Archives for June 2009

Love the Limelights

lime6Hydrangea Paniculata “Limelight” is a favorite shrub of mine,, as well it should be.  It is extremely hardy (some say zone 3), and not particularly fussy about soil, or water. It is a robust, vigorous and willing grower.  Add to this a long and spectacular season of bloom-this plant earns its keep.

lime1The lime-white flowers emerge late in July for me.  They look crisp and fresh at a time of the gardening year that in fact can be blazing hot and miserable. They have great dignity and presence in a formal garden, or they  make a graceful backdrop for more delicate and  late blooming perennials such as Russian Sage, bee balms, and hyssop, in more informal gardens.  

lime2When first coming into bloom, the plant and flowers are many shades of green, and white.  Few shrubs provide so much interest.  The flowers mature white, and bloom for an incredibly long time. Towards the end of their blooming period, they go pink-green, and rose pink; this stage is beautiful too.  They make great cut flowers, and they dry beautifully. They clearly are at home in this formal landscape spilling onto the gravel as they are in a cottage style garden.

lime3Their habit makes them easy to use in a formal garden, as well as an informal one.  They stand up on their own; this habit of growth I really appreciate, as I am not fond of staking plants. Their habit has a lot to do  with their genes; hydrangea paniculata has a naturally upright habit.  I prune to top branches in early spring shorter that the side branches-ala a shag haircut.  This permits light to reach the lower branches, and promotes blooms from top to bottom.  Sometimes I prune very hard, if I am interested in keeping them smaller than their natural inclination to grow 6′-8′ tall.  I have on occasion pruned them as short as 14″ off the ground, without any loss of bloom.  I have read about a new paniculata variety called “White Diamonds”, which is reputed to only grow to 4 feet tall, but I have not seen it.   

lime4They make a magnificent hedge when left to their own devices.  This client was interested in screening close to the house; this is a very showy solution.  

lime5They are willing bloomers with this eastern exposure, but I have planted them in full sun with just as good results.  I do try to plant them in soil with a good percentage of organic material, as they do like even moisture.  I do not always site plants perfectly-that’s a normal thing, to have to move things around until they have exactly what they want.  But I have seen very few limelights performing poorly, even though I see them in lots of different situations. 

lime7Luscious, aren’t they??

Friends in My Garden

animals1Gardeners seem to welcome every kind of life into their own. Well, ok, maybe not snails, Japanese beetles, deer,  aphids and woodchucks-who loves these creatures?    A gardener”s distaste for certain pests doesn’t necessarily result in weapons;  many gardeners  tolerate the wildlife, as we have to share our planet.  But some creatures live in our gardens, and our lives, by invitation. We do a good job, looking after them, and they reward us with their unconditional love and friendship.  My Jojo (formally known as George) so enriched my life.  He appeared at my front door one day from a home across the street that he apparently did not like, and never left.  He suffered children, carrying him around in his favorite brown paper bag. He bossed around any dog that came to visit.  He lived to be 22;  I lost him too soon.

He loved the outdoors.  Most days he was in the garden; he would protest if I didn’t let him out to prowl the night. He never, ever, had a bath, by the way.animals2

Some wildlife comes to me, inexplicably.  This toad made himself known one day in 2004, and lived in my greenhouse until 2008-at which time he walked out the front door one morning,  and moved on.  As I know that any environment that has healthy toads speaks to a  healthy environment, I had great affection for him.  Why did he decide to leave?  I prefer to think he went looking for a girlfriend.

animals4aVictor and Agnes were at home in the garden, but their favorite places were my drafting table, any open drawer, or anyplace I had the New York Times spread out. I inherited her along with the house and 5 acres I bought-she was the best part of the deal. Victor I did not have long, but my memory of him has been long.

animals5aCosmo was as fine a dog as ever was.  He lived to be 14, and was a fixture at the store for the last 7 years of his life.  Kids loved him; I watched a child lean over  into his face-and blink his eyes open and shut three times.   “Do this, if you love me”, he said;  he insisted to his Mom that Cosmo blinked at him.  This I choose to believe.  People still come in and ask for him.  The last few years he actually lived at the store.  Though he was deaf by then, he would start barking when my car would pull up in the morning-how did he know?

animals6aThese creatures have been much a part of my gardening life, each one of them, a part of my landscape. Each of them had strikingly different personalities, but they shared the space well with me, and with each other.


My orange Maine Coon cat was named Roscoe, but I always called him Babyhead. He was incredibly shy and reserved-but when he was old, he decided he liked people.  It was pretty charming, watching him say hello to strangers at 13.

animals7aJack and Libby belonged to Rob.  I thought to surprise Rob with a gift of a mini-schnauzer; no,  he wanted two schnauzers.  So fine, 2 schnauzers it was-brother and sister, the only two in the litter.  Those two dogs were never far from Rob for the better part of 15 years.   They  grew up in the back of my work truck, and graduated to retail store duty in 1996.  Until May of 2008;  Jack was almost 14.

animals8aLibby was the last of a  group that spanned some 24 years of my life.  I think the last year she spent without Jack was tough, but Rob loved her up plenty and she loved Rob fiercely in return. The last 6 months of her life she mostly slept on a bed  next to my chair in my office; I knew I did not have long with her. She was the last of a very fine group; her passing is the end of an era.   Libby Yedinak,  Sept 1994-June 2009.    No matter the grief, I was very lucky indeed to have each and all of them.   Any gardener knows that to everything there is a season, and the seasons turn sooner or later.  But knowing this does not make it much easier;  how I loved them all, and how I miss them.


Commercial Landscapes

comm1I live in a very urban area-there are endless buildings and paving of all descriptions.  Thus I am always admiring of any business that makes an effort to plant.  These  sassy boxes we did for a jazz club downtown out of exterior sign board board are very durable, and certainly did doll up the location. Even freshly planted, they look great.

comm21I did this planting outside a local art museum.  Public parks and the like come with land, and that land can be planted-but city businesses are typically located in an ocean of paving designed for cars, pedestrians, and delivery trucks.   It just takes some ingenuity and effort to put up  a little garden against  all the hardscape. Business owners tell me that any effort they make to dress up their businesses outdoors gets noticed.  My feeling is that the presentation of the business on the outside says a lot about how things are done on the inside.

comm3These window boxes were made to sit on a wall that divided the restaurant parking from the sidewalk.  The restaurant owner is an avid gardener herself, and she maintained these boxes herself. Her committment is obvious.  She was sure that people driving by were drawn in by the flowers-and the idea that she probably maintained her restaurant with the same level of care as she did her landscape. 

comm4Any landscape in an urban area is bound to attract attention.  These boxes get a new look every season.  The women who own this shop, Tender, have a considerable involvement in their community-its not hard to believe,   looking at the front of their store.  I really like the idea that they appreciate that the community at large keeps them in business-and they give back to that community by making trying to make their part of that community a little more beautiful.   

comm5This gated community made a big investment in a beautiful landscape, and lots of flowers, with me.   Anyone who lives there benefits.  The pots at the entrance have a much more residential, than commercial look; the plantings are at eye level to whomever passes under the port cochere.

comm2The landscape at my store is simple, and evergreen.  It allows me to change out the seasonal part of the planting, and still have structure.  What is most beautiful about this to my eye is how it is looked after.  It speaks to my respect for the natural world, and the people who come here.

comm7I had these boxes made of  heavy gauge galvanized sheet metal from a heating and cooling contractor- very reasonably. We set them up off the ground on steel ball feet.  The client was more interested in what would be in the boxes, than the boxes themselves.  He says the boxes are a constant topic of conversation between he and his clients. New clients say they were interested in what kind of business would plant outside their store in this way.  Even though the boxes are on the north side of the building, a lot of light is reflected from the street.  The choice of plant material and colors is very much his taste. I like businesses that take the inside, out there.

comm8This monochromaticplanting of Australia canna, red-leaved hibiscus, Gartenmeister fuchsias, and chocolate potato vine is a sophisticated statement-appropriate for an advertising agency. 


This giant office complex announces the location of its entrance with a glass and steel canopy, and a pair of large brick planter boxes. The boxes lend a human scale and friendliness in contrast to the intimidating size of building.  If you patronize a business that makes an effort to maintain and plant their exterior space, let them know you like it. I know I am pleased and encouraged when people comment on my place.

A Landscape for a Wedding

wed1Long about this time during the annual planting season, I start to wish for a wedding, or other event.  I really enjoy doing those landscapes that are just for the moment. Its not really landscape-its theatre. And there is not nearly so much dirt involved.    This wedding I organized around two kinds of trees-this a willow on standard. Having a gray green foliage, and a delicate breezy texture, it was perfect for an allee to celebrate the arrival of the bridal party.

wed2Planted in gray concrete pots, and whitewashed with a paint used to shade greenhouse glass,  the trees were “underplanted” in montecasino and roses.  Montecasino has the wispy field daisy look  of perennial boltonia.  The white rose is called Hollywood-it is my favorite wedding white rose.  It opens flat, and lasts for days.  A pergola I once covered in Hollywood roses without any water or oasis looked fresh 3 days later; even though the temperature was very chilly, that still speaks to great staying power.

wed3 Making another kind of welcome-gerbera daisies for the rooms of the guests from out of town. These flowers go beyond their beauty, and seem to express the happiness of the event.

wed5The tent set up outdoors had a white walk sprayed onto the lawn with athletic field paint.  On either side of the door into the tent, more pots.  These pots were “planted” with Coralburst crabs, whose branches and trunks are painted white.  A grower who had lost a number of them was happy they were going to be used for something.  The mother of the bride greatly admires contemporary art and design, and very much liked the sculptural aspect of these trees.

wed7The cocktail tables had their simple bouquets-some tall, some short.  Every bouquet was oriented around a particular color, rather than a mix of colors.  This has a contemporary feeling as well.wed8

wed9Each table had low flowers closely color related, and a canopy of a single coralburst crab.  Tablecloths in subtle and varying colors were complemented with napkins tied in double faced satin in various shades of green. It was a  fresh and contemporary version of a garden wedding reception, including the paper globe lanterns hung from the roof ridge of the tent. My favorite detail-the fern curls to which the table numbers are attached.

wed10The fountain outdoors was decorated with a series of paper lanterns; we built metal stands to hold them, and the votive candles inside them, just off the surface of the water.  Weddings in gardens have a special romance about them.