Best-selling author – Professional speaker – Horticulturist – Designer – TriathletePosts RSS Comments RSS

Archive for the 'Gardens' Category

“The Well-Tended Perennial Garden”, now completely revised!

I was recently interviewed by Timber Press about the new and completely revised edition of The Well-Tended Perennial Garden. Visit the Timber Press blog for the full interview!

The Well-Tended Perennial Garden is one of the bestselling gardening books of all time. When you set out to write the first edition, did you have any idea the book would become as respected and widely used as it is?

As it is said, “not in my wildest dreams” did I think the book would be so popular. I’m very grateful for the support of my readers over the years. Writing is a very isolated and exposing practice, especially as a younger woman in a male dominated field and as a first-time author. Fighting doubt and fear of failure was an ongoing process that eventually made me stronger and more confident.

The new and completely revised edition includes new plants, new garden designs, up-to-date pruning and maintenance techniques, and a fresh new package featuring hundreds of lush photographs. Tell us more about the research you did to update the book.

The updates are based, as Well-Tended has always been, on practical hands-on experience. It was fun to add the many new plants and cultivars that I’ve been growing and pruning since the first edition. Also, it’s exciting to share some of my new design projects and the lessons of sound horticultural practices for bed prep, planting, staking, division, and pest control they inspired.

Read the rest of the interview here! or // here to purchase your copy of the new book!

Comments Off on “The Well-Tended Perennial Garden”, now completely revised!

“The Well-Designed Mixed Garden” Interview

DSC_3106I had the wonderful opportunity in the autumn 2013 to speak on “The Well-Designed Mixed Garden” for the Swiss Association of Flower Arrangers at the Swiss National Museum in Prangins Switzerland just outside of Geneva. I did this interview with Hester Macdonald, World Radio Switzerland, in the gorgeous vegetable garden after the talk.

Included are a few photos from Caroline Sykes garden, my gracious hostess, for the event. Note the Swiss Alps as the “borrowed landscape”.

During this same European trip my husband Jim and I raced Triathlon Worlds in London and visited The Royal Botanic Garden Kew. I had spoken at Kew many years ago and it was a delight to revisit and enjoy their “Incredible Edibles” display… yes, that’s sweet corn growing outside the Victorian Palm House!! Delighted as well they were carrying all three of my books in their gift shop!!!

DSC_2992 DSC_2993 DSC_3053 DSC_3129 DSC_3290 DSC_3295_2 DSC_3307


Comments Off on “The Well-Designed Mixed Garden” Interview

Locally Grown Sustainable Specialty Cut Flowers

Double-Quick-Orange-VaseNew to the plant scene at Hiddenhaven are exciting specialty cut flowers. This past season we grew 5,000 amazing sunflowers in our field. Ten different cultivars were tested. Two plantings occurred with the first on May 10 and the second on June 1, 2010. A light application of chicken manure was spread prior to planting and llama manure was placed between a few of the rows after planting. Seeds were hand planted 6 inches apart for non-branching varieties and 12 inches apart for the branching types. Harvesting started July 6th and continued until August 20th. These beauties touched so many lives bringing smiles and joy to all. Due to popular demand I’ll be growing them again this year but have upped the numbers to 6,000 and 12 different varieties—this could easily get out of hand!! Order you seeds now to bring some sunshine into your gardens.
In addition to the sunflowers 80 spectacular heirloom and specialty dahlias were grown in a new cutting garden test plot along with zinnias, cosmos, Craspedia globosa (billy buttons), Trachelium caeruleum , and Gophrena ‘Fireworks’ to name a few. For early cutting a few of my favorites that were incorporated right into the mixed beds were Verona, Peach Blossom, and Willem Van Oranje tulips. Signs of their return are just starting to peak through the soil. Enjoy the images! I’ve provided you with some sources as well so you can experience the joy of these cut flowers first-hand. If you are a specialty floral designer or event planner and would like to purchase some of these unique cuts contact me at [email protected].

Cut Flower Sources

*Baker’s Acres Greenhouse 3388 Castle Road Alexandria, OH 43001-800-934-6525
*Old House Gardens Heirloom Bulbs Ann Arbor MI 734-995-1486
*Brent and Becky’s Bulbs Gloucester VA 877-661-2852
*Wildseed Farms Fredericksburg, TX 1-800-848-0078 for large quantities of poppy seed!
*Johnny’s Selected Seeds Winslow Maine 1-877-564-6697 Large selection of sunflowers!

Comments Off on Locally Grown Sustainable Specialty Cut Flowers

Design Focus: Small Enclosed Gardens

[Update: April 2011] In the spring of 2011, herbaceous plants were added to this garden. Here is a partial plant list and some updated images from the garden. Enjoy!
[portfolio_slideshow include=”951,952,953,954,955,956,957,958″]
Dicentra s. ‘Gold Heart’, Anemone ‘September Charm’, Spigelia marilandica, Helleborus ‘Pink Parachute’ , Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’, Aquilegia alpina, Ascepias tuberosa, Papaver o.’Beauty of Livermore’, Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’, Canna ‘Pretoria’ Geranium ‘Rozanne’, Lilium henryi, Hakonechloa m. ‘All Gold’, Aster ‘Raydon’s Favorite’, Dahlia ‘Winsome’, Zinnia ‘Benary Giant Orange’, Lobelia cardinalis ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’ , Papaver rhoeos


  • Organize space clearly and creatively
  • Especially important in enclosed small gardens: Connect architecture of the house to the garden (Style)
  • Provide strong structural outline – extending the walls of the house to the garden with either living or nonliving boundaries for privacy and intimacy.
  • Utilize vertical space for vines and /or espalier. Trellis can be attached and a cutout or mirror(s) can hint at distant or not-so-distant spaces.
  • Select plants appropriate to the period or style of the home. They should have at least two seasons of interest if not more
  • Cooler colors make an area appear larger but may not be desirable in all seasons.
  • Planting smaller leaved plants in the background or finer textures increases the feeling of space.
  • Change of levels and bricks placed on their narrow sides also create greater depth.


rector-designOVERVIEW: Beautiful historic home built in 1895 in the charming German Village district of Columbus, Ohio. Client is an enthusiastic gardener but the overall design of the garden needed an update from the existing 20 year old plan. Key elements include: A keen sense of place. Heirloom, native, and fragrant, plants many which were available from local nurseries during the period in which the house was built. Mirrors placed in garage windows and gothic art piece reflect the space and increase its apparent size substantially. Custom made wooden window boxes scrolled with the same engraving that is above some of the windows on the home. Custom made trellis for utilization of the vertical space on the fence and for hiding the air conditioning units. Espalier fruit and ornament trees. Beautiful neat, and uniform, living walls for intimacy. Old Oak whisky barrel installed as rain barrel.

SITE EVALUATION: Small enclosed garden approximately 30’ x 25’ including a 14’ x 14’ brick patio in the center. English ivy had taken over the garden and had developed into a mature deeply rooted woody plant that required the entire season to eradicate before establishing the new garden. Most of the other existing plants were overgrown and dated. A soil test indicated 8% organic matter content – which is a good star – however the ph was high, even for this area, at 7.6. Beds were amended with 4” of a blend of different organic matter (See The Well-Tended Perennial Garden). Sun patterns performed by the client in the peak of the growing season revealed that most of the bed spaces receive only 1-4 hours of sun except for a couple raised beds near the house which receive about 7 hours of sun. The garden is in a protected USDA hardiness Zone 5/6. One of the main challenges was installing the large plants and irrigation into such a small space.

STYLE: The house and neighborhood dictate a European/German influenced historic style. German gardens are typically neat, and orderly with an emphasis on fruit and vegetable culture along with a love for flowers. Houses are frequently adorned with ornamentals and there is an interest in new plant material along with a high degree of craftsmanship in stone, wood, and iron.

FUNCTION: Gardens are primarily for the personal enjoyment of the clients. However due to their highly visible location along a sidewalk leading to a large park they are viewed and enjoyed by many of the residents of the community.

COLOR, TEXTURE & FORM: In the spring the colors will be cooler and softer including pinks and whites but the client’s passion for bright saturated hot reds and oranges will dictate the palette for summer and autumn. Variegated foliage and yellow foliage will also be part of the colorful picture.

PEAK SEASON OF INTEREST: Spring, summer and autumn would be the seasons the garden would be enjoyed.

PLANT SELECTION: Colleague and friend Denise Adams author of Restoring American Gardens (Timber Press) was contacted for suggestions on plants which would fit the period and location. She provided a plant list for the Columbus Nursery which was located three quarters of a mile south of town on High Street (German Village) and was established in 1855. I used the list to help drive the plant selection. Native and fragrance were also part of the criteria for many of the plants.

WOODY PLANT LIST (more woodies and all the herbaceous to come in spring)
3-Calycanthus floridus ‘Athens’ Athens Sweetshrub
12-Carpinus betulus ‘Fastigiata’ Upright European Hornbeam (used as living wall)
1-Clematis terniflora Sweet Autumn Clematis
3-Daphne x burkwoodii ‘Carol Mackie’ Carol Mackie Daphne
5-Deutzia gracillis ‘Nikko’ Nikko Deutzia
6-Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ Limelight Hydrangea
2-Lonicera periclymenum ‘Graham Thomas’ Graham Thomas Honeysuckle
1-Magnolia grandiflora ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’ (espalier) Bracken’s Brown Beauty Southern Magnolia
1-Magnolia x ‘Jane’ Jane Magnolia
1-Malus ‘Gala’ Gala Apple (espalier)
1-Passiflora incarnata Passion Flower
1-Pyrus ‘Kieffer’ Kieffer Pear (espalier)
3-Rhododendron viscosum Swamp Azalea
3-Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’ Moonlight Japanese Hydrangea Vine
3-Symphoricarpus x doorenbosii ‘Marleen’ Marleen Snowberry


[email protected] For more design lessons from Tracy see: The Well-Designed Mixed Garden.
Copyright 2010 Tracy DiSabato-Aust

Comments Off on Design Focus: Small Enclosed Gardens

Growing A Greener World


Tracy and Joe in gardens at Hiddenhaven
[ photo by Carl Pennington ]

I had the opportunity to have Joe Lamp’l aka Joe Gardener visit me in my gardens at Hiddenhaven and film a segment, on pruning perennials, for his new gardening series on PBS called “Growing A Greener World”. We had a blast and it was such an honor to spend time sharing my craft with such a knowledgeable fellow gardener. We hope you enjoy watching the video and reading Joe’s article. Check out his informative site at and be sure to watch “Growing A Greener World” which airs in every state on most PBS stations.


Tracy being filmed by Carl Pennington pruning Phlox paniculata [ photo by Joe Lamp’l ]

The mission of the show is to travel the country, telling the story of how people, places and organizations are using the garden and eco-friendly practices to promote environmental stewardship and how viewers can apply these same principles to make a difference in their own little corner of the world. The program covers organic/sustainable gardening and also features a cooking segment each week with fresh in-season ingredients….Cool!

Comments Off on Growing A Greener World

Updates and events

Hi! I just wanted to let you know the triathlon page on my website has been updated. Also, check out the article in this month’s Columbus Monthly – “Fitness Freaks At 50”. Come and join me at the The Central Ohio Home & Garden Show – Ohio Expo Center, this Saturday Feb. 27, 1pm & 3pm for Design and High-Impact, Low-Care Plant talks. For more info and an article featuring “Tracy’s Trophy Plants” visit page 34.

Comments Off on Updates and events

Garden Pests and Diseases

Tracy provides solutions regarding pest problems, insects, identification of healthy and ailing plants, chemical pesticides, and critter control.

Pests, Weeds & Plant Disease: Garden Pests And Diseases

Comments Off on Garden Pests and Diseases

Garden staking

Tracy’s back with more advice on: What is garden ‘staking’? | What is ‘pea staking’? | When is the best time to stake my flowering plants? | What should I use to stake my plants? | How do I stake a plant with a single upright stem? | How do I stake full bushy plants? | How do I stake perennials that have fallen?

Gardening Basics: Garden Staking

Comments Off on Garden staking

Designing for Visual Texture

textureIn a well-designed border, we often notice the beauty of the combinations of plants more than the individual plants themselves. To achieve this sense of interplay, it’s useful to think about visual texture: the patterns created by the lines and forms of combined leaves, branches, and flowers. Instead of using threads or yarns to weave texture, gardeners can stitch together the varied patterns of plants to create living tapestries. This can be accomplished in a number of ways.

You can read the complete article at this link:
Designing for Visual Texture
(1.45mb, PDF)

Reprinted with permission from Fine Gardening Magazine.

Comments Off on Designing for Visual Texture

Sow annual poppy seeds now

As plant nerds we all go through different plant fetishes. I’ve been through numerous “species obsessions” including the Geraniums, the lilies, and the Dianthus just to name a few. And currently I’m into Carex in a big way. But I’ve been in love with poppies (both annual and perennial) for about as long as I can remember. I even have a history of “smuggling” poppy seeds into the USA in my “unmentionables”J when returning from a year and a half of work/study abroad 28 years ago. The best germination success of annual species, for the home gardener in colder climates, seems to occur when the seeds are sown directly in February or March when the ground is free of snow. Also to ensure success I’ve learned to order fairly large quantities of seeds—one small packet just doesn’t cut it. I’m talking about getting ¼ lb. or even 1 lb. of seeds when available. I sow seeds of California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), Red Corn Poppy or Flanders Poppy (Papaver rhoeas), and Bread or Opium Poppy (Papaver somniferum) about the gardens in any available space. It is harder to find large quantities of opium poppy so it may require numerous smaller packets for best effect. A great source for seeds of poppies is Wildseed Farms Also remember to allow poppies to go to seed once you’ve got them established in the garden. You can even cut off the mature seed pods and spread them about in the desired location. Good luck with these gorgeous plants.

3 responses so far

Next »