Cor-ten potager beauty in Rhonda Fleming Hayes’s garden: Minneapolis Garden Bloggers Fling


I’m dubbing this summer Escape to the North. In the space of two months I’ve made three trips to the northern, cooler half of the U.S., starting with the Philadelphia area; then Providence, Rhode Island; and finally Minneapolis, where the 9th annual Garden Bloggers Fling was held July 14-17. And for once, the gazillion Texas bloggers who attend the Fling each year didn’t bring the heat with them — yay!


It’s hard to know where to start when you take pictures of dozens of gardens over the course of three days, so I’m going to just jump in with blogger and author Rhonda Fleming Hayes’s personal garden.


Rhonda blogs at The Garden Buzz, and lots of the Flingers were already fans of her work.


Rhonda also writes a gardening column for the Minneapolis StarTribune, and she has a new book called Pollinator Friendly Gardening.


Generalizing from her book title, I expected that she might have a meadowy sort of butterfly garden, but it was actually quite manicured and even a bit contemporary in design. Of course I’m sure it’s pollinator friendly as well, but it’s different from what I was expecting — and I loved it!


Starting out front, the house has old Craftsman charm, although we were told that it’s relatively new construction. A generous front porch overlooks snowball hydrangeas with blossoms the size of snowmen’s heads.


The traditional front garden is lovely, but the side yard is where the action really is. What might have been a sterile swath of lawn or a green mustache of foundation shrubs has been converted to a stylish potager of raised Cor-ten steel beds and a handsome stone patio shaded by a striped umbrella. Willow edging in the veggie beds helps protect against incursion from…


…Peter Rabbit, who I spotted hopping through her other side yard.


Cottage favorites like zinnia and cosmos add color to the beds, and vines on tuteurs provide welcome height.


Gravel makes a practical, affordable, and water-permeable paving around the Cor-ten beds. Imagine seeing this view as you pull into your driveway at the end of each day.


The Cor-ten beds lead to an elevated stone patio that bridges the space between house and garage. As you step up and turn the corner, you see this…


…a contemporary Cor-ten steel pond with a flat, blade-like fountain. A smaller rectangular trough, just in front of the planters of autumn sage (upper level), spills water across the metal blade, which juts like a diving board over the steel-edged pond. It’s a wonderful design, compact but eye-catching.


String lights hang over the space for nighttime enjoyment. The doors behind the fountain open into a stylish potting room…


…with a deep sink, shelves for supplies, and gardening tools. What a beautiful pass-through, too, between the garage and house. Rhonda had kindly set up refreshments for us here.


She has only to step out on the patio to harvest tomatoes, here planted up with petunias, zinnias, and what looks like cypress vine.


Even the garage wall is gardened up.


There’s no back yard to speak of, so Rhonda has cleverly made the most of her sunny side yard. The elevated stone patio is bordered by a handsome stone wall (which doubles as additional seating), with a water-wise mix of liatris, coreopsis, sedum, and grasses enjoying the reflected heat from the driveway.


Another view


What a wonderful space, and full of lawn-gone inspiration!

Up next: The colorful Springwood Gardens daylily farm.

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 © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Fired up for WaterFire in Providence, Rhode Island


Who says fire and water don’t mix? Not the city of Providence, Rhode Island. On July 9th, my daughter and I happened to be there during WaterFire, a free summer arts festival along the three rivers of downtown Providence, and we were excited to attend.


What is WaterFire? On designated Saturday evenings, more than 80 braziers in the rivers are ceremonially lit by a “ringmaster” in a boat, aided by a team of volunteers, and the bonfires burn until midnight. Here’s how it looks just after the braziers catch fire in the central basin downtown.


Spectators watch from bridges, stroll along the rivers, nosh on food and drinks from vendors, and applaud street performers spinning fire, making origami creations, and posing as living statues. Before the lighting, such performances as a bilingual Romeo and Juliet entertain an audience at an outdoor amphitheater.


During the July 9th lighting, we were lucky to catch a Clear Currents Paddle: participants in kayaks and canoes, with huge, light-up koi attached to their boats, paddled in concert around the braziers as a symphony of world music played.


It was magical.


We watched and listened for 20-30 minutes until the paddlers left the basin…


…and headed down the river…


…passing a sightseeing gondola along the way.


Some people watched from boats as the koi-kayakers paddled by.


The curving line of fiery braziers runs down the center of the river.


I couldn’t get over how cool the evening was, like an autumn evening back home in Texas. The fires and the scent of kettle corn added to the autumnal ambience.


One of the light-up fish on display…


…and glowing stars on one of the bridges.

The next full lighting at WaterFire occurs this Saturday, July 23, 2016. And the koi will “swim” again on August 20.

For a look back at my visit to the Providence-area garden of Layanee DeMerchant, who blogs at Ledge & Gardens, 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

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Visiting Layanee’s ledge and garden in Rhode Island


Wherever I travel these days, I seem to know a garden blogger who lives there. That’s partly because I’ve been blogging and reading blogs for a decade and partly because I’ve gotten to know lots of bloggers in person through years of attending the annual Garden Bloggers Fling. (I just got home from the Minneapolis Fling and will have posts about it soon.)


So a couple of weeks ago, when my daughter and I flew up to Providence, Rhode Island, to visit Brown University, I was excited to realize we’d be just a 40-minute drive from blogger Layanee DeMerchant’s home. Layanee’s been blogging at Ledge & Gardens for about 10 years, and I was thrilled to finally see her garden in person. Getting to meet her adorable granddaughter, Hailey, was a bonus! The occasion called for a silly photo, although Hailey wisely remained dignified.


And then there’s Gibbs. Gibbs! The biggest loverboy of a chocolate lab you’ve ever seen. He wanted to be in our laps every time we sat down and give us hugs every time we stood up. Who could resist that face? Not me.


Although I’d read about Layanee’s garden many times on her blog, its rural location somehow caught me by surprise. Layanee and her husband — “The Equipment Manager,” as she’s dubbed him — live out in the country on a gravel lane.


Surrounded by woods, with old fieldstone walls marking the property line…


…the garden is a burst of color and texture in a large clearing around their contemporary home. The eggplant-purple of the front door is repeated in a cast-stone leaf on the wall…


…and in containers and even a bowling ball set amid lush perennials.


A fun purple trio


Daisies and variegated Japanese forest grass


Daylilies and clematis


A swimming pool sits in the center of Layanee’s lawn, but you’d never know it was there at first glance. A wire fence surrounding the pool is layered with climbing vines and flowering perennials, making a colorful long border that leads your eye to a big barn and shed.


Daylily and coreopsis


‘Lucifer’ crocosmia


Another cast-stone leaf adorns the shed wall, where pink and red hollyhocks echo the upright lines of the battens.


Tissue-soft, pink-veined petals


At each end of the pool, a half-moon gate invites you to enter with a terracotta face planter wearing a hot-pink flowery crown.


The lady on one gate…


…and the gentleman on the other.


This potted yucca surprised me! Not what I expected to see in a New England garden. It would be at home in Austin.


Delphiniums, on the other hand, are exotic to these Southern eyes.


We can both grow daylilies though.


Verbena bonariensis too, although I expect it’s an annual for Layanee.


The butterflies had found it, of course.


I haven’t yet mentioned the moths. Rhode Island had experienced an unfortunate plague of gypsy moth caterpillars in June, and Layanee’s garden was hard-hit. The caterpillars stripped the trees bare, turning a summer vista into a strange pantomime of winter when you looked up.


Not even conifers were spared. Layanee had lost a few beautiful trees and shrubs.


By the time I visited in early July, the caterpillars had become moths, and the air at ground level danced with their fluttering wings. As we walked through the garden, the moths bumped into our heads and bodies.


We snatched a few out of the air and tossed them to the goldfish in Layanee’s pond, who snapped them up. It was small revenge for all the damage they’d inflicted on her garden. But she was philosophical about the losses, and already the first glimmers of new green leaves were appearing amid the branches.


It’s a testament to the variety and lushness of her garden that, had it not been for the stripped trees, I wouldn’t even have noticed the damage. As the gardener, she could probably see nothing else.


One of the things I love about Layanee is her wry sense of humor, and even a plague of gypsy moths can’t keep her down. We enjoyed a lovely long talk under the umbrella on her patio.


And homemade refreshments too: lemon bars and lemonade. Delicious!


Thank you, Layanee, for the delightful garden visit! I loved meeting your family and Gibbs and seeing the magical place you’ve created. And it was fun to see you again the following week at the Minneapolis Fling!

Up next: The magical WaterFire festival in downtown Providence.

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

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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