Hi all! I'm just back from my annual journey (via sailboat) to Mackinac Island and while I get my life back in order and get some proper posts (most of which I had dreams of finishing and publishing while I was gone) ready for you, I'll give you my annual review of a garden I visit every year on Mackinac Island.

The gardens at the Iroquois Hotel are lovely and I particularly enjoy seeing how they change over the years. Designed and maintained by Jack Barnwell, they have a perennial and shrub backbone but are really all about the annuals, providing the kind of color and summer-long interest that is needed in a tourist location.

Here is the front walk leading up to the entrance to the restaurant.

Mackinac Island gardens: The Impatient Gardener

Mackinac Island gardens: The Impatient Gardener

I love how every single crevice is filled with a plant. Here a trailing coleus fills the gaps.
Mackinac Island gardens: The Impatient Gardener

Jack used Proven Winners Surefire begonias liberally this year throughout the garden and the effect is stunning. 

Mackinac Island gardens: The Impatient Gardener

This was a tiny little triangle formed where the path met the small retaining wall and this little corkscrew grass fills the hole so nicely.

Mackinac Island gardens: The Impatient Gardener

Mackinac Island gardens: The Impatient Gardener

As you make your way around the back, more gardens—this one with several perennials and shrubs including hydrangeas and black sambucus (elderberry)—lead the way to the stunning view of the Straits of Mackinac.

'Fine Line' buckthorn punctuates the edge of the path.

Mackinac Island gardens: The Impatient Gardener

Rectangular containers are filled with a variety of annuals. In the second picture you can see how the corkscrew grass is tucked in sort of randomly which creates a charming feel to the arrangement.

Mackinac Island gardens: The Impatient Gardener

Mackinac Island gardens: The Impatient Gardener

Barnwell wisely kept the plantings in front of the marque view in a simpler palette. There's no need to compete with a view like that. 

Mackinac Island gardens: The Impatient Gardener

Boxwood hedges keep chairs from straying from the patio and entering the flower beds.

Mackinac Island gardens: The Impatient Gardener

Although panoramic photos skew the perspective, this gives you a feel for the layout.

Mackinac Island gardens: The Impatient Gardener

Around the other side, the plantings repeat other areas of the garden for a cohesive look. The red buoy next to the trailer in the background marks the finish line of the sailboat race I participate in every year.

Mackinac Island gardens: The Impatient Gardener

Two views of the main front entrance to the hotel.

Mackinac Island gardens: The Impatient Gardener

And a close-up shot of the neatly trimmed boxwood hedges.

Mackinac Island gardens: The Impatient Gardener

Jack also designs the hanging baskets on the main street on the island. This was my favorite.

Mackinac Island gardens: The Impatient Gardener

It was a little hard to see what was in it, but fortunately I found the same design in a lower hanging basket at the Iroquois Hotel.

Mackinac Island gardens: The Impatient Gardener

As usual, I snapped a couple photos of beautiful gardens on horse-driven taxi ride up to the airport on my way off the island. One of these years I'm going to stick around long enough to do a proper garden tour. I take a photo of this first house every year because I love the pig by the front steps. Wonder where you get a pig like that?

Mackinac Island gardens: The Impatient Gardener

Mackinac Island gardens: The Impatient Gardener

Mackinac Island gardens: The Impatient Gardener

 Jack Barnwell works closely with Proven Winners and uses their plants extensively in his designs, so most of what you see (at least the annuals) are probably PW plants. Because of his arrangement with them he is often able to use new varieties that aren't yet available to the general public.

I did an interview with Jack a few years ago. Check it out here.
You can check out other posts I've done about Mackinac Island gardens here, here, here and here.

This is the third year for the Grand Garden Show on Mackinac Island, an event partly organized by Barnwell in conjunction with Proven Winners. They always bring in a line up of great speakers (including P. Diddy) and best of all, Barnwell hosts tours of some of the private gardens he has designed on the island. It is held this year on August 24 to 26. I spoke with some readers who went to it last year who absolutely loved it. I must get to it one of these years.

You can follow Barnwell Landscaping and Design on Facebook for sneak peeks of some of the gardens Jack is working on and others that will be on the Grand Garden Show tour.


One of the things I particularly enjoy shopping for (other than plants or anything garden related) is lighting. It can also be exhausting because of the mind-boggling amount of options, but in general I find the search for lighting to be pretty fun.

I was happy to have the chance to look for a new light for the garage. We could have kept the old one as there was nothing wrong with it, but it really didn't relate in any way to anything else going on with the house or the garage. My search started at Home Depot, where the selection in the store was tiny compared to what I saw on their website. I didn't care for any of the in-store options so my search went online.

I was looking for a sconce with a slightly rustic or nautical vibe, preferably in a copper or bronze color (to coordinate with the exterior lights on the house). We also did not want to move the location of the light, which to my eye, is a little odd. It seems a little too far from the door and a tad too low. The height was a problem because it meant that we couldn't have anything that hung down, which meant that my original thought of a barn light was off the table.

Here are some of the options we considered.


This is actually the same light we have by the back door on the house.

Liked it a lot, but it doesn't come in other finishes.


Cool but eek on the price!
This next bunch all falls in the onion light category and once you get there the options are all over the place in terms of size, finish and construction. There are bespoke onion lights (guaranteed for life) but I kept the options in the production realm to keep the cost down.



Not round or squishy
My favorite of the three onion lights was the last, sort of amusingly called the Vidalia. I thought it was a good compromise between too squishy and too round and I also liked the square mounting plate on it. It had the option of using seedy glass as well, and I love seedy glass on outdoor lights for some reason. Unfortunately it also was almost $400 while the squishy one (call the Cottage Onion) was only $140. For a light that will rarely be seen close up, it would be hard for me to justify spending so much more for relatively small differences and clearly they both have the same vibe.

So we went cheap (well cheaper; it's still more than I had planned on spending) and squishy. Once I started looking at the onion lights I really loved them and the other options became distant memories.

Have you added any new lighting lately? Do you enjoy shopping for lighting or do you find it to be an onerous task?

Bonus points: Can you spot the difference in the boxwood container in those two photos? Yep, different plants. I have fiber optic grass on one side and 'Diamond Frost' Euphorbia on the other side and I try to rotate the container every couple of days to make sure the boxwood grows evenly.


I am not growing a Ziploc bag tree, I promise.

One of the houses on a garden tour I went to over the weekend was the original home of the super dwarf apple tree in my garden. I won the gala apple (grafted onto super dwarf roots so it will never get big) at a gardening seminar a couple years ago. It was donated by one of the homeowners of a house on the tour.

When I saw him, I was happy to report that for the first time, we have fruit on the tree! He was equally as excited (he said he loves hearing reports about the trees he gives away) and he shared with me a tip about how to keep the fruit bug free (and, I would imagine, out of the mouths of deer).

Buy some cheap closeable sandwich bags. Nip off the two bottom corners, then make a very small cut through the zipper.

After checking to make sure that the fruit doesn't already have signs of insect damage (sadly two of my baby apples did so I cut them off), open up one side of the zipper, slip the baggie over the fruit and seal it up, allowing the stem to pop out of the little cut in the middle.

The homeowner/apple grafter told me the apples will be just fine in there and the bags will keep bugs from getting at your apples.

Those aren't funny looking apple tree leaves you see there: the anemone is growing up through the tree.

There are four apples, and now four baggies, on my mini apple tree. I won't be making a pie from them, but I really hope they mature nicely and I will have the delicious satisfaction of eating an apple I grew right in the middle of my garden.

Obviously if you have a large fruit tree, you're not going to cover it in baggies, but for a young or small tree this might be just the thing.


I am an unapologetic lover of meatball boxwoods. I know plenty of people abhor manicured shrubs, particularly squatty balls of boxwood. I'm not one of them. They make me oddly happy. So much so that I just added three more potential meatballs to my garden despite the threat of boxwood blight.

The 'Green Velvet' boxwood on the corner of the main garden has been a fixture there for several years now (I'm guessing maybe seven or more) and despite the fact that it gets buried in snow from the driveway every winter (or maybe because of it), it has thrived there.

Pruning boxwood: The Impatient Gardener
Pre-prune, the boxwood is looking a little shaggy.
I've always been a little bashful about getting in there and really pruning it tightly. But this year it put on a lot of new growth and was starting to look a bit like a shaggy monster. In the past I've pruned it with just hand pruners, but this year I brought out the big guns: A proper hedge shears and some newly purchased sheep shears (picked up specifically for this purpose) for the detail areas.

Pruning boxwood: The Impatient Gardener
After the prune, it's much neater.

I found that it was easiest to prune it in hemispheres. So first I followed the prime meridian in the middle of the shrub, then I did the equator, all with the hedge shears. After that I just filled in from there. When I had a rough cut finished, I went back with the sheep shears to clean it all up.

I probably took off a good 5 or 6 inches of growth, which not only neatened it up, but made it fit the space a bit more. When I was finished I took care to clean up the clippings really well. Even though boxwood blight is not in my state yet, it's probably coming and it pays to be tidy when dealing with fungal diseases.

Pruning boxwood: The Impatient Gardener

Pruning boxwood: The Impatient Gardener
Before pruning (above) and after from the same angle.
I like to prune boxwoods in late June or early July after they've put out their major flush of new growth but with plenty of time for any growth that is spurred by the pruning to harden off before winter.

This tightly pruned look isn't for everyone, but I love it, especially nestled amongst some of my more natural-looking plants, like the Nepeta 'Walker's Low' behind it that flops rather delightfully around it.