Monday, July 28, 2014

Wedding Bells Ring Out In This Garden

Summers are for family reunions, holidays, and great events.  Last month, Tony and I traveled to Massachusetts to attend our niece Tina and Chris's wedding. What a beautiful sunny day, and a grand celebration for my husband's family as a generational wedding location.  But it was visiting the botanical 20 acre private estate for the first time such a delightful experience for this gardener. 

Independence Harbor was in all its glory with flowering annuals, bulbs, and perennials.  The venue provides a  vernal lawn for wedding guests who wait for the blushing bride's entrance through a blooming bridal path to the picturesque gazebo.  The patio reception area overlooks a multi-colored perennial garden with a view of grassy shorelines that curve to the peaceful Assonet River.  Shaded hammocks of trees etched in circles of hostas, daylilies, astilbes, and pansies lure wedding guests on a lovely stroll through more gardens. I was in heaven on earth.  I loved seeing the succinctly manicured landscape beds, the tall patriotic flag, and the serendiptity of horse wagons, bird houses, sun dials, and flowering pots, mixed into the perennials.

If you're in eastern Massachusetts and are looking for a wedding venue, Independence Harbor has received the coveted prestigious The Knot's Best of the Best Award.  The natural setting is available all year round and is just as beautiful in the winter as it is in the summer.  What better gift to a bride and groom than the perfect wedding location? 


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

We Keep Growing!

Today's Garden Center reports that 2013 showed a bigger increase in retail gardening sales than ever before in the last 100 years. The final tally of $34.9 Billion was up 18 %.  Other details found in the National Garden Survey had households spending an additional $73 for a total of $420 on DIY gardening last year, the largest amount in 13 years.
Demographically, over-55 year olds’ dominance of the entire lawn and garden (L&G)market intensifies. In 2001, this age group had 31 percent of the total DIY sales; now it has 46 percent. Meanwhile, retail sales to 35 to 54 year olds have declined by more than $10 billion in the same time frame. The good news is that, fueled by their interest in “Food Gardening,” 18 to 34 year olds have gained market share. As they represent 30 percent of the U.S. household population, we can only hope this gardening behavior will stay with them as they progress through life. 
About 42 percent of DIY garden spending went toward just four gardening activities: lawn care, tree care, shrub care and insect control. Admittedly, these totals include items not carried by most local garden centers (LGCs) such as machinery, mowers, even lawn food, but that’s where the public is spending. This $15+ billion business is dependent on first-time consumer success through good information as well as good prices — opportunity knocks for local garden centers. 
Eleven percent of total household spending was on “Food Gardening” (now averaging $211 per household compared to “Flower Gardening’s” $64). Does your buying focus, inventory, bench space, signage, marketing and training reflect that? A stunning one in three American households now grows some type of food each year and the popularity of TV cooking shows can only help that to grow.

Looks like gardening is helping the country grow in more than one way! 

To read the Today's Garden Center article, click here.


Monday, July 14, 2014

John Barleycorn To The Rescue

Rhode Island Nurseries barley field
 There was three kings into the east,
Three kings both great and high,
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn should die.
They took a plough and plough'd him down,
Put clods upon his head,
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn was dead.

Last month's trip to Massachusetts gave opportunity to drive by farms and nurseries on Rhode Island.  When I passed this field, it was striking to see the varying hues of blue, green, and gold, waving with the summer's breeze.

I couldn't identify the blue haze of the color-partitioned grasses growing so I stopped in at the farm, only to find out it was the Rhode Island Nurseries.  I talked with Jesse Rodriguez, the General Manager and found out that the fields were a mixture of last year's rye along with barley for their new project:  growing barley as a non-chemical approach to inhibit algae in ponds.


Reducing algae by throwing bales of barley into the water is a growing trend.  Not only environmentally friendly but also inexpensive way to control algae without using chemicals.  As barley straw decomposes in water with sufficient oxygen, sunlight, and heat, algae growth is restricted but not killed. It is not a algaecide but a biological alternative. It is safe for fish and wildlife.

Here's to John Barleycorn's fatality as a legacy as a biological alternative to help protect our water! I'll drink to that!

John Barleycorn Green Man

A big thanks to Jesse Rodriguez for being so helpful to a stranger in the parking lot.

Additional links:

The history and EPA's view of using barley as algae control. - Purdue University

Penn State University barley study

Chemung County Soil and Water Conservation District, New York on barley

Harvesting barley

Never heard of John Barleycorn or the cycle of his life?  Here's Robert Burns poem to the crop's legacy.

To Bee or Not To Bee... that is the question

Mark Winston's article in the New York Times, "Our Bees, Ourselves" is a must read for those who want a sane and logical explanation of what is happening in our environments with the bee colony collapse disorder. 
Honeybee collapse has much to teach us about how humans can avoid a similar fate, brought on by the increasingly severe environmental perturbations that challenge modern society.
Honeybee collapse has been particularly vexing because there is no one cause, but rather a thousand little cuts. The main elements include the compounding impact of pesticides applied to fields, as well as pesticides applied directly into hives to control mites; fungal, bacterial and viral pests and diseases; nutritional deficiencies caused by vast acreages of single-crop fields that lack diverse flowering plants; and, in the United States, commercial beekeeping itself, which disrupts colonies by moving most bees around the country multiple times each year to pollinate crops. 

Read Winston's synopsis of what the real issue is that's creating the inevitable worldwide environmental disaster. "Our Bees, Ourselves."

August 4th update:  Swiss Pesticide Company Plan to Bring Back The Bees

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Newport Flower Show 2014

The Breakers
New England vacation tours are incomplete without a visit to America's royal mansions in Newport, Rhode Island.  The Breakers, Chateau-sur-Mer, The Elms, Marble House, Rosecliff, Green Animals Topiary Gardens, Kingscote, Hunter House, Isaac Bell House and Chepstow are all homes of the rich and famous families from the 19th and 20th centuries. 

The Elms
Fountain at the Elms
One of the Classical Revival lower level gardens at the Elms
Green Animals Topiary

The sumptous architecture was designed to recreate England and France's 18th century palaces and country estates. The Mansions' landscapes, bronze statues of gods, animals, and gardens were considered fine art.  Called the "Eden of America" in the 18th century by Jeremiah Morse, an American minister and geographer, the perfectly manicured lawns and private gardens thrive with the New England climate and the labor of many servant gardeners. The majestic trees and palatial landscapes are a sight to behold.

One of the best days to visit the Newport Mansions is during the Newport Flower Show, sponsored by the Preservation Society of Newport County.  The horticultural event is held the last week of June every year at at the Newport Mansion called Rosecliff.
Rosecliff's magnificent view of the Atlantic Ocean, ideal for garden vendors.
Despite being a Florida landscape designer and gardener, the Newport Flower Show is one of my favorite gardening events of the year and I found myself lucky to be able to attend this year at the very last moment.
The flower show's theme this year was "Journey: Grand Vistas" with the emphasis on traveling to different continents was considered the ultimate introduction to society to finish one's education and cultivate sophistication. The floral designs, garden beds, container gardens, and outdoor rooms all showcased competition titles featuring various sights and forms of travel to national and global locations, such as The Grand Tour, Mr. Rockefeller's Carriage Roads, The Cannonball Express, Ellis Island, Route 66, Vintage Travel Poster, The Overseas Highway, and Par Class.  Gardening clubs and horticultural professionals were all invited to participate.
Grand Vistas Boat Display
Edwardian Travel Lady, topiary designed by Green Lion Weddings
The 2014 Garden Club Challenge featured "A Postcard from..." vignettes using postcards representing national and exotic travel destinations, included Williamsburg, Virginia, Cape Cod, New Orleans, Yosemite National Park, Hawaii,  London, England, Capetown, South Africa, the Azores, Norway, and New Zealand.  Two first place awards went to Noanett Garden Club in Dover, MA, for their Hawaii postcard and to the Seaside Garden Club, Newport, RI, for their London postcard.



I enjoyed listening to whispers of "ooh and ah" at the creativity of the designers and overheard one show attendee describing the Hawaiian entry as flowers that can be grown in Florida. She was right. I know mailmen all over the United  States would enjoy these mailbox gardens.

My favorite heart-stopping moment of the day was being able to meet P. Allen Smith, yes,P. Allen Smith, landscape designer, gardening celebrity, who was the guest speaker at an elegant private luncheon.  As Mr. Smith discussed his landscape design education, he asked his audience about anyone visiting famous gardens at Hampton Court and Stourhead in England Charleston, SC, and Mount Vernon, I had to raise my hand.  I agree with Mr. Smith that these gardens are a must for any landscaper's inspiration and design ideas.

Agave americana variegated
My favorite garden vignette, A Painters' Garden by Crystal Brinson Horticulture
Teasing Georgia, First Place Award to Arthur Murphy, Newport, RI 
I loved finding garden accoutrements from Clearwater, Florida, like the amazing foliage waterfalls from Leaves By Jenney and the elegant and romantic Florentine planters and lifelike Great Blue Heron sculpture, from the original Frederick Church's masterpiece from Pennoyer Newman, in New York.

The Newport Flower Show 2014 was an outstanding success and a great opportunity to see incredibly creative vignettes and floral displays by professional landscapers and garden club members who should be professionals, horticultural works of art, and a view of the Atlantic that can only be described as breath-taking.

Make your plans now to come to New England and tour the Newport Mansions. If you're there in June 2015, don't miss the Newport Flower Show.  I know I have it on my calendar to be there.

If you would like to see all of the displays and photographs from this year's Newport Flower Show 2014, click here. 

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Landscape Boom - Red White Blue!

Showcasing red, white, and blue vivid flowers in your landscape is a great way to accent your patriotism and a wonderful way to brighten up your neighborhood!  Finding our national colors with just the right seasonal bloom is very easy if you know what to look for.  You can display your flowers in mass planting beds, and around lighting, flagpoles and mailboxes.  For smaller apartments, and Fourth of July parties, you can decorate by your front door, on the patio, and on balconies with container gardens, and window boxes.

Setting up your mass bedding plants with patriotic colors, you will want to remember different heights and width.  Having a tiered effect of red, white and blue is extremely effective if your house is neutral or you have an evergreen hedge as a backdrop.  Coordinate your color palette by looking at your plants before you plant them.  Placing them in the desired location and standing in the road or in your neighbor’s yard to judge the potential impact is a good idea; before you do all the grunt work of installing them and then not getting the look you were ultimately desiring.

Colorful and patriotic clay, plastic, and ceramic, containers with decorative accoutrements such as ribbons, gold stars or flags, are an easy way to get into the independent spirit if it’s temporary, or if you only have a small area or location to work with.  Use a good potting soil and make sure if you are using window boxes that you allow for good drainage away from house walls.

Here are my flag-waving suggestions for red, white, and blue annuals and perennials with their height designations for placement in your garden bed or container.  As always — please check online, with local nursery or extension office for sun and moisture requirements before purchasing and combine plants only if they have similar needs.

Tall (t – use in back), medium (m – use in middle), and low (l- use as groundcover) or h (hanging).

Red Flowers:
•Begonia, wax (l, m)
•Begonia, tuberous(l, m)
•Cardinal flowers (t)
•Celosia  (m)
•Dianthus (m)
•Gerbera daisies (l)
•Geranium (l, m)
•Gomphrena (m)
•Impatiens (l)
•Kalanchoe (l)
•Lantana (m, h)
•Lobelia (m)
•Pentas (m, t)
•Pentstemon (m,t)
•Phlox (l)
•Porterweed (t)
•Roses (see suggestions below)
•Salvia (m, t)
•Vinca (m)
•Verbena (l,m, h)
•Zinnias (l,m) 
White Flowers:
•Begonia, tuberous (l, m)
•Begonia, wax (l, m)
•Catwhiskers (t)
•Chrysanthemums (l, m)
•Cosmos (l, m)
•Dianthus (l)
•Geraniums (l, m)
•Impatiens (l)
•Lantana (l, h)
•Lisianthus, (m, t)
•Marigolds, French (l, m)
•Moonflowers (vine)
•Morning glories (vine)
•Nemesia (l)
•Nicotiana (m, t)
•Osteospernum (m) •Pentas (m,t)
•Phlox (l)
•Philippine violets (t)
•Roses (see suggestions below)
•Zinnias (l, m)  
Blue Flowers:
•Agapanthus (t)
•Ageratum (l)
•Ajuga (l - shade)
•Asters (m)
•Blue Daze (l, h)
•Blue flax (l, m)
•Centaura (m)
•Exacum (l)
•Lisianthus (m, t)
•Morning glories (vine) •Nemesia (l,)
•Salvia, blue (m, t)
•Scabiosa  (m)
•Stokes Asters (m)
•Torenia (l)
•Porterweed (t)
•Philipine Violets (t)
•Plumbago  (t)
•Russian Sage (t)
•Verbena (l, h)
•Veronica Speedwell (m)Additional
Summer Flowers for northern zones 4 – 7     
•Alyssum (l)
•Chrysanthemums (l, m)
•Delphiniums (t)
•Forget-me-nots (m) •Hollyhocks (t)
•Nicotiana (t)
•Pansies (l)
•Petunias (l, h)
•Poppy (m, t)
•Snapdragons (l, m, t)
•Statice (m, t)
•Stock (m, t)
Patriotic Roses:
 Over 35 cultivars named America or have American in their name, these are my favorites:
•America, large-flowered climber, orange-pink, fragrant
•American Beauty: climber, strong fragrance, deep pink, the national flower symbol of United States
•America, Climber, coral pink, strong fragrance
•Fourth of July, 1999 All American selection, climber, red flowers striped with white, apple-fragrance
•Memorial Day, 2004 All American selection, hybrid tea, dark pink, strong damask fragrance
•Americana, hybrid, strong fragrance, medium red
•Miss All-American Beauty, hybrid, pink, fragrant
•Mr. Lincoln, deep red, hybrid tea, long-stemmed rose, fragrant
•John F. Kennedy, white, hybrid tea, strong fragrance
•Veteran’s Honor, hybrid tea, dark red, raspberry fragrance
•American Pride, hybrid tea, large-flowered, dark red, strong fragrance
•Patriot, large flowered hybrid, dark red, mildly fragrant
•Peace, pink-yellow, hybrid tea, mild fragrance
•United States, pernetiana, yellow, rare
Have a great Fourth of July!