gardens around the world.

Good morning from the garden.  Unfortunately, I came home from Florida last weekend to a garden that was pretty much completely done.  All but the most hardy of perennials have died down to the ground, and most of the leaves are off the trees.  So I’m not sharing my own gardens today, instead I thought those of you who are gardeners would enjoy seeing the gardens of Epcot’s World Showcase.

For anyone not familiar with Disney World, Epcot is one of the four theme parks there.  The back half of Epcot is devoted to the World Showcase which features 11 areas themed to specific countries situated around a large lagoon.

Back in the day, Disney offered a guided tour of the gardens in the World Showcase and Mr. Q and I did that tour.  I loved it.  You got to go into the World Showcase in the morning before it was open to the public.  This was back when the World Showcase didn’t open until 11 a.m.  (this was also before the Norway ride became the Frozen ride, ahhh, the good ol’ days).

Anyway, unfortunately they no longer offer this tour.  But I did get a lot of insight back then into how they use landscaping to enhance the feeling of each country’s pavilion.  The attention to detail at a Disney park is always impressive, and no more so than in the World Showcase.

The garden in Canada is modeled after the famous Butchart Gardens in British Columbia.

It’s filled with big swaths of flowering annuals, as well as colorful coleus.  If you want constant color in your garden, annuals are the way to go.  But you’d better have a Disney sized budget for that since you have to replace them every year.

It inspired me to consider putting a few patches of coleus into the ground in my gardens next year though.  The only problem with that approach here in Minnesota is that it takes most of our short growing season for the coleus to fill in, and by the time it starts looking spectacular our first frost is only weeks away.  So maybe not.

But Florida can definitely pull it off.

By the way, here’s a quick q tip for you.  If you want to explore the World Showcase without hoards of people, these days you’ll want to head there immediately when the park opens.  Everyone else will be getting in line for rides.  You’ll have about an hour to make your way around the lagoon (roughly 1.2 miles) before the crowds catch up with you.

The shops and dining locations may not quite be open yet, but you can explore the details of each ‘country’ while having it practically to yourself.

Next up is the U.K. pavilion, and it’s definitely one of my favorites.

It’s so dang charming.

A formal sort of hedged garden is right up my alley, and they have them in spades in the U.K. pavilion.

Hedges and topiary, I need to add both in my own garden.  I’m putting them on the wish list.

There was a liberal use of annuals for color again, and also big masses of caladium.

The light green on the left and the pink on the right are both caladium.

We cross over the Channel into France next.  The landscaping here feels even more formal than the U.K. with more hedging and topiary.

But aside from the hedge garden above, the France pavilion doesn’t have much else in the way of gardens (it does have a lovely water feature, but I neglected to take a photo of that).

The next country you’ll encounter on the way around the showcase is Morocco.

Once again, there aren’t any large garden beds in this pavilion.  But really, the tilework is so impressive that you wouldn’t want to detract from it with gardens.  Plus, Morocco has a dry Mediterranean climate which isn’t really conducive to lush, green gardens.

Here’s a quick bit of trivia about the Morocco pavilion.  It was sponsored by King Hassan II and is the only Epcot pavilion sponsored directly by a country’s government rather than a corporate sponsor.  The King sent Moroccan artisans over to design and create the tile mosaics.

Next we head into Japan.

You just know that this pavilion is going to have some gorgeous gardens.

And specifically a lovely koi pond.

I love the simplicity and serenity of a Japanese garden.

Just a sidebar, if you’re interested in Japanese gardens be sure to watch Monty Don’s Japanese Gardens series (available on Prime).

The next country on your way around the world is Italy.  Once again, it’s a gorgeous pavilion with architecture borrowed from Venice, Rome and Tuscany.

They don’t have any formal garden beds in this pavilion, instead they seem to rely heavily on terracotta pots.

There certainly are some gorgeous pots though.  That one in the back of that trio above has an annual in it that I used myself this past summer.

I believe it’s Evolvulus Blue Daze and it performed really well for me.  I need to make a note to plant it again next year.

I was a little surprised to find that they had hostas growing in containers as well.

To me they look a bit sad though, don’t you think?

Germany has a very unique garden, it’s a model railroad garden.

There are several trains running around the tracks at all times.  The plants seem to mainly consist of small, pruned evergreens.  But I did notice that they have quite a few of the Berberis thunbergii ‘Concorde’ that I have in my fairy garden.

That’s it in the lower right corner of the photo above.

Next up we have China.

The garden in China is mainly dominated by a beautiful pond filled with water lilies.

Again, very peaceful and lovely like Japan.

Norway doesn’t have a very structured garden area, but they do have a building with a sod roof which is quintessentially Norwegian I think.

As is the lefse that my sister purchased at the Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe in the Norway pavilion.  I’m not much of a lefse fan myself, so I went with the Verden’s Beste Kake, which was delicious.  We enjoyed our treats in the seating area under that sod roof.

The royal sommerhus also has a sod roof.

The last country on our journey around the world is Mexico.  I was hoping to find an orchid garden in this pavilion, but apparently they only do that during the Flower & Garden event.  So really the pavilion just features lots of tropical foliage.

It’s certainly pretty, but definitely not my favorite.  I have to say I’m not really all that into tropical foliage.  I have no desire to plant things like hibiscus, or orchids.

Any of you familiar with Epcot have probably noticed something missing in my post.  I completely skipped over the American Adventure pavilion.  Ooops!  Well, aside from flowers in red, white and blue, there wasn’t much to write home about in that one.

Looking back at all of these pavilions, the U.K. gardens are definitely my favorite with Canada as a close second place.  How about you?  Which would be your favorite?  Have you ever toured the gardens of the World Showcase?  Leave a comment and let me know.

feels like 12.

We woke up to a bright and chilly morning last Tuesday.  The actual temp was 21, but the ‘feels like’ temp was 12!  Twelve!  In October!  Yikes!

I don’t really remember when they switched out ‘wind chill’ for ‘feels like’, but I did a bit of googling and apparently the ‘feels like’ number takes humidity levels into consideration whereas the ‘wind chill’ did not.

Either way, ‘feels like 12’ is too cold for October.  And as I’ve discovered, it’s also too cold for mums.

Dang!  I probably should have covered them.  But then, the soil is frozen rock hard.  I’m not sure that covering would have helped.

It’s funny, when I planted all of my bulbs a couple of weeks ago I thought I was planting them way too early.  But here we are in October with a hard freeze already.  I guess my timing was pretty good after all.  Likewise, I also pulled out all of my caladiums last weekend in preparation for saving them over the winter.  Just in time I think.

I used quite a few caladiums in my planters this summer.

That tall white one above was one of my favorites, as was the pink and green one I planted along with some double impatiens …

Caladiums are another fantastic way to add colorful foliage to your garden.  They will grow in full to partial shade and perform best with some dappled morning sunlight.

They are not fond of cold weather though.  Caladiums are only hardy in zones 9 – 11.  Here in my Minnesota zone 4 garden I have always treated them as an annual and just tossed them at the end of the season.  But, you know what?  Caladiums are kind of pricey.  They are around twice the price of other annuals that I plant.

So this year I’ve decided to try saving the bulbs for next year.

The first step was to dig them all up, and gently shake off any loose soil.  Do not rinse or wash off the dirt with water as this will make the bulbs more susceptible to rot.

Leave the foliage in place and allow the bulbs to ‘cure’ for a week or so (sound familiar, feels like we’re painting).  I just left mine in the potting shed on vintage plates to dry.

Once they are ‘cured’, or dried out, the leaves should drop off or at least be easy to pull away from the bulb.  Go ahead and remove all of the leaves.

At this point you should inspect your bulbs for any signs of damage or rot.  Be sure to toss any that are damaged, moldy or soft.  As they say, one bad apple (or in this case, caladium bulb) will spoil the bunch.

It seems like with the many caladiums I had, I should have a big pile of bulbs.  But after weeding out the bad ones (maybe about 25% of them were bad), I ended up with just this one plate full.

Then again, if each one of these becomes one plant, I have plenty!

Next up comes packing these away for winter.  The bulbs need to be kept dry, therefore the packing materials should allow them to breathe.  A cardboard box or paper grocery bag should work.  I’m choosing to nestle mine in a cardboard box filled with shredded paper.

I’ll put the box in the basement where they will stay cool, dry and out of sunlight.

The big trick for me will be remembering to pull them out again next spring.  I plan to pot them up indoors 4 to 6 weeks before our average last frost date.  With our short growing season here in Minnesota, it makes sense to give them a good head start before transplanting them out into my pots.

I’ve put a reminder on my calendar for the end of March.

Hopefully next summer I’ll have lots of beautiful caladiums and will have saved myself a few bucks by not having to buy them.  Wish me luck on that!

just for judy.

Thank you to those of you who took the time to leave an encouraging comment about my ‘sunday mornings in the garden’ posts. I was reminded that even though many of you never leave comments, you’re still out there reading and enjoying (hopefully) my posts.

I think the most surprising feedback I had was from my neighbor’s mom, Judy.  I popped across the street for lunch one day and Judy was visiting and she mentioned how much she enjoyed my gardening posts and wished I wouldn’t discontinue them!  I didn’t even realize she followed my blog.

So just for Judy, and the rest of you who said you didn’t want me to quit posting about the garden, I am going to continue with ‘sunday mornings in the garden’, just maybe a bit more sporadically.

Which brings me to today’s garden subject, fall color in the garden.  I have to say, I really do think fall is the most beautiful season of the year.  It’s an unfortunately short season, but I sure do enjoy it while it lasts.

Now I have to admit, I have not done all that well with adding fall color to my garden.  I don’t have a single tree that turns a beautiful color in fall.  Well … that’s not entirely true, I do have a huge maple next to the driveway that eventually turns a pretty yellow, but it’s not a show stopping orange or red.

But that photo is from a few years ago, this tree turns really late in the season and it’s only just starting to show a tiny bit of color now.

We’ve attempted to add pretty fall color trees to the front yard, but we’ve had bad luck with trees in that spot.

Since we’ve lived here we’ve had two trees in front that have come down in wind storms.  I feel like there’s something about this spot that funnels the wind through in some way.  The last one came down in September 2019 and we still haven’t talked ourselves into replacing it.

But gosh, that tree sure was pretty in the fall.

I think I’m talking myself into replacing it again as I’m writing this post!

Anyway, I also have to say that luckily I don’t have to just rely on trees in our yard to provide fall color, just down the street there are some trees that put on an amazing show every fall.

I get to admire those regularly from my piano room window.

In addition, you don’t have to rely solely on trees for fall foliage.  There are shrubs that provide some fabulous color too.  One of my favorites is Tiger Eye Sumac.

My Tiger Eye is planted right next to a Vanilla Strawberry hydrangea, and the flowers on that also turn a deep red as the season progresses.

And of course, all of my various hydrangeas add nice color to the garden in the fall.  The Limelight turns a pretty combo of pink and green.

I also get a surprising amount of pretty fall color from some of my perennials.  Have you seen how many gorgeous options there are out there for heuchera these days?

This one is called Fire Alarm, and it’s the perfect color for fall.

Believe it or not, there are also some varieties of hosta that change color nicely in the fall.

Not all hostas turn color like this, but if you google it you can find lots of recommendations for those that do.

I also rely a bit on annuals to add some fall color to my garden.

I feel like a few of my favorite garden vloggers have been dissin’ the mums lately, but I like to pop a few into my containers after pulling out the more brightly colored summer annuals.

I try to stick to a moderate budget of $100 for that though because the fall season just tends to be so short for us here in Minnesota.  I filled the front window box with some inexpensive mums from Home Depot, and then filled in with some of my dried hydrangeas.

I left the Lemon Coral sedum in place because it’s pretty hardy.  It won’t make it through the entire winter here in zone 4, but it can handle some freezing nights in fall.

But speaking of fall being a short season, we went from 80 degrees last Tuesday to snow on Friday.

So, I guess you could say our fall season lasted about three days this year.

The snow didn’t stick around long, it was gone by lunchtime.  But it was certainly a reminder that summer is definitely over and winter is coming.  We should all enjoy fall while it lasts!

adding some fall color.

Before getting on with today’s post, congrats to Cynthia Goscinak.  I drew her name at random to win the giveaway of the white Silk paint colors (Cynthia, I’ve emailed you to get your mailing info, if you didn’t get my email check your spam folder).

Our temps are dropping, the nights are getting cold and the leaves are starting to turn pretty shades of yellow, orange and red.  We’ve had a couple of nights that dipped into the 30’s already and that killed off some of my coleus, so it was time to start pulling annuals out of the planters and replacing some of them with mums and ornamental kale.

Although I don’t really decorate inside the house for fall, I do like to change things up a little outside for fall.  You may remember the Fresh Flower Market sign that I made up last year using a stencil from wallcutz.  I had it hanging on the carriage house in 2021 …

And then this summer I had it hanging on the deck.

As I was looking at it earlier this week I thought it looked just a bit too summery for fall, so I decided to make it reversible.  I simply removed the hooks from the front, flipped it over, removed the hanging hardware from the back and then gave it a good clean.

Next up I pulled out some fall paint colors.  I started out with Suzanne’s Fall Colors from Dixie Belle.

However, I realized that I must have given away the Pumpkin Spice color because I couldn’t find it anywhere in my stash.  Hmmmm.  What was I thinking?  Well, no problem, Dixie Belle’s Mojave from their Silk line would work just as well.

I painted the flip side of the sign in a base coat of Juniper.  Then I pulled out my Farmers Market stencil, also from wallcutz.

By the way, this is not the sponsored project for wallcutz that I mentioned on Wednesday.  I had already purchased this stencil a couple of years ago and I’ve used it on several projects already including some old table leaves that I turned into signs last fall.

I had to make a few adjustments to the spacing and design of the stencil to work with my uneven surface.  I started by stenciling just the bottom line of wording on the raised border at the bottom of my cupboard door using Cashmere.

Next I stenciled the words ‘always fresh’ in Dixie Belle’s Cocoa Bean.  Then I adjusted the stencil slightly over and down and stenciled just the word ‘farmers’ also in the Cocoa Bean.  Thus I created a shadow behind that word when I moved the stencil back into place and stenciled over the Cocoa Bean with more Cashmere.

Creating a shadow this way is so, so simple and it adds a ton of impact.  I highly recommend it for the wording on signs especially.

I completed the rest of the stenciling just using Cashmere straight up.  If you look back at the image of this stencil, you’ll see that there is a box around the word “market”.  I left that out on my sign because I thought it would be hard to get that to look right going over that raised piece in the middle.

While we’re on that topic, you might be wondering how I stenciled over that raised section in the middle.  Basically I was just very careful to hold the stencil as flat as possible and to not get too heavy handed with the paint.  Then, once I pulled the stencil away I went back in with a small brush and touched up those letters that fell on the uneven surface and needed a little more paint.

Next up I stenciled the little do-dads on either side of the word ‘market’ in Mojave.  This is where I would have liked to have that Pumpkin Spice color on hand, but I think the Mojave substituted nicely.  Once that was dry I added a little swoop of Cashmere to give them a little more dimension too.

After all of the paint was dry, I sanded my new Farmers Market sign to distress the edges and make everything look a little more worn, and then I added a coat of Big Mama’s Butta to finish it off.

I added some mums, a faux pumpkin and a little wooden lantern to the bench under the sign.

That’s part of the I.O.D. Label Ephemera transfer on that bucket, and the pot on the right with the yellow mum is concrete, but has been given the faux rust treatment using Dixie Belle’s patina paint (you can check out how to do that here).

I absolutely love how this sign turned out!

And that might be a problem come spring when it’s time to turn it back around to the flower market side.  I may have to re-paint that side in similar colors now because these colors look great up against the dark green of my siding.  Plus, I also have to admit that my sign stenciling skills have improved greatly over time.

What do you think?  And how about you, do you change up your outside décor for fall?  Leave a comment and let me know.

fall bulb planting.

It seems as though my Sunday morning garden posts aren’t terribly popular so far, so I’ve decided to re-evaluate.  I’m guessing that many of you spend time with family and friends on Sunday’s, rather than reading blogs.  In addition, I’m finding it a little challenging to pull together four blog posts every week.  It’s really cutting into my actual gardening and/or painting time!

I’m not ready to give up garden posts entirely though, even though gardening season is going to be wrapping up here soon.  So I may throw in a few here and there on a weekday rather than waiting until Sunday.

If any of you want to provide feedback on that, feel free to leave me a comment.

That bring me to today’s post, where I want to share a huge q tip on fall bulb planting!

Over the past five years or so, we’ve developed a bit of a deer problem in our garden.  They like to come and munch on my tulips as they come up in the spring.  Add to that how stressed and busy I was during my last several years of working a day job, and you might understand why I’d pretty much given up on bulb planting.

But this past spring a bunch of tulips came up in my garden that I hadn’t seen in years.

I’d forgotten how fabulous it is to see these early flowers in the garden after a long winter.

Now that I have a little more time on my hands, I decided to do some more significant fall bulb planting.  Back in July I placed an online order with Longfield Gardens for tulips, daffodils and three varieties of allium, and my order arrived this week!

It was perfect timing because we had some gloriously sunny days, and some much cooler temps at night.

You’ll know it’s a good time to plant tulips when you’ve already had your first light frost (ours was on Tuesday) and your nighttime temperatures are between 40 to 50 degrees. In my zone 4 garden, that’s usually late September to early November.  I have to admit, I may have jumped the gun slightly here.  I probably should have waited another couple of weeks to plant my bulbs.  But it’s so much more pleasant to plant bulbs when it’s 60 degrees and sunny rather than 40 degrees and blustery, right?

I had a lot to plant, so I thought it best to strike while the iron was hot.

At this point you might be wondering, what is the huge q tip?

Today’s q tip; fall bulb planting is SO much easier with a garden auger!

OK, so I don’t actually own a garden auger, but my neighbor nnK got one for Christmas and was generous enough to share it with me.

This post isn’t sponsored, and I am far from being any kind of an expert on power tools.  So I can’t really help you figure out what brand to buy or any of that stuff.

However, I will say that you might be tempted to think you want a smaller auger for planting bulbs.  And sure, if you are someone who puts each bulb in its own hole, each spaced precisely 4″ apart like the directions say, then you might be happy with the smaller auger.

But I used that big honkin’ 6″ one shown above.  I like to plant tulips and daffodils in clumps.  They look so much more natural that way.

Depending on the bulb size (those above are daffodil bulbs that were quite large), I can get 4 to 6 bulbs in each 6″ wide hole made with the bigger auger.

The process is super simple.  Dig the hole to the appropriate depth with the auger (one thing to note, the one I used is quite heavy, so bear that in mind).  Add some bulb tone to the hole …

Plop in your bulbs, pointy side up, then cover them back up.  Water them in well, and you’re done.  Easy peasy.

And hopefully next spring I’ll have lots of lovely tulips and daffodils.

And I won’t have to buy so many to stage my photos!

How about you?  Are you going to be planting any bulbs this fall?  Or have you ever used a garden auger?  Leave a comment and let us know!

how to minimize weeding.

Welcome back for another Sunday morning in the garden.  Today I thought I’d share one of my secrets for minimizing the amount of weeding necessary in my gardens.  Groundcovers!

Well … groundcover plants I mean.  And it’s probably not really a secret.

I love using groundcover plants along the edges of my perennial borders.  As they mature, they fill in all around the taller plants, and they spill over the edges softening the line between lawn/patio/walkway and garden.  Once they fill in, they don’t leave any room for weeds to grow.  Sure, you’ll get the occasional clover popping up, but it’s super easy to pull those out.

The one shown above is a lamium (or dead-nettles).  I used to have the Pink Pewter variety of this plant and to be honest, I didn’t care for it.  I thought it was rather unattractive with the silvery color of its leaves.  I pulled all of that out one year, and now I just have the Lemon Frost variety.

The clump that gets a little more sun is much more yellow (above) than the clump in the shade (first photo).  I love the pop of brightness this lends to the garden.  And this stuff seems to be super hardy.  In warmer zones than ours it is considered evergreen, but oftentimes as the snow melts away in the spring I’ll find this stuff still looking somewhat green.  However, it is considered deciduous here in zone 4.

I originally purchased just one of these plants, and since then I have divided it multiple times and moved it to about five different spots in my garden.  I’ve also given chunks of it away to friends.  It definitely likes to spread.

It wasn’t until I started putting this post together that I realized just how many groundcover plants I have in my garden, so let’s take a look at some more of them.

First of all, that one above is a sedum or stonecrop.  I’ve had that one forever, so I’m not precisely sure which variety it is, but it’s likely Golden Creeping Sedum.  It has a yellow flower in early summer, but for most of the growing season it is just green.

Stonecrop prefers a full sun location, but it will tolerate some shade.  As I’ve mentioned in the past, I have very few full sun locations in my garden so my stonecrop is in partial shade and it seems to do fine.

Next up is sweet woodruff.

Sweet woodruff is a shade loving ground cover that spreads by runners.  So yes, it can get invasive.  Mine is planted with hostas which do a good job of holding their own against a ground cover.

This plant also flowers in early summer, and it has a pretty little white flower.

I planted some ajuga (or bugleweed) just two years about and it’s already filling in the area where I put it.

I’m not sure which variety I have, but it gets a spiky blue-ish flower on it in late spring.  You can also get ajuga with pink or white flowers.  This is another one that can be invasive, so it’s a good idea to plant it in an area where you can easily control the spread.  Mine is separated from the lawn by a brick border and so far it doesn’t seem to want to jump over that.

Another ground cover in my garden is English Ivy.

I hadn’t realized that one could grow English Ivy outdoors in our climate until I saw it growing in someone’s garden who was having a garage sale.  I asked her about it, and she kindly offered to dig up a chunk of it for me.  I’ve had it ever since, and that must have been nearly 20 years ago or more.

I love the look of ivy growing over stone walls, it feels so very … well … English.

There are lots of articles out there on the web about how to kill English Ivy, or how to remove it from a brick wall.  In other words, it can be very invasive and it can do damage to masonry.  But here in my zone 4 Minnesota garden, it seems to just barely hang on from year to year.  As I’ve mentioned, I’ve had it for at least two decades or more and it hasn’t really even filled in the small bed where it’s planted.  I also have to admit that it doesn’t do a great job of weed suppression because it doesn’t fill in enough to cover all of the ground.  So more weeds pop up under this one than the others that I’m mentioning in this post.

I’m going to try a little experiment this winter with some English Ivy growing in a pot.

I don’t think it will survive the winter in a pot, but I’m going to leave it in there and see what happens.

Probably the most invasive of the ground covers in my garden is this variegated vinca.

This is one that I have to beat back on a regular basis.  So if you’re looking for a ground cover that will fill in quickly, cover a large area and not need much care, this one is a good choice for that.

How about you?  Do you have any groundcovers in your garden?  Do you have a favorite that I haven’t mentioned here?  Leave a comment and let us know, and then get out in your garden!

hydrangea wreaths.

A few weeks ago I shared a post about harvesting and drying my Annabelle hydrangeas, but it was still a little early then to cut the paniculatas.  I wanted to wait for them to color up a bit more.

One of the many things I love about this species of hydrangea is that they change color as the season progresses from late summer to early fall.  The Vanilla Strawberry get deeper and deeper pink, and the Little Lime gets a pretty coppery pink mixed with a deeper green color.

The Limelights go from lime green to creamy white to a blush pink.

They were all at a point where I loved the coloring, so I decided to cut a bunch and dry them in preparation for winter arrangements in my window boxes.

I’ll put both of those crates in a dark corner of the carriage house and let them dry until I’m ready to fill my window boxes for the winter.

Even after cutting all of those, I hadn’t really even made a dent in the quantity of flowers on my bushes so I decided to also makes some wreaths with them.  I’ve always wanted to try this, but never had the time when I was a 9 to 5’er.

All I needed was a few wire wreath forms …

and some floral wire.

To prepare the hydrangeas, I first removed all of the leaves (the leaves don’t look quite so pretty when dried).

Then I trimmed up the stems fairly short, leaving just enough to wire onto the frame, but not so much that the stems will stick out.

By the way, that one is a Little Lime.  Aren’t the colors just gorgeous?!  I love that combo of pink and green.  I think it takes me back to all of those preppy Izod shirts I wore back in the early 80’s.

Next it’s simply a matter of wiring the blooms onto the frames.

I hung this round wreath on the potting shed door.

Once I had that one finished I remembered that I had an old dried up square boxwood wreath tucked away in the carriage house lean-to.

I actually rather liked the look of the dried out boxwood for fall.  But I went ahead and removed all of that to get at the square wreath frame.

I decided to try the Limelights on this one.

I have to say, it was a bit more challenging to get the flowers into a square shape.

I ended up trimming off some bulgy bits here and there to get more of a square.

Ultimately I think it worked out.

Although whether or not it still looks square is up for debate.

I plan to let these dry right in place and I’m not entirely sure how well that will work out.  I’ll give you an update in a couple of weeks and let you know.

In the meantime, what do you think?  Have you made your own dried hydrangea wreaths?  Or do you have other plants in your gardens that make a great wreath?  Leave a comment and let us know!

the gardens of east isles.

Once again this week I’m bringing you my ‘sunday mornings in the garden’ post from somewhere other than my own gardens.  As I mentioned on Monday, last weekend my sister and I went to the neighborhood garage sales in the East Isles and Lowry Hill neighborhoods in Minneapolis.

This is one of my favorite neighborhood sales simply because the homes are so gorgeous.

These aren’t newer homes, most of them were built between 1885 and 1930.

And they aren’t cookie cutter houses where they all look vaguely the same.

Each one is unique, and there are a number of different styles of architecture represented.

I enjoy looking at the gardens just as much as the houses (well, or possibly more).

I’m betting that many of them are professionally designed (and possibly also professionally maintained).  So it’s a great opportunity to get some fabulous ideas that I can possibly translate into my own garden.

One thing that always jumps out at me in these small gardens is their use of small trees and shrubs.  Right in the middle of that photo above is a gorgeous Japanese maple.  As much as I admire them, I’ve never been brave enough to add a Japanese maple to my garden.  Most of them are hearty in zones 5 to 9, but they have been developing varieties that are more cold tolerant and are rated for our zone 4.  But they are pricey (usually $200 or more), and I am reluctant to spend that much on a tree that needs to be babied to survive here.

I added a Pagoda Dogwood to our shade garden about a month ago in an effort to add more small trees to our space.  We’ll see how that goes first.

I’m also trying to absorb some ideas for upping my game when it comes to small evergreens.

I definitely saw some fabulous specimens, but haven’t had a chance to research what they are yet.

If any of you recognize these varieties, be sure to shout it out in a comment.

There were some great examples of planting you can do in the boulevard (a.k.a. verge, tree-belt, the section between the sidewalk and the street, what do you call it?).  These areas can be especially difficult here in Minnesota because this is where the big banks of snow end up when they plow the streets.

I love the example above with its low-growing ground covers combined with poufy tufts of ornamental grass.

This next one features slightly taller plants.

Isn’t that an interesting combination with shade loving hostas mixed in with sun loving phlox and sedum.  And they all seem to be doing well.

Some of these gardens can definitely give the gardens that I admired in Charleston a run for their money with their wrought iron fences and formal hedging.

I would say that this is the style that most appeals to me, but I don’t have anything formal in my own gardens.  I think a formal garden would be out of place next to our 1904 farmhouse.  But I do love them.

This sort of secret garden look is probably more suited to our house.

This next one is a good example of getting creative with the space you have.

That house sits on a triangular shaped lot that tapers to a point and has a street both in front and behind the house.  They’ve adding hedging to the point and a trio of hydrangea standards that will be stunning when they get a bit bigger (that’s a flag pole in the foreground, fyi).  Since there isn’t really a backyard, they have an area to the side of the house that is enclosed in a privacy fence and looks to have a patio set with an umbrella for outdoor dining.

By the way, it’s not all single family homes in the neighborhood.  Just check out the Claridge.

I so love seeing old apartment buildings like this one that have retained their charm, at least on the outside.

I tried to find some photos of the interiors, and the ones I found online looked totally modern which is a bit of a bummer.

I always feel like a neighborhood sale is an open invitation to wander around these beautiful historic neighborhoods without looking suspicious.  But really, these are public sidewalks and anyone can walk around here and admire the houses and front gardens.  I totally recommend doing something similar where you are if you want to gather some garden inspiration yourself.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed this visit to East Isles and Lowry Hill as much as I did.

the arb.

This week my Sunday mornings in the garden post isn’t coming to you from my own garden, instead I’m sharing the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in all of its glory.

The Arboretum, or the Arb for short, was founded in 1958 by some local community sponsors in partnership with the University of Minnesota.  Their mission is to ‘welcome, inform and inspire all through outstanding displays, protected natural areas, horticultural research and education’.

If you’ve ever enjoyed a Honeycrisp apple you can thank the Arb for that.  It was developed here by the U of M, and was later named the Minnesota State Fruit.  I have to admit that their newer Zestar and SweeTango apples have taken over as my favorite varieties though.

My niece, Kris, had a day off mid-week last week and wanted to do something fun so she suggested a visit to the Arboretum.  I usually get out there about once a year, and every time I go I think “I should get out here more often!”  It really is worth the 50 minute drive.

There are two things I love about the Arb.

No. 1 – it’s simply a beautiful place to walk around and admire the lovely gardens.

One of my favorites is the Japanese Garden.

It’s so serene, and you know me, I like a garden that is mainly just green.

I was recently telling my bff that I’d like to visit Japan one day, but my problem is that I’d expect the entire country to look just like that photo.  I strongly suspect that it doesn’t though.

If you love color, the Annual Garden stands out in stark contrast to the Japanese Garden.

Every year the Arb does a different design for the annual garden and this year landscape designer Duane Otto decided to go with bright yellows, reds and oranges.

They’ve carried these colors to the area around the front of the visitor center building as well.

While I fully admit these beds of annuals are pretty darn spectacular, they aren’t my style at all.  I have very few bright colors like this in my own gardens, and when I do have color I tend to prefer the cooler versions rather that these hot colors.

Another favorite of mine though is the Knot Garden.

I’ve always loved the symmetrical and somewhat formal look of a knot garden.

The Rose Garden is really lovely as well.

I’d kind of like to know what they are doing to keep the Japanese beetles at bay though.  I saw very little damage from beetles on their roses, although there was some.

I don’t know that this next area has a specific name (at least not on the map I have), although it seems to be mainly conifers.

It has a ‘north woods’ feel to me for sure.

It also reminds me a lot of the Japanese Garden, but with a more natural feel.

The thing that all of these gardens have in common is that I won’t likely ever have a space like them in my own garden, but I still enjoy admiring them.

And that brings me to the 2nd thing I love about the Arboretum.

No. 2 – In addition to providing beautiful eye candy, the Arb also aims to educate.  It is part of the University of Minnesota after all.  I get lots of ideas for plant varieties, or plant combinations to add to my own garden when I visit.

Kris and I spent a bit of time checking out the Herb Garden.

I was trying to pick out some different herbs to add to my herb planter next year.

Although my herbs grew really well this year, the reality is that I don’t cook much so they felt really rather wasted.  So as we were going through the herb garden, especially the section with the scented herbs, it occurred to me that I might enjoy growing some herbs for their scent rather than for cooking.

My herb planter is situated right next to our outdoor dining table on the deck and I’ve noticed how the scent of the basil and the mint drift over while I’m seated there.

So next year I’d like to try growing some lemon balm, lemon verbena, and definitely one of the scented geraniums, like the chocolate mint.

I also thought this Society Garlic plant looked really nice in a clay pot.

That would be a fun addition to my deck as well.

I’ve never really grown hostas for their flowers, but while in the Japanese garden I noticed a hosta that had a deep purple flower that was really pretty en masse.

I was able to locate that hosta in the hosta glade where it was labeled as hosta clausa.

So now I can add that one to my wish list of plants for my garden.

I’d recently been wondering if I could grow a Japanese Forest Grass, or Hakonechloa.

I’d done some cursory research online and mostly found varieties that grow in zones 5 to 9.  I wasn’t sure if I could put one in my zone 4 garden.  But hey, if the Arb can grow it, so can I (theoretically).  Further research online tells me that this particular species, H. macra, is the most cold hearty of the bunch.  This is also one of the few ornamental grasses that perform well in the shade.  This plant is also definitely being added to my plant wish list.

In addition to the garden layouts in the central part of the arboretum, they also have educational and demonstration areas further out including a hedge display that showcases different varieties of plants suitable for use as hedging, the shrub walk to show different varieties of shrubs that will grow in our area, a weeping tree collection, an azalea and rhododendron collection, a crab apple tree collection, an iris garden, a peony garden, a section showing varieties of ornamental grasses, and one of my favorites, a hydrangea collection.

I had to laugh when I saw this in the hydrangea area …

What you’re looking at in the foreground is the Endless Summer hydrangea which is supposed to be a macrophylla hydrangea that blooms on new wood, and thus will bloom in our northern climate.  Behind it are all of the paniculatas that actually do bloom well in our climate.  I feel like this one picture says it all and I can get off my Endless Summer soap box.  Apparently even the Arb can’t get it to bloom!

They also have a dahlia trial garden at the Arb, and although I don’t grow dahlias myself (they are way too high maintenance for me), I couldn’t resist stopping to take a look.

I can definitely see why dahlias have seen a resurgence in popularity lately though.

They certainly can be magnificent.

Some of the flowers on these are the size of dinner plates.

How about you?  Do you grow dahlias?

There is so much more to see at the Arb than what I’ve touched on here, but I figure this post has gotten long enough.  I hope to make another visit there when the fall colors arrive, so stay tuned for a potential post on that.

The MN Landscape Arboretum was named the Best Botanical Garden by USA Today in 2017 and 2019.  It really is pretty dang fabulous.  The next time I am whining about the fact that we don’t have any amazing gardens here in Minnesota like the one I visited at Dunrobin Castle in Scotland

would you please remind me that although we may not have any castles here, we do still have some pretty amazing gardens!

the return of the potting shed.

Finally!  Today I’m sharing the transformation of the photo cottage back into a potting shed.

It’s done!

Well, as done as any room ever is at our house.  I’m always making little tweaks here and there.

As a recap, we scraped and painted the walls, then sanded and painted the floor.

Then I brought the old chippy cabinet back in.

There is a little backstory to this piece.  When we purchased our house the lower portion of this cabinet was in the carriage house, and had the very chippy paint you see on it.  I moved it out to the shed early on, and I replaced the insets in the doors with chicken wire.  The upper portion was in the kitchen.  The previous owners had built a surround around the radiator and added that top section to it to give it a hutch-like look.

Here’s some photographic evidence that I have been painting furniture for a very long time.

Yep, that’s me circa 1989.

Along with all of my other cupboards, I painted it a peach color the first time we redecorated the kitchen (don’t judge, it was the late 80’s, and hey, I was covering up mustard yellow).  The most startling thing to me about that photo (aside from my mullet-like hairstyle) is that I still use those blue plastic buckets!  Jeesh!  I have 33 year old plastic buckets.

Anyway, I later painted it white when I redecorated the kitchen again.  Eventually we ripped out that radiator surround and I decided to pair this top with the chippy cupboard in the shed.  It wasn’t until we went to put it in place that I realized it belonged there all along.  The chippy cupboard has grooves in the top and this hutch piece fits in them perfectly.

But that sort of explains why the bottom half of this hutch is in the original chippy paint, and the top half isn’t.  I suppose some people would opt to paint the bottom too, but not me.  I love that authentic chippy paint!

When I turned the shed into the photo cottage, I repainted the inside of the upper cabinet in Annie Sloan’s Duck Egg and I added vintage wallpaper to the lower shelf and inside the drawers.  You can read all about that here.  Then back in 2020 I re-painted the interior in Dixie Belle’s Kudzu.

I’m still keeping some of my pretty floral china in the top, and the bottom is perfect for storing clay pots.

Some of you might remember the primitive dollhouse I purchased at a garage sale back in May.

I ended up deciding to keep that for the potting shed, and now it resides on top of this cabinet along with a chippy green bird cage.

Opposite the hutch is the green wicker chair I revamped a few weeks back, and the first aid chest I shared last week.

I have a reading lamp on the window ledge next to the chair.

But I’m faking you out a bit with that.  I don’t have electricity in the shed.

I initially rewired this lamp intending to sell it at the shop, and then never did.  It’s still listed on my ‘available for local sale‘ page (if any of you locals need a cool lamp in a location that actually has electricity), but in the meantime the green base works perfectly in the potting shed.

The potting bench I created last month is opposite the door.

It will be a great spot for storing all of my less attractive gardening supplies like fertilizer and such.

As you can see, I’m gearing up for fall bulb planting!

Hanging on the wall to the left of that window is the pie safe that I shared earlier this summer.

I was going to bring that in to the shop, but once again, it never made it in there.  I do still have it listed on my available for local sale page though.  I would part with it as well if anyone wants to purchase it, but in the meantime it looks great in the shed.

I have this old vintage fly swatter hanging on the wall next to the pie safe.

I don’t know why I’m so drawn to this thing, but I love it.  It seems like an appropriate thing to hang in a potting shed.

On the other side of the window is a pair of bug prints (there is likely a fancier name, but I’m calling them bug prints) that I found super cheap ($10 ea.) at Michaels.

It is slightly ironic that they are hanging opposite the bug swatter.

You may have caught a few glimpses here and there of the very utilitarian rug that I have on the floor near the door.

Although I initially considered removing the rug for photos, I decided to keep it real and leave it in place.  The thing is, over the years I’ve come to realize that I am going to walk into this shed with muddy shoes.  It’s inevitable.  No matter how many times I tell myself not to do this, I will do it.  I debated going with one of those washable Ruggables, but ultimately I just couldn’t pull the trigger on a $129 rug for that spot (you already know I’m a bit of a cheapskate, right?).  So I grabbed this rug at Target.  Hopefully it will save my painted floors from some wear and tear.

And that does it.  The shed has been transformed back into a potting shed.  I think I’ll hold off on painting the exterior until next summer, but that is something on my radar.  In the meantime, what do you think?  Would you use a potting shed?  Or would you rather have a summerhouse or a photo cottage?  Leave a comment and let me know!