Category Archives: Featured

Planting for Honey Bees

Lindera benzoin, blooming in March,  is an early source of nectar.

We are about to begin our 4th season as beekeepers, and it has been fascinating, heartwarming and at times, devastating. It’s too early to be assured of our hives’ winter survival but there was a whole lot of action around all 3 hives during the recent 2-day warm spell. Off “the girls” went in search of food to replenish their winter stores. This brought up the question: which specific plants would the bees find around our property that might provide pollen and nectar? I knew our Witch Hazels (Hamamelis) were just beginning to open. What other plants could we introduce to ensure an early and sustained supply of bee nourishment in our northern climate?

Hamamelis ‘Arnold’s Promise’

There is much information for attracting pollinators, (a great source is Margaret Roach’s A Way to Garden blog and podcast) but not so much specifically for the honey bee, Apis mellifica. I was able to get bits of info here and there, and finally found an online document, Gardening for Honey Bees by Kathleen M. Prough for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, which was quite thorough and easy to follow.  It provided a lengthy list of trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals, notating their bloom period and whether they provided nectar  (for energy and honey production) or pollen (for protein) or both. Note to non-beekeepers: only certain plants provide nectar for bees, and when these begin to flower, beekeepers get ready for what we call the Honey Flow, a busy time for foraging bees to collect nectar to bring back to the hives. 

Salix chaenomeloides ‘Mt Aso’

Here in the northeast, honeybees can forage from February through November, as warm temperatures permit. It is important for bees to have a steady supply of flowers to forage, and for the beekeeper to take note of when there is a dearth in her/his area. After referring to Kathleen Prough’s list, I checked off which plants we already had on or near our property and noted which bloom periods I needed to supplement with the right plants to fill the voids. It is important to plant groupings of pollen and nectar-producing perennials and shrubs.  Honeybees scout for sources and concentrate their efforts where there are ample stores. “Flower fidelity” is the phrase describing how honeybees focus collection efforts on one type of flower, as they single-mindedly collect pollen and nectar from one type of plant, ensuring good plant pollination.

Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) in late February

Crocus tommasinianus ‘Ruby Giant’ with Iris ‘Kathryn Hodgkin’

I definitely knew I needed to add more late winter/early spring pollen and nectar sources. In the woodland behind our hives we have room to add Spicebush, Lindera benzoin and in our low wet area,  space for more Willows, Salix spp.  The early flowers of species Snowdrops (Galanthus) are sources of pollen. We already have a nice little stand of Crocus which provides pollen, but why not plant more?  Siberian Squill  (Scilla siberica) is another early bulb loved by bees and it has amazing blue pollen  Last year I noticed some honeybees on the early blooming  Helleborus niger, although I did not see it on the bee plant list. Hopefully, the nearby swamp maples and alders will provide a good supply of pollen in early April.

Pieris japonica

Enkianthus sikokianus

During April-May our gardens have a decent supply of bee loving flowering trees and shrubs: Apples (Malus)  Blueberries, (Vaccinium), Aronia,  Pieris, Enkianthus,  Hollies (Ilex) and Boxwood (Buxus).  Late spring/early summer perennial selections that offer pollen and nectar include  Baptisia, Crambe, Nepeta, Monarda, Phlox divaricata and stolonifera, Periscaria polymorpha and more.

Calamintha nepeta (Calamint)

Caryopteris x clandonensis Blue Empire

High summer into fall plants include Agastache, AlliumAsclepias, Calamintha, Echinacea, the perennial sunflowers Heliopsis and Helianthus, Lavender, Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum), Penstemon, Persicaria amplexicaulis, Rudbeckia, Salvia, Teucrium, Verbena, Vernonia and Veronicastrum. Oakleaf Hydrangea (H. quercifolia), Smooth Hydrangea (H. arborescens) and Blue Mist Shrub (Caryopteris) are summer blooming shrubs that I’ve noticed lots of bees visiting. We are fortunate to have a stand of Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) right near our hives, and its nectar makes the most delicate honey. I’m told the honey derived from the nectar of Sourwood (Oxydendron arboretum) is also to die for. In case you are unfamiliar with Sourwood it’s a native tree with drooping panicles of white bell flowers in mid-late summer with outstanding fall foliage color. 

Cerinthe purpurescens aka Honeywort

Honeybee visiting Salvia vanhoutii

Planting annuals favored by honey bees will give quick results and offer food this season, well into autumn.  Early flowering annuals such as Honeywort (Cerintheand Calendula can start your season. Top honeybee choices for summer are Alyssum, Basil, Borage, Cleome, Cosmos, Salvia, Sunflowers, Tithonia and Zinnias to name a few. These annuals, along with fall blooming perennials such as the various Asters, Goldenrod (Solidago), Sedum and Chrysanthemum will provide more end of the season pollen sources.

very late blooming Aster ageratoides ‘Ezo Murasaki’

Chrysanthemum ‘Sheffield’ in early November

You don’t have to keep bees to support the honey bee population, but do consider planting more bee-friendly plants in your gardens. Please refrain from using harmful pesticides (neo-nicotinoids, once thought safe, are very bad!), herbicides (no Roundup!) and fungicides in your gardens. Allow wildflowers to establish and flourish on your property. Let those Dandelions, one of the first flowers that honey bees gather pollen and nectar from, bloom away in your lawn. In the fall, native asters and goldenrod are valuable late season food sources.

Above is a little clip of bee activity on the Mountain Mint. I plan to take more notes on which plants honey bees visit. Feel free to share which plants you have noticed honey bees on.

Growing and Forcing Witch Hazel

Hamamelis x ‘Feuerzauber’

Hamamelis x intermedia commonly known as Witch Hazel is one of the first shrubs to come into bloom in cold climates. We usually see our first flashes of color in February, (some nearby folks were reporting blossoms before this weekend’s arctic blast). Often you will realize they are in bloom as their fragrance fills the air. 

closeup

Witch Hazels set their flower buds during the previous year’s growing season.  Outdoors, once plants have experienced a 6-8 week cold spell followed by mild moist weather, the spidery flowers will begin to open. It is after this cold stretch that you can take  cuttings. If you have a nice big plant in your garden, why not sacrifice a few budded branches for indoor arrangements? Simply take your cuttings, splitting the stem base for better water intake, put the branches in a vase with warm water and wait a few days. 

Hamamelis x ‘Arnold’s Promise’

If you are thinking about adding Witch Hazel to your garden, here are a few things to consider:

  1. Give plants room.  Slow growing at first, Hamamelis can get quite large with age. Expect plants to grow 8-10’ or taller and 10-12’ wide. They enjoy full sun or partial shade, and well-drained soil.
  2. Winter food for bees. Honeybees will seek out their blossoms during a late winter/early spring thaw. 
  3. Flower buds form in summer. If you cut back plants in summer and fall, you will sacrifice next year’s blossoms.
  4. These winter blooming varieties are hybrids of the Japanese (H. japonicus)  and Chinese  (H. mollis) forms, and are grafted on native Hamamelis rootstock. Sometimes strong branches will break below the graft, and you might notice, in autumn, that these branches will bear yellow flowers of Hamamelis virginiana. We recommend removing the branches that break below the graft because the fall blooming native plants are more vigorous and may overwhelm your winter blooming stock.

    Hamamelis x ‘Jelena’

    Buy online

Taking Stock of 2018

June Delpiniums

Part of the preparations for updating the Avant Gardens 2019 plant list is to archive the gazillions of garden photographs taken and update the website with new and better images. This cataloging of images reminded me of the star performers of 2018, and regrettably, which plants had a less than stellar year.

Planted in a sunny warm spot at the base of a wall, Acanthus hungaricus

Now one thing always holds true. You can’t rely on any particular weather pattern here in southern New England.   Every year (every season!) challenges us with a totally different set of circumstances, and 2018 was the most challenging gardening year that I can recall. Drastic swings in winter temperatures are the new normal…we began with an arctic blast with January’s arrival followed by 6 weeks of typical winter weather. The last week of February brought surprising warmth and it was a terrible tease… the dusk to dawn thermometers remained above freezing for 7 nights in a row. 

March Blizzard with Hamamelis (Witchhazel)

March weather reminded us why some New Englanders vacate to warmer climates until May….3 nor’easters blew in during the first 2 weeks, and this made spring seem so very far away. Sunshine and a gradual warming trend finally arrived in May, continued for a few weeks, and then summer heat and humidity settled in.

Dwarf Bearded Iris ‘Pastel Charm’ in May

Our garden, late spring.

This is what I remember about last summer…lots of heat and humidity but no rain to speak of…oh wait… on Aug. 4th we had a half inch of precipitation. Yes, I do know folks in much of the northeast had record rainfall, but during July and August the ocean fronts pushed any rainfall off of Cape Cod, the MA South Coast and coastal Rhode Island to the northwest. Our high humidity finally turned to almost daily precipitation in September and October, and then a killing frost finally pulled the curtain just before Halloween arrived.

it’s raining at last…August rainfall is wonderful!

So how did various plants in the garden fare with this irrational weather pattern? Well this was the first year the succulent planters, which in previous years have sung Hallelujah gloriously in September, sadly cried “Enough wet air, already!” long before the first frost arrived. The hardy succulents seemed worse for wear from the constant humidity even when they inhabited the leanest, well drained spots in the garden. On the other hand, any plant with tropical origins prospered in 2018…the Cannas, Caladium and Colocasia were saying “Hey baby!” without any coddling on our part.

Black Colocasia, Caladium and Variegated St. Augustine grass

Magnolia macrophylla blossom

Clethra barbinervis in flower

Trees and shrubs always seem to persevere despite the weather, but I know they appreciated the rebound of precipitation our wet autumn provided.The standouts in 2018: I continue to be impressed with Magnolia macrophylla and Clethra barbinervis as extraordinary trees for our landscapes.

Honey bee visiting Pycnanthemum muticum

Calamintha nepeta

Persicaria ‘Firetails’ in the August border,

Detail of Persicaria ‘Firetails’

A few always stellar perennials stood out: Pycnanthemum muticum, flourished and bloomed for months, providing a food source for our honeybees and other pollinators as well. Aralia ‘Sun King’ just kept looking better and better into the fall. Calamintha nepeta ssp nepeta and Persicaria ‘Fire Tails’ bloomed incessantly from mid-July to October. Tricyrtis ‘Autumn Glow’s handsome variegated leaves held up beautifully in the shade garden, and its display of lavender orchid like flowers bloomed for 8 weeks beginning in August. The Shrub Mints, Leucosceptrum ‘Golden Angel’ and ‘Mountain Madness’ , maintained their good looking foliage all summer and then their autumn flower spikes provided a feast for our bees!

Aralia ‘Sun King’

Tricyrtis ‘Autumn Glow’…in bloom from August to October.

Gardeners, aware of the effects of climate change on their plantings, will be challenged to predict which plants will be the stars of 2019. Native plants are always a good bet but don’t kid yourself into thinking that climate change isn’t affecting them as well.  One thing that is constant: plants perform better when good gardening practices are in place. Select the right plant for your soil conditions, amend your soil with compost, mulch newly planted areas to retain moisture and limit weeds, use soaker hoses to irrigate and provide a habitat for beneficial insects. 

A yellow intersectional peony on a late spring evening.

Each year is different, and gardeners are optimists. There’s no telling what 2019 will bring, but I’m sure we will experience pure bliss when we will sit in our gardens on a late spring evening, inhale, and feel that at this moment all is right in the world.

Which plants performed best for you in 2018? Which plants are you looking forward to trying this gardening year?

containers 2018… the after shots

The summer of 2018 presented many challenges to gardeners here in the northeast. Some folks had mind-numbing amounts of rainfall. We had the heat and HUMIDITY but missed most of the storms until September, when we began to catch up with the precipitation….a good thing for the trees and shrubs,  but after a summer of high humidity, the succulents which s often end with a grand tra-la, began to falter.  On the other hand, containers that loved tropical conditions thrived, and I wish I had planted more.

I present to you the before and after pictures:

Brown terra cotta bowl, June and then October…a number of succulents like the yellow and copper Sedum melted with the humidity and late season wetness.

The turquoise jar held up admirably, with Echeveria ‘Afterglow’. The after picture was taken in mid-September.

We never caught them in action, but think some birds decided to have a go at pecking on the succulents’ foliage and breaking off strands from the Rhipsalis which trails over this gray cylinder pot.

Still looking as good as it did in June, this urn with Beschorneria and tender succulents put on a little more growth.

Shade Pot 1. The white form of Begonia boliviensis continues to send our flowers with the Blue Rabbit’s Foot Fern and trailing Alternanthera ‘Gails Choice’ is still holding up well in early October.

Time of day and time of year affect lighting so much. This was a fairly successful shade planter with Begonia ‘Concorde’ filling in nicely, and the golden-leaved piggyback plant Tolmeia ‘Cool Gold’ adding color contrast. The Maidenhair fern fronds had a tendency to brown out.

Happy happy tropicals such as the dark red Caladium and Black Elephant Ears aren’t ready to quit. Trailing over the pot is variegated Bermuda Grass (Cynodon dactylon)

 

How did your containers perform this season?  Did you try a combination that worked well all summer and is still showing off now?

Thoughts on Fall Plantings

Late May in the mixed border with Allium, Baptisia and Symphytum

One of the first lessons of garden making is to plan and act now for future results. Garden making asks us to be patient; it may be months, (sometimes years) before we see the desired results. Planting in autumn requires an added measure of trust. Unlike in spring when we are rewarded with an explosion of top growth, fall planted trees, shrubs and perennials focus on growth below ground.

“Plant a spring garden in the fall.”  I remember receiving this advice from a seasoned gardener when I first fell in love with plants. Embarking on a new planting project may take some motivation after a hot dry summer. Still, there are solid arguments why you should consider establishing most hardy plants at the end of the growing season.  The most compelling reason is how little time we actually have to accomplish plantings once spring does arrive. 

Late April snowfall tormenting poor Epimedium

In recent years, it seems like our autumn weather lingers, with a killing frost not causing harm until almost Thanksgiving. Winter gets a late start, but then tends to hang around longer and longer, which means spring is late too. Just like a hangover, March rolls in, often tormenting us with one snow, wind or ice storm after another.  April is a tease, with signs of early plant growth stalled by frosty nights. Gardeners can only commiserate.  By the time the soil becomes workable and is warm enough for root growth, it is already May, and there is so much to do in May! Beds and borders need spring cleanups and fertilization, plus the container, vegetable and cut flower gardens need to be planned and planted as well.  Even with careful planning, everything always seems to happen at once.

Reasons to plant in the fall.

Fall blooming Vernonia lettermanii with Yucca ‘Color Guard’ and Crambe maritima in foreground

1. Warm soil temperatures allow for root growth and plants are well established once spring actually arrives.

2.  Rainfall tends to be more reliable and cooler temperatures mean there is far less time devoted to watering chores. Also since foliage is dying back or dropping  altogether, there is less top growth that needs sustaining.

3.  This is the best time to dig and divide most spring and early summer blooming plants. All species of Iris, for example are much happier if divided in early fall, as they set roots quickly in the warm autumn soil.

4. You may consider planting more late season plants! When plant shopping, gardeners are always attracted to plants that are in showy bloom. Folks who do their plant shopping primarily in spring tend to have gardens with lots of early bloomers. The opposite also rings true. Our own garden is heavy on late summer and fall interest plants, because many of our beds get planted then (out of necessity…we have so little time in the spring).

Important Gardening Tip:

If you live in an area which gets extreme winter temperature fluctuations, (most of us do in northern climates) it is a good idea to use a protective winter mulch on newly planted beds (and established beds as well). Sterile hay, evergreen boughs or shredded leaves placed over the earth after the ground freezes helps protect the soil from repeated thaws and frost heaving. Remove the mulch once the weather promises reliable springtime temperatures.

 

Containers 2018…the before shots

May I present to you the “before” shots of our 2018 containers? My goal each year is to create easy care combinations, showcasing some unique specimens, which will continue to look gorgeous right up until frost. Since I love succulents, and they are so super easy, drought tolerant, and look outrageous into the fall, you’ll notice more than a  few combinations.  Above is a 28” wide brown terra cotta bowl with a succulent array , including Aeonium ‘Blushing Beauty’, Senecio cylindricus, Senecio Mini Blue, Sedum “Firestorm’, Sedum mackinoi ‘Ogon’, Sedum pachyphytum, and a peach flowering painted Echeveria hybrid. This container and the next were planted on Memorial Day, and have already knit together nicely.  Many of the other planters were put together this past week.

The tall cylinder pot has a 24” opening and stands 44” tall. It showcases a few really choice succulents that I’ve been growing on for several years. The ingredients in this planter are: Aeonium urbicum, Senecio barbertonicus, Euphorbia turicalli, Crassula ovata ‘Gollum’Echeveria’ and ‘Hummel’s Sunset’, plus Echeveria ’Chocolate Prince’ and ‘Blue Prince’, Sedum ‘Firestorm’ and trailing over the side is Rice Plant, Rhipsalis teres v. capilliformis.a closeup of the forms and textures.

This 8” terra-cotta pot ensemble picks us some of the colors in the other planters. We’re enjoying this unknown Echeveria pulidonis hybrid with erect stems bearing peach colored flowers, and the flower color is fun with the golden Sedum adolphii and the tiny creeper Sedum album ‘Athoum’.

We’ve been growing on these false agave ‘Beschorneria ‘Pink Flamingo’ plants for several years now and they are quite impressive in size. Underplantings include Echeveria agavoides, Sedum mackinoi ‘Ogon’ and ‘String of Pearls’ Senecio rowleyensis. The iron urns are about 15″ across and are in an area which gets half day sun.

A client who lives by the sea brought in these cast stone rectangles and wanted a planting that is easy to care for and that could tolerate lots of wind and sun. We’re glad she likes these sea and sky colored succulents.

To have interesting shade planters, you really do need to seek out unique foliage plants. Here I’ve used Phlebodium pseudoaureum (Blue Rabbit’s Foot Fern) with the white form of Begonia boliviensis and purple trailing  Alternanthera ‘Gails Choice’ plus the mini spider plant, Chlorophytum comosum ‘Bonnie’ which will eventually cascade down this urn as well.

Another shade container, planted once again with Maidenhair Fern Adiantum pedatum, plus Begonia ‘Concorde’ adds dark foliage contrast and pink flowers, and the new trailing perennial piggyback plant, Tolmeia menziesii ‘Cool Gold’. This container has an 18” opening and gets dappled light.

In a dark corner, and paired with a yellow orchid, chartreuse colored Hosta ‘Designer Genes’ is the focal point, its wine red petioles adding contrast. I like the way the rising flower stock has an interesting foliar accent.  Ming Fern,  Asparagus macawonii, is used to give an airy feel, and golden Piggyback Plant will spill over the sides of the pot. 

Imperial Blue Plumbago is a gorgeous color that is sometimes hard to play with. To be on the safe side, it’s paired with white Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’ and the chartreuse form of licorice plant, Helichrysum ‘Limelight’.

Coprosma ‘Pink Splendor’ is a tender evergreen shrub with pastel variegation. Here it is paired with chenille plant, Acalypha pendula and a trailing flowering maple, Abutilon megapotamicum, in a 10” wide tall tom pot. This container would enjoy a spot in full sun or part day shade.

White Begonia boliviensis steals the show in this 15” terra cotta rolled rim pot, but this container wouldn’t be as much fun without Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’ and the teal/silver trailer Pilea glauca. Phormium ‘Sundowner’ adds a vertical thrust. For sun or part shade.

This impressive 38” zen cast stone bowl has always been planted with succulents, due to it’s shallow depth and ease of care (it’s in a spot a distance away from a water source). The problem is, this area has become more and more shady, (only about 3-4 hours of good sunlight). This selection of succulents is thought to be more tolerate of some shade….we’ll see how they fared at summer’s end.

Peachy-pink and lime green Phormium ‘Jester’ adds the vertical in this succulent combo, which includes  a golden leaved Portulacaria we found at The Ruth Bancroft Garden a few years ago, plus ‘Echeveria ‘Blue Prince’, Crassula ‘Hummell’s Sunset’, Sedum ‘Limeglow’ and  Sedeveria ‘Blue Elf’ and Sedeveria ‘Jetbeads.

The color of this 18” ceramic container reminds me of the ocean on a clear sunny day. Succulents contribute to that under the sea feeling….the large growing Echeveria ‘Afterglow’, with the tall Senecio cylindricus, Pachyphytum ‘Blue Haze’ , Crassula ovata undulata, and a mystery x Graptosedum hybrid.

I’ll be taking photos again of these containers in late September and we can compare these early shots with “After Pics”. Stay posted.

 

Papyrus Ensemble for Part Shade

Looking to do something a bit dramatic but very easy care in a partially shaded container? This container ensemble, planted in an 18″ wide pot,  features the compact growing Papyrus, ‘Prince Tut’, standing  30-40″ tall, as well as a dwarf variegated form Cyperus albostriatus variegatus ,  trailing Callisia congestifolia variegata and Ornamental Oregano, Origanum rotundifolum ‘Kent Beauty’. The Oregano will come forth into bloom early, and then allow the Callisia to take over in an exuberant way.

Average soil mix is fine here. Although Papyrus will grow in standing water, they adapt quite well to not wet conditions. The Callisia may began to overwhelm her neighbors, but a quick trip here and there will keep her in check.

Buy as an ensemble online.

Fields of Gold

Have you ever wandered through a reclaimed woodland and come upon an abandoned homestead? Perhaps all that is left is a stone foundation and a few time-tested plants, such as a peony, century plant or Solomon’s Seal which manage to survive for decades without human care. And have you ever wondered, what will become of the plants that you’ve tended to all these years, once you are no longer around?

Back in my high school days, I came upon this open field of daffodils while exploring the woodlands off the road that I lived on. There may well have been a no trespassing sign, but all I can remember was being as enchanted as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. I  had no idea whose property I was on, nor who was responsible for this field of gold.

Guess what? That field is still there. And fortunately, you won’t be trespassing if you visit today. In 2005, this 32 acre parcel was donated to our local land preservation group, Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust, aka DNRT, by its last private owner, William Parsons. Thank you Mr. Parsons, and thank you DNRT!              

Now, it wasn’t Mr Parsons who planted all those narcissi; it was a gentlemen by the name of Raymond Pettey. The story I‘ve since been told is that Mr Pettey decided to plant the daffodils during the 1940’s as a cut flower crop, when the supply of spring flowers from Holland was cut off due to World War II. Once the war ended there wasn’t much of a demand for locally sourced cut flowers. The daffodils remained and multiplied.

The daffodil field property is now known as the Parsons Reserve and the fields and trails are maintained by DNRT. The main entrance to the property is on Horseneck Rd. in Russell’s Mills Village. The Reserve is open to the public, but a modest $2.00 donation during daffodil season is requested to help offset the cost of maintaining the trails and fields . There are things to consider before you visit. Parking is very limited, and more and more people make a pilgrimage each spring. There is a slight hill to climb, and it takes about 8-10 minutes on foot before you reach the fields. As you would expect, you  are not allowed to pick bouquets. Visit DNRT’s webpage for more detailed information of this and other properties, and of course, support their efforts if you can by becoming a member.

When is peak time? I was able to capture these images early in the morning last April 15th (2017). Our prolonged 2018 winter has meant we’re having a late start to spring, and my guess is that the daffodils will probably be at least a week late this season.

Thank you Mr. Pettey. You probably had no idea that your fields of gold would delight and inspire so many years later.

 

Holding winter at bay, the Danish Way

Haveselskabets Have, Horticultural Society Garden

Ordinarily, December isn’t the month you’d consider for visiting gardens, but the curious gardener welcomes any opportunity to observe new plants and planting schemes, even in winter. Earlier this month, Chris and I had the good fortune, along with dear friends Elin, Lasse, Nicole and Marc, to visit Copenhagen, and we had to make time for checking out the various public gardens.

at the University Botanical Garden

Melianthus major, a zone 8 plant

red and white berried Mountain Ash (Sorbus)

There were many surprises: most importantly, the climate.This Scandinavian country has milder winters than we have here in Massachusetts, with the average low of 32F, or 0C.  Yes, this means they can grow zone 8b plants like Melianthus. Summers are cool, with average temperatures of 67F (17C).  Temperatures like this allow for plants which dislike summer heat, such as Mountain Ash (Sorbus) to flourish. Being at a higher latitude means that winter day length is short, and the reverse is true in summer. This has a big effect on plant growth, and there are far less dramatic day to day temperature fluctuations due to the maritime climate.

yellow fruited crabapples and benches

formal gardens at Rosenborg Castle

Danes are eager to be outdoors year round, no doubt to absorb as much natural light as possible, and design their gardens and landscapes to have strong winter interest. Evergreens, fruit-bearing trees and shrubs, grasses and seed heads add structure, color and form. One thing that struck us was the balance of formal and naturalistic plantings working together. Trees are routinely pollarded. Boxwood is commonly sheared into geometric forms. Clipped plantings are mixed with billowing shrubs, masses of grasses and herbaceous plants. While I would not feel at home in a rigidly formal garden this blending of treatments was fun and unexpected.

clipped yews with naturalistic yucca

The Maiden statue, with water feature

Garden structures and hardscape play an important role in Danish gardens. Planting beds tend to have squared off geometry rather than wavy lines. Sculpture plus a strong role. Outdoor seating its always considered, in both open or intimate settings. In this often overcast climate, brick buildings are often stained in shades of orange or gold to brighten the otherwise neutral grays and browns of winter.

orange stained brick, with yellow fall foliage

in the window at Tage Andersen, a florist shop

Seasonal containers included plantings of Christmas Rose, (Helleborus niger), Heath, (Erica), Boxwood (Buxus) and Ivy (Hedera), accented with cut branches of Winterberry and Evergreens. Popup street vendors were selling potted winter interest plants including Skimmia, Hellebores, forced hyacinth, and Amaryllis along with branches and boughs of holly. A particularly magical floral shop Tage-Anderssen, had exquisite window displays, showcasing carefully crafted centerpieces using plant based materials.

Chris Tracey, having a “hygge” moment outside the succulent greenhouse

Danish interior design is world renown, celebrating geometry and simple lines. But what this gardener couldn’t help to notice were the many plant based accents, in the form of cut flowers, forced bulbs or potted succulents, used to soften and add warmth to living spaces. During the short days of winter, the Danes decorate interior spaces with white lights and candles, a particularly “hygge” thing to do.

winter solstice greetings!

As we head approach the solstice, with weeks of colder weather before us, I’ll hold onto my Danish experience. Today I brought in cut  branches of holly and boxwood, and will illuminate the darkness with candles and strings of lights, to drive the cold winter away.

End of the Season Containers

It’s been over 3 months since I posted the “Before” Container Shots. We’re now into October, and luckily the weather has been mild, with a few chilly nights. All in all, the containers depicted in the early summer post are looking as good if not better.  My goal each year is to come up with combos that are easy care and will look fabulous until frost.  Here are this year’s end of the season shots.zenbowl_detailazen_bowlt_9302017oct72Succulents rule! The Aeonium noticeably is more green than bronzy, and  this space where the 36″ Zen Bowl is located is getting more and more shade…perhaps now only getting 3-4 hours of afternoon sun…it’s getting limited for succulents. I think we’ll have to reconsider what type of plants to use here next year.aaeoniumpot_9302017_72The Aeonium ‘Cyclops’ in the drum pot, with Sedeveria ‘Harry Butterfield’ and String of Pearls spilling over the sides, is still looking pretty awesome. I will be sad when we have to dismantle this container.cylinderpot2017The Cylinder Pot in front of the garage is pretty much doing a repeat performance of last year. The big Kalanchoe beharensis started to overwhelm his neighbors, and was trimmed back several times.white_pots17_72The larger white pot with Cuphea ‘David Verity’, Digiplexis ‘Illumination’ and Ruellia b. ‘Purple Showers’ needed watering attention, but is still blooming away. Not missing a step,  the smaller pot continues to look good with Heuchera ‘Cherry Cola’, Phormium and Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’.xgreekurnThe Grecian Urn on the pedestal was one of the shade ensembles, with Begonia ‘Art Hodes’, Cyperus ‘Starburst‘, Oxalis, and Callisia congesta variegata, which needed to be cut back more than once. I know, I know, I put way too many ingredients in this pot.silverfernpot17_72Here’s another shade planter, mixing hardy and tender plants. Maidenhair Fern, Black Mondo Grass and hardy Begonia grandis, are paired with tender Sansevieria ‘Moonshine’ and Dichondra ‘Silver Falls’. This planter was in dappled shade all day, and notice how well the Dichondra grew!
papyrus (1 of 1)Papyrus + Papyrus  + Callisia = … To begin with, I selected too small a pot in June, so what did I do?  In mid summer, I lifted the plants that had filled the pot and moved them into a much bigger container. When the Ornamental Oregano had done her thing, then the Callisia was very happy to take over the pot.ironurn17 (1 of 1)One of the iron urns is getting more shade than in previous years… probably just 4 hours of good sun, and then it’s in dappled light. Here is what it looks like now… the Beschorneria and Golden Ivy seem happy still.whitebegonia_72Someone bought the head pot…so I can’t show how it fared, but instead here is another shady planter. Never took the “before” picture, but I thought this green trough was successful. The white form of Begonia boliviensis seemed happier this year than in the past, and is paired with trailing Pilea glauca, Pilea microphylla variegata, Ornamental Oregano, and  Blue Rabbit’s Foot Fern, which is now pretty much hidden.brownterrabowl17 (1 of 1)Last but not least, the brown terra cotta bowl wants to show off even more now that it is autumn. Assorted succulent foliage looked great all summer. Now, in October, the  Euphorbia tirucalli (Sticks on Fire) is beginning to deepen in color and Senecio ‘Blazing Glory’, bursting forth with orange red blossoms, is ending the season with a bang.

What easy care combinations worked best for you this summer? Have you been using succulents in your container plantings?