Sunday, July 03, 2011

Garden Diary: still green, but not all green

The June hiatus has passed and the wild daylilies (Hemerocallis fulva), which I love even though many despise them, Queen of the Prairie (Filipendula rubra 'Venusta'), Rudbeckia maxima, and Ligularia japonica are bringing a little color into the green, green garden. If you garden in heavy clay, even very wet clay, most of these plants will probably do well for you, but some are quite large! This will be a clockwise walk around the main path.

The broad view across ...

Petasites hybrid with Carex muskingumensis (Palm sedge) in foreground (note Petasites is a highly invasive plant; don't use it unless you know you can keep it under control) ...

... and Darmara peltata (Coltsfoot)--very different leaf shape and surface reflectivity--with the Carex muskingumensis ...

... looking across from an area of Filipendula ulmaria, irises, Silphium perfoliatum (Cup plant), Panicum virgatum 'Heavy Metal' ...

...Filipendula rubra 'Venusta' just starting into bloom, Salix alba 'Britzensis', Thuja 'Emrald Green', Pycnanthemum muticum (Mountain Mint), which will take on a silver bloom in two or three weeks ...

... a big Ligularia japonica at the start of the path, looking toward the house ...

... turning toward the woodland garden; shafts of light from the setting sun ...

... Miscanthus giganteus on left, Lysimachia ciliata 'Firecracker', below, Iris pseudacorus (for a little spring color), Rudbeckia maxima, scattered Filipendula, and in mid-distance, a large Silphium perfoliatum. Last year this was a single stalk. All of these Silphium love the heavy clay. They grew from randomly broadcast seed, and continue to seed around rather prolifically.

The box and Bergenia planting. The dark green of the box has become an important color contrast in the garden and a constant reminder of how many colors green can be.

...  Marc Rosenquist's sculpture peeking out from behind Filipendula, Rudbeckia maxima, and Calamagrostis acutiflora 'Karl Foerester' (Feather reed grass) ...

... I'm looking back, turning a 360 degree circle ...

... the "dry" end of the garden (planted over the waste water leaching field, so drainage is good here). More Rudbeckia maxima with Silphium terebinthinaceum (Prairie dock), Pycnantheum muticum, Physostegia virginica, Panicum 'Shenandoah'  ...

... looking back again, across the garden ...

Budding Silphium terebinthinaceum ...

... and Eryngium yuccafolium ...

... the large mass of Miscanthus 'Silberfeder' at the back of the garden ...

... and the new sitting area next to it, in the middle of the garden ...

... self-seeded Inula racemosa 'Sonnenspeer' has popped up in the planting of Pycnanthemum muticum ...

... and a final few shots walking across the narrow waist of the garden ...


  1. James,
    Your garden makes green look great! The view from the garden to house is especially inviting.

  2. So much of what you've done here is immensely satisfying James: the boxwood, bergenia and stone; the rigidity of the Wavehill chair against the Miscanthus; those Inula and Rudbeckia maxima as ! amongst the shaggy plants; the lightness of the tree trunks at the forest's edge mirrored in the stone paths and sections of low stone walling; the rich dark green of the cedars.

    And the daringness with which you have planted certain invasives: the 'Firecracker' lysimachia, for example, and the Petasites.
    I also love the way your low-slung home sits in all that growth. Beautiful.

    Thanks for the walk (from someone with a postage stamp property and yet also has an expansive country garden vicariously through yours).


  3. Michael,
    Thanks for calling attention to the view of the house. I've tried to plant around the house too, so that those plantings help obscure the view of the house, make it seem more a part of the landscape, and give it a little sense of mystery (like a flying saucer or some strange creature that's landed in the woods).

  4. Ailsa,
    I appreciate your pointing out what you like. That's helpful. As to the invasive plants, I have to give credit to my difficult soil, which helps keep them under control. I'd also welcome hearing what you don't like.

  5. I love the fountain like form of Miscanthus. They make a wonderful shape and then all those inflorescences to come.

    I bet your gigantea get enormous, just loving that wet clay.

    I've this year, planted m. sinensis 'malepartus'. I have a two year old m. sinensis 'Juli' which is looking good and coping with the free draining, dry spot that it's in. I only really discovered panicum last year. I've got a number of panicum 'squaw' which are doing well. I love their form as well, one of the nicest grasses.

    Your garden looks green and beautiful. I like the shot of the view back to the house with all the miscanthus. Bet there's a wonderful feeling of movement when they do their thing in the Autumn.

  6. I obviously love the form of Miscanthus too. I'd like to try Madepartus, but no nurseries around here offer it. I've not even heard of Juli. Have to look that one up. I have a lot of Panicum 'Shenandoah', which I grow more fond of as the years go by. It has beautiful fall color, and I think looks much like Squaw, which I haven't seen. I think you have an entirely different set of cultivars available in Europe. Nurseries here offer a very limited range of plants, so it pays to make regular trips to catch the prizes as they come in. Best time in the garden is fall on a cool, breezy day with the miscanthus spangles tossing in the wind.

  7. James,
    I had to think long and hard about what I don't like and it's not so much that as what I think might be missing.
    1. More evergreens, especially the sculptural ones like the pines (i.e. Bristlecone, White, Scots).
    2. A berm; this would allow more surprise and perhaps even a spot to put those evergreens that might need more well-drained soil rather than soggy clay.
    3. A pond.
    What do you think?

  8. I am always fascinated by how your sea of perennials is at any time of the year. Even the dead of winter when it becomes a space with trees around which is as important. What I don't ever quite buy are the conifers in the little row. But there.....sometimes you need a negative to show off all the positives. Perhaps that was your point!

  9. (the pond is there)

    Since you play with greens and textures, these pictures would be interesting in black and white. The one of the dry end looking back at the house? In black and white it would be all about the way the light falls.

  10. Ailsa,

    I have to interpret what you say because I'm not sure of you meaning, particularly in regard to evergreens. (1) More evergreens - You may mean small ornamental evergreens since there isn't room for large ones. There are huge White pines just outside the border of the garden (a cause of much of the afternoon shade). More evergreens mean I can't easily burn in spring, which greatly complicates garden management. I'm also not sure I'd want more. I like the garden when it's almost totally bare (right now I'm looking forward to it!). But I'd like to hear more about your idea. (2) Berm - this is what leads me to think you are talking about miniature evergreens. I definitely like the idea of building a berm, but getting enough soil into place, with the difficult access, would cost many thousands of dollars. I'm not at all sure it's worth the investment to me, especially considering my attempts to become a retired person. Peter Holt once suggested a linear berm with Japanese maples. That's an idea I like very much, but again cost is a limiting factor. (3) Pond - there is a pond, but your point is well taken. The pond is not large enough to see at this time of year when it becomes totally hidden by profuse growth around it. I'd love to have a larger pond, but there isn't really room unless I enlarge the garden, which means cutting down more trees and spending more $$$.

    So I've asked you for suggestions and said no to them all. But I do appreciate your suggestions because it helps me clarify with I can do, what I want to do, what I'm willing to do. How unfortunate it is that gardens can cost fortunes to make. The cost of gardening is a subject that seems to be almost taboo. No one seems willing to discuss it, except in the most abstract of ways. When I look at the gardens on the Garden Conservancy open day tours, I'm always troubled by the amount of wealth required to make some of them. Even my so-called "low maintenance" garden takes a lot of work, and the cost of help to do basic maintenance (weeding, cutting some grassy areas, planting) is a financial burden I don't think I can maintain forever. So my garden must change, though I'm not yet sure in what way. Perhaps less intensive maintenance and more selective editing, more, how did Henk Gerritsen put it? "Weeding like a cow," I think.

  11. Robert,
    I originally put in the Thujas as a back drop to better show off the colors of the Salix "britzensis" in front of them in winter. At the time there were only two Salix. I have a whole line of them coming along now. But after I added the evergreens, I became very fond of them. Apart from the line of green in the winter, they appeal to me in a painterly way. Sort of like a straight gash of dark green on the garden canvas, with the sea of perennials spiraling and ricocheting off that "hard" surface or, to use a musical metaphor, the evergree line is like a base tone, a creating "OM," with the perennial overtones (woodwinds, brasses, flutes) twittering away above it all. You may well say this is a garden, not a painting or a piece of music, and stick to your guns. You've mentioned this before, so I understand it's an objection that doesn't easily go away, and I'll be giving it a lot of thought.

  12. Diana, interesting idea. I'll give it a try and see what I get.

  13. I too have thought the line of conifers to be at odds...........................?

  14. Okay. That's two NO votes. Any more???

  15. i like very much you garden,and enjoy to see the évolution from hear to hear.

  16. The garden is looking great...that Ligularia is stunning...what great foliage. Love the Venusta...such beautify, frothy blooms...and the Rattlesnake Master...totally a fave.

  17. Henk Gerritsen put it? "Weeding like a cow," Mmmm me thinks this person does not know the damage cattle can make in a garden.
    (second attempt at writing this comment)
    'Invasives' have been mentioned i see..Mmmm i am all for them but with care of invasive plant is only so if it has no greater put it this way...a thug unchallenged is a thug..challenged it will often become a puppy..Nature/naturalistic etc etc knows many 'thugs' but also knows the fine art of containment.............I could not live without the so called invasive s.
    EVERGREENS in your garden would in your garden look too much like silly blobs in the off seasons..I think the over riding charm of your plantings is the flowing 'emergentness' of the whole..Mmmmm damn words.

  18. Kata, Denise and Brigitte, thank you for visiting and taking the time to comment.

  19. I have invasives (well, Petasites spreading by underground runners) at war with other highly competitive plants (Joe Pye Weed, for example). Plant warfare in the garden. They're isolated so controllable if the wrong side wins. I like "flowing emergentness."

  20. "flowing emergentness." Cripes is sort of sounds rather West Coast!

  21. It could be said that the greatest 'invasive' is the gardeners hand....

  22. I will cast a second vote on the suburban conifers.............

  23. "The greatest invasive is the gardener's hand." That has an authoritative ring. You should write a book.

  24. Is that second vote for or against? I think I know the answer.

  25. Scott, I want to add more of the Ligularia next year (sort of massed). And Hemerocallis fulva, that "alien" plant the native plant enthusiasts so despise (even if it's found a home here for over three centuries).

  26. Golden old have the flipside of our growing conditions in regards herbaceous/evergreen. The vast majority of the stuff you use are gone in winter and I the opposite. The strength of my garden is the use of evergreen and i use the n/e (none evergreen) sparingly as i do not want great gashes and gaps through the rest of the year. ..Your challenge is to balance your use of e/g (evergreens)..I think unless to install lots of e/g and creatively you will end up with a messy affair..same with my equation. Make sense?
    As for a book..I am in talks with a Portuguese/Canadian writer/editor/publisher for just that..I feel i have written my book in my images and thrown most of the words to the wind via visitor conversations and emails etc..I want to collaborate with someone who can coax the stuff out of me will involve getting sponsorship from airline to get him across for a week using wigandia stuff as the carrot..I have featured in a Korean air inflight magazine and this i am told is a doable excercise! i will hold my champagne until the contracts are signed though..we are looking at publishing in China/North America.

  27. I'm not sure what I like better, stopping to examine each of the great plants or to move through the space with your photos to enjoy all the shifting vistas and combinations. It's a thrilling collection of greens. Beautifully done!

  28. It's a stunning garden. Your garden has many of my favorites. The 'evergreen' reaction is interesting to me. I get the same reaction to many of my gardens. I'm so in love with herbaceous plants that I tend to underuse evergreens. But most American gardens overuse evergreens. I know there's a happy balance in there somewhere. That is, of course, as long as the garden is at least 2/3 herbaceous!!!

  29. WM, you seem to be saying that if I use evergreens I should use a lot of them, which I really don't want to do. Most of my garden will always be herbaceous. The ones I do have, mainly that line along the path, is almost totally invisible from most perspectives at this time of year. They're present only in winter and spring, really. I'm not sure my photos communicate that effectively. Maybe I'll have to do a separate post just on this subject to get clearer responses from others. I hope your book project works out.

  30. James, thanks for your words. I know it's vastly different from your So. Cal. garden. I've been more intrigued by your climate the more I read about it, but I have to learn to just appreciate it from a distance.

  31. Thomas, thank you. It's interesting that the "'evergreen' reaction" as you refer to it comes from garden makers in Australia and Great Britian. I don't know whether that has any bearing on the issue; I just note it. I'd certainly say, the vast majority of my garden is made up of herbaceous perennials. The woody stuff (I do have some; after all my garden IS in the middle of the woods) is probably much less than 5% by numbers of plants, and evergreens, maybe 1%. Practically speaking, to keep garden management as simple as possible (so I can cut without too much worry about whacking woodies and so I can burn annually with impunity), I severely limit their placement and use them in isolated groups. The evergreens I chose to use are the much overused Arborvitae, simply because they grow well in my wet conditions. But I find that if they are used judiciously and carefully, they can be quite beautiful (and they are native; there are magnificent ancient specimens on Mount Desert Island in Maine). Americans do overuse evergreens in an unthinking way and in the process have made this one a trite, easily dismissed plant. I think if it's used in appropriate conditions, it's natural aesthetic qualities can be redeemed. But it takes a willingness to see it with new eyes. I'm not sure where one finds the happy balance, but I certainly agree the garden (in these climes) needs to be at least 2/3 herbaceous, if not more.



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