Archive for Shade Gardens

The Elements of a Beautiful Garden

Posted in container gardening, containers for shade, Garden Tour, How to, landscape design, miniature hosta with tags , , , , , , , , on June 26, 2015 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

DSCN6643I love this combination of ‘All Gold’ Japanese Hakone grass and pink astilbe.

My son Alex Walker-Drennan took me to visit one of the gardens installed and maintained by his landscaping company Practiced Hands Gardening (practicedhandsgardening@gmail.com).  The garden has a strong Carolyn’s Shade Gardens connection as almost all the plants came from my nursery, and it was designed by Joan LaLeike whom many of you know from my open house sales.  It is owned by Hope and is on less than 1/4 acre very close to the City of Philadelphia.

Nursery News:  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to carolyn@carolynsshadegardens.com.  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

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DSCN6620The front of Hope’s house has great curb appeal.

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The garden was started about five years ago, and Hope works on a different section each year.  I always recommend that customers take this approach rather than trying to work on their whole property at once.  Completing an area, even a small one, gives you a sense of accomplishment and the inspiration to tackle the next project.  Hope has created a very satisfying garden in a relatively short period of time, which got me thinking about the important elements of a beautiful garden. Here’s what I came up with:

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DSCN66021. A Good Design: complementary textures, heights, and colors.

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DSCN6619A mixture of perennials, annuals, and deciduous and evergreen shrubs plus the lovely bark and habit of the birch keeps the garden flanking the front door interesting all year.

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DSCN6618A close up of the front garden, hellebores—-my favorites!

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DSCN6632A good design can be achieved without hiring a designer but knowledge of the plant material and how it performs is crucial.  Visit local public gardens like Chanticleer, Longwood, Winterthur, and the Morris Arboretum to view mature specimens thriving in an established environment before you choose and place your plants.

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DSCN66262.  Lot of Plants: Hope’s garden is densely planted giving a lush and vibrant look and cutting down on maintenance by keeping out weeds.  If you are working with a big space and a small budget, tackle one section at a time and fill it in.

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I am not sure who came up with the idea that plants should not touch and should be surrounded by a sea of mulch, but from a design perspective the results are not pleasing.  Leave room for each plant to reach its mature size without crowding, but once it does no soil should be visible.

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DSCN66313.  Lots of the Same Plant:  Massing of this Japanese hakone grass makes viewing from a distance a pleasure and guides the viewer around the garden.

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DSCN6627I rarely plant one of anything except trees.  When you shop, stay within your budget by purchasing the same total number of perennials but choose more of each variety you plant and less varieites.  Here, ‘Caramel’ heuchera and hydrangeas are massed.

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Athyrium niponicum 'Pictum' & Brunnera macrophyllaA simple mass planting of Japanese painted ferns and perennial forget-me-nots used as ground cover under a tree are much more pleasing than one or two of a lot of different plants crowded into the space.

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Brunnera macrophylla 'Dawson's White' A new planting masses ‘Dawson’s White’ brunnera leaving enough space for it to reach its mature size.

If you don’t make any other changes after you read this post, do this:  for the next year (or even better two years) do not buy any new plant varieties but instead add more of the same plants to groups that are working in your garden already.  I did this in my garden and the results were spectacular.

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Hosta 'Cracker Crumbs', Sedum 'Antique Grill'4.  Pay Attention to Details:  While the big picture is very important, little details really add to garden interest.  Hope has a very attractive but tiny bed filled with small scale plants edging her front walk, here petunias, ‘Antique Grill’ sedum, and ‘Cracker Crumbs’ miniature hosta.

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Hosta 'Blue Mouse Ears' 6-21-2015 1-44-28 PMThe bed really shows off her ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ hosta, which is planted all along the walk.

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DSCN66285.  Expect Trial and Error not Perfection:  The leyland cypresses behind this bed (upper right of photo), put in before Joan took over, are failing.  Instead of nursing along these ugly plants, Hope is removing them and trying something new.  Plants are living things so every one that you or a designer chooses will not necessarily work or even live.  Give your plants a few years to perform and if they don’t, move on.

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DSCN66396. Use Hardscape:  Walls, walks, patios, decks, fountains, ponds, etc., add tremendous interest to a garden design.  They also significantly increase the cost so they should be added with a lot of forethought.  Here Hope removed her dated deck and replaced it with a two-level stone patio complete with “fountain stairs”.

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DSCN66447.  Add garden ornaments and containers:  You don’t have to go wild with sculptures, birdhouses, sundials, and urns everywhere, but a few well-placed garden ornaments really add interest.  At Hope’s, this lovely pot anchors this part of the garden.

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DSCN6638Ornaments don’t have to be big or expensive—I love this little mushroom sitting under the oakleaf hydrangea.

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DSCN6635Containers of plants are visually interesting, here dwarf conifers on Hope’s patio wall.

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DSCN6634A dish of mini hostas and sedums.

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DSCN66468.  Maintain Your Garden Well Especially the Edges:  A beautiful garden needs work to stay that way.  Trees and shrubs require regular pruning, beds should be cut back and mulched in the fall or spring, borders need edging at least once a year, and weeding is ongoing.  A beautiful design with  lovely plant material is wasted if the garden is overgrown with messy edges and full of weeds.

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I admit that I am not always diligent about following my own rules, but when I finally do the results are always superior to what went before.

Carolyn

Nursery Happenings: You can sign up to receive emails about nursery events by sending your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a local retail nursery in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, U.S., zone 6b/7a. The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.

If you are within visiting distance and would like to receive catalogues and information about customer events, please send your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net. Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

Facebook: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens has a Facebook Page where I post single photos, garden tips, and other information that doesn’t fit into a blog post. You can look at my Facebook page here or click the Like button on my right sidebar here.

Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information. If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.) or to subscribe to my blog, just click here.

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Top 10 Favorite Larger Hostas

Posted in container gardening, containers for shade, hosta, hosta, landscape design, my garden, Shade Gardening, Shade Perennials with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 10, 2015 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

Hosta 'Stained Glass'One of the most beautiful times in my garden is when the wisteria is in full bloom.  Under it is planted one of my candidates for Top 10 Hostas, ‘Stained Glass’, hosta of the year for 2006.  Available at CSG.

With the latest issue of its beautiful and informative journal, the American Hosta Society sent its members a form asking them to vote for their 10 favorite “regular” hostas and 5 favorite minis.  People often ask me which hostas are my favorites, and the AHS Popularity Poll sent me out into the garden to make a list.  Naturally I brought my camera, and I thought I would show you some of the contenders.  To avoid disappointment, I have indicated which are for sale at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens (CSG).  Sadly, some of my favorites are not readily available.

Nursery News:  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to carolyn@carolynsshadegardens.com.  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

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Hosta 'Paul's Glory'Hosta ‘Paul’s Glory, hosta of the year for 1999. Available at CSG.

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Hosta 'Paradise Island' & 'Maui Buttercups'Hosta ‘Paradise Island’ on the left and ‘Maui Buttercups’ on the right.  They are not really in contention, but they looked so beautiful together under the ‘Paliban’ lilac.

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Hosta 'Paradise Joyce'Hosta ‘Paradise Joyce’ hasn’t been available for years, but it really is one of the best.

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Hosta 'Eye Declare'Hosta ‘Eye Declare’, here with ‘Lynnhaven Carpet’ erigeron in the foreground and ‘Stainless Steel’ coralbells in the background, may be my favorite big hosta.  Again it is not available in the trade.

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Hosta 'First Frost'Hosta ‘First Frost’, 2010 hosta of the year, with its blue and yellow spring coloring is just gorgeous.  Available at CSG.

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Hosta 'El Nino'Hosta ‘El Nino’, here with white-flowered hardy geranium, has always been one of my favorites with its unique blue and ivory coloring.  It is difficult to find, but I have it for sale this year.

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Hosta 'El Nino'A close up of ‘El Nino’, a star in my silver and blue garden.  Available at CSG.

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Hosta 'Great Expectations'Hosta ‘Great Expectations’ really started to thrive when I moved it from full shade to an eastern-facing location.  Available at CSG.

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Hosta 'Brother Stefan' Hosta ‘Brother Stefan’ seems to like sun too, here it faces southwest and is paired with ‘Goldheart’ bleeding-heart.  I think it should have been hosta of the year rather than the somewhat similar ‘Paradigm’.  Available at CSG.

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Hosta 'Crumb Cake'Hosta ‘Crumb Cake’, here in a container, is definitely on my top ten list.  It is a small hosta, but the leaves are too big for it to qualify as a mini.

There were other contenders not pictured here: ‘Blue Angel’, ‘Sagae’ (2000 hosta of the year), ‘Abiqua Drinking Gourd’ (2014 hosta of the year), adorable ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ (2008 hosta of the year), whose leaves are also a little too big to be a mini, the amazing ‘Praying Hands’ (2011 hosta of the year), ‘Remember Me’, and H. nigrescens.  I guess I will have to do another post.  I will definitely have to narrow down my list!  That’s all for now but look for another post on my favorite hostas soon.

Carolyn

Nursery Happenings: To order miniature hostas for shipping or pick up at our nursery, click here to access the catalogue.  Our third open house, featuring ferns, hostas, and hardy geraniums is Saturday, May 16, from 10 am to 3 pm.  However, don’t’ wait until then—you can stop by anytime by appointment to purchase these wonderful plants.  Just send me an email at carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net with some suggested dates and times that you would like to visit.

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a local retail nursery in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, U.S., zone 6b/7a. The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.

If you are within visiting distance and would like to receive catalogues and information about customer events, please send your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net. Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

Facebook: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens has a Facebook Page where I post single photos, garden tips, and other information that doesn’t fit into a blog post. You can look at my Facebook page here or click the Like button on my right sidebar here.

Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information. If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.) or to subscribe to my blog, just click here.

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