GEG Meeting Minutes: 20 September 2014
Location: Historic “Meadow Brook Farm,” home of Meg Spurlin
Topic: Garden Design with Meg Spurlin
Administrative notices: This is the last meeting of the GEG for the year 2014. Please “contact us” on the GEG website for suggestions and ideas for meetings and topics of interest.
At least 35-40 GEG members attended this meeting which some called the “Back to the Future Meeting” because so many long time members as well as newer and possibly future members were in attendance. The meeting began as Meg thanked the GEG for all the plants she has received over the years.
When planning your garden, consider the size and scale of your house in relation to your garden so that your planned beds will be in proper proportion to your home and not look askew. Use your hardscape to accent and compliment your garden; in Meg’s case she used brick sidewalks to hide or soften asphalt. When planning alleys and borders incorporate a focal point in the distance along the long axis to draw the eye along the length of the planting or walkway.
As you place your garden features and plantings, ask yourself the question, “Will I ever go here to enjoy this lovely spot?” With this in mind put your plants and flowers “where you live,” where you will pass them every day or see them frequently from your windows. Avoid wasting time installing beautiful plantings in obscure or seldom accessed recesses of your property.As we all get older consider planting in pots, they are mobile and can be placed near you, easily within reach and sight.
Another consideration for the long term is, “Don’t have more than you can take care of!” Look at your property and highlight vistas and focal points. Meg’s home was once a B&B, complete with ample parking. So her first challenging design dilemma was de-emphasizing a rather large, hard-angled square-to-octagonal-shaped asphalt parking lot located right in front of her home’s entrance. She softened the hard edges by removing the Rose of Sharon hedges which had accentuated the squareness. The lot was made into a more circular shape, which tricked the eye into thinking of this as a form of garden space in front of the entrance door and richly planted patio area.
When planning beds, consider the shape of the bed, the space it makes, and the hardscape or grass paths around the bed. Will the shape be circular or long and narrow? Always pay attention to the edges of the beds and how these shapes and edges compliment or detract from your house.
Soil must be amended if you expect your plants to grow and prosper. Meg found the soil adjacent to the old barnyard to be the most fertile on her property. This determined the placement of her vegetable garden, which was complete with small greenhouse, tomatoes, peppers, chard, red and bronze amaranth, beets, red wine-colored Celosia, some kind of low growing nepeta and Persicaria (among other things…).
Regarding moving plants: Yes they can all be moved. To transplant large woody plants: root prune in mid-late summer by cutting a large circle as deep as you can around the plant, leave the plant in that spot several months, and it will form ancillary root systems. Then transplant the plant in mid- to late Fall to its new location. Regarding moving bulbs: Here the problem is finding the plants in the Fall. By this time, the foliage has died down and you may not remember where the bulbs are hiding. Her advice was just to start digging.
To establish new beds in grassy locations, Meg uses clear plastic to kill off the grass. Into these spots she intends to “heel in” her transplanted plants to overwinter for Springtime planting into their final locations. Another option for new beds is to mow the grass extremely low and cover it with a thick layer (4 inches or more) of wood chips possibly from a passing Asplundh tree trimming truck. When planning new beds, concentrate FIRST on establishing the woody plants and shrubs to form the structure and backbone of your bed, and then fill in with your perennials and annuals.
Meg uses a deer attractant/shocking system to discourage deer from browsing certain garden areas. The system requires batteries and a deer bait attractant which when sniffed shocks that individual deer. Every deer who might browse your yard must experience the shock to be trained to avoid that area. for more info see Wireless Deer Fence.
Meg’s Plant Selections
- Sorbaria sorbifolia (false spira) for the ferny foliage – be warned this plant spreads
- Crepe Myrtle
- Chaste Tree
- Butterfly Bush (Buddleia)
- Winterberry (deciduous ilex)
- Koelreuteria (golden rain tree)
- hyacinth bean for foliage and flowers
- various hydrangea species – Panniculata Grandiflora (PG), Tardiva, Annibell, All Summer Beauty and I saw a few oak leaf hydrangeas as well. The PG flowers turn from white to a lovely dusty rose shade in the Fall.
- cranberry viburnum
- Clematis Montana
- Mandevilla and Diplandania (these are similar looking cold sensitive flowering vines)
- purple black leafed red dahlias (must be lifted in winter) including one called Bishop of Llandaff
- orange flowered Tithonia rotundifolia (Mexican sunflower)
- pale pink flowering Japanese anemone (perennial)
- thistle like purple/blue Echinops ritro
- white cosmos
- white cleome
- various shades of zinnias
- clematis montana
- clematis ruguchi