In addition to all the plants I've ordered (shipping for them starts in another month), I've been busy with other garden-related purchases. While I was searching on-line for information on species and woodland Peonies, I discovered something that this Peony gardener had to have: an umbrella to protect Peony flowers from potential damage from too much sun or its opposite, rain. Not sure if its cool or crazy but I couldn't resist it once I saw it. Sheer garden fantasy!
I found it at Cricket Hill Garden, a specialty plant nursery located in Connecticut. The offer Herbaceous, Intersectional and Tree Peonies as well as rare, older Tree Peonies for those who are willing to spend $300 to $600 on a rare plant. I will say they are gorgeous looking. Cricket Hill Garden also sells edible landscape plants like Pawpaws, Elderberries and Apples. In addition they sell scion wood for a number of the landscape plants for those who want to propagate their own at a greatly reduced price. They even sell viable Chinese Tree Peony seeds!
My species and woodland Peonies can all take a fair amount of sun; all except P. maculata ssp. kavachensis which has quickly faded early in the season. I planted it at the outer edge of a Pagoda Dogwood tree which has been losing branches, thus exposing the Peony to more light than it seems to want. I thought the umbrella would be a way to see if shade helps the plant and also to protect any of the Peony plants coming into its peak as a storm approaches.
The umbrella is made of bamboo and nylon. The Cricket Hill website says they use the umbrellas for about a month at Peony time, and then clean and store them for later use. I like them because they are plain and simple with no decoration. The bamboo pole is reinforced at the center point. Overall height is 5' 3" tall and is all one piece. The nylon umbrella has a diameter of 33 inches. The umbrella "webbing" is all hand-done like a work of art.
The whole thing came wrapped in brown paper and plastic with not a tear or dent. The umbrellas cost $45 each or 3/$99.00. Since I have about a dozen woodland and species Peonies I really wanted to buy three, but only got the one until I was sure what it looked like and how it was made. I am pleased with it and I can't wait to try it out!
Flower from one of my P. japonica plants.
Cricket Hill also sells Martin Page's superb book, "The Gardener's Peony," which covers absolutely everything you wanted to know about every kind of Peony. Even though my local library has it, I am thinking of buying a copy since I like the quirky Peonies that are hard to find and even harder to find information about them. Page has a whole chapter covering each and every one.
Photo of Peony parasols from Cricket Hill Garden website.
When I moved to Wisconsin I knew little about Scandinavian countries, their history, heritage, food, you name it. That's no longer the case as this state is home to descendants of immigrants from many of those countries. I've come to love Swedish Gustavian furniture, Danish silver, Finish glassware and Norwegian cuisine in particular. That's why I am a fan of Loi Thai's blog, Tone on Tone which features interiors done with beautiful Gustavian antiques painted in shades of dusty blue-gray-green.
Loi is also a gardener and uses flowers, topiary and assorted plants as interior decor. I was definitely taken with his little bouquet of dried lily of the valley flowers and leaves when I saw it on Tone on Tone. And I vowed to create my own nosegay once it was lily season in my garden.
I like my little dried bouquet of Convallaria majalis 'Hardwick Hall' even though it looks nothing like the one in the above pictures from Tone on Tone.
My flower stems were long and dangly when I cut them and they dried that way instead of in a tight clump like Loi's. And the leaves never lost their green color. I wrote to Loi wondering if he did anything special but never got an answer. So this Spring I am going to try again but I will add a drop of bleach to the water and see if that makes them fade to brown. Or maybe I need to dry them in the sun to get that combination of bleaching and browning.
This is a bouquet that is the wrong size and shape for most of my vases. So I am letting it be the sole star of this week's post. Maybe when I try this experiment again, I will put the bouquet in the vase I want to display it in and let it dry in situ. To see what other gardeners are finding to put in a vase this week, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden who hosts this Monday meme.
I love European magazines and have stacks of old issues cluttering my house, mostly World of Interiors and Gardens Illustrated. But now and then, I grab a Tattler or the British edition of Vogue when the issue contains a bit of fashion fantasy. These poetic pictures are from a fashion layout from the December 1984 Vogue, styled by the great Grace Coddington and photographed by Bruce Weber.
Coddington was a notable model back in the day, but I think her true talent lies in her editorial work. This week Coddington announced she's stepping down from her role at American Vogue to freelance. The photos below are from one of my favorite Coddington creations.
The spread was titled "In an English garden: A style that could grow on you."
The introductory paragraph of text goes on to say: "Englishwomen are best at this — a look where pieces have been pruned but the whole is wreathed with imagination. Here the tradition branches out into charm and charade, tweeds are tweeds, but mackintoshes and especially hats go further into the landscape . . . "
One reason these images grabbed me so forcefully is certainly the garden theme. But they remind me of the time my roommate Mary and I adorned ourselves in 1950s evening gowns, long gloves and corsages made of vegetables; radishes for me and banana peppers for her. Thus attired, we made a late entrance at a housewarming party for a recently divorced male friend and brought down the house.
In her autobiography, Coddington described these clothes and the photo shoot as "ravishingly romantic." Though Mary and I were clad in outfits and bouquets that were not quite as romantic as these, I think they were equally memorable.
One of my sisters-in-law always had a number of small, themed Christmas trees on display at her house. It was only later that I discovered she put these little trees away fully decorated until Christmas rolled around again. I thought it was a brilliant idea and created a few of my own. The only one I still have is a Christmas tree that is covered in miniature garden tools: hoes, rakes, buckets, watering cans, even a hand-mower. Instead of a star on top, there is a minute clay pot with a trowel and bit of Hydrangea flowerhead.
Living in Wisconsin meant that I could always find straw ornaments from Scandinavia. As you can see, they are a main element of the decoration.
I loved all the straw ornaments but baskets were my favorites and I collected a nice assortment. Alas, many of these things are now made far from Scandinavia — in China! I haven't seen any beautiful pieces like mine in quite a few years.
Among the special treasures on the tree are some small baskets hand-made of fine copper wire. You can see two of them hanging on opposites sides of the tree below. They were created by Mexican artists and each one had the name of the artist attached to it. I put those tags in the baskets where they remain. They were purchased at the wonderful Seed Savers Store, one of many memorable Monroe St. merchants whose shops I still miss.
The annual Spring Flower Show at Olbrich Botanical Gardens is nicely themed towards families with young children. But there is an abundance of inspiration for home gardeners as well. The following are some of the ideas that caught my eye.
An arbor that's not made of flowering vines but a pair of some variety of Chamaecyparis obtusa held in place by stems of dogwood.
This gate (above and below) could easily be made by a handy homeowner. It could also be put in position just like this, without being part of a larger fence.
My garden has been overrun by Peter Rabbit and his siblings. They don't seem to pay attention to signs. But I would love to try a fence like this looping circle composed of dogwood twigs held together with a few upright stems.
One of my favorite displays was this overturned stump that sheltered tiny storybook characters. But I could also picture it as pure garden sculpture or as the base for a Clematis.
One of the things that can be frustrating about flower shows like this one is that many of the plants aren't hardy here and must be grown in a greenhouse. But these exotic-looking checkered lilies (Fritillaria meleagris) are hardy and easily grown here.
This grouping of pink and white Hyacinth bulbs and pale blue Muscari along with a silvery Heuchera is a subtly beautiful combination. Most of my Heucheras look good almost immediately in early spring but I never thought to pair them with bulbs.
Soft pussy willow catkins against the sky reminded me that I should find room for another willow in the garden.
The Spring exhibit included a little garden shed tucked into a corner, something that almost every gardener dreams about. At the very least, I always have some terra cotta garden pots on hand. Some old, some unusual, always useful. Plus they remind me of the long history of gardening that I am part of.
Even one rain barrel with an adjacent watering can comes in handy. I am a sucker for an old container like this rather than a new plastic one — even black plastic!
I'm not a fan of PJM rhododendrons but I love old tin pails and watering cans. And nothing's nicer in a vegetable garden than terra cotta rhubarb forcers.
This is the garden season where we are making lists of everything we have to do as soon as we can work outside. Be sure to schedule some time to sit back and enjoy your garden, perhaps with a carrot and the daily paper.
And remember that there's no better place for thinking about the garden, designing it or making garden notes than right out in the midst of it!