Plants

Gillenia trifoliata

I think this Summer has been absolutely fantastic here in Maine. So far, there has been plenty of sunshine and enough warmth to make everything grow and prosper. The plants have leapt from the slow, cool spring to seemingly take in all that summer has to offer, just like the throngs of tourists that visit Maine. Several times per week, I walk through the gardens here at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, taking notes on how gardens look, how plants are performing, and how weeds can grow at the rate of Dr. Bruce Banner morphing into the Incredible Hulk. I have mentioned several times about the winter of 2014 and how rough it was in New England and for many along the eastern coast of the United States. The cold winter and afore to mentioned spring have led to what I am calling the Monty Python effect. Remember that scene from “The Holy Grail” when a couple of men are removing the dead from a Middle Ages village? They pick up the one guy and attempt to place him in the cart when he responds: “I’m not dead yet!”

For a couple of months, I felt like there were an entire cluster of these plants that were not exactly dead yet. They had succumbed to the plague of frost and sub-zero temperatures. It seemed that daily, I was scratching the bark with my fingernail or gently cut a small branch with my Felco #2’s to see if there was any evidence of green. It is now mid-July and we have mostly removed all of the dead and pruned back all of the near-dead branches.

Gillenia close up

The flip-side to the Monty Python effect are the plants that have prospered from the cold and now mild summer. Besides the weeds, I am blown away by the colors and the growth rate of many of our hardy, perennial plants. I am going to go out on a limb and say the MVP (most valuable plant) of 2014 thus far has been Gillenia trifoliata. This fantastic, native perennial leapt from the ground in mid-spring and has been flowering for well over a month. The airy, 5-petaled, white, star-shaped flowers are soft and borne en masse above the leaves for a dramatic effect. The flowering stalks will top out at 3-4 feet in height so this is formidable perennial. The leaves are trifoliate and vary between a deep green and light green depending on exposure, soil moisture, and nutrition. Most references list this as plant for partial shade but we can get away with more sun here along the Maine coast. The stems provide a nice contrast as they are a deep, unobtrusive red. As the temperatures start to decline and the season changes to fall, Gillenia trifoliata leaves turn a brilliant red color. The common names for this MVP are Bowman’s root, Indian physic, and fawn’s breath. These common names crack me up as the first two are masculine and mysterious while the fawn’s breath has me visualizing Bambi hiding down inside of it on a frosty morn just before it wakes up and eats the entire plant down to the ground. That was just a joke. I have no idea if deer like Gillenia trifoliata. Given that it is in the rose family and somewhat related to Spiraea, deer may eat it if given the chance. I would appreciate any feedback if deer do like Bowman’s root.

In addition to being a wonderful plant in the garden, the flowers work well and hold up as cuts for arrangements. Also, after the flowers fade, the red calyces persist on the stems, adding to their seasonal interest. That finest of countries which gave the world Monty Python, has also given Gillenia trifoliata the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society. This is one of the highest awards that a plant can receive from the RHS.

Now, I beg your pardon, when are you adding Gillenia trifoliata  to your garden?

-Rodney

Images: Slottstradgardsmastaren, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

 

You win some you lose some.

I’ve been focussing too much lately on where I am losing (I beat the woodchuck in my veg garden, only to have a bunny from hell move in). I also had a solenoid in the sprinkler break and I realized too late to save some sun-singed plants in that section.  I’ve also been considering writing a ‘bring out your dead’ style post – this past winter was brutal and my list of lost plants is easily twice as many as any year in memory…I could go on with my laments….

But instead, today I’m choosing to focus on the positive and as I looked around the garden — I realize that many of my biggest success were entirely unexpected, accidental, or the result of a hurried and thoughtless decisions. Figures.

Garden by rochelle greayer www.studiogblog.com

My favorite part of the garden right now is what I call the finger bed (so-called because it is shaped like an obviously giant finger).  I love grasses of all sorts and set out to create a great mix of them in this bed.  My intention has not turned out so great — I have a lot of grasses that can often all look too similar to be interesting.  But my boring overuse of grasses has been saved with some of my haphazard thoughtless planting choices.   candy oh roses, miscanthus, and dappled willow by rochelle greayer www.studiogblog.com

Proven winners sent me a couple of Candy Oh! roses a few years ago to try out…and when they arrived this bed was brand new and empty. Lacking a plan and generally needing to fill space, I plopped them in.  I have to admit, I wasn’t enthusiastic about them at the time – back then I was still in my ‘I hate roses’ phase (from which I have mostly recovered).  I look at them now and I can’t imagine how dreadfully boring this garden would be without them.  Oh, and that Hakuro Nishiki Dappled willow was a plant I bought sight unseen through the local conservation plant sale – and I hated them (I had bought three!) when they arrived.  Garish and ugly were the thoughts in my head. Now I think bright and beautiful….just what is needed to break things up, offset the red flowers, and balance out all the dark brown and black buildings and tall pines around here.  What do I know? – I’m just a garden designer….

Candy Oh roses

I can however pat myself on the back for one thing (that worked way better than I expected).  Last year these roses were decimated by Japanese beetles.  They turned into ugly skeleton bushes in a matter of a week.  I also had a terrible infestation of grubs and moles.  These are all related of course (moles eat grubs, grubs kill grass and become beetles,  – if no grubs, then no beetles, and no moles).  I bought a huge box of milky spore powder early this spring and spread it accordingly.  It is clearly working.  The squishy mole ridden grass has gone away and you can see there isn’t a Japanese beetle in sight (look at those pretty healthy leaves!).  Score one for the gardener.

dianthus black adder and geranium rozanne by rochelle greayer www.studiogblog.com

I noticed another happy accident that I am going to have to help along.  Is it me or do Geranium ‘Rozanne’ look really great with dianthus black adder?  They aren’t really mixed at the moment….but I am really loving the light purple and inky near black so I am going to have to give those dianthus seed heads a good shake around the geranium.  I suspect some silver leaves might really make things sing….We will see how this looks next year….

How about you — got any unexpected or accidental 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

 

 

Landcraft gardens

I must start again with a confession. You know how people refer to themselves as “fan-boys?” This term is usually used for love and loyalty for one product or brand such as Apple electronics or Patagonia gear. My confession is that I am a fan-boy of a particular nursery. I, along with the rest of our staff, are in love with this nursery’s selection of plants and how dog-gone well they are grown. Which nursery am I just gaga about? Landcraft Environments. This small nursery on Long Island sells some of the best and little known annuals on the planet. The best part (to me)? They are wholesale only to the trade. What this means is that if you are a landscape designer or contractor, you can buy their plants. If you are a homeowner or passionate plant person, you’ll have to buy from a garden center they supply plants to along the east coast.

We filled a big, yellow box truck full of plants and had them shipped to Maine a few weeks ago. As we were unloading the truck, I was literally jumping for joy. Each cart brought a bevy of horticultural goodness. Variegated Abutilon standards, big blocks of New Zealand flax, and flowering kangaroo paws were just a few of the many plants we bought in from Landcraft. I kept wondering to myself, how do they do this? Co-owners Dennis Schrader and Bill Smith have built quite a business of growing plants for the northeast and New England that we would normally have to get from California or Florida. Bromeliads – check. Lantana standards – got ‘em. Variegated tapioca – yup. Some people dream of a new home or new car, I dream of renting a tractor trailer and filling it full of Landcraft’s plants to fill our garden. Plus, their office manager, Corey has been fantastic with our infinite number of plant additions and order changes.

Manihot-esculenta-variegata-

The couple who drove our plants up from Long Island were awesome. They left the nursery at 1:30 am in order to get to Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens before lunch. The gentleman worked at the nursery and his partner tagged along because he promised her a lobster dinner. We pointed them to our “secret” spot for the best lobster rolls in Maine. That was the least we could do for all of the beautiful plants they drove up for us.

This week, it finally warmed up in Maine and we started removing our tulips to make way for Landcraft’s plants. Some of these plants probably have never been used in Maine before, I am guessing. A mass bedding of Astelia chathmanica might not be what a lot of our guests were expecting but they will see it. My hope is that by planting annuals from southern Chile, Australia, and New Zealand, these plants can thrive in our cooler summers with long day length. We never really get hot (85 is a really warm day for us) but the sun comes up around 4:30 am and sets close to 10 pm. Those long days will ensure lots of lush, beautiful growth. At least that is my hope. I look forward to the end of August to see how this planting experiment worked. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, Landcraft has an open day to their garden on July 12. If you are on Long Island that time of year, be sure to check out their gardens as the truck driver said that they are fantastic. Maybe a group of us can find time to dart down there next year to visit the gardens and nursery. Have you ever been to Landcraft or bought any of their plants? What do you think about their nursery?

-Rodney

Images: Grounded Design, Black Olive East Nursery

tree sketches by rochelle greayer www.studiogblog.comAUGUST UPDATE:  I can tell you a bit more – This has to do with the Launch of PITH + VIGOR.  Your  tree drawing (along with the other submissions) will be used to create something beautiful for the our launch.  We hope you will join in this fun community art event!

Hey! – I need some help with a project.

It is secret, but I can tell you this….it will be big, it will be beautiful, lots of people will see it and and it will be very, very cool.  I can also tell you that I will eventually reveal what this is all about (a few months from now).

So do you want to be part of a big, beautiful, wide-spead, cool thing?

I need you send in pictures of trees (illustrative not photographic).  You can take a picture of your drawing and instagram it (if you do this tag it with #studiogtree) or you can send  your drawing (or painting or sketch or doodle or whatever medium you choose) via email to me at rochellegreayer@gmail.com with the word studiogtree in the subject.

Let’s see your rendition of your favorite tree in your favorite season, or maybe its just the tree right outside your window, or the tree you just planted….whatever it is lets see it.

All the submissions that come in before June 15th will be shared here with links back to your site, but some of them will additionally be used in that other big, beautiful, wide-spread, cool secret project.

Thanks!!

x – Rochelle

 

 

It is late May here in Maine and we are in the midst of a long, cool spring. The temperatures have only risen above 70 degrees a couple of times which has prolonged spring. Our tulips are still in flower as we are about to flip the calendar forward to June. Hopefully, soon the 70 and 80 degree days will be commonplace and summer colors will dominate the landscape for months.

Sanguinaria

I am not complaining about the cool spring. I spent 28 years growing up in North Carolina with many sleepless nights because the temperatures never went below the mid eighties. Along with that heat, we never truly enjoyed the spring colors provided by tulips and other ephemeral spring plants. One plant that has really caught my fancy this spring is bloodroot or Sanguinaria canadensis. Bloodroot grows in most areas of North America east of the Rockies but I never had encountered it until we lived in Pennsylvania. This small, woodland gem can be found sporadically in old woodlands. Bloodroot does not like to grow on disturbed sites and I am told it can be difficult to transplant. I asked Peter Beckford from Rebel Hill Farms in Clifton, Maine about the best way to grow Sanguinaria canadensis. Peter recommends collecting bloodroot seed as soon as it is ripe and sowing immediately. He has an outdoor seed bed where he sows the seed directly. It takes about a year for the seed to germinate into new seedlings.

Bloodroot

Have you seen bloodroot in flower? The small, bright-white flowers are usually borne sometime around Mother’s Day here in Maine. They resemble small, petaled poppies which provides a clue to their family, the Papaveraceae. The 2″ flowers are produced above the grey-green, lobed leaves. Once the flowers are pollinated by ants, they drop their petals within a couple of days. Then, the foliage continues to grow, reaching almost a foot in height before going dormant for the summer. Different forms of bloodroot can be found in nature including doubles and a fantastic pink strain that we have at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in the Alfond Children’s Garden.

I have come to admire and prize this woodland beauty. Sanguinaria canadensis is unlike any other native plant in the eastern United States. If you have a wooded area in your garden, it is well worth the effort to seek this gem out and add it to your garden.

– Rodney

Images: Oehme van Sweden blog, A Study in Contrasts

This time of year is such a treat.  It is so full of beautiful flowering trees and shrubs that it is hard to take it all in and really feel like you have enjoyed it before it fades into the green of summer.

My own garden boasts a Cercis canadensis (Eastern Red bud) that is just about to burst open with flowers, a Heptacodium miconioides (Seven Sons Tree), a gorgeous burgundy blooming crabapple of unknown variety, a hand full of voluptuous Pierus (andromeda) and a few “flowering weepers” (so-called by the previous owner who insisted that this was their proper name when I tried to get the bottom of their actual variety). It’s a nice mix, but I’m a connoisseur of the out of the ordinary and special – I believe there are quite enough Bradford pears in my corner of the world and that I am doing no one any favors by planting more.  Rather, I like to surprise and experiment and with that in mind I have a lot of lists with a lot of constantly evolving plant ideas.

halesia tree by rochelle greayer www.studiogblog.comAt the top of my ‘Spring flowering Tree List’ are the following….should I happen across one of these in the nursery at a good price it will surely find its way home with me….

Halesia is such a delicate tree that reminds me the handkerchief tree (Davidia involucrata) (which I am similarly obsessed with). Halesia’s flowers are bell-shaped and it likes my naturally acidic soil.  I’d honestly take any variety (there are some that have larger flowers, some that are tinged pink and other interesting varieties) as all I really care about is being able to stand beneath it and look up into the warren of pretty dangling flowers.

crataegus laevigata paul's scarlet (creative commons  by A. Barra.)Crataegus laevigata ‘Paul’s Scarlet’ was a tree I fell in love with back in my London Days.  I lived in a Street called Greencroft Gardens in West Hampstead and on the way to the tube station was a huge hawthorn across from a similarly large Ceanothus.  The two were such focal points for the whole road, my husband and I couldn’t help but remark about them daily.  At the time I was unfamiliar with the Hawthorn and had no idea what it was – I called the giant mini rose tree (as the clustered flowers are just like roses and literally cover the tree).  I’ve never seen one here in New England I’d consider it quite a find to discover one. 

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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”

Strawberry tower by rochelle greayer www.studiogblog.comI 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.

Yellow color study planting by rochelle greayer www.studiogblog.comI 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 EuphorbiaNemesia CoconutLantana Luscious LemonadeFlambe Yellow Chrysocephalum apiculatumGoldilocks 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.