Summer Solstice Garden

Exciting things are happening in our garden these days. An air of maturity is about as plants that are happy are spreading their wings and filling out while weaker ones that have disappeared show no signs of leaving a hole in their absence. Enough time has passed that big mistakes or misplantings from the first few years have healed. Visions are being realized as naturalization of plants connects the garden with the landscape and creates a flow that was quite obviously absent in the first years. In other words, the edges have softened, plants are growing into one another and my habit of constant weeding is paying off. Mind you, this is still a high-maintenance garden just due to its sheer size at two acres, but the chores are becoming more manageable and I no longer have weekends where I plant 97 plants. I'm not exaggerating, I really did that the first few years. These days, rather, we're taking care of the big creation.

Here's the garden in June, midsummer, the Summer Solstice Garden:

 The end of the berm garden on the white end. This section has silver foliaged and white flowered plants, and see that rosemary spilling over the edge of the retaining wall? I've waited a long time for that.

At the outer edges of the garden, Oenothera 'Sunset Boulevard' has seeded around, making itself at home.

Oenothera 'Sunset Boulevard'

At the edge of the labyrinth garden. A frothy Ceanothus 'Marie Simon' is more pink that I'd like down here, but it won't bloom forever, so it's ok. In the center is a self-sown Digitalis lutea.

Hebe diosmifolia in full bloom surrounded by a supporting cast of greens and whites.

Marrubium incanum, horehound, in the dry labyrinth garden.

The lavender cottons are blooming. In front is Santolina virens, behind is Santolina 'Lemon Queen'. The major difference is the flower color - the latter is a paler pastel, the former a rich yellow.

In the labyrinth garden, a row of Teucrium chamaedrys line a path. A pair of Acanthus mollis flank the entrance to this part of the garden.

Near the chicken coop looking west with the newest path fully graveled and well-used. The clothesline in the background gets plenty of use this time of year when the weather warms. We are simple people. Simple people with a complicated garden.

At the top of the driveway the end of the retaining wall is finally beginning to be softened by groundcovers spilling over. From left to right hanging down are Grevillea x gaudichaudii, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, and Acaena 'Blue Haze'.

Diascia 'My Darling Tangerine'

Dark foliage plants contrast nicely in this, an area of orange flowered plants, although none are in bloom at the moment.

I really like this little Thymus 'Silver Posie' which forms a tiny little shrublet rather than the many creeping forms I have all over the garden.

Variegated Ceanothus 'Cool Blue', a gift from my friend and fellow nurseryman Nathan.

Rosa glauca and Olearia Lineata 'Dartonii'

A view of the edge of the labyrinth garden while standing near the orchard, looking northwest.

In the gravel garden where Nepeta 'Walker's Low' and Penstemon pinifolius 'Melon' nearly kiss and block the path.

The fire pit surrounded by grasses and Sedum rupestre, in full yellow bloom. I take this stuff out by the pound. In fact, I ripped it ALL out of these beds last year and it came back with a vengeance. Sigh. It would take over my garden if I allowed it. Or forgot to look.

Looking southwest past the fire pit and gravel garden.

Nicotiana 'Hot Chocolate' seedling, likely crossed with something else. This just hitchhiked as a seed in the soil from the old garden.

Nassella tenuissima, Mexican feather grass with cool blues of Festuca 'Beyond Blue'. 

Erigeron karvinskianus ‘Profusion’ filling in until some hebes and other roundy moundy shrubs grow up.

In the dry creek bed, more Nassella tenuissima, Festuca 'Beyond Blue' and Salvia 'Berggarten' mix with hebes and sedums. The evergreen tree in the background right is a self-sown Arbutus menziesii, our native madrone tree. FM and I battle it out as to whether it stays or goes and if it stays, how much of the Douglas fir will be limbed up to accommodate the lack of sun due to the madrone. So far we're at a standoff. Stay tuned.

Salvia officinalis 'Purpurascens', Sedum spurium, Stachys 'Helen Von Stein' and Hebe 'Karo Golden Esk' at the edge of a bed in the gravel garden.

Cistus, Sedum spurium, Agave bracteosa 'Calamar', Hebe 'Karo Golden Esk' and other sun lovers.

There used to be a rock wall in there! It's been taken over by (left to right) Zauschneria californica, Hebe pinguifolia 'Sutherlandii', Sedum spurium, and Salvia 'Berggarten'.

In the center is that Nepeta 'Walker's Low' and Penstemon p. 'Melon' as seen from the other direction.

At the edge of the meadow area with Nassella tenuissima, Lavandula 'Van Gogh', Diplacus aurantiacus (syn. Mimulus aurantiacus), grasses and more.

Deutzia setchuenensis var corymbiflora, a sorely under-used deciduous shrub. I have this in high shade and it's doing very well.

We switched up the veggie garden this year, practicing crop rotation. Beets, turnips, onions, cabbages and more fill this bed that was crowded with pumpkins last year.

Plenty of self-sown annuals in the veggie garden this year. Calendulas, nasturtium and poppies are all over and that's ok with us.

We travel this path all the time. It's a mown path through the center of the orchard that connects the greenhouse to the veggie garden. It's steep, too - not one I enjoy traversing save for the view. Annie likes to hang out on this path staring into the grasses attentive to any small mousy movements. She could sit here all day and would if we let her. It gets boring for us, though, standing there watching Annie watch grass being moved around by critters.

The cabbage patch with the house in the distance. It is actually all on a slope, strange how this photograph makes it look level. Trust me, it is not.

The honey bees are happy this year! We moved them to a new locale in more sun and in a more open area.

Big hunky boys enjoying the garden, which is what it's all about, what it's all for. Additionally it is a place for critters to call home, and hopefully for you to enjoy, albeit virtually.

We are but a small drop in the Big Bucket of Life, but hopefully this little drop is doing some good. That's our aim - and summer is our reward - to enjoy to the maximum that which we have worked so hard on. We are lucky, make no mistake. That fact does not escape us. We wish everyone could be this close to nature all the time, for it does heal and the world needs a lot of that right now.

Stay safe out there, and as one who works with the public, we so appreciate when you wear a mask to protect us, yourselves and other shoppers. It means a lot and is the right thing to do. We wear them at Joy Creek Nursery (even outside) to protect you and one another. It's a pain in the ass but a small price to pay.

That's a wrap for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always thank you so much for reading and commenting, we love hearing from you! Happy gardening and happy summer. That's something to celebrate.


  1. SO wonderful - and so inspiring. Thank you, as always, friend! : )

  2. It's a joy to take a stroll through your garden, even if only virtually, Tamara. Your foresight, planning and hard work are reaping rewards with every passing day. I wish I could say that my garden involved less work than it did a few years ago but right now a gopher is making a major mess of things. (I finally understand the running gopher joke in the movie 'Caddyshack'.)

    1. Oh, Kris, the damned critters. I didn't get into it on this post but we are having an epic vole AND mole issue. I laughed at your Caddyshack reference, I TOTALLY get it. D'OH!

  3. Oh Tamara, your gardens are just beautiful!!! Everything flows together and looks so natural. I think it can be so hard to get this look, and you have achieved it perfectly! Even though I'm tired, sitting here looking at your photos, your gardens make me want to go out and work in mine. You sound very pleased with your results, and patient waiting - and you should be. It is perfection!

    1. OH, thank you Cindy! Such kind words.

      I think I'm glad my post makes you want to go work? But maybe relaxing in the garden is a better idea... :)

  4. A little luck maybe in finding the land of your dreams, but tons of hard work, plant savvy, and design skills come through in these photos. So funny about Sedum rupestre being such a pest, because that scene looks amazing now. I love the scale, the shapes, the massing, the textures -- it really does look like the garden has taken off and assumed a personality of its own. Congrats!

    1. Thank you Denise! That sedum - it does look good for a little while, which is why I had it in many places initially. It took a couple of years but I'm regretting it. Live and learn!

      I think it has taken on a personality of its own, you articulate what I was trying to say so well in a short, sweet sentence. Thank you!

  5. The garden is maturing into a beautiful masterpiece. So rewarding when it comes together as you had envisioned. Can't get over how tall your salvias get especially purpuria. Try planting S. Angelina along with purple sage. It's a gorgeous combo.

    1. Thank you so much! Salvia - I love them. Angelina sedum? Not so much...ha ha! I had a post last year where I removed all of it because it took over. But I take your point, it would be a lovely combination indeed ;) (if it were well-behaved in my garden)

  6. It must be so rewarding to see the garden achieve this stage of maturity. And I have no doubts there were days you planted 97 plants! As for the madrone, uhm, of course it stays! (am I right?).

    1. Yes, you would know the truth about the # of plants a garden can take.

      As for the madrone...well - actually I wanted it gone. Only because it was in a bad location, but moving them is virtually a guarantee of death for the poor thing.

      I'm all for keeping it as long as FM is willing to limb up the Doug fir a few branches up - but if not, one of them has to go.

    2. Wow...I called that one wrong!

    3. Not really, I do love it and I'm sure it will end up staying. Seedlings don't always plant themselves where I want them...I guess I have to learn to be flexible.

  7. Your garden is a joy! So exuberant and alive... We're in complete agreement about that marvelous Deutzia. It's such a graceful, airy shrub. It features prominently on my When-I-get-a-bigger-garden-list.

    "We wish everyone could be this close to nature all the time, for it does heal and the world needs a lot of that right now." Amen to that, my friend!

    1. Thank you Anna Bean! Oh, that Detuzia is soooo pretty. Lovely.

      Here's to more gardens in this world, Anna. We're collectively helping by buying one plant at a time ;)

  8. I nearly shuddered when you reminded us that you "weed" 2 acres. Oh but the rewards are great! I could take just one of your islands and plop it into my garden for great satisfaction. Such a wide diversity of plants. Every post reminds me that my knowledge of plants is minuscule. Of course I couldn't grow many things you grow but they are a treat for the eyes.

    1. Ha ha...that's funny - if I stopped to think about it I would shudder too. I can't believe I do it.

      Oh, your knowledge of plants that I grow might not be 100% but I bet I would not know most of what you grow, too. It's all a matter of being familiar with one's zone and part of the world, and fortunately for me, the Pacific Northwest can grow a LOT of different kinds of plants. We're very lucky here.

  9. T! The gardens look amazing! All of your hard work is paying off. You have created a most beautiful space. Virtual Hugs to you.

  10. Wow, the garden is looking so mature, in a good way! I started following you when you were just beginning this garden - the labyrinth was still a stone labyrinth - and the transformation from then to now is amazing. Lots of hard work and aching muscles, I know, but you have a treasure of a garden now.


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