July 31, 2008

Sweet-My First Book is Out - BEYOND TREND

OK, it's not about plants, but it is about design. I thought I would share that my book is out, globally now, I think. BEYOND TREND - How To Innovate In An Over-Designed World by Matt Mattus hit's the shelves in bookstores and your fav. online book stores from Borders to Amazon to Barnes and Noble in the States, to Kinokuniya in Japan, and Asia, David and Charles in the UK, and, well, it seems most major retailers from Wal Mart to Target. ( eeek ).

I guess it's great, and it sure feels nice to have a summer with some free weekends! Although, I am starting my gardening book, which I want to be unique, modern and different, so it's not like I actually have all of this free time!

A little about BEYOND TREND.

I was asked by the publishers of ID magazine, HOW magazine and PRINT magazine, F & W Publications ( also the publishers of HORTICULTURE now, strangely enough!) to write a book about design trends and the future of design, something that I speak about at design conferences, and what I do, at Hasbro, as a Visual Brand Strategist.

The result, this little hardcover book with over 200 color images of everything from Sir Norman Foster's architecture to Zaha Hadid's renderings for the 2012 Olympics to Hand bag designer Kate Spade and everything in between. Visual design today is becoming boring, as is gardening, I must say. We live in a world where we are obsessed with the idea of 'New', and trends seem to come and go faster than ever before. As a trend hunter, I was being asked, "what is next?", and after traveling the world, I had to say " not much". But that was not the entire story.

I love design, I love designing, and I was still, creating new. I was still finding some hope, but how could this be?

BEYOND TREND examines my journey through this realization of discovery. As I edited the visual sameness searching for the next, hot color. What I discovered surprised me. Maybe you will find the read and the visual ride exciting too.

Maybe you won't even care, but there is an amazing link between Biology, Philosophy, and design. It's what we humans, do.

So forgive me for pitching my book on this gardening blog, but I just thought that some of you might be interested. After all, plants are pretty visual, too!

Thanks for reading Growing With Plants, its; always nice to read your comments, even though I rarely can figure out how to reply with my Mac! I do read everything you say, and appreciate the growth in readership.

People are saying some nice things about my book, like Julia Rothman, and Jessica Gonacha.

Summer display

I inherited these stairs that my friend had designed for her dog, so he could jump up onto the radiators to look out of the window and bark at the mailman. After realizing that they we're too monsterous, I relieved her of them, thinking that I could use them for either my dogs, or for the greenhouse.
Since they are constructed so well, I decided to use them first on the porch, as seen in an earlier post, to display potted Japanese Orchis graminifolia, or Pone Orchis ( and yes, I work on the design team for My Little Pony too, for those of you who did not get that pun!). Anyway, I later moved them onto the deck, where I needed to display the Begonia collection that was getting too baked in the hot greenhouse this summer. This has proven to be a poor location, even though it is on the eastern side of the house, it still gets strong sun until noon. As you can see, these Begonia's are burning, so....

...I switched to Pelargoniums, or 'Geraniums', with various Zonal's, fringed blossomed antique varieties, Fancy-leaved forms and Scented Pelargoniums; all of which can handle the stronger sun of July. Now that it is nearly August, I may switch this display to Tuberous Begonias, as they are starting to bloom. Stay tuned for that post.

Not your average Jack!

For those of you who don't know, there are many species of Arisaema, or Jack In The Pulpit. Here in New England, we find our common species of Arisaema tryphyllum in many woods and streams beds where it is damp or moist. But world-wide, this genus has become extremely collectable, and there are nearly 250 known species, each quite unique in foliage, floral form or overall characteristic. Some are only 2 inches high, others nearly 6 feet. Some tropical, some not. This one species, A. consanguineum is from eastern Asia, a is marginally hardy here in Zone 5 unless one gets a very deep snow cover. I grow it in a container because I still haven't decided where to plant it. It spends the winter in a dry corner of the greenhouse. I grow many Arisaema in containers, they work quite well, and one see's characteristics one often misses in the garden, and they make interesting displays when grouped together with other bulbous Aroids like the much larger Amorphophallus species.

Arisaema consanguineum ' The Perfect Wave'

This named selection from the Oswego, New York rare plant nursery Seneca Hills Perennials, is such a late bloomer ( it emerges nearly after the Fourth of July here) that I keep it in a container in the greenhouse, so that it does not get lost. Of course, it must affect it's size, since the catalog states that it can reach 4 or 5 feet tall when in the ground. I just can't find a place where I would remember where I planted it! Still, the foliage is lovely, and this form has awesome characteristics which one may miss in the garden, such as a slight silver variegation in the leaf, and a wavy edge.

July 22, 2008

English Sweet Peas

'Tribute', an intensely fragrant Spencer variety of Sweet Pea

It's only on the odd year that I try to grow the Spencer varieties of Sweet Pea, Lathyrus odoratus. These fragrant annuals which were once so popular as a cut flower, fell out of fashion most likely due to the fact that they are not long lasting. Commercially, they do not ship well, and they are expensive, if not challenging to grow well. Not that they are difficult, by any means, they are easy and care-free enough if you can provide something for them to grow on ( I use birch twigs which are 6 feet tall) and the most difficult thing to provide, is the cool, damp weather, which they need in order to grow well.

Here in New England, we can get terrible hot and humid summers, such as this one. But I think I am having a good year with Sweet Peas, because we are getting decent rainfall, and they are sited in a location where they can get a hose every day, if needed. The seed this year came from www.lathyrus.com, Owl's Acre Sweet Peas, and if I knew that this would be a good year, I would have planted more. For whatever reason, I was rushed, and/or lazy, and I remember on one evening after work in March, I hastily scratched a few holes in the ground and dumped in a few packets of seed. I had ordered, as I tend to do, a few dozen varieties of these Spencer Exhibition varieties, but it seems I did not pay attention to the colors, and I only planted pink varieties, forgetting my favorites - the light blues. Perhaps this fall, I can raise a crop.

Suzy Z, a 'fancy Flake' variety from England.

This Lilac striped or 'chiped' form is especially nice. These were once favored by turn-of-the-century growers in the United States, and even antique seed catalogs often featured these stripped forms on their covers. Today, they are a little difficult to find, but still worth searching out. Their fragrance is unbelievable, and as many of the English Spencer forms, their stems are long and their flowers are much larger that American grown varieties that are available from the USA seed catalogs.

Mid Summer Flower Show

Annuals and Daylilies on the back porch
The Daylily variety is 'Vintage Wine'

Some new Orienpet lilies, planted last fall. Orienpets are newer crosses made between two Oriental Lilies ( like Casa Blanca) and trumpet lilies ( like, well.......trumpet lilys - see earlier post). I love lime-green/yellow flowers, as well as the spicy fragrance of these summer lilies. Plus these seem to be a little more resistant to the lily beetle.

Spencer variety Sweet Peas. This one is 'Valerie Harrod'

Some fo the Blackmore & Langdon tuberous begonia, begining to bloom. A Scadoxus multiflorus ssp. katherinae is blooming in the rear.

Annual Snapdragons along the greenhouse walk.

July 13, 2008

Blue and Yellow Garden

"Lilium 'Moonlight Strain', Lime-Intensely Fragrant Yellow Trumpet signal the peak of the July Lily season.

My test plot, corner, for the blue and yellow garden is proving fruitful. So many plants come in these colors, that the options seem endless, but I can tell now that next year, when I complete this garden, I will edit little, other than follow my notes to plant more of each variety, to that the display will be effective. One Nepeta is fine, 7 will be finer. The Daylily's can be divided into more clumps, to create a larger display. I like to visit a local daylily nursery, and hand select the perfect color of yellow. I am partial to the greenish yellows, and like to balance these tints with a golden yellow.

These Delphinum hybrids were grown from seed, purchased in Germany from Jelitto Seed Company. In their second year, I hope that they will last until next year to reach full size.

Taking garden photos at dusk, allows for a more sensitive palette. If I could only find my tripod screw which I lost earler in the garden, this would have been less blury.

Daylily "Omomuki"
Similar to the variety named 'Joel', this is one of those Daylilies that once you see it, you have to have it. Again, it has that perfectly perfect, lime-green color which I love, and it has tremendous substance, with large flowers and a high bud count. Ruffled petals, and an all-round good garden plant for the border. Don't expect to find this guy at your local garden center though, it will take some years for it to get there. Try a local Daylily nursery. This one came from Seawright Gardens, a local daylily breeder in Carlisle, Massachusetts, just west of Boston. Visit now, and have one of the boys dig you up a few fans. Seeing them in the ground, is one of the best way to choose a color.

July 8, 2008

Summer Lilies

The week after Independence Day is the traditional weekend for Lily Show's in the North East. When I was a kid, I would grow true lilies for exhibition at our local Horticultural Society - The Worcester County Horticultural Society, now relocated from it's more austere location from Horticultural Hall in the City, to what is now, Tower Hill Botanic Garden, in Boylston, Massachusetts. Many new comers to gardening confuse Daylilies, which are Hemerocallis and which have their own show in two weeks when most Daylilies peak, with true lilys ( those plants which grow from bulbs, and have Lilium as their genus).

Lilies are classified into many categories by growers, and this is the time to order your bulbs, since they are shipped in the late autumn. A local Lily show is one of the best places to see these stunning flowers, since most garden centers focus on selling older varieties, or shorter, more manageable Asiatics, which are more prone to a recently introduced pest, the Lily Beetle.

When we think of lilies, we may think of Daylilies(Hemerocallis), or Tiger Lilies ( Lilium tigrinum), or even florist types such as the Easter Lily ( Lilium longiflorum) or the fragrant Casa Blanca Lily ( Lilium auratum hybrids). But there are so many more.
I like to arrange a single variety ( here, the species form of Lilium regale, native to Shichuan,China. These are young seedlings planted out last autumn. I prefer to never pull the pollen sacks of, as many people like to do. Sure, it can cause staining on linens, but in July, who uses linens? One only risks a stained nose if one is not careful. The fragrance is intoxicating, a strange a beautiful mixture of heavy cream and toothpaste, I think! I love it - it brings me back to my high school years, when I worked as a gardener at the estate of Helen Stoddard in Worcester, MA - a Fletcher Steele garden, where Lilium regale where planted in drifts, and I would pedal home on my bicycle with the 6 foot long stems, since the Stoddards would undoubtedly be at their summer home in New Brunswick, Canada for the month, and I felt bad that there was no one there to enjoy them!

The down facing Asiatics are plagued by Lily Beetle, but this year we have bee rather lucky, and have also been studious at hand-picking them off every morning.

Last autumn, after seeing how well the trumpet lilies have matured in the new rock garden our front, I decided to invest in a few dozen bulbs of each variety. With stems over 6 feet tall, I think I found my Lilium sweet spot. This year, one of the trumpets is nearly 8 feet tall. The old stem is still next to it, and I can see that it is two feet higher, and still growing. Last year, there was 7 blossoms, this year, nearly 15. Next year.....?