Need Help?

Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

See website, design work and favorite flowering plants at  gardengurumontreal.ca

Consultation and coaching for do-it-yourselfers is provided. Occasional emailed questions are welcome and answered free of charge. Oui, je parle francais.

See my work on Pinterest at Garden Guru Montreal

Entries in Flower gardens (10)

Monday
Feb202017

The Most Beautiful Landscaped Flower Garden in Thailand. 

Doi Tung Royal Villa, located in Chiang Rei, Thailand, was built with simplicity in the Lanna and Swiss architectural styles in 1987, as a residence for Her Late Royal Highness Princess Srinakarindra, the Princess Mother.

It's location in the mountains of northern Thailand among the hill tribes was chosen so that the Princess Mother might reforest the area and improve the lives of the local people through education, health care [provided with her own funds] and training. Her goal was to replace the cultivation of opium, which was destroying the social fabric of the local population, with co-op farming and artisan skills.

The plan was successful. Today, members of the hill tribes proudly sustain themselves with small scale farming. On each plot of land homeowners grow at least one of about ten food bearing shrubs, trees and plants and raise several chickens. From each plant, they consume what they require for sustenance and deliver the surplus to a nearby collection center which consolidates the modest harvests and sends it to market. The generated revenue is also supplemented with fine quality handicrafts made from locally woven textiles to be sold at better tourist shops throughout Thailand.

Part of the construction of the villa reflects the Thai tradition of re purposing all plant matter so that nothing grown is discarded. For example, in Thailand’s silk industry, mulberry leaves that are too tough to be ingested by silk worms are pounded into pulp to make a textile used in the manufacture of parasols.

Similarily, at the elephant refuge, located further south in Chiang Mei, dung is mechanically separated. The soft manure is used as compost while the tough indigestible fibres [because elephants don’t discriminate against what part of the plant they eat] are processed into a richly textured  linen-like paper used in souvenir shops for gift wrapping, stationary and picture frame covers.

Respecting the tradition of re purposing, the exterior of the Princess Mother's Villa, while built of concrete, was decorated with wood slabs cut from discarded teak trees, which came from forest thinning work by the Forest Industry Organization. The interior of the Royal Villa is paneled with recycled pine wood, from crates used for imported tools and equipment.

The colorful landscape design, that flows downhill from the building, offers a visual balance to the serenity and simplicity of the home’s architecture. Known as The Mae Fah Luang Garden, it is designed with hundreds of different kinds of annual and perennial flowering plants spread over 10 acres of lush, expansive lawns.  

Chiang Rei, situated in the mountains of northern Thailand, enjoys a cool climate virtually all year round thus making it possible for the Princess Mother to give the Thai people, who never travelled beyond their tropical country, an opportunity to experience a temperate flower garden. 

This tourist destination is a flower gardener’s dream. The enormous amount and varieties of flowering plants, that flow endlessly in front of the visitors’ eyes, create a moving and almost surreal visual experience.

The concept of the garden reinforces the idea that not all landscapes need to be variations on themes of green. Nor must they be designed solely with immaculately trimmed evergreen shrubs. In the appropriate setting, using eye-catching color schemes and climate-friendly plants, a flower garden can be a beautiful attraction.

Wednesday
Jan252012

Impressionist Painter Claude Monet was a Garden Designer

Monet’s Passion: Ideas Inspiration and Insight from the Painter’s Gardens, by Elizabeth Murray, Pomegranate Artbooks

We are so caught up in the historical and aesthetic significance of the English garden, and its recent American transformation, that we easily forget about the French Impressionist painter Claude Monet and his significant contribution to flower garden design. Elizabeth Murray created this jewel of a publication as homage to Monet’s horticultural genius. It is a beautiful, elegant example of the art of publishing at its best.  

Claude Monet, Garden at Giverny, 1900. Musee d'Orsay. ParisAlthough its earlier edition was marketed as an art book, it is indeed a gardener’s delight. I discovered it only recently, when my daughter visited for the holidays and found time to clear out unwanted possessions, left behind from her teenage years at home. She had purchased the book as inspiration for the art classes she once took. Now, it has no value to her and she asked if I could use it. When I picked it up to flip though its pages, I discovered beautiful images of flower beds, some immortalized on canvas by Monet, and others photographed by Ms. Murray. All are suitable inspiration for future generations of flower gardeners.

Claude Monet (1840-1926). Waterlilies: Green Reflections. Detail of left side, room 1, east wall, Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris. In 1989, a few years before the release of the first edition of the book, fine art photographer, landscape horticulturist, and author Elizabeth Murray assisted with the restoration of Monet’s gardens at his Giverny estate in France. In this best-seller, she reported on the garden’s original development, its maintenance, Monet’s color theories, design elements, and his use of light and shade.

Monet, Bridge at Giverny, http://www.thecultureconcept.com/circle/first-impressions-monet-pisarro-sisley-renoirShe also supplied rich photos of the restored gardens in bloom, flowerbeds drawn to scale, aerial diagrams of some of the original flower compositions, as well as translucent annotated blueprints, superimposed on the sketches to assist readers who might wish to recreate the flowerbeds for themselves.

Climbing pink rose tree at Giverny, by Elizabeth Murray.The Giverny estate includes nearly three acres of flowers, an arched tunnel covered with climbing roses, a wide walk carpeted with creeping nasturtium, and a two-acre water lily garden, traversed by a wisteria-covered, Japanese footbridge. Ms. Murray reported that the artist deliberately pondered the placement of every flower that bloomed in his garden in order to create subjects and views waiting to be painted.

Monet's Giverny garden (photo © Elizabeth Murray) http://pomegranatecom.blogspot.com/2011/04/me-and-monet.htmlAccording to the author, the gardens were designed “using the technique of succession planting. Bulbs and annuals are woven into perennial flower borders to provide color throughout the growing seasons. Scale and borrowed landscapes increase the visual size of the garden. Large blocks of monochromatic colors are used for impact, complementary colors are placed next to each other for intensity, specific color is used to increase the atmospheric effect of mist and sunlight, and the reflection of the sky and landscape on the surface of the water is used as a design feature”.

http://www.monet-giverny-normandy.com/tag/giverny/Flower gardening used to be an attraction restricted to a small group of dedicated hobbyists. With the proliferation of the big box garden centers, this passion has become a joyful activity accessible to a much wider population. Even though the book was released over twenty years ago, it has remained a timeless classic that speaks to newer generations of flower gardeners, an audience infinitely larger than the publisher could have ever imagined.

In celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the first publication of Monet's Passion: Ideas, Inspiration, and Insights from the Painter's Gardens, a revised and enhanced edition was published in 2010. I am happy to have rediscovered this work and share it with my readers.

                           

Monday
Jan092012

Are You a Collector of Day Lilies or Do You Grow Them for Pleasure?

H. Angels Gather Round, (Smth 08 ) Tetraploid, Evergreen, Mid Season bloomer, 30 inch scapes, flowers 5.5 inches diameter, smooth peachy-pink self and green throat with ruffled iceberg lettuce-green edge. Image:-daylilyfans.comThe new day lily mail order catalog that arrived this week contains more technical information than I will ever require. Based upon the list of newly introduced varieties, and by paying attention to the details that accompany each plant, one comes to realize that day lily growers target several kinds of gardeners.

First is the nursery owner who is prepared to nurture a plant until it matures to make an impressive display, second is the gardener wishing to add a very specific perennial to the flowerbed, and third is the collector.

Acquiring new and unusual varieties of day lilies is a serious hobby similar to collecting orchids or antiques. It differs from conventional gardening in many respects because it places greater emphasis on the thrill of the hunt for the rare and the unknown, the excitement of discovery, the satisfaction of exclusive ownership, the pleasure of the new and different, an eternal sense of incompleteness - because collecting never ends, and the now-rarely observed trait of one-upmanship.

Collectors also assign a higher market value to desirable plants than traditional gardeners do. Such plants might be difficult to propagate, they may differ dramatically from previously introduced cultivars, or they may combine, in one plant, superlatives of all of the desired traits of the species.

H. Stella d'Oro, (Jablonski '75), diploid, Dormant foliage, Early-Medium-Late bloomer, scapes are 17 inches high, blooms are 3.5 inches diameter, Repeat [continuous] bloomer, gold-yellow trumpets, compact habit. Images:-http://sunnyside-gardens.com/plants/perennials/page/12/One only has to study the cost of the unusual cultivars to realize that the traditional gardener is not the intended market for many of the newly introduced plants. The prices confirm that collectors are prepared to pay a premium for one that is out of the ordinary. For example, in the above-mentioned catalog, the supplier charges only $4.00 for a clump of several fans of H. Stella d’Oro, but quotes $75 for a single fan of H. Angels Gather Round. I have seen Angels listed as high as $125 from other sources.

While some weekend gardeners may select a day lily based upon a few details such as color and price, here are some of the characteristics that collectors consider when choosing a new cultivar:

Number of Chromosomes  Tetraploid plants have twenty-two pairs of chromosomes while diploids have only eleven.

A.H.S.  Some cultivars are registered with the American Hemerocallis Society, while others are not. For some collectors, registration is important.

 Foliage   A plant may be classified as evergreen, semi-evergreen, or dormant. This designation refers to the hardiness of a plant in colder climates and the sustainability of foliage in warmer areas. Dormant varieties are the hardiest and evergreens may require mulch where winters are severe.

 Bloom Time   In my growing zone of USDA 4, early varieties (E) bloom from June to beginning of July, mid-season plants (M) bloom from mid-July to mid-August, and late varieties (L) bloom in August and September.

 Double   This adjective describes a variety with a higher number of flower petals than others have. Some double blooms will resemble miniature old roses or tiny azaleas.

High Bud Count Some cultivars have a greater number of buds per scape than others. [A scape is a stalk that shoots up from within the clump of leaves and holds the flower buds at its top.] This designation indicates the intensity of the color output (multiple blooms per day) during a plant's bloom period. Because beauty is subjective, a high bud count is no guarantee that a day lily will be appreciated. The gardener must first be attracted to the flower’s overall appearance for the high bud count to have any value.

Reblooming  A variety that will send up new scapes after its first blooming period

Repeat Blooms A variety that sends up new scapes continuously beyond its first blooming period. When designing flowerbeds, most of my focus is on this group of day lilies. If the color is suitable for the composition, it is sheer pleasure having a plant that sustains flowers over an extended period.

Sculpting  A variety with petals that are pleated or covered with relief either at the base of the petals or anywhere on the petals’ surface. One can appreciate this feature when the lily grows at close proximity. From a distance, this characteristic is hardly noticeable.

Spider A variety with long, thin petals – like skinny pinwheels - with a ratio of at least 4:1, that is, the petals are at least 4 times longer than they are wide. Flowers in this group lack the velvety beauty of traditional day lilies and do not project from afar as powerfully as the trumpet varieties do. Spiders compensate for their scraggliness with bold colors, long bloom periods, and tall scapes.

Unusual Form  A variety, usually Spider, whose thin petals are spatula-shaped, or pinched, or twisted, or cascading, or crispate.

Collectors are also interested in knowing if a day lily is very fragrant, if it will bloom in the early morning, if it remains open late into the evening, the name of the hybridizer, the year the plant was registered, the height of the scape, and the diameter of the flower.

 A large day lily flower is a beautiful sight and tall lilies that loom and bloom over other perennials can be very effective in the perennial flowerbed.

Monday
Oct242011

The Elephant in the Garden Room

Gardening is not an equal opportunity hobby. Perennials, roses, rhododendrons and flowering shrubs can be costly to some, yet inconsequentially inexpensive to others. In some countries, even organic-rich black earth is considered a luxury.

When I first began gardening, beautiful plants were available only by mail order. Each season, I would budget for plants a portion of the college money that I had earned during the previous summer. Because these funds had to underwrite an entire year of school, the amount I spent on gardening was modest. As a result, the number of perennials that I was able to add  to my garden each season was paltry.

Occasionally, a neighbor would give me a cutting of a perennial, but since city gardeners in those days knew of only twelve perennials, flowerbeds were uninspiring without supplementary mail order plants. Later in life, when gardening became a second career, I was able to comfortably buy plants to my heart’s content because I now shopped wholesale, But until then, all garden purchases had been measured and re considered, ensuring  that my resources were wisely spent.

The other option that was always available was growing plants from seed. However, urban living in a crowded, central-heated home, in a cold climate, did not offer the appropriate physical environment for the successful germination of seeds.

Ordering expensive plants by mail was the only way that I, and most other people, could expand our flowerbeds. That option remained constant until the arrival of two commercial phenomena that changed the way ordinary people gardened.

The combination of the credit card and the big box store brought ornamental gardening to those with limited resources. All that was required was to select a desirable object, place it in a shopping cart, and pay an ostensibly modest, but deceptively high, monthly charge to the credit card company.

Big box stores also brought seemingly affordable and eye catching horticultural products to the mass market. By displaying temptingly, blooming plants to a consumer who had arrived to buy light bulbs, these behemoth retailers instantly, turned unsuspecting do-it-yourselfers into gardeners, and a new target market of gardener-consumer was born.

This historical commercial development deflects the fact that without the generosity of others who offer free plant cuttings, and without the opportunity or time to grow perennials from seed, ornamental gardening remains - in real dollars - an expensive hobby for a sizeable portion of the population.

Publishers and writers never acknowledge this enormous elephant in the room – the fact that some gardeners can’t afford to buy the plants we write about. We discuss “how-to”, and “what is new”; often we recommend spending more than necessary because a costlier plant will yield out-of-proportionally spectacular results -  for only a few dollars more  In our sincerity and zeal to share all of our best gardening tips with as many people as possible, sometimes we forget that our advice is not appropriate for all gardeners.

That is because ornamental gardening crosses socioeconomic lines; it gives pleasure to everyone, regardless of one’s station in life. Consequently, there will always be some, desiring to recreate that pleasure in their own back yard, who will find themselves hard pressed to allocate finite resources to infinite garden dreams.

Monday
Mar282011

Vertical Garden Design

There is a new trend developing in horticulture. It is called vertical gardening and it refers to growing plants on walls, either in pots attached to a vertical surface, or directly planted into a growing medium that has been affixed to a wall. Before this new concept was introduced, a vertical garden referred to landscapes planted with design elements that drew the eye upward. Often, such elements help to make a small garden appear larger by tricking the visitor into gazing upward to avoid confronting the physical limits of a small space. Other times, they simply give the eye a rest from the unintended horizontalness that sometimes overtakes a garden’s design. Here is a photo of a bold colored garden arrangement, refreshing in its verticality.  In this composition, columnar evergreens introduce a vertical theme echoed by the spikes of the orange perennial, Kniphofia. The image, used here with written permission, was taken by Jordan Jackson who garden blogs at Metropolitan Gardens. The photo was taken in August 2009 in Regent’s Park at St Andrews Gate. in London. UK.