way toward giving your rose ideal growing conditions.

Of course, what goes on above soil level is equally important to rose-culture. Full sun is an absolute requirement for healthy roses. The plant should receive bright light from sunrise to sunset. Without full sun, a rose can not properly photosynthesize, and the result is a weak and spindly plant with few blossoms. Sunlight is also critical for dry foliage, and dry foliage is key to preventing fungal infections and disease. Although some rose varieties will tolerate less than a full day of sun, no rose is truly happy in shade. Sunny-sited roses will always be stronger and healthier than their shadowed neighbors. Give the rose what it needs, and it will return the favor of what you want: blossoms.

Considering air circulation and flow is advantageous for plant health, and longevity.  Siting your rose for unobstructed growth and air movement is important for disease prevention and cold protection.  Roses protected from prevailing winds by taller trees and shrubs will grow stronger and avoid the damage of winter desiccation.  So long as neighboring plants do not obstruct sunlight, roses will benefit from the back-up provided by neighboring hedges or groups of shrubs.  It is also beneficial to plant roses on a slightly elevated portion of a site.  Cold air flows downhill, and frost settles in lower parts of the land first.  Siting roses in a raised position will help with both airflow and drainage, giving roses another advantage in a cold climate.

Providing roses with the correct growing conditions is clearly important. However, no amount of care and consideration can substitute for proper selection of the rose itself.  When selecting roses for any garden, it is important to first consider the uniqueness of the plant. Every rose has an individual habit, mature size, shape and texture.  Some roses are vigorous and shrubby, some are politely contained bushes. Certain roses are open-shaped, others are dense. A few roses may be grown as climbers or tall shrubs, others remain petite. Knowing the form of the plant will help the gardener decide if it is right for the garden’s design. Rugosa roses have very different requirements from English roses.  And of course, any rose grown in a climate with cold winters must be fully compatible with the garden’s USDA hardiness zone.

As most gardeners quickly become aware, even individual gardens can have micro-climates with enough temperature variation to make a major difference in cold-hardiness. Spots protected from prevailing winds and freeze-thaw conditions on an individual site may allow for some zone-flexibility.  However, given the temperature variations in New England, it is safest to stick with a conservative attitude toward cold-hardiness, unless the gardener is willing to take extra precautions by mounding rose-root zones with compost each fall, and in some cases providing protection for the entire shrub.  New rose varieties will be more variable than the tried and true, and for the beginning gardener, hardy and time-tested varieties are a good place to start.  USDA zone 4/5 roses are a safe bet for most gardeners in New England, and zone 2/3 varieties will be safest for very cold, windy or exposed sites.

Most rugosa roses, modern landscape roses, and many antique shrub roses are extremely cold hardy. Rosa rugosa “Sarah Van Fleet”, “Belle Poitevine” and “Blanc double de Coubert” and hybrid “Therese Bugnet” are beautiful, exceptional performers.  Rugosas are a good choice for fences, hedges and groupings in the landscape. David Austin English roses are a nice choice for mixed borders, and provided the bud-union, (point of graft), is planted at least 4 inches beneath the soil-surface, a well sited Austin rose will perform well in New England.  Tried and true landscape roses, such as “Carefree Wonder”,( and for small-bloom lovers, “The Fairy”), are excellent selections for a wide variety of perennial garden designs, including designs with stone and along walkways. For old rose lovers, the hardy gallica, alba, moss and damask hybrids are good bets. “Charles de Mills”, “Konigin Von Denmark”, “Karl Forster”, “Maiden’s Blush”, “Striped Moss” and “Stanwell Perpetual” bring some old European-style to northern rose gardens. In addition to the shrub and landscape roses mentioned above, some climbers such as  “William Baffin”, “New Dawn” and “John Cabot” are tough enough to weather the cold winds and blistering sub- zero temperatures New England dishes out. Extra care must be taken when siting more marginal climbing roses, such as “Constance Spry”, in a cold climate.  It is important to protect the exposed canes of more delicate climbing roses from desiccating winter winds. And always remember to position your rose to avoid damage from snow loads sliding off a steep roof.

When purchasing potted roses, try to buy from a local nursery, where the growers know your zone hardiness and purchase or propagate roses with cold conditions in mind. Take the time to ask the garden center staff about the roses you buy, and research the variety online to learn its habits and preferences. Knowing your rose and giving it what it needs are key to success no matter the garden climate, however this advice holds particularly true for gardeners in the north, where roses named “cold hardy” will continue to smell sweet for many years.

( coming soon…. part two roses: planting, pruning and maintenance )

Copyright 2009 Michaela H

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May at Ferncliff …

May 14th, 2009 § Comments Off on May at Ferncliff … § permalink

Ferncliff- Secret Garden -this week

Blooming in the garden this week… woodland phlox, daphne, sweet woodruff…     and more bulbs.  Fragrance fills the air …

Garden design and installation: Michaela H

Stonework by Dan Snow

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Designing a Quiet Vignette for a Shady Garden…

May 7th, 2009 § 3 comments § permalink

shade-gardenImage ⓒ Michaela at TGE – No usage without permission

Perhaps because I grew up in a bright, sunny home with the bold and colorful flowers my mother chose for her garden, I have always been intrigued by the opposite.  The allure of the shady nook on a hot summer afternoon is very seductive to me. While bright light and full sun allow for abundant plantings of riotous colored flowers and vegetables, the shelter and cool moisture of dappled shade provide opportunities for complex foliage and delicate textures. Velvety moss carpets, lacy ferns, silky hosta, and shimmering ivy, whisper and sooth the senses on a hot, humid day. What better place for an intimate July tete-a-tete than a shadowy secret garden?

My office-cum-guest-room is situated on the north east corner of the studio, on the first floor.  It is a glorified basement entry really, but to me it is paradise on earth when I  return from work at the end of a long summer day. This little oasis was created when Dan Snow built a stone courtyard in front of my walkout cellar. Before his arrival, the approach to the studio was a mess of construction debris and rubble. Together, we gathered stone from defunct walls on the border of my property. Then while he assembled the gorgeous retaining walls and courtyard entry, I set about planning the rest of the enclosure, entryway and shade garden.

secret-garden-through-doorEarly spring in the Secret Garden – Narcissus and Emerging Ferns at Center Stage ⓒ Michaela at TGE

In designing my secret garden entry, I took my inspiration from one of my favorite cities: New Orleans. I topped the courtyard walls with steel beams and balcony, echoing the romantic perches I admired in the French Quarter, but with a more modern twist.  Because of the steel grate, my garden is visible from above as well as below. In summer, the grid-like platform provides dappled shade, and a place for pots to rest.  This situation creates endless opportunities for annual displays, some trailing like curtains down into the secret garden. The walk-out basement was framed for French doors, in order to allow all available light into the office, and the walls were clad with copper sheeting. A pea-stone walk-way winds through the garden, leading from the side entry to the doors. Once this path was laid, I began to add compost and loam in and around the courtyard.

In choosing plants for a shady garden nook, structure is an oft-neglected, yet critical aspect to design success. I began my planting plan by first considering the stone doorway to my shady courtyard garden.  I wanted a tree to arch over the stone entry, emphasizing and yet softening the enclosure; important to set the secret-garden mood.  The tree needed to have an architectural presence, and four season interest. It also needed to tolerate light shade, and a bit of slope. Japanese maples are among my favorite trees, and using one here immediately came to mind. I quickly fell in love with a gorgeous Acer palmatum x dissectum, known as Seiryu, or The Blue Green Dragon. To the right of the entry, with a bit more available light, I planted a shrub for fragrance: Viburnum bodnantense, ‘Dawn‘.

rogersiaRodgersia aesculifolia and Matteccia pensylvanica ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Once inside the protected courtyard, the light shifts from bright to near total shade at the French Doors. I came up with a list of appropriate plants, and then narrowed the choices to a few. When designing for small spaces, especially in shade,  I believe it is important to create a calm rhythm with bold sweeps in a limited palette, accented by a few well-chosen stand-out plants. As with a small room inside a house, a tiny garden can become visually cluttered and chaotic with too much variety.  The skeleton of this design’s structure was formed by three things: a well chosen tree, (Stewartia pseudocamilla), a shrub, (Fothergilla gardenii), and an urn to hold still water for a sense of calm.  I also allowed Schizophragma h. ‘moonlight’ and ‘roseum’, (Japanese hydrangea vine), to creep up at the corners of the copper-clad wall.

hahohach-grass-cimicifugaHakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ with Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’ and Cimicifuga racemosa ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ ⓒ Michaela at TGE

With the structural, woody plants in place, I began to add shade perennials to my plan… emphasizing those with dramatic foliage, texture and season-long interest over flowers.  Of course in spring, the light in the space is more abundant, and the year does begin with the blooms of Fothergilla gardenii, Narcissus, Muscari, Leucojum, (snowflake) and Helleborus. And although subtle blossom continues throughout the season, it is foliage that takes center stage as the chartreuse tips of hosta and fuzzy fiddle head ferns explode into dramatic green, gold, and multi-colored fronds and leaves. Throughout the growing season the constant presence of these plants, (as well as Heuchera, Rodgersia, Cimicifugia, and other perennials chosen primarily for their foliage), makes for a calm but luxuriant tapestry of color in the shady secret garden.  Ground cover at the edges is also important.  Here, I chose budget-friendly Lamium ‘White Nancy’ to compliment some ghostly white ferns and to add light to the dark corners. Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ (Japanese woodland grass) and Sagina subulata ‘Aurea’, (golden pearlwort), were chosen as a bold contrast to the burgundy hues of my Heuchera,(coral bells), and Cimicifuga racemosa ‘Hillside Black Beauty’, (bugbane).

euphorbia-close-up-of-textures-and-colorsHeuchera ‘Stormy Seas’ amid Euphorbia foliage ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Once the permanent  planting plan was set, and my trees, shrubs and perennials were settled in with a thick compost-mulch, I thought about my final garden accents. I had already placed the urn at the corner. Once filled with water, this design element provides a cool, dark reflection upon entering the garden room, (and a nice home for a local frog).  I decided that beside the French doors, I would gather a group of pots, (some clay and others coated with a deep maroon glaze), and fill them with tender perennial plants like Asparagus densiflorus,(asparagus fern), and Agapanthus, (African blue lily). Come fall, I pull the tender plants into my office where they spend the winter. For the final touches of my vignette each summer, I choose a few shade tolerant annual plants for pots, and I change these arrangements each spring.  After the last spring frost, I set these pots out on iron chairs near the door, where I also hang lanterns and candles.  And although the chairs serve only as seats for plants, they too lend a restful air to the room just before entering the door.

waterbowl-through-screenWater Bowl  ⓒ Michaela at TGE

By keeping the palette and variety of plants limited, a gardener can create a calming oasis in a shady corner of the garden. A back entry to a house or side porch covered in vines will often provide the perfect opportunity for a quiet garden space . When planning a shady vignette of your own, remember to focus on structure first, and then paint a calm space with colored and textured plant foliage.  Think about quiet, calm accents, like water bowls, candles and restful chairs as ways to add to the mood. Here in the shade, investing in a few high quality plants is a simple way to make a lasting impression. Luxuriant potted ferns and violets thrive in the dappled light of a shady garden. A well designed, subtle shade garden is incredibly soothing on a hot day, and a welcome, dark seductress amid the riotous, bright colors of summer.

courtyardInside the Garden Room Office, Looking Out at The Secret Garden ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Photographs ⓒ Michaela at TGE – No usage without permission

Garden design and installation by Michaela at TGE

All stonework by Dan Snow

For more Secret Garden images, see Ferncliff/Photos page on the navigation bar to the left on the home page of this journal.

Article and photos copyright 2009 Michaela at The Gardner’s Eden

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Designing for early spring garden interest: the first act in a dramatic garden year…

April 24th, 2009 § Comments Off on Designing for early spring garden interest: the first act in a dramatic garden year… § permalink

 

spring-looking-down-the-stone-stepsEarly Spring Entry Garden

Designing and planting a garden for all seasons reminds me a bit of theater. From the moment an audience stands at the entry of a garden, an opportunity exists. When guests emerge from their cars, or step inside a gate, what will they first notice? In early spring, perhaps the delicate scent of Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ will lure them forward as they open the door, or the small, starry- blue blossoms of chionodoxa will greet them alongside a stone walkway. The bright colors of spring bulbs and the perfume of fragrant shrubs enliven a washed out winter landscape and awaken dormant senses.  Taking advantage of the very early days of spring in your garden design will lift your spirits and prolong the pleasures of the growing season.

From the creamy whites and cool blues of galanthus and muscari to the warm golds and peaches of eranthis and narcissus, spring bulbs are the first notes of music in the garden theater. When planned successfully, these early players will slowly fade back as the other acts roll out and fill in the story. Companion plants such as huechera, hosta, Alchemilla mollis, galium and Artemisia ‘silver mound’, (to name a few stalwarts), gradually nudge-out the spring bulbs as they take over the garden stage. Ideally, a complex tapestry of perennial foliage and flowers will camouflage yellowing bulbs as they die back for the year. Plan your plantings accordingly, leaving space for bulbs between perennials, and make note of your plans in your fall calendar.  Early spring photos can be a help later as well. When you return to the garden to plant spring flowering bulbs in fall, your notes and photos from spring will serve as your guide.

When choosing from amongst the vast array of flowering trees and shrubs for your garden, it is important to consider those varieties blooming very early as well as those extending very late in the garden year. The star players in your garden will shine best when each is given a moment of design consideration all its own, in addition to thoughts about how the plant will play in scenes created with other members of the garden cast. Try to select woody plants with staggering bloom dates for an uninterrupted show. And keep in mind that a carefully chosen cast of characters will provide not only drama when blooming, but will add interest and support to your garden story though out the year. Try to always consider foliage, a season-long contributor, in your choices.  And remember that many shrubs, will provide a full year’s performance, with structure, blossoms, lush foliage, autumn color and even winter fruit.

By the time many of the early blooming shrubs make it to local garden centers, they have faded out and become unlikely candidates for sale.  Hamamelis vernalis, (the spring witch hazel), Fothergilla gardenii, and Lindera benzoin, (spice bush), are three oft-overlooked early blooming shrub varieties for the garden.  All three of these garden-worthy plants provide early spring blossoms, structural interest, contrast, and spectacular autumn foliage. Early blooming trees for the garden, such as amelanchier, Cornus alternifolia, (pagoda dogwood), and Cornus florida (flowering dogwood), and the show-stopping Cercis canadensis,(eastern redbud), are some beautifully structured, smaller-sized tree choices for gardens. Amelanchier and cornus are valued for both bloom and later, vivid red and orange fall foliage and fruit. The plum-hued buds of Cercis candensis are followed by heart shaped leaves; dark green in summer and then turning a lovely golden hue in autumn.  In addition, all these shrubs and trees are natives to north America, making them environmentally sound choices for the landscape as well as beautiful additions to the garden.

A well designed garden will provide a steady performance, with early scenes seamlessly flowing into later acts.  Successful spring planting involves the big picture.  Carefully selected plants will provide a solid structure and a season-less stage for poetic vignettes of spring bulbs and vibrant perennial dramas through out the year. I am continually amazed by the design possibilities and endless combinations I discover when visiting friends gardens.  Take the time to visit public and private gardens in early spring, and make notes about what you see.  Add some new characters to your cast to extend your seasonal show, and enjoy the pleasures of your garden-theater throughout the year.

 

early-spring-walkwayPlantings pictured, (top and bottom photographs):

Stone steps and an entry walkway are lined with Daphne ‘Carol Mackie’ , Juniperus squamata,’Holger’, Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’, Fothergilla gardenii, and Acer palmatum x dissectum “Seiryu”. These shrubs and trees are complimented by an under-planting of various bulbs, including muscari, galanthus and narcissus and companion perennials such as heuchera, sedum, Cerastium t, sanguinaria and Phlox divaricata among others.

Along the walkway, emerging perennials are edged by a wide blue swath of ajuga.

Article, design and photos: ⓒ 2009 Michaela – The Gardener’s Eden

all stonework: Dan Snow

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