At A Glance: Company Coming Today


Can you tell I am excited for the day?

Garden Cruise Tomorrow

A few years ago this client in Dearborn put her garden on the garden cruise we sponsor every year to benefit the Greening of Detroit. If you are not familiar with the Greening of Detroit, in the past 21 years, they have planted thousands of trees, sponsored hundreds of urban farms, and made respect for the environment a mission.  Our tour raises money for them.   I had been working on her landscape for a good many years, and she was kind enough to agree to share it with others.  I am pleased to say that this year, her son Rich and her son-in-law Jason, have agreed to put their gardens on tour.

They are both young people; one landscape I designed and planted only this past summer.  Jason’s landscape and garden is entirely of his own design and installation-he goes so far as to grow his own flowers from seed under lights in the winter.  The landscapes represent very idividual tastes, and are entirely different.  What I like the most about them both is that young people are growing them.  I visited CB and her garden while I was in Dearborn checking out the tour gardens.  She and I both were struck by how the landscape suddenly seems mature and finished.  The landscape is looked after by Melissa and her crew from M and M flowers-her level of maintenance makes every landscape she tends look great.

I have wintered these wax leaf privet single ball topiaries in a greenhouse for the past 8 years.  With root pruning in the spring, we have managed to keep them in these glazed French pots for 8 summers.  The hydrangeas were originally planted in the front of the house.  I moved them here to take advantage of a bigger dose of sun.  They seem entirely happy now.  Planting a landscape is just the beginning.  Some things will not do well.  Other things ask for a different spot.  Moving things around is part of an garden experience.  Most everything thing can be better, if you have patience and resolve.  I try to own up to mistakes early on, so the moving is not such an ordeal. 

CB’s house is situated on a very steep lot; a deck upstairs spanning the entire barck of the house is her garden in the air.  Lots of containers help to create that garden.  On the far right, an old wild rosemary that spends winters in a greenhouse supplies the kitvchen.  On the left, 3 pots devoted to herbs-mostly basil.  To trail in the basil pots, everbearing strawberries. 

There are never many strawberries, but the idea of it is enchanting, and the texture of the strawberry leaves is great.  Tidal wave petunias, mandevillea and dahlias are thriving in the high heat we have had.

My only addition to the deck was to plan and build a pair of very long planter boxes installed outside the deck rail.  This keeps water and debris from the boxes off the deck surface.  Lavender, purple and yellow petunias are punctuated every so often with dark red violet potunias.  The trailing vinca maculatum will traill almost to the ground by the end of the summer.  There is very little maintenance to them. 

Several large perennial garden enclose the pool.  They have been struglling in recent years; the local deer polulation has exploded.  This year, Melissa installed steel post 4 feet tall all the way around the gardens, and strung them with three rows of fishline.  The deer have not touched a thing all season. I can hardly believe this is working, but it is. The lollipop Coralburst crabapple pictured is one of a pair that were planted in celebration of her son Rich’s wedding years ago.  They have matured beautifully. 

On the landing, two lead boxes with green coleus and orange begonias.  All of the containers have drip irrigation in them, and they stay in place all winter. The taupe colored terra cotta pots are frostproof terra cotta from Italy.  Each pot is elevated on feet, to prevent any water from collecting and freezing underneath.  I always enjoy planting these pots, and I enjoyed even more going back and visiting both the garden and my good friend CB. 

A small deck off the master bedroom is large enough for a pair of comfortable chairs, and 4 large pots.  The branches of some old Norway spruce in the backdround are a reminder of how high up in the air this garden really is. 

CB is an accomplished gardener, but today I am thinking about how much she has nurtured that interest in two young people in her family.   In my estimation, she has accomplished something very important.

Another Perennial Garden


I did plant a second perennial garden this week-however many days ago I posted about the prep.  Steve did a great job of prepping the soil-we usually add plant mix, a mix of topsoil and compost- to garden soil.  I like perennial beds to be pouffy.  Crowned in the center.  So many perennial plants are extremely hardy, given good drainage.  A perennial bed that sits lower than the grade of the lawn will have problems.   This picture makes clear how this perennial sits higher than the lawn.  Perennials swimming in waterlogged soil will give up without much of a fight.  If I had my choice, no ground in a landscape would be perfectly flat.  Every surface would have positive drainage, in addition surface drainage.  The best part of landscaping a new house-I have a good relationship with that person on the bulldozer that sets the grades. Raised boxes specifically built to grow vegetables-this is all about drainage.   Lest I spend too much time on the obvious, I will simply state that water runs downhill.  Sculpt the ground accordingly.       

The photograph of this phlox Nicky is courtesy of the Crownsville Nursery.  The darkest carmine/purple of all the summer phlox, it resists mildew and disease such that you would want to grow it.   The smell of phlox in the summer-divine.  I like the color, and I like the vigor.  This phlox is going into this perennial garden.    

We refined the curve on the edge of this perennial bed.  Perennial beds without edger strip ask for an edger/gardener of great skill.  Any bed edge that curves needs a long slow curve with no flat spots.  If you are having trouble determining a curve, get your hose out.  Play with that hose until you get graceful curves-and then cut the edge.  Alternately, but a stake in the ground, and tie a loosely tied string to it, and mark an arc as long as you need.  Finding the right spot to put the stake just takes a little experimentation.   

The Vision series of astibles are amazing.  They are vigorous growers.  The colors are clear, and striking.  This pink, purple, lavender and white perennial garden got a big dose of these astilbes.   Should you have some part shade areas, consider Visions pink or red. This garden begins and ends with some shadier spots.  I plan to mass both areas with lady’s mantle, Jack Frost brunnera, and this astilbe.   

I have never been convinced that Gaura is hardy in my zone, but here I am planting them.  They are willowy, and beautiful in a very understated way. 

My love affair with lilies is at least 30 years old.   That is a story appropriate for another post.  But this week, the Oriental hybrid lily known as Acapulco got my attention.  Where the idea came from to plant lilies in this garden was driven by the small space in question. Bulb lilies take up  very little space, but add lots of color to any perennial garden.  They require good drainage to persist; they sometimes need to be staked.  The Lily Garden offers a wide selection of lily bulbs by mail.     

The Magic Fountains delphiniums made a big statement the day they got planted. They are fairly easy to grow, and are quite vigorous.  Their shorter stature makes it easier to gracefully stake the heavy flower stalks.  Double pink knockout roses alternated with white hardy hibiscus and planted behind the delphiniums.  Pink platycodon, and pink echinacea are alternated with Russian sage.  On the border, Blue Mist scabiosa, Geranium Rozanne, and lady’s mantle.    

The Oriental hybrid lily Tom Pouce flowers are orchid pink with lemon yellow streaks.  This is a very showy flower indeed-not at all for the faint of heart.  Flowers that are attention getting are good in gardens viewed from a distance.  Who would not want to walk up to insepct a flower like this at close range?  Subtle flowers are best up close, where they can be better appreciated. 

Though the perennials have not been planted yet, it is easy to imagine what the garden will look like once it begins to grow in.  The white flowers of the Annabelle hydrangea we left in the garden will draw the eye towards the back of the garden.  The very large existing clump of Sum and Substance hosta in the foreground provide wecome green relief to the mix of colors all around this.  My client likes pink, purple and white.  I think this garden will provide her with a summer garden she will really enjoy.

More On Perennial Gardens


This past Sunday, my opinion post had much to do with my 16 year old Hicks yews, failing.  This current northside view of my house makes me wring my hands.  Five old and very tall yews died-I had to remove them.  For years they screened the view to my kitchen door from the street.  The densiformis yews that faced them down are fine.  I stared at this view until I was blue in the face.  What should I do? 

In the far left of this picture taken from the house side-those yews, just days before I removed them.  As to what killed them, no one knows.  I already knew that I wanted to dig out these panicum virgatum grasses, and plant a perennial garden.  How so? This space once was a meadowy mix, but over time, the panic grass grew lustily at the expense of the other perennials.  I knew this grassland would grow to 5 feet tall, and promptly fall over into the path.    

I have really good soil in which to plant.  I have always mulched with bark fines-ground hardwood bark.  It deteriorates quickly, and adds loads of organic material to the soil.  Even Tim from Westside Forestry was complimentary on my friable soil.  What now?  

Of course Steve wasted no time throwing down both gloves.  Apparently I have a great opportunity to do something unusual here-don’t blow it on shasta daisies and coneflowers.  He can be infuriating.  As much as I admire a well-grown stand of shasta daisies, there are other things I like better.  The very first decision?  What season garden did I want?  A late July through fall garden I would have time to enjoy, and fuss over.  In the spring and early summer I am too busy to look, and definitely too busy to maintain something.  This is a small and irregular space; I needed to edit.  

So what do I like, besides the late summer and fall?  I like good looking leaves.  I like purple, lavender and white. I like flowers that grow on vertical bloom stalks.  I like single flowers, and flowers that wave in the breeze.  This meant the following:  Veronicas of several types, stachys monieri, Russian sage, monarda fistulosa Claire Grace, hyssop Blue fortune and adenophora Amethyst.  The white phlox David is very disease resistant, and it one of my favorite fragrances in the garden.

Planting this Summer Skies delphinium is probably ill-advised, but I have never tried to grow them before.  This blue is tough to resist.  I plan on watering them as little as possible and ignoring them unless they really seem to need some fussing.  Gary Bopp, the grower for Wiegand’s nursery farm told me not to plan on having them longer than 3-5 years.    

A blue Siberian iris and some blue-eyed grass were my only concessions to early flowering plants.  I just like both of the these plants.  A front border of lady’s mantle, Geranium Rozanne, and catmint would look good all summer long-both in and out of flower.  Both the geranium and the catmint will rebloom, provided they get haircuts.

The Veronica Purpleicious-I couldn’t resist.  I alternated it with another paler Veronica whose name I cannot remember.  Veronica breeding has come a long way; this plant habit is anything but weedy.  I know they will look great with the white platycodon I had picked out.  Balloon flowers are slow to establish, but when they are happy, they are really happy.  The simple shaped flower I find beautiful and appealing.   

The shopping I did for plants took weeks.  I could see it would take Steve a couple hours to plant. This is as it should be.  I am not a buy a plant and find a spot for it gardener.  I do not have the luxury of that much space.  I shopped for a tall plant that would provide at little screening from the street.  I settled on white hardy hibiscus.  I like their presence; the big leaves and flowers are striking.  I also appreciate how they stand up on their own.  

My favorite plant purchase was this stachy monieri “Hummelo”.  The flower stalks are thick and sturdy; the leaves are large and have a great texture.  It reminds me some of primula denticulata.  As I knew nothing about it, I read.  It is incredible-the amount of information on plants and gardening that is available courtesy of the internet.  If you see something you like, it is so easy to check its habits, vigor and persistence.  At the very least, if you want to take the trouble to grow delphiniums, you can find out what’s involved. This photograph came from Visions Pictures and Photography-my plants do not look like this yet.

I like the overall look from the driveway.  This area is informally planted with dogwoods, ivy, hosta, creeping jenny and spring flowering bulbs.  What has gone into the garden seems in keeping with this, though the perennials have been planted in rows of alternating plants.

It is easy to see in this picture that the bed widens at the far end.  In this case, I wrapped the taller plants around in a more circular fashion, but kept the front border straight.  All of this geometry will disappear as soon as the plants grow in, but the end of the garden will have a more finished, rather than abruptly linear look.  The spots that appear to look empty are the spots for adenophora; they had been cut back to the ground.

Once the perennials were planted, they were immediately mulched with hardwood bark fines.  By this, I mean ground bark.  It will conserve moisture, and looks great with perennials.  In my area, this bark is available at State Crushing, in Auburn Hills. I will keep an eye on the water and tinker with them some the rest of the summer.  No doubt some things will not work out at all, but that will be part of the fun it.  Planting a garden is just the beginning of the fun of it.