Itching and inspiration in the garden…

It’s that time of year when I’m just itching to get into the garden.  Our yo-yo weather has vascillated from 90-degree days to drenching and seemingly endless rain.  My spring flowers are performing as predicted and I’m enjoying the bright blooms of Japanese Quince, daffodils, and bletilla.

Japanese Quince

The ornamental cabbages in the giant pots by the pool have never looked better, but I’m already eager to get started on starting the summer container plants in there.  I’m suffering from that in-between indecision about the timing of out-with-the-old and in-with-the-new.

Bletilla Striata – Ground Orchid

And the wisteria is starting to bloom on the back fence.


A few days in the 80s and even 90 and the variegated shell ginger and esperanza, Tecoma stans, are growing by leaps and bounds.  It won’t be long before they will form a beautiful wall along the pool and cabana walkway.

 Variegated shell ginger and esperanza

Daffodils dot the landscape like pinpoints of summer sunbeams.



I’ve also been planting on these gorgeous days.  I’m eager to see the structure that these new Mexican tree ferns will add to this mostly shady spot.

Mexican tree fern

The promise of spring and foreshadowing of summer energize me to dig in the dirt now, while the days are warm and welcoming.  So many projects…so little time!

Four acres of gorgeous gardens under glass at the Longwood Gardens Conservatory

Last week, my friend Pam, who blogs at Digging, and I embarked on a garden adventure unrivaled in my garden travels. Nestled in the Brandywine Valley region of Pennsylvania, we toured three public gardens, Winterthur, Longwood and Chanticleer.

I took thousands of pictures (in part because the hot summer sun kept me adjusting my light settings). I’m sure I collected enough photos to blog about for several months!

As a lover and collector of tropical and exotic plants, the Longwood Conservatory is high on my list of the gardens within the gardens of our trip. It includes 20 different gardens (yes, all inside this giant conservatory), and more than 5,500 types of plants. It was spectacular. While it included all the typical plants you’d find in most conservatories, there was so much more — an amazing array of plant combinations, beautiful design, and attention to detail at every step. I can’t even fit all of it into one post, but I’ve decided to just jump in and cover part of it as my first post of the trip.

The Conservatory was built in 1919 by Pierre S. du Pont, and was designed to be an indoor eden. The collection of conservatory buildings covers 4.5 acres. (The entire garden covers 1,077 acres.) Yes, 4.5 INSIDE acres of stunning gardens, including the Fern Floor and Alcoves, seen here, the Patio of Oranges, Waterlily Display, Silver Garden, Orchid House, Mediterranean Garden, Bonsai Display, Palm Garden, Desert House, Cascade Garden, Banana House, Camellia House, Green Wall, Indoor Children’s Garden (so amazing that this will get its own post soon!), Rose House, Tropical Terrace, East Fruit House, Garden Path, Peirce-du Pont House and the Exhibition Hall.

The grand entrance, pictured above, provides a preview of this massive sest of structures. Beautiful and unusual bromeliads are given a place of honor in this section of the garden.

Many of the water features were surrounded by bromeliads, as well.

I have a number of bromeliads in my house and in the cabana in pots, but the volume and diversity of these was astounding. Clearly I have a way to go in the collecting department!

And then there were the ferns. I was taken by the Mexican Tree Ferns, delicate and ephemeral, yet strong and sculptural, all at the same time.

And then there were these stunning Staghorn-like ferns.

Of course, no prehistoric journey would be the same without cycads.

This male cycad was sporting a new cone.

I love this grey species. It’s a shame that the light prevents me from reading the tag that I photographed — I’d like to find out if I can grow this one in my Zone 8b-sometimes 9 garden.

This gigantic Sago palm (though not a palm at all) dwarfs the sizeable Sansevieria below it.

I believe that these elephant ears are Colocasia amazonica – which means they are sure living up to their name here under the black bamboo.

I can’t name this one, but I love the black stems which mirror the black bamboo as well.

Great color combinations under this bamboo.

And, who can resist the appeal of this black bamboo? It’s so striking and exotic.

With 4.5 acres of conservatory gardens to cover, this will have to be it for your first peek. Thousands more photos and lots of blog posts to come, about the conservatory and Longwood’s other 1,000+ acres of outside gardens!

Meandering through the magical forest of the Bloedel Reserve

After three beautiful, sunny days in Seattle touring gardens at the Seattle Garden Bloggers Fling, we got a real taste of PNW weather with a grey, rainy day on Monday. No mind — it was just as interesting to see gardens the way they appear for much of the year in this climate.

We boarded the ferry early in the morning and crossed over to Bainbridge Island. Our first stop was at the Bloedel Reserve. This property consists of 150 acres that their literature describes as “a unique blend of natural woodlands and beautifully landscaped gardens, including a Japanese Garden, a Moss Garden, and Reflection Pool, and the Bloedel’s former estate home.”

That description simply doesn’t do it justice. The entire reserve is majestic, filled with towering trees — Hemlocks, Western Red Cedars and Douglas Firs — lined our paths through the lush moss-covered forests.

While most of the private gardens we visited on our trip were awash with colors and blooms, the Bloedel was much more understated forest and meadows and moss. This little gem was tucked into the dappled forest floor.
Little surprises popped up along every path, like this pretty little bridge.
Often hidden by the gentle giant trees, interesting views waited for those who looked for them.
This beautiful tree seemed as though it were watching me walk through the forest with its knotty eye.
I couldn’t stop photographing all the moss. I’m quite sure if I’d stood still for very long it would have reached out to me as well.
Ferns, ferns everywhere!

One of the highlights of our visit was a workshop and Q&A session with renown professional photographer David Perry, author of A Photographer’s Garden Blog. He generously have us tips and tricks and, a photo assignment to take shots as though we were shooting for a magazine cover. We were to shoot a cover, double page spread, overview and author’s page. This is my cover shot. Sadly, my computer expertise doesn’t extend to adding text over an image, so this is a good as it gets for now. That will be on my next to-do list.

While the rain made it a little challenging to juggle jackets, umbrellas, cameras and lens caps, we were all game and bravely faced the elements, not wanting to miss a moment.

These ferns look like they are growing out of a carpet — a carpet of moss that ate up everything in its path.

One of the most interesting sights I saw was the emergence of nurse trees – seeds that germinated and began to grow inside the cavity of dead trees, providing a safe growing medium for the new seedling. Mother Nature really is amazing.