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Under The Influence

Every year I struggle under the weight of our own precedent. “Chanticleer, the edgiest garden in the country” and other such terms applied to us are wonderful, but consider the maintenance of such a reputation.  So I struggle, I obsess. While installing this year’s display, I am already considering next year’s options. This plant in my hand, can I use it again next year? Should I use it again? This January I was given the opportunity of a horticulturist’s lifetime. The gift of travel. Chanticleer sent me to New Zealand to visit gardens, public and private, nurseries and production facilities, public spaces as well as natural areas. Three weeks was just about enough time to get a real sense of that amazing country and to adjust one’s sensibilities to the Kiwi aesthetic.

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Let There Be Light

Sunrise at farm July 17 07We gardeners spend a good bit of time thinking about light. Is our yard too sunny for a plant we want to try, or is it too shady? How much light qualifies as “full sun”? What’s the difference between part sun and part shade? How about morning sun versus afternoon sun? Some of us have all-day sun and desperately want some shade; others long for just a bit more light so they can grow a wider range of plants.

Obviously, the practical aspects of light have a big impact on our plant choices, and on our success in the garden. But there’s also an aesthetic aspect to light: the way it dramatically changes the look of the garden through the day and through the seasons. Continue Reading →

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Flowers: Keeping Selections Simple

I promised myself this year that I would run over to Chanticleer once a week to maintain a record of what is in bloom. As I sprinted through the garden last week on a beautiful spring day, I was blown away by the magnificent spring plantings. After scanning through the photos at home, what struck me was how the same specimens were used in abundance and with repetition in containers and garden beds. In the photo above, a group of containers is filled with grape hyacinths and a few selections of narcissus as its centerpiece, with other plantings acting as its supporting cast. In the photo below, near the entryway of the garden, is a solo, low rising container of blue grape hyacinths. Continue Reading →

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Built to Last – Part 2

In my last post about ornamental grasses with great winter structure, I mentioned several that I think still look quite good, even after our mostly rainy/icy winter. As so often happens, once I started writing about my favorite plants, I couldn’t limit myself to mentioning just a few, so here I’ll offer a couple more for your consideration. To spare you from an endless gallery of closeups of brown grasses, I’ve put together a few through-the-seasons photo series to show the plants with other companions in garden settings. And before I go on, I must thank Shirl of Shirl’s Gardenwatch for sharing her secret of making photo montages. Thanks, Shirl! Continue Reading →

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Built to Last – Part 1

Imperata cylindrica Rubra Feb 08I’ve been trying to stay cheerful about the glories of the winter garden, but it’s getting harder. If the days were actually as warm as they look from inside, I’d be sharpening my shears and scythe, firing up the brush mower, and reducing all of the remaining stems and seedheads to mulch. Many of the lingering perennials and grasses outlived their usefulness weeks ago, and it’ll be a relief to see them go. But there are a few sturdy survivors that I really have to admire for their sheer tenacity. And I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that they’re all ornamental grasses. Continue Reading →

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