Posted on Leave a comment

Growing in Small Spaces

In can be tough for gardeners when space is tight, especially if you are afflicted with an ever-wondering eye that wants to buy one of everything at the nursery but have no where to put it all. Fear not friends, europeans have mastered the art of living and gardening in small spaces and have pulled it off swimmingly. In these situations, a few well thought out ideas can really brighten a small space and turn it into a retreat.

Priorities are key when building out the small garden plan. Take a hard look at what you want and/or need to accomplish with the space. Before we moved to our current home, we lived in an “in town” location which had a city-sized lot, meaning our garage was behind our house and our backyard consisted of a patio, a mere small patch of grass, and mostly paved driveway. But, I have been very fortunate to travel a lot and one thing I’ve noticed is that lot size does not determine the beauty of a garden. Case in point, consider all the beautiful cottage and roof top gardens featured in magazines and on television.

When space has got you feeling like you’re wings have been clipped, take the challenge and let your inner creative loose. Just like your living room, a garden is a defined space that has a length, width, and height that you can leverage.

Considerations for Designing Gardens for Small Spaces

  1. Use the available vertical space (people often grow apple trees on flat vertical planes – a fruiting art form called espalier; vegetables can also be grown on trellises and grapes on a pergola);
  2. Consider using pots – flowers, trees, and vegetables can all be grown in pots (be sure to use appropriate sized containers; also consider allocating additional budget for pottery that defines the space);
  3. Reduce plant spacing (high-density farming is an increasing trend in commercial growing applications (which means that plants are grown closer together with promising results));
  4. A water feature, whether a fountain or bird feeder, can add a touch of elegance and the sound of water flowing is magical;
  5. Lights can also help define the space (consider string lights, lanterns, led lights, electric lamps, a fire pit, fireplace, etc.);
  6. Consider the variety of statuary available, whether formal or whimsical, but have fun with it (We have the Easter Island Statue in our backyard which stands guard over our swimming pool at night. Last year I planted a bunch of border-sized dahlias around it that bloomed all summer); and
  7. Consider a small cafe style table instead of a full sized one (in Paris many restuarants have bistro tables that are pushed together for bigger groups).

If you found this information useful, be sure to subscribe to our blog to receive updates from the farm.

Posted on Leave a comment

Herb Gardens

Let’s talk about herbs tonight. Why? Because it’s a Friday night and I’m hungry. Did you know that there is actually a National Herb Society and Museum that you can visit that have beautiful collections of every herb imaginable arranged in stunning displays that are bound to capture the wonder and imagination of the auspicious gardener? The website boasts that its the largest “designed” herb garden in North America.

Don’t take my word for it. Take a virtual journey to Washington D.C. and open your mind to the possibilities. While you are at it, check out the National Herb Society. Once you do, you will never look at herbs the same again because you will come across terms like knot gardens that will have you second guessing garden plans with simple rows.

The Benefits and Uses of Herbs

My husband likes to entertain the neighbors with wild tales about the (illicit) plants that he implies I’m growing under heat lights, but truth be told I’m really just into flowers… Herbs can be used for a wide range of applications. Top of mind to me are culinary, fragrance, and cut flowers. Some people have thoughts about medicinal properties, but thats a separate topic for someone else with more experience in that area. I use herbs to cook with, but I also toss them into salads; boil in homemade teas; and make cut flower arrangements. One of my favorites is Lavender.

I cannot say enough about lavender. I am currently growing at least six different lavender cultivars, some of which are edible, but others earned a space in my garden because they produce the most beautiful flowers and/or smell so good. Bucci pinnate is one of my favorites and produces rows of elegant peppery long stem flowers . (They are native to the Mediterranean region, but can be grown in pots or garden beds in Chicago.) By the way, if you are a beginner gardener, herbs are probably the easiest plants to grow and you will have extras to share with friends, coworkers, and family.

The assignment this week is to make a list of the herbs you keep in your kitchen and then check out the National herb garden. Keep building out your inspiration plant list. You can always reassess and make cuts later.

Key Factors for Consideration:

Consider the properties of different cultivars and potential uses: Fragrance, Culinary, and Cut Flowers, e.g., check out aromatto basil, which smells like licorice and has a sweet taste, and piccolo basil which grows in small mounds like a ball topiary.

Posted on Leave a comment

The Conundrum of Annuals

So, my neighbor, who shall remain nameless here, only wants to plant perennials. The rational for his decision is that annuals are way too much work. But, the fact is that you limit your plant options if you only work with perennial plants, which come with the assurance that they will reappear for at least three consecutive more years. That is versus the alternative of planting annuals which exhaust their full life cycle in a single growing season. But, do they really only last one growing cycle? More on that in a minute. Sometimes plants act like annuals when they are planted outside of their (USDA) growing zone. All plants are rated as native to a growing zone, which you can find with a simple Google search and match up to the zone where you reside (with your zip code). See https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov to find your zone.

So you may wonder then, why would anyone want to plant annuals if they only last for a single growing season. The simple answer is that you will have access to a wider selection of flowers with more colors if you set aside growing zone assumptions. I challenge you to consider, if you have been following along our plan, which plants are turning your head as you scroll though inspiration pictures (in magazines, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.). You will find that some of your ”favs” are often likely annuals in your zone (unless you live in California, where they are rewarded with beautiful weather year round). Most of us need to slug around the garden and consider workaround strategies that fit with Mother Nature’s schedule. But alas, there are workarounds. Consider dahlia tubers which you can dig up in the fall and replant in the spring.

Dahlias as Annuals

Its fitting to talk about dahlias since we are having our annual dahlia sale. You can check out pics for inspiration on the https://le-pommier.org website, but there are many more varieties and options available out there. Dahlias come in many sizes and heights, starting with a potted or border-size plant all the way up to plants with 5-6 foot stems. Beyond height, is the size of the flower bloom, some of which range up to the size of your head (no joke). If you hear the term dinner plate variety, it means that the bloom is pretty substantial.

I have a range of dahlias in my garden, beginning with American Pie, which looks great in a pot (or border) up to the Kelvin Floodlight (which is about 50 inches tall and has a bloom that approximates the size of a dinner plate). I arrange them in rows with the tallest in the back, medium in the middle, and so forth. Dahlias are not native to my zone, so I have to dig them up in fall after the first or second frost and store them until they can be replanted again. But, I love them. I love looking at them, I cut them, and even my neighbor (who doesn’t want to be bothered with annuals) told me that he can see ‘Kelvin’ from his bedroom window.

Your assignment this week if you accept it is to check out dahlia photos online and consider for your garden plan.

Key Factors for Growing Dahlias:

  • Take note of plant height and spacing requirements (dahlias look nice when planted in bunches);
  • Stake taller plants with bamboo sticks (which you can buy at most garden centers or Amazon);
  • Take cuttings for inside and proudly display in a vase;
  • Dig up tubers in the fall (after the first frost) if they are not native to your USDA growing zone;
  • Store tubers in a cool dry space (garage or basement often work);
  • Replant in the spring or later (after all danger of frost has passed); and
  • Buy more dahlias for next year 🙂
Posted on Leave a comment

Buy or Build?

red cart for selling street food

Let’s talk about what and why (and we’ll defer how to a later post).

What to grow depends entirely on the specific factors/outcomes that you want to achieve. The three applications / uses that stand out to me are fragrance, culinary, and cut flowers. If you rely entirely on the garden center, you will have a beautiful and likely expensively cultivated garden that should produce consistent results with minimal effort, meaning all you need to do is pick a spot for your flowers and plant.

But, many gardeners augment garden center flowers with cultivated (i.e., self-grown) flowers that are not available at the local five and dime store. This is because the big box stores travel in high-volume circles and only sell proven fast movers. But, if you desire something more, i.e., differentiation, from your neighbors who probably frequent the same shops, you may have to put your back into it. I look for inspiration pictures in magazines, on Pinterest and Instagram, and other seed and bulb catalogs. I also take lots of pictures when I travel of gardens / flowers that turn my head.

Specific Considerations for Flower Selection:

1. Fragrance is an output of many flowers, including roses, lilacs, and plumeria. But not all roses have a fragrance and certainly neither do all flowers. When I’m shopping for roses, some of the specific attributes that I consider are the appearance/shape of the blossom, color, bloom size, stem length, and fragrance. It’s not always easy to get everything you want in a single cultivar, but an assembly of varieties planted together can look and smell amazing. I have more than 100 different roses (including rose trees) in my collection.

2. It goes without saying that vegetables and herbs are edible, but so are many flowers. It may sound foreign to eat a flower, but if you toss one into a salad think of all the benefits. They look lovely and can add a hint of flavor (beyond the intrinsic health benefits). Some of my favorites include nasturtium, pansies, and calendula. But don’t be afraid to try new things, risks taken will be rewarded and you will look like a five star (or at least sophisticated) cook to all of your friends when you use them. I suggest you Google the specific variety to find out whether its edible before you take your first bite or, better yet, before you buy it….

3. I already mentioned that stem length is core to my formula. I take cut flowers from my garden all summer. Some gardeners have a specific dedicated space filled with flowers designated for cutting. If you’re not as formal (like me), if you plant enough, there will be plenty to cut without bare spots (if you cut carefully). Some of my favorite cuts are from peonies, tulips, and alliums in the spring; purple cone flowers in early summer; and zinnias and cosmos are work horses during mid- and late-summer that produce week after week. I’ve read that sweet peas are awesome and smell amazing, but I failed miserably last spring at growing them. (They are on the list again for this year, so I will have to let you know how it goes.)

The ”todo” this week (if you are building out your garden roadmap along with me) is to conduct research for inspiration pieces and identify flowers that you would like to incorporate into your garden plan. Take notes and screenshots to ensure you don’l lose track of your finds…

If you enjoyed reading this blog, please subscribe to continue receiving updates from the farm.