August 31, 2015

Garden Lessons and Life Parallels

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Our youngest has officially moved out and on to her first post-college apartment. We're true empty-nesters now! Over the weekend, the kids and I watched old family videos of their early years. And the swift passage of time, once again, became brutally apparent.

As I reflect on "garden lessons learned" during the past season, my mind naturally strays toward parallels--lessons learned in parenting that can be applied to gardening, and vice versa. (For those new to this "lessons learned" meme, we invite gardeners to share things they've learned during the past season. This meme runs from the meteorological end of each season to the next equinox or solstice.)

So, I thought I'd try a little exercise. Whether you're a parent, a mentor, a teacher, a friend, or a neighbor, you've likely played an important role in the life of a child. What parallels do you find between their growth and development and the growth and development of your garden? Try substituting "child" or "young one" for the word "garden" in the following passages:

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Savor your garden's magic--those rare moments when a scene or a sensory experience or an event captures your attention and makes you pause in wonder. Sometimes "savor" will mean taking a photo of your garden for remembrance or to share with others. Other times, it will mean simply sitting back, observing your garden, and reflecting on your blessings. These magical moments pass too quickly.

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Your garden will never be perfect. How does one define "perfect," anyway? Some gardens are wild, some are tidy, and many more are between the extremes. Do the best with what you have and the natural attributes of your garden. Nurture your garden to support life in its many forms.

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Ask your garden: "How would you like to change or improve, and how can I help you get there?" It's likely your garden will speak to you--responding with a vision for its improvement.

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Sometimes messy, difficult, and painful things will happen to your garden. Other times, your garden will let you down. Don't give up. These challenges are usually transitions to a better, stronger, or different stage of development.

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Try new things with your garden. Change builds character and strength. Plus, it's fun! Sometimes you'll wonder why it took you so long to explore these new adventures!

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Don't take it personally. When your garden seems unruly and difficult, remind yourself that it's probably simply a stage. And if you put a little extra effort into it--or sometimes if you simply step away for a while--things will improve with time. Or, maybe time will help you accept the inevitable circumstances.

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Be present. One day your garden will be young; the next, it will be mature. Observe what's happening with your garden now. Yes, reminisce a bit about how your garden looked in the past, and be hopeful for its future. But remember to be proud and grateful for where your garden is right now.

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Focus on what is beautiful and fabulous; not on what is ugly about your garden. There is ugliness in every garden, but there are also many unique and incredible attributes worthy of recognition and praise.

These parallels are lifelong reflections, but top of mind for me lately. How about you? What garden inspirations and lessons have you learned or discovered during the past season?

To join in the "Garden Lessons Learned" meme, simply write a post or share one you've already written about lessons you've learned during the past season. Then share your links or observations in the comments. I'll keep this post up for a few days, and it will be available always under the "Lessons Learned" tab at the top of this blog. I'll share "lessons learned" posts on the PlantPostings Facebook Page closer to the equinox.

Please also join in Donna's Seasonal Celebrations at Gardens Eye View! Feel free to join in with a post that fits both memes, or separate posts for one or both of them.

Garden blessings to you!

August 25, 2015

A Bewitching Shade of Blue

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Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata)

Do you have a favorite wildflower? I can't say I do, although wildflowers with blooms like this make my heart beat faster.

There's simply something bewitching about Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata). I find the entire effect of it enchanting--the form, the height, the delicate spiking flowers that look like a candelabra. And the color--especially the color.

Would you call that French blue? Greek blue? Maybe more like periwinkle?

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For years, I've been fascinated with this tall (up to six feet) plant. Shown here with Dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum), it often towers over the plants around it. While that's part of its appeal for me, I don't think I have the best habitat for it in my own garden. Also, it prefers moist soil and full sun. But whenever I see it in the wild, I swoon.

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The pollinators love it, too.

Recently, when I was researching Blue Vervain, one source listed it as an annual. But more recently most sources I'm finding say it's a short-lived perennial that re-seeds itself. It would probably be happy in a wet meadow or a rain garden.

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Hoary Vervain (Verbena stricta)--showing its own foliage and Purple Love Grass
(Eragrostis spectabilis) in the background.

Blue Vervain is closely related to Hoary Vervain (Verbena stricta), also a beautiful plant. Hoary Vervain's foliage is wider and more ovate, compared with Blue Vervain's more lanceolate foliage. And its flowers tend more toward the lavendar/pink hues. One pleasant characteristic of Hoary Vervain is that it doesn't grow quite so tall--only to a maximum height of about four feet. Plus, it's drought-tolerant.

But, back to Blue Vervain ... a few other plant characteristics listed by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, include:

  • Native to most of North America, predominantly in moist prairies and damp thickets;
  • Blooms June through September;
  • Attracts bees, birds, and butterflies;
  • Larval host to the Common Buckeye butterfly; and
  • Prefers sun, but will grow well in partial shade (or even some shady locations).

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Definitely a wildflower worthy of high praise on this August Wildflower Wednesday! Thanks to Gail at Clay and Limestone for hosting this wonderful meme. Head on over to her blog to learn more about wildflowers blooming around the world.

Next up: the Garden Lessons Learned meme! What have you learned in your garden during the past few months?

August 20, 2015

Summertime at Olbrich

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Red Admiral and other pollinators on 'Summer Beauty' Alliums surrounded by Echinacea spp.

Recently, I posted about the "Roses of Olbrich Botanical Gardens." And while roses are definitely a summer highlight of the Madison, Wis., gardens, the roses are just the beginning.

Decorative bench inviting visitors to sit awhile and enjoy the view.

Whether resting on a bench or walking through the pathways, Olbrich in the summertime is a feast for all the senses. Pollinators, plants, and creative combinations are around every corner.

Here are just a few of the highlights visitors might see in mid- to late summer:

Monarch resting/nectaring on Zinnia elegans.

Another Monarch posing on  chartreuse Celosia plumosa. This looks like 'Sylphid.'

Honeybee hives tucked along the back border of the park.

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Bumblebee enjoying ornamental onion (Allium cernuum?).

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More pollinators on 'Summer Beauty' Alliums (A. tanguticum).

Ripe raspberries: yum!

Curving view of the Olbrich's iconic "donors arbor," filled with Wisteria blooms in springtime.

Also climbing along the arbor posts: Clematis verticella 'Betty Corning.'

Earthy pots filled with mixed annuals and Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum).

Small ornamental pond purposely coated with algae and planted with ornamental grasses.

Ornamental pepper 'Black Pearl' planted with 'Candy Stripe' Petunias and Sweet Alyssum.

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Mixed planting: Red Grass Palm (Cordyline australis) in back and Rugosa Roses in the foreground.

Mixed planting: Brazilian Fireworks 'Maracas' (Porphyrocoma pholiana), Coleus 'Under the Sea Yellow Fin Tuna' (Solenostemon scutellarioides), Persian Shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus), and Scarlet Sage (Salvia splendens).

Oblique sun angle back-lighting mixed Echinaceas, Monardas, and Calaminthas.

Lesser Calamint (Calamintha nepeta ssp. nepeta).

Honeybee nectaring on Lesser Calamint.

Pink Pentas (Pentas lanceolata).

Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) 'Amber Jubilee.'

Swales of Pennsylvania Sedge (Carex pensylvanica) along a shaded walkway.

Panicle Hydrangea (H. paniculata 'Dharuma').

Gaura (G. lindheimeri).

Panicled Goldenraintree (Koelreuteria paniculata).

Honeybee on Coneflower hybrid (Echinacea spp.).

Drifts of Bluestar Amsonia (A. hubrichtii).

More 'Summer Beauty' Alliums and Lesser Calamint along the walkway.

'Summer Beauty' Alliums are a signature plant of the gardens, and after my recent visit, I decided to order some for my own garden.

Late afternoon is a great time to visit the gravel garden, as the oblique light casts a surreal glow to the Coneflowers, Sedges, Alliums, and many other pollinator favorites:

Gravel garden backlit with oblique light and chock full of pollinators.








I hope you enjoyed your virtual visit!

August 14, 2015

Color Swatches and Late Summer Blooms


It's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, and the vibrant, summer colors rule in my USDA zone 5 garden. Even the white Cosmos with their touches of pink and their yellow centers brighten their spaces, attracting pollinators with accessible nectar and pollen.

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Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), is the star of the "part shade" back garden, attracting butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.


Hyacinth Bean vine (Lablab purpureus), is filling its obelisk.

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Its blooms are strong and colorful at the top--where the hummingbirds like to hang out.

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Hummers also flutter around the two hanging baskets of Fuchsia 'Marinka' lined up next to a feeder.

Moving on to the tiny sun garden ...

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Embarrassingly, I can't recall the cultivar of this Sunflower (Helianthus spp.), but it's a nice size and very pretty. It started from seed planted directly in the soil in May; it's now about four feet tall.


Definitely a popular hangout for pollinator shenanigans (shown here: Goldenrod Soldier Beetles).


The Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) attract them, too.


The jury's still out for me with Pentas (P. lanceolata 'Graffiti Red Lace'). I think it might be the color--just a little too red, so it clashes with other flowers in this garden (I love red flowers, but not in this location). I'll probably opt for purple or pink next summer.


I love the Marigold/Angelonia combination. And both keep blooming all season long, even as the Alyssum is dormant during the heat of the summer.

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I'm so pleased that the Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) plants are finally producing seeds.

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And a second round of buds and blooms.


No longer just a bloom, this 'Better Boy' tomato is now harvested and soon will be consumed.

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Some Salvia blooms are fading, though after deadheading, new fresh buds are forming.

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The Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea), too, still offer new buds and blooms.

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Lantanas ('Blaze' and "Bandana Red') are taller and more productive than they've ever been in my garden before.

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'Cut and Come Again' Zinnias are true to their name.

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The bumbles agree with me that 'Versailles Mix' Cosmos are irresistible.

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The colors this season have been pleasing to my eye. I recently played around with some color swatches to try to capture the rainbow before it fades.

Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day!