Gray Day

The fire that was our fall has burnt itself out, but for a few embers here and there.  Those embers are largely the heat that is generated by passionate gardeners.  The plans to plant bulbs.  How to store the cannas.  What they feel they must try-next season.  A new house requiring some semblance of a landscape before the snow flies.  But the fact remains that the leaves from our shop wall of boston ivy fell in unison overnight, making a crispy heap all along the base of the wall. The skies have been rainy and gray all day-the wind brisk and cold.  The color in the garden this late-muted, and dry.     

My small rose garden is but a shadow of its summer self.  The last few flowers on the Sally Holmes roses are droopy, the petals punctuated by rose pink markings from the cold rain.  The asparagus, weighted down by the cold rain, is grudgingly turning yellow.  Along with my Parrotias, it is the last plant in garden to succumb to the fall, and turn color. Once the asparagus turns, I know the gray days are soon to come.

Buck shut the fountain down a week ago.  Dry maple leaves floated on the still surface.  Many more maple leaves have sunk to the bottom,  turning the water brown.  The decomposing leaves stain the stone.  He drained the pool yesterday.  I am in no hurry to go see it-empty.  Closing the fountain is every bit as emotional day as that day when we open it in the spring.  The opening and closing-part and parcel of gardening in a zone that has four seasons.

What plant could possibly be more dramatic about about the close of the gardening season than the hostas?  Once the cold infiltrates their stems and leaves, they collapse in a mushy heap on the ground.  Flattened-that is exactly how the late fall makes me feel.  It’s too late to garden, beyond the planting of the fall bulbs.  It’s too early for winter. It’s too early for a down coat, but its too late for a sweater.  It is way too early to wring my hands, and wish the season had been better.  It is too late to plant a few more anemones.       

We did redo a landscape on a small property last week; this renovation included a sizeable perennial garden.  If I plant perennials this late in the fall, I am sure to tromp down the rootballs firmly.  No rooting will take place now, and the frost coming out of the ground in the spring will want to heave those rootballs out of the ground.  We stamp every plant down firmly.  At the end of winter, when the frost starts coming out of the ground, we will check to be sure no plants have heaved up. 

Though we are still actively involved in the installation of landscapes, several of which are for newly constructed homes, the close of the gardening season is tough to take. Amazingly, we have not had a hard frost yet.  Down the street from me, a marigold border is flat out gorgeous.  Maybe it’s just my gray-colored glasses, but most of the landscape looks like it is grieving.

Astonishing how the leaves of the Boston ivy fall all at once, leaving their stalwart pink stems still attached.  These rosy stems defying gravity made me smile- in spite of that  cloud of gloom following me around.

The coming of the dark-I do not welcome it.  But there will be moments, experiences to come that I will enjoy.  The winter season in Michigan-who knows what nature has in store for this year.  Putting the shovel and the pruners away means there will be time for the holidays, the winter containers, the books – and the planning for the new season to come.  This was a very hard season-I am not so sorry to see it gone.  The April frosts that killed every flower on my magnolias, and the extreme heat and drought that challenged all of my summer gardening efforts-I am relieved to see that come to a closeIn spite of this griping about my summer season, I am sorry to see it gone.



Monday Opinion: The Dreaded Gaposis

Gaposis?  Though it isn’t a real word, it describes a spot I’ve been in all too many times.  It  is not too tough to figure out what it means.  A gap is an opening, or space.  Does not everyone remember that look, having lost a front baby tooth?  So embarrasing, that gap.  The Cumberland Gap is a naturally existing  passage way through the Cumberland mountains.  This deep sloping ravine, improved upon by pioneering Americans,  was the opening in the southern Appalachian mountains that permitted travel.  A gap can also refer to an interruption in a thought or design, a breach in a wall, a missing verb, or a miscalculation.  A gap is an obvious and conspicuous imbalance.  All this-from an online dictionary. The suffix -osis is usually found at the end of a noun.  Osis refers to a process, or state.  Metamorphosis-the process of changing from one form to another.

My imaginary word gaposis refers to a missing piece, a lack of continuity that results in empty, inexplicable,  unproductive, or unbalanced exchange.  or space.    A gaposis in one’s chain of thought means that a thought not clearly expressed might not be understood.  A gaposis in a design interrupts the intended rhythm.  A dead lavender in a lavender hedge is a gaposis.  It is a clear sign that something is missing.  That gap subtracts from the beauty of the remaining plants. Continuity which is abruptly breached by some unforeseen gap detracts from the overall fluidity effectiveness of an argument, an essay, a landscape plan, a sea wall, an idea;  blips-have you not had them? 

Routinely I have clients ask me questions I cannot answer.  I admit the gaposis in my knowledge, but assure them I will try to find the answer.  Some questions have no answer.  If a client wants me to promise that the Maureen tulips will be in full bloom the day her daughter gets married, I won’t.  But I will tell her I won’t let her go over the cliff and into the gap alone.  There needs to be a plan B in place.  There are gaps in my knowledge of the history of landscape design.  There are gaps in my knowledge of horticulture.  There are gaps all over my landscape.    

It is reasonable for my clients to assume I am educated in regards to good planting practices, horticulture, and design.  Anything and everything I learn about the history of landscape and garden design, the identity and cultivation of plants makes me a better designer.  I buy books, and read them.  I hope everything that I read, and my experience makes for as gaposis free as possible client experience.  Any bill that goes out from my office details the work – start to finish.  The genus and species of every plant we plant-detailed, and spelled right.  No gaps.

In my opinion, the word and the meaning of gaposis needs to be introduced to the popular landscape design vernacular.  Unattended gaps should worry any design professional.  It is as important to see what is missing as it is to edit.  For those of you gardeners who garden on your own, make sure your design has purpose, and logic.  A landscape space that flows is gap free.      

Every gap can be filled with knowledge and experience.  Until the next new gap comes along, that is.     


The Last Day Of My 61st

By coincidence, Melissa from M and M Flowers came to do her yearly pruning on the boxwood on the last day of my 61st year.  As this is just about my favorite day of the gardening year, I felt my previous year was coming to a close in a way that made me very happy indeed. 

topiary yews


pruning boxwood




green velvet boxwood





isotoma fluvialitis

My garden is a place very near and dear to me-it looked beautiful last night.  Spotless.  As is her usual way, the boxwood is beautifully pruned.  Her crew did not finish until almost 7 pm. All my thanks, Melissa and group.



Good Days

There are those times when the garden has a good day.  Good all over. The late day sun slanting across the lawn, and the hydrangeas going pink-just good.  I poked my camera lens through the gate for this picture.  One of my favorite parts of my garden-I see nothing of the neighbors, and very little of the street.  The hydrangeas spilling over the lawn makes it all the more like a garden hideaway.

The fountain garden is back to being its serene self-post new drainage work, giant fountain repairs, all new herniaria-and a new bench.  I cannot tell this part of my garden was under siege until mid July. Buck is testing the waters already about shutting the fountain down for the winter-I am waving him off.

A client that needed a 9 foot long scroll steel bench right away for an event got mine.  Though I wasn’t so happy at the prospect of being without a bench until a new one could be made, no doubt I had a chance to tinker with the design.  I had the new bench made four inches taller than the original.  This is much more comfortable for me, and considerably easier to get in and out of.  I had originally planted herniaria under the bench; it was not happy with the shade.  A new planting of European ginger seems to be working out fine. This is a better place now.

This bed of beech ferns once had Helleborus Angustifolius as a companion.  Try as I might, they suffered terribly in the winter.  As this species blooms on old stalks, even the bloom period was unsightly.  After 5 years I gave them up for European ginger.  The planting is lush and thick.  I am so glad those gawky hellebores are gone.

The rose garden is much brighter in the evening than the fountain garden; I like walking up into that light.  The stone stairs have been in long enough to have acquired a little moss. 

The rose garden is a destination in the evening; a pair of chairs and small table make it a perfect spot to sit and rehash the day.  The grass got cut yesterday; the corgis appreciate this.  When the grass gets long, they look like they are swimming through it, rather than running over it.  I still have intermittent roses; the boltonia and Japanese anemone are in full bloom.     

Japanese anemone is one of my favorite perennials; I like single flowers. I especially like late blooming single flowers.  I also like that I do next to nothing to it except look at it. It thrives in this garden for going on ten years now. 

I pollarded my overgrown Palabin lilacs on standard; it scared me , how hard I cut them back.  For weeks, not a peep out of either one of them.  They are starting to look good to me.

I am not sure why this sunken garden has a feeling unique to my garden. It might be the quietest spot in the yard.  I am only one block from a 5 lane street.  The fountain and the sunken garden minimize that urban noise.   

On the driveway, the nicotiana mutabilis is still going strong.  It will send up giant new shoots all fall long; I keep adding stakes.   

The mum-ball is turning pink-can you hear me sigh?  It actually does not look all that bad with the purple kale.  The bloom period is actually not that long here-I already have plans to trim it back to a green ball once the flowers fade.   

This coleus is done growing; the nights are getting quite cool.  Hopefully it will last a while longer.  The shape is good.  Some days in the garden are just good.