Thursday, July 31, 2008

Late Bloom-er

So I started this posting more than a week ago, stepped outside to take a few more pictures, saw about twelve things that needed doing and did some of them, decided I wanted to write something on whimsy, read about fifty wonderful postings, and actually did a (very) little bit of work. Then as I was deadheading Shasta daisies this morning, I remembered this draft languishing--so, a little bit on my white garden while I wait for the bluebirds to move out of the front yard.

On July 16th, almost every blog I follow had a posting about "Bloom Day." Somehow I had missed May Dreams Gardens (how, I don't know, Salix probably distracted me)--and if there's anyone reading this who hasn't visited May Dreams, you best do so--or else in August you're going to feel like you missed a (most important) memo. Short version: on the 15th of each month, garden bloggers post about what's blooming in their gardens. It's a great idea--as individuals, we have records of what blooms when; as collaborators, we get wonderful lists of plants to add; and as researchers, we learn what blooms where when.

So I missed July's Bloom Day, which in my garden is kind of a transitional period--lots of stuff fading, lots of stuff starting, a few things reblooming. Here's my white phlox opening, with a bee to help it along.

I've been nursing this phlox for a couple of years--since we moved it last summer, it's starting to thrive--and I really hope it proves to be as prolific here as it is in other gardens I've read about. Here's more phlox behind and above some Shasta daisy.

Side note on Latin names (once again, see May Dreams Gardens)--I love Latin names, but I'm not always sure what I have. Some plants I received from friends, others I transplanted from my old house, still others hid their tags just to be mischievous. And occasionally I realize that if I take the time to try to find the tags (which might be in one of my old notebooks or in ground with the plant or somewhere in the back of my seven-year-old car), I'll never ever finish this posting. So sometimes I just use the name I'm sure of. Once again, this blog is going to be very important to my self-improvement goals.

My white garden is the most mature and most successful of my beds. I love to look out from our deck at night and see the white flowers glowing. I'm a very amateur photographer, in case that isn't patently obvious, so I haven't been able to capture any good shots at night. But at dusk or under a full moon, the white garden glows.

As anyone who's ever painted a room knows, "white" covers a lot of colors--some whites are super bright, like these gaura and impatiens.

Other whites tend to yellow or pink or lavender, and I try to group the tones a bit: for example, one corner contains a lot of pink tones, as in this calla lily next to the brighter white butterly bush.

Below is a wider shot of the same corner in late May (the picture from my blog layout: the pink tones include penstemon, oenethera, and a rose bush (tag long gone) whose buds have a pink tinge.

To attract bees and other beneficial insects, many white bloomers compensate for their lack of color with intense fragrance. The flower by the arch in the upper right hand corner of the May photo is valerian (I know this one: valeriana officinalis)--in the spring, this one plant fills the entire garden with a wonderful vanilla scent. Unfortunately, deer like the scent, too--or the taste--or maybe it's the fact that valerian is an herbal sleep inducer and the deer suffer from insomnia. Anyway, this is one the few herbs that the deer and I fight about. I hope they sleep soundly.

The butterflies certainly love the smell of the white butterfly bushes.

Here are two views of an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail enjoying a white blossom--

And what I think is a viceroy (I have trouble distinguishing them from monarchs).

The butterly bushes are the main source of fragrance in this garden now--it's otherwise dominated by daisies, coneflower, and gaura. In a few weeks, the chrysanthemum and aster will start to bloom, and I hope a sweet autumn clematis, another very fragrant white flower (the deer got it about a week ago, but I think it should come back).

Some of the white in the garden comes from foliage--variegated Solomon's Seal, ivies, Hosta--one of my favorites is the Lamium maculatum "Alba" spilling out into the paths:

This does have a white flower, and its flowers are just starting to open. But I use it to brighten a shady part of the garden, so it doesn't flower prolifically--its main impact is in its variegation.

A lot of the variegation in the garden right now comes from Hosta. I hear from other gardeners that Hosta does better farther north--it certainly doesn't tolerate sun very well where we are. I haven't had much luck with the big architectural ones like "Royal Standard." And my Impossible Dream is to get Hosta plantaginea flourishing in the white garden--it bears a true white and very fragrant flower--but I've never had one last more than a season. I do okay, however, with some of the smaller variegated cultivars. This one was just called Hosta "Wide Brim" on the tag:

And this one is called Hosta "Whirlaway"; although it doesn't have much white in its variegation, the light yellow catches the morning sun and shines against the bright green:

I'm pretty sure this one is Hosta fortunei "Aurea Marginata"--I've had it for years and of course can't find the tag. But it's found its spot and established itself quite well (in partial shade, next to a holly bush), and its contribution to the white garden comes much more from the foliage than from the (lavender colored) flower.

You may see glimpses of the deer cages in these photos. Our deer (white tails) love hosta more than any other plant in the garden, so I suppose it's just as well that the larger hosta don't achieve their structural magnificence in our heat. The cage would probably spoil the effect.

The white garden isn't just white (and green). Sometimes plants don't run true (volunteer mums and gaura have reverted to pinks and yellows), and sometimes I just screw up (this spring I had two dark purple bearded iris in among the whites and lavenders--but I liked the effect so I left them there). And too much green and white gets monotonous (well, I suppose it wouldn't be monotonous, right? bi-tonous? duo-tonous?) Anyway, I like to mix in color via other foliage. I have an almost mahogany ninebark shrub as a kind of backdrop, and I've interspersed various shades of dark red Heuchera ("Palace Purple," "Prince," "Obsidian") against lime greens or grays or even bright greens.

The photo above is from early June, and shows the Heuchera "Obsidian" between the gray rose campion and the brighter greens of sweet woodruff, Shasta daisy, and chrysanthemum. In this next one, "Palace Purple" is offset by the Lamium on one side and sweet woodruff on the other; there's also some green Heuchera "Vanilla Spice" just beyond the sweet woodruff (another wonderfully fragrant white flower, by the way).

And here, moving into deeper shade, I've nestled some of the Garden Curmudgeon's foam flower under Heuchera "Prince." All of these have white flowers, but I like them best for the contrasts in color they provide.

And speaking of color, I finally caught a shot of my camera-shy visitor in the front yard.

I had to use the digital zoom shooting through a window. I'm using Salix's Nikon Coolpix L3, which is small and great for trips and can take pretty good pictures when I'm careful. But it's my birthday this week, and I think I want something with a better zoom. Any recommendations?

In the meantime, out of deference to the bluebirds, I'm working mostly in the back--and getting ready for bloom day.


Les, Zone 8a said...

Happy Birthday! I hope you got the camera you wanted. My birthday was yesterday - all the best people are born in July. I like to use latin names also, except for when I do not know them, then I would rather not mention the plant at all.

tina said...

I am with you Les, if I don't know the latin name I prefer to not mention the plant. haha!

Cosmo, You did an awesome job capturing your little friend! Such a pretty picture and thru the window too!

Gail said...

Thank you for the tour! You and I have some similar tastes in plants, although, I haven't any hosta...they don't like it here! I love phlox, ninebark is cool and heuchera is a must in my woodlands!

I was looking at my draft section and it is an embarrassment of riches in incomplete posts!

Happy Birthday!


Roses and Lilacs said...

Yes, happy birthday! New camera, my favorite topic. I've been checking the prices on There are several with 18x zoom (equal to about 500mm telephoto on my old slr). LOL even that isn't long enough for birders. Study, study before you buy.

I missed bloom day too.

I like your white garden. It is magical to walk outside in the late evening and see the white 'glowing' from the various plants. That's one of my favorite times in the garden.

Cosmo said...

Thanks for the birthday wishes, everyone. Les, my birthday is actually Sunday, so I can't claim July--but Leo, yes! Tina, thanks for the compliment on the photo--I've learned a bit in the last few weeks, enough to know that I need a camera with a little more range and a lot more precision. So I'm studying hard--all of your beautiful photos are inspiring (if a little intimidating at times)--not to mention your gardens! Anyway, Salix and I are going to spend tonight and tomorrow on line--at least as soon as I get back from the garden.

tina said...

Cosmo, Please don't be intimidated by my little garden. I hate to be intimidated myself and would SO not wish to intimidate anyone else! I am the most down to earth gardener you will ever meet and one who shares all that I have. No intimidation please! Just enjoy!

Cosmo said...

Tina (and everyone)--"Intimidating" was TOTALLY the wrong word--I should have stopped at "inspiring." Hmm. So, remember "Wayne's World"? So imagine me as Wayne, bowing beofre your gardens, saying "I am not worthy!" Really, I didn't mean intimidating at all--this community has been incredibly welcoming and helpful. I meant to convey admiration, and you'd think I'd have the words under better control. Must be my advancing age . . .

tina said...

Oh no! It is okay! Inspiring is so much better. I get intimidated sometimes too and so I was maybe overly concerned with it. Inspiring I can do!

Sarah Laurence said...

That’s so funny: Ranunculus does look like the “life is good” dog! Interesting thoughts on the shades of white. When I paint from nature I also consider that. I love that you’ve held onto the wild parts of your land while still gardening. I have less than an acre myself, but a good part of it is natural forest.

What a terrific bluebird photo! Aren’t you lucky to have them visit. I also love the butterfly photos. If you are serious about taking bird photos, you’ll want a lens with a long focal length (at least SLR 200mm equivalent) and a tripod, otherwise a regular point-and-shoot should be fine for blogging. More about DSLR vs. point and shoot in my response to your comment on my blog.

You are already taking great photos with what you have, but presents are about what you want more than what you need. Happy Birthday!

Lisa said...

I love this post AND your white garden. I agree with Sarah that you already take lovely photos but I can't wait to see what you do with your new toy.

Have a great birthday, sweetie!

Rose said...

Cosmo, If you read some of Carol of May Dreams' earlier posts, she would say you had a case of "GADS," which is Gardening...Distractions Syndrome:) It's hard not to catch it !

Beautiful butterfly pictures, and thanks for all the comments on fragrant flowers--I'm taking notes on all these.

Your bluebird photo is great--I never see bluebirds here, so I'm quite jealous:)

I left a note for you on my blog, but in answer to your question about my camera, I have a Sony Cybershot with just your standard 3x digital (or is it optical?) zoom. I, too, long for a better camera.

Eve said...

When I as growing up, we had a moonflower vine that was the prettiest thing at night. I love white and green and the older I get the more I lean toward a less colorful garden. The greens and whites are just so restful. And here in the South, they just seem to make the whole yard cooler.

Cosmo said...

Hi, Eve--I absolutley love moonflower, and I wish I could buy it already started. But I've pretty much had to sow it from seed, and it's 50-50 whether it comes up--some years I have ten plants, other years, none. This is a none year, unfortunately, especially at this time of year when the moonflower would be one of the only things starting to bloom. But maybe next year . . .