It’s the Most Walnutty Time of the Year

Isn’t the weedy Hellebore bed with wire fencing just super classy? It’s my patented “Postmodern Retro Tacky” design aesthetic.

No, those aren’t dirty tennis balls.  Those are just a few dozen of the THOUSANDS of black walnuts that rain down on my backyard at this time of year. 

Continue reading

“Now Entering the Xeric Hardpan Forest”

Recently I purchased and read Wildflowers and Plant Communities of the Southern Appalachians and Piedmont.

Now, before you go labeling me as a mega-dweeb, you should know that plant communities are super hot right now. All the coolest middle aged suburban garden bloggers are talking about them and how they can be used as inspirations for design.

Where have you been?

Continue reading

Help Me Stop Buying Variegated Conifers

Pinus parviflora ‘Goldilocks’ — Could I grow this in a pot on my patio, do you think?

Talk about a foolish new fetish!  Since most conifers are sun-lovers, my yard (a haven for plants that love dry shade and poorly drained clay) is an inferior location for indulging my new fascination for these groovy gymnosperms. 

So that’s the first problem.

Second, these specimen conifers are very expensive.  I really shouldn’t be putting off replacing my broken garbage disposal just so I can drop $79 on a 3-gallon Pinus parviflora.

Should I?

Third, if I acquire too many dwarf and/or variegated conifers, I am afraid my garden will begin to take on the dreaded “Disneyland Effect” much scorned by serious designers.  After all, a garden filled with stiff, fussy specimen conifers is basically the outdoor equivalent of your granny’s cabinet of Precious Moments figurines.

I already have a dangerous affection for plants with unnaturally hued leaves.  White or gold margins?  Yes please!  Chartreuse foliage?  I’m in love!  Gold speckles?  Don’t mind if I do!  (The exceptions are Golden Euonymus, which scorches my corneas, and ‘Crimson King’ Norway Maple, the World’s Most Depressing Tree.)

Continue reading

Eight Must-Haves From Chanticleer

Chanticleer, just outside of Philadelphia, bills itself as “A Pleasure Garden” and I think that title pretty much nails it.  This garden celebrates plants, design, and craftsmanship more than any other I’ve been to. 

Now, there are various kinds of pleasure to be had from various kinds of gardens — kings’ gardens (Versailles), cooks’ gardens (potagers), botanists’ gardens (arboreta), etc.   But with stunning plant combinations at every turn and public restrooms that are nicer than the place you got married, Chanticleer is truly a gardener’s garden

Here are some of the things I’ve decided I must have after visiting this glorious garden:

Continue reading

New Home Found for Tiny Acer griseum

Check out the little cutie I stumbled upon at Green Spring Gardens’ plant shop a few days ago:

What you’re looking at here, my friends, is a baby Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum) which (in case you’ve been living in Antarctica or something) you know is one one of the most coveted of ornamental trees.

Well, the minute I saw this little guy I knew it was coming home with me.  When I worked at a local nursery a few years ago, 5 to 6 foot specimens of A. griseum were selling for close to five hundred Big Ones.  They must be a bit more readily available now, and I know this one is a runt, but I couldn’t walk away from the $15 price tag.  Plus, if you look closely at the tiny little trunk, you can see the bark already exfoliating!  Awwww!

Never mind that I have no place to put it.  No sir, not even close!  I’ve already used up the three sunniest locations in my backyard with other ornamental trees that I yearned for (a river birch, a silverbell, and a sweetbay magnolia).  And my front yard is spoken for as well.  It already contains two large trees and three small ones.  To try to throw the new Acer into the mix would just be disrespectful to all involved.

So I’m doing the noble thing and giving it away to a family that can give it a decent chance in life (my mom and dad).   Their backyard has the sun and space that I simply cannot offer it at this point in my life.  It pains me to give it up, but I know I am doing the right thing and giving it the greatest chance to fulfill its destiny! 

Plus, maybe my parents will let me come over and water it sometimes.  Sniff.

Crispy Fried Water Gardens

Yesterday my sister and I visited the beautiful  Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in northeast DC for a photo class.  Even though we got there at 6:45am to get the best light, the air still felt like a wet diaper. 

Continue reading

Weeding and Writing

Next time you’re out weeding, let these lines roll around in your head:

“[Weeds] would not be without their use, if they were good for nothing else but to exercise the Industry of Man to weed them out who, had he nothing to struggle with, the fire of his spirit would be half extinguished in the Flesh.”

William Coles
Adam in Eden, or Nature’s Paradise (1657)

“I weed, therefore I am.”

See.  You thought you were just out removing some worthless crabgrass but actually you are saving your soul!!!!  Without garlic mustard and nutsedge appearing in your perennial beds to challenge your human spirit, you would slowly deteriorate into an empty shell, a big, purposeless blob of Homo sapiens

That’s cool and all, but I’m thinking my personal weeding style is more postmodern with a twist of absurdist.  Let me go check out what Beckett or Camus had to say about this weeding business.

Smug Bastard of Abundance

You were all proud of yourself when this tomato plant that you grew from seed actually produced fruit.  Hurrah!  So what if it’s only one tomato and the plant is completely disfigured!  You did it!


Man, I bet even P. Allen Smith would be proud!!!

“Great job growing that one tomato, my friend!”