Friday, May 18, 2012

Garden2Blog - The City Garden Home: Container Inspiration

After lunch and an information-packed presentation by Jay Baer, social media guru, day one of Garden2Blog continued with a tour of the gardens at The City Garden Home, P. Allen Smith's original Garden Home.

Some of the cool things about the City Garden Home were its story (bought for $1.00 and moved from its original location,) its modest size, practical inspiration for both simple. and extravagant gardening and hardscape projects, the raised veggie beds, and the container plantings.

Containers at the Little Rock Garden Home, and at the Garden Home Retreat at Moss Mountain Farm, were surprisingly simple - often containing just one or two plant varieties.  Pots were clustered in groups, used as focal points, and placed right into the gardens.

They defied the 'thriller, spiller, filler'  convention to great effect, don't you think?

These simple container designs could easily be duplicated by anyone, including newbie gardeners.

This is a great time of year in the Chicago area and all around the Midwest to be inspired  by container plantings.

Nurseries have their biggest, and best selections right now,

and even someone who's intimidated by the idea of planting an ornamental container garden on a patio, deck, path, porch,  or anywhere,

can take comfort and find inspiration in these simple, beautiful, effective designs.

And while you're at it, consider planting a few herbs, too!  Herbs are fantastic in containers, look pretty, smell wonderful, and will inspire and flavor your meals all season long.

Attendees at Garden2Blog 2012 received transportation, hotel accommodations, and meals at no cost. Event sponsors provided samples and product giveaways with no cost or obligation.  All opinions in this post are mine.

Monday, May 14, 2012

May Bloom Day

Happy Bloom Day from Chicago's south 'burbs, where the temperatures are summer-like, and the lack of April showers has been somewhat compensated for by lots of rain in May.

Last summer our silver maples were pruned,  and the garden's getting more sun.  Catmint is enjoying the extra sun, blooming earlier than usual here and showing bigger, brighter blooms.  This one only gets about 18 inches tall - just  the right size for this spot. 

Aquilegia canadensis (red columbines,) are still blooming like crazy, with lots of new buds too.  Deadheading keeps them blooming longer here.

This old mini-rose is liking the extra sun too.  It's never had so many buds at once.

Centaurea montana has gotten so big this year.  It's liking the extra sun too.  It will need to be moved and/or divided in the fall, because now it's too close to one of the hellebores.  

Geranium sanguineum 'Striatum' has grown a lot too this spring, and it's blooming better than ever before. 

Pale and deep purple alliums are blooming, while the white ones haven't even budded yet.

The wild geranium has been blooming for over a month.

Woodland phlox has a few blooms left.  There might have been more, except the bunnies seem to like them for dessert after their dinner of bellflowers.

Geranium x cantabrigiense 'Biokovo' was trying to take over the world last year, so it's been taken back a few notches.  It just started blooming a few days ago.

Colorado blue columbines didn't come back this year, but this NOID columbine is a nice shade of blue.  I'll leave some of the seed heads and hope it spreads around a bit.

Geranium sanguinium 'Max Frei' has traveled with me through two moves.  It's finally settling in here after a few years of struggling and being moved twice.  These have been challenging to photograph in the past, but with the manual setting on the camera, and a few tweaks, I may finally have the hang of it.

Even the lamium is blooming more than ever before.

 Agastache 'Tutti Fruiti' is new to our garden this spring.  It's sold as an annual around here since it's only  hardy to zone 6.  We're 5b, but other people in our area have had had it come back in subsequent years.  We'll be letting it go to seed just in case.

Candytuft is just about finished blooming.  These will be cut back soon.  Cutting them back hard after blooming helps keep them compact and prevents them from getting all sprawly and leggy.

Strawberries started from seeds from Renee's Garden last spring are doing great!  Some of the berries are almost ripe already.  What they lack in size, they make up for with wonderful flavor.  We even had berries their first year, and this year there will be a lot more of them. 

Heuchera 'Snow Angel' from Mom's garden is starting to bloom.  I love the foliage, and the red blooms are more showy than some of the more recent heuchera cultivars.  Several other varieties of heucheras are blooming now too:  'Hollywood,' 'Obsidian,' 'Lime Rickey,' 'Mocha,' 'Guardian Angel,' 'Frosted Violet' . . .

Celandine poppies are still blooming.  After a much bigger show earlier in spring, they usually bloom here off and on all spring and summer.

The old standby impatiens are waiting patiently in cell paks on the patio table as containers are being filled a little at a time.  Peppers, tomatoes, and basil are hardening off here too, awaiting their places in our two small raised veggie beds.

The gardening season is in full swing in the Chicago area.  With our last average frost date of May 15th and no frost in the ten-day forecast, it's just about time to plant annuals and summer vegetables.

Happy Bloom Day in the beautiful month of May.  To see what's blooming  this month in gardens around the world,  please visit the host of Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Garden2Blog - Marlsgate Plantation Tour

It was a thrill last week being part of P. Allen Smith's second annual Garden2Blog event, when 23 garden bloggers from around the country descended on Little Rock, Arkansas for two days of garden tours, socializing, design competitions, and gardening products demonstrations.

The event kicked off with a tour of the opulent Marlsgate Plantation home and gardens located in Scott, Arkansas, about 15 miles southeast of Little Rock.  The  home was built in 1904, and over the years had fallen into disrepair.  It was restored by David P. Garner, Jr., a long-time friend of Allen's, and is listed on National Register of Historic Places.

Visitors are greeted by a pair of these large-scale urns on the front porch.

The cherubs reminded me of our baby granddaughters back at home.

David Garner, the hilarious, flamboyant owner of Marlsgate was a wonderful host.  

We were allowed to wander at will through the house and gardens.  The Greek Revival home is filled with eye candy for antique lovers.

The dining room table was set with refreshments, including petits fours and meringues.

At 5' 8" even I would need a ladder to climb into this bed!  These gals are standing, (NOT kneeling) on the floor.

All that crystal was starting to make me a little nervous.  It was time to head outdoors and visit the gardens, which hopefully would be a lot less fragile.

The gardens are designed as a series of "rooms."  Some of the borders are informal,  like this one.

Meandering paths run throughout the gardens.

There was lots of interesting statuary like this,

and several formal garden rooms, like this classic boxwood garden,

and this one with its lovely arbor entrance.

Another of many examples of fine sculpture.

The solarium is a gardener's fantasy. 

As we headed down the long front walk back to our bus, I was startled by the largest, most beautiful,  most fragrant magnolias I've ever seen.  As over-the-top as Marlsgate is, the first and last things I saw - the cherubs, and the magnolias, were among the most memorable (not counting David, of course, who could never be forgotten!) 

Attendees at Garden2Blog 2012 received transportation, hotel accommodations, and meals at no cost. Event sponsors provided samples and product giveaways with no cost or obligation.  All opinions in this post are mine.