This garden is slow to take shape. I have to compare photos from 2006 and 2007 to realize the progress. The first photo from late June last year shows a rather desolate area, with the spot where I burned debris from tree felling clearly visible at back.
This year, with a deer fence up, another year's growth, and another long season of planting, the picture is dramatically different.
Closer views show the plant matrix clearly emerging and, for the first time, giving a substantial show of texture and color. (Click on the photo above to see the detail.) The Joe Pye Weed, Rudbeckia maxima, water irises, and Lysimachia ciliata 'Firecracker' have come through two seasons with great tenacity in this difficult environment...
while the monardas (Blaustrumpf and Jacob Cline) and Liatris pycnostachya are new and only next spring will tell how they survive or thrive.
Think of the garden as the bottom of a bowl, with surrounding dark forest - a darkness that seems to "swallow" color. Brightness is needed to stand out against the dark trees, and the monarda do that well, especially the red Jacob Cline.
Even better for contrast against the dark are Rudbeckia maxima, with bright yellow blossoms on 6-foot stalks. And their large glaucous blue leaves are a plus. I added 14 more this fall. If the Silphium terebinthinaceum, planted as plugs 18 months ago, flower next year, they should add to the mid-summer brightness.
The lysimachia 'Firecracker' thrives, and I believe can outcompete the most aggressive weeds (not the rushes!) so I plan to add a substantial new planting next spring.
Here it contrasts with rudbeckia stems in the foreground and various panicums further back. All of this in heavy clay, wet for 10 months out of the year.