Create A Glowing Garden in Any Season: Handmade Tin Luminarias…

February 7th, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

Tin Luminarias Glowing on the Winter Garden Path

A few years ago, I attended a beautiful winter party at a friend’s house. She took the time to make the night special, and I will always remember the warmth and glow of her house, lit from within by hundreds of candles, as I arrived on that cold evening. It was breathtaking.

I also like to surprise the people I care about with visual treats. Creating a memorable occasion needn’t be expensive or labor intensive, but it does require a bit of planning. When I have a group of friends over for dinner, or even for a more intimate tete-a-tete, I like to set the mood by illuminating the garden walkway as well as the house. In summer, when winds are lighter, it’s easy to simply set out votives or pillar candles for a pretty glow. But in autumn and winter, the wind easily extinguishes candles unless they are protected. Sometimes I will make ice-lanterns or rolled paper bags with sand to create traditional luminarias. But I am always on the lookout for something new.

While cleaning my basement last month, I found a stack of aluminum flashing leftover from the construction of my studio. I love playing around with sheet metal of all kinds, so I brought the stack upstairs and waited for inspiration to strike. Last week, while having dinner at a local Mexican restaurant, I noticed some pretty punched-tin stars hanging from the rafters. They gave me the idea for these easy-to-make tin luminarias. I put together 5 of them in less than an hour, (see directions below), and I think I will make an entire box to decorate the front walkway for my next party. Now I just need to invent an occasion and hope for clear weather! Pushed into the snow or gravel along a path, I think the lanterns are beautiful – glowing and sparkling like a starry sky…

Trio of Tin Luminarias ⓒ Michaela Medina – thegardenerseden.com

Materials list:

Aluminum flashing in 5″ x 7″ strips or a long roll, (available in hardware stores)

Galvanized steel wire (I used 24 gauge)

An awl, hole punch or another sharp, pointed object

Hammer

Scrap wood for work surface

Votive candles

Directions:(click to enlarge any photo)

Gather materials and select two pieces of aluminum flashing, (or one long piece). Punch holes evenly along the sides as shown, (I doubled up pieces for matching, evenly spaced holes. Then, randomly punch holes on the surface, (or in patterns or shapes). Stitch together two pieces of aluminum with steel wire as shown, (or if you are using a single cut piece from a roll, then make a tube shape and stitch together the sides). Roll the tube to connect the ends and stitch together the other side. After you have finished, twist the ends in a loop and tuck to the sides. Set outdoors, pushing the bottom into the soil, gravel or snow,  and fill with lit votive candles…

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Photo ⓒ Michaela Medina – thegardenerseden.com

Article and photographs © 2010 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 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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Taking Better Photos of Your Garden: Guest Post by Ted Dillard…

February 1st, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Photo ⓒ Ted Dillard

Of all the questions and comments I receive via this blog, email and through this site’s Facebook Page, the most common by far are related to photography. I am a new, amateur photographer, (that is a nice way of saying that I have no idea of what I am doing), and when I have questions about how to take better photographs or what equipment to buy, or how to use it, I usually consult with my professional photographer friends. And, I am very lucky, because one of my dearest friends just so happens to be the brilliant photographer Ted Dillard. Accomplished artist, teacher, and author, Ted is also remarkably generous with his time and talents.

Taking a good photograph is not only a pure pleasure, but it is also a valuable skill – and it needn’t be difficult. So, here to provide us with a few expert tips is the multi-talented Ted Dillard. For further reading, I highly recommend Ted’s series of books for the digital photographer.

Thank you Ted Dillard !

Ted’s Top Ten Twelve Tips for better (Garden!) Photographs

It’s funny, for all the times I’ve been asked what the best camera is to buy, I think I can count on one hand the times someone as asked, “How can I take better pictures?”  For one thing, it’s not a simple answer, it depends so much on so many intangible things.  The funny thing is, though, the impact of the photographs ultimately has very little to do with the choice of camera.

That said, there are some pretty universal tips that almost any photographer should keep in mind, and even the most experienced of us occasionally overlook.  Whether you’re taking photographs of your kids, your vacation, or your cherished gardens, or a commercial assignment, these are some basic suggestions you should always keep in mind.  After we cover the basics, I’ve added a few especially for the gardeners.

 

1. It takes light to make a photograph.

Back in the days of film, we were always trying to “push” the ISO- overdeveloping the film to compensate for underexposing it.  It dawned on me one day that you do, in fact, have to have some light hit the film, or the sensor, to make a photograph.  Photograph means, from the Latin, “picture from light” after all…

Add light, wait for light, turn the lights on, whatever you need to do to avoid shooting in the dark.  Even with cameras rated at ISO 3200+, you still need some light to make the photograph.  Without going into the technical details of it, even new cameras with astronomical ISO settings are essentially starting with very little information, or image data, and stretching it out, making “holes” as they go. Think “pizza dough” here.

2. Hold the camera steady.

You can have the best optics ever made, but if the camera is moving then the image is moving on the sensor, even just a little bit.  Get a good tripod, and by that I mean a good BIG tripod.  Tripods need mass to fight vibration and movement, if your tripod is too light and too small it’s just going to blow in the wind.  Literally.  The closer you shoot to your subject, the more important this is, and if you’re shooting blossoms that’s pretty darned close.

3. Put your money into the lens.

For the most part, whatever is catching the image, whether it’s film or a sensor, it is designed to capture what the absolute best lens made for it can produce.  You want to see what your camera can do?  Give it the best lens you can afford, and it will thank you.  A great lens on a cheaper sensor is like running a car at it’s optimum tuning- you won’t be able to see what it can do until you set it up right. A great sensor with a cheap lens is like driving your car dragging a piano.  For shooting close-up, or macro, there’s nothing in the world so sweet as a true “macro” lens- a lens designed to focus at inches away from the subject.

4. Clean your lens.

The biggest enemy of clarity, sharpness and contrast in a photograph is lens flare.  Fingerprints, dirt, dust on a lens is the single best way to make lens flare happen.  Seen the iPhone “Vaseline effect”?  That’s what happens when you try to take a picture through a lens with a big smudgy peanut butter fingerprint, and that’s what I’m talking about. It doesn’t matter if you’re shooting with your phone or the most expensive digital camera.  The lens has to be clean.

5. Shade your lens.

One more time- the biggest enemy of clarity, sharpness and contrast in a photograph is lens flare.  Light hitting the lens glass directly, whether it’s the sun, or just reflections of bright objects nearby, are the second best way to create lens flare.  Almost every technological development in lens design in the past 50 years had been to combat and minimize lens flare, and the single most effective way to eliminate it is to use the most basic tool.  A lens shade.

I can’t overstate this simple point.  I see it constantly, people even shooting with a built-in lens shade and not using it.  For some reason it seems like it doesn’t matter, and people just don’t bother with it.  It does matter.  If the sun is hitting your glass, or even any bright light source- the sky, snow, reflections from other objects- it will degrade the quality of your photograph.  Shade that lens.

6. Look at the light.  Wait for the light.  Control the light.

A good photographer sees and controls the light, many novice photographers seem to think they’re at the mercy of “available” light.  Even if it means waiting an hour for the sun to go down, moving a reflector in to open up some shadows, or bringing in an entire studio of artificial lighting equipment, you’re always either in control if the light, or at the mercy of it.  “Photographers are painters who paint with light.” (Richard Brautigan)

Learning to work with available light, and control artificial light is probably one of the most challenging yet rewarding things you can work with to improve your photographs…  and it’s a lifelong challenge, but one of the most rewarding in all of photography.

7. Background.  It’s all about the background.

When you’re taking pictures you often see your subject with tunnel vision.  You focus on, and just see what you’re looking at and not what’s behind it.  Slow down and look for a few of the typical big distractions- strong shapes, bright colors, things that don’t separate from the subject.  (Hint: using a large aperture -lens wide open, f2.0 for example- makes things in the background go out of focus, blurring backgrounds and diminishing distractions, but more on that later.)  Once you have your subject framed, and you’re ready to snap the picture, stop yourself and look at the background.

8. Compose the photograph.

Again, with the tunnel vision.  When most people look through a viewfinder they’re seeing what they want to take pictures of.  You need to see the picture, instead of what you’re taking the picture of.  The whole picture.  You know how you always see shots of the baby, the dog, Grammy, and they’re smack in the middle of the picture, I mean dead center?  That’s what I’m talking about.

Look at the whole frame, look at what you can include and what you can eliminate to make an interesting composition.  Control the viewer’s eye.

9. If in doubt, take more pictures.

My Dad used to say, out of all the money you’ve spent on everything, film is cheap. There’s no excuse for not shooting enough film.  Now that we’re shooting pixels, there’s even more truth to that.  Try different angles, different distances, even just try shots that you don’t think work.  If you think you have the shot, that’s the time to force out a few more frames.  I can’t tell you how many times the best shots were in those last few, after you think you’ve got the shot, but just want to try some options to “see what happens”.

10. Take more pictures anyway.

See above.

My Grandfather was speaking once, showing his photographs to a Boston Camera Club group.  He got the question, “How did you know that would make a great photograph, and how did you know how to shoot it so you’d capture it so beautifully?”  His answer- from taking shot after shot after shot, for years and years… experience.  Nothing can make up for taking the pictures.  And he was shooting with a big old view camera with film that came in sheets.  One shot at a time.

Take more pictures.  If nothing more than to give yourself more experience, more of a foundation to work with.

That’s the basic list, but here are a few more tips just for you gardeners…

One of the secrets to making great photographs of blossoms and blooms is in controlling your “depth of field”.  This is a photography term simply referring to how much of your image is in focus.  Typically, flower and plant close-up shots have a shallow depth of field, or, simply, not much other than the subject itself is in crisp focus.  This is something that you control with your lens opening, (also called f-stop or aperture).  The smaller the lens opening, f22, for example, the more depth of field, and most of the frame will be in focus.  The larger the opening, f3.5, for example, (and yes, bigger openings are smaller f numbers), the shallower the focus. Take a look at this post, linking to a great Wikipedia explanation and demonstration of the effects of different lens openings.

It’s a great start to beginning to visualize what happens when you control the aperture.  Keep in mind, you have to balance the lens opening and the shutter speed to get a perfect exposure.  Open up the lens, you have to shorten the shutter speed, and vice-versa.  Using the Auto Exposure setting “A”, for aperture priority, you can select a large aperture and let the camera adjust the shutter speed accordingly.   Probably the simplest way to start to understand this is simply to put the camera on a tripod, focus on your favorite blossom, and switch the camera to “A” mode.  Set the aperture from one extreme (wide open, probably f2 or 3.5) to the other (full stop, f16 or 22) and look at the results on your computer.  It’ll be pretty obvious what’s happening.

The other bit of advice- use a camera that has these controls.  I know I said that the camera doesn’t matter so much, and that’s true, but if you are running a camera that allows you this kind of control- selection of exposure modes, and even manual focus and exposure, then it makes things a lot easier.  I’d recommend almost any Digital SLR, or “DSLR”.  The good news is, you can get into a system like that for little over $500, and we have several reviews of cameras like this at our Head-2-Head Reviews site. One of my favorite matchups is the Nikon D5000 and the Canon T1i– (I ended up with the Nikon for myself…  LOVE that camera, and it uses all my old Nikon lenses.)

A little side note, and a step down the notorious (digital) primrose path…  If you do go with a camera like any of these DSLRs, chances are you’ll have the option to shoot “RAW” files instead of JPEG format.  If you’re interested in getting the absolute most out of your camera, RAW files take you to the next level of image quality.  You need to use a program like Adobe’s Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, or Lightroom to take full advantage of the RAW file, but it will make a world of difference it the end result.  My book RAW Pipeline is a great overview of getting started with shooting and processing RAW.

Ted Dillard – RAW Pipeline

There you have it. It’s a start, and hopefully these little tips will help you make better photographs.  Don’t for a second think that almost every pro photographer who’s reading this isn’t, at one point or another saying to themselves, jeesh, I know, I should try harder to do that all the time…

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Article and Photographs in this feature are © Ted Dillard, all rights reserved.

For further information about photographer and teacher Ted Dillard, please visit his website:

Ted Dillard – Support for the Digital Photographer

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Thank you Ted, for all of your generous help, support and advice !

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is © The Gardener’s Eden. All rights reserved.

All Site Photography Is Taken With Canon Powershot G Series Cameras from Amazon.com

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Lush Foliage for Low-Light Rooms : Terrarium Bowls Continued …

January 14th, 2010 § 7 comments § permalink

A pedestal-bowl terrarium filled with Adiantum, (Maidenhair fern), Calathea lanceolata and Selanginella kraussiana, (Club moss), warms up a modern metallic vanity in the powder room…

Grey. Grey. Grey. Today the sky is one big, dull, expanse of monochromatic ash. On days like this, with thick, low clouds and no sunshine to be found, low-light rooms inside the house can seem particularly dark. Even the sunniest of homes usually have a few shadowy spaces, and although the hard metal finishes in modern bathrooms, and cool-colored interior walls may sparkle on sunny days, in the dead-of winter, this kind of decor can leave you cold. These gloomy spots always seem to benefit from a splash of lush, verdant color.

Houseplants can add natural warmth to indoor spaces, particularly those with modern, minimalist designs. Sleek materials, like stainless steel and glass, are easily enlivened with a touch of green foliage. True, dark rooms can be a challenge for indoor gardening – cactus, herbs and succulents will wither in dank spaces. But filtered light will support many beautiful foliage plants, such as ferns and moss, and a few blooming tropicals, (including African violets, begonias and orchids).

Terrariums are a great way to display rainforest tropicals and shade loving plants of all kinds. Humidity tends to be higher in bathrooms, making this room the perfect place for moisture-seeking plants. My tiny first-floor powder room was looking particularly gloomy last week, so I put together an open terrarium in a glass-pedestal bowl. This wasn’t an expensive project, in fact the total cost, including both plants and glass bowl, came to $16. This terrarium, (pictured in my bathroom in the photo at top), includes maidenhair fern, (Adiantum), calathea, (C. lanceolata), and club moss, (Selanginella kraussiana), all purchased from The Old Schoolhouse Plantery, just down the road. I love how this tiny bowl completely changes the mood of my metallic little space.

Over the holidays, I made a low-light terrarium gift for my sister, (pictured below). This large, thick-glass bowl is filled with an African violet, (Saintpaulia), club moss, (Selanginella kraussiana), and a beautiful begonia called ‘Kit Kat’. I added a clear glitter ball, (from Michael’s craft store), for a bit of sparkle. My sister lives in an old New England home, with many dark, interior rooms. Low-light plants like begonias thrive in these conditions. However, wood-stoves and dry heating-systems can make for a challenging house-plant environment. This is where terrariums come in particularly handy. Glass-houses, even tiny ones, hold moisture and increase the humidity in the terrarium’s micro-climate. Although open-bowl planters require more attention than closed, cloche-style or Wardian case terrariums, they have a few advantages. Begonias, and certain other plants, can sometimes suffer from mold in an excessively moist, closed terrarium. Since my sister has a new baby to care for, I wanted to give her a relatively easy-to-care for gift. We’ll check in to see how she rates it in a few more weeks.

When designing indoor containers for dimly-lit room, it helps to pay attention to foliage texture and pattern. Try to select a few different textures; combining smooth, lacey, velvety, and/or hairy leaves for contrast. Also have a look at leaf-pattern. To my eye, leaves can be even more spectacular than bloom. Colored veining, bold stripes and splotches, and tonal variation are all things to look for in plants. Begonia, viola, peperomia, calathea and pilea are all easy to come by in greenhouses, and offer a wide range of foliage color and texture. I like to use ferns to lighten-up the look of a terrarium, (particularly the maidenhair ferns), and mosses of all kinds add a velvety touch to a glass container. Glass balls, mirrors, prisms and other sparkly details can also help to catch light and reflect color in a dark space.

For instructions on how to create a terrarium, and for helpful resources and more ideas, you can travel back to my earlier posts, “Bringing Nature’s Beauty Indoors: Terrariums Part One…“, and “…Part Two“. Stay tuned for more indoor gardening projects to make your winter a bit more lush…

A terrarium-bowl filled with Begonia ‘Kit Kat’, Saintpaulia, (African violet), Selaginella kraussiana, (Club moss), and a sparkle-ball accent

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Article and photographs ⓒ 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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It’s Fiesta Time & A Cactus Bowl Centerpiece adds Life to a Party …

December 28th, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

Cactus bowl centerpiece with desert rocks and decorative straw flowers…

It’s fiesta time in my kitchen. I am planning a holiday party with a menu of Mexican-inspired dishes. To set the mood for margarita sipping and chip dipping, I decided to create a celebratory cactus-bowl centerpiece. Making a dry, table-top garden filled with desert plants is a fun and inexpensive indoor gardening project, (total cost was less than $10). And the best part? This little planter will add a low-maintenance touch of life to a desktop or dresser long after the party is over…

A bowl of cactus is modern and pretty in any room…

To create my cactus bowl, I found a shallow container large enough to accommodate a few inexpensive cacti, (such as fairy castles and barrel cactus found for $1 – $2.50 at Home Depot). You can use any kind of planter; from terracotta to glass to tin – and beyond. The bowl pictured here does not contain a drainage hole. So, I filled the bottom with an inch of pea gravel and lined the sides with sand. In the center of the bowl, I added a layer of cactus potting soil, (a special mix created for good drainage, you can find it anywhere plants are sold), and then I positioned the plants, (I kept the plastic pots on for the designing part)…

Removing cacti from pots can be a painful process if you aren’t careful ! A good solution is to use a thick, smooth towel or a paper-collar to protect both your hands and the plant as you slip it from the plastic nursery-pot. Be sure to warn any young helpers and guests to your home – cactus look soft and tempting to little hands ! OUCH !

Once the plants are positioned, the spaces between cacti were filled with fast-draining potting soil, (a kitchen spoon is helpful with little projects like this). The top and edges of the planter were mulched with decorative sand and pea stone, (also found at Home Depot). To add an authentic desert touch, I added a few colorful stones from my rock collection, (gathered on various trips to the southwest)…

 

Add a few chile lights, some salsa on the playlist, hot tapas, chilled margaritas – and you have a party ! Isn’t it amazing what a few plants can do to change your mood !

Article and all photographs are copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent.

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Bringing Nature’s Beauty Indoors: Terrariums Part Two…

December 19th, 2009 § 16 comments § permalink

A tiny Phalaenopsis orchid , (‘The White Moth’) , displayed in an open terrarium lined with pea stone/charcoal mix, and filled with a bed of bark, sphagnum and sheet moss…

Last week in ‘Terrariums Part One‘, I went over basic instructions demonstrating how terrariums are constructed, and introducing terrarium-newcomers to the beautiful, fascinating world of miniature conservatories. Starting with a simple terrarium, such as the native plant design I featured last week, is a good idea if you have never experimented with terrariums before, or if you are working with young children. However if you have already had some success with basic terrariums and houseplants, and you want to experiment with more unusual tropical plants or something a bit more challenging, you may be ready to move on to some less-typical interpretations of this indoor display method. Whether you go with a classic or a more modern design, keep in mind that a homemade terrarium is both an economical and memorable gift, and there is still plenty of time to come up with something truly special before Christmas…

Open bowl-style terrarium and a blown-glass bulb amid pink polka dot plant, (Hypoestes phyllostachya), purple velvet plant, (Gynura aurantiaca), and golden hair grass (Deschampsia flexuosa ‘Tatra gold’) All plants featured here are from: The Old School House Plantery

Begin by letting your imagination run wild. There are as many kinds of terrariums as there are people creating them. Terrariums may be open or closed, short and wide or tall and narrow. They may be made of solid glass, acrylic or plastic, or they can be combined with other materials, such as wood or steel. Some tiny greenhouses are smaller than lemons; others take up entire rooms. I have seen absolutely stunning, miniature conservatories made from recycled or even antique glass containers, and I have been amazed by more modern, architectural terrariums constructed from sheets of clear acrylic. Some designers like to add tiny collectibles, such as doll furniture or figurines to their designs. Other creative adornments might include itty-bitty flower pots, toy cars, prisms or glass balls. It is endless. The plants contained within terrariums also vary wildly. Naturally, your choices are limited by a wide variety of situational conditions and circumstances; including plant availability, budget, design, mature specimen size in relation to container, as well as ease of maintenance. There are also cultural requirements to consider; a few of which include humidity preferences, drainage and soil structure and chemistry.

Many plants will thrive within a moist, humid terrarium environment. In fact some, including many of my favorite orchids, actually perform better in my dry, winter home when contained within glass. The tiny moth orchid, (Phalaeonopsis), pictured at the top of this post, ($9 at Home Depot), is happily growing in a mixture of bark and sphagnum moss. Drainage is provided by a mix of pea stone and charcoal at the bottom of the container. Phalaeonopsis thrive in warm, moist conditions. Elevated humidity is provided by a tall, wide glass vase, (found at Target for $12), which holds water and reduces evaporation.

On the other hand many plants, including most alpines, cacti, succulents and herbs, tend to wither and rot in low light and dampness. But given the right container and growing conditions, some of these plants may be grown in glass planters as well. Of course, more exacting personalities might argue that wide-mouthed, glass pedestal bowls do not technically qualify as a terrariums. I encourage you to expand on these old-fashioned definitions, and to explore the concept of the modern terrarium. Although succulents are not good candidates for closed conservatories, they do make fantastic additions to open glass bowls – particularly the urn-shaped vessels intended for candy and fruit display….

A modern interpretation of the classic terrarium: non-traditional, dramatic succulents contained within a delicate glass pedestal bowl. All featured plants : The Old School House Plantery

I created a lovely succulent bowl, similar to the one above, to give as a holiday gift this year. I liked it so much that I ended up making this one for myself. I selected a glass pedestal bowl intended for fruit display, ($9 at Target), and lined the bottom and sides with polished black stone, both for practical drainage and decorative drama. The center well was slowly filled with a good potting mix and plants. Designing a terrarium or glass planter is no different from any other garden design project. Color, texture, shape, structural density and form always come into play when designing with plants. I wanted to make this classic shaped bowl a bit modern. Many succulents have bold, geometric shapes, so they seemed like the perfect choice. I love the contrast of these thick-fleshed, colorful plants against the clear, delicate glass. For my vertical element I chose stately snake plant, (Sanseveria trifasiata ‘Laurentii’), and for the mounded, central feature, I chose one large and another small Mexian rose, (Echeveria ‘Pearl’). The trio of plants is softened by the trailing, delicate beauty of variegated elephant bush, (Portulacaria afra variegata). Perhaps stalwarts of terrarium design will brush this combination off as merely a conventional planting. But I think this modern terrarium-hybrid lies somewhere between, and defies hard-line definitions.

Of course, before you begin assembling your glass container plantings, there are a few things to keep in mind. Knowing something about your plant’s natural environment and cultural preference is the key to horticultural success under any circumstances. You can find this information by looking the plant up online or in an encyclopedia, (see library page for good reference books). If you provide a plant with what it wants and needs, odds are much better that it will reward you with lasting beauty and long life. But remember that half the fun of gardening, inside or out, is experimentation. This is an art as well as a science, so have fun and be creative. If your plantings start to look a bit lack-luster, you can always re-configure your arrangements and/or swap containers. I move plants around all the time!

I will be back with more terrarium resources, tips and ideas, as well as other indoor gardening projects soon. In the meantime, some great ideas for terrariums and indoor-plants may be found in Tova Martin’s fabulous new book The New Terrarium: Creating Beautiful Displays for Plants and Nature, and/or Diana Yakeley’s beautifully photographed title, Indoor Gardening. Together with a gift certificate from a local greenhouse, either of these books would make an unexpected, much appreciated gift for novice and expert gardeners alike.

All plants pictured are from : The Old School House Plantery

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Article and photographs ⓒ 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!

Find a Beautiful Terrarium, Container and/or Supplies at Viva Terra or Terrain…

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The Dawn of Winter: December Notes from Ferncliff…

December 17th, 2009 § 3 comments § permalink

Winter Dawn

Winter’s Dawn at Ferncliff

The morning after a storm. Silent. Pristine. After months of drowsy, frost-covered mornings, at long last the garden has fallen to sleep. Lulled by a by a shifting blanket of snow, the flowers have all drifted away now; their pods empty; stalks broken. Summer’s song is hushed; notes frozen in chilly stillness. A long winter’s night lies ahead. Sleep tight Callicarpa. Stay warm beneath your mulch, toad lily. I’ve tucked you in with care – very tightly.  Soon the forest will howl and snap, ushering in Winter’s sharp, bitter cold…

Microbiota in snow storm

Russian cypress, (Microbiota decussata), lines the path to the north meadow…

Ilex verticillata in snow

Ilex verticillata, ‘Red sprite’ sparkles in the morning snow…

forest in snow storm

The native forest caught in a snow squall…

fountain grass and sedum in snow

Shadows play upon the snow and bleached remains of fountain grass…

chair and basket

Snow coats rusty patterns – sharp, steel slats and curved lines…

miscanthus sinensis close up in snow

Impossibly delicate, tiny snowflakes cling to tufts on ornamental grass…

miscanthus sinensis in snow storm

The hardy perennials remain standing, swaying in the snow…

entry garden, first snow

The entry garden plantings continue to add color and texture to the landscape, and in the background, eastern hemlock stands stately, newly cloaked in white…

echinacea, rudbeckia and miscanthus in winter

Garden remnants in light and shadow…

cotoneaster in snow

Cotoneaster, still holding plump, ripe fruit, cascades down the retaining wall…

Hydrangea paniculata lime light in snow

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ rests in a bed of snow…

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Article and photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. Please do not use my words or pictures without contacting me first. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardner’s Eden, and may not be used or reproduced without express written permission. Inspired by something 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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Bringing Nature’s Beauty Indoors: Terrariums Part One…

December 11th, 2009 § 12 comments § permalink

A seasonal terrarium filled with North American forest plants…

I am very fortunate to live and work surrounded by gardens. Even in winter, nature is part of my everyday life. But not everyone is so lucky. Some of us have friends and family members working in city high rises, crowded into sterile offices or lifeless cubicles. As gardeners, I’d like to think that we can alter this situation, especially around the holidays, by bringing a little bit of nature into these people’s lives. A few years back a friend of mine gave a magical, mist-covered terrarium as a birthday gift to a mutual acquaintance. This gorgeous garden-behind-glass, filled with ferns and moss, inspired me to create one for a nature-lover I know; one sadly trapped inside a concrete jungle.

I have loved building mini-greenhouses ever since grade school, when they were a big fad with my friends. Although terrariums disappeared for awhile, I am happy to report that this indoor gardening trend has returned – and with a vengeance ! Terrariums are all the rage right now. The popular craft and decorating blog Design * Sponge has been running spots on glass covered terrarium ornaments and even haunted ‘terror-ariums’ for months, and suddenly it seems that tiny greenhouses are turning up everywhere from trendy restaurants and hotel lobbies to libraries and classrooms. With the surge in terrarium popularity, you might think that keeping plants beneath glass is a new idea. But small-scale, glass covered gardens have gone in and out of fashion for centuries. The Victorians were particularly elaborate, designing exquisite table-top greenhouses and free-standing conservatories in miniature, (usually fashioned from plate glass and forged iron). These days, we are seeing everything from itty-bitty, hanging glass-globe-gardens to enormous, sculptural terrariums; masterful works of art and horticultural science.

Creating a basic terrarium is very simple, and it’s a fun project for kids and adults alike. All you need to begin is a glass jar with a lid, a bag of pea gravel, sphagnum moss, potting soil, a spray-bottle filled with water, and a selection of rocks, bark, sticks and plants. Holiday conservatories, filled with birch bark, native moss, ferns and partridge berry look particularly lovely centered on a dining table or grouped together on a mantel. Terrarium design is limited only by your own imagination! For inspiration, I love Tovah Martin’s book, The New Terrarium, pictured below…

Tovah Martin BookThe New Terrarium: Creating Beautiful Displays for Plants and Nature

To build a simple terrarium like the one I made, (pictured at the top of this article), begin by locating a clear glass container with a lid. The smaller one pictured here is an Anchor Hocking 3 quart, glass kitchen canister. You can find these at most department and craft store, or order them through the various links below. If you are planting your first terrarium, or if you are working with school-aged children, I recommend starting with simple containers or jars. If you are making a holiday gift, or feeling more adventurous, then by all means get more creative with antique apothecary jars, glass cake domes, or specialty terrarium containers.

Now, just follow the simple steps below…

terrariums, gathered woodland materials

Step one: Purchase pea gravel or aquarium stone, sphagnum moss, (for native plants I also recommend peat moss), and good, dry potting soil, (you can get all of these things at a local home store like Home Depot). Collect decorative materials such as stones, bark, twigs, and pine cones from nature or purchase these types of items from a craft store. Select and buy small plants from a local greenhouse/florist or through online resources. Cover the table top with newspaper before you begin – this is a messy project !

terrarium stage one base

Step two: Fill the bottom of the glass container with about an inch of pea stone gravel. This is important for drainage, but you really only need a bit to cover the bottom. You can get more creative, as you gain experience…

terrariums stage 2 sphagnum sheet moss

Step Three: Add a layer of sphagnum moss, (sometimes called sheet moss), to hold in the soil and retain moisture. This is optional, but I find it helps the terrarium remain neat. You can also add horticultural charcoal to keep the jar fresh, but it isn’t necessary, (I skipped this for my holiday terrariums)…

terrarium stage 3

Step Four: Add potting soil,(and peat moss if you are planting acid-loving natives like ferns and moss). Make a mound so that the plants in the center will be visible from all sides…

terrarium stage 4

Step Five: Add bark bits here and there, and wet down the contents of the jar thoroughly with a water-filled spray mister, like the one shown above. Let the contents settle for a few minutes and then add your plants. For my native terrarium, I added club moss,(Lycopodium), partridge berry, (Mitchella), and a forest moss called Dicranella. I also scattered tiny pine cones and birch bark in the jar to make the woodsy scene more realistic. Mist your terrarium thoroughly after planting and cover with the glass lid. Check your plants over the next few days and water with your mister if they seem dry.

You are finished ! Terrariums need very little maintenance. They are the perfect project for new indoor-gardeners. All you need to do is check on them once a month or so, and add water if necessary. Once terrariums are established, they can go months without any attention at all. Humidity and condensation inside the jar will generally keep things alive and well.

Below I have pasted some jar photos to give you some container ideas. But if you have the time, let your creative mind be your guide. Once you begin, you may find yourself catching terrarium-mania. I know I have. In fact, I am headed to my local greenhouse tomorrow for some tropical inspiration. Next week I will share what I find for my larger table-top terrarium. You can go wild with all kinds of plants from African violets and orchids to exotic ferns and moss. I will be back with more terrarium plants, containers and ideas soon…

Container ideas and links…

Glass Cake Cover with Dome

This glass cake cover with a dome lid, ($39.99 from Target),  makes a beautiful terrarium…

Glass Cake Dome

This one from Anchor Hocking at Amazon has a more open lip. A Low ceiling like this means you will be limited to tiny plants, such as moss and miniature ferns…

1 gallon terrariumSmaller, 1 Gallon Sized Terrariums Make Lovely Gifts

Glass Apothocary JarApothecary jars make lovely terrariums. They are available in many sizes. You can seek them out in antique shops or buy them new.

Anchor Hocking 3 Quart Apothocary Jar w:lid

A 3-Quart clear jar will make a nice sized terrarium. The top lid makes for easy maintenance…

Find more sophisticated and advanced terrarium ideas on the Indoor Eden page at left.

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Sowing the Seeds of a Gardening Future: Great Holiday Gift Books to Nurture the Little Green Thumbs in Your Life…

December 7th, 2009 § 4 comments § permalink

miss-rumphius

Late this fall, I was helping my client and friend Leah design and install a perennial garden at her home, (if you read this blog regularly you will recall that Leah loaned me a copy of The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World, by Michael Pollan, turning me on to the author’s book). Leah has a beautiful son named Sam and she is also expecting another child very soon – any day in fact. My own sister brought a little boy named Morgan into the world this past August. You may have read a post I wrote about him earlier during the fall bulb planting season, “I Believe in the Promise of Tomorrow“. Morgan was a newborn when I began working with Leah, and as result she and I spent quite a bit of time talking about children and gardening. Leah is quite keen on creating a space that is both attractive and child-friendly for her youngsters, (little Sam displayed quite an interest in helping his mom dig while I was visiting!). I delighted in everything about Leah’s philosophy, from her interest in native plants and wildlife, to her unabashed love of botanical beauty. Often my clients become friends, and they almost always give me as much as I give them. This is very much the case with Leah.

A few weeks after we finished planting the last of her perennials, a package arrived in my mailbox. When I opened it, I was surprised at the beautiful book that slipped into my hands. Leah sent a copy of Barbara Cooney’s Miss Rumphius as a gift for my nephew Morgan, but the book immediately captured my own interest and touched me very deeply. Is it possible that the young Miss Rumphius bears more than a passing resemblance to yours truly? It could be. Perhaps that is why I found the book so moving. But more apropos to this blog, the story touches upon all of our deep-rooted need for connection to the natural world and our universal desire for beauty. Although the book is recommended for children aged 3 – 8, I clearly enjoyed it myself !

Leah and Barbara Cooney’s fictional character, Miss Rumphius, got me thinking about the importance of inspirational and educational gardening books for children. After all, many of us develop our life-long interests at a young age. If this generation of parents, (or grandparents or friends or relatives), wishes to nurture a love of nature and gardening in the next generation, there is no better way to begin than with great stories and hands-on educational books. I hope you will consider a garden-inspired gift for the children in your life this holiday season. Together with a packet or two of seed, (and perhaps a terrarium or even a worm farm for older children), these books can truly become gifts that keep on giving. Gardening often becomes not only a skill, but a passion that lasts a lifetime.

So as we move into the gift-giving season, I thought I should pass along some personal recommendations for the youngest gardeners in your life. I am quite familiar with all of these titles – in fact some are dog-eared favorites from my own childhood. These books are a delight to read as well as to behold, both for children and the adults guiding them…

Ruth Krauss 'The Carrot Seed'

One of my favorite stories, Ruth Krauss‘s poetic book The Carrot Seed Board Book is a children’s classic written more than 60 years ago. The simple lessons of gardening and life contained within these pages are as timeless and beautiful today as they were when this book was written, so many years ago. I have ordered a copy to give to my 4 month old nephew, Morgan. This book is appropriate for reading to babies and toddlers, and as a beginning book for children learning to read…

The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle

I have also, always loved Eric Carle’s books. When I was a kid, I was fortunate enough to go to school with a little girl whose family actually knew this celebrated author. This lucky girl’s parents had Mr. Carle come to their house for her birthday one year, to draw pictures and read from his books. I am so glad I was invited to the party, for I will never forget the experience of watching this artist work his storytelling magic with a group of my seven-year-old friends. Now there are people who dislike Eric Carle’s books, (what could they be thinking?). Some critics insist that Carle takes liberties with scientific facts, and claim that he can sometimes be ‘dark’. Well – bah. As and artist and a gardener, I happen to adore Mr. Carle’s books, and I don’t care a whit about his botanical or entomological inaccuracies. We read Eric Carle for creative inspiration, not for scientific study; and for the imaginative child, his books are a delight beyond description. If you are looking for science, scroll to the titles below. And if you think your young child might be scared when reading about gobbled-up seeds, then wait a few years. But, I can not imagine sheltering a child from Eric Carle’s delightful stories forever, (disclaimer: I grew up reading and loving Edward Gorey – now that is dark). The Tiny Seed (World of Eric Carle) is a wonderful book about nature, as are many of Carle’s other titles, including my all time favorites, The Very Hungry Caterpillar: board book & CD, and The Very Busy Spider. They are all appropriate for kids 5 – 8…

roots shoot buckets and boots sharon lovejoy

Sharon Lovejoy is another inspirational and popular author of gardening books for children and adults. Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots: Gardening Together with Children, is my favorite. This wonderful hands-on book is great fun for children and grown-ups alike. A perfect gift for a slightly older child, (aged 4-8), combining this title with a few packets of seed and perhaps some indoor seed-starting trays, would make a great introductory gardening kit for any child in elementary school…

jacksgarden

Of course a children’s garden book written and illustrated by a science teacher is bound to be a fabulous teaching tool, but in the case of Jack’s Garden, author Henry Cole manages to do far more than educate – his book is truly magical inspiration. From the gorgeous drawings to the delightfully well-chosen words, this book will quickly enchant both children and adults. Henry has a rare gift, and if you would like to spark horticultural interest an elementary school children aged 4 – 8, this is a book is a great choice…

gardening_wizardry_for_kids

Gardening Wizardry for Kids by Patricia Kite is another excellent activity book, especially for restless kids looking for something to do with their hands over the winter months. Kite teaches children many indoor gardening skills through hands-on projects. Geared toward slightly older kids, (grades 4 – 6), it includes fun windowsill and kitchen experiments, including a few squiggly, wormy ones…

Gardening with Children

The last book on my list for today is the work of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, (see link in side bar at right under public gardens). The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is home to the oldest public garden for children in the United States, and this wonderful place is worth a visiting if you are anywhere in the Northeast. Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Gardening with Children (Brooklyn Botanic Garden All-Region Guide) is an excellent guide for young families learning how to garden. Even more experienced green thumbs will enjoy the beautiful illustrations in this book, while learning more about how to introduce botanical concepts to curious kids. I highly recommend this title as a gift for families with young children, especially if they are looking to explore gardening and science.

Enjoy your seasonal shopping, and Happy Holidays !

Michaela

All of these titles should be easy to find at a local book store, or through the links provided to Amazon.com. As a matter of personal integrity, I review all books and products from an strictly unbiased view-point, (I do not receive payment or product for review, of any kind). However, The Gardener’s Eden is an Amazon.com affiliate, and this site will receive a small percentage of any purchases you choose to make through the Amazon.com links here. With your help, these commission will help to pay for this site’s maintenance. Thank you for your support!

This article is 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 consent. Inspired by something 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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Walking in a Winter Wonderland …

December 1st, 2009 § 6 comments § permalink

ornamental grass, first snow

Sleigh bells ring… are you listening ?

“When it snows, ain’t it thrilling, though your nose gets a chilling? We’ll frolic and play the Eskimo way, walking in a winter wonderland”…

Welcome December !

Hellebores dusted with snow

Hellebores gleam and glimmer like stars in white glitter…

cotoneaster with snow

A branch of Cotoneaster, loaded with red berries, reminiscent of a ruby necklace, dusted with snow…

Beech stand, first snow...

The twinkling forest on a frosty morning…

Stone steps dusted in snow

The Secret Garden steps look as if someone carelessly ripped a bag of powdered sugar while sneaking sweets inside…

Ilex verticillata and Juniperus chinensis 'Sargentii' dusted in snow

Ilex verticillata ‘Red sprite’ and  Juniperus chinensis ‘Sargentii’ dusted with snow…

Juniperus horizontalis 'Wiltonii'

Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’,(‘Blue Rug’), could pass for fine white lace…

Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight'

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’, delicately powdered…

Heuchera seed with ice in November

Heuchera seed-pods with ice droplets, sparkle and gleam in morning light

Rodgersia dusted in snow

Rodgersia remnants strike a feminine pose beside the stone wall…

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“Winter Wonderland” melody by Dick Smith and Felix Bernard – 1934

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

All content on this site, (exclusive of notations), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced for any reason without express written permission. Inspired by something 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…

Thank you !

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The Empty Garden…

November 22nd, 2009 § Comments Off on The Empty Garden… § permalink

Acer palmatum x dissectum 'Seiryu' reflection

Autumn’s mirror…

Empty Nest November small size

The remains of a summer nest, now silent and still…

One evening last week a storm rolled in, and continued throughout the night. In the morning, when I woke, I found a different landscape. The trees all shook their leaves – dramatic and swift. Skeletons now stand where brightly colored canopies once filled the sky. A long night of wind-driven rain and suddenly it’s late fall. Clocks are turned back now, and the darkness falls early. On rainy afternoons, mist mingles with pale indigo twilight, and a mysterious haze hangs upon the woodland edge. As I walk along the gloomy paths, damp earth perfumes the naked forest with a musky odor. Moody and barren, my garden is slowly drifting off to sleep; littered with broken flowers and the echo of summer memories…

willow branches at twilight

Willow branches in the late autumn twilight…

Candle in wall

The rattling, skeletal remains of black snake root…

forest reflected

The forest, reflected…

Vines on the stonewall

Chilly Japanese hydrangea clings to grey stone.

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

Please do not take, use or reproduce my photographs or words without contacting me for permission.

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

Thank you


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In a Golden Orchard, Dreaming …

November 13th, 2009 § 2 comments § permalink

Stowe Mt. Orchard November, closer shotA 100-hundred-year-old orchard in Vermont, with restoration pruning

Stowe Mt. Orchard Lower PocketThe un-restored lower section of the same orchard …

Lovely place for an afternoon stroll, isn’t it? Yesterday I found myself with an extra hour of time around sunset, and I decided to go for a walk in this old apple grove surrounded by golden fields near my home. The light was low and hazy, and the red and yellow apples shone brightly against the grey bark of the trees. A couple of years ago, I was lucky enough to be involved in the restoration of this beautiful orchard, and the project re-ignited apple growing dreams of my own…

The orchard pictured above is not a working fruit farm, it is simply part of a lovely old farmhouse estate in southern Vermont. Although the original owners certainly grew, and perhaps sold fruit or cider at one time, the orchard never operated as a serious commercial enterprise. Planted professionally more than one hundred years ago, these trees were always part of a private grove. Many years ago, small orchards like this one were commonplace, and most old farmsteads in New England still have a few craggy fruit trees scattered about. The trees on this property do bear some apples, (mostly enjoyed by local deer), however, the goal of the current owners has always been to preserve the history and beauty of this place, not to grow fruit…

Stowe Mountain Orchard Lost Forest FruitStowe Mountain Orchard: Lost Forest Fruit

I am just beginning the practical planning stages involved in realizing my orchard dream. In the northern parts of the United States and Canada, (USDA zone 8 and colder), the best time to plant fruit trees is in the spring. With this in mind, it makes sense to plot and prepare a planting site in fall. Whether you are toying with the idea of a couple of apple trees, or considering a larger home orchard filled with peaches, plums and pears, now is a good time to think about the best location for those trees and to test and amend the soil for spring planting.

A well-planned orchard can produce fruit for at least one hundred years. With this in mind, selecting a permanent site for fruit trees is very important. The first steps in planning a home orchard are to research what kinds of fruit trees do well in your area, and to decide what varieties you would like to grow. This will help you to determine how much space you need to allow for your trees and for the service areas in your planting plan. The distance between individual trees is dependent upon the cultivars grown. Many dwarf fruit trees are available to home gardeners, and they are a good choice if you have a small yard. Of course it goes without saying that fruit trees must be planted in full sun. Trees planted too closely will shade one another, reducing crop yield on the lower branches. Some other key factors amongst the many to be considered include air drainage on the property, cross pollination and coordinated bloom time, and all-important soil chemistry and structure. Honey bee hives may play a role in my future orchard, so I will be researching this topic as well.

In the early stages of preparing for my home orchard, as much of the work will be done beside the fire as will be accomplished with a tractor. At this stage, a significant amount of research and study is involved. In addition to consulting with local experts, I will be reviewing a few favorite titles in my horticultural library. If you, or someone you know is interested in growing fruit, the books below offer excellent information and guidance. I love the idea of an ornamental grove  on my property that also produces delicious food for my table. So I will be cozying up with some books beside the fire over the coming weeks while I continue to dream of a golden orchard all my own…

If you are considering growing apple or other fruit trees, it’s a good idea to educate yourself. The following books are all available, (click title for link to Amazon.com), in paperback. All of these titles are under $30, and three are under $20…

The Best Apples to Buy And Grow (BBG)

The Best Apples to Buy and Grow (Brooklyn Botanic Garden All-Region Guide)
Beth Hanson

Growing Fruit RHS Harry Baker

Growing Fruit (RHS Encyclopedia of Practical Gardening)
Harry Baker

the Backyard Orchardist stella otto

The Backyard Orchardist: A Complete Guide to Growing Fruit Trees in the Home Garden
Stella Otto

The Apple Grower, Michael Phillips

The Apple Grower: Guide for the Organic Orchardist
Michael Phillips

Article and photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’ 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 express consent. Inspired by something 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 …

Late Autumn Texture Studies, Part Two: Plants that Play with Low Light…

November 2nd, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

Morning Light at the edge of the forest

The native forest on an early November morning…

Native Beech in Morning Light, October

The light of late autumn is pure poetry – bathing the forest in bronze radiance. In the early morning fog, dark, vertical tree trunks move in and out of focus; playing off the back-light and textural forest tapestry. A walk through the woods reveals stunning seasonal change – November has arrived.

As foliage falls away, stripping bare garden bones, structure is revealed. Now, skeletal elements of the garden begin to take center stage, delighting the observant with geometric shapes, abstract forms and patterns. There is a melancholy beauty amid all the decay, enhanced by the dwindling hours of daylight. When the November wind picks up, long shadows dance across the lawn, and bleached grasses sway in the sun’s low, sparkling rays. This is a different garden now – a landscape filled with dry, empty pods, bleached stalks and grasses, bare branches, dark silhouettes and flickering light…

Artemesia 'silver mound'

Dried, lacy flower heads of Artemisia schmidtiana, ‘Silvermound’, set against a shimmering backdrop of Fothergilla gardenii foliage in the morning light…

butterfly weed pod

The cracked paper-pods of Asclepias tuberosa, (Butterfly weed), open to reveal feathery white seeds – a delicate and fleeting textural contrast…

dried ornamental mentha

Remnants of Nepeta siberica ‘Souvenir D’Andre Chaudron’, stand stark and bristly, picked clean by greedy finches…

Miscanthus purpurascens in the last days of October

Tawny Miscanthus purpurascens catches the morning light on the first day of November

Taking my cue from the natural world, I like to design gardens in layers. The bones of the garden, (trees, shrubs, stonework), support a constantly changing wardrobe of foliage throughout the seasons. As winter approaches, the underlying framework of the garden begins to appear. Now, horizontal branches and vertical trunks really stand out in the landscape. Trees and shrubs, especially those chosen for their colorful twigs, stems and exfoliating bark, hold the garden together as the ephemeral elements fade away.

The entry garden, dividing the car-park from my home, (pictured below), was designed with naturalistic, season-spanning interest in mind. Throughout the growing season, red-twig dogwood, (Cornus alba ‘Siberica’), provides a pleasant, but unobtrusive green back-drop for three seasons of perennial display. Come autumn, the foliage of this shrub slowly morphs from orange-red to rust, holding until late October. Finally, when the leaves drop, the surprising beauty of this dogwood is revealed. Now, brilliant red bark glows from behind the flame-grass and the late-season color of Fothergilla gardenii. Suddenly, what was an unremarkable background shrub has become a key player in a dramatic vignette. This luminous, red screen of dogwood emphasizes the textural beauty of ornamental grass, drying sedum and the needle-like foliage of golden amsonia…

Red twig dogwood, fothergilla, miscanthus, sedum, etc...

Clockwise from left: Miscanthus purpurascens, Cornus alba ‘Siberica’, Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’, Fothergilla gardenii, Amsonia hubrichtii, Sedum ‘Matrona’

Although some trees, (such as the Japanese maple, ‘Seiryu’, below), continue to offer stunning foliage-effects in late autumn, their more important, structural roles will be revealed in the coming months. Japanese maple in particular is highly valued for its beautiful, architectural form. In my garden, the Blue Green Dragon’s arching limbs and delicate branches gracefully play with light and shadow. For now the dark silhouette of this tree contrasts with its luminous foliage. Later, bare twigs will catch raindrops and dusty, white snow. Throughout the year, the striped bark and elegant shape of this magnificent tree adds tremendously to my garden…

Acer palmatum x dissectum 'Seiryu' backlit foliage

Acer palmatum x dissectum 'Seiryu'

Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’, is positioned to take advantage of the stained glass effect, seen when late-season sunshine backlights her orange foliage, and silhouettes her sinewy branches..

Ornamental grasses and other textural plants play a key role in the late-season garden as well, holding interest as flowers pass and foliage withers away. Planted in large groups, stands of flame, porcupine and maiden grass are stunning at this time of the year. The tufts of ornamental grass, called inflorescence, expand and puff up as they cast their seed. These ‘flowers’ make for a brilliant sunlit display, and also provide a rough surface for catching frost, snow and frozen rain drops later. Two of my favorite fall plants, wild-oats, (Chasmanthium latifolium) and blue-star, (Amsonia hubrichtii), continue to add autumnal beauty to the garden throughout November.

I will be back soon with more notes and images gathered from the late-season garden. Until then, here is a bit of what I am enjoying as the season continues to change…

Amsonia in afternoon light

Amsonia hubrichitii glows orange-gold in the low light

'Heavy Metal' in November

Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy metal’ in November…

Miscanthus sinensis

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Strictus’ with Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’, standing seed pods and dried flowers…

miscanthus sinensis against sky

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Strictus’ plays with November light…

oat grass with blue sky in meadow

Chasmanthium latifolium, Wild-Oats…

Miscanthus purpurascens tassel

Miscanthus purpurascens inflorescence

milkweed

Asclepias tuberosa, butterfly weed

miscanthus inflorescens

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ inflorescence

Miscanthus purpurascens

Misccanthus sinensis ‘Strictus’, Porcupine Grass

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Article and photographs copyright 2009, 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 express written consent. Inspired by something 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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Late Autumn Texture Studies, Part One: Plants Sparkling with Sugary Frost…

October 26th, 2009 § 4 comments § permalink

Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’ – Sweet Treat of the Sugar Plum Fairy…

Jack Frost and the Sugar Plum Fairy had a party in my garden the other night.     I wasn’t invited. But my naughty guests did leave behind plenty of outrageous evidence and a few party favors. In the morning I awoke to find powdered-sugar puffs, candied flower petals, jimmie-sprinkled leaves, fruity rock candy and other champagne-sprayed remnants from their chilly midnight ball. It seems that I missed quite the soiree. Everywhere, just everywhere – glittery bits of lace and satin laid strewn about the walkways and flower beds. As I wandered through the empty garden rooms, scantily-clad branches shamelessly greeted sunrise – all flaunting sheer, sparkling robes. Why, even the walls and cars were dotted by crystal-confetti and draped with jewel-encrusted sashes.

Shocked? You shouldn’t be. This happens every year – sometimes without warning. I’m sure Mr. Frost and and his cool band of gypsies have traipsed through your neighborhood at one time or another. Jack and his lady-friend Sugar really get around, especially at this time of year. While it’s true that I once despised these uninvited hedonists, (blind, all I could see was the mess and the waste), I slowly came to my senses. Who am I to spoil the fun? So I casually began to set the stage for their late-night romp and revelry, waiting for a response. I filled my garden with soft pillows of downy foliage and feathery decorations, paying close attention to texture and detail. Jack is fond of lace and velvet, and Sugar seems to have a thing for candy colored decor. I noticed by the first autumn that they were paying attention to my newfound efforts. My late-night guests left me a beautiful thank you note in a sparkling envelope of glitter.

Jack Frost and the Sugar Plum Fairy have really grown on me. These days I find myself anticipating their arrival. Although I have never seen their chilly white fingers and toes as they dance about caressing my garden, evidence of their gratitude grows each year. Living vicariously through abandoned voile and tulle, I edge my pathways with velveteen lambs ears and lady’s mantle, taking care to carpet the garden floor with wooly thyme and delicate moss. Screens of ornamental grass seem particularly popular during these freezing midnight balls, as do the dried-flower arrangements I always leave standing as a welcome. I have noticed that Sugar is especially fond of plum colored sedum, purply coral bells and richly colored berries. Of course Jack Frost charms all the ladies in my garden, both the smooth and the more rough-around the edges. But he seems to spend most of his time with the the fashionistas – The Bells of Ireland, Liatris, Black-eyed Susan, and of course Queen Anne and her lace.

Yes it’s true – I am still just the party planner. No one has requested my RSVP. Jack and Sugar seem more than content with our anonymous arrangements. But how can I complain? For now I drift to sleep on frigid autumn nights, snug with sweet dreams of their wild comings and goings –  fantasizing about what I will find with the sunrise…

Below you may find some inspiration for your own late-night party decor – and there’s plenty more to come…

Alchemilla mollis, (Lady’s mantle), is always a hit with Jack and Sugar

Heuchera micrantha var. diversifolia ‘Palace Purple’  looks a bit like a sugar plum herself

Rudbeckia hirta obviously did some dancing at the late night hoar frost this October

Alchemilla mollis – Lady’s mantle leaf-edge, here enhanced with cold crystals

Heuchera ‘Green Spice’, kissed by the Sugar Plum Fairy

Ajuga reptans ‘Brocade’ with a smattering of sugar jimmies

Acer griseum – Paperbark maple leaf with delicate ice crystals

Juniperus procumbens ‘Nana’, (Japanese dwarf garden juniper), lured Jack in with her texture

A warm honey Beech leaf glistens in early light on the morning after the first hard freeze

In the soft morning light, Lupine seedlings shine like misplaced rhinestone pins

Rudbeckia hirta after a late-night rendezvous with Mr. Frost

Allegheny spurge leaves, (Pachysandra procumbens), glisten like salted caramels after the party

Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurascens’  – Sage with an icy crust

Thymus pseudolanuginosus –  a carpet of wooly thyme, sugared with sweetness

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Article & Photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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Autumn Brilliance Part Three: Plant Partners for the Late Show and Early Winter Marquee…

October 23rd, 2009 § Comments Off on Autumn Brilliance Part Three: Plant Partners for the Late Show and Early Winter Marquee… § permalink

Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’ in late October

By late October, much of the foliage in the forest surrounding my garden has passed its peak. Although the woods are still basking in the glow of golden birch and poplar, lemony striped maple, rusty red oak and amber colored beech –  the vibrant orange and red maple leaves are now carpeting the woodland paths, where they rustle in the wind and crunch beneath my feet. Walks through the forest in late autumn are a fragrant affair; scented with musky dampness and memories. There is a beautiful sadness in the woods at this time of year – a melancholy enhanced by frequently-foggy mornings and low-lit afternoons…

Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’ foliage in late October

In my garden, most flowers vanished with the recent hard frost – but the ornamental fruit and foliage, stars of autumn’s late-show, are still going strong. Now through mid November, the leading role belongs to my favorite tree, Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’. This Japanese maple, commonly known as ‘The Blue-Green Dragon’, (currently the only upright dissected-leaf cultivar), is planted at the bottom edge of a slope near my studio where it arches over the Secret Garden door. The Blue-Green Dragon is prized for its lacy, delicately cut foliage and its late season color. A true chameleon, this dragon changes from sea-green to golden chartreuse before lighting a brilliant blaze of orange. Finally, in mid November, the dragon’s heat simmers down to a coppery hue as her leaves slowly drop to the hidden walkway below. Nearby, Daphne x burkwoodii, ‘Carol Mackie’, has begun her own transformation; morphing from variegated green and white to a citrusy blend of lemon yellow, sweet orange and sour lime. The contrast between these two plants is particularly stunning in the last week of October and the first few days of November. Closer to ground-level, Bergenia ‘Bressingham Ruby’, planted at the foot of the entry wall to the Secret Garden, shines like a candy apple. Glossy green and elegant during the summer months, by late autumn Bergenia’s foliage has shifted hues from green to orange to cherry red – until finally settling on the ruby-wine color she will hold throughout the early winter months….

Bergenia ‘Bressingham Ruby’

Secret Garden door in October

Further along the garden path, nestled into the nooks and crannies between ledgy outcrops bordering the main garden entrance, Calluna and Erica have begun to turn up their heat just as temperatures here dip below freezing. Calluna vulgaris ‘Multicolor’ has shifted to a shocking shade of vermillion, emphasized by the contrasting blue-tinted foliage of nearby Calluna vulgaris ‘Silver Knight’ and Juniperous horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’. Tiny lavender blossoms continue to flush the tips of the ‘Silver Knight’ heather, in spite of the cold – I gather them up in tiny bouquets for my kitchen table.

Ground covering woody plants, such as Calluna, Erica, Stephanadra, and Cotoneaster, offer vibrant late season color that combines well with with a wide variety of evergreens. Some of my favorites include juniper, (of all sizes and habits), Siberian cypress, (Microbiota), hemlock, (Tsuga), spruce, (Abies) and yew (Taxus). Blue-green masses of foliage and bronzing needle tips provide a soothing foreground or lush, calm backdrop for the more intense, late -autumnal hues in perennial and shrub borders…

Calluna vulgaris ‘Multicolor’ and ‘Silver Knight’, planted with Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’, (Blue rug), along the ledgy walkway at Ferncliff…

Calluna vulgaris ‘Multicolor’, forms a blazing carpet against the gray ledge in late October…

Juniperus squamata ‘Holger’, along the Secret Garden steps in October

Stephanandra incisa ‘Crispa’ glows golden-orange against the gray stone wall steps in late October

Stephanandra incisa and Juniperus Pfitzeriana ‘Aurea’ make a beautiful autumn pairing…

Of course fruiting shrubs and trees play an important role in my garden at this time of year and throughout the winter months. Yes, I fully admit to an obsession with colored berries. I collect and treasure fruiting shrubs for their shimmering, confetti-dot effect. While these plants are a feast for the eyes as winter draws near and color grows scarce, more importantly, their berries provide natural food for birds including the finch, cedar wax wings, cardinals and many others. As mentioned in my previous posts, (Autumn Brilliance Part One and also Autumn Brilliance Part Two), Callicarpa dichotoma and Viburnum, including the black-fruited V. carlesii, (Korean spice viburnum), provide berries for many of my feathered friends. As late fall shifts to early winter, other fruiting plants, such as Cotoneaster, begin to stand out in the garden. Ground-hugging Cotoneaster is a great partner for stonewalls, particularly in late autumn, when the bright red fruit and rusty foliage radiates in vibrant contrast to the rock’s cool, gray surface. I like to combine horizontal juniper cultivars with Cotoneaster, allowing both to trail down the side of retaining walls. Bright blue juniper berries sparkle on frosty mornings until they are devoured by hungry chipmunks and song sparrows. Ilex verticillata ‘Red sprite, a long-standing winter favorite, is just beginning its show-stopping performance. This mass of winterberry in my entry garden never fails to lift my spirits during the cold, raw days of late November. In the foreground, blue-tinted Juniperus chinensis ‘Sargentii’ enhances the orange-red brilliance of the berries and the beautiful gray-tones of Dan Snow’s stone wall rise up from behind. When snow finally dusts the winterberry branches, the red fruits float like cherries in a bowl of cream…

Ilex verticillata, and Juniper Sargent in October

Ilex verticillata ‘Red sprite’ with Juniperus chinensis ‘Sargentii’ in late October

Ilex verticillata 'Red sprite' close-up

Ilex verticillata ‘Red sprite’ with Juniperus chinensis ‘Sargentti’ in late October

Juniperus squamata ‘Holger’ and Thymus

Cotoneaster dammeri ‘Eichholz’s, leaves turn burgundy red after the hard frost in October

This Juniperus horizontalis provides blue berries in addition to sea green foliage

Viburnum carlesii, (Korean Spice Viburnum), provides late autumn foliage and black fruit. A small sized shrub, (3′ x 3′), Korean Spice Viburnum is generous with her fragrant flowers in spring…

Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Issai’, shown in an earlier post with golden foliage, is pictured after the hard frost in late October- looking even more magical than before…

Rich brown and subtle bronze tones also begin to appear in the late season, creating opportunities for harmonious pairings with brightly colored foliage and fruit. The cobalt violet hue of Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Issai’ berries, (above), seems even brighter once the shrub’s foliage turns a warm copper brown. Likewise, Microbiota decussata, (Siberian cypress), slowly burnishes from forest green to warm bronze as temperatures dip, playing beautifully against the orange-chartreuse tones of nearby moss and the pyrotechnic-color display of Enkianthus campanulatus ‘Red Bells’, planted at the corner of the walkway…

Microbiota, Thyme, Moss, Path to Northwest meadow in autumn

Microbiota decussata, (Siberian cypress), with Thyme and Moss on the path to the Northwest meadow in October…

Enkianthus companulatus ‘Red Bells’, in October

Microbiota decussata, autumn color close-up

Northwest path to the meadow with a view of amber colored beech in the distance

Although most of the flowers in my garden have faded away, some, such as Geranium ‘Brookside’, continue to surprise me past the first few frosts. When a fuchsia veined, blue-violet bloom appears amid the bright orange and yellow leaves of this gorgeous cranesbill, it can light up a gray October day almost as brightly as the sun. Placed near the golden autumn foliage of Amsonia illustris‘, this plant can easily stop me in my tracks with or without her stunning flowers. The dark hues of Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’ foliage, (or P. opulifolius ‘Summer wine’, or ‘Coppertinia’), pair nicely with these brighter plants, as do many ornamental grasses, dark violet colored sedum and verdigris tinted juniper…

Geranium ‘Brookside’ foliage turns brilliant orange and scarlet. and continues to produce violet blue blossoms with fuscia veins well past the hard frost…

Amsonia illustris, in the entry walk – golden autumn color enhanced by the late frost and nearby orange-hued ornamental grasses in October

Physocarpus 'Diablo' color variation 2

Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’ foliage color, varies from deep oxblood red…

Physocarpus 'Diablo' color variation

to burnished amber…

May the colors of late autumn lift your spirits and encourage you to venture out into the garden with an eye toward extending the season. With a bit of effort and planning, almost any patch of earth can provide a season-spanning garden, filled with color and texture throughout the year. I will meet you back here in just a bit, with more design inspiration for the coming months…

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

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the sole property of The Gardner’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express, written consent. Inspired by something 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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I Believe in the Promise of Tomorrow…

September 25th, 2009 § 5 comments § permalink

A basket of mixed narcissus bulbs, ready for planting

The first member of my family’s next generation was born a few short weeks ago. His name is Morgan; my sister’s first child and my first nephew. When I met Morgan on the morning he was born, August 13th, my heart felt like a swollen dam, barely containing a flood of emotion. My love for my nephew is for him of course, but it is also for tomorrow – for the future. From the moment he arrived I realized that, simply put, this new member of my family embodies my faith in a world beyond myself. The name Morgan has two meanings, but in this case, my nephew’s parents took his name from the Germanic word ‘morgen’, meaning tomorrow. The poet in me delights in this choice – and lately, because of Morgan, I have been thinking a great deal about the future.

To plant things in the soil is to believe in a new day; perhaps not my day, but another day, for another generation. Gardening has never been an instant gratification activity. Sometimes when I walk beneath ancient trees in city parks, botanical gardens and cemeteries, I think of the hands that placed them there. Unlike works of nature, gardens planted by those who came before us were not created by chance. They were imagined into existence by hopeful souls, dreaming of a future; dreaming of our future. Can you feel love for tomorrow? Can you feel love for people you have never met, and will never meet? My answer is yes, I can and I often do fall in love with tomorrow. That love is called hope. And although we never met, when I touch the weathered bark of a tree planted in a park 100 years ago, I can feel the love someone else felt for the future; for me, and for everyone else enjoying the tree today. One day my nephew and the rest of his generation will inherit this great garden we all share. And when I am long gone, I hope Morgan will still walk the paths I have made here in my garden. Maybe he will pick the daffodils I plant every year, or rest his back against the tree I wrestled up the hill. And in time, perhaps his child will play in the secret garden I created, and discover the tangled rose hidden at the foot of the wall.

The word ‘garden’ can be defined in many ways. In the most basic sense, a garden is simply a place where things are planted and grow. I garden because I like fresh produce and flowers… I love nature and being outdoors. I also garden for the feeling of peace and connection it gives me. I am inspired by botanical beauty, and I enjoy expressing myself  by creating living art. I garden for many reasons, but most of all I garden because I take great pleasure in time’s power. I anticipate and delight in the coming seasons, and I look forward to the changes they bring over the course of years. I believe in the future, and my garden is a collection of hopes and dreams rooted in the earth.

The natural world is inherently hopeful. Seeds break free and blow in the wind; scattering far and wide, carrying with them the promise of a new forest or a new meadow. A robin lays eggs and warms them, instinctively waiting for her chicks to hatch. The future takes flight on hope. When we garden, we connect to that natural expectation and desire – the hope, that life will go on. Like the gardeners of generations past, I am a part of the natural world, the society of humankind, and history. I am also a part of the future, and it is a part of me. I believe that I am a part of something much bigger, much greater than myself, and this belief gives me strength and comfort. It gives me hope. I believe in that hope, and I believe in the promise of tomorrow…

And so I set forth, into the garden; bulbs beneath my arm, trowel in hand, basket full of dreams…

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Very early blooming Narcissus ‘February Gold’

Crocus tommasinianus emerging from Ajuga and Heuchera in early April

Narcissus ‘Lemon Silk’

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My garden, Ferncliff, is filled with the beautiful promise of spring…

For many years I have purchased unusual varieties of narcissus and many other early-season garden delights from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs. The Heath family bulb farm is located in Gloucester, Virginia, and it has been in operation for many generations. In fact, the Heaths trace their involvement in daffodil farming all the way back to the beginning of the twentieth century, when Brent’s grandfather Charles Heath began growing daffodils near their present location in Gloucester.

I have purchased hundreds and hundreds of bulbs from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs. And although I have never met the Heaths, I think of them every fall when I am planting, and every spring when I am enjoying their beautiful flowers emerging magically from the thawing earth.

Over the coming weeks, I will be writing more about planting bulbs. But for now, if you are new to bulb planting, or looking to add some excitement to your garden for next spring, I can recommend a couple of books to help expand your knowledge. The first is  Rod Leed’s The Plantfinder’s Guide to Early Bulbs, published by Timber Press. And for Daffodil enthusiasts, I suggest Brent and Becky Heath’s book, Daffodils for North American Gardens, published by Bright Sky Press, and available at their website: Brent and Becky’s Bulbs.

I think planting bulbs is a great fall activity to share with kids of all ages. Beyond the pleasures and rewards of a day spent outdoors working with the earth, the simple act of planting bulbs can help to create a connection to the future, and to instill values like patience, forethought and respect for nature, (to name but a few). Fall planting is wonderful tradition to share with younger generations, and a love of gardening is a value I certainly hope to pass on…

Scillia siberica, early spring at Ferncliff

Narcissus ‘Rip van Winkle’

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

* All products and books recommended on this site are based upon my own personal experiences. I receive no compensation for mentions of any kind *

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the sole property of The Gardener’s Eden, and may not be used for any purpose without express written permission. It’s a small world, and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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