Creating harmony, simplicity and peace in the landscape......

"Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help.

Gardening is an instrument of grace. "

May Sarton

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Tulips in a Row - Garden Photo of the Day

There is nothing as evocative of spring as tulips planted along a picket fence....
 it is especially fun if they are different colors.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Limelight Hydrangea and 'little Lime' Hydrangea - Great Plants!

Limelight Hydrangeas in one of my landscapes - Jan Johnsen 
  I love the tall 'Limelight' Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight')  for its beautiful and reliable white/lime green flowers, fast growth and easy care. You cannot go wrong with this plant if you have room for it.

It is hardy to Zone 3, can grow to 10 feet tall and thrives in full sun or partial shade. It makes both a wonderful cut flower and landscape plant. Looks great in October when it turns a pinkish hue:

Limelight hydrangea in another landscape I designed  

Now there is a dwarf form called 'Little Lime' from Proven Winners which also grows in full sun or part shade.  Its final height is 3-5’ tall and wide, about a third to half as big as Limelight.

Little Lime Hydrangea in another landscape - Johnsen Landscapes & Pools

This hydrangea blooms from midsummer to frost. Like its bigger sibling, Little Lime’s flowers gradually change from lime-green to pink and make wonderful bouquets, fresh or dried.

It will flower every year and will fit in any yard. It looks great with snowdrift roses and low grasses in a white garden....

What's not to love?

Robot Lawnmowers are here!

robot lawn mower  
 So here we are - robots mowing the lawn. Click here if you want to see how you can grab one of these little guys....

The Worx Landroid lets you customize daily mowing schedules. 

It runs 7 days a week giving your lawn a trim on a routine basis as opposed to traditional mowers that take off substantial amounts of grass on a less frequent basis. 

like a roomba vacuum, I guess

Landroid navigates narrow passages, cuts with precision on slopes angling up to 20 degrees and does it all with zero emissions! (it runs off of a 28V rechargeable battery) 

Your lawn should be under 10,750 square feet for Landroid to work precisely for you. 

The keypad makes it easy to customize a mowing schedule. The low noise allows you to mow during the day or night. 

cuts on a slope too

Makes a great Father's Day gift...more time for him to sit in front of the TV.  :-)

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Deer-Resistant Shade Plant - 'Luxuriant' Bleeding Heart

'Luxuriant' Bleeding Heart - Stoneridge Nursery   
If you love the lacy look of deer resistant Bleeding Hearts but wish that they lasted beyond spring then you are in luck!  The cherry-red hearts of 'Luxuriant' Fringed Bleeding Heart will dangle on arching stems above mounds of graceful, fern-like foliage from May to October (in cooler climates).

This prolific bloomer prefers shade but can be grown in partial sun. 

It comes back every year and looks so wonderful in large drifts with deer resistant ferns and Ladies Mantle.  Its blue-green foliage is also quite attractive and can be planted in pots or as a ground cover.  Butterflies like it too. 

Luxuriant Bleeding Hear at Monrovia

The Fringed Bleeding Heart is smaller  in size than its showier cousin, Bleeding Heart, but it lasts longer and has such great foliage. Easy to grow, fast growing, sells out....

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Iris Walk in Giverny - Garden Photo of the Day

Iris walk at Monet's Giverny  

No words! A master painter's eye transplanted to the garden.

 I wonder if Monet  dug up the plants as they bloomed to move the colors around? 
(I don't know who took this wonderful photo)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Wonderful Fortex Pole Bean

Fortex Pole Bean - Full Circle Seeds

Do you, like me, have limited space for a vegetable garden? Then pole beans are the answer and Fortex is the one I suggest to start with.

 This extraordinary French slender 'filet' bean grows over 10 inches long and has a delicious nutty flavor. It starts yielding early and the pods are completely stringless.

Fortex from Johnny Selected Seeds

Best of all it can be harvested early or late, small or large, and still be as super tasty as ever.  So early beans at 6" long are delicious and so are the more mature, longer ones!

Fortex offers long harvest periods and is very productive. You can keep picking right into the fall!

Annie's Kitchen Garden - Fortex Beans climbing on the fence

The reason they are good for a small space is that pool beans grow up on strong trellises, a sturdy fence or supports. One idea is to create a 4-legged tipi out of poles, fence posts or small saplings. You can wire the poles together which makes a great entry into a garden. 

Beans germinate when soil temp is at 60 - 80 degrees F.  

Water well during hot dry periods and do not over fertilize which results in a surplus of foliage and low, delayed pod growth. Adding inoculant at planting time aids in a larger harvest and more robust plants. 

Pole bean entry by Jimster - on Garden Web

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Milk Carton Gardening - Build those Memories

When did we abandon the simple pleasures of growing carrots in milk cartons, planting hollyhocks along old fences or having fragrant lilacs at the corner of a house? 

We should reclaim this as part of our ordinary life...


We all have such memories - even city kids like me...

It might be the 'weed' that smelled like licorice (anise hyssop), 

or the buttercups that you put under your chin, 

or the honeysuckle that you could suck a teeny drop of 'honey' from, 


the sweet smell of roses as you walked past a certain house, 

or the bright yellow daffodils in early spring that sprang up overnight it seemed.

daffodils by Jan Johnsen

I am on on a mission to revive 'garden memories' - to bring flowers, plants and gardens back into our lives.

This kind of knowledge has been cast aside in favor of math and physics but I say children can learn those disciplines better through understanding the phenomenal natural world around them.

So plant those sunflower seeds, pop in that Elephant Ear bulb and cut up those milk cartons....

transcendent garden memories await you and yours.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

My One Day Class on Water in the Garden, 4-17-15

“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.” - Loren Eiseley

I am teaching a one day class on Water in the Garden on April 17, 2015 - I have developed it to inspire, provoke and stimulate you to think about including some water - in one of its many forms - in a garden.

It is at the NY Botanical Garden in the Bronx, NY. I offered it last year and the response was so positive that they want me to offer it again. 

Hope you can come! GO HERE to register. CEUs provided.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Spicy Wasabi - cool summers required.

source - Pacific Coast wasabi
Wasabi has found its way into a broad range of culinary applications, lending zing to traditional sauces, dressings, rubs, cocktails, even ice cream!
Have shade? Not to fear - Wasabi (Wasabia japonica) grows on cool, shady river banks high in the Japanese mountains so it has evolved to survive in very low light levels. Thus, wasabi makes a striking feature in a shady spot. The heart shaped leaves die back in winter and the plant's energy travels down into the  swollen stems that carry the plant through winter. Cool summers are key.
Hardy to 27 degrees Fahrenheit. Protect it from cold nights with some straw covering the the plant. or dig up and pot up for winter....
Leaves and stems are edible and these can be picked in small numbers throughout spring and summer to spice up a salad. In March and April long stems hold a cluster of delicately scented white flowers - these can be eaten raw or fried in tempura batter.
Plant into a 3" pot with compost to help it establish a good root structure before planting out 4-5 weeks later. You can grow in a large container provided the soil is kept moist and nutrition is provided with a top dressing of compost or a general purpose plant food. 
Wasabi likes plenty of water and cool summers.. Plant so the crown of the plant is not covered but remains slightly above the soil Do not bury the crown!
 If you have a pond, wasabi will be happy on the edge provided shade is available. 
Fresh Wasabi is traditionally grated into a fine paste on a shark skin grater. photo by Daryl Kahn Cline
Once established, wasabi is not demanding.

Dandelion time - Detox Tea, Wine and boiled

young and tender dandelion leaves  

The dreaded Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), for which we spend tremendous amounts of weed killer money to eradicate, has been prized over the years for its medicinal and nutritious properties.

In fact, dandelion roots, flowers and "dandelion greens" (leaves) are all edible!

Dandelions, with their deep roots, mine the soil and are called “earth nail” by knowing gardeners. Its tenacious taproot, like a carrot but creamy-white under its light-brown skin.

Dandelions are a rich source of vitamins A, B complex, C, and D, as well as minerals such as iron, potassium, and zinc. Dandelion has been traditionally used for hundreds of years to give your liver a little love and support kidney function by increasing the flushing of waste from the kidneys.

Native Americans used dandelion decoctions (liquid made by boiling down the herb in water) to treat kidney disease, swelling, skin problems, heartburn, and stomach upset.

From a great blog: Sierra Foothills Garden 

• Dandelion roots can be roasted as a coffee-substitute, or boiled and stir-fried as a cooked vegetable.

• Dandelion flowers can be made into a wine.

from Little house on the urban prairie 

• Dandelion greens can be boiled, as you would spinach, and served as a vegetable or can be inserted in sandwiches or used as a salad green (it has a little "bite.")

 Dandelion greens are high in vitamins A and C, and iron!  The French even  have a well-known soup called creme de pissenlits (cream of dandelion soup), which is easy to make.

Read more:

 from Embracing My Health blog

Harvesting the greens (the leaves)  is the most popular way to eat Dandelions. The best time to harvest the greens is in early spring, before the flowers appear, when they are the tenderest and least bitter. 

Boiling them or stir frying them will further reduce their bitterness.

So why pay pay extra to purchase foods with similar (or even inferior) nutritional value, when you have a free source of leafy greens in your neighborhood?

My musings:  It makes sense that, at the end of winter, when our ancestors were probably hungry and vitamin deficient, that Nature would see to it that they had a great source of vitamins proliferating all around them! No one had to seed them or turn over the soil...the Dandelions appeared just for the picking! 

And today we spend so much money just to make them go away....something is wrong here.

Just make sure to avoid harvesting near roads, since road salt and/or toxins may be present. Likewise, you obviously shouldn't harvest from a lawn where herbicides have been used.

From Wellness Mama

Friday, April 10, 2015

'Kings Ransom' and 'Jack Frost' Brunnera - Deer Resistant, Blue!

Kings Ransom Brunnera - Plant Delights Nursery 
A blue flowering plant with variegated leaves for part shade that deer don't like, is easy to grow and tolerates wet  (not soggy) soil!  Yay! 

I am talking about the spectacular Brunnera 'Jack Frost' (silver foliage with green veins) and a newer variety, 'Kings Ransom'. 

These tough perennials grow to about 12" -18" high and have made shade gardening more exciting with their wonderful foliage that catches the eye. The blue flowers rise above the heart-shaped leaves and appear in late April and May. They are hardy, native to Siberia, and grow in Zones 3 - 8 (maybe zone 7 is more accurate). 

I planted Jack Frost Brunnera with deer resistant white Angelonia - photo by Jan Johnsen

They naturalize and self seed but are not invasive. The clumps slowly spread by creeping rhizomes to form a ground cover. They have no serious insect or disease problems. Slugs and snails are occasional visitors.

Use variegated Brunnera as a specimen or mass as a ground cover. They make great borders in part shade or  along streams or ponds.

The popular variety, 'Jack Frost' Brunnera, is well known. 'Kings Ransom' was discovered in the summer of 2004 as a sport of 'Jack Frost' at Terra Nova Nurseries in Canby, Oregon, USA. Dan Heims is the breeder.

'Kings Ransom' has the same bold foliage as JF but its leaf is a little narrower. It has a wonderful creamy yellow margin with light frosting throughout. And, while JF has many dark green veins with silvery foliage, 'Kings Ransom' has a few veins and is yellower with a lighter appearance overall. 
Both have the  the same airy clouds of blue forget-me-not flowers in spring:

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Page 69 Test: Heaven is a Garden

The far-seeing media critic Marshall McLuhan famously suggested that people deciding whether to buy a book should turn to page 69, read what's on it, and then make up their minds. It's a great technique  and the results are pretty good. There is even a blog dedicated to it: the page 69 test

So, of course, I applied this test to my book, 'Heaven is a Garden - Designing Serene Outdoor Spaces for Inspiration and Reflection'

Here are the photos and a paragraph from page 69:

Cascades and Traveling Streams

Streams and small cascades often are centerpieces of a serene garden. The sound of water tripping over rocks and the sparkle of the sun off a moving eddy calms us and makes us a little more contemplative.  Ralph Waldo Emerson describes this in his book Nature: “Who looks upon a river in a meditative hour, and is not reminded of the flux of all things?” 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Dumbarton Oaks at Cherry Blossom Time

Dumbarton Oaks, in the Georgetown section of Washington, DC,  is a unique outdoor space of tranquility and serenity. It is one of the top ten gardens of the world according to NatGeo.

The house was bought by Robert Woods and Mildred Bliss in 1920 and filled with their collection of Byzantine art. It is now owned by Harvard.

Prunus walk - photo by Yoma Ullman

The gardens, designed by Beatrix Farrand, are beautifully inspiring. The original 53 acres have been split up but 10 acres remain as a public park.

At cherry blossom time, late March to early April, it's so lovely.

 I used to take my college class (I taught landscape design and development in the 1970s)  there every year in April.  We would get a private tour by the director and see the forsythia and cherries in bloom...what a treat!

Please try to go ...

Dumbarton Oaks
1703 32nd Street, NW
Washington, DC

During the spring, the gardens are open daily, except Mondays, from 2-6 p.m. General admission costs $8; students, kids ages 2-12 and seniors get in for $5. Season passes are available.

Sunday, April 5, 2015