Creating harmony, simplicity and peace in the landscape......

"Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help.

Gardening is an instrument of grace. "

May Sarton

Friday, August 29, 2014

A Tuscan Garden - Garden Photo of the Day

Federico Forquet Garden  - click here 

Federico Forquet has spent his long life in the fashion industry and in design of all kinds. Here is his garden in the Tuscan hills in Italy. It is a serene sanctuary.

Forquet says that creative fulfillment is a personal quest, not a public endeavor. “If you create an Empire you become an Emperor. But I prefer being a private and happy citizen of the world.”

Monday, August 25, 2014

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Oakhurst Pineapple Lily - Garden Photo of the Day

Pineapple Lily - by Jan Johnsen

Oakhurst Pineapple Lily (Eucomis 'Oakhurst') has pineapple-like stalks of creamy flowers and strap like foliage.

 A summer stunner, 20" tall!

This deep-purple leafed lily loves sun and has a tropical look. It holds its color when the weather gets extremely hot. This bulbous perennial also exhibits excellent cold hardiness. 

Looks great in planters, especially with silver foliage. Lasts 21 days as a cut flower!

Give it a year after planting before you expect flowers.

USDA Zones:

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Take a Seat! Stone benches in the Landscape

stone bench by Johnsen Landscapes & Pools 

 In August, gardens in my part of the world, are a tangle of foliage, flowers and dense tree canopies.

We know we should start cutting back, limbing up or clearing out the overgrowth but what we really want to do is sit in the cool shade and drink a tall glass of iced tea.

Antique sandstone Bench from English Garden Antiques

Ah, a place to sit in the cool leafy shade! What better contrast to the soft green lushness that surrounds you than a stone seat or bench, immutable, grounded and cool to the touch...

See some great stone benches at the Stonepost website

Stone seats in the garden have a storied history. The Druids of Northern Europe fashioned stone chairs out of boulders. It is surmised that they were used for rituals and perhaps coronations of a sort.  Today, in the British Isles and in France, you can find ancient stone seats in fields, woods and near sacred springs.

Sunny Wieler, an Irish stonemason / artist, follows in his ancestors' tradition and wrote about making stone seats in his marvelous blog, Stone Art Blog (check it out!).  Stone Art is his company which serves County Cork and Dublin. Here are some of  his marvelous creations.

Sunny Wieler - Stone Art Blog

You might expect all stone seats to be massive and heavy but this is not the case.

In the Chinese tradition, they fashion rounded stone seats (some are carved to look like drums) which encircle a stone table. You can see a great example in the Chinese garden at Naumkeag in Stockbridge.

Traditional Chinese stone table and stone seats

Following this idea, the wonderful designer Jinny Blom created Spore seats.  Although not technically pure stone (they are made of a eco friendly moldable stone) they hark back to Chinese stone seats with a more modern flavor. I love them.  They were a commissioned design for a permanent installation at London’s Design Centre Chelsea Harbour, which won a prestigious BALI Landscape Award.

Jinny Blom's Spore Seats

Another modern take on ancient stone benches is made by Escofet. Their Bilbao benches are also not pure stone but look how great they are.


Of course, benches can also be fashioned from a combination of wood seat and stone legs like here in Carmel by the Sea in California. I think this combo is a great way to incorporate stone in a public setting....

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Enchanting 'August Lily' Hosta

Hosta plantaginea 'Aphrodite' at The Mount in Lenox, Ma.
photo by Jan Johnsen.  

The old fashioned 'August Lily' (Hosta plataginea) is a magnificent fragrant, white flowered Hosta that deserves to be rediscovered. Perfect for an evening fragrance garden. It needs sun to bloom.

First imported to England from China in 1790, Hosta plantaginea came to the United States a short time later.

 Since this species is from a more southern clime than other Hostas, it is more heat loving than most. It also blooms later in the year and features a honeysuckle like fragrance!

The large white flowers of Hosta plantaginea certainly puts it in a class by itself.  They  are 6 inches long, pure white and open at 4 pm in the afternoon. 

(Most hostas have flowers that open around 7 am in the morning).

And the best feature for me is that Hosta plantaginea continues to produce new leaves all summer long! This is a particular advantage when the original spring foliage becomes damaged or diseased. So the hosta leaves look as fresh in August as they do in spring.

Try the double-flowered selection, Hosta plantaginea 'Aphrodite'. 

It has large, pure white, intensely fragrant flowers that open in late summer on 2ft stems. Try it along a sheltered path where you can take in the heady fragrance.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Garden Word of the Week - Pappus

dandelion pappus by polarblogger
The pappus is found in flower heads of the plant family Asteraceae
The pappus may be composed of bristles, sometimes feathery. In some species, such as Dandelion or Eupatorium, feathery bristles of the pappus function as a "parachute" which enables the seed to be carried by the wind.

dandelion by binzy
The name derives from the Ancient Greek word pappos, meaning "old man", used for a plant having bristles and for hairy seed of certain plants.

Horseweed seed heads

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Magic of Frost Flowers

photo by Nick Page

This strange ice formation - found in woods in  goes by several names - frost flowers,  ice flowers, ice ribbon, rabbit ice, rabbit frost, ice wool and more. 

Photo: MarkInspex/Flickr

Rabbit ice forms when the air hits freezing temperatures and sap in the stems of plants expands as it freezes, causing cracks to form along a stem. Water is then drawn out through the cracks, freezing as it hits the air, and forms layer after thin layer as more water is drawn out, eventually creating petals or ribbons of ice.

Image Credit Flickr User Cotonis
It looks like a puff-ball of cotton candy made up of clusters of thin, curved ice filaments. 

Image Credit Flickr User markinspecx

Your best chances of spotting rabbit frost is in the early mornings in wooded, shaded areas when weather conditions are just right. 
Image Credit Flickr User slowmoz

I have never seen it in person - good luck!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Native, Blue Flowering Plant for your Woodland Garden

Heartleaved Skullcap - photo by Hippie mama
Got Dry Shade?  

Heart-leaved Skullcap (Scutellaria ovata) is a native, deer-resistant plant for a dry semi-shade to open shady site. It grows 14-20” tall and is hardy in Zones 4-9. 

It also has blue flowers.  Wow!

During the summer the blue-purple, snapdragon-like, tubular flowers bloom and last until early fall. Afterward, the flowers are replaced by small dark nutlets (skullcaps).

This plant likes alkaline soil with pH of 7 to 8. (Add lime). The root system is fibrous and spreads by rhizomes.  It can be a little aggressive so take care. 

Its leaves are ovate and have a purple metallic patina to them at flowering. Quite lovely. 

photo source click here 

Heart-leaved Skullcap is easily grown from seed and will self-seed in the garden. Plants may go dormant after bloom in hot dry summer weather so plant summer salvia or other plants nearby. 

Deer avoid it. Isn't that great?

This variety of skullcap is native from Maryland to Kansas south to Tennessee, Texas and Mexico. 

Grow Heart-leaved Skullcap from seed and let it spread. Buy now and seed.

tried and true plant - click here for source 

It is drought tolerant, once established, and is a magnet for native insects and butterflies. 

Plant in groups in borders, meadows, native plant gardens,and open woodland gardens.

Buy seed from many sources including Gardens of the Blue Ridge and  Prairie Moon Nursery.

skullcap seed from Prairie Moon Nursery 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

In Praise of Butterflies

photo by Debashish Samaddar 

It is butterfly season now and I search for them everywhere.

They are few and far between because of the pesticides people use. 

Ironic, isn't it? We apply poison to have unmarred flowers and leaves only to kill the very creatures that the flowers are here for. 

Here is what others have to say about these magical little beings: 

"The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough." 

- Rabindranath Tagore

"What the caterpillar calls the end of the world the master calls a butterfly."
 - Richard Bach

monarch butterfly

"What's a butterfly garden without butterflies?"
- Roy Rogers

“Well, I must endure the presence of a few caterpillars if I wish to become 
acquainted with the butterflies.” 

― Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry,  The Little Prince

glass butterfly 

“Butterflies are self propelled flowers.” 

― Robert A. Heinlein

“We are all butterflies. Earth is our chrysalis.” 

― LeeAnn Taylor

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Happiness and Flowers

"The earth laughs in flowers..." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

If Emerson was right, then the earth in my part of the world, the northeast United States, is guffawing right now.

Big belly laughs of coneflower, Shasta daisy, dahlias and more.

scaveola, mini petunias, lantana photo by Jan Johnsen

Chuckling up lantana, giggling could you not smile?

Flowers make us happybut why?

flowers make us happy!

Well, a fascinating study in the journal of  Evolutionary Psychology – ISSN 1474-7049 – Volume 3. 2005. - 121 reported on this phenomenon.

Psychological researchers from Rutgers University wrote,
 "An Environmental Approach to Positive Emotion: Flowers"

Pool Design and Flower garden by Jan Johnsen

Some of their findings include (I chose the following excerpts from their study): 

"our results indicate that the simple presentation of flowers, even a single flower, will release a strong and immediate behavior reflecting positive affect...

 blue angelonia with euphorbia 'diamond frost' , blue star juniper, pennisetum photo by Jan Johnsen

 Some participants responded with such unusual (for experimental studies) emotional displays that we were unprepared to measure them and have only field notes to indicate their presence.

Lucky White Lantana
We received attractive “Thank you” cards and letters from several participants who received flowers for allowing them to be in the study,

 some with photographs of the flowers, one with multiple photographs to show the continuing beauty of the bouquet.

In many years of studying emotions, we have never received hugs and kisses, thank you notes or photographs, not even for candy, doughnuts, decorated shirts or hats, gift certificates, or direct monetary payment; the flowers are different...

Yarrow 'Coronation Gold'

...humans are biologically primed to associate flowers with happiness...

...Our hypothesis is that cultivated flowers fit into an emotional niche - their sensory properties elicit human positive emotions. 

The flowering plants are thereby rewarding to humans and in return, the cultivated flowers receive propagation that only humans can provide. "

 Knockout double roses, Dutchman's pipe in distance - by Jan Johnsen 

Ah! We need the flowers for our emotional healthand they need us to propagate them. 

So smartthose little flowers.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Garden Photo and Plant List of the Day - Young Flower Garden, Cornell

Cornell Plantations Garden photo by Justin D.Kondrat
 The Cornell Plantations gardens in Ithaca, New York are intoxicating in summer!  

This is the YOUNG FLOWER GARDEN there.  This garden celebrates our responses to significant plants by revealing how these plants are reflected in art, literature, ceremony, the symbolic meanings they communicate, 

and the emotions they evoke
Cornell Plantations click here
The Young Flower Garden is a combination of annuals, perennials, and shrubs hardy to a northern climate. 
They have booklets that focus on the lore and cultural uses of 10 common flowers: the rose, carnation, daisy, sunflower, poppy, lily, iris, tulip, peony, and chrysanthemum.
Click here to download a plant list for this garden  (pdf file, 46 pages).