Yellow Wax Bells: The belle of the late summer garden

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Yellow Wax Bells, Kirengeshoma palmata, are a little known but dramatic herbaceous perennial for the full to partial shade garden.  A late summer bloomer, its striking clusters of pendulous bright yellow flowers bloom when just about nothing else does, making it a favorite of gardeners in the know.  This exotic-looking perennial is a great addition to the woodland garden and can be planted under high trees.   Good companion plants include ferns, hostas, astilbe.  It can also be grown in a container.

The flowers emerge in tight spherical buds and will open in 1-2 weeks after appearing. You can see some buds are tighter than others, leading to sequential opening and an extended blooming period.

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Hardy Begonias

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I always thought of begonias as annuals until I discovered a perrenial variety for sale in a neighborhood fund raiser 20 years ago.  For a dollar, I brought home a clump and planted it.  Pretty much forgot about it and for my neglect, I’ve been rewarded with year after year of spectacular masses of lovely pink flowers.  Pretty awesome return on my investment!  And how cool to have begonias that don’t need to be planted every year.

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Creating Shade in Outdoor Spaces

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“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree long ago.”

Warren Buffet

Some seek the sun. I prefer a respite from the sun, yet still spending a lot of time outdoors.   I took shade for granted until neighbors cut down mature trees between our yards and we lost the shade we had designed a patio around.  Overnight, we stopped using this patio which had been a favorite spot for reading and dining next to a peaceful water feature.   It made me sad to be unable to enjoy this beautiful space anymore.  We recently came up with a solution for this dilemma which gave me the idea to write about shade.  More on that later.

Offering shelter from the sun creates cooler, comfier spaces and enhances existing outdoor spaces for maximum enjoyment. It is possible to let the sun shine and enjoy being outdoors without soaking up the damaging UV rays.  Designing pockets of shade is just as important as the plantings in your garden.  Shade also reduces stress on plantings and decreases watering needs.  Here are some ideas to help you create nice shady spots, shielded from harsh rays and sizzling temperatures.

1) Garden Umbrellas

The easiest way to create shade is to add an umbrella over your outdoor table.  Obvious.  Near our dining table we had created an outdoor seating area to lounge and read.  The problem was it could not be enjoyed for 90 percent of the day because it was in full sun.  Enter the off-set, free standing umbrella. I fought my husband on this one.  I thought 2 umbrellas near each other would look tacky.  I thought it was gimmicky to get one of these giant umbrellas with adjustable positioning. Boy, was I wrong.  This seating area is now one of my favorite places to enjoy the garden and entertain. It gets used daily and is shady almost all day long.  To minimize competing umbrellas, we matched their colors.   Our umbrella, a special-order from Home Depot,  came equipped with a canopy-top solar battery that powers a series of mini lights that run along the umbrella’s ribs and cast lovely whimsical star-like lighting at night as an added bonus.

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Seductive Jardin Majorelle of Marrakech

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Jardin Majorelle is one of Marrakech’s most visited sites.  The 12 acre botanical garden is home to a remarkable collection of cacti and other drought tolerant plants as well as home to 15 bird species endemic to North Africa.

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Front Porch Decorating

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“Porches are America’s lost rooms.”

Barbara Grizzuti Harrison

One of my favorite spring rituals is setting up the front porch for warm weather living.  This year, I looked at the porch furniture coming out of storage and suddenly felt I had it all wrong.  I decided to move everything around.  Do you ever do this?   I really love the new design so much more and can’t figure out how I didn’t set it up this way all along.  The porch seems more spacious.  The conversation easier.  Movement around the porch smoother.  There is much more of the pretty outdoor rug, my design starting point, to see and enjoy.  I even had room to add a bar area!  It’s not a huge space but it lives big.  I had to laugh, as I sat on my “newly” designed porch reading the latest Architectural Digest issue, when the words of Bunny Williams, a favorite designer, jumped out at me:  “I get so upset when people ask what’s new in decorating? Just take what you have and make it look new.”  Point well taken Bunny!

You can read about how I first created an outdoor room on the front porch here.  Tour the redesigned space and let me know which version of the porch you like more. But don’t  be seduced by those gorgeous blue hydrangeas on the old porch….They’ll be making another appearance at a porch near you, soon!

One of the biggest changes I made was moving this console table previously used as a room divider to the focal point of the porch. The plate rack with its bird house and green tole garden plate was already on the wall. It makes so much more sense to put the console there. The lanterns and urn are the same as when the table was on the side of the porch. Now they really all work together. The table is also in the middle of the seating area and can be used to serve food when entertaining on the porch.

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Hypertufa Garden Sphere-DIY Tutorial

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Stone in a garden just does something to me.  I love the patina, texture and architectural interest it weaves  into a natural setting. Its earthy color makes it easy to incorporate into any garden for a rich yet subtle sculptural effect.  It whispers of antiquity and timelessness.  Stone spheres as garden ornamentation in particular, imparts a quiet serenity in the space.

Three orbs sit among a perennial bed of bluebells, enhancing but not detracting from the beauty of the flowers.

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Macy’s New York Flower Show 2017

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There is a flowering miracle on 34th Street. The annual Macy’s Flower Show opened on March 26th with this year’s fun Carnival theme.  From the blooming windows along Herald Square to the jaw dropping interior displays, the store is abloom with tens of thousands of flowers.  There is a full size, working carousel!  Each seat of the ferris wheel showcases a spectacular floral arrangement.  Bumper cars overflowing with blooms appear in store isles. This enchanting show runs for 2 weeks until April 9th and is free.  If you can’t make it into the store during business hours, take in the spectacular store windows, as magical as the famous holiday ones.   Macy’s hosts flower shows this year in 3 locations:  NYC, San Francisco and Chicago.  Hélas, the Philadelphia store was not selected this year.  Join me at the carnival!

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