The Beauty of Sunlit Valerian …

July 8th, 2012 § Comments Off on The Beauty of Sunlit Valerian … § permalink

From Garden to Table: Fresh Cut Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)

Dreamy, soft, relaxing; flowering herb valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is every bit as beautiful as it is useful. The botanical name of this medicinal herb comes from the Latin word ‘valere’, meaning to be well. Since the fourth century —and perhaps even earlier— valerian has been used as a medicinal herb to treat a variety of ailments; from anxiety and insomnia to hypertension, eczema and migraine headaches*. Recently, tablets made from the rhizomes and roots of this herb have regained popularity as a natural sedative and anxiolytic (read more here). Oil, extracted from the flowers, has long been used as a food flavoring and fragrance in perfumes…

Valeriana officinalis and Aruncus dioicus Form a Flowering, Semi-Transparent Screen in My Garden

One of the most fragrant of all garden perennials, Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is a graceful, tall (4-6′), flowering plant (USDA zones 4-9), which can be grown as an herb, ornamental, or both. Stately yet ethereal, Valerian blooms from July through August, and can be used in mass plantings to create a light, summery screen between garden rooms; an effect I love. Beloved by many bees and butterflies (particularly Tiger Swallowtails), lacy, white valerian flowers have a sweet, musky smell; similar to fragrant heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens), but with woodsier, mossier notes. It’s one of those fragrances you either love or hate, and I happen to like it very much. I enjoy filling my home with valerian during the summertime; cutting armfuls for mixed bouquets or solo arrangements, like the one featured in the photo at top.

Valerian officinalis, Used as Semi-Transparent Screen at the Edge of My Potager

I have grown Valeriana officinalis in my herb garden for as many years as I’ve been gardening. However, when planting this species, it’s important to exercise caution, as it does self-sow (however, unlike mint, I find it isn’t aggressive, and volunteers can be easily pulled from the ground). It should also be noted that this plant is listed as potentially invasive by a few U.S. states. Normally, I avoid all free-seeding, non-native plants, but I have mixed feelings about the inclusion of this medicinal herb (and other non-native herbs, like mint) on the invasive plant watch list. I have not observed herb valerian crowding out native species in the natural areas where I live. Much like domesticated apple trees (Malus domestica), most earthworms and those delightful, domesticated honeybees (Apis mellifera), herbal valerian (Valeriana officinalis) was introduced to North America by European settlers —themselves invasive, by the way— when they arrived. Three hundred years is long enough, in my humble opinion, to prove that this plant is no Kudzu (Pueraria montana). Many introduced species have benefits that far outweigh their risks, and until proven to be harmful to native species, I will continue to grow herb valerian in my garden.

*Always Check With Your Doctor Before Consuming Any Medicinal Plant or Herbal Medicine!

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

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Fragrant Fern, Damp Moss & Fantaisie: Summer Rain in the Secret Garden…

June 29th, 2012 § 4 comments § permalink

Inside My Secret Garden: Earthy Fragrance of Damp Moss & Fern, Verdant Hues & Cool, Moist Air {In Mexican Terra Cotta: Ligularia ‘Osiris Fantaisie’ & Athyrium nipponicum ‘Pictum’}

Although the shady Secret Garden outside my studio door is a welcome retreat on hot summer days, sometimes I feel it is actually most alluring in the rain. Fragrant moss and fern, damp earth and stone; when skies are grey and raindrops shimmer, the Secret Garden comes alive with verdant color and musky fragrance…

The Mysterious, Shadowy Allure of the Secret Garden in Rain (In Pots: Ligularia ‘Osiris Fantaisie’, Hosta ‘Patriot’ and Hedera helix ‘Glacier’, Surrounded by Perennials, Vines, Rusty Curious and Old Pottery)

At the threshold to the Secret Garden Room —where I pause daily to fumble with my keys— I like to create a different, containerized vignette each season. This year I filled my terra cotta pots with perennials, which I plan to plant directly in the garden later this fall. Annuals and tender tropicals are wonderful in containers, but if you’re on a budget and have a garden to fill, it’s wise to consider perennials, hardy ornamental grasses and woody plants as well. Many perennial plants have stunning foliage year-round, and perform well in containers (Some perennials to consider for shady spots: Hosta, Heuchera, Ophiopogon, Hakonechloa, Brunnera and Athyrium)  Imagine how wise you will feel when you recycle potted plants into your beds and borders —rather than tossing them with annuals, into the compost pile— at the end of the season.

Ligularia ‘Osiris Fantaisie’: Such a Stunning, Jewel-Toned, Ruffled Leaf

This year’s shade-pot display stars a new beauty in my garden. Ligularia —particularly the large, maroon-leafed cultivar L. dentata ‘Britt-Marie Crawford’— has long been a favorite of mine for damp spots and shade garden designs. But my latest infatuation is with the more petite and delightfully ruffled Ligularia ‘Osiris Fantaisie’ (pictured on the far left in the photo at top and in the foliage close-up directly above). As if the gorgeous two-tone leaves and ruby stems weren’t enough to sweep me off my feet, later in summer, this beauty produces deep gold, aster-like flowers. Hardy in zones 3-8, Ligularia makes a great plant for shade or, with ample moisture, partial to full sun. L. ‘Osiris Fantaisie’ will reach a height and width of about 2′ at maturity, and combines well with many other plants; particularly those with subtly variegated foliage, maroon, bronze, blue or gold-tinted foliage.

Secret Garden Steps: Heuchera x ‘Silver Lode’, Valerian officinalis & Juniperus squamata ‘Holgers’

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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Slip Beyond the Misty Walls & Linger Within My Secret Garden…

June 16th, 2012 § 9 comments § permalink

Weigela florida ‘Red Prince’ Tumbling Over the Secret Garden Wall. Stonework by Vermont Artist Dan Snow. Read More About W. florida  by Clicking Here.

It’s mid-June —showtime for some of the season’s prettiest perennials, flowering trees and shrubs— and the garden is always dressed to the nines. Even within the shady depths of my Secret Garden walls, blossoms appear and scent the balmy air. As a garden designer, June is also my busiest month, and finding leisure time to tend my garden —let alone enjoy it— can be a challenge. Still, Mother Nature is kind enough to keep extending the daylight hours, allowing me a few stolen moments in the early and latter part of my day to snap a few photos and pull a few weeds.

Would you like to go for a little stroll with me, before the sun sinks low? It’s almost summertime, and this weekend seems a fine prelude. I’ll pour you a glass of rose-scented prosecco. Remember how we celebrated with a vintage cocktail at the other side of the season? Come, the rain has finally stopped, and sunlight is playing with a kaleidoscope of color; bouncing off shimmering foliage and mossy rocks…

A Kaleidoscope of Hues Accent Dan Snow’s Walls with An Ebony-Glazed Crow by Vermont Artist Virginia Wyoming (Plantings, Clockwise from Lower Left: Hosta ‘August Moon’, Umbrella Plant (Darmera peltata), Fairy Candles (Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’), Moonlight Hydrangea Vine (Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’), Heuchera villosa ‘Caramel’, Athyrium nipponicum ‘Pictum’ & Alchemilla mollis)

Deep Within the Secret Garden, Golden Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’) Illuminates the Mossy Path (Also planted here: Heuchera micrantha ‘Palace Purple’, Single Japanese ‘Le Charme’ Peonies (Paeonia lactiflora ‘Le Charme’), Rodgersia aesculifolia & Ostrich Ferns (Matteuccia pensylvanica) surround a Young Stewartia pseudocamellia)

Much as I Adore the Over-the-Top Voluptuousness of Double and Bomb Type Peonies, the Delicate Beauty of Japanese Singles —Such as the Exquisite Paeonia lactiflora ‘Le Charme’ in the Secret Garden— Appeal to My Deep Attraction to Asian Simplicity

Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium nipponicum ‘Pictum’) Planted in the Secret Garden with Coral Bells (Heuchera micrantha ‘Palace Purple’), Spurge (Euphorbia cyparissias ‘Fens Ruby’) and Dead Nettle (Lamium maculatum ‘Orchid Frost’)

On Sunny Evenings, Prince Pickerel Often Sits at the Edge of His Throne, Awaiting A Kiss at the Secret Garden Door

And on Rainy Days, Prince Pickerel Disappears within the Secret Garden’s  Mossy Stone Walls

A Tall Urn Accents a Shady Corner of the Entry Wall Along the Secret Garden Path (Surrounding Plants include: Heuchera ‘Caramel’, Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’, Hosta ‘August Moon’). All Stonework by Vermont Artist Dan Snow.

Meanwhile, Just Outside the High Stone Walls, June Flowers Reign Supreme along the Petite Lawn. I’ve Nicknamed this Beauty ‘Veronica Lake’. Stunning in Blue Isn’t She? This Veronica Truly is a Wispy & Ephemeral Flower, With a Short but Unforgettable Showing. In Spite of this Peek-a-Boo Quality, Veronica austriaca subsp. teucrium ‘Crater Lake Blue’ Will Always Have A Place in My Garden. Once Finished Blooming, I Simply Cut Her Droopy Foliage Back to a Tidy Mound.

Prelude to Summer: A Garden of White in Lingering Light. Valerian officinalis, Aruncus dioicus & Hydrangea petiolaris in Evening Sun

One of My June Garden Favorites, North American Native Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia cutivar ‘Pink Charm’), is Blooming Her Pretty Head Off in the Entry Garden Along the Ledges; Attracting Dozens of Swallowtail Butterflies with Her Sweet Nectar and Bright Color (Also in this Garden: Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’, and in the Background, Miscanthus sinensis cultivars)

Wild, Rambling Roses & Horizontal Juniper Along the Ledges (Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’ and an Unidentified Old Rose Cultivar). Every Year, I’m Asked About the Fragrant, Rambling Rose Along My Secret Garden’s Entry Garden Walk. This ‘Wild’ Rose was Discovered in the Ruins of an Old, Crumbling Stone Foundation, Located on the Property Where I Grew Up. I’ve Taken A Slip With Me Each Time I’ve Moved, and It Seems Particularly Happy Here Along the Ledges, Growing in Harmony with the Blue-Green Juniper. Can You Spot the Floating Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly?

The Pretty June Bloom of this Geranium ‘Brookside’ is Often Followed by a Second Showing in Autumn —Particularly When Clipped Back Hard to a Tidy Mound— When Her Foliage Turns Brilliant Orange and Scarlet

The Smoldering Glow of Sunlit Foliage on this Smokebush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’) in the Entry Garden is Radiant as Stained Glass in the Long Daylight. Also Illuminated in the Background is Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’

Pretty Blue Flowers from Chance Seedlings of Perennial Bachelor Buttons (Centaurea montana) Sparkle Against the Deep Maroon Foliage of Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’)

Back Inside My Studio, Double and Bomb Type Peonies Fill the Room with Heavenly Fragrance from the Garden: Paeonia lactiflora ‘Sarah Berhardt’, P. lactiflora ‘Raspberry Sundae’ & P. lactiflora ‘Duchesse de Nemours’

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!

Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links (including Amazon book links). 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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The Song of Summertime Salad …

June 28th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

The Song of Summertime Salad

On long summer days —in order to beat the heat and burning rays of the noontime sun— I typically start my day quite early. There are many things to love about the daybreak hours, from birdsong and dew drops to shimmering morning light. If I’m working nearby, I try to come home at mid-day for lunch on the terrace. I love dining al fresco beneath the dappled shade of my two silverbell trees (Halesia tetraptera), and when I’m expecting to be very busy —particularly when the mercury rises— I like to make a garden-fresh salad and chill it in the fridge ’til I get home. Sometimes I make this feta and green bean salad (click here for recipe), but often I just mix up a simple bowl of arugula and leaf lettuce and toss it with fresh feta and homemade dressing. I call it the Song of Summertime Salad, because according to rumor, I hum when I’m out gathering the greens …

The Path to My Potager is Lined with Perennials and Herbs (Hosta ‘Blue Angel’ and ‘Patriot’, Valerian officinalis, Aruncus dioicus ‘Goat’s Beard’)

Vegetables, like this potato, also produce pretty flowers

Rounding the Corner to the Kitchen Garden Entry

A Basket of Zinnia Dresses up an Old Collapsing Chair

Fragrant Dianthus Attracts Butterflies & Gardeners Alike (Tiger Swallowtail)

Although I plant few red flowers, scarlet is truly my favorite color

Sweet, Sweet, Summertime Scent

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ with Dew Drops

Freshly Harvested Arugula and Leaf Lettuce…

A basket of herbs and potager posies {The pretty, “Everlasting Sunshine” plate is from Anthropologie; a gift from my good friend Mel}

With Freshly Harvested Greens, I Prefer My Dressing Homemade and Light

Coming Home for Lunch on the Terrace is One of my Favorite Summertime’s Pleasures

The Song of Summertime Salad

Salad Ingredients:

2     Cups Freshly Harvested Arugula Leaves

2     Cups Fresh Red or Blush Edged Leaf Lettuce

1     Cup Any Other Green (Spinach, Beet, Chard, Dandelion)

3/4  Cup Crumbled Feta Cheese

1     Cup Fresh Edible Flowers (I like Pansies & Nasturtium)

Fresh Herb Dressing Ingredients:

1/2   Cup Olive Oil

1/4   Cup Champagne or White Wine Vinegar

2      Tbs Fresh Squeezed Lime, Lemon or Orange Juice

2      Tbs. Fresh Chopped Basil

2      Tbs. Fresh Chopped Summer Savory

2      Tbs. Fresh Chopped Pineapple Mint (or any other mint)

2      Tbs. Fresh Chopped Lemon Thyme

1/2   Tsp Kosher Salt

1/4   Tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Directions for Dresssing: Whisk oil, vinegar, citrus juice together in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper and whisk more. Stir in the chopped herbs and pour into a lidded jar. Refrigerate.

Directions for assembling salad. Triple wash all greens and dry out the leaves in a salad spinner. Crumble the feta over the leaves while gently tossing. Shake the jar of dressing and slowly add while tossing to just coat the leaves. Save the extra dressing and use within a week. Transfer the salad into a large serving bowl and toss pansies and nasturtium on top.

Serve Chilled and Enjoy! xo M

So Pretty and Refreshing

Ferncliff Gardens & Kitchen Garden Design & Installation: Michaela Medina. For design inquiries, see my professional services page at left.

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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