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!

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!

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!

harvesting hydrangeas.

Good morning, and welcome back to Sunday mornings in the garden!

Last winter I didn’t quite get to filling my window boxes for winter until mid-December.  I’d left all of my hydrangeas on the bushes up to that point.

Don’t get me wrong, I always leave lots of hydrangea blooms in place for winter interest and I don’t prune them off until early spring.

But I usually get some cut off the bush by early October for my winter window boxes.  I’m cutting myself a bunch of slack on that one for last year though.  If you’ll remember, I was in the midst of trying to deal with an increasingly unpleasant work environment and ultimately making the decision to retire early on November 30.  So last fall doesn’t count.

I did find that the hydrangeas had really lost all of their color by the time I got around to gathering them for my window boxes though, especially the Annabelles.  So this year I’m going to be more intentional about drying them for use later in winter arrangements.

I did a bit of online research and learned that the best time to harvest hydrangeas for drying is when the blooms are past their prime and starting to dry and/or change color on the bush.

That timing is going to be different for different varieties of hydrangeas because of their bloom times.  My Annabelle hydrangeas started blooming back at the end of June.  Their flowers went from white, to green and are beginning to show a bit of brown here and there.

That, combined with the fact that we’ll have roofers here in the coming weeks doing who knows how much damage to plants, made me decide to go ahead and harvest them a week or so ago.  Especially the ones in the cutting garden.

For those of you who may not already know, my cutting garden is out behind the carriage house.  You can’t see it from the rest of our yard.  Everything I grow there is meant to become a cut flower and it doesn’t matter how the garden itself looks.

You can see where the roofline of the lean-to is in the above photo, very close to that hydrangea.  It’s unlikely it will survive the new roof unscathed.

So, while I probably could have waited a couple more weeks to do this, there’s no time like the present … at least for the Annabelle’s.  I’ll continue to let the paniculatas color up a bit more before I cut any of them to dry.

There are probably tons of different methods for drying flowers, but let’s talk about the 4 most common ones.

First, you can hang them upside down in little bundles.  This works great with flowers like roses where the blooms will droop if you dry them upright.  For the most part, you don’t really need to worry about that with hydrangeas.

Second, you can use silica gel or powder.  That’s not really practical with hydrangeas since you have to completely surround the bloom with the silica, can you imagine how much silica I would need to dry all of these?

That leaves the two most popular ways to dry hydrangeas, with water and without water.

Basically the only difference between the two is whether or not you put a little water in the vessel you are drying them in.  Otherwise the technique is the same.  Cut your hydrangeas with a longish stem.  You can always shorten it later when you arrange the flowers, but you can’t add any stem back on.  Remove all of the leaves, and then place the stems upright in a container of some kind.  If you’re using water, only put a couple of inches of water in your container.  Next, place the container in a cool, dry location away from sunlight.  Once the water is gone, your hydrangeas should be dry.

I did a little experiment to see if there was a noticeable difference between the hydrangeas dried with water, and those without.  From what I’ve read, the water option allows the hydrangeas to dry out more gradually thus providing a better result.  So here we are a little over one week later.  The water is mostly gone from the jar with water, and here is a comparison of the dried blooms.

The difference is very subtle.  However, I was surprised to find that the hydrangeas dried without water kept just a little bit more of their green color.  But honestly, I don’t think it’s enough of a difference to matter.

In addition to the hydrangeas in the jars, I also tucked that entire basket full of cut hydrangeas into a dark corner of the carriage house to see what would happen with them.

And they look pretty darn good too.

Obviously this little experiment could be a one off.  Or maybe it’s just Annabelle hydrangeas that dry just as well without water as with water.  I think I’ll do a similar test with my Limelights after they develop some of their fall color and see how those turn out.  I’ll be sure to keep you posted on that one.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to having tons of beautiful dried hydrangeas to use in my winter window boxes.  How about you?  Do you dry any flowers from your garden?  Leave a comment and let us know.

perennials that bloom all summer.

Good morning gardeners!  Today’s ‘Sunday mornings in the garden’ post is going to be a short one because I’m sharing a rather short list of plants today; perennials with long bloom times.

While the upside to perennials is that they come back year after year (so you only have to buy them once to enjoy them for years), the downside is that most of them have a rather short bloom period.

As you know, my absolute favorite perennial flower in the garden is the peony.

And the bloom time for peonies is notoriously short, and made even shorter when we inevitably suffer a spell of hot, humid weather as soon as they open.

As you may remember, last year, in an attempt to extend peony season, I experimented with saving peony buds in the fridge and I had good success with that.  So much so that I did it again this year with even more peony buds.  And … um … well …

I didn’t follow my own instructions!  I wrapped these in a damp paper towel, and then put them in the Ziploc bag.  As you can see, they got moldy.  Last year I just put them directly in the Ziploc, no damp paper towel.  I’ll have to try again next year, with no damp towel!

Another of my favorites, lilacs, also have a pretty short bloom period.

And unfortunately, I don’t know any tricks for saving them for later.  In fact, I haven’t even found any tricks that work for making them last more than 1 or 2 days as cut flowers.  If you know of anything that works, leave a comment and let us know.

Roses are another of my favorites with a short bloom time.

However, I grow very few due to Japanese beetles. Those beetles just love roses!  I never had time for fussing with insect control in the past, so I took a few things out of my garden that the beetles loved including roses, a grape vine and some Virginia creeper.  I do have this one last pink shrub rose that was given to me at least 20 years ago or more.

But wait!  I went off on a tangent, this post is supposed to be about perennials with a long bloom time, not without one.

I’m tempted to start the list with panicle hydrangeas.

They definitely have a longer bloom time than peonies, lilacs and roses.  However, they only just started blooming in mid-August, so while they will continue to look amazing for the rest of the season, they missed most of the summer.

I do have a handful of perennials in my garden that bloom for a good portion of the growing season though, starting as early as May and continuing through the first frost.

Corydalis lutea is one of them.

This is a plant that I purchased at a garage sale not really knowing what it was.  Frankly, I don’t love yellow flowers.  But I let this one do its thing because it’s such a constant bloomer.  Mine starts blooming in late spring and it’s still blooming now.

You do have to be slightly cautious with this one as it self-seeds quite easily and will take over if you let it.  I pull out good sized chunks of it every year, and it is very easy to control that way.  It’s a great companion plant for hostas, and I have it growing in dappled sunlight.

Lamium Aureum is another perennial that blooms from May through frost.

I’ve even seen this one pop up through the snow with some flowers on it!

But I have to admit, I grow this ground cover for its foliage not for its flowers.  I don’t actually like the flowers, but I love the bright lime green leaves.

It’s another great companion for hostas as it will grow in full shade to part sun.

Another long blooming perennial that I purchased at a garage sale is Dicentra ‘Luxuriant’, sometimes called fern-leaf or fringed bleeding heart.

Unlike the more common varieties of bleeding heart that bloom in the spring and have pretty much died back to the ground by now, this variety blooms all summer.  As you can see, the flowers look slightly different (and aren’t as pretty, in my opinion) and so does the foliage.  The foliage is rather fern-like, hence the name.

The plant is much more compact that your typical bleeding heart, and it doesn’t get straggly and unkempt looking in late summer like the others.

This plant will also self-seed, although not quite as readily as the Corydalis, at least not in my garden.  I do have one volunteer plant that popped up in a spot where it doesn’t belong and I haven’t had the heart (pardon the pun) to pull it out yet.

Last on my long-blooming perennial list is Myosotis sylvatica, or Forget-me-not.

This is another ground cover that can lean towards invasive.  However, I have mine interplanted with a number of other ground covers, the Lamium, a varigated vinca vine and a very small sedum.  All of them tend to battle for dominance and so far no single plant has won out.

I do love those pretty little blue flowers.  But ‘little’ is the key word here.

An honorable mention goes to my new Roguchi clematis.

I just planted it back in May of this year, but it hasn’t quit flowering all summer and is still going strong.  I just have this one growing season to go by, but so far it seems to be a winner.  Once again, it’s not the most flamboyant of the clematis varieties, but I love that it has bloomed all summer.  I think the little purple and white bell shaped flowers are super sweet too.

One thing to note about the Roguchi is that it’s a non-vining clematis.  It won’t climb its way up a trellis on its own, but you can train it (which is what I have done).  Or you can let it spill over the sides of a retaining wall, or scramble through your perennial beds.

One thing all four of these plants have in common is that they aren’t terribly showy.  Perhaps that’s the trade off here, more subdued flowers in exchange for a much longer bloom time.

How about you?  Do you have any recommendations for perennials that will bloom all summer?  If so, be sure to leave a comment and let us know.

show stopping hydrangeas.

Good morning from the garden!  Today I’m going to share my favorite flowering shrub, hydrangeas.

There are five main types of hydrangeas, so let me first mention the two that I don’t grow.

First up is hydrangea quercifolia or oakleaf hydrangeas.  Although some gardeners do attempt to grow this one in our zone 4b, it’s a tricky one.  They require hot, sunny summers in order to produce blooms and Minnesota doesn’t always provide that.  They also bloom on old wood, so getting them to bloom in our climate is challenging.  I’m not into tricky gardening, I prefer to grow plants that aren’t so finicky.

Next up is hydrangea petiolaris or climbing hydrangeas.  These will grow in zones 4 to 8, but also bloom on old wood.  I don’t really have a good spot for a climbing hydrangea, so I’ve never even attempted one.

Next up is a variety that I do actually grow, but not successfully.  Hydrangea macrophylla or mophead hydrangeas are absolutely gorgeous … when grown in the right climate.  These are those beautiful hydrangeas whose bloom color changes depending on the pH of the soil they are grown in.  When I visited the Jersey shore a few years back I saw lots of these and they were stunning.  Every bush was absolutely loaded with blooms.

Typically these hydrangeas do well in zones 6 – 9.  They bloom on old wood, so in other words if they die back to the ground every winter you’ll never get any flowers.  Ventnor City, New Jersey, where I took that photo, is a zone 7b.

So imagine my excitement when Minnesota’s Bailey Nurseries developed a macrophylla that bloomed on both old and new wood, the Endless Summer hydrangea.  Gardeners all across the north rushed out to buy these hydrangeas, including me and pretty much all of my gardening friends.  I initially planted two of them.  But their performance for me has been pretty sad.  I think 2016 was the best year for them and I got six or seven flowers that year.

And as you can see, the colors on my Endless Summer flowers weren’t nearly as spectacular as those Jersey hydrangeas.

  I pulled one of my Endless Summer plants out a couple of years ago, but I still have one in my back garden.  Last year I didn’t get any blooms at all on it, and so far I don’t see any this year either.  But hope springs eternal and I haven’t dug up that last one quite yet.  I have read that you can grow these in containers, bringing it into a sheltered area for the winter to prevent it from dying down to the ground.  Maybe I’ll dig mine up and try that.

Do any of you grow a macrophylla in zones 4 or 5?  And if so, have you had luck getting it to flower.  Leave a comment and let us know.

Next we have hydrangea aborescens or smooth (or wild) hydrangeas.  The most common, and more old fashioned, of these is the Annabelle hydrangea and I have two of them.  Mine started blooming back in early July (or maybe it was late June).  Here is one of them behind the fresh flowers cart …

The flowers on the aborescens are more rounded in shape than the paniculata (which we’ll talk about next), and they start off white and by this time (mid-August) they have aged to a green color.

They produce tons of flowers each year (they bloom on new wood), and they make great cut flowers.

However, they are less than ideal in the garden.  The stems tend to be weak and thus they flop when loaded down with big blooms.  I have an old brass bed frame supporting the Annabelle by our deck …

but I just allow the ones out back in the cut flower garden to flop away.  They can look quite bedraggled after a rain.

There is a new and improved version of the Annabelle called Incrediball that supposedly has stronger stems.  I have not grown that variety myself, but in a recent video Laura from Garden Answer mentioned that although the Incrediball is an improvement over the Annabelle, it still tends to flop a little.

In my opinion, why bother with that when you can grow my favorite variety, hydrangea paniculata or panicle hydrangeas?

Paniculatas are the most cold hardy of the hydrangeas and can be grown as far north as a zone 3.  They have more of a cone shaped flower (compared to the more rounded flowers of the Annabelle), and they bloom on new wood.  That means that in my zone 4b garden they are absolutely loaded with flowers every year no matter how harsh the winter may have been.

I grow four different varieties of paniculatas; the Limelight, the Little Lime, the Vanilla Strawberry and the Little Quick Fire.

As the names imply, the Little Lime and the Little Quick Fire are dwarf versions of Limelight and Quick Fire.  I put in one Little Quick Fire last summer, and another one this year, and so far, obviously, they are still pretty small at around 2′ tall.

The Little Quick Fire starts blooming a few weeks earlier than the Limelights, which may be a selling point for those who don’t want to wait until mid-August for some flowers.  But I have to admit that so far I’m not super impressed with this one.  The flowers on mine are rather small and dull compared to the Little Lime.  But maybe I just need to give them some time.  They also are mostly white so far with just a little tinge of pink.  I’m guessing that they don’t turn that ‘fire’ color until fall.

My Little Lime is at least 10 years old (or more) and although they are only supposed to get 4′ tall and wide, mine is easily as tall as I am (that’s 5’10”).

If you love the look of a Limelight, but don’t have space for a shrub that can get to be 8′ tall or more (my Limelights are about 9.5′ tall), a Little Lime is a great option.

We have a Vanilla Strawberry hydrangea out back next to the carriage house.  The flowers on this one start out white, and gradually turn pink.

I do like this one, and it is just as prolific a bloomer as the Limelight, but I haven’t kept up with the pruning and it’s looking a bit leggy.

Just a quick note on that, you should prune your paniculatas in late winter/early spring (it tends to be the very first garden task I tackle each year) by about 1/3 to promote strong new growth and larger flowers.  This is basically the only maintenance required for these plants.

But back to the Vanilla Strawberry, I was hoping for a gorgeous show of pink color on this hydrangea but it doesn’t start out with a bang, but rather slowly turn pink.  There is a new variety out this year called Berry White that I want to get my hands on.  It supposedly has stronger stems and deeper, richer color.

That being said, by early October the Vanilla Strawberry does look pretty spectacular …

I may have to do another Sunday morning post about how the colors of the paniculatas change into fall.  Because truly, if you think they look good now, just wait until October!

Finally we get to the star of the show, and my personal favorite, the Limelight.

There is definitely a reason this plant has become so popular.  It’s easy to grow, requires very little maintenance, is covered with blooms (if you’re giving it enough sun), and is basically a show-stopper.

We planted a pair of them in this spot next to our deck to provide additional privacy around our outdoor dining space and they’ve worked perfectly for that.

I love being able to enjoy my morning coffee with a backdrop of gorgeous flowers this time of year.

Another thing that I love about growing hydrangeas is that I can dry them for use in my winter window boxes.  I’m doing a little experimenting this year to figure out the best way to dry them and I’ll be sharing that soon so be sure to stay tuned!