December 1, 2016

Is it Too Late/Too Warm/Too Cold to Plant my Flower Bulbs?

plant tulips, daffodils and spring bulbs from mid November to mid December.
The end of November and the first part of December is the optimal time to plant tulips, daffodils and spring bulbs.
A couple of weeks ago, I did a segment on 4 YOUR GARDEN (here for past segments) on tulip and spring flower bulb planting and if it was too warm to do so. You can watch the episode below. Now that December and colder weather has finally arrived,  I am being asked if it is too LATE to plant tulips, daffodils and other flower bulbs for spring bloom. 

Hundreds of bulbs from await planting in my front flower beds.
Hundreds of bulbs from await planting in my front flower beds.
Well. NO! Mid-November to mid-December is the perfect time here in the South and in Oklahoma to plant spring blooming bulbs!

I usually try to get my 800 tulips and other flower bulbs in the ground just before Thanksgiving for two reasons: I like to have them tucked in before the mayhem of the Christmas season right after turkey, and because in OK, our ground temps have usually cooled enough to do so.

Dig large holes for planting multiple tulip bulbs spaced about 1.5-2" apart, to a depth of at least two and a half times the size of the bulb.
That said, while I had most of the tulips in the ground by then, my Snowflake (leucojum),

Tiny bells of leucojum flowers.
For more on Snowflakes and other white spring bloomers go to a post I wrote here about these dainty bloomers.
tiny iris reticulata, and tiny Star bulbs didn't get in the ground until yesterday. As long as the ground isn't frozen, you can tuck them in until Christmas. And if you haven't done it by then...

100 Sweet Carillon bulbs sit in a basket waiting to be planted.
This is the first time I have planted Spanish Bluebells and I am excited to see how they perform.
by all means continue into January (again, if the ground isn't frozen) to plant them. You don't want to find a large, or even small, quantity of bulbs hidden in your garage come spring because they didn't get in the ground. Planting in January, however, can be a cold and nasty experience for the gardener, and those sweet bulbs really do want more time to put out strong root growth...

When excavating dirt out of the garden or pot for bulb planting, use a tarp or towel to keep cleanup to a minimum.
When excavating dirt out of the garden or pot for bulb planting, use a tarp or towel to keep cleanup to a minimum.
so you would do well to get them into the garden or pots and containers as soon as possible and cross it off your list. Trust me, it is time well spent, and the anticipation of that much erupting beauty come spring will warm your cockles in the depths of winter.

I had extra Snowflake bulbs so I am tucking some in a winter hardy pot, planting deeply in good soil. I will mulch the top with leaves after doing so.
These miniature iris bulbs were tucked into a concrete window box with a box topiary and ivies.
These miniature iris bulbs were tucked into a concrete window box with a box topiary and ivies.
Since it has been especially dry this fall, I watered them in well after planting to get their roots off to a good start. I used to use a bulb food when planting, but no longer do. Since I treat my tulips as annuals, the bulbs themselves have all the nutrients they need to perform brilliantly.

Bulbs in a yellow mesh bag sit in a wicker basket waiting for their new home.
I like to save the mesh bags that my bulbs come in for later use. After washing them, I put them into service as produce bags for grocery shopping.
Waterproof red polkadot gloves make for cheery gardening.
Waterproof red polkadot gloves make for cheery gardening.

One more thing.  If planting in December, make sure your garden gloves are seasonally appropriate. :)

November 28, 2016

5 Reasons to Paint Your Dining Room Red

Green and white china on red and white tablecloth with floral and fruit centerpiece.
Thanksgiving table 2016

Would you, could you, should you paint your dining room red?  I took the plunge over 25 years ago when I saw a dining room with painted red walls in an issue of TRADITIONAL HOME magazine, and some other red and luscious decor ideas at Martha ... where red was used both as accent and backdrop in home decor.  I chose a RALPH LAUREN red in eggshell (for other luscious RL colors go here, to the THOROUGHBRED COLLECTION) and then had a coat of glaze applied that resulted in a patina both rich and leathery looking. Oh, and appropriate to my English Tudor home. My mahogany woodwork contributes to the aura I think, and I have never regretted the admittedly bold choice...and have never been tempted to change it (unlike other areas of my home.)

Vignettes of Thanksgiving 2016:  Dior 'Malachite' green and white china and the deep red hues of pears, dahlias and pomegranates.
When I posited this same question on Facebook, a realtor said "No, it is outdated." To which I responded that I didn't think a 1935 traditional English Tudor home with rather traditional English decor (isn't that the point of the wo)rd 'traditional'?)  I still feel it is timeless, if not au courant. (Visit my red Pinterest board here).

Ralph Lauren red walls with red trim frame the view into the living room where touches of red are repeated.

But her point is well taken. Those younger than I (and members of the HGTV generation), would probably prefer fuchsia or turquoise over red, or perhaps a taupe/all white decor with loud pops of color. A whole different dynamic that could also be and style being in the eye of the beholder and a subjective thing after all. But since I am not planning on selling my home to a millennial any time soon.... I am the beholder of my beautiful red leathery walls and continue to love them.

Fluffy red dahlias with greens and berries from the garden accompany gilded gourds, pinecones and corn.


1. It is very flattering to one's complexion, particularly when accompanied by candlelight and the relaxing aura of gentle music. Your guests (and yourself, of course) will look quite attractive as the light it casts is soft and forgiving....a visage-enhancing pink flush. And who doesn't enjoy themselves more when they feel they look their best?

Just having my sons home for Thanksgiving is enough to make me blush with happiness, with or without red walls.

2. It is particularly appropriate during the fall and winter months when I do most of my indoor entertaining.  Its rich intensity lends itself to earthy Thanksgiving tablescapes (like this year's in pomegranate red and malachite green), cheery Christmas brunches and romantic Valentine dinners. Throw in numerous birthday dinners and a cocktail party or two during these same colder months...well the red walls continue to deliver for me....and my guests. 

This year, a Friendsgiving....with dear friends who have been spending this day of thanks with us for many, many years.

Most, if not all of my entertaining and celebrations in the spring, summer and early fall are centered around the garden, where lighter, less rich and intense colors are more seasonally appropriate. By then I am happy to leave the dining room's dark personality behind and embrace the brighter light and mood of the great outdoors.

A glossy red armoire gives me the tone on tone sensibility, and extra storage, I crave.

3.  I love tone on tone.....on both light monochromatic hues and deep rich jewel tones. Consequently, I painted a pine armoire in the exact same deep red hue with a top coat of Briwax to add depth and shine (Be warned, I will Briwax anything that doesn't move.) I also added red linen  shades on the the sideboard black lamps. In my mind, if a little bit is good, more can sometimes be delicious.

The intense color red vibrates from the centerpiece as well.

 4. Luscious reds are frequently a part of my centerpieces, this year in the gorgeous red of Bosc pears and pomegranates, fluffy dahlias, and ruby berries. Anything that glistens and flickers....crystal, silver, candlelight.....spray-painted gold pinecones and pumpkins :)...

Gilded gourds and lush red flowers and fruit = luscious

look even more beautiful with red as a canvas to play against.

Candlelight and red walls enhance one another's magical qualities.

As I love contrast as well as tone on tone, I have white slipcovered furniture in the living room that pop against the red. Of course, touches of red, for continuity are repeated in there as well.

White slipcovered furniture pleasingly contrast against the deep red walls.

5. And finally, it feeds my need for color echoes everywhere I look. The same rich red is found in the oil painting over the sideboard, in the many table linens I have inherited and amassed over the years,

Nandina berries and arborvitae greens from the garden ground the Thanksgiving flower arrangement.

and in the small touches of my everyday garden life that find their way to the table or a vase.
Red walls are certainly not for everyone. They may not even be for me...

in a different place, a different home, a different time. 

The huge red blooms of 'Red Lion' amaryllis match the intensity of the walls in a heavenly way.

But for now, I find them scrumptious.

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to stop by Potager!  If you don’t want to miss a post, you can sign up to receive a daily email and you will never miss a thing. I’m also on Facebook, Pinterest, and InstagramOr missed a 4 YOUR GARDEN segment? Go here. 

October 31, 2016

Selecting Colors and Textures for the Garden and the Home

Create a beautiful autumnal still life with russet/gold/cardinal colored foliage, berries, flowers and seed heads from your garden. Pair a basket of like-colored apples and voila! instant arrangement.

It is such a commonsense notion that we often overlook its brilliant simplicity in designing our gardens, and that is to:  

grow those colors and textures and hues in our landscapes that also enhance the decor and style and hues of our home's interior.  Put another way, what looks good growing together in the garden will also be a beautiful ensemble inside our home and match our indoor color schemes when cut for the vase.

Beautifully colored oak leaf hydrangea leaf, nandina berries, sprigs of sedum, and a late blooming apricot rose are part of the the equation.
A small bouquet of spider mums in similar colors joins the assembly of garden cuttings.

In my own gardens, this is not especially true.......until autumn. When fall arrives, the foliage of my oak leaf hydrangeas, deutzia, maples and on and on begin to take on the hues of the colors of my home:  creams and russets and burnt umbers....dusty greens and apricot.  Nandina berries are only halfway to the red they will assume in the winter.....the perfect shades of terra-cotta and orange I want in my seasonal arrangements now. Sedum flowers, poppy pods, papery dried hydrangea blooms add sumptuous textures and contrast to the boldly colored leaves.

An umber pedestal vase accentuates the beauty of the garden cuttings. A pale pumpkin sits at its side.

My kitchen turns into a happy playground, with leafy and flowery toys to entertain and delight me. I enjoy the fussing and placing and putzing. Execution is easy. A loaf of oasis is saturated and then placed in the container, secured with florist's tape and then assembled in a pleasing way....according to this artist's whims.

Layer upon layer of leaves, flowers and berries are added. Knowing when to stop is the biggest challenge in its artistry.

Flaming colors toned down by dusty creams and greens speaks the season....and the colors of my kitchen.

From the front and from the back....different views and different textures.

In my morning room with apples and plaid and ivy for company.

Then put in place where I, and visitors can enjoy them...however fleetingly.

Hopefully you enjoyed them as well. :)

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to stop by Potager!  If you don’t want to miss a post, you can sign up to receive a daily email and you will never miss a thing. I’m also on Facebook, Pinterest, and InstagramOr missed a 4 YOUR GARDEN segment? Go here. 


October 18, 2016

How I Use Potted Topiary in my Garden Beds

Topiaries in pots set in the front beds accentuate the vertical lines in my English Tudor home and its lamppost.

I posed the following question recently on Facebook (you can follow me here), and now  I ask you as well:

 Do you like potted topiaries 'floating' in garden beds or do you find them distracting?

There is no right or wrong answer, but it is an interesting, subjective question in garden design to ponder. I can see either side of the issue, so, while I obviously fall into the category of LIKE vs distracting, I do try to adhere to certain guidelines in using topiary in the landscape to keep such dissonance and visual interruptions to a minimum. Here are some points to consider if you too enjoy their sophistication and appeal in the garden border. (For a  p o t a g e r post on other plant materials to use for topiary, go here). 

Generally, I like things in threes, though often a third non-topiary element (like the extreme verticality of my oak) can serve as the last element in the triangle. 

1.  I wanted them to match the scale of my landscape and home.

These Eugenia topiaries are three years old and fairly large, about 4-5 feet tall and about 15" across. They are in large, real terra-cotta pots, as light weight terra-cotta alternatives don't, in this relatively unprotected area, remain upright in our strong Oklahoma winds. Even THESE heavy pots succumb on occasion (like today and yesterday and the day before that... AARRGH!!) when our proverbial winds are REALLY 'whipping down the plain'. 

I use a mix of both terra cotta and aged concrete in the beds and on the porch.
2.  I went with traditional pots to match the traditional style of my home. 

Anything aged, traditional in appearance, and in terra-cotta or concrete would have worked. While I want them to have heft for sturdiness, I don't want them to be SO prohibitively heavy that I cannot move them myself, or have issues with weight when they overwinter in the greenhouse each winter.
Because of this,  I went with terra cotta, slightly lighter in weight, but meeting my other criteria.

Eugenia in one, two and three tier forms, are distinctive and yet harmonious.
3.  I used just one type of plant for each of the three pots.

While in the back I use all form of plants for topiary, in the front I want to prevent visual dissonance and create as much harmony as possible. Plenty of other visual variables, on my property and others, compete for the attention of the eye. Using just one plant material, albeit in various 'poodle' and topiary forms, lends itself to more continuity. In this case I use Eugenia, in the myrtle family, because of its good nature, good performance and good looks. (For a fun way to while away some time, look at the Eugenia Pinterest page here and indulge your topiary obsession.)

Keeping topiary straight and upright can be a challenge, but very handsome and satisfying when they cooperate!

4.  It is difficult, but worth the effort I think, to keep them as straight and vertical as possible.

Okay, I know this is overly fastidious... and gives great insight into my garden-control fixations, but I do think that NOT being attentive to their straight and vertical stature... can be visually distracting and uncomfortable to the eye. Ironically, I spend far more time straightening and getting these beauties to 'fly right' than I do tending the plants themselves! So if you drive by, tell me if this
is not the case...

Now I need to work on that wayward, and very heavy birdbath.
but please don't judge me if they appear tipsy!

The balls/verticality of the topiary both contrast and echo the rounded forms of the pumpkins and cushion mums.
Please do drive by if possible and tell me what you think!
The glossy foliage looks beautiful when it catches the golden light of fall.

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to stop by Potager!  If you don’t want to miss a post, you can sign up to receive a daily email and you will never miss a thing. I’m also on Facebook, Pinterest, and InstagramOr missed a 4 YOUR GARDEN segment? Go here. 

October 16, 2016

Design Inspiration for Starting a New Garden

"Disruption and mayhem in the garden often force change and encourage new and deeper roots. True for the gardener as well as the garden". 
~~ me, aka Linda Vater

It is so tiresome for me to once again kvetch about the havoc that AT&T (and now Apple) has wrought on my blog life...especially since I am always whining and complaining about it. Still, it is amazing how much disruption getting a simple new router can cause and how much downtime on the computer is a result. In the void, however, I have been trying to up my game on Instagram...providing followers with mini garden design tips each day, with photographic examples of each, mostly from my own garden. A fun learning process for me, and hopefully valuable for you. If you too would like to get a daily dose of design (I do LOVE alliteration), please follow me on Instagram by going here. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments. And do please share if you feel it might be valuable to someone else.

On another note, I was working out front in the garden today and a young couple strolled by asking questions about my turf and landscape.  They had just bought a house nearby and were 'starting from scratch' so to speak. I told them I had recently written an article in SOUTHERN LIVING Magazine in June about that very topic and was about to repost the article on my blog. So, if you missed it the first time round, or are in need of some small garden inspiration, maybe you will find this re-post helpful.

JUNE 24, 2016


The potager as it looked the week of the SOUTHERN LIVING shoot.
Where Do We Start?

I found myself referring to points in the article I wrote for the June 2016 issue of SOUTHERN LIVING over and over again as it addressed this very topic.  In case you didn't see the article (it will probably remain on newsstands for a couple more days), here are some of the points I made.  Maybe it will help you put the pieces of your own garden puzzle together as you create a space that is uniquely yours. (For other tips on gardening in the South, consult SOUTHERN LIVING'S The Grumpy Gardener here, on the blog The Daily South.

Large swath of black-eyed susans in front of a dark picket fence and bordered in brick
Large masses of 'Goldsturm' Rudbeckia make a strong statement in my small garden.  Time to divide and share, me thinks!
(Excerpts from the June 2016 issue of SOUTHERN LIVING. Images my own taken week of the shoot.)

When we moved into our 1935 Tudor home twenty-five years ago, I knew nothing about gardening or garden design. The small back yard contained exactly one gnarly old tree , a nest of blackberry brambles and an abandoned sandbox. Crumbling concrete steps led to a ‘lawn’ of weedy, hardpan clay. But after MUCH trial and error, hard work, and a LOT of missteps, the pieces finally fell into place. Now it’s a beautiful and much-used extension of our home. Here are some garden design lessons I learned along the way.

Photographer Ryan Ford (see her work here) sets up shots in back yard.


Your landscape should reflect your personality and the way you and your family live. Before planting even one petunia, ask some questions. Do you need a space for entertaining or a kids’ jungle gym?  A sunny spot to grow vegetables or a shady spot to read?  Do you enjoy puttering in the garden or strictly low to no maintenance?  Are you traveling all summer and home in spring and fall?  Questions like these help decide what is important, where to put what, and how to get what you want from a limited amount of space. 


Home and garden should relate to one another and be similar in style. For example: my Tudor home cried out for the quaint appeal of an English garden. Its asymmetrical architecture with rounded window and door frames inspired an informal style with soft, curved bed lines and mounded forms. I repeated its brick and stone exterior in the edging and hardscape. Traditional English cottage flowers balked at our torrid summers. After killing a lot; okay, A LOT of plants, I learned to substitute tougher look-a-likes that spoke the same language but with an Oklahoma accent.

Pink hibiscus flower with red center and rudbeckia blossoms in garden
 PW Hibiscus 'Cherry Cheesecake" and rudbeckia.


I think of a garden as I do a house…but with ceilings, walls  and flooring made of plant material, garden structures and hardscape. Tightly clipped evergreens, carefully pruned trees, large containers and arbors make strong garden bones that help divide small backyards into functional, intimate ‘rooms’. In my outdoor entertaining areas, crushed gravel and flagstone are appropriate to my garden style and make a long lasting, 

Large grouping of concrete container plantings.
A group of container plantings creates a sense of enclosure in the dining area.
cost effective floor for outdoor furnishings. A green wall of shrubs and climbers covers the wood fence that encloses the yard. This adds texture, depth, color and softness, creating the illusion of a much larger space. Redbud trees surrounding the perimeter of the dining area have grown together, creating a ceiling of pink blooms in spring and green shade in summer. Twin arbors flank a boxwood hedged potager, enclosing a kitchen garden and providing much needed vertical growing space.

Arching branches of redbud trees create a living ceiling over the dining area.

Not only should a home relate to its garden, but each section of the garden should relate, connect, and easily flow to every other part. (I think of it as the Gardener’s Theory of Relativity). 

Border of Goldsturm rudbeckia flanks a short gate into kitchen garden.
Goldsturm Rudbeckia in huge swaths makes a dramatic statement in a small garden.

In my yard, flagstone pavers set in the lawn (and easily mown over) tell visitors where to go next. They visually connect the shady dining area with the sunnier lawn, and from there to the kitchen garden. (It is also a charming way to save wear and tear on your turf.) 

Brick, soft-set as edging, encircles the lawn with intermittent gaps for low growing ground cover and flowers. Their rhythm and repetition provides definition and helps to unify the space.

Terracotta pots march up and down the back steps creating rhythm and repetition.

Gardening in Oklahoma ain’t for sissies. I learned early on to try and work WITH, not against, Mother Nature. As every Okie knows, there are but two seasons…before the heat and after the heatwith record-breaking ice, cold, wind, rain, heat, drought, hail and earthquakes thrown in to keep it interesting. Consequently, when back to back ice storms felled three river birches, I replaced them with tough,native redbuds. When my grass reliably died each summer from drought, heat stress and fungal issues, I downsized my grass carpet into a throw rug. I practice a three strikes and you’re out rule. After relocating or replanting three times, if a plant dies or underperforms, out it goes with something tougher in its place. Gardens of ANY size have no space for slackers!
The area to grow edibles in the potager is small. I try to only grow those things we will actually consume!

Only television shows and people with deep pockets have instant gardens. True gardens require patience, experimentation, perseverance, hard work and a sense of humor. Once you have a vision of your fantasy garden in mind, be smart. Take it one area, one room at a time. Learn how to care for, nurture or maintain 
it.  THEN move on to the next area. Eat that elephant one bite at a time. DO remember that what you want from your yard will change over time, so be flexible in your design.  

Most of all, enjoy the creative process as well as the end result. After all, a dream garden is much more than just the sum of its parts.

Cheery blooms of sunflowers, zinnias, veronica and rudbeckia create a still life on the potager bench for the SOUTHERN LIVING shoot.

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to stop by Potager!  If you don’t want to miss a post, you can sign up to receive a daily email and you will never miss a thing. I’m also on Facebook, Pinterest, and InstagramOr missed a 4 YOUR GARDEN segment? Go here.