Spring Arrangements & Flowering Plants

After a long winter I love to bring color back into my home as soon as possible. The houseplants have done their duty and brightened the gray days as best they can but now we all want some color!

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When planning your garden or rejuvenating it remember to plan for a variety of sizes, colors, sounds, shapes and textures to provide movement for the eye and a wide variety for bouquets and of course, to support pollinators.

Here are some early spring stars for bouquets that can be used to create the base or backbone of your floral arrangements:

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Tulips

Trees and shrubs – use the branches and flowers: Magnolia, Lilacs, Viburnum, Quince, Andromeda, Forsythia, Fothergilla, Ninebarks ( Physocarpus), Serviceberry (Amelanchier), Spirea, Deutzia, Azalea and Rhododendrons, Redbuds, Mock Orange, Red or Yellow Twig Dogwoods, Corylopsis (Winterhazel), Crabapples, Cherry and Apricot trees.

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Magnolia x soulangeana ‘Alexandrina’ saucer magnolia
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Flowering Cherry
Lilacs Robert Courturier
A Lilac allee’

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Forsythia on the Hudson River at NYBG

Spring flowers that are ideal for arrangements: Peonies, Hyacinths, Tulips, Daffodils, Lilacs, Alliums, Muscari, Pasque Flowers, Frittilaria, Roses, and Ranunculus to name a few!

Muscari
Muscari
Allium
Alliums
Daffodil field- Laurel Ridge
Daffodils as far as the eye can see!
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Pasque flower

Here are my top picks for more spring flowering perennials and bulbs.

Hellebores, Siberian Iris, Primrose, Feverfew, Alliums, Wisteria, Amsonia, Baptisa, Bleeding Hearts, Lady’s Mantle, Epimedium, Roses, Hypericum, Solomon’s Seal, Hosta leaves and Lobelias

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Bleeding Hearts – Dicentra spectabilis
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Siberian Iris

Also, don’t forget veggies when making arrangements.  Think about baby carrots, artichokes and curly kale and parsley.

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I love to pair Siberian Iris, Nepeta, Sage, Allium Globemaster or Gladiator, Amsonia and Baptisa and I mix them with Daylilies, Heuchera and Grasses for all season bloom after the spring flush is done.

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My spring garden

If you want to have flowers for cutting be sure to plant in large drifts not one here and one there. Planning for the next season now will yield you beautiful arrangements all year!

Are you interested in how I created my garden from scratch in just a few months? Here is a link to: Anatomy of a New Garden

Amaryllis revived! Amaryllis blooming!

 

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If you are like me and love these beautiful plants you will want to save them till next year. After blooming the bulb needs to rebuild itself. Cut off the flower stalks about 3-5″ above the bulb. Do not cut off the foliage. Keep the plant in a sunny location and water when the top inch of soil is dry to the touch. After all frost had passed I moved mine into the garden and sunk the entire pot into the ground for the summer. In the fall after the frost blackened the leaves I cut them off and brought the plants into the cool basement in the dark for about 8-10 weeks. I then repotted them with new soil and gave it a bit of warm water and put them on the window sill hoping they had survived. YEAH! Finally after many weeks they are just peaking thru. Now you start watering when dry. I have them on my west facing kitchen window sill. I will keep you updated with pictures as they develop. Fingers crossed they will be just as beautiful as last year!

Amaryllis are certainly worth waiting for.  With a little care these beauties will brighten your entire winter!

Tip for next season: Order in the fall for blooms by Ground Hog Day.  Amaryllis make great gifts.  Enjoy!

Outstanding Fall Color from Shrubs

Fall in New England can be a magical time with the explosion of color everywhere, the crisp fall air and the anticipation of winter.  It is important to consider all the seasons when planning your garden or adding to it.  If something is not working, be brutal and pull it out and replace it with something that provides color in a different season.  Here are some of my fall favorites considering that I live in Zone 5.

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Winterberry ‘Red Sprite’
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Viburnum  ‘Mariesii’
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Kousa Dogwood
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Barberry ‘Royal Burgundy’
Hydrangea ‘Quick Fire’ leaves turn glorious colors in fall
Hydrangea ‘Pinky Winky’
Allium tuberosum

 

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Pink Diamond
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Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ and Oakleaf Hydrangea ‘Alice’ which turn a deep red in fall
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Viburnum ‘Brandywine’
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River Birch
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Cotinus ‘Royal Purple’
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Physocarpus – Ninebark – ‘Summerwine’ and ‘Coppertina’
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Amsonia ‘Montana’
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Hamamelis x intermedia
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Acer palmatum – Japanese Maple ‘Koto no ito’

Of course, don’t forget about perennials- seed heads from Alliums, Sedum, Seed pods from Siberian Iris and Mums

Tell me your favorite fall perennials and shrubs! I also love Red Twig Dogwoods and Fothergilla gardenii for great fall color.

Did you miss the last blog on Fall Grasses or Handy Tips for Autumn clean up

Grasses- The Backbone of the Fall & Winter garden

There are grasses to suit every need and every garden no matter what climate you live in.  Slowly over the summer they grow and slowly by fall they capture you with the amazing structure they bring to the garden. They explode as the season progresses providing a perfect backdrop for late summer and fall blossoms like Dahlias and Black-eyed Susan’s. I now have so many different grasses in my garden and they serve as the backbone of each of my different beds. The foliage and seed heads can be variegated, gold, blue, red, dark-leaved, moisture loving, shade loving, sun loving, tall, short or just spectacular for fall color. They make great companions to other perennials like roses. They can be planted in planters, used just as accent plants, used to line or create pathways, to edge a border or even in water gardens.

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When the light shines thru the seed heads they are electric; lighting up the entire garden no matter the weather. Grasses capture light like no other plants I know. When backlit they almost glow from within and this is the ideal way to showcase them.

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Mine are mixed with Russian Sage, Salvias, Dahlias, Phlox, Black-eyed Susan’s, Daisies and Daylilies. I use them to create backdrops for my flower beds where hardscape is not possible. Certainly if you have a wall or other structures grasses can soften those features.

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The texture of different grasses provides a plethora of finely textured shapes all within the category of grasses.  You could just have grasses and no two would look the same. I love that grasses are such low maintenance plants.  Frankly, other garden plants take plenty of my time so these hard working plants can just take care of themselves.

Here are some of my grasses. Frankly, I’m losing track as my grasses as tags get lost.  When choosing grasses for your garden remember to check the water and light requirements, pest issues like deer and rabbit resistance before selecting.

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Little Zebra’ – ornamental grass Zone 5-9 Hgt 3-4’ (6-8’ tall when flowering) Wine-purple fading to tan; winter interest; Full sun to part shade

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Miscanthus sinesis “Gracillimus’ – ornamental grass- Zone 5-9 Hgt 4-7’. (8’ tall when flowering) Copper maturing to Silver; Great winter interest; Full sun to part shade

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Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ – Maiden Grass – Zone 5-9 Hgt 4-6’ (Flower stalks 6’ tall) Narrow green leaves with white Variegation on margins; Silvery appearance; Full sun to part shade but best in Full sun (far back left next to Norway Spruce)

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Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ – Feather Reed grass – Zone 5-9 Hgt 3′ (5′ tall when flowering) Purplish-Green flowers turn golden as seeds mature; Winter interest

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Miscanthus sinensis ‘Yakushima’- and ‘Yakushima Dwarf’ – Maiden Grass Zone 5-9 Hgt 3-4’  (Can reach up to 8’ tall) Very showy; Full Sun

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Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’ – Switch Grass Zone 5-9 Hgt 4-5’ (6’ tall when flowering) Olive green to bluish-green foliage with yellow flower panicles; Winter Interest; Full sun to part shade.  Full Sun is best

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Panicum virgatum ‘Rotstrahlbusch’ – Switch Grass Zone 5-9 Hgt 3’ (5’ tall when flowering) Silver-green leaves turning burgundy red; Winter interest; Full sun to part shade, Full sun is best

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Panicum virgatum ‘Ruby Ribbons’ – Switch Grass Zone 4-9 Hgt 2-3’ (4’ tall when flowering) ; Blue-green foliage that matures to purple-red. Performs best in Full Sun

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Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’ – Switch Grass Zone 5-9 Hgt 3-4’ Burgundy-Red foliage with reddish pink flower panicles; Full sun to part shade

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This year!
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Just planted last year

Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Moudry’ – Black Flowering Fountain Grass Zone 5-9 Hgt 2- 2.5’ (3’ tall when flowering) Best in full sun but can take part shade; Dark purple flower spikes (cover photo)

Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Red Head’ – Red Fountain Grass Zone 5 -9 Hgt 2.5-5’; Winter interest; Burgundy-Red plumes; Full sun

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Softening hardscape (rock and fountain)

Pennisetum oritentale ‘Karley Rose’ – Oriental Fountain Grass Zone 5-8 Hgt 18″  (3’ tall + when flowering) Winter interest; Showy, fluffy, pinkish-white flower spikes; Full Sun

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Schizachyrium scoparium ‘Standing Ovation’ – Little Blue Stem Zone 5-9 Hgt 3-4′ Brilliant fiery colored foliage though the fall

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Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ and ‘All Gold’ – Japanese Forest Grass Zone 5-9 Hgt 1 – 1.5’ Woodland Grass – Part Shade- Aureola is a golden striped form; All Gold has bright golden yellow leaves.

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Chasmanthium latifolium – Northern Sea Oats Zone 3-8 Hgt 2 – 5’ Self seeds if not cut; Good in an area that you can naturalize- another words- let it do its thing. Full sun to part shade; Seed heads emerge green but turn purplish bronze. Bright green leaves.

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Carex morrowii ‘Evergold’ – Sedge Part Shade Hgt 12-14″ (in front of bird bath)

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I also use annual grasses for color contrast and backdrop in my annual bed.

Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’ – Fountain Grass -Zone 9-10 Hgt 3-5′ Full Sun

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Now for the topic of cutting down grasses in fall.  This is really a question of taste.  Can you see your garden from the house? In winter, let’s face it – if we can’t see these plants or structures in the garden from inside you will not have much enjoyment from them.  In that case cut them down.  I typically leave mine up but tie them around so they don’t flop at the first sign of snowfall. This way I can watch them sway in the breeze, or more accurately WIND at my house! Be sure in either case that they get cut down in early spring before the new growth starts. Having said that some grasses do self seed and those you will want to deadhead or just cut down. I forgot to do that last year with my Sea Oats and I paid dearly for it all this year pulling out those unwanted seedlings.

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If your grasses are starting to have large areas that are not blooming it is probably time to divide them.  There are many great books out there on grasses. I really like “Grasses” by Nancy Ondra.

One of the best resources for plant information is Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder.  I use this to check zone compatibility, water and sun requirements, deer and rabbit resistance and soil preference. Another resource for information on Coleus: Plant Care Today

As you drive around notice how grasses are being used in your area!

Villa Vignamaggio – Tuscany

Villa Vignamaggio sits on the Florence to Siena route with views across olive groves and cypress trees in the heart of the Chianti Classico region in Petriolo very close to Greve in Chianti and was a quick drive from our base at Villa Bordoni.

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The symbol of Villa Vignamaggio standing watch
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Olive groves and Vines as far as you can see

The House which has an ornate and formal garden is allegedly the birthplace of Mona Lisa Gherardini who later became Lisa del Giocondo and is reputed to have been the model for Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of the Mona Lisa in 1503-1506. The church where supposedly he painted can be seen from the Villa. Villa Vignamaggio was also the setting for the 1993 adaption of “Much Ado about Nothing”. The garden was inspired by Italian Renaissance gardens and was intended to link the forest and the house via an avenue of Cypresses. The terra cotta statues represent the four seasons and are draped with roses.

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The Villa
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Who wouldn’t want to walk down the aisle for their wedding here!
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The church where Leonardo da Vinci painted his Mona Lisa

We enjoyed a lovely lunch and wine tasting and tour of the gardens, and wine cellars. Fabulous meal and wine!

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Wine tasting and lunch
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Wine cellars filled with Chianti Classico

I am going to let them tell you their story in their own words since I cannot say it better!


“A wine farm for over 600 years, Vignamaggio today offers first class accommodation in rooms and apartments, guided tours of its Italian Style gardens and the opportunity to taste the farm’s produce in its restaurant, Monna Lisa.

Half way between Florence and Siena, the estate extends for over 200 hectares in the hills of the Chianti Classico region.

Vignamaggio overlooks a countryside landscape, of forests, vineyards and ancient hamlets scattered about on the surrounding hills.

At the core of the farm is the Renaissance villa, surrounded by Italian style gardens, which fill the spaces between rows of cypresses, vines and olive trees.

On all sides, forest mingles with farmland, where for hundreds of years, farmhands have been working the land. At the edge of the forest or among the vineyards, one can glimpse ancient stone farmhouses, once the homes of the sharecroppers.

As the seasons change, the shapes and colours of Vignamaggio transform.

Tart forest fragrances permeate the fresh air of spring sunrises, sunsets warm the sky after summer storms, all merging with the distinctive pink of the villa. Winter slowly wraps the estate in a calm silence, as snow blankets the vineyards.

A working farm since 1404, Vignamaggio has been cultivating the vines and producing wine for over 600 years.

Open to the public since 1987, the historical dwelling offers first class accommodation with rooms, suites and apartments in the estate’s farmhouses.”

CHIANTI CLASSICO GRAN SELEZIONE “RISERVA DI MONNA LISA”

THE WINE IS A DEEP RUBY RED COLOUR. THE AROMA IS VERY INTENSE, PERSISTENT, DELICATE AND FULL-BODIED, WITH HINTS OF OAK AND BERRIES. A FULL, LONG, WARM MOUTH FEEL.

Vignamaggio is traditionally the birthplace of Monna Lisa Gherardini, the “Gioconda” painted by Leonardo da Vinci. This wine is dedicated to this noblewoman in his portrait.

THE WINE

The Chianti Classico Gran Selezione is only produced in the best vintage years, with grapes from the farm’s prime south west grape growing areas. It is a blend of 85% Sangiovese and 15% Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. In the first ten days of October, the grapes destined for this wine are carefully sorted, first in the vineyard and then on sorting belts in the cellar. The juice remains on the skins for 16-18 days after which racking takes place. Once malolactic fermentation has occurred, the wine is aged, first in small French oak barrels for 18-20 months and then in larger barrels. The minimum aging period is 30 months, at least 3 of which are in the bottle. 

 (Source: www.vignamggio.com)

Are you enjoying our tour through Italy? Love to hear your comments!  If you missed the Blogs on Venice, (2 part series) Florence, (5 part series) Amalfi Coast (5 part series plus Pompeii) or Puglia (5 part series on the cities in that region) you can always go back and read them. There are also blogs on Antinori Vineyards and Villa Bordoni in Chianti. All blogs are archived and can be sorted by subject. Next up how about Siena? See you soon!

Maywood Gardens- Garden Conservancy

A private estate located in Bridgewater CT was the site of a this past weekend’s Garden Conservancy Open Garden Days. I started in the amazing 4000 square foot greenhouse where they are transitioning from the bedding plants to winter plants like poinsettias and cyclamens. There were some true treasures in there.

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The Greenhouse Complex is the focal point of Maywood and is used to grow seasonal plants for display in the gardens and throughout the estate.

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Greenhouse

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Surrounding the greenhouse are annual beds, two with espaliered apple trees and an ornamental kitchen garden planted in a pattern style from which the main house is visible up the hill.

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Annual Beds
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Artichokes

Follow the pond up the hill to the house an pool area.  The views are breathtaking overlooking the CT countryside and the hills of the Berkshires.

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The loggia Garden is a formal boxwood garden featuring inlays of annuals this year salvia and artemisia. There is also a Perennial cutting garden to supply all those marvelous floral arrangements needed within the home.

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There is a sunken perennial garden protected by ten foot stone walls and everywhere you turn there are places to sit and enjoy each expanding view. This garden is done in a traditional English style and features a wooden pergola absolutely covered in trumpet vines.

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Sunken Perennial Garden with wooden pergola

Continue up the woodland path to reach the grass tennis court and the Gazebo garden which has a more cottage garden look to it.

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Tennis court Pergola
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Gazebo Garden

Thank you to Maywood Garden for this information and thank you to Leni and Peter May for opening their estate to The Garden Conservatory so we were all able to enjoy this remarkable garden.

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Trade Secrets 2017 – The Major General Ashley House

This eighteenth century house sits on an incredible piece of property overlooking the Housatonic River. Mature sugar maples, black locusts and an ancient willow make this property one to behold. The property is naturalized with daffodils and ferns beneath these mighty trees as well as other spring bulbs. The lawn slopes down to the bend in the river compelling you to stop and take it all in!

A formal garden of boxwood parterres and brick paths frame the front of the house. Wooden tuteurs in the center are clematis supports with the beds being filled with tulips in spring and Peonies and Russian Sage in summer.  The garden is enclosed with the quintessential wooden picket fence and a spirea hedge with crabapples surrounding the garden giving some relief from the road.

Parterre

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Have you ever tried to espalier a tree? Look how beautiful!

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If this doesn’t say come relax and enjoy the beauty I don’t know what does!

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Housatonic River

Entry into the pool area is through this door a unique element in the privet hedge encouraging you to see what is beyond.

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The pool house

 

The gardens were filled with blooming bleeding hearts in several varieties and color variations

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Bleeding Hearts
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A child’s swing just waiting for you to play.

Did you miss the other Trade Secrets Open Gardens? Here is a link to Coltsfoot Garden 

For more information on Trade Secrets and Women’s Support Services see earlier blogs.

See all the Blogs on Garden Conservancy Days, trips to Italy, and stay tuned for my upcoming trip to Tuscany and Venice in the coming weeks.

Trade Secrets 2017 – Coltsfoot Garden

One of the private gardens open this year for Trade Secrets was Coltsfoot Garden in Cornwall, CT.  This is an enchanting cottage garden that along with the colonial home has been in this family for almost 100 years.  Upon arrival you are immediately dawn in by the multi-colored lilac trees surrounding the garden, the crabapple trees and the surrounding landscape.  This is Litchfield county CT at its finest.

Lilacs

The garden while formal in structure is welcoming and plants are encouraged to self sow wherever they can find a spot.

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There is a newly added second vegetable garden placed closer to the house, surrounded by a picket fence, gravel paths and artful colorscaping of vegetables like asparagus, lettuces, peas, beans, tomatoes, peppers and rhubarbs. Plants are staked using branches and twigs in artful and rustic ways.

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There are perennial gardens framing a neighbor’s old barn featuring boxwood, peonies, crabapple trees, dwarf Alberta Spruce, roses, irises, bachelor buttons, spurge,  and daylilies which create a delightfully soft, uncluttered effect.

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Gravel paths are created in a geometric pattern to facilitate your winding your way throughout with their edges being blurred by lady’s mantle, nepeta (my favorite plant) and others.

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This is another garden area with an ingenious method of taming climbing vines. This garden features, raspberries, vegetables, peonies for cut flowers.  I suggest if you love to have cut flowers in your home and hate the idea of cutting in your ornamental beds that you plant a separate area for cutting flowers both perennial and annuals for all season flowers.  Don’t forget to use your greens like hostas, astible,  solomon’s seal, grasses and branches etc. to fill in.

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This couple lovingly maintains the property coaxing dahlias, hydrangeas, lilacs and roses to thrive year after year.  The formal yet informal design of the garden allows for times of not too much fuss!

Thank you to the Hubbard’s for opening their garden to us for Trade Secrets Open Garden Tours 2017. Can’t wait for 2018!

I have written many times over the years about the Trade Secrets event which takes place in mid-May each year.  You can read more about this fabulous event in previous blogs.

Trade Secrets

Trade Secrets GardenTours

Trade Secrets Garden Tours part 2

 

 

 

 

Anatomy of a new Garden

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Back yard complete

Some artists express themselves with paint, some with sculpture, yarn, wood etc.  I paint with light, color, flowers and capture that with my photography!

I recently moved to a new home and with that move I transplanted tons of plants from my previous houses  and have added new plants to create something special.  When I started in mid-May this year there was nothing on my new property except a lot of water and clover and a few builder installed obligatory plants.  First thing I did was remove the unwanted plants and install them on another property.  With the help of a friend I got a bird’s eye view of my property and began the design of a totally new garden that would be complete in 4 months!  I had plants and shrubs that needed to be replanted immediately as they were being transplanted and beds had to be designed, dug out, turned over, compost and sand added all over the property.

I came up with a layout and started drawing it out on the property so my contractor could dig the beds for me. My goal was to encourage all types of pollinators, birds, bees, (especially Honeybees) butterflies (especially Monarchs) and wildlife.  Four season color and interest were keys to my design. Winter structure was of primary importance as winter in New England lasts for many months. As all plans go, best laid plans changed a little.  We had to move things around a little to accommodate the septic system, clay soil  and water run off.

 

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Initial plans

 

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Grass marked and ready for digging

 

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Front yard starting point- tulips were mine and so was the fountain
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Beds being dug out and amended, plants patiently waiting for transplanting

New large full size trees were ordered and installed, new shrubs, perennials and bulbs added and finally annuals were added to liven it all up.

 

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The first of the large trees are installed

 

The finishing touches were just done this past weekend with the placement of several bird houses. Overall I can truly say I am very pleased with the results as are the birds. butterflies and bees!

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Back yard complete

 

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Grass is being aerated and reseeded this week. Next year the pathways will be bluestone- grass for now!

 

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New Hawthorn ‘Winter King’ Trees, Viburnum and Norway Spruce finally done
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Front pathway through the beds again waiting for BlueStone next year

 

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Clematis ‘Elsa Spath’ on Front Arbor leading to backyard with Climbing Roses and Autumn Clematis

Just waiting for my bulb orders to come in so I can get my Tulips, Alliums, Hyacinths, Camassia, Daffodils and Muscari in the ground.  Of course, it will soon be time to lift the Dahlia tubers and bring those in along with the Agapanthus and Calla Lillies.  I have started freezing my thyme, parsley and making pesto to savor all that yummy Basil all winter.

I have created my own canvas for photography.  I try to find the magic in each space whether on my own property or on a client’s.

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Enjoy the beauty of nature in all of our seasons!  Create items of interest for all 4 seasons. Leave your grasses and seed heads for the birds and you will be rewarded with beautiful sights when the snow lands atop them.

Think of your garden as an extension of your home.  Stage your garden rooms to get the best view!  Look at your garden from inside when you are creating it since that is where it will most often be viewed from.  Is it the kitchen window or your office or from the patio you most often look out onto the garden.  Consider this when adding elements to your garden and don’t forget a place to sit outside once in awhile to enjoy it all!

Remember gardening should be fun and stuff goes wrong for everyone! Still need help?  I have expanded my photography business to include Garden Consulting.  As an Interior Designer for many years and a photographer I then pursued a Certificate in Garden Design and Horticulture so I can help advise you.  Visit my website: www.lensidesigns.com

 

 

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