Austin Garden Tours - Day Three!

Hello and happy Thursday!

I know my post is late this week, but there's some exciting news at Spring Meadow Nursery...soon we'll be launching a new website! So we've been working pretty much non-stop to get as much information loaded on to the site as possible so when it launches it's packed full of useful information. The new site isn't launched quite yet, but I'll post about it here when it is.

In the meantime, a little over two weeks ago I promised to spend the next three weeks (has it really been three weeks already???) writing about my top three faves from each day of the Austin Garden Blogger Fling. So here are reflections from the final day of the Fling, which was on May 6...

Photos from all three days of the Fling are posted here.

Once again, it's hard to choose just three sites, and of course, I'd like to immediately jump to Lucinda Hutson's garden because well, if you were there, or if you've been keeping up with the other garden bloggers, you've seen all of the amazing detail she's put into every square inch of her garden - and her whole home. Also, the fact that this handsome devil was waiting to greet us was an extra bonus.

But, her garden has been thoroughly described in a few blogs (Diana Stoll created a very nice post about her gardens here) so I'm going to move on to three other "day three" gardens...

For those riding on bus 2, the first stop was Margie McClurg's garden. Jackson Broussard, owner of Sprout Landscape Architecture was onsite to provide more information about her beautiful backyard oasis. Margie's garden was packed with a stunning array of foliage, including my favorite, cotinus. Actually, Proven Winners® ColorChoice® has a new smokebush called Winecraft Black, that has darker foliage and is more compact than your typical cotinus, that I'm planning on adding to my garden this summer. Hers was all decked out in beautiful, whispy blooms.

I also loved this rustic dining area, covered by a canopy of pear trees, and I could picture myself relaxing here at the end of a long day with some crusty bread and cheese, and maybe a nice glass of red wine.

Margie's garden was filled with aromatic plants... Jackson showed us one that I hadn't seen before, the hoja santa, which has large, soft leaves that when picked and crushed in your hand, releases oils that smell just like root beer!

After a delicious lunch and quick walkthrough of the Zilker Botanical Garden, we moved on to the Tait Moring garden. What I loved about his property is it is definitely a working garden. He describes it as a "test kitchen", embracing the local native landscape and seeing how each type of plant will thrive in specific conditions. And thrive they did! This wall of prickly pear ran the length of both sides of a service drive and was a gorgeous sight with bright yellow blooms aplenty.

I also took advantage of a short hike through his trail system and was rewarded with  my first look at a rare and beautiful Texas madrone tree and a short distance beyond that, a
breathtaking view of the valley (left). After my little hike, I was definitely eager to sit with the gathering of people who were cooling their feet in his pool! That gorgeous limestone wall behind it was created from stone gathered onsite; oh to have those resources at your fingertips!

Finally, we toured the spectacular property of Kirk Walden. This was definitely a day of incredible views. His backyard opens to the vista at the left: not too shabby, right? The gardens surround natural stone terraced walkways around the limestone pool, which mimics Lake Austin, below it.

I spied some fine shrubs here! First, this very happy hydrangea quercifolia, (below) which reminded me of Proven Winners® ColorChoice® Gatsby Gal® oakleaf hydrangea.

I also spotted another of my faves! A terrific smokebush specimen, nestled in a partly shaded area in the beds on the side of the pool area.

And that's it! Day three wrapped up with a wonderful event at Articulture Designs where there was a live band, a bar where you could sample two of Lucinda Hutson's margarita recipes from her "Viva Tequila" book, and a very delicious barbecue feast.

Hat's off...oh did I mention I won a GORGEOUS Tula Laurel gardening hat at the Saturday evening banquet raffle? This hat is soooo nice and comfortable, beautiful, lightweight, and the leather strap keeps it on your person if the wind takes it. Anyway, like I said, hats off to the amazing Austin Garden Blogger Fling home team who organized this event. It's clear they paid close attention to every detail - setting the standard, for this newbie anyway, for events to come...maybe in my own area one day?

Until next week - never stop growing, Natalie

Austin Garden Tours, Day Two!

Hello and happy Tuesday!

As promised, today I'm going to write about my favorites from day two of the Austin Garden Bloggers Fling.

Our first stop was Colleen Jamison's garden. There was something about the cozy love I felt in everything she touched that spoke to me. This is a woman after my heart, I mean...after she cultivated pretty much every square inch of her own property, she moved on to the median that runs all the way down her street, creating a park-like setting for the whole neighborhood to enjoy.
Yep, this is her median, too
Colleen Jamison's median
The archway
Then, you walk around the side of her house, through a beautiful little archway, and into her backyard, which is glorious. She has been working on her garden since 1994, and it shows. She has created beautiful, well-established spaces where plants, wildlife, and people, can thrive. 

Lush foliage is everywhere and the tasteful ornamentals she has chosen just add to the charm. Peppered throughout the gardens are benches and pots painted my mother-in-law's favorite shade of purple, so I'll definitely be sharing some pictures of Colleen's garden with her when we visit Vermont this summer!
Beautiful touches in Colleen's garden

Lush, cozy, and purple!

Beautiful and bold!
Next, we traveled to Pam Penick's garden. Can I just say...breakfast tacos? Yep, they were waiting for us when we got off the bus at her house. Yummy. Thanks, Pam!

Her backyard and gardens are an oasis where she takes advantage of every inch of her property, creating strolling and gathering spaces around the stock tank pond and swimming pool focal points. Her gardens are designed for practicality as well as beauty, creating a dry stream and terraced gardens that move water from the Texas downpours away from the house and through the gardens in a way that is useful, rather than detrimental, to the plantings. You might not know it unless you had the "Private Gardens Portraits" sheet that I got on the first day of the fling, but it's fascinating to see how she did it when looking down onto her property from up on her back deck with that information in your back pocket.

Time to start drinking some fancy water...
Cement block brilliance
Pam is super-creative. Her cement-block wall planted with succulents is something I plan on stealing for my own yard - and who would have known that blue glass bottles upended on rebar, positioned along a walkway, would make such a strong statement? Pam's not afraid of color, she accents her lush surroundings with bold red-oranges, blues, and aquamarine. Her spaces were really a feast for the senses.

And I'm not just saying that because of the tacos.

Sigh... I said I'd write about three gardens and we toured six beautiful gardens on Saturday. But if I have to choose a third, I'd choose Tanglewood.

At the top of the 6' plant...
Owners Skottie and Jeff have set up a vast display property that ranges from daylily hybridizing beds to a variety of lovely outdoor entertaining areas. They have winding paths throughout the gardens in back, which are bordered by Tar Branch creek at the back of the property. The gardens have a wide variety of plants and yes, I had to take a photo of the artichoke - who knew they were so tall? Okay, well, I didn't know.

Something else I really loved...they have a moon garden - a special garden dedicated to plants with pale-colored flowers, so it's designed to be viewed moonlight. It's actually the only garden in Texas where I spotted a Hydrangea arborescens, a Michigan staple.  It was peaceful and shady... you could just feel the tranquility wash over you when you walked past the Moroccan-accented screens into the courtyard.

Guardians of the moon garden

One of the many daylily beds

Now, I'm not saying that being able to cool off in a pool swayed my viewpoint, but I will say that starting with Jeff and Skottie's house, removing shoes and sitting around the perimeter of the pool became a very relaxing way to punctuate many of our garden visits. I know there are some fun pictures out there, but I didn't take any because I was otherwise occupied... So you just have to imagine the pool to the left lined with garden bloggers cooling off some well-traveled feet and enjoying some Texas-sized hospitality.

That's all for today! Next week will be highlights from day three of the Fling and we'll go back to the Plant of the Week after that. Remember, if you want to view all the photos I took at the Austin Garden Bloggers Fling, they are available here.

Until next week, never stop growing... Natalie 

Austin Garden Tours, Day One!

Hello and happy Wednesday!

I'm back from the gorgeous gardens of Austin Texas, where I participated in my very first Garden Bloggers Fling! What a thrill to be part of the 10th anniversary of this spectacular event.

The Fling began in Austin in 2008, so what better place to return and celebrate a decade of glorious garden tours? I joined nearly 100 fellow bloggers and boarded one of two tour buses to complete three all-day itineraries, meticulously arranged by the energetic Austin team, including the fabulous Diana Kirby and Pam Penick...whose gardens we had the opportunity to tour on the first two days of the Fling.

Central Library rooftop deck
So, in honor of the Fling, for the next three weeks I'll share my favorite three moments from each day of the garden tours.

However, I'd be remiss if I didn't start off by sharing a few shots of the rooftop deck on Austin's Central Library where our opening night reception was held.

If you don't want to wait to see all pictures I took from all three days of the Fling, they are available online here. Now, on to day one!

Day one of the Fling was deluge day...the first stop on our tour was the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Luckily the group photo was taken as soon as we arrived because shortly afterward the skies opened up and there was no escaping a thorough soaking...

Diana Kirby home
Despite the rain, we soldiered on, Diana Kirby opened her doors and let two busloads of cold and wet travelers into her home, where many viewed her gardens from windows and under the shelter of a beautiful open-air living area adjacent to her pool.

Natural Gardener lunch
The next stop on our tour was The Natural Gardener, a business that specializes in organic gardening and sustainable living.
The Natural Gardener fence row

The huge expanse of property upon which The Natural Gardener is situated features teaching and display gardens, outdoor classrooms, a retail plant nursery and garden store, as well as eight acres of cultivated grounds.
We ate lunch (sponsored by Proven Winners!) in the green and white tent where many of the gardening classes occur. We were still chilly and wet, but owner John Dromgoole gave us a warm welcome and shared a little of the history of the place and his passion for organic gardening.

Jenny Stocker gardens
The grounds are decorated with lots of fun, eclectic touches, like a low fence bordering the driveway that uses old shovel heads hung on the crossbar as posts!

Another day-one favorite was Jenny Stocker's garden. Jenny and David's house was built with matching adobe-type walls that keep the gardens, which she describes as "Texas-style arts and crafts", deer free. Native plants are allowed to grow naturally within these walls, and indoor-outdoor living areas are plentiful, all which provide beautiful views of the garden areas.

What a cute little guy...
A bonus during our visit was seeing a baby praying mantis emerge from the egg sac Jenny had rescued. She saw the sac on a twig when she was cleaning up and stuck it in a pot on her porch so the babies would be safe and sound until they hatched. Click here to learn more about the benefits a praying mantis can bring to your garden!

By the time we arrived back to the hotel in the evening the rain had abated, and of course, we were grateful for the sustenance the rain provides the plants...and we rested up for two more full days of tours. In the sun!

More next week... Natalie

Plant of the Week: At Last!

Hello and Happy...Wednesday?

I'm so busy getting ready to go to Austin tomorrow for the Garden Blogger's Fling, I forgot to write the blog, lol!

The Plant of the Week featured today is also the Proven Winners® 2019 rose of the year, At Last® Rosa.  I love the easy care and beauty of Proven Winners® ColorChoice® roses, and At Last® rose is no exception.

At Last® looks like a hybrid tea rose but performs like a durable landscape rose. I took a photo of one of the At Last® roses we had on display at CAST, and am sharing it here to show that this really is indicative of the type of gorgeous blooms you'll get on this - dare I call it a shrub?

I could go on and on, but Jane has something to say about this fantastic new rose as on to her Plant of the Week...

Until next week - Natalie

We're pretty excited about this plant.

Can you blame us? This is something that people have been asking us about for a long time: a disease-resistant rose with fragrance.

At Last® rose grows to 3' tall, and is hardy to USDA zone 5. Its pretty peach flowers bloom all summer and are highly fragrant. It has a nice rounded habit and glossy, disease-resistant foliage. Like all roses, you will want to grow it in full sun.

We're not the only ones who are excited about this plant. Our friends at Johnson Nursery Company produced this sassy video about the rose. We also have our own video about the rose. Feel free to share it!

Videos are great, but they can't compare with seeing the real thing. If you're anywhere in the Boston area I encourage you to visit the Crane Estate in Ipswich, MA. There's an amazing romance novel-worthy rose garden there, and last year At Last® roses were planted in it. If you can't make it to the northeast this summer you can check out some great pictures of the garden and its curator in the Ipswich online news.

If you're in the Midwest you can see a nice installation of At Last® roses at Chicago's Museum Campus. I know that when you're at IGC this summer you will want to go down to the Shedd Aquarium to see some penguins and otters; check out the nearby plantings, too.

One more note from Natalie: these roses are self-cleaning, so when the blooms are spent, they'll simply drop their petals to the ground to be replaced by new flowers all summer long. No deadheading required. I'm not sure what could make this rose any better - it's the perfect addition to a busy gardener's landscaping. Just in case my family is still searching for the perfect Mothers' Day gift...hint, hint. :o)

Plant of the Week is written by Jane Beggs-Joles

Plant(s) of the Week: Oso Easy® Roses

Hello and happy Monday!

I am busily catching up after my week-long trip to the California Spring Trials (CAST), so today I'm reprinting an edited version of an article I wrote that was recently featured on the GardenSmart website.

I was so inspired by the gorgeous Oso Easy® Double Pink rose we had at CAST, it made me think about this article and just how spectacular this variety is, and how it gets to be that way.



Maybe it’s time to break up with your roses.
Every year it’s the same… the snow melts and the rose bush in your garden that has been lying dormant all winter springs to life with the hope and promise of a summer. However, by mid-summer you see it…the spot. And soon the rose bush that you were certain would be a blushing beauty, looks more look more like a sad, spindly bundle of sticks with a few dried out buds and some black-spotted leaves hanging on for dear life. Where did you go wrong?

Don’t blame yourself…
For anyone who has devoted their time and attention to cultivating roses, you know that if you see a rose plant with full, lush foliage and heaps of blooms all summer, it has probably had a fair share of coddling to get that way...and even then they are susceptible to a number of maladies.

The main thing to remember is you shouldn’t blame yourself. Sure, it would be great to be one of those people who can grow magnificent roses. Fact is, you probably are one of those people. It’s easy – when you start with the right plant.

It’s Oso Easy
Oso Easy® Lemon Zest rose
You know the expression from the cleaning product Scrubbing Bubbles - “we work hard so you don’t have to?” The same concept applies to plants that carry the Proven Winners® ColorChoice® name, all which go through rigorous trials before they reach the garden center - including each and every one of the 12 varieties of Oso Easy® roses.

Every year multiple new rose varieties are tested and trialed, and after 3-4 years of trialing, a vast majority of them are discarded in favor of only the very best plants. In fact, after 20 years, and hundreds upon hundreds of rose selections on the trash heap, Proven Winners® ColorChoice® has introduced only fifteen shrub rose varieties, which so far have garnered 32 prestigious awards.
Oso Easy® Double Pink rose

Rigorously trialing plants is hard work and time consuming, but it is also rewarding to be able to introduce beautiful, easy-care varieties like Oso Easy® roses. With the broadest color range of any landscape rose, all 12 varieties are dressed for success with an impressive display of non-stop color in any garden or landscape. 

Oso Easy® roses also boast surprising hardiness (some varieties thrive down to USDA zone 3) and are strong rebloomers with dark green, glossy foliage. They boast exceptional resistance to diseases like black spot and powdery mildew - plus their tidy habits make them ideally suited to a wide variety of gardening and landscaping needs. 

Low maintenance is the hallmark of Oso Easy® roses - they are self-cleaning, meaning their petals fall off when the flowers fade, instead of turning brown and withering on the plant. Just give these roses at least 6 hours of sun a day and regular watering, and they’ll provide year-after-year of natural, easy-care beauty all season long. Sounds like a match made in heaven.

Plant of the Week: Glow Girl® Spiraea

Hello and happy Monday!

I'm writing to you today from the California Spring Trials in sunny California! I'm not sure how I got so lucky as to miss the midwest storms, but Kirigin Cellars in Gilroy, CA, is all decked out with beautiful Proven Winners® annuals, perennials, and of course, ColorChoice® shrubs. We're expecting a cooler, rainy day today, but I'm not going to complain!

Next week I'll come back with pictures of some of the incredible plants that have been on display, but in the meantime here's a sneak peek "panorama pic" of the Proven Winners® ColorChoice® tent.

It's been a couple of weeks since I've had the opportunity to bring you Jane's Plant of the Week, but today I'm sharing her post about a beautiful little spirea...take a look:

Tough Love.

It's tough. And you will love it. It's Glow Girl® Spiraea betulifolia.

I've always thought of Spiraea betulifolia 'Tor' as kind of an introvert, especially when compared with the more common S. japonica cultivars on the market. But if you think that being an introvert is a bad thing, think again.

Glow Girl® birchleaf spirea is the introverted plant that can hold its own with the flashy hybrids.

This gold form of 'Tor' is just as cold-hardy and adaptable as the original, but with cheery yellow foliage. If you've never grown Spiraea betulifolia and are in a colder climate, please give it a try. It has very appealing texture and nice fall color as well as white flowers in spring. 

This is a very durable plant that is both attractive and easy to grow, and you don't need to a lot of space or to prune it to produce an attractive and uniform plant.

Remember that introverts aren't necessarily shy or wanting to be alone all the time. Glow Girl® is an excellent choice for mass planting or low hedge, and it will do what introverts do: get its work done without needing a lot of attention.

Tough and beautiful, Glow Girl® holds its color well through the season before transforming to burgundy in the fall. It is hardy to USDA Zone 3 and will grow in full sun or partial shade.

There is a lot to love about this tough little spirea, proving it's worth your while to invest a little attention into these spectacular landscape introverts.

Plant of the Week is written by Jane Beggs-Joles

Plant of the Week: CAST Preview

Good morning and happy Monday! I'm preparing to head out to sunny California and the end of the week for the California Spring Trials.

For those who are unfamiliar, the California Spring Trials (CAST) is an annual week-long touring event held at various locations throughout the mid-to-northern region of the state. The event is designed exclusively for those who are in the horticulture industry so they can learn more about the newest plant varieties, signage and packaging products, and merchandising programs and concepts.

This year, Proven Winners® will once again be setting up their display of annuals, perennials, and shrubs at Kirigin Cellars in Gilroy, CA...the garlic capital of the world!

I know not everyone can attend CAST, but I'm so excited about the plants we'll be showing, I wanted to give you a quick online tour of some of the Proven Winners® ColorChoice® shrubs that we will have on display. Enjoy! - Natalie

Proven Winners® ColorChoice® will bring almost 30 varieties of gorgeous, new shrubs to CAST this year, so to avoid writing a blog that is far too long, I'm going to highlight four of my favorite new varieties that will be on display next week in Gilroy:

At Last® Rosa x

New to garden centers this year, At Last®  rose has a tidy, compact habit that reaches heights of about 3', with glossy green leaves and fragrant double-flowers that are deep apricot-orange fading to a light pink as the season progresses. 

Like all roses, At Last® likes to be planted in a site that gets at least 6 hours of sun a day and will do best with regular watering, but otherwise, like most shrub roses, it is very low maintenance. 

Why it's specialBecause it's a landscape rose, At Last® is a garden workhorse; the foliage is resistant to black spot and powdery mildew, and the petals fall off when the flower is done instead of drying on the plant, so no deadheading is required. But what makes it unlike a typical landscape rose is the spectacular fully-double, sweetly-perfumed flowers that rebloom all season. It's just gorgeous and really has to be seen, and smelled, to fully appreciate it.

Available in garden centers in 2019, Scentara Double Blue lilac's cool, purple blooms take on a blue tone in the spring sunshine. This very heavy bloomer will grow 6-8' tall/8-10' wide, and has a handsome, appealing shape that will look right at home in your landscape. Like all Proven Winners® ColorChoice® shrubs, Scentara Double Blue lilac boasts excellent disease resistance and like all syringa, is super-hardy, this variety withstanding temps down to USDA zone 2.

Why it's special: There are about 15 different species of lilacs found in nature, and Syringa hyacinthiflora is the queen of them all when it comes to fragrance - and this variety is the most fragrant we have ever developed. Not only do they smell heavenly, Scentara's purplish-blue blooms are made up of intricate doubled florets, presenting a delicate seashell-like effect that is unlike any other lilac. Plant it in full sun and it won't fail to knock your socks off every spring!
If you live in zone 7 or warmer, this is a handsome new evergreen for warm climate gardens! Though you might not have heard of it yet, Juke Box™ is a super-versatile, easy to grow landscaping plant. It has dense, very glossy foliage with a distinctive texture and grows well in sun or part shade.

Why it's special:  For those who live in areas affected by boxwood blight, this is the perfect alternative. You can plant it just like you would a boxwood: as a hedge, edging, specimen, or try trimming or training it as your heart desires. This thornless plant produces no flowers to speak of and is very resistant to pests and diseases. Available in garden centers in spring, 2019.
Of course, I had to include a hydrangea! We will be bringing eight varieties to CAST this year, so it was tough to choose just one, but this is a beauty, and it's brand-new.

A truly outstanding mountain hydrangea, the newest member of the Tuff Stuff series has massive dinner plate-sized blooms. Sterile florets are doubled and waterlily-like, taking on outstanding pink or blue coloration depending on soil conditions. Like all Hydrangea serrata, it has outstanding bud hardiness. 
Why it's special: At first glance, it would appear that we decided to introduce this beautiful mountain hydrangea solely for its waterlily-like double florets. But that's only part of the story - this is also one of the most prolific reblooming hydrangeas we've ever seen. All summer long, it devotes its energies to creating flower buds on its new growth so that you have a constant supply of fabulous blooms from early summer through frost. Tuff Stuff Ah-Ha™ hydrangea will bloom pink or blue, depending on soil chemistry and grows to about 2-3' tall. Available to garden centers in spring, 2019.

And that's it! I'll be blogging from CAST next week, so I hope to have some fun, new plant information and stories to share with you. Until then, happy gardening!