In a Vase on Monday

This post doesn’t strictly follow the rules, but I’m excited to have a contribution to In a Vase on Monday, a meme initiated by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden and popular among blogging friends.

Last week, I attended a workshop by Marty Van Allen, a renowned floral designer and 2009 winner of the Garden Club of America’s Katharine Thomas Cary Medal. After demonstrating various designs, Marty coached participants in making a “modern mass” arrangement. This type of design requires a plain, stout container and features blocks of color and texture, rather than a mix of stems.

My first "modern mass" arrangement.

My first “modern mass” arrangement.

Florist roses were provided, but participants were asked to bring an array of foliage and berries from their garden. Not knowing what would be required, I took clippings of nearly everything that was presentable! In the end, I used the foliage of cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior), folded and secured into a loop; pink lorepetalum (Loropetalum chinensis ‘Burgundy’); gold dust aucuba (Aucuba japonica ‘Variegata’); plus unripe, green berries of heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica).

Seen from above, the arrangement features florist roses along with foliage and berries from my garden.

Seen from above, the arrangement features florist roses along with foliage and berries from my garden.

Marty noted that no more than five types of color/texture blocks should be used and their shape should be amorphous. The goal is to create rhythm with movement of the eye from one group to the next.

In addition to the low, wide-rim vase used for the workshop, Marty also created a modern mass arrangement in a nearly round vessel with a (roughly) 5-inch diameter opening at top. With a little imagination, it’s easy to see this contemporary style of massing could be adapted to nearly any simply shaped, portly container.

The big takeaway, however, is the exciting knowledge that I can make arrangements with foliage from my shady garden along with summer’s hydrangeas and winter’s camellias, or a small addition from the florist shop.

Driveway? What Driveway?

Portland has been described as “a community dedicated to gardening; all shapes, sizes, and purposes,” so when I saw Jason’s post this morning on Gardeninacity, this space popped into my mind.

Repurposed space for a Portland garden.

Repurposed space for a Portland garden.

Though I couldn’t attend the 2014 Garden Blogger’s Fling, I visited Portland in 2008 for a Garden Writers Association meeting and was astounded by the many exuberant and creative home landscapes, some squeezed onto the tiniest lots. This garden in particular, which was just a few paces down the street from the featured tour garden, deserves a gold star — don’t you think?

Friends Old and New

On Tuesday morning, I had the opportunity to present a gardening program, Making the Most of Shade, at the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville, just a short 90-minute drive up the mountains west of Greenville. I always look forward to a visit to NCA, which offers superb education programs and exhibits in addition to its gardens and hiking trails. Plus, I can always count on discovering something new or exciting.

Salvia madrensis

Salvia madrensis

On Tuesday, I did both. Upon arrival, I immediately bumped into an old and much-missed friend, Forsythia sage (Salvia madrensis), which I grew in my previous garden. This very large and vigorous salvia is a late-bloomer that grows to mammoth proportions, reaching 5 to 8-feet tall and spreading roughly half as wide. In the Upstate, it begins to flower in late September and carries on until frost, but in lower Florida and other frost-free areas of the South, it blooms until spring. For those in the Piedmont who want to give it a try, the cultivar ‘Dunham’ is more hardy than the species.

Equally exciting was the warm welcome of a new and dear friend, Louisa, who traveled to Italy with me in June and surprised me by attending my program. It was a thrill to see Louisa again and a great comfort to have a friendly face with me in the classroom.

A Hedge Against Extinction

A Hedge Against Extinction

On departure, a stroll through the garden provided other pleasures. The Arboretum’s well-known sculpture, A Hedge Against Extinction, by artist Martin Webster, was graced with the pink, cloud-like blooms of muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris). And the quilt garden, a great favorite of every visitor, was near the peak of its autumn glory.

Lacinato kale (Brassica oleracea) with chrysanthemums and pansies.

Lacinato kale (Brassica oleracea) with chrysanthemums and pansies.

The North Carolina Arboretum's quilt garden, October 7, 2014.

The North Carolina Arboretum’s quilt garden, October 7, 2014.

Cheers, Liberty Bridge!

This afternoon at 2 o’clock, Greenville celebrates the 10th anniversary of Liberty Bridge, which today’s Greenville News calls “our postcard,” noting, “This is where men on bended knee make their marriage proposals, where teens squeeze in tight with smiles full of braces to frame their selfies, where business recruiters close on multimillion-dollar deals.” (Read the full article here.)

Liberty Bridge at Falls Park in downtown Greenville, South Carolina.

Liberty Bridge at Falls Park in downtown Greenville, South Carolina.

True, the structure is more than just a bridge. It’s given our community a broader vision of itself. It brings people together in new and exciting ways. And, it’s a memory maker for many who live here and countless who don’t.

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In fact, last weekend it brought smiles and cherished moments to some of those I love best.

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Thanks, Liberty Bridge! And happy birthday!

Fruit & Flowers

Earlier this summer I learned that all Cornus produce edible fruits and the most palatable are made by Cornus kousa. So when I returned home from Italy, I was sad to see the fruits on my Kousa dogwood had fallen before ripening. Luckily, other trees in the neighborhood faired better.

Cornus kousa with fruits.

Cornus kousa with fruits.

On this Asian species, the fruits of multiple flowers fuse into a single drupe resembling a large raspberry. Some say the flavor is like apricots, but when I gathered enough courage to taste one, I thought it was similar to mango — sweet with a creamy texture — though there were many seeds and a bit of grittiness.

Remove the outer skin before tasting the seed-filled pulp.

Remove the outer skin before tasting the seed-filled pulp.

Plants for a Future, a research and information center which focuses on sustainable horticulture, lists Cornus kousa as one of its top 20 plants. Not only tasty, like all other dogwood fruits it contains high levels of vitamin C, vitamin D, and beta-carotine, as well as antioxidants and anthocyanins.

While feeling brave, I decided to taste the fruit of Cornus florida too. However, the berries of this native tree have a bitter bite, so are better left to the birds.

Our native flowering dogwood, Cornus florida.

Our native flowering dogwood, Cornus florida.

The foliage on both flowering dogwoods in the front garden is beginning to turn, with the pink-flowering variety showing more color than the white species pictured above. Oddly, though the pink bloomed abundantly this year, it has no berries whatsoever.

First bloom of Camellia sasanqua 'Setsugekka'.

First bloom of Camellia sasanqua ‘Setsugekka’.

In the back garden, Camellia sasanqua ‘Setsugekka’ opened its first bloom this morning. The large, semi-double white flowers are accented with ruffled edges and a bright cluster of golden stamens. Nearby, a large Osmanthus x fortunei, commonly called Fortune’s osmanthus, perfumes the garden with a pungent, fruit-infused fragrance.

The tiny blooms of Osmanthus x fortunei have a wonderful perfume.

The tiny blooms of Osmanthus x fortunei have a wonderful perfume.

With three plants in flower in my shady plot (including the Hemiboea subcapitata featured Tuesday), I hardly know which way to look. Thank goodness the garden is finally on the upswing!