Tag Archives: meditation path

Rainy Spring Morning

Another rainy Saturday morning means I will not be working in the garden today. This year I have spent much less time outside preparing the borders than in previous years, partly due to prolonged winter and partly due to my own lack of motivation. My inertia is slowly being replaced with interest and anticipation now and I am beginning to look forward to some productive days reconnecting with my garden.

Garden View In Early Morning Rain-March 29, 2014

Garden View In Early Morning Rain-March 29, 2014

Looking down upon the garden from an upstairs window I can see the garden is starting to awaken.  I am not a huge proponent of grass, but this week the fescue lawn seemed to turn green and grow inches overnight. It looked lush and lovely after the first mowing of the year.

I removed one of the leaning junipers against the back fence yesterday, thinking the other would recover, but this morning it is leaning to the left again. I don’t come to these decisions easily even when the evidence is so clear, but okay, it has to go too.

The winter has been colder and more prolonged than in years past. I began wondering how today’s garden view compares to recent years.  As I already admitted, I am behind on garden tasks so the weeding, trimming and mulching has not been completed this year. Interestingly, many of the other photographs from this time of year were also of early spring rainy mornings.

2011. Here is the garden with the meditation circle under construction.

2011.  Meditation Garden Circle-March 24, 2011

2011. Meditation Garden Circle-March 24, 2011

2012. Spring was extremely early in 2012 and the garden advance quickly that year.

2012.  Meditation Garden On Rainy Spring Morning-March 24, 2012

2012. Meditation Garden On Rainy Spring Morning-March 24, 2012

2013. Last year spring was cool.

2013.  Garden View-March 31, 2013

2013. Garden View-March 31, 2013

2014. Waiting.

2014  Spiraea flowers

2014
Spiraea flowers

 

Spring Again

March 20, 2014.  In the tiny speck of Northern Hemisphere that I call home the vernal equinox occurs today at 12:57 P.M. EDT.

Hyacinthus orientalis (common hyacinth)

Hyacinthus orientalis (common hyacinth)

Blue sky, sunshine and warm temperatures arrived on schedule to welcome the change of the season, although winter threatens to return next with a chance of snow.

After this week’s ice storm most of the daffodils remain bent over, some have broken stems, but at least one is reaching toward the sun this morning.

This Narcissus 'King Alfred' weathered the recent ice storm

This Narcissus ‘King Alfred’ weathered the recent ice storm

A couple of weeks ago a friend brought me some moss from her yard to add to the existing small bits of moss that have sprung up along one edge of the meditation circle. The new transplants appear to be doing fine, enjoying all the recent moisture.

Moss Edging Along Meditation Path

Moss Edging Along Meditation Path

One of my favorite evergreen plants, Iberis sempervirens, is finally starting to bloom. This has almost completely died out in the mediation circle but there are a few patches elsewhere that have thrived for many years.

Iberis Sempervirens (Candytuft)

Iberis Sempervirens (Candytuft)

Happy Spring!

A Fresh Look At The Garden

Snow Garden

We were on the outer edge of a large snowstorm that swept through many southern states yesterday. Arriving later than expected, the storm brought merely an inch of dry, powdery snow to my central North Carolina garden—just enough to delight the neighborhood children and this gardener as well.

Northern Border (facing west)

Northern Border (facing west)

This morning I have enjoyed observing the garden in its winter white garb. In particular I have been watching patterns created by the stones and plants in the Meditation Circle, noticing as sunshine touches the snowy paths and fresh shapes emerge.

Snow Garden

Snow Garden

Sun On Snowy Garden

Sun On Snowy Garden

The birds have been busy at the feeders and and on the ground scratching through the snow, but are reluctant to be photographed. They tuck themselves into favorite hiding places to easily outwait the camera. The Cornus florida (Flowering Dogwood) is one spot where they are still somewhat visible.

Eastern Towhee in Dogwood

Eastern Towhee in Dogwood

Northern Cardinal in Dogwood

Northern Cardinal in Dogwood

The snow brought a freshness and renewed spirit to the garden.

Snowy Meditation Garden

Snowy Meditation Garden

Meditation Circle In Snow

Meditation Circle In Snow

Meditation Circle

Meditation Circle

Long Night Moon

Full Moon: December 17, 4:28 a.m. EST

The last full moon of the year lingered in the early morning sky, lighting up the meditation circle as I looked out from an upstairs window.

Winter lies ahead but spring’s return is on my mind. With winter solstice just four days away, I am heartened to note the days become shorter just four more times before that trend reverses. Today the length of day will be 9h 43m 11s.  On December 21 it decreases down to 9h 42m 45s, then the day’s length creeps back up.

Frosty ice enveloped stems and leaves in the garden overnight accentuating the mounds of Thyme that form part of the labyrinth’s walls. The large hole in the foreground is damage from mole/vole activity. Solar-powered mole repeller stakes that emit a pulsating sound underground worked well this spring and summer to keep them at bay, but the devices do not last very long.

Thyme In Meditation Circle

Thyme In Meditation Circle

The Pansies and other plants that line the path of the labyrinth are stressed from the daily cooling and warming. With other parts of the country already besieged by ice and snow I am not complaining. It is sunny and almost 60°F. this afternoon and by Saturday the high will reach 70°F.

Viola 'Delta True Blue' (Pansy)

Viola ‘Delta True Blue’ (Pansy)

Early Morning Views and Notes

After several chilly nights today will be much warmer, reaching a high of 70°F. The time changed on Sunday, clocks set back, making the evening darkness felt more intensely.

The extra hour of daylight was reassigned to morning (sunrise today was at 6:44). At quarter past seven the suns glow on distant treetops was visible from an upstairs window. Still, the meditation circle and indeed the entire garden waited in shadow for the sunlight to reach.

Meditation Circle Early Morning View

Meditation Circle Early Morning View

Scenes From The Back Steps

At the southwest corner, growing too close to the ‘Carolina Sapphire’ Arizona Cypress, is a Cercis canadensis L. (Eastern Redbud) sporting golden color.

Early Morning View

Early Morning View

The circle of soil in front of the bench is where we recently removed a small (but growing too large) Red Maple that was not in a good location. For now I will plant some daffodil bulbs and a spiral of pansies.

Meditation Circle Early Morning View

Meditation Circle Early Morning View

The Cornus florida (Flowering Dogwood) in the northwest corner lost many of its leaves when rain and winds passed through Saturday. Its scarlet leaves have been exceptionally colorful this year and the rusty-hued flowers of Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ (Herbstfreude) (Stonecrop) further up in the border unexpectedly reinforced the strong red. I am trying to notice combinations like this to employ for greater impact.

Meditation Circle Early Morning View

Meditation Circle Early Morning View

The foliage of the Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue) along the meditation path also works well in echoing the dogwood’s color.

Meditation Circle Early Morning View

Meditation Circle Early Morning View

Meditation Circle Early Morning View

Meditation Circle Early Morning View

The neighbors’ Platanus occidentalis (American sycamore) has been unattractively brown all summer, due to a fungus, I think. Finally its brown hue seems more seasonal.

Meditation Circle Early Morning View

Meditation Circle Early Morning View

In the meditation circle itself the cream/pale yellow pansies stand out much more than the blue and purple ones, another effect to remember when planting here. Subconsciously I may have remembered the white Iberis Sempervirens (Candytuft) that bloomed effusively in the circle for a time.

Meditation Circle Early Morning View

Meditation Circle Early Morning View

Garden Recordkeeping Part 1

As September 2013 winds down I have some photographs and notes to record, which I will break down into several posts.

This evening, Saturday, at 6:20 pm the temperature is 68.7 °F. The sky was deep blue today, breezy, with lots of big clouds moving in and out—simply a gorgeous day in North Carolina.

Early in the morning I walked around the borders, inspecting and taking pictures. For the first time in weeks no mosquitoes bothered to chase me back indoors. The significance of this cannot be overstated as the mosquitoes have been numerous and fiercely aggressive.

For the most part this has been a dream year for gardening. A long cool spring accompanied by plentiful rainfall kept the borders happy throughout the summer. Usually by now most of the garden is brown, but this year things are easing along. That could change soon though because the entire month of September has been very dry with only a couple of rains to bring relief.

Benefiting from the supportive weather this year, Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ has been an unusually strong performer in the northern border. Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ has deepened from its earlier pink into a rich terra cotta, almost burgundy  color that I really like. I plan to keep that color in mind when adding new plants. I do not have color-themed gardens but would love to come up with a red border at some point.

Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ (Herbstfreude) (Stonecrop) and Nepeta 'Walker's Low' (Catmint)

Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ (Herbstfreude) (Stonecrop) and Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ (Catmint)

Today I did no gardening, but instead was fortunate to enjoy the garden with a friend. After 75 minutes of walking around the neighborhood and lake paths, we returned home in early afternoon, taking time to sit and rest on the garden bench a while before walking the meditation path. During our time in the garden a gentle breeze frequently stirred the wind chimes, augmenting the enjoyment of a peaceful time.

Meditation Circle from Northern Border

Meditation Circle from Northern Border

In the five days since I last posted, the Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp Sunflower) at the back of the western border has opened up more fully, commanding attention and drawing comments from husband, visitors and me throughout the week. The yellow flowers glow cheerfully, almost gaudily like neon.

Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp Sunflower)

Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp Sunflower)

The design of the garden is gradually improving, but still needs major vertical focal points. To see the strong stems at the center of the Swamp Sunflower lifting up toward the sky is very satisfying.

Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp Sunflower)

Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp Sunflower)

The neighbor’s Sycamore, upper left in the photo above, has suffered most of the summer (I think from a fungus). With the arrival of fall the brown leaves look more appropriate.

For some reason the branches at the sides of the Swamp Sunflower are much shorter than at the center and arch downward.

Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp Sunflower)

Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp Sunflower)

Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp Sunflower)

Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp Sunflower)

I wish I could be sure of the two trees behind the Swamp Sunflower, seen in the picture above. They grew in pots near the front steps for a couple of years before I planted them in the garden. For a time I thought they were Italian cypress, but now I think they might be Juniperus chinensis ‘Spartan’ (Spartan juniper).  Whatever the kind, they have grown beyond their expected width and merged together.

The August Garden From Above

Garden With Meditation Circle After Rain

Garden With Meditation Circle After Rain

At midnight a thunderous storm blew heavy rain against the window panes. After a 92°F. day, normal for mid-August, the air was still quite warm as I opened the front door to peer at the downpour.

In the early morning light the garden stood refreshed.

Facing west, light enters the garden first from the north through a break between my house and the neighbors'.

Facing west, light enters the garden first from the north through a break between our house and the neighbors’.

The garden is more filled out and more lush and green for this time of year.

Early morning garden

Early morning garden

I enjoy noticing the abstractness of the garden layout from above.

Garden With Meditation Circle After Rain

Garden With Meditation Circle After Rain

Today will again be a 90-degree day, but unseasonably cooler weather will make the rest of the week feel luxurious: eighty degrees Wednesday, high seventies Thursday, mid-seventies (but rain) over the weekend. The nicer forecast offers an opportunity to enjoy the garden from more than as an observer looking down…

Garden With Meditation Circle After Rain

Garden With Meditation Circle After Rain

Meditating With Sound

These midnight blue wind chimes were a birthday gift this week from my youngest sister. They now hang centrally within the meditation circle, bringing a new layer of sound to the garden.

Wind chimes enhance the meditation circle

Wind chimes enhance the meditation circle

Wind Chimes

Wind Chimes

Hand tuned to the scale of C the chimes have a deep tone and resonance that will enhance the peacefulness and amplify the joy of using the labyrinth for walking meditations.

Wind Chimes

Wind Chimes

Wind Chimes

Wind Chimes

Pink Goblin Speedwell

Nearby the meditation circle is a small clump of Veronica spicata ‘Pink Goblin’ (Speedwell). Added to the garden last spring it has grown to 16 inches tall and has spread to about 14 inches wide. It makes a great low-growing perennial for the front of the border.

Veronica spicata 'Pink Goblin' (Speedwell)

Veronica spicata ‘Pink Goblin’ (Speedwell)

Veronica spicata 'Pink Goblin' (Speedwell)

Veronica spicata ‘Pink Goblin’ (Speedwell)

Veronica spicata 'Pink Goblin' (Speedwell)

Veronica spicata ‘Pink Goblin’ (Speedwell)

Studying The Borders At May’s End—Meditation Circle

Digitalis 'Dalmatian Purple' (Foxglove) Near Meditation Circle

Digitalis ‘Dalmatian Purple’ (Foxglove) Near Meditation Circle

Meditation Circle

To finish up a look around my garden at the close of May attention turns to the Meditation Circle. My original vision for this area was to feature the walls of the labyrinth with evergreen or semi-evergreen, flowering plants. Too-narrow planting areas, weather, soil condition, moles and now even fire ants have impacted this area and distracted me from taking this beyond the original concept and the first experimental plantings.

Nevertheless, the two types of Penstemon in bloom since mid-May have contributed greatly to the overall spring garden. As early as mid-March, well before the flowers came on, the foliage was recovered from the stress of winter and looked attractive, especially ‘Husker Red.’ A curving row of low-growing Thyme has filled in well between the stones. Several other Thymes have been added to the center.

Garden View- Meditation Circle Looking Toward Northern Border

Garden View- Meditation Circle Looking Toward Northern Border

Last year Alyssum, an annual, bloomed prolifically into late fall near the house, so I thought to try some along the meditation path. It has been very slow to take hold but I hope it soon will help conceal the mulch.

Alyssum 'Easter Bonnet Violet'

Alyssum ‘Easter Bonnet Violet’

Near The Back Steps

There have been very few bees so far in the garden this spring but yesterday this one was working its way around another penstemon, this one next to a large stand of Monarda didyma (Scarlet Beebalm) near the house. Flowers are forming but there is no bright red yet on the Monarda.

Bee and Penstemon digitalis 'Husker Red' (Beardtongue)

Bee and Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue)

Along the house at the opposite end from the Monarda is an Achillea whose color and name I adore: Appleblossom. Usually I would not feature the foundation of the house but I like the way the soft hues of this flower work with those in the bricks.

Achillea x 'Appleblossom' (Yarrow)

Achillea x ‘Appleblossom’ (Yarrow)

This Achillea is floppy and defies my attempts to hold it up. It seems to enjoy leaning on the Shasta Daisies in front.

Achillea x 'Appleblossom' (Yarrow) With Shasta Daisy

Achillea x ‘Appleblossom’ (Yarrow) With Shasta Daisy

May is done until next year. Welcome June.

Penstemon Abloom In The Meditation Circle

Penstemon digitalis 'Husker Red'  and Penstemon  mexicali 'Pike's Peak Purple'

Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ and Penstemon mexicali ‘Pike’s Peak Purple’

Two types of Penstemon (Beardtongue) grow in the meditation circle where they form part of the labyrinth’s wall. These were among the original plants I experimented with when once the path was complete. Last summer about half of the Penstemon mexicali ‘Pike’s Peak Purple’ died out, but by then I had some self-seeded transplants of Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ I could use as replacements. Both kinds of Penstemon started blooming this week and though the original design is no longer intact, the overall effect is a happy one for now.

Penstemon  mexicali 'Pike's Peak Purple' (Beardtongue)

Penstemon mexicali ‘Pike’s Peak Purple’ (Beardtongue)

Penstemon digitalis 'Husker Red' (Beardtongue)

Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue)

Penstemon digitalis 'Husker Red' (Beardtongue)

Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue)

Penstemon  mexicali 'Pike's Peak Purple' (Beardtongue)

Penstemon mexicali ‘Pike’s Peak Purple’ (Beardtongue)

Meditation Garden On A Rainy Day

Garden and Meditation Circle

Garden and Meditation Circle

Seeking Balance

This twenty-foot diameter meditation garden was created years after the patio, French drain, perennial beds and Red Maple were all in place. This accounts for the odd positioning that makes the circle appear to be balancing on top of one corner of the patio.  I have always been satisfied with the design of the labyrinth itself, but never fail to notice the awkward detail of how it is situated.

Garden and Meditation Circle

Garden and Meditation Circle

A smaller circle could have been better integrated to fit among the existing elements of the landscape, but would not have been as functional for my walking meditation. I briefly considered using a square, but found the circle much more compelling.  Although the circle’s placement by necessity is a bit eccentric, the pleasure of having the meditation garden far outweighs the downside and serves as a reminder to me there are many ways to achieve harmony and balance in a garden.

Almanac

Late afternoon, 63F. It has rained off and on during the day and more rain and cool temperatures are forecast throughout the week.

Garden and Meditation Circle

Garden and Meditation Circle

Why I Garden

As 2012 ends, I complete a second full year of WordPress blogging. I cannot express how much I appreciate your visits to pbmGarden. Thank you for taking time and interest in my little backyard garden retreat, for offering your friendly support and for sharing your ideas and expertise so generously.

Echinacea purpurea 'White Swan' (Coneflower) October 4, 2012

Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’ (Coneflower) October 4, 2012

I began planting perennials in earnest about 1996 in a very different setting, though not far from where I live now. A bit of beginner’s luck that first season strengthened my interest and now it is hard to imagine not tending a gardening. I still miss that first garden, which promptly was returned to lawn after we moved.

Since it no longer exists, not even in pictures, it is easy to idealize that garden, but I will always carry with me a deep satisfaction of one moment in time, almost a sigh really, when I surveyed the spring blossoms through dappled sunlight and felt the world just click into place.

That stop-time experience is what I will always be seeking in this garden. It may never be reached again but several times this spring I sensed that moment was close.

The tagline for pbmGarden is actually one I used for another garden blog between 2006-2009.

Sense of place, purpose, rejuvenation and joy

It comes from realizing the awesomeness of working and just being in a garden. Of guiding and being guided by the world of plants. Of noticing the restorative properties the garden bestows. Of being humbled by the whims of nature.

I just like the way I feel when I am in a garden. What inspires your interest in gardens?

A Hint Of Winter

Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine)

Frosty patterns on Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine)

It was cold during the night and frost was heavy on the ground when I entered the main garden early this morning. Icy formations accentuated leaf shapes and stem structures, lending elevated status to the humble remnants of the garden season just past.

In the meditation circle the frost’s silvery-white seemed to enhance the colors of the plants.

Meditation Circle

Meditation Circle

The textural contrast between hard red stepping stones of the path and soft mounds of thyme was made stronger by the thyme’s frosty coating.

Thyme in Meditation Circle

Thyme in Meditation Circle

The weather is warming again for the weekend and into next week high temperatures will be in the sixties, but today there was a hint of winter.

Veronica spicata 'Pink Goblin' (Speedwell)

Veronica spicata ‘Pink Goblin’ (Speedwell)

Last night the sky was clear for the annual Geminid meteor shower.  Despite street lamps and traffic headlights in our neighborhood we were able to watch meteors streaking through the sky. Awesome!

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.

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.

Ageratum

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.

Thyme For Meditation

Thymus x citriodorus (Silver Edge Thyme)

Thyme in the meditation circle is green and healthy. After a year of growth it has gently spread, helping to soften the path of stepping stones. I am not completely convinced the trays were correctly labeled when I purchased these plants last year, but they were marked Thymus x citriodorus (Silver Edge Thyme). This thyme is not fragrant at all, but I must have thought with “citriodorus” in the name, it would be become fragrant eventually!

Dianthus and Thymus x citriodorus (Silver Edge Thyme) Along Meditation Path

Drought-tolerant plants were selected for this labyrinth and some that performed great last summer may be staying too wet this summer. A few heavy downpours knocked over plants several weeks ago, blocking many of the paths. Yesterday was clean-up time.  I sheared away lots of Penstemon mexicali ‘Pike’s Peak Purple’ (Beardtongue) and Angelonia angustifolia ‘Angelface Blue’ (Summer Snapdragon) to open up the stepping stones.

While some of the Pike’s Peak are still blooming, many are brown and look like they may not even survive. Similarly the center planting of Iberis sempervirens ‘Purity’ (Candytuft) has died back significantly. Iberis bloomed from December to May this year and maybe just needs a rest. It may revive in the fall, but at this point last August, the Candytuft was lush and healthy-looking.

Meditation Circle

___

I realize the fence along back of the Western border looks awfully bright. While a new ‘Carolina Sapphire’ Cypress gets established, a mix of annuals were supposed to fill the void and provide vibrant summer color along the back fence.  The seeds did poorly though, giving just one small group of zinnias.  The cypress is growing fine though.

During a few weeks of drought and extreme temperatures in July, the garden had quickly turned brown and dried up. Convinced the garden was finished until September, I turned my attention elsewhere. Then something interesting happened. Rains returned and the garden responded. Now the garden overall is probably the greenest it has been in August for years. The last few summers have been so discouragingly dry, I failed to recognize and appreciate that this summer was different. 

So yesterday I began to make amends. I trimmed back some Shasta Daisies, Echinacea and a few other things to make them tidier and to encourage re-blooming. I did save a few cone heads for the American Goldfinches. There is still a lot of clean-up to do, but now I am much more motivated to make plans for autumn plantings.

Though an annual, the Angelonia should provide color into October.

Angelonia angustifolia ‘Angelface Blue’ (Summer Snapdragon)

A Garden Journal To Conclude July

Cleome (Spider Flower)

Desiccation was the word that best described the garden at the end of June, but as July ends there are some signs of verdancy. July was a difficult month for the already stressed perennials and shrubs, but some decent rains have had a visible restorative effect on many of them. Even the lawn now shows less brown and more green.

While the garden seems willing at this point to make the effort to improve, this gardener is finding excuses. The garden could really use some serious maintenance but as usual, it is getting very little attention as the summer goes along. Among the many tasks that need tackling are applying mulch garden-wide and dividing the irises. I have done some weeding, deadheading and trimming, but not nearly enough to improve the overall effect—there is so much more left to be done. Another week though before I can get some time to concentrate on it.

Angelonia angustifolia ‘Angelface Blue’ (Summer Snapdragon)

In the meditation garden Angelonia angustifolia ‘Angelface Blue’ (Summer Snapdragon) lies sprawling across the labyrinth’s path, knocked over by recent poundings of rain.

Last summer was the first time I had planted Angelonia, an annual, and it was outstanding well into October.  This year it has not been quite as spectacular, but it is finally beginning to bloom more profusely. The bees really enjoy the flowers.

Angelonia angustifolia ‘Angelface Blue’ (Summer Snapdragon)

Garden View With Meditation Circle

The meditation circle is normally a very low-maintenance feature, but a heavy rain this past weekend also washed away much of the pine bark mulch, covering many of the stepping stones.

Thymus x citriodorus (Silver Edge Thyme)

The section of Thymus x citriodorus (Silver Edge Thyme) is mostly green, but in some poorly draining areas it is starting to show some brown spots from excess standing water during the storm.

Perhaps the thyme will bloom yet. There are a few faint colored puffs on it that, when one looks close, are seen to be little lavender flowers.

Iberis sempervirens ‘Purity’ (Candytuft)

Once the star performer of the labyrinth, Iberis sempervirens ‘Purity’ (Candytuft) is losing its shine.

Many of the mounds are severely stressed. This time last year it was holding up beautifully and was quite green.

The candytuft bloomed from December to May this year and perhaps needs a rest. Maybe some compost should be added for nutrition.

Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue)

‘Husker Red’ is still working well in the meditation circle. Curiously the leaves of the ones planted last year are mostly green, with little or none of this luscious dark red colored-foliage found in these that were added this year. The coral Dianthus lining the entrance makes a nice pairing.

Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian Sage)

Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian Sage) has flopped over but is blooming now and should last well into autumn.

Clematis ‘Jackmanii’ and Rudbeckia hirta ‘Irish Eyes’

Encouraged by recent rains, Clematis ‘Jackmanii’ now has a few new blossoms. Rudbeckia hirta ‘Irish Eyes’ is in full bloom to the delight of many insects. The stalks of this Rudbeckia seem very sturdy but, like those of so many items in this garden, they would benefit from staking.

Cleome (Spider Flower)

Cleome has flowered well in one spot and poorly in another.

In early July there was a heartbreaking loss of a Crape Myrtle in the front yard from a freak wind storm.

The same storm brought down a pine into the garden, obliterating a Buddleia davidii and some other plants in an area along the back fence, an area I have been actively trying to invigorate.

‘Carolina Sapphire’ Arizona Cypress

Zinnia

Actually there are several large gaps along the back fence. In the northwestern corner a ‘Carolina Sapphire’ Arizona Cypress was planted earlier this year to replace the eleven-year old one we lost last summer. This is a fast-growing tree that will fill this area in a few years. Meanwhile I can tell it has grown quite a bit.

While waiting for the ‘Carolina Sapphire’ to mature I envision this corner overflowing with cutting flowers in the summer, but my efforts have been small.

Zinnias were planted from seeds, but thwarted by extreme temperatures, they remain small and insignificant. I think the birds must have eaten most of the seeds.  This is a rather poor showing.

Transplants of cleome did not survive here.

Also Gladioli planted in this same area flopped over after their first exposure to wind, so they did nothing to make the garden look nice long-term, but their blooms provided enjoyment in cut-flower arrangements.

So, there are many openings and opportunities around the garden at this time. Although I am not doing much work in the garden this summer, I am thinking and planning. I am optimistic the garden will be fun again next Spring. And, while there are no grand views, no wide vistas in the garden right now, it is surprising to me how many individual plants are providing some interest. It seems much better than in years past.

Monarda didyma (Scarlet Beebalm)

Meanwhile birds, wasps, bees and other insects do not seem to mind the garden’s disarray, as they feast on nectar and seeds. The yellow of American Goldfinches brightens the garden as these tiny birds feed on various plants—they especially seem to appreciate the Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower).

Hummingbirds regularly visit Monarda didyma (Scarlet Beebalm), which is no longer lush and spectacular but is still in bloom.

Leucanthemum x superbum (Shasta Daisy)

And fresh dew on Shasta Daisies is still a remarkable thing.

Almanac

With two days to go this hot July stopped short of setting a local record for the number of consecutive days above 90 degrees, when the temperature reached a mere 89 degrees yesterday. Precipitation was 0.5 inches above normal for the month (actual month total was 4.64; normal month total, 4.04). Three heavy storms on the 21st, 22nd and 28th accounted for 3.31 inches of that.

Smiles and Starts

In the meditation circle this morning numerous bees were flitting in and out of the Penstemon  mexicali ‘Pike’s Peak Purple’ (Beardtongue). Watching them back out of the purple, bell-shaped flowers made me smile.

Penstemon mexicali ‘Pike’s Peak Purple’ (Beardtongue)

Suddenly

one bee seemed to stumble awkwardly

and fall a foot or so

from the top of the blossom

it had targeted.

The bee struggled for a moment but then regained control and flew away, thus escaping the trap set by this ominous-looking spider.

Argiope aurantia (black and yellow garden spider)

I had not noticed the spider myself and was startled to realize its presence.

I think this is a Argiope  aurantia (black and yellow garden spider), a common garden spider in the U.S. and not harmful to humans.  This spider incorporates a dense white zigzag in the center of its orb web.  This zigzag feature is a stabilimentum, the purpose of which is not confirmed, but one possibility is to warn birds away from the web. Interestingly stabilimenta are only found in spiders that are active during the day.

Closing Out June — Yellowing, Browning, Wilting, Crisping

Despite many ominous indicators around the garden, Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’ cheerfully showed itself off in the new front garden.

Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’ (Coneflower)

I worry most about the shrubs and trees, which take so long to establish and are so expensive to replace. Inexplicably though, I spend the most time watering the Rudbeckia hirta ‘Irish Eyes,’ which is ever so close to blooming, and also the patch of annuals where this morning I discover the first zinnia flower of the summer. Last year’s ‘Blue Point’ Juniper hedge gets a reasonable amount of water.

Watering the garden is something I rarely do, but for two of the last three days I have entered the garden very early and dragged around a water hose, encouraging selected plants to deeply soak in as much as possible of this cool, wet offering in preparation for serious times ahead.

The garden’s situation is diminishing rapidly as no appreciable rain has fallen here in a few weeks. The temperature was 105°F. yesterday and today is 102°F. so far this mid-afternoon. (These days forecasts are frequently supplemented with the feels like number, so I must add it currently feels like 105°F. if one takes the heat index into account.)

How do the plants like it? Much of the Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’ is shriveled and no longer blooming. Shasta daisies are wilting, wilting, with many of the 4-foot stems simply flopping over. Other floppers include the northern border’s rosy Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower), which tends to land askew, pushing anything nearby down as well.

Almost evergreen here most years, the foliage of German bearded iris is yellowing throughout the garden. [Those irises really need to be divided this year.] Tall fescue lawn never tolerates the summer well and is a crispy brown, receding visibly and opening up patches of hard, cracked earth where weeds are waiting to take hold.

The garden always holds some measure of optimism. Just as I had begun to worry about it, thyme in the meditation circle (Thymus x citriodorus (Silver Edge Thyme)) presented a tiny little bloom yesterday. And today’s early morning walk around the meditation path was peaceful and full of sighs.

Thymus x citriodorus (Silver Edge Thyme)

Since starting to write this article our neighborhood lost electricity due to the demands from the serious heat wave. After 45 minutes it has come back on. Other neighbors across the highway were without power for 4 hours.

Late June — Ahead Of The Heat Wave

Phlox paniculata (Garden Phlox)

Phlox paniculata (Garden Phlox) used to be a garden highlight at this time of year in my previous garden, but foraging deer like it way too much here in this garden. So a couple of years ago I finally just removed all the Garden Phlox, except that a piece here and there still shows up occasionally. As soon as the errant phlox starts to bloom it is snapped up by deer with an eerily keen sense of knowing. This happened just last week, but this morning held a nice surprise. I spotted several phlox that managed to bloom and not be eaten.

Despite a very late planting ten Allium ‘Drumstick’  bulbs are beginning to form flowers on rather thin 24-inch stalks. These are very small, one-inch flowers and look very charming. The bulbs were a gift and were purchased at Biltmore House in Asheville, NC.  The package states these have been in cultivation since 1766 and are deer-resistant.

Allium ‘Drumstick’

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Irish Eyes’ is nearly 5 feet tall now and seems so, so close to blooming, just as the weather forecast is for a few days of excessively high temperatures and high humidity. Today’s 87° F. will give way and move toward extremes, reaching 105° F. on Saturday and Sunday.

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Irish Eyes’

Meditation Circle

The entrance to the labyrinth in the meditation circle was still in shadow during this morning’s garden stroll. In the foreground spent spires of Penstemon mexicali ‘Pike’s Peak Purple’ jut in every direction.  Last year I did not cut them back after blooming, but this summer I plan to try deadheading it (soon). This penstemon is still blooming and should continue throughout the summer, but certainly not as prolifically as a month ago.

The low-growing Thymus x citriodorus (Silver Edge Thyme) has yet to bloom, but it was in flower last year on May 5.  The last few weeks a little bunny has been nibbling at it a bit. I am considering planting more thyme to fill the central area surrounding the gazing ball. This Silver Edge Thyme did not impress during the winter but it now looks very healthy.

In the circle’s center well-behaved mounds of Iberis sempervirens ‘Purity’ (Candytuft) are green and lush, with the newest ones added this spring almost catching up in size with those planted last year.  Around part of  the outer edge the annual, Angelonia ‘Blue,’ adds intense summer color next to a few specimens of Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red.’

Meditation Circle

Last Day of May

Canna and Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)

Early this morning Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower) and Canna waited in the shade as the sun slowly moved to warm these sun-loving perennials.

Echinacea purpurea is native to Eastern USA and bees find it attractive. Later American Goldfinches will enjoy its seeds.

Canna and Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)

Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)

While it still can this bee should enjoy the Tradescantia (Spiderwort) that abounds in the garden. This week I am making some progress in cutting it back, but am finding it difficult work to remove it by the roots.

Tradescantia (Spiderwort)

Although afternoon temperatures reached 92 degrees, the garden this morning was pleasant and mostly shaded, perfect for welcoming visitors to view the flowers. So when a neighbor and her friend walked by while I was taking pictures in the front side garden, I eagerly asked them to come to the back to see my garden.

This year, more than in any other year, I have felt comfortable with the state of the garden overall and am happy when I can share this place. It is not perfect, of course, but some key garden renovation projects during the last year have made the garden much more cohesive and have given it personality. The meditation circle is one such project and today my neighbor’s friend walked the meditation path, experiencing  a labyrinth for her first time. It was a nice morning in the garden.

Notes On The Garden At Memorial Day

Northern Border

Temperatures reached 87 degrees and the day felt quite humid and summery. The borders appear full and lush, a tribute to the power of adequate rainfall; however, the first flowering period of many plants is past, so deadheading and trimming are on the agenda for this week.

Southern Border

There has been little work done in the garden for the last two weeks, but that must change. The garden is in transition and is very much in need of attention. Echinacea, Gladioli, Liatris and Daylily are replacing Iris, Lamb’s Ear and Tradescantia.

Liatris spicata ‘Alba’ (Gayfeather)

Shasta Daisy clumps will be covered in bloom any day. Meanwhile Meadow Sage should be cut back to encourage more blooms. Nepeta may need shearing soon as well.

Northern Border, Meditation Circle

Monarda and Lantana are teasing with a bit of color today.

Monarda didyma (scarlet beebalm)

Lantana camara (Common lantana)

This weekend in town I came upon a large and beautiful planting of Baptisia and Autumn Joy, all in full bloom. In this garden all three baptisias lost their flowers suddenly this year after a just a short bloom time, but the foliage remains healthy and green.

Baptisia australis (blue false indigo)

Hylotelephium telephium ‘Herbstfreude’ (Autumn Joy)

Paths in the meditation circle are in some disarray lately. The pine nugget mulch being used this spring is too lightweight to stay in place when rains come. Also the mexicali ‘Pike’s Peak Purple’ Penstemon has sprawled over quite a bit and requires staking again. Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ is so much better behaved and retains its upright place, (although its self-sown seedlings need to be removed soon).

Meditation Circle

Meditation Circle

The annual Angelonia ‘Blue’ in the meditation circle has begun to grow now that the weather is hotter.

Angelonia ‘Blue’

There will be plenty of tasks to keep this gardener busy this week but with an abundance of flowers blooming and the scent gardenia wafting through the air, it should be mostly delightful to spend time in the garden.

Gaura lindheimeri ‘Passionate Blush’ (Butterfly Gaura)

Tradescantia (Spiderwort)

Meditation Path

Walking the labyrinth late this afternoon  provided an opportunity to consider the wall plantings in between the paths.  The meditation circle is lush and pleasant now, even the thyme has been rejuvenated.  The circle is full of bees humming and buzzing about. The bees are drawn to both types of penstemon found here. The Penstemon mexicali ‘Pike’s Peak Purple’ (Beardtongue)with its looser habit has already required staking in order to keep the pathway clear.  Unless visitors are coming I rarely worry about the flowers tumbling around, I just brush past them as I walk, simply noticing the connection.

Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue)

Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue) has been blooming for several weeks and I really enjoy its white flowers. Its growth habit is more upright than ‘Pike’s Peak Purple.’ Even so, the two ‘Husker Reds’ planted last year are getting quite large and recent rains knocked over a few sections of the plant into the path. Trimmings are nice though as penstemon is long-lasting indoors.

Magnolias are blooming. This one was spotted today at the Nasher Museum of Art in nearby Durham, NC.

A Perfect Day In May

Meditation Circle

Today’s weather could not have been more perfect to have a group of friends visit the garden, walk the meditation circle and share a potluck lunch. Cloudless blue skies, low humidity and temperatures in the mid-seventies made for a fine day to be outside.

Inside the labyrinth Penstemon (Beardtongue) hybrids are blooming this week and buzzing with bees.

Penstemons In Meditation Circle

Penstemon  mexicali ‘Pike’s Peak Purple’ delineates a long stretch of path near an outer edge. Its color is deep and rich violet-purple. Its loose form means it sprawls over into the paths on either side, making it necessary to trim the overhanging flower stalks to help keep visitors safe when walking the labyrinth.

Penstemon mexicali ‘Pike’s Peak Purple’ (Beardtongue)

Penstemon mexicali ‘Pike’s Peak Purple’ (Beardtongue)

Marking several turnaround points in the labyrinth is another penstemon cultivar, Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red.’ This variety has a tighter and more upright form, making it more suitable and requiring less maintenance in the narrow space between the paths. Both Penstemon cultivars remained green during this past mild winter.

Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue)

The garden has transitioned away from the focus on roses and irises, but a few Bearded Irises linger.

German Bearded Iris

German Bearded Iris

German Bearded Iris

Yesterday the garden’s peony opened. This is ‘Pink Parfait.’

Peony Paeonia ‘Pink Parfait’