Late October, Burning Bright

October 29th, 2014 § 2 comments § permalink

IMG_0743.JPG Late October chores can wait: Taking a moment to pause and enjoy the beauty of imperfection

It’s post-frost, tidy-up season in my garden. Time to gather and clean-out seasonal pots, cut-back unattractive perennials, rake-up leaves and button-up the borders with mulch. This has been a busy year for me as I’ve begun to switch my focus away from garden design, and back to art. As a result, the garden suffered a bit of summertime neglect and I have my hands full this fall. But standing here today at the Secret Garden door —gazing out at the brilliant autumn colors— I realize that by taking on fewer projects, there will be more time for this place again in the coming seasons.

Dahlia Tubers ⓒ michaela medina - thegardenerseden Digging and cleaning up Dahlia tubers. See past post here.

Patient observation is a skill I constantly practice in gardening, and although I’m no master, I notice a bit of improvement here and there as the years pass. I’m a note taker, and thanks to my iPhone, I can both take notes and photos while out working to help remind me of garden tasks. After losing far too many Dahlia bulbs to forgetful placement, I’ve learned to flag them with tiny, red, plastic tags. I can easily spot these after the killing frost and safely dig and store my tubers in the basement. I also make note in my calendar —with audible alerts— as a reminder to pick up and plant spring bulbs. Early-spring favorites —such as ErythroniumGalanthus, Eranthus and Anemone, to name a few— must be planted in late summer or very early autumn for best results, but others —including most Tulipa and Narcissus bulbs— can be planted as long as the ground remains frost-free. So I’ve learned to shop the end-of-season sales, and often find great bargains. This is also true for deciduous trees and shrubs. A great garden can be built on a shoestring budget, with patience, luck and a bit of good timing.

Tulip Bulbs in Basket ⓒ michaela medina - thegardenerseden.com jpg Over the years I’ve learned that Tulips can be planted quite late in the season, so I often grab them at bargain basement prices. What I can not plant, I will pot up and chill for forcing.

IMG_0776.JPG Tidying up the Secret Garden room is a fun, end-of -season chore. I love to rearrange my chairs, tools and books and pull house plants back inside for winter. Everything looks so cozy and inviting, nestled back into its place.

Shears-and-Cape-Cod-Weeder-in-Secret-Garden-Room- Terra cotta pots are especially vulnerable to cracking during the winter. While I will leave  frost-proof stoneware and glazed pots out as recommended by their makers, I always bring my un-glazed clay urns and vessels in by the first week of November.

Photography ⓒ Michaela Harlow. 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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Indoor Eden: Simple,Verdant Beauty… Twisting & Twining English Ivy

January 22nd, 2011 § 3 comments § permalink

Hedera helix ‘Glacier’ – English Ivy Twists and Twines Round a Metal Chair in the Secret Garden Room

Busy about the Secret Garden Room this morning –potting, pruning and moving plants around to make room for new seed starts– I suddenly found myself driven to delightful distraction by my gorgeous friend, Ivy. Positioned as she is –right inside the double French doors– I routinely pass my lovely Hedera helix ‘Glacier’, whenever I enter or exit the garden room. But today, something about the way the light flickered behind her verdant, porcelain-edged leaves made me stop right in my tracks. Simply beautiful…

Hedera helix ‘Glacier’ catches winter sunlight in the Secret Garden Room

English ivy likes to twist and twine, making it the ideal plant for wrapping around old metal chairs, bed frames and other ironwork. There are many ivy cultivars available, in all shapes and sizes. The colors and leaf patterns of Hedera helix range from the simple to the bold; in endless shades of gold, cream and green. I have a great fondness for the subtly variegated ivies; leaves with beautiful mottling and shadowy color combinations. Grown from a small softwood cutting, my durable H. helix ‘Glacier’ thrives in the filtered light and cool temperatures of my Secret Garden Room. Feeding –with a low-nitrogen organic fertilizer– will begin in spring and continue every two weeks through late fall. Ivy prefers slightly dry soil year round, and in winter, I reduce watering even further to prevent rot. I like to prune longer stems –especially those with large gaps between leaves– taking them back to a node located amid lush growth. This bit of regular maintenance helps keep the plant looking full and healthy. My lovely English ivy is currently insect free, however aphids, mealy bugs and scale are common ivy-pests, and can be controlled with insecticidal soap, neem and horticultural oil. And although regular misting usually keeps them at bay in my Secret Garden Room, spider mites can sometimes become a problem for ivy –indoors or out. Clip off and destroy mite infested parts where possible, and/or treat the ivy with a horticultural oil/soap mix.

Ivy is easily trained along walls with hooks and wire or fishing line. Here, Hedera helix ‘Glacier’ creeps along the rough-hewn hemlock between the double French doors.

English ivy may be common, but she’s also a stunning and remarkably versatile houseplant. In this dimly-lit indoor garden, the variegated leaves of ivy capture filtered rays of sun and enliven plastered walls. In summer, this plant lives just outside the garden room door, and in late autumn –before the hard freeze– I move her back inside. Over time, my variegated ivy has become one with her pedestal; winding her tendrils ’round the back, legs and seat of an on old metal chair. Because the seat is constructed of light weight metal, I can easily move the entire vignette back an forth with the seasons.  Ivy is easy to propagate. When pieces break off, I simply stick them in a pot of moistened soil and begin a new plant for a friend.

Much as a well-worn pair of blue jeans or fine old leather bag with a perfectly-aged patina adds character to a basic wardrobe, a lush pot of English ivy lends classic style to a low-lit room. Looking at my lovely old ivy in the sunlight today, I’m reminded to never underestimate the beauty and power of simplicity…

I love to watch sun spots dancing around the Secret Garden Room –the low light illuminating Ivy’s wild tendrils– while I’m tending to plants or working at my desk.

Discover more extraordinary ivy cultivars and find information on ivy culture at the website of The American Ivy Society.

***

Article and Photos ⓒ Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

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Dangerous Beauty: Poisonous Plant Information for Homes with Small Children & Pets…

November 30th, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

Outside, Looking In: Dreamy —But Poisonous— Kalanchoe mangini Sits High Up in a Bedroom Window

Like many cold-climate gardeners, now that the growing year has ended —and my outdoor garden pursuits are limited to vegetables in raised beds beneath hoop-houses— I find myself catering to a large Indoor Eden of overwintering plants. Throughout the cold months, I keep a wide a wide variety of common and exotic plants in my home. Some of my tender plants —including culinary herbs and other edibles— are located on my kitchen countertop and in stands on or near the floor. Other plants —such as a giant ficus, sago palm, ferns, various succulents, cactus, a cherished collection of orchids and rare exotics— populate my studio workspace, bedroom, bathroom and an indoor, Secret Garden Room.

Kalanchoe mangini – Beautiful, But Toxic to Pets

Poisonous Plants —Like This Sago Palm and Succulent Container— Are Kept Behind Closed-Doors in my Painting Studio

Kalanchoe pumila: Another Pretty, but Poisonous, Plant

Plants are a big part of my life, but animals are part of my family  —I have both a dog and a cat— and yes, they have been known to “sample” the greenery. Although most plants are harmless when consumed, some can make the taste-tester quite sick -and eating certain species can even be fatal. Many common holiday-gift plants —such as amaryllis, poinsettia, mistletoe, Christmas rose, Easter lily, iris, narcissus and hyacinth— as well as common houseplants —like English ivy, elephant’s ear, philodendron and caladium, to name but a few— are toxic to pets. Even tiny bits of leaves, roots or blossoms from certain plants may cause vomiting or diarrhea in both humans and animals. And, when eaten in quantity or over a prolonged period of time, some plants may even be fatal.

Plants are Safely Off-Limits in My Secret Garden Room (Sorry, No Pets Allowed)

If you share your home with small children and pets, it’s critical that you know which plants are potential threats to their safety, and how to handle the danger. Because I garden professionally, it’s my responsibility to know which plants are toxic —both to humans and their animal companions— in order to avoid accidental poisoning and disaster. For human poison-concerns,  The National Capital Poison Center (Affiliated with GWU Medical Center) maintains a website and common poison lists (again, this list is for humans) —including toxic plants by common and latin name— which I have found useful (click here and bookmark). And for quick pet reference, I often check with The United States Humane Society online -their website includes a fairly comprehensive poisonous plant list, (click here for more information). The ASPCA also maintains a regularly updated listing of plants toxic to dogs and cats here on their site (search by common or latin name). In addition, I highly recommend keeping a copy of the Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants (pictured at bottom of this post) in an easy-to-locate spot for quick reference.

This Semi-Enclosed Terrarium Would Be a Great Way to Showcase a Less-Safe Plant on a High Shelf

Of course, the safest decision is to completely eliminate all toxic plants from your home. But for many of us, that isn’t really the most desirable —nor is it the only— option. Plants grown behind glass —especially within completely enclosed terrariums, like the one pictured below— are much less likely to be eaten by children or pets. Plants kept in high, out-of-reach, places —bookshelves and dressers come to mind— also tend to be safe from curious fingers, noses and mouths. Keeping toxic plants in a separate room, behind closed doors, is another way to avoid trouble. I do keep some toxic plants in my home. However, I take special care to make sure my pets are never exposed to the more poisonous species. Even the most mildly toxic specimens in my house are kept safely out of reach; grown within terrariums, upon high shelves or behind closed doors in my studio or Secret Garden Room.

One Safe Option for Toxic Plants, and a Lovely Holiday Gift for a Gardener: A Beautiful, Fully-Enclosed Terrarium

If a child or pet accidentally ingests a potentially poisonous plant, you should immediately call for help. Try to remain calm –remember that more often than not, small quantities of toxic plants are not fatal. However, the side-effects of poisonous plant ingestion can be quite serious. So, don’t take a chance -always seek the help of a doctor or veterinarian if you suspect your child or pet has eaten something unsafe.

Woo in the Garden

A Thoughtful Holiday Gift for A Gardener with Children and/or Pets: Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants

Article and Photographs ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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

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The following online shops sell beautiful terrariums and kits…

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Indoor Eden: The Secret Garden Room…

October 3rd, 2010 § 10 comments § permalink

Where does the Secret Garden lead? The Garden Room, of course…

Brrrrrrr… There’s a chill in the air this morning! Low temps hovered around 34 degrees fahrenheit last night, and in spite of the bright sunshine, it sure feels like fall now. Jack Frost hasn’t yet made his inaugural, autumn visit to the garden, but I am already preparing for his arrival. Out in the potager, hoop-houses have been set in place to protect the tender crops from freezing nighttime temperatures (click here for tutorial). And in the ornamental gardens, potted tropicals and houseplants have begun their seasonal migration indoors.

Deep within the Secret Garden, behind the high stone walls and below the rusty steel balcony, there exists yet another hidden door. This dimly-lit Garden Room —a glorified walk-out basement, really— is my secret-within-a-secret. Though dark —and I suppose slightly mysterious— the Garden Room receives considerable filtered light through a wall of glass doors. Here the Streptocarpus, Begonia, Asparagus densiflorus, as well as other tropical and tender perennial plants will make a winter home…

A Wooden Giraffe Gazes Out the Garden Door

An Enormous Old Pot, Filled with an Asparagus Fern (wheeled in and out with a handcart each year)

What else can be found in my Secret Garden Room? Well, I supposed it’s becoming something of a repository for treasured old pots and urns, hand tools and various curios and natural collections: birds nests, bones, feathers and skins, books, and winter gardening projects. In summer, this spot is a cool oasis for reading and visiting on humid days. In autumn and winter, the Garden Room becomes a place for indoor garden projects, study, quiet reflection and intimate conversation. Someday, I hope to build a conservatory for overwintering plants. But this special, secret space —secluded from the rest of my home— will always be a favorite garden retreat…

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall – Reflective Windows Add Light to the Dimly Lit Garden  Room…

Collected, Natural Curios Line Shelves and Fill Glass Jars in the Garden Room

Tools, pots, plants and curious fill the shadowy Garden Room. Candles add Warmth at Twilight, and on Dark, Rainy Days…

I finished the Garden Room walls by hand, with layer upon layer of plaster; in naturally occurring colors, ranging from buff to terra-cotta.

Looking Through the Garden Room Doors, into the Secret Garden Surrounded by Stonewalls and A Vine-Clad, Steel Balcony

Rusty Old Chairs and Candle Sticks will Remain Outdoors, Well Past the Frost

A Potted Agapanthus Settles into Her Winter Retreat

An Enormous Pot Filled With Asparagus Fern (moved back and forth annually from one side of the glass door to the other). The Old Settee was Found in a Church Tag Sale.

My Indoor Gardening Projects Include Terrarium-Making and Potting Bulbs for Winter Forcing – See More Ideas and Resources on the Indoor Eden Page Here. This Lovely Wardian Case was a Gift from H. Potter.

The View of the Secret Garden from the Hidden Glass Doors

The High, Moss-Covered Stone Walls Surrounding the Secret Garden at Ferncliff  Were Built by Vermont Artist Dan Snow.

A Peek Outside the Secret Garden Door in October…

***

Article and photographs ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. Advertisers do not pay for editorial placement here, but do remit a small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden affiliate links to this site. All proceeds will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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