Saturday, August 27, 2011

Come On Irene!

Just enjoying the calm before the storm.  Thanks for all of your good wishes!  Irene is supposed to pass by tomorrow morning.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Wattle, I Wot

I think gardeners are still the original DIYers.  There's something extremely satisfying in creating things from any old materials that one may have lying about.  Wattle is a wonderful example.  Easy to make, easy to use and, I think, beautiful to look at in the right garden setting.  There's a medieval and even Colonial Williamsburg feel that wattle brings to any garden and I'm happy to say that wattle is still widely popular as a garden structure.  The art of wattling is still very much alive, especially in England.

Wattle fences are typically built of 7 foot willow sticks known as "withies".  The withies are then woven into posts and built up as high as your posts allow.  If willow is not readily available to you, try other young, flexible branch materials (DIY, duh).
For the city gardener, wattle fences are an attractive way to cover up unsightly concrete walls, or to divide up space in a small garden without totally making it look like a rabbit hutch.  For suburban and country gardeners, wattle is a wonderful way to provide path direction, protection to delicate beds against your dogs or children (both known to be evil menaces in the garden) and as support for tall leggy flowers or plants.  

What ho Wattle!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Introducing the Bramble and Bean Questionnaire!

Here at B&B, I am introducing a new feature called the "Bramble & Bean Questionnaire".  A bit like Proust's, but less Belle Epoque, if you get my drift.  It's a chance for the gardening blogosphere to get to know other garden bloggers (especially ones that I admire!).

First up from Washington D.C. is Stephanie at Mad Dabblings in a City Garden.  I've been an avid reader of her blog for some time now, so please check it out to discover more of her "dabblings"!

Shakira & Vinnie
1.       What is going on in your garden today?

                  Stephanie - It's raining, tra la, finally.   What a difference a few storms make.  The ginger,  the hibiscus, the plumeria, the gardenias... are dancing.

2.      What is your idea of a perfect garden?

                  My little greenhouse in February -- an enclosed second floor porch off my office, with my pair of feral parakeets (Vinnie is quite nasty) flitting through the tropical plants that are beginning to bloom.

3.      What is your greatest gardening achievement to date?

                  Figuring out that you can pinch back geraniums and stick the pinchings in a pot and they grow.   Oh, and a rubber plant branch did the same -- as did the schefflera...This might seem academic to some...

4.      What gardening fears keep you awake at night?

                  I am fearless.  Something dies, stick in a statue, an umbrella,  or scatter something glittery.

5.      Who are your gardening heroes?

                  Thomas Hobbes for his fabulous juxtaposition of colors and foliage. Henry Mitchell for his humor.  The Queen of Hearts for her way with flamingos.  Flamingos.

6.      If you could come back as a plant, which one would it be?

                  A wisteria. Such a lovely nuisance.  I would laugh at whoever tried to tame me.

7.      Favorite plant (tree, shrub, perennial, annual) and why?

                  Queen Ann's lace.  A weed, yes. Invasive, yes.  But a gorgeous complement to anything around  it.  I can't grow it (not enough sun), but I harvest it along roadsides and fill vases with it in summer. 

8.     Your must-have gardening tool?

                  My husband. Just yesterday he thwacked back the wisteria while I lay on the sofa eating potato chips and reading a hair-raising article about Michelle Bachman in the New Yorker. 

9.      Your favorite garden in the world and why?

                  I suppose, Marie Antoinette's garden, Trianon. Can one call this a garden? Saw it on an overcast day in January when my husband and daughter and I were the only visitors and it was beyond captivating. My opinion would probably change if it was July and the place was swarming with plaid people.
10.  What is the funniest, most ridiculous or bizarre piece of gardening advice you have been given?

                 Spray painting dead grass and plants -- actually most useful when it's too damn hot to plant anything new. Tacky? I actually got this tip from
a spokesperson for the National Park Service.

11.   What is your favorite piece of advice to give?

                  Stick flowers in those little watering holders and plunk them in bare spots.  Wire lilies to the dead stalks (trust me, you'll even fool yourself), and the aforesaid spray paint.

12.  What is your greatest gardening extravagance?

                  Citrus. I cannot resist them even if they perform pitifully.

13.  What do you most value in a garden (yours or others)?

                  Scent.   Roses and jasmine and mock orange and....

14.  What is your gardening motto?

                  If you ain't got it, fake it. 

Thanks Stephanie!!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Why Don't You....

...think about adding hornbeams to your garden?
C. betulus
C. cariolanus
This weekend I visited a friend's garden which I had not visited in a few years.  I noticed a lovely tree  that really stood out from the rest of the garden - it was a lovely specimen of Carpinus betulus or the Common (or European) Hornbeam.  I believe that hornbeams are very popular in British and European gardens, but I have noticed a lot of American gardeners are starting to warm up to the hornbeam for their gardens.  There is even a variety that is native to the United State (C. caroliniana), which tends to be a bit smaller than the European Hornbeam.  I love that hornbeams are extremely hardy trees and especially gorgeous when in flower.  Hornbeams look a bit like beech trees, but the leaves are much more pointed than those of the beech, with double-toothed margins and prominent parallel veins.  
During the Middle Ages, hornbeams were coppiced and pollarded for firewood and charcoal.  It's hard wood texture was valued for the manufacture of piano-key movements and for wooden axles and spokes.   They even make lovely bonsais!

I believe hornbeams make wonderful espaliered groupings and were quite common for hedges.   Learn more about hornbeams here.  Better yet, go down to your local nursery, park or botanical garden and see this beautiful tree for yourself!
Clipped Hornbeam
Hornbeam hedge
Hornbeam hedge

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Central Park Conservatory Garden

Friday night after work I went uptown to check out the Central Park Conservatory Garden.  I had never visited this gem of a site, and the visit was well worth the hike uptown.  I arrived about 30 minutes before closing time, so I only had a chance to peek at the central Italian garden and the English garden.  I'll leave the northernmost French garden for the next visit.

Here is the plan of the garden.
A few quick shots of the Italian Garden and entrance gate.

The English garden was looking well tended and the use of bold topiary, grasses, as well as diverse plants with myriad shaped and colored leaves, provided a beautiful mid-summer display.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Bee in My Bonnet

I am pleased to see lots of bees in my garden lately.  The community garden a block over from my home maintains three hives and the bees seem to cover quite a big area of the neighborhood.  Late afternoon finds my garden flowers laden with pollen heavy friends.  Bee-keeping has always been one of my dreams and hives are a fantastic addition to any garden.  Alas and alack, no room in my small-ish city garden.  Why bees?  Well, I notice a huge difference in the abundance of flowers and fruits and vegetables between gardens regularly visited by bees and those that are not. Have you noticed this as well?  It's all about the pollination, baby!

If you're interested in bee-keeping, read up on the basics of how-to here.

And who couldn't do with a few fabulous bee hives like these?

Finally, click here to learn how to attract more bees to your garden.