The Traffic Island garden is having a blissfully blooming summer.
There is only one problem: everyone is doing too well. Look behind the allium flower at the bottom of the image below and you'll see a Pelargonium (with red leaves) that has been subsumed by its neighbors. Hasn't died but not flowering either.
The Nasturtiums, Alliums and self-seeded Tanacetum parthenium 'Aureum'are doing so well out here that I think I am going to forgo the Pelargoniums in the future.
Perhaps add more coleus and call it done. This garden is in the middle of the street so it needs to be bright to be noticed.
When I bought the Pelargonium pictured below I did not realize it was a trailing variety. Though it is bright enough to be seen from a passing car, this image suggests it's best enjoyed close-up.
When we bought our house — 20 years ago this month — it had just been freshly painted yellow to increase its curb appeal. If the house had been covered with yellow aluminum siding instead of clapboards, we would not have bought it. We are the type of gardeners who want our house to fade into the background so the garden can shine. Yellow paint doesn't do that.
When it was finally time to repaint, we picked a Sherwin Williams paint called 'Seal Beach Green." We kept a file of all the paint brands and names we had used, thinking we'd just redo the house the same way when it finally came time to paint it yet again. And that's exactly what we did.
But this time we hired someone else to do the job so Mark could concentrate on the tea house and other garden projects. It proved to be a wonderful idea and a great experience because we found the perfect craftsman for the job.
Our painter, Troy Guglielmina, was meticulous in prep as well as painting. He pointed out various sections of wood that needed replacing and let Mark decide if he wanted to do that job or let Troy do it. He was extremely careful around all of our plants that were near the house. Troy was quiet, pleasant to be around and greeted us every morning with a smile. He and his family only live a couple of blocks down our street and we were all on the same page politically as well. A bonus which made conversation easy!
Mark is a hard worker and very meticulous himself but he said a number of times that Troy was doing a much better and more thorough job than he would have done if he'd painted the house himself. I said it felt like we were on vacation to not have to do this huge job ourselves.
Hiring a professional also meant that Troy was up to the minute on types of paint, what specialties each company offered and what products would be best for our job.
That knowledge was put to good use because we did a couple of things differently this time. We decided to paint the foundation along the front of the house the same color as the body of the house. Years ago our friend, garden designer and blogger Julie Siegel, suggested we do this so the front garden had a solid backdrop for viewing. She was absolutely correct.
The other big change we made was the color of the front door. Our house is a split level ranch or raised ranch, not really sure what they call this design. But what it means is that our front entrance gets lost and needed to be made more visible from the street and driveway. Color seemed the obvious solution.
As you probably guessed, I had a big file of house color ideas for both inside and out. We narrowed it down to two concepts, one using purple and an acid green and one relying on red. The building below is a store called Wa, located in P-town, Mass. Jim Charlier of the Art of Gardening blog wrote about it on Friday, Aug. 28, 2009. I printed out a photo of it a month later and squirrelled it away for future reference because our house is such a similar dark color.
It took two tries but we're happy with our color choice: Sherwin Williams "Pompeii Red." Unlike our previous paint job, we went with one color for the door, the surround and and the window trim.
However, our old bench doesn't quite go with the new colors. And painting it means we'd need to keep re-painting it, so we haven't decided its fate. But it is great for setting groceries on when unlocking the front door etc. so I hate to give it up altogether.
A new color, of course, meant a new plant to put by the entrance. I picked up a bunch of Rainbow chard plants at an end of season sale and added a pot of ferns with red stems.
Next summer I think I will pot up a big clump of Japanese painted ferns to put by the door. Their pale color will draw your eye in and their red/green color combo will reflect the paint colors in a much more subtle way.
We are finally getting some rain on our garden. Seems like most rainstorms have missed us since early July. A good soaking will really perk up these foliage plants which have been suffering from the dryness.
The bright green plant in the center of this first image is bamboo. For the first time since we began growing Fargesia rufa 'Green Panda' in 2006, it completely died back to the ground after last winter. We've been meaning to cut it back so we did that this spring as well. Mark took a hatchet to the perimiter to get it back to a size that is in scale with our garden. This is a clumping bamboo and has been well-behaved. But it is clearly going to take some time for it to get its full 6 foot height back again. In the meantime it is functioning like a shrub while it regains it strength and its girth.
I'm not good at over-planting spring ephemerals like Primula sieboldii (see hole in the middle of the picture) with late summer blooming partners. When this Shiso (Perilla frutescens) started to come up a few weeks ago, I realized I just have to transplant a few seedling in the bare spot where the primroses were and the problem is solved. I love the fragrance of Shiso and the fresh look of it in the garden at this time of year. You can use it in cooking but I tend to favor its ornamental qualities.Let it go to seed and you've got it forever.
I tend to think of Sedum 'Autum Joy' as a foliage plant and use it that way. Sedums are a strong presence in the garden from the get go, so I put them where their leaves will add to the mix and where their flowers — when they finally appear — won't upset the balance.
That phrase — Keep on pedaling — is the secret to life according to my brother-in-law, Tony G. He may not know it, but I've realized it's also the secret to blogging. There's always something to write about and there's always someone who wants to read it. My job is to find that something, turn it into an illustrated story and present it to you. I've been doing that for six years, since Sunday, August 24, 2008.
Each year at this time, I publish the source of the name for my blog along with my original introductory words. My blog name is not self-explanatory, as so many are, and I think it is helpful to know its deeper meaning.
For the mind, by nature stagey, welds its frame
Tomb-like around each little world of a day.
We jump from picture to picture and cannot follow
the living curve that is breathlessly the same.
— Louis Mac Neice / 1907-1963
. . .
What little world?
EACH LITTLE WORLD that collides with mine:
The world of interiors and exteriors; bibliophiles; china and dishing; feasts and fests; food; flowers and gardens; material possessions and textile obsessions; worldly goods and bads.
Your worlds and mine.
Let the collision begin.
I've been lucky to discover a world of readers whose pursuits are as diverse as my own. Some of you I've known for years in my pre-blog life, some of you I've met in person post-blog and some of you I look forward to meeting one of these days. I picture all of you when I write, when I decide what to write, and when I look to see what you've written.
Thank you for continuing to visit my little world. I love to hear what you think so don't be shy; leave a comment. Here's to another year of sharing our worlds: writing and reading and riding side-by-side — not colliding.
The above quoted poetry text is the 2nd stanza of Louis Mac Neice's poem, "August," as it appears in A Little Treasury of Modern Poetry.
For those of you who like very, very early peonies, now's the time to buy them. Here are two sources: Peony's Envy and Hillside Nursery. Paeonia japonica (Japanese woodland peony) is available from both, but Hillside has two other peonies as well. I've bought a number of unusual plants from Hillside and have had good luck with all of them. You can search under "woodland Peonies" on my blog to find my posts and pictures on the subject.
This two session program by Leslie Bellais looks like a wonderful way to spend a couple of evenings in November. I met Leslie years ago when I donated my 1960s hippie clothes to the Wisconsin State Historical Society. I've heard her speak on various textile topics and can say she's both knowledgeable and witty. The description below is from the UW-Extension catalog.
"Trends in American Quilting
Why did quilting become so popular in America when it languished in Europe? Why were there overwhelming national quilting trends rather than myriad regional ones in the history of American quilting? These are questions Leslie Bellais, curator of social history at the Wisconsin Historical Society, will attempt to answer in her class on the history of American quilting from the colonial era to the Bicentennial.
Instructor: Leslie Bellais has been the curator of costume and textiles at the Wisconsin Historical Society for more than 23 years. She has master’s degrees in U.S. history from the College of William & Mary and the UW. She is currently working on her PhD in U.S. history.
Tuesdays, Nov 4-11, 7-8:15pm; $30; #5706 Elvehjem Building, 800 University Ave; 0.3 CEU."
The WHPS tour of Jeannette Golden's garden last month offered myriad ideas for plant pairings, including great use of Clematis. Jeannette and I both garden under black walnut trees. They dominate her shade garden (first two photos below), so I took particular note of what does well under her trees.
Though, I must admit, much of the color and drama was in Jeannette's sunnier gardens. I realize my garden tends to concentrate on perennials and woodies. I rarely add annuals or tropicals, but it is those additions that really raise Jeannette's plant combinations to another level. They offer unusual colors and dramatic foliage that can be hard to achieve otherwise.
Truth be told, I think every gardener likes his or her own garden best. Sure, we go on garden tours all the time, but usually we walk through and think "that was nice." We come home satisfied with what we've created. Maybe we've been inspired to do a little tweaking, but that's the extent of it.
It's the rare garden that stays with us. But every now and then you visit a garden that takes your breath away and makes you want to rethink — maybe even re-do — your whole garden. A garden whose plants and planting patterns, ornaments and atmosphere, subtlety and sensuality keep floating into your consciousness days after your visit.
My garden is mostly green at this season and is heavily influenced by Asian design at all seasons. I shy away from color and drama and most anything that demands a visitor's attention. But I am still lost in awe and appreciation of the garden that Jeannette Golden has created out in the Wisconsin countryside.
Making a garden that feels of its time and place, where nothing is too much or too little is no easy feat. Especially when it's surrounded by a vast landscape.
We often see images of English estates where flower gardens successfully merge into the larger agricultural landscape, but it is not something that is as common here. Perhaps because it is not easily done.
That massive surrounding landscape can so easily throw off the scale of a country garden. Plantings need to relate to the myriad buildings, the trees, the farm pond and distant hills. And in this garden they manage it perfectly.
Plantings close to the house are more open and somewhat smaller in scale . . .
increasing in size with great sweeps and swaths of perennials mixed with trees and shrubs as you move away from the house.
Grass paths remind you this is a "simple" country garden. They function as a bright green ribbon tying all the beds and borders into a cohesive package.
Spots for quiet contemplation are scattered throughout the space (above), as are specimen plants like this Silberlocke Korean fir (below). But Jeannette incorporates these potential prima donnas into the larger plantings rather than letting them steal the show.
Even the veggie garden is incorporated into the overall design rather than being isolated somewhere out of view.
The garden is full of art but chosen to fit within limits: metal wind sculptures or glass pieces that repeat the color of adjacent plantings.
A month later I'm still captivated by Jeannette's garden. To put it in a word, I find her garden "incommensurable." That's a word from the late 1500s often found in philosophical books. It means " lacking a basis of comparison in respect to a quality normally subject to comparison." It simply can't be compared.