bad gardener?

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David Austin English Rose in the rain today

Recently Fine Gardening has featured my Chester County garden in their online Garden of the Day section.  That has been such a thrill and honor for me because…well…I have been sending them garden photos for years. They have been a gardening resource forever, and I subscribe to their print magazine.

Fine Gardening is a go to resource for information, new cultivar suggestions, and all around inspiration.

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I can tell you I purchased this from Applied Climatology at The West Chester Growers Market a couple of years ago.  The tag has long since disappeared.

Well Fine Gardening most recently featured some of my daylilies and hydrangeas together.  Naturally it provoked a conversation with the editor I was working with over cultivars.  I can tell people the names of a few of them like Cherokee Star because I planted some particularly well loved cultivars in clumps of several plants. (Well exception to the clump rule were the $5 pots of mystery daylilies from Home Depot end of summer sale a few years ago! I still don’t know who they are!)

When asked about my daylily cultivars, this is what I told them:

OK, you know where I am a really bad gardener? I see things and I think to myself, “They are perfect,” and then I forget what the cultivars are. I can tell you who I purchased all the daylilies from plant by plant, but as far as cultivars, I am so bad. I am going to have to start writing things down.

I try to plant everything with the tags, but as time progresses and I add more shredded leaves or wood chips for mulch, they disappear.

The thing about daylilies is that I buy them for the color. They don’t get purchased because they are rare or anything like that per se; it’s based on the color. I love white daylilies, but my obsession the past few years has been the reds. I also like the pink and the ruffly daylilies depending on the color because they look so ladylike. I don’t know how else to describe it.

Every once in a while I will pick up daylilies on clearance from a big box store to plug a hole, but for the most part I spend the money to shop from nurseries I know because then I’ll avoid things like daylily rust.

Confession time: I do this with well….the majority of plants. I buy plants for how they hit me when I see them.  And that is in person or in a magazine or in a plant grower’s inventory photos.

To me, right or wrong it’s the visual. Color. Texture. Shape. Size. How does the plant strike me? My poor hostas are also victims of garden anonymity.  They live happily in plant witness protection services with many of my other shrubs and perennials.

I always have good intentions.  I plant new thing with their tags.  But then I either get tired of a forest of plastic tags, or I decide I will always remember their cultivar and yank them out, or they get buried by seasonal layers of mulch and applications of fallen leaves. And then there are the plastic tags that chipmunks and squirrels dig up and relocate (oh yes they DO do that!)

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Hydrangea “Little Lime”

This is where I am a bad gardener to some. But you know what? I have been through plenty of gardens, including European ones and  I see tags for rare specimen trees and some shrubs, but not tags for much of anything else. And for the most part, I do not like looking at plastic nursery tags and I do not have the time or inclination for pretty write on copper ones.

It is what it is. I created my garden because it brings me joy.

I look at what I plant much in the way an artist looks at something for subject matter.  It is also very visceral. I look at something and can visualize it in a spot in the garden and then I plant it.  Truthfully it is almost a kissing cousin of the techniques people who are practitioners of Shamanic Gardening. And I didn’t intend it to be.  It’s just what happened.

Shamanic Gardening? What’s that you ask?

Shamanic Gardening integrates sustainable ancient and traditional gardening methods with shamanic principles and modern permaculture. The practices, history, myths, recipes, and philosophies inside this book will enhance your relationship with nature, sustain the earth, delight your senses, and nourish your soul.

Shamanic Gardening [book] includes a cultural history of sustainable gardening, including gardening techniques used by Cleopatra, the Japanese, the Pueblo Indians, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, and many others.

I learned about the theories of Shamanic Gardening from Melinda Joy Miller’s book Shamanic Gardening. You can find the book on Amazon and other places.

As a theory, it sounds new-agey.  To an extent it is. It also fits in with the principles of Feng Shui. (See Shambhalla Institute and NO I am not one of their clients or practitioners. I just went ‘web wandering as I was reading the book out of curiosity. But heck even the esteemed British Royal Horticultural Society has been interested in this or they would not have sold the book.)

The reason I delved into the book were funny little things like they say to essentially ask the plant where it want so go.  Any rabid gardener will tell you we all talk to our plants…and weeds.  It’s just a thing. But because it also reminds me of using the principles of feng shui in gardens. Yes really. (Read more here.)

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Echinacea “White Double Delight”

Anyway back to bad gardener of it all. Since my garden has been in Fine Gardening there has been interest in my garden for local tours. That never happened before.  My garden is a layered garden with four season interest and of my own design, not formal with fussy parterres and fountains.

Today some really nice ladies toured my garden.  For consideration in a 2019 event.  But when they asked me if I knew all of the names of a few of my hostas I answered truthfully  that no I did not.  I explained to them how I chose my plants for color, shape, texture, etc and how I thought they would fit.  I also said some were gifted out of other gardens where they had lived for many years without anyone remembering their names. Right or wrong, I felt in the moment like a very bad gardener who had flunked a horticulture class.

IMG_9059Really, I am sorry for my plant amnesia.  I should write down cultivars more diligently. I just don’t.  I see, I feel, I plant, I enjoy.

My garden is something I enjoy very much.  It’s not a formal arboretum — its a four sided, rambling, four seasons kind of a country garden.  To my English and Irish friends it is I am told very similar to their native cottage gardens. But to old school garden club folks, that is not necessarily acceptable here in the U.S.

Cottage gardens and layered gardens are actually a lot more work than a lot of other gardens.  It’s a sensory thing with jumbles of flowers and plants and paths and nooks and seating areas. And other elements to add whimsy. But you have to keep everything trimmed properly or all of a sudden it is just too much garden.

IMG_9058But a cottage garden is the perfect rule breakers garden. Plant what you love. Appeal to your own taste and style.  Make it romantic. And lush.

A true cottage garden says come in and wander and stay a while.  So if people think that about my garden, that is the nicest thing for me.  After all, gardens should be shared…just forgive the garden amnesia.  I can tell you who I bought each plant from, just not it’s particular cultivar name necessarily.  And I never took Latin, so what you get in Latin from me is a gift, usually mispronounced.

I must also note that  just because someone’s garden is welcoming, it doesn’t mean you should just come wander.  Ask the gardener first. Otherwise, it’s sadly trespassing and at a minimum a little disconcerting to the homeowner who wasn’t expecting guests.

Thanks for stopping by.

Here are the Fine Gardening posts:

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local business RAVE: design build maintain llc

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I have a lot of shade gardens in the back, and I just can’t do all the mulching and all of the work by myself anymore.  The past few years I have had a couple of surgeries and am recovering still from a nasty sprained ankle after a fall on vacation this summer, so I have needed some help.

We had also pretty much run out of wood chips from spring tree work and all of the recent rain has washed away a lot of mulch. A lot of people like mulch, I prefer hardwood wood chips.  I also love cedar wood chips.

So we hired Design Build Maintain, LLC to bring in the wood chips and spread them. This is the first time in years I have had to buy any, and what they bought me this morning was clean, uniformly sized as far as chips, and as weird as it sounds, smells great.

They did an awesome job, they have terrific crews who are very neat and gentle on your plantings. And they are also incredibly reasonable for as hard as they work and the work they do.

They came in here with 10 yards of woodchips this morning and I have a couple yards left but they spread the rest. What they didn’t use was neatly put onto my existing wood chip pile. They completely cleaned up and weeded before they spread the chips as well.  They were a little luxury I gave my garden, and I am so happy with the result.

They do full-service landscaping and lawns and hardscaping as well.

Just thought I would tell everyone because they did THAT good of a job.  Everyone who knows me will tell you I am very picky when it comes to service providers, so if I tell all of you locally about something and I rave, they are simply that good.

I also mention that I have had fits and starts with a couple of other small local landscapers and I was not happy with them at all.  As a matter of fact, the last company I hired to do wood chips (and all they had to do was spread them as we had the chips ready and waiting) disappeared part way through the job and never came back. So I have been really skeptical of landscaping companies.  With the exception of tree work which I can’t and don’t do (I happily use Treemendous Tree Care if you are interested), I do not ask anyone to do anything that I haven’t done myself.

This review of Design Build Maintain LLC is one of a VERY happy customer.  I was not compensated for my opinion in any way. And they also get props for me having conniptions over all of the rain delays.  Mother Nature has not been cooperating the past few weeks, and the weather caused rescheduling.  I am not a large customer, just a small one, and I got the same kid glove treatment as someone with a sizable estate. I really appreciate that.

Design Build Maintain is based more in the Main Line section of Chester County, but you can call them to see if they can come to you.  I find them via their Facebook page and they respond quickly.  Their phone is (484) 319-5890.

a visit to northview gardens

Today was the summer get together and meeting for the Delaware Valley Hosta Society.The extra special treat today is we were hosted by Jenny Rose Carey and got to tour her beautiful Northview Gardens.Ms. Carey is the Senior Director of Meadowbrook Farm , which is now a Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (“PHS”) site, but was once the home of Liddon Pennock.Jenny Rose Carey is a well known garden lecturer and she practices what she preaches at her own gardens which were amazing.(Click here for more information from an earlier post.)Northview Gardens is a very cool place with an interesting Philadelphia history. As Jenny says on her website:

Northview’s 4½ acre site was originally part of Wilmer and Anna Atkinson’s 1887 100-acre Victorian Model Farm. Some of the trees planted by Mr. Atkinson (the Founder and Editor of the Farm Journal) remain, including a beautiful 150-year-old Japanese maple. The current property includes the original 1887 farmhouse and carriage house.

The gardens are fun and full of whimsey along with beautiful plantings and plant specimens. Of special note would be the amazing trees including Japnese maples like few have ever seen. Also lots of very cool witch hazels, and a beautiful allée of golden redbuds.I hope to go back at a future date to explore the gardens further. They are truly unique and inspirational.

Many people were blown away that this lovely 4 1/2 acres just exists quietly where it does in Ambler. To me it is also a wonderful testament to historic preservation and land preservation. We need more Northview Gardens in our lives and fewer Tyvec wrapped plastic mushroom house developments in my humble opinion. Northview gardens are beautiful but not fussy. To me they are also a very British garden style, which I love.The gardens are seperated into what can only be described as different “rooms”, and like a well organized house, each garden room melds and flows into the next.But again, the gardens are narural and not fussy. They are gardens which beg you to explore down the next path, yet are so comfortable and welcoming. There are lots of seating areas. Lovely vintge and antique garden seating.And they have fabulous garden building structures like a she shed and a potting shed. You can always tell when gardens are created with love, and these gardens are no exception.

Once again, a lovely afternoon with the Delaware Valley Hosta Society.

favorite places: brandywine view antiques

Located at 1244 Baltimore Pike in Chadds Ford, PA Brandywine View Antiques is just one of those places you have to visit…three floors of fabulously cool antiques, vintage items, garden and home accents.

I used to go visit them in their old location near The Gables at Chadds Ford. I had visited them at places like Clover Market, and had been to their barn markets, but amazingly enough I hadn’t been to their new home until today.

Oh my.

It was heavenly!

Lisa the owner has an amazing eye, and much like her old location, it’s a wonderland of stuff inside and out. But this new location is so terrific and the building is so much better and it has amazing flow.

Of special interest to me today because I am a self-professed garden fanatic, was all the great stuff owner Lisa has to make your garden look fabulous.

From vintage concrete benches and beautiful cast iron antique garden furniture to the perfect little fox or owl or angel or even gnome for your garden, there is a lot to choose from.

Things I found of particular interest were cast concrete edging made to look old and these darling little concrete obelisks that you could put in your garden beds. They also have cast concrete leaves that are flat that you could use as stepping stones in a garden which I really liked and it almost made me wish I hadn’t already put down a stone path on one side of my garden!

And gargoyles! I can’t forget their gargoyles which look like they just flew in from living on old Parisian rooftops!

A nice selection of concrete birdbaths, architectural salvage, great old doors and windows… even in this heat I could’ve stayed a lot longer than I did. And when you go inside there are all sorts of wonderful antiques and vintage items for the interior of your home as well. They have the best selection of antique and vintage mirrors I have seen in a while, and some interesting and reasonably priced vintage art throughout the building.

I will note that even Martha Stewart shops here when in town doing her QVC thing as evidenced by this recent photo courtesy of Brandywine View Antiques:

Anyway, it’s a feast for the eyes and visiting this business also gives you great ideas! I also love that there is so much diversity of merchandise. And I hate to say it but I’m really glad it’s not an antique store full of mid-century modern.

And their pricing is quite reasonable, and if there something you wonder if they can do better on – just ask. If they can, they will if they can’t they’ll tell you.

I will close with a photograph of all the fun stuff in the backyard that you can use to accent your garden with:

adventures of a meandering gardener

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Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I saw that on a bench yesterday at Jenkins Arboretum.

I also fell in love with an oak tree named Quercus montana, the chestnut oak. I am going to add it to my woods. Jenkins had no seedlings available, so I will source elsewhere.

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 Quercus montana, the chestnut oak. 

As a gardener, I like to learn. Part of the learning is opening your eyes and heart to the experience of local arboretums. Jenkins Arboretum is my personal favorite. I belong to it and it is so easy to join – and the fees are quite modest!

I joined Jenkins because of my current garden. This is a spectacular natural property.  The history is as equally lovely.  It was created as a love story, and because of that love, became a public garden:

The home and twenty acres on which the Arboretum was first planned were formerly the property of H. Lawrence and Elisabeth Phillippe Jenkins, given to them in 1928 as a wedding gift by Mrs. Jenkins’ father, B. Pemberton Phillippe.

The groundwork for Jenkins Arboretum & Gardens was laid in 1965 when H. Lawrence Jenkins established the Elisabeth Phillippe Jenkins Foundation forever preserving his property as a living memorial to his wife, an avid gardener and wildlife enthusiast…In 1972, Mrs. Louisa P. Browning, owner of the adjoining property, donated her 26 acres, expanding the size of the Arboretum to 46 acres. The Browning property, including a house designed by the renowned Main Line architect R. Brognard Okie, is currently in a private area of the Arboretum. The private areas will continue to be developed and may one day be open for public visitation.

(Another perk of membership is a lovely book about the history of Jenkins!)

But the plant addict in me loves something else at Jenkins: their garden shop!  Open daily 9 am to 4 pm it is a comprehensive selection of native beauties, many from their own gardens.  Sun and shade loving plants. I have purchased several of the Jenkins plants every year for the past few years.  I have planted some of their azaleas (some deciduous), discovered really fun perennials like Chelone or turtlehead.

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Garden Shop selections at Jenkins Arboretum

Jenkins is open to the public 8 A.M. to sunset. Plants are available for sale in season, and they have a marvelously curated gardening book shop inside the John J Willaman Education Center. Yesterday I treated myself to two books:

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I chose The Wild Garden Expanded Edition by William Robinson and Rick Darke because so much of my gardens bleed to the woods.  This book, remarkably, was first out in 1870. This new edition, contains the original text and modern chapters courtesy of Rick Darke. It was through this book shop I also discovered  David Culp’s The Layered Garden a few  years ago. They also sell Jenny Rose Carey’s Glorious Shade which I previously wrote about and think everyone should have who has any shade gardens or wants to learn.

Now, I bought the Great Gardens of the Philadelphia Region Adam Levine, Rob Cardillo on a whim, and am glad I did. It is a great guide to go garden exploring with!

Plants I bought yesterday at Jenkins were several cultivars of Mountain Mint – great in dappled to shady areas, natives…and deer do not like things in the mint family so it helps protect my gardens. I also bought a couple different kinds of sedges – Ssersucker and Silver Sedge. They are also fun natives that add interest and have a lovely mounding habit.

(Did I mention that as a member you get a 10% discount on already reasonably priced plants??)

Jenkins Arboretum is a happy place for me.  A lot of people use their trails for exercise too.  But it is a marvelous property to meander and I see something new every time I am there.  They have been quite inspirational to me with planting my current garden, too.  Every time I go, I find ideas and inspiration. My one wish for them is I wish they sold more tree seedlings. They have the most amazing trees!

If you have small children there are also things to do all summer long – check their calendars and Facebook events for events and story times! (Pre-registration is required for a lot of things.)

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While I was garden meandering I did also visit the Barn at Valley Forge Flowers.  They are selling among other things, my favorite garden spade – the spear headed spade – in several sizes!  They are totally worth having.  They cut through a lot and make dividing and digging in difficult areas a breeze!

Happy Gardening!