Garden Trends–Gold Foliage

Gold foliage is the “trendy” foliage color of the year (despite the fact that the Pantone color of the year is “Greenery” I guess).

We go through these various color fads in the garden. I have had some customers in my retail gardening days say that they didn’t like “gold” colored foliage in the garden because it made the plants look dead–particularly on evergreens. I have had other customers say the same thing about chartreuse. But here again, I think color is a very personal thing–and as those internet “memes” with the dresses have shown us, we certainly don’t all perceive color the same way! Oh well.

If you think about hostas, for example, a variety of colors, including blues and golds, can give the garden interest and movement, even if you are using all the same plant. The same thing would be true of a plant like coral bells (heuchera) or even an annual like coleus.

Evergreen, or conifer gardens also benefit not only from a wide variety of textures but of colors. An evergreen garden of just greens would be rather uninspiring. But when you add a variety of blues, golds and whites, the garden takes on a liveliness that cannot be obtained from just design alone.

So this year when you are planning your garden–whatever type of garden you plan–look for the gold! You won’t be sorry that you did.

Wordless Wednesday–Book Review

By now, you all know that I love most anything that St. Lynn’s Press publishes. So when I was offered a review copy of Jan Johnsen’s The Spirit of Stone: 101 Practical & Creative Stonescaping Ideas for Your Garden of course I said yes. As always with review copies,  opinions expressed are always my own.

What interested me about this book and topic is the fact that I have so much stone in my own garden.  In fact, I have a version of just about every project she mentions in the book with the exception of a true rock garden.

So, since we are in the middle of a a garden trends project,  I wanted to see how stone fit into that–or how its use had changed over the 25 years or so that I have been gardening at my own property.

Since Johnsen has been a landscape designer for 4 decades,  obviously the use of stone has evolved–but many stone projects have timeless appeal, of course.  Depending on one’s part of the country, one need only to think of New England’s stone walls,  which date back hundreds of years, in some instances.

And of course the stone “henges” of ancient Britain go back many more centuries than that!

Johnsen divides her book into chapters that focus on rock gardens, stone walls, walks, steps, stone accent pieces and plant recommendations.  She also addresses the issue of sustainability in an entire chapter.  That is certainly new since some of my stone was installed and it probably would have led me to make different choices from what is there now. I was pleased to see so many of my projects in the sustainable section though.  Whew!

Because the book is called The Spirit of Stone, there is a discussion of different types of stone, its history, and using local stone. This is the very first chapter of the book. I found it very appropriate.  Some people might not care for it.

The book is abundantly full of photos from botanic  and public gardens and the author’s own installations. There is a list at the end of places to visit to see some of the photos in the book. There is also a list of books about stone (some have been quoted within the book and others are just of interest to the reader).

Whether you have been thinking about a stone project or a rock garden for yourself,  or if you just have an interest in stone,  this is a lovely,  well done book.

Garden Trends–“Uber”-izing the Garden

This is a weird title for what I would call the subscription food movement–you know, those home meal service delivery options like Blue Apron and Home Chef (2 options in my area) as well as local CSAs (community supported agriculture movements where you buy a share of a farm harvest for a season–although these are usually pick up).

I suppose perhaps community gardening might even fit this movement not because the garden comes to you–although it does, in a sense–but because of the education value of the garden. Back when I belonged to a community garden, we shared lots of things: advice about how to best manage pests (most gardens are organic), seeds and plant starts, extra produce and ways to prepare it and, at the end of the season, a community garden dinner. It truly was a “community” in every sense of the word.

The subscription services, on the other hand, while they might allow you to prepare dinner for others, are not generally communal in this nature.

And some CSAs can be this way, but not all are–it depends on the farm (although most will at least share ways to prepare what is in the harvest that week.)

I guess it is all up to the particular gardener–and how social he or she wants to be–to take advantage or this trend.

Garden Trends–“Clean” Gardening

On Monday I talked about the first of the “garden trends” that the Garden Media Group and Grow 365 identified as trends for 2017.

I have to confess, I am a little bit puzzled by some of these trends. This trend, for example, that they called “clean” gardening. It encompasses “natural,” organic and even hydroponic gardening. It also encompasses free range!

First, that’s a huge range of different gardening styles and there are battles brewing at the federal level (and no, I have no intention of weighing in here, other than to say that for the moment hydroponic is NOT considered organic, and natural can mean a huge range or different things but is also not officially considered organic under USDA standards).

As long term readers know, I’ve been organic for over 20 years–since 1994, in fact–so “clean” gardening is hardly what I would call a “trend” for me. However, I am delighted to see it getting publicity and I am delighted to see everyone becoming aware of the variety of different styles of eating and gardening, whichever they ultimately choose to adopt.

One of the things I always try to tell people when I lecture is that they should try to keep their homes and yards as free from toxins as possible, particularly if they are growing food. I say that there are  a couple of reasons to grow your own food: to get varieties that you can’t find elsewhere and to know where your food is coming from (literally) and what’s on it.

I also say that if you are just going to put synthetics on it–and I mean synthetics of any sort, from fertilizers to pesticides–you might as well just go down to the supermarket and buy the food.

You don’t have to agree with me, but that’s how I feel. And as I always say, if we all “liked” the same thing, we would have a very boring world. But this trend, at least, seems to indicate, that more folks are “liking” food without synthetics (that was one of the characterizations of “clean” in the Garden Media Group and Grow 365 report).

Garden Trends–Tidy Gardens

Having finished the series on house plants that clean the air, I thought I would start a series on “garden trends.” Many places in the United States are already gardening (and I am jealous) although I am gardening in a different way indoors (and this has nothing to do with seed starting!). I talked way back at the beginning of January about how I never really “finish” gardening–I just take my gardening indoor with house plants, tropicals, and even forced bulbs.

So “tidy gardens” has really nothing to do with me, either indoors or out (but then again, anyone who has come to my house would know that I am no fan of Marie Kondo.) It is she who is getting credit for this trend of “tidy gardening,” and while I think there may be some merit to it for  some folks, it “sparks” no joy for me–or my wildlife!

As anyone who knows who may have read Ms. Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, her philosophy is that one should only keep objects that “spark joy.” Everything else should be recycled or given away.

In theory, I have no issue with that premise. And I can see why it holds appeal when applied to the garden. “Tidy” gardens are easier to maintain and therefore leave more time for whatever else people might like to be doing.

Indoors, “tidy” house plant collections would also take little time to maintain, be easy to care for and generally lend themselves to the minimalist aesthetic that seem to pervade this principle.

I am all on board with this approach for those who might be new to gardening, for those who might be parents and have little time for gardening, or for those who might like to garden and don’t want to hire someone else to do it for them.

Choosing a few well thought out plants that are easy to care for, that appropriately fit the space so that they do not need pruning constantly and that make you happy when you do have time to spend in your yard or on your balcony (and may perhaps be water-wise, if that is a consideration for you) makes good sense. I don’t know if I think this is so much of a “trend” as it is a sensible approach to the way people live–at least, I hope it’s not a trend. I would like to see it continue for quite some time and I think of a “trend” as a short-lived notion that comes and goes rather quickly.

So let’s hope this is one “trend” that will be with us for many years to come!

 

 

 

House Plants That Clean the Air of Ammonia

Now this seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? Many of you are saying, “But I don’t clean with ammonia, or use ammonia, so why do I need this?”

And I pray you need never know. But ammonia is not just a cleaning product, of course. It is also a by product of pet waste and human waste. And as someone who knows that pets are forever, I have had my share of sweet elderly dogs and can tell you first hand about how ammonia is a by-product of that.

So how to freshen the air after you have cleaned up the accidents that the poor pets (or elderly humans) can’t help? With plants, of course. (Just make sure to check out this chart, here, if you have pets that are likely to chew on plants so that you use the non-toxic ones!)

There are not a lot of plants that clean the air of ammonia–surprisingly, lilyturf grass (liriope spicata) is one that would be a non-toxic choice for pet owners (or those with young children). It is also a choice for low light situations.

Another good choice for low light situations is the Lady Palm (rhapsis excelsa). This one is going to be a little more finicky about humidity, however.

If toxicity is not a problem, our old friend the Peace Lily is a great choice and is tough as nails for low to intermediate light situations.

And if you have a sunny window, anthurium, often known as flame flower, is a great choice–but it too is toxic so be cautioned about that. They are often sold at the holidays and Valentine’s day because of their heart shaped red, pink or white flowers.

This concludes my series on house plants that clean the air. Next, let’s look at some garden trends for 2017!