Beauty Everlasting: Drying Flowers . . .

August 10th, 2013 § Comments Off on Beauty Everlasting: Drying Flowers . . . § permalink

Heather (Calluna vulgaris 'Silver Knight') michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.comArms Full of Heather, Gathered from the Ledges (Calluna vulgaris ‘Silver Knight’), for Drying in Bundles

In a cool climate like New England, with a short growing season and so much to do, summers often feel as if they are passing by too quickly. It seems like we’re all scrambling to stretch out the warm months and the joys of outdoor living for as long as possible. We want to hold on to the sweetness of these long, luxurious summer days. Like many gardeners, my August weekends are filled with harvesting, cooking, baking, freezing, canning, dehydrating and otherwise preserving the fruits of my spring and summertime labors. There’s a feeling of overwhelming abundance. Over the past few days, I’ve been busy braiding and tying garlic and onions, sun drying mushrooms and tomatoes, cutting and bundling herbs, and gathering armloads of flowers for drying.

Preserving flowers is one of the nicest ways to carry a bit of summertime into the cold, dark months of winter. And it’s such an easy process, that the only thing holding many gardeners back is simply the reminder, and time to do it. Right now, while deadheading and tidying up borders is on my mind, garden shears are often close at hand. Instead of tossing those seed pods and withering remnants into the compost heap, why not gather them up and bring them indoors to preserve for autumn and winter arrangements. And while you’re at it, remember to pick an extra bouquet or two of fresh flowers and herbs to hang from the rafters.

Tanacetum achilleifolium and Penstemon digitalis - michaela medina - thegardenerseden.com Tanacetum achilleifolium and Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’

Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea) - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea)

Hang Drying Flowers - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Tried and True Method: Tying and Air-Drying Works Well for Many Flowers. Be Sure to Find a Dry, Warm, Dimly Lit Space with Good Air Circulation. Attics, Closets, Dimly-Lit Spare Rooms and Pantries are All Very Good Spots for Drying Flowers and Herbs.

The simplest method for preserving flowers and herbs is to air-dry them. Harvest once a week or so throughout the growing season —always on dry, sunny days— and hang them upside down in bundles, as shown above. Gather more than you think you need, as most flowers shrink down to about half their original volume as they dehydrate. Remove excess foliage from stems (except in the case of aromatics, such as Lavender and Artemisia), and create small bundles of flowers, allowing for good air flow between the blossoms. Tie the stems with a bit of garden twine and hang them upside down, in a dimly lit, warm, dry space with good air circulation. Good spots for drying flowers and herbs include attics, pantries, spare bedrooms and closets. Dry basements will work too, but keep in mind that moisture and mold are the enemy of dried flowers and herbs. You may wish to cover the tops of delicate flowers, or aromatic cuttings with tied, brown paper bags to prevent damage and keep them free of dust. Bundles may be stored in this manner until they are ready to be used in arrangements (allow at least two to three weeks for flowers to completely dry).

Baptisia australis seed pods for dried arrangements - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Dried & Blackened Seedpods of Baptisia australis are Lovely Solo in a Vase or Make Wonderful Additions to Dried Arrangements

Some good herbs and flowers to try air-drying include; Straw Flower (Helichrysum bracteatum), Statice (Limonium sinuatum), Globe Amaranth (Gomphorena globosa), Love-in-a-Mist (Nigella damascena), Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea), Cockscombs (Celosia cristata), Baby’s Breath (Gypsophila), Goldenrod (Solidago), Globe Thistle (Echinops), Sea Holly (Eryngium), Heather (Calluna), Heath (Erica), Queen Anne’s Lace (Dacus carota), Yarrow (Achillea), Lavender (Lavendula), Tansy (Tanacetum), and Worm Wood (Artemisia). When experimenting with dried flowers, look for plants with rugged stems, stiff or papery petals and/or tiny, tightly-bunched flower heads. Many annual, perennial and woody garden plants —both edible and inedible— make excellent dried specimens. Look out for plants with interesting seed pods or berries, which add beautiful texture to a vase. Plants like Wild Blue Indigo (Baptisia australis), with gorgeous black seed pods, and Carolina Lupine (Thermopsis villosa), with its fuzzy remnants, are striking examples. And don’t forget to scour the forest, fields and shoreline for pinecones, wild grasses, driftwood, vines, seedpods, berries and other botanical remnants in the early days of autumn. All of these, and many more natural elements, make great additions to seasonal arrangements.

Thermopsis villosa - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Carolina Lupine (Thermopsis villosa/ T. caroliniana) Produces Fuzzy Pods After Her Gorgeous, Yellow Blossoms Fade

Although many blossoms can be tied and dried hanging upside down, some flowers —such as Hydrangea, Larkspur (Delphinium) and Allium— preserve best when left standing up. I like to place these blooms in vases with just a small amount of water; allowing the flowers to dry as they absorb the moisture in the vessel. If you wish to preserve shape of flat-topped blossoms —Queen Anne’s Lace and Yarrow, for example— support the heavy flower heads by slipping the stems through wire screen and allow them to dry standing up.

Hydrangea paniculata 'Bobo' - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Hydrangea paniculata ‘Bobo’ is a New Addition to My Garden. I Can’t Wait to See How the Flowers Dry.

Drying agents —including borax, cornmeal, sand, alum and silica gel— can be used to aid in dehydrating and preserving more delicate, difficult flowers. Peonies, Dahlias, Tulips and Roses turn out particularly well when dried in sand or silica gel. Some gardeners like to use microwave ovens to dry blossoms; filling paper cups or bowls halfway with silica gel, embedding flower heads, covering with more gel, and zapping them for a minute or two. I haven’t tried this method myself but have seen good results. Flower petals and small bundles of flowers —particularly rose and peony blossoms— may also be dried flat and later displayed on platter arrangements or used in potpourri. Combining petals with preserved herbs and oils is a nice, traditional way to add the subtle scent of nature to closed rooms during long winter months.

dried peony petals two - michaela medina - thegardenerseden.com Whole, Dried Peony Blossoms Sit Atop a Pile of Pretty Pink and Peach Petals

Ornamental grasses and ferns can also make beautiful additions to dried arrangements. With the exception of a few early ‘bloomers’, I harvest and dry most ornamental grasses in late summer and early autumn. After the inflorescences are completely open, I gather up large, arching grasses, rushes and sedges —Miscanthus, Panicum, Scirpus, etc— and arrange them in floor vases and urns. Shorter grasses can be tied and air-dried upside down with flowers and herbs. I also gather extra grasses and store them out of the way —in empty florists buckets— for use in wreaths and winter arrangements. Many ferns can be successfully dried as well. Christmas ferns (Polystichum acrostichoides) and Painted ferns (Athyrium nipponicum), dry particularly well when pressed, and combine beautifully with autumn leaves and flowers; both dried and freshly harvested.

I’ll be writing more about preserving summer’s bounty in the coming weeks. In meantime, feel free to share the names of your favorite dried flowers and/or preservation methods in comments here on the blog, or on this site’s Facebook page, here.

Wool Rush (Scirpus cyperinus) - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com With its Fuzzy, Cinnamon-Hued Inflorescences and Strong, Stately Stems, North American, Native Wool Rush or Woolgrass (Scirpus cyperinus) is a Beautiful Addition to Late Summer and Autumn Perennial Borders and Floral Arrangements

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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Endless Summer: A Garden Designed for Season-Spanning Beauty & Interest . . .

August 28th, 2012 § 2 comments § permalink

Late August in Susan & Bob’s Front Entryway Garden. Geranium ‘Rozanne’ Mass Planted for a Beautiful, Long-Blooming Lavender-Blue-Haze. A Background of Coreopsis, Heuchera micrantha, Echinacea purpurea, Eupatorium maculatum, E. rugosum & Thalictrum, Round Out the Late-Summer Color-Scheme. Ceramic Vessel: Stephen Procter

Endless summer. Yes, I realize the phrase might seem a bit odd for a Vermont-based gardening journal. After all, we are heading toward autumn, and New England is rather famous for “nine months of winter and three months of damned poor sledding”. But the fleeting days of balmy weather needn’t cramp a northern gardener’s style. A well-designed landscape remains beautiful every month of the year, and by choosing the right plants, colorful, textural compositions can enliven gardens throughout the growing season and well into the dark days of winter.

Designing a four season garden does require a certain amount of experience or research and usually involves more than one-stop shopping at the local nursery. Over time, seasoned gardeners develop an understanding of  how plants change throughout the growing year. When foliage begins to shift from the greens of summertime to the gold, red and burgundy hues of autumn, opportunities for new vignettes appear. Later —as winter chill settles in and leaves disappear altogether— texture, underlying color and structure is revealed; offering endless ways to play with glistening snow and ice.

Dry-Laid Stone Retaining Walls (By Massachusetts Artist Curtis Gray) Provide Ample Opportunities to Play Plant Textures & Colors Against Rock (Plantings Include: Eupatorium maculatum ‘Gateway’, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’, Eupatorium rugosum ‘Chocolate’, Baptisia australis & Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’)

In the Front Entry, Rich Colors and Textures Keep the Garden Lively in August (Plantings Include: Eupatorium maculatum ‘Gateway’, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’, Amsonia illustris, Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’, Baptisia australis, Eupatorium rugosum ‘Chocolate’, Coreopsis and Huechera)

The Entry Garden –Pictured Above– in Late Spring (Blooming Here Are Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker’s Red’ and Coreopsis grandiflora ‘Early Sunrise’)

As beautiful as blossoms are, in order for a garden to remain interesting in autumn and winter, the design must contain more than flowering plants. Perennials and grasses with colorful foliage and sensual textures, trees and shrubs with great structure, bright berries and unusual bark are the keys to creating never-ending beauty in the landscape.

Featured here is a young garden I created, in several stages, over the past year. The oldest part of the garden —welcoming entry walk and perennial-filled retaining walls— was planted for my clients late last summer. In autumn of 2011, I created a bulb plan for the front gardens and began designing borders for edging the back meadow and a soft, breezy screen to surround the stone terrace and sunken fire feature. Work continues with a second bulb plan this autumn, and preliminary sketches for another garden room with a water feature, to be created next spring. The gardens change dramatically from season to season, with colors and textures shifting from pale and delicate to bright and bold.

A Mass Planing of Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’) and Russian Sage (Perovskia antriplicifolia) Softens the Edge of a Deck, Facing the Meadow and Hills Beyond

Blooming Brightly from Early August Straight Through Early Frost, Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ is the Perfect Perennial for Mid to Front Border, Late-Summer Compositions (Planted Here with Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’)

To Soften the Edge of the Stone Patio/Fire Pit and Benches (Stonework by Curtis Gray), I Created a Summer-Screen of Fine-Textured Grasses and Meadow Flowers, Backed by a Beautiful Wind-Breaking Wall of Viburnum. Eventually, this Outdoor Room will be a Semi-Enclosed, Three-Season Space for Grilling & Entertaining. In Winter, the Snow-Catching, Sculptural Beauty of Ornamental Grasses and Horizontal Lines of Viburnum plicatum will Remain Visible from the Indoor Living/Dining Space (Plantings Include: Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’, Heliopsis helianthoides ‘Venus’ and Veronica)

Many new gardeners focus on spring-blooming perennials —iris, peonies, roses, etc— creating fragrant, floriferous gardens that, while beautiful in June, fizzle out by Fourth of July. If you are new to four-season gardening, have a look at some of the later blooming perennials –Fairy Candles (Actaea simplex), Asters, Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia), Coneflowers (Echinacea), Russian Sage (Perovskia), Sedum, Windflowers (Anemone), The Rocket (Ligularia), Toad Lilies (Tricyrtis), Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum & E. rugosum), Globe Thistle (Echinops), Sea Holly (Eryngium), Turtlehead (Chelone), Phlox, Tick Seed (Coreopsis), Sneeze-Weed (Helenium), False Sunflower (Heliopsis), Yellow Waxbells (Kirengeshoma palmata) and Bush Clover (Lespedeza), to name a few— as well as ornamental grasses, ferns, berry-producing plants, and shrubs and trees with fall foliage, interesting bark and sculptural form for winter interest.

An Early Tint of Rusty-Red on Viburnum trilobum ‘Bailey Compact’ is Accented by Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’, Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ and in the Foreground, Salvia nemerosa ‘May Night’ (Second Flush of Blooms Brought on by Timely Pruning of Spent Blossoms from the First Wave) Brightens the Meadow-Edge

The Front Entryway Garden —Pictured at Top of Post— in Very Early Spring of its First Year

And Later in Spring of its First Year, with Sunny Perennials Blooming on the Left and Shade Garden Plants Emerging at Right (Hosta, Ferns & Astilbe Beneath Stewartia)

Detail of Front Entryway Garden Walk in Late August

All Stonework: Curtis Gray.

Hardscape Materials/Site Prep & Plants: Turner & Renaud.

Ceramic Vessel: Stephen Procter.

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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Welcome Home! Johnson’s Garden: Revisiting a Renovation, One Year Later

July 24th, 2012 § 5 comments § permalink

A Welcoming Garden of Color: A Hedge of Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine is Fronted by Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’, Perovskia antriplicifolia, Rudbeckia  fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ and Sedum telephium ‘Munstead Red’, Among Other Plantings Facing the Residential Street

After taking an early morning stroll through a garden I designed and installed last summer, I decided the visit was simply too delicious to keep all to myself. When Geri and Stan Johnson invited me to create a colorful and welcoming garden for the entryway to their riverside home, I leapt at the opportunity. The Johnsons gave me complete creative freedom throughout the process —allowing me to choose the plants best suited to their site and budget, without any restrictions in terms of color or form— and I enjoyed every moment. You may recall this garden renovation featured here last year (click to view the post). One year after planting —thanks to Stan’s excellent site prep and both Johnsons’ diligent maintenance and tender-loving-care during dry-spells— the garden is already full, lush and vibrant. Come have a look, and see how things have grown (click images to enlarge)…

A Hedge of Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’ Makes a Fine Backdrop for Perennial Plantings on Either Side of the Road, Providing both Privacy and Beauty to the Residence (Interior Perennial Border Plantings Include: Sedum Spurium ‘Dragon’s Blood’, Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’, Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’, Penstemon digitalis ‘Huskers Red’ & Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’. In the Background, an Gorgeous Hedge of Tsuga canadensis Towers in a Cool Shade of Forest Green)

Two Sunny Borders Skirt the Entryway Walk, Providing Non-Stop Color from Spring to Late Fall with Vibrant Foliage and Bloom (For Plant Details, See Lists Above and Below). Solar Lanterns are from BJs (See similar solar lanterns here at Amazon.com)

Euphorbia polychroma ‘Bonfire’ & Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’ Along the Hot, Sunny Walkway 

Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) & Wild Blue Indigo (Baptisia australis) 

A Quiet Place to Read the Morning Paper (Plantings Left to Right: Liatris ‘Kobold’, Asclepias tuberosa, Eupatorium rugosum ‘Chocolate’, Baptisia australis, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’, Backed by Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’). Geri and Stan Love Color in a Garden, and I Couldn’t Agree with Them More! Wine and Chocolate Play Against Citrus and Berry Hues in this Bold Garden; Saturating the Verdant Backdrop with Colors so Ripe You Can Almost Taste Them!

Veronica spicata ‘Purpleicious’ Backed by Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’

The Long Border, Leading to the Maroon-Painted Arch and Retaining Wall Gardens, is Filled with Classic Perennials; Including Artemisia schmidtiana ‘Silver Mound’, Ligularia dentata ‘Britt Marie Crawford’, Heuchera micrantha ‘Palace Purple’ and various other cvs, Geranium x gerwat ‘Rozanne’, various Astilbe and Blooming Shrubs

At the Far End of the Garden, Ornamental Grass, Sage and Rudbeckia Fill a Retaining Wall Garden in Full Sun (Plantings Front to Back: Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’, Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’, Perovskia antriplicifolia, Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’ and to the right, Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’)

Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine is Fronted by Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’, Perovskia antriplicifolia, Rudbeckia  fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ and Sedum telephium ‘Munstead Red’

Thank You to Geri and Stan Johnson for Your Support, and for Sharing Your Garden with The Gardener’s Eden!

Garden Design & Installation, Michaela Medina Harlow – For Inquiries See Contact at Left

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

June 29th, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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