Viridflora tulip

Have you started planting your spring bulbs? We started planting last week at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens and hope to be finished by early next week. This year, we are going all out and planting close to 35,000 spring flowering bulbs, most of which are tulips. We began designing our tulip displays in June and July when we had to get our orders into the major bulb wholesalers. Digging through all of the catalogs with the bulb pictures and descriptions can take quite a while and paring down a list to just the tulips you need is difficult because we want to try them all! We want to have color in the spring for our guests while at the same time, introduce some new and out of the ordinary plants to the gardens. In years past we have used solid-colored tulips, multiple-colored tulips, and even some color blended tulips (a planting mix where several shades are mixed together into one bag or box for a multi-color flowering mass). After researching new and unusual tulips, I came across a really cool group with green in their flowers. Any of the tulips that have green in their petals are classified into the group Viridiflora. The Viridiflora or green tulips come in yellow, red, pink, yellow, orange, and various shades in between, all with some green in the flower.

tulip viridflora mix

I have never really been fond of fancy or frilly tulips like the parrots but I am over the moon for the Viridifloras. The various colors contrast nicely with the green stripe. Along with being eye-catching, the flowers are reported to be one of the longest lasting of cultivated tulips. Some of the cultivars that we are planting this week include: ‘China Town’ (pink, white, and green), ‘Golden Artist’ (yellow, red/orange, and green), and ‘Spring Green’ (white and green). One tulip that I really wanted to add this year was ‘Brooklyn’ but we were not able to find it available in the United States. ‘Brooklyn’ is one of the new all-green tulips whose flowers spiral up into a cluster, thus resembling an artichoke. I am guessing that some people will love it and some will hate it but at least it will catch people’s attention and get them interested in the diversity of tulips and this group.

Let us know which tulips you are really excited about planting this fall. Which ones are you looking forward to seeing come out of the ground and flower in the spring of 2015? Also, do you know where we can find ‘Brooklyn’ tulips?

– Rodney

Images: The Frustrated Gardener, Jardins Sans Secret

Arisaema consanguineum Silver Center

One of the biggest challenges that I found with high latitude gardening is looking for bold-foliaged plants that can take mild summers and cooler nights. There are the usual suspects: canna, caladium, and bananas but each of these plants really are slow to get growing and need a lot of winter care inside of a heated greenhouse to carry over. What we need in the garden is a hardy, bold plant that can provide the contrast in texture without the extra care of having to dig and overwinter in a heated greenhouse. Notice that I have used the phrase heated greenhouse twice, well, now three times. That is because I recently tallied all of our fuel bills for the past year for keeping our greenhouse warm over the winter. Holy smokes! Let’s just say that this year, we are looking for alternative ways to overwinter a few, carefully selected, tender plants without having to fire up the greenhouse.

We are also growing the list of hardy plants that give the bold impact of a canna or caladium without the worry and expense of surprising and highly erratic propane bills. I am going to start this list by writing near the top, Arisaema consanguineum, or Himalayan cobra lily. Have you ever seen this plant? My first thought when I saw it in our gardens at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens was, “there is no way that is hardy here!” You know what? Not only is it hardy, it is thriving as we are seeing offsets and seedlings from the parent plants. The Himalayan cobra lily is reported to be hardy to at least USDA zone 5. Let me know if you are successfully growing this in zone 5 or even colder areas.

Our plants are perennials and emerge slowly in the spring while continuing to grow and expand, reaching a height of 3-4 feet tall. Our entire mass is now around 10 feet across. Each leaf is held aloft by a single, basal stalk. This leaf is divided into 12, long and attractive leaflets. Each leaflet is approximately 12 inches long, making each leaf around 2 feet in diameter. The really cool part of the leaflets, can be the long leaf tip which varies in length by seedling. Some of these leaf tips look like threads hanging off of the end of the leaflet. Depending on the age of the plant, it may produce several leaf stalks from a single, underground corm. As the planting matures, they take on the textural comparison of a small palm.

A consanguineum opus

Another thing I really like about Arisaema consanguineum is the variability in the seedlings. Once established, the plants will flower with their exotic, cobra-esque, jack in the pulpit flowers and possibly even set seed. From these seed, the possibilities are exciting. Ellen Hornig at the now shuttered Seneca Hill perennials, introduced some fine silver leaved forms including the cultivar ‘Poseidon.’ Poseidon has a soft, silver sheen and can grow as tall as 5 feet in height.

As for culture, I have found that Arisaema as a genus are somewhat forgiving of soil conditions but grow best in extremely rich, fertile loam with slightly higher than average moisture. A nice top dressing of compost in the spring can aid the plant to bulk up and multiply.

Now you know that Arisaema consanguineum is an outstanding plant on the top of my 2015 shopping list, how about you? What are you seeking out this fall and winter to grow in 2015?

-Rodney

Images: Plant Delights Nursery, Opus Plants

At this stage in my life, party recovery takes a long time.  It is a sad state of affairs, but this one was worth it.  Tower Hill Botanic Garden played host to one of the prettiest launch parties I’ve ever seen (and I have been to precisely one book/ newspaper launch party so I speak with great authority on this).   We launched my book – Cultivating Garden Style and PITH + VIGOR in grand style – I really can’t decide what the best part was….

The cake? (By my very talented friend Sue who owns Harvard Sweet Boutique)

PITH + VIGOR Launch party cake by Kelly Fitzsimmons photography for Studio 'g'

PITH + VIGOR Launch party cake by Kelly Fitzsimmons photography for Studio 'g'

Or was it that my parents and sister flew in from Colorado and Virginia to surprise me? And they really did surprise me!! (that is them in the middle looking all proud…)

PITH + VIGOR and Cultivating Garden Style Launch party - By Kelly Fitsimmons photogrpahy.

Or was it the beautiful gardens and Tower Hill‘s Limonaia?

Or was it all the amazing people and friends who showed up to celebrate with me?  You guys are the best.

Or how about all these pictures? – taken by the most excellent Kelly Fitzsimmons.  (Woe – there is never a good shot of the photographer!!)

What a whirlwind it all was. This all went down last Wednesday – I think I started feeling energetic again around Sunday afternoon….and here it is a whole week later before I get the post up. C’est la vie.

It was quite an event.  I could not be more grateful.

I hope you enjoy the pics as much as we all enjoyed the party.

-Rochelle

all images by Kelly Fitzsimmons

 

There have only ever been two plants that I had my photo taken with during my years of being obsessed with plants. The first was a Stewartia pseudocamellia in the fall of 1994 at Longwood Gardens. This was by accident as I was taking a picture of a gorgeous tree with its exfoliating bark and red fall color when a bystander insisted that I get my photograph taken with the tree. This was in the days of film cameras so somewhere in a shoebox is a picture of me in front of that Stewartia.

Rodney with Gunnera 2

The second plant I have actually had my picture taken in front of twice. In 2008, I was on a trip to England when our group visited the fantastic gardens at Great Dixter. Near the back of the gardens, past the nursery and beside of the rill was a gigantic Gunnera. You know Gunnera, right? That big leaved plant that seems to thrive in most parts of the world except for the east coast of the United States. There it was, the same plant that I had seen in so many different magazines and books. It always seems that someone is always standing in front of the leaves for a size comparison in the pictures. The leaves had to be at least 5 feet across and the entire clump was about 8 feet tall and 12 feet across. I instinctively asked one of my travel companions to take my picture in front of the plant. That, I thought, would be my first and last live encounter with the plant.

Lo and behold, the following year I had the good fortune to travel to France and see many gardens in and around Paris. One garden we visited was off the beaten path in Normandy. I was not expecting a lot as it was a municipal site but once we got in, it blew me away. Around one corner, there was the largest Gunnera that I had ever seen in my life. This plant was easily 12 feet tall and 15 feet across. The leaves were enormous. Since none of my friends were nearby, I ran around until I found one and asked that they take my picture in front of the plant.

Gunnera

Both of these plants were Gunnera manicata, which is native to southern Brazil. Gunnera tinctoria is another notable species which is native to southern Chile. I would think that G. tinctoria would be hardier and might survive our winters a bit better than G. manicata. We were growing G. manicata in our USDA zone 6a gardens at Coastal Maine for a couple of years until a really cold winter finally did it in. We supposedly have a much hardier strain which we planted in the gardens this summer. I hope that the plant has had enough time to root in and become somewhat established before the onset of winter. I am also on the hunt for some superb forms of G. tinctoria to try. I just read that it has escaped cultivation in Ireland and New Zealand to the point of becoming a noxious weed in some areas. Once we do find seed or plants of Gunnera tinctoria, it will be grown in an area where we can keep a close eye on its behavior. Being able to find a Gunnera that will not only grow but thrive in our Maine climate has become somewhat of a quest for the Holy Grail. I have heard that a hardy form exists and we are on a lifelong search to prove that it exists.

Have you ever grown any of the Gunnera species? If so, which one and how did it perform for you?

-Rodney

Images: Rodney Eason, Plantilus

It feels so good to have the pergola mostly finished (we still have to stain it but we’ve relented…that just isn’t going to happen until spring).  We had a little gathering of friends and hastily put up some lights so that we could see at night and so that we had a little ambiance.

by rochelle greayer www.studiogblog.com

Without a doubt these lights did the trick, but we found them to be incredibly fragile and in the course of stringing them up and despite our extreme care, quite a few broke.  These will continue to serve the purpose until they have to be taken down for the staining….but I worry that they will look even more shoddy by spring and I am certain they will not fair well in the taking down and putting back up.  by rochelle greayer www.studiogblog.com

So I am shopping for something with the same warm light and that imparts light that is helpful for evening activities, but isn’t too harsh, isn’t too bright or not enough, and is just a little different.   I love little white twinkle lights, but I’m desiring something else.   by rochelle greayer www.studiogblog.com

So, I’m excited to find these:

lighting for the patio

1. Brown Edison Bulb String Lights – These will I hope be much more durable and interesting than the fragile balls that I used.  I think a few diagonal swags across the width of the structure will be perfect.
2. Black Chandelier String Lights  – Can I wrap more lights around this fixture (I really want to beef up the base)?  I hope so — would be so cool to hang two of them.
3. Copper Wire String Lights – I discovered these last winter and they are great for decorating plants that can’t otherwise hold lights (without damaging them).  FWIW, it isn’t a good idea to wrap trunks (like in this product photo – unless it is for a short period of time).

I’m debating if this will all be too much?  And if it is, which would I cut? hmmm….

Images by rochelle greayer

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

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Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Patrick Dempsey, Jennifer Aniston, and Sandra Bullock. I started naming random actors whose names relay beauty and attraction. If you were to do the same exercise with plants, which might come to mind? Coneflowers, roses, hibiscus, hydrangeas, and magnolias. What about Helenium or sneezeweeds? Maybe not the first plant to come to mind. Heleniums are like the Jude Law of the garden world. Almost all of you recognize the name. Some of you know exactly who he is while others of you think, “hmm, skinny British actor, right? I recognize the name but I can’t quite recognize the face.”
Helenium is a wonderful perennial with bad PR. Well, I am here to change that. The name Helenium is in honor of Helen of Troy, who in Greek mythology was Zeus’ daughter and the most beautiful woman in the world. Here is where you see the bad PR kicking in. How did a plant commemorating the most beautiful woman in the world become “sneezeweed?” I say we give it the new common name of Helen of Troy’s flower or Daughter of Zeus. Either way, it is way better than sneezeweed and since common names are colloquial, we can name it whatever we want.
Helenium hybrida 'Helbro' Mardi Gras with rudbeckia Goldsturm- lerner garden august 2013-DS7_1048
Now that we have the branding business out of the way, let us move on to the plants at hand. Any plant that can flower on sturdy stems from 4-5 feet in height from mid to late summer until frost is definitely worthy of consideration in the garden. Of the 40 or so species of Helenium, H. autumnale is the most common and garden worthy. This eastern US native begins to emerge from the ground each spring and continues to grow until it reaches its ultimate height in mid-summer. The plants maintain a somewhat uniform height and habit which makes a wonderful impact as it flowers en masse. The flowers can make quite an impact as a large group with their shades of oranges, yellows, reds, and even multi-colored flowers. Here at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, we grow the red and orange striped cultivar ‘Helbro’ or Mardi Gras, the orange flowered ‘Moerheim Beauty,’ and the red with some yellow ‘Red Jewel.’ They are just finishing their flowering now and we will begin cutting them back after our first frost. Speaking of frost and cold, they are hardy to USDA zone 3 or 4 depending on your soils and location. Helenium autumnale cultivars grow best in full sun with a rich and well-drained soil. They need adequate moisture as they emerge and start to flower. As for the common name of “sneezeweed,” this is an unfortunate moniker because the leaves were at one time made into a snuff and inhaled through the nose to force sneezing. This was believed to eliminate sicknesses. Now that we have modern medicine, it is time to drop the moniker of sneezeweed forever!
Helenium Moorheim Beauty 2
Did you know that Jude Law was nominated for two Academy Awards? Did you know that there are 12 cultivars of Helenium autumnale that have been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit? This winter, as you plan your garden changes for 2015, be sure to add Helen of Troy’s flower to your garden designs while you are watching a Jude Law, Netflix marathon.
-Rodney
Images: William Cullina

Cultivating Garden Style and PITH + VIGOR are both here; they exist and all the hard work that went into them both is a distant memory –now it is time to celebrate!!  If you are in the area (New England) I hope you will join us for a lovely evening of cocktails, cake, books, newspapers, and celebration at the beautiful Tower HIll Botanical Garden. Public Invite_1

Public Invite_second sheet

You must RSVP (you can email me at rochellegreayer at gmail dot com) so that we can plan for #s and I can make sure your admission to the gardens is covered.  I hope you can make it!

Families and kids are welcome.

xo

-Rochelle