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Showing posts from 2017

Thomas Church and his ‘Gardens for People’

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Thomas Church was one of the most influential American landscape architects of the twentieth century. His ideas on the 'modern' landscape revolutionized home landscaping and changed the look of the suburban backyard.  Born in Boston in 1902, he attended college in California and came under the spell of its climate and outdoor lifestyle.  Church received his landscape architecture degree from Berkeley in 1923 and his Masters in Landscape Architecture from Harvard in 1926.


Church urged people to see residential property as a single living space with the house and garden directly connected.  This was a dramatic notion for its day.  His greatest influence was through his books and numerous articles. His popular book on home landscapes, 'Gardens are for People,' was published in 1955.Church advocated four basic landscape design principles:


•    Unity - Consider the house and garden as a whole •    Function - All areas in a property should have a function •    Simplicity - a si…

Luis Barragan on Serenity

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"Serenity. 

Serenity is the great and true antidote against anguish and fear, 

and today, more than ever, it is the architect’s duty to make of it a permanent guest in the home, no matter how sumptuous or how humble. 



Throughout my work I have always strived to achieve serenity, but one must be on guard not to destroy it by the use of an indiscriminate palette."

Luis Barragan, 1980 





Eat the Dandelions!

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We all know that herbicides can harm us and the environment, so it follows that scientists are studying natural weed control methods.
A team at Michigan State University recently studied the effectiveness ofmulched maple and oak leaves on common dandelions in bluegrass lawns. The team tested chopped up leaves of red maple, silver maple, sugar maple and red oak and looked to see how they worked to suppress dandelions in a lawn. They found that after one and two mulch applications (at a high rate of mulching)  up to 80% and 53% reduction in dandelions was achieved, respectively.

This makes sense since leaves lay naturally on a meadow and are not blown off. They block light and water and suppress weed growth.. But we, lawn owners, immediately blow off all the leaves on our lawn in our early spring 'clean up' which opens up sun to all weed seeds.  We then apply pre-emergent weed killers to prevent the dandelions from sprouting ... Perhaps we should look at it from another perspectiv…

The Famed Yellow Magnolias Bred in Ossining N.Y.

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The Brooklyn Botanic Garden introduced the yellow-flowering magnolia to the world. BBG  launched the breeding program in 1953 at its R&D facility, the Kitchawan Research Center, in Ossining, New York (the town next door to me). They bred eight magnolias before the program shut down at Kitchawan in 1991. These BBG hybrids are still available today. These beauties flower between mid-April and mid-May. One of my favorites is Magnolia x ‘Elizabeth’ which was introduced in 1977. It is a cross between M. acuminata and M. denudata.  Dr. Evamaria Sperber, who helped start BBG’s breeding program bred this tree. It is valued because it flowers before the leaves come out which makes an elegant display on bare branches. The creamy-yellow flowers bloom later than other magnolias which helps it avoid damage from frost and cold snaps. The  flowers bloom about a week after the saucer magnolias and two or three weeks after the star magnolias.
The hybrid’s name honors Elizabeth Van Brunt, a  benefac…

Tulip time!

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I planted these 'Negrita' tulips as a companion to the pink PJM Rhodies Olga Mezitt.  Purple and pink are great colors for a spring garden!

Tulips make such a splash in the garden - I once planted some for a client and he liked them so much that the following fall he planted hundreds more!  Here are some photos from his tulip display:

Tulips at a client's property  Jan Johnsen



Variegated Solomon’s Seal - Deer Resistant, Spring Bloomer in Shade

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Variegated Solomon’s Seal was the2013 Perennial Plant of the Year. It is deer resistant and loves shade. It flowers in spring.
It is a shady woodland gem...

Variegated Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’) grows 18 to 24 inches tall and tolerates full-shade.


It is a great companion plant to hostas, brunnera, dicentra, ferns, and astilbes.

 The sweet fragrance of its small, bell-shaped white flowers will enhance your walk along a pathway on a spring morning. And you can use its variegated foliage in spring floral arrangements. And finally, this all-season shade lover offers yellow fall foliage color.


photo by George Weigel

It will spread by rhizomes to form colonies. Increase by dividing clumps every two to three years.
photo by Rush Creek growers

Below are all of the Perennial Plants of the Year since the beginning of the program in 1990. Click on the name for more info on each plant. 
2017  Asclepias tuberosa2016  Anemone x hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’ 2015  Geranium × cantabrigiens…

Planting Design for Dry Gardens by Olivier Filippi

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Do you garden in a dry area?  I love this teaching approach by Olivier Filippi.














1: Salvia chamaedryoides 2: Rhodanthemum hosmariense 3: Artemisia abrotanum 'Silver' 4: Phlomis 'The South' 5: Senecio vira-vira 6: Salvia fruticosa 7: Salvia leucophylla 8: Artemisia lanata
This photo and information is from a French website that I cannot translate into English. It is by the authority on dry gardens, Olivier Filippi, and is very good. Check it out:  http://www.jardin-sec.com/
Also he wrote a great book called 'Planting Design for Dry Gardens'. 
Nigel Dunnett says, "In Planting Design for Dry Gardens Olivier Filippi has charted a future for garden and planting Design. Combining authoritative practical advice with deep ecological insight, Olivier shows how learning from nature can give us the best of all worlds: beautiful and sustainable gardens with a unique sense of place. I challenge anyone not to be inspired by this important work". 
You can click on it on the sideb…

NYBG Library Review - The Spirit of Stone

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A Solid Take on Landscaping Meets a Perennial ClassicEsther Jackson is the Public Services Librarian at NYBG’s LuEsther T. Mertz Library where she manages Reference and Circulation services and oversees the Plant Information Office. She spends much of her time assisting researchers, providing instruction related to library resources, and collaborating with NYBG staff on various projects related to Garden initiatives and events. Jan Johnsen’s The Spirit of Stone is a new book from Pittsburgh-based publisher St. Lynn’s Press. Johnsen, an instructor with The New York Botanical Garden’s Adult Education Department, brings 40 years of experience to bear in her newest book. In the introduction of The Spirit of Stone, Johnsen writes:
Stone is often an overlooked player in a landscape. While we may swoon over the many shapes and colors of plants within a garden, the stone walks and walls stand silently by, perhaps unnoticed. This book shines a light on the beauty and enchantment that natural s…

Stone Benches - Grounding does it.

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In honor of my new book, The Spirit of Stone - 101 Practical and Creative Stonescaping Ideas for Your Garden  (St. Lynn's Press, 2017) that was released last week I am sharing this post about stone benches.


Buttercup Winterhazel - An Early Spring Fragrant tree

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What blooms earlier than forsythia, has a delicate fragrance and is an easy-to-care for  compact delight ?  It 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 (pauciflora)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.

Thought for the Day - Rumi

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Never lose hope, my dear heart... miracles dwell in the invisible. - Rumi



'Om' in the Garden

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We need to balance the pace and intensity of modern life 
with periods of what poet May Sarton 
has called "open time,
with no obligations except toward the inner world 
and what is going on there."

~ Thomas Moore So how to touch the inner world in a garden?..


I suggest chanting 'OM.' (really it is 'AUM'), long and sustained, several times...“Om” is the oldest and most widely known one-syllable mantra or chant.    It is said very, very slowly.

Mantras are believed to contain a vibrational power that can lift us to higher states.

Scientists recently discovered that rhythmic recitations of a mantra can slow breathing and regulate heart rhythms, this in turn oxygenates the blood, lowers blood pressure and induces a feeling of calmness and well-being.
The Sanskrit symbol above represents “OM”. It does not say '30' as some might assume. The Om symbol (in photo above) consists of three letters, “a,” “u,” and “m,” and includes an after-sound of silence:

• The “a” (pr…