My strawberries hate my strawberry tower. They literally run from it.
Last year in my book writing garden absence, I let them run as they wished as I was failing the time to reign them in. Subsequently, if you drive by my house this weekend you will see a sign at the end of the driveway that says this: “Free Strawberry Plants – You Dig”
I have decided not to fight them on this tower issue anymore. Instead I am going to let them have some of the pathways that they insist on taking over. They seem to be ok with me walking over them on occasion and I appreciate that they are a pretty effective at choking out any other weed that might want to take hold. Plus there is the profusion of home grown strawberries.
But I am unsure of what to do with the tower. I have a few thoughts…the first is to fill it with a succulent garden. I think that would be a stunning focal point, but my reality is that I live in Massachusetts – not Southern California, and the selection of hardy succulents is limited – so much so that I that think this plan would likely turn out to be nothing more than a study in Hens and Chicks. The second is to fill it with herbs – an idea that I also love, but frankly – given the extreme amount of herbs I have planted throughout the rest of my garden – is something that I really don’t need. So I think my last idea – to fill it with a striking collection of annuals is where I am going to end up.
I am not so big on mixed containers and find that single plant containers are easier for me to manage. Plus, I prefer a more modern look – but I think this is the place for an exception of sorts. The layers are calling out to me, they seem to be asking for a color study in ascending stripes. I am choosing yellow and plan to work a gradation from white to deep yellow over the five levels (I will let the strawberries have the bottom since it is what they insist). I have a little worry that the nemesia will not like the position (being a shade lover) but this is a tricky sort of thing since one side gets way more sun than the other. I am looking forward to seeing how this experiment works out over the season.
If you want to know more about each plant, here are the links to each choice: Diamond Frost Euphorbia, Nemesia Coconut, Lantana Luscious Lemonade, Flambe Yellow Chrysocephalum apiculatum, Goldilocks Rocks Bidens hybrid.
If you want to read more about my strawberry tower, check out these posts.
Images: Images courtesy of proven winners and 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.
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
I found this really sweet bean tunnel over the winter and I’ve been dying to make one of my own ever since! April from Wahsega Valley Farm has an incredible backyard vegetable garden, and as soon as I saw this bare garden structure, I knew it would be a even cooler once the vines started to grow.
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Our horticulture team at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is working on a new vertical wall idea for the summer of 2014. Today, we were brainstorming which plants to use in the vertical panels. Someone mentioned Sedum ‘Angelina,’ another idea was Lysmachia nummularia ‘Aurea,’ and then I remembered Joseph’s Coat or Alternanthera ficoidea. Alternanthera is a tender perennial (hardy to USDA zone 10) native from Mexico to Argentina which is primarily grown for its foliage. The leaves on the plants are small and vary in appearance from being an inch wide to some cultivars which have thread-like foliage.
The Alternanthera would work in our green wall idea because it would provide us with some interesting colors in a fast growing plant. In our zone 6a gardens here on the coast of Maine, we would need to start the plants in late April or early May in a greenhouse to get them rooted in and growing. Probably in mid-June, we could place the vertical panels out into the garden. In order for Joseph’s Coat to continue growing successfully, the temperature needs to be consistently above 55-60 degrees. As summer goes on, the warmer it gets, the stronger it will grow. By mid-summer, each plant should be around a foot wide and could be a foot tall. The great thing about Alternanthera ficoidea is that it can be sheared into a tight form. Many Victorian gardens utilized Joseph’s Coat as a tightly clipped annual in bedding schemes.
Joseph’s Coat grows best in full to part sun, in acidic, moist but well-drained soil. In warmer parts of the country, you might want to double check if you can plant Alternanthera. It is closely related to the noxious alligator weed. In warm areas where alligator weed is a problem, different insects that feed on it have been released to try to control its growth. These insects might go after the ornamental Alternanthera as well.
Some of the more popular cultivars include: ‘Party Time’ – a tricolor selection with white, red, and green colored leaves, ‘Red Threads’ – a dark red, finely leaved selection, and ‘Yellow Form’ – a chartreuse colored form. We will probably use ‘Yellow Form’ on our wall because of the pattern we are trying to paint.
Have you grown Joseph’s Coat in your garden? What was your experience with this plant?
Images: HMA Plants, All The Plants.com
A couple of months back I was chatting with a new garden friend when she openly wondered what the next big garden trend will be. I have to admit — while I look for design trends all the time…I hadn’t thought much about the big arcs of our collective garden specific tastes. I think it is fair to say that vertical gardening isn’t the new kid on the block anymore. It’s here to stay, but you can’t be new forever. So what next?
I think that the answer to her question might be a twist on the idea of vertical gardens — Shelved Gardens. They are kind of like vertical gardens (in that the point is to fill a vertical space with plants) but different. Admittedly, the idea of putting plants on shelves is not new…but doing it outside of the retail environment or for any other reason than purely for the sake of necessity is (at least a little) an original twist.
Will we soon be combining the succulent trend with ever more interesting containers and then combining the containers to create ever more vertical visual appeal?
Tiered plant stands had a moment when I was kid (I remember seeing them in many friends homes in the 70′s) – but like all good fashion…they went out at some point but I think are now on their way back in but with new and refreshed style.
The variation and style choices are endless. The shelves, the containers, the plant choices and how you mix and match them together, provide infinite options for self-expression. These are just a few that have caught my eye recently. The one above perhaps being my favorite — it looks like it takes some inspiration from a library…and the idea of having a library of potted plants sounds good to me.
So, do we have the making of a big new garden trend? Shelved Gardens? What do you think?
images: top to bottom – rochelle greayer, littleyard, fabulous minds, and AT casa.
How about this little slice of inspiration for monday morning. Landscapers are always trying to get architects, homeowners and builders to involve them earlier and more holistically into the process of site design and construction….and it often doesn’t happen. So this notion of integrating gardens and greenery to an even greater level seems particularly remarkable. I do hope we start building more homes like this — if you were a green-starved city dweller — wouldn’t you like to live here?
This Tokyo townhouse was designed by Japanese architect Ryue Nishizawa.
images from iwan.com
I love coming across ideas that inspire new ideas. These urban garden plant modules made simply from hoses, fiber-cloth and fertilized soil – and hooked up to downspouts – seem to me to have all the potential loop-de-loop design interest of a hose laid with flourish (and in my book – that is a lot).
Seeing these, I suddenly have all sorts of ideas for draping these over and around things, creating instant labyrinths in the middle the shopping mall parking lots, and planting extraordinary mixes of plants in the most preposterous of places.
Is this inspiring to you too?
Here are the directions for pulling this together.
images from here.