A GARDEN VISIT

For a person who harps on the joy and importance of getting in every garden you can (there's always a takeaway!), I don't really go on nearly enough garden tours. However, our master gardener group recently had the opportunity to tour The Christopher Farm and Gardens, an expansive private garden that is often open for charity events.

It is a huge property with several diverse garden areas, lots of garden art, ponds and certainly many thousands of tons of rock. 

Here are a few shots from our visit.


Off the conservatory there was an 8-foot wire form planted with mandevilla and sweet potato vine.  It was quite impressive.


A lot of annual salvia was used.


There is a Heritage Garden, shown here, and a separate kitchen garden. Both had raised beds made of 4x4s, which I thought looked quite nice.



A Japanese garden had a lovely stream and a pond with koi.



Along the top of the Japanese garden a walkway made with these pavers guides visitors to the next garden.


An enormous grape arbor is too fun to not walk through.


I think this is the kitchen garden, but it may have been a separate cutting garden. Either way I still like the raised beds and the gravel.


Several areas encouraged you to walk OVER the water on small stone bridges. How can you resist?


I don't know what this plant is, certainly something in the buttercup family, but I thought it was very charming.


About three weeks before we visited they'd had a terrible hailstorm and all of their hostas were in absolute tatters. I felt terrible for them.


I don't know what tree this was but I loved this little starfish-like cluster of pinecones.


All of the glass art around the garden was made by local artists. I thought it looked quite nice in this bed.


Have you visited any great gardens this year?
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ONE PLANT, TWO GARDENS

It is always interesting to see how the same plant can grow differently in two almost identical locations. And in this latest case it was even a little disheartening.

Sweet Summer Love clematis is a prolific bloomer, but one that needs a good while to get established before it really starts showing off. Four years ago (I think), both my mom and I got one in a small quart-sized pot. I can't say mine had done much in terms of blooming in the past, although it's a lovely vine that always looks healthy.



But this year it's starting to do it's thing. In fact I was fussing over all the flowers—only about an inch or a little more each—on mine and all the buds yet to open. I spent a good amount of time with my camera capturing this beauty, which unfortunately is on a homemade support that rotted on one side and is starting to collapse.

Sweet Summer Love clematis closeup

Later that day I stopped by my parent's house. They live only about 15 minutes from me, just a touch farther away from Lake Michigan (which is THE weather influencer here), although much higher as I'm at lake level and they are on a bluff. 

I was taking a look around her garden, which always looks amazing as she is a dedicated weeder, turned a corner and saw this.

Sweet Summer Love clematis
The purple cloud towering over this corner of the garden at my parent's house is Sweet Summer Love clematis, looking quite different than the one at my house. By the way, the three marked trees on the right are all ashes that have succumbed to Emerald Ash Borer, like hundreds on their property. They planted them by the dozen when they built the house in the 1960s and all are failing, so their property is undergoing some rather dramatic changes.

Not only is this corner of her garden—one she only recently started gardening in—absolutely stunning, but rising above all of that amazing color is a purple cloud.

That's her Sweet Summer Love. It would not be an overstatement to guess that there might be 5,000 flowers on it. There is a beautiful painted tuteur that is about 7 feet tall or more under all that, not that you can see it. 
Sweet Summer Love clematis
If you look closely you can see the top of the tuteur sticking out the top.



I can't explain the difference. Perhaps her just slightly warmer garden made the difference. Or maybe her soil, which is heavier than mine and has more clay, is more appealing to this plant. Maybe she just has hers in a better spot all around.

Or maybe, just maybe, my garden is  just a week or so behind hers and mine will soon look like this.

A gardener can hope.

FRIDAY FINDS



Have you noticed that I've not shown you much (or maybe anything) from the vegetable garden this year? That's because I got so late planting stuff that even my kale is only a few inches tall. The only variety I grow anymore is lacinato, which, as you can tell from the photo above from Mackinac Island makes a pretty great ornamental, as well as being so tasty!

If you've read much on this blog you know I can't resist a good alliteration, which makes me even more excited to be one of the "Garden Gurus" contributing to the Proven Beauty blog. My first post there is about how to get your garden ready for your vacation. I'd love it if you checked it out and maybe even left a comment. Thank you in advance!

Most people in today have never stood under a majestic elm tree, but a huge effort to bring elms back has been underway for years. This story about the process of reintroducing Dutch elm disease-resistant cultivars and getting elms back is fascinating.

The size of the landscape projects Deborah Silver works on is astounding to me.

Warning: This next bit has a couple of Amazon affiliate links in it. Thanks for supporting The Impatient Gardener!

I have found a product that seems to keep the rabbits from nibbling! It's a spray by Plantskyyd. But oh my lordy, it smells so foul. The smell goes away as soon as it dries, but it will clear your patio if you spray it. It's also made of blood and it looks like it, so the garden takes on a bit of a murder scene look. The staining (unless you get it on your clothes) also goes away. BUT I just found out they make a granular product that I'm going to try. Seems like it would be a lot nicer to use. I'll report back.


By the way, I still swear by Messina's Deer Stopper II for the deer situation. And it smells like cinnamon and cloves, so you're basically spraying Christmas on your garden.

This is such a lovely podcast episode by Margaret Roach and well worth a listen, but I warn you, it will make you hungry!

We are actually going to be social this weekend! We have a very large party (it's sort of a work thing but also all of our sailing friends will be there) tonight and then we're having people over tomorrow (I have a bit of last minute weeding to do for that). That's quite a lot of socializing for us so some time in the garden on Sunday will be lovely.

Do you have gardening plans this weekend and if you're growing food, what are you harvesting now?

Have a great weekend!


WHEN THINGS GO WRONG, SAVE WHAT YOU CAN

This is not an exciting photo.



It's exactly what it looks like: A recently mulched garden bed with very few plants in it.

I'm sharing it with you to show you that things don't always go as planned and sometimes you just have to do what you can.

When I decided last year to reclaim this little corner from the naturalized area that takes up a good portion of our property, I knew I was being optimistic. I honestly do not have time to adequately maintain all the garden beds I've created over the years. (This is what happens when Midwestern gardeners get bored in winter: We design new gardens that we don't have time for.) We planted a couple hundred pink daffodils in it last fall and in spring it looked very nice. The plan after that was to direct sow a bunch of seeds and let it go a little wild.

And then the rabbits came. Every seedling that managed to come up despite a fair bit of neglect on my part was promptly nibbled down. In the end, even the Icelandic poppies that I had nurtured since February were mowed down. I saw one bloom and the rabbits even ate that so I don't even have any seeds to show for it.

As is the case in these reclaimed areas (which are far more difficult to turn into a garden than an area that used to be lawn), the weeds started moving in. I knew that all my hard work (not to mention a yard of topsoil I bought last year) would quickly be undone if I didn't act quickly.


So last weekend I edged the bed (still my favorite way of improving any garden space), weeded it thoroughly and heavily mulched it with chips from trees we had cut down in spring. Sidenote: Finding a place for the arborist to put those wood chips instead of having them hauled away was the best thing we've ever done. All year I've had a ready supply of really good wood chips for free.

It looks pretty ridiculous, to be honest, but I've saved it for this year and over winter I can develop a new plan for this area. If I do some moving and dividing of plants in fall I'll be able to plant there as well.

It's not what I had envisioned, but not every garden is a success right off the bat. In fact, few of them are. Sometimes it takes a few tries to get it right.


5 TIPS TO TAKE AWAY FROM A DESTINATION GARDEN

I used to find super cute clothes on vacation in some place with tropical weather, and I'd bring them home and try to wear them and it was a disaster every time. After I had a closet full of skirts with loud prints, impractical tank tops and at least one hat made from palm fronds, I can to the realization that you have to be careful what you buy on vacation. Of course a flowy skirt with a toucan on it makes perfect sense when you're somewhere with 90% humidity, trade winds and you haven't worn shoes for a week, but it doesn't translate well to a Wisconsin winter.

I think the same caution needs to be applied to gardens. As you know, I'm a huge advocate of getting into as many gardens as you can as there's no better way to be inspired or learn, but I think it's important to know that it's rare that a garden you see elsewhere could be picked up and moved to your yard and work. Obviously there are climate issues to be considered, but even if that's not an issue, rarely will an exact replica work.

That's why I think it's helpful to find little pieces of a garden, a moment here or there, to draw inspiration from, rather than the garden in it's entirety.

It's something I need to remind myself frequently when I'm on Mackinac Island. The place is so flush with color and gardens everywhere you turn that it's hard not to want to turn your whole garden into one straight out of Mackinac Island. Instead, I'm sharing a few of the bits of inspiration I've picked up there over the years.

1. THINK IN COLOR

A colorful corner at the Hotel Iroquois. 

The long border in front of the Grand Hotel. 

You'd be hard pressed to find a garden on Mackinac that could be described as subdued. Most are riots of color. This is usually delivered through annuals and for good reason: They provide color all season long and since Mackinac Island is a seasonal destination (almost all businesses are closed in winter), there's no need to worry about winter interest in most gardens.

The gardens at the Hotel Iroquois prove that you need not worry about how you mix colors because if you put enough of them in, it all works!

My skinny patio border. 

The skinny patio bed at my house is certainly planted in this vein and that's probably not a coincidence, although I doubt it was a conscious decision. I think it works in that small bed and provides a much-needed jolt of color against our all-white house.

2. CHANGE UP THE HEIGHT


Dry stacked walls on the entrance to the Hotel Iroquois add texture, raise plants and create so many more planting opportunities. 

One of the best features of the entrance garden at the Hotel Iroquois, in my opinion, is the terraced levels, which offer the ability to see so many more plants at a glance. This garden would not be nearly as interesting if it were all flat.

3. USE HEDGES TO DEFINE SPACES


These hedges, which form a river of annuals, always intrigue me. I think the one on the right is there to hide the bottom of the building and the one on the left is to keep people from cutting the corner onto the walkway. The "river" of annuals down the middle makes you want to explore more. 
On the lake side of the hotel, hedges help define the patio areas, but the color keeps flowing with annuals planted in front of them. This keeps the area from looking too formal as well tying it in with the rest of the garden. Every year I wonder where I could use this lesson in my garden.

4. DRAW GUESTS TO THE FRONT DOOR



Front walkways, almost without exception, are lined with plants on Mackinac Island. There is no doubt how you get to the door, but guests seem to be invited to take their time getting there as they enjoy the plantings. I'm not suggesting that all walkways will benefit from this treatment, but marking the entrance in some way, perhaps with just a pair of pots, is a great takeaway.

5. PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT'S UNDER YOUR FEET


Don't underestimate the importance of hardscaping. As gardeners we're inclined to worry more about the plant bits, but hardscaping sets the tone, guides people through a space and keeps you on even footing ... literally.

When I was on Mackinac Island a few weeks ago I snuck out early in the morning to grab a quick video of the gardens at the Hotel Iroquois. You can check it out here or below.



WINDOW BOX INSPIRATION IN ALL SHAPES AND SIZES

I think window boxes are some of the most fun but most challenging containers to get right. Depending on their placement they may need to drape, may have restrictions as to how high they can be (so as to not block a window) and are often narrow, leaving not a lot of soil for plants to grow in. But done right, they become an architectural asset. 

I like to study window box design because I'm always looking to do it better. And Mackinac Island (which I visited a few weeks ago, as I do every year), is full of window box inspiration.

This is actually several window boxes butted up together and mounted a little below eye level. The gap between boxes is bridged by the Thunbergia on a simple stick trellis. 

Brightly colored window box

Planting a window box in sun leaves oodles of options for plant combinations. But shade window boxes can be a challenge. Here's a charming shade box, mounted under a window outside a shop at about hip height. This might be my favorite window box of all of these. Don't you love how the lilac color of the box is reflected in the heuchera in the box?

Shade window box

All of the window boxes at the Iroquois Hotel, all planted by Jack Barnwell's amazing crew, were red, white and blue this year. I like how the white flowers reflect the color of the boxes and the building (hmm ... I'm sensing a theme here). 

Red, white and blue window box


This is a huge "window box" at the back of the giant spa on the lake side of the Chippewa Hotel. I love the papyrus grasses, but I'd like to see a little more drape. That may be coming when the sweet potato vine and the petunias get a little more mature.


Poolside window box

This is more of a railing box, but it's the same concept. I quite like this design as well, but again, I'd like to see less box. I always wonder how people water these boxes on a second floor. I would hate to have to get water from a bathroom or something.

Second story window box

 Here's another railing box and this one is SO good. What a great tie in to the gardens below.

Railing box

What does your ideal window box look like? You can see how I planted mine up this year here. I'll post an update on my containers soon. 

CHICKEN-RESISTANT PLANTS + THE CUTEST COOP

It's no secret that I covet chickens. For various reasons, they've been a non-starter with Mr. Much More Patient, so I enjoy chickens vicariously through friends who have them. And I'm not going to lie here, one of the main reasons that I want chickens is because I want a super cute chicken coop.

My friend Roisin has created the MOST adorable coop, which means I'm not only envious of her beautiful fresh eggs and her cute chickens, but also her coop, which I've threatened to move into.

The Speckled Sussex chicken getting a prime view at the top of the coop just happens to be named Erin. :)

You won't believe what this coop looked like originally though.


Roisin rescued it from a friend who was no longer using it, and it lived on the edge of her property for a time until she had time to renovate. She removed the railings, cleaned up the inside and gave it the prettiest new paint job in Sherwin Williams Archipelago with a Valspar Summer Wish door.



Roisin is also an amazing gardener and let's be honest, the planting opportunities on this cute coop were way too good to pass up. But what Roisin has learned this summer—her first with her girls—is that not all plants work with chickens around. Some plants are definitely on the chicken menu. Others are just libel to fall victim to digging and scratching. Containers are likely to have a chicken end up in them, if only so they can check it out, she said.

Chickens are also very interested in anything colorful, so all new flowers plants seem to get a thorough chicken inspection, Roisin said.

Hostas and petunias fell prey to the chickens rather quickly so Roisin learned that those need to either planted somewhere the chickens don't go or caged for protection. Tulips were also deadheaded by the chickens before they needed to be. But after some trial and error she's found a few plants that seem to be of little interest to the flock.

I want a chicken coop just for that window box.

Here's Roisin's list of chicken-resistant plants that she's found so far. (Roisin notes that her research suggests all flocks have different tastes, but these plants have worked for her.):
  • Echinacea
  • Salvia
  • Arborvitae
  • Ivy
  • Zinnia
  • Yarrow
  • Roses
  • Marigolds (although the chickens did scratch a few up out of pots)

The chickens, it seems are happy with the new coop (although it took some getting used to). Here are some of the presents they left.


Lucky chickens also have a great guardian, Roisin's Newfoundland Gunner, who take great care of the girls and has made it his mission to make sure they are a happy, egg-laying bunch.


The girls even got a little swing in a recent addition.

What chicken wouldn't want to live here?


I love to see reader's gardening projects and even more so if they involve chickens! Hope you enjoyed this peek at the most charming chicken coop.