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 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
A very technicolor look with the yellow of the ‘Tiger Eyes’ sumac across the lawn.
Here’s another amaranthus photo-bomb.
Looking down towards the ‘less interesting’ end of the border.
Ok. One last amaranthus photo.
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.
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?
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 😉