Lasting Landscapes by Carol

October Skies

Despite the overwhelming number of tasks facing gardeners like me in the fall, I adore the autumn season and the blooms that come with it. You heard me right – amazing blooms in the fall provided by Asters, one of my favorite perennials.

‘October Skies’ Aster (Symphyotricum oblongifolium) is a wonderful variety that grows about two feet tall and wide. I planted some on my sunny bank last fall and cut them back by half in June to help ensure a dense habit. Today they are putting on quite a show.

Lasting Landscapes by Carol

Aster ‘October Skies’ planted en masse.

‘Raydon’s Favorite’ is very similar to October Skies but in my experience is a bit taller and darker in color, topping out around three feet. Raydon’s Favorite also blooms later than October Skies, which helps to ensure a long-lasting flower show. Both October Skies and Raydon’s Favorite are colorful, deer resistant groundcovers.

Lasting Landscapes by Carol

Aster Raydon’s Favorite pairs beautifully with Tricyrtis.

Recently I was introduced to another Aster – Aster ericoides ‘Snow Flurry,’ a diminutive form reaching several inches high with petite, white blooms. Snow Flurry will spread to a two-foot mass and is lovely in the front of the border or in a rock garden.

Lasting Landscapes by Carol

Aster Snow Flurry has a compact habit with pristine miniature blooms.

Got shade?  No worries. There is an Aster for you too.  Aster divaricatus thrives in my dry shade garden and spreads around readily. If you have limited space, why not choose Ampelaster carolinianus, a climbing aster that happily rambles on a trellis or a fence. Mine bloomed in the winter last year.

Lasting Landscapes by Carol

Aster divaricatus

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Ampelaster carolinianus climbs on structures and blooms late

Maybe you are lucky enough to have a large, sunny spot and room for a meadow. Aster laevis is a great option for that situation. Pops of purple and blue on three-foot stems really stand out among the seed heads of grasses.

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All of these Asters are native to North America so what’s not to like? If you haven’t already introduced Asters to your landscape, I encourage you to do so. If you are already in love with Asters – please comment and let me know which ones you adore and why!

Lasting Landscapes by Carol

Pretty as a Picture

For years I have been making a photo calendar with images from my garden. I looked at all of them recently and noticed some consistent components, but also many additions and changes. The continual rebirth of the garden is something I love along with the joy that comes from taking note of every moment and every season.

Lasting Landscapes by Carol

My winterberry holly has brought me (and the birds) joy for years

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Anemone Honorine Jobert and Aronia pair perfectly for fall interest

September is a notoriously busy month for gardeners. We dig, divide, plant, move and tidy up.  This process brings us peace and fills us with anticipation for spring and the realization of our new vision.

Lasting Landscapes by Carol

Last fall I added some Chelone from a friend who was thinning theirs out. I love the combination of Chelone and the fall color of Viburnum nudum.

Lasting Landscapes by Carol

Bulbs bring recurring joy to gardeners. Colchicums peek through the foliage of other plants.

I encourage you take time during the fall season to capture some garden moments for yourself. Either take mental images or photos to record what’s happening in your landscape. Then repeat textural or color combinations that are working and address plant combinations or spacing that no longer make sense. Consider adding some plant material too. There are always new plants coming to market that have interesting colors, shapes, blooms or other desirable characteristics. I continue to remove more lawn and add more gardens. Feel free to follow in my footsteps if you like.

Lasting Landscapes by Carol

I added Helenium to my containers this year and will use them again next year. I adore the look. A wonderful alternative to mums.

Lasting Landscapes by Carol

My new Metasequoia ‘Soul Fire’ looks magnificent as a backdrop to Physocarpus ‘Summer Wine.’

Lasting Landscapes by Carol

A year ago I removed a large section of lawn that I tired of mowing. Now it’s filled with sun loving perennials like Molinia ‘Sky Racer’ and Scuttelaria incana.

Promise me you will take time to enjoy playing in the garden during the frenzy of the fall. Take it from me, it’s a lot more fun that cleaning windows or changing out your wardrobe for the winter months. I hope you will share your garden changes and additions with me. I’d love to hear what you are doing.

Lasting Landscapes by Carol

Loving the Light

One of the things I adore about my new career as a landscaper designer is sharing ideas with other landscape professionals.  My friend and fellow designer Eric Sternfels recently wrote an article on backlit plants which helped me view my garden and think about client gardens in a whole new way.

Eric encourages us take notice of the special effects that happen when plants are located between our eyes and the sun. I agree with Eric that these moments caused by Mother Nature and helped by the thoughtful placement of plants can create magic and drama.

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The seed heads of Actaea racemosa

Lasting Landscapes by Carol

A hosta transformed by light

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Phlox paniculata backlit by the sunset

Lasting Landscapes by Carol

Lonicera leaves sparkling in the path of the sun

Seed heads, leaves and blooms all benefit from the sun’s illumination. And keep in mind we are not just talking about plants transformed by sunsets but also by sunrises. On my own property I have noticed how beautiful the seed heads of Molinia ‘Skyracer’ are during the morning sunrise as viewed from my kitchen window. My Acer Griseum (Paperbark Maple) and Hydrangea paniculata are also totally transformed by the morning light.

Lasting Landscapes by Carol

Molinia ‘Skyracer’ backlit by the sunrise

Lasting Landscapes by Carol

Acer griseum sparkles in the morning sun

Lasting Landscapes by Carol

Hydrangea paniculata petals become almost translucent

 

Eric suggests studying the path of sun to determine the places best suited for backlit ‘botanical theatre.’ He believes the east and west horizons offer the best sun angles and that open areas unobstructed by walls or dense plantings help to ensure the most spectacular show. During late summer I’ve been witnessing backlit beauty daily as I watch the sun illuminate the plants in my landscaped beds.

Thinking about Eric’s perspective made me pause and observe my garden at different times of day and think about plant placement with intention. The next time you plant something, consider its location carefully. Color, texture and form are important, but so is the placement of the plant in relation to the sun. Plan for extraordinary moments and I’m confident you will be rewarded by them.

Amsonia hubricthii

Cutting a new garden instead of the lawn

In the April 2019 issue of Fine Gardening Magazine, Editor Steve Aitken shared his thoughts on the significant moments in time that shape our evolution as gardeners. I had to chuckle at his comment that a true gardener would explain to a non-gardener that “The lawn is just the place you stand when looking at your plants.”

As a passionate plant person, I am often tempted by plants at the nursery. I’ll see a new perennial, tree or shrub and think to myself, “I have to have one of those.” This addiction of sorts explains why I continue to remove more lawn and add more gardens. Some of my friends think I’m crazed to add more beds to maintain in my 1.3 acre garden, but I find joy in the new plantings and feel the reward of the continually changing landscape is worth the effort.

To that end, this year I added a bed over 100 feet long which parallels a wall at the front of my property. On a slope, this new area has sections in shade, part shade and full sun and is well drained. The best part about developing this space into a garden is that I no longer have to mow on a hill, which was becoming harder and more dangerous the older I got. Sounds like a good reason to remove tons of sod, don’t you think?

Newly installed garden bed on a slope

My newly installed garden bed with many of the new plants in place.

I planted some favorites like Helleborus HONEYMOON® ‘New York Night’, Deutzia ‘Nikko’, Amsonia hubrichtii and Lonicera pileata ‘Moss Green’. I also added some new plants including Penstemon ‘Black Beard’, Lespedeza thunbergii ‘Gibraltar’ and Diervilla ‘Cool Splash’. I incorporated Pycnanthemum muticum, Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ and  Aster ‘October Skies’ to attract pollinators and Molinia ‘Skyracer’ as a ‘see through’ plant. Some wonderful nursery friends gave me unique specimens including Indigofera kirilowii and Hypericum x Blue Velvet™ and I’m saving space for a Cercis ‘Flame Thrower®’ which I am hoping will be available in 2020. Is that enough Latin for you? Are your eyes glazing over yet?  How about if I stop my plant talk and share some photos of these beauties so you can see why I am so enthralled!

Agastache Blue Fortune

Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ blooms from mid-summer into fall and attracts many pollinators

amsonia hubrichtii

Amsonia hubrichtii was the 2011 Perennial Plant of the Year and is a favorite in my garden. The fall color can’t be beat.

Chinese Indigo

Indigofera kirilowii (Chinese Indigo) has Wisteria-like pink flowers in the summer and showy yellow leaves in the fall.

Diervilla Cool Splash

Diervilla Cool Splash adds nice contrast to the border.

Molinia Skyracer

Eventually the tall plumes of Molinia ‘Skyracer’ will steal the show when backlit by the sun.

Mountain Mint

I’m very excited about Pycnanthemum muticum and its ability to attract pollinators.

While the new bed is immature, I look forward to seeing the plants grow in the years to come. I promise to share my triumphs and my trials. After all, that’s what gardening is all about. We collaborate with Mother Nature and make adjustments as needed to achieve the desired aesthetic. Now like a true gardener, I will prepare the garden for winter and patiently wait for spring!

drift-2Bof-2Bconifers.JPG

A Garden Defined

During a recent vacation to Banff, Canada to do some hiking, I found myself awe-inspired by the views of lakes, mountains, waterfalls, glaciers and open meadows. The experience made me stop and think about gardens in a new way. I wondered whether Mother Nature’s masterpieces would be considered ‘gardens’ by modern definition.

According to dictionary.com, a garden is defined as

1.  a plot of ground, usually near a house, where flowers, shrubs, vegetables or herbs are cultivated.

2.  a piece of ground or other space, commonly with ornamental plants, trees, etc., used as a park or other public recreation area:  a public garden. 

3.  a fertile and delightful spot or region.

 I would put the Banff landscape in the category of ‘delightful spots’ for sure. In fact, I think Mother Nature did a great job with the native landscape in Canada. She evoked a positive response in me and enabled me to connect to each space I visited in a unique way. As I captured scene after scene with my camera, I realized that certain patterns were emerging. Natural patterns that were further explored in W. Gary Smith’s book ‘From Art to Landscape’. Gary believes we find patterns all around us in the native landscape that provide repetition of color, texture or form and help to unify a space. These different patterns include mosaics, naturalistic drifts and serpentines, among others. As I reviewed the images I captured on my camera, I realized my photos represented nearly all of these concepts and natural designs.

A drift near Lake Louise
A mosaic of wildflowers in Sunshine Meadows
A serpentine river at Bow Glacier

Piet Oudolf, an influential Dutch garden designer, nurseryman and author has become popular world-wide due to his naturalistic approach to gardening. In his book ‘Designing with Plants’, Piet said, “My biggest inspiration is nature. I do not want to copy it but to recreate the emotion. What I try to do is build an image of nature.” 

Piet observed that beauty can be seen in nature on every single day of the year. If Mother Nature can accomplish this, we can too. I believe we simply have to focus on naturally occurring patterns and the cycles of life. Piet points out that birth equals spring, life equals summer, and death equals fall/winter. By using these guidelines, we can effectively combine color, texture and form in a way that looks natural, inviting and interesting throughout the year.

Hydrangea in spring (birth)
Hydrangea in summer (life)
Hydrangea in winter (death)

The next time you visit a nursery, think about how the plant will look during each season and plan your gardens around these seasons of interest. The next time you travel, look at the naturally occurring patterns in Mother Nature’s ‘gardens’ and consider replicating their impression. By incorporating form and pattern, you can bring nature into your own landscape and build a closer relationship with wild spaces. And who doesn’t want that?