Sunday, October 31, 2010

Preparing for Winter

It's that time of year again when the tropicals need to come inside for the winter.  Some of them will go back outside next summer in containers; others, like the banana above, are simply too big to (1) move without a crane, or (2) fit in any of the existing containers.  This banana grew from a one gallon pot in May to its current size (about 6 feet) sitting at the pool.  I put it directly into the ground in the greenhouse, where I'm hoping it will live permanently.  In that particular spot, it's very sunny and it's directly under the peak of the roof, so there is about 20 feet of clearance.

All of those plastic containers behind the banana tree are floating plants that we took out of the koi ponds on Friday.  They are really marginal for winter hardiness in Atlanta, so I'm going to try overwintering them inside.  They multiply faster than hellebores or cleome, but for some reason the garden centers charge $4 to $6 per plant, and I need at least fifty of each (water lettuce and water hyacinth) to look like anything. We'll see what happens.  They're going in a prettier container, with a water circulating pump, so hopefully we won't have bug issues. 
The bourganvilla, above, also came out of one of the containers at the pool. They do beautifully here in summer, but aren't winter hardy for us.  I'm hoping to leave this one in the greenhouse permanently, as well, and that it will start to climb up toward the ceiling.  For anyone who hasn't had success with this plant blooming, the secret we learned this year is to keep it jammed in its original pot (from the garden center), and put that pot into the container you're using, along with any other plants.  It likes to be rootbound, and  fertilized at least once a month to bloom heavily. 
Alocasia "Portadora," above, is a favorite of mine.  I'm afraid it's at its ultimate height for a container plant here.  I'd love to see it grow bigger, but I don't have any other convenient spots in the greenhouse where I can put it directly into the ground.  This is one of three that I have from the original bulb purchased two years ago, so it's worth the $25 for the bulb.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ode to the Chinese Pistache

Every once in a while there is a scene that is simply beautiful, with absolutely no input from the gardener.  I think this shot of the pistache against an incredibly blue sky falls into that category.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Life in the Firing Range

When I built the "not shed," it was spring.  It has been positively delightful all spring and summer, consistently ten degrees cooler than the rest of the garden.  When it has rained, the gentle pitter patter of raindrops on the tin roof are really wonderful.

It is now fall.  In fall, the acorns FALL!!!!!  It is anything but a gentle pitter patter.  The noise could wake the dead.....Thank goodness the "not shed" is closer to my neighbors' houses than it is to mine! 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Front Door at the Big House Dressed for Autumn and Winter

If you click on this photo and enlarge it, you'll see that it really isn't as "Christmas" as it would appear.  We did use the slender hinoki in those big pots, because they'll be incredible done up for Christmas later in the season.  The "Antique Shades" pansy tends to look washed out sometimes against this brick (it's a terra cotta shade of brick), but I'm please with how it's playing off the Tuscan kale and the fading Limelight Hydrangeas.  Let's hope Missus agrees....

Another Autumn Container....this is going slowly for some reason....

I haven't figured out yet what I'm doing differently, but Blogger seems to only let me upload one photo at a time....not sure why, but here's another container for fall.  It's right outside the window in Missus' office, so hopefully something nice for her to look at until it gets really cold.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Autumn Container

For some reason only one photo would upload when I started this post, so I guess that's all you'll see until tomorrow.  One of the fall containers at the Big House, looking very tailored by comparison to the summer things we recently removed.  "Silver King" Euonymus is definitely not a plant I would put into the ground (a scale-making machine, in my experience), but it's great for winter color.  "Antique Shades" pansy, variegated liriope, and a few other fillers. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

She Heard Me Talking......

We're in the midst of redoing all of the containers with fall and winter arrangements, and try to do them all at the same time (at least all of them in one area of the property), so there is a consistent theme and color running through the whole area.  For the past several days, we've been working around the pool. 

With each change of season, Patti and I do "the dance" about which things should be left "just a few (hours, days, weeks) longer" because they are still blooming.  As much as I can often agree, I am also sensitive to making sure things get switched out so the new plants have enough time to become established before cold weather hits.

On Saturday, it really did bother me to remove the Brugmansia "Betty Marshall" so that the Camellia could be installed in that space for winter.  Clearly Betty heard me say her death was impending a few days early, because the bloom was simply incredible!  Unfortunately my sensible side won out, but what a swan song for this summer season!  I'm justifying it by reminding myself that I'm only putting Betty to sleep for the winter, and after a few months of resting in a bucket of water, she'll be back, better than ever!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

In the Home Stretch.....

We're at the 5000 mark with the pansies at the Big House.  Seven of us working again today to get those finished, and start on some of the fall/winter containers.  Photos coming soon, but for now I'm just cranky and tired.......

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Autumn Beauties

While we've all been busy planting pansies and winter annuals, there are certain plants that just do their own things, and really become show stoppers in the garden at this time of year.  I was walking around the garden at the Big House early this morning, and snapped a few random shots of things I thought looked particularly good.

The rose "Bella Roma" seems to like it a bit cooler, and really comes into its own when the night time temperatures drop for a couple of weeks.
As "pedestrian" as Crape Myrtle can be, there aren't a lot of plants that are this little maintenance for this much interest in all seasons! 
Old-fashioned sweetgum, definitely not a favorite tree, really shows off its color in October and November.  It still has a terrible form and drops those nasty balls all over the place, but gets a little forgiveness from me in autumn. 
Pitcher plant in the bog, below. 
Juniper "Lime Glow" is showing off its color in this planter with variegated ivy. 
Pineapple sage has such a delightful fragrance every time one walks nearby.  It is planted this close to the gate on purpose, since each time the gate opens, it releases its fragrance. 
Rose "Sharif Asma" has a beautiful fragrance, and is underplanted with prostrate rosemary, so the combination is overwhelming when pruning. 
The orange-flowered Osmanthus just glows right now. 
Tricyrtis is looking beautiful all over the garden! 
Even the Wal-Mart zinnias are looking pretty fabulous! 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

I Don't Know Why They Talk About Us.......

We started installing the pansies at the Big House on Friday, and I have to say they look pretty amazing.  It has become almost a competition amongst the great people who work with me there, to see who has the best-looking finished beds. The latest is that each individual pansy needs to be planteded with its biggest blooms facing in the same direction....honestly, that's THEIR rule, not mine!  After the first thousand or so, we need to find ways to entertain ourselves in what would otherwise be a pretty dull job!

Speaking of entertaining ourselves, one of the houses in an adjoining subdivision was having a yard sale Friday morning, and they were just setting up when we got to work.  They clearly didn't know about Patti's Halloween fetish when they put out a witch's hat for only a dime!  And how can one wear a witch's hat without a vintage fuschia bicycle to match?  Eight o'clock in the morning, and she's riding up and down the street.......

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Tintinhull Garden

The last garden we visited on the England trip was Tintinhull, which is a small National Trust property near Montacute House. It was not on our original list, but was recommended by Keith and David at Westbrook House B & B. Tintinhull Garden is, in a word, "delightful."

The National Trust refers to it as one of England's most "harmonious" gardens, and I would have to agree.  With each step through this garden, there is an incredible sense of peace and tranquility.  
What is also quickly apparent is that, since this garden is not huge, every detail matters in a major way.  Nothing is done casually in this garden of several "rooms." 
The sensibility of color is just stunning, developed by the property's owner of many years, Phyllis Reiss, and then enhanced by long-time renter Penelope Hobhouse. 
Frank asked if we could have a vegetable garden like this if we took down a couple of trees to create more sunny space at home......yes, of course, with six more acres and a few hundred thousand dollars.....imagine the pleasure of bordering one's vegetable beds with those long rows of lavender! 
The mixed border as seen across the lily pond, below. 
This photo below is one of my favorites.  I'm not sure that one can ever achieve "perfection" in design, but this certainly comes close in my book! 
Don't you just love this contemporary work comprised of several umbrellas, appearing to roll across the lawn??

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Montacute House

 From the beginning of our trip, Montacute House in Somerset had been on my "maybe" list. It is between Hestercombe and our b & b, but when I got the guidebook from the National Trust, there were 58 pages devoted to the house, and just 6 to the garden....

David and Keith from Westbrook House both recommended Montacute highly, so we took their advice and visited this beautiful property.  It was definitely worth the visit!  The house is just exquisite, particularly the long gallery, which has an amazing collection of portraits on loan from the National Portrait Gallery.  Frank happens to have an incredible sense of color (go figure, since he colors hair for a living.....), and was just blown away by the intensity of color and texture in painting that are hundreds of years old.  The visit to the Long Gallery gave a great opportunity to see these portraits in a very intimate setting.  Since visitors are allowed to photograph everyone in the house except in the Long Gallery, going inside the house also gave great photo opportunities showing the gardens from angles the Phelps family would have shared.
The "Wibbly Wobbly Hedge" and Orangery, below, made a cameo appearance in the movie "Sense and Sensibility"
The North Garden, below, seems to go on forever.
A pretty fabulous view from the front door of the house is shown below.
The East Garden with its famous "Pudding Houses." 
I think I'm going toconstruct some fabulous building in the garden at the Stepchild just to eat dessert you think my "Not Shed" would work?

The Pansy Train is in The House!

It's the time of year to switch the annual color  beds at the Big House from summer to winter.  Today the first shipment of pansies arrived, 2700 of them to be exact.  They were accompanied by another 540 miscellaneous "fluff" plants that go into annual beds and containers.  Most of the big container things arrive tomorrow and Friday.  What's a little intimidating is that it all needs to be installed before next Wednesday when the second shipment of pansies arrives on what Patti calls "the pansy train" to follow in a few days I hope!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


We saved a couple of great gardens for our last full day in England, one of which is Hestercombe, in Taunton.  It is a grand estate which has seen some better days, but is now into its 11th year of a MAJOR restoration, and the results so far are nothing short of extraordinary!  Just as we started our stroll around the property, we were greeted by fleabane, one of my new favorite flowers, spilling over a beautiful old staircase.  From that point, I knew I would love Hestercombe.
The photo below is the first glimpse of the Edwardian garden, designed by Lutyens with plantings designed by Gertrude Jekyll.  This little vignette is silver upon blue, upon white, upon blue.......just stunning!
Here is a wide view of this garden, which Frank immediately decided was his favorite of all we had visited.  This was my first visit to a garden actually done by Lutyens and Jekyll, and it was clear why the pair has the reputation they still possess long after their deaths.  It is very hard to put one's finger upon what makes it such a special garden, but it just is.  The contrast between the precise architecture and the exuberant planting is just overwhelming!
Here is a closeup of the blood red gladiola bed edged with bergenia.
The swan, below, was a complete ham, and seemed to love having his photo taken.
A Lutyens bench, designed and placed by Lutyens himself.
Decorative finials atop the gates to the Dutch garden.
An almost hidden gate which leads up a rustic staircase to the Edwardian garden from a lower level.
A wall fountain which leads into a rill that cuts through the Edwardian garden.  Again, the precision is just breathtaking in what initally appears simple
A penstemon that is now on my "most wanted list".

This is definitely a garden worth visiting, and it's also worth visiting the website to read more about the history and restoration
.....I've shown only a tiny portion of the gardens at Hestercombe.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Stourhead Landscape Garden

I have to preface this post by stating that I was intent upon not enjoying Stourhead, and put it on our itinerary simply because so many bloggers, websites, etc., had said it was a "must see" garden.  I am now officially eating my words, and have joined the ranks of those who say Stourhead is a place you definitely need to visit at least once.

For starters, the property is ridiculously big (2650 acres), and is uniquely sited in its own sheltered valley.  It is, for good reason, considered one of the finest examples of 18th century landscape gardening still in existence.  The category of "landscape garden" is one of the reasons I had decided I wouldn't like it.  I'm clearly into flowers, borders, and the like, and am clear that I will never own 2650 acres on which to garden.  Stourhead has no flower borders and no cutting garden.  What is has, though, are simply breath-taking views in every direction! 

As an example, this Temple is treated as a garden ornament at Stourhead.  It's the size of my house!  It comes in and out of view at several vantage points throughout the property.
This lake was created as another "decoration" in the mid 1700's.

Another shot of the Temple, below. 
 Another view one encounters while strolling the grounds, below.
Frank (the non-gardener) also adored Stourhead, and was delighting to find a focused ray of warm sunshine on this chilly morning.  (He was a saint on this trip, not complaining once!)