Singin’ and Dancin’ in the Rain….. Vibrant Colors on a Late September Day

September 28th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

Raindrops on Birch – Late September at Ferncliff

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

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

Rodgersia aesculifolia and Stewartia pseudocamillia in the Secret Garden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hayscented Fern (Dennstaedtia puctilobula)

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

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ and Fagus sylvatica ‘Riversii’

Raindrops on Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ (Fountain Grass)

Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota)

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

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

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

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

Early Autumn Colors in Vermont

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

Inspiration…

Singin’ in the Rain…

In Pretty Red Wellies !

Article and photographs (with last two exceptions) ⓒ Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Mellow Yellow: Lovely Lindera Benzoin, North American Native Spicebush…

September 27th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

Lindera benzoin (Spicebush) in front of the Secret Garden wall (see complete plant list below)

The question comes up every September in my garden. The meter-reader, oil delivery driver and countless guests have asked: “What’s that bright yellow shrub over there by the wall  …The one covered with birds and red berries?” When I ask, “Have you heard of Lindera benzoin, North American spicebush?”, the answer is invariably ‘no’. And no matter how many times I make the introduction, it’s always surprising to me that this gorgeous shrub isn’t more widely known and used in the landscape. Spicebush’s season-spanning, informal beauty makes her the perfect choice for naturalizing along woodland boundaries and in countless other transitional situations. But as you can see from the photo above, this native plant also works beautifully in a mixed-border; with other trees, shrubs, bulbs and perennials.

512x768xLindera_benzoin_North_American_Native_Spicebush_michaela_medina_harlow_thegardenerseden.com_.jpg,Mic_.d56oqQ6fMB.jpg.pagespeed.ce.d56oqQ6fMB Lindera benzoin blooming in my garden 

The show begins in first weeks of April, when the spicebush’s lightly-fragrant, lemon-yellow blossoms begin to open on the dreariest of days. These early flowers are an important source of nectar to pollinating insects —including native and honey bees—and a welcome sight to my winter-weary eyes. The specimen pictured above — in front of the stone wall surrounding the Secret Garden— has developed a round, mounded shape in full sun (I prune very lightly after the early spring blossoms fade). Lindera benzoin will also tolerate light shade, and the groupings here at the edge of the native forest have developed a more open, but graceful habit. After the early flowers fade, attractive, blue-green foliage (the leaves have a delightfully spicy, masculine fragrance when crushed, and can be used to make tea, herbal sachets or potpourri) makes a fine backdrop for other players in front of the perennial border.

Lindera benzoin, autumn leaf detail

Lindera benzoin in late September (planted here with Juniperus chinensis ‘Sargentii’ and Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’)

As pretty and uplifting as this shrub is when blossoming in April, come September, spicebush really turns things up a notch in the garden when its foliage shifts from cool green to brilliant, lemon-gold. The female plants (this species is dioecious and a male must be planted nearby for the female to produce fruit), with their bright red berries (edible/substitute for allspice), are especially fetching in autumn; attracting birds from the nearby forest by the dozen. Combinations with other showy, autumn shrubs and trees —such as bold red viburnum (particluarly V.bodnatense and V. trilobum), dogwood, witch hazel, and red vein enkianthus— are always gorgeous. And rich purple or deep-blue blossoms —including monkshood (Aconitum) and asters in autumn, and glory-of-the-snow (Chinodoxa), crocus and grape hyacinth (Muscari) in spring— make lovely, perennial and bulb pairings with spicebush on either end of the growing season as well. Conifers, particularly deep green hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) and blue spruce cultivars (Picea pungens) also provide a striking contrast to luminous Lindera benzoin, both in texture and color. And keep in mind the design possibilities of deep violet foliage when choosing a spot for spicebush. Dark, burgundy shrubs, including Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’, P. opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’ and Cotinus ‘Royal Purple’, really bring out the golden hues in Lindera benzoin; as do perennials like purple fountain grass (Pennisetum rubrum) and Sedum ‘Matrona’ or S. ‘Purple Emperor’. In a shadier situation, try spicebush in combination with the purple foliage of Heuchera cultiavars (like ‘Plum Pudding’ and ‘Palace Purple’) or perhaps Actaea racemosa (aka Cimicifuga racemosa ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ or ‘Brunette’).

Lindera benzoin provides a luminous, gold backdrop for other autumn colors (here with Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’)

Hardy in zones 4-9, Lindera benzoin is a native of N. America from the north into Canada and on south to Florida; into midwestern Michigan and Kansas, and southwest to moderate climate zones of Texas. As a landscaping plant, spicebush is relatively trouble-free in the garden or naturalized settings; forming a mound-shaped shrub (6-12′ high and wide) when planted in a sunny location. In the shade the shrub tends to form a more open shape (a bit like Amelanchier); absolutely lovely, though subtle, when in bloom. Lindera benzoin prefers even soil-moisture (dry conditions make for a scruffy looking specimen) with cooling mulch about the root-zone (helpful to preserve even soil temperature and moisture)

Perhaps you’re already acquainted with lovely Lindera. If so, remember to pass on the good word. Mid to late fall is a great time to add shrubs to the landscape (see related post here). This native plant is an important part of our natural, North American habitat, and a significant source of food for insects (bees and butterfly larvae) and birds. But it seems to me that the spring blossoms, red fruit and glorious, golden, autumn color of Lindera benzoin provide all the promotional material any plant could ever need…

North American Native Spice Bush (Lindera benzoin) – Shown here in my garden with Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ (and in the background Cornus kousa, Ilex verticillata and Juniperus chubebsus ‘Sargentii’, seed pod remnants of Rudbeckia. And to the left Fothergilla major ‘Mt Airy’ and various Sedum)

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

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Fashionably Late & Dressed in Maroon: Sweetly-Scented, Autumn Fairy Candles Light Up the Shadowy, Secret Garden…

September 16th, 2010 § 6 comments § permalink

Actaea simplex/Cimicifuga simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty {also known variously as Fairy Candles, Black Snake Root & Black Cohosh}

Actaea simlex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’, here in the Secret Garden with Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’, Lamium maculatum, Helleborus x hybridus ‘Royal Heritage Strain’, Paeonia mouton x lutea ‘High Noon’, Stewartia pseudocamilla, and a background of bronzing Matteuccia pensylvanica {native Ostrich fern}

True, there are those who say it’s rude to be tardy, but it seems to me that the more interesting characters always arrive a wee-bit late to the party. Of course, they are always gorgeous, a bit mysterious, and often wearing something dark and dramatic. Well, such is the case with Actaea simplex {aka Cimicifuga simplex} ‘Hillside Black Beauty’, in my Secret Garden. Clad in exquisitely-cut, deep, velvet-maroon, the Fairy Candles —as I like to call them— saunter into bloom in September; wearing their lilac-tinted, flower plumes the way an old-fashioned bombshell might drape her shoulders with an exotic, perfumed boa. Filling the cool, misty air of the Secret Garden with the most delightfully intoxicating scent, {noticed and adored by hungry bees and other early autumn pollinators} Actaea simplex arrives late on the garden-scene with the kind of laid-back elegance of which modern Hollywood starlets can only dream…

Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ in the Secret Garden {see companion plant listing above}

Known by various intriguing aliases —including Black Snake Root, Black Cohosh and (my favorite) Fairy Candles— Actaea simplex was formerly categorized in taxonomic circles as Cimicifuga simplex (sim-e- sih-few-gah sim-plex); a delightful tongue-twister that, once mastered, I actually came to adore (In fact, I still refer to her by the original botanical name – the Latin just seems to capture her… Je ne sais quoi). Native to the moist, cool woodlands of eastern North America, this statuesque beauty will easily reach 4-6′ tall — spikes in full bloom— when she’s given the conditions she prefers. Hardy in USDA zones 4-8, Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’, and the similarly beautiful ‘Brunette’, require a consistently moist and amply shaded location to really strut their stuff. Too much sun will bleach and burn-out her gorgeous foliage , and dry soil will quickly do her in.

It’s a shame the fragrance of Actaea simplex’s blossoms can not be transmitted electronically. I wish you could sample the delicious scent…

A classy beauty like this demands fine company. And with her year-round, velvety, maroon attire, chartreuse and gold foliage make gorgeous music with her in the low-light. I like to combine the dark foliage of  A. simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ and ‘Brunette’ with low, spreading, golden Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’ or ‘Aureola’), mound-shaped Hosta ‘August Moon’, and for serious drama, I play her against my favorite chartreuse -stunner, Sambucus racemosa ‘Sutherland Gold’ (European elder). Yes, Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ is a true garden bombshell – but of the dark variety, not the blonde— like Hedy Lamarr. She’s sultry, she’s elegant, and she really knows how to bring down the house in style….

Inspiration: Hedy Lamarr {image: still from ‘The Strange Woman’ United Artists 1946 (public domain)– via improbable research}

Hedy Lamarr {Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1938 – image via zimbio.com}

Hedy Lamarr {image via zimbio.com}

Hedy Lamarr was an Austrian-born actress popular in films of the 1930s and 40s. Read more about Hedy Lamarr on her IMDB page by clicking here.

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Article and photos (excepting portraits of Hedy Lamarr) are ⓒ 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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Flickering Like Flames: Scarlet Red, Brilliant Orange & Burnished Gold … Early Signs of Change in the Garden…

September 14th, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

The bold vermillion of late summer: Rosa rugosa’s bright and beautiful hips

Cobalt-Violet Annual Asters Fill Beds Planned for Cutting in the Potager…

This morning, I watched as a flock of sparrows splashed joyfully in a tiny pool on the stone terrace. Showers passed through the area yesterday afternoon and evening; refreshing the garden and leaving behind a temporary bird bath for my winged-guests. Every day now, when I look out the window, I notice more and more traces of red and gold in the meadow and along the distant hillside. Changes are evident in both the flora and the local fauna. The seasonal shift has started a bit early here; caused, perhaps, by unusually hot and dry conditions this summer. The natural world is changing rapidly now; heralding the arrival of a new season.

Trees and shrubs planted in shallow soil along the northwestern corner of the garden are already beginning to shift hues. Red leaves outnumber green this week on one ‘Shasta’ viburnum (V. plicatum var. tomentosum) in particular, and the tea viburnum (V. setigerum ) is loaded with Chinese-orange berries. The viburnum genus includes many species with fantastic autumn color —both in terms of foliage and fruit— and planting them in and amongst perennials is a great way to add late season pizazz to a garden.  It’s no secret that these are my favorite shrubs. Not only are common and rare species and cultivars of the genus planted everywhere in my garden —and in almost every garden I design for others— but I post viburnum photos on this blog and talk and write about them constantly. Two lovely swing-season plants, among the many possible options to use when designing a garden around viburnum, are asters and ornamental grass. ‘Raydon’s Favorite’ asters bloom here every September and October in the most exquisite shade of blue imaginable; like the sky itself on an early autumn day. These flowers are beloved by bees and butterflies, especially in the latter half of the year, as natural sources of food begin to grow more scarce. Beautiful in the vase as well as in the garden, annual asters —packets of seed sprinkled about the flower beds in early spring— are an easy way to add bold color and vary the seasonal tapestry in a mixed border. And I also like to use mound-shaped ornamental grasses, with their soft textures and varied hues —particularly the pennisetums— to add a softness and grace at the foot of leggier viburnums, such as the tea (V. setigerum) and bodnant (V. bodnantense)…

Viburnum plicatum tomentosum ‘Shasta’

Aster oblongifolium ‘Raydon’s Favorite’ Pulls the September Sky Down to Earth…

The Gorgeous Chinese-Orange Berries of Tea Viburnum ( V. setigerum )

I find it impossible to pass by Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ without running my fingers through her downy tufts. They remind me a bit of another local resident…

Red Fox – Meadow’s Edge at Ferncliff

Wild Turkey – Forest Boundary at Ferncliff

Sparrows Splashing on a Terrace at Ferncliff

A Passing Shower Provides Temporary, Late Summer Bathing for Birds

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Article and photos are ⓒ 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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Glorious, Late Summer Garden Design: Combinations Featuring Light-Catching Texture and Bold, Contrasting Color…

September 8th, 2010 § Comments Off on Glorious, Late Summer Garden Design: Combinations Featuring Light-Catching Texture and Bold, Contrasting Color… § permalink

Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’ and ‘Matrona’, stunning in combination here at Ferncliff with bluish hues, such as the Juniperus chinensis, sargentii glauca (shown above) and later, with the tawny tufts of Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ (also pictured above, prior to inflorescence)

It’s early September, and the garden has only just begun to glow with a warm, bronzy radiance. Late summer’s golden, honey-tones and rich, violet hues sing in combination with dusty blue conifers and turquoise-tinted foliage. Some of my late-season favorites, particularly the delightful toad lily, ‘Dark-beauty’ Tricyrtis formosana, (read about my obsessive-love here), and velvety-violet monkshood (Aconitum charmichaelii ‘Arendsii‘), are never more beautiful than when combined with orange and yellow wisps and needles. And the richly colored hues of early autumn sedum —especially exquisite plum and magenta saturated cultivars like ‘Matrona’ and ‘Purple Emperor’— are stunning when settled into a garden filled with shocking blue fescue or a back-drop of icy-colored conifers. Oh, such delicious, painterly possibilities! The summer-to-autumn transition is a colorists delight…

Tricyrtis formosana ‘Dark Beauty’ photographed here at Ferncliff, with Ucinia egmontiana ‘Orange Hook Sedge’

Monkshood (Aconitum napellus or charmichaelii ‘Arendsii’)  is stunning backed by gold. Consider planting it in front of spicebush (Lindera benzoin). Monkshood is available widely through nurseries and online from retailers including Stork Road Farm (image above) – Gorgeous in combination with shrubs and perennials that turn red, orange, rust, yellow and goldin autumn, including: Spicebush (Lindera benzoin), Amsonia hubrichitii (Bluestar – see below), and Switchgrass ‘Heavy Metal’

Amsonia hubrichitii – Thread-leaf Arkansas Bluestar – turns brilliant gold in late -summer and holds its delightful color throughout autumn

Looking for some inspirational ideas? There will be plenty to look forward to here in the coming weeks. In meantime, try looking back at some of last year’s posts, beginning with this one on ornamental grasses (click here). I am passionate about late-season garden design, and my own beds and borders were specifically planned to peak in this season. Creating an end-of-summer to late-fall garden crescendo isn’t difficult, but it does require some research. Knowing what to expect from woody plants and perennials —and how to play changing hues to their best advantage— is something a gardener learns with thoughtful observation, experience and exposure to well-designed late-summer and autumn gardens.

At Ferncliff, Amsonia hubrichitii is planted in combination with Geranium ‘Brookside’ (above). The cobalt-violet blossoms and flame colored foliage are a stunning combination in the entry garden throughout fall.

Pay close attention to how the light filters through your garden. Position luminous plants, such thread-leaf Arkansas bluestar (Amsonia hubrichiti) flame grass (Miscanthus sinensis purpurascens) and blue switchgrass (Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’) to play with the sun’s rays, and the shadows of nearby trees and dark buildings. Make note of how your perennial foliage changes color in late summer and fall. Plan planting combinations with autumn-blooming perennials —especially in contrasting colors— to make the most of the late season transition. Will the green or blue foliage of a large plant shift gold? Position it behind a violet or blue-colored fall flower, such as an elegant monkshood or wild-looking aster. Does the cool weather bring out the arctic-blue of a favorite conifer? Next year, remember to plant orange-colored dahlias nearby or, for a softer-look, think about adding rosy-hued windflowers, such as Japanese anemone (Anemone x hybrida ‘Serenade’ – also beautiful with gold leaved hostas) to your borders….

Anemone x hybrida ‘Serenade’ (Japanese windflower / anemone)

Panicum virgatum, ‘Heavy Metal’ switch Grass – available in the UK (and above catalogue image via) the RHS online shop. This ornamental grass is widely available in nurseries and garden centers throughout the US.

The same plant as pictured above, Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’ swichgrass, here at Ferncliff in November

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Article and photos (vendor link exceptions as noted) are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

The Gardener’s Eden is not an affiliate of the RHS, nor of Stork Road Farm. Product image links to these fine garden suppliers are provided for reader online shopping convenience only.

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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Sweet September Sangria…

September 4th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

Sweet September Sangria

The Colors of Early September – Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mixed’ Along the Terrace

The Colors of Late Summer

Celebrating the end of summer?…What? The autumnal equinox is September 23rd (3:09 UTC)… That’s still more than a fortnight away! Call me a pagan if you will, but as far as I’m concerned, September is a summer month. And this year September has twenty two days of summer -only eight days of fall. So hey now… You needn’t be a cock-eyed optimist to see that the glass is still way-more than half full. And yet for many, once Labor Day has come and gone —children packed up and loaded into bright yellow buses— summer is suddenly forgotten. People can be funny like that. Some seem to need rules and order. They waltz. They square dance. They polka through life. But, have you noticed? Nature has her own rhythm. And myself… I prefer it. At this time of year she always puts on a sultry bit of jazz… A spicy mambo… A lively cha-cha-chá. September is dancing to Cachao. Can you feel it? Now floating like the monarch, then buzzing like the bee; late summer swirls with color. These days are golden-orange, fire-red and rich wine. And the nights? September evenings are velvet maroon and deep violet, inky blue and blackberry brandy. Late summer is more a musical range of feelings than words. Listen to it. Pick up your feet. Toss off your shoes. Wiggle your toes in the grass. Don’t leave the party too early my friends… Let’s close the place down. Pour a dark-red glass of sangria; spin the ice with your finger and savor the sweet citrus as you sway to the music. Make the moment last…

Daylily ⓒ Tim Geiss

Hawkweed (Hieracium gracile) in the High Meadow

Dewy Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Sweet September Sangria

I’ve been serving this classic sangria at summer soirées for as long as I can remember. Everyone wants the recipe… So, here it is. Remember, the secret is in the simplest of ingredients, and the long, slow chill…

Ingredients (makes one large pitcher to serve 8):

5 large, washed valencia oranges. Three sliced and two juiced

3 large, washed lemons. Sliced.

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup Triple Sec (you can use more expensive orange liquor, but I think Triple Sec is just right)

2 bottles of chilled, inexpensive, fruity, Spanish table wine *

*Sangria is a traditional drink made with inexpensive Spanish table wine. Using more expensive wine defeats the purpose. Aim for a price tag under $5. You can substitute Merlot for Spanish table wine if necessary.

Directions:

In a large pitcher, add most of the sliced fruit (reserve a few slices for serving; garnishing glasses and/or pitcher) and sugar. Mash with a wooden spoon (gently) for a minute, or until some juice is released. Try to retain the fruit shape (do not totally mash). Stir in the Triple Sec and the juice of the other oranges. Pour in the red wine and stir well.

For best flavor, refrigerate for 8 – 12 hours. Never, never serve sangria unless it has had time to mellow – it must sit and chill for at least 4 hours before serving… and longer is better.

When you are ready to serve, add a dozen or so ice cubes to the pitcher and stir well to mix pulp, juice and wine. Serve cold, pouring each drink into a glass garnished with fresh slices of citrus (either floating in the glass or on the rim).

Enjoy! xo Michaela

Savor the time-mellowed flavors…

Here’s to Sweet September – A (Mostly) Summer Month

Sunflower and Bumble Bee (Helianthus annus ‘Autumn Beauty’)

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mixed’ and a Hoverfly

Golden Spider on Rudbeckia ⓒ Tim Geiss

A Little Bit of Sweetness…

And a Lotta Cha-cha-chá…

Cachao Master Sessions Volume One from Barnes and Noble

Cachao Master Sessions Volume One from Amazon.com

Cachao Master Sessions Volume Two from Amazon.com

Cachao Master Sessions Volume Two from Barnes and Noble

Candlelight, Cachao and Sangria… And a Beautiful, Late-Summer Evening in the Garden…

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Photographs of the Daylily and Golden Spider on Rudbeckia appear courtesy of  Tim Geiss at Poltergeiss

Article and all other photographs are ⓒ 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 site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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Sweet Summer Rain …

August 22nd, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

Rain… Sweet, sweet summer rain. At long last, the weather has shifted. Cool breezes have returned, bringing with them velvety air, grey skies and the softest of late-summer showers. For the gardener, a much needed day of rest; a late morning sweetened with tea and scones, and a leisurely afternoon filled with quiet contemplation. The garden’s thirst quenched by the heavens, I curl up contentedly in the sofa’s gentle folds. Surrounded by rain-speckled windows and a blurred, poetic landscape, I drink in the beautiful, melancholy of Pascal Rogé on piano; in a recording of favorite selections by composer Erik Satie…

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Article and 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…

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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Midnight Maroon: Dark, Mysterious Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’…

August 13th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

When you’re strange, no one remembers your name – Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’

Oxblood, maroon, deep violet and ebony; dark plants are one of my greatest horticultural passions. From the statuesque Cimicifuga racemosa ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ gracing my Secret Garden, to the massive, dark cloud of Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’ forming a shadowy hedge at the back of my perennial borders, I wholeheartedly embrace the gothic beauty of black foliage. Earlier this year, in my posts, “A Heart of Darkness” and  “The Gothic Gourmet: Black Beauties and Dark Delights of the Potager”, I revealed a bit about my obsessive preoccupation with these strangely curious and hauntingly beautiful plants. But you needn’t be Edward Gorey to appreciate the darker side of horticulture. Deep, rich hues are incredibly useful in garden design; offering a counter-point to subtle silver and sophisticated chartreuse, as well as a striking contrast to variegated foliage and boldly colored flowers. Dark, elegant plants enrich a garden’s beauty  in much the same way as late afternoon shadows enhance a sun-drenched landscape. Think of them as the minor chords in your favorite song…

Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’ at the back of my casual, mixed meadow border in August

One of my favorite native plant cultivars, Physocarpus opufolius ‘Diablo’, (as well as cultivars ‘Center Glow’ and ‘Summer Wine’) is just such an endlessly versatile plant. Stunning as a single specimen within a mixed border, I like to take the drama up a notch in larger gardens, combining this burgundy-leafed shrub in groups of three or more to form a dark and mysterious backdrop for other plants (particularly gold and chartreuse-leaved specimens, as well as those with variegated foliage). Perennials in shades of blue, violet, gold, magenta —as well as many other bold and subtle colors— stand out against the intense, maroon-leafed ‘Diablo’. One of my favorite, striking garden combinations plays the nearly black color of Physocarpus opufolius ‘Diablo’ against the feathery, chartreuse leaves of Sambucus racemosa ‘Sutherland Gold‘ (Golden elderberry).

Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’ forms a soft, dark cloud at the edge of my terrace

Physocarpus opulifolius (also known as common ninebark) is an extremely hardy shrub (USDA zones 2-8) native to North America. The dark, burgundy-leafed cultivar ‘Diablo’ (sometimes listed as ‘Monlo’ or ‘Diabolo’) will reach a height of 6-10 feet, with a similar spread. Physocarpus opulifolius presents a graceful, upright-vase shape in the garden, with softly arching branches. Adaptable to many garden situations, ‘Diablo’ offers dramatically dark foliage throughout the growing season, burnished shades of rust to bronze in autumn, and textural, peeling bark in winter. The pinkish white blossoms appear in late spring, and are a favorite, natural food source for honeybees and butterflies. Later in the season, as the tiny red fruits ripen —strangely beautiful against the dark foliage— common ninebark becomes a living feeding station for birds and small mammals. Physocarpus prefers even moisture and neutral, well-drained soil. This native cultivar is an easy to please, disease and pest resistant plant suitable for sun to partial shade (if worms/caterpillars become a problem in late spring, defoliating branches, treat the leaves with OMRI approved Btk only as necessary).

Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’ Leaf and Stem Coloration

Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’s’ Beautiful, Peeling Bark

Autumn Color Variation Ranges from Oxblood Red

To Sun-Burnished Bronze…

In addition to its striking presence in the garden, Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’s’ leaves and branches add sophisticated beauty to floral arrangements. When combined with citrus-colored flowers —such as the Bells of Ireland shown below in a vase by raku artist Richard Foye— ‘Diablo’ is a real knock-out. The sturdy stems also offer excellent support for more delicate flora, and a lovely vertical compliment to blowzy hydrangea blossoms — Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ is especially lovely with the maroon leaves of ‘Diablo’.

A vase by Richard Foye, filled with Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo, Bells of Ireland, Baptisia foliage, Queen Anne’s Lace and Apricot- Hued Foxglove

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Article and photographs © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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A Splash of Color in Dappled Shade: Persicaria virginiana ‘Painter’s Palette’…. { PS: Please Don’t Confuse Me with My Wicked Cousin }

August 6th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Persicaria virginiana ‘Painter’s Palette’, Variegated Virginia knotweed (aka Polygonum virginianum/Tovara virginiana) in the Secret Garden at Ferncliff ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Who says a plant needs flowers to be interesting? Be they speckled, lace-edged or luminous as stained-glass, leaves are often incredibly fascinating. In fact, some of my favorite species in the great Kingdom of Plantae never blossom at all —and if they do, their flowers are relatively insignificant. Take Persicaria virginiana ‘Painter’s Palette’ for example (photographed above in my Secret Garden). Isn’t this some of the most beautiful foliage you have ever seen? The colors —swirling and mottled in a marble-like pattern— and the lovely leaf shape make this outstanding plant a true, artist’s dream. Unfortunately, Persicaria virginiana ‘Painter’s Palette’ (aka Polygonum virginianum/Tovara virginiana) needs a bit of public relations help. Sadly, this lovely, native, knotweed cultivar is suffering from a case of mistaken identity; similar to the troubled and tarnished reputation with which lady Rhus typhina struggles (previously detailed in a post I wrote about our gorgeous, native Staghorn sumac last year). Let’s see if I can clear things up.

Polygonum cuspidatum, commonly known as Japanese knotweed, is a noxious —and in my opinion, obnoxious— invasive plant and rampant weed introduced to North America from Asia sometime in the 1800s. The Polygonum genus includes a large number of plants in the Polygonaceae (or buckwheat) family. Some members of this genus —including many weeds as well as several fine garden species— are native to North America. There is a movement to reclassify Polygonum virginianum as Persicaria virginiana; a taxonomic change which I wholeheartedly support in an effort to clear-up some of the confusion. To be sure, some members of the native Polygonum virginianum crowd can also be somewhat aggressive. But there is a real difference between an enthusiastic, spreading plant and an invasive one. Persicaria virginiana is not an invasive plant —this is a native species. And although some cultivars —including ‘Painter’s palette’— may self-seed, in my experience this Persicaria virginiana cultivar is easily managed, well behaved, and non-aggressive. If you are still concerned with self-sowing, simply deadhead the tiny flowers in late summer, or grow this plant in a container…

Persicaria virginiana ‘Painter’s Palette’ in the Secret Garden ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Unlike her aggressive, famously invasive Asian cousin (Japanese knotweed), Persicaria virginiana ‘Painter’s Palette’ (as I prefer to call this Virginia knotweed cultivar) is a truly beautiful, endlessly useful and quite mild-mannered plant. Hardy in USDA zones 4-8, ‘Painter’s Palette’ prefers dappled shade and moist (but very well drained) garden soil. When given the right growing conditions, this unusual cultivar forms lovely, arching mounds; roughly 1 1/2′ tall, and 2′ wide. The blooms are relatively insignificant –tiny pinkish-red spikes– however in autumn, beautiful red berries are a lovely, end-of-season surprise.

I love to combine this painterly plant with dark neighbors (including Heuchera ‘Palace purple’, Cryptotaenia japonica ‘atropurpurea’, and Cimicifuga racemosa ‘Brunette’, among others). Splashes of nearby gold from Japanese golden forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aurea’), or rusty tones from orange hook sedge (Uncinia egmontiana) and the dark-green hues of hosta and tall ferns (particularly the Cinnamon fern), also combine beautifully with ‘Painter’s Palette’. So, gardening friends, won’t you help this lovely, shady-lady out ? She may be related to Japanese knotweed, but let’s not hold that against her. Spread the word and help clear-up her reputation! Stunning Persicaria virginiana ‘Painter’s Palette’ is a gorgeous and environmentally-friendly addition to your garden.

***

Article and photographs © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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

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Delightful Doublefile Viburnum ‘Shasta’: Ripe with Fruit & Filled with Songbirds

July 27th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Shasta’ ⓒ Michaela at TGE (fruits in July)

Graceful, elegant and generous are but a few of the words that spring to mind when describing Doublefile Viburnum, (V. plicatum var. tomentosum); one of the most delightful species in my absolute favorite genus of woody plants. Although this shrub wears no perfume in springtime, she more than makes up for her lack of fragrance with four-season beauty and an easy-to-please manner (this species shows greater resistance to the viburnum beetle than other members of the genus, but prefers evenly moist, woodsy soil – it blooms equally well in full sun to partial shade). Doublefile Viburnum’s tiered, horizontally branching form reminds me a bit of another Asian native, the lovely Korean dogwood (Cornus kousa). The shape of this woody plant is truly stunning —especially in winter— and it can be used to great effect when positioned to soften the edge of a building. Triangulated in groups of three or more, Doublefile Viburnum creates a sophisticated, yet natural-looking screen; the dense, twiggy framework concealing eyesores almost as well as a conifer hedge.

My favorite large-sized cultivars, V. plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Shasta’ and ‘Mariesii’ (10′ x 12′), and the compact ‘Newport’ (3-4′ x 4-5′) —all hardy in USDA zones 4/5-9— fill the garden with a constellation of starry, white blossoms from mid May to late June. A magnet for bees and butterflies in spring and early summer, during the summer months of July and August the large Doublefile Viburnums are loaded with bright red berries, which attract cedar waxwings, sparrows, mockingbirds, thrushes and a wide variety of other songbirds to the garden (compact cultivar ‘Newport’ can be a bit stingy with fruit production). Although the fruits eventually mature to black in late August, the shrubs on my property are usually picked clean long before the berries deepen to black. Later in the season, as days shorten and temperatures cool, the foliage of this species begins to subtly shift. First lightening to chartreuse and cherry, then deepening to burgundy red, and eventually burnishing to a fine shade of oxblood, Doublefile Viburnum puts on a fine fashion show before shedding her cloak for winter….

Doublefile Viburnum (Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum) ‘Shasta’ in June ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Shasta’ at the edge of the meadow in July  Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Although Doublefile Viburnum’s red berries eventually ripen to black, the shrub is usually picked clean by birds long before the ruby fruit turns ebony.  Photograph ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Shasta’ in late September. Foliage color slowly morphs from chartreuse and cherry red to burgundy, eventually deepening to oxblood over the course of autumn. Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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Article and photographs © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Adorn: Flea Market Finds, Discarded Pots and Vessels, Inexpensive Lamps and Found Objects Enhance the Garden…

July 20th, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

An Eclectic Collection: Pots, Urns, Vessels and Lamps – Image ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Most gardeners are obsessed with beautiful flowers, and as you’ve probably noticed, I am no exception. But in truth, there’s more to a great garden than plants. Adding a few artful objects to your garden can bring color, texture, structure and style to your outdoor space throughout the seasons. Over the years I have accumulated quite an eclectic collection of pots, vessels, urns, lanterns, old chairs and other three dimensional curiosities in my garden. And while it is possible to spend a fortune on garden art, you needn’t be Daddy Warbucks to decorate your outdoor space with style.

The Rudbeckia Seat at Ferncliff – Created from a Cast-Off Chair Salvaged Long Ago – Image ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Found objects from the roadside or town dump, bargains from flea markets and tag sales, and treasures from old Aunt Agnes —yes have a look in that cluttered basement, garage, barn or junk pile— can be repurposed and recycled into great garden art. Rusty old metal drums make great annual planters (be sure to drill drainage holes and perhaps insert a plastic liner pot) as do old wood or metal desk drawers and post boxes. Virtually anything that can hold soil will work as a garden container, and with a bit of paint, recycled junk can flatter most any decor. Old chairs make great trellises for small annual vines, and those with missing seats can be used to support tall, floppy plants. And when brightly painted, chairs of all kinds can add a cheerful splash of color to a garden.

Rust and Nicked Edges add History and Charm to Tiny Garden Vignettes – Image ⓒ Ingram/Holt – BHG – Flea Market Decorating

We are at the peak of flea market season, and besides being great entertainment, Sunday stops at swap meets will often yield end-of-weekend bargains. Though out-of-print, Vicki Ingram’s Flea Market Decorating remains a great resource for both do-it-yourself ideas and inspiration. The back section of the book contains a wealth of flea market listings, many of which remain accurate-to-date. I love the garden section in the final chapters of this book, which features simple and inexpensive flea-market-style ideas (a few of which I have scanned here as an appetizer). Tiny tot chairs, old toys, rusty bed frames; all can add character and a touch of mystery to the garden…

Outgrown Objects from Childhood are Repurposed in the Garden – Image ⓒ Ingham/Holt – BHG  – Flea Market Decorating

Recycled ‘Junk’ Drawers, Postal Boxes and Metal Bins Work Great as Planters with Pot Inserts or Drilled Drain Holes – Image ⓒ Ingham/Holt BHG – Flea Market Decorating

Red Chair – Image ⓒ Ingham/Holt – BHG – Flea Market Decorating

As an artist, I love the idea of recycling found objects into new work. Broken fountain at the landfill? Why not take it home, paint it, and turn it into a giant, three tiered planter like the one below? Creativity knows no bounds! I found this inspirational project in (the no-longer-in-publication) Budget Living’s Home Cheap Home, along with dozens of other inexpensive landscape design ideas…

One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure – Recycled Fountain Becomes and Herb Garden – Image ⓒ Home Cheap Home

And of course, to continue this month’s garden lighting discussion, it bears mention that inexpensive lanterns —whether purchased new or at tag sales and flea markets— can add a touch of artistic ambience to outdoor rooms by night as well as by day. A quick search on Amazon yielded dozens of pretty options. Here are a few of the charming, bargain lamps that caught my eye…

Moroccan Birdcage Candle Lantern$16.90 at Amazon.com

Metal Star Lantern, $10.99 at Amazon

Amber Glass Moroccan Lantern, $11.44 via Amazon

Cupola Tin Lantern$31.99 via Amazon.com

An Urn Beside the Wall Brings Subtle Color and Texture to a Quiet Garden Setting – Image ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

Guardian of the Forest at Fercliff – Image ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

Chips and Cracks in Old Pots Add Character and History to a New Garden – Image ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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Image excerpts from reviewed publications are copyright as noted and linked. Article and all other photographs © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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

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Long-Distance Garden Design: Creating Structure & Year-Round Color for an Elegant Residence on Long Island…

July 17th, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

A summertime border of mixed colors and textures: Deciduous and evergreen shrubs anchor a perennial garden planned for season-spanning interest…

In winter: Red rose hips and glowing dogwood twigs will add brilliant color to the entry garden, punctuated by verdant conifers and broadleaf evergreen shrubs…

Rosanna, my new friend and client, lives on Long Island and works in New York City. I live and work in Vermont. We met by chance this spring at Walker Farm after one of my seminars, when I stayed on for the afternoon at the garden center, answering questions about trees, shrubs and perennials. Rosanna and her gardener were shopping for —and spontaneously designing— a new garden for the front of her weekend place in the nearby Mount Snow region. I helped Rosanna choose trans-seasonal plantings for the Vermont garden, and shortly after, she began to follow this blog. Meanwhile, back in New York, Rosanna was faced with an unexpected problem: re-working the garden in front of her house without help. After seeing Dan and Laura’s garden design posted here this spring, an unusual idea came to her mind. Given the overlay design-drawing and photographs presented in that post, Rosanna thought perhaps I could design a garden for her —long-distance— and she contacted me about the idea…

Have you ever played Battleship? You remember, the game where you and your partner have identical grids —which you conceal from each other— calling out blind coordinates, striking at unseen targets? Well, that’s kind of what designing a garden long-distance is like, except we are working with living plants. It’s challenging, a little scary, strangely thrilling and great deal of fun, all at the same time.

This probably wouldn’t work in every situation —and certainly not with every client— but after talking with Rosanna about the project, and getting to know her a bit by phone, I had a hunch that she was going to be a really good general contractor. Rosanna is a self-described “type A personality”; highly organized, super efficient, and extremely attentive to detail. When I gave her an initial task list —including soil testing, sunlight charting, dimension recording and multiple-angle photographs— she came to our next phone conference not only with her homework completely done, but also emailed to me in advance. Impressive. I decided to take on the project with Rosanna, even though I knew we could —and likely would— encounter a variety of un-forseeable challenges…

The (almost) clean slate. Photograph by Rosanna.

With Rosanna’s site information and photographs in hand, I began to work on a new design for the front garden. Meanwhile, my enthusiastic game partner sought out a new gardener —to help her remove the existing plants, rebuild the soil and install the new design— and a local nurseryman willing to work with us to fulfill the plant list and/or help with available substitutes if needed. After Rosanna approved the design pictured at the top of this post, Santos, her new gardener, prepared the site (see photo above) and I presented a plant list for her local nursery. As always, the most important part of any garden is establishing an architectural framework. With this in mind, I began with three key woody plants.

Prior to Santos’ fantastic clean-up and refurbishment of the front bed, the garden contained an overgrown holly (situated beside the Picea glauca), a few small Chamaecyparis and a hodgepodge of perennials. Rosanna wanted structure and season-spanning color for her front garden. The existing holly threw the garden off-balance, with too much visual weight at the far end of the house. Green, green, green = boring. It had to go. In a garden this small, it’s important to choose woody plants with as much year-round pizazz as possible. I looked at several variegated shrubs to fill the holly-void, and settled on Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’; selected for it’s softly mounded form, creamy blossoms, subtle green and white variegated leaves, and brilliant red stems to provide winter color. This gorgeous shrub will stand in striking contrast to the evergreen Alberta spruce  (Picea glauca) and the backdrop of white siding throughout the year.

After introducing some subtle leaf pattern to the border, I decided to play with shadow against the black and white exterior of the home. With Rosanna’s Italian heritage, (and of course her name!) I couldn’t resist South Central-European native Rosa glauca. This ‘red-leaf rose’, as it is commonly known, has always been one of my favorites. Of course, the dark, blue-green foliage and delicate pink and white blossoms are a stunning combination – but the arching form is also useful, and in winter, spectacular deep red rose hips provide dramatic color until they are gobbled up by hungry birds. This shrub will work with several dark leafed perennials in the front of the design, and it also echos a Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) nearby on the property.

Beneath the bay window, I needed a low-growing, horizontally spreading woody plant with season-spanning interest to soften the architecture and provide structure for perennials to the front and either side. Rosanna loves hydrangea, and has several on her property. Because of this, I knew she would like Viburnum plicatum ‘Newport’ (sometimes listed as V.p. ‘Newzan’). With creamy white blossoms early in the season and red autumn foliage, this compact cultivar often comes to mind when I am designing a small garden. The design also includes a pair of boxwood globes flanking the Rosa glauca.

As I expected, we ran into a few snags, starting with our plant list. By July, most nurseries are a bit picked over, and some of the key plants were unavailable. Although the local garden center was able to provide a fine Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’, the owner was unable to locate Rosa glauca and Viburnum plicatum ‘Newport’. Not one to be deterred, Rosanna found a small but healthy red-leaf rose online, and I located a Newport viburnum in nearby Massachusetts, which she will pick up from me in early autumn. Most of the perennials —or acceptable substitutes— were found by Rosanna and her nurseryman, and the others will be added later this season or next spring. So far, so good. Next up, details on the plant installation (last weekend), the irrigation system and the mulch. Did we succeed in our mission or did we sink the battleship? We break now for Rosanna’s scheduled vacation to Italy. Stay tuned, this story will be continued in an upcoming post later in the season…

Milton Bradley’s Battleship. I will never look at this game quite the same!

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Image credits: Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’: Krysztof Siarnek Kenraiz via Wikimedia Commons, Rosa glauca: Franz Xaver via Wikimedia Commons, and Viburnum plicatum ‘Newport’: Sooner Plant Farm

Article and Garden Design Drawings © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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

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The Accidental Gardener: A Short Story About a Dog Named Oli and His Wondrous Wildflower Walk…

July 9th, 2010 § 7 comments § permalink

The Wildflower Walk in July at Ferncliff ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

As a professional garden designer, I take a certain amount of pride in my work. My clients always seem quite pleased with the gardens I create, and I think I’m a pretty good designer. Yet every July I am served a very large dish of my favorite dessert – humble pie. In midsummer, visitors to my studio are invariably knocked-out by the entry garden, which I now call ‘The Wildflower Walk’. They ooh and they ah and they coo over the wide swaths of bright color and the natural feel of this welcoming, open space. “What a beautiful garden”, they exclaim. And yes, I have to admit, it certainly is quite stunning. But, thanks to the brilliant artist I live with, my ego remains fully in check. Why? Well, you see, I didn’t design this gorgeous wildflower garden – my dog Oli did.

I know. You’re probably wondering how this is possible. How can a Labrador Retriever design a wildflower garden? Perhaps you think I am exaggerating or maybe even making it up from thin air. Or worse, you might be wondering if I’ve gone quite mad, since clearly I am suffering from delusions. But I swear –on my Vegetable Gardener’s Bible — it is true. In fact, not only did my crazy canine design this garden, but he also planted it all by himself. Yes, I promise I will explain – but first, let me back up a little bit and tell you the story of my dog, Oli…

Midway Point on the Wildflower Walk at Ferncliff in July ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

It was late in the summer of 2002, and I’d just finished building the studio-barn I now call home. There were no gardens here back then. In fact, the land was quite raw and, like most construction sites, it was a mess. I knew it would be a year before I could begin work on my landscaping projects and –frustrated with the ugliness– I spent most of my free time elsewhere. I’m an avid kayaker, and throughout that first summer, I floated my evenings away on local lakes and rivers. Late one August afternoon –hot, sticky and harried– I loaded my kayak on the car and headed out to the Connecticut River. Distracted as usual, in my haste I forgot my backpack at home. I didn’t want to miss sunset on the water, so I stopped by a local farm stand to grab a snack and a drink to take along on my paddle. Fate however, had other plans for me  –and indeed she moves in mysterious ways– because that’s when I met “Old Yeller”, as he was then called; a dirty, flea-infested, one-year-old, retriever pup with sad eyes and a ‘toy’ beer can. “Yeller” was chained to a foundation post and his legs were all tangled up in rusty links. Immediately a large crack –likely audible throughout the valley– split straight through my ribcage and broke my heart. Of course I thought about the dog the entire time I was out on the river, and the next day I stopped by the stand once again. He was still there; same beer can, same sad eyes. By visit three, my weakness must have been plainly visible, for the farm hand –three sheets to the wind– announced that the “flea bag” was headed to the pound by the end of the week. “If  you want him, take him” he said, “for free“.  It seemed that the wild pup had already worked his way through three homes, and his current owner –recently disabled from a stroke– could no longer handle him…

My dog Oli, in the studio…

Well, you know how this part of the story goes. Of course, by Friday, the wiggling, slobbering “flea bag” –renamed Oli– was bouncing around the back of my car on the way to his new home. He was, to put it mildly, a terror. Have you seen the film “Marley and Me ? Well, good for you, because I can’t watch more than 20 minutes of it. It’s just too close for comfort. And besides, my dog Oli, makes that dog Marley look like a saint. I kid you not. During his first year in my formerly-peaceful life, Oli did more damage than an F1 tornado. Goodbye car interior (including all back seatbelts and cushions), so-long sexy shoes, see-ya-later kayak seat and farewell furniture. Left alone for more than five minutes, Oli would rip through and devour anything in sight. His ingested-item list even includes a Mikimoto pearl necklace (yes, in its box, pulled from the top of my dresser), and we made more visits to the veterinarian than I care to remember. I was told by dog-loving friends that this behavior would ease up within a year. I was promised this was merely a prolonged puppy phase. I was advised that he had separation anxiety and that training would help. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Oli continued his reign of terror straight through the following summer, when I began working on my new gardens. Unimpressed with my horticultural pursuits, Oli uprooted perennials as fast as I planted them and devoured several young shrubs. He even stripped the branches from a rare Japanese maple, defoliating and destroying it within minutes, while I unloaded groceries in the kitchen. Yes, I still love him, but I would be lying if I told you that I never had a dark thought about my dog.

A bag of collected Lupine seed…

Around this time, I started thinking about planting a wildflower meadow on the west side of my clearing. My parents had created an impressive, self-sustaining field of wildflowers on their property, which bloomed from spring to fall, and I wanted to replicate that here. My father collected seed from the garden, and gave me two bags to take home. One contained pouches of Lupine and Adenophora, and the other was filled with Rudbeckia hirta. When I got back to my place, I brought one bag of seed up to the house, let Oli out of his crate, and started to unload the rest of my car. Then, the phone rang. You would think that I would have learned my lesson after the Japanese maple fiasco – but no. Of course not. Finally, at some point during my telephone conversation, I looked out the window to see Oli running full boar down the walkway – brown paper bag held high, head shaking to-and-fro, black seed spewing out in all directions. My scream could have stopped a train dead in its tracks, but it didn’t even register with Oli. He only seemed to run faster. I tore down the pathway after my wild dog, chasing him in circles ’round the ledge at the top of the drive – but it was too late. The bag of Rudbeckia was scattered everywhere – all over the walkway and throughout my carefully designed entry garden…

Rudbeckia hirta, in a design by Oli, the accidental gardener…

Eight years have come and gone since Oli hopped into my car on that fateful, hot summer evening, and I have given in to his chaos on many levels. Hey, if you can’t beat them, join them I say. So, I added more wildflower seed to his design; sprinkling Lupine and Adenophora throughout the walkway and into the surrounding mixed borders. What can I say – it works. And yes, he’s a genius. But athough he may be talented, Oli –now growing fat and grizzled about the muzzle — can still never be left alone in the house…

Oli and Me

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Article and photographs © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

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Penstemon, Rudbeckia and Veronica: An Easy, Breezy, Flowering Combination for Mid-Summer Meadow Gardens…

June 29th, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

A Sunny Combination of Meadow Flowers for a Long-Blooming, Informal Summer Garden. Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Bees buzzing in the garden, sun-tea brewing on the terrace, and books piled high beside the hammock; sweet summertime is here at last. I love waking up to early morning sunshine playing upon the warm, summery colors in my garden. Right now I am particularly smitten with the entry garden, where cool shades of blue and violet are sparked to life with bright flecks of yellow and orange. “Hello, and welcome home again”, they seem to say, as I pull my work totes from the car at the end of a long, hot day.

Bright and cheerful black-eyed Susan, (Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mixed’), sky-blue speedwell, (Vernonica spicata ‘Sunny Border Blue’), and season-spanning beard’s tongue, (Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker’s Red’), perform beautifully together in a pretty trio that lasts throughout July and well into August, with little effort on my part. Bee, butterfly and hummingbird magnets, all three; these flowers delight the eye as they sparkle in the sunshine and sway in the warm summer breeze. What genius thought of this combination? Well, I wish I could take the credit, but only Mother Nature could come up with such a sensational mix. Although the grouping featured here blends three selected cultivars, these are all North American native plants. Meadow flowers tend to be drought-tolerant by nature, and once established, they need little care. Rudbeckia and Penstemon will self-seed with abandon, making them the perfect choice for a wildflower walk or naturalized planting. And delightful Veronica provides this low-maintenace group with a heavenly dose of mid-season blue…

Veronica spicata ‘Sunny Border Blue’ plays in poetic, harmony with bees – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mixed’  with Veronica spicata ‘Sunny Border Blue’, backed by Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker’s Red’- Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker’s Red’ provides both blossom and stunning, purple-hued foliage to the meadow garden ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Hardy to at least zone 4 (Penstemon digitalis and Veronica spicata are cold tolerant to zone 2 and 3, respectively) all three plants pictured here are mid-sized perennials, with Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mixed’ reaching a variable 8- 24″, while Penstemon digitalis and Veronica spicata mature to a consistent 2′-2 1/2′ size.  I like this trio backed by all varieties of Miscanthus, but particularly the shimmering, light-catching cultivar ‘Morning light’. And as an added bonus with this group –  no matter the heat and blazing sunshine, there is nary a droopy bloom in sight. This trio of top summertime performers is a true dog-day’s delight…

A sunny, summertime entry garden at Ferncliff – Design and Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

A bee visits Veronica spicata ‘Sunny Border Blue’ ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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Article and photographs © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Restful Rodgersia: A Tall, Dramatic Beauty for Secret, Shadowy Nooks and Damp, Dappled Shade…

June 22nd, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rogersia aesculifolia in June ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Rogersia aesculifolia dusted in snow ⓒ Michaela at TGE

***

Article and photographs © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Isn’t She Pretty in Pink? A Peek at a Few of June’s Blushing Young Beauties: Mountain Laurel, Lupine, Indigofera, and More…

June 16th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Kalmia latifolia ‘Pink Charm’ with Sambucus racemosa ‘Sutherland’s Gold’ and Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’ in the background, and Rudbeckia hirta and Miscanthus in the foreground… Garden Design and Photo © Michaela at TGE

Kalmia latifolia ‘Pink Charm’ – Photo © Michaela at TGE

Kalmia latifolia ‘Pink Charm’ in the Entry Garden – Design and Photo © 2010 Michaela at TGE

There’s something of a pink-fizzy-explosion going on in the main entrance to my garden right now. From bashful blush and shocking rose, to coral, crimson, and pale petal; the garden is looking very pretty in pink. At this time of the year, my wildflower walkway is filled with the lighter shades of red, including two-tone-pink lupine, pale penstemon and other cerise colored flowers. This spring, the wild roses have really taken off, clamoring over the big ledges, and spilling out from the juniper edging into the gravel path. But the reigning queen of the moment in the entry garden is Kalmia latifolia ‘Pink Charm’; a gorgeous pink selection of our native mountain laurel. I am very fond of Kalmia, and I grow both the native and various cultivars. Mountain laurel has developed a reputation for being a somewhat tricky plant to grow, but I have had great success with the genus. In my experience, proper siting and soil are key to pleasing this beautiful, native evergreen. For more information on Kalmia latifolia, including how and where to grow and use this plant in the garden, travel back to last year’s post on Mountain Laurel here.

Indigofera kirilowii on the terrace edge. Photo © Michaela at TGE

And on the northwestern side of my garden, Indigofera kirilowii -which I also posted about last summer in an article linked here- is producing an outrageously romantic display at the edge of the terrace. This gorgeous small shrub is literally covered with lilac-pink panicles, spilling in dramatic fashion on to the thyme-laced stone at her feet. Indigofera is putting on her show earlier this year, as are many other plants in my garden. What’s the hurry ladies? We have all summer. Why not slow down and stick around awhile?

Still, in spite of the early rush to bloom, I must say I am loving the profusion. When my garden gets to blushing like this, I can’t help but think of girlish things like prom dresses and bridal showers. I suppose it’s just that time  of the year  – when everything is pretty in pink….

A closeup of our native North American mountain laurel, Kalmia latifolia, in bloom. Photo © Michaela at TGE

A natural wonder, smothered in blooms – Kalmia latifolia – native mountain laurel. Photo © Michaela at TGE

Lupine put on a reliable yearly display in the wildflower walk. Photo © Michaela at TGE

Lupine hybrid – Bicolor pink in the Wild Flower Walk – Entry Garden Design and Photo © 2010 Michaela TGE

A wild rose in the entry garden – Photo © Michaela at TGE

Budding Beauty – Photo © Michaela at TGE

Pretty in Pink in the Rain – Photo © Michaela at TGE

Seashell Pink Colored Coral Bell Blossoms (Heuchera sanguinea) Dance in the Morning Breeze. Photo © Michaela at TGE

Lavender-pink Indigofera kirilowii edges the north facing terrace, planted here with wooly thyme. Photo © Michaela at TGE

You know I was thinking about it when I typed the words. I had to pull out the Molly Ringwald for this post…

Pretty in Pink Molly Ringwald

Pretty in Pink on DVD

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Article and photographs © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Autumn Brilliance Part Two – Plants for Spectacular Fall Color…

October 13th, 2009 § 4 comments § permalink

Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Issai’ (Purple Beautyberry)

Could a gardener be diagnosed with OCD if she compulsively checks her ornamental shrubs for changing berry color? Can a collector’s passion for a particularly beautiful cultivar cross the line, where she becomes a stalker of plants? Sometimes I fear I’ve gone too far; slipped off the raft; teetered past the point-of-no-return. But I think you are with me, aren’t you? We can’t help ourselves. The itch simply must be scratched.

I am obsessed with Callicarpa dichotoma, (Purple Beautyberry). Truly, I am. And who wouldn’t be? Her fantastical berries are pure, poetic inspiration; begging to be written into myths and fairy tales. Just look at all that temptingly plump fruit, beckoning the unsuspecting in a glorious shade of shimmering purple. Why I can hear the old witch now… “Come sample the sweet violet berries my pretty.”  *POOF*  Deep sleep for decades. The gullible heroine slowly becomes enmeshed by lacy vines, lost in a trance, awaiting her handsome prince.

For years I have coveted the bright purple fruit of our native American Beautyberry, (Callicarpa americana), but this autumnal prize is hardy only to zone 6. In my desperation, I have killed several plants while attempting to over-winter them here at Ferncliff. Undaunted, I also tried my luck growing Japanese Beautyberry, (Callicarpa japonica), with similar, necrotic results. But last year, just south of here, I was visiting a nursery display-garden when I spotted something that stopped me dead in my tracks. Yellowing leaves, cobalt violet fruits – my heart raced as I rounded the corner and pushed past the browning hydrangea – could it be… ?

Indeed, it was the elusive Callicarpa. Only this time, the shrub I encountered was a hardier member of the family, Purple Beautyberry, (Callicarpa dichotoma). Graceful, arching, elegant in habit, the leaves of the Purple Beautyberry were just turning gold when I met her, highlighting the candy-like quality of her glossy, purple clusters of fruit. There are two excellent C. dichotoma cultivars, ‘Issai’ and ‘Early Amethyst’, both reliably hardy to zone 5. I have been warned to expect a bit of die-back; to be pruned in spring when I fertilize to encourage new growth. I snatched the last ‘Issai’ from my wholesaler’s lot, and placed it carefully in the garden, protected from wind by the American cranberrybush Viburnum, and alongside the blazing fall foliage of fragrant Abelia, (Abelia mosanensis). The color combination is delighting me this October. Will she survive the brutal winter? Only time will tell if Purple Beautyberry is a permanent addition to my garden. But for now, the fantasy is all mine.

So today I will leave you with images of some other bewitching favorites here in my autumn garden. I will elaborate on some of these woody plants over the coming weeks, as I continue to share my favorite design recipes for fall color …

Acer griseum  (Paper bark maple)

The Hay-scented fern, (Dennstaedtia puctilobula), after hard frost

Buddleia davidii, (Orange-Eye Butterfly bush), blooms past the first frost

Abelia mosanensis, (Fragrant abelia), autumn color

Cotinus coggygria, (Smokebush), with a rosy leaf-glow

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’ (Peegee Hydrangea)

Hydrangea paniculata, ‘Limelight’, turns mauve-purple in cool weather

Hydrangea quercifolia, (Oakleaf hydrangea), foliage variation

Hydrangea quercifolia (Oakleaf hydrangea), drying flowers

Oxydendrum arboreum, (Sourwood tree), a coveted autumn red hue

Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Seiryu’, (Blue Green Dragon), begins to color

Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’, all ablaze in backlit orange and scarlet

Vibrant Stewartia pseudocamellia with gilded Rodgersia aesculifolia

Stewartia pseudocamellia, (Japanese stewartia)

Article and Photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden 

All content on this site is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express written permission. Inspired by what you see here? 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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