For all of my Design-obsessed Peeps -- Day 1/UNCONVENTIONAL GARDENS (Roof-top Garden)



Last week we experienced the hottest days of the summer so far; even zinnias and straw-flowers, two of the sturdiest heat-tolerant annuals and proven summer stalwarts, showed signs of duress. I confess to having a tentative relationship with annuals of which I find some to be a tad riotous; at times the Carmen Miranda color hues are sometimes difficult to integrate into the soft palette offered by pink phlox, white roses, Wintergreen boxwood, lace-cap hydrangeas, and the softly rounded mounds of spirea--all much favored by my employer.  Although nothing can quite compare to the intensity of color offered by French marigolds, petunias, geraniums, rex begonias, and coleus, especially when the continuous heat has driven the remainder of the garden into shutdown-mode.

Duncan at Merrifield Gardens wisely notes: it is not the plant, it's the placement, so give it a second look; over the years I have become more relaxed and skillful at container gardening where the afore-mentioned annuals, as well as bacopa, nemesia, verbena, angelonia, as well as caladiums and elephant-ears tucked into colorful glazed Vietnamese, Chinese and Italian pots, or vintage cement planters, provide interest at strategic spots such as entry-ways, balconies, foyers, along pathways, or on pedestals. Combined with Swedish ivy, hostas, hellebores, ferns, ornamental grasses, and herbs, container gardening offers big bang for the buck, as well as greater ease in watering, feeding, and maintenance. Gorgeous glazed container-pots (deeply discounted) can now be found at Merrifield Garden, Meadow-Farms Nurseries, HomeGoods; and for the discerning aesthetes in our group, the high priestess of garden antiques, Barbara Israel (at offers the finest in statuary, pots, and antique furniture.

It is predicted that we will continue to experience 'climate change' and regretfully, this means that temperatures will rise. Any fantasies I may have had of growing lush beds filled with lupines and hollyhocks, like my friends in Connecticut, have been replaced by the pressing need to just keep the recently transplanted viburnum, witch-hazel, baptisia, Siberian irises, and rainbow leucothe adequately watered during the remainder of this summer's anticipated inferno. My peep Lowell and I are seriously considering the installation of a ' green-roof ' to his suburban town-house. His tiny front garden is doing beautifully and is fairly maintenance free as a result of using lots of native and drought-tolerant plants. We are both quite interested in cutting down on the cost of cooling his place in the summer; helping to decrease rain runoff and urban heat island effect; providing a habitat for wildlife such as birds, bees, and butterflies; transforming an ugly, flat cement roof into something beautiful with grasses, perennials, vegetables and herbs; and being able to relax outdoors in a private and idyllic setting. A recent National Geographic TV special about the roof-top garden installed at Chicago's City Hall was amazing. Photographs showed a green oasis amidst concrete/glass/steel towers, and hopefully this heralds a new beginning in smart, green energy. I pray that other cities follow Chicago's example as climatic temperatures rise, the price of transportation costs increase, and population density per square mile doubles in most metropolitan areas. The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) posits that green-roofs insulate buildings, extend the life of the roof membrane, increase property values, and vastly improve urban aesthetics.  I would love to see some of the federal buildings in the nation's capitol integrate green-roofs, which undeniably are more beneficial to the American people than the sharp divisions of red and blue.

Enjoy this week's peep-show devoted to unconventional gardens, and stay cool.

PS:  New York's High Line ( is certainly a great step in the right direction.  So is being the 6th state to recognize same-sex marriage thereby permitting over 800 same-sex couples to say I DO!!!


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