2015 In Review

Outdoor Fairy Garden
Outdoor Fairy Garden

What Are Gardeners Reading?

I am always interested in what my readers are reading and using from my blog and sometimes I’m surprised. Blogging for four years means I have gotten a little better about what people are clicking on and what gets the gardening juices flowing. Looking at my archives and statistics, I see a variety of topics that are capturing people’s interests. Perennial(!) or evergreen blogs that capture readers interest turn up again and again and  I re-blog them with better photos and updated writing. Maybe I need to write a book using one of these topics!

Comments

Pink Zazzle Gomphrena
Pink Zazzle Gomphrena

The Garden Diaries blog was viewed over 110,000 times in 2015 with 58 posts and I have regular thoughtful comments from people. Thanks for all those comments! Keep them coming. Feedback and questions are welcome and help me become a better writer. Readers from over 166 countries read my blog. That just blows my mind! My most commented post was Plant Geek Alert-Pink Zazzle Gomphrena. Lots of interest in this plant and I continue to grow and love it.

Controversial

My most controversial blog was on Butterfly Bushes-Should you plant these? Or not? Picked up by Garden Rant it received lots of comments good and bad.

The Great Butterfly Bush Debate
The Great Butterfly Bush DebateHere are my top read posts overall for 2015

The News

It was a big year for me in the news. My White House experience appeared in The Baltimore Sun and one of my designs appeared in The Wall Street Journal.

1. Broken Pot Garden   16, 649 Readers

Yes, you read that right! This post from March 2013 has had an awesome 16, 649 readers this year alone. Picked up by different Home and Garden sites and one called “Woohome” that has funneled thousands of readers to my site bumps this post to the top of the heap. You can read it at Broken Pot Garden if you haven’t seen it yet.

Broken pot garden
Broken Pot Garden

2. Containers With Pizzazz    16,605 Readers

the garden diaries container
Containers With Pizzazz

One other post which is right up there with “Gnome Home”, with 16,605 readers is my container post “Containers With Pizzazz: Not Your Ordinary Container”. I have refined this post over the years, adding new pictures and techniques to create containers which stand out from the crowd.

3. Swarming of the Bees    4,078 Readers

bee swarm
Swarming Of The Bees

Whenever I do talks on beekeeping, this is the number one question that I get-Why do bees swarm? So, no surprise here with this being a top post. “Wrangling” swarms is something I do every spring and is fascinating and fun. Honey extraction is another beekeeping topic that people can’t get enough of at Extracting the Flavor of the Year-Honey.

Extracting the Flavor of the Year-Honey
Extracting the Flavor of the Year-Honey

4. Luscious Honey Scented Body Butter  3, 734 Readers

body butter
Luscious Honey Scented Body Butter

Surprise, surprise!  I had no idea until I started reading my stats, that this was a top 5! Easy to make with a few ingredients, honey is the unexpected ingredient to make a wonderful soothing body balm.

5. Miniature Garden-Whimsical Creations

3,155 Readers

miniature garden
Miniature Garden Creations

People love miniature gardens! The above mini garden I photographed at the Philadelphia Flower Show and the purple splashes of color and attention to detail makes it stand out for me. Read how to put one together for yourself.

Other Top Posts

Thanks to all my readers who are just visiting or follow my blog. Here’s to another “fruitful” and bee sting free year in 2016.

White House Christmas-2011
White House Christmas-2011
White House Christmas
Decorating the White House for Christmas, 2015
Monarch
Butterfly Watching
Amaryllis Primer
Amaryllis Primer

 

Plant These For The Bees
Plant These For The Bees
Making Of A Labyrinth
Making Of A Labyrinth
Salvia Amistad
Salvia Amistad
Magical Sunflowers
Magical Sunflowers

 

Shade From the Ground Up
From the Ground Up-Choosing the Right Ground Cover For Shade
Sex in the Garden
Sex in the Garden

Top 14 Garden Trends for 2015

 

Orange is the New Black
Orange is the New Black

I don’t need to read tea leaves or get out my crystal ball to figure out what is bubbling up in the horticulture world for 2015. Traveling to lots of nurseryman’s and flower shows, cutting edge gardens, and keeping up with my blog, gives me a good handle on what is up and coming in the gardening world. Some of these are trends have been around and are still going strong, while others are just getting a foothold, like smoking or drinking your garden!  Or one of my personal favs,  Orange is the New Black!

Orange is being used everywhere in the garden
Orange is being used everywhere in the garden

 2014 Trends

For a read on the 2014 trends, go to Top 12 Garden Trends For 2014. What was trending a year ago still is gathering steam, like grafted vegetables, especially tomatoes. I grew 3 grafted tomatoes last season and I need to grow some more to say for sure if the extra work (grafting when young) and expense is worth it.

 1. Native Pollinators-Pollinator gardens are still going strong for native pollinators such as mason bees, honeybees, and butterflies. But in keeping with back to nature gardening, people are thinking about plants that sustain pollinators as well as birds, so we are looking for and planting multi-use/season plants. The newest wrinkle is creating a monarch way station to feed the monarchs on their long migration. Go to Monarch Way Station to see how to set your own up.

Monarch on Zinnia

2. Bambi Proof– With the skyrocketing growth of deer and the distress of seeing your hard-earned cash become salad, people are demanding low maintenance deer resistant plants.

Disney wedding 078See my Deer Combat post for strategies on planting for deer, and What is Deer Resistant, Blooms in the Winter, and is Evergreen? for the ultimate deer proof plant – Hellebores.

helleborus

 

3. New Cultivars- The pace of new cultivar releases increases every year so that I can’t keep up with all the new varieties rolling off the plant benches. But think colorful foliage plants, dwarf plants, and new varieties of old fashioneds on steroids like the new gomphrena ‘Pink Zazzle Gomphrena’. Plant breeders are looking to amp up the size and color of flowers to appeal to consumers. Oodles of color and larger flowers, are the order of the day.

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‘Pink Zazzle’ Gomphrena

4. Food in Jars- Definitely, not your grandma’s canning! Preserving food in small designer batches like chutney and tomato jam, make growing veggies fun and creative. Go to my post All Jammed Up! Easy Tomato Jam to make a delicious chocolate-laced jam. People are having a new kind of party-preserving ones! I know because I have had several, like Jam Session for strawberry jam.

Tomato Jam
Tomato Jam

5.  PPA-Geranium ‘Biokovo’- Finally a  perennial Geranium made this coveted list, the Perennial Plant Association Plant of the Year. Geraniums are the unsung heroes of the perennial world – tough, attractive during most of the season, long-lived, and an underused deer-proof ground cover. Not a glamorous plant by any means, but I would not be without these workhorses. See Choosing the Right Ground Cover For Shade for more examples of under-used ground covers.

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The deeply lobed leaves of Biokovo Geranium turn an attractive russet color in the autumn and winter

6. Eco-Chic/Homesteading- Raising bees, chickens, rabbits, and goats has gotten quite trendy. As an off-shoot you can make your own soap, body cream, and cheese even! Go to my post Beekeeping Start-Up, How to Jump Into the World of Beekeeping, and Beekeeping 101 to see if this is something you are dying to try. My post Honey Scented Body Butter is one of my top five post for hits. Go figure….

Beehive

Growing your own food organically still tops the list of most gardeners and is intimidating to newbies. Start small, take it slow, and don’t bite off more than you can chew, is the best advice I can give. As you grow more confident and are successful with a small garden, move on to larger projects. Talk to any gardener in August, and they will wish that they didn’t have such a large garden to weed and water! Many people are buying organic veggies at the local farmer’s market if they don’t have access to space for a garden, or alternatively growing edibles in containers.

Patio Baby Eggplant is made to grow in containers
Patio Baby Eggplant is made to grow in containers
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Buying organic vegetables at a local farmer’s market is a trend that just keeps spreading

 

7. Slow/Thoughtful Gardening-Growing plants that need less water, are more pest resistant and better for the environment just got pushed up the garden trend list. People are becoming more responsible in plant selections, educating themselves about the varieties before going to the nursery, or looking it up on their smart phone while at the nursery. There are tons of plants that don’t have pot appeal in the spring when most people visit the nursery, that languish on the benches. Instead these plants should be jumping in the cart, because they are a better choice than a spring fling plant. Good examples are fall blooming perennials like Monkshood-Deadly Blue Beauty or Autumn All-Stars.

Monkshood blooms in  October
Monkshood blooms in October

8. Growing Super Foods/Edibles-The ever-increasing interest and use of edibles in containers and in the garden is still up there. Think berries, fruit, and lots of kale(dinosaur, preferably). Okra is another super food that is coming into its own. Go to Okra-Superfood Superstar for more information. The only problem for me is that I don’t like okra!

Aug 2010 016
Dinosaur kale is very trendy

 

So many people don’t have the time or space to devote to a large vegetable growing operation, but when the edibles are contained and automatically watered, it becomes doable.

Growing edibles in easily accessible, self watering containers is very popular
Growing edibles in easily accessible, self watering containers is very popular

8.Water Friendly Gardening- I know, I know, this has gotten a little long in the tooth in gardening worlds. But really, as a landscape designer, water friendly gardening besides deer proof plants, is the number one request. Rain barrels, rain gardens, and using natives that use less water are high on client’s wish lists. See Rain Barrel Eye Candy.

 

Painted rain barrel
Painted rain barrel

 

9. Cool Nurseries-Nurseries are becoming a destination, not just a place to buy tomato plants. Look at Flora Grubb (yes, that is her name!) at Grubb Heaven in San Francisco who says “My goal is always to provide a fascinating encounter with the natural world”. It is not just a gardening store, it is an experience. See Annie’s Annuals and Escape to Surreybrooke, for more destination nursery adventures.

San Francisco fling 044 - Copy
Me having fun at Annie’s Annuals in San Francisco

10. Sedum/Succulent Mania-It has just begun; Look for colorful fantastic shapes and new ways of using them. Succulents are tough, can take abuse and neglect, and come in a dazzling array of shapes and textures. See Succulent Creations for ideas.

Array of colorful succulents
Array of colorful succulents

11. Small is Big- Miniature/Fairy GardeningPredicted by many to have run its course, this is still running strong with smaller versions (terrarium sized) of regular sized plants. My most popular blog by far is still Home For A Gnome. When I posted this, I was getting more than 2000 hits on my blog a day, where normally I get around 200. I will be doing a fairy/miniature gardening demo at the Philadelphia Flower Show this March, so people are still enthralled with the miniature idea.

Gnome Home
Gnome Home

 

Outdoor miniature garden
Outdoor miniature garden

12. Drink and Smoke Your Garden-Growing your own organic herbs to muddle in a drink, or adding a sprig of lemon thyme in a drink, or making tea from culinary herbs is all the rage.  But I am seeing another related trend just beginning and gathering a little steam, and that is growing marijuana. With the decriminalization of weed in many states, growing your own is not far behind. Growing is legal with the recent passage of Amendment 64 in Colorado, where you can cultivate up to 6 plants per adult in your home. Just think of the grow lights and plants that will be flying off the nursery shelves when this hits!

Cannabis plant
Cannabis plant

 

Steeping herbs for tea

13. Repurposing/Old Meets New-Personal style is reflected on how you design and decorate your outdoor spaces. Whether it is a bottle tree that you created or pallets repurposed to build outdoor furniture or containers, this is both an interior and exterior trend.

A repurposed Christmas tree set up as a bottle tree
A repurposed Christmas tree set up as a bottle tree
Repurposing stainless steel kitchen equipment for a garden bench
Repurposing stainless steel kitchen equipment for a garden bench
Using vintage watering cans as decorations
Using vintage watering cans as decorations

14. Orange is the New Black

When I visited Portland this summer and toured some cutting edge gardens, the frequent use of orange flowers and accessories struck me.  Black plants used to be the “in” flower and foliage color,  see 50 Shades of Black, but I think orange has overtaken black for the hottest shade. Maybe it hasn’t hit the east coast yet, but we are always behind the trendy west coast. See Orange is the New Black post to see how orange has come a long way.

Orange Abutilon
Orange Abutilon

Orange is the new black

Fairytale Christmas

It seems that Christmas decorating goes hand in hand with miniature gardening. For the frustrated gardener who looks outside and there is snow on the ground, there are lots of indoor gardening options.

Miniature Railroad Gardens

Trains in a miniature train garden landscape with real plants
Trains in a miniature train garden landscape with real plants

Train gardens, miniature landscapes, or edible gingerbread ones, are great subjects for using your gardening and landscaping skills to make the holidays come alive. You can’t garden outdoors, so the next best thing is to garden on your windowsill.

When I make my gingerbread house each year, it usually has a garden theme.  I have done potting sheds, farm scenes, three little pigs, Hagrid’s house with his pumpkin patch, and topiary gardens. I saw some good examples of landscaped Gingerbread houses at The Festival of Trees this year.

Gingerbread farm
Gingerbread farm
Gingerbread house with garden
Gingerbread house with garden

fairy gardens

Mini train garden at Philadelphia Flower Show
Mini train garden at Philadelphia Flower Show

Train gardens are fun to put together with live plants, or make use of the life-like colored foam for bushes and trees… a lot less care!

Basket Gardens

After spotting a Christmas miniature garden at a local nursery, I was inspired to create some fairy gardens as Christmas presents, but on a smaller scale. Shopping for plants, buying little miniatures, flaky snow, gravel, and moss was fun, but the best part was putting them together. Go to my post on basket gardens for Christmas at Mini Garden in a Basket for the ultimate gift for a gardener. For miniatures, I search the Christmas ornament aisles at a local craft store. I found this perfectly scaled snow man for a garden.

Garden in a Basket
Garden in a Basket
Mini snow man
Mini snow man

Dish Gardens

I love the dish gardens decorated for Christmas with balls, glittery gravel, and mini Christmas trees. When Christmas is over, you can remove these things and substitute spring miniatures to get you ready for spring. I replace with bird baths, benches, tiny turtles and frogs, and watering cans.

Mini dish Christmas garden
Mini dish Christmas garden

Box Gardens

The hardest part is finding a wide shallow container, and in searching for the perfect container, I spied clementine boxes and found them the right size for a small landscape. Look for the wooden ones- not cardboard. Already prepped with drainage holes in the bottom, the only thing left was to remove some labels off the ends, and cover all four sides with hot-glued sheet moss. I have had one of these planted for about 2 years, so they do hold up.

Mini garden in clementine box
Mini garden in clementine box

The big box stores are full of small houseplants for landscaping. Sometimes, I buy a larger multiple plant and split it up among different gardens. The pink polka dot plant in the right hand corner and the mini sheffalaria on the left are some of my favorites. The polka dot gives foliage color and the sheffalaria gives some height for the garden. The above garden also has a miniature conifer, a seedling lavender, and a creeping ajuga. As these plants grow, I will trim them back to keep them neat and tidy. In the summer, I will transplant the lavender and ajuga as they outgrow the space, to the outdoor garden and fill in the box garden with something else. These mini gardens are not static and need to have plants trimmed or reused somewhere else, to keep them maintained to a miniature size.

Bird Bath Gardens

Mini garden in bird bath
Mini garden in bird bath

Bird baths are a great opportunity to plant mini gardens in the winter also. I saw this example at a local nursery.

Globe Gardens

For the gardening challenged, these enclosed globe gardens are perfect! Low maintenance,  and they last for months and months with minimal care. Hang them up in a window with fishing line so you can enjoy them. Go to Green Up Your Winter With a Terrarium to see some more examples of terrariums and how to create a unique one.

gwa_may-2012-014 gwa_may-2012-017

More Ideas

Go to Creating Fairy Gardens for more ideas on dish, outdoor gardens, and terrariums.

Dish garden with gnome
Dish garden with gnome

For directions on Gnome Homes, go to Home for a Gnome.

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Filoli Knot Gardens

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Filoli miniature knot garden
The larger knot gardens at Filoli, You can see the beautiful Copper Beech hedge in the distance
The larger knot gardens at Filoli, You can see the beautiful Copper Beech hedge in the distance; the mini knot gardens are set to the side of the larger ones

On my recent trip to California with the Garden Blogger’s Fling, we visited Filoli, an estate garden that wowed us with all of its formal gardens and big expanses. Composed of 16 acres of formal gardens in a 654 acre estate, Filoli is a California State Historic Landmark Site.

Scenes from the gardens and house at Filoli
Scenes from the gardens and house at Filoli

I loved wandering the gardens that hot, hot day(over 100!) and looked for every bit of shade that I could find.  But when I saw this miniature knot garden standing next to the larger knot gardens, it stopped me in my tracks and I took my time to look at it and marvel. I have always loved the precision and beauty, and the geometry of knot gardens. And I love miniatures, so this little garden was a combination of my passions!

The miniature knot garden at Filoli
The miniature knot garden at Filoli

Designing Knots

I have designed a  total of one knot garden in my landscape design career and would love to do another. The primary hurdle to knot gardens is the high degree of maintenance, which entails constant shaping and trimming, and that doesn’t fit into modern lifestyles anymore. All that clipping, fussing, and weeding is not most people’s idea of fun. But a miniature one; Much more doable! I was instantly smitten and ready to try one at home for myself.

Installing a knot garden for a client
Installing a knot garden for a client

Plants for Knots 

So, what plants did they use at Filoli for the minis?:  Myrtus communis ssp tarentina ‘Compacta’ or Dwarf Myrtle,  Teucrium chamadrys or Germander, Leptospermum scoparium , and Buxus microphylla var. japonica or Morris Midget Boxwood.

The gift shop sold small plants of three of these varieties if you wanted to start your own little knot garden.

Sign in the gift shop at Filoli
Sign in the gift shop at Filoli

For the larger knots, the plants used were Lavender, Wooly Horehound, Germander, Crimson Pygmy Barberry, Tuscan Blue Rosemary, Grey Santolina, and Dwarf Myrtle.

Large knot gardens at Filoli
Large knot gardens at Filoli

History

Knot Gardens were thought to originate from ancient Arabian gardens, but are more commonly associated with European gardens of the Middle Ages and Elizabethan England, where the nobility enjoyed the colors and patterns from their castle windows.

English: The Knot Garden at the Red Lodge, Bri...
English: The Knot Garden at the Red Lodge, Bristol. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The main purpose was to display royal coats of arms. Also popular were designs of plants or animals, or stitches of embroidery. An open knot, like at Filoli, would be filled with colored gravel and soil, and a closed knot, would be filled with flowers.

One garden that I worked on similar to a knot that we filled with Dragon Wing Begonias
One garden that I worked on similar to an open knot, that I filled with Dragon Wing Begonias
I saw this magnificent knot garden at Nemours, a Dupont estate in Delaware
I saw this magnificent knot garden at Nemours, a Dupont estate in Delaware

Filoli Knot Gardens are Unique

What makes Filoli’s knots unusual is the three-dimensional look of over and under-lapping strands that are shaped very carefully to give an intricate and wave-like appearance. Filoli’s large knot gardens were designed and donated by the Woodside-Atherton Garden Club in 1976. Each knot is 36 feet square, and plants were placed on one-foot centers using string lines to get everything precisely square. The knot gardens are located in the panel gardens, and are bordered to the north and south by hedges of Hibiscus syriacus and Copper Beech, Fagus sylvatica. The plant material in the knot garden was chosen for attributes of contrasting colors, fineness of the foliage, and their similar rates of growth.

The miniatures were the idea of Mrs Duncan Low, also a member of the garden club, in 1991. Workers made two 36″ square boxes of wood that were engraved on the sides with brick lines to resemble the brick walls of the garden. The tiny plants were planted one inch on center and are weekly pruned with bonsai sheers.

Care of the Knots at Filoli

The larger knots are renovated every five years, with the lavender and santolina being totally replaced as these plants don’t perform well under intense pruning and sheering. They are watered by irrigation once a week in the warmer months and fertilized annually in late fall because of the extreme root competition. The knots are also hedged hard in late summer after blooming, and an application of redwood sawdust is applied annually.

Creating a miniature knot garden is maybe a future winter project for me. I have located a source of plants, and I just need to create that wooden box!

I visited this knot garden at the Garden Museum in London; I love the variegated holly topiary in the center
I visited this knot garden at the Garden Museum in London; I love the variegated holly topiary in the center