I don't remember when or why Erin Schanen of The Impatient Gardener and I first connected. Perhaps it came about because we are among the few garden bloggers in Wisconsin. Last year Erin visited my garden when she was in Madison and I finally made it to her garden this summer.
I probably would have visited sooner but I got confused: I thought she lived in Brussels (Wisconsin) up near Green Bay, when she actually lives in Belgium over near Milwaukee. You can see why I got mixed up, especially since our relationship is mainly on-line. My husband walked the garden — camera in hand — while I peppered Erin with questions.
Initially I had the same experience that I think many of us have when we visit a garden in person that we only know from on-line. No matter how many wide views and maps you look at nothing quite prepares you for the reality. There were a few things that I was expecting to see, like her blue front door and curving steps, that felt familiar.
And annuals! She does pots and window boxes and had this hot sunny border filled with gorgeous annuals. I am strictly a perennial gal except for a few herbs so I am always fascinated with her blog posts about seed starting and such. We also chatted about her hose (curled up in the black container) as Erin always knows about the latest and best tools and garden products. Though she is a member of the Troy-Built Saturday Blogger Group I think she is quite honest in her evaluations of their products. And I especially like the fact that I am getting a woman's viewpoint on all the products and tools she tries.
Unlike me, Erin is a veggie gardener. That garden is set off from her house and flower gardens and part of it was protected from marauding critters, including deer. She's hoping to build a greenhouse in the future so I will be very excited to watch that happen as it is something I dream about.
The next two pictures give you a better sense of where her house sits in the midst of her various gardens. The front door is at the far left side of the house. What I loved most about Erin's garden is that she mixes shrubs and trees in with her perennials.
This view (below) is similar to the one above but gives you a better sense of how Erin's enveloped her house in gardens but then they expand out into the property as you move away from the house. You can also see that the gardens are divided with stone and grass paths. Look at what a terrific sense of color, texture and scale she's created in these long views. So much to see without ever getting close to specific plants.
Looking from the other direction at the garden that is to the left of where Erin and I are standing in the picture above. I love all the blue touches, whether flowers, furniture cushions or doors. Those spots of blue let Erin use a variety of other colors without the garden seeming unfocused.
The other side of the above border feels completely different since it has a swath of one kind of plant in the foreground. Having enough space to create borders with distinct sides is one of the benefits of having a garden as large as Erin's.
This is the short side of Erin's house with a very simply planted border. The Hakonechloa grass draws your eye to her gorgeous stone chimney. There's a Witch Hazel planted in pride of place in front of the chimney but it is not doing particularly well. Whether it's related to soil, light or even heat from the chimney is the big question. That and whether she should swap the Witch Hazel for another plant. No matter how perfect things look to us garden visitors, it always seems like the gardener sees something different!
I was particularly taken with Erin's repetition of blue evergreens with the yellow-green perennials on either side of the path. I believe that is Picea engelmannii'Blue Magoo' in the rear.
I'm growing Aralia 'Sun King' and am in love with it. So perhaps it's not surprising that I completely fell for Aralia 'Silver Umbrella' when Erin pointed it out to me. It's a new one for me but one I will be searching for. There's nothing like seeing a new specimen in place in a garden and getting to hear firsthand about the gardener's positive experience with it.
Last but not least I love Erin's found art creation on her septic mound. Septic systems are a fact of life in rural areas and it amazes me that more people don't somehow take advantage of this natural platform for art.
Now when I read about what Erin is doing in her garden I will know exactly where and what she's talking about!
I missed last week's Ikebana vase challenge because we were just returning from our week's vacation, including a vacation from email and computers. But I own a stack of books on Ikebana as well as Ikebana baskets and a bronze Usubata-type flower container, so it seemed to me that I should make an effort to make an arrangement in that style.
Displaying my creation in our Tea House certainly makes it look like I know what I am doing. A few years ago I took an introductory workshop on Ikebana and decided that it had more rituals and rules than I could cope with. I realized that I love the containers but I was never going to be able to create anything that followed the precepts of one of the traditional Ikebana schools.
My arrangement is a by-guess-and-by-golly affair. Most of the illustrations in my books use beautiful sprays of foliage and flowers of plants that I do not grow or could not bear to cut — like a flowering branch of Stewartia japonica. I thought an uneven number of blooms was the best place to start. But that Hakonechloa grass seemed discordant; chartreuse rather than golden like the daylily throat. Perhaps Japanese Blood Grass would have been a wiser choice if only my plant was big enough to allow for cuttings.
Maybe the daylily should have been taller or a softer color. Or maybe it should disappear completely. Maybe Mies van der Rohe was thinking of Ikebana when he declared "less is more."
To see what other gardeners have put in a vase today, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden who hosts this long-running meme.
We hiked Whitefish Dunes State Park on our third morning in Door County — after our third massive breakfast at the Viking Grill just down the road from where we were staying in Ellison Bay. Fabulous potato pancakes with a big dish of applesauce. Heaven
At this park there were many more visitors than on our first two nature walks. I think it was partly due to the fact that it was the July 4th weekend and also that Whitefish Dunes has an area set aside for people who want to bring their dogs to the beach. And they were there in force, as were the kayakers.
Whitefish Dunes State Park protects the fragile dune environment on the eastern Door County Peninsula. It is the largest and most significant Great Lakes dunescape in Wisconsin. We left the crowds behind and ambled and scrambled along the shoreline of Lake Michigan, as well as hiked some of the trails throughout the forested sand dunes and beech forest. If you look closely at the image below you can see the sand building up underwater and slowly re-shaping the shoreline.
Blackened sand (below) indicates the presence of Magnetite, an iron mineral found in the Lake Superior basin. These sand grains are debris that glaciers eroded from the bedrock of Canada and dumped into Lake Michigan. You can use a magnet to pick it up!
This area is stabilized with a variety of beach grasses. The photo below is right at the edge of the Lake Michigan shoreline and really gives you a sense of how this sandy landscape is held together. This whole area is such a different landscape that we watched the movie in the Visitor Center that showed how dunes are formed. If you are interested, here's a good description from the Wisconsin DNR site.
After walking the shore, we hiked — slipping and sliding — up the dunes to the various trails. We also hiked up to Old Baldy, the highest dune on this side of Lake Michigan: 100 feet. Doesn't sound very high but it certainly seemed like a good climb by the time we got to the top. Then we walked through some of the meadows and woods back to our car.
Again we saw a large variety of ferns, many of them not only growing in a very sandy soil but also in lots of sun. Though many of them looked familiar to me, I was able to positively identify very few. We also saw more Reindeer moss but were unable to determine if there are two kinds of moss growing here or one kind at different stages. All three of our "nature hikes" left me with questions and a desire to read more about these landscapes, to say nothing of visiting them again.
Whitefish Dunes is a day-use park, there is no camping. One area of the beach is closed to swimming because it has such strong rip tides. Every day it seems I saw or learned something new: my kind of vacation.
Note: Some of the specific information about the park came from the Wisconsin DNR website.
The moderating influence of the waters of Green Bay on one side and Lake Michigan on the other mean that the gardens in Door County are like no others in Wisconsin. I've been visiting the Door since the mid-1980s and the plants, gardens and nurseries have always been one of its major attractions for me. I spotted this Alchemilla mollis the minute I stepped out of the car when we made our first stop. I've never seen them grown so well: large, lush and sturdy. When you can grow 'em like this why not make them the whole story?!
Every summer the Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society has tours of members' gardens, usually three or four in an evening. They are always worth the time because these are created and cared for by gardeners just like the rest of us: amateurs rather than professionals. The size, location, and focus of the gardens vary widely so you never know what you'll see or what ideas you'll come away with. Here are a few of the things that caught my attention on last's week's tours.
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This gardener clipped snapshots of her garden from earlier in the year to trees and shrubs so you could see how the plantings had changed since the beginning of the gardening season.
We don't have a lot of different seating areas in our garden so I took note of all the options some of the gardens offered. This bench with its peeling paint was one of my favorites as it didn't call too much attention to its presence.
Two small water features that each made a big impact in their gardens.
This gardener put the main seating area right out in the garden instead of next to the house. She said her focus was on layout and you could really see it with something like this (seen from both directions below).
At this garden we were all offered chocolate chip cookies as we arrived!
This blue ball caught my eye but what held my attention was realizing how similar true Geranium leaves are to those of Pachysandra. Both are ground covers but Geraniums offer scent and prettier flowers, at least to my eye.
More garden blues.
Nothing says June like roses and Russian sage . . .
OK, I admit that I do have some pots that are filled with plants. But unlike most of you, I limit my pots to one kind of plant. I love designing plant combinations in the ground, but I prefer a group of pots highlighting one plant each to making combos in each pot. The group below includes my test Dahlia grown in a pot as a way of avoiding total commitment.
I dug out a clump of Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' which was hanging over the first stepping stone after you cross the stream. I thought it was a mite dangerous to have that stone even partly obscured. I have a home in mind for the grass but I know I won't get to planting it for a while, so a pot seemed like a good place to put it temporarily.
This is the only true combination planting I've done this year: A Korean maple that needs a new home, Pelargonium 'Bird Dancer' and an unknown Heuchera.
The pot is sitting at the corner of one of the stone walls in the front garden and I've had a heck of a time photographing it. But it seems to me that it should be shown in the spot where it really lives rather than moving it to find a more simple background.
I do like something special by the front door since it's also adjacent to the new steps up into the front garden. And I especially like something in that location when we're getting ready for a big garden tour — as we are this week.
Another 'Bird Dancer' Geranium and 'Sweet Tea' Heucherella needed something else to tie them together and scale them to their location: a nice dark Hibiscus.
Though my pots are quite low key, I counted ten of them spread around the garden. That's a respectable enough number that I don't need to feel like I am shirking my duty as a contemporary gardener.
I have been lusting after Foxtail lilies (Eremerus) for I don't know how long. Last fall I decided to give them a try and ordered five bulbs of the variety 'Cleopatra'. I planted them in the back of the border and all five have come up. They are not as splashy as they will be in a couple of years if they survive their location and our winters. Last winter was not a bad one so their future is not assured. But I am totally enjoying their moment of peachy perfection at the same time as the 'Mrs. R.O. Backhouse' Martagon lilies are opening. Did I actually plan that?
They also both look good when viewed against the Tea House, no? I thought of that color echo when I planted the Eremerus but I planted the Martagons long before there was a Tea House. What was completely unplanned is the third peach tone in this combo. If you look closely in the right hand corner of the photo below you can see that as the flowers of Gillenia trifoliata (Bowman's Root) fade, they leave behind a tiny orange seed pod!