The Summer Camellia Greets Mid-July: Stewartia pseudocamellia in Full Bloom 

July 15th, 2015 § Comments Off on The Summer Camellia Greets Mid-July: Stewartia pseudocamellia in Full Bloom  § permalink

Japanese Stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia) covered in her finest summer white 

Spring-blooming trees are lovely indeed —greeting winter-weary eyes with bright pops of color in an otherwise muted landscape— but summer-blooming trees? I often post about the lack of dog-day focus in garden design —despite the myriad, mid-season options— and the dearth of flowering trees in gardens at this time of year has always puzzled me. Why not add a Japanese Stewartia or two?

Long after the crabapples, cherries and dogwood blossoms have faded to memory, Stewartia pseudocamellia —known as ‘The Summer Camellia’ in Japan— always delights this wilting gardener in July with her refreshing, pure-white flowers. True, I have selected this tree for garden designs many times for her exquisite, autumnal foliage and exfoliating bark alone —but mid-summer blossoms really are the frosting on the cake, and who can ignore this beautiful, vanilla frosting? Hardy in USDA zones 5-8, Stewartia pseudocamellia does best where summer days are hot but nights are mostly cooler. Japanese Stewartia is a slow growing tree with glossy, green foliage and a columnar shape at maturity. Depending upon the specimen and location —Stewartia prefers a somewhat sheltered spot in full sun to part shade and slightly acidic, moist, well-drained soil— it can reach 20-40′.

stewartia-and-rodgersia-ⓒ-Michaela-at-TGE The Summer Camellia in her full, autumnal glory

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

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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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Preparing the Garden for Winter: Protect Young, Ornamental & Fruit Trees from Gnawing Rodents…

November 11th, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

My young Royal Frost birch (Betula populifolia x Whitespire ‘Royal Frost’) tree’s golden-orange foliage in November

Several years ago, when my father had heart surgery at the VA hospital in Boston, I was away from home quite a bit during the last three months of the year. Preoccupied with my dad’s health and juggling various responsibilities during his recovery, I neglected end-of-season chores in my garden. Later on, as the first month of winter passed and my father’s condition improved, I found myself staring at a box of unplanted bulbs and a check list of unfinished tasks.

Soon, spring arrived. Waves of forced bulbs —potted and chilled in late December— began to emerge from the depths of my refrigerator. Although I regretted not getting my little treasures into the ground, I was grateful for the bright color of early tulips and tiny, fragrant narcissus when the snow began to recede; exposing muddy patches of half-frozen earth. Later, as I began rummaging around my cellar in search of gardening tools, I made a grim discovery: an entire box of wire cages that never made it around the trunks of my young trees. My heart sank. I looked out into the Secret Garden —at my still-buried Japanese maple— and I knew that I was in trouble. Immediately I raced out the front door and down the steps to my beloved Blue Green Dragon (aka ‘Seiryu’) at the Secret Garden Door. I began furiously digging at the foot of ice and snow still mounded ’round the tree trunk. My cold, raw fingers felt of the smooth bark for tell-tale signs of mouse-damage; scratches, gouges or ridges. Eventually, after clearing the entire base of the tree, I breathed an enormous sigh of relief. No rodent damage here. But then, I turned my attention to the Japanese maple inside the Secret Garden -my beautiful ‘Butterfly’.

The gorgeous spring colors of Acer palmatum ‘Butterfly'(from Almost Eden Plants)

I went inside to grab a pair of gloves and shovel. Snow always drifts and piles higher inside the Secret Garden, and the shade prevents early melting. As I began digging, I quickly uncovered a cylindrical channel leading from one of the stone walls toward the tree. Drawing closer to the trunk, I could see tiny bits of bark scattered about the white tunnel. I slumped down in the snow. Still digging, as I uncovered one side of the stripped trunk, I started to cry. I knew what I would find, and I was right. The tree had been completely girdled (living bark gnawed clean off in a full circle around the trunk). If you’ve never seen this kind of rodent-damage before, my reaction may seem a bit over-dramatic. But if you’ve ever experienced the heartbreak of losing a beloved tree or shrub to winter girdling, you will understand. The rodents must have begun their chewing after the sap started to run in late February. As the weather warmed, the tree began to leaf out. What a pathetic scene. The gorgeous crimson-tipped leaves and coral-pink stems taunted me as I watched them unfurl; knowing that this would be my beautiful, young tree’s last spring. I couldn’t bear to dig it up, and I couldn’t stand to walk through the garden.

The beautiful leaves of The Blue Green Dragon (Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’) in Springtime

Eventually, I came to accept reality, and I removed the ‘Butterfly’ from my garden. I could not find another specimen, so I changed course, dug up the earth, and planted a young Stewartia pseudocamilla in her place. She is, of course, stunning in that spot. And one day, I will create another protected nook and bring a new ‘Butterfly’ to my garden.

If you have young trees and shrubs with tender bark in your garden, protecting those valuable plants from winter rodent damage is absolutely essential. Every November, I pull out my homemade wire tubes and surround the base of my precious plants. You can buy protective tree tubes at many garden centers, or easily make your own from fine wire mesh sheeting (available at most hardware stores). I had extra metal lath leftover from several construction projects, and that works well too. The important thing is that the spaces between the wires be small enough to prevent the tiniest of mice from slipping into the tube. Make the width of the cylinder about twice the diameter of the tree, and at least 18″ tall (depending on average snow depth, you may want to make your cylinder two feet tall)  For extra insurance, I often spray the bark of my trees with hot pepper wax before securing the wire tubes, and I also pour a few inches of sharp gravel around the base of the tube to prevent tunneling.

Gently settle the tube around the tree and push slightly into the mulch. Take care not to damage shallow-rooted trees like Japanese maple by pushing wire into the tender roots at the surface.

Secure the tube with medium-guage steel wire. Gasp! Put down those Felcos! Use wire cutters to snip that steel!

Secure the tube well, tucking the wire beneath itself to prevent injury to your fingers in springtime

This is what the tube looks like when properly installed around the base of the tree. Once you have made them, you can easily recycle them from year to year. Replace them every November. Larger trees can withstand a bit of mouse gnawing. Mature trees, with tough bark, rarely experience gnawing. But, I protect all of my smooth-barked specimen trees. It only takes about a half an hour to do my entire (very large) garden.

Japanese Golden Forest Grass (Hachonechloa macra ‘Aureola’) continues to provide late season color in the Secret Garden, and…

It also provides a bit of camouflage for my Stewartia’s protective, wire tree-tube

Before long, the silver-grey tubes in my garden will be buried beneath the snow. But because I am a garden designer, I am very preoccupied with how the garden looks throughout the seasons. So, I try to plant a ‘screen’ at the base of my young trees to help conceal these seasonal tubes in late autumn. In the photo above, golden Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’) and Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’ provide a fine camouflage.

And although I still pine for my ‘Butterfly’, I accept that sometimes accidents happen. My garden is important to me, but my family and friends are far more important. I’m happy to report that thanks to the team of medical professionals at the VA Hospital in West Roxbury, MA, my father made a full recovery from the heart surgery that saved his life. And every year on November 11th, as I go out in the morning to faithfully wrap my trees, I am reminded of the many veterans I met during my father’s stay at the Veterans Hospital four years ago. Thank you for your service to our country dad, and thank you to all of your brothers and sisters in arms. We are ever-grateful for your sacrifice, and we salute you.

A Time of Reflection- Veterans Day, November 11th

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Article and Photographs (with exception noted & linked) ⓒ 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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Singin’ and Dancin’ in the Rain….. Vibrant Colors on a Late September Day

September 28th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

Raindrops on Birch – Late September at Ferncliff

Grey skies and fog… Are those downpours drumming on my roof? Why yes! At long last, the heavens have opened up; two days and a forecast filled with showers! Suddenly saturated, the colors of early autumn seem to be singin’ and dancin’ in the rain. Chinese orange and plum, cherry red and dusty violet, saffron and rust; a rainbow of beauty without a trace of sun. So now, pull on your rain boots and pop on a bright yellow jacket. Come join me beneath my big umbrella and let’s go for a stroll ’round the September garden. It couldn’t be prettier outside. Why not splash in the puddles and have some fun…

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ and Viburnum trilobum ‘Bailey Compact’

Rodgersia aesculifolia and Stewartia pseudocamillia in the Secret Garden

Miscanthus purpurascens (Flame Grass) with Viburnum trilobum ‘J.N. Select – Redwing’

Viburnum setigerum with berries, planted with Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ and Rudbeckia hirta {remnant seed pods on view}

In the Entry Garden: Amsonia illustris and Juniperus horizontalis ‘Blue Rug’

Raindrops on the coral twigs and multicolored foliage of a young Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’ beside the wall

The golden timothy meadow (Phleum pratense) and beyond, hayscented fern (Dennstaedtia puctilobula) edge the woodland

A half-lit sugar maple (Acer saccharum) glows in front of the native forest to the south

Purple-red ash (Fraxinus americana) and tangerine-tipped sugar maple (Acer saccharum) line the gateway to the native forest

A red maple (Acer rubrum) is all aflame on my hilltop, standing before the native forest to the north

Miscanthus purpurascens and Amsonia illustris (planted with Fothergilla gardenii, Rudbeckia, Sedum and in the background Cornus alba)

Hayscented Fern (Dennstaedtia puctilobula)

Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diabolo’ and Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ and Fagus sylvatica ‘Riversii’

Raindrops on Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ (Fountain Grass)

Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota)

Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’, Sedum, and Eupatorium ‘Chocolate’

Viburnum trilobum ‘Bailey Compact’ and Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ (detail)

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ and Viburnum trilobum ‘Bailey Compact’

Clethra alnifolia (Summersweet) and Miscanthus purpurascens with Weigela florida ‘Red Prince’

Early Autumn Colors in Vermont

Hydrangea quercifolia (Oakleaf hydrangea), Juniperus squamata ‘Holger’ (Holgers Juniper) and Solidago (Goldenrod)

Inspiration…

Singin’ in the Rain…

In Pretty Red Wellies !

Article and photographs (with last two exceptions) ⓒ 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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Restful Rodgersia: A Tall, Dramatic Beauty for Secret, Shadowy Nooks and Damp, Dappled Shade…

June 22nd, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

Rodgersia aesculifolia in the Secret Garden with Matteuccia struthiopteris and Heuchera – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Although you will usually find Rodgersia hiding out in dappled corners, boggy nooks and shadowy glens, it’s not because she’s exactly shy. In fact, when you stop to consider her dramatic foliage and statuesque size, Rodgersia is really quite bold. But she’s definitely not the kind of flower you find screaming for attention in a common, suburban lot in blazing sunshine. Oh no. This exotic-looking beauty prefers moisture and protection from the heat of the day, or she begins to look disheveled- wilted even.

Rogersia is a knock out garden plant when you give her what she wants. And since it’s difficult to find a well-mannered, delicate presence in such a big, bold plant, I am more than happy to satisfy her modest demands. I love how her palmate, horse-chestnut-like leaves contrast with the texture of ostrich fern (Mettecuccia struthiopteris), in my shady Secret Garden; her creamy blossoms rising above an elegant skirt of bold and starry leaves. Later, in autumn, she burnishes to a bronzy-gold, combining beautifully with her stunning, near-by neighbor, Japanese stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamillia), as she blazes in all her vermillion glory…

Gorgeous, horse-chestnut-like foliage and tiny, star-shaped white flowers in June. Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Rodgersia aesculifolia in the Secret Garden – late June. Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Rodgersia combines beautifully with Stewartia in the Secret Garden – here again in mid October. Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

A genus of six species native to the woodlands and moist mountain stream-side banks of Asia, Rogersia is hardy in zones 5-9. R.pinnata, the toughest species in the group, is reportedly cold-tolerant to zone 3. After my successful experiment with Rogersia aesculifolia, I will certainly be adding more shady ladies -perhaps bronzy-leaved, pink flowering Rogersia pinnata ‘Superba’, and elder-like R. sambucifolia– to my garden this year. Of course I would grow this beauty for her knock-out foliage alone, but her sweet-cream flowers are also a lovely addition to the Secret Garden -even when dried-out brown in winter, and dusted with new-fallen snow…

Rogersia aesculifolia in June ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Rogersia aesculifolia dusted in snow ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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Article and photographs © 2010 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…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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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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