The Warmth of January Sunlight . . .

January 5th, 2013 § 5 comments § permalink

winter sunrise beauty ⓒ 2013 michaela : thegardenersedenSunrise in the Winter Garden 

When the Honey-Gold Sun Pours Warm Over the Garden, Winter Can Be So Lovely

Hydrangea petiolaris -Consumed Rock ⓒ 2013 michaela - thegardenerseden.comSnow-Dusted Boulders, Consumed by a Web of Climbing Hydrangea (H. petiolaris), Illuminated by Winter’s Sunglight

sunrise snow squall ⓒ 2013 michaela - thegardenersedenAnd the Paper Birch, Delight of White, Vertical Line, Dance in a Sparkling Swirl of Backlit Flurries (Betula papyrifera) 

Vanilla Icecream with Melted Butterscotch ⓒ 2013 michaela - thegardenerseden.comA Winter’s Day: Like Melted Butterscotch on Frozen, Vanilla Ice Cream (Fagus grandifolia & Tsuga canadensis)

Top photo: Cornus kousa & Miscanthus sinensis

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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Wild Blue: The Beauty of Baptisia…

June 7th, 2012 § 3 comments § permalink

The Beauty of North American Native Plants: Wild Blue Indigo (Baptisia australis) & Goat’s Beard (Aruncus dioicus) in My Garden. This Flowering Combo is Backed Up by “Nativars” (Native Plant Cultivars): Juniperus virginiana ‘Grey Owl’ & Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’

In my work as garden designer, I often find myself doing overtime as PR agent for native plants. Many North American wildflowers make beautiful additions to the garden, and yet the natives continue to struggle with “weedy” and “seedy” reputations. Of course, not all wild things are suitable for domesticated gardens and perennial borders, but some are quite sensational. When I encounter resistance, I like to pull out a few show-stopping design combos —like the one pictured above— to convince my more dubious clients. Baptisia —sometimes called false indigo or wild indigo— is such a beautiful and well-known perennial that I frequently need to remind even experienced gardeners that it is actually a North American native plant.

Wild Blue Indio and Goat’s Beard Together Again, in Another Garden Room, with North American Native, Canadian Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)

There are many beautiful species within the Baptisia genus; including some magnificent natural hybrids. The most familiar of the group, Baptisia australis (Wild Blue Indigo or Blue False Indigo), is a long-standing favorite among perennial gardeners. Hardy in USDA zones 4-9, Wild Indigo is an easy-to-please, long-lived beauty. Baptisia australis and cultivars (B. australis ‘Purple Smoke’ is one of my favorites) all prefer full to partial sun and deep, moist, well-drained soil. However, I’ve used Wild Blue Indigo in semi-shade and drier sites with great success. Although it isn’t a fast-growing plant, in ideal conditions, Baptisia australis will reach 3-4′ in height, with about a 3′ spread within 3 or 4 years. Do plan well and give it plenty of space; due to its deep root system, it resents transplanting (but is easily propagated, and freely self-sows from seed). The violet blue flowers bloom in June here in Vermont, and they combine well with many other garden plants; including perennial classics like herbaceous peonies (Paeonia lactiflora), fellow June-blooming natives like the Goat’s Beard (Aruncus dioicus) pictured above, and woody plants such as dark-maroon-leafed Ninebark, Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’ (a “nativar”, or native plant cultivar). After blooming, the grey-green foliage adds both color and texture to the garden, and later in summer, blackened seed pods add autumn-garden interest.

In the garden, Baptisia australis —and other species within the genus— is an important native plant for pollinators; including butterflies, bumblebees and other native bees. Although I leave most of the flowers standing in my perennial borders, I grow more than enough to enjoy some spiky blue-violet blossoms indoors as well. Wild Blue Indigo is also one of my favorite cut-flowers; a long lasting, mood-beauty for the vase…

Read More About Fresh-Cut Flower Care by Clicking Here

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

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Pausing as Spring Dances with Summer: A Moment at the Verdant Threshold …

June 14th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

The Secret Garden Door in Late Spring

Sunny days and sultry evenings alternate with cool mornings and moody rain showers as Springtime dances toward Summer. The month swept in with dramatic beauty: wild thunderstorms followed by golden sunsets; mist-covered hills illuminated by pink afterglow. This is a busy time of year, but every morning and evening, I make time for a stroll through the garden. With so many changes this week,  I couldn’t help but notice that Summer —wearing her most luxurious, emerald gown— is already flirting at the threshold of my garden door…

Aquilegia ‘Spring Magic Rose & Ivory’ blooms beside the water bowl (planted with Athyrium filix-femina ‘Lady in Red’, Bergenia ‘Bressingham Ruby’, Athyrium nipponicum ‘Pictum’, Cryptotaenia japonica atropurpurea and Glaucidium palmatum)

Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina ‘Lady in Red’ with Heuchera and Phlox divaricata ‘Clouds of Perfume’)

Rodgersia aesculifolia and Matteuccia pensylvanica with various Heuchera and Euphorbia

Cimicufuga racemosa ‘Hillside Black Beauty’, Paeonia moutan x lutea ‘High Noon’, Matteuccia pensylvanica, Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’, Lamium maculatum ‘White Nancy’

The Secret Garden in June. Atop:Weigela florida ‘Red Prince’. Below: Heuchera americana (various cultivars), Euphorbia, Rodgersia aesculifolia, Matteuccia pensylvanica, Bergenia ‘Bressingham Ruby’, Hosta ‘August Moon’

Weigela florida ‘Red Prince’ Tumbles Over the Secret Garden Wall

In the entry garden, Cornus kousa takes center stage in full bloom this week, and in the background, Weigela florida ‘Red Prince’  cascades in a waterfall of deep cerise

The softer side of June: Aruncus dioicus, Hosta ‘Blue Angel’ and Hydrangea petiolaris with free-sown Valeriana officinalis

Kalmia latifolia ‘Pink Charm’ (Mountain Laurel) Just Coming into Bloom on the Ledge in the Entry Garden

Ferny and Feathery in Shades of Green and Ivory: Aruncus dioicus (Goat’s Beard) with Dennstaedtia puntilocula (Hayscented Fern)

The Stone Seat with Baptisia australis, Aruncus dioicus and Tsuga canadenis

Moon Urn and Terra Cotta Pots with Verbena, Stobilanthes dyerianus (Persian Shield), Angelonia angustifolia ‘Angelface Blue’, Lysmachia nummularia

Iris germanica (cultivar unknown), Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ and Artemesia ‘Powis Castle’ in the entry garden

Wish I could share the beautiful fragrance of Abelia mosanenisis with you. Exquisite… Quite like a powdery memory. (Read more about this season spanning beauty and her icy juniper companion here).

Iris germanica ‘Senlac’ glows in the afternoon light, backed up by Hosta ‘Big Daddy’

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

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The Wonderful Wizard of Winter: Native, Snow-Draped Canadian Hemlock

February 10th, 2011 § Comments Off on The Wonderful Wizard of Winter: Native, Snow-Draped Canadian Hemlock § permalink

Tsuga canadensis – Native Canadian Hemlock

I try very hard not to play favorites with the plants growing in and around my garden. In fact, you may have noticed that I’ll refer to a preferred species as ‘one of my favorites’, as opposed to ‘my favorite’. After all, I truly love each and every one of them, and I wouldn’t want to hurt any of their feelings. Still, there are a few stand-out, four-season beauties that I can not imagine living without. And in the great world of conifers, I must admit that I am quite partial to our native Tsuga canadensis, commonly known as the Canadian or Eastern hemlock. Though graceful and verdant year-round, Canadian hemlock is a true stunner in the winter garden. After a snow storm —when Tsuga canadensis is cloaked in a fresh coat of powder or ice— it’s impossible not to think of the enchanted forests of fairy tales. I absolutely adore this feathery, magical evergreen.

A few years ago —when I was planting an informal hedge of Canadian hemlock at a private residence— one of my garden clients told me that the shape of the hemlock tree reminded her of a wizard’s hat. Well I already liked this woman, but as soon as she said that, I knew I was going to love working with her. For long as I can remember, I’ve always thought of the Canadian hemlock as a Winter Wizard or even a Warlock (a masculine witch). And as a child, I loved playing beneath the tent-like boughs of hemlock stands; draped in heavy, sparkling white robes after a snow storm. Hemlock is a magnificent native tree; one I never grow tired of praising.

The pliant boughs of Tsuga canadensis are less likely to break when covered in heavy snow and ice

The outer branches of hemlock trees, as well as the tip or leader, are narrow and flexible. The pliant boughs give hemlock the distinctly cascading, somewhat melancholy appearance I find so enchanting. But more importantly, the springy quality of the outer wood gives this native tree an ability to shed snow and ice, avoiding winter breakage –a common problem for other conifers, such as white pine. Hemlock needles are softly rounded; blue-green on the top and silvery on the reverse (the shiny-whitish color is created by tiny openings along the backside of the needles called stomata, which —for lack of a better word— allow the tree to ‘breathe’). When breezes blow through a hemlock’s bows, the pale undersides of its needles are exposed to light; creating a subtle, shimmering effect. Growers have worked with this trees beautiful cascading habit and needle coloration, developing cultivars with mint-tinged branch tips and weeping forms. And because it responds well to pruning, eastern hemlock offers four-season privacy screening when grown as a soft, ever-green hedge in semi-shaded, moist sites. The feathery, deep green needles provide a lovely contrast and sensual backdrop in many of my garden designs.

The Tops of Canadian hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) boughs are covered with dark, blue-green needles

On the reverse side, Tsuga canadensis needles have a light, almost silvery-green color. And when wind blows through the branches, lifting and exposing the undersides of needles to flashes of light, the Canadian hemlock takes on a subtle, gorgeous, two-tone appearance.

With a North American range spanning from Nova Scotia southward to the mountains of Alabama and westward to Minnesota (USDA zones 3 – 8/9) Tsuga canadensis is commonly found in moist, shady woodlands; often along forest streams or cool, north-facing ridge lines. Because of their wide-spread but shallow-root tendency, hemlock are vulnerable to drought, but are less likely to be knocked down in high winds. Here at the northeastern crest of my ledgy site, substantial stands of native hemlock provide a safe haven and nesting habitat for local birds as well as food (seeds, twigs, bark and needles) and shelter for various mammals (including squirrels, porcupines and deer). Although hemlock can grow over 100 feet in ideal conditions, they typically reach 40-70 feet within their native range. When grown as a specimen tree in the open —or planted in small groups—hemlock will develop a soft, full, conical shape (yes, shaped quite like a wizard’s hat).

Because hemlock trees produce acidic tannins, they are quite disease and insect-resistant. However, there exists one recent and notable exception: the wooly adelgid (Adelges tsugae). Closely related to common aphids, this invasive insect pest —introduced from Asia— has the potential to wipe out native, eastern hemlock populations (read more about this pest and how infestations are treated at the UMass Extension Service website here). Although I have not seen the wooly adelgid in my immediate area, I am constantly on the lookout for this destructive insect when pruning hemlock hedges for my clients in early spring. Currently, the only effective, organic treatment for wooly adelgid is thorough, repeat applications of horticultural oil. Entomologists continue to search for natural, biological adelgid controls, and I have high hopes for the tree’s survival. I simply can not imagine the northeastern landscape without my beloved Winter Wizards…

This Canadian hemlock trio forms a soft, four-season screen at the northeastern edge of my garden

Here in late November, the Tsuga canadensis trio provides color and textural contrast and backdrop to the red-twig dogwood, birch and ornamental grasses in the foreground of the entry garden

This beautiful, weeping hemlock (Tsuga candensis ‘Pendula’) —pictured here at The Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts— is one of the finest examples, and uses of the pendulous form, that I have ever seen. See more photos, and read a bit about The Bridge of Flowers by revisiting this post (click here).

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Article and photos are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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