I’m always telling her she’s one of the best designers I’ve met (which she never really believes).
My parents live in Meadow Vista, CA (USDA zone 9a). They regularly experience temps in the low teens (including a bit of snowfall each winter) followed by blistering hot temperatures in the summer.
On top of that, there’s a giant volcano top lying just under the surface of their entire 1 1/2-acre garden, making digging holes an inconvenience most of us could never image.
Think tractors with strong engines just to plant a small tree. Or, one broken shovel tip after another when hitting a surprise lava layer hiding just under the surface of perfectly amended soil.
Over the years, I’ve used photos of her garden in both of my books, in many articles and here on my blog. One of my friends, Pam Penick of Digging, recently sent me a note asking if I’ve ever written anything specifically about her garden as she’d like to see more of it. And when I thought about it, I realized I never had!
So I thought I’d write about my mother’s garden over the next year and how it looks through the different seasons – starting with the fall.
Last month I spent Thanksgiving with my parents and couldn’t believe how good her garden looked despite having already gone through a few early frosts preceded by one of the worst droughts California has seen in decades.
As I walked around her garden, it dawned on me that while my mother is certainly talented with combining stunning flowers in her garden beds (as you can see in the above photos), she is equally skilled with her creative use of foliage.
In my latest book, Refresh Your Garden Design, I write about the importance of using the various aspects of foliage to create interest in the garden that lasts well beyond spring and summer’s show of flowers. Now that I look at my mother’s garden, it seems clear where I found my inspiration!
Texture is just one way to take advantage of foliage’s different properties. In this case, elevating a common Pink Muhly grass to a focal point status in the garden.
I especially like the way the blue fescue grass softly cascades over her stone walls, lightly brushing your ankles as you walk past. Or the crinkly soft puffs of the artemesia canescans which quietly begs you to reach down and touch its soft sponge-like foliage.
More blue fescue grass softening the sleek flagstones at the base of the concrete bench (also made to look like highly textured tree bark.) If you closely look at the photos, you’ll see texture everywhere with very few flowers in sight!
2. Unusual sources of seasonal interest
In my book, I also write about looking deeper to find a plant’s unusual source of color – beyond its flower and foliage. Look for colorful stems, colorful undersides of leaves, a plant’s new spring growth, fading foliage or fall’s berries for unusual sources of color. The list goes on and on, but one thing people often ask me is ‘but aren’t these moments of color fleeting?”
I always answer with an enthusiastic ‘Yes! That’s the whole point, isn’t it?’ To have a garden that has these momentary spots of beauty? That’s what makes a garden exciting and fresh, always offering something new to inspire.
Here you can see how the cranberry-red berries of of my mother’s ‘Adam’ Crabapple tree perfectly frame her fountain while pulling out the colors of the surrounding frost-kissed Nandina’s foliage as well it’s own small, red berries.
In this fall combination, I love how the glowing red and burgundy foliage of the ‘Concorde’ berberis in the foreground highlights the red berries of the Cotoneaster parneyi in the distance.
My mother excels at creating garden magic starting with the lowest layers of the garden. Her passion is rocks, stones, and boulders. I’ve spent my lifetime watching her gather beautiful rocks that have washed down the mountains in winter storms, lying there on the side of the road just waiting for someone to rescue them from a lonely life in a ditch. I’ve watched her spend hours in the garden working, and re-working a stone wall until it looks ‘just right’ in her mind. For those of you who have visited my own garden, the stone walls you see have mostly been created by my mother.
And it doesn’t stop there. Once she has a perfectly shaped stone securely nestled in its spot, she then makes sure to accentuate its colors by carefully choosing a particular groundcover to surround the stone. She also never wants the stones to sit there stark and lonely looking, instead preferring to use groundcover to also help soften their edges.
So now, onto another holiday giveaway – for FIVE winners, no less! How’s that for generous!
Update: Contest is Closed. Congratulations to Kris P., Patricia K., Jean V., Laura and Barbara – you won! I’ve already sent you an email so if you can kindly send me your home addresses I’ll pass them along to Gardeners Supply. Enjoy the gifts!
This time the gift is from the fine and generous folks at Gardeners Supply Company. I always look forward to receiving their catalog in the mail as its filled to the brim with unusual and hard to find practical items for the garden. Not familiar with them? Here’s a bit more information you might find interesting:
Founded in 1983, Gardener’s Supply is proud to be a 100% employee-owned company of avid gardeners providing garden-tested, earth-friendly products combined with practical information. Headquartered in Burlington’s Intervale, Vermont, the company has won many awards for its patented products and innovative management style, and donates 8% of its profits to gardening and other community projects.
- Create a haven for songbirds, butterflies and mason bees
- Bamboo shelters are natural landscape accents
- Attractive design combined with functionality and convenience
- Set includes one each birdhouse, butterfly house and mason bee house
Woven from natural bamboo, these teardrop-shaped shelters shed water while providing good ventilation. The birdhouse has a 1-1/4″ entrance hole for common backyard birds like nuthatches, titmice, and finches, and there’s a clean-out door on the back. The butterfly shelter provides a safe spot for butterflies to roost, with narrow slots that keep predators out. The door on the back provides access so you can place bark or twigs inside for butterflies to perch on as they roost or take shelter from rain and wind. The mason bee house provides a happy home for these peaceful, non-stinging bees that can boost your garden’s productivity by pollinating flowers. Each mason bee visits as many as 1000 blooms per day — 20 times as many as a honeybee!
Isn’t this exciting?
How to enter: Gardeners Supply is generously offering this collection to FIVE winners so to win, make sure to leave a comment here on my blog letting me know your favorite way to add a little fall magic to your own garden.
The winners will be randomly chosen by midnight Dec. 17th and contacted within 24 hours. If the proposed winner forfeits or does not claim the prize by Dec. 20th, the prizes will be re-awarded based on the sponsor’s sole discretion. All prizes will be awarded. Please provide your first and last name as well as your email to enter this contest, so I can immediately contact you if you win. The winner agrees to allow his/her first name to be mentioned in conjunction with this giveaway.
A few more details: This giveaway is limited to U.S. residents only, who are over the age of 18 years old. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO WIN. This sweepstakes is VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW (wherever that is, I’d sure hate to live there!) By entering this giveaway, you agree to these conditions. By law, I need to disclose that I was sent a sent a set of these three habitats to trial in my own garden and believe me, they’re fantastic. I just love them and hope you do, too!
Best of luck, everyone! And if you don’t win this prize stay tuned as I’ll be offering two more giveaways through the end of the month. Oh, how I love the holidays!