Monthly Archives: May 2017

Romantic Garden

My garden is a haven. On a languorous evening, strolling among favorite plants, listening to the mockingbirds, or the great horned owl, it can give me a great sense of peace – and romance.

Not all these factors can be controlled. The owl only visits when he is in the mood, and the plumeria bloom when they feel like it. Sometimes there is no wafting breeze and the moon is occasionally hidden by clouds. But many factors can be determined by me, and to make a garden ‘romantic’ does not require a lot of work. I personally associate ‘evening’ with romance so my garden is geared to be enjoyed in the evening.

Consider what we need:

An inviting space, peaceful, and with aspects that appeal to the senses.

We want a space to sit, a place for two a lovely old wicker or wrought iron bench for instance, or a rocker with floral cushions placed strategically, maybe facing the setting sun. Put a small table nearby, for a place to put your glass, or a candle. Nearby could be a water feature, a little stream that trickles, or a pond or birdbath that will invite the songbirds to visit.

Behind the bench, or maybe over it, I see an archway, arbor or trellis supporting a vine or hung with orchid pots. A sweeping tree with blossoms which overhang. A shepherd’s crook with hanging baskets overflowing with trailing plants. Then a path that meanders and disappears into a dark space. A statue could be placed there, or a piece of very individual garden art. A small windchime, a gazing ball to reflect the moonlight.

Our space should be away from the road, private, even secluded, shielded from prying eyes by a hedge, a few fragrant bushes or a fence. The word ‘fence’ does not immediately conjure up ‘romance’, but with some artful touches, maybe painted a restful color, some hanging pots, a cosy corner can be created.

Consider plants with foliage that catch the moonlight. Glossy dark leaves will do this, as will bright variegated foliage, and the aptly named ‘moonflower’ or other white flowers. Obviously any night blooming plants are good choices, especially those as dramatic as night blooming cereus, or – with the added bonus of fragrance – night blooming jasmine. Butterfly ginger truly can look like eerie ghostlike butterflies in flight in the dark.

Hang some lanterns in the trees, to be lit at a moment’s notice, or place candles in mosaic glass holders or terracotta pots on the ground. Light up a palm tree’s trunk with a strategically placed light fixture.

Maybe a favorite flower has just come into bloom, or you have a story to share about your day. Plan a regular visit, or just spontaneously decide to go for a stroll together. Whatever you do – when you enter your romantic garden, enjoy the mood, be unhurried, plan to linger, let your senses be filled with the impact of what you have created.

Here is a list of suggested plants (geared to my zone 10, but obviously similar plants can be chosen for your particular climate):

Night blooming jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum)

Night blooming Cereus (Epiphyllum oxypetalum)

Moonflower (Ipomoea alba)

Roses – especially white.

Orchids

Butterfly ginger (Hedychium coronarium)

Palm trees

Sky vine (Thunbergia Grandiflora)

Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)

Plumeria

Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritime)

Dianthus

Lilies

Bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis)

Wisteria

Missouri Botanical Garden

Plants are the main reason to visit, but today I’d like to share some of my favorite places at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

One of my favorite places to visit in St. Louis is the Missouri Botanical Garden, known by many of the locals as Shaw’s Garden. During my visit today with my good friend Beth, I decided to focus on garden structures and art. Small touches in the home garden often make the difference between a nice garden and a garden with real character, never lacking at MoBot.

This palm is striking against the geometric patterns of the Climatron. It was late morning and the sunlight took away the color of the palm and made this shot look like a black and white photo. Watch the light in your gardens to see how different it looks as the daylight changes.

The Floating Onions were kept at the garden after the Chihuly exhibit last year. In the evening, lights make the onions glow, a very different look when compared to daytime. Remember to use lighting in your home garden for evening enjoyment.

I didn’t think that this fence and archway could ever be improved, but the addition of the Chihuly glass takes it over the top!

This is a view of the Climatron, as you come around a bend in the path. Built in 1960, it replaced the Palm House that was built in 1914.

Boy With a Flute, one of the special sculptures tucked into the garden. He gives this section of the garden a quiet feeling. Imagine the lilting tune from the little boy. A small water feature can add music to your garden.

Found in the Temperate House, you come upon this courtyard as you come around a thick planting, a delightful surprise. It is a wonderful example of color that can be included in a garden with materials other than plants. We sat here for quite awhile. Despite many other visitors to the building, this area is very serene and private. I’ve been tempted to try to paint my patio to to match the tile here, but that might be pushing my luck with my dear husband’s understanding ways about my garden habits.

This lovely hillside has lots of low plants with leaf texture as well as flowers, very pleasing. The stone draws your eye down the slope, tempting you to wander to the next path.

Yes, even the Botanical Garden has dandelions!

It makes me happy to see that I’m not the only one.

As you can see from this small tour, there is more to a garden than the plants. Adding small surprises, a decorative fence or even a large stone will give your garden personality!

No visit to the Missouri Botanical Garden is complete without lunch on The Hill for the best Italian food in the city. Yum!

Simple Ground Covers For Garden

These are the simple plants that can fill that space, look classy, and perfectly fit that space in the garden.

BugleweedAjuga have shiny leaves that form a tight and wonderful mass of color close to the ground. From early in the spring to very late in the summer, they will reward you with towering spikes of color, mostly blue but some white flowering varieties are in the market. They can take full sun in the northern areas but need some shade to grow well in the south. It is a wonderful plant that can be easy to grow and maintain in the garden.

Cotoneaster

This wonderful plant is great for all but the coldest and warmest parts of the world. The evergreen leaves fill in quickly and stay weed free once established. The flowers are almost not there but the berries are wonderfully red and, if the birds don’t eat them all, they are wonderful to leave on for winter snows.

Crown Vetch

This fast growing part of the pea family is perfect for slopes and impossible to mow areas. This is not the plant to share garden space with other plants, but the blooms are stunning and a wonderful pink. They love sunny areas and can take full sun and have a low water tolerance in many areas.

Euonymus

Also called wintercreeper, this plant, when mature, will have several differently shaped leaves on the same plant. This will at least give the illusion of several plants in the area with only one plant being there. The leaves turn dark purple from the first cool breeze of fall until the first warm days of spring. The colors and growth patterns make this a wonderful plant in the garden. This just might not be the best plant if you have a desire to plant in the same area again any time soon.

Ivy

Its wonderful, evergreen leaves will stay with the plant year round. Be careful to keep this plant off trees and bricks or it will creep up the sides and mark the area forever. Ivy grows in sun and deep shade and will take little to no water once established. This plant will never, ever leave your garden once it is there, so plant well and think about your long term plans for the area.

Juniper

Creeping juniper might be old fashioned but it is still nice in the garden. It is easy to grow and simple to keep in check. When you want to plant something else in the area they are simple to remove and replace with other plants. They are also long lived and, if taken care of, they will be a staple in your yard for years to come.

Mondo Grass

This simple grass will grow to a uniform height, stay deep green, and needs little help to grow year after year. Long lived and simple to divide are among the added benefits of this simple plant. This plant is also wanted by so many new gardeners that when you are ready to plant over you can easily give the call and have the area dug out for you by others.

Periwinkle

Known also as Vinca Minor, this running plant is well known and loved in many areas. The blue to purple flowers are stunning and will bloom well in most areas with a little added water. This is a rapid spreader that grows and fills the area fast in both sun and shade. The plant can be found now with white or pink blooms.

Wild Strawberry

It is simple to gather new wild strawberry plants and it is often a pass along plant. The plant has runners much like its garden cousin and is simple to grow. It grows in partial shade only and has white blooms and red fruits that are well loved by the birds.

Growing Osteospermum

Osteospermums are a member of the Asteraceae family, just like Shasta Daisies and Zinnias. They like sunny, well-drained conditions and are considered a tender perennial. This means that in an area where the winters are frost-free, Osteospermums will live and grow without protection from the cold. The cultivars with the dark blue centers will stand some frost, and will be perennial in gardens further north. African Daisy is another name for Osteospermum. The plant originates in South Africa and is sometimes called Cape Daisy. A wide range of colors are available with pinks and purples being the most common. New cultivars are being introduced all of the time with the palette ranging from pale yellow and orange, to white, pink and purple. The petals vary from smooth and regular to dipped and spoon shaped.

The Osteospermum does best when situated in sunny areas. The flowers open fully in direct sun, and close each evening. They bloom best when the nights are cool. During periods of the summer when the nights are quite warm, there will be a period of reduced blooms. When the nights cool off, they will perk back up and put on a fresh show. Osteospermums are hybrids, so saving seed is not recommended. The resulting seedlings will not resemble the parent plant. If it does not matter what color or shape that the flowers are, then the best way to start seeds is to sow them on top of well drained seed starting mix. These plants need light to germinate and prefer cool temperatures. The common practice of putting seed trays on a heat mat isn’t desirable for these plants. They need cool temperatures in the 64 to 68 degree range.

The best way to propagate Osteospermum is to take cuttings from established plants. Here is an example of how to take and root cuttings. Prepare a tray of sterile seedling mixture by damping it with warm water until it feels like a well squeezed sponge. Mix that is too wet will promote the growth of mold, and the cuttings will rot before they root. Osetospermum. Either pinch the buds out, or select shoots where no blooms have formed yet. The cuttings do not need to put energy into forming blooms before they form roots. The cuttings need to have at least two sets of leaf axils and be a two to three inches long.

Cut the shoots with a sharp knife or scissors just below the leaf node, and strip the leaves off of that joint. Dip in rooting hormone to promote the growth of new roots. Most rooting hormone has an anti-fungal also. It helps prevent the cuttings from rotting. With a pointed instrument, make a hole in your mix that is just a little bigger than the stem. Carefully place the stem in the hole and firm the potting mix around it. The cuttings will root best with temperatures between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Put them in a bright area, but out of direct sunlight. Grow-lights indoors are fine, or on a sheltered porch. The cuttings should form roots in 3 to 4 weeks. When they start to put on new growth, they have rooted, and can be hardened off for planting in the garden. These cuttings will branch out and form side shoots if they are pinched back after a couple of weeks.

Osteospermums will grow happily in the garden or in containers. They only ask to be kept well watered. Make sure that the growing medium is well drained though, as they do not like wet feet or soggy conditions. A general purpose fertilizer for blooming plants is helpful every month during growing season, and dead-heading will promote continuous blossoms. By pinching out the growing tips a couple of times during the summer, a compact, bushy plant will result. These are plants that can survive under harsh conditions by wilting and dropping top growth. During periods of drought, they will appear dead, only to spring to life once the rains return.

When choosing Osteospermums at the garden center, select plants that are compact and well branched. When planting them, dig the hole the same depth as the roots are, and place your transplant at the same level. Firm the soil around the plant and if mulch is used, leave an area between the stem and the mulch. African Daisies are a good value in the garden, rewarding you with abundant blooms throughout the summer and fall. All they ask is for a sunny spot with regular watering. They thrive when pinched back, and the cuttings can be turned into more plants quite easily. They are a lovely little flower that is becoming more popular each season and deserve to be included in the garden