Ramblings of a "New American" Gardener

Summer

July 26, 2014

Big prairie plants are dominating. By mid-July the Filipendula rubra ‘Venusta’ is fading as the Silphium perfoliatum and Rudbeckia maxima flower at their fullest.

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I didn’t allow any yellow in my last garden, but at Federal Twist, the soil decides what I can grow, and tall yellows predominate. Nothing indicates scale below, but the Silphiums are easily ten feet tall. When you walk in the garden, you’re immersed. Call it an insect’s eye view.

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I was standing at full height when I took this photo …

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… and here I pulled the flowers down for a close-up view.

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The flower of Ligularia japonica here, not Silphium.

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Proceeding down the path, a view of the Filipendula and below, Astilbe taquetii ‘Purple Lance’, one of the most stalwart and durable astilbes, and Liatris spicata. This image …

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… and the next show the complex layering I strive for in the garden.

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Here, a reminder that this garden is a clearing in the woods. It will always have a temporary feel. If I left, a new forest would be starting within very few years. It remains a garden only through annual burning and cutting.

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Here we leave the North American prairie, and walk amid exotics from Asia:  the extremely tall, strong as steel Inula racemosa ‘Sonnenspeer’ from the western Himalayas (I think), a Petasites hybrid of uncertain parentage low down, and Miscanthus from Japan. To my eye, these plants make a wonderful aesthetic complement to the Northeastern American woodland.

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The hydrangea corner, with a bench for peaceful morning contemplation, in shade until noon. Most are Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’, which does well in the clay and broken light … with more Inula. I pruned the hydrangeas in spring to take them to a lower height but they’ve grown back tall as I am. This blocks the view back up to the house, so I may have to take them down to the ground next year.

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Bright daylilies and behind a self-sown Eryngium yuccafolium. I plant red and orange daylilies in the grass where they grow unobtrusively, flame out briefly like exploding stars, then fade away.

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The Eryngium in close up.

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Geranium ‘Rozanne’ with Allium ‘Millenium’.

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Rudbeckia maxima, the other “star” plant at this time of summer.  Behind is Joe Pye Weed just in bud, and low down is Pycnanthemum muticum, with silvery leaves to either side of the Rudbeckia. In front, some Liatris pycnostachia and miscanthus. The tree at right is river birch (Betula nigra ‘Heritage’) and left in the distance, Japanese fantail willow (Salix udensis ‘Sekka’).

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Seedheads, a feast for the birds, and for the eyes through the long winter.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Naomi Brooks July 26, 2014 at 10:33 am

Watch out for that Inula ‘Somnenspeer’. Wolfgang Oehme gave me one, grinning, and now I know the joke’s on me. It outlasted my marriage: a taproot to Hell. (the Inula, that is.)

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James Golden July 26, 2014 at 11:56 am

I know the problem well. Seeds like crazy, but so far I’m loving it. I’m considering what to do to control it: cut off the seed heads (but I lose that visual bonus through winter), spray them with some kind of plastic lacquer, or other inert substance, to bond the seeds to the plant, or burn the seed heads with a propane torch. They pull out easily the first year, and they’re very amenable to control with a weed strimmer. And I have the added benefit of those dead taproots adding to the organic content of my highly mineral soil. (You can see I’ve given a lot of thought to the issues this plant presents.)

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lindaB July 26, 2014 at 3:49 pm

Do we need to worry about the Sonnenspeer as an invasive??
Thanks for this beautiful posting. This is what we live for, yes??

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James Golden July 28, 2014 at 5:10 pm

I’ve gotten shy of using the word “invasive” because it’s become almost like name calling. Many “local” or “native” plants could be so described too. I think we need to look deeper into this, and if you don’t know it, I recommend an important new book, “Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World”, by Emma Marris as a place to start. That said, the Inula does self-seed with great speed and I need to find a way to either control it or substitute another plant. I don’t know of another plant, however, that has its wonderful character and size, or its emotional impact. So I’m exploring ways to reduce the self-seeding.

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Ellen van der Peet July 28, 2014 at 7:27 am

I’m glad you let yellow in your garden in. There are so many beautiful species…. Nice pictures, love your garden..

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James Golden July 28, 2014 at 5:15 pm

Thank you. I’m happy you like the yellows. I just happened to be at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden last weekend, and in the twilight saw the mauves and reds and purples of Joe Pye Weed, Monarda ‘Jacob Cline’, a thalictrum, and a short, very floriferous Vernonia. I’d like to get more of that into the garden, perhaps after the yellows subside.

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Cindy at enclos*ure July 30, 2014 at 2:24 am

Rudbeckia maxima is one of my favorites, but I wasn’t familiar with Silphium perfoliatum — beautiful native.

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James Golden August 2, 2014 at 7:32 am

It is a beautiful structural–almost “engineered”–plant.

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