Pantone Honor Roll

If you listen very carefully, you might, MIGHT, just hear the whimper of spring. Mind you if you live in the American North East, the whimper is smothered by a 90' blanket of blizzard, but nonetheless, it’s down there, trying to raise its pert little green head. And in honor of spring’s imminent arrival, Pantone has released its 2013 Fall Fashion Color Report (yes, fall). And what do you know? Sitting right atop the list is none other than the lovely 15-0533, aka Linden Green. I’ve always liked to consider myself an early adopter (even if I’m the only one who does), and it looks like in naming my design firm, I had a premonition of Fall/Winter 2013. (Too bad we’ll be passé by Spring 2014, but that’s next year’s problem.) [spotify id="spotify:track:3coJlfo8TsLwqyRFFz8IKF" width="300" height="380" /]

Over the course of the next few months, we’ll draw inspiration from spring fashion trends for the garden – black and white is big, as is lace – but as is the way with fashion’s nonsensical warping of time, let’s first take a look at the colors we’ll be wearing next autumn and how to translate them into the garden.

Photo: Hervé Léger 2013, Pantone.co.uk

We begin, of course, with Linden Green. Hervé Léger showed an architecturally engineered jacquard dress representing “the richness of nature … and a garden of urban expression, exposed by nature’s palette.” Crucially for us in garden terms is the focus on organic and nature-inspired vocabulary and tones. In Pantone’s words, Linden Green “brings a lightness and brightness to the deeper shades of fall,” and in the garden, its vivacity brightens dark corners and nooks. Green is generally thought of as a cool, restful color, and in garden settings it almost disappears as a background color. But Linden Green is warm, kinetic and electrifying.

Clematis florida 'Flore Pleno' Photo: TuinFlora.com

In a sunny but sheltered position, try Clematis florida ‘Flore Pleno,’ a short climber that reaches 6 ½' in total and looks fantastic against a red brick wall or grown amid an evergreen shrub such as Garrya elliptica. Cut it back in winter, just before spring growth begins, and make sure it receives ample water. It won’t love you for subjecting it to severe frosts, so please play nicely, New Englanders.

Helleborus argutifolius Photo: Hellebores.org

In a shadier spot, try Helleborus argutifolius, which can take a little more sun than its hellebore cousins and also raises its face higher than its drooping, shy relatives. The color of this hellebore is creeping towards lime and chartreuse, and you can use it to set off other vivid brights, such as yellow forsythia or the orange tulip ‘Ballerina.’ You can also use it to set off pastels like Helleborus x hybridus ‘Ivory Prince’ or Spiraea ‘Ogon.’

Angelina Jolie in emerald Atelier Versace Photo: Fox News Magazine

On the opposite end of the green spectrum is the Pantone 2013 color of the year, Emerald (17-5641), coupled with Mykonos Blue (18-4434).  Deeply elegant and arresting on a catwalk or red carpet – see Angelina Jolie in Atelier Versace or the Vivienne Westwood F/W ’13 runway for evidence – as a plant material, emerald is a neutral blender. Think of it in terms of a shrub or hedge rather than a front-and-center showstopper. Loropetalum chinense is a fantastic, hardworking, good-looking shrub that plays well as background support but actually does sparkle into the forefront when it flowers. It comes in many cultivars, and ‘Emerald Snow’ is a crisp, glossy iteration. Give it partial shade and combine it with Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle,’ Bergenia cordifolia or Choisya ternata ‘Sundance,’ to whom he’ll make a fine Butch Cassidy.

Vivienne Westwood emerald coat Photo: Glamour Magazine, February 2013

As for Pantone’s Mykonos Blue, true blue is scarce in the botanical world; Meconopsis grandis is one of the few exceptions. Although Himalayan poppy is more mountainous and aloof than queeny Greek beach, this is definitely a showstopper of a plant; an exotic, unusual and tantalizing specimen.

Meconopsis grandis Photo: fennelandfern.co.uk

I have never grown it, and from all I’ve read on the matter, doing so isn’t easy, but that makes me want to try it all the more. The color is almost unreal, particularly as set off by its complementary orange stamens. I have made it my horticultural quest to someday grow this plant with its crinkly, papery blooms. I also aspire to a Dior fashion hajj in order to pay my respects to this superlatively uncrinkly Diorissimo handbag in Mykonos Blue.

Diorissimo Mykonos Blue leather bag Photo: Dior

Acai (19-3628) is a deep, deep purple (Hendrix-esque), that Carolina Herrera used on a high-waisted skirt cinched with a structured belt. Red and purple set each other off spectacularly, making red redder, and purple purpler, and Herrera's gown is a master class in playing these hot colors against one another.

Carolina Herrera hourglass gown Photo: Glamour Magazine, February 2013

In the garden, add richness and depth with Aconitum napellus, also known as monkshood due to its mantle-like flowers. Aconitum has a sinister history, used for millennia as a poison and even as an execution device in Ancient Rome. Combine it with Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’, whose dark foliage is equally moody and whose red flowers evoke Pantone’s Samba (19-1662).

Photo: Aconitum napellus and Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff'

Zipping along the warm end of the spectrum, Pantone lists Koi (17-1452) and Vivacious (19-2045) as must have fall colors. Koi is a “decorative, dazzling, shimmering” orange according to the color library; Glamour calls it “the same color as the fish.” I call it the same color as the humble nasturtium, aka Tropaeolum majus, who in growing terms is light years away from the Himalayan poppy and its finicky exoticism. If there’s a place in the world where nasturtiums don’t grow, I have yet to hear of it. They are bold and cheerful and bright yet somehow kind of elegant too. The flowers (and leaves and seeds) are edible, and the vining stems will climb whatever they can reach. Claude Monet (whose gardening I far prefer to his painting) planted an allée of nasturtiums – or capucines, as they are known in French – along the main path in his garden at Giverny. He originally meant only to soften the edges of the path with dwarf nasturtiums but accidentally planted the climbing variety; he liked the effect so much that he repeated it annually. (And take note, these plants are annuals, though they will reseed themselves.) As Ariane, a Giverny guide and interpreter, states so wisely and Frenchly on her blog, “It is a talent to know how to use one’s own mistakes.”

Nasturtium allée, Giverny Photo: Ariane, Giverny Impression.com

Yves Saint Laurent was another French master of color, though with fabric not paint, who drew on his French/North African roots to first combine fuschia and tangerine on the catwalk.

Saint Laurent Rive Gauche Photo: The Licentiate.com, April 2012

If anything screams 1970s Rive Gauche louder than this color combination, I may not want to hear it, and if you want to replicate it in your garden – I do – than try planting the little capucines (I’m going Paris boho now and dropping in French unnecessarily, n’est-ce pas?) scattered among Heuchera ‘Pluie de Feu’ or beneath Rosa gallica var. officinalis, the Apothecary Rose. This is one of my favorite plants, for its color, its scent and its history. It originated at least as far back as Ancient Persia and arrived in Europe on the backs of homebound crusaders. It was indeed planted in cloister gardens throughout Europe, its oil used by medieval monks to tend the sick and its petals rolled into beads to create “rosaries.”

Photo: Rosa gallica officinalis

Pantone rounds out its color palette with Turbulence (19-4215), a deep slate grey; Carafe (19-1116), dark coffee brown; and Deep Lichen Green (18-0312), self-explanatory. I tend generally to think of brown in the landscape as the color of dead plants, but that’s not strictly true. Helianthus ‘Velvet Queen’ is a sunflower whose dark, chocolate face is considerably moodier than the big, cheery yellow ones with whom we normally associate these happy summer flowers.

Helianthus 'Velvet Queen' Photo: Dave's Garden

Zac Posen showed an equally deep and silky chocolate gown on his fall runway; imagine it worn with orange topaz, and you can see how to use the helianthus in your autumn garden, perhaps above your orange nasturtiums.

Zac Posen F/W '13 Photo: AP, USA Today

Grey, in my mind, is the ultimate color (Linden Green notwithstanding), and I could sing its praises ad infinitum. In the garden its uses are rather different than in the home or the wardrobe, where it tends to be equal parts dramatic, sophisticated and shape-shifting. In the landscape, however, grey is generally used as a bright highlight and a blending color. I have often struggled to dial down the nausea factor of saccharine pink blooms, and silvery grey companion plants like Senecio or Stachys byzantina are the answer.

Stachys byzantina Photo: Randy Stewart

But as multiple designers showed us on the runway, grey botanics don’t have to mean lightness and reflection.

Nonoo, Tory Burch, Vera Wang F/W '13 grey florals Photo: Harber's Bazaar, February 2013

Rosa glauca’s deep, dusky foliage and simple, clean flowers are a perfect example of grey’s moody effect on pink.

Rosa glauca Photo: Henry Hartley

Hosta sieboldiana var. elegans is a quietly bold foliage plant that grows in part to full shade and likes quite a bit of water. A flowering showstopper would have to shout awfully loudly to distract me from this slate beauty, but be warned that slugs love it as much as I do. They also love beer (we have a lot in common), so you can fill a dish with Milwaukee’s Best and sink it in the soil to trap them. If you live somewhere with enough winter chill to grow crocus, try this hosta underplanted with ‘Cream Beauty.’

Hosta sieboldiana 'Elegans' Photo: W. John Hayden, U. of Richmond

Last on Pantone’s list is Deep Lichen Green, and to view it best, look all around you. Moss growing between stone pavers; lichen dripping off oak trees; the dark underside of a conifer’s needles – this is a forest floor color.

ADEAM F/W '13 Photo: Pantone.co.uk

Hanako Maeda used it in a vine motif velvet dress for ADEAM, and she references the deep colors of the forest as well as the night sky. As for how to use it in a landscape, there is no method with this deep green. This is a nature color, not a nurseryman’s color. It is everywhere and nowhere all at once, seemingly disappearing in its abundance.

Moss Garden, Gioji Temple, Japan Photo: Jeffrey Friedl, July 2012

A Winter's Tale

“See, Winter comes to rule the varied year, Sullen and sad.”

- James Thomson (1700–48), The Seasons (1746), "Winter"

The “killing frost” is a sinister-sounding weather phenomenon that descends every year as the days shorten and the temperature drops. “Tomato frosts” are lighter, earlier cold snaps, not lethal to most of the plants in your garden. But the killing frost is as ominous as it sounds; it heralds our turning in, both physically and emotionally, and signals the end of the growing season.

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Winter is chilly in spirit as well as actuality, and its onset sends shivers down the spine of any sun lover. In Chinese medicine, each season is ascribed an emotion, and that of winter is fear. Everything in nature is dying, dormant or hanging on by a thread, and on a deep and primordial level, we dread that the darkest season may never end. But as the solstice nears and the sun shines all the more briefly and weakly, fear not – winter is not without its own stark beauty and in some ways, bounty. You just have to know where to look. (Also, am I the only misanthrope who finds Midsummer totally depressing? It means the days are shortening already, and it’s only June! Scoff all you want, but if you’ve ever lived in Northern Europe, you well know how grim a prospect all that darkness can be.)

Tree in snow

Summer is a time of abundance in the garden, when we’re drunk on the giddiness of sunshine, flowers and fruit. Winter, however, is a time of quiet reflection, of structure and form. The tree that blinded you with opulent autumn foliage now stands starkly silhouetted against a pale sky. The evergreen that provided a subtle backdrop to spring’s mob of bulbs is now a lonely sentinel in a much sparser landscape. But categorically, the winter garden is not an empty one.

Wisley grass borders in December  Photo: Royal Horticultural Society

Garden centers and grocery stores offer aggressively cheerful pots of color year-round, but I can’t get behind clusters of glaring red cyclamen when the days are short and sunlight is feeble. Plants that bloom in winter tend to have a subtlety and elegance to them that might get lost in the dog days of summer.

Helleborus niger

Helleborus orientalis and helleborus niger, for example, (Lenten rose and Christmas rose respectively) have slender, nodding flower heads that come in a range of colors from palest ivory to deepest purple-black. H. orientalis is a better choice for warm-winter climates and flowers between February and April; h. niger fares well from Northern California to the U.K. andflowers in January and February (not, misleadingly, at Christmastime. Nor are they roses, for that matter). Both combine well with Rosy Maidenhair fern (Adiantum hispidulum), Aquilegia vulgaris (columbines), Heuchera (coral bells), Calla lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica) or Clematis cirrhosa var. balearica.

From top L: Adiantum hispidulum, Aquilegia vulgaris 'Winky Mix,' Heuchera 'Plum Pudding,' Zantedeschia aethiopica, Clematis cirrhosa var. balearica

Chaenomeles (flowering quince) is a relatively ordinary looking shrub for most of the year, but as early as January, it’s blossom breaks open and stuns.

Chaenomeles japonica & YSL Rouge Volupté in Extreme Coral

The species is coral – very old lady’s lipstick, which in my books is a great thing – but the cultivar “Apple Blossom” is delicately white with a little blush of pink, like a wash of watercolor across its petals. To up the ante March through December, choose C. speciosa contorta, which has insanely twisted branches and seems to clamber over itself in a scramble to nowhere. The loony/inspired Arrowhead Alpines Nursery refers to it as “the Dee Snyder of quinces.” I love California. (And Twisted Sister?? Gulp.)

Chaenomeles speciosa contorta

Part of winter’s subtlety is its soft light; the sun hangs lower in the sky and hits us at a gentler angle, with a softer glow. Certain plants have a particular gift for catching this luminescent quality and sparkling like crystal when backlit. Molinia caerulea "Variegata" (variegated moor grass) and Panicum virgatum “Heavy Metal” (switch grass) catch the autumn and winter low-in-the-sky light and glisten better than any hideous garden orb or glittery reindeer. (Two metal references in one post? Yikes, I may be letting on more than I should about my misspent Californian youth.) Molinia is said to resent dry ground (so bitter) and is native from Britain to Siberia. Panicum can withstand heavy winds and is native to the Eastern and Midwestern U.S. Both look sublime planted with Echinacea purpurea and Verbena bonariensis.

Inset from Left: Molinia caerulea 'Variegata,' Panicum virgatum 'Heavy Metal,' Echinacea purpurea. Background: Verbena bonariensis

Common gardening “wisdom” will tell you to hack off the head of every perennial in autumn, like some bloated, heirless Tudor king. “The autumn tidy up” is as boring as it sounds, and contemporary plantsmen don’t bother. Netherlands-based Piet Oudolf is king of the “New Wave” in gardening, and his naturalistic plantings are deceptively simple, often set amid starkly geometric forms. Oudolf has – mercifully – put paid to this annual frenzy of decapitation.

Oudolf Winter Garden Photo: Piet Oudolf

“Books often state that perennials should be cut down in the autumn, without any explanation as to why. Any experience we have gained about plants in the wild would suggest that this rule looks absurd … there is nothing in nature to cut down wild perennials in the autumn, every autumn. The rule, then, seems to have nothing to do with success or failure in cultivation; instead, it is more to do with human intolerance of nature’s untidiness.” - Piet Oudolf

I have almost inhumanly high tolerance for untidiness, coupled with exceptionally high levels of, shall we call it, laissez faire. In good conscience I can’t call myself lazy – I have two sons under the age of 6; lazy is a pipedream – but I have never, ever subscribed to the school of perfectionism or extraneous work. And who are we to try to perfect nature anyway? Flip the old school penchant for tidiness completely on its head, and instead choose plants who provide interest long after their traditionally appreciated season of interest has ended.

Clockwise from top L: Achillea, Eryngium, Echinops, Rudbeckia

Achillea filipendulina, Eryngium giganteum, Rudbeckia, Echinops ritro – all offer structural and striking seedheads every bit as interesting as their petalled spring blooms. Structure is important, and winter is its time. After all, you can’t be truly stunning without good bones, and winter is the time to see them – stripped down, pared back and starkly beautiful.

Farm to Wet Bar

November – leaves are falling, the number of mustachioed men increases tenfold, and we brace ourselves for the prospect of a monthlong marathon of consumption and family visits. Plenty of pixels and ink are devoted to gourds and turkey at this time of year; I’m going to focus instead on a holiday survival guide with legs, albeit wobbly ones. (As a side note, should I open some sort of artisanal pop-up shop called Pixels&Ink? I'll sell vintage chalkboards and typewriters, and the citizens of Brooklyn, Oakland and Hackney will flock to it.)

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Anyhoo, if the prospect of feasting with family two months running leaves you weak at the knees, I say bolster yourself with booze. And in order to allay any potential self-recrimination, let’s make it festive, seasonally appropriate booze, all the better for daytime drinking. Reader, I am not suggesting you grab your nearest bottle of Wild Turkey (though depending on your relatives, do what you must). Instead I propose three produce-led libations that will make you seem a foodie and a locavore rather than, you know, an alcoholic.

The Tangerine Martini, the Pomegranate Gimlet, the Blood Orange Margarita – such are the makings of your urban farmer/winter cocktail arsenal. I do realize that if you’re reading from outside the US you likely don’t have the prospect of Thanksgiving looming, but a little exploratory drinking never hurt anyone, and this way you can knock your daily fruit quota on the head as well.

If you’re lucky enough to be reading from Northern California, I highly suggest a trip to the much-loved Flea Street Café in Menlo Park. (The other way to survive the holidays is by eating out.) Owned by the incomparable and appropriately named Jesse Cool, Flea Street has been serving sustainable, seasonal and sublimely delicious food for thirty years (happy anniversary!). This year they have kindly shared the recipes for their fruit-based winter cocktails. Read on for the breakdown of making the drinks and growing the requisite fruit.

Pomegranate Gimlet

  • 2 oz North Shore No. 11 gin
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • ½ oz pomegranate syrup

Pour ingredients into an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Cover and shake vigorously until the outside of the shaker becomes frosty. Strain into a coupe glass.

Notes: To make the pomegranate syrup, reduce about 5 cups of fresh pomegranate juice with 10 oz of raw blue agave in a saucepan over low heat.

Extract pomegranate juice from its fruit by pureeing the seeds in a blender for 1 minute. Work in batches of 2 cups. Leave the pureed pulp in gauze over a bowl, and allow the juice to drip through.

Tangerine Martini

  • 2 oz gin
  • 1 oz fresh tangerine juice
  • Splash of agave syrup

Add gin, juice (this is getting OG) and agave syrup to an ice-filled shaker. Shake and strain into a chilled Martini glass.

Blood Orange Margarita

Will you see triple sec here? You will not, because it does not have a place in a proper margarita. Agave, lime juice – these are the bones of the drink. Leave the triple sec to Chevy’s.

  • 2 oz tequila
  • ¾ oz blood orange puree
  • 1 ½ oz fresh lime juice
  • ¾ oz Cointreau
  • ½ oz agave syrup

Rub a slice of blood orange or lime along the rim of a double-old-fashioned tumbler (single-old-fashioned always feels stingy to me) if you like your margies on the rocks, or a coupe glass if you like them straight up.

Combine ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker and go for it. Strain into the glass you’ve prepared (remember, big is better) and serve with a slice of lime or blood orange.

Now sip on, and read my pomegranate growing tips so that we might repeat this delicious process each holiday season, and enjoy our family gatherings with gusto and grace. And a little buzz.

Growing Pomegranates 

Pomegranates are easy to grow in mild climates, essentially zones 7 through 10. Small trees or multi-trunked shrubs, they tend to reach 10 to 20 feet in height, and they need full sun but not a deluge of water. Foliage turns yellow in fall; new growth is bronze; summer leaves are bright green. The plant can bloom in spring or summer, and the flowers are either bright vermillion, light coral or white. Fruit is harvested in late summer through autumn and often sits on branches after leaves have fallen, making this specimen plant even more ornamental.

“Pomegranate juice stains and tends to splatter, leaving the kitchen looking like the set of a bad slasher movie.” – Rosalind Creasy, Edible Landscaping

In her manifesto Edible Landscaping, which should be required reading for anyone who has ever eaten, grown or cooked a fruit or vegetable, Rosalind Creasy suggests processing pomegranate fruit underwater. (Hands alone suffice; no need to whip out the scuba gear.)

In the garden, the pomegranate is both a beautiful and practical plant. Ms Creasy likes it with Nandina domestica, also known as heavenly bamboo.

Pomegranates prefer hot, dry summers so aren’t a great choice for tropical regions, the Pacific Northwest, the UK, and other wet regions. It is a great choice for a Mediterranean climate; it can withstand desert heat; and it can survive as far north as Washington DC, though in a colder climate, a south-facing, heat-reflecting wall will prove an invaluable security blanket.

The plant is relatively drought resistant. Save deep watering for after fruit harvest in order to avoid the fruit splitting. Harvest when you see fruit beginning to color and ripen, but do taste a couple pomegranates before you pick a whole tree’s worth. They store for a long time if kept cool and dry.

If you have a pomegranate tree that needs a little love or are planting a new one, fertilize it with organic nitrogen fertilizer in late winter or early spring. Don’t continue to add nitrogen throughout the year, however, as it promotes vegetative growth and thus inhibits fruit production. The best thing you can do for all your plants is to top dress their surrounding soil with organic matter, such as compost, in the spring and again in the fall.

We'll look at growing citrus separately, as the topic is a meaty one. In the meantime, consider this: water, food, sunlight; turkey, loved ones, tequila. Our plants' needs are not so different from our own. Surround yourself with the things that matter and do the same for your plants, and your house will be a home, your garden a sanctuary and your wet bar a place of refuge.

More reading:

Simply Organic, Jesse Ziff Cool

Edible Landscaping, Rosalind Creasy

Orange You Glad I Didn't Make a Terrible Gardening Pun?

I'm sorry. There's really no excuse for a "joke" that awful. Let's blame the final vestiges of Giants euphoria, shall we? Add a whopping great giddiness at Tuesday's election results, and my sense of humor takes a nose dive.

Having looked at black last week, let’s swing to the other end of the Halloween/Giants color spectrum and discuss orange. While black in the garden creates subtlety and drama, orange shouts "FIRE!!!" from the rooftops. In good design conscience, I can’t recommend you go overboard in the way of orange furniture, barbecues or containers. A little orange goes a long way.

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Having said that, this gorgeous lounger – best for couples who like each other – may be the only soporific orange item in the world.

Orange radiates heat and, accordingly, it's a color that tends to herald summer and autumn, unlike spring's primarily pastel blooms. Nature offers exceptions to every rule, however: see TulipaDordogne’ and T. ‘Ballerina’ as evidence. Both are gorgeous in pots, either on a patio or balcony or sunk into the ground.

One of the most magnificent and orange of all orange plants is Fritillaria imperialis (even the name is imposing), painted in all its glory by none less than Vincent van Gogh. Fritillarias need a fair amount of water and fertile, well-drained soil, and unlike other bulbs, fritillaria imperialis prefers to be planted on its side. On the mundane side, if you sniff it too closely, you’ll find it redolent of a skunk.

Forthwith, a few orange flowers and their potential plant companions, keeping in mind that almost infinite plant combinations are possible. The only parameters to consider are cultural requirements (sun, water, hardiness, etc), bloom time, and your own aesthetic preferences.

In order from softest apricot to hottest pumpkin...

Dahlia "Gwyneth" + Ceratostigma plumbaginoides   The warm-climate dwellers among us – take note Californians, Australians and Mexicans – can plant this, sit back and enjoy. In colder climates, dig the dahlia tubers in fall and store them in a dark, dry place until the frosts have passed. Dahlias are native to Mexico and Guatemala; the Aztecs used them as both a treatment for epilepsy and as an edible delicacy.

Achillea "Terracotta” + Nasella tenuissima + Rudbeckia hirta or Helenium ‘Waldtraut’   This is a low-water combination that can easily tolerate poor, dry soil. It must, however, have good drainage, so please don’t plant it at the bottom of a muddy hill. “Terracotta” yarrow blooms peachy yellow and matures to copper. It resists deer but attracts butterflies and is a fabulous addition to any garden, particularly one with edibles growing elsewhere within it. (Butterflies are pollinators and may well help your fruit and vegetables grow.)

Lilium henryiInula magnifica     Recommended by Paul Williams in his excellent Garden Color Book, this combination creates a late summer contrast in texture and harmony of color. The lily is a Chinese native, "discovered" by Augustine Henry in Yichang in the 1880s. I tend to prefer white lilies to the brightly colored hybrids, but this species lily and the fascinating Lilium martagon have an authenticity of color lacking in the "Buy-3-Get-1-Free" varieties of the big bulb merchandisers.

Orange as it appears in late summer blooms is the forerunner to its autumnal foliage counterpart. As the leaves of many deciduous trees end their annual life cycle, they explode into a blaze of colors, ending not with a whimper, but a bang.

You don’t have to live in New England to achieve a fall riot of color, though it doesn’t hurt if you want to grow sugar maples, Acer saccharum (above). In milder climes or smaller spaces, try the Japanese maple instead. Though it can be prone to verticilium wilt and is often overused at real estate offices and dental practices, Acer palmatum is an exquisite specimen that comes in a wide range of varieties and a kaleidoscope of exquisite colors, sizes and textures. We'll look here at orange varieties, keeping in mind that the color is a mixture of yellow and red, both of whom tend to vie for attention. For a smaller Japanese maple, try "Waterfall," "Mikawa yatsubusa," "Seiryu," or "Koto no ito." They all hover around six to twelve feet, with the exception of "Mikawa yatsubusa," which is only three feet tall.

For a tall, magnificent specimen or grove of Japanese maples, plant "Sangokaku," which is typically yellow-leaved but does range into bright orange. "Sangokaku" reaches 20 feet in height and needs excellent drainage to avoid disease.

There is an orange jewel in the autumn crown that surpasses A. p. "Sangokaku," however, and it is also a prized Japanese specimen. The Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) is not a plant to be plonked unceremoniously in the outskirts of your garden. Honor this exquisite workhorse by placing it somewhere you can admire it year-round. The Katsura tree’s new growth emerges red and purple in spring, morphing to glaucous green in summer, and blazing on to an eventual and triumphant apricot, orange and yellow in autumn. Cut back slightly on its late summer water to enhance fall foliage color.

And as if the Katsura tree’s sophistication and constant visual interest weren’t enough of a sell, consider its autumn fragrance: on a warm, dry day, its fallen leaves smell like burnt sugar and fill the air with the scent of caramel. Surely this is a tree worthy of more elegance than this blog post’s feeble title?

Edwardiana, First Look

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The Edwardian dandy has a lot to say; rather, I have a lot to say about him. Misty Rabbit evokes him through Elgar’s “Chanson de matin.” The incomparable Grace Coddington and my dear friend Hannah Teare paid homage to him (and his female counterpart) in the spectacularly dreamy Edith Wharton shoot in September Vogue. Hannah styled the men on the shoot, and – with apologies to Grace C. and Natalia V. – they completely steal the scene.

And there we have it: the scene. Shot by Annie Leibovitz, the scene in this case is The Mount, Edith Wharton’s Massachusetts estate from 1902 until 1911. As well as a gathering place for the great and the good - Teddy Roosevelt and Henry James among them - The Mount was the epitome of neoclassical good taste, fusing European and American design traditions and typifying the look of the American Renaissance.

In 1904 Wharton published Italian Villas and Their Gardens, which became a key work in the field of garden design.  She argued that gardens should function as architectural compositions, or garden rooms; The Mount’s own gardens became a seminal example of landscape design in their own right.

“I am amazed at the success of my efforts. Decidedly, I'm a better landscape gardener than novelist, and this place, every line of which is my own work, far surpasses The House of Mirth…"

- Edith Wharton in a letter to Morton Fullerton

We’ll delve into The Mount’s design in subsequent posts and break down how we, dear reader, can implement its design elements into our own more modest homesteads. But today let’s take a look behind the scenes of the Vogue shoot and at Edith Wharton’s menfolk and their luscious style.

Hannah shared her styling inspiration and Annie Leibovitz’s historical references. Hannah kept as close to the 1907 date as possible when sourcing silhouettes and styling. Each man had a distinctive character and story in life, and Hannah wanted these differences to be visible, if subtle, in the shoot. Each man held very different social roles and professions, and their clothing reflected that. By our (pretty slack) modern standards, even their informal outfits are formal, with stiff collars, morning coats and tweed country suits.

Let’s check the boys out…

Theodore Roosevelt is played by James Corden in the shoot, and in life he was “a bear of a man,” in Hannah’s words. Hunting, the outdoors, the American readers among us will likely recall his boy scout tendencies and his thoughts on walking with big sticks. Hannah dressed James Corden in vintage boots, shirt and waistcoat but added a Ralph Lauren RTW suit (see him above, posturing next to Natalia Vodianova).

Henry James is played by Jeffrey Eugenides. (Have you read Middlesex? It’s gripping. As is The Turn of the Screw.) Here’s Henry/Jeffrey in Paul Stuart; formal, smart, dapper. Elijah Wood plays Charles Cook, Wharton’s loyal chauffeur. Hannah wavered on a formal versus a country suit for Charles/Elijah, but in the end chose the dark costume and goggles to set him apart from the other men. The third man in the photo is Morton Fullerton, Wharton’s big love and a renowned Romeo; he's played by Jack Huston. Hannah kept Morton/Jack dashing and smart throughout the shoot; for the most part he wears vintage, though this suit is Polo Ralph Lauren.

This luscious group of Wharton’s intellectual set is seated on the veranda of The Mount.

Take a look at Hannah, Grace and Annie’s historical notes on each character. Here's Wharton’s niece, Beatrix Farrand, played above by actress Mamie Gummer.

Diplomat Walter Berry (played by writer Junot Diaz)

Painter Max Parrish, played by Max Minghella above, looks so dashing and relaxed in comparison...

More to come on The Mount’s gardens, but until then, enjoy these luscious images. Sad but true, they are likely the first and last Annie Leibovitz photographs to appear on The Linden Green.

Let’s finish with a gander at the lovely Hannah Teare (take a number, boys), and don’t hesitate to check out her site for some utterly luscious fashion eye candy.

Equestrian

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For the Equestrian trend so popular this autumn (and every autumn, for that matter), Mimi Xu thought of Pachelbel’s “Canon & Gigue In D major.” I’m thinking of the genus Aesculus, also known as the horse chestnut tree.

The Telegraph’s superb Gardening section recently published a gallery entitled "20 of the World’s Most Beautiful Trees," and Aesculus deservedly earned a place at number 13 (lucky for some, apparently). Horse chestnut's showy white and red-tinged flowers appear in late spring and early summer in panicles, which is a swish botanical term meaning “loose conical-shaped flower clusters.” It can be grown in sun or partial shade, but it doesn’t like scorching heat and it does need fairly rich, fertile soil. In the US, it’s hardy from zones 5 through 9. In the UK, you’ll be far more interested to know that it produces conkers and is thus central to an autumn ritual beloved of British children and the competitive young-at-heart.

Weigela ‘Dark Horse’ is a shrub with fragrant and abundant, deep pink spring flowers and dark burgundy foliage (oxblood! Another fall trend). Weigela is low maintenance and attracts hummingbirds, reaching a maximum of 6’ in height. The late and magnificent Christopher Lloyd grew a cultivar of Weigela (‘Florida Variegata’, but for our purposes ‘Dark Horse’ can be used interchangeably) at his home Great Dixter in Sussex. At its foot he planted Cyclamen hederifolium, which shows its dainty and variegated foliage in winter when the deciduous weigela is not in leaf. (I plant C. hederifolium at the foot of my camellias, also on Christopher Lloyd’s advice.)

Lloyd was incomparably brave and masterful at mixing colour. In spring at Great Dixter, alongside the weigela bloom pale blue Camassia cusickii and forget-me-nots (Myosotis sylvestris), purple Allium “Globemaster,” and vivid orange Siberian wallflower (Erysimum x marshallii). In summer, the blue-green foliage of Canna glauca creates a deep, moody foil.

Another horsey plant that doesn’t necessarily bear mentioning is Equisetum (from the Latin equus), or horsetail. Full disclosure: I spent the first six months of life in our new home violently ripping it out of our garden. Apparently the former owner brewed it into tea? Disgusting. And invasive! (The plant, not the tea.) However, equisetum has its place (firmly in a container) and can be extremely effective in a modern design, as in this gorgeous and clean design from Clint Horticulture in Texas.

Equisetum needs moisture to grow and can actually be grown in a pot underwater, but moist soil will suffice. The most fascinating aspect of this plant is that it has been flourishing on earth since prehistoric times; perhaps the fact that it survived what the dinosaurs didn't should give a clear insight into its vigor.

And now for a very weird plant – and we really are veering far from the glossy pages of Vogue here – Helicodiceros muscivorus, or Dead Horse Arum, also known as Pig Butt Arum. This is more of a Fall Must Not than a Must, but it is nothing if not unique.

The only glamorous and appealing thing to be said about Helicodiceros is that it is native to the Balearics, Corsica and Sardinia. Beyond that, the plant is fascinating but repellant; Plant Delights Nursery likens its image and fragrance to “the backside of a flatulent pig.” The plant is 1’ tall and the flower bud is tan with purple speckles. Its Mediterranean island roots make sense when considering its pollination strategy: on the first day of blooming, the female flowers are receptive to pollinators, and their fragrance resembles rotting shellfish. Once insects become trapped inside the flower, the female flowers become inactive and the male flowers become fertile. They dust the trapped insects with pollen and then release them, in the hopes that another Dead Horse Arum will trap them and cross-pollinate.

This has all become far too gruesome, so let’s head back to the chic of equestrianism. In fashion terms the go-tos are Gucci and Hermès, but Stella McCartney is also known for her equine roots and references. At her Los Angeles store, Jon Goldstein of Jonny Appleseed Landscape installed an iron horse topiary amid the boutique’s white roses and pastel blooms.

According to the Daily Mail, Lana del Rey also recently bought one for her Beverly Hills garden. At over $2000, perhaps a giant topiary isn’t the cheapest way to nod at the trend; having said that, both topiary and equestrianism date back to antiquity and in design terms are the epitome of preppy, classic Jackie Kennedy chic.

In 2010 Christian Liaigre, whom The Wall Street Journal Magazine recently called “The Grand Minimalist,” designed a lounge chair for the Great Outdoors collection at Holly Hunt. Liaigre is best known as the interior designer of the Mercer Hotel, but his career began as a horse breeder in the Vendée. The chair, called the St Bart’s Ile de Ré, is teak, a rainforest hardwood often used for outdoor furniture because of its unsurprising ability to withstand the elements. The chair has a curved back, sturdy frame and back legs seemingly poised on the brink of a canter.

For the ultimate in classic, patrician, equestrian chic, however, let’s look to Sag Harbor and the home of Joe Petrocik and Myron Clement, featured in the October 2001 issue of Garden Design. Friends and hosts of Truman Capote amongst myriad other members of the New York glitterati, Petrocik and Clement in their own words “…discovered that [they] needed an escape from their escape.” Relief arrived in the form of a glasshouse spotted at the Hampton Classic Horse Show and designed by former solar engineer Andrew Caskie. Numerous edits were made to the original design – including a hole cut into the floor for one of the many existing trees – but Petrocik, Clement and Caskie eventually arrived at a steeply roofed cedar and glass house fronted with French doors and overlooking a pond.

And, in what can only be called a serendipitous flash of equestrian synchronicity, parked in the driveway of Petrocik and Clement’s Hamptons home? Truman Capote’s cherry-red ’68 Mustang.

September Issues

I know, I know – it’s the end of October. Let’s not get bogged down by details, shall we? I am, in fact, punctual enough to know our current month, but there’s a big, looming September issue that needs closer examination before we can close the book on the back-to-school, new-pencils-in-the-case time of year.

The issue at hand is four and a half pounds, to be exact, and it actually arrived in August. I’m talking, of course, about the September issue of Vogue, aka “The Bible” to the fashion gurus amongst us. The editorial crammed between the ads (658 of them this year) and the cover (Lady Gaga as the fairly dubious cover model) is spectacular, eclectic and authoritatively identifies the key trends of Autumn/Winter 2012. More on them below...

Midway through the tome is a little but brilliant interview with DJ and music director Mimi Xu, aka Misty Rabbit, who likens each fall trend to a piece of music. Xu is the publisher of Trax Magazine and masterminded recent runway soundtracks for Alexander McQueen, Opening Ceremony and Mary Katrantzou.

Over the next several posts, I’m going to spin her metaphor further and relate each trend to the garden. Autumn is the ideal time of year to plan your next moves in the garden. What bloomed lavishly in May? Where did you long for shade when the sun beat down in August? Why did the hotly anticipated eggplant harvest deliver nothing but wan, floppy foliage?
September, October, November… these are the perfect months to evaluate the past year in our gardens. The weather grows crisp and then becomes cold. The leaves send out an exuberant, dying shout of color. And our energy and attention slow and turn inward to hearth and home.

Mist and foliage

 

Herewith autumn’s "loudest" trends as per Vogue, and their accompanying playlist by Misty Rabbit. Check in for the garden spin in the posts to follow...

1.     Equestrian – Pachelbel "Canon & Gigue in D major" 2.     Edwardiana – Edward Elgar, "Chanson de matin" 3.     Neo-Ladylike – DJ Hell with Bryan Ferry, "U Can Dance" 4.     Heavy Embellishment – Mozart, "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" 5.     Street Warrior – Justice, "New Lands (Falcon Remix)" 6.     Gothic Romance – Purity Ring, "Belispeak" 7.     Supersize Shapes – Alpine, "Hands (Goldroom Remix)" 8.     The Working Woman – Kraftwerk, "Das Model" 9.     Nineties Redux – Crystal Waters, "100% Pure Love" 10.  Global Traveller – Glasser, "Apply"