Friday, July 29, 2011

A flower border a la Jekyll

Back in the late 1980's, there was sort of an English invasion, garden-wise, that is.  Lots of people in the U.S. (including me) dreamed of making long sunny flower borders in the style of Gertrude Jekyll (pronounced gee-kel, oddly enough), the English garden designer who worked with the famed architect Sir Edwin Lutyens.

Most of their work was in England, but the pair was commissioned by Guillaume Mallet to build a manor house and accompanying gardens at Varengeville-sur-Mer in Haute Normandie in France in the late 19th Century.  Le Bois des Moutiers is still owned by the Mallet family.

Like most everything in Normandy, the house was heavily damaged in World War II, and the gardens  neglected.  In the 1970's, the house and gardens were restored, keeping much of the influence of Miss Jekyll.  

 The border you see above is very much in the style of Gertrude Jekyll with walls and hedges forming the background and structure.  Flowers flow down to a walkway.  

The Mallets' house was designed so that every room had a view of the garden, and from every place in the garden you had a good view of the house.  This border is one of two flanking the main walkway.

Most of us had to give up on the Jekyll border idea, since such designs are high maintenance and hard to keep going without a staff of gardeners.  However, I still pull out my English garden books and enjoy studying the borders in their heyday.   

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Water, water

Here is yet another scene from the garden in Normandy pictured yesterday.  A gravel path leads from the house to this garden "room" surrounded by hedges (wait; does anyone say "garden room" anymore?  That designation may have gone with the last century).

To form intimate spaces, the English gardener/caretaker hedged in some areas of an open meadow.  One such mini-garden contains a rose-covered arbor and benches.  This particular one has an interesting water feature.  You are only seeing half of what appears to be a long, stone-lined basin divided by a diamond shaped bridge.  Plants that look like they appreciate the good drainage of the gravel path are clustered around the stone edging.  A gravel path goes off on either side and disappears between narrow hedges.

While the lines of the design are formal, the plantings and the rustic stonework give it a cottage garden feel.  Though I would never in a million years have conceived of this idea, I think it's visually pleasing and could almost be a do-it-yourself project - especially if you have a blank expanse of yard you'd like to have fun with.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Some ideas from a Normandy garden

Robert Mallet, whose family owns the lovely Parc des Moutiers near Varengeville in Normandy, took my daughters and me to see a nearby garden tended by an Englishman.  I came away, my mind swirling with ideas.

This house was set in a field, with adjacent stables and a large meadow.  What the Englishman had done was create boundaries to hem in flowers in an otherwise empty space.

Coming from an area where lawns are king, it's sometimes hard to figure out how to make a yard look like a garden.  In this case, a box border was installed in front of the house to define a space.  Inside the rectangle are mostly blue perennial flowers.  There's a wide gravel walkway between the inner border and the house.

The English gardener/caretaker planted mostly red flowers or vines and shrubs with red foliage up against the house.  One close-up I have is of an exquisite deep red rose that looks like it's made of velvet.   Next to the rose is a clump of bright red single peonies.

On the right corner, the designer switched to an orange palette.  He used orange poppies, a dusky orange bearded iris (similar in color to a copper iris), a glowing orange climbing rose, copper fennel and an incredible spirea with orange flowers given to him by Christopher Lloyd (since deceased) at Great Dixter in England.

Not everyone with a large flat lawn would want to commit to a border like this in front.  But, if you had a blank space elsewhere, it might be fun to experiment with something similar to this rectangle, but maybe smaller.  I think it speaks to me because I'm basically a disorganized person, and the order the boxwood border lends to the expanse of green space is especially appealing.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Giverny at another time

One thing I had to do as a scout for A Gardener's Diary, which aired for over a decade on Home & Garden Television, was to have "future eyes."  I would usually see a garden months before we'd go to tape a show.  I'd listen to the gardener, look at plants that were dormant or just coming up and check out any photos the gardener had.  That way I'd know how to write a treatment and have a good guess at what would be in bloom when the crew arrived.

It was always a gamble.  I remember one year we were scheduled to go to a garden featuring antique roses in the Napa Valley.  The owner and I decided on a date, based on the usual peak bloom time.  But a few weeks later, he called and canceled.  The roses were already in full bloom, and the shoot was still three weeks away.  That happened in Georgia, when a garden with acres of azaleas bloomed two weeks early.  I went there on the date we had originally scheduled, and all that was left of what must have been a colorfest were shriveled brown flowers.

When I took this picture in Monet's garden at Giverny, it was the end of May.  As you can see, there were iris, some alliums, hesperis, or sweet rocket (the lavender colored flower to the left), orange wallflowers, a few poppies and Clematis montana 'Alba', the latter not in this photo.  I think I can spy a blue bachelor's button down in the foreground to the right.

As I mentioned yesterday, a friend is due to visit Giverny in August.  I'm going out on a limb here, but I am guessing (literally) that in place of what you see above, there will be plenty of primary colors, with dahlias, maybe cosmos, sunflowers, perhaps zinnias, lilies, celosia, lots of bedding plants like geraniums and begonias, and nasturtiums that will be trailing out into the main arch-covered path.

I'll be interested to see when my friend returns with pictures if my "future eyes" are still working.  When I was younger, I was in France several times in August, but I never paid a bit of attention to what was in bloom.  Now that I care about such things, maybe I'll get to go again one of these days to check it out in person.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Only in the movies

A friend is leaving for a ten day stay in France soon.  She'll mostly be in Paris, but is taking an excursion to Normandy to see the beaches and to visit the port towns and see Mont St. Michel.  On the way, she's stopping by Monet's garden at Giverny.

A few years ago, I took my two daughters to France, and we did a three day trip to Normandy, also visiting Giverny.  It was an overcast day in late May, and we hit the height of the iris-allium-clematis season.  We also hit the crowds.

As you can see, the wisteria on the famous bridge over the lily pond was just finishing up.  I stood on the shore, waiting to get a good picture of my daughters - hopefully alone - on the bridge.  That didn't even come close to happening, and they finally ran out of patience and crossed on over.   Can you guess which ones they are?

I just saw Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, and I wanted to shout at the screen when Gil and Inez appeared on the bridge above - all alone with the pond and the lily pads.  Not a person in sight;  Giverny was all theirs.

A book I have shows a photograph of Monet in the garden next to some beds with tree roses underplanted with geraniums.  It looks like the beds are edged in dianthus foliage.  I took a picture of this same scene, but the roses weren't yet in bloom, and the geraniums had just been planted.  I'll have to tell my friend to look for this area to see if it looks as good as in Monet's time.

More this week on Giverny and some great ideas from two Normandy gardens.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The gardenia rustler

For years, I've heard Margaret Moseley, my 95 year old garden guru, talk about her Cemetery Gardenia.   When I was at her house recently, she got me to pick some blooms from the 15 foot tall shrub.  I asked her where the cemetery was that it came from.  She told me the name of the town and then revealed that she had actually been at a funeral when she spied the gardenia.

That fact sort of tickled my funny bone.  I could just picture Margaret standing there while the minister read the 23rd Psalm, one eye on the family sitting under the tent and the other on the gardenia bush on the other side of the cemetery. 

Margaret has many different types of gardenias, including 'First Love' and 'August Beauty'.  But she cherishes the Cemetery Gardenia because it has very dark green foliage, is covered with blooms in early June and produces flowers sporadically through September.  It also roots easily in water.  She says the evergreen shrub has never suffered from numerous cold spells in the decades it's been in her garden.  Plus, she says the flowers are more intensely fragrant than her other varieties.   

Margaret firmly believes that if you live in a climate where gardenias grow, you should have one at least every 25 feet around your yard to take advantage of the sweet scent.

I asked Margaret if she had ever felt any guilt for picking that flower at a funeral.

"Oh, I think God has forgiven me," Margaret said, laughing.  "I know that because He's let me root hundreds to give away."

I now have a stem of the purloined gardenia and will be watching every day for the roots to appear.  

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Limbing it up

The other day I ran by Louise Poer's Atlanta garden to see some stone pillars she had just had installed.  The same artisan is going to do some pillars for me, not at my house, but at a farm in south Fulton County.  It was one of those bright clear days we rarely get in summer, so the light was dappled - not a good time for a photograph.  I did manage to get a great shot of the stone and grout up close.  The man did a fabulous job.  The pillars look as if they've been there forever, just as Louise had specified.

 I haven't had a chance to get back over to Louise's garden when it was cloudy, but I couldn't resist going ahead and publishing this picture.  Despite the harsh light, you get the idea of a genius garden designer's handiwork.  My heart pounds every time I go over there.  There are so many clever combinations of plants and garden ornaments.  I always come away with tons of ideas.

In this photograph, you can see that Louise has limbed up a Hydrangea paniculata and let it arch over the pathway.  That's a bloom reaching over to the left side with the new stone pillar just beyond.  Because this is such a small space (what you see here is a part of the side entrance to the main garden that extends across the back of the house), Louise has limbed up all the trees and shrubs that grow tall.  For instance, she has cut Camellia sasanquas into tree form and limbed up Leyland cypress and Foster holly.  This practice gives her more space to plant and lets in light and air.

As you can gather, Louise crams a lot into a limited space.  Just in this little area, she has boxwoods, hosta, an oakleaf hydrangea, Confederate jasmine (on the wall of the house), Clematis armandii, several kinds of English ivy, acorus, cast iron plant and autumn fern.  That's about the limit of what I can make out from this picture, but there's lots more lost in shadow.  On the far side of the pillars, she's limbed up more plants, but the tops are not in any of the photos I took.  I definitely need to go back and investigate and see what else is there.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Devil or angel?

This photograph was taken (with permission) on an Atlanta street where I travel often.  I've loved watching this vine, Campsis x tagliabuana 'Madame Galen', as it climbed up a telephone pole and mushroomed out.  Then, the resident (a keen gardner and talented flower arranger/party planner) took the vine across the sidewalk to form a sort of arch connecting to her yard. 

I've long adored the native orange trumpet vine (Campsis radicans) that grows in the countryside around my hometown.  In the mid 80's I visited a chateau in the Loire Valley with my ALTA tennis team (one member was a part owner).  Clambering over an ancient stone wall was our humble trumpet vine from the Southeastern U.S.  It was absolutely charming.

About 25 years ago, I built a sort of tunnel at the back of my house.  It was formed by a stone wall at seating height with iron arches coming out of the stone and hooking onto a wall of a concrete terrace that's around 44 feet long (I copied this simple design from a newspaper clipping of a restaurant in the Perigord region of France).

I first planted a wisteria called 'Plena' with double blooms.  I might as well have planted kudzu (although I consider wisteria more vicious than kudzu).  The double purple blooms only came on the vine after the leaves had emerged and thus got caught in the foliage, so you didn't get that pendulous display of flowers.  I finally had to cut the thug down.  It threatened to pull down the iron arches.

On a trip to New York, I saw the yellow form of trumpet vine cascading down from a West Village apartment.  I knew instantly that's what I wanted for my tunnel.  Today, I have a shady walkway, and Campsis radicans 'Flava' produces apricot yellow blooms.  On another terrace covered with iron arches, I have a dark red form of the native vine.  Hummingbirds go crazy over it.

But back to 'Madame Galen'.  People who have this vine (a cross between our native campsis and a Chinese form) say it's magnificent, but it can run about and destroy swimming pool liners and such.  If you can keep it under control, this is such a good summer vine for covering a pergola.  I also noticed one of my Facebook friends and a great gardener had trained it as a tree.  'Madame Galen' has larger flowers than the native campsis; the color is salmon orange with a hint of apricot.

 Here in Atlanta, the peak bloom is at the end of June into early July, but flowers appear sporadically all summer.  Just last night, I noticed the 'Mme. Galen' pictured above (please ignore my hand in the photo) was still blooming pretty well.  If you can keep her under control, she's a great summer beauty to have around.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

'Limelight' up close

The other day I was in a nursery and saw Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight' for sale.  Most of the three gallon plants looked like this picture (taken at my church).  But there was one plant that had obviously come in from another state (Oregon, maybe?) that had mint green blooms.  'Limelight' is a great plant - fast growing and easy.  It's excellent for cutting, and in the fall, the blooms fade to mottled pink and green - really outstanding for fall arrangements.  

But back to the mint green.  For some odd reason, the very first picture I ever saw of 'Limelight' (before the digital camera age; it was a bouquet; someone sent it to me from a wholesaler who first distributed it in the U.S.A.) showed the flowers as mint green.  So, when I began seeing 'Limelight' around, I thought it just didn't respond correctly to the heat in Atlanta.

Actually, the blooms are supposed to be lime green like the name says (I'm still not sure what the mint was all about), but they quickly turn white in the Atlanta area.  I'm betting in places with cooler nights, the color holds better.  I need to check with people in Highlands, N.C., (where paniculatas grow like crazy) to see if they stay lime green longer there.

 This is one of those plants that everyone should have, just because it's almost foolproof.  I say almost because the deer love it.  They've chomped off my blooms time and time again.  

So, if you have a spot in the sun and can keep deer away, you can have quite a show in July (in the Atlanta area) and in August up north.

Monday, July 18, 2011

My how you've grown

A mistake I made early on regarding planting trees, in particular a weeping cherry I really wanted, was saying, "But it will be 15 years before this tree is mature.  I'll be X years old!"  Well, guess what.  That tree I didn't plant would have been 25 years old, and the age I would have been when it had reached its ultimate beauty seems very young to me now.  Someone once told me if you're going to be X amount of years anyway, you might as well have a tree to go along with it - advice I should have followed.

 A Sunday school class at my church asked me to design a garden as a memorial to one of their members.  I suffered from that same syndrome as I was trying to come up with a plan.  Usually, I can picture how a bare garden in winter will look in full spring, but for some reason, I don't have very good future vision.

Already, though, the garden is coming together.  The small Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight' plants you see on the right have shot up amazingly.  On the left is a weeping cherry that already has a pretty wide spread.  The fast growing cryptomeria in the foreground on the right was already there, but is way taller than it was on day one.  Out of sight are a couple of Viburnum macrocephalum bushes that were loaded with big white balls this spring.

The remainder of the garden is coming along.  The camellias are still small, and the bigleaf hydrangeas haven't grown as expected.  But the climbing rose 'Graham Stuart Thomas' is already up to the top of the iron arch at the garden's entrance.  The class plans to add more flowering shrubs in the future.  It won't be long until this former blank space will look better than I ever could have imagined.

Friday, July 15, 2011

So many places to sit, so little time

Back in the Alabama garden.  You walk along a narrow, straight path bordered by hydrangeas and ferns and shaded by a canopy of trees.  All of a sudden, you come upon a clearing, and there's a bench or some chairs and always rocks and flowers.  Just knowing the dynamo who created all this, I can't picture him sitting down for very long.

The garden is a labyrinthine system of the most wonderful paths - some paved, some gravel - that might lead up or down stone steps and take you to yet more benches of teak or stone with lovely views.  If only one had the time to sit and listen to a waterfall or contemplate a quiet pool or enjoy an expanse of green lawn surrounded by roses and lilies.  The world might seem like a different place, if only for a moment.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Not Rock City, but just as fascinating

If you just happen to pull into the right cove on this lake in Alabama, you might get a glimpse of one of the most extraordinary gardens anywhere.  The owner has turned a series of hillsides into an enchanted place, chock full of beautiful flowers, shrubs, ferns, lilies, iris, hydrangeas, hostas - you name it.  He's got it.

And not only does he have a mind-boggling collection of plants, he must have a million rocks of all shapes and sizes and boulders (the latter you'd swear had been there forever because they are way too large to have ever been moved).

The amazing part?  There wasn't so much as a stone on this property when he started.

I haven't seen the garden in a couple of years, but I understand it's been expanded beyond anyone's wildest imagination.  How the owner can come up with such ideas is impossible for an ordinary soul to understand.

Suffice it to say that the garden is creative, funny, whimsical and magical, as well as beautiful.  It has many flower-lined paths that lead to even more lovely places. You can sit in a rock grotto, pass under waterfalls, follow stone-lined waterways and dip your hand into stone pools, walk along a sky path and pass beneath stone arches.  At every turn, you see something new and wonder how this amazing man could ever have thought all this up, much less executed it.  I'm still trying to figure it out.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

One of the world's most famous benches

It's only fitting that a house designed by the British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens should have one of the benches named for him.  This is a typical Lutyens bench made of teak and beautifully placed as the centerpiece of a parterre in front of a house he designed in France.  Lutyens was only 29 years old when the mansion was built for the Mallet family in 1898.  Today, the Mallets still own the house and surrounding parc.  My daughters and I got to see some of the rooms that aren't on tour.  It was a real treat.  It was also a thrill to sit on that bench in such an historic place.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What lies beyond the wall?

In May 2006, I had the extraordinary pleasure of visiting Robert and Corinne Mallet near Varangeville in Normandy.  Corinne Mallet wrote two books I treasure about hydrangeas.  Robert belongs to the Mallet family whose ancestor Guillaume Mallet built a manor house designed by the British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens.

My two daughters and I roamed all around the Parc des Moutiers, the extraordinary gardens that surround the 1898 house.  In front is a walled garden that contains formal paths and borders and a lot of precisely trimmed hedges.  Stretching down to the Atlantic Ocean are more informal gardens planted with gigantic rhododendrons.  

This photo is of the entrance to the front garden.  It's so intriguing to wonder what lies beyond the high walls.  In future posts, I'll show more of this fabulous garden, but tomorrow I'll reveal one of the things you see when you pass beneath the above arch.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A slight respite on the hottest day

One of the weather people said either today or tomorrow is supposed to be the hottest day of the year so far.  I live in the middle of the woods, and I am usually bragging that it's ten degrees cooler here.  Not so today.  It's just miserable.  

I had taken my camera out to get pictures of some fallen trees and decided to take some photos of the house.  What strikes me is that from this picture is you can't tell that the heat index is over 100 degrees.  I think what makes the scene look cooler is the Boston ivy planted on the side walls.  

There's a story behind that planting.  When we started thinking about building a house, I would look at pictures of houses in France and England and try to figure out why I liked the way they looked.  Finally, it dawned on me what they all had in common:  1) Most of the ones I marked (I had a stack of Country Life magazines someone had given me, plus magazines from France) had vines growing on the walls  2) Almost all the houses that appealed to me had casement windows, that is, windows that roll out instead of the double hung types, and 3) The houses didn't have a grass lawn in front, nor did they have foundation plantings like you usually see here.  There would be an expanse of stone or gravel with very sparse plantings, if any, along the facade of the house.

But back to the subject of the vines on my house.   On a trip to France, I stayed at a hotel in the Perigord.  The walls were covered with large, glossy leaves.  That's the vine I wanted, I told my husband.  When I got back to the U.S., I didn't see it anywhere - at first, that is.  I tracked it down in a book and found that it was Parthenocissus tricupidata, or Boston ivy.  Then, I started seeing it here and there - in New England, on a wall at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, and finally in a garden here in Atlanta.

When we got the house built, I ordered six plants (although it's called Boston ivy, it's a Chinese vine and the same genus as our native Virginia creeper, which is Parthenocissus quinquefolia).  It wasn't long until I had it everywhere and was struggling to keep it off the front of the house.  

Today, I have it just on certain walls, but it has to be cut frequently in summer.  In late April, the leaves are lush and huge and rather glossy.  By September, the thinning foliage looks ratty and rusty (not the bright red autumn color you see in the catalog), and by October, the leaves have all usually fallen.

Still, it's the look I wanted and am willing to work to maintain.  For all the trouble, it does make the house look cooler on the hottest day of the summer.

Friday, July 8, 2011

July flowers in the house of Shabby Sheets

Here's a bouquet I picked in July of last year ('Casa Blanca' lilies, orange crocosmia, faded 'Annabelle' hydrangeas and purple garden phlox).  As I said, there won't be any Casa Blancas this year, although there are a couple of blooms lying flat on the ground.  I should pick them; maybe I will tomorrow.  I also spotted some orange blooms over where the crocosmia is planted.  I'm surprised the deer haven't chomped off the flowers.  I guess they're too busy with the zinnias, which they seem to munch on nightly.  

Miraculously, some of the purple phlox survived both the deer and the smashing of the oak tree on the house on June 18.  I've already picked the faded-to-green 'Annabelle' hydrangea blooms this year.  They are drying nicely.  I'll use them in a fall arrangement.

Years ago, before a pine tree fell on my summer border, my favorite July combination consisted of rubrum lilies, variegated leaf hydrangea, black-eyed Susans and white garden phlox 'Mt. Fuji'.  Those flowers are gone now, but I look forward to re-creating that combo again.

Oh, about the Shabby Sheets.  That's what I call my house (a play on Shabby Chic, a line of linens and furniture).  All the furniture is slipcovered in white, but because of the dogs, I put sheets over all the sofas and chairs.  I need lots of flowers in the house at all times to camouflage the flaws.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A simple European style garden

This very soothing garden is actually the entrance to an architect's firm.  The plantings are simple, with lacecap hydrangeas (seen here a bit past their prime) tucked between a line of boxwood and a wall cloaked in vines.  If I remember correctly, the architect bought the entire garden display at the Southeastern Flower Show one year and transferred the elements to his space.  In summer, grapes hang from the vines over the arch to the right.  This would be a nice place to have lunch and sit and read a book.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

An iris allee at Giverny

In 2006, I took my two daughters to France.  On the way to visit Robert and Corinne Mallet in Normandy, we stopped at Monet's garden at Giverny where I made this photograph.  Also in bloom were alliums, Clematis montana 'Alba', sweet rocket, a few early roses, Flanders Field poppies and cherianthus.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Why think about iris in July?

The July garden around here - as far as perennials and shrubs go - is mostly about black-eyed Susans, garden phlox, Oriental lilies, tiger lilies, althea and the beginning of the Hydrangea paniculata season.  So why on earth would you think about bearded iris, which bloom in April and May?

The reason is that many mail order firms cut off their ordering season for bearded iris on July 31.  That's because the plants are dormant and can be safely dug and shipped.  Also, getting them in the ground then will allow for establishing good clumps the next year.

In the photo above is one of my favorite bearded types - 'Dusky Challenger'.  This beautifully branched iris was introduced in 1986 by Schreiner's in Oregon.  In 1992, it won the prestigious Dykes Medal for the best bearded iris.  The flower stalks measure 39 inches tall and produce large, dark purple flowers.  I'm pretty sure the flowers are a deeper color in cooler climates than Georgia.  Still, this is a stunning flower for the April-May garden.

I have long had a love for dark purple irises.  I have an exquisite Louisiana iris that is deep, deep purple and looks like a jewel; I don't know its name, as it was given to me by a friend who had gotten it from another friend.  I once thought I had hit the jackpot in the dark bearded iris category.  I had gone to a garden in Michigan and had fallen in love with a deep purple,  almost black bearded iris.  I gave the gardener a check and asked her to send me five fans when the time came to dig.

I planted the iris in a large container, and the next year, strong healthy leaves emerged.   I could hardly wait to see my black beauty.  But when the color started showing, I realized there was nothing dark or purple about the flowers.  They were instead a two-toned brown and mustard.  I do believe this is the last iris on earth I would have ever chosen to grow.

All was not lost, though.  Mixed in with the rhizomes were some roots of a lovely blue aster I've enjoyed now for years.  It blooms twice - in June and again in September - and withstands our Georgia heat and humidity well.

The above photo was furnished to me by Argyle Acres, an iris grower I visited on a trip to Texas.  They're a good mail order source, and you can also buy 'Dusky Challenger' from Iris City Gardens, a vendor in Primm Springs, Tennessee, outside Nashville, Tennessee.

Monday, July 4, 2011

A patriotic window box in Charleston, S.C.

My older daughter, who now lives in New York and is a publicist for HarperCollins, moved to Charleston, S.C., after finishing her masters in journalism at the University of North Carolina.  Right before July 4 one year, my younger daughter, then living in New York, and I met there for a visit.  

 It had been years since I'd had the chance to walk the streets of Charleston.  I felt like I was in a foreign country.  The ingenious way people grow things in such tiny spaces inspired me to reconsider what I could do at home (more about how they use espaliers later).   

It was such fun looking at all the window boxes.  I could identify many of the plants, but they were used so cleverly and without restraint.  

The compositions in the shady window boxes were pretty consistent   Caladiums, ivies, impatiens, all types of ferns, variegated vinca, coleus and so on.  In the sunny exposures, you saw lots of geraniums, million bells, scaevola and Zinnia linearis, all artfully arranged.  Some larger window boxes had evergreen anchors like boxwood.  I saw several boxes with clumps of hibiscus providing some height.   It's not that any of the flowers were particularly rare, but they were used with such abandon, cascading over the sides of the boxes at the base of windows.

The window box pictured here is surrounded by typical Charleston elements, i.e., the intricate wrought iron gate and the dark green shutters.  And there's hardly anything more 4th of July than red geraniums and the American flag.  What a combination.

Friday, July 1, 2011

A sure way to attract butterflies in July

 The first time I ever saw Abelia chinensis at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, I could hardly believe my eyes.  The shrub doesn't look like any of its commonplace cousins (there are better abelias these days; I refer to the old-fashioned scraggly types).  Although its habit isn't the neatest (the heavy flower clusters make the branches arch over into a fountain), it is to my mind a very desirable shrub, with the bonus that it blooms in summer.  Butterflies love it.

 Abelia chinensis produces lilac shaped inflorescences that are white to pinkish and fragrant.  The blooms fill out in July and persist into autumn.  This is a shrub that should be more widely used in the South.  It's great to cut for arrangements.