Friday, August 31, 2012

Fine Foliage Book Preview

Image courtesy of Fine Foliage © Fine Foliage St. Lynn's Press 2012-13 

I don't have to tell you that containers are one of a gardener's greatest assets. There are many times in the growing season when a part of your garden can look a little lacklustre or even just a bit too green. Having a pretty container to shift into position and give that sad looking part of the garden a colorful boost can be a godsend.

Though I have always recognized the value of having pretty containers in my gardening bag of tricks, I have never been particularly happy with my container plantings. To say they are a little unexciting is probably an understatement!

For inspiration I have turned to book and magazines, but so often I find that the plant pots brimming with blooms that you find there are the sort of container plantings that look great on the day of the photo shoot and then like hell a few weeks later.

If I am going to invest the time and money into a container planting, I want it to look good all summer and into the fall!


When I have put together my containers, I have always concentrated on the flowers for that hit of color. 
It wasn't until I read KarenChapman's blog that I realized that I had always focused on the wrong thing! 

Karen has a garden design and container garden business where she prepares hundreds of containers for clients. She writes in one of her blog posts that, "Focusing on flowers is guaranteed to bring disappointing results at some point in the season as many plants go through waves of blooming with 'blah' periods in between." 

So true!

But I still want my container plantings to be bright and colorful! 

That is where Karen suggests foliage comes in. And that makes perfect sense! I always consider foliage when it comes to the garden proper, but less so when it comes to my containers. That's a big mistake.

Any experienced gardener knows that foliage is in it for the long haul.

Image courtesy of Fine Foliage © Fine Foliage St. Lynn's Press 2012-13

Anyway... I have become a fan of Karen's blog and was really excited to see that she has a book coming out early next year. 

Written with partner Christina Salwitz, Fine Foliage takes a fresh and creative look using foliage color, shape and texture in the garden. The book provides 60+ examples of plant combinations that work not only for containers, but for every garden purpose.

Page spread image courtesy of Fine Foliage © Fine Foliage St. Lynn's Press 2012-13 

I really like the way the thoughtful way the book is laid out. There is no squinting at the picture trying to identify what that attractive mystery plant at the back of the flowerbed or container!

On one side of a page spread you have a pretty piece of inspiration that is beautifully photographed...

Page image courtesy of Fine Foliage © Fine Foliage St. Lynn's Press 2012-13 

and on the other side you have everything you need to know clearly spelled out: sun or shade, season, soil, and zone. 

Karen and Christina also tell you why a planting combination works and introduce you to each of the players involved.

Christina writes,"When we first sat down and brainstormed this book, one of the very first thoughts that I had was to be able to explain "Why this works" on every one of our 60 colorful combinations. I wanted to take the dreamy, artistic photos and make them an achievable risk for any level of gardener to take when armed with enough good information. We've taken extreme care to cover many areas of the country in different Hardiness Zones as well as design esthetics. As well as including annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees too in a simple and sophisticated format."

Image courtesy of Fine Foliage © Fine Foliage St. Lynn's Press 2012-13 

I really appreciate that the book's planting combinations have been test driven.

Karen writes, "...I plant hundreds of containers every season for my clients and myself. Everything I use has to perform 100- there's no room for slackers. I provide premium potting soil, a single dose of slow release granular fertilizer (e.g. Osmocote), regular water and sun or shade as needed. After that the plants have to strut their stuff to convince me they are good enough to tell you about." 

Page spread image courtesy of Fine Foliage © Fine Foliage St. Lynn's Press 2012-13 

Chocolate and Strawberries! Yum!


Page spread image courtesy of Fine Foliage © Fine Foliage St. Lynn's Press 2012-13 

As well as container plantings, the book addresses foliage in the garden proper with pretty plant combinations like this one.

Karen and Christina's book Fine Foliage will be published early in the new year, but is available now for pre-order. You can find information on reserving your copy here.

More Information and Links:

Author, Karen Chapman:"I am a container and landscape designer, serious plant-aholic, garden writer and public speaker for all things gardening. In other words, I'm ususally covered in a layer or two of soil, I drive everywhere with a large trap for impromtu plant purchases and I am truly passionate about sharing the joys of gardening." Visit Karen's website and blog here: Le Jardinet
Author, Christina Salwitz: "I am a container designer, garden coach, garden writer, speaker and foliage-aholic who loves to teach and see the light bulb go on when a gardener suddenly "gets it". I adore the entire horticultural industry and revel in helping others feel the same passion that I do about plants". Visit Christina's blog here: The Garden Coach.
Fine Foliage's Photographer is Ashley DeLatour: Visit Ashley's website and blog.

" Fine foliage is a visual treat that will inspire you with dazzling combinations for containers and gardens. Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz explain why each combination works- bringing artistic design within easy reach of all gardeners. A great user-friendly resource." - Debra Prinzing, author of the 50 Mile Bouquet. Find out about pre-ordering a copy of Fine Foliage here. Visit the book's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FineFoliage?ref=hl 


Two handsome guys help out with the Book Draw

So, I'm on my way home, having dropped my daughter-in-law off at her part-time job, when the car starts to make some seriously strange noises.

I pull off the road and into the parking lot of a local grocery store when the car starts to sputter and convulse. Then there is the death rattle and the car dies completely. I only just coast to a parking spot... then all is eerily quiet.

Now what?

It is a hot day, I am about a mile from home and I have the dogs with me in the back seat. Great!

I sit and try to gather my wits, but without air conditioning, the car is instantly turning into an oven. The dogs start to whine knowing something is up. I quickly decide to hoof-it home on foot and call a tow truck from there. No more time to think...I'll just get the leads that we always keep on hand in the trunk and start walking...

I pop open the trunk and start searching for dog's leases. I shift things around, but I can't find them anywhere. Really great!

Now, how am I going to get home with the dogs?

In despair, I look up and away from the car. What do I see, but a tow truck sitting in the shade cast by the grocery store.

Boy, I tell you, that tow truck was like a pitcher of ice water in the middle of a desert!

I walk over and shyly ask him if he is available for hire. Well, would you believe it? Turns out he is a neighbour! Can you believe my good-bad luck?

We quickly come to an arrangement. He'll drop me and the dogs off at the house and then tow the car over to our mechanic's shop. There is only one fly in the ointment: he won't allow the dogs in his cab. Not that I blame him.  So he hitches up my red Toyota and the boys remain behind in the car.

As we drive away, I look back to see the dogs jumping around excitedly in the car, barking their fool heads off.

Anyway... to make a long story shorter, the car's engine was toast. Two thousand dollars, and the cost of a car rental later, it's finally repaired. Last night we dropped the rental car off. I needed help with my book draw, and thought why not get the nice gentlemen at the car rental place to help me out.

Meet the friendly fellows at our local Enterprise Rent-a-Car:


I love the look on the face of the guy on the left. "They don't pay me enough for this!"


and his face again, "I can't believe I am seriously doing this."


And here his resignation, "Sigh...Let's just get this over with."


All joking aside, they were both really great sports and very helpful with our rental car. Thanks guys!

And the winner of a copy of the book Natural Companions is Canadian Gardening Joy. 

Congratulations Joy! I will be in touch shortly to get your mailing address, so I can get the book off to you in the mail.

For those of you who didn't win this time, I will have a new gardening book giveaway shortly. Unlike the lottery, the odds are excellent.

Have a great long weekend everybody!!!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Late Bloomers at the Toronto Music Garden


Japanese Anemone, Anemone Hupehensis 'September Charm'


Music expresses that which cannot be said and that on which it is impossible to be silent." Victor Hugo 

Last weekend, we decided to take a break and spend the entire day in downtown Toronto. Our bright, sunny Saturday began with a walk along the lakeshore and a tour of the Toronto Music Garden. 

An opportunity to see music interpreted as landscape sounded like it could be interesting and the garden's spiralling pathways, which I had seen in pictures, was bound to be beautiful at this time of year. 



Designed by Julie Messervy in collaboration with famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and landscape architects from the city of Toronto's Parks, Forestry and Recreation departments, the Music Garden is an interpretation of Bach's First Suite for Unaccompanied Cello.

Each dance movement within the suite corresponds to one of the garden's six sections.   

Native Hackberries, whose straight trunks and regular spacing suggest measures of music were incorporated into the design of the garden's Prelude

The Allemande was interpreted as a birch forest. The walkways in this part of the garden swirl inward leading visitors to various contemplative seating areas.          


My favourite part of the Music Garden was the Courante, which has an upward spiralling pathway that leads you deep into the center of a meadow of grasses and perennials. 

Northern Sea Oats, Chasmanthium latifolium

Top right: Coneflower, Echinacea purperea, 'Bright Star'

Russian Sage, Perovskia atriplicifolia



The Sarabande is a movement in Bach's suite that is based on an ancient Spanish dance form. Enclosed by evergreens, the walkway in this section of the garden circles inward and has a huge stone at its core. 


This center stone holds a small pool that is intended to reflect the sky. Not surprisingly, this quiet retreat considered to be the poet's corner. 


Mountain Fleeceflower, Persicaria 'Firetail'


In the foreground: Golden Japanese Forest Grass, Hakonechloa 'Aureola', Rudbeckia is the yellow flower just behind the pale green grass.

A handcrafted pavilion and stage designed to shelter small musical ensembles and dance groups forms the garden's Menuett

Hibiscus Southern Belle
These large dinner plate Hibiscus flowers always amaze me. Who would ever think something so exotic and tropical looking could be found in a Canadian garden!

Pink Turtlehead, Chelonelyonii, 'Hot Lips'


Butterfly bush, Buddleia davidii 'Lochinch'

In the Courante and the Menuette sections of the garden the Buddleia were in full flower. They have the common name "Butterfly Bush" for a good reason. There were clouds of Monarch butterflies in the creamy-white colored bushes. Perhaps it was the honey and vanilla fragrance of these white flowers that was drawing them in.

White Butterfly Bush, Buddleia 'White Profusion'

After we walked through the Music Garden, we went to have lunch the St. Lawrence Market. Then we finished the day with a shopping trip to the Door Store to search for a vintage fireplace mantel. All in all, it was a lovely day.

More Information and Links:

The Toronto Music Garden: General information, the garden's history and design,  a map and plant list and information on how to get there can all be found here.

The Toronto Music Garden: Inspired by Bach by Julie Messervy commemorates the 10th anniversary of the Toronto Music Garden. In the book, author and designer Julie Messervy takes a look at the creation  of the garden and tours each of the six garden "rooms" inspired by the First Suite for Unaccompanied Cello by J.S.Bach. You can purchase a copy here.

Friday, August 24, 2012

In Search of Late Bloomers, Part 1: Phlox


Perhaps it is a certain reluctance to let go of summer, because every year at this time I find myself searching for  ways to extend the flowering season. 

I poke around nurseries, which are largely empty in late summer, looking for something to catch my eye. 

The majority of gardeners tend shop for plants in the spring. A natural inclination is to choose something with a bloom attached. Hey, I do it too! You want to know what you are getting after all. The problem with this selection method is that it often means that you have a garden filled with early summer flowers, and nothing but green come mid-August.

To get further pointers on late bloomers, I also like to visit other gardens and take note of plants in flower. 


For fun, I thought that I would do a series of posts on late summer bloomers based on both these sources of inspiration. The first up has to be a post on that cottage garden favourite: Phlox paniculata.


Phlox are one of my favourite flowers to photograph. I love the way the flowers catch the light. 

Some are sweetly fragrant, like this soft mauve colored one that I got from another gardener.

The Phlox paniculata in my garden grow in full sun, half-shade, and shade. That is quite a bit of versatility, if you ask me! From this experience, I would have to say that full sun and half-shade work best. The plants in deep shade are much slower to establish and have fewer flowers.

Phlox paniculata, 'Laura' and pink colored Phlox paniculata, 'Eva Cullum'

While beautiful, phlox do have a few drawbacks. They are slow to form a good sized clump.  The phlox growing along the front of our white picket fence are 3 or 4 years in the making. 

Phlox also don't appreciate drought conditions. Their leaves droop and look downright pathetic. I have had to water my plants regularly to keep them going during this year's drought.

Finally, phlox are prone to white powdery mildew. The good news is that there are lots of mildew-resistant varieties to choose from. Properly spacing the plants to allow good circulation helps to prevent problems and I have always kept this in mind when choosing a location for new plants. I still sometimes find a slight dusting of mildew late in the season, but it is never a big worry. 

Recently, I went shopping for new plants and I thought that I would share my findings, along with a few planting suggestions from my garden and in other gardens that I have admired.

Available at the nursery: Top left: Phlox paniculata, Flame Series, 'Barfourteen' Top right: Phlox paniculata, 'Nicky' Bottom: Phlox paniculata,'Pixie Miracle Grace'

At Larkwhistle Garden on the Bruce Peninsula a magenta colored phlox is combined with pink roses and a creamy colored sedum in the left corner.

 Phlox paniculata, 'Niki', and at its feet, Geranium, 'Rozanne' 
This is a combination from my own garden.


Another mauve and pink phlox available at the nursery: Top left:  Phlox paniculata,'Becky Towe'  Top Right:  Phlox paniculata, 'Laura'Bottom left:  Phlox paniculata, 'Peppermint Twist'  Bottom Right:  Phlox paniculata, 'Light Pink Flame'

A combination from Larkwhistle Gardens on the Bruce Peninsula: a hot pink phlox 
and a blue Globe Thistle, Echinops rito.


 Another pretty combination: this time it is an unknown pink variety and Russian Sage, Perovskia Atriplicifolia at the Niagara Botanical Garden

 A few of the warm mauves available at the local nursery: Top left: Phlox paniculata, 'Laura' 'Top Right: Phlox paniculata, "Speed Limit' has smaller, dainty flowers than most phlox 
Bottom: Phlox paniculata, 'Little Boy'

 Phlox at Lost Horizon's Nursery: Filling in at the base of a white hydrangea is a mauve-colored phlox. Below that, there are a mix of plants including: a heart-shaped brunnera, variegated Japanese sedge and an edging of bronze-colored ajuga.


I am sorry this is such a terrible picture, but I wanted to show a couple of white options. This is Phlox paniculata,'Jade'. The flowers are smaller (less floppy) than the well known variety called 'David'  and are a pale, greenish-cream.

Phlox paniculata, 'David'  is fragrant, and very mildew resistant. This variety is very tall and may require staking. Remove faded flowers to encourage a second round of flowers. 

White phlox used at Larkwhistle garden. Here it is combined with deep blue Monkshood, red Monarda, a yellow daylily and tall yellow Helenium.

Phlox paniculata,'Creme de Menthe' is similar to variegated 'Nora Leigh' which has leaves accented with cream. 'Creme de Menthe' is splashed with a more of butter color.

I ended up buying this one. I love those creamy-yellow and green leaves.


I have decided to plant my newly purchased 'Creme de Menthe' phlox next to a blue Agastache, 'Blue Fortune'. I think I'll add a sedum into this mix (possibly Sedum 'Autumn Joy' or 'Meteor').

Another beauty at Larkwhistle Gardens. I believe this phlox with lilac-blue flowers and a darker mauve eye is Phlox paniculata, 'Frans Schubert'. Height: 80-90 cm. Unfortunately, you need to watch out for mildew on 'Frans Schubert'.

Phlox paniculata, 'Gold Mine' is a mid-sized variety (70-75 cm) with yellow edged leaves.

Not all phlox are cool shades of pink, purple and white!

Phlox paniculata, 'Coral Flame' 

Again at Larkwhistle garden, a hot pink phlox is combined with white phlox, a star shaped 
Caster Bean Plant, and a tall, yellow Mullein.



I think you'll agree that, if you don't have any Phlox paniculata in your garden, 
you're really missing out on something at this time of the year.

Have a great weekend everyone!