Tag Archives: photographing nature
Sunday Morning Promenade — Part 2
This Sunday morning’s stroll around the garden with the camera yielded many nice surprises. I wanted to document the views in walking order. I began the tour with Sunday Morning Promenade — Part 1. Picking up the wander at the northwest corner, here are more glimpses.
This Anemone coronaria is one of those surprises. I expected this to be ‘Admiral’ which I planted last fall. It appears to be ‘Governor’ from a spring planting the previous spring.
Walking up toward the house along the Northern border, in front there is ‘May Night’ which came into bloom this week, and Phlox divaricata (Woodland phlox) and Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ (Catmint) which seem very close to opening.
This Northern border is where the bulk of the irises are.
In the area toward the northeastern corner of the garden (just out of view in the photo above) many irises are quickly are filling out and showing color. ‘Raspberry Blush’ is usually an early bloomer and is one of the few irises I actually bought. Most are pass-alongs. After dividing these irises last summer I was concerned I’d lost track of Iris ‘Batik’ but it showed up in its original location. Paeonia ‘Pink Parfait’ (Peony) has more buds than ever before.
Before leaving the Northern border I stood at the peony and turned around to look back across the meditation circle towards the southwest corner. The garden was calm and pleasing this morning.
Turning back around to face the Northern border and continuing eastward I noticed ground covers at Northeastern corner are filling in between the entrance stones at gate.
The Eastern border is that area along the foundation of the house. There is a large swath which I recently showed filled with Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine) and Monarda didyma (Scarlet Beebalm).
Facing the central back stairs leading down to the patio is a small planting of Iberis sempervirens (Candytuft) and Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue).
On the other side of the stairs, in the back are two Hydrangea macrophylla (not shown) with green leaves, but the buds appear to have been damaged once again, this year by a severe freeze earlier in the month. In front of the hydrangeas is a Gaura that needs to be moved. It starts out promising each spring but does not bloom well. Further down are the Shasta daisies from the start of the tour.
Finally, I stepped through the South gate into the Southern Side Garden. Clematis ‘Jackmanii’ is beginning to glow. The yellow bearded iris along the path is usually one of the first to bloom. It seems late this year. Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’ is sending up shoots. A pretty multi-stemmed white Narcissus is blooming. This may be from the home where I grew up or from a purchase last year. I wish I had not lost track of this one.
End of tour. Thanks for coming along.
Sunday Morning Promenade — Part 1
The forecast which called for rain by afternoon proved accurate. Fortunately I was out very early this morning to check the garden’s progress. Besides there was some planting to do—2 Dahlia ‘Blue Boy’, 40 Gladiolus Blue Shades Mix and 3 Dahlia ‘Black Jack.’ Only about a third of the gladioli made it into the ground as I kept running into weeds that took a lot of time. I still have zinnia seeds to plant.
I also planted a pass-along from last fall I am excited about. It is a red dahlia from Libby at An Eye For Detail that her mother used to grow, so I feel extra responsibility to take care of this one. The tubers made it though the winter in my garage and even showed a bit of new growth.
Another new pass-along came from touring a garden club friend’s beautiful property last spring. She had potted up a variety of plants for us to take home and I selected Polygonatum biflorum (Solomon’s seal). I checked on this plant fairly recently and decided it must not have survived, but here it is after all.
Before the work started I just enjoyed wandering around and around note-taking with my camera.
First views stepping out the back steps from the garage, looking due west with southern border on the left, panning north, and finally, looking down at Shasta daisies beside the garage steps.
Next I walked along the Southern border. There are three peonies here. The juniper hedge has grown tall. Aquilegia is everywhere. At the far end of the Southern border begins the shadiest corner in the garden.
Turning the corner toward the Western border, here is the Oakleaf hydrangea. I move it to the front of the border in early spring and it seems to be doing much better.
There are two small islands near this corner, one of which is planted with iris and a hodgepodge of other things. The iris foliage looks very brown. I thought it might be cold damage but I need to check for disease or iris borers.
From here I turned around to my right to inspect the snapdragons in the meditation circle, almost ready to bloom. This is looking toward the northern border.
Returning to the oak leaf hydrangea and moving on along the Western border.
I stepped into the Western border and looked back southward across the the columbine. Many plants have died out in this area and the columbine is taking advantage. I need to get it under control.
Turning back to continue the walk, this is the rest of the Western border as it curves around the meditation circle.
Later I will share the rest of the garden views from my Sunday morning promenade.
In A Vase On Monday—Roses And Lavender
It is the first Monday of May and I am joining Cathy’s weekly challenge In A Vase On Monday to create a floral arrangement from materials gathered in one’s own garden.
This weekend when I saw my old-fashioned rose had begun blooming I immediately decided to feature it in my Monday vase. It is a sentimental favorite.
I brought this rose from my previous garden when we moved here thirteen years ago. It was a pass-along from my mother’s cousin, a sweet woman whom I consider my gardening mentor. She was the source of many other pass-along plants as well. My mother had also grown this same rose, as did my maternal grandmother, so each spring when I see these deep pink buds, they bring tender memories.
Lavender branches seemed a perfect choice for greenery and for contrast included Salvia Dorada ‘Aurea’ (Golden Sage). I selected a few salmony-pink Dianthus as filler flowers.
When doing formal arrangements I always underestimate how much material is required. With a bare spot still needing to be filled I remembered a piece of Allium Nigrum had broken off in the garden the other day before it even had opened, so I had brought it inside. It worked fine to finish this week’s vase.
Dianthus ‘Ideal Select Salmon’
Salvia Dorada ‘Aurea’ (Golden Sage)
This design is my loose interpretation of a traditional round design. The rose stems were not strong enough to work with easily, but the arrangement went together without too much fretting. I used floral foam set into a 4-inch diameter, shallow dish to hold the flowers, envisioning that the arrangement would sit atop a crystal vase. Because I had not been careful to conceal the sides of the plastic dish, the effect was imperfect though. I tested the arrangement on a round, straight-sided black ceramic pot and also without an extra vase. In the morning perhaps I will gather a few concealer leaves or flowers to resolve that issue.
The roses and lavender are wonderfully fragrant. My husband remarked how nice the house smells tonight.
Thanks to Cathy at Rambling In The Garden for hosting. Visit her to see what she and others are placing In A Vase On Monday.
This is my favorite time in my garden. This is the time of year where I have to check on the garden morning, noon and night because the plants are changing so quickly and flowers seem to open while my back is turned.
I started an end-of-the-month summary for April but could not find time to complete it. Ditto, first-of-May. Perhaps I will post an overview later when things slow down, just for my records. Tonight I would like to share a few more irises.
Christina asked the other day if my white iris was open yet and yes, it opened that same day. If you read this blog regularly you will not be surprised to learn this white iris was a pass-along, so I am not positive about the name. I think this is Iris germanica ‘Immortality.’ It reblooms in fall, which makes it especially easy to recommend.
I showed the Japanese roof iris in Iris Musings, but I was drawn back to it when I noticed the coloration and pattern on this bud.
Another pass-along iris from my friend Henrietta bloomed two days ago. So far it is the only one of this color. I have decided I should try to mark it and divide it later this summer.
I researched this iris using a description I thought fit it pretty well: dusky pink standards, burgundy falls. canary yellow beard. I immediately found a good candidate, Tall Bearded Iris Jacquesiana, which may go back to at least 1839.
Then another possibility emerged, perhaps Tall Bearded Iris ‘Prosper Laugier’ which goes back to 1914. It was described as “a smokey lavender, velvety violet-carmine veined bicolor.” I became fascinated reading the coloring descriptions of irises and became quite side-tracked. ‘Prosper Laugier’ seems a good match but it is impossible for me to to know with certainty. If you recognize this iris I would appreciate your help.
Have a great weekend everyone. I will be touring gardens this weekend and helping out as a garden guide with the Chapel Hill Spring Garden Tour. I expect to come back to my own little garden with lots of great ideas and inspirations.
Flora at Duke Gardens
Visiting Duke Gardens last weekend I was struck by the complexity of foliage, but anyone who knows me would not be surprised that I was also enjoying the flowers.
The rose garden was punctuated with beautiful Oriental Lilies.
Next a cheerful group of summery yellow composites was enhanced by bring planted with Pineapple Lily at the beginning of the Perennial Allée.
Once inside the Terrace Gardens the view was vivid, yet serene. The dark foliage and red blooms of the Canna nicely offset the cool, sedate greens vying with multicolored flowers.
Taking the steps and rising above the canna I found the Rudbeckia hirta ‘Indian Summer’ to be quite winsome.
Richly hued annuals accented the Terrace Gardens where each level is organized with thoughtful and exciting plant combinations. The Rudbeckia hirta ‘Cherokee Sunset’ were especially vibrant, so I studied what other materials were used in this area.
In addition to Rudbeckia hirta ‘Cherokee Sunset’ the garden beds on this level featured:
Solenostemon scutellariodes ‘Pineapple’ – Pineapple Coleus
Solenostemon scutellariodes ‘Dipt in Wine’ – Dipt in Wine Coleus
Gomphrena ‘Qis Red’ – Globe Amaranth
Lantana Bandito Orange Sunrise – Lantana
Mecardonia ‘Magic Carpet Yellow’ – Baby Jump-Up
Manihot esculenta ‘Variegata’ – Variegated tapioca was also listed on the plant marker for this grouping but I could not recognize it.
I like the effect achieved by mixing the Rudbeckia with the red Globe Amaranth and the dark wine coleus. The colors relate to the higher level as well.
The bright citrus yellow of Pineapple Coleus is a strong and attractive choice in this collection. I do not plant many annuals but would enjoy this color in my garden. I have a much larger Lantana with similar coloring that could use a good companion.
March Blue Sky And Sunlight
Blue sky and 43 degrees mark the day at mid-morning. As we head toward a warm day near sixty degrees, much of the garden is just emerging from the frosty shadows and many plants are rimmed with ice. Today at last the Spiraea shrub is beginning to bloom, three and a half weeks later than last year’s very early flowering.
To celebrate the first day of Spring yesterday, we went headed to nearby Durham. First we viewed a photography exhibit at the Nasher Museum of Art on the Duke campus and enjoyed lunch at the museum cafe. Next we went to see early spring flowers in the Italianate-styled terraces of the Sarah P. Duke Gardens.
The beds here are planted with annuals and bulbs. Last year when we visited these gardens the tulips were just past their prime and this year we were early. Still there were many pleasures to behold whether looking close-up at the plants or taking in the long views.
The day was partly cloudy and I felt a bit cool, that is until we met a woman from Indiana who told us she had left home the previous day in 9°F. weather. She and her daughter were wondering the name of these eye-catching blooms. I had admired this plant earlier and was able to identify it as Anemone (Anemone coronaria ‘Lord Lieutenant’).
Anemone ‘Rosea’ (Windflower) was also striking.
At the bottom of the terraces is the fish pond, a favorite spot of small children and and grown-ups alike. To the right of the pond was a wonderful Witch-hazel.
Working our way back up the terraces, one planting I particularly admired was this mix of daffodils and orange tulips.
There were many Erysimum (Wallflowers) interspersed with tulips in the beds. Since most tulips were not open we will have to return to see the full effect. One combination of Erysimum with a salmon-pink Hyacinth was lovely.
Sweet William is an old-fashioned flower that I just love.
These were pretty flowers but I must have been distracted before locating the plant label. Anyone know what they are? [Update: Thanks to both Cathy and Malc for the quick ID of these. This is Bellis perennis, a perennial lawn daisy.]
I imagine it might be April before the Wisteria Pergoda at the top of the terraces blooms. Another reason to visit this garden again.
Our spring celebration continued last night at North Carolina Botanical Garden Director Peter White’s presentation of the natural history of Robert Frost’s poetry. Robert Frost visited Chapel Hill for many years to give readings in celebration of spring and walked the woods here. His knowledge of plants is evident in his poetry as White illustrated during his talk.
A Bit Of Summer and Winter
I travelled to the Gulf Coast of Florida this week for a very brief family gathering. While I was away this area had a light snow—the first one this winter and I missed it! Except for a touch of white along the shady side of the road, the snow had disappeared by the time I returned home. As consolation the weather in Florida was beautiful and there were lots of colorful Florida tropical plantings, including Hibiscus, Begonia, Croton and a gorgeous shrub with red clusters of flowers I have since identified as Ixora coccinia.
A quick walk around my garden today revealed a scary number of weeds cropping up in the soggy flower beds. I pulled at a few of them but will have to make serious time to deal with them soon.
After the snow the Hellebores which began opening a week ago appear no worse for the wear. A small patch of Sweet Alyssum seems perky and fresh.
Along the back fence one of a small pair of Italian Cypress trees was leaning heavily into the other. It seems odd that the snow would have done that and I think pesky moles/voles are the culprits. I straightened the tree and tamped down the soil, hopeful the tree has not been damaged.
Near the front of the house Winter Daphne has begun to open slightly, releasing the first drifts of its delicious lemony fragrance for lucky passerbys to enjoy.
Early January Notes
During my frosty morning walk the sun had just begun to peek into the meditation garden, illuminating the burgundy and green hued leaves of this Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue).
A very few orange gardenia hips have recently appeared on the ‘Chuck Hayes.’
A patch of Lobularia hybrid ‘Snow Princess’ (Sweet Alyssum) from summer surprisingly has withstood the cold nights. This delicate-looking annual is reputed to be cold hardy (and heat tolerant), but probably Its location near the foundation of the house is giving it some extra protection.
Hellebores are not as early in blooming as last year, though I did find a few fattening buds. Camellias continue to bloom and provide sweet fragrance. Several Iberis Sempervirens (Candytuft) flowers are visible but nothing to compare with last year’s early and prolonged display. Weeds are cropping up around the beds, especially the rather invasive Cardamine hirsuta (Hairy Bittercress). The garden is overdue for a few heavy maintenance days.
Finally, one plant I noticed and photographed during a recent arboretum visit was Abutilon megapotamicum ‘Little Imp’ (flowering maple). Native to Brazil this shrubby mounding plant begins blooming in spring and still carried a quite a few of its little lanterns on the last day of December. The red calyx (or group of sepals) surrounds the yellow flowers to form its little lanterns.
An Arboretum In Winter
On the last day of 2012 my husband and I visited one of our favorite gardens and a local treasure, the ten-acre JC Raulston Arboretum in nearby Raleigh.
After many gray and rainy days we were ready to be outside. Though blue sky is visible in this picture, the day was mostly overcast and the temperature around 47F made for a chilly walk. Initially the garden seemed more stark than I had expected, yet there were many interesting discoveries as we strolled along.
Founded in 1976 by the late J. C. Raulston, Ph.D., the garden is part of the Department of Horticultural Science at NC State University. As described on its website “the Arboretum is primarily a working research and teaching garden that focuses on the evaluation, selection and display of plant material gathered from around the world. Plants especially adapted to Piedmont North Carolina conditions are identified in an effort to find better plants for southern landscapes.”
One benefit of walking through this arboretum is that plants are usually well-labelled. On our way toward the Winter Garden we encountered an interesting specimen. A plaque indicated this Quercus robur f. fastigiata (Columnar English Oak) was the first tree Dr. Raulston planted at the arboretum and it is now over 50 feet tall. The layout of the arboretum has been redesigned over the years, but the tree stands at what was the original entrance to the garden.
The oak is still holding its brown autumn leaves. “Unlike many fastigiate (upright) tree selections, this form of English oak was found growing wild in a forest in Germany and was propagated by grafting in 1783. Most acorns from the tree will form columnar trees.”
Just to the right of the English oak is a Platanus x hispanica ‘Suttneri’ (variegated London planetree) with its showy white bark.
A closeup look at a lower branch of the London planetree reveals the patchy greenish-gray variations and interesting bark texture.
Among the many blooming plants we encountered were Edgeworthia, many different kinds of Camellia and Japanese Flowering Apricot, Quince, Snow drops and Hellebores. A special delight was the Iris unguicularis (winter flowering iris) tucked underneath a shrub. (The Edgeworthia nor any of the plants looked as unfocused in real life as some of these images suggest! Click on an image for larger images in a gallery view.)
The Winter Garden was brightened by the use of yellow in the form of Mahonia flowers, berries (yellow-berry Chinese holly) and the variegated leaves of Golden Spangles camellia.
Click on an image for larger images in a gallery view.
We saw just a fraction of the Arboretum on this trip, but having visited there many times we knew the Winter Garden was an appropriate section to explore that day. Heading toward the exit we passed again the weeping forms that greeted us upon our arrival near the new entrance. The trees here are marvelous in other seasons but winter highlights their framework.
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.
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?
The blushing reddish pink, fleshy flowers forming on Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ (Winter daphne) are a cheery sight on this gray and soggy day. There are three of these low-growing evergreen shrubs planted along the front porch. By late January or early February each should be covered with white clusters of sweetly scented blooms.
Heavy rains that began Christmas night have saturated the garden. Three loud claps of thunder during today’s lunchtime downpour have set into play my father’s old saying, “thunder in winter will bring snow within two weeks.” (Other versions of this folk wisdom bring snow within seven days!)
We do not get a lot of snow in this part of North Carolina, but I have known thunder and snow to coincide this way a few times, making the rare snow events even more delightful.
No snow in the official forecast. It is overcast and 46.2 °F on this day after Christmas.
A Hint Of Winter
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.
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.
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.
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!
Garden Walk In Early December
During a late afternoon ramble through the garden I noticed the simple dignity and beauty of this fading Clematis flower.
For the most part I have been letting the plants die back naturally, leaving seed heads for the birds and winter interest. This suits my gardening style and is a good way to postpone cleanup chores until at least January.
Four and five-foot stalks of Rudbeckia hirta ‘Irish Eyes’ criss-cross and lean along the southern side path, each topped with brown cones. At the base its large leaves are in various stages of change.
This fall there have been several brief periods of cold nights and a couple of hard frosts, but soon the weather warms again. A small Spiraea transplant, after experiencing this transition from cold to mild temperatures and detecting a similar amount of daylight as in spring, sent out a few more flowers this week, even as its leaves turned rich red-orange rust and rosewood.
In many areas mounds of Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine) soften the garden at this time of year and fill the beds with soft greens, reds, yellows and burgundies.
The cold temperatures have damaged many of the sasanqua blooms, but the shrubs are full of buds and continue to brighten the northeast corner of the house.
Fifty-two degrees at 4:50 pm. Overcast most of the day. The sky was deep blue and clear during my garden walk but the sun was low and most of the garden had fallen into shadows. Chapel Hill and about two-thirds of the state are in a moderate drought with little chance of rain forecast. Temperatures will edge back up into the seventies by the weekend.
November passed quickly with the garden left largely unattended and mostly unvisited, except by the avian community. Most days colorful Eastern Towhees, Northern Cardinals (North Carolina’s state bird) and Eastern Bluebirds vie for turns at the feeders. Occasionally, Red-bellied Woodpeckers stop by and frequently, Brown-headed Nuthatches and Black-capped Chickadees watch for their chances to approach.
On November 22 there were ample flowers left in the borders to fill Thanksgiving day vases with fresh zinnias, echinacea, lavender sprigs and foliage, Iceberg roses, chrysanthemums, and there were pristine camellias to float in small ceramic dishes. The next day brought the first hard frost of the year and this week a few nights with temperatures down into the twenties finally have convinced many plants to consider winding things down.
I wandered around today to see what has survived the cold. The old-fashioned woody-stemmed pale yellow chrysanthemum looks very sad, but I included a couple of pictures below to illustrate an interesting transition. One image shows the original yellow of the flower and the next shows how the chrysanthemum flowers change to pink as they fade. Most of the garden is wilted and tinged with brown, though a few flowers still look nice for this time of year.
As November’s end approaches the day is clear, the sun is low. By 1:30 pm much of the garden lay in shade cast from the Carolina Sapphires. The sunset will come early at 5:02 p.m., after making its late start this morning at 7:06 a.m. November accomplishments are few except for the addition of a few daffodil bulbs, but the garden and the gardener are content.
Autumn Scenes And Miscellany
I wanted to share a few more details from a recent walk, the day after Thanksgiving, on the nearby UNC Chapel Hill campus.
Native to eastern United States, this Fagus grandifolia var. caroliniana (American Beech) will keep its leaves until spring. The bark of this tree is heavily scarred from numerous inscription carvings.
A squirrel sat in front of a large burl on a Catalpa waiting for me to pass. Catalpa speciosa (Northern Catalpa) is native to central United States. Its fruit is a long cigar-shaped pod about 8-15 inches and a common name for this tree is cigar tree.
A London Connection
For eighty years London’s Westminster clock tower (Big Ben) was home to three sculptures that are now installed on the south exterior wall of Person Hall on the UNC Chapel Hill campus. In 1933 two gargoyles and a statue of Stephen Langton, 13th century Archbishop of Canterbury, were being removed due to weather corrosion when they were noticed and subsequently acquired for UNC by Katherine Pendleton Arrington.
Person Hall is used now for practice studios for the Music Department, but originally served students as a chapel. When the statues were first added here the building was an art museum. The statues overlook a small garden and bench. Read more about this London connection.
The University is 219 years old but one of its famous landmarks is estimated to be 300-375 years old. Davie Poplar is a Liriodendron tulipifera (tulip poplar) and was named after Revolutionary War General, William R. Davie.
The tree was damaged by Hurricane Fran in 1996, but there is a grafting from 1918, known as Davie Poplar Jr., as well as a Davie Poplar III, planted from a seed from the original tree.
Autumn At Last
A final image from our post-Thanksgiving campus walk shows shelf mushrooms at the base of another large tree—interesting to see but apparently a sign the tree is in serious decay.
The lawn and sidewalks of the McCorkle Place were covered in multicolored leaves on this day. Someone will gather them up soon, no doubt, but our walk was made much more exciting by hearing the heavy rustle of leaves underfoot. It did seem like autumn at last.
November Time and Roses
During a walk on the UNC campus yesterday we spent a few minutes in the rose garden at Morehead Planetarium and Science Center to enjoy some lovely and fragrant blooms. I have only a couple of roses in my own garden, so this rose garden, a well-known attraction in the area, is a great place to stop to see lovingly tended and perfectly formed flowers. I was not sure how the roses would look at this time of the year, but the garden always looks spectacular in time for graduation in May.
The roses are planted around a 36-foot diameter sundial with a 24-foot long (and 20-foot high) gnomon that casts the shadow for telling time. Around one edge of the bronze and marble sundial are the words, It is always morning somewhere in the world, while the other side reads Today is yesterday’s tomorrow.
The roses were nice, but must remain nameless. Unfortunately I did not find labels to identify the varieties. (Click below for a gallery of larger images.)
November Walk On Campus
Yesterday was Garden Bloggers Foliage Day (GBFD) over at Christina’s which always highlights some interesting leaf, texture and color combinations that can carry the garden year-round. Busy with Thanksgiving and finding my own foliage pretty unremarkable this month, I did not prepare a GBFD entry this time, but today during a morning walk that included a visit to Coker Arboretum, I had a second chance to concentrate on autumn foliage.
Just five and a half miles away, Coker Arboretum is a five-acre treasure on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (my alma mater). It dates back to 1903 when UNC’s first Botany professor, Dr. William Coker, began creating an outdoor lab to study native trees and shrubs. During the 1920s through the 1940s Dr. Coker extended the scope of the garden to include East Asian species, which correspond closely to many plants in North Carolina.
In spring there are beautiful displays of daffodils, in early fall, red spider lilies. Today the majestic trees dominated the landscape, including numerous conifers and magnolias, American beech, Northern catalpa, American Elm, Japanese Maple, pond-cypress and bald-cypress.
This morning a pair of Ginkgos were especially colorful.
Fallen leaves from the Ginkgos covered the lawn, pathway and the bench too. When school is in session someone is nearly always sitting and reading on the teak benches that are scattered throughout the arboretum.
The slender tree in front in the picture above is a western Florida native, Magnolia ashei (Ashe’s Magnolia).The USDA plants profile lists this deciduous magnolia as endangered.
Firmiana simplex (Chinese Parasol-tree) is fascinating in any season, but today the white bark seemed very stark.
Chinese Parasol leaves form dense shade in the summer. This tree is listed as invasive in some states, but not here as far as I could determine. Coker Arboretum now is now under the management of the North Carolina Botanical Garden (NCBG), whose staff is well qualified to evaluate this and all the plantings here.
Coker Arboretum’s collection is extensive and there are many more interesting trees and shrubs to share. This final scene for today shows the bright red blossoms of Camellia sasanqua.
Late November Sky
Looking over the garden past other homes in the neighborhood, tall hardwoods stand silhouetted in the western sky. These trees are on property that borders our neighborhood, a strip of federal land owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The sun popped out only briefly a couple of times today. The high was 59 degrees Fahrenheit.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
A Memory Plant
Newly open in the garden today is an old-fashioned chrysanthemum, a sweet pass-along plant from a dear relative many years ago.
This chrysanthemum has woody-stems about 3 feet tall, but they are not strong enough to hold the flowers upright once they begin to open. I try to remember to pinch back the buds, but am too inconsistent to ever learn if pinching would keep the stems shorter and the plant tidier. A nearby rose and its other neighbors provide some support, but admittedly the chrysanthemum sprawls quite a lot.
To many, these characteristics would seem not to recommend it, but I do enjoy having this plant in the garden.
The blossoms are small but abundant.
The deep lemon-hued petals pale toward white as they unfurl. The cheerful blooms are long-lasting indoors and here in the garden they should brighten the southwest border for weeks to come.
My garden is full of memory plants. Like having a visit from an old friend, I always am glad to see this chrysanthemum.
Garden Bloggers Foliage Day – October 2012
It is Garden Bloggers Foliage Day (GBFD) and here are some examples of the variety of foliage in the October garden.
Strongly patterned leaves of Arum Italica are maturing this month in a shady spot under the camellias.
Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’ (Spurge) has been growing in a large pot on the patio since spring and is my first and only Euphorbia success. It needs to go into the ground soon. Having never reached this point before I am not sure how well it will overwinter.
Monarda didyma (Scarlet Beebalm) has been expanding its territory recently and has sent up shoots among the Sweet Alyssum, a dainty annual. At this height the lime-green young leaves add nice textural contrast to the tiny white flowers of the Alyssum and they are nicely fragrant.
Autumn leaf color has become quite noticeable only in the last five days. The complementary hues found in this leafy pair added a touch of boldness to the garden this week. This particular tree has been an underwhelming performer, but in general, Cornus florida (Flowering Dogwood) is beautiful in spring and fall.
Gentle mounds of Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine) fill part of a border near the back steps. Round-lobed leaves range in color from pale green to a coppery russet pink, accentuated by dark red stems.
Purchased on a whim because they were on sale, three new trees were added this month in front of a south-facing portion of privacy fence. Online resources describe Juniperus scopulorum ‘Wichita Blue’ (Juniper) as having a pyramidal form; however, these seemed very narrow at the store, which is what I liked about them. Also, the plant tags appear to have understated the final height and width, and oops, it may not tolerate heat and humidity very well. I believe I could find a lesson in all this—instead I planted them anyway.
At least the foliage has an interesting texture and is soft, not bristly nor prickly.
Thanks to Christina of Creating My Own Garden of the Hesperides for hosting Garden Bloggers Foliage Day (GBFD) each month.
Drops of Gold
At my favorite garden center yesterday it was impossible to pass up a new Japanese Holly variety, Ilex crenatea ‘Drops of Gold.’ I brought it home planning to put it in a large blue pot near the front walk during fall and winter, but eventually decided to add it to the foundation planting in front of the house.
‘Drops of Gold’ is a small shrub that will reach 3-4 feet tall by 3 feet wide. When I first saw it I thought it was in flower, but actually the color comes from the leaves.
The tag promises, “spring flush is a brilliant yellow that slowly changes into a pleasing dusty yellow. The color is most prominent on leaves exposed to the sun.”
Here in this microcosm of suburbia, the house’s original landscaper lined up 9 or 10 Ilex crenata (Japanese Holly) shrubs across the front of the house. That was fine until 5 of them died during a severe drought a few years ago and replacements died the next year. The demise of one is captured in this old photograph.
The hedge never fully recovered and some noticeable gaps remain, although three Daphne odora ‘Aureo-marginata’ were added several years ago that have done well. They provide some foliage variation and perfume the air when blooming, but they never grew as large as expected to fill in the open spaces. Whether it makes sense to plant another Japanese Holly here is debatable, but here it is.
After many years of ignoring and/or hiding the gap with a pot of chrysanthemums or geraniums, if I can keep ‘Drops of Gold’ watered, perhaps this section will improve. I have very selective vision and will continue to ignore the Liriope.