Tag Archives: Inula racemosa ‘Sonnenspeer’

Spring recalled – via a text message

The woodland garden, with a thick ground cover of Packera aurea, Matteuccia struthiopteris, Onoclea sensibilis and many other plants. At this time of year, most garden interest is in the complex ground cover.

We left for over three weeks in Barcelona and southern France in early May last year and returned in early June. I entirely missed spring in the garden.

Then yesterday I got a text message from garden designer friend, Keith Gibialante, who lives across the Delaware in Pennsylvania.

Spectacular early foliage of Ligularia japonica emerging from a carpet of Petasites and Equisetum arvense, with the long canal pond in the background.

It seems Keith came by to visit while I was away last spring, and finding I wasn’t at home, let himself into the garden and took some photos. (He has a standing invitation to visit, so long as he latches the gate on exit to keep the deer out.)

Golden foliage of Gleditsia triacanthos ‘Sunburst’ magnifies the golden flowers of Euphorbia palustris scattered across the garden.

In yesterday’s text message Keith said he thought he forgot to let me know he’d visited, and he included a link to his photos.

It seems I just discovered last spring in the garden!

I liked the images so much (you should see the garden now, after cutting and burning, and a March with four nor’easters, and now rain; it’s beyond dreary), I asked Keith if I could use them in a brief blog post, to remind myself that … indeed … spring will eventually arrive.

The terrace outside the house, up high, looking across the garden, which is below. The ground layer needs to be cut back, but that had to wait until I returned in June.

Looking at Keith’s photos makes me feel a lot better.

I remove much of the Inula racemosa ‘Sonnenspeer’, the plant with the big leaves (its mature height is six to eight feet). Fortunately it’s easy to remove at this stage.

 

 

The sitting area outside the house gets a lot of morning sun, as does the house, with its large floor-to-ceiling windows. The wide eaves cut off the direct sun inside by about 10 am and three large Sycamores (Platanus occidentalis), planted when the house was built in 1965, shade the outside area all afternoon. I’m sure “sustainable design” wasn’t a term anyone had thought of back then, but the architect, William Hunt, was a fine one and he clearly took some useful lessons from Frank Lloyd Wright and from Japanese design.

The living room is flooded with light (and passive heating in winter) until mid-morning, and the outside sitting area is shaded from late morning to the end of day.

 

Down in the garden, across from the house, are a paved pathway across the garden and a circle of stone, reminiscent of Jens Jensen, overlooked by three large Salix udensis ‘Sekka’ (Japanese fantail willows).

If you look closely, you’ll see many golden-flowered Euphorbia palustris scattered across the garden.

The chairs (from Dan Benarcik of Chanticleer) make a lovely structural contrast with the emergent wild look of the garden. By mid-summer, they will be invisible.

 

Below is the main path across the center of the meadowish garden.

A bronze sculpture at the back of the garden, made by Marc Rosenquist, emerges from a colony of Petasites japonicus.

The central path across the garden again. The white flowering shrub is a Viburnum mariesii, a small tree among the more than eighty Juniperus virginiana we cut down to make space for the garden. I cut the Viburnum to the ground but it clearly wants to come back. I think it was probably planted when the house was built, so keep it for historical and sentimental reasons.

You can just see the “head” of my long box “caterpillar” in the middle right surrounded by a sea of Inula, most of which were removed when I returned from vacation.

A small reflecting pool nestled up against the bank up to the house (above).

And the view from above. Thanks, Keith.

 

All photos courtesy of Keith Gibialante. All rights reserved.

High Summer

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The soft, undulating surface of the Miscanthus bank opening toward the sky contrasts with the mixed textures in the rest of the garden.

It’s late July and I haven’t posted on the garden’s progress for over six weeks. So much for my garden diary … After a drought of several weeks, we’ve had a long period of frequent, often violent, thunderstorms with torrential rains, mostly lasting only 20 or 30 minutes, but certainly stressful for my structural perennials and grasses. So different from those light mists and showers I remember in England last summer. Another reason why American gardens are different from English gardens, I suppose.

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What if a visitor arrives before the garden’s up to snuff?

One of the few disadvantages of a prairie-style garden is the mostly vacant stare it gives you until June.

I have a garden visitor coming in early May, when the garden has barely begun to turn green and most of the high summer’s 12-foot behemoths are only 6 to 10 inches high. It certainly won’t be in character, won’t have the sheer mass, the atmosphere, none of the magic of the big garden of summer. I looked through photos I took of the garden on May 8 of last year, just to remind myself what to expect. (And, yes, to set expectations.)

One can hope for a mysterious atmosphere, but the setting sun and cloudy sky are hard to deliver on cue.

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In praise of weather (again)

I look at photos of Dutch and British gardens and am a little envious to see how long and gentle their autumns seem to be.  Our climate in the Northeast US is vastly different; our foul and stormy weather often comes much sooner. The garden was decimated by snow and freezing rain Thanksgiving week, two months earlier than last year. This is about what remains.

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Stone circles

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I’d been thinking about making more open space in my garden for a long time … a significant feature, somewhere in the middle. Then Carrie Preston visited from The Netherlands last summer and said, “Why don’t you use more stone. You have so much. Use what you have.” Or something to that effect. I eventually would have done it, but Carrie’s push moved me into action.

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Light in Autumn

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Doublefile viburnum in red overlooking reflecting pool

Low and warm, the autumnal light sculpts the landscape of plants into a deep, three-dimensional screen. Backlit grasses and foliage glow, and sparks of light reflected through long irregular interstices give the garden a power lost almost totally when the day turns glum and cloudy.

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Summer

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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The season turns: first light frosts

The first light frosts are bringing this growing season to its end. Some grasses have long ago turned to shades of orange, brown, gold and yellow; others are still green. The big perennials–Silphium, Inula, Rudbeckia maxima, Vernonia, Joe Pye Weed–are now becoming sculpture; their dark, leaden-brown structures will last through most of winter.

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Garden Diary: More light, more life …

“It can be heartbreaking to see the natural landscape ravaged, or, as a designer, to watch something you have created be destroyed. It can even be difficult to see it change before your eyes into something you had not imagined. Perhaps for these very understandable reasons, conventional landscaping resists change …

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