Find The Bobbles-July Highlights

Never let it be said that color is not a primary factor in the selection of plants grown in the Fairegarden. I love color in the garden, all colors, all together, all of the time. There is no such thing as too much color.

Color is life, color is…okay, you get the idea.

There is more to consider when trying to have a garden that pleases the eye than just the brilliant hues of summer flowering plants. Structure and texture add to the visual pleasures, as well.

One plant in particular has matured in its third year in the ground, to become a focal point.

Its statuesque architecture is stunning. But its color is underwhelming.

Maybe that is why capturing the beauty of the bobbles has proven so difficult for this photographer. Or maybe she needs a new camera.

Enough with the narrative riddles already.

Time for the big reveal… the plant name is a mouthful, and not widely grown. Eryngium pandanifolium was first seen in an article in Gardens Illustrated magazine. It was noticed in the listings while perusing favorite online nurseries in the search for unusual and must haves. It was an impulse purchase. Three pots were ordered from Joy Creek Nursery (link) as winter fell upon east Tennessee. The smart folks at the nursery contacted me saying they would not ship at that time of year unless there was a greenhouse available to keep them until spring. There was, and the large plants were repotted into larger containers, for they are fast growers.

The next spring the pots were moved outside but not planted in the ground. We had decided to sell our house to move closer to family. The Eryngiums would be making the move, even though there was no greenhouse at the new house. Only hardy to zone 8 or 9, the three bursting at the seams pots were cut away and the plants plopped into the pile of garden soil that was trucked into the new back yard to form the beds. Winter came hard that year, with devastating ice storms and single digit temperatures.  Survival was hoped for, but not counted on.

Uncertain about the life force remaining within, the mushy leaves were cut back the next spring. Thought was given as to what might replace the large plants, but fate was on our side. New, fresh leaves regrew from the centers, but no flower stalks would arise for another two years. We are solidly USDA Zone 7a, with hot, dry summers and wet, cold winters. The back garden is protected with a (now repaired) fence and the new garden soil is well draining loam. If there comes a winter that spells doom for these spiky, sculptural sentinels, they most likely will not be replaced. However, the tall, stately wands add elegance and whimsy to the messy melange and the evergreen, usually, foliage adds winter interest. They would be missed.  By the way, the shed does not function as a greenhouse, as dozens of dead Dahlias will attest.

For anyone confused as to which plant in the photos is the subject of this post, it is the tall silvery green stems topped with small balls and sword shaped foliage. Getting a clear portrait image seems impossible. I hope you can pick out the Eryngium pandanifolium in most of the photos. I tried my best.

July sees the gardener spending most daylight hours hidden inside with the air conditioning unit running nearly nonstop. Early morning and well after sunset are the best times to enjoy the garden delights. Eryngium pandanifolium is a highlight, among other things. Onward.

Frances

Posted in New garden | 13 Comments

June Garden Treats

It has arrived, the moment of fulfillment for the gardener’s toil and trouble. Flowers are blooming like their life depended on it. (It does, in a way.) Dahlia ‘Zinguaro’ is a prolific bloomer. It stayed nestled in the ground over the winter and has returned with renewed vigor.  More Dahlias to come.

There is a great variety growing here, even though this garden is only three years young. Many plants came from seeds gathered before the move, like Echinacea ‘White Swan’. Many plants were purchased anew, like Achillea ‘Terra Cotta’.

So many plants. I love them all. Eryngium alpinum has seeded about freely. That sort of behavior is encouraged.

It’s a big party, all colors are welcome. Monarda ‘Marshall’s Delight’ is a spreader. It makes a good companion for the almost too rampant spreading of mountain mint, Pycnanthemum muticum.

A jam packed full garden means fewer weeds. It also lets the taller plants hold each other upright better, like the towering Liatris spicata.

A big storm struck here a few weeks ago. Entire sections of the fence, installed in 2014, were ripped off the posts. The fence along the back of the upper nursery was blown inward, breaking the posts and the support boards. The row of benches and chairs that were placed on the gravel path along the fence saved the garden beds from destruction, thankfully, holding the fence pieces up just above the flowers and foliage. The whole thing could have been smooshed. Boards are holding that side of the fence up until the repairs can be made. There was damage to several of the homes in our neighborhood, including our own, but no one was injured and everything can be repaired. Some large trees uprooted or had their tops blown off like a few of the pine trees that line the boundary between our subdivision and the one beside us, seen just to the left of the shed porch roof. The missing sections of fence can also be seen there. It could have been so much worse, but was very frightening at the time.

Sorry for straying from the main story, we will now return to our scheduled program.  Oh, you didn’t notice the storm damage because you were too busy looking at the flowers?  Me too.  Onward.  The highlight of the June garden is one shining star, a plant we adore above all others when it is blooming. That would be the daylily, Hemerocallis ssp. As with most flowers, I love the buds as much as the blooms themselves, so filled with promise.

At the time of our big house move, only a few daylilies were on the list to make the trek up the interstate. But it was July and many were still blooming. Daughter Semi and I grabbed shovels and large black garbage bags and started digging them up to bring along like the old man choosing the prettiest cat in the children’s book Million of Cats. There were too many that simply could not be left behind. The plan was to fill the front yard lawn/meadow with wildflowers and daylilies. The vision is on the way to being realized, with constant tweaking, of course.  Confession:  I may have purchased a few more daylilies after the move.

In the beginning it was decided to just enjoy the daylilies, to not try to keep track of names with photos, lists and spreadsheets. But sometimes one’s genetic makeup cannot be subdued and the cataloging has begun, or resumed. At the old garden, every daylily was recorded and preserved for posterity on the blog page Daylilies We Grow. I guess a new page needs to be created for this garden to continue the important work. Stay tuned.

Growing daylilies can become a bit of an obsession if you let it. At some point many will try their hand at making crosses themselves. I did just that in 2009. A post was written giving the details, click here if you would like to read it. Four of the fifteen seedlings that grew to blooming were deemed worthy of coming to the new garden. Names were given to a couple of them, but somehow the numbers given to the original fifteen seem to fit better. Above is sweet and tall Number Twelve and the image preceeding is first to bloom dark Number Fifteen.

Number Fourteen has some seersucker texture in the petals, the only one of the babies to show that trait.

This story will finish with fan favorite Number Four, floating gracefully in the granite koi bowl. It was once named Faire Sunrise, for the brilliant gold throat and pink sparkles that appear with the dawn.  Daylilies purchased or shared will be featured in upcoming posts, with names and photos.  Maybe.

Frances of the daylilies

Posted in New garden | 18 Comments

The Garden is a Rainbow

It’s pretty colorful in the Fairegarden during May. The cool shades of early spring are grateful for the addition of warmer tones as the weather heats up.

Orange is the debutante of the hour, represented well by butterfly weed, Asclepias tuberosa.

Finding just the right supporting cast has been years in the making. It was part brilliant epiphany but mostly accidental plant plopping that created the perfect blend that lets all the players show their finery.

The lilies have taken the stage, as well. Queen of the moment is the longifolium asiatic hybrid, Lilium ‘Royal Sunset’.

A stout stalk can hold the numerous flowers high and proud without the need for staking. The combination of melon centers with hot pink edges might sound garish to those with delicate sensibilities, but the light fragrance and dusting of dark freckles should charm the white gloves right off of even the snobbiest colorists.

When confronted with blaring colors, the best and easiest path to garden delight is to simply add more. The reddish Achillea ‘Paprika’,  Astilbe ‘Fanal‘, silver and purple lamb’s ear, Stachys byzantina and various blue Salvias help make the back garden beds a fun feast.

The gravel path dissects what is meant to be matching, sort of, plantings on either side.

Oranges, reds and yellows, complemented by blues, whites and purples bring happy smiles from pollinators, critters and humans. We’re all in this together. The hosta is H. ‘Sunpower’.

The variable colors of Echinacea ‘Prairie Spirit’ have been a blessing. I only buy them in bloom to be able to select the darker reds and oranges as companions to the butterfly weed. Later in the season, those colors will continue to enhance the daylily and daisy shadow and blush as lipstick finishes a model’s makeup. Coreopsis Hardy Jewel Series ‘Desert Coral’ is new this year. The color could not be resisted. I hope it performs over several years, at least.

It’s a rainbow out there, at ground level rather than in the sky. Nature will make changes to the painting over time. The gardener throws the pigments onto the canvas with a hopeful twinkle in her eye, waiting to see the vision become the masterpiece, however it turns out.

Posted in New garden | 23 Comments

April 2017-Year 3

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In this, our third year in the new house, both the humans and the garden are getting settled in. It feels like home. Plants that were brought with us, some of them, have done very well, enough to be divided and spread about. Among those is Spiraea ‘Magic Carpet’. It was selected for the Asian Garden that is located in the oddly shaped back corner inside the fence. Hyacinthoides hispanica ‘Excelsior’ planted around the granite koi bowl birdbath complements the shrub’s colorful foliage. This area is the view from our dining room window. It is especially pleasing at the moment.

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Evergreen azaleas were chosen for the fresh, dark green leaves and  flowers of red and white. Rhododendron ‘Snow White’ is the first to open. I do adore white flowers, they allow their neighbors to shine brighter. I read that Asian gardens use red flowers rather than white, which is more often used in memorials. That’s okay, I have never been a traditionalist.

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The main garden beds within the fenced back yard include the nursery, and the lower nursery. The nursery was formed when a dump truck carrying six yards of planting mix deposited the precious stuff in a large pile in the crabgrass lawn in August of 2014. Plants potted and those simply tossed into black plastic trash bags were planted into the smoothed out pile. Included in those were the yellow flowering Primula veris, grown from seed in the old greenhouse and Phlox divaricata that was tagged Blue Moon. It is closer to white than blue, but it came from Walmart so you take what you get.  It’s still pretty. Polygonum odoratum ‘Variegata’ was one of many plants shared with us by neighbors Mae and Mickey after we had moved into the old house we originally bought for our daughters to live in while they attended college. Let’s just say that we were welcomed with open arms as residents after the girls moved on with their lives and the house was renovated several times. The garden also improved.  We moved to the current house from there.

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Many seeds were scatted into the new beds, including various Aquilegia ssp. This little one looks like a descendant of A. ‘Magpie’, which has proven to have very dominant genes. Last year Gardoctor built a wooden walkway to replace the trio of rotting bench tops that had been spread between the upper and lower nurseries to provide a dry tootsie means of transport. It looks quite nice and is much appreciated, thank you, dear son.

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Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Little Honey’ has made itself at home in the shady environs of the lower nursery. Ferns, geraniums, ajuga, among many others, are filling in the space and make a colorful, contrasting chaos.

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Little Honey is really a fine shrub. It needs partial to full shade and enough moisture to keep the roots from going bone dry. Highly recommended. In the distance is a budded but not blooming yet Baptisia alba and a sunny swath of Salvia ‘May Night’ in the upper nursery.

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Here are more seed grown columbines, Aquilegia ssp. with a new native azalea. Three unnamed seedlings were purchased at the University of Tennessee Arboretum spring plant sale in 2016. So far, none of these types of azaleas, which grew to perfection at the old garden, are what I would call thriving. The soil is less acidic here and summers have been droughty. I am giving them extra water and have gone so far as to plant a couple in large containers to see if that helps. I won’t give them up without a fight.

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Figuring out the best times to take photos here has been a challenge. Too much light, not enough light, no slope to get that exquisite backlighting, too tired, too hungry, nothing looks good, maybe I need a new camera (or new body to do contortions on the ground) have dampened my image capturing enthusiasm. I still love to garden, though, and still love to try and share the beauty of it through blogging. Buds just ready to burst, like these chives are still one of my favorite subjects.

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Kitty remains ever helful, snoozing on top of emerging flowers and foliage. He especially likes to pretend he is on the Savannah in tall grasses and has done a number on a stand of Carex ‘Red Rooster’ in the lower nursery, jumping and kicking imaginary interlopers.  I like having him around. Onward.

Frances

Posted in cats, Musings, New garden | 12 Comments

Changing With the Seasons

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Late fall is sliding into winter rapidly here in the Fairegarden. Several frosts have occurred, speeding up the process of decay. Ever experimenting, in all pursuits but especially in the garden, we watch as colors fade, leaves release and fall to the ground, and stems stand bare. What is still attractive, how long will it remain so, how can we tweak the plantings for optimum viewing pleasure? In past years, the brown bobble seed heads of Eryngium yuccifolium have collapsed rather quickly on weak stems. This year, bamboo stakes were added as the stems began to lean and list. It was a task that has paid off, we think.  Borrowed splashes of color make for a sweet background while the leaves still remain on the distant maples.

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The view from the front porch has been carefully curated to offer consistent interest in all seasons. Evergreen perennials such as silvery Dianthus, Santolina chamaecyparissus, and lamb’s ear are punctuated with grasses blue fescue, Festuca glauca and Stipa tenuissima. It was noticed that the upright Veronicas last well into winter here in USDA Zone 7a. V. ‘Sunny Border Blue’ is the tallest and most robust, seen on the right side in the above image. The spent flower stalks are like fuzzy rat tails. Rusty metal, glass sculptures and various rocks add textural interest.

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Streetside, the bright stems of Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’ are just beginning to color up. Colder temperatures will sharpen them. Of the three shrubs planted in this bed, the one on the right received overspray from the watering of the rose on the mailbox and still holds onto golden hued foliage while its dry neighbors jettisoned their foliage sooner. Note to self…

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Going around to the back gardens, we see the brown is also a color Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ heads proudly persisting. The two hundred foot long cedar fence is fading nicely, two years after installation. This angle suggests there are a lot of artsy objects hanging on the fence. This angle is not wrong.

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Yarrow, Salvia and Scabiosa flowers linger, protected from the cold by the sunny south facing exposure. Lavender mounds, glass garden art and naturally occurring wildflowers along the fence line are anchored by the concrete pineapple sitting on the clay pot pedestal. There has been growth in all the beds since last year. Check out this post from last winter to see the progress.

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From the opposite vantage point we can see the rosemary mounds, sunken bog plant garden, native carex and violas spilling from a broken glazed container.

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Some of the hardiest and most attractive of the plants growing here could be considered weeds. Allowing the lawn to grow undisturbed revealed the delightful broom sedge grass, Andropogon virginicus as a dominant player. I believe the other plant is a Euphorbia of some sort.

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Zooming out a bit, I cannot hide the fact that too many containers, too much art and decor was brought in the move from the old garden. I left a lot behind, honest! It keeps getting moved around as beds are designed and redesigned until the placement seems right. A work in progress. The evergreens are Chamaecyparis ‘Red Star’ that were stuck in the larger square pots until I could figure out how to best use them. There they remain.

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Joining the broom sedge is a goldenrod that has won my heart. I am still trying to identify it. The various asters that sprung up are simply asters, mostly white flowered. Identification is futile.

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Each year has been different since we moved here in August of 2014. There have been flooding rains, extreme drought, colder than normal winters with snow and ice storms, warm winters with scant precipitation, strong, gusty winds and everything in between. This year the foliage of the Siberian iris and daylilies has been brilliant. The greens and golds add artistic touches to the toasty tans.

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There are few pursuits as ever changing as gardening. Thank goodness.  And…onward.

Frances

Posted in what looks good now | 16 Comments

An Evolving October Wildflower Meadow

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My gardens have always been a mix of natives and non-natives. I have found it best to go with what will grow and try to make it into a pleasing design of some sort. Fall in east Tennessee is when the roadsides, fields and meadows explode in jaunty juxtapositions of color, texture and form. Asters and grasses, among others,  join the fall foliage to present quite the grand finale of the growing season.

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In this new, as of fall of 2014, garden the method to achieve the vision has been to simply allow the former lawn, mostly crabgrass, to grow of its own accord, not mowing at all. The first year the sparse lawn grass grew tall and flowered. There were some wildflowers that sprung up, mostly fleabanes, goldenrods and asters. These plants shaded out most of the crabgrass and the front lawn/meadow was born. Unwanteds like the wild blackberries, tree seedlings and large crabgrass looking stuff were dug out. Desirables were and continue to be added, like our beloved dogwoods, Cornus florida,  with clumps of lawn grass dug out to make room for the additions.

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I really find the aesthetics of wildflowers/meadows/natural looking plantings most attractive. Those are also easier to maintain, less labor intensive than formal, rigid designs. That style is the vision for this new garden. There are still garden beds where I can play, but the majority of this yard is of the relaxed, see what will pop up type.

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In the back gardens, it was noticed that along the newly replaced wooden fence, a pretty grass was growing. It was identified by my dear friend Gail of Clay and Limestone, whose Wildflower Wednesday meme this post joins, as broom sedge, Andropogon viginicus. I love it, but have to watch out for seedlings all over. There also appeared a relatively shorter Solidago ssp. that is still unidentified. A few tall white asters are allowed for some color contrast.  The native grass Muhlenbergia lindheimeri was added and has done well.  It will be divided and spread as it grows large enough to do so.

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In the two nursery beds in back that were created with yards of imported soil mix dumped and spread about, natives and favorite exotics were added by the hand of the gardener. Spigelia marilandica has grown better than it ever did at the old garden. I didn’t even know it had a lovely golden fall color before now, it had always gone dormant in the dry summer.  Gardening is learning.

The gardens will continue to evolve, with and without my intervention. Each season of each new year is different. I will wallow joyously in them.

Frances

Posted in New garden, Wildflowers | 15 Comments

That Magic Muhly Moment

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I sit in a comfy chair by the window in the living room a good part of the day, gazing down at the laptop. Sometimes, often, I look up to peer through the blinds that are adjusted to allow a small opening for me to see out without the world seeing inside much. It’s a small slice of garden goodness, especially in October when the pink muhly grass is blooming. Muhlenbergia capillaris, that is.

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When in full bloom the pink muhly is lovely, a cotton candy confection. It is unique among grasses for color and fluffiness. Why it is not growing in every garden where it is hardy is beyond comprehension. I have done my best to bring attention to it through multiple blog posts over the years.

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It is for sale in my area right now at the big box store that begins with an “L” and ends with an “‘S”. That is where I bought my first plants back in 2000 for the old garden. Those plants were divided ruthlessly to form large, impressive swaths. Seedlings were dug and brought here to the new garden in 2014. They have grown well.

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In a full sun down sloping plot behind the mailbox, the muhly holds court in mid October. I like to look at it during the day, but as the sun is setting something special takes place.

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For ten minutes at most, right before 7 PM, the pink muhly transforms from mere plants to brilliant flashing feathers of fiery jewels waving in the breeze.

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While morning light bestows pink to the landscape, the setting sun paints with a golden brush.

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I have been waiting and watching this event nightly, wanting to capture the magic to share with you, dear readers.

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Kitty stands guard from the curb at the driveway edge, also waiting.  He likes to watch that evening sun go down. Hey Kitty, get out of the street!

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This is it, the last moment of illumination before the sun disappears below the horizon. Until tomorrow…

~~~

To read about how the stand of muhly grass has grown since first planted here in the new garden click here. Information on how to grow Muhlenbergia capillaris can be found in this post.  (The metal pineapple sculpture was a gift from my husband to celebrate my mid-century birthday, purchased in Texas.)

Frances

Posted in cats, New garden, Photography | 21 Comments