Occasionally, it can be pleasurable to simply enjoy the show, no matter how fanciful or extravagant. This can be especially so for a gardener when the subject is flowers.
In the January 29, 2015, issue of The New York Times, Penelope Green reported on an impressive floral installation created for the Viacom building in Times Square. The suspended arrangements were fashioned from “thistles, Kangaroo Paw, ranunculus and peonies, hydrangeas, delphiniums and over 40 varieties of roses,” Green writes. “In all, 14 species of 16,000 individual flowers” were threaded onto copper wire.
The artist is London-based Rebecca Louise Law, 34. Judging by her background—hippie-ish, gardener parents, early career as a painter interested in big canvases to final stints with four florists—she seems a perfect person to conjure these dreamy pieces.
Her business is global now and has included commissions by several notable and high-end clients including Gucci, Jimmy Choo, Salvatore Ferragamo, Max Mara, Jo Malone, Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal Opera House.
The Onassis Cultural Centre, Athens I can practically smell the 27 flowers and herbs Law incorporated into this installation in Greece. On display until summer 2015.
Coronation Opening Arch at Windsor Castle Royal Windsor Rose & Horticultural Society commissioned six willow arches (one for each decade Queen Elizabeth has been queen) which Law covered with roses—thousands of artfully placed roses.
Sipsmith London Dry Gin For Sipsmith, Law created a greenhouse with juniper berries on the floor and juniper branches hanging from the ceiling. Visitors could experience the pungent aroma of a key gin ingredient while tasting a sample.
Tiffany & Co. A simple yet sophisticated chandelier created entirely of mistletoe adorns a spiral staircase in the flagship London store for Christmas 2013.
Viacom photograph by Robert Wright for The New Times.
All other photographs courtesy of www.rebeccalouise law.com.
Top photograph: RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2013 For the 2013 show, Law created a hanging masterpiece of peonies, roses, ranunculus, liatris, gloriosa lilies, delphiniums, lisianthus, sunflowers, celosia and cymbidium orchids.
Garden Design, Autumn 2014. This issue is packed with intriguing stories by and about famous people and illustrated with beautiful photographs and graphics. For many years I was a subscriber but later dropped it when any sort of relevance seemed lost. Eventually, I forgot about the magazine completely, especially since it seemed to vanish from the magazine racks.
But in this issue, topics include: • Stunning fall plants written by intrepid plant explorer Dan Hinckley. • Maine pottery company Lunaform, where gorgeous, graceful urns and basins—as sturdy as they are artistic—are created. • Off-beat bulbs…I knew the writer was legitimate when she included one of the best, Gladioulus communis spp. byzantinus. • Inspiring gardens in Connecticut, Colorado and California. • Adrian Bloom, son of the rascal Alan and former owner of Bressingham Gardens (now run by the third generation), in Norfolk, England. Bloom’s advice on garden design is reminiscent of Henry David Thoreau: “Simplify, simplify, simplify.” • Fall design advice from Craig Bergmann of Lake Forest, Illinois: “Shadows are long in fall, angles are lower. Suddenly, pastels are no longer bleached out. Lighter pinks and purples play a stronger role in fall.”
Outlander, et al., by Diana Gabaldon. The first book in this series, Outlander, was published in 1991. Even though I’m very late in getting caught up the saga, I’m now totally immersed in Scotland, The Highlands Uprising, clans, plaids and especially the fierce love/time-travel aspect of the relationship between Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser. Claire is 20th century-born and strong-willed, spirited, smart and accomplished (a physician). Jamie, a.k.a. James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, is a blue-eyed, red-headed fearless warrior of the 1700s, intelligent, a natural leader and wearer of kilts. The books are by no means great literature but they are difficult to put down at the end of the day and I often read far into the night.
The Olive and the Caper by Susanna Hoffman and Roast Lamb in the Olive Groves by Belinda Harley. I was inspired by a Huffington Post piece, “16 Food Reasons Greeks are Better at Life.” It turns out the Greeks not only gave us philosophy and democracy, but the country has delicious food and a wonderful sense of food style.
A sample of HuffPost’s reasons, verbatim: #1. Two words: grilled cheese (All cheese, no bread necessary.) #3. They’ve turned eating LOTS AND LOTS of olive oil into a healthy pastime. #4. NO ONE makes a better salad, so don’t even try. #5. Wine comes first, water second. #6. Feta is their national garnish. #11. They’ve perfected the art of lingering over a meal. #14. Honey flows freer than the wine in Italy. #16. THE YOGURT.
What wonderful notions! I bought these two cookbooks to begin my studies. Successes so far include a true Greek Salad (no greens necessary), Rice Pilaf and a Greek Omelet with Feta, Thyme and Oregano.
The “Holiday Books” issue of The New York Times Book Review is as annual treat. In addition to the usual reviews, special sections include 100 Notable Books of 2014, Travel, Humor, Cooking, Anthologies and Gardening.
Dominique Browning chose nine garden books to critique. Even though her reviews weren’t compelling enough for me to read any of them, she did use a wonderful word to describe the art of gardening when discussing The Gardener’s Garden.
“The desire to photograph and catalog the world’s best gardens must be born of a poignant awareness that this is one of the most evanescent of arts.”
Evanescent…..I had to look it up. According to my dictionary, the adjective means: “vanishing or likely to vanish; transitory; fleeting.” There is an intransitive verb form (evanesce) and a noun (evanescence).
What a word. It perfectly describes my feelings while touring Sissinghurst Castle Gardens in England. Vita Sackville-West, with help from her husband Harold Nicolson, designed the extensive garden, surely one of the most beautiful ever created. But Sackville-West died in 1962 and I saw the garden in 2011. This wasn’t, really, her garden anymore. In those ensuing 49 years, no one could possibly have known what plants she would have moved or removed, plants she would have added, colors she would have chosen or gates, arbors and trellises she would have built.
When Sackville-West died, her garden perished with her.
The notion applies to other businesses where the originator has a strong vision and the brains, personality and nerve to carry it out. Apple Computers and Steve Jobs come to mind, as do two others.
Without Lucia Watson, there is no Lucia’s. And without Robert Wehle, there is no Elhew Kennels.
Lucia’s Restaurant & Wine Bar Lucia Watson opened her restaurant about 30 years ago in a long, narrow space in the Uptown area of Minneapolis. She had since expanded into adjoining spaces—first in 1993 for a wine bar and again in 2006 for a casual, line-style eat-in/take-out venture.
Lucia’s cooking was always French in spirit, using fresh, top-quality, seasonal ingredients, simply prepared. Her style was French, also, and her unfussy rooms oozed with warmth, charm and sophistication. Walls were bare save for huge mirrors and fresh flowers were abundant.
Lucia was a pioneer. She believed so utterly in seasonality that her menu changed weekly. She was an early buyer and firm supporter of local farmers and suppliers.
But Lucia sold her entire enterprise as of mid December. While the new owners state that nothing will change, actually and eventually, everything will.
Robert Wehle & Elhew Pointers The pointer (formerly English pointer) is a sporting dog used for upland bird hunting and field trial competition. For more than 50 years, Robert Wehle bred pointers in his business venture, Elhew (Wehle spelled backwards) Kennels, and used “Elhew” as the prefix of each dog’s registered name.
He, too, had a strong, unwavering set of goals and sense of purpose. His breeding program continually strived to produce complete dogs—not judged solely on performance in the field. He wanted good-looking, good-tempered dogs that were also smart, early-maturing and easy to train.
Wehle was wildly successful. Not only did Elhew-bred dogs have looks, talent and temperament, but they became pervasive. Most likely, every pointer in the country today has an Elhew dog in its pedigree.
Wehle died in 2002 and even though he bequeathed ownership of his kennel name and prefix, the Elhew line of pointers died with him.
"Nothing Gold Can Stay"
In addition to inferences of natural cycles and seasonal growth and loss, Robert Frost’s poem, “Nothing "Gold Can Stay,” radiates evanescence.
Nature’s first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf’s a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay.
Photo credits: Sissinghurst Castle Garden: courtesy of Jill Bickford, Maureen Dahlquist, Cathy Nyquist Lucia’s Restaurant & Wine Bar: courtesy of lucias.com Robert Wehle & Elhew Kennels: courtesy of elhewkennels.org
At any time of year, a wreath on the front door or over the mantle is a welcoming feature. A wreath can repeat a design element or introduce something entirely different and quirky. It is very easy to hang and just as easily removed. A wreath is versatile, economical and can be inspired by exclusively local components. A simple caveat: a wreath must be round.
Especially during the holiday season, wreath options abound. Here are a few of my favorites. Sometimes the mood calls for an abundance of fragrant greens and, other times, something sparkly or whimsical.
There’s something delightfully joyous about this wreath made of vintage and simple blown glass ornaments. The only problem is this is a DIY project. Hannah Milman, an executive editorial editor at Martha Stewart, was “inspired by the wreaths that I saw at Tavern on the Green in New York. It’s not around anymore, but it had these giant ornament wreaths." Martha Stewart Ornament Wreath marthastewart.com
From Weston Farms, a family farm outside Raleigh, North Carolina, comes this special wreath designed for Garden & Gun magazine. Conifers with blue, yellow and white needles are tucked into a full base of magnolia foliage. Weston Farms Tapestry Wreath: $165.00 westonfarms.com
First offered by Williams Sonoma 35 years ago, this fragrant wreath is made from boughs of fresh bay laurel . “The leaves will dry naturally and can be used in cooking throughout the year.” Williams-Sonoma Bay Wreath: $29.95 - $59.95 williams-sonoma.com
This funky wreath is a dazzling mix of “paper, cotton, wood and metal” with shimmering, glittery touches. Anthropologie Fallen Feathers Wreath: $138.00 anthropologie.com
Fragrant with fresh noble fir, eucalyptus and bunches of lavender, this wreath also incorporates blue globe thistle, pearly everlasting and clusters of pine cones. White Flower Farm Lavender Holiday Wreath: $69.95 whiteflowerfarm.com
This faux, twig-based wreath is adorned with dozens of “starry, warm-white lights” and would be especially striking at night, perhaps paired with twinkly tealights or lanterns. Restoration Hardware Starlit Wreath – Bark: $47.99 - $54.99 restorationhardware.com
Coastally inspired, the wreath is made of natural “shells, starfish, sea urchins and sand dollars,” which are “intertwined with natural grass and green paper hydrangea.” L. L. Bean Seacoast Wreath: $59.00 llbean.com
Pictured at top: This full, fresh wreath is made of magnolia, boxwood and fragrant fir and cedars. It was “featured throughout Southern Living's Idea House 2013” in Nashville, Tennessee. The Magnolia Company Fresh Bunches Wreath: $87.00 - $235.00 themagnoliacompany.com
That is the title of Adrian Higgins’ gardening column in The Washington Post on December 10, 2014. It certainly grabbed my attention. Besides applauding the concept, it’s thrilling to see the word “horticulturist” in a newspaper headline.
For horticulturists are often confused with—and interchangeably called—landscape architects, landscape designers, professional gardeners, Master Gardeners and sometimes just plain gardeners.
According to The American Heritage Dictionary, horticulture is defined as “the science or art of cultivating plants.” In terms of bachelor degrees, horticulture is an applied science and in the early 70s when I went college, it seemed to have better prospects for job opportunities than botany or other plant-related majors.
Higgins’ piece begins with a general plea for more young people to take up horticulture even though the career choice has its pitfalls. He writes:
“For all its imagined bliss, the life of a professional gardener can be hard, stressful and anything but lucrative. It is a world of insect bites, near-heatstroke and the steady degeneration of the spinal column.”
I agree. A greenhouse can be lovely on a winter day but definitely not on a blazing July afternoon when I often felt as wilted as the plants I was watering. My fingertips are still sensitive to frostbite due to a cold, wet spring when I worked at a nursery and spent endless hours lugging cold, gallon-sized pots of perennials from basement storage area to outside display benches.
Higgins exudes “this is an incredibly exciting time to get into horticulture,” and after a brief mention of the local food movement and ecological issues, he introduces his main point: “the action lies most in an area known as planting design.” His sole evidence is Piet Oudolf, a masterful, highly accomplished, world-renown, Dutch designer.
Oudolf creates gardens that not only consider essential design concepts (all too often missing from current landscape design) but seasonal aspect of plants as well. Higgins writes about Oudolf’s work:
“… flower color alone is not the driving ornament; rather, it is texture, line, form and an intangible but powerful sense of seasonal progression…Among its essential points is that when you select plants for a design, flowering is but one component, the others being foliage interest (something of a no-brainer) but also the structural interest of seedheads, stems and the flowerheads of grasses.”
Here, I disagree. Whether “action lies” in design or not, equally important are Higgins’ earlier points about the local food movement and ecological issues. More horticulturists are needed to help solve some of the world’s bigger problems.
It brings to mind the manifesto I introduced three years ago: Saving the world, one garden at a time.
Here’s my short list of the benefits of growing plants: • provide beauty • provide food for people • provide food —nectar, pollen, seeds and/or fruits—for wildlife • provide habitat for wildlife • provide tie to natural world • understand seasons • understand natural order of things • importance of each person caring for their own plot of land • importance of healthy soil and soil organisms • encourage organic practices such as composting and use of manure • encourage no-till which protects soil structure and soil organisms • learn that fresh, home-grown food is nutritionally better and tastes better • know where food comes from • save money on food • increase sales of pots, soil, seeds, plants, watering cans, hoses, tools, gloves, etc. • boost local economies • encourage small farms
For the record, listed below are accepted, horticulture-based words, according to The American Heritage Dictionary. adjective: horticultural adverb: horticulturally noun: horticulturist (not horticulturalist) abbreviation: hort
All photographs above are from the New York Botanical Garden and Oudolf’s design of the Seasonal Walk.
The 2014 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree was recently delivered from its home in northern Minnesota to the Capital. It is a white spruce (Picea glauca) and, at 88 feet in height, a magnificent specimen—not too broad at the base, quintessentially pyramidal in shape.
The spruce is estimated to be 88 years old. In 1926, a seed was dispersed from a cone and germinated in the thin soil of the boreal forest. At various times throughout its life, the tree had to survive forest fires and logging, perhaps insect and disease problems, also. This year, after a 2,700-mile journey from Minnesota to Washington and after being honored at 30 stops along the route, the spruce made its final stand on the front lawn of the Capital.
Many radio stations, especially in Minnesota, reported on the event. Every single announcer that I heard confused the tree’s identity. This majestic white spruce was called, randomly and interchangeably as if it didn’t matter, a fir and a pine.
That’s poor reporting. Trees deserve the same level of fact-finding and accuracy given all news stories. In honor of the holidays, let’s examine the differences in evergreens and elucidate the whole Christmas tree thing.
Pines (Pinus), spruces (Picea), firs (Abies) and Douglas firs (Pseudotsuga) belong to the Pine Family (Pinaceae). Other members include tamaracks (Larix) and hemlocks (Tsuga).
All six genera are conifers, i.e., a plant whose fruit is a cone. With the exception of tamaracks, they are also evergreens. An evergreen is a plant with foliage that remains green throughout the year, i.e., doesn’t lose all its leaves or needles at one time. Tamaracks needles turn yellow and fall off in autumn.
Key differences among the genera include needle arrangement on the stem, maturation date of cones and whether the cones are erect or pendent. Following is a list of distinctive characteristics.
Fir (Abies) • needles are persistent, flattened • cones are erect, mature in 1 year
Tamarack (Larix) • needles are deciduous • cones are erect, mature in 1 year
Pine (Pinus) • needles are persistent, spirally arranged in fascicles or bundles • cones are pendent or erect, mostly mature in 2 – 3 years
Spruce (Picea) • needles are persistent, spirally arranged, usually sharp, borne on peg-like projections • cones are pendent, mature in 1 year
Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga) • needles are persistent, flattened, spirally arranged • cones are pendent, mature in 1 year
Hemlock (Tsuga) • needles are persistent, flattened, borne on a peg-like projection from the stem • cones are pendent, mature in 1 year
To further clarify these trees (and for scintillating small talk at holiday cocktail parties), here is a handy list of the most common members of the Pine Family.
Fir (Abies) • balsam (A. balsamea) • concolor or white (A. concolor) • Fraser (A. fraseri) • noble (A. procera) • Nordmann (A. nordmanniana)
Tamarack (Larix) • Eastern or American Larch, Tamarack (L. laricina) • European or common larch (L. decidua)
Pine (Pinus) • Austrian (P. nigra) • bristlecone (P. aristata) • Eastern white (P. strobus) • Jack (P. banksiana) • loblolly (P. taeda) • longleaf (P. palustris) • mugo (P. mugo) • ponderosa (P. ponderosa) • Norway or red (P. resinosa) • Scotch (P. sylvestris)
Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. ~William Morris
The plethora of holiday gewgaws, knick-knacks and just plain junk is astounding. From the bulging catalogs in one’s mailbox to the jam-packed aisles at stores, there are endless choices of stuff to buy.
But, really, who needs sheets, towels, tablecloths, runners, napkins and potholders adorned with Santas, stockings and snowmen? Ditto for rugs and pillows. Food always looks best on white dishes so decorated plates and bowls hold no appeal. The same theory holds for beverages in clear glass. Why hide pretty colors of wine and spirits…not to mention the bubbles in champagne?
The gravest mistake in judgment, though, is clothes. Hopefully no men I know would wear garish corduroy pants embroidered with candy canes or wreaths.
Here is my plea for light, beauty, tradition and, in addition, restraint and common sense. One doesn’t need all that stuff to enjoy the holidays. Instead I propose a simpler approach and, as a gardener, a home that includes flowers and plants.
…simplicity is an art and a strength, a source of joy and beauty and power. ~ Michiko Kakutani
Light: Candles Candles are wonderful any time but around the winter solstice, warm light from candles is practically a necessity. And if you choose carefully (preferably not from the hardware store), a fragrant candle is simply lovely.
A few favorite scented candles are Cinnamon Spice from Williams-Sonoma, Frasier (sic) Fir from Thymes, Feuille de Lavande from Diptyque and Belgian Linen from Restoration Hardware. Other options include poured candles, dipped candles, candles in lanterns and for utter coziness, flickering tealights.
Beauty: Flowers & Plants Even though most gardeners grow plants inside year-round, the holidays give us added opportunity and reason to buy flowers and plants. Choices abound. Traditional plants include poinsettias (Poinsettia spp.), holiday cactus (Schlumbergera spp.), cyclamen (Cylamen spp.) and amaryllis (Amaryllis spp.).
A key caution: Choose one full plant or large flower bouquet that will make an impressive presence.
Tradition: Greens & Trees Using greens as decoration during winter months dates back centuries to ancient Egypt and early Rome. Evergreens were especially important as a symbol of hope, that longer days would return and plants would again grow.
Germany is credited with using a cut evergreen tree—outside first and then inside the home—beginning in the 1500s. (Actual dates are controversial.) Trees were decorated with food such as gingerbread, apples and nuts. Later glass ornaments and lighted candles were used.
England began using evergreen trees at the holidays in the mid 1800s. The tradition didn’t reach our shores until later in the 19th century but, within years, the entire country had embraced the tradition.
A freshly cut balsam fir (Abies balsamea) is always my tree of choice for its fragrance and delicate, Charlie-Brown look. Decorations include heirlooms from my grandparents, gifts from friends, souvenirs from travels and many glass ornaments with a garden theme—greenhouse, potting shed, flower-covered garden gate and white tulip.
Outside, simple containers and window boxes are filled with evergreens and an occasional light, candle or sparkly branch.
It's short and sweet. No undue obligations. No present-buying, card-sending or mounting of plastic Santas on rooftops. We simply gather with family and friends around a big table, toast the season and enjoy a traditional meal of turkey and all the trimmings with pies for dessert.
Over the river, and through the wood, To Grandmother's house we go; The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through the white and drifted snow.
Over the river, and through the wood Trot fast, my dapple-gray! Spring over the ground like a hunting-hound, For this is Thanksgiving Day.
--Lydia Marie Child
As a gardener, flowers are integral to my Thanksgiving celebration. Bouquets shouldn't be formal, complicated affairs with wired stems, though. My formula for gorgeous cut flowers: simple + abundant = elegant.
Place one large arrangement in the entry area to welcome guests. The vase is important so choose with care–whether crystal or pottery, modern or antique. Keep the stems long and fill with a profusion of flowers.
On the dining table I adhere to two rules: nothing tall and nothing fragrant. Place several short, matching arrangements in identical vases in the center of the table. Diners can view the flowers up close and yet still see across the table. Use three or more bouquets, depending on the length of the table.
For a homogenous look, choose one flower and buy plenty to fill all vases generously. Or buy a mix of flowers but of the same color. A bouquet of dahlias, chrysanthemums, tea roses and alstroemeria in similar shades of rich burgundy would be stunning. Look, too, for wax flower, sea lavender, hypericum berries, pepperberry or other berried branches. Always use plenty of greenery–seeded eucalyptus, myrtle, salal, nandina and leucadendron.
In a final gesture of Thanksgiving, offer guests a table arrangement as they leave.
With few exceptions, the blustery winds of autumn have stripped leaves from deciduous trees and shrubs here in the north central region of the country. The gaudy days of early fall have faded and, depending on whether your garden was in the path of the snow storm, either bright white or subdued tans and browns now dominate the landscape.
All of which showcases fruit. From blueberries to chokeberries, bayberries to winterberries, pretty berries are everywhere.
But I don’t think they’re all berries. Apples aren’t and roses have hips. Wait! What’s a hip?
Fruit facts. To get to the bottom of this “berry” business, we need to understand some basic botany.
Plants reproduce by either spores or seeds. In Botany for Dummies, Dr. Renee Kratz writes, “Spores are nice but seeds are better. Seeds have protective coverings and food reserves, helping them to survive away from the parent plant.”
Seed-producing plants are either gymnosperms that don’t produce flowers and fruits (such as ginkgo trees and cone-bearing evergreens), or angiosperms, which do produce flowers and fruit.
Still with me? Here’s the last distinction.
Angiosperms produce two types of fruits: fleshy and dry. Dry fruits include achenes, capsules, grains, legumes, nuts and samaras. The only dry fruit type involved in this essay is a capsule which is produced by the genus Euonymous.
Fleshy fruits can be simple, aggregate or multiple. Below are examples of each.
Fleshy/Aggregate roses, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries (not berries!)
Choose pretty shrubs. Now that you’re a fruiting body expert and know a dry from a fleshy and a berry from a drupe, let’s consider options. Following is a list of shrubs with very showy fruit. Cultivars are available for each species, sometimes numbering in the hundreds and, in the case of roses, thousands. (Or click for DazzleGardensSimpleShrubFruitChart.pdf)
• Bayberry, Northern (Myrica pennsylvanica), grayish white drupe with a waxy coating. Fun Fact: wax makes the lovely fragrant bayberry candles. • Blueberry, highbush (Vaccinium corymbosum), bluish lack, bloomy berry. Caution: plant multiple cultivars for good cross-pollination. • Blueberry, lowbush (Vaccinium angustifolium), bluish black, bloomy berry. Caution: plant multiple cultivars for good cross-pollination. • Chokeberry, black (Aronia melanocarpa), purplish-black pome. • Chokeberry, red (Aronia arbutifolia), bright red pome. • Chokeberry, purple-fruited (Aronia x prunifolia), purplish black pome (“lustrous” according to Dirr!) • Crabapple (Malus), virtually every shade of red and yellow pome. Fun Fact: ‘Harvest Gold’ is beautiful. Caution: need multiple crabs or apples for cross pollination. • Dogwood, gray (Cornus racemosa), flashy white drupe borne atop bright red pedicels or stems. • Eastern Wahoo (Euonymous atropurpureus), four-lobed crimson capsule opens to brown and scarlet. • Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), purple black drupe; cultivars available with red fruit. Fun Fact: cooks into excellent pies, jams and wine. • Indiancurrant, coralberry, buckbrush (Symphoricarpus orbiculatus), purplish red to coral red drupe. • Inkberry (Ilex glabra), black to purplish-red drupe changing to black; some cultivars have white fruit. Caution: Hardiness Zone 4/5. • Purple beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma), warm, rich purple drupe. Caution: Hardiness Zone 5 but definitely worth trying. Fun Fact: a truly stunning shrub and one of my favorites. • Rose (Rosa), shades of red and orange aggregate. Caution: be sure to choose plants that actually produce persistent fruit. • Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) , creamy white drupe. Fun Fact: tolerates shade. • Sumac, staghorn (Rhus typhina), bright crimson drupe turning dark red. Caution: Plant is dioecious (male and female flowers are borne on separate plants). Only females produce fruit so be sure to purchase at least one male for a group of females. Fun Fact: famous ‘Tiger Eyes’ cultivar is a staghorn sumac. • Viburnum, arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum), blue or bluish black drupe. • Viburnum, cranberrybush (Viburnum trilobum), bright red drupe. • Winterberry (Ilex verticillata), bright red drupe. Caution: Plant is dioecious (male and female flowers are borne on separate plants). Only females produce fruit so be sure to purchase at least one male for a group of females.
Design ideas. Here are four simple, charming and elegant design ideas.
#1. Plant the right plant in the right spot. (Dazzle Gardens Rule #1.) This is always critical but even more so when the objective is to cultivate a nice crop of fruit. Wouldn't it be silly to prune off flowers and fruit because the plant was overgrowing its intended space?
#2. Incorporate into herbaceous gardens. Shrubs can provide two design principles: focal points (planted singly) or repetition (planted repeatedly to provide cohesiveness).
#3. Plant in a massive shrub border, surely one of the great design concepts. Not only can it be beautiful to view for oneself but it can provide the perfect screen from a neighbor's house, garage or driveway.
#4. Even better, plant a shrub border against the backdrop of evergreens. The effect is dazzling!
Finally… Growing plants that are pleasing in all seasons is another basic rule of Dazzle Gardens (Rule #2, in fact). And by choosing shrubs with showy fruits, the plants are not only pleasing to look at for several months during fall and winter but the fruits provide food for gardeners and wildlife alike.
Photos by Chris Mathan of the Sportsman's Cabinet, www.sportsmanscabinet.com. From top: Crabapple, Cranberrybush viburnum, Winterberry.
The cover photograph of the November/December 2014 issue of Northern Gardener perfectly captures why I wrote the featured piece, “Bewitching Witch Hazels.” The fragrant, saffron yellow petals of Chinese witch hazel (Hamamelis mollis) cheerfully bloom even though covered with late winter snow.
My opening paragraph:
“I can’t think of a plant as enchanting as witch hazel, one that offers such an extraordinary package of flowers, fall foliage and form, and yet does so in apparent obscurity.”
Northern Gardener is the official publication of the Minnesota State Horticultural Society, a venerable institution founded in 1866. Editor Mary Lahr Schier presents news and articles on wide-ranging topics, with special focus on local stories and gardening in northern zones.
Two other articles of note in this edition include “Gifts for Gardeners” and Margaret Haapoja’s informative piece about forcing bulbs. Colorful hyacinth, tulip, daffodil and muscari photographs add mouth-watering (but perhaps superfluous) enticement.
The play story in the Outdoors Weekend section of October 17 edition of the Star Tribune, “For the love of bird dogs,” features Northwoods Bird Dogs, the dog breeding and training business my husband Jerry and I own. Dennis Anderson, outdoors columnist, wrote the piece after he visited the kennel and hunted over Shaq and Oscar last week. He also shot the photographs.
Dennis has written about Jerry twice before but those articles centered on training and developing pointing dogs. This time he focused on the background of our business and the importance of our breeding program.
Dennis is an excellent writer no matter whether he’s taking on tough conservation issues or reporting on a fishing trip to a northern lake. I’ve always especially liked his pieces that are essay in format and cover a wide range of subject matter.
In the final paragraphs when Jerry releases Oscar from a grouse point, Dennis perfectly captures the desire of our dogs to find and point birds. “Racing ahead, and quickly up to speed, Oscar was intent on finding still another bird. It’s what he lives for.”
The main photo by Dennis is good, too. Shaq is as good a bird dog as we’ve owned and Dennis caught the handsome head and breath-taking composure on point.
At the apex of this delightful autumn, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston is at it again, horticulturally speaking. Hundreds of chrysanthemums were installed last week in the sunlight-filled courtyard of a building authentically designed like a 15th-century Italianate palace.
In addition to pots of traditional mums, the museum’s horticulturists grow fancy-schmancy, single-stem chrysanthemums in a Japanese style called ogiku. To produce that one spectacular blossom requires hours of special attention and maintenance.
In a previous post, I wrote about Gardner’s nasturtiums. Every April, 20-foot-longs vines in full bloom are installed from balconies three stories high. Other annual displays include hydrangeas, bellflowers, orchids, tropical plants and a red, green and silver-themed winter holiday show.
Special days should be celebrated. Birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and promotions should be recognized and honored. The observance can be as elegant as a dozen roses, as easy as a cupcake with a candle or to commemorate a truly special occasion, perhaps a dream come true, something more elaborate might be called for.
The key part is to take time, to make time.
I celebrated my 60th birthday this year. Neither the big number of years nor the first year of the decade seemed significant to me. Rather, my overwhelming sentiment was gratitude. I was thankful to be healthy and happy and to have been born in this country to devoted parents whose primary focus in life was raising their children.
My party was simple and perfect. A big bouquet of balloons—long a traditional gift from my husband Jerry—was anchored to the coffee table. Before heading out for a celebratory steak dinner, Jerry and I sipped champagne from crystal flutes while our dogs played with tennis balls and chew toys at our feet.
Many others celebrated 60th birthdays this year. Judging by the lists below, 1954 produced a plethora of intelligent, prominent, strong, successful people, and not just in the United States.
Leaders of their countries: • Francois Hollande • Angela Merkel • Viktor Yushchenko (Well, former leader.)
Leaders in their fields: • Jill Abramson (Again, former leader.) • Paul Allen • Richard Branson • John Hegelin • Stanley McChrystal
Good-looking guys: • Chris Noth • Dennis Quaid • Denzel Washington
Inspiring musicians: • Annie Lennox • Tom Petty • Nancy Wilson • Stevie Wonder
Funny men: • Jay Leno • Bill Murray • Jerry Seinfeld
Here’s more people who were born in 1954: • Ellen Barkin • James Cameron • Jackie Chan • Joel Coen • Matt Groening • John Hagelin • Patty Hearst • Bill Heig • Ron Howard • William Hurt • Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. • Val Kilmer • Michael Patrick King • Frank LaNasa • Cyndi Lauper • Chris Mathan • Al Roker • David Lee Roth • Cybil Shepherd • Howard Stern • Cass Sunstein • John Travolta
Sadly, many born in 1954 didn’t live until their 60th birthdays. Here’s a short list: • John Belushi • Stieg Larsson • Walter Payton • Betsy Stover • Stevie Ray Vaughan
Top image is by Pine Needle Card Company. Balloon image is by Karen Adams Designs.
Even though autumn signifies the bittersweet end of warm, carefree summer days and the impending arrival of winter, most people who live in temperate areas adore fall. Some welcome cooler nights while others enjoy that final burst of warmth called Indian summer. But I’ve never met anyone who didn’t rave about the changing colors of leaves in the fall.
Indeed, entire industries are based on this annual show by Mother Nature. Especially in New England and the Midwest, it seems, “color tours” and “leaf watches” take place by the dozen. For example:
• Best Places to See Fall Color in Minnesota • Fall Color Report • Feel the WOW of Fall—Fall Color Finder • Wisconsin’s Fall Color Report • Fall Foliage Train Tour • Classic New England Fall Foliage Tour
But why do leaves change color? What causes vibrant orange of sugar maples, scarlet on sumacs and golden aspens? And why do leaves fall?
The main reason is autumn itself—with its cooler temperatures and decreasing day length. But other things are happening, too.
Yellow/Gold/Orange Leaf Color Leaves contain several pigments but chlorophyll, the green pigment, prevails for most of the year. Pigments such as carotenes and xanthophylls also exist but are masked by the presence of chlorophyll. These pigments are responsible for yellow and orange colors in carrots, corn, daffodils, egg yolks and bananas. As the hours of sunlight decrease, plants make less and less chlorophyll until eventually none is produced at all. Gradually, carotene and xanthphyll pigments become evident and produce those yellow, gold and orange colors.
Because carotenes and xanthophylls are always present in leaves and aren’t susceptible to other conditions, these foliage colors remain fairly constant from year to year.
Red/Purple/Crimson Leaf Color Anthocyanins are water soluble pigments that give fruits such as cranberries, blueberries, red apples, cherries and strawberries their color. In leaves of select plants, anthocyanins are produced under certain fall conditions.
Anthocyanin production is dependent on both light levels and temperature. On sunny days, leaves are busy photosynthesizing and producing large amounts of oxygen and sugar. When night temperatures fall below 45°F, very little movement of sugar occurs from foliage to other plant parts. Instead, these substances are trapped in the leaves and the red pigment becomes evident. In oaks, anthocyanins combine with naturally occurring tannins and the foliage turns brown.
Often anthocyanins combine with carotenes and xanthophylls in leaves to produce the truly spectacular shades of coral, scarlet and bronze.
Why do leaves fall? Deciduous woody plants prepare for dormancy by shedding parts that aren’t able to survive freezing temperatures. Cells of foliage contain watery sap which is vulnerable to cold but t trunks, branches and buds have necessary cell structure to withstand winter conditions.
Triggered by cool nights and short days, leaves reduce production of the enzyme that holds cells together and an abscission—or separation—zone develops at the base of the stem. Once that separation layer is complete, the leaf falls.
Why do some leaves not fall? During autumn, certain deciduous plants exhibit a phenomenon called marcescence, defined as “withering but not falling off.” Hornbeam (Carpinus spp.) trees and many members of the Beech (Fagaceae) family, including oaks (Quercus spp.) and beech (Fagus spp.), exhibit marcescence.
If marcescent foliage isn’t broken off by wind and snow during winter, it eventually falls in spring when a corky layer forms at the base of the leaf stem. Those cells expand and eventually break which causes the leaf to fall. Coincidentally, this occurs when the buds of new leaves are swelling.
Botanists and plant physiologists aren’t sure why marcescence occurs. It might be more common on younger trees, or on new growth of older trees or on leaves high in the canopy that receive more sunlight. One benefit of these marcescent leaves is to protect exposed shoots from browsing deer and moose.
Jenny Willow by Mike Gaddis was a gift from a puppy-buying client of Northwoods Bird Dogs, the business my husband Jerry and I operate. We care deeply about dogs—indeed they are our livelihood—but I simply can’t handle any sort of story when a dog dies. Our puppy buyer assured me that although there’s a death, it’s not the dog’s. The jacket art is a nice painting of an English setter by Bob Abbott.
Vertigo 42 by Martha Grimes is the latest (23rd) Richard Jury murder mystery. The titles of all Jury novels have been pubs; others include The Dirty Duck, I Am The Only Running Footman, The Old Fox Deceiv’d, The Horse You Came in On. Unlike the rest, though, Vertigo 42 isn’t a country pub with a peat fire in the corner; it’s a tony champagne bar in London’s financial district.
Sometimes the actual plot can be superfluous with a Jury mystery because what makes these books so enjoyable are the supporting characters, various settings in picturesque English villages, lots of dogs and lots of drinking—whether tea, coffee, whiskey or pints of bitter and Guinness.
The hero is Richard Jury, a detective superintendent of Scotland Yard, but my favorite character is Jury’s friend, Melrose Plant, who was the 8th Earl of Ardry before he relinquished his Lord Ardry title. He retains his grand estate/castle (Ardry End), his London club (Borings) and his cars (Bentley, early model Jaguar and a Silver Shadow Rolls Royce). Plant keeps one goat, one horse and one dog and pays a hermit to live on his grounds. Plant’s intelligence and peerage make him a useful ally in crime-solving. (This book isn't in the stack because I had to rush it back to the library. It was overdue.)
Blue Lightning by Ann Cleeves is the fourth in this murder mystery series set in the Shetland Islands off the northeast coast of Scotland, farther north and east than even the Orkneys. The rocky, remote islands, the sea and the fierce weather are characters as much as the people. Jimmy Perez, a quiet, thinker type, is the local Detective Inspector.
My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz is a big, fun book of recipes and essays. Lebovitz is a good, engaging writer who combines simplicity and sophistication (my two favorite themes). I love having this book by my bedside table as an option when I want something warm and comforting to read.
Veranda June 2014. The theme of the issue is “Summer Bliss” and even though we’re now in meteorological autumn, I haven’t finished all the interesting features or tired of looking at the beautiful photographs.
The New York Times Style Magazine, Women’s Fashion, August 24, 2013. Even though the volume of this publication’s 274 pages pales in comparison to Vogue’s gigantic, 856-page September issue, Deborah Needleman, Editor in Chief, always puts out a premier package, arguably the best of the genre. From the quality of the writing to the breadth of compelling subject matters, it will take a while to get through all its pages.
I’m very pro bug. I haven’t used an insecticide—organic or otherwise—for years. I happily share my home with spiders and daddy longlegs and my garden with all sorts—from pretty butterflies, bees and dragonflies to not-so-pretty grasshoppers and beetles.
Three recent publications elucidated the crucial role insects play in the earth’s ecosystem, including the big-picture food web.
“Bug Love,” by Scott R. Shaw, The New York Times Sunday Review, August 24, 2014 Shaw is a professor of entomology at the University of Wyoming and also curator of the Insect Museum.
Fun facts to share at your next cocktail party: • “But of the millions of insects, only a tiny fraction of them, less than 1 percent, are pests. A vast majority are beneficial to humans: They are pollinators, seed dispersers, nutrient recyclers, soil producers and predators or parasites of plant-feeding insects.” • “Insects are the products of three billion years of evolution.” • “And try as we might, over the last century, we have not managed to extinguish even one pest species.”
Lest you still pooh-pooh bugs, Shaw concludes his piece with this sagacious point:
“The next time an insect crawls across your path, master your impulse to squash it immediately and instead kneel down to observe its microscopic majesty. You’re seeing a creature whose buggy ancestors survived asteroids, volcanoes, continental drift, climate fluctuations and glaciers. Admire it, respect it. And rest assured that most insects will survive, while we are just a brief phase on this planet of bugs.”
“Bees at the Brink,” by Josephine Marcotty, an occasional series in the StarTribune “There is remarkably little dispute about the underlying problem: Honeybees are dying. Beekeepers across the United States are losing a fourth to a third of their hives each winter, a dramatic decline that has exposed them as a fragile link in the nation’s food supply chain.
“A rush of recent research points to a complex triangle of causes: pervasive pesticides, a flowerless rural landscape dominated by cash crops, and the spread of parasites and diseases.
“Most consumers are insulated from the threat — as long as the aisles of America’s grocery stores are resplendent with apples, lemons, coffee, cocoa, peanuts, grapes, onions, cucumbers and watermelons.
“Almost all Midwestern crops are now genetically engineered to withstand the herbicide Roundup, so farmers can kill weeds efficiently without harming their yields — a major advance in productivity that has revolutionized agriculture. But the widespread use of herbicides has virtually wiped out the milkweed, clover and wildflowers from Minnesota’s vast farming regions. That doesn’t include the millions of acres devoted to grass in urban areas, another form of chemically intensive monoculture.
“For bees — which need 150 million flowers to make enough honey for one hive to survive the winter — there isn’t much left to eat.
“At the heart of the struggle lies a handful of chemicals called neonicotinoids. Based on synthetic nicotine and introduced in the mid-1990s, they have swept the globe with breathtaking speed in part because they are lethal to insects, but not to humans and mammals.
“The compounds can, for example, cripple bees’ exquisite navigational skills and their ability to find their way home after long trips foraging for nectar and pollen. They may also interfere with a honeybee’s intricate “waggle dance” that tells other bees where to find flowers far from the hive.
“Studies also show that neonicotinoids can weaken a bee’s immune system, making it more vulnerable to diseases and parasites. In some cases they can even weaken a queen’s fertility, endangering the hive’s ability to regenerate itself.”
There isn’t a feel-good, happy conclusion at the end of Marcotty’s second piece in the series. Bees are in the center of a serious, difficult conflict where, unfortunately and all too often, the bottom line is money. Heavy-hitters like the EPA and the White House are involved. On one side is Bayer CropScience (whose “newest crop protection products soared 30 percent between 2012 and 2013, to $686 million”), a company with deep enough pockets to have hired a second lobbying firm. The other side is a passionate conglomeration of beekeepers, Minnesota Bee Lab, Xerces Society, Beez Kneez and others.
Part 1: http://www.startribune.com/local/264929101.html?site=full Part 2: http://www.startribune.com/local/268611322.html?site=full
Part 3: http://www.startribune.com/local/274006381.html?site=full
“Dragon Bait,” by Meleah Maynard, Northern Gardener, September/October 2014 Maynard offers several options for gardeners who want to encourage dragonflies and damselflies. The single most important aspect is that these “delicate winged creatures really like water,” according to Maynard. So consider a pond, rain garden, bog garden, container water garden or even a fountain. Just as the previous two writers cautioned, Maynard concludes:
“Like bees and butterflies, dragonfly and damselfly populations around the world are in decline in part because of pesticide use. Studies have shown that the widely used neonicotinoid pesticide, imidacloprid, is particularly toxic to aquatic insects, as well as other water-dwelling species.”
As much as most gardeners would rather be in the garden than almost anywhere, a sultry August afternoon can drive even the most stalwart to the shade of a porch or a comfortable chair indoors. Since it’s really too soon to page through those early-arriving bulb catalogs, let’s hit some online garden shops.
Campo de Fiori (campodefiori.com) The containers, furnishings and decorative accents Campo de Fiori produces and sells are “made by the hands of skilled artisans from materials drawn from the earth,” according to the website, and include pieces fashioned of wood, stone, glass, marble, bronze, zinc, wrought iron and wire.
Beautiful aged terra cotta pots grabbed my eye. In fact, two look familiar to containers already in my collection--Remolina Tall with graceful swirls and a smaller English Lattice. Another, the San Remo, is an exact replica of a pot that sat empty and unforgettable, atop a moss-covered stone column at Sissinghurst. Other pretty pots include Poppy, Trojan Centerpiece (above), Full Moon, Romantic Urn and Small Aged Leaf.
New York Botanic Garden Shop (nybgshop.org) This online “shop in the garden” offers books, clothes, jewelry, housewares and personal care items but the exclusive designs by Oscar de la Renta aren’t to be missed. Floral images from the garden’s rare book collection inspired much of this collection.
If I never served a single slice of anything on it, the Peony Serving Platter is lovely just as is. The stoneware dish (18” in length) is made in Portugal and perfectly captures the lushness of old-fashioned peonies.
A paperweight is essential for my home office because my windows are always open and important papers are always wafting about. Why not have this artistic interpretation of a starburst-shaped dahlia (top photo) in sturdy brass?
A short, etched glass tumbler is designed after de la Renta’s own glassware from his home in the Dominican Republic and hand-blown in Portugal. In my house, this could be a perfect, rustic wine glass or hold a single rose blossom.
Garden Tool Company (http://gardentoolcompany.com/) Watering cans made by Haws, an English company, are among the best in the world. Not only are they sturdy (made from galvanized, heavy-gauge steel) but their European style is classic. (One can almost envision a glasshouse beyond the shrubbery.) Plus the rose is brass.
My mantra for simple gardening includes the necessity for only three hand tools: Hori Hori Japanese knife, three-tined cultivator and a trowel. This website offers many trowels—including one with a tulip-shaped blade and another with a bottle opener on one side (so thoughtful)—but I prefer a hand-forged, heavy-duty, stainless steel trowel with a beautiful cherry handle. It is made by the Dutch company Sneeboer, in business since 1913 and now run by third-generation Sneeboers.
According to the website, “Anyone who has ever had a Sneeboer tool in their hand will never want to use anything else.”
Other online sites are worth a peak. • www.pottedstore.com • www.sprouthome.com • www.shopterrain.com
Still, there is no equal to the original Smith & Hawken and I am still in mourning about its demise. Between catalogs and brick-and-mortar stores, Smith & Hawken offered the best in quality, beauty and usefulness.
For many, July might be the ideal summer month. But for others, especially in the U.K., western Europe and on the East Coast, August is the time of year to get out of town and while away long, lazy days.
Today seems supremely suited to re-visit a post from years ago. Today is the birthday of both my maternal grandmother (long deceased) and my mother (still full of life at 92). Because it’s those strong Scandinavian genes that I attribute my passion and affinity for cabins and lakes.
The idea of the summer cabin, the lake house, the woods retreat, the stuga, is buried deep in the psyche of the state's culture. Minnesota was settled by (and is still inhabited by) a couple of million Norwegians and the better part of a million Swedes for whom the stuga is not an option but a religion. ~ Bill Holm, Cabins of Minnesota
In 1935, my grandfather (half Norwegian/half Swedish) had an itch to spend time on a lake and discovered a wild piece of lakeshore just north of Nisswa. The property owner, Elmer Olson, was a taciturn, stubborn Scandinavian farmer and it took my grandfather several years to woo Mr. Olson into selling a chunk. They ultimately agreed on a seven-acre parcel on the north side of the lake with about 1,000 feet of shoreline.
Five years later when my grandfather was 47, he and my grandmother (half Swedish) built a simple, 24' x 36' log-sided cabin. The floors were pine-planked and the interior walls were covered in wide, knotty pine paneling. Real, wooden mullions divided each of the large windows into six panes and those windows constituted most of the south wall facing the lake.
My parents spent many nights dancing at the original Bar Harbor on Gull Lake while dating and later honeymooned at the cabin. When I was a child, my family lived there in the summers along with my aunt, uncle and cousins.
My grandfather had an elaborate shop in the boathouse down by the beach where he spent hours sawing and hammering and painting. He fashioned a nifty log ladder for us kids to climb into the sleeping loft. He devised the infamous "Kiddie Bar" by attaching a long piece of pine directly to the wall and drilling round holes at each grandchild's assigned place. Our plastic milk glasses fit snugly down into the holes which rendered them spill-proof, a wonderful reprieve for my long-suffering grandmother, mother and aunt. One summer he was on a sign-making binge and made them for everything, even "The Biffy."
The favorite of my grandfather's projects, though, was the dining area table. Built of wide pine planks, he sized it to be at exact window height and widow width. The table was then pushed directly against the wall so all could see out to the lake.
Since those idyllic summer days, I continue to feel most at home in a simple cabin on a lake with a dining table pushed up by the windows. Over the years I've stayed on many lakes around Minnesota–White Iron, Gunflint, Lake of the Woods, Gull, Bay, White Bear, Winnibigoshish, Leech, Ida and Burntside.
Providentially after several years of searching, my husband and I found the perfect small, rustic cabin on a lake in Hubbard County. A big window faced west toward the lake and my first act as cabin-owner was to place our dining table directly under the window. I was 47.