0925before

Hello everyone! Are you guys getting ready for fall cleanup? The leaves are at about 50% peak in Southern Wisconsin- I think the change in weather going to sneak up on us really fast this year! Anyway, onto the real reason I’m here- I want to share a makeover out of Austin, Texas with you guys. It’s from a blog called The Grackle, and I think the transformation is pretty remarkable….

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It is an epic understatement to say I have been busy lately (like the last 18 months) and this coming week will see the culmination of all that hard work.  Cultivating Garden Style will hit bookshelves across the english speaking world and PITH + VIGOR‘s first issue will be sent to subscribers.   I am simutaneously excited and terrified to be presenting so much work all at the same time.

Cover Issue #1 PITH + VIGOR magazine

Cover Issue #1 Pith + VIgor magazine

Nothing ventured nothing gained though, right?  So with my heart on my sleeve, I present to you the cover of Issue #1 of PITH + VIGOR.  I kind of love the way it came out – but I’d love to hear your thoughts.

If you haven’t subscribed – you can do so anytime!  The P+V website is still under a fair bit of construction, but the ordering areas are all set up, tested and ready.  You can get your copy here.  

We will be sending out copies starting next week, so you still have time to be one of the first to recieve a copy!

And if you see my book on in a local bookstore – please let me know – I have been checking locally but not quite yet…I am anxious and excited for that first moment of walking into a book store and seeing my work on the shelves….

-Rochelle 

Setaria palmifolia

*sort of

When I say sort of, I am alluding to the fact that this plant that looks like a palm is not really a palm. It is a grass that looks like a palm thus the common and not so creative name of palm grass. Palm grass or as is known in the Latin circles as Setaria palmifolia is a fast-growing annual grass. We brought our plants in as quart pots in late May of this year from Landcraft Environments, a wholesale nursery that operates on Long Island. June tends to stay relatively cool on the Maine coast and palm grass slowly starts to grow and stretch. By the end of summer, as temperatures reach the low 80’s on a daily basis, Setaria palmifolia plants are now over 3 feet tall and wide. The dark green leaves are around 3-4 inches in width, with ridges running along the leaf blades which make them resemble a palm leaf.

Having this texture in the mixed border is a nice contrast, especially in an area where palm trees seem to grow in various shades of greenish-yellow during the summer while taking on a perma-brown cast during the winter months. There is a good reason why palm trees have evolved not to live in New England. They hate the weather! That said, I love New England and I love palms so this is a seasonal compromise after our experiment growing needle palms this past winter turned into a mushy disaster.

The leaves and texture of palm grass are coarse with the plant forming a slightly upright clump. The palm grass makes for a nice backdrop for finer textured plants such as kangaroo paws, salvias, and foxgloves. Here in New England, I would grow the plants in full sun, with adequate moisture and ample nutrition. We mulch our plants early in the season with compost and then give them an extra boost with organic liquid fertilizer as soon as the temperatures start to reach their summer highs.

Setaria-palmifolia

We are planning on digging up a couple of clumps this winter and storing them in our greenhouse for safe keeping for next summer. I am looking forward to seeing how large this clump will become next summer from an established plant. If you live in a warmer climate where palm trees grow extremely well outside, year-round (USDA zones 8 and above) I would caution you to consider sticking with your palms over the palm grass. Setaria as a genus has a tendency to be a weed grass in southeast Asia and India. There are reports of palm grass self seeding in warmer parts of the United States so I would advise against its use in these warmer climes. For us here in New England who do not have the luxury of growing palms outside, year round (maybe it is the 3 to 4 months of snow and cold that do them in as it does in most people), palm grass is a wonderful annual to provide that tropical texture in mixed plantings.

– Rodney

Images: Rodney Eason, Lifestyle Home

There is nothing like the official change of season (autumn equinox – I see you)  to inspire a look back over the summer.   I’ve done these posts for many years and I am always so grateful for them come spring – it is helpful to remind myself what was fresh in my mind the previous fall.  Do you do something similar?

I highly recommend it.

So, my vegetable garden was less than stellar (again) this year, but the bright star in the middle of the sickly, bunny ravaged, frustrating mess was my strawberry tower. Here is how the strawberry tower grew in.  Pretty right?  And so much better than the fleeing strawberries.  The Goldilocks Rocks Bidens Hybrid at the bottom was so happy, I am left wondering if doing the whole thing in just that one plant might be a good idea.  I will definitely play with this again.

strawberry tower  by rochelle greayer www.studiogblog.com

Here is a look from the top – the Euphorbia Diamond Frost and the Sunsatia Coconut Nemesia were a white combo that I think I will try again too – perhaps in other containers.
strawberry tower  by rochelle greayer www.studiogblog.com

My other big love this year was Dahlias – I’ve grown them before, but never as successfully as I did this year.  I’ll have to do a whole run down post of them separately – but check out this one… it is only the size of the palm of my hand and I found her face down in the dirt….and she still looks pretty great. Her friends are bigger than my face and you can literally admire them from 50 feet away.  In my big garden these ladies are really holding their own.

dahlia by rochelle greayer www.studiogblog.com

On the patio of I have coleus of various sorts in pots.  I fallen hard for two varieties, Sedona (which is clashing like crazy with the purple nemesia  that I paired it with  -so I am not sharing that eye bleeding shot – but loving both plants nonetheless – just need to separate) and this one Marooned.  These less variegated varieties were pretty luscious.  Those grassy bits in the shot are lemongrass (which was a great paring with the coleus) but next year I think I will try some of these great foliage plants near my dahlias for even more drama.

coleus by rochelle greayer www.studiogblog.com

The grasses are really starting to come into their full beauty.  Fall is really the best reason plant them.  My Pennisetum Red head is still an all time favorite and I have begun to use it profusely in flower arrangements – it paris well with Golden Rod, huge Limelight hydrangeas, Sedum (Autumn Joy) and crazy face-sized dahlias to make ginormous-ly satisfying bouquets.

I will be so sad to see the end of the annual Pennisetum  Prince as it has been such a beauty and played so well with other dark plants (like the coleus). The dark plant thing was  interesting to me – I’ve avoided them as I have a very dark-colored house and generally thought that dark plants wouldn’t work that well.  Well, I was wrong….they are lovely and though they get a little lost when planted right up against a dark wall, they are perfect for bringing this sort of sophisticated color throughout the rest of garden.  It was relief from green that I didn’t even know I needed.

So what were your big winners?

images by rochelle greayer

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Proven Winners.  I am not an employee of Proven Winners and all opinions are my own. See the other posts in this series. 

Pycnanthemum muticum en masse
Of all the plants that I would recommend most everyone include in their garden, mountain mint or Pycnanthemum muticum would be near the top of this list. I knew of mountain mint before moving to Maine but really had not paid it a lot of attention because someone had first described the plant to me as being weedy and too floppy for the well-kept garden. I now wish that I would not have taken that person at their word and tried mountain mint on my own.
In this age when more and more gardeners of all levels are looking for good native plants, here is an herbaceous perennial native to most of the eastern US states, including Texas. It can tolerate periodic drought, is relatively pest resistant (including deer!), and pollinators love the flowers. On top of all of the good qualities of Pycnanthemum, the leaves also have a wonderful smell like peppermint oil. The leaves contain the essential oil pulegone, which can act as an insect repellant. If you rub mountain mint on your skin, the pulegone oil from the leaves can help deter mosquitoes.
Pycnanthemum muticum with insects
Mountain mint has attractive, pointed leaves and while the pink flowers may be extremely small, their silvery bracts are beautiful when the plants are massed. We can plant our mountain mint in the full sun here in Maine but as you move southward, you probably want to give the plants more shade. Pycnanthemum can survive many different soil types but will do best in soils that stay moderately moist. If your soils are rich, loose, and moist yet well-drained (i.e. perfect gardening soil), you definitely want to give Pycnanthemum muticum some room to run. The plant will spread, once established, via stolons that emanate from the main clump. Mountain mint grows best in USDA hardiness zones 4-8 and again, I would recommend that you provide a bit more shade and moisture, the higher the number of your hardiness zone.
As you begin to edit your garden this fall and think about changes for 2015, be sure to consider adding mountain mint as it is a wonderful native with a beautiful appearance and is great at attracting pollinators including our native butterflies.
- Rodney

before, after, makeover, succulents, no lawn, remove grass, spanish, california, front yard

Whenever I’m sifting through the depths of the internet in search of a great makeover, I like to look at the before photo and decide what I would do with the space if it was my own. Once I have a general idea, I scroll down to see what the designer or homeowner actually ended up doing. It’s a fun little creative exercise and I’ve learned a lot by doing it. What I noticed about this house was the strong Spanish architecture hidden behind shrubs that seemed too tall and out of place. I also noted a pine tree that looked a little lost and a stretch of grass that I’d want to get rid of. That was about the extent of my thoughts….but I was excited to see how the execution went 10 times further than my ideas ever would have.

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This weekend I was mowing the grass when our 21 year-old Honda pushmower finally gave up the ghost. We had limped it along for several years until the most recent service visit when the mechanic finally said that it needed a new carburetor and the cost to fix it and everything else on the mower was probably more than a new mower. I would rather use $300.00 to purchase more plants than another mower so I pushed the dead mower into our barn and called it a day. I logged into Facebook later that evening and saw where a friend was selling their 2 year old push mower for $100.00. Boom. I sent an instant message and the mower was ours. Simultaneously between the time our old mower died and the new mower was bought via Facebook, our daughters had decided to check out what daddy was doing in the back yard and ventured out to explore. Right around the time I was purchasing the new mower, one of our daughters said to my wife, “mommy, did you know we had an apple tree in our backyard?” We have lived in our home for 2 years and for some reason have neglected to notice the apple tree growing right on the edge of our property. It is funny how sometimes you miss things for years only to catch a glimpse of them as something new.

Podophyllym pleianthum

This type of event also happened to me at work last week. As I was walking through the gardens, I noticed a large, glossy leaved plant with big, yellow-green fruit hanging from underneath the leaves. There were probably 20-30 of these egg-shaped fruits hanging under the leaves in clusters. It really was a cool sight to see. As I got closer, I realized this was the Chinese mayapple or Podophyllum pleianthum. The Chinese mayapple is similar to our native mayapple, Podophyllym peltatum, with the exception of some noticeable differences. For one, the Chinese mayapple does not go dormant in the summer. Another is the size. The height and spread of the Chinese plant can be up to twice the size of our native mayapple. Also, the leaves are dark green and shiny on the Chinese species versus the matte green appearance of our native P. peltatum. I love our native mayapple and think that incorporating the Asian species into the garden is a nice contrast.

Podophyllum pleianthum flowers

For us here along the Maine coast, having the big, almost tropical like appearance of the Podophyllum pleianthum is a striking addition to our dry-shade garden areas. From what I am learning about the plants, they resent being in areas that stay wet or being in too much sunlight. Once you plant them in dry shade, be sure to water frequently until established. During periods of dry weather, I would be sure to give them a supplemental drink or two of water. They will continue to look great in the gardens until our first hard frost which typically comes in late October. That turns out to be around 6 months of interesting foliage in the gardens. If you are adventuresome, be sure to have your guests crawl on the ground in late spring to see the attractive, deep red flowers. Unfortunately, the flowers are usually hanging under the big foliage so they are hard to see. As mentioned above, then in the fall, they produce attractive yellow-green fruit over an inch long and half as wide.

Rodney

Images: Linda Cochran’s Garden, UBC Botanic Garden