Native Beauty of the Forest Understory: Our Graceful, Flowering Dogwood …

May 31st, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) Photograph ⓒ Tim Geiss

In my work as a garden designer, I am constantly singing the praises of native plants to my clients; encouraging them to soften the edges of their landscape by blurring the boundary between the wild and tame. As an unofficial PR agent for our beautiful  native trees and shrubs, I have to say that Cornus florida (our North American native, Flowering Dogwood), is one of the super-stars in my book. All I need do is show photos of this graceful beauty in blossom, and she’s in…

Horizontal Branching Pattern Gives this Native Tree a Graceful Presence in the Forest Understory or Garden Edge. Tim Geiss

Beautifully Formed, Delicate White Bracts. Tim Geiss

Dogwood Tim Geiss

Part of Cornus florida’s timeless appeal can be attributed to her poetic, horizontal branching pattern. When positioned in her preferred location —a semi-shaded spot with evenly moist, woodsy, acidic, well drained soil— Flowering Dogwood’s natural structure and springtime bloom is truly stunning. And in addition to her fine April/May show —which also provides sustenance to pollinators of all kinds— Flowing Dogwood shines again in autumn, when she produces colorful red fruits (attractive to many birds) and scarlet foliage. Once mature, the graceful, tiered branches of Flowering Dogwood catch snow and ice in winter, adding beauty to the barren landscape.

Native to the understory of moist, deciduous, North American forests from southern New England all the way down to Florida, and west to Ontario, Canada and the Texas/Mexico border (USDA zones 4/5-9), Cornus florida is a perfect landscape-sized tree; reaching an average height of 25-35′, with a 20′ spread. This isn’t the right species for hot, dry places in full-sun or windy, barren sites. When positioned in such a location Cornus florida will struggle and suffer; never achieving her full glory. When under stress, Flowering Dogwood is more susceptible to diseases; including borers, cankers, powdery mildew, anthracnose. In more exposed spots —or marginally hardy zones– I prefer to plant C. florida x C. kousa hybrids; including cultivars ‘Constellation’ and ‘Ruth Ellen’.  The more durable —and equally lovely, though non-native— Cornus kousa (Kousa Dogwood is native to Asia and hardy in USDA zones 4b-8) is an excellent choice for four-season landscape interest as well. Our other native, flowering dogwood, Cornus alternifolia, is also quite hardy (USDA zones 3-7), but with a distinctly different look.

Given the proper site —as pictured here at the shady edge of a clearing— Cornus florida is a stunning landscape tree. Photo ⓒ Tim Geiss

Special Thanks to Tim Geiss for All of the Beautiful Cornus Florida Photographs in This Post

Original Zone and Cultural Detail Resource: Dirr’s Manual of Woody Landscape Plants

Article ⓒ Michaela at 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 used or reproduced or reposted without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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Teach Your Children Well: A Gardener’s Thoughts on Earth Day…

April 22nd, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

Holding Earth in Her Hands – Photo ⓒ Tim Geiss

As gardeners, most of us consider ourselves environmentally minded, and for us, every day is Earth Day. But, it’s important to remember that gardening —in and of itself—  is an unnatural act. When we work the soil and sow seed, fertilize and water, thin plants and harvest, we are manipulating the natural world. Agriculture is a human activity, and the end-results of irresponsible gardening and farming are as detrimental to earth as many other, more obviously harmful human activities.

Teaching future generations how to protect and preserve the environment by growing food organically and living sustainably, is one of the most important things we can do for our planet.

Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ in my garden

Help the children in your life to become active and interested in learning how to grow their own food, organically. Even the simplest gardening projects —indoors and out— can help build positive experiences and teach skills to last a lifetime. Take the time to teach little green thumbs about the diversity of our ecosystem and how to identify and respect the plants, insects, spiders, birds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals and other creatures all around us. Need some new garden projects and ideas for children? Books like The Family Kitchen Garden, Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots and The Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Gardening with Children are a great place to start. More children’s gardening book recommendations can be found in the library page at left; where I’ve listed some of the best titles-in-print for teaching children about the joy of gardening organically. Although this blog is geared toward adults, throughout the growing season, you will find articles, projects and links worth sharing with children. In addition, you will always find online resources linked in the right hand column; including bird & insect identification sites, educational programs, non-profit environmental organizations, and more.  Have a look around, and feel free to recommend great resources for gardening with children, that you have found and would like to share!

Happy Earth Day! Celebrate by helping the next generation learn to garden organically, responsibly and sustainably.

Sowing the Seeds of Our Future – Photo ⓒ Tim Geiss

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Special thanks to Tim Geiss for permission to use the beautiful photographs of his daughter Dharma, taken especially for The Gardener’s Eden.

Article and other photographs are copyright 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, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent. Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links here. 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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A Time for Gathering Friends & Family, Harvest Dinners & Giving Thanks…

November 25th, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

Happy Thanksgiving !

In this season of giving thanks, I would like to express my gratitude to all of you for following The Gardener’s Eden. Thank you for  your many delightful comments and email correspondence, and thank you for sharing this site with your friends. I truly love hearing from you, both here on the site, and also on The Gardener’s Eden’s Facebook and Twitter pages. I am so grateful for the many wonderful, new friendships growing from this lovely garden online. It takes time and care to build friendships, just as it takes time and care to build gardens. Thank you for joining me here.

Thank you to Tim Geiss, friend, photographer and IT wiz-beyond-compare. Without you, Tim, this blog would not exist, and I am ever-grateful for your your technical expertise, assistance, and all of your generous help. And thank you for sharing your amazing photographs —many taken specifically for this site— throughout the year. I also want to thank John Miller at The Old School House Plantery, for your wonderful contributions as guest blogger, and Ted Dillard, for your fantastic photography tips and your recent article on Electric Gardening!

I’ve made some wonderful connections through The Gardener’s Eden over the past year and a half, and I am deeply grateful for those new friendships. Thank you to Guillermo at The Honeybee Conservancy, for your enthusiasm and encouragement over the past year -it has been a pleasure working with you. And thank you to Kristin Zimmerman. Kristin, I had so much fun working with you at Barnes & Noble’s Garden Variety , and although I hope you are enjoying your new job, I want you to know that I am already missing you, your careful editing and our weekly email exchanges. And a great, big, heart-felt thank you to Stacey Hirvela and Miranda Van Gelder at Martha Stewart Living’s At Home in the Garden and Martha Stewart Living Magazine for extending a hand across this virtual, online gardening community. Thank you for opening the door to such unexpected and exciting opportunities.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Have a Lovely Holiday Weekend Everyone!

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Article & Photographs ⓒ 2010 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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Things Getting A Little Creepy ? Wishing You a Happy Halloween !

October 31st, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

Jumping Spider (Araneae salticidae) Photograph ⓒ Tim Geiss at poltergeiss.com

We only look scary! These arachnids are a gardener’s friends. Although some spiders are venomous, most are environmentally beneficial creatures worthy of our respect and protection. Read more about the predatory jumping spider (Araneae Salticidae) —a common ‘guest’ in houses—  and the soil-dwelling red velvet mite ( Acari Trombidiidae) by clicking on the name of each spider. For help identifying North American spiders, check out the very interesting spideridentification.org or the arachnid page on whatsthatbug.com.

Predatory Red Velvet Mite (Arachnida Acari Trombidiidae sp) Photograph ⓒ Tim Geiss at poltergeiss.com

Jumping Spider (Araneae salticidae) Photograph ⓒ Tim Geiss at poltergeiss.com

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Spider Photographs ⓒ Tim Geiss at Poltergeiss.com

Article ⓒ 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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“He Who Walks Behind the Rows”… Lost in a Labyrinth of Stalks & Tassels: Exploring the Art of the Corn Maze

October 23rd, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

“He Who Walks Behind the Rows”…

Clouds gather, dark and low on the horizon. The daylight is fading. You’ve been driving through miles of cornfields and back country roads. Suddenly, something  —a child?— darts across the cracked pavement and into the corn rows. Immediately, you pull over and step from the warmth of your car. A rush of cold air scrapes across your face; the rustle of cornstalks rising and dragging behind you in the wind.

Tentatively you call out, but there’s no answer. Were your eyes playing tricks on you after hours of travel? Why hadn’t you stopped for a break? Wait… What is that sound? You step from the grassy roadway margin, into the long, shadowy corn rows. There —there it is again— off in the distance. Is it a cry, or is it laughter? The voice of a child or an animal’s wail? Once more it rises from the stalks —pitching higher now— calling up from beyond the swaying tassels. And then… Silence. Your hair rises at the back of your neck. You pause, and —in a moment of instinct— rush breathlessly down the narrow pathway —heart pounding into your throat— racing against the twilight…

A quarter mile in, you hear a crack and you call out into the empty field – but there’s no answer. Turning toward the sound, you dash through the stalks to the left, then to the right. Racing down a wider path —breathless— you suddenly stop; eyes stinging from the rising dust. This must be a main corridor, but there’s no end in sight. There, blowing across the ground on the pathway ahead, you spot a piece of paper. As you unfold it —examining the wobbly dotted line— you wonder: is this a child’s drawing, an attempt at simplistic map? You clutch the torn paper —palms clammy-cold— and press forward. The map seems accurate, but then, there’s no indication of what lies ahead: a divide in the road…

One side seems smoother and a bit wider. Slowing down, you begin to stop and start; futile attempts to get your bearings. The sky is growing darker, and the path narrows again. All around you —above and to the sides, before you and behind— there is nothing but hollow stalks of corn. Then, straight ahead: an improbable staircase. Quickly, you scramble to the top…

As you near the highest point of the platform, your heart sinks. Taking in the monochromatic vista, you suddenly realize that your car, the road and the surrounding landscape have completely vanished. As far as the eye can see, there is nothing but an endless expanse of bleached stalks —knocking  to and fro — rattling like bones in the wind. Is there no way out? Will you ever be found? Wait. There it is again. A low and plaintive cry. Something is moving out there. Something is calling for you. Is it… Malachai ?

Inspiration: The 1984 film, Children of the Corn, based on Stephen King’s short story by the same name

All photographs in this story were shot especially for The Gardener’s Eden by Tim Geiss at Poltergeiss.com. Images were made on location at Sauchuk Farm Maze in Plympton, Massachusetts. For maze and farm hours and directions, visit the farm website by clicking here.

The  Story  Behind  The  Story:  Those  Amazing  Corn  Mazes  &  The  Farms  They  Help  Support

Gaines Farm, Haunted Corn Maze in Guilford, Vermont (Aerial Photography ⓒ Michaela at TGE)

Mazes (sometimes called corn maizes or, historically, labyrinths) are believed to have originated in Europe, where they have been a popular form of amusement for centuries. Although mazes and labyrinths may be constructed using various materials —from grass and clipped hedges to earth and stone— most modern mazes are created with corn. In mid to late May, corn —usually special varieties selected for stalk strength and height— is planted in rows and later (usually in June) cut or tilled into patterns; creating elaborate designs and pathways in fields. Many years ago, patterns for labyrinths were drawn out on paper and cut by hand with sythes. Today, most mazes are cut with tillers or other machinery when the corn is knee-high (some farms use herbicides). Some modern maze designers use computer graphs and GPS coordinates to create elaborate grid patterns. However, many mazes, such as the walking puzzles pictured here —created by the MAiZE company based in Utah— continue to be designed and cut by hand.

It all begins with corn kernels in May…

My closest maze is located at the Gaines Farm —the bicentennial dairy farm pictured in the aerial photograph above— in nearby Guilford, Vermont. The Gaines Farm corn maze combines a MAiZE Co. designed labyrinth with haunted hayrides and other Halloween attractions every fall. Corn mazes are fun for kids and families of all ages, and visiting one is a great way to help support your local farm. Autumn corn mazes have become an important and growing source of revenue for small farms and agricultural communities throughout the United States and Canada. Maize labyrinths also continue to be popular in Europe —particularly England— and are a growing trend in other parts of the world as well. To find and experience a corn maze near you, try searching the MAiZE Co. database online, or this puzzle listing on About.com. If your local maze is not listed on the About.com site, be sure to submit it so that others may enjoy the experience!

John Deere Tractor at Sauchuk Farm

Sauchuk Farm’s “Walk Around the World” Corn Maze in Plympton, Massachusetts Photo: Sauchuk Farm Website

Please help support your local farming community by attending harvest-season events!

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Photography in this story (exceptions as noted) ⓒ Tim Geiss at Poltergeiss.com

Article and other photographs (as noted) ⓒ 2010 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. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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Happy May Day!

May 1st, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

Image © 1895, Walter Crane, via Yale University Library online

Welcome, welcome, sweet month of May! Melodic bird song and the intoxicating, clove-like scent of Mayflower viburnum, (also known as Korean spicebush, Viburnum carlesii), were the first pleasures to greet me on this first day of one of the loveliest months of the year. Special thanks to photographer Tim Geiss for his beautiful shots of Common Lilac, (Syringa vulgaris), and Mayflower viburnum, (Viburnum carlesii)

Image © Tim Geiss

Image © Tim Geiss

Image © Tim Geiss

Image © Tim Geiss

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Photographs are courtesy, and copyright, Tim Geiss. All rights reserved by the artist.

Article copyright 2010, Michaela at TGE, photographs copyright 2010 Tim Geiss, (exceptions noted). 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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Art Inspired by Nature – Tim Geiss “Looking at You, Looking at Me”

September 16th, 2009 § 2 comments § permalink

BWfrog Geiss 2009.05.22.13.03.21_frog.macro_0005

Frog, 2009, Tim Geiss

Welcome to the first installation of what I hope will become a weekly series, “Art Inspired by Nature”, on The Gardener’s Eden. As a gardener and nature-lover, I constantly find myself face to face with the beautiful, strange, and awe inspiring world around me. Sometimes I am moved by the beating wings of a butterfly, other times I am drawn in to the color of stone and then stunned to find a perfectly preserved, paper-white snake skin. I never know what I will find in the garden, and this unpredictable aspect of my work thrills me. I am also a visual artist, and recently I visited The Clark museum in Williamstown, Massachusetts to see ‘Through the Seasons, Japanese Art in Nature‘ and ‘Dove/O’Keeffe: Circles of Influence‘, (more on this show later). What I saw at the museum that day inspired me to connect with other artists, (photographers, sculptors, painters, potters, and more), in an effort to share their amazing work with you here on The Gardener’s Eden.

Looking. Looking very closely at the world around me has taught me a great deal. What better way to begin this series than with a collection of photographs focused on eyes? I present to you, “Looking at You, Looking at Me”. Meet photographer Tim Geiss. Tim is a natural observer. What I love most about his work is the instinctive way he approaches photography. There is a spontaneous, child-like quality to Tim’s images. To me, this is art in its purest form. Curiosity. Observation. Appreciation. Repulsion. Fascination. Expression.

Enjoy Tim’s work. May it inspire you and move you, as nature has inspired and moved human beings for all of time…

2009.09.09.17.21.07_frog.maine.camp_0008

Eye, 2009, Tim Geiss

dragon fly eyes

Dragon Fly, 2009, Tim Geiss

2008.06.22.11.06.53_cicada_00025

Cicada, 2008, Tim Geiss

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All photographs copyright 2008-2009, Tim Geiss. These photos are the property of Tim Geiss and may not be used under any circumstances without the artist’s consent. To contact Tim Geiss, please visit……  www.poltergeiss.com

Like this series? Please leave your comments here on the forum by clicking on the title bar and then scrolling down to the bottom of the page. I am sure Tim would love to hear from you!

Stay tuned. Every Wednesday, The Gardener’s Eden will feature the work of a talented artist inspired by nature !

Are you an artist inspired by nature, or do you know one? Would you like to be featured here? Send your information/links to The Gardener’s Eden – See “Contact” at left…

*All content on this site, (exclusive of guest photography), is the property of  The Gardener’s Eden*

Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved

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Bringing Nature’s Beauty Indoors: Flowers Just for Cutting…

August 11th, 2009 § 3 comments § permalink

a bouquet of annual dahlias and calendula Walker Farm

~ A bouquet of dahlia and calendula brightens my windowsill ~

One of the great pleasures of successful flower gardening is, of course, the access to seasonal, fresh cut flowers for the dinner table, desk and elsewhere in the home. I also really enjoy bringing an exotic bouquet to my host or hostess when I am invited to a dinner party, or to a friend as a surprise. Earlier this summer, in my posts about designing a potager and companion planting in the vegetable garden, I mentioned the horticultural benefits of growing flowers in a kitchen garden. But as an artist, I have many reasons, way beyond the practical, for a cutting garden. Flowers are a great inspiration; the extraordinary colors and amazing geometric forms can shift a mood, spark a creative impulse, or simply add a touch of beauty to the day. Know someone with a bland office cubicle, or sterile waiting room? Imagine what a few colorful zinnias would do to change the atmosphere. It’s amazing really. That old 1960’s slogan “Flower Power” couldn’t be more accurate.

zinnia and dahlia, c. Tim Geiss 2009

Zinnia and Dahlia ~ copyright 2009 ~ Tim Geiss

Growing annuals for cutting can be as simple as sowing seed or planting six packs in the vegetable garden in spring. I grow my cutting garden in well drained soil enriched with compost, and I fertilize with Neptune’s Harvest or whatever fish emulsion I have on hand. My own cutting garden varies in size each year depending upon my available time, space and budget. This year, I purchased common annuals in six packs from Walker Farm and a few of the specialty annuals they are known for. I chose dahlia, zinnia, cleome, cosmos, verbena bonariensis, specialty calendula, (French marigold), and moluccella laevis, (Bells of Ireland), among others. I also grow some perennials in and around my vegetable garden, including early bloomers like bulbs and peonies and late-season favorites such as coreopsis tripteris, physostegia virginiana, liatris ‘Kobold’, veronica ‘Goodness grows’, rudbeckia, echinacea and solidago, (golden rod), to name but a few. Native goldenrod is a great addition to flower arrangements. Sadly, although solidago is a prized perennial in much of Europe, this native flower is shunned by many North American gardeners who mistakenly believe it to be a cause of hay fever, (ambrosia artmisiifolia, or common ragweed, is usually the culprit). I always buy my annuals locally in spring. But you can also find bulbs and plants through online retailers, including my two of my favorite sources for summer bulbs, Swan Island Dahlias and Brent and Becky’s Bulbs.

Combining perennials and annuals in casual arrangements is one of my favorite ways to bring the garden indoors, (see photo below). I like to play with contrasting colors like orangey-yellow and purple, or bright blue and reddish-orange to enliven my kitchen table. When creating bouquets for the bedroom or bath, I often soften the mood a bit, and combine flowers in more complimentary hues; using tones of blue and green, or shades of lavender and rose. Whatever I create with flowers from my garden, the arrangements have a way of making the whole house look brighter.

In order to get the most life from cut flower arrangements, I try to harvest the blooms in early morning, before the heat of the day, or in the cool of the evening after the sun has set. I choose flowers with swollen buds or petals just opening. With sharp scissors, I cut the stems long and at a slight angle. Immediately, I place them in a bucket of lukewarm water kept in the shade while I make my other selections. Certain flowers, such as poppies, will need to have their stalks seared with a match in order to seal the stem. And most early bulbs, such as daffodils, prefer cool vase water. Cut flowers will stay fresh longer when you add a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice, about a tablespoon of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of bleach to each quart of vase-water. Changing the vase-water every couple of days will extend the life of your bouquet and keep the flowers looking fresh longer. Bacteria is responsible for that nasty flower-water slime and smell when you forget to change the water for a week. I try to avoid that olfactory experience at all costs!

Bouquet of cosmos candy stripe, calendula pacific beauty mix, echinacea purpurea, physostegia, goldenrod, liatris and veronica goodness grows

Annual Cosmos ‘Candy Stripe’, Calendula ‘Pacific Beauty Mix’, Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mixed’ here with perennial Veronica ‘Goodness Grows, Liatris ‘Kobold’, Echinacea purpurea and Solidago Canadensis Gunmetal Glazed Pitcher by artist Aletha Soule

double rudbeckia "Goldilocks" (small), cutting garden

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Goldilocks’ produces 18″-24″ stems with 4″ double orange blossoms… perfect for late summer bouquets

To add a little something extra to my bouquets, I often add ornamental grasses, (such as miscanthus), foliage plants, (including ferns and perennial plant leaves), vines, (such as bittersweet), and branches from trees and shrubs. Shrubs with darker foliage, including physocarpus ‘Diablo’ or ‘Summer Wine’, and weigela ‘Java Red’, among the many choices, add a nice contrast to floral arrangements in complimentary hues. When adding woody plants like these, as well as flowering hydrangea and lilac to an arrangement, it ‘s important to “smash” the woody stems with a mallet in order for the cut branch to absorb water, (see center photo below).  In addition to beautiful color and texture, woody plants add structure to a vase, and can help support both delicate flowers and heavy blooms, especially those with a tendency to flop.

cleome, zebra grass and weigela java red foliage

White cleome, zebra grass and weigela florida ‘Java Red’ foliage in a vase by  Aletha Soule

pounding woody stems

Flowers harvested from shrubs with woody stems must be ‘smashed’ as shown, to help them absorb water

Ninebark,(Physocarpus) 'Diablo', False Indigo, (Baptisia foliage) Foxglove, (Digitalis davisiana),Queen Anne's Lace'(Anthriscus sylvestris Bells of Ireland, (Moluccella laevis)

~ A beautiful raku vase by Vermont artist Richard Foye ~

And from the garden: Ninebark, (Physocarpus), ‘Diablo’, False indigo foliage, (Baptisia), Foxglove, (Digitalis davisiana), Queen Anne’s Lace, (Anthriscus sylvestris), and Bells of Ireland, (Moluccella laevis)

Hydrangea paniculata 'limelight'

~ Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ in a small vase by artist Aletha Soule ~

When it comes to choosing vases, I am a big believer in experimentation. Although I have a nice collection of vases from Vermont artisan Richard Foye and California’s Aletha Soule, I do not limit myself to traditional vessels for holding fresh flowers. I am just as likely to stick a bouquet into a rusty tin can when the orange-brown contrast strikes my fancy. Old mason jars, drinking glasses, perfume and liquor bottles, beach buckets, cookie tins, soda bottles and milk cartons have all served as vases in my household. In fact, pretty much anything that holds water is fair game. Floating flowers in a shallow bowl with candles makes for a memorable center piece at a dinner party, and the low display draws attention to the structure of larger flowers such as dahlia and sunflower. I also like the look of one spectacular blossom filling the top of a thick glass, as photographed by artist Tim Geiss below.

floating dahlia copyright 2009 tim geiss

As the seasons change, I like to bring autumn leaves and bare branches into the house for my larger urns. And early autumn vegetables, such as kale and cabbage, make dramatic additions to flower arrangements as well. When November and December come ’round, I will bring in winterberry, (Ilex verticillata), and dried grasses from the garden by the armful. Do you have any favorite additions to your floral arrangements? I will be featuring more articles like this one in the future, but for now, please feel free to share your ideas and add comments for others here on the forum. In a world filled with chaos, stress, uncertainty and pressure, we could all use a little beauty to brighten our day. Sometimes, even a milk carton of roadside daisies will do!

zinnia on a table copyright 2009 Tim Geiss

~ Freshly cut Zinnia, copyright 2009, Tim Geiss ~

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~ Special thanks to Tim Geiss for his beautiful flower photographs as noted ~

~ Article and other photos copyright 2009 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden ~

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August: Seeking the Thrill of High Summer…

August 3rd, 2009 § Comments Off on August: Seeking the Thrill of High Summer… § permalink

honey bee / rudbeckia / late summer

~ A bee visits Rudbeckia hirta “Becky mixed” in the perennial garden ~

Is it just me or does it feels like summer is passing too quickly this year? Here we are at the full Sturgeon Moon, (rising tonight, August 5th,at 8:56 pm EST), and it seems like the warm weather is just getting started in New England. Many song birds begin to flock in August, and some of them even start their migrations south. I associate the Sturgeon Moon with the departure of my beloved wood thrush, and the final weeks of other ephemeral pleasures here in Vermont. Perhaps because we endured such a rainy June, (the rainiest on record in New England), I feel an urgency to soak up as much of this short season as possible, before it fades away.

Ordinarily I slow down a bit in August. Usually, I cut back on work hours during the dog-days, and allow myself long, lazy afternoons in the garden room; lounging about with tart, ice-cold lemonade, books and languid pleasures. Over the years, I developed a habit of slipping into my kayak at day’s end. I came to love spending long summer evenings on the water; paddling to catch the last rays of sunlight and aimlessly floating in the lavender mist. But this year it seems I can hardly catch my breath. There is so much to squeeze in and so little time. Competing demands and rain-delayed projects all seem to be clamoring for my attention at once. I feel like I am still coming into early July, and yet nature is telling me we are in high summer. The garden here at Ferncliff hit its mid-season crescendo this week. Liatris and Black-eyed Susan; Daylilies and Ox Eye; Russian Sage and Veronica; Bee balm and Phlox; the garden is exploding with primary colors, begging me to stop for a moment and to share it with you. And how can I resist? There is an opportunity here…

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~ Liatris spicata ‘Kobold’, (photo copyright 2009, Tim Geiss) ~

c. 2009 Tim Geiss Hemerocallis

~ Hemerocallis ‘Apple tart’ (daylily), (photo copyright 2009, Tim Geiss)~

By late summer, many gardeners begin to ask me how to breathe life into their tired perennial borders. What can I add to jazz up my lilies? Everything has passed by already, how do I add more color to my backyard? I start to hear these familiar questions in late July and early August; when flower beds have become neglected and weedy, wilted and lack-luster. Garden projects that began in May with a great deal of enthusiasm often fall to the wayside by July. Weekends fill up with family picnics, weddings, back to school shopping, days at the beach and vacations. It’s hot outside. No one really wants to think about digging in the garden, and it really isn’t the time for planting anyway.

No. Enjoy the summer while you can. But let me stir your imagination while you make some notes for the future. By the time the weather cools and your weekends loosen-up, garden centers will be advertising fire-sales, and many perennials will be available for a fraction of the cost. Look at your fading garden with a critical eye, and make a list. What you add to your garden in early September will reward you richly next summer.

Rudbeckia fulgida sullivantii,'Goldsturm' (Black-eyed Susan)

~ Rudbeckia fulgida x sullivantii, ‘Goldsturm’ (Black-eyed Susan) ~

rudbeckia 'becky mixed'

~ Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky mixed’, in full bloom on the wildflower walk ~

rudbeckia hirta late summer, (with lysimachia clethroides)

~ Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky mixed’ at the edge of the walkway with lysimachia clethroides~

Start by considering all the possibilities. Let’s begin with some late summer classics. By boldly pairing lavender Liatris, (gay feather), with orange-yellow daylilies, a gardener can reap the benefits of contrasting texture and opposing color. One year I received a generous White Flower Farm gift certificate, which I used to purchase several daylily collections, including their beautiful and reliable Woodside mix. The bold oranges, reds and bright yellows look stunning in combination with Veronica ‘Goodness grows’ or native obedient plant, (Physostegia). My gardens are also home to some spectacular named daylily cultivars from Olallie Daylily Gardens. Lavender-rose colored obedient plant, (Phystostegia ‘Bouquet Rose’), combines well with every lily hue, hot to cool. Similarly, North American native bee balm, (Monarda), strikes a harmonious chord when settled into the garden near Russian sage, (Perovskia atriplicifolia), where they are both frequented by butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. Blues are much less common at this time of the year, but lady bells, (Adenophora confusa), and another bee and butterfly favorite, hyssop, (Agastache), also provide some violet-tinted blue to the garden. And then there is the beloved classic garden phlox. Without a doubt, fragrant phlox is a memorable scent to be enjoyed at its peak on still mornings and humid summer evenings. Variously colored and charmingly old-fashioned, garden phlox should be positioned where it receives ample moisture and airflow to avoid powdery mildew, making it an ideal partner for moisture-loving joe-pye weed, (Eupatorium). Some garden phlox boasts creamy white and green variegated foliage, beautiful when contrasted with Eupatorium rugosum, ‘brunette’. And no summer perennial garden seems quite complete without old-time favorite, black-eyed Susan, (Rudbeckia fulgida x sullivantii); a fail-safe performer in my garden every summer. With so many varieties to choose from, there is a rudbeckia to suit every garden. A stand out in borders, free-seeding Rudbeckia hirta, ‘Becky mixed’, adds a bit of whimsy along the wildflower walk here at my home. Every spring I have to smile as seedlings appear at random, planted here and there by the wind; emerging from the most unlikely locations, even straight from the gravel path. Rudbeckia and her cousin Echinacea, (commonly known as coneflower ), are important, natural food sources for honey bees. I am quite certain if they could ask us, the honey bees would request gardens overflowing with native plants. Personally, I am happy to oblige. Echinacea purpurea is a lovely garden plant. When viewed up-close in a vase, the flower is every bit as dramatic as a Georgia O’Keeffe abstraction. With a costume of orange, spiked cone center piece and bold fuchsia rays pointing out in all directions, it’s hard not to stare at this drama queen. And for cooler spots in the garden, Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’ or ‘Fragrant Angel’ are perfect for lending a touch of elegance. This year I have also seen a new double-flowered white form of Echinacea named ‘Coconut Lime’. It is definitely on my list.

Echinacea purpurea 'Magnus'

~  Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’ (purple coneflower) ~

Adenophora

~ Free seeding Adenophora confusa, (Lady bells), with Heuchera ‘Palace purple’, (Coral bells) ~

Striped eulalia grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'variegatugatus')

~ Miscanthus sinensis ‘Variegatus’, paired with Rudbeckia hirta~

Although they have become more popular of late, ornamental grasses are still largely underutilized in perennial borders. Miscanthus sinensis ‘Variegatus’ and ‘Morning Light’ are two of my all-time favorites, and the splotchy green and yellow stripes of Miscanthus ‘Zebrinus’ make a bold statement when paired with primary-colored coneflowers and violet phlox. The contrasting hues and narrow blades of variegated ornamental grass catch the light and play off many perennials and nearby shrubs. All tall grass has a lovely way of swaying in the breeze, but none quite so poetically as buff-tasseled Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’. Last year I positioned Karl along the edge of my wildflower walk, where he adds movement and a delicate shimmer to a solid grouping of Viburnum. Further along the path, fountain shaped Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ adds sculptural elegance where the casual meets the more formal entry to my home. Foliage plants such as ornamental grass, along with structural shrubs, help to create the framework for an entire garden. As spring and summer plantings fade and make way for mid-season and early fall perennials, the statuesque form, alluring texture and seductive movement provided by ornamental grass can be key to anchoring a great perennial garden design. Tall grass can also be used as a living screen, concealing unsightly necessities such as compost bins, plastic vents and air-conditioning units throughout the growing season, and into winter.

miscanthus morning light

~ Miscanthus sinensis “Morning Light” punctuates an intersection ~

Kalimeris

~ Kalimeris ‘Variegatus’, (Japanese aster) ~

kirengeshoma palmata (yellow wax-bells)

~ Kirengeshoma palmata, (yellow wax-bells) : swollen buds in golden yellow ~

More experienced gardeners may have already mastered the art season-spanning bloom in their perennial gardens. But even for the most versatile designer, there are always new ways to visually explore the far-end of the seasonal bloom-range. Filipendula ulmaria ‘Variegata’ as well as the lovely Kalimeris ‘Geisha’ and ‘Variegata’ are knock-out foliage plants throughout the garden season. And as an added bonus, these plants provide pale blossoms to cool some of the hotter-hues in the late season border. One of my new garden favorites, yellow wax-bells (Kirengeshoma palmata), adds a pale golden hue to the garden in August, contrasting with the burgundy-violet foliage of closely planted bugbane, (Cimicifuga racemosa ‘Hillside black beauty’). Yellow wax-bells add interest to this spot before the wind-flower, (Anemone), and bugbane come into flower later this month. Other dark hued garden plants, including shrubs such as ninebark, (Physocarpus) varieties ‘Diablo’, ‘Summer wine’ and ‘Coppertinia’, are endlessly useful for bringing out the golden colors of late summer flowers. Eupatorium rugosum ‘chocolate’ and Heliopsis helianthoides ‘Sommersonne’ is a favorite contrasting, late season combination along my walkway.

filipendula variegata

~ Filipendula ulmaria ‘Variegata’ foliage ~

filipindula variegata flower

~ Filipendula ulmaria ‘Variegata’ flower ~

eupatorium rugosum and heliopsis helianthoides

~ Eupatorium rugosum ‘Chocolate’, paired with Heliopsis ‘Sommersonne’ ~

Combining late season perennials with neutral-hued foliage plants such as Artemisia schmidtiana ‘Silver mound’ helps keep the August garden from becoming too riotous and loud. Spring and early summer blooming favorites, such as coral bells, (Heuchera), and lady’s mantle, (Alchemilla mollis), continue to play an important role in the garden by adding color and texture, holding a perennial bed together at the edge. Gardens designed to include foliage plants such as these rarely look tired, even during lulls in the bloom season.

rudbeckia, artemisia schmidtiana, kirengeshoma, sedum...

~ Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky mixed’, in a mixed planting with Artemisia schmidtiana,(silver mound),  Kirengeshoma palmata (yellow wax-bells) and Sedum ‘Ruby glow’ ~

While I am fairly certain that my schedule will not be be easing up any time soon, I will continue to seek out the pleasures of high summer this month. This week I promise to make time to stop and enjoy my late summer garden as I pass through the wildflower walk each morning, and stroll along the long perennial border on my way to the vegetable garden. I too will be making notes for fall planting this year. Perhaps this cool, wet season in New England will reward us with a warm and vibrant autumn. But for now summer reigns, if but for a few brief weeks, here in my garden home. Enjoy tonight’s full Sturgeon Moon. Happy Gardening.

physostegia, (obedient plant) 'Bouquet Rose'

~ Physostegia ‘Bouquet Rose’, (Obedient plant) ~

Hemerocallis, (daylily from WFF Woodside mix)

~ Hemerocallis, (Daylily), unnamed variety  from the White Flower Farm ‘Woodside Mix’ ~

perovskia atriplicifolia

~ Perovskia atriplicifolia, (Russian sage) ~

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~ Special thanks to  Tim Geiss at Poltergeiss.com for flower photos as noted ~

~ Article and other photographs copyright 2009 Michaela-The Gardener’s Eden~

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