Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wildflower Wednesday: In Praise of Natives

As the mercury inches ever higher on the thermometer and the garden becomes more and more parched from lack of rain, I am so thankful for the natives in my garden.  On this Wildflower Wednesday, I am singing the praises of those stalwart troopers that thrive no matter what Mother Nature throws at them.

I am always happy to see the Susans return, even if they are a little early this year.  These Rudbeckia hirta don't need any sunscreen in the blistering sun.

And I'm happy that the Butterfly Weed, Asclepias Tuberosa, has taken a liking to its spot in the roadside garden.  Since the butterflies and all kinds of insects love this plant, I don't even mind that it's spreading into gaillardia territory.

But most of all what makes me smile this time of year is my favorite flower of all, 
the native Purple Coneflower.

Of course, purple coneflowers aren't really purple--and these days you can find them in shades of yellow, orange, or red in addition to the common pink.  Above is 'White Swan,' which is thriving in its second year in the Arbor Bed.

Hybridizers love to play with Echinaceas and have come up with all kinds of cultivars with tantalizing names like 'Hot Papaya' or 'Milkshake.'  Some are doubles with pronounced pompon centers, while others have flared petals like this 'Big Sky Sundown' in my lily bed.

Purists, though, may prefer the original natives, like this Echinacea Tennesseensis growing in hostess Gail's garden.  This species grows only in a small area in Tennessee, but it is similar in appearance to the native Echinacea Pallida, which was common in the original prairie of my area.  (And yes, dear Songbird, these plants do grow wild here, though not as common as they once were.  More often, they are part of a wildflower seed mix sown along roadsides today.)

But my favorite of all is the common Echinacea Purpurea, which is anything but ordinary.   It's a favorite of the native bumbles, who apparently are on the decline, though they still seem to be plentiful in my garden.

Other bees as well, including this one I can't identify, find the coneflower irresistable.

And have I mentioned it's a butterfly magnet as well?  The first Monarch I've seen in awhile appeared yesterday, flitting from one bloom to another.

Coneflowers make the perfect resting spot for other species, including this Red Admiral.

When their bloom time is over, coneflowers keep on giving--the seedheads are a favorite of the birds, especially the finches.  With temperatures predicted to reach 100 tomorrow, I may just have to stare at this photo from last December for awhile to remind me it won't always be this hot:)

Echinaceas grow in wild abandon in my sidewalk garden, my butterfly garden, and the roadside garden.  While gardening trends come and go, there will always be a place in my garden for this perfect native.

Thanks to our hostess  Gail at Clay and Limestone   for sponsoring  this monthly celebration of wildflowers.  Stay cool, everyone!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Garden Lessons Learned in Asheville

Garden Walk season is in full swing, including our local annual Master Gardener Walk which is this coming Saturday.  I always enjoy touring other gardens, and I often come home with some new ideas for plants I'd like to try or perhaps a creative way to use a "found" object as garden art.  But all too often I come home a little depressed.  I look at my own garden more critically when comparing it to others I've just seen--it's so small, it's not as tidy, it doesn't have a cohesive design, plants are crammed in too tightly, and on and on until I'm ready to throw up my hands in despair and start all over. 

However, that wasn't the case on my recent trip to Asheville for this year's Garden Bloggers' Fling.   I learned many lessons from the gardens we visited there that gave me a new perspective on my own garden.

"A Hedge Against Extinction" at the North Carolina Arboretum, 
which became this year's Fling icon.

For example, I learned that these weren't fingers reaching up to the sky, but a representation of trees.  See the green tips on each branch?  According to the artist, these either represent "all that is left or the beginnings of a new greening.  The answer is in the hands of those who tend the garden."

I also learned that garden bloggers always have their cameras ready for the next photo op:

Helen and sister Sarah of  Toronto Gardens checking out the poppies in Christopher Mello's garden.

Touring gardens with fellow gardeners is always a learning experience, because someone in the group can usually identify a plant you might be unfamiliar with and give some helpful advice on growing it.

Janet not only knows trees but also many other plants of the Southeast

But the most important lesson I learned in Asheville is that no two gardens are the same and that it's okay to bend the "rules" to reflect your own personal style.

Your garden might have unlimited space:

View at the North Carolina Arboretum

 Or it might be a tiny corner you have created:

Display at BB Barns in Asheville, a fantastic nursery and garden center.

If you like things neat and orderly, you can create a formal garden:

Quilt garden at NC Arboretum

Or you can let Nature be your guide, creating a haven for bees and wildlife:

An impromptu stop on the way home--this garden is not in Asheville.  Can you guess where we are?
If you want to pull every poppy in your garden that isn't blue, then no one is going to stop you.  The bees will love them, no matter the color:

In the garden of Christopher Mello, where he is cultivating a new 'Blue Pearl' poppy.

If your passion is growing vegetables, then go for it:

Raised veggie beds at Sunny Point Cafe where patrons know exactly where their food comes from.

But if you also love flowers . . .

Iris in front garden at Nan Chase's
 . . . there's no reason you can't grow  flowers and edibles together in your front yard if you so desire.

Nan Chase's front yard

A closer look at Nan's house which is sided with bark.

I also learned that sometimes weeds can be beautiful:

Swamp milkweed at NC Arboretum

And that it's good to take a break from the work now and then and just enjoy!

Anneliese serenading strolling bloggers at Haywood Community College's garden.

Garden art has always stymied me, too.  What will look good in my garden?  Where should I place it?  The gardens of Asheville taught me a few lessons as well.

You don't have to have a bold bottle tree if you're a little shy.  A smaller one can add a colorful touch just as well:

Smaller blue bottles on a smoke tree at Christopher Mello's garden.

You can have something specially made that fits your garden and house:

Bark planters on Nan Chase's porch

Or you can use materials you already have to create a unique work of art:

Fountain at Christopher Mello's made from scrap metal.

Metal cogs (?) lining the stairway at Wamboldtopia.

Of course, if you are really talented, you can create something unique and extraordinary, like a fairy mansion:

The creation of Damaris Pierce at Wamboldtopia.
There really are no rules when it comes to a garden.  You can follow ideas from famous garden designers if you want, or throw them out and add your own whimsical touches:

If you love pirates and want to hang a skeleton from your rooftop,  why not?

Christopher Mello's "Shovelhenge"

Or if you want to create a gravel play space in the middle of your garden and call it "Dump Truck Park" or surround it with rusty shovels and call it "Shovelhenge,"  more power to you!

It is all in how you look at things.  

You see, the biggest lesson I learned in Asheville--an epiphany of sorts--was that every garden is unique, just as every gardener is a unique individual.  It is a lesson I probably should have learned long ago, having heard this principle many times.  But sometimes lessons must be taught and taught again before the student absorbs and understands the information.  It took seeing so many different gardens over a course of a few short days, each with their own special style, to realize that I don't have to copy someone else's garden and that my small and often chaotic garden is just fine.

Red Admiral visiting the coneflowers in my own garden today.

Whatever brings you joy . . . that is what a garden should be.

I'm linking this post to Plant Postings' garden lessons learned for this season. Thanks, Beth, for hosting this and inspiring us to reflect on the past season. This is also probably the last post specifically on Asheville I'm going to write (other than a very special "prequel" to Asheville one of these days).  If you'd like to see more of these gardens, you can check them out here; or, if you've been enticed by all the Fling posts to visit Asheville yourself, here's a handy link to plan your trip and explore Asheville's gardens.

Friday, June 15, 2012

GBBD: Blooming Days at Home

After a few weeks of posts about this year's Fling in Asheville, you might think I haven't spent any time at all in my own garden.  But nothing could be further from the truth. It's been a flurry of early morning activity--before it gets too hot--catching up on weeding, planting, mulching, and watering.  In fact, June is literally "bustin' out all over" with lots of color.

Here are some of the blooms in my garden this Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day:

Poppies were everywhere we visited in Asheville, but they're blooming in central Illinois as well.

Nicotania has slightly fragrant blooms that open up fully in the early morning and again later in the evening. They're so sweet I can't bear to pull them out.

Why should I want to tear them out? Well, as you can see, they have taken over my arbor bed!  Since last year was the first time I had success with them in my garden, I don't know if they normally self-seed so prolifically or if it was due to the mild winter.  I have dug up many seedlings to give away and pulled countless others, but still they keep popping up everywhere. I just don't have the heart to pull up flowers, but I'm giving them another week or two, and then they're definitely going to be thinned out to make room for everything else.

On the other side of the arbor bed, another volunteer--'Sonata' white cosmos.  They have been much more polite than the nicotania, and I wouldn't mind if these spread even more.

This side of the arbor bed also shows I didn't keep my vow last year to stop planting everything so close together.  Blue delphinium rise above spreading mounds of 'May Night' salvia and emerging liatris.

In fact, it wasn't until I downloaded the previous photo that I realized there were a few liatris already blooming--they're almost lost in the crowd.

Also nearly hidden and in need of a move is the new phlox planted last fall, 'Blue Paradise.'

It's hard to believe that until recently I didn't have any phlox in my garden at all, but now I have several including this NOID phlox in the lily bed.  This one almost met its demise last spring, because I didn't even remember planting it and thought it was a weed emerging!

My favorite of all, pristine 'David' is just beginning to bloom.

The red Knockout roses are blooming like crazy this year.  I saw the first blasted Japanese beetle on a bloom yesterday, so I will enjoy these while I can.

The climbing 'Don Juan' is also blooming profusely in the arbor bed, though it's still not quite tall enough to climb up the arbor bench.

Nearby, what was supposed to be 'Zephirine Drouhin" is, I'm afraid, the surviving root stock instead.  I'm don't know enough about roses to know whether I should pull this out, but again I'm such a patsy for blooms--and it's full of blooms--that I don't have the heart to get rid of it.

'Endless Summer' hydrangeas are covered in many more blooms than last year.  That is, one of them is--the other 'Endless Summer' was hit by the late freeze in April, but it's starting to catch up.

The shade garden is all about foliage, but the airy blooms of Heucheras make an eye-catching display.  This is my favorite, 'Tiramisu.'

Although everything has bloomed earlier than usual this year, I think the rate of acceleration has slowed down in recent weeks.  The Asiatic lily 'Brindisi' is only slightly ahead of schedule.

The daylilies are also just beginning to bloom.  After the reliable 'Stellas,'  'Moonlight Masquerade' on the left is always the first to bloom, followed by 'Canterbury Tales' on the right.

Chosen for its appropriate name, 'Prairie Blue Eyes' appreciates a much-needed shower.

Echinacea 'Big Sky Sundown.' As much as I enjoy seeing all the daylilies come into bloom, June for me means the happiest time of all in the garden . . . 

Yes, it's the beginning of coneflower season! 

To see what else is blooming all over, be sure to check out May Dreams Gardens where Carol is hosting her monthly celebration of Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.  You're all welcome to join in!