Saturday, December 06, 2008

Garden Diary: Reminders for Spring

Days shorten and nights get colder. By late winter, I'll be in a fever ordering new plants, or at least regretting what I can't afford, and those practical changes I see so clearly now will fade into the background. So ... start a to do list for next spring:

1. Move the big miscanthus away from the garden path. It flops too much in the fall. A great touseled look, but it blocks the path. Replace with something more vertical: panicum, calamagrostis, a shrub?

2. Move several big Aster tartaricus 'Jin Dai' from the front garden to the back, along the transverse path to join the ones already there. They will create a corridor of late fall color against the browns and russets of the grasses. They don't get enough sun in the front to bloom.

3. Pull out the so-called Miscanthus 'Gracillimus' from the front garden. I bought these cheap at a big box store and they are impostors - at least they don't behave like the other Gracillimus I have. They're seeding themselves everywhere. Destroy all seedlings. Fortunately they're easy to recognize.

4. Remove the Miscanthus 'Gracillimus' and 'Yaku Jima' that are blocking the front entry walk and replace them with either a smaller miscanthus (Adagio?) or vertical grasses.

5. Add small bunches of low grasses (Deschampsia cepitosa, Sesleria autumnalis, carex?) and big leaved perennials (bergenia, ligularia?) along the new stone wall. For early color, perhaps some bulbs that can take the wet conditions? These will look good from the house, and interrupt the bare linearity of the wall.

New stone wall

6. Move the Carex grayi from north side to the woodland garden on the west. Replace with pennisetum variety.

7. Finish this list before spring.


  1. This is another great post, James! Thanks again for what you're doing here. I appreciate that you keep the lovely, high-minded speculation grounded with such honest, focused descriptions of the process.

    Can I ask a huge, selfish favour? I realize that this might be a bit of a cliche in the garden blog world but I'd love to see a pictorial overview of this past season in Federal Twist...



  2. Peter,

    That's a good idea - a look back to see what's changed in one year. I forget I've been at this only four years. Such a short while back to the ragged cedar woods that occupied this evolving garden space.

  3. You have a good friend in this mysterious Peter: he gives you nice ideas for a new post.
    Pity he doesn't blog himself. Maybe you could encourage him?

  4. Ha Ha Ho Ho!

    Thanks for thinking of me, even-more-suspiciously-mysterious'Anonymous'. I'm still largely undecided about this blogging business, to be perfectly honest. But casual advantage I will take...with thanks.

  5. I have just one, lone Deschampsia cepitosa, but I think more might be in order. But the rabbit got to it before it became interesting this year. I love your wall! Heck, I love your property / garden, but you already know this. Trade you?

  6. James - thanks for popping by my Garden Wise Guy blog and for the kind comments. You've got quite the writer's touch yourself. I like your to-do list and envy all the great grasses you grow. I'm voting for the Seslaria autumnalis.

    I'll add you to my blog roll once I come up for air this week. I have a few writing deadlines and two client designs on the board.

    Enjoy the onset of winter.

  7. Peter,
    Mysterious though you are, my site meter tells me you apparently line in Nova Scotia. I had a delightful visit there several years ago and hope to return some day.

    Thanks for the suggestion, but Peter has spoken for himself.

  8. Benjamin,
    Most of my Deschampsia came from seed. It's not very distinguished. I did order some plants of a particular cultivar, the name of which escapes me at the moment, from Bluestem Nursery, a nursery in British Columbia I highly recommend. I'm afraid you might not be happy with a trade. My conditions are very limiting here. I can consider only plants that survive winter drowning. Some of my favorites from my previous garden (e.g., Persicaria polymorpha) won't grow here at all.

  9. Billy (Garden Wise Guy),
    I live in Brooklyn during the week (a transplant from Mississippi) where I've been for over 35 years. But I garden in western NJ, near the Delaware. So we share something Brooklynish (I'm not sure what) culturally. I have to say, reading about the plants you work with is like reading about plants from Mars. What a difference 3000 miles and a desert make.

  10. James, Anonymous:

    I'm not sure where I'm getting this reputation for being so mysterious. I don't blog therefore I'm mysterious...That makes sense I suppose.

    Have you tried looking me up on facebook? I guess you would need a last name for that. Right, right.

    Thanks again, James. And, yes, Nova Scotia can be startlingly beautiful sometimes.

    Continued Best,

    Peter Holt

  11. Great list for the spring - I often wonder around the garden with notebook for reminders such as these. Unfortunately then I leave it somewhere, it turns to mush, and I forget what I wanted to do.

  12. Karen,
    By posting my list here, I know I can't misplace it. It helps to put it in the "public realm." That gives me perspective as I think about the changes over winter.

  13. Yikes what a great wall..I am a sucker for stone... Best Billy



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