Monday, September 27, 2010

Public Art: a Fantasy Fiber Garden

An urban construction site + a group of crafty women = a different kind of garden! 

A danger garden, of sorts...

Fantasy flowers and foliage grace a temporary construction fence.

Fabulous shadows!
This color saturated acrylic yarn is not something I would want to wear, but it's held up well here for several months now

It's different, it's colorful, and it's fun. Well done!
Next time you're near Denver's Union Station or Riverfront area, stop by and smell the roses.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Afternoon Garden Club 9.24.2010

It’s FAC time in The Art Garden!  Grab your favorite beverage and pull up a chair.  You didn’t really want to work this afternoon anyway, did you?  Leave a comment to join the garden party.
Today’s topic:
I've got grapes! Do you? What's your favorite way to use them? Has anyone ever made wine with their own grapes (I think mine are Concord, but I'm not positive)? I'd love to hear about your experience!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Renovation: the Evolution of a Garden - Garden Designers Roundtable

Members of the Garden Designers Roundtable are discussing landscape and garden renovations today.  I hope you enjoy the conversation!

When I hear the word renovation I immediately think: evolution. Landscapes change immensely over time, as do the needs and desires of those who use the space.  A new landscape is a leap of faith that is built with the anticipation that a particular vision will be fulfilled. When a garden is first installed, the hardscape is pristine and we can’t wait for the plants to grow to their full potential.  Over time, however, what seemed to be a perfect plan becomes, instead, a perfect storm of changes that no longer work for us practically or aesthetically.

Here are a few of the clues I look for when assessing a landscape for renovation:
Growing conditions
  • Plants are no longer blooming or their growth is elongated/spindly because their once sunny setting is now shaded. (Or the opposite; shade has been replaced by sun.)
  • Plants are encroaching on walkways, windows, roof lines, etc., because they’ve outgrow their designated space.
  • Plants are stressed due to water restrictions and/or irrigation failure.
 Hardscape conditions
  • Damaged or uneven surfaces that present a hazard to moving through the space
  • Failed retaining walls
  • Faded, stained, or discolored surfaces.
  • Broken or sagging fences, gates, arbors, or stairs
  • Drainage problems
 Human conditions
  • Changes in lifestyle
  • Changes in aesthetic tastes
  • Changes in gardening interests and/or values
  • Changes in physical capabilities
 My job, as a professional landscape designer, is to find solutions to these situations that can incorporate as much of the existing landscape as possible (I don’t classify an entire scrape-off as a renovation), and that meet the goals of the owner. In the following example, the homeowners’ primary concerns were to enhance their entryway, create easy access throughout the landscape, and develop a large vegetable garden.  Here are a few before and after photographs of the project, which was installed by the owners from my design.
Before:  a welcoming entry and a seating area were lacking
After: a new deck/porch and...
... an entry walk, and refreshed garden plantings

Before: home renovations created a need for new access and plantings for the extended side yard

After: the perfect place for raised gardens and a destination seating area
After: walkways serve as a unifying element throughout the landscape
Regardless of the size and scope of your landscape renovation needs, remember that evolution is inherent to the living world and that as gardeners we should embrace it and celebrate it!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Afternoon Garden Club 9.17.2010

goldenrod, switch grass, and junipers in the Sand Hills of Nebraska
It’s FAC time in The Art Garden!  Grab your favorite beverage and pull up a chair.  You didn’t really want to work this afternoon anyway, did you?  Leave a comment to join the garden party.
Today’s topic:
I just returned from a quick trip to Nebraska. I loved seeing the native stands of goldenrod, Solidago canadensis, in bloom and the soft colors of the many grasses.  What are the outstanding native plants blooming in your region right now?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Chickens...and so much More!

this beautiful Asian pear tree screens the entry garden from the side yard dining area
Last week I had the great pleasure of visiting with Barbara Miller at her one-acre property in east Boulder, Colorado.  Over the course of eleven years, Barbara has created an engaging and productive landscape based entirely on organic, no-till principles.  All of the gardens were built on soil created on site by an annual autumn layering of 12-14 inches of leaves (neighbors donated 1,600 bags of leaves last fall!) topped with cakes (broken bales) of hay. Grass clippings donated by a local lawn care company provide mulch/layering during the growing season. Manure from chickens and goats is layered in as well. At no time is the soil rototilled, ripped, or spaded.  It's Barbara's belief (and she recommends the writings of Ruth Stout) that worms and other micro-organisms are perfectly efficient at integrating organic matter into the existing soil without harming its structure.  Chickens, goats, and a greenhouse are part of the plan, too.

Let's start our tour:
The enclosed entry garden, which has a nice balance of sun and shade, is devoted to perennials, roses and a few containers of favorite annuals and tropicals. Flagstone paths meander through the space creating separate garden areas and niches for planting.
Viola 'Purple Showers' left, blooms all summer
a bubbling water pot adds a light, refreshing sound along the path
a beautiful textural contrast; a fern and lady's mantle

The front flower garden transitions into a shady, grassy side yard - also enclosed - where the family gathers for meals and relaxing. Note the dog door adjacent to the gate here.  Barbara allows her dogs access to most areas, but not all.  
overgrown patty-pan squash looks charming here, and will soon feed the goats!
gate with dog door

Next, we move into the lawn area where the chickens get to run, peck, and play to their hearts' content. Barbara's 54 chickens provide manure, pest control and eggs to sell.
run and play, run and play!
hunt and peck, hunt and peck!

 The vegetable, fruit, and cutting garden is designed without straight rows; too boring for Barbara! Trellises for vine beans and cucumbers double as screening to the adjacent property. Barbara is a test grower for Rodale Organic Gardening. I got to taste a new cucumber that's on trial this summer. I liked it, mild and a bit sweet, but Barbara's not a fan.  I also got to taste the new 'Pinot Noir' sweet bell pepper. A winner!  Barbara's favorite strawberry, which I thought was incredibly tasty and sweet is 'Mara du Bois.'
a small patio seating area in the heart of the garden. bags of grass trimmings ready to be spread as mulch.
red runner beans

The 18'x36' greenhouse is used in the summer for heat loving crops such as peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes --- enough to feed the family for 9 -12 months! In the winter it's a warm haven for favorite annuals and tropicals, and is seed-starting HQ as well.
Barbara Miller displays her greenhouse with crops growing directly in the soil floor.
Pinot Noir pepper, a summer crop in the greenhouse

Adjacent to the greenhouse is the chicken coup, nicknamed the "Chick Mahal." Back-to-back hen houses and a roomy yard are fully enclosed in, yes, chicken wire.
sanitation and safety are critical
doesn't that look cozy?!

A newly established pumpkin field and the goat meadow fill out the rest of the property. Barbara's Nubian goats contribute manure to the soil building program and are also pack-animal companions for backpacking expeditions.

A great garden created and cared for by a thoughtful and attentive gardener. Thank you, Barbara, for sharing it with me! Contact Barbara Miller via e-mail here:

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Afternoon Garden Club 9.10.2010

It’s FAC time in The Art Garden!  Grab your favorite beverage and pull up a chair.  You didn’t really want to work this afternoon anyway, did you?  Leave a comment to join the garden party.
Today’s topic: water gardens

Good news / bad news in the water garden.  The good news is that Kyoto, my favorite koi, totally recovered from his ailments of last winter (read about that here and here). He's happy tearing around the pond with his pal, Lucky:

Kyoto and Lucky at play

And participating in the evening feeding frenzy:

Kyoto, center, fights for his share of the food
So that's great news!

The bad news is that our water clarity has been terrible this year. For whatever reason (suggestions, anyone?) our usual crop of water hyacinths and water lettuce, which we depend on to shade the water and also filter it, did not grow at all this summer.  The result was murky, pea green water (caused by suspended algae) that made fish viewing almost impossible. Grrrr!

How have your water gardens fared this year?  Did you try any new plants? What are your favorites? Tell us about your fish, too...

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Grasses in Bloom...?

Grass plants are prized for their wonderful variety of textures, forms, and colors. But their flowers? Not so much. Grasses are wind pollinated; no need to put on a showy flower display to attract insects. Technically, what we see is an inflorescence composed of tiny flowers, or florets, protected by bracts. The bracts are the showy structures that add a second tier of visual impact to the landscape. Here are a few of the grasses that are blooming now in my garden:

I love switch grass, and my favorite is this blue cultivar, Panicum virgatum 'Prairie Sky' Note the tiny burgundy-red flowers.
This panicle type inflorescence looks like beads on crimped wires to me!
My prairie/meadow garden features native little bluestem, Schizachyrium scoparium.
Red flowers here, too, on a spike inflorescence
Indian grass, Sorgastrum nutans, is another native.

Although this also looks like another spike inflorescence, it will open into a raceme as it matures a bit
Note the minute yellow flowers. The hair-like structure is an awn
The next time you're admiring the grasses in your garden, take a closer look and see what you can discover!

Durable Plants for the Garden Goes to....

Russian sage and fernbush, Chamaebatiara millefolium
... MarkNDenver! Mark's name was chosen from the comments via the random number generator, but a big thanks to all who participated!

If you would like your own copy of Durable Plants for the Garden from Plant Select, contact participating retailers listed here, Denver Botanic Gardens, or your favorite bookseller.

Mark, contact me with your mailing address and we'll get your book to you ASAP!

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Don't Miss Out!

Fallugia paradoxa, Apache plume
This is your chance to win a free copy of Durable Plants for the Garden, a great addition to any gardener's library.  Go here, leave a comment before midnight Tuesday, September 7, and you'll be entered in the drawing.  Good luck!

Friday, September 03, 2010

Friday Afternoon Garden Club 9.03.2010

It’s FAC time in The Art Garden!  Grab your favorite beverage and pull up a chair.  You didn’t really want to work this afternoon anyway, did you?  Leave a comment to join the garden party.
Today’s topic:

Friends near and far are reporting thefts of herbs, veggies, fruits and flowers from their community gardens.  Even those with "private" street-side gardens have had produce swiped - at it's peak, of course.  Why?  Have you had this problem? Have you found a solution? Please share your ideas here!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Blogiversary Celebration!

The Art Garden blog is celebrating it's 4th anniversary today! As a special thank-you to my readers I'm giving away a copy of Durable Plants for the Garden, A Plant Select Guide

I'm a huge fan of the Plant Select® program in that it combines plant exploration, research as to regional adaptability, and timely propagation for retail availability (none of that "Gee, cool plant, too bad no one sells it!" stuff).  Although the program focuses on plants for the High Plains and intermountain states, many of them are appropriate for use in other regions as well.  Trees, shrubs, perennials - including grasses, vines, and groundcovers - and even annuals are included in the program.

Durable Plants for the Garden features the first seventy-four plants promoted by Plant Select® Each plant profile includes a detailed description with multiple color photographs, cultural requirements, recommended landscape use, etc.  I especially like the background information about why each plant was chosen and what it's advantages and disadvantages are. Go here to take a peek a some of the featured pages.  Isn't that great?! I think it's wonderfully designed, easy to use, and inspiring.

Here are a few of the Plant Select® plants that I'm growing in my garden:

Zauschneria garrettii, orange carpet hummingbird trumpet
Chamaebatiaria millifolium, fernbush
Berlandiera lyrata, chocolate flower
Sibiraea laevigata, Siberian spirea
Fallugia paradoxa, Apache plume
Phlomis cashmeriana, Cashmere sage
Veronica liwanensis, Turkish veronica
Wouldn't you like a copy of Durable Plants for the Garden for your very own?  Plant Select® has generously donated a copy for this special blogiversary drawing.  Leave a comment for me here by midnight on Tuesday, September 7th, and I'll use the Random Number Generator to select a winner.

When you're ready to purchase Plant Select® plants for your garden you can find a list of retailers here.  Plant Select® is a Colorado nonprofit organization.