Marty's Garden, early June, 2019


Sometimes the garden takes on a life on its own. I have been known among gardening friends to run a tight ship in the garden (i.e. a bit of a control freak), but this garden is following new and different rules. This time around I planned a more restrained color palette and I am also allowing the plants to “do their thing”; well, up to a point.


My first garden included everything that caught my fancy and I loved that garden. This garden includes plants that worked the first time around but this time in larger numbers. Drifts of hostas, drifts of (Siberian, Louisiana, Japanese) irises, similar colored shrubs or, to shake it up, purple colored shrubs offset by striking yellow shrubs. Purple, blue and yellow dominate on one side, orange, red and yellow dominate another. But occasionally I try something new, hoping to incorporate new plants in the scheme that exists in my head.


My Tiger-Eye Staghorn Sumac was one such purchase. I had seen it in a spectacular private garden and wanted to see if it worked for me. As I wrote at that time, Tiger-Eye Sumac was more restrained than its “wilder” relatives, which will take over a hillside. I had high hopes for the two plants I put on the backside of the waterfall. The first year one of the plants put out one sucker, which I pulled off and that was the end of the that. The fall color was a bit of a let-down; rusty red rather than the bright red I had expected. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep these plants, but this spring I was surprised. One of the plants leafed out and looked great with its bright chartreuse leaves, but the second one lagged behind. In the end, it never leafed out and I had to cut it down, but not before it multiplied with suckers in a semi-circle around the parent plant. The ferny looking foliage also looked spectacular against the (chartreuse) background of the Gold Mop Cypress (Chamaecyparis) and the (equally chartreuse) Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Crippsii’). However, something was missing and while I was (window)shopping for plants, I came across red hot pokers, although the yellow and orange dwarf variety of the plants named ‘Poco Yellow’ and ‘Poco Orange’.  I bought 3 in yellow and 5 in orange and planted them behind the cypresses and around the Tiger-Eye sumac. The result could not have been more pleasing and while the Tiger Eye will grow taller, it will not obscure the view of the pokers.  

Yellow and Orange Poker with Tiger-Eye Staghorn Ferns


One change made to the garden this spring took a bit of work but was worth the time and effort. The garden had mulched paths and while it was soft and springy underfoot, it also took many cubic yards of mulch each year to keep it looking good. It also tended to wash out in heavy rains and I had to rake it back in place time and time again. I like what mulch does to the garden, i.e. decompose, adding nutrients to the soil as well as turning into soil, but why should I have this goodness underfoot instead of using it for the planting beds? Last year I contracted with a landscaper to put down gravel which would also unify the gravel patio with the paths running through the garden. However, I had no intention of having them put weed fabric over the paths before I could dig up as much mulch and decomposed mulch (now good soil) and put it in the garden beds. Day after day I raked up mulch, digging down to the clay soil and distributing all this goodness around plants. By the time the landscaper showed up I had cleared the paths. Now when I walk in the garden I experience that crunchy sound that gravel gives. In The Netherlands, a gravel path to the house is nearly equal to having ADT or any other burglar detection system as you can always hear anyone approaching your house.  The crew also put down some additional rock in the various raingardens and a trench was dug from the pond filtration system to the corner filled with willows. Now the water from the pond filter runs straight to the willows without disturbing the soil and I have another great looking and rocky corner. All in all, April and May were filled with work, but now I can enjoy the results. As soon as the sun comes out again, I will be out in the garden; weed a little, sit and read a little. Yes, it is a rough life, but someone has to do it.