A Great Deer Resistant Blue Perennial - Blue Ice

The Blue Star perennial family -  Amsonia tabernaemontana -
has a hybrid cousin, Amsonia 'Blue Ice' that is an amazingly vigorous, low growing plant with deep blue flowers. 

Amsonia 'Blue Ice' has a white, milky sap that is toxic to deer and more. Yay! 

Amsonia 'Blue Ice' is easy to grow and drought tolerant. 12-16" tall, 18-24" wide. Needs full sun.
It blooms from late spring to early summer. 

It grows in a 15" tall by 2' wide mound of narrow, dark green, deer-resistant foliage. And in spring it is topped with large clusters of lavender-blue flowers which are more vivid than other blue stars. It  blooms prolifically and turns a fabulous golden yellow in the fall. Zones 4-9  

The summer foliage looks great in combination with low grasses.

 I recommend trying it with the compact heavily-banded Miscanthus 'Gold Bar' ornamental grass.  This grass is also deer-resistant and is topped with a lovely inflorescence in late October. 

Great for sunny r…

Gardening Know How - Stonescaping in the Garden

This interview was published on July 18, 2017 on the great blog Gardening Know How. You can see it and much more - click here
Q & A with Jan Johnsen, author of ‘Spirit of Stone’Share Article

Time to Renew Your Garden Tools

Winter is the time to get your garden tools in shape... hand tools such as shovels, picks, trowels, loppers, etc. should be cleaned, sharpened and well oiled.

Steel wool can clean off any rust or caked-on dirt.

And pure white vinegar works to remove rust too: pour into a bucket or small plastic tub. Submerse rusty pruning shears in the solution and soak overnight, or roughly 24 hours. 

The acid of the vinegar eats away at most of the surface rust.  Wash off the next day...for more on this go to the Backyard Boss article on cleaning pruning shears. 

But the most important thing I have found is to make sure to oil the tools. It is a rust preventative and a wood saver. 

A while back, in our shop (I own a landscape design/project management firm and we have lots of tools) we would have a large container filled with sand and motor oil and put our tools in it. 

...the sand acts an abrasive to remove dirt and the oil prevents rust. But this is not so smart.
Why? Because the petroleum oil goes from …

Learning from other Landscape Designers

"The world is moving into a phase when landscape design may well be recognized as the most comprehensive of the arts." 
Geoffrey Jellicoe
'The Landscape of Man: Shaping the Environment from Prehistory to the Present Day' 

Creative ideas don't just come out of thin air - they are a blend of what we have learned and used in the past. 

A garden maker should look to landscape designers of the past and present and learn their design philosophies. Never stop learning.

By looking at other cultures' approach to the natural world you can enhance your garden immeasurably.

 The English garden designers such as Russell Page, Arabella Lennox Boyd, and Gertrude Jekyll stand side by side with their counterparts in the United States, Canada,  Japan, South America, Thailand, Indonesia, Hawaii, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Italy,  Holland, Germany,  France and India in my world.

I borrow from new and old unabashedly and thank them all for their inspiration.  

To co-c…

Buttercup winterhazel (Corylopsis pauciflora)

What blooms earlier than forsythia, has a delicate fragrance and is an easy-to-care for  compact delight ?  That is also hardy to USDA Zones 6-9 and native to Japan and Taiwan?

Buttercup winterhazel  (Corylopsis pauciflora)

Toward mid April (depending where you live), the bare branches of buttercup winterhazel hang with inch-long clusters of soft yellow flowers that appear as little lanterns.  The fragrance is noticeable, making it perfect near a sitting spot. 

 It was awarded the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit (AGM) in 1993. 

Winterhazel is good in a small city garden or as a woodland underplanting in open shade. 
It glows in front of evergreens and is a perfect pairing with purpleRhododendron mucronulatum since they flower at the exact same time. 

And winterhazels look wonderful with snowdrops and hellebores! 

As the flowers fade, the leaves unfurl to 3 inches long, bright green with red edges before darkening to rich green. In fall they turn a gold-bronze.

A Scattering of Garden Design Ideas

'Serenity in the Garden' is my way to gladden someone's day and to share my wonder at people' s creativity and Nature's beauty. Here are a few garden marvels:

photo by Jan Johnsen
 I worked in the gardens of Mohonk Mt. House (a hotel) decades ago. It is still one of my favorite places! In New Paltz, NY. I took this photo of their unique rustic gazebos that border Mohonk Lake.

"Much patience required. VERY steady hands, heartbeat, breathing, one’s entire being.. required." - Michael Grab (shown here with his creation).

Do you know what is missing in this Zen inspired sand garden? a leaf - lying haphazadly atop the sand. ah, so.

Why not a 'poetry wall' garden? this is in Brooklyn, NY. Design by Terrain..

photo by Jan Johnsen
Look carefully - this is a photo on a banner affixed to a plain wall - makes it look like a real cascade! I took this photo in Katonah, NY from my car. Michael Krondl, artist.


GREAT PLANT LABELS - Homemade, from soda cans

The best homemade plant labels come from aluminum soda cans.
from Greylustergirl blog
They are inexpensive, durable, attractive and fun to make. And in the garden their reflective qualities act as rabbit repellents!

You can have them dangle on supports ( made from clothes hangers) or tie them with twine on a pot.


Put on your gloves. Use the tip of your scissors to punch a small hole on the side of each end of the can. You can also use a steak knife or screwdriver to get the hole started.  Cut off the top and bottom of the can and discard.


Next, unroll the metal as best you can and place the metal on a flat but flexible surface, printed side up. A pad of paper, a top of a notebook or a thick stack of newspaper are all good bases. Use a template tool to trace a shape with a ball point pen onto the metal. Press firmly to leave an indentation. Cut with a pair of scissors as shown here. (you can also use a punch maker...for def…