August 30, 2010

Garden Bench Round Up

For those with money to spend, there is a wide selection today of garden furniture, so I thought that I might share some tasteful options to the typical English Teak bench we always seem rely on. Pricey? Sure. But let's dream.....this garden bench from France ( circa 1890-1910), available at 1stdibs is perfectly modern and classic at the same time. Its straight lines and bleached walnut wood are contrary to most decorative European movements of the time, and I think inspired more by the Belgium Arts & Crafts movement, which makes blend in timelessly with todays modern aesthetic. I imagine that it was probably was bleached recently, but since bleaching wood is popular again, this remains attractive.
 Quirky Craftsmanship from New Zealand.
Shown at the Chelsea Flower Show this spring, these hand crafted contemporary wooden benches combine a Japanese Wabi Sabi-ness with a Mid-Century Modernist aesthetic. From Moosey's Country Garden in New Zealand.

This dreamy Wrought Iron Regency Bench is on my list. Bid away my friends, for this $7,200 bench is sure to disappear fast. ( probably for closer to $ 4,500 would be my guess) for such a period piece to too rich for most people, but then again, it is at a Connecticut dealer, this will end up on some Long Island summer cottage for sure. It's lines are amazing, graceful form, perfect color, and instant charm for any garden that can afford it.
Here is a bench that you can make yourself. The plans are available here.

The French know their benches. This painted vintage circa 1900 park bench is both rustic and crafty. THe price, more reasonable, at least in comparason with other French benches. at $2350.00 it's as much as a contemporary sofa, right? For those with the deep pockets, go for it here. For the rest of us, use this as inspiration as you got to yard sales and antique shops this autumn.

If you live in Napa Valley, visit the antique dealer MA(i)SONRY, for this vintage red folding garden bench from France.  At $1200, it is a steal.

August 28, 2010

If GLEE was a flower...

Gladiolus, straight and tall, at a Gladiolus society show hosted by the Western Massachusetts Gladiolus Society.

The poor, poor gladiolus. Under-appreciated, and more likely to be associated with funeral sprays and rubber-banded into boring take-away bundles at the super market, than the show bench, the lowly glad is sad. But wait.....it's not too late to change ones association with the Gladiolus....instead of church alter , think mass planting in perennial border. Instead funeral spray , think orchids on a stick. Instead of thinking of mesh bags at Home Depot t, think stately 5 foot tall spikes of fabulous color. Don't be mad, be glad!

 Here, a mini Glad called 'Holy Moly', captured a top award.

Here is my odd observation:  Glads are one of those plants that for whatever reason, men grow more than women. Probably because in the 1940's, the Gladiolus was sold in feed and grain and hardware stores, where corms could be purchased in the spring, when one bought their seed potatoes or onion sets. These were not ladies plants, and thus, were banished to the rear of the Asparagus beds or behind tomato plants, as if men were embarrassed to grow such lovely and yet, frivolous flowers.
So if you think ho hum, when someone mentions the Glad, think again. If the Dahlia can have a comeback party, maybe it's also time for the show Glad to have it's coming out party. If show choir's cna make a comeback, so too can the Glad.

Sure, they are more garishly colored, but I think the reasons men aren't repelled by them has to do more with their ease of culture ( carefree) than it has with the fact that they are flowers. I equate the cultural preference of men owning the outside grill,  of that with men growing glads. Glads are acceptable to men, because they are generally grown in the vegetable garden, and not in borders or beds. One never fusses over them; Glad's are a hose-em-down,  spread-manure-on-em type of plant. They are Simple and straight forward. They are not emotional or frilly. Planted in stiff rows, they are  more soldier like than graceful.  Glad's are man flowers through and through, as male as a steak on the grill.  They come in a color palette that ranged from fire engine red, to John Deer yellow. I associate them with steamy summer afternoons picking string beans under the hot sun,  baseball game playing on an outdoor radio, barefoot and shirtless, a cooler of beer or a swig of cool water from a garden hose. Glad's are pure summer.

Troughs beyond alpines

 Don't read me wrong, I am addicted to alpine plants, and essentially, that's what trough gardening is all about. Evolving from 18th Century stone and slate troughs which were used on farms as outdoor sinks and troughs for water, these eventually became proper containers for the emerging turn of the century trend of alpine gardening, since they could hold the gravel and stony soil which many high alpine plants demanded.

Today, all rules can be broken, and although I have many alpine troughs planted with true alpines, I also plant some with other plants, such as this trough of South African Gasteria species ( and one Aloe species). One could argue that these are still alpine or alpine-esque plants, since many grow on top of mountains in South Africa, but regardless of what anyone says, a trough can be planted with anything. A shrub, a small evergreen, even bulbs if it doesn't freeze. This trough is just a simple concrete one purchased at a garden center, and I planted it with many seedling Gasteria species which a friend has bred. Now, in the summer, it is blooming, and it is easy to care for since Gasteria are succulent, and can survive with little water.

Most any succulent grows well in troughs, and contemporary ones like this slate cube, displays a smart mix of Echeveria sp. and other succulents which look terrific in the full sun conditions of our terrace.  It also looks like a crispy salad to Lydia, our new puppy, who has become a reign of terror for all succulents in pots this summer.

August 27, 2010

What large peduncles you have - Nerine falcata

 It takes high summer temperatures in order to get this rare Nerine species to bloom, but alas, we had our hot, dry summer. Much larger than most Nerine species like N. bowdenii and N. sarniensis, this bulb, native to the summer rainfall areas of South Africa, produces a show-stopping flower head, atop a particularly impressive peduncle.  Aside from its pedunculated endowment, below you can see that this tender bulb is growing in a vary large pot, which is prefers since it likes a deep root run. Not a houseplant, but sturdy enough for a cold northern greenhouse, they prefer hot summer temperatures and a bone-dry winter rest. Bulbs are planted with their necks out of the soil, and while in growth, it prefer lots of fresh rain water.
 PEDUNCLE = A stalk supporting an inflorescence.
Baby Lydia and our Nerine falcata

August 24, 2010

Van Gogh

 It wasn't even intentional, but after photographing this jug of sunflowers, I realized how familiar it looked. I bought the piece of Provencia pottery in the south of France a few years ago, since it had the traditional cicada pattern on it, but I rarely use it for anything. This motif is a bit too familiar, but I could not find another container which seemed appropriate.

Oh, try photographing anything at ground level when it is dinner time!

August 22, 2010

Rainy day chores in the greenhouse

 Finally, a rainy day. I don't think that we've had a rainy day since June, so not only was this a welcome event for the garden, it provided some guilt-free time for me to work inside the greenhouse, where in less than a month, things will start getting busy as autumn arrives.
 One chore I've been over due on is replacing the sand in the raised plunge beds which I use for the many South African bulbs, and Cylamen species. As you can see, some Cyclamen are starting to bloom early, even before they are watered around Labor day ( Sept 1) which initiates their autumnal growth. As cooler mornings of late summer start to occur, many of the autumn growing bulbs which have been dormant all summer, are starting to grow, moisture or not. With the fresh, damp sand, I pull anything that seems to be starting into growth, and move it to the front of the greenhouse where the sun is stronger, and where I can provide a little bit of moisture with hand watering. Too much moisture this early may rot these plants since daytime temperatures are still hot, and the air, still humid.
The biggest chore this weekend was repotting and organizing the Nerine sarniensis hybrids which have been semi dormant, and semi dry all summer long.

August 18, 2010

Good Bye, Park Seed and Jackson & Perkins, but who's next?

Two Horticultural giants filed for Bankruptcy protection this spring, and it is very sad news for many of us in the plant field who loved these companies.. The Park Seed Company, and Jackson & Perkins roses may very well become a memory.  In the words of Plant Delights Nursery owner Tony Avent "George W. Park Seed Company (which includes Wayside Gardens) filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection on April 2. Park Seed also operates two affiliate businesses, Park Seed Wholesale and Jackson and Perkins Direct Marketing (Roses), which were also included in the filing. Park has 120 days to present a plan for restructuring for long term success, or the assets will be sold to pay off its debts. In the meantime, it's business as usual". I grew up with these companies as many of us did, but as I think about it more, I have to admit, that I havn't really thought of these two companies lately. In fact, I don't think that I've ordered from them in ten years or more, whereas I order from Plant Delights Nursery every season, which begs the question: "Why haven't I?"

I think I know why.

August 16, 2010


Strawflowers, Johnny's Apricot/Peach Mix

You may remember a post I made in April, when I planted the seed for these strawflowers, a popular blend of colors created by Johnny's Selected Seeds of Albion, Maine. It quickly sells out, usually by mid January, so one needs to order it early. I did, and, I planted the 24 seeds that arrived in the packet which all sprouted quickly in the greenhouse. All seemed fine until a mouse ate them all. Luckily, I tore open the packet and couple of seeds were stuck in the seam of the paper folds, ensuring at least three plants which have now bloomed. So basically, I got an apricot, a peach and a nectarine. I can only imagine what the entire mix palette looks like. Here, they are combined with the black Scabiosa. Next year, I will grow more, for I don't think that I've grown strawflowers since I was in my twenties, which was like five years ago, right?

August 15, 2010

Repotting Cyclamen

Early August is prime time to clean up and repot winter growing greenhouse bulbs. The Cyclamen species are just starting to break dormancy, but it's not too late to repot or topdress them, since most Cyclamen dislike root disturbance. Particularly the Greek species C. graecum, so I like to repot these every three years, just as the start to think about growing for the autumn.

 This large Cyclamen africanum bulb has long roots that may seem dormant in the hot summer, but they actually will grow deep into the slightly damp sand of the raised bulb bed, where they search for just the perfect amount ot moisture. Other species of Cyclamen survive the hot summer just fine, with no water at all, but I' find that C. graecum prefers a touch of moisture. Repotting late, ensures that growth will start quickly as the weather changes, and I am less likely to lose bulbs.

Acis autumnalis, the Autumn Snowflake

Acis autumnalis, an unusual late summer blooming bulb, blooming now in the alpine garden, and not in a pot. The alpine bed is a raised, stone wall  bed that the runs the length of the greenhouse foundation. It's soil is fast draining blend of 50% granite chips, and 50% peat and soil.

 With all of this heat, it sure is nice to see something bloom in the garden with the species name of 'autumnalis', and yes, I'll take snow flakes in August. By mid August, many garden plants start to shift into new phases, as the days grow shorter, the nights cooler, and the rains (if we got rains) of autumn start to come. Acis, is a genus that has passed through many names, most recently, Leucojum autumnale, and some sources still sell these bulbs under that name. Related to, the Amaryllis ( Amaryllidaceae) taxonomists believe that in that family, they are closest to  Galanthus (Snow Drops). Acis autumnalis  are easy to please, except in very dry summer gardens, such as California, for they do need a little water in the summer. Here on the east coast of the US where I live, they are easy and relatively care free. With so few bulbs blooming in the late August garden, Acis are a welcome addition.
This clump began with a few bulbs 5 years ago, and they have self seeded and divided into a nice little clump. They produce lots of seed, and when planted densely, the make a more impressive show.

August 14, 2010

Saturday at the Farmers Market

 Heirloom tomatoes were everywhere this year. Little sign of late blight is ensuring a decent crop of tomatoes this year. At least something is enjoying the heat. These, on display at the Amherst, MA Farmers Market.

These rainbow colored carrots were small, but organic. They are about the same size as ours at home, obviously due to the lack of rain this summer.

 The handpainted signs are always interesting to me, as a graphic artist.

An August Saturday morning at the Amherst, Massachusetts farmers market is the perfect way to spend a nice, cool, sunny morning. With a touch of fall in the air, the high summer harvest was sure to be expressed at every stand. Even through we grow a lot, it's those things which you don't grow that are most desirable. This year, I was looking for Dahlias, different heirloom tomatoes, Okra, and sweetcorn. I ended up with Russian fingerling potatoes, fresh, home made yogurt and sweet churned raw milk butter, black cherry tomatoes, about 4 heads of Napa cabbage since they were marked down to a dollar each ( for Kimchi), and sunflowers since, hey, it's summer, right? Here are some shots of other things. Many vegetables were small due to the heat and the drought, we've had very little rain here in New England all summer. A few brief downpour in spotty thundershowers, and that's about it.

August 12, 2010

Experimenting with color

I like pushing color palettes, especially with the newer colors available today in many plants. Searching for odd, out-of-the-ordinary combinations can be fun, and liberating. I was raised as a gardener with many rules to follow; Gertrude Jekyll's Pink, silver and blue palettes, the all white and silver combo of a moon garden, the bright, garish palettes of Christopher Lloyds borders which are so exciting. As a designer myself, I respect all of those rules, and I have probable tried all of them many times, in many garden situation, but I would hardly be a designer worth my muddy boots if I didn't push the edges and search for new motif's, new palettes and more original and inventive combinations.

August 8, 2010

Neofinetia falcata the Samurai Orchid


I know, a very quiet blog this week... I was on vacation (at a family reunion at a nice, mid-century mod remote home in the quiet, dunes and pine forests of Wellfleet on the tip of Cape Cod), so I had excuses. Deep in those dunes of Newcomb Hollow it seems cell and mobile access is 'iffy at best, which was OK with me, since the unwired environment gave me permission to do other things, like  bond with my siblings, and to surf, swim and eat oysters.
I know, I'm not talking about the Neofinetia yet, but I'm, stalling since I have one more vacation day, and need to reregister Adobe Photoshop on this computer, consider a new design layout using Blogger's new system, and design a new header. I've been searching for the ultimate design, where I could possibly have advertising, as well as offer a brighter, easier to read page. Hopefully, this will be it!

August 2, 2010

Tequilla! Collecting Agave

The Agave collection grows, since I try to add a couple new varieties or species each year. There are so many forms available, that a collection just keeps getting nicer every year as new forms are introduced. Don't be fooled by catalog pages where many types look alike, once you get each in a container, they are all unique and beautiful when displayed outdoors in the summer. Long lived ( a century? maybe with some!) and easy to please, these  are indeed, succulents that don't suck. But they do prick you! So if you have small children or a new puppy like use, keep these plants in a safe location, for the spines are dangerous, and they can poke an eye out, or get jammed into a finger joint - don't ask!
 Agave americana is perhaps the most common of all Agave, but this white variegated form is particularly sweet. There are many clones, white white stripes, yellow stripes or no stripes, and all grow large so plan on a large, heavy tub which you will need to drag into the house during the winter, if you live in areas with deep frosts or wet snow. Many Agaves can handle some dry, freezing weather, but north of Atlanta, they are best grown as house plants or greenhouse specimens which spend the summer, outdoors.