Category: Garden

English Garden Tour 2015: Wyken Hall

Wyken Hall is an example of a working farm that has embraced agritourism by adding features such as a vineyard, award-winning restaurant, shops and farmer’s market. Owners Sir Kenneth and Lady Carlisle have transformed Wyken into a vibrant destination. It was interesting to see and gather inspiration for what we are doing at Moss Mountain Farm.

The garden at Wyken is open to the public Sunday through Friday, 2:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m., 4 pounds per person. Leaping Restaurant and Country Store are open daily for lunch and Friday and Saturday for dinner. Learn more at

The main entrance to Wyken Hall. The walls of this Elizabethan manor house are stucco with a pomegranate lime wash.

Formal elements in boxwood make a whimsical contribution to the front of Wyken Hall.

A chat path running behind Wyken Hall.

The gardens at Wyken were designed in the 1980s; relatively new compared to the farm and manor house. Designed to blend with the historic house, the gardens include a knot garden, herb garden, kitchen garden, wildflower meadow, nuttery and copper beech maze.

A proud peacock at Wyken.

Paths and arbors lead visitors through a myriad of garden rooms.

Loose perennials among the formal framework in the Hot Border.

A beautiful vista with a dark brahma as a focal point!

Pleached hedges define the various and intriguing garden rooms at Wyken.

Sheep sculptures punctuate the lawn.

A colonnade of clipped yews directs visitors to the next visual treat!

Herbs and boxwood are a classic combination with a sundial as the centerpiece.

Bright blue is a stunning accent color for the garden and the deep pomegranate stucco of the manor house. The purple flowering vine growing behind the bench is Solanum crispum.

Clipped boxwood in various forms define and punctuate this place in the garden.

A quiet place to sit and enjoy the beauty of Wyken.

Lady Carlisle grew up in Mississippi and her southern hospitality is evident when visiting Wyken.

Lady Carlisle and I enjoying a walk through the gardens.

The cast iron corn gates made from a New Orleans mold suggest Lady Carlisle’s southern roots.

Sir Kenneth and Lady Carlisle and I near a sheep paddock on the estate.

The Leaping Hare restaurant, located inside a restored barn, has received top awards for the food. It’s open 7 days a week for lunch and Friday and Saturday for dinner.

Beyond the house and gardens are informal landscapes: meadows, fields and a 7 acre vineyard. Glimpses of these relaxed spaces are revealed while walking through the garden.

The juxtaposition of the clipped and formal to the natural meadow is compelling.

Mown grass paths through the meadows make enchanting walks.

Four Innovative Tools for Raking Leaves

Much like death and taxes we can always count on autumn leaves and the annual backbreaking chore of collecting them with a rake and bag. I’ve decided that this is going to be the year that I get excited about raking leaves. How? Gadgetry of course. I’ve selected five tools to try out with the hope that one of them will make the job easier. Maybe you’d like to try one of these too?

True Temper Clog-Free Rake

It’s hard to beat a rake when it comes to gathering leaves. Even if you use a leaf blower, you still need a rake. My main frustration with rakes is the leaves get woven between the tines. This incarnation has tines that bend down 90 degrees and connect to make a V-shape. Because it’s made of poly instead of metal the tines won’t bend out of shape either. Reviews I’ve read say that the rake works well on leaves, twigs and pine needles. It’s available in 24-inch and 30-inch sizes.

Leaf Scoops from Gardex®

A thought that frequently crosses my mind while bagging leaves is “I wish I had giant dinner-plate-shaped hands.” Well, that wish is going to come true this year with the help of Gardex Leaf Scoops. The promise here is the ability to grab more leaves at one time without having the rely on the awkward rake and hand method. These will also be great for picking up thorny stems when I prune my roses in spring

Bag Butler®

This is a pretty simple concept that I’m hoping will make a big difference in how I bag leaves. The Bag Butler® is a piece of heavy duty plastic with side panels that fold flat when not in use. One slips a bag over the Bag Butler® and bends the side panels backwards so that the tension will cause them to stand open. I feel certain that there will be some finessing required to get the Bag Butler® set up, but I think it will be worth it because the plastic sleeve prevents twigs from ripping through the bag. You can also lay the leaf bag on its side to rake leaves right in.

Leaf Loader from Structured Solutions

This tool is a flexible disc that bends into a cannoli shape. Cover one end with a bag or yard waste bin, rake leaves onto the Leaf Loader then tip everything up and the leaves slide right into the bag or bin. An center strap adjusts to make the Leaf Loader as wide or narrow as you need. This looks like it would be an excellent tool for carrying leaves to the compost bin.

Follow the Proven Winner

How a Proven Winners® Plant Becomes an All-star.

Plants just like athletes have to go through rigorous trials before they can become a trophy winner. It takes a lot of work to get to a garden center shelf. So how does a plant evolve from bench warmer to starting line up? I spoke with my friends at Proven Winners®, the all-star team of the plant world, and they explained how their plants become winners.

The training starts in the tropics sometime in January by running prospects through meticulous tests to evaluate performance and disease resistance. Follow the process in this video we taped that shows plants going from tiny cuttings to the gorgeous flowers and foliage you purchase at the nursery.

Twelve Daffodil Varieties to Plant this Fall

If you are looking for the ideal garden flower, you can’t go wrong with daffodils. Once the bulbs are planted in the fall, they emerge and flower reliably each spring for many years with little care. Their cheery, bright blooms illuminate the landscape and announce that winter is over and warmer days are ahead. The deer don’t bother the plants and over time the bulbs multiply so you can transplant them around your garden or share them with friends and family. How’s that for ideal?

The “proper” or botanical name for the plant is Narcissus. But you may know them by one of their many their common names such as buttercup, jonquil and Lent lily. Most people recognize them by their familiar yellow and white trumpet shaped blooms, but they also come in a beautiful range of other colors, shapes and sizes. And by planting varieties that bloom at different times in the spring, (early, mid and late season), you can enjoy several weeks of continuous flowers.

Here is a list of daffodil’s I grow in my garden and you should too.

‘Winston Churchill’
Double flowering
Very fragrant

Small cup

‘Barrett Browning’
Small cup
Early to midseason
Good naturalizer

‘Ice Follies’
Large cup
Early to midseason
One of my all-time favorites.


‘Perfect Lady’
Early to midseason
Small cup

‘Pheasant Eye’
Narcissus poeticus recurves
Late season

Early season

Double flowering
Early to midseason

‘Rhijveld’s Early Sensation’

‘Yellow Cheerfulness’
Double flowering

Mid to late season

Nine Flowers for your Vegetable Garden

A vegetable garden without blooms is like a cocktail without a garnish. Flowers aren’t essential in a vegetable garden, but they sure make it better. From a practical stand point flowers work to attract pollinators and add the unexpected to your garden’s design. Plus by combining ornamentals and edibles you’ll maximize your available space.

If you want to mix and mingle vegetables and flowers with success remember, as with all bedfellows, to choose plants with the same growing requirements. Typically vegetables require at least 6 hours of sun each day. There are exceptions such as lettuce, parsley and spinach that will tolerate light shade. Vegetables also need well-draining soil and consistent moisture. There is a huge selection of blooming plants that like full sun as well and benefit from a similar watering routine as their edible companions but always check the plant tags to make sure.

Below are nine plants from my Proven Winners® Platinum Collection that will add the maraschino cherry and twist of lime to your vegetable garden.

‘Cat’s Meow’ Nepeta

Catmint is an excellent companion plant to help keep away flea beetles, aphids, Japanese beetles, squash bugs, ants, and weevils. I also place bowls of the dried blooms on the kitchen counter to deter ants. ‘Cat’s Meow’ will cover itself with blue flowers without much attention from you.
Perennial zones 3 – 8; full sun; upright habit; 17 to 20 inches tall.

Dark Knight™ Lobularia

This low growing plant is an excellent choice to use as edging or mix among salad greens. The fragrant, deep lavender flowers are favored by butterflies and honey bees.
Annual; full sun to partial shade; mounding; 4 to 6 inches.

Supertunia® Pretty Much Picasso® Petunia

Petunias are a helpful pest control plant that repel asparagus beetles, leafhoppers, aphids and tomato worms. These flowers are a delightful blend of hot pink and chartreuse – a real conversation starter.
Annual except in zones 10 and 11; full sun; trailing habit; 8 – 12 inches tall.

Senorita Rosalita® Cleome

This cleome is thornless with sterile flowers that don’t produce seeds, which means it won’t spread. The lavender pink blossoms are produced on upright stems. It’s a great plant for mixing with bold-leaved vegetables such as squash.
Annual except in zones 8 – 11; full sun; upright habit; 24 to 48 inches tall.

Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum® Petunia

These hearty petunias will produce mounds of bubblegum pink blooms even during periods of heat and drought. I like to plant them where they will spill over edges and into garden paths.
Annual; full sun; mounding habit; 16 to 24 inches tall.

Luscious® Bananarama Lantana

Butterflies and hummingbirds will gravitate to the clusters of yellow flowers. This is a great plant to take the attention off of a heat weary vegetable garden because it really kicks into high gear during hot weather.
Annual except in zones 10 – 11; full sun; mounding habit; 18 to 30 inches tall.

Supertunia® Black Cherry Petunia

Smoky red blooms shaped like a gramophone horn send out a clarion call to honey bees and other nectar seeking beneficials. The color is lovely when paired with purple basil.
Annual; full sun; mounding and trailing habit; 8 to 12 inches tall; trails to 24 inches.

Lo & Behold® ‘Lilac Chip’ Buddleia

The pollinators love the fragrant, lavender blooms that appear from spring until fall. ‘Lilac Chip’ is non-invasive so it won’t spread through your vegetable garden.
Shrub zones 5 – 9; full sun; mounding habit; 2 feet tall.

My Monet® Sunset Weigela

My Monet® has a compact habit (18 inches tall) that makes it perfect for edging vegetable beds or planting in a container. The foliage transforms from chartreuse to purple to sunset orange as the seasons change.
Shrub zones 5 – 8; full sun; mounding habit; 12 to 18 inches tall.

Revolutionary Roses

Do you shy away from rose bushes because of their fussy reputation? Well, get ready to revise your thinking. New varieties are easier than ever to grow while retaining the classic qualities that we love some much about these beautiful blooms.

I asked Kristen Smith, New Plants Coordinator at Star Roses and Plants, about their updated rose varieties and what we can look forward to in 2015.

What is a top trend in rose gardening this year?

Gardeners are looking for roses which will work and perform in containers these days. More and more consumers are gardening in limited space and don’t have the time available in their busy schedules to commit to building and maintaining garden beds for roses.

Gardeners are interested in plants that are disease resistant, easy to grow and abundant. How are these characteristics expressed in new rose introductions?

Our new roses receive at least three years of testing under no spray locations on both coasts. This style of testing simply allows us to select for those varieties which are more disease resistant. Newer introductions are being released each year which have been tested extensively for resistance to disease, vigor, and repeat bloom. These are all characteristics which make a variety easy to grow and enjoy. The leader of the pack in disease resistance today is still The Knock Out® Rose which is exceptionally resistant to black spot and powdery mildew. It also repeat blooms from spring through fall.

Drift® Roses are what I call double duty plants. They are wonderful for filling space, but the blooms are delightful too. What’s your favorite design idea for these roses?

My favorite design idea for the Drift® Roses is using them in a cottage garden style. They tuck in nicely with other bulbs, perennial and woody plants and can be used reliably for color effect throughout the season while many other perennials may only bloom once and fade.

Coral Drift®

What 2015 introductions are you excited about?

The Peachy Keen™ Rose and The Icecap™ Rose are two really good new introductions for 2015. They were trialed for two years in trial gardens all around the country and were the top performers in a class of potential introductions that were trialed alongside of them. Peachy Keen™ has pretty soft pastel blooms that are enhanced and made more interesting with a yellow center. The Icecap™ Rose has white blooms and an excellent bushy and rounded habit. These two are sure to be very easy to care for and reliable in the garden.

Icecap™ Rose

It’s exciting to see breeders creating roses that are easy-care and adaptable so that gardeners can grow roses without all the fuss. What are your top three rose care tips?

My first suggestion, which isn’t really a care tip, but important nonetheless is to make sure that your rose gets planted in a site with at least 6 hours of full sun per day. Sighting your rose properly will be important for overall quality, health, and flowering of the rose over the long term. Second would be making sure that watering needs are met for at least the first 30 days after planting. Keeping an eye on watering during the first year of planting will help establish the rose in its new location making for a rose that will need little to no supplemental water in years to come. Lastly, I would advise on pruning back the rose by 2/3 once in late winter. This will help rejuvenate the rose, eliminate any dead wood left over from the winter, and improve the overall shape and vigor of your rose.

Peachy Keen™ Rose

What’s your all-time favorite rose?

That is a really difficult question to answer, especially since new and improved varieties are being introduced every year. There is a new rose every year that becomes my favorite, until the following year. I would say that my favorite right now is the series of Drift® Roses. As a group, they are compact with good disease resistance and have a multitude of uses.

Pink Drift® at Moss Mountain Farn

Proven Winners® WaterWise™ Watering Kit

The thing that I love most about gardening is getting my hands in the soil, well almost. Actually I do love abundant beauty that flowers produce, but you know it’s that in between stuff that often gets in the way for a lot of us. Watering for instance. Keeping the soil consistently moist in containers is the key to success, which is why a use a drip irrigation kit. The one I like to use is from Proven Winners and it is so easy to assemble. It takes the work out of watering. With a single kit I can water up to ten potted plants.

Here is how easy it is to set up the Proven Winners WaterWise Container Irrigation Kit.

Attach the backflow prevent valve to your outdoor water faucet. Screw the faucet adapter onto the end of the valve.

Proven Winners WaterWise Watering Kit Fauce Adpater and Nozzle

Push the end of the ¼-inch tubing onto the nozzle of the faucet adapter. This will go on easier if you wet the nozzle first.

Proven Winners WaterWise Watering Kit Tubing Attached to the Backflow Valve and Nozzle

Run the tubing from the spigot to the base of your first container.

Cut the tubing and insert a barbed-tee, which is a little t-shaped piece. Insert the tubing onto the branch of the barbed-tee the points upward. Run the tubing up into the middle of the container and cut to size. Cap off the end of the tubing with a dripper.

Proven Winners WaterWise Watering Kit Dripper Plugs into the End of Tubing

Next insert the tubing onto the horizontal branch of the barbed-tee and extend it over to your next container. Repeat the process until you have all of your containers outfitted with drippers.

Proven Winners WaterWise Watering Kit Barded-Tee Splits the Line So You Can Water Multiple Pots

10 – 12-inch container = 1 dripper
14 – 20-inch container = 2 drippers
24-inch containers and larger = 3 drippers

The tubing is a neutral tan color that disappears among the plants, but you can further camouflage it by inserting it through the drain hole of an empty container before adding soil.

You Can Insert the Tubing Through the Drainage Hole

Depending on the weather and the size of the container you will probably water for one hour each day. Is it is really hot and dry or the container is extra larger you will need to increase the amount of time you water.

You can take all the work out of watering by purchasing a battery-operated water timer to add to the faucet. Now you won’t even have to think about watering.

Purchase a water timer to take all the work out of watering.

Click here to Purchase a Proven Winners WaterWise Container Watering Kit

Each Proven Winners WaterWise kit contains:

  • A 30-foot coil of high-quality tan-colored vinyl tubing
  • Ten 1/2 GPH pressure compensating drippers
  • Ten Barbed Tees (for use in attaching and extending vinyl tubing)
  • Three Barbed Crosses (for use in attaching and extending vinyl tubing)
  • Ten Nail Clamps (for positioning and holding vinyl tubing in place on wood decks or other wooden applications)
  • One Faucet Adapter
  • One Back Flow Prevention Valve
  • Ten Support Stakes (to attach and hold drippers or to train the tubing in place in landscape beds)

Four Fab Shrubs for Containers

Some of the most exciting developments in gardening are happening in the world of shrubs. Compact sizes, interesting foliage and gorgeous blooms are just a few of the innovations I’ve seen while out scouting garden shows and spring trials for plants to grow in my garden.

These new features have transformed shrubs from one-season-wonders and supporting players to flashy focal points in both flower beds and, thanks to small sizes, containers. These new colorful, easy-care shrubs are ideal for high maintenance and lazy gardeners alike. Take a look at four that I’ve chosen for my Proven Winners® Platinum Collection.

Sunny Anniversary™ Abelia (Abelia x grandiflora)

photo credit: Proven Winners

Fragrant pink flowers touched with pink and orange bloom from mid-summer through September.
Full sun to partial shade; zones 6a – 9b; 3 – 4 feet tall and wide; deciduous.


Sunny Anniversary™ Abelia (Filler), Angelface® Blue Angelonia (Thriller), Superbena® Royale Peachy Keen Verbena (Spiller)

Tiny Wine® Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolious)

photo credit: Proven WinnersThe smallest ninebark available to gardeners with an extra full form and refined foliage. Colorful bronze-maroon foliage all season and dainty flowers that appear up and down the stem in late spring.
Full sun; zones 3a – 7b; 3 – 4 feet tall and wide; deciduous.


Tiny Wine® Ninebark (Thriller), Colorblaze® Dipt in Wine Coleus (Filler), Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum Petunia (Spiller)

My Monet® ‘Sunset’ Weigela (Weigela florida)

photo credit: Proven Winners

A petite weigela with golden variegated foliage that turns to a gorgeous red in fall.

Full sun; zones 5a – 8b; 12 – 18 inches tall and wide; deciduous.


Superbells® Yellow Chiffon Calibrachoa (Spiller), Graceful Grasses® Red Riding Hood, My Monet® ‘Sunset’ Weigela (Filler), Dwarf Purple Fountain Grass (Thriller)

Lo & Behold® ‘Lilac Chip’ Butterfly Bush (Buddleia)

photo credit: Proven Winners

Soft lavender-pink flowers borne on a compact shrub from mid-summer until frost. This buddleia will repeat bloom without deadheading and does not produce seeds so it won’t spread.
Full sun; zones 5a – 9b; 18 – 24 inches tall and 24 – 30 inches wide; deciduous.


Lo & Behold® ‘Lilac Chip’ Butterfly Bush (Thriller), Snowstorm® Giant Snowflake® Bacopa (Spiller), Superbells® Lemon Slice Calibrachoa (Filler)

Five Edibles You Can Grow Indoors

Here we are smack dab in the middle of winter and I’m starting to miss walking to the vegetable garden, snips in hand, to gather ingredients for dinner. To tide me over until it’s time to plant spring crops I’m actually growing a few things indoors. I won’t be harvesting any tomatoes, but at least I can get my hands dirty and enjoy the satisfaction of adding a few fresh ingredients to my recipes.

Here are five edibles you can grow indoors this winter.

Edibles to Grow Indoors

  • Lemons and Limes
    Citrus won’t give you instant gratification, but you can enjoy the sweet scent of the blooms while you wait for the fruits. Look for a variety that is known to thrive indoors and produces year-round such as Meyer lemon or Bearss lime. Place the tree near a bright, southern or western facing window and away from sources of heat. Deep soak the soil every 5 to 7 days. Citrus prefer slightly acidic soil and high nitrogen fertilizer. Feed with a slow release fertilizer designed for citrus plants and follow the manufacturer’s directions.
  • Sprouts
    Soak seeds in water overnight. Drain, rinse and drain again. Place the seeds in a quart sized Mason jar. Cover the top with cheese cloth secured with a rubber band. Set the jar in a dark place propped at a slight angle. Rinse and drain the seeds with cold water twice a day for about 4 to 5 days, at which point you will have mature sprouts. Place the jar of sprouts in indirect light and they will green up. Rinse in cold water and store in the refrigerator.
  • Micro Greens
    Micro greens are the baby leaves of fast sprouting seeds such as lettuce, radish and basil. The leaves are harvested while still small. To grow micro greens sow the seeds in sterile potting soil, cover with about ¼ inch of soil and mist the soil daily to keep moist. Keep the seeds warm until they begin to sprout then move the container to a sunny window. Ideally the plants need 12 hours of light for healthy growth so a grow light might be required. Depending on the type of plant you grow you should have harvestable leaves in 14 to 30 days.
  • Garlic Greens
    Garlic greens are a great substitute for fresh chives or scallions. Pot up about 10 organic cloves (ne need to peel) in a 4-inch container. Place in a sunny window and water consistently. Harvest the leaves when they are about 8 inches tall. When the cloves stop sprouting toss them into the compost bin and pot up another 10 cloves.
  • Mushrooms
    Growing mushrooms is pretty easy when you start with a kit. Everything you need comes in the package and all you need to do is keep the growing medium moist. Heck, you don’t even have to take these mushroom growing kits from Peaceful Valley out of the box.