A FANTASTIC JUNE IN THE GARDEN

Last week I had to go to Newport, Rhode Island, for work, and although business travel isn't high on the list of things I want to be doing in summer, it was a pleasure to be in such a beautiful city.

Before I left I gardened like a mad woman to get all the major jobs in the garden finished before I left. This meant pulling out as many weeds as could, mulching, planting everything still left in pots (and then I found another handful of plants sitting around). 

When I came home, I was rewarded by a garden that is looking as good as it ever has. Even though there isn't much blooming right now—lady's mantle, nepeta, a few clematis and a handful of other things—the foliage on all the plants is looking healthy comes in the widest variety of greens a person could imagine. 

I took advantage of the garden looking good last weekend to run and take a bunch of photos. It's such a pleasure to be in a garden that doesn't appear to be crying out for maintenance, even though we know there always weeds to be pulled, plants to be moved and planning to be done.

I'm so happy with the new garden area that I created last year. Here's the view of it from near the garage.

nepeta

The east side of the property has three arrowwood virburnums that I planted three or four years ago. Two winters ago they were decimated by deer, but I fenced them off last winter and now they are really flourishing and providing the screening we were looking. Sadly, I've just read that the viburnum leaf beetle has been spotted just 20 miles from us and their favorite thing to munch on (and usually kill within two to three year) is arrowwood viburnum. There's not much to be done about it other than cross your fingers.

arrowwood viburnums

On the far end of that bed is a shadier area where 'Tilt-a-whirl' hosta and ligularia rule the roost.

Tilt-a-whirl hosta and ligularia

I'm growing a climbing hydrangea up the north side of the garage and even that is looking healthy although they are notoriously slow growers. I'm happy to see a few flowers even. I should add here, that you should think very carefully about growing a climbing hydrangea up your house or garage because they can really damage wood siding. Since our garage is pretty basic, I'm not worried.

Climbing hydrangea

The other side of the circle of grass in the side/back yard was modified a little last year and that too is looking pretty good. 


This patch of nepeta is kiddy corner to the patch I showed you above and it creates a great color echo in the yard.

nepeta and lady's mantle



This clematis (whose name I have forgotten but it has a label that I will check) is growing up the skirting on the deck.

clematis

I picked up some begonias on sale and planted them under the serviceberry tree and I couldn't be happier with how that worked out.



Over the years I've come to learn just how adaptable most hostas are. I stuck this 'Abiqua Drinking Gourd' in on the back side of the main garden and I love the contrast in texture.

Abiqua Drinking Gourd hosta

Nearby there were a few holes in the garden so I stuck in some petunias. Because there are taller plants around them, you can't really see them until you get close to them an it's a nice surprise. There's also one of several caster bean plants in there that I put around the garden. I hope they take off soon, but we'll need much warmer weather for that to happen.


Along the path to the garage this garden of blues, chartreuse and purple foliage plants is starting to come together.


On the other side of the house, the shade gardens have some filling out to so but so far they are looking OK.


In the distance you can see my first climbing hydrangea.


 Here's a better view. It is nowhere near as impressive as my mom's (which I showed you on Facebook the other day) but hopefully someday it will be.



This is the plant of the year, 'Biokovo' geranium.


 My little stone crane amongst the Egyptian walking onions.


 The annuals in the front patio bed are starting to come together.



And one last shot of my new Aralia 'Silver Umbrella.' The hosta ('Elegans', I think) keeps trying to eat it so I keep trimming off leaves.



 How's your garden looking?






TWO ENDS OF THE COLOR SPECTRUM

It's a rare Saturday blog post! I figured I owed you a little something with my sporadic posting over the past few weeks.

The garden is finally coming alive, and although there isn't a lot of things flowering just yet, it is a lovely combination of greens and almost everything is still looking fresh and new.

I'll show you more of the what's happening in the garden soon, but in the meantime, I ran across two beautiful color moments that couldn't be more different.

The first is at the base of the side stairs off the deck, where lady's mantle and nepeta have intermingled in one of my favorite color combinations: blue and chartreuse.

lady's mantle and nepeta comingling

The second is on the hot end of the spectrum, where the hot pink and bright cherry red of mandevilla and diascia create a riot of color in the deck planters. I don't usually like a lot of bright colors mixed together, but I went really bright in the white deck planters containers this year and I'm loving the effect.
mandevilla and diascia

Enjoy your weekend!


GARDEN TOUR: A FAMILIAR GARDEN FULL OF SURPRISES

I love looking at photos of gardens. I study them and after a while I think I know them. I've been following Linda's blog Each Little World longer than I've been following any other garden blog and I feel like I've become close friends with her Madison, Wisconsin, garden. 

But a couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to see her gorgeous garden in person and what I found was that, although I recognized parts of it from photos, it had a completely different feel than I expected. What struck me most, was the variation in the topography on Linda and Mark's very large city lot. Linda told me that topography is part of the reason they chose the property, which had no garden whatsoever when they bought it a couple decades ago.

The undulating terrain offers so much interest and creates garden areas with distinct personalities. What I also discovered is that Linda and Mark have a most interesting collection of plants, shrubs and trees. Several of them have been added to my list.

I MUST have this Carex 'Beatlemania'. It has the most delightful thin foliage and it made the most beautiful groundcover. It was growing on top of a low stone wall, so it was the perfect height for petting and admiring.


At first I had no idea what this caged plant could have been, and then Linda told me: It's an oak sapling (or maybe technically it's still in the seedling stage). A giant Bur oak (which a local historian believes is from a time before Wisconsin was a state) marks Linda and Mark's driveway and last year three seedlings made it through winter. This one made it through the following winter as well.


These pinecones caught my eye from 25 feet away. They were absolutely gorgeous. I'll have to ask Linda the name of the tree again, as I have forgotten.


Alongside the driveway is a stunning forest pansy redbud. Linda explained that it has suffered some winter dieback over the years, but the pruning from this damage has created an interesting, open shape that is equally nice to look at from afar and from underneath. The leaves are the most lovely shade of purple with green veins. 




Linda's 'Golden Shadows' dogwood is so lovely. I struggle so much with growing these.

golden shadows dogwood

The fence along the back of the property is one of the first things I fell in love with on Linda's blog. It was designed and built by Mark. The property behind it is for sale. What a bonus for new owners to have a back yard that shares this lovely feature.


I loved this apricot foxglove that stood by itself among a great selection of foliage plants.

lone foxglove

This weeping  Japanese katsura, Cercidiphyllum japonicum 'Pendula', was so lovely in a back corner of the garden. They prune it to be able to walk under and it was such a charming moment. I intend to add one to my garden some day.

japanese katsura tree

Unless I missed, I don't think there is any grass on the property. Everything is connected by a series of paths, some rock stepping stones, some mulched, but all wheelbarrow accessible. When you walk around to the back of the house, the most phenomenal (and large) pond fills your view. A waterfall leads into it creating a lovely sound.

idyllic back yard pond

There are upper and lower areas to the pond.

upper pond

Linda and Mark took great pains to select appropriate rocks for around the water feature. The result is a completely organic feeling. Sometimes ponds feel a little contrived (which is not always a bad thing) but this one really feels like it was always there.

organic pond

I so enjoyed meeting Linda in person and touring her beautiful garden. What a treat to see a garden I've been admiring for so many years. You can see more of Linda and Mark's garden at their blog, and I highly recommend the "My garden odyssey" category of posts that detail the making of this great garden.

MY FAVORITE NO-FAIL, WAY-TOO-EASY GROUNDCOVERS

I'm nearing the tail end of the major work in the garden, which now consists of pulling out weeds by the handful and mulching. I'm certain I've weeded at least 10 wheelbarrows full and the mulch situation is completely out of control.

I'm fussy about mulch. My favorite is a very fine pine bark with pieces a half-inch or less and it's difficult to find. And I buy it by the bag. I know, that is not at all good from an environmental standpoint and I'm not proud of it, but the fact is that there was almost no cost savings buying in bulk because I would have to pay an exorbitant delivery fee on already pricey mulch. Also, I've been doing this weeding/mulching game for at least a month, if not more and I don't want a pile of mulch sitting in my driveway for a month.

I bought a pallet of it: 50 bags. And I ran out, so now I'm using icky giant wood-chunk mulch in the shade garden because that's all that's left at store.

All of this reaffirms my goal to cover my garden (or most of it, anyway) in groundcovers. If you consider a groundcover to be a plant that spread readily, then I have a lot more grouncovers in my yard than I'll discuss here. Ostrich ferns run rampant in the woods and certainly fit that description. Bigroot geraniums also count and I'm working to establish more of them throughout the garden.

But the groundcovers that I most often think of are more creepy crawly. I let them grow with reckless abandon and I just pull them out by the handful when they try to "eat" a plant I want to thrive or get to thick and messy looking.

These are four I have spread around the garden and I hope they take over. Groundcovers equal less mulch and less weeding and right now I'm all about that. There are some common groundcovers you won't see mentioned here and in some cases it's not because I haven't discovered them. Rather it's because I've tried them and they didn't pass my no-maintenance-at-all-required test. Creeping thyme is lovely but after planting it year after year, it became clear to me that it's only right for a well-drained, full sun spot that is never walked on. Irish moss is lovely and I have small patches of it around the garden, but again, any kind of foot traffic was the death of it. It's also very difficult to pull the errant weed sprout out of it. The four groundcovers I'm listing below are, for me at least, about as foolproof as they get.

AJUGA REPETANS


For about a month starting in late May in my garden, Ajuga has pretty purple-blue blooms that are a nice touch of color at a time when little else is blooms but the greens are really popping. I like 'Chocolate Chip' for it's smaller leaves but there are a lot of Ajuga cultivars that are interesting. When the flowers fade, as they will soon, you're left with a carpet of dark green to purple foliage that does a good job showing off lighter colored foliage and flowers. It doesn't spread as fast as I wish it would, but I'm also not great about dividing big clumps and spreading it around the garden like I should.

LYSIMACHIA NUMMULARIA


As soon as I mention the common name for this plant—creeping Jenny—you're bound to have a visceral reaction, because this is one of those plants that walks a very fine line between friend and foe. I like the 'Goldilocks' cultivar for it's brilliant foliage that works so well with blue and dark foliage plants and I think it maybe a tad less aggressive than other creeping Jenny varieties. It is lighter and brighter in more sun and turns lime green in shadier spots, which isn't my favorite look. This does spread quickly. In fact I think my patch of it started with one plant that I pulled out of a container at the end of the season several years ago. It won't hesitate to choke out smaller plants either, so I literally rip it out by the handful to create areas for other plants or just to thin it out when its look a bit too jungle-ish.


SEDUMS


There are a lot of great groundcover sedums and I'm sorry to say I don't know the name of the one I have a lot of in my garden. It gets about 8 to 10 inches long and a bit floppy, which isn't my favorite habit, but what it lacks in tidiness, it makes up for in hardiness. This stuff will grow anywhere. Of all the groundcovers I'm featuring here, I think this is the most aggressive, but again, I've found it to be relatively easy to control. You can see here in the corner of the garden it needs a little taming, but it certainly fills a space quickly and easily. I think I'd like to try a groundcover sedum that stays a little lower and tighter in form.

GALIUM ODORATUM (aka sweet woodruff)


I have yet to meet a place where sweet woodruff won't grow and really, that's it's charm. From deep shade to full sun, this groundcover whose leaves resemble mini lupine foliage, seems to just take off. It gets a tiny white flower that I find charming and requires absolutely no maintenance. I don't even cut it back in fall. It just dies back and disappears and comes back the next year. I'll be honest, it can be a little bit of a bully, but I've yet to be outwitted by it with just hand-pulling (not even digging) it out of the places I don't want it to grow. It does seem to "eat" other plants so I try to keep it away from smaller plants. For me it serves the important purpose of growing in a lot of places where I just can't be bothered to try to grow something else. In that respect, it's a real garden workhorse.



What are your feelings on groundcovers? I know a lot of people detest them and think they are messy, but I feel they serve a really important purpose in the garden. And if it decreases the amount of weeding and mulching I have to do, well so much the better.