Monday, May 31, 2010

Containers at the Big House

I get asked regularly about the different components of containers, so I've put this in as larger photos.  As always, you can click on them to make them larger.

This first one is of the "white bridge," which is perhaps the hardest to construct technically.  The large (56") wire baskets hang on the sides of the bridge.  This side is dappled sun most of the day, and the other side is shade, so it's always a challenge to come up with a combination that works well through the summer.

At the pool, there are lots of tropicals this year.  In this grouping, the most noticeable plants are the bourganvillea, ginger, and Malva "Zebrina," that Tom at Seventh Street recommended.

At the garage, it's incredibly bright, but no direct sun, so I've had good luck with the Australian Tree Fern the past couple of summers.  Acuba likes it here, as well.

The banana and oleander are just starting to come into their own.  When summer comes and we're consistently hot, these guys go crazy!
Pots of Lemongrass flank the gate to the walled garden.  It requires a ladder to cut any for cooking, but it's really "all about the look."
At the front door, the Majesty palm is just starting to take off from the heat, as well.  This is a western exposure, so mostly shade, then blistering sun for a couple of hours in the late afternoon.  These containers get a lot of attention and turning, and some of the tougher things are specifically placed to block sun from burning the begonias and other delicate plants.  

A wider shot of the front door plantings.

Feel free to steal any ideas you'd like.  If you can't figure out particular plants from a photo, don't hesitate to ask.  (But please don't lift my photos without at least giving me credit.....)

Sunday Morning at the Big House

Some miscellaneous shots from the garden at the Big House Sunday morning.  It's been very humid for the past few days, with intermittent downpours, so the plants are loving life!

It's a big property, so little vignettes like the tiny concrete bunny are favorite details.  This light actually works, which is just beautiful at night.
The clematis is up and over the boxwood and nandina.  The nandina will need some pruning soon, but for now it's looking pretty awesome.
The orchids are in their summer home under the pines in the woodland area.
A favorite Asiatic lily.  I don't know its name, but it's a beautiful ivory, with the very slightest peach blush
A basket of bromeliads and succulents that spends the summer on the screened porch.  It requires almost no attention, and mostly lives on atmospheric moisture.
Enjoy the rest of the holiday weekend!

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Visit with Carlos Montano

I needed to go to the other side of Atlanta yesterday to pick up something from Casa Montano, which is the studio and shop of Carlos Montano.  I was only slightly familiar with Carlos' work, and had never met him in person.  What an incredible adventure it turned out to be!

After getting only a little lost on the way, Patti and I arrived at Casa Montano, which is a cinderblock building in a very "mixed" neighborhood of small businesses and residences.  Once inside, however, one is immediately captivated by the artful soul of the place.

Every surface of this industrial space is covered with exquisitely beautiful objects, whether they are Carlos' own work, those of his late colleague Christine Sibley, religious icons from his native Mexico, or giant prints of classical works of art.  Since I am very tactile by nature, I was like a kid in a candy store!

Carlos is very soft-spoken, and very humble about his work.  At the same time, he excitedly moved from room to room in this rabbit warren of rooms,  pointing out the tiniest items and from his hometown in the mountains of Mexico that remind him of his roots, a fragment of an ancient arrowhead he picked up on a walk in Guatamala,  a tiny piece of gilded molding from a demolished building in Paris......each item picked up clearly has a strong emotional value for him.

In any case, I picked up the things I needed to get, and then started to shop for myself.  If I had been carrying a credit card with me, I definitely could have gotten into trouble!  Patti was as bad as I was.  (The plaque in the top photo is hers).  Here are some photos from yesterday's adventure.  Once I've hung the treasures I bought for myself, I'll post more photos.

If you are in the Atlanta area, you owe it to yourself to visit Casa Montano, which is in Fairburn, GA.  Since Carlos doesn't ship, those of you in other places simply need to get in the car and drive down here!

Hydrangea Palooza

It's no secret that I really like hydrangeas of most every type, and they're peaking at the moment in the Stepchild Garden.  Here are a few from yesterday morning:
Lanarth's White is a beautiful lacecap

Lilacina is a great white mophead with a blue cast

Mme Emile Mouillere is almost being pulled down to the great by the weight of its own blooms this year!

Pia can sometimes be a little garish, but it stays this great pink (even in Georgia clay!), and is a dwarf
and, finally, this is the pink lacecap we dug out of Renee's ditch last year!  Pretty cool for a "rescue," huh?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Stepchild Garden This Morning

A few random shots from my walk this morning with Sadie the Dog.

This first one is Fallopia japonica, which everybody seems to ask about.  It's a great groundcover that grows about a foot tall.  Can be a little agressive, but it's beautiful running between conifers and evergreens.
Hyacinth Bean shares a trellis with "Madison" jasmine.  I just love the color of these flowers as I pull into the driveway!  I don't use chemicals on them, so it's sometimes a battle between me and the little critters who seem to like them as much as I do.
My classical lady is looking a little more Jamaican, with her dreadlocks of Creeping Jenny.
The olive jars near the front door are filling in nicely with New Guinea impatiens, Creeping Jenny and Jacob's Ladder "Stairway to Heaven"
Poppies in various stages of opening and passing.....
A few too many "spikey" things in the perennial bed, but I think the color combination is pretty cool.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Celia Thaxter's Garden

I was puttering around the Stepchild Garden today, and came across a couple of new (but antique) annuals that I've used this year, directly as a result of our visit to Celia Thaxter's garden last summer. I'm not going to bore you with another recounting of what an INCREDIBLE place this is to visit, but I would encourage you to enter "Celia Thaxter" into the Search Box above the masthead, and read the post about our trip there last summer.
This photo is 10 miles off the coast of New often to you see the ocean that calm???

I can't say enough about what an amazing place this is to visit, and the point of this post is to remind you that you need to have a reservation, and IT IS ONLY OPEN 8 DAYS PER YEAR!

I won't lie and say that it is easy to get there, but it's worth all the effort.   The garden is located on Appledore Island, off the coast of New Hampshire; Appledore is leased to Cornell as a marine laboratory, so that is part of the visit to the island, as well.  All I can say is MAKE IT YOUR BUSINESS TO VISIT THIS GARDEN!  The link to their website is

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Day for Catching Up at the Big House Garden

Today was one of the first really blistering hot days we've had this year, but which I'm sure we'll have many more of as the summer goes on.  It was a reminder that summer is coming to Atlanta, and it's the price we pay for having such mild (usually....) winters.  I'm still more than happy to put up with this heat than the winter snows of New England.

Chuck and I got an early start at the Big House garden, when the air was still cool and damp (low 60's).  It's always fairly quiet in that garden, but for some reason on Sundays it seems particularly so.  We were each doing our own thing in different parts of the garden, so it was an opportunity to just enjoy the garden and the quiet.

Even though this is a time of year when things are visibly growing every day, we're at the point now of having a little bit of time to step back, clean and organize.  The greenhouse is 99% empty, with just the last of the plants there that live there permanently.   The huge alcocasia and begonia are each planted in "elderly" containers that can't be moved.  They are both pretty major background players in winter, but seem a little lonely now.  Next week we'll do "the big clean" of the greenhouse to get rid of any winter funk that might still be around.
This was also my morning to start some ruthless thinning in the perennial bed in the walled garden.  When it was installed four years ago, the wish was for "instant full," AKA lots of invasives.  Today was time to tear out lots of hooligan rudbeckia, New England asters that are completely out of control, verbena bonarensis and the like.  By 10:30 this morning, the sun was up and it was already getting a little unbearable in those beds.

At the pond, the koi are loving the fact that the water is now safely above 70 degrees, and they're at their most active.  As much as my logical side says, "They're just fish," I find it very entertaining that they will immediately come up to me when I walk up to the edge of the ponds.  I think it's something about their association of food with the fat guy with the blue shirts.....Anyway, I got a few new plants installed, a giant blue lobelia and a dwarf cattail in the bog (that's the only cleaning system....we're chemical free), and a pretty awesome tropical water lily called "Starbright" in the big pond.  It was my own little version of swimming with the stingrays to walk in the pond, having the big fish fully comfortable approaching me to see what I was doing.  I think they were all a little disappointed I was only bearing flowers today......
The Dwarf Cattail and the Blue Lobelia for the bog, above, and the new apricot water lily called "Starbright," below.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

It's Ba-a-a-a-a-ack!

If you've been reading this blog for any period of time, you'll know that I have a fair number of "exuberant" plants in my garden at home, the type that others might refer to as "invasive."...things like Tetrapanax, Fillopia, Verbena Bonarensis, and my personal favorite, Cleome.  I happen to love them, and since most of these have very distinctive leaves, I simply thin them accordingly when I get too many.

On the Tour last weekend, I even identified them as such, so that the "Native Plant Nazis" wouldn't start yelling at me about not properly educating Tour-goers who also found those plants pretty.  (This yellow sign identifies the Tetrapanax as an exuberant plant, to use with caution....)
I was just telling Patti yesterday that I need to go through and thin out five or six thousand cleome seedlings that are overtaking the perennial bed.  Luckily I didn't get to it yesterday with all the rain.  The cleome is just coming into bloom by the mailbox, and it is, as always, just beautiful!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Saying Goodbye to The Gaudy Garden

For those of you who follow Jim's blog, The Gaudy Garden, I'm sure you're aware that he is winding down his blog, and will stop writing very soon.  As someone who has followed his writing for more than a year, I want to publicly thank him for sharing his incredible knowledge of roses (and other plants, as well) for this amount of time. 

I, like many people, follow lots of blogs, but we all have a few select ones that we go to first.  For me, The Gaudy Garden has been one of those.  At times Jim has had me rolling on the floor laughing with some of his off-the-cuff comments, and at other times looking through reference books to find out more information about something he's discussed on his page.  I am pretty good at gardening, but always hunt out those who know more than I about particular plants when it's time to shop for "The Stepchild Garden" at my house, or those in which I work.  Consistently Jim's information and recommendations have been right on target.

In my own garden, the absence of Jim's writing will leave a hole that I'm not sure can be filled.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Chuck's Garden

I was flipping through the gazillion photos Chuck took of my garden over the weekend, and encountered some pictures of his own house which were at the beginning of his group.  He is terribly modest about his garden and his gardening skills, but over the course of the past couple of years, Chuck's garden has been developing into a really beautiful spot.  We have completely different tastes and styles of gardening, but it's a pretty fabulous view across the street in the morning! 

He says he doesn't know anything about gardening, but has a conifer collection........

Monday, May 17, 2010

Some Early Morning Shots

Almost out of photos from the tour on Saturday, but here are some close ups of things people have asked about. As always, you can click to make them bigger.  First, the ajuga bed with Carolyn's topiary teddy bears:               
Here is the very cool "Boardwalk" that Chuck fashioned to go under the arbor.  This area is pretty low in the yard, and collects water whenever it rains.  I had reached that, "I'm not spending any more money!  Just add pinestraw!" point, when Chuck decided this was a better solution.  He was definitely right!
This is the end of the wine bottle border.  Couldn't come up with a clever way of ending it, but I think this worked pretty well.  (It's one giant tree root in this area, so digging wasn't an option).
The "Shade Walk" is really just the utilitarian side of the house where all of the utility meters and such are mounted.  The old flower cart loaded with houseplants did the trick pretty well.  Thanks to Carol C for assembling all the junk in my garage into something pretty!
Yesterday we had 50 people or so here for a "shorts and flip flops" casual lunch to celebrate the birthday, so I'm getting off to a slow start this morning.  I guess it's time to get moving......have a great day!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

They Came, They Saw, They Were All Incredibly Nice People

Having heard horror stories from others who had hosted such things in the past, I was so delightfully happy to meet so many really cool people!  Phyllis orchestrated things in such a way that my only job was visiting with people and hanging out, and it made it a really great day for Frank and me. 

Someone asked me about the tie dye.  Phyllis is a slightly reformed hippie, and made these tie-dyed shirts for the volunteer docents, and designed them around Malva "Zebrina," which Tom at Seventh Street had recommended I try this year.  Since I rarely wear t-shirts and tend to have these oversized camp shirts as my daily uniform, Phyllis made a custom tie-dyed camp shirt for me....pretty chic, I think......

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Gates are Closed

The Cobb MG Tour was today, and seemed to be a huge success.  I didn't get to any of the other gardens today, but the unofficial "gate total" at my house was just under 800 people.  There were an additional 25 or so neighbors who "stopped in," so let's just say it was a little busy around here for the past few hours!  We just finished "mojito time" with some of the volunteers, and I'm able to kick back with Sadie the Dog on the sofa. 

In this first photo, Phyllis (my friend and "house captain) enjoying the breakfast of champions before the crowds hit.
The patio table was set, though who had time to sit?
Carolyn's succulent pillow enhanced the purple chair perfectly!

Even Frank got into the act, working as the parking captain with a Barbie wave!
Another shot of the patio
Then the crowds came......more photos to follow.....