Golden Autumn Beauty & Springtime Silverbells: Our Native and Ever-Graceful Halesia tetraptera…

October 25th, 2010 § 8 comments § permalink

The Golden Leaves and Rusty Drupes of North American Native Halesia tetraptera, (Carolina Silverbell or Mountain Silverbell)

Carolina silverbell. With a name like that, you’d invite her into your garden for the poetry alone, wouldn’t you? I did. Well, sort-of. Although I was familiar with the silverbell clan, I wasn’t really sure of which Halesia I was getting when I tied and bound the branches of two glorious specimens three years ago, and rolled them in back of my trailer. It was late autumn, the leaves had long-ago fallen, and summer sunlight had faded my nurseryman’s chicken-scratch Latin from the tag. Some silverbell species are hardier than others, and some grow larger than others, they are notoriously difficult to differentiate, and the nomenclature and taxonomy of this woody plant have been further confused by a recent name-change (Halesia carolina is now referred to as Halesia tetraptera). I wanted Carolina silverbell, which is a small, understory tree native to the Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. Normally, I’m quite particular about confirming the identity of anything I plant in my garden. But, this was an end-of-season sale at a nursery an hour south of my home, and I only had the trailer for the day. I couldn’t resist…

The graceful form of Halesia tetraptera can be sculpted and enhanced with annual, late-spring pruning

As it turns out —in this case— my impulsive decision was a very good one! Three years on, two lovely Carolina silverbell trees are slowly filling out on either side my studio entryway; their rich, yellow-green foliage providing dappled shade for summertime lunches on the terrace. And now –in late October— the leaves are shifting from gorgeous chartreuse to brilliant gold. In addition to the beautiful autumn color, delightfully curious orange-tinted drupes (pictured above) decorate the Carolina silverbell in fall. Even after the foliage and seed pods have fallen, the striped bark (much like that of Moosewood, Acer pensylvanicum) remains an interesting feature…

Halesia tetraptera, striped bark and golden autumn foliage – both stunning against the dark siding of buildings or conifers (particularly Hemlock – Tsuga canadensis)

But as beautiful as Carolina silverbell is in autumn, I have to admit that the reason I sought this tree out had far more to do with her incredible springtime show. In mid-May (usually just before the dogwood flowers here in my VT garden) the entire tree is covered in glorious blush-tinted, white blossoms. The ‘Silver Sisters’, as I call them, are a most breathtaking sight -particularly on a rainy day (see close-up of blossoms photo below). Entering and exiting my studio when the Halesia tetraptera sisters are blooming, is like stepping through a poem…

It’s easy to see why this tree is commonly called the Silverbell. The beautiful blossoms of Halesia tetraptera emerge in mid-spring, usually just before flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)

Because of the variability in size and shape, some silverbell species are grown as multi-stemmed shrubs, and some are pruned and trained as single-trunk trees. In its true, native-range (West Virginia to Central Florida and west to Texas USDA zone 4/5-8/9) silverbell, particularly the ‘Mountain Silverbell’ (once known as Halesia monticola, now also grouped as H. tetraptera var. monticola) can become a medium-sized, understory tree reaching 30 to 40 feet (in the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina, some native, mountain silverbell trees have been recorded at up to 80′ tall). When grown in the northern-most range of its hardiness zone, (USDA 4/5) Halesia tetraptera will remain smaller. I expect the mature size of my silverbell sisters to reach no more than 25-30′ here in the Green Mountains of Vermont. All silverbells, large or small, prefer cool, moist, acidic soil and protected sites (I have my silverbells planted on the eastern side of the studio). If grown in the deep south, be sure to protect silverbell trees from the hot afternoon sun and mulch the root-zone to retain moisture.

Silver in springtime and gold in fall, Halesia tetraptera remains a rare and subtle jewel in gardens. She’s not flashy, like a common, hot-pink crabapple (Oh no, we are far too elegant for that!), and it does take a bit of  time for her to settle in. But as is often the case with native trees, patience pays dividends in the garden. To know her is to love her. Carolina silverbell… She’s a true, four-season beauty.

Article and photographs ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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Opposites Attract: Autumn Golds Glow Beside Vibrant Violets, Pale Plums & Lovely Lavenders…

October 7th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

An October knock-out: Clematis viticella ‘Polish Spirit’ (my new favorite) sings harmony at the edge of the golden-chartreuse fields of autumn

Oh beautiful, technicolor October, my favorite month of the year. On glorious fall days like today, I live to be outdoors from dawn to dusk, playing in the garden’s golden light. With all of the warm autumn colors and hot, mulled apple cider, I barely notice evening’s growing chill. Bold, contrasting shades —citrus and purple, saffron and plum— fill the beds and borders with near-electric radiance. Opposites attract, and sparks fly in the garden…

The lemon-colored spicebush (native Lindera benzoin) featured here last week is still glowing brightly. And this week, the shining and Arkansas bluestar (Amsonia illustris and A. hubrichtii, respectively) and sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia) have joined the colorful garden party; all shimmering now in bright-as-the-sun yellow hues. Alongside all of the gilded foliage, shades of violet —from lavender to deepest plum— continue to play right in tune. Looking to bump up the late-season wattage in your garden? Consider side-by-side plantings in shades of purple and yellow. The combination always gives a garden design a good kick…

Late asters stand out like jewels in a setting: the glowing color of Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’, backed by golden Amsonia illustris, captures the last rays of sunlight

The plummy plumes of maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Strictus’) play beautifully in my garden. Here, bathed in late afternoon light, the inflorescences stand tall against a backdrop hedge of deep-purple Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diabolo’. Yellow, horizontal stripes on the grass —a little hard to see in this photo— add dynamic color and texture to the combination

Pots get in on the color-act as well: Aster ‘Apollo’ strikes a stunning pose, massed on the stone steps leading to my studio; planted here in contrasting, mustard-colored containers

An autumn love story: Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’ romances Clethera alnifolia ‘Ruby Spice’

Another favorite pairing in my autumn garden: Aster oblongifolium, ‘Raydon’s Favorite’, planted against a golden backdrop of Clethera alnifolia, ‘Ruby Spice’

This Hydrangea quercifolia (our native oakleaf hydrangea) is Turning a Lovely Shade of Dusty Plum this Week

Aster oblogifolium ‘Raydon’s Favorite’ pairs beautifully with many autumn golds; including nearby Arkansas bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii)

Arkansas bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii) is as beautiful close-up as it is viewed from a distance; planted en masse

Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ is a perfect backdrop for subtle, plum-toned ‘bloom’ (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Strictus’ inflorescence)

The color of purple-leafed coral bells (Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’) grows more intense as the weather cools

And last —but never least— in today’s round-up of violet and gold foliage and flowers is my favorite autumn plant: our native Rhus typhina. This selected cultivar, ‘Tiger Eyes’, is particularly stunning this week at Ferncliff. Read more about my love-affair with Lady Rhus by traveling back to last year’s post on this beautiful plant (click here)

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…

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

September 28th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

Raindrops on Birch – Late September at Ferncliff

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

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

Rodgersia aesculifolia and Stewartia pseudocamillia in the Secret Garden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hayscented Fern (Dennstaedtia puctilobula)

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

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ and Fagus sylvatica ‘Riversii’

Raindrops on Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ (Fountain Grass)

Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota)

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

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

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

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

Early Autumn Colors in Vermont

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

Inspiration…

Singin’ in the Rain…

In Pretty Red Wellies !

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

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

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. Advertisers do not pay for editorial placement here, but do remit a small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden affiliate links to this site. All proceeds will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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

September 27th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

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

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

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

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

Lindera benzoin, autumn leaf detail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Toast to the Last Day of Summer: Greeting the Autumnal Equinox with Spiced, Heirloom Apple Cider Martinis…

September 22nd, 2010 § Comments Off on A Toast to the Last Day of Summer: Greeting the Autumnal Equinox with Spiced, Heirloom Apple Cider Martinis… § permalink

Spiced Apple Cider Martini with Dolgo Crab Apple and Cinnamon Stick Garnish

Farewell to summer! The autumnal equinox will occur at 3:09 am UTC (GMT) on September 23rd this year. So —depending upon where you live—autumn will officially begin sometime this evening, September 22nd, or in the wee hours of September 23rd. Here in New England, fall will begin at 11:09 PM EDT. Coincidentally, the Harvest Moon will be full tomorrow, on the first day of autumn. Yesterday evening, I caught the beautiful, glowing orb, just as it rose –nearly full— above the treetops at twilight. Oh, what a beauty…

The Nearly-Full, Harvest Moon…

As if in anticipation of a grand, autumn party, the northeastern fields and forests have already begun to change into traditional fall costume, greeting the equinox with the all the rich hues and glorious textures of the season. Fall truly is my favorite time of the year, but it always seems to pass too quickly. So, I try to soak up as much natural beauty as I can, taking daily walks through local fields and forests, and my own woodland trails here at Ferncliff. Below are some highlights from sunset strolls this week…

Colorful Maple Leaf on the Forest Floor

A Bleached Hayscented Fern in Late Afternoon Light

A Colorful Ash Seedling

Maple Leaves in a Natural Pool

A Meadow of Native Bluestem

I began my week with a visit to Scott Farm in Dummerston, Vermont (see my post about this beautiful Vermont orchard by clicking here). In anticipation of the autumnal equinox, I decided to pick up some heirloom apple cider, and create spiced-apple martinis; the perfect cocktail to celebrate autumn’s arrival. Heirloom apples have such delightful colors, textures and flavors; ranging in hue from light gold to deepest violet and varying in taste from tartest-of-tart to honey-sweet. A walk through an old orchard is one of the greatest early autumn pleasures I know…

Apple Orchard – Scott Farm, Dummerston, Vermont

The Orchard at Scott Farm

Zeke Goodband’s Heirloom Apple Cider, Lemon and Warm Spices

Zeke Goodband’s apple cider is the best I have ever tasted, and it makes the most delicious base for an autumnal twist on the traditional apple-martini. The golden color of this cocktail is beautifully enhanced by the addition of a pretty, ruby-red, heirloom Dolgo crabapple garnish. Of course, if Dolgo crabapples are nowhere to be found, any tiny red apple —or slice dipped in lemon juice— will do. But, if you prefer a non-alcholic drink, travel back to my post on hot mulled apple cider, another delicious way to enjoy this fruit of the season!

Enjoy the last, golden hours of summer, and the beautiful season of autumn yet to come…

Cheers!

Spiced Heirloom Apple Cider Martini

Ingredients for 2 Cocktails (multiply or divide to suit):

4 ounces heirloom apple cider

4 ounces excellent quality, ice-cold vodka

2 ounces excellent quality brandy (apple brandy if you like)

2 ounces orange liquor

1 ounce fresh squeezed Meyer lemon juice

2 cinnamon sticks and/or 1 tsp freshly ground cinnamon (optional)

2 tsp artisan honey

Directions:

Place all ingredients in a jar and cover.* Shake well to mix before serving. When ready to serve, pour the mixture into a cocktail shaker with crushed ice. Shake and pour into 2 chilled martini glasses. Garnish with a crab apple (or slice of apple) and a cinnamon stick. Serve.

*The basic cocktail may be mixed a few hours ahead (in a large jar) if serving cocktails at a party. Keep well chilled and shake cocktails in ice individually before serving.

Spiced Heirloom Apple Martini

The last, golden days of summer – A meadow of native bluestem

Sunset in a Meadow of Wild Bluestem

September’s Harvest Moon…

You may also enjoy last year’s Autumnal Equinox post and the Vintage Rose Cocktail. Click here…

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Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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

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

September 16th, 2010 § 6 comments § permalink

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hedy Lamarr {image via zimbio.com}

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

***

Article and photos (excepting portraits of Hedy Lamarr) are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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

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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Flickering Like Flames: Scarlet Red, Brilliant Orange & Burnished Gold … Early Signs of Change in the Garden…

September 14th, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

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

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

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

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

Viburnum plicatum tomentosum ‘Shasta’

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

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

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

Red Fox – Meadow’s Edge at Ferncliff

Wild Turkey – Forest Boundary at Ferncliff

Sparrows Splashing on a Terrace at Ferncliff

A Passing Shower Provides Temporary, Late Summer Bathing for Birds

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Article and photos are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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

August 13th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

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

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

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

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

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

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

Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’ Leaf and Stem Coloration

Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’s’ Beautiful, Peeling Bark

Autumn Color Variation Ranges from Oxblood Red

To Sun-Burnished Bronze…

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

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

***

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

July 9th, 2010 § 7 comments § permalink

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

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

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

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

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

My dog Oli, in the studio…

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

A bag of collected Lupine seed…

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

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

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

Oli and Me

***

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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Asclepias Tuberosa: Bold, Beautiful Butterfly Weed is the Life of the Midsummer Garden Party…

July 7th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

Butterflyweed, North American native Asclepias tuberosa ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

Oh to be a butterfly! Just imagine fluttering upon this delightful blossom; saturated in golden-orange color and loaded with sweet nectar. What a feast! Why I’d flit from flower to flower, happily sharing precious pollen with hovering hummingbirds and buzzing bees, from sunrise to sunset. Butterflyweed in the garden? Yes, yes – don’t let the ‘weed’ moniker fool you! North American native Asclepias tuberosa (aka Aesclepias tuberosa) is a wonderful garden plant, forming neat and tidy, mid-sized mounds in the perennial border, where it blooms its pretty little head off on even the hottest of summer days (and boy are we having those right now – 97 degrees in the shade yesterday).

Afraid of bold hues? Much like an acquaintance with a strong personality, many gardeners have an uneasy relationship with orange. Perhaps due to worries about dis-harmony and possible conflicts within the garden group, some might hesitate –or even flat-out refuse– to invite such a colorful character to the party. This is sad really, because when used creatively, a splash of orange can work wonders in a garden. Having trouble imagining it?  Well, just think about the allure of a bright tangerine on a dark-blue ceramic plate, or the intensity of Vincent Van Gogh’s golden Sunflowers and his swirly gobs of luminous orange in the Starry Night. Hard to argue with the beauty of orange, now isn’t it? Blue-violet hues are never more spectacular than they appear when combined with orangey saffron and brilliant vermillion. Whether in the form of leaf or blossom, I am always looking for ways to play with the hot-cool combination. But orange also looks spectacular in a simple sea of green, her natural, attractive opposite on the color wheel…

Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed) begins to blossom in July

Of course, if you love butterflies, this plant really deserves a place in your mid-summer garden. Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed) provides long, summer sustenance to pollinators of all kinds, including, of course, the butterflies. Hardy in zones 4-10, butterflyweed prefers neutral to slightly acidic soil. This is a very drought tolerant plant; an excellent choice for hot, sunny spaces and naturalized areas, where it may be allowed to self-seed and form colorful drifts. At approximately 24-36″ high and 18″ wide, butterflyweed combines beautifully with other summer-fall blooming plants in rich colors; including speedwell (Veronica spicata), Russian Sage (Perovskia), gayfeather (Liatris), deep violet butterflybush (Buddleia cvs), monkshood (Aconitum), daylily (Hemerocallis), and many others…

And then, later on in the season –when the sun sinks low and tickles the garden with golden light– pretty dried-pods crack open on butterflyweed, releasing silky, parachute-like seeds into the air. It’s hard not to be charmed by such a sunny plant. She seems continually surrounded by a crowd of graceful movement; hummingbirds, bees, butterflies and drifting white tutus filling the air. Perhaps if you give her a chance, Asclepias tuberosa will add just the right touch of exuberance to your quiet beds and borders. Who knows, maybe you will even find her to be the life of your garden party…

Butterflyweed Seed Pods – Asclepias tuberosa – ⓒ Michaela at TGE

A single parachutist – Asclepias tuberosa ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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

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

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

June 29th, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

June 16th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Budding Beauty – Photo © Michaela at TGE

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

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

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

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

Pretty in Pink Molly Ringwald

Pretty in Pink on DVD

***

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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Front Yard Gardens: A Peek at the Design Process…

May 26th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

Front Yard Garden Design Proposal – Early Autumn View – Drawing © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Just look at this sweet little house! It’s easy to see why my clients Laura and Dan fell in love with this place, isn’t it? I was instantly charmed by this classic New England home. From the slate-covered hip roof and romantic front porch to the spacious back yard surrounded by elegant old trees – including a knock-out old Acer palmatum alongside the drive- it’s the perfect small town residence…

The Front Yard Garden Before Removal of Hemlock and Yew

But although the house itself has both a beautiful interior and exterior, the lack-luster, green-on-green entry garden -pictured in the ‘before’ shot above- didn’t do the place justice, and the new owners knew that it just had to go. Laura and Dan are both enthusiastic do-it-yourselfers, however they lead busy, professional weekday lives, and want to keep weekend gardening chores to a minimum. When they called me to consult on their first landscaping project, Laura and Dan were more than eager to pull the ho-hum hemlock and yawn-inducing yew populating their front yard. From our earliest email communications, it was immediately clear that Laura and Dan both wanted to add color and life to the front entry of their pretty home.

Located on a busy downtown street, the front yard of this home is surrounded by a concrete sidewalk, two driveways, and a heat-generating asphalt road- but the side and backyard gardens are sheltered by the shade of mature, graceful trees. Owners Laura and Dan have modern, minimal taste, and their desire for a low-maintenance landscape made them ideal candidates for a combination of native plants and easy-care ornamental grasses with season-spanning interest. I instantly connected with Laura and Dan, and their clean aesthetic sensibilities, and I was excited when they pulled out a copy of one of my favorite gardening books,(see below for links), Nancy Ondra’s Grasses, (read my review of this book and The Meadow Garden, here in this week’s Garden Variety blog at Barnes & Noble online ), during our first meeting.

Nancy Ondra’s Grasses is available online at B&N or Amazon

Two compact, deciduous shrubs, (Viburnum trilobum and plicatum ‘Newport‘), will soften the edge of the building, providing changing interest with foliage, pollinator-friendly flowers and bird-attracting fruit, while maintaining trans-seasonal garden structure with their attractive, contrasting forms. A gorgeous golden hops vine, (Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’), will add a luminous, romantic touch to the seductive shade of the front porch. Other key plants filling out the front yard garden plan -designed with an emphasis on form, color and movement- include mass plantings of flame grass, (Miscanthus purpurascens), blue fescue, (Festuca glauca), low maintenance daylilies, (Hemerocallis ‘Entrapment’), and ground-covering stonecrop, (Sedum). This fall, I recommended that the owners add daffodil bulbs to the front beds, to provide early season color and fragrance to their garden. At the opposite, protected corner of the house beside the front steps, a pink flowering dogwood, (Cornus florida rubra), will provide balance to the asymmetric design, with a flattering horizontal shape to soften the edge of the house and break up the vertical line. Dogwood is a great small-scale landscape tree, perfect for framing a home, and this particular selection, with its pink flowers and red autumn foliage and fruits, will really light up against the charcoal-brown siding.

One of the key new plants in this desgin: Miscanthus purpurascens, aka ‘Flame Grass’

And for contrast: Blue Festuca Grass from Spring Hill Nursery Online

Also in the works, a shady side yard garden to compliment the gorgeous, mature Japanese maple on the property. I will be back soon with more details on this fun, upcoming project, including a report from the owners on the do-it-yourself installation process. For more information on ornamental grasses and their use in the landscape, travel back in blog-time and see my earlier post on the subject here. See you with more on this easy-care garden design project soon…

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

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A Tall, Cool Drink for the Eyes: Quiet, Calm Camassia – Wild American Beauty of the Marshland and Meadow…

May 24th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Camassia quamash, North American native Camas Lily, © 2010 Michaela at TGE

A few years ago, at the low edge of my garden where open meadow meets slow transition to cultivated borders, I planted a handful of native camas lily bulbs, (Camassia quamash). The first spring after planting, an orphaned fawn wandered into my life, and he nibbled the tops off my camas lilies before they could bloom. Did you just gasp? I probably would have too, if I’d never met “L’il Deer”. My reaction may surprise you. I’m not denying that I winced -loudly- when I caught my voracious guest browsing my garden – but I quickly fell head over heels in love with that fawn, and his presence in my life was more than worth the sacrifice of a few blue blossoms. Funny how that works…  isn’t it?     (I promise to tell you more about my friend the fawn another day.)

Beloved by bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, camas lilies have a long and interesting history as a food source for many creatures – including humans. Before the arrival of Europeans to the North American continent, sweet camas bulbs were harvested and eaten raw by Native Americans. Although I have never tried them (it’s hard to pull them up when they produce such beautiful flowers) the flavor is described as chestnut-like, with a creamy, pleasant cooked texture…

Camassi quamash © 2010, Michaela at TGE

Camas lily species are all useful garden plants. Some, such as Camassia cusickii and leichtlinii, are stunning in perennial borders, and others, such as C. scilloides, (wild hyacinth), and C. quamsah, (common camas lily), are perfect for naturalizing at the edge of a pond, meadow or forest. Camas lilies are difficult to propagate from seed -and also challenging from divisions- but they are easily grown and readily available from most bulb companies for planting in fall. C. cusickii, (Cusick’s camas), as well as C.leichtlinii, (Leichtlin’s camas), and variously colored cultivars, from white to lavender and deep violet, form beautiful, well-mannered clumps in the garden.

Native to North America, from Canada to the southern plains, camas lilies range in hardiness from 3-9, depending upon the species. These beautiful and graceful flowers prefer locations with ample moisture in springtime, and later, as they go dormant in summer, they like for their soil to remain a bit drier. Position Camassia species and cultivars where they can be enjoyed blooming in late spring-early summer, and where other plants can fill in for them as their foliage dies back in dormancy. Once established, blue camas will create a soothing visual oasis in the garden, moving like water in a gentle stream with the slightest breeze. While they are blooming, I will forever picture a delicate fawn, drinking at a forest brook…

Camassia at the Edge of the Meadow © 2010, Michaela at TGE

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

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

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Native Plant Seminar Discussions: Viburnum Beetle Alert…

May 17th, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

Healthy Viburnum trilobum foliage and flower buds

Over the weekend, I presented a talk on native plants for ornamental landscape use to a fantastic group of New England gardeners, and some very good questions were raised about alien pests and diseases of North American native plants. One of the gardeners participating in the workshop mentioned die-back on the cranberrybush viburnum, (V. trilobum, as pictured above), in her yard. Without looking at the actual shrubs, it is impossible to know whether the die-back is being caused by viburnum beetles or by late frost or some other defoliating disease. However, at this time of year, I am concerned about the appearance of viburnum beetle larvae. It is very important for gardeners in the northern/north central United States and Canada to be on the lookout for small, greenish-yellow, caterpillar-like larvae on viburnum. If you grow shrubs in this genus -particularly cranberrybush and arrowwood viburnum- and you begin to notice skeletonization of foliage, check the undersides of the leaves -using a magnifying glass if necessary- for beetle larvae, (see Cornell University photos below). Spraying larvae directly with insecticidal soap at regular intervals will help contain the infestation. But be sure to avoid spraying beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, when applying any pesticide, including organic oils and/or soaps.

Photo Kent Loeffler/via Cornell University – click link here for CU article

The viburnum beetle, (Pyrrhalta viburni) -shown above in its spring larval stage- is a highly destructive, non-native beetle introduced to North America. In North America, the beetle was originally spotted in Canada, and it has been moving southward ever since. The beetle was first seen in the United States in 1994 along the New York State, US/Canada line. This voracious insect has been slowly, but steadily expanding its territory in the Northeast and the Pacific Northwest, and has now been spotted on viburnum, (particularly the native arrowood viburnum, V.dentatum and cranberrybush viburnum V. trilobum), in a number of northern states in the US. Both larvae and adult viburnum beetles feed on plant leaves, robbing the shrub’s ability to photosynthesize. Unchecked, this insect has the potential to destroy the native populations of a number of viburnum species throughout the North American continent. Arrowwood viburnum, (V. dentatum), and cranberrybush, (V. trilobum), fruit is an important source of food to North American songbirds. Horticulturalists hope that over time, our native viburnum will develop resistance to these insect invaders, though widespread destruction of wild viburnum populations is feared.

Some viburnum appear to be more resistant than others to this invasive pest. However, the shrubs most vulnerable to destruction are viburnum with smooth, broad leaves, including many natives. For more information on this beetle, including varieties most susceptible, and other ways to spot and manage the pests, visit the Cornell University “Citizen Science” Viburnum Beetle Information Page, linked here. If you suspect viburnum beetle in your area, be sure to report the sighting to your local university extension service, in order to help with tracking and management of these insect invaders.

No viburnum beetles have been spotted on my compact cranberrybush, (V. trilobum ‘Bailey Compact’), yet this spring, though the insect infestation is here in North America to stay. All gardeners should be on the look-out for this destructive pest, so that it can be properly managed.

I would like to extend a special thank you to this weekend’s seminar participants at Walker Farm for their great native plant questions. I will be posting more articles and information from the seminar over the coming weeks. Please scroll down the blog to find additional native plant posts, information and resources…

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Top photo is copyright Kent Loeffler via Cornell University Online. All other photos are copyright TGE.

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

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“Native Plants: Why We Love Them and How to Use Them” – Free Seminar – This Saturday at Walker Farm in Southern Vermont – Please Join Me …

May 13th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

Native mountain laurel, Kalmia latifolia, (here a cultivar named ‘Pink Charm’), are durable, evergreen plants suitable for ledgy, exposed sites… far more hardy than their more tender cousins, the rhododendrons. To read more about Kalmia latifolia, click here.

I am very fortunate. This place in Vermont, where I live, is a true paradise and I cherish it. Every morning I wake up to the beautiful sights, sounds and smells of the Northeast American native forest. The songs of the veery, hermit and wood thrush, the mist rising from the Green River valley and the fragrance of the woodland surrounding my home relax and comfort me. Of course, I am not alone – many people, including a great number of my friends, share this passion for the native forest, and I love hearing about their woodland hikes, experiences and discoveries. I have also traveled throughout North America, and I know that every spot I have visited on this continent -as well as those I have yet to see- has it’s own unique and irreplaceable natural environment. This great love of nature is part of the reason that our native plant species are so important to me. There are many, many beautiful trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants all over the world -and I do have quite the collection of exotics growing here in my garden- but none more beautiful or important than those growing naturally outside my front door.

As is often the case with horticultural terms and phrases, native plant can have different definitions and meanings, depending upon the source of the information. In the strictest sense -and according to The New England Wild Flower Society–  when describing woody plants and perennials on this continent, the term native “refers to plants growing in North America before the European settlement”. Does this definition include species cultivars that have occurred since the European settlement through natural selection? I imagine so. But I would expect that the NEWFS definition excludes individual cultivars and hybrids created via the hand-of-man. My own definition of  native plant is somewhat looser and more tolerant of the various seedlings and crosses commonly found in gardens and in the nursery trade – but I’m no research scientist. Perhaps because one of my favorite North American native trees, Serviceberry, (Amelanchier) , is a horticultural wild-child, (freely hybridizing with neighboring species within the genus), I see the process of plant evolution as inevitable and fascinating. Mother nature seems to approve of variety, as do I !

Beautiful, spring blooming trees of the forest understory, such as North American native Halesia tetraptera, are excellent choices for home landscapes…

Beyond their obvious importance in the natural ecosystem, native plants also make fantastic additions to the garden. In fact so many North American native species, such as coral bells, (Heuchera), coneflower, (Echinacea), gayfeather, (Liatris), and cranesbill, (Geranium), have become such superstars in the nursery trade, that many gardeners have no idea that many common garden center plants are actually wild-flower cultivars. As far as I am concerned, that is good news because native plants, and nursery-grown native cultivars, provide season-spanning food and habitat for local animals and insects, and they also tend to require less water, commercial fertilizer and chemical support than imported plants. And again, I am no purist when it comes to my own garden. I have a great passion for exotic plants – especially Japanese maple! However, I make every effort to garden responsibly, both in my own private paradise, and in the various landscapes where I work as a professional gardener and designer.

This Saturday morning, (May 15, 2010, from 9:30 – 10:30), I will be presenting a free, introductory seminar on native plants for home gardeners at Walker Farm in Dummerston, Vermont. If you are in the area, and you would like to learn more about how to use some of these incredibly beautiful and hardy plants in your own landscape, please stop in and join the fun. The emphasis will be on home garden design; creating season-spanning interest, and wildlife support in your back yard oasis, by choosing trees, shrubs and perennials native to the Northeastern United States. Examples of lesser-known native plants will be on display, and free color handouts, (including design tips, plant information, and online resources), will also be provided. Visit Walker Farm online or call 802 – 254-2051 for more information.

Native Lady fern, (athyrium felix feminina), and selected cultivars such as ‘Lady in Red’, shown here, provide shady habitat for toads and frogs, and durable but delicate beauty for dappled gardens… Especially in combination with other natives such as Heuchera and Phlox divaracata.

An excellent ground-covering choice for acidic, shady areas, native labrador violets are stunners whether blooming or not…

Clethra alnifolia, our native summersweet, is a low-maintenance shrub producing pollinator-magnet flowers in late summer…

Clethra alnifolia ‘Ruby Spice’ is a lovely, select pink-flowering cultivar of our native summersweet shrub, shown above

Aruncus, commonly known as the ‘goat’s beard’, is a statuesque June bloomer for perennial borders and woodland edge…

Fothergilla major, (witch alder), and Lindera benzoin,(spicebush), provide a changing backdrop for gardens all season long…

By combining native shrubs and cultivars, a natural but dynamic, sustainable design can be achieved…

Fothergilla gardenii, our native witch alder, lights up the garden in spring and again in late autumn…

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For further information on native plants, I highly recommend the following books by Allan Armitage and William Cullina; two accomplished, renowned, horticulturalists and brilliant and poetic authors I admire…

William Cullina – Wildflowers

William Cullina – Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines

Armitage’s Native Plants for North American Gardens

Article and photographs copyright 2010, Michaela at TGE

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

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

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Season-Spanning Garden Design: Springtime Shrubs to Enjoy Now and Love Again Later – Three Favorites…

May 11th, 2010 § 5 comments § permalink

Fothergilla major ‘Mt Airy’ in May – Native American Witch Alder

Is there anything more delightful than the sweet scent of blossoms on a sparkling spring morning? Nature never ceases to amaze me. I often marvel at the seasonal cycle here in my cold climate. In spite of my garden’s success, I still find it hard to believe that some of the more delicate-looking plants can survive winter’s wrath on this exposed hilltop. And yet every year, after months of frigid temperatures, brutal, blasting winds, and crushing snow topped with cracking ice, winter recedes and the blossoms return again. To me this is nothing short of a miracle.

The growing season in the Northeast is quite short. And the familiar, tongue-in-cheek saying, “New England has nine months of winter and three months of darn poor sledding”, never fails to bring a short, nervous burst of laughter amongst the locals. The temperatures here in Vermont have changed dramatically over the past few days, and over the weekend, I awoke to find a dusting of snow on my hilltop. Late spring snow always seems to stand out more in my memory than tardy autumn frost. Needless to say, in my work as a garden designer, and here in my own garden, extending seasonal enjoyment of the landscape is a big priority. And there are benefits to this multi-season approach no matter where you live…

One of my favorite early-spring blooming shrubs is very high on my list of ‘bests’ for autumn foliage. The native witch alder in my garden, (Fothergilla major and the compact Fothergilla gardenii), is currently smothered in beautiful white flowers and buzzing with honey bees. My tiny, winged garden guests are attracted to Fothergilla’s sweetly scented bottle brush blossoms and the ample pollen they provide in the early season. I absolutely adore this good garden ‘witch’, and long-time readers may recall my obsession with her late season color from my post on the subject last fall. If not, travel back and read more about this wonderful, woody plant by clicking here

Fothergilla major ‘Mt Airy’ , (in closeup at top of post), is a lovely treat for bees in May…

And she also glows again with various perennials in early November, luminous in the grey light…

When it comes to my love-affair with the next shrub on my list, Viburnum carlesii, I am almost at a loss for words. As I pause to think back on our romantic history, I believe that my passion for the genus can be traced back to a Korean spice shrub planted beside the farmhouse next door to my childhood home. The slightly spicy, delicately sweet flowers of this lovely shrub were both familiar and exotic to my curious little nose. Every spring, I would invent excuses to ride my wobbly bike down the road, just to catch a whiff of those delightful blossoms on the breeze. Over time, I became acquainted with other members of this large and varied genus, and I have to admit that even now, no other woody plant -even the beloved Acer palmatum– can compete with my affection for viburnum.

Why such devotion? Well to begin with, although these shrubs aren’t always fragrant, some of the earliest blooming, and most beautifully scented flowers are produced by species of viburnum. The intensely fragrant Viburnum bodnantese ‘Dawn’ blooms at roughly the same time as the witch hazel in my zone 4/5 garden, filling the air with the most wonderful, almost edible, scent. Closely following V. bodnantense in flower is V. carlesii, (hardy in zone 4-8), better known as Korean spice shrub or Mayflower viburnum. This intoxicatingly fragrant shrub is the coveted Viburnum of my childhood memory, and her gorgeous great-grand daughter now occupies a prominent spot near my front door. Come autumn, her leaves will turn brilliant orange-red, (see photo below), and her shiny black fruits gleam amongst the glowing foliage like polished obsidian jewels….

Viburnum carlesii – Beautifully fragrant pink blossoms delight in the spring garden…

While ebony fruits and bright color make Korean spice a favorite come fall…

And the last spring-bloomer on today’s season-spanning shrub list -oh yes, you know there will be more coming- has to be Daphne x burkwoodii ‘Carol Mackie’. As a whole, Daphnes have a well-earned reputation for being somewhat temperamental garden plants. However, given the right siting -excellent drainage and protection from crushing snow and burning winter wind, is key- this season-spanning beauty will perform well in zones 4-7. There are other, equally lovely Daphne species and cultivars, however ‘Carol Mackie’ remains at the top of my list of favorites due to her glorious variegated foliage, which turns a honey-gold color in autumn; beautiful against the cool, dark stone landing at the entry to my Secret Garden. And the fragrant flowers in spring? Well, that is really the hook. I have a botanically-obsessed friend who cradles the blossoms in her hands every May, as if they were the rarest commodity on earth – and with good reason! The perfume is sensational; slightly musky with hints of clove and subtly sweet fruit. If only it could be bottled…

Daphne x burkwoodii ‘Carol Mackie’ – Lovely, fragrant pink blossoms and golden edged green leaves, this shrub turns a lovely golden hue in autumn..

As shown here, (with Acer palmatum), in autumn

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Article and photographs copyright, Michaela at TGE. 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…

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Thunderstorms and Beautifully Saturated Spring Color…

May 5th, 2010 § 6 comments § permalink

Wind-Driven Rain at Forest’s Edge…

Spring thunderstorms kick up suddenly in New England. One minute the air is still and the birds are singing, and the next -WHAM- a bolt from the blue! Such was the case yesterday afternoon when I went to work in my garden. The passing storm was spectacularly violent and brief; passing through within minutes, but knocking out electricity for hours. Fortunately, my camera and laptop batteries were charged up and ready to capture some of the intense, water-saturated colors and sparkling, jewel-like effects of the wind-driven rain…

Moody Terrace Beneath the Mountain Silverbell, (Halesia)…

Watching the Coming Storm through the Studio Window…

Rain-Battered Glass Creates and Impressionistic, ‘Painted’ Landscape…

Sparkling Halesia tetraptera – our native, Carolina silverbell…

Raindrop Bejeweled Lady’s Mantle Catches First Light After the Storm…

Droplets Ripple the Water Bowl in the Secret Garden as the Sun Emerges…

Trout Lily, Lenten Rose and Daffodils: A Subtle Spring Medley in the Secret Garden, Enjoyed Between Raindrops…

A Puddle of Blue Muscari Pools at the Base of the Secret Garden Steps…

Daphne ‘Carol Mackie’, Delightfully Fragrant in the Humid Air…

Heuchera ‘Stormy Seas’ …

The Secret Garden Refreshed…

A Colorful Carpet of Chartreuse Euphorbia Lines the Secret Garden Path…

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All Photographs this post © 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…

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Trout Lily, Fawn Lily, or Dog-tooth Violet: No Matter What You Call This Woodland Beauty, Erythronium is a Springtime Delight…

May 3rd, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Erythronium tuolumnense in the Secret Garden at Ferncliff © 2010 Michaela TGE

Fawn lily, Trout lily, Dog-tooth Violet: Beautiful, evocative and curious, the common names for the various North American Erythronium species are as delightful as the lovely woodland flower itself. In Northeastern forests, yellow trout lilies are a common, early-spring, ephemeral wildflower. As a child, I collected these tiny, golden beauties in the forest behind my home, and presented them in little bouquets to my mother. When I was a little girl, the mottled green foliage of the trout lily made me think of a frog. Soon I confused the name, and called them ‘toad lilies’ for years – even now I catch myself making the mistake. The flowers themselves remind me of little yellow hats, especially when I catch them bobbing up and down in the morning breeze; fancy and feminine, like bonnet Audrey Hepburn might have worn.

The forest surrounding my garden is filled with trout lilies at this time of the year, but the beautiful Erythronium in my Secret Garden is a different species. This Erythronium, (pictured above and below), originates from California’s Sierra range, and is highly prized for both large bloom, glossy foliage, and a tidy, clumping habit. Many beautiful Erythronium cultivars exist -including pink and white hybrids- but I have a nostalgic preference for the pretty native species, as well as the golden California girls in my Secret Garden…

Erythronium tuolumnense and Phlox divaricata in the Secret Garden at Ferncliff © Michaela at TGE

Trout lilies, (and their cousins, the dog-tooth violets and fawn lilies), are native to North America and are generally hardy in USDA zones 3-9, (Erythronium tuolumnense hybrids have a narrower range of 5-8). Trout lilies can be purchased potted, and planted in spring, or the corms, (bulbs), are available to plant in early fall. All Erythroniums prefer a site with moist, humus-rich but well-drained soil. Slightly acidic soil, with a lower pH is best for trout lilies. Although this lovely wildflower enjoys the soft sunshine of early spring, she should be planted in a spot where drier conditions and shade prevail in summer. Trout lilies are usually found beneath deciduous trees and shrubs in native woodlands, and they will do well in similar garden situations. Like all spring ephemerals, the foliage of Erythroniums will die back soon after flowering, leaving empty spots in the garden during the dormant period. Because of this, from a design standpoint it makes sense to combine Erythronium with other shade-tolerant plants, which will fill the holes later in the season. Ferns, EpemidiumTiarellaHeuchera and Hosta all make good companions for Erythronium. Trout lilies also combine well with other early-blooming flowers, including Phlox divaricata, Helleborus, Narcissus, Dicentra and many other springtime beauties…

Erythronium tuolumnense and Lamium ‘White Nancy’ in the Secret Garden at Ferncliff © Michaela at TGE

Similar… no? It seems Audrey had a thing for hats and umbrellas, and so do I – especially in the garden. (photo credit not located)

Audrey Hepburn by Terry O’Neill

Audrey Hepburn films are some of my favorites, (Photo Still: Paris When it Sizzles, 1963, © Bob Willoughby). She is definitely a Fawn Lily to me. What do you think?

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Article and photographs, (with noted exceptions), copyright 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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Well Fiddle-Dee-Dee: Unfurling Spring Pleasures in the Forest at Ferncliff…

April 30th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Fiddlehead ferns unfurling in the Secret Garden – Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia pensylvanica)

Lady fern ‘Lady in Red’ (Athyrium filix feminina), in my garden

Oh yes, we are smack-dab-in-the-middle of fiddlehead season here in the Northeast; one of spring’s most delightful and ephemeral pleasures at my forest home in Vermont. Here on my ledgy site, Ostrich ferns, (a member of the cliff fern family), are abundant; producing large, tightly curled heads as they emerge from the ground in April and early May. Of course fiddleheads are beautiful to behold, and in my garden I enjoy their delicate springtime beauty paired with spring bulbs and emerging perennials such as Lenten rose, (Helleborus x hyrbidus), and native ephemerals including foam flower, (Tiarella), dogtooth violet, (Erythronium), woodland phlox, (Phlox divaricata), bloodroot, (Sanguinaria), and spurge, (Euphorbia). All ferns produce fiddleheads, from which their feathery fronds unfurl, (I dare you to say that 10 times, fast). And some, such as the red-tips of the Lady Fern, (Athyrium filix feminina) ‘Lady in Red’, and the silvery fiddles of Cinnamon fern, (Osmunda cinnamomea), are quite stunning. But there is another reason for my fern-euphoria: this is tasty, tender fiddlehead harvest time!

Collecting Ostrich Fern Fiddleheads at Ferncliff

The Ostrich fern, (Matteuccia pensylvanica), and the Cinnamon fern, (Osmunda cinnamomea), are the most commonly harvested fiddleheads in the Northeast, and for good reason. These two large-sized native ferns produce the most delicious fiddleheads in the forest. If you’ve never gathered a fresh meal of fiddleheads from the woods, let me just give you a hint of what you are missing. To me, fiddleheads taste a bit like asparagus, only sweeter and more earthy. Although you can buy this gourmet treat in markets at this time of year, there is really no substitute for the taste of a hand-harvest. Fiddleheads can be eaten raw, (not advisable in great quantity due to possible health risks), but usually they are cooked. One of the easiest ways to prepare them is by cooking in a pot of boiling, salted water until tender, (7 -10 minutes for super fresh fiddleheads and slightly longer if the harvest has been refrigerated for a few days), and then serve them warm with a bit of butter. Although fiddleheads can be added to a variety of dishes, and also be preserved by pickling or freezing, one of my favorite ways to eat them is simply prepared in a Fiddlehead and Feta omelette…

Ferncliff Fiddlehead and Feta Omelette

Ferncliff Fiddlehead and Feta Omelette

Ingredients (makes one omelette)

3    medium sized fresh eggs

2    teaspoons of butter

1    handful of freshly harvested and lightly cooked fiddleheads

1/4 cup of fresh feta cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Whisk three eggs together in a small bowl with a fork, (just enough to combine the yolk and white), add salt and pepper to taste. Melt butter in an 8 inch skillet on low, (do not brown). When the foam subsides, add eggs to the pan, wait a few seconds and slowly pull the egg toward the center of the pan, (this creates a fluffy, evenly cooked omelette). Cook on medium/low, and after about a half a minute, scoot the omelette over to one side and add the feta and fiddleheads. Fold the omelette in half. Cook for another half a minute or so, (pat if you like). Turn off the heat and then place a plate over the pan and flip the omelette over. Serve with a helping of fresh blanched or steamed fiddleheads and a bit of feta crumbled on top. Delicious!

Fiddleheads and Feta: Ingredients for the Perfect Morning Omelette

Mmmmm…

Ostrich fern unfurling at Ferncliff © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Shadow of a Lady Fern © Michaela at TGE

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Words and Pictures copyright 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All Rights Reserved.

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No Shrinking Violet: North American Native, Lovely Viola Labradorica…

April 26th, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

Viola labradorica, (photo © 2010 Michaela at TGE), North American native Labrador violet…

They say that Elizabeth Taylor once drew her lovers in with the flutter of her dark lashes and a passing glance from her violet-hued eyes. I have never seen eyes tinted in such a rich color, but I am sure that they must be powerfully seductive. Richard Burton was certainly captivated -twice in fact- and countless others fell under Elizabeth’s spell. Indeed, if you are to believe the headlines on the front page of grocery check-out tabloids, (oh come on, you know you peek at them too), the violet-eyed bombshell is still reeling them in with her gaze. Of course, not everyone loves Elizabeth Taylor, but I have a soft-spot for her – I admit it. I completely love her in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and her other great roles, and I could care less how many times she’s been married. She believes in love and she throws her heart open wide, with complete abandon…

Violets. Like most divas, it seems you either love them, or you hate them. Some are neat and tidy, and others spread wildly – sometimes even aggressively. Over the weekend, my friend Leah sent me a quick note. She was wondering if she should be concerned about the violets popping up in her garden. Leah finds them charming -as do I- but she is aware that some wild species are considered weeds. By now, it’s probably quite apparent that I have a looser approach to gardening. If a plant performs well as a ground cover, producing a lovely blossom and pretty foliage, why fight Mother Nature, right? OK, sometimes we must. Sometimes. In well-tended perennial gardens, we must keep the rhizomatous roots of spreading wild violets in check. Annual field violets and pansies are rarely a problem however, and I rather like them.

Anyway, Leah got me thinking about violets. I grow many species of viola here at Ferncliff, and I enjoy them all – including the more aggressive types spreading at the edge of the forest. And few European varieties, such as the German violets I grow, possess a powerful and intoxicating fragrance. The scent, drifting from neat colonies clustered at the base of the warm stonewalls here in spring, is quite heady. Much as I love them all, it is our native Labrador violet that has truly captured my heart..

Viola labradorica – © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Lovely Viola labradorica, as the name suggests, can be found growing wild to the north in Canada, from Labrador and Ontario, on southward into Northern New England, (USDA hardiness zones 2-8). Her gorgeous true-violet blossoms emerge in early spring, (April here in Vermont), and continue for several weeks. Throughout the season, Viola labradorica’s beautiful burgundy foliage covers the garden floor in a dense carpet, slowly morphing in color to a purple tinged green by midsummer. To put on the best show, she prefers dappled shade and woodsy soil with moist conditions, though she will also adapt to drier spells once established. This is another tough lady, with deceptively fragile looks. Tiny she is, remaining a ground cover no more than 8 inches high, (typically 3-6″), but shrinking she is not! The Labrador violet forms a bold tapestry – stunning in combination with golden Japanese forest grass, (Hakonechloa ‘Aurea’), and painted ferns, (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum), and virtually any perennial or woody plant – particularly those with gold, bronze and orange-tinted foliage…

Viola labradorica © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Violet seduction, as personified by Elizabeth Taylor {Image ⓒ Wallace Seawell / MGM archive}

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Article and photographs (with noted exception) are copyright 2010, Michaela at TGE. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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