A New Garden for the Summer Cottage

Madison drawing with walkway–the first step in creating a cohesive design and to make the overall design come alive and visually inspiring.

The beginning stages of a garden design–the first step is to define and layout the hardscape–we decided on a 4′ wide bluestone walkway that makes the house more inviting–the existing concrete front walk to be removed.

The old concrete walkway is removed and replaced with a 4′ wide bluestone walk that leads from the mailbox to the front steps as well as incorporating a new entrance on the left side from the driveway.

New bluestone walk to be installed –area regraded allowing generous space for planting beds –An update on a 1920s shoreline cottage.

Fresh top soil and compost is added to the new garden beds –plants are placed prior to final planting–a lovely combination of hydrangeas, shrubs rose, phlox, and lavender make up the core of the plantings-later bloomers such as crepe myrtle and caryopteris will carry the color into late September and October.

The planting scheme shares a nice affinity with the bluestone walkway–enhancing and defining the entrance to this shoreline house.

Creating a New Front Entrance

An outdated front entrance that needs some inspiration.

Creating a new front entrance with stone and new plantings.

New bluestone steps and generous bluestone walkway and nicely proportioned foundation plantings make this house very inviting .

The house in spring with an inviting spring bulb planting -a perfectly placed red Japanese maple frames the corners of the house.

Enhancing an Existing Border

Adding to an existing border to make it more interesting around a pool.

An existing border is enhanced with the removal of grass to allow for new long blooming perennials that will extend the overall interest in the garden around this swimming pool.

Metal edging creates a nice crisp line that defines the new perennial border–the existing soil has been enhanced with as additional layer of rich compost prior to any new plantings.

A differing array of shrubs and perennials are added to provide a long season of color that carries the border into Autumn –a Spring bulb design will be added in late Fall for wonderful color in early Spring .

A Formal Stone Entrance

A more formal stone entrance is enhanced by mature and majestic trees .

In contrast to formal stonework, large flat stepping stones create a lovely walkway that makes the garden entrance enchanting.

Stone work and gardens share a natural affinity–the stone being a permanent element while the garden is always evolving sharing a kinship with the changing seasons.

A Perfectly Defined Garden

A perfectly defined garden –waiting for an inspired planting design.

A natural rock ledge with a stone wall creates the framework for this seaside perennial garden –bulb planting in late Fall.

A layered Spring bulb planting enlivens the garden before the Summer shrubs and perennials make their annual entrance .

The garden in early Summer.

Walk This Way

When designing walkways for your home think of them as being generous in size, well-defined and most importantly very inviting — aim for them to be at least 4-6’ wide to give maximum appeal. Walkways that are lavish in size and possess a natural kinship to the site feel well organized and inviting to visitors. One of the best ways to preview the shape and flow of the walkway is to lay out a temporary path with draping a garden hose or use a brightly colored can of spray chalk. This makes the potential design more visual and fluid and it can be reshaped and altered several times before the actual construction of the walkway begins. It also always you to visualize the potential walkway from different vantage points both from the outside as well as from the interior of your home. Try framing your walkway from an upstairs bedroom as this will provide a whole different perspective.

Consider how the walkway curves and frames not only the planting bed but the architectural lines of the house and surrounding natural terrain. To define the transition from driveway to the actual walkway, allow for a larger entrance pad or generous flair that might be detailed in a different stone pattern from the main walk.

There are a number of different materials to choose from when selecting stone for your home walkway. Some popular options include cut bluestone, brick, or pavers—all should be laid in a well-prepared base that has been heavily compacted and extremely well leveled.

Selecting the right material for your project will lend a sense of safety, permanence and long-term durability. Avoid inexpensive alternatives such as crushed stone or randomly placed stone as they will be difficult to maintain and cause uncertainty when underfoot. These types of materials require a lot of weeding and ongoing upkeep and will not provide much stability and long-lasting endurance.

As you layout your walk, allow for a wide, gracious planting bed that will frame the enhance the front of your home as well as enhance the overall landscape. If space allows, create garden beds that are 7-10 feet wide to accommodate groupings of shrubs and perennials that are massed together and layered in graduated heights and differing textures. Mass planting a particular shrub has high impact in a foundation planting. Imagine the effect of large clusters of hydrangeas, shrub rose and lavender in full bloom as opposed to a single hydrangea in a narrow bed of low juniper.

Consider how the beds will look throughout the garden year, a balanced combination of dwarf evergreens and compact flowering shrubs underplanted with appropriate perennials and ground covers will anchor the walkway as well as lend a sense of permanence and elegance to your home. The addition of spring bulbs will infuse early color and fragrance after the doldrums of winter — long blooming shrubs and perennials will provide color and texture as the changing seasons unfold. Well-designed borders always have something in bloom and provide interesting texture and color throughout the yearl

Finally, the final configuration of the walkway and plantings should always be in unity and in accordance with the style of your home and its natural surroundings. Above all, it should invite family and friends to savor and linger along the walkway and provide a sense of welcome and harmony to your home.

A very narrow brick walk with tightly clustered boxwood hedges makes this entrance look claustrophobic and uninviting.

The walkway is widened with a mixture of bluestone and the brick is reused to edge and define the walkway–plantings are lower and work to enhance and make the walkway more inviting.

The new walkway flows seamlessly into a generous patio.

Planting Spring Bulbs

 

Early bulbs are much smaller and will do well planted about 3-4” deep. Top dressing with an autumn mulch keeps the ground warmer allowing for root development before the deep cold of winter sets in. This insulating mulch also protects the bulbs from quick freezes and thaws that often occur in late winter.

A generous mix of bulbs are being incorporated into any existing garden.

As the days become longer and the daytime temperatures gradually rise, the bulbs will naturally begin to emerge and start the wonderful process of sequential blooming. Since the early spring bulbs are low growing and devoid of a lot of foliage, the first flush of flowers magically appears making the early spring garden abundant in a sea of blooms–creating a breathtaking picture that can last for several days of even weeks. When one group of bulbs start to fade, another grouping takes center stage quickly filling in any vacancies in the garden.

 

After flowering, it is important to give them a feeding of organic fertilizer and allow the foliage to die back gradually. Later bloomers like tulips and alliums along with emerging perennials will eventually camouflage the waning bulbs. By creating a design that promotes a progression of bulbs, the garden will never be without something in bloom.

In late April and early May, tulips the grand-dames of the garden lend flirt and fancy in an abundant array of colors and shapes. Species tulips are tiny in size often blooming along with daffodils which makes them less likely to be eaten by deer. To deter rodents from eating the bulbs, use a rodent repellant or add cayenne pepper or garlic flakes to the planting hole.

Spring bulbs in a sculpture garden.

Another trick is to spray bulbs (especially tulips) with a diluted solution of old fashioned liquid lysol and let the bulbs dry completely in the sun prior to planting, The offending critters are hindered by the smell and taste of this strong smelling cleaner. Another tip from a bulb importer is to plant them in the same hole as the allium. The strong onion odor of the allium helps to keep critters away as well.

The dynamic and vertical lines of flowering onions or Alliums continue the show into June- globe-like flower of the allium may be allowed to dry in the garden, which adds texture and interest to your perennial borders. There is a multitude of allium varieties in the market–from very low growing to impressive 4‘ varieties. Alliums add an elegance and dramatic verticality to the late May and early June garden Fragrant and dramatic lilies, “the wings of the garden” take flight in late June and July. You can find a multitude of different hybrids in dazzling colors and shapes in all of these species of bulbs.

An enchanting collection of peony-flowering tulips and late daffodils in a seaside garden.

To encourage your bulb garden to flourish, select a site that has well-drained soil. If the soil needs work, start by enriching the proposed area with good top soil or compost to a depth of about 6”. Bulbs do not like to be planted in area that is usually wet–so good drainage is essential when preparing your site for a bulb garden. Plant bulbs with the pointed side up adding a tablespoon or so of an organic fertilizer that contains rock phosphate, which will ensure proper root development.

It is especially important to plant the bulb to the proper depth which is about 3-4 times the bulb’s length. For example, a tulip which is about 2” long needs to be planted about 6-8” deep. The earlier bulbs are much smaller and will do well planted about 3-4” deep. Top dressing with an autumn mulch keeps the ground warmer allowing for root development before the deep cold of winter sets in. This insulating mulch also protects the bulbs from lifting when quick freezes and thaws occur in late winter. As the days become longer and the daytime temperatures get warmer, the bulbs will naturally begin to emerge and start the wonderful process of sequential blooming. When one group of bulbs start to fade, another grouping starts to take center stage and fills in any vacancies in the garden. Since the early spring bulbs are low growing and devoid of a lot of foliage, the flowers in full bloom appear as luscious masses of color–creating a breathtaking picture that can last for several days of even weeks.

After flowering, it is important to give your bulbs a feeding of organic fertilizer because this is the time they are storing food for next year’s blooms.

Always allow the foliage to gradually die back naturally. By late June most of the foliage has completely withered and can then be safely cut down. Later bloomers like tulips and alliums along with emerging perennials will eventually camouflage the waning bulbs.

By creating a design that promotes a progression of bulbs, the garden will never be without something in bloom. At present, bulb supplies are still plentiful and you can safely plant your bulb garden right up to Thanksgiving. A warm sunny afternoon in late October or early November is the perfect time to plant your spring garden–so don’t hesitate to get out there soon!

 

You’re never too young to learn how to plant bulbs for the family garden!

The Serendipity of Spring Bulbs

 

I never feel a perennial garden is complete without the addition of spring bulbs. The wonderful serendipitous quality of bulbs make the early spring garden truly come alive — a vivid reminder that we can bid adieu to the long cold and grey of winter.

Whether you are just a beginner or a more seasoned gardener nothing will feed your soul more than a fabulous display of spring bulbs. Planted en masse, the luscious colors, subtle fragrances and long blooming flowers creates a wonderful prelude for the unfolding spring season. A carefully selected collection of spring bulbs will provide a symphony of successive blooms that will enliven your garden with many months of amazing color and fragrance.

By incorporating a mix of early, middle and late blooming bulbs, you are ensured of a display that will span several months. The early bloomers of March and April are snowdrops, crocus, Iris reticulata, Scilla, Chionodoxa followed by daffodils and hyacinths. With careful planning now, the entire month of April can be a spectacular display of flowering bulbs in a multitude of forms and a rainbow of colors.

Autumn Considerations

Hydrangeas — The Flower of Tranformations

Homage to the Hydrangea…a delightful cupcake!

In most parts of New England, this has been a glorious year for hydrangea shrubs and it’s about time! The past two years has been inhospitable to these shrubs with excessively cold temperatures for long periods causing the tender buds to be killed. In the very early spring of 2016, it looked promising but unfortunately the emerging buds were hit by extreme and unexpected temperature drops which killed all the potential flowers. Many of us wondered if we would ever see those beautiful blue flowers again as they are the quintessential mainstays of our summer gardens.

Now as I drive around to visit gardens, I am amazed by the dazzling and voluptuous hydrangeas shrubs that are gracing our gardens this summer. It is gratifying and comforting that our patience over the past two years has paid off with the abundance of vivid blue, purple and pink flowers that are now so plentiful.

This beloved plant originated on the coastal and smaller islands of Japan. In Japan it is called the “flower of seven transformations” or Nanhenge because of the plant’s ability to change color based on the chemical nature of the soil. An acid soil produces a bluer flower while a soil that is more alkaline turns the flower pinker. Growers have produced a vast amount of differing hydrangeas to choose from in terms of not only color, but also sizes from massive to quite diminutive. The newer varieties also bloom continuously from July into early Autumn.

In my own garden, I have seen hydrangea flowers emerge as soft green transforming into pale blue. As the summer progressives, the pale blue turns to cobalt and vivid mauves and purples. Cooler temperatures in autumn bring on a rich burgundy, while a quick frost may turn the flowers to a tawny silver. This multitude of colors produces lovely flowers that can be cut and dried as beautiful arrangements for your home in the winter.