Ornamental and edible gardening adventures.

Floral Friday: Sept. 29

The weather has been staying fairly warm — although dry — in Connecticut, but that's actually been perfect for tucking in more plants for a fall crop. Below, in my Eco Garden System, I've planted romaine lettuce, a red lettuce and dandelion, plants started from plants my local nursery.

In addition, I have swiss chard seedlings getting established as well. They are taking their time growing, and it looks like I will need to thin them soon!  The other portion of the Eco Garden System contains two celery plants that are still producing, although I cut them back a few weeks ago, along with a few remaining kale and carrot plants. The days are starting to run shorter, which means less overall daylight, but even though the Eco Garden is slowing spending more time in the shade, the cool-weather crops don't seem to mind.

I spent most of my time this week preparing for my first garden lecture to the town's garden club, the Portland River Valley Garden Club/Brownstone Garden Club. I decided to focus on "Gardening with Your Wild Neighbors," and I talked about dealing with nuisance pests as well as ways to attract beneficial insects and birds to the garden. 

One of my recent deterrent strategies to keep squirrels from stealing my Kieffer pears has been using the hologram tape (that I tied to the pear tree branches) and fake owls.

So far, it's working.

A large portion of the presentation included information on attracting butterflies to the garden, and this week I've noticed a steady uptick in migrating monarchs stopping in the front garden.

This week, the flower of choice is the Joe Pye Weed. This male monarch's wings looked a bit weathered, but he still flew beautifully around the property.

As if on cue, the afternoon I came home from work to get ready for the lecture, my last butterfly eclosed from her chrysalis — a spicebush swallowtail butterfly. I brought her with me to the lecture and then released her Thursday morning. (Below is when she was waiting in the mesh enclosure to be released.)

As for blooming in the garden, the asters are mixing with the beginning of the perennial mums.

Last week I went on and on about how great the Franklin tree is, and this week it bloomed for me again. 

I really need to find a home for this tree besides my back patio!

What's blooming in your garden this week?

To see what was blooming last week in my garden, click here.


Floral Friday: Sept. 22

While this tree doesn't yet have a permanent home in my garden, I purchased it when I visited Philadelphia, Pa., in early June.  I had found Bartram's Gardens during a Google search to find a botanical day trip while my husband attended his coaching class. I had no idea that I was about to stumble upon one of the first American nurseries. And the Franklin tree. 

During my trip, I became enamored with the lore behind the tree. According to the Bartram's Garden website: "the signature tree, Franklinia alatamaha, was discovered by John and William Bartram in 1765 along the Altamaha River in southern Georgia." While I was on the garden tour at Bartram's, I learned how it took several years for Bartram to find the plant again after its initial discovery. It was difficult to find the plant when it was not in bloom, and while maps were created to find the location, it was still difficult to track down.

William Bartram was able to bring the seed back to the Philadelphia garden in 1777 (12 years later) and named the plant Franklinia, in honor of Benjamin Franklin, his father’s close friend. This is one of America's first rare plants, as it only grew in that one area in Georgia. In fact, the plant has not been found in the wild since the early 19th century, but thanks to the cultivation by the Bartrams, it was essentially saved from extinction. 

The part that sealed the deal for me: All current Franklin trees are descended from those grown by the Bartrams.

You mean I could have a piece of early American history growing in my garden?

Of course I wanted it!

So I made room for it in the car and brought it back to Connecticut with me. (My husband was actually very understanding when I arrived to pick him up from class with a tree in the back seat.) Since then it has lived on the back patio as I continue to try to decide the perfect location to grow the tree in my garden. 

But this week it bloomed, and I can see how the flower caught the Bartrams' attention when they first discovered it back in the 1700s. 

I love it! The blossoms resemble a camilla blossom. (To learn more about the tree and the Bartrams, click here.) I still need to figure out a well-draining, acidic area to plant this tree. The pressure is on. Especially since I need to get it into the ground before winter arrives!

Also stealing the show this week are my Hollywood Hibiscus plants. These are three past varieties that I have grown and overwintered indoors. Below is 'First to Arrive':

And 'Bloom Bash' (which also has an orange flower too):

Here's Hollywood Hibiscus, 'Social Butterfly', which I first started to grow last year.

As for edibles, the Kieffer pears are just about ready for picking.

The large container in the back garden is still looking impressive. I'm now thinking multiple large containers might be a good solution for the back garden, the perimeter of which is surrounded by black walnut and maple trees, a combo of of juglone in the soil from the black walnut and dry conditions due to the maple tree roots.

What's blooming in your garden this week?


A mystical garden awaits visitors lucky enough to visit Bellevue House

NEWPORT, R.I. — For a brief moment, it seemed possible that I was standing on a footbridge in a garden that was otherworldly, or at least out of a children's fairy tale.

Below was a pond filled with bright waterlilies with flowers saturated in color, as if they were plucked from paint and placed in strategic spots. But this wasn't an illustrated children's book that I accidentally wandered into. I was enjoying the 3.5 acre private garden at Bellevue House. 

The private residence  a Colonial Revival Mansion that was completed in 1910 – is owned by a Ronald Lee Fleming, a local benefactor in Newport. Fleming sponsors Daffodillion and often opens his gardens for fundraisers and performances. 

When I interviewed Donna Maytum, coordinator of the Newport Secret Garden Tour, before I had a chance to see the property myself, I was told the garden was "fabulous" and that “there’s a designer and architect who maintains it. His lot is an entire city block, and he’s always doing something new and interesting.”

This was the first garden I visited during the tour, and I spent close to an hour exploring all the features of this garden! I wanted others to see how fabulous it was too, so I shared a live video on my Instagram and Facebook accounts. 

Not only was the Bellevue House garden well-designed, but there was an underlying message weaved throughout. Monkeys were the designated garden creatures that visitors encountered, either sculpted out of wood, stone or metal. Upon entering the garden were two large carved sculptures by Justin Gordon, one (below left) which represents Jean Jacques Rousseau with the messaging "Looking for a new social construct" (playing off the 18th century philosopher's work, "The Social Contract"). In a previous interview with The Newport Daily News, Fleming shared that he strongly believes in a narrative garden. (To read more from that interview, click here.)

When you follow the path through the garden you'll first end up at the Sapphire Pool, which is part of the Arts and Crafts Garden. Notice the ornate lotus fountain. 

Sweet autumn clematis spills over the railing and beautiful planters filled with plants are tucked in to various corners of the garden. Sweet autumn clematis was definitely a signature flower in this garden, and many of the properties, during the Secret Garden Tour.

The view from the other side of the Sapphire Pool shows off the fountain and the water feature behind it (featuring the face of Pomona  more on her in a minute).

Continuing the tour through the garden brings us to the Pomona Sculpture in the American Renaissance Water Garden. According to the Secret Garden Tour handout, "Pomona establishes the metaphor of the Fleming family. The cornucopia breaks open and the waters run from the Goddess of Abundance along the Villa Lante style table to the granite head."

The arbors connecting the areas are magnificent, and of course, covered in sweet autumn clematis. The Tea House (lower left) contains a large arched opening at the top.

There was even a practical element to this luxury property: a vegetable garden.

I always like to take a peek of how others design their vegetable gardens. Despite the numerous ornate features, Bellevue House is no exception. Next to the huge greenhouse (that serves as a separate recreation/dining area) are tall, painted raised beds featuring edibles such as tomatoes, nasturtiums, kale, amaranth, peppers and beans. There's a lot growing in this small area.

Lower left is the sneak peek inside the greenhouse (which appears to be a newer addition to the property), and continuing across the property is an outdoor dining area (the cabanas), complete with a pizza oven.

And I've saved the best view for last. As you turn away from the outdoor dining area, complete with its own pool and hidden from view due to the rolling hills beside it, is a church cuppola from an old Massachusetts church. (Notice the monkey wind vane that ties into the overall theme?)

On the other side of the cuppola is my favorite feature of this immense property: the Japanese water garden, complete with the pond filled with colorful waterlilies.

The placement of bells along the footbridge appeared to be an important symbol, and when researching online, I found that in ancient Japan, bells were associated with protection.

This garden was one of the highlights during the recent Fall 2017 Secret Garden Tour. I will be sharing more photographs I took at other properties, all with unique elements, soon. For more information on the Fall 2017 Secret Garden Tour, click here.

Floral Friday: Sept. 8

I am thrilled that the new rose I purchased this year, 'Easy Does It,' is reblooming in the front garden. I love how there is such a variety of pinks and orange hues in its petals. 

Out of the many plants I've grown in the garden this summer, I am most proud of the creation below. This large container planting was inspired by my trip in June at the Garden Bloggers Fling, where so many gardens showcased beautiful plant combinations. (My friend Beth from More than Oregano shared her favorite container combos from the fling here.) This is the first time I've paired perennials with annuals, and the first time that I placed such an extravagant container in the back garden, were most people do not see it. But I see it whenever I look out the kitchen window, and as it has grown all summer it has made me very happy. (Plus, two of those giant coleus plants I grew from seed!) 

In the back garden, the spicebush is beginning to produce berries, which is attracting cardinals like crazy.

The sedums are beginning to bloom. It wasn't until I was getting this image ready for the blog that I realized the details of each of the miniature flowers that makes up a sedum blossom.

As for edibles, I purchased small swiss chard seedlings and planted them in my Eco Garden for fall. I have not grown swiss chard before, so I'm hoping for success!

The nasturtium is still blooming in the Eco Garden as well. I was admiring the view from behind the flower and loved how the petals and leaves were lit by the setting sun.

Over in the front garden, I'm trying out reflective tape and fake owls to keep squirrels out of the trees. I'll keep you updated on the progress.

There are more perennial rubeckia blooming as well.

And the white rose of sharon continues to bloom out front with that wonderful pairing of ornamental grass.

Also blooming in the front garden are anemones, and this anemone makes me think it's ready for a hug.

A previous Hollywood Hibiscus that I overwintered indoors is still blooming in its container. 

And on the patio, I have asters waiting to be planted. The bees have found them though.

What's blooming in your garden this week? To see what was blooming last week in my garden, click here

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