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Hardscaping And Plants

Show #5/4705. Bringing A Garden Back Into Scale

Summary of Show

History Of Smith-Gilbert Gardens
GardenSMART, often times visits established, well-heeled gardens but today we are going to spend the day taking a look at a garden that is undergoing a radical transformation. Smith-Gilbert Gardens is located in Kennesaw, Georgia and was originally the homesite of Mr. Hiram Butler, a confederate railroad man. His home was built in 1880 and is on the national registry of historic places. In 1970 Mr. Richard Smith and Mr. Robert Gilbert bought the home and the surrounding acreage and over the next 35 years developed the house and the grounds with an emphasis on unique plantings and thoughtfully positioned sculptures.
For More Information Click here

Our Guest Host - Lisa
Eric NEXT MEETS LISA. Eric understands it has been a rather unique road for Lisa getting into gardening. Lisa tells us about her journey. She wasn’t always in horticulture, She was actually a talent agent for standup comedians like Jeff Foxworthy and Steve Harvey back in the 80s. But she bought a home and wanted to garden. From there she started reading books and magazines and read voraciously.
For More Information Click here

Bringing The Garden Back
This garden has not always looked like this. LISA INHERITED A BIT OF A MESS and has had to go through the hard, arduous process that all gardeners hate - getting out there and dealing with an enormous garden that is full of weeds. Not the fun part of gardening. And perhaps even worse is looking at these beautiful mature plants and then having to make decisions about which ones to cut down, move, or those that should be limbed up.
For More Information Click here

English Perennial Border Garden
Every garden we visit is a little bit different and that is, of course, because every gardener that we talk to is different. Their garden is a reflection of their design aesthetic. What does that gardener want to see in their design? Eric thinks we learn a little bit about the person by studying the work they have done. Lisa talks about this garden and her design aesthetic. What was she going for, what did she want to see? Lisa loves English perennial border gardens. The classic ENGLISH PERENNIAL BORDER GARDEN is what she wanted to do here. Fortunately that is what was here before except that it had gotten a little out of control, the plants had been allowed to reseed everywhere. What she has tried to do is to take them back, try to keep the fine texture next to the bold.
For More Information Click here

Repeating Themes
Lisa has mentioned REPEATING THEMES throughout the garden. That is an important thing to keep in mind. A collectors garden will have one of this and one of that. And that is perfectly fine if one likes their garden to look that way. But if you’re looking for balance in your perennial border it is very impactful to look at groups of three, groups of five and repeating some of those themes be they color or foliage throughout the garden. This is an excellent point, for instance, Eric likes to see big, bold batches of the same thing. There is something to be said about a collectors garden and onesies but he likes and thinks most of us who are not plant collectors like to see pretty.
For More Information Click here

Keeping A Perennial Border Garden Looking Fresh
Maybe a plant is getting too big at the wrong time of year or it is crowding out something that we want more in the forefront. How does one wrestle with questions like these and HOW DOES ONE KEEP A PERENNIAL AREA LIKE THIS LOOKING GREAT? Good question. The plants in this perennial border garden exemplify the issue. People typically don’t consider or even think about pruning perennials, actually pruning them to get the growth that you want. Four instance the Oxeyed Daisy is newly gone past. It is one of the first daisies to bloom. As well you can see the tight basil foliage at the bottom.
For More Information Click here

Conifer Garden
THE CONIFER GARDEN is juxtaposition to the perennial garden. It is an example of a collectors garden. As we talked about, they serve very different purposes. The perennial garden is more "show what you want composed space to look like” and maybe the potential of all the different colors and textures. But what Lisa likes about collectors gardens, or specimen gardens, is they provide a wonderful opportunity for the public to come in and look at 17 different cryptomeria, then learn that they do like certain plants. Importantly they don’t all do the same thing.
For More Information Click here

Pruning Conifers
There are several things to keep in mind when PRUNING CONIFERS. Of course these plants are quite different than deciduous plants. We are not always able to see exactly where the buds are, and in many cases there are not adequate adventitious buds below the leave structure. If we are not mindful of those things we end up with one of the most common mistakes made in pruning junipers, even conifers in general.
For More Information Click here

Spacing Plants
With any plant that we incorporate into the garden it is very important to THINK ABOUT SPACING and how much space we need between different plants. How wide do we expect this plant to get? Take into consideration center to center of the plants. Think about this when planting. With conifers it is even more important because if we get it wrong often times it means the life of the plant. For instance, Lisa must now make some tough decisions. She shows us one very real example. One plant was planted too close to the to the pine, which is the one she wants to keep, so the other will need to go.
For More Information Click here

Moving A Conifer
So what do we need to do if we need to MOVE A CONIFER? Lisa shows just what she does. She root-prunes. And this can be done really any time of year. Although it is best to do in the middle of winter. To root prune go in at different angles on the plant, around the root ball, dig in and cut the main anchor root, then as you do that push in towards the plant because you’re making basically a tight root ball. What that will do is it will force the plant to create little feeder roots.
For More Information Click here

Shade Gardens
There is something wonderful about SHADE GARDENS, especially the transition from full sun into a beautiful paradise that is about 15° cooler. The whole attitude of shade gardens is very very different and soothing. Lisa likes them, they make up a significant component of this garden. Here, they are fortunate in that instead of having blazing hot sun everywhere they have beautiful shade areas where they can incorporate some really cool, rare plants and understory trees like a native Magnolia.
For More Information Click here

Plants For A Shade Garden
There are so many amazing PLANTS THAT WILL WORK IN THE SHADE GARDEN and in fact much more diversity than many assume. Eric would like Lisa to talk about some of the plants that been particularly successful in this area. They have a lot of natives, things like calycanthus, a sweet shrub which is intensely fragrant, and understory shrub. As well they have rhododendrons, netalias, anise, Hemlock maples and Japanese maples which means there are a lot of layers that one can create in the shade garden.
For More Information Click here

LINKS:

Smith-Gilbert Gardens

Plant List

Show #5/4705. Bringing A Garden Back Into Scale

Complete Write Up

GardenSMART, often times visits established, well-heeled gardens but today we are going to spend the day taking a look at a garden that is undergoing a radical transformation. Smith-Gilbert Gardens is located in Kennesaw, Georgia and was originally the homesite of Mr. Hiram Butler, a confederate railroad man. His home was built in 1880 and is on the national registry of historic places. In 1970 Mr. Richard Smith and Mr. Robert Gilbert bought the home and the surrounding acreage and over the next 35 years developed the house and the grounds with an emphasis on unique plantings and thoughtfully positioned sculptures. In 2004 the gardens and home were purchased by the city of Kennesaw and the Herculean task began of restoring them to their original splendor. Today there are more than 3000 species of plants in the collection and 16 acres of gardens. From a Bonsai exhibit, Paladino Camellia Garden, a tea house and Water Fall area, a Rose Garden and a Conifer Display Garden, there is a lot to see.

Lisa Bartlett is a horticulturalist at Smith-Gilbert Gardens and is spearheading the effort to restore the gardens as well as overseeing expansion projects and the gardens many volunteers. She is a passionate gardner with a wealth of knowledge on plants and garden design.

Eric NEXT MEETS LISA. Eric understands it has been a rather unique road for Lisa getting into gardening. Lisa tells us about her journey. She wasn’t always in horticulture, She was actually a talent agent for standup comedians like Jeff Foxworthy and Steve Harvey back in the 80s. But she bought a home and wanted to garden. From there she started reading books and magazines and read voraciously. Since that was way before Google she frequented bookstores. There were several bookstores in her neighborhood and she would buy book after book. So now she has a huge library, even though she has tried to thin it out. She has read everything she could find on gardening. Because, when you love something, you absorb it and she can remember everything. She did and does suffer from trial and error, plus moving sickness with plants. She also, in her quest to learn more and really get her hands dirty, worked at a local nursery. Since there was a nursery exactly 1 mile from her house she could ride her bike to it. One day she stopped and asked if they needed someone to help - anything, work on the weekends, watering, anything. They said yes so she started watering. Apparently it’s a good idea to be a good waterer if you work at a nursery and she ended up managing it after several years.

This garden has not always looked like this. LISA INHERITED A BIT OF A MESS and has had to go through the hard, arduous process that all gardeners hate - getting out there and dealing with an enormous garden that is full of weeds. Not the fun part of gardening. And perhaps even worse is looking at these beautiful mature plants and then having to make decisions about which ones to cut down, or move, or those that should be limbed up. What do plants do? They grow. It’s a bit of a challenge, where others had the fun of planting 30 years ago, she has had to make the hard decisions about what to remove, what to prune, what to take out because this garden has gotten out of scale. It now is all about bringing things back into scale and editing. Lisa is editing right now. Lisa and Eric look at some of Lisa’s handiwork.

The perennial garden is one of the first things one sees as they approach the garden so naturally it was one of the first things tackled. In the beginning it was hard to tell the weeds from the perennials. One can still see weeds but now it is starting to take shape and the plants are starting to look like they are meant to be there.

Lisa has a great team of volunteers that really tackled the weeds. So this has been very much a team effort. Typically everyone took different segments of the garden and made it their own. But when Lisa arrived they had very few volunteers. That is been a struggle but now they have a really tight knit group of volunteers that she absolutely loves. They really really maintain this garden and keep it looking great.

Every garden we visit is a little bit different and that is, of course, because every gardener that we talk to is different. Their garden is a reflection of their design aesthetic. What does that gardener want to see in their design? Eric thinks we learn a little bit about the person by studying the work they have done. Lisa talks about this garden and her design aesthetic. What was she going for, what did she want to see? Lisa loves English perennial border gardens. The classic ENGLISH PERENNIAL BORDER GARDEN is what she wanted to do here. Fortunately that is what was here before except that it had gotten a little out of control, the plants had been allowed to reseed everywhere. What she has tried to do is to take them back, try to keep the fine texture next to the bold. She likes one particular area but it has too much fine texture. So she will ideally remove some plants, put them further down the garden where there isn’t as much fine texture. And that is a lot to think about. How do we balance a design if we go with a bunch of needle leafed things that are probably going to blend in together? It is very impactful to put something with really big foliage besides an ornamental grass. For example, the Ansonia does a wonderful job of breaking up the way our eye travels through the garden. Eric likes how they have combined really dark foliage plants with silver foliage plants. They do a wonderful job of stopping your eyes because they settle on the dark foliage. Also once your eyes have stopped they then notice other things around those plants. For instance the hibiscus, your eye picks up on that color and then you immediately go to look for that color again in the border, so it does keep your eyes moving. Whereas the darker colors in the back give your eye a chance to rest.

Lisa makes an interesting point. Going back to fine texture you know you can take your phone and take a black-and-white photograph. With that one can more easily see where the fine texture would stand out. It is much more apparent in a black-and-white photo versus a color photo. And that is a great tip, it’s hard to hide what is going on texturally in a black-and-white photograph.

Lisa has mentioned REPEATING THEMES throughout the garden. That is an important thing to keep in mind. A collectors garden will have one of this and one of that. And that is perfectly fine if one likes their garden to look that way. But if you’re looking for balance in your perennial border it is very impactful to look at groups of three, groups of five and repeating some of those themes be they color or foliage throughout the garden. This is an excellent point, for instance, Eric likes to see big, bold batches of the same thing. There is something to be said about a collectors garden and onesies but he likes and thinks most of us who are not plant collectors like to see pretty. And that is what Lisa is attempting to accomplish here. They do have areas with onesies and they can be fun too but the way Lisa has used color in this border garden is great. And, what Lisa is trying to achieve in this garden using dark colors in the background of the garden effects the way that one experiences the garden. It makes it seem larger than it actually is, as well as more intimate. The larger plants, the evergreen plants and the enormous VItex form the bones or skeleton of the garden. They give it structure and intimacy as well. Importantly, in the middle of winter when all the color goes away and there’s nothing here, it is nice, at that point, to have structure.

Eric congratulates Lisa she has done a wonderful job. She should be very proud.

The maintenance of a perennial garden can sometimes seem to be a daunting task because there is so much diversity. Whereas if you were looking at a very formal boxwood garden we understand that we need to trim those plants into very specific shapes. But in this area we must think about all of the different plants that are doing different things throughout the year. They are timing up differently. Maybe a plant is getting too big at the wrong time of year or is crowding out something that we want more in the forefront. How does one wrestle with questions like these and HOW DOES ONE KEEP A PERENNIAL AREA LIKE THIS LOOKING GREAT? Good question. The plants in this perennial border garden exemplify the issue. People typically don’t consider or even think about pruning perennials, actually pruning them to get the growth that you want. Four instance the Oxeyed Daisy is newly gone past. It is one of the first daisies to bloom. As well you can see the tight basil foliage at the bottom. Lisa comes back in here and simply cuts all the spent foliage out and they will, most likely, get a second little flush of blooms. Now they are not going to be as big as the first flush but at least it tidies up everything and the area still looks fresh.

As well, Lisa will need to deadhead the rose in the back. She will “whack” it back. Lisa is sure that “whack” is a horticultural term. She will get in there and cut it back.

If for instance she didn’t want a plant to bloom right now she would pinch it out. Sedums are an example. They tend to get leggy. After they bloom go in and pitch them out. In the beginning of the season it will get tighter. Everything gets tighter but that is pretty much how to maintain a border.

There are many plants that Eric grows in his garden where he likes what the dry seed head is doing. Say, poppies, they can be very ornamental. So in that case make the decision, reflective of your personality, to leave those seed heads.

A lot of it comes down to — How do I want this plant to behave and then what can I do to hopefully accomplish that? For instance, on echinacea or rudbeckia, you want those seed heads because that is what the birds feed on. It is fun to watch them in the garden. One will often times collect the seeds from the perennials, thus allow them to go to a dry head, then replant them. Or leave them for the birds. In this area a lot of plants have reseeded. And Lisa likes that serendipity in the border. She doesn’t like for it all to be, you know, Chotski. So she lets it get a little bit wild. Just like her.

THE CONIFER GARDEN is juxtaposition to the perennial garden. It is an example of a collectors garden. As we talked about, they serve very different purposes. The perennial garden is more “show what you want composed space to look like” and maybe the potential of all the different colors and textures. But what Lisa likes about collectors gardens, or specimen gardens, is they provide a wonderful opportunity for the public to come in and look at, for example, 17 different cryptomeria, then learn that they do like certain plants. Importantly they don’t all do the same thing. For example they have a Spruce that is totally recumbent. Most people wouldn’t think that it would make a great ground cover. Spruce as a ground cover? Who knew? So it’s a wonderful opportunity to educate the public about plants they most probably have not heard of and then to see all these little specimens. A great learning experience. When this garden was first put in, it was to showcase that conifers could grow in the south because when Lisa first started gardening folks didn’t think conifers could grow here. Except for loblolly. So this was put here to show people that conifers do grow here, they do have color and they have interesting texture. They’re not just Christmas trees. A good example is the dwarf Ginko. It is a conifer and a very interesting plant.

A lot of plants at Smith Gilbert are new, they have not been around very long. The work that is going on today especially with variegation is exciting. Today one can find bold, chartreuse foliage, especially with dwarf plants. Eric really likes the focus on the little, diminutive versions of all these different plants. In Eric’s garden because he has a small space he can’t have a pond cypress, for example, but a little dwarf cypress or weeping pond cypress fits perfectly. Lisa thinks that is a great point. A lot of the conifers in this garden are dwarf, some were labeled dwarf but apparently they didn’t get the memo. But most are dwarf. A lot of dwarf conifers come from a witches’-broom. Lisa has found witches’-brooms on the property. There is a baby one growing in the back right now. Eric likes the space and it certainly does show that whatever your space, there is a conifer for you.

There are several things to keep in mind when PRUNING CONIFERS. Of course these plants are quite different than deciduous plants. We are not always able to see exactly where the buds are, and in many cases there are not adequate adventitious buds below the leave structure. If we are not mindful of those things we end up with one of the most common mistakes made in pruning junipers, even conifers in general. The blindside, often times the backside or the area within the plant at itself, the area away from sunlight becomes full of deadwood. Prune the deadwood, there always needs to be green wood on a branch.

Another issue — sometimes we don’t like the shape of a conifer, some even want to prune it into the shape of a meatball, for example. There is a way to go in and prune so that it looks more natural instead of creating that sheared look. It’s best to go deep into the stem and remove it. Then it doesn’t look like you have pruned it at all. One plant has several sections where the limbs that have died out. In those cases go ahead and take the dead wood out. When one doesn’t do that it restricts airflow. The area then harbors disease and moisture builds up. Not a recipe for success. So clean the deadwood out. This is an important part of good plant maintenance. If we allow allow deadwood to stay in a plant that is the place were bacteria and fungus can start to grow. It can then be harbored there and then spread to other parts of the plant, even to other plants. So cleaning out the deadwood is the healthy way of taking care of conifers.

With any plant that we incorporate into the garden it is very important to THINK ABOUT SPACING and how much space we need between different plants. How wide do we expect this plant to get? Take into consideration center to center of the plants. Think about this when planting. With conifers it is even more important because if we get it wrong often times it means the life of the plant. For instance, Lisa must now make some tough decisions. She shows us one very real example. One plant was planted too close to the to the pine, which is the one she wants to keep, so the other will need to go. And that is because thought wasn’t given to how big the plant was going to get. This type information is typically available from your garden center or on the tag that comes with the plant. So if we know the plant is going to get 10 feet wide or 8 feet wide and we’re going to plant in close proximity, a good rule of thumb is to leave at least a foot of space between plants to ensure good air circulation, so we don’t get diseases issues. And you want to be able to enjoy the full form of the plant. Another point, if we don’t allow sufficient space we will be constantly pruning and the plant is not going to enjoy that.

So what do we need to do if we need to MOVE A CONIFER? Lisa shows just what she does. She root-prunes. And this can be done really any time of year. Although it is best to do in the middle of winter. To root prune go in at different angles on the plant, around the root ball, dig in and cut the main anchor root, then as you do that push in towards the plant because you’re making basically a tight root ball. What that will do is it will force the plant to create little feeder roots. This will make it easier for the plant to be moved and the plant will be healthier when moved. Ideally moving would be done in the winter, when there is a lot of soil moisture. That will help hold the soil together. One doesn’t always get to see what is happening below the surface of the soil but the roots actually behave similarly to the way the way the top of the plant does. When you clip that root there are adventitious buds that are behind the source of the cut and those will develop fine little, feeder roots. Those fine roots allow the plant to uptake water and nutrition. The big thick roots, the course roots are more for anchoring the plant, so they serve very different purposes. In this case we want to maximize the number fine feeder routes so that when we actually move the plant we don’t have either transplant shock or death. Eric tells us what he does in situations like this. If he’s going to be moving a plant he makes the cut at 12 o’clock, 9 o’clock, 3 o’clock and 6 o’clock and leaves the gaps in between, especially if he’s not going to move the plant at that time of year. Again winter is the best time because the plant is mostly shut down. If you were to cut all the roots, all the way around it could be devastating for the plant. So at one point make the sectional cuts then come back later and cut the other sections. We most likely wouldn’t end up relocating the plant until the following winter. And when making the second round of cuts dig about three or 4 inches out from where the initial root pruning cuts were made so that all of those little find roots we just created aren’t cut.

There is something wonderful about SHADE GARDENS, especially the transition from full sun into a beautiful paradise that is about 15° cooler. The whole attitude of shade gardens is very very different and soothing. Lisa likes them, they make up a significant component of this garden. Here, they are fortunate in that instead of having blazing hot sun everywhere they have beautiful shade areas where they can incorporate some really cool, rare plants and understory trees like a native Magnolia. And it wasn’t always the case. They do have fairly high shade, so this isn’t the perfect light. One can see where the canopy opened up a bit, actually there was a plane crash here which opened up the area. They had to move a lot of the shade plants out. But the bright side there is something to be said for shade garden in the south. It is just welcoming, you want to stay, you want to garden here. Now why they planted this one particular plant, this thing, Dracunculus, which smells like rotting flesh and is pollinated by flies, escapes Lisa. But it is a fun plan plant. Shade gardens could be a challenge in that getting the correct environment is the key to success. It can be tough in a super dense, heavily shaded area to have success. Plants need to photosynthesize and they are going to need some sunlight. Here Lisa has really high shade. It allows a nice dappled sunlight, keeping things a bit cooler but plants are getting enough enough sunlight to thrive and that is why this garden is so nice. They have a great collection of native ephemerals which bloom at a time when there aren’t leaves on the trees and why they were able to grow here and to bloom.

There are so many amazing PLANTS THAT WILL WORK IN THE SHADE GARDEN and in fact much more diversity than many assume. Eric would like Lisa to talk about some of the plants that been particularly successful in this area. They have a lot of natives, things like calycanthus, a sweet shrub which is intensely fragrant, and understory shrub. As well they have rhododendrons, netalias, anise, Hemlock maples and Japanese maples which means there are a lot of layers that one can create in the shade garden. One can see how dark it is in here. The spring time and not much foliage, means the ephemerals come out, that is when they have the super orchids, the trilliums, the ferns and then the hostas come out and do their thing. So, there are a ton of plants that grow in the deep dark shade. Eric also likes the fact that the ephemerals - jack-in-the-pulpit, trilliums, super orchids, even the mayapples are present in this garden. There is a wealth of plant material growing in the shade. It’s a beautiful area.

Eric thinks that they have done a really good job of working with different textures in this garden. They have a hemlock with tiny little needle leaves and then the Magnolia with big giant leaves. Then different textures and foliage combined with all different colors. These factors add a tremendous amount of interest to the garden it breaks up all of the different views. Eric also likes the Japanese ferns, they are wonderful in this garden. Their beautiful silver foliage combined with their purple stems create a very nice impact in this garden. It’s great to come around the corner and see the whole bank of beautiful ferns.

Eric thanks Lisa for showing us her garden. It’s been wonderful spending the day. Lisa, in turn, thanks Eric and GardenSMART for visiting. It’s been a fun day for her as well.

LINKS:

Smith-Gilbert Gardens

Plant List

 

   
 
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It’s not only coastal gardens that have to deal with persistent winds – inland gardens at higher altitudes and those in flat, wind-prone areas get regularly battered, too. Since there’s nothing good about plants stripped of their foliage or rendered dry and desiccated by a gale force tempest, the solution might be as simple as using specimens that are just fine with it. Here are a few we recommend. But first, some advice. Read more...


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