Ramblings of a "New American" Gardener

Clean slate

March 14, 2016

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The burning and cutting is done. Within a month, with warmer temperatures,  thousands of grasses and perennials will break the surface, and a textured plain of green will emerge.

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I’ve come to look forward to this time of year, waiting in suspense, spotting the early comers among the leaf litter and debris. The frogs and peepers are already singing at night.

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Natural mulch will shelter the plants as they emerge, adding another layer of organic matter to the heavy clay.

Rich clay, though, so this flat plain will spring to life in besotted splendor. In three month’s time, something like this–

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Diana Studer March 14, 2016 at 4:43 pm

the three blue seats, lined up, as a bench? Somewhere?
I do like the muted blue harmonising with the rock colours.

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James Golden March 14, 2016 at 8:51 pm

Thanks for the suggestion, Diana. Unfortunately, I decided that photo was off topic and removed it. The problem with those seats is that they are getting bluer and bluer. I got them to match the stone, but they are changing. You’re right that I should find another place to use them.

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Diana Studer March 15, 2016 at 1:04 pm

interesting that the seats change colour? Weird?

Do delete these comments since we’ve wandered off topic

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James Golden March 15, 2016 at 1:13 pm

They were made in China of unlabeled and unidentified materials, for all I know, toxic materials. I just don’t know. They held up very well through our winter weather, but the color is changing.

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Diana Studer March 27, 2016 at 3:33 pm

something ‘interesting’ leaching into your pond??

Paul Steer March 15, 2016 at 2:33 pm

The contrast between the open vista and Summer exuberance is beautiful – it must be such a profound experience watching the garden reappear each year.

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James Golden March 17, 2016 at 7:46 pm

I do enjoy looking for the changes. Daffodils are just about to come into flower, and the Petasites appear to be about to put out their lanky flowering stalks. And there are frog eggs in the pond. Unfortunately, it’s possible we may have a late snow Sunday night!

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Cindy at enclos*ure March 16, 2016 at 7:19 am

I love seeing the bare bones layout of your garden in these photos. It will help me better understand the pictures in the coming months. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed that island of boxwoods before.

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James Golden March 17, 2016 at 7:48 pm

I should have taken more photos, because there are more “bones.” I also used a wide angle lens, which distorts spatial relationships in strange, but interesting, ways.

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James Golden April 3, 2016 at 6:35 pm

It’s been there quite a few years. The shape is intended to visually extend the canal pond.

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Pat Webster www.siteandinsight.com March 16, 2016 at 9:00 am

I agree with Cindy. Seeing the clean slate makes the months to come more comprehensible. There’s so much promise in these photos… can’t wait to see how the garden grows this year.

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James Golden March 17, 2016 at 7:49 pm

Since I have no travel plans this summer, I hope to track the growth at regular intervals. I was away last summer and missed documentation of most of the summer.

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James Golden April 3, 2016 at 6:36 pm

Plants are starting to pop out of the ground, but we have three freezes predicted this week. I hope there’s no lasting damage.

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Les March 19, 2016 at 10:14 am

I know what work it took to cut the garden down, but it must be incredibly satisfying once it is all done.

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James Golden March 20, 2016 at 2:49 pm

I definitely is satisfying. Now I’m anxious to plant my new Iris ‘Gerald Darby’ and Dianthus carthusianorum. The dianthus will have to go in dry ground near the house, but I hope is will grow as successfully as I saw last summer in England. I think every garden I saw used that plant.

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Caleb D Melchior April 13, 2016 at 2:11 pm

You’ll have to keep us informed of how long ‘Gerald Darby’ holds its new foliage color for you – it was gorgeous for 3-4 days when I grew it in Saint Louis, but then would green out instantly. Those few moments were incredible – but sadly easy to miss.

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James Golden April 25, 2016 at 8:44 pm

My Gerald Darby is still short because of the cool weather. Not much color yet.

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Nell March 24, 2016 at 7:04 pm

I’m envious of the completely shorn-of-winter garden. Big winds from the west and south all week have kept me from cutting down the 20-year-old Miscanthus ‘Silberfeder’, a job I dislike even when conditions are perfect. Want a mind-controlled robotic buzz saw — that then chops the stalks into 3-ft pieces and carts them off to the compost…

Thanks for giving us this early view, which does make it easier to orient oneself in the later-season vegetation.

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James Golden March 28, 2016 at 10:13 am

Each year I think it will be more work that it is. I have several Silberfeders, which I hope to gradually replace with Silberturm. A Dutch gardener told me it has a more upright form and is less prone to flopping over in late summer. But only half the plugs I bought two years ago remained last spring, and I don’t know if I’ll find any alive when the warm season grasses finally sprout.

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Nell March 30, 2016 at 11:35 am

Here’s hoping your ‘Silberturm’s show up when the real warming begins! Dutch recommendations make sense for your site because you have so much moisture.

‘Silberfeder’ is bolt upright here, but think that the contrast in our sites might make all the difference. It’s in much drier soil (though still clay), and exposed to the full force of the prevailing wind — without any of the shelter your trees provide, and in absolute full sun, nothing taller anywhere near it. Every year the first heavy snow makes it double over, and I’m sure it’ll be a mess for the rest of the winter, but as soon as the weight is lifted it sproings back up as if nothing had happened.

For the last few seasons I’ve been chopping away at the outer edges of the clumps at this time of year to limit their spread (pretty slow, considering how long ago ‘Silberfeder’ was planted, but inevitable), so that may also be helping to prevent flopping. Happy to have that removal behind me, so the only wintry presence clashing with the daffodils are some Panicums; their skinny stems and modest height make removal much less of an ordeal. Still, winds are back up to thirty, so I’m going to put off that job for another day.

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flahertylandscape March 27, 2016 at 11:28 pm

…waiting for ‘thousands of grasses and perennials’…waiting for magic, spring magic!

Love the before pictures. Thank you.

Conical evergreens…sweet…winter sweet.

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James Golden March 28, 2016 at 10:16 am

And I cut my alder hedge to the ground last autumn. I wait in hope this was a successful exercise in coppicing, and I’ll have bunches of new growth in two or three months.

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Nell March 30, 2016 at 11:53 am

Where is the alder hedge? I’ve saved the image of the plan map your friend supplied for the excellent Garden Design Journal article, so you could specify in relation to the features noted there.

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James Golden April 1, 2016 at 8:54 am

The alder hedge is shown on the map behind the no. 10. There is a long stone wall bordering the gravel path there. However, after being convinced that alder would coppice well, I cut them all to the ground last fall, and I await the emergence of new alder shoots, which I think will make a more uniform and attractive hedge. Hoping it works.

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Elizabeth March 31, 2016 at 12:17 pm

It’s wonderful seeing the bones of your garden, and the contrast between this clean sweep and the summer lushness is startling. I hope the Dianthus carthusianorum do well for you. This is my first year trying them after falling in love with them in a photo of the Dan Pearson border at the Old Refectory.

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James Golden April 1, 2016 at 8:57 am

I remember well Dan Pearson’s use of Dianthus carthusianorum at The Old Rectory, and that is the reason I’m trying them this year. However, I’ve planted them already and we’re expecting two or three freezing nights this week. I intend to cover them and hope for the best. Where did you see the photo of that border?

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James Golden April 3, 2016 at 6:37 pm

I don’t understand.

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