Friday, October 2, 2009

The Long View

Some folks have been asking for a long view of my garden, so I thought I would oblige. I've been hesitant in posting them, however, as I don't consider myself a good garden designer. I have accepted that because of my one-of-everything-itis, I will never create a space with smooth flowing forms, drama, and coherence. But I will also accept constructive criticism on how to improve my space while keeping my basic gardening philosophy in mind.

Here is my yard in total.

Approaching from the mailbox.

I really need to replace that crabapple. It has never thrived after being installed by the builders. I'm thinking a Stewardia would be a good choice.

The mailbox garden

The mailbox garden from the house. Front-right is the Beautyberry.

Top of the path

The turn-around garden. You can see the top of the path on the right side.

Viburnum turning colors

Across the lawn

The front door approach

Looking across to the Cornus Controversa

Full view of the front door

Monday, September 28, 2009

What is in bloom today?

The first thing you notice when you walk out my front door is this Sweet Autumn Clematis, up and over the railing. I know this vine can get big, but it's welcome to expand the length and height of the front porch if it wishes.

A fall mish-mash with Variegated Feather Reed Grass 'Overdam' stealing the show.

Asters so close to bloom.

I can't wait!

Cosmos make me smile.

My son and I shared an encounter with a praying mantis this morning. He's so cool!

Beautyberry 'Profusion' lives up to its name. This picture does not do this amazing shrub justice.

Chelone lyonii is a wonderful plant for a shady corner. The pink is striking and the foliage is a very nice deep green.

Front door annuals on their last 'huzzah!'

A white Anemone lighting up the Obama garden.

My Cimicifuga racemosa 'Hillside Black Beauty' and Oakleaf Hydrangea. I just can't get over how much I've liked this plant combo this year.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Obama Garden

Just to the left of my shady front door, I am creating an Obama garden with a black and white theme. I don't mean to reduce our 44th president to a color scheme, but I was inspired by a pairing of a black and a white tulip presented in a White Flower Farm catalog. The picture and description were dramatic, so I thought why not extend the thought to a garden, and the name seemed appropriate. I'm pretty happy with the results. The space is fairly small and I have a collection of brightly colored annuals in pots closer to the front door, so the lack of color doesn't leave an empty space in the garden when viewed from a distance. This is what I had feared when I first started thinking about the garden. From close up, I think some of the combinations are interesting, though I am still working on finding just the right pieces to fit together. Close to the porch from left to right are a Camaecyparis obtusa 'Gracilis', Oak-leaf Hydrangea, a Red-leafed Barberry, and a China Girl Holly. Just at the left of the picture is a Cornus Controversa Variegata which marks the start of the Obama garden. When the Sweet Woodruff was in bloom in the spring, it worked well with the Trifolium repens 'Dark Dancer' and Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens' (Black Mondo grass). Since I put it in the ground a year ago, the clump of mondo grass hasn't grown much, but it has put off lots of babies. A few I moved over near the Hosta 'Fire and Ice', Tiarella 'Pirate's Patch', and an unknown dark Heuchera, possibly 'Plum Pudding'. This, I think, is another nice Obama garden snapshot. Other plants in this garden are: white bleeding heart and astilbe, 'Maureen' tulips, 'Brise d'Anjou' Polemonium with striking
foliage, Brass Buttons 'Platt's Black' between the stepping stones, and Columbine 'Black Bart' with the dogwood in the background. I think the space needs some white flowers blooming now, so I have been looking into some of the fall blooming Anemones or Chelones both of which look very interesting. This is a young garden with lots of filling in to do. And none of the combinations are as striking as the clean lines of the black and white tulips that were the inspiration for this garden, but it's fun seeing what I can find that works with the limits I've given to this space.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Spring Bulb Planning

Last year was the first year I did any bulb planting in the fall for spring flowers. I probably planted 300 bulbs in total: tulips, daffodils, crocuses, snowdrops, miniature iris, and scilla. To be honest, the results were middling. The hundred or so daffodils came up so late that I spent the entire spring nervous they had been eaten by my voracious skunks. The tulip display I was most excited about, a large swath of 50 Princess Irenes punctuated with 10 Purple Princes turned The Pink Impression tulips I choose to set off the delicate flowers of the Daphne 'Carol Mackie' were too tall, too pink, and too early. And don't get me started on the critter who ate absolutely every one of my crocus buds just moments before their bloom.

But it wasn't a total disaster. I really enjoyed watching the snowdrops appear when nothing else was even thinking about waking up, and most of the other small spring bulbs in the bed with the crocuses beneath my Hamamelis × intermedia 'Arnold Promise' were quite cute and not chomped at all. I planted orange-and-red-streaked lily-flowering Ballerina Tulips with Basket of Gold that worked well. The creamy white Maureens brought some bright light to the black-and-white Obama garden.
My favorite were the Blue Ribbons placed with the catmint (Nepeta 'Walker's Low') around the Fothergilla 'Mt. Airy'.

So now the question is what to plant next year. I'm definitely going to try for the right pink for the Daphne again. I need something shorter and later blooming, so I am going to try a lily flowering tulip China Pink. And even though the Pink Impressions didn't work for the Daphne, I thought they would look stunning in front of the forsythia, so I'll pop a few of those on my order. I think I'll add another white tulip to the Obama garden, but one that blooms earlier and has just a touch of pink to play off the new leaves of the red barberry. I'd also like to choose some tulips for near the red-twig dogwood and around the baptisa near the mailbox, but I haven't made any decisions on colors yet. Hmmm, I think it is time to go peruse the Scheeper's catalog again.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hibiscus 'Dixie Belle'

This wonderful hibiscus was given to my by a very good friend, Eric. I love the large happy blooms that cover the plant. I love that I think of him when I walk by. But mostly I love the fact that this plant has a history. Eric's grandfather was a florist and collected the seeds in 1986. After his grandfather passed away, the seeds passed to his father, then to Eric a few years ago. He has been growing the seeds successfully and passing them along to friends and family, so we all are sharing in his family history. I was interested in discovering this hibiscus' cultivar and found some information on the American Meadows website. The Sakata Seed Corporation in Japan introduced the 'Southern Belle' line in the '70s, the Dixie Belle' line in the early '80s, and the shorter 'Disco Belle' line in the late 80's. I am not sure whether this is a Southern or Dixie Belle, but either way, I am very glad to have this beauty in my garden. Thanks, Eric!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Lesson

The lesson of this space is: If you ever purchase a Talavera wastebasket with a beautiful sunflower on it (because sunflowers were the flowers at your wedding and the design reminds you of Tucson (which you miss)), when the kids break it (accidentally of course) it will make a very nice accent in a miniature succulent garden.

The Last Daylily

I have a daylilly bed by my front door. The earliest blooms come in mid-July, and the last clump is blooming this week. I probably have ten plants or so, all blooming in different colors, shapes, and sizes. So I never know, when I walk along the path each morning, which palette will greet me. At the beginning of the season, the pinks seemed to prevail, a light pink, a dark coral, and a dark purple with a lime-green threat. As the summer progresses, the yellows come into preponderance, specifically a huge bloom of gold that needs staking to remain upright. Two weeks ago, it was the star of the show, a beacon that lit up our front steps on cloudy days. Now the photo shows the only plant that still has blooms and buds, a beautiful burst of orange bringing to an end the parade of color. I wish I could say the daylily scene with the dark Japanese Maple foliage behind to set off the bright colors was a brilliant plan of mine. But I'm not sure I can take credit for planning it, it just kind of happened that way, but I sure like the effect.

Monday, August 24, 2009


I suffer from one-of-everything-itis. I recognize this is a common affliction that mostly affects beginning gardeners. The joy of exploration is strong at first, and we easily wander through local nurseries grabbing this and that, whatever catches our fancy. Each genus and species we discover teaches us something new about gardens and gardening. For me, however, that impulse doesn't seem to be fading; even though I have started learning about design and composition. I've read the books that teach how to create dramatic scenes with a limited color palate and how to plant in drifts for maximum impact. But my question is, how will I know which plants will create the absolutely best, most dramatic drifts of color for my front-yard, full-sun, slightly-acidic, well-draining, somewhat-lean-soil bed, if I don't try out every single one and see how I like them?

In the picture is a Lobelia 'Monet Moment', and it is one of the many plants in my garden that I have just one of. I bought this from White Flower Farm with a birthday giftcard (thanks Mom and Dad!). When I planted it, I didn't realize how well the purple highlights on the pink flowers would go with the bluish new growth on the Cedrus deodara 'Prostrate Beauty' behind it, but it does. In fact I like the flowers so much, I might just buy a few more and go for a mini-drift after all. Or maybe not, I still have the whole family of foxgloves to explore!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Serendipitous Silver

Pinus parviflora 'Hagoromo' is a slow-growing dwarf Japanese white pine with a very interesting shape and twisted needles that give you glimpses of the silver beneath. This is the first plant I purchased for my garden that could be considered a collector's plant, and it definitely is the plant in my garden with the most character. I first planted it with Juniperus horizontalis 'Motherlode' thinking the yellow conifer would bring attention to and accentuate the unique coloring of the Hagoromo, but the impact wasn't quite what I had hoped. I added a Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’. Perhaps the dark sedum would bring out the brightness of the silver highlights, but no luck. One day I noticed a piece of Artemisia stelleriana 'Silver Brocade' had escaped from another bed and was growing right under the pine and instantly realized I had my ideal companion. For the first time the silver glimpses from under the twisted needles really 'popped'. I'm not sure the photos do the effect justice, but both Jak and I agree the Artemisia really makes the scene work. Another unplanned moment of happiness in the garden!

Need a bit of silver, I think.

I have always liked the color echos (one of my Mom's favorite gardening terms) between the Ajuga reptans 'Chocolate Chip' and Eupatorium rugosum 'Chocolate'. But after looking for this picture, I realize how nice a bit of silver would look tucked in next to them. I have and love Artemisia, but those generally require lots of sun, so I started looking for alternatives and immediately found Brunneras. I could definitely see one of these brighting up this space.

Not ALL planned is 'ho-hum'

Every now and then, something does end up as pretty as planned. Here a Actaea simplex 'Hillside Black Beauty' sets off a fading bloom of my Oakleaf Hydrangea. The Actaea is also known as Bugbane, which is a much easier name to remember. It likes part to full shade and moist rich soils. I also love the the two leaves together. The shapes are similar in form and texture, but the size and color provide the contrast. This was my second attempt at an Actea. The first withered and died in the hot temperatures of last August. This year I planted it earlier, and the very cool and wet spring gave it a great headstart, I believe.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Plants by mail

One of the ways to find those wonderful serendipitous combinations is to buy lots and lots of plants and see what happens. Unfortunately that's pretty hard on the budget. There are lots of ways to stretch your gardening dollar, though. For example, I love the 75% off bin at Morrison's Home and Garden. I also love finding good deals on mail-order plants. SpringHill Nursery's plants are very affordable if you combine their $25 off $50 coupon with the B1G1 free sales. (Yes, they let you do that!) But the quality and selection there are only 'ok'. My favorite online source is Bluestone Perennials. The have great quality and selection, but their prices are definitely not bargains. Twice a year, however, once you are on their mailing list, they send you a very cute coupon booklet with coupons like '$1.00 off a short plant' or '$1.50 off a yellow blooming flower'. These combine with their sale prices to make for good deals on cool plants. I just placed an order for the fall and had lots of fun matching the coupons with the sales.

Lavandula angustifolia 'Blue Cushion' for $3.00
Euphorbia polychroma 'Bonfire' for $4.00
Pancium virg. 'Shenandoah' for $3.00
A Aster novi-belgii Collection for $17.00 (6 plants)
Filipendula Kahome for $$2.00
Hosta Gold Drop for $2.50

UPDATE: Since placing my order a few days ago, it looks like the site may have changed. I tested a coupon and it did not work on a sale price, bummer! Keep your eyes open though. There are always bargains to be had!

Diascia eyes

The best vignettes in my gardens always seem to be happy coincidences. The planned seems 'ho-hum'. But serendipitous combinations often attract my attention and admiration. The flower is Diascia barberae 'Coral Bells'. I bought it to combine with Carex buchannaii, an brownish-orange grass. I was trying to recreate an image I saw in one of my favorite garden books, Shocking Beauty by Thomas Hobbs. But in my garden, it just didn't work. There on the other side of the Diascia, however, was my Heuchera micrantha "Purple Palace" and its leaves make the dark eye of the flowers really stand out. This Diascia is only hardy to zone 8, so they probably won't return, but I love this combo so much, I might just look for it again in the spring and treat it as an annual.