There are some plants in my garden that just demand to be viewed together. In my front garden bed is a Fire Flame Tree Peony that for years has bloomed at the same time as a perfectly color matched azalea. Together they light up their niche in the world for a week or two each year if I’m lucky.
These Fire Flame Peonies blooming in my May garden along with the azalea inspired my original painting.
Keep the rain away from the peonies and the heat away from the azalea & I’ve got a perfect vignette. I love the way the focal points shift around my garden all year when either color takes prominence or form, as it does in winter.
I think of my garden as a theater production where spotlights guide your eyes around the action on stage.
If you want to extend the season of the colorful joy of these planting combinations you should consider buying one of my pieces of Art. Visit my Art Store to see your options. You won’t be disappointed!
Fire Flame Peony – Available in the Mary Ahern Art Store
Bluestone path under the mountain laurels
I have designed a rather informal garden with meandering paths using a variety of materials. At the end of, or just around the corner of each path, is some type of focal point, which draws you forward, in eager exploration. My garden is about moving through and around rather than sitting in one location and observing the whole.
The irregular bluestone pavers serve as the path to bring you from the front entrance, around the deck, and under the aging mountain laurels. The azaleas to the left are rather dense so you don’t see the deck but instead have the sense that you’re walking through a woodland. The path is narrow and the laurels create a ceiling of sorts until you emerge into the openness of the front garden.
Oak Tree focal point as you emerge from the mountain laurel path
Frank Lloyd Wright designed the ceilings in his houses to give the same effect of enclosure and expansion as you walked from room to room. Variation of space enhances the experience of the individual as they explore the design.
This giant oak serves to keep the garden and deck cool all summer and feed the squirrels all winter with it’s abundance of acorns. In the fall you need to sit on the deck with an umbrella over your head since the acorns come down with such determination.
In October of 2012, Superstorm Sandy felled 4 large Oak trees in my woodland garden. We were lucky that was the only damage we suffered in that severe storm other than loss of electricity. Instantly my garden went from full shade to sunshine a dappled shade. What a transformation for it and for me.
Oak tree lost in battle with Hurricane Sandy
After a period of mourning, I started rethinking, planning and studying what to do with this newfound daylight.
Oak tree stump with new birch tree
One of the mighty Oak trees was left with an interesting sculptural remnant which I originally planned to keep in remembrance of what had been. As usual, I changed my mind as I started designing and replanting. I change my mind all the time as I work in my garden.
I decided to plant a Heritage River Birch, Betula nigra “Heritage” in memory of my Uncle Teddy who introduced me to gardening. As a child visiting him in Schenectady from my treeless home in Brooklyn, he one day found me peeling the bark from one of his many white birch trees. When he asked me to stop as I was pulling the “skin” from the tree and hurting it, I looked around and realized that the entire garden was alive. I was transformed!
So this tree is for him, Theodorus Hendrik Gerrits, 1914 – 1991. Thank you!
New Heritage River Birch Tree
Fall colors of the Ginkgo tree
Recently I was asked about replanting trees after the destruction of Storm Sandy. I’ve given a lot of thought to this issue since my garden lost 4 large oaks which were living here before I moved into the shade they kindly provided me.
Following the storm, my arborist Ron Strauss of Tree Believers, (631-864-5514) sent his newsletter , “The Root of the Matter”, with recommendations of what to and what not to replant. Here is what he said:
We recommend that you do not re-plant using the following species of trees (all commonly planted in LI landscapes) that did not endure the storms well.
- Emerald Green Arborvitae
- Leyland Cypress
- White Pine
- Red Oak
- Norway or Crimson King Maple
- Flowering Pear
- Douglas Fir
- Weeping Willow
Now to the question of planting recommendations his list included:
- Sugar maple
- White Oak
- Dawn Redwood
- Green Giant Arborvitae
- Weeping Cherry
- Hollywood Juniper
- Crape Myrtle
For our smaller gardens, trees that I recommend and have or will be planting are:
- Dogwood ‘Stellar Pink’ (this is one of the disease resistant Rutgers hybrids) 15-30’ ht & spread. Pink flowers in early summer.
- Stewartia pseudocamellia var. koreana. Quite slow growing 30’ht, 20’ spread. Decorative bark. White flowers in early summer. Single or multi-trunk.
- Heptacodium miconoides, Seven-son flower. (recommended by Katherine Tracey of Avant Gardens) 15-20’ ht by 8-10’ spread. Full sun. Bloom time:Sept.
For more particulars of each of these trees, don’t forget to search Google for more information to help you make the right investment choice for your own garden.
For the past 25 years I’ve cultivated my woodland gardens. For the first decade I cleared the tangled woods, studied the indigenous plants, planned paths and materials. I worked on creating a natural looking shade garden focusing on the large oak trees and Kalmia that inhabited this spot of land before I showed up. A lot of thinking and sweat went into this garden. I selected what shrub trees, like the untold numbers of small … Continue reading →
Why? Deadheading the spent flowers on a rhododendron tends to focus the energy of the plant towards new flower production and general plant health. It also improves the sight of the plant when not in bloom. How? To deadhead, use your fingers and gently rock the base of the spent flower truss back and forth until it separates from the plant. That’s it. Now you can either toss the spent bloom under the shrub for … Continue reading →
NOTCHED LEAVES ARE CAUSED BY WEEVILS Notched leaves on your rhododendrons are caused by a variety of species of weevils. The adult forms of the weevil tend to feed at night during the springtime when you’re resting after a hard day in the garden. The damage will not kill your plant, just cause unsightly notching on the leaves. Of course, the leaves being evergreen will be around awhile to annoy you. These notches on the … Continue reading →
Generally speaking, cultural requirements are less “demanding” for lepidote (small-leaf) rhododendron and azaleas, both evergreen and deciduous. They tolerate, and to some extent require, more sun than elepidotes, and azaleas will also tolerate less well-drained soil. In all other respects, the general guidelines outlined above apply to all plants in this family. Site Selection Rhododendrons prefer a site that provides afternoon shade, some protection from wind, good drainage and air circulation. Sloping terrain is also … Continue reading →
This is part of an outline of a ten minute talk I gave to the Centerport Garden Club on November 9, 2010 HOW ARE RHODODENDRONS CLASSIFIED? Rhododendrons are classified into two major groups, lepidote and elepidote? Elepidotes are large leaved rhododendrons. They are the type of shrub that most individuals would associate as being a rhododendron. They do not have scales located on the underside of the leaves. Plants tend to be very large in … Continue reading →
This is an outline of a ten minute talk I gave to the Centerport Garden Club on November 9, 2010 Botanical Classification Rhododendrons and azaleas belong to the genus Rhododendron of the heath family (Ericaceae). The heath family includes the heaths and heathers, blueberries, mountain laurels and several other ornamental plant groups. Most members of this family require acid soil and good drainage. This is a selection of the Rhododendrons submitted to the judging of … Continue reading →