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August 2007

What's better than a sunflower?

High 84 F
Low  54 F

Helianthus annuus (Asteraceae Family)

I posted about the height of my sunflowers briefly on the 23rd but today's drive dictated that they get a bit more attention.  So, what is better than a sunflower?  They demand attention with their bright faces and impressive size.  The one above is growing in the garden but while driving today I happened upon a sea of sunflowers standing in this field like a chorus line getting ready to dance. Dsc_0002 And dance, they do!  Sunflowers are heliotropic which means that the plant, while in its' bud stage, has the ability to turn towards the sun and rotate, east to west, following the sun's path.  Once the plant starts to flower it stops this rotation.  Quite an interesting feature of the sunflower!  I had to pull over and take a few pictures because this is not a sight you see in New England all that often.  Dsc_0005 Many of the blogs I read, from Connecticut to South Carolina, west to Texas and north to Michigan all have mentioned sunflowers.  I find it comforting that so many other gardeners are growing this plant and it is one more common point of connection made in the gardening world.  The sunflower is the state flower of Kansas and is native to North America. Native Americans cultivated sunflowers dating back to 2100 B.C.  Sunflower seeds were exported to Europe and much of the breeding for increasing the oil content was done in Russia in the 1800's.  Vincent Van Gogh painted his sunflower series of seven in 1888 which just validates the universal appeal


of sunflowers (in my book anyway).    Sunflowers provide food in the form of the seed, oil, and sunbutter much like peanut butter.  I love to watch the birds tugging at the seeds.

Colleen at In the Garden Online had some great suggestions for sunflower projects for kids .   I think that there are all sorts of interesting projects that can be done with sunflowers.  How about a double circle of sunflowers, creating a sunflower room?  A maze of sunflowers would be fun and probably has been done. I have made notes from Kris at Blithewold to grow 'Lemon Queen' and Bob from Bob's Garden to try 'Mammoth' next year.  Any other suggestions? 


The underbelly of the garden!

High 82 F
Low  54 F

Click to enlarge for full effect
Inspiration for blogs comes in many forms and this one was inspired by David Perry.  He is a professional photographer and, as such, has the eye of an artist but, he also has the soul of a poet.  Check out his beautiful photographs and text.  His blog name is listed on the left side of this page.  Anyway,  one of his recent posts involved a picture which was taken lying on the ground and looking through the plants.  Now, I am not a stranger to crawling around on the ground to take a picture of mushrooms but I don't think I have taken any of the garden that way.  So, this morning I resolved to take pictures from beneath.  Not easy for is a long way down!  The first picture is one of the many coleus I have in the garden this year. (Note to self...time to take some cuttings!)  I know most of you are familiar with the multicolored leaves and varieties of coleus available and I can't tell you which one, exactly, this is but it takes on a whole new look when photographed from down under.  I'm really not one for editing photos.  That takes more time than I currently have but it is a future goal.Dsc_0009

This next picture is looking through the nasturtiums on the right and the scented geraniums on the left.  Has anyone planted the scented geraniums next to a walkway? Dsc_0005
Looking back toward the nasturtiums.

It is so gratifying to brush against them and have the air scented with rose or peppermint. Along the pathway there are several lamb's ears, Stachys byzantina 'Helen Von Stein' .   This has larger leaves than the species and doesn't flower.  It is not quite as silver as the species either but it does stay much neater looking and there is no deadheading to be done.


Pulling back along this brick path just a bit farther reveals the electric blue of the Dsc_0020 Salvia patens which I found irresistible.  Here is one more shot looking back along the walkway. I think the nasturtium leaves look a lot like lotus leaves in miniature.Dsc_0018I have a long way to go to get anywhere near the beauty of David Perry's photographs and the goal is really to just get a little better at photography and look at things from a different perspective. 



Miscellaneous garden shots!

High 83 F
Low 57.3 F
This spring I planted several different types of ornamental gourds.  Walking around the garden today I noticed that the 'snake' gourd is filling out quite nicely.  Now not too many of us like snakes and these were pictured on the package painted to look like a snake. They are intriguing.  I will never paint them but find them a curiosity growing here next to the birdhouse gourd in the weedy patch of the vegetable garden.  Does anyone have any idea what else could be done with them?  I've heard that they make great rain sticks.
The morning walk also revealed this Tricyrtis  finally blooming.  It is covered with sooty mold from the oak tree overhead but it is a bright bit of exotic color and orchid like  bloom.  It doesn't seem to be thriving here so I will probably move it once we get a little rain either after its' bloom in the fall or in the spring.

The garlic chives are starting to open. They looked like this in last week's post Dsc_0026 and now they look this this. Both
Allium tuberosum


the leaves and the stems are used in cooking and the flowers can be used as a spice.

This aster promises to be covered with blooms. Dsc_0109 One or two are showing now.  If we don't get a bit of rain I'm not sure they will open.  The New England asters are showing serious signs of drought and since we did have a fair amount of rain throughout the summer we are probably in for a dry fall.  I guess we will just have to wait and see.  Too much rain is as bad, or worse, as too little rain.  Is it ever 'just right'?      


Faces in the garden

High 82 F
Low 61.6 F

I have found that others enjoy face planters also.  When visiting Minnechaug last week I found the following containers and sculptures.  I'm not sure why I like the faces so much but they make me smile and that is always a good thing.
Three men on a wall

Happy Face


Smug face

The scream!

Angel face

In addition to the face planters there were many plant combinations in the garden that are worth sharing.
  I love this picture of the Calla lily, Zantedeschia  'Schwartzwalter' with this morning glory which looks like Grandpa Ott. The stripe on the morning glory matches the color of the calla.  The purple photographs a little more intense than it looks to the eye.

Here is a picture of Castor Bean with a dahlia.  The dahlia has dark leaves and this butterscotch flower.

Dsc_0014 There are several pineapple lilies, genus Eucomis, in the garden.


I never noticed how lovely the flowers of this plant are close up. They are fairly small but profuse.

Dsc_0056 Click to enlarge

Here is another interesting plant.  This one is called doll's eyes, Actaea pachypoda.   It is an interesting plant which produces white flowers in the spring and these berries in late summer.  The berries are poisonous but they do look like doll's eyes.  This is a member of the Ranunculaceae family and it is a native plant which grows in moist woodland soils.  If you have space for a woodland garden this would be an interesting choice don't you think?


Minnechaug - Berry Land!

Low 65.7 F

Dsc_0077 Click to enlarge for full effect.

The Native American word, Minnechaug, translates to 'Berry Land', the name of this plant lover's paradise.  Through a veil of red amaranthus, the garden beyond glows, beckons, and invites you in to share in its' many mysteries.  This is a garden which shines at this time of year when many gardens are looking a bit weary.  The gardener, Suzanne, and her trusty Pharaoh dog, Zephyr, are pictured here in front of one of the many unusual and mighty grasses within this garden. Dsc_0037
Miscanthus floridus

Zephyr is a dog who is fleet of foot and has keen sense of movement.  His head is always turning and he keeps the deer at bay.  As you can see, he does look a bit like a deer.
Dsc_0011 This is a picture through the arbor into the garden from the front door and, as you can see, there are interesting plants everywhere not to mention the architecture of the arch.  Suzanne's husband is a talented carpenter and his contributions to the garden are clearly evident.   Dsc_0028 Here is a picture looking through the arch from the far side. Dsc_0013

Echeverias and Sedums

There are many container plantings throughout the garden. This one is filled with succulents and mulched with blue glass.  It is very pretty from above and the effect of the glass causes the garden explorer to stop and take a second look.
Here is another container filled to the brim with an assortment of annuals.

Walking around the arch and down the path toward the back garden there is this bright bit of color at work right on the curve of the lawn. Dsc_0022 It is a Polygonatum orientale syn. with Persicaria orientalis and it is bright fuschia.Dsc_0024 Here is a closeup of the flower which is about four and a half feet high. The back garden down by the chairs is home to giant plants. Dsc_0045 First there is the  Paulownia tomentosa which is visible on the left side of this picture and is cut back every spring to induce these large leaves.  The tree is hardy to zone 5 but the flower buds are much less hardy and in this zone they are usually  killed by frost and rarely bloom. Dsc_0044 These leaves are worth it don't you think?
Dsc_0043 Then there is the Macleaya cordata with the Thalictrum in front of it. They both tower over the garden at a good seven or eight feet tall.  The grass, Miscanthus floridus,  behind the other chair completes the feeling of enclosure in this garden space.
The vegetable garden is ornamental as well as productive. Dsc_0049

Dsc_0052 There are vegetables, fruits and 'stick people' of all kinds growing in these spaces. 
The next garden is the raked gravel garden which I love for its' simplicity yet sophistication. And what garden would be Dsc_0074 complete without water? 

Here is one of two of the water gardens on this property.  The lighting would not cooperate for a good pool picture but here are the falls.  The sound of water always refreshes the soul!


There will be more pictures of plant combinations in future posts but I will leave you with this one of the Cotinus coggyria with the banana tree in front of it.  I love the interplay of colors between the two. Thanks to Suzanne and Zephyr for letting me share her garden with all of you!


How tall are they?

High 78 F
Low 55.1 F

The sunflowers are flowering but continue to grow and are now towering over the sun space roof.  I think one is at least ten or eleven feet tall and it has a pretty, but small, flower.  The stalk has over a 1" caliper!  It is amazing that the seed contains all it needs to produce something this large.  I know many of you are growing sunflowers.  What kind would you recommend and how tall are yours?

At this time of year there are buds, blooms and seed heads in the garden. Dsc_0002 Here is the Hosta 'Royal Standard' just about to bloom.  The flowers on this particular hosta are fragrant and a pure white.  Hosta flowers can vary quite a bit just as the foliage does. Dsc_0016 On this golden tiara hosta the flowers are a deep purple and make quite a statement when the plants are grouped in the garden.  Others such as this Hosta 'Paul's Glory'  are fine but nothing compared with the foliage.  Dsc_0020 The only hosta I have ever planted for the flower was the 'Royal Standard' which has a plain yellow green leaf with the scented flower.
The Kirengeshoma or Yellow Waxbells are just about to bloom and the flower buds are just as nice as the flowers.  This plant looks great in combination with a Hosta 'Frances Williams'.
The seedheads on the Cimicifuga racemosa 'Brunette' are the same chocolate color of the leaves. The provide great texture in the border.  Back to buds for the last shot which may seem out of sync but this is the flower bud for next year on the Rhododendron in the back border.Dsc_0005 It is hard to believe that it is already getting ready for next years' bloom .   


Burgundy and Gold!

High 72 F
Low 55.1F

A very quick post tonight as it has been a long day.  The above picture was taken at a garden center.  The Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' is about twelve years old.   Behind it is the Ligularia dentata 'Othello'.  It is a stunning combination.   
This is an espaliered Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy'.  I never think of training an ornamental other than a fruit tree and this looks so nice!
Here is a picture of Duranta, an annual, with Ophiopogon or Black Mondo Grass.  Pretty dramatic isn't it?
Sweet alyssum
Here are just a few shots of self seeded annuals which just looked to nice not to post.

I'm not sure if this is Bidens or some other little treasure.  Perhaps one of you can identify it for me. 


The last of the daylilies!

High 74 F
Low 52 F

This is one of the last daylilies to bloom in the garden but it is a bright one! It was  unseasonably cool today for August with the temperature hovering in the 60's most of the day.  I've resorted to fleece this evening, a rare occurrence lately.  There are still buds to be found in the garden. Dsc_0026 This is garlic chives getting ready to bloom.  It will be a nice white with the typical allium head on it. The clematis seedheads are also making a statement. Dsc_0007 The geometry of nature is unparalleled.  Also blooming  right now are the Geranium 'Rozanne',at least the few that did survive the winter. Dsc_0011 Once they start blooming in late June they do go right on blooming until the heaviest of frost and shortest of days. Dsc_0012

I do have a couple plants of Perovskia or, Russian Sage, but it doesn't thrive here like those I see planted near the coastline.  I have a heavier soil which is less to their liking but it does manage to bloom a bit and looks nice with the Coreopsis 'Moonbeam'. Dsc_0014 Blue and yellow is such a classic combination don't you think?                                                                                                                


White delight

High 74 F
Low  52 F

Casa Blanca lilies and Phlox 'David'

Have you ever dreamed of an all white garden such as the garden of Vita Sackville West at Sissinghurst, England?  An all white garden has the advantage of night visibility and a shining purity which is  Dsc_0023
Looking back toward the patio

refreshingly energetic.  My weekend included a cookout at the home of a friend and colleague. She has planted a white border and a white garden in the back of her home.    It was a lovely garden in which to spend an afternoon  meeting new friends and sampling the delicious party fare.  The fragrance of the Casa Blanca lilies permeated the patio area and mingled with the aromas of the barbecue for ultimate sensory satisfaction!  Sitting on the patio or the deck above afforded this view of the white garden at the back of the lawn. Dsc_0024 I think the blue pedestal just makes all the white and silver plants  look that much brighter.  There was a 'bouncy' house in the background for the kids just out of view.  They had a great time with that! Dsc_0025 Here is another view of this white garden which includes white cleome, cerastium, pentas, artemisia, new guinea impatiens, datura, Echinacea 'White Swan' and on the tuteur, a  Grandpa Ott purple morning glory. Sorry about the bike in the background.  Here is one more shot of this garden Dsc_0026 and then the nice bistro set with the luscious and overflowing herb jar sitting on the tableDsc_0027 below these accent window boxes in a white and purple color scheme. Dsc_0021 The window boxes contain purple petunias, lobelia, white new guinea impatiens, angelonia and spike plant (dracaena).  Oh, and trailing vinca vine.   It was a great afternoon in a lovely garden.   It really made me think about the effectiveness of a color scheme. What about you?  What are your thoughts on color schemes and making them work in your garden?


Sweet peas and calamint

High 72 F
Low 46.4F

August morning in the garden

Clear, bright and no humidity makes for a perfect day!  The annuals  are providing spots of color in the garden until the asters start their bloom.Dsc_0017 This mornings' walk around the garden seemed a bit lackluster with the coolness and smell of fall in the air.  The sweet pea blooms have been sorely lacking this season but I did manage to get this shot Dsc_0006

and the vines are looking good so perhaps there will be a bumper fall bloom of sweet peas.  Since I started planting them four or five years ago  I find that I cannot do without at least one or two sniffs per year as the fragrance is sweet, unique and memorable.  If you haven't tried them you might want to consider growing a few or, at least, buy a bouquet from your florist and steep your nose in them.  It is an indulgence, the buying not the sniffing, but one that won't disappoint!

The Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight' is now in full bloom and it carries emerging panicles in the lime shade as well as fully open panicles in this creamy white.Dsc_0016

Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight'

A few years ago I added Calamintha nepeta ssp. nepeta to the garden.   It is a quietly dignified plant with great texture and small, glossy, green leaves. It has a mounded shape and sits well in the front of the border.Dsc_0001

It starts to bloom in August and it covers itself with these little white flowers. Dsc_0002 A misty aura surrounds the plant.  It is a member of the Lamiaceae family and has a significant bit of fragrance.  It is hardy in zones 5-7 and while it is a great 'filler' plant it is regal enough to stand  as a focal point.  Is anyone else growing this plant?