Tag Archives: meditation path

Eastern Redbud and Company

Cercis canadensis L. (Eastern Redbud)

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.

Clematis 'Jackmanii'

Lavender’s young leaves are soft, silvery and fragrant.

Lavender

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.

Linum Perenne 'Sapphire' (Flax)

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.

Meditation Circle

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.

Meditation Circle

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.

Iberis Sempervirens 'Purity' (Candytuft)

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.

Penstemon digitalis 'Husker Red' (Beardtongue)

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.

Late Winter Garden Notes

Several clusters of cheery daffodils enliven the garden. Adding more spring bulbs, (especially daffodils which the deer resist) would be an easy improvement to make. Usually when it is time to order and plant bulbs I tend to be focused elsewhere. This is a reminder to myself to really do it this fall—plant more Spring bulbs.

By this time last year I had been very active in the garden, planning the garden renovation, pruning, tidying around the perennials, installing a hedge. I have logged many fewer hours this year. Although the need is strong, discipline is lacking. Garden tasks abound. There are weeds to pull, pruning and trimming chores and general cleanup to perform, as well as some paths to redesign, more screening plants to choose and a replacement to locate for the Arizona Cypress that died last year. Note to self: get busy on these projects.

Lychnis coronaria (Rose Campion)

Actually two items can be checked off my task list this week. I planted six or seven Rose campions a thoughtful neighbor potted up and saved for me after I lamented that my magenta ones died out several years ago. The garden has many white ones thriving that were planted from seed, but I had missed the red. These three were placed near a lavender, spiderwort and irises.

Penstemon 'Huskers Red'

Another chore completed recently was to finally plant several perennials purchased a couple of weeks ago.  Five Phlox subulata (Creeping Phlox) were added to a front section of the western border.  Many things there had died out over the years, leaving behind mostly a sad area of mulch, so the phlox will add color in Spring and will be mostly evergreen.

Three Penstemons ‘Huskers Red’  went into the meditation circle at turn-around points. The purpose is to provide some visual guidance (and a physical barrier) to clarify where to step next along the labyrinth.

Camellia x `Coral Delight` (C. japonica x C. saluenensis)

The label that came with this Camellia ‘Coral Delight’ indicates flowers should appear December to February. Planted in 2006 on the north side of the house, it actually blooms around March 20th each year. So many plants are opening ahead of schedule this year, it will be interesting to see if that date will hold.

Perhaps a Trout Lily?

In late December I transplanted this mottled-leafed plant and its mossy accompaniment from its home under a beautiful tea camellia at my sister’s house.  Upon seeing it, the name Trout Lily came to mind, but so far I have not found a picture that matches these reddish leaves—trout lilies seem to have green leaves with a mottled pattern.  Time will tell if it will bloom so it can be identified.

February Dusting

A light snow overnight, the first of the winter, was just enough to give the meditation circle an inaugural white dusting. Only a few birds came around the feeders early this morning, so different from yesterday. Still a variety could be seen: Eastern Bluebird, Northern Cardinal, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Eastern Towhee, and Grackle.

A Rainy Winter In The Meditation Circle

Meditation Circle Entrance - Soggy After A Rainy Weekend

After facing several years of severe drought in this area, the plants for the meditation circle were selected last spring with drought tolerance in mind. In the past twelve months there have been some pretty decent rains though. As a result much of the thyme is blackened and dying this winter (or at least, dying back) and a few small patches of moss are volunteering near the entrance where water accumulates. The moss is pretty exciting actually. The thyme is Thyme Thymus x citriodorus (Silver Edge Thyme).  It did bloom a little last summer but overall has not contributed much in this location.

Penstemon  mexicali ‘Pike’s Peak Purple’ (Beardtongue) separates the path on the right-hand side of the labyrinth. This plant was mistakenly purchased thinking it would be more similar than it is to the beautiful clumping penstemon, Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’.  Instead ‘Pike’s Peak Purple’ has a much looser form. To its credit it certainly has been green all winter.  I just came across some advice to cut ‘Pike’s Peak Purple’ back to the crown in winter to promote more shapely, better-behaved growth.

The Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ has beautiful burgundy foliage which, after the few cold spells this winter, became only a little bit limp. These two ‘Husker Reds’, which serve to demarcate a turnaround point in the labyrinth, have performed reasonably well and when viewed close up, help to provide nice winter interest. From a distance one might not take notice, as the color blends closely with the mulch.

Iberis sempervirens ‘Purity’ (Candytuft) in the center of the circle has exceeded expectations.  Not only has it remained evergreen, it has even bloomed much of this rather mild winter.

The left side of the labyrinth was planted with Angelonia and marigolds this summer and has been simply left bare while the perennials are being evaluated this winter. Annuals are a less expensive option in the short run than perennials and will be used to provide spring and summer color until evergreen plantings can encompass the entire circle.

Meditation In A Winter Garden

The temperature rose into the low seventies today, the seventh day of January. The sun beckoned me to the garden, warmed my face, boosted my spirits. The birds sang and rustled through leaves and brush; excepting them, the outside was quiet and peaceful.

As I walked through the meditation path in my garden it was impossible not to reach down occasionally to pull an errant weed or sprig of grass. It might seem incompatible with a meditation walk to surrender to weeds, but touching the soil provided an instant connection with this place, a familiar and satisfying communication. This simple act did much to quell my monkey mind today.

Meditating and gardening are compatible journeys, both interesting and soothing. They both take considerable skill and diligence to do well but beginners are gently encouraged. And though much attention is required to keep on track, they are both forgiving endeavors that always welcome me back.

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!

Fall Gardening – Falling Enthusiasm

The garden needs attention and a spate of recent mild autumn days has left little excuse for not tackling a long list of fall garden chores. Yet, the irises are not thinned, the replacements for the Arizona Cypress that died are not planted, the weeds are not pulled. There are no interesting bulbs waiting to be planted. Enthusiasm and motivation for gardening, so easily tapped in springtime, readily elude this time of year.

Meditation Circle

November 10, 2011

One chore yesterday left the meditation circle in a disruptive state. I pulled the filler plants-marigolds and angelonia-that had provided intense color all summer.

The design goal for landscaping the labyrinth is eventually to fill the borders between the meditation path with evergreen or semi-evergreen plants so as to avoid this lopsided, barren look.

I have experimented with several types of plants in the meditation circle and am really happy with the performance of a long-time garden favorite in this garden, Iberis Sempervirens (Candytuft). Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue) is also working well for sections where extra height is wanted at the turn-arounds. These taller plants serve as visual cues for guiding visitors along the path.

The thyme is unimpressive so far. During the past six weeks, the Penstemon mexicali ‘Pike’s Peak Purple’ (Beardtongue) has bloomed much better than it did all summer, winning it a bit of a reprieve, but it has a wild scraggliness that is unappealing for the meditation circle. A landscaping friend is coming to walk the meditation path this week and I am eager to hear her ideas.

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 Few Days Into Autumn

Fall 2011 began September 23 and the time since has been filled with many rains. The moisture has encouraged continued flowering in the garden. After a brief shower early this morning, the sun has been in and out of clouds all day. The temperature is currently eighty-five degrees.

Blooming In Mid-September

The garden has been completely on auto-pilot for the past eight weeks. With July’s extreme heat and drought came parched plants and severe gardening lethargy. Then the months of August and September brought several important rains, and as is the way of gardens, this garden responded, sparking renewal in growth and interest.

Blooms, Blooms

Touring and taking inventory today it was impossible not to revel in the multitude of blooms.

A few days into September the gardenias began blooming again, putting on a more magnificent show than in early June when temperatures in the mid-nineties forced them to struggle. Now the air is filled with the lovely and unmistakable scent of gardenia.

The Orange Canna adds height and interest to the east end of the side garden. Throughout July the canna’s blossoms wilted almost immediately. Today its elegant blossom brightens this space again.

A few Shasta Daisy flowers continue to bloom in different spots around the garden.  The divisions transplanted in early Spring are healthy.

It was a treat to discover the Jackmani Clematis in bloom today.  This is unusual for this garden. Again the rain seems to have made the difference.

The lantana has been in this garden for ten years.  It performed beautifully this year, one of those plants that does not mind the heat.

The Meditation Circle

The flowers in the meditation circle have held up well throughout the entire summer. The marigolds and angelonia withstand the heat and humidity brilliantly. Both have spread beyond the 12-inch allotment of space between the stepping stones, but an occasional shearing works to restore order to the labyrinth and yields long-lasting bouquets to bring inside.

The perennials in the circle, candytuft, thyme and penstemon, all performed well and look healthy. Between the two types of penstemon (Beardtongue), Penstemon Digitalis ‘Husker Red’ is the preferred choice. The 18 ‘Pikes Peak Purple’ Penstemons (foreground) have done fine but are more scraggly and flowers are not very showy–fine in their own right but not great accents for the labyrinth in the meditation circle.

To Be Continued

Many more flowers deserve mention today so this post will be continued later.  For a last glimpse at the garden today, here is Salvia ‘Blue Sky.’  This was brought from a former garden ten years ago. It is particularly lovely this year.

July Draws To A Close

July 2011 will be remembered as an extreme month of drought and heat, with the last week registering highs of 101,97, 93, 99, 102, 104, 100 and heat indexes that make one wilt. It is 74 now, moderated by storms that passed through and brought not just thunder and lightning, but actual rain.

This garden relies mostly on perennials, but at this time of year the garden’s perimeter beds have been browning and parching, with many plants barely hanging on.

A few plants have thrived as the summer progressed though the searing days of July, mostly those in the meditation circle’s labyrinth. The thyme, the Penstemon (both ‘Husker’s Red’ and ‘Pikes Peak Purple’) and the Iberis sempervirens ‘Purity’ (candytuft) are doing well. Here though the real stars are two annuals, the angelonia and the French marigolds, which seem to take strength from the strong sun. These provide the midsummer garden’s main color and impact.

Mediation Circle After July Rain

Views Of The Late June Garden

Gone is the lush, verdant freshness that characterized the garden in spring.  Summer has arrived.

High temperatures and lack of rainfall are taking a toll on the garden’s charm and beauty as many plants begin to dry and yellow. The grass is browning quickly.

Though the garden has peaked for this year, there remain a few spots of interest.  One such spot is a borrowed view: a neighbor’s striking row of sunflowers add a happy whimsy.

Closer to home, spikes of Liatris Spicata ‘Alba’ contribute interesting texture and plantings of Shasta Daisy, Monarda, and Echinacea add drifts of color, but the garden definitely is losing its overall cohesiveness.

Part of this year’s garden renovation is to evaluate the garden in every stage, through every transition, and to decide how to improve the plantings, extend the blooming period.  Finding success in redesign will allow the garden graceful ways to peak, rest, and recover throughout each season.

In the meditation circle Angelonia angustifolia (summer snapdragon) provides dramatic color, especially the Angelface® Blue.  Ten more angelonia, purchased at a great sale price from Southern States, were added to the labyrinth last Friday.  They are a lighter shade, Wedgwood Blue, but should contribute blooms until the first frost.

The Rudbeckia Hirta ‘Irish Eyes’ has formed buds and will soon add some bright yellow at the back of the west border.

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New Labyrinth Perennials Planted

Yesterday the temperatures stayed in the low to mid-eighties, the humidity was low, and it was a fine spring day to plant the newest additions to the meditation circle: 18 ‘Pikes Peak Purple’ Penstemon (Beardtongue). Having underestimated size of the area to be planted, I found another six plants would have been desirable. In lieu of that I arranged what I had into six groups of three, leaving some space in-between.

It took many hours to plant these perennials, not the 30 minutes originally allotted as the soil still has a lot of clay.  I combined garden soil reclaimed from the recent fence project with bagged soil conditioner to try to improve the labyrinth’s soil.

This penstemon variety is not as stately as the two Husker Reds planted earlier in the spring. The leaves are narrower and wispier, with a lighter green color that unfortunately blends, rather than contrasts, with the surrounding grass.

The more plants I put along the meditation path the more it seems to need. More browsing at garden centers and visiting favorite gardens for ideas may provide inspiration. It will be wonderful to have the entire meditations circle in bloom eventually.

New Labyrinth Perennials

The meditation circle plantings have been incomplete as I studied, evaluated and fretted over what to plant.

Two ‘Husker Red’ Penstemon have performed well in the meditation circle, along with Iberis sempervirens (Candytuft) and the fantastic annual, Angelonia. A grouping of thyme has survived, even bloomed, but is too finely textured to contribute a strong show and disappointingly has no scent.  An initial planting of French marigolds at the entrance, added just to get started with something, is an incompatible, jarring color and has bloomed unevenly anyway.

Happening upon a bargain this morning, I hesitated only two minutes before I decided on a perennial I hope is a good choice to help fill in the labyrinth’s wall.

Pikes Peak Purple

I selected eighteen ‘Pikes Peak Purple’ Penstemon (Beardtongue) that had come into the garden center fresh from the grower recently.

This plant is a hybrid. Among its desirable qualities, it is deer-resistant, drought-tolerant and attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies. Its mature size (12-15 inches tall by 10-12 inches wide) and its upright growth habit makes it suitable to fit within the 12-inch space between the labyrinth’s stepping stones. It is evergreen and during its long blooming period, the violet-purple color will work well with the rest of the garden’s color scheme.

When the heat subsides this evening I will try to get them all planted.

Morning Garden Walk

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.

Almanac

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.

A Few Hours In the Garden Today

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.

The Garden Mid-May

Planning

The garden has been left largely on its own this week with very little intervention:  no deadheading, trimming, shaping, relocating, or new planting. But it has been under observation.

The focus has shifted from irises.  Other interesting perennials are beginning to stand out.  Some look lovely where they are; some are obviously drifters that would never have been placed where they currently call home, inserting themselves into others’ territory; and others stand abandoned, their intended partner plantings lost due to deer damage or drought or perhaps to shifts in sun and shade patterns within the garden.

As part of the garden renovation begun in January, the garden has been enhanced with a Blue Point juniper hedge, a 4-foot picket fence and a meditation garden with a labyrinth.  These major projects have given the garden a boost of character and charm and made the garden a serene and peaceful place to enjoy.

Next up is to evaluate, restore and improve the conscious design of the plantings, with consideration to texture, color, plant heights and growing seasons.  Many of the existing plants have been in the garden since 2001, with most of those brought along from a previous garden.  Many are pass-along plants that hold special meaning and memories of people, times and places. This next phase of the garden’s redesign will aim to rein in the wayward and the aggressive ones, but also to highlight these wonderful plants that feel so much like old friends.

In the Garden Today

Transitions

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.

Verbena bonariensis

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.

Penstemon

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.

Yarrow

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.

Lavender

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.

Paeonia 'Pink Parfait'

Paeonia 'Pink Parfait'

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?

Rose Campion

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.

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.

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.

Flowering Dogwood

Cornus florida

A Flowering Dogwood in the back corner of the garden is a vision today.

A 2001 membership gift from the National Arbor Day Foundation, this tree in the past has had but a few flowers each year. This is the year when it has reached a milestone and is really covered in blooms. The extra rains in the area this spring probably encouraged the dogwood this year to look its best.

With all the rains the meditation circle is being delayed considerably away from my initial idealized time-frame of “just a few days.”

Today I planted two Wintergreen Boxwood (Buxus microphylla var. koreana ‘Wintergreen’) in pots for now.  They will provide some interest near the front entrance for a year or so and eventually can be transplanted into the garden.

Dianthus

Also added a handful of magenta-colored dianthus, labelled annuals, near a path in the back border, near the foxgloves. Discovered a Sweet William in the same area that had gone unnoticed before today.

The fence installers are supposed to come tomorrow and I had to dig up a gorgeous mound of Iberis sempervirens (Candytuft) that unfortunately happened to be in the way of a future gate.  I have moved around a few small pieces before but never such a large patch.  It looked very stressed in the hot afternoon sun and have been told it does not transplant well.

Transplanted Candytuft

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