Plant Oddity – Pumpkin On A Stick

Use pumpkin on a stick in fall displays

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.

Pumpkin on a Stick seed packet at Botanical Interests

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.

Bed of Nails

Culture

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.

Harvesting

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.

Pumpkin on a stick at the wholesale florist

Delaware Botanic Gardens- From the Ground Up

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!

An aerial view,  photo courtesy of Delaware Botanic Garden

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.

Looking out into Pepper Creek

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.

Pathways through the woodland area; native wildflowers are being planted here, photo courtesy of Delaware Botanic Gardens

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.

Proposed visitor’s center surrounded by expanses of meadow,  photo courtesy of Delaware Botanic Garden
From left to right- Janet Meenehan Point, Gregg Tepper, and Ruth Rogers Clausen
Blue crabs live in the nearby water, photo courtesy of 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.

Ruth Rogers Clausen enthusiastically shows off the woodland area, one of the first areas to open to the public in 2019

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.

Nests of brush are being constructed in the woodland area using cleared brush, photo courtesy of Delaware Botanic Gardens

Can you see it? The start of a hedgehog sculpture!

 

Beautiful dry laid walls are lining the woodland walkway, all done by volunteer Don Klima
Holding area for new plants

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.

An army of volunteers planted 17,000 plants in the initial phase of the Meadow Garden, photo by Ray Bojarski

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.

Hand drawn meadow design by Piet Oudolf
Left to right: Raymond J. Sandler, President of DBG, Piet Oudolf, and Sheryl Swed, Executive Director of DBG, photo by Ray Bojarski

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.

Perusing the Master Plan, by Bill Jones & Ruth Clausen, a board member and volunteer

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!

A closeup of the hand drawn plan of the meadow by Piet Oudolf

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.

The dark color is pine fines
Planting the meadow takes lots of wheelbarrows, Photo courtesy Janet Draper

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.

Photo courtesy Janet Draper
Melanie Ruckle and Patrick Gravel planting the meadow with grasses, photo courtesy Janet Draper

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.

A power auger made the plantings go quickly, photo courtesy Janet Draper

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
Butterfly on newly planted Lobelia in Woodland Garden

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.

Master Plan , photo courtesy of Delaware Botanic Gardens

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
  • Meadow Garden
  • Edge Garden w/ Amphitheater
  • Gallery Garden
  • Demonstration and Display Garden
  • Coastal Living Garden
  • Cascade Garden
  • Freshwater Pond
  • Bald Cypress Garden
  • Discovery Garden
  • Native Plant Garden
  • Outdoor Wetlands Classroom
  • Maze
  • Woodland Gardens-Kalmia-Azalea Knoll, Pine Savannah, Grotto, Oak Glade, Magnolia Forest, Delmarva Bay Gardens, Asian-European Bank
Remains of a horseshoe crab on the shoreline

 

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!

Photo by Ken Arni

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.

 

 

Plant Geek Alert-Pink Zazzle Gomphrena

 

 

‘Pink Zazzle’ Globe Amaranth
Yellow star shaped flowers top off the flower head which is composed of petal-like bracts.

Ok, Plant Geeks of 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.

The usual globe amaranth is much smaller
Pink Zazzle at the nursery
Pink Zazzle at the nursery

 

Pink Zazzle Gomphrena has 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 gomphrena

 Culture

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.

Planted in a container, Pink Zazzle is the focal point

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.

Seen at a Lowe’s, I rescued a Pink Zazzle and took it home; it had been over watered
I used dried Pink Zazzle blooms in this pod basket for the fall
I used dried Pink Zazzle blooms in this pod basket for the fall

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.

Great as an addition to a dried flower/herb wreath: go to Making an Herbal Wreath
Pink Zazzle Gomphrena likes hot dry situations
‘Pink Zazzle’ Gomphrena likes hot dry situations in full sun

Magical Sunflowers-Fibonacci Spiral

Full size Sunflowers with seeds in bucket
A field of sunflowers all face the same way towards the sun
A field of sunflowers all face the same way towards the sun

Magical Qualities

Sunflowers have always been one of my top favorite blooming plants. The list of their attributes is long; they are cheerful and uplifting, long blooming, easy to grow, feed birds and pollinators, good for flower arranging, etc. For my post on The Great Sunflower Project, see how sunflowers are used in citizen science on pollinator research. The color palette goes way beyond just yellow. Red, burgundy, orange, cream, and even black are all well represented in the sunflower kingdom.

Almost black sunflower
Burgundy shades are stunning
A field of sunflowers
A field of sunflowers

The most interesting and fascinating features are twofold: the blooms actually move to follow the sun from east to west across the sky, and the seeds are arranged in a Fibonacci Spiral to pack as many seeds as possible in a small space.

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sunflower

Bees flock to sunflowers

Facing the Sun-Heliotropism

The amazing sun-following trick makes these plants seem to possess some mystical powers. What’s really going on here is something called heliotropism, and lots of plants do it. But with a field of huge sunflowers in bloom, it is a sight to behold.  Heliotropism means moving toward the sun.  The puzzle with sunflowers is, why do the flowers need to face the sun?

Butterflies flock to sunflowers for pollen

The stems of all actively growing sunflower parts – flowers and leaves – grow to face the sun in order to maximize photosynthesis.  During the day, the stems elongate on the side away from the sun, tilting leaves and immature flowers toward the sun throughout the day and ending up facing west at sunset.  When there’s no light, the other side of the stem grows, pushing the leaves and flowers back to the east where they will be facing the sun at sunrise.

Hanging heavy with ripening seeds

Growing leaves and immature flowers are green and full of chlorophyll and actively photosynthesizing. Once the flower matures and is not actively photosynthesizing, then it remains stationary and will hang with the weight of the growing seeds.

A mature head of the sunflower droops down with the weight of the ripening seeds
A mature head of the sunflower droops down with the weight of the ripening seeds
Sunflower ready to open
Sunflower ready to open

DSCN1979

Painting a field of sunflowers

Fibonacci Spiral

English: Fibonacci Spiral generated with the f...
English: Fibonacci Spiral generated with the free software GeoGebra (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A fascinating attribute of the sunflower is The Fibonacci Spiral . The concept is named after a Middle Age Italian mathematician named Fibonacci who was considered to be one of the most  brilliant mathematicians of his time. The principle underscores that mathematics is utilized in nature in every facet, especially in the design of nature.

Chambered Nautilus, Sunflower, and Agave plant all show nature's use of the Fibonacci Spiral
Chambered Nautilus, Sunflower, and Agave plant all show nature’s use of the Fibonacci Spiral

The Fibonacci Spiral or numbers are nature’s numbering system. It appears everywhere in nature, from the leaf arrangement in plants, to the pattern of the florets of a flower, the bracts of a pine cone, or the scales of a pineapple. It means that a plant or animal grows in the most efficient ways, maximizing the space for each leaf, or the average amount of light falling on each one. Even a tiny advantage would come to dominate over many generations. In the case of closely packed leaves in cabbages and succulents, the correct arrangement may be critical for availability of space.

Succulents are often arranged in a Fibonacci spiral

 

 

 

Disk florets of yellow chamomile (Anthemis tin...
Disk florets of yellow chamomile (Anthemis tinctoria) with spirals indicating the arrangement drawn in. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

In the  seeming randomness of the natural world, we can find many instances of  mathematical order involving the Fibonacci numbers themselves and the closely related “Golden” elements.

The famous Fibonacci sequence has captivated mathematicians, artists, designers, and scientists for centuries. Also known as the Golden Ratio, its universality and astounding functionality in nature suggests its importance as a fundamental characteristic of the Universe.

Array of sunflower seeds
Array of sunflower seeds
Hurricane Sandy Fibonacci spiral
Hurricane Sandy Fibonacci spiral
Fibonacci galaxy
Fibonacci galaxy
Even dead Sunflowers make a statement

Dahlias-Divas of the Garden

From July to a killing frost in October, dahlias dominate my garden with their many petaled lushly colored flowers. Except for a true blue, you can find just about every flower color in a dahlia. Sizes can vary from an enormous 12 inch dinner plate to small button pom poms. Bee magnet blooms cover my plants that are excellent for cutting and using in arrangements. 
Bringing armloads of blooms in the summer will decorate your living space for weeks

Originating with the Aztecs, and arriving in European gardens in 1789, by 1927 F. F. Rockwell, author and founder of Home Garden Magazine,  reported that dahlias ranked in “the leading position of all bulbs grown in America.” For fascinating details on this beloved flower, go to Dahlia Archives of Old House Gardens.   Old House Gardens carries a wealth of heirloom varieties of all kinds of bulbs that you can’t find anywhere else.

Diva dahlia
Dahlia tubers dug up in October ready to be stored over the winter
Easy to grow if given adequate sunlight and rich well-drained soil and plenty of moisture, these shrubby plants grow from tuberous roots, or tubers. Depending on how severe your winters are, they may require digging and storing indoors until planting time next spring. For this reason, many buy new ones every year. 
Getting ready to plant newly arrived tubers from Longfield Gardens
Hundreds of flower forms and colors can confuse people about what varieties to plant but I see this as a great opportunity to try new ones every year and also to go back to my favorites. But remember, the larger the flower, like the dinner plate size (7 inches +), the less flowers it will produce. Juanita, a lovely ruby-red smaller flower (4-5 inches), will produce dozens of flowers compared to a dinner plates’ couple of flowers at a time.  
Pam Howden is a beautiful peach tinged with yellow, seen at Longwood Gardens
Gallery Art Deco, Cafe Au Lait, and Diva are my favorites from Longfield Gardens. There are so many favorites and new ones to pick from! Swan Island from Oregon carries hundreds of varieties and I like how they stamp the name on the tuber so you can even see it when you dig it up for saving. You always have the name even if your tags fade in the sun. Brandon Michael and Hulin’s Carnival were outstanding selections from  Swan Island this year.
Brandon Michael from Swan Island
Sunlight
Select a spot that gets at least six hours of sunlight a day, preferably more. If you can grow a tomato in a spot, you can grow a dahlia. Tolerating partial shade, dahlias will still bloom but less blooms will be available for cutting. And to produce more blooms, dead head and bring the fresh cuts in to enjoy.
Clown-like bloom, not sure of this variety
Hulin’s Carnival
Juanita dahlia, a prize-winning ruby-red, available from Old House Gardens and Swan Island
Not sure of this one
Cafe au Lait dahlia flowers are in shades of cream, pink, and tan

Soil

Heavy feeders, dahlia tubers should be planted in loose fertile soil. Add compost to the soil before planting. Don’t plant in soggy soil; they need good drainage to be successful. Soil temperature must be over 60 degrees Fahrenheit in the spring and I check this with my instant read cooking thermometer. Tubers can rot if planted in wet cold soil in the spring.
Thermometer says the soil temperature is 61 degrees
Campos Gibby dahlia seen at Longwood Gardens

Planting

Plant tubers by digging a hole three to six inches deep and laying the tuber in it with the growing tip up. The growing tip or bud is obvious as a fresh emerging shoot coming out of the fleshy brown tuber. Cover with soil but don’t water until well after growth emerges. Plant the tubers about 18 to 24 inches apart because they produce bush-like plants.
Planting a Cafe au Lait dahlia tuber in the spring that has already sprouted
York and Lancaster, an heirloom dahlia from Old House Gardens

Care

Staking can be done with tomato cages or with stakes and twine. Most dahlias need to be staked or you will have a plant with branches that will flop on the ground and have misshapen flowers. Water if you don’t get at least an inch of rain per week and the plants benefit from feeding lightly with a granular or liquid fertilizer of a general use fertilizer, not high in nitrogen. High nitrogen will produce more foliage than flowers. Dahlias like cooler conditions so flourish especially well in the late summer when temperatures start to moderate.
Seen at Longwood Gardens, dahlias are lined out in rows and at the end of the row, stakes are hammered in and tied with twine
A newly planted dahlia tuber with a tomato cage and twisted sprouts that have already started to grow while being stored

Saving/Storing

Frost will hit your plants sometime in October or November and they will go from glorious specimen plants to blackened wilted skeletons overnight. Check your weather report and before a hard frost is forecast, cut off every flower and bring it in to enjoy for another week. Once the plants are frost killed, you can start digging around the root ball carefully to remove the shrunken star fish like tuber that is nestled a few inches under the soil. Wash off any soil with a hard stream from your hose and dry in the sun. If you leave you tubers in the ground, I have found that some even come back if the winter hasn’t been too cold. Some people don’t save them, preferring to buy new ones every year.

Wash off your tubers in a crate for easy cleanup

Cut the stems a few inches above the tubers and store them in a container full of peat moss and perlite. I only place two layers of the tubers in a container, as I find that the bottom layers tend to rot more often than the top. If the tubers are too wet, they might rot, so I check them after a couple of weeks of storage to see how they are doing. If they are moldy, I scrape off the mold and add some dry peat moss. You are going to lose some of the tubers, but I have a success rate of about 75% saved tubers.

Storing tubers in peat moss
Using a large rubbermaid container that has a layer of peat moss and perlite

Alternative Method of Planting/Saving

Another method is to plant your tubers in 1 gallon plastic pots early in the spring. When the weather warms up, plant the whole pot in the garden and cover with soil. Leave the tuber in the pot and roots will come out the bottom drainage holes. When frost hits, dig up the entire pot, cutting off roots that are outside of the pot and bring the pot inside and place in a cool dark place for the winter. When shoots come up in the spring, top dress with compost and plant outside for another season of bloom.  I read about this method on Old House Gardens and want to try it next season.

Another method which a friend swears by is to dig up the tubers and shake the loose soil off and place in a large trash bag, leaving all the clinging soil attached to the tubers.  Store the trash bag in an unheated garage that won’t go below freezing. Easy and effective!

Pom Pom Dahlia
Pom Pom form of dahlia
Bees love the single type of dahlias because they can easily get to the nectar and pollen

Arranged in a bowl

 

Longwood’s Summer of Spectacle

New fountain display at Longwood Gardens, photo courtesy Longwood Gardens

Two years in the making, the revamped and rebuilt 5 acre fountain display of Longwood Gardens is ready for prime time. Major new renovations that incorporate new technology have energized the old Longwood Gardens fountains into an unforgettable experience.

According to Longwood Gardens website; “The culmination of the legacy and vision of Pierre S. du Pont, the garden combines classic landscape design with art, innovation, technology, and extraordinary fountains. Spectacular events, glorious gardens, live music, special exhibits, and jaw-dropping fountain performances await”.

Fountain scenery in the past was beautiful but lacked the movements of the modern ones, photo by Longwood Gardens

If you have never been to Longwood, their vision is clear; “To become a world apart, a place accessible to all is the driving force behind all we do to ensure we preserve and enhance this extraordinary experience for future generations”. Home to more fountains than any other garden in America, this is an experience that you won’t see anywhere else. New fountain engineering and lighting technology that weren’t available in the thirties transformed the fountains to the digital age.

During daylight hours, the fountains provide a wonderful backdrop for the gardens

Return of the Fountains

I remember the fountain display from years ago and I wasn’t prepared for the new and improved version with shape shifting columns of water.

 

On a recent humid summer night I got my chance. Sitting in a reserved seat, I had a perfect view of the recent renovations complete with fireworks, fountains, and music. ‘Dancing Divas’ was the theme and the fountains literally danced! Waves of undulating water streams throbbed to the music punctuated by eye dropping fireworks.

LED lights produce colors that weren’t possible when the fountains were designed and there were bursts of water propelled by compressed air and flames of propane gas that flare atop columns of water- Fire & Water!

Dancing fountains
Even in daylight the fountains are extraordinary. Here is the basket weave effect, photo courtesy of Longwood Gardens

Facts

Designed by Pierre du Pont and first turned on in 1931, the $90 million revitalizing project began in October of 2014 and opened with great fanfare this spring.

You can reserve seats or bring your own; these lawn chairs were covered because of a threat of rain

 

Lots of new jets were added (1,340) and the tallest jet went from 130 feet to 175 feet. The basket weave effect (pictured above) was added, a “Hidden Layer Dancer” and “Dancer on the Stage” were added, which means a nozzle moves side to side and front to back to make beautiful gyrations that are put to full use. The fountains did dance.

 

Summer of 2016 the fountains were still being worked on

Daily fountain performances with additional special evening shows Thursdays through Saturday showcase the new fountain experience.

Reserved seating is available

The Historic Pump Room & Gallery highlights the original pump systems that powered the main fountain garden from 1931 to 2014 and gives you a behind the scenes look at the powerful equipment required of the old fountains.

The original pump room has been restored

Flower Garden Walk

I loved the fountains, but walking through the totally redone first garden of Mr du  Pont was my pleasure of the evening.

A stellar garden walk in front of the restored fountains
Lushly planted gardens are adjacent to the main fountain garden
Hundreds of seasonal dahlias were on display for everyone’s enjoyment

A celebration of annuals and perennials and a wonderful dahlia garden that was at its peak in August drew my attention and many photos later I joined my family at the Beer Garden for refreshment.

Beer Garden

Returning for Thursday to Saturday evenings, the Beer Garden was a perfect spot to sit with friends and family for wine/beer and wood fired pizza and bratwurst. I have been to a real Beer Garden in Germany and this was very similar in ambiance and flavor.

Kevin, an employee at Longwood, gave us some useful tips on navigating the Beer Garden
Magical at night, there was plenty of seating and food options in the Beer Garden

Grotto

The spiritual center of the new fountain display has to be The Grotto. Meant to be a place of reflection, it includes four fountains, including one that falls from the ceiling.

The grotto with a suspended fountain was my favorite-an area for reflection and meditation, photo by Longwood Gardens

Framed in limestone walls, all of the old crumbling statues and carved wall fountains at the main fountain garden’s base,  had to be removed and either replaced or rebuilt by craftsmen. New plantings of boxwood were added and the old invasive Norway Maples that have fallen out of favor were replaced with Lindens.

Sunset, photo by S. Markey

New plantings were added
New limestone walls are the backdrop for dramatic containers

Longwood Gardens is off Route 1 in Kennett Square, Pa., and contains more than 1,000 acres of gardens, woodland, idea garden, hillside garden, meadow and conservatories. In the Main Fountain Garden, 12-minute fountain shows are held daily at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Thursdays through Saturdays, when Longwood is open until 10 p.m., there is a 12-minute show at 7 p.m. and a 30-minute show at 9:15 p.m. The last show has illuminations.

Special tickets are required for the Fireworks & Fountains Show.

Garden Design Magazine-A Good Read

 

Garden Design magazine

Garden Design magazine known for its in-depth articles and awesome images has a clean and easy to read design, free of ads. Over the years, I have started and stopped my subscriptions to different gardening magazines, but I will never give up this one. I don’t review many print publications, but I felt that this one richly deserved to be recognized. Not available at the grocery check out line, it is primarily available by subscription. But if you are interested in nature, ecology, cooking, design, gardening, traveling or simply beautiful images, this would be the magazine for you. With 132 pages, there is plenty of space to cover diverse subjects that would appeal to amateur as well as professional gardeners. Most garden magazines have brief articles and I often crave more. In Garden Design, the articles can run 10 to 12 pages long to really get an in-depth look.

Hydrangea picture from Garden Design magazine by Ngoc Minh Ngo

Plant Portraits

What flower can reach 12″ across and up to 18″ long? That is Hydrangeas’ main claim to fame, according to Garden Design article ‘Old Reliable, New Tricks’. The commonly asked questions of how to prune and change hydrangea color is demystified in this informative article. These two questions are asked by many enthusiastic gardeners as there are so many different varieties and treatments for each particular kind.

 

Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ is beloved for good reason. Its huge white flower heads—8 to 12 inches across—grace shrubs for 2 months in summer. Zones 3-9 Photo by GAP Photos/Friedrich Strauss
A costly one hundred pound bouquet of hydrangeas at a flower shop in London- photo Claire Jones

Using Garden Design magazine as a great design resource, and also for stellar articles on plants, containers, and pollinators, it is always sitting on my desk. More like an add-free soft bound book, I welcome it to my house every season for eye catching photos of gardens, design ideas, and great plant selections. Printed every three months, I am not deluged with monthly issues but instead have a seasonal reference at my fingertips.

Design

The design posts will make your mouth water with all the delicious combinations of plants and good design components. My design of a healing labyrinth made the on-line Garden Design magazine when the magazine went on a brief print hiatus a few years ago. The magazine came back stronger than before chock full of garden inspiration.

My design of a labyrinth made the on-line Garden Design, photo Claire Jones
A beautifully designed water wise courtyard located in Spain is my favorite photo in the current issue of Garden Design, photo by Claire Takacs

And the article by Janet Loughrey, ‘Spanish Lessons’, highlighted three Mediterranean landscapes that show the best of waterwise design.  I drooled over these images!

Garden Travel

Visiting different gardens is also covered and Pennsylvania’s Longwood Gardens is featured in the latest issue because of the fantastic new fountain show. Perfect timing, as I am visiting it this weekend.

Longwood Gardens new fountain display-photo Longwood Gardens

Another mentioned event that I would love to go to is the Swan Island Annual Dahlia Festival. Located in Oregon, strolling and ogling 40 acres of dahlias in full bloom is my idea of a good day. I’ll make it there someday.

Dahlias come in a huge array of colors and types and are one of my favorite flowers for arranging-photo Claire Jones
A container with Cafe Au Lait dahlias-photo Claire Jones

Ecology

Box Turtles were featured in an article by Doug Tallamy-photo Amy Sparwasser

A find of a box turtle is always happy but all too rare, and the article by Doug Tallamy explained why. Habitat fragmentation  is the main culprit that has placed this species on the Threatened Species list as “vulnerable”. Fulfilling the important job of seed dispersal, Tallamy gave pointers on encouraging these great little natives. Exceeding 100 years old if conditions are right, I learned how to make my property better suited to the colorful turtles.

Tools

Rain wand by Dramm-photo Claire Jones

After doing my post on Watering Like a Pro, reviewing Dramm products like ColorStorm hoses and Rain Wands, the current article about watering tools in Garden Design “elevated this perennial garden task into a real pleasure”.  Quality of your tools makes a huge difference in your garden enjoyment and reaffirmed my watering tool selection.

This laissez-faire beekeeper makes sure his bees have plenty of blooms, photo by Meg Smith

Pollinators

As a beekeeper, I appreciated the article ‘Darwin’s Beekeeper’. Letting nature take its course reflects my policy on beekeeping perfectly. And the foldout on pollinators is pretty enough to be framed. The progression from early to late bloomers is essential information and includes both tree/shrubs, and perennials. Go to my post on Pollinators for more information on what plants to select to attract a wealth of winged beasts to your property- and keep them coming back!

A great reference chart for any gardener-photo Garden Design
Burr comb on one of my bee hives-this is laissez faire beekeeping! photo Claire Jones

 

Great Gardens Across America

A woodsy garden entryway located in Whidbey Island, WA, photo by ClaireTakacs

Probably one of my favorite sections is Great Gardens Across America. Showcasing gardens anywhere in the country, the stories and material and plant selections are always interesting to me as a garden designer.

Front cover of the current issue of Garden Design

No matter what zone or coast you live in and what type of nature lover you are, you will find inspiration from this magazine.

 

Full disclosure: Garden Design magazine is not paying me for this review!

Blackberries Rolling In-Blackberry Lime Cobbler

Ripening blackberries

If you have never grown blackberries, this is one of the easiest and most satisfying berry to grow. I started with one “cane” or stem of a thornless blackberry variety some years ago and it grew to be one ginormous mass of a plant. Taming the canes by growing them on a trellis of cattle fencing has produced endless quarts of blackberries every July and August.

Berries are produced at the tips of the canes or stems

Blackberries and other berries bear fruit on second-year growth, so the canes sprouting now will yield next year’s crop. After picking the last berries of the season, I remove all the older canes that just produced fruit by cutting close to the ground, to allow new canes that will produce to grow for next season.

Easy to pick if the canes are held upright with cattle fencing

The tips of the canes will root in and produce more progeny so it is important to prune it back vigorously. Besides mulching around the plants, there is nothing else to be done for this self-reliant plant.

Blackberry Deluge

When late July rolls around, that means plump juicy blackberries are ready and waiting. I am looking for ways to use them as I pick about a quart a day and we can’t eat them fast enough.

While picking, my border collie helps by eating all the lower hanging blackberries. She picks alongside me and gets to keep them all!

Eating all the blackberries she can reach, Tori saves me a lot of bending

I will freeze some but I love to use them fresh and they are classified as a “superfood“, full of antioxidants and other good stuff. I use them as a garnish for green salads,  a topping for yogurt and granola, pies, jam, sorbets, and cobblers.

Blackberry Sorbet

I tried some Blackberry Lime jam this winter and enjoyed the tangy taste so much I came up with this Blackberry Lime Cobbler. Baked in a cast iron skillet, it makes for an easy cleanup.

 

Blackberry Lime Cobbler
Baked into a cast iron skillet
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Blackberry Lime Skillet Cobbler

A delightful citrusy Blackberry juicy tart in a skillet. Adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe for Blackberry Buckle, I have added lime extract, grated zest and lime juice to ramp up the flavor

Course Dessert
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 C Butter (1 stick unsalted)
  • 4 C fresh Blackberries
  • 1/4 C Sugar to sprinkle on Blackberries
  • 1 C Flour
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • Pinch Kosher salt
  • 1 C Milk
  • 1 tsp Lime extract
  • Grated lime zest from 1 lime
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 1 Tbsp Sanding sugar

Creme fraiche, whipped cream, or ice cream, for serving

Instructions

  1. Gather ingredients and have 4 Cups of fresh Blackberries on hand

  2. Melt butter stick in a 10" or 12" cast iron skillet, or an oven safe skillet

  3. Grate lime zest from one lime into bowl

  4. Place blackberries in a large bowl and mash lightly with a fork or potato masher; sprinkle with 1/4 C of sugar and squeeze lime juice from lime into blackberries; Let sit while the berries steep in the lime and sugar combination


  5. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add sugar, milk, lime extract; mix until combined. Add melted butter to flour mixture and lime zest; stir until combined. 

  6. Pour mixture into hot skillet and add blackberries and their juices into the center. Sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake skillet in 350 degree oven until top is golden brown for 50 to 55 minutes

  7. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream, creme fraiche, or ice cream

Gather your ingredients
Melt stick in butter in a 10 or 12 inch cast iron or oven safe skillet
Lightly mash your blackberries sprinkled with sugar with a potato masher
Mix your batter; here you can see flecks of lime zest
Pour your batter into the hot skillet and add your blackberries into the center
Baked into a cast iron skillet; it should be lightly browned on top
Enjoy with whipped cream and a garnish of fresh blackberries and lime