Original Article: A Guest Blog from Ari Katz on His Gardens
I have always appreciated gardens and gardeners. I believe I got this appreciation from my grandfather who was an avid gardener at his home on Long Island, New York and in Palm Beach, Florida. In fact, he was known by all his neighbors and friends as the “rose man.” Shortly after my family bought our farm outside Washington, DC, I began adding my own gardens to the property. Becoming close with Martha has provided me with a cornucopia of knowledge and wisdom for which I am incredibly grateful. I always know that Martha is just a phone call away with the answer I need or to help me with my next project.
I started planting gardens on my family’s farm two years ago. When we bought the property, there was not a single garden or flowering perennial – can you believe that?! After researching what would do well in my climate and designing the layout of each garden, I began constructing. Due to the current state of the country, Martha cannot come down to Washington to see them in person, so here are photos of my ever-changing and expanding gardens.
Here I am with my grandfather, Herbie, at his house in Palm Beach, helping water his potted plants. I was three in this picture and was just beginning to appreciate gardens.
This picture was taken from the bottom of my family’s driveway. It is our first real sign of spring here in Maryland. These beautiful, and old, cherry trees, Prunus ‘Kwanza,’ bloom after two to three weeks of warm weather in late April or early May and are always a sight to be seen. We have seven in total stretching along an eighth of a mile of driveway. They are umbrageous and typically attract a pair or two of nesting birds per tree. This is always my first indicator that the plants in my gardens will begin to awake and start to work.
Here is another indicator that spring is on its way: the yellow forsythia row planted in, what will next year be, the area that houses our vegetable gardens. In this picture, Cobalt stands looking over the fields.
A few weeks after the forsythia and cherry trees, the peonies, allium, and double bearded iris start to come to life. This is the first bed as you pull up the driveway.
Here is that same bed after two weeks of growth. The large purple flowers are ‘Globemaster’ Allium, the iris are double bearded, and the peonies are two or three different pink varieties, including ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ and ‘Cherry Bowl’.
Here was the best peony grown during the 2020 season. This variety is called “Eden’s Perfume” and is known for its large size, sweet smell, and vase longevity. I purchase all of my peonies as bare roots from wholesaler Devroomen Garden Products in Illinois. Every fall they release a catalog that contains hundreds of different peony varieties.
Here is another one of my favorite flowers, and a relatively early bloomer, Allium. Alliums are members of the onion family and come in a few different colors and sizes. They always catch the eye and are great to have in the gardens.
Here is one of my gardens on the hillside as you walk up to the barn and kennel. In this bed there are several different orienpet lily varieties, Russian sage, sedum, bee-balm (Monarda), lavender from Soleado Lavender Farm, ‘Midnight Marvel’ hardy hibiscus, and some black-eyed-Susans.
Here is a close-up of one of the blooms on the ‘Midnight Marvel’ hardy hibiscus. These hibiscuses are hardy to zones 5 to 9 and are a herbaceous perennial, meaning they go dormant in winter and come back in spring.
Here is one of my favorite lily varieties ‘Jaybird,’ which is an oriental lily. This is also in the garden in front of the barn. These lilies are incredibly fragrant and make for great cut flowers.
Off of the service entrance driveway to the barn, I have planted four cut beds – all of which were inspired and encouraged by Martha. Martha has taught me the importance of not cutting flowers out of your architectural gardens. That is, the gardens that add a design element to your home or farm. So I decided I needed to listen to Martha’s advice and create my own cut beds. From right to left: hybrid tea roses, double bearded iris, herbaceous peonies, and oriental lilies. While it may look like I have a serious weed problem growing on my fences, that is not the case. Behind the roses is a very well-established honeysuckle vine that attracts many hummingbirds when in bloom and next to it is a beautiful climbing rose that blooms in the early spring. Both add significant beauty and value to these cut beds.
Here is a close-up of one of the most prolific bloomers from the cut rose garden, the Fragrant Cloud hybrid tea rose. Hybrid tea roses are known for their exceptional smell and deep colors. Roses, as my grandfather taught me, can be incredibly difficult to care for, but are one of the most rewarding plants one can grow. I have found this to be true. After every rain or every 14 days (whichever comes first) my roses are sprayed to protect against insects and fungi. And, every month until a month away from the first frost, the roses are fertilized. I, however, do not mind the extra work as I have my grandfather’s love for the flower.
Here is my cut lily garden. In this bed there are 340 bulbs of four different varieties. From left to right is: ‘Canca D’or,’ ‘Starfighter,’ ‘Carolina’ (which is a roselily), and ‘Casa Blanca’ (a typical white lily). Lilies are, by far, my favorite flower and I planted this bed as a test run. I have already ordered 1,250 bulbs for a larger cut lily garden for next year from wholesaler Zabo Plant. The lilies I have over the farm I purchased from wholesaler Flamingo Holland.
After returning home from Martha’s Skylands in Maine, I cut the best remaining ‘Conca D’or’ lilies. This, without a doubt, is my favorite variety.
After a few weeks of cutting 30 to 40 lilies every few days, this was the very last crop to be harvested. Lilies do incredibly well in vases and always bring a redolent smell into the house.
This is on the right side of the hill going up to the barn and has been a work in progress. I started it last March when it was just a hill with grass. There were no trees and the soil was quite bad. After a month of soil remediation and tilling it was finally ready to be planted. Now it is just starting to fill in. I think in another two or three years this garden will be quite impressive. As of now, there are herbaceous peonies, crocosmia, orinpet lilies, maratagon lilies, butterfly weeds, milkweed, double bearded iris, lupins, blackberry lilies, hostas, ferns, pine trees, one Japanese maple, and a few others here and there. Again, I think this garden will be quite special once it has fully matured and the ground is no longer visible. I enjoy gardens that are full enough where the ground is not visible and the plants are left to perform. Also, when less ground is visible, fewer weeds grow making weeding easier and less Sisyphean.
This is a simple, yet beautiful, garden. It stretches along with the paddocks next to the flagpole up until the edge of the driveway. It contains water iris (Iris pseudacorus), martagon and tiger lilies, crape myrtles (Lagerstroemia), and Alternanthera ‘Purple Knight.’ Unfortunately, I did not take a full picture of this garden while it was in bloom, but it stretches about 100 feet. This, however, is a small section of it.
This alley, if you will, is surrounded by beds instead of umbrageous trees. It takes a steady hand and patience to carefully manicure the grass so it has this neat appearance while keeping the plants safe.
Facing the other way of the previous picture, is my beautiful clumping of ‘Dark Blue’ salvia, Salvia guaranitica. Salvia is a perennial and this variety attracts many hummingbirds.
This is in our northeast backyard right in between the living room and office. This garden is beautiful from early spring until October. First the daffodils, then the allium, hydrangeas, hardy hibiscus, lilies – it has it all.
These beautiful hydrangeas are ‘Endless Summer.’ Naturally, they would be pink, however, hydrangea blooms change colors when soil acidity changes. Every fall, I add a supplement to the soil that makes the soil acidic (a pH below 7) that ensures my hydrangeas will be blue each summer.
This is an interesting hydrangea. It is called a lace cap hydrangea,Hydrangea macrophylla, and is native to Japan. This particular plant’s blossoms always face down. I think it is beautiful.
This is further down in the northeast backyard – a beautiful wisteria!
I am a strong believer that a garden is never done and that you can never have enough! This garden was started a day or two before my birthday in June in the gym backyard. Here, Lorenzo begins strategically planting the plants I had selected for this garden. This fall I intend on making at least two more flower gardens: one for next year’s lilies and a bonafide cut hydrangea garden. I look forward to watching this garden mature over the next few years and adding plants.
Here is the finished product – Beardtongue (Penstemon), blackberry lilies, Iris domestica, porcupine grass, double bearded iris, black and blue salvia, peonies, poppies, and Russian sage.
Here is the first garden I planted at my family’s farm. It is quite impressive when its inhabitants are at work. That is, when it is in bloom. The showstopper of the garden is the ‘Red Dragon’ Japanese maple that I had shipped from a grower in Oregon.
I hope you all enjoyed some of the pictures from around my farm and garden. During this COVID-19 period, I have greatly enjoyed adding to my gardens and creating new ones.