Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Japanese maple red - lipstick red?

For a very short time (and never again), I wrote copy for a charity's auction catalogs, describing items that were being offered.  It was grueling work for me.  For that sort of writing, you're either on the bus or off.  I was definitely not on board.

The volunteer job was to come up with words and phrases that would make the objects tantalizing and persuade people to bid.  After several attacks of writer's block, I was able to move laboriously from one item to another.

But, when I got to a watercolor rendering of some poppies, I didn't hesitate.  I knew at once how I would describe the color of the flowers.

When we were shooting the pilot for A Gardener's Diary on HGTV (Home & Garden Television),  Ruth Mitchell, who had this most wonderful cottage garden that went on for acres, was great on camera.  As a result, Kathryn (the other executive producer) and Erica (the host) and I adopted "Ruth talk" for years.

Our favorite was "lipstick red."  That's how Ruth described the bright red Flanders Field poppies that grew in her garden.  From then on, every red object or flower we came across, we would assess its properties as to whether it was "lipstick red" or not.

I must say that this photograph taken in Bill Hudgins' garden looks more like Christmas red than lipstick red.   I haven't bought any lipstick in at least 30 years (not that I don't need it, but whatever I buy turns dark red on my lips, and I look like vampiress), so I don't really pay attention anymore to that sort of thing.  In high school, though,  I wore "Persion Melon" just because it was the favorite of some movie star.

While I'm veering off the subject here, one unrelated note about describing colors.  When my older daughter moved to New York in September 2008, at possibly the worst time in history (or maybe since the 1930's), she was doing free-lance writing for magazines while looking for permanent work at one.  This proved difficult, because she would excitedly land a second interview only to find out that the publication had folded.

Anyway, I went up there to help her get settled.  She was swamped with deadlines and had gotten stuck on one paragraph for a national shelter magazine.  In the article, a woman had a rustic house, but had not gone with the usual country, muted colors you'd expect.  Instead, she had lime greens and corals and lemony yellows.  My daughter grew more and more frantic,  struggling for the right word for what I thought an odd choice for that type of house.  As the deadline loomed, and my daughter was in tears, all of a sudden I revved up my failed catalog voice to come up with "fruit punch" colors.  The editor loved it.  I can't even say how many times my daughter and I have made jokes about it ever since.  Any item is fair game to be labeled a "fruit punch" color.

But, back to the Japanese maples.  It is usually the last of October and the first two weeks of November that the leaves are at their peak.  If you have enough of them, it's like a veritable explosion in the forest. I mentioned in yesterday's blog that Bill Hudgins has over the years selected seedlings to grow out in containers.  From these, he has chosen ones for their fall and spring colors.  Again, they're not named varieties, but they have many of the characteristics of the most popular cultivars.

Stats:  Bill is selling 3-gallon trees for $18 each, less if you buy in quantities.  I'm sure he has some in his collection that qualify for the description of "Lipstick Red."  Or, some are so translucent in the sunlight, they could be called "Hawaiian Punch."  I like the orange and yellow ones, but I haven't come up with names for those yet.  Comparing these beautiful, refined leaves to Gatorade or Orangina is just not right, even for an auction catalog.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Sophie's Choice of Japanese maples

Oh dear.  I cannot spend any more time agonizing over which photograph to show from Bill Hudgins' amazing garden.  Normally, there would not be a problem, since I could run different pictures on different days.  But, I need to get this message out to anyone who has ever wanted a Japanese maple or who wants a tree that will give you three seasons of color.

Let me back up.  I've known Bill for over 20 years.  When he was in his early twenties, he fell in love with Japanese maples and started to collect them.  He first had them at his home in Decatur, which was featured in Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles magazine when I wrote for that publication.  Then, Bill outgrew the space and moved to a three-acre property in northwest Atlanta.  He is surrounded by woods on all sides, so it looks like he has much more land than he actually owns.

So, over the years, he added to his collection, traveling to Japan and studying how the trees were used in their parks and gardens.  He kept planting, and then he started gathering and selecting seedlings and potting them up.  This was all well and good, but now he's come to a point where he has hundreds of them, covering a steep hillside that is a riot of color in the spring and especially in the autumn.

But Bill just lost some crucial help when one of his employees retired.  The trees he selected are now four to six feet tall and come in brilliant autumn colors of red, yellow, orange and burgundy.  These particular trees don't have names - or even numbers - but they are the result of Bill's discerning eye for the showiest colors and leaf form.

The good news for Japanese maple lovers is that Bill is now selling the trees at a "steal," as he called it (and it is, even by my frugal standards). He can't keep watering hundreds and hundreds of trees, and he wants to share his bounty with other gardeners who would appreciate them.

The maples are all in three-gallon pots and can be planted in the ground or in large containers for anyone with limited space.  My own heart is beating so fast right now, thinking of all those beautiful trees and how I'd like to create a woodland like he has, that literally glows about this time every year.

The maples are available at Bill's store, Lush Life in Buckhead.  The address is 146 East Andrews Drive, Atlanta 30305; Ph. 404-841-9661.

Of course, now is a good time to select the trees, which come in fall colors of orange, yellow and red.  Bill has his in open woodland, and in 2012, I took 240 photographs in one day there.  I remember saying that my heart was on fire. I ended up going back two days later and taking over a hundred more pictures.  There was just that much beauty.

I sound like some sort of salesman (which I am not; I would starve if I had to do that for a living), but this is a once-in-a-lifetime (of Bill's life anyway) to obtain some beautiful trees for your property.

A word about the above photograph.  I flagged sixty to choose from.  Finally, after I realized that half the day had passed, I selected this one, turning down some red, yellow and orange trees that would have burned your eyes.  It's just too hard to explain unless you walk through his garden and point your camera up to the sky and see those leaves backlit from the sun.  I can't think of anything more beautiful.  I hope some of you will get to have some of this beauty.  Feel free to share this with friends.

Note:  If you are on this Web site, write Bill Hudgins' name in the white bar at the top left to see more of his garden.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Looking for something else, a solution for hosta is found

Yesterday morning on my way to church, I was speeding up my gravel drive when a young doe jumped out of the bamboo and in front of my car.  I slammed on the brakes and skidded, missing her by inches, if not an inch.  I stopped totally, fearing there were more deer to follow, which there often are.  She was alone, though, unless some smarter ones stopped when they saw me.  I did have to explain to the man who was walking his dog on the street what the commotion was all about.  He had just seen several in his woods across the street.

So, I was looking through photographs of Ryan Gainey's garden to find a shot I took of his 'Graham Blandy' boxwoods so I could talk about some that I just bought (the post will have to wait now), when I came across this picture.

Now that deer are a constant presence all around my house, hostas don't have a chance.  All had been okay up at the little house, but at the end of the summer, I fell down on my spraying routine.  Everything got shredded, including a huge 'Sum and Substance' Margaret Moseley gave me years ago, way before the deer came.

When I saw the above photograph, a light bulb went off.  I have these same two cement containers, and they've been sitting empty on my side patio for years.  I don't have a place I can put columns that would be high enough to avoid the deer (they don't mind standing on their hind legs, I've noticed).  But, I could have the containers brought around to the back terrace where I only have the chipmunks and squirrels to contend with.  It would mean dividing the hosta, which probably needs it anyway.  Amazingly, I think the root structure is still pretty large, despite the defoliation each year.

Here's the only problem.  In the late spring and summer, this is my only sunny spot on the entire four acres (not counting the slope at the little house, which will be addressed when my ship comes in).  I know that 'Sum and Substance' can take a bit more sun than other hostas.  Still, I would have to position the containers where they'd get some sort of shade in the afternoon, maybe from the other plants I have out there.

What I think I'll do is go ahead and take up the hosta (I'll probably need an ax, it's so large: also, what to do with the other blue ones?  They're the last to be eaten during the season) and get them planted.  Then, I'll have a while to figure out where to put them.

As I write this, I'm getting more excited about this prospect.  It just dawned on me that I could place them in front of the arborvitae where they've be shaded from the western afternoon sun.  That will give me another texture out there, and they'll be seen from the front door (my hall goes all the way through to French doors that lead to the terrace (a fancy word for what is really a concrete deck).

I did not even realize I had this photograph from Ryan's garden, so I consider it a lucky find.  Now, to go back and look at the rest of the pictures I took that same day to find the one I needed.  I'm so excited that I've already forgotten the gist of what I wanted to say about the boxwoods.  It will come back, I think.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The beauty of a different kind of hydrangea

The exquisite hydrangea you see above is one I've coveted for years.  When I was down at Wilkerson Mill Gardens near Palmetto (my home town) a couple of weeks ago, I snapped this photograph of Hydrangea involucrata, which has the loveliest soft (to the touch) grayish foliage and muted lavender flowers.  Even after it has reached its peak, the blooms are still beautiful, fading to creamy white.

According to Elizabeth Dean, co-owner of the nursery with her husband Gene Griffith, the Japanese name for this variety is 'Tama Azisai', Tama meaning "ball" and Azisai, "hydrangea."  The ball refers not to the open blooms but to the ball-shaped buds.  If you look closely, you can pick out a few of these latter.

I must say there are so many treasures at this wonderful nursery (see for their offerings).  I rode up to the mountains last weekend with Lyndy Broder, who has an amazing collection of plants in her multi-acre garden in the countryside near Stockbridge.  So many she found at Wilkerson Mill Gardens.  Back when you couldn't locate anything unusual, Elizabeth and Gene would have it.  You could always find something beautiful and out-of-the-ordinary.

This photograph illustrates how a single hydrangea can add great beauty to a landscape, even as the season wanes.  I just stood there transfixed at the combination of muted colors and the delicate nature of the blooms.

I'm adding this to my wish list, no matter if it never gets to be the size shown here in my lifetime.  I always think of Margaret Moseley, who through her eighties and into her nineties kept planting things she had read about or seen somewhere.  Just this past year, she put in several 'Limelight' hydrangeas.  At 98 years old, she's raving about their blooms and how quickly they grow, so I guess it's never too late to be thrilled by a new plant in your garden.

A reminder:  Next Tuesday evening, October 28th, the American Hydrangea Society will have its fall meeting at the Church of the Holy Spirit at 4465 Northside Drive, Atlanta 30327, at the corner of Mt. Paran Road. We gather at 7 p.m. for social time and to view all the plants we might win.  The program begins at 7:30 p.m.  Sara Henderson, a longtime hydrangea expert and past president of the AHS, will be the speaker.  Sara is currently Director of Gardens for Historic Oakland Cemetery.  She has extensive horticultural affiliations and is a popular lecturer.  Her lovely garden has been on HGTV's A Gardener's Diary and on many tours.  You can read about her in the latest AHS newsletter at: