Friday, April 27, 2012

The Charm of Cottage Gardening

Classic cottage gardens resemble the houses they are named for.  They are informal and more compact, and above all else, very individualized.  Cottage gardens are typically planted close to the front door, and use a mixture of dense planting.  Ornamentals, annuals, perennials, roses, shrubs, vines and edibles are arranged in way to delight the senses.  

With an almost fairy tale look, a well designed cottage garden gives an impression of graceful charm, rather than structured formality.  Early cottage gardens of the 1800's were designed with function, particularly because they most often contained vegetables and herbs, and often fruit trees and bee hives.  Today the trend continues, but color and fragrance have become very important additions to the theme.  

An important addition to a cottage garden design is a curved walkway or informal stone path, created with natural materials.  It is also possible to create a similar look with stamped concrete or brick pavers.  Whatever material you choose, it's important to display an informal look through the use of curves or materials.  

Traditional cottage gardens were often enclosed to keep animals out and included arbors for plant support.  Today's gardens use both these items, more often for aesthetic than purpose.  

Flower choices for cottage gardening are endless.  The classics such as primose, hydrangea, violets and daisies continue to be favorites, but new perennials and ornamental grasses have also found a place in today's cottage gardens.  

If you're considering a cottage design, then you also need to consider welcoming birds and butterflies to your garden.  Add a birdhouse, a bird bath, plants that provide food for both butterflies and birds.  

Cottage gardens aren't for everyone.  If you dislike formality, tend to be laid back with in personality and style and prefer the eclectic, than a cottage garden might be the perfect choice.  Conversely, if your work life is filled with formality and structure, then a cottage garden could be the perfect way to help you wind down at home.  

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Vines are Divine

We all have a spot that needs that certain something. A mailbox that needs color.  Something unsightly, like a utility box, that needs some camouflage.  Perhaps, a porch post by the front door that would look great with some added interest and might even benefit with a bit of fragrance.

Finding the right vine can be a little overwhelming and we thought we'd share a few of our favorite vines. 

Trumpet Vine.  Quick to grow, this one attracts hummingbirds.  It does tend to be a little invasive, so be careful where you plant or plant it in a large pot. 

Honeysuckle Vine.  Another fast grower that attracts hummingbirds, too. 

Climbing Hydrangea.  Amazing.  Large clusters of white flowers, these grow into walls, fences and large trees.  Be careful where you plant, but if you find the right spot it will take your breath aways once it grows.  It's a slow grower, but it reaches up to 50 feet. 

Akebia.  Lovely purple or white flowers with a chocolate fragrance.  It's beautiful foliage gives it an added punch.  This one needs strong support as it can grow quite large.

Wisteria.  With its hanging growth pattern, this one is a perfect choice for a pergola.

Jasmine.  There aren't many vines that offer the stunning beauty and fragrance that a jasmine vine produces, making it a favorite for gardeners everywhere.

Clematis.  A large variety of colors and blooming times make the clematis vine a popular choice for mailboxes and porch rails.

Passion Flower.  This may be one of the most stunning flowers available to gardeners.  It's intricate, almost wax-like design give it show stopping appeal.

Mandevilla.  Grown as an annual, this elegant vine grows quickly and shows off its flowers all summer long.  To give it another season, bring it inside for the winter.

Whatever vine you decide on, be sure and find the perfect spot allowing it to display its beauty in the best possible way.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Celebrate the Earth!

This Sunday, April 22, is Earth Day.  Earth Day is a day on which events are held worldwide to increase awareness and appreciation of the Earth's natural environment.  Earth Day is no coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network, and is celebrated in more than 175 countries every year.  In 2009, the United Nations designated April 22 International Mother Earth Day.

There are many ways to celebrate the Earth, through beautifying it and committing to conserving its beauty, while fighting pollution and waste.  You can do this as a community, a family or an individual.  The important thing is to show your appreciation of the Earth on this day and to find a way to improve our planet every day.

Some ways to celebrate include:

Plant a tree.   Planting trees helps to lower greenhouse gas emissions, and they provide  habitat for a variety of animals.  A nice shade tree can even lower your cooling bill by providing shade over your house.

Plant or renew a vegetable garden.  Even someone with a very small yard or with no yard can discover ways to produce their own vegetables.  A healthy organic garden is pesticide free and saves money.

Visit a recycling facility. Find ways to improve how you recycle and put a plan into effect.

Beautify.  Plant flowers for a community center or a non-profit organization.

Attend an Earth Day event.  Search your local guides. There's sure to be something planned in your area.

Take a walk, pick up trash and do your part.

Spread the love.  Give someone you know a plant.

However you choose to celebrate this beautiful plant, do it with conviction.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Did Someone Say Xeriscaping?

Staying with the theme of 2012 landscaping trends, today we want to talk xeriscaping and xerigardening. 

I suppose an explanation is in order.  Wikipedia gives a great definition.  "Xeriscaping and xerogardening refers to landscaping and gardening in ways that reduce or eliminate the need for supplemental water from irrigation.  It is promoted in regions that do not have easily accessible, plentiful, or reliable supplies of fresh water, and is gaining acceptace in other areas as climate patterns shift." 

Why xeriscape?  There are definite advantages for the eco-conscious gardener.  These advantages include: 

  • A xeriscape will lower water consumption, both imported water and ground water
  • Xeriscaping increases the amount of water available for domestic and community use
  • A good xeriscape plant design, along with proper grading and mulching, makes the best use of rainfall
  • During periods of drought and water restrictions, xeriscape plants are more likely to survive
  • The amount of time needed for maintenance is greatly decreased

Xeriscaping is based on Seven Principles of Water Conservation:

Planning and Design.  Water conservation needs to be considered in the design phase.  A good plan includes dividing the xeriscape into zones requiring a variety of water needs.  The areas with the highest water use, known as the "oasis" area, are usually the closest to the home and the areas with the most use.  This would include a patio area or front entry area.  Additionally, these are the areas where you use the most color.  Further out, it is best to place what is known as a "transition area" and these areas require less watering and more drought tolerant plantings.  Finally, the plants that require very little maintenance or water, are typically placed the furthest from the home.  This low-water zone is often too difficult to reach with easy irrigation. 

Soil Amendment.  Most plants benefit from compost because it helps the soil retain water, a key element of xeriscaping.  Plants need to fit the soil or the soil needs to be amended to fit the needs of the plants.

Irrigation.  Efficinetly irrigating by hand or sprinkler is ncessary to the xeric garden, especially during the garden's first few years.  This allows plant roots to establish themselves, with a goal to dramatically decrease irrigation needs.

Plant and Zone Selection.  To minimize the time spent watering and to ensure little water waste, select plants with similar needs and place them in similar areas.  Light, soil needs, and water requirements are items to consider.

Mulching.  Mulch does several things for the xeric garden. It keeps plant roots cool.  It prevents soil from forming a crust.  It minimizes water evaporation.  It reduces weed growth.  A good mulch cover is a no-brainer, right?

Turf.  In the xeric landscape, turfgrass is necesssary.  It has a cooling element, it reduces erosion and it adds interest.  Chosse the correct grass for your area.

Maintenance.  Low maintenance does not mean no maintenance.  Your turf will have to be aerated.  You will need to fertilize.  You will need to prune to promote growth and blooming.  And you will still have to weed.  These items will just be minimized with a xeriscape. 

Xeriscape is not a design, it is a concept.  A concept that reduces water consumption and is versatile enough to be incorpated into whatever style of landscaping you favor.  Xeriscaping does not limit color, texture or fragrance.  New plant offering show up regularly, and your personality and preferences can be easily showcased in a xeric garden.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Gardening Trends for 2012

What's new in 2012?  So much!  New plant varieties, new gardening styles, water conserving techniques, space utlizing design, vertical gardening and much, much more.  To inspire you, we thought we'd share some of the biggest trends we're aware of for 2012.

Heirloom Varieties, especially when talking vegetables.  They are much more organic (a huge trend) and colorful than the standards we've been forced to plant for so many years.  Organic tomatoes, peppers, and even melons make interesting choices for your garden.

Rooftop Garden Spaces.  You don't have to live in a city apartment building to utilize some unusual spaces.  If you have a flat roofed garage, consider using that space to create a green space.  Add some steps and some railing, a seat or two and some colorful plants and you have an additional room for your home. 

Everyone has a favorite plant that gives huge impact, but do they have the space for that plant?  Often the answer is no, and that's where dwarf tree and shrub varieties can fill that void.  Dwarf varieties need little room and less care than their larger relations.  True dwarf varieties rarely reach a height over 3 feet and this gives the gardener with minimal space an opportunity to truly express themselves with punch.  There are a number of plants, including hydrangea, butterfly bush and crepe myrtle, that come in dwarf varieties and give the gardener with a small space the opportunity to garden to impress.

Urban and Suburban Vegetable gardens have become increasingly popular in today's world. Producing your own organic vegetables is a trend that we don't see ending.  Not only does it save you money, but it's a healthier choice, as well.  That said, vegetable gardens have taken on a new look as well.  Design and visual appeal are important and urban gardeners everywhere are taking on the challenge.

People are continuing to utilize their outdoor spaces in bigger and better ways.  Part of that utliization has given homeowners the opportunity to personalize their outdoor spaces with decorative touches.  Yard art, fountains, furniture, table settings, lighting and color schemes are becoming just as important as indoor decorating, and the products available are exciting and new.

With a little inspiration, some inner creativity and the desire to enhance your outdoor spaces, these trends for 2012 can turn the outdoors into the favorite part of your home.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Passionate About Petunias

Very few flowers compare with pentunias when it comes to providing color and impact for your landscape.  Reds, pinks, purples, whites, and even some surprising new hybrid varieties will instantly catch your attention.

The only thing a petunia plant needs to thrive is six hours of good sunlight and well drained soil.  And, of course, you will have to remember to quench their thirst on a regular basis.  Petunias are great in the ground, in containers and in hanging baskets.  They can definitely liven up even the most lackluster landscape.

Here are a few of our favorites:

Cascadias Cherry Spark Petunia. A selection with pink flowers veined in dark purple.  It has a trailing habit, making it a good choice for hanging baskets.

Cascadias Sunray Petunia.  A trailing petunia with medium-size soft yellow flowers veined in rich yellow.   

Double Wave Blue Velvet Petunia. Double, purple-blue flowers on vigorous plants that reach 6 inches tall and 2 feet wide.

Dreams Fuchsia Petunia.  A large-flowering petunia bearing many bold fuchsia pink flowers all summer.  Grows 15 inches tall and 12 inches wide. 

Pirouette Rose Double Petunia.  Bears frill, double, pink and white flowers on 12 inch plants.  Not as heat tolerant as many of the other petunia varieties.

Supertunia Pretty Much Picasso Petunia.  Purple flowers edged boldly in lime green.  Grows 12 inches tall and 36 inches across. 

Vista Silverberry Petunia.  Offers silvery pink flowers on very vigorous, very long-blooming plants.  Grow 2 feet high and 2 feet wide. 

Sweet Sunshine Compact Nostalgia Petunia.  Double soft-pink flowers touched with creamy yellow on a mounding plant.  

Sweet Sunshine Compact Lime Petunia.  Double-flowering petunia with chartreuse-yellow flowers all summer long.  Grows 14 inches tall and wide.

Supertunia Mini Blue Petunia.  Small, dark blue-purple blooms.  Grows 8 inches tall and can spread up to 6 feet.

Supertunia Lavender Skies Petunia.  A vigorous choice that covers itself in lavender-blue flowers that seem to change color throughout the day.  Grows 10 inches tall and 48 inches across. 

Merlin Rose Petunia.  Beautiful pink blooms with a white and yellow throw. Grow 1 foot wide and tall. 

With so many petunia choices available, there's sure to be a petunia that's perfect for your landscape.