Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Call 911 -- It's A Pot Emergency

A client called the other day with a pot emergency. No, not what you’re thinking. She’s putting her house on the market and needed flowers for her garden pots before the hordes of realtors in their Prada pant suits (perhaps Isaac Mizrahi for Target these days) go tramping through her house. Goodness gracious . . . the immediate decline in the value of the house if dirt is seen anywhere, inside or out!

It IS early spring, an entire month before the last frost date, and the nurseries have lots of pansies, and well, that is about it. Nothing against the pansy -- it is my favorite annual with its sweet little face, nodding and smiling, bringing a little cheer to the day. I liken pansies to little winter cheerleaders willing me to go on another bleak March day. A few pansies are fine, but masses and masses of them scattered around the garden can be a bit overwhelming, perhaps even shrill (think Kirsten Dunst in "Bring It On"). Plus, some of my client’s pots are gorgeous cast limestone and required a little more than just pansies.

For her front door, the refined Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruiticosa’ or English boxwood takes center stage among variety of early spring bulbs and perennials, all in tones of white. Plus, a little cheer with pansies to fill the gaps. Formal, but not overly formal, these pots will have blooms until early May.

On her back flagstone patio, I planted four identical pots with Muscari, Narcissus

and again, filled with pansies, for a bright spot on the expanse of gray. These are just for show for the next two to three weeks until they are ready for the next installment of annuals.

My favorite, though, were the studies in texture and color in the pots by her pool house. Helleborus orientalis (see previous post), combined with Heuchera x ‘Black Currant’ and Heuchera sanguinea ‘Canyon Duet’ surround the supremely cool Juncus effuses ‘Unicorn,’ Corkscrew Rush. The contrast in colors -- from eggplant to pale pink and sage with chartreuse, and both dark and cool medium greens -- and the variety of textures -- coarse-leaved hellebores, the dainty flowers of heuchera and another annual, Diascia ‘Darla Rose’ -- will give these pots staying power through Memorial Day weekend.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Hello Hellebores!

Glancing out the door this morning, I caught sight of the first blooms of Helleborus orientalis, my dear little hellebores, also called Lenten Rose, the flowers nodding on their stems in agreement that indeed, spring is here. Usually beginning in late February or early March, these 12" high evergreen perennials bloom for nearly two months, long before the rest of the spring bulbs and flowers begin to show their faces. As their bloom time winds down, the leaves remain a rich dark green, with lighter green new growth. While adaptable to full sun, they prefer to be in medium shade. Mine sit atop a stone retaining wall, under a mature dogwood tree, allowing a better view of the flowers, and are mixed with hosta, brunnera, euphorbia and maidenhair ferns that emerge later in spring.

Snowed Under

Nearly 3 years ago, I planted Corylus avellana 'Contorta', commonly known as Harry Lauder's Walking Stick, precisely for winter days like those last week. The twisted and contorted branches of this cultivar of a European Filbert earns a prime placement in the winter landscape, yet someplace that allows it to serve as a mere backdrop in spring or summer.

Garden structure is most evident in winter and nothing is more beautiful than to see the bones of a well-designed garden covered in a blanket of white. Stone walls, garden sculpture, pathways and evergreens reveal their importance when flowers are still awaiting spring. Here's St. Fiachre, patron saint of gardeners (and taxi drivers) watching and waiting for spring.