Indoor Eden: The Secret Garden Room…

October 3rd, 2010 § 10 comments § permalink

Where does the Secret Garden lead? The Garden Room, of course…

Brrrrrrr… There’s a chill in the air this morning! Low temps hovered around 34 degrees fahrenheit last night, and in spite of the bright sunshine, it sure feels like fall now. Jack Frost hasn’t yet made his inaugural, autumn visit to the garden, but I am already preparing for his arrival. Out in the potager, hoop-houses have been set in place to protect the tender crops from freezing nighttime temperatures (click here for tutorial). And in the ornamental gardens, potted tropicals and houseplants have begun their seasonal migration indoors.

Deep within the Secret Garden, behind the high stone walls and below the rusty steel balcony, there exists yet another hidden door. This dimly-lit Garden Room —a glorified walk-out basement, really— is my secret-within-a-secret. Though dark —and I suppose slightly mysterious— the Garden Room receives considerable filtered light through a wall of glass doors. Here the Streptocarpus, Begonia, Asparagus densiflorus, as well as other tropical and tender perennial plants will make a winter home…

A Wooden Giraffe Gazes Out the Garden Door

An Enormous Old Pot, Filled with an Asparagus Fern (wheeled in and out with a handcart each year)

What else can be found in my Secret Garden Room? Well, I supposed it’s becoming something of a repository for treasured old pots and urns, hand tools and various curios and natural collections: birds nests, bones, feathers and skins, books, and winter gardening projects. In summer, this spot is a cool oasis for reading and visiting on humid days. In autumn and winter, the Garden Room becomes a place for indoor garden projects, study, quiet reflection and intimate conversation. Someday, I hope to build a conservatory for overwintering plants. But this special, secret space —secluded from the rest of my home— will always be a favorite garden retreat…

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall – Reflective Windows Add Light to the Dimly Lit Garden  Room…

Collected, Natural Curios Line Shelves and Fill Glass Jars in the Garden Room

Tools, pots, plants and curious fill the shadowy Garden Room. Candles add Warmth at Twilight, and on Dark, Rainy Days…

I finished the Garden Room walls by hand, with layer upon layer of plaster; in naturally occurring colors, ranging from buff to terra-cotta.

Looking Through the Garden Room Doors, into the Secret Garden Surrounded by Stonewalls and A Vine-Clad, Steel Balcony

Rusty Old Chairs and Candle Sticks will Remain Outdoors, Well Past the Frost

A Potted Agapanthus Settles into Her Winter Retreat

An Enormous Pot Filled With Asparagus Fern (moved back and forth annually from one side of the glass door to the other). The Old Settee was Found in a Church Tag Sale.

My Indoor Gardening Projects Include Terrarium-Making and Potting Bulbs for Winter Forcing – See More Ideas and Resources on the Indoor Eden Page Here. This Lovely Wardian Case was a Gift from H. Potter.

The View of the Secret Garden from the Hidden Glass Doors

The High, Moss-Covered Stone Walls Surrounding the Secret Garden at Ferncliff  Were Built by Vermont Artist Dan Snow.

A Peek Outside the Secret Garden Door in October…


Article and photographs â“’ 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

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The Gothic Gourmet: Black Beauties and Dark Delights of the Potager…

February 21st, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Pasilla Bajio (the little raisin) – from White Flower Farm

Imagine gleaming, glossy, black peppers, shiny as patent leather shoes. Picture dark red, tell-tale-heart tomatoes and ebony eggplant polished to a satiny patina. Now visualize amethyst hued basil, purple kohlrabi and blue-black cabbage. Intrigued? Welcome to the slightly sinister, and delightfully decadent world of gothic-gourmet gardening. Designing a beautiful and productive potager can take many twists and turns, sometimes leading to shadows in the light of day. And who lurks about this Edward Gorey – inspired vegetable plot? Why black ravens and spiders and warty-toads – oh my. Imagine delicious, black-fruiting tomatoes; vines twisting and twining about a spindly trellis straight from the imagination of Tim Burton. Or how about  a plot of violet hued gourmet potatoes, guarded by a group of cackling black crows? Terrifyingly tempting, wouldn’t you agree? I see my vegetable garden growing into the shadows this year – with strange metal flowers, freakish pots, eerie Victorian bat houses, and fantastical feeders for my feathered friends. Who ever said a garden plot had to be straight-laced and boring? Morticia Addams had other ideas, and so do I…

Yes, it’s quite the eccentric picture – I admit it – but a tasty one too. Richly colored vegetables are all the rage with savvy chefs right now, and there’s a good reason! The produce harvested from dark fruiting plants, such as black peppers and eggplant, lies at the tasty base of some of the most exquisite culinary creations. And the best part of growing these black gems yourself? Gourmet vegetables like ‘All Blue’ potatoes and black ‘Pierce’s Pride’ heirloom tomatoes cost an arm-and-a-leg at the market, but the frugal gardener can produce exotic dinners with dark homegrown veggies for a fraction of the price.

So, even if you aren’t inclined to bring Edward Scissorhands decor into your backyard garden, adding a few black beauties to your potager will certainly add some rich flavor to your dinner plate. Gothic vegetable gardening is a horse of a different color – why not join me for a ride? Take a peek at a few of the magical things dancing through my dark, garden-designing mind…

Crow Garden Sculpture by artist Virginia Wyoming

Victorian Lace Plate by artist Virginia Wyoming

Rust Wire Edging from Terrain

Amethyst Basil – Johnny’s Seeds

Orient Express Eggplant from Johnny’s Seeds

The Tell-Tale Heart? Beautiful ‘Pierce’s Pride’, Black-Red Heirloom Tomato from White Flower Farm

Strangely Beautiful –  Copper Oriole Feeder from Duncraft

Nevermore © 2009 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Shadowy Silhouettes – Bird Fruit Feeders from Duncraft

Purple Ornamental Peppers in the Potager at Ferncliff

Red Rubin Basil from Johnny’s Seeds

‘Black Pearl’ Ornamental Pepper – Johnny’s Seeds

Green Flower Pot from Terrain

Gothic Garden Beauty – Metal Mum from Terrain

Urn Planter from White Flower Farm

Toad Stool Garden Ornament from Terrain

‘Kolibri’ kohlrabi from Johnny’s Seeds

Victorian Bat House from Duncraft

Bat Guano Fertilizer from Down To Earth

Bat Cottage from Duncraft

‘Purple Beauty’ Pepper from White Flower Farm

Mustard Greens from Johnny’s Seeds

Royal Burgundy Round Bush Beans from Johnny’s Seeds

Rusted Iron Allium Stem from Terrain

Toad House from Duncraft

Metal Agapanthus Stem from Terrain


Bull’s Blood Beets from Johnny’s Seeds

‘Sweet Chocolate’ Peppers from Johnny’s Seeds

‘Black Plum’ Heirloom Tomatoes from White Flower Farm

Rust Obelisk from Terrain

‘Holy Moly Peppers’ from White Flower Farm

Bone Meal Fertilizer from Down To Earth


‘Black from Tula’ Heirloom Tomatoes from White Flower Farm

‘All Blue’ Gourmet Potatoes from White Flower Farm

Wire Basket from Terrain

Blood Meal Fertilizer from Down To Earth

Rosenblum decorative pot from Terrain

The Gothic Potager in Winter – Dark Cabbage in Ice at Ferncliff

Dark Gardening Inspiration from my gothic library collection: Edward Gorey’s “Evil Garden” and “Gilded Bat”……  Amphigorey Too (Perigee) – Edward Gorey

And the shadowy muse-conjuring tales of Amy Stewart’s – Wicked Plants

Copper Bean Trellis Encased in Ice – Ferncliff Potager in Winter

Johnny Depp as Edward Scissorhands, image © 20th Century Fox

Carolyn Jones as Morticia Addams,The Original Addams Family, image © ABC


Article and Photographs, (with noted exceptions: linked object photos via Terrain, White Flower Farm and Johnny’s Seeds, Lace plate photo: Virginia Wyoming), copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

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