Gardening Gone Wild’s garden designer workshops. This month it is stone and gravel. It is also time for the Volunteer Viola Beauty Pageant. Most all of the contestants hail from the gravel paths around the knot garden at the top of the hill. We have gravel paths all over the property in the back. The look of this material is very English Cottage style, my favorite. It keeps one’s feetsies dry as you stroll the ups and downs and it drains freely when we experience those heavy downpours. Those are quite rare in recent times, but the gravel serves us well. Christopher C. has written in his blog,
Outside Clyde, of the free plants he has been able to obtain from the edge of the gravel driveway where he is building a cabin on the side of a mountain. His story is amazing, if you aren’t familiar with it, zip over there and give it a look.
In order for the violas to grow to their optimum beauty, the weeds must be meticulously removed from the growing medium. That means some quality time spent on hands and knees, scooting along the gravel and pulling any unwanteds.
Two examples of wanteds, on the left is a bread seed poppy baby. He gets to live and will be moved to a better location to showcase his tall red or pink bloom. On the right is a baby viola, looking like a dark purple from the appearance of the bud already formed. Being able to distinguish the weeds from the good guys is a skill learned by trial and error over the years.
Another good guy, salvia coccinea, probably a red one although we have coral and white sometimes. One has learned to recognize the spade shaped first leaves on these and either transplant them or let them grow in the gravel. We love them as do the hummingbirds.
Uh oh, a bad one, poke berry. He will have to go. There are many of these native plants around the edge of our property allowed to grow to their full potential of around eight feet tall. In late summer the purple berries are a gourmet treat for the many birds. That ensures a good supply of seedlings coming up in all the flower beds and paths. But the babies are distinctive and easily pulled at this size.
The judges will be looking for interesting marking and color combinations. While we agree that all are lovely, we will be looking for that special one.
This wildflower is abundant here. We let some of them flower fully, most are pulled, depending on what else we are trying to grow in that area. I would love to know the name of it. Does anyone know what it is?
This one is a welcome visitor, the penstemon ‘Husker Red’. All of these are kept and replanted in a variety of beds. The dark leaves are evergreen and form neat mounds. The flowers are whites and pinks, some nearly lavender after having partied with some of the other penstemons we grow, Red Rocks and Sour Grapes, among others.
A sweet little blue. It is wonderful how they flower at such a small size. The blooming continues as the plants grow to about a foot in diameter and tall. If crowded with other plants, they will weave through their surroundings and still give plenty of colorful faces to cheer our mood.
The seeds have scattered themselves over the years in this part of the path. Many packs of violas in blue, white, yellow and the dark purple Bowle’s Black were planted in the quadrants the first year they were created with old bricks used for edging. Back then the paths were mulch, we brought the gravel up later. Getting the ‘brown 57’, the name this type of stone goes by around here, up to the top of the hill was hard physical labor. But the muscle strain was worth it. The gravel keeps the soil from washing down the hill, lets us meander with dry feet when the dew is heavy in the mornings, and provides the perfect environment for self seeding desirables to perpetuate themselves each year. We are looking for a banner year with many beautiful semi finalists to be voted on by you, our reading public. Stay tuned and brush up on the viola attributes you find appealing.