C. 'Beatlemania' as a groundcover in the corner of a stone wall in my front garden. Absolutely love this little charmer. Double click on any picture to enlarge it so you can see the details.
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Last week Jeff Epping, director of Horticulture at Olbrich Botanical Gardens, and Roy Diblik of Northwind Perennial Farm (Northwind not only has a FB page, they are on Pinterest with 20 boards of inspiration) sang the praises of Carex at the monthly meeting of the Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society. I'm here to add my own as I am currently growing just over a dozen kinds of Carex. They are my go-to plant for easy care ground covers, particularly in dry shade.
The ones that have worked well for me as ground covers are:
C. rosea: Very fine textured and delicate looking but it's been growing under a Silver Maple tree for ten years with no problems.
C. plantaginea: Pleated leaves give this one its name of seersucker sedge. Thick clumps suppress weeds. Delicately self-seeds with tiny plants that can easily be put where you want them.
C. rosea behind the Hosta and C. plantaginea in the foreground; all growing under a Silver maple tree.
C. siderosticha variegata: Been growing this since 1997 on a fairly sunny clay bank. I rake out the dead bits in the spring and that's all the work it needs.
C. caryophylla 'Beatlemania/Mophead': Another one with fine leaves but these are edged in gold. Lovely if you can find a raised location in order to enjoy its sweet charm.
Carex can also be used as accent plants.
C. siderosta 'Banana Boat' and 'Lemon Zest' are so colorful they will claim all the attention if you try to use them as a wide swath. 'Lemon zest' can take more sun than 'Banana Boat' in my experience.
C. 'Lemon Zest' as a ground cover (above with Epimedium rubrum) in my garden and where I've been slowly trying to get it to fill in and brighten this shady spot.
C. elata 'Bowles Golden' can get up to 18" wide and 24" tall, making a dramatic focal point, but its leaves are narrow and arching so it never overwhelms its neighbors, visually or actually.
C. platyphylla has slightly pleated long leaves that are a glaucous blue. I've always used this as a single accent but last fall planted a group as a ground cover under a 'Tiger Eyes' Sumac. We'll see what happends when the snow melts.
C. greyii is the one everyone always asks me about because the seedheads look like little Sputnik space ships. A real standout in the winter garden.
The spacey seed heads of C. greyii in summer and winter (above).
Troublesome Carexes? I've had problems with C. flacca/glauca "running" in my garden. I wanted it to stay in a woodland spot but it wanted to fill up the paths and keep going. Everyone seems to like this one but I pulled mine all out.
C. muskingumensis likes moisture and loves the bog where I planted it. The problem is that you can't use a shovel or any sharp tool to dig out a plant that is taking over when you have an artificial pond with a rubber liner. So trying to keep this under control is always an issue for me.
The pleated leaves of C. siderosticha variegata (top photo) are similar to C. plantginea with the addition of the striping. The clump in the middle photo is growing in good soil in full sun. In the third picture, it's been growing on this packed down clay soil for years with few problems. C. muskingumensis is growing directly behind it, with water Iris in the rear.
C. sylvatica or European wood sedge makes a large clump about 18' high and similar width. I use this one as an accent plant. Its seed heads love the gravel path it grows next to, so I often pull them out as they're coming into bloom rather than pull seedlings out of the path.
Last Sunday Mark and I went to the opening celebration of the spectacular new exhibit at the Ruth Davis Design Gallery in Nancy Nicholas Hall at SOHE. I'm already planning my next visit to "Woven Gardens of Hope" because this is a show you will want to see more than once. It is so visually rich that it's almost impossible to absorb it all in one trip.
The opening events last Sunday included an inspiring talk by Connie Duckworth (below), the founder of Arzu Studio Hope whose company works with women in Afghanistan to produce high end carpets for sale around the world. Many Arzu carpets are in the exhibit. So many people turned out for her presentation they had to bring more chairs into a very large lecture room that had already been set up for a big crowd!
Many of the carpets on display came from the Minasian brothers who have a store in Evanston and are also collectors. The opening included traditional music with food by Kabul Restaurant. It was a vibrant celebration with a huge crowd filling the gallery and every level of "The Link," the atrium surrounding it. The Miniasian Rug Company and Sergenian's Floor Covering funded the opening.
Though you may have missed this special opening, there are other events on the schedule (see link below). But it's the rugs that are the real draw. The exhibit includes new and antique carpets of every size and style on the walls, the floor and hanging from the ceiling. There are rugs running like waterfalls down the wall and puddling in ripples on the floor.
These rugs have to be seen to be believed: the scale of many of the carpets is mind-boggling and the workmanship is supberb. And unlike many fiber exhibits, we are allowed to touch the carpets and even to walk on them! Items from the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection that are on display, however, can only be enjoyed visually.
The gallery is filled with an explosion of color, pattern and texture. Walking through it is like rambling through a souk or bazaar, with a surprise around every turn.
There is enough information to provide context for what you're looking at but not so much as to be either annoying or overwhelming.
In addition to the wealth of carpets, there are also many articles of clothing ranging from robes to hats to shawls like this semi-sheer example covered with embroidery.
All of us got up close and personal in order to fully appreciate the rich detail on so many garments.
Many of the articles of clothing are not only covered with embroidery but they glitter with mirrors and beading, like the items hanging behind Liese Pfeifer, Academic Curator for Ruth Davis Design Gallery at School of Human Ecology, UW Madison.
One of the more impressive groups of textiles are these tent bands draped overhead and trailing down to the floor like giant ribbons.
Woven Gardens of Hope: Afghan Women's Carpets runs through March 1. You can find information about gallery days and hours here.
Here are details on all the events related to the Woven Gardens of Hope exhibit.
When we began to design our garden, I was not particularly enamoured of gravel gardens even though they are a staple of Japanese gardens. The gravel symbolically represents water with rock groupings standing in for islands. Typically the gravel is raked in patterns that emphasize the water imagery.
Seeing more of that type of garden — in books and in person — slowly changed my attitude to the point where I suggested to Mark that we add a second gravel feature. We now have one in the front garden as well as in the back.
Mark rakes the gravel into patterns whenever we are expecting garden visitors. We had two big garden parties in August and I noticed that he raked different patterns for each event. The images above and directly below are of the front gravel garden which is circular. You can see the two different effects, though both clearly suggest water.
The back gravel garden is more irregular in shape and has a stepping stone path through it. For the first party, he raked it in a pattern suggesting ripples spreading out from the rocks (using that concept out front for the second party).
For the second party, he raked the back gravel garden in a pattern he had never used before. I particularly like the more decorative quality of this design.
The rocks are outlined in a way that suggests ripples from a pebble. But the edges of the gravel are are also outlined to create a border. The two are linked with yet another directional pattern that could suggest waves, though much more informally than the pattern he used in the front garden.
I love peonies as much for their foliage as their flowers. A peony adds structure and mass to a garden bed and looks good all season. Every day the color, the size or the shape of the leaves is slightly different as they grow and unfurl and get more sun. This week's much warmer temps are causing changes almost by the hour.
Paeonia 'Burnished Bronze'
The following peonies are all species or woodland peonies. This first one is Paeonia anomala or vertchii, with the shadow pattern of a wire cage reflected on the leaves. I still have lots of plants caged to protect them from the large rabbits who have been terrorizing the garden.
My summer silhouette marks a number of departures from the prior two embroideries: first, it is a less dense all-over pattern than the others; and second, I put down a base layer rather than just starting to fill in the head space. Finally I changed the title from "Inside the Gardener's Head" to "Gardening in my Head."
For this portrait the first layer was composed of random pieces of silk in a variety of green shades along with a fragment of mauve silk.
Then coneflowers were stitched on top of this "leaf" layer using twisted strips of hot pink chiffon. The centers of the flowers are masses of different beads. I stitched the beads virtually top of each other for a dimensional effect that would be as dramatic as the petals yet texturally quite different.
The exhibit at Olbrich includes a variety of types of fiber pieces like the one below, "Noah's Ark" by Donna Freiman.
At the opening reception on Oct. 30, I had a chance to meet artists whose work was new to me and I also saw lots of old friends which made the evening even more special.
I'm discussing my group of silhouette portraits with Jane LaFlash of the Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society (above and below).
The other seasonal silhouettes in my portrait series are: