Oh, how time flies. We are a little over two weeks into fall, but temperatures have been positively balmy and are above normal. The garden is still going strong; chrysanthemums, asters and anemones are all in full bloom while annual plants have not given up the ghost yet either.
This gardening year has been one of sustenance; coping with grief and taking strength from nature. It has mostly been two seasons of puttering and a bit of upkeep as most of the gardens are in place.
In early September we had a week of cooler weather, my cue to start my new garden. I ordered eight cubic yards of triple shredded mulch, got my cardboard out and covered every blade of grass from sidewalk out front to existing bed with she shed. The Spouse moved wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of mulch until most of the mulch was gone. This new garden was going to be a naturalistic garden in the style of Piet Oudolf, a Dutch garden designer, who designed -among others- the High Line in New York City and the Lurie Garden in Chicago. Piet uses many multiples of a few different plants for the matrix (the functional layer), adds in a few primary plants for structural focal points and then adds in his “scatter plants” to be repeated throughout the garden. Bulbs can be added for spring interest. For my garden I got 50 Camassia bulbs, which bloom in blue in early spring and can handle heavy clay soil as well as excess moisture.
Hidden in my side yard were six clumps of ornamental grass, Millium effusum 'Aureum' or Bowles’ Golden Grass, which I had grown from seed a few years ago. I also had three small clumps of Pennisetum ‘Hameln’. I dug both grasses up, divided each plant in four and repotted each part. I gave them tender loving care for several weeks before I started laying them out in the new garden. As the Pennisetum grows shorter than the Golden Grass, it is planted around the edges, while the Golden Grass is used throughout. These two grasses will become the matrix or functional layer of the garden. One of my three Vitex shrubs from the front bed was dug up, losing quite a few large roots in the process. I pruned the Vitex in the shape of a multi-trunked small tree, and it will function as the focal point in the garden. Then there are yellow, red, and orange Echinacea (cone flowers) scattered throughout as well as white and pink Veronicastrum virginicum or Culver’s Root. While my matrix is still a little bare, Bowles’ Golden Grass will grow into a substantial clump by next year and with a bit of reseeding this matrix will fill in fast.
With this new garden going out to the sidewalk the front yard is now home to four different, but similar gardens. Next to the driveway going up to the house is the yellow garden, made to honor my mom who loved EVERYTHING yellow. Yellow daylilies line the driveway, Nasella Tenuissima or Mexican feather grass provides texture and movement while yellow blooming Kniphofia (or red-hot poker – except here YELLOW hot poker) gives a counterpoint. In between these plants I scattered Melampodium (aka butter daisy) for a constant yellow bloom till the first frost. The second bed next to the sidewalk out front is in honor of The Spouse’s heritage. This bed is blue and yellow to honor the national colors of his Ukrainian roots. Vitex, Veronica, Russian Sage, Geranium ‘Rozanne’ and the annual Ageratum bloom in shades of blue. Melampodium and three (still small) Chamaecyparis pisifera filifera aurea nana or Gold Thread cypress represent the yellow in this bed. The third bed borders the porch and represents my favorite color, orange. Again, I used Veronica, Ageratum and one Vitex, as well as Mexican feather grasses to link this bed to the others and used orange blooming Kniphofia, Portulaca and Celosia. The fourth and new bed connects to the garden in front of the she shed and includes yellow blooming Forsythia, daylilies as well as Heuchera ‘Caramel.’ Now I punched up those colors with red, yellow, and orange cone flowers, blue for the Vitex. ornamental onions and Camassia bulbs, as well as a bit of white and pink from Veronicastrum or Culver’s root. This garden is dedicated to my sister, Truus, who liked flowers in every hue. It was a labor of love, which, surprisingly and thankfully, took away the sharpest edges of my loss. It also gives me something to look forward to in spring next year.