June 30, 2014

Manboxes, Mangaves, Manfredas and that Angry Wood Pecker

I love odd color combinations, and our window boxes this summer show just how great a container can look when one gets a little creative with plant material. My rule? No green. "They're 'Man boxes' ", says my friend Jess calls them, planted in tones of tanned leather, olive drab and khaki - with just a touch of camo. Cigar anyone?

It's become a bit of a joke amongst my designer friends - how 'ugly' can I make a garden? Each year, a few of us challenge each other to see how odd a color combination can we create - since so much of what available today is just pink and blue. This year, I think I've nailed it - in what we've come to call my 'Man garden'. Window boxes planted in the tones of leather, camo, army green and olive drab. I think it's the reduced amount of green that helps these colors work. I tried adding salmon impatiens with what seemed to be the perfect shade of coral, but the foliage was just too green, so I removed them this week, and replaced them with some Begonia 'Firefly', which really complements the odd yet striking mix of earth tones.

But so much more is happening around the garden. Click below to see more:

June 21, 2014


Self-seeded biennials like Foxgloves (digitalis) continue to emerge in random locations around my garden - all tracking back to an original planting of seed-raised plants that I planted while in high school 30 years ago.

The very idea of a 'cottage garden' conjures up images of hollyhock framed borders, cockle shells and pretty maids-in-a-row, but the reality is often less-than pretty, edging on weedy, self-seeding messy beds of sturdy,  yet uninteresting perennials, often in colors that could trigger epileptic shock to an artist or designer who shrieks at the site of scolding orange poppies and inky violet lupins, along with the poison yellow of daylillies. Sturdy and long-lived is indeed how many North American gardeners define the perfect garden, but truth-be-told, there is little agreement as to what actually defines a true 'cottage garden', a term which disturbed the late Christopher Lloyd, even though he wrote 'the definitive book on the subject', as any Brit will tell us - cottage gardens can mostly be described as casually planted idealistic plantings often found in tourist calendars, cheap paintings on greeting cards and in fairy tales. 

Click below for more cottage garden inspiration:

June 18, 2014


A large golden yellow Rebutia sp. thrives on neglect, and winter cold ( if kept dry) in a bonsai pot.

I must have been around ten years old, when I started growing cacti. As most young boys, cacti fascinated me, at least enough so that I collected a windowsill full in my bedroom. I remember when one finally formed a large flower bud and bloomed one spring - - I felt as if I had raised the rarest plant of all, as even my mother had never been able to bring a cactus into bloom ( aside from her Christmas Cactus!). Today, I have to admit that I phase in and out of cactus collecting - which is OK, I suppose, as the cacti remain healthy and fine ( most of them, anyway) with about as much abuse as I can give them. Apparently, cactus are rather care free - at least when one has a cold, glass house.