Friday, September 24, 2010

Paint that desert!

Fallugia paradoxa, what a name! I sometimes can't resist a plant because of it's Latin name and how it roles off the tongue. Apache Plume, Turpentine Bush are a couple of common names this plant has.
This is fantastic and fascinating plant for a garden that is on the dry side. A a small to medium sized bush that has ghostly stems, fine foliage and glaring white flowers with sometimes a hint of pink in them. Now, yeah, it is a blooming machine once you establish it, but the most remarkable thing about this shrub is the when it goes to seed. This is where is earns the name of 'plume.' This shrub is all about the seed heads. I would liken them to the seed head of the Clematis, or that of Geum triflorum. Feathery and pink, wisping in the wind they create a glorious multi season interest to this once overlooked plant.

The leaves have a fine textural quality, or as I like to tell people quillity, as they are dark and small and lace-like. And when I say small I mean just that. This plant knows how to conserve it's own resources.

This is a glorious native of the American Southwest. Xeric, and grows 4-6 feet high and just as wide.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

the ideas behind my madness- steampunk driven and a need to fuse with the the past

Alright already.
I have been asked a few questions and some of them are-
What is Steampunk? I consider the whole genre to be an aesthetic of taking a contemporary object such a computer monitor and keyboard and making it have a more 'Victorian' or 'Edwardian' but it can also be the revers of taking an object from the 19Th century and updating it as I have seen done with old victrolas and radio cabinets.
I have this compulsion to collect older things, vintage items, antiques. I also have a compulsion with plants. Bringing these things together is not really that hard. What has been had is setting the stage, but I have sort of rectified that situation. Recently I acquired an older home-1880s very small Victorian. I need to move this house to its new setting.

Now comes the steampunk staging. I have this idea to gut this house from the inside. Insulate, rewire, re-plumb, and add in some things that would not detract from the aesthetic of the house. Restore the porch, add on a new kitchen, but make the house feel more like it was when it was built. Find papers that are to period, add in a strong use of color, create an eclectic sense of style.
Now the outside of the house should also reflect the feeling of the inside. I am not just talking paint and trim, I am talking gardens as well.
The gardens should be colorful, have multiple seasons of interest, species, old world plants and some great containers. There should be an area for walking through or a circuit. A few places to sit and take pleasure in the view from the seat.
I can see a fountain, a pergola, an alle', and maybe a bowling green.
The garden should also draw in birds, butterflies, and be comfortable enough for my dogs to run about.
Antique apple and other fruit trees should be mingled as well as almond, walnut, filbert. Berries should be in hedgerows and grapes, paw paw, and other vines.
Cutting garden, vegetable garden and a smoke house should be considered as well.
The house should be a sanctuary, a place to entertain friends, a crown jewel among the garden as well as a bold statement. The house should be Grenadier Red, trimmed in charcoal and gray. Shutters should be chartreuse and the doors should be a dark English green. If I were to use dog-eared shingles I would create a decorative boarder on the roof otherwise I will use metal roofing as I like the durability.
The original door is still hanging, and most of the origian trim remains.
The front porch was removed and I thought destroyed when I first looked at the house, but I found out it was removed and stored in a nearby building. How nice for me.
Inside the house most all of the original woodwork is still intact and most unpainted. Original doors with the steal knobs are intact. The staircase, banister, rails and newel posts aslo remain intact.
The floors are straight fir and are intact on both levels of the house. My only major change to the flooring will to be replace the flooring in the entry hall. I am thinking that stone would be a good choice though if I could find something that looks like Minton tile I would pick that up in a heartbeat.

Rooms on the main floor should be color filled, even dramatic. Papers and wallcoverings should be representative of the era and not dominate, but set the tone for the room. Light fixtures should be refective of the time of the houses construction as well. TBC...

Amsonia hubrichtii

OK, this is not your normal perennial. In fact it will be the 2011 PPA Plant of the Year.
I started using Amsonia about 8 or 9 years ago. It was an odd thing then, considered more of a native plant than anything else and a few of my designer friends were unsure how to deal with it. I too thought it was an odd duck of a plant as it wasn't in bloom when I purchased it and it wasn't in its fall color stage.
So here I am with this rangy looking plant and putting it into a client's garden asking them to trust me as it will be quite a show in the future, even near future. Rangy, and a plant without shape when its young is a tough sell sometimes.

The 'willow-like' foliage is upright, but wispy, and adds softness to the more rigid looking panicums. I thought it would have a couple seasons of interest but my client is one to trim her garden back in the spring (they do listen from time to time) and she was amazed at how it added a texture to her wintry landscape.
Late spring blossoms are blue to blueish white, and fall the foliage becomes intense and bright mustard yellow.

I would say to keep it in an area where the soil is slightly moist, but not soaked all the time. I figure it naturally goes through periods of drought as it is.
It will be exciting how we as garden writers, nursery people, garden designers, and gardeners will help to promote this plant this coming year.