Archive for the ‘Garden Inspiration’ Category

When my grandfather bought his first house, a grand old Victorian in the heart of Yonkers, New York, he couldn’t wait to make everything “just right.” The previous owner, though, begged him at the closing not to do anything to the gardens for exactly one year. Not really understanding why, he obeyed the seller’s wishes. Over the next year, he witnessed a dazzling display of perennials ebb and flow with the seasons, from the first bright spring tulips to the final shade lovers of the fall, and finally the ornamental grasses swaying just above the snow in the winter wind.

I also have received such an inheritance, and although it may not be as useful or tangible as money, each season around the hill has left me filled with wonder and curiosity, and most importantly, gratitude towards the previous owners, Mr. and Mrs. H. (Of course, Mr. H., I could’ve done without your “home repairs”, but that’s another story entirely!) Check out below the gifts I’ve received over the past year…

Thank you Mr. & Mrs. H., wherever you are!


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*Cue bad eighties hair and power guitar…*

OK, I’m done rocking out now.

Seriously though (because we’re a *very* serious blog here), you might think that a rose is just a rose, but trust me, these puppies are no wallflowers. Always the center of attention, these garden beauties are Marcia Brady to the tulip’s Jan. Neve r lost in the shuffle, no middle-child-syndrome here, roses stand tall, and they’ve got the thorns to remind you they’re the top dog, lest you forget. Symbols of romance, and the de-facto “I forgot it was Valentine’s Day” gift, there a re literally hundreds of varieties to choose from.

Above and beyond the tried and true blood red blooms – this year at Springwood, FDR’s Hudson Valley estate, its all about variety. From yellow to white, vine to bush, these roses are anti-establishment powerhouses ready to take over the floral scene. A rose isn’t just just a rose, anymore…

Want to grow ’em? Because there are so many species, no matter your climate (excepting extreme tropical), there’s most likely a rose for you. Because they’re propagated from cuttings, look for root stock at your local nursery. Most of them need some serious sun, though, so shade dwellers need not apply. Still not sure? – All America Rose Selections can help you get started, with their handy guide to roses by region. In addition, be sure to check out their fantastic growing guides for more information on cultivating this prickly perennial.

For the information-junkie, be sure to also check out the American Rose Association for even more useful info, especially since June is National Rose Month! Yes, this is seriously another useless holiday. Oh, well — I’ll let this one slide, but be forewarned, roses — I’ve got my eye on you…only one useless holiday per customer!
For those of you who don’t feel so inclined as to celebrate National Rose Month, at least take a trip if you find yourself in the Hudson Valley, up to Springwood. There’s a Presidential Library, FDR home tours and walking trails if the rose garden doesn’t strike your fancy (although, if that’s the case, I’m not sure what you’re doing here…) Either way, take a long summer afternoon and meander down the winding paths to the Hudson River’s breathtaking tidal marshes, or ramble on down behind the home of FDR to get a glimpse of the panoramic Valley views.
Roses, trails, and librarian’s tales…what’s not to love about the beautiful grounds of the home of FDR? Are there any local gardens by you that you’ve visited lately?

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Its a bit grey here today, and I’m having a doozy of a time getting motivated. The drone of a backhoe is wailing in my ears, and the clouds are hanging oppressively low in the windless, swampy air. I went on a few minitrips that I can’t wait to tell about, including the Rose Garden at Springside, FDR’s estate in Hyde Park, NY. Alas, I can’t muster up the correct words to do justice to my beloved Hudson Valley today; it seems like whenever I’m locked inside working on a grey day like today, thoughts of travel sweep over my mind.

If I had a magic wand, or perhaps some ruby red slippers (mmm…ruby red slippers…), I’d click or wave, or do whatever I needed to do, and there would magically be a wild parade of color and horticultural delight marching across your screen. Unfortunately, I have neither a magic wand nor ruby red slippers. Hmm…this is embarrassing…you came all the way here and I don’t even  have any magical powers!

But, after that wildly depressing into and embarrassing lack of powers of the magical persuasion, here’s what I can do for you… Come with me back in time, if you will, to my last visit to the San Francisco Botanical Garden, one beautiful afternoon early in the year two thousand and eight…Its no magic, but I hope it’ll brighten up your spirits as well as mine, whether your day be cloudy and stale, or Oz in Technicolor. Now, just step into the time machine, if you will, and be sure to keep all hands and appendages inside the car. No flash photography, please…

Japanese Tea gardens are famous in their own right, but San Francisco takes the cake, in my humble opinion. I love how the geometric symmetry in the architecture is complimented by the round, flowing lines of the plant life.

Integrating horticulture, rocks and natural geography with streams and ponds gives the garden a relaxing feel. No artificial colors or flavors here.

Not sure if this driftwood is natural, or purposely placed. Short of going back to San Francisco to find out, I think its a little bit of both. No real definition, feel free to color outside the lines, because this can be whatever you want it to be.

The Dutch Windmill truly makes me feel like I’m in another country (or at least on a movie set). I’ve never felt so compelled to frolic through a field in my life.

Ahhh…I feel a little more uplifted, and I hope you do too. Sometimes we all need to take a break from our black and white days and add a little color. Now, about getting those ruby red slippers…

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Good morning, fellow dirtboxers! Today, I’m going to take a break from the “Five Tips for a Great Garden in June” series, to bring something that I hope to be a little more engaging, inspiring and original to the blog. Tips and tricks are great and all, but that kind of thing can be found in any dime a dozen garden book. Going forward, I think I’m going to focus a little more on happenings in my own dirtbox, so that hopefully you, as readers, will leave filled with ideas about what you like, don’t like, and most importantly, feeling like you want to get outside and get digging!

Finally found the place where the sidewalk ends...

So, without further ado, today I’m going to take you on a virtual vacation to the place where the sidewalk ends. I found tons of design inspiration from nature, here, and hopefully you will too! On a whim, I went to Saugerties, NY, a historical mill town at the mouth of the Esopus Creek, somewhere on the west banks of the Hudson River between Kingston and Albany.

I loved this sidewalk for its rambling look and abrupt end, because it reminded me that perfection is not always the greatest attribute in design. Although the path is straight and narrow, it has less of a sterile look than a poured concrete walkway, making me feel less like I was part of an institution and more like I was on a walk to find some great, hidden treasures. I’ve been slowly applying this idea to my own garden, digging up large slabs of slate from my backyard (I live on the crest of a hill) and lining the outside of my garden with them. I had considered ordering stone, but this is turning out to be a much more cost effective and original design concept. (Not to discount, though, the back-breaking labor of digging up long buried slate, but its well worth it to me)

"Hey, you - get off my beach!"

The path where the sidewalk ends eventually brought me down a long, sloping hill filled with tidy, tightly spaced frame houses with neatly tended flower gardens. The tinkle of wind chimes hung in the air on the cloudy late afternoon. I noticed a prominent lack of vegetable gardens, but couldn’t tell what was going on in backyards. The prevailing themes seemed to include window boxes and raised beds, filled with decorative shade-loving grasses and tulips. (Since it was a few weeks ago that I went, the tulips were just coming into full bloom) There to greet me at the creek cutting through the basin of the hillside was this great (swan?) — I’m not entirely sure what kind of bird that is. Nevertheless, with his broad and graceful body, he followed me down the beach, chattering all the while in hopes, no doubt, of the possibility of bread crumbs or other treats.

An alleyway, since converted to decorative garden and sitting area.

Next, I hiked back up the hill into the center of town, flanked on my right by views of the Esopus Creek waterfall and the high gorge walls on its south banks. Looking for a place to eat, I noticed that a local restaurant had turned an alley into a beautiful sitting area and garden. (Forgive the crooked picture) With beautiful trellis work and lush green ivy, I felt transported back to another world, where garbage cans and grime would be the last things you’d expect to find in an alley. (There are actually several groups out there working to beautify alleys, like the Alley Gardens Project.) Further back into the alley is a small sitting area, allowing patrons a comfortable and beautiful place to regroup and relax.

Path to the Saugerties Lighthouse

After lunch, which was at the wonderfully authentic Fez (71 Partition Street), I went down to the river to check out the Saugerties Lighthouse and the tidal walk, which takes travelers from the mainland out to the lighthouse on a short trail, which becomes submerged and impassible at high tide. This archway, made entirely from logs, is just as beautiful, but the polar opposite in feel to the previous one I found in town. Personally, I love the natural look and am considering building something similar at the entrance to my raised beds. I have one lonely little grapevine, but this archway would be the perfect place to plant more.

Finally at the lighthouse (and still dry, remarkably), I had the chance to look at the beautiful grass at the end of the trail. Although I believe grasses like these are usually confined to coastal areas, I’ve seen many people integrate them into their landscape design. There’s a small marsh across the street from me where cattails grow, and I wish I could convince them to grow up the hill a little bit onto my property, where I could use them for their decorative properties, but also as an on-property edible. Nearly all of the cattail plant is edible to humans!

Filled with ideas and inspiration, I left for home, ready to get to work on my garden. I picked up a lot of ideas from the trip to Saugerties, most importantly the concept of working to integrate a more relaxed and natural feeling into my neatly planted rows of corn and tomatoes.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this narrative and experiment away from the more conventional “How-To” feeling of this blog. As both my garden and I mature, I’m beginning to realize that sometimes the best garden is not the one that sticks to all the rules, but the one that isn’t afraid to break them every now and again, and takes inspiration from unlikely sources. What do you use to get garden inspiration (books, other gardens, the outdoors)? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section!

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