Things That Make You Go Hmmm… The Hockey Puck Azalea

Things That Make You Go Hmmm… The Hockey Puck Azalea

Inspired by our friend Billy Goodnick, creator of  Crimes Against Horticulture: When Bad Taste Meets Power Tools, Things That Make You Go Hmmm… is a lighthearted look a the things we do in the name of landscaping and gardening.

This mass planting of the very rare Hockey Puck Azalea (Rhododendron ‘Between the Pipes’)*, does a wonderful job of drawing the drivers attention to this shopping mall, eh? So much better this way than in it’s, soft, natural, mounding, habit, don’t you think?




*Disclaimer: After being shot too many times into the seats, the Hockey Puck Azalea has been discontinued.

Garden Designers Roundtable – Transitions…

Garden Designers Roundtable – Transitions…

How strange that the nature of life is change, yet the nature of human beings is to resist change. And how ironic that the difficult times we fear might ruin us are the very ones that can break us open and help us blossom into who we were meant to be.

~ Elizabeth Lesser  Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow

I find it inspiring how often life quotes mirror those of the garden. The cycle of life is never so apparent as in a garden, and perhaps that is why as humans, we see in the garden, a reflection of our failures and triumphs, our most brilliant blossoms and our deepest roots.

For garden Designers Roundtable this month, we are discussing “Transitions”. Merriam-Webster defines transition as; passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another, or a movement, development, or evolution from one form, stage, or style to another. Once again the metaphor for life that is the garden is clear.

Gardens like life, are rife with transition. The designer has many different elements between which he must draw the visitor. With a keen eye and a little imagination, a simple change of space becomes a journey, and time may pass with elegant grace.

Let’s take a look at some examples of these “Transitions”, in the form of journeys, boundaries and time.

In journey ~

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A woodland path takes its time to lead us around points of interest.

Move between elevations can be done simply, or in grand style.

The depth of this view of the garden seems to tell us there will be interest along the way!

In boundary ~

A fence section both frames and divides this planting, seemingly holding the Miscanthus at bay.

This boundary wall is a wonderfully rural transition between the wild of the wood and the civility of the lawn.

A median is not only boundary between directions of traffic, but a welcoming transition into the world of retail.

In time ~

As the blossom of this Little Lime hydrangea transtions from lime-green to white to pink, we mark the seasons in the garden.

A Hosta leaf also marks the passage of time.

A favorite of mine, the beautiful straw foliage of this Hameln Dwarf Fountain Grass will stand all winter until the new growth of next season begins to sprout completing its cycle of transition.


As the morning fog burns off the valley floor, revealing the Heublein Tower, life transitions from it's sleepy start into the vibrant bustle of the day.

How do you mark transition in your garden? I love to hear about it, please leave a comment!

And please stop by and visit with my fellow Rountable bloggers today as they give their impressions of “Transition”.

Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO

Deborah Silver : Dirt Simple : Detroit, MI

Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT

Mary Gallagher Gray : Black Walnut Dispatch : Washington, D.C.

Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT

David Cristiani : The Desert Edge : Albuquerque, NM


Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day For November

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day For November

As Autumn slowly fades into winter here in Southern New England, we find fewer and fewer blossoms for Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day. That doesn’t leave us devoid of color and interest though, for despite being far past peak foliage color, there are still many wonders to behold in the garden. With that thought in mind, I ventured out with camera in hand to capture the beauty that is the turn of the season.
I hope you find as much enjoyment as I do in the following photos. Remember, you can click on each to see a larger version.
Though the Bee covered yellow frosting from late summer has passed, the spent flower heads of Goldenrod (Solidago) still provide us interest. They almost resemble cotton waiting to be picked.
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The common name Fleabane, does not do the lovely flowers of Erigeron justice. Here still putting on a display mid-November.

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We have been using several different Coral Bells (Heuchera) in containers the last few years, and one of our favorites is ‘Caramel’. It’s foliage is a wonderful contrast to the annuals and Hostas it’s been pared with. This container, on its last legs of the season, is still looking vibrant thanks to the many wonderful shades of color provided by ‘Caramel’

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Heuchera 'Caramel'

Not to be outlasted, our Scabiosa ochroleuca, will just not turn in for the season!

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Scabiosa ochroleuca

Looking weary and a bit haggard, but still festive, Swamp Sunflower is holding on, adding color to the ever increasingly dull hues of late fall.

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Helianthus angustifolius 'Gold Lace'

Not all plants shun fall and winter, the Common Witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana) does not bloom until this time of year. Its crinkly spider like blooms here are glistenig from last night’s rain.

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Hamamelis virginiana

A star of late Autumn, Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata) explodes this time of year. Found on the edge of wet meadows and woodlands, the bright red berries will continue to draw our attention until every last one is gobbled up by our avian friends.

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Ilex verticillata

On the edge of our meadow, I found the following plant. I’m not quite sure what it is, but  am completely mesmerized by the whispy structure and the wonderful tan and brown hues of the foliage. What a wonderfully welcome volunteer to have made its home here.

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One of our meadow volunteers

So there you have it, the last of the 2009 blooms from our garden. I hope you have enjoyed these posts as much as I have enjoyed sharing them with you. If you have, then fear not, for there will all sorts of frozen wonders to explore as we venture out into the winter garden, stay tuned.

See you in the Garden,


Bloom Day for August!

Bloom Day for August!

Today is Garden Bloggers Bloom day for August, A time we share what’s blooming in our gardens with the world. Enjoy!
Buddleia 'Black Knight'
Buddleia 'Black Knight'
Hemerocallis 'Chicago Apache'
Hemerocallis ‘Chicago Apache’
Lobelia cardinalis
Lobelia cardinalis
Echinacea - assorted
Echinacea – assorted
Hydrangea 'Endless Summer'
Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer’
Liatris 'Floristan White'
Liatris ‘Floristan White’
See you amongst the flowers!
When the cat’s away…..

When the cat’s away…..

Recent events have kept me from attending to all the details that keep each project moving along smoothly, and that has caused there to be a little downtime for the crew. When faced with idle time in the past, I could usually trust that my crew would keep themselves busy in some sort of constructive fashion. My current crew, consisting of 2 college aged males on the otherhand, upon finding themselves with some empty time, decided they would rather exercise their ceative muscles. When instructed to move an existing pile of brick, they instead decided to build a monument any mason was sure to be proud of. So, move it they did. All that was left was to sit back and soak up the accolades.

So my friends, I give you – “Pile of Brick”, by Justin and Mike.


Now in the past, I may have over reacted to this kind of “tom-foolery”, but I have matured over the years, and have learned to accept things for what they are. After all, they could have used their idle time in all manner of degenerate ways (that’s a story for another time!).  No, this time I took into account that the customer was fairly amused, and that their actions didn’t leave me with any repairs or the need to replace anything (which is also a story for another time!), instead I focused on the positive, and….. promoted them.

I am pleased to introduce the new Vice President and Executive Assisant, of material storage and brick stacking for Blue Heron! (I’ll let them decide which is which).


Now if I could only find their time cards……..

See you in thegarden!


Encore! Well…. maybe just a do-over.

Encore! Well…. maybe just a do-over.

To those of you that tuned it to watch “The Ultimate Backyard Makeover” on FOX 61 this past Saturday, I must first say thank you. Not only did you perservere through a long blog series, you went the extra yard. Now, if you found yourself saying “what the heck was that?”, you are not alone. Apparently there were some technical difficulties in the Fox 61 control room, and half of the show did not make it on air, so if you didn’t get it, it wasn’t you. Fox 61 will be re-airing the the show in all its glory again this Saturday (Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel) and this time you’ll get to see the whole thing.

So if you have it in you to give it one more try for cause, please tune in. Oh and just in case, better have a copy of your favorite movie to watch if things go awry again. I think I’ll rent moonstruck……

See you in the garden,


A deserving Family and 15 Minutes for Blue Heron

A deserving Family and 15 Minutes for Blue Heron


Promoting a small business can be a daunting task. Finding the right venue to get your message out, getting ad copy just right and staying within a budget, all can test the reserve of even the most creative soul. That’s why, when the Backyard Makeover project presented itself, I gladly jumped onboard. A role in a televised production, on a local station, professionally filmed and produced, would surely provide needed exposure and credibility for Blue Heron Landscape Design. Most of the other participants, already advertisers with Fox 61, undoubtedly also knew of the value of this exposure, and also were quick to sign on. With stars in our eyes, we arrived, prepared for our companies expected fortunes.

Fate, I have always maintained, has a sense of humor, it seems, that it also has a sense of purpose. Here was a group of companies determined to take advantage of a brilliant opportunity, unexpectedly finding a greater purpose; Present a very deserving family with a private place of respite that they would not otherwise be able to afford. Now, I don’t mean to make our homeowners out as destitute, for they are not. Simply good people, that life threw one too many curve balls. And by no means are we, the participants meant to appear as saints, most assuredly we are not. This rather simply, became a feel good story that would benefit both sides in ways that neither could have imagined, and that is good story to tell.

Thank you to WTIC FOX 61, for providing this opportunity, and thank you to each of the other participants for making my job easier. Special thanks to Ron and the crew at R-N-L Enterprises, for without them we never would have pulled this off. And, thank you to you, readers, for the opportunity to tell this story, I know time is precious, and this has been a long blog. I hope you have enjoyed it.

Now, I must go, it just started to rain again, and I think I left my tools outside……

Follow this link to more pictures of the project from start to finish.

See you in the Garden,


The FOX 61 Ultimate Backyard Makeover is scheduled to run Saturday June 27th at 12:30 pm. Please tune in! And feel free to email me any comments, even those less flattering.

A deserving Family and 15 Minutes for Blue Heron PT. II

A deserving Family and 15 Minutes for Blue Heron PT. II

Day two of our project began with a job meeting. This is a common occurrence, especially when so many contractors and vendors are participating. Four of those participants met on the homeowners back porch, and the discussion quickly centered on our first obstacle, and what would prove to be an ongoing theme for this project….Rain. Each contractor, stood with his umbrella, the whole group looking more like the crowd at the US Open, than a group of artisans set to reconstruct this backyard. Quickly, we dispensed with ‘interesting topics’, such as; “I wasn’t given enough notice for this project!” and “There’s no way this will get done by Friday!”, and refocused around the homeowner’s story and the opportunity we each had to help them out.

Each participant would bring his certain product or talent to the group; Ron from R-N-L Enterprises, would provide site work, bed prep, brush removal and lawn establishment. Darren from Birch Mountain Earthworks would supply us with mulch, topsoil and playscape mulch. Bryan from Winterberry Gardens would bring in the plant material and plant it. My job was to design the overall layout of the site, including, location of their new shed and new playscape, size and shape of the new patio and sitting wall, and the layout of all the planting beds. I also would be scheduling each of the participants time on the site, keeping each abreast of the schedule, and coordinating with the film crew as to their arrival, so each could be filmed in action and interviewed for the final production. After getting a little understanding and relief from the executives at FOX 61, we set our schedule and were off.

R-N-L got to work immediately, clearing brush scraping sod from the beds, and excavating areas for the shed, the new playscape and the patio. They are an efficient crew, and were able to make quick work of theirs tasks, with the help of their Takeuchi Compact Track Loader (See picture at right). Carefree Small Buildings delivered the new shed, and with the precision of a surgeon the driver placed it exactly in the spot R-N-L had created for it. When commenting on how good the driver was, he replied to me, “oughta be, I been drivin’ this truck for 46 years”.

Next in were John from Nicolock Pavers, and his installer Gregorio. Jamie selected her paver style and color, Gregorio and I discussed the patio layout, and we set Monday as the day for installation.  Unfortunately, rain and schedule conflicts, would put the rest of the project off until the next week, but come that Monday morning, the place would come alive with activity.

In part III, tomorrow, we’ll do our best to stay out of everyone’s way, as the jobsite becomes a flurry of activity, including some emergency tree work, the patio installation, plantings and some very cool extras.

See you in the Garden,


The FOX 61 Ultimate Backyard Makeover is scheduled to run on June 27th at 12:30 pm. Please tune in!

A deserving Family and 15 Minutes for Blue Heron

A deserving Family and 15 Minutes for Blue Heron

Each one of us, or so we were told by Andy Warhol, will be famous for fifteen minutes. And so, comes the time for Blue Heron Landscape Design. While pumping gas one day, I returned a call to a Ron, a Landscape Contractor friend of mine, who had left a message for me regarding a “Backyard Makeover” show the local Fox affiliate was preparing. They were looking for a Landscape Designer to head up the project, and would I be interested in being that person. He explained they need someone to look at the winner’s yard and come up with a plan for all the goodies that had been donated by the other participants, and oversee the construction and delivery of the “Ultimate Backyard”. This was right up my alley, so with eye towards exposure for the company, and the chance to help out a deserving candidate, I jumped in and set my alarm for fifteen minutes.

Several weeks later, I had heard that a winner had been chosen, and that the project was ready to commence. So I waited for a call….. and I waited for a call….. and, on Monday June 8th, while pumping gas at that same station (que the eerie music) my phone rang. “Hi Scott its Bruce from Fox 61, are you ready for your fifteen minutes?” The plan was for me to meet the homeowner and then be interviewed on camera by the producer, and….could I be there in three hours? and they would like the project finished by Friday (yes that same week!) so production could air the final product the following Saturday? The fast paced reality of TV had shed its light on Blue Heron, and I was not amused.

WTIC Fox 61 was looking for a deserving family within its broadcasting area, that had a problem backyard, and story to go with it. Almost one hundred submitted applications, which were narrowed down to the three most worthy. These three were presented on Fox 61’s website and a winner was chosen. Here is the winning entry:

I would love to win this contest for my husband and my daughter.    We bought our home several years ago seeing much potential in the run down, unkempt back yard.  Little did we know then that I would be diagnosed with MS a year later and become unable to work or help much with the physical activity it would take to transform the gardens and lawn.    In December, we had a baby who was born with a congenital heart defect and required surgery just last month.  Now that she’s home and recovering faster than anyone could imagine, my husband has been very intent on creating a play space for her in our backyard.    I think he envisions many things for our daughter, but a safe deck (our stairs are being propped up with kitty litter buckets!) and grass would be the simplest luxuries!  We see so many possibilities when we look out our windows – we simply lack the time, energy, and funds to realize our dream backyard.

Later that day, after having rearranged a considerably busy schedule, I met with the winners and the film crew, and we were off and running. The homeowners Matt and Jamie, along with their daughter Adeline, couldn’t have been nicer, and were very appreciative of what was about to happen to their yard.

Tomorrow, we’ll look in on the contractor meeting, See what each is donating, and encounter several obstacles in the project. Until then……

See you in the Garden,


The FOX 61 Ultimate Backyard Makeover is scheduled to run on June 27th at 12:30 pm. Please tune in!

Raindrops keep fallin’ on my….

Raindrops keep fallin’ on my….

Rain for forty days and forty nights, the animals lined up two by two. You know the story. And so it goes here in southern New England. I woke up to read in the Hartford Courant this morning that it had rained on 26 of the last 46 days. At first I was amazed, and then, after considering the possibilities, relieved, for just add fourteen days to that rain total, and maybe a double procession of procession of camels, bears and chimpanzees may have interrupted the enjoyment of my English muffin and coffee.

Growing up here in New England, does prepare one for sudden and sometimes drastic weather swings. As a boy, I can remember my parents and grandparents reciting Mark Twain: “if you don’t like the weather in New England, Wait a minute”. Well I have waited a minute. In fact for 26 of 46 days I have waited 66,240 minutes. But it’s still raining.

Rain, didn’t matter much to me as a young boy, there was always some fun to be had rain or shine. Fishing is better in the rain, mud wars are definitely better in the rain, and you never have to cut the lawn in the rain. So I never cared if it rained. Now, some (mumbling low under his breath) years later, I am becoming an old”ish” New Englander, and the rain has become a more important part of my life. Rain is a blessing! New plantings are getting plenty of water, and my customers won’t have to drag hundreds of feet of hose around the yard. Lawns are greener, and will stay that way well into the summer before going into dormancy. Reservoirs are filling and aquifers are being replenished.

But, the work schedule is suffering. So, we get out while we can and catch up on office work when we must. After all, a mud war now, only serves to create more work. So we’ll wait a minute and hope for the best, because before long we will be enduring the dog days, thinking, “if only it would rain”.

Now, I have to get going, I just saw two giraffes walk through the back yard. I wonder…..?

See you in the Garden,