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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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.

Chanticleer’s eerie, mysterious Ruin Garden


Just before our picnic on the comfy stone sofa (no, really!), Diana and I explored the Ruin Garden at Chanticleer, a “pleasure garden” in Wayne, Pennsylvania.

The Ruin is a folly resembling an old, crumbling house that’s being overtaken by sapling trees, vines, and shrubs — the triumph of nature. But of course it’s all an illusion (the structure was built in 1999), enhanced with clever allusions. A ruined library with stone books entitled Woods, Thank Flora, and Moss reminds us of nature’s ultimate dominance. A dining hall is anchored by a water feature that evokes a banquet table and, disquietingly, a sarcophagus. Marble faces float just underwater in a small fountain, like drowned ghosts. It’s all a bit eerie, but in a magical, fairy-tale-forest sort of way.


Here’s the description from the garden’s website:

“Minder House, built in 1925, is where Adolph Rosengarten, Jr. lived most of his life. In 1999, under the vision and direction of Chanticleer’s Director Chris Woods, the house was razed and construction of the Ruin Garden began. Originally the plan was to use the partially dismantled house as the ruin, but for safety reasons the only part left of the original house is the foundation and the tile ‘rug.'”


Stepping inside, I entered the dining hall. A stone-and-slate mosaic “rug” lies beneath a watery banquet table…or is it a coffin?


A fireplace mantel at one end drips with succulents.


All that’s needed is ‘Sticks on Fire’ euphorbia in the fireplace grate.


The long view across the reflective table


Turning around, you see a room being swallowed by encroaching oaks, vines, ferns, and other opportunists. I wonder how much pruning the staff does to keep the space looking like it’s never been pruned, while still keeping the room somewhat open. Are sapling trees removed when they grow too large? I have questions.


An open window overlooks a sunny meadow.


On the opposite wall, a window frames a visitor strolling by.


It’s impossible to resist these framed views.


But the close-up views are pretty too, like this clematis climbing a stone pillar.


In the next room, a cluster of upright boxwood shrubs fill an open spot in the paving.


Snakebark maples (Acer davidii) sprout from two more paving gaps. At their feet and scattered around what seems to be an old library are stone books and tablets. Berkeley artist Marcia Donahue sculpted the stone artifacts throughout the Ruin.


Reminder reads one. Ex Libris, the other.


Woods — yes, soon


Fossils, Moss…and a curious, leafy face…


…looking right back!


One open book appears to be the story of an oak tree, with stone “acorns” pressed into the pages.


Another leafy face, with purple clematis scampering along the wall


Some engravings are more of a mystery, like Partial Polishment. Huh?


A small fireplace is tucked into one wall of the library, where Agave attenuata and other plants spring from crevices like living art.


A stone arch…


…leads out to a patio with more wall agaves and a tiered box planter filled with succulents.


‘Sharkskin’ agave, bulbine, aeonium, and other succulents fill the boxes, which appear to be made of slate.


A wider view


An old broken pot and metal stand are still serviceable as a succulent planter — a lesson in not throwing anything away.


A third room contains a small fountain and pool (in the corner). On two wooden posts, salvaged chains with buckets are planted with small succulents.


I bet those chains are heavy. Good thing they have sturdy posts on which to hang them.


Rusty metal and succulents are like peanut butter and chocolate. They’re made for each other.


The fountain draws your attention next.


Looking into the water, an unnerving sight…


…marble faces in the water. Smiling, seemingly in repose, they still kind of creep me out.


These two little girls took a good long look.


Just outside the wall, are those shambling ghosts, coming to visit their old home?


No, just weeping Norway spruces (Picea abies ‘Pendula’), but I feel sure they were chosen for their eerie, humanesque appearance.


A mass planting of prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis) softens one side of the Ruin.


At its edge, flame azalea, pond cypress, and ‘Dallas Blues’ switchgrass (I think) make a pretty combo.


A water fountain with a leaf-shaped basin continues the woodland theme of the Ruin.


On a pillow of prairie dropseed, a large sculpted head slumbers peacefully.


Zzzzzzzzzz


On the folly’s opposite side, a trio of straight-trunked pond cypresses (Taxodium distichum var. imbricatum) frames paving that breaks up into stepping stones as it leaves the Ruin. The path leads into Minder Woods, which I’ll show in my next and final post about this visit to Chanticleer.

Up Next: Chanticleer’s shady Minder Woods and a few parting scenes. For a look back at the gorgeous Gravel 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.
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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.

Read This: Hand-Built Outdoor Furniture


When the Death Star really starts blazing during the summer, we gardeners in the South and Southwest put down our shovels and trowels, do a little weeding or watering in the early morning hours, and mainly try to stay in the shade or a swimming hole until October. With planting madness on hold, you might find yourself with some extra time on your hands, so why not build a chaise longue, porch table, or planter box to enjoy in the garden?

Not handy, you say? You’re probably selling yourself short. I’m no carpenter and never took shop, but even I have built a few pieces of furniture over the years, including a potting table (still in use) and a coop-style toy cubby (now at my sister’s lake house), from simple plans found in magazines.


But forget tear-outs. A new book, Hand-Built Outdoor Furniture: 20 Step-by-Step Projects Anyone Can Build, will inspire you to break out the miter saw, drill, and sander. With an appealing mix of contemporary and traditional-style projects — you’ll find several types of chairs and tables as well as a trellis, obelisk, torchiere, birdhouse, swing, and planters — the book is clearly aimed at a female reader who may not feel at home in a workshop, and perhaps not even in the lumber aisle at Home Depot.


Connecticut-based woodworker and furniture designer Katie Jackson provides clearly worded instructions and step-by-step photos of each project, making them seem very do-able even if you don’t know a Phillips-head from a flat-head screwdriver.


The 20 projects — each one attractively photographed in a garden setting — are ordered from simplest to most complicated, so you can start small and build your confidence as you go or, if you have some experience, pick a project and jump right in. Helpfully, Jackson makes no assumptions that the reader knows how to operate the tools needed for each project, or even how to buy the materials. She devotes Part One to topics like “shopping confidently” for lumber (she confesses that she was once intimidated about going to a lumberyard alone), choosing boards, measuring for screw holes, and operating the tools.


The four projects pictured here, plus the orange chair on the book cover, are my favorites. Being a table and chair junkie, I don’t currently need any of these, but want is another matter. When I’m ready for something new, I may just dust off my saw and try my hand at one of these. Take a look and see if you aren’t inspired to build something too.

All photos by Ellen Blackmar, courtesy of Timber Press.

Disclosure: Timber Press sent me a copy of Hand-Built Outdoor Furniture for review. I reviewed it at my own discretion and without any compensation. This post, as with everything at Digging, is my own personal opinion.

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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