In these last days of July the meditation circle has finally come into its own. Originally, when this was a new feature in the garden, I attempted to use only evergreens or semi-evergreens here, but, since I could never find a perfect combination, I have been much happier just supplementing with low-maintenance annuals.
A beautiful but tough annual that never needs deadheading, Angelonia angustifolia (summer snapdragon), is providing plenty of color and interest. I know I have mentioned Angelonia before, but it is finally well-established and caught my eye a couple of days ago after a brief morning shower. It does not mind the heat and scarcity of rain. Its size is a good fit for the narrow space between the paths of the labyrinth, keeping the paths open for easy passage without needing much trimming.
I had planned to use a limited color scheme of white and blue this year, but blue Angelonia were hard to find this year at the time I needed them. Unable to locate enough white plants to use for the entire circle either, I ended up having to settle for a mix of mostly pinks and a few purples (Angelonia ‘Serena White’, ‘Alonia Big Indigo’, ‘Serenita Raspberry’, ‘Purple’ , and ‘Rose’). The ‘Purple’ turned out to be pink also. Though not my first color choices, I have enjoyed them immensely.
I need to fill in where the original thyme was planted to define part of the wall. It has spread out from the center, but left patchy gaps in the middle. With that one exception the various thymes are doing well and have been blooming for a few weeks, attracting many pollinators. The goal of the labyrinth (or center of the circle) is planted in Thymus serpyllum ‘Pink Chintz’ (Pink chintz thyme).
Here is the second Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) I have seen this summer enjoying the thyme.
There still are a few Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue) left from the original planting a few years ago. They have self-seeded and I have left a few, moved some to other parts of the garden and given many away.
Another penstemon original to the labyrinth is Penstemon mexicali ‘Pike’s Peak Purple’ (Beardtongue). Of the dozen or so only one survives. I think it likes this summer’s dry weather.
All in all I love the how the circle has enhanced the garden and I enjoy the peacefulness of the walking meditation.
At mid-May there is a profusion of flowers as the garden launches a noticeable shift toward summer. Several very hot days last week signaled it was time, and although the temperatures quickly moderated, the transition was underway.
The days are dry, clear and sunshiny. After the luxury of ample rains throughout winter and early spring, I am having to water some of the new shrubs and other recent purchases.
I am fairly new to the world of peonies and I wonder what took me so long to understand their allure. Paeonia ‘Festiva Maxima’ was at its best this past week. Meanwhile Paeonia ‘Pink Parfait’ is just getting started with its display.
Clematis ‘Jackmanii’ has been reliable for years while other clematis have come and gone. I added two new ones this spring. It has been blooming for a full month and continues to add new flowers.
I love having white plants in the garden and have long admired white clematis. This new Clematis ‘Henryi’ is tucked into a corner against the house where the fence begins.
Also new this spring, Clematis ‘Niobe’ is promised as one that will bloom all summer and I hope eventually it will add interest along the stark white fence at the northern boundary.
A pass-along yarrow opened up this week in the southern border. Echinacea is opening in the southern side path as well in many parts of the main garden.
After a beautiful season many of the bearded irises are looking tired, just as the Siberian iris are gaining strength. These Siberians were, guess what, pass-alongs! A Chapel Hill friend rescued for me from her neighbor’s divisions one year.
I pulled out the blue pansies on one side of the meditation circle last weekend and added white angelonia. Already the tamer color scheme appeals to me.
Even without the meditation circle remains vivid this week as the red snapdragons continue to thrive, making it a difficult choice to remove them. I have more of the angelonia waiting to replace the snapdragons though so I must be disciplined and discard them soon. Adding to the energy in this area are two dozen Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue). I like the rich foliage topped with delicate white flowers.
The original planting in the labyrinth started with about 3 Husker Reds and many Penstemon mexicali ‘Pike’s Peak Purple.’ Only one Pike’s Peak Purple remains but Husker Red has been increasing. I have been encouraging every visitor to the garden to take some home. It is valuable for it evergreen foliage.
I added several new Penstemon x mexicali ‘Red Rocks’ to the garden this year, though not in the meditation circle. Having either purple or red in the name of a plant does not always mean red.
The view from the garden bench is filled with blooms. Soft breezes stir the chimes. Towhees, robins, cardinals and an especially persistent Carolina Wren add to the pleasure.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This Achillea is floppy and defies my attempts to hold it up. It seems to enjoy leaning on the Shasta Daisies in front.
May is done until next year. Welcome June.
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.
It is Garden Bloggers Foliage Day (GBFD), an opportunity to notice the value foliage plays in the garden, as feature or support. GBFD is hosted by Christine at Creating my own garden of the Hesperides. This month I have been watching as clumps of perennials shake off some of the ragged winter look and start greening.
Monarda is growing noticeably and it smells delightfully minty. Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ seeded freely last year so there are several tucked into places now other than just in the meditation circle.
Penstemon mexicali ‘Pike’s Peak Purple’ (Beardtongue) began dying out in the meditation circle last summer. Highly drought-tolerant plants, they seemed ideal for this spot, but the summer through winter were unusually wet. Combined with some pesky mole activity the condition of these penstemon worsened. So nearly half of the Pike’s Peak are gone. Earlier in the week I pruned the remaining plants and am hoping they will bloom.
Also in the very center of the meditation circle I this week planted a few clumps of Thymus serpyllum ‘Pink Chintz’ (Pink chintz thyme), a low-growing fragrant Thyme,
Iris leaves are up everywhere. This is Iris ‘Davy Jones’ (Davy Jones Bearded Iris) making its debut this year. It is a Tall Bearded Iris with a purple ruffled bloom. Tall Bearded Iris are among the last to bloom.
Autumn Joy (Stonecrop) in several spots are contributing interest at this time of year as is an overflowing pot of colorful mixed Sedum that I added to the garden last spring.
Rudbeckia hirta ‘Irish Eyes’ is forming a nice mound of fresh leaves.
Shasta Daisy has taken a strong foothold and needs some serious attention to keep it from gaining any more.
Gaura lindheimeri ‘Passionate Blush’ (Butterfly Gaura) sports colorful leaves this time of year. I have been unhappy with its performance in this location and need to find it a better spot. It became very floppy and did not bloom very well.
Aegopodium podagraria(bishop’s weed) sprang up through a thick mulch layer this week. I was hoping to suppress it and have for years been wanting to manage it. This is invasive but lovely as a ground cover and was a pass-along from a dear friend many years ago.
Meadow Sage ‘May Night’ is a nice plant for the front of the border. I’m gradually increasing their number. Looks like I should be dividing this clump but am not sure if it is a good time.
So as March winds down many individual plants are contributing their foliage shape, patterns, colors and textures to add interest to the early spring garden. Thanks to Christine at Creating my own garden of the Hesperides for hosting GBFD each month.
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.
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.
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.