Sunday, June 29
In other places, I am very aware that a nice architectural plant is badly needed to add some kind of structure, or focal point. The term "architectural plant" typically refers to a plant that is evergreen (or at least woody, as in shrubs and trees) and provides year-round interest. In this picture, the Japanese maple would technically be the architectural plant in the composition:
But in the above picture, it's the Spanish foxglove (digitalis parviflora) that I find so architectural right now. When I talk about "architectural plants," I suppose that I really mean plants with some special textural interest. With everything else being so fine-textured and soft/mounded in form, the rigid spires of foxglove really add interest in the picture above; hence I think of them as my architectural plant in this little area.
I do use a lot of leaf color, but I don't think that color really lends itself to designating a plant as "architectural" as much as texture and form does. For example, in this little vignette below, my purple 'Regina' heuchera is the odd man out in terms of color--and yes, that does make it "pop." But if I had to pick an architectural plant in this picture, I'd choose the 'Sioux Blue' sorghum grass for its upright, strongly vertical form... even though it matches the horehound plants that flank it in color:
In a single area, different plants might hold the architectural limelight when the garden is viewed from different angles. In the picture below, the foxgloves are still pretty (especially since they pick up the orange color in the heuchera, and are set off by the blue of the catmint behind) but what really grabs my attention is the 'Northern Halo' hosta. Its chunky leaves make a nice counterpoint to the lacey Japanese maple leaves, as well as the lamium and golden oregano used as groundcovers at its feet:
And sometimes, the architectural plant in a bed counts as such for me because of its effect en masse. An individual drumstick allium wouldn't be able to hold a candle to the 'Northern Halo' hosta architecturally. But dozens of them waving at waist height add a much-needed focal point to my little "prairie garden" of butterfly weeds, baptisia and grasses:
(By the way, I have decided that drumstick alliums are one of the hardest plants to photograph. After many, many attempts I have yet to really capture their presence on camera... they are simply stunning in their elegance and simplicity, and before they shoot up and tower like lolipops hoisted above the baptisia, this little garden looks like little more than a weedy patch of wildflowers.)
So while all plants have color, and texture, and form... the "architectural" plants as I think of them are the ones that have that extra something. That je ne sais quoi, that elevates a plant combination beyond the normal into the sublime.
I'm sure that everyone has their own thoughts on which plants fit this kind of description, since matters of taste in the garden, as in art, are so personal. And I'd love to hear some of your thoughts, especially since I'm searching for one such plant to use in my currant bed!
Wednesday, June 25
Isn't this a cool idea? I'm pretty sure that I discovered The Growing Challenge thanks to Gina from My Skinny Garden, but I see Dig This Chick, Susan Harris, and a bunch of other garden bloggers I "know" on the roster, too. Alas, so far I am earning an "incomplete" as my grade in this challenge: While I'm growing plenty of new things in my veggie garden this year, NONE of them are from seed.
Take this kohlrabi, for example. I picked up a 3-pack of these at a local garden center to round out a flat of veggies that I bought in desperation when I realized that it was Memorial Day weekend and I had not started ANY seeds for my garden yet:
I have no idea how I'm going to eat these kohlrabi or even when to harvest them, but they're growing pretty well... and having them in my garden reminds me of my grandfather, who used to grow them every year. (He would eat them sliced and salted, like raw potato, per my grandmother.) So they're a fun addition to my garden, but they definitely do not count toward The Growing Challenge.
Neither do the 'Red Lake' currants, 'Bush Pickle' cucumbers, multiple hot and medium-hot peppers, Florence fennel, red cabbage, or any of my other new edibles, because they were all transplanted instead of seed-started. And the stuff I have started from seed (beets, beans, and so forth) are things I do every year. So they don't count, either.
I'm not throwing in the towel just yet, though. I know that a lot of things can be sown throughout the summer for a fall harvest, so I'll be working on that in the next few weeks. And in fact, I just found "okra" on two of the many fall vegetable planting lists you can access online, so maybe I can even plant seeds from that packet of 'Red Burgundy' okra that I picked up this spring after all...
Does anyone else do a fall vegetable garden? Hints, tips, tricks, and advice like, "don't try that variety of Veg X for fall planting, try this variety instead," are all more than welcome in the comments here. This is going to be a first for me, and I REALLY want it to be a success, so I'll need all of the help I can get!
Saturday, June 21
In fact, I received an email several weeks ago that included some pictures of their latest construction effort. Check it out:
Did you guess that this is a compost bin? If so, you guessed correctly! They did a nice job on construction, and I'm jealous of this pretty bin--beats the heck out of my ugly black plastic ones, but those were the only ones that I could get my former husband to approve so I'm kind of stuck with them.
I didn't yet tell them that they'll want to have at least two bins, as they've been working so hard already and they can wait to start on the second one until this one gets filled up a bit. As you can see, though, they did start filling this one right away:
Compost bins are not the only environmentally-friendly feature added to the Overachievers' yard in recent weeks. They also ordered two white oak barrels (seconds from a distillery) to use as rain barrels at their house:
Jeff reports that the whiskey barrels smelled really good, and that they were very heavy. He was glad that the website where they ordered them (linked above) included shipping in their pricing, and that a friend stopped by the day they were delivered. He was able to talk his friend into helping him move the barrels so he didn't have to do that on his own.
I was promised more pictures as the garden starts to grow, but I know that they finally got their grapes, blueberries, and all the rest planted. And since I know that Jeff sometimes reads my blog, I would like to offer up this link to the Ohio State Extension Office's page on growing blueberries in the home garden.
I think he wondered whether I was playing a cruel trick on him when I advised him to not let his blueberry bear fruit this year, so I'm letting this page back me up. As it says: " Blueberry plants normally do not need to be pruned for the first three years. Remove blossoms that appear in the year of planting and second year after planting to stimulate vigorous growth." It's not easy to do--I know that all too well--but it's definitely worth it!
Wednesday, June 18
Speaking of smoke, in front of my parents' house there is a huge, beautiful purple smokebush, cotinus coggygria. It's been there since I was a kid, and at one point a sucker from it was nurtured along so that I could plant it at the house I bought with my former husband. That never happened, so each corner of the front yard now boasts one of these mysterious beauties that beg you to take a closer look:
One year for Mothers' Day, I helped my Mom plan a little garden in the leftover square where the back patio, Dad's new shed, and the garage all met. I always think of this as "Sally's Garden," because the yellow rose at its center was planted in memory of my aunt Sally who died of breast cancer. Al and Sally had bought her parents' old house when their kids were still pretty young, and they faithfully tended her father's (Clarence's) roses there.
Mom and I did a fairly good job of picking out the plants for this garden, I think: lamium, coralbells, dianthus, euonymous, spirea, and gold-edged hostas. It's very low-maintenance, and even when things aren't in bloom it looks pretty good. And when the roses are going, it's even better. I can see why the yellow roses were Sally's favorites :
This gorgeous white-painted metal arbor is beautiful already. Can you imagine what it's going to look like when those climbing hydrangeas scramble to its top?
There is a matching arbor in the backyard as well, which made me doubly jealous. But there's something even more interesting going on in this picture. Look closely at the little purple-leaf "tree" to the right of the arbor:
It's a purple ninebark (probably 'Diablo') trained into a small tree form! I have never seen one pruned like that before. Renee has great plant taste, doesn't she? And she must take care of them well, as you can see by how healthy this beautiful corkscrew hazel looks in her garden:
I know Renee shops at Beining's Nursery in Ottoville, which is also a favorite of Kylee's, to find interesting new plants. I think I need to swing by Beining's next time I visit NW Ohio. But before we leave Renee's garden, check out the itea that she planted in a half whiskey barrel. I love how the barrel elevates the status of this cute little shrub:
A short walk from my parents' house, just across the highway, is where my Aunt Becky (my godmother) and Uncle Don live. They met at the hospital where Becky was a nurse, and Don often delivered flowers for his job at, as he calls it, "the flower shop." The rest is history, and we ended up adding a wonderful uncle and 3 very fun cousins into the family. And as far as I know, Don still brings Becky home a single flower every Friday, as he has every week since they've been dating. Isn't that sweet?
Their second big project from last year was this "living fence" bed:
The bench is supposed to be on the ground in front of the bed, but they had just mowed recently and left it up. I didn't notice it before I snapped the shot. (That's what happens when you sneak over to someone's house to take pictures without them being home!) The evergreens in this picture are going to be topped off at about the height of the tallest one now, which should make them thicken up a bit and offer additional privacy. Very fun.
The main focus of their backyard, however, is this amazing pond:
They started out with a small pond at first, but a couple of years ago they widened and deepened the pond, redid the rock edging, etc. The lighthouse at the top of the mound behind the pond lights up at night, and water cascades down the stone steps constantly. And they have lotus that bloom, too!
The third big project of 2007 can be seen in the picture above. They created a little deck that meets the edge of the pond. When you walk out the sliding glass door onto the deck, you feel like the front of the deck must be anchored in the pond--it's that close!
I was tempted to stick my feet in, but I didn't think that the fishes would like that. Actually, they would probably have nibbled at my toes, as they flock to the deck whenever they hear footsteps on it. Someone might be tossing out fish food, you know!
And this time, I got to go home with my own treasure. Years ago, they took home some tropical smokebush plants, euphorbia cotinifolia, that were going to be thrown out. They need to be overwintered inside, but they're so pretty--their leaves look like the regular purple smokebush leaves, only in miniature! Since a few other plants are starting to get larger and they were worried about having room to overwinter everything this year, they offered me one of their two pots of tropical smokebush... and I was more than happy to take it off of their hands, as you can imagine.
But pictures of that will have to wait, as it's dark outside and I am sleepy. Hope you enjoyed the mini-tour of some of my favorite gardens "back home!"
Sunday, June 15
Usually, gardeners wax poetic about the blooms of this month, but the middle of June is kind of a weird time in my garden. The irises are already done, including my gorgeous 'Samurai Warrior' red iris, and the only other typical mid-June bloomer that puts on a show for me is my 'Dortmund' rose.
Here you see 'Dortmund's lower blooms, the first ones to open, partially obscured by bronze fennel foliage. Outside of the rose, the only other really showy thing in my garden is a stand of goatsbeard (aruncus sinensis 'Zweiweltenkind') plants. The goatsbeard is very pretty, but even if you don't like the flowers themselves, they are amazing to see in bloom due to their size. The 6-strong clumps flower at about 4ft in height!
My 'Samobor' geraniums still have a few delicate blooms holding on, but most of the flowering stems were cut back a week or more ago.
One of my lady's mantle had to be deadheaded when its great chartreuse blooms turned brown. A second lady's mantle is sporting a new haircut ever since I decided to move it (which was cause for a huge pouting--er, wilting--episode) last week. But the other alchemilla mollis is still blooming nicely, with the variegated sedum behind it picking up its color for a 1-2 punch.
The abutilon megapotanicum that I grew in the house over the winter was cut back severely this spring when it was shipped outside, but it seems to be much happier in its new, sunny situation.
Across the driveway from the pot of parlor maple, some cute little rock garden plants are starting to cover up the retaining wall block nicely. At left and bottom is the 'Chubby Fingers' sedum album, and in the middle top is a pretty gray creeping germander that I bought last year from High Country Gardens. To the right is the woolly thyme that makes me smile when I step on it to weed the bed behind--it has a very pretty, light scent. It's got scattered blooms in a color similar to the germander, too.
More rock garden plants are blooming in the backyard. Inside one of the "locks" is 'Metallica Crispa' ajuga and silene maritima.
Behind the locks, the perennial snapdragons, saxifrage and 'Cape Blanco' sedums are settling into their new home, with the linaria not really missing a beat in terms of bloom.
The front yard has some interesting blooms, too. On the left side (streetside) of the Japanese maple, you can see the pretty contrast between the lacey Japanese maple leaves and the 'Purple Dragon' lamium that is planted underneath it.
Moving around to the left (house side) of the maple, its lowest branches have started to grow together with my 'Northern Halo' hosta. I usually cut off hosta flowers before they have a chance to really bloom, but for some reason these really work for me in conjunction with the cream-edged hosta and the Japanese maple foliage. So they get to stay. Other flowers that usually get cut before they can even bloom are those on my coralbells, but a few heuchera flowers got to stick around this spring as well. Maybe I'm getting soft in my old age?
At the other end of the soft spectrum, the most unusual blooms around here are a funky little pink blossom on my cobweb sempervivum, and the little clustered flower/seedheads from my carex buchanii. I couldn't get a really good picture of either (in the second shot, you see a few clusters cascading into the other sempervivum, below) but I think that this will look really interesting once the hens and chicks fill in. It has a natural xeriscape look to it that I really like.
Make sure to check out the rest of what's blooming around the world via the June GBBD Post at May Dreams Gardens (hosted by the lovely Carol)... here my full blooming list:
Shrubs, climbers and grasses:
- 'Black Beauty' sambucus nigra
- 'Sykes Dwarf' oakleaf hydrangea
- 'Dortmund' rose
- unknown dark purple clematis (probably jackmanii)
- carex buchanii
- carex 'Beetlemania'
- physocarpus 'Diabolo' (almost done)
- cobweb sempervivum
- digitalis parviflora
- allium ostrowskiana
- 'Walker's Low' catmint
- 'Ivory Queen' hellebore (kind of--faded blooms with seedheads)
- 'Doone Valley' thyme
- sedum 'Angelina'
- 'Northern Halo' hosta
- 'Purple Dragon' lamium
- 'Samobor' geranium
- 'Chubby Fingers' sedum
- alchemilla mollis
- salvia officinalis 'Newe Ya'ar'
- salvia 'Caradonna'
- no-tag thornless blackberry, probably 'Navaho'
- 'Cape Blanco' sedum
- linaria 'Mini Lights'
- asclepias tuberosa
- silene maritima
- 'Metallica crispa' ajuga
- salvia plumosa
- aruncus sinensis 'Zweiweltenkind'
- heuchera 'Silver Scrolls' (the only one whose flowerstalks I leave)
- gray creeping germander
- salvia 'Marcus'
- salvia lyrata 'Purple Knockout' and 'Purple Volcano'
Annuals, vegetables and houseplants:
- 'Infinity Orange Frost' New Guinea impatiens
- 'Flora Showers Lavender' bicolor snapdragon
- dark purple verbena
- 'Totally Tempted' cuphea
- NOID red bedding begonia with white flowers
- 'Yubi Red' portulaca
- crown of thorns
- abutilon megapotanicum
Monday, June 9
It's particularly pretty in the morning light, with the fescue and dianthus both in flower:
But enough of that negative talk. Instead, let's just look at my favorite shot (so far) of the little corner garden. You can see all of the plants mingling pleasantly, with the bottom of the asclepias incarnata 'Cinderella' (WS'd last year thanks to the generosity of Colleen at In the Garden Online) showing at the very top left:
On that note, I should say that the weather finally broke tonight. The storms came through just after my 2's game at 6pm (playing 2's in 95 degree heat and heavy humidity is not fun, btw) and soaked the garden with a half inch of rain. But the air outside is now much more livable, and the high tomorrow should only reach a bit past 80. Whew!
Sunday, June 8
Overall, it's just miserable. I feel the way my 'Othello' ligularia looks:
A few feet down from 'Othello,' my 'Sioux Blue' Indian grass (sorghastrum nutens) looks a bit droopy to me, too. But still makes a nice contrast behind my 'Regina' heuchera:
As I leaned over to take the picture above, I noticed a flash of blue out of the corner of my eye. It was the first bloom on my little clematis integrifolia, which admittedly needs some kind of structure to grow through. (I had planned to use lemongrass for this, but lemongrass is harder to find than cheap gas around Cleveland these days.)
My salvaged rotors were used to feature little alpine plants, and both have a little collar of pebbles that will go away once the plants start to spread a bit. Here you can kind of see the planted saxifrage, but it's nearly hidden by the pretty linaria 'Mini Lights' snapdragon:
And here is my 'Cape Blanco' sedum. The earth around this is bare for now, but I actually seeded some carrots around here. So the sedum will have some company soon:
Ah, too much to worry about now. There are more important things to think about, like where we are going to head to eat right now. Because we don't have the fixin's for salad in the fridge at this time, and it's definitely too hot to cook!
Wednesday, June 4
If gardening is my biggest passion, music is a close second. My brothers and I are infamous for being able to sing along to almost anything that plays on the radio, regardless of the station. My former husband and I filled several 1000-CD storage shelves in our new house, attended numerous concerts, and still trade music to this day.
I met one of my very best friends, the person who probably knows me better than anyone else, because I always heard such good music coming out of her dorm room that I stuck my head inside and introduced myself one day. Jess took me to my first concert (The Violent Femmes, at Bogart's in Cincy) and we ended up DJ'ing together at our college radio station for several years. And a hot topic of late-night conversation amongst my freshman-year friends was which songs (and in which order--very important) would make up your personal "Songs to Make Love To" soundtrack.
So when I got tagged by a friend for a music meme, I was immediately excited. Here's the deal: List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they’re listening to.
4. Tool - "Aenema"Want commentary on the sorry state of human affairs alongside music that could easily fuel a kickboxing session? That's Tool. I would've linked to the "Aenema" video on the heading, but this song includes liberal use of "the f bomb"... if you want to hear it anyway, now that you've been warned, go here.
My spring songlist would have included their rendition of "Black Dog" or "When the Levee Breaks," but neither of those songs are on "Raising Sand." I don't feel too cheated with this fun Everly Brothers tune, though. It's good, and it also kind of reminds me of driving around in my parents' black Olds Cutlass, listening to the real Everly Brothers on 8 track, when I was a kid.
6. Metallica - "Creeping Death"
Erm... well, sometimes Tool isn't quite hard enough. This song also reminds me of when I was younger, by the way, but more in the time of cassette tapes than 8 tracks. My uncle Bruce used to listen to old Metallica (and Deep Purple, and the like) in his truck, and we would rock out to it on the way up to the river where the whole family still goes to swim, ski, and hang out.
7. Radiohead - "Street Spirit (Fade Out)"
Radiohead's "The Bends" is one of my regular go-to CDs, and I've been on a real Bends kick lately... so much so that I could have put "Just," "Fake Plastic Trees," "My Iron Lung," or "High and Dry" on this list... but "Street Spirit" is the last song on the CD, and very haunting... and since I'm thinking about college radio shows, I'm putting this here in tribute to another old friend of mine, Lourene. I lost touch with her over the years, but she always used to close her own radio show with this gem.
The garden pictures that go along with this post were shots from the last week that look like they could go with music... swaying grasses, a mosh pit of golden-edged thyme and pink dianthus, and an allium (schubertii) with a pretty punk-rock look about it.
And with that, I am off to overanalyze my song choices, as I tend to do with things like plant names... but first, I'll tag the requisite 7 people to play along:
Annie in Austin, The County Clerk, Benjamin (if you can spare a minute from thesis writing, and living), Dig This Chick, Meresy_G, Lisa at Millertime, and Craig at Ellis Hollow. If you guys don't want to make a list, that's fine, too... but if you all (or anyone, really) wants to play along, I'd love the chance to see what's in you iPods or CD players this spring!