Friday, June 30, 2017

Garden Tours and a Mulch Epiphany

Northview Gardens

I took some wonderful garden tours this month beginning with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's Ambler Garden Tour near Philadelphia and ending with the Monroe County Garden Club Tour in Stroudsburg. The highlight of the Ambler tour, for me, was Northview Gardens, home of Jenny and Gus Carey. You may remember Jenny Rose Carey from previous blog postings: click here and here to learn more. Jenny Rose is the author of Glorious Shade and I was anxious to see the gardens for myself, having spent hours poring over the beautiful photographs of them in her book. Northview covers 4 1/2 acres with 31 distinct areas: from the Blast From the Past Garden, Italian Garden, Dry Garden, Herb Garden, and Victorian Stumpery, to the Fountain Garden to name a few. I cannot begin to do justice to these fabulous gardens in the space of my little blog and include just a few photographs here. The lead picture above shows some of Jenny Rose's June blooms -- of course they were way ahead of ours in the Poconos. Note the bottom left picture of the three -- that is a Blacklace elderberry Sambucus nigra with a rose entwined through its branches. This is typical of the beautiful plantings throughout the gardens. Don't you love the pink of that poppy and the deep blue of the bell flowers?

As I said, this posting shows just a small number of the garden spots (and plantings) I fell in love with:

The Forgotten Garden's Grasses, Shrubs, and Evergreens
Top: Redbud Allée. Bottom: Magnolia macrophilia.

Jenny Rose practices sustainable gardening, using no pesticides. She mulches with leaf mold, pine needles, and small rocks. She also uses ground covers such as the patchwork of sedums pictured below. Since the tour I purchased a tray of various types of sedums which I planted hoping they will form, eventually, a small patchwork quilt under my delphiniums. Well, that's one of the reasons for garden tours, isn't it -- to find ideas you can use in your own garden? I do like to use ground covers rather than mulch. And mulch was on my mind during this tour -- I'll explain this later.

Various sedums form a patchwork ground cover.

Of course, I fell in love with Jenny Rose's sheds. The top photograph shows Jabba the Hut, a summer house. The bottom one is Rose Cottage, the most beautiful 'potting' shed I have ever seen. (The actual potting takes place in the Potting Area behind Rose Cottage.) Here we met Hanna, Jenny Rose's head gardener. She showed us inside Rose Cottage which houses a seed repository and tidily arranged tools on beautiful tool racks. (I felt embarrassed thinking back to when Jenny Rose visited my gardens and I showed her the inside of my tiny, untidy potting place.)

'Jabba the Hut' and 'Rose Cottage'

The water gardens were crystal clear. (We are still working on ours. I'm hoping the new skimmer will do the trick.)

Top: The Waterfall Garden. Bottom: The Pond Garden.

Finally (yes, I know there was so much more), I loved the many whimsical elements at Northview, but my favorite was the copper teapot fountain. So appropriate for an English gardener.

Whimsical elements add charm at Northview

I hope you enjoyed this little taste of the loveliness that is Northview.

There were several other gardens on the Ambler tour and I will feature one more here. This beautiful garden, originally part of the estate of an adjacent manor house, has a Tuscan flair with its fountains, stone walls, circa 1880's wrought iron, and flagstone terrace.  As we climbed the hill to the property, I immediately saw it as the antithesis to Northview. With the straight lines of the flower beds and the neat, black dyed mulch, this garden has a very definite 'landscaped' look that is in stark contrast to the naturalistic feel of Jenny Rose's garden. The type of mulch a gardener chooses is based upon personal taste. Until this year, I used black dyed mulch on my beds; I like the way black mulch makes the flowers 'pop.' But lately I've had the desire for a more natural, organic appearance. Comparing these two gardens reinforced my feeling that I should give black mulch a rest.

Straight lines, black mulch. A beautifully landscaped property.

The question remains, if not black-dyed mulch then what? In the vegetable garden I use cedar mulch because it contains a chemical that limits bacterial and fungal growth. It is brown and has medium-sized flakes of wood in it. While it is great in the kitchen garden, I don't like the way it looks in my flower beds. As for other mulches: I don't have enough leaf mold, there are pine needles in the Woodland Walk only, I don't like rocks as mulch except in a dry garden. I must use mulch of some sort, however, to suppress those darn weeds and stop the rain from splashing soil/mud up the siding of the house. I puzzled about this for a few weeks.

The next garden tour we took was in our local area of the Poconos. Here are just a very few pictures from some of the gardens we visited:

Hostas and a bog garden in Barbara and Kerry Teats' garden.
Praying mantis and dragonfly sculptures in Ken Lang's garden
Flower-decked gate inviting you
 into Cecillia Yost's swimming pool garden

Robin and Brad Teets' entry garden and her glass garden art.

One of my favorite properties on this tour has a stunning entry garden with a curved, stone pathway up to the front door. Instead of the usual shrubs in the foundation plantings, there are colorful perennials and vines. The large garden at the back of the house features several bird baths and sculptures made of glass -- the repetition of glass material giving the garden cohesion.  Another idea to copy: the gardener buys large glass plates from flea markets and thrift stores and places them on plant stands for inexpensive and very attractive bird baths. BTW -- she uses a finely shredded brown colored mulch and it looks quite natural.

So where am I with MY mulch problem? I processed my experiences from visiting a multitude of gardens, did research online, and reread the section on mulches in Jenny Rose's book. Then it came to me! Natural cedar mulch that is shredded as fine as possible! I'll let you know how it works out.

Happy Fourth of July to all my American friends!

Pamela x

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

June In My Cottage Garden

In June my cottage garden is regal with red peonies and purple alliums. The burst of strong color follows a gentle May with its pure whites of viburnum and bridal-veil spirea. May followed a golden April full of daffodils. The hues of my June flowers put us in the mood for a riot of color that is the cottage garden when it peaks in July. Today we are in the middle of an early heatwave with temperatures in the 90s and high humidity. This is a good day to stay in the air conditioning and write. But first, let's take a walk around my June garden in the comparative cool of the early morning to see what is blooming.

Miniature Japanese maple -- a superstar by Froggy Pond

Purple bearded irisis are everywhere
Clockwise from top left: mock orange, peony, smokebush, lady's mantle, and columbine

Adding to the purple theme, my new smokebush is leafing-out nicely. It has tiny white blossoms -- who knew? You can just see it's delicate flower in the picture above.

Smokebush Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple' and Allium 'Globemaster'

Roses are blooming
The first clematis to flower each year. I don't know it's name.

When describing June in my garden, I have to include rhododendron and mock orange. They bloom early in the month and today most of their petals have fallen. The blooming rhododendron was magnificent this year; the mock orange filled the June air with its heady scent.

Rhododendron 'Roseum Elegans'
Below: Mock orange Philadelphus coronarius

I placed a tub of mixed annuals in pastel shades on the front porch. Their gentle hues offer visitors a sweet-tempered greeting.

Walking through the Serenity garden I am happy to see the climbing hydrangeas have some blooms. I'm not so happy to see multiflora rose beyond Bluebell creek. Its flowers are lovely and its scent is divine, but we wish we could eradicate this invasive shrub, our biggest gardening challenge. I wrote about it in detail here.

Serenity Garden above; Bluebell Creek below.
Bathing in a mound of golden spirea that is just beginning to bloom

We will NOT go into the Woodland Walk since that's where the bear may be hiding out. He came onto the back porch and broke my favorite hummingbird feeder to drink the nectar. 

Black bear leaving my porch and heading for the Woodland Walk.

Finally, let's check out the kitchen garden where the vegetables I sowed germinated. What a miracle it is -- I'm always anxious that they wont and I'm filled with excitement when they do -- it never gets old. Blossoms on the snow peas promise we'll have some tasty meals very soon.

I'm linking with Carol at May Dreams Gardens for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. Don't forget to stop by her wonderful blog on the 15th -- thanks for hosting, Carol. I can't believe that we are nearly half way through June and I'm only just posting pictures of my garden. In my head, I have written several blog postings this month, but the weeks pass before I can put pen to paper (or fingers to keys.) At the beginning of June I visited a fabulous garden that I must tell you about. As a result of that visit, and previous conversations with the owner who is my friend Jenny Rose Carey, author of Glorious Shade, I'm struggling to clarify my feelings about mulch. I may be having a change of heart about what sort to use. I'll put my thoughts in a posting very soon. Also, I've been enjoying some new gardening books that I must share with you. Just not enough hours in each day, but I will endeavor to catch up ...

Oh, and please read my contribution to the Garden Writing Association's blog, GWA Grows, about what makes a great blog. The article has tips from me and from some other bloggers you may know, including Carol from May Dreams Gardens.

Enjoy June, dear gardening friends.

Pamela x

One of my five fairy gardens.

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I look forward to visiting your blog in return.