It’s about time.
It’s about time.
Hello. It’s been a while, I know, but there is still gardening going on at the Fairegarden. Lots of it, as much as possible in every kind of weather. May is a good time of year, the plants are actively growing, the foliage is full and lush and there are flowers. Shown above are the fifth generation of a packet of mixed larkspur sown along the side of the garage. They are glorious.
Stipa tenuissima is blooming now, the feathery tips catch the least bit of breeze to move freely to and fro. They are short lived plants, only lasting a few years, but self sow just enough to provide the perfect amount of froth.
A volunteer Veronica planted itself in a good spot to enjoy the company of lamb’s ear.
Slightly thuggish evening primrose is kept in check by ruthless digging up and moving to the lawn/meadow. It’s hard to hold a grudge when the yellow cups welcome the pollinators so graciously. Stachys officianalis will be protected from being overtaken soon.
Do buds count as blooms? They do in my world. A bud, a flower full or spent, and a seed head all are welcome and appreciated.
Who can resist the broccoli stage of Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’? Not I, said the gardener.
Oh, so subtle is the color of Iris fulva ‘Bayou Bandit’. It is nearly grey, but close inspection reveals streaks of pink, blue and lavender.
Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Little Honey’ even has golden buds that will open to pure white florets. I think the bud stage is so attractive, as is everything about this small shrub.
The lawn/,meadow is filling in with self sown volunteers and a variety of small trees, shrubs, perennials and groundcovers that are sorting themselves out. I step in when necessary to edit, but leave it be to see what develops.
The carnivorous bog garden has filled in nicely. These pitcher plants, various Sarracenia sp. are winter hardy and will be cut down in late winter for fresh new growth. They remain colorful well into the new year.
Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Little Honey’, on the left seems happy. The same cannot be said for the H. macrophyllas on the right. They have gotten zapped by late cold snaps every year. Maybe 2019 will break the non-blooming streak. The stems are still shapely and contrast well with the lighter browns and tans of this shady bed.
Now that October has rolled steadfastly into our consciousness, it is time for the Fairegarden to bid adieu to the flowers of 2017. It’s been a good year overall, as the floral display has evolved through the months. We are at the end now, soon it will be less colorful and more somber. But not just yet, for the finale holds brilliant displays with a long goodbye. The most spectacular is the pink cloud of muhly grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris.
Short bloom time does not diminish the late blooming nakedness, sans leaves, of Lycoris radiata, spider lilies. This is the first year for these, three bulbs out of five emerging. One other that was brought from the old garden bloomed several weeks earlier and about a foot taller. It has the same red flowers. We shall see if the newer ones change habit as they mature. Gardening is always full of surprises. Take notes, there will be a test.
Very surprising is this reblooming daylily, Hemerocallis ‘Buddy’s Black Jack’. It first opened on May 27th and for some reason decided to give it another go now. Okay, you do you, Buddy.
A combination that was admired along shady roadsides when we lived in Texas was beautyberry and wild ageratum entwined to showcase cool hues of blue and purple. Ours is Callicarpa ‘Early Amethyst’ and a truly wild, naturally occurring ageratum that was brought from the old garden. I can’t keep up with the name changes on this, (and many others plants), so will leave it at the common name here.
Speaking of the old garden, sigh, it was a very different landscape from this new one. First and foremost, the siting of it offered views with no other houses due to a steep upward slope out the back and empty lots all around. The new place is in a typical suburban subdivision. It lacks mature trees and the houses are quite squeezed in together. But that’s fine, life is about compromises. Anyway, sorry for the lost train of thought, here is a view from the next door neighbor’s driveway of the mailbox bed, showing how the pink muhly is a shining star in fall.
Most of the morning glories were pulled in the lawn/meadow to prevent complete carpeting of surrounding shrubs, grasses and wildflowers. But some will always be left to grow and reseed, I love them so much.
They are sublime in their hints of magical realms and hidden secrets and will always be part of my garden.
Even as splashes of late color enliven the gardens, the quiet beauty of death and dying is gradually taking over. Great thought and effort has gone into creating pleasing textures that will last into winter from the browns and tans of spent seed heads and still standing stems. The black seeds contrast well in the fading Allium cernuum. Seeds were saved and scattered here and have reached blooming maturity. There will be more spreading. The short stature makes for a fine front of the border focal point.
Creatures are in abundance now, finding sustenance and cover in a wildish garden. A seed packet of Zinnia ‘Benary Giant Dark Red’ has produced above and beyond expectation. They are quite tall, several over five feet and had to be staked. They are a favorite of the butterflies and the relaxing on the patio with a cold beverage gardener.
Garden art stands out as the light shifts its angle against the drying foliage. I have a lot, too much garden art and am still moving things around to best effect. This grouping seems to work.
This is the unadulterated non-cropped image from the front porch, including other houses, cars, heavily used basketball goal, utility boxes and stop signs. But those things are not what I see when gazing out into the yard. At the moment, the pink muhly grass is attention grabbing in the setting sun and will continue to be so for a couple of months more as the pink turns to pale purple and finally to light toast. Evergreens help keep the monotony of browns interesting. Fall will finish with a final flash of mums and deciduous leaf changing. Winter is coming, true, but spring will be right behind showing the payoff of the hundreds of bulbs that were ordered and will be planted soon. I can’t wait.
Late summer into fall can be a bit of a drag, gardenwise. The freshness of spring is long past, the exuberance of summer flowers like daylilies have faded. We are left with brownish spent stems and leaf edges burnt by the heat and dryness that is characteristic of the middle of the year . But there has been a turning, little by little. It is evident in the coloring of the winterberry hollies, Ilex verticillata ‘Winter Red’ and I. ‘Winter Gold’.
Certain stalwarts of hot conditions, with extra watering, are the Dahlias, including the eye catching D. ‘Creme de Cassis’.
Let us zoom out some, to give a more realistic view. It is slightly controled chaos from a distance, but let’s take a closer look.
Aha, my favorite little munchers, the larval stage of beloved butterflies. Tiger and black swallowtails abound here, due to the conscious planting of their favorite meal. Parsley, dill and the very ornamental bronze fennel, Foeniculum vulgare are happily shared with very hungry caterpillars.
We make sure there are plenty of nectar rich wildflowers for our flighty friends. This volunteer thistle (unknown species), easily over eight feet tall, is a welcome giant in the lawn meadow. A black swallowtail can be seen in silhoutte against the strident summer sun, just above my watermark.
The blossoms are architecturally beautiful, if quite pickery to the touch.
Grasses in bloom enter the spotlight, adding movement and feathery touches. Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’ is a large presence, planted to help hide the utility boxes in front. It offers a glimpse of something more brilliant hiding behind.
Purple is the perfect color of late summer, whether in blooms or berries. Cuphea ‘Purple Passion’ seeds about haphazardly each year. This placement was fortuitious.
Beautyberry, Callicarpa ‘Early Amethyst’ has grown to a generous enough size to be noticed. In the background, Rudbeckia triloba offers exuberant complementary color to the cooler hues.
In fact, this avid self sowing biennial Rudbeckia has found a home in nearly every flower bed here. Many seedlings are pulled, some are moved during late winter for better placement. I need to remember how tall they can get and situate them more appropriately in the future. The bright yellow petals with neat brown bobble centers do play well with others. The same cannot be said for the vigorous blue blob seen in the background.
But who can resist the charms of the brilliant blues? In the lawn/meadow, the boldest and strongest plants, such as Miscanthus ‘Adagio’ , thuggish mountain mint, Pycnanthemum muticum and the supporting stems of ironweed, Vernonia gigantea can withstand the winding, willful vines of morning glory, Ipomoea sp. Lesser perennials will be brought down in a tumble and even shrubs can be suffocated in heart shaped leaves. The gardener needs to maintain watchful vigilance to protect the weak.
If ever there was doubt of the magic that exists in the realm of nature, proof can be found in the simple flower of morning glories. Lit from within, perhaps there is a fairy party going on inside. Maybe the answer to the meaning of life, the universe and everything resides down the funnel of white pollen? 42, you say? I am open to all possibilities.
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.
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