I think I must be one of the few gardeners who doesn't put together containers with a mix of plants. I love them when I see them but somehow I never seem to get around to doing them myself. I'm sure that some of my reluctance comes from not knowing what to combine or wondering how — or if — it will thrive.
I am seriously thinking of recreating one of these beauties for my garden next year, now that some of the guess-work has been done for me by Avant Gardens. I will need to look for a new pot though, as one of my favorites that would have been perfect for a plant combo, blew over and cracked apart in last Monday night's storm.
Last week's arrangement focused on the first Toad Lilies (Tricyrtis) blooming in the garden. It was a tiny arrangement in a tiny Japanese container. Since then more Toad Lilies have begun to flower, so it seemed only natural to feature them again. I made two arrangements related to some of the comments readers of my blog made on that bouquet.
A number of people commented on the size and my restraint in limiting the number of flowers. So here is an equally small arrangement using the top few inches of Tricyrtis formosana, a variety that is narrow and very vertical. The leaves are from various Heucherellas.
I consider these vases as one unit when I use them. So I am always looking for a theme that will provide a little leeway but not enough to cause visual confusion. The Toad Lily stem on the left gives the best indication of what this plant looks like in the garden. The other stems were cut short, close to the top group of flowers.
I use the vase below more than any other I own. It is a Japanese Usubata for Ikebana, most likely from the Meiji period, c. 1868-1912. The wide top — with a built in cup to hold water — lifts off and you can flip the body of the vase, so the curve can be at the top or bottom. It's beautiful without flowers, but its weight and size (9" high x 12" wide) mean it can hold a big, heavy bouquet with ease. So here is my more-is-more bouquet but limited to Tricyrtis (T. hirta 'Miyazaki') and two stems of Heuchera flowers.
To see what kinds of arrangements other gardens have created today, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden who hosts this Monday meme.
It seems to be the time of year when many of the bloggers I follow are all assessing their container gardens. Some have pots by the door, on the deck, window boxes or a bit of everything. Sometimes a lot of everything. My pots probably look sad by comparison. But I don't want the distraction of bright color in the foreground taking attention away from the view.
That means any deck pots have to be subdued, both the containers themselves and the contents. The best way for me to get the effect I want is with foliage. The deck is currently home to a pair of Hostas as well as Acers, Orchids summering outdoors, Heucheras with burgundy foliage and two tiny evergreens waiting to be permanently planted.
The Japanese maples are Acer palmatum 'Mikawa Yatsubusa'. They are nine years old and should be 3-4 feet tall and a bit wider at ten years old. Clearly they were unhappy where they were growing, so I decided to turn them into pot plants. I am going to overwinter them in the garage to see if they fare better under these circumstances.
On the left below is Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Cumulus' which will become a cloud of blue foliage about one foot high in ten years! Its neighbor is Thuja occidentals 'Rheingold' which will get to be 3-5 feet high and wide in ten years. I bought these little guys locally at Bruce Company for $12 each. They were in a section of the nursery devoted to plants that could be used for bonsai or for fairly gardens. I'm not interested in either of those garden genres but they were a great price for shrubs. Now I just have to wait ten years!
Last year I spent a lot of garden dollars and energy on ways to reduce maintenance in the garden. I added lots of hardy trees and shrubs, more bulbs but fewer perennials. At Jeff Epping's recent talk about lower maintenance in mixed border, he pointed out that annuals and potted plants are among the highest maintenance parts of the garden. At Olbrich they have stunning containers — like this pot of annuals sitting in a bed of annuals!
I love this tender succulent in a pot set in a garden bed. But we've gone the opposite route with containers in our garden.
We've left them empty of anything that needs attention. For a few years I put a piece of chicken wire in the opening of this pot and filled it with all the pine cones I picked up in the garden. Now that we've lost two of the three Austrian pines in that corner of the garden, I just leave the pot empty. A big statement with no effort — other that wheeling the pot up there in the spring from its winter storage area.
This low bowl has sat in many locations in the garden; sometimes empty and sometimes filled with water for the birds. An easy water feature and another painless way to take up garden space without sacrificing color or drama.
Ceramic pots make elegant statements in the garden and add welcome contrast to any planting. Almost all the big pots we own were purchased to be put out in the garden.
At his talk, Jeff Epping pointed out that shrubs take up garden space and that is one way to lower the level of maintenance in your garden. We've used that concept and planted lots of shrubs, especially yew and box, But we've also taken that idea one step further: using stone as focal points. They take up space and never need pruning. They provide a strong contrast no matter what plants you place near them. Once they grow a bit of lichen and moss they also give a garden a sense of age.
In recent years we've also replaced most of our wood chip paths with gravel, which rarely needs more than a bit of topping off perhaps every five years or so. In fact, the bark in the above photo has been replaced with dark gray gravel. We've also put in stone paths like the one below that has required little attention in the many years its been in place.
Later this spring we're replacing the grassy slope that runs the length of our driveway with a stone wall. Though we'll make sure to leave a few planting spaces, this is not going to be a rock garden. That would be adding a whole new garden to develop and take care of — which rather defeats the use of stone as a lower maintenance tactic.
So far this year, we've been having an easy winter. Not as much snow as normal and enough warmer days to make the really cold ones bearable. What we have had lots of, however, are gray skies and clouds. Rather than let it depress me, I decided to "make lemonade" and embrace the gray outdoors in my interior decor. I shopped the basement and the art closet and brought out all of my favorite neutral objects and am letting them play together on a pair of Chinese wine tables at one end of the living room.
As I mentioned in my post about "winter interest" in the garden, I love the view of our garden gate in the snow so much that I have a framed photograph of it. It's sitting out next to an equally snowy picture of my sister's house in Vermont. They both have white mats and white frames making them even more wintry. An abstract sculpture of Mark's seemed like a fitting companion.
The grouping includes two figures made of out bone and a wood-fired clay teapot with branch handles made by our friends Tony and Renee Gebauer of TR Pottery in Fish Creek (Door County, WI).
There's a tiny clay angel holding a dove and a pair of unmatched raku vases by the late, great Wisconsin potter, John Natale. Those two pots, along with a piece by Natale's wife potter Kerry Chaplin, are among my most treasured possessions. Two talented artists who tragically died too young.
Our Thai cave monk has returned from his holiday exile to stand watch over us again.
This mostly gray and white grouping also includes a rock with Aboriginal designs, a siver cup with mother-of-pearl "flowers" and a little raku bowl with gilding.
Those little pearl flowers are on metal wire and form the decor on a napkin ring. I bought one thinking it would make a funky little bouquet. But a friend recently commented that I should have got more so I could use the flowers in fiber art projects. It's such a tempting idea, I may just disassemble this lone example!
Not really part of the arrangment in gray and white is this grouping (below) of aged and bleached deer bones and one of my favorites of our collection of African masks. This group sits on the lower glass shelf of one of wine tables.
A view of the entire group of objects. Perhaps one of these days it will be time to replace the painting. But that is a lot of work and we keep putting it off.
Since my holiday decor this year included lots of glass and silver, my ittala candlesticks and galvanized stars are able to remain in place a while longer.
Every fall one of the biggest jobs in our garden is rounding up our collection of big ceramic pots and getting them out of harm's way for the winter. Some move into the house for a change of decor, some into the basement or garage. But it has always meant a lot of rearranging to make space for them just as we need to deal with other seasonal house and garden chores. This year they have a new, dedicated space all their own.
When Mark built this new gate earlier this year, he cleared out the area between the end of the house, the fence and the gate to create an organized storage area. Not long ago, he surprised me with this sturdy wooden shelving unit designed to hold most of the garden pots. As long as they don't get water inside them that can crack them with the stress of freezing and thawing, they can stay outdoors. As added insurance they'll get a layer of plastic over them as well.
Across the path are a potting/work table, wheelbarrows and hoses. There are also 8 bags of chopped leaves and the same amount of bagged white pine needles all ready for Spring; one to mulch the beds and the other to refresh the paths.
On June 2nd, I planted a pair of boxwoods in the pots on our deck and mulched them with pine cones. Ten days later I pulled them out of the planters and put them in the garden to replace the boxwoods that had succumbed over the winter. The boxoods on the deck looked nice but were being shaded out by surrounding trees.
It makes much more sense to fill the pots with Hostas which are better suited to the the light conditions. Hosta Abiqua Drinking Gourd is large scale, heavily cupped and a beautiful dusty blue which will add a bit of color and light to that area of the deck.
Hostas will also be so much easier to plunk into a holding bed for the winter. Cut back the leaves and you just have a root ball to contend with instead of three foot tall boxwoods that need to be hefted out the pots and lugged across the garden to their their winter bed.
Every year we put a pair of Boxwoods in pots on our deck. In the early years, I used our shredded leaf mulch to top off the pots — which the squirrels loved. A few years ago I got the idea to "mulch" the pots with our collection of stones that we've gathered on vacation and various hikes. Using them in that fashion made it seem less crazy that we owned boxes of rocks!
This year I decided to try mulching the pots with pine cones, an idea I admit I saw on Pinterest. I put down a layer of leaf mulch and then topped it off with pine cones I'd picked up all over the garden during spring clean-up. They are mainly from Austrian and white pines. The first day the squirrels tossed a number of the cones about. Then they displaced one cone per pot for a couple of days and now they seem to have lost interest. And using a different "mulch" has piqued my interest, since it gives our traditional deck pots a new look at no expense.
Note: This post will stay at the top of the page until the sale is over. Scroll down to see newer posts, including GARDEN BLOGGERS BLOOM DAY for 5/15/14.
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The Orchard Ridge neighborhood holds a garage sale in even years. We last participated in 2010 just before we did some remodeling in the the library. Now Mark is getting ready to build himself a wood shop in the basement. That means more must go. We're trying to be rigorous about what we keep. Thus we've consinged a number of quality treasures to the sale, as you can tell from the photos below. Some of the items not pictured include a 70-300 lens, a Schwin #103 exercise bike, an oversize Anthropologie scrapbook in decorative archival box, and a drawing table. Feel free to share this info with friends.
SALE OF ART, ANTIQUES AND ASSORTED QUIRKY AND USEFUL ITEMS
5805 HAMMERSLEY ROAD IN MADISON
FRIDAY AND SATURDAY, MAY 16 AND 17
8 A.M. TO 3 P.M.
RAIN OR SHINE
Antiques, including this 19th C. Chinese horseshoe chair, large painted Swedish trunk, and other small painted trunks. The chair, made of Elm wood, came from Linden's and the Chinese government no longer allows items of this age to be taken out of the country. We've owned it a dozen years.
The trunk has its original paint and came from Century House. We've had it ten years.
As artists and collectors, we have more art than we will ever be able to display. So we are selling what we consider a nice selection, including paintings, drawings, woodcuts and other prints, collages, studio ceramics, and African masks. Not pictured are a small African figurative sculpture and a large Dogon wall mask with a curving horn. 2-d art includes a framed pastel drawing of a group of pears and a Chinese watercolor of Koi and water plants.
A small oil painting
A large woodcut portrait of artist Max Beckman. Most of the woodcuts are matted. This one is matted and framed.
If you know us, then you know we are obsessive collectors of ceramics, mostly wood-fired. Lots of lovely stuff here! Teabowls by mainly Midwestern potters including Bill Farrell (who taught at the school of the Chicago Art Institute for many years) and Michael Schael of Rock Eagle Pottery to name two.
Tea with the King and Queen! A George VI coronation cup (1937) with his image, that of the late Queen Mum and their daughters Margaret and Elizabeth (the current Queen). An unusual teapot by Gib Strawn of NIU on the left, a beautifully balanced pot on the right by Mark Skudlarek of Cambridge Woodfired Pottery, and a very dark green 19th C. American jug.
One of Bruce Howdell's famous ceramic ears of corn, a set of four drinking glasses from The Potter's Wheel in Door County, and a footed storage container.
A large South East Asian garden pot, assorted garden tools, a stone sculpture of a skein of yarn and flower vases of many sizes and shapes. Here are a few samples, from the left: a cachepot decorated with irises from the Madison Art Fair circa 1970s, Delft blue vase (Hall China??), a contemporary sphere vase by potter Glen Cutcher, a small porcelain cachepot from a Chautauqua, NY artist. In front is a china vase made by the Grimwades Davenport firm in Britain in the 1880s.
Americana, including a bucket of square nails,
A bit of glitz and glitter. The basket is from the old Seed Savers Exchange store on Monroe St.
A touch of whimsey: A silver-leafed light bulb, a ceramic glove mold, a milky glass vase and an unusual signed baseball. Enlarge the image to read the signatures.
And a number of practical items as well like these hand-held fans to keep you cool once the hot weather arrives. Antique, advertising, ethnic styles including feathers and sandlewood.
And a few retro items including the Electrolux vacuum cleaner(w/attachments) from the 1950s. This belonged to my grandmother and I used it until we got new carpet a few years ago and I decided to get an equally new vacuum.