Tag Archives: spirea

In A Vase On Monday – Variations

In A Vase On Monday – Variations

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Each Monday Cathy at Rambling In The Garden invites us to share an arrangement using materials collected from our gardens.

Spiraea branches caught my attention last week and I decided to play with them again.

Spiraea prunifolia (bridal wreath spiraea)

From the window overlooking the garden the aging leaves look deep orange, up close they range from golden to rust. For some reason the sections I cut are more uniform in color.

Spiraea prunifolia (bridal wreath spiraea)

This variation of today’s design is closest to my original concept of featuring a nearly bare branch to explore rhythm and curves.

In A Vase On Monday – Variations

It seemed to need more. In adding Wintergreen boxwood I fumbled the lichen-covered branch and never got it back into good position. Securing the materials in place would have saved extra work, but I opted to keep moving, taking the opportunity to experiment. In the end today’s designs are about process more than result.

In A Vase On Monday – Variations

I do like this orange and purple pairing, marigold and lavender.

In A Vase On Monday – Variations

In A Vase On Monday – Variations

The fragrance of lavender adds another layer to the pleasure of creating with flowers.

In A Vase On Monday – Variations

The lichen branch here is moved toward toward the back of the dish where it no longer works to counterbalance the rightmost stem of spirea. I decided that piece of spirea could be removed altogether.

In A Vase On Monday – Variations

Also here an echinacea seedhead moved from front and center to the tip of the lichen branch. Offering interesting texture and color close-up, it did not have much impact to the overall design.

Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)

The lichen branch had lost its purpose and effectiveness, so I removed it and the other lichen bits entirely.

In the next iteration a still green cutting of Clematis ‘Jackmanii’ sweeps out gracefully in this version. The originally favored bare branch of spiraea has been removed, simplifying the line. The spare quality here interests me and this is the stage I kept to display in the foyer.

In A Vase On Monday – Variations

Originally I had planned to use a small companion arrangement, formed simply from a young Husker Red penstemon tucked into a small black holder. It did not add much until I came back to the mostly bare branch of spiraea.  Adding the tall stem changed the dynamics and energy once again.

In A Vase On Monday – Variations

By moving the point of view slightly the composition shifts significantly.

In A Vase On Monday – Variations

Ultimately I returned to a simplified version, replacing the quilted runner underneath with a white linen towel.

In A Vase On Monday – Variations

Clematis ‘Jackmanii’

Clematis ‘Jackmanii’



Buxus microphylla var koreana ‘Wintergreen’ (Wintergreen boxwood)
Clematis ‘Jackmanii’
Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower), Seedhead
Lichen covered branch
Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue)
Spiraea prunifolia (bridal wreath spiraea)

Container and Mechanics
Small black plastic Solo bowl – vase insert
3-inch florist’s frog (floral pin holder)
2-inch round holder with integrated florist’s frog
Black, green stones
Black glazed square
Quilted runner (made by my sister)

Spiraea prunifolia (bridal wreath spiraea)

Thanks to Cathy at Rambling In The Garden for hosting and encouraging us to express our flower arranging passion. Visit her to discover what she and others found this week in their gardens to place In A Vase On Monday.

Garden Sightings

The garden was a captivating place today. Some sights were seasonal, such as that of a bright red Camellia sasanqua ‘Yuletide’ and a golden Jackmanii clematis seedhead.

Camellia sasanqua 'Yuletide'

Jackmanii clematis

Seeing the Iberis Sempervirens blooming in the meditation circle at this time of year is unusual.

Iberis Sempervirens (Candytuft)

Iberis Sempervirens (Candytuft)

Spiraea in this garden often sends out an early blossom or two, but this year the timing is early by many weeks.



This Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower) is not as showy as in summer but it has bloomed long past its expected timeframe.

Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)

The next few days will offer a less hospitable environment for some of these unseasonable bloomers, as a cold front pushes through the area bringing freezing temperatures.


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.


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.

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.

Opportunity Knocks

Preparing the soil for the Meditation Circle

Preparation of the ground for the meditation circle took a new turn yesterday when an opportunity arose to have the grass and soil rototilled. The work is scheduled for Monday to finish the job started several weeks ago.

Hand-digging the bed has been a challenge, manageable for a while and the work has proven to be oddly satisfying. Time to move on though.

Getting past the step of removing the grass and smoothing the soil will allow time to concentrate on laying the stepping stones along the path to form the labyrinth and installing some plants along the walls.

Garden View

Around the garden the lush, emerald lawn looks vigorous and healthy, spurred on by the recent, heavy rains. As the grass is never watered except by nature, once summer arrives it surely will struggle and turn brown against the hot, humid days.

The spirea continues to be an important highlight during early spring. The daffodils are mostly out-of-bloom now and the focus shift to the iris as they push taller and taller.

Baptisia 'Purple Smoke'

Today the Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’ is finally poking out from underneath the mulch. This plant was purchased in 2009 at Niche Gardens which, along with the N.C. Botanical Gardens, introduced the cultivar in 1996.


Stachys byzantina (Lamb's Ears)

Lamb’s ears have cropped up all over the garden.

Progress On The Meditation Garden Circle

Amazing progress. Rains were expected starting with occasional showers this morning, but they never arrived. We need the rain desperately, but its delay gave me time to complete the excavation stage of the meditation circle in the garden. For the most part I stopped counting the hours spent on the job this week, but I clocked 5 hours today. Now after four days, the digging is done.

The grass has been turned over within the entire area of the garden circle. Left behind are clumps that must now be chopped up and smoothed, but the work seems manageable now.

Meanwhile the garden is changing daily and chores are accumulating.  Some plants need to be divided and those daylilies the deer love so much are growing taller and getting tougher, stronger roots with each hour that passes.  As much as I enjoy them, they must go.

The Eastern Red Columbine has a delicate pale green leaf, but the flower itself was today’s attraction as a bit of red is beginning to be revealed.

Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern Red Columbine)

The spirea continues to be beautiful and full.


The flowering dogwood is going to make a fine display this year.

Flowering Dogwood

Meditation Garden Taking Shape

This early morning bird’s-eye view shows the placement of the meditation circle within the overall garden.  I love that the circle seems like a peace symbol.

Digging out grass to form the meditation labyrinth has become a meditation in itself.

Having underestimated the task of cutting up and turning over the existing sod I have spent seven or eight hours outlining the circle with a spade, then moving around the circle’s interior.  The back right-hand section has been cut into strips and just need to be flipped over, but many more hours are needed to complete the labyrinth.

The weather yesterday, when the bulk of this digging was accomplished, was close to perfect for the task at hand.  A few clouds moved in and out, the sun warmed the air but was not intense. Low humidity made the day very pleasant.

As I worked, a few distractions, voices, lawn mowers and such, drifted into my consciousness then out again as a satisfying rhythm emerged.  The repetition of the work provided a meditative manta. Lift the shovel. Force it straight down. Rock it back and forth. Lift up the sod. Lift the shovel…

The meditation garden is taking shape in form and purpose.

End-of-Winter Beginning-of-Spring Inventory

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.

Coral Delight Camellia

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

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.

Small pink yarrow, tansy, lamb’s ears and rose campion (shown here), all rather aggressive growers, are coming back strong.

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.


Just one week ago the Jackmanii clematis had new leaves, but was still largely brown. Today it is lush with green.


Several 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.

Russian Sage and Bee Balm

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.

Creeping Phlox

Phlox divaricata (Woodland phlox) has been a favorite in this garden, but it has not bloomed well in several years.

Woodland phlox

Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern Red Columbine) is quickly unfolding in several spots around the garden.

Eastern red columbine

Salvia (Meadow Sage) has started to form buds.

Meadow Sage

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.

Catmint, Iceberg Rose and 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.

Spirea Inspires

In two more days it will become official, but why wait? When the spirea blossoms fill the western border Spring has made its way to the garden.

Anticipating this day back in January, I had guessed the spirea blooms would open up two weeks ago.

An impetus for renovating the garden is reinvigorating the outdoor space so there are interesting views year-round.

This morning the garden looks tidy with fresh mulch and newly mown lawn, but seeing vast expanses of bare mulch is not part of the plan. Later in the spring as the perennials begin to fill out this will be less of an issue. Ideally though the plantings and not the mulch should dominate and guide the eye, even in late winter and early spring.

A trip to my favorite garden center yesterday was fun.  Picked up a small container of  emerald blue phlox (phlox subulata). Also found a Sweet William (dianthus barbatus), a nostalgic, old-fashioned plant which I meant to plant as seeds last fall.

Today will be sunny and 80 degrees.

Spiraea Buds

Spiraea Buds 1-27-2011

Spiraea Buds 1-27-2011

As January nears its end, the spiraea buds tease and promise.

Based on its blooming history, this shrub, also known as bridal wreath, may start opening in another four weeks. It has been a much colder winter though overall, so one can’t be too anxious.

Family: Rosaceae
Subfamily: Spiraeoideae
Genus: Spiraea


Spiraea 1-6-2011

An unidentified egg case, observed dangling from a spiraea branch several weeks ago, is no longer around.

This spiraea was a gift from an elderly relative many years ago for my previous garden. It was one of many transplants from that garden that has found a new home here, bringing memories of people and place.

Remembering Gardens and Gardeners

Garden View January 2011

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.

Garden View April, 2006

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.