My Favorite Show Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show

I loved all the display gardens I saw today but the one that really stood out for me was the RBC New Wild Garden. It is based on William Robinsons ideas and concepts and features recycled materials, a green roof shipping container office, wildlife habitat, and is the first full scale rain garden at Chelsea.

I loved the simple plantings designed by Dr. Nigel Dunnett (most of which seem to have been selected to attract bees and butterflies and other wildlife).  They were separated into four distinct zones; a woodland, wet meadow, perennial and dry meadow. But what I really loved were the other structures incorporated into this garden which is unusual for me because I am pretty much all about plants.

There was a shipping container office provided by Green Roof Shelters and designed by John Little and Dan Monck. It includes a green roof and built in bird houses , bat housing and invertebrate habitats. I love the idea of recycled shipping containers and have been looking into them as a possible building material for my future “dream home” so it was great seeing them in this setting incorporating so many ways to attract wildlife.  The invertebrate habitat artistically arranged in different sized circular frames on the outside wall of the building was particularly impressive.

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The recycled shipping container with green roof and the circular frames holding habitat for invertebrates.

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On My Way…

On my way to the Chelsea Flower Show in a little bit.  I’m hoping the weather is a bit nicer today.  Yesterday we had pouring rain, lightning and thunder and hail.  My poor brother got caught out in the hail and said it was quite painful and all his luggage got soaked.

Updates and (hopefully) lots of cool pictures later today.

Long Distance Gardening

I’ve talked a little bit about my old garden and I would like to do a post about several of my old gardens or gardens I have designed but that will have to wait a bit.  Tomorrow is my trip and I should really be packing and getting ready. I still have a lot to do.

But I was looking at some old pictures and I also asked for some current ones to be sent to compare (a task that took my seventy two year old father three days to complete; first he accidentally sent me black and white photos, then video, and finally after an email and an explanation on the phone on how to operate his Droid the color photos were sent).

It is always fun to see what has held up over the course of six years and the results of long distance or intermittent direction in the care of the garden.  The first few years after I left the garden was just neglected and quickly fell into ruin.  Then my father hired a part time handy man to help with other jobs around the house and my friend and classmate Emily who runs an estate in Connecticut came a few times to do some work, make some suggestions, and teach the handy man the difference between perennials and weeds. Of course I visit once or twice a year and give whatever guidance I can from three thousand miles away.

The front garden is not very big. It is a suburban lot and probably about a third of an acre.  My father has a home office so much of the front yard has been converted into a parking lot.  There is a perennial border along the driveway, several mixed shrub and perennial borders that run the length of the sidewalk, then a small strip of lawn separating the final long border that flanks the neighbors property to the north.

The driveway border used to belong to my fathers wife but when he divorced her in 2004 I saw it as the perfect opportunity to pull everything out and start over.  The plan was to create a mostly late summer border with lots of native coneflowers and grasses and the like and a few other large specimen plantings of plants that interest me.  My favorite thing about this garden was mid to late May when it is full of Alliums to bridge the spring and summer flowers.

The garden was renovated in 2004 and this is how it looked in May of 2005.

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The Alliums in the foreground are 'Purple Sensation', in the right center are some A. 'Gladiator', and the center bed houses a huge clump of A. 'Globemaster'. There are also several hundred A. christophii.

Some of the perennials in the border include a large Persicaria polymorpha which had been transplanted from the backyard,  a big clump of Eupatorium, a huge specimen of Echinops ritro and Rudbeckia maxima that I salvaged from the old bed, and some oriental poppies, Echinacea, Veronicastrum, Amsonia, Achillea and Baptisia.

Six years and much neglect later it is fun to see what remains and what has changed.  The same area in 2011 in late May.

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This picture was taken a little later so some of the Alliums have already faded but you can see that they are still going strong.

To the right you can see some of the plants that are climbing the house.  They are a bit unruly because when I was home in March it snowed the day I planned on cutting them back.  But in the center you can see how huge the Persicaria polymorpha.  The Eupatorium has spread but the Echinops is gone.  The Amsonia and a Limonium still remain but the Echinacea and Veronicastrum are gone.  The Purple Sensation Alliums are still there though this picture was taken a bit later so they are fading but you can see on the right behind the Persicaria where I added some more A. ‘Gladiator’ and to the left I added some A. ‘Mount Everest’ because I felt like I needed some white spheres to go along with all the purple ones.  The big clump of  A. ‘Globemaster’ in the middle bed is still looking pretty impressive as well.

The red mulch (shudder) was a huge weedy grass that I had pulled in March before it got too tall. I’m not even sure exactly what it was but I know it wasn’t ornamental and had to come out before it took over any more of the garden.  It wiped out a bunch of perennials that were in that area.  The poor handy man thought it was supposed to be there so it just got bigger and bigger.

I’m hoping to visit again in the fall and maybe do a little work on this border.  Since it flanks the parking lot it is important that it looks nice or at least presentable.

This garden was far from perfect but I do miss it a little bit so it is nice that I still get to see it even though I have moved away. I’m hoping I’ll have something even more impressive here in California some day. I just wish I could grow all those Alliums here.

Begonias Revisited

Remember my post on large flowered tuberous begonias about a month ago?

Well they were well overdue for potting up which is unfortunate because my trip to England is in three days and I have about a million things to do before I leave.

These Begonias are busting out of their 4 inch pots!

I foolishly bought too many of them.  Mail ordered some and instead of sending me the three tubers of each color that were offered they very kindly sent me four or five of each color.   Ack!  I am gardening on a little balcony that is already packed full of plants.  Thanks for the free gift but I would have preferred receiving fewer plants not extras!

That didn’t stop me from picking up a few more in different colors from various garden centers I visited before my order arrived.  I’m kind of a dummy when it comes to buying first and making room later.

Anyway this morning I got to work potting them up.

If only I had a place to put all these Begonias.

Of course to make things worse I ran out of pots and potting soil.  I decided to double and even triple plant some of the large azalea pots I had and a few others went into one gallon plastic pots.  If I have time before my trip I’ll pick up another bag of soil and finish the rest.

When you are potting up new small tubers you should leave one or two strong thick stems and snap off any puny ones or extra ones so the tubers don’t put all their effort into blooming and flowers rather than growing larger. It is pretty easy to gently twist each stem you don’t want and snap it off at the base.  These can then be used as cuttings to propagate new Begonias but I already have so many of the damned things there is no way I am getting suckered into that trap. As tempting as it was I discarded them.

Not much else to report on the balcony front other than I continue to be unhappy with my gardening situation.  Because the cacti and succulents are growing in shade rather than the full sun they want I am seeing a lot of whiteflies, spider mites and mealy bugs.  I plan on using a few of the larger plants in a design I am working on and hopefully the others will hang in there for another six months.  Luckily some of my succulents go summer dormant so they should be OK.  Conophytums turn to papery little husks so they don’t need sun at all.

I do plan on blogging about my experience at the Chelsea Flower show on Friday and all the gardens I visit while in England but the rate at which I do this will depend on my internet connection at the hotels we stay at and how tired I am.  Stay tuned.

Work Station

I’ve been super busy working on some designs and I have to start getting ready for my trip to England next week.  So I haven’t had time to post anything interesting or even catch up on all my blog reading.  Google Reader is filling up fast.  I just finished a design for a friend and former classmate who is a designer and landscape contractor up on the central coast so I thought I would post a picture of what my work station looks like.

Mad horticulturist at work!

I need to eventually get a drafting table of some sort to help save my back.  Hunching over a desk is almost as much strain as being out doing heavy lifting in the garden.  For now this works well enough.  It was a really exciting project. A Mediterranean style perennial garden, a conifer border, and a succulent garden in a fairly large back yard with beautiful mountain views.  I’ll post more about it if the homeowners like the plan and decide to go ahead with it.

Garden Conservancy Open Days: Los Angeles

So am I going to be one of those people who tells the truth about the gardens I visit or am I going to just say how lovely everything was?  Probably a little of both.  I appreciate that the Garden Conservancy is for a good cause and tries to showcase different styles of gardens at a convenient distance from each other.  The six gardens I visited today were all in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles or in nearby Santa Monica (the ritzy bit, not the bit I lived in for two years).  Unfortunately I only really enjoyed one of them.  Luckily I was able to do the entire tour in three hours since they were so close to each other and traffic isn’t that bad midday Sunday.

One of my issues with garden tours is I that I actually expect to see a garden. I’m spoiled with the Garden Conservancy of New York and Connecticut where no matter how wealthy the homeowners are they actually care about horticulture and are involved in their gardens even if they have a designer to help them.  This is not surprisingly not the case in Los Angeles.

The first garden I visited was in Brentwood and wasn’t so much a garden as a landscape in miniature.  Six plants in repetition in a space smaller than my apartment does not a garden make.  Not that it was unattractive there just wasn’t much to it.  On top of that I can only share one photo.  There was an interesting metal fire place and fountain in another courtyard but I was asked not to take pictures of it because it wasn’t “published” yet.  Whatever.  I had a good eye roll at this request and left.

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The yellow square is a recirculating fountain. Actually maybe I wasn't supposed to take pictures of this either but since no one said anything specifically I'm posting it anyway.

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