Monthly Archives: October 2012

Finding Balance

Now in its second year this meditation garden is a personal space for meditative walking and serves as a focal point for the entire garden. Within a twenty foot diameter circle red paving stones form the path of the labyrinth, while various plants form the walls.

Meditation Circle Oct 26 2012

My original plan to have year-round interest, at least along some of the pathways, has been only partly successful.

I knew this year was to be an experiment to learn what plants might work best in the meditation circle. I realize now that I did lots of worrying and obsessing about the plantings, but not enough time enjoying the meditation garden. Though many plants did well, it was disappointing this summer when a large number of the perennials starting dying. Sadly once that happened I spent very little time actually walking the labyrinth.

Then last week I worked over several days to tidy up the circle, which had become a little neglected. I devoted hours to it—trimming plants and mulching, and carefully brushing off the stones—and in those hours time seemed to stand still.

Here are some views of the plants in the meditation garden after the cleanup was finished:

  • Dianthus lines the entrance.

    Dianthus Lines Labyrinth Entrance

  • Angelonia angustifolia ‘Angelface Blue’ (Summer Snapdragon), an annual, is still blooming for now but will soon need to be removed. It runs along two walls on the left side of the entrance.

    Angelonia angustifolia ‘Angelface Blue’ (Summer Snapdragon) In Meditation Circle

  • Penstemon mexicali ‘Pike’s Peak Purple’ (Beardtongue) is a hot desert plant that runs along the outer wall starting on the right side of the entrance. Beautiful this spring and early summer, it unexpectedly died back. [too much rain? voles?] See this Penstemon in bloom on May 11, 2012.

    Dieback of Pike’s Peak Purple Penstemon (back wall) and Candytuft (center). In between the two, mounds of thyme  provided the only green in this part of the circle from midsummer on.

  • Iberis sempervirens ‘Purity’ (Candytuft) bloomed prolifically during the mild winter and through spring, then most died. Only a couple of plants now appear to be living. The center of the labyrinth should have been green all summer; instead the color of brown mulch dominates. [too much rain? voles?]  See the Iberis in bloom on March 24, 2012.
  • Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue) guards several of the turnarounds. Several self-seeded volunteers are planted in-between the ‘Pike’s Peak Purple’ also. This plant is not as showy as hoped but it has been reliable.

    Angelonia angustifolia ‘Angelface Blue’ (Summer Snapdragon) lines either side of this path until the turnaround is reached. Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue) walls off the turnaround and directs traffic to the right.

  • Thyme purchased as Thymus x citriodorus (Silver Edge Thyme), was probably mislabeled. It has no lemon scent, no scent at all when crushed. This thyme looked dead last winter and I planned to replace it. Before I got around to it though the thyme began to turn green. It barely bloomed at all, but the mounds spread and looked healthy all summer.

    Mounds of Thyme were green all summer. In the foreground is one of the few remaining Pike’s Peak Purple Penstemon.

  • Notes: 1) Pine bark mulch floated away during heavy rainstorms this summer and required a lot of redistribution, so I decided to switch back to hardwood mulch (which also has a less obtrusive texture). 2) The blue gazing ball was a temporary marker for the center of the labyrinth, never intended to become a permanent fixture. A bench or stool will replace it one day.

During the cleanup of the meditation circle last week I was reminded it is calming to be in this space, hearing the birds chatter, catching a brave one sneak a seed from the feeder. Laughter spills into the garden from children at a nearby playground. A monarch butterfly sails over, heading toward the nourishment of Zinnia nectar. Sun breaks through the clouds and warms my skin.

In those suspended moments I reconnected with whatever compelled me to build a labyrinth last year. I took time again to walk along the meditation path, stopping to notice a fallen petal, a small pile of stones, a bright tuft of moss, a leaf. These little things along the path are what seemed worthy of attention that day—the Candytuft’s browned stems barely registered when I passed.

At some point, measuring my pace along the 87 steps that lead into the center of the labyrinth, I realized something I had known before. The meditation garden is a place to come to observe and enjoy and just be, and though not perfect, it is serving its purpose well when I take the time to be there.

The cleanup work I did last week was restorative for the garden, but also for me. Along with a renewed appreciation for this special place that I have created for myself, I enjoyed a peace that comes with being close to nature and a respect for simple gifts. A deep sense of balance has returned.

A Memory Plant

Newly open in the garden today is an old-fashioned chrysanthemum, a sweet pass-along plant from a dear relative many years ago.

This chrysanthemum has woody-stems about 3 feet tall, but they are not strong enough to hold the flowers upright once they begin to open. I try to remember to pinch back the buds, but am too inconsistent to ever learn if pinching would keep the stems shorter and the plant tidier. A nearby rose and its other neighbors provide some support, but admittedly the chrysanthemum sprawls quite a lot.

To many, these characteristics would seem not to recommend it, but I do enjoy having this plant in the garden.

The blossoms are small but abundant.


The deep lemon-hued petals pale toward white as they unfurl. The cheerful blooms are long-lasting indoors and here in the garden they should brighten the southwest border for weeks to come.


My garden is full of memory plants. Like having a visit from an old friend, I always am glad to see this chrysanthemum.

Garden Bloggers Foliage Day – October 2012

It is Garden Bloggers Foliage Day (GBFD) and here are some examples of the variety of foliage in the October garden.

Strongly patterned leaves of Arum Italica are maturing this month in a shady spot under the camellias.

Arum italicum

Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’ (Spurge) has been growing in a large pot on the patio since spring and is my first and only Euphorbia success.   It needs to go into the ground soon. Having never reached this point before I am not sure how well it will overwinter.

Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’ (Spurge)

Monarda didyma (Scarlet Beebalm) has been expanding its territory recently and has sent up shoots among the Sweet Alyssum, a dainty annual. At this height the lime-green young leaves add nice textural contrast to the tiny white flowers of the Alyssum and they are nicely fragrant.

Monarda didyma (Scarlet Beebalm) and Lobularia hybrid ‘Snow Princess’ (Sweet Alyssum)

Autumn leaf color has become quite noticeable only in the last five days. The complementary hues found in this leafy pair added a touch of boldness to the garden this week. This particular tree has been an underwhelming performer, but in general, Cornus florida (Flowering Dogwood) is beautiful in spring and fall.

Cornus florida (Flowering Dogwood)

Gentle mounds of Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine) fill part of a border near the back steps. Round-lobed leaves range in color from pale green to a coppery russet pink, accentuated by dark red stems.

Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine), Salvia splendens (Scarlet Sage)

Purchased on a whim because they were on sale, three new trees were added this month in front of a south-facing portion of privacy fence. Online resources describe Juniperus scopulorum ‘Wichita Blue’ (Juniper) as having a pyramidal form; however, these seemed very narrow at the store, which is what I liked about them. Also, the plant tags appear to have understated the final height and width, and oops, it may not tolerate heat and humidity very well.  I believe I could find a lesson in all this—instead I planted them anyway.

At least the foliage has an interesting texture and is soft, not bristly nor prickly.

Juniperus scopulorum ‘Wichita Blue’ (Juniper)

Thanks to Christina of Creating My Own Garden of the Hesperides for hosting Garden Bloggers Foliage Day (GBFD) each month.

Drops of Gold

At my favorite garden center yesterday it was impossible to pass up a new Japanese Holly variety, Ilex crenatea ‘Drops of Gold.’  I brought it home planning to put it in a large blue pot near the front walk during fall and winter, but eventually decided to add it to the foundation planting in front of the house.

Ilex crenatea ‘Drops of Gold’ (Japanese Holly)

‘Drops of Gold’ is a small shrub that will reach 3-4 feet tall by 3 feet wide. When I first saw it I thought it was in flower, but actually the color comes from the leaves.

The tag promises, “spring flush is a brilliant yellow that slowly changes into a pleasing dusty yellow. The color is most prominent on leaves exposed to the sun.”

Detail of leaves – Ilex crenatea ‘Drops of Gold’ (Japanese Holly)

Here in this microcosm of suburbia, the house’s original landscaper lined up 9 or 10 Ilex crenata (Japanese Holly) shrubs across the front of the house. That was fine until 5 of them died during a severe drought a few years ago and replacements died the next year. The demise of one is captured in this old photograph.

Drought-ridden Japanese Holly – 2007

The hedge never fully recovered and some noticeable gaps remain, although three Daphne odora ‘Aureo-marginata’ were added several years ago that have done well. They provide some foliage variation and perfume the air when blooming, but they never grew as large as expected to fill in the open spaces. Whether it makes sense to plant another Japanese Holly here is debatable, but here it is.

Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ (Winter daphne) and Ilex crenatea ‘Drops of Gold’ (Japanese Holly)

After many years of ignoring and/or hiding the gap with a pot of chrysanthemums or geraniums, if I can keep ‘Drops of Gold’ watered, perhaps this section will improve. I have very selective vision and will continue to ignore the Liriope.

Ilex crenatea ‘Drops of Gold’ (Japanese Holly)

Late Afternoon In The Mid-October Garden

There were delightful sights, sounds and scents in today’s garden. A large bee buzzed and hovered near my face long enough to fan my cheek, making me smile. Late afternoon sunlight danced atop Angelonia in the meditation path.

Angelonia angustifolia ‘Angelface Blue’ (Summer Snapdragon)

Throughout the garden Echinacea is in various stages of its life cycle. Many of the plants are fading even as new flowers emerge on others.

Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)

More Camellia sasanqua flowers appear daily. The variety of this Camellia is unknown, but it is a highly fragrant one.

Camellia sasanqua

I noticed the first Camellia sasanqua ‘Yuletide’ blossom is open. It seems early but actually last year this shrub was blooming on October 25.

Camellia sasanqua ‘Yuletide’

Another fragrant shrub, Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ (Winter daphne), bloomed from late January to March last year. Today a dainty Daphne blossom made an early appearance.

Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ (Winter daphne)

Sunny Pleasure

October Blooms Inventory

October 15, 2012 update. As everything listed here is still blooming today, I am connecting this October 9 blooms inventory to Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day for October 2012. Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting.

Fall is coming in spurts. Pumpkins sit on porches in the neighborhood along with ubiquitous potted chrysanthemums in yellows, golds, rusts and burgundies.

Oddly though my garden has lots of pink, including this Phlox paniculata, one of several that I noticed blooming today in a back part of the border, miraculously undisturbed by deer.

Phlox paniculata (Garden Phlox)

The ground is soggy. The garden has been heavily saturated again for the last few days as rains fell and temperatures dropped. Today’s high of 58°F is quite a change from the 88°F of a week ago. Tomorrow the weather will warm up to 72°F and by next Tuesday the temperature is projected to rise again to 80°F.

Rain held off during the day, but dense clouds reigned this afternoon as I inventoried which plants are blooming in the garden today. Some plants are fading fast. Monarda didyma (Scarlet Beebalm) can just barely qualify as still blooming, but there were a few red petals so I counted it! Other plants are still producing fresh blossoms and will keep going until frost, such as Hedychium coronarium (Ginger lily). There actually were a few stray flowers on the large Spiraea shrub in the western border.

  • Achillea filipendulina (Fern-leaf Yarrow)
  • Ageratum
  • Angelonia angustifolia ‘Angelface Blue’ (Summer Snapdragon)
  • Aster
  • Buddleja davidii  (Butterfly Bush)
  • Camellia sasanqua
  • Clematis ‘Jackmanii’
  • Cleome hassleriana (Spider Flower)
  • Cosmos
  • Dahlia ‘Stargazer’
  • Dianthus
  • Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)
  • Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’ (Coneflower)
  • French Marigold
  • Gardenia jasminoides ‘Chuck Hayes’
  • Gaura lindheimeri ‘Passionate Blush’ (Butterfly Gaura)
  • Gaura Belleza (™) ‘Dark Pink’ (Butterfly Gaura)
  • Hedychium coronarium (Ginger lily)
  • Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp Sunflower)
  • Lantana camara (Common lantana)
  • Lavender
  • Leucanthemum x superbum (Shasta Daisy)
  • Lobularia hybrid ‘Snow Princess®’ (Sweet Alyssum)
  • Meadow Sage ‘May Night’
  • Monarda didyma (Scarlet Beebalm)
  • Muhlenbergia capillaris (Pink Muhly Grass)
  • Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ (Catmint) 
  • Penstemon  mexicali ‘Pike’s Peak Purple’ (Beardtongue)
  • Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian Sage)
  • Phlox paniculata (Garden Phlox)
  • Physostegia virginiana (Obedient Plant)
  • Rudbeckia fulgida (Orange Coneflower) and Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’
  • Salvia splendens (Scarlet Sage)
  • Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’
  • Salvia uliginosa ‘Blue Sky’ (Bog sage)
  • Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ (Herbstfreude) (Stonecrop)
  • Spiraea
  • Tradescantia pallida ‘Purpurea’ (Purple Heart)
  • Tradescantia (Spiderwort)
  • Verbena bonariensis (Tall Verbena)
  • Zinnia

I have already thought of a few plants not listed here, but the inventory is fairly complete and putting it together today made a rather interesting exercise. Click an image to see these at a larger size in gallery view.

Company In The Garden

Among the bees and many other insects enjoying Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp Sunflower) today were many beautiful Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus). I think these are female but am not sure.

Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) on Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp Sunflower)

Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) on Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp Sunflower)

Swamp Sunflower is a native plant but spreads too easily and is difficult to control. I did manage to dig up one new section of this plant that had begun to grow. It is hard to deal ruthlessly with this or any plant that is blooming with such sunshine and cheer.

Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp Sunflower)

Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp Sunflower)

Bees on Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp Sunflower)

It was nice to have such interesting company in the garden today as I continued digging out errant mounds of common daylilies. I keep hoping I am not also mistakenly taking out irises that I thought were growing in this area as well.

Hemerocallis fulva) (Tawny Daylily)

Juniperus scopulorum ‘Wichita Blue’ (Juniper) waiting to be planted

I am trying to clear out enough room to plant some new evergreen trees, additions that should provide much needed verticality and year-round structure to the northern border.

The trees, Juniperus scopulorum ‘Wichita Blue’ (Juniper), were purchased on a whim more than a few weeks ago.

I know well that I should never buy anything without having a place already prepared where I can plant them right away. Being such an undisciplined gardener it is a lesson I learn and apparently ignore over and over.

Camellia Sasanqua

Autumn is the time for Camellia sasanquas and on Tuesday I noticed the first blooms of the season. Colored a milky white and tinged with rosy-pink edges, the open flowers of this species are 2-3 inches across.

Camellia sasanqua

The variety name of this particular Camellia sasanqua has been lost, but even nameless, it is a carefree, reliable fall bloomer. Maintained at roughly 6 feet tall, at this time of year the plant is full of buds and promise.

Camellia sasanqua

Camellias are evergreen and for that reason this and several other Camellias were purchased around 2003 to hide utility equipment at the northeast corner of the house. The dark green leathery leaves, as well as its dense form, make Camellias work very well for screening hedges. The blossoms are an exceptional bonus.

Camellia sasanqua

Planted tightly adjacent to the shrub currently blooming is Camellia sasanqua ‘Yuletide,’ which will produce bright red flowers by November.  Sometimes cold weather will damage the flowers but most often there are plenty of red blossoms to float in glass dishes for the Thanksgiving dinner table.

[There is one other Camellia in the garden, though not a sasanqua. It stands further down toward the garden entrance and is a late winter-early spring variety, Camellia ‘Coral Delight’ (C. japonica × C. saluenensis).]

Someday I plan to add more Camellias to the garden. In particular I admire the white formal double flowers of Camellia sasanqua ‘Autumn Moon’. It really is lovely and I believe more white flowers are always useful. There is an open house this weekend at a local camellia nursery—maybe I will have a chance to visit and explore the Camellia world a bit more.

Early October Garden

Days of cool rain marked the year’s transition from September to October. The harvest moon remained hidden behind deep clouds.

Yesterday, temperatures and humidity rose dramatically. This afternoon the sun broke through the clouds lifting the temperature to 86F, quite a change from highs in the mid-sixties at the weekend.

Certain signs of autumn belie today’s warm weather. Berries now adorn the Flowering Dogwood, whose leaves had already browned in July’s extended dry spell.

Cornus florida (Flowering Dogwood)

A windblown spire of Salvia uliginosa ‘Blue Sky’ (Bog sage) rests against of Hylotelephium ‘Herbstfreude’ Autumn Joy (Stonecrop). The Salvia’s pink calyx reflects the ruddy, rusty hue of the flowering Stonecrop.

Salvia uliginosa ‘Blue Sky’ (Bog sage) and Hylotelephium ‘Herbstfreude’ Autumn Joy (Stonecrop)

A multicolored flower petal of ‘Blue Sky’ Salvia sits suspended in a spider’s complex world.

‘Blue Sky’ Flower In Spider’s Web

The burgundy Chrysanthemum in the background has bloomed most of the summer and now complements the rose-colored wisps of fall-blooming Muhlenbergia capillaris (Pink Muhly Grass). In the foreground stands a spent stalk of Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian Sage).

Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian Sage), Chrysanthemum, Muhlenbergia capillaris (Pink Muhly Grass)

Blue-violet Ageratum brightens a dark corner of the garden.


Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp Sunflower), became very aggressive and was theoretically removed from the garden a few years ago. Unaware of its banished status, it displays brilliant yellow blossoms annually.

Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp Sunflower)

Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp Sunflower)

The annual, Angelonia angustifolia ‘Angelface Blue’ (Summer Snapdragon), has bloomed throughout the summer among the stepping stones of the meditation circle.

Angelonia angustifolia ‘Angelface Blue’ (Summer Snapdragon)

The meditation circle itself is soggy this week and needs attention.

Pine-bark mulch now sits in drifts, having been swept across the stone paths during the recent heavy rainfalls.

Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue) still performs satisfactorily, while generous green mounds of Thyme surpass expectations.

Unfortunately other evergreen perennials that were chosen specifically for their drought-tolerance, Iberis sempervirens ‘Purity’ (Candytuft) and ‘Pikes Peak Purple’ Penstemon (Beardtongue), are brown and may not recover. ‘Purity’ was beautiful all winter and spring and ‘Pikes Peak Purple’ was lovely in spring, but both choices will need to be reevaluated for long-term performance.