In the Garden: Teresa’s Haven

IMG_6893By Debra Knapke

In between light rain showers Michael and I visited Teresa’s garden. Nestled in a conservation area along the scenic Little Darby Creek, Teresa created a haven for wildlife and for herself and her family. Her design is a continuum: formal elements by the house; semi-formal beds further out, culminating in prairie areas by the road. Her gardens reflect not only the natural areas that were along the Little Darby before humans settled here, but also of the food and cutting gardens that came after.

in garden formal 7-9-15

The Midwest is experiencing a record-setting amount of rain for June and July, so Teresa’s gardens are lush. The long prairie areas that line the road are full of bloom as we move into high summer color.

in garden prairie long view 7-9-15We are greeted at the front door by one of Teresa’s many colorful containers. Her gardens are lovely contrasts of textural foliage punctuated by well-placed blooming plants and artful placements of garden accents.

In the garden begonia container 7-9-15 in garden container vignette 7-9-15

The vegetable-cutting garden is perfectly placed within easy access to Teresa’s workroom. The mass of crocosmia that you see below provided the flowers for a simple arrangement in the kitchen. The garden itself is an interesting interpretation a four-square design. Instead of opting for the traditional, Teresa created a more modern zig-zag design.

We can’t always control where our plants will roam. A volunteer pumpkin has escaped and entwined with butterflyweed. On the other side of the garden, Teresa purposely inter-planted potatoes with asparagus, purple coneflower and kiwi. The sacred Datura (right image; lower left) self-seeds as it will.

in garden escaping pumpkin 7-9-15 in garden intermingling 7-9-15

Onto the prairie – A personal favorite is false sunflower (Heliopsis sp.) which has spread along one portion of the prairie area. A close-up of another section reveals the intermingling of other prairie species. The patterns ebb and flow over the years depending on environmental conditions. Because of the rain, there were fewer pollinators present, but I have visited on a sunny day and the prairie was buzzing with a myriad of insects. The goldfinches are already harvesting the purple coneflowers.

in garden prairie vignette 7-9-15 in garden prairie heliopsis 7-9-15

Next stop: visiting Teresa’s woods. Her son Mark installed a zip line and built a small treehouse and has made this part of the yard his own. We decided not to venture into this natural area because the mosquitoes were – quite literally – out for our blood! It was easier to avoid them by staying out in the open, breezy areas.

in garden Marks woods 7-9-15

Just off the woods is the backyard terrace area where texture rules. In the lower area, we visited “the girls”. They often roam with Teresa as she works in the garden. I’m thinking how this might be a good addition to my own garden. Where else do you find an insecticide (insects are one of their favorite foods), a fertilizer, a tractor and a food provider wrapped up in one attractive package?


in garden back walkway 7-9-15

in garden the girls 7-9-15

Coming out of the backyard into a semi-formal woodland garden, the rain started again. Time to say goodbye, accept some beautiful eggs, go home and bake.

in garden T and M 7-9-15 resize

Wishing you beautiful moments in a garden…


Lily Fest: July 10-12

Travelogue: Lily Fest 2015

By Debra Knapke and Teresa Woodard

Debra’s observations:

Undaunted, Teresa negotiated Little Cola Road, a narrow road that was purported to be a two lane road on the last leg of our trip to Lily Fest 2015 near Logan in Ohio’s scenic Appalachia country. Fortunately, most cars were going to Lily Fest, so we had few passing encounters. When we left, we had many more passing encounters. I’m not fond of tiny cars, but I would have greatly appreciated being in a Smart car!

After parking, we walked down the path with our guide Sheri Quick. Sheri not only led us to Lily Fest, but she introduced us to Bobbi Bishop. She and her late husband Bruce started Lily Fest in 1992 as a small event to show off their gardens. Bruce’s spirit still guides the festival, and his gardens are an inspiration to Midwest gardeners.

So, what did I find exciting?

Daylilies of every kind! My current favorite type is the spider form. Below is a spider-form daylily peeking through the leaves of a variegated giant reed grass (Arundo donax ‘Variegata’)IMG_6854


The gardens are a tapestry of green punctuated by blooms and varied-colored leaves. The bursts of color are balanced by the calming textural contrasts as evidenced below.IMG_2696 resize crop


The art! Artful pieces are scattered throughout the garden. Below is a simple composition of shovels upended in the garden and painted. It is a subtle installation.IMG_2700 crop resize


Many of the artists represented in the gardens were present in the booths that lined several pathways. I recognized some crafts people from other shows, but was happy to discover new adornments and ideas for the garden.IMG_2695 crop resize


At the end of our visit, we passed one of the ponds. Visitors were sitting on benches and listening to the soulful flute music of Mark Thunderwalker Camden while viewing this rhapsody in pink: lotus, flamingos and a dusky Japanese maple.IMG_2709 crop resize


Oh, I did find some chocolate, which is a must at any festival.IMG_6870


Teresa’s observations:

At Lily Fest, there’s a wonderful sense of community from the volunteers that helped us park cars to the greeters at the front gate to all the gardeners that volunteered for weeks prior to make the grounds so lovely.

IMG_6868Like Deb, I also appreciated the selection of juried artists including many with lily-inspired pieces — lily glass sculptures, lily stone statues and lily ironwork. IMG_6873

Lily Fest is also filled with plenty of garden whimsy from these kitschy garden pants to this charming cottage.

And, of course, we came to see the lilies!

Visit Lily Fest this weekend or check out these other upcoming Midwestern flower festivals:



Happy 4th of July


Rainy Days in the Garden

IMG_0165By Michael Leach

Rain is one of a garden’s greatest allies. But too much of a good thing, becomes tiresome. In my part of the Midwest, we’ve been having a rainy, dreary summer.The result is weeds and mosquitoes going berserk and al fresco activities canceled with scant notice. All too often, we remain inside, looking out through rain drops trickling slowly down window panes. 

Yet raindrops add a unique look to plants. So hoist an umbrella, kick off your shoes and prepare for a fresh perspective when “pennies from heaven” start to fall.

Hostas look fine no matter the weather, and a spangled woodland poppy enlivens the scene. 

Woodland poppy


Roses sparkle after a rain.rose






Waterlilies get into the act, too.



Drought-tolerant succulents assume a different look.



Downpours bent the stems of a couple of over-loaded lilies. No matter. They became an opulent bouquet and brought a whiff of the garden indoors.





What is the last flower of spring?

lemon lilyBy Michael Leach

Poets and gardeners lament the last rose of summer. Even the horticulturally oblivious recognize the wistful symbolism of that flower.

But what of the last flower of spring? Who weeps for it?

Probably no one. But this lack of concern has nothing to do with callousness.

When spring finally becomes summer’s kaleidoscope of color, who cares about a single flower? For that matter, who can define the last flower of spring? Each garden has a unique plant population.

Then there’s the matter of defining the end of spring, a season that pays no attention to the grid of dates on the calendar we use to conveniently, if inaccurately, pinpoint its coming and going. People also “date” spring differently. Memorial Day marks spring’s passing for me, but the start of the school system’s summer vacation or an annual fishing trip marks the end of spring for others.

The last flower of spring could be a rose. Heritage roses, those flowers of legend, romance and centuries of garden use, tend to bloom with late spring flowers.

For me, the last flower of spring is a venerable  lemon lily. Perhaps the lemon-colored blooms or the citrus-like fragrance, that evokes spring in Florida’s orange country, inspired the common name.

This small day lily came from some ancestor’s garden ages past, along with peonies and garden phlox. My childhood memories have it blooming about the time of the late peonies, but memory is apparently faulty. The last peony had faded when the lemon lily began to perfume the air.

While I can’t give proper credit to its family source or common name (much less its botanical moniker), I can thank garden writer Diana Lockwood for keeping this charmer going.


She received hers as a passalong plant from my garden a few years ago. Eventually the mother plant vanished, as sometimes happens to the demure in my rather too effusive planting  style. When she learned of my loss, a start was provided. This spring it produced several flowers.


Lemon lily grows in substantial shade, receiving only four hours or so of direct sun daily. Once my plant grows a bit larger, a division will be placed in a brighter spot.


Meanwhile, another year must pass before the air is perfumed with little lemon lily blooms. Fortunately, an abundance of summer and fall flowers lies ahead making this symbolic end of spring easier to bear than that of summer.


Knapke Garden Tour



By Teresa Woodard

Our fellow blogger Debra Knapke recently invited Michael IMG_6316and me for a tour of her lovely 2/3 acre in northwest Columbus where she’s gardened for 31 years. As a horticulture teacher, author and lecturer, this “Garden Sage” uses her garden in so many ways. She trials new plants, teaches plant ID to horticulture students, experiments with various gardening techniques, explores nature with her grandchildren and finds much peace tending her treasure trove of plants.

Can you tell we loved the garden??? Let us count the ways:

#10 Twenty-five hostas ranging from miniature ‘Popo’ to 3-foot ‘Sagae’

#9 Multiple pots of succulents — haworthia, aloe, agave, gasteria, Senecio rowleyanus (string of pearls), opuntia (variegated prickly pear cactus)

#8 A kaleidoscope of heucheras and heucherellas from a new hybrid ‘Berry Timeless’ to an old-time favorite ‘Frosted Violet’

#7 A bounty of Japanese maples and conifers like firs, larch, weeping blue spruce and false cypress

#6 A gallery of sculpture — even an iron sun that she welded with husband Tony

#5 A bounty of edible treats from alpine strawberries and blueberries to peas, tomatoes and an assortment of greens

#4 Collections of herbs, including sage (for the Garden Sage), lavender (her horticulture thesis plant), 15 thymes, parsley, rosemary and multiple mints

#3 Dozens of natives and wildlife favorites — spring ephemerals, bottlebrush buckeye, cup plant, monarda, pawpaws, little bluestem and more

#2 Lilies for granddaughter Lily

#1 One-of-a-kind treasures

Thanks, Debra, for sharing your wonderful plant collections with us!!!



Summer Nature Reads: One Light, One Medium, One Heavy


By Debra Knapke

After I’ve worked in the garden, I like to brew a cup of tea and sit and read. Depending on my mood, I choose fiction or non-fiction. In the non-fiction world I see books as being light, medium or heavy “reads”.

Big Bad Book of BotanyFor the light read, pick up the The Big, Bad Book of Botany by Michael Largo. This is a selective encyclopedia of plants that define the plant kingdom. While there are some similarities with Amy Stewart’s Wicked Plants – many of the plants have poisonous attributes, there is more about how plants have evolved to carry on the business of surviving in all types of environments. I found myself flipping through the book to my favorite plants, like lavender, and then searching out plants that were new to me. I was amazed to learn that rattan, which I think of as a component of outdoor furniture, has been developed into a bone substitute that is not rejected by the human body.

One little nit-picky point: fungi are included, and technically, they are not plants as they reside in their own kingdom. But, the illustrations are intriguing, and Largo’s writing style is easy to digest.

For a medium read and for inspiration, check out Deep-Rooted Wisdom: Skills and Stories from Generations of Gardeners by Augustus Jenkins Farmer or “Jenks”. The table of contents exemplifies what this book is offering: Deep Rooted WisdomBuilding Fertile Soils: Encouraging a Healthy Web of Life, Stop the Tilling Cycle: Harnessing the Natural Powers of Worms and Mushrooms, Saving Seeds: Treasuring Heirlooms for Genetics and Nutrients and more. I started with the last chapter first: Finding the Spirit: Telling Stories through Your Garden. In my own garden, I am greeted by stories every time I am in it, and I was curious to see Jenks’ interpretation of this essential part of the garden.

Each chapter showcases two teachers who explain their techniques and where they learned them. Jenks then explains how that wisdom is expressed on his organic farm and nursery. I am not done with this book as it takes time for each chapter to settle into my own gardening philosophy. The pictures are gorgeous, and the text is poetry.

And, now for the heavy read: The Age of Sustainable Development by Jeffrey D. Sachs. I am half-way through… whew.

Age of Sustainable DevIf you want to understand the opportunities and threats to sustainable development from a worldwide perspective, this is the book you need to read. For instance, a nation has an advantage if it has coastal areas, access to freshwater, good medical care, benevolent weather and energy resources. A nation will be disadvantaged, if it is landlocked, water stressed, has a heavy disease burden (e.g. malaria), has natural hazards (e.g. earthquakes, typhoons) and has a lack of energy resources. The maps and charts are an excellent addition to the text. Without them, I’m not sure I would be able to navigate this tome.

The first two books are more personal or local in nature, while the last book offers a global view. This falls right in line with the phrase: Think globally, act locally. Isn’t that what all gardeners do?

‘Wishing you beautiful days in nature…

16 Midwest Garden Tour Favorites

Check out this season’s garden tours for a bounty of inspiration.

By Teresa Woodard

This summer, garden gates across the Midwest will open to welcome guests for tours.  In search of inspiration, I attend several tours and walk away with a list of ideas and renewed motivation to spruce up my own garden.  Here are several don’t-miss tours.

What’s your favorite garden tour?

Memorial Day bouquets

patriotic peony

For Memorial Day weekend, we’re reposting this 2013 essay by Michael Leach. We thank those who serve and continue to serve our country.  

I wonder how many people take family heirlooms to the cemetery on Memorial Day? These are blossoms from plants handed down from one generation to the next. Most gardens have such plants. Felder Rushing, a Mississippi gardener and writer, calls them pass-alongs.

Weather permitting, peonies were always among the Memorial Day bouquets for my family. At the family home place where I live, all of them came from my grandparents or great-grandparents. They readily shared these cast-iron standards along with garden phlox and iris, plants growing in my garden today.

Maybe that’s why I never feel lonely as I garden in blessed solitude. Memories return with the fragrance of the masses of sweet violets that grew so thickly around Auntie’s back door they perfumed the air and took away my breath. Dreams of tropical places enchanted me as a child, and so I was attracted to Grandpa’s yucca. I suppose the spiky leaves resembled some type of palm to a 10-year-old boy. I had to grow much taller before I could smell the sweetness of their satin white flowers, a much-anticipated annual event.

Unlike the yuccas, the peonies are slowly declining. Ever-increasing shade, a boon and bane, has nearly eliminated most of the 60 or so plants of perhaps a half-dozen varieties that graced beds and borders. I suppose no one needs that many reminders of long-gone contributors.

Besides these family treasures, my garden grows memories of other gardeners who shared columbines, brunneras, roses, wildflowers and day lilies. Even indoors heirlooms whisper old tales. My great-grandmother’s sprawling Christmas cactus blooms every year, usually starting in January. Such a lapse can be forgiven a grand dame who may be 100 or so.

Unlike funeral flowers, such plants make me smile. Perhaps because I remember the donors in their gardening years, active, yet at peace, working in their little Edens.

Garden Tour: Diana Lockwood’s Woodland Garden

By Teresa Woodard

Spring is at its peak in Columbus Dispatch garden writer Diana Lockwood’s woodland garden, and, lucky for us bloggers, we had the opportunity to tour it last week.  Here are some highlights from our visit.

A front yard chock full of spring bulbs like tulips, daffodils and snake’s head lilies and plenty of woodland wildflowers including Virginia bluebells, spring beauty, anemone, Jack-in-the-pulpit, wood poppies and trillium.

Hellebores and daffodils

Hellebores and yellow violets


Pheasant's eye daffodils and Japanese maple

Pheasant’s eye daffodils and Japanese maple

Snake's head lilies

Snake’s head lilies


Diana’s husband Steve Stephens created boardwalk paths throughout the garden.

Jack-in-the pulpit

Jack-in-the pulpit

Garden seating area

Garden seating area

Backyard water feature

Backyard water feature

Debra helps pull invasive honeysuckle

Debra helps pull invasive honeysuckle

Michael stands in wetlands area home to skunk cabbage and salamanders.

Michael stands in wetlands area home to skunk cabbage and salamanders.


A hillside of Virginia bluebells



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