Beauty by Design: New Gardeners Plant A Welcoming, Four Season Entryway …

October 27th, 2012 § 3 comments § permalink

Mary Kay & Greg’s Entryway Garden, One Year After Planting. Garden Design: Michaela M. Harlow

Season-Spanning Color Lights Up the Stone Entry Steps & Landing. Stonework: Alec Goldschmid. Garden Design: Michaela M. Harlow

With Properly Prepared, Edged & Mulched Planting Beds —Provided Here by Turner & Renaud— As Well as Diligent Weeding and Adequate Watering (Soaker Hoses Here Provide Water at the Root Zone; Preventing Evaporation and Delivering Moisture Only Where Needed) This DIY Entry Garden Planting Has Grown to Impressive Proportion in Just One Year. Garden Design: Michaela M. Harlow.

 I enjoy taking on the challenge of DIY projects in my own home and garden. But DIY projects with garden clients? Why not? As a garden designer, I frequently work with DIY landscapers at all levels —from absolute beginners to midlevel plant connoisseurs and fellow hortimaniacs— to create beautiful gardens. There’s no better way to learn how to garden, develop new landscaping skills, or brush up on rusty technique than by planting a garden of your own. Of course, taking on a big landscaping project can be intimidating, no matter your level of gardening experience. Knowing what you can realistically accomplish yourself and what might be best left to professionals, as well as deciding how and when to begin, are things we all need to consider before starting a DIY home project. In need of some inspiration? The garden pictured here was planted by my design clients —both relatively new gardeners— one year ago. Curious? Read on …

Windflowers (Anemone x hybrida cvs.) Blooming in Mary Kay & Greg’s Garden in Mid October, 2012. Garden Design: Michaela M. Harlow

Over the past few years, with revived interest in homesteading, victory gardening and self-reliance, the number of gardens I’ve designed for do-it-yourself landscaping clients has increased dramatically. I’m extra proud of these new friends and their projects, because they involve two of my favorite things: designing gardens and teaching others how to garden. Over the years, I’ve discovered that anyone with desire and dedication can learn to garden. I simply do not believe in “black thumbs”; those rusty digits just need a little polishing and training, and they will be verdant in no time!

This Photo of Mary Kay, Watering in Ligularia ‘Britt Marie Crawford’, Was Taken in the Summer of 2011. Stone Steps by Alec Goldschmid. Site work & Perennial Bed Preparation by Turner & Renaud. Plants from Walker Farm in Dummerston, Vermont.

One of my favorite, recent DIY projects came about when I met Mary Kay and Greg at Walker Farm in Dummerston, Vermont, after presenting a Four Season Garden Design seminar last year. I’d stayed on at the farm for an hour or so to answer questions after my talk, and Mary Kay and Greg happened to be simultaneously shopping for a Japanese Maple (one of my favorite trees). As fate would have it, Greg’s mother —an experienced horticulturalist and plant hybridizer— struck up a conversation with me about Acer palmatum. She mentioned that Mary Kay and Greg wanted to plant a new garden for themselves, but were in need of some professional guidance in the form of a garden designer. She introduced us and we discussed the possibility of a designing/garden coaching arrangement. My spring schedule was already filled with full service garden design projects, but I really liked Mary Kay and Greg’s DIY enthusiasm, so we spontaneously arranged  to meet at their place for a garden design consultation later that day.

Meanwhile, Greg Plants Hakonechola macra ‘All Gold’ and Ligularia ‘Britt Marie Crawford’ on the Opposite Side of the Stone Steps, According to the Planting Plan.

When I arrived at Mary Kay and Greg’s home, I had the opportunity to meet a few additional members of their family. Although the couple were relatively new to ornamental gardening at the time, they’d been successfully growing edibles at their place for a couple of years. I’d already learned that Greg’s mother is a retired, professional horticulturalist, and I soon discovered that Mary Kay’s father is also an avid, and experienced gardener. I was encouraged to know that my new clients would have plenty of gardening support and advice available from “green thumb” parents on both sides. As all DIYrs know, one-on-one assistance and tips from an an experienced helper are truly invaluable when you are learning a hands-on skill.

My first step with Mary Kay and Greg was to have a look at the big picture of their landscape, in order to develop long term plans/goals and prioritize immediate needs/desires, as well as to assist in determining what parts of various projects they could do for themselves, and what they might need professional help with. I sketched out a few design ideas and we decided that with a garden design, planting plan, materials/shopping list, together with a bit of coaching and some help selecting contractors for hardscaping, they would be able to take on the entryway as a first DIY landscape project. Once I drew up a plan, we were ready to roll on our next steps together …

Mary Kay & Greg’s Garden Design, Planting Plan, Materials/Shopping List on Layout Day 2011

Local stoneworker, Alec Goldschmid was contracted to construct new drystone steps and a landing area for the front entryway. In the future, a stepping stone path and patio may be added, so the garden was designed and planned with this in mind. Once the stone entryway steps were completed, Turner & Renaud Landscaping came in to prepare the site for planting a new perennial garden. Poor-quality fill is often used at building sites when homes are constructed, and after examining and testing the soil, we decided to have Turner & Renaud remove the existing topsoil in the planting area and bring in a high quality mix of 50% compost and 50% screened loam. The crew used a tractor to scrape away the old base and build new beds. English edging was used to define the raised bed and separate the planting area from surrounding lawn. With the site work completed, Greg and Mary Kay went shopping at Walker Farm, where they found the majority of plants on their plan. I always advise my clients to buy locally when possible, and other tri-state garden centers —including Bay State Perennial, Rasheds Garden Center and Dynamic Landscaping— filled in the remaining gaps on the shopping list. Once they’d collected all of their plants, I returned to the site to help coach Mary Kay and Greg on the final layout and give them some planting tips and advice. As you can see, they did a fantastic job! Later, Turner & Renaud returned with enough natural bark mulch to spread a 2+” layer on the newly planted beds. Using some form of mulch is essential to conserve moisture, keep down weeds, and moderate temperature at the root zone in summer, as well as prevent heaving in winter. Soaker hoses were also set up to keep the new plantings well watered during the growing season (more newly installed plants die from dehydration than any other cause).

A Close-Up View of Mary Kay & Greg’s Entryway Garden, One Year Later

Inspired by Mary Kay & Greg’s success story? Autumn is a great time to design, plan and prep sites for new gardens. In an upcoming post, I’ll share more tips on how to begin a landscaping project on your own, or with the help of a garden designer and/or contractors. Although there are challenges, the rewards of hands-on-involvement in the creation of your landscape far outweigh the difficulties. Now’s the time to get outside and assess your site. Grab big a pad of 1″ graph paper, a pencil and measuring tape. I’ll meet you back here next week and we’ll get started!

A Glorious Stewartia Lights Up Mary Kay & Greg’s Front Entryway in the October Sunlight 

Garden Design & DIY Coaching: Michaela Medina Harlow

Site Work, Hardscape & Perennial Border Preparation: Turner & Renaud

Stonework: Alec Goldschmid, Vermont

Perennials & Shrubs: Walker Farm (VT), Baystate Perennial (MA), Rasheds (VT) & Dynamic Landscaping (NH)

Installation by Homeowners & Gardeners, Extraordinaire: Mary Kay and Greg

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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Inspiration: Cottage-Style Charm… Flowers, Fruit & Vegetables Combine With Whimsical Touches to Create a Colorful, Welcoming Potager…

May 13th, 2011 § 4 comments § permalink

A Riot of Annuals (Mixed Zinna) Creates a Bold Splash of Color in the Center of Carol Hillman’s Country Potager

One of my favorite, near-by New England farms is a one-hundred-and-twenty-five year old orchard, belonging to the owners of New Salem Preserves, Carol Hillman and Robert Colnes. Together, this couple has created a beautiful homestead, tucked into the hills overlooking the Quabbin Reservoir in Western Massachusetts. Visiting their orchard after a hike in autumn —with the sugar maples surrounding their two-hundred-and-sixty year old farm all ablaze— is one of my most treasured seasonal traditions. After taking a stroll through the magnificent old, McIntosh apple trees, I always pick up a gallon or two of fresh cider, homemade donuts and as many of Carol’s preserves as I can manage to juggle in my arms. Even after all these years, and dozens of visits —every late September or early October for more than a decade— I marvel at the simple perfection of their landscape and the beauty and whimsical, personal details in Carol’s potager.

Proving that outstanding design needn’t involve outlandish expenditure, let these images inspire you toward the creation of a garden that blends in with your surrounding landscape; capturing the spirit of place. With a vegetable garden design seminar coming up on the weekend, today my mind happens to be on old farms, gorgeous orchards and pretty, welcoming potagers. If you are attending my vegetable garden design talk at Walker Farm on Saturday (see bottom of post for details) this is a bit of a sneak peek at the visual part of the presentation. But not to worry, if you can’t make it, you can catch up right here next week. I’ll be writing much more on the subject of enchanting edible landscaping all summer long…

Where Deer Aren’t A Problem, A Low, Hodgepodge Fence Works Well to Keep Out Wandering Dogs, Geese or Chickens. A Fence Like This One Sets the Country-Casual Tone, Yet Helps to Keep Things Looking Ordered…

With A No-Nonsense, New England-Style Layout , the Beauty of this Garden is all in the Artful Details. Frog Faucet by Flora & Fauna

Both Practical and Whimsical, the Birdhouse Attracts Organic, Winged Pest Control and Offers a Bit of Charm

Annuals are Perfect Potager Companion Plants: Attractive to Pollinators like Bees, Butterflies and Other Beneficials, They Also Provide Armfuls of Flowers for Colorful Arrangements All Season Long (the whitish film on the Zinnia leaves is a homemade, organic fungicide: click here to find a recipe for this homemade remedy)

This Pretty, Productive Vegetable Garden is Welcoming Throughout the Seasons. I Snapped All of These Photos Last September

And to the Side of the Fence, a Well Planned Raspberry Patch Remains Orderly with Two, Neatly Pruned Rows and Wire Guards to Hold Canes

And Here’s Proof That Even Compost Bins Can Be Attractive When Kept Tidy and Crafted with Natural Materials That Weather Beautifully Over Time…

And With a Sweet Bird Faucet, Trips to Fill the Old Watering Can Seem Like Less of a Chore and More of a Pleasure…

Simple. Pretty.

Isn’t it Lovely? Working in This Garden Would Hardly Seem Like Work at All!

A Weathered-to-Perfection Red Stain Feels as Comfortable on this Outbuilding as Old Blue Jeans on the Weekend (Note the Bat House on the Upper Right Corner Near the Eve)

I Couldn’t Resist Including a Photo of Their Old Chevy Truck. Oh What a Beauty!

Together with organic farmer and owner of Vermont’s legendary Walker Farm, Jack Manix, I’ll be talking about the Art and Science of Vegetable Gardening, this Saturday morning, May 14th at 10am (click here for details).  And on Sunday, May 15th, Scott Farm orchardist, Zeke Goodband, will be discussing “The Beauty of Shade Trees”, from 10-11 am, at Walker Farm (read more about Scott Farm and its heirloom apples in this past post: click here). Gardening Seminars at Walker Farm are Free and Open to the Public. Please see the Walker Farm website for details and to reserve your seat.

Many thanks to Carol Hillman of New Salem Orchards for her kind hospitality over many years. Visit their website here.

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Article and Photographs ⓒ 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!

The Gardener’s Eden received no compensation, of any kind, for editorial mention of any businesses or products in this post.

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Behold the Brilliant, Jewel-Like Treasures! How Will I Contain Myself? Playing with Pots: An Annual Obsession

May 4th, 2011 § Comments Off on Behold the Brilliant, Jewel-Like Treasures! How Will I Contain Myself? Playing with Pots: An Annual Obsession § permalink

Echeveria ‘The Pearl’, Kalanchoe pumila and Portulacaria afra variegata – An indoor garden pot, slowly acclimates to the great outdoors on my steel balcony

It’s an annual question. How will I contain myself? Although the vast majority of my gardening takes place in the ledgy pockets of soil here on my land, every year I create seasonal, potted displays and vignettes to punctuate the landscape. I started moving my vessels, urns and bowls outdoors a couple of weeks ago… And oh, there are so many pots to fill! In addition to the container designs I will create for my clients, I have many garden rooms of my own to accent. There’s a steel balcony to drape, several stone terraces, walls, walks and stairways to soften, shady niches to illuminate, decorative chairs to adorn and dining tables to fill with color.

Ever on the lookout for fresh inspiration, this weekend I will be attending a seminar, “Succulent Container Gardening & Hanging Basket Design and Care”, at Walker Farm in Dummerston, Vermont. The talk is being presented by long-time friends and colleagues, Daisy Unsicker (head propagator) and Karen Manix (owner) of Walker Farm. For nearly a decade, I worked maintaining the mixed borders of trees, shrubs and perennials at Walker Farm. And for years, I have been admiring —and enthusiastically collecting— their gorgeous, nursery-proagated plants. This historic farm has long been a favorite horticultural resource for connoisseurs of unusual annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs. But this season, I have to say, Walker Farm has really taken its always-spectacular greenhouse to a whole new level with an amazing display of succulents, tropicals and unusual foliage plants…

Mixed Succulent Container Garden (Starring Aeonium ‘Kiwi’) – Designed by Daisy Unsicker for Walker Farm

Beautiful Succulent Bowl (Staring various colorful players; including Aeonium ‘Kiwi’, Cryptanthus acaulis, Senecio rowleyanus and Echeveria) Designed by Karen Manix for Walker Farm

Another Gorgeous Succulent Bowl (Starring several divas and supporting acts; including Sedum and Aeonium)  Designed by Daisy Unsicker for Walker Farm

In an earlier post, I mentioned Walker Farm’s talented, long-time head propagator, Daisy Unsicker. When it comes to raising young plants, Daisy really has a special touch, and succulents are clearly her passion. If a gardener truly loves plants, and dotes on them with tender-loving-care, they tend to show their appreciation in the most beautiful ways. I can’t wait to hear Daisy’s design tricks and maintenance tips for succulent-pots, and to see what she and Walker Farm owner Karen Manix have cooked up for this Saturday’s container gardening seminar. Walker Farm isn’t able to ship plants, but if you are gardening in the area, I hope you will check out their beautiful garden center and greenhouses, and join them for their fabulous —and free— garden seminars (click here for details).

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to preview some of the gorgeous plants now filling the lovely glass greenhouses at Walker Farm. In addition to the extraordinary selection of exotic plants in nursery containers (see some unusual examples below), Daisy, Karen an the staff at Walker Farm have designed and pre-planted some gorgeous, ready-to-go succulent bowls and other to-die-for container gardens. With colors bright as gem stones and exquisite, jewel-like forms, these plant-filled pots are like living treasure chests. From hanging baskets dripping with ‘Strings of Pearls’ (Senecio rowleyanus) to sapphire blue bowls filled with shimmering Jade (Crassula ovata cvs.) to hand-thrown pots overflowing with faceted pink-tipped Aeonium and amethyst-tinted, silvery Echeveria, Daisy has truly outdone herself.  Can you imagine such a delightful accent to your entryway or given as an exquisite Mother’s Day gift?

Solanum pyracanthum would certainly look sharp in my sunny terrace pots!

And Ozothamnus diosmifolius ‘Rose’ would be dreamy on the balcony

This sensual-looking Carex comans ‘Bronze Curls’ would move beautifully with the summer breeze

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you know that I’ve been singing the praises of succulent container gardening —indoors as well as outdoors— for a few seasons now. In fact, much of my indoor garden is filled with these dry-climate, jewel-box gems. The container atop this article —as well as others on the Indoor Eden page— is literally packed with succulents from small, local greenhouses and online sources.

So then, how will I contain myself this year? Well, I haven’t quite decided. But, I do know that in addition to the usual urns and vessels overflowing with colorful blossoms, my garden will be decorated with a large number of succulent containers, grass-filled barrels and an assortment of what I like to call, ‘un-flower pots’. No matter what I end up planting, I’m certain that I’ll return back here with plenty of new design ideas and maintenance tips to share after the weekend workshop at Walker Farm

A planter of my own design, featuring Sempervivum hybrids ‘Purple Beauty’ and  ‘Kalinda’ with river stone mulch

An oxblood red container on my terrace provides a lovely color contrast to the ice-blue Echeveria ‘The Pearl’, here today with a shimmering rain drop

Sempervivum hybrid ‘Kalinda’ on my terrace

A Succulent Pot of My Own Design (plant details listed in text below photo at top of this article)

Article and all 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.

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Waking Up the Garden in Spring …. Free Seminar at Walker Farm in Dummerston, Vermont – Tomorrow…

April 16th, 2010 § Comments Off on Waking Up the Garden in Spring …. Free Seminar at Walker Farm in Dummerston, Vermont – Tomorrow… § permalink

Early risers: Glory of the snow blooming this month in my garden…

Will you be in the Southern Vermont area this weekend? If so, please join me this Saturday morning at 9:30 for the first in a series of free gardening seminars at Walker Farm in Dummerston, Vermont. “Waking Up the Garden in Spring” covers the perennial garden maintenance chores that should be on your early season checklist. Don’t let the raindrops stop you! Come on by beautiful Walker Farm and enjoy an hour of fun in their lovely ‘Grand Central’ greenhouse. Seating is limited, so please call ahead, (802-254-2051) to reserve a spot: click here for more details on upcoming spring seminars.

Narcissus Rip van Winkle blooming in my Vermont garden this week…

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Photographs copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

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