There is no garden that I would consider ‘great’ that hasn’t been finished off with fine garden ornament and no company I know of that produces a more refined or higher quality product than Longshadow Planters.  I have the great fortune to have become friends with the owners of this exquisite company, Daniel and Charlotte Ward.  I am planning a visit soon to go and see their products in production and to get a better feel for some of their designs that I haven’t used yet.  As a teaser Daniel sent me some pictures of their site and facilities that are fabulous and need to be seen by all of you.  I can’t wait to visit and share more pictures with you when I get back.


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Filed under Garden Ornament

Noteworthy introductions for 2010

Every year growers and propagators introduce hundreds of new plants to the trade.  A lot of us have a hard time thinking that our favorite Geranium or Hydrangea could be improved upon; but they can.  Here is a look at six of this years’ introductions that are worth thinking about installing in your own garden this year, and maybe even removing an old favorite to see what the new guys can do.

Echinacea purpurea ‘Milkshake’ – Milkshake Double White Coneflower

This is an amazing new Coneflower introduced by AB Cultivars.  The beauty of this plant, aside from its interesting white pompom shaped blooms, is how long they last.  While most Echinacea bloom July through the end of August ‘Milkshake’ starts showing color at the beginning of June all the way through September.

Height/Spread:  30-36” x 24-36”

Exposure: Full sun

Soil:  Average well drained garden soil

Hardiness zones: 5-9

Mahonia eurybracteata ‘Soft Caress’ – Soft Caress Mahonia

This is an amazing plant!  I saw the original plant two years ago and have been waiting for Novalis to introduce it.  If you are familiar with the ‘Oregon Grape Holly’ you may have a hard time believing these two are cousins by looking at the foliage of ‘Soft Caress’.  This native of Japan gets covered in a similar cluster of yellow flowers in early winter.  Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’ is marginally hardy for us but is a fantastic container plant that can be taken in during the winter or allowed to come back from its rootstock every year as a low groundcover.  I’m very excited to plant this in my trial gardens.

Height/Spread:  3’x3’

Exposure: Part shade

Soil:  Moist but well drained

Hardiness zones: 7-11

Acer palmatum ‘Ryusen’ – Ryusen Japanese Maple

Acer p. ‘Ryusen’ is an introduction from plantsman Ozzie Johnson for Itsaul Plants and is being distributed by Novalis.  Ryusen has green palmate leaves and is a weeping form.  It has a very rapid, upright growth habit that makes it perfect for narrow spaces.  The best part of this Japanese Maple is its amazing bright yellow and orange fall color.

Height/Spread:  10-12’ h

Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

Soil:  Moist but well drained

Hardiness zones: 5-8

Colocasia ‘Mojito’ – Mojito Elephant Ear

If you like to plant your containers with tropicals then this is the plant on the list for you.  This new introduction of Elephant Ear from Hort Couture is sure to have an impact.  ‘Mojito’ has dark purple leaves mixed with chartreuse.  The stems are also brightly streaked.  This is a great new clumping introduction of Elephant Ear whose bulbs can be over wintered or simply treated as an annual.

Height/Spread:  36”

Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

Soil:  Moist but well drained

Hardiness zones:  Hardy to zone 8

Paeonia x ‘Kopper Kettle’ – Kopper Kettle Itoh Peony

Image provided by Monrovia Growers

I adore Peonies and the new Itoh series from Monrovia Growers may cause me to love them even more.  Kopper Kettle has large semi-double blooms that are copper-orange with a darker center and occasional yellow streaks.  This vigorous plant has such sturdy stems that it doesn’t require staking.  Look for all eight of the Peony introductions in this series, they are all amazing!

Height/Spread:  30” x 42”

Exposure: Full sun

Soil:  Needs weekly watering but well drained soil

Hardiness zones:  4-8

Hydrangea paniculataRenhy’ – Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea

There have been so many new introductions of hydrangeas in the last few years it is hard to keep them straight much less decide whether we need this many options.  This one has really caught my attention though.  This hydrangea paniculata’s enormous blooms start out a creamy vanilla-white, changing to a soft pink and finally to a ripe strawberry-red. The color lasts for three to four weeks, longer than most hydrangeas of this variety.  The new blooms keep coming and showing off throughout the summer and early fall.  It has a very upright habit with large cone-shaped flowers.  This would be a great addition to a mixed border and I think you will see this plant become very popular.

Height/Spread:  6-7’ x 4-5’

Exposure: Full sun

Soil: Loamy, moist well drained soil

Hardiness zones:  4-8


Filed under New Plants

giardini la mortella

Russell Page has been a huge influence on my work and the way that I approach a garden.  If you have not read his classic The Education of a Gardener it is a must for any aspiring garden designer.  I cam across this wonderful video of one of his garden il giardini la mortella.  I hope you enjoy it:


Filed under Russell Page

Isola Bella for Sophisticated Living

This is an article I wrote for the publication Sophisticated Living on the wonderful garden in Lago Maggiore, Italy, Isola Bella.  I want to thank my beautiful wife Shannon and my dear friend Bill Jamieson for the all of their help with grammar and prose.  Clicking on the pages will enlarge them to a readable size.


Filed under Articles


I love working with wrought iron on my projects.  It is such an ancient art that has been lost in many areas.  You can always find someone that can make a basic fence or gate for you but to really find someone that knows how to work with iron is getting harder and harder.  I am fortunate to have two different amazing craftsmen in Lexington, one is a self taught sculptor and the other has extensively studied ironwork and blacksmithing.  They have both produced some amazing work for me.  Here are some examples of work they have done for me on a few projects over the last few years.

I am allowing the gate and fence in these next two pictures rust on purpose.  I feel like this lends a more organic feel to something that it very structural.  Once it get the right patina we seal it with a clear coat which slows the rusting down.  Remember though, rust never sleeps and it will eventually destroy this fence but for the life of the garden it should be just fine.  If you want to achieve this effect more quickly you can treat the iron with Ferric Nitrate.


Filed under Wrought Iron

Pruning art

I found this on Jake Hobson’s blog and have been holding onto it for a little while.  Jake says “this is the most amazing yew tree I have ever seen”, and I would have to agree with him.  This tree is pruned once a year by an 82 year old who sets aside most of the month of August for the task.  This is absolutely amazing!!

If pruning is you’re idea of fun then check out Jake’s webpage to find the finest pruning tools and ladders available.


Filed under Pruning, Topiary

Plants are cool and Anthropologie aims to prove it

It’s official, horticulture is chic!  I just saw the new edition of Anthropologie’s March catalog and most of the catalog was shot either in greenhouses or in a jungle or garden setting.  Its got to be nice to have a massive budget to stock a greenhouse with whatever you want for a photo shoot.  Row upon row of orchids and great detail work in the benches and lath work.  I also love to see these old greenhouses looking so good; I have 4 cypress greenhouses from the 1940’s on my property that need serious attention and seeing these pictures gives me hope.  I’m sure that the photo shoot has nothing to do with subliminal messaging to get people into their garden center concept store Terrain.

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Filed under Greenhouses, Terrain at Styers