Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Krohn Conservatory

The Krohn Conservatory, located in Cincinnati, Ohio in the Eden Park area, is one of my favorite garden spots in Cincinnati.  It was completed in 1933 and named after Irwin M. Krohn, who served on the Board of Park Commissioners.

There are over 3500 species of native and exotic flora here.  As you walk through the conservatory, you will notice that there are many different sections.  There's a tropical house with  ferns, begonias, and two nice sized pools.  One of my favorite sections is the Palm House which contains an indoor rainforest with a 20 waterfall and towering trees.

The Floral Display House is mostly used for seasonal displays, such as the wonderful butterfly display, Japanese Garden, and Winter Wonderland.
The Desert Garden houses cacti and succulents, and the Orchid Room contains several thousand orchids.
The Conservatory is open daily from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM.  Admission is free, except for the special exhibits.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Kenroku-en Garden

Kenroku-en Garden, located in Kaazawa, Japan, is an absolutely gorgeous place.  In fact, it is one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan.  Many consider it the most beautiful of the three.  The garden covers over 40 acres.  The name, "kenrokuen," means, "garden which combines six characteristics."  What are those six characteristics?  Spaciousness, serenity, venerability, scenic views, subtle design, and coolness.

The garden used to be the outer garden of Kanazawa Castle, which was constructed by the ruling Maede family.  They maintained it for generations.  The gardens were finally open to the public in 1871.

Visitors will enjoy the large Kasumigaike pond, hills, tea houses, fountains, stone lanterns (one large one is in the shape of a Japanese harp [koto]) and lovely plants and flowers.  The plum and cherry blossoms are especially pretty in the spring.  If you visit in the summer, you will see azaleas and iris.  In the fall, the leaves are simply beautiful. 

The garden is open daily from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM October - February, and 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM the rest of the year.  Admission is 300 yen for adults and 100 yen for children.

Friday, July 27, 2012

How to Dry Herbs

Did you plant fresh herbs in your garden this year?  I did.  I love using them when I cook.  You can keep enjoying your herbs in the winter if you take the time to dry them and store them.  Here's how to do it.

First of all, different herbs require different drying methods.  This is due to the varying moisture levels in the leaves.  Sage, thyme, savory, dill, bay leaves, oregano, rosemary, and marjoram require air-drying.  Basil, tarragon, lemon balm, and mints require an oven or dehydrator.  Chives work best frozen.  Whatever you do, don't use a microwave.  The results just aren't good.

To air dry, follow these steps:

1.  Cut your herbs when they are dry.  Shake to remove insects, and remove damaged leaves.

2.  Rinse the herbs with cold water and dry with a paper towel (or regular towel).

3.  Remove the lower leaves from the stems. 

4.  Tie 5 or 6 stems together in a small bunch.

5.  Put branches upside down in a paper bag and gather the bag around the stems.  Poke some holes in the bag for ventilation.

6.  Write the name of the herb and the date you started drying on the bag.

7.  In about 2 - 3 weeks, your herbs will be dry.

8.  Separate the leaves from the stem and store them in a glass or plastic container (make sure you mark what it is on the container).  Ziploc bags can also work for storage.

To oven dry:

1.  Follow the first three steps from the air drying directions.

2.  Turn your oven to "warm"  (140-200 F) for 20 minutes.

3.  Turn oven off and pop in the herbs.

4.  Leave undisturbed overnight.

5.  You may need to repeat the process one more time.

6.  Follow step 8 from the air drying directions.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Russian Sage

Where I live, in Cincinnati, Ohio, the Russian Sage is a very popular plant.  They are native to central asia and the middle east, where their flowers are eaten and their leaves are smoked like tobacco. 

They grow in clumps with blue flower panicles at the end of each stem.  Their leaves are very fine, and are gray-green in color.  These plants can grow to be 4 - 6 feet tall, and about 3 feet wide. 

Russian Sage starts blooming in July and continues well into September.  If you sniff them, you'll notice a slight sage-like fragrance.  It is not a true sage, but as stated above, it is an edible herb.

Russian Sage likes full sun and is drought tolerant.  If left to its own devices, it will take over your garden, so you'll need to thin them out.  Pruning is best done in the spring.  If you wish to propagate the plant, just insert a cutting into a moist growing medium.  The success rate for propagating is very high for these hardy plants.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Tarrywile Park Children's Garden

Tarrywile Park Children's Garden is located in Danbury, Connecticut.  It is a one-acre site that is part of the Danbury City Park.  Landscape designer, Jane Didona, was inspired by the book, Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak when she created the garden in 2000.  Children can have fun playing in the troll house, and hunting for frogs, butterflies, and dragonflies in the fish pond and along the paths lined with tall grasses.

When you are finished in the garden, you may want to explore some of the 21 miles of trails that are part of the park system.  There's also a lovely Victorian-style mansion on the grounds that can be rented for events.

The garden is open year round from sunrise to sunset.  Admission is free.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Kingswood Center Gardens

Kingswood Center Gardens are located in Mansfield, Ohio.  They are on the property of the former estate of Charles King, past president of the Ohio Brass Company.  They were opened to the public in 1953, one year after his death.

Today, the property covers 47 acres, 25 of which are formal gardens and greenhouses.

Spring is an especially beautiful time to visit, as the magnolias, daffodils, crocus, and dogwoods are in bloom.  Any time of the year, however, is a good time  for a visit to this remarkable place.  On the property is a 9000 foot green house which contains cacti, succulents, and orchids.  There's a lovely water fowl pond, and plenty of fountains, statues, and flowers.

In the summer, from the end of June to the beginning of August, there are free Friday evening concerts that start at 7:00 PM.  Musicians from the local union perform.  It's a really nice way to spend a summer evening.

The gardens are open from April 14 through October 14 daily from 8 AM to 5 PM.  The greenhouse is open daily from 8 AM to 4:20 PM.  Admission is $5.00.  Tours of the estate are also offered for a fee (most of the estate is now a horicultural education center).

Monday, July 23, 2012

Gardens of Versaille

If you ever visit Paris, France, be sure to take a side trip to Versaille to visit the beautiful chateau and gardens there.  The gardens are some of the most famous in the world.  In fact, recently, in 2012, the gardens were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Versaille was the palatial center of government for Louis XIV in the late 1600s.  The park and gardens were designed by Andre LeNotre between 1661 and 1700.  They cover over 2000 acres.  The gardens are landscaped in a classic French Garden Style.  Visitors will see beautiful sculptures, flowers, fountains, and even an orangerie.

The gardens are open April 1 through October 31 from 8:00 AM to 8:30 PM, and November 1 - March 31 from  8:00 AM to 6:00 PM.  To see the garden, you must choose a tour package.  These start at 18 euros. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

African Lily

I'm trying to do a little detective work today.  I saw this beautiful flower all over the place when I visited  California.  Since these don't grow where I'm from, I am not familiar with it.  I did a little research, and I think these are African lilies, also known as Agapanthus Africanus.  If any of you California folks can confirm or correct this, please do!

These flowers grow very much like the day lilies that I am accustomed to in the midwest.  They have long, narrow leaves, and a central flower stalk, with blue, funnel-shaped flowers.  They grow to be 1 - 2 feet high.

Agapanthus Africanus are originally from South Africa.  They do well outdoors in the southernmost part of the country.  During the summer, they require a lot of water.  My research indicated that most gardeners plant them in containers, which made me wonder why I saw so many in California.  Hmmm.  It's a mystery!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Seattle Children's Play Garden

Today's garden is something a little different.  The Seattle Children's Play Garden, located in Seattle, Washington, is a garden designed for children with disabilities.  All children, however, are welcome.

The garden was formed in 2002 by Liz Bullard, a speech and language pathologist.  The mission of the garden, as described on their website,  is to "improve the lives of children with physical or mental disablilites by providing them with full access to a safe indoor/outdoor recreation space and offering incusive programs that encourage their potential."
There are several gardens there, which children can explore.  These include an orchard, kitchen garden, butterfly garden, and a wild zone.  There's also a chicken coop and a rabbit hutch, which kids really enjoy.

The garden is open for limited periods of time, based on whatever programs are being offered.  Generally, the hours are Monday through Thursday from 9:30 AM to 1:30 PM, and on Friday from 9:30 AM to 10:30 AM.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

James H. McBride Arboretum

The James H. McBride Arboretum is located in Huron, Ohio behind Firelands College of Bowling Green State University.  It was built in 1984, and is named after the first dean of the University. 

The garden covers fifty acres, twenty of which contain formal and ornamental gardens.  There are three miles worth of trails for those who like to hike, as well as lovely walkways to the Butterfly and Hummingbird Garden and Winter Garden.  The William J. Parker Lake is home to resident swans, and is a stop for migratory birds.

Spring is an especially lovely time to visit the arboretum, because the crabapple trees are just gorgeous.  In May, there is a Flowering Crabapple Celebration.  If you can visit the garden at that time, it's definitely worth it.

The arboretum is open daily, year-round from 8:00 AM to dusk.  Admission is free.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Hearst Castle Gardens

I have returned. In case you were wondering, I have been traveling around California with my family visiting all kinds of wonderful places.  Naturally, I visited several gardens.  Today, I want to share one of my favorites from the trip. 

The Hearst Castle Gardens are located near San Simeon, California, along the Central Coast, off of Highway 1.  They are part of the impressive estate of newspaper magnate, William Randolph Hearst.  The castle and gardens were designed by Julia Morgan between 1919 and 1947.  The castle showcases Mr. Hearst's vast collection of antiques.  Getting up to the castle and gardens is an interesting ride.  Visitors will take a bus that travels up a 1600 foot high hill, winding past grazing cattle and an occassional zebra.  Yes, that's right.  Mr. Hearst had a zoo up on his hill with a collection of exotic animals.  The zebras escaped when the zoo was being dismantled. The herds of zebras are descended from the original zoo animals.

Once at the castle, visitors will see luxurious gardens designed on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  Terraces are adorned with glazed tiles and fountains.  One of the most beautiful fountains, is the Neptune Fountain, pictured at the left.  Mr. Hearst wanted a garden that displayed blooms throughout the year, so the gardens are planted with flowers and plants that offer continuous color.

During my visit, I saw shocking pink Bougainvillea growing up the exterior of the castle.  I also saw star jasmine, hydrangeas, myrtle, oleandars, petunias, roses, succulents, and orange trees.

To see the gardens, you must sign up for a tour of the castle.  There are three varieties of tours.  I took the one of the Great Rooms.  It was quite fascinating.  Tours cost $25.00 for adults, and $12.00 for children.  The castle is open daily from 8:20 AM to 6:30 PM.  The last tour is around 4:00 PM.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

How to Make a Water Garden Pond

Water gardens add a lot of enjoyment to a yard.  If you'd like to make one for your yard, here's how:

1.  Select a proper location.  If  you really want to get the most enjoyment from it,  position it close to your home.  Be careful that it's not in an area that receives a lot of runoff, and avoid placing it too close to trees.  Falling leaves can make a mess.  If you want to grow lily pads, your location should get 4-6 hours of direct sunlight.

2.  Determine the size and shape.  You can use a rope or garden hose to lay out the shape.  Keep in mind that a larger pond is easier to maintain. 

3.  Figure out the liner size you'll need.  To do this, measure the maximum legnth and width.  Add the depth twice to these measurements pluse a foot or two for overlap.  The number you get, is the size you need.

4.  Start digging!  Gardens in zones 5 and up need to be at least two feet deep.  Colder climates need to be deeper to provide at least a foot of water below the freeze zone.  You will also want to allow for shelfs along the edges for plants.  Dig your pond so that it has a slight slope from the center to your edges.

5.  You don't have to have water circulation, but I'd recommend it, because it helps keep things healthier and prevents stagnation (which will cause mosquitos to lay their larvae).  Position any filters, skimmers, and pumps, and make sure they are level.

6.  Line the pond with a pond underlayment

7.   Place the rubber pond liner in.

8.  If you're using a skimmer, connect it to the pond liner (follow the manufacturer's directions).

9.  Use rocks around the edge to hold the liner in place.  You can cover the rocks with dirt for a more natural look, or you can get a lot of rocks and create natural-loooking shelfs around the edge.

10.  Fill the pond with water to a few inches from the top.

11.  Add dechlorinator to the water.

12.  Add aquatic plants.  Water Hyacinth, Parrot's Feather, and Bacopa are a few suggestions.

13.  Add goldfish, a few at a time, over the next several weeks.

14.  If you have a filter, it's a good idea to use packaged bacteria to help keep your pond healthy.

15.  Enjoy!    


Petunias are annual flowering plants that are native to South America.  They are one of the most popular flowers in flower beds and hanging baskets.  The nice thing about petunias is that they can tolerate hot climates.  They need at least five hours of sunlight each day, and prefer low humidity.  Generally, they don't need to be watered every day - every 2-5 days should suffice.  But when temperatures are in the 90s and 100s, you should water them every day.

Petunnias are characterized by wide, trumpet shaped flowers, and branching foilage.  They come in a variety of colors and styles - single and double blooms, ruffled or smooth petals, striped or solid colors, and some even have fragances.

Petunnias can be propagated through seeds.  If you have them in your flower beds, chances are, you'll see new sprouts coming up the following year.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Smiley Park Children's Garden

Smiley Park Children's Garden, located in Van Wert, Ohio, was opened in 2007, and was created so that children could learn about the gardening process and all that is involved with caring for a garden.

One very nice thing about the garden, is that produce that is grown in it is given to a local food pantry.

Children will really enjoy the butterfly house, which is a colorful green and pink house with window boxes filled with petunias.  The back part of the house is screened in, so that butterflies can fly around inside.

There's another cute garden called Melody's Secret Garden where children can pass though and arched entry way with climbing roses.  There are two weeping Mulberry trees, so kids can see what Mulberry "bushes" actually look like.

Kids will also get a kick out of Roscoe the Rhino who guards the International Garden.

The newest feature is a crooked house.  Kids can have fun playing inside.

The garden is open daily from 6:00 AM to 11:00 PM.  Admission is free. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Inneswood Metro Gardens

Inneswood Metro Gardens, located in Westerville, Ohio is a 92 acre botanical garden that contains more than 2,000 species of plants.  There is a wonderful collection of gardens there.  Visitors can see a rose garden, herb garden, rock garden, medicinal garden, Biblical garden and plenty of perrenial gardens with plants like peonies, iris, lilies, hosta, and daffodils.  If you like to hike, there are plenty of woodland trails lined with wild flowers that meander along gurgling streams.

The gardens were all once part of the residence of Grace and Mary Innes.  They donated their home and property to the Franklin County Metro Parks in 1972.  The Innes house is still on the grounds.  It serves as a classroom, horticulture library, and a place where local artists display their work.

The gardens are open year-round, daily, from 7:00 AM to dark.  The Innis House is open Tuesday - Friday from 8:00 AM - 4:30 PM.  Admission is free.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Studley Royal Water Garden

Studley Royal Water Garden is located in North Yorkshire, England.  It is listed as a World Heritage Site.  The garden covers 800 acres, and was created in 1718 by John Aislabie.  It is a fine example of a classical Georgian water garden.

The garden was designed around the ruins of the Cistercian Fountains Abbey, which was founded in 1132 by Benedictine monks.  Visitors will see waterfalls, lakes, classical statues, and temples.  The most photographed temple is the Temple of Piety (pictured above), which was originally dedicated to Hercules.  Other features include the Rustic Bridge, Hermit's Grotto, and Half Moon Pond.

The garden is open October - March from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, and April - September from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM.  Admission is 9 British pounds for adults, and 4.85 British pounds for children.