Color for the neighbors

It’s a small slice of suburbia in which I live.  There’s nothing I consider a city nearby, yet faced by the acres of surrounding forest I guess we do huddle a bit on the outskirts of a sorta urban area in a sorta subdivision…. but even with the lack of a hustle bustle and heavy traffic, I do like to have a little shelter from the street and a little color for the neighbors.  Not exactly ‘curb appeal’, a term which makes me cringe when applied to any property not listed for sale, but it’s definitely colorful and whether the neighbors like it or not (they never really say, although I’m sure they talk) it does liven the block up for the half dozen neighbors and dog walkers which actually come by this way.

rudbeckia and butterfly bush buddleia

Butterfly bush (buddleia ‘Royal Red’ and ‘Pink Delight’) are now joining the black eyed Susans which have taken over the border.  The bearded iris which dominated in June are all nearly overgrown by this time of year!

Usually this border holds a lot more late summer and autumn color.  Annuals such as zinnias castor beans, and tender perennials such as cannas and dahlias, pick up at the end of the year just as the summer perennials are beginning to look a little tired. It’s a different story this year though, as things got away from the gardener and the rudbeckias took over.

august flower border

There’s nothing subtle about golden rudbeckias, but they do match the brightness of the sun.  At this point of the year I don’t even mind the formerly ‘too bright’ orange and pink sunpatients my daughter planted along the front.

And again I won’t complain.  I love the color, it looks great from the front porch, and I’ll deal with the ‘going to seed’ phase when its time comes.  Right now I’m just amazed we’ve had enough rain to keep the grass green all summer (although the actual work of mowing all this green grass is less than amazing).

beautiful front yard

The beds do look better framed by green grass.  Not bad considering the last two years were both marked by hot, dry, completely dormant (surely dead looking) turf patches…. for three entire months…

You may remember I mulched this bed completely with barely decayed, shredded leaves this spring.  It’s worked wonders for the soil quality and number of weeds, but it also greatly reduced the number of self seeders which normally fill the bed.  Purple Verbena bonarensis and the brilliant red Ipomopsis rubra (standing cypress) are sparse this year, but Euphorbia marginata (snow on the mountain) has not missed a beat.  Even after ruthless weeding there are still plenty of the cool white bracts showing up throughout the border and I can see how this native of the west has naturalized itself all across most of the US and Canada.

euphorbia snow on the mountain

The white streaked leaves of snow on the mountain form around the tiny flowers and eventually form a large ‘tree’ of white.

The snow on the mountain will look good until fall, but several of the earlier bloomers might not.  The bright magenta blooms of Lychnis Coronaria are long gone, but I can’t bring myself to pull up the nicely branched gray spent flower stalks.  I like them and as far as I’m concerned they can stay as long as they want.

Karl Foerster feather reed lychnis coronaria

Even gone to seed some things still look good.  I’ll never get tired of ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass in the seedy stage, but this year even the Lychnis coronaria plants in front still look good.  Must be all the rain.

A backup plan isn’t the worst idea.  In my head these leftover cannas were going to go into carefully prepared spots throughout the front border.  They’ve been sitting on the driveway unplanted since April and just go to show how hardy some plants can be.

canna sprouting late

A clump of roots dumped on the concrete and still managing to grow.  A better gardener would cut their losses and move on… I’m still imagining they’ll get planted before frost 🙂

The canna were intended as a replacement for this ‘Blue Bird’ rose of Sharon.  I’ve come to the conclusion I just don’t like it and want it out…. no real reason, just something about it bugs me…

rose of Sharon blue bird seedlings

The blue flowers are the original ‘Blue Bird’ Rose of Sharon plant, the pink are up and coming seedlings.  My question of whether or not they come true from seeds was answered by a no, and I’m glad to now know for sure!  btw- the big leaf in front is Angelica gigas, a plant which I’m hoping will be *very* cool!

A plant which does NOT bug me is hydrangea ‘Limelight’.  Right now it’s just going from lime to pure white and it’s a mountain of soft flower heads and I admire it every day.  Personally I feel like the plant doesn’t like me, since it always seems just a little short of water and lacking just a little bit of fertilizer but apparently it doesn’t hold that against me and blooms reliably each summer.  The bush is up to about six feet now and I should really take a few cuttings to try it in a better location and see what it’s really capable of!

hydrangea limelight

Hydrangea ‘limelight’ hanging over into the street.

Something that didn’t need a better location are all the sunflowers which returned.  Here’s a 5+ foot tall plant which somehow managed to grow out of a less than 1/2 inch crack in the concrete edging along the street.

sunflower growing in crack

Sometimes you can’t hold a good plant down. 

The hydrangea isn’t all for the benefit of the neighbors, I see plenty of it from the house as well and its mature size does a good job in balancing out the masses of gold and the large clump of variegated giant reed grass (arundo) at the border’s end.  Have I mentioned my love for this grass?  It’s listed as invasive in the deep south, but up here in the cold North its vigor is just enough to make it exciting.

mixed perennial border

The street border from the far end.  Golden rudbeckias still dominate but I’m fine with that 🙂

You may have noticed the fluffy white seedheads of one of this years favorite plants (although I may be alone in my favor for this spiny, poky almost-weed).  The lackluster mauve, bottlebrush blooms of the Ptilostemon diacantha were nothing to go ga-ga over, but the seed heads are interesting enough and you can still make out some of that awesome foliage as it slowly dies off.  I’m going to make a point of collecting these in a few days since the thistle seedheads look suspiciously weedy.

Ptilostemon diacantha seed heads

Ptilostemon diacantha.  The name is a mouthful and I far prefer the name suggested by Linda B.  “Ghost thistle” sounds almost friendly!

So that’s the front border.  It takes a little bit of work to get it cleaned up in the spring, I’m always looking for ways to ‘tweek’ the plantings, but for the most part when the perennials take over (like they did this year) it’s one of the lower maintainence areas in the yard.  A smarter person would stick with this plan, but I’m already considering removals and bulking up the annuals again.  Annuals are a lot of work 🙂

One “maybe” problem could be in the colors.  My weakness for yellow foliage is really showing and adding a few darker shades might not be the worst idea.  Hmmm, maybe I can replace the invasive burning bush with a nice purple smokebush?  Something to consider….

yellow foliage in the garden

Lots of yellow.  I think all the best gardens are avoiding yellow these days….

From the front border we’ll go to the foundation plantings.  They’ve taken off a bit as well!