As promised, a follow-up to this month’s Bloom Day, but this time focusing on the meadow, garden shots, and combinations over the last six weeks.
While lilies have been a key theme of this summer in the garden, there are two stars in the meadow.
It’s easy to appreciate the milkweeds (Asclepias): besides all of the cool insects they attract, they are hard to miss and no trouble to identify. Four species grow wild in the meadow here: common milkweed (A. syriaca, July 4), above; butterfly weed (A. tuberosa, July 4), below…
…swamp milkweed (A. incarnata, July 13), above; and purple milkweed (A. purpurascens, June 19).
Another genus that’s been at its peak over this period is Pycnanthemum: the mountain mints. They’re not as easy to identify as the milkweeds (as far as I can tell, there are three different species here), and they aren’t nearly as colorful (white, white, or white), but they all have the most wonderfully intense scent.
This one is either P. muticum or P. incanum, in a patch about 3 feet tall and 12 feet across. You can see why this would be a scary one to let loose in a garden, even though it’s so tempting to want it keep it close to the house.
You can get a hint of the minty scent near the plants on hot days, but you really need to rub or brush against the leaves to release the fragrance. I’d love to fling myself into the center of that patch and roll around to be enveloped in minty goodness, but I’m not the only one who likes it: the entire patch practically quivers with all of the insects visiting the flowers: lots of different bees and wasps, as well as many kinds of butterflies.
On one side of the big patch, I found this sparse clump of another species: probably Pycnanthemum virginianum but maybe P. torrei. It looks like this one will soon be engulfed, but there’s plenty more of it elsewhere in the meadow. Those plants usually reach 3 to 4 feet tall. While this kind can also be a spreader, it seems far less competitive than the P. muticum/incanum.
The last one, slender mountain mint (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium), has the thinnest leaves. Here, it’s moderately vigorous, forming dense clumps about 12 to 18 inches tall and wide.
You’d expect that finding an orchid growing out in the tangle of grasses and other meadow denizens would be thrilling. And it is thrilling, but not the “oh, wow, look at THAT!” kind of thrilling, but more the “oh, wow, I almost mowed right over that” sort of relief-filled thrill.
This subtle little beauty is ragged fringed orchid (Platanthera lacera, July 4). Some years I have trouble finding even one; this year, I was lucky enough to spot half a dozen. Most are single-stemmed, but a few have two stems. They seem to pop up in different places every year, so I’ve given up attempting to mark them and just try to watch out for them when I mow the meadow paths in early July.
Fortunately, most of the meadow highlights are much easier to spot. Below is one of the many clumps of Joe-Pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum) on July 21, with a bit of Culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum) coming up in the middle.
Just starting to flower at 7 feet tall, big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii, July 21), above, is hard to miss. Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium, July 21), below, reaches only 3 to 4 feet tall, but it’s now forming sizeable clumps that will look fantastic in fall and winter.
Above is a particularly blue clump of Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans). It’s about 40 inches in this shot (July 21). This is just one clump in a large patch that will be well over head height by fall.
Below is a grass that wasn’t here originally, though it could have been: eastern gamagrass (Tripsacum dactyloides). I originally bought one pot at a Pennsylvania native plant conference from a vendor who had named it ‘Emerald Scepter’. A couple years later, I asked him why he’d decided to name it—if it had any features particularly different from the species—and if I remember correctly, it was just sort of a whim, and it wasn’t really any different. In the garden, it got so big so quickly that I moved it to the meadow after the second year. Now, about 8 years later, there are probably two dozen or more self-sown, flowering-size clumps. These shots are from July 21.
At about 7 feet tall, the clumps are substantial and hard to miss, especially when in flower and seed. The inflorescence is very distinctive.
The female flowers are on the bottom half…
…and the males make up the top half.
The male half soon drops off, leaving just the developing seeds. They’ll be mature by fall.
Another native perennial that could have been growing here, but wasn’t until I added it, is compass plant (Silphium perfoliatum, July 21). It’s another one I first tried in the garden and then moved to the meadow. The voles devour the roots some years, but enough survive to make a suitable midsummer companion for the eastern gamagrass.
Rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium, July 13) introduced itself to the lower meadow and is now growing happily with a stand of New York ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis).
In the transition area between the lower meadow and The Shrubbery, I have two doublefile viburnums (Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum). One always blooms a week later than the other, but if they ever had labels, they are long gone, so I don’t know if they are named selections or seedlings. At this point, I don’t much care about their names; I just appreciate their good looks and the fact that the deer have never bothered them.
The plants usually bloom in May but occasionally toss out scattered flowers in summer and even fall. The berries are spectacular. These shots are all from July 13.
I planted this poor bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora, July 21) at the same time—about 10 years ago—and it has never thrived, in large part because the deer nibble and/or rub on it most years. But the buds escaped their notice this year, so I finally got to see some flowers. Even more interesting was watching it be swarmed by swallowtail butterflies.
The swallowtails also love the compass plant, above, and the teasel [Dipsacus fullonum] below, both shown on July 21.
I think some of the dark swallowtails around here are spicebush swallowtails, but some of them must be black swallowtails, because their larvae seem to be everywhere. It looks like I won’t be harvesting any more dill or parsley for a while. Still, there are far worse pests to have, so I shouldn’t complain.
Anyway, to continue with the tour: The Shrubbery (which is increasingly looking more like The Mixed-Beddery) on the south side of the house…
…the TDF Border out front…
…and the entrance to the courtyard on the north side of the house (all on July 13).
The courtyard has been pretty much unchanged for the last 8 or 9 years: mostly perennial grasses and a few woodies. But much of it had to be dug up during the trenching for the solar panel wires this spring, so I decided to stick with annuals for replanting over the buried lines. It’s nice having some cheery color in there, since the area is right outside one of my office windows.
The colors are even brighter out front (again on July 13):
Some of you may remember that I had a large silver willow (Salix alba var. sericea) in the side garden. Hurricane Sandy broke the top of one of the main stems last fall, and the boys enjoyed chewing off the bark of that piece so much that I ended up cutting down more and more for them. This is the result by April 10.
It practically exploded with new growth this spring and is now much bushier (the shot below is from June 25). The boys are enjoying snacking on the leaves now and will have a lot of good eating again this winter.
As usual, Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima) is the real star of this part of the garden (Above, June 25; below; July 2).
You may remember how pleased I was with the alpaca-fleece path back in the spring (below, April 30).
Unfortunately, things got so hectic since then that I didn’t get around to weeding or cutting back any of the perennials, and now the whole area is a jungle (below, July 5). I’ll have to try harder to keep up next year.
The purple fences I used to spruce up the Happy Garden in previous years had finally rotted to pieces, so it was looking very boring here in the spring.
For lack of a better solution, I decided to use my collection of random rusty things here this year.
The low fence that Mom built to enclose the veg garden was a nice upgrade for that area this year.
It still needed some personality, though, so I decided to color it up with some painted bamboo poles, as well as an interesting gate-like thing that Mom and I spotted on the side of the road one day.
Now in their third year, the perennial meadow squares (below) are looking great. Apart from pulling out a few weeds along the edges early this spring, I haven’t had to do anything here. The planting is so dense that the summer weeds didn’t stand a chance.
Finally, some combinations and close-ups, in no particular order.
Above, golden meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria ‘Aurea’) with variegated pokeweed (Phytolacca americana ‘Silberstein’) and ‘Monte Negro’ lily (Lilium) on June 20.
Below, ‘Crème de Menthe’ dogwood (Cornus alba ‘Crimzam’) with ‘Provence’ lavender (Lavandula x intermedia) and ‘Hummelo’ betony (Stachys officinalis) on July 2.
Above, Gloriosa daisy (Rudbeckia hirta) with Veronica grandis on July 1.
Below, ‘Flamenco Samba’ cuphea (Cuphea llavea), an all-purple form of wandering Jew (Tradescantia zebrina), and ‘Santa Cruz Sunset’ tuberous begonia on July 8.
Above, Veronica grandis, ‘Golden Foam’ euphorbia, and ‘Erica’ Culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum) foliage on June 20.
Below, ‘Lanai Candy Cane’ verbena with the pods of ‘Cramer’s Plum’ love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena) on July 2.
Above, ‘Silver and Gold’ yellow-twig dogwood (Cornus sericea) with yellow wild indigo (Baptisia sphaerocarpa) and black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida) foliage, Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima), and Invincibelle Spirit smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens ‘NCHA1’) on July 5.
Below, ‘Sweet Georgia Heart Red’ sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas) with ‘Angelina’ sedum (Sedum rupestre), ‘Zahara Scarlet’ zinnia, ‘Imagination’ verbena, star-of-Persia (Allium christophii) seedheads, and ‘Red Spider’ zinnia (Zinnia tenuifolia) on July 13.
Above, Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima) with ‘Dark Towers’ beardtongue (Penstemon) seedpods, Rozanne geranium (Geranium ‘Gerwat’), and southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum) on July 5.
Below, ‘Becky’ Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum) with garlic (Allium sativum) and cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) on July 5.
Above, ‘Bandana White’ lantana with ‘Lemon Slice’ million bells (Calibrachoa) and ‘Sundew Springs’ hybrid lysimachia on July 13.
Below, ‘Nona’s Garnet Spider’ daylily (Hemerocallis) with ‘Ondra’s Green Mix’ flowering tobacco (Nicotiana), ‘Golden Fleece’ mountain fleeceflower (Persicaria amplexicaulis), and ‘Bull’s Blood’ beet against ‘Red Majestic’ contorted hazel (Corylus avellana) on July 8.
Above, ‘The Blues’ little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) with Southern bush honeysuckle (Diervilla sessilifolia), purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), and ‘Dewey Blue’ bitter panicgrass (Panicum amarum) on July 5.
And last, rose campion (Lychnis coronaria) with Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima), ‘Brookside’ hardy geranium (Geranium), and wild quinine (Parthenium integrifolium) on June 20.
Yay – now I’m all caught up with the garden happenings this summer. After the next Bloom Day, I promise to find something else to write about!