As you probably know about me already, I love Nature. Although it doesn't happen every weekend, my wife and I regularly take trips to some park, conservation area, or other place of Nature. (Besides my own backyard that is.)
Although Missouri has many state parks, it has many more "Conservation Areas". Conservation Areas are to State Parks what National Monuments are to National Parks -- they're usually not as big, have fewer amenities, but can be just as impressive. This past weekend we visited for the first time a couple of the closest Conservation Areas to our house.
I realized last evening as I walked the garden -- we've had a week of wonderfully cool weather here in St. Louis so it's a joy to be outside -- that many of my plants make great combinations when looked at from different angles.
So I'm going to try and give you a sense of this with many images. I started at the front door, went down the driveway, then circled the backyard ending up on the deck stairs. Sort of a clockwise circuit of the garden, but skipping the south side. Let's start! (It's important to read the image captions, as that's where most of the info is in this post)
Ever since I built the screen from the shower door I've been paying more attention to this sort of thing in other gardens. Luckily I have gardening friends in garden-rich areas of the country (Seattle and Portland especially) where garden tours and open garden weekends are as common as garage sales it seems, so I've seen some great examples of mirrors in gardens. I'm ready to give that a try in my own garden!
I have a couple of large mirrors in the garage that I've been saving for some future project, but they're so heavy and too big (and buried behind lots of collected lumber, doors, and other goodies) so I've not been motivated to try a mirror in the garden. That changed recently when new neighbors moved in a few doors down.
Grasses are one of my favorite plants to grow, and one of my favorites of the last few years has been "Vertigo" fountain grass (Pennisetum purpureum 'Tift 8'). I have it in several places in the ground, and in a pot where the walkway meets the street. Although the pot gives it some extra height and makes it that much more impressive, now that the grass has reached its full height it's starting to look a little ragged around its feet.
I completed a couple of refurbishing or "makeover" projects this weekend. The first was unique for me for two reasons: it was not for my own garden, and it was a trashcan!
Today I have three questions that you, my gardening, plant-loving friends, might be able to help me answer. I'll jump right in to question 1:
What is this plant? It seems familiar, as if I've seen it on Loree's blog (danger garden), or maybe it was the blog of Mark and Gaz (Alternative Eden)? I spent a little time searching for it, but I don't have enough details to make that worthwhile.
I want to show you three plants in my garden that I'd describe as "powerful", as they have amazing visual impact and impressive size. They all happen to be Missouri natives too, which is a huge plus.
I'll start it off with a rudbeckia that you might not be aware of. It's not for the small garden but would make a fantastic back row planting: Rudbeckia subtomentosa or "sweet coneflower".
Of course I've been acquiring new plants recently, why wouldn't I? Just because it's the hottest part of summer and I have literally dozens of plants still in their nursery pots on my driveway, doesn't mean that I shouldn't continue to feed my obsession, right?
So I thought I'd take a look at some of the newest flora that I've added. A few of these I may have covered briefly in other posts, but most of this should be new (here). Starting with 'Chocolate Chip' Ajuga above. It's been around for a few years but I've only this year decided that the "wild" Ajuga growing in my garden isn't enough, and how could I resist those cute little leaves?
I visited my mother in Chicago again this weekend and brought her some more plants for her garden. The surprise though was that I came home with something for my garden. An old, rusty, wonderful fire hydrant!
It was in her garage, ready to be recycled as scrap. "Can I have it for my garden?" I asked my brother. "Of course!" he said. Since he's turning into a plant person and has seen my garden via my blog, did he know it would look great surrounded by greenery? Did he not envision it but trusted my judgement?
Last weekend we took a day trip into Missouri wine country, something we'll do a couple of times each summer. Although there are several choices within 60-90 minutes of St. Louis, we chose Hermann this time.
A German settlement started around 1840 on the bank of the Missouri river, many of the historic buildings are still around, and the often-imposing hills make this a picturesque place to spend a day sipping wine, antique shopping, and watching the river flow by.
Last weekend we attended a small wedding held at a unique location: Soulard Station. Once a Sinclair gas station back when historic Route 66 was the road through St. Louis, it has been renovated and is now a wonderful small event space surrounded by surprisingly lush gardens.
I focused on the gardens, but visit their website or do a Google image search on "soulard station" and you'll find plenty of images of the building itself. Let's take a quick look around...
One of my favorite plants is the Fargesia 'Rufa' bamboo next to the patio. Although it's getting big it's just so beautiful I don't mind brushing against it when squeezing past. When it put on some height this spring I was excited, forgetting that once the culms leaf out fully they'll just bend over, resulting in a splayed out plant.
That's how it's been for a month or two -- a heavy rain once in a while just accentuates the problem -- and this past weekend I decided to gather the central culms and tie them together to give the plant its proper form again. I knew that I'd have to sort of wade into the plant in order to reach everything, so that's what I did. After a few minutes of wrestling deep inside the plant I made a discovery.
Cooler temperatures have arrived this week, which means that I actually want to be out in the garden. The perfect time for a closer look at everything, right?
All macro shots in this post, including quite a few insects. I'm starting with the spherical blooms of rattlesnake master, Eryngium yuccafolium.
A while back I showed you a couple of projects that I had started: refurbishing my patio chairs, and using an old shower door to create a garden screen. Both of those projects were not quite finished, as the chair needed a stain or protection of some kind, and the screen needed to similarly be protected and also installed.
I couldn't have it just leaning against my house, blocking my garage door forever. So this past weekend I tackled both projects, completing both!
We had some thunderstorms move through the St. Louis area last night just as it was getting dark. At first the storm clouds were reflecting the rays of the setting sun, causing them to be a strange yellowish-orange color overhead as the rain poured down (sorry, no photos). Several minutes later when it was darker the lightning started.
We get thunderstorms quite regularly here, and although this wasn't a system that was strong enough to spawn tornadoes, dump loads of hail, or have frightening winds (at least around us -- perhaps it was worse in other parts of the city?) one thing it did have was lightning. An amazing amount of lightning.
I look at the planting beds in my front yard more than any others. My office window faces the front, I walk out the front door several times a day, and I see it from the street when arriving home.
I'm pretty happy with how it's looking right now (with a few exceptions) so I thought I better share it before something crazy happens, like a hailstorm, deer stampede, or who knows what else.
For somebody who is obsessed with plants, constantly caring for them, helping them to look their best, the way I treat my lawn is a bit surprising. You see, I just don't really care about the lawn. The turf grasses are left to fight it out with the weeds. I practice the "mow what grows" philosophy most of the time.
So yes, my lawn contains weeds. They become especially apparent when we go for relatively long stretches without much rain, when there's no reason (that I see) to mow, and the weeds reveal themselves to all by confidently rising above the turf. That's how I noticed the other day that the quality of my lawn weeds has really increased this year. (Quantity may have increased too...)
Over the past few weeks I've been working on a project that I've planned for a while. You see, the area under my deck is pretty much wasted space, relegated to winter plant storage and shade-loving plants that I need to get out of the way. It's just too dark for anything else:
This has really been bothering me lately, so I did something about it.
Back in 2012 I visited Ted's garden a few times, helping him to get his impressive bamboo grove under control. Ted moved later that year and this past weekend he invited me to see his "new" place and garden.
It was about 5PM when we arrived, the sun blazing into our faces from the west on this hot day, so I didn't take too many photos of the house, but I will on a future visit as it's architecturally significant. You can actually read an article about this Bernoudy house here.
Did you know that this blog is not the only place you can experience It's not work, it's gardening?
That's right, you can find me on all of the social media sites!
My patch of common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is quite large this year, probably bigger than it should be, as it has taken over a good portion of my prairie beds. More for monarch butterflies to find was my thinking. I check for caterpillars a few times each week, and so far, nothing. I've seen a few monarchs cruising around the garden, but what were they waiting for? Have I "sacrificed" my beds for nothing?
This past Saturday I noticed another monarch cruising around, but this one was different -- it was actually landing on the plants!