It has been a long haul, and it is far from over. But the perennial border finally is showing the mass and shape I want it to.
Yes, mass and shape, not just flowers. I find it interesting that while I love flowers and color, what really makes my heart sing is shapes and spaces.
When I first did the design for Timshala Gardens, I put the perennial border in the plan as a shape. It was a destination, reached by walking through the pergola, with a seating area drawing you through the perennials. I didn’t know what plants I would use, though I did know the sizes of the plants.
Because the site is so large, and because the perennial border will most often be seen from a great distance, either the plants need to be tall, or, with smaller plants the masses of color need to be large. I plant perennials by the 50’s, so even if an individual plant is delicate, from a distance the mass will give an architectural effect. Just a few (in this garden less than about a dozen is a few!) would have no effect.
Here are a couple of sections of the border, from last year. More to come.
This huge, magnificent climber is so happy, so gorgeous, so profuse. I haven’t tied it up yet, though I put nice, sturdy wires for it right at the beginning. But it has managed to tuck itself in behind some of the wires.
This year spring was so late—and then so sudden—that somehow there were always more urgent chores to do. And this just looks magnificent.
I see it whenever I am ironing–and somehow I am ironing more often 😉. And I see it every time I come home and park the car.
It is also quite fragrant, so the whole back of the house sings with it.
People often ask me, “What’s your favorite plant?” My answer is always the same. It depends. Partly it’s the old song, “When I’m not with the plant I love I love the plant I’m with.” But I think maybe the answer really is, Poppies. Specifically red Poppies. Annuals, Papaver rhoes –Flanders Poppies or Corn Poppies — as here, scattered in the Nepeta, the beginning of my succession garden.
But also the perennial Poppies, Papaver orientale Beauty of Livermere,
much taller and more dramatic.
I am hoping these will be available this fall for next year’s bloom.
Last year, after some of the most dramatic rainfalls since we have been here, I woke up to look out at a garden almost completely submerged.
I already knew we had some water problems in some areas. I had some dry wells put in; I planted various water loving plants. I added a river of Willows (Salix Mt. Aso) groves of Cephalanthus (Buttonbush), Clethras. I redesigned some parts of the perennial border. Everything helped a little. Nothing really solved the problem. Soil and mulch were washing away, trees and shrubs were drowning.
So now we are in the process of putting in about 150’ of French drains with beautiful river rocks covering the drains. Most run along the center of the path, creating an extra line of direction and motion.
This is the beginning of the trenching. More to come, when the reconstruction is complete.
And while I hate to be spending the money, I actually think it is going to look quite good. There is a Japanese style of design called Wabi-sabi, which uses nature’s imperfections as part of the design. Wikipedia calls it the “appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes”.
The water isn’t exactly keeping to the path and therefore, neither are the French drains. But the effect is of an interesting interplay between the direction of garden path and the direction of the water.
A couple of years ago, when I planted tiny plugs of some of the perennials I want in the border, I did it with crossed fingers (and toes, too I think).
Well, it is finally starting to look like something. A few plants have done extremely well…as here, the Echinacea paradoxa, Veronicas (don’t remember which one) and Baptisia moonlight.
Because some of it is screened (deliberately) by a growing Weeping Willow, some partially hidden by the driveway trees and shrubs, I wanted the border to be visible, giving hints of its exuberance, from quite a distance. It is intended to be appreciated not only as you walk along the path, but by glimpses from anywhere. So I aimed for bright color, contrast, height.
Now that I am getting more familiar with what will—and will not—grow here, I am starting to plan the rest of the border, the places where plants did not succeed. I’ll be planting next spring, and in a couple more years…heaven.
This post is not really about gardening…but it sure is about a country garden. No other garden I’ve ever done could have equine neighbors. But an Arabian and a Welsh pony now live right next door.
Our five-month old puppy Yale is fascinated, as, I must say, am I. The horses are enjoying the Brome grass and the clover and we are all enjoying watching them feel at home.
I can’t get enough of this great combination. It stood up to two inches of rain in two days…and still looks heavenly.
I love doing succession gardens, that is a changing display of plants in the same space. It is a wonderful way to make the most of a small space, and though my garden is far from small, I thought it would be fun to do in one area.
This bed is what we see every day and evening while we eat dinner and then watch TV. I wanted to have a colorful, everchanging display.
So last year I put in a complete groundcover of a small Nepeta: Blue Wonder. And I interplanted with Allium. I also seeded with red Poppies, but got no germination. Maybe bad seed, bad planting? A disappointment, but still.
This is how it looks now:
As the season progresses there will be Echinacea. Then Cleome. And next year Red Poppies (never give up!) and Verbena bonariensis.
The Fothergillas I planted have suffered mightily–from rabbits to drought to drenching rains. I was almost ready to give up on them and chalk it up to Kansas learning. But I love this plant and I knew it would make a wonderful understory shrub layer in the woodland if I could get it started.
Well, patience succeeded. This year, though they are small, they are gorgeous. The white flowers are gleaming in the woodland. They could not be more beautiful. They help give shape to the space.
Thank you Fothergilla!
One of my beliefs is that some things should be hidden, at least partially hidden, as you move through a garden. In a way, this has been the most frustrating part of working on this garden, because I’ve put in some young trees, and been waiting for them to grow.
But I may have a shady woodland in just another few years.
Most of the trees and shrubs are just starting to leaf out, but the Redbuds are blooming, (rather sparsely but better than last year) and the Amelanchiers are gorgeous. So the area I am most interested in right now–the woodland– is starting to look like a woodland.
I’m not ready to put shade groundcovers under the trees and shrubs; that will still be a few years off. But isn’t it starting to look right?