It is time for some close ups in the Fairegarden, those fun macros that allow for details to be viewed that are not possible to see with the naked eye. Or even with the reading glasses on. Hiding from the dazzling light of morning sunshine under a long leaf, a Pholcidae, daddy long legs is hoping for a buggy meal to alight on the topside. This type of spider is quite common and highly poisonous, but do not fear them if you are a human, their fangs are incapable of biting us. If found inside the house, I grab them by a leg and gently place them out of doors.
Looking somewhat spider-webbish as a segue to the next image, Daucus carota, Queen anne’s lace is an introduced wildflower found over most of the United States. It can be seen growing along roadsides and in open fields forming beautiful bouquets with the also introduced blue flowering chicory. Considered invasive on official sites, it is treasured in the garden here, with seeds saved and scattered from the one plant that popped up behind the knot garden bench. A biennial, the lacy foliage will show up the first year after germination with the tall bloom stalk sporting white delicate flowers the next. It has been added to the gravel garden in hopes of having it waving gaily with the Karl Foerster grass that resides in the back portion. Now if we could add some chicory…
The fancy named cultivars of Echinacea have proven difficult to get going here, those with the unnatural colors added by fervent plant breeders. An exception is the diminutive Echincea ‘Harvest Moon’. The yellow-orange petals are a result of the work of Matthew Saul, owner of the patent for the Big Sky series of purple coneflowers. Crossing the yellow E. paradoxa, (we have managed to grow one plant from seed to blooming size), with the species E. purpurea has resulted in a vigorous grower that is a blooming machine. Granted it is planted in what could be considered the best soil in the best position here, the Fairelurie, click here to find out about that special bed and its creation, there will be no questioning of how or why this particular cultivar does so well. It simply does.
While the close up macro shots are fun to fool around with, the garden is actually about the long view, as seen from human eyes as the paths are followed many, many times each day. There is much to see, hear and smell, with changes daily, even hourly on occasion. The Fairelurie as seen from the entrance path that leads from the driveway in front to the garden granduer of the back yard greets guests and homeowners with a welcome sight.
Rudbeckia hirta ‘Prairie Sun’ is an annual. Repeat, an annual. It does not return, except by seeding. But on occasion, there will be a seedling that sows itself in the exact same place as the store bought plant grew the year before. A lucky coincidence, perhaps. Or perhaps there was a smaller, younger plant in the same pot that has survived to bloom the next year. Whatever the case, it is welcome. Now if only the other seven would have done the same…
There is one daylily that excels above all the nearly one hundred named varieties we grow here. It is Hemerocallis ‘Pardon Me’. The lone daylily brought with the Noah’s Ark of plants in the move from Texas to Tennessee in 2000, it has been divided and spread about all over this property. Opening in late May and continuing to bloom until August with brief naps to recharge, the dark red flower with the neon green throat is a must have plant. The only caveat is the stature, somewhat shorter than most other daylilies, so placement is critical for it to shine brightly.
The long, or farther view reveals a cluster of blooms among the tall also blooming and aforementioned Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’, using the whole Latin name this time. The splotches of red are just what is needed to decorate the sea of grey/green at the back of the gravel garden. Poor soil, what used to be a gravel driveway, compacted and rocky red clay is no obstacle for H. ‘Pardon Me’. It has also been spread to the front island forest of grasses and weedy bits, this red garden warrior.
At the lower level of the gravel garden described above is the mass planting of Japanese blood grass, Imperata cylindra ‘Rubra’, a plant also on the bad guy list as being invasive in some parts of the US. Maybe we need the invasives to be able to survive the wildly fluctuating conditions of hot-cold, wet-dry that is the new norm for us. Aster tataricus ‘Jindai’ has no problemo amidst the red tipped grass. Really, we have not seen any other plant have one bit of trouble growing amongst it. The morning light is like an x-ray for the large serrated edged leaves of the fall bloomer. What any kind of light does to the blood grass is the stuff of legend, that reason alone is enough to grow it.
To wind up this story, may we present a very wide shot of the Gravel Garden. As in most planting areas here, there are more different things growing than I can even name. Each square foot is home to many, the result of manic collecting of anything and everything in the way of plants. We wish to try each newly discovered species and cultivar, to us, or we used to, and would stick the purchase, passalong or seedling wherever there was a blank spot. The blank spots have all been filled and now something must be removed to make way for the new, so more care and thought is given, sometimes, when shopping. Sometimes there is even a conscious design at play. Sometimes not.