“I am not drinking (expletive) Merlot!” – Miles from the movie Sideways

This past weekend, a group of friends and I were running in a relay race across the Adirondack mountains. When you are not running, you are spending hours in a van following the next member of your team. With all of these hours, you go through so many different conversations, including relaying the storyline to the movie Sideways to one of our team members who had yet to see this classic movie about friends discovering themselves in wine country. I guess you could say that the irony in this situation was that we may have been discovering ourselves while running in this 200 mile relay by talking about men discovering themselves. But maybe not. My running club in not the first place I think of for self-help junkies and wine drinkers. They are more the suck it up and pass me a beer kind of friends, which I need.

Cercis Merlot tree

I came back to work today feeling aware and refreshed as if I had been at a spiritual retreat. I guess if you call riding in a van with a bunch of smelly guys and running over 23 miles at various periods oner 24 hours meditation, then so be it. As I was making my way through the gardens, I walked by one of my favorite trees, the Merlot redbud, Cercis x ‘Merlot.’ In a film noir moment, I immediately replayed the conversation from the weekend along with the mental clip of Miles stating in Sideways that he hoped his blind date would not drink merlot. You are probably now thinking that is a strange and ironic story or that I am a strange person and feeling the utmost sympathy for my wife because she has to put up with these kinds of streams of consciousness constantly. If you are thinking the latter, you are welcome to mail her a bottle of merlot in order to cope with my ramblings.

Cercis-Merlot

Ok, let’s put a fine point on this story. Whether you like merlot or not, add a Merlot redbud to give your garden a refined taste. Why, you might ask? Because it is one of the most fantastic, dark-leaved, small flowering trees in cultivation. Dr. Dennis Werner from North Carolina State University crossed a dark-leaved redbud, Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ with an ecotype from Texas and Mexico know as Cercis canadensis var. texensis. Dr. Werner selected one seedling from this lot because of its dark leaf color (from Forest Pansy) and thick glossy leaves (from its Texas cousin). The Merlot redbud matures at 12 to 15′ in height and width so it will make the perfect small tree for the residential landscape. As most redbuds, it has bright pink flowers on all parts of the stems before the leaves emerge. Redbuds are one of the few trees that even flower along the main trunk. After flowering, the deep burgundy, well, I guess you could say merlot colored leaves emerge. The foliage color is held throughout the summer until the leaves drop in the fall. The trees are reportedly hardy to USDA zone 6 but I have a sneaking suspicion that they may be a bit hardier than the literature states.

– Rodney

Images: NC State Department of Horticulture, Mail Order Trees

 

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Hello everyone! Are you guys getting ready for fall cleanup? The leaves are at about 50% peak in Southern Wisconsin- I think the change in weather going to sneak up on us really fast this year! Anyway, onto the real reason I’m here- I want to share a makeover out of Austin, Texas with you guys. It’s from a blog called The Grackle, and I think the transformation is pretty remarkable….

Read the full post

It is an epic understatement to say I have been busy lately (like the last 18 months) and this coming week will see the culmination of all that hard work.  Cultivating Garden Style will hit bookshelves across the english speaking world and PITH + VIGOR‘s first issue will be sent to subscribers.   I am simutaneously excited and terrified to be presenting so much work all at the same time.

Cover Issue #1 PITH + VIGOR magazine

Cover Issue #1 Pith + VIgor magazine

Nothing ventured nothing gained though, right?  So with my heart on my sleeve, I present to you the cover of Issue #1 of PITH + VIGOR.  I kind of love the way it came out – but I’d love to hear your thoughts.

If you haven’t subscribed – you can do so anytime!  The P+V website is still under a fair bit of construction, but the ordering areas are all set up, tested and ready.  You can get your copy here.  

We will be sending out copies starting next week, so you still have time to be one of the first to recieve a copy!

And if you see my book on in a local bookstore – please let me know – I have been checking locally but not quite yet…I am anxious and excited for that first moment of walking into a book store and seeing my work on the shelves….

-Rochelle 

Setaria palmifolia

*sort of

When I say sort of, I am alluding to the fact that this plant that looks like a palm is not really a palm. It is a grass that looks like a palm thus the common and not so creative name of palm grass. Palm grass or as is known in the Latin circles as Setaria palmifolia is a fast-growing annual grass. We brought our plants in as quart pots in late May of this year from Landcraft Environments, a wholesale nursery that operates on Long Island. June tends to stay relatively cool on the Maine coast and palm grass slowly starts to grow and stretch. By the end of summer, as temperatures reach the low 80’s on a daily basis, Setaria palmifolia plants are now over 3 feet tall and wide. The dark green leaves are around 3-4 inches in width, with ridges running along the leaf blades which make them resemble a palm leaf.

Having this texture in the mixed border is a nice contrast, especially in an area where palm trees seem to grow in various shades of greenish-yellow during the summer while taking on a perma-brown cast during the winter months. There is a good reason why palm trees have evolved not to live in New England. They hate the weather! That said, I love New England and I love palms so this is a seasonal compromise after our experiment growing needle palms this past winter turned into a mushy disaster.

The leaves and texture of palm grass are coarse with the plant forming a slightly upright clump. The palm grass makes for a nice backdrop for finer textured plants such as kangaroo paws, salvias, and foxgloves. Here in New England, I would grow the plants in full sun, with adequate moisture and ample nutrition. We mulch our plants early in the season with compost and then give them an extra boost with organic liquid fertilizer as soon as the temperatures start to reach their summer highs.

Setaria-palmifolia

We are planning on digging up a couple of clumps this winter and storing them in our greenhouse for safe keeping for next summer. I am looking forward to seeing how large this clump will become next summer from an established plant. If you live in a warmer climate where palm trees grow extremely well outside, year-round (USDA zones 8 and above) I would caution you to consider sticking with your palms over the palm grass. Setaria as a genus has a tendency to be a weed grass in southeast Asia and India. There are reports of palm grass self seeding in warmer parts of the United States so I would advise against its use in these warmer climes. For us here in New England who do not have the luxury of growing palms outside, year round (maybe it is the 3 to 4 months of snow and cold that do them in as it does in most people), palm grass is a wonderful annual to provide that tropical texture in mixed plantings.

– Rodney

Images: Rodney Eason, Lifestyle Home

There is nothing like the official change of season (autumn equinox – I see you)  to inspire a look back over the summer.   I’ve done these posts for many years and I am always so grateful for them come spring – it is helpful to remind myself what was fresh in my mind the previous fall.  Do you do something similar?

I highly recommend it.

So, my vegetable garden was less than stellar (again) this year, but the bright star in the middle of the sickly, bunny ravaged, frustrating mess was my strawberry tower. Here is how the strawberry tower grew in.  Pretty right?  And so much better than the fleeing strawberries.  The Goldilocks Rocks Bidens Hybrid at the bottom was so happy, I am left wondering if doing the whole thing in just that one plant might be a good idea.  I will definitely play with this again.

strawberry tower  by rochelle greayer www.studiogblog.com

Here is a look from the top – the Euphorbia Diamond Frost and the Sunsatia Coconut Nemesia were a white combo that I think I will try again too – perhaps in other containers.
strawberry tower  by rochelle greayer www.studiogblog.com

My other big love this year was Dahlias – I’ve grown them before, but never as successfully as I did this year.  I’ll have to do a whole run down post of them separately – but check out this one… it is only the size of the palm of my hand and I found her face down in the dirt….and she still looks pretty great. Her friends are bigger than my face and you can literally admire them from 50 feet away.  In my big garden these ladies are really holding their own.

dahlia by rochelle greayer www.studiogblog.com

On the patio of I have coleus of various sorts in pots.  I fallen hard for two varieties, Sedona (which is clashing like crazy with the purple nemesia  that I paired it with  -so I am not sharing that eye bleeding shot – but loving both plants nonetheless – just need to separate) and this one Marooned.  These less variegated varieties were pretty luscious.  Those grassy bits in the shot are lemongrass (which was a great paring with the coleus) but next year I think I will try some of these great foliage plants near my dahlias for even more drama.

coleus by rochelle greayer www.studiogblog.com

The grasses are really starting to come into their full beauty.  Fall is really the best reason plant them.  My Pennisetum Red head is still an all time favorite and I have begun to use it profusely in flower arrangements – it paris well with Golden Rod, huge Limelight hydrangeas, Sedum (Autumn Joy) and crazy face-sized dahlias to make ginormous-ly satisfying bouquets.

I will be so sad to see the end of the annual Pennisetum  Prince as it has been such a beauty and played so well with other dark plants (like the coleus). The dark plant thing was  interesting to me – I’ve avoided them as I have a very dark-colored house and generally thought that dark plants wouldn’t work that well.  Well, I was wrong….they are lovely and though they get a little lost when planted right up against a dark wall, they are perfect for bringing this sort of sophisticated color throughout the rest of garden.  It was relief from green that I didn’t even know I needed.

So what were your big winners?

images by rochelle greayer

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Proven Winners.  I am not an employee of Proven Winners and all opinions are my own. See the other posts in this series. 

There is nothing like the official change of season (autumn equinox – I see you)  to inspire a look back over the summer.   I’ve done these posts for many years and I am always so grateful for them come spring – it is helpful to remind myself what was fresh in my mind the previous fall.  Do you do something similar? Read the full post

Pycnanthemum muticum en masse
Of all the plants that I would recommend most everyone include in their garden, mountain mint or Pycnanthemum muticum would be near the top of this list. I knew of mountain mint before moving to Maine but really had not paid it a lot of attention because someone had first described the plant to me as being weedy and too floppy for the well-kept garden. I now wish that I would not have taken that person at their word and tried mountain mint on my own.
In this age when more and more gardeners of all levels are looking for good native plants, here is an herbaceous perennial native to most of the eastern US states, including Texas. It can tolerate periodic drought, is relatively pest resistant (including deer!), and pollinators love the flowers. On top of all of the good qualities of Pycnanthemum, the leaves also have a wonderful smell like peppermint oil. The leaves contain the essential oil pulegone, which can act as an insect repellant. If you rub mountain mint on your skin, the pulegone oil from the leaves can help deter mosquitoes.
Pycnanthemum muticum with insects
Mountain mint has attractive, pointed leaves and while the pink flowers may be extremely small, their silvery bracts are beautiful when the plants are massed. We can plant our mountain mint in the full sun here in Maine but as you move southward, you probably want to give the plants more shade. Pycnanthemum can survive many different soil types but will do best in soils that stay moderately moist. If your soils are rich, loose, and moist yet well-drained (i.e. perfect gardening soil), you definitely want to give Pycnanthemum muticum some room to run. The plant will spread, once established, via stolons that emanate from the main clump. Mountain mint grows best in USDA hardiness zones 4-8 and again, I would recommend that you provide a bit more shade and moisture, the higher the number of your hardiness zone.
As you begin to edit your garden this fall and think about changes for 2015, be sure to consider adding mountain mint as it is a wonderful native with a beautiful appearance and is great at attracting pollinators including our native butterflies.
- Rodney