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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.

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Entries in flowering perennials (2)

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.

Monday
Jul162012

Astilbe Amethyst: Another Awesome Perennial

The Astilbe family is one of  the politest collection of flowering perennials. Not only do these plants grow almost maintenance-free, but they bloom in colors that cooperate, behave, and blend in well with practically every garden color scheme.

With bloom periods ranging from June until September, one can enjoy this plant all season long. In addition, the heights of different Astilbes vary so greatly, that an assorted collection, randomly planted in a flowerbed, might resemble scattered notes on sheet music. No wonder landscape architects use them, albeit sparingly, when they are obliged to add neat flowers to their serene, green plant compositions.

Astilbes grow in, tight, upright clumps that increase in size slowly. There are no spreading roots systems that require controlling, no messy sprawl, no staking of its flowering, feathery spikes, almost no pest, bug, or fungus problems, no additional nutrients required, no winter protection, and in colder climates, no exponential growth from one season to the next.

In fact, when the blooms have dies, the elegant, brown spiky seed heads add texture and vertical architectural detail to the garden. Furthermore, the Astilbe colors, even though they span every shade of pink, mauve, violet, red, peach, and cream - to - white, never appear garish, bold, or offensive.

However, one Astilbe does not conform to this modesty. The variety Amethyst is a scintillating pink extravaganza. It sizzles in the sun, where it ought not to be, like a display of fireworks, and glows intensely in shade and part - shade in vivid tones of lavender - pink. As a specimen plant, it is breathtaking; and when combined with other perennials in the garden, it is transformational.

At maturity, A. Amethyst reaches 40 inches in height and two feet in width. It performs best in a moist garden situated in part to full shade. However, mine is planted in damp sun, where the daylight makes the flower heads sparkle, and it is doing just fine.

I purchased  this variety last year for my test garden because I had never seen it in bloom and because the trade description suggested that it might be an ideal addition to my repertoire of elegant, tall perennials. I was not disappointed. The combination of good height, architectural presence, and intense color makes this versatile perennial a traffic stopper.