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Belated Blogaversary: Five Years and Growing

August 27, 2014

fence border tallMy sense of time has been so thrown off this year by the fact that I am not returning to school to teach that I forgot about the five-year anniversary of Jean’s Garden until I was alerted by a congratulatory email from WordPress. The first post of this blog went online on August 22, 2009, and I have used each ‘blogaversary’ as an opportunity to stop and take stock of where my gardening journey and my blogging journey have taken me. This year, that accounting is a bit belated.

Cover 2011When I look back over these five years, I see growth. The blog has grown, accumulating readers and followers – this despite the fact that I have not been a very faithful blogger during this past year. As I get settled into my new life in the months to come, I hope to get back on a schedule of 5-8 posts per month. I have also grown as a blogger, and that growth includes my growth as a writer and as a photographer. The photography for this blog inspired the Jean’s Garden gift calendars that I have produced for friends and family for the past five years. (See A Year of Gifts from the GardenA New Year in the Garden, A Doubly Good New Year, A New Year in Jean’s Garden, and A New Year in Two Gardens.) I was thrilled this past year when Gettysburg College’s Musselman Library mounted an exhibit of some of the best photos from these calendars.

imageThis blog also provides a record of the growth of my garden. When I began blogging in 2009, my back garden consisted of two flower beds, the deck border and the blue and yellow border, facing one another across a central walkway. Blog posts from fall 2009 (Garden Alchemy: Turning Sand to Soil and The Pleasures of Planting) record the creation of the fence border. This was followed in 2010 and 2011 by posts about the plans for (My Not-So-Secret Garden, Planning the Serenity Garden, and The Plan) and creation of ((Finally!) Breaking Ground and Birth of a Garden) the serenity garden and  also the addition of a raised bed in 2013 to create a stronger sense of enclosure for that part of the garden (Closure). In 2012, I was inspired by my blogging experience to go back and re-read the hand-written  journals I had kept for many years to recover the pre-blog development of the garden (The Ghosts of Gardens Past) and to create a new History of the Garden blog page. As I enter a new stage of my life, I am also entering a new stage of garden growth as I plan and develop a whole new front garden – a process that I have begun to document here (First Steps Toward a New Front Garden and Working with a Landscape Architect).

imageThe most important growth this blog has seen is my growth as a gardener. In many ways, that growth is a result of writing this blog. Blogging has introduced me to the gardens, knowledge and ideas of many other gardeners, and they have been an important source of information and inspiration. Many of those gardeners have commented on my blog posts, raising questions and making suggestions that have helped me enormously. And writing about gardening has forced me to be much more self-conscious about what I am doing and why. Reflections on my own practice have led me to a deeper understanding of garden design. (See, for example, What Makes a Garden “Room”? and Serendipity in Garden Design.) Trying to explain what is happening in my garden and why has also increased my understanding of garden science (Blue Is a Cool Color and Botanical Identity Crisis). Because I was science-phobic in my younger years, I am particularly proud to have mastered some of this botanical science; and I am looking forward to learning more of it when I enroll in the Master Gardener’s course next year.

I expect that my blog, my garden and my understanding of gardening will all continue to grow in the years to come.

Unexpected Seedlings

August 22, 2014

G. oxonianumOne of my favorite hardy geraniums, growing in many different places in my garden, is Geranium x oxonianum. This is a naturally occurring hybrid of G. endressii and G. versicolor. It  has funnel-shaped clear pink flowers and a habit of sprawling outward from a central clump of foliage, with long flowering arms that drape themselves over nearby plants. The first G. x oxonianum that I added to my garden was identified as ‘A.T. Johnson’ and had the silvery pink flowers for which that variety is known. I later added other varieties, including one that was labeled as ‘Wargrave Pink’ (which is actually a named variety of G. endressii) and one labeled as ‘Claridge Druce.’ Both of these had salmon pink flowers (and, in fact, I could never tell them apart). Later, I got a division from a friend of a plant also identified as ‘Wargrave Pink,’ but which has much deeper pink and more deeply veined flowers. (This may actually be G. endressii.)

gburg a.t. johnson geranium x oxonianum G endressii August

Over time, I have given up trying to distinguish these geranium varieties from one another. The various plants have been divided and moved around several times; and in some cases their roots have become intertwined so that I sometimes have what seems to be a single plant with both silvery pink and salmon pink flowers (see From Two Plants to One: My Own ‘Hybrid’ Geranium).

oxonianum seedlingsI have always assumed that these hybrid plants had sterile flowers and could only be propagated by division. So it was quite a surprise this June to discover two small clumps of Geranium x oxonianum growing among the goldenrod at the edge of the blue and yellow border. Since this is one of the few flower beds in which I never planted G. x oxonianum, these could only be self-sown seedlings. Some reading in Peter Yeo’s Hardy Geraniums (Timber Press, 2001) enlightened me. I discovered that Geranium x oxonianum is not sterile – although, as is typical of hybrids, the offspring won’t necessarily be the same as the parents. I also learned that these plants can project their seeds to considerable distances from the parents, and that Geranium x oxonianum varieties are difficult to sort out because they combine and recombine so readily.

oxonianum seedling flowersMy new plants have the clear pink funnel-shaped flowers that I love so much, and they seem to be the silvery pink color that I prefer. The only mystery that remains is why these first seedlings appeared more than a decade after I first planted G. x oxonianum in my garden. Whatever the reason, I am delighted to have them. I will leave them to grow where they are for now, but these unexpected seedlings are destined for homes in my new front garden.

Hints of Autumn in the August Garden: GBBD, August 2014

August 16, 2014

blue & yellow in AugustBy mid-August, there are hints of summer’s end in Maine. This morning’s temperatures were in the forties (F), and the builders working on my house arrived wearing sweatshirts and carrying steaming cups of hot coffee.

In the garden, the daylilies (Hemerocallis) are winding down. Most varieties have finished blooming, and many of those that are still in flower have only a few buds left. ‘Mary Todd’ opened its last flowers today, and ‘Orange Bounty,’ ‘Decatur Elevator,’ ‘Woman’s Work,’ ‘Mae Graham’ (one of my favorite pink daylilies), and an unnamed wine-colored variety will finish blooming within the next week.

fading august daylilies

yellow pinwheel 2014It always makes me sad when I see that a favorite daylily variety has only a few buds left. Happily, I have other, later-blooming varieties with far more blooms to come. In the blue and yellow border, ‘Yellow Pinwheel’ is about halfway through its bloom period. In the fence border, which was planted for late summer and fall bloom, ‘Final Touch’ has only recently begun to bloom, the very late cultivar ‘Sandra Elizabeth’ is just beginning to send up flower scapes, and this week saw the first delicate flowers of ‘Autumn Minaret’ floating in the air atop slender 5’ stems.

final touch 2014 autumn minaret 2014

The height of ‘Autumn Minaret’ is matched at the other end of the fence border by the tall Rudbeckia ‘Autumn Sun,’ a favorite plant that also lights up the back of the blue and yellow border. The very names of these cultivars signal the approach of fall.

autumn sun fence autumn sun b&y

Strong yellows are the dominant colors in the August garden. Right now, they are accompanied by the pink tones of several daylilies, the violet-blue of Veronica ‘Blue Giant,’ and the stronger blues and soft pink of balloon flowers (Platycodon grandiflorus).

veronica blue giant 2014 platycodon shell pink
platycodon 2014

Soon, though, the yellows will be offset by crisp white flowers of Liatris spicata ‘Floristan White,’ white balloon flower, and the white flowers of Phlox paniculata ‘David’.

circular yellow & white phlox david buds

A Maine garden in August is a beautiful place to be, and all the more precious when the temperatures and cultivar names remind us that fall will soon be here.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted on the 15th of each month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens; visit her blog to see the delights of August gardens around the world.

Double Oops

August 10, 2014

goldenrod oopsRecently I wrote (Oops!) about a plant in my new raised bed that was not what it was supposed to be. I had intended to plant Amsonia x ‘Blue Ice’ in this location, and instead had a much larger plant that I tentatively identified as Amsonia tabernaemontana. I assumed that the plant had either been mislabeled at the nursery or that I had inadvertently picked up the wrong plant from the nursery table.

Even as I tentatively identified my mistaken plant as A. tabernaemontana, I had some doubts about that identification. A few weeks ago, those doubts were confirmed when the plant started to make flower buds – definitely not Amsonia flowers (both wrong shape and wrong season). This past week, the flowers began to open and revealed themselves as a native Solidago  (goldenrod).

Goldenrod grows readily on my property, mostly at the edges of the woods. So it is possible that this goldenrod grew from a seed that landed in this flower bed shortly after I created it last August. Because this is growing exactly where I planted the Amsonia plant from the nursery, however, and nowhere else in this flower bed, I think it is more likely that the Solidago seed hitchhiked on the Amsonia plant when I brought it home from the nursery and then simply outcompeted the Amsonia for space and nutrients.

goldenrod & blue paradiseI like using these showy native plants in the garden. This photo, for example, shows goldenrod blooming with Phlox paniculata ‘Blue Paradise’ in the blue and yellow border.  So, although this Solidago plant definitely does not belong in my raised bed, I will be happy to move it to a more suitable location and to replace it with another Amsonia x ‘Blue Ice’ (and this time, I will be on the lookout for hitchhikers!)

The Hudson Garden: A Beautiful Solution to a Landscape Problem

August 1, 2014

Hudson garden wide viewRecently, I spent a perfect summer Sunday in July enjoying the annual Brunswick, Maine garden tour with my gardening friend Harriet. The garden tour included a variety of gardens with both inspiring garden designs and inspiring gardening stories. My favorite was the garden of Judi and Jack Hudson.

The Hudson house and garden is only a few years old, but the garden has a mature, established look. The Hudsons built their house on land that was heavily wooded and backed onto a public footpath through local woods. They wanted to open up land at the back of their house for sun and a garden, which meant removing trees, but they also wanted a visual barrier that would give them privacy from the footpath. Many people would have solved this landscaping problem with a privacy fence along the back of the property. The Hudsons designed a much more creative and beautiful solution: a garden built on a berm.

Hudson floral displayThe berm is a large one, running the entire width of the back yard. It is highest at the back, where it borders the footpath, and then slopes down to a gentle curved edge bordering the lawn at the back of the house. The berm is planted as a mixed border, with shrubs, dwarf trees, ornamental grasses, perennials, and some annuals. Shrubs are primarily planted at the back (top) of the berm, providing maximum privacy, with more ornamental grasses and flowering perennials as the garden slopes down toward the lawn. Drip irrigation is buried beneath the mulch for efficient watering.

Hudson water featureAt the center of the garden is a water feature designed as a series of rills running from the top of the berm to the bottom, creating both a beautiful visual effect and a relaxing sound of running water. Note the naturalistic heron sculpture tucked in to the right at the top of the water feature and the very effective use of container plantings at the bottom for added color.

Hudson japanese irisViewed from a distance, the flowering berm has high visual impact. But it also rewards close attention to individual plants. On the day of the tour, this gorgeous Japanese iris was commanding a lot of attention. There were also many beautiful combinations of less exotic plants.

hudson ornamental grassI found the use of ornamental grasses particularly effective and was smitten with this dramatic Miscanthus. The use of trees, shrubs and ornamental grasses in this garden also means that it has year-round interest, even in Maine’s long winter when the flowering perennials are dormant.

The Hudson garden provides an inspiring example of a creative and beautiful solution to a common landscaping problem (privacy). It is a garden that I would love to visit over and over again in different seasons, for both pleasure and inspiration.

Summer Blooms: GBBD, July 2014

July 17, 2014

blue&yelllow july 2014I’m a bit late with my bloom day post, but this is one that I definitely don’t want to miss. In my Maine garden, even in a year when flowers are blooming later than normal, mid-July is a time when summer flowers burst into bloom. Each morning’s tour of the garden brings new delights.

Daylily (Hemerocallis) season has begun in earnest, with ten of the more than forty different varieties that I grow currently in bloom. The first daylily to flower was the early rebloomer, ‘Happy Returns,’ which is currently gracing the back slope along with a velvety red daylily and the first flowers of Platycodon grandiflorus (balloon flower) ‘Sentimental Blue.’

back slope blooms red daylily in rain

circular july 2014The circular bed at the turn into the driveway, which has suffered somewhat from close encounters with construction vehicles, also features an early daylily , an unnamed neon gold seedling from the Barth breeding program. Most of the flowers blooming with this are in more pastel shades that allow the daylily to take center stage. I especially love this combination of Geranium x ‘Brookside’ and Alchemilla mollis (Lady’s Mantle).

barth large gold 2014 circular brookside & alchemilla

holding area july 2014The holding area at the side of the house, where I put plants that needed to be moved out of harm’s way during construction and that will eventually go back into a new front garden, is a riot of color. Several daylilies are blooming here, as are five different colors of Tradescantia, an unidentified pink lily, Heuchera ‘Raspberry Regal’, Heliopsis helianthoides (false sunflower) and a pale pink astilbe. I would not normally plant all these different colors together, but I’m enjoying the effect. I especially love the combination of strong yellow and pink.

pink lily holding area color
In the back garden, only one flower bed, the blue and yellow border, has daylilies in bloom at this point. (Both the deck border and the fence border have varieties that will bloom later.) The first daylily to bloom here was another early rebloomer, ‘Boothbay Harbor Gold.’ This was soon joined by the large fragrant flowers of ‘Alna Pride.’ Many more varieties, all in shades of yellow, will join them in the days to come. These daylilies are accompanied by tall spires of delphinium, which have begun to bloom, and by the strong yellows of Heliopsis helianthoides and Coreopsis verticillata ‘Golden Showers.’
b&y daylilies
alna pride 2014
heliopsis b&y july 2014 golden showers july 2014

deck border july 2014Although the blue and yellow border will soon take center stage in the back, the deck border still has more happening. Varieties of Astilbe are the most prominent flowers here. I am particularly happy to see the pale pink blooms of ‘Betsy Cuperus,’ which is thriving after being relocated last year. And my favorite Astilbe flowers are always those of ‘Ostrich Plume.’

betsy cuperus 2014 ostrich plume & goatsbeard 2014
In the fence border, in addition to the flowers of Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis), tradescantia, and geranium – all which have been blooming for several weeks – clematis ‘Comtesse de Bouchaud’ is now blooming on the fence, and the first flowers of the tall Rudbeckia x ‘Herbstsonne’ have just begun to bloom. clematis comtesse 2014

fence border july 2014

serenity with bench

patricia serenity In the back by the woods, the serenity garden seems like a calm oasis of foliage. A closer look, however, finds a number of flowers in bloom, including the bold magenta of Geranium x ‘Patricia,’ the pale pink of Astrantia major, and the first flowers of Deinanthe cerulea (false hydrangea).
astrantia serenity deinanthe serenity

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted on the 15th of each month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Visit her blog for links to what’s in bloom this month in gardens of many climes.

Star Turn

July 11, 2014

back garden from deckMy back garden is composed of three separate flower beds: the deck border, the blue and yellow border, and the fence border. These flower beds create a unified whole, but each also has its own distinct character. I often think of them as like an ensemble acting troupe. This is not a garden in which one flower bed is the star or focal point and the others are supporting players; rather, each is in the starring role at some points in the season and in a supporting role at other times.

Well, to be honest, the blue and yellow border may hog the spotlight a bit more than the other players in this ensemble. It is the largest flower bed of the three, and its big, bold blooms and contrasting colors demand attention. But in early July, when the iris display of June has ended and the daylily, delphinium, coreopsis and heliopsis blooms of high summer are just tentatively opening their first flowers, the deck border takes its star turn.

deck border star turn

The deck border has a much quieter kind of beauty than either the blue and yellow border or the fence border. It was designed primarily as a shade garden, with an emphasis on layers of foliage in different colors, sizes, and textures. And while it also has lots of flowers, those flowers have a quiet analogous color scheme in soft pastels of pink, lavender and white.

pink spirea bloomsBut this quiet floral display  wows me at this time of year. The deck border steps forward into the spotlight when masses of deep pink flowers appear on Spirea japonica ‘Magic Carpet’. As these fade to a softer mauve, varieties of Astilbe begin to bloom – white ‘Bridal Veil,’ mauve  ‘Cattleya,’ pale pink ‘Betsy Cuperus,’ and salmon pink ‘Ostrich Plume.’ These join the clear pink flowers of Geranium x oxonianum and the deep pink and white of Tradescantia ‘Pink Chablis’.  Above it all float the airy plumes of Aruncus dioicus (goatsbeard).

astilbe blooms 2014 pink chablis 2013
goatsbeard display

The deck border will continue to flower through the summer and into the fall, with later blooming astilbes, several varieties of pink daylilies (Hemerocallis), pale pink balloon flowers (Platycodon grandiflorus), and Sedum spectabile ‘Autumn Joy.’ Once the daylily display begins in earnest, however, the eye will be more often drawn to the more dramatic blooms of the blue and yellow border and the fence border, and the deck border will step back into a lush but less flamboyant supporting role.


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