Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Spring Gardens


Hot Plant:
Helleboris:


In New York City gardens, it seems that Helleborus is this year's IT plant, and with good reason.  This superb plant is lush, comes in a variety of colors, and is shade tolerant. While I prefer the subtle creamy green and soft white petal varietals (above), more common (and less expensive) are the hellebore that have dramatic, rich plum, almost black colors.  And while all the Hellebore's are a worthwhile investment, if you can find the extravagant Helleborus orientalis -- buy it! Its flowers delicately and outwardly triangulate in an incredibly elegant way.

Along with the Crocus and Cyclamen, the Helleborus is one of the first to appear -- in late winter and early spring -- and it flowers over a long period.  Its perky early color begins to appear while there is still snow on the ground and depending on the spring weather, often continues until the Azelias are in full bloom (late spring). It gives a lot of flower bang for the buck!

In my garden, I paired this hearty treasure with off-white tulips and the double narcissus, the less common and more interesting daffodil.  The double narcissus (below) almost looks like a small creamy peony or sculpted gardenia, has a huge flower and has wonderfully layered ivory petals.  It's not your grandmother's ubiquitous Narcissus!

My prized double narcissus

My mostly white spring garden
I planted my tulip and narcissus bulbs in the late fall (talk about delayed gratification!) and for this year's garden, I stuck mostly with off-whites. The yellow daffodil (above) is a regrowth, self propogating offset from last year's planting. In a small garden, creams and whites add some depth when placed in spaces that have huge sunlight and shadow contracts. White is also a great color when visits to the garden are limited to the evenings -- white(ish) flowers can act like little lamps.


Pale green Helleborus

Zinc container from Restoration Hardware.  I look forward to seeing that Alyssum cascading down the sides.

But, my favorite new feature in my spring garden is the recently purchased zinc planters from Restoration Hardware.  The last few winters have been harsh here in New York, with much snow and drastic temperature swings. As a result,  I have had to replace multiple broken plant containers.  This year,  I decided to invest in high quality containers that will withstand our erratic weather.  Terra cotta and wood simply do not hold up. Zinc, while almost prohibitively expensive, is expected to last. I hope to buy more zinc containers at the end of season sales!



High quality planters are an essential ingredient to any garden.  Adding height will give it multiple focal points.  The height also helps to incorporate a useful rule in planting -- use delicate foliage at higher levels and bolder, thicker, heartier planting at the lower level.  The only downside -- planters need to be watered more often than in-ground plantings. 

Planters grouped together can also double as a mixed bed,  particularly on a deck or concrete area where there isn't any soil. They also provide foliage to otherwise dead zones. 

 In my new zinc containers, I planted Euonymus bushes for height and for its attractive variegated leaves, and at the bottom, Allysum, for its creeping and cascading qualities. 


If your garden includes shady spots, try Ornamental Ginger (above).  The eye-catching fan shaped leaves are great ground cover, require little maintenance and are easy to split and propagate.

Above -- a garden I designed for our last house in Brooklyn, the handsome purple spikes are Allium, which flower in the early summer and bring delicious drama to the garden (Allium are in the onion family). 


Digitalis (common name - foxglove) add height to any garden and are wonderfully elegant when flowering freely against shrubs.  Be sure to plant with bark ships, to help keep roots cool in the hot summer. 

Don't forget to Dead Head -- or remove faded flowers from the plant.  Not only does the plant look better, but dead heading prevents energy moving into seeds, keeping the focus on the flower.


Here are my go-to bulb and plant ordering catalogs:

McClure & Zimmerman     http://www.mzbulb.com
John Scheepers                http://www.johnscheepers.com
Van Engelen                      http://www.vanengelen.com

Frontgate and Restoration Hardware are also great sources for planters and outdoor furniture.

That's me, gardening in the Hamptons a fews years ago.