Sunday
May142017

My Beautiful May Garden

What makes a beautiful garden?Color, certainly. Healthy plants. Proportion and balance. Variety. Movement and flow, repetition. Fragrance. All those things, but much more. A beautiful garden can be humble or grand. It is highly personal. For me: a peaceful atmosphere, comfort, birdsong, memories, a little whimsy.

May is a beautiful month! I want to be outside every day, tending my garden. I love Confederate jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides), which is in full bloom on the arch by the patio. The intoxicating fragrance is a delight whenever I walk under it. I can also catch a whiff of rosemary. Nearby, pink 'Anthony Waterer' Spirea is blooming.

Coral drift roses line one edge of the patio, along with bacopa and a silvery artemesia:

On the patio table is a ceramic green rabbit, a souvenir I brought home from Hills and Dales Estate in LaGrange, Georgia, a very grand and gorgeous garden!

Here are more images of some of the flowers in my May garden:1st row: 'Penelope' rose; 'Anthony Waterer' spirea; Lichnis coronaria, commonly called rose campion. 2nd row: Yarrow; Calibrachoa; 'Snowflake' Hydrangea. 3rd row: Rosa palustris, also called swamp rose; Coral honeysuckle; Gardenia Jasminoides 'Kleims Hardy', a dwarf gardenia bush.

As much as I love flowers, I am also drawn toward colorful foliage. I purchased a variegated geranium without even knowing what color the blooms were; the leaves are spectacular! It has started blooming now, and the orange blooms complement its foliage perfectly. Near the steps leading from the patio to the arbor garden are two 'Francis Williams' Hostas, Japanese painted fern, and an interesting plant with variegated arrow-shaped leaves, 'Red Dragon' Persicaria. I have placed an unlikely companion next to one of the the hostas: a red poinsettia, left over from Christmas and still looking good! 

Clockwise from top left: 'Francis Williams' Hosta with poinsettia in background and a neighboring branch belonging to Edgeworthia chrysantha; A variegated geranium; 'Red Dragon' Persicaria and 'Francis Williams' hosta; 'Red Dragon' Persicaria and Japanese painted fern.

I have featured 'Tropicana' Canna lily a number of times over the years. Its bold colors hold up well to the hot sun that bathes the front of our house in summer:

The stone steps leading down to the much shadier woodland garden are located across from the front parking area. One of my favorite views of the woodland garden (shown many times on this blog!) is seen from the bottom of the steps. Moss paths tie different parts of the woodland garden together and give it a peaceful, quiet atmosphere:

The white birdhouse in this photo was home to a family of bluebirds, recently fledged:

I put this little woodland sitting area in last year. It is near an area featuring ferns and native azaleas. Moss and ground covers will soon carpet the ground around the chairs. That is an old iron magazine rack holding small potted begonias. The blue flowers are Tourenia fournier, also called wishbone flower. It is my newly discovered favorite annual for shade. Tourenia comes in various colors. The cobalt blue blooms of this one are fabulous. I also planted lime green Scotch Moss (Sagina subulata), Creeping Jenny, and wild violets in this area. :

More plants in the woodland garden:1st row: Japanese felt fern; 'Whitewater' weeping redbud; Hardy begonia. 2nd row: Athyrium filix-femina 'Lady in Red'; bench next to fern glade; Polystichum acrostichoides, a native fern also known as Christmas fern. 3rd row: Hellebore whose red blooms have faded to green; wild violets; Woodland rabbit with Colocasia.

This beautiful Bird's Nest fern (Asplenium nidus) stays in the woodland garden until cold weather arrives. It spends the winter inside, but it flourishes outside when the weather warms:

What about you? What makes you pause in a garden? How do you define beauty? The wonder is that I have seen many beautiful gardens, and they are all different!

You may also enjoy my previous post, Seven Elements of a Beautiful Garden.

Sunday
Apr302017

Charmed by Mock Orange

I am charmed by the old-fashioned mock orange growing in my garden. It is a tall, multi-stemmed shrub that produces copious, citrusy-smelling white blooms in spring that are attractive to butterflies.

The particular variety I have is Philadelphus coronarius, called the sweet mock orange. It is also sometimes called English dogwood, though there is no relation to the flowering dogwood tree. There are many Philadelphus species and cultivars, and not all of them are fragrant; so if fragrance is important to you, it is best to purchase your plant when it is blooming. Philadelphus virginalis and Philadelphus lewisii are also noted as fragrant species.

There are small varieties, such as Philadelphus virginalis, which grows to 4' tall x 2' wide, but many mock oranges are large shrubs or small trees, growing up to 12 feet or larger, often as wide as tall. Be sure to give them plenty of room! These are vigorous, easy-to-grow plants that are drought tolerant and that have few pests. Hardy in USDA zones 4-8, they will adapt to many soils but prefer well-drained, loamy conditions. They like full sun to partial shade.

Some people complain that mock oranges are one-season plants. Most mock oranges are deciduous but offer little fall color. The long, twiggy, often drooping branches can become dense and unkempt. I protest! There are newer cultivars for smaller gardens, and there are also some available with striking colored or variegated foliage. As for the larger types, I have easily maintained my mock orange in an attractive vase shape by selective pruning once a year after blooming. I remove unwanted runners and also prune out up to a third of old branches at the base. This promotes good air flow through the plant and improves blooming. 

Note: Do not confuse Philadelphus with the Japanese mock orange, Pittosporum tobira, which is a completely different plant. It helps to know the Latin!