As a professional gardener, I am very particular about picking out the best tools for the job. Two tools that are always with me on a job site are the HERShovel and HERSpadingfork. If you have any women in your life who love to garden, these would make perfect gifts for the holidays. For a post with more gardener gift ideas, go to Tools of the Trade.
Designed by Green Heron Tools, a woman owned and operated business, the HerShovel is my go-to tool for any type of digging. The company is owned by avid gardeners Ann Adams and Liz Brensinger, and they designed and tested the first shovel themselves, and call it the HERShovel. Started in 2008 in nearby Pennsylvania, Green Heron Tools, has been featured in Organic Gardening Magazine. The shovel/spade is engineered to maximize the power and the lower center of gravity of a women’s body and has a great hand feel. Tools aren’t unisex as any woman can attest trying to use a large and heavy shovel.
Designed as a shovel/spade hybrid, The shovel is light weight and has a large convenient digging handle and comes in 3 shaft sizes. I am 5’3″ tall and the middle size was perfect for me. The price is $67, which I thought was reasonable for a well made tool. Most of the professional shovels that I have used tend to be very heavy, and the light weight of this shovel was an eye opener. Green Heron sells other products from different companies made for women, but the shovel is one that they designed themselves. Their mission is to make ergonomic tools available to women to make heavy jobs easier on the body. As I get older, I appreciate this goal.
I have used the shovel for years. And now they have come out with the Spading Fork or the HERSpadingfork and I love using this for digging/dividing up perennial roots and dahlia tubers. See my video below on digging up dahlia tubers using the HERSpadingfork .
The large non-slip step provides stability and the over-sized handle allows you to grip it with two hands to add more leverage to your digging. There are three shaft sizes to match your height so you end up with a custom designed tool for your size. A little more expensive at $85, probably because of the diamond-backed tines which slice quickly through my heavy soil, I would love seeing this under my Christmas tree!
When the leaves falls and the temperatures drop, I start unearthing my bird feeders and stocking up on suet, seed, and, and dried fruit for the birds. Trying my best to satisfy the different varieties of birds with an array of delicacies that consistently feed birds the most nutritious and attractive foods, is my goal.
But it takes time, money, and dedication to provide the food necessary to keep birds healthy and happy. And why do we do this? Is it just the satisfaction of tracking the variety of birds to our yards so we can keep “yard lists”? For me, I love watching the behaviors, songs, colors, and enjoy the show they put on right in front of me. And with so much wild land being developed, birds need to have alternate sources of sustenance.
And as a photographer, I want to bring the birds up close so I can photograph them. For that reason, I am ready to fill my feeders with the most nutritious foods and am always looking for ways to vary the offerings to attract some more unusual varieties.
Since I love to create containers, I decided to put together a ‘bird buffet’ container using a recently emptied container killed by frost.
After cleaning out my container, but leaving the soil, I browsed my yard to pick up all kinds of berries and seed heads. Collecting echinacea seed heads, winterberry, purple and white Callicarpa, scarlet Viburnum, and Blackberry Lily berries, was easy to do in mid-November before the birds have cleaned me out.
Make sure you water the container so it is moist, not soggy. Once the freezing weather arrives, the soil freezes keeping everything in place.
Next up is my recipe for home made suet and a DIY of a seed covered bird house.
Having Thanksgiving at your house? Whipping up a table centerpiece now will save you a lot of time on Thanksgiving Day.
Living on a pretty large property (2 acres), is a lot of work with weeding, pruning, mulching, etc. The chores are endless. But it is all worth it when I look out my window and see the makings of a Thanksgiving centerpiece, there for the taking. Evergreens, berries, peppers ripening, pine cones, and pods, were at my fingertips. Fresh cut sunflowers, oasis, and picking up a few colorful veggies, were the only things that I had to purchase to come up with a dynamite centerpiece. Keeping for weeks with regular application of water and misting, you can segue this same centerpiece into a Christmas themed one with different flowers and accessories.
Surprisingly easy if you have access to greens, you can always poach on your friends and neighbors properties if you come up short. Ask first though! Usually people are happy for you to prune or thin their evergreens.
Starting out with a 10″ oasis ring on an inexpensive charger plate, I had an old glass hurricane shade that I pull out for each Christmas to act as the focal point. If you can’t find an oasis wreath, then just cut your wet oasis into chunks and piece together a wreath shape. Inserting a cranberry colored candle in the hurricane shade, I dropped some shriveled mini pumpkins (See pumpkin on a stick) and some mini hardy oranges into the space around the candle. Other options are fresh cranberries, dried corn and beans, or nuts.
Insert your greens first, trying to cover as much of the oasis as you can. But leave room for your other berries, veggies, and flowers. This should only take about 15 minutes. For my centerpiece greens, I used Thujopsis, Nandina, Golden Arborvitae, Leucothoe, and Aucuba.
Once Thanksgiving is over, set the wreath in a cool place, not freezing, and bring it back in at Christmas and add seasonal naturals such as roses, pomegranates, and red carnations. Even a small birds nest or snowmen would add a nice touch.
Here is a list of suggested materials. Just explore your yard or the woods and you can find many others to make it more interesting.
Nandina-foliage and greenery
Berries and Flowers
Step By Step
Place oasis ring in warm water and soak for 30 minutes until heavy. Or piece together a ring with chunks of oasis
Place ring on charger and set your hurricane glass in the center
Fill the glass with a candle surrounded by your choice of beans or fruit
Insert cut pieces (3-5″ long) of greens into oasis ring so that the oasis is covered
Insert your chosen veggies after first inserting picks. If you don’t have picks, use short twigs
Add berries, pods, or nuts
Sunflowers go in last. Other suggestions for flowers are carnations, dahlias, roses, lilies, and mums
For another pumpkin centerpiece idea, go to my post Thanksgiving Centerpiece .
For a totally different look, try making the one below with candles and gourds, ready to go in 30 minutes.
A highly fragrant plant, Basil’s leaves are used as a seasoning herb for all different types of foods and is a major component of my favorite flavor – pesto. Pesto, a mixture of basil, pine nuts, garlic, and Parmesan cheese, is a versatile mixture that can enhance breads, pastas, and even meats. Try my recipe for African Blue Basil.
Whipping up a batch of pesto, I always like to have some growing Basilplants on hand, but it can be hard to keep alive indoors. And outdoors my Basilgets disfigured with Basil Mildew which makes it inedible. I had almost given up growing it and instead was buying the hydroponic plants at the grocery store.
Basil is an excellent source of vitamin K and manganese, copper, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids such as beta-carotene), and vitamin C; and a good source of calcium, iron, folate, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids. I had no idea!
I was delighted to find ‘Pesto Party’ from Burpee which is very resistant to the dreaded mildew. Where has this Basilbeen all my life? ‘Party Pesto’ grew nicely into a mounded plant for me and is extremely slow to flower. As an experienced Basil grower knows, you don’t want the herb to flower as it changes the taste (bitter)and it will slowly decline. The inevitable mildew finally appeared in October on ‘Pesto Party’, when most of my plants were slowing down. I had gotten an entire season of harvest from my plant and my moneys worth.
I love Pesto! And with the new ‘Pesto Party’ Basilfrom Burpee I can make unlimited pesto all summer long. Burpee describes it this way;
‘Pesto Party’ is the latest-flowering basil from seed, letting you enjoy a preponderance of aromatic fresh-picked leaves deep into the season. Basking prettily in your favorite patio container, well-branching plants produce a continuing flourish of fragrant leaves infused with sweet Italian basil flavor. Late-to-bolt plants are paragons of tolerance to downy mildew—no other basil comes close.
I have to agree with that description- no other basil comes close. And growing it in containers right outside my kitchen door was a perfect solution for this mounding compact plant. Available by seeds or plants from Burpee, I received three plants in the spring and ate off of those plants all summer.
Downy mildew of basil is a relatively new, destructive disease that appears to be here to stay. First appearing in the U.S. in 2007, it appeared earlier in Europe. Basil is the leading culinary herb in the U.S. and it is decimating basil crops here. The pathogen can readily spread easily via wind-dispersed spores that it produces abundantly. This is likely the primary way it has spread throughout the eastern USA every summer since 2008.
Requiring a full sun location and well draining soil, easily grown in a container on a back deck or patio, ‘Pesto Party’ is on my short list for next year.
Halloween is around the corner and people are starting to decorate with the many types of pumpkins available at the farmer’s market. The past 10 years have seen an explosion of all kinds of colors, sizes, and shapes of pumpkins, but I am in love with a diminutive one, which actually isn’t a real pumpkin, but an eggplant. For different types of pumpkins, go to my Pumpkin Eye Candy post.
Ornamental or Food?
Falling in the eggplant family, the little pumpkins, Solanum integrifolium, are not really pumpkins, but an ornamental used in stir-fried Asian dishes. I grow this cute ornamental jack-o-lantern for jazzing up my Thanksgiving table and fall flower arrangements as it dries nicely and lasts a long time.
Native to Southeast Asia, it grows 3 to 4 feet tall with very large fuzzy leaves that grow from a purple thorny stem. It towers over other eggplants in my garden and the plant looks remarkably like Bed of Nails or Solanum quitoense, profiled in Plant Geek Alert.
Around for over 125 years which makes it an official heirloom vegetable, it has also been called Pumpkin Tree and Pumpkin Bush. Planted directly in full sun in your garden, the plant needs steady moisture and benefits from regular fertilizing as it grows large fast. Pretty soon, the insignificant blooms appear, followed by pale green nubby fruit that turn into their final pumpkin ribbed shape a few weeks later. Insects like to gnaw on the leaves as you can see but deer and rabbits leave it alone because of the wicked thorns.
In late summer, the fruit changes to a scarlet color and when frosts start to hit, the eggplants turn their final rich orange color. You can harvest up to a dozen pumpkins on one plant. When you pick a stem of pumpkins for fresh use, cut the stems and use as is. If you want to dry the pumpkins, hang the entire stalk upside down in a cool dry location. This treatment prevents the fruits from sagging. Fruits will shrivel and the orange color will intensify. For eating, pick the fruits when orange and use in stir-fries.
I love Butternut squash! It is a sweet nutty squash that is very nutritious – full of vitamins A and C and fiber. Versatile in many types of dishes – soups, roasted, steamed, risotto, pies, pasta, gratins – the recipes are endless. But I just picked up a Boston Marrow winter squash and it will give Butternut a “run for the money”.
Winter squash are different from summer squash (like zucchini and yellow crookneck)—the skin is hard and inedible, while the inside is firm and flavorful. Leaving winter squash on the vine like a pumpkin, you can store them for long periods of time because of their tough outer shell. A seasonal squash that can be cooked in a variety of ways– baked or roasted, in a puree, in soups or stews, and as a sweet addition to other hearty winter dishes. For a great Butternut Squash soup recipe, go to Winter Squash Round Up.
Another winter squash that you might like to try is the Boston Marrow. Hard to find, except at farmer’s markets, I was delighted to find this heirloom squash at a local farmstand/orchard and was able to savor it for the first time.
According to Burpee who is now carrying this hard to find squash, they describe it as; “Once you taste the melt-in-your-mouth “pumpkin” pie that this squash yields, you’ll be making it as often as possible. Sweet, carrot-orange flesh, cooks to a creamy, custardy texture for perfect pies, puddings and breads. Delicious alone. A fine choice for areas with a short growing season”.
An heirloom squash with more than 200 years of documented history, and even thought to be much older, like ancient, Boston Marrow originated in the upstate New York area. Legend has it that Native Americans gifted this squash to colonists and seeds were later passed on to Salem, Massachusetts in 1831. Marrow soon became one of the most important commercial squashes for over 150 years. But in modern times, nearly every seed company had dropped this unique treasure. In recent years, with the interest in heirloom veggies increasing, it is being picked up again by seed companies.
Used primarily as a pie squash, its skin is also thin and easy to peel. Due to its success in cooler conditions with a shorter growing season, the squash has spread throughout the US. If kept in a cool dry place, the squash can last to the following spring, another trait prized by early growers.
Growing between 5 to 52 pounds each, these squash can be made into quite a few pies. And what a fabulous pie! Flesh of the Boston Marrow squash is less sweet and dense than that of Butternut squash, which gives it a wonderful custardy flavor.
Resulting in a much better tasting pumpkin pie, it is lighter in texture and flavor. Starting with a basic recipe from AllRecipes for a butternut squash pie, I have revised the spices to my liking and substituted Boston Marrow. The resulting pie was a big hit with my family for its creaminess and wonderful flavor. Everyone was coming back for one more piece, until it was gone.
From a 6.5 pound squash, I was able to make 3 pies!
Boston Marrow Squash Pie
A wonderful fall pie recipe; if you can't find Boston Marrow, substitute Butternut Squash
3 CChunks of winter squash, peeled
1CBrown sugar, packed
112 oz canEvaporated milk
1/4tFreshly ground nutmeg
1/4 tGround cloves
1/4t Ground allspice
1Unbaked pie shell
Steam the squash chunks in a saucepan for 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain.
Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
Pour into pie shell and sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice. Place in preheated 350 degree oven for 50 minutes, until the center is set.
If you don’t have a yard or outdoor space to plant outdoor bulbs like Tulips, Daffs, Iris, or Hyacinths, don’t despair….Plant them in pots. Easy peasey. So much better to plop your bulbs in nice loose potting medium rather than slaving with a heavy shovel to get your bulbs down to the proper depth in a heavy clay soil. Frustrating? You bet! But in containers, think of the advantages:
You can enjoy your bulbs up close and personal
Change the look and appearance of your garden instantly
Grow bulbs that require specialized TLC
Pop them into containers with other spring flowers
Experiment with new varieties. Plus, you can have beautiful pots of spring flowers welcoming friends to your front door or brightening your patio for weeks in the spring when you become starved for color and fragrance
You can have tulips without the deer eating them! Place your pots close to the house, like on your porch where the deer won’t venture
Outdoors For Spring Bloom Vs Forcing
Fall-planted bulbs in containers have different needs than bulbs planted directly in the ground. I am not talking about “forcing” bulbs which means to accelerate your bloom period. In that scenario, your bulbs bloom in late winter, earlier than scheduled for their normal bloom period. That method requires pre-chilling to get the required days of cold that each bulb needs. I didn’t want to fool with forcing this year. So, I decided to enjoy my bulbs in containers by my back door without fiddling with burying the pots and/or chilling bulbs that forcing requires. Go to Bringing Spring In-Forcing Bulbs for more information on pre-chilling and forcing if you want winter color indoors.
Another use for your bulbs in containers is to use them in mixed spring containers for an instant pop of color.
Creating an enclosed environment for your tiny packages of blooms is easy if you remember a few cardinal rules.
Potting Medium-Use a high quality potting medium with lots of perlite or vermiculite for porous well draining soil (not garden soil)
Pots-Use flexible plastic pots that give with the changes of temperature (terra-cotta can break); You can slip these into decorative pots when they bloom
Spacing-Plant bulbs so they’re close but not touching, with their tips just below the soil surface. Here is your chance to stuff them in for a huge color show
Depth-Pot bulbs are typically planted a little less shallowly than ground bulbs. But try to stick closely to recommended planting depths for best results. The goal is to leave as much room as possible under them for root growth
Layers-For a more abundant lavish look, you can layer your bulbs or stack them on top of each other but it is simpler to stick with one variety per pot for beginners
Temperature-In winter, bulbs in above-ground containers will get MUCH colder than those planted in the ground where the surrounding soil insulates. This means you’ll need to store your potted bulbs through the winter in a place that stays colder than 48° F most of the time but that doesn’t get as severely cold as the outside
Water-Check your soil all winter to make sure soil is moist but not soggy. Water infrequently when just started, but later when roots have filled in and top growth has started, ramp it up
Presentation-Place grit, gravel, or Spanish moss on top to finish it off or plant something shallow rooted on top, like moss
I keep my planted pots outside until the weather consistently gets below freezing. For me in the mid-Atlantic region, that could be as late as mid December, depending on the weather. Keeping my pots on my patio where I can easily throw some water on them, is the simplest way to monitor them. Once freezing temps are here to stay, I start bringing the pots in to a more sheltered position.
Since temperature is critical for success, it is important to choose an area that is buffered from the killing freeze/thaw cycle, but still able to get the needed chilling for successful flowering. Keeping the pots in a cool shaded spot, like an unheated garage, until early spring growth appears is essential. For me it is an unheated mud room attached to my house once winter weather arrives.
Wrapping my pots in insulating bubble wrap and placing them next to the wall of the house in the mud room for any ambient warmth is my solution for minimal protection. A cold frame would work also. I have heard of gardeners even storing the pots in old-fashioned galvanized trash cans with some burlap or other filler stuffed around them. Storing them in cans will avoid the great destructor of bulbs-squirrels, mice, voles and other assorted varmints.
Check on your pot while it is being stored. Water when the soil feels dry to the touch. This will only happen every couple of weeks. Towards February, the tips of the bulbs will be pushing through the plants that you have planted on top.
If storing in a garage, be careful of ethylene gas emitted from exhaust fumes from warming-up cars. Ethylene gas can cause flower buds to abort and you end up with wonderful pots of foliage only. If you store in an old refrigerator, be aware of ripening nearby fruit for this reason as the ethylene gas of fruit can cause the same problem. Store the pots in impermeable plastic bags to avoid contamination.
Once top growth starts in the spring – pointy tips pushing through the soil- gradually move the pots out into the partial sun acclimating them to brighter sunlight necessary for good flower development. Enjoy! I include a step by step guide on how to plant bulbs in containers at the end of this post.
After Care-3 Ways
Compost the bulbs, leave in the pot/plant in the ground in the fall, or replant in the garden right after flowering and still green are the three ways to handle the spent bulbs. If you replant, be sure to fertilize them with a bulb fertilizer as the bulbs have used all those nutrients up at their first burst of flowering. Most times, the flowers aren’t as spectacular as the first bloom using up all their energy, so I tend to compost them.
Step By Step for ‘Lasagna’ Pots
‘Lasagna’ pots just means layering your bulbs so that you have a 6-7 week display from one pot of different types of bulbs.
Fill your deepcontainer (16″ deep)with a high-quality potting mix about 3-4 inches deep
Plant your bulbs almost as deeply as you would in the ground; for instance, 6 or 7 inches deep for tulips and daffodils, and 3 or 4 inches deep for little bulbs such as Crocus and Miniature Iris
Press the bulbs firmly into the soil, growing tips up. If layering, make sure that you cover one layer completely before placing more bulbs
For my layers, I planted the following from deepest to the most shallowly planted; 1st layer- 10 Daffodils, 2nd layer- 10 Hyacinths, 3rd layer-16 Tulips, 4th and last layer- 50 assorted small bulbs (I used 20 Grape Hyacinth, 20 Crocus, and 10 Mini Iris)
Water your bulbs well after planting
Plant either pansies, moss, or fall cabbages to the top for more insulating help
Layer your bulbs according to the suggested planting depth; Here I used a container 18″ in diameter and 16″ deep for a good root run
First of all – the name! I love to say Tussie Mussie and it sounds like something Beatrix Potter would have come up with.
But Wikipedia explains it best:
“Tussie Mussie, a nosegay or posie are small flower bouquets that were popularized in Victorian times. The term tussie-mussie comes from the reign of Queen Victoria (1837–1901), when the small bouquets became a popular fashion accessory. Typically, tussie-mussies include floral symbolism from the language of flowers, and therefore may be used to send a message to the recipient”.
Or in my words; Tussie-Mussie is an archaic and quaint term for small, round bouquets of herbs and flowers with symbolic meanings. Most people have heard of the language of flowers, Floriography, but are unsure of what exactly it means. It simply means that you can convey feelings and communicate using particular types of plants. Victorians popularized this concept and created “talking bouquets” that could be worn as fashion accessories. Gifts of blooms, plants, and specific floral arrangements were used to send a coded message to the recipient, allowing the sender to express feelings which could not be spoken aloud in strict Victorian society.
An antiquated custom, I like to revive this tradition once in a while and make small arrangements with what is on hand in the garden. And since it is fall, my bouquet holder is a readily available gourd.
I first encountered Tussie Mussies at a Renaissance Faire many years ago and have created my own for years for gifts, and to decorate the house. Useful as a small arrangement for the bathroom or to welcome a guest, they are small and portable and are usually gathered into a posie holder which can be as ornate as silver or simple as a doily. But for the fall season, I decided to make them in small gourds in keeping with Halloween. Fragrance was the key here; I wanted to really smell the scent of the herb and flowers so chose a lot of very fragrant pieces like lavender, thyme, rosemary, bay, and scented geranium.
Each one is personal and unique; every sprig and blossom in each little nosegay conveys a “meaning” in the old-time language of flowers. The silent language of flowers allows you to express poignant and touching sentiments without having to come right out and say them in words. The flowers say them for us.
I love making them since you don’t need many flowers and each flower is a star of the arrangement as it is so compact. After cutting a piece of oasis to fit into the gourd and making sure that my cuts were well hydrated, I started to create my gourd tussie mussies.
These would make great hostess gifts instead of the obligatory wine bottle. Popular at weddings also, they can be given as bridesmaid gifts, or the bride could carry one for a simple elegant touch. Anyone can create one with a little practice. Follow the tutorial to make your own in a small vase.
Deconstruct larger flowers like this ‘Centennial Spirit’ Hydrangea
Set out your materials so you can see the colors together. The container has a wire topped divider to hold the flowers in place.
Add greenery for a frame and backdrop-This is gold tipped Juniper
Add the larger blooms next- Heliotrope, Butterfly Weed, and Origanum ‘Kent Beauty’
Continue to add smaller blooms throughout
Completed Tussie Mussie, adding honeysuckle last
Choose your materials carefully, contrasting the colors and textures to create a beautiful combination. For larger flowers, such as hydrangeas, you can pare the flower down to a smaller more usable size. The hydrangea flower represents devotion which makes it a very appropriate flower for weddings.
For lots of picture of tussie mussies, and more information I have used these books:
If you have never been to the Chelsea Flower Show or the Cotswolds & Wales, read on if you want to check this off on your bucket list. For a full rundown on the recent Chelsea Flower Show, you need to check out my post.
I will be leading a tour of public and private gardens that are rarely seen, in May of 2018. Last year, I had a group of 29 like-minded garden fanatics with me in the UK and we had a fabulous trip touring many of the large established public gardens and some private ones. In 2018, I wanted to mix it up and include some smaller private gardens that aren’t on the usual garden tour schedule. I relied on my friend Victoria Summerley, author of Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds, to give me tips on where to go to for under-the-radar gardens as well as her own wonderful garden near Bibury. For a full itinerary of my tour, go to my ‘Trips‘ tab.
Organizing a garden tour is like an air traffic controller; There are a lot of moving parts. So many gardens are open different times of the days or week, finding a convenient hotel for a good price, and discovering different activities to liven up the garden tour regimen is all part of the planning process. For example, planning to visit Highgrove, which is the private gardens of Their Royal Highnesses,The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, is always problematic as they publish their open days in January, months after my schedule is finalized. So, I set it up and try to hit one of their open days. But plenty of alternatives are available everywhere if I am not lucky. It always works out in the end.
The Chelsea Physic Garden was established as the Apothecaries’ Garden in London, in 1673. Referring to the science of healing, it is among the oldest botanical gardens in the UK, after the University of Oxford Botanic Garden, which was founded in 1621 (which is on our itinerary) and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh founded in 1670. As stated on their website, the Chelsea Physic Garden is, “Tucked away beside the Thames, and is a celebration of the beauty and importance of plants. A unique living collection of around 5,000 different edible, useful, medicinal and historical plants is contained within its sheltering walls. This hidden gem is also a peaceful green oasis – come and enjoy a relaxing stroll and lunch or afternoon tea at the Tangerine Dream Café”. A sheltered microclimate in the UK, it even has an outdoor grapefruit tree!
Abbey House Gardens
This description of Abbey House Gardens piqued my interest: “With 1300 years of history, the first King of England buried somewhere in the garden, two saints thrown down the well, and now one of the great gardens of the world. The spirit of the place shines through and could be the best garden visit you ever make.” Built next to a twelfth century abbey church, this five acre garden appears embraced by the surrounding gardens which includes tapestries of colorful hedging.
Oxford-A University City
The Oxford Botanical Gardens is included with free time to explore the interesting streets of Oxford that has inspired many literary and cinematic works. Places steeped in history abound in this interesting medieval town. The Botanical Gardens, located down the appropriately named Rose Lane is an oasis of stone-walled peace in the heart of the city. Emphasis here is on traditional herbal remedies and their use in modern medicine.
The atmospheric, golden-stone colleges, are clustered around medieval streets and you can peek into many of them on foot.
A trip to visit English gardens isn’t complete without visiting Stratford-upon- Avon, the birthplace of the Bard. Shakespeare’s Birthplace allows you to visit the house where the world’s most famous playwright was born and grew up and you can discover more about his early years. For garden watching, there is a formal Tudor Knot Garden, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, contemporary landscaping with sculptures at Shakespeare’s New Place, and ancient Mulberry Trees (rumored to be of the same lineage as the original that stood during Shakespeare’s time). The mulberry fruit is used to create Mulberry Gin, available in Shakespeare’s Birthplace gift shop.
Wales has some beautiful gardens and the people there are just as garden-mad as the English. A world-famous garden home to National Collections and Champion Trees, Bodnant Gardens has always been on my list to see. Featured as one of the most beautiful gardens in the UK, I am finally going to make it. Powis Castle is on our list which has stunning vistas and terraces. Described on the National Trust website: “The world-famous garden, overhung with clipped yews, shelters rare and tender plants. Laid out under the influence of Italian and French styles, it retains its original lead statues and an orangery on the terraces. High on a rock above the terraces, the castle, originally built circa 1200, began life as a medieval fortress”.
David Austin Roses
On our way to Wales in the UK, we will stop at David Austin Roses plant center. According to their website: “In the early 1950s David Austin set out to create a more beautiful rose. Sixty years on, this simple objective remains”. The winner of 23 Gold Medal Chelsea Flower Show awards, I am very excited to visit their rose gardens, plant center, and tea room.
Considered to be one of the most beautiful gardens in the world, over 700 varieties of roses are planted here in just two acres. Free ranging informal roses are enclosed within neatly clipped evergreen hedges. The Renaissance Garden is composed of all English roses and the Long Garden which contains old roses is the central focus with all the other gardens leading from it.
After our visit to Wales, we will continue to the Peak district of England to visit the newly remodeled Chatsworth House, and back to the London area to see Hatfield House and gardens, built on the site of Elizabeth I’s home and home of the famous Rainbow Portrait. St Tiggywinkles, an animal rescue organization, is also on our list to see with a tour of the animals, like hedgehogs and badgers being rehabilitated. This is just a small sampling of all the sites that we will be visiting. For more information about prices, etc., go to Trips.
Traveling the quiet back roads of Sussex County in southern Delaware, through residential developments, I didn’t expect to see a world-class botanic garden taking shape. At the end of Piney Neck Rd, there it was for all the world to see, ‘The future home of Delaware Botanic Gardens at Pepper Creek’. My motive for searching down the steamy country roads was the opportunity of enjoying an alternative beach activity. Staying at Rehoboth Beach each summer for a week, I tire of the outlets and surf and look for other entertainment. And if there is a garden involved, all the better!
Within the gardening world, rumors were flying of the establishment of a new Botanic Garden in Delaware. In the works for years starting as a grass-roots movement, it is remarkable to note that the project began just four years ago, and has since grown into a tax-exempt nonprofit organization. Funding has start to flow with grant monies, most notably from Longwood Gardens, but like any public garden, they always need more. The ground breaking was launched in December 2016 and the hard work of creating an ambitious 37 acre botanic garden featuring natural woodlands, vernal ponds, meadow gardens and 1000 feet of waterfront has begun.
Situated along Pepper Creek, which flows into Indian River Bay, the parcel of land leased from the Sussex County Land Trust for $1 a year, has an unusual feature: a hill. As anyone knows, driving through this part of Delaware, any elevation of the land is a rare event. This valuable feature slopes down through a twelve acre hardwood forest to the water’s edge to a wetland marsh and a tidal creek-great territory for a garden. In the hardwood forest, a winding walkway beneath pine groves and alongside century-old southern red oak and sassafras trees provides a welcome respite from the hot sun of summer.
Building the new Botanic Garden in stages over a 10 year period, any experienced gardener knows this time line makes sense. Establishing a garden takes time and more importantly for a garden this size…..tons of money. With a goal of being self-supporting with donor help: membership dues, admission fees, gift shop and online sales, and event rentals, there is still a huge need for the initial costs of building, installing, and planting, as well as volunteer hours. If interested in donating, go to Make a donation. This is an exciting opportunity to get in the ground floor of supporting the incredible new Delaware Botanic Gardens.
When I visited this past August, I could see many enthusiastic volunteers in action in hot, humid, and unbearable weather, and yet so excited about working there. From laying stone for beautiful dry laid walls, to planting and watering new transplants, everyone is welcomed and appreciated.
Gregg Tepper, the DBG horticulturist, comes to DBG from Mt Cuba Center in Hockessin, Delaware, where he served as horticulturist, and director of horticulture. An articulate promoter of native plants, he is the driving force for using everything on site in a sustainable way. Brush, log chunks, and tree trunks are not discarded but used in very innovative ways. The hedgehog was my favorite. A large downed tree with multiple protruding branches is a canvas for a future hedge hog sculpture. Brush branches, instead of being discarded, were deposited in open areas of the woodlands to create giant birds nests. A great way to entice kids to enjoy the woodlands! The log chunks, Gregg said, could be used as edgers for the woodland pathways.
Can you see it? The start of a hedgehog sculpture!
The Master Plan includes nationally and internationally recognized leaders in the field of garden design, architecture and landscape architecture, notably Piet Oudolf, an influential Dutch garden designer, nurseryman, and author. When I heard that Piet Oudolf was involved in the planning, I was impressed that DBG had snagged such a high-profile plantsman. Volunteer Barbara Katz was the impetus behind getting Oudolf involved. Known best in the U.S. for his design of the High Line and a leading figure of the “New Perennial” movement, Oudolf is renowned for using broad painterly drifts of hard-working perennials and grasses. Oudolf designed the centerpiece Meadow Garden at DBG.
The Meadow Garden
The centerpiece Meadow Garden is described on the Delaware Botanic Gardens’ website; “Taking advantage of the upland plateau’s openness, a spectacular meadow filled with broad bands of native grasses and seasonal flowering blooms will form the sweeping center of the site and the gateway to the Woodland Gardens. Herbaceous plant species native to Delmarva and surrounding areas will be featured in a breathtaking design. This open garden, designed by the internationally acclaimed Dutch plantsman Piet Oudolf, will support thousands of pollinators, butterflies, and birds. One of the primary objectives of this space, located in the Atlantic Flyway, is to encourage the bird population and the insects they need to survive”.
For a great day by day on-line progress of the planting of The Meadow, go to YouTube.
According to Raymond Sander, President of Delaware Botanic Gardens, when Oudolf first saw the proposed meadow site, he exclaimed, “It is beautiful, but we can make it more beautiful!! This is infinity!” And the meadow is indeed in the shape of an infinity sign, bisected by pathways.
Located in a sunny two acre site in the center of the Gardens, the Meadow Garden will be planted with 65,000 herbaceous flowering plants and ornamental grasses that will provide a tapestry of color throughout the year.
Hand drawn artistic plans of the meadow by Piet Oudolf were available when I visited and as a landscape designer myself, I was delighted that they were hand drawn and not computer generated. They were works of art. Print these plans on silk scarves and sell them in the planned gift shop!
When I was there is August, volunteers were preparing the ground, leveling and spreading pine fines which is partially composted pine bark. Its fine texture allows water to pass easily through while providing a protective covering for the soil. Providing nutrients, decomposing easily, the fineness of particles doesn’t compact like other pine bark mulches.
Volunteers, led by DBG Horticulturist Gregg Tepper, came out to prepare and plant the meadow the week of September 5. When Piet Oudolf arrived to inspect the site, Piet decided to first have the volunteers build and smooth out the elevated hill in the middle.
The much anticipated first phase planting of the Piet Oudolf meadow, staffed by an army of volunteers, began. Referring to the comprehensive plan, orange marks were painted on the ground detailing the proper placement of plants and orange flags were placed if the plants were currently on hand. White flags were placed designating quantity and identity of plants still to come. The second phase of planting will occur in June 2018.
As any gardener knows, the work of digging thousands of holes is time-consuming and hard on your wrists. With the help of a power auger, the holes were dug much more efficiently.
Master Plan/Field of Dreams
The Master Plan is the result of a twelve-month process led by Rodney Robinson and Allan Summers of RAS Landscape Architects. Organizing the site and guiding the process of long-term plantings, it identifies the different types of gardens and plant collections. In a zone 7b garden, many different types of plants can be planted as long as deer are controlled, and a deer fence is being planned, I was glad to hear. You don’t want your hard work and money to be devoured by a voracious deer population. The main focus of the Master Plan vision is as follows:
Always be beautiful
Be innovative and forward thinking
Provide an outdoor wetlands classroom for both passive and structured educational experiences
Connect children and adults to nature
Demonstrate the intersection between horticulture and ecology
Reach out to a rapidly growing year-round community
Attract a wide audience and encourage repeat visitation
Accommodate festivals and special events
The surrounding areas are being rapidly developed with residential communities and is a highly attractive area for retirees so I can see that many people will take advantage of the Botanic Gardens proximity. It is also a great resource to draw volunteers from. Buffers of plantings are planned to screen the Gardens from neighboring properties and Piney Neck Road.
From the entrance area, multiple pathways will wind through, connecting pedestrians to all the garden areas. Water is a recurring theme throughout the Gardens as showcased in the proposed Cascade Garden, the Bald Cypress Garden, and the unifying Freshwater Pond that will serve as a focal point. Garden components included on the Master Plan:
Parking and Rhyne Garden
Visitor and Events Center, Cafe
Edge Garden w/ Amphitheater
Demonstration and Display Garden
Coastal Living Garden
Bald Cypress Garden
Native Plant Garden
Outdoor Wetlands Classroom
Woodland Gardens-Kalmia-Azalea Knoll, Pine Savannah, Grotto, Oak Glade, Magnolia Forest, Delmarva Bay Gardens, Asian-European Bank
Quite ambitious, but with all the enthusiasm, knowledge, and verve pushing this project along, I have no doubt that it will happen.
As a landscape designer, I am always called in after the house is built and the owners are ready for the planting of the landscape. But at the DBG, their priorities are reversed – the landscape comes first and then the buildings. Buildings and structures are important but in the long-term, the landscape plantings that can take years to mature should take priority.
When it opens in 2019, the DBG will include the just planted colorful natural meadow, extensive plantings in the woodlands, and pathways in and along the edge of the existing woodlands, a living outdoor wetlands classroom, and a temporary visitors center. Additional gardens, water features, and more permanent structures will be added in the following years. Serving as a resource for local farmers, gardeners, and homeowners, I can’t wait for the opening of the Garden Gates!
Many thanks to Ruth Rogers Clausen for her hospitality in opening the garden to several beach weary gardeners. Also, thanks to Janet Draper for her photos and information on the first phase of meadow plantings and Sheryl Swed for additional pictures.
Ok, Plant Geeksof the world listen up. Have you heard of the plant genus Gomphrena, or Globe Amaranth? Yes, it is mostly a boring run of the mill plant that has the advantage of drying well. I think that is why most people like to plant it, for its quality of lasting long into the winter in dried flower arrangements – certainly not for its garden bedding characteristics. In Hawaii, they use the flowers in leis because of its lasting qualities.
Pink Zazzle Gomphrenahas burst on the scene with a blast and not only did the flowers get a makeover, the foliage is quite beautiful with a downy coating of fur on the leaves, like a soft blanket of lambs wool. Pink Zazzle, a hybrid of Globe Amaranth from Proven Winners is easy to grow, tolerates drought and has long-lasting jumbo-sized flowers held on the plant for months on end. The flower heads take the old Gomphrena form and turn it into something new and exciting, and people love the tactile quality of the plant.
Pink Zazzle will get about 12 inches tall on a well branched plant and bloom prolifically with “knock your socks off” hot pink blooms up to 3 inches across. It prefers hot sun and dry conditions. I noticed this when I first bought it in the early spring and kept the plant inside. I watered the plant to keep it moist, but when the plant started to droop and looked like there was rot in the stem, I stopped watering it and it perked up. Grown indoors as a pot plant or outdoors in the garden or container, I planted Zazzle outside in the hot sun and heat when it got warmer. The flowers literally last for weeks, almost drying in place on the plant. Remove them as they turn brown to encourage the formation of more blooms.
The price point of the plant will be higher than a marigold and most likely treated in the nursery as a premium annual. I planted these out last year in containers and in the ground, and though they are slow to get going, they eventually form a nice mounding plant covered in these “strawflower” type of flowers. I found my plants at a Lowes and it looked like they had been over watered as they weren’t the best looking.
According to Valley View Farm’s website, the flowers will attract hummingbirds and butterflies and is hardy to zone 8. Growing only a foot high and wide, Pink Zazzle is perfect placed in front of a flower border.