Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Not your grandmother's houseplant anymore.
Coleus or Solenostemon Scutellarioides...(is it any wonder they are called just Coleus)...was popular in Victorian times but then fell out of favor for years, thought of as an old-fashioned houseplant. But in the 1990s breeders changed all that when they developed hundreds of varieties in all sorts of colors, leaf shapes and sizes, both sun and shade loving. 
Coleus will survive in the sun though it really thrives in a shady location...part sun/part shade tends to be ideal. In the shade the colors tend to be enhanced but I have found the deeper colors such as a dark purple do better in a sunny location.
Small insignificant flowers bloom in late summer but it's the foliage that really is the selling feature. Coleus prefer moist well-drained soil and are basically maintenance free, though I would suggest pinching any blooms to encourage a bushier plant.
I have never been very good about saving the identity tags on annuals but in recent years I have changed that policy for Coleus...certain varieties have become favorites and I seek them out such as "Sedona", a lovely rusty orange that pairs beautifully with any purple or yellow plant. I have also come to love "FloridaSun Jade" a brilliantly multi-colored plant and "Gold Giant" a beautiful ochre yellow with purple under leaves.

"FloridaSun Jade" in the same container as an Abutilon.

"Sedona, mixed with "Black Magic" elephant ears and a sweet potato vine.

"Gold Giant" is stunning with a simple orange impatiens.

Paired with a purple salvia in a dusty green container this "Coco Loco" will be on my "must have" list next year. One of the beauties of Coleus is it's rate of growth as you can see here, the difference is only a couple months.

I have found just three coleus in a container can make quite a this case from left to right..."Freckles", "Religious Radish" and "Electric Lime".

I found this pair very satisfying though I'm not 100% certain of the names....I believe the back Coleus is "Saturn"* and the other is "Beckwith's Gem"*.

With the right container you can simply plant one Coleus and be dazzled, such as here with "Schizophrenia".

Coleus work exceptionally well in hanging containers. On top "Kaleidoscope"* is paired with two colors of potato vines and on the bottom three Coleus, a geranium and a potato vine make a stunning arrangement. On the bottom I believe the Coleus are left to right "Violet Metzger"* "Trailing Red"* and "Swiss Sunshine"*.

I must admit to a weakness for Coleus that appear to have paint splattered on them. On top "Kaleidoscope"* and on the bottom "Careless Love"* and "Gok 7"*.

 I tend to use a lime green Coleus most often because of my penchant for adds the perfect contrast.

Coleus work well in containers, as an underplanting and in hanging's a very versatile plant and is guaranteed to catch your attention where ever you place it.

*For a great many of the above plants I have used to identify them. In some cases I'm not completely sure if they are correct and have placed an asterisk(*) to indicate such.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Garden Inspiration

Even for a garden in miniature
 But for me, it's not only in the traditional sense but also because I have a love of miniatures. In the cold non-gardening months of winter, I can still be found in the garden, only it's gardens that are 1:12 inch in scale...I am a miniaturist gardener. In the course of building dollhouses and roomboxes I discovered I could combine my love of miniatures and gardening into miniature gardens.
The following will show how I take what I have seen in real gardens and transform the inspiration into a miniature garden.

 This garden is two feet square and combines inspiration from several gardens I have been to in England... primarily Broughton Castle in Oxford and
Sissinghurst Castle in Kent.

Perhaps one of my most favorite, the gardens at Broughton Castle in Oxford have been used in many movies and unlike mine, they even have a mote. The walled garden and the doorway of my garden were what first inspired me to attempt a garden this took a year to make...3000 hand-laid bricks and thousands of flowers, each individually handmade. Each of the little roses cascading over the walls has at least 32 petals...if I kept track of my hours, I probably wouldn't do this...
somethings are best not known.

Though the detailing is totally different, the inspiration for the shape and position of the doorway is obvious...even the yellow plant on the left in the doorway.

However instead of building a moat and sheep for the view through the doorway, I thought it more practical and more interesting to have the beautiful perspective offered by the pergola at West Dean Gardens in England.

The inspiration for the espaliered pear on the back wall of my garden came from the one I saw at Wisley which is the garden of the Royal Horticultural Society of England. Mine is obviously not as well established but it does have more fruit than the one at Wisley.

I fell in love with this little rebar window within a walled garden at Sissinghurst Castle in Kent and used the idea for a window in mine to add more interest. You might note the little bird's nest on the sill of the window, to the left.

The scene through the window was taken from this picture of a pathway at Merriments Gardens in England.

 The pathways at Sissinghurst have had a profound affect on me, in addition to my own homes pathways been fashioned after them, I used the same idea on my miniature pathway.

Nearly ten years after first spotting this charming use of an old sink set on bricks at Sissinghurst Castle I used the idea to create a little focal point for my garden.

Beautiful gardens don't maintain themselves, nor do miniature ones, it's takes hard work and that usually means pulling weeds, well maybe not so much in a miniature garden...I happened across this wheelbarrow at Sissinghurst Castle, not something you'd expect to see and thought it a delightful touch of reality in my own.

It was love at first sight when I spotted this scullery or pantry at the B&B I was staying at in Peasemarsh in the south of England. I knew the minute I saw it I had to make a replica in miniature and took lots of pictures for reference. I have always loved a good pantry.

And for the scene through the window I selected this beautiful area at Merriments in England...there's a inch gap between the window pane and the picture with lights overhead to create that feeling of outdoors.

This coming winter I will be back in the basement working on another I always say, if you can't find me, I'm in the garden....even in the winter.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Not all grasses need sun

Hakonechloa (Hack-on-ee-kl-oh-ah) - Golden Hakone Grass
Not all grasses need lots of sun, Hakonechloa grasses are at their best in part shade, though they do well in both full shade and full sun too. But they really part shade where they add vivid highlights in shaded areas or evening gardens. They are also noted for their movement in a breeze. They are maintenance free and best of all, especially here in the northeast...deer aren't attracted to them.

Hakonechloa grows 12" to 18" tall, spreads through underground stolons but is well-behaved. It grows best in moist humus-rich well-drained soil, works well as a container plant, cascading over the sides like a waterfall and is also excellent as an edging plant. 

The genus drives it's name from "Hakon", a region in Japan and "chloa", the Greek word for grass.

Hakonechloa macra "Aureola" was voted 2009 Perennial of the the year by the Perennial Plant Association.

A golden Hakon grass is a great companion to dark purple plants such as Heucheras or a variety of Hostas

This Hakonechloa is in deep shade and thrives alongside the pond...and actually mimics the waterfall it's next to.

These grasses work best at the front of a border where they can cascade into a pathway or over an edging.

There are other varieties of Hakonechloa...this is one of my favorites, Hakonechloa macra "All Gold". It's practically florescent at dusk.

Hakonechloa macra "Nicolas" has green blades during the summer which turn orange and red in the fall.

Hakonechloa macra "Beni-Kaze" which is Japanese for "Red Wind" has green leaves during the summer and as the weather cools, they turn to varying shades of red.

Hakonechloa macra "Naomi" is another new introduction which is green during the summer months and becomes reddish-purple during the fall.

If you are looking for a grass that thrives in low light, is easy to care for, pest and deer free and adds a great sparkle to your garden, look into getting a Hakonechloa'll LOVE it!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Echinacea Purpurea or Purple Coneflower

The Purple Coneflower
is only purple no more...
The once, only available in the well-known purple/pink, daisy-like flower is now available in a wide variety of colors, in addition to doubles and pompom forms. Coneflowers are deer-resistant, drought tolerant and prolific bloomers which last long and attract butterflies, birds and bees. If the flowers are not removed they will self-sow and provide food for a variety of birds, especially goldfinches.

Also known as one of the most popular herbs in America today the echinacea plant was named for the prickly scales in its large conical seed head, the herb resembles the spines of an angry hedgehog (echinos is Greek for hedgehog). Echinacea tea is one of the best known herbal remedies for boosting the immune system...though tablets are also readily available.

I have a wide variety of the basic purple coneflower though after many years, the exact species name has been lost long ago.

 Some of the variables of the basic purple coneflower are the length of the petals, whether they are reflex or upright
and the size and color of the cone.

This variety is the palest of pink, nearly white, though some years it becomes a deeper shade.

Though some white Echinacea can appear to be a daisy, they are, in fact, coneflowers...this one is a profuse bloomer called "White Swan".

"Milkshake" is a new introduction with a fully double pompom-like flower with yellow centers.

This spectacular flower isn't in my garden unfortunately but I plan on changing is called "Double Decker" and you can see why. The first year plant will sometimes produce a single-type flower but from the second year on, it should produce these double tiered beauties.

"Fatal Attraction" is one of the newer releases and though this photograph doesn't come close to doing it justice, it is, in fact, a vivid pinkish purple.

This incredibly unique flower is "Green Jewel" which holds it's color through the season...seen here with the previously mentioned "Fatal Attraction".

"Harvest Moon" is part of the "Big Sky" series of coneflowers created by Richard Saul of ItSaul Plants of Atlanta, Georgia. The classic purple coneflower (E. purpurea) is the predominant parent but the yellow-flowering Ozark prarie native coneflower (E. paradox) is responsible for the vibrant colors.

These are but a few of the many varieties of coneflower...check your local nursery center for what's available near you.