A Home-Grown Alternative – GardenRant

A Home-Grown Alternative – GardenRant
I’ve recently been contributing the text for a book about high-end landscapes in the Hamptons, that playground of the wealthy at the eastern tip of New York’s Long Island.  A couple of features unite almost all of these retreats.  There has to be a huge “resort-style” swimming pool, of course, and beside that a large arbor for lounging made of ipé wood. Ipé is a tropical hardwood from Amazonia.  Aside from its handsome appearance – its rich, dark color has earned it the nickname “Brazilian walnut” – ipé is valued for its durability.  There are claims that even when exposed to the weather ipé will last as long as 50-75 years.  That sounds extravagant.   I do know, though,, though, that a boardwalk made of ipé on Coney Island, NY lasted 25 years in that difficult seaside, high-traffic environment before it had to be replaced. So when I recently confronted a... Read More

A Gentle Plea for Chaos

A Gentle Plea for Chaos
Is there any reason to welcome chaos? It is the inevitable balance to stagnant order. In the Grand Garden, chaos is vitally necessary for life to thrive. Mary Vaananen joins us for her 4th Guest Rant. Moody chaos in the author’s garden THE BRITISH AUTHOR Mirabel Osler’s wonderful book was published in the 1980s, a time when British gardening was of a certain tidy proper look. Mirabel’s gentle plea was for gardeners to allow the magic back into their gardens by handing back the reins (just a little or a lot) to Mother Nature.  Self-sown plants weaving a tapestry within garden beds was, to Mirabel, idyllic, unplanned and imperfectly perfect. Since her book was published in 1989, others have come along speaking the same language. Cultivating Chaos, Sowing Beauty, and Planting in a Post Wild World all look towards making sustainable plantings that are beautiful, with natural … Read More

Groundhogs in my Garden! – GardenRant

Groundhogs in my Garden! – GardenRant
I suppose most suburban gardeners have some mammals to deal with in their garden – squirrels, rabbits and deer being the top nuisances in my area, so far. That is, until this fat-and-happy groundhog took up residence under my neighbor’s shed, and we think it has a mate, too. (We’re not sure – they all look the same to us.) The first plants to fall victim to groundhogs were Echinacea purpurea, which were sheared to the ground (sorry, goldfinches!) and the spent flowers of comfrey – which I don’t miss at all. That’s all so far in my back yard. Sweet Potato Vine and Persian Shield. My front garden is just starting to show groundhog damage, most obviously the sweet potato vine here in before/after photos taken just a day apart. So fleeting! And I’d taken that “before” photo so I could brag about how great this pairing looks, proclaiming... Read More

Shaking Up the Center of Classic Charleston with a Wild Heart

Shaking Up the Center of Classic Charleston with a Wild Heart
  Colonial Lake Just Before Dawn on a Summer Day. Kellen Goodell photo. Plantsman and author, Jenks Farmer, in his first Guest Rant, tells a story of a dream come true. How do I describe that sensation of not feeling the effects of the atmosphere? When for a moment, there’s skin and air and self and the world seem as one? When I’m in it, that equilibrium, there’s a moment before awareness; that’s the best. Those moments come on Maine mornings, Seattle summer afternoons and twilight in the fall, anywhere. Down in low lying, normally humid Charleston I feel one dawn in May. Walking through this park I’m in it for a few seconds. Then the thought registers, and way up overhead, a scratchy, rustling noise of palmettos leaves reminds me. I feel it move a curl of hair against my ear. I smell it, that breeze brings down a rosy... Read More

Random Horticultural Things I’m Either Loving or Loathing, and a Few I Haven’t Quite Decided On

Random Horticultural Things I’m Either Loving or Loathing, and a Few I Haven’t Quite Decided On
For whatever they are worth, here are some stray observations that have rattled around in my noggin lately when I’ve had too much time to think. Let’s start positive! Why not? Here’s something I’ve been loving—the Fashionably Early series of Phlox. They’re some kind of hybrid. I don’t know the parentage. I wish I did, but it’s probably one of those things where one could possibly “know too much.” I’m thinking that if I were to find out, someone would have to kill me. Possibly Hans Hansen, who bred this series, but maybe not. I would think it’s way more important for Walter’s to keep him in the field and away from the rough stuff, so it makes more sense that there would be another among them who makes the call to the “guy who knows guys” that would set my offing in motion. Phlox ‘Fashionably Early Flamingo’ at the... Read More

How our Garden Tour Went Virtual

How our Garden Tour Went Virtual
The informal Gardening Boosters group that I helped launch in January planned to have all sorts of in -person gardening events here in Old Greenbelt, Maryland. When those ideas became impossible this year, we turned to the trusty old Internet to create a reasonable alternative, hoping it could serve the same purposes as a normal tour. But it’s proving to be different in more ways than just the virtual bit. More ToursInstead of just one tour, we’re having a Spring, a Summer and a Fall Tour.  The Spring Tour is now online! More Gardens18 gardeners submitted photos or videos for the “tour,” which includes another 5 gardens I snapped photos of from the street on my walks and rides around town (my gym’s closed, of course). In-person tours would include no more than 12. More Diversity Our gardens didn’t have to … Read More

A Peony Kind of Love…in the Gardens of Winterthur

A Peony Kind of Love…in the Gardens of Winterthur
Guest Rant by Debra MoffittIn this burdened, budding springtime, we are all looking for something to do. I suggest falling in love — rollicking, floating on a marshmallow cloud, I’m-not-even-hungry love. To be honest, my paramour and I have been carrying on since 2016 and this year we are as star-crossed as any two have ever been. Confession: I’m married. But the real problem is my heart’s desire lives behind the gates of an Eden-like public garden called Winterthur. The place draws a crowd, so the pandemic forced it shut for all of April and May. No visitors allowed. Among the lush woodlands and rolling meadows of Delaware’s Winterthur, something is always in bloom. In May, it was my Paeonia and I was sick with longing. I imagined barreling through the single orange cone ahead of the guard shack. Or maybe I’d drop in, like a botanical paratrooper, surgically … Read More

Nook Garden Update, and Thanks again to Commenter Kate Kruesi

Nook Garden Update, and Thanks again to Commenter Kate Kruesi
Nook garden in 2012 Back in 2012, the year I bought my New Deal rowhouse in Greenbelt, I had no idea what to do with this space between the porch and the neighbor’s privacy screen. So I asked YOU, GardenRant readers, for your ideas in this post, and reported on the results here. I got amazing advice from a stranger to me – a Kate Kruesi in Vermont, who even incorporated her knowledge of my former garden in the process. Among her suggestions: FEATURE the fence. It has great texture. Don’t hide it behind (unhappy) hollies.FEATURE the “floor”, too, to enhance the “floor to ceiling” view off your porch (and terrace). Consider a symmetric or Escher-esque (i.e. starts symmetric then “loses” its pattern) checkerboard of bluestone 1′ squares starting off your new bluestone terrace into the space. You played with lawn alternatives at your former home. Play … Read More

The Arrival of the Future

The Arrival of the Future
  Neither sorrow nor fear has diminished home gardening’s potential to heal during this pandemic spring. Chris Beytes of Grower Talks, the respected commercial trade magazine, has been keeping tabs on retail garden centers for the last twelve years. This year, weekly surveys of growers and retailers across the United States have been surprisingly positive. One grower reported, “We will run out of plants before we run out of spring.” Susan Harris recently posted a fascinating Garden Rant piece about Princeton researchers who discovered that a home vegetable garden can make you as happy as biking or walking. Scott Beuerlein wrote about the joy, and perhaps even the necessity, of vegetable gardens—without forsaking pollinators. Spring greens. The world has taken a painful hit this spring. The mood is bleak. There have been few bright spots, but at least gardening roared back, and worldwide carbon emissions were down 17%, Are we... Read More