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Patios, Arbors and Outdoor Leisure Space

Posted on July 13, 2016

We are proud to share some recent work from this past Spring 2016. The outdoor patio project was created in the Woodland and Waverly neighborhood of Nashville.

It was another successful collaboration between Teacup GardenerHigher Ground Builders and Tennessee Tree and Shrub. Here we have created more outstanding outdoor leisure space with a Pennsylvania Ashlar stone patio without joint spacing, a 10′ high cedar arbor, and cedar box containers with caster wheels and two decorative resin containers. The box containers have been planted with ‘Winter Gem’ Boxwoods and ‘Sky Pencil’ Hollies, surrounded by ‘Emerald’ Arborvitae for evergreen enjoyment.

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Japanese Koi

Posted on June 26, 2016


The three oldest and still most popular types of koi in Japan are Kohaku, Sanke, and Showa.

Excellent Resource:








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Late blooming Daffodils

Posted on April 9, 2016

Late blooming ruffled daffodils from a white daffodil collection in front of a snake rail fence. Snake rail log fences require more branches or logs than post and rail fences but are much easier to install. Click on image to see full photograph.


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Bass and Bluegill Pond Ecosystem

Posted on April 9, 2016

Walking down to the big pond in Woodlawn TN in April, 2016. The 7′ deep and 12,000 sq. ft. area, bass and bluegill pond was completed in Oct 2014. It is a great example of an aquatic ecosystem designed with the help of Mother Nature to keep the water clean and healthy for both the flora and the fauna. This took the better part of the Summer of 2014. The best news is that it passed the one year guarantee last October with an A+. It is naturally filtered with a bog filter with stones and plant roots for the natural filtration and it all came together within 2015 to form a healthy, functioning pond ecosystem. Click on image for full photograph.













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Judd’s Viburnum (Viburnum x juddii)

Posted on April 1, 2016

Judd’s Viburnum (Viburnum x juddii) in bloom. The fragrance is phenomenal and in our Teacup Gardener opinion, “it’s to die for.” This hybrid viburnum produces smaller sized snowball-type clusters of white, incredible sweet scented flowers now in the early spring and provides a nice purple leaf color in autumn. Korean spice viburnum (Viburnum carlesii) is one parent of this hybrid. Flowers on Judd’s viburnum are more plentiful than the Korean spice viburnum.   

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Posted on February 8, 2016

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Hardy Water Lilies

Posted on June 16, 2015

Nymphaeas, hardy water lilies blooming in June. Nymphaea ‘Colorado’, ‘Peach Glow’, and ‘Joey Tomocik’ brightening our day.


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Posted on March 15, 2015

springtime by jeremy hendrickson

springtime by jeremy hendrickson

Crocus (English plural: crocuses or croci) is a genus of flowering plants in the iris family comprising 90 species of perennialsgrowing from corms. Many are cultivated for their flowers appearing in autumn, winter, or spring. Crocuses are native to woodland, scrub, and meadows from sea level to alpine tundra in central and southern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, on the islands of the Aegean, and across Central Asia to Xinjiang Province in western China From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Andrews Garden

Posted on December 22, 2014

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Andrews Garden

Posted on December 22, 2014

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Ponds and Ecosystems

Posted on December 20, 2014

The still places where land meets water are incredibly vibrant and amazing ecosystems that we owe so much to our existence.

Photo Credits: DANIEL CASSON
Sheffield, UK 1Pond 2Pond 3Pond 4Pond 5Pond 6

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Grapes in the Garden

Posted on August 26, 2014

This year, we began taking care of a garden with grape vines. Late last winter, we pruned the vines hard and trained them along layered horizontal wires and fertilized with organic Espoma products, Plant Tone and Green Sand. It has been a magnificent year for grapes!grapes IMG_4281 IMG_4282 IMG_4283

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Pondless Waterfalls Attract Birds of all Colors

Posted on June 2, 2014

Beautiful photo of an Indigo Bunting in Clarksville enjoying a pondless waterfall. Indigo Buntings love puddles! And more photos of Cardinals enjoying the same pondless waterfall.
Photos by Kimi Dove

Indigo BuntingCardinalCardinals 2Cardinals FrollickingCardinal 3Cardinal 4

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UT Knoxville Roses

Posted on May 10, 2014


Our young man, Makai Edwards, is studying horticulture at the University of Tennessee and is currently the Beall Family Rose Garden intern. Makai took these photos yesterday. Proud parents. 🙂

“The Beall Family Rose Garden is the largest public rose garden in East Tennessee. The garden features two Tennessee sandstone waterfalls cascading into Japanese koi ponds and more than 100 rose varieties ranging from disease-resistant shrub types to the latest hybrid-tea introductions. A 22-foot gazebo adds a special venue to the UT Gardens for holding weddings, receptions or other events.


“The Beall Family Rose Garden is a significant addition to the UT Gardens in Knoxville providing unique opportunities for education, student training, and horticulture research. The endowed garden ensures perpetual funding for student internships and training as well as support for maintenance of garden structures. This wonderful gift to the gardens not only benefits the university but the Knoxville community and surrounding region. I’m proud that we can host a beautiful and educational rose garden that the general public can visit and enjoy,” says Sue Hamilton, UT Gardens director.


The Beall family established the rose garden in honor of their loving wife and mother, Mary Anne Beall. The Bealls are known throughout the area for their kindness and generosity. They share a passion for roses and hope their gift will inspire students, gardeners and visitors to the garden.”

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Container Garden Ideas

Posted on April 30, 2014

Some awesome container garden ideas from a selection of picks from Tumblr. Enjoy!Container Gardens 12Container Gardens 11Container Gardens 10Container Gardens 9Container Gardens 8Container Gardens 7Container Gardens 6Container Gardens 5Container Gardens 4Container Gardens 3Container Gardens 2Container Gardens 1

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Fountain Makeover

Posted on March 2, 2014


The almost 60 degree weather was perfect today in Woodlawn TN. My son, Keone and two of our closest friends and I cleaned up and revamped a fountain. An existing rubber lined fountain basin within a raised perennial garden was in need of a makeover so we installed new filtration and a 1200 gph pump. We then constructed a simple fountain using a paver supported crab orchard pink and tan cut stone cap with a 1″ hole drilled in the center. Next, three butterfly koi and a single lotus in one corner as soon as the weather breaks.


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When Autumn’s Here, Mums The Word

Posted on October 10, 2013

Pretty Garden ? Mums

Pretty Garden ? Mums

There is no better way to keep that lovely daisy flower in the garden all season long than to have a few Chrysanthemums in the garden. In cultivation since 1000 B.C., it seems like humans really like these flowers. They have many cousins in the botanical world and have been used as food and medicine.

In the garden, be sure to purchase hardy mums that are available in the fall, especially if your goal is to fill a seasonal space in the flower border with something more permanent. Florist mums that are selected for flower color and size may not be grown on hardy root stocks. They may not re bloom the same color and they may not tolerate cold weather. Set mums in the soil deep as they are usually added late in the growing season and this will help prevent frost heaving.

The official flower in Japan since 910, mums are often depicted in
Japanese art. The plants and flowers are extremely versatile for gardeners. They work well in the garden as annual color, make great flower arrangements, and add interesting color and flavor to autumn salads. Every garden has space for one or two.

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Fall Vegetable Garden

Posted on October 10, 2013

Cold Season Raised Bed Garden

Cold Season Raised Bed Garden

The fall vegetable garden is planted and I could not be more excited. It was a project in patience and planning. I decided to plant vegetables in raised beds at our house after being hired to do it for several of our landscaping clients.

I had to wait until the height of summer, when we had some spare time to think about our own spaces. The beds were built with wood we had around the shop and filled with soil that we had made in our compost heap. I must admit, they turned out better than I expected what with the leftover materials.

I’ve got vegetables for fall and winter such as Brussels sprouts, kale, carrots, lettuce, spinach and more in one bed. I harvested lettuce from that garden today. In the other bed, I sowed flower seeds for a cut flower garden. I will be so happy to have fresh bouquets from my own garden all over the house next spring and summer. I’m hoping to have plenty to share with friends as well.

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New American Garden Style from OvS

Posted on September 23, 2013


Oehme, van Sweden & Associates (OvS) is a Washington, D.C. based landscape architecture firm known for their designs for memorials, parks, public gardens, universities, and private buildings in the eastern United States. The firm helped popularize the “New American Garden” style, which included increased use of ornamental grasses in landscapes. The Form is named after the founders Wolfgang Oehme and James van Sweden. Notable projects include the landscape architecture for the Federal ReserveWorld War II Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and the Friendship Garden of the U.S. National Arboretum inWashington, D.C.North Point Park (Cambridge, Massachusetts); the Alderman Library Quadrangle at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA; and the Azalea Garden of the New York Botanical Garden

We first learned of them and were impressed with their gardens when James van Sweden spoke at a Perennial Plant Conference at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens and Museum of Art  when Beth was a horticulturist there back in 1990. They became known for a revolutionary landscape and garden look now known as a New American Garden style based on the art of Hans Hoffman and Helen Frankenthaler. Wolfgang Oehme died Dec. 15, 2011 in Towson, Md. He was 81.

Learn what inspired Wolfgang Oehme and James van Sweden with theses videos.



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Posted on September 19, 2013



Koi (?English /ˈkɔɪ/Japanese: [koꜜi]) or more specifically nishikigoi (錦鯉?[niɕi̥kiꜜɡo.i], literally “brocaded carp”), are ornamental varieties of domesticated common carp (Cyprinus carpio) that are kept for decorative purposes in outdoor koi ponds or water gardens.

Koi varieties are distinguished by coloration, patterning, and scalation. Some of the major colors are white, black, red, yellow, blue, and cream. The most popular category of koi is the Gosanke, which is made up of the KohakuTaisho Sanshoku, and Showa Sanshoku varieties

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Carp are a large group of fish originally found in Central Europe and Asia. Various carp species were originally domesticated in East Asia, where they were used as food fish. The ability of carp to survive and adapt to many climates and water conditions allowed the domesticated species to be propagated to many new locations, including Japan. Natural color mutations of these carp would have occurred across all populations. Carp were first bred for color mutations in China more than a thousand years ago, where selective breeding of the Prussian carp (Carassius gibelio) led to the development of the goldfish.[3]

The common carp was aquacultured as a food fish at least as far back as the fifth century BC in China, and in the Roman Empire during the spread of Christianity in Europe.[4] Common carp were bred for color in Japan in the 1820s, initially in the town of Ojiya in the Niigata prefecture on the northeastern coast of Honshu island. By the 20th century, a number of color patterns had been established, most notably the red-and-white Kohaku. The outside world was not aware of the development of color variations in koi until 1914, when the Niigata koi were exhibited in the annual exposition in Tokyo. At that point, interest in koi exploded throughout Japan. The hobby of keeping koi eventually spread worldwide. They are now commonly sold in most pet stores, with higher-quality fish available from specialist dealers.[5][6]

Extensive hybridization between different populations has muddled the historical zoogeography of the common carp. However, scientific consensus is that there are at least two subspecies of the common carp, one from Western Eurasia (Cyprinus carpio carpio) and another from East Asia (Cyprinus carpio haematopterus).[7] One recent study on the mitochondrial DNA of various common carp indicate that koi are of the East Asian subspecies.[7] However, another recent study on themitochondrial DNA of koi have found that koi are descended from multiple lineages of common carp from both Western Eurasian and East Asian varieties.[8] This could be the result of koi being bred from a mix of East Asian and Western Eurasian carp varieties, or being bred exclusively from East Asian varieties and being subsequently hybridized with Western Eurasian varieties (the butterfly koi is one known product of such a cross). Which is true has not been resolved.

It was from this handful of Koi breeds that all other Nishikigoi types were bred, with the exception of the Ogon variety (single colored, metallic Koi) which wasn’t developed until recently. The last development of this early time was a great breakthrough in Koi breeding and is still revered as one of the most traditional of Koi breeds. A tri-colored Koi called a Taisho Sanshoku, more commonly known as the Sanke, was first seen during the Meiji era (1868-1912). Though it is not known who first developed this breed, the Sanke was exhibited for the first time in 1915, when the Koi was about 15 years old.[9]



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Abelia ‘Rose Creek’

Posted on September 19, 2013

Abelia ‘Rose Creek’ is a prolific blooming shrub and makes for excellent curb appeal. ‘Rose Creek’ is a dense and compact Abelia cultivar. This attractive shrub makes a tidy and elegant summer flowering shrub. Evergreen leaves are shiny and become purple in cold weather.

Abelia Rose Creek 1

The flowers can be described a tubular white 1/2″ long flowers and form in loose clusters. Occasional tip pruning encourages blooming until fall frost. They are an exceptional and well behaved flowering shrub to add to the mixed shrub and perennial garden.

Abelia Rose Creek 2


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Germantown Private Outdoor Spaces

Posted on September 18, 2013

We designed this fence, patio and garden September and October of last year. The project was finished a few months ago with great success. The goal was to create outdoor spaces for the homeowners to spend time outdoors for a dose of fresh air and pretty surroundings. First off, in January of 2013, we constructed a new tall privacy fence and ornamental back gate leading to the alley to insure security and privacy for the new improved spaces. Next we installled a new front walk with a side walk leading to the backyard along the narrow space between the houses in Historic Germantown in Nashville, Tennessee. The back yard Crab Orchard stone patio was designed for outdoor living and dining to enhance the square footage of the actual living space of the house. The semi-circular Crab Orchard stone patio along the side property works as a non repeating pattern consistency in the overall design feel of the property. The gardens were freshly cut to repeat similar serpentine lines to compliment the new patios and walkway in relation to the 90 degree angles of the house. And last but not least, low voltage outdoor lighting was installed to light up the patio and garden space after dark.




























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Fun Garden Combinations

Posted on September 18, 2013

Every summer I try new combinations to get the very most out of the limited space in my city garden. I have both space and time restrictions, I I try to get as much out of my garden as possible. This summer I have been very please with an unorthodox combination.

Since my garden is completely organic, I have no qualms about planting flowers and vegetables together. I liked the color combination of Black-eyed Susans with Knockout roses. This year I decided to intensify that effect with cucumbers. It has been so much fun!

The rose acts as a trellis to support the cucumbers as it clammers all over the garden. The little cucumber blossoms look so pretty with red rose buds. The Black-eyed Susans are a perennial garden anchor that bloom from July 4 to frost in my garden. The landing pad flowers attract pollinators and the seeds from spent flowers attract yellow finches and other seed eaters.

The cucumbers are delicious alone or in salads. They make a great afternoon snack as they are loaded with vitamin B. It’s been a dynamic spot in the garden as spring gave way to summer and now fall is just around the corner. I am motivated to try more of the beautiful, edible combinations in the future.

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Okra in the Garden for Flowers and Food

Posted on September 2, 2013

Until this summer, I never had a designated area for vegetables in my garden. I love the look of all the flowers and colors happening together. Plus, it leaves less space for weeds. For many years, I harvested my flowers and vegetables at the same gardening time. One plant I would not be without is Okra.

Okra from the Garden

Okra from the Garden

In the mallow family, Okra flowers are very showy. They look like hibiscus. The deeply palmate leaves are attractive as well, and the whole plant seems to be disease and insect resistant. Varieties come short and tall so there’s a spot for the in any garden setting. It is very popular and also very wise to landscape with edible plants. It’s a real way to grow your own money.

Okra Flower

Okra Flower

Okra is extremely prolific in the garden. When harvesting, smaller, spineless okra fruits are the best. They taste great with tomatoes and are ripe for harvesting at the same time.

Okra is a great garden plant for its appearance, flowers, and delicious fruit.

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Photo Blog of a Patio Construction

Posted on August 6, 2013

I usually don’t photo document a project but I tried it here and the results are interesting as a record of the effort of creating complex layers of patio both functional and beautiful. photo 1 photo 2 photo 3 photo 4 photo 5 photo 6 photo 7 photo 8 photo 9 photo 10 photo 11 photo 12 photo 13 photo 14 photo 16 photo 16 photo 17 photo 18 photo 19 photo 20 photo 21 photo 22 photo 23 photo 24 photo 25 photo 26 photo 27 photo 28 photo 29 photo 30 photo 31 photo 32

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Asian American Eclectic Koi Pond and Gardens

Posted on August 5, 2013

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Raised Beds Produce Better Vegetables

Posted on March 22, 2013

This is the time of year when gardeners spring into action. It’s time to get those seeds started and make plans to renovate existing beds or build new ones.

Building up the soil is the single most important factor in increased vegetable yields. A rich, deep, organic soil encourages the growth of healthy, well rooted plants that are able to reach more nutrients and water.

The fastest way to get that deep layer of fertile soil is to make raised beds. Raised beds yield up to four times more than the same amount of space planted in rows. This is due not only to their loose, fertile soil but also to the effective spacing of the plants—with the walkways around the raised beds, you have more room to grow plants in the beds.

Happy Summer Days!

Raised beds are so much easier to maintain and harvest. Perhaps there is more work on the front end of the project, but that seems to be when we have the most energy. It will make the experience so much more enjoyable in the long run. I go by plenty of “used to be vegetable gardens that are now just weedy lawn because no one was inclined to build raised beds. Raised beds are ready for planting with very little effort each spring and can easily be planted with herbs and perennials.

Raised beds also make planting, maintenance, and harvesting so much easier because they reduce the amount of time we must spend on our knees. Anyone who gardens knows the amount of knee work is endless, so if there is a way to reduce that kind of work, it should be strongly encouraged.

While seeds are being started and plants are being purchased, it’s important to consider diversity in the garden. Flowers are essential to bring pollenaters to the garden. Flowers, purely for the sake of flowers offers another dimension to the garden. First and foremost, flowers provide the perfect, in fact the only, environment for bugs, butterflies, and birds to do their work. The pollen being passed from one flower to the other creates that juicy tomato or velvety pepper.

But the best reason to grow flowers is they are beautiful! Flowers fill the garden with sweet scent, color, texture, and movement. During a summer harvest, flowers bring something extra special into the home. This spring, as we start are seeds, be sure to include some flowers, just for the fun of it.

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Custom Landscape Designs in Nashville

Posted on November 10, 2012

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Disappearing Waterfalls

Posted on June 4, 2012

Disappearing or pondless waterfalls are becoming popular with the backyard gardener who wants more for the outdoor spaces.  The disappearing waterfall is a great way to incorporate a dynamic effect to accent the hard surfaces and plantings of the patio garden for the sophisticated homeowner.  These waterfalls are refreshing and virtually maintenance free and create a tranquil effect for the homeowner.  They are a simple closed system with an unseen filter below a couple of inches of 1″-2″  sized ornamental stones where the pump is located.  The beauty is in the details of the stones, drops, pools, and cascades to create a spectacular overall effect with the soothing sounds of moving water.  The pump pushes the water up and the falls return the water to the filter and the cycle repeats itself.  Pondless waterfalls are the perfect option for the homeowner that enjoys water without the once a year maintenance of the koi pond. The following 4 links are short movies of the brand new disappearing waterfall shown above that Teacup Gardener installed last week in Clarksville, Tennessee.

Teacup Gardener Waterfall 1

Teacup Gardener Waterfall 2

Teacup Gardener Waterfall 3

Teacup Gardener Waterfall 4

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The Wispy Columbine

Posted on April 12, 2012

Columbine, also known by its scientific name, Aqilegias, is a lovely Spring perennial that is native to the state of Colorado. Its lovely flowers bloom between late in the spring and early summer. The plant prefers full sun but can do very well in light shade. Columbine flowers bloom in a multitude of colors including pink, white, blue, and yellow. Cross breeding the plant can even produce bi-colored flowers.

This perennial produces flowers that are known to bloom for several weeks. Compared to the lifespan of the flowers, the actual perennial itself is considered short lived, dying after only three years. However, this short lived plant produces large amounts of seed. This makes it easy to replant the perennial yourself. One could also let the Columbine replant itself. Columbines look fantastic when planted in rock gardens or along the front and under small flowering trees in large mixed shrub and perennial border gardens. The plant should grow well in fertile, well drained soil. If the perennial is planted in areas that are poorly drained, Columbines will likely receive too much water and die. Aside from the beauty of its bloom, Columbine flowers are full of sweet nectar. For this reason, the perennial flowers are known to attract hummingbirds. If your considering planting Columbines, expect to see plenty of hummingbirds in the early summer weeks.



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Flowering Dogwood

Posted on April 5, 2012

Pink Dogwood in the Garden

The Flowering Dogwood was once described to me as the quintessential spring blooming tree. When you hear spring bloomers, the Flowering Dogwood should be the first thing to come to mind. Also known by its botanical name, Cornus florida, The Flowering Dogwood is native to eastern North America. They can be found naturally growing in locations such as our own Tennessee, Maine, Illinois, and Florida. The Flowering Dogwood is known to bloom in April and the flowers bloom in pinks, reds,  and whites. The tree has green leaves that fade to a nice Fall color effect of dark red.

When it matures, the Flowering Dogwood can sometimes grow to be even wider than it is tall. Developing Dogwoods will need to be cleaned of their dead wood and leaves as well. The tree grows healthiest and hardiest with plenty of sun, although they can do very well in the shade. Mulch at least two inches in depth should surround newly planted trees. Frequent watering is also important to newly planted Dogwoods. Since the Flowering Dogwoods are native to eastern United States, they do very well in our Tennessee climate.

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Yoshino Cherry in the Garden

Posted on March 14, 2012

In early spring, there are plenty of beautiful flowers including the blossoms of the Spring blooming trees. Among the most impressive of these Spring flowering trees is the Yoshino Cherry. Native to Japan, the Yoshino Cherry blooms in the spring and is always one of the first plants to bloom. The flowers measure at about one and a half inches in diameter. What makes this tree truly stunning is the sheer amount of flowers that bloom. The small pink or white clusters of blossoms literally cover the entire tree and last for about two weeks. The trees lack of leaves in the early spring only serve to make the tree’s flowers stand out more.

The Yoshino Cherry grows to an average of about twenty to thirty feet in height, although they can grow larger. The Yoshino Cherry is largely used in landscapes because it doesn’t get too big. The tree looks especially lovely near a water feature, where the trees reflection can be admired and the falling flowers can be seen floating peacefully in the water. Yoshino Cherries will require some pruning early on. This will ensure that the tree develops a strong structure. The tree will grow best in moist soil that is well-drained. It will also grow uneven if it is not planted in full sun. We recommend planting  in full sun to allow the plant to grow to its full potential. I always remember the scene in Mulan when the father sits under the tree and compares his daughter to the flowers.

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Composting: Adding the Missing Link

Posted on March 3, 2012

Composting is an easy process that is essential to successful gardening. Any vegetative, plant-based product can be added to the compost pile and  composted and turned into nutrient-rich soil for your garden. Composting, coupled with conscious recycling can reduce household waste by two thirds.

Vegetable peelings such as potato or carrot, grass clippings, apple cores, even egg shells can be put in a compost pile to be used as a soil amendment or top dressing. A soil amendment is turned into , or incorporated into the soil by hand or by tiller to improve the soil by adding nutrients and creating good aeration. This process improves root growth and helps plants pull up vital micro nutrients.

The compost pile needs to be turned regularly to maintain the proper beneficial aerobic respiration in order to reduce the natural process of anaerobic respiration in the decomposition process.  The easy way to accomplish this is to maintain two adjacent areas to move the topmost pile to the bottom weekly or at least monthly.  This will insure a healthy and quick composting of the vegetative matter as it degrades.

Composting also saves money for homeowners and small businesses because the volume of garbage that must be collected and put in a landfill is greatly reduced. Anything vegetative can go in the compost pile. Check out this short video on composting from Clean Air Gardening:

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Nellie R. Steven’s Holly Tree

Posted on February 13, 2012

Nelly R Stevens Hollies Flanking the Front Door

The Nellie R. Steven’s holly is a large, evergreen shrub also considered a small tree that grows to be about twenty feet tall and fifteen feet wide. It is a hardy plant  that can thrive in most climates. Nellie R. Stevens are full of thick, dark-green foliage that maintains its dark coloring all year round. They require very little maintenance and are usually resistant to pest damage. A Nellie R. Stevens should be planted in areas where it will receive full sun or partial shade. They prefer acidic soil, but the Nellie R. Stevens are adaptable and can manage in most soils.

The Nellie R. Stevens will develop a dense conical shape that is difficult to see through. For this reason, the evergreen is often used in privacy green walls to block prying eyes from the neighbors into your gardens and to prevent you from doing the same. They also perform well as a low maintenance foundation planting for the house.  They look great planted solo or a grouped to create a dense privacy or as an evergreen architectural effect in the gardens.

Nellie R. Stevens is a holly that produces bright red berries later in the year from little white blossoms. The red berries on an evergreen cutting from this holly tree perfect decorations for the Christmas season. This holly will need to be watered regularly during its first eighteen months in the ground in order to ensure that it grows a strong root structure.  The Nelly R. Stevens holly will grow as much as three feet a year with irrigation and one foot without irrigation. 

We use these well performing large shrubs in almost all of our designs because it is a stellar player in the garden and it thrives in our mid-south climate.  Don’t get caught with your plants down.  Early Winter into the early spring is the best time to plant large shrubs and trees.  Enjoy.

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Soil Conditioning for Azaleas

Posted on February 8, 2012

Azaleas are spectacular, bright flowering shrubs in the Spring. They grow lovely flowers in colors that range from white and pink to yellow and orange.  Azaleas are commonly used in landscaping with mixed shrub  plantings. Some people even enjoy their potted azalea indoors. Despite the large variety of this plant and its clear beauty, Azaleas can be difficult to successfully grow. They usually do best in moderate temperatures and do best in areas that are very well shaded. The Azalea will not successfully grow in alkaline soil, instead preferring in slightly acid or ‘ericaceous’ soil with a pH between a 1 and a 7, for example peaty soil.

In order to create a proper soil content it is important to amend the beds with a composted material and a refined pine mulch product known as soil conditioner.  These amendments are then tilled and mixed into the existing soils to create an ericaceous soil bed.  Soil that azaleas are planted in must always be moist. It is important to maintain the right amount of moisture. Too much water can easily water-log the roots, killing the plant. This could happen because of a lack of drainage in the area that the azalea was planted. A common solution  to this drainage issue is to have raised beds built to aid in the drainage. The azalea can die from lack of water just as easily. The soil must be damp to the touch at all times. If the soil feels dry to the touch, then your azalea may be at risk of dying from lack of water.

If these important steps are followed, azaleas will thrive in their new home.  Most other ornamental evergreen and/or flowering deciduous plants will also benefit from the soil amending process.  This is the way to create beautiful and healthy ornamental gardens for your pleasure.

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Blackberry Lily

Posted on January 28, 2012

Spring is just around the corner and when thinking about what plants should fill those empty spots in your garden beds, one should always consider the lovely Blackberry lily. Blackberry lily is characterized by its bright green foliage and the zig-zag appearance of its stems. The plant  also features wonderful clusters of yellow and orange flowers. These six-petaled beauties, which usually measure only an inch across, are also usually covered in dark orange spots. Because of this speckled characteristic, the Blackberry lily has also been named the Leopard flower.

These flowers usually only last for about a day. Luckily, the plant blooms new flowers for weeks in the middle of the summer. Every day, a whole new round of spotted, orange clusters bloom for the visitors to the gardens to enjoy. One of the most interesting thing about this perennial is that its season of bloom is not necessarily its most attractive time of the year. During the fall, the vibrant green leaves of the Blackberry lily change to a bright shade of yellow. Bright orange clusters are replaced by large seed pods exploding with black seeds. The contrast of the gorgeous, Autumn-colored leaves and the bursting, black seed pods is a striking sight. It can be so impressive that some gardeners prefer the fall wardrobe of the plant as opposed to the summer. The physical appearance of these seeds very closely resembles blackberries. This gives reason to the name “Blackberry” lily.

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St. John’s Wort

Posted on January 8, 2012

Another lovely shrub in our garden is the semi-evergreen Sunburst St. John’s Wort and their bright yellow May bumblebee flowers.  It is  still looking nice with about half its foliage still out. Because of the flower’s bright yellow-gold colors, it was once believed to have some sort of enchanted link with the  sun. It is not hard to see why, considering every flower appears to be an individual burst of sunshine. Each radiant flower seems to bloom more lovely than the last. Bright orange and yellow stamen sprout from the center of the blooming beauty.  After the flowers fade, the seed head is showy as well.

The Hypericum frondosum ‘Sunburst’ shrub in my garden is pruned 2-3 feet tall to keep it honest and well-behaved. St. John’s Wort is also known to be resistant to deer, making it a good substitute for deer grazed and  lost azaleas. It is not particular to any soil requirements and will grow in the sun to part shade  and can survive without irrigation. The plant prefers a mild climate, where its emerald-bluish colored foliage can remain evergreen. With those brilliant yellow flowers in combination with its splendid leaves, St. John’s Wort is a treasure in the garden.

Even more attractive then their appearance, St. John’s Wort is known to have medicinal properties. Extracts from the plant have been known to heal conditions ranging from muscle pain and skin burns to minor and major depression. Rob Proctor states in his book Perennials that it can even be helpful with conditions such as ADHD and Parkinson’s disease. Perhaps this sunshine flower is magical after all.

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Garden Plant Design

Posted on December 3, 2011

Click here to see a Sample Garden Design Plan from Teacup Gardener

As a lover of all things gardens, I believe garden design is the most important aspect of any beautiful garden anywhere in the world. That may sound a little boorish but it proves true time and again. Garden design is not a hit or miss process. It’s thoughtful, mindful, and meant to provide homeowners with the most attractive and beneficial use of their land.

With that said, I will agree that certain times of the year mask poor or no design better than others.  In the summer, when every plant is full of leaves and many plants have flowers, the fullness and density cover up bad placement or lack of thoughtfulness.  In the winter, a few well chosen evergreens can give the appearance of good garden bones.  Companion plantings may be nonexistent, but it’s hard not to like a healthy boxwood hedge.

Now let’s think about this time of year, late autumn and early winter, the beginning of December when the last of the well planned fall color that was ever so important for beautiful outdoor living spaces falls and returns to the soil.  There’s just no way to have floral color and good fall color without a good design.  A good garden installer  working from a thoughtful garden design can make sure that this time of year has plenty of floral impact, and not just pansies and mums.

The other season that responds  to well planned design is spring. So many choices exist in the spring as far as color in flowers and  emerging leaves.  In order for the outdoor living spaces to really pop without clashing or being difficult to look at is through good garden design.

We strive to achieve the  idea of a garden plan that takes into account the 3 Ds of of garden plant design.  The 3 Ds of garden design are Diversity, Depth, and Density.  All great gardens are comprised of a well diversified pallet of plant materials taking into account color and texture for both floral and foliage to create a serendipitous experience when enjoying the garden.  Depth is an important aspect for the viewer to experience layers of interest as the eye travels into the garden spaces.  And Density is the fullness and spaciousness of a well planted garden.

These 3 basic rules dictate our plant material planning methods for the beautiful mixed borders and beds that are the hallmark creations of Teacup Gardener.  Total garden design may also incorporate waterscapes and  hardscapes such as water gardens, patio fountains, koi ponds, patios, decks, walls, gazebos, and arbors into the creation of custom outdoor living spaces. We consider everything when we design the spaces that make you smile year after year as you enjoy the perfect garden at your home.



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Pigsqueak in the Snow

Posted on November 29, 2011

The Bergeni Saxifragaceae is a tough plant that is not afraid of the cold. In fact, Bergeni Saxifragaceae, better known by its more common name, Pigsqueak, reaches the epitome of its natural beauty when lightly covered in a layer of fresh snow. The Pigsqueak, native to Siberia and Mongolia, earned its name from the humorous pig squeal noise that occurs when the leaves of the plant are rubbed between a person’s finger and thumb. I’ve been told that a little spit helps when making the noise.

Pigsqueak is not only a hardy, thriving plant, but also a pretty one. The plant grows bright clusters of deep pink flowers that are sure show up brilliantly in any environment that one could imagine. Because it is native to the frigid climates of both Siberia and Mongolia, this is a strong plant that is likely to adapt to almost any environment and its evergreen leaves are known to take on a lovely reddish tint in the colder weather. Other than the slightly reddish hue, the leaves remain bright green in all but the most brutal environment.

It is because of its beauty and adaptive nature that makes Pigsqueak the plant perfect for gardeners everywhere. The plant usually grows to be about one and a half feet tall and can grow healthy in any common soil. Our favorite, the variegated leaf version has the round, shiny white mottled leaves and the bright pinkish red clusters, can survive in most cities as well, tolerating the urban environment with the durability of a true Siberian survivor.

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The Dew Drops of the Lady’s Mantle

Posted on November 21, 2011

In the spirit of Summer, we will be continuing our blogs on fabulous perennials in the garden.This is an entry from our Summer garden notes on Alchemilla mollis, the Lady’s Mantle.

Early mornings can be a painful ordeal. Even morning people have to hit the snooze button every now and then. However, no matter how drowsy I am when I step out of the back  door into the patio, I can not help but notice the sparkling drops of dew in my garden that have formed overnight.  At this moment, nothing visually calls out to me more than the beautifully formed droplets that cling to the leaves of the Alchemilla mollis in our patio garden. The leaves of the Alchemilla mollis, more commonly known as Lady’s-Mantle, are covered in small, silky hairs that allow the leaves to trap small drops of water, which shine brilliantly in the morning sun.

While its own flowers may seem underwhelming, the small blossoms provide perfectly understated backgrounds for the more colorful, vibrant flowers, such as white or pink roses. For this reason, the Alchemilla mollis could be a great addition to any flower bouquet.  Furthermore, Lady’s-mantle provides terrific ground cover for flowerbeds. It looks fantastic combined with a variety of colors or planted along the fronts of garden borders.

The Alchemilla mollis does have a habit of spreading unwanted seedlings across the gardens. This can easily be avoided by weeding and trimming the plant. Alternatively, the overgrown appearance of the Lady’s-mantle also looks fabulous because of the plants tendency to find the perfect areas to develop.

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Boxwoods and Their Versatility

Posted on September 17, 2011

At one point in my twenty one years as a professional gardener, I had 75 boxwoods in my own back yard. I would even go as far to say that I consider myself a “Buxophile.” Boxwoods, Buxus sempervirens, are some of the most versatile and useful plants in the landscape. Formal gardens, shade gardens, evergreen foundation plantings all benefit from the use of boxwoods.

Often called box for short, their wood was used to make boxes many years ago. It is noted that the wood of the boxwood is also excellent for carving. Buxus sempervirens is native to southern Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia. I agree with Michael Dirr, the leading authority of woody plant material in the U.S.,  that they are long cultivated and steeped in legend and lore. Boxwoods transplant very well, tolerate partial shade, and blend well in a less than formal garden.

Boxwoods are a true four seasons player in the gardens.  They are a sight to see in the winter covered in gleaming fresh snow. They define the garden in the wintertime, along with the hollies and yews, as the bones of the garden. They provide lovely contrast with the white of the snow and a pretty winter sky. I believe their popularity is strongest in the Eastern and Southern United States in America.

As a garden designer, I appreciate the boxwood because it works in almost every situation where an evergreen is needed. They tolerate pruning so space is usually not an issue if a correct specimen is chosen at installation.  Boxwoods also perform very well when used as a center piece in containers.  Boxwoods can be used in containers for winter interest, then added to the landscape in the Spring when the containers are changed out for color with the seasonal installation of geraniums and other rowdy flowers for Summer interest and beauty.

Because of their popularity and slow steady reliable growth, boxwoods can be relatively expensive to purchase.  It is best to start with small plants which are less expensive and a plan to enjoy the boxwood for many years to come.  A formal landscape or mixed shrub border is always improved by the presence or addition of a well placed boxwood. Enjoy the boxwood and give it a prominent location or two in your garden.

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The Amber Wave

Posted on August 22, 2011

In  the later part of August , there is so much activity in the mixed shrub border, it’s difficult to decide what is the most dynamic. Shrubs coming in and out of bloom, perennials in constant succession, subtle evergreens heavy with fruit for the birds all make for a lovely summer show. A particular kind of plant holds the garden together and invokes the pioneer spirit in all of us.

Ornamental grasses were popularized in Victorian gardens. Versatility, ease of maintenance and propagation, and variety have kept these plants close to humans for many years.  Three grasses in particular are essential to a deep, dense, diverse ornamental garden.

The first is Miscanthus sinensis and all of its cultivars. For the beginning gardener, this plant offers so much because it can be divided annually to create huge drifts of movement almost all year. It will seed in if provided too much water. That’s a great reason to use it in gardens that are prone to drought in the summer. Silver grass, its common name combines well with Knockout roses and Canna lilies.

The second is Chasmanthium latifolium. In zone 6, Northern Sea Oats, its common name, blooms in June and holds its showy, oat-looking blossoms all winter. Chasmanthium is useful because it moves the garden from shade to sun in an upright fashion. Many shade plants are low and hug the ground. Northern Sea Oats gives lift and support to the taller, showy flowers of sun perennials such as phlox and daisies.

The third grass is Panicum virgatum and all of its cultivars. It’s common name is Switch grass or Panic grass. . It works as a great transition and backdrop to the showier flowers of early summer. Late summer is Panicum’s time to shine.  Upright flowers that cut well come in colors of pink, tan, and green. In a sunny border, combined with daffodils and day lilies, it is a beautiful sight to see 50 weeks of the year.

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A Winning Combination

Posted on July 22, 2011

This time of year it is only the die hard gardener or the professional who has the strength and stamina to work outdoors for a long period of time. The hard work is best done when the temperatures are more cooperative. But how do landscapes stay pretty in the heat? The answer is a winning combination that blooms all summer long.

Crepe myrtles and Knockout roses look fabulous together. They are a great solution for the situation that requires a landscape garden. The flowers are there in abundance to provide the garden. The plants provide a strong structure to provide the landscape garden with a feeling of fullness. Crepe myrtles are available in all shades of pink, red, and purple, as well as white. They bloom almost all summer. Knockout roses are available in pink, red, yellow , and white. They bloom from May until frost. Color combinations abound for any scheme or taste.

Perennials and annuals can be added to the planting with lots of color so that a real “English garden” feel can be accomplished. On the other hand, evergreen and flowering shrubs could be added to the planting so that a formal foundation-style landscape is accomplished. It really depends on the taste and ability of the property owner or manger.

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Daisies and Hummingbirds

Posted on July 15, 2011

This year the Teacup Garden looks better than it has for several years.Last year flood restoration was all consuming.Often there just aren’t enough hours in the day to garden for pleasure and also garden for hire. This year, however, is different.

The addition of some lovely sun perennials has made all the difference in the world. Planted amongst the flowering perennials are tomatoes and bell peppers. Day lily season was absolutely wonderful with all the pinks and oranges. The best part of the garden has been the daisies.

Shasta Daisy, Black eyed Susan, and Purple Cone flower all blooming at the same time has been a blast for the senses. The insect activity has been so diverse and abundant. The most enjoyable visitor to the daisy garden is the darling little hummingbird that visits in the early evenings, just as the temperatures climb down out of the 90s. It’s as if the hummingbird purposely makes its presence known to the gardener. It is a very special time in this garden full of color stands still in time while the hummingbird and the human connect as earthlings.

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More About Outdoor Kitchens

Posted on February 22, 2011

The main elements for a well-used outdoor cooking area include hard surfaces, attractive gardens to enclose the space, and functional placement of the cooking appliances. The outdoor kitchen needs to flow easily form inside the house to the outside kitchen space. The look and feel of the kitchen’s features are most successful when the spaces flow effortlessly. My role as designer, contractor, and trusted adviser is to point out and incorporate design elements that will pull off the special transition successfully.

The outdoor kitchen remains an interest rather than a reality for many people. The most important aspect of outdoor living is actually getting outdoors. Watching other people being outdoors on TV does not count. Once homeowners are engaged with the outdoors, then their imaginations go wild. A great starting point is a container herb garden by the back door. An interest in gardening gets several wheels in motion to create charming outdoor spaces such as outdoor kitchens and perennial gardens.

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Outdoor Kitchens

Posted on February 16, 2011

In recent years, American homeowners have been exposed to more adventurous ways of cooking and entertaining through cable networks that include food and travel. Homeowners want to have a little piece of paradise right outside their back door. Outdoor kitchens help homeowners relive a great vacation in the Bahamas or create new recipes using outdoor cooking methods. The trend I see is a notion that any homeowner, in some form or fashion, can have a special spot all to themselves for entertaining or escaping the fast pace of our lives. This personal oasis is the outdoor kitchen, deck, or patio.

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Landscaping is a Powerful ROI.

Posted on August 9, 2010

Recently I read an article about home improvements. It is often difficult for homeowners to determine what to spend money on so that they get the best return on their investment. Since home ownership is the single largest investment for most Americans, it is important that folks spend their money wisely.

Layers of Color and Diversity by Teacup Gardener

It turns out, that landscaping is one of the better, if not the best ROI (Return On Investment). In the first place, a home that is for sale won’t have even one showing if the house does not have an enticing curb appeal. Curb appeal means that the house looks good from the street. The grass is mowed, the shrubs and trees are trimmed and colorful, and pretty flowers are planted in the beds.

An irrigation system is another way to be sure to receive excellent return on investment. Where I live, an irrigation system would be invaluable as we have had days and weeks and months of 90+degree weather. Any prospective homeowner would be relieved to know that an irrigation system was in place to water all of the landscape.  The irrigation system insures that the grass is green and the trees, shrubs, and flowers are thriving in the summer heat.

Spending money wisely so that homes increase in value, or in this real estate market, maintain their value, landscaping is an excellent choice. Whether it’s maintaining what is there or adding new plants, it just makes sense to spend money wisely on improving the areas around the outside of your house. Call Teacup Gardener today so that we can help you add value to your home.

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How to Divide Daylilies

Posted on July 28, 2010

Riotous Perennials

Riotous Perennials

In the heat of summer it’s hard to know what kind of work to do in a perennial garden.  If the fall and spring work were done well, it should be a time to sit back and enjoy the riot of color.  But part of having a garden is being in the garden with all the sweet smells and sounds of the outdoors.

Dividing daylilies is the perfect task for this time of year.  The flower colors are still fresh in the mind.  Weedy or empty spots in the garden can be filled with the divisions.  Ordinary orange daylilies, attractive in their own right, should be kept in a separate garden bed so that they do  not take over more  interesting varieties of daylilies.

Daylilies Divided

Daylilies Divided

The task is simple .  Just dig up the clumps that need moving.  Once they are out of the ground, separate them with a garden fork.  Examine the divisions for disease and/or insect damage.  Remove any damaged plant parts and   old flower parts.  Cut the leaves back to about 6-8″ to create a nice neat clump.

Now it’s time to reset the divisions. It is acceptable to leave the divisions out of the ground for a week or so, stored in a cool dry place.  This will help ensure no disease or insects are present. A mild bleach bath or sulfur dust will control problems if any are present.

Daylilies and Pond

Daylilies and Pond

At planting select a new part of the garden in need of color.  Dig nice holes arranged in a diamond or rick-rack pattern and set the divisions in the ground.  Fill in the holes, lightly mulch and water in the recent transplants.  Now the garden has grown and will be an even more pretty place to enjoy.

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Designing a Rock Garden

Posted on July 21, 2010

We are currently working on a design to create a 40′ long and 5′ deep rock garden in Old West Nashville.  The landscape design process can be complicated, especially  when we begin to visualize a future effect of the garden over time.  When the garden grows and matures the effect can be fabulous combining the best effects of the disparate elements blending together to create a pleasing aesthetic experience.   The rock garden is an unusual dilemma, especially when the rock is not naturally occurring on the site of the future hillside garden.  For more info on Rock Gardens click here.

The first thing to consider is the placement of the rocks and stones to create a naturalistic effect.  I pay close attention to the chance formation of stone on naturally occurring hillsides to become more acquainted with the basic fractals of the non-repeating patterns of stone.  I use these impressions when I calculate how much stone we need and the basic layout.  Once the stones begin to take shape on the slope, the detail stones can be installed and the chirt loving alpine perennials and shrubs can be placed creating an interesting blend of stones, plants, and slope.  This is the best solution for a sloping hillside that has a pleasing view from the comfort of the house and/or patio or along a busy street to enhance the curb appeal for the neighborhood.

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Early Bloomers

Posted on March 8, 2010

No matter how long Winter seems to last,  Spring always eventually arrives. Some of the earliest signs of Spring are already here in Tennessee and beginning to show their color.  Yesterday I walked past the Mahonias in my front yard landscape and I realized they were in bloom. Mahonia belei, commonly known as Leatherleaf Mahonia, has a fragrant yellow cluster of blossoms.  Later the fruits resemble tiny grapes.  Another one of my favorite harbingers of Spring is Helleborus orientalis, Lenten Rose.  This evergreen perennial is lovely when it blooms the pretty creamy flowers during, you guessed it, Lent.

Early bloomers are a real treat in a landscape that has been relatively brown or evergreen all winter.  I value Cornelian Cherry Dogwood because it blooms so early and so prolifically.  It’s  loaded with tiny yellow flowers that can stop traffic.  Many people are surprised to find out it is a dogwood because the flowers lack the showy white or pink bracts that are the well-known and easily recognizable dogwood flowers.

The early Spring flowering bulbs really let us know that Spring is here.  I have looked in the garden and found a few crocus in bloom. The daffodils are getting tall and the flowers are noticeable inside their protective green casings.  It won’t be long until they fill the garden with color and fragrance.

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Mulching in Late Winter

Posted on February 1, 2010

Mr. Teacup SnowmanTake advantage of this slow period in the landscaping industry and hire Teacup Gardener to mulch your landscape and garden beds. Late winter mulch is very well timed because it protects perennials from winter burn and frost heaving.  It   prohibits weeds from getting started in cultivated areas.  It conserves water and saves valuable weeding and watering time once the growing season is upon us.  Teacup Gardener is offering a special 15% off mulch -furnished and installed during the month of February.

We furnish and install three types of mulch.  Shredded pine, pine straw, and hardwood mulch.  We highly recommend shredded pine and pine straw over hardwood mulch.  Here are a some reasons why we suggest a pine product for mulching:

1. Shredded pine and pine straw increase the acidity of the soil as they degrade.  This is highly desirable for evergreen and flowering plants such as azaleas, laurels, and rhododendrons.

2. Pine straw is a completely renewable form of mulch as it is harvested from the forest floors.

3. Shredded pine and pine straw, because of their acidic nature do not promote fungal growth as they degrade.

4. Shredded pine and hardwood mulch are both byproducts of the construction industry.

5. Hardwood mulch is an aggregate material that is very dense and prohibits weed growth.

6. Hardwood mulch may also inhibit water and nutrient flow to the plant roots.

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Late Winter Boxwood Pruning

Posted on January 26, 2010

Classic Minimalism in the Landscape by Teacup Gardener

Color and Structure Outdoors by Teacup Gardener

Winter is here in the South and there is no changing it. We may be able to steal a few warm days every once in a while, but for the most part we will be cold for the next four to six weeks or so. Besides waiting for the daffodils to poke their heads through the ground, what is there to do in the garden on those nice days when a person just has to get outside.

Late winter is a great time to deadwood and cloud prune boxwoods. Deadwooding is a term used to describe trimming or snapping out all the dead internal branches of a boxwood so that new growth can form and keep an old boxwood full and lush. Cloud pruning is a term used to describe a pruning technique that lends a soft airy texture to boxwoods that also allows new growth to form on the inside of big old boxwoods.  Cloud pruning is a method of pruning each cluster of branches as a whole with the intent to round off the branch clusters.  This creates an overall appearance of a cloud with a nice natural lumpy puffy look when the pruning is completed as opposed to the mechanical human-made perfectly rounded look.

Pruning in late winter, before bud break encourages the boxwood to put on plenty of new growth in the Spring, both on the tips of the branches, but also on the older, established interior stems of a mature boxwood. Fresh green growth coupled with dark lush green growth is a beautiful sight to see on a well manicured landscape. It’s a real sign that spring has sprung.

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Warm Up with an Outdoor Fireplace

Posted on January 9, 2010

Now that Christmas is over, and all the outdoor decorations are put away, the patio is clean to consider new and exciting ways to use it, even in the winter. Underused in the colder months, patios are valuable space that can add outdoor square footage to the home. Why not consider adding an outdoor fireplace to an existing patio to add a winter dimension to outdoor living?

This has been an especially frigid and cold winter.  I have heard that we are experiencing some of the coldest nighttime temperatures in five years. Winter is winter, but enough is enough! We need to find a way to warm up that winter air. An outdoor fireplace it just the right thing to do that. It’s perfect for heating that outdoor room that many of us refer to as a patio. Just imagine how much fun it would be to host a sledding party (if it really does snow) and warm up around that outdoor fireplace.

The added dimension of light and heat on the patio make it a destination in winter as well as spring and fall. Evenings are cool and days are shorter during those seasons and the outdoor fireplace makes the patio a desirable place to relax and enjoy family and friends.

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How About a Live Christmas Tree?

Posted on December 17, 2009

Christmas is getting really close and many tree lots are sold out of fresh cut trees. If you have not purchased a Christmas tree yet, but would still like to have one, your timing is perfect for a live balled and burlaped evergreen to use as a Christmas tree. When Christmas is over, the tree can be planted outdoors in the landscape. Evergreens are invaluable in a mature garden.
Several evergreens make good selections for Christmas trees that transition into the landscape. An Eastern White Pine is a soft choice and soft makes for easy decorating. Carolina Hemlock is another good choice and relatively soft to the touch. Spruce will also work as a Christmas tree, but it has coarse texture.
A few precautions should be taken so that the tree is not only a pretty Christmas tree, but also a showy tree in the landscape for many years to come. First of all, keep the tree indoors for a very short period of time. Warm it up for about half a day in a garage or porch. Then bring it indoors. When the holiday is over, cool the tree off the same way you warmed it up.
The second important thing is keep the tree watered. It is best to set the ball in a shallow pan or tub and water as the tree uses up the fresh supplied water. It is not a good idea that the tree stand in water. Wrap the tub and burlap ball with a bed sheet or tree skirt and it will take the shape of a pretty tree.
Third, plant the tree as soon after the holiday as possible. The extreme temperature changes will be hard on the tree. It is important to restore normal conditions as soon as possible. With good selection and a few precautions, your family can have a very memorable Christmas tree this year.  Merry Christmas!


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The Happiest Christmas Tree

Posted on November 29, 2009


With Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas less than one month away, many families will be heading to a tree farm, nursery, or retail outlet to choose their Christmas tree. It is the focal point of the holiday decorations and it is loaded with traditions so it is an important purchase at the beginning of the holiday season.

I am often asked “What kind of tree should I choose?” and my response is always, “A fresh one!” It seems like a no brainer, but many trees are cut in the summer, put in storage, painted and then sold as fresh cut trees. That does not seem very fresh or sweet to me. I always buy from a local source who can tell me where the trees were grown and who grew them. Since I live in Nashville, I have learned to purchase a Frazier Fir. That’s the same kind of Christmas tree that the White House always use and they are beautiful and well shaped. Grown in North Carolina, they are soft , dark green, and full branched. They hold up well to the weight of the lights and all the decorations. They are very dark so a good decorating technique is to use white lights to light the trunk and interior of the tree and then use colored lights on the outer branches to electrify the child in each and every one of us.

If I still lived north of the Ohio River, my choice for a Christmas tree would be a White Pine. To me it is important to decorate a soft tree. If it is to be a family activity, little people quickly tire of being poked by the needles of a sharp tree.

It is very important to put a fresh cut at the bottom of the trunk on the tree no matter what kind of Christmas tree you choose. You can ask the tree retailer to make the fresh cut.  I then allow the tree to soak over night in a big pot of warm water in a freeze free environment. That allows the tree to soak up plenty of water before it comes in the house. Then, I never allow that tree to dry out once it comes in the house. This will keep the tree soft and supple throughout the holiday season.

Now comes the happy work of hanging the ornaments and making your Christmas tree the Happiest Christmas Tree while listening to Nat King Cole.

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Pansy Garden Maintenance

Posted on November 22, 2009



When the summer annuals are finished and the time has come to take them out and the colorful sweet pansies take their place in the winter garden, I am not at all sad that summer is gone.  I love the freshness and rich tones of the many colors of pansies.   They come in almost every color and they bloom all winter long. I want to share some tips in this post that will help keep those winter pansies looking great all season long.

Pansies benefit from frequent deadheading. Deadheading is garden speak for pinching the old flowers off. Pansies will set new flower buds all winter as long as the daytime temperatures are as warm as 38F. Pinching the spent flowers off speeds the process for new flower bud formation and keeps the display fresh looking in a cold snap.

Pansies also suffer from frost heaving. Frost heaving describes the process of the soil pushing the plant out of the ground when the temperatures drop and freeze causing contraction and heaving.   At planting, make sure that the plants are set firmly in the ground. It is also important that pansy beds are well mulched to stabilize surface soil temperatures. I recommend any pine mulch product as best whether you choose straw, shredded bark or pine fines. Pine fines are also sold under the moniker of soil conditioner.  And finally, it is important to fertilize pansies with an organic or low number chemical fertilizer to make sure that your plants have the ability to produce flowers all winter and well into spring.

These simple tips will ensure your winter gardens have some pizazz with splashes of brilliant color throughout the cold drab Winter season.  Enjoy.


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Container Gardens for the Winter Patio and Deck

Posted on November 11, 2009

One of the prettiest things about summer are the gigantic containers of geraniums and ferns that homeowners use to decorate their front porches, decks and patios. It’s a lot of work to empty and drag those terra cotta or stone containers under the house or in the garage once the night temperatures threaten frosts.  Consider leaving those containers outdoors and create cold hardy beautiful showy container gardens all winter long.

When I design container gardens for winter, I always start with one to three evergreens as the centerpiece, depending on the size of the container. Boxwoods, Nandina, soft Hollies are all good choices. These can either be transplanted into the landscape when spring arrives or remain in the containers as a year round centerpiece surrounded with Summer color and Winter color.  I have come to really love the constant evergreen look that I have in many of my containers so I only change the seasonal color at the base of those particular year round pots.  Small Japanese maples make beautiful container plants and it’s a great way to get a less expensive tree and use it as a decoration on the patio before moving it into the landscape as a more permanent fixture.

Once I have made my mind up about the centerpiece, I go about adding lots of pansies for winter color.  I choose light colors so that they show up during the winter when the days are so short. I also use plenty of evergreen ground covers to simulate a miniature micro garden.   English ivy, Pachysandra, and Holly fern are all good choices. Perennials that are evergreen or semi evergreen work really well in winter containers to provide contrast in texture and color variations.

Some folks might be thinking these look like another version of a Christmas tree. Well, it’s easy to put lights on these evergreens and they do look really pretty for the holidays. The added light is nice during the winter when the days are so short. Here in Middle Tennessee, as the winter solstice approaches, it is dark by 4:30pm. That is a very busy time of year, and a little light by the front door might not be a bad idea. There is no harm in letting your neighbors know that you are celebrating the holiday season.

Container gardens bring color and texture to your patios all year long.  This is great when you can spend time in your outdoor leisure spaces throughout the coldest season of the year, especially those frequent sunny warm days we have in Tennessee in the Winter.  Enjoy!


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Colors and Trees in the Fall

Posted on October 27, 2009

Sugar Maple in Fall by Camilla Spadafino

Sugar Maple in Fall by Camilla Spadafino

Summer is long and we are surrounded by green.  Everything is green and in a matter of days the leaves begin to change and a magical time of the year explodes in color.  Responding to day length, the green pigment in the leaves of trees (chlorophyll) begins to break down and the other pigments in the leaves which have always been present, have their time to shine.

The seasonal affect is wonderful and the colors are spectacular.  Red, orange, and yellow make up the color  scheme that all of us who live east of the Mississippi River know as autumn.  I want to share with you a way to tell trees by their fall color.   Trees turn the same color every year so it’s easy to understand what the woods look once the leaves change colors.  Fall color lasts for about two weeks and in Middle Tennessee we are beginning to see dramatic change right now.  Unfortunately, the colors have been dampened by the unseasonably excessive rain we are experiencing, especially the weeks of rain from the late summer continuing through early fall.  I am afraid that this year many of the leaves will drop green due to the fungal growth and no time for the leaves to dry out and release the tannins and other pigments.

In spite of the rains, fall is still here and the colors are changing on many of the trees.  Dogwoods are the red leaves in the color scheme.  Their ripe berries are also red so that makes their color change have  even more depth and impact. Red oaks and Shummard oaks also turn red or maroon in the fall.  Boston Ivy and Virginia creeper are famous for their red fall color, even the dreaded Poison Ivy has a spectacular deep red color.  I can’t forget about all those pretty maples that turn red, but some of the best color comes from maples that turn orange or golden yellow.

The best known maples that turn orange in the fall are the sugar maples.   The sweet nature of these trees that provides us with maple syrup in the early spring also makes certain that orange is prevalent in the autumnal landscape. Some cherries that are grown for their spring blossoms and not for fruit also have a  lovely orange fall color display.   One of the most dependable trees that changes to orange is the Tulip Poplar.  One of the giants in the forest and the state tree of Tennessee, its color in the fall is breathtaking.

Trees that turn yellow in the fall may seem a little ordinary, but reliable golds and clear yellows are valuable elements in the landscape and make for great pleasure while driving around leading our busy lives.  Gingko trees have the clearest golden yellow of any tree that I can think of. The golden fan-shaped leaves make  the tree seem like something from another time.  In fact, Gingkos can be traced to the fossil record.  Maples can provide a showy clear yellow fall display.  Eastern Redbuds provide a lower story yellow to light the dark days of fall.

I love this time of year and I encourage all of you to take some time and notice how special the changing of the seasons  really is.

Sugar Maple Light in Fall by Camilla Spadafino

Sugar Maple Light in Fall by Camilla Spadafino

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Leaf-Chronicle Article: Couple Finds Tranquility in Backyard

Posted on August 26, 2009

August 18, 2009

The Leaf-Chronicle

The family’s backyard in Rudolphtown had its appeal, dropping down to the Red River, then farmland beyond.  But it was steep and craggy enough that it was unusable by Troy and Tawyna Sinitiere, their then-teenage daughter Brooke, and even their dogs.

“You couldn’t walk back here, really, because of the slope of the land, without breaking your ankle,” Tawnya Sinitiere says.

“You couldn’t use the space for anything,” Troy Sinitiere agrees.

Today, all that has changed for the better. The Sinitieres’ new landscape will be featured on the
Montgomery County Water Garden Society’s 10th annual Water Garden Tour, which is 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Aug. 22. In honor of its 10th anniversary, the tour features 10 local people’s ponds for the first time this year.

The Sinitieres are relatively new to town. They chose Clarksville and moved here from Atlanta a few years ago, bringing with them their business, B.E.S. Security Systems.

“I like to fish. I like the outdoors. I liked the Cumberland River coming through, and close proximity to the lake,” Troy Sinitiere said. “Clarksville has restaurants, shopping, everything we were looking for.”

The climate was part of Clarksville’s appeal, so they wanted ways to better enjoy the outdoors at their home. They tried with little success to find a local landscaper to redesign their yard. After a year of looking, they found Robert Edwards, a Nashville-based landscaper known as the Teacup Gardener

They first hired Edwards to landscape their front yard, but that went so well they gave him a crack at redesigning their much more challenging backyard.

“I like different,” Tawnya Sinitiere says. “I wanted something like a Southern Living garden, something for all seasons.”

Troy Sinitiere and his father-in-law already had a major deck rebuild and expansion in mind, To add to that, Edwards proposed a plan that made the backyard’s rough terrain into a peaceful walking path alongside a lovely stream.

“I was always interested in having a stream in my backyard,” Troy Sinitiere says. “I never wanted a pond with koi.”

Now, Troy Sinitiere has two ponds swimming with 29 koi.

“We were originally only going to have one pond, but he (Edwards) said with the slope of the land we could have another pond,” Tawnya Sinitiere says.

The backyard now features a ground-level deck overlooking a waterfall-fed pond. The surface is at deck level near the house, but is at the top of an impressive rock wall as the ground falls away on the back side. Tens of thousands of pounds of natural stone were trucked in to build the pond walls, as well as a walking path and stone steps that circle two ponds connected by a stream.

Many people go on the annual water garden tour to get ideas for their own backyard water gardens.  The Sinitieres joined Montgomery County Water Garden Society to meet other pond people, who share ideas about filtering, pumps, liners, koi, health and other issues that people don’t encounter elsewhere.

“We joined to help learn how to take care of our pond,” Tawnya Sinitiere says.

“It has taken us a while to figure out what it takes to get it balanced and how to keep it balanced,”
Troy Sinitiere says.

Tawnya Sinitiere has enjoyed using the new space as a showcase for her gardening experiments.  She said she loves going on the Montgomery County Water Garden Society tour to get new gardening ideas. People can participate in the tour Aug. 22 by purchasing a ticket ($10 per person ages 13 and older; free ages 12 and younger) that includes addresses and directions to each of 10 stops. Tour attendees then drive at their leisure to each location, where the water garden’s owners will be on hand to chat or answer questions.

Tawnya Sinitiere loves bright colors and enjoys trying new combinations of color, texture and scale in her plant choices. And she’s happy to pass on all she has learned. Black coral elephant ears, petunias, limelight hydrangeas, azaleas, cattails, knockout roses, Japanese maples, blue pickerel and lizard’s tail are among the profusion of plants that make their garden a four-season wonderland.  Crape myrtles, trained to grow tall like trees, add whimsy and privacy at the side property line.

The Sinitieres now enjoy their resort-like backyard so much it is hard for them to imagine how unwelcoming it once was.

“It’s peaceful out here in the evening,” Tawnya Sinitiere says. “We like to eat dinner out here.”

Dramatic lighting creates warm pools of light at night, enhancing the magic of the space.

“When it’s lit up at night,” Troy Sinitiere says, “it takes on a whole different appearance.”

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Leaf-Chronicle Article: Envisioning the Garden

Posted on August 26, 2009

July 16, 2009

The Leaf-Chronicle

Eric Berg is a forensic pathologist, by nature slow and meticulous in his work, performing autopsies
for the Army.

But working for himself, choosing a home, his scientific method went out the window.

“Before I even looked inside, I said, ‘This is the house,’ because of the backyard,” Eric said about the
home he and his wife, Elaine, bought in Clarksville’s Rudolphtown neighborhood 10 years ago.

It was improvements to the house that eventually led the Bergs — 9 years later — to revise their
backyard landscape. In 2005, they hired local builder Don Sharpe to expand their master bathroom,
adding a seating area and picture window overlooking the backyard in the process.

The Bergs’ backyard slopes down to boggy bottomland with the Red River beyond. Eric said he fell in
love with the yard’s “potential,” but that potential didn’t begin to be realized until last year, after the
couple grew tired of the ho-hum view out their new picture window.

“It took a while to dream this up,” Eric said, looking out at the elegantly curving stone walls around a
pond with two waterfalls that is now the centerpiece of his backyard. “I think it started with the bird

Eric and Elaine were already avid bird watchers, with Eric hanging feeders topped with two curved
baffles from zip lines spanning the yard, his most successful effort in making them inaccessible to

“I have an acrimonious relationship with squirrels,” he said, laughing.

But other than that, the backyard was still a blank slate.

“We were looking out at grass and mud and decided we wanted something better to look at,” Eric

Impressed with the water garden of their neighbors, Troy and Tawnya Sinitiere, the Bergs hired the
Sinitiere’s landscaper, Nashville-based Teacup Gardener, to re-envision their yard. Workers started
with the front yard, then moved on to the much more challenging task of remaking the sloping
backyard. Rather than straight, squared fences Eric had in mind, designer Robert Edwards proposed
curving black fences.

In addition to being beautiful, the fences are practical. The Bergs had walked their two Scotties on
leashes for more than an hour a day for nine and a half years before the fences were installed. Now,
the dogs have the run of the yard, and Eric and Elaine can sit back and watch them romp.

The newest addition to the landscape is a waterfall that leads to a pond that leads to a waterfall that
leads to another pond. If that sounds repetitive, it is, by design. The curving rock outlines of the ponds mimic each other, continuing the sinewy S-curves of the rock walls and fence lines.

“The bridge where the waterfall is — the birds can come there and drink and bathe,” Elaine said.

“You don’t need a birdbath when you have a pond like this,” Eric added. “Birds are attracted to still
water, but when you have moving water, it really attracts them.”

In the ponds are the Bergs’ newest pets — 19 comets, shebunkins and butterfly koi. The couple
strategically placed benches and a swing near the pond, so they can relax and take in the natural
beauty as it unfolds in their own backyard.

“This has made it so much more livable,” Elaine said. “I don’t want to go on vacation, it’s so restful

In the dark, the scene takes on a little more drama.

“I like the sound of the water. After dark, it’s illuminated,” Eric said. “Robert (Edwards) did a great job
of placing the illumination. He was very judicious about where he aimed the lights. You get pools of
light here and there. It gives an ethereal look to the backyard.”

Because it is held 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Aug. 22, attendees of the Montgomery County Water Garden
Society’s 10th Anniversary Water Garden Tour won’t see the Bergs’ romantic pools of light. They will,
however, get a firsthand look at the newest pond on the tour, completed just this spring, the
realization of 10 long years of potential.… 7/20/2009

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Leaf-Chronicle Article: Water Garden Finally Fulfills Yard’s Potential

Posted on August 26, 2009

July 15, 2009

The Leaf-Chronicle

Eric Berg fell in love with his home at first glance — of the back yard. He hadn’t even set foot inside
when he realized “This is the house.”

The backyard that won him over has, at long last, become a restful oasis for him and his wife, Elaine
Berg, with the addition of two ponds connected by waterfalls. Read all about them and see
photographs of the ponds, which will be featured on the Montgomery County Water Garden Society’s
Water Garden Tour in August, in Thursday’s edition of The Leaf-Chronicle.… 7/20/2009

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Leaf-Chronicle Article: Gardens Galore

Posted on August 26, 2009

July 16, 2009

The Leaf-Chronicle

Earl Parrish said this year’s tour will be the best ever, and he may be right.

In honor of its 10th anniversary, the Montgomery County Water Garden Society’s Water Garden Tour
will feature 10 local ponds — three more than last year.

People can participate in the Aug. 22 tour by purchasing a ticket ($10 per person ages 13 and older;
free ages 12 and younger) that includes addresses and directions to each of 10 stops. Tour
attendees then drive at their leisure to each location, where the water garden’s owners will be on
hand to chat or answer questions.

Eric Berg joined the group in 2001, hoping to learn more about water gardens eight years before he
had one of his own.

“I decided to go on the pond tour,” Berg said. “I’ve been on all the pond tours but one since.”

This year, Berg finally put all his plans into action, building two large, curving ponds with two
waterfalls in the backyard of his Rudolphtown home. He said going on the Water Garden Tour is an
excellent way to get ideas and advice for designing or caring for your own water garden.

In addition to Eric and Elaine Berg’s water garden, this year’s tour features three others that have
never before been open to the public, the ponds of:

Chris and Suzanne Goff.
Les and Rhonda Shanks.
Troy and Tawnya Sinitiere.
“It’s fun to get out and see neighborhoods you wouldn’t normally see,” Berg said, but warned: “They
might want a pond of their own.”
A sneak peek at all 10 water gardens on the tour will be offered in The Leaf-Chronicle in August.… 7/20/2009

ONLINE: Montgomery County Water Garden Society —

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2009 Montgomery County Water Garden Society Pond Tour

Posted on August 26, 2009

Last Saturday, Beth and I and our children, attended the 2009 Montgomery County Water Garden Society Pond Tour in Clarksville.  Teacup Gardener designed and installed two of the ten koi ponds on this years tour.  We are also proud to say that the entire landscapes of these two homes, both the frontyard and backyard, were also designed and installed by Teacup Gardener.  Both ponds and gardens were featured in the Clarksville daily newspaper, the Leaf Chronicle and you can also read the four articles written by Stacy Leiser from the Leaf-Chronicle in the following posts to our blog.

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Pleasures of Patios

Posted on June 23, 2009

A patio is wonderful place to spend quality time at home with your family and friends. A covered porch offers that same quality of life experience and creates a nice outdoor environment even when its raining. It’s a great place to relax and take in the sights and sounds of your outdoors.
The other day it was raining really hard. I stepped outside to clear my head and rediscovered the sanctuary that is my front covered porch. The area was well protected from the rain and I made myself comfortable and took note of the front landscape and garden soaking up the precious water.
Fortunately for me, I interrupted a gathering of mocking birds, and once my quiet presence established itself, they continued on their happy chirpy ways. The mocking birds were feasting on the berries in my front garden. Even though it was raining, the birds knew the berries were too precious to waste. Holly, Mahonia, and Juniper were ripe and ready and the evergreen leaves would keep the water from their feathers.
It was breathtaking. There must have been five of them–I figure four young birds and a mother.They were almost all the same size, but most were still covered with downy feathers.
I felt so close to home, I could have been anywhere and everywhere, in the middle of the woods or in the middle of the city. A patio or covered porch can provide so many things a family needs; enjoying the fresh air, collecting your thoughts, bird watching, or whatever. It’s the space needed to allow a family to grow confident, comfortable, and environmentally aware.

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Dining on Decks

Posted on June 2, 2009

It certainly has become hot in a hurry. I am happy and thankful for the wonderful spring that we had. The spring weather was often a bit too cool by nightfall to eat outdoors when friends came over for dinner; however, now that the days are longer and warmer, dining outdoors is a great way to spend time breaking bread with friends and family.

Last Saturday we enjoyed the evening air with a nice easy dinner party on the deck. I decided to keep the menu simple so that we could all really enjoy the evening outdoors. Grilled pork loin with a spicy fruity pineapple salsa with red peppers and red pepper flakes, cucumber salad with a creamy sour cream, and a saffron rice for even more color on the plate. Candles, place settings and matching white plastic chairs made for a wonderful dining experience.  My 11 year old loves to star gaze, so his telescope and his knowledge of the night sky was the entertainment.

The candles on the table served as a soft and illuminating light source so we could see each other laugh and smile.  I just want to share that outdoor dining can be a simple stress free experience for you, your family and friends.  It really was easy peasy to pull off. We just moved the dinner from one interior room of the house to an exterior room. We were outdoors eating good food and talking story on a wonderful deckspace that has now become another room in our home. Bon appetit!

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Mother’s Day Garden Peonies

Posted on May 9, 2009

I feel as though I crossed a rite of passage.  A few days ago, I cut and placed in a bud vase my first peony blossom of the spring.  It will be the first of many flowers from my cutting garden this year, but I am so thrilled with this peony I feel like sharing.

It took me many years to realize the value of the old fashioned peonies as the perennial garden work horse.  Once I recognized this value, it took a few more years for them to produce flowers from my “Irish Cuttings”.  “Irish Cuttings” are the bits and pieces that I collect from my work.   I thought they were easy, ordinary, and old fashioned.  I could not understand why gardeners took up so much time and energy and space with these fleeting blossoms that are always covered with ants.

Then something really special happened to me.  I became a mother.  I celebrated Mother’s Day in a different fashion.  Peonies, tall bearded iris, roses, lilies of the valley, and lilacs make the most lovely bouquets on the dinner table that second Sunday in May.  Suddenly it made sense to me why my grandmother always complimented my mother’s peonies.  Grandma always took a bouquet home to enjoy.  I am a member of that Mother’s club now.  I look forward to that season in May when My children say,”I love you, Mom.” and honor me with the flowers from my garden.

The peony on the kitchen window sill is still a lovely white and looks more like feathers than petals even after almost a week in the vase.  They smell so sweet.  I am overwhelmed with memories awakened in me today.

The pleasures of gardening are many.  Most of them in the fleeting scents, sights, and sounds of a moment.  Moments so vivid they keep memories alive to recreate for another generation.

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Five More Of Teacup’s Best 100 Perennials

Posted on May 6, 2009

I have 5 more Teacup Gardener’s favorite perennials to blog on.  This being an ongoing series, there will normally be blogs on different subjects in between, but I have been wandering through my gardens and have five more must have perennials for your garden to share today.

1. Bearded Iris  -Iris germanica Spring would not be complete without the lovely and versatile iris in the garden.. I am extremely fond of tall bearded  iris, also known as German iris from back when I tended the Wills Garden at Cheekwood years ago.  These wonderful cut flowers come in so many color combinations that some of the cultivars are absolutely unbelievable.  They are the state flower of Tennessee for good reason.  Many species of iris bloom and thrive here.  The foliage is gray-green and evergreen–two valuable assets in the garden..  blooming on or about Mother’s Day, they are real show stoppers.  They like full sun and are tolerant of very poor soil conditions.  Iris like to be planted shallow and reward the gardener who treats them kindly.

2. Coral Bells – Heuchera spp. An old fashioned lover of the shade garden are the many types of Coral Bells.  Heuchera sanguinea has mounding, mottled leaves that are showy all summer long.  The plant is tolerant of dry shade and hold its own in the garden all season long.  This time of year it offers tiny fairy-like blossoms on tall scapes in all shades  of red, pink, coral, and white.  There is a native Coral Bells called Heuchera american that has absolutely beautiful red foliage that is practically “evergreen”.  No shade garden would be complete without it.  It’s easy to grow too.   The flowers are golden yellow and are a welcome sight in the garden .

3.  Peony -Paoenia spp. No discussion of the spring garden could possibly be complete without mentioning the peonies, the traditional favorite of every grandmother. These perennial garden work horses have been in cultivation for more than 2000 years.  Many gardeners consider them a shrub but they are susceptible to frost and die back to the ground requiring winter dormancy.  They come in many shades of pink, red, purple, yellow, and white.  The heavily scented blossoms are excellent as cut flowers.

4. Knockout Rose -Rosa x ‘Radtko’ A relatively new perennial that may even be categorized as a shrub.  The knockout Rose is loved by commercial landscapers and homeowners alike.  They are wonderful in the foundation planting as well as the perennial garden.  They begin to bloom in mid April and continue to bloom with little or no care until Thanksgiving.  The roses are pink, red, and new from last year is a nice creamy yellow.  Knockout roses are more resistant to black spot, the fungal pathogen blight that the bane of the rose gardener as it defoliates the roses.

5.  Columbines -Aquilegia spp. Another old fashioned perennial for the shade is columbine.  The botanical name for the columbine is Aquilegia species and it is a perfect compliment for the spring shade garden.  It’s another mid spring bloomer that appears in every color of the rainbow.  Many are bicolor, and the combination of colors are endless.  My personal favorite, although I love them all, is the native columbine, Aquilegia canadensis, which comes in yellow and red and all hues from golden and crimson to cream and pink.  The foliage makes a wonderful groundcover and persists long after the flowers have faded.  It self sows when happy and is willing to make a nice carpet under azaleas.

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5 of Teacup Gardener’s Best 100 Perennials

Posted on April 19, 2009

I have been watching my perennials emerge in the gardens this spring with renewed interest. I appreciate the plants that have evergreen foliage or emerge so early that they really hold their place in the early spring garden when the perennial garden really needs perennials.  I am beginning a list of my choices for the top 100 perennials in the garden.  Today I have listed five of these 100 plants that have merit and are worthy of a place in any garden.

1. Hellebores –Helleborus orientalis.  A common name for the Hellebore is the Lenten rose.  Hellebores are an excellent year round foliage plant for the shade perennial beds.  The blooms occur in the late winter and may last until Easter.  The flowers stay pretty for a long time in the early spring garden.  They have evergreen foliage and they are tolerant of dry shade.  When Hellebores are happy they tend to prolifically seed around to create an excellent groundcover for large areas.  In five years you may be a very popular neighbor when you dig and divide and share with all your garden friends.

2.  Husker Red Beardtongue –Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’. The common name for the Penstemons is the beard tongue and was used by North American Indians to cure the toothache.  The best cultivar for me is ‘Husker Red’ and is one tough performer in the full sun, it emerges so early that I feel it is practically evergreen.  The striking red foliage is showy and strong and rises up over the old foliage.  When the blooms emerge it offers a lovely strand of bell shaped white flowers on flowerscapes, the stem of the flower, that cut well to display at your dining room table.

3.  Variegated Solomon Seal – Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’. This excellent spring perennial stands tall in the early shade garden and spreads easily.  It emerges clean and blooms fresh in early spring yet holds its place in the garden throughout the growing season.  The white bells gently hang in pairs from the stem and offer a sweet soft fragrance.  The Solomon Seal also has the unique benefit in the world of perennials for its nice yellow fall color.

4.  Chinese Fountain Grass -Miscanthus sinensis.  It’s an oldy but a goody and has always had a place in the full sun perennial garden.  The Victorian garden would not be right without a Fountain Grass adorning the mid-day full blasting sun.  It is absolutely gorgeous when it sways in the wind-it is the quintessential amber wave.  The only time this plant is not showy is when it’s cut back in late February to make room for the new growth in late April.  Combine this with daffodils to maintain the space for maximum use of floral display space and the daffodil foliage can age under cover of the new growth of the Fountain Grass.

5.  Stella D’Oro Daylily – Hemerocallis ‘Stella de Oro’.  I never liked this favorite of commercial landscapers until I planted one in a container garden.  I have grown to love this little solid full sun performer as it has been so pretty emerging with bulb foliage as the chorus for spring color.  Soon it will take its turn as a soloist when it produces many, many versatile yellow-orange flowers.

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Pretty Green Grass

Posted on April 9, 2009

If you are interested in creating a new lawn in the spring, consider reading the following post first.  Tall Fescue is the type of lawn turf grass most prized in our area.  This is a cool season grass that stays green thru the cold temperatures of winter.  Installing Fescue Sod is the best option to create a new lawn in the spring rather than grass seed in middle Tennessee and here’s why.

The pretty green grass that you have enjoyed all winter was fescue grass seed that was sown last late summer or early fall.  It is a cool season grass.  If Tall Fescue seed is sown now, its germination rate will be less effective and it will not create a thick lush green carpet before the weather becomes extreme and the days are hot and dry.  Hot dry weather is very hard on fescue especially new young grass shoots.  Tall Fescue is a thirsty grass in the summer too, so that you will need to keep it well watered.

If your desire is for that beautiful lawn now, it makes sense to spend a little more money and lay fescue sod.  The new sod will need to be watered daily for the first two to three weeks for the root system to become established and for the sod squares to meld. The look will be instant and consistent since there is no need to reseed where it did not germinate.  Tall fescue performs best when cut between 2.5″ to 3″ tall and cut weekly.  And now you can enjoy your lawn.

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The Flowering Trees of Spring

Posted on April 2, 2009

The best part of the landscape in the early spring season to notice when you are around and about are the sporadic and frequent bursts of color at eye level and higher, we are of course talking about the spring flowering trees that pop into color every year for a fleeting period of time.  The flowers are the harbinger of spring and summer.  They are everywhere and many of these trees are excellent choices for your garden.

The first trees to bloom here in the middle South are the Bradford Pear, Star Magnolia and the Saucer Magnolia.  The Bradford Pears line the boulevards of planned neighborhoods and the parking lots of retail malls and are nice for their great oval shape of white blooms.  The Star usually precedes the two magnolias with the large sheer white star shaped flowers.  The Saucer Magnolia is the tree that creates the showy large bright purple tulip looking flowers that make for quite a display.  Unfortunately, the deciduous spring flowering magnolias are extra susceptible to the spring frosts which lay waste to the flowers with a withering color change to brown to gray-black that fall beneath the tree.

The Yoshino Cherry tree, the later blooming Kwanzan Cherry tree, and the Crabapple tree all show their wealth next and create beautiful shows of color from blush white pinks and double pinks of the cherries to the whites, pinks, and reds of the Crabapples.  These flowering trees are something to take in with the eye and the nose for a couple of blissful weeks.

The Redbud trees and the Dogwood trees line the older and newer neighborhoods alike and their wild cousins pop out along the highways and freeways along the woodsy margins.  Redbuds are especially beautiful in the wooded areas for the blast of purple magenta flowers and the occasional white redbud tree.  The Dogwood trees are our personal favorite with their showy bracts of reds, pinks and creamy and clear white flowers.  We picked our home in Nashville in early December of 1993 when we were searching for the perfect house with the potential for the perfect Teacup Garden because of the giant Dogwood tree in the front yard.  We knew what kind of tree it was from the biscuit shaped  flower buds that were at the end of every branch even though it was the biggest Dogwood we had ever seen.

So wherever you live and no matter how many of these trees bloom in your garden, you can always enjoy the flowering trees of spring wherever you are because they are everywhere.

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Green Walls for Privacy are not always Twins

Posted on March 29, 2009

I am Beth O’Leary and I am a professional gardener, landscape contractor, and co-founder of Teacup Gardener. I have plenty of experiences that I would like to share in a Teacup Gardener blog.  I want to write about a challenge I am having in my home garden.  We as humans really want plants to do what we want them to do and we become frustrated when they do not comply.

The site I am working on now is the left perimeter of my back yard.  I have slowly been creating a green wall so that we have maximum privacy for our outdoor leisure space.  We lost some big Florida Dogwoods, Nelly R. Steven’s Hollies, Captata Yews, and Skip Laurels along our green wall perimeter bed from the double whammy of the late Easter 2007 hard freeze coupled with the terrible drought of that summer.  These were mostly the big stuff, the height and girth of our green privacy wall.  We are feeling mighty exposed and wish to patch these privacy gaps as soon as possible.  We lost big transplants of Oak leaf Hydrangea in 2008 and evergreen cast offs from client gardens which we hoped to nurture and revive.  It seems easy enough, especially for a person like me, who is in “the business” to plant and enjoy some nice big evergreens and be done.  Guess again.

On the right side of the yard a lovely green wall thrives.  A combination of big old shade trees grow beautifully with azaleas, crape myrtle, hollies, junipers, boxwood, mahonia, yew, abelia and perennials cover the ground.  Penelope Hobhouse would be proud of me.  It is a successful mixed shrub border.  I love it and I want one exactly like it (only different!) on the left side of the yard.

The most recent attempt with some nice hollies has failed.  Why won’t the left side of the yard behave and do what the right side is doing?  The soil quality may be a problem. This side is at the bottom of our driveway and during every big rainfall all the residue from the street and the drive drains down and along this side of the backyard.  We may need to add some soil amendments such as mushroom compost to heal the soil from environmental pollutants.  The large shade trees out compete anything new and small for water and nutrients. We have not yet made the jump to irrigation.

I will focus on what does well, not on what I want to do well.  The happiest plant on that side is a serviceberry that I would have to describe as indestructible.  Not much cover, but the birds love it.  Yews and box do nicely, but it’s a long time before those friends reach a size that I could call a wall. Well I’ll take my time, let my garden grow, feed the birds and maybe get to know my neighbor better. By then I might want a path with a gate instead of a wall.

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A Book Review of the Omnivore’s Dilemma

Posted on March 16, 2009

The Omnivore’s Dilemma
By Michael Pollan

This is a fun book, not only is the subject matter intriguing and compelling, but the writing style is beautiful and flows easily. This is a book every American should read. This is a book that may explain our national eating disorder and possibly our Republic of Fat. The Omnivore’s Dilemma is divided into three distinct parts describing the three main aspects of our human food chain. And each section ends with in a meal (actually four meals). The book is intuitively and surprisingly informative and well researched.

The first part of The Omnivore’s Dilemma consist of the spectacular success of our capitalistic enterprising outrageously successful food chain that begins with corn and is infused totally with corn with what Michael Pollan describes as the industrial food chain. The second part of the book describes organics, although he distinguishes between two different aspects of what we call the organic food market. With the rise of the popular movement in organics, Pollan notes what he refers to as an industrial organic system to supply the retail grocery phenomenon like Whole Foods with its economies of scale and its mass marketing global influence. This is almost diametrically opposed to what he describes as a more sustainable and local organic that is consumed at the local level with a stronger emphasis on the small organic farm concept such as CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) whereas a community subscribes to a local farm and shares in its probable success or its possible failure. The third part of the book describes the interesting yet totally impractical idea of hunting and gathering one’s total food alone or in cooperation of a limited group of people which he refers to as foraging. Each of the four concept food chain systems culminates in a meal that is representative of the particular concept of each food chain type. The first meal is from the industrial food chain of a fast food meal eaten while in a moving car. The second and third meals using the two types of organic foods that Pollan discusses. And finally, what the author describes as the perfect meal created from foodstuffs that he hunted and gathered and cooked himself. This is about food, a subject matter that Michael Pollan describes painstakingly and beautiful in its prose that both resembles an epic poem and a cook book and a news report.

Michael Pollan is a journalist by trade and I have read an earlier book titled Second Nature. Second Nature is a book I read and completely enjoyed back when we first bought our home in Nashville and his writing and ideas have definitely influenced the overall design of our family homes landscape. He has another book I will be interested in reading in the future titled In Defense of Food. The Omnivore’s Dilemma is an excellent read of just over four hundred pages and the reader comes away with a wow factor and a sense of the innate beauty and community that food entails. I especially enjoyed the fantasy (in my life anyway) of the perfect meal and having a dinner party consisting of foods totally hunted and gathered by the host and the guests.

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