Sunday, May 8, 2016

Marnie's Garden, Part 2: Discovering a Passion for Gardening

In this second post on Marnie's garden, we'll take a closer look at some of the perennials she's used. I think it is important, however, to first look at where you would even start if you wanted to create a cottage garden like this. 

So I asked Marnie where she suggested someone new to gardening should begin. Here's her sage advice:

• "I would suggest that the novice gardener looks at gardening books and magazines to get an idea of what kind of garden appeals to them." 

• "Make a plan and keep referring to it moving forward. "

• "It's hard on a limited budget, but it's a good idea to invest in your trees and shrubs first. Research your choices beforehand and take care with their planting. Don't cut corners, as trees and shrubs will be the garden's bones."

• "When buying perennials, try not to buy one of each of the perennials you like, but rather, get enough plants to make a statement. You may have to pare down your wish list to accomplish this, but one of each plant looks spotty."

These are all great suggestions! Marnie is so right about getting the bones of your garden in place early on. So often I have heard gardeners say that they regret not investing in trees and shrubs earlier. It takes years for a tree to mature and reach a decent height. 

And it is so true that one plant fails to have an impact! One perennial will get lost, especially if you have a larger garden like Marnie's.

Knowledge and skills can always be learned, but what a gardener really needs is a passion and desire to help things grow. I asked Marnie what makes her passionate about gardening.

"Jennifer, how does one describe passion?" Marnie replies. "It was an overwhelming need to be outside, working in the soil. Vegetables at first, but perennials soon took over. I really enjoy growing my own plants from seed, and the whole nurturing process until the plants are safely established in the ground."

If you're new to gardening, and on a budget, be resourceful! One of the more rustic features in Marnie's garden is a homemade shed.

"I built a garden shed from old salvaged wood from a century-old barn that had been torn down nearby," explains Marnie. "It has lots of garden collectables and old flowerpots and things I can't bear to get rid of. The shed provides a little privacy, so I built a patio seating area shaded by a big River Birch."

I showed this image last summer when I did a post on country gardens and a few readers asked about this flower. It's a weed. The flowers of Daisy Fleabane, Erigeron annuus, are a soft pink when they open and then they fade to white. 

"The tall pink Filipendula rubra, Queen of the Prairie is aggressive here in my damp soil", Marnie tells me, "and tends to take over its neighbours. It's pretty though, so I put up with having to yank out wheelbarrow loads of it every now and then. I would recommend it only for a large garden."

Queen of the Prairie, Filipendula rubra Height: 1.2-1.8m (4-6 feet) Spread: 1.8-2.4m (6-8feet) USDA zones: 3-9.

Meadowsweet, Filipendula vulgaris 'Plena' forms a low mound of fern-like leaves and has tall stems that bear creamy-white flowers in summer. Average, sandy and clay soils all suit this plant. Most forms of Meadowsweet like moist soil, but this particular variety will tolerate average moisture levels. Full sun to part shade. Height: 40-50 cm (16-20 inches), Spread: 30-45cm (12-18 inches). USDA zones:2-9.

Daylily 'Custard Candy' and Asiatic Lily is 'Cappuccino'.

Daylily 'Custard Candy' has custard colored flowers with a maroon eye. Full sun. Height:60-90 cm (24-36 inches), Spread:45-60 cm (18-24 inches). USDA zones:3-9.

Asiatic lily 'Cappuccino' has cream petals splattered with deep maroon. It blooms early to mid-summer. 
Full sun. Height: 45-60 cm (18-24 inches), Spread:30-38 cm (12-15 inches) USDA zones:5-9. 

A few tips for Growing Asiatic lilies: 
Asiatic lilies bloom on tall stalks that resembles the top of a pineapple. These lilies need well-drained soil (so the bulbs do not rot in winter) that has been augmented with some organic matter. They require at least 6 hours of sunlight to grow and bloom well. 
Plant Asiatic lily bulbs at least 12 inches apart and 4-6 inches deep. You will need at least 3 or 5 bulbs together for a good show of blooms. The bulbs can be planted in spring or in early fall. 
In the spring, feed your Asiatic lilies with a slow release fertilizer. Deadhead the blooms as soon as the petals begin to drop, so energy is not wasted in seed production. When the leaves yellow and die in late fall, cut the leafy stalk to the ground.

Echinacea 'Hot Papaya' has a centre pompom and long hanging reddish-orange petals. As the flower ages, the pompom develops into a more golden papaya color. Echinacea 'Hot Papaya' begins blooming mid-summer and will continue to bloom into the late summer if spent flowers are removed. Like most Echinacea, this plant is adaptable to a range of soil and moisture conditions. Attractive to butterflies. Full sun. Height:75-90 cm (29-35 inches) Spread:40-60 (18-23 inches) USDA zones:4-9.

Culver's Root, Veronicastrum virginicum is a very tall, bushy perennial bearing fine plumes of mauve-blue flowers from summer into fall. Attractive to butterflies. Full sun. Height: 120-180 cm (40-70 inches), Spread:75-90 cm (29-35 cm). USDA zones: 3-9.

Verbascum V. nigrum 

"The smaller Verbascum is V. nigrum and the larger one is V. olympicum. I grew both from seed and like them (as do the bees), however, they are rampant self-seeders and not for everyone", says Marnie.

V. olympicum

Another piece of advice for the beginning gardener: make your garden personal. It adds character and speaks to you, the gardener. 

No doubt you'll have noted that Marnie's property has many unique and whimsical features.

"The wheel is an old bell pull from a church," says Marnie. "I bought it at a garage sale my neighbour had this past summer. He very kindly came and put on the post to hold it up. I've planted clematis at the base and there's a hanger for a pot on the side closest to the pond."

Marnie Wright

If you want to attract Hummingbirds and butterflies Bee Balm, Monarda is a great choice. 

I want to give the final words of this post to Marnie. I asked her what encouragement she'd give the novice gardener who looks at a garden like this with awe and perhaps a little bit of apprehension.

"Never worry about what someone else's garden looks like compared to yours. Be inspired by them!", says Marnie. "Enjoy the journey, learn from your mistakes, share plants with others and you will find others will be generous with you. Work hard. Get dirty. Never mind what your fingernails look like! Fall into bed exhausted and dream about tomorrow. Before you know it, thirty-five years will have passed. You'll still love your garden and you won't be able to wait to get out there."

Missed Part 1? Go back and read it here.

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  1. stunningly beautiful garden.

  2. Ah, I love her last words of advice… I have been gardening in my yard for 33 years… It is not as impressive as Marnie's, but it is my piece of paradise. And I "Fall into bed exhausted and dream about tomorrow," with dirty fingernails most nights.

    1. My garden isn't as impressive as Marnie's either, but as you say it is my little piece of paradise.I really love those final words of the post too.

  3. What a beautiful garden, wow! Lovely pictures too...
    Have a sunny monday!

  4. Beautiful, just my style! What is the reddish purple shrub in the background in some photos?

    1. It's a Ninebark. Not sure of the cultivar, but it is quite possibly 'Diabolo'. I have several Ninebarks myself and think they are great shrubs. One great thing about them is the fact that they can take a bit of shade.

  5. INCREDIBLE!! This is just my kind of garden!! I love it!!

  6. Bonjour ! Je suis en admiration devant ce magnifique jardin que de diversités dans les fleurs je n'en connai pas la moitié ! J'ai un coin jardin chez moi 6mx2m je le nomme mon "jardinet" c'est petit mais c'est mieux que d'être en appartement ! Bisous et encore merci .


    1. Je suis vous avez apprécié ce poste. Un jardin de toute taille est agréable d'avoir .

  7. I always enjoy my visits to your blog.
    Lovely post, fantastic photo's ... and great advice from Marnie.

    All the best Jan

  8. Marnie is a treasure! I wish I had had her foresight when I started gardening. Love that she has places to sit throughout her garden. Sometimes we need to sit a spell before tackling the next chore.

  9. Thank you for sharing this Marnie's book, she's really talented gardener. Verbascum, Asiatic lilies, Monarda are growing well in my zone 5b, winter well too. I love this garden, Jenifer.

  10. Hello Jennifer girl : )
    I have to go backwards and read the first part ..
    I love how Marnie describes the passion we feel as gardeners .. it is overwhelming.. an obsession .. driving us even when we think we have had enough ! we are too tired ! we can't find any more energy !
    Then when we go in the house our garden brains start thinking of what else we can do to tweak the garden .. kick it up a notch .. it just never stops .. that is our passion.
    Marnie has a beautiful and ever changing garden with wonderful advice to new gardeners .. wish I had known it when I first started ! haha

  11. Absolutely gorgeous! Thank you for sharing. I do so much trial and error in my garden and probably my worst offense is the buying 1 plant because I love it and not getting more :D

  12. I love this post. Lots of great suggestions and of course, your fantastic photography. I would add one other suggestion as well...never walk away from a great rock if you can get it home to your garden!! I notice the long stepping stone in one of the photos and thought...wouldn't I love to have that!

  13. This has been a great share. My heart flips at each new picture.


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