Friday, July 15, 2016

July Bloom Day

Here's a look at what is blooming in my northern Virginia garden in the middle of July....

Eryngium yuccifolium, Rattlesnake Master



The remains of Veronicastrum verginicum 'Lavendar Towers' bloom, Cluver's Root,  with Echinacea purpurea 'Rubinstern', Ruby Star Purple Coneflower, behind in my mini-meadow.



The big showy flowers of purple coneflower, it's reputation as a "native" plant, (whether it's actually native to the gardener's locality is another story) and one that draws pollinators makes it one of the most popular plants around. I seem to see it everywhere in my area at this time of year; sometimes it's the only perennial that appears in a garden. I, too, am smitten.

I can remember when I first saw Purple Coneflower in my mother's Connecticut garden probably thirty years ago.  I was so impressed by the spiky orange cone paired with bright pink petals. Some people wouldn't be caught dead wearing those colors together; how cool that nature produced a flower with this combination.  So, needless to say, I had to include some Purple Conflower in the mini-meadow I planted two years ago behind our house after construction was complete on our addition.


Going strong in its second summer


Too many of the recent Coneflower introductions have proven short-lived, but 'Rubinstern' (aka Ruby Star) is a German-bred variety from Jelitto Seeds that got very good, if not top, ratings from Mt. Cuba's Coneflower trials.  And, it was one I could find it at a local wholesaler. The flowers of Ruby Star are a darker, richer purpley-pink than the straight species and they seem to hold their color longer. The petals are held horizontally, as opposed to drooping downward, and, though it's a bit shorter, it has plenty of visual impact.  It seems quite vigorous so I'm hoping to have this one for years to come.


I don't have a lot of mid-summer flowers in my front garden, aside from container plantings, but these Athyrium 'Ghost' are looking pretty good.  They are growing with Pachysandra procumbens, Allegheny Spurge, Carex pensylvanica, Oak Sedge, and Bergenia ciliata, Hairy Bergenia.

Aesculus parviflora, Bottlebrush Buckeye
This shrub encloses my front garden once it has leafed-out. I can sit near my front door and experience the idea of "prospect refuge"- I can see out to the street without being seen.  I just stumbled on this academic theory, which I was completely unaware of when I designed the garden, but, it makes sense--a space feels comfortable when it offers both a view out AND a sense of refuge, in this case, because I'm screened by the Buckeyes.  Okay, maybe it's just me, but I like the effect.


Deschamsia cespitosa 'Goldtau',  is a wonderful dwarf form of Tufed Hair Grass, and one of the few good grasses for part shade.  It takes a few years for it to bloom reliably, but when it does it is a lovely, gold, airy inflorescence that stands out against the dark green foliage.
Cissus discolor, Begonia Vine

Origanum 'Kent Beauty' with a Sempervivum


Ratibida 'Red Midget'



Silphium perfoliatum, Cup Plant

Liatris spicata 'Floristan Alba', Blazing Star, Yucca recurvifolia, seed heads of
Allium 'Purple Sensation and cristophii, and Sporobulus heterolepsis, Prairie Dropseed



Pycnanthemum muticum, Short-toothed Mountain Mint
Agave ovatifolium (maybe?) , Whale tongue Agave

Thympophylla tenuiloba, Dahlberg Daisy
This fragrant, little yellow daisy is native to Texas and Mexico.  I grow it as an annual and it self-sows in my rock garden.



Labled as Dianthus deltoides, but seems to be some variety not the straight species.  Anyone know which one?

Hydrangea quercifolia, Oak Leaf Hydrangea, given to me by a neighbor.  If it's a cultivar, I don't know which one.  
Ligularia dentata 'Othello' , Leopard Plant
Lobelia cardinalis, Cardinal Flower, in bud

Cuphea ignea, Cigar plant, growing in a container with Heuchera 'Caramel' blooming in the background





As always, check out what's blooming in other blogger's gardens here at May Dreams.  Cheers! 






Saturday, July 2, 2016

New Hampshire Spring at The Fells

A couple of weekends ago, I visited my sister in New Hampshire, where Spring was still carrying on. We went to The Fells, an historic summer estate, overlooking Lake Sunapee.  Established in 1888 by John Hay, a secretary of state under presidents McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt, the current iteration reflects his son's development of the gardens and modifications to the house in the early 20th century. 

The south-facing rock garden was made by the younger Clarence Hay with the help of stonemasons who carted in and placed the stone.  It's hard to believe they had to bring in stone because it seems to be everywhere -- New Hampshire is the "Granite State" after all -- but it can't have come from too far away. I think it's the most interesting part of the estate, aside from the woodland areas.  


A stream flows through this area and in the summer water lilies bloom in the pond. 




Clarence kept meticulous records of the 600 some plants, many of them alpine, he grew in the rock garden, noting their provenance, if they were moved or needed to be replaced.  Consequently, the Fells horticultural staff has been able to reintroduced  missing plants that were originally grown here.


There was probably an expansive view of the lake from the rock garden when Clarence and his wife Alice lived here, but now just a sliver is visible through a cut in the forest.

I recommend the beautiful loop trail, running through woods full of healthy looking hemlock, and birch, pines, spruce and maples, along the lake front and back to the garden. The "Sunset Hill" trail, just across the road from The Fells gatehouse, offers a longer 4 mile hike.



There is a sculpture show spread out around the grounds and this sturdy guy is one of them.

Wood's edge

An island in the lake


Digitalis and Dianthus deltoides?









Paths lead down the hill into parts of the garden now shaded by woods.



And back out again into the sunlight.

John Hay bought up surrounding abandoned farmland amassing almost 1,000 acres.  From what I can tell, most of that land has been protected as part of the John Hay Wildlife Refuge, by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (SPNHF), and under the stewardship of The Fells, the non-profit created to oversee the 84 acres around the buildings.  


A broad porch runs along the west side of the house, overlooking a long perennial border delineated by a 100 foot wall behind it. Iris, Peonies, Lady's Mantle, Baptisia, Salvia, Geranium, and Heuchera were blooming below pots of Agapanthus not yet in flower.

The peonies haven't even bloomed yet!



Water weeps from this fountain mounted high on a stone wall near the house. 



The "Old Garden", seen in several images below, was Clarence Hay's first attempt at a formal garden. The Fells brochure says it's been restored, though the original garden was in full sun and what you see today is covered by tree canopy, so the original plantings must have been quite different.  Situated on the north side of the property, it feels like a secret garden as it's hidden from view behind tall shrubs and seems possible to miss entirely unless you're paying attention to your map.  

It is kind of an odd appendage because it's so separate and removed from most of the garden. But, on the other hand, it's a pleasant sanctuary away from the rest of the very exposed garden.  









These exquisite lupines were blooming in one of the wilder areas.  We saw them occasionally along the roadsides and highways.




You pass this propagation area on your way into the garden.


Entering and leaving The Fells, you walk, maybe a quarter mile, down a dirt road through the forest. It's a nice reminder of how beautiful the northeastern forest is, and  different from that of the Mid-Atlantic even if some plants overlap..  Here are some mosses and bracken fern (I think).



You can't beat the white bark of northern birches, here outlined again a stand of hemlock.





Another plant that won't grow in northern Virginia is this Cornus canadensis, a nice bold ground cover, especially in bloom.

Put The Fells on your list if you are visiting New Hampshire.