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.


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


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.


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


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!

Chelsea Flower Show: The King of Flower Exhibitions

‘Step Into The Med’ themed booth by Marks and Spencer won the gold this year

Chelsea Flower Show History

A veteran of many flower shows in the U.S., I was excited to attend my first ever Chelsea Flower Show in London, a rite of passage for any serious garden lover. On a hot sunny day, not English-like at all!, and not knowing what to expect, I was surprised to find that a good part of this prestigious show is held outside on the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea for WWII war veterans in central London. Bigger than any garden show in America, it encompasses over 11 acres of displays, garden landscapes, rare plants, sculpture, food courts, floral arrangements, vendors selling garden paraphernalia, music and much, much more. Tickets for a full day goes for 100 pounds ($128) and sell out months before opening. Hosting a group of 29 other garden enthusiasts on a trip from the U.S., I bought all our tickets by January. Scalpers were selling tickets for 500 pounds or more. After entering, my group of gardening friends quickly scattered and hit the ground running to see everything.

‘Gateway to the Garden Safari’entrance to the Flower Show

Only about a third of the show is undercover, held in the “Great Pavilion” and the floral arrangement competitions are also staged in a studio building, held there since 1913.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) puts on the show and on their website; “The RHS Chelsea Flower Show, sponsored by M&G Investments, is the place to see cutting-edge garden design, new plants and find ideas to take home”. It is very English and brilliantly garden mad! Gardening displays are over the top and crowds of people wanted to see it all and pushed and shoved like I have never experienced at a garden show before. Disappointed that gnomes were frowned upon, I learned that they were allowed for the first time in 2013, and could only make an appearance for that one year. The RHS site claims “gnomes detract from the presentation of the plants or products on display, and from the general appearance of the show”.

Waiting in line for the opening with fellow travelers with the hospital in the background

After entering and being bombarded with plants, people, and booths selling Pimms everywhere, the one flower that shouted out to me was lupins. The English are mad for lupins and they were in almost every show garden. If only we could grow them here! I get a few blooms but nothing like the towering vibrant blooms that I saw at the show.

Many plants attract bees that are staged outside. Bumblebee is collecting nectar and pollen from a bicolor lupin in a show garden

Sarah Raven

As a garden designer, I wasn’t impressed with the show garden designs except for one (Sarah Raven’s) and was fascinated with the stellar new and not so new plants that were on display in the Great Pavilion. Purple Alliums, bronze Verbascums, red Lysimachias, Geums, Iris, Dahlias, Lilies, and Lupin in every hue were on display everywhere and the predominant color palette was gold to bronzey orange, wine red, and purples. In Sarah Raven’s garden, these colors took center stage to create a winning combination of textures and cottage style abundance. Overflowing with exuberance, this was the kind of garden that I came to see!

Purple alliums and bronze geums and calendulas were on display in Sarah Raven’s garden
Orange lupins in Sarah Raven’s show garden
Still life at Saran Raven’s exhibit

Sarah Raven is an English garden celebrity who is also a cook, writer and television presenter and I really admired her garden sponsored by The Anneka Rice Colour Cutting Garden. According to the Chelsea website, “Every square inch of space will give you flowers, flowers and more flowers. The garden is inspired by Tricia Guild’s renowned use of colour in her designs. It is a profusion of colour that will be an amazing sight and concentrates on plants that cut and come out again. Gold, the colour for 50th Wedding Anniversaries, features in this garden to celebrate 50 years of BBC Radio 2″. Adjectives used in the publicity were “zingy colours” “patchwork of flowers”, “diaphanous planting”, “textural planting”, and “cornucopia of colour”. I agreed! It was stunning. A sighting of Sarah at her booth thrilled me and she graciously allowed me to enter the garden to take her picture.

Sarah Raven in her garden at Chelsea 


For more information about Sarah and the creation of the garden go to her website. Next trip to England, I plan on going to her garden at Perch Hill!

Stunning gold Verbascum ‘Clementine’

One of my predictions for upcoming gardening trends was the color gold and I saw it everywhere at Chelsea. My favorite was the gold Verbascum ‘Clementine’, used in Sarah’s garden.

The Potato Story

Thompson and Morgan potato exhibit won a gold this year, photo courtesy of Darlene Wells

Potatoes???? One of the most unusual exhibits in the Great Pavilion was Thompson & Morgan Seed company’s potato exhibit which won a gold award in 2015, 2016, and 2017! Displaying 154 varieties, the exhibit highlighted the diversity of one of England’s favorite vegetables. Most varieties came from designers Morrice’s and Ann’s personal collection of over 500 varieties, including a historical European one which was taken to New Zealand by Captain James Cook in the 1770s. In the collection are also modern varieties like the high-yielding salad potato, Jazzy. Morrice and Ann of Aberdeen Scotland worked with Thompson & Morgan potato expert Colin Randel to bring home the gold spud this year!

Trade Spaces

A shortage of high-profile show gardens (8 from the usual dozen) attributed to lack of corporate funding, meant that there were more trade booths or nurseries in the Great Pavilion and outdoors which actively encourage people to enter, touch and feel. An improvement in my view, because you are kept at arm’s length for the big show gardens, trying to muscle your way in front to catch a brief glimpse. I loved Pennard Plants exhibit which exhibited how to grow veggies in small spaces. They actually sell Burpee to the English market. Merlin cucumber was awesome!

Merlin cucumber at Pennard Plants
Pennard Plants exhibit displayed small-scale veggies in containers
Lovely Iris in Great Pavilion
Stunning display of delphiniums and tuberous begonias in Great Pavilion
Display of carnivorous plants
I never knew there were so many varieties of Allium!

Alliums were everywhere in abundance. Virtually every garden I visited on my trip had drifts of Alliums and we can grow them just fine! I know what will be on my bulb order list for next year.

Animals covered in Easigrass, a synthetic life-like grass
Plant Lust- Some of these new Clematis varieties are not available in the U.S. yet
Tricollet Daffodil is on my “to-buy” list
On my list also for next year

Show Gardens

The M & G Garden, the sponsor of the entire show, inspired by an abandoned Maltese quarry

Featuring monumental blocks of limestone planted with grasses, evergreens, and perennials unique to Malta, I was underwhelmed by the main M & G show garden. Malta’s ecological sustainability principles were the intent but I moved on to more interesting pieces. Featuring large show gardens on the main drag of Royal Hospital Way, these drew crowds of  excited jostling people. My favorite was the Silk Road Garden, Chengdu, China. Inspired by Kyoto emperors of Japan, colors and textures abounded and overflowed in this garden.

The Silk Road show garden

Primulas, geum, and rhododendrons made the Silk Road garden beautiful
‘Welcome to Yorkshire’ -another show garden

Great Pavilion

The show’s Great Pavilion, a 12,000 sq meter enclosure, featuring more than 100 exhibits from the world’s best nurseries, growers and florists was the most interesting feature of the show for me.

Southfield Nurseries display of blooming cactus
For 399 pounds you can have this dish garden delivered and set up with all the listed plants

Displaying the newest plants and products, the RHS Chelsea Garden Product of the Year and the RHS Chelsea Plant of the Year, I spent a lot of time browsing the aisles. PURE Greenhouse was the top product of the year. A beautiful seamless glass greenhouse that would elegantly fit into any garden.

PURE, a seamless stylish glass greenhouse
Runner up for product of the year- a self watering enclosed raised bed for growing veg

My personal favorite product which I brought home with me was Burgon & Ball Ltd’s Hip Trug that clips to your belt for hands free picking of produce.

Wearable hip trug

The RHS Plant of the Year was given to a dwarf Mulberry ‘Charlotte Russe Matsunaga’, which has taken over 40 years for Japanese breeder Mr Matsunaga to create. A dwarf unique Mulberry Bush that is compact with tasty berries, fruiting over a long season. Coming in second was Salvia ‘Crystal Blue’ which I grow and love, and third was Hibiscus ‘Petit Orange’, a floriferous dwarf hibiscus with orange flowers with a red eye.

RHS plants of the year: Mulberry on left, Salvia on the bottom, and Hibiscus on top right

Artisan Gardens

On the woodsy serpentine walk outside, nine smaller innovative gardens were featured which I feel would appeal more to a serious but less experienced gardener. Showing just how creative it is possible to be in a smaller space, the artisan gardens were more interesting than most of the larger show gardens. The Poetry Lover’s Garden and The Gosho No Niwa No Wall, No War were my favorite. For the Poetry Lover’s Garden, a creation of a tranquil retreat to read poetry to the sound of water was striking. The plant materials selected were a mix of traditional and modern with a relaxed feel. Based on Coleridge’s poem This Lime Tree Bower My Prison, lime trees tower over abundant flowers in pale hues.

The Poetry Lover’s Garden

The Kyoto residence of Japanese Emperors inspired the Gosho No Niwa garden and displays the beauty and peaceful march of history of two millennia of the imperial family. Moss which looked so soft and touchable was a great feature.

Soft touchable moss is a wonderful feature of the Kyoto garden

Floral Design Studio

To view the best amateur flower arranger’s work, the studio is full of stunning floral designs which are open to National Association of Flower Arranging Society clubs and individuals from all over the world. Jane Belcher won the gold for her category “In Suspense”  based on a piece of literature called The Birds.

Gold winning floral design by Jane Belcher of the UK


Spending 10 hours exploring, snapping pictures, and shopping the latest garden products in the artisan studios was exhausting. To rest up, I stopped at the Wedgewood Tea Conservatory for a refreshing spot of tea, a quintessentially British tea experience. Trying different and exotic tea pairings, I browsed through the many offerings of tea selections curated by Wedgwood’s expert tea sommelier Bernadine Tay.

Wedgewood tea salon
Huge bathrooms could handle the traffic
Me and my sister taking a photo moment

I hear that the Hampton Court Garden Show in July is bigger and better. Another road trip I hope!

Gardening Trends 2017

New 'Autumn Fire' encore Azalea
New ‘Autumn Fire’ encore Azalea; blooms twice a season

Attending the Mid Atlantic Nurseryman’s Show in Baltimore (MANTS) this past January is an intense glimpse into what is up and coming with the gardening industry. I took lots of pictures, trolled the aisles for new products, talked to people, and used my gardening savvy to figure out what is really brand new or recycled.

Chatting with Stephanie Cohen (left) and my Mants partner Gretchen Schmidl (right) at Walters Gardens
Chatting with Stephanie Cohen and my Mants partner Gretchen Schmidl at Walters Gardens at the MANTS show

Talking with Stephanie Cohen(The Perennial Diva!) she suggested to gardeners that they buy one or two of the plants that they want to try in their garden, before buying 50 of the same variety to cover an area. Only after making sure your choice of perennials are thriving, then feel free to plonk down money for more. I thoroughly agree with her! Garden conditions- drainage, soil, climate, location- are so variable that it doesn’t make sense to buy an untried perennial or shrub for your garden without first giving it a trial run. It is so easy to waste money in the nursery trade without first doing your homework and making sure that it is “right plant-right place”. There are just too many choices out there vying for your gardening dollar.

I loved this Super Bells 'Tropical Sunrise'
I loved this SuperBells ‘Tropical Sunrise’

Gardening trends ebb and flow like fashion crazes. “There is nothing new under the sun” could be applied to the gardening world but practices and products often are packaged and marketed differently to look new. Here are some movements that I see in the industry.

Greenery-Pantone Color of the Year

Doesn't this container scream "Greenery"?
Doesn’t this container scream “Greenery”? No flowers needed

Pantone’s color of the year sets the tone for 2017-  “Greenery”. It wasn’t that long ago (2013) that “Emerald” was the color of the year, so green has been trendy before. Pantone’s “Greenery” looks like a lime green to me and if that doesn’t convince you that the plant world is up and coming, nothing will. Think kale smoothies, retro metal gliders, or lime green crocs that are sitting in your closet- and you have the right color in mind. Our desire to reconnect with nature? Or a symbol of revitalization? Read whatever you want into that color, I think of shimmering foliage shades for a restful experience.

Hakone Grass 'All Gold' is the Pantone color of the year
Hakone Grass ‘All Gold’ shows the Pantone color of the year
Pantone colored chairs match perfectly
Pantone ‘Greenery’ colored chairs match perfectly
Using dental floss to hang a chrysalis
Monarch chrysalis is the Pantone color of the year!

As Good as Gold

Gold has always been one of my favorite colors to design with and I see an uptick in golden introductions, like the one below called ‘Sunshine’. The Ligustrum leans toward the yellow end of the spectrum, the following Coral Bells are pure gold.

I admired this Proven Winners plant Ligustrum
I admired this Proven Winners plant Ligustrum
'Caramel' Heuchera is a villosa hybrid which performs like gangbusters for me
‘Caramel’ Heuchera is a villosa hybrid which performs like gangbusters for me, from Walters Garden
Heucherella 'Buttered Rum'
Heucherella ‘Buttered Rum’, a Terra Nova intro is a new one that I am trying this year
‘Golden Balcony’ Begonia from Longfield Gardens

New Plant Intros

The pace of new plant introductions has been increasing in the past five years at an exponential rate as more and more people are gardening and want more choices- namely dwarf plants. Virtually every full size plant has a newer dwarf variety that is at least half the size with as many or more flowers than the full size version. Neat and tidy is the name of the game and with so many dwarf introductions, it is hard to keep track of them. The plant industry is working hard on plants that fit into our downsized lifestyle and gardens. Plus, plants that normally bloom only once-like Azaleas, are reworked to bloom again and again so that we get a longer season of enjoyment.

Proven Winners Supertunia 'Bubblegum'
Proven Winners Supertunia ‘Vista Bubblegum’

I was glad to see Proven Winner’s ‘Vista Bubblegum’ receive the accolade of Annual of the Year for 2017. Using this plant for at least 10 years and marveling at the toughness and beautiful form and color, I thought I was the only one who noticed! This is one plant that I make sure I buy enough for my containers and window boxes, as well as the landscape and can’t get enough of. A deserved recognition, I hope that it will now be easier to find.

Dwarf Hibiscus with full size flowers
Dwarf Hibiscus with full size flowers

Eat Your Spinach

Greens,beautiful greens! Dinosaur kale, collards, swiss chard, lettuce, arugula, spinach, mustard greens, carrot tops; you name it, someone is eating it and/or growing it! Chock full of good nutrients and easy to grow in the garden or in containers, greens are here to stay.

Having your greens ready to pick outside your doorstep
Having your greens ready to pick outside your doorstep
Ruffled kale grown in my garden
Ruffled kale grown in my garden
Spotted heirloom lettuce
Spotted heirloom lettuce

And not just greens. Veganism is mainstream. No longer a niche group, vegan consumers desire a cleaner product, want to lose weight, and are environmentally conscious. Even if you aren’t a total vegan, people are incorporating more vegetables in their diet. My last trend report for 2016, Top 10 Garden Trends for 2016, included the cauliflower as the trendiest vegetable in the garden. I see it at the supermarket in pizza crusts, brownies, salads, and as a rice. As easy to grow as tomatoes, but more prone to pests, here is a guide to growing – Growing Cauliflower in Containers.

Cauliflower is being grown in home gardens because of its versatility in cooking
Cauliflower is being grown in home gardens because of its versatility in cooking

Home Grown Berries

Millennials especially are embracing this trend of eating and growing healthy in portable containers. Berry bushes, like the new Bushel and Berry series of berry bushes- dwarf blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries are appearing on decks and patios. As one of the Superfoods that everyone should include in your diet, people are incorporating these dwarf heavy bearing shrubs into their gardens and containers. I am trialing ‘Strawberry Shortcake’ Raspberry and looking for the ‘Perpetua’ Blueberry (2 harvests a year!) and Blackberry ‘Baby Cakes’ and will be reporting on how well they do this year.


Black Goes With Everything

Again, black or dark foliaged plants are in the forefront and they contrast nicely with the limey green ‘Greenery’. Check out my post Black Goes With Everything. Heucheras or Coral Bells come in an array of dark hues, like the ones below called ‘Silver Gumdrop’ and ‘Black Pearl’ from Walters Gardens.

‘Black Pearl’ Coral Bells, image from Walters Gardens
'Silver Gumdrop' Coral Bells, image from Walters Gardens
‘Silver Gumdrop’ Coral Bells, image from Walters Gardens
A sweet potato vine that is jet black

Jungle Redux-Invasion of the Houseplants

Remember the tired looked Shefflarias and Spider Plants from the 70’s? If you look at pictures from that era, houseplants were everywhere, perched on harvest gold counter tops or dangling from macrame hangers. The nostalgia and the plants are back! But instead, clustering succulents in a retro glass container or air plants being thrown together in a wooden trough with glass balls are appearing. Orchids, especially Vandas are mainstream and hanging from the ceiling of your sun room. Bromeliads are coming back with some crazy colors.


Bromelliads are long lasting tropicals that I use in shady containers
Bromeliads are long-lasting tropicals that I use in shade containers

Another current use of house plants is to counter indoor pollution, one more way that Millenials are trying to control their environment for healthy living.

Vanda Orchid
Vanda Orchid
Vandas come in incredible colors
Vandas come in incredible colors
Air plants used as hair jewelry

Bromeliad flowers are beautiful also

Succulent/Cactus Craze

Succulents are still huge trend setters with their jewel like rosettes of beautiful foliage. Cacti are joining right in.Easy care plants that are small and portable and take neglect, you see them in hanging baskets, wreaths, trees, and, wedding bouquets, and containers. A crafty plant, go to my post Succulents For the Fall or Deck the Halls-A Succulent Christmas.048-2

Succulents filling a hanging basket at Disney World’s greenhouse
Succulents come in all colors
Succulents come in all colors


Cactus are trendy;unfortunately these have been dyed
Cactus are trendy;unfortunately these are dyed

Cool Nurseries 

Destination nurseries are getting more numerous and more sophisticated than ever. Prolific on the west coast and the United Kingdom, they are trickling into the rest of the country. After my recent trip to Scotland when I visited several garden centers, I realized that the U.S. has some catching up to do. Dobbies is a destination garden center/nursery that has its headquarters outside Edinburgh and bills itself as a leisure destination for all the family. I have posted about a few destination garden centers, namely Surreybrook-A Destination Garden Center  located in Maryland, Annie’s Annuals in Richmond, California, and Grubb Heaven in San Francisco. Including restaurants and lifestyle products, these destination garden centers are more than just a place to shop for plants. Marketing of plants has hit big time.

Flora Grubb's has unique containers
Flora Grubb’s has unique containers
Me posing at Annies Annuals which has funky gardening stuff
Me posing at Annies Annuals which has funky gardening stuff



Annie's has demo gardens scattered around so you can see plants other that in pots
Annie’s has demo gardens scattered around so you can see plants other that in pots

Macy’s Flower Show-Art In Bloom


Shopping and a flower show – what a combination!! I was in heaven when I visited NYC’s Macy’s Herald Square store and saw the phenomenal floral creations covering every available inch of the store. Along with the clothing and shoe displays, you can enjoy over the top floral creations and artwork. Designers even bedeck an escalator area with flowers!

A springtime scene between Macys escalators
A springtime scene between Macys escalators
All of the support pillars had gardens
All of the support pillars had gardens


Many of the support pillars had hanging gardens of Babylon! Just think of watering these for the entire run of the show, Sunday, March 22 to Saturday, April 4. This years theme was “Art In Bloom” and the artworks were outstanding and memorable.

Framed works of floral art
Framed works of floral art

A veritable horticultural art gallery greets you when you step through the doors, with floral displays depicting different major movements in art history.

Simple but effective
Simple but effective

macys flower show

 Classical art, pop art, impressionistic art was all represented.


Statue of David clothed in pop art flowers
Statue of David clothed in pop art flowers

Flowering full size cherry trees lined the aisles.


macys flower show

Floral seminars, painting sessions, and other special events occur throughout the show with famous floral designers like Martha Stewart and Jes Gordon performing their magic. The central arrangement, a celebration of Easter and Springtime was a show stopper. Three or four bunnies were peeking out behind the flowers and people gathered around trying to find them all.

Springtime basket
Springtime basket


Lights, Camera, Action! Philadelphia Flower Show, Part 2

Japanese miniature garden
Japanese miniature garden

Mini Landscapes

My favorite part of the Philadelphia Flower Show is always the mini landscapes and settings. There is something about the attention to detail and scale that has always attracted me.

Top prize for mini landscapes went to the outstanding Japanese garden above which really inspired me to create one just like it, as I already have a Japanese dollhouse from when I was little. They would go perfect together!

Mini garden with colorful Begonias
Mini garden with colorful Begonias
Mini garden with gazebo
Mini garden with gazebo
Log cabin in the woods mini garden
Log cabin in the woods mini garden
This musical mini landscape was planted in a guitar!


My favorite mini garden from last year
My favorite mini garden from last year

Closeup of the easel and painting


People young and old enjoy these miniature landscapes, and I had a full house when I did my “Tinkerbelle and Beyond” demo of miniature gardens with a very happy helper.


My helper created a complete fairy setting  and took it home to enjoy
My helper created a complete fairy setting and took it home to enjoy
Doing my demo at the Gardeners Studio on miniature gardens
Doing my demo at the Gardeners Studio on miniature gardens

Miniature Settings

Waiting in a long line to view the miniature settings, I could see people bend down to get a better view in front of the viewing window and exclaim with delight. The line moved slowly because of the amount of detail to absorb and the pictures to take.

Winning exhibit for drama
Winning exhibit for drama
The setting for Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Rear Window’ was the blue ribbon winner in the drama category


For a great blog on the techniques used to set these up, go to Flower Show Miniature Settings. The people who put these together go to a lot of work in ageing their  objects so that they don’t appear brand spanking new, with scratching, color washes, and even eye shadow! The Alfred Hitchcock setting was put together with sheets of cut polystyrene.

People who take on the job of creating these work on them for months, literally starting as soon as the current flower show is over.

Enchanted April setting
Enchanted April setting
Little shop of Horrors
Little shop of Horrors

With only two classes, drama and fantasy, and five exhibits in each, these settings drew a lot of viewers to see the interpretations of the movies along with of course-Plants!! A variety of plants were used – succulents, cactus, tiny house plants and even seedlings. I read on the blog, Flower Show Miniature Settings, that people have learned to use fast growing seeds, like cat grass, chia, or turf grass to add instant greenery.

E.T. miniature setting
E.T. miniature setting


Gone With the Wind
Gone With the Wind
Sleeping Beauty
Sleeping Beauty



Hollywood Goes to the Dogs
Hollywood Goes to the Dogs

 The Philadelphia Flower Show ends on Sunday, March 7, so you still have time to go see it. Go to The Flower Show for more information about tickets and times.

Lights Camera Bloom! Philadelphia Flower Show-Part 1

"The Movies" was the theme this year for the Philadelphia Flower Show
“The Movies” was the theme this year for the Philadelphia Flower Show

As you enter the Philadelphia Flower Show, you feel that you are visiting an old time movie theater that has a marquee, bright lights, and excitement, and you even smell the buttery scent of popcorn. And yes, they actually were selling hot buttery popcorn freshly popped, like hotcakes!

Cars themed Rt 66 executed by Burke Brothers Landscapes
Cars themed Rt 66 executed by Burke Brothers Landscapes

The PHS Philadelphia Flower Show is an annual event at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in March. The oldest and largest indoor show, the spectacle features elaborate landscapes, and over-the-top floral creations.

Over the top floral creations
Over the top floral creations

Not only a flower show, visitors experience live shows and entertainment, culinary demonstrations, DIY workshops and lectures. I did a demo on Fairy gardens meets the movies called “Tinkerbell and Beyond” and showed everyone how to arrange a miniature landscape.  Tinkerbell, The Hobbit, and Fern Gully gardens complete with animals and fairies were put together on the demo stage and I had a great helper who was eager to play in the dirt. I had an assistant to help me with my demo on miniature gardens

I had an assistant to help me with my demo on miniature gardens.

My assistant made a great fairy garden with a little coaching
My assistant made a great fairy garden with a little coaching
Tinkerbells' miniature garden
Tinkerbells’ miniature garden

The aisles were thronged with people trying to get a good view of the very inventive interpretations of movies.

'Nightmare Before Christmas' was a big hit
‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ was a big hit

Four season containers were on display to demonstrate that you can have containers planted all year long.

Four season containers
Four season containers

But the movie exhibits were so interesting that I kept going back to them to check them out.

Chicken coop made out of an old car for 'Cars" movie

Chicken coop made out of an old car for “Cars” movie!

Ratatouille was so cute!
Ratatouille was so cute!
Ratatouille popped up everywhere
Ratatouille popped up everywhere
I loved these air plants that were upside down in dried sea urchins to mimic jelly fish-In Finding Nemo
I loved these air plants that were upside down in dried sea urchins to mimic jelly fish-In ‘Finding Nemo’
Alice in Wonderland at the Mad Hatters Tea Party
Alice in Wonderland at the Mad Hatters Tea Party
I loved this storefront of underwear made of flowers!
I loved this storefront of underwear made of flowers

The miniatures were wonderful as usual and I am doing another post on just the miniature gardens and scenes. Stay tuned for part 2.

My haul of plants from the show
My haul of plants from the show


Northwest Flower & Garden Highlights

Balmy weather at the Bloedel Reserve brought out all the spring flowers
Balmy weather at the Bloedel Reserve brought out all the spring flowers

Arriving in Seattle last week for the Northwest Flower & Garden Show was like traveling to the tropics from Siberia. A cold snap in the mid-Atlantic had its icy hold on the region and when I landed in Seattle, I shed all my gloves, jackets and scarves with relief and basked in mid-60’s weather. Flowers were in full bloom outside and native Seattleites assured me that the warmth was unusual weather this early in the season.

Camellias were in full bloom in Seattle
Camellias were in full bloom in Seattle

Camellias and Hellebores were in bloom everywhere.

I had never been to the Northwest Flower  & Garden show but was doing two presentations there and was very impressed with the size and scale of the show. A heart (It was Valentines weekend) of thousands of succulents towered over the front entrance to the show.

Heart of succulents
Heart of succulents

The Northwest Flower & Garden Show  floor was acres of blooming flowers, vendors, and gardening ideas that I spent two full days exploring.

Steam Punk Garden
Steam Punk Garden

The Steam Punk Garden and the Bee Friendly Garden were two of my favorite displays.

Bee Friendly Garden
Bee Friendly Garden

After doing my speaking duty, I was free to explore.


The show had lots of interesting vendors and it never got too crowded like the Philadelphia flower show where you are always bumping into people trying to get a closer look.

I need this car! Subaru, one of the show sponsors had this gardening dream car on display
I need this car! Subaru, one of the show sponsors had this gardening dream car on display


For vendors, I was expecting the usual mix of home improvement companies and jewelry and scarf vendors. But I was proved wrong with the quality and selection of down to earth garden vendors. A gardener could get into real trouble here!

I could have ordered one of these custom built garden sheds for a mere $7000
I could have ordered one of these custom built garden sheds for a mere $7000

I was especially interested in a Cedar Cold Frame kit to extend my growing season. See them at , but the kit was too bulky to take on a plane. I will probably order one for the spring. The cold frames were well made and they even had one that was table height so you didn’t have to bend over. Also Charley’s Greenhouses had an awesome display and I am seriously considering buying one. I need the triple wall, cedar frame “Northern Heritage” one. I will put this on my Christmas list!

A Charley's greenhouse with triple wall insulation
A Charley’s greenhouse with triple wall insulation



The vintage gardening section was incredible. I have never seen vintage vendors at a gardening show before. See my post at Vintage Gardening  to see the different kinds of products you could buy. I went through the area three times! How about repurposing an old sink into a potting bench? Or making a hanging container out of an old funnel?

A repurposed funnel
A repurposed funnel
A "vintage" sink becomes a potting bench
A “vintage” sink becomes a potting bench

Chihuly glass is everywhere in Seattle gardens because Dale Chihuly was born in Washington State. We went to the Chihuly gardens and museum in downtown Seattle and I will do a post on that garden later as it was so incredible. But you could buy your very own Chihuly knock off in the market place for quite a bit less than the real thing.

You could buy your own Chihuly glass knock offs at the market place
You could buy your own Chihuly glass knock offs at the market place

 The flowers of course were stunning with the orchid display especially beautiful. There was a meadow of orchids presented by the Northwest Orchid Society.




Gardening in February is still going on here in the mid-Atlantic even though we have an arctic blast! For  some of my winter tips on the best way to start seeds, go to Hartley Botanic’s gardening calendar.