Cyclamen, Cyclamen Everywhere

My garden has been neglected this month, to say the least.  Whether distracted by business or the holidays, my free time has been absorbed by many things other than garden care.  However, my garden has clever ways of reminding me it is still there and lately it is Cyclamen who have garnered my attention.  Their leaves and flower buds are popping up everywhere.

I first encountered hardy Cyclamen in Bavaria.  My girlfriend and I were driving to Bad Reichenhall in Germany when we came across Thumsee, a beautiful lake and popular swimming hole, just west of the city.  We parked the car and decided to take a hike on a path around the lake.  While dodging a group of nude seniors who were trying to coax us into the water, we stumbled upon, quite literally, a patch of blooming cyclamen.  The flowers were tiny, but the tubers can grow to be quite large and here they emerged from the soil like bulbous rocks.  The flowers had delicate wing-like petals, but what struck me most, was that among the cyclamen patch where distinct groups whose leaves had different markings from the next.  I was hooked.

Various Cyclamen Leaf Markings From My Urban Garden

According to The Cyclamen Society, “The genus is notable for the fact that although it is small, there are species which flower in every month of the year”.  The thing I find most interesting is the important role of ants in the germination process of many Cyclamen seeds.  Ants are attracted to a sticky coating on the seeds, so they collect seeds from the plant and carry them away, often to their home.  There they eat the sticky coating and then discard the seed.  Oddly, it is the removal of this coating that makes the seeds particularly viable for germination.

Here's a trivia question to you all - Which species of hardy Cyclamen shoots up flowers before its leaves and is blooming now? I don't know and this one is my garden.

Below is a time lapse video I found on YouTube of a Cyclamen blooming. Enjoy!

Published in: on December 10, 2009 at 6:58 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , ,

My Urban Oasis Progression

Front_Progression

I am coming up on the third year anniversary of the purchase of my home.  After looking back at pictures, it is amazing to see how far it has come along.  Now it is time to start on the back!

Published in: on October 9, 2009 at 10:04 am  Comments (9)  
Tags: , ,

Let Your Garden Do The Gardening

No Maintenance Garden

No Maintenance Garden

Years ago when I was a landscape designer one of my biggest turn-offs were customers who requested the “No Maintenance Garden”.  Unfortunately, it was most of them, but finally it appears as though times are changing and people are becoming more aware of the benefits of a natural landscape.  No successful garden that includes living things can truly be no maintenance, but there will be occasions where, left to its own devices, the garden can take care of itself if you let it.

Verbena bonariensis, a tender perennial that has reseeded throughout my garden.

Verbena bonariensis, a tender perennial that has reseeded throughout my garden.

Particularly now is the time in the garden, if not overly manicured, where the magic of the reseed can occur.  It is not always easy to tell weed from wanted plant, but by not obsessing over unexpected growth, your garden can renew itself naturally.  Especially opportune are areas including brick and open stonework as well as regions of gravel.  These include walkways that homeowners hope to keep the most tidy, but the bottom line is that many plants do best in coarse terrain.  We work so hard to create the perfect fertile ground in our garden, but in nature plants often grow where the seed is able to anchor in one spot, collect water and be properly drained and not necessarily in the area of perfect soil.

Purple ? reseeded across the walkway

Purple Salvia lyrata reseeded at left on the walkway's edge.

More recent reseedlings in my urban garden…

Euphorbia myrsinites, Donkey Tail

Euphorbia myrsinites (Donkey Tail)

Prunella and Ruelia humilis (Wild Petunia)

Prunella and Ruelia humilis (Wild Petunia)

Hernaria glabra (Rupturewort)

Herniaria glabra (Rupturewort)

Belamcanda chinensis, Blackberry Lily w/ Flower & Seed Images Courtesy of Wikimedia

Belamcanda chinensis (Blackberry Lily), Flower & Seed Images Courtesy of Wikimedia

So do let seedlings grow, but don’t ignore the garden altogether either.  If you watch your seedlings as they grow (and perhaps even document them), you will be able to identify friend from foe in the future.  For example, in my urban garden, I have less possible intruders than a less cultivated area and I am able to pinpoint the most likely intruders; porcelain vine, Virginia creeper, Boston and English Ivy and sweet autumn clematis who all come from one neighbor.  Now that I know what their immature foliage looks like, I can nab them before they take root.

There will always be surprises too, that make this exercise of will worthwhile.  As mentioned in a previous post, I have an accidental pumpkin vine growing in my walkway and I discovered a surprisingly large tomato plant in my, as of yet, undeveloped (to put it mildly) back yard.  The tomato has tons of fruit and I am looking forward to a late summer harvest shortly!

Published in: on August 31, 2009 at 3:22 pm  Comments (7)  
Tags: , ,

What Makes A Good Garden?

Garden in Tuscany-Canterbury Neighborhood of Baltimore

Garden in Tuscany-Canterbury Neighborhood of Baltimore

An exceptional garden is a unique garden and this is where the difference between landscaping and gardening can be understood.  Landscaping is something you do to increase the value of your home; gardening is something you do for life.  A good garden is an expression of your individual self.  It is the stuff that makes us different and the fact that we don’t all like the same things (thank goodness) that is what goes into creating the most interesting spaces.

To figure out how to make an individualized garden, start by being conscious of your own style and design preferences.  Look at different garden designs and get a feel for your own likes and dislikes.  Then, examine your house and come up with a garden plan you think would work well with the home’s architecture (because there may be a difference between what you are attracted to and what you have to work with).

My Front Urban Yard From Above

My Front Urban Yard From Above

My Front Urban Yard From Ground Level

My Front Urban Yard From Ground Level

For example, I am drawn to more natural looking and seemingly uncultivated green spaces, however my c.1850 Baltimore rowhome is a fairly severe tall brick rectangular structure with French Renaissance architectural accents. A straight-out combination of a wild native garden and my more conservative city home would be a hostile merger of two opposing styles and, as a result, the garden could appear unkempt next to the formal building.  To resolve the difference between what I am drawn to and what I felt would work best with my home, I decided to use both native plants and cultivars and to base my front yard design on a grid, thus giving a framework to the garden.

Garden In Federal Hill Neighborhood of Baltimore

Garden In Federal Hill Neighborhood of Baltimore

Next, after you have settled on a general design and begin to purchase the plants, I recommend not paying too much attention to color, but to focus on texture and size contrasts instead.  Often people get all caught up in color combination and don’t think about anything else. Their gardens end up looking more like perfectly matched outfits rather than inviting outdoor spaces.  Nature doesn’t pay attention to color, so why create something that appears so obviously unnatural.  By bringing together plants with small and large, smooth and rough, matte and glossy, shapely and fringed characteristics, for example, rather than obsessing over the palette, you are more likely to create an area with year round interest and create your own unique design. Color will then become a bonus, or perhaps, in some cases, a lucky surprise.

A Bloomed-Out Allium Makes Great Garden Sculpture

A Bloomed-Out Allium Makes Great Garden Sculpture

Change in the garden is also good.   Planting with perennials, for example, will give you a choice over what blooms when and you can construct a garden with different “moods”.  If something blooms forever then you stop appreciating it, so consider how change will enhance your garden design.  Also, plan for resting spots in the garden, whether visual or actual, if possible.  A patio, stool, or even just a stone will suggest an oasis to be visited rather than just to be looked at.  Mulch, on the other hand, should be left to landscapers.  As in nature, if the ground can sustain life, it should have life.

Miss_PiggyFinally, my favorite gardens are those that do not take themselves too seriously.  Your garden should reflect the way you want to feel when you are there. The best gardens are user friendly, so share your garden. Don’t create a space that people are afraid to enter and enjoy.  Lastly, know that, as in nature, there are no rules to be followed in gardening.  Well, there ARE rules, but break them.  Be sincere, but don’t be afraid to experiment.  It is usually through accidents that the unexpected happens.

Home & Garden In The Hampden Neighborhood. Notice the Painted Screens, A Baltimore Pastime.

Home & Garden In The Hampden Neighborhood. Notice the Painted Screens, A Baltimore Pastime.