October 29, 2013

The Light in the Morning

In the waning days of October, before last weekend's frost changed everything, there were mornings when the light stopped me in my tracks.

The rays were so specific, lighting up just a tree or a clump of irises, and catching each falling leaf in suspension.

It was startling how bright the colors were as the autumn light was getting lower and lower each morning.

The blueberries gave me such pleasure this summer with bowls of blueberries for my breakfast. Now, long past bearing, they were lit up by the early sun.

'Gro Low' sumac caught fire below a witch hazel as the sun came around the corner of the house.

White reblooming clematis was focused in a shaft of sunlight right outside the kitchen window.

It took me a while to get the coffee made on those mornings. I was too taken with staring out the window at the light.

The first morning that we got a hard frost, the air above was cold too. Contrails streaked across the sky. There were three more V shaped rays just to the right of this shot, but they were exploding directly out of the rising sun and my camera couldn't take the picture, nor could my eyes comprehend what I was seeing. I thought the sky was starting to crack open.
There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in.

The strange, focused light in the morning is different now that frost has announced winter's intentions.  There has been a shift, and the season moves on.

Ring the bells that still can ring 
Forget your perfect offering 
There is a crack in everything 
That's how the light gets in.

October 25, 2013

A Plant That Likes Me

I started with six tiny little plugs in four inch nursery pots.

I planted them in exactly the wrong spot, in too much sun, in dry soil. They normally grow in woodland shade near streams.

I put the six little plants along a raised free draining berm, competing with spruce tree roots and facing full west.

And yet, in hot sun those six tiny plants spread and filled in to become a stunning ground cover all along the berm. Out in the sun they have grown dense and twiggy and full. They color beautifully in fall, all coppery and bronze.

This is yellowroot, Xanthorrhiza simplicissima.

Not only did those six little plants spread into this curving stretch of dense ground cover, but I have dug and moved many to other spots, I have dug several to give away, and I have dug out a lot that were crowding the spruces and hollies. This woody one foot high shrub covers ground.

It's not aggressive, or a problem. It just happily bulks up and stretches out.

The yellowroot that I have seen growing properly in its preferred conditions is a more open plant, growing in individual clumps. In the deep forest or along stream edges it is delicate and I don't recall seeing any fall color.

In my garden, in the sun, it seems to be on steroids.

In summer the foliage is a clear, light green. The leaves look like celery and the roots really are bright yellow. It roots easily, wherever a stem touches the ground.

In April the upright woody stems sport subtle fuzzy purple flowers, just as the leaves emerge.

I did not do my homework when I planted yellowroot. I did not even consider the moisture or light conditions it needed.  I never intended a sweep of ground cover under the spruces, I thought I'd just have six little yellowroot clumps scattered about for effect between the spruces.

But this plant likes me.

It likes me a lot, and has performed beautifully in all the wrong conditions.

October 21, 2013

Recognize This?

Do you recognize this plant?

I saw this compact, glossy shrub at Wave Hill Garden in New York City in early October. It was covered in subtle greenish little flowers. I was struck by its rounded, full shape and the deep green, almost black, shining leaves.

This was an eye catcher and exactly what I think I need for a spot my garden.

Do you know what it is? Does a close up of the little flowers help?

How about a close up of the leaves?

Yes. This is common English ivy, Hedera helix.

Ivy! A dense, full shrub, about three feet high and pleasingly mounded.

Immature, vining ivy leaves
Here is something interesting about ivy: when it is immature it is a vine and we all know how aggressively it climbs and how long it can get. A monster. The leaves have three pointed lobes that we all recognize.

But when an ivy vine reaches the end of its structure or the top of a tree, it has nowhere further to climb, and it then matures.

When ivy matures it changes genetically. The leaves lose their lobed points and become rounded. The vine stops being a vine and the topmost part of the plant becomes shrubby and dense.

If you take a cutting from the shrubby mature part of the ivy, it will keep its altered genetic characteristics -- you get another mature shrub form of the plant.

But if you plant the seeds from the mature flowering ivy, you get an immature vine, and you are back to having rampant vining English ivy.

Weird. I had never seen a mature ivy before, and it was pretty. That alone was worth the trip to Wave Hill, but there were many other delights that day as well.

Wave Hill is in the Bronx, but feels miles away. It's tucked into a busy neighborhood, a couple streets off Broadway, with aggressive traffic whizzing by at its edges, but all is serene inside the grounds.

It overlooks the Hudson River, across from the Palisades.

It is a mature and old garden, with beautiful tree and shrub specimens. That's not a flowering tree -- that snow white blast is the foliage on a variegated 'Wolf Eyes' kousa dogwood.

It had been a private garden originally and has beautiful walks and pergolas, a greenhouse, flowerbeds, and the original stately homes.

It's a relaxing garden, with the iconic Wave Hill chairs dotted about the lawns to encourage sitting, and many families spreading out picnics on the grounds.
The "Wave Hill" chair
I spent more time on our visit sitting around than walking through the garden areas. That's a giant bottlebrush buckeye behind me.

You can't beat a day when you learn something completely new and astonishing about a boring old plant, you get to sit in a beautiful oasis in the city, and you have a bottlebrush buckeye for a backdrop.

Doesn't get any better than that.

October 18, 2013

This Calms Me

All the drama in Washington has seriously unnerved me lately. I am out of sorts and need to calm down. So I turned off the TV and went outside for a walk around my yard.
Aromatic aster - Aster* oblongifolius 'Raydon's Favorite'
(*Symphyotrichum now, but it's hard to change)

The deep red is Itea virginica, with red berries of Aronia arbutifolia behind.
The edges of this shot are purposely blurry. This is an art shot.

This calms me. It just does.

This calms me too, every time I walk down the path and around the curve.

This is the first year the bottlebrush buckeye hedge (Aesculus parviflora) 
has turned so golden yellow in fall.

Sheffield Pink mums (Chrysanthemum, -- they didn't change this name, did they?)

Fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica) has its best season in fall.

Another shot of the itea and the aronia berries above it. 

The west side of the house, with the gravel sitting area behind this garden border.
Do you recognize the little red tree on the left? The sourwood that I post about all the time.

Another look at the west side, with bright red salvia 'Hummingbird' in front of 
the purple Raydon's Favorite asters. 

Candy lily seedpods (Pardancanda norisii. They are very similar to blackberry lilies)

Doublefile viburnum, (V. plicatum tomentosum, 'Shasta').
It's a deep rust color that just doesn't photograph well from a distance.

Up close I can get a richer shot of the doublefile viburnum's leaves

Looking back at the house from the rear of the yard.

Rosa glauca, with no foliage left, but lots of hips.
I transplanted this from another area a few weeks ago. I hope it survives.

 View from behind the iteas. Montauk daisies (Nipponanthemum) 
are bright and cheerful next to the garnet red itea.

Thanks for taking this tour around the yard and staying with me through this post. It's all just random things I saw, no particular meaning and no significant observations, nothing to ponder. Just my garden.

My refuge.
Another art shot with a blurred frame. I like it.

October 13, 2013

Drought Dependent

We had a wet, cooler summer this year and almost everything in my garden loved it. It all looks wonderful, healthy, and beautiful. Plants that were nice enough in prior years have just bloomed and bloomed all season long this year, and filled in where they had not before.

I've already told you that my strawberries and blueberries were abundant. They loved the early spring rains.

I did not know how good it could all look, with just a few extra inches of rain early in the season.

But not all plants loved the wet, cool weather.

I noticed this summer that the wild Queen Anne's Lace was largely missing. In other summers the lacy white wildflowers were everywhere, all along the roadsides and running riot in the meadow behind my yard. This year there were only a dainty few. They must need drier, hot conditions to be at their best.

And this year bush clover Lespedeza thunbergii 'Ido Shibori' was a medium sized green shrub with arching branches that are open and airy. In this photo, in late September, the tiny white flowers are gone by.

What a contrast with last September when this shrub was a giant haystack, covered in a profusion of little blooms.

Yes, this is the same plant. The over-bright lighting in the photo above was terrible when I took it last year, but you can see what a monster it was. Species bush clover can be a huge mess of a plant, but this cultivar, 'Ido Shibori' is a much smaller variety. Even so, it was a big sprawly arching fountain.

The pea-like blooms don't read well from a distance, you need to see them quite close up.

Not only was the entire plant about 2/3 the size it was last year, but the flowers were brief and sparse. The overall shape was actually nicer this year than that big haystack was, and the plant is healthy and fine looking, but I missed the little flowers.

MoBot says lespedeza is drought tolerant, but this experience makes me think it is actually drought dependent for best growth and flowering. It certainly did not respond this year as it has in the previous two hot, dry summers.

What a difference a few extra inches of rain and a July below 100 degrees makes.