Monday, November 28, 2011

Winter Inspiration

It's hard to believe that Thanksgiving has already passed and December 1 is bearing down upon us.  And of course, the weather has taken a turn for the worse long before I (or the garden) was ready.  In fact, I'm sitting here writing to you now with a fire in the fireplace and snow--yes, SNOW!--bearing down on west Tennessee.  It remains to be seen whether it will make it all the way to the Nashville area, but indications are that we'll have at least a dusting and maybe as much as inch or so before it's said and done.  Some areas are expecting more!

Even with the weather turning sour, the garden still has some life in it.  In fact, this beautiful "Christmas rose", Helleborus niger 'Josef Lemper' just started flowering this week and will continue, completely unfazed by the weather, until April!  It is my favorite of all of the recent hellebore introductions.  There are others, as well, but none that have the flower power of Josef.

Here is Josef Lemper last January with a bud pushing up through the snow!

Other winter favorites include the many witchhazels like Hamamelis 'Primavera', pictured below.  Flowering as early as January in warmer climates, its bright yellow petals are a bright spot in the winter garden and are completely unaffected by cold temperatures. 

A plant that often gets a bad rap for being "invasive"--another topic for another blog post--is Mahonia bealei, Leatherleaf Mahonia.  Its outstanding architectural form is a welcome presence year-round in the garden, but my favorite feature of mahonia is its winter blooms.  In fact, its one of the few nectar sources available to honeybees that emerge to scavenge for food on warm winter days.

 One last winter favorite, and yes, another of those that some gardeners consider "invasive" (remove the seedheads and they won't move an inch, and it's not that time consuming--you deadhead everything else...)  Arum italicum is an important denizen of my winter garden.  The foliage emerges in late October and early November, remaining completely evergreen throughout the winter, thumbing its nose at temperatures well below freezing.  If we dip down into the teens for an extended period, some leaves my suffer some frost damage, but those can simply be removed and with the warm days of spring, new foliage will appear.  Keep in mind that this is a plant that goes dormant in the summer, hiding underground during the hottest months of the year, so plan accordingly.   Its the perfect plant to mix in with hostas and other shade lovers that are dormant in winter.  The arum will be up all winter long and as it goes dormant in early summer, the hostas will take its place.  In autumn, the cycle will start over as the hostas go dormant and the arum emerges.

So just because winter is knocking at the door doesn't mean I have to let it in, and even on the coldest winter days the garden will remind me that spring will--eventually--return.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Fashionable Roses

Like so many of you, I work--a lot.  Between my design clients, traveling to speaking engagements, working on magazine articles, building a stock photography library and getting ready to launch a garden tour business--not to mention a few projects that I can't talk about quite yet--my days are fairly full.  To that end, sometimes it's nice to be able to mix some pleasure with my work.  Not that I don't find pleasure in all of my work.  If I didn't, I'd change careers.  But really, sometimes it's fun just to have fun and Friday was one of those days!

I've mentioned one of my favorite projects, the Nashville Music Garden, on the blog before.  This garden is a collection of all of the roses that have ever been named for one of Tennessee's great music artists, groups or songs and, as far as we know, it's the only garden like it in the world based solely on its plants having this kind of connection to the music world.  There are roses named for Barbara Mandrell, Lynn Anderson, Dolly Parton, Pam Tillis and many other artists.  There are also roses named for songs, like Rocky Top, Amazing Grace and Blue Suede Shoes.  We even have a rose, 'Crescendo', that was named by Jackson & Perkins to honor our Nashville Symphony--the first time ever a rose was named to honor a group like this--as well as The Grand Ole Opry, The Nashville Ballet and others!

On Friday, we added a new name to our list of honorees at the Nashville Music Garden--Manuel Cuevas.  Now, some of you may not know who Manuel is, but if you've ever seen a photo of someone like Marty Stuart or Dolly Parton, Dwight Yoakam or Little Jimmy Dickens--or any number of other artists--wearing one of those flashy rhinestoned and embroidered jackets, suits or shirts, then you know Manuel.  In fact, Manuel dressed "The King" himself and is the man who made Johnny Cash "The Man in Black".  So it was a true honor and privilege for this little ol' country boy from Kansas to be a part of the dedication of the new 'Manuel Cuevas' rose on Friday.  Manuel even loaned me a jacket to wear for the event and I couldn't have been prouder to wear it!

Pictured with me are Manuel (holding a picture of the rose that was named for him), legendary singer Lynn Anderson (she never promised you a rose garden!), Pat Bullard (my amazing friend who founded the Nashville Music Garden) and rose hybridizer Whit Wells of Wells Mid-South Roses (the creator of the 'Manuel Cuevas' rose and so many others).

By the way, the real rose that you see Lynn wearing on her shirt is the new 'Manuel Cuevas' rose--and the roses you see embroidered on Lynn's beautiful shirt are Manuel's own artistic interpretation of his new rose.  This shirt will be donated to the Nashville Music Garden for a special, online fundraising auction, details of which I'll announce here at a later date.

If you are interested in growing the 'Manuel Cuevas' rose or others that are part of the Nashville Music Garden collection, see Whit's website at  Also, be sure to visit the Nashville Music Garden's own website at and become their friend by "Liking" Nashville Music Garden on Facebook.  And if you're ever in Nashville, be sure to stop by the garden which is located directly across the street from the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Nashville Symphony in Hall of Fame Park between 4th and 5th Avenue, just south of Broadway.  You never know who you might catch a glimpse of!