Independence Day

July 4 2016 004The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays. I like the story of how America came to be independent. I like anyone who has a mind to think and act independently. I like even more that I live in a culture that places a premium on freedom. That freedom came and continues to come with a very big price. I so respect any person who contributes to what it takes to let freedom ring. Today I am thinking about those people who valued independence and freedom above all. The 4th of July is a holiday that celebrates the best of what Americans can be. There is always a lot of impassioned discussion about what constitutes the best we can be. I like any idea delivered with passion and conviction. Bring it on-I am listening.  What did I do over the celebration of this 4th? I spent a lot of time thinking about how lucky I am to live in America. I went to the shop at 7am to feed the dogs, and check on MCat. Once Rob arrived to water the plants at the shop, I knew I could go home with no worries. I came home. Buck and I had lunch on the deck at noon.. Home with family is good.

July 4 2016 001I weeded, dead headed, watered, and greatly enjoyed being outdoors at home. I took pictures.  I rarely have a chance to be home during the day-I so enjoyed this. The corgis despise the booms from fireworks.  I have one hand on them, and the rest of me thinking about how great it is to be home, and to be free.

July 4 2016 025To follow are pictures of my garden from today. I hope you are enjoying your fourth as much as I am enjoying mine.

FullSizeRender (15)

FullSizeRender (17)

FullSizeRender (19)

FullSizeRender (8)

FullSizeRender (12)

FullSizeRender (13)

FullSizeRender (10)

July 4 2016 008

July 4 2016 009

July 4 2016 034

July 4 2016 028

July 4 2016 023

July 4 2016 018

FullSizeRender (9)I have a little fireworks of the gardening sort going on today.

Some Like It Hot And Dry

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 6.11.57 PM_zpsv6bhufehChoosing plants for summer containers can be complicated, especially if you are as serious about them as I am. I have to be serious, as I plant them professionally for a wide range of clients. But lacking any clients, I would still be serious about them.  They are seasonal expressions of the landscape confined by a finite world known as a container. The idea of this enchants me. A great container planting is a condensed expression of color, mass, line, texture, mass, shape and mood. Like the best chocolate mousse you ever ate. The thoughtful landscape and garden builds and endures and reinvents itself from year to year. Like a great stew. Seasonal containers provide an opportunity to express an idea or point of view that needs no more commitment than one season. If this year’s annual containers do not satisfy, the next summer season is not so far away. Landscape design and installation can be a lengthy affair.  The road to maturity is long, and not always easy.  The death of a tree is momentous; a petunia lost is no cause for alarm.  That container plantings last for one season is such a blessing. As much as I embrace the tough and long road designing and implementing a landscape, I value those gestures that are quick and true. I design containers by instinct. Every season, a plant that interests me, or a group of plants that seem like they will create a neighborhood gets my attention.  But long before I shop, I scout the long range weather forecast for my zone.

Floret FarmsA forecast for much above average temperatures, and dry conditions means I started paying special attention to those seasonal plants that will thrive in those conditions months ago. I have always been a fan of those old fashioned cutting flowers-the zinnias.  If we have a rainy or very humid summer, they are a magnet for mildew and all manner of fungal disease. Reading the forecast in March, I started researching zinnias. A dry hot summer would be the perfect moment to plant lots of them in front of the shop. I was especially interested in unusual forms, vigor, resistance to disease, and and that old fashioned charm they are known for. In reading about zinnias, I came across a blog post from Floret Farms.  They grow armload after armload of the most beautiful cut flowers I have ever seen-just like the cut zinnias you see in their picture above.  I did take some of their recommendations to heart. Interested in the article? http://www.floretflowers.com/2014/03/flower-focus-growing-great-zinnias/

 

DSC_6426Zinnia Queen red lime has very unusual and muted coloration-unlike many of the varieties that feature intense color.

DSC_6433It’s sister cultivar, Queen Lime, is a much improved version of the old lime green zinnia “Envy”.

Zinnia elegans 'Queen Lime' (2013)Benary Lime tends towards the greener side of lime. From the Johnny’s Selected seeds website:  A classic and superior strain of zinnia originating from a historic German seed company, the Benary’s Giant Series features large, double blossoms of approximately 4–5″ in diameter, in multiple magnificent colors. Recommended by the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers for their vigor, uniformity, productivity, and carefree cultivation across a range of growing zones and conditions.  From Swallowtail Garden Seeds: The 3-4 inch, double chartreuse flowers are superb for cutting, blend with almost any color. Outstanding massed in the landscape; the flowers are jaw-dropping in mixed bouquets. Plants are rain, heat, and mildew resistant. Somewhat shorter than others in this series, growing 24-26 inches tall.

DSC_6423I first read about this zinnia at Floret Farms.  Uproar Rose is a hot pink zinnia that is reputed to produce flower heads at 5″-6″ across all summer.  It makes an excellent cut flower, and is resistant to fungal diseases. Floret favors this zinnia, as it has lots of side branching – meaning it will bear lots of flowers.  I added this zinnia to my collection.

DSC_6435The Zinderella series, in both peach and lilac represent a very unusual anemone type form. I see not every flower on the stalk is quite as double as the ones in my pictures, but that is not enough to discourage me from growing them. They grow about 24 inches tall.  I mixed all of the sizes and colors of zinnias for a loose look, and I have twice as many lime zinnias as all of the other colors. That lime will make it so much easier to appreciate the color and shape of the other varieties.

DSC_6434Zinderella Lilac

zinnia Polar BearA little splash of white is the perfect accent for a garden with lots of bright color. This is the tallest of my zinnias, topping out at 40″. Polar Bear white is an appropriate name.  It cools off the collection.

Canary Bird Zinnia Zinnia Canary Bird rounded out the tall zinnia group.

51985-pk-p1I did not want to neglect the shorter and more compact zinnias.  I did opt to grow the Zahara series.  From Park Seed:  The Zahara series introduced in 2009 immediately became famous for its resistance to mildew and leaf spot, its nonstop blooms, and its larger flower size.These blooms are fully 2½ inches wide. Renowned for its ability to withstand heat, humidity, drought, and just about anything else, Zahara is the first bedding Zinnia that can truly claim to be disease-resistant. Mildew is a traditional enemy of the Zinnia, but Zahara’s got it licked!

F_Zinnia_ZaharaStarlightRose Zahara Starlight White is especially beautiful.

DSC_6431The wicker pots out front are planted with elegant feather, tall yellow marigolds, marguerite daisies, pink petunias and lime licorice.  We dug around the stone plinth, and planted Zahara zinnias.

zinnias at the shop (1) a fist full of zinnias

zinnias at the shop (2)Yes, I planted them on the roof too.  We’ll see how we do with them.

 

 

The First Container Planting

annual planting (3)
Every year, the prospect of having a full roster of container gardens to plant makes me want to black out. I spend the first three weeks of May utterly certain that I cannot plant one more pot.  That I am out of ideas. Luckily, time passes by, and and I start shopping. A client I have worked for as long as this one is easy to shop for. I had a pair of giant banana plants to pick up at our farmer’s market at 5:45 am. I was ready at 7am to let Dan know that we would need two pallets-130 bags –  of our custom container soil blend, and 30 bags of bark. We would need moss fabric for a pair of wire urns, and a ladder to tie the mandevillea to the steel plant climbers.

annual planting (12)I had shopped with David and Riley on Friday.  They put all of our plants on racks, and loaded them onto our trucks.  At the end of the day Friday, I was ready in the plant regard.  I had an inkling of an idea about what I would plant. Of course I was going over that inkling, critically. I had from 6-8am Saturday morning to print the photographs from last year, and write on them what materials we would use in them this year. Two hours gives me enough time to change my mind. Once my crew is ready to load, I am too.  I take extras and alternates, just in case.

annual planting (5) Once every pot had gotten filled with bark for drainage, and our container soil mix, all of the centerpieces get planted.  Then I lay out the scheme for the rest of the pot.  I was entirely absorbed and focused on how each plant would grow out, and interact with its neighbor. I favor containers that have a beautiful overall shape by the time they mature.  My favorite part of this planting for a group of Italian terra cotta pots? Orange geraniums. Geraniums, as they provide an incredible amount of color when properly grown.  They are heavy feeders. But more so than the bloom habit, that orange would contribute an interesting variation to a warm color palette.  The red mandevilleas and red geraniums are a bluish red. The orange geraniums have just enough yellow to make the combination interesting. My client is keen about the drama that can be created by intense color.
annual planting (6)This pair of Italian pots can handle the size and textural drama of a pair of large scale bananas. Not yet visible are a collar of strobilantes, or Persian shield plants that will ring the trunks of the bananas.  The chartreuse leaved Persian Queen geraniums and misty lilac waves petunias will highlight the iridescent red-violet of the Persian Shields.

annual planting (9)Lime green is a key color in this planting scheme. All of the warm colors are all the more intense, by their proximity to lime green. The red represented in this container is red sunpatiens. They will grow quite large.  The lime licorice will lighten that load of red.

annual planting (7)This big scented geranium will have pale pink flowers intermittently over the summer.  But they are primarily grown for their bright apple green foliage that can be clipped into shapes.  We gave this geranium the most rudimentary clip.  My client has a lot of formally trimmed shrubs maintained by the company that prunes our boxwood at the shop.  Her crew will put a skilled set of hands to the spherical shape of this geranium.  It is under planted with an orange geranium of a different sort than the big growing zonal geraniums.  Caliente geraniums come in a wide range of colors, and are extremely easy to grow. The pink and white bicolor trailing verbena “Lanai Twister Pink” is a beautiful addition to this series.

annual planting (11)There are two containers in fairly dense shade.  The color of the lime dracaena “Janet Craig” brightens any shady area.  The dracaena is under planted with bird’s nest ferns.  The leaf form is simialr to the dracaena, but is a darker green.

annual planting (8)A boxwood topiary on standard is under planted with Persian Queen geraniums, red geraniums, and vista fuchsia petunias. The low terra cotta bowl features hot pink XL dahlias, black cherry supertunias, and a bicolor trailing verbena.

annual planting (10)3 terracotta boxes get identical treatment.  Hot pink zonal geranium towers, and lime creeping jenny.

annual planting (14)This old cast iron rectangular cauldron sits in a garden bed which is so shady that very little grows there. It is planted with a a pair of lime green fleck leafed dieffenbachia “Camouflage”, Janet Craig dracaenas, and Black Gold Xtreme sansevieria. The sansevieria in the box is repeated in ground at each end. This planting will thrive all summer long with next to no water.

annual planting (1)By 2pm, you would never know we had been there. It was a splashy beginning to our container planting season.

Vernissage 2016

008Seven years ago, on April 1 of 2009, I published my very first post entitled Vernissage. As in a beginning-not only of the gardening season, but a beginning for my writing. How pleased I was to have a  a forum for my gardening journal!  I  revisited and revised this first post in 2010,  2012, 2014, and 2015. To follow is this year’s version of that first essay, Vernissage.

VERNISSAGE (15)Strictly speaking, the French word vernissage refers to the opening of an art exhibition.  I learned the word recently from a client with whom I have a history spanning 25 years. She is an art collector. Our conversation over the years spoke a lot to the value of nurturing long term interests and commitments.  I have learned plenty from her, and from her garden, over the years. In the beginning, I planted flowers for her.  Our relationship developed such that I began to design, reshape, and replant her landscape.  She was passionately involved in every square foot of her 8 acre park.  Needless to say, the years flew by, from one project to the next.  I have favorite projects. An edited collection of fine white peony cultivars dating from the late 19th century was exciting to research and plant. A grove of magnolia denudata came a few years later. Another year we completely regraded all of the land devoted to lawn, and planted new. I learned how to operate a bulldozer,  I so wanted to be an intimate and hands on part of the sculpting of the ground.  There were disasters to cope with, as in the loss of an enormous old American elm. Deterring deer was nearly a full time job. Spring would invariably bring or suggest something new. All these years later, there is a body of work existing that I call the landscape.

May 11, 2016 006In a broader sense, vernissage refers to a beginning- any opening. The opening of the gardening season has a decidedly fresh and spring ring to it.  I routinely expect the winter season to turn to spring,  and it always does.  But every spring opening has its distinctive features. Some springs are notable for their icy debut. Grape hyacinths and daffodils ice coated and glittering and giant branches crashing to the ground. The snow that can be very much a part of the landscape in mid April.  This year, a different kind of drama altogether. A very warm early March, and then a stony silent cold we have yet to shake.  I usually associate spring with the singing of the birds. I hardly noticed the singing this year, until this past week. The cold that has been reluctant to leave means my experience of spring has been late. But every spring gives me the chance to experience the garden differently. To add to, revise, or reinvent my relationship with nature is a challenge I anticipate. This past winter was mild. Endlessly mild. That endless and mild cold is still going on. It has been hard to rev up. The last of this cold just about reduces my spirit to a puddle on the ground.  Spring is finally underway, in a chilly sort of way.  I may not like the lingering cold, but my spring plants are holding.  The daffodils are incredible this year.  The magnolias have been blooming for weeks. The hellebores have been in bloom for going on 6 weeks.  The leaves are beginning to emerge.  The perennial garden is stirring.

VERNISSAGE (1)Much of what I love about landscape design has to do with the notion of second chances. I have an idea.  I put it to paper.  I do the work of installing it.  Then I wait for an answer back. This is the most important part of my work-to be receptive to hearing what gets spoken back. The speeches come from everywhere-the design that could be better here and more finished there. The client, for whom something is not working well, chimes in. The weather, the placement and planting final exam test my knowledge and skill.   The land whose form is beautiful but whose drainage is heinous teaches me a thing or two about good structure.  The singing comes from everywhere. I make changes, and then more changes.  I wait for this to grow in and that to mature.  I stake up the arborvitae hedge gone over with ice, and know it will be two years or more-the recovery.  I might take this out, or move it elsewhere.  That evolution of a garden seems to have ill defined beginnings, and no end.

VERNISSAGE (4)This spring will see an average share of burned evergreen and dead shrubs.  The winter cold and wind was neither here nor there. I am still wearing warm clothes. But no matter what the last season dished out, sooner or later, I get my spring.  I can compost my transgressions. The sun shines on the good things, and the not so good things, equally.  It is my choice to take my chances, and renew my membership.  The birds singing this 11th day of May l means it is time to take stock.  And get started.

VERNISSAGE (3)I can clean up winter’s debris. My eye can be fresh, if I am of a mind to be fresh.  I can coax or stake what the heavy snow crushed.  I can prune back the shrubs damaged by the voles eating the bark.  I can trim the sunburn from the yews and alberta spruce.  I can replace what needs replacing, or rethink an area all together. Spring means the beginning of the opening of the garden. I can sit in the early spring sun, and soak up the possibilities. I can sculpt ground. I can move all manner of soil, plant seeds, renovate, plant new.  What I have learned can leaven the ground under my feet-if I let it.  Spring will scoop me up.  Does this not sound good? I can hear the birds now; louder. Rob’s spring pots of daffodils have been in uninterrupted bloom for weeks.

April 5, 2016 047This spring marks 24 years that Rob and I began working together, and 20 years that the shop has been bringing our version of the garden to all manner of interested gardeners. There have been ups and downs, but the relationship endures, and evolves.  Suffice it to say that Detroit Garden Works is an invention from the two of us that reflects the length and the depth of our mutual interest in the garden.  No matter how hard the winter, once we smell spring in the air, we stir.  The beginning of the gardening season we short list as the vernissage.

VERNISSAGE (14)We have begun to plant up spring pots.  Our pots feature hellebores, primrose, and spring flowering bulbs. What a relief to put our hands back in the dirt.

VERNISSAGE (9)My garden at home is greening up. A sunny but chilly evening brings me outdoors. Being outside today without a winter parka- divine. The thought that the entire gardening season is dead ahead is a very special kind of delight.

VERNISSAGE (2)Vernissage? By this I mean spring. I am so enjoying it.