There’s nothing like spending a weekend completely unplugged in the Catkills. For years, I spent many a weekend and holiday at my dear friend Austin’s contemporary log cabin on the slopes of Mt. Trempor in Willow, New York. And I like to think fondly of good garden friends in the area: Suzanne Warner Pierot and her astounding astilbe garden and Dean Riddle and his exuberant magic carpet ride of a garden in nearby Phoenicia. No visit to the area is complete without a stop at Craig Thompson’s Shandaken Bake and sampling his perfectly imperfect pies and pastries. A self-taught baker, Thompson began his career making lemon meringue pies based on the paintings of Wayne Thiebaud for the cafe at the Kemper Contemporary Museum in Kansas City. He moved to New York and worked with high-end event-planning companies before settling in the Catskills, where he founded his bakery, which features exquisite pies, cakes, pastries, and tea cakes that are hand-baked with the seasons using local fruits. Craig says he mainly makes within the market season. “I try to make things that are currently being grown,” he says. “That’s pretty much my philosophy, following the growing season.” Thanks to our photographer friends Steve Gross and Sue Daley, we’ve got a lovely story on Craig up our sleeve for a future issue of Country Gardens. In the meantime, here’s a sneak peak.
From our stash of cool locations that we’ve yet to feature in Country Gardens, one in particular caught my eye. It’s just north of San Diego in California, and features a cool shed and potting bench. When Juli Gillett bought the property with her husband Lance, they proceeded to replace the manicured lawn with garden beds, pathways, and seating areas. Today the garden features a host of perennials that have been selected by trial and error. Charming accents—like the tepee shown here—are sprinkled throughout. Here’s a sneak peek.
Last week I was fortunate enough to spend a couple of days at the Hotel del Coronado in the San Diego area, courtesy of the hotel and Proven Winners. The historic hotel, which fans of Marilyn Monroe will recognize as one of the settings for the movie ‘Some Like It Hot’, has recently undergone a landscape renovation featuring Proven Winners plants planted and maintained by the Brickman Group landscape maintenance firm.
The results are spectacular. Bold colors from annuals, perennials, and succulents in landscape beds, hanging baskets, and raised planters throughout the hotel grounds provide a welcome change from customary humdrum hotel landscapes consisting of sheared shrubs with a few token splashes of color.
The new gardens are an extension of the hotel’s original enclosed courtyard patio garden and existing sustainable vegetable and herb garden, which provided some of the delicious food we enjoyed at elegant dinners and receptions. Labels throughout the gardens identify the plants so that visitors can duplicate their favorite plant combinations in their own gardens.
You can see some a few of the plant combinations below. If more commercial landscapes and public spaces would follow the lead of the Hotel del Coronado, I believe that more homeowners would be inspired to upgrade their home landscapes and everyone would benefit from the greater beauty and diversity afforded by such plantings. As you can see from these photos, you can start small, and still pack a punch with a few well-placed plants.
You’ve been grilling for years. Humanity as a whole has been grilling for centuries. Next to baseball games and Chicago-style hot dogs, grilling is the number one American pastime.
So why has it taken us until the 21st century to really start enjoying our outdoor spaces with all the amenities of your kitchen? I’m talking outdoor kitchens folks. It’s time to get serious about grilling.
Imagine how enjoyable…and easy outdoor cooking would be when everything is right at your finger tips!
Connect the inside to the outside…
or create an open, airy floor plan…
or retreat to a secluded oasis.
Wherever you decide to cook, don’t forget to add touches of your own style.
And have a little fun with the landscape.
See more inspiring outdoor kitchens right here and let the creativity begin!
Consider pearl-bush (left), a relatively uncommon shrub that’s been around a long time. However, it’s recently been updated. This mid-spring bloomer begins with creamy white pearl-like buds which open to a spectacular show of pure white blooms. In addition to Snow Day Blizzard, which grows to 5 or 6 feet tall, Proven Winners ColorChoice shrubs also offers ‘Niagara’ Snow Day Surprise, which tops out at 3 to 4 feet tall, making it an excellent choice for smaller yards. Both grow in full sun to part shade in Zones 4-8. The shrubs that Proven Winners sent me to trial have performed beautifully. The flowering display that you see in the photo is after just one year in the ground.
Red-veined enkianthus (below) is more subtle in the spring landscape. Its pink bell-shape blooms sport red veins and hang in clusters. The shrub more than makes up for subdued spring color with fiery orange, red, and yellow fall foliage. Grow enkianthus in part shade to full sun in moist, well-drained, acidic soil. It is hardy in Zones 5-7. This shrub, which I received from Bailey Nurseries, is also in its first year.
June used to be strawberry season. It still is in much of the northern part of the country. After all, most strawberry varieties are called June-bearers. But consumers have grown accustomed to having strawberries available year round from warm-climate commercial fruit farms.
I have nothing against commercial fruit farms. I used to own and operate one, which included five acres of strawberries. But we didn’t ship the berries thousands of miles across the country. They all were harvested for local consumption. And the season ran only from early June through early July. Then, we had no more strawberries for the rest of the year, except ones from the freezer. As the strawberry season wound down, we shifted to raspberry harvest, then to apples.
It’s tough to beat the flavor of a locally-grown strawberry. My grandpa Schrock used to say, “God could have made a better berry than a strawberry, but He didn’t!” You can experience that delectable home-grown flavor by planting a few strawberries in your yard, or even in a strawberry jar on your patio or balcony.
Variety selection for strawberries is highly regionally dependent, so it’s worthwhile checking with local garden centers or your cooperative extension service to discover which types are recommended for your locale. One of my favorites for flavor (in the Upper Midwest) is Earliglow. In my own yard, I extend the strawberry season by also growing Tristar, a day neutral strawberry variety that produces a smaller harvest in June, but continues to bear throughout the summer. I also grow three types of raspberries, but because I no longer have acres to harvest, I can manage to pick strawberries AND raspberries in July!