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.

Scheming

This is the time of year I start planting annual plants for clients.  I am hoping we are at the tail end of the third rainiest spring on record; I planted all week last week in the cold rain.  It is a good thing I really like to do this; it kept my mind off my wet feet.  I have other things to think about besides being wet-like a color scheme, for instance.  I just planted one small garden at the shop, in illustration of the idea of scheming.  Scheming can refer to some underhanded activity-I prefer to think of it as an orderly way of working, or a way of working where all the pieces fit together in a satisfying way.  The concept of a color scheme for a garden is easy to understand.  Putting plants together where all of the respective colors workwell together-not always so easy.  

Color schemes that feature contrast will be lively.  The wild card of course is that every flower comes with a plant that has leaf color. The heliotrope pictured above has intensely purple flowers.  The leaf color is a medium green.  Flower color may be your primary interest-but there is a green scheme that needs attention too.  The lime licorice in this pot is a green that contrasts well with both the flowers and the leaves of heliotrope.   

Both the lime and variegated licorice are invaluable in planning a color scheme.  This lime green will read yellow, when planted next to yellow flowers.  It will read very lime green when paired with red flowers.  Red geraniums and lime licorice is a color combination that reinvents the red geranium.

This lantana topiary has several shades of yellow in the flowers.  Both lemon yellow and deep yellow are represented.  Why did I choose variegated licorice in this pot?  That more blue green leaf relates better to the deep bluey-green of the lantana foliage.  The alyssum chosen here is called “citron”.  In a composition featuring yellow, it reads cream yellow.   All of the greens featured here are related.  All of the yellows relate.  

The third element in the lantana pot is a yellow potunia.  Potunias are a series of petunias developed  for a compact habit of growth, making them perfect for a container planting that does not necessarily ask for a trailing element. The lantana pot has a piecrust rim and band at the top-I would not want to completely cover that interesting detail.  The pot is not that large-I would not want it to be overwhelmed by the planting.  But the best part are the two tone yellow flowers-a perfect element for a yellow and green scheme so strongly suggested by the lantana standard.  

Persian Queen geraniums have brilliantly lime green leaves; I value this about them more than their hot pink flowers.  The lavender trailing verbena is a cool and striking foil for both the Geranium, and the scotch moss (sagina subulata aurea). Purple and lime green is a great place to start scheming. 

Variations on a color create visual interest.  Heliotrope can vary from deep dark purple, to lavender.  Sky Blue petunias are a very pale version of Royal Velvet petunias.  Yellow petunias with Sky Blue and  Royal Velvet petunias- a color scheme begins to tune up.  Add some white petunias for bright, and some lime licorice to the green scheme makes for a series of color relationships that create visual interest.

The scheme for this small anuual garden is as follows.  Lavender verbena bonariensis, lime and white nicotiana alata are my tall elements.  Mixes of three plants mix more evenly overall than mixes of 2 plants.  My mid level plant-bicolor angelonia-white and purple in the same flower.  Vanilla Butterfly marguerite is the pale cream yellow verson of the intense lemon yellow “Butterfly”.  Purple heliotrope and yellow potunias finish up that level.  On the border, white, sky blue/lavender and dark purple putunias mixed with lime licorice.  This color scheme-white/purple and lime, with a dash here and there of yellow.  If you think you see petunias and licorice planted from back to front between my tall flowers, you are right.  The big growing annuals take a long time to come on.  I like a bed of flowers that engages my eye from the start as well as the finish.  We’ll see if my scheming amounts to something good looking; I have my fingers crossed.  All is in the hands of the plants, and how they grow, now.

At a Glance: Lavender and Lime

glan1

White Sonata Cosmos, Verbena Bonariensis

glan2

Laurentia

glan3

Nicotiana Alata Lime

glan5

glan6

White Sonata Cosmos

glan7

Heliotrope, Scaevola, Coleus, Petunia, Angelonia, Licorice

Bringing the Garden Upstairs

I have a few clients that challenge me to be the best I can possibly be-this client is right at the top of that list.  Her design ability-whether it be interiors, or parties and events,  or gardening-is superb. She could have easily founded a  School of Design-had she had any inclination to do so. She and her husband live in a beautifully overscaled modern house with a beautifully high pitched roof, and overscaled high-pitched  dormers. (This is a landscape designers description of architecture; bear with me.)

1

To drive into the impossibly small front drivecourt, you would think the house was sited on a postage stamp of land.  But in fact, the house is sited on a steep ravine, and hangs out over a rear yard that widens, and goes on to embrace the river. It is a big property, with incredible aerial views.

2

She loves gardens and flowers.  Flowers and more flowers.  She is a master chef-so any plan for her has to include acres of basil, and the like.  OK-the challenge here-to plant a perennial garden stuffed with roses and other perennials, in a flood plane-courtesy of that river.  The first order of business was a lot of drainage, and rear yard grading. When her son got married, we had to install floors in the tents and stepping stones between them at the last second-which we did.   The perennial garden ramps up to a curvy modern swimming pool.  So far so good.3

I met her when I was young-so I had no problem moving every tree and every shrub within two days of my first work there.   There were trees, shrubs and perennials placed poorly, and too many boulders. But that house was a jewel-perched out over a beautiful piece of property.  The house-a beautifully designed tree house.4

A house sited in the crowns of trees-how beautiful.  But what if you love to cook, and grow flowers, and want to sit with your garden and family  around you?5

The house already had a giant deck all across the back.  Stairs to the lower level had a small landing-perfect for pots. The lower level under this deck-dark, and intimate. My only suggestion-windowboxes.  And lots of pots. 6

We built and hung two giant windowboxes-off the deck, at the railing height.  There is a whole symphony of flowers in those boxes every year-every year a new arrangement. The pots we outfitted with automatic irrigation-there are too many pots for one family and one hose.7

I heard my client tell someone recently  I had brought her garden upstairs for her. I had neither the words, nor the clear conscious intent to do this-but I realized when I heard her that she was exactly right.

8As I said, she is a client that encourages me to be the best I can be.  I am a very lucky designer.