Showing posts from March, 2015

'Firetail' Knotweed - Pow!

Want to know what is beloved by James Van Sweden and Piet Oudolf and was a 2010 Royal Horticultural Society Plant of Merit? Hardiness USDA zones 5 to 9.

The 'Firetail' Knotweed or Persicaria amplexicaulis speciosa ‘Firetail’ - It is3' - 4 ft tall.

This non-invasive Himalayan perennial adds a “nice red spark” to the late summer garden (from July through Frost). It forms a bushy mound of foliage topped by brightly colored “tails” of tiny crimson flowers. Underplant it with early-spring-blooming bulbs for color in the spring .

It looks great in a mass planting and wonderful as a background for Asters, mums, short grasses, geranium 'rozanne'.

It contrasts well with purple salvia, echinops, helianthus, nepeta or perovskia. Also effective in moist areas along streams or ponds.

avalon perennials
Persicaria amplexicaulis prefers moist soils and partial sun to full sun conditions. It has no serious disease or insect problems.

Persicaria Pink Elephant from Chris Ghyselen

An Eye for Color - International Color Day

Yesterday was International Color Day.

International Color Day (started in 2008) promotes activities related to color and its perception. These can be arts exhibitions, contests on color and light design and workshops on the use of color. The choice of the date was based on the spring equinox. They figured this was the best date because night and day are approximately equally long and this signifies the balance of light and darkness as expressed in all cultures. My favorite color celebration is in India. It is called Holi. This is a spring festival (this year it was March 6, 2015), also known as the festival of colors or the festival of love.  It is an ancient Hindu religious festival which has now become popular with non-Hindus.
The celebration involves colored dry powdered tints and also water filled balloons, water guns, and hoses. Everyone is splashed, spattered, and drenched in brilliant shades of every hue. The powdered pigments carpet the streets and eventually creates rivers of dye…

Go outside – happiness is maximized at 57°F

We humans should spend more time outdoors than indoors. A UK study from the University of Sussex found that being outdoors makes people happier: 'Being outdoors, near the sea, on a warm, sunny weekend afternoon is the perfect spot for most. In fact, participants were found to be substantially happier outdoors in all natural environments than they were in urban environments.'
In the book about happiness, The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor notes that 
" one study found that spending 20 minutes outside in good weather not only boosted positive mood, but broadened thinking and improved working memory…"Twenty minutes is a doable amount - this is possible for us. 

The American Meteorological Society published research in 2011 that  found that happiness is maximized at 57°F (13.9°C), so keep an eye on the weather forecast before heading outside for your 20 minutes of fresh air. 

We Updated Our Website! Garden Photo of the Day

We just updated our landscape design - build firm's website,
Go here for the updated Johnsen Landscapes & Pools Gallery Page. 

Hosta plantaginea 'Aphrodite' - August Lily

I took this photo at The Mount in Lenox, Massachusetts. It is the lovely 'Aphrodite' hosta (Hosta plantaginea 'Aphrodite).

It has pure white,  intensely fragrant flowers that open in late summer on 2 ft stems. It is so gracious along a sheltered path as shown here.  Great for a fragrance garden.

Hosta plantaginea likes a moist location but can tolerate dry shade. Long lived. Moon garden, anyone?

Nature Sacred - An Interview about 'Heaven is a Garden'

One year ago, I was interviewed by the amazing group, the TKF Foundation . What an honor!

 They are doing some amazing things to promote the understanding of nature, space and design and how it relates to our overall wellbeing and the functioning of society.
On this anniversary, I thought it would be good to share our interview again. The bold text represents their questions to me. 
A Deeper Place of Being - An Interview with Jan Johnsen Jan Johnsen’s forty years of practice in landscape architecture has taught her that gardens not only inspire and delight but also impart a sense of well-being, offer respite, and induce feelings of renewal to those who visit and simply sit awhile.

Drawing on historical precedents from many cultures as well as design techniques honed through recent practice, her gardens are deeply nuanced, no matter the size. In anticipation of the upcoming release of her latest book, Heaven Is a Garden – Designing Serene Outdoor Spaces for Inspiration and Reflection, pu…

3 secrets to a successful CHILD'S VEGETABLE GARDEN

I am reprinting this post from last year timely!

 3 secrets to a successful  CHILD'S VEGETABLE GARDEN: They should not be too demanding, They should offer fairly quick results The must not  require too much maintenance.

But how to achieve this in a garden in the short few months before school is over in June?

 Go to and then, prepare, prepare, prepare.
1. First, your veggie garden site has to have full sun for over 6 hours a day. This is a must! And morning sun is preferable over 6 hours of late in the day sun.

2. It must be relatively level and have soil deep enough to sustain plant roots and facilitate adequate drainage (about 16 inches deep at least). No 6" to bedrock or placed atop asphalt.

The soil has to be prepared beforehand - not by the kids, but by adults. 

The quality of the soil decides the success of the garden. Little kids cannot be expected to amend and prepare the soil in the correct manner...
The soil preparation stage is where most kids' g…

Wednesday, March 18 - 'Heaven is a Garden' talk in Ossining, NY

Next Wednesday, March 18,  I will be speaking at the Ossining Library at 7 pm and signing books. I hope you can come!

Wood Ash to Sweeten your Soil

Now that winter is coming to a close you can utilize a valuable soil amendment from your fireplace: Wood ashes. They are rich in Potash which “sweetens” the soil by raising the pH (more alkaline). Sweet soil is the balm of lilacs and other flowering shrubs. If your lilacs produce too few flowers, Potash can help. 

Apply regular wood-ash applications on soil beneath your shrubs in fall, winter and early spring.  You cannot apply too much; rain and snow dilute the concentration of Potash considerably. Empty thoroughly cooledfireplace ashes into a large container and then pour a large amount in a wide circle beneath the drip line of  mature lilac shrubs. For small ornamental, herb and vegetable plants,  pour about a cupful beneath them.
Here are plants that prefer sweet soil: Ornamentals:
Clematis, Gypsophila,  Japanese anemones, Lilacs, Madonna Lily, Nasturtium, Passionflower, Peonies, Phlox, Sweet Peas, Virginia Creeper Herbs:
Lavender, Rosemary, Thyme Vegetables:
Beets, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Le…

Ornamental Grass Combo - Garden Photo of the Day

Grass Combination -
Little Bluestem in front, Panicum behind, Miscanthus to the side and a touch of blue Verbena bonairensis 

(The name 'Miscanthus' was given to this genus of perennial grasses native to Japan and the Philippines by the 19th century Swedish botanist Nils Johan Andersson. 

It comes from the Greek words 'miskos' which means "stem" or "stalk" and 'anthos', meaning "flowers" in reference to the seed heads. Clearly seen on the left here. )

'Lady in Black' Aster - A Deer resistant, Native Stunner

Want to make your plant border dramatic this year?

Plant the native perennial Aster lateriflorus ‘Lady in Black’. This 3-foot tall plant has dark purple leaves and it is covered with thousands of small dark buds by the end of summer.

These soon becomes a mass of tiny white flowers with raspberry-colored centers.  What an eye popping display compared to the dusky leaves! 

'Lady in Black'  is said to be deer resistant and is rabbit resistant. Plant Hardiness: Zone 4 -8 (maybe colder).  Thisfall-bloomer has flowers that appear laterally along one side of the stem (that is why the species name is lateriflorus).  It is an improvement over the native, developed in Holland.

It is a butterfly magnet and looks great in pots as well as the garden. Mass it for effect. Also good as a cut flower!

You must pinch back the stems a lot. Do it several times by June - pinch stems back by one third to one half. General rule of thumb is to pinch until 4th of July and not after. Pinching yields bett…

EARTH HOUR 2015, March 28

In less than a month - on March 28 - Earth Hour will take place around the world. 

Earth Hour started in 2007 as a lights-off event to raise awareness about the imperiled earth. It has grown to engage more than 162 countries and territories worldwide. Earth Hour is on Saturday, 28 March 2015 at 8:30 pm local time.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is the parent organization of Earth Hour.

At the core of any Earth Hour celebration is switching off or turning down the lights. 
Organize an event around the act of switching off or dimming down the lights. "Cocktails by Candlelight" or entirely turning off any exterior signage. 

Some towns have used Earth Hour as the kickoff for an entire week or month of Earth-inspired activities that include the celebration of Earth Day.

Its a small step but it is the right step toward environmental global this short official Earth Hour video: