Misty Mountain Top: Painted Ledges & Secret Garden in Summertime Fog …

June 27th, 2011 § Comments Off on Misty Mountain Top: Painted Ledges & Secret Garden in Summertime Fog … § permalink

The Entry Garden on a Misty, Late June Morning (Left to right foreground:Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’ & Sambucus racemosa ‘Sutherland Gold’- see descriptions below for other plantings)

Sunny summer days are glorious; filled with shimmering, gold fields and blue, shadowed valleys. I love long strolls through garden paths with the sun’s warmth on my skin. We’ve had quite a bit of rain lately, and grumbling about the weather —that favorite New England pastime— has reached a fever pitch. But secretly —I must confess— I love the moodier weather. There’s just something about the painterly quality of soft morning mist, and the way the garden’s colors sing against grey skies…

Entry Garden Ledges Viewed from the Opposite Side (Kalmia latifolia ‘Pink Charm’, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’, Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’, Miscanthus sinensis variegatus with a rambling rose of unknown provenance)

The Secret Garden’s Late June Beauty

Cornus kousa in foreground, backed up by Weigela florida ‘Red Prince’ spilling over the wall

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

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

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Of Raindrops & Rose Petals …

June 24th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

Rosa ‘Bibi Maizoon’ with Raindrops

In and out of the studio today, I’ve been more than momentarily seduced —and completely delayed— by the scent of English roses along the Secret Garden path. The spicy, rich fragrance of Rosa ‘Bibi Maizoon’ —reminiscent of much older cultivars— fills the damp, heavy air on this rainy afternoon. I often marvel at the power of scent, and this delicious rose is literally a waking dream. Although quite sad that I can not share the intoxicating olfactory experience of this rose, I hope I’ve captured some of Bibi’s beauty in these snaps of her raindrop-laden petals. Find more information about Rosa ‘Bibi Maizoon’ in my previous post, by clicking here…

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

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

June 14th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

The Secret Garden Door in Late Spring

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

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

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

Rodgersia aesculifolia and Matteuccia pensylvanica with various Heuchera and Euphorbia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Honey Colored Evenings in the Garden And Iced Tea with Lime & Peppermint…

June 5th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

An Evening on the Terrace in Sultry, Honey Colored Mist

Voluptuous French Lilacs Drape to the Ground

Vanilla Sky: Garnet-Hued Japanese Maple Leaves, Luminous at Sunset

June evening. It’s late in the day, and the glow of mist-diffused sunlight –warm and sweet as honey– filters through the perfumed garden. It’s time to relax after a long week of designing, planning, shopping and planting new gardens. French doors swing wide to the sun-soaked terrace, and I kick off my shoes. Strolling past the heady lilac and luminous, garnet-hued maple, I slowly make my way down the potager path. Golden straw warms the soles of my feet as I  fill a basket with fragrant herbs and fresh greens for dinner. Rounding the far corner of the garden, the scent of crushed peppermint fills the air. A tall glass of iced tea springs to mind, and I gather a bunch of aromatic leaves for my pitcher. And suddenly, I realize, it’s beginning to feel a lot like summertime …

Iced Tea with Lime & Peppermint

Ingredients (Serves Two)

1 quart/liter        Boiling Water

1 ounce               Fresh Lime Juice (about one lime)

1 tsp                    Artisan Honey

1 good bunch       Peppermint Leaves (to crush & for garnish)

2 teabags              Black Tea

Directions:

Crush 5-6 sprigs of peppermint at the bottom of a small, heatproof, glass pitcher. How much mint is a matter of personal preference. I think 3 springs per glass (about 15 leaves each) is a good place to start. Add lime juice and muddle. Add two bags of black tea and slowly fill the pitcher with one quart/liter of boiling water. Stir and pour in the honey. Allow the mixture to steep and cool to room temperature (you may also make ahead and refrigerate with a lid). Fill two glasses with ice and pour the tea over the cubes. Garnish with a fresh sprig of mint and serve on a sultry afternoon. It’s almost summertime…

You may also enjoy this recipe for Lemon-Mint Sun Tea, Brewed in the Garden (click here for past post)

Prefer something stronger? You will love this Cuban Mint Julep (aka Mojito) recipe (click here)

Savoring the Pink-Gold Twilight Hours of Late Spring

Plants from top: In pot, Calibracho ‘Callie Orange’. In border: Syringa vulgaris ‘Mme. Lemoine’ & Weigela florida ‘Java Red’. Backlit tree: Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’. Above on hillside: Betula papyrifera (paper birch).

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!

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

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A Long Weekend in the Garden & Breakfast on the Misty Terrace …

May 28th, 2011 § Comments Off on A Long Weekend in the Garden & Breakfast on the Misty Terrace … § permalink

Fallen Silverbells and Breakfast on the Terrace

A Pot Filled with Calibrachoa ‘Callie Orange’ Brightens the Morning

And a Bottomless Cup of Coffee & Bright Red Chair Help to Wake the Sleepy Gardener

There’s much work to do in my garden this weekend. I’ve annuals and vegetable starts to plant out in the potager and weeding to catch up on. Somewhere around here there’s a big old basket… Maybe it was tossed to the tree line by Thursday night’s thunderstorm?  And the wheelbarrow… Where on earth is my wheelbarrow? I’ll be needing it to spread a fresh layer of compost mulch…

Oh, never mind. It’s a long weekend and there’s plenty of time to play catch up. For now, I’ll watch hummingbirds in the Carolina Silverbell; darting and dancing in the blossoms while I enjoy breakfast on the terrace. Perhaps just one more cup of coffee…

But there must be plenty of moments to just relax

***

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!

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

The Gardener’s Eden received no compensation for the editorial mention of any products or services mentioned in this post. Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links here (including Amazon.com book links). A small percentage of each sale will be paid to this site, helping to cover web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you so much for your support!

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Springtime’s Shimmering Silverbells: Halesia tetraptera in Full Bloom…

May 28th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

Carolina Silverbell (Halesia tetraptera)

Carolina Silverbell Blossoms Attract Bumble Bees and Hummingbirds

Looking up from the Terrace Dining Table, Into Thousands of Tiny White Bells

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Halesia tetraptera

When it comes to the springtime show in my garden, Carolina Silverbell really knows how to steal the stage. Smothered in tiny white chimes —which, although they do not ring, are filled with buzzing bumble bees and whirring, chirping hummingbirds— the two Halesia tetraptera on either side of my studio door begin to bloom in mid-May and peak around Memorial Day. As the blossoms open fully —cascading from a dream-like canopy and falling to the table and stone terrace below— stepping through the tunnel of white bells feels a bit like a dream.

North American native Carolina Silverbell is a gorgeous tree for all seasons. With it’s glorious spring flowers, handsome green foliage, colorful, patterned bark, golden autumn color and curious orange drupes; this is a great landscape sized tree. Read more about Halesia tetraptera and her cultural requirments in my previous post, by clicking here.

***

Article and photographs are copyright Michaela Medina 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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Dramatic Darmera Peltata: A Native Beauty for Bog Gardens & Damp Shade…

May 26th, 2011 § Comments Off on Dramatic Darmera Peltata: A Native Beauty for Bog Gardens & Damp Shade… § permalink

Darmera peltata’s pretty, pink spray of airy inflorescence

Darmera peltata… What a lovely, musical name. Often the botanical labels for plants pale by comparison to their intriguing and creative folk monikers. But in this case, I think the name Darmera peltata is far superior to the common alternatives (Indian rhubarb and umbrella plant). Just look at this elegant beauty’s richly textured leaves! And the pink spray of blossoms on tall, elegant stems? Isn’t she gorgeous? The name Darmera is perfectly exotic sounding, even if she is an American girl.

Native to woodland streams and swampy wilderness areas in the western half of North America (Hardy in USDA zones 5-7) Darmera peltata prefers moist conditions, rich soil and filtered light. If she were to choose a home, she’d settle herself in dappled sunlight beside a pond, brook or bog at forest’s edge. However, this lovely, low-maintenance perennial will tolerate drier conditions —actually, she suffered mightily in my garden last summer during the drought— if she is placed in a cool, semi-shaded location. The more moisture she receives, the larger and more lush she will grow (3-6′ high is typical, with a similar spread).

I grow Darmera peltata (commonly known as Umbrella Plant or Indian Rhubarb) for her magnificent, textured-emerald leaves

I grow Darmera peltata for her large, dramatic leaves —lovely in combination with forest grasses and colorful Japanese painted ferns— which are stunning from spring through fall, when they turn a rich, bronzy color. But in a rainy year like this one, Darmera produces and abundance of delicate, pink flowers held high above the foliage on strong, narrow stems. I may be imagining things, but I suspect she wants to cheer this gardener up in gloomy weather with her pretty ensemble. And you know what? It’s definitely working…

Darmera peltata blooming at the foot of the Walled Garden with Moonlight hydrangea vine (Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’) and a self-sown Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis)

Darmera peltata offers a lovely contrast to smooth textured, contrasting foliage or —as shown here— the surface of a smooth terra cotta vessel

Article and photographs are copyright Michaela Medina 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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A Peek Inside the Misty Moss Walls: Springtime in the Secret Garden …

May 22nd, 2011 § 4 comments § permalink

By May, a cool tapestry of springtime color carpets the Secret Garden path…

This week my design studio and office began slowly migrating back down to the Secret Garden Room, where plants and paperwork happily mingle from late spring through early November. Each day on my way to and from appointments, I pass through the walled garden and along the plant-lined, stone path leading to the drive up and down my hillside. It only takes a few minutes here —engulfed by cool air and familiar fragrance— to shake off the cares of the outside world. This Secret Garden is my sanctuary and my muse. Care to step inside for a peek? Come follow me along the path and in through the moss-covered walls…

To the Right of the Walled Garden, An Old Chair Stands Ready to Support Emerging Rudbeckia Seedlings (other plants here include Muscari, Sedum ‘Angelina’, and Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’, and in back, Abelia mosanensis)

A Crow –from Virginia Wyoming’s Series by the same name– stands sentry, perched atop a wall along the Secret Garden path (click here to read more about the artist and her work)

A favorite old urn sits nestled at the foot of a Moonlight Hydrangea Vine (Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’), rising Fairy Candles (Actaea racemosa ‘Hillside Black Beauty’), bright ‘Caramel’ Coral Bells (Heuchera americana ‘Caramel’) and sweet-scented Lily of the Valley (Convularia majalis), in a corner of the garden filled with with bulbs and emerging fiddleheads…

Brushing past the cranberrybush (Viburnum trilobum ‘Baily Compact’), along a path filled with woodland phlox, grape hyacinth, stonecrop, ajuga, daphne and emerging rudbeckia seedlings, the glow of new Japanese forest grass and the nodding heads of jonquil within the Secret Garden beckon…

Between Raindrops, Sunlight Illuminates New Leaves and Coral-Colored Branch Tips on the Blue Green Dragon (Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’), Arching Over the Secret Garden Door…

Lady Ferns (Athyrium filix x femina ‘Lady in Red’) and glossy bergenia (Bergenia ‘Bressingham Ruby’) line the damp, mossy threshold into the walled garden…

And the next step reveals the bottlebrush-blossom tips of dwarf witch alder (Fothergilla gardenii) to the right, chartreuse-colored spurge (Euphorbia, various cvs), the unfolding leaves of a yellow tree peony, (Paeonia mouton x lutea ‘High Noon’), ostrich fern (Metteuccia pensylvanica), Narcissus (N. ‘Sterling’) and Japanese forest grass’ green-gold glow…

Hard to See in the Larger Photos are Some of My Tiny Treasures, Like This Muscari ‘Valerie Finnis’ (click to image to enlarge)

Another View of the Center, Secret Garden Wall…

Stepping Inside, A Moment’s Pause to Gaze Upon the Reflecting Bowl Beside the Stone Wall

Deep Inside the Far Corners, Tender Plants Begin to Migrate, Mingling with the Secret Garden’s Full-Time, Outdoor Residents for the Summer Season. Plants from the left: Moonlight Hydrangea Vine (Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’), Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia pensylvanica), Hosta ‘Patriot’ and on the chair, a young Streptocarpus hardens off…

Japanese Hydrangea Vine (Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Roseum’) Creeps Along the Moss Covered Wall, Moving Slowly but Steadily Toward the Doorway and the Reflecting Bowl; Shimmering Beside the Prized Japanese Wood Poppy (Glaucidium palmatum, featured in last Friday’s post).

Looking back from within the Secret Garden Room, where my summer-season office is already overflowing with design plans and plant lists for landscaping clients…

And tender plants like this asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus ‘Sprengeri’) waiting ’til all danger of frost has passed to return to the outside world…

A Special May Pleasure Along the  Secret Garden Path: One of My Favorite Fragrances of Springtime, the Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaricata ‘Clouds of Perfume’)

Inside the Secret Garden, Peering Out Beyond the Threshold of the Stone Doorway

For a  Summertime Preview of the Secret Garden Click Here to Visit a Post from last Season.

All Stonework in the Secret Garden and throughout Ferncliff is by Vermont artist Dan Snow

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

Article and All 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 for the editorial mention of any products or services mentioned in this post. Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links here (including Amazon.com book links). A small percentage of each sale will be paid to this site, helping to cover web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you so much for your support!

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The Moment of Spring: A Walk Along The Secret Garden Path in Magical May

May 11th, 2011 § 3 comments § permalink

Pretty is the Cool Morning Mist; Softening the Landscape and Intensifying the Fragrance of Springtime

So busy is the month of May… Days pass so quickly, I can barely remember to flip the pages of my desktop calendar. Things in the garden change rapidly from day to day, and I try to take a different path to the driveway each morning, so I won’t miss a single unfurling leaf or flower. But no matter how hard I try, I can’t put sweet springtime on pause to wait for me. And even if I could, would I want to restrain the exuberant sprint of nature, even for a day?

The Pink Buds of Koreanspice Viburnum (V. carlesii) Swell on Graceful Branches; Draped Upon Grey Stone

Only a Week Ago, Trees Stood Bare and A Few Blossoming Shrubs Played Solo…

Now, Everywhere I Look, New Leaves Appear

The Bold Colors of European Beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Riversii’) Sing…

In Perfect Harmony with Blushing Daphne (D. x burkwoodii ‘Carol Mackie’)

Her Sweet & Spicy Scent Seducing all Who Draw Near…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Favorite Combinations Reemerge… Delicate Foam Flower & Cimicifuga… Woodland Phlox & Ferns…

It Seems Everything is Springing to Life at Once. Breathless, I Barely Keep Up…

Creating Vignettes in Summertime Spaces…

And Drinking In the Beautiful, Fleeting Moment of Springtime…

Sanguinaria canadensis – Bloodroot Blossoms

Moonlight Hydrangea Vine (Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’) Leafs Out- Sprawling Over a Candle Niche in the Secret, Walled Garden at Ferncliff

Helleborus x hybridus ‘Royal Heritage Strain’

The Fading & Falling Blossoms of Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’

***

Secret Garden Walls and All Stonework at Ferncliff is by Vermont Artist Dan Snow

Secret Garden Design and Installation by Michaela (for details on plantings see Ferncliff and Secret Garden pages at left)

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!

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Ephemeral Woodland Wildflowers & Return of the Ethereal Hermit Thrush…

April 25th, 2011 § 22 comments § permalink

Red Trillium (Trillium erectum)

There’s no place quite like New England for experiencing three seasons in one day. Sunday morning I rose to find a chilly house and snow covered gardens. Soon –with the sun shining brightly outside– temperatures soared to 63°. Breakfast in the snowy garden … Well, why not? I threw open the entryway doors, soaked up the warm rays, and sipped my morning coffee.

As I sat gazing upon the blushing hillside, taking in the quiet still of morning air, I heard a sweet, long-anticipated sound in the distance. Rising and falling —a mystery in shadowy hemlock boughs— the ethereal song of the hermit thrush echoed through the trees. Flute-like and gently warbling, the sound of this bird’s melancholy voice always bring tears to my eyes. All thrushes have beautiful songs —I’m particularly fond of the twilight serenade of the veery and the haunting, melodic and supremely beautiful voice of the wood thrush— but the return of the hermit to my mountain top signals spring like nothing else. The hermit thrush is the sound of childhood memory —dusky riverbeds and humid, rainy mornings— and it will always be my favorite (click on name of bird to listen to its song at Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology online).

Sanguinaria canadensis (Bloodroot) takes its name from the bright red sap of its roots

This morning, seduced by woodland’s springtime song, I pulled on my raincoat and ventured into the damp darkness —filled with the musky scent of leaf mold and dewy moss— to find an explosion of life emerging on the forest floor. Busy bees hummed about in the mist and silver-tipped fiddleheads shimmered in the dim light. The first two flowers I spotted were Red Trillium (Trillium erectum, pictured at top of article) and Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis, above). Sometimes called ‘Stinking Benjamin’ due to its odor (personally, I don’t find it all that offensive, even close-up), Trillium erectum blooms a beautiful, maroon-red color. Hardy in USDA zones 3-9, the trilliums —members of the lily family— prefer moist woodland soil and make lovely shade garden plants (be sure to purchase trillium from a reputable grower – never dig plants from the wild). Due to its summer-time dormancy, this perennial is best combined with other shade plants. Red and White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) are particularly lovely companions to lady fern (Athyrium filix feminina) and cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea).

The beautiful, starry flowers of Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis, pictured above) are among the earliest blossoms both in my garden and surrounding forest (USDA zone 3-9). Rich in pollen, early-flowering Bloodroot flowers are an important source of food for bees and pollinating flies. Although its white flowers are lovely in combination with many early-blooming bulbs and perennials, this is one springtime ephemeral that needs no leafly companion for summer-time camouflage. Bloodroot’s intricately-edged, long-lasting leaves make an excellent ground-cover in shady situations (particularly beneath shrubs and trees, in well-drained soil).

Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) – one of the earliest blooming North American wildflowers in my forest

The last flower I spotted this morning was the charming Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria, pictured above). Dutchman’s Breeches —as well as fragrant Squirrel Corn (D. canadensis), Wild Bleeding Heart (D. eximia) and other members of this lovely group of wildflowers— are an important source of springtime nectar for pollinators like bumble bees, honeybees and other long tongued bees. Various dicentra species are native to moist woodlands throughout North America (most are hardy in zones 3-8), and these delicately textured native plants make fine additions to the shade garden. Like most springtime ephemerals, the foliage yellows and withers in dormancy, so it’s best to combine these perennials with large-leafed companions (ferns, astilbe, coral bells, etc).

Trillium erectum: So what if it doesn’t smell nice! I still think it’s one of the prettiest springtime flowers

Native forest flora and fauna have always fascinated me –a childhood interest nurtured by my knowledgable woodsman father– and while growing up here in New England, I learned to identify most native plant and animal species from my dad. My love of woodland wildflowers and native plants only grows deeper with each passing year, and I enjoy sharing my passion with others. The Ladybird Johnson Wildlife Center and The New England Wildflower Society are two great, non-profit, online resources for native plant enthusiasts. Learning to identify, protect and grow native plants helps support wildlife; including bee, butterfly and bird populations.

William Cullina’s Wildflowers

I’ve mentioned favorite horticultural author, William Cullina’s books here many times, and his book, Wildflowers, with The New England Wildflower Society, is never far from reach during the growing season. An excellent native plant resource for North American gardeners —including those in the west— this book serves as both an encyclopedia of plants and growers guide-book to perennial wildflowers. In honor of The Gardener’s Eden’s anniversary this month, I will be giving away a copy of this beautiful book.*

To enter, simply leave a comment on today’s post, and in your comment, name your favorite wildflower and why you love it. Be sure to correctly enter your email address so that I can contact you if you win the giveaway (your email won’t be visible to others, nor will it be shared or sold). Your entry must be received by 11:59 pm Eastern Time, Friday, April 29th. A winner will be randomly chosen from all entries received in comments, and announced 4/30 here on this post, on The Gardener’s Eden Facebook page, and also on Twitter. Due to shipping constraints, this giveaway is open to readers in the United States and Canada only.

Good Luck! xo Michaela

*This is an unsponsored giveaway- book purchased by Michaela. All reviews are purely editorial, and are based on the personal experience and opinions of this author.

congratulations to wendy, winner of william cullina’s wildflowers!

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!

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Dusting Off, Cleaning Out, Taking Stock & Getting Ready for Gardening Season… Plus Another Giveaway!

April 18th, 2011 § 33 comments § permalink

The bright gold of Kalanchoe blossfeldiana is a cheerful welcome in a chair beside my front door. I like using natural baskets as decorative covers for inexpensive, recycled plastic flower pots. I do a similar thing with plants placed outside in summer, using everything from wooden crates and baskets to tin cans and flea market finds to add color, texture and interest to plants with less-than-attractive interior containers.

Ah, fog, mist, sunshine and April showers. What a mixed jumble the forecast is this week! My schedule seems to be at the mercy of the elements lately. But, undaunted by the moody weather, I’ve decided to take advantage of the unpredictable situation and use any rainy days or hours this week to sort through and give a spring cleaning to the growing collection of baskets and pots in my Secret Garden Room.

I love accenting my garden with colorful pots and overflowing baskets, but moving containers in and out every season results in a bit of wear and tear. Each year a few woven baskets are retired to the compost pile, and I lose one or two clay pots to a ‘whoopsie’. For the most part, I’ll replace those containers with new ones found at flea markets, tag sales, curb-side freebies and recycling centers. But sometimes a special handmade vessel catches my eye and I will add to my collection of beautiful clay pots, ceramic urns and stoneware containers. Right now I am admiring a few gorgeous pots I spotted at the lovely online garden store, Terrain, and last fall I also spied a bunch of fabulous pieces at Virginia Wyoming’s pottery studio in Westminster, Vermont. There are so many wonderful handmade pots on Etsy and local craft fairs. I like supporting independent artists when I can, and I always encourage others to do so as well…

Sometimes an Empty Vessel is as Lovely as a Container Filled with Plants. Here, a Cracked, Old, Clay Pot Adds Character to a Shady Nook Filled with Perennials (Including Kiregeshoma palmata and Astilbe) in My Garden

I Like to Create New Container Garden Vignettes Every Year. Here in Front of My Painting Studio, a Collection of Pots, Urns and Vessels Brings Color and Life to the Stone Terrace and Tobacco-Stained Barn Siding. All of these pots came from local, Vermont sources like Walker Farm and A Candle in the Night

Here’s Another Empty Vessel in the Walled Garden. I Love Contrasting a Smooth Surfaced Pot with Intricately Textured Foliage. Here, Indian Rhubarb (Darmera peltata) Provides a Lacy Skirt on this Beautiful Piece of Pottery.

Like many gardeners, I’ve recently become enamored with succulent container gardening. And why not? Succulents –and their close relatives, cacti– are so easy to care for. Last year, my studio’s steel balcony was filled with all sorts of dramatic pots (including the one pictured below), crammed with outlandish, colorful beauties and textural curiosities. Like ornamental grasses, succulents make great container plants for hot, dry spaces; think stone terraces, decks and windy balconies. Of course not all succulents are cold-climate hardy, so they must come inside if you live in a wintry region. But some cacti and succulents –including many sedum, sempervivum and others– are quite tough, and can be overwintered outdoors. Most of these fleshy, shallow-rooted plants are easy to propagate, and in cold climates, cuttings can be taken indoors before the frost in autumn and saved for next year’s container display. If you live in New England, I recommend signing up for Walker Farm’s free, succulent container gardening seminar on May 7th (click here for details). Daisy Unsicker, who will be leading the seminar with owner Karen Manix, propagates some incredible succulents at Walker Farm. Daisy creates gorgeous and inspirational succulent containers. Click here —or on the photo below— to see my previous post on “Un-Flower Pots”, for more unconventional, lower-maintenance, container gardening ideas.

A Collection of Plants (including Sempervivum and Haworthia) From Last Year’s Succulent Container Garden – Click Here for Post with More Details, Photos and Plants

A few years back, The Jewel Box Garden, one of my now-favorite container gardening books by Thomas Hobbs (author of the also gorgeous garden book, Shocking Beauty), inspired me to look at unconventional ways to use pots and vessels in my landscape. And more recently, I’ve found some fabulous ideas in Debra Lee Baldwin’s book Succulent Container Gardens from Timber Press. If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you may remember that I’ve mentioned this title before; both here and over at Barnes & Noble’s now-archived Garden Variety. This is a fabulous book, and a real must-have for any cacti/succulent lover or container gardening enthusiast.

Order Succulent Container Gardens by Debra Lee Baldwin from Amazon.com image courtesy of fabulous publisher, Timber Press

Because I love this book so much, I’ve decided to purchase one to give away as part of this blog’s second anniversary celebration. To enter, simply leave a comment on today’s post, and in your comment, tell me what you like to grow in containers: ornamental plants, vegetables/herbs, or both. Be sure to correctly enter your email address so that I can contact you if you win the giveaway (your email won’t be visible to others, nor will it be shared or sold). Your entry must be received by 11:59 pm Eastern Time, Friday, April 22nd. A winner will be randomly chosen from the entries received in comments, and announced 4/25 here, on this site’s Facebook page, and also on Twitter. Due to shipping restrictions, this giveaway is open to readers in the United States and Canada only.

Good Luck! xo Michaela

The Winner of Debra Lee Miller’s Succulent Container Gardens is Lisa N. Congratulations Lisa!

Thank you to everyone for playing. If you didn’t win, please stay tuned for another chance this month!

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Article and Photographs (with noted exception) ⓒ Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

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

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Hazy Color Drifts Carpet the Garden: Tiny Gifts of Early Spring…

April 16th, 2011 § 4 comments § permalink

Spring Heath (Erica carnea) Begins Blooming in Early April (click here to revisit my Erica carnea plant-profile post from last year). Here, Sprawling Across the Ledge  in the Entry Garden…

The Pink, Hazy Blur of Spring Heath is Particularly Lovely Against Grey Sky and Cool Stone. On a Blustery Day, I Can’t Help but Think of Katherine and Heathcliff, Wandering the Bluffs of Wuthering Heights.

In New England, sparkling blue skies and warm, sunny days are few and far between during the month of April. More often than not, the heavens are filled with dusty grey clouds, and the tawny, bare land lies chill and dormant, waiting for milder days. Such is the scene this weekend, with cold, raw air nudging me indoors every half hour or so, to huddle beside the warmth of a blazing fire.

Yet despite the blustery wind and cool temperatures, there are signs of spring here, and color has begun to return to my cold-climate garden. Tiny, early-flowering bulbs and ground-covering blossoms —mass planted in drifts for effect— carpet the walkways and ledgy outcrops. Spring heath (Erica carnea) is the earliest of the low-growing woody plants to blossom here. You may recall my post about spring heath, “Love on the Rocks”, from last April. Bold sweeps of spring heath and various heather ( including Calluna vulgaris ‘Multicolor’ & ‘Silver Knight’) were planted in the shallow pockets of soil between the stone; combined with ‘Sea Green’ juniper (Juniperus x pfitzeriana ‘Sea Green’), and creeping juniper (Juniperus horizontalis ‘Blue Rug) along the entry walk. These tough, resilient shrubs and ground-covering woody plants wake up from winter slumber looking every bit as beautiful as they did when they retired for their nap. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all roll out of bed looking so lovely?

Opening at About the Same Time as Snowdrops (Galanthus) and Crocus, Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa) Carpet the Shrub and Perennial Borders Along the Walkway in my Garden…

On the other side of the entry garden, where the soil is deep, moist and rich, a mixed border of shrubs and perennials springs to life from the ground up. Eager to greet the new season, the tiny blue blossoms of Chionodoxa —commonly known as ‘Glory of the Snow’— begin forcing their way through the frozen earth before it has had time to thaw. A welcome sight to these weary eyes after such a long winter, I note that honeybees and other pollinating insects happily greet my emerging drifts of early-blooming bulbs and ground covers as well.

Native to the alpine regions of Tukey, Cyprus and Crete, Chionodoxa (a member of the hyacinth family) is extremely cold tolerant, and tough (USDA zone 4a-9b). When mass planted in moist, well-drained soil in autumn, the blue, pink or white bulbs will slowly multiply, naturalizing beautifully beneath trees and shrubs (this bulb prefers neutral soil, but will tolerate slightly acidic to slightly alkaline conditions). In cool seasons, blossoms will last approximately 4 weeks, and when planted between later-emerging perennials, glory-of-the-snow’s foliage will fade and wither without drawing attention, as it slips into summertime dormancy. This low, ground-covering bulb (2-6 inches high, depending on species and cultivar) is one of my springtime favorites. For such a tiny flower, it sure makes a big impact. In particular, I find  blue Chionodoxa especially lovely when planted in great sweeps across lawns. Viewed from a distance, masses of these blue, starry flowers form a moody haze; ethereal, wistful and undeniably romantic in a rainy landscape…

They Remind Me of Fallen Stars, Scattered on the Garden Floor.

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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!

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Spring Clean-Up Part One: Pruning Damaged Limbs in Tight Spaces Using The Handy, Folding ‘Grecian’ Saw, Plus… A Special Giveaway!

April 9th, 2011 § 15 comments § permalink

A young Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’ in my garden. This photo was taken last spring during a passing shower, just as the beautifully vibrant red leaves began to unfold

I love all trees, but I have to admit that in particular, I am a very, very fond of Japanese maples. And in spite of the fact that they can be difficult to grow in cold climates, every year I add a new, hardy specimen to my garden. The first Japanese maple I planted when I bought my land ten years ago was Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’. A lovely tree with dark, oxblood colored leaves and fine structural form, ‘Bloodgood’ is a commonly grown Japanee maple cultivar in the northeast; mainly due to its hardiness. But in spite of this tree’s tolerance for cold, one of the biggest challenges to growing Japanese maples in the northern climates —breakage due to heavy snow and ice accumulation— remains a problem with this and many other ornamental trees with complex branch angles and patterns. Preliminary pruning and training helps to set up a strong framework for ornamental trees —to withstand winter’s weighty precipitation— but some breakage is inevitable during ice storms with heavy accumulation.

Perhaps you’ll recall this image, of the Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’ in my garden, taken during the last of many ice storms in late winter of this year. Fortunately, only one branch cracked beneath the weight of the ice, and it was one I’d considered removing late last summer anyway.

When damage does occur on a Japanese maple, and on many other trees, one of the toughest maintenance tasks is pruning out broken limbs without damaging the bark and healthy wood on the nearby trunk and branches. Making cuts in tight spaces (like the one pictured below) can be difficult unless you have the right tool on hand. Hand-held bypass pruners (like those shown in the last post) are fine for branches and limbs up to 1/2″  in diameter. But when the limb is thicker, it’s best to switch to a pruning saw. When I need to cut a moderately sized limb —several inches thick— particularly  in tight and awkward spaces, I reach for my handy folding saw. Sometimes this pruning tool is referred to as a Grecian or Japanese-blade pruning saw. This type of saw has teeth —arranged in an arc on the inside of a blade— and folds up neatly into a compact size (see photos below). Designed to cut on the pull-stroke, these saws makes quick, clean work of tree limb removal.

This limb is too large to cut with bypass pruners, and the angle is too tight for my bow saw. So, the tool of choice?

The handy folding saw! This type of saw is sometimes called a ‘Grecian’ saw, or a ‘Japanese blade’ pruning saw.

Here’s what it looks like fully extended. When I’m finished using it, I can just close it up an put it in my back pocket (no worries about stabbing myself!)

Sometimes —when a branch is split or badly mangled by a storm, weak or crossing and rubbing a near-by branch—  it’s necessary to completely remove the tree limb. Knowing how to properly make this type of pruning cut is very important to the long term health of trees in your garden. Cut too far from the trunk and you are left with an ugly stub, which invites disease and further breakage. Cut too close to the main trunk, damaging the branch collar, and you risk exposing the entire tree to disease and opportunistic parasites. But, fear not. This cut isn’t difficult to make when you take your time, follow a patient process and use the right tool. To remove the damaged limb on my Japanese maple, first, I made a preliminary cut on the branch, removing the weight and leaving a long stub. Next, I undercut the remaining limb with a short 1/4″ deep cut. This will prevent cracking and tearing of the limb when I make my final cut from the top. Carefully observe where the ridge meets with the main trunk, and look for the wrinkly collar’s edge. Just beyond this spot is where the limb should be cleanly and neatly cut. Find your line and cleanly cut through as shown. Any ragged edges should be cleaned up with a sharp pruning knife. Soon the open area on the Japanese maple trunk will grey up, callus over and blend right in with the rest of the tree. At this time of year in cold climates, a Japanese maple (And other maple trees, and sap running species like birch) will weep when cut. This will not harm the tree. This wounded tree was weeping sap from the jagged break anyway. However, I do try to limit my cuts on trees with actively running sap at this time of year. I only remove what I absolutely need to, in order to prevent disease and speed up the ‘healing’ process.

When removing a long limb, particularly a heavy one, I begin by taking off some of the weight and making room to work with an initial cut farther out on the branch. Reducing the weight also decreases the likelihood of tears in my final cut near the branch collar.

Next, I make an undercut on the branch. This cut will be approximately 1/4 through the branch. This is another insurance cut; preventing a crack in the wood or tear in the bark when I remove the stub branch from the top.

This photo is little bigger, because I want you to really see the wrinkly edge of the branch collar. Do you see the ridge just to the left of the blade, where where the main trunk meets the limb and the wrinkly ‘collar’ just past that? Well, it’s important to get nice and close to that wrinkly collar with a clean, flush cut. But, it’s equally important NOT to saw into the branch collar. The cleaner and straighter the cut, the faster and easier it will be for the cells to quickly cover the open wound and for the callus to protect the tree from insects and disease.

Cut clean and close, this wood will quickly callus over and soon blend in with the surrounding trunk. Sometimes, a limb will break right at that collar margin. If the tree injury is located in this area, carefully cut as straight a line as possible, and clean up any ragged edges of wood with a pruning knife. The more even the wood, the less area will need to be covered by new cells, and the faster the tree will callus.

Felco’s Folding Saw is the right tool for pruning branches and limbs up to 3″ in diameter, particularly in tight places. You can order one from Amazon.com by clicking on the image or text link here. Or….

In honor of this blog’s second anniversary this month, I will be giving away several gifts at random, starting with a pruning saw, like the one pictured above. For your chance to win this handy tool, simply comment on this blog post before 12:00 pm, noon Eastern Time, April 11, 2011. Be sure to leave your email address (will not be visible here, nor will it be shared or sold) so that I can contact you if you win. And, one last thing… Let me know what your favorite thing is about this blog, and what you’d like to see more of this year! I’d love your feedback. Thank you for following The Gardener’s Eden ! xo Michaela

The winner will be chosen at random from comments received prior to noon ET 4/11/2011. One entry per household, per giveaway please. Drawing will take place and winners will be announced here, on Facebook and Twitter, on Tuesday, 4/12/2011. Saw will be shipped to the winning reader at the end of the month. Due to shipping constraints, this giveaway is open to US and Canadian readers of The Gardener’s Eden only. All taxes, tariffs, duties or fees not directly associated with shipping and handling will be the responsibility of the winner.Good luck!

The Winner of the Folding Pruning Saw is: Michelle Kraetschmer! Congratulations, Michelle.

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Article and photographs are copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent. Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links here. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to this site, helping to cover web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you so much for your support!

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Getting Down to Earth in the Garden…

April 3rd, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

First Flowers: Glory-of-the-Snow (Chionodoxa luciliae ‘Gigantea’)

What a difference a day makes! Yesterday, my hilltop was nearly invisible; blurred grey and white by snow squalls, sleet and driving rain. But today, all of the new snow has melted, the sun is shining and the sky is clear blue. Ah, New England. As they say: if you don’t like the weather here, wait a minute. Things change quickly at this time of year, and it looks like I may be getting down to earth about gardening soon…

Buds of Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’. Read more about this beautifully fragrant shrub by clicking here.

Meltwater in a Steel Bowl on My Terrace

Crocus tommasinianus against the warm stone wall

I decided to take advantage of the warm temperatures today, and headed out to the potager to sow some more early season crops beneath the protection of the hoop house cold frames. After wading through the melting snow-drifts (still more than two feet high in places), I checked on soil temperatures in the vegetable garden. The IRT plastic-covered earth (infrared transmitting plastic was placed last fall to warm the soil) along my kitchen garden fence is nearly ready to work, so I’ll be sowing snow and snap peas in a few days. Many gardeners rush to plant peas as early-as-possible, but I find that crops planted a bit later catch up and produce just as quickly as those hastened into the earth. The optimal soil temperature for sowing peas is around 50 – 70° F (a soil thermometer is a handy and inexpensive device to keep in your tool bag or tote at the beginning and end of the gardening season).

I keep my early crops organized by planting date and plan –ready to go & close at hand— in wire baskets. Here peas, beets, radishes, carrots and greens are ready to go when the opportunity arises.

Succession Planting Continues in the Hoop Houses (Repeat Sowing of Seed to Continue Harvest of Quick-to-Mature Crops, like arugula, spinach, beets, radishes, lettuce & other roots ‘n greens)

And I’ve pulled out my favorite clean-up tool, an inexpensive and endlessly useful Adjustable Steel Rake, in hopes of beginning a bit of garden clean-up later on this week!

It’s hard to believe how much things can change in only one day. Sure, snow may fly again tomorrow, but it certainly feels like spring is making progress. Today the sun is shining brightly on the first, pastel-colored bulbs and yesterday’s silly snow-woman has completely melted away…

It’s hard to believe that a gardening snow-woman stood here just a day ago!

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Article and photographs are copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent. Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links here. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to this site, helping to cover web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you so much for your support!

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The Sweet Scent of Springtime: Bewitching Hamamelis Vernalis…

March 7th, 2011 § Comments Off on The Sweet Scent of Springtime: Bewitching Hamamelis Vernalis… § permalink

Sweetly Fragrant Hamamelis Vernalis: North American Native Vernal Witch Hazel, Cut from My Garden and Forced Inside

Copper-Orange Tassels of Witch Hazel Glow in the Afternoon Light

March, much like November, is a different month every year in New England. Some seasons, March skies are grey and late winter winds are cold; heavy snow falling long past the vernal equinox. And then there are years when March is soft; weeks of misty skies, melty temperatures and warm sunshine dancing on snow banks as they slowly disappear. This morning, I awoke to yet another ice storm —a quarter inch glaze coating trees and threatening my electrical supply— and a firm reminder that the chilly season of winter yet reigns.

Still —in spite of the relentless cold, freezing rain and mountains of snow— I know that spring is slowly coming. And during this time of transition, my anticipation always reaches a fever-pitch. I stalk the woody plants in my garden, watching for hints of color and swollen buds. And this year —with so much snow on the ground— I am especially grateful for the maturing shrubs and trees in my garden, rising above the frozen terrain…

In warmer years, Hamamelis vernalis —vernal witch hazel— blooms in early to mid-March. In colder years, this harbinger of springtime may be delayed past the equinox

Many of my favorite garden plants have two stellar seasons: spring and fall. And among my favorites, the family of Hamamelidaceae (the witch hazels) ranks very high indeed. Hamamelis vernalis —sometimes called Ozark or spring witch hazel— is native to the south-central regions of the United States and hardy in USDA zones 4-8. This is a tough, colonizing shrub; tolerant of poor, scrappy soil and a wide range of moisture levels. Vernal witch hazel is a great native plant for informal hedging, naturalizing along a woodland boundary or even for something as mundane as stabilizing a steep bank. Although her flowers aren’t nearly as large and showy as those of her more flamboyant Asian and hybrid cousins (read my post on Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ here), the perfume of her early, coppery-orange blossoms is so sweet and delightful that their petite size is easy to overlook. She’s also a glorious sight in autumn, when her softly mounded form turns brilliant gold; shimmering against the blue autumn sky.

When warm temperatures arrive early in Vermont, the bloom of vernal witch hazel sometimes coincides with, or even precedes the spring equinox. But winter seems a bit tenacious this year; unwilling to loose her grip on the sleeping green mountains. Feeling a bit weary, I decided to give myself a spring prelude —as I often do— by forcing the branches of a few early blooming favorites. Late last winter, I pruned my Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ rather heavily; bringing a large armful of branches indoors for forcing. The scent was intoxicating. This year I allowed myself but a few wayward twigs from the delicious bodnant viburnum, and instead harvested a mass of Hamamelis vernalis (read more about how to force branches here)…

Freshly harvested branches of Hamamelis vernalis cut for forcing indoors

Once harvested and prepared, I placed the bundle of witch hazel branches in my cool cellar. Slowly, I am bringing branches upstairs to enjoy their honey-sweet fragrance —strong enough to scent an entire room— and delightful, sculptural form. By month’s end, various species of witch hazel will begin unfolding their blossoms outdoors, in my garden. But for now, I can enjoy a bit of spring here inside my home…

Wonderful warm color, festive form and intoxicating fragrance: who could ask for more than a visit from the good witch on a drab-grey day

Forced witch hazel branches fill my bedroom with the delicious honey-scented fragrance of springtime

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Article and 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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Come to Me, My Sweet Willow…

February 24th, 2011 § 7 comments § permalink

Salix discolor. Pitcher by Aletha Soulé. Photo © Michaela at TGE

Welcome, oh welcome sweet, silver-tipped harbinger of springtime. Is there anything that makes a heart race faster than the sight of the first pussy willow catkins? I love the beautiful, soft texture and the sculptural quality of pussy willow branches artfully arranged in a vase. Now is the time to pull on your knee-high boots and gather these beautiful branches by the armful. Just look at those softly luminous, shimmering beauties!

Salix discolor (as our North American native pussywillow is formally called) is a North American native shrub or small, understory tree, (5-15′ tall and perhaps 8′ wide). Often found beside brooks, forest streams, low-lying thickets or swamps from Canada to Georgia, the pussy willow is hardy to USDA zones 4-7. Stands of Salix discolor form important wetland habitat for nesting birds and other creatures. Mindful of this, I carefully harvest where shrubs are plentiful, and make clean cuts with my Felco pruners.

Salix discolor: North American native pussy willow pollen (the greenish bloom comes after the silver) is an important source of early spring pollen for native bees and honey bees  © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Salix discolor, North American native pussy willow – Pitcher by Aletha Soulé. Photo © Michaela TGE

If you harvest pussy willow for arrangements —and would like the catkins to remain in their silvery, bud-like state— place them in a vase without water to halt development. The preserved twigs and branches can be used in wreaths or other decorations, and will remain beautiful throughout the year. If placed in water, the catkins will slowly develop a greenish cast or “bloom” and eventually, alternate, oval-shaped leaves will spout along the branches. The pollen from blooming pussy willow catkins is an important source of food for bees in the earliest weeks spring (thanks to Deb reminding me to note this!). Like the idea of growing your own stand of pussy willow?

Pussy willow are easy to propagate from late winter/springtime cuttings (this is a good project to try with kids!). Simply harvest pliant, year-old branches, (approximately 18-24″ long), and keep stems in a vase of water in a sunny spot. Plant whips outside when roots have formed, right after the last frost date in your area (rooting hormone is not necessary). Be sure to keep the root-zone moist with a mulch around the base and check on them regularly. Willow naturally prefer moist garden environments (like their native wetlands), so position your young Salix discolor in a garden low spot, where it will catch spring run-off and moisture throughout the seasons.This year I harvested some branches to use in everlasting arrangements, and some to propagate for my garden. Pussy willow make wonderful, textural-interst shrubs for wetland transition areas in the naturalized landscape. I hope to propagate enough for future cutting as well as for enjoying in the permanent landscape. As well as supporting native and honeybee populations and other wildlife as an important, early source of food, these native shrubs are fantastic cover for small birds in the garden too. And I just love watching wild birds in my yard.

Salix discolor, North American native pussy willow © Michaela at TGE

Pitcher/Vase by Aletha Soulé. Images © Michaela at TGE

Photographs and cultural information in this article were originally published on this blog in 2010.

Article and 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 or reproduced without written consent.

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through the affiliate-links here. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to The Gardener’s Eden, and will help with site maintenance and web hosting costs. Thank you!

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First Hints of Spring…

February 21st, 2011 § 4 comments § permalink

Last Year’s Nest Remains Intact, Decorated with the Pink-Tinted Buds of Viburnum Bodnantense ‘Dawn’

Spring is exactly one month away, and eagerly, the garden awaits her arrival. Already, swollen buds, glowing bark and the sing-song voices of chickadees calling “spring’s here”, fill trees and shrubs with new life…

On Warmer Days, Blushing Viburnum Buds Near the Stone Wall, Hint at Coming Spring

Click here to here listen to the ‘typical’ sweet, spring song of the Black-capped Chickadee {via Cornell Lab of Ornithology}.

{Forced branches give the house a prelude-to-spring. Click here for more information on forcing branches, and here for details about this lovely shrub: V. bodnantense ‘Dawn’}

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The Early Bird Catches the Arugula… And the Chard, Spinach & Lettuce too!

February 19th, 2011 § 10 comments § permalink

Arugula in the Hoophouse, January

Let’s start out with a bit of honesty, shall we? The four season harvest isn’t for wimps. Winter gardening  —growing plants in temperatures below freezing to sub-zero, beneath plastic sheeting— isn’t a natural act. And although I enjoy a good game of woman vs. wild, sometimes winter gets to be a bit much around here. Shoveling decks, terraces, walkways and woodpiles is a lot of work. And now that I’ve added potager path-clearing and hoophouse roof-raking to the list, I’ve created quite a snow-removal burden. So why do it? Because the taste of fresh arugula and the smell of damp earth on a cold February day is —as the people at Mastercard say— priceless. And I think a jump-start to the short, northern growing season is worth a little extra work (OK, so it’s a lot of extra work).

Look at that delicious earth! Would you believe this photo was taken just yesterday…

Inside this unheated hoophouse the smell of sweet, springtime soil fills the moist air!

Raking out hoophouse soil to prepare for late winter crop sowing

Over the past three years —cooking more at home and experimenting in my kitchen— I’ve become more and more interested in four-season vegetable gardening. And although I haven’t made the leap to a heated greenhouse yet, I’ve found that with proper timing, I can keep some crops going in my hoophouses year round. Greens sown in late fall will germinate and then continue to grow (albeit much more slowly) throughout the short, cold days of winter. Tender crops are out of the question of course, but tasty root vegetables sown in early autumn can be harvested from cold houses straight into the new year. Seedlings require light to grow —10-12 hours of daylight is a good rule of thumb— so the sowing of seed is suspended during the weeks leading up to —and about a month and a half after– the winter solstice. But come late January, February and March —when the days are getting longer, and sunlight is getting stronger — I can begin sowing cold-hardy, late winter crops in my unheated hoophouses, for early spring harvest. Yesterday I planted a variety of greens in house #3 (arugula, chard, spinach, lettuce and mesclun mix), and I pulled spent crops and turned soil in house #1 to prepare for more planting (carrots, radishes and other crops) on my next free afternoon. If you are interested in learning more about the four-season harvest and winter vegetable gardening, I highly recommend Eliot Coleman’s books. And if you’d like to build a hoophouse of your own this spring (I now have four, with three currently in use) click here for basic plans. I’m hoping to upgrade to a larger, walk-in cold house this year.

Hoophouses protecting early fall-sown crops in late December, just before the snow (automatic back vents help moderate temperatures)

Sowing crops in hoophouse #3: Mid-February

Gardening in winter is all about science, but it sure feels like magic when you can reach your hand into sweet, sun-warmed earth on a cold and windy day. And it’s even more spectacular when you’re enjoying your own salad greens and root vegetables —harvested from an icy, snow-covered garden— at dinner in January and February. Winter pasta with fresh arugula, root-cellared onions and olive-oil preserved, sun-dried tomatoes —all from the garden— now that is priceless…

Arugula harvested from the hoophouse

Pasta with freshly harvested arugula — plus caramelized onions, braided & stored in the root cellar and sun-dried tomatoes, preserved in olive oil— all from the garden…

Here’s the potager, with house #1 and #2 buried by nearly 3′ of snow and ice. I still can’t believe they didn’t collapse. And yes, I shoveled them out all by myself. Sadly, Alfred hasn’t left Batman for me yet. I can’t figure out why…

Mountains of shoveling…

Followed by more shoveling…

And bringing in wood…

But who wouldn’t appreciate the beauty that makes it all worthwhile…

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Article and photos ⓒ Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

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Seasonal Prelude: The Scent of Spring…

February 17th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

Forced Blossoms: The Intoxicating Scent of Narcissus ‘Grand Soleil d’Or’

Remember the fragrance of spring; warm air carrying the sweet perfume of new blossoms on the breeze? Distracted by day dreams of earth-scented pathways; chilly melt-water gurgling up from stone?  Finding yourself stalking the swollen buds of witch hazel, viburnum, azalea and other fragrant, flowering shrubs? Take heart, friends… She’s coming. The garden’s tender love letters are waiting for her; ready to burst open and unfold their sweet adoration… All for Spring.

Narcissus ‘Grand Soleil d’Or’ is one of the most exquisite scents of springtime. The sweet perfume of the blossoms fills my studio entryway with fresh fragrance…

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For a tutorial on how to force Narcissus (as shown in photos above), click here.

For a tutorial on how to force spring-blooming tree and shrub branches, click here.

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Article and photos are ⓒ Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

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Winter’s Quiet Beauty: Soft, Powdery Mornings & Misty Mountain Tops…

February 12th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

Mist Rising in the Snow-Covered, Green River Valley

Try as I might, I can think of nothing more peaceful than the quiet stillness of Vermont’s misty, snow-covered mountains at first light…

White-Coated Conifers Frame the View to the North

The Snowy Still at Woodland’s Edge

A Dusting of Snow Traces the Outline of Every Tiny Branch

Article and photos are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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

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

Tsuga canadensis – Native Canadian Hemlock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Article and photos are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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