Small but Mighty-The (not so) Private Gardens of Buffalo

I’ve been very fortunate to have seen many private gardens in my life especially during my time as WA Chairman and later West Australian Co-ordinator of Australia’s Open Garden Scheme.

I just returned back home from the USA feeling very grateful indeed after 3 whole weeks of garden visiting-let’s call it, my American garden immersion-more on that later.

There is something very special about the people who open their private garden spaces so that others may share first hand the very personal interpretations and manipulation of nature particularly in an urban setting. There are so many reasons to lock ourselves away these days after hours spent behind desks in stressful jobs so many people travel back home after enduring a long commute, drive in the garage, pull down the roller door and flop into the sanctuary of home, locking the outside world out. Gardeners who share their gardens are the complete opposite, they throw open that garage door and say to the world “come on in and see what I have done”

As part of the recent Garden Writers conference, in Buffalo NY, my garden bestie AZ Plantlady and 350 or so other wonderful garden communicators, many of whom I feel so honoured to now call my friends, spent days exploring about 20 gardens which had opened the previous weekend for Buffalo Garden Walk at which more than 400 (!!) gardens were open in the Buffalo area.

The gardens we visited were mostly within walking distance of each other and ranged from tiny cottages in which the driveways had been converted to container garden spaces to larger homes with areas of lawn and garden borders.

Gardening in this part of the world is a short seasonal thing-while we garden all year round in Perth, these guys go hard at it for only about 4 months of the year due to the frosts and heavy layers of snow-white stuff that falls from the sky and covers the ground-you know what I mean, like the movie Frozen, yes that’s the stuff.

Jim Charlier is one of the members of GWA who also opens his Buffalo garden and I asked him about the gardening season in Buffalo and he has provided some insight into gardening in that part of the world, here’s what Jim had to say “We start in earnest about the second week of May. Our average last frost date is mid-May. Though we’re admiring our tulips and flowering shrubs in April. Adventurous gardeners start earlier. Crazy ones start from seed in the winter months. We garden pretty much through September and some of October – with seasonal mums, tulip bulb planting, and last call for planting trees and shrubs. Depends on weather, obviously. We don’t get a significant snowfall until December usually. Seems like that isn’t happening as much anymore and we don’t get significant snow until January. The plants need the snow cover, and it doesn’t seem as though the past few years that that has even been consistent. November through March is spent thinking about April through October.”

Here’s Jim’s garden… which I must confess is one of my all time favourite small gardens, such wonderful attention to detail and a vignette worth photographing at every turn

So, sit back and take a short walk through some of the other beautiful gardens in the cottage district of Buffalo. Do these inspire you to make some changes in your garden?

even the dog has a cute garden house

check out this bottle tree

when in Buffalo…you need a garden buffalo

 

Love this

Don’t you just want to cozy up in here with a cup of tea and a book?

Let’s talk about Pots

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In a rush of blood to the head, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, you hop in your car and drive to the nursery and you purchase a new plant for say $20 and you buy some potting mix and a pot-your total investment is say $60….it’s a nice pot…run with me on this.img_2011

Move forward five years and that pot is still sitting in the same spot, the plant is now pretty tired because the soil you purchased 5 years ago is devoid of any nutrients and apart from a splash of water every now and again has not really had much attention.

Imagine this if you will, your beau purchased a stunning bunch of fresh flowers for $60  for you on that same day…5 years later would you still be looking at that bunch wondering why they weren’t looking so hot?

Nothing lasts forever as they say……

Plants represent really good value when it comes to decorating your home both inside and out and there’s an opportunity for us to re-think the way we use containers around our gardens here in Perth.

Stunning succulents at the New York Botanic Garden

Stunning succulents at the New York Botanic Garden

Specimen Plants

Have you ever wanted to grow a plant that will not work in your garden because of the soil you have or the conditions would not support it? Then planting that plant into a container and being able to nurture it more than you would if it were in the ground is a great idea. You can make a stylish statement with a specimen plant. Blueberries work best in pots in Perth and if you are desperate for an Acer (Japanese maple) a pot in a shady spot is what you need to grow one in our hot part of the world.

Check out this Acer in a pot at Coach Vince Dooley's in Athens, Georgia

Check out this Acer in a pot at Coach Vince Dooley’s in Athens, Georgia

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Short on Space?

If you have a small garden then large pots into which you can plant many plants is the way to go. You don’t just have to plant one plant in a pot, try planting say three or four different things into one pot. How about a grass in the centre to give it height, something spilling over the edges,  and something filling the middle section? How about combining some edibles and flowers.

You can easily have more than one plant in a pot

You can easily have more than one plant in a pot

What a wonderful statement in the garden

What a wonderful statement in the garden

 

Seasons change why not your pots?

If you have pots or urns at your front door, they do not have to stay as they were planted in the beginning, consider changing them seasonally. Adding new annuals to an urn will really spruce up the main plant you have in that container.

Check out the colours in this container

Check out the Autumn colours in this container

Trendy Succulents

You probably remember going to visit Nanna and seeing some of the plants that you can find en trend now. Succulents are easy to look after, they require very little water and can be planted out into nearly any type of container, even an old china cup, a boot or any vessel with a hole in the bottom. The trick is not to over love these plants with too much water, water is the enemy for these treasures, treat ’em mean.

Cacti and Succulents in containers always look great

Cacti and Succulents in containers always look great these ones were spotted by me in New York

Add some Magic

One of the hottest trends in the USA right now is the Fairy Garden and I’m not talking just cheap, tacky $2 shop garden gnomes, though that’s available for sure. There are really stylish iron fairies and decorations for your pots, why not check out your local garden centre or gift shop and see what they have.  It’s going to be a hot trend  here before you know it too-be the first of your friends!img_2792

A touch of whimsy makes this container extraordinary

A touch of whimsy makes this container extraordinary

spot the fairy

Spot the fairy

Show ’em some love

If you have plants in containers they will need a little more care than something in the ground.

  • Top up the soil with some mature compost every now and again even just once a year should do it
  • Pop a tray underneath to keep the water at the root zone on hot days
  • Add some Liquid Fertiliser from time to time
  • Don’t overwater-try the finger test first-if the soil is moist-hold off on the water
  • Move them around if you need to-out of the hot sun in summer and into the sun in the winter

Container planting can be really rewarding, fun for kids too so, if you have a small space that needs a splash of colour (and yes green is a colour) get out there this weekend and pot away!

Carefully Clipped Containers

Carefully Clipped Containers

Grouping containers of the same colour together for maximum impact

Grouping containers of the same colour together for maximum impact