Saturday, November 3

At Ground Level

I would never say that I am a technophobe. I seem to have inherited my programmer father's ability to figure out almost any computerized gadget--and I wholeheartedly embrace the internet as a tool for communication and research. But there is another side of me that is less than pleased at the increasing technological framework on which our modern life is built. That side of me, for example, resisted getting a cell phone until this summer when my full time job threatened to get one for me. (They meant it as a carrot, but I viewed it as a stick.)

That side of me is also slightly dismayed that I am so much better at keeping track of my garden via this blog than I ever was at keeping a proper garden journal. But I do find that using technology helps me keep up with the garden chronicles better, and I feel that digital photography is at least partly to blame.

It's so much easier to plop your pack of bulbs right down onto the ground and click a little button than it is to write a long description of where exactly you planted Bulb X. Not to mention that you can easily find your digital photographs at all times if they have been saved in a specific folder on your hard drive.

This afternoon, I took many such photographic records as I finished planting all of my spring-blooming bulbs. Last year I planted only bold tulip combinations. This year I went a much less flamboyant with snowdrops, muscari, winter aconite, and the fragrant daffodil 'Geranium.' (I blame The County Clerk for the daffodil purchase, as I hate daffodils. I swear I do. But sometimes I get carried away by the enthusiasm of others.)

I have yet to find an allium that I don't like, and I planted several types of ornamental onions today. 'Ivory Queen' allium karativiense will push its thick leaves up through the edges of a silvery mat of woolly thyme, which in turn should show off its white flower puffs. Golden oregano will carpet the ground below the starbursts of allium schubertii. The rosy, short allium ostrowskianum may fool me into thinking that the 'Fuldaglut' sedum around it is blooming early. And a passalong purple globe allium (probably 'Purple Sensation') will bring early interest to the widening expanse of Japanese anemone in the front garden.

Bulb planting spots were not the only thing in the camera's lens today, however. I love working at ground level in both the spring and the fall, when the slanted rays of sunshine dance through low foliage and I am able to view the magic at close range.

This 'Silver Scrolls' heuchera shows off a flat gray-purple leaf color most of the year, but in the fall its rich burgundy underside sines through as if it wants to join the fall foliage show.

You can see how tiny the leaves of 'Chocolate Chip' ajuga are in comparison to the beech leaves that have dropped from the neighbor's tree. The dark, thick leaves look a lot more ethereal when backlighting shows off the green that their purple tinge usually hides.

I planted my snowdrops amongst this ajuga, hoping that neither will overwhelm the other. Ideally, the dainty combination will elegantly hold its own next to the white- and pink-flowering 'Pine Knot' hellebores.

I have determined that if I had a true woodland garden, tiarellas (like this 'Neon Lights') would be my downfall. I could forgo my beloved fancy heucheras, even, if I had generous drifts of tiarellas.

I adore their handsome, maple-esque leaves, jaunty white bottlebrush flowers and endlessly fascinating center inkblots. That some of them have additional spring or fall color is almost too much to ask from one plant.

I didn't let the fall colors and ground-level discoveries distract me too much, however: I managed to get all of my bulbs nestled safely in the ground. So tomorrow all that's left is to pack away the drying canna rhizomes (they finally got nipped by a patchy frost on Thursday) and harvest the last of the marjoram, tarragon and lemongrass. And then I'll be as ready as I can be for the possible snow that we may see midweek... although I admit that I could definitely use a little more autumn before winter rolls around!


IlonaGarden said...

Your groundcovers are so lovely. I especially like the "neon lights". I am with you on having difficulty keeping a hard copy journal, but bought a beautiful one anyway- now I just have to write in it!

Carol Michel said...

Kim... You are going to love 'Ivory Queen' Allium karativiense. I think that is what I have growing by my front step. It is a gorgeous low growing allium.

I still need to plant all my bulbs and will probably tackle that this afternoon. I feel the pressure to get it done after reading all over the garden blogosphere how everyone is finishing up that chore in their own gardens. I don't want to be last! And what a great idea of taking pictures of the packages where I plant the bulbs.

Carol at May Dreams Gardens

Melissa said...

You show us some beautiful combinations here!

I am waiting to see the outcoming of my bulb planting in the spring...a mole plowed his way through my newly planted bulbs.

He also tore through an established bed of flax/yarrow/irises/peonies.

I still haven't managed to eradicate the bugger!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I like the idea of taking pictures of what you want to keep track of and posting it on your blog. I just haven't come that far yet with my blogging. I still have my written journal going. It is something about curling up in my chair with my journal in my lap, casually drawing my pen across the pages that gives me a satisfaction that I can't describe. I have a laptop computer so that part could be the same. However my pen lets me think at my own pace. The computer is usually hurrying me along. Part of it might be that I am not oomputer savy. It usually takes me quite awhile to figure out how to do what I want to do on the computer. I do love that digital camera tho. It is great at recording what you see. Even that can be a mystery to me tho. All those Fstops and settings.

I love alliums and tierellas. I haven't had luck with them in my garden. With the alliums I have read that they like cold winters which we don't have around here much. I have a canna that has been in the ground several years. So that should tell you something.

Laurie and Chris said...

I wish I would have thought of that when we made our new garden this year. It is a great idea. Thank you for sharing I will remember this for next year :)

Entangled said...

The documenting-with-photos idea is so good. Now I just need a way to keep track of the photos. ;-)

Muum said...

I am hoping my blog will also help me keep track of my garden better, as well as the photos I take. I love the idea of the white allium with wooly thyme! I might try that myself. White, grey and green are great colors together.

Christopher C. NC said...

You are not alone in your cell phone resistance Kim. I only got one this spring thinking I would need it for some independence during my living arrangement transition. Unfortunately (maybe) there is rarely cell reception out here in the woods.

My garden journal has always been in my head. That just comes from regular strolls through the garden and I don't see my own blog as an intended record.

You make bulb planting look so easy. In my own garden I can see how that is so, from knowing where things are no matter how you do it. Planting bulbs as the new gardener in someone elses garden is another matter.

Anonymous said...

I'm the same way about documenting my garden! I dutifully kept a journal for about 3 months, and then found it so much easier to just snap a photo. Somehow it's more fun, too!

I also document our garden harvests, so that at the end of the season (which never seems to end here!) I can see just how big our harvest was.

Beautiful mulch you have - our trees are still holding fast to their leaves.

healingmagichands said...

What a GREAT IDEA!! to document bulb planting with photographs. I needed to think of that about ten years ago.

I just have to say, "Tsk tsk! How can you hate daffodils?" But of course, we all have our favorite flowers and unfavorite ones, and as you probably can guess from the header on my blog, daffodils are probably my very favorite spring bulbs. I now have over 90 different varieties.

Anonymous said...

So we have a few things in common.

We both hate daffodils and we both bought that same Allium. I was planing on planting mine today but I got caught up in the garden blog world and forgot to go outside.

BTW if you have a Menards by you they were carrying the giant white Allium "Mount Everest?" the last time I checked. I only bought one because it was kinda pricey but I'm eager to see it bloom next year.

LostRoses said...

I wouldn't be dismayed that it's so much easier to keep track of your garden on your blog - you're multi-tasking. Cataloging your garden endeavors and socializing at the same time. A good use of your time, I'd say!

Unknown said...

Ilona, the funny thing about it is that I have bunches of very lovely journals and notebooks, too. There's just something about fresh, empty writeable pages that you don't get from the computer, u know?

Carol, I hope I love it! I'll have to go back through May Dreams Gardens now and see if you've shown pictures of yours in bloom. :)

me, ugh. I'm so happy that I haven't had to deal with moles or voles yet--knock on wood. The guys at the garden center where I worked part time said that the only real reliable way to get rid of them is to watch the runs for movement and use a pitchfork to "get" them while they move through the runs. I don't know if I'd be able to do that, though.

lisa at greenbow, I have a much less fancy (and sometimes much more frustrating) 5-year-old point-and-shoot digital camera. But we got one of those digital SLRs at work a few weeks ago so I'm going to have to learn about those fstops and such, too. (Or just keep it on the generic settings I have it on right now! lol.) How weird that you can overwinter cannas. I thought about trying that this year, but I didn't want to chance it--maybe next year I'll get bolder.

laurie & chris, it's so much easier to take pictures (for me, anyway) because I can hardly keep track of a notebook while I'm running around in the yard! :)

entangled, I would tell you about my digital archive/file system... but it would take a whole new post. And probably reveal a lot of scary things about the way my mind thinks. lol.

muum, I've become a huge fan of gray lately. And I really like contrast--I think that the fine-textured thyme and the thick allium leaves may look very cool together. I can't wait to see if it looks in my garden like it looks in my head. :)

christopher c, I think that you are fortunate in that lack of reception! :)I like the free long distance part of the cell, since my family is almost 3 hours away, but I feel obligated to answer the phone sometimes when I know who is calling me. Argh.

Bulb planting is actually pretty easy. I don't have a fancy planter, I just use my hand trowel to gauge the depth, and then slide the bulb down next to the trowel until it hits bottom. When the trowel is removed, the ground closes back up and I'm done. :)

melinda, it definitely is more fun! And that's a great idea, to document the harvest. I'm going to have to remember to do that next year.

healingmagichands, I don't know why I haven't liked daffs. I don't particularly care for most shades of yellow, so maybe the common daffodils ruined it for me? :)

mrbrownthumb, the a. karativiense or the a. schubertii? (I love them both!) The place where I bought those has the 'Mount Everest' as well... I hadn't realized they were so large but now I am intrigued. I could combine those with some taller perennials.... hmm.

lost roses, I LIKE that idea! Both the multi-tasking and the socializing. That does cheer me up a bit. :)

this said...

Here the best spot to plant a bulb is....

in the fridge.

: )

Meagan said...

Unfortunately I think fall is fading fast. Why does it never seem to last more than a couple of weeks? Blogging is "easier" than paper journaling for several reasons. One is the potential for feedback which you don't get, or even want with a journal which, even on a public subject is inherently private. Another reason is that it's so easy to make your online journal "pretty" either by tweaking the code to fit your needs, or even just using the premade templates. And as you pointed out, the combination of digital photography and blogger tools does make adding pictures super easy. I think paper journals have the potential to be much more beautiful however, the natural, layered feel of a careful journal is a look that's difficult to match electronically.

Gardenmomma Chris said...

I love your Heuchera & Tiarellas. I hope to use some of those on my walkpath in the Spring that has nothing right now. I love daffodils...and allium... :)
I think I had a conversation with Mr. BT about journals during the winter last year. I love the blog and it's so much fun to keep up with others garden endeavors, but there's just something about turning the pages of a real garden journal. Haven't written one page since moving here 1 1/2 yrs ago. But I may catch up in the depths of winter. Wish I had taken some "before" photos! Chris

growingagardenindavis said...

I love the photo idea! Also for other plants...a photo of the plant in situ and a close up of the tag...lots of good possibilities.
I love certain heucheras also but have not had a lot of luck with tiarellas. but I've got a heucherella (Strike It Rich) now that I'm babying along...we'll see if it makes it through the winter!

Yolanda Elizabet Heuzen said...

Ha, my cellphone only gets used in case of an emergency. I hate those things too Kim!

It's nice to see that you've put snowdrops on your list. They are great and you can never have too many of them. In the Netherlands there's a castle called Poelgeest where every January the snowdrops are in flower and there are (literally) millions of them. It is such a wonderful sight, once seen, never forgotten.

If you want someone to enthuse over winter aconites you should read Beverley Nichols. ;-) BTW I'm shocked - grin - that you don't like dafs, what's wrong with them?
Personally I love them especially the mini daffodowndillies and Thalia (a gorgeous white one that's scented too).

Aliums are always a joy!

Anonymous said...

You gave great thought to the placement of your bulbs - what fun it will be to see the combinations you've imagined come to life. It's been fun reading the comments too - so many cellphone haters! (I thought I was the last holdout and I succumbed much sooner than you!) and a few daff despisers - I'll have my work cut out for me (trying to make them attractive to detractors) during daffodil days at Bwold...

Unknown said...

blueblue, is it a little too warm there for you to plant them outside? :)

Meagan, I think that fall never seems to last more than a couple of weeks because it's our favorite season! The ones we maybe don't like so much seem to drag a whole lot more. lol.

Chris, I keep saying that I need to do something with a paper journal, too... but then, I also say that I need to sketch more and that doesn't happen, either. *sigh* And I even have the journals/paper to do it, so I have no excuse.

Leslie, WHY didn't I think of that re: the other plants?! That would have kept me from my current problem of not knowing which orangey-leaf heuchera in my front yard is which! *kicking myself right now*

You know, I didn't have any luck with tiarellas at my old house--I tried a couple of different ones, including the generic groundcover/spreader "Allegheny Foamflower" but it wasn't until moving to this well-drained lot where I expected them to die that I've been able to grow them. Weird. Anyway, I hope you post how that 'Strike It Rich' does for you... I've been tempted by the heucherellas, but leery as well for some reason.

Yolanda Elizabet, I can't even imagine a carpeting of snowdrops--that must be amazing to see! :) You know, I've never read Beverley Nichols but I keep hearing more and more about him so maybe I should.

As far as the daffs go, I think my hatred is mainly for the plain jane, classic yellow ones. I'm guessing that it goes back to my general dislike of yellow, which I am working to get over slowly. lol.

Kris, I, too, am surprised at the many cellphone haters! (Maybe I should say that I'm encouraged by the number of cellphone haters?! lol.)

Btw, based on what I've seen of your gardens at Blithewold via the blog, if anyone can convert daff detractors it will be you guys. :)

Ki said...

I share your view of phones as anathema. I don't see how people can talk so much. Having those appendages stuck on to their ears and talking incessantly, seemingly to no one is quite peculiar.

I am surprised that your neighbor's beech had dropped it's leaves. The wild Fagus grandiflora and sylvatica around these parts keep their dried leaves almost all winter. You can pick out the beech trees in the woods because of this trait. The attractive tan leaves stand out in the otherwise denuded stand of trees.

Anonymous said...

Kim: That is an elegantly written piece! I agree that the camera is a great journal aid and photographing the garden at this time of year involves some bodily contortions to get those low shots!

Shirley said...

Hi again, Kim :-)

Yep, I agree that the camera (and video camera) is a great way to document what plant is where at a particular date. I have done that for many years now but unfortunately I need to keep a better track of where I put these photos on my PC! I have many 'temp' folders for filing :-D

Your post inspired me to start a re-org of my photos! I will also agree that by writing a blog (almost a year now) is a great way to keep a journal of the garden. I have had many notebooks and diaries over the years but never kept them up to date. Even simply posting for GBBD will be good to look back on for next year. However, I need to get a different lens for my camera to get better border shots :-)

BTW I love heucheras too and what I variety of colours are available now to tempt us – we just need more space! Funnily enough I have just posted on them too but love to see them in other gardens. Thanks for sharing yours – I always enjoy seeing the variety of plants you grow :-D

Anonymous said...

Kim, I too resisted a mobile/cell phone for years but gave in - and I wouldn't be without it now, though I don't use it that much! More often than not it's the grocery aisle call - 'do we've any milk?'!

Anonymous said...

Love that photo of the Silver Scrolls Heuchera.

Digital cameras have changed the way I garden, certainly, but what I find most interesting is how they have changed my approach to photography. I appear to be a way better photographer than I ever was, simply because I can take 20 pictures of one thing to get the "right shot" and don't have to worry about film!

However, I do miss the tactile nature of printed photographs (I don't think I've printed a photo since 2002).

Anonymous said...

The digital camera makes it so easy.


The element of SHARING is an interesting element on online garden journaling. It is crazy, but I actually write about my gardens with thoughts in mind like "I wonder what this (unknown to me in real life) person might think?" or "That (unknown to me in real life) person will really like this" or "So and so (also unknown to me) will probably HATE this."

It is different than just a journal.


Allium rock!

I was briefly a beta tester at "Folia" (an emerging gardening site) but stopped becuase they are going a different direction with plant names. (They are trying to invent a new way to rely very heavily on common names. The idea is a good one in that many people are intimidated by the scientific names. The idea is of NO USE TO ME because common names are almost always meaningless. ) The issue came to a conclusion with classifications of Allium. Onions.

I love Allium and draw no line between the onion vegetable garden and the onion flower garden. And garlic. Same thing.

I planted several varieties... including some HUGE varities (A giganteum). I can't wait to see what happens.

I'll be watching here for the same things.

I love the idea of "Summer Bulbs." Allium.

lisa said...

Heh...I guess I'm too much a spaz to settle for just a journal OR a blog, so I do both! I'm looking forward to seeing you combos in the spring!

Anonymous said...

I still have stuff to get into the ground, down here, in the south, it's too easy to procrastinate that task! Sometimes I daydream of a field of muscari - I love them - but they don't do that well here, okay, but not great. I really like the Tiarellas too - yours looks just beautiful. Does sound like you are ready for the snow!

Unknown said...

Ki, my theory on that (because the wild beeches in the metroparks like to hold onto a lot of their leaves as well) is that this one doesn't have much choice. The wind can be pretty ferocious here, especially off the lake, and with this beech not having other trees around it to serve as a windbreak it's rather defenseless. If the wind wants to take its leaves, it will. And does, mostly.

layanee, it makes me hope that the dog appreciates the beauty of the garden as much as I do at ground level, since she sees it all the time! *grin*

shirl, I have a pretty good digital photo org system, but I change it up occasionally when the mood strikes. I think I will have to solidify the system now, though, as I ought to start taking the photos off of my hard drive and put them onto CDs for backup, etc. I'd hate to lose them (this is an older laptop after all) if the computer should crash. :(

john curtain, I do believe I know of what you speak! (Both with milk and with OJ. lol.)

andrea, that's a very good point about missing the tactile nature of photographs. And printed photos on this new "photo paper" may even look good framed but it doesn't have that heaviness or the glossy finish when you want to leaf through them.

You're right about digital photography making everyone look like better photographers. I feel like I have to take multiple photos just so one turns out right sometimes, though--it's so hard to see the pic on the lcd screen, too tiny! But I wonder if I would take more time on a single picture if I had a traditional camera instead?

Hank, I have thought something similar to that, too: That blogs are like digital journals for the exhibitionist in us!

You may be crazy, but I have thought the same thing when making posts. For example, when I posted my thoughts on daylilies I felt sure that Karen and Gotta Garden would both hate it... and sometimes my insanity expands way past the blogosphere, too. I admit that I think of you when I see Michael Dirr's book on hydrangeas at the bookstore on Sunday nights.

About the Folia/common names thing... wow. Wow. I really don't know what to say.

lisa, I like your kind of spaz--and that journal you showed on your blog is way cool. :) I have a thing for collages, too.

Unknown said...

Pam, I think that I spoke too soon when I said "mission accomplished"--bulbs are now 50% off at the local garden center. Argh. :)

Rosemarie said...

I'm excited to see your bulb garden next spring. I took a photo of where I planted them and then used "Paint" to circle where they were so I don't bulldoze them next spring during clean up.

I agree that I love heucheras, I have like 5 different kinds right now; but tiarellas I have not heard of and I have a shade garden. Will need to look those up!

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