Showing posts from 2018

Ode to Spring - by e.e. cummings

O sweet spontaneous by: e.e. cummings (1894-1962) O sweet spontaneousearth how often havethedotingfingers ofprurient philosophers pinchedandpokedthee, has the naughty thumbof science proddedthybeauty, howoften have religions takenthee upon their scraggy kneessqueezing and

buffeting thee that thou mightest conceivegods(buttrueto the incomparablecouch of death thyrhythmiclover thou answerestthem only withspring)

Cherry Blossom Time - The Tradition of Hanami

The Tradition of Hanami When I lived in Kyoto, Japan I was lucky to see Hanami in action.  In Japan, the seasonal blooming of cherry trees is celebrated nationally in an event known as hanami(flower-viewing). 
The practice of hanami is centuries old; it began during the 8th century, when it referred to the viewing of the ume, or plum tree.

 But  later hanami was synonymous with 'sakura' - cherry - and the blossoming of the cherry trees was used to predict the next year's harvest.

Hanami was a time to perform rituals marking the start of the planting season. These rituals ended with a feast under the cherry trees, and this persists to today.  

Starting in late March, television weather reporters give the public daily blossom forecasts, tracking the "cherry blossom front" as it progresses from the south to the north. 

Families, coworkers, and friends rely on these to quickly organize hanami parties as the cherry trees begin to bloom locally.

 Parks like Tokyo's famo…

The Lure of the Sheltered Corner in the Landscape

We all love to sit in a protected corner looking out to a view. This is why people seek out the proverbial “table in the corner” in a restaurant. It provides the sanctuary that I call, “the lure of a sheltered corner.”

This is also true outdoors, in your garden. I write about this in my garden design book, 'Heaven is a Garden'. If you create a rectangular patio and provide an outdoor seating area in a corner backed by bushes, a wall or a slope everyone will want to sit in this cozy spot! And if you provide a view of some sort then it will be even more appealing. 
You can create a protected corner next to your house by using the rear wall as one side of the corner and a low hedge as the other side. This combination makes a wonderful niche for a small table and chairs.

Fothergilla - A Great Woodland Plant for Spring and Fall

Iadore Fothergilla gardenii Mt Airy. (wonderful photo of fothergilla leaf from Quercus Design blog)

Fothergilla is native to the Appalachians, is deer resistant  and sports fragrant, early spring flowers before the leaves come out.

The flowers are white, bottlebrush spikes that light up a sunny to partial sun woodland corner. The flowers are followed by blue green, heavily textured foliage.

Photo from Robs Plants Website -

photo by Laura McKillop
'Mt Airy' is a dwarf form and got its name from the Mt. Airy Arboretum in Cincinnati, Ohio. When compared to the native species, Mt. Airy Fothergilla has more vibrant multicolored foliage in shades of yellow, orange and red in October through mid-November.

This fall color is the best! It is spell binding in the garden....

 Photo for Monrovia by Doris Wyjna

Photo by Plant Introductions, Inc
 I like to use 'Mt Airy' in combination with Fargesia, Manhattan Euonymus, hakonechloa, ferns and viburn…

Ivory Silk Tree Lilac - A Great Small Tree

Years ago I moved to Northern Vermont  (Montpelier) and worked as a landscape designer for a design / build firm there. 

 I had to learn about cold hardy plants - and fast.

One of my favorite cold hardy discoveries that has remained a favorite of mine is the ornamental tree, 'Ivory Silk' Tree Lilac (Syringa reticulata "Ivory Silk" ).

This small flowering tree, which grows no taller than 25 feet, was selected by Sheridan Nursery of Ontario, Canada in 1975 as a compact cultivar of Japanese Tree Lilac. It needs full sun and is hardy to USDA Zone 3.

I love 'Ivory Silk' because it flowers later than other flowering trees and has spectacular creamy white, fragrant flowers borne in abundance in 6" - 12" long clusters. In my part of the world it blooms from June to July.  The fragrance is similar to a common lilac.

photo from Colesville Nursery
I also admire its lovely upright oval form. This is quite different from the spreading habits of the other small flower…

A Great Deer Resistant Blue Perennial - Blue Ice

The Blue Star perennial family -  Amsonia tabernaemontana -
has a hybrid cousin, Amsonia 'Blue Ice' that is an amazingly vigorous, low growing plant with deep blue flowers. 

Amsonia 'Blue Ice' has a white, milky sap that is toxic to deer and more. Yay! 

Amsonia 'Blue Ice' is easy to grow and drought tolerant. 12-16" tall, 18-24" wide. Needs full sun.
It blooms from late spring to early summer. 

It grows in a 15" tall by 2' wide mound of narrow, dark green, deer-resistant foliage. And in spring it is topped with large clusters of lavender-blue flowers which are more vivid than other blue stars. It  blooms prolifically and turns a fabulous golden yellow in the fall. Zones 4-9  

The summer foliage looks great in combination with low grasses.

 I recommend trying it with the compact heavily-banded Miscanthus 'Gold Bar' ornamental grass.  This grass is also deer-resistant and is topped with a lovely inflorescence in late October. 

Great for sunny r…

Gardening Know How - Stonescaping in the Garden

This interview was published on July 18, 2017 on the great blog Gardening Know How. You can see it and much more - click here
Q & A with Jan Johnsen, author of ‘Spirit of Stone’Share Article

Time to Renew Your Garden Tools

Winter is the time to get your garden tools in shape... hand tools such as shovels, picks, trowels, loppers, etc. should be cleaned, sharpened and well oiled.

Steel wool can clean off any rust or caked-on dirt.

And pure white vinegar works to remove rust too: pour into a bucket or small plastic tub. Submerse rusty pruning shears in the solution and soak overnight, or roughly 24 hours. 

The acid of the vinegar eats away at most of the surface rust.  Wash off the next day...for more on this go to the Backyard Boss article on cleaning pruning shears. 

But the most important thing I have found is to make sure to oil the tools. It is a rust preventative and a wood saver. 

A while back, in our shop (I own a landscape design/project management firm and we have lots of tools) we would have a large container filled with sand and motor oil and put our tools in it. 

...the sand acts an abrasive to remove dirt and the oil prevents rust. But this is not so smart.
Why? Because the petroleum oil goes from …

Learning from other Landscape Designers

"The world is moving into a phase when landscape design may well be recognized as the most comprehensive of the arts." 
Geoffrey Jellicoe
'The Landscape of Man: Shaping the Environment from Prehistory to the Present Day' 

Creative ideas don't just come out of thin air - they are a blend of what we have learned and used in the past. 

A garden maker should look to landscape designers of the past and present and learn their design philosophies. Never stop learning.

By looking at other cultures' approach to the natural world you can enhance your garden immeasurably.

 The English garden designers such as Russell Page, Arabella Lennox Boyd, and Gertrude Jekyll stand side by side with their counterparts in the United States, Canada,  Japan, South America, Thailand, Indonesia, Hawaii, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Italy,  Holland, Germany,  France and India in my world.

I borrow from new and old unabashedly and thank them all for their inspiration.  

To co-c…