Tuesday View: The Front Border 9.12.17

Of course I could go on and on about the Tuesday view this week, but free time has been in short supply lately.  The kids are back into their routine and there seems to be an endless parade of games and practices and parties and very little time for anything else… unless you count Sunday afternoon.  It was a beautiful afternoon and a big chunk of time was set aside to just soak up the sun and enjoy the last days of summer.  Some gardeners can’t sit still when there’s work to do.  I’m not one of them.

front border

The Tuesday View of the front border. Things are starting to feel the season but I’m counting on a long fade into autumn.

Even though the gnats are terrible I must have spent a good couple hours here and there in protected locations just taking it all in.  Usually ‘taking it in’ included a drink or snack or just sitting and staring but I made sure to slow down and enjoy.  If you want to think of it as being careful that would be more polite than considering it lazy.  You never know what next week will bring so it’s always safer to enjoy things while they’re here.

front border

A view from the side.  It’s not often that the ‘Limelight’ hydrangea blushes pink for me but the cool nights and consistent moisture seem to be working.  SO much nicer than dried up brown…

There are still a few things to come for autumn but we’re almost at the end of the Tuesday road.  Chrysanthemums and asters are maybe another week or two and then after that it’s cleanup and frost.  Ouch.  It hurts to even say the F word.

kniphofia burning embers

I was surprised by this red hot poker the first year it bloomed.  I wasn’t expecting it so late in the season but there it is every September.  This is last week’s photo of kniphofia ‘Burning Embers’, and it’s a plant which would probably appreciate some more breathing room, but you get what you get.

So this week it’s a calm and mellow contribution to Cathy’s Tuesday View.  The weather here and the time of year seem to demand it but if you’d like to visit with a few other more industrious gardeners give Words and Herbs a visit and see what Cathy and others are up to as they track their Tuesdays throughout the year.  Have a good one!

Tuesday View: The Front Border 7.4.17

Its mildly disturbing how quickly the weeks roll by, but once again it’s Tuesday and time to check in on this year’s view.  This week marks a new month, a definite turn to summer, and for those in the US it’s Independence day so bring on the picnics and barbecues and fireworks 🙂

street border

A lush, robust Tuesday view.  We have not wanted for water this year and many of the plants are bigger than I’ve ever seen.  The bugs are thrilled as well, and I don’t recall any other year which had this much  buzzing and flitting and fluttering .

I’m declaring this the year of the lily in my garden since it seems as if bulbs all over are putting out more blooms than ever.  I have special to me seedlings which have surprised me with their first flowers but I also have some of the fancier hybrids which have finally settled in.

lilium red velvet

Lilium ‘Red Velvet’.  It may not show well in the garden because of its dark, saturated color, but check out that dark, saturated color!

The Asiatic hybrids are some of the most popular of the early lilies, but I’m not all that crazy about the shorter, upright facing forms.  I like the tall downward facing ones, and if I had more room I think I could easily collect a few… hmmmm… new bed idea?

lilium red velvet

‘Red Velvet’ is in its second year here and about five feet tall.  That’s an excellent eye level flower for me, and perfect for close inspection.

Now I won’t go on about the scarlet lily beetle, since as of yet they have not reached our little valley, but for those of you afflicted by this pest I extend my sympathies.  I dread the day they reach here and that will likely be the year the lilies are given away to better homes.  I’ll just grow sunflowers if it comes to that.

street border

The mailbox is destined to be engulfed with sunflowers this summer (they’re the big leaves in the center).  No idea what kind they are other than birdfood leftovers, but I do know they’ll be awesome 🙂

The street side of the border is beginning to show some color again as the lavender colored perovskia, pink coneflowers (Echinacea), and a lonely yellow rudbeckia open up.

street border

Weedy or wildflowery?  If I ever get around to mulching I’ll try to neaten up the first foot or so of the edge so it looks like I planned all these plantings… which I didn’t 😉

A few years ago I tried adding a few named varieties of Echinacea purpurea to the border… well actually it was just two, and neither were the more exotically colored forms which you see out today… the plants seeding around now are just more of the average form, which in my opinion are still awesome, but don’t be fooled into thinking you need every seedling which comes up.  I rip out plenty each year, and if I were smarter I’d do it again now while they’re in bloom in order to select out the smaller, less exciting flower forms.

echinacea coneflower

Sometimes it amazes me that flowers this nice just grow all by themselves in some midwestern prairie.

As you probably know, these coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) are North American natives and not far removed from the wild forms which dot the prairie landscape.  For a minute I might ask myself why I bother with other more troublesome primadonnas from landscapes far removed.

echinacea coneflower

More coneflowers

Have I mentioned spring and now early summer have been perfectly watered?  They have, and the hydrangeas and pretty much everything except for a few iris and dahlias are looking all the better for it.  Plants are lush this year and on top of that it seems all the good bugs are swarming while the bad are sparse.  You know that won’t last, but for now the only thing which seems too lush are a few of the ornamental grasses and this Eryngium.

eryngium

Maybe it’s just early but this normally steely blue and gray Eryngium (species unknown) is just mostly green *yawn*… we will see how it progresses…

The late planting of annuals is also a work in progress although I have high hopes for a later season of full plants and bold colors… if not entirely tasteful or well thought out colors 🙂

mixed border annuals

The newest bed expansion is still filling in.  I believe there’s already plenty here and just needs to fill in, but it makes me anxious to see open ground in July.  

I guess the only thing left work-wise for this summer is mulch.  I couldn’t garden without mulch and this year I’m treating myself to a load of shredded bark mulch rather than a temporary bandage of grass clippings or shredded leaves (which were used up elsewhere months ago).  This time of year I only cover the outer most foot or two of beds since the inner sections are already covered in plants.  It’s not that I wouldn’t mind mulch there as well, but for as much as I plant and replant, this perfect coating of shredded neatness would be dug in and over within a few months and for me that doesn’t sound like a worth-it kind of investment.

rose campion lychnis

A common upright sedum with a few small up and coming coleus and a patch of rose campion (Lychnis coronata).  To me a sunny garden without sedum is just nonsense.  

So that’s a pretty full Tuesday View.  As usual thanks go to Cathy at Words and Herbs, and I invite everyone to give her site a visit to see what her view and others around the world look like this week.  It’s always a treat and I’m sure they probably mulched weeks ago.  Happy fourth, and have a great week!

Agriculture in Suburbia

This post was mostly finished last weekend but for some reason I never got around to publishing.  I wish I had a good excuse, but it might have just been one of those Sunday evening get ready for the workweek make lunches and clean the kids off from the weekend kind of things.  In any case here it is and to be honest I have little idea what I was talking about back then with all the design comments and self reflection.  Sometimes I really wonder where this stuff comes from, but regardless the pictures have me thinking of last June when the garden looked ready to die so let me just start off with a photo from then 🙂

dormant lawn

The beauty of the  garden in June.  Roadside daisies and dead grass.  Fortunately the rains came back in August, but not until all July passed and I reached the “wordless Wednesday: I hate gardening” stage.

It’s always nice to hear compliments about your garden, and I am one who by reflex nearly always shrugs them off or dismisses them.  I’m sure there’s some childhood trauma involved which has long been forgotten, but it’s my way and it’s a rare day when I can just accept with a thank you.  Now I’m not saying I get a lot of compliments, but I do get a comment every now and then about a nice design touch or a combination which actually worked out.  Those are the compliments I always downplay since I rarely (unless I’m doing it subconsciously) put a whole lot of thought into what goes where.  With few exceptions my design process revolves around having a new favorite plant in hand and then desperately needing a spot in which to cram it.  Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t.

front street border

The front border in mid September.  If I had to put a name to this year’s design theory it might be something like ‘neglected agricultural’.

The front border along the street may not look brilliant, but it does look colorful, and with five months of winter breathing down my neck colorful is perfect.  Colorful and agricultural I suppose, since this years feature plant seems to be ‘Hot Biscuits’ amaranthus and in my opinion it either looks sort of farmyard weedy or like a particularly bright sorghum crop.  Ornamental or not I just can’t look away.  It’s big and bright and grainy and between it and the wheat-like feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’) and the sugarcane-like giant reed (Arundo Donax) I feel like it’s almost harvest time out there.

front street border

The view from the street side.  The purple perovskia has seeded around a bit and put out a few runners, the purple coneflowers as well, but I’ve done essentially nothing here since March and I kind of like that.

I owe this year’s crop of ‘Hot Biscuits’ to my friend Paula who surprised me one afternoon with a packet of seeds in the mailbox.  I had grown it before and ended up losing it, but fortunately she had a few seeds to spare and sent them my way.  That was last year, and I efficiently killed all the seedlings which sprouted, but this year was a different story and I ended up with a few clumps of healthy seedlings.

hot biscuits amaranthus

Just the first of many amaranthus close-ups which will pepper this post.  No one could plan this combo since I’m sure it violates numerous design principles, but I just love it.

The amaranthus shows up here and there all along the border, which is probably a good thing since even the simplest design theorist will tell you it repeats and unifies a theme.  Repetition is important since this bed frequently suffers from “I always start from the driveway end and use up all the best plants there” syndrome.  The far end of the bed gets less weeding, less watering, less tending… it basically gets less of everything, so carrying the amaranthus theme all the way through helps hide the sparseness of the neglected end.

wine zinnia

Here in the preferred end of the bed are well tended seedlings of Benary’s Giant wine zinnias and the pink gomphrena ‘fireworks’.  These were the seedlings I was most excited about this year, so in they went first 🙂

I did have a few too many zinnias this spring so was pretty generous about placing them in the border, but when the Brenary’s Giant scarlet began to open next to the pink gomphrena I immediately cringed.  For about a week I thought it looked awful but now I quite like it.  It reminded me of the first time I saw pictures of some of the late Christopher Lloyd’s magenta and pink plantings at Great Dixter.  They also bothered me at first and I think my first thought was “grow up Chris and plant some lavender and white and pink instead of that mess”… but look at me now.

scarlet zinnia fireworks gomphrena

Scarlet zinnia with ‘fireworks’ gomphrena.  Am I suffering from retinal fatigue or does it actually look nice together?

Maybe the green lawn and the parchment color of the feather reed grass tames it a bit but between this and the orange of the amaranthus I’m just plain pleased.

scarlet zinnia karl forester grass

A very technicolor look with the yellow of the ‘Tiger Eyes’ sumac across the lawn.

Here’s another amaranthus photo-bomb.

hot biscuits amaranthus

Looking down towards the ‘less interesting’ end of the border.

Ok. One last amaranthus photo.

hot biscuits amaranthus

From the neglected, far end of the border, more amaranthus 🙂

You may have noticed a bright golden patch of marigolds in the border.  The fall smack dab in the middle of my newfound love for the most offensively bright colors and I’m not sure I can resist planting a whole border of them next year.  I had to smuggle these seeds out of my stingy older brother’s garden last year and was lucky that a few sprouted and survived July’s dry spell.  He’s been letting them reseed for a couple years now and they still come up in a good range of colors on relatively short and large flowered plants.

marigolds tagetes

A few marigolds putting on a nice end of summer show.  More might be nicer, and by more I mean a whole border.

What to plant them with?  I think they’ll go at the far end of the border, alongside the bright gold of a juniper, but other than that I have no plans.  Should I back them up with some darker foliage plants?

img_3082

Korean feather grass (Calamagrostis brachytricha) in front and pennisetum ‘Karley Rose’ towards the back. With the ‘Limelight’ hydrangea it all looks very calm and refined, but I think a nice border of marigolds will give it a good jolt of color!

We will see what happens.  There’s a good chance it will all come down to whatever seeds sprout the best next spring, but in the meantime it’s nice to dream about having a more plan-comes-together kind of garden.  That is until the snowdrops bloom.  Once that happens my brain goes to mush and I’m lucky if I get anything planted 😉

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!

Hang in there Summer!

Cooler temperatures and earlier sunsets.  There’s no denying that summer is losing its grip, and with the kids starting school this week I guess it’s time to face reality.  Summer will not go on forever.  But delusion is a beautiful thing, and that’s what I’m sticking to, and for now at least I’ll focus on late August flowers….. not September.

The front border is hanging in there in spite of the dry weather, and my half hearted watering seems enough to keep it this side of parched crispy.  Agastache “Tutti Fruitti” (I think), Russian sage, and the seedheads of “Karl Foerster” feather reed grass carry the show.

agastache tutti fruitti drought tolerant plants

Further into the bed it gets a little messy, and I bet deadheading the butterfly bush would help, but in the meantime it’s all almost one big wave of buzzing, fluttering color.  Lower left is “Karley Rose” pennisetum, basically carefree but not as sturdy as “Karl Foerster”.  The Russian sage and butterfly bushes just keep going….'karley rose', 'pink delight' butterfly bush

From the street it looks a bit messy, but maybe it distracts people from the dead grass…. here’s ‘Royal Red’ Butterfly bush (Buddleia).  It’s a little thin this year for some reason, but I’m sure it will be back to normal next year.

buddleia 'royal red'

Also from the street, “Limelight” hydrangea paniculata.  Probably my favorite hydrangea, and it can get as big as it wants here.  The flowers start with a tinge of limey green, go white , and then blush with a bit of pink and red, and believe it or not the blooms are small this year (probably due to the dry summer).  Still there’s plenty of white flower overkill going on here!hydrangea "limelight"The extra water I give the hydrangea seems to be welcomed by its neighbors.  I love that this little milk thistle (Silybum marianumhas) sprouted up under the hydrangea.  milk thistleI don’t think it will amount to much this year, but maybe I’ll get lucky and have it overwinter and bloom.  Up till now I’ve only been successful with it as an annual.

If you’re bored, look up the history of milk thistle.  It’s been used medicinally for over 2,000 years and is still recommended today for the same liver disorders as it was in the middle ages.   Liver cancer, hepatitis, liver damage due to toxins…. mushroom poisioning….all this and it’s spiny with great foliage.  I love spiny!

The far end of the street border is still filling in.  I can always count on the no-name, purple leaved cannas to give a nice background, and the ‘Wendy’s Wish’ salvia looks good in front of them.  I tried a couple marigolds in here too this year, they’re still small, but are taking the dry heat without a single complaint.  One of the great things about annuals is the chance to do it all differently next year.  I’m not sure if the brown-orange color is one I’ll chose to repeat.purple canna with 'wendy's wish' salvia

Front border update

Looking back on the weather, I believe I picked the hottest days of the year to do my digging, transplanting and bed expanding.  It’s cooled a bit recently but the strong sun and spotty rain combined with my thin skin of topsoil have left things a little tired looking.  Crispy tan grass dominates the yard, but here and there is some fresh color to keep me motivated.

Here’s how the new transplants are doing.  The ‘Tropicanna’ cannas love the heat and don’t look bad next to the airy fennel that’s trying to take over the mailbox.  It’s been cut back a bunch due to the huge numbers of pollinating wasps drawn in to the flowers… no one needs a mailbox that buzzes.flower border along street

The street side of the border isn’t nearly as well kempt as the freshly weeded, freshly planted house side, but it looks interesting with a lively mix of Russian sage (perovskia), sedum, and lamb’s ears (stachys ‘Helen von Stein’) with all kinds of self-sown volunteers such as phlox.drought tolerant street planting

I’ve been busy re-taming this border after returning from our recent Florida vacation.  Ten days of living the suburban dream of Disney and a tropical beach in late July, it doesn’t get any more relaxing than that.  Pulling crabgrass in the blazing August sun (without a million other people) was a refreshing return.

The annual coleus and zinnia seedlings liked the heat and it also brought out blooms on the butterfly bushes and ‘Limelight’ hydrangea.

annuals mixed in perennial border

I love the hydrangea, it’s getting to be on the big side but I’m all for big plants in the garden.  ‘Limelight’ is a type of hydrangea paniculata, a group that blooms in late summer (usually white or pinkish), tolerates dryer soils, welcomes full sun and flowers reliably each year.  It blooms on new growth, so you could take a chainsaw to the thing in spring and still get a mass of blooms later in the year.  ‘Limelight’ has a nice greenish tint to the new blooms and has stems strong enough to keep the heavy flower heads from flopping.021Another all-summer bloomer is rose of Sharon (althea syriacus), they laugh at heat and drought and are nearly impossible to kill.  They have some well known faults, and two of the biggest are it’s late leafing out and it’s enthusiastic reseeding habits, but I grow it anyway.  ‘althea blue birdDiana’ is a sterile white cultivar and an awesome plant, but with all the white vinyl around here I can only fit in so many bright white flowers, so the one I grow is ‘Blue Bird’. ‘Blue Bird’ earned its spot because of the trouble free blue color of its blooms.  I don’t think it’s as showy as some of the others but the color is worth a little seeding around.  Every now and then I think it has a little look of weediness to it, and even though in my garden this isn’t a noticeable fault, in some more refined plantings this might stick out.  I guess  that’s a cross better gardeners are meant to bear.

Drought tolerance is something that everything in this street border has to deal with.  Perovskia, self-sown gloriosa daisies (rudbeckia), and ornamental grasses all take it in stride.  It’s a little messy, but right now I think the color holds up well to the bright sun and higher temperatures…. no room for pastels here…. The purple ‘Laura’ phlox gets extra water now and then, it handles a little dry weather and heat, but complains the whole time.rudbeckia and russian sage

‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass doesn’t complain about anything.  A haircut in the spring is all the maintenance it needs and if you like the grassy look this is what it gives you all summer, fall, and winter.  Doesn’t reseed, doesn’t need fertilizer, looks good all year…….I’m a fan.karl foerster feather eed grass

‘Karley Rose’ fountain grass is another good one.  It can get floppy after a rain, and doesn’t hold the good looks through the winter like Karl does, but makes a nice accent. karley rose fountain grass

Hopefully the annuals planted last month will fill in and make an accent before frost.  The newest plantings look more like a late May picture than an intro to August, but such is procrastination.  At least I’ll have a few empty spots to shoehorn spring bulbs into once that planting season starts. 🙂cannas in a mixed border

Best wishes for your August garden!