the daily gardener
After the fireflies go to sleep and the last purple glow dies on the horizon the soft breath of the garden blends fragrances and sounds. Very tall flowering tobacco, eerie in the moonlight, gathers night moths with irresistible force. White flowers that are unassuming during the day gain unexpected importance in the night garden by reflecting the sparse and diluted rays of moonlight.
A nightingale’s song turns the most banal summer planting into a magical land of make believe. Old forgotten childhood tales of Saint John’s Eve come back to memory. The story goes that on the night of June 24th all plants are granted special gifts, including the ability to walk and talk, so they can travel to attend an annual congregation where their beauty, fragrance and healing qualities are renewed.
I walk the familiar path knee deep in plant lore, every step so many times repeated that I could do it in my sleep, reaching out to move a low branch before it brushes against me, careful not to step on overgrowing myrtle that blends in the darkness. It smells like petunias and southern magnolia flowers.
The night garden is peacefully at rest.
Most of us consider vine covered brick a living wall and wouldn’t conceive of the picture above if it wasn’t shown to us. While the green roof is an old but somewhat logical idea, (after all every urban dweller can see the benefits of creating a roof garden), planting a vertical wall is a gravity defining challenge for both architects and horticulturists. How do you keep the dirt from running off, the plants from growing scraggly and the water from infiltrating into the building? It is not easy, but it is possible. If you are curious about the typical structure of such planted walls, please check out the Biotecture website, for instance.
What are the benefits of living wall systems? For dense urban environments, processing of air pollutants and additional oxygenation alone would be enough, but add to this reduction in storm water runoff, heat island effect improvement (the living walls reflect only 20% of the absorbed heat), great insulating qualities, (especially related to heat loss due to convection) and overall air quality improvement and you got a winning combination.
For a scaled down, approachable and eminently residential version of the living wall system Meet Wolly, the “grow your plant in a pocket” wall mat.
These systems can be installed on any structurally sound wall and the type of plantings available is surprisingly broad. There you have it: if you run low on gardening space, please fill free to start planting the walls.
The Summer solstice came and went, the longest day of the year shrouded in clouds. It rains every day, downpours sometimes accompanied by deafening thunder. The plants grow at double speed, luxuriating in the abundance of humidity. I have never seen the grass so green. After the June roses faded the second wave of blooming plants took over: nicotiana, garden phlox, delphiniums and bee balms. It is hard to believe that flowers can bloom profusely with so much rain, but here is proof.
Fragrances intermingle, dulled by the rain. Nicotiana has reached four and a half feet and is still growing.
I’m sorry for not writing for a week, but here is the reason. Please check out the little sister of All Year Garden, The Weekly Gardener, which will be documenting fifty two weeks of gardening thoughts. I started it three weeks ago and it will go full circle until I get back to week 23. Right now there are three entries, please enjoy.
The irony of keeping a gardening blog is that one only has time to write in it when there is no actual gardening work going on. Well, almost. Thank goodness that warm weather is finally here. The garden is thriving and there is so much work to do, of which I will make a list:
– weeding ( this is task 1, 3, 5…)
– any remaining spring clean up
– top dressing the flower and vegetable beds with a good organic mulch/fertilizer
– planting annual flower seeds (this extended stretch of rainy days will give them a better chance to sprout)
– moving and dividing fall blooming perennials before the weather is too hot
– deadheading spent flower heads of spring bulbs. Don’t forget that daffodils actually need to die back on their own to make sure they get enough nourishment for next year’s bloom.
– tending to the grass maintenance schedule, weeds are just waiting for a skipped step
That being said, I will be posting more soon. It seems that it will rain every day next week, so, plenty of time…
I walk tentatively on the foot wide dirt path between the flower beds, careful not to get scratched by the landscaping roses covered in clusters of red flowers. To the left, flanking the fence, cosmos and goldenrod find their way between the roses in an unruly jumbled mix. To the right, in the shadow of the hibiscus trees, grow care free gladioli and fragrant lilies, mixed with lily of the valley; wild strawberries and buttercups gently cover their feet and expand into every nook and cranny they can find. Above it all, an old bleeding heart arches gracefully over the moss roses. It only blooms one month a year, which makes it even more fascinating, a garden princess unlike any others, extraordinary. I can’t reach it because it is kind of in the middle of the border where the roses guard it with sharp thorns.
Many times I just sit on the ground and watch the little candy colored hearts sway gently in the wind atop a profusion of giant parsley-like leaves. There is a contradictory nature to this plant graced with such noble and unworldly blossoms but sustained by the most unsophisticated kitchen herb-like clump.
The flowers in grandfather’s garden are always in bloom: he is a consummate gardener and doesn’t let a day go by without caring for the flowerbeds, deadheading plants, picking a berry or two or planting something new. I spend many afternoons on the wooden bench in the shade of the grapevine watching him sweep the paths, aerate the soil, or just wander around to enjoy the flowers. I must confess that I am giving him plenty of stuff to clean up, since that garden bench houses my dolls, my fashion design atelier and my daily gourmet play kitchen, activities which create a copious mess.
So, as I was saying, I am walking on the foot wide path, in my old crochet slippers with soles made of yarn, in loving memory of my grandfather; in the garden of remembrance it’s 1974.
We pass by the ornamental cherry trees several times a day. One tends to overlook details in an exuberant sea of trees in bloom. I guess it takes a close-up picture to do these blooms justice. Having to get this close to take the snapshot allowed me to take in the subtle fragrance of the flowers, their perfume so much associated with spring it makes you feel they are almost one and the same.
Most years spring around here is an elusive transition which happens so fast that if you blink you might miss it. This year seems to be no different, so I made sure to go around the garden and take pictures of all the beautiful spring flowers I missed last year. It was hard to decide which photo to choose, between the daffodils, the hyacinths, the grape hyacinths, the flowering quinces, and the one and only tulip (the squirrels were working diligently over the winter, and they found the rest of the bulbs).
Every year the chore of spring garden cleaning is softened by the joy of discovering new plants. This year, for instance, the snapdragons survived winter even though we are in zone 5. I finally achieved the seemingly impossible task of overwintering mums. A fistful of perennial flower seeds sprinkled over the flowerbeds as an afterthought last fall sprouted and grew even bigger than the seedlings I started indoors. Some I can recognize (you can’t mistake lupines and columbines for other plants), but for the others I’ll have to wait until they bloom to find out what they are. A couple of the roses I started last year developed roots and the lovage clump that is a very finicky plant seems to be doing great. So is the money plant, a very old favorite from childhood. Every bleeding heart came out strong and beautiful and astilbes decided to grace a north foundation wall in full shade where nothing thrived.
It is uncanny how fast the plants grow after you clear them of brush, sticks and debris. Yesterday’s barren flowerbeds are today’s lush garden in bloom. And because I can’t help it, one more picture:
Try following the four concepts below to make your garden planning experience more rewarding than ever. Your garden is a living entity and as such, always changing. That is part of its charm and its gift to the gardener.
Work with your garden
1. Define lacking areas. What are their characteristics? Too shady? Too dry? Hard to reach for regular maintenance? Soil deficiencies? Focus on improving them or adding plants that tolerate those conditions.
2. How much time do you have to spend in your garden? Plan on installing systems that provide continuous care with minimum of effort and cost (drip hose, xeriscaping, rain barrels, composting areas, etc.)
3. Observe what perennials are thriving in your garden. That will tell you a lot about the soil and draining conditions you have and offer potential for those plants to adjust very well in sparser areas of your garden. Plan on dividing mature plants that are overgrown to fill in the less fortunate spots.
4. Spend some time learning your sun paths. Find out when the sun reaches a certain area, not only throughout the day, but all year long. The sun’s elevation changes and growing vegetation make conditions in the same spot quite different between spring, summer and fall: you may be able to grow columbines and roses in the same flower bed. Pay extra attention to places in the shade, they offer great potential for cool summer retreats. White flowers are particularly striking in the shade.
5. Plan for naturally low-maintenance flower beds. A full flower bed won’t allow any space for weeds. Ground covers and low growing companion plants will look beautiful and reduce the need for mulching and watering. If the combinations are perennial, so much the better!
Define a recognizable style
1. Create and emphasize a theme for your garden. Focus all your future efforts into accenting that theme. Start with the classics: formal, romantic, cottage, rose garden, herb garden, potager. Figure out which one speaks to you and adapt the general structure to fit your conditions. Having a theme gives you a canvas to build upon and a very good idea about the kind of plants you could add.
2. Look at your garden from many angles and define visual lines, actual paths, points that focus your interest, blocks of color, surprises.
3. Make sure to have areas that can be enjoyed both from a distance and close up.
o Hardscape – retaining walls, trellises, water basins, paving, arbors to grow climbers on, permanent benches, sun shading.
o Color accents – planting, garden furniture, sculpture.
o Access – flagstone pathways, stepping stones, grass paths. You want to be able to walk through your garden when it rains without getting covered in mud from head to toe.
2. Consider vertical planting and containers, especially if you don’t have a lot of land. Put extra effort in the areas where you spend most of your time. Make sure to include fragrant plants.
3. Add habitat for wildlife: bird baths, squirrel feeders, brush for shelter, bat boxes. Plant butterfly and hummingbird plants like dill, geranium and hibiscus.
4. Create private nooks for personal retreat: a little bench under a tree, sheltered from view by a planting of yews or a trellis of climbing roses.
5. Make your borders reachable, no more than five feet wide, with access from both sides. Areas that are difficult to reach will not be maintained or enjoyed.
6. If you have room, plant a cutting garden, if not sprinkle your flower beds with your cut flower favorites.
7. Add water in any form.
Your wish list
1. Make a wish list of plants you always wanted but never got. Sort through the reasons why and get any plants on the list that you can.
2. Would you like to add specific plants: medicinal, edibles, or fruit trees?
3. If you want a gazebo, a pergola or an arbor, stop dreaming about it and finally get it. It seems more complicated than it actually is.
4. Make your garden an inviting place. Add fruit and berries, plant butterfly and bee favorites, don’t forget scented herbs, have places to sit with a book, an Ipad or a Kindle, design little ledges to lay down a cup of coffee, etc.
The gardening community is wonderful and diverse. Would you like to see gardening sites from all over the world, chat with their owners and show them your own gardening blog? Go to blotanical.com
One can spend hours daydreaming over lush tropical rain forest pictures and backyard banana trees, and coconut groves on the beach, literally!
It is a place to exchange ideas, seek advice, learn from other people’s experiences and get excited about trying new stuff. The things you will find! For instance, regarding how to make your garden a welcoming haven for pollinators, check out this movie and the associated content from a fellow blotanist.
The blog is