Just Another Adventure: Fall Makeover:
Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events
Doing What Comes Naturally
Well, what comes naturally to gardeners. Fall has arrived, so the palms of my hands were itching to hold a spade and go dig in some garden soil. Find something to move, something to discard, something to give away, do another remake and end with a shout “Ha! Take that weeds!” I may, or may not, get all that accomplished, but I did do a complete makeover of a bed that was originally completed something like twenty years ago.
Needless to say, after all this time my original design had unraveled over the years due to using only perennials. The bed ended up with a grand total of two thugs battling it out for world (well, their world) domination.
The first act was to remove the two remaining players and that took digging and turning over soil twice. Each working of the soil took more time than anticipated for somehow my age has taken command of all projects. The soil was in good condition so I did not have to work in any compost. My best guess is next spring I will find a few little green noses taunting me.
I still enjoy the original overall shape of the bed so that remains as is. The back side of the bed is defined by cedar posts sunk side by side to form a rustic wall. The overall outline is of a dog bone with a bow in the middle: a narrow arched strip with a bulb on each end. The front of the bed is defined by limestone rocks picked up as the garden was originally dug. There is a bench shaded by a conifer facing the bed from across a small circular room. Size of the bed is eighteen feet long by about six feet wide.
One bulb-shaped end of the bed has a Japanese maple with foliage that opens orange, red and yellow in spring and gradually fades over to green for summer, shifting back to red and yellow in the fall. At the opposite end the other bulb now has a weeping redbud with purple foliage. Cercis canadensis “Ruby Falls” has somewhat small semi-glossy leaves that shift from purple in the spring to yellow in the fall. Blooms are lavender-pink, but I am only after the color of the foliage.
My preferred style of gardening is to have blooms in sequence as opposed to an all-out hit-you- between-the- eyes planting. I enjoy foliage textures and colors almost as much as I enjoy the more visually striking flowers. Also, why transplant one layer when you can have several layers that come and go with the seasons? I like to think the additional expense and travel to the local gardens centers (I know, it is a sacrifice and one I am willing to perform for the garden) is rewarded with a longer showing.
Late Winter Early Spring
I began transplanting at the end of the bed where the Japanese maple was located. Among the roots of the maple I transplanted mature Christmas Rose seedlings that had sprung up in other parts of the garden. I thought the late winter blooms of Helleborus niger in white aging to red-pink with fresh felt green foliage would be a most excellent beginning. If you have hellebores in the garden then it is mandatory to add snowdrops. I began with clumps of Galanthus with their snow-white bells near the Hellebores to add bright green and clean white along with the hellebore blooms beneath bare limbs of the maple. Just as leaves begin to emerge on the maple the hellebore blooms fade to red-pink and the Galanthus are only green grassy clumps which will quickly fade into dormancy. The foliage on the hellebores gets to remain all twelve months of the year.
I dug clumps of snowdrops from other locations in the garden and placed five more clumps in a weaving pattern down the bed. About midway another Hellebore; a Tibetan hellebore was transplanted with its unusual soft pink petals with purple-red veins. Another hellebore sits beneath the weeping redbud.
While the hellebores and snowdrops are at their best they are joined by three Adonis amurensis. If you are not familiar with Adonis they form clumps of very fine feathery foliage in deepest green with bright, waxy, yellow blooms. They sure catch your attention, especially with all the other plants in bloom.
Both the snowdrops and the Adonis go dormant just after blooming and setting seed. The new foliage of the trees at either end of the bed are linked by the evergreen hellebores. As the snowdrops and Adonis fade, I now have species lilies weaving throughout the bed.
I have always had a fondness for lilies, but it is the species lilies that hold my attention best. I do have some of the large hybrid trumpet lilies in other parts of the garden, but for this area I began by moving two clumps of Lilium tsingtauense with blooms of what I would refer to as Halloween orange with freckles. The six narrow petals are widely spaced and on a flat plane with a space that makes me think it was going to add a seventh but gave up at the last minute. Next up I continued with Martagon lilies. Specifically, Lilium martagon ‘Claude Shride’ with its recurved petals of heavy waxy substance in deepest red with freckled yellow center. The red and yellow clumps of Claude Shride now form a small drift beneath the Japanese maple with its red foliage.
Extending down the bed in a weave are Lilium amabile in both orange and a yellow cultivars. By now I had reached the purple leaf redbud so I finished up the lilies with another Lilium amabile in clear lemon yellow and another martagon in melon. I found a seedling of a coffee-brown foliage hardy geranium and thought that would make a good companion so in that went. The area was completed with an Autumn fern in copper and gold on a right green background.
Late Summer, Fall
As the lilies complete their blooms, they will be deadheaded and I will watch for the next round of plants to emerge from the spikes of lilium. I transplanted three Arisaema fargessi with their stout stature and very large leaves. Eventually the three will form tight clumps that will almost touch each other in the bed. Bloom is like a seersucker suit in mahogany brown with white stripes. After the blooms there will be fire engine red seed clusters.
While all of the above is going on ferns emerge and freshen and will last from late spring well into winter. I began with three Athyrium filix-femina Dre’s Dagger with its narrow fronds that are crisscrossed and ending in small crests. One sits beneath the maple, the other two about mid-way along the bed with cedar posts as a background. The Autumn fern finishes up the ferns for the bed.
Now comes the wait until next spring when all my expectations become reality.