I’m filling this vacation week with activities that I can simultaneously call productive (for me) and entertaining for my little people (it is spring break, we are home, and I’m doing the working mom juggle). A visit to H-mart on a Wednesday afternoon with the specific purpose buying dog bones is a stretch, I know — but I was optimistic that Wednesday at H-mart, might be like Saturday at H-mart – a wonderland of exotic asian grocery store samples of things we would never dream of trying – mostly because the labels on the package are in utterly foreign logograms and we have nowhere to begin on the journey of preparing this stuff or the foggiest idea what is inside. But the samples, they let you know what is not only good, but you can also watch how they make it. If you have an H-Mart nearby, go there on a Saturday if you can – it will be crowded and insane – but it is an excellent adventure.
I wish they had some sort of sample demo thing going on for the bag of Sesame Dregs that I bought on impulse (yes, I am the type of person that will buy something foreign because it combines the words ‘dregs’ and ‘fertilizer’ together and I just can’t ignore my curiousity. – plus it was something like $2.50 for a 5 lb bag). There aren’t a lot of words in English on this bag – ‘Sesame Dregs Fertilizer’, and ‘Nitrogen Rich’ round out the selection. I thought for sure google would hold a wealth of answers when I returned home with my prize. But no.
I have found precisely two references to this product –
There is apparently a place called Winterdoon in Tasmania who uses it to organically build up their Tasmainian soil for vegetable growing. They list some impressive NPK #’s (by comparison to other organic materials).
And then there is this post about Korean Natural Farming Methods which uses them in a version of Compost Tea.
So there it is — the sum total of information about my treasure. It is exotic and remote and I am a little unsure what to do with this bag here in Massachusetts. I see experiments in my future….
But surely there must be more — who knows anything about Sesame Dregs?
Last summer was a bit depressing because I believe I saw one monarch butterfly. As the summer wore on, everyone started noticing that the monarchs had decided not to come to the nectaring party here along the eastern United States. We laid out the buffet but no one showed up for dinner. Because of habitat destruction, climate change, and removal of milkweeds with herbicides, the number of monarch butterflies have been drastically reduced. In response to the noticeable absence of monarch butterflies, many gardeners and butterfly lovers have been asking what they can do to help.
A group from the University of Kansas called Monarch Watch have developed a monitoring and habitat development program to bring back the desired population of monarch butterflies. Anyone can apply to have their garden become a certified “Monarch Waystation” through Monarch Watch. The waystations will provide the food and nectar that the monarchs need to make the migration from Mexico up through the United States and back again. After explaining this process at work, one of my co-workers asked, “how much does a monarch weigh?” No, these are WAY-stations, not WEIGH-stations.
Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens went through the application process of becoming a certified monarch waystation and we received our notification last week that we had passed the test! There is a ratio of nectar and food plants to garden area that has to be met in order to be considered a certified site. Our entire horticulture team spent the winter looking for which plants would provide the best plants for not only the monarchs but all pollinators. This is because our educational theme for the summer is on pollinators. We put a lot of effort on attracting the monarchs so we could become a waystation. In order to meet this certification, we are planting a ton of milkweed in the garden beds. Specifically, Asclepias curassavica in our containers and annual plantings. Asclepias curassavica is a tropical milkweed, originating from the American tropics. It will not be cold-hardy for us here in Maine so we will not plant it out until the soil warms, probably after Memorial Day. Monarch butterflies love Asclepias curassavica as a nectar source for adults and as a food source for the caterpillars. In our Bosarge Family Education Center and in our behind-the-scenes greenhouse, we are building growth chambers where we will also raise monarchs caterpillars with a veritable Asclepias curassavica salad bar. Once the caterpillars pupate, we will release the monarchs into the gardens for all to see and enjoy.
I cannot wait to see the garden this summer, ablaze with the oranges, yellows and reds of the milkweeds and the fluttering wings of the monarchs. It will be wonderful to see these butterflies back into the gardens and I hope the combined efforts of all of us working to bring their numbers back will pay off this summer and in the years to come.
Do you have an area of your garden devoted to butterflies? Are you adding any milkweeds this year to aid in the migration of the monarchs?
Images: Natural Habitat Photo Tours, Derek Ramsey and Chanticleer Gardens
I’ve been thinking about adding a few plants & stones to the corner of my yard, so finding this makeover was great timing. Scott mostly writes about technology & music on his blog, but google took me to this post from a few years back and I thought it would be a good fit for this week’s before & after. As you can see, the grass had already been scraped away for the “Before” photo, which left behind a perfect foundation to work with. Read the full post
Yes! – I’d frame that. I find the ‘G’ particularly nice and it reminds me of Colorado history and some of my favorite Laura Ingalls Wilder stories. I’m also partial to the H – (I love a good bridge) and the W (maybe my parents would like that — it is the first letter of my maiden name) seems so pleasingly garden-y.
The full set can be seen at the British Museums website. This illustrated alphabet was create between 1818 and 1860 by Charles Joseph Hullmandel and includes a full set of 26 contoured landscapes.
These are my favorites — which do you love?
…my book went up on Amazon.com for pre-order. I found out from a friend who mentioned it in an email….I was taking a break from writing captions (for the book). It all seems a little scary that the book is there for all the world to see….and we are still working on finalizing it….but there it is. You can pre-order it (I promise to sign it at any opportunity we have to meet!). Crazy right?
I don’t even have a full sized version of the final cover to share here….so if you want to see you will have to click here and go check it out: Cultivating Garden Style: Inspired Ideas and Practical Advice to Unleash Your Garden Personality.
Instead of writing about a particular plant or plant group, this week I thought I would talk about one of my favorite horticultural pruning techniques. The first time someone mentioned to me an “aerial hedge,” I envisioned puffy clouds of boxwoods floating through the air. But that would be weird and strange (like this week’s episode of Mad Men – yes, I am a big fan). Then, on a trip to Hampton Court, I saw a screen made from a quadruple cordon of hornbeam trees. A cordon is literally “cable” or “line” in French. It is also a horticultural term for a horizontal line of a topiary. As for these trees at Hampton Court, the hornbeam trees were growing out of a hedgerow of Taxus. The hornbeams were trained into four cordons and then tied together to make a big screen around the parking lot. It was beautiful and precise. Right then and there, I fell in love with the concept.
Years later, on a visit to France, a group of us visited Versailles. It was there that I saw miles of trees pruned into hedges. In some spots, the trees were limbed up from the ground so you could see across the plane but the tree canopies were pruned into long rectangles. Aha! This was the infamous aerial hedge. If you look at the competition gardens at the Chelsea flower show, one designer always goes for the aerial hedge. Maybe it is a European thing (like the man-purse) but aerial hedges never seem to catch on here in the US. I, for one, really dig aerial hedges (and messenger bags but not man-purses) and wish that more gardens would include them. Yes, they take time and someone has to work for years to prune and shape them but the resulting form is fun and really defines a garden. I can count on one hand, the gardens that I have seen in the United States that feature aerial hedges:
- Longwood Gardens (Tilia or little leaf linden)
- Dumbarton Oaks (Carpinus or hornbeam)
- Old Westbury (Tsuga or hemlock)
- Lotusland (Pittosporum)
- Heronswood (a really awesome, arching display of trained hornbeams)
There have to be other gardens that I have missed. Are there aerial hedges that you recall seeing here in the States? Why do you think that they have not caught on here as they have in Europe? If ever given the chance to design a Chelsea garden, I would design a satirical garden featuring an assortment of aerial hedges using plants that one would never expect to see grown this way.
Images: The Creative Flux, Jan Henry, Garden Drum
As a designer I am not immune to creative dry spells – but the key to maintaining a steady stream of ideas is to know how to re-inspire yourself. I gather inspiration from nearly every thing in my life; I never know when something is going to strike me in a way that causes new ideas start flowing. But when I am in a pinch and feeling the need to force the issue…I have to actively go looking and often I find the answers in the art of others.
When I was in design school we had to study plants in depth – and a huge part of that study was learning a way to use them that was not only effective and practical in the garden, but also in a way that was artistically distinctive to each of us as designers. The idea was that if we could strike on signature groupings, we could begin to define our distinctive styles as well as make the design process easier (by providing ourselves endlessly repeatable templates).
Do you have a signature planting look in your garden?
If you don’t, it would be an interesting exercise to go through at the very least so that you can re-inspire yourself. Here is what I do when I am trying to come up with something new and interesting:
- Find an inspiration source. I like art; maybe you might pick something that is already hanging on the walls of your home.
- Study the piece for composition, pattern, and notable personality elements and also pull out the colors that appeal to you.
- Using these reference points to start, look for plants that reflect the work. Let the list of possibilities ramble – maybe use a pinterest board to collect the ideas.
- Narrow it down. Once you have a pool of ideas, start refining a plan based on bloom time (if you want your plants to play together – they probably need to bloom together), habitat (they need to be able to survive side by side) and individual characteristics as they meet your needs.
I’ve been playing with the collection above and it started with this painting by Carolyn Swiszcz (if it appeals to you as much as it appeals to me – you can buy it as 20×200). The Coleus ‘Alligator Tear’s is a unique version of this plant – its feathery leaves reflect the pattern in the rug and the colors of all three plants are inspired by the painting. I also want the planting to consist of things that are good for cutting and arranging….so that helped me to eliminate other options. I am still working on this — and I think that I might add something that is the softest shade of peach pink….like perhaps a Verbascum ‘Southern Charm’. And once I get it planted…perhaps it will be become something that works well and I can use it again elsewhere and in future projects – this is how I grow as a designer and gardener.
This collection is as quirky as the original inspiration and I am pleased that I have captured that. How about you — have you used art (or anything else) to inspire planting? What image might you use to do the same?
Images: Images courtesy of proven winners, and my instagram images are from one of my all time favorite design books – The Conran Ocotopus Garden Color Palette.
Art: Garden Hallway, Grand Rapids, MI by Carolyn Swiszcz
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.