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

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pruning in the Late Summer Flower Garden - Prune Away!

Flower gardens in late summer in my part of the world can be likened to a slightly overripe peach: they are a little too juicy and softer than you would prefer.

They are, as Shakepeare's wrote, "too much of a good thing"....

Pink Chaos coleus, Double Impatiens (orchid) and euphorbia Diamond Frost

What, then, to do with that overflowing petunia, the overgrown mock orange, that out of control spirea?

Bring them back from sweet excess by judicious pruning. 'Judicious' is the operative word here,  but above all, PRUNE AWAY!

Clematis, Blue Salvia stalks and Vinca

At this time of year, do not be afraid to prune back, shape and rejuvenate. Of course, late pruning of spring flowering shrubs such as lilacs will mean sacrificing some of next year's flowers but if you are like me, the unkempt appearance now far outweighs the flower display 6 months hence.

Blue Angelonia, Cambridge Blue Angelonia, New Guinea pink Impatiens, blue star juniper
Of course, pruning purists would be aghast that I say to prune the forsythia now (you will be forsaking their spring flowers) but sometimes you just have to get things under control!

Anyway, I am pruning back and deadheading many flowering annuals, perennials and deciduous shrubs right now. Here are some tips:

Pruning Tip #1 - Get yourself a good quality pair of pruning shears. I love Felco #2 OR #6. This cast aluminum hand pruner is my pride and joy and I have lost just one set (which upset me no end).....

they are expensive so ask for one for the holidays - a great gift!

Pruning Tip #2 - Know the difference between Pruning and Deadheading...Pruning is cutting and deadheading is the removal of spent blooms to encourage another flush of flowers within the same season. Do them both right now. Roses are very appreciative of deadheading.

Tip #3 - Timing
Most plants go into hibernation in the winter and stop growing.  For deciduous trees (those that lose their leaves), their dormant period is usually the best time to prune.
However for many perennials and shrubs you can prune at various points during the year depending upon which they are. Most plants respond well to any type of gentle pruning and will be hurt only when extreme pruning has taken place.

One of my flower borders with arbor gate  (for a a client)- just pruned back as you can see from the front edge....

Obviously, adverse weather conditions - whether it be hot or cold - is not a good time to prune but watering and an app. of compost tea or similar can be a quick pick me up.... late summer / early autumn is a good time to prune and cut back and deadhead...

A great book that tells you all about flower and plant combinations for your flower borders is shown below - and make sure to check our Allen Becker - the Garden Guru's review of it on Amazon as well:

Saturday, August 28, 2010

'Living in the Breath' by Richard Nedervelt

While I was on vacation in Hawaii I wandered into a wonderful art gallery in Honolulu....
Richard worked there and during my visit he shared a poem with me that was inspired by Hawaii. He had just written it in his notebook and he read it out loud ...

I would like to share it with all of you.
Richard also features it on his new blog, Living in the Breath.

Living in the breath,
standing in the waters,
the Divine presence is all around us.

It is like a cool strong breeze flowing around, beside, and through me.

When I am balanced within,
even the strongest storm cannot move me from where I stand,
for I am purified by my thoughts,
forgiven by myself,
and loved by the Beloved.

I stand on the land as if resting in the hand of the Creator,
and do nothing to the land I would not do to the Beloved.

Here in this moment,
 I am like night and day sharing the Heavens.
In sharing my space,
my breath rises and falls,
like a deep breathe uttering,


Friday, August 27, 2010

Trees of Peace - and Music

"...Years ago I heard somebody say that all our political and diplomatic conferences ought to be moved out of smoke-filled rooms and held underneath trees... I wonder if under those circumstances the conclusions reached might not be quite different from what they are at present..."

( page 159 of “The Lost Myth,” by Clyde S. Kilby. Arts in Society, Vol. 6, 1969.)  For a brief biography of Clyde S. Kilby, click here.  This information is from a wonderful blog, the Saunterer.

from justfocus in New zealand

Imagine if the United Nations met under trees? I imagine their discussions might be a little more fruitful....Trees are a wonderful mediating influence in our lives and are there to help...

If a child misbehaves, instead of sending them into a corner have them go outside and sit at the base of a tree...or better yet - in its limbs! Tell him or her to talk to the tree and listen to its guidance...the children would know exactly what you mean (up until about age 9). No tree out there? ah! now is to the time to plant one!

Great Elm of Pennsylvania (actually, Great Elm Tree of Shackamaxon)

In 1682, along the banks of the Delaware River, under the shade of a great elm tree, William Penn made a Treaty of Friendship with the Native Americans which led to the founding of Pennsylvania.
William Penn's Treaty with the Indians became a universal symbol of religious and civil liberties. Voltaire made reference to the event in 1764 and artists thoughout Europe recreated the scene first painted by Benjamin West in 1771. Edward Hicks (Peaceable Kingdom) created numerous depictions of the treaty meeting to promote social change.

The "Great Elm" as it was known, remained as a living monument to this event until it fell during a violent storm in 1810. You can still visit Penn Treaty Park.
The descendent of that Tree is still there, now called Penn Treaty Park. It is the original scion of the great grandfather that still blooms in Haverford, Pa. (Haverford College.) More interesting info and pictures can be seen here: Treaty Elm Tree

Treaty Oak (Quercus virginiana),

Treaty Oak in 1970's from Mr G's photos in Picasa
Native Americans of the Austin region preferred to make important decisions under a grove of live oak trees - the so-called Council Oaks. Tejas, Apache and Comanche tribes revered these trees. It was here that Stephen F. Austin closed the first boundary line pact with the Indians.
The Austin "treaty oak" is the last survivor of these council oaks and is almost 600 years old.
 In 1927 the American Forestry Association proclaimed the Treaty Oak to be "The most perfect specimen of a North American tree" but today it is a shadow of its former self.  In 1989 a vandal poured a large amount of herbicide on the ancient oak. The tree went into shock but Ross Perot financed the rescue of this landmark tree  - three and a half feet of contaminated topsoil around the tree were removed and replaced, tall shading screens were erected and spring water was misted onto the leaves every half hour. The Treaty Oak survived but lost many limbs.

They made many products from the fallen branches of the treaty oak - the most popular item for sale seems to be the 'treaty oak gavel' - for use by the judiciary - how fitting!  Check it out here: Treaty Oak products

In the name of peace and trees and music there is no better project right now than the

The African Blackwood Conservation Project was established in 1996 by James Harris, a woodworker from Texas, USA, and Sebastian Chuwa, a botanist from Tanzania. The aim of this group is to help replenish this valuable tree in Tanzania. Most people have not seen blackwood but almost everyone has heard it, for it is the premier wood of choice for fine concert-quality woodwind instruments such as clarinets, oboes and flutes, as well as being used in the manufacture of bagpipes.

Serengeti Plains in Tanzania

Blackwood is also the finest material available today for producing ornamental turning. In its African homeland, it is used to make intricate and highly detailed carvings  (makonde)and plays a vital role in the ecology of the East African savannah.

Planting a mpingo seedling ( takes 60 years!)

The African blackwood or mpingo tree (botanical name: Dalbergia melanoxylon) is being depleted at an unsustainable rate. It is extinct in Kenya already.

Mpingo Alley in nursery

I stayed briefly in Ngorongoro Crater (with the Masai) in Tanzania and I know how wonderful the Tanzanian people are. This is the best tree project for peace I can think of.....

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Lion Whisperer - Kevin Richardson

Lions have nothing to do with gardens for sure...but they are a part of Nature's magnificence and so I wanted to share this with theory is that avid gardeners also love I right?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Flowers of Hawaii


The flowers of Hawaii are everywhere and are used in a variety of ways...You cannot be in Hawaii without noticing the flowers. Leis of flowers are worn on the head and around the neck by both men and women.   Flowers rule!

So without further ado, here are some luscious flowers I saw along the way....

and my absolute favorite, the fragrant Plumeria or 'melia' in Hawaiian
 (I used to wear one in my hair to college classes:   if you are looking wear it over the right ear, if you are married wear it over left ear)

There are more than 300 named varieties of Plumeria. The flowers are most fragrant at night in order to lure sphinx moths to pollinate them. The flowers have no nectar and simply dupe their pollinators.

Its common name "Frangipani" comes from an Italian noble family, a sixteenth-century marquess of which invented a plumeria-scented perfume.  They are associated with temples in both Hindu and Buddhist cultures, where they are known as "Champa". (theincense, nag champa, contains this along with other scented resins)

The native plants of Hawaii are of the most interest to me...Here are some interesting facts about the sacred plant of the hula goddessses:


If you want to know all about Hawaiian flowers please go to Noel's blog - A Plant Fanatic in Hawaii''s post is gorgeous.

And if you go to Hawaii you may want this great guide book to its flowers:

Monday, August 23, 2010

My first - very short - video garden tour!

I have joined the video revolution with this very short tour of my postage stamp garden and just as I began my neighbor chose to open his long ladder....

so here is a brief tour - with sound effects to boot!

The photos below show what my garden loooked like before....

Rocks and soil for mounding and bordering along drystream


layout for dry stream that you see in the video

National Tropical Botanical Garden - Kauai

Breadfruit at the National Tropical Botanical Garden, Kauai

In my opinion, an interesting garden blog entry is similar to a salad nicoise – it is best when a variety of fresh, bite sized ingredients that complement and enhance each other are used. It should be an appealing mélange of slightly filling information with a splash (not too much!) of vinaigrette opinions to round out the flavor.

So in the spirit of salad nicoise - not too filling but appetizing nonetheless -  I present to you my latest entry:

KAUAI! Almost forty years ago (gasp) I hiked the Kalalau Valley goat trail on the side of a cliff for 2 days to get to an uninhabited magical beach that you can now see in some episodes of ‘Lost’:
Kalalau Valley - where I hiked to many years ago

Back then, the island of Kauai was a sleepy backwater where life moved slowly…it still is, although wealthy celebrities have since discovered it.  But here I am once again, enthrall to the ‘Garden Island’ and her sultry charms.

This is the home of the 80 acre Allerton Garden (part of the National Tropical Botanical Garden). On my first day here I head directly to the south shore to see this unbelievable hidden gem, first a home of Hawaiian Queen Emma and then transformed by an artist and an architect in the mid 20th century.

I take a wonderful tour with John, a surfer dude who is training to be a font of tropical plant knowledge ( he is not quite there yet...I stopped asking hard botanical questions after he explained he was studying as fast as he can).

John giving his wonderful Allerton Garden Tour
John points out the native plants (brought to the Hawaiian Island by birds and waves most likely), the ‘canoe plants’ (brought here by ancient Tahitians) and the naturalized invasives (brought here by the ranchers, sugar cane growers, colonizers and the well meaning know-nothings)….

Allerton Garden - 'Lawai Kai' - on the Island of Kauai (in the State of Hawaii) August 2010

All around me in this deep verdant valley paradise are exotic species – breadfruit, calabash, ginger, cava, yellow bamboo, Travellers palm, Monkeypod tree, Kiawe ( mesquite), bird of paradise, Ti plant, Ixora. I studied horticulture at University of Hawaii, Manoa campus, (the legendary ethnobotanist, Bea Krauss, was a lecturer there when I attended) and I used to know the name of every plant here. The plants greet me like old friends and I remember their Latin names in fits and starts as the slow tsunami of memory engulfs me -‘Strelitzia' just popped in my head….

Strelitzia reginae - Bird of Paradise


Allerton Garden is a series of tropical garden rooms dotted with European statues, myriad water features and a luxuriant golden bamboo grove.

Golden Bamboo Grove in Allerton Garden

The focus is on landscape design but it is the plants that capture my imagination.

Along the tour John stops to show us a large stand of native Shampoo Ginger or `awapuhi kuahiwi. The botanical name is Zingiber zerumbet. (got that, John?). Shampoo ginger was introduced to Hawai'i by the early Polynesians who used the sap from the flowers as a shampoo.
In the summer, new leafy stems emerge from ground level and grow to be about 2 to 3 feet tall. The leaves are followed by the emergence of flowering shoots that develop tips that look like pine cones. After several weeks, most  the flowering heads gradually turn a bright, eye-catching red.

awapuhi - shampoo ginger
John cut a bulbous flowering head and squeezes. Out gushes a gingery-fragrant, watery sap. This slightly slippery liquid is a natural shampoo and is what made Paul Mitchell a millionaire.

John squeezing the shampoo sap

The garden was created by wealthy Robert Allerton and John Gregg, an architect (Gregg was the adopted 'son',  he was about 20 years younger than Allerton).
They purchased the lower portion of Lāwa‘i Valley in 1937 and moved into their new home in 1938 which was designed by John Gregg (shown in the photo above).

They spent about 25 years designing the gardens and in 1964, the last year of Robert Allerton’s life, the Pacific Tropical Botanical Garden was established. A gift from Robert to the fledgling institution made possible the purchase of land adjacent to the Allerton Garden, which became McBryde Garden. In 1986 when Gregg passed away, the Allerton garden joined it.

Here are some photos of features in Allerton Garden:

The fascinating aspect of Allerton Garden to many people is that it is the locaiton for several movies. In fact, this past June and July it was closed to the public because the latest ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ was being filmed there. Here is one location you will see in that upcoming movie:
Allerton Garden View

And this is where in ‘Jurassic Park’ the scientist and his niece and nephew find dinosaur eggs, “Life found a way”. Remember these trees?

If you ever go to Kauai, put the Allerton Garden in Lawai kai on your ‘must see’ list!

Look at this to see why I went back to Kauai - there is no other place like it for garden lovers..