Running late as the week begins I hurriedly join Cathy with In A Vase On Monday, an opportunity to share an arrangement using materials collected from the garden.
A surprise this morning when I went out to search for flower came in the form of pass-along reblooming iris.
Zinnias have fallen and splayed but continue to flower. Swamp sunflower, also blown over but glorious in the morning sunlight, more pass-along dahlias (featured last week) and a stem of Autumn Joy sedum round out this week’s selections. I placed these in a blue, green and white pitcher by a local potter.
Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp Sunflower)
Hylotelephium telephium ‘Herbstfreude’ (Autumn Joy)
Lantana camara (Common lantana)
Zinnia ‘Cut and Come Again Mix’
Zinnia ‘Burpeeana Giants Mix’
Zinnia elegans ’Cactus Flower Blend’
April has been a gorgeous and floriferous month. I want to invite you along as I make note of some particular enjoyments from my little spring garden.
When featuring white Dutch Iris in a Monday vase on March 28 I mentioned I thought I had planted blues ones this year but could not remember where. Happy to report they are found and blooming this week, not all blue, but rather a mixed collection that is delightful.
To add further to the confusion, I displayed these leaves as part of April’s foliage day. At the time I thought they were alliums. The mystery now is where did I place the alliums.
Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’ has given a rewarding show this spring and often I feel the columbine in its midst makes a charming companion.
Unfortunately, this native Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine) is becoming unmanageable, drifting to all corners of the garden. I will cut it all back this week but seedlings are everywhere.
With this year’s nice gentle spring, Coreopsis has bloomed well. Although I often see it recommended for summer, it generally stops blooming here when it gets too hot or maybe it is too dry. Then it resumes briefly in autumn.
Nearby, Verbena bonariensis is shooting upwards next to Iberis Sempervirens (Candytuft), one of my favorite white flowered plants.
Peonies are ever so close to blooming, 3 in one border and 1 in another. A third border hosts a peony purchased last year that already was in flower. Its foliage looks healthy but does not promise blooms this year.
Foxglove have been difficult to establish in my garden, but I keep trying. I added 3 new plants in early spring, Digitalis Foxlight ‘Ruby Glow’ PPAF (Ruby Glow Foxglove).
Clematis ‘Jackmanii’ was featured in this week’s vase. It grows outside the main enclosed garden at the top of the southern side path and deserves another look.
This morning my attention soon drifted away from the clematis to the spires of Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’ across the path.
Yesterday I just saw two huge yellow Baptisia ‘Carolina Moonlight’ at the N. C. Botanical Garden in full bloom. My own baptisia seems minor by comparison and must really not be in a good spot. It is supposed to be very easy to grow. Nevertheless I enjoyed discovering these blossoms today.
Verbena bonariensis growing in the side path opened just this week.
This yellow bearded iris is a pass-along from my long-ago neighbor Henrietta. Many of the irises in my current garden came from her.
Flowers on this white Lychnis coronaria (Rose Campion) began opening last week.
A late-flowering Narcissus showed up this week, but I have not been able to find the tag. I would like to believe these are the one transplanted from my family home about three years ago, but I also bought some similar bulbs after those did not appear the first year.
Iris germanica ‘Immortality’ is beautiful this spring. Here it is growing near Clematis ‘Niobe’.
The grass needs cutting every few days, but that is not happening on schedule. Maybe today it will though before some predicted showers. The meditation circle is on the list for a good clipping and cleanup. Thyme has happily adapted to the center of the labyrinth and beyond, overtaking some of the pavers. The pansies took a while to bulk up after winter. They soon will be replaced with angelonia for summer.
Edging the border just before the labyrinth begins is a nice stand of saliva, Meadow Sage ‘May Night’. This is where the lady bug in the top image was hanging out. (Tradescantia is popping up everywhere too).
At the northeast gate the path is blue with blooms of Isotoma fluviatilis (Blue Star Creeper). There is a lot of sedum mixed with it.
Plenty of tasks await the gardener today but I have been taking time to enjoy the birds, chimes, fragrances and blossoms swaying on gentle breezes. Thanks for visiting.
Of the many undone garden chores this year, pruning clematis, appears not to have been too critical, this one time at least. Clematis ‘Jackmanii’ began blooming April 10. It is much fuller at the base than usual. This was my first clematis and it has been reliable every year to provide a pop a color in the side garden. Usually I prune it in early February.
Last April I added Clematis ‘Henryi’ and Clematis ‘Niobe’ and watched them suffer through a dreadful, hot summer with no idea they would survive.
Sunday, April 17, buds were starting to break open on C. ‘Niobe’ and and the first flower appeared Tuesday, April 19. The early color is deeply red and brightens as the flower ages.
Clematis ‘Niobe’ is planted along the fence in the northern border. My goal is that it should add some color and interest and counter the bright whiteness of the vinyl fence.
C. ‘Henryi’ is in a more sheltered location than the other vines. Buds were visible by March 30 but its first flower opened today, April 22. I was excited enough to scamper out in a drizzle to get pictures.
A few more rainy photographs…
The white iris keeping company with Clematis ‘Niobe’ also bloomed recently, just yesterday in fact. Iris germanica ‘Immortality’ is a frilly white rebloomer with yellow beards. The buds appear lavender.
Iris tectorum is a short iris that spreads prolifically and grows everywhere, even in shade. This is an iris visitors to the garden remark on most frequently. It is also known as Japanese Roof Iris. The Chapel Hill Garden Club’s spring tour takes place in another week. I have noticed in some of the preview publicity that several of the gardens also have this iris.
Finally, nodding peony buds hold great promise.
Our last precipitation was a couple of weeks ago, so I was glad for the rain today.
When I am an old garden I shall wear purple
With a red plant that doesn’t go and doesn’t suit me.
–With apologies to Jenny Joseph (read full poem “Warning“).
In my dream garden there are blues of every sort, purples and greens. A few genteel spots of soft yellow, refined and restrained, break up the space. Accents of sophisticated whites highlight the borders.
But this spring I am loving the over-the-top combinations brought on by a happenstance purchase of dark red snapdragons late last autumn. (A single pink stow-away found its way here too). I grew up believing pink and red did not go together any more than purple and red.
My mantra for this garden always has been based on peace, calm and contemplation. But every morning when I peek out I smile at the riot of color. It is over-the-top. When I am working outdoors the word gaudy bubbles into my thoughts, but I cannot stop smiling.
When my husband and I take breakfast, lunch and supper on the screened porch overlooking the garden, we sigh in amazement and smile. A garden that makes us smile—what more?
So what of this outrageous color? The garden will be 14 years old at the end of May. It is a teenager, not grown old at all, just finding itself.
Cathy’s weekly challenge In A Vase On Monday offers an opportunity to create a floral arrangement from materials gathered in one’s own garden. My irises have been especially enjoyable this spring and I have already posted several times to highlight them. This week, guess what? Irises are in my vases this Monday.
My concept this week was to select as many of the various irises as possible this morning and simply place them all in a big glass vase the way I saw my maternal grandmother do many times.
The irises I gathered this morning were of such varying widths and heights it was easier to divide them among several containers.
I used an assortment of vases, first choosing my purple-hued ones. My sisters have supplied me with interesting vases through the years. This Portmerion botanic vase made in England is quite versatile and lovely.
I did not go on the trip to Scotland and Ireland my sisters enjoyed so much, but this is much better than a t-shirt. This glass vase is very heavy and looks great with pink or white roses and lavender. It was perfect for a few irises today too.
With yet more irises to display I went looking for the hand painted Fenton Glass vase.
I still needed a couple more very tall vases and settled on these. With huge, showy flowers both the nearly black iris and the white ‘Immortality’ grow on very strong thick stems and required very tall sturdy containers for support.
Most of my irises are pass-alongs and as such, I have not selected them myself for style and color—I would like to seek out some special colors. But I have always enjoyed blue/violet flowers.
One of the latest iris to bloom that I have not written about this year is the pale yellow Japanese Iris my sister-in-law gave me from her home in Idaho. I carried this iris with me we we moved to this new garden.
The Siberian Iris is another passalong from a friend who salvaged it from one of her neighbors (along with Japanese Roof Iris). It had become hidden by an evergreen. When the tree died a couple of years ago I rediscovered it and am moving it to different parts of the garden.
The Siberian Iris is also the inspiration for the pastel drawing hanging in the dining room. It was created by our son-in-law in 2009. I did not get a good photograph of it today without reflections, but will try to share it another time.
This bright yellow bearded iris came from a neighbor during last year’s plant exchange. I like its clear, clean color. Some other irises that friends gave me regrettably did not make it through the winter. I think I did not get them planted in time for them to be established well.
Here is one more passalong from my former neighbor Henrietta. There is a large stand of these that has recently opened.
For the sake of documenting bloom times, I will add I was able to find at least one stem of all the irises in my garden, except for these that are finished blooming: Dutch Iris, Iris germanica ‘Batik’, Iris germanica ‘Raspberry Blush’ and a passalong Tall Bearded Iris.
Here is one more look at ‘Immortality.’
What A Plant Knows
Can we say that plants have senses? How do plants sense their environment and how do scientists study plant senses?
These are questions I am exploring for the next few weeks in a free, online class entitled What a Plant Knows (and other things you didn’t know about plants). The class is taught by Tel Aviv University Professor Daniel Chamovitz, who wrote a book by the same title.
The class began last week and I am enjoying it so much I wanted to mention it here. It is not too late to start the course, offered through Coursera, a company that offers massive open online courses (MOOCs).
We finally had much-needed rain this past week and even now there is a fine mist. It is cool 68.7 °F and gray, the opposite of last weekend when we had clear blue sunny skies and temperatures in the high 80s. Last Sunday I helped with a neighborhood plant swap. It was heartening to see the turnout of people (including some children) interested in sharing plants with each other.
I shared Monarda, Hedychium coronarium, and Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ and in return, I could not resist some reblooming Irises of unknown color and a white peony, Paeonia Festiva Maxima. Today I found several rebloomers flowering in the garden.
The Swamp Sunflower continues to tower over the back border. Today it was covered with bees. On Thursday during a cold, heavy rain I spied a hummingbird stopping in to visit along the top of this plant. The hummingbirds are gone now and no more Monarchs ever showed up, just that one.
The Sedum gradually is turning brown now. The last time I photographed it a big grasshopper was sitting on it. No way to know if this is the same one but it looks completely cushioned by the tiny flowers.
The garden at this point in June seems like an entirely new one—so different from the early spring palette. A salmon-orange Gladiolus from years ago brashly turned up in the Southern border today. I almost admired it for being so bold, but in the end I cut it and placed it in a nice vase indoors. Beebalm is in full bloom, Echinacea is maturing in many parts of the garden and last year’s Allium ‘Drumstick’ is back. All are attracting bees. A hummingbird visited the beebalm yesterday. There have been a few other hummingbirds this year, but now that the beebalm is blooming perhaps there will be many more.
A Foxglove mystery may be solved. This Foxglove has been in the garden since 2008 or 2009 and I thought it had caramel in the name, but never could find the tag. The coloring is creamy when the flowers first appear. Inside the flowers are yellow with reddish-brown veins and a hairy lip. Today I researched it a bit and hope I have it identified properly now. Could this be Digitalis ferruginea (‘Gelber Herold’, ‘Yellow Herald’, Rusty Foxglove)?
Today the weather was clear, hot and very humid, reaching 93°F. before severe thunderstorms passed through this evening. The winds overturned a bench and a flowerpot, but otherwise things seem ok for us. Some of our neighbors are reporting trees down, cable service lost and even roof damage.
Irises and Spiderwort
Despite the heat I chose today to dig up some of the dozens and dozens of Spiderwort that have aggressively expanded throughout most of the borders. I had to dig up many irises in order to get to the roots of the Spiderwort, so now there is a lot of work to replant some of the irises and find a good home for the rest. Fortunately the high temperature tomorrow will be a nice 81°F. so the work should be enjoyable. The irises have needed division for years, but actually they bloomed incredibly well this spring anyway. The amount of Spiderwort I managed to dig today is just a small portion of the total I want to remove.
This white one looked so innocent and beautiful this morning. Actually this particular clump has not spread like the others, but it is getting very large.
A variety of birds fill the garden with color and song. Fireflies or lightning bugs have been out in the evenings for several weeks. Frogs sing frequently and incessantly, though I have not seen one in the garden. A couple of little bunnies are nibbling Thyme in the meditation circle. No sign yet of the 17-year cicadas.
Thunder rumbles in the distant night after a nice spring day. There was a brief shower early this morning and then the sun peeked in and out. Temperatures are warming and the garden quickly has become more lush and full, a very different garden than just a few days ago.
Echinacea and Canna are emerging.
Tender young foliage weaves in and out offering strong textural and color contrasts, although they are more observed than actually planned.
The Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’ is blooming. (Certain plants are difficult to photograph and this is one.)
Only a few flowers are present so far in this massive planting of Lychnis coronaria (Rose Campion).
The highlight of the garden is the Irises, now in full bloom.
More irises are slowly beginning to open after another week of overcast skies and cool temperatures. This white ruffled one was shared with me three or four years ago by a friend and former neighbor.
Another iris came from a neighbor in my former neighborhood back in the late seventies, passed along by her mother’s friend, who grew them to supply a florist.
Most pass-alongs come to me without names but this lavender iris finally has one. Touring some other gardens today with some knowledgeable gardeners helped me finally identify it as Roof Iris. It tolerates part shade. The leaves have always looked unhealthy, whether in sun or shade, and I am not sure if there is anything I should be doing about them.
Yellow Bearded iris in the southern side path have been blooming for several weeks. Nearby Lychnis coronaria (Rose Campion) seems reluctant to open.
A few other plants in this same area are beginning to add some color though. The Clematis ‘Jackmanii’ is in full bloom this week and the Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’ is ever so close to flowering.
For the monthly garden club meeting tomorrow all members have been asked to bring along a mug of flowers to set on a table, just for the fun of it. I used a lime green mug to hold Ranunculus, Iris, Alstroemeria, Solidago, Lavender and Juniper. It will be fun to see all the flower-filled mugs.
Paeonia ‘Pink Parfait,’ a peony added last spring to the garden, has just two buds this year.
Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’ is opening in several places around the garden, its color a rich dark indigo.
More fully open another Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’ looks pinkish in the late day sunlight. The actual flower color is more like that of the bud in the previous image, a beautiful deep blue.
In the southern garden bed the black iris continues to stand out against silvery Stachys byzantina (Lamb’s Ear).
Close up the color of black iris is intense.
Phlox divaricata (Woodland phlox) and Catmint (Nepeta) are paired together though happenstance but appear to make nice companions.
The phlox divaricata is a pass-along plant that has been in this garden and a previous garden forever. It is an old-fashioned, charming favorite.
Nepeta (Catmint) makes a nice show a the front of the border.
This Coreopsis was added to the garden last year and did very poorly. It is surprisingly healthy this spring with a deep rich golden yellow.
Except for one hot and dry week April has brought generous rains to the garden. Following a few threats of frost this past week, temperatures reached into the seventies today. Starting very early today, rain alternated with sun throughout the morning and then the afternoon was fair. All day the birds have sung incessantly.
The garden needs attention now, but it is going to be on its own a few more days. After this recent strong period of bloom, some things such as the roses and a few of the irises need grooming as they are beginning to look a little tired. The tradescantia is encroaching in every direction and the eastern red columbine should be cut back soon before it spreads seeds. In the meditation circle Iberis Sempervirens (Candytuft) is overdue to be pruned back, but the recent cooler weather and rains encouraged it to produce fresh blooms, earning it a few more days.
Several types of irises are blooming. Newly opened today are the pale yellow Japanese Iris, pass-along plants from a special sister-in-law in Idaho.
This iris with pale lavender standards and dark purple falls is another pass-along from a former neighbor. I brought this and the Japanese Iris from my first garden nearly eleven years ago to help form the foundation of this current garden.
A more recent pass-along, this lovely white iris with very large flowers is from a gardening friend now serving in the Peace Corps.
I did not realize the garden had this black iris but am thrilled to discover it. It must have come into the garden at the same time as the white one above. It promises to be gorgeous.
Pass-along plants bring memories of friends and neighbors, but precise identification of these is not possible. I simply remember them by the names of the donors. Here is another iris from my old garden by way of a dear family friend.
Notes on Labyrinth Wall Plantings In The Meditation Circle
The meditation circle is a year old this week and the evergreen perennials that help define the walls of the labyrinth easily survived the mild winter.
- Iberis sempervirens ‘Purity’ (Candytuft) – Used in the innermost portion of the circle (goal of the labyrinth), currently this is ending a long bloom cycle that began December, 2011.
- Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue) – Two plants, used to define walls at one of the turn-around points, did so well that three more were added this spring. Self-sprouted seedlings from the original two are growing nearby and may produce some plants that can be added to the labyrinth, although references indicate that ‘Husker Reds’ from seeds will not have the same dark red leaves that plant divisions would.
- Thymus x citriodorus (Silver Edge Thyme) – Not thriving but doing ok. Conditions have been too wet for this herb, but the thyme is beginning to improve and look healthier. May gradually replace them after they bloom.
Penstemon mexicali ‘Pike’s Peak Purple’ (Beardtongue) – This penstemon has a wilder look than the Husker Red and seemed scraggly last summer, but during fall and winter looked very green and strong. It was severely sheared in March and has returned with strong, lush look. This plant may become too wide and grow too far into the path.
To complement the perennials, yesterday I added fifteen Angelonia ‘Blue’ between the two left-most paths. Angelonia are annuals that bloomed until October last year, providing a lush look for the meditation circle without much maintenance. Angelonias tolerate heat and humidity, are deer-resistant and do not require dead-heading. They did outgrow the narrow 6-inch space between the paths and had to be trimmed back several times, but the cuttings made lovely and long-lasting indoor arrangements.
Touring the gardens on the Chapel Hill Spring Garden Tour this weekend was a great way to gather gardening ideas and see plants that work well in this area. Each garden had a very distinct personality and it is fascinating to see the different styles and approaches to gardening.
I was particularly charmed by the Marson Garden, where I helped out as a tour guide on Saturday morning. The enthusiastic and talented owners, Pat and John, were on hand to answer questions as people walked around their garden, setting a comfortable and friendly atmosphere. Unfortunately the pictures I took do not do this garden justice, but one feature I really like is this bench, created from a rock uncovered during some grading work. Something like this would fit in well with my concept for a seating area in the center of my meditation circle.
Back at home
After seeing so many well designed and well tended gardens it was easy to grow an ever longer task list of things to do in my own garden—plants to add, plants to remove, paths to build. Plantings in the meditation circle really need to be completed…
But for today around this garden there was just time enough for a quick glance.
After cooler days last week the temperature today was about 82 degrees F. There has not been rain for a week and things are starting to look stressed and dry.
After an overcast morning the sun pushed temperatures to 72° F. today. Strong, blustery winds this afternoon caused plants to sway, chairs to topple, and there was a noticeable chill to the air.
The garden is coming into its own now. It happened suddenly. The weeding is done, but before all the planned rearranging and assessment could take place, the perennial beds bordering the property starting greening and filling out. The succession of blooms is on its way.
This is the view today from the southern gate entrance looking west.
Here is the northern border facing west on Sunday. Barely visible just left and behind the dogwood is a new Arizona Cypress ‘Carolina Sapphire’ to replace the one lost last year. Zinnias, gladioli and cleome will fill in the space against the fence this summer.
Also on Sunday, this is view is looking from northeast to southwest across the meditation circle. In the center of the labyrinth, the white blooms of Iberis Sempervirens (Candytuft) lasted four months from early December. Now they need to be sheared back.
As one walks around the garden it is nice to take a closer look a the changes underway. A single bloom opened today on the Iceberg rose.
Ants parade on a ‘Pink Parfait’ peony that was added last year to the garden.
Amid a green backdrop the burgundy-purple tinge of this iris bud stands out in the southern border.
A dark pink outlines the leaves and the flower tip of this Veronica spicata ‘Pink Goblin’ (Speedwell).
Deep blue petals of the spiderwort unfurl in the morning for just one day. In the background are dark burgundy leaves of Gaura lindheimeri ‘Passionate Blush’ (Butterfly Gaura).
This batik iris is irresistible.
Flowers are forming on several baptisias in the garden. This is Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke,’ which was discovered at the nearby North Carolina Botanical Garden by former curator Rob Gardner. Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’ was introduced in 1996 by Niche Gardens and North Carolina Botanical Garden. This specimen was purchased about three years ago at Niche Garden after one of their Saturday morning tours.
Another rosy-tinged flower, Verbena bonariensis (Tall Verbena), is framed in front of a stand of Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine).
The native redbud showed a few spots of pink against the gray bark last week. What a difference a few days can make—today its lovely color is full of promise. This particular tree is poorly situated, crowding out and being crowded by two ‘Carolina Sapphire’ Arizona Cypress. The site was meant to be temporary for this once tiny twig, but time got away and now this once tiny twig is about to bloom again in its default permanent location.
Along the Southern Path
At the top of the Southern path outside the garden entrance is a Clematis ‘Jackmanii’ with a few newly formed buds.
Lavender’s young leaves are soft, silvery and fragrant.
Nearby, fresh growth abounds on the Linum Perenne ‘Sapphire’ (Flax), although (oops!) last year’s brown has not been trimmed away. This herbaceous perennial was reintroduced last spring after many years of absence in this garden and I look forward to seeing its pale blue flowers.
Irises are tucked all around the garden, different kinds and all gifts from friends. All should have been divided years ago. Some irises along the Southern border have leaves more than a foot tall, others are but 3 or 4 inches so far. When the irises bloom this garden will be in its peak.
The meditation circle has provided so much pleasure since its completion last April and I am grateful I will not to be digging my way through Spring this year.
I have experimented with a few evergreen perennials the last eleven months to learn what might live easily in the narrow 12-inch spaces between the stepping stones of the labyrinth. Once imagination and budget for perennials ran low last summer, annuals were used to help the circle look vibrant and colorful. The evergreen nature of the chosen perennials helped maintain interest throughout the winter.
In the center of the meditation circle Iberis sempervirens ‘Purity’ (Candytuft) continues to be a showy feature. The newer ones planted this winter (shown in front) will soon catch up in size to those original ones in the back.
Though most are green, several of the Thymus x citriodorus (Silver Edge Thyme) seem to be just hanging on. It has been too wet for thyme to thrive and the thyme need to be given a better home. This variety is not tall enough to provide much impact in the circle.
The three new Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue) are doing well, as are the original two from last year that were tested for performance in this site. The foliage is lovely close-up but does not provide a lot of contrast against the brown mulch when seen from a distance. When in bloom the tall white spires were lovely last year.
The outermost green plants on the far right of the meditation circle are also Penstemon, though not nearly as well behaved, a bit scraggly in fact. They are Penstemon mexicali ‘Pike’s Peak Purple’ and have recently had a severe shearing to tidy them up. They weathered winter well and have remained very green.
The backyard garden at the end of May is pleasant and lush, with inviting colors, textures, diversity of plants, and sounds of birds, elevating this morning’s walk to a remarkably satisfying experience for this gardener.
Chrysanthemum, silvery Dusty Miller, Sweet Pea combine with soft leaves of Eastern Red Columbine.
The tradescantia (Virginia Spiderwort) wake up the early morning garden with intense blues, but close under the strong sun by midday. The pink yarrow and white rose campion mix well and the tall blades of iris add balance.
Nearby a lantana has sprung to life and soon will be covered in multicolored clusters of red, yellow and orange.
Stachys (Lamb’s ear) brightens the back corner between some irises and a gardenia. The gardenia will soon add its unique fragrance to the garden.
The Liatris spicata (Gayfeather) earlier seemed terribly crowded by the irises, but as its bloomtime approaches it stands tall.
Verbena bonariensis frequently draws American goldfinches to the garden. It is surrounded by a foxglove, shasta daisies, tradescantia, a rudbeckia ‘Irish eyes’ and gardenias.
The meditation circle with its labyrinth still has more mulch than plants. Five bonariensis await planting within but I am hesitant about whether they are a good choice. Meanwhile the penstemon and angelonia have worked out great. The thyme lacks a strong presence, though it grows fine and has bloomed. The candytuft bloomed a rewarding second time.
Many more plants are tucked and packed into this small backyard haven, making each morning’s walk new and interesting as they transition through life.
After a week of extreme heat, with temperatures reaching into the nineties, last night’s cooling breezes and this morning’s crisp air were welcome. Despite the prediction of rain I broke my rule against watering and gave some plants a good drink. Still only 66 degrees by lunchtime, the heavy rain started suddenly and continued steadily until early evening, and streets flooded in Chapel Hill. The garden’s meditation circle flooded near the entrance and in the middle, draining pretty well afterwards, but leaving a stark contrast to its bleached-out look under the severity of the sun earlier in the week. After a rosy-clouded sunset, the rains returned.
After a wet spring with moderate temperatures, the heat of the last few days has seemed to shock the grass, but so far the garden is holding its own. A very brief, early morning thunderstorm brought little relief, as it was more thunder than rain.
Several perennials await planting. There are three lovely yellow-pink, peachy Yarrows for height in the back border. There are also five Verbena bonariensis, which are planned for the meditation circle.
Spruced up the garden for a few hours this morning, trying to shape and edit along the way.
- Trimmed back Tradescantia (Virginia Spiderwort) that had grown too tall in front of the borders and had expanded into too much of the midsection.
- Cut back the iris stalks, but kept the leaves to die back naturally.
- Removed some large branches from a Buddleja davidii ‘Black Knight’ (Butterfly Bush) that did not get its proper trim back in February. It was overshadowing the recently added Gaura.
- Pruned back the Iceberg Rose that had bloomed so well this spring. Suddenly it looked completely spent.
- Trimmed the Meadow Sage by half to encourage new blooming. Pulled up stray Rose Campion and Stachys(Lamb’s Ears) in the side path to open up the path again.
- Cut back the blooms on many of the Stachys, but left as many for the bees which were enjoying them so much.
As always, there is more to do tomorrow.
In early spring first the lenten roses, then the daffodils and spirea dominated the garden. By mid-April the first bearded iris had opened. Now, three and a half weeks later, a few irises, along with the old-fashioned rose and the clematises, remain in bloom. Take a quiet stroll around the perennial beds and it is easy to notice the garden again is in transition.
A verbena bonariensis is blooming and echinacea (purple coneflower) are beginning to open.
Several foxgloves are forming their complex flowers. Nearby an ‘Irish eyes’ rudbeckia already has reached two of its expected five feet.
The monarda (bee balm) also is tall and seems primed for a big display of red and fragrance.
A soft gray mound of artemisia accents the border and a perennial Dusty miller is creeping through the garden. Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Weed) will soon add its bright reddish-orange color to the blue palette that has predominated the garden in early spring.
The very tips of the white tubular flowers of Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue) are becoming visible.
These two penstemon are planted inside the meditation path forming a wall at one of the turnaround points.
One of the small pink yarrow is just beginning to open among the lamb’s ears. Rising only 10-15 inches, it has a lacy flower and a dark green, feathery-soft foliage.
Lavender will soon be adding its beautiful color and unique fragrance to several locations. The lavenders responded positively to severe pruning in February.
A Garden Highlight
An exciting highlight is the single bloom on the peony recently added to the garden, Paeonia ‘Pink Parfait.’ Although its planting tag indicated a June bloom, it was ready yesterday without regard to the calendar, as was the gardener.
Changes Bring Chores
As the focus transitions away from roses and irises there are many required tasks this week that will help keep the garden looking nice. The faded iris blooms and the bloom stalks need to trimmed back to tidy up, although the leaves need to remain for several months before being trimmed back to 6 inches in a fan shape. Is this the year the irises will finally get divided?
The southern path is full of white rose campion, but none of the favored magenta-hued rose campion survived the winter. Deadheading is a must if they are to continue to look attractive and to keep them from self-sowing so heavily.
The many Eastern Red Columbine is done for this year and needs to be cut back severely; it will maintain a nice green mound all summer.
Tradescantia is pretty now but needs to be thinned, as it has spread too widely. Many were sheared heavily ten days ago. The daylilies, the sweet peas–all overgrown. The spirea finished its bloom weeks ago and should be pruned back hard to maintain its size. Other chores abound. The fence installation was completed last week and paths to the gates need to be improved.
How to finish planting the meditation circle is still an interesting problem to solve, something to ponder while working on these maintenance tasks this week and contemplating transitions.
There have been more storms, rain, sunshine and winds today with the afternoon temperature now eighty-four degrees. Many chores are on hold waiting for the weather to calm.
Today the garden is full of exuberant blossoms mostly erupting from large drifts of various kinds of iris. In-between early morning rain showers I explored the garden, enjoying and appreciating these wonderful plants that year after year possess the ability to fill me with anticipation during the early weeks of Spring. When a few flowers open I am thrilled and charmed, and then there comes a day when I notice the irises are not just in the garden, they are the garden. They completely define my garden for a brief, wonderful slice of time.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
The nepeta (catmint or catnip) has formed a strong, but gentle mound in front of tall drifts of irises.