I have container envy. My garden has too many beds and too many weeds right now. Every August I wish I had only containers to tend.
I have taken to eating every meal I can out in our garden. This morning the chairs and benches were too wet, so I sat on a dry brick step at the top of a covered porch. By lunchtime everything was dry, so I sat in a wooden chair to eat and look around.
With all of the rain this year the oakleaf hydrangeas, planted last year, have taken off.
Bob Farmer, owner of Gristmill Landscaping, considers more than color, shape and texture when he’s selecting plants for a garden. “Sounds, scents and shadows can really tie a garden together,” he says. The sounds of water in a water feature soothe and add ambiance. Water draws nature to the garden, particularly birds whose calls then fill the garden. The trees that the birds use also contribute sound in the form of the rustling leaves on deciduous trees and the whispering of pines. “Yes,” says Farmer. “Conifers do add sound.”
Later in summer crickets add their symphony. Garden sounds even distract from the cacophony of traffic sounds on busy streets. The combined sounds in a garden help human inhabitants enjoy the space, sit and relax and have moments of reverie and reflection.
“Scent is the most vital of all your senses,” says Farmer. Besides the most obvious scents, Farmer likes the smell of dew on the grass and plants, the smell of rain, even the smell of snow. In summer the smell of cut grass fills a garden after mowing. When planting and weeding, the loamy smell of earth arises.
The smells of all elements – earth, wind, water and fire – are present in the garden if the garden has a fire pit or outdoor fireplace. In three seasons, spring to fall, the sweet smells of daffodils, hyacinths, viburnums, daphne bushes, lilacs, roses, lavender, monarda, lilies (especially ‘Stargazers’) and autumn clematis. “And don’t forget Styrax japonicus,” Farmer says of the elegant, compact tree that blooms in spring.
“Shadows play such a part in the landscape too,” says Farmer. “Morning shadows are different than any other shadows.” First thing in the morning, he explains, the shadows are more intense. With the sun at noon, shadows begin to lengthen. Open plant material further elongates the shadows. “The same plants you plant for texture also create rewarding shadows,” Farmer says giving hinoki cypress as an example. “The whole plant is laced with shadows at any given time, because of the fan-shaped foliage that casts off unusual shadows.”
The day ends with softer light and deeper shadows. “The dark becomes darker, and the light becomes lighter,” says Farmer. He likes white flowers to brighten the garden at dusk, moonflowers especially. Each large white trumpet unfurls in evening and stays open until sunrise. For an added bonus some moonflowers are fragrant.
Sounds, scents and shadows not only tie a garden together, but they also carry through the garden, creating movement and adding sensory dimension to enrich the experience of working in and living with a garden.
1532 Jarrettsville Road | Jarrettsville, MD, 21084 | 410-557-4213
At this year’s Celebration of Art benefit for the Cylburn Arboretum Association, sculpture was shown for the first time. Although every one of their floral arrangements at past Cylburn events has been eye-popping, this year Nolley & Fitzpatrick Event Design created a sculptural masterpiece.
Two 80-degree days last week brought spring roaring in like a lion with. So much popped out: forsythia,
tulips, grape hyacinths,
Hello, spring! Yes, it’s hard to believe, but it is spring at last. Never mind the snows. Never mind the cool temps. The blooms that opened the first week of spring are all the proof I need that spring is here.
Forget mounds of snow at the edge of parking lots, salt encrusted patches of streets, frost and snow-bitten brown leaves on evergreens: ivy, sweet box, holly, boxwood and Nandina. Plants are blooming. Repeat: plants ARE blooming.
They started in the form of tiny white snowdrops pushing up from the snow then bloomed after the melt, small ones by our front steps and giant ones up the street.
Day by day the color increases. Naturalized crocuses across the lawn of an open lot seem magical, like a spring version of the poppy fields in Oz.
Cool temperatures hold most of the flowers closed, so they stand like battalions of miniature soldiers beating back winter.
Down the street a neighbor planted a witch hazel when she moved in 20 years ago.
Now the size of an ornamental tree, its neon yellow blooms pulsate “Spring!”
Deep purple and yellow crocuses at other neighbors’ remind us that Easter is just weeks away.
Their small witch hazel bush is a focal point of the early back garden. Maroon hellebores buds under woody branches of hydrangeas promise the mop heads too will eventually appear.
Likewise, daffodil foliage and buds pushing through brown leaves show that yellow trumpets will soon follow.
Most surprising to me, in this winter-scorched landscape, is deep blue. It jumped out first on vinca vines down a bank.
The next day royal blue chionodoxa blooms appeared nearby.
Equally amazing was an impression of a deer hoof in the surrounding earth, only a block from Cold Spring Lane.
As exciting as every spring is, spring 2014 already feels like a daily miracle.
This is a big week at Cylburn Arboretum. Located off of Northern Parkway, this green oasis is increasingly enjoyed by both city and county residents. In recent years, the Cylburn Arboretum Association has connected nature with art through exhibitions in the Vollmer Center, programs for adults and children and an artist-in-residence program.
Cylburn’s first artist-in-residence, Patricia Bennett opens her exhibit of paintings done during her past year there. Well-known as an event painter, Bennett has also produced an impressive series of Impressionistic paintings of the gardens. An opening reception takes place Friday, November 1 at 5:30 p.m. The show continues through the weekend, then November 5-7.
A new effort begins Sunday, November 3 at 2 p.m. with the Arboretum’s first book talk and signing. In cooperation with the Ivy Bookshop and Timber Press, author Laura Burchfield will speak and show excerpts from her newly released book American Home Landscapes, A Design Guide to Creating Period Garden Styles.
I’ve been working to replant the gardens around the 1922 Roland Park house where I grew up and live. Not until I saw the Timber Press book did I realize what a period garden we still have. Essential elements of American, Colonial Revival gardens from 1900-1930 include: symmetry, balance and a central axis, geometric beds, a picket fence, old-fashioned flowers.
In Roland Park, fences were originally permitted only in limited form, never in the front yard, because of the Olmsted design principal of low hedges instead of fences. At our house, however, the second owner was granted an exception to the architectural restrictions, because he thought Cold Spring Lane was too busy. If only he could see it now. Boxwoods were used for the front border, but along the sides and back, he installed brick pillars with sections of square, white spindles in between.
No flower garden was in front or along the sides, just more boxwoods and a long lilac border on the east side and privet hedge on the west.
When I raised the shade this morning, snow had covered the ancient boxwoods over night. A limb of the hemlock that towers above the house drooped in front of my second story window. Out another window the lane, as alleys are called in Roland Park, looked wintrier than it had all winter. Daffodils on the bank across the street drooped their buttery heads over splayed foliage.
Before breakfast I went out back to brush snow from the early-blooming, Okame cherry tree. One limb was so weighted down that it looked as if it might snap.
The pairs of new boxwoods by the garden paths stood sentry in puffy white caps. The birdbath looked like a dish of marshmallow ice cream. Purple crocuses and primroses radiant last week were buried this morning. Only some blue flowers on the vinca showed and the backs of a few hellebores, most of which were buried.
Red berries on the aucuba bushes looked more like Christmas than Maryland Day. Such is March in a Baltimore garden.