Category Archives: pbmgarden renovation

Ideas and progress on redesigning my garden

Revolving The Evolving Meditation Circle

Meditation Circle - 01

Nests of ants have become recent squatters and the voles appear to have returned to the meditation circle. But there are no signs of deer jumping the fence this year, so after avoiding them for years I am taking a chance with pansies and violas to add some color to the meditation garden this fall and winter.

Delta Premium Pure Primrose (White to pale yellow)

Delta Premium Pure Primrose (White to pale yellow)

Delta True Blue (medium blue)

Delta True Blue (medium blue)

Viola (purple) - detail

Viola (purple) – detail

I spent most of the day fixing up the meditation circle, which has been on its own since spring. Since creating it in April 2011 I have tried to rely mostly on evergreen perennials to mark the walls of the labyrinth, but results have been uneven.

After planting the pansies and violas in-between the perennials, I watered them in well. With luck they should last until spring. maybe by then I will have a new inspiration for the meditation garden plantings.

Meditation Circle - 02

Meditation Circle - 03

Meditation Circle - 08

Meditation Circle - 09

Meditation Circle - 10

Meditation Circle - 04

Meditation Circle - 05

Meditation Circle - 11

Meditation Circle - 12

Meditation Circle - 13

Meditation Circle - 14

Meditation Circle - 15

Meditation Circle - 16

Meditation Circle - 17

Meditation Circle - 18

Plants in the Meditation Garden October 1, 2013

Pansy ‘Majestic Giant Purple’
Pansy ‘Delta Premium Pure Primrose’ (white to pale yellow)
Pansy ‘Delta True Blue’ (medium blue)
Viola sp. (purple)
Penstemon ‘Husker Red’ – seeding everywhere
Penstemon ‘Pikes Peak Purple’ (Beardtongue) – did not bloom well this spring, dying out
Iberis sempervirens ‘Purity’ (Candytuft) – died out last year; replanted in spring, also dying out
Mounding Thyme – developed black areas from center; two completely died, some are recovering. Trimmed today.
Alyssum ‘Easter Bonnet Violet’ – (annual) planted in spring, only now blooming.
Dianthus ‘Ideal Select White’ – several died; relocated two further into center. Needs deadheading constantly.
Dianthus (salmony-pink color) – one died; bloomed most of summer but not attractive, needs deadheading constantly.

Garden Recordkeeping Part 4

As September 2013 winds down I have some photographs and notes to record. This is the fourth of several posts.

While I am in the mood to record some thoughts about the previous gardening season I wanted to jot down this reminder. Several years ago I wrote an entry about a New York Times interview with Piet Oudolf in which he was asked for “final advice for the beginner.”

Experience starts the moment you start to like gardening. You can’t do it right the first time. You can’t even do it right in a few years. You always see the next step you have to do. Start simply, putting good combinations of plants together, and work from there. You have to go through all the steps. You cannot skip any lessons. That is honest. It’s hard work. But you get something back, that’s the good thing. It’s like raising children. You try to do your best.

To read the entire interview see: The New York Times, HOME & GARDEN, Q&A: Piet Oudolf on Designing a Winter Garden, By SARA BARRETT, Published: February 9, 2011. The Dutch designer shares advice on getting the most out of your garden all year round.

Garden Recordkeeping Part 3

As September 2013 winds down I have some photographs and notes to record. This is the third of several posts.

Lavender, Echinacea and Saliva Along Southern Border

Lavender, Echinacea and Saliva Along Southern Border

Sometimes pictures of my garden are just too ugly to show. I think my photography has improved more than my gardening skills since I began blogging, as I try to find ways to show parts of the garden without revealing how it all really looks. No one wants to see, I reason, the spent flowers or unweeded patches, the air conditioner units or brick foundation, the odd item left out of place on the patio, the neighbors’ cars or such. And of course I want to show the garden at its best. So often the views I show are from the same points, where I can compose an image that hides some of the truth.

But I started pbmGarden in January 2011 as a way to plan and design changes for the garden. The blog was to be a way to work out ideas and document the progress of the garden. I was reminded of that point when I looked at yesterday’s pictures of the Southern border, compared to images from when I first began the blog 2.75 years ago.

In the picture above, taken yesterday, I was down on the ground trying to capture the freshness of this Echinacea about to bloom in front of French Lavender. The salmon-colored Salvia should be in the frame as well. Oh, and I told myself to try not to show utility boxes on the side of the neighbors’ house.

Below, here is another view from yesterday of the same area, looking from the middle of the garden toward the Southern border with its Blue Point Juniper hedge. Among other criticisms I was struck by how much flat wall I could see of the neighboring houses.

Garden View- Southern Border 2013-09-28

Garden View- Southern Border 2013-09-28

But it is actually helpful that photographs can go beyond the photographer’s vanity to show an honest record. When I look back at that border just after planting that hedge in February 2011 it is clear to me I have made some progress in this garden.

One of my big goals at the time was to gain some privacy so I could better enjoy gardening. Looking at the Southern border then one could easily understand why this was important. The yards were wide open.

Blue Point Juniper hedge  2-20-2011

Blue Point Juniper hedge 2-20-2011

Standing in my yard a month after the Blue Point Juniper hedge had been installed and looking toward the Southern Border (and the neighboring house beyond), I realized privacy was coming no time soon. I began making arrangements for a fence.

Blue Point Juniper, Southern Bed 3-18-2011

Blue Point Juniper, Southern Bed 3-18-2011

The fence was a costly budget item for this garden but when now when the lantana and other perennials die back in this winter, the garden will still retain a sense of enclosure and privacy.

Garden View- Southern Border

Garden View- Southern Border

Standing at the opposite side of the garden, again looking toward the Southern border, I notice how much the Blue Point Juniper hedge has grown.

Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ (Herbstfreude) (Stonecrop)

Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ (Herbstfreude) (Stonecrop)

While looking back through some photographs of the garden’s history today I was reminded how helpful it is to have lots of those images that tell the stark, ugly truth. They are useful in evaluating progress and in setting and recalibrating goals for the garden.

Of course for the blog it is always fun to throw in a beauty shot as well. Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian Sage) is blooming in several places around the garden.

Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian Sage)

Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian Sage)

Unseen Gusts and Rain

Today there are overflowing puddles and bird baths and even the grass has lost its crispy texture, but the garden is changed.  In our absence yesterday a heavy wind and rain storm passed through. Neighbors said it was fierce and significant, but everyone was surprised to see the trees down.

Crape Myrtle at Front Walk

Returning to the neighborhood, first I saw a next-door neighbor’s small oak tree had almost broken in half, the top had just folded over toward the ground. Just beyond at our house, an almost-blooming Crape Myrtle had snapped at the base and was lying in the street.  Its twin stood sturdy and strong, but missing its partner at the front walk.

One of a pair of Crape Mytles snapped at the base during a storm.

Not having seen the storm ourselves it was difficult to imagine what in the world had happened. The house seemed fine and was.

Of course I was curious how the garden had fared.

Ahh, a pine tree! We do not own any, having learned our lesson many years ago about living under pine trees. They fall.  They lose their tops. I did not need the reminder, but here it was and sure enough pine trees do still lose their tops! And even if a pine tree belongs to the back yard neighbors, a pine tree’s broken top can suddenly become one’s own problem.

Top of Loblolly Pine Landed Inside The Garden

Amazingly the pine fell inside our fence, rather than crashing down onto it, so the fence is not damaged. The meditation circle was filled with pine cones and a few small branches, but is otherwise unscathed. Early morning cleanup revealed a broken ‘Chuck Hayes’ Gardenia, a crushed Buddleja, a flattened Gaura and a few missing perennials, but mostly the garden was spared. It still looks a bit bruised though and will take some time to recover it dignity.

It is too soon to see this as an opportunity to redesign, but eventually it will work that way.

After Cleanup From The Storm

Garden Bloggers Foliage Day – June 2012


I embarked on a major garden renovation in January 2011, installing some new privacy shrubs, a picket fence and a meditation circle with a labyrinth.  These projects made a large impact on the garden and measurably increased my enjoyment of it. So I coasted for a year, just enjoying the flowers, but lately I have begun thinking again about various aspects of the garden’s design, structure and views.

Fortunately Christina at Creating My Own Garden of the Hesperides hosts Garden Bloggers Foliage Day (GBFD) each month, and this prompt provides an opportunity to examine the role foliage plays in the garden.

Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’ (Spurge)

Summer officially arrived this week and temperatures in the nineties reinforced this changing of the season. This time of year the sun’s glare can pale even the strongest-colored blossoms, making the garden appear washed out. Strong foliage color and varying texture can add interest, especially during these next couple of months. I am often drawn to plants with leaves of deepest greens, reds and purples and find these plants help anchor the garden in summer.  Silvery foliage, such as that found in Lavender, Dusty Miller and Artemisia, is equally useful and serves to complement the dark-leafed plants.


Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ (Wormwood)

Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ (Wormwood)

Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ (Wormwood)

Canna’s strong form and deeply patterned, smooth, waxy leaves add interest at many levels as it grows.


This week the first reddish-orange canna flower appeared. (The actual blossom looks yellowish in this picture, but in fact is orange, similar in color to that of the Echinacea cones in the background.) The long, slender leaves of Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower) are quite graceful and delicate when juxtaposed with the boldness of the Canna’s leaves.

Canna and Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)

Several weeks ago I transplanted some of the volunteer Cleome (Spider Flower) seedlings from the Southern path to other areas of the garden that needed filling in. These transplants have not grown very tall yet, just 2-3 feet, but they can reach 4-5 feet. The medium green palmate leaves are but one part of the interesting and complex structure of Cleome.

Cleome (Spider Flower)

This Cleome below is opening in front of a stand of Monarda stems; the mid-range dark purple is Setcreasea ‘Purple Heart,’ a reliable plant used as a ground cover in this garden. A gift from a friend many years ago, Purple Heart dies back but easily survives the winters here.

Cleome (Spider Flower)

Setcreasea ‘Purple Heart’

When viewing the Cleome flower from above, the foliage assists by providing the perfect backdrop for the flower to be seen.

Cleome (Spider Flower)

The garden holds many examples of foliage variations, but over time as plants have migrated, decreased, multiplied or died out altogether, many original plant pairings have ceased to exist. Much of what is left is happenstance. As I consider the garden’s overall design, I need to look closer at foliage and other characteristics of plants in the garden, noting what combinations work well and under what circumstances.

Check out other GBFD bloggers by visiting Christina at Creating My Own Garden of the Hesperides.

Labyrinth ‘Purity’

Today the plantings in the meditation circle seem a tiny step closer to being complete. After months of indecision I decided to continue planting the goal of the labyrinth with Iberis sempervirens ‘Purity’ (Candytuft). In addition to forming evergreen mounds, this cultivar is reputed to be tolerant of a wet or a hot dry site, and it also tolerates humidity. It has already proven itself under these conditions in the labyrinth during the past year.

When the labyrinth was built last March, five ‘Purity’ candytufts were selected particularly to satisfy one major requirement: staying evergreen. Of course it has been extraordinarily mild this winter, but they met the requirement and more by blooming since the first week of December.  A bonus, these flowers are lovely in moonlight and tonight the moon is full.

So, the innermost circle is joined. More plans await.

My Garden Attic

Contemplating yesterday how best to proceed with my garden renovation started last year, it dawned on me how much my garden resembles my attic.

A recent attic cleanup effort resulted in many donations and a few trips to the dump–hard work and satisfying. Now someone else can enjoy the colorful elephant and 3D puzzle.

Despite the improvement the attic remains filled with a large number of items that simply entered my life at some point. For whatever reasons they were introduced, collected, saved and are now still a part of my life.

Like the lathe-turned rocking chair, built more than fifty years ago by my carpenter craftsman grandfather, some attic treasures are cherished as a way to remember my family. These items are part of my childhood, my heritage, and I hope one day someone close will want them. There is always enough room in the attic to keep these treasures.

Other things in the attic are oh so very useful, such as the large blue-speckled enameled canning pot I bring out to make watermelon pickles. Never mind it has been more than eight years since the last batch of pickles emerged from a steamy water bath in that porcelain pot. I still embrace the idea this canner still could be called upon any day.

Then there is the other stuff. Some of this stuff is not valuable, like old papers no one else would care about–too boring to look through, but possibly too important to simply discard. There definitely is good stuff too though: photographs,  extra Christmas ornaments in perfect condition; numerous books (classics); musical instruments; many useful things maybe someone might want.

So, after this recent, frenzied cleanup effort, the attic still needs attention and organization, and thus it is with my garden.

In the past year I have added a juniper shrub hedge, a meditation circle with a labyrinth and a picket fence around the entirety. I have enjoyed gardening more than ever, weeding, trimming, planting and delighting in the cycles that take blossoms from newly opened toward waning. The garden has some beautiful moments.

Yet, looking out on this wintry day my 10 year-old garden feels like an attic, a quarter-acre room filled with perennials that fondly became part of my life at some point. As I think about plant height, size when mature, color combinations, texture, light requirements, it hits me that I am working with a garden attic full of treasures and stuff.

Just as my grandfather’s rocking chair sits in my attic, sitting in perennial beds are various plants made dear because they were shared with me by relatives and friends. As they bloom each year I am reminded of these special gardeners and the garden seems even more special. Among the treasures are

woodland phlox, an old-fashioned rose, tradescantia and sweet pea, rose campion, dusty miller, columbine–these pass-along plants formed the beginning of my very first garden.  They were the first couple of boxes in the garden attic.  I love them and can always find reasons to keep them.

Other things in the garden are useful plants I want to keep where they are for the time being. (Remember, I just do not want to make those pickles right now.) Some plants that are reliable through periods of drought or heavy rain or severe cold or those that manage to bloom when it is 100 degrees for 5 days in a row, those plants fulfill a purpose in the garden.  It would not make sense to get rid of those or disturb them until there is a good design plan in place to replace them. And so, year after year the lamb’s ear keeps spreading, the daylilies attract deer, the ‘Blue sky’ salvia crowds and intertwines with everything; however, again this year, the garden might need some reliable bloomers, some things to fill up an empty space here and there–better hang on to these for now. So the boxes keep accumulating in the garden attic.

Then there is the other stuff, mostly good stuff too that just needs so much sorting out.

Plants like irises, pink yarrow, tansy, canna and others need to be dug and divided, replanted, relocated. I never seem to get around to it, but when I do, these will yield leftovers to be donated, useful plants maybe someone might want.

The garden has evolved over time and filled up with treasures. Now it needs a strong design plan, it needs structure and discipline. What a great time this would be to organize a serious cleanup in the garden attic.  If I do not make some ruthless decisions now, once the spring flowers start blooming I simply will not have the heart to even think about it until next winter.

2011 – A Garden Review

2011 – A Year of Gardening and Writing

2011 has been a rewarding year for working in this garden and for writing about it as well. On the last day of the year it seems a good time to review pbmGarden entries and remember favorite garden scenes, assess goals and carry over ideas.

2011 Month By Month

January was all about making plans for reviving my interest in gardening.  I wanted to rejuvenate the existing garden and often found myself remembering an older garden that was more special to me: Remembering Gardens and Gardeners.

February was a continuation of reflection, ideation, and assessment. In Reflections On A Rainy Afternoon I made some brief almanac-type observations, weighed the pros and cons of fencing the garden and looked back for inspiration at pictures from prior years. Deer have become a big problem for gardeners in the area and in Garden Plants the Deer Allow Me To Enjoy it was therapeutic to enumerate the many plants that the deer have tended to ignore.

In early March Meditation Path Plans were under consideration and by mid-month I could see the Meditation Garden Taking Shape.

By early April the meditation garden was still the main focus of my attention, but in Encircling The Garden I took time to notice the emerging bearded iris, spiderwort (tradescantia) and more. Digging the labyrinth was a huge job, including an 8-hour stint on Thomas Jefferson’s Birthday. Just two days later came Labyrinth Friday, marking an exciting milestone in the garden renovation. Meanwhile many perennials had emerged and were blooming and it was Time To Enjoy The Garden.

By the first of May the garden was full of Garden Scenes to share. The Meditation Circle was a happy focus. In Transitions and A Few Hours In the Garden Today I made note of  many garden chores that had been accomplished. May was a peaceful time to be grateful and enjoy the pleasures of the garden, as evidenced by Morning Garden Walk.

Early in June, June Vignettes documented historic high temperatures and  told of what an active place the garden had become, home to bees, birds, and butterflies as well as plants. Views Of The Late June Garden seemed a lament of the passing of Spring and acknowledgment of the waning of the garden’s interest.  Yet, the garden continued to be a thriving place.

In July I wrote only three entries, starting with Early July and July Flowers. There were still plenty of blossoms to photograph.  In July Draws To A Close the grass had browned from severe drought and heat and the importance of the garden’s new meditation circle was highlighted.

Nothing in August.

By mid-September the garden caught my interest again and I captured its essence in a four-part series beginning with Blooming In Mid-September  (and continuing with part two, part three and part four). Rain and cooler weather had revitalized the garden and the gardener. A significant feature of the garden from its beginning, an Arizona Cypress “Carolina Sapphire” died and had to be taken out.  This event was noted in A Tree LostSeptember Finale illustrated the garden’s autumn charm.

In October I summarized the creation of the meditation circle: October Meditation On The Meditation Circle. Other posts during this time documented the cooling weather and highlighted many perennials of interest, such as Ginger Lily (in October Flourishes) and Russian Sage.

The weather in November was mild.  I photographed the garden frequently and posted many large galleries such as November ObservationsChrysanthemums Just Before TenDroplets, Webs and Color: Select Details, and Garden Gallery.  During November I did few chores, though it certainly would have been an ideal time.

In December Winter Daphne are already blooming.   So are the Hellebores, earlier than ever, as noted in Late December Vignettes.

2011 – A Good Year In The Garden

This year has been a good one in the garden. Many plans for renovating the garden were completed this year–a screening hedge, a fence and a meditation circle with its own labyrinth. The new fence kept deer away. The meditation circle added a peaceful, meaningful focal point to the garden.  Rains were reasonably frequent, enough to support lush, satisfying growth. So, yes, it has been a good year.

But I am writing about a garden, so there is a new list of tasks. Removing a holly hedge and a dead cypress have left empty spaces for now. Installing the fence changed the usefulness of existing paths and created the need to improve garden access points.   The garden’s design and structure needs improvement.  There are new plants to learn about.  So, yes, there are may tasks.

Thinking about the garden will be a good way to spend these upcoming winter days. Happy New Year!

A Close-up Texture Study

The garden is losing a sense of overall structure as autumn progresses, something I had planned to remedy when I started a renovation project last winter. Indeed there have been enhancements toward this end. The additions of a screening hedge of five ‘Blue Point’ junipers, a white picket fence enclosing the garden and a meditation circle with a labyrinth are all happy improvements. Still, the overall garden framework is and will be a work-in-progress.

Today I have set aside that larger view to concentrate on the textures that reveal themselves when one closely examines individual elements in the garden. With their leaves puddled around their bases or scattered into the neighbors’s yards, a river birch, a pair of crape myrtles and a Chinese elm prominently display interesting bark surfaces.

Chinese Elm

Chinese Elm

Chinese Elm

Chinese Elm

Crape Myrtle

River Birch

The rich green color and fern-like quality of tansy and yarrow leaves are lovely and welcome this time of year.

Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)

Pink Yarrow

With mild temperatures in the seventies the yarrow continues to set buds, set off by the silvery narrow leaves of a nearby lavender.

Pink Yarrow and Lavender

Eastern red columbine adds garden interest year round. Though the colorful leaves are drying now they add contrast to the burgeoning hellebores leaves underneath.

Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine)

October Meditation On The Meditation Circle

April 15, 2011

In winter 2011 planning for a garden renovation was underway and one idea was to include a meditation space. By mid-April installation of the meditation circle and labyrinth was completed. Even in its then totally bare, stone and mulch state, the circle immediately became a dynamic focal point for the garden.

Throughout spring and summer perennials and annuals were added between the paths of the labyrinth. Various plants were chosen as experiments to see what would grow (and not outgrow) the narrow, six-inch wide path; what would survive the summer heat and dry spells; and what would contribute to understanding how to walk the labyrinth.

Five Iberis sempervirens ‘Purity’ (candytuft) and eighteen mounding thymes were among the first introductions, added in March and early April respectively. Coreopsis was considered, but eventually planted elsewhere.

Early April 2011

By the first of May two Penstemon ‘Husker Red’ were added to demarcate turn-around points in the labyrinth.

May 1, 2011

Angelonia angustifolia (summer snapdragon) provided dramatic color in the meditation circle. In the foreground is Angelface Blue.  A lighter shade, Wedgwood Blue, was added later along the lower left path.

May 1, 2011

In early June ‘Pikes Peak Purple’ Penstemon (Beardtongue) was used to complete the plantings between the walking paths.  This proved less successful than any of the other plants. This native penstemon is wilder and more scraggly in stature, and less colorful than the ‘Husker Red’ it was meant to complement.

June 20, 2011

At July’s end the meditation circle garden was filled out and beautiful, transformed into a richly colorful space. The candytuft and thyme formed soft mounds, never encroaching beyond the designated space. Marigolds and the angelonia had to be trimmed back from the path several times–the cuttings made long-lasting indoor arrangements.  After a summer rain the angelonia stems fell over onto the stepping stones, but were easily uprighted.

July 31, 2011

Now, well into October, the annuals continue to bloom. French Marigolds at the entrance and profusely blooming Angelonia along the left side add welcome color and help serve structurally as a gentle guide for how to walk the labyrinth.

When frost eventually forces their removal (October 24 or so) the circle will look much different. The plan is for the evergreen plants of thyme, Penstemon (both ‘Husker’s Red’ and ‘Pikes Peak Purple’) and Iberis sempervirens ‘Purity’ (candytuft) to continue to provide winter interest.

A Tree Lost

A dying Arizona Cypress “Carolina Sapphire” was removed Tuesday from the northwest corner of the garden where it had grown for almost ten years. One of three small evergreen trees along the back corners of the property line, this cypress not only anchored the garden and provided privacy, it hosted many of the garden’s birds.

Northwest corner "Carolina Sapphire" 9-27-2011

The tree succumbed to some aggressive and apparently ill-timed pruning this past Spring when limbs were removed to accommodate the new picket fence. Sap started rushing out from the fresh cuts and soon the tree began browning. The cypress worsened throughout the summer. Fortunately the two Carolina Sapphires at the southwest corner were unscathed, although they were pruned at the same time.

Northwest corner 9-28-2011

The garden renovation plans begun last winter have been on hold much of the summer. Perhaps finding a replacement for this lost tree will help revive them. The new fence and the meditation circle were successful additions to the garden and now there is an opportunity to make new decisions about the garden’s structure.

Especially in winter this tree will be missed.

Arizona Cypress - January 2011 Snow

Blooming In Mid-September Part 2

A walk around the garden yesterday revealed so many interesting blooms for mid-September, I wanted to continue documenting the state of the garden as Autumn approaches.

Cottage Garden Feeling Along the Southern Border

Salvia ‘Blue Sky,’ a “bring-along” plant from the former Wave Road garden, sometimes spreads too much for its surroundings, but it is easily manageable. Reaching about 5 feet tall, it brings height and a cottage-like feel to the garden to the southern section of the border.

In the same area an old-fashioned sweet pea is paired with the ‘Blue Sky’ salvia evoking a nostalgic effect. This pairing occurred through happenstance, rather than planning. The sweet pea also made its way here from the Wave Road garden.  It was one of many “pass-along” plants from a dear cousin.

Not blooming, but worth a mention here while visiting the southern border, is this year’s new evergreen privacy hedge. The five ‘Blue Point’ Junipers installed in late February are growing well. They were chosen because they are deer-resistant and drought-tolerant and this seems to be the case. After these junipers were planted, the fence was added also as part of the garden renovation project. It is hard to remember how bare this area looked before these improvements.

A few feet down the border is a small stand of Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue.’  This salvia blooms well when given plenty of water and recents rains have brought out a plethora of deep richly-hued blue flowers.

Tanacetum vulgare (Common Tansy), a pass-along plant from a former work colleague, has a pretty little yellow flower this week.  Skin contact with tansy causes a rash. A non-native it also is fairly aggressive and is difficult to remove once it spreads.


The heat and drought set in just as the red gladioli should have bloomed this summer. They dried up quickly.  Apparently this one bid its time and waited for more moderate conditions. Discovered too late to bring inside, the gladiolus hid itself and is leaning into a large group of woody-stemmed chrysanthemums, which will have yellow blossoms in mid-October.

A surprise Monarda (Bee Balm) in the side garden contributes a spot of deep red next to an underperforming Pink Muhly Grass.

To Be Continued

Mid-September Blooms will be continued.

Meditation Circle

Completion of the meditation circle has been a good impetus for bringing friends to visit the garden this spring. Generous rains have made the irises and roses look healthy and strong and have helped get the circle’s “wall” plantings established.

So far though only a few plants have been selected as the wall between the paths and at the turnarounds: Thyme, Penstemon, Angelonia, and Marigold, the last two being annuals.  Eventually the goal is to have a full, varied, perennial border within the circle.

Time To Enjoy The Garden

After all the analyzing, planning, digging, weeding, pruning, and mulching since first contemplating back in January a renovation of the garden, today was a fitting time to settle back and enjoy, relax, and appreciate the plants and the setting. Though the to-do list remains a long enumeration, today was a chance to observe and to just be.

The quiet evening air was punctuated by the sounds of cardinals and robins conversing through the neighborhood as a mourning dove, chickadees, sparrows and a towhee flitted about the garden. The sun lowered gently, highlighting along the way a certain branch of the dogwood, then focusing on several iris stalks to form a tiny vignette. The rains last week and this spring in general have ensured a verdant lawn and vibrant garden scene.

Looking into the garden one sees white bearded iris standing tall and erect. Nearby the eye is drawn to the deep blue of meadow sage, but soon there will be competition from drifts of lavender Phlox divaricata (woodland phlox).

The dogwood dropped the last of its petals this week after its best blooming year yet.

Nepeta (catmint) is opening beneath Lynn’s iceberg rose, which is full of buds and the old-fashioned rose has a few pink flowers already.

Both clematises are strikingly beautiful. This one is Jackmanii, growing just outside the new gate at the southern side path.

The penstemon forms a nice clump and displays rich green and red-hued foliage. Penstemon seems like a good candidate to use in the meditation garden. A visit to the garden center this week may offer up other ideas.

Tradescantia (spiderwort) is a cheery, nostalgic favorite from childhood. Although it tends to move itself around the garden too freely, it is easily one of the most welcome plants in this garden.

 Along the side path grows lavender and another old-fashioned flower, rose campion. Neither is blooming yet. Returning in this same part of the garden is monarda (bee balm), lamb’s ears, and a lovely stand of yellow irises.

Tomorrow chores await but today in the garden, there was time to just enjoy.

One Week Later

With the structure of the meditation circle finally complete, work slowed for a time this week. Still managed to plant a few of the flowers that had been set aside to form living “walls.” The plant materials, thyme, marigolds, candytuft and coreopsis did not go far, the soil is less than adequate, and so these few items are temporary placeholders until a more permanent design is chosen.

Walking the meditation path is a satisfying experience, making the hard work that brought it to a reality well worth the effort.

Meditation circle entrance

Labyrinth Friday, 2011

Including a meditation path in this garden has been one of the goals of the garden renovation project and today marks a huge milestone.

Just ahead of predicted huge storms tomorrow, the basic structure of the 20-foot diameter meditation circle is complete!  Hope the rain will be gentle and kind.

After 27 days of preparation the 3-circuit labyrinth was christened late this evening by a very tired gardener’s celebratory walk.

Thyme, marigolds and candytuft have been set aside waiting for this moment.  Soon the planting can begin to form the walls.  There is always more to do in a garden.

Completed Meditation Circle

Meditation Circle-Birds Eye View

Thomas Jefferson’s Birthday

Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was fascinated with many things, including plants, and in 1811 famously wrote,”but tho’ an old man, I am but a young gardener.”

After putting in an eight-hour day and then some working on the meditation circle, I feel old, but a young gardener myself tonight.  Maybe not old so much as tired. My muscles are responding to the heavy tasks of raking, chopping, hoeing, bending, and pulling. Meanwhile my mind questions the tactics and decisions applied to date in preparing the soil for this project–I am indeed a young gardener.

Grass needs removing from meditation circle

With the rains finally gone for a few days, this was my first opportunity to break up the sod again, concentrate on removing grass, and incorporate some sphagnum peat moss into the area that will become a meditation circle. A large barrel was not enough to contain all the grass pulled from the garden today, yet there is more.

Meditation Circle

At least a third of the space is characterized by very heavy clay, so the peat moss seems a necessary addition. It took most of the day to get to a point where it seemed appropriate to even try to add the peat. Almost instantly the soil seemed to be more workable. Tomorrow should be another nice, sunny day and this gardener is feeling optimistic again the labyrinth can be installed soon.

The fence is delayed until Friday.

Clematis Jackmanii

Happened upon the season’s first blossom of the Jackmanii clematis in the southern side path. It was tucked away inside so was almost not visible this evening. This morning I do not think it had opened, as I studied this very same plant despairing that deer had bitten off a huge mouthful of the vine.  The deer are eating things this year, including tradescantia, they usually do not bother.

Sunday Almanac

It was a dark and stormy night, producing more than an inch of rain. The sun emerged today eventually bringing temperatures up to 70 degrees.   Tomorrow is forecast to be 87 degrees, not quite enough to top the 1978 record of 90 degrees.

The meditation circle garden is a flooded, soppy mess today so it has not been possible to proceed.

Unnoticed before today, it seems suddenly a few foxgloves have sprung up in the perennial bed at the western border of the garden.

Digitalis purpurea (Foxglove) 4-10-2011

On Flag Day, 2009, the foxglove made a strong statement in the garden.  A richer color would have been a nicer choice perhaps.

Digitalis purpurea (Foxglove) 7-14-2009

The southern path is filling out but does nothing to screen the neighbors’ side yard. This area needs some thought as the garden renovation progresses. There is always plenty to think about in a garden.

Southern path viewed exiting the garden

Encircling The Garden

It was a beautiful day for laying in bricks to edge the meditation circle. There are a few wobblies to straighten, but it is great to have the circle well-defined. Still more soil preparation is needed before the red stepping stones can be arranged to form the labyrinth.

Around the garden many things are growing nicely.  The Hellebores continue to bloom, Eastern Red Columbine is starting to open in various (mostly self-chosen spots), Monarda (bee balm) and all three baptisias are emerging.

An amaryllis from a Christmas past is emerging behind Lamb’s Ears and Yarrow.

The bearded iris which yesterday showed no sign of buds suddenly revealed them today, in different sections of the garden.  These are along the southern side path next to the house.

Rabbits or deer seem to be nibbling the remaining daylilies that still need to be dug out of the garden.  Similarly something for the first time ever has been also eating the spiderwort (tradescantia), an all-time favorite in this garden.  This one, also in the southern side path, somehow escaped being part of the grazing buffet and is the first tradescantia to bloom this year. What a cheerful little flower!

Meditation Garden – More To Do

Progress on the meditation garden and labyrinth is very slow.

The roto-tilling was magical (for about six hours). The next day after the roto-tilling had been completed, rain poured for hours. Normally the rains are welcome in this garden but not this time, as the soil is now all packed and clumped again and will have to be reworked.

A stack of bricks offered by a neighbor more than a few years ago finally are being put to good use to form an edging around the meditation circle.  Setting in the bricks is tedious, but the end result will look nicer than the black plastic edging that had been considered at first because of its practicality.

Each step of the way this project has been a challenge.  The work creeps along.

Other garden news: the new fence is scheduled to be installed early next week.  There still are a few plants to relocate before the workmen arrive.  Especially in a garden, projects beget projects.


Meditation Garden Progressing

The roto-tilling work was completed late tonight. Still some grass remains but it will be easy to remove if necessary. The soil is pretty smooth, nice rich soil at that, and now the meditation garden is ready for laying out the path and planting.

Tomorrow morning’s weather is predicted to be fierce: thunderstorms, possible tornados, but clearing by lunchtime. The winds today have been blustery.  At a garden center where this afternoon I picked up twelve more red concrete stepping stones, plants were being toppled right and left into the aisles.

The stones that will form the path in the labyrinth are accumulating slowly–84 of the estimated 160 are on site.  It is less costly to pick them up a dozen or so at a time than to pay for delivery and it is fun to peruse the aisles each visit to see what new plants have come in to the garden center.

Today I purchased three compact coreopsis and a flat of French marigolds, which along with yesterday’s flat of thyme and about eight candytufts will be used to begin to form the walls. I have been giving a lot of thought to what kind of plants to use. In researching ideas I came across an inspired garden labyrinth from Cornell created from bulbs.

As lovely as that is mostly I want to choose low-growing, evergreen, clumping forms to help maintain the definition and structure year-round. Also selecting plants that require little water is important as this region has been drought-prone for quite a few years. It will take time to fill in the entire plantable area of the labyrinth. Using seeds will help make it more affordable and there are some plants in the garden that can be transplanted.  But getting it all right, creating a perfect balance of color, form and texture will be a big challenge.

Opportunity Knocks

Preparing the soil for the Meditation Circle

Preparation of the ground for the meditation circle took a new turn yesterday when an opportunity arose to have the grass and soil rototilled. The work is scheduled for Monday to finish the job started several weeks ago.

Hand-digging the bed has been a challenge, manageable for a while and the work has proven to be oddly satisfying. Time to move on though.

Getting past the step of removing the grass and smoothing the soil will allow time to concentrate on laying the stepping stones along the path to form the labyrinth and installing some plants along the walls.

Garden View

Around the garden the lush, emerald lawn looks vigorous and healthy, spurred on by the recent, heavy rains. As the grass is never watered except by nature, once summer arrives it surely will struggle and turn brown against the hot, humid days.

The spirea continues to be an important highlight during early spring. The daffodils are mostly out-of-bloom now and the focus shift to the iris as they push taller and taller.

Baptisia 'Purple Smoke'

Today the Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’ is finally poking out from underneath the mulch. This plant was purchased in 2009 at Niche Gardens which, along with the N.C. Botanical Gardens, introduced the cultivar in 1996.


Stachys byzantina (Lamb's Ears)

Lamb’s ears have cropped up all over the garden.

Rain. Rain.

Rain. Rain. I stop short of asking this week’s soaking rains to go away, come again another day.  Here in central North Carolina, severe drought-stricken as we are, it would be imprudent to wish away the relief of water falling from the sky, but I do admit to a tiny bit of impatient foot tapping.

Meditation Garden

Soggy grass clumps fill the meditation circle

This week has been mostly a wash-out for making my meditation garden a reality. Chopping and removing grass from the 20-foot diameter circle are on hold.

Subfreezing lows earlier in the week brought sleet just a few miles up the road, but in this garden the unusually cold temperatures have not been the issue.  The impediment to achieving progress lately has been the rain: thunderstorms yesterday morning, more rain expected today.

Tuesday, chilly but sunny, was an exception to a week of soaking rains. Amazingly, that day the soil was dry enough to be able to work it and I set about to methodically chop up the clumps of fescue.  Originally I had thought I would leave the grass in the bed, but now have decided to remove and compost it.  The work is hard and time-consuming.

Assessing the progress achieved Tuesday after three hours of toiling, it is clear the pace is that of the tortoise, not the hare.  Yet the process, slow as it is, remains extremely satisfying. I have embraced the idea that developing my meditation garden can be taken as an opportunity and a journey. Eventually the digging will continue and one day the garden will be realized.  As with life, itself, it seems more important to notice and enjoy each moment than to simply speed along towards the end.

Elsewhere In the Garden

Irish Eyes Rudbeckia

Meanwhile the rest of the garden is responding well to this week’s rains.

The perennials look fresh and green.

The ‘Irish Eyes’ rudbeckia hirta did poorly last summer but seems to be back on track this year.

Echinacea (purple coneflower), monarda (bee balm), Rudbeckia hirta (Black-eyed Susan), Lychnis (Rose Campion), Tradescantia (spiderwort) and more are growing enthusiastically.

Catnip and Iris

The nepeta (catmint or catnip) has formed a strong, but gentle mound in front of tall drifts of irises.

Progress On The Meditation Garden Circle

Amazing progress. Rains were expected starting with occasional showers this morning, but they never arrived. We need the rain desperately, but its delay gave me time to complete the excavation stage of the meditation circle in the garden. For the most part I stopped counting the hours spent on the job this week, but I clocked 5 hours today. Now after four days, the digging is done.

The grass has been turned over within the entire area of the garden circle. Left behind are clumps that must now be chopped up and smoothed, but the work seems manageable now.

Meanwhile the garden is changing daily and chores are accumulating.  Some plants need to be divided and those daylilies the deer love so much are growing taller and getting tougher, stronger roots with each hour that passes.  As much as I enjoy them, they must go.

The Eastern Red Columbine has a delicate pale green leaf, but the flower itself was today’s attraction as a bit of red is beginning to be revealed.

Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern Red Columbine)

The spirea continues to be beautiful and full.


The flowering dogwood is going to make a fine display this year.

Flowering Dogwood