The Magazine — From my own garden today


The Story of The Bleeding Heart

The Bleeding Heart is a well know and widely used shade perennial. However, there is much folklore and history behind the plant along with stories which are handed down from generation to generation.  Read more about it in our magazine this week.

From My Own Garden Today: The Espalier Apple

My love of gardening was greatly inspired by the gardens my grandparents had at their home in Ithaca. Both were enthusiastic gardeners. While my grandmother tended the flower borders, my grandfather's domain was the espaliered apple he meticulously maintained. It was his pride and joy. Espaliering is the long practiced art of training trees, shrubs, and woody vines against a flat surface, such as a wall. You can also train them to a freestanding fence or trellis. He was given the space on the backside of the garage - out of public view -my grandmother told me many years later with a wink.

What was originally the eyesore of the house became over the years its centerpiece. It was a great event when it came time to pick the enormous fruit which had been coddled throughout the summer. Picking time was carefully chosen to be able to maximize the enjoyment of seeing so many fruit on the tree for the longest amount of time, while still getting the perfectly ripe fruit. Baked apples became the only choice at breakfast for several weeks every fall.

The tree also became the backdrop of every family photo taken when weather permitted. As a child i recall the dread of being marched out for another photo in front of the apple. Recently i came across a group of photos which showed the growth and training of the tree over many years in the late 60s through the 70s when it filled in the space completely.

Espaliers are a fun way to explore having fruit when you have limited space or when you may need a focal point to a garden. Most any tree will work.

They don't always have to be fruit as well. Vita Sackville West spoke of the joy of training magnolias on the walls at Sissinghurst with the flowers appearing like doves on the branches.

Espaliers are a great way to let your imagination run free and see what you can create. We also have many further images and design ideas on our Pinterest Fruit Tree Board which you can find HERE.

From My Own Garden Today: December 20, 2017


The dried flower heads of Hydrangea 'Annabelle' in the garden today

Hydrangea 'Annabelle' is certainly one of those classic plants that is spectacular when in bloom. Enormous white ball shaped flowers are about as dramatic as it gets. It's always a crowd pleaser. In the past few years, with the introduction of a huge number of new hydrangeas, I've noticed people shying away from it due to its somewhat lax habit of flopping when in bloom. However, at this time of the year, in my own garden, Annabelle takes an encore and becomes the star of the show for a second time in a season with its incredible dried flower heads. Here are a few thoughts on how to get the most out of this garden favorite.

Closeup of "Annabelle" in full splendor in summer


Closeup of dried flower heads of Hydrangea 'Annabelle'

'Annabelle' cascading onto the steps leading to my terrace during the summer.

The main axis of my garden in Ithaca, NY is a matching pair of 200' long shady perennial borders surrounding a 40' wide rectangular swath of turf. The borders are flanked by a double row of silver willows in the lawn which are clipped every few years. The borders, as a result, are in filtered light for most of the day.

Main axis with double shady herbaceous borders backed by 'Annabelle'

 From all my years of experimenting this is where Annabelle seems to thrive. Unlike many gardeners, I tend to appreciate her at her wildest. In the eight years since i moved 30 plants to this location, along the length of the borders, I have never once touched them. I just let them go. They have only thrived and have grown to the point where they need to be divided every 4-5 years.

 "Annabelle" Hydrangea now standing out after all herbaceous perennials have been cut back surrounding them.

The result is not only a show stopping display during the season, but also now as the dreary days of winter set in. The dried flower heads become the main attraction in the garden. I've always preferred to use this  plant on the woodland edge in a more naturalistic manner, than in a structured garden bed.

Used in a more naturalistic manner during the summer

By using her in this manner we can play to her strengths and reduce all of the maintenance normally associated with this plant. As a result, we no longer have to cut her back every summer to the ground. We also get a taller, sturdier plant with woodier stems which tops off at about 3'. This also helps alleviate the flop somewhat as the stems are now woody.

Used as a transition between the natural woodland beyond and herbaceous borders of the garden.

However, the best part is seeing the transformation the flower heads go through as they dry on the stem. Green, white, beige, and then finally a beautiful tan color. In the autumn and throughout he winter the hundreds of flower heads become the main attraction as the perennials in front melt away. Thats where i find myself in the garden today- enjoying the second act of Hydrangea 'Annabelle' on this beautiful winter day.

In My Garden Today - Primula Belarina Buttercup

I'm a big fan of the genus Primula. It's a huge genus and we grow so few in this area. I'm especially fond of the double vulgaris forms. Two years ago I planted the above Primula Belarina Buttercup in my woodland garden and it has performed beautifully ever since. I've found in many cases the doubles aren't as strong or vigorous as the singles, but this form is certainly robust.  It literally forms a carpet of yellow flowers and is happy to be divided every two years - giving you more effect for your money. A great way to brighten the shady corner of the garden. Baker's Acres still has a few for sale HERE.