Luminous Lanterns & Torches Set Gardens All Aglow…

July 11th, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

Photo ⓒ Ray Main from Elizabeth Wilhide’s Lighting: A Design Source Book

Flickering candles, swaying lanterns, and glowing orbs beneath shadowy, draped vines; an artfully lit garden sets the mood for a memorable gathering or even an everyday evening meal on the deck or terrace. Too often an after-thought —or worse neglected all together in favor of straight-ahead utility— landscape lighting makes all the difference in the creation of an alluring outdoor room. Right now, I am busy designing several landscape lighting plans for clients; all of which include low-voltage architectural wash and pathway illumination as well as more decorative, ambient features. Elizabeth Wilhide’s Lighting: A Design Source Book (image above by the edition’s photographer Ray Main) and Sally Storey’s lovely book, Lighting by Design (Luke White photo excerpts featured below) are providing some brilliant inspiration. I will be covering some easy, do-it-yourself, low-voltage lighting systems in an upcoming post. But for now, I’d like to share some quick and easy ideas using solar lanterns and string lights, as well as torches and handmade tin luminarias. The purpose of ambient lighting is quite different from task lighting. Much like candles on a dining table, solar lamps and glass orbs are intended to flicker like the stars; casting a warm and inviting glow above tables, at the edges of steps and beneath the low branches of trees…
Click here for a closer look at the  Square Solar Shoji Lanterns from Gaiam


Shoji lanterns are particularly appealing to me at the moment. A few years back, I received two Asian-style lanterns as a gift, and when they are lit from within by tiny candles, they completely change the night time atmosphere of my Secret Garden. I also like to float candles in water bowls, or set short pillars within handmade tin luminarias when I host a party. But for lower-maintenance (and safer) drama, I love the idea of solar Shoji lanterns like the ones pictured above and below. I’m adding a pergola to the front entrance of my studio next month, and I think a few of these will add a lovely touch beneath the twining vines of wisteria…

Click here to see the circular Solar Shoji Lantern from Gaiam

Sometimes, a combination of lighting features can work in tandem to create beautiful layers of illumination in a garden. For special events, like weddings and summer cocktail parties, low voltage landscape lighting can be easily enhanced by the beauty of glass hurricanes, tiki torches or tin lanterns (like the ones pictured below). Making tin lumniarias is easy, and they are much safer and longer lasting than the paper variety. Click here for a tutorial on how to make tin-punch lanterns, which I posted last winter. Breaking up more mundane task-lighting with strings of soft, solar glass globes (like the cool recycled-glass set from Plow and Hearth and the amber set from Exterior Accents, both pictured below) also works magic, especially when sets are strung through vertical trellising, vine-clad pergolas, tall shrubs or the lower branches of nearby trees…
Photo ⓒ Luke White from Sally Storey’s inspirational Lighting by Design
Photo ⓒ Ray Main from Lighting: A Design Source Book by Elizabeth Wilhide
Click here to see Exterior Accent’s Aurora Glow Solar String Lights (Amber)
Click here to see: Pisa Torches from Plow and Hearth

Click here for: Globe Solar String Lights from Plow and Hearth


Article and tin luminaria photo copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All other photographs copyright as noted or linked.

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Time Standing Still: The Immortal Beauty of Duchesse de Nemours and the Pleasure of Peonies in June…

June 14th, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

Creamy white Paeonia lactiflora ‘Duchesse de Nemours’ picks up some blush from pink-tinged ‘Mother’s Choice’ and an unidentified rose-red cultivar. Vase by Aletha Soulé.

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Duchesse de Nemours’ © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Oh, Victorie Augusta Antonia de Saxe-Coburg-Gotha -better known as the Duchesse de Nemours– you must have been an extraordinary woman to have such a deliciously fragrant, beautiful blossom named for you. Was your skin the color of luminous cream… Was it smooth and silky to the touch? Were you quietly seductive; luring your admirers from all corners of the room with your languorous beauty and intoxicating perfume? You must have been dangerously voluptuous; teetering right on the edge of outright sexiness, but far too elegant to ever step across the line in society. Of course you were well-mannered and Victorian, with an air of mystery and a hint of sadness. Then, suddenly, your life was cut tragically short when you died at the age of 35, shortly after the birth of your fourth child; a daughter named Blanche. The Duke, it is noted, was dazed and lost without you; left to grieve with four small children – one just a tiny babe. And after your cruel and untimely departure, your childhood friend, Queen Victoria, spiraled into a deep, dark melancholy. Soon, as the sad news quickly swept across the sea, the people of France joined England in mourning your loss. More than just a figurehead, you were deeply loved, and greatly missed. And in time, the French named a gorgeous, fragrant blossom in your honor: Paeonia lactiflora ‘Duchesse de Nemours’, a luminous, creamy-white, sweetly perfumed peony. Your namesake flower was well chosen, for garden peonies are one of the longest lived perennials. And in spite of your sad misfortune, the memory of your spirit lives on when, each spring, your flower blossoms in gardens throughout the world; conjuring your great beauty and rekindling the passion you inspired…

This is a portrait of Victorie, Duchesse de Nemours, with her friend, Queen Victoria in the foreground – Franz Xzver Winterhalter – 1852

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Duchesse de Nemours’ © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Image via Walker Art Gallery, National Museum of Liverpool

“Here lies Victoria Augusta Antonia de Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Duchesse of Nemours, by whose death one more sorrow was added to so many doleful burials of the House of Orleans. She was of excellent soul, brilliance and great beauty, equally admirable both in fortune and of kindly and humble heart, devoted to her God, and a most loving wife and mother, lamented by her relatives and all notable people. She died suddenly at Claremont in Britain, an untimely death, on 10 November 1857 at the age of 35. May she rest in peace.” – From the inscription on the tomb of Duchesse de Nemours

As you can see, I am obsessed with the Duchesse. The peony is my favorite flower… But you will almost never observe it blooming in my garden. Why? Because I am greedy. Well, OK – most of the time, I am a generous person – but not when it comes to my peonies. I am greedy about peonies. I won’t even share them with the rest of my garden. The blossoms never stay outdoors long enough to open. Impatient by nature, I always cut the buds and bring them inside just as soon as they begin to swell and unfurl. I don’t mean to be selfish. Really I don’t. It’s just that the peony season is so short, and the entire experience can be wiped out with one heavy rain. A thunderous downpour, which almost always happens at the peak of peony season in June, will easily snap the delicate neck of an open flower. Double peonies are so fragile, that in fact even the slightest shower will cause their voluptuous, top-heavy blossoms to droop down into the mud. Well, I can’t have that. Not a chance. So the ‘Duchesse’ -as well as the pink bombshell ‘Sarah Bernhardt’, and that fiery, rose-flecked swan ‘Festiva Maxima’, among my many favorite peonies- is quickly whisked indoors where she can linger, mingling with the other blooms and extending my pleasure for weeks.  I like having them all around me; lounging beside the sofa, propped up in the powder room, spilling from stools in the studio; and of course, filling every available space in the boudoir. Why practice restraint? Life is short -as the Duchesse always reminds me- and no matter how much we might like to, we can never truly make time stand still. But we can learn to drag it out a little, can’t we? Of course we can…

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Raspberry Sundae’ © 2010 Michaela at TGE

When cut in early morning, just as the petals begin to curl open, each peony can last more than a week in a vase. I also like to tuck a few buds and blossoms in my refrigerator, pulling them out slowly for arrangements as others fade. By planting peonies with staggered bloom times, it’s possible to enjoy picking them, at least in cooler climates like mine, from late May straight on into the first few days of July. The tree peonies are first to flower in my garden, followed by the singles and early doubles; all of course setting the stage for the late arrival of those bodacious beauties, the ultra-feminine, big-bomb-types. Is there a bombshell-type peony named Marilyn? Delores? Sophia? Ava? Well there should be. What are those hybridizers thinking? Plant names can be so boring. Surely they could come up with something better than Big Red? Come on… Call a peony Rita Hayworth, for heaven’s sake. Why not use some imagination…

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Kansas’ © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Mother’s Choice’

So now that I have -once again- revealed my hopeless hortimania, you are probably wondering where this peony-obsessed gardener goes to find the most delicious cultivars? Well online, White Flower Farm always has some beauties, and then there’s peony grower, hybridizer and resource extraordinaire, Klehm’s Song Sparrow Perennial Farm. {Warning: peony collecting is addictive}. Although these perennial garden favorites are available as potted plants throughout the growing year, peonies are really best planted bare-root in fall. Set these long-lived plants in a sunny spot with well prepared, humus-rich garden soil (amended with good compost). Take care never to plant the “eyes” of the peony root too deep (1.5-2″ below the compost, at most). Hardy, reliable bloomers  in zones 3-8, when properly planted and cared for, herbaceous peonies and their woody relatives, the tree peonies, are some of the longest lived garden plants. Once established, they resent division and dislike relocation. But when handled with care, they will adjust to change, although they may refuse to bloom for a season or two following a move. Below are some classic garden favorites – but why stop at a few, when there are oodles more to choose from? I am ordering an entire box of peonies this fall, because I can never get enough of their sweet fragrance in June…

Paeonia Duchesse de Nemours at White Flower Farm Online

Paeonia Raspberry Sundae at White Flower Farm Online

Paeonia ‘Festiva Maxima’ at White Flower Farm Online


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

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

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Ode to the Oscars: If They Were Flowers Botanical Stars Shine on the First Annual ‘Conservatory Awards’ Red Carpet…

March 8th, 2010 § 9 comments § permalink

Dress by Agapanthus, ‘Lily of the Nile’ © Michaela TGE

As worn by ethereal Rachel McAdams © Steve Gratnitz/Wireimage via

The great Bard Shakespeare once wrote that “all the world’s a stage”. Well, the thought certainly crossed my mind today as I worked, surrounded by hundreds of surreal beauties inhabiting a small greenhouse temporarily under my care. Last night’s Academy Awards ceremony was attended by some of the most beautifully dressed women in the world, yet none more spectacular than the least of the lovely ladies I encountered in the conservatory today.

So as the watering wand drifted from delicate bud to flamboyant blossom, my inner paparazzo got the best of me. Snap. Snap. Snap. At each and every turn I spotted a starlet resembling one I remembered from the night before. Look there’s Demi’s dress! Oh my God, that must be Helen Mirren’s silver gown. Aisle after aisle, it was a breathless whirlwind of divas and ingenues; with diamond dewdrops-a-sparkling and heady perfume filling the air. What a rush. Best dressed? Why, I simply can not decide. They are all beauties to my eye. So you be the judge. Who is the winner here? And who did I miss as I spun my star-struck head this way and that?

Dress by Pelargonium filifolium © Michaela TGE

As worn by delicate beauty Zoe Kravitz © Steve Granitz/Wireimage via

Dress by Fuchsia ‘Angel’s Kiss’ © Michaela TGE

As worn by the stunning Queen Latifa © Steve Granitz/Wireimage via

Silvery dress by Kalachoe pumila © Michaela TGE

As worn by elegant Helen Mirren © Jason Merritt/ Getty via

Gorgeous ruffled gown by Begonia panasoffkee © Michaela TGE

As worn by ever fabulous Demi Moore © John Shearer/Getty Images via

Dress by Impatiens namchabarwensis © Michaela TGE

As worn by alluring Mo’Nique © Kevin Mazur/Wireimage via

Dress by Amaryllis ‘Ema’s Grans’ © Michaela TGE

As worn by radiant Jane Seymour © Frazer Harrison/Getty via

Dress by Streptocarpus ‘Black panther’ © Michaela TGE

As worn by the mysterious Kristin Stewart © Steve Grantiz/Wireimage via

Dress by Phalenopsis, The Moth Orchid © Michaela TGE

As worn by the exquisite Meryl Streep © Jason Merritt/Getty Images via

Dress by Dahlia ‘Karma Choc’ image via White Flower Farm

As worn by ravishing Penelope Cruz © Frazer Harrison/Getty Images via

Dress, (detail), by Begonia parviflora © Michaela TGE

As worn by triumphant beauty Sandra Bullock © Jason Merritt/Getty Images via


All floral images, (with one noted exception) © Michaela at TGE

All Academy Award photos are copyright as noted, used in accordance with the Fair Use Doctrine

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

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