July 25, 2011

Mid-Summer Wide Views of the Front Gardens

Now that it's been just over a year since our front yard relandscaping project, here are some wide views of the recently pared-down gardens. For photos from summer 2010, see here. For photos of the new beds in spring 2010, see here.
The perennials are filling in well, but the shrubs and trees are still very small. I expected the English roses (which just finished up their first flush of blooms and are all leaves in these photos) would be 4-5 feet tall this year, but the harsh winter cut them back so much that they're in the 2 feet range.

I was hoping the backlighting would make pretty pictures, but many of the plants look washed out in these photos, sorry. In this view you can see a couple of the giant lavender 'Walker's Low' catmint (Nepeta). The flower spikes are starting to look rough and will soon need to be cut back, but they've given a couple of months of beautiful color so far. They'll start blooming again a few weeks after they're cut back and continue until frost.

The main color this month has come from the catmint, 'Pink Double Delight' coneflowers (Echinacea - in the background of this photo), 'Rozanne' hardy geraniums, and various daylilies. Above is peach 'Frances Joiner'. The daylilies didn't give many blooms last year after being divided up and transplanted. This year is better but still not overwhelming. Next year they should give a great show of both flowers and foliage.

This photo shows a short, flowerless rosebush in the center with 'Big Blue' lilyturf (Liriope) along the bottom right corner. At the center bottom is an 'Emerald Gaeity' Euonymus shrub. Lavender geraniums and catmint are in the background along with some pink coneflowers. To increase unity through repetition, the front gardens have 7 catmints, 6 geraniums, and 4 groupings of 3 catmints in each scattered around the area.

This view shows the bed next to the front patio and steps. In front of the rock is a 'Unicorn' corkscrew rush (Juncus), which visitors always notice and ask about. To the left of the rock is a sadly short rosebush, and to the right is a little 'Green Tower' boxwood (Buxus). Eventually the boxwood should get 7-9 feet tall and up to 2 feet wide, though I might keep it pruned narrower than that. I think of it as my welcome sentry as visitors pass by it on the way from the driveway to the front door.

This photo shows a different view of the same area, with a couple of 'Big Smile' daylilies in bloom next to a 'Rozanne' geranium. Like everyone else, I can't say enough good about the long season of color from vigorous 'Rozanne' - and no deadheading required, hallelujah!

Here is another pairing of coneflowers and catmint, located on the far west corner of the front yard. On the left of the photo, if you look hard, you can see a little 'Coral Supreme' peony. I added two of these to the front yard last fall, but neither bloomed this spring. I guess that gives me something to look forward to for next June!

Here are more coneflowers and catmint on the far east side of the front yard. In the background you can see a good display of pink blooms from the 'Jolyene Nichole' daylilies. At the upper left is one of the 6 baby 'Blue Star' juniper shrubs. It's hard to wait for these slow growers to fill in their space. Eventually they can get up to 5 feet wide, but they're all around 1 foot wide right now. They provide year-round steel blue color for the garden.

I'll finish with a close shot of those elegant 'Jolyene Nichole' daylilies. Overall I'm pleased with the growth the front yard is making, but it has a ways to go before it looks like the picture in my head. Grow, shrubs and roses! Be patient, gardener!

July 20, 2011

My New Favorite Cut Flower: Astrantia

This spring I've been enjoying the three types of Astrantia (Masterwort) that are growing in my garden: 'Abbey Road' (above), 'Moulin Rouge' and plain old white Astrantia majalis. No doubt floral artists have been well aware of this plant for ages, but I just realized how great it is for arrangements. It lasts a long time in the garden or vase, blends softly with many other flowers, and has long, slender yet sturdy stems that are easy to tuck into arrangements.

These first three photos show 'Abbey Road', which I bought from my local nursery in a Monrovia pot a couple of months ago. The flowers are rosy when they first open (above), then fade to a more silvery color (below). This hybrid is supposed to be especially vigorous and long blooming. Sometimes I regret my impulse plant purchases, but this one was definitely a good buy.

Did I mention how pretty the leaves are? They're glossy, elegant and great for arrangements as well. Astrantia likes full sun if it's growing in moist sun in a mild climate. It needs more shade in really hot climates and areas that don't stay as moist. I have it growing in morning sun and it seems happy.

Above is a photo of the darkest astrantia in my garden, 'Moulin Rouge'. This plant tops out at 18 inches instead of 28 inches like 'Abbey Road'. I ordered it from Heronswood last spring but didn't see any flowers until this year. Next year the floral show should be even better.

Here's a photo from a few weeks after the first picture. You can see how the flowers are a softer color, but still very pretty.

I cut a bunch of these stems and made a bouquet with 'William Shakespeare 2000' crimson English roses. I didn't get a picture of that arrangement, sorry, but the two flowers worked together beautifully.

These last couple of pictures show Astrantia majalis. It has worked well in several floral arrangments with peonies, delpinium, daisies, and salvia.

As I mentioned last week, I have been giving away some of my less favorite plants lately. But these astrantia will definitely stick around and be divided to make many more clumps in the next few years.

July 12, 2011

Paring Down the Front Yard Perennial Palette

I knew this would happen eventually . . . if I crammed too many different plants into the front garden, some of them would have to go away after a while. But how to resist trying out one more plant here and another one there when they might be perfect for the final design? So try them out I did, and now I'm paring back.

The original plan for the front was a light pink and white color scheme, inspired by the Eglantyne roses shown in the first two pictures. The white lost out a while ago to lavender. Then peach and touches of soft yellow were added in the form of daylilies and 'Abraham Darby' roses, plus light blue iris. Dark violet joined in for a while, but now it's getting the boot to leave me with a purely pastel scheme.

So here's the tally of keepers and movers. Though the corkscrew rushes (Juncus spiralis) are staying, the 'Marcus' sages (Salvia) in the background were removed this week. A couple went to the backyard, and a few more went to our neighbors across the street.

This is a sturdy, pretty sage, but the dark violet color didn't work with the other front yard colors in my eyes. And as other plants keep growing, there won't be enough room for the sages soon anyway.

I also moved the dark violet 'Banbury Ruffles' dwarf iris to the backyard, though there is still plenty of lavender creeping phlox ('Emerald Cushion Blue' - in the background) left to bloom next May.

To fill the spots left by 'Banbury Ruffles, light blue 'Eramosa Skies' dwarf iris were divided and replanted to make five or six clumps around the front yard.

I transplanted the 'Fragrant Lavender' iris (above) to the backyard and instead planted three groupings of light blue full-sized iris. The new iris ('Rapture in Blue') are similar in color to the the 'Eramosa Skies' dwarf iris, but they bloom several weeks afterward to continue the light blue part of the scheme.

There's still plenty of lavender in the form of 'Walker's Low' catmint (Nepeta - above) and 'Rozanne' hardy geraniums. The catmints should have been divided this spring, but it didn't happen. So five of the eight plants are HUGE right now and spreading out all over their neighbors.

This year I was excited to see the first blooms on the 'Just Because' siberian iris. The flowers aren't quite pastel, but getting them started in my sandy flower bed soil has been such a chore that I'm not giving up on them now! Last year I lost several baby plants that didn't get enough water while their roots were still getting established.

As for the pink part of the scheme, I divided the delightful and early-blooming 'Pink Bubbles' iris to make three clumps around the front yard. They look especially nice next to the catmint.

I also found places to make three clumps of 'In Love Again' iris, which start blooming just as 'Pink Bubbles' finishes up. Having several groupings of the same kinds of iris should tie the whole front yard together better.

Sometime soon the 'Tiny Todd' dwarf asiatic lilies will be removed and given away. Their pale color looks washed out in the summer sun. They started blooming at the same time as the roses and pink iris and seem to clutter the picture. Focal points are part of good design, but they don't happen if you have too much going on at once.

Now the daylilies and 'Pink Double Delight' coneflowers (Echinacea) are starting to bloom. The dark rose-colored mums were removed and given away this week, so they won't be blooming in the fall. But there's plenty of color to come, as the coneflowers, catmint and 'Rozanne' geraniums (in background above with 'Otto Luyken' laurel in foreground) will keep flowering until frost, plus another heavy flush of roses in September, plus the colchicum and autumn crocus . . . and the lilyturf blooms, can't forget those. Anyway, plenty of color ahead, despite the reduced palette.

July 5, 2011

Iris, Catmint and Sage in Gold and Violet - West Garden in June

The west flagstone bed, which earned its own post in the spring here, put on a pretty show in June.

Golden yellow iris contrasted well with 'May Night' Salvia (sage) and 'Walker's Low' Nepeta (catmint) in shades of violet. In the photo above, you can see short spots of warm purple color where Aubrieta 'Axcent Purple' put out yet another flush of bloom after a haircut. This Aubrieta started blooming in March - what an impressively long bloom season!

Bees of many types have been happily buzzing around the sage and catmint. There are eight catmints and twelve sages along the path. The repetition and massing of the sages (the catmints are big enough on their own, but I planted the sage in four groups of three) look good to my eyes. Imagine that, those design principles actually work! My kids have been taught to stay out of the bees' way but not to be afraid of them. We all enjoy watching them work.

Unfortunately, some of the iris - like 'Tumalo Sunset' above - leaned away from the wall toward the sun when they started blooming.

I have decided to remove the leaners and keep the ones that can stay upright despite the lopsided light conditions. Above is upright 'Pure as Gold' (though I'm not entirely sure the label is correct, since there is a flush of purple at the base of the flower so it's not 'pure' gold). After the changes, there will be three clumps of this iris scattered along the path.

I'm also going to switch around the violet iris. These 'Royal Amethyst' iris will fit better with the backyard color scheme, so away they'll go.

Instead, I'm going to divide up these 'Evening Tidings' iris to make three clumps along the path. I usually prefer flowers that are all one color, but I like the way the two colors on these blooms tie together the shades of violet and lavender of the sage and catmint.

Of course, I don't know if 'Evening Tidings' will become a leaner when planted right next to the wall. If it flops over next year, I might have to do more adjusting. But that's OK, as I have no qualms about transplanting.

To add some pink to the color mix, I transplanted little divisions of Armeria maritima (thrift or sea pink) to the edges of the flagstones. Their small size prevents them from making a huge impact, but the added color is nice when you notice it.

By now the sage plants are done with their first flush, so yesterday I paid my son a quarter to cut them back. Soon the catmint will be read for haircuts, too. Because they only get afternoon sun, they won't bloom as heavily through the season as plants in full sun. But both sage and catmint should put out some color in the months ahead.

Next the asiatic lilies will start blooming in this bed - 'Royal Sunset', 'Fangio', and an unnamed rosy-orange dwarf lily. Newly planted 'Jethro Tull' coreopsis is already flowering since it had a head start at a greenhouse this spring, and 'Early Sunrise' coreopsis has buds ready to open. There are a few roses open on the climbing 'Crown Princess Margareta' roses, with buds on 'Teasing Georgia' and 'Lady Emma Hamilton'. Unfortunately the roses were cut back so far by the harsh winter that the small plants aren't making a huge impact this season. 'Stella d'Oro' daylilies are flowering, and later 'Apricot Sparkles', 'Smoky Mountain Autumn' and 'Hush Little Baby' daylilies will join in. I'll post another update in a month or two.