Six garden bloggers from three Midwestern states met in Madison on Friday, Sept. 2 to tour our city's top venues for gardeners and nature lovers. We began the day at Olbrich Botanical Gardens with a short talk by director Roberta Sladky (below left).
She spoke about all the things we don't usually see or know about that go on at Olbrich behind the scenes, like the interns who work in many different departments at the gardens and the summer camps for young writers that use the gardens as inspiration. We got great information packets from Roberta so I will talk more about some of the special things they do in another post.
I'd met Lisa, Rose and Becky at the Chicago Fling in 2009 but had not seen them since then so it was a pleasure to reconnect. Beth and I had met in person last year but both Danniel and her blog were new to me. Erin of The Impatient Gardener and Jason (and his wife, Judy) of Garden in a City were unable to join us this time. Erin and I have had a chance to visit each other's garden but I only know Jason from his blog and had been looking forward to meeting him. Maybe next time!
We lunched at Rosie's Coffee Bar and Bakery on Monona Drive where one of the employees snapped this photo of us. Clockwise from Lisa (in the coral top), Becky, Danniel, Beth, Rose and me. Rosie's offers casual dining with an interesting menu (Grilled pear and brie sandwich!) and tasty food.
The group made a stop at my garden before going on to the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum. My husband snapped this photo of me and Lisa Bowman. It was so much fun to see her again as we have been commenting on each other's blogs for years now. You can see we share other enthusiasms than just gardening!
Not long ago I visited a garden in a neighborhood where the houses are close together with garages at the back of the properties. You drive into the garage via an alley. Thus the door you see below opens into the garden from the garage. The white fence divides the garden I was visiting into two rooms and the plants on the right mark the lot line between the houses. This was the view from the garden I was touring. Looks to me like they have a dream neighbor for a gardener!
I had a couple of floral sightings over the weekend that I decided to share as my contribution to this weekly meme.
First off, my niece who lives in Vermont sent me a the three photos below from a garden tour that she went on. The images she sent are from the garden owned by the historic Woodstock Inn and supplies fresh flowers for them. As you can see there's an abundance of flowers blooming, drying and being arranged in vases for the Inn.
Look at those bunches of Alliums. It never occurred to me to dry them at that stage when they still have flowers and color remaining. I guess I will have to wait until next summer to try that myself.
I only grew Delphiniums once. They just a not a flower that you want to grow where I live which is subject to strong winds on and off all summer long. As for Gladioli, a wonderful selection of that flower can always be found at our local farmers' markets.
On Saturday a Wisconsin niece had her wedding ceremony and reception at a beautiful Lake Monona setting not far from where we live. The bride and her attendants all carried lovely bouquets but my favorite "flowers" were the sprays of Eucalyptus and grasses that graced the center of each table. I did not go poking around in this display so I don't know if the stems were inserted in those little tubes that hold water or if they were left to hold their own as long as possible.
I recently went to see a garden in the neighborhood where I lived when I first came to Madison. It was near Brittingham Bay and many of the earliest houses are quite small on small lots as they started life as cottages. I lived around the corner from this garden in the upper apartment of an old house that had been converted into two flats. It was where I first tried my handing at gardening.
This was one of my favorite ideas in the garden I visited. The gardener has a deck that comes off the back of the house and opens to a nice seating/eating area but it required a number of steps to get down to ground level in the garden. So she had long steps built around two sides of the deck as a way to not only walk down to the garden but also to stage and display all her plants in pots.
These pictures are poor quality even for my phone but it's such a good idea that I decided to share them for all of you who love your container gardens. It reminds me of Christopher Lloyd's pots and pots of flowers on display outside his front door but more informal.
I don't remember when or why Erin Schanen of The Impatient Gardener and I first connected. Perhaps it came about because we are among the few garden bloggers in Wisconsin. Last year Erin visited my garden when she was in Madison and I finally made it to her garden this summer.
I probably would have visited sooner but I got confused: I thought she lived in Brussels (Wisconsin) up near Green Bay, when she actually lives in Belgium over near Milwaukee. You can see why I got mixed up, especially since our relationship is mainly on-line. My husband walked the garden — camera in hand — while I peppered Erin with questions.
Initially I had the same experience that I think many of us have when we visit a garden in person that we only know from on-line. No matter how many wide views and maps you look at nothing quite prepares you for the reality. There were a few things that I was expecting to see, like her blue front door and curving steps, that felt familiar.
And annuals! She does pots and window boxes and had this hot sunny border filled with gorgeous annuals. I am strictly a perennial gal except for a few herbs so I am always fascinated with her blog posts about seed starting and such. We also chatted about her hose (curled up in the black container) as Erin always knows about the latest and best tools and garden products. Though she is a member of the Troy-Built Saturday Blogger Group I think she is quite honest in her evaluations of their products. And I especially like the fact that I am getting a woman's viewpoint on all the products and tools she tries.
Unlike me, Erin is a veggie gardener. That garden is set off from her house and flower gardens and part of it was protected from marauding critters, including deer. She's hoping to build a greenhouse in the future so I will be very excited to watch that happen as it is something I dream about.
The next two pictures give you a better sense of where her house sits in the midst of her various gardens. The front door is at the far left side of the house. What I loved most about Erin's garden is that she mixes shrubs and trees in with her perennials.
This view (below) is similar to the one above but gives you a better sense of how Erin's enveloped her house in gardens but then they expand out into the property as you move away from the house. You can also see that the gardens are divided with stone and grass paths. Look at what a terrific sense of color, texture and scale she's created in these long views. So much to see without ever getting close to specific plants.
Looking from the other direction at the garden that is to the left of where Erin and I are standing in the picture above. I love all the blue touches, whether flowers, furniture cushions or doors. Those spots of blue let Erin use a variety of other colors without the garden seeming unfocused.
The other side of the above border feels completely different since it has a swath of one kind of plant in the foreground. Having enough space to create borders with distinct sides is one of the benefits of having a garden as large as Erin's.
This is the short side of Erin's house with a very simply planted border. The Hakonechloa grass draws your eye to her gorgeous stone chimney. There's a Witch Hazel planted in pride of place in front of the chimney but it is not doing particularly well. Whether it's related to soil, light or even heat from the chimney is the big question. That and whether she should swap the Witch Hazel for another plant. No matter how perfect things look to us garden visitors, it always seems like the gardener sees something different!
I was particularly taken with Erin's repetition of blue evergreens with the yellow-green perennials on either side of the path. I believe that is Picea engelmannii'Blue Magoo' in the rear.
I'm growing Aralia 'Sun King' and am in love with it. So perhaps it's not surprising that I completely fell for Aralia 'Silver Umbrella' when Erin pointed it out to me. It's a new one for me but one I will be searching for. There's nothing like seeing a new specimen in place in a garden and getting to hear firsthand about the gardener's positive experience with it.
Last but not least I love Erin's found art creation on her septic mound. Septic systems are a fact of life in rural areas and it amazes me that more people don't somehow take advantage of this natural platform for art.
Now when I read about what Erin is doing in her garden I will know exactly where and what she's talking about!
Tuesday afternoon the three of us whose gardens were open last night for touring by members of the Madison Area Master Gardeners and the Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society spent more than three hours wandering though each other's gardens before the big day. Lots of fun and many questions and exclamations!
Last night the first visitors were coming up our driveway moments before 4 p.m. and the last departed around 8:30 p.m. Mark and I were on our feet the entire time talking, laughing, answering questions and generally having a wonderful time. We saw many gardeners whose gardens we've toured over the years as well as neighbors and old friends. Matt Wieneke, who did our driveway/wall, also came by with his family and answered questions and explained how that big project all came together.
Thanks to everyone for their thoughtful remarks and compliments. And special thanks to our two great local gardening organizations who made it all happen.
Every summer the Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society has tours of members' gardens, usually three or four in an evening. They are always worth the time because these are created and cared for by gardeners just like the rest of us: amateurs rather than professionals. The size, location, and focus of the gardens vary widely so you never know what you'll see or what ideas you'll come away with. Here are a few of the things that caught my attention on last's week's tours.
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This gardener clipped snapshots of her garden from earlier in the year to trees and shrubs so you could see how the plantings had changed since the beginning of the gardening season.
We don't have a lot of different seating areas in our garden so I took note of all the options some of the gardens offered. This bench with its peeling paint was one of my favorites as it didn't call too much attention to its presence.
Two small water features that each made a big impact in their gardens.
This gardener put the main seating area right out in the garden instead of next to the house. She said her focus was on layout and you could really see it with something like this (seen from both directions below).
At this garden we were all offered chocolate chip cookies as we arrived!
This blue ball caught my eye but what held my attention was realizing how similar true Geranium leaves are to those of Pachysandra. Both are ground covers but Geraniums offer scent and prettier flowers, at least to my eye.
More garden blues.
Nothing says June like roses and Russian sage . . .
OK, I admit that I do have some pots that are filled with plants. But unlike most of you, I limit my pots to one kind of plant. I love designing plant combinations in the ground, but I prefer a group of pots highlighting one plant each to making combos in each pot. The group below includes my test Dahlia grown in a pot as a way of avoiding total commitment.
I dug out a clump of Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' which was hanging over the first stepping stone after you cross the stream. I thought it was a mite dangerous to have that stone even partly obscured. I have a home in mind for the grass but I know I won't get to planting it for a while, so a pot seemed like a good place to put it temporarily.
This is the only true combination planting I've done this year: A Korean maple that needs a new home, Pelargonium 'Bird Dancer' and an unknown Heuchera.
The pot is sitting at the corner of one of the stone walls in the front garden and I've had a heck of a time photographing it. But it seems to me that it should be shown in the spot where it really lives rather than moving it to find a more simple background.
I do like something special by the front door since it's also adjacent to the new steps up into the front garden. And I especially like something in that location when we're getting ready for a big garden tour — as we are this week.
Another 'Bird Dancer' Geranium and 'Sweet Tea' Heucherella needed something else to tie them together and scale them to their location: a nice dark Hibiscus.
Though my pots are quite low key, I counted ten of them spread around the garden. That's a respectable enough number that I don't need to feel like I am shirking my duty as a contemporary gardener.