Living With Limitations:
Aralia cordata Gotemba
Just a Bit More
Over my thirty-plus years of gardening there has been plants that continued to hold a special place on my Lust-List. I would chase one down, make a purchase and transplant it to my garden, mark it from the list and then find myself adding it back to the list. Sometimes I simply eliminated the plant from my list, making the decision there was no need to kill another. Another special plant would give me one or two good years and then decline until one spring I went out and found the plant was no longer with me. Some did not make it that far: I was growing more frustration than perennials.
Just a Bit More Effort
Over time many of the “problem plants” began to fall into a category in my mind. As usual it was the gardener who was the problem, and not the perennial. Almost all reached back to the most basic of garden rules of: locate a plant where it needs to be and not necessarily where you want it. When reading descriptions and individual plant needs for a particular plant on my Lust-List I was remembering what I wanted to remember on plant needs. If a plant description of needs said something like “Appreciates consistent extra moisture, but will perform without it” guess which part remained in my mind. Yep, “will perform without extra moisture.” Perhaps in some gardens, but mostly not so much in my garden.
Aralia cordata Gotemba fruit
The plants that I now had notations beside in my Lust-List became a future special project. My “technical difficulties” in health caused the project to put but on hold for I could no longer do the carrying and digging. Then along came a volunteer who wanted to give me a hand with the project. With his assistance, (well, actually he did all the manual labor), supplies and tools were carried into the garden, stones moved forming an overall outline, bags became layers to mix.
The new bed is at the junction of two paths, roughly teardrop in shape, and is the tip of a larger bed, all outlined by aged stones with the appearance of being nibbled and bored by rock worms. It is located on the north side of a hill and has sun/shade mix with sun traveling across the bed. A base of mixed coarse sand and granite grit mixed with native soil was layered with a bag of unmilled sphagnum peat and mixed. Then two bags of peat moss that were mixed with the previous, followed by bags of pine bark mulch and more peat. All received a final mixing until it filled up the inside of the stones raising above soil level. I wanted an area holding extra consistent moisture, but not a soupy bog. Then a bit of patience waiting for it all to be rained upon and settled.
I have decided to go for drama in this bed since there are so many choices available in foliage textures and colors as well as blooms. My overall concept is for a primary play of foliage. Assembling my special plants for this special bed the first thing I realized was I had more plants than space.
Aralia cordata “Gotemba” is a large herbaceous perennial that resembles a shrub dying back to the ground each winter. If I transplanted it to the new bed and it reached full potential of 5 feet across and 8 feet tall not much space would remain for my other beauties. To solve that one I dug a hole, mixed soil well with peat, compost, and soil conditioner locating the golden foliage showpiece outside the bed at the tip of the tear. If it only reached half its potential in height and width I will be content.
The bed is 5 feet at widest point by 9 feet length: what would you transplant next if it were in your garden?
I have completed my new bed, but want to hear your choice. Next blog I will describe the plants I used.
Living With Limitations: Third and Final (?) Redesign
Being a gardener I am aware there is no such thing as final in garden. Plants are always in the process of change; one dies, another takes over and smothers its neighbors, the design turns out to be nothing like photos you saw in a catalog. Then there is the gardener who always has his or her mind on that next perennial or shrub, perhaps a can’t-resist bulb order. Both gardens and their gardeners being alive are dynamic, and that means continual change.
The second section in my redesign of a southerly section of my garden took a turn (literally) toward the western edge; connecting, then running uphill. Envision a large irregular “L” shape. The western edge of my garden was mostly completed last fall so all that remained was finding a way to connect the two sections making it appear all one flowing design.
Last fall transplants
Close to midway along the western edge of my garden I transplanted one Spilled Wine Weigela, then on each side of it installed a Thread Leaf Spirea. All three shrubs settled in nicely and are looking quite nice this year. When I completed the other leg of the “L” with a Calycanthus Burgundy Spice, all came together with last fall’s yellow and dark purple foliage. The Calycanthus is taller than all the other shrubs used creating a nice pivot point where the two beds join and the path takes a left bend.
‘Completing’ the Redesign
Variegated Dwarf Weigela, Weigela florida `Variegata Nana’, flowering branches, at Visalia Monrovia Nursery
At the other end of the three shrubs installed last year I transplanted Diervilla Firefly Nightglow with its dramatic dark reddish purple foliage that shifts to red in the fall. In June and July there will be sulfur-yellow trumpet shaped blooms contrasting with the dark leaves. Dropping down in front of the Diervilla is a variegated Weigela covered in yellow and green leaves, again picking up the yellow, green, dark foliage theme.
While at a local garden center I saw Hibiscus Midnight Marvel I had been coveting on and off for a couple of years. This time I gave in to that Siren Song and the shrub came home with me. Rose Mallow Midnight Marvel has dark, purple-black-green large leaves with startling-red blossoms reaching up to nine inches across. In the past I was not sure I wanted a plant this dramatic (some may say garish), but it must be my age and failing eyesight, for this year it looked perfect for partnering with the drama of the Diervilla and Weigela combination.
I removed a perennial that had been less than stellar in its
performance for some years and now had a remaining space at the base of a mature wild black cherry. The space was limited, in an awkward location next to a bend in the path, and whatever ended up there needed to tie in with the drama of those last three shrubs. I put my spade down and headed for my favorite local garden center, and then on to a second garden center, all with no answer to my dilemma. Turns out the answer was in my own back yard.
Our sewer line had to be dug up and replaced requiring landscaping to be moved. In the plants moved was a dwarf Nandina which was quickly moved to my garden. It will have new foliage of red/brown, colorful fall foliage and berries of scarlet; all of which fit right in with the colors of its companions.
I then transplanted two clumps of the same daylily I used at the beginning of the bed, this time stepping down the Rose Mallow, so each end of the “L” would have the same texture and color coordination.
As I cleaned up the bed getting ready for the shrubs to be transplanted my first step was to dig all weeds by the roots. Then each hole dug was enriched with compost and after the shrub was watered in, a mulch was spread. I used old newspapers covered by pine bark mulch which is my favorite method to deal with pesky weeds.
See you in Indianapolis September 12th for Presentation: Colorful Combinations for Shade Gardens
Living With Limitations: Everything OK?
Canada Lily (Lilium canadense)
Perhaps you have heard the story of the child who would not/could not speak. From the day after he was born making his first cry coming into this world until he was eight years of age he uttered not a sound. To say the least, his parents were naturally quite concerned and took the boy to every specialist and pediatrician, had every recommended test run. Finally, the parents were informed nothing physical could be found explaining the child’s lack of speech. So they went to child therapists and psychologists, all to no avail. On the morning of the boy’s eighth birthday he spoke. “Mother!” He explained. “You burned the toast. I can’t eat this.”
After all the jubilation over his first words, the parents asked him why he had never spoken a word to them. “Well,” he explained to them, “Up until now everything has been just fine.” Perhaps I too, have a tendency to speak up more when things are not going right than when it is all going well for me.
As I have done in the past, I recently placed an order with Amazon.com for a bottle of ready to use Liquid Fence to deter marauding deer (also known as locust on hooves) from dining in my garden. Being an Amazon Prime member my order was on my doorstep, as promised, 2 days later. I opened the order and found the bottle was placed with 2 other items which, thankfully were sealed. A plastic bag had been placed over the bottle but not sealed and when the bottle bounced around in the box it sprayed the inside of the bag which leaked and soaked the box.
Locust on Hooves
Before I could contact Amazon, the seller E-Shoppe sent me an email asking if my order was satisfactory and to contact them if it was not. I described my problem to them by reply email and received a reply the same day. They refunded the full amount of my bottle of Liquid Fence so I could purchase another bottle. Amazon credited my shopping card the next day. I felt it was actually an Amazon problem since they packed the order, but E-Shoppe stepped in and went beyond soothing a disgruntled shopper. They could have said contact Amazon.
Delphinium exaltatum, Tall Larkspur
While I may not always answer those “how did I do” emails after a purchase, this one certainly deserves an answer. You did great, E-Shoppe, and I am very pleased both with the product and with your beyond the norm response. Certainly restores my faith when finding real human beings who care about their customers. Thank you, Rachel.
Just feeling good over a customer experience. No connection to Liquid Fence other than I use it in my garden
Living With Limitations: Redesign Part 2
Lilium henryi with Delphinium exaltatum
The more I pause in front of the now deceased witch-hazel serving as midway marker for the long narrow bed, the more ways I come up with to enhance its decaying days. I previously set a clay container at its base with a species clematis to scramble up the leafless limbs. The clematis has small urn-shaped flowers of satin purple-blue-violet, but is not all that showy. However, I do enjoy its quiet presence and vigor, so it gets to remain until the tree makes a final exit.
I do not want to duplicate the first half of the bed, but will extend my theme, continuing the second half of my new design. Next to the witch-hazel I have transplanted a half dozen Lilium henryi bulbs. The Turk’s cap style reflexed orange petals peppered with brown freckles has dark orange pollen extending well past the petals on arching filaments. In the next year or two the lilies will reach four feet or more having flowers among the lower branches of the witch-hazel in late July and early August.
Standing in front of the what-was-once Lilium henryi I see where mom deer fed her two Disneyesque spotted young last evening or early this morning. The lilies certainly will not be reaching past four six inches this year, much less four feet. After I finished mumbling under my breath, I remembered a couple of small birdhouses; one a wren house and one a hummingbird home. I hung those in the branches and then thought of some color I could use complementing the birdhouses. I had two gifts of glass; one a sheet of various shades of green resembling a small stained glass window, the other a globe in blue and green to twist and turn casting rays of color. Next up is to watch yard sales for more and larger birdhouses.
Weigela Midnight Wine was transplanted next to the Lilium. I am now considering purchasing one, perhaps two more, to form a ground cover of dark burgundy-purple foliage providing contrast to the orange lilies. This small shrub only reaches ten to twelve inches in height and one and half to two feet in spread. Midnight Wine does bloom in spring, but if and when it does they are sporadic and few, which is ok with me for I am interested in the colorful leaves.
Barberry Sunjoy Gold Pillar brings the color bright gold to contrast with the burgundy of the Weigela. It is transplanted four feet from the Weigela, bringing contrast in height and form. Weigela is a small mound, while Gold Pillar is upright reaching a height of four feet. New grow begins orange-red and matures into vivid gold. Come autumn foliage shifts to orange-red. This is another shrub mother deer will not be bringing her does to dine upon.
Hydrangea Tough Stuff Ah-Ha
Proven Winners Photo
Hydrangea Tuff Stuff Ah Ha is a lacecap style blooming shrub reblooming all summer in blue or pink double florets. Not only does it rebloom, but those blooms are numerous and large as saucers at the end of each stout stem. I also happen to like the deep green, substantial leaves with their quilted appearance, prominent veins and jagged edges. Height is about three feet and spread is about the same for a very neat, compact, appearance. I am noticing a shift from blue to pink blooms as the season progresses telling me to use and acidic fertilizer next spring if I want to see blue blooms.
Plectranthus effusus var. longitubus (Isodon effusus) is a mouthful and the name has been changed three times since I first became aware of this woody perennial. When first transplanted it was the Tubesock plant, and remains that way in my mind. The plant gets its name from the flowers which are long and tube-like in shape but small and dainty: multiple little icy blue tubesocks on wiry stems reaching an airy three feet. I think they look better when cut back in July for forming a thicker, shorter plant. Anyway, sure forms a definite contrast to its neighbor the hydrangea. Blooms are in late summer.
Viburnum Lil Ditty from Proven Winners
Viburnum Little Ditty reaches only one to two feet in height with the same spread making for one of the most versatile viburnums on the market. It is just about maintenance free for it grows into a mound, needing no trimming, nipping or deadheading. The glossy green leaves are topped by creamy white little clouds resting just above the foliage and there are an abundance of those little clouds that also happen to be fragrant. A step down from the height of the Tubesock, a contrast of stout against airy and early blooms as opposed to late.
Calycanthus Burgundy Spice sits directly behind the Little Ditty so the white of the blooms and waxed green of the viburnum can help bring out the burgundy of the foliage of the Burgundy Spice (not that it needs help). Here is a shrub to die for; deep burgundy crinkled foliage that emerges burgundy, stays that color until dropping in the fall. Blooms are abundant and also in burgundy. The spicy fragrant flowers are an excuse to take a glass of wine into the garden on afternoons when the aroma is best. Height about eight feet and width six feet.
Next up: Section three.
Living With Limitations: New Garden Design
There is an old saying that goes something like this; “He that is taught only by himself has a fool for a teacher”. Over 30 years later that is proving itself to be close to gospel. When I began gardening I knew next to nothing about plants or design. I did know the photos of gardens and plants that I liked and I did my best to emulate those glossy magazine pages. Results of my design and transplanting back then has, like its gardener, matured and growing old over the years. Or, at least those surviving my ‘care”.
The lower edge of my hillside garden has an arching outline. Following along that outside edge is a path circling the outside of the garden. Unfortunately I left too narrow a bed between that outside edge and the path, not realizing it until I began trying to fill the space with perennials while keeping some sense of design. Over the years, design after design did not satisfy me once matured and perennials were continually changed. I probably killed enough plants to begin a good sized garden center.
The long, narrow, arching bed of approximately fifty feet in length has a “bulb” shape of eight feet depth at each end; the center of the bed tapers down to a bit less than three feet wide. This blog covers half that length.
Time, experience, listening to other gardeners, age and infirmary, have ganged up on me creating a new design for the area. The area is more sun than shade so that is an added challenge to his old shade gardener. Age and my disabilities have added concern about maintaining my new design, so I began with hardscaping, then selected dwarf shrubs with lots of colorful foliage, deer resistance, and very low maintenance. Finally, I went back and selected a few perennials of little interest to the locust on hooves and are tight “clumpers”, pretty much taking care of themselves.
Spirea Double Play Candy Corn. Photo Proven Winners
Procrastinating is not always a bad thing. I had a bird apartment on a pole from a yard sale that I was always going to paint. Then I intended to paint only the roofs of the three apartments. Later I set it aside in the garage. Turns out it worked better wearing only age. I got my posthole digger out and created a secure site for the bird house, nestling it to the rear of the bed and between two branches of a Seven Son tree. In front of the post I transplanted a Diervilla Kodiak Orange shrub with shiny green leaves highlighted in orange-tan that turn to glowing orange in fall with yellow honeysuckle blooms in late spring.
While at a local garden center I spotted a bird bath (puddle on a stick) in colors of cream, tan, and brown with no distinct pattern. It found a home about four feet over from the bird house and shrub closer the front of the bed and to the path. Next I located Spirea Double Play Candy Corn with new foliage emerging orangey-red and aging to pineapple yellow and completing the show in candy apple red. Height is only two feet or so. This shrub was transplanted closer to the front of the bed so the shrubs zig-zag along the length of the bed.
Accompanying the Diervilla and Spirea, Weigela My Monet Sunset carries the color theme in foliage of gold variegation over green and brilliant orange-russet fall colors. The shrub only reaches one and a half feet.
Weigela Monet Moment Sunset
Proven Winners Photos
I had a daylily that over time had become crowded and received far too little light, growing lots of foliage, but producing little bloom. I divided it into three nice clumps and placed those long, arching, blades of deep green between the clumps of shrubs. The daylily was an old hybrid from the 1960’s, Indian Love Call, with dark rustic-red petals having a yellow center.
Picking up from the red and yellow of the daylily, the next low growing mound was Spirea Double Play Gold aptly named for its golden leaves. Only reaches two feet and it must be too low for the deer to dine upon for it goes untouched.
The shrubs have been placed four feet apart and now reach the center length of the bed where a dead tree stands. Originally a Witch-Hazel it finally got tired of me digging in its root system and gave up the ghost. Now I have moved a container with a clematis at its base and let it begin to scramble up those dead limbs. To eventually take the place of the dead tree I transplanted a Calycanthus Solar Flare with its Magnolia-like blooms of rich maroon-red with a bright yellow center. Should reach about nine feet and have yellow fall color. (Calycanthus are my favorite shrubs).
Midway and to the rear of the bed I used a clump of tall Monkshood that will bloom in fall. For late summer I have transplanted two clumps of Great Blue Lobelia. I could not resist bringing some blue into all those yellow, red, orange and brown colors.
I may be slower than a sleepy sloth, but I am gettin’ er done.
Living With Limitations: On a Mission
On a Mission
I have always had an affinity for the smaller private gardens; those gardens created by passionate gardeners who cannot help but be collectors. On rare occasions one of these gems will be saved by foresight and sufficient funds to continue into the future. Even more infrequent is to see the garden continue to grow in size and collections eventually becoming available for public view. I have a very short list of gardens I enjoy visiting and revisiting over the years.
My gardening friend Karen and I decided upon another road trip to see gardens and garden centers, this trip in Zanesville, Ohio. Only a minimal five hour drive each way, with another forty five minutes added to her driving to pick me up. For me, this trip was a revisiting of good gardening memories; for Karen, new adventures.
Scene from Mission Oaks Gardens web site
Mission Oaks Gardens has long held a special place in my memories of “small” gardens dreamed into existence by “exceptionally large” gardeners. Mission Oaks was the work of Bert and Susan Hendley, their dreams now in the care of Muskingum Valley Park District. Over the years I have visited Mission Oaks several times while giving talks at Bert’s request. Each visit was an opportunity to see the garden grow while guided by Bert introducing me to new plants and sharing visions of the garden’s future. Bert was a generous host who shared not only time, but usually plants for my own garden. I have several “memory plants” in my garden with Bert’s name on them.
Bert was not available to meet us this trip to his garden, but being the always gracious host, we were greeted upon arrival, then given a full tour, by Russell Edgington, Executive Director. Rather than attempt to detail what we saw, I would highly recommend a visit to Mission Oaks website, which does much better at presenting the garden than I could. Then plan a trip to see the garden for yourselves. The gardens and the hospitality truly does speak for itself.
Scene from Mission Oaks Gardens web site
What is a garden adventure without a garden center to visit? When visiting a few years back Bert recommended Timber Run Gardens and after a visit it remained in my mind. Karen and I made a return trip where Karen found her weeping purple beech along with several other plants. I was on a mission to locate Rex Begonia for my wife and located two. While at Mission Oaks Russell shoveled a load of temptation into the van by telling us of Wilson’s Garden Center. After all, “it was only a short trip from Timber Run”. Wilson’s was the largest garden center I have ever seen, and yes, I did succumb to temptation by purchasing a shrub I was not aware existed, but knew exactly where it would reside in my garden. I also saw another four Rex Begonia to complete my mission. Karen did her best to support the local economy and keep a young lady on the cash register employed.
By the time we checked out of Wilson’s it was time to head home after a stop for an early dinner. We arrived home about 8:30 PM with a very tired and content gardener. While transplanting my new shrub into the garden, I reminisced about our trip and found myself thinking “you know, I have not visited Fernwood Gardens in Michigan in some years.”
Are you listening, Karen?