Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas in a Winter Garden

Photo Copyright by Dave Pickersgill
Bring Christmas to the garden, filling urns with dogwood twigs and evergreen boughs, table tops with candles and gates with wreaths.When the ground is blanketed with snow and all the world is white, you are blessed with a bright blank canvas. You can see the outline of gates, sheds, birdbaths, benches and urns but there is an urgent need for color.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Two Best Traditional Plants for Winter Gardens

Holly (Ilex aquifolium)
Photo Copyright by Miss Steel
Holly and Mistletoe have a long tradition in the cottage garden and folklore of old England, and those traditions have become part of the Christian festive season.

Winter is the festive season, and much of that festivity includes lots of greenery, both inside the house and out. The old cottage gardeners of England were strong proponents of evergreens because many of the those plants had particular meanings and were welcomed and honored over Christmas.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Winter Window Boxes and Pots

Many people plant a mix of perennials and annuals in their window boxes and container pots. When the weather turns cold and the garden prepares itself for dormancy, it's time to move those plants. Some annuals can be re-potted and brought indoors. Perennials can be replanted into the garden before the ground freezes. You will be left with an empty window box or pot, but there a few things you can do to brighten them up.  

Monday, November 12, 2012

Fall Flowers For Your Garden

Trying to keep a garden blooming and romantic can be somewhat difficult during the colder months of the year, as there are fewer flowers that will bloom and stay healthy. Of course, depending on the nature of your garden - indoor or outdoor, for example, or whether you focus primarily on flowers or other aspects - it may be perfectly suited for the fall and winter. But, if you are specifically trying to strike a romantic note, it certainly can't hurt to have a few flowers in full bloom. Not all flowers are well suited to the cooler seasons, but there are still several popular options, many of which can be found at local gardening centres or even at Marks & Spencer! Here are a few examples of flowers to consider for the fall season.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Romantic Garden Images

Busy with e-book writing, so no real post today. However, I was looking out my window this AM and after the recent post tropical storm or remnants or Hurricane Sandy in southern Ontario, I noticed I have very few leaves left on the trees, just a few hangers on. While the grass is still green there is little else left - one lone fall aster  is drooping over the stone path in a dead faint. These romantic garden images are pre-winter pick-me-ups, a little color on a colorless day. 

Photo © Copyright Geoff Harris
  Beautiful Iron Work Tunnel
Part of the walled garden at Osborne House, UK

     Photo © Copyright Paul Gillett
A woodland walk at Doddington Place, North Downs, UK ... romanticism at its best

     Photo © Copyright Richard Croft
A romantic entry to the Himalayan gardens at Riverhill House, Kent ... give me a Gothic arch and I'll be a happy gardener

 Photo © Copyright Paul Farmer
This is a before picture of the Italian Garden at Easton Lodge in Essex, England. I absolutely love this. They have restored it since this photo was taken and it's a little too pristine now for my taste. I liked this less formal, slightly unkempt version, more English than Italian. See the update here The Forgotten Gardens of Easton Lodge.

Photo © Copyright Derek Harper
The Wisteria Pergola at Well Hall Pleasaunce, Eltham, England ... love the blue borders in the background along with the mauve wisteria ... lovely combination and great design.

 Photo © Copyright Pam Fray
 A romanic garden path in Quex Park, Birchington, Kent

Photo © Copyright Oliver Dixon
A lovely formal English garden, Newbrough Lodge, Northumberland

          Photo © Copyright Richard Croft
I love everything about this long border at Holywell Hall from the colors to the tall yew and all the climbing on the garden wall.

 Photo © Copyright Peter Barr
  Plas yn Rhiw, Gwynedd, Wales
This is a 17th century manor house. Both house and gardens were restored in the first half of the 20th century. It has an interesting history and the house is presumably haunted.

Photo © Copyright  Derek Harper
Coleton Fishacre Garden is situated by the sea at Pudcombe Cove. The gulf stream brings a semi-tropical climate which allows for many plants that won't grow in the north of England. I love this garden. The forms and colors of the foliage make it especially beautiful ... even with the absence of flowers.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Preparing the Garden for Fall With Garden Writers From the Past

 ... or preparing in fall for spring

While researching my e-books this month, I've pulled numerous titles from my bookshelves. I've long been a collector of vintage and antique gardening books. They are fascinating, especially those mid-century gardening books in which the writers were great proponents of Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT)... that miracle pestiside. Oh, if they only knew. The sale or use of DDT in Canada today constitutes a violation of the Pest Control Products Act (PCPA). Not sure about the US or other countries. Anyway, I digress. This post wasn't meant to be about DDT. I'll save that for another day.

I have an original late 19th century (c1870) edition of Play and Profit in My Garden, written by Reverend E. P. Roe and published by Dodd Mead, New York. Those Victorian  reverends, learned men, fed the publishing houses with a plethora of books on a variety of topics, not just of the faith and daily prayer type. This particular book is about growing a market garden. It's full of good and useful information. It's also a delightful read. While he wrote primarily about growing fruits and vegetables, getting bigger yields etc., (something my blog has nothing to do with unless it's snobbed up with words like "potager" and "espalier"...), he does write, albeit briefly, about "remembering those sweet friends that have brightened our eyes all summer,"  the flower garden, and how to prepare some plants for winter. (Yes, it took me a long time to get to the point.) 

I'll share what he wrote, skipping over the fruit and veggie bits ...   

" And now we come to the main and special work of the season, preparation for the future. First we will remember those sweet friends that have brightened our eyes all summer. Flower seeds will be gathered and labelled, plants that we wish to preserve will now be put in pots, tender bulbs such as the tube rose and gladiolus, taken up and stowed in a cool dry place. Then, that spring will be doubly welcomed, we will make our crocus, tulip and hyacinth beds. The last two named should be planted four inches deep, and the smaller bulbs about half the distance. When severe frosts commence, some course litter should be thrown over the beds. Space will not permit me to into the subject of flowers to that degree that inclination prompts. Moreover, the mercenary phase of these papers rather forbids it, as my play has been so closely linked with profit." 

*I'm fairly certain the "tube rose" is tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa.)

*Re: "Course litter"... another 19th century term. I'm quite sure he didn't mean cat litter. In his day, domestic cats had free access to the outside world and the few cat owners who kept their cats indoors used litter of dirt or torn-up newspapers. Nor did he mean crude or rude chewing gum wrappers, grocery store receipts, empty coffee cups and other things "littering" roads and sidewalks. Course litter is probably a mulch of compost. I can't find the term used anywhere else. If anyone knows otherwise, please comment. Could it be an old term for mulch?

 Another old gardening book I pulled off my shelves dates to about 1900, A Year's Gardening, by Basil Hargrave. Need I mention it's an English gardening book?  Mr. Hargrave was another gardener who loved his fruits and veggies, but he did mention flowers on occasion, primarily in the calendar section of the book. Here are his fall prep tips. I'm going to begin the list with September and follow up over the coming days in upcoming posts, but keep in mind, he wrote for the English gardener gardening in an English climate.
1. Prepare a small bed in a suitable situation of good sandy loam for the planting of Dog's-Tooth Violets––beautiful in their spring flowering and compact foliage.
2. Plant the bulbs of the Dog's Tooth Violet in the bed prepared yesterday. To get the best effect plant rather closely and use both the white and red varieties. (I agree about planting them closely, but my choice would be one color as it's easier on the eyes. Also, is there a red dog's tooth violet? Could this be a lost variety?) 
3. Now is a good season of the year for planting bulbs in the open.  Put in some Aelsromeria today, giving them a dry soil and a sunny position, and planting them some 9 inches deep. (And over the coming calendar days, he goes on to suggest planting other bulb and tuber plants, like English and Spanish Irises and Fritillarias)
4.  Look to the Dahlias and if you wish to obtain first-class specimens of flowers, disbud and thin the shoots, tying them carefully where required.
 5. Continue to give attention to the Dahlias. Give them a good soaking of manure water, if the weather be dry, and protect the choice blooms from the sun scorching heat by caps of paper. Be vigilant against earwigs, examining the traps frequently and destroying the traps. (Manure water is likely manure tea. Most gardeners know the benefits of manure tea, but I'll leave a simple recipe at the end of this post. Re: "Caps of Paper" – perhaps they didn't have paper lunch bags back in the day and used "caps of paper" instead  – a good idea, probably made from torn up newspaper and tied with string. Re: Earwig traps ... I'll dig a little, find some information on earwig traps and add it to the end of this post. 
 6. See to the Hollyhocks, thinning and tying the shoots where necessary, and supplying them with manure water as a means of prolonging their bloom. Keep a continuous watch for earwigs. (Well, that partially shows the importance of manure tea)
7.  Plant out the young pansy cuttings which have rooted well and prick out the seedlings which are sufficiently advanced. (It does seem late for this sort of thing, but remember, it's written for the English gardener. Also, pansies are hardy and can grow on longer than many other bedding plants. In North America, the pansy, while generally considered an annual, often returns for the next growing season in some locations, even in lower plant hardiness zones.)
8. Prick out the seedlings from the open air sowing of Polyanthuses and Auriculas, planting them into a bed of good soil and in a shady situation. 
9. Give attention to the Lilies of the Valley. See that the bed is in proper condition and give it a top-dressing of well-rotted manure. 
10.  Take a general look round the flower garden and see what arrangements are best for the further planting of spring flowering bulbs. Cut down the stems of all perennials which have ceased to flower. (Personally, I never do that last bit. In my zone 5b garden, I wait until early spring, letting the dieback help protect the plants against the bracing cold.)
11. He continues to push for the planting of bulbs.  "Snowdrops, squills (scillas), Snakeshead fritillaria and  Bulbocodium vernum."
12.  Make a further clearing of the borders in preparation for the planting of spring flowers, taking up the annuals which are over ... adding manure where necessary.
13.  Lift the gladioli (and Trigidia tiger-flower) which are dying down and store them away in a dry shed. It is a good plan to tie them in bunches and hang them from the rafters.
14.  Lift those roots of Marvel of Peru which you have decided to store during the winter (how does he know that?) and replant in the spring. This method produces larger plants than can be obtained when treated as an annual or biennial. (Marvel of Peru is Mirabilis jalapa also known as four o'clock flower, because it generally flowers in late afternoon.)
15.  Look to the roses and cut back any perpetuals that seem to have a chance of a third bloom. (I'm assuming he means hybrid perpetuals. They were must-have roses a hundred years ago.)
16.  Give some special attention today to the roses generally, cutting off each flower immediately, or even before, it comes to maturity and assisting the trees in any other way which may tend to prolong bloom. (I think he's just suggesting we dead-head our rose to encourage further bloom.)
17. Devote the three last days of the month to more particular attention to the routine work––to the lawn, the paths, the edgings, the removal of withered stems and flowers and all weeds, the clearing away of all growth that is dead or useless etc., etc.
More fall tips from Mr. Hargrave coming soon.

I'll finish up with some pretty words referring to this season by Rosamund Marriott Watson, and taken from her book The Heart of a Garden  written in 1905 and published by the Musson Book Company.

" ... summer's lease has run out, and autumn takes possession of the garden. The lavender has some while since been gathered in, and even the cry of the lavender pedlar, which, oddly enough, runs to the air of an ancient Breton hymn tune, is no longer heard in the streets. Larkspur and lupin, pinks, Mary lilies (probably the Madonna Lily), and mignonette, together with many another fair and fragrant tenants of the prime, are already memories––their candles are all out and the Torch lily rears its stately head above their graves. Autumn has come, indeed, open-handed as ever, and between her bewildering bounties of flower and fruit, the golden largeness of her lower sun, one is too much engaged by the present to consider over-curiously as to the past."

 That said, on to the promised manure recipe.

Manure Tea: An easy recipe.

Manure tea is a brew of water and manure. It is a nutritious drink for plants––a nitrogen-rich organic fertilizer. Once brewed, it's can be poured over the soil using a watering can. 

You will need a large plastic bin or garbage pale with lid, rubber gloves, mask, shovel, access to well-rotted manure, a sack or old pillow case and a shovel. Rubber gloves and mask use depend on your "ick factor" level.
  1.  Quarter fill the garbage bucket or bin with water.
  2.  Place the pillow case inside the bin and wrap the top of it over rim. You may have to temporarily tie it in place. 
  3.  Shovel the manure into the pillow case.
  4.  A good ratio is 20% manure to 80% water. 
  5.  Tie the top of the pillow case.
  6.  Close the lid and leave it to cook for a few days. 
  7.  A good manure tea will have turned the color of brewed coffee after a few days.
  8.  At this point, remove the pillowcase, place a sturdy stick across the bin and tie the "manure bag" to    the stick. This ensures it drains into the bin. 
  9.  Remove the "manure bag" only when it no longer drips. Empty the mush into the compost bin.
  10.  If you aren't using the manure tea directly, keep it covered. Otherwise, use within a few days. 
  11.  Do not pour directly over plants, but on the soil around them.
And since I said I'd dig a little to find info on earwig traps, well the World Wide Web doesn't need yet another method. You could try the very complicated looking method found at the Ottawa Horticultural Society, or you could simply buy ready-made Earwig Traps

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Attention Garden Writers and Garden Bloggers: Time to Write That E-book

This month is National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo. For those of you who have never heard of it, it's an online challenge for writers to complete 50,000 words from November 1st to November 30th. Writers challenge themselves to do it and complete it. 

Here's the cool thing for garden writers and bloggers. You can write non-fiction and participate as a rogue.  Lots of non-fiction writers do this annual self-challenge. You could write 1666 word posts each day for your blog, or, and this is my choice, write one or two gardening e-books, the e-books you've always wanted to write but kept putting it off. Don't be shy. Time's a wasting, so do have a look at the NaNoWriMo site, sign up and do some prep work to be ready to start writing on Thursday, November 1st, 2012. 

I completed NaNoWriMo for fiction in 2007, but I'm going in as a rogue this time and writing two e-books. It was liberating to finish something back then, so I'm looking forward to this one with a view to getting my first gardening e-books out there. 

Will you join me in this challenge?

If you're nervous about how to write an e-book, just write. Forget the technicalities for now. Concern yourself only with words. Don't go back and forth to edit. That's December work. Your goal is to get a first draft written and you can do it. It's less than 1700 words per day on your favorite topics. It does help to be organized in advance, have some idea of what you're going for, lay out chapters, titles, research books/links etc., to make the writing go smoother


If you want to learn more about writing an e-book, I'm affiliated with Angela England's e-book 30 Days to Make and Sell a Fabulous Ebook.  It's $11.99 and worth every penny.

Angela's second e-book earned her five figures, so it's absolutely possible to create more income as a garden writer. Her e-book will show you how. Angela is a writer-friend and she's also the owner of Untrained Housewife. Her blog Angela England has lots of tips for bloggers.  


Do join me. My NaNoWriMo ID is LorraineS if you feel you need a little push/support mid-way. We can all help each other reach our goals. 

So whaddaya say? You in?  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Removable Leaf Pens for Spring Mulching

In most urban gardens, leaves are bagged in the fall to be picked up by the township or county. But those leaves have value to the gardener. The leaves of a single oak tree in the garden can offer a rich organic mulch for the flower beds each spring. If you are prone to raking your leaves into the flower beds in the fall, you may still have a lot of excess leaves to be bagged up. The leaves that are already on the flower beds will break down over the winter and you may feel the need to purchase mulch for the following growing season. Save yourselves some money.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Roses: Pruning Times in Cold Climates

Constance Spry .. My Garden
Some rose gardeners in northern or colder climates prune their roses in late fall. This could have a negative effect on the plants. If the roses aren't completely dormant, small tender shoots could form and be damaged by winter winds and snow storms. Pruning in fall will result in more winter die-back than if left alone until spring.

If the roses have long canes, simply secure them to a trellis, arbor, fence, or wall with garden ties to avoid damage as they flap around in the wind.

The best time to prune roses in USDA garden zones 6 or lower is in the early spring, just as the plants come out of dormancy. Many gardeners time their rose pruning with the early spring blooming of tulips, serviceberry, magnolia, or forsythia.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Photos of Sissinghurst: Oh, How I Love Thee

I visited Sissinghurst once and decided I wanted to live in the cottage within the garden, but haven't been able to swing it ... yet. (One of the farmhouses on the estate does offer B&B if anyone is interested. Pick a room with a view of the garden and enjoy the full experience.) Sissinghurst Castle Farmhouse.

Sissinghurst is a romantic garden filled with inspiration for garden designers who want to bring a sense of history and mystery to their own gardens ... each garden room leading into another, with a beautiful surprise around every bend in the path, and through each boundary wall or hedged arch. It's a delight for the senses.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Merits of Allium Giganteum

Photo by Chris Gladis
When researching this post about Allium Giganteum, the first book I pulled off the shelves was an old Vita Sackville-West In Your Garden edition. The second was a facsimile edition of William Robinson's 19th century book, The English Flower Garden. I love indices. In the end, I pulled twelve books off my shelves that had some information about this allium, mostly contradictory.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Rambling Roses for the Romantic Garden

Roses to Scramble over Fences and Up into the Trees

by Lorraine Syratt 

Rambling roses are best in care-free romantic gardens. Like children, they tumble over walls, scramble through fences and climb into trees - happiest when left alone.

Rambling roses are generally more vigorous than climbing roses. They are well-suited to semi-horizontal growth. The ramblers scramble along fences, tumble down hills, spill over walls and walkways and are even trained to grow up through trees. They have an abundance of flower clusters and for gardeners with romantic tastes, rambling roses are a delightful addition the the garden.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Grow a Collection of Antique and Vintage Gardening Books

by Lorraine Syratt ©2009

Collecting rare antique and vintage gardening books can be an expensive endeavor, as valuable to the garden historian as they are to the collector.

Collecting vintage and antique gardening books is a passion, not just for gardeners but for bibliophiles with interests in garden history, old botanical prints, botany and garden design. Much can be learned from old gardening books, like the names of plants that are no longer in existence, old gardening techniques, and country lore. These books are most valuable to researchers when restoring an old garden to the original time period. They are a pleasure to read and a pleasure to own and grow a niche collection.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Create a Herbaceous Border for Your Cottage Garden

The traditional cottage garden border is informal, abundant, colorful and fragrant. It appeals to all the senses. Any property boundary can be transformed into a floriferous herbaceous border. The border should be viewed as a blank canvas, waiting for the artist's composition to give it color, texture, depth and balance. You can achieve this by using a variety of old-fashioned plants, including roses, herbs, perennials, bulbs, annuals and flowering shrubs. Only the amount of work you're willing to commit to will determine the size of your border.

© Copyright David Anstiss and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Confine Wild Violets in the Lawn: Improve Its Biodiversity

by Lorraine Syratt ©2012

© Copyright Derek Harper and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
When wild violets pop up in lawns, they are either welcomed arrivals for gardeners, or they are uninvited flora to be pulled out at the earliest opportunity. Wild violets will run rampant in lawns if they aren't kept in check, but they can be confined to certain areas instead of eradicating them altogether. For many gardeners, they are perfect wildflowers for naturalizing to create a medieval flowery mead. Wild Violets add a little spice that improves the lawn's biodiversity.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Restoring a Neglected Garden

by Lorraine Syratt

A Before Picture
So, you've taken over a garden that has been left to the wars. Weeds have climbed up through unnamed conifers. Ivy is smothering rose canes, and forget-me-nots have taken over the lawn. And while it may suit your romantic gardening tastes, it isn't subtle and it may annoy the neighbors. Where do you begin? As the good witch said in The Wizard of Oz, it's always best to start at the beginning.

Restoring a neglected garden is hard work. It takes time, as well as an understanding of the plant material that is in the garden. When gardens become neglected, weeds appear and growth patterns change. All the "good" garden plants become leggy because they are competing for the sun. Since weeds grow faster than most "good" plants, the "good" plants work hard to keep up, but they often lose the battle. That said, it isn't just the weeds that cause havoc in a neglected garden. Many good plants will indeed run amok if left unchecked. The result may be a jungle of green foliage and little in the way of color.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Gift of Flowers

Spring. The time for picking flowers, taking bouquets of lilacs to granny and the time for weddings.

If your bridesmaids have gardens, the gift of a rose plant is an ideal token of thanks, something enduring. Pick one with a suitable name to commemorate the day. There is a floribunda rose called Dainty Maid and another called Dusky Maid,  a tea rose called White Wings, and another tea rose called Silver Wedding.  There are literally thousands of rose varieties and numerous online rose nurseries who will ship the roses. Their online catalogs will help the bride to choose a suitably named rose.

If your bridesmaids don't have gardens, why not say it with flowers. Consider giving them each a year's delivery of fresh cut flowers. It's  truly a unique gesture. Even a single rose would be perfect and not as costly as a full bouquet.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Has the Cottage Garden Lost its Way?

A Stylized Traditional Cottage Garden
     Photo by Peter Whitcomb
In my view, the key element to the quintessential cottage garden is abundance. But with that abundance comes a certain amount of order. Simply throwing a huge bag of seeds onto a blank canvas will result in chaos. While suitable for a wildflower meadow, as a garden, it won't be pretty. It may even be garish. Why? Single plants disappear in the jungle and the tapestry will have no picture. The best cottage gardens are created with a great deal of thoughtful consideration to design, plants, succession of color, balance, height, and structure. They are gardens that aren't over-charmed with painted birdhouses, tea cup candles on sticks, garden junk, or pretty china plates bordering the flower beds. And while I think all those elements are funky and fun, they aren't the elements that will turn an ordinary garden into a cottage garden. The beauty of the cottage garden is in the plant material and how that plant material plays off each other. It's the natural elements that make the cottage garden, not the cottagey things we bring into it.

Maybe my thoughts about over-charming the garden are slightly elitist, but I honestly believe the concept of the "cottage garden" is getting lost. 

In very early cottage garden history, the gardens were created for sustenance. Poor crofters filled every bare patch of earth on their tiny plots with cabbages, potatoes, fruits and so forth. Flowers were brought in from the woods and roadsides, but only if space allowed and if they were plants that made good companions for other plants. We learned a lot of wise garden lore from those early cottage gardeners. They had all sorts of tricks to extend the season, keep critters from nibbling in the carrot patch, saving space and everything we ever wanted to know about companion planting. The gardens may not have been big on style, but they were certainly big on function. By the 19th century, the cottage garden had evolved into the traditional floriferous cottage garden we know today. It still has the abundance, but it's got style as well.

One might view the cottage garden as an ever-evolving tradition, from a garden of bountiful sustenance to one that offers bountiful flowers, to one where cottagey decor is the main feature. I choose the middle ground. When it comes to adorning my cottage garden, less is more. When it comes to planting out my cottage garden, more is almost enough. Let the flowers, roses, and hedges tell the story.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day Essay:
Our Connection With Trees

When our early ancestor, the ape, lived in Africa millions of years ago, he was surrounded by natural environments. Trees still covered most of the earth's land mass, and the ape relied on those trees for its survival, its safety and means of travel. As we evolved, these environments remained as part of our psyche, leaving us with an inherited, ingrained need for trees.

When troops of apes evolved into tribes of humans, trees played a spiritual role in our cultural and social existence. Inherent memory has left us with that spiritual connection to trees. We may not cognitively relate to that connection, but it's there, hidden in the deep recesses of memory passed down through millions of generations of human history.

It took man millions of years to leave the trees for the condos, but the human need for trees is still with us. Research has shown that for urban dwellers, long periods without trees wreak havoc on their psyches. Cognitive skills lessen ... they become irritable, unhappy, and negative. The impact of a short walk in a tree-covered park is a quick pick-me-up for people living and working in cities. Trees calm us.  They can act as a refresh button for our brains. On this Earth Day, join the ranks. Hug a tree, and remember.

For more about the role trees play in our lives, please read (scroll down) Trees and Meditation.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Garden Study #1 ... "Allium in a Sea of Blue Flax"

About Garden Studies

Every once in a while, we will study a photo of a garden scene that inspires us. 
The studies offer ways to recreate these garden scenes
in our own gardens.
I hope my readers will be inspired as well.
Garden Study #1
A garden scene from Great Dixter
"Allium in a Sea of Blue Flax"

Great Dixter Garden Scene
© Copyright Oast House Archive
This is a lovely little garden study from Great Dixter in England. The thing that really pops for me, the main focus in my view, is the allium poking up through a sea of blue flax. I like the juxtaposition of placing the top heavy allium, Allium giganteum, in a bed of delicate blue flax, Linum perenne. In this photo there are what appears to be spent irises, as well as some yellow flowering plants, possibly common sundrops. If I were making this bed, I think I'd keep it simple and focus only on the main subjects. The yellow flowers and the spent irises seem a bit intrusive to me, even though yellow and blue are complimentary on the color wheel (apologies to Great Dixter and how dare I). The cropped view below is less busy to me and more subtle.

© Copyright Oast House Archive
It wouldn't be difficult to emulate this garden in a corner that has a backdrop of taller shrubs, trees or hedges. Consider a smallish space surrounding your favorite lilac (instead of the heavily pruned shrub visible between the trellises),  or another large and interesting shrub. I'm suggesting a lilac because most gardeners love it and have at least one in their gardens. It's a good spot to use as a foundation for this Garden Study. Place a simple rustic trellis on each side of the lilac. Add a white flowering climber to each of the trellises in the background. In front of the trellises and lilac, use blue flax as groundcover and intersperse with allium bulbs so that they poke up like sentinels through the wavy blue sea.

As you can see from the backdrop in the photo, there is what appears to be a shaped and pruned shrub or tree. I'm not personally a fan of this sort of heavy-handed manipulation to trees and shrubs. Pruning is necessary to shape and encourage, but this looks like a princess in a Mohawk. Some gardeners do it simply because they can and they believe it adds architectural interest to the garden design. Maybe so, but if a shrub could think I'm sure it would feel humiliated by the hair cut. My romantic garden tastes always lean to the natural aesthetic, letting the plants simply be what they are supposed to be. I prefer a less contrived shrub.
Note: If you have a very old lilac with thick stems, you can still add that architectural interest by doing some major pruning of side suckers after flowering each year and throughout the growing season. Lilacs do throw out a lot of suckers at the base, and this is why most lilacs have that bush shape. To get an interesting shape, keep them pruned out, so that the shrub has three to five main trunks to promote growth on the ends of the branches. Eventually, you'll have a lilac that looks like a small tree with long shapely branches. I'm going to try to find a picture of a pruned out lilac, but I may have to wait until May. 
 Ingredients for "Allium in a Sea of Blue Flax"
  • 2 rustic trellises 4' to 5' wide x 6' to 8' tall
  • 48 Allium giganteum bulbs
  • 100 or more blue flax plants or forget-me-nots (both easily grown from seed)
    Note: I'm not 100% sure the blue flower in the photo is blue flax, but it's very similar in color-shade, height and delicacy. Blue flax should flower at the same time as the allium. There are few true blue flowers like this.
    They could also be forget-me-nots. Both allium and forget-me-nots flower at the same time in the UK, where the Garden Study picture was taken. Have a look at this article at Alternative-Planting. It's another lovely scene, and the flower is credited to forget-me-nots. Forget-me-nots do tend to spread like mad, more so than flax, so there are choices.
  • Either 2 white climbing roses, 2 white-flowered clematis, 2 simple ipomea grown from seed, or any other white flowering climbing plant that pleases your garden palate
Serves an area up to 100 sq ft in allotted garden space of 20' long and 5' deep. Ideally, give a bit of shape to the bed when you dig it out. Curves or asymmetric shapes are more natural looking, a style befitting this garden study as well as your more relaxed romantic gardening tastes.

About Blue Flax
Blue Flax
© Copyright Derek Harper
Blue flax is a lovely plant and a rare true blue color. It has delicate, but very strong stems and feathery leaves. It is easily grown from seed and freely self-seeds which makes it a good choice for this garden study. The idea is to use the plant as a groundcover plant, filling in the whole square or rectangle you've prepared. It grows about 12" to 16" . Blue flax has a main flush of color in spring, and it flowers sporadically throughout the growing season. 
Note: It's always a good idea to add fresh seed from another source every two - three years. It ensures the bed is always vibrant and full, keeping the stock healthy, diverse and renewed. Otherwise it could end up looking a little sparse and spindly.      
        About Forget-me-nots
© Copyright Steve Daniels
Forget-me-nots Myosotis are members of the borage family. There are 50 different species of forget-me-nots grown in northern or temperate zones. The most commonly grown forget-me-not is sylvatica. It's a lovely little plant, with true blue flowers. It can fill an area in no time by self-seeding.

For gardens in shorter growing seasons, it's best to sow the first seeds directly outdoors in early spring, after the danger of frost has passed. They will flower the following spring. For gardens with milder winters, you can sow the seeds in the fall for spring flowers. 

Forget-me-nots prefer dappled shade over bright sunlight and actually do better in cooler temperatures.

About Allium (giganteum)
Allium giganteum grows to about 4' tall. They grow best in sunny locations. This is partly why I think it would work best with the flax. Both prefer sun. 

The bulbs should be planted at a depth three times their size, about 3", and they are best planted in the fall. 
          About White-flowered Clematis
Clematis Miss Bateman
© Copyright Oast House Archive
  In this Garden Study, there is a white-flowering climber growing up the rustic trellis. Since this original garden scene is at Great Dixter in the UK, it may be a clematis, in particular, 'Clematis Miss Bateman' which grows there. But there are lots of white clematis varieties available, so the gardener shouldn't have any difficulty finding one variety for each trellis or two varieties to mix it up.  
 Clematis Montana Albens
© Copyright Maurice Pullin

Clematis should be planted in spring in alkaline soil. They like there roots shaded or cool, so many gardeners plant a small evergreen in front of them the keep the soil shaded. For this purpose they plant it slightly on its side to ensure it grow up the trellis and and not into or through the small evergreen.


About White Climbing Roses
Some great white climbing and rambling roses include 'Sombriel', 'White Dawn', 'Climbing Iceberg', 'Felicite et Perpetue', 'Rambling Rector', and 'Sander's White."

There are many to choose from. Look for a white rose that will suite your garden zone as well as your tastes. 

Other white flowering climber choices might include Jasminum officinale, or ipomea, but there are many climber plants with white flowers.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Blush Rambler Rose

Blush Rambler Photo by Ulf Eliasson
I've been admiring this rose for years and have yet to bring it into my garden. Saving the thought for my next garden. I love rambler roses with multiflora heritage, partly because they are vigorous and require little maintenance, and partly because the flower clusters are thick and showy. The show is short-lived, it's something to look forward to when the snow leaves the ground and it's little leaves begin to unfurl on the canes.

Blush rambler was bred in 1903 by Cant. This was a period when English rosarians were busy creating all sorts of interesting ramblers including 'Paul's Scarlet', 'Emily Gray', 'Sander's White' and 'Goldfinch' (a rambler I do have and adore.)  These new ramblers, along with an array of newly bred climbing roses quickly became popular among the gardening elite, like Gertrude Jekyll, a go-to garden designer and plant diva among English Edwardian gardeners. It also became a popular rambling rose in cottage gardens. Edwardian women of taste enjoyed 'Blush Rambler' in the garden, but the also enjoyed adding large sprays to bowls and vases for the house.

Blush rambler will grow to 16 ft or approximately 5 meters in USDA garden zones 4 to 9.  It has light scent, inherited from one of its parents, 'The Garland'. It is an early musk R. multiflora cross between the 'The Garland' and 'Crimson Rambler'. The leaves are light green and may have the appearance of chlorosis. It blooms in clusters with cup-shaped flowers in various shades of light pink.

Stylized Illustration of 'Blush Rambler'

It is a vigorous rose that is nearly thornless and therefore easy to work with. Can be used to scramble over fences or trained as a pillar rose over arbors.

Like all multiflora roses, it can also be trained to form a dense hedge for boundary lines or garden room divisions. If creating a hedge with 'Blush Rambler it's best to plant them six feet apart and train them early along post and wire guides.

This is a lovely soft pink rambler that is definitely on my wish list.



Sunday, April 8, 2012

Smaller Roses for Smaller Spaces

Gardeners often require smaller shrub roses for specific areas of their gardens. These roses are especially useful for gardens with narrow borders, or borders less than 3 feet wide where large bushes will be overpowering.

'The Fairy' R. Polyantha
Polyantha roses are all good choices where a smaller rose is required. The selection might include the 'White Cecile Brunner', 'Madamoiselle Cecile Brunner', The Fairy' and 'Rita Sammons'. 'Marie Pavie' is an antique polyantha shrub rose that only grows to about 3 feet in most gardens and it's beautifully scented.

'Pretty Jessica' David Austin Rose photo by Stickp
Another rose worth considering is David Austin's Pretty Jessica rose. Most of David Austin's roses have old rose shapes, similar to cabbage roses, but 'Pretty Jessica' has traditional tea-shaped blooms. This rose offers great repeat blooms. All David Austin roses are worth considering for smaller spaces because many of the bushes are known to be smaller in size.

David Austin's 'Winchester Cathedral" photo by Anna Re
"Raubritter" Groundcover Roses
There are also low spreading shrubs known as flower carpet roses.  These are especially useful when planted on slopes where soil erosion may be a problem.  Carpet roses can be vigorous and tough, need little maintenance and are available in a variety of colors with many offering repeat blooms. They are ideal groundcover roses.

Groundcover roses will grow in most locations and they will thrive as well as offer repeat blooms after the initial spring flush of color. The most popular varieties include 'Raubritter', 'Stanwell Perpetual', 'Pierette Pavement', 'Snow Pavement' and 'Scarlet Pavement'.  The Pavement series are all repeat blooming rugosa roses. Low growing or groundcover roses can be used to best effect by lining pathways or lining the drive for showy curb appeal. Use colors that compliment the house and if mixing the varieties, be careful about overdoing all hot colors in a border of roses. Pastel colors are softer and easier on the eyes, whites to pink flushes, creams and roses with hints of mauve for example ... a good balanced mix.

David Austin's 'Constance Spry' Rose
Gardeners looking for smaller roses to place in narrow borders should also consider climbing roses. These are ideal when those narrow borders are along the foundations of the house or other structure. The simple upward growth, rather than outward fills the space beautifully. Let them cascade over the underplantings for a more romantic and abundant scene. Consider a traditional climber like 'New Dawn' or David Austin's first English rose cultivar (and my personal favorite), 'Constance Spry'.

There is a rose and rose type for every garden. For the best choices view the photos found online at various rose nursery websites. Study the rose's attributes to learn if it will grow in your space and for the purpose you have in mind.
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