Walking in a Winter Wonderland …

December 1st, 2009 § 6 comments § permalink

ornamental grass, first snow

Sleigh bells ring… are you listening ?

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

Welcome December !

Hellebores dusted with snow

Hellebores gleam and glimmer like stars in white glitter…

cotoneaster with snow

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

Beech stand, first snow...

The twinkling forest on a frosty morning…

Stone steps dusted in snow

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

Ilex verticillata and Juniperus chinensis 'Sargentii' dusted in snow

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

Juniperus horizontalis 'Wiltonii'

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

Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight'

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’, delicately powdered…

Heuchera seed with ice in November

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

Rodgersia dusted in snow

Rodgersia remnants strike a feminine pose beside the stone wall…

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

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

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

Thank you !

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On a Cold, Wet November Morning the Red Twigs of Tartarian Dogwood are Still Burning Bright…

November 24th, 2009 § Comments Off on On a Cold, Wet November Morning the Red Twigs of Tartarian Dogwood are Still Burning Bright… § permalink

red twig dogwood

Tartarian dogwood, (Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’), at Ferncliff in November…

There’s nothing like a dose of brilliant scarlet color to lift the spirits in dreary weather! On this damp, grey November morning, the twigs of Tartarian dogwood glow like red-hot embers in a bonfire. Isn’t it spectacular? Nature can be quite the artiste! This glorious woody shrub grows wild from Eastern Russia to North Korea and Northeast China. Here in North America, Tartarian dogwood is a well-mannered introduced species, hardy in USDA zones 2 – 7. Best massed for color-effect, each shrub will grow approximately 10′ high and wide. Although I occasionally use a single red twig dogwood in a small garden design, I prefer to see this beauty grouped, (as shown above), for a naturalized look.

Tartarian dogwood, (Cornus alba), is a close relative of our native Redosier dogwood, (Cornus sericea), and although they are difficult to distinguish, (even for trained horticulturalists), in this case I prefer the non-native species to our own. My favorite Russian native, pictured here, (Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’), tends to be more upright in habit than our native red twig dogwood, and to my eye, it is a bit brighter in stem color. The rounded form of the shrub is very attractive in summer, forming a natural looking, verdant backdrop for other plantings. In autumn, Tartarian dogwood holds its burgundy foliage until late fall. And when the leaves drop in late October, the stems shine brilliantly in the gloomy landscape. But this beautiful show is only just beginning! Come winter, the red twigs will make a stunning display against a backdrop of snow white. I like to cut about 1/3 of the stems to the ground in early spring, in order to encourage new woody growth. The younger stems shine brightest in the landscape…

red twig dogwood ll, march 19, 2009

Tartarian dogwood, (Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’), at Ferncliff in March…

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

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

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

Thank you !

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

November 2nd, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

Morning Light at the edge of the forest

The native forest on an early November morning…

Native Beech in Morning Light, October

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

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

Artemesia 'silver mound'

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

butterfly weed pod

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

dried ornamental mentha

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

Miscanthus purpurascens in the last days of October

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

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

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

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

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

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

Acer palmatum x dissectum 'Seiryu' backlit foliage

Acer palmatum x dissectum 'Seiryu'

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

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

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

Amsonia in afternoon light

Amsonia hubrichitii glows orange-gold in the low light

'Heavy Metal' in November

Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy metal’ in November…

Miscanthus sinensis

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

miscanthus sinensis against sky

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Strictus’ plays with November light…

oat grass with blue sky in meadow

Chasmanthium latifolium, Wild-Oats…

Miscanthus purpurascens tassel

Miscanthus purpurascens inflorescence

milkweed

Asclepias tuberosa, butterfly weed

miscanthus inflorescens

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ inflorescence

Miscanthus purpurascens

Misccanthus sinensis ‘Strictus’, Porcupine Grass

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

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

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Autumn Brilliance: Plants for Spectacular Fall Color, Part One …

October 5th, 2009 § 4 comments § permalink

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

What an impossibly beautiful morning. The sky is a scraped palette of blue-grey-violet, and the world all around me is a swirling kaleidoscope of orange and chartreuse, scarlet and vermillion, saffron and violet. I began my day with an early walk through the garden – savoring the ephemeral beauty of windflower and monkshood, and the delicate tufts of fountain grass.

My favorite woody plants, autumn’s radiant viburnum, shine against the moody sky as if lit from within. Viburnum trilobum ‘Bailey compact’ and V. nudum ‘Winterthur’ are particularly beautiful in early October. In fact, Bailey reminds me a bit of those rainbow colored confections found in old-fashioned candy stores. Do you know the ones I mean… the long, translucent cone with the stick? I can’t recall their name. The spice bush, (Lindera benzoin), has turned lemon-drop yellow, and her neighbor, the Bodnant viburnum, (V. bodnantense ‘Dawn’), is slowly shifting from maraschino to dark-cherry-fizz. But at the moment, the real stand-out in the garden is the flame-grass, (Miscanthus purpurascens). This glorious plant is a giant swirl of orange, yellow and grape hued ribbon, ready to be wound into a psychedelic lolly-pop. Delicious. Perhaps Willy Wonka collected plants in the fields beyond his factory?

And speaking of candy-shops – it seems my garden has turned into a feathered-foodie mecca. Every bird in the forest, from cedar wax-wings and cardinals to finches of every hue, has turned up to feast upon seeds and berries. The tea and nannyberry viburnum, (V. setigerum and V. lentago), are a beautiful sight with their brilliantly colored berries and stems, and the American cranberrybush viburnum, (V. trilobum ‘J.N. Select’ and ‘Baily compact’), is loaded with shimmering red fruit – all bright as gum-drops.

Oh dear. All of this talk about candy is making me hungry. But before I slip away to rustle up some breakfast, I will leave you with some ideas for autumn planting. This month I will be focusing on ornamental trees and shrubs, grasses and perennials for brilliant fall color. Take a peek at some of the colorful plants and combinations here. The key to successful late-season garden design is anticipating the color-shifts of autumn and winter. So let’s have a little fun with garden alchemy, shall we? I’ll meet you back here in just  a bit…

flame grass at edge of north garden : meadow edge 2Miscanthus purpurascens (Flame grass), and Viburnum trilobum, edge the meadow

amsonia, close upAmsonia illustris (Ozark Blue Star), glows against blue-green, ground-hugging juniper

viburnum setigerum, tea viburnumViburnum setigerum, (Tea viburnum), fruit in September

Anemone ‘Serenade’ (Japanese Wind Flower), harmonizes with golden hosta

Berry and stem coloration of North American native Viburnum lentago, (Nannyberry viburnum)

witch hazel 2Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ (Witch Hazel), color variation

witch hazelHamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ (Witch hazel ), color variation

Lespedeza thunbergii bicolor bush cloverLespedeza thunbergii bicolor, (bush clover), provides late-season bloom

autumn color lindera bLindera benzoin (Spice bush), turns lemon yellow in early October

Viburnum bodnantense 'Dawn' autumn color, companion Lindera benzoinViburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’, shines cherry red against Lindera’s gold

Rosa rugosa hipRosa rugosa’s (Rugosa rose) fruit is a knock-out in September

Viburnum plicatum var tomentosum 'Shasta' begins to colorViburnum plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Shasta’ (Doublefile viburnum)

Lindera b. fall color close upNorth American native Lindera benzoin, (Spice bush)

Viburnum trilobum J.N. Select RedwingViburnum trilobum ‘J.N. Select’ Redwing – American Cranberry Viburnum fruits

Viburnum trilobum JN Select 'Redwing' and Miscanthus purpurascensViburnum trilobum ‘J.N. Select’ Redwing, (American Cranberrybush viburnum), with Miscanthus purpurascens, a radiant combination on a misty morning

amsonia hubrichtiiAmsonia hubrichtii (Thread-leaf Blue Star), a glowing North American native plant

Cornus kousa fruitsCornus kousa, (Korean dogwood), fruit in September, slowly turns from green to scarlet

Humulus lupulus, "aureus'Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’ (Golden hops), is bright all season long

Viburnum nudum 'Winterthur'Viburnum nudum ‘Winterthur’ turns a knock-out red with bright blue fruit

Dryopteris erythrosora autumn fern  'Brilliance'Dryopteris erythrosora ‘Brilliance’, (Autumn fern), is one of the stars of late-season shade

entry walk, viburnum, miscanthus, lindera b, viburnum b, autumn perennialsEntry garden: Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’, Viburnum trilobum ‘Bailey Compact, groundcover ajuga reptans,’Brocade’Background: Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’, Fothergilla gardenii, (still green), Lindera benzoin,(gold), Cornus kousa. Background perennials: Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, Rudbeckia hirta.

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For more on ornamental grass, see ‘Autumn and Everything After‘…

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

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without 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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Behold the Beauty in a Technicolor Dreamcoat: Rhus Typhina, our North American Native, Staghorn Sumac…

September 28th, 2009 § 6 comments § permalink

Rhus typhina ‘Tiger eyes’ ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Wow. Will you take a long look at Lady Rhus typhina? Isn’t she beautiful ? And she is such a keeper. What gardener wouldn’t welcome this stunning, autumn beauty with her technicolor dreamcoat? But there is a catch. I am afraid this lady has a bad reputation. It’s not her fault, mind you. She hasn’t done anything wrong herself. It’s just that she comes from a long line of toxic relatives. It’s sad really. I hate to say it, but her kin will really burn you if you don’t watch yourself. They are beautiful, but only from a distance. Up close, they are quite a nasty group. Perhaps you know the type? Maybe you have met them – I am certain you would remember. A close encounter with her two most famous cousins, Poison ivy, (toxicodendron radicans/rhus radicans), or Poison Sumac, (toxicodendron vernix/rhus vernix), will likely produce an unforgettable, blistering rash. Thankfully, botanists have taxonomically separated these nefarious relations from Lady Rhus, and this has helped to clear up confusion in horticultural circles and classrooms. But word on the street is little changed – the Sumac name still gets a bad rap.

staghorn sumac, september, fruit and early hint of colorRhus typhina, North American native Velvet/Staghorn Sumac, in September ⓒ Michaela at TGE

So lets see what we can do to help her out. In case you haven’t been properly introduced, this is North American native Rhus typhina, better known as Velvet or Staghorn sumac. And as you can see, she is drop-dead gorgeous. All summer long, Velvet sumac charms us with her tropical looking foliage. In fact, as you will observe in the photo below, she almost looks as if she came from a distant jungle, or perhaps an exotic South Pacific island. But she really is just the proverbial, beautiful girl-next-door. In the Northeast, when days shorten and nights chill in the latter part of the year, Rhus suddenly pulls out all the stops when she dons her autumn finery. Her cloak is quite a knock-out. Chartreuse, gold, vermillion, scarlet; impossible hues all blend together to form the most magnificent tapestry you have ever seen. She is quite the fashionista. I think she almost puts the Paris runways to shame. Rhus typhina also produces clusters of hairy fruit that turn a beautiful, dark crimson – a stand out feature in the gray days of mid November and early December. Even in late winter, her velvety stems are worthy of notice, when they catch the hoar frost and glimmer in winter light.

staghorn sumac, up Rhus typhina, looking more Bali than Boston, but a North American native all the same ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Like most wild-things, Rhus typhina must be properly understood to be fully appreciated. A North American native shrub, (or small tree), Velvet Sumac is hardy in zones 3 – 8, (some cultivars have a wider range), and can reach a height of 15-20′ or more, with a similar spread. I think she prefers to be positioned at the outer edge of a garden; perhaps alongside a drive, or a natural boundary. Although this is a suckering plant, and perhaps a bit coarse in winter, she is easy to please and quite benign. Only her name, not her human-compatibility, has been tarnished by the poisonous members of her family. Fantastic cultivars, such as the featured Rhus typhina ‘Tiger eyes’, and hybrids, (often crosses between R. typhina and R. glabra), like ‘Red Autumn Lace’, have proven to be fantastic garden plants. Just imagine the beautiful color combinations in an autumn garden. Violet, magenta and cerulean Asters; deep purple monkshood, (Aconitum); golden Amsonia; ornamental grass – the possibilities are limited only by imagination.

I think it’s high time we put out the good word for our native beauty, Rhus typhina. Autumn just wouldn’t be the same without her…

Rhus typhina, (Staghorn Sumac or Velvet Sumac) ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Close up of Rhus typhina’s technicolor autumn wardrobe ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Rhus typhina ‘Tiger eyes’ begins its autumn alchemy  ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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

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

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Sweet-Scented August: Clethra Alnifolia

August 17th, 2009 § 4 comments § permalink

Clethra alnifolia, North American native “Sweet Pepperbush’

Some of the most beautiful late-blooming shrubs remind me of that childhood tale, “The Ugly Duckling”. Late to leaf out, looking perhaps a bit twiggy and awkward in June, these stars of the late summer garden take their time dressing up for spring. Sweet pepperbush is one of those shrubs. Personally, I never mind shyness, in fact I often find it quite charming. Besides, it’s like they always say, good things often come to those who wait. And in the case of Clethra alnifolia, that old adage couldn’t be more true. This late blooming beauty produces some of the most fragrant flowers in my garden; attracting butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and humans alike. But when most gardeners are out shopping in early spring, Clethra alnifolia is looking a bit scrappy. Lilac, azalea and roses are scooped up at garden centers by the cart-full, while the sweet pepperbush languishes in the corner like a high school wall-flower. It seems like her only fans are horticultural-geeks, (always quick notice her).

Well, don’t you be fooled by the awkward-spring-nature of this gorgeous native plant. Clethra is a knock-out worth waiting for. Just like that skinny girl at the prom, (you remember the one with the metallic braces?), Clethra makes up for lost time a bit later on in the season, when you will be glad you chose her. When the perky roses are past their prime and that showy azalea starts to look a bit shabby, Clethra’s lustrous green leaves still shimmer and shine in the late summer heat. Then, round about August, Clethra really comes into her own. Oh the flowers!  The sweet smell of pepperbush is a fragrance you will never forget. Borne on the current season’s new growth, the elegant blossoms cluster on upright racemes or panicles, often 8-12″ in length. Bloom time begins in late July or early August and continues for at least 4-6 weeks, (longer when sited in a moist location with partial shade). And there are so many new cultivars! ‘Ruby Spice’ and ‘Pink Spires’ bloom in glorious shades soft pink rarely seen so late in the season, and creamy ‘September Beauty’ extends the spicy-fragrance right into October here at Ferncliff.

Clethra alnifolia ‘Ruby Spice’ in mid-August at Ferncliff

Come autumn, the foliage of Clethera alnifolia turns a gorgeous shade of golden yellow, slowly burnishing to a warm, coppery brown. What beauty! I like to surround Clethra with late blooming blue-violet asters, such as Aster oblongifolium, ‘Raydon’s Favorite’, and violet-blue Aconitum (Monk’s Hood). Placing violet against the gold is a great way to bring out the intensity of both colors. Because of its honey gold autum foliage, Clethra also looks beautiful when planted near darker foliage shrubs such as purple-leafed Cotinus, and Physocarpus cultivars ‘Diabolo’, ‘Coppertinia’, and ‘Summer Wine’. The multicolored autumn leaves of Fothergilla gardenii and many Viburnum cultivars also make great border-mates for Clethra alnifolia.

And now, at the risk of sounding like an infomercial, is the time when I say : “but wait… that’s not all”! Because Clethra alnifolia is a native to North America, growing this shrub is one of the kindest things you can do for late season bees, butterflies and birds. Since many suburban gardeners lean toward spring-blooming shrubs in their planting schemes, few backyard food sources remain for our pollen-dependent friends in the latter part of the season. By choosing late-blooming shrubs and perennials, a gardener can help give back some of the natural habitat we humans have taken away with our subdivisions, lawns and hardscaping. Not only will you enjoy the fragrance of sweet pepperbush in your garden, but the hummingbirds, bees and butterflies will delight in Clethra’s sweet elixir.

Ready to add sweet pepperbush to your garden? Like most ‘ugly-duckings’ Clethra alnifolia has an easy-going personality. And, as is the case with many native plants, this is generally a pest-free shrub with few diseases. Keep in mind Clethra’s needs and you won’t be disappointed. The sweet pepperbush is native to woodlands and swamps from Nova Scotia on south to Florida, (zone 4 – 9). As such a plant, Clethra prefers semi-moist, slightly acidic soil conditions, (though average, well prepared and mulched garden soil will do fine). Also a plus, Clethra can tolerate a bit of shade from taller shrubs or trees. But do keep in mind, this is a suckering shrub, so give it plenty of room to spread out, (cultivars vary in size from small to large, but the species can grow from 4-12′ high and 6-10′ wide or more). Because the blossoms of sweet pepperbush occur on new-growth late in the season, any pruning should take place in the early part of the year,(ideally before June 1st). Be certain to make shallow-angled cuts on the alternate leafed branches, just above an outward facing leaf-bud. Clethra alnifolia forms a loose, natural-looking hedge when planted in groups, and except for the removal of spent blossoms, I avoid most pruning. However, should you find that your sweet pepperbush gets a bit wild and unruly, a severe pruning in early spring will rejuvenate her beauty. To my eye, Clethra alnifolia is always the perfect garden swan.

Clethra alnifolia, ‘Ruby Spice’ in bud at Ferncliff

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Article and Photographs Copyright 2009 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

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