Archive for November 2012

Garden Designer's Roundtable: Memorable Plants

Today, the Garden Designers Roundtable will explore the power of plants and memory. Plants have a way of triggering memories and emotions that run through our lives like a stream of film clips — memories of a special time, a favorite place, or a beloved person; it could be the plant itself, its color, fragrance, or even its form.  Sometimes your "trigger" plants are not your favorite plants at all; the thoughts they evoke may not be pleasant ones, but they are part of your history and your reality.

flowering crab, Malus spp
For me, flowering crab apples are a touchstone in time. Their flowery splendor in mid-April coincides with my peak business season (and my birthday!).  I see them everywhere as I bustle around the city, and the over-the-top opulence of flowers (for whatever reason) reminds me to slow down. To enjoy. To be grateful.

tree peony, Paeonia spp
This tree peony is the only one I own. It was given to me many years ago by a gardening friend. Though we rarely connect these days, I think of my dramatic, clever, and generous friend whenever I see it.

rabbitbrush, Chrysothamnus nauseosus nauseosus
I associate rabbitbrush with the West, and my memories of many wonderful vacations exploring the high, dry foothills of New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming. This shrub is ubiquitous throughout the region — probably considered a weed by some.  Its cheery yellow, late summer blooms herald the end of summer and  the beautiful fall weather to come.  This dwarf rabbitbrush in my garden reminds me of the places I love every time I look out my window (and I'm seein' youTaos!).

common lilac, Syringa vulgaris
When I meet with a new design client I always ask them if they have a favorite plant that I could try and incorporate into the design.  One of the most frequent requests — a hands-down favorite — is lilac. The fragrance from these flowers, which last a mere ten days or so in mid-spring, is something that people associate with childhood and wherever they call "home". (And perhaps the delicious anticipation of summer vacation on the near horizon!)  It really doesn't matter that lilacs are so blah the rest of the year; for those who love the fragrance and the memories it brings, it's worth it.

Colorado blue spruce, Picea pungens
On a few occasions I've been asked to include a "Christmas tree" in the planting plan. Many people love the holiday season and want that visual reminder year-round.
"What kind of tree would that be?" I ask. "A fir or a spruce?  A pine?"
"You know!" they respond,  "The one like this!"   ::hands and arms forming a triangle::
I feel like Linus to their Lucy in  A Charlie Brown Christmas:

The heart wants what the heart wants.

Please join my fellow members of the Garden Designers' Roundtable for more on memory and plants:

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Meet . . . Sedum middendorffianum!

That's a darn big name for a sweet little sedum!  The common name, Chinese mountain stonecrop, is just as long, but not quite such a mouth full.  This low growing evergreen is fairly new to my garden; I planted it in a tough spot between the street and driveway just a few years ago.  It's flourished on neglect, crummy lean soil, and little water.

The color show is spectacular in late spring when red stems emerge from the rich green foliage and explode with bright, yellow flowers and red bracts.  The overall effect is a multi-colored WOW!

The succulent foliage hangs tough during the summer, looking fresh and green.  Don't you love those cute serrated edges?

And if you leave the flowers / bracts to ripen, you'll be rewarded in the fall with this beautiful star-like texture.

Sedum middendorffianum is hardy in USDA zones 4-8 and needs full sun to thrive.  Plant it in a well draining, infertile soil.  Mature size is 4" tall by 12-18" wide.  The plants I've chosen to partner with this sedum include Penstemon pinifolius 'Mersea Yellow', Helictotrichon sempervirens (blue oat grass), and 'Hidcote' English lavender (not shown).

Yucca, Hesperaloe, Russian sage, and blue mist spirea would also work well with this sedum.  I hope you'll give it a try!

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