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Gifts For The Gardener In Your Life

The Rural Intelligence region is fortunate to have so many gardening experts close by. Our garden writer, Madaline Sparks, is the principal in her own design, installation and maintenance business, Madaline Sparks Garden Design, with clients in Columbia and Berkshire counties. For 12 years she was the contributing garden editor at Real Simple Magazine. Madaline and her husband, Wayne Greene, live in Spencertown, NY where both are very active volunteers at Spencertown Academy Arts Center.

It’s the time of year again when we need to come up with gift ideas for our near and dear. The Christmas music started playing in some stores the day after Halloween, just in case we needed a reminder. If I hear “Jingle Bell Rock” one more time, I may jump off the roof into the nearest snowdrift! That said, the job must be done and I can share a few tips to help accomplish that.

The Rural Intelligence region has a number of well-stocked garden centers filled with items that would delight any grower. If in doubt about what your giftee might desire, you can’t go wrong with a gift certificate to one of those fine establishments.

If you prefer to be more personal and specific in your gift giving, here are some of the tried and true essentials that I personally can’t live without. My garden shed is full of discarded tools that have not measured up for one reason or another. After years of testing every kind of tool, with daily use by my crew and myself, I’ve narrowed down my list of bests. For the most part, the higher the quality the tool, the better job it does, and the easier it is to use.

If I could only have two hand tools in my arsenal, they’d be a Felco Pruner [above left] and a Hori Hori [above right]. Swiss-made Felco bypass pruners are considered the Rolls Royce of this category, preferred by pros and coveted by home gardeners. There are multiple styles and sizes for every type of grip. All the parts are replaceable so, though pricier than many brands, they can last a lifetime if well maintained. A Japanese farmer’s knife, or Hori Hori (which means dig, dig), looks like a dangerous weapon but serves multiple practical purposes. Use it as a trowel, for general digging; for bulb and seedling planting; as a taproot weeder or root cutter; a crevice tool; for prying up rocks; or for transplanting and dividing smaller perennials.

An indispensable digging tool, a Border Spade [right] (sometimes called a transplant spade), is unlike a typical flat spade in that it has a narrower head and a shorter handle. It’s perfect for digging the planting holes without disturbing the other plants nearby. It makes it easier to lift root balls and clumps of bulbs located in tight spaces with precision, in order to divide or transplant. It also does double duty as a spot edger for keeping a clean line on beds. English toolmakers typically do a great job of producing this tool, with ash or oak handles and forged steel heads.

Speaking of spades and clean lines, a Half Moon Spade [below] is the tool to have if you’ve got endless feet of beds to edge. Sharp bed and border edges can make even the most mediocre or unkempt garden look much nicer. It’s also excellent for cleaning up the edges of walkways and patios that are raggedy looking because the grass has crept over the sides.

My favorite watering can by far is the Haws “Practican.” Engineered to be perfectly balanced, this lightweight but tough plastic 1.5-gallon can has a long spout for reaching into the root zone of pots to deliver water much less effortlessly than any other can I’ve experienced. It comes with two attachments, a brass rose and a downspout, and is brilliantly designed with two “parking places” for them on the can so they don’t get lost.

It’s always a good time to give thoughtful quality garden-themed gifts to the horticulturally inclined on your list. I hope these are some ideas that will delight the green thumbs in your life.

 

 

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Posted by Lisa Green on 12/06/16 at 09:25 AM • Permalink

Leave Taking: Rake, Mow Or Compost?

The Rural Intelligence region is fortunate to have so many gardening experts close by. Our garden writer, Madaline Sparks, is the principal in her own design, installation and maintenance business, Madaline Sparks Garden Design, with clients in Columbia and Berkshire counties. For 12 years she was the contributing garden editor at Real Simple Magazine. Madaline and her husband, Wayne Greene, live in Spencertown, NY where both are very active volunteers at Spencertown Academy Arts Center.

In our corner of the world, we have to pay the price for a landscape that annually delivers jaw-dropping fall beauty. The bill for that privilege? A massive leaf-drop of leviathan scale. Rakers fall into two camps: those who find doing it a contemplative, aerobic exercise, a kind of traditional celebration at this time of year, and those who feel it is a tedious task to be avoided at all costs. Whichever description fits you, be reassured that taking it on is huge benefit to your garden and lawn.

I’m often asked why letting leaves stay where they fall or blow, to break down naturally, isn’t a good practice. It’s true that leaves make great compost, but that is only when they break down and decompose relatively quickly. When they are left in layered piles stuck together by moisture, they become an impenetrable mat that makes a perfect cover for voles and other damaging critters over the winter. Matted leaf “blankets” hold too much moisture in the soil and can cause crown rot of perennials unfortunate enough to be located underneath. It’s also harder for the new growth of perennials to emerge through this thick mat in spring. And, if left on the lawn, they will kill the grass beneath, depriving it of air and moisture just when it breaks dormancy in spring and needs those elements to green up.

If you don’t like raking, pull out the lawnmower and chop leaves in place by mowing over them. Small pieces of leaves will break down quickly and feed the lawn naturally. If you want to add leaves to the garden beds, rake or blow them into piles and run over them with the mower a bunch of times. Gather the chopped leaves and sprinkle them as mulch over the top of your beds and around the base of plants and shrubs. In this state, they won’t do any damage but will help condition the soil and improve its texture as they break down.

I have a shady fenced corner at the back end of my property where no grass grows. Every autumn I drag all the raked leaves that aren’t mulched by the mower and left to compost on the grass to this spot. This starts as a giant heap and by spring it is reduced by more than half. I do this every year and each spring I harvest the rich, brown and crumbly layer from the bottom of the pile, where the oldest leaves from previous years have broken down. The term for this organic amendment is called “leaf mold”. Mix it into the top 6 to 12 inches of soil that needs amending or top dress garden beds around existing perennials as a mulch to retain moisture and help make the surface more permeable for rainfall. In short, leaf mold promotes microbial activity, water retention and aeration, all good things for healthy soil. 

Don’t worry if you don’t get every leaf out of the garden. Between the wind blowing leaves in from other locations and any trees that drop very late, like oaks and willows, it’s not always practical to achieve a leafless bed, but getting the bulk of them out and putting them to good use is well worth the effort involved.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 11/07/16 at 08:55 AM • Permalink

Plant Bulbs Now To Light Up The Spring Garden

The Rural Intelligence region is fortunate to have so many gardening experts close by. Our garden writer, Madaline Sparks, is the principal in her own design, installation and maintenance business, Madaline Sparks Garden Design, with clients in Columbia and Berkshire counties. For 12 years she was the contributing garden editor at Real Simple Magazine. Madaline and her husband, Wayne Greene, live in Spencertown, NY where both are very active volunteers at Spencertown Academy Arts Center.

Even though it’s late October, it’s not too late to plant spring-flowering bulbs. They must be planted in the fall because they require a sustained “dormant” period of cold temperatures to stimulate root development. These remarkable little packages of food and flower are genetically programmed to put on a show with relatively little effort on your part. Get them planted at least several weeks before the ground freezes and you’ll ensure a beautiful spring show. If you’re a complete novice at the garden game and planting a bulb might as well be quantum physics to you, check out us.bulb.com to learn the basics. If you’re already familiar, here are some tips and advice to minimize your efforts and maximize the bulbs’ potential.

• Adopt a naturalistic planting style. Dot bulbs in small clusters throughout the garden instead of planting them in large blocks. This way, you won’t have a large area of decaying foliage to wait out next year. Bulbs sprinkled throughout the garden will be quickly camouflaged as they die back by emerging perennials.

• Don’t plant bulbs in a spot that is constantly wet. They perform best in well-drained soil that isn’t too clayey or too sandy.

• Bulbs should be planted at a depth three times their height. Don’t cheat or your bulb may bloom only once or be pushed out of the ground when it freezes and then thaws in the spring. Another rule of thumb: when planting bulbs in a group, space bulbs about three times their width apart.

• For many years, sprinkling bone meal in the hole when planting bulbs was recommended as a fertilizer. The latest news from the Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center suggests that bone meal may burn the newly established roots and encourage rodents (and even dogs) to dig up the bulbs because they’re attracted by its odor. You don’t even need fertilizer the first year. Apply a slow-release bulb fertilizer on the ground’s surface after they bloom next spring to boost bulb health and bloom in the future. That said, many bulbs will keep coming back again and again, and even multiply, even if you skip this step.

• Bulbs should be planted with the pointy end up. In some varieties, it’s hard to tell which end that is. When in doubt, it’s best to plant them on their sides and they’ll work it out themselves. Even bulbs that are planted upside down will manage to bloom, but it weakens them dramatically.

• To avoid deer devastation once the tender tasty foliage has emerged, don’t plant tulips a.k.a. “deer candy,” unless your garden is fenced or you don’t have a marauding deer issue (lucky you!). Plant allium, daffodil, Spanish or English bluebell, crocus, snowdrop and grape hyacinth. These are some of the beautiful bulbs that deer rarely — if ever — eat, according to the Cornell Cooperative Extension.

• In spring, resist the temptation to remove the fading foliage of spent bulbs. The “ripening” leaves create the food for the bulb to re-bloom next spring and to survive the winter. The leaves will yellow and wither and can be pulled about a month after flowering, except daffodils, which can take six weeks or more depending on weather. By July 4th, you can remove bulb foliage from the garden whether it is completely ripened or not.

Hit the local garden center to find a selection before they’re all gone, and plant on a clear day as soon as you can. It’s akin to making a deposit in your flower account in the fall and reaping the compounded interest come spring. You won’t regret it!

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Posted by Lisa Green on 10/24/16 at 10:32 AM • Permalink

The Garden Season’s Last Hurrah

The Rural Intelligence region is fortunate to have so many gardening experts close by. Our garden writer, Madaline Sparks, is the principal in her own design, installation and maintenance business, Madaline Sparks Garden Design, with clients in Columbia and Berkshire counties. For 12 years she was the contributing garden editor at Real Simple Magazine. Madaline and her husband, Wayne Greene, live in Spencertown, NY where both are very active volunteers at Spencertown Academy Arts Center.

Pink Turtlehead

I cannot believe we are well into September! What happened?  My container plants are lush and robust and some areas of the garden are in their glory. The dahlias are flower covered with dozens more buds waiting to come.  The cherry tomatoes are profusely producing candy-like orbs every day. I know it’s the end and all is slowing down but I’m never quite ready to say goodbye.

I think of this time in the garden as “The Awkward Stage.” Many perennials and annuals are done for, especially with the drought our region has experienced this season.  To prolong the show, my policy is to cut down the ugly stuff: the brown stems, the spent flowers, and any mildewed or black-spotted foliage.  Cutting back daisies, bee balm, coneflowers and similar plants to basal foliage (the healthy green leaves at the base of the crown) is good housekeeping.  It also allows the plants to put their energy into growing healthier and deeper roots from now until frost. Getting these eyesores out of your sightline does wonders for the parts of the garden that are still working and allows them to shine.

Caryopteris

It’s a great time to see where you could introduce some plants that will provide late season color that carry the garden through the “The Awkward Stage.” Take note of plants in your neighbors’ gardens that are blooming now and appeal to you. Write them down so you can add them to your shopping list in the spring.

Now is also the perfect time to assess your garden with a critical eye. There’s plenty to enjoy until that first frost does everything in, but only if you planted the right things earlier in the season. In my garden, Japanese anemone, aster varieties, chelone or turtlehead, hydrangea varieties, Herbstonne rudbekia, sedum varieties, ornamental grasses, helenium, Russian sage, caryopteris, veronicastrum and butterfly bush are all still in bloom and prolonging my enjoyment of the garden.

In containers, annuals will keep pumping out blooms until the weather gets much colder if you keep deadheading and fertilizing weekly with a foliar feed.  If they have gotten leggy, prune them back to green foliage, which will cause them to push new growth and buds. I find I can “buy” quite a few weeks of continued flowering unless we get an early frost. Don’t fertilize perennials, shrubs, and trees now. They need to settle down and have an opportunity to harden off existing foliage for winter as they prepare to enter their dormant period.

“September Charm” Japanese anemone

If you’re not ready to pack it in and hang up your garden gloves there’s lots to do. Fall planting isn’t just for trees and shrubs. It’s an excellent time to buy perennials (most nurseries have them on sale) as long as you know you can get them in the ground them by mid-October, at the latest. Make sure they are well watered until the ground freezes, which doesn’t usually happen for several more months. Of course it’s also spring blooming bulb planting season. You cannot have tulips and daffodils and all the other delightful flowers that come from bulbs if they are not installed now.

None of us wants to hear this next tip — but another very important chore in September and October is to continue weeding. Letting weeds and grass flourish in the garden beds means big trouble. They, or their offspring, will be waiting for you in the spring and will be stronger and more prolific given the opportunity to develop extensive roots if they are a perennial variety, or to drop seed, if they are annuals.

Before we know it, this garden season will be history and, optimistically, we’ll all have another chance to achieve our horticultural dreams next year.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 09/19/16 at 09:50 AM • Permalink

A Garden Of Contained Exuberance

The Rural Intelligence region is fortunate to have so many gardening experts close by. Our garden writer, Madaline Sparks, is the principal in her own design, installation and maintenance business, Madaline Sparks Garden Design, with clients in Columbia and Berkshire counties. For 12 years she was the contributing garden editor at Real Simple Magazine. Madaline and her husband, Wayne Greene, live in Spencertown, NY where both are very active volunteers at Spencertown Academy Arts Center.

Every year at The Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge Mass., the curators invite some of the region’s most talented garden and landscape designers to create individual container gardens that are sited throughout the garden. The exhibit is called “Contained Exuberance.” Tucked away in different spots around this 15-acre horticultural gem, visitors come upon these surprise arrangements as they stroll the grounds viewing the permanent beds and display gardens, which are open to the public from May to mid-October.

I was flattered to be asked to design a group of pots this year for the second time. A few years ago, I created an arrangement of succulents of all varieties planted in my own collection of repurposed galvanized tubs, barrels and buckets. I was assigned a spot in full sun on a stone terrace, so I wanted to choose something heat tolerant and tough, but unusual. There are countless varieties of succulents, from the huge-leaved Kalanchoe gastonis-bonnieri (Donkey ears) to the tiniest baby fingernail-sized chartreuse Sedum ‘Ogon.’ I absolutely adore succulents! Many look like they were either designed by Dr. Seuss or landed on earth from another planet.

This year I chose a spot in the shade and decided to use three graduated vertical containers created by concrete designer Justin Madsen of Marveled Designs, which matched the beautiful bench that he would be displaying at BBG this summer in their “Benched” exhibit. For plant selection, first I chose a color palette, in this case, purples and greens. I specifically focused on foliage plants rather than flowers to minimize maintenance, with no need for deadheading. Removal of yellowing leaves is about all that’s called for and just a few times during the growing season; the more aggressive growers can be trimmed and shaped to keep in balance with the various plants in relation to each other.

Because the light green containers are simple in shape with a contemporary style, I selected a few feature plants that offer dramatic form and interesting texture, exhibiting one or more of colors in the palette. I underplanted them with smaller-leaved choices to soften the hard lines of the pots and to carry the color story through all the vessels. Some act as “ground covers,” some as fillers and some as trailers, to drip down the sides of the pots in soft contrast to the hard surface behind them.

In the tallest pot, I used Alternanthera dentate ‘purple knight,’ Alocasia ‘Regal Shield’ (elephant ear) and Ipomoea batatas ‘illusion emerald lace’ (sweet potato vine). In the medium pot went Alternanthera dentate ‘rubiginosa,’ Dypsis lutescens (areca palm) and Ipomoea batatas ‘sweet Georgia deep purple’ (sweet potato vine).

In the smallest pot, I planted a Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’ (purple fountain grass) and underplanted that with Asplenium bulbiferum (mother fern). I hoped the purple fountain grass would maintain both green and purple leaves for my color scheme if it was sited in mostly shade rather than turning solid reddish-purple as it does in full sun. I’m happy to report that it has performed as planned, and I’m very pleased with the way it turned out.

There are nine container arrangements created by designers on view at BBG into mid-September along with a fascinating group of benches of all kinds, not to mention that the display gardens are all in their glory right now! It’s worth the trip to take in all this horticultural beauty before the season ends.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 08/17/16 at 09:47 AM • Permalink

When The Rain Doesn’t Come…Ever

The Rural Intelligence region is fortunate to have so many gardening experts close by. Our garden writer, Madaline Sparks, is the principal in her own design, installation and maintenance business, Madaline Sparks Garden Design, with clients in Columbia and Berkshire counties. For 12 years she was the contributing garden editor at Real Simple Magazine. Madaline and her husband, Wayne Greene, live in Spencertown, NY where both are very active volunteers at Spencertown Academy Arts Center.

I tend to write about the things that are on my mind. These days I’m obsessing about our lack of rain, lying awake nights worrying about the plants I installed in gardens this year. Everywhere I go, people are talking about it. A few nights ago, it rained for 4.5 minutes, exactly. There had been a promise of rain in the air all day. It just felt like it was going to let loose and go on for a while. But alas. That promise was repeated today and it was totally disappointing once again. With the current forecast, there’s no relief in sight.

Like many in these parts, my well does not recover very quickly, so I cannot water with abandon. I have to be very selective about what I water and how I do it. My priorities for watering are, first, plants that have been put in the ground this year and are not established yet. Next are plants that were installed last year and still need some extra help. And then, containers in full sun that dry out in this weather seemingly minutes after they are drenched. I’m letting the grass go dormant. It’ll green up again when (and if) we do get rain. The only silver lining is that mowing isn’t necessary.

There are many techniques for saving water and using it judiciously. I cringe when I see people scattering water willy-nilly over the leaves of plants just until the surface of the soil or mulch looks wet. Nothing is getting to the roots where the plant can take it up into its stems and leaves. Watering must be done at the base of plants and not with a strong stream, which runs off, but with a dribble or a trickle so it has a chance to percolate the layers of soil and seep deep into the base of the root zone. Deep-watering several times a week, rather than brief, daily watering, provides enough moisture for growing plant roots in hot weather.

Soaker hoses winding through the flowerbeds are an excellent method of allowing moisture to reach the base of the plants without losing most of it to evaporation. Hooking up a battery-operated timer to the soaker hose allows you to avoid watering at peak use times and taxing your system or your well. Setting timers for longer periods, less frequently, is better than watering every day.

When it’s hot and dry for long periods, the surface of the soil, even if it’s mulched, becomes baked and hard. When this happens, water can be wicked away from where you want it to go. Gently loosening the area around the base of the plant allows water to reach the desired destination.

The same condition happens with containers. Commercial potting mixes can become water repellent if they get too dry. The potting soil dries up, shrinks and become hard so that when watered, it runs down the inside of the pots and out the bottom without permeating the root ball. You’ll see the water escaping through the drainage holes and think it has been sufficiently hydrated but, in reality, it hasn’t been watered at all. Using your fingers or a small tool to carefully disturb the crusty surface around the base of the plants will improve the saturation conditions.

One important tip to keep in mind: during the heat of the day, especially if plants are sited in direct sun or are exposed to prolonged windy conditions, leaves will look wilted even though you may have watered that morning and the soil appears to be wet. This is a self–defense mechanism employed by the plant to protect the roots. It closes the pores in the leaves to prevent too much transpiration of moisture. If the leaves recover and perk back up late in the day, it doesn’t need more water. If they stay limp, then don’t wait, spot water immediately.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 07/26/16 at 09:56 AM • Permalink

Garden Dialogues Explore Synergy Between Designer And Client

Salisbury estate. Photo: Larry Weaner Landscape Associates, courtesy The Cultural Landscape Foundation.

By Lisa Green

Thanks to the myriad of house and garden tours and “open days” throughout our region, garden aficionados have fairly frequent access to some magnificent private gardens. There, the artful landscapes self describe the what and where of garden design, but missing is the why and how these particular Edens came to be.

On July 31, two distinguished residential estates in Salisbury, Conn. and Millerton, New York will set the scene for Garden Dialogues, a special tour series that benefits The Cultural Landscape Foundation. Larry Weaner, one of the foremost landscape designers in the country — and the designer for these two properties — will engage in a conversation with his clients on the collaborative process between client and designer.

The day offers a unique form of a garden tour in which both the client and the designer participate, revealing how the project was realized. How do designers and clients work together? How do clients get their vision across? What makes for an enduring collaboration?

Millerton estate. Photo: Larry Weaner Landscape Associates, courtesy The Cultural Landscape Foundation.

The day begins at a contemporary property in Millerton, where a nuanced treatment in which formal planting arrangements and dramatic stonework dissolve gradually into designed meadows and carefully managed woodlands. In the afternoon, the tour moves to a large estate in Salisbury, where designed natural landscapes run up to and envelop a Georgian mansion with stately formal gardens. The owner, who has won national awards and recognition for management of her estate, will be joined by her on-staff horticulturalist in this Dialogue.

“We get rave reviews from people on the Dialogue series,” says Nord Wennerstrom, director of communications for the Cultural Landscape Foundation. “They connect people to places, which is our mission, but they also give people a depth of understanding they wouldn’t get otherwise.”

Each tour lasts about an hour and a half, and participants are invited to bring a lunch to enjoy on the grounds at the first tour. Weaner is providing a jitney from a meeting location in Salisbury to each venue. Tour size is limited and reservations are necessary. The event is tax deductible and proceeds benefit the educational programs of The Cultural Landscape Foundation.

Garden Dialogues: New York-Connecticut
Sunday, July 31, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 07/15/16 at 01:04 PM • Permalink

Dispatch From The Garden: Color…And Not

The Rural Intelligence region is fortunate to have so many gardening experts close by. Our garden writer, Madaline Sparks, is the principal in her own design, installation and maintenance business, Madaline Sparks Garden Design, with clients in Columbia and Berkshire counties. For 12 years she was the contributing garden editor at Real Simple Magazine and writes a bi-weekly garden column for the Chatham Courier. Madaline and her husband, Wayne Greene, live in Spencertown, NY where both are very active volunteers at Spencertown Academy Arts Center.

The White Garden at Sissinghurst Castle featuring cleome, cosmos, and veronica.

Many people are obsessed with bright blooming color in the garden all season long and I don’t blame them. When I began gardening seriously, I was focused on colorful flowers, too. My taste hasn’t changed; my heart still catches in my throat when I spy blooms in brilliant hues: peonies, dahlias, coneflowers, clematis (and on and on). I’ve already professed my love for chartreuse, but I’ve also developed an appreciation for subtle tonal combinations. One of the most difficult skills to develop as a garden designer is achieving continuous three-season bloom. I’ve certainly gotten better at it after all these years, but I’m always striving to improve. Every time I consider purchasing a plant to install in a garden, I automatically think of this aspect of design.

One reason it’s so hard is many perennials bloom for only a couple of weeks, so planning to have multiple plants ready to burst into flower, just as Plant A, B and C are finishing up, is quite a challenge. This scheme must be repeated from spring through fall. Long-blooming annuals can assist in this goal. It can be expensive to invest in them every season rather than rely on perennials to achieve the all-season garden, but I feel they earn their keep if maintained properly (fertilized, deadheaded and well watered), filling the gaps and endlessly pumping out color whether planted in the ground or in strategically placed containers. Self-sowing annuals (cosmos, larkspur, verbena bonariensis, etc.) are a one-time investment but have to be controlled.

‘Silver Falls’ dichondra planted in an unused fountain to resemble water spilling over the tiers at the Hooper garden in Canaan, N.Y.

On the other side of the color story is white. In the past few years I’ve been creating some all-white scenarios within the context of other gardens. All white is a misnomer because silver, gray, chartreuse, light yellow and other pale foliaged and flowering plants are used, too. Dark green leaves and flowers with bright hues recede as the sun fades. Whites, pastels, chartreuse and silver-gray, which can look faded in the sun’s brightest light, almost float as they emerge from their darker surroundings, reflecting any available light from the moon or other sources. The plant choices depend on whether your light conditions are full sun, shade or a combination, but there are dozens of plants that not only offer sparkly white or pale blooms but also offer fragrance, especially at night. Many light-colored flowers attract pollinators who are busy working the graveyard shift, and exude a perfumed fragrance which helps them be found. 

Any of the panicle-flowered hydrangeas or arborescens types are excellent choices for white gardens. ‘David’ phlox, white or blush pink petunias, Casa Blanca lilies, moonflower, flowering tobacco, and trumpet flower are just a handful of the flowers that will give off a lovely fragrance. Lamb’s ear, ‘Silver Falls’ dichondra,  ‘Diamond Frost’ euphorbia, white thunbergia, ‘Virgin’ or ‘White Swan’ coneflowers, ‘Becky’ daisies, ‘Bridal Veil’ astilbe, white liatris and salvia are excellent choices to carry through the white theme. 

I site these little “moon gardens” where they can be enjoyed after the sun goes down as well as during the light of day. If your days are so hectic that you barely get home by sunset, you could use a spot in the garden that invites you to sit back and relax in a sparkly haven of tranquility. And with our crazy weather patterns, evening is often the only time you can stand to be outside anyway.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 07/12/16 at 02:18 PM • Permalink

A Beautiful Shade Of Green

The Rural Intelligence region is fortunate to have so many gardening experts close by. Our garden writer, Madaline Sparks, is the principal in her own design, installation and maintenance business, Madaline Sparks Garden Design, with clients in Columbia and Berkshire counties. For 12 years she was the contributing garden editor at Real Simple Magazine and writes a bi-weekly garden column for the Chatham Courier. Madaline and her husband, Wayne Greene, live in Spencertown, NY where both are very active volunteers at Spencertown Academy Arts Center.

Sun king brightens a semi-shade slope with angelina sedum at the base.

My favorite color is green and I absolutely love chartreuse! It just makes me happy, and whatever you call it — pistachio, acid, lime, neon, yellow-green, golden — my closet is filled with variations of this color. It’s a very versatile color to use in the garden, and my mission is to integrate it into garden designs and container plantings whenever I can. A little chartreuse goes a long way though and has to be used judiciously.

Groundcovers, annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees all have chartreuse versions. There’s something available at any point on the scale you wish, and it mixes well with almost any other color. Using it with complementary colors like scarlet, berry, pinks and reds is an easy choice. I also love the greener shades of chartreuse in combination with violet, lilac, deep purple and blues. For “hot” combos of color, it works well with yellow, coral, orange and other citrus-y tones.

Now, as I examine all the gardens I tend, I’m seeing the places where I’ve used chartreuse effectively and where I could add some into the planting scenarios. “Lady’s mantle” (alchemilla mollis) is such a workhorse. It tolerates sun or shade, and the velvety medium-green roundish leaves complement other perennials. At this time in the season, a host of tiny flowers create a frothy cloud of bright green above the foliage. It definitely makes itself apparent, but in a subtle way. The stems make a lovely filler for cut bouquets. When the blooms start to fade, cut the flower stems back to basal foliage and refocus attention on the beautiful foliage.

The chartreuse flowers of lady’s mantle.

Less subtle, and a plant that earns the name “sun king,” aralia cordata is akin to a spotlight in the garden. It features a large, rounded clump of yellow-green compound leaves, topped in summer by 2-foot tall spikes of tiny white flowers. Deep purplish-black inedible berries ripen in fall and birds love them. The foliage retains a good chartreuse color throughout summer. It prefers a mix of sun and shade and if in too much shade, will not be as bright.

In containers, I like to use golden creeping jenny (lysimachia nummularia aurea) as an underplanting to upright plants like elephant ears or annual salvias. Sweet potato vine (ipomoea batatas) “margarita,” with a heart-shaped leaf, and “illusion emerald lace,” with a tri-lobed leaf, are two varieties that I go to again and again. They are quite vigorous and can be used to trail down pots or walls, or be planted in the ground where gaps need to be filled or where you want a shot of vibrant color.

In mixed borders, the relatively small gold mound spirea can be kept compact with a spring pruning every year and it creates good contrast against its darker green companions. Fine-leaved “ogon” is another spirea that mixes well. In my own garden, I let golden feverfew self-sow every season and, in the spring, transplant the small mounds of delicate chartreuse foliage to areas where I need to fill a gap or want to highlight other plants. I also use this method with “jewels of opar” (talinum limone).

There are dozens of additional plants in this exciting color story: varieties of hosta, heuchera, sedum, coleus, caryopteris, sambucus and ornamental grass. Experiment with something chartreuse this season in your garden. I think you’ll agree with me!

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 06/28/16 at 12:47 PM • Permalink

Amble And Admire The View: Kinderhook Garden Stroll

By Lisa Green

Kinderhook, New York loves its Dutch ancestry. To quote ourselves, “Kinderhook has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to historical architecture.” We’ve previously written about the town’s more famous buildings. But this being garden tour season, Kinderhook wants to introduce visitors to a selected handful of rarely seen private gardens at some of the oldest Dutch houses in town.

On Saturday, June 25 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Village of Kinderhook Office of Economic Development is sponsoring a Garden Stroll at five spectacular properties. Not solely a garden tour, it’s also the opportunity to see up close some of Kinderhook’s collection of preserved 18th and 19th-century homes.

One of them belongs to Sigrid Gray, former horticulture director of The Battery Conservancy in New York City for 15 years, as well as a gardener at the Cooper Hewitt and Smithsonian Design Museum. She relocated to Kinderhook in 2012 and chose the house in the historic district precisely because she could see its garden potential, which she’s since brought to fruition. Gray will be offering “The Naturalistic Garden” Walk and Talk at her property. It’s a stunning naturalistic garden, with an intermingling of ornamental and edible plants, foliage and bloom.

Other properties on the tour include a cottage-style garden at a 1756 stone Dutch house with Federal brick and clapboard additions; a ramble alongside and behind a circa 1840 Federal home; and a formal boxwood-and-yew courtyard garden inside the walls of a Dutch home built in 1766.

And, of course, it wouldn’t be a Saturday in Kinderhook without its farmers market, and the always vibrant and schmooze-filled gathering will offer tastings of wine, spirits and cider, plus performances of Carapace Farm Puppetry. As they say, something for everyone.

Proceeds will benefit beautification projects throughout the Village of Kinderhook.

Garden Stroll
Village of Kinderhook, NY

Saturday, June 25, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Tickets, $20 , available from 9 a.m. in Kinderhook Village Square

 

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Posted by Lisa Green on 06/18/16 at 11:47 AM • Permalink