Tag Archives: itea

Tour of my garden – 5/11/17

BLOOMING

Long ago, I made the assumption that I could never successfully grow a Clematis in my garden. It must have been me thinking this climber couldn’t withstand my poorly draining soil. Or I was lazy. Probably a mix of both.

In 2014, while attending a gardening conference, I scored a bunch of free plants including a Clematis ‘Scented Clem’. It was free so it was a no-brainer to attempt to add it to my garden. I had zero expectations and just put it in the ground with nary a thought.

Fast forward to 2017 and we are in year three of “proving John’s dumb assumption was incredibly wrong”. This Clematis is a profuse bloomer and allegedly has a similar scent to that of a Gardenia. As many of you already know, I can’t smell a thing. I may need to pull the family in to confirm.

 

It’s official. Geranium ‘Espresso’ is my favorite Geranium of all time and it isn’t even close. That foliage alone is borderline orgasmic and when you throw in the lavender blooms, well, I need a cigarette.

 

I wrote about Golden Ragwort last week. Just here to report that it’s still blooming and looking great.

 

There was a time not so long ago when I had 5 or 6 Campanula ‘Joan Elliot’ plants thriving and flowering each spring. I am now down to one. But that’s OK. Through the wonders of division and some TLC, I will multiply this happy bloomer in no time.

 

And on the 7th day, God created … Allium. While they are still in the early stages of blooming and still forming into their happy ball of awesomeness, NOTHING screams “Happy spring time” like Allium. All of the Allium in the following three pics are ‘Purple Sensation’ and are all making a repeat visit.

 

 

 

The ‘Globemaster’ Allium is slowly unfurling, kind of like “I’ll take my sweet ass time because I know I’m all that.”

 

ABOUT TO BLOOM

I know every gardener likes to take photos of their peony buds and the pics are everywhere on Facebook and Instagram. I don’t care because they’re awesome. I am holding out hope that this white peony blooms while there’s still a semblance of the Lilac blooms next door.

 

A comparison of Amsonias:

First we have ‘tabernaemontana’.

 

And then ‘Hubrichtii’

Both will be loaded with star-shaped flowers soon and that will rock my world.

As the Lilac slowly ascends to flowerdom, the nearby Baptisia tries to keep pace. If you look to the left, you’ll see I left the old flowers of the Hydrangea on the shrub for shits and giggles. I kind of like taking advantage of the ornamental quality until this year’s flowers emerge. You feel me or “no John, dumb”?

 

FOLIAGE

Spring flowers are great. But the emergence of foliage and it’s dynamic quality are up there in terms of impact.

My ever-growing collection of the smaller-sized Itea ‘Little Henry’ looks fantastic right now. The red hues making it all the more interesting.

The reason I write “ever-growing” is that they are all perfectly suckering (the runner roots are expanding beyond the original shrub) and creating my desired “colony” that is filling the previously empty garden space beautifully.

 

How great is the foliage of the Sorbaria sorbifolia ‘Sem’ (False Spirea)? I’ve yet to witness the full seasonal cycle (white flowers and pure green foliage later in summer) but the spring foliage is a winner on its own.

 

A request. Please ignore the weedy growth underneath the shrub below. I’m working on it. As much as it pained me, I had to expose my warts so that you all could appreciate the leaf color of this Ninebark ‘Amber Jubilee’. It’s even better in person; but you can’t come see it, I have too much work to do still.

 

The shrub in the two photos below is Spirea ‘Blue Kazoo’. While it displays reddish hues now in spring, it will eventually transition to a blue/green foliage color with white flowers. I love a plant that provides such distinct and different attributes spring, summer and fall. The challenge is attempting to pull it all together without it looking like a hot mess.

 

Oh Ligularia ‘Britt-Marie Crawford’, you look so clean now but we all know you have plans to fall apart in summer.

And why oh why can’t you develop the dark foliage as demonstrated in this photo?

I like this Heuchera but have no idea as to the cultivar name. Any ideas?

 

Once the Nepeta (Catmint) ‘Walkers Low’ fills in, this part of the garden starts to take shape. Flowers will be here within the week; as will those kick-butt bees.

 

Alchemilla mollis (Lady’s Mantle) also filling in and contrasting nicely with the Penstemon ‘Husker Red’ in the background.

 

Speaking of Penstemon, I have a ton of these popping up all over the garden (assuming through re-seeding) and I’m trying to determine if they are true to ‘Husker Red’. Either way, I’ve been relocating them all to fill in available spots, to create foliage color contrasts and to attain that coveted garden design feature of repetition.

 

As much as I am proud of my ability to manage my garden and all of it’s inhabitants, I have no clue what this is. I love it by the way. Any clue as to what it is? First to answer wins … something.

 

OH SHIT

This Itea ‘Henry’s Garnet’ is almost unrecognizable. It has been taken over, actually I should say “taken under” by Northern Sea Oats and other bully weeds. It is virtually impossible to make headway on removing them. It may be time to dig it up and perform surgery as a last gasp to make it presentable.

Another reminder: Northern Sea Oats = bad

Dynamic

My wife and I managed to score a few free hours this past Saturday morning before the never ending softball cycle kicked into high gear. We spent it touring a few gardens as part of an organized local garden tour. It was warm and sunny and I was ready to get my booty inspired and steal some ideas from these extravagant and lush gardens.

Spoiler alert: It didn’t happen.

I won’t go into any specifics and call out any particular gardens, but I left the tour completely uninspired. We didn’t spend more than 10 minutes at any of the gardens we visited. I wanted to see “gardens” and all we really saw were exquisitely landscaped properties.

I appreciate a nice bed line as much as the next guy and understand the importance of mulch, but when they become the star attraction, color me bored and uninterested. Listen, I have my share of what is often considered to be a “boring” and landscaper friendly shrub like a spirea, but when they dominate the garden, I’m out. A garden needs a certain level of messiness and a “Wow, what is that plant?” feel in order to pull me in and none of these gardens provided that vibe.

If I had to sum it up in one word, I want my garden to be dynamic. It needs to feel like it has a life of its own, that it changes on a daily basis, that while one perennial is putting on its last flush of blooms, another is ready to take its place. I want movement with the wind. I want flower petals on the ground next to a shrub with flowers that are about to pop. I want to sense that the gardener struggled to pull all it all together and still has work to do.

While I have light years to go to achieve a level of dynamic that is most likely impossible in this lifetime, it is what makes me most proud of my garden today. It is what drives all of my garden design decisions. It is what keeps me up at night. It is the reason I tour the garden each and every morning knowing I’ve going to witness something new. All the mulch in the world can’t compete with two perennials that entwine in a perfect match of contrast and similarity.

With that in mind, my garden as it stands today and how it is acting all dynamic and shit.

The ‘Bowl of Beauty’ peony is still putting out fresh blooms each morning.

peony 2

But time is quickly running out with these daily reminders.

peony 3

 

peony

 

Even after the blooms have disappeared or faded, the Allium are still lending an incredible visual in tune with the rest of the garden in its path.

allium

 

allium 2

 

front bed 2

 

It is always around this time each year when the ornamental grasses subtly announce their presence. And when they do, it seems to tie the entire garden together.

driveway garden

 

miscanthus variegatus

 

Some of the grasses have even begun to reveal their multi colored highlights, even more pronounced covered in raindrops.

panicum rots

 

My Itea ‘Henry’s Garnet’ are blooming and while we all know they dominate the most in autumn with their garnet fall color, I still think the blooms are underrated.

itea

Back to another question of the day and thank you to all of you who have responded to date. You are providing great info for all of us.

QOTD – What would you consider to be the most dynamic plant in your garden today and why?

Leave a comment with your response.

Grats.

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoying fall while it is still here

Ignore what I wrote on Friday. There were no bulbs planted this weekend and I blame it on the following:

  • 50% weather – we had a ton of rain late Friday into Saturday
  • 25% familial obligations – soccer game, kids Oktoberfest events
  • 15% smarts – maybe a bit too early for bulb planting here
  • 10% wanting to soak in the autumn-ness – time spent smelling the roses grasses

In regards to that last one, I am typically not one to “enjoy the moment” when it comes to my garden. I am either looking towards the future when yet again moving or adding a new plant or hating on my current day plants that are underachieving.

But this weekend I reminded myself that fall is possibly the greatest time of year in the garden, yet it is oh so fleeting. A famous man once said “Better enjoy the crap out of it while is here.”

With that in mind, more autumn photos for your viewing pleasure.

itea and clethra

Itea ‘Henry’s Garnet and Clethra ‘Ruby Spice’

 

ninebark

Physocarpus ‘Diablo’

 

ninebark2

Physocarpus ‘Diablo’

 

hydrangea

Hydrangea ‘Lady in Red’

 

hydrangea2

Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer’

 

iris

Siberian Iris

 

viburnum

Viburnum bracteatum ‘Emerald Lustre’

 

amsonia

Amsonia tabernaemontana

 

amsonia2

Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’

 

amsonia3

Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’

 

 

 

Best Fall Foliage Plants

Today we’ll take a look at my best fall foliage plants.

This list only includes plants I have lived with and experienced in my own garden .

Amsonia tabernaemontana (Blue Star)
The more well known Amsonia hubrictii has a much more impressive autumn color but I only added them to my own garden this past spring and it is too soon for me to share any photos of them.

Tabernaemontana still is impressive in its own right as the fall foliage color starts as a pale yellow and develops into an eye catching orange hue.

amsonia-fall-color1

amsonia-fall-color

best fall foliage plants

 

Viburnum carlesii ‘Aurora’
I have quite a few different Viburnum shrubs (some real young and still small) and to date, this has been the best autumn performer. Each individual leaf starts to transform slowly to a maroon color starting at the end of September and the majority of the leaves remain on the plant until the end of October here in zone 6B.

viburnum-aurora-fall-color

viburnum-aurora-fall

best fall foliage plants

 

Fothergilla ‘Mt. Airy’
This deciduous shrub, while interesting in early spring with its white bottlebrush blooms, really stands out in the fall with that kick butt orange foliage color. I’ve added a few more this year to really up the impact each autumn.

best fall foliage plants

 

Panicum (Switch Grass) ‘Northwind’
This ornamental grass and PPA award winner may not be thought of as a fall foliage plant, but that yellow color works for me as the perfect complement to the more common red fall foliage color of other plants.

panicum-northwind-fall

 

Clethra alnifolia (Summersweet) ‘Hummingbird’
Another shrub not thought of as a fall performer, but again, I like to mix in that yellow/gold color wherever I can.

clethra-hummingbird-fall-color

 

Itea (Virginia Sweetspire) ‘Henry’s Garnet’
This shrub, by far, has the greatest red fall color of any plant currently residing in my garden. The fall color starts subtly in August and then kicks it into overdrive by early September. The leaves start to fall off in mid October with a few remaining as late as Thanksgiving.

itea2

fall12

fall19

 

Miscanthus purpurascens (Flame Grass) 
Another ornamental grass, this one takes color to all new heights. Just look at all of the color shades represented in those blades. It is the plant that draws the most attention/questions from onlookers from August through October.

fall14

flame-grass-fall-color

Dance with the one that brung ya

I have a ritual each winter where I review all of my plant photos from the prior gardening year as a means to not only escape the winter doldrums, but also as a means for planning. I drink a few hearty ales and take copious notes during this exercise and it creates the framework for all that I plan to change that upcoming spring.

I distinctly remember two winters ago, when I was in full blown garden review mode, when a very obvious notion finally penetrated my thick skull. Four simple words: “Stick with what works.” As most gardeners are want to do, I was always in search of new and exciting plants to try out. While that is fun and all, it really prevented me from creating my ideal robust garden. Half the plants would die over the winter or would be devoured by the deer. I was unable to make any progress out in the garden.

I knew I wouldn’t completely give up on seeking out new plants, but I could create the bulk of my garden around trees, shrubs, grasses and perennials that I knew would “work”. Seems like an obvious concept but for whatever reason, it was lost on me.

Fast forward to now and finally I know all of the plants that survived the winter. There were a whole bunch of casualties that I’ve mourned, but for those recent additions that survived the extreme temps, poor winter/spring drainage and the deer, I am forever grateful. As expected, these survivors were previously proven performers, further proof that “stick with what works” … well … works. And here is photographic proof:

As you may be aware, I have nothing but great things to say about Amsonia. They have literally sat in standing water for periods of time and have been completely ignored by the deer. When I was seeking out a ground cover in a particularly poor draining area of the garden, Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’ was a no-brainer. Two years later, all twelve of them are thriving:

 

As are all of the Amsonia tabernaemontana:

 

Itea ‘Henry’s Garnet’ was one of the first shrubs I planted in my landscape back in 2005 and all of them are still kicking ass today. So logically, why not add some ‘Little Henry’ shrubs in tighter areas. I did just that last fall and yes, all six of them are on their way this spring:

For reasons unknown, I owned only two Clethra shrubs as of a year ago, even though they have thrived since day one. So last fall I picked up a bunch more of these at a steep discount and finally this week, they have all arrived after a long deep winter slumber:

Irises and me = perfect together:

Lady’s Mantle has consistently been ignored by the deer and the rabbits so why not use it like mad as a ground cover all over. Seems to be OK with both full sun and partial shade:

Two Penstemon ‘Husker’s Red’ hung out in my garden for years, looking good but not adding much to the larger equation. I divided them up, two became six and as a larger grouping, not so bad:

I haven’t completely abandoned the pursuit of new plants. Just this week I added Allium ‘Blue Eddy’ knowing the deer will ignore it but now to study how it likes the moist clay soil:

Speaking of Allium, I’m testing out ‘Globemaster’ this year for the first time and so far so good:

And finally, I finally succumbed to trying out a few Baptisia and we’ll see how they perform:

 

Will he ever stop posting plant photos?

Of course he won’t. C’mawn now.  
They are like my children and I need to capture them in all stages of their development so one day we can all look back and smile and laugh and cry. Probably a lot of crying … just a hunch.  
But I digress, here is the latest and greatest out in “le jardin” today: 

Astilbe ‘Amethyst’




Astilbe ‘Athemyst’




Astilbe ‘Amethyst’





Astilbe ‘Deutschland’ 



Viburnum ‘Emerald Lustre’
Viburnum ‘Emerald Lustre’
Itea ‘Henry’s Garnet’
Itea ‘Henry’s Garnet’
Penstemon ‘Husker’s Red’
Penstemon ‘Husker’s Red’

The garden is coming together

This weekend was the first time I noticed that the garden was starting to “pull it all together”. By that I mean, it is becoming less and less about the individual plants and more about how they act together as a whole. A collection of plants is becoming a “garden”.
Here are some samples of the “garden”:
Panicum (Switch Grass) ‘Rotstrahlbusch’, Monarda (Bee Balm) and Juniper ‘Wichita Blue’

Achillea ‘Moonwalker’, Sedum ‘Matrona’ and Sorghastrum (Indian Grass) ‘Sioux Blue’ 

Too many mention

Astilbe ‘Deutschland’ and Physocarpus (Ninebark) ‘Diablo’

Mountain Mint, Panicum (Switch Grass) ‘Rotstrahlbusch’ and Monarda (Bee Balm)

Itea ‘Henry’s Garnet’ and Miscanthus ‘Variegatus’

Itea ‘Henry’s Garnet’, Viburnum ‘Emerald Lustre’ and Amsonia (Eastern Bluestar) ‘Tabernaemontana’

Again, too many to mention

Viburnum ‘Aurora’ and Miscanthus ‘Gracillimus’

Itea ‘Henry’s Garnet’, Chasmanthium latifolium (Northern Sea Oats) and Panicum ‘Northwind’

Geranium ‘Brookside’, Asclepias Incarnata (Swamp Milkweed) and Itea ‘Henry’s Garnet’

Astilbe ‘Deutschland’ and Nepeta (Catmint) ‘Walker’s Low’

Little of everything

Angerus sisterium and Runningus brotherium

Revengus brotherium (rare cultivar) and Runningus sisterium

Slipanslideium

Slipanslideum (Male version, less hardy)
Keep these plants active and outdoors and they agree to photos like this:
 
And they even eat lunch sitting NEXT to each other:
A great weekend on many fronts.
John 

Blooms, Blooms, Blooms (And no more peony talk)

Just to prove that I am not completely fixated on my peonies (that didn’t sound right), here are some other blooms in and about my garden during this fantastic time of year.
Veronica just about on its last legs but hoping the periodic deadheading will extend it a bit further: 

Physocarpus (Ninebark) ‘Diablo’ just started blooming and looks OK; I still value it mostly for the foliage:

Geranium ‘Brookside’ which I’ve been rather critical of in the past, looks good now that it is allowed to roam wild a bit:

Itea ‘Henry’s Garnet’ doesn’t blow you away in bloom, but it is reliable and performs so well in my native bed where it is consistently moist/wet:

I know I am going to enjoy Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’ for years to come as six of these were planted just last fall as tiny plugs and they already look fantastic. Not to mention they are ignored by the deer and the rabbits and survived wet feet this past winter:

Blooms nice, the rest … not so much. I am losing it for Tradescantia (Spiderwort) ‘Sweet Kate’ so they better shape up soon or they are gone:

Penstemon ‘Husker’s Red’ just about to bloom in full; give it about a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10:

First blooms on Hypericum ‘Albury Purple’:

Spirea ‘Snow Storm’ … hmmmm … takes up space … blooms are “decent” … suppresses weeds since better than bare ground … guess she can stay:

Observations out in the garden this fine evening

It was a clear and cool evening here in Jersey for the first time in a long time and I ventured out with camera in hand.
Here is what I observed:
This one almost slipped by without me noticing, but luckily she contrasted well with the purple leaves of the Ninebark. Good looking katydid, eh?:
Um, is autumn really that close? Apparently that is the message the Itea ‘Henry’s Garnet’ is sending:

Not many have managed to slip by the deer, but the dark purple berries on the Viburnum ‘Emerald Lustre’ are incredibly vivid this time of year:

One of my favorite Coleus but unfortunately, I do not know the cultivar name. Just one of these in a container on the deck makes such a bold statement:

The Zinnia ‘Queen Red Lime’ keep pumping out new flowers and I am forever indebted:

Even after the blooms are spent and the petals have fallen to the ground, these Clethra ‘Ruby Spice’ still look damn good:

Enjoy the upcoming week my friends.

John