More Planting

the-play-house.jpgYes, we are in our second week of planting containers and annuals for summer.  Lucky for me that lots of containers to be planted is my idea of a very good time.  The fact that this client prefers a primarily green planting means there is opportunity to explore the more subtle design elements such as texture and mass and shape.  The playhouse planting is a fair distance from the main terrace.  The large white leaves of the June Bride caladiums reads well from a distance, by virtue of both the leaf size and color.  White New Guinea impatiens and lime nicotiana provides those caladiums with some flowering company. The curving bed line is a handsome contrast to the boxy geometry of the playhouse.

continer palntings.jpgThe main terrace is large.  There are a number of containers here, in close proximity to each other.  Most of the plantings on this container feature green plants, but there is a little punctuation provided by mass of white petunias,  and cathedral blue salvia.  New this year, a variegated boxwood sphere planted all around with maidenhair fern.

lavender-and-white.jpgA pair of stone wing walls terminate in a pair of large planters.  This year, cathedral blue salvia and euphorbia diamond frost hold the middle slot.  Hypnotica white dahlias and variegated licorice on both sides add visual weight and volume.  Airy growing plants look all the more delicate, paired with solid and compact plants.

annual-planting-schemes.jpgI don’t usually post pictures of container plantings when I first plant.  It is just about impossible to see what a few months of growth will add.  A small bay tree on standard will have that gawky trunk obscured by the apple mint planted on either side of it.  The idea here?  Plan for the eventual size, not the planting size.  Annuals in 4″ pots tend to be fairly uniform in size when they are ready to plant.  But the natural habit of growth and size will eventually prevail.  It is so important to imagine the overall shape that will be created by a group of plants once they grow in.  Miniature plants are great for small pots.  Big growing plants need to room to grow up and out.

annual-container-plantings.jpgThe triple ball eugenia is one of a pair of topiary plants we have over wintered in a greenhouse for a number of years.  At the base, we planted 4″ Madame Queen begonias.  I like the notion of using a plant that is usually the center of attention as a groundcover.  The Madame Queen is aptly named.  It will not suffer any amount of overwatering.  It requires expert and thoughtful care.  In August, they will wreath this pot with a crown of big ruffled leaves and angular white flower spikes.  The dignified eugenia will have ruffles.

summer-planting.jpgThis spot on the terrace belongs to a collection of English antiques.  A double sided bench with wrought iron deer legs is flanked by a pair of early 20th century faux bois pots on pedestals, and a pair of stone pots with lion feet.  A simple planting does the best justice to this collection.  The boxwood topiaries are underplanted with scotch moss.  The faux bois urns are planted with dwarf white caladiums.

agapanthus.jpgFour painted Belgian boxes have agapanthus planted in the center.  I am not worried that they will go out of bloom in another few weeks.  The strappy low foliage will be attractive all summer long.  The blue veined mini white petunias look a little bedraggled after we soaked the planted box.  We water a new planting until we are blue in the face.  This helps to settle the soil around the plants.  Even and ample moisture is critical for establishing the transplants.

white-mandevillea.jpgThe white mandevillea got stakes late in the day.  Providing a physical support for a vine means that vine will have a shape when it grows out.  A mandevillea grown with no structure makes its own interesting and wild statement.  Choose your look.

container-plantings.jpgThis old topiary Pandorea is coming out of storage at a perfect time-it is beginning to bloom.  The pot on the right-a Chicago fig encircled with dwarf King Tut. The contrast of the big fig leaves with the spidery Tut makes for an interesting visual conversation.  On the left  an elegant feather grass will have a tutu of scaevola and company.  Lots of height will contrast with lots of width.

dianella.jpg
This pair of white variegated dianella were overwintered as well, and are under planted with white polka dot plant.  The square stone trays have a centerpiece of helicrysum Icicles, and a border of hens and chicks and thyme.  This spot does not get sun all day long, but the plants chosen are tolerant of less than perfect conditions.

shade-annual-planting.jpgThe lead pots on the from porch are planted with Kimberly ferns.  The edge of the pot is planted all around with white polka dot plants.  That green and white will give the container a very finished look.

Venus-dogwoods67 containers, and three in ground plantings makes for an entire day’s work for 10 people.  One of my favorite parts is planting cirrus dusty miller around a circle of boxwood 35 feet in diameter. Several years ago we planted 8 Venus dogwoods inside that circle.  It is a treat to be there at just the right time, to see them blooming.

 

A Day In The Life

May-rain.jpg
This day was a something of a blur.  A new house needed sod.  A pair of annual plantings in a far away location needed to get finished today, as tomorrow is a set date for another planting.  Three major plantings in one day-we worked it out.  Steve’s landscape crew filled my pots, and planted the old topiaries this morning-he was on his way to sod a a new house landscape we have been working on since last fall.  Scott and Shannon delivered the planted to our job 2 in the morning.  Angie, Owen and Lucio knocked out this big planting by 2pm.  At 2:30, we were a block over, planting 13 pots.  Everything got done, in spite of the rain.

May 31 2013 (3)
I have been landscaping, and planting pots for this client for better than 20 years.  She has extraordinarily good taste, and is willing to change things up at a moment’s notice.  Every spring, I look to her for a color scheme.  This year-red, purple and lime.  I was happy to oblige.  This is a big job.  130 40 pound bags of soil-for starters.  We have been wintering a number of topiary plants for her better than 10 years.  They weigh a lot.  Those over wintered plants constitute an entire truckload.  She is 45 minutes away from me-so we have travel to consider.  The terrain-a lot of up and down. This summer planting takes 11 people 7 hours to plant.
May 31 2013 (10)
I print out pictures from last year’s planting, with notes about what I want to see happen this year.  Those notes are broad.  Once the broad strokes as established, I personally place every plant.  There is no substitute for being there in person.  A client, an environment, several truckloads of plants-something inspired needs to happen.  I worry like crazy the entire time it takes me to drive there.  What if nothing seems like it is working?
May 31 2013 (11)
Once I am there, the worry falls away.  I have work to do-there is no time to worry.  I cannot really describe what happens next.  It is a mix of my relationship with a client, the horticulture, and plants at hand.  As this is client is far away, I pack two trucks full of plants.  I want every plant that works available to me.  Planting on location means I need more than what I need-at hand.  What happens next is one part science, one part relationship, mone part inspiration, and one part experience growing plants.

May 31 2013 (13)
This pot has a hyacinth bean vine in the center.  The look of this pot will be much different, come August.  But today I value the bones of that look-purple, lime, with a dash of red.  There are upright elements, and horizontal elements.  At the very last, before the sweep-up, all the topiary frames get straightened.
May 31 2013 (16)
The deck off the master bedroom-an expression of the color scheme-with the odd pot out.   To the far left in this picture, an old peach flowered abutilon.  That one element that doesn’t fit in will work just fine here.  Annual plantings that match too perfectly- to my mind, too cold.  I like any expression in the garden which is personal.  Really personal-all the better.
May 31 2013 (18)
We had winds and heavy rains half way through this planting.  The red leaved red flowering leaved canna Australia-who knew my client would like this?  We surrounded it with red dahlias and red leaved alternanthera.  The verdict on this planting-due in late August.
May 31 2013 (19)
There are red purples, and blue purples.  I opted for a mix, with some deep red Caliente geraniums.  Hypnotica lavender dahlia is a great plant-it performs.  The mini blue veined petunias-a great performer.  Lilac wave petunias-a favorite of mine.  I like this mix, with a smattering of creeping jenny and lime licorice.  I feel fairly confident that these deck boxes will only get better over the course of the summer.
May 31 2013 (22)
Our box truck-just about empty.
May 31 2013 (25)
These old wax leaf privets have a new home this year.  Last fall I told me client that she needed bigger pots, or we would have to abandon these privets on standard.  She was not willing to let them go-I do not blame her.  They are beautiful.  She bought new pots.  These 30″ tall by 30″ diameter pots handle these topiaries with ease.  We under planted them with scaevola, variegated licorice, and mini blue veined petunias.  Today, this planting is all about green, texture, form and mass.  In August,  there will be a another story about color.
May 31 2013 (26)
The torrential rainstorms that have been passing through for the last few days means that all of us are wet.  Really wet.  My shoes and socks have been soaked for 3 days.  The late spring weather has not been easy to deal with.  The last time that the spring weather was easy to deal with-years ago.   This is a way of saying that no late spring planting season is easy.  The transition from one season to the next is always about turmoil.  Michigan weather can and does turn on a dime.We have done a number of annual container plantings in the past 3 days.  Thankfully those plantings look a lot more put together than what is left on this truck.  Not that I am complaining-this is work I truly love to do.

At A Glance: Memorial Day Weekend

container-planting.jpg
We did start our container plantings last week-tentatively.  I was not planting coleus, begonias, lantana, basil, sweet potato vine, caladiums, angelonia, and a whole host of other plants with zero tolerance for cold.  Just two days ago, the temperature at 5:30 am-34 degrees. whoa.  A friend at the farmer’s market told me she lost half her field of summer cut flowers that she had already planted.  What a heartache.  But Erma Wiegand, one of the group of brothers and sisters that own Wiegand’s Nursery in Macomb told me 6 weeks ago that the possibility of frost in our area was a real possibility, until the May full moon.  The May full moon?  Two days ago.  She has the heart and skill of a farmer-and she was dead to right.  The weather this spring has had my back-I do not like to plant containers too early.

lavender-bacopa.jpgCold soil is bad for tropical plants, and annual plants native to warmer climates. I drag my feet, getting going, until it seems like the weather is really warming up. I am happy getting the container planting going on come Memorial Day-it is the right time for our zone.  Memorial Day is a national holiday, as well it should be.  But we have a lot of work to do in a very short period of time.  We were working.  Lots of people came into the shop today-they are planting too.  There is a special and particular spirit attached to every holiday.  Memorial Day weekend-a favorite of mine.  We honor the troops.  We hope for the future, and plant.

container-planting.jpgWe were not at the shop-we were on the road, planting. In the background, a fan palm underplanted with Wasabi coleus.  The white streptocarpus with a purple throat will be added on the edge tomorrow.  In the foreground, a pot located in a patch of sun.  White mandevillea, lime nicotiana alata, creeping jenny, and silverberry petunias.

tropical-ferns.jpgBroad leaved bird’s nest fern, lemon cypress, and angelina.  I am still thinking about what to do in the front/center.  Do I leave blank spaces if I am not sure what I want to do?  Yes.

summer-planting.jpgan asymmetrical planting of angelonia, Millet Jester, silverberry petunia, supertunia lilac and scaevola.

white-caladiums.jpgKentia palm with white caladiums

pink-mandevillea.jpgPink mandevillea with Cathedral salvia in 2 colors, and white angelonia.  The little pot-mystic spires salvia surrounded by scaevola.  Angie at the helm.

summer-planting.jpgA twisted trunk hibiscus belonging to my client is underplanted with millet Jester, red Caliente geraniums and lilac supertunias.

container-planting.jpgRed mandevillea, red zonal geraniums, millet Jester, and misty lilac wave petunias.  In the background, Cathedral dark blue salvia, euphorbia Diamond Frost, white supertunias, and red potunias

\apple-espalier.jpgsky blue petunias under an apple espalier

laqvender-and-lime.jpgpurple and lime green

annual-planting.jpgplanting for summer

lime-and-purple.jpgWasabi coleus and scaevola

variegated-boxwood.jpga variegated boxwood sphere, lime and green plectranthus, and lime licorice.  This planting will come from behind, and be really good by the end of July.

end-of-the-day.jpgAngie plants-but she is also in charge of the numbers.  Her clipboard has her name on it-everyone knows that they touch that clipboard at their peril.  Angie, Rafael, Lucio, Matt, Amparo, Owen and I planted a lot of plants this weekend.  It feels good to get started.

Those Who Grow

boxwood spheres
I fancy myself a gardener.  That is, my life revolves around making things grow.  A landscape design evolves from an idea, to a schematic plan, to a garden that gets planted.  Once it is planted, there is a gardener who will see that it grows.  A small tree grows up, and creates an atmosphere all its own. A perennial garden takes hold,  gains weight, and blooms.  Pedestrian ideas die on the vine, and are replaced by those that have lively quality to them. Those who grow-I instantly think about all of the gardeners it has been my pleasure to meet.  But those who grow professionally are gardeners of a different sort.  What and how they grow is not only an inspiration to gardeners.  From start to finish, the life of a landscape is the story of its plants.  Outstanding plants are not only irresistible, they are unforgettable.  

The entrance to this nursery speaks volumes to the point of view of the grower in charge.  The paving stones set horizontally in the drive are an invitation, a request to slow down.  The cloud-pruned yews spilling over the edges of the drive-stunning.       

This nursery is devoted growing a select group of plants.  Woody plant material painstakingly pruned into shapes.  Not every plant responds to shearing.  This gardener has a special interest in those plants that handle this kind of pruning with aplomb.   

These plants are beautifully grown.  They are spaced such that every one gets its fair share of sun and air.  Each boxed tree matches its neighbor-the branching is the same distance from the ground from the first to the last.  Each box is pruned to the same size, tree after tree.  The boxwood cubes are no different.  The size and shape is utterly uniform.  Alternately the trees and the shrubs is not only exquisite to see, it makes the most efficient use of the space. 

Growing yews like this takes many years, enormous skill, and incredible patience.  Unlike a nursery where the stock turns over quickly, this grower has invested lots of time and a lot of land to the cultivation of a few great plants. 


Even in climates with long growing seasons, plants of this stature take years to grow.  The pruning is an ongoing process, a little at a time.  The yew clippings on the ground-no longer than 6 inches.  Even the clippings are uniform in shape and length. 

Some of the hedging plants are grown in sections.  I am sure when the section is dug, each individual plant is labelled as to its position in the row.  The overall shape made by the group-striking.    

A collection of individual specimen evergreens grown in boxes makes the transportation to a new home somewhat easier.  Just to speculate about what one might do with one, or two, or 4 plants of this caliber-a pleasure.  

These carpinus are being trained into arched shapes.  The fact that they have foliage all the way to the ground suggests that the training began when they were very small plants.  Trees in ground like this are regularly root pruned, which makes the task of transplanting easier.  Pruning the roots means a dense fibrous mass of roots will help keep the root ball intact when a plant is dug.  Though it may seen counter intuitive, moving a tree the first time is the most harrowing move of all. The roots that get cut eventually sprout multiple roots at the cut.   Every successive move is easier, as the development of a dense root system aids in the transplant process.

The ability of a plant to make densely fibrous and compact rootballs plays a large part in whether it is commercially grown.  Certain types of junipers are difficult to transplant, as their rootballs have a tendency to collapse.  Even container grown roses need to be transplanted with great care, for the same reason. These topiaries and espaliers are grown from just a few species-yew, boxwood, carpinus, and beech.

I think all of these plants are beautifully sculptural-I would have any of them.  But whether or not formally pruned trees appeal to you or not, the care, committment and vision with which they are grown is obvious.  Yes, these trees are expensive-just any other gorgeous one of a kind sculpture.  Where do you find trees like this?  Anywhere you find a grower with a big love for growing.  No small part of their beauty is how they suggest that any gardener with a small plant and an equally big love for growing could create one of their own.