Monday, December 28, 2020

Some garden plans for the next year

The last year or two I have decided to revamp the garden, as it dawned on me that ten years ago there were aspects of the garden I liked better then than the current one. In the bed east of the house ten years ago there was  bearded iris and marsh phlox,
'Clotilde Soupert',
columbine ('Clotilde Soupert' turns pink as the blossoms age),
beardtongue and foxglove,
the hybrid tea climber 'Aloha',
and a found rose named Delia's Purple.
Most of these were swallowed by the rugosa hybrid 'Sir Thomas Lipton'
A young Sir Thomas Lipton

and a mockorange, eaten by voles or faded away. I wasn't expecting 'Sir Thomas Lipton' or mockorange to get as big as they did. Delia's Purple did not die, however, and I was able to pot up several runners for transplant and put them where the Japanese beautyberries used to be. I removed them last year after realizing that they didn't belong there. I don't even think they have good garden value in the Southeast, as they sulk and droop in hot dry weather and they are invasive, seeding in everywhere. Their one moment of glory was the time that the bluebirds went after the fruits during a snowstorm. I kept them for years after that based on that one incident. 

Delia's Purple is a mounding shrub that blooms once a year, grows well in this location when it's not being crowded out by a monster shrub, and has wonderful purple flowers, a nice counterpoint to all of the white of 'Sir Thomas Lipton' and mockorange. 
The flowers open magenta and turn bluer with age.

From left to right: a young mockorange, marsh phlox, beardtongue, Delia's Purple, foxglove, and Hansa. Marie Pavie and a spiderwort are in the foreground. In this picture from 2009 (the house was moved to its current location in 2007) the garden looks quite immature here but I miss all of the different colors and textures and would like to add some back. 

In this 2011 picture you can see how much 'Sir Thomas Lipton' grew in 2 years' time. 

I have added back more foxglove in the drier areas and smooth and Gulf Coast penstemon elsewhere.
Gulf Coast penstemon is short lived but well worth keeping going for its showiness and its ability to tolerate wet feet.

The voles go to town on spiderworts near the house, so I just grow them in the big perennial bed. I think I will try marsh phlox down there too, as it just can't compete with the daylilies.

'Clotilde Soupert' is in a pot and I am hoping it will thrive there. At the North Carolina Botanical Garden there was a CS that was grown in a pot until it got to a good size. I have two 'Hansa' on order with Witherspoon that will be delivered in the spring and planted in the driest places east of the house that I can find. I would love to have bearded iris again but they'd have to be grown in pots with wire mesh at top soil level to keep the voles away, the same with columbine.

'Crepuscule' has been replaced by "Cl. Caldwell Pink', which as it turns out needs a pergola or fence, not an arbor. It is HUGE. Gene gamely replaced the old arbor with a larger, sturdier one but even so, not only is Caldwell Pink huge, the mockorange is hulking on the other side.
The plants in cages are Delia's Purple that were still so little that the rabbits were eating the tender shoots, so I gave them some protection until they got more mature. We have so many rabbits here, but luckily they usually stick to eating the grass and clover. I've even seen does nursing their young on 3 occasions.

To clarify, Caldwell Pink is huge, but not all of that is Cl. Caldwell Pink. There's a shrub form to the right of the arbor. They all just kind of blend together.
While Cl. Caldwell Pink is a once bloomer (with deep red fall color), Caldwell Pink blooms all season. The flowers lack fragrance but the full lilac pink flowers are so beautiful and the plant so reliable I don't even care. The foliage is relatively clean and the rose is a real workhorse. Easy to grow from cuttings too. I've propagated it to grow in some other parts of the garden. 

  There have been sudden recent changes to the garden as well. The 12 inches of rain that we got from tropical storm Matthew in 2016 killed off the oakleaf hydrangea 'Dayspring' on the east side of the house and half of 'Pee Wee' on the northern side of the house.
Hydrangea 'Dayspring' in 2014. Please excuse the unmown grass. I wanted to leave the clover for the bees. The bees just go crazy for it and the rabbits like it better than most of my garden plants.
A picture from 2012. Most of the hydrangea on the left side are gone now.

More diversity in the beds at the front of the house would never be a bad thing, but I'm not sure what to put there. I've added some mapleleaf viburnum, but it's quite a slight plant and you can see directly under the house.  We've never put skirting under the porches. I'd consider it if the Carolina wrens could get through the openings, as they have always nested under the porches, although in recent years they've used the front and back porches too.
Baby Carolina wrens just fledged from their nest on the front porch.

On the back porch the wrens go in and out under the door. lol It always makes me laugh to see them. They are such cute little birds, always checking things out, always finding routes other birds don't, and they are almost always talking to each other. I used to think they were getting stuck on the porch until I realized a female was nesting there! We were just surprising them checking out the porch as we went in and out the back door. 

Mapleleaf viburnum is known for its fall color.  Michael Dirr finds "the range of fall colors (creamy pink, rose, red to grape juice purple) intriguing". I can vouch that the leaves actually turn those colors in my FIL's yard. So far I've gotten one pink leaf for my pains. I'd kind of like to get another Florida azalea to go on the far left side (northeast corner), but knowing how big those get, that's probably not practical. The same with sweetshrub. I'd have to prune them to keep them down to size. 
Florida azaleas in front of the house in its original location. They are probably about half their mature size in this picture but it was lovely having them there, they're so fragrant. Now one of these is on the east side of the house. 
I tried an Alabama azalea there three years ago but it wasn't happy so I moved it to the eastern side of the house. Coast azalea wouldn't work because they seem to like more sun - they always leaned out when they were planted north of the house in its original location, even when the Florida azaleas were small. Now the house faces true north, rather than slightly northwest, so the this bed has more shade than the original one. A dwarf form of sweet pepperbush might work. I don't want Virginia sweetspire or dog hobble there because I think they'd look too informal. I wonder how bottlebrush buckeye would look there. Too coarse? Any suggestions?

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Wildflower Wednesday

Late December is a time for looking back and assessing the year past, so here is a roundup of the natives blooming in my garden throughout the year. The earliest of the natives may be the blue violet simply because she seems to bloom, at least a little bit, almost every month of the year.

Redbuds are one of our earliest blooming trees, often blooming in March,
but late enough and warm enough for the bees to literally swarm all over the redbuds. They absolutely love the flowers on this tree.

Toothwort, whose rhizomes the voles luckily don't seem to care much for. This is an especially robust and floriferous form from Niche Gardens, now sadly closed.

The lovely and very sweetly fragrant woodland phlox. Rather picky about consistent moisture levels though, and while evergreen, only seems to grow just before it blooms in my garden.

Bluestar (Amsonia tabernaemontana?), found growing wild on the farm. I transplanted some of it into the garden.

A wild geranium found beside one of the pastures. It's been divided endless times for the garden now.

A native crabapple (Malus angustifolia), one of three growing in the floodway field and near the creek. I have tried without success to grow it from the fruit. I don't think I was patient enough. not only are the flowers beautiful, they are sweetly fragrant like those of its relative the apple tree.

Piedmont azalea
with a pink one in the background

A passalong spiderwort

Baptisia, a plant that brings out giant bumblebees that I rarely see at other times of the year.

Eastern gray beardtongue

If you have a wet sunny corner, I would recommend planting American Snowbell. For fragrance I think the only tree that rivals it is Japanese flowering apricot. To me the scent reminds of our white mystery iris, Hubrecht's amsonia, and the rose Veilchenblau. I cannot tell you if it is like violets because everything that is supposed to smell like a violet (including Viola odorata) has no fragrance to me, and I can't remember exactly what lily of the valley smells like.

Louisiana iris

Blue flag, Iris virginica

Carolina Bush Pea

Carolina rose


Butterfly weed always seems to attract more bees than butterflies.

Monarda 'Raspberry Wine'

Hoary mountain mint attracts a lot of pollinators. I bought it after reading about how much pollinators love mints in a seed catalog from the NC Botanical Garden and Niche Gardens. From the Niche Gardens catalog: "Foliage reaches about 3' in height by midsummer, with upper leaves starting to take on a cool and silvery appearance. Flowers follow in multi-layered tiers of silvery white blooms. Bees, butterflies and some pollinators you"ve never laid eyes on come to sip the minty nectar: Mountain Mint attracts an incredible assortment of insects."

Hibiscus moscheutos, a plant that the Japanese beetles love as much as I do but it's still showy anyway. A version with smaller flowers grows next to the creek and in the sloughs on our farm.

Sweet pepperbush grows wild here all over the farm, and prominently around the old house site and near the big perennial bed. It is a wetland plant that somehow seems impervious to drought and when it blooms in July attracts every pollinator around, the sweet perfume wafting a long distance.

The ultimate butterfly magnet alongside butterfly bush and our native cup plant, Joe Pye Weed. This grows wild on our farm, sometimes in standing (but not stagnant) water, and I have transplanted some into the garden and it has volunteered next to the horses' stalls.

Seashore mallow is kind of a picky plant to grow. Lots of moisture but not too wet, and a lot of food. If it gets too dry it never fully recovers. I grow it anyway because it's incredibly beautiful when it's happy, especially first thing in the morning, it's something brand new near the end of summer, and it's immensely popular with swallowtail butterflies, hummingbirds and bees.

As always Bidens is the star of September. It already grew wild here and I was familiar with it before from seeing it in fields and ditches when we drove to Jordan Lake and when I drove to my job at Duke University. It forms spectacular masses of blooms that are always abuzz with pollinators.

October is the time for swamp sunflower and asters.

This unknown aster (lavender frost aster, early willowleaf aster?) popped up in my garden.

Aromatic aster

Aster 'Miss Bessie' rounds out the aster season, often not blooming until after Halloween and sometimes continuing until December. Pollinators of every sort flock to this plant as this and groundsel trees are the only things consistently in bloom that time of year.
Thank you Gail for hosting Wildflower Wednesday.
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