Botanica Atlanta | Landscape Design, Construction & Maintenance

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Atlanta Garden Design

Reading Between the Lines

Posted by Author on January 23, 2014 at 7:25 PM Comments comments (0)

 

Images: Scott MacLeod Liddle, Thomas Roland, and Joanne Richardson


 

ὁ δὲ ἀνεξέταστος βίος οὐ βιωτὸς ἀνθρώπῳ


It was 2,400 years ago that Socrates is said to have taught the above words, and though you may not be any more up on your Greek than I am, the meaning of his words still translate into truth today. "The unexamined life is not worth living for a human being," or -- to reframe it in a slightly kinder light -- "Life is more enjoyable when we carefully consider the details."

 

Masonry is a universal construction technique used to build everything from shelters to garden walls to horizontal pavements. Masonry "units" can vary widely to include stone, brick, concrete block, glass block, tile, and even timber, but what unites all masonry structures (literally) is mortar.

 


Images: Don Shall, Je Kemp, Theilr, and Rachel Towne

 


The most common mortars, at least since Socrates' time, consist of three basic ingredients. Sand, the main ingredient, is inert on its own, but when it is mixed with cement and water, the ingredients react to form a paste-like binding mixture that can be applied to brick, stone, and other rigid surfaces. Mortar hardens to a rock-hard state after it is applied, and by laying it between masonry units, it serves to "glue" the structure together, evenly distribute the structural load, and create weather-tight joints.



Images: Lucidio Studio, Maryland Architecture, Planning & Preservation, and Rich Bettridge


 

Many of the ways in which masonry garden walls can vary are obvious. Even beyond the different masonry units that can be selected and the colors that are inherent to these materials, wall surfaces can take on a variety of forms and alignments. Beyond these more noticeable design decisions, however, is the fine-grain design of the mortar joints. Jointing is one aspect of masonry that is often the last design element to be considered -- if it is considered at all.



 


Even with the identical structural and weatherproofing considerations satisfied, there is a surprising palette of mortar joint profiles, each with its own aesthetic and historic associations. Joint lines may seem like a trivial detail to some, but considering the design "between the lines" can bring a level of richness and refinement to your landscape that cannot be found in most built environments. From flush to concave and beaded to raked, envisioning the most appropriate jointing for a garden masonry structure is an opportunity that is best not neglected. After all, sometimes the unexamined garden is not worth visiting.


 


Image: Simon Bisson

 


Public Gardens Add Grace to our Lives

Posted by Bonnie Helander on October 23, 2013 at 12:10 AM Comments comments (2)

This past spring on a trip to see our son and wife in Virginia Beach, we stopped and visited several public gardens in North Carolina,including the Sarah P. Dukes Gardens on the campus of Duke University in Durham. This exquisite garden (really four distinct gardens) is free and open to the public and students to enjoy all year round. It was named one of the top ten public gardens in the United States by Tripadvisor.com.


During the three hours or so that we spent wandering around the 55-acre space, I enjoyed watching how a diverse group of people interacted with the garden. Students found private nooks to study for final exams. Others were jogging along the paths, dodging high school girls in vibrant-colored prom dresses that matched the flowers who were having their pictures taken. Families were picnicking and young children were fishing and enjoying the wildlife. Brides and grooms posed at lovely garden focal points to have cherished wedding photos made. Older folks sat on benches and watched the birds and the butterflies flitting around. The gardens provided the perfect backdrop for people to interact with others or just relax.



Families enjoying picnicking and feeding the ducks at the Sarah P. Dukes Gardens. (Images: Bonnie Helander)


The gardens on the Duke campus are a lovely place to get the perfect wedding shot! (Image: Bonnie Helander)



A high school girl, decked out in prom dress, gets her time in front of the camera lens.  (image: Bonnie Helander)


Many studies have documented the amazing benefits of public gardens, parks and natural spaces. They connect us to the natural environment and all the health benefits that nature supplies including fresh air, sunshine, exercise, the reduction of blood pressure and the sense of nourishing our souls. Beautiful and well-kept public spaces increase our town pride, raise property values and help reduce crime. Gardens add beauty to our lives and provide places of tranquility and relaxation.


One of the best and most comprehensive books on advocating well-designed parks, gardens and public spaces, is Parks, Plants and People: Beautifying the Urban Landscape, by Lynden Miller. (Norton/2009)  This book will give you lots of ideas on not only promoting more public natural spaces in your own hometown but ideas to make your own personal garden more beneficial to your family and friends.


Take a look at some people enjoying public gardens…


Girls picnicking and checking their social media sites at the Cheekwood Gardens in Nashville. (Image: Bonnie Helander)


Left: hiking a trail at Dunaway Gardens in Newnan; Right: Enjoying a rest duirng a garden visit. (Images: Bonnie Helander)



Left:Children decked out in Sunday finery enjoy feeding Koi at Missouri Botanical Garden. Right: Children hiking along a creek at The Biltmore Estate in Ashville, North Carolina.  (Images: Bonnie Helander)


Small boy fascinated with the garden train at Cheekwood. (Image: Bonnie Helander)



Start children out early experiencing the wonder of the natural world by taking them to explore a public garden. (Image: Bonnie Helander)



Books on America's Founding Fathers Highlight Their Love of Gardening

Posted by Bonnie Helander on October 11, 2013 at 10:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Growing up in the Washington, D.C. area fueled my interest in getting a degree in American History. I loved to visit the Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln memorials and wander the pathways of the gardens at Mount Vernon and Monticello. I can still remember the fragrance of boxwood, fresh tilled earth and flowering fruit trees at these historic gardens.


Recently I drove down to La Grange with a friend to one of my favorite historical gardens at
Hills & Dales Estate to hear a lecture from Peter Hatch about Thomas Jefferson and his extensive gardens at Monticello. Mr. Hatch is a Jefferson scholar and the retired Director of the Gardens and Grounds at Monticello where he worked for 35 years. Among his many exciting opportunities was serving as an advisor to First lady Michelle Obama for the White House kitchen garden!


In 2012, Mr. Hatch released his new book entitled, A Rich Spot of Earth: Thomas Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden at Monticello, published by Yale University Press and a co-publication with the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello. It is a beautifully written and photographed book examining Thomas Jefferson’s love for his land and passionate desire to cultivate a diverse variety of fruits and vegetables. It was Jefferson who first introduced a cornucopia of then unfamiliar species to the American palate – vegetables that are now staples at our tables, including tomatoes, okra, peppers, eggplant, lima beans and peanuts. Jefferson was once quoted as saying, “The greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add an useful plant to its culture.”



Images: Upper left by Bonnie Helander; Upper right of Peter Hatch and lower of Monticello ©Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello (used by permission)


At Monticello, his home in Charlottesville, Virginia, Jefferson developed a massive vegetable garden and experimented with growing 330 varieties of 99 species of vegetables. He also planted a vineyard and an orchard that contained over 1,000 fruit trees of 170 different varieties. He was a passionate but pragmatic gardener who saw the failure of a crop as just a step to finding success.



Thomas Jefferson's vegetable garden at Monticello (Images by Donna Bowers)


After retiring from the U.S. Presidency and returning to his beloved Monticello, Jefferson wrote to portrait painter, Charles Wilson Peale about his love of gardening:  "I have often thought that if heaven had given me choice of my position and calling, it should have been on a rich spot of earth, well watered, and near a good market for the productions of the garden. No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden. Such a variety of subjects, some one always coming to perfection, the failure of one thing repaired by the success of another, and instead of one harvest a continued one thro’ the year. Under a total want of demand except for my family table, I am still devoted to the garden. But tho’ an old man, I am but a young gardener.”



Monticello (Image by Donna Bowers)


Another book about our early American patriots that is a treasured part of my gardening collection is Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation by Andrea Wulf (Knopf, 2011).  Believe it or not, our early political leaders were equally passionate about two things -revolution and gardening! They believed that a focus on agriculture would allow the colonies to become self-sufficient and break its dependence on Great Britain for goods. This belief led to revolution and economic and political freedom. Their vision for America included a farming base, the use of native plants, local food production and expanding our natural resources.



Upper left: Andrea Wulf, author, - image by Lori Waselchuk; Lower left: Mt. Vernon by Mt. Vernon Ladies Association; Right: image by Bonnie Helander


The author focuses on five of our “founding gardeners” – George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and James Madison. Benjamin Franklin was the first to understand the crucial role agriculture would play in the economic and political realm. While serving as the colonial liaison in England, he routinely sent back new seeds to experiment with in the colonies.


In the darkest days of the war, General George Washington still sent instructions to his estate manager at Mount Vernon concerning plantings. He encouraged his troops to start regimental gardens, believing that gardening would provide not only healthy food but a pleasant pastime during the struggles.


When Thomas Jefferson left presidential office in 1809, he described himself as “a prisoner released from his chains.”  He returned to his estate at Monticello and was immediately renewed by his time in his garden. He became a passionate, meticulous gardener, experimenting, observing and writing down all his observations.


For all who love American history and gardening, these are wonderful books to add to your library.

Character: Cobbles and Curbstones

Posted by Author on October 8, 2013 at 11:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Every single day, visitors flock to the world's oldest cities to consume the authentic and antiquated sights, sounds, and cultural offerings. Strolling the streets of a venerable urban environment, one finds him- or herself transported to another way of life and to an earlier time period. This sensation stems from an immersive composition that can be perceived on all sides, overhead, and underfoot. While it might be the carbonara that pulls a tourist to Rome's roadsides, the wine that takes another to a Paris pavement café, and the seafood that makes you stalk Savannah's River Street, none of these flavors would hit the tongue in quite the same way without the unique backdrop of a historic city.

 



Images: Simon HW, Bikey DXBach, and Jeroen Tiggelman


 

Salvaging. Repurposing. Reclaiming. Recycling. There is a handful of terms to describe the action of relocating discarded stone curbs and paving blocks from a city street to the residential landscape. What is remarkable about installing antique road materials, though, is that these unwanted chunks of rock have the ability to bring their storied character with them into their new home.




Images: Biz Reed


 

In the garden, reclaimed granite has an array of applications that is limited only by human creativity. Granite curbs become benches and steps, cobblestones become durable, patterned paths and garden edging. In all cases, the stones' worn faces -- infinitesimally sculpted with each pass of a million wagon wheels, iron horseshoes, and daily footsteps -- can offer compelling, visible clues to the materials' centuries of earnest use.

 

 


Images: Lauren Jolly Roberts, Matthew Cunningham, and Jason Ross


 

Don't get me wrong: there is certainly a place in the landscape for concrete and even asphalt. Where curbs and cobbles are rough and uneven, aggregate-based paving surfaces can be smooth and uniform. Sometimes a tame, even surface is preferable in the landscape, and other times it is an absolute necessity. However, in these materials' consistency lies their visual blandness. Conventional asphalt paths and concrete walls and walks leave little to the imagination, and unlike with salvaged stone, age tends to erode the beauty of these sleek surfaces.

 

Stone curbs and cobbles, having endured tirelessly under winter's harsh chisel and civilization's heavy, repeated traffic, deals with age quite differently. The stains, wear, and tear that come from centuries of use only improve upon stone's rich visual character, and for every innumerable footstep that each stone has received in the past, there is the unwavering promise to endure just as many in the future.

 



Image: Chris Salt

 


You Can't Go Wrong with Georgia Gold Medal Plant Winners!

Posted by Bonnie Helander on September 24, 2013 at 9:55 AM Comments comments (1)

It’s always a challenge to know what plant to put in my garden. I find something that looks just awesome in the nursery but seems to fade with time once planted in my yard or simply takes too much work to maintain. Even though I’ve learned all those gardening “rules” about selecting plants that work for our environment and putting them in the right place, I am still often disappointed by how some of my plants perform.


If you want to stop wasting time and money on plants that don’t work in your garden, take a look at the Georgia Gold Medal Winners.  The Gold Medal plant program takes all the guess-work out of finding superior plants that perform in Georgia. Horticulture staff from the State Botanical Garden of Georgia and University of Georgia, along with local growers, have done all the research, testing plants for how they will thrive here and then selecting those that are the best of the best. Winners are chosen in five categories, Annuals, Natives, Perennials, Trees and Shrubs and Vines and Groundcovers.


If you select a plant chosen as a Georgia Gold Medal Winner, you will not be disappointed!  It’s about the best guarantee you are going to get that your plant will thrive in your garden with less fuss and pest issues. 


The Georgia Gold Medal Winners have been selected for 2013 and you might as well shop for them now and plant them (except annuals) this fall.



Left: Wishbone Flower; Top right:: Sweetflag; Bottom right: Gardenia (Images by Missouri Botanical Garden)


Annual Winner: Wishbone Flower (Torenia fournieri) – You don’t often find such vivid flowers blooming in shadier spots but the cheerful, bi-color torenia thrives in shade and adds whimsical interest. This annual is sometimes called “clown flower” because of its multi-colored face.  The bushy torenia only gets about 6-12” tall and does not have to be deadheaded – another plus for busy gardeners.


Groundcover/Vine Winner:  Golden Sweetflag Grass (Acorus gramineus 'Ogon' and 'Minimus Aureus') – This miniature yellow grassy plant spreads by creeping roots, making it an excellent choice for a groundcover. As an added bonus, the foliage is fragrant and deters deer!  This groundcover does best in light shade in our climate. Sweetflag is also a nice addition to a container, paired with blooming plants for each season.


Trees/Shrub Winner: Compact Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides) – Every Southern garden needs this lovely evergreen shrub or two or three or more! It only gets about 3 feet tall and wide and can be planted in full sun to part shade and tolerates a variety of growing conditions.  The luscious white blooms provide a subtle fragrance, so plant near where you enjoy sitting outside. I will admit, however, that I have “issues” with gardenias. They often have a yellow leaf drop. (I am going to try Epsom salts and Ironite for this issue) and I often deadhead the spent blooms because the brown and dried blooms stay on the shrub a while and don’t look so great. But the fragrance seals the deal for me!



Left: Muhly Grass (Image by Bonnie Helander) Right: Variegated Solomon's Seal (Image by Perennial Plant Asso.)


Natives Winner: Muhly Grass (Muhlenbegia capillaries) – A few years ago when visiting Athens for a UGA football game, I noticed a garden bed that contained a swath of shimmering pink grasses swaying in the breeze. I was so “wowed” by the sight that I pulled over to see what it was.  And, yes, it was pink Muhly grass – a show stopper in autumn!  During fall, the pink inflorescence (flowers) on the green foliage catch the sun and just sparkle. Plant it in the sun where it can take center stage for fall interest.


Perennial Winner:  Variegated Japanese Solomon’s Seal (Polyganatum odoratum variegata)  I love variegated plants that provide color and interest in foliage and also have blooms and variegated Solomon’s seal does not disappoint with its cream stripes on green leaves and its aromatic bell-shaped flowers that pop up in the spring. Plant in your woodland garden in shade and divide it when you want more plants to spread around. This plant was also named the 2013 “Perennial Plant of the Year” by the Perennial Plant Association, so it is a double trophy winner.


I continue to add Georgia Gold Medal Winners to my garden. Some of my favorites include the Oakleaf hydrangea, Chinese snowball viburnum, tea olive and American beautyberry. If you are planning a new garden bed or working with a landscape designer to come up with a design, consider adding some Georgia Gold Medal Winners. You won’t be disappointed.


Left: Oakleaf Hydrangea; Right: Tea Olive (Images by Bonnie Helander)




Left: Chinese Snowball Viburnum; Right: American Beautyberry (Images by Bonnie Helander)

Plant Lust at the UGA Trial Gardens!

Posted by Bonnie Helander on August 19, 2013 at 1:20 PM Comments comments (0)

In my last blog of August 6, I wrote about the charming old-fashioned tradition of sharing pass-along plants – plants that are tough, easy to propagate and have been passed along and shared for generations by gardeners everywhere. It wasn’t that many years ago when new plant varieties were unavailable or hard to find. Pass-along plants were the staple in a garden. We are so fortunate that times have changed and new plants are popping up all the time. Today your garden can be filled with hundreds of newly-introduced plants that sizzle with color, delight with interesting foliage and amaze with gorgeous blooms.


Favorite pass-along plants include antique roses and geraniums.  Fortunately we can enjoy these old-fashioned favorites as well as all the stunning new plants that come on the market each year.


As a proud graduate of the University of Georgia, I am always looking for any excuse to go over to Athens for a day trip. One of my favorite destinations while in town is the UGA Trial Gardens tucked away near Stegeman Coliseum. The Trial Gardens are the fruition of work started by two retired UGA “rock star” horticulture professors – Dr. Allan Armitage and Dr. Michael Dirr. Here you will find a stunning array of new plants being “tested” before being released on the market.



While visiting the Trial Gardens this past year, I got to say "good-bye" to the amazing "Dr. A" - Allan Armitage - who has made the Trial Gardens so sucessful.


At the Trial Gardens new annuals, vines, tropicals and perennials are tested, reviewed and graded on how they hold up in our challenging Southern climate. Testing criteria includes overall appearance, tolerance to heat and humidity, resistance to disease and insects, ease of propagation, production time and cutting efficiency. Those that score the highest are then sent to growers to be cultivated for the general public. The best-of-the-best are honored with the annual “Classic City Award” – the top honor for any plant in the garden. If you purchase a plant that has survived “boot camp” at the UGA Trial Gardens, you know you are getting a superior plant that will thrive in your garden. The Trial Gardens also serve as a major research and teaching facility for those lucky horticulture students who call UGA their home.


Since August is such a challenging time in the Southern garden, I thought it would be fun to see what is thriving at the Trial Gardens this month.  If you need to add some pizzazz to your outside space during the “dog days of summer,” then you will enjoy seeing some of the best performers at the Trial Gardens right now.  The only problem is - you will want them all!



Who needs blooms when you can enjoy vibrant variegated foliage! On the left is Calladium 'Starburst' from Classic Calladiums and on the right is Coleus 'Kong Jr. Lime Vein' by Ball Ingenuity. Both are growing merrily along in August heat at the Trial Gardens in Athens.




Calibrachoa 'Aloha Kona Mango' (left) in bright mango orange is great for containers and Zinnia 'Zinnita Yellow' by Benary will make a cheerful addition to the late summer garden.



Nothing is more luscious and regal than purple!  On the left is Petunia 'Flash Mob Bluerific' by Burpee HG and on the right is Phlox paniculata 'Shock Wave' by Proven Winners. Note the variegated leaves.


Ask about these amazing new plants at your local nursery and make sure they order them. If you are going to "lust" after these plants, you might as well own them as soon as you can!

Garden Reflections

Posted by Author on August 6, 2013 at 9:00 PM Comments comments (0)

In more ways than one, the garden is a place for reflection. If the city and workplace is the realm of tedium, then it is in the unique refuge and seclusion of a garden landscape that one may contemplate life's more important topics and find room for self-reflection. In some gardens, placid, still bodies of water allow for another type of reflecting to occur as well. If you recall the Greek myth of Narcissus, you may be reminded of water's mirror-like quality; in that legend, the smooth surface of a forest pond allowed a young handsome hunter to fall deeply in love with his own reflection.


 


Image: Dr. Lisa K.


 

Observing reflecting pools in various settings across different states and continents, I have come to recognize them as compelling landscape elements. Reflecting pools come in a wide range of scales and vary in shape, depth, and proportions. Common among all of the examples that I have seen is the sense of dimension and visual interest that the mirrored surface of these ponds, fountains, and pools can lend to a garden environs.




Images: Liz Delia, Glenn Fisher, Oddlittlebird, and Brian M.

 


If you recognize any of the above landscapes, it is likely that you find the precedents on the right end of the spectrum -- those reflecting pools that are the largest -- most familiar. I would caution the reader, though, from deducing that larger bodies of water are inherently superior. Even a modestly sized mirrored pool can quietly and elegantly hold influence in a garden.

 

When coupled with picturesque tree branching, seasonal color, architectural and site lighting, or landscape sculpture, reflecting waters can become even more visually interesting and engaging. In the same surface that Narcissus found the enthralling mirror image of his own face, you may be surprised to find the many beautiful new perspectives a reflecting pool will offer your garden. As the parable goes, the vain and conceited Narcissus met an unfortunate end in the pond's reflection, but if you take a moment to view the beauty of your garden in the still surface of a reflecting pool, you can be confident that your experience will be nothing less than rewarding.


 


Image: Patricia Hensch

Experiencing the "Levitated Mass"

Posted by Author on July 26, 2013 at 10:40 PM Comments comments (0)


Like a good work of modern art, a dramatic landscape should move you. Challenging you to interact with it both physically and psychologically, such an outdoor space tests your senses, plays on your expectations, and reveals the limits of your comfort zone. During a recent trip to California, I was able to experience an exceptionally powerful space -- both a landscape and a work of modern art -- on the grounds of Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). "Levitated Mass" is a sizeable landscape-based sculpture by contemporary artist Michael Heizer.



Image: Sam Valentine


Approaching the sculpture from any corner of the expansive LACMA grounds, a visitor nears a conspicuous, hulking gray boulder floating on a wide, tan sea of crushed stone. Walking closer to this craggy focal point, a low, straight, and unassuming double curbline reveals itself to form the sides of a trench that carves a straight path beneath the boulder.



Images: Sam Valentine


Though I admit the similarity is probably entirely coincidental, I found the experience of this ramped, descending trench vaguely reminiscent of Maya Lin's iconic black wall at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. There are more differences between the two landscapes than similarities; Heizer's trench is composed of light-hued concrete, his cut is enclosed by walls on both sides, and rather than listing names of the deceased, Heizer's walls are blank except for a streamlined slit-like handrail on each face. In terms of overall length, scale, and the unnerving sensation of stepping gradually below the ground plane, however, these two works create a similar experience. Both Lin's and Heizer's landscapes slowly and steadily rob you of your external views and, on some level, your sense of freedom and control. Additionally, once you have reached the trough of the prescribed walk in either landscape, you are able to earn your liberation by climbing a mirrored slope.



Image: Shaun Jones


And then there is the rock, or "Mass," itself. Unnaturally perched over the two walls of Heizer's artificial canyon and impending with just as much doom as the rolling boulder that Indiana Jones narrowly escapes from in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the focus of Heizer's creation is a 340-ton megalith. Witnessing this rock and the massive artificial canyon in person, it quickly becomes obvious that this installation was no small feat. "Levitated Mass" is a privately funded, multimillion dollar project, and transporting the huge rock to LACMA required careful orchestration along a circuitous 100-mile route. Just looking at the hefty, rigid steel braces and supports gives a clear indication of the level of thought, engineering, and expense put into this project.



Images: Sam Valentine


A visitor to LACMA's "Levitated Mass" may find the work bizarre, inspiring, or quite a bit of both, and it is likely that these impressions will only be reinforced by viewing some of Heizer's other works. There are certain identifiable themes that run consistently through Michael Heizer's body of work, and "Levitated Mass" at LACMA is a fair representation of the materials -- stone, concrete, and earth -- and scales with which he works. Another of his signature projects, "City," is a mysterious, career-spanning project that he has been building in the middle of the Nevada desert. For decades in this sun-beaten valley, he has been bulldozing and forming massively scaled geometric forms of earth and concrete, and many have called this project his signature work.



Images: Simon Norfolk/NB Pictures for the New York Times and Michael Heizer

Attracting Birds to Your Garden

Posted by Bonnie Helander on July 24, 2013 at 6:20 PM Comments comments (1)

Is a garden really a garden without birds? I have always been captivated by the sounds, movement, color and fun that birds bring to our landscapes. Most gardeners love wildlife (except maybe deer, mosquitoes and ticks) and want to attract a variety of birds to their backyards.


Rose-breasted Grosbeak is a stunning visitor to the birdfeeder!


Adding plants to your garden with fruit, nuts and berries will ensure you’ll enjoy many varieties of birds. I’ve added Leatherleaf mahonia, several different hollies and viburnum. I understand that birds also like the berries of poison ivy. Yikes! I draw the line at leaving poison ivy for the birds since I only have to look at it to break out in a rash!

Some bird-attracting perennials include red Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), garden phlox (Phlox paniculata), New England American aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), sunflower (Helianthus annuus) and purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea).


Purple coneflowers attract birds and looks lovely in the garden.


Shrubs that birds will love include leatherleaf mahonia (Mahonia bealei), American beautyberry (Callicarpa Americana), viburnum (Viburnum species), and wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera).


Our native American beautyberry has vivid purple berries in the fall that are bird magnets!


And don’t forget trees for birds to eat the berries, hide in the foliage and build their nests.  Add a flowering dogwood (Cornus florida or Cornus kousa), dwarf Southern magnolia (Magnolia ‘Little Gem’ ), Yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria), or Carolina cherry laurel (Prunus caroliniana).


Every garden needs a flowering dogwood, or two or three or more! And birds love them.


In addition to planting bird-friendly plants, add a bird feeder or two and you will have the pleasure of watching a variety of birds flock to your feeders. To maximize my viewing enjoyment, I placed a bird feeder where I can see it easily from the house. I also purchased a decent pair of binoculars and a good bird book that shows photos and gives descriptions of birds in my area. Slowly but surely I am learning to identify many of the birds that like to call my garden home.




Birdhouses and bird baths placed throughout your garden not only provide a functional service for birds but are great focal points. I have one large wooden birdhouse on a post that many birds have nested in and I have enjoyed viewing for almost 20 years. I can see this birdhouse from three different windows in my home and it provides great winter interest. It has almost fallen apart several times and my husband has often rebuilt and repainted it. Now it sports a cheerful color combination of salmon, yellow and purple! My ornamental pond attracts lots of birds. I like to see them washing and fluffing their feathers in shallow spots. 



My birdhouse is a colorful focal point in my garden and many birds have set up house in it.


I am also cutting down on the use of pesticides to keep my feathered friends happy.  What’s a little black spot on leaves in exchange for healthy birds in the garden!

If you love birds, why not get certified as a Wildlife Habitat through the National Wildlife Federation? If you can provide food, shelter, water and a place for birds to raise their young, you qualify and are making a difference in keeping birds safe and healthy.



Garden Benches

Posted by Bonnie Helander on July 10, 2013 at 1:30 PM Comments comments (0)


I am a fan of old gardening books and poems and have loved some of the books and quotes from the English author, Mirabel Osler, an acclaimed garden writer and designer. She urges people to cast off gardening rules and regulations and simply enjoy their gardens. Her book, A Gentle Plea for Chaos, urges less restraint and more interaction with the natural environment.


I really appreciate Ms. Osler’s emphasis on garden seating. She makes a wonderful observation that I have seen to be often true. She notes, “Have you ever noticed how few sitting places you fine in private gardens? How seldom the versatility and importance of benches is considered? True gardeners, with their peerless taste, dexterity and inspired planting, never stop…to sit is almost an offense, a sign of depravity and an outrage towards every felicitous refinement that has gone into making a garden.”  If I could paraphrase her charming words, gardeners never sit down because there is too much to do and time is a wastin’!




Yes, “true” gardeners often don’t take the time to stop, relax and reflect on the beauty in their own outside spaces. They are too busy making lists of what still needs to be done before nightfall!  I am often guilty of looking at my garden and seeing its imperfections instead of its wonder.

We need more garden benches placed throughout our gardens to remind us to sit a while and just unwind. But if you need more reasons to add a garden bench or two, let me give you some…


Garden benches are practical – we all need places to sit. If placed in a protected area, you can enjoy the garden even in the rain. A bench in the shade cools you from the sun. Some benches even have raised lids for extra storage.



 
Benches make great focal points that draw you into the space. A colorful bench can make a garden pop. A bench can add subtle interest by its shape and texture. Even a broken down bench that you can’t sit on displays structure and whimsy. A bench covered in snow creates a work of art.


This colorful blue bench makes a great statement holding a collection of birdhouses.



The shape of this bench gives a southwestern feel amid the plantings of succulents.



My old, broken-down garden bench is now used as a focal point in my shade garden.



Snow clinging to a garden bench adds an artistic flair.



A bench seen from a distance beckons you further into the garden.  Rounding a corner and finding a charming bench tucked into a shady nook is a great surprise in the garden. Even if a bench is rarely used, it holds the potential to be used for rest or a friendly chat with family and friends.


This bench at the end of the path pulls you further into the garden.



This garden path leads to a charming grouping of benches and swing.



Garden benches placed near areas of interest allow you to really appreciate the garden through all your senses. I always want to add a bench near a pool, pond or fountain or by a bed filled with fragrant flowers. There you can sit and enjoy the soothing sounds of water and the sweet smells of your blooms.




What a treat to sit and while away the hours listening to the soothing sounds of water!


Garden benches can provide a place of enchantment – a secret place for you alone. Add some comfortable and colorful pillows and cushions and a good book and you have a special nook to while away the hours.


A secret retreat for you alone!


Young lovers have courted on these benches at Hills & Dales Estate in La Grange.

 
Garden benches are friendly and every garden needs a few!  Here are some more of my favorite garden benches. I wish they were all in my garden…


This is my favorite bench I've ever seen in a private garden - what a great focal point as you round the path to find this old bench covered in moss and lichen.



Sometimes benches tell a story. This is a replica of the bench in the parterre at Barnsley Gardens where the owner saw the ghost of his dead wife, telling him to complete the garden and estate for his children.



I love the mixture of textures with the wooden bench, the flagstone patio and the terracotta pots.



Benches can add whimsy. This is my Georgia Bulldog vignette I stage each football season!



Finally, Mirabel Osler also wrote, “Sitting in your garden is a feat to be worked at with unflagging determination and single-mindedness – what gardener worth his salt sits down?  I am deeply committed to sitting in the garden.”