Sunday, June 13, 2010

Walk about

A mid-day walk about the garden ... on Friday, June 11, about 1:30 pm ... Much too bright for photos, but there you are ...

Black gamecock iris, a Louisiana iris ... I think ... bought at a local farmer's market last year.

What iris? You've got me. It grows by the pond, and I anticipate a large clump in a few years.

Pond edge ... Lysimachia nummularia, Equisetum arvense,a baby Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis, wild impatiens) ...

Bold foliage, needed to bring definition to the haze of grasses, the matrix of grasses, shapes emerging from the background noise, order from chaos ...

Salix alba 'Britzensis' (below, not the River birch on the right above), which needs to be coppiced to get those colorful canes for late winter and spring, but I've grown so fond of the exuberant explosion of growth I delay, and delay ...

Filipendula rubra 'Venusta', which has naturalized with great vigor, Calamagrostis acutiflora 'Karl Foerster', Vernonia fasciculata (Prarie ironweed) in the background, a clump of Chelone 'Hot Lips' ...

The 'late prairie' or a simulacrum thereof, with emerging Rudbeckia maxima, Silphium perfoliatum, Silphium terebinthinaceum (Prairie dock), Physostegia 'Miss Manners', Inula racemosa, Panicum 'Dallas Blues', Panicum 'Cloud Nine', Calamagrostis a. KF, Pycnantheum muticum, and on and on ...

Foliage of Silphium terebinthinaceum ...

Eryngium yuccafolium (Rattlesnake master), soon to be underplanted with Sesleria autumnalis and Bergenia 'Bressingham Ruby'--will that work? If not, I'll replace the bergenia.

An evolving 'meadow' area ...

Looking back toward the house (yes, it's there).

Inula racemosa, which is seeding around, just as I want, next to Miscanthus 'Silberfeder.'

Bracken and the bank of M. 'Silberfeder'. I know bracken is supposed to be a bad invasive, but this colony has stayed in place for five years. It does grow into the path, but that's easily pulled out. The fall color is miraculous.

As the garden reaches a new stage of maturity, with small trees and shrubs now taking a more prominent place, and as I incorporate more shaded forest edge into the garden, it's developing a more complex character, and becoming a place to find a variety of different environments, with different emotional landscapes. Here, as we near the darker west side of the garden, trees cast heavy shadow at mid-day, lighting the foreground planting of Miscanthus s. 'Silberfeder', Petasites 'x Dutch', Pycnantheum muticum, and Lysimachia ciliata 'Firecracker' like a beacon.

The massed foliage shapes and textures are what make this planting. Later in the season, the Pycnantheum turns gray and white, creating an even more dramatic contrast of color.

The space below is where I intend to put a new raised stone planting area, a long and curvy one, to continue the line of the pond and existing raised stone planter nearer the house. In winter, this will appear as a broken diagonal snaking across the garden plain, almost a geologic feature. I've cleared the area of most large plants in anticipation of construction later in the summer.

Entering the woodland edge on the west side of the garden, one feels a cool respite from the sun drenched open garden.

Looking back across to the far side where the circle of red walnut logs signals its message - a metaphor of the life of the aboriginal people who once lived and hunted these hills. Next year I want to add Miscanthus giganteus behind to create a wall of complementary green and to screen the deer fencing (practical matters never go away).

A screen of Filipendula, approaching bloom...

And Silphium laciniatum (Compass plant), Silphium perfoliatum, Rudbeckia maxima, Vernonia ...

Ligularia japonica growing up through the gravel of the path, an exotic for sure, but appropriate to its place ...

Looking into the woodland garden (in progress) at the side of the house ...

And back toward the Ligularia japonica ...

Now looking across the width of the garden toward the tall cedars, and the circle of red logs ...


  1. Thanks so much for the lush, wordless tour, James. It's interesting how easy it is to hear the rustling hush of the grasses...and the gravel crunch, the buzzing, clicking of the insect's all so clear. And so calming. Thank you, thank you. I'm going to have a fine time revisiting these in the next while, enlarging the images and scanning the tight matrix, trying to identify the plants. Such fun. It seems to me that there's more of that mid-level grass happening this year. Am I wrong? Is it a fescue? I can't quite tell...

  2. Nothing a Farmall Cub pulling a Bush Hog couldn't fix up in a jiffy. With some artificial greens and some 2x4s from those trees, you could have a nice miniature golf course up and making money by September. Got to remember, we ain't gettin' any younger, old friend!

  3. Oh, and don't forget the windmill.

  4. Thank you for the walk around your plot. I feel very refreshed especially as I am sitting in my dull office on an overcast day here in the middle of the UK

  5. How green and lush and lovely your spring re-birth is! I especially like the deep purple iris. It's autumn here of course James, and I've just downloaded the first photos at St Andrew's Bower. Cheers to you, Faisal.

  6. Well, I'm jealous as always. 'Queen of the Prairie' does spread quickly, doesn't it? Surprised at how we seem to be right on time together in growth, judging from the above and your rudbeckia maxima.

  7. Peter,
    If you look too closely, I may need to put up higher resolution photos. I don't know what the mid-level grass is. It came with the place. It does appear it may be one of the taller fescues. If there appears to be more than last year, I think that may be a result of our just-wet-enough-and-warm-enough spring. Interesting to me to note that your Deschampsias are already in bloom (I know this via your email; not this comment). Mine are not, and you must be several hundred miles to my north. Strange...

  8. Allen,
    Your plans for my garden are intriguing, but we have a miniature golf course near here. However, I'd really like a bush hog. Can you help me out?

  9. patientgardener,
    I too spend the day in a dull office on an overcast day. One bright spot was the Union Square Green Market. I went out mid-day and bought fresh, local strawberries, sugar snap peas, garlic tops, purslane, tomatoes, and cucumber. All local, although the tomatoes were grown under glass.

  10. Faisal,
    Good to hear from you. I await more posts on St. Andrews Bower.

  11. Benjamin,
    It is strange that with such tremendously different climates and locations, our plants should be in sync. Maybe it's a prairie thing.

  12. James,
    Your path has turned out beautifully. The progression of photographs makes me feel as if I am taking a walk along that path. Wonderful plant combinations too.

  13. I was also meaning to ask you about your gravel paths. Obviously / unfortunately, paths in a garden are necessary (is there an alternative to paths?). Why gravel? Is it the visual aesthetic, the sound of it beneath your feet? Does it keep down weeds well? Do you have to sculpt it every year or re-grade it? I ask because someday I will have a larger garden, much like yours, I hope.

  14. Michael,
    Thank you for walking the path.

  15. Benjamin,
    I've always liked the look and especially the sound of a gravel path. In my case, it serves a very practical purpose. My soil is wet, very wet, and some kind of walking surface is absolutely necessary. A stone path might be nice, but the cost would be astronomical, and I think it would look too formal for my wildness. Gravel serves the purpose well, and it keeps your feet several inches above the wet, even in a heavy rain. I had used wood chips, but they washed away easily in heavy rain. Because I have plenty of native stone in the stone rows lining the property, I've also edged the paths with small stones (say 4 to 8 inches). This keeps the gravel in place, and eliminates the need to rake or re-grade it. I should add that I used a largish stone (about 4 to 6 inches deep) as the base, then covered it with 3 or 4 inches of pea gravel, so the mass of the stone also helps keep it stable. It will be important to rake away any organic debris and leaves that might disintegrate and form a soil layer at the bottom, providing a perfect place for seed germination. I find gravel actually enhances germination. I also laid the stone on industrial strength weed barrier that's supposed to last decades. We'll see whether it does.

  16. Your garden is looking so lush and full. I hope this current east coast pattern keeps giving us plenty of rain, punctuated with bright skies even if they create poor photography days. Looks like we will be heading near you in early August to spend time with my brother. Any gardens I shouldn't miss? We have been to Longwood and Chanticleer.

  17. Tranquility.

    Knowing you appreciate Dan Pearson as a gardener, I wonder if you get to read his column in The Guardian. Chances are you probably do, if not, go here

  18. Absolutely beautiful!
    Not a very selective word, but a very genuine reaction. Lots of things that I love about the way that you garden. One of the key things I am obsessed about at the moment is light and shade and seeing lit against unlit. Of course with your clearing and your forest around you can do that by the shed load!

  19. Les,
    Definitely go to Paxon Hill Farm nursery just north of New Hope. You can find directions on the web. Lynn, who runs the nursery lives in Kintnersville. Bruce's garden there is really spectacular, and you'll see beautiful peacocks (some white) strolling around. I'd love for you to stop by here too, if you are so moved. I just can't figure out how to get you my address or email without publishing it to the world. (I'm the only Golden on Federal Twist Road, a few miles north of Lambertville and New Hope, on the New Jersey side.) Chanticleer is certainly worth another visit; I was there just last weekend, and it's looking great. Do you know of Bartram's Garden in Philly? The original home and garden of John Bartram? Fascinating place, and certainly one of the most historic garden-related places in the US.

  20. Rob,
    Tranquility--and I find a restorative, especially after a week of work in NYC. Yes, I follow Dan in the Guardian. But I appreciate your thoughtfully sending me the link. I have friends who rented a house for a week in the Dordogne recently. I'll be seeing them for dinner soon, and can't wait to hear about it.

  21. Robert,
    Thank you. I didn't really emphasize it in the post, but it is exactly the lit and unlit, the bright against the dark that I find growing in importance in the garden. I'm extending the gardened area edges, and making access to those woodland edge areas easier, so the transitions from bright to dark, light to shadow, are becoming more a part of the experience in the garden. You can "participate" in them rather than just observe them.

  22. Such a serene, wonderful garden you have, James. It is very inspiring, good for all senses; thank you for the virtual tour, again...

  23. Intercontinental Gardener,
    It's interesting to hear words like "tranquility" and "serene" from others. I become so involved in the struggle with the garden, the interventions, that I infrequently experience such feelings. This is especially so because I'm at the garden only on weekends, which means I always have a long list of things to be done to direct nature into the course that I want it to follow. Thanks for reminding me to stop and smell the roses.

  24. Thanks for the suggestions. As we get closer to the dates, I am sure plans will firm up. I will have to ask my brother about the garden in Kintnersville, they are likely neighbors.

  25. James,
    Thank you for the photos. The bits of order in the chaos, the grasses with contrasting foliage...the light and shade, velvety iris and succulent waterlily. You have a way of making the wordless, formless magic of greenery and garden atmosphere, the spirit of the day and of the place, come to life. As an artist and sometime gardener, this is a gift I appreciate.

  26. Tanja,
    Thank you for your complimentary words. We see with the same eye.

  27. Les,

    The garden at Paxon Hill is just north of New Hope. It is not in Kintnersville.



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