Thursday, August 03, 2017

Mid-Summer at Chickadee Gardens

Peak flower season is upon us and, as I see the temperatures rising to record highs, I am reminded to observe what the garden has to offer. These flowers might not last long if our predicted 108 degree temperatures are realized this week, so it is time to enjoy.


At the edge of the labyrinth garden, a sea of warm yellows, oranges, shades of red and carmine freely flower. The hotter colors I planted at a distance while the more subtle colors tend to be closer to the house.



Shades of pink in Pennisetum 'Karly Rose' and purples in Verbena bonariensis closer to the house. One area of this part of the garden just below the yucca in this photo saw some plant death, so I reworked it and added gravel, compost and a few new plants. I'll watch progress closely. Also, an Arctostaphylos 'Saint Helena' at the base of the stairs has been one of my favorite plants in the garden. I bought it from Xera Plants last year simply because of its name (living in Saint Helens). It handled the winter from hell like a champ and continues to grow and look gorgeous. I bought a second one for another location.


Same area of the garden from several feet back. Santolina virens, Penstemon pinifolius, hebes, yuccas and others are all heat-loving, easy-care plants. Mostly. My goal here is a year-round garden with many different textures, mostly low-growing mounds. Two of the three Ceanothus 'Italian Skies' bounced back from this winter, but I had to replace one which is to the right of the Arctostaphylos 'Saint Helena'. It will take some time to catch up with the other two, seen here as the fuzzy green blobs at the base of the deck.



Crocosmia pottsii (think of Potsi or Potsy? from Happy Days - that's how I remember it) is a subtle shade of coral-orange. I bought this last year from work and the clump has grown nicely. I prefer it to the bright orange of the Crocosmia already here on the property, but there is so much of it that it would be daunting to replace with this. Maybe in time if this proves to be prolific.


A swallowtail butterfly on a Liatris.


Stipa barbata or silver feather grass. It was given to me at a plant swap and, oh my gosh, it's my favorite grass of all-time. Slow growing, but worth the wait.



A view of the berm garden. A difficult site with hot blazing sun, even though it's on the north side of the house. It's in a lot of shade in winter - combine that with poor clay soil against a retaining wall and that equals drainage issues. I've had a hard time getting this area to thrive and get it enough water this summer. I will continue to amend the soil with gravel and compost, but I will also continue to tweak my plant selection for this area. For now, the crocosmia, Artemeisa 'Powis Castle', NOID heather, Achillea 'Moonbeam' (and 'Terra Cotta') and liatris are all doing fine.



A shot of liatris with crocosmia in the background.


A whole field of crocosmia. This was scattered around all over the garden and I consolidated it here to create a meadow feel.


Last fall I planted some 50 Allium sphaerocephalon bulbs. First came the foliage, then finally a long stick with a little ball at the end. Last month they started doing this. Kind of like a watermelon.


They have all since turned entirely purple.


The bees LOVE them. I think Facilities Manager does, too. He bounces them around every time he walks by and makes a "do do do do" happy song and dance.


Their bouncing, dark silhouettes add rhythm to the garden.


We have sunflowers again this year. As with last year, they were not planted by humans.


A NOID Clematis given to me by my boss, Maurice. He knows I love the bell-shaped clems.



A cool scene in mostly shade with hot blazing sun behind it.


A view of the gravel garden, chickens included. Festuca rubra 'Patrick's Point' on the right (the blue grasses) have spread nicely as long as the chickens don't graze on them.



Helenium 'Mardi Gras' is another popular pollinator plant.


Aah, here you can see the purple pom-poms as a kind of punctuation on the landscape.



Leptospermum lanigerum 'Silver Form' (tea tree) in full bloom. The flowers are actually quite small but this year there was such a profusion of them that they really show up. An evergreen shrub from Xera Plants that I moved with me from the old garden. I have since added a few others.



In front, Coreopsis rosea, some purchased some given to me by garden friends. It forms a nice sort of hedge along this area that gets a bit more water than other parts of the garden, even though it's on a slope. These are less drought-tolerant than other species of Coreopsis, thus the placement here. I have C. 'Moonbeam' in drier parts of the garden and they are thriving.



A friend of mine described this area of Carex comans 'Frosty Curls' as my sand dunes. It kind of does resemble that look, now that I think about it. These were seedlings given to me last year by two friends with an abundance of them (thank you, Colleen and Evan!) and now they have grown up and are making more seedlings to fill in the gaps. Miscanthus sinensis 'Cabaret' are the taller grasses in back.



Eriogonum compositum (Form 2) purchased from work last year. This tough native buckwheat is a low-growing shrub to only a few inches high. Give it great drainage and sunshine and it becomes a weed-suppressing mat of silver foliage with these bonus bee-friendly flowers.


Ratibida 'Red Midget' or prairie coneflower (or Mexican hat plant). Another tough full-sun flower for the pollinators.



The fading blooms of Achillea 'Terra Cotta', my very favorite of the achilleas.



A parting shot of the "dry creek bed" surrounded by dry land easy care plants. Many of these have thrived and multiplied, a few have perished and others are going to be moved as I fine-tune the rhythms, colors and textures of the garden. I want it to read as a whole painting all at once, taking you from one area to another rather than having individual gardens with an assaulting amount of varying plants. In other words, again struggling with the dichotomy of plant collector and wanting a landscape that connects with the surrounding land. Baby steps. A few take-away ideas that I've assimilated into my garden philosophy is that rare doesn't necessarily mean better. Some very common plants such as Achillea millefolium or common yarrow (which I accidentally spilled a whole bag of seeds of last fall) has come up here and there and it's just lovely wherever it lands. Also, grasses are most satisfying of plants, really lending themselves to the flora of this part of the world. The two together make a fine combination.

Also, when it comes to watering, I'm becoming less and less tolerant of anything that even needs "average" summer water. Facilities Manager and I find ourselves spending the better part of whole days watering. I don't have an irrigation system, so it's all by hand. Most of these plants, when mature, will not need supplemental summer water but right now they are still getting established. Water is life right now. Time is precious, we don't want to spend our lives watering. As the brown soil fills in with plants we want rather than weeds, this will also help to retain moisture. There is still a lot of bare soil, meaning a lot of evaporation. This is temporary as things are filling in and will continue on.

OK, that's a look at the gardens this week at Chickadee Gardens. I hope you are staying cool and enjoying mid-summer wherever you are. As always thank you so much for reading and until next time, happy gardening!



35 comments :

  1. I found myself wondering how often you were watering as I was reading, so I'm glad you mentioned it at the end. I tried Helenium in the past and it was a water hog, wilted at the slightest drop in attention. I've been working on planting more drought tolerant plants over the past couple of years. It's interesting following your development from small city gardener to larger land holder, it's a whole different thing trying to develop a larger landscape with rhythm and flow. I tried those drumstick Alliums in the past too, and unlike the big Alliums they eventually faded and disappeared.

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    1. I'm surprised your Helenium is a water hog - it gets very little water here. Hmmm..interesting. It is a whole different thing developing the larger landscape. I'm a bit scattered about it sometimes, thinking "Oh, I've got this" then realizing my mistakes and wanting to rip it all out 2 days later. **sigh** such is my love of gardening. Interesting too about the alliums - I'll watch and see if they decline.

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    2. That axiom is always true in gardening that "your mileage may vary." It's always possible I had the Helenium planted in soil that was just too fast-draining. I only tried it once, so I have two more chances to kill it before I can officially give up.

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  2. Incredible to think this is a new garden. You and FM deserve a huge round of applause!

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    1. Aw, thank you Denise! Really, we're a little bit nutso but "happy" nutso.

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    2. Seconding this. It really is extraordinary how self-assured the design is. The mark of someone who knows what they're doing. :)

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  3. Wonderful! I just love seeing it all fill in. : )

    Question? A couple months ago, I put in some Crocosmia in my one fully functioning bed. They went in straight up, but as they got going and then put out flowers, they went sideways. It wasn't that the flowers made them bend over, because now that the flowers are gone and deadheaded, the stalks are growing at an angle. Someone on a FB page said they probably need to be planted deeper - he said 8 inches down - do you think that's the issue? If so, do I dig them up and put them lower, and when would I do that? If I wait until the Fall when everything goes away, could I just mound more soil there - and then they'd come up nice and straight in the Spring?

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    1. Thank yo Stephen!! So...your Crocosmia - often they will flop over if soil is too rich (how's that for a slap in the face!) or they get too much water and/or not enough sun. In other words, longer lanky growth with more water and less sun. These I have get very very little water, in fact at Joy Creek we sell them in the "dry border" section of the nursery. They really do fine with a bit less. As far as planting them deeper, I've never heard that but it could be true - anyone else care to chime in? I know planting bulbs too shallowly is better than too deeply because they *do* make their way down the soil to the proper depth all by themselves (so I have read in horticulture studies), but they can't go up.

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  4. Your garden is already astounding! You should give yourselves healthy pats on the back. I loved the meadow of Crocosmia and the wonderful Alliums. I've come to a similar conclusion about using what works in my garden rather than focusing too much on the unusual, although I doubt I'll ever entirely shed my collector impulse.

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    1. Aw, thank you Kris! It's coming along. I too love the meadow look of the Crocosmia and Alliums...and I too will never entirely shed my impulse. Here's to that! Cheers!

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  5. Anonymous12:32 PM PDT

    I read "Carex comans" as Carex Commons, and thought that would be a great name for that area.

    Your blooms look wonderful!

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    1. Hahaha...that's funny! We should call it the "commons" - I like it! Facilities Manager can never remember Carex so he calls them the carrot fields. I like commons better. Thank you for reading and commenting!

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  6. Chickadee Garden looks fabulous !

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  7. It's so amazing how much things have filled in. It's all looking great!

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    1. Thank you Joana! Thank you for reading and commenting. I hope it's looking great, sometimes it's hard to tell when you're in it every day :)

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  8. I planted drumstick alliums early on and they came back dependably year after year. They eventually did a bit of a disappearing act but I blame encroaching neighbors for that. I'm hoping for long life from the new batch. Did you grow your Ratibida from seed or find it for sale locally? I love its form.

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    1. That's good to know about the alliums coming back. I got the Ratibida at Drake's a couple of years ago, it is a good one. If it seeds around, I'll save you a start.

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  9. You must feel so happy with your progress, really looking beautiful and thoughtfully designed too. Thumbs up to you and the productive FM !

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    1. You are very kind, thank you for your sweet words. We are striving to get to a certain place with our landscape projects, we're not quite there yet but we do stop and savor lovely moments in the garden together.

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  10. It's looking really great! I can't believe how much progress you've made in such a short time.

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    1. Thank you Pam! We're on a mission!

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  11. Looking great, Tamara! It's wonderful when new gardens really start looking full. It's remarkable how much you and FM have accomplished. Couldn't agree more with your take-away ideas. Rare plants are fun and can be highlights in the garden, but what really supports them and brings the whole garden together are the common workhorses. Oy, I'm so tired of watering. I can't wait for the rains to return.

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    1. Thank you Evan, you are too kind! Workhorses are my new favorites, especially ones that seed around on their own and therefore don't take up as much water. I notice when I transplant (or plant) something it requires considerably more water to keep going. I am soooo tired of watering but I brought it on myself...hahaha

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  12. It's just fabulous. Can't wait to see in person again--when the weather is cooler. Geeze, Louise!

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    1. Thank you Patricia! You are very sweet. I'd love to have y'all out - name the date..when it's cooler weather, of course!

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  13. Being a plant lover and a designer is a tough one. I'm still after 20 years trying to find the balance. Your garden looks fantastic, Tammy.

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  14. You two are amazing! Do you ever stand back in amazement of all you've done in such a short time. I kept going back and looking at your posts from when you first moved in and am in awe of what you've done. Everything looks so good!

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    1. Aw Peter, thank you :) We're in amazement about nature. I took your lead and looked at older posts from last year and am kind of stunned at how well things are growing. You are so kind, Peter. I hope you can come out sometime again and take a stroll with us through the garden!

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  15. Gorgeousness everywhere. Glad I read the comments. I think 'H 'Mardi Gras' is planted is too fast a draining soil in the container...Will repot it in clay!

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    1. Aw, thank you Gail! You are too kind. Good to read what others comment on, there are amazing gardeners out there and everyone has good experiences to share. Definitely try with a bit of clay - let us know how it works out.

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  16. This gets me even MORE excited to start fresh. I mean, to see how far it has come in such a short amount of time. So encouraging and inspiring.

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    1. Yay! You shall have your own little paradise again in no time. Plants rock.

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  17. I love how your Allium sphaerocephalon's look dancing across the borders--I must try them! Your tin-sided house looks fantastic with plants!

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