Plant This: Moonflower vine for moonlit nights


When the sun goes down and the moon comes up, that’s when moonflower vine (Ipomoea alba) unfurls tissue-petaled white blossoms as large as your palm, inviting you to lean in for a deep whiff of its sweet perfume.


In my mind’s eye, the flowers glow like miniature moons themselves — pure and white. But that’s a trick of my camera setting.


In reality, the flowers are ivory with a hint of pale celery along a starfish-shaped indentation in the center.


By day, when you spot a tapered, spiraling bud — like a unicorn horn! — get ready for a moonflower show that evening.

If you’ve never grown moonflower vine, it’s easy to start from seed. (Note: this annual vine is not the same plant as our native perennial datura, or devil’s trumpet, although they look similar.) Just buy a pack of seeds, and in early spring soak them overnight in a bowl of water before poking each one into seed-starting mix in biodegradable pots you can make out of toilet paper rolls. Protect them from freezes and chilly nights, give them bright light but avoid blazing sun, and keep them moist, and in a week or two their little green noses will pop up.

When they’ve grown a few inches tall with a few leaves, plant them in the garden in the toilet roll pots. In Austin’s hot climate, morning sun is best, with afternoon shade. Give them a trellis to climb, keep them watered regularly, and soon enough you’ll be enjoying those fragrant, night-blooming flowers. In autumn, you can collect the ripened, ivory seeds from the dried seedpods and save them for growing next spring.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
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All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Japanese Garden and garden art at Hillwood Estate: Capital Region Garden Bloggers Fling


I almost missed the Japanese Garden, my favorite part of Washington, D.C.’s Hillwood Estate. It was hot and muggy on the first full day of touring during last month’s Capital Region Garden Bloggers Fling, and after exploring for about 45 minutes I retreated to the gift shop to cool off.

There, a fellow blogger mentioned the Japanese garden as being particularly fine, and I realized I’d missed it altogether. That wouldn’t do! Back out I went to find it.


And there it is, hidden in plain sight alongside an open lawn, a leafy screen of clipped shrubs, burgundy Japanese maples, and weeping willows promising both shade and a gorgeous tapestry of foliage.


Water is a playful element in this Japanese-style garden, as Hillwood describes it. Spouting arcs of water appear to leap alongside a wiggly “floating” path of carved steppers resembling millstones.


A path like this just begs to be crossed — with a little thrill — and so I did.


Pagoda sculpture with colorful foliage


Roofed gate


A pretty waterfall tumbles through boulder-strewn ledges from the top of the garden.


Arching bridges cross a green lily pond…


…accompanied by more arcing spouts of water.


Stone lantern


Another view, with the pagoda in the distance


Foliage is the star of this garden, with rich colors and texture. Waterlilies add a dash of floral ornamentation.


As I exited the garden I stopped to admire a rusty-leaved, artfully contorted Japanese maple with a (surprising because not on-theme) St. Francis statue tucked amid boulders at its feet. Simply lovely.


Speaking of sculptural garden ornament, Hillwood’s gardens are studded with classical pieces, like this charming faun with cymbals…


…another faun with a horn…


…and even a sphinx whose female half resembles a kerchiefed and corseted 18th-century dame!


Regally at ease alongside the expansive Lunar Lawn, this stone lion marked the spot where we Flingers were to have our group photo taken.


Arraying ourselves on the steps of the Hillwood Mansion, we stood as still as statues for this picture taken by Wendy Niemi Kremer. Want to know who all these bloggers are? Check out the Capital Region Fling attendees page, organized by state — and by country for the handful of international Flingers.


Next I explored the French parterre, a formal garden designed to be enjoyed from an upper-story window of the house. Hidden behind ivy-covered walls, Diana the Huntress with her hound stands as focal point at the end of a limestone rill that connects to a central pool.


Scroll-like swirls of clipped boxwood grow in four symmetrical beds divided by gravel paths.


A pretty container combo


Next I found the rose garden, which is also the final resting place of the estate’s founder, art collector and heiress to the Post cereal empire Marjorie Merriweather Post.


The cutting garden was a favorite of many of the garden bloggers…


…perhaps because it felt more attainable than the grand formal gardens.


And it was very nice.


But the Japanese garden remains my favorite.

Up next: My final post about the 2017 Fling featuring Willowsford Farm, plus a sneak peek at next year’s Fling. For a look back at Brookside Gardens and a Patrick Dougherty twig sculpture in Reston, click here.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Log slices, twig spheres, and other natural art in garden of Debbie Friedman: Capital Region Garden Bloggers Fling


Though she lives and gardens in Maryland, Bethesda designer Debbie Friedman told us that she uses log slices, granite stones, and other natural accents to evoke the spirit of Mount Desert Island, Maine, where she enjoys vacationing. I visited her suburban garden during the recent Capital Region Garden Bloggers Fling, where a scrim of Verbena bonariensis rises from a shaggy carpet of grasses to color a welcoming stone patio accented with a wooden-slab bench and bird’s-nest-style side table.


A wider view shows how Debbie lines her front walk with ornamental grasses for a textural, naturalistic approach to her house, with the wooden bench and copper Craftsman lantern as a focal point.


There’s nothing fussy or formal about this entry garden, just meadowy charm.


A bouquet of giant black-eyed Susans decorated the porch steps.


The front walk is paved with flagstone accented with flat, round beach pebbles.


Heading around to the back garden, you pass through an inviting picket fence, with interesting columnar sweetgum trees on either side of the gate…


…and a pretty combo of hydrangea, caladium, and other shade lovers.


A paved area at the gate threshold reveals itself to be made of sliced wood rounds — a hint of things to come.


As you enter the back yard, a green lawn framed by deep shrub beds opens before you. Like giant acorns on the lawn, a trio of large twig-and-metal spheres makes a natural sculptural accent. I love these.


In a shady nook, two airy red chairs nestle among white-flowering hydrangeas.


But what stole the scene, for me, was this: a deep-shade area in an expansive back corner, which might easily have been neglected or ignored, but which Debbie has turned into a unique space for exploration and relaxation.


Sliced log rounds make a fun path through block-planted grasses, ferns, and other shade-loving groundcovers.


Laid on edge among the plants, hollow log rounds become surprisingly effective garden art.


The log-round path curves around to a hammock strung between two trees, with a swooping bamboo-pole “fence” defining the hammock patio, which is paved with more log slices.


From shade to sun — a sunny deck and stone patio provide garden access and hangout space at the back of the house.


Bedheaded bee balm adds hot color near a contemporary fountain.


Rustic-modern style is created with a contemporary Adirondack loveseat (Loll maybe?), galvanized deck skirting, and an edging of massed grasses.


A purple clematis is trained up the galvanized skirting.


The sun-washed deck features a wood-block side table, pretty succulent dish, and orange-and-turquoise elephant-motif pillow (love).


On a dining table, tillandsias and succulents are tucked into what looks like a cluster of seedpods. (If any other bloggers learned exactly what this is, I’d like to know.)


What a charming space from which to enjoy the rest of the garden.

Up next: The whimsical woodland garden of Ellen Ash. For a look back at Jeff Minnich’s Southern Gothic-infused garden, click here.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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