Q&A

How fun to be tagged with the Liebster Award, a gardener’s Q&A, by John at A Walk in the Garden.  If you like to read a variety of blogs, you’ll be interested to know John previously wrote a garden column and though he lives up the road a bit in Stallings, NC, he has ties to Greenville too.

How would you describe your gardening style?  In the garden, and life, I like order, so a symmetrical layout with carefully considered points of interest is the most pleasing to me personally.  I love plants, but I’m not a collector.  What’s important to me is how the garden reflects the best of each season and the natural progression of the year.  I favor plants that offer multiple seasons of interest with their flowers, fruits, foliage, and bark, but not those developed to rebloom contrary to their typical pattern.  That said, however, I like most garden styles and more than a handful of nearly worthless plants.

Previous garden, July 2008--View of the back garden from the house.  There was also a cottage garden around the front porch, a woodland garden, and a tiny vegetable plot which you can just spy in the left of this photo.

Previous garden, July 2008–View of the back garden from the house. There was also a cottage garden around the front porch, a woodland garden, and a tiny vegetable plot which you can just spy in the left of this photo.

What new plant have you been dreaming about planting this year?  I’m still looking for the plant that’s going to make me fall in love with shade.  My previous garden was groomed to be its best in autumn, which just isn’t going to happen in the shady space I have now.  But I’m making the effort to embrace spring, which is the shady garden’s big moment, and the many winter-bloomers which I already love.  Chloris at The Blooming Garden recently mentioned a shrub that caught my notice, Lonicera purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’, but I haven’t yet been able to find a source in the U.S.

What is the most important lesson you learned last year?  I couldn’t tell you what I learned yesterday, much less last year!  But I think the most important lessons to be gleaned from the garden are about patience, tenacity, and our part in the web of life.

Flowers or foliage?  Both; I favor flowers, especially those with perfume, but the shady garden dictates foliage.

Current garden, July 2013--The white flowers of hosta scent the secret garden with their perfume.

Current garden, July 2013–The white flowers of hosta scent the secret garden with their perfume.

What characterizes the ideal nursery/garden center/etc. as the best place to obtain plants?  Quality merchandise, knowledgeable and helpful staff, and creative display, in that order.

Potting soil: Buy or mix your own?  Buy, but I make a very satisfactory leaf mold.

How did your love of gardening begin?  I grew up on a farm and couldn’t wait to escape, which I did for more than a decade.  A hanging basket of red geraniums (Pelargonium), a birthday gift from my Aunt Jean, circled me back towards my agrarian roots and kindled a passion for ornamental gardening.

What training/classes have you attended to improve your gardening knowledge and skills?  I earned the distinction of Master Gardener in 1994 and Master Naturalist in 2007, but pass-along knowledge and practical experience top everything.  I absorb a lot through my writing too, and traveling to study gardens and garden history has broadened my views as well as my understanding.

What plants together produce your favorite color combination?  I like a narrow color scheme.  My favorite is what I think of as “silver and gold.”  Essentially, it’s white and yellow with small touches of blue for contrast and it depends on foliage as well as flowers.  Needless to say, I’m a big fan of single-color gardens, such as the purple border and the white garden at Sissinghurst.

Silver and gold at Bosvigo Garden near Truro in Cornwall, England.

Silver and gold at Bosvigo Garden near Truro in Cornwall, England.

What garden(s) is on your bucket list?  Lucky for me, I’m visiting several gardens on my bucket list this year—Gresgarth Hall, Arley Hall, Chatsworth, York Gate, and Scampston Walled Garden.  (Yes, I have a very long bucket list!)  The garden most yearned for and not yet on tap is Beth Chatto Gardens, but I’m angling towards an autumn visit.  I also want to visit Powis Castle and a handful of gardens in southern Wales, including Veddw House.  Gardens of the Netherlands and some in Japan are on the list.  Of the places I’ve seen, I would most like to revisit the gardens of northern Italy.  I won’t see all these places, I know, but it’s fun to dream.

What is your favorite winter plant?  My friend Margot once said, “Picking a favorite plant is like choosing a favorite child or dog, senseless and impossible when you love them all.”  For me, this holds true with winter plants—I truly do love them all.  Prunus mume is a stand out, of course, Edgeworthia chrysantha is so ridiculously easy to grow, Iris unguicularis reminds me of my grandmother who loved purple iris, and nothing beats the decorative show of Ilex verticillata and some other species of deciduous hollies.

Curbside display of Ilex verticillata at BB Barnes Garden Center in Arden, NC.

Curbside display of Ilex verticillata at BB Barnes Garden Center in Arden, NC.

19 thoughts on “Q&A

    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Debbi–That’s a hard question to answer. The previous garden had more of “me” in it…the design styles and plants that make me happy, especially ones I can’t grow now such as peonies and roses. But it was also a garden that required a lot of care, so in many ways I know I’m now in the right garden for this part of my life. Plus, it’s fun to discover what will grow in this steep, shady garden–natives like trilliums and terrestrial orchids. Often, I am oppressed by the shade, though, and wish I had even a tiny spot of sun. In autumn, I can’t wait for the leaves to come down so there is light. A shady garden adds a whole new dimension to winter!

      Reply
  1. Julie

    Marian, John has asked you some great questions and your answers are very interesting, your answer to question 3 made me laugh out loud – love your choices on your bucket list too.

    Reply
  2. Christina

    I loved reading your answers to John’s questions. For the Lonicera look for fragrantissima (it is almost the same as Midwinter Beauty but is generally more available. Beth Chatto’s garden is wonderful, I do hope you get the chance to visit. I loved the design of your old garden and understand your problems with your present shady garden, lovely though it is. Do you read Carolyn’s Shade Garden, she does have some great suggestions for plants for shade.

    Reply
  3. Marian St.Clair Post author

    Christina–Yes, I do read Carolyn’s blog, it’s a great resource. And I have grown the L. fragrantissima; it’s called Sweet Breath of Spring here by old timers, which is so poetic. Chloris says the purpusii is a bit tidier. I have my fingers crossed for a visit to Chatto’s in conjunction with an autumn tour. If I don’t make it then, it will just have to be my reason to visit England again in 2016.

    Reply
  4. johnvic8

    Thanks, Marian, for your response to my nomination. Your answers are insightful, interesting, informative, and entertaining. I am certainly not surprised, as I have enjoyed your blog so much. I am looking forward to hearing about/seeing the progress in your shade garden.

    Reply
  5. Helen Johnstone

    We have similar bucket lists and a desire for order.
    In relation to the winter honeysuckle I don’t think it is particular good the rest of the year, quite a dull shrub. Why not consider camellias, witch hazel, magnolias, Daphne’s. Then there are masses of bulbs but Erythroniums might be nice and of course you have epimediums and hellebores. I could go on there is so much choice

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Helen–You’re very encouraging. I do love camellias and witch hazels and have some here, but I definately need to look more closely at magnolias. I should try to find a place for a few daphnes too, though I’ve found them to be quite finicky with our heavy soil.

      Reply
  6. pbmgarden

    Enjoyable reading about your likes and dislikes and plans. I’m going to have to look up those gardens on your bucket list. Probably they should be on mine too. Is Edgeworthia really that easy to grow? I’ve only learned about it in the last two or three years so thought it must be exotic and difficult.

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Jean–I’ve been shortchanging the blog lately, it seems I’ve been sick forever and can’t seem to catch up with work, so it’s nice to finally get something posted that’s worth notice.

      Reply
  7. Marian St.Clair Post author

    Susie–Oh, don’t worry a bit; Edgeworthia is very easy, you just need plenty of room as it can grow to be very large. I have a friend who prunes hers, though, apparently with great success. The branches are sturdy and thick, like a fig, and the form is similar too.

    Reply
  8. mattb325

    Congratulations, on the blog award, it is certainly well deserved, and I enjoyed reading your answers…I am especially envious of your bucket list of gardens to visit 🙂

    Reply

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