Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Checking in on the front yard

I've been having a hard time with photographing the plants in the lab and the front yard, hence the lack of updates when things are blooming like mad there. My house is south facing (so much light) and I'm a crappy photographer with a point-and-shoot, so my attempts at capturing the prettiness have been lacking. Here was the lab when it was first planted:

And now with the roses towering over everything. I pruned mine in February, while my neighbor did not. They all got powdery mildew. They all look pretty terrible.

The lab has largely been successful, although the Baptisia I planted never came up (I'm waiting until next year to see if it's dead or just focusing on root formation right now) and my Collinsia fried and died. The color palate in this section is a hot mess but I had decided way back when that I wouldn't care about color combinations. I've got red, yellow, pink, and every color of rose in between.

One of the few good roses. Neglect suits you.

Clearly the wind is whipping through this section from the north because everything is leaning southward, like Agastache 'Blue blazes.' 

I have to say, I'm not a purple flower kind of girl but I love this plant. The color leans toward the hot side and like it.

And Penstemon pseudospectabilis 'Coconino County' may have gotten too much water this year because it grew, fell over, and then decided to bloom its heart out. While lying in the dirt. It just looks demoralized.

Girl, stand up straight.

Yup, my Eryngium tripartitum fell over too.

I asked Greg to rig up some sort of support for it while I was visiting my family in California. This was mean because this plant is prickly and constantly covered in bees. He's a good man.

Silene asterias put up four glorious cherry drumsticks and then kind of petered out. I deadheaded it and now I wait to see if it will do anything more. I may just have to wait until its second year for it to put on a show. I even gave it some fish emulsion. This is the first time in my life I've ever gotten my act together enough to fertilize something.

My very favorite plant is Knautia macedonica, which is so freaking hard to photograph without a macro lens. It has very tidy foliage that shoots up long branching stems with flowers that weave and bob through everything. It's awesome and you should look at Scott's photos if you're not familiar with it.

Angelica stricta purpurea is blooming like crazy on lovely purple stems. I love the form, I love how easy this plant is, but that color just sets my teeth on edge. It's too lavender for my tastes. I won't plant this biennial again after it expires next year, even though it's behaved perfectly. It doesn't help that there's a tomato red birdbath and a red blooming Crocosmia 'Lucifer' just to the left.

And in the front yard . . . here we were on June 30th.

And on July 30th:

Most notably the Silver Fire Chalice (Zauschneria california 'Wayne's Select') has grown like mad and is starting to bloom. I'm going to have to watch the spread on this guy.

My moonbeam coreopsis exploded.

My castor bean plant (Ricinus) has put on a ton of growth and always looks to me like a little man sunning himself.

I'm hoping it will set seed (warning: crazy poisonous!) so I can plant some more of this annual next year. I'm enjoying the quick height it can achieve while I wait for my Mahonia to get bigger.

In the berm the Penstemon centranthifolius “Scarlet Bugler” has started blooming.

As have the Drosanthemum micans. I'm digging these blooms a lot.

I'm an unapologetic lover of marigolds, especially these huge Day of the Dead marigolds. The cannas are pushing up new foliage but they haven't gained any height yet. I really want height here.

I have three New Zealand wind grasses and I love their form. I've had zero complaints about this grass and I can't wait to see how they look in the fall.

I mistakenly bought one Agastache 'Golden Jubilee' when I wanted a mass of them. I was at Portland Nursery a few weeks later, standing in front of them thinking, "I need to remember to buy two more of these," and . . . I forgot again. I had hoped that they would look great against the dark purple Sedum 'Matrona' right behind, but this hasn't been quite the thrilling combo I'd hoped for. I think they need to be right next to each other for it to work.

Some of the grasses and sedges are performing like champs. Some of them are destined for the compost bin. Dagger-leaf rush (Juncus ensifolius) has gotten thin and fried looking. It can't handle drying out during the summer so I'm pulling these all out.

U-G-L-Y you ain't got no alibi.

Slough sedge, you get to stay!

Carex obnupta. Pretty even in the heat.

Now that things are getting bigger and filling in, I need to do some rearranging. I hadn't envisioned a perennial garden out front but that's kind of what I ended up with. I need to work in a few more small evergreen plants so I'm not left with an Oregon Grape and some grasses, surrounded by a wasteland of spent perennials in the winter. I wanted to work in a black daphne (Daphne houtteana) but I think its water needs are going to be higher than everything else out here. Anybody have evergreen, low-water plant ideas?


  1. How long did your Silene flowers last? I've had my eye on that plant for a while but haven't gotten it yet. Did you get in town or from Annie's? The front yard is coming along nicely! Seeing your Angelica stricta is a hoot. I got one the year before last and expected it to flower this year. It got taller, and taller and taller and it wasn't purple at all. Now it's about 10 feet tall and starting to flower. It's not even an Angelica! I have no idea what it is. I guess that's the danger of perennial sales in the winter.

  2. I think my flowers last about ten days, they they go brown overnight and the stem slumps over. And yes, I got this one from Annie's. I don't think I've seen it in town, though I've never really gone looking for it either. :)

    Your not-Angelica cracks me up. My plant knowledge is so sparse I know that has happened/will happen more to me.

    "Isn't my Angelica pretty?"
    "Heather, that's a Douglas Fir."
    "Oh. Oh shit."

  3. We planted those same marigolds and loved them but they grew like gangbusters and took over everything, which at the time wasn't our goal. Now I need something fast growing and stubborn so I might have to revisit this. Thanks for the reminder!

  4. Call me crazy, but I love red/purple combos: thinking that Angelica would be dynamite with a WHOLE BUNCH of Crocosmia 'Lucifer' around it. The Castor Bean has it figured out: watch for the fuzzy, bright red flower/seed pods & you'll see what I mean.

  5. But but but what about the Hesperaloe....and the Agaves? How are THEY doing?

  6. It all looks promising, but just wait until next year when you will get the mass and fill and total effect you long for!

    For evergreen dry-lovers in the front garden, I suggest a dwarf globe blue spruce. Small, tidy, low growing and roundish, with silver blue foliage that would pop against the darker color of your house, especially in winter. And in summer it gives you something dense for visual weight among the grassy, leafy, shrubby upright things. The canna will do that too when it gets its height on.

    I do love Scott's macedonia plants, and his shots of them. I hope yours delight like his do!

  7. Thank you, again, for all your great suggestions. You always articulate so well what a landscape needs to make it look good. I'd been considering a Mugo pine (my hesitation being that they are ubiquitous) so this would be a good alternative.

  8. Ah, you're so right! I don't know why I didn't post about them. They are loving the sun--the color on their tips have intensified and the plants generally seem more attenuated. I'll fix this. :)

  9. Looks so good...I love how well everything is filling in...and I was just wondering the other day what happened with that strip in front. I might actually have some Agastache 'Golden Jubilee' seedlings you could have if you wanted...I just have to pry them out of the sidewalk ;-)

  10. I have Knautia macedonica also but I have mixed feelings about it. First of all, I feel the need to deadhead it constantly. It also self-sows more than I like.

    Anyhow, your front yard looks beautiful. I love the scarlet bugler.

  11. Thanks, Jason! This is my first season with it, so we'll see how I feel about it next spring when I have volunteers everywhere.