Thursday, March 31, 2011

Garden journal escape...

     I know that as a gardener in Pennsylvania I should be accepting of snow at this time of year, but I am weary of it today.  As it started falling Tuesday afternoon, fluffy and white, I put on a brave smile while thinking, "Yes, it is here again, but it will certainly not lay on the ground for long." Two days later, I am kind of itching to move on with life, for more color and less white.  Even four-year-old Grace, who was anticipating this winter's snow starting last July (no joke), said this morning, "I wish the snow would melt so that we could have more flowers again."

   So here we are, learning perseverance through the seasons of life by waiting as patiently as we can for these last snows to fall... watering the earth, hydrating the roots, giving respite before the heat of summer... and putting the cold weather in perspective by writing down the happenings in my garden journal.

   This is the third year that I have used a date book as a garden journal... which is an all-encompassing journal for me that holds my notes from my garden book reading, monthly calenders where I can record the main blooming attractions, days to write down my gardening tasks, notes from gardens we visit, plants I buy, and brainstorming for new combinations, bulbs, annuals, etc.  And a place where I can record the weather each year so I know what I expect... mostly.

   A glimpse of three years of March... this year definitely containing more snow than the other two. I  feel a little panicky when I look out the window right now, but looking ahead to April in my past journals brings calm assurance that the snow will stop... by June for sure.

   A view of how I organize myself: blooming plants & combinations on the monthly calender (left) and tasks in the day-to-day blocks (right).

   A sneak-peek at my Thompson & Morgan seed order for the season (right)...

   A look ahead of what to expect in April... this record from 2010 (below).

  Rosemary Verey, one of my gardening heroes, encouraged new gardeners to "take note as you go" (Rosemary Verey's Making of a Garden, 17).

   Learn to build up your knowledge of plants, not only to be able to recognize them but to know what growing conditions they like or dislike, when they will flower, what their leaves will contribute before and after flowering, how they will relate to their neighbors.  This knowledge comes only with familiarity, observation and experience (pg. 17).

   I have enjoyed being more methodical about the art in my garden.  Recording my thoughts and schemes has helped me both to fully appreciate the moment and to learn more through reflection by reading past entries.

Perhaps this is your year to start a garden journal too?

For anyone wondering: I have really enjoyed using these Brush Dance date books, after finding one in a Floridian gift shop in 2009 when my husband and I were on a get-away.  They are beautiful and earthy. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Designing a Circle Lawn

     One of my favorite ideas about garden design is the idea of first designing the lawn area, then creating the planting beds.   When you do this, the lawn becomes part of the design. It is not just the grass you cross to get to the good stuff.

Garden designers call unplanted areas like lawns, "negative space". This is negative space with a purpose.  Creating a path or shape out of your lawn really helps to make your entire garden more of an experience.

Our Circle Lawn just last week.

     That is what we have done in our small front yard at Gilmore Gardens - created a garden where you are experiencing the plantings (even the grass!) as you walk in progression from the Shade Path, to the Circle Lawn and then onto the Front Walk.

But the part that always makes me smile is the Circle Lawn.

Above is a view from the sidewalk in front of our house, looking back towards to Shade Path and the gate to the backyard. The first thing that made me think that a circle shape would work well here is that is it a transition space, but I also wanted it to be a destination.  Viewed from the gate, it definitely draws you forward to see what is next.  It also makes you feel like you have arrived somewhere unique.

Actually making the circle was simple enough.  I pushed a stake into the grass, adjusting and re-adjusting it to the perfect spot for the center of the circle.  I looked back towards the gate, and eyed it from all angles.

When pleased, I attached a rope to the stake and pulled it taut to make a radius to the edge (the distance from the center to one side). Once I had decided on how big the lawn should be, I walked slowly around using the radius to mark out the circle edge, by placing small sticks at each measured distance.  Then I grabbed my spade and went to work edging the circle lawn.

Crocus sieberi 'Tricolor'

     My favorite addition to the circle adds a "fairy" element.  I planted a few dozen Crocus sieberi 'Tricolor' in the center of the lawn by peeling back a one-foot section of the turf, throwing them in and then laying the turf back in place.  We also poked holes and planted more C. 'Tricolor' bulbs at odd distances around the rest of the circle to help the bulbs look more naturalized.

The one other fun part of placing the Circle Lawn in this spot, is that it is next to the Cherry Corner garden.  This garden contains a weeping cherry tree that blossoms pink in the spring (hopefully this year it will at the same time as Narcissus 'Pink Charm'!).  

Cherry Corner ~ April 2010

Once this tree matures, its round canopy should just intersect the edge of the Circle Lawn, creating an echo of the circle shape.  And this scene will be the focal point from the backyard, down the Shade Path.  I am waiting with excited anticipation to see that day!

Hope this encourages you to be daring in your own yard!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Color for the weekend...

Tulipa 'Queen of the Night', echoing the deep purple tones of Heuchra 'Palace Purple' behind it.
Also some strappy and sprightly daylily foliage (Hemerocallis fulva).

Planted by moi, in the tiny side garden at our first apartment ~ May 2007

     With "Color for the weekend," I will be delving into the tremendous store of old photo I have from before my writing days to share with you all.  Hopefully they will be an inspiring end to your week!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Snowy March Combination

This morning, I captured one of my favorite early spring combinations covered in a light dusting of snow...

     The ground work is laid with dark leaved Ajuga reptans, symmetrical hens & chicks (Echeveria hyb.), and evergreen Phlox subulata.  In the middle shines the white of Crocus vernus 'Jeanne d' Arc'. These ground covers work great together - filling in very quickly! They look great all year round.

     The germ of this idea came from a photo in the book, Rosemary Verey's Making of a Garden, by the great plants-woman Rosemary Verey.  She under-planted these same crocuses with purple sage, to great effect.  She has some excellent color combinations that I am still working to emulate, though I think I most strongly hold to her design ideas.   

     Close-up of an Echeveria mommy looking magical with a dusting of snow.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Gilmore Gardens via Belgium...

Our old pink rose with Clematis 'Etoile Violette' woven throughout in June.

Thanks to Isabelle at A Little bit of Paradise for her feature of the combinations at Gilmore Gardens.  We share a lot of the same garden inspirations in Gertrude Jekyll and Christopher Lloyd.

She has some great combinations also... beautiful borders full of roses!
Go here to see them... and use the helpful translator in the left column if you have not brushed up on your French lately.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Are you a sign of spring?

We have watched the robins come... the snow melt away... the first flowers (crocuses!)...
     and now comes the surest sign: the outdoor gardener.

 Iris reticulata 'Clairette' in our Driveway Garden

I began working in my yard last week, which is a corner lot in a town borough.  A four-way stop sits just steps away from our Cherry Corner Garden (and gives us real appreciation for the nice height that tree is already providing ).  Our evergreen coverage is pretty darn immature at this point, though our yard is lined with shrubs.  Present, but you hardly hid one foot behind those little arbor vitae. 

As I began to rake the leaves from the front beds, trim the Japanese anemone left-overs, grab out the daylily remains, I felt that I was being watched.  This is nothing new, since as I said,  I am gardening on a corner lot. But this was a little more intense than usual.  I sensed the cars slowing to the sign more like they were crawling rather than trying to quickly get home after work.

And just as I was thinking, "I guess everyone notices me again this year...," the door of the apartment build across the street flings open and a neighbor pops out with arms held high, "It's spring!" she says.  
"So glad to see you outside again!" 

At first I was rather embarrassed, but why should I be?

Who but the gardener really knows how to enjoy the season. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Favorite Garden Combinations of 2010 (Part 9)

   We have reached Late Fall, November in PA, and the end of the growing season at Gilmore Gardens.  It has been enjoyable to relive and doubly appreciate all that is here after just two-and-a-half years of intensive gardening.  The killing frost came the first week in November 2010, which was a month later than usual.  One of my favorite areas was still the Hill Garden...

   Though the plants are quite common, the combination here is not one that I have seen elsewhere.  The purple barberry (Berberis thunbergii atropurpurea) are beautiful in their deepening color, the lamb's ears (Stachys byzantina) still beg to be touched.  But it is the Sedum 'Autumn Joy' that steals the show, with its foliage passing through chartreuse on its way to yellow.  The Phlox subulata is filling in around the cracks, still holding its place as an anchoring evergreen.

   Touched with snow just a few weeks later, the delicate stems of Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia 'Filigran'), standout against the reddened barberry leaves (right).

   The irresistible texture of Stachys byzantina (left).

     Here was a fun treat!  The cool-weather loving violas decided to put out some last minute blooms again - their last bid at propagation for the season (above).  I love their dark purple seen with the red berries of the burning bush (Euonymus alatus) and the orange-yellow leaves of the ornamental pear tree (Pyrus calleryana).  Again, very common plants, yet they are more lovely together in combination.

   Below is a full photo of the Hill Garden, which looks down on the driveway entrance.  I am thrilled the fast-growing pear tree has started to fill its role in just two years.  Also, I am very happy with our autumn color display, though we do not have room for a wilderness of foliage on our property.

   The Bradford pear, Pyrus calleryana (above), which is lovely in foliage, though is now known to be invasive in some areas of the country.  

   The last of the combinations for late fall is in the Driveway Garden...  Aster hybrida 'Peter III' still is blooming profusely at this late date, and looks perfect with the ripening rose hips from the old pink rose by our house.

   And here is 'Peter III' with just a dusting of snow...  
lovely end to the 2010 bloom season.

Other photos from November (clockwise from top left): vibrant Aster hybrida 'Peter III' in the sunset; immature hawk sitting in the maple tree out of our back door, casually eying our bunny's hutch; sunset on the aster, rose bush and young rose of sharon skeleton (Hibiscus syriacus) by our back door; looking down the Shade Path from the Circle Lawn.

Snowy November - photos from the end of the month (clockwise from top left): love the structure of the new alberta spruce topiary behind the patio (table soon to be stored for the winter); burning bush (Euonymus alatus) with its pretty but toxic berries; Sedum 'Autumn Joy' dusted with its first snow of the season; two little cuties all bundled to enjoy the great outdoors before the snow really comes.

If you would like to start at the beginning of the 2010 season, go to Part 1: Early Spring

     Or see a glimpse of Gilmore Gardens in December.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My new blog name...

should be Crocus tommasinianus after my streak for the past couple of weeks.

   But I could not resist posting the photos I took last night.  I had just pulled in to the garage, home from my trip to the grocery store, and the gloomy, wet light was too perfect to pass up.

 tiny purple brush strokes...

      I love them here with the red stems of  Cornus alba 'Elegantissima'.

     This view looks back to the little rock garden by the maple where soon Scilla siberica will continue the blue mood. Thanks for appreciating them with me one more time!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day - March 2011

More C. tommasinianus

We are grateful to have even these around here 
                      with the gloomy weather this week... 
                                              though soon spring will burst!

Thanks to Carol at May Dream's Gardens for hosting Garden Blogger's Bloom Day!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Thankfully, a reminder...

Anna, Logan and Grace lying in the grass in front of the Hill Garden last September.

   Our family went out for breakfast yesterday- a rare treat!  We sat at the table, my husband and I both working as fast as we could to keep up with the many needs of three young children.  We were consumed with cutting food, keeping the baby from dumping all our drinks, hoping the three-year-old would not yell too many times, etc. And though it was going well (meaning no one was wearing their pancakes yet), we were preoccupied with the working.

Three ladies at the table behind us began talking to our kids, exchanging waves with the baby.  Our kids were making their day.  At the end of the meal we heard, "What nice children you have! They are so well behaved."

      And I realized that I was working so hard, I was missing it again. 
                We were not enjoying the moment. We needed their outside perspective.

Yes, every drink could have ended up in my lap - but it didn't! Yes, Anna could have shouted in her excitement until they all wished we would just leave - but she didn't!

Not only were there no disasters, but there were smiles... moments to sit and cheerfully help them... moments to draw them close in a hug...

So, I am writing this as a reminder to myself of what I long to cherish and enjoy now, 
   not just in 20 years when they are gone.

And I am writing it to brag on my kids, whom I love more than I can say,
   and because you all have reminded me too... they are a blessing!

trying to keep on counting...
thankful for...
  • Anna-rosie-posie who wakes up singing "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" at the top of her lungs in the morning... every morning!
  • little girls who squeal at pancakes with chocolate chips
  • baby boy waves and shy smiles
  • Grace who has officially grown another 1/4 inch tall since last week
  • three mommies past their season that loved on our children
  • eating food cooked by someone else 
  • sisters who like to play together
  • school posters covering my walls because they are learning!
  • Judy, who reminded me of the lesson of thankfulness again at the end of the day
  • Olivia, for being here again to help us do life this morning
  • my husband, who likes lots of hugs in the morning

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Fresh New Day...

For all gardeners, regardless of their equatorial location...

Whether it is with flowers or in the snow... 

       here is hope that you are enjoying the freshness of a new day today.

"Behold, I am making all things new." Rev 21:5

Top: Snow on the maple tree out our front door on Friday morning.
Bottom: Forced white hyacinth bloom from Ruth's bridal shower two weeks ago.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Favorite Garden Combinations of 2010 (Part 8)


     October in Pennsylvania... and what a beautiful fall it was!  The frost held off the entire month, finally happening the first week of November, so we enjoyed our fill of beautiful fall leaves and the perennials still giving their best... 
                  roses, asters, mums and geraniums... to name a few.

     In the Woodland Garden, the mature maple trees were all in their glory.  Mostly yellows, with some red mixed in.  At moments like the one above, they were aglow with the low autumn sun. I am stretching the combinations definition to include much more foliage this month... which we all must do to properly enjoy the season.

   The kids could not get enough of jumping in the crunchy, dry leaves.  The girls introduced their brother to all the various ways to enjoy the fun.

   In the back of the garden but the fence we have planted an eastern redbud tree (Cercis canadensis) to stand as a focal point for another circle lawn.  It is only eight-foot so far, but seems to be growing quickly.  The girls love to find its heart-shaped leaves lying on the ground.
   It will make a screen for our backyard when the other large trees are long gone.  And we are waiting for its first glorious spring bloom... maybe in May 2011??

   Yellow and green leaves on the mature silver maple trees create a canopy in the backyard.  Having a "ceiling" like this one is important design element to lend a settled, cozy feeling in a garden, especially in an area that is to be used for relaxing and dining.

   The entrance to our backyard is flanked by the upper and lower Driveway Gardens.  They are still holding on to their interest... the grey of lavender, the red rose hips swelling, asters adding color.

    One of our favorites for color is the salmon perennial  mum called 'Sheffield Pink' (Dendranthema 'Sheffield Pink').  It is a joy to see it bloom rosy just as the rose hips are getting their russet color too (right). 

   Sheffield Pink makes a great combination here with Geranium 'Rozanne', artemisia and Sedum 'Acre' (below).

Just around the corner of the Driveway Garden from the Sheffield Pink, closer to the walk, is the beautifully full Aster hybrida 'Peter III' (below)...

   It is so perfect here because of its close proximity to the door that we use everyday, but more especially because it is the perfect companion for the bearded irises that live here and bloom in June.
   Irises are hard to make a succession planting with because they really do need the heat from the direct sun for their rhizomes, and time to let their leaves die inelegantly.

   Asters have been my answer to how to cover that mess up, but still leave them plenty of room. I cut my asters down by half in July to make sure they are good and bushy in the fall.  This delays bloom and makes more flower buds for the aster, while also giving the iris a little more sunshine.  A perfect solution!

    Here is 'Peter III' with our pumpkin and California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) still going strong (above). Lamium, still blooming, fills in the cracks.

       In Cherry Corner, the weeping cherry tree has turned its vivid yellow.  The rosy mums and Sedum 'Autumn Joy' add a little more color to compliment the variegated loosestrife (Lysimachia punctata 'Alexander') on the three corners of this garden.

          The best part about last October was that we still had roses!
On the Hill Garden at the front of our driveway, Rosa 'The Fairy' (the one that I am always talking about!) was still going quite strong.  The colors were so pretty with the autumnal foliage of the purple barberry. The lamb's ears are still looking nice too, which is a feat since they began in March, coming up with the grape hyacinths.  I spent some time spreading more creeping phlox (Phlox subulata) around under these rose bushes to cover the ground in early spring.

   And a surprise on the  
Shade Path for last: foxgloves! The perennial yellow foxgloves (Digitalis grandiflora) are rewarding me for the care I took trimming their spent flowers stalks earlier in July. They really look pretty with the yellowing foliage of the hostas and the native flat-topped aster (Doellingeria unbellata). Even a few white impatients are hanging on til frost (below).

   A couple more pretties just for good measure: Aster hybrida 'Peter III' with lamium and a fallen nasturtium bloom (Tropaeolum) (left); aster and lavender bouquet over a fall mosaic on our kitchen table (right).

If you would like to start at the beginning of the series, go here to Early Spring (Part 1)

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