October 22, 2014

Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus)

Now Showing:


(Kinda sounds like the name of  a summer blockbuster...)

And so it is...a real garden border blockbuster. 

And to think,

it started out just this spring as a little seed I planted from the Monticello seed collection (find some here). 

I grow cardoon strictly for ornamental reasons...its architectural drama, clumps of handsome foliage, gray-green-white color and overall stature.  Its amiability to our hot, dry summers doesn't hurt either.

The lavender hue of its thistle-y bud and bloom, though not my primary motivation for planting,

is as handsome and unique as the foliage from which it springs...somewhat menacing in appearance, thus rendering it all the more interesting...and subject to frequent comment from garden visitors. This year, after the bloom was spent, I lopped off its head and was quickly rewarded with new, equally as dynamic, foliage.

In our zone 7 gardens, I have seen it return...and not return, in the spring, depending on how low the temps drop. Giving it excellent drainage will help
prevent root rot from which it can succumb, making it an ideal companion for the equally drainage-demanding lavender, which, like the cardoon, is not always reliable about returning in the spring (or making it through our hot, humid summers for that matter.

If you prefer more reliable perennial companions, try coneflower, variegated small-leaved euonymous, liatris, or sedum 'Autumn Joy'. Actually anything with a ferny, cut-leave texture provides great contrast to its broad leaves.

 And while these same garden companions can start to look haggard, buggy and spent in the late summer heat...

the cardoon shrugs it off, continuing its handsome display well into fall.

Back lit by golden autumn lighting, it contributes much to the fall show, especially when paired with white dahlias, blue-gray cerinthe (find seed here on Etsy) or zinnia 'Green Envy'.

If you prefer stand-alone drama from this specimen, a simple
mulch of attractive gravel would suit it just fine. So if you're planning your

spring garden already...give it some consideration, won't you?

October 19, 2014

Purple Oxalis

I've had plum colored clover - purple oxalis - growing in my garden for years...albeit in small patches. Nothing to write home about as it were.

But then....I saw it growing in huge swaths, back lit by a golden September sun...

in my friend RL's fabulous garden...

and I had an epiphany -- the realization that I had not been doing it justice. I had been growing it in a petty

mean-spirited fashion. In little dibs and dabbles... a gardening transgression I was happy to remedy when I
selected the plum and chartreuse palette for my front beds this year.

I bought several quarts of PW Oxalis 'Charmed Wine'
and planted it in the recommended shade to part shade environ it
now enjoys. I can attest to its cold hardiness (to 15 degrees; though I have found when mulched it can handle even colder winter conditions), relative drought tolerance and deadheading free character.

I love the jaunty way the pale lilac-pink flowers bob atop delicate chartreuse stems...with a like-colored eye in the middle. RL had his growing in far more intense light and sun than I...another issue I rectified this season. Masses of pale floral ballerinas dancing on rich velvety-purple stages...great in number, again thanks to RL's generosity...he gifted me with huge clumps of these purple beauties.

The bi-tonal leaves glisten and glow and absorb light, botanical stained glass, especially when paired with delicate foliage---fern, drift roses, and guara are my  companions of choice...

to beautiful effect I think. Drive by and do tell

if you agree.

October 13, 2014

BABY FOOT Exfoliant Foot Peel

There are still bulbs to be planted, of course, and the relentless work of raking and blowing and composting all of those falling leaves;

but for the most part, the gardening season is beginning to wind down... 

outside gardening at any rate. And I don't mind telling you that this girl here...

is in no small measure

beginning to feel like this guy here.

A little scaly and flaky and rough...oh, and a little irritable.

Me-thinks some pampering is in order and pamper myself I will.

I am about to order a second box of the miracle-working BABY FOOT Exfoliant Foot Peel.

Find it here

My friend Sunshine gave me the scoop on this wondrous product, described in its brochure thusly:

"Thanks to Baby Foot, its 17 natural extracts will not only peel off the dead skin cells, it will provide you incredible moisturizing power and will help maintain your skin's texture. The main ingredient is fruit acid..."

And that, my friends, is pretty much all you need to know. And that IT WORKS!
And that it's worth every penny of (its about) $25 per treatment cost. 

And that if you've gardened as hard as I have this year, you deserve it. Trust me on this one........you'll be glad you gave it a try.

October 11, 2014

A Bench For All Seasons

The back garden, like the front garden and potager, has undergone numerous changes...some intentional...most, thanks to Mother Nature, not. But one garden element,

ornament really,

has been ever present... a constant companion. 

Our wooden bench nestles under the canopy of an old and gnarly redbud, another devoted inhabitant in the 24 years we have lived here. The old tree, beaten up, weather-battered, yes...but still charming and protective of its progeny...three now... grown and sculpted and protective of their own under plantings.

The garden has matured, evolved, pouted and laughed... as has its caretakers.

The bench, patient and reliable, has born witness to it all.

Both beautiful and functional,

in form and in spirit...

its charm undiminished by heat or cold,

drought or torrent.

Always at the ready

my mother would say

tucked away


in every season

to rest our weary bones.

October 10, 2014

Autumn in Purple and Gold

Any self-respecting digger of dirt will tell those who come to tour their gardens...

"That they should have seen it LAST week when this or that was at its peak and the garden was far more beautiful..."


lament their absence  NEXT week, when the garden will surely be more mature, more colorful and FAR more enchanting than it is in its present state.

And to both garden tour exhortations and qualifiers I plead guilty.

 I thought of this as I strolled about the garden this morning...after a heavenly
rain that perked up every blossom and leaf desperate for a drink from Mother Nature.

The reviving rain has rendered the garden far more lovely, more relaxed, more fresh and exulting than it was just days ago for the OHS Garden Tour For Connoisseurs. Missed it? Then I hope you enjoy the slideshow below (don't see it?...Go here to the main page to view.)


The color palette is beautiful and, I think, unique for autumn.

Of course, it will be far more lovely next week.


P.SS:  If you can, watch LC and me today on 4 YOUR GARDEN at 4:30.  We'll be talking about the how to's of plant propagation.)

August 26, 2014

Waiting For the Heat to Break

Change is hard...as if you needed to be told. TRANSFORMATION, changing from something undesirable into something 

desirable or improved, is even harder. So as ready as I am for the front...especially the grass...to look like this again, only better...I must remind myself, over and over again...change is hard, change is hard, change is hard.

And, no, to spin a phrase...you truly 

Can't hurry love...you just have to wait...love don't come easy, it's just a game of give and take.

And so it is and so it goes. In all facets of life and gardening, I am being reminded (on both fronts). Transformation can't be hurried, it can be brutal and ugly and painful sometimes...most of the time. It requires patience and perseverance and toughness and resilience...

and a little blind faith that finally given enough time and toil and tenacity...

 the skies will eventually open up

the heat and pressure will eventually break

and what was just vision will become

 A beautiful and yes, hopefully improved...


So, wait and wait I will to install the new turf and plant more beauty. My patience just one part of the compost needed to transform and feed my new garden space.

As promised, here are some of the plants that are part of the new area...most of them already growing in the overall design and attached to the new bedding space.  I want it to appear as if it has been there all along...mature and consistent and harmonious with the existing plantings. Most are of unnamed variety and have been divided and transplanted from elsewhere. Here goes:

~ Kewensis euonymous

~  Sedum 'Autumn Joy'

~  Purple Oxalis

~  Purple Basil

~  Gold Coleus

~ White and Pink Drift roses   
~ Various sedums as ground cover

~ Boxwood 'Green Mountain and 'Winter Gem'

~ Lorapetalum aka. Chinese Fringe Flower

~ Pink Fountain Guara

~ Barberry 'Admiration'

~ Red Pygmy Barberry

~ Golden Vicary Privet

~ Buddleia 'Flutterby Petite'

~ Black Pearl Ornamental Peppers

~ Abelia 'Sunny Anniversary'
(A PW new variety for 2015 I am testing)

 ~ Jewel of Desert Moon Stone Ice Plant

 ~ Purple Sweet Potato Vine

~  Nana Nandina

~  Common Monkey Grass

~ Ajuga

~ Golden Moneywort

~ Creeping Phlox 'Emerald Blue'

Coming up:

What tulips I'll be planting this fall.  Time to Order!

Design Tips and driving motivation and inspiration for the changed front landscape.