Winter Containers

Winter Containers

I know it seems so early, but now is a really good time to make your winter containers. These simple instructions will show you just how easy it is to add some holiday cheer and interest to your garden with very easy winter containers. At the end of the summer and a good part into fall, it seems like this is a now or never type of project. As in, if I don’t do it now I will never do it!  These bare planters need some sprucing up and today was the day to get it done. I’ve always had good intentions of doing this, but it seems like it just hasn’t taken priority. I started by gathering some broken branches from evergreens around our home, looking for branches that were crossing or were just starting to get in the way of the lawn mower. I know that a variety of textures and even colors will make this more interesting and was able to find a nice assortment. The centerpiece for these planters on each side of our front steps are some bright red upright branches. A special type of dogwood perhaps? Nope, just some sucker branches from a tree that I spray painted red last year. They still look great so I am reusing them again. Many of the evergreens that I used for this were broken branches that needed to be cleaned up. This seemed like a great reason to do so! I also trimmed excessively long, or in the way, branches too. The recent rain makes inserting these branches into the wet soil very easy and also makes it easy enough to point the stems in different directions to create a full look. At some point, hopefully very far away, the soil will freeze and add more strength to keep these winter containers in all season. I chose to start by adding my painted branches to the middle of the planter. I would love to add more, but I know that may not happen, so it will look okay with just these in the centers. Next, add the branches of the evergreen that you have the most of and place those throughout. The beauty of making your winter containers now is that the soil is pliable and will let you add branches at different angles, so even with a minimal number of branches it can look full! Some branches, like the Colorado Blue Spruce shown below make great accents. I had a couple of containers still looking nice so I simply left the calibrachoa flowers and stuck these evergreens in around it. They will need an accent once the flowers are gone, but for now it will do.  Overall, I think these winter containers turned out great for my first attempt. The entire project took less than an hour and I will be able to enjoy them all winter long. Want more inspiration? I love reading Deborah Silver’s posts on Dirt Simple about her projects, many of which are fabulous seasonal containers. So make the most of this time of year and collect your own pieces for beautiful winter containers this...
Visiting Lauritzen Gardens, Omaha’s Botanic Garden

Visiting Lauritzen Gardens, Omaha’s Botanic Garden

On a very hot, muggy June day we made our way to Omaha’s botanic garden, Lauritzen Gardens.  We had few expectations and driving through an urban area and down narrow side streets it was hard to imagine what would be awaiting us at the end. Even upon pulling into the parking lot I knew we were in for a great morning!  The beautifully landscaped parking area was worth stopping in and taking a few photos by itself and also gave a sneak peak of the conservatory structure as it sat in the background. To be fair, it was really hot outside. With a six month old baby in tow, we knew our time here would be limited to about an hour or so. It would have been very easy to spend several hours here, but as such we only made a few of the highlights. The Hitchcock-Kountz Victorian Garden was one of my favorite spots at Lauritzen Gardens. The color scheme here was such a beautiful mix of shades of pink and purple with wonderful plants to complement this plan. There are really nice landscapes planted with mixed perennials and conifers for interest throughout the year. We had to keep moving to get through everything, but I could have easily spent a lot of time here plant-geeking at so many of the well maintained and labeled plants.  The large, shady bank showed just how colorful different shades of greens can be when used en masse. Now I am not much of a train person (but I know so many people who are!), but I really appreciated this model railroad garden. It climbs up, around and through the trees and hillside in a really large area.  The rose garden was looking glorious on this summer day. This was the turn-around point for our exploring, but there was much beyond this point that we didn’t see.  Again, as the temperature outside was nearing 95 degrees we made a very quick pass through the conservatories. These were really well maintained and had a nice variety of plant material. The series of different glass houses was each very different in plant palette and overall feel. I do have to admit that it pulls at my heartstrings to see so many of the plants from our previous home landscape. When I turned down the path to this large Bismark Palm I reminded my dad that this was the palm that we removed from our yard not too long ago!  (Check out this post for a reminder of this project!) Throughout Lauritzen Gardens there are large blocks of limestone. It was nice to see this being used in the conservatories too and helps tie together the outdoor gardens to the indoor spaces.  The soaring ceilings of these conservatories are really impressive. It is nice to see that these plant collections will have plenty of room to grow and will become massive...
Weeping Redbud

Weeping Redbud

If the plant gods are listening, I would like to mention my love of weeping redbud trees. I’ve found that once I put it out to the world that I am trying to find something specific, it seems to happen!  Okay, let’s look at some images of weeping redbud trees and see if this works again!  Remember when I wrote about Purple Bell Vine?  I found one within a few weeks! I fully admit that I love the form of a weeping tree. Does my entire garden need to be filled exclusively with them?  Probably not, although I would love to give it a try! Weeping redbud trees have it all. Flowers in the spring, fabulous foliage all summer and even an interesting skeleton of branches for the winter. Monrovia lists Ruby Falls Weeping Redbud, Cercis canadensis ‘Ruby Falls’, as being hardy in zones 5-9. On our farm we are going to be right on the northern edge of this hardiness zone, but I think it is worth a try. They write, “A lovely compact redbud tree with a weeping canopy that is perfect for a smaller-sized landscape. An excellent specimen plant with clusters of lavender-red, sweet pea-like blooms in spring. Small, semi-glossy, heart-shaped leaves turn yellow in fall.” This plant is at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden and was planted in 2015. Even on this hillside it looks great and the dark purple foliage makes a nice addition. This dark foliage, in combination with the weeping habit, is part of what makes ‘Ruby Falls’ weeping redbud so special. The dark maroon heart-shaped leaves are great on their own and will certainly add interest when planted near contrasting foliage. What do you think?  Is there room in your garden for a weeping redbud tree this...
Amazing Mulberry Trees

Amazing Mulberry Trees

Imagine the surprise in my eyes when, while trying to follow a map to the next garden on our tour, I looked up to see these unusual trees! Like something out of a Dr. Seuss book, these “trees” were sprawling and climbing across the front yard of a historical two story home.  This just shows how the citizens of Buffalo, New York are so passionate about their gardens (learn more about their showcase at https://gardensbuffaloniagara.com/events/garden-walk-buffalo/)   What could these strange forms possible be?  While not part of the garden tour, it should come as no surprise that a group of us started exploring these unusual features. The surrounding garden was packed full of flowering bulbs and perennials, so I hope that the owner appreciated our interest in this unique garden. Closer inspection showed that these appear to be mulberry trees that have been very carefully pruned and groomed to show these shapes. In the large sprawling form in the first photo there may be other vines wrapped in to create the fullness and show off the forms. Wow. A mulberry tree!  I was always told that these were “ditch trees” and here someone has very lovingly formed them into whimsical masterpieces. I don’t know the technical term for this type of pruning. Would you consider these a topiary?  Just look at how the tree below has been trained to wrap around the post on the corner of the deck, kind of like it is giving it a hug. So cool!  To the mystery gardener who has created these beautiful trees, I congratulate you for your patience and vision....
Unique water features

Unique water features

I love water features. Unique water features are usually what sticks in my mind after visiting a garden and the gardens of Buffalo are no different.   As I sit at home on this cold (winter?) day, I am looking back fondly at the photos of beautiful private gardens in Buffalo, New York from last August. You want to see great, creative gardens?  Go visit Buffalo for their Garden Walk this summer! Possibly my favorite, the photo below shows this great large fountain, probably 4 feet tall, with a hidden basin underneath and a recirculating pump. I have no idea how the hole was drilled through to contain the plumbing, or if this is possibly a faux stone, but it definitely is a water feature I would want in my garden. I almost don’t know where to start!  But looking through these images the unique water features that these gardens showcased were so wonderful I thought they deserved their own recognition. If you are considering adding a water feature to your garden, whether it be bird bath, reflection pool or fountain, I hope you find inspiration in these photos. A fountain with a pool at the bottom is hard to beat. Perhaps a small pool is enough for you?  This garden water feature will provide water for birds and wildlife and be very simple to install. This small water feature was in one of my favorite gardens from the tour. It was tucked in among the plantings, yet the sound of a small trickle of water permeated through the gardens. Perfect. A birdbath is an easy way to provide water for birds and wildlife and can be moved year to year or throughout the season. Simple and not taking up too much space, this fountain was tucked into a small side strip next to the drive. The sound of water next to a seating area is a huge benefit of this water feature. One of the more elaborate, this pool is certainly the focal point of this garden. Yes, this works for rainy days, but this was also plumbed with a recirculating pump to add the sound of a trickle of water– even during the sunny days. With individual pieces from a ceramic artist, this fountain is truly a unique piece of art. This whimsical fish/serpent/fountain adds a fun water feature and without too much water flowing, actually adds quite a bit of...
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