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A Visit to Barred Owl Daylilies

July 28, 2015

barred owl viewsLast week, I had the pleasure of visiting Barred Owl Daylilies, the garden and nursery of Rex Beisel and Craig Cote in Otisfield, Maine, as part of a group from the Foothills Garden Club. I was wowed by the beauty of the place. It was a perfect Maine summer day, the daylilies were at their peak, and they were blooming in a beautiful ridge-top setting with breathtaking views.

As the name suggests, Barred Owl Daylilies specializes in growing daylilies (Hemerocallis). The nursery stock is mostly planted in row after row of raised beds crammed full of the hundreds of cultivars that they grow for sale. More daylilies grow in display gardens that have curved edges and are connected by wide, sweeping grassy paths. barred owl display gardens
Display gardens made up almost entirely of daylilies might seem a bit lacking in variety. But, in addition to the enormous variety of the daylilies themselves, the masses of daylilies are balanced by being set among mature trees, like this gorgeous variegated maple.

In areas close to their house, Craig and Rex have created non-daylily gardens.

These include a dry garden that features walkways set in wooly thyme and a collection of dwarf trees (mostly conifers), among them this very special dwarf gingko. barred owl dwarfs
barred owl cat The non-daylily gardens also include this quiet corner.

Of course, no visit to a daylily garden would be complete without sharing a collection of favorite flowers that captured my attention that day.

barred owl daylilies

Barred Owl Daylilies specializes in growing cold-hardy tetraploid daylilies for northern gardens. Happily, this is a mail-order nursery, so those who do not live nearby can also enjoy the wonderful cultivars that they grow and sell.

A Sunny Garden: GBBD, July 2015

July 18, 2015

sunny happy returnsI am very late with my bloom day post this month (the consequence of a busy week), but I certainly don’t want to skip the best month of the season in my garden. So here’s my report on the state of my garden this month – better late than never.

This is a time of  transition in the garden, from the early summer blooms of June to the peak summer blooms of  late July.  This is also a color transition,  from the blues and pastels of June to the sunny yellows of high summer.

Pastels can still be found in the mid-July garden, particularly in the deck border, which becomes the central attraction during this transition period. There the airy white plumes of goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus) float over the pinks, white, and lavender display of astilbe, astrantia, tradescantia, spirea ‘Magic Carpet’ and Geranium x oxonianum. deck border July pastels

deck border pastels

The raised bed that separates the clothesline area from the serenity garden is also planted in pastels. Here the plants of Geranium x oxonianum are spreading and flowering so exuberantly that the more delicate flowers of Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’ are just about swamped. raised bed july

exuberant geranium blue ice july
fence border pastels There are also pastels in the fence border, where tradescantia blooms with hardy geraniums, and clematis ‘Comtesse de Bouchaud’ flowers on the fence.
On the other side of this border, however, the transition to high summer has begun with the first flowers of the tall rudbeckia ‘Herbstsonne.’ herbstsonne first flowers

B&Y yellowsIt is in the blue and yellow border that the yellows of high summer are coming on strong. There, Coreopsis verticillata ‘Golden Showers’ and Heliopsis helianthoides are fully in bloom, as are five different varieties of yellow daylilies. There are a few contrasting blues in the flowers of Linum perenne and Tradescantia ‘Zwannenburg Blue;’ but blues will increase in the next week or so as blue varieties of delphinium, Phlox paniculata ‘Blue Paradise,’ and blue balloon flowers all begin to flower.

july yellows & blues

holding area july colorThe holding area, where plants are waiting for new homes in the front garden, is a riot of strong colors in July. There are several more varieties of daylilies blooming here, along with lilies, coreopsis, heliopsis, astilbe and tradescantia. I’m not a confident enough gardener to intentionally mix all these different colors, but I’m enjoying the effect.

holding area colors

vevety red daylilyMore coreopsis and more daylilies are blooming on the back slope. In addition to the early reblooming daylily, ‘Happy Returns’ (in the image at the top of this post), I have a deep velvety red daylily, passed along from a friend many years ago, blooming by the back door. There I have also let a number of common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) plants grow, and they are currently blooming.  Even if they don’t attract any monarch butterflies (mine serve as host plants for milkweed tussock moths, instead), their heavenly scent makes them more than welcome.

milkweed flowers milkweed flower

We have been having a heavenly summer in Maine, with lots of sunshine and temperatures that are warm without being too hot. As the state tourist slogan would have it, “the way life should be.” Having the sunny colors of some of my favorite flowers coming into bloom makes this time of year blissful. As of mid-July, about 25% of the daylily varieties I grow are in bloom, so there is a lot of bliss still to come.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted on the 15th of each month (give or take a few days for some of us!) by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Check out her blog to see what’s blooming this month in gardens around the world.

Whose Home Is This? The Red Maple as Habitat

July 12, 2015

red maple julyI am spending one year “following”  a red maple tree (Acer rubrum) that grows beside my driveway as part of Lucy’s tree-following meme at Loose and Leafy. This month, I have been focusing my attention on this tree as a habitat.

At one time, I considered taking down some trees to the southeast of my house to create paths and a woodland garden in this area. When I first read Doug Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home (Timber Press 2009), however, I changed my mind. Tallamy asks gardeners to think of their gardens as habitats for wildlife, particularly insects, and he urges them to plant native plants that perform important ecological functions. When I saw the high ecological value of the native trees that grow wild on my property, I let go of the idea of cutting them down to replace them with less ecologically valuable plants.

 In a large appendix at the back of Rick Darke and Doug Tallamy’s more recent book,  The Living Landscape (Timber Press, 2014), the authors recommend a variety of high-value native plants for each of the major regions of the United States and list the ecological functions of each plant. The list for Acer rubrum includes providing nest sites for birds, providing pollen or nectar for pollinators, and providing food for birds, mammals, and caterpillars.

I have not actually seen any nests in my red maple, but the tree is clearly an active bird habitat. The web site for the visitor center at Paul Smith’s College in the Adirondacks of New York lists the following as birds that nest in the red maples on their property: American redstart, black-backed woodpecker, downy woodpecker, purple finch, yellow-bellied sapsucker, hooded warbler, northern parula, alder flycatcher, veery, wood thrush, eastern wood-pewee, and Canada warbler.  The red maple is a generalist tree that grows throughout the eastern half of North America, from the Canadian Maritimes to Florida and west to the Mississippi River, so the birds it provides a home to will differ from one region of the country to another. Birds that I have seen perched in my red maple tree or heard singing there include American robins, wood thrushes, eastern phoebes,  and a great crested flycatcher.

red maple leavesAlthough it is difficult for me to get a close look at the leaves of this particular tree because they grow far above my head, I think I may be seeing small holes in some of them. This would indicate that the tree is doing its job of providing food for caterpillars, which in turn become pollinators and/or food for birds. In Bringing Nature Home, when Doug Tallamy recommends red maple as a native plant that gardeners should plant, he notes that maple trees, including red maples, provide food for more than 200 species of butterflies and moths!

It’s amazing to realize that my very common red maple tree is part of a much larger ecological community of plants, insects, birds, and mammals; and it plays a very important role in that community by serving as habitat.

First Flower Bed of the New Front Garden

July 6, 2015

blues border prepared soilLast week, I took a break from laying paving stones for walkways and a patio to dig and plant the first flower bed for my new front garden.  This is a very small flower bed (only 6.5’ x 3.5’) to fill the space under the window between the front of the house and the front entry steps, so it did not take long to do.

Once I removed the weeds that had grown up here since the construction ended, the soil was easy to prepare. Most of this had been part of a previous flower bed (the iris bed under my old bow window) and it hadn’t been part of the excavation for the new foundation, so the soil was in good shape. I removed some stones that had landed here during construction and mixed in three buckets of compost to renew the soil. Then I let it settle for a day before adding plants.

My original intention was to recreate a version of the iris bed that was planted under the old front window. This was mostly a planting of blue Siberian irises, with some Tradescantia ‘Zwannenburg Blue’ to extend the bloom season. In this smaller space, I decided to include 3 clumps each of Siberian iris and tradescantia and to extend the season still more by adding two clumps of a blue aster (Symphyotrichum laeve ‘Bluebird’) that were not being shown to their best advantage  at the back of the blue and yellow border. I also decided to lighten up the color scheme by including not only the much paler blue of these asters but also one clump of Tradescantia ‘Osprey,’ with it’s white and blue flowers. When I finally got around to doing a quick sun study of this area, however, I discovered that the back corner of the bed got less than 2 hours of sun (and this during the sunniest part of the summer), so I substituted a hosta for one of the Siberian iris clumps and put the hosta in that corner.

blues border plants

All the plants for this flower bed just needed to be dug up and moved from other parts of the garden – mostly from the holding area that I created for plants that were rescued from the old front flower beds before construction began. I popped them out of the ground with my garden fork, piled them in the wheelbarrow, transported them to their new location, and got them back into the ground quickly. blues border plantedThe hosta and irises went at the back of the flower bed, closest to the house and to the front entry landing; the two asters went near the middle, and the three tradescantia were planted closest to the front, with ‘Osprey’ at the front corner closest to the walkway.

Since the plants were only out of the ground for a few minutes, I expect them to adapt to their new home quickly and easily. Tradescantia ‘Zwannenburg Blue’ has continued to bloom uninterrupted. Most of the plants are looking a little droopy, but I’m watering them every day while they settle in.

I had intended to continue calling this the ‘iris bed’, but with only two clumps of iris left in the planting, I have reconsidered. For now, I have tentatively named the flower bed the ‘blues border.’

With this flower bed done, it’s time to go back to laying paving stones.

Daylily Watch

July 1, 2015

happy returns many scapesAt this time of year, as the last flowers of Siberian irises fade, I eagerly anticipate the next big event in my garden, the display of daylilies that marks peak summer bloom. As I walk around the garden each day, I peer into daylily foliage, looking for signs of developing flower scapes. And each day I find more. For no good reason other than to reassure myself, I compulsively count them: How many daylilies in the holding area have flower scapes showing? (Fifteen as of today’s count.) How many scapes are there on any individual plant? (More than a dozen on the early rebloomer ‘Happy Returns’ growing on the back slope.)

Some plants, like the old-fashioned orange daylilies Hemerocallis fulva, already have well-developed buds held well above the foliage. Hemerocallis fulva tall scapes
daylily early scapes On other plants, buds are just beginning to form.

Flower scapes form earlier in some flower beds than in others. All but one of the daylilies in the blue and yellow border have scapes showing, while across the walkway in the deck border, I’ve found scapes on about 50% of the daylily plants. In the fence border, which has a preponderance of late-blooming varieties, I found my first flower scapes of the season yesterday.

hemerocallis fulva only scapeSome plants are a source of particular anxiety as I watch and wait. For the second year in a row, only one of the Hemerocallis fulva plants growing along the side of the driveway has formed a flower scape, and that plant has only one scape with only a few buds. I think the growth of trees has left these plants in too much shade for them to bloom well. I’ll need to think about either relocating the daylilies or giving them more light by cutting back the trees.

Barth gold scapeThe plants that are a source of anxiety also bring extra delight when flower buds appear. I was especially happy to see this flower scape on the big bold gold daylily that grows in the circular bed at the turn into my driveway. This part of the flower bed got run over repeatedly by construction vehicles last summer and had to be refurbished in the spring. Although this plant is not producing flower scapes as exuberantly or as early as it normally does, I am relieved to see any flowers at all.
buried treasure hidden scapesThese buds on ‘Buried Treasure,’ a mid-season yellow daylily growing in the blue and yellow border, are another source of delight. I think this variety earned its name from its habit of hiding its flower scapes among the foliage. It always gives me fits of anxiety as I wait for those flower buds to reveal themselves. My anxiety was heightened by the fact that the plant didn’t bloom last year. But this year I will enjoy its flowers.


And then, this morning, I awoke to this, the moment I’ve been anticipating: The first flowers on the early daylilies ‘Happy Returns’ and ‘Boothbay Harbor Gold.’

happy returns first flower Boothbay harbor gold first flower

The daylily season has begun!


June 26, 2015

hardscape1Now that the addition on the front of my house as been completed, I’m eager to get started on creating my new front garden, a big five-year project. But before I can begin digging and planting flower beds, I must first get hardscape in place. My planning for this project included a consultation with a landscape designer, and his design calls for a small patio and a network of walkways. I had hoped to have this work done by my contractor, but it has become a DIY project because there wasn’t enough money left in the construction budget to cover it.

I wasn’t thrilled about having to do it myself; I find this fussy, tedious work, and I’m not very good at it. But I also know that it’s important to do it carefully and well. Fortunately, the crew who built the retaining walls that support the new patio did a great job laying out the hardscape areas by compacting the sandy soil and topping it with a layer of gravel. hardscape stone dustIn addition, my contractor gave me some tips on how to do the work more quickly and efficiently.

I’m using 1’ x 1’ concrete pavers for all of these hardscape areas. I began by having a cubic yard of stone dust delivered. I am using an inch of this as a base to lay the pavers in. Stone dust turns out to be very heavy, but I can move about 10 shovels-full at a time using my wheelbarrow.

I began by laying the pavers (4 wide by 10 long) for the front walkway, and then moved on to spreading the base for the back walkway.

hardscape front walkway hardscape spreading base

hardscape back walkwayAs I began the walkway to the back door, I discovered a problem; it was 10’ 9” long. I would either need to cut some pavers to fit or fill in with another material. I decided to divide the pavers into three sections separated by narrow bands of pea stone. I also used pea stone along each side of the walkway. I like the way the contrasting materials look. In addition, the pea stone is very forgiving and could help me solve any problems in the way the two walkways lined up. Moreover, this design also ties this hardscape to the walkway in my back garden, which is made of rectangular concrete pavers set in pea stone.

When I had finished this second walkway, I realized that I was not happy with the way it connected to the front walkway. The perpendicular pavers did not line up with one another, and it looked messy. I also had some other dissatisfactions with the front walkway, which was not very level. I decided to redo the front walkway by taking away one course of pavers, making the walkway a few inches shorter than 10’ and adding contrasting bands of pea stone at the intersection with the back walkway and at the base of the front stairs. I’m much happier with this second version, and moving the pavers out a few inches from the base of the stairs made it possible to line them up properly with the 2’ wide walkway to the patio.

hardscape front walkway redo

I began the walkway to the patio earlier this week and expect to complete it this weekend. Then I’ll be ready to tackle the 8’ x 8’ patio. After that, there will be only one walkway left, which leads from the patio along the front of the house and will eventually connect with a grassy path leading to the lower part of the garden-to-be. hardscape patio walkway

Soon, I’ll be able to begin creating flower beds around all this hardscape!

A Soggy Solstice

June 21, 2015

raindrop nigrescensThe summer solstice is my favorite day of the year. I love the long hours of light, the lushness of the landscape, and the perfect summer weather of Maine in late June. I usually celebrate the solstice by spending as much of it as possible outdoors. When I was younger, I spent many summer solstices camping and hiking on the Maine coast at Acadia National Park. In more recent years, I have preferred to spend the solstice at home, on the deck and in the garden.

This year’s solstice has been a bit different, however, because it has been rainy and unseasonably cool.  I can’t really complain because my garden could use a day of good soaking rain. But I needed to change my plans for a day spent mostly indoors, relaxing and catching up on some chores.

I did get out in the late morning to go to the farmers’ market and do some errands. In the mid-afternoon, a break in the rain provided an opportunity to go out and enjoy my rain-spangled plants.


Tomorrow the sun and I will both be up early, and I will be outside to enjoy the luxuriously long day and the return of beautiful Maine summer weather.

I am linking this post to Donna’s Seasonal Celebrations at Gardens Eye View.


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