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Showing posts from 2019

White in the Garden

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Here's a tip:  white flowers are a STAND OUT!

Who would think that simple white flowers would be so remarkable?

Amidst green foliage and gray skies white petalled flowers sparkle and shine to such a degree that you have to smile

...and I am not the first to discover white's compelling brilliance.


Vita Sackville West, the English garden writer(who became famous for her White Garden in her estate, Sissinghurst),  said it best,

"White flowers are anathema to all but the oldest and most sophisticated of gardeners."

This is a very sly way of saying that if you like white flowers you are are so cultured and discriminating.

...so there you go! I must be very classy because I fancy white pansies,white gardenias, white euphorbia, white lilies and white roses.

Euphorbia Diamond Frost ( deer resistant) courtesy: Proven Winners
(BTW, the above quote was the impetus for the name 'White Flower Farm'...which is an outstanding mail order nursery..check them out. )

So to share…

Lovely Mullein - Garden Photo of the Day

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“A weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”  -   Ralph Waldo Emerson 
The long-maligned Mullein (Verbascum bombyciferum) is considered a weed by some but here its wooly, whitish leaves, rising four feet high, show off its yellow flowers amidst a glorious flower display at NY Botanical Garden... It was NYBG's homage to the great Beatrix Farrand, landscape designer of the Eyrie and Dumbarton Oaks. This is from several years ago.


Roberto Burle Marx and his Wave Pattern

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On June 8, 2019 the NY Botanical Garden will open their new exhibit dedicated to Roberto Burle Marx! I visited it this week in a preview and it is spectacular!  You have to see it - #plantlove

I wrote this a few years ago and feel it is the perfect time to share this post again:

Roberto Burle Marx
Roberto Burle Marx (1909-1994) was my idol when I studied landscape architecture at the University of Hawaii in the 1970s: he worked with tropical plants and was trained in painting.

I loved that Burle Marx painted every morning before attending to his design practice and that he said he 'painted his gardens'.

tablecloth design by Burle Marx


 He also asserted that the creation of a garden was 'an attempt to regain a lost paradise'. I could not agree more!

Flamengo park
Burle Marx's grasp of pattern was one of his signature features.  His bold use of color and shape captured the Brazilian culture masterfully and made them pertinent to the twentieth century.

Burle Marx's de…

My Class Today at NYBG - Learning from Before & After

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I am teaching a landscape design class today at the New York Botanical Garden.  It is called Learning from Before & After 
I share photos and use them to teach landscape Design Principles - it is a great visual way to learn. I give out handouts and even have a quiz.... Come join us! starts at 10 am.
Here is one example that I use - 
Modifying a Deck - How to make an outdoor space a little more Serene 

When this family asked me to make their backyard more serene and usable they never imagined I would tell them to alter their architect-designed deck!
But when I arrived and saw their property I quickly realized that the 'grand staircase' that led from their deck was more 'show' than anything else. It was perfect as a 'Gone with the Wind' stairway, allowing Vivien Leigh to descend in her long hoop skirt, but it did not fit a modern 21st century family. 
My suggestion? Remove the staircase entirely and build one on the side of the deck.  The husband was a little tak…

Utopia is here

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Heaven is home. Utopia is here. Nirvana is now. 
- Edward Abbey

Butterfly Gardens - Plants They Love

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Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you. - Nathaniel Hawthorne Happiness is a butterfly! And this is why a butterfly garden should be in everyone's life.  In the photo above, I planted 'Lucky White' Lantana and purple Callibrachoa to attract the summer butterflies....they love lantana!


Also perennial coneflowers, Baptisia,  agastache, bee balm, and many more are butterfly attractors.  These all have nectar, a butterfly's delight. So if you have a sunny open spot, some shelter from wind and fresh water (butterfly puddles) then plant some butterfly flowers and enjoy a bit of happiness. Here is a wonderful butterfly garden plant list from the Farmer's Almanac
Common NameLatin NameAlliumAlliumAsterAsterBee balmMonardaButterfly bushBuddleiaCatmintNepetaClove PinkDianthusCornflowerCentaureaDaylilyHemerocallisFalse indigo

Ms Mars Sunflower - A Purple-Tinged Beauty

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I love sunflowers. And the variety known as Ms. Mars (Helianthus annuus 'Ms Mars') has crazy merlot-colored petals that radiate out to form an eye-popping flower. The ray petals slowly turn from a purple to a pretty pink. It is a dwarf variety, growing only 20"-30" high, with a strongly branching habit. 
Full sun. Easy to Grow.  Dark Purple buds.  Great for kids' gardens and anywhere. Plus, Ms Mars makes a stunning cut flower.  You can use petals and seeds in salads and cakes.And not only are the flowers permeated with a dark reddish purple hue but the leaves and stems are also tinged with this inky color. 
Add this sun loving, happy flower to any garden - guaranteed to make you smile. 



Color Echoing in the Garden

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I am planting up a lot of flower gardens for clients right now. I use a technique called "color echoing”. You echo the color using different plants that have the same color, as shown above.

And it can also mean spreading out the color - This is very much like making a painting - you repeat a color byusing it throughout the garden. This carries the eye around the whole scene. 



For example, plant seven hot pink New Guinea impatiens in a group in one part of the garden bed and then place five more on the other side of the bed - stagger the colors randomly around the garden bed in a mosaic type layout. When they grow in, it makes a beautiful tapestry of color! "Color echoing" therefore has 2 meaning in my opinion. It is about using the same color found in different plants and it also is about spreading it around the garden.

  For example, when I plant white tuberous begonias in a bed I may echo the white by planting Swedish ivy that has green and white variegated foliage. And I…

A Dewy Morning in the Garden

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It’s a sunny spring morning, the air is crisp and the sky is blue. I amreveling in the lovely green setting of my backyard garden and am entranced by the water drops glistening atop the blades of grass. The season of dew watching is upon us! Dew appears when the days are warm, nights are cool and the air is moist. The earth cools overnight, chilling the air and then - like magic - drops of water appear out of nowhere and settle on whatever is near the ground. These drops of 'dew' do not last long. By late morning the dew evaporates and our momentary watery celebration of spring is over. John Milton, the English Renaissance poet, shared the delight of a dewy spring morning in these verses: “Sweet is the breath of morn, her rising sweet,
With charm of earliest birds; pleasant the sun, When first on this delightful land he spreads His orient beams, on herb, tree, fruit and flower, Glistening with dew..."
Spring flowers are lovely when 'glistening with dew' as he describes. T…

'Purple Smoke' - The best Baptisia

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Try  planting Baptisia 'Purple Smoke'.  And pair it with Baptisia Cherries Jubilee.A deer resistant, native, drought tolerant, purple, long lived perennial! Wow!
It is a hybrid of B. australis and B. alba and is a vigorous grower.  Discovered by Rob Gardener of the North Carolina Botanical Gardens, it has charcoal-gray stems and is purple.  
Baptisia is a native perennial that has a long taproot, loves sunny sites with lean or poor soil. Average to dry soil is best.  Its deep tap root allows it to survive long dry periods, making it a challenge to move once it is established. 

The flowers resemble lupines and are smoky violet. Numerous flowers open first at the base of the flower stalk in May and ascend upwards, topping out at 4.5' tall. It has fine textured, blue-green foliage. 
The flower spikes rise above the foliage for easy viewing. I love its unique flower color and strong vertical form.  A Niche Gardens introduction.
Steve Foltz, director of horticulture at the Cincinnat…

Publishers Weekly Gives Gardentopia a Starred Review!

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Gardentopia: Design Basics for Creating Beautiful Outdoor Spaces Jan Johnsen. Countryman, $29.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-68268-396-5 Readers with even the slightest interest in beautifying an outdoor space—large or small—should find something of value in this expansive guide from landscape designer Johnsen (The Spirit of Stone: 101 Practical & Creative Stonescaping Ideas for Your Garden). She emphasizes the importance of deciding upon a goal for a garden and visualizing its final appearance before beginning work on it, declaring that the sum of any such project is greater than its parts. Johnsen takes care to dissect these parts, revealing creative possibilities (accompanied by practical guidance) for each nook and cranny. For example, to recover the lost art of “garden strolling,” the design can include a widened, curving walkway that coaxes the stroller through a garden’s various turns and twists. With proper planning and plant placement, the garden will “reveal itself in stages, hidi…