Texture in the Summer Garden

A relaxing garden has both restful places for your eyes and focal points to enjoy. Green is restful, but it can get monotonous if it’s all identical, as in a yard with a well-kept lawn, but nothing else. Texture is a good way to add interest without losing the restfulness of green. Massing, an application of the design principles of repetition and proximity, is a great way to develop texture that is sufficiently interesting to lead your eyes to an interesting larger plant or something in bloom. Continue reading “Texture in the Summer Garden”

One of my Favorite Irises, Out of Season

November 12. Answering the question of which iris is my favorite would be almost as difficult as answering the question of who is my favorite child, but right now I am casting a very fond eye at my Iris cristata.

This is one of the edging plants  I wrote about at the beginning of October. By the end of October, the overall color is yellow-green, which looks terrific next to the well-hydrated lawn.

Iris cristata. Photographed on October 27, 2019.

Continue reading “One of my Favorite Irises, Out of Season”

Companions for the Dutchman’s Breeches

My Indian pinks bloom nicely every year, but they do not seem to spread, and they come up awfully late, leaving a bare spot near the Dutchman’s breeches in early spring. 

Indian pinks in bloom. Photographed on June 18, 2018.

Indian pinks emerge about the time that the Dutchman’s breeches start going dormant, so essentially, the bare spot moves over. The answer to this traveling bare spot has been staring me in the face the whole time. Continue reading “Companions for the Dutchman’s Breeches”

Evolution of a Flower Bed

The space under the witch hazel was rendered very sparse by the chionodoxa purge last year. The Diamond Tiara hostas survived being lifted, put aside, and put back. The hyacinths that have been there for decades survived being rearranged. The chionodoxa seedlings that had the temerity to sprout have been removed.

Time to look at the rest of this rather bare flowerbed and scout for new residents.

The hostas, Diamond Tiara, are filling out nicely. Photographed on May 27, 2019.

Continue reading “Evolution of a Flower Bed”

The Demise of the Exuberant Chionodoxa

Back at the beginning of April, I spoke of the big mass of Chionodoxa under the witch hazel. Not big—huge—and spreading like a rash into the lawn—what little lawn I have. They had to go.

I filed my tax returns and decided I had to deal with this plant. These plants. As much as I love their beautiful tiny flowers, they have choked out everything else under the witch hazel and were heading for the Japanese anemones. Continue reading “The Demise of the Exuberant Chionodoxa”

A Case of Mistaken Identity

This is the sad story of a plant that was not what I thought it was, and the real truth behind any nice garden: sometimes the gardener has to edit brutally.

A couple of weeks ago, I met a new friend for coffee to talk about some local environmental issues. We walked back into the neighborhood together, and stopped at my rain garden. I had planted a little sprout back in May, thinking  it was summersweet. Continue reading “A Case of Mistaken Identity”

C. R. A. P. in the Rain Garden

Contrast. Repetition. Alignment. Proximity. C. R. A. P. These are basic design principles, but not the only ones. This is a very handy mnemonic—a memory device—that I learned from William’s The Non-Designer’s Design Book* in another century. She laid it out as P. A. R. C., but it is just naughty enough for my students to remember when it’s C. R. A. P.

I’m a sucker for green and for texture. Green is very restful. On the other hand, an endless expanse of the same  texture, even in green, can become either boring or overwhelming depending on the scale of the texture and of the plants. Continue reading “C. R. A. P. in the Rain Garden”

Dividing and Transplanting: An Example Project and Beginner’s Guide

The best time of year to move some plants is summer. Plants that bloom in the spring and have fat, sturdy roots are candidates for summer transplanting. Irises are the most commonly mentioned group, but I have found that various Solomon’s seals also respond well to summer moves—actually any time after the flowers have dropped.

I looked at my dwarf Japanese Solomon’s seal the other day, and realized that it was really muscling in on my liverworts. There are only four liverworts, and about a gazillion dwarf Japanese Solomon’s seal, so the solution was to recreate the gap between them by digging up and moving some of the Solomon’s seal. This divide-and-transplant project will show you how to plan and implement a transplanting project with smallish plants—a very good place to start. Continue reading “Dividing and Transplanting: An Example Project and Beginner’s Guide”

Rain Garden Planted in the Nick of Time

A week ago Saturday, on May 20, I helped sort plants purchased through the Washtenaw County Water Resources Office by people who were putting together rain gardens—like me. The advantage of helping out was that I got to take my order home that day instead of the following one—one more day to plant!

I planted them Sunday. I had done a partial planting last fall, so the plants I picked up just about completed the garden, with the last pieces coming from transplants from other spots in the yard.

The Rain Garden

We had better start with a schematic. You cannot see from one end to the other due to the redbud, so this will keep you oriented.

Site plan showing rain garden layout in relation to front of house, sidewalk, and road.
The rain garden, as planted in 2016–2017. The rough brown lines represent exposed tree roots. There are three green circles with perhaps too-tiny numbers in them; from left to right, they are (1) Rosa setigera, (2) Clethra alnifolia, and (3) Cercis canadensis. Adobe Illustrator file updated May 27, 2017.

Continue reading “Rain Garden Planted in the Nick of Time”