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Martha Stewart was in Portland recently and caught up with her former head gardener and Living gardening editor, Andrew Beckman. For those of you who don’t know Andrew, he is now associate publisher and editorial director at Timber Press, and while he’s more comfortable in his garden than in the spotlight, we can’t help but share a bit about her visit with him. Martha was kind enough to allow us to post some of her pictures here and you can read her post on The Martha Blog.

More after the jump.

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Pruning will keep your plants from taking over, such as this old kiwi vine has done here.

Pruning will keep your plants from taking over, such as this old kiwi vine has done here.

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Pruning is a complex subject, but with guidance and care—and a tall ladder—anyone can do basic maintenance pruning. For starters, always prune a woody plant in this order: dead, damaged, diseased, deranged. After you have removed material in that order, look at your plant to decide if it needs further pruning for shape, size, fruit production, or aesthetic appeal. Three rules will protect your plants from wanton pruning.

More after the jump.

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From What’s Wrong With My Fruit Garden? by David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth

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A fresh combination of snowdrops and aconites. Image: Naomi Slade

A fresh combination of snowdrops and aconites. Image: Naomi Slade

From The Plant Lover’s Guide to Snowdrops by Naomi Slade

In a garden setting, snowdrops always look loveliest when planted among congenial neighbours. When planning autumn-to-spring planting schemes, the trick is to treat it a bit like a relay race and include as much botanical joy as possible. As some plants give up the ghost, ensure that others are going strong and that new players are waiting in the wings ready to take over. Considered as part of a continuum, snowdrops are useful because they come into their own at the point where many plants are at their absolute nadir—when old foliage is flattened and brown and new leaves have not quite begun to break—so they are ideal for filling in gaps and bringing a sparkle to permanent structure.

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Salvia ‘Sally Greenwood,' a wonderful salvia to use for softening the edges of paving and pathways or among large rocks. Image: John Whittlesey

Salvia ‘Sally Greenwood,’ a wonderful salvia to use for softening the
edges of paving and pathways or among large rocks. Image: John Whittlesey

Designing with salvias opens a world of possibilities. Considering the wide diversity of plants in the genus Salvia, it is not difficult to find one or many salvias for any type of garden, in any climate zone. Their use in the landscape is as varied as the genus. Salvias are seen as groundcovers, as lively companions for roses, and as superb container plants. They are as comfortable in a formal perennial border as in a cottage garden setting, a formal herb garden, or a wildlife garden. Salvias can lend a lush tropical flavor or a lean, dry garden look. For every gardener and every gardening style, there is a multitude of salvias from which to choose.

Read on to discover some of the many ways to use salvias. More suggestions (along with 150 plant profiles) can be found in The Plant Lover’s Guide to Salvias by John Whittlesey.

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A front yard full of self-sowers, spreaders, and keepers, the keys to a plantiful garden. Image: Gail Read

A yard full of self-sowers, spreaders, and keepers, the keys to a plantiful garden. Image: Gail Read

“Some say it takes at least twelve years to create a garden,” Kristin Green writes in Plantiful. “I don’t want to wait that long. I expect my garden to grow.”

By filling her garden with self-sowers, spreaders, and plants that winter inside and summer outside, Kristin maximizes yield while minimizing cost and maintenance. “Aside from some full days in spring preparing for the season,” she confesses, “I spend only as much time as I have.” Plantiful is her way of passing on her experience. “I would share every plant in my garden with you if I could. Instead, I wrote this.”

The following scenarios illustrate the unlimited potential of Kristin’s approach. Read on and see if you don’t recognize yourself.

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Laura Crockett wanted an "obvious, interesting entrance" to her home. Including the curb strip in her garden design allowed her to begin the dramatic entrance at the street.

Laura Crockett wanted an “obvious, interesting entrance” to her home. Including the curb strip in her garden design allowed her to begin the dramatic entrance at the street. Image: Joshua McCullough

When Laura Crockett bought her property seventeen years ago, the front yard was entirely lawn. “I knew I wanted to make a private interior courtyard,” she says, “with an obvious, interesting entrance.” She laid out a linear garden 8 feet wide on either side of the 75-foot stretch of public sidewalk. One side is the parking strip; the other is bounded by a fence that masks the rest of her front yard. Her bold geometric design of concentric diamond shapes cuts across the public sidewalk, highlighting a wide gap in her front fence. This opening dramatically frames a large waterfall rushing down a colored concrete wall directly in front of Laura’s home.

Continue reading for more about Laura’s design choices and the challenges faced while hellstrip gardening.

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A groundcovering sedum backed by coneflowers edges a stone path. Image: Brent Horvath

A groundcovering sedum backed by coneflowers edges a stone path. Image: Brent Horvath

Groundcovers are often used as the solution to a challenging setting; where grass can’t grow, the soil is too rocky, or water and time are in short supply. Places like this are where sedums shine. They can take the place of a lawn where mowing is impossible and irrigation impractical, they require less maintenance than other groundcovers like ivy or goutweed, and many offer three-season interest with spring foliage, summer blooms, and fall colors.

The Plant Lover’s Guide to Sedums includes everything a gardener needs to know about growing and caring for these versatile plants and here author Brent Horvath offers six colorful, low-maintenance picks.

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Dahlia Color Wheel 02With so many dahlias to choose from, where does a gardener begin? Andy Vernon starts with color. He’s collected his personal favorites in The Plant Lover’s Guide to Dahlias, and while he extols their many virtues, it’s the numerous shades, tints, and tones Andy finds most endearing, and which are responsible for the flower’s dramatic, larger-than-life reputation. “Colour is king in my garden,” he writes. “Anyone who loves unashamedly vivid and vibrant flowers risks becoming addicted to the colour rush. You have been warned.”

Here are eight of Andy’s favorites, for confirmed dahlia lovers in search of new varieties, or dahlia newbies hoping to add some high-drama to their gardens.

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To open the center remove branches crowding the interior of your tree’s canopy using thinning cuts. The tree on the left needs to pruned. The middle drawing shows in red all the branches to be removed. The tree on the right has been pruned.

To open the center remove branches crowding the interior of your tree’s canopy using thinning cuts. The tree on the left needs to pruned. The middle drawing shows in red all the branches to be removed. The tree on the right has been pruned.

Diagnosing plant problems is often a matter of determining proper care and maintenance and correcting for errors. A well-tended plant is less likely to succumb to disease and has more strength to fight pests. Along with tools for diagnosing problems, David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth offer advice on appropriate care practices in their What’s Wrong series of books. The following tips and terminology for pruning trees is from the latest in the series, What’s Wrong With My Fruit Garden?

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The Juergens family: Harper, Tim, Kathryn

The Juergens family: Harper, Tim & Kathryn

Timber Press marketing manager Kathryn Juergens needed an inexpensive, low-maintenance solution to a problematic area of her yard, the little sliver between her and her neighbor’s driveway, a wasteland of boring rocks and ugly shrubs. Inspired by Roy Diblik’s The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden, she decided to give his system a try. Kathryn offered to share her story and this post will detail  the progress of her own Know Maintenance Perennial Garden.

Roy Diblik knows plants. Owner of Northwind Perennial Farm and the plantsman behind the Lurie Garden in Chicago, Roy believes the more gardeners know about their plants, the more able they are to create self-sustaining communities with them, greatly reducing the frustration of maintenance. “But I don’t have thirty years experience like Roy does,” says Kathryn, “I needed something to flatten the learning curve.” Kathryn was most interested in Roy’s ready-made planting schemes, “Which is exactly why we published this book, to help gardeners like me.”

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