Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Best Trees for Small Gardens; Fall Color

The fall colors of the sweetgum tree last for many weeks.

Walking through an arboretum at this time of year is a true feast for the senses. Fiery shades of red, orange and gold burn against the watery blue sky, Katsura trees (Cercidiphyllum sp.) release their tempting candy apple aroma, shiny brown ‘conkers’ from horse chestnut trees (Aesculus sp.) are waiting to be scavenged by children while crisp leaves scrunch underfoot, just begging to be kicked into the air.

These autumnal scenes may be on a large scale yet they can also be our inspiration for making the most of the season in smaller gardens. Not everyone has room for a spreading English oak tree or a large grove of aspens, but there are some great trees of a smaller stature which offer just as much vibrancy as their larger cousins.

Without a doubt Japanese maples immediately come to mind when considering fall color and there are some wonderful books to help you select the best ones for your situation.  My personal favorite is Japanese Maples by J. D. Vertrees or its companion pocket guide which I find invaluable for nursery visits. However, in this post I’d like to focus on the underused and lesser known fall beauties.

The rich colors of Persian ironwood.

Persian ironwood ‘Ruby vase’ (Parrotia persica) is a new addition to my garden and I’m already thrilled with it. It has a strong, upright vase shaped habit with attractive exfoliating grey and tan bark that promises an interesting winter silhouette. Purplish-red new foliage becomes green in summer turning fiery shades of orange and mahogany in fall. In late winter to early spring a profusion of small red flowers appear making this a great year round specimen. At only 12’ wide it can fit into smaller gardens, yet its 30’ ultimate height gives a sense of age and stature amidst the more typical shrubs and smaller trees. ‘Vanessa’ is another excellent variety.  Persian ironwood needs full sun for best color and is hardy to -10’. 

October foliage of the sourwood tree.
My photo

Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum) has long been a favorite of mine - and of the hummingbirds. The pendulous racemes of fragrant white flower appear in July and last all winter, making a striking contrast with the scarlet fall leaves. I have underplanted this with ‘Peach flambé’ Heuchera and geranium ‘Biokovo’ to make an attractive year round vignette. Typically  this grows to 25’ tall and 15-20’ wide.

Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) has joined me in several gardens now. Like the Persian ironwood it offers good height while keeping to a modest footprint. I have used it to provide screening by allowing the canopy to develop above a fence line, and also amongst a mixed conifer border where it provides a change of pace with its corky bark and tidy vase shape. Fall colors include purple, burgundy and orange while the leaves seem to stay on the tree for a long time. ‘Slender silhouette’ is especially suitable for smaller gardens at 6-10’ wide.

Bathed in the golden light of the ash tree, the color of
the smoke bush is intensified.
My photo

Ash trees (Fraxinus sp.) may not be the first choice for a small garden and perhaps be considered too ‘ordinary’ by the tree connoisseur, yet their rich yellow foliage in autumn is hard to beat. It makes for a memorable combination with ‘Grace’ smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria) and when backlit the golden glow is breathtaking. In summer we set our table and chairs under its whispering canopy where it provided dappled shade – much more inviting than a patio umbrella. The variety ‘Summit’ (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) is narrower than most at just 25’ wide while its 45’ height marks it as a significant tree. Hardy to zone 3. 

Fragrant summer flowers are just
one of the reasons to grow
the Franklin tree.
Photo credit; Michael Dirr

It’s a shame that the Franklin tree (Franklinia alatamaha) is not more widely grown. Ideally suitable for small gardens growing to just 20’ tall and 6-15’ wide, it offers large fragrant flowers in July/August and has an interesting smooth grey bark, broken by irregular vertical fissures. The long lustrous dark green leaves turn shades of purple and red in autumn. Use this as a specimen, accent or incorporate into mixed borders.

Columnar trees are invaluable for tight spaces especially narrow side gardens. The columnar European hornbeam (Carpinus betulus fastigiata) and ‘Amanogowa’ cherry tree (Prunus serrulata) are two reliable performers which turn vivid yellow and red respectively, while the cherry tree is also a springtime favorite when smothered in soft pink blooms.

I invite you to re-examine your garden with new eyes. Are there layers of fall color or is the primary interest restricted to smaller shrubs and a dwarf Japanese maple? Consider extending the display vertically by the addition of one or more of these exceptional small trees. Just because your garden is small doesn’t mean you can’t go UP.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Container gardens – a new look for a new season

A few easy changes in fall has transformed this
container into a stunning spring showcase with
pansies, 'Princess Irene' tulips and colorful
My design
It’s time to take out the summer annuals, tidy up what’s left and add a fresh splash of color for the fall and winter.  It’s always hard to rip out the abundant growth and see things relatively bare. Sweet potato vines have spilled over the containers, my favorite ‘Bonfire’ begonias still have a good display of fiery flowers and many geraniums are still providing a strong blast of color. Yet the reality is that as the temperatures drop these plants will go from marvelous to messy overnight. The trick is to replant the containers while the soil is still warm so that they can get established before cold weather. Here in the Pacific Northwest our ‘window’ is usually late September through the end of October.

Did you realize that our winter containers typically have to perform for 7-8 months? Think what an opportunity you are missing if you don’t plant up for this season. Even if you don’t intend to refresh all your containers at least do one or two by the front door and perhaps one you can see out of your kitchen window every day.

A simple and feminine combination in pink, silver and white.
In spring fragrant pink hyacinths and dwarf white
daffodils will add to the color story.
My design

I plant hundreds of containers for clients every season and I can’t afford any failures! Here are my tips for success.

Soil– you don’t need to replace the soil unless it is totally congested with roots. Just scratch up the surface, remove an inch or so and top dress with fresh compost or a rich potting soil with a high organic content such as Gardner and Bloome 'Blue Potting Mix’.

Fertilizer – at this time of year we want to promote root development rather than new soft growth which will be damaged by the first frosts. Bulb fertilizer is ideal for this - balanced fertilizers such as MiracleGro and Osmocote are not suitable for fall/winter designs.
Heavenly bamboo 'Moyers red' is
underplanted with assorted
evergreens for full sun
My design

Sun (6 hours+ of direct ‘sunlight’) – evergreen dwarf conifers are ideal candidates for container gardens with many varieties available. From golden Hinoki cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa) to the conical ‘Jean’s Dilly’ Alberta spruce (Picea glauca albertiana) or the silvery grey ‘Curly tops’ false cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera)there’s one for every color scheme. Broadleaf evergreen options include the brightly variegated varieties of holly or soft foliage of heavenly bamboo (Nandina var.) whose feathery leaves add highlights of green, copper and chartreuse.

To replace the middle tier of annuals such as upright geraniums and zinnias my favorite is the ‘Peach flambé’ Heuchera which changes from mahogany to bright coppery tones as winter transitions to spring. Since a single plant fills 10-12” it a good choice for a budget conscious design. Evergreen grasses provide color and texture from the tough green and white variegated sedges ( Carex varieties) and the wispy Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima) to the stiff fans of Japanese sweet flag ( Acorus var.)  in both gold or white variegation, the latter also taking shade. There are many colors of spurge (Euphorbia sp.) available– just be sure to select one of an appropriate size. The dark foliage of ‘Blackbird’ looks striking against chartreuse Monterey cypress ‘Goldcrest’, (Cupressus macrocarpa) and its bright green bracts echo the conifer color in spring. The ‘Glacier blue’ variety is an option for a cooler palette with its cream and blue-green variegated leaves.

Replace million bells, petunias, sweet potato vines and other edging plants with color spots such as pansies which will bloom now, sporadically through the winter and then burst with color in March. Or you might consider the perennial rockery pinks (Dianthus sp.) The variety ‘Firewitch’ stays nice and compact offering tufts of silvery grey leaves topped with bright pink, intensely fragrant flowers in spring, although mine are still blooming now! Don’t be nervous about adding short term color with asters or chrysanthemums either. By placing larger leaved plants next to them the gap will quickly be filled when these finish blooming – at which time I pull them out and add fresh soil/compost to fill the hole. Underplant these (and pansies) with spring bulbs (e.g. dwarf daffodils and tulips, crocus and hyacinths) and you’ll provide layers of color for many months.

Berried twigs add height and fall
highlights to this simple design
My design

Shade or part shade (less than 6 hours of direct light) – evergreen foliage is key here. Daphne (D. odora Aureo-marginata) may not bloom until spring buts its evergreen foliage with soft creamy white margins makes it worthy of a place year round, which is also the case with andromeda ‘Little heath’ (Pieris japonica) . Leucothoe ‘Rainbow’ is inexpensive and takes up plenty of space making it an economical choice. With elliptical leathery leaves splashed with shades of green, yellow and red, as well as fragrant spring flowers it has plenty of interest.  Autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosa) is a mainstay of my fall shade designs – I love the coppery new growth.

Blue cape plumbago flowers mingle with
lingonberries, autumn fern, heuchera and Vinca
'Illumination' in this shady combination.
My design

Color spots using flowers are trickier for shade but cape plumbago (Ceratostigma plumboides) is a pretty perennial trailer with cobalt blue flowers and red foliage in fall before going dormant in winter. In semi shaded areas this can be underplanted with snowdrops for spring interest.

Other evergreen ideas for sun;  Mexican orange blossom (Choisya ternata var. including the golden ‘Sundance’),  sedum ‘Angelina’ (also for part shade), variegated ivy, variegated thyme, dusty miller (Senecio ) - also for shade.

Other evergreen ideas for shade; bugle weed (Ajuga reptens ), elephant ears (Bergenia), sweet box (Sarcococca), camellia, yew, coral bells (Heuchera var.), Euonymus var. (also for sun), dwarf Rhododendrons, periwinkle (Vinca var. including the bright yellow and green 'Illumination')

For more inspiration look at the portfolio of fall and winter designs on my website.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Golden Highlights using Conifers

Total plant lust - my new best friend 'Louie' Eastern white pine
Photo credit; Karl Gercens III

I’ve been busy planting a new border this week, which measures approx. 100’ x 50’. With a huge, dead (but beautiful) maple tree and a relocated cedar cabin as the dominant features I have been adding layers of trees and shrubs to create year round interest. I have been able to rescue assorted orphans from other parts of the garden so had an abundance of basic filler plants such as barberry ‘Rose glow’ (Berberis th.), daylilies and assorted Abelia. What I was lacking, however, were those key plants to catch your eye, around which I could build combinations. Being a large border (I was told it was larger than my friends entire New York apartment!), and often seen from a distance this is no place for wimps. I need some serious star quality. So as I walked around the nurseries today I just allowed my eye to roam until something grabbed me. It was the golden conifers which stood out amongst the sea of green, not just for their color but also because their foliage, whether needles or sprays, made such a vivid statement. Of course there are dozens to choose from and I daresay we all have our favorites but here are a few I have chosen (or are still on my “maybe I can squeeze it in” list).

Definitely huggable - 'Louie'
Eastern white pine

‘Louie’ Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus ‘Louie’ ) is a golden teddy bear of a pine tree. From a distance it positively smiles at you with its twinkling highlights on ultra-long soft needles. Grey skies only seem to make it shine brighter. Hardy to zone 3 this beauty will eventually make a nice pyramid 6-8’ tall in 10 years.

Golden Japanese Cedar has scale
like foliage held in flat sprays.
Photo credit; Briggs Nursery
Golden Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica ‘Sekkan-Sugi’) is rather gawky as a youngster but a stunning teenager and mature adult. After a few years in container gardens I transplanted two into the garden where they seem to grow 10-12” per year, the new growth being a brighter shade of the soft buttery yellow for which it is known. This conifer does best protected from direct afternoon sun in my experience. Mature height is in the region of 30’.

'Skylands' spruce lights up the garden
Photo credit;  

It was my husband who picked out the golden oriental spruce ‘Skylands’ (Picea orientalis) for its cool purple cones! (Who was I to resist?) I have planted it where it will be seen against the dark green backdrop of mature cedar trees. The only disadvantage that I can see so far is that the cones are so heavy on the young plant that I have to stake the leader or it will droop. Slow growing to 10’h x 4’w in 10 years and hardy to zone 5.

Arborvitae 'Forever goldie' makes a color
splash with 'peach flambe' Heuchera
and assorted annuals.
My design

Many golden conifers scorch in full sun but Arborvitae ‘Forever Goldie’ (Thuja plicata) is scorch resistant and keeps its gorgeous golden tones year round. I have used young plants in large containers but have also just added one to my new border as a winter highlight. By planting red twig dogwoods nearby I hope to have the start of a nice looking vignette. How colorful this will look peeking out from the snow! This is most definitely not a dwarf conifer, since it has an ultimate height of 60-100’. However that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it in a container when it is small, or in my garden until the deer find it.

'Gold strike' juniper is said to do best with protection
from hot afternoon sun.
Photo credit; Iseli nursery

One of the neat things about being a garden writer is that I get invited to trial all sorts of fun plants. A few don’t make the cut but I love to share my findings with you when I come across a great new cultivar or introduction. Such is the case of the groundcover juniper ‘Gold strike’ (Juniperus horizontalis) by Iseli nursery. I brought a baby 4” plant home in my suitcase from Dallas last year, squished it into a corner of our vegetable garden and left it to its own devices. One year and minimal watering later is has doubled in size, glows like a beacon year round and has been ignored by insects and rodents. In other words it passes the ‘Karen test’ as being worthy of inclusion in my garden – and recommended for yours. The growers suggest a mature size of 6-8’ wide and 3-4’high; mine is just 10” wide and about 2” high…..

Companion planting – it’s easy to get carried away with purple and gold combinations so consider a few alternatives. 

Coral/orange tones look fabulous with gold e.g. ‘Oregon sunset’ kaffir lily (Schizostylis coccinea) or ‘Apricot sunrise’ hyssop (Agastache aurantiaca) perhaps bordered by the dark foliage of bugbane ‘Hillside black beauty’ (Cimifuga simplex syn. Actaea) for high contrast.

Bright red Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ resembles red fireworks against gold.
Blue and gold combinations are always winners – try rich blue Californian lilac (Ceanothus sp.) for a backdrop to golden groundcovers or a mass of the annual Victoria blue sage (Salvia) in front of upright conifers such as the arborvitae ‘Forever goldie’ (Thuja plicata) .

Now you have another excuse to go shopping – make the most of the end of season sales and buy a little bit of sunshine for the grey days ahead.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Artist Spotlight – Jesse Kelly, Glass Artist

Stunning - and you can even learn how to make these yourself.

I really admire artists. Never having been able to draw so much as a straight line (or a reasonable circle for that matter) I am in awe of those who can create magic with apparent ease, whether their medium is paint, metal  or mixed media. Seattle glass artist Jesse Kelly manages to combine the form and sculptural qualities of foliage, fruit and flames with the luminosity of glass in such a way as to be truly compelling. From a distance his pieces draw you in – up close you marvel at the textures and colors.

From floating glass balls to glass flames,
there is something for everyone
Photo credit; Jesse Kelly

Jesse has been working in glass shops for 17 years, first as an apprentice to learn the intricate glass blowing skills and finally running his own business. His Mom is also a glass artist so Jesse has had many opportunities to learn from the best. Indeed Jesse’s willingness to learn from a number of mentors and be exposed to new ideas and techniques has proved to be his strength. Rather than becoming complacent with his success he continues to challenge himself to develop new finishes, shapes and designs. With larger installations and displays in the magnificent Dunn gardens, the Museum of Glass in Tacoma and Shack Center of Arts in Everett his work is receiving increasing recognition and appreciation.

In an oversized urn or 'planted' in the ground
a group of these bamboo canes
will be quite the conversation piece.

One series which I especially love is his line of bamboo in black, gold or bright green. These pieces are made of interlocking glass segments threaded onto rebar. Easily secured into the ground and winter hardy, these glass bamboo canes make striking accents in the garden. The depth of color, shimmer and subtle shading at the nodes is exquisite. Even better - they aren’t invasive!

Glossy, intense colors - irresistible.

For sheer strength of color, his fruit are unsurpassed.  Apples, pumpkins and pears in shades of red, orange and green are available in sizes ranging from 3” to 36”, with Jesse happy to make them in any size or color to suit budget and space.  The smaller pieces look fabulous displayed in a bowl or table top while larger ones would make a fun marker at the entrance to a vegetable plot or as a border accent.

I wish I could do justice to the colors, but
this at least gives you an idea 

I was drawn to the glass Yuccas however. We asked Jesse to custom design one for us  in shades of blue, aqua, green and soft purple. He has installed it in a deep turquoise container which we had already purchased and the result is magnificent. Each blade is unique in color and shape, from opaque cobalt blue with a little curlicue at the end, twisted translucent pieces in soft purple and a most beautiful shade of opalescent aqua with a bronze feathering embedded within the glass. As the light catches the composition at different angles throughout the day it shimmers and sparkles; a wonderful focal point for the entrance to our home.

We're thrilled with the Yucca which Jesse
designed for us as part of a water feature.
The surrounding plants are in shades of
blue, green and purple so the whole
vignette will continue to develop as the
garden grows in.

Here’s a real treat though. Jesse holds glass blowing classes at his Seattle workshop and has several planned between now and the New Year. Be sure to check his website or email him for details. What a wonderful gift for yourself or friends.

Jesse’s work can be seen and purchased from nurseries throughout the Greater Seattle area but he loves working directly with customers and can be contacted through his website. Why settle for the ordinary when  something extraordinary can be made just for you?

Photo credits unless otherwise marked; Mike Sieldel

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fall Fever – keep it HOT!

Flirtation Orange Diascia takes the season out with a bang
Photo credit; Proven Winners

I love to see rich autumnale colors of burgundy, amber and gold in the garden at this time of year  and Proven Winners has several annuals, perennials and shrubs that fit the bill beautifully.
In fall, 'Little lime' gains warm tones
even as temperatures cool
Photo credit; Proven winners

Little Lime™ Hardy Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata)
A new dwarf form of the ever popular ‘Limelight’ hydrangea, the large summer flowers of ‘Little Lime’  open a soft green then turn pink and burgundy as the temperatures drop. This would look wonderful underplanted with one of the low growing sedums such as ‘Blaze of Fulda’, whose deep red succulent foliage and rich raspberry flowers would make a gentle color combination. Hardy in zones 3 – 9.

'Cheyenne sky' red switch grass in its
full autumnal glory.
Photo credit;

Nothing says fall like the feathery plumes and rich color of ornamental grasses. New to the Proven Winners® collection are three hardy grasses which offer beautiful fall color, a better habit, and improved garden performance over comparable selections.

Cheyenne sky’ red switch grass (Panicum virgatum) forms a tight vase shaped clump that turns progressively redder as the season progresses. At 2-3’ it works well in containers as a perennial alternative to purple fountain grass (Pennisetum s. ‘Rubrum’) but also makes a striking statement when planted en masse in the landscape. This would look gorgeous in drifts with one of the newer dwarf forms of sedum ‘Autumn joy’ such as 'Pink bomb' or with golden Black eyed Susan, asters or Chrysanthemums. If you need something a little taller, the ‘Dust devil’ switch grass may be the answer. This reaches 4’ but unlike many grasses is nicely upright, avoiding the need for staking. With blue-green blades flushed with pink topped by wine colored flower panicles which turn tan in winter, this will be a multi -season highlight for the garden.
There's nothing plain about this fountain grass.
 'Desert plains' offers rich color and soft plumes.
Photo credit;

I’m especially fond of the fountain grasses (Pennisetum sp.) with their tufty rabbit-tail plumes and ‘Desert plains’ fountain grass promises to become a new favorite. Unlike ‘Hamelin’, this variety has exceptional fall color with the fine blades turning shades of red, orange and gold, providing a striking background for the tan flowers. Provide full sun and watch it grow to 3-4'tall. Hardy in zones 5-9.

For a splash of color in containers, look to Flirtation® Orange Diascia
This exceptional autumn-colored beauty loves cool weather. The vibrant orange blooms of this variety are large and flat with a layering of flower upon flower that creates a stunning bloom display until a hard frost. The sturdy, semi-trailing habit makes it perfect for fall-inspired hanging baskets or containers. Diascia likes full sun or part shade and would make a good companion to one of the bronze grasses such as orange hair sedges (Carex testacea), pheasant tail grass (Anemanthele lessoniana) or autumn sedge (Carex dispacea).

Although 'million bells' may only be an annual, Superbells® Calibrachoa hybrids are a perfect choice to usher in the fall season with their warm autumn color choices and their superb performance in cool weather. Plant a container or hanging basket with one brilliant yellow, red, orange, or plum variety—or mix and match them in containers or the landscape. With growth habits that range from the small and compact to the cascading, Superbells create endless possibilities in the garden and a new feel for a new season. Remember that unlike the larger flowered petunias, million bells don’t need deadheading.

Superbells 'Apricot punch' is a favorite
of mine. Here it is paired with 'Bonfire
begonia' in a late summer combo.
My design and photo.

Proven Winners is a brand that I have come to trust for both quality and reliability. Constantly striving to bring stronger, healthier and better performing plants to the gardener, their selections are sure to bring success to beginner and expert gardeners alike.

Rather than letting your garden fade out quietly this year, extend the season with these fall highlights for a memorable Grand Finale.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Top Ten Deer- and Rodent-Proof Naturalizing Bulbs

Drumstick alliums provide height, color and a new
texture to the garden border in summer
It may seem strange to be writing a post on bulbs in September, but now is the time to plant for a colorful display next year.

I like bulbs which are easy to grow, bloom for a long time and naturalize (multiply) easily. However the deer also seem to look forward to these spring bulbs and just when I think I’ve got a handle on deer-proof varieties I discover that squirrels and voles have taken a fancy to my favorites! To save you similar heartache here are my top ten bulbs that are not on the menu for these pests.

Naturalized daffodils in the Wordsworth Daffodil Garden,
 Grasmere, England

Photo credit;
Daffodils (Narcissi) are the quintessential spring bulbs. Grassy meadows dotted with the classic ‘King Alfred’ variety are part of the spring landscape in many countries including England but there are many others to choose from. For example yellow ‘Cheerfulness’ offers small, pale yellow fragrant blooms, the award winning Irish naturalizer ‘Salome’ has long funnel shaped apricot-pink cups and Tete a Tete is everyone’s favorite dwarf variety.

Drumstick allium (Allium sphaerocephalon) has unusual egg shaped crimson flowers which bloom in July. At 2’ tall these make great punctuation points in the mid-summer border peeking out of a cushion of the yellow tickseed ‘Moonbeam’ (Coreopsis verticillata)  or amongst the taller golden variety ‘Flying saucers’ (C. grandiflora).

Grecian windflower (Anemone blanda) is perhaps one of the prettiest spring flowers, blooming throughout April and May. Shades of hyacinth blue dominate but mixtures with pink and white are also available. 4” tall

Wild hyacinth (Camassia leichtlinii coerulea) offer those of us with damp soils the opportunity to grow bluebell-like flowers. 24-30” tall in May/June.

Glory of the snow - a welcome
change from the usual spring display
Photo credit;

Glory of the snow (Chionodoxa gigantea) look wonderful with their open faced lavender flowers, each with a white eye. In England these used to bloom around the time of my son’s birthday (February) but here in the Pacific Northwest the colorful display can be as late as April. 5-6” tall

Giant snowdrop (Galanthus elwesii) – spring wouldn’t be complete without these creamy-white flowers tipped with green. March/April.  5-8” tall.

English bluebells partner with 'Sagae' Hosta in the
spring border. My design

English Bluebells (Scilla non-scripta syn. Hyacinthoides non-scripta).  Unike the invasive Spanish bluebells these are well behaved and have a wonderful fragrance which floats on the spring breeze. Naturalize these under deciduous trees for the best effect.

Grape hyacinths (Muscari armeniacum) border on a nuisance since they naturalize with abandon! However, I find them easy to remove so don’t consider them invasive. I like to grow these bright cobalt blue flowers underneath Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’) which hides the dying foliage nicely and forms a pretty yellow and blue association.

Summer snowflake (Leucojum aestivum) provides the damp soil alternative to snowdrops. Racemes of bell shaped milky white flowers stand 12-15” high in May and June.

A splash of yellow winter aconite is sure to brighten
the grey winter days.
Winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) is one of the earliest bulbs to bloom, its yellow buttercup like flowers often peeking out from a carpet of snow. Although this has been around since the 1500’s it is not widely grown here in the Pacific Northwest; a missed opportunity! Prefers partial shade and moist soil. 4” tall

So as you peruse the boxes of tempting bulbs available in the nurseries this month, remember to take a copy of this article with you to ensure that you, rather than the wildlife look forward to spring.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Excerpt from Daffodils by William Wordsworth (1170-1850)

Online resources

Brent and Becky's bulbs. Catalog, podcasts, videos and more! Plus they are a really wonderful couple.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Recycled, Reused, Repurposed – using old pipes in new ways

Walking slowly down the path becomes a trail of

Designers and homeowners are becoming increasingly aware of the value in using recycled materials for landscape design. Broken concrete becomes transformed into low walls and raised beds, old windows have long since been the material of choice for cold frames and metal is becoming popular both for both functional and artistic expression in the garden

I recently had the opportunity to visit the garden of Barbara Lycett, a talented landscape designer from Seattle.  Like many landscape professionals, her own garden is both a laboratory in which to experiment with new ideas for her clients as well as a showcase of her many talents from carving interesting nooks out of forgotten corners, designing exciting plant combinations and creating winding trails that take you on a fascinating garden journey. A stroll through her garden leaves you feeling as though you have been exploring both the forests and meadows of the Pacific Northwest.

The succulent leaves are a great contrast to the rough
weathered pipes.

One thing that struck me was her use throughout the garden of rusted metal pipes. A narrow raised border alongside a pathway was created using a series of cut lengths of 4” diameter pipe, each standing approximately 20” above the ground. These were filled with a gritty soil mixture topped with tiny pebbles and served as a line of miniature containers for choice succulents and treasures displayed by visiting children. The effect was of an orange caterpillar winding its way slowly through the garden!

Three larger pipe sections were used as bench supports. In this case the seat was a thick acrylic sheet embedded with reeds which allowed the pipes beneath to remain visible. Placed alongside one of several water features it seemed the perfect, if unexpected choice for such a location.

An intriguing bench  provides both art and function

Situated on a hillside a large number of steps are a necessity yet Barbara has used these to her advantage. Wide, shallow concrete steps, backfilled with smooth grey pebbles take you safely from one level to the next and the journey is made interesting by meadow style plantings on either side. Used as accents throughout are what at first appear to be stands of bamboo, yet upon closer investigation are in fact fashioned from narrow gauge pipes. No longer plumbing fixtures, these pipes now serve as artistic elements, providing height and texture amidst the soft billowing drifts of golden tickseed (Coreopsis), hardy geraniums and ornamental grasses, where their rich brown color enhances the warm sunset tones.

Golden tickseed and bronze sedges are
perfect partners to the rich metal bamboo
Landscaping can be costly with materials inevitably taking up a large portion of the budget. Barbara has inspired me with her innovative ideas to hunt around our own property, salvage yards and neighbors barns to see what I can find for free (or almost) to use in our own garden. As well as creating something unique I’ll be keeping a few more things out of  the landfill – and saving money to buy plants.

What ideas have you come up with for using old materials in new ways?

If you are interested in using recycled materials you might also enjoy these posts;

All designs by Barbara Lycett

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Add Dazzle to your Garden with the new Sedum ‘Dazzleberry’.

Vibrant color and compact growth are two hallmarks of this new sedum

I’m a great fan of low growing sedums. I use them in containers, either as solo plantings or mixed with other summer favorites where their succulent foliage and mid-late summer blooms add a welcome change , providing interesting combinations with the more traditional annuals such as million bells and geraniums. They also provide a wonderful carpet at the front of a border or on a rockery.

Brand new on the gardening scene and due for general release in 2012 is Sedum ‘Dazzleberry’. This exciting new groundcover caught my eye at the Garden Writers Association symposium in Indianapolis last week. It has been introduced by my friends at Great Garden Plants and promises to become everyone’s new favorite. Its smoky blue-grey foliage transitions to dark purple in late summer making a striking foil for the spectacular raspberry flowers. Yet these are far more than just another pretty flower. These blooms measure an unbelievable 9” in diameter, rivaling even the taller sedums for size and they even remain in color for over 7 weeks! This compact grower is only 8” tall and 18” wide making it a much needed addition to any drought-proof sun perennial border.

The tight blue-grey foliage would complement any color.
What about planting it in a cobalt blue container?

I can envision this as a ribbon alongside a winding pathway, perhaps backed by some of the shorter coneflowers such as ‘Kim’s knee high’ (Echinacea purpurea). The dusky tones could also offer a beautiful color echo to some of the darker foliage shrubs such as Weigela ‘Midnight wine’ or the purple smoke bushes (Cotinus coggygria varieties). For a brighter note the perennial ‘Zagreb’ tickseed (Coreopsis verticillata) would add a touch of sunshine  with its rich golden yellow rays, its feathery green foliage also providing  an interesting change in texture from the fleshy sedum. I can also see it in combination with silvery foliage such as lavender or Russian sage (Perovskia sp.) which all share the same requirements for well drained soil, average fertility and full sun.

For container gardens this is so compact as to make a perfect solo planting in a table top design. Tumbling over the edge of a mixed container it could be combined with feathery grasses and, colorful annuals in shades of chartreuse, orange and purple for a bold statement.

Have I tempted you yet? Although it won’t be available in nurseries until next year, you can order it now from Great Garden Plants.

Photo credits; Chris Hanson, Great Garden Plants