the magic of disney’s gardens

alice

Before we made our first family trip (and my first trip) to Disney World, we got a lot of great advice from friends on what to do (Chef Mickey’s), what to take (strollers!) and what to buy when we got there (autograph books). The one thing no one mentioned, however? The gardens. Maybe it was because we left the brown Midwest to a Disney World in full bloom that the gardens seemed as magical as the rest of the place. Maybe it was just the overall vibe and the welcome warmth. Maybe I’m just a flower freak. But I’m guessing it was mostly because no detail in the Magic Kingdom seems to be overlooked, right down to every last green space.

While there were topiaries everywhere, my favorite was in Fantasyland. On the Alice in Wonderland topiary, variegated ivy formed her pinafore, giving a pop of contrast against the rest of greenery.

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Even landscape left to it’s own devices, like Spanish moss-covered trees, was transformed at night by lighting.

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While I’m not going to go topiary crazy or create a giant Mickey head in the backyard, our trip has definitely inspired me to think on a different scale.

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In my shade gardens, I tend to go for height and layers, building up around trees. Yet one of the features of the beds at Disney that struck me the most was the bare tree bases. Whether it was repeating rows of cyclamens, a mass of violas or groupings of tickseed, the trees became sculptural. Of course it helps that there were thousands of dollars worth of plants and a team of horticulturists to keep them perfect, but the idea is definitely something I can try on a smaller scale. What’s your garden inspiration for the spring? — Sarah L.

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strangely appealing: alligator feet pot stand

Anthro alligator feet

Straight from the garden of Dr. Moreau, Anthropologie’s Alligator Feet Pot Stand ($78) is my current obsession! The iron planter is deliciously gothic and would add a little Halloween to your home year round. The creepy claws-and-scales feet look so lifelike, that they seem just seconds away from slithering away with your leafy friend. The best part? Any plant accessorized with the Alligator Feet Pot Stand looks completely purposeful. Plant pretty petunias in it for an ironic contrast or, for those of us not blessed with green thumbs, a wilting flower looks oh-so-appropriate. –- Katie D.

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own a piece of roadside america: seattle’s walker rock garden house is for sale

gardenpanorama

You may remember the Walker Rock Garden, the house with the amazing backyard that I wrote about in 2009. Recent repainting and replanting at the house, which is just a couple blocks from my own, got me wondering, and now my suspicions are confirmed: the home’s owners, grandchildren of the original owners, can no longer keep the place up and are looking to sell. But here’s the good news: they are going to do everything they can to sell to someone who will not only agree to keep up the rock garden, but who will be enthusiastic about doing so and will still open the garden to the public on occasion. To that end, they have not yet listed the house but are doing some initial PR to generate interest and feel out potential buyers. You know who wants this house? Badly? So badly she can taste it? Me, me, ME. I walk by that house almost every day, and nearly every time think something to myself like, “I wish I owned that place and could prune those rhododendrons,” or “Imagine hosting a garden party on that incredible petrified-wood patio,” or “If I owned that place, I would replace that fence, and fix the fountains, and invite people to have their weddings there!” Alas, real estate is expensive, we already own one house, and for me, this may remain a pipe dream. But for you, perhaps…? Learn more about the Walker Rock Garden and how to contact the sellers right here. – Mary T.

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dreaming of the newest spring perennials

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hellebores

The closest thing I have to color in my garden right now is Nandina berries, but that hasn’t stopped me from dreaming of spring plantings. After a quick seplace online, I found plenty to get excited about. Four new Coreopsis varieties, which require less water than a lot of perennials; a chartreuse-leaved Bleeding Heart; almost a dozen new Helleborus (Lenten Rose), which although slow to get going, are a great solution for shade beds; and eight new Heuchera (Coral Bells), another old-fashioned shade plant. You can find photos and info on the varietals I mentioned on Perennial Resource, as well as the rest of their new for 2011 list. — Sarah L.

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gift guides 2010: the gardener

raised bed

Gardeners can be a picky bunch (I know — I fancy myself one). You run the risk of buying a tool they already have or a plant that’s difficult to grow. Maybe these ideas will help — I wouldn’t mind getting a few myself. — Mary T.

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Vintage flower pot — Pick a cheerful pot like this Etsy find and you’ll give the gardener a pretty inspiration that makes her think of spring. The best part is, you might score a couple on a trip to the local Goodwill or Salvation Army.

The Weekend Garden Guide — This is the book that got me into gardening, a chunky paperback with beautiful photos for inspiration paired with a no-nonsense approach to gardening for people who have things like jobs and lives. It’s out of print, but you can find many copies at Alibris for just 99 cents!

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Rosemary tree — I picked up one of these at Whole Foods last week for under ten dollars, and I’ve seen them at a few other supermarkets as well. Not only are these extremely cute on the table or countertop, the recipient can pop them in the ground and use the fragrant herbs year-round.

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Classic Pruner — Did I say we can be picky about tools? You really can’t go wrong with a pruner like the Felco #8. It’s the kind of tool you need for everything, so an extra comes in handy. And the festive red color is a happy bonus.

Raised bed kit — A complete raised bed kit with fancy composite wood can be pricey. How about some joists that will run you about $30 and a few small cuts of lumber? You can sweeten the gift by offering to help assemble it come spring.

Rosemary tree photo via The Kitchn.

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