The Best Laid Plans vs. the Best Habitat…or Why I am Putting in a ‘River’ of Siberian Iris and Golden Carex

I’ve been trying, really I have,  to stay with the plans I laid out a year or so ago.  Perennials here.  Red border there.  Groundcovers over there.  These shrubs in this place and those trees in that.

But I’m discovering, now that we’re here all the time, that some of the ideas don’t work as well as I planned. The land itself isn’t cooperating.

For example, there are some low-lying areas that have standing water for a day or so after a heavy rain and since they are in an irrigated zone, they don’t ever get very dry.  The lawns or groundcovers I planned just won’t grow there.  But you know what will?

Siberian Irises. Iris sibirica

And Golden Carex. Carex Bowles Golden..

 

So I’ve developed a plan for a ‘river’ of gold Carex ‘Bowles Variety‘  instead of lawn, with  swathes of Siberian Irises ‘Caesar’s Brother‘ down the length of it for their deep purple bloom in June.  And their grass-like leaves the rest of the summer will contrast with and complement the golden leaves of the Carex.  This ‘river’ will run across the perennial border, from the Orchard all the way into the Woodland – several hundred winding feet.  It will not only be suitable planting for a wet area, but by tying two distant areas together it will actually be an improvement to the design.  I had initially planned a stone path for that purpose — but I think this planting will do a better job.   Later, if I like, I can still put in the path, but the ‘river’ will give the path a reason for being.

An Immigrant’s Garden

 

My mother was born in Russia.  My father was born in Poland.  They were brought to Canada by their parents, met and married and had me there.  I moved to the U.S. over 40 years ago.   We are immigrants all.World Map

Does all this moving about have an influence on my views about native plants vs. immigrant plants (called ‘aliens’ in horticultural circles)?  Perhaps it does.

In any case I have been thinking a lot lately about the subject as I go on with the choice of plants for the gardens at Timshala.  I hear more and more about the importance of planting natives — usually defined as plants which were already here when Europeans arrived.

And yet.  Some of the most surprising plants, the ones we see everywhere, are actually not natives.  The Daylilies coloring the sides of the road in late summer, Apple trees (yes, despite Johnny Appleseed), weeping Willows, Peonies, Irises, Hostas, Peaches, Dandelions (!), Lilacs, Irises, Japanese maples (no surprise there),  Soybeans, Wheat.   Immigrants all.

What they all do have in common – besides having been born elsewhere – is that they have traveled to find their preferred habitat.

So habitat is what determines all my plant choices.   The right temperatures, both winter and summer, soil quality, wind – these are all part of the planning. Wherever they might have come from, all the plants I am using will (should) be happy where I place them.  Some wet areas will have plants that like wet soil – Bald Cypress, Camassia, for example.  Actually those are both natives, but more important to me, they will grow well where I put them.   

So a lot of the plants I use will be natives.  A lot of them won’t.  But they should all thrive because they’re in the right place.

And so my garden at Timshala will have a lot of immigrants.  Including me.