A Visit to Casa Mariposa – and an Allium Winner

After leaving our friends in Maryland, we drove over to Front Royal, Virginia, at the northern end of the Skyline Drive. On the way we stopped at the northern Virginia garden of our friend Tammy, author of the vastly entertaining garden blog Casa Mariposa.

Tammy warned that there wasn’t a lot of color in her garden at the time of our visit, as we were in that lull between late spring and early summer. However, we found no shortage of sights to enjoy.


Here’s Tammy and myself in her front garden. I don’t know why I look so surprised. Note the birdhouse between me and Tammy. There are a lot of birdhouses at Casa Mariposa, as you’ll see.

Also note the pots on the front landing. Tammy has been collecting pots for a long time. She added the mosaic surface of the big one on the porch herself. Obtaining the ceramic pieces first involved buying some cheap used crockery.

Then, she advised her daughter to vent the anger resulting from a relationship breakup by smashing said crockery in the basement (wearing goggles – safety first). An outstanding example of effective parenting and affordable DIY. You can find out how to replicate it on her blog.



Anyhow, the feature in Tammy’s back garden that grabbed our attention first is the dry stream bed. It was completed just this year. It’s quite beautiful but also a solution to an urgent drainage problem.


Here’s a view from the opposite end. Tammy dug out the bed and placed the stones herself. When I pointed out that this seems like an awful lot of work, she displayed some impressive biceps.


In addition to stone, the stream bed features plants like this Blue Eyed Grass. For more information on the dry stream beds, check out Casa Mariposa.


Wildlife provides movement, color, and song in the back garden. The space is full of unique and colorful birdhouses.


We watched a wren fly frenetically from one birdhouse to another, as if driven to distraction by the many choices.


I am jealous of these custom-made iron plant hoops. Much more solid and attractive than the flimsy stuff at garden centers and hardware stores.


While we sat chatting on the patio the thrush serenaded us with song.

Incidentally, Tammy has four dogs, one of whom you can see above. All of them were adopted from animal shelters and all of them have, shall we say, quirks. Tammy has a big heart.


Along with the birdsong, we enjoyed watching several  butterflies, both Eastern Tiger Swallowtails and Black Swallowtails. Appropriate, given the name of the garden. Judy managed to grab a photo of one on the wing.


I was taken by the patches of Variegated Solomon’s Seal in the shadier parts of the back garden.


Here’s a picture of the rear of the house taken from the back fence.


A gnome being carried off by aliens.


A gigantic Cranberrybush Viburnum (Viburnum trilobum) was in flower during our visit. The massive shrub was actually much younger than I expected.


We have the same shrub at home and I really like the flowers. Actually, there were a lot more blooms at Casa Mariposa during our visit than this post would suggest – for example, some gorgeous Clematis and Trumpet Honeysuckle. I think we were too distracted by the stream bed and birdhouses to get pictures.


We did get a picture of this giant Bleeding Heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) named Fred. There are some Asiatic lilies growing around and through the Bleeding Heart.


And while Tammy laments her tendency to kill Tulips, there were some lovely ones like those in this pot.

Before leaving, Judy and I were fed a very tasty lunch, featuring homemade oatmeal-coconut-walnut-chocolate chip cookies. We drove off dreaming of birdhouses and a dry stream bed of our very own. After reading about Casa Mariposa for several years, it was delightful to see this garden in person, even more so with Tammy as our guide.

Judy’s Comment: It was so much fun to see Tammy and her garden! The internet is so virtual, a person could forget that all these places and people really exist. They do! I could not have imagined three and a half years ago when Jason started this blog that we would be making friends and visiting all over the place. What a delightful benefit from blogging. It was wonderful to see Casa Mariposa in person, and to see its creator, Tammy. (And those of you who are Facebook friends with her – all that baking she does – the cookies Jason mentions were seriously yummy!)


And finally … the winner of the $50 Allium Gift Certificate from Longfield Gardens is … James Kennedy. James, please write to me at the email address on my About/Contact page (see link on the upper right of the home page) and give me your mailing address. Also, please get back to me by May 15th so I know you’re still interested. Congratulations!

Tulip Delight at Baltimore’s Sherwood Garden

Our original plan last Saturday was to drive with our friend Carol from her house in Maryland to Longwood Gardens. But then I remembered that this required a four hour round trip. As much as I wanted to see Longwood, having just driven from Springfield to Chicago and then flown to Baltimore, a four hour drive was distinctly unappealing.

And so I searched on the internet for gardens in Baltimore. What I found was Sherwood Gardens, a six acre park near the campus of The Johns Hopkins University and less than an hour away. The fact that every year 80,000 Tulips are planted at Sherwood clinched the deal.


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I Found My Thrill on Azalea Hill

I am not a big fan of Azaleas. Part of the reason is that they don’t grow well where I now live in Chicago. Even growing up outside New York City, where Azaleas are fairly common, they did not appeal to me. Perhaps it was because they generally appeared as little green meatballs that, for a couple of weeks every year, turned into little pink meatballs.

A Flowering Dogwood shades colorful Azaleas along the edges of the National Arboretum’s Azalea Collection.

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A Bit of Tender Spring Green

So I arrived in Baltimore last night and right now Judy and I are staying with friends in the small town of Dayton, Maryland. Our plan for the day was to see the Azaleas at the National Arboretum. Problem is, it’s raining.

While we’re waiting for the rain to stop, here are some tender green leaves from the last weekend in our garden.


Red Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa).

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Mid-April Blooms

April had a rather wild mood swing during this past weekend. We transitioned abruptly from cold and surly to sunny warmth. Plants went from shivering in their foliage to galloping forward to catch up with the growing season.

Daffodils. I can’t remember the names of any of my Daffodil varieties. I suppose that makes me rather neglectful. I hope the Daffs don’t resent that I can remember the names of all my Tulip varieties. Could lead to an ugly case of bulb rivalry.

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Alliums of Lurie Garden – and a Giveaway!

Did you know that 2016 has been declared the Year of the Allium by the National Garden Bureau?  I didn’t either, until I was contacted by someone working with the online retailer Longfield Gardens (that’s Longfield, not Longwood).

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Pollinators love Alliums! A bee on Allium ‘Summer Beauty’ at Lurie Garden.

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Do I Still Have Garden Cred?

I almost couldn’t bring myself to write this post, because it’s kind of an embarrassing subject. But here it is: for the first time, I hired someone else to do spring cleanup in the garden.

Driveway Border
The Driveway Border after spring cleanup.

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Backyard Makeover

John, a friend of mine, has asked me to help him remake his back yard, which lies in full sun between a Chicago-style bungalow and a detached garage. This is exciting, because it is an opportunity to play with more plants. Not as good as an expansion of my own garden, but perhaps the next best thing.

Of course, the downside is that I find it very challenging to suggest plants to other people. Not that I can’t think of options, it’s just that there are too many options.

In most cases, the person asking for plant suggestions just wants me to recommend one plant so they can buy it, plant it, and get on with their lives. However, I usually start listing so many possibilities that they end up wishing they had never asked.


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Forsythia and Spicebush Update

There are two shrubs in the garden that provide us with cheerful yellow flowers in early spring. First, there’s a single old Forsythia of unknown variety. Second, there are several Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) that I planted at least five years ago.


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Spring, Winter, Spring, Winter – Enough Already!

It’s time for spring to stop goofing around and get serious. Last weekend we had snow, and I really am not in the mood for any more winter wonderland. There wasn’t much accumulation and it melted pretty fast, but still.

A light sprinkle of April snow in the back garden.

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