Inspiration, that most magical thing with feathers that starts the engine of project planning, comes when one is least expecting it. Reading and gazing at photos in print and online sometimes is the vehicle for the sweet bird of inspiration to fly inside the bubble above one’s eyebrows.
Above: Aristolochia fimbriata, white-veined Dutchman’s pipe, grown from seeds shared so generously by the inspirational Nan Ondra.
Looking out the window over the kitchen sink in August, the mass flowering is done and pink muhly grass is still only a gleam in the gardener’s eye. What is seen is a sea of green. There are wonderful textural differences, sort of, well not really wonderful for it is mostly grasses in the Fairelurie and the Lawn/Meadow. Since the creation of both of those garden beds in an area that was originally the gravel driveway of the house next door that became our garage then was traditional lawn, the vision has seemed far, far away.
Above: The aforementioned pink muhly grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris and the still a lawn, Lawn/Meadow on October 8, 2008.
Tweaking and more tweaking, planting and more adding has not revealed the jewel in waiting that is the former lawn. What we need is red in all of that verdant foliage. Red flowers in the way of tulips have been added for spring, but as every gardener knows, spring is easy. Finding that red for the months after spring has proven to be much more difficult than anticipated. There have been various annuals added, but they struggle in the dense mixture of Kentucky blue grass and tall fescue.
Crimson clover, click here for that story, was exciting earlier in the growing season. Trying to think of a tall enough to stand above the grasses, reddish leaved plant to offer more color in all that green, that can be mowed in the winter, we decided to walk around the garden for likely candidates after some budget busting pricing of mail order plants online.
This garden is twelve years old. I have an obsession with trying new plants. Some work out, some die within seconds of being planted. Anything still hanging in there after several years is eligible for the shopping cart. There is Japanese blood grass, but it is too short. There are various Heuchera ssp., but they are also too short and shouldn’t be mowed. There is Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ that has seeded all over, that might work. Then the wings of inspiration fluttered maniacally as we traipsed up the path between the Black Garden and the newly cleared Woodland Garden, trying desperately to get our attention.
Right there, completely ignored on a daily basis is the plant that will fill the need, Persicaria microcephala ‘Red Dragon’, seen above in March 2012 with Tulipa ‘Princess Irene’. This unassuming perennial had been planted as an edger, my default planting technique that needs to be stopped right now!, along the Woodland Garden. One plant purchased so long ago I have no recollection from whence it came had been divided into several to line the edge. It was too tall to use as an edger and had been added to the to do list to divide and move to the interior of the bed.
Most perennials will appreciate an occasional dividing, discarding the woody interior and replanting the younger bits. Red Dragon has not been touched for at least ten years and was long overdue for surgery, it was discovered as we began digging. Poor baby.
The clumps broke into pieces with very little effort, crying tears of gratitude for the attention of the gardener at long last. Some were planted among the hostas, ferns and blue fescue, situated to best catch the flattering light of the morning sun. The remainder was planted in the Lawn/Meadow, in groups rather than the one here, one there method that was used for the Verbena bonariensis and others that have been added.
Using plants that have passed the test of neglect, drought, heat, storms and dark of night makes perfect sense for the tightwad gardener, that’s me. Looking at every plant growing out there with the discriminating eye of a bargain hunting shopper, that’s me again, in your own garden when you need a certain size, color, sun or shade, evergreen or deciduous will pay off at the checkout counter. Happy shoppping!
Previous post on this topic:
Plant Shopping In Your Own Garden