The garden at this point in June seems like an entirely new one—so different from the early spring palette. A salmon-orange Gladiolus from years ago brashly turned up in the Southern border today. I almost admired it for being so bold, but in the end I cut it and placed it in a nice vase indoors. Beebalm is in full bloom, Echinacea is maturing in many parts of the garden and last year’s Allium ‘Drumstick’ is back. All are attracting bees. A hummingbird visited the beebalm yesterday. There have been a few other hummingbirds this year, but now that the beebalm is blooming perhaps there will be many more.
A Foxglove mystery may be solved. This Foxglove has been in the garden since 2008 or 2009 and I thought it had caramel in the name, but never could find the tag. The coloring is creamy when the flowers first appear. Inside the flowers are yellow with reddish-brown veins and a hairy lip. Today I researched it a bit and hope I have it identified properly now. Could this be Digitalis ferruginea (‘Gelber Herold’, ‘Yellow Herald’, Rusty Foxglove)?
Today the weather was clear, hot and very humid, reaching 93°F. before severe thunderstorms passed through this evening. The winds overturned a bench and a flowerpot, but otherwise things seem ok for us. Some of our neighbors are reporting trees down, cable service lost and even roof damage.
Irises and Spiderwort
Despite the heat I chose today to dig up some of the dozens and dozens of Spiderwort that have aggressively expanded throughout most of the borders. I had to dig up many irises in order to get to the roots of the Spiderwort, so now there is a lot of work to replant some of the irises and find a good home for the rest. Fortunately the high temperature tomorrow will be a nice 81°F. so the work should be enjoyable. The irises have needed division for years, but actually they bloomed incredibly well this spring anyway. The amount of Spiderwort I managed to dig today is just a small portion of the total I want to remove.
This white one looked so innocent and beautiful this morning. Actually this particular clump has not spread like the others, but it is getting very large.
A variety of birds fill the garden with color and song. Fireflies or lightning bugs have been out in the evenings for several weeks. Frogs sing frequently and incessantly, though I have not seen one in the garden. A couple of little bunnies are nibbling Thyme in the meditation circle. No sign yet of the 17-year cicadas.
It rained off and on all day and the outlook is the same for tomorrow. I’ll need to schedule some time for straightening and pruning after a fierce thunderstorm passed through last with heavy wind and rain, soaking the garden and sweeping over the catmint, roses and scabiosa. Fortunately the peony buds withstood the battering. Actually almost everything was fine and I am very happy with the way the garden has come together this year.
Despite ongoing efforts to reduce the amount of spiderwort in the garden, it is still cropping up everywhere. I find it lovely early in the season, but must redouble my efforts to keep it under control.
The garden is far from perfect, but I do not picture it too far ahead. My garden is a journey, maybe just a playground. At any it works. It is enough. Every time I glanced out the window and glimpsed the garden today, I felt such happiness.
Tradescantia (Spiderwort) pops up all over the place often with subtle color variations. This deep red-violet is one that caught my attention early this afternoon. This little insect also found it interesting.
It is well into November and some perennials continue blooming, mostly Echinacea. Pale yellow Chrysanthemums still brighten the southern border and Camellia sasanqua ‘Yuletide’ and one unknown sasanqua are laden with fragrant flowers. Rosa ‘Iceberg’ has been lovely for several weeks.
Several camera-shy butterflies visited the last of the zinnias today.
Recently opportunities to spend even a few minutes in the garden have been rare. There are still many autumn tasks to complete—irises and daffodils to plant, weeding and mulching to finish. The garden is not waiting on anyone to get a list of chores done. It is shutting itself down gradually and gracefully, as if ready for a nice rest.
There has been no rain for a few weeks. Several light frosts have left the thyme in the meditation circle briefly coated in white, but today was a warm and sunny 73° F.
Early this morning Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower) and Canna waited in the shade as the sun slowly moved to warm these sun-loving perennials.
Echinacea purpurea is native to Eastern USA and bees find it attractive. Later American Goldfinches will enjoy its seeds.
While it still can this bee should enjoy the Tradescantia (Spiderwort) that abounds in the garden. This week I am making some progress in cutting it back, but am finding it difficult work to remove it by the roots.
Although afternoon temperatures reached 92 degrees, the garden this morning was pleasant and mostly shaded, perfect for welcoming visitors to view the flowers. So when a neighbor and her friend walked by while I was taking pictures in the front side garden, I eagerly asked them to come to the back to see my garden.
This year, more than in any other year, I have felt comfortable with the state of the garden overall and am happy when I can share this place. It is not perfect, of course, but some key garden renovation projects during the last year have made the garden much more cohesive and have given it personality. The meditation circle is one such project and today my neighbor’s friend walked the meditation path, experiencing a labyrinth for her first time. It was a nice morning in the garden.
Temperatures reached 87 degrees and the day felt quite humid and summery. The borders appear full and lush, a tribute to the power of adequate rainfall; however, the first flowering period of many plants is past, so deadheading and trimming are on the agenda for this week.
There has been little work done in the garden for the last two weeks, but that must change. The garden is in transition and is very much in need of attention. Echinacea, Gladioli, Liatris and Daylily are replacing Iris, Lamb’s Ear and Tradescantia.
Shasta Daisy clumps will be covered in bloom any day. Meanwhile Meadow Sage should be cut back to encourage more blooms. Nepeta may need shearing soon as well.
Monarda and Lantana are teasing with a bit of color today.
This weekend in town I came upon a large and beautiful planting of Baptisia and Autumn Joy, all in full bloom. In this garden all three baptisias lost their flowers suddenly this year after a just a short bloom time, but the foliage remains healthy and green.
Paths in the meditation circle are in some disarray lately. The pine nugget mulch being used this spring is too lightweight to stay in place when rains come. Also the mexicali ‘Pike’s Peak Purple’ Penstemon has sprawled over quite a bit and requires staking again. Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ is so much better behaved and retains its upright place, (although its self-sown seedlings need to be removed soon).
The annual Angelonia ‘Blue’ in the meditation circle has begun to grow now that the weather is hotter.
There will be plenty of tasks to keep this gardener busy this week but with an abundance of flowers blooming and the scent gardenia wafting through the air, it should be mostly delightful to spend time in the garden.
Record keeping: Part 2 of a series of notes about what is planted and what is blooming currently in the garden.
The northern border is filled with Tradescantia (Spiderwort), Nepeta (Catmint), Phlox divaricata (Woodland phlox), Bearded Iris, and an Iceberg rose. Siberian Irises at the far end of this border are yet to bloom. Daylilies have grown large.
As the border transitions around to the west even more Tradescantia has crept in. Across the meditation circle toward the NW corner of the garden is a favorite native tree, Cornus florida (Flowering Dogwood). This dogwood had its best show ever this spring.
A ‘Carolina Sapphire’ Arizona Cypress that used to fill this corner of the garden died last year. Its replacement is growing, but it will be a few years before it takes over to lessen the awkward, unbalanced look. I planted gladioli and zinnias against the fence this morning so the corner should be colorful later in the summer.
Behind the meditation circle, in the western border (above left) red Dianthus and Gaura lindheimeri ‘Passionate Blush’ (Butterfly Gaura) provide additional color. Phlox subulata were added this year to this area in early spring are nearing the end of the bloom cycle but will remain green in the front of the border. A recently added Veronica aspicata ‘Pink Goblin’ (Speedwell) is blossoming.
More Notes on the Western Border
In the western border a single Dahlia ‘Stargazer’ returns annually and I came across it this morning. It is the sole survivor of dahlias a friend started from seeds and shared with me years ago.
Backing up to the fence in this section, a Buddleja davidii ‘Black Knight’ has grown tall but is not ready to bloom. Tradescantia mixes with Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine), Verbena bonariensis (Tall Verbena), and perennial Dusty Miller. Nearby Foxglove and Rudbeckia hirta ‘Irish Eyes’ are growing slowly, while Achillea x ‘Appleblossom’ (Yarrow) is beginning to bloom.
Along the fence five or so Gardenia jasminoides ‘Chuck Hayes’ evergreens prepare to flower. In the center two Italian Cypress trees planted a couple of years ago are beginning to add much needed verticality. A Spiraea shrub bloomed well earlier and needs pruning soon.
Both in the western border and in the meditation circle white buds sit atop Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue). This evergreen perennial has burgundy and green leaves that contribute color as well.
Southern Side Path
Clematis ‘Jackmanii’ is turning brown from fluctuating temperatures and little water. A couple of weeks ago it was 34 degrees and today it was 92.
Monarda didyma (Scarlet beebalm), Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian Sage) and Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’ are starting to grow up behind the clematis.
White Lychnis coronaria (Rose Campion) just began blooming all along the path that leads up from the garden to the front of the house. In the middle section, yellow Bearded Irises are nearly finished for this year. Beyond the irises are lavender and Stachys byzantina (Lamb’s Ear).
After an overcast morning the sun pushed temperatures to 72° F. today. Strong, blustery winds this afternoon caused plants to sway, chairs to topple, and there was a noticeable chill to the air.
The garden is coming into its own now. It happened suddenly. The weeding is done, but before all the planned rearranging and assessment could take place, the perennial beds bordering the property starting greening and filling out. The succession of blooms is on its way.
This is the view today from the southern gate entrance looking west.
Here is the northern border facing west on Sunday. Barely visible just left and behind the dogwood is a new Arizona Cypress ‘Carolina Sapphire’ to replace the one lost last year. Zinnias, gladioli and cleome will fill in the space against the fence this summer.
Also on Sunday, this is view is looking from northeast to southwest across the meditation circle. In the center of the labyrinth, the white blooms of Iberis Sempervirens (Candytuft) lasted four months from early December. Now they need to be sheared back.
As one walks around the garden it is nice to take a closer look a the changes underway. A single bloom opened today on the Iceberg rose.
Ants parade on a ‘Pink Parfait’ peony that was added last year to the garden.
Amid a green backdrop the burgundy-purple tinge of this iris bud stands out in the southern border.
A dark pink outlines the leaves and the flower tip of this Veronica spicata ‘Pink Goblin’ (Speedwell).
Deep blue petals of the spiderwort unfurl in the morning for just one day. In the background are dark burgundy leaves of Gaura lindheimeri ‘Passionate Blush’ (Butterfly Gaura).
This batik iris is irresistible.
Flowers are forming on several baptisias in the garden. This is Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke,’ which was discovered at the nearby North Carolina Botanical Garden by former curator Rob Gardner. Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’ was introduced in 1996 by Niche Gardens and North Carolina Botanical Garden. This specimen was purchased about three years ago at Niche Garden after one of their Saturday morning tours.
Another rosy-tinged flower, Verbena bonariensis (Tall Verbena), is framed in front of a stand of Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine).
Tradescantia or spiderwort is one of the first plants I remember from very early childhood. At the time I did not know its name nor that it was a native plant, but I found the deep purple of its flower so beautiful. Upon discovering that the color transferred easily, I used tradescantia to stain one of the white front-porch columns and was genuinely surprised when my mother put me to work scrubbing it off.
My mother did not garden, but her older cousin did and she became a garden mentor to me. This special gardener introduced me to many plants and was always generous in supplying me with a variety of pass-along plants for my garden, including of course, spiderwort. The color range includes lavender, blue, violet, purple and even white.
Tradescantia does well in sun or shade, but the flowers may close by midday especially in hot sun. Spiderwort is very drought tolerant and self-seeds easily. The plants attract butterflies and this morning were appealing to quite many bees.
Plants have drifted throughout the garden over the years. I always intend to rein them back, but before I can get around to it, they open and form pretty combinations with Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine) or provide a needed backdrop to other emerging perennials. I think, “Well let’s just leave them for now.” Spiderworts tend to die back during the hottest part of summer. Before I know it, fall comes around again and the spiderworts give another burst of color to the garden. And so they stay.
A bit of happenstance in the late evening garden forms a nice texture study. A Candytuft with its bright white flower and slender leaves is tucked between the feathery, dark green of a dwarf Yarrow and the fur-like, silver-gray of a Lamb’s Ear.
The Tradescantia (Spiderwort) in this garden are violet, purple, and even pale blue, but not usually nearly white with a center that hints of pale lavender. Unlike the others which are pass-along plants, this was an actual purchased specimen. (Of course, it has moved itself around and is no longer where it was planted originally.)
The Cornus florida (Flowering Dogwood) opened a week ago. The large white petals are actually bracts. The greenish-yellow cluster in the center is made up of about twenty small flowers.
The meditation circle has been in bloom since December thanks to Iberis Sempervirens ‘Purity’ (Candytuft). Since a series of recent heavy rains the Candytuft has looked really tired and will soon need to be trimmed back. After almost a full year I am still undecided on how to finish planting the labyrinth with evergreens. An annual, Angelonia, bloomed here well into October so it may be a good choice again this summer.
The garden in early April is fresh and growing enthusiastically. In the northern border Meadow Sage ‘May Night’ adds a bit of color, but soon the irises will be ready for a vibrant display.
The Penstemon Digitalis ‘Husker Red’ has been a strong presence in the garden. The bloom time is early to mid-summer, but with this year’s extremely hot spring, there was no waiting for summer. With summer still two weeks away the penstemon is winding down and forming burgundy seeds. The tradescantia’s blue flowers are bright in contrast to the red stems and reddish leaves of the penstemon.
In early spring first the lenten roses, then the daffodils and spirea dominated the garden. By mid-April the first bearded iris had opened. Now, three and a half weeks later, a few irises, along with the old-fashioned rose and the clematises, remain in bloom. Take a quiet stroll around the perennial beds and it is easy to notice the garden again is in transition.
A verbena bonariensis is blooming and echinacea (purple coneflower) are beginning to open.
Several foxgloves are forming their complex flowers. Nearby an ‘Irish eyes’ rudbeckia already has reached two of its expected five feet.
The monarda (bee balm) also is tall and seems primed for a big display of red and fragrance.
A soft gray mound of artemisia accents the border and a perennial Dusty miller is creeping through the garden. Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Weed) will soon add its bright reddish-orange color to the blue palette that has predominated the garden in early spring.
The very tips of the white tubular flowers of Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue) are becoming visible.
These two penstemon are planted inside the meditation path forming a wall at one of the turnaround points.
One of the small pink yarrow is just beginning to open among the lamb’s ears. Rising only 10-15 inches, it has a lacy flower and a dark green, feathery-soft foliage.
Lavender will soon be adding its beautiful color and unique fragrance to several locations. The lavenders responded positively to severe pruning in February.
A Garden Highlight
An exciting highlight is the single bloom on the peony recently added to the garden, Paeonia ‘Pink Parfait.’ Although its planting tag indicated a June bloom, it was ready yesterday without regard to the calendar, as was the gardener.
Changes Bring Chores
As the focus transitions away from roses and irises there are many required tasks this week that will help keep the garden looking nice. The faded iris blooms and the bloom stalks need to trimmed back to tidy up, although the leaves need to remain for several months before being trimmed back to 6 inches in a fan shape. Is this the year the irises will finally get divided?
The southern path is full of white rose campion, but none of the favored magenta-hued rose campion survived the winter. Deadheading is a must if they are to continue to look attractive and to keep them from self-sowing so heavily.
The many Eastern Red Columbine is done for this year and needs to be cut back severely; it will maintain a nice green mound all summer.
Tradescantia is pretty now but needs to be thinned, as it has spread too widely. Many were sheared heavily ten days ago. The daylilies, the sweet peas–all overgrown. The spirea finished its bloom weeks ago and should be pruned back hard to maintain its size. Other chores abound. The fence installation was completed last week and paths to the gates need to be improved.
How to finish planting the meditation circle is still an interesting problem to solve, something to ponder while working on these maintenance tasks this week and contemplating transitions.
After all the analyzing, planning, digging, weeding, pruning, and mulching since first contemplating back in January a renovation of the garden, today was a fitting time to settle back and enjoy, relax, and appreciate the plants and the setting. Though the to-do list remains a long enumeration, today was a chance to observe and to just be.
The quiet evening air was punctuated by the sounds of cardinals and robins conversing through the neighborhood as a mourning dove, chickadees, sparrows and a towhee flitted about the garden. The sun lowered gently, highlighting along the way a certain branch of the dogwood, then focusing on several iris stalks to form a tiny vignette. The rains last week and this spring in general have ensured a verdant lawn and vibrant garden scene.
Looking into the garden one sees white bearded iris standing tall and erect. Nearby the eye is drawn to the deep blue of meadow sage, but soon there will be competition from drifts of lavender Phlox divaricata (woodland phlox).
The dogwood dropped the last of its petals this week after its best blooming year yet.
Nepeta (catmint) is opening beneath Lynn’s iceberg rose, which is full of buds and the old-fashioned rose has a few pink flowers already.
The penstemon forms a nice clump and displays rich green and red-hued foliage. Penstemon seems like a good candidate to use in the meditation garden. A visit to the garden center this week may offer up other ideas.
Along the side path grows lavender and another old-fashioned flower, rose campion. Neither is blooming yet. Returning in this same part of the garden is monarda (bee balm), lamb’s ears, and a lovely stand of yellow irises.
Tomorrow chores await but today in the garden, there was time to just enjoy.
It was a beautiful day for laying in bricks to edge the meditation circle. There are a few wobblies to straighten, but it is great to have the circle well-defined. Still more soil preparation is needed before the red stepping stones can be arranged to form the labyrinth.
Around the garden many things are growing nicely. The Hellebores continue to bloom, Eastern Red Columbine is starting to open in various (mostly self-chosen spots), Monarda (bee balm) and all three baptisias are emerging.
Rabbits or deer seem to be nibbling the remaining daylilies that still need to be dug out of the garden. Similarly something for the first time ever has been also eating the spiderwort (tradescantia), an all-time favorite in this garden. This one, also in the southern side path, somehow escaped being part of the grazing buffet and is the first tradescantia to bloom this year. What a cheerful little flower!
March 20, 2011. Today in this Northern Hemisphere town of Chapel Hill, N.C., the vernal equinox occurs at 6:21 pm. This seems like a good time to inventory the garden.
The newly planted Blue Point Juniper hedge is doing well, but will not be providing much screening for several years.
The earliest of the daffodils and the burgundy hyacinths are at the end of their bloom cycle. Iberis sempervirens (candytuft) and Muscari (Grape Hyacinth) are opening slowly. Several sedums are emerging (the rabbits must be pleased).
Tradescantia (Spiderwort) is coming up in various spots and a few echinacea (Purple coneflower) have returned.
The first flower is open today on the White Flowering Dogwood, while ‘Flower Carpet’ Narcissus have been lovely for a week or more.
A nice surprise in the garden today.
The spring-blooming camellia ‘Coral Delight’ popped out when I was not looking. I missed checking on it yesterday and today discovered several blossoms had opened wide.
Daylilies attract the deer so I am trying to pull out many of them. I must hurry to finish the job before they grow any larger or they will be too tough to dig out. Some of the resulting space freed so far was used to transplant a few Shasta daisies.
Hellebore (Lenten Rose), which opened one month ago, continue to bloom profusely in their charming manner.
The newly planted Sweet William is doing well and the evergreen
HeucheraPenstemon is recovering from the long winter. Digitalis Purpurea ‘Alba’ or ‘Camelot White’ (Foxglove) looks promising.
The old-fashioned spirea is the star in its section of the garden, brightening up the entire space of the western border. (A pink saucer magnolia behind the spirea is a fortunate example of a borrowed view.)
Nearby the Eastern Redbud competes for attention, deservedly so.
black-eyed Susans echinacea (purple coneflower) seem pleased with their new location along the southern path. They were transplanted last year from an over-crowded spot where they did not have have enough sun.
Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian Sage) is another transplant to this section of the garden; Monarda (Bee Balm) is just starting to emerge in this and several other sections of the garden.
Phlox subulata (Creeping Phlox) has been blooming all over town but started opening only today in this garden.
Phlox divaricata (Woodland phlox) has been a favorite in this garden, but it has not bloomed well in several years.
Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern Red Columbine) is quickly unfolding in several spots around the garden.
Salvia (Meadow Sage) has started to form buds.
An iceberg rose should have been pruned earlier, but it is now getting its leaves. The deer find it delicious. There are several perky mounds of catmint. Sword-like leaves of these bearded iris seem to grow inches daily. The garden also has German, Japanese and Siberian iris and a couple of Dutch iris.
In some ways the garden appears bare but there are many other plants not even mentioned. The inventory will have to be continued later. One last thought for today though.
As I go about renovating this garden, I do recognize that improving the overall design and structure (or “bones) will make the garden more interesting year-round. I have read that just having a collection of plants does not make a garden. But at this time of year seeing my particular group of plants develop and mature provides immeasurable delight and satisfaction. It is like having old friends come to visit. And it feels like a garden.
Including plants of varying textures is a satisfying way to create garden interest and style. Looking back at my garden through the years, I find some textural combinations were planned arrangements, but happenstance is welcome in my world as well.
The fern-like leaves of tansy, narrow grass-like blades of tradescantia, unfurling softness of rose campion, and feathery wisps of artemisia provide textural contrasts to the structures of echinacea, phlox paniculata, sweet pea, and black-eyed Susan as well as to each other.
This current garden, so in need of rejuvenation, has been in place since 2001 when our house was built. As the house was being readied, in the back yard of the mere quarter-acre property, beds were laid out on three sides at the perimeters. Significant soil improvements enabled me to easily and successfully transport a great number of plants from my previous garden. Thus the new garden was quickly established, even though it was during a serious summer drought, and with few actual purchases at first. It does not look like much now, but has at times been quite colorful and interesting.
Structure will be a key focus of the garden’s redevelopment. I’ve never been pleased with the structure of this current border garden, sitting so exposed as it is in the suburban closeness of vehicles, concrete drives, and air conditioners. But the plants themselves are dear. This is my memory or heirloom garden, full of plants that brought with them the history of my original garden in rural Orange County.
Sadly few pictures exist from that original garden, none close at hand anyway; nor does the garden still exist. This fact may make it easy to idealize that space a bit now, but deservedly so. It was occasionally spectacular! It was my first experiment with a perennial garden, marked with winding, sloping paths that led to different sections of the half-acre yard. Sitting among mature pines, bordered with rocks, some spaces were getting sun for the first time in years after storms had felled numerous trees. These played host to phlox, daylilies, and irises. Still there were plenty of shady niches for woodland plants such as Jacob’s Ladder or bluebells, and the azaleas thrived and birds found homes.
A special relative from my home town, an elderly, wise and funny woman, became my gardening mentor. A visit to her house nearly always ended outside among her rambling, treasured plantings of sasanqua, rose campion, spiderwort, old-fashioned rose, spirea, pussy willow and crabapple trees; and on the trip home the car was full of cuttings she had generously shared. Another dear friend contributed plants, some of which were divisions of natives she had rescued during construction of Jordan Lake. My daughter participated as well, sketching garden plans and recording planting sequences. That first garden just coalesced into a gratifying unity of nature and dear people and there I felt a special sense of place.