Archive for the ‘Garden Design’ Category

If you had asked me a few years ago which of my gardens I favor most, hands down the answer would have been my English-style flower border. It’s the garden I dreamed about and yearned for, but never had room to grow when I lived in the city.

But today my story has changed because my woodland shade garden has stolen my heart. I look out at it every day from my office window. In summer, from that distance of 20 feet, I can see a colorful mix of hostas, heucheras, astilbes and a host of hydrangeas. But it’s the smaller plants, those that stay close to the ground, that call to me to come and take a closer look.

I am thrilled my lungworts Pulmonaria, with their leaves splotched, spotted and glazed with silver, are reseeding. And tiny Japanese painted ferns are popping up everywhere. Native ferns got wind that the living was easy in the humus rich soil I prepared and have also taken up residence.

What are missing are the lovely native flowers that once filled the woodlands that surround my house. The dogtooth violets Erythroniumamericanumand trillium Trillium grandaflorumof my childhood are nowhere to be found. The large deer population that roams my acreage and adjacent family homestead has ravaged the wildflower population that thrived in the surrounding woods when I was a child, so now I will have to buy native plants I want to grow in my woodland garden. And I want to expand the collection.

Many woodland natives are early blooming ephemerals that flower in spring and then go dormant, so they are best purchased and planted in early spring. But they can be hard to find.


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Our Potager - March 16 - Week 11

Why raised beds?

If you lay out your garden with the traditional rows and paths of our grandparents you are limiting your garden productivity simply by using that old design. [more detail]

=The problem with the role and pass all design is that almost as much of a garden is dedicated to pass PA THS while in a raised bed Garden you get about a 30% increase in growing area just by changing the garden layout.

Raised beds offer more square feet of growing area than a row and path layout .  The key to this approach is that the bed is just wide enough so you can comfortably reach the middle from each side and therefore you avoid ever walking on the bed itself once it is established.  You can now plant vegetables throughout the entire bed placing them so when mature, their leaves are just touching the leaves of adjacent plants. For detailed information about how to develop a raised bed garden  go to ………


Roto tilling; yes or no?

A Rototiller is a very helpful tool when you are starting a new garden from scratch. With a new garden, you will probably need to use a rotor tiller for two or three years and then you should have no need for a rotor tiller thereafter.

If you have an established garden a Rototiller becomes a very destructive tool. In simple terms, a rococo or breaks up the valuable soil structure that has been developed by the soil food web last season.

For more information about soil management in the vegetable garden go to our website:http://gardening.yardener.com/YardenersPlantHelper/VegetableGardening/BasicsofVegetableGardening/SoilBuildingandManagementintheVegetableGarden

What Is This Succession Planting?

I would say that most vegetable gardens in this country waste a good portion of their potential productivity by planting the garden only once in the spring. By the end of July there may be 30% of the growing area is bare.

While it takes some planning it is not difficult to actually have three seasons in your garden. You would have the early spring season, the main summer season, and the fall season. The simple secret to accomplish this three season goal is to have plants ready to replace Spring season plants that are finished for the season. When the broccoli is finished in late June you may have any number of vegetables to take over that space. You can plant lettuce, carrots, beets, or almost anything else in that space. If you planted lettuce for example, in June, but well be pretty much finished up by late July. Men are and then you can plant something like tale to replace the lettuce and you have accomplished the three season goal.

Essentially the rule is to have no bare space that has no plans any time between June and October. Later in the season I will talk in more detail about up managing the fall crop. For more information on this topic go to:http://gardening.yardener.com/YardenersPlantHelper/VegetableGardening/BasicsofVegetableGardening/ExtendingTheGrowingSeason

What’s happening the next week or two in Nature?

Orchard Mason Bees Emerge and look for housing up to early June(Mason Bees Homes at http://www.masonbeehomes.com/). Not a problem.

Buy a nesting box (www.Duncraft.com)

Flocks of blackbirds move through if weather is warm

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I recently ran into a very interesting new concept for vegetable gardening. It is called “yardsharing.” Say someone has some yard space and would like to have a small vegetable garden, but doesn’t have a clue about how to get started or what to do afterward. The solution is for that homeowner to find one, two, or three persons or families who do know how to grow vegetables but live in an apartment or town house or someplace with no property on which to garden. The result is “yardsharing.” The homeowner donates that space and the gardeners set up and manage the garden and everyone shares in the harvest.

For example, take a senior citizen living in a house with a yard with space, but who physically is not able to garden. “Gardening Person” comes and sets up and runs the garden. The senior citizen gets half the harvest but probably won’t be able to handle that much. Extra goes to the food bank or the Garden Writers’ “Plant a Row For The Hungry.”

Gardening Person would rent a roto-tiller to break up the turf and dig the garden. Raised beds are optional. Gardening Person, after talking veggie preferences with “Host Homeowner,” purchases seed and seedlings then plants the garden. How much the Host Homeowner does is up for discussion. The system still works if the homeowner plays no role whatsoever; the harvest is still split 50-50 and it is still a good deal for both sides.

This idea apparently was conceived in Portland, Ore., and has spread to many other states. The Portland folks have a great Web site at www.yardsharing.com. There are hundreds of gardens in Portland that use yardsharing.

We have our own yardsharing program alive and well in southeastern Michigan. Go to http://hyperlocavore.ning.com/group/seekingyardsharesdetroit.

This arrangement is very similar to my foster apple tree idea. Some years ago I wrote about taking advantage of the thousands of full-sized old apple trees that are in backyards and have not been cared for in decades. The apples are small and wormy and the lawn is covered with rotten apples every fall.

The solution to this problem is for the owner of the apple tree, who knows nothing about caring for an apple tree, to find one, two, or three families with someone in the group who does know what to do. It takes three years to properly prune a tree that has not been pruned in many, many years. You can’t just clean it out in one season. However, even after the first pruning, if the tree is sprayed properly, the apple harvest will be edible.

A mature apple tree, properly cared for, can produce more apples than four families would ever be able to eat. There would be enough apples to also make some tasty apple cider.

Sharing is good for the tummy and good for the soul.

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Do you want to come along???

Adrian Bloom’s Celebration of English Gardens Tour
(For Garden Writers, Master Gardeners & those in the Horticultural Industry)

July 3rd – 11th, 2010

There is no finer example of using plants to inspire both intellectually and emotionally than English garden design. Steeped in history, English design styles, from formal gardens to cottage gardens, have lead the way in both Europe and the Americas since the 18th century.

This special Celebration of English Gardens Tour for garden writers and those in the horticultural industry will feature visits to some of the finest gardens, horticultural facilities and shows in England, personally selected by Adrian Bloom. Enjoy valuable networking and social opportunities as well.

Blooms of Bressingham has been famous for its selection of herbaceous perennials for more than 80 years. The father and son team of Alan and Adrian Bloom are the creators of Bressingham Gardens, whose 16 acres we will tour in a one-day visit. This is a unique opportunity to not only view the six distinct garden areas at Bressingham up close, but to meet and socialize with other garden writers from the UK, North America and Europe at a special Press Day event. Adrian’s latest book should be out by the time we are here.

Blooms of Bressingham – exclusive Press Day Event

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show – full day ticket

King’s Privy Garden – at Hampton Court Palace, view the Great Grape Vine – planted in 1768

Beth Chatto – acclaimed gardens of drought, water and woodland, based on sustainable planting

Thompson & Morgan – tour through their facilities and see the latest

Old Vicarage – this ‘hidden garden’ is a must see!
Will Giles Exotic Garden – tropicals are his passion

Cambridge Botanic Garden – over 10,000 labeled plant species set in beautiful landscape

RHS Hyde Hall – a visit to the 360-acre Hyde Hall estate is unforgettable in any season

Guided tour through the beautiful Abbey Gardens at Bury St. Edmunds Botanic Gardens, established in the 1800’s

plus more…

  • 4 Star Hotel Accommodation 8 nights
  • English Breakfast Daily
  • Welcome Dinner
  • Farewell Dinner at Pub
  • Entrances to Cambridge Botanic Gardens, Beth Chatto Gardens, RHS Hyde Hall, Will Giles Exotic Garden, Old Vicarage, Bressingham Gardens, and RHS Wisley
  • Special Press Day Event
  • Punt on the Cam
  • Tour of Abbey Gardens in Bury St. Edmunds
  • Entrance to Hampton Court Palace Flower Show
  • Entrance to HC Privy Garden
  • Ride on London Eye
  • Coach Driver tips
  • Stay tuned for more to be added!

For information go to http://www.gardeningtours.com and click on “blooms2010”

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If you read a lot of gardening books and magazines you’re probably familiar with the term mixed border. If not, don’t despair, it’s simply a term used to describe an elongated plot of land filled with flowering plants mixed with shrubs, possibly grasses and maybe small trees.

The issue of Fine Gardening magazine published several years ago featured the article Design a Border with Strong Plant Shapes by Sydney Eddison, that I think does a nice job explaining the visual impact of combining these plants and how one might begin go about putting together a mixed border.

The interspersing of shrubs and grasses among the flowers adds more than texture and color. Shrubs come in a variety of interesting shapes – cones, globes, mounds, spikes and fountains that add substance, depth and structure to the garden.

A before photo of the author’s garden depicts a sea of daylilies in full bloom. Though the area is awash with color, the garden lacks definition. And what will that space look like a month later when the lilies have bloomed out?

The after photos show a far more interesting scene, a garden packed with glorious blooming flowers framed with fountains of grasses, mounds and pillars of purple foliaged shrubs and a variety of interesting shaped evergreens. The added contrast of these strong shapes and lines turned a pretty garden into a fabulous garden that will carry the landscape through the four seasons

As I looked over the plant list Sydney Eddison provided I realized that, as is often the case, some of the recommended varieties will not work in many Michigan landscapes.

The gorgeous thread leaf Japanese Maple that thrives in Eddison’s Long Island, New York full sun border, that provides a large and graceful mound of mahogany colored foliage, could not handle that kind of exposure here in Michigan. And even if it could, it’s far too large for most yards. Flower lovers tight on space are not about to give up large chunks of plantable land to a tree, no matter how lovely it is.

But all is not lost. With a little detective work it’s not hard to come up with substitutes, downsized shrubs that are hardy and offer a stunning array of shapes, textures and colors for use in mixed borders.

For instance, let’s just take a look at some possibilities for globe and mound shaped shrubs.

When we think of globes, Arborvitaes quickly come to mind. But common varieties burgeon to 5 to 6 feet in but a few years. However, Thuja occidentalis ‘Danica is a true dwarf Arb that grows to only ten to fifteen-inches in height. ‘Golden Glove’, with its soft yellow foliage will stay within the 2 to 3-foot range and is hardy to a frigid zone 3.

Boxwoods are another classic choice for evergreen globes and they are on the list of deer resistant shrubs. Buxus ‘Green Velvet’ at 2 to 3-feet in height won’t require shearing to keep it from overtaking the garden.

Repetition of shape and color provide continuity that helps tie the mixed border together. And there are many deciduous shrubs that will not only repeat the globe or mound shapes, while adding season long color and interesting texture as well. The deer resistant Barberry ‘Rose Glow” with its lovely rose and pink mottled foliage that matures to a deep purple, is a colorful choice that might be used like book ends to anchor at the ends of the border. If you prefer green go with the 3 to 4-foot ‘Lime Glow’ Barberry. Burgundy colored Barberry ‘Crimson Pigmy’ will only rise to 18 to 24-inches. At the rear of the border repeat that globe shape and color with deep purple-leafed Weigela ‘Wine and Roses’. As a bonus, this stunner will produce oodles of intense rosy-pink flowers in June and flower sporadically on current season’s growth. At maturity ‘Wine and Roses’ will reach 4 to 5-feet in height, but it can be easily pruned to reduce its size after the initial blooming. And those prunings make fabulous foliage fillers for your cut flower arrangements. If you’ve a passion for purple, repeat that shape and yummy color in the front of the border with the low growing Weigela ‘Midnight Wine’.

Shrub roses also fall into the roundy moundy category. Conard-Pyle’s brilliant red ‘Kockout’ will flower non-stop from June through frost and make a stunning companion to those burgundy leafed plants.  The dainty pink polyanthus ‘Fairy’ rose is another possibility.

If bright lights turn you on, the glowing golden thread like foliage of Chamaecyparis ‘Sungold’ at a mature height of about 3-feet will give the garden a year-around shot of color. Bright yellow C. ‘Vintage Gold’ that holds to a height of 18 to 30 inches is another little treasure that will color up a full sun or part-sun border.

If you think of Spireas only in terms of the brilliant yellow harbingers of spring, get thee to a good garden center. ‘Dakota Goldcharm’ is a 12 to 15-inch dwarf gold leaf with bronze tips and pink flowers. ‘Pink Parasol’, topping out at 3-feet combines blue green leaves with big fluffy pink umbrella-like blossoms. Than there’s the vivid red 3-foot Spiraea ‘Neon Flash’. Keep these pretties dead headed and they too should re-bloom sporadically through out the summer.

When planning your new scheme, be sure to leave room for the vertical shapes in the form of grasses and shrubs.

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We need Johnny Appleseed to come back and make another round of planting apple trees.  People don’t plant apple trees in their yard as often as they did a few generations ago.  While we can now buy a fair number of varieties in the grocery store all year round, none of them taste as good as an apple grown at home.  Millions of Americans plant tomatoes each year for the same reason; better texture and better flavor.  What is interesting is that two dwarf apple trees will take up about the same amount of room in the yard as three or four tomato plants, take about the same time to care for, and will produce a similar number of fruits per plant.  Yet seldom does one see an apple tree included in the landscape design of any new homes these days.

One problem might be that most of us can remember grandma or a neighbor having an huge old apple tree in the back yard and it usually took an enormous amount of work to care for and while you harvested a ton of apples you still ended up with lots of apples rotting on the ground attracting yellow jackets and making a mess.  Another concern might be the trouble and worry about having to spray an apple tree many times with pesticides.  What folks today might not appreciate is that now those problems have either been eliminated or at least greatly minimized.  It is not difficult to grow apples in the backyard and you do not need much space to grow them.

Small Is In

While the standard sized apple tree can be 20 feet high and 15 feet wide, the dwarf and mini-dwarf trees available today grow to be only 6 to 8 feet tall and may be only 2-3 feet wide.  Any variety of apple can be grafted on to a dwarf root stock.  Stark Brother’s Nursery (www.starkbros.com) has even developed anapple tree they call the ”Colonnade” which has branches only 6 to 10 inches long growing up a single stem to be only about eight feet tall at maturity; now that is about as compact as an apple tree can get.  There are other advantages to having a dwarf apple tree. It is much easier to care for in terms of pruning time, spraying time, fertilizing and watering.

Fruit production on a dwarf tree is much more within human scale in my view.  A mature dwarf tree will give you at least 20 to 30 apples a year.  If you had three or four varieties, you would be harvesting at least 100 fresh, tasty apples; more than most of us eat in a year!  Apple sauce made from fresh picked apples is to die for.  You’ll never eat canned apple sauce again.

Low Spray Programs

Having to spray an apple tree ten or fifteen times a year is a situation only found in larger orchards with hundreds of apple trees.  That is a monoculture that attracts all the insects and diseases of apples.  When you intermingle two or three dwarf apples in amongst the diversity of your landscape, those problems are much less prevalent. You can find tasty varieties today that are almost completely disease resistant.  By using lots of compost and proper mulch your trees will be able to resist most disease and insect attacks on their own.  I sprayed my trees only two or three times a year and that did the job.  It’s almost impossible to have perfect apples using no sprays at all.

Consider Being A Foster Parent

If you don’t have the space or sufficient light for even one apple tree, you can still have fresh apples.  No matter where you live in metro Detroit,

you can find a home in your town or suburb with a huge overgrown apple tree in the back yard that has not been cared for in many years.  Go to the owner and offer to take over the care of the tree for half the harvest which could be over ten bushels of apples, enough to think about making cider.  Renovating an old untended apple tree takes about three years of careful and proper pruning.  Done properly you can bring a 100 year old tree back into very respectable production.  Be sure you check some references about the procedures for pruning overgrown and ancient apple trees.  It can be very satisfying to bring an old tree back, and you can be sure that the tree’s owner is going to be delighted with the deal.

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We woke up to a spectacular “hoar” frost this morning.  All the weeds, plants, trees and shrubs are coated all over with a sparkly white frost coating.  It is not ice; it is frost and does no harm to the plants as will a coating of ice. It is sometimes called “soft rime” or “white frost”.  Usually it disappears as the day progresses.

Trees Coated With Hoar Frost


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