Sometimes, you get in a rut. It might be food, clothing, attitude or gardening related. You just can’t seem to break free. All I can say is, “Snap out of it!” The best sure- fire way to get that garden spark back is to get out and tour a friend’s garden. George and I toured Judy’s stunning garden just this week. In fact, it inspired us to go do a little plant shopping afterwards. Come along- let me take you on a virtual tour of my garden and my friend, Judy’s garden, too.
Last Sunday George and Judy came to my house. After we toured my place, we went to Judy’s house, just down the street. Even though the summer had been horrid, I had some great plant combinations and creative garden decorating ideas that I wanted to point out and share with Judy and George. Let me share a few of the things that I think make for good gardens.
UNUSUAL, INTERESTING PLANTS: Every garden should have an unusual, comment-worthy plant. One of my most striking plants is my Black Dahlia. I used to trial annuals for June Hutson at Missouri Botanical Garden. Four or five years ago I got the most unusual Dahlia. It wasn’t blooming yet, but the foliage was totally black. I saved the tubers from year to year: you couldn’t find it for sale until a short while ago: they’re called “Mystic Dahlias.” I had a total shoulder replacement last November and forgot to dig up the Dahlia tubers. Lucky for me, last year’s mild winter and layers of fallen leaves kept them alive. The flowers are bright, clear yellow and the foliage deep black- they grew so tall, they look like shrubs! Visitors to my garden are in awe of my jaw dropping, 4’ tall black Dahlias! Judy has an amazing passion Flower Vine that seems to be blooming all the time. She brings it indoors in the winter, so it’s a really substantial size by the time it moves outdoors. She also has an interesting vine called “Snapdragon Vine.” It came from Cottage Gardens in Illinois. Chris Kelly routinely stocks the most unusual, hard to find plants anywhere. A spring trip to her nursery in Godfrey is a must!
BRIGHT, MEMORABLE COLORS: I love the color chartreuse, whether it shows up in the plants foliage, flowers or as an accent in the garden. I had an old, rusty patio table. I found some chartreuse spray paint at the hardware store and I knew exactly what to do with it. I sanded the little table and shot it with a few coats of paint. For $5 I gave it new life, using it as a plant stand in the garden. The kiwi Sweet Potato Vine repeats the new paint color and gives a little pop to an otherwise bland spot in the garden. Judy and I have a love for Zinnias, especially the bright pink ones. She has 2 large beds of nothing but pink Zinnias in full sun. They command your attention, blooming all summer long. I found the variety “Uproar Rose” the best out there. Judy and I got the seeds from Jung’s Nursery.
A WATER FEATURE: Judy has the most peaceful, serene creek in her back yard. The drop in elevation is minimal, but it’s enough to release the most tranquil, soothing sound. Sitting on Judy’s back patio also allows you to see hear the tiered fountain that her husband, Jeff maintains. Jeff enjoys picking out the perfect plants, overwintering them in the basement of their home. I have a water feature that allowed me to use one of my favorite collectables- grindstones. I happened to pick up a gardening magazine one day, and on the cover were instructions on how to assemble a grindstone fountain! The next day I was in the back courtyard, digging away. Unfortunately, the spot I chose had remnants of an old tree stump. My ax and I spent the next 3 hours digging the rest of the hole, but it was worth it. I set the basin, leveled it, and added the grate and then grindstone and rocks.
A NICE PLACE TO SIT IN THE GARDEN: Judy has a charming, rustic garden room at the center of her back yard. On the day we visited, the Clematis that covers the roof of the room was blooming- it looked and smelled just like Jasmine. An aged rooster weathervane sits atop the roof, taking in the view. There’s a chair that beckons visitors to come on in and set a spell. Judy also has large stones, placed randomly, that afford spots to stop and “smell the roses!”
DISPLAY YOUR PLANT TREASURES PROUDLY: Judy, George and I collect Orchids. Judy built a conservatory to house her collection of nearly 200 Orchids. Many spend the summer outdoors, thriving into late October. George summers his outdoors as well, hanging from a wooden rack that he built, set inside a large Catalpa tree. The Orchids move indoors to his poolroom, complete with a humidifier, over the winter. I display my collection of Orchids in my large Magnolia tree and on my covered patio. In late fall, they move indoors, filling most of the rooms of my home.
BIRDBATHS AREN’T JUST FOR THE BIRDS! Judy has a real knack for putting together interesting plant combinations. One of my favorites is a tall, columnar birdbath that is filled with interesting plants. A “King Tut” Papyrus is the center of this creative collection of green plants. Another birdbath holds a large, thriving Boston Fern. If you have a birdbath that won’t hold water, you don’t have a broken birdbath, you’ve got a planter!
After a morning of touring gardens, George and I had out appetites whetted. We had a hankering to do some plant shopping and hit the road, saying our goodbyes to Judy and her poodle, Phoebe. My trusty Toyota 4Runner headed down Barrett Station Road, making its first stop at Sherwood Nursery. George was looking for some shrubs to plant in front of his AC units. They couldn’t be too tall or they would block the airflow. We saw some large, healthy Otto Luyken Bay Laurels. Laurel’s are a dense, glossy green shrub that would be perfect on the east side of the house. We also picked out a few King’s Gold False cypress to plant in front of the Laurels. The contrast of foliage color, texture and shape will command attention- even if it is on the side of the house that’s rarely seen.
On the drive home from our shopping trip, we discussed some of the high points of the two gardens. George and I agreed- gardening and visiting gardens are a fine way to spend a day. Call up a few friends and plan a garden tour day. You’ll have fun, come up with new planting ideas, and make a few memories. It’s all good!