Travel and Garden Design

I love to travel. I love the “otherness”. Besides a chance to get out of my usual surroundings and experience time in a different environment to regroup and refresh, I get a lot of design ideas by visiting gardens wherever I travel. I see new plants I just have to have and then I try to figure out if I can grow them…or what I can substitute that might look as similar as possible.

Last year, a reporter for Lawn and Landscape magazine called and asked me to tell her why I consider travel an important element in my garden design process (she had seen mention of my love of travel on my website). Frankly, I forgot all about the interview and never saw the article–until a few days ago, when a grower in California e-mailed to ask me a question pertaining to the interview. Here’s a link to the article.

Posted under Media

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on February 28, 2010

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The Earliest Veggies

I am lucky enough to be able to split my time between Arlington, VA (Washington, DC, area) and Wilmington, NC (southeastern NC, not far from the SC border). Arlington is in growing zone 7, Wilmington is in zone 8. Arlington has heavy clay soil, Wilmington sand. This gives me the opportunity to grow different plants in different conditions.

Steve, my partner, turned the vegetable garden here in Wilmington last week. We had a good rain on Monday that soaked it down. Taking advantage of the rainy day, we stopped by the local Farmer’s Supply store and picked up the earliest vegetables we wanted to plant this year.

Cole crops, or those in the genus Brassica, can be planted early in the spring (or in the fall in the South) because they can withstand cold temperatures. Cole crops include broccoli, cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts, collards, cauliflower, and kohlrabi, among others. We decided to plant two varieties of broccoli, collards, and brussels sprouts this spring. They will be established long before it is time to plant the next round of spring vegetables. We also picked up a bag of Black Hen, which is dried-up chicken manure and a great organic fertilizer. Our garden is small, 14′ x 14′, so one bag will do it.

So yesterday, I went into the garden on a gorgeous, mid-60s afternoon and got busy. I fine-graded the soil with my cultivator and hard rake to make sure it was level and there were no weeds lurking underneath the surface. I spaced the broccoli and brussels sprouts 18″ apart, and the collards 36″ apart. Then I sprinkled the entire garden with chicken manure and lightly scratched it in with my cultivator to work it in and loosen the soil. We are due some rain today, so the timing is perfect.

There’s something about the first real working day in the garden, in the early spring, that is just magical, joyful, wonderful. The warmth of the sun, the sounds of the birds, the smell of the soil and things stirring…all the senses are just bombarded. I love it. It sustains me.

Posted under Vegetable gardening

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on February 24, 2010

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Blooms Garden Tour

How I wish I could go! I hear Donna Dawson, Master Gardener and tour guide par excellence, gives a great tour through her company, Gardening Tours. Check it out.

Adrian Bloom’s Celebration of English Gardens Tour
July 3-11, 2010

For more info, go to and click on “Blooms2010″.

There is no finer example of using plants to inspire both intellectually and emotionally than English garden design. Steeped in history, English design styles, from formal gardens to cottage gardens, have lead the way in both Europe and the Americas since the 18th century.

This special Celebration of English Gardens Tour for garden writers and those in the horticultural industry will feature visits to some of the finest gardens, horticultural facilities and shows in England, personally selected by Adrian Bloom. Enjoy valuable networking and social opportunities as well.

Blooms of Bressingham has been famous for its selection of herbaceous perennials for more than 80 years. The father and son team of Alan and Adrian Bloom are the creators of Bressingham Gardens, whose 16 acres we will tour in a one-day visit. This is a unique opportunity to not only view the six distinct garden areas at Bressingham up close, but to meet and socialize with other garden writers from the UK, North America and Europe at a special Press Day event. Adrian’s latest book should be out by the time we are here.


This year the 21st Hampton Court Palace Flower Show will look unlike any other, with a new layout. For the first time the Floral Marquee will be on the North side of the showground as a dramatic 225m long feature with over 90 stunning displays. On the South side of the canal the popular grow your own theme will be even bigger, with a major, Home Grown feature. The Gardens Illustrated marquee is another new highlight where plant and gardening accessories will be combined in gorgeous displays.

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show offers over 600 shopping opportunities, ideas for growing in small spaces or large gardens, features bursting with fruit and vegetables, a Cookery Theatre and traditional, modern and contemporary ideas. For 2010 a Shakespearean theme will provide entertaining, and quintessentially British, gardens. The show is also a popular destination to enjoy and purchase hundreds of varieties of the nation’s favourite flower in the Festival of Roses, which is also the launch pad for the Rose of the Year.

Finally, the vast setting of the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, which encircles the Long Water canal, has the Palace as its backdrop, and is surrounded by acres of park land, makes it the perfect place to escape and find everything you need to make the best of your life outdoors.

Blooms of Bressingham – exclusive Press Day Event

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show – full day ticket

King’s Privy Garden – at Hampton Court Palace, view the Great Grape Vine – planted in 1768

Beth Chatto – acclaimed gardens of drought, water and woodland, based on sustainable planting

Thompson & Morgan – tour through their facilities and see the latest

Old Vicarage – this ‘hidden garden’ is a must see!
Will Giles Exotic Garden – tropicals are his passion

Cambridge Botanic Garden – over 10,000 labeled plant species set in beautiful landscape

RHS Hyde Hall – a visit to the 360-acre Hyde Hall estate is unforgettable in any season

Guided tour through the beautiful Abbey Gardens at Bury St. Edmunds Botanic Gardens, established in the 1800’s

plus more…

* 4 Star Hotel Accommodation 8 nights
* English Breakfast Daily
* Welcome Dinner
* Farewell Dinner at Pub
* Entrances to Cambridge Botanic Gardens, Beth Chatto Gardens, RHS Hyde Hall, Will Giles Exotic Garden, Old Vicarage, Bressingham Gardens, and RHS Wisley
* Special Press Day Event
* Punt on the Cam
* Tour of Abbey Gardens in Bury St. Edmunds
* Entrance to Hampton Court Palace Flower Show
* Entrance to HC Privy Garden
* Ride on London Eye
* Coach Driver tips
* Stay tuned for more to be added!

Posted under Garden Tours

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on February 22, 2010

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I got home a few days ago to feet of snow! Actually, the roads were not as bad as I thought they’d be, though my street only had one lane plowed, so I had to park in the parking lot of this funny little dentist’s office at the entrance to my street and walk up to my house.

Everything with the house was fine–power on, roof not caved-in, etc. Since it was after dark when I got home, I couldn’t see everything in my garden, but what I could see looked severely damaged. It is heartbreaking, of course, to see all the plants you have babied for 12 years either smashed down in the snow or broken. Oh well…all I could do was shovel the walk and driveway, park my car and go to bed.

Once I saw my garden in the light of day, it was not as bad as I thought, thank goodness. Truly, though, EVERYTHING is either buried in snow or literally bent over by the snow’s weight. I’ve learned over the years that the best thing to do is NOTHING–just let the snow melt naturally and the shrubs either will or won’t pop back into place. That’s the time to really assess the damage and prune/stake/tie-up as needed. I learned this, yet again, after the big pre-Christmas storm last December…I was outside shoveling and walked over to my eight-foot high American Boxwood. It was completely weighed down by the snow even though it was one of those light, fluffly snows we get from time to time. I grabbed one of the buried branches to gently shake off the snow and CRACK! The branch snapped. That was it–I left everything else alone. And in time, 99.9% popped right back into place once the snow melted. A good lesson.

I had manufactured in my mind a much more dire picture of garden carnage–when in fact, it wasn’t as bad as I expected. Yes, the snow is very deep, and yes, it will probably hang out for awhile. Yet think of the beautiful spring ahead with all that slow, steady moisture seeping into the soil. Big smile inserted here!

Posted under The Winter Garden

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on February 17, 2010


What the…???

I was standing by the sliding-glass doors, here in Wilmington, NC, a few minutes ago. The wind is howling and pinecones are flying off the longleaf pines around the house…but there is no snow and the sun is shining and warm. I escaped the first of this week’s DC blizzards last Friday, thank the heavens.

I mean, what is going on? I went through the Christmas snow a couple of months ago. That was around 18″ deep, light and fluffy, easy to shovel. Though fairly rare, it was nothing I hadn’t seen before–most memorably 1966, 1987, 1996. The evergreens this time were gorgeous–it looked like someone had flocked them for the holidays. Many were bent over in the deep snow; a few had a small branch or two broken. I tried to free one of the boxwood branches and it snapped. That cured my involvement with knocking snow off of shrubs. Let Mother Nature take her course. And, of course, 99% of it all popped back into place, naturally.

But these last two snows (blizzards) are different. First of all—and this is the main thing swimming around in my brain—I am not there, so I really have no clue what it’s like to see it or be up in the middle of it. I’m hearing all kinds of things: “Trees are down all over!” “Looks like a war-zone!” “This is extraordinary, ludicrous!” “Wow, just wow!” “I can’t even see across the street today, it’s snowing and blowing so hard!” Now, my very best friends DO have a flair for the dramatic…but I don’t think they are exaggerating on this one.

So I am a bit nervous (and yet VERY anxious) about getting home and facing my garden. Given that the roof is still in place on the house, the pipes aren’t frozen and the power is still on, that leaves one thing: my garden. I know, from my neighbor, Mary Ann, that a few holly branches and perhaps some evergreen branches have snapped. Having lived through Hurricane Isabel in 2003 and the loss of three 100+-year-old oaks (and thus the loss of my back garden), I know that abrupt change is not all bad. Once I was over the initial shock (really, it took me a couple of months to venture into the far-back garden, it was that bad), finally had the trees out of there and began to replant (these all over the course of a year), things began falling into place again. On the negative side, I lost the wonderful, cathedral-columned feel I’d always get when walking through the garden. On the positive side, I gained so much light and thus the chance for more plant variety (lots more flowers now). But I do hate the thought (as I contemplate the possible damage from this latest round of blizzards) of losing venerable old evergreens and starting over, yet again.

But then I think, “Isn’t that gardening?” Losing things, planting things, growing things, changing and transplanting and weeding and cussing, and smiling when things are perfect. I know that old houses are never finished with us (though we may think we are through with them)…times that by a hundred with a garden, I am beginning to think. And actually, come to think of it, just maybe, that is what I love about gardening the most. And the wonderful little quality that plants actually GROW and can therefore GROW BACK when pruned.

So I just need to wait and see what awaits me, when I get there. I’m hoping to be able to slide back into Arlington tomorrow.

Posted under The Winter Garden

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on February 10, 2010

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