Monkshood & Snakeroot for a Fall Finale

What a luscious October afternoon! I looked out my back window and was drawn, as I always am this time in autumn, to the furthest corner of the garden, where a little fall scene unfolds that I treasure more because it’s a secret. Want to see it?  Let’s take a little stroll past the messy pots on the deck with their various sedums and swishing sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula) out into the garden past the table and chairs that haven’t been used since… when? August?

Janet Davis-garden-autumn

Keep going to where the lovely chartreuse Tiger Eyes sumac (Rhus typhina ‘Bailtiger’) is currently doing its Hollywood star thing in brilliant apricot…..

Tiger Eye Sumac-Rhus typhina 'Bailtiger'-fall color

But what’s this scene, just behind it?

Tiger Eye Sumac-snakeroot-monkshood-Janet Davis

Yes, two stalwarts of the autumn garden – and I mean autumn, fall, October!  Autumn monkshood (Aconitum carmichaelii ‘Arendsii’) and autumn snakeroot (Actaea simplex), aka fall bugbane. Each year, they flower at the same time, and enjoy identical conditions in my garden, i.e. the most moisture-retentive soil (lowest corner of the garden by a few inches), with reasonable midday sunshine but dappled shade a good portion of the day. The fragrance of the snakeroot is fabulous, something a little soft and incense-like, or reminiscent of talcum powder (in the nicest way).  Colour-wise, I love blue and white, from the earliest anemones-with-scilla in April to this shimmering, assertive finale.

Janet Davis-Actaea simplex & Aconitum carmichaelii 'Arendsii'

And did I mention pollinators? As in bumble bees of different species, honey bees……

Pollinators-autumn garden-fall snakeroot & monkshood-

(WHO has the beehives near my house? I’d love to know)…..

Honey bees-Apis mellifera-Actaea simplex-fall snaekroot

……hover flies…..

Hover-fly on fall snakeroot-Actaea simplex

….and paper wasps, below, as well as ants and cucumber beetles.

Paper wasp on fall snakeroot-Actaea simplex

Monkshood is deadly poisonous, but its pollen seems to be an attraction for bumble bees and honey bees once the asters have finished up.

Bombus-Fall Monkshood-Aconitum carmichaelii 'Arendsii'

Finally, do note that the snakeroot is not any of those fancy-schmancy dark-leaved cultivars like ‘Brunette’, but the straight species with plain-Jane-green-foliage,. And that it used to be called Cimicifuga, but the gene sequencers have now moved it into Actaea.  It is a lovely plant and should be used much, much more.

Festival Theatre Garden – Stratford

For the first time in more than 20 years, I spent a few days this month at Ontario’s venerable Stratford Festival. (For the record, we saw Guys & Dolls – highly recommended; HMS Pinafore – fun Gilbert & Sullivan; and The Changeling – read a story précis before seeing!).  We walked along the Avon River on our way to the first play, and I thought for the thousandth time how lovely our native wildflowers look in early autumn. This is heath aster (Symphyotrichum ericoides) with lots of bees!

Symphyotrichum ericoides-Heath aster-Avon River-Stratford

The entire countryside around Stratford is gorgeous in September, with rows of tall corn and nearly-ripe pumpkins filling the fields near Highway 7 as you drive in. In fact, it’s one of the beautiful farms in the area that renowned singer Loreena McKennitt calls home. I interviewed her in Stratford for a story I proposed and wrote for Chatelaine Gardens! magazine some 21 years ago.

Loreena McKennitt-1997-Chatelaine Gardens

A few summers later, I visited Stratford to photograph the new garden at the Festival Theatre for a story I proposed and wrote for Landscape Trades Magazine.  Having opened in 1997, it was under the expert care of Stratford Festival head gardener Harry Jongerden, who is now Executive Director of the Toronto Botanical Garden.

Landscape Trades-1999-Festival Theatre Garden

Returning to Stratford this month, I was excited to see how the garden had weathered over the past few decades and, especially, to see what was in bloom in the first week of autumn.  Since my magazine story was published such a long time ago, I’ll take the liberty of quoting it from time to time here, as we tour the plants – like this lovely Japanese anemone (Anemone x hybrida ‘Whirlwind’).

Anemone x hybrida 'Whirlwind' - Festival Theatre

***********

Two hours west of Toronto, on a hill overlooking the Avon River, sits the Festival Theatre, main stage and head office for Canada’s renowned Stratford Festival. Since its first production in 1953, a play directed by Tyrone Guthrie, starting Alec Guinness and mounted under a canvas tent, the Festival has enjoyed wide critical acclaim, and Stratford has become a mecca for theatre lovers — and garden lovers. Isn’t this swamp hibiscus (H. moscheutos) spectacular?

Hibiscus moscheutos-Swamp hibiscus-Festival Theatre Garden

In 1997, the Festival Theatre (one of three in Stratford used by the festival) underwent a major renewal under the direction of Toronto architect Thomas Payne, then of KPMB Architects, now with Thomas Payne Architect.  Trained at Yale and Princeton and one-time protégé of Barton Myers, Payne’s work includes the ethereal Fields Institute for Mathematics at the University of Toronto, a new home for the National Ballet of Canada, the much celebrated Tanenbaum Sculpture Gallery at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), the restoration of the Goodman Theatre in Chicago and the Young Theatre for the Performing Arts (Soulpepper). His work at Stratford involved indoor renovations such as changing the rake of the theatre floor to create more spacious seating; adding technical gutters and an acoustical canopy; and renovating the lobby.  And with the collaboration of Toronto landscape designer Neil Turnbull, Payne created The Arthur Meighen Gardens, named for Canada’s ninth prime minister and funded, in large part, by the Meighen family foundation. It  was a new garden that was as rich in theatrical allusion as it was in stone and plants.

Arthur Meighen Gardens-Festival Theatre

A horseshoe-shaped entrance driveway lined with concrete arbor columns, each one draped with a clematis in early summer – or morning glories in late summer — encircles the garden.  “At night,” Payne told me then, they look like Noguchi lamps.”

Anemone x hybrida & Festival Theatre Lights

The columns, each dedicated to a local benefactor, are clothed in a sock of inexpensive, water-repellent canvas symbolizing the canvas roof of the first performance tent.

Ipomoea tricolor-Morning glory-Festival Theatre

The garden is a fragrant, romantic tumble of perennials, designed to be in bloom as the curtain rises in mid-April, and still have something in flower for October’s final curtain call.  In late September, ligularia and blackeyed susans (Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’) are still providing colour as the ornamental grasses begin to flower.

Ligularia & rudbeckia-Festival Theatre Garden
Of the garden’s hard structure, Thom Payne said:  “We wanted a great stone wall with greenery growing on it.  The concept is quite mathematical. It’s a cribbage – a series of limestone terraces – that fall away on a grid toward the lowest point.”  Typical of Mr. Payne’s tendency to use the landscape to hint at what can be found indoors, the main path travels through the garden and over the bridge above the formal lily pond – all on the axis of Aisle 2 Entrance Lobby.  “It plays a prominent role in delivering people to the front door.”

Festival Theatre Garden walkway

In creating the cribbing for the terraces, Payne was mindful of his budget but still wanted the natural appearance of stone.  He used pigmented, specially-finished, architectural concrete as an inexpensive foundation for the walls.  He then capped it with 6-inch split-faced Eramosa limestone from local quarries.  “There are a lot of things,” he says, “that are extremely cost-effective, yet I think the overall effect is one of richness, theatricality and permanence.”  Below is a sturdy, gold yarrow (Achillea filipendulina) with a deep red swamp hibiscus.

Yarrow-Achillea filipendulina-Festival Theatre

When it came time to plan the 32 terrace beds, Neil Turnbull drew on a long career as one of the country’s most inspired plantsmen and landscape designers.  In seeking a theme, he hit upon another powerful symbol of early Shakespeare theatre, its festival banners and ribbons.  “I decided to create three ribbons of thyme that flow like curving rivers through the beds,” he explained. (The thyme is evident in the magazine cover above but I suspect other perennials have overwhelmed it somewhat over the years.)  Below is Japanese anemone with blue leadwort (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides).

Anemone x hybrida & Ceratostigma plumbaginoides-Festival Theatre Garden

Known for solving geometry on the drafting table but aesthetics on-site, Turnbull reasoned that the garden’s strength would be in the sheer massiveness of its plantings.  He had 21,000 plants expressly grown, and then placed them in recurring combinations throughout the beds.  In late summer, some of our wonderful natives provide spectacular colour, like goldenrod (Solidago sp.) and magenta-purple New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) below.

New England asters-&-goldenrod-Festival Theatre Garden

Lots of fall asters have been used at the theatre, like ‘Andenken an Alma Pötschke’, below, with a honey bee nectaring….

Symphyotrichum novae-angliae 'Alma Potschke'

…. and a dwarf lavender-purple aster paired with ‘Rosy Jane’ gaura (Oenothera lindheimerii), below.

Gaura & asters-Festival Theatre Garden

This summer has seen an extraordinary amount of rain and below-average temperatures until September, when we had a heat wave. So some plants had already begun to undergo a foliage change, like spring-flowering Euphorbia griffithi ‘Fireglow’, below.

Euphorbia griffithi 'Fireglow'-fall colour

As visitors reach the top of the planting beds on their way into the theatre, they cross a bridge over a formal rectangular pool…

Water Garden-Festival Theatre-Stratford

…..featuring the splash of a steel fountain.

Bridge & water garden-Festival Theatre Garden

The pool spans nearly the width of the garden….

Pool-Festival Theatre Garden

….and features aquatic plants like canna lily…..

Canna lily-Festival Theatre Garden

……water lilies,….

Nymphaea-Water lily

…. and unusual aquatics like rain lily (Zephyranthes candida).

Zephyranthes candida-Rain lily

As I left the garden, I noted all kind of pollinators flitting about. I saw bumble bees foraging deep in the yellow wax bells (Kirengeshoma palmata)…..

Bumble bee-Kirengeshoma palmata

….a carpenter bee nectar-robbing on obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana)….

Xylocopa virginica-carpenter bee-Physostegia-virginiana 'Variegata'

….and a hover-fly getting lost in the throat of a morning glory (Ipomoea tricolor).

Hoverfly-Morning Glory

Almost twenty years after my first visit, it was good to see the garden still looking gorgeous and being enjoyed by thousands of theatre-goers annually — plus untold numbers of tiny buzzing and fluttering visitors, too.

The Festival Theatre gardens are located at 55 Queen Street, Stratford, Ontario.  The Festival is open from mid-April to the end of October; for more information visit the Stratford Festival website.

Adapted from an article that appeared originally in Landscape Trades magazine

Peg Bier’s Leafy Virginia Oasis

I first met Peg Bier this June at the opening party of our Garden Bloggers’ Fling at Willowsford Farm in Ashburn, Virginia. She looked lovely! It was fun to think we were going to be seeing Peg’s garden a few days later – the Fling write-up called her a “local gardening legend”.

Peg Bier-Willowsford Farm

Later in the tour, I spotted her chatting animatedly with another Fling attendee, Gryphon Corpus, soaking up the garden vibes at Meadowlark Botanical Garden in Vienna, VA.

Peg Bier & Gryphon Corpus-Meadowlark Botanical Garden

But the best sighting of Peg Bier was in the driveway of her own home in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia, where her large, 2.5 acre woodland garden appeared a leafy oasis in a neighbourhood of neat and tidy lawns.

Peg Bier

Even in the driveway, there were clues that this was not just the domain of a gardener, but a collector and artist as well.

Peg Bier-Succulent Display

Peg has lived in this pretty house for 58 years, raising four children with her late architect husband Richard and teaching her twelve grandchildren the fine art of gardening.

Peg Bier-House

As for that “local gardening legend” billing, for 25 years (1990-2015) Peggy had been a television personality on the show Merrifield’s Gardening Advisor produced by Merrifield’s Garden Center, (which we visited on the Fling, below), where she continues to work part-time as a garden specialist.  Imagine having this as your plant source…….

Merrifield Garden Center-plants

…. and this as your outdoor furnishings resource! (I could have spent a lot of $$ here, but contented myself with a sweet purple birdhouse and some windchimes.)

Merrifield Garden Center-decor

P.S. – A big thank you to Merrifield Garden Centers for hosting the garden bloggers.

Merrifield Garden Center-Garden Bloggers Fling

Here’s a little taste of Peg on the show, chatting with host Debbie Warhurst Capp about shade plants inspired by her own garden, which she calls a ‘nature preserve’ with its foxes and opossums.

Back to our tour.  As we moved into the back garden, I gazed up and saw a canopy of mature oak trees….

Oak canopy-Peg Bier

….and some tulip poplars (Liriodendron tulipifera) as well.  Keep in mind that this miniature forest is a literal ‘island of wild’ in a ‘desert of tame’. Residential development swallowed the land surrounding the Bier home, but Peg held on under her big trees.

Tulip tree-Liriodendron tulipifera-Peg Bier

Immediately behind the house is a roomy deck with a table big enough to seat a lot of family. And I loved the deck boards placed on the diagonal.

Peg Bier-Table & sundeck

And a comfy chaise for reading and relaxing.

Peg Bier-green chaise

If you took some time to watch the video above, you’ll know that Peg has hewn lots of paths out of the shade-dappled understory. This is her favourite path material: crushed ‘red stone” on top of landscape fabric. And look at that textural shade planting!

Peg Bier-Crushed red stone path

But it’s not all about the plants. Over the years, Peg has created little sitting areas out of the woodland. This is one I loved, atop a flagstone patio.

Peg Bier-patio

Much of her seasonal colour comes courtesy of inspired container combinations. Look at these cobalt-blue accents – and of course, the perfect complementary colour contrast in the orange Bolivian and Rieger begonias!

Peg Bier-Blue glazed accents

And I loved this little vignette, with French bistro table and chairs painted aquamarine. What a lovely place to have lunch!

Peg Bier-Aquamarine bistro table

With such a large property to tend, I wonder if Peg ever has time to sit in one of these lovely Adirondack chairs?

Peg Bier-Red Adirondack chairs

Another sitting area featured bricks laid around a mature tree.  The understory in the woodland includes natives like redbud (Cercis canadensis), fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus) and dogwood (Cornus florida), as well as shrubs and small trees Peg has planted including aucuba, mahonia, camellia, nandina, sweet box (Sarcococca), Japanese maples (many grown by Peg from seed), hydrangea and boxwood everywhere.

Peg Bier-circular brick patio

Everywhere there were containers of tropicals mixed with luscious shade plants.  And more of those lovely orbs!

Peg Bier-Alocasia & tropicals

And loads of grasses! Variegated Japanese sedge (Carex morrowii ‘Ice Dance’) is a particular favourite of Peg’s.

Carex morrowii 'Ice Dance'-Peg Bier

Speaking of grasses, she loves dwarf mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus), too – and what a spectacular use of it, below.

Peg Bier-Mondo Grass-triangle

At the far end of the property, in the sunniest spot, there was a deer-proof enclosed garden filled with sun-loving perennials, vegetables and herbs, all mulched with pine needles.

Peg Bier-Deeproof veggie garden

Tomatoes are grown in containers here.

Peg Bier-Tomato-in pot

And there’s even the odd rooster.

Peg Bier-Rooster Art

I wanted to walk every path, but time was running out!  How beautiful is this?  Imagine those hellebores in early spring.

Peg Bier-Flagstone path

I found a bathtub with a spouting frog….

Peg Bier-Bathtub Fountain

…. and a few fairies. (Peg loves fairy gardens.)

Fairies-Peg Bier garden

This pretty path was near the front of the property…..

Stepping stone path-Peg Bie

…. where I found concrete stepping stones embossed with the handprints of all Peg’s grandchildren. Isn’t that lovely?

Grandchildren steppingstone-handprint-Peg Bier

At the very front where the neighbours can see them was a glorious profusion of sun-loving perennials…..

Sun perennials-Peg Bier

…. as if celebrating colour and fragrance on the edge of this shady forest…..

Colourful perennials-Peg Bier

…..and the grace of bees.

Bumble bee on echinacea-Peg Bier

The bus was loading and I made my way along a split-rail fence, sniffing this luscious trumpet lily as I took a last look at Peg’s garden.

Trumpet lily-Peg Bier

But as I was climbing up the bus steps, I heard her cry, “Oh, no. I forgot to show everyone my special garden.”  I wondered where that could be, since every part of this big garden had seemed “special” to me.  I thought it wouldn’t hurt to run back for two minutes, so I followed her back into the woodland. And there it was, her beautiful little memorial garden to her late husband.

Memorial garden-Richard Bier

Having spent time with Peg, talking with her and learning a little about her, I thought how special that marriage must have been, and how his presence must still be so strong in this lovely garden where family is cherished above all.

Memorial stone-Richard Bier

And then it really was time to go.

In the Garden with Barbara & Howard Katz

Barbara Katz and I became Facebook friends a few years back, drawn to each other by our mutual love of colour combinations in plant design and also our great admiration for Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf. In fact, it was on Barbara’s recommendation and with her introduction that Piet was commissioned to design a meadow garden for Delaware Botanic Gardens, being planted this fall. So it was with great anticipation that I made plans to attend the 2017 Garden Bloggers’ Fling in the Washington DC Capitol Region, a 3-day event that included a tour of Barbara & Howard Katz’s Bethesda, Maryland garden. We even decided to have dinner in a Washington restaurant before the tour, meeting face to face for the first time. (Our husbands got along famously too!)  And when our bus pulled up on Barbara’s street a few days later, it was easy to see which house was theirs for Barbara and Howard, an architect, were there waiting to welcome us.

Barbara & Howard Katz-Bethesda

But even if they hadn’t been out front, we would have known the house. Their luscious front garden (below) presented a welcome right at the street with a generous bed of summer perennials, carex grasses and succulents arrayed around an old ‘Halka’ honeylocust tree. Barbara, who has 30 years experience in garden design with her company London Lanscapes LLC, said that this bed, installed in mid-April while creating a new flagstone path, gave the front a needed facelift and some interest and pleasure for passersby. It was also a way to reduce the amount of front lawn and provide a buffer against dogs and snow.  But most important, as a plantswoman: “I needed MORE space to play with plants.”  Not surprisingly for a designer who knows how to use colour, there is a clever and subtle use of red flowers in this garden – the gaillardia at front and the echinacea in the rear – that carries the eye up and back toward the red chairs on the porch, the oxblood-red door, the red window shutters and even the Japanese maple.

Barbara Katz-Street Garden & House

Barbara worked the soil in the street garden to make it free-draining. “It gets baked in the afternoon,” she said, “So now I can use plants I hadn’t been able to before” (like the yuccas, below).

Sun-loving plants-Barbara Katz

I adored the beautiful iron scroll edging – staking out the property line with airy elegance. Barbara found it online at Wayfair

Gaillardia-Barbara Katz

The ‘Blue Boa’ anise hyssop (Agastache hybrid) was attracting lots of bumble bees.

Bumble bee-Agastache 'Blue Boa'

The veranda, below, is everything a good front porch should be: an attractive welcome for visitors, a well-appointed anteroom to the house itself and a place to relax comfortably with a view of the garden and street. Too often we restrict our seating areas to the privacy of a back yard where none of the neighbours can spot us reading a newspaper or sipping a glass of wine. But why?  A covered veranda is a sanctuary in the rain and obviously has a completely different outlook on life (and the neighbourhood) than the sitting areas we create out of view. Let’s tote up the good things about Howard’s and Barbara’s version. But first of all, a little background. When Barbara first saw this house, it was as a designer for the owner, who would have her redo the entire garden, including the complex topographical challenge at the back (more on that later). The year was 1995; the garden was installed in 1996. Fast forward six years and the house was for sale and Barbara and Howard bought it, including the garden she’d designed, worked with over the years, and come to love. As for the veranda, it was bigger then, with small wooden posts and railing, and a concrete bases and steps. Howard needed an office, so they took half the veranda and incorporated it into the house; removed the railing; used Azek (a plastic-wood product) to make the posts chunkier; rebuilt the steps to give them generous 18-inch treads with stone risers; then refaced everything with stone veneer. Add some Arts & Crafts lights, pots of easy-care succulents (can we get a cheer for iron plant stands?), a few handsome pieces of sculpture; and comfy chairs and it’s one of the prettiest makeovers ever.

Veranda-Barbara & Howard Katz

All the succulent containers, by the way, are Howard’s creations. He was born in South Africa where many succulents are native; they add their own textural note to Barbara’s herbaceous side of the ledger.

Succulents-Howard Katz-3

Wouldn’t you like to fall asleep in one of these Adirondack rockers? And another little colour tip, courtesy of the glazed green pots (as devotees of the artist’s colour wheel know): red and green are complementary contrasts and they always combine nicely with each other. I can only imagine how beautiful this foundation planting must look as the Japanese maples turn colour in autumn!

Adirondack Rocker-Barbara Katz

Let’s head around to the back, passing a little treasure trove of Howard’s succulents as we go.

Succulent collection-Howard Katz

The back garden is where the challenge lay for Barbara when she first saw it more than two decades ago. With a 12-foot elevation change from the back door up to the property line, it called for creative terracing. In the photo below, (when I got home, I realized I didn’t have a workable shot of the slope and asked Barbara to take a photo, which shows one side), you can see how beautifully the rich tapestry of perennials and low evergreens creates a frame for the cascading water feature.

Slope-Barbara Katz

In my experience, a designer who loves plants and knows how to combine them while also mastering the art of hardscaping is a rare individual. Barbara is skilled at both. Plants with purple, white and orange flowers and leaves are on one side….

Slope-Plantings-Barbara Katz

…including this butterscotch combination of carex and heuchera with peach echinacea and anise hyssop….

Heuchera & Carex-Barbara Katz

….while blues, yellows, pinks and maroons (below) are on the other side….

Echinacea & Coleus-Barbara Katz

…. along with a cool-green pairing of heuchera and euphorbia….

Euphorbia & Heuchera-Barbara Katz

But it’s the stone workmanship on the hillside that really impresses me. Let’s climb up the stairs, which have an excellent tread:riser ratio that makes navigating the slope easy…

Stairs-tread to riser ratio-Barbara Katz

We’ll pass some more of Howard’s delectable succulent confections on the way, like this one…

Succulents-Howard Katz-2

….and this one….

Succulents-Howard Katz-1

…. as well as a more traditional container, below.

Pot-Brugmansia-Barbara Katz

Halfway up, we’ll stop on the cool little grassed terrace, the only lawn in the back garden, with a sophisticated edging of boxwood and….. .

Lawn Terrace-Barbara Katz

…shade-tolerant plants above and below the sinuous retaining wall that supports the top terrace. The wall is impressive, and features little plants tucked into the crevices.

Retaining Wall-Barbara Katz

Even Howard’s succulent container is green.

Jade Plant-Katz

Reach the top, enter past the tall plume poppy (Macleaya cordata), and you’re rewarded with a cool rest in the gazebo with its green mosaic-tile-topped table, green mosaic candle-holder and green-cushioned chairs.

Gazebo-Barbara Katz

The woman knows colour!

Barbara Katz-Mosaic table

I’m not sure how many people would take note of this small detail, but for me it stood out as a superb way of disguising the necessary nuts-and-bolts of slope retention. The concrete block wall between the Katz property and the one behind them has been stained dark green – and presto! it vanishes. Well, except for the sweet little plaque to pretty it up. That airy iron trellis above it is Howard Katz’s effort to keep leaf-munching deer from leaping from the neighbour’s garden into theirs.

Stained Concrete Block Wall-Barbara Katz

There are lovely little touches of art in the garden, like this ‘bluebottle fly’….

Bluebottle Fly Art-Barbara Katz

And a wire grasshopper, among many other pieces.

Grasshopper Art-Barbara Katz

But the big focal point in the back garden is the terraced water feature. From the stone patio behind the house, this is what it looks like gazing up the slope.

Waterfall-lower-Barbara Katz

There are tropical waterlilies in the pool at the bottom, and goldfish.

Waterlily & goldfish-Barbara Katz

Climb back up those stairs a little, and you see how it courses down the rocks, mimicking a natural waterfall….

Waterfall-upper-Barbara Katz

…with a bubbling fountain in the very highest pool, below. Barbara wanted the effect of a series of birdbaths down the slope and it worked perfectly, since the Katz garden is now on the migration route of myriad birds, both spring and fall.

Fountain-Barbara Katz

I would have loved to linger a little, perhaps in the comfy seating near the house. Doesn’t the soft kiwi green look gorgeous with the sage green of the wall?

Sitting area-Barbara Katz

But it was time to get on the bus and head to our next garden.  Thank you Barbara and Howard, for your generosity and creativity. You are both inspiring!

Touring Casa Mariposa with Tammy Schmitt

Tammy Schmitt is one of the most positive, open-spirited people I’ve ever met. A grade school teacher by profession and a funny blogger on the side, her generosity and can-do nature is on display beside her home for her entire Bristow, Virginia neighbourhood to see.

Sign-Garden Sign-Tammy Schmitt

But then Tammy’s garden is a little different than most in her subdivision. Not only is Casa Mariposa an invitation to any and all pollinators that might be feeling a little thirsty in a desert of nearby lawns…..

House Front-Casa Mariposa-Tamy Schmitt

…. it’s also home to her family and a posse of rescue dogs, including the one posing with mama below.

Tammy Schmitt

Tammy took the lead in organizing the Garden Blogger’s Fling that I enjoyed this June in the Capital Region, and she and her committee did a fabulous job of finding us wonderful private and public gardens to tour. One of them was her own, which she was overly modest in describing to us. For though it’s the kind of suburban property many of us have, Tammy has turned hers into a flowery oasis filled with plants (many native) to lure pollinators and songbirds.  Let’s walk under her funky arch and take a little tour of some of those plants.

Garden arch-Tammy Schmitt

I love garden with birdhouses and Tammy’s got ‘em in spades.

Birdhouse & daylily-Tammy Schmitt

Aren’t these sweet?  One of Tammy’s houses actually hosts a lovely wren.

Birdhouses-Tammy Schmitt

As a bee photographer, I adore gardens filled with the buzz of bumble bees, like this one foraging on Tammy’s lavender beside echinacea, also a great bee and butterfly plant.

Echinacea & Lavandula-Tammy Schmitt

…. and honey bees, which love her drumstick alliums (A. sphaerocephalon)……

Bee on Allium sphaerocephalon-Tammy Schmitt

…. and swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), below with a light-pink Knautia macedonica.

Asclepias & Knautia-Tammy Schmitt

There were hover flies on the blackeyed susans (Rudbeckia hirta).

Hover fly-Rudbeckia hirta

Speaking of blackeyed susans… isn’t the one below beautiful? The gorgeous selections of this native are called gloriosa daisies – this one looks like ‘Denver Daisy’..

Rudbeckia hirta-Gloriosa daisy

This is a classic combination: blackeyed susans and beebalm.

Monarda & Rudbeckia-Tammy Schmitt

A self-admitted pot addict, Tammy cures herself by… buying more and more…..

Containers-Tammy Schmitt

Arraying them up the paver steps to her house…..

Pots-Tammy Schmitt

I was taken with Tammy’s choice of natives, including this fabulous royal catchfly (Silene regia).

Silene regia-Tammy Schmitt

The garden was packed with bloggers and it was much too short a visit. After a filmed demo and interview with one of Tammy’s favourite products, John & Bob’s Smart Soil Solutions, who were generous sponsors of the Bloggers’ Fling, it was time to say goodbye. And just on cue, Tammy’s little wren popped out to sing farewell.

Wren-Tammy Schmitt