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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 St Lynn's Press (2)

Monday
Mar182013

Fine Foliage for Flowerbeds and Container Gardening, a book review

Fine Foliage, Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz,       St. Lynn’s Press

Sometimes, a gardener will return from the nursery with a car full of annuals and perennials, place them in flowerbeds or containers according to the guidelines of good garden design, and yet, the resulting plant arrangements still look wanting.

Perhaps the gardener forgot about foliage. Foliage is to garden design what fashion accessories are to clothing. Without the addition of the interesting leaves of perennials, ornamental grasses, shrubs, annuals, and trees, a garden never seems to be complete.

Image copywrite by finefoliage.comFoliage works as a facilitator. It allows otherwise unintegratable plants to combine successfully with others. It also serves as a proscenium, helping to make a perennial or a combination of perennials and shrubs appear more beautiful. Foliage may also supplies direction, volume, color, texture, visual excitement, movement, and mystery.

However, foliage has another role to play; and that is the theme of this book. When plants that are defined by their leaves rather than by their flowers or berries, are combined with other foliage plants, they provide unusual and spiritual visual drama.

Image copywrite by finefoliage.comThe premise of Ms. Chapman and Ms. Salwitz’s beautiful and delightful little book is that it is possible to create successful, eye-catching plant combinations using foliage alone for flowerbed and container gardening. The publication showcases more than sixty inspired foliage-plant partnerships that illustrate this successful style of garden design, while, at the same time, revealing the authors’ immense talent in that field.

Each combination is given a two-page spread with full-color, exquisite, high quality photographs of the individual plants within. So that readers might achieve similar results in their own garden beds and containers, descriptive directions accompany each grouping. Attention is also paid to important details such as sun or shade requirements, seasons, growing zones, soil preference, plant characteristics and care.

Image copywrite by finefoliage.comHowever, what sets apart this book from other garden design manuals is the focus on helping the gardener… get to “beautiful”. The authors take the time to explain why each of their sixty foliage combinations is successful. This information allows readers to gain a designer’s perspective. That outlook, in turn, will enable them to make better choices; it also encourages gardeners to take risks - all in the hope of creating unique personal landscapes and container gardens.

This richly illustrated guide is full of easy-to-use advice. Gardeners of all skill levels will be able to adapt  instructions to create elegant, stylish, flowerbeds for their gardens and breathtaking, designer-looking, containers for their patios.

Image copywrite by finefoliage.comBoth authors are hands-on gardeners. Karen Chapman is a garden coach, horticulturist, garden writer and owner of a container design company. Christina Salwitz  is a garden coach and garden writer who specializes in garden and container design. The authors live with their respective families in the Seattle area of the State of Washington, in the USA.

                            

Friday
Jul062012

Growing, Gathering and Designing with Organic, Locally Grown Cut Flowers

The 50 Mile Bouquet, Seasonal, Local and Sustainable Flowers. Debra Prinzing, David E. Perry, St. Lynn’s Press

For the same reasons that we try to buy locally grown organic food, Debra Prinzing suggests that, when buying cut flowers, we look for those that are organically grown no more than 50 miles away.

Most of us pay little attention to the fact that, over the years, cut flowers bought from florists and supermarkets have become less fragrant, and that their colors appear increasingly artificial. There are technical reasons for this. Most commercial flowers are grown overseas, at a great distance from markets and the harvest must be vigorous enough to sustain both long distances and the time necessary for their distribution.

By breeding to produce this level of vigor, odorless flowers with a lifeless appearance is the usual result. To insure the viability of these crops, the large commercial growers around the globe resort to using pesticides and manufactured fertilizers. Furthermore, with the breeding of these preferred strains has come the ability to change the appearance of the flowers so that they are more attractive at retail. However, upon close inspection, they look unreal.

Those of us who prefer our plants to be pesticide and chemical free, who care how much energy is consumed in bring the blooms to market, and who expect a fragrant flower that touches our soul, are urged to patronize flower growers closer to home. Nothing can compare to a fragrant, old fashioned, freshly harvested bloom.

Throughout the USA, but mostly on the West Coast and sprinkled around the country, dedicated flower merchants are delivering  locally grown, fragrant, cut flowers, nourished with sustainable practices. The results have been touching.

The focus of this book is to identify the growers and distributors of newfound but old style cut flowers; to encourage readers to buy them when they are local and organically produced, to grow their own, and to suggest that the florist industry strive for organic practices.

Readers will discover farmers who are producing and harvesting organic flowers all season long. They will meet representatives of the new breed of florists who source and create with environmentally respected techniques while using uncommon, fresh, and sustainably grown plants. The inspired among us will learn how to use these preferred cut flowers to create foraged bouquets and elaborate centerpieces, by sourcing from farmers markets, back yard cutting gardens, and semi-wild locations.

The theme of the publication rounds out with a list of US flower growers, floral design tips, seasonal ingredients, a floral glossary, sustainability terms, as well as a directory of farmers, designers, and other experts introduced by the writer.

After reading this book, I find it difficult to revert to buying odorless, artificial-looking cut flowers. Happily, some retailers now post a sign when their floral inventory is locally grown. Thanks to the dedicated people we meet in Debra Prinzing and David E. Perry’s inspiring work, we are making progress.