Tuesday, February 13, 2007


I wanted to begin this with a beautiful picture, because next I'm going to post some pretty ugly ones. Actually, it's fairly easy to make even ugly gardens look good in photographs. Right now, I'm more concerned with making ugly gardens look good in reality. The top photo is of Philip's lavender bed that's in front of our house. The lavender is 'Grosso', which supposedly is the hardiest of the hardier lavenders. During a very bad zone 5-ish winter, he lost oh maybe 10 of 60 or so plants. And I should correct that and say that he really only lost perhaps one or two, and that the rest just needed a good hard prune and a little time to recover, before regaining their good looks.

I love Lavender. I know it really hates me for planting it in New England, but I can live with that. I love to look at them in the sun, or when it's foggy, or when they're all in bloom; and of course, there's the fragrance. Philip cuts the stems and we made our first million from selling them (uh huh, oh yeah).

Okay, now on to the work at hand. I have many gardens, and in my gardens I have many problems. Where to begin...

Maybe this doesn't look so bad at a glance, but it's a mess. Lots of great plants. Lots. Maybe some less than great, and lots of those too.

Baptisia 'Carolina Moonlight' is a terrific plant, but I didn't need to put in three of them (that's the soft yellow blooms at the back). One of them must go. I'm generally fond of the Baptisias - tough as nails plants, nice long-lasting flowers and foliage that holds up through the season, as well. Some are a bit floppy and there is one I would never plant, 'Screaming Yellow'. Aptly named.

Somewhere beneath their pulchritude is an oppressed Aster called 'October Skies', Aster laevis, I think though don't hold me to it. A wonderful almost oh so close oh go ahead and call it blue color, blooming late like most of its kin. However, it does not seem to care for a three foot mulch of false indigo, go figure. I will rescue it this spring and find another home for a Baptisia or two.

Also lurking under leafage is one of those droopy golden Chamaecyparis-es (probably pisifera 'Sungold') which could be lovely but it's hard to tell. It too will see more light of day come spring, it's only fair. I planted these things, they are my responsibility...

The grass is Leymus areanarius, Blue Dune Grass. It had a tag that read "European Dune Grass". Now whether that's because they knew I'm a snob and would be a sucker for anything that said "European" on it, or because it really is a distinct variety, I'm not sure. It does seem to be less spreading than some of its typically pushy American peers, but I'm still not convinced. I read somewhere that Leymus was Gertrude Jekyll's favorite grass. So that, of course, settles that. It certainly is a smashing blue, and is a terrific architectural presence in the garden. But it deserves to be at the core of a design, rather than in the middle of a big jumble.

A big part of the problem here is the daylilies, front and center. They are a very nice variety called 'Miss Amelia' which I'm not sure is still widely available, but where ever it is, it's spreading, so go find some and just ask if you could have little, because of course, that's all you'll need. The bloom is creamy yellow and not huge and ridiculous like lots of modern hybrids, and the blooming goes on and on through the summer, for which I am always grateful. I find that I'm less grateful for all the deadheading I need to do to keep the garden looking spiffy. I said, "need" to do. Don't assume that I actually do it. At any rate, their foliage is too similar to the Leymus, and something must give.

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