Creating harmony, simplicity and peace in the landscape......

"Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help.

Gardening is an instrument of grace. " - May Sarton


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A November Morning in the Garden - Eleanor Perenyi

Icy Rose    

My favorite garden writer, Eleanor Perenyi, wrote one garden book, Green Thoughts, and it affected me immeasurably when I first read it in 1982.  I thought how marvelous that she could combine great writing with the mundane joys of a Northeast garden. 

She refers to chestnuts and it makes me wonder if she had a tree because  the once plentiful native chestnut trees are gone, killed by the devastating fungal disease, chestnut blight. (Although they have a foundation, go here: The American Chestnut Foundation.) 

Here is a paragraph from her essay, Autumn. It catches that early morning moment in a late November garden:  

frost dahlia  by Ellis Hollow blog

"Heavier dews presage the morning when the moisture will have turned to ice, glazing the shriveled dahlias and lima beans, and the annuals will be blasted beyond recall. These deaths are stingless. I wouldn't want it otherwise. 

I gardened one year in a tropical country and found that eternal bloom led to ennui. Up here I bury my bulbs in the same spirit that the squirrel, my enemy, goes about his work. He will find the chestnuts he has hidden in the rose garden when he needs them (so will I when they sprout next spring), and my bulbs will come up in due course. " 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Speaking with Earth Spirits in a November Garden

Sweet gum tree in November

Deep down, in the warmth of the fecund earth,
the spirits sing songs of life.

Christmas Ferns stay green in November

Hoping we hear, they inhale and exhale along with the seasons.

Crabapple in my garden in November

Now, in the cool days of November, they sing to us of rest,
replenishment and they ask us to be calm.

Hellebore from Pine Knot Farm in my garden

The time has come to listen
and of course, to rake the leaves...
the leaves...

-  Jan Johnsen

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Musings - The Sole Prescription

Let it be admitted that the world’s problems are many and wearing, 
and that the whirlpool runs fast. 

If we are to build a stable cultural structure above that 
which threatens to engulf us 
by changing our lives more rapidly than we can adjust our habits, 
it will only be by flinging over the torrent 
a structure as taut and flexible as a spider’s web, 

a human society deeply self-conscious and undeceived 
by the waters that race beneath it, 
a society more literate, more appreciative of human worth than any society that has previously existed. 

That is the sole prescription, not for survival — which is meaningless — 
but for a society worthy to survive.

- Loren Eiseley, from 'A Firmament of Time'

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Reverence for Age and Antiquity

photo by Jan Johnsen  

  "We want also, somewhat more of reverence for age and antiquity. 

One of the great characteristics of the present generation is a fondness for novelty and unquestionably this is often a useful stimulus; but in grasping after and adopting everything that is new, let us not on that account, affect to despise everything that is old.

....we must nevertheless acknowledge, that human affairs move very much in circles; what, years ago, was at the bottom of the wheel and almost forgotten, again comes to the top and with a new dress and a different name, is eagerly run after as something entirely new. 

..... make us sensible of the fact, that every thing before and around us, is not our own work, and due to our own exertions, and did not all at once start into perfection, but was the slow growth of ages, and only attained after much toil and suffering."

Dr. William B. Casey, MD, Middletown, CT   1853 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

'Lost' - A Poem by David Wagoner

 Lost  by David Wagoner

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.


photo by Jan Johnsen (one of my gardens)

The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.

photo by Blondieb

If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

from Collected Poems 1956-1976 © Indiana University Press

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Gardening With Soul - An Award winning Film to Inspire You

 Gardening With Soul  won Best Documentary Award at the New Zealand Film Festival. It is an inspiring story about an elderly nun, Sister Loyola, who tends her cloister’s gardens with a marked passion for her task.

 The opening starts with a storm and shows her inventive protective makeshift “covers” (old milk jugs) that saves the tender plants. Cane in hand, Sister Loyola walks to the church’s on-site shed and surveying the scene says, “I spend a lot of time out here.”

Sister Loyola opines, "The garden is saying to me all the time, ‘life is evolving, life is evolving’—So if you’re going to spend the last few years of your life worrying about how to survive, you’re wasting your time”. 

Gardening With Soul is available for  fundraiser screenings for community gardening groups, churches, and other organizations across the United States. More info can be found here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Plant Drumstick Allium Now

I must admit I first discovered Drumstick Allium when I could not find any other allium bulb to was late fall and I had waited too long to buy the popular Globemaster Alliums...

What to DO? I bought the Drumstick bulbs and was thrilled at the result.

These purplish - red blooms are small - 1" -and oval shaped.  They bloom in my part of the world in June atop wiry 24" - 30" tall stems and wave in the breeze...and they make a superb cut flower (which you can dry to be an 'everlasting').     THEY ARE DEER RESISTANT.

 Drumstick Allium bouquet - Martha Stewart Photo

Drumstick Alliums look fantastic tucked in the early summer flower border...You can add these small bulbs easily in the fall around clumps of established perennials such as Artemesia, Yarrow, Nepeta and Agastache. They peek out around these plants and are a delightful addition that come back every year!

Artemesia Powis Castle - Great with Drumstick Alliums - Great deer resistant Combo!

White Flower Farm sells Drumstick Allium bulbs with Paprika Achillea (Yarrow). What a colorful combination which, yes, is DEER RESISTANT...

its Apple-red blooms stands above lovely ferny foliage. 'Achillea' is named for Achilles, who supposedly learned of Yarrow's medicinal qualities from his mentor, Chiron the Centaur, and used it to treat his men's wounds on the battlefield.

White Flower Farm Photo - deer resistant Drumstick Allium and Paprika Achillea

And don't forget 'Cotton Candy' Agastache - or Hummingbird Mint  - with Drumstick Allium. The website Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel recommends this combination with this fantastic photo:

HYSSOP 'COTTON CANDY' with Drumstick Allium - deer resistant

Cotton Candy Hyssop (Agastache) is a vigorous, compact grower that  blooms non-stop from midsummer through fall. The dense flower spikes have light pink flowers. It grows to about 24" tall. Agastache attract hummingbirds.

close up of 'Cotton Candy' Agastache

So do not overlook the Drumstick Allium - just make sure you plant in a sunny, well drained location...and don't worry about the deer and rabbits...YAY!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Autumn, the Year's Last Loveliest Smile

Adachi Museum Mountain and water garden in fall

Autumn, the year's last loveliest smile. 
~ William Cullen Bryant

It is November and here, in the Northeast of the U.S., the breezes are blowing, the rain is finally here and the leaves are falling, falling....

So we must content ourselves with the sweet leftovers - the berries, the cabbages, the mums and some lovely remaining leaves.

The ones on the Japanese Maples are brilliant this year:

photo by Jan Johnsen

The berries on the winterberry - Ilex verticillata - are in their glory. All ready to be made into a Thansgiving wreath.

The planters are filled with mums,pansies and more.

 The crabapples are studded with their finest jewelry:

photo by Jan Johnsen

 And even the puddles don't look so bad at this time of year.

photo by Jan Johnsen

Monday, October 26, 2015

Plant of the Year - Chelsea, 2014 - Miss Saori Hydrangea

coming 2016:

Miss Saori Hydrangea

Plant of the Year, Chelsea Flower Show 2014. 

'Miss Saori' is from Japan and is a dwarf hydrangea growing to about 3 ft. by 3 ft. with leaves that turn burgundy in the summer.  

This compact hydrangea blooms on old and new wood, giving it potential to bloom in colder climates where stems might be knocked back to the ground in winter.

The mophead flowers are white with picotee pink edges.

 In milder climates it will bloom over an extended period of time—first on old wood and later on new wood.

I don't know the hardiness zone. Sorry.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

I will be speaking at Rutgers University Oct 28, 2015

I will be speaking on Wednesday Oct 28 at 4 pm to the Department of Landscape Architecture...about creating serenity, what else?


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Solastalgia and Ecopsychology - Words for our time

Photo by Corbyrobert - Garden of the Gods   

 Have you heard of  'Solastalgia' ?

A big word for a simple idea.

Nikki Taylor sculpture 

Solastalgia is "A pain or discomfort caused by the present state of one’s home environment".   It is an emotional suffering felt by different people in different locations as the degradation of the environment continues. It affects indigenous people and urban / industrial denizens alike.

“Solastalgia” has been used to describe the experiences of Inuit communities coping with the effects of rising temperatures, refugees from Katrina, Bangladeshi farmers in a drought stricken land. 

  Solastalgia is also what we feel when we become disconnected from our natural environment.....

In 2010 The New York Times published a great article on the term term by Daniel B. Smith (he holds the Critchlow Chair in English at the College of New Rochelle).  I took a lot of info from that article for this blog post.

This concept is not new.  Ecopsychology is  “the relationship between environmental issues and mental health and well-being”.   Ecopsychology is taught at Oberlin College, Lewis & Clark College and the University of Wisconsin, among other institutions.

Why is this important to serene garden lovers and designers?

Because the scientists are following our lead-

The vital link between well being and nature that is our calling is now being investigated by Ecopsychologists.

 They use words like 'solastalgia' and 'solasphilia' give talks and write scholarly articles on how nature makes us feel good.   

They say that their field’s roots are in traditions like Buddhism, Romanticism and Transcendentalism.   And these too are the philosophical roots of Serene Gardening...Thoreau, Lao Tzu, et al.....

A great book.....

And don't forget the concept of 'biophilia', a hypothesis of the great biologist E. O. Wilson, who said in 1984 that human beings have an “innate tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes.” AMEN to that!

Dr. Edward O. Wilson

Over the past 25 years Wilson's ideas on 'biophilia' have inspired many scientific articles, books, conferences and the new E. O.Wilson Biophilia Center in northwest Florida.

The E.O. Wilson Center's Exhibit Hall

We gardeners focus on life and revel in its exquisite forms in the green world....
Serene gardens sing praises to Mother Nature's effect on our wellbeing in a quiet way.  No scholarly words here...just the hum of the bees at work.

The world will rediscover its connection to a healthy earth is our only legacy. Nothing else. 

Ecopsychology is alive and well in my back yard when I am puttering there.

photo at Flikr by one2c900d

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Fountain Grasses- a Stand Out

In fall, fountain grasses are a stand out.

And there are so many to choose from!

Fountain grass (Pennisetum sp.) is a graceful, DEER RESISTANT and sun loving ornamental grass with feathery plumes that persist into fall.

Its relatively small size makes it a great plant for containers, rock gardens, borders, massing or as a specimen.     Once established, they tolerate heat, humidity and full sun.

Johnsen Landscapes & Pools

Of course with all this wonderfulness there is a down side - certain fountain grasses are considered invasive, not all, but some.

 There is a lot of discussion on which varieties are invasive with people saying,  'This species is OK but that one isn't'. 

Some people, to be safe, don't buy any. I would counsel you to look in your area to see which ones are no nos.

Nonetheless, the dwarf fountain grass is a must for a sunny fall garden. Greenwood Nursery describes why this is so:

"Strolling in the garden in the fall and early winter,
after the grasses turn their great yellow fall color,
there is a calming effect when the slight winter breezes
create a gentle rustle in the spent grasses."

Here are some fountain grasses that make for a spectacular autumn landscape:

Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Red Head'

A early-blooming cultivar of hardy fountain grass, Red Head begins blooming at summer's end and continues into late fall.

The plants grow to 3 - 4 feet high and wide which is a great size for a border or as a specimen.

 They have deep purple buds that mature to long lasting smoky-purple plumes, fully 8 inches long. And like all hardy Pennisetums, the blooms dry on the plant and make nice winter accents, catching the falling snow and rustling in the breeze. Zones 5-9. 

Prune back in early spring.

Looks great with Feather Reed Grass, Blue Mist Shrub (Caryopteris), Asters, Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), Oriental Lily (Lilium ), Sedum and annual flowers.

Pennisetum purpureum  'Princess Molly' PPAF (Princess Molly Dwarf Fountain Grass)

This warm season pennisetum hybrid, from Dr. Wayne Hannah at the University of Georgia, is a dwarf plant that grows only 14 -20" tall with unique foliage.

The olive green leaves are bordered with purple, and highlighted with a dark black-purple stripe down the leaf center. Pennisetum 'Molly' is a great red purple accent plant for the summer and fall garden. It works well in smaller landscapes. Plants will not flower except in total frost-free areas. ANNUAL except in Zones: 8-10

'Prince' Pennisetum purpureum (USPP18,509)

Another warm season ornamental grass is the semi dwarf 'Prince' Pennisetum which showcases purple foliage that intensifies in summer heat. At 5- 6 ft tall, it is the perfect highlight in the back of a border or large container.

ANNUAL except in zones 8 - 11

Pennisetum purpureum Princess (PP 17,728)

The warm season fountain grass 'Princess' does not bloom but its deep purple foliage is stunning in combination with summer-blooming perennials. It is 2' - 3' tall. Plant it in a mixed border with asters and hardy mums to finish the season with a flourish. 

A Proven Winners® variety. ANNUAL except in in Zones 8-11

Pennisetum orientale Karley Rose

Oriental fountain grass is a hardy, small bunch grass with a beautiful inflorescence that is unusually long lasting. 

Pennisetum 'Karley Rose' is 24" to 36" tall and provides 5 months of color, texture, motion in a sunny site.

 The heavy rose-pink blooms literally glow when lit from behind by early morning or late afternoon sun.

The pink flowers make perfect companion to Coneflowers, Knock Out Roses and Sedums. This fountain grass is not invasive and self-seeds only sparingly in the garden. 

Zones 5 - 9. Prune back in early spring.