I haven’t posted any daylilies since Monday. Lots more daylilies have bloomed since then! For the hemeroholics out there, here is another batch of pretty faces.
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Here’s Joe Crow, perched before a backdrop of Verbascum nigrum, or Black (or Dark) Mullein. Just coming into full bloom now, Black Mullein is one of my favorite garden plants. Its large basal leaves are dark green, with small hairs that give the leaves a soft, velvety feel. They start out quite large near the earth, and grow smaller as they march up the stalk until they give way to flowers. Each flower is tiny, about half an inch across, but there are plenty of them as they densely line the stem. The flowers features yellow petals and purple filaments tipped with orange anthers. The tallest plants are a statuesque 5 1/2 feet in height. Verbascum nigrum is a biennial, but self-seeds freely, so there is always a good display of flowers.
Charming as they are, none of those features are what really draw me to verbascum nigrum, however. That would be the bees. They absolutely adore this plant. First thing in the morning, the flowers are alive with bees, getting on with their day’s work. I always take time to stand and admire them for a few minutes. They pay me no heed. They’re far too busy.
Here’s a short clip of the morning visitation.
It’s always enjoyable and instructive to visit a new garden. I come away with fresh ideas and knowledge, and you don’t have to worry about someone else’s weeds! It was a lovely day on Saturday, so RailGuy and I travelled to Spindletree Gardens, about 2 hours west of our home.
The 20 acre property is located in the Tamworth area, north of Kingston, Ontario. The garden hosts are Susan Meisner and Tom Brown. For more information about the garden, you can visit their webpage, linked here.
At the house, a screened porch makes a pleasant setting for the tea room. We didn’t stop for lunch, however. We set out to view the gardens, following a stone wall into the property.
This leads to the Croquet Pavilion, which overlooks a regulation croquet playing field, complete with miniature English historical buildings serving as hoops for the game.
The little buildings were designed and built by Mr. Brown, and hint at the important role structures play in this garden. I wasn’t surprised to learn that Tom Brown is an architect.
Beyond the Pavilion, there is a circular Rose Garden with double Colonnade, followed by a Rock Garden set on a granite-surfaced hillside.
A long stroll leads to a restored 150-year-old Victorian Well Cover, framed by an English Park setting. Beyond is a fun maze you can find your way through. The shrubs were dense and nicely maintained.
A Grand Allee lined with black locust trees leads to a highlight of the garden, the Orangery. Newly constructed, the finishing touches are still underway. On one side, the two wings embrace stepped gardens and windows provide greenhouse space within the pavilion. On the other side, a winding, elevated rampway curves through a pond.
The path then leads over a decorative bridge to the Rondel with a lily pond and fountains surrounded by a chain of pearls of clipped boxwood and maple trees. This was one of my favorite spots.
A hop and grape-vine enclosed tunnel then leads to a walled Kitchen Garden. Some of the produce from the garden is used in the tea room.
By this point, we had caught up to a group being led by Tom Brown himself, and enjoyed his commentary on his remarkable garden. As the tour ended, we visited the original greenhouse conservatory, with gothic windows and a stained glass clerestory. It was a very enjoyable visit and well worth the drive.
It’s difficult to photograph tall, narrow plants, but I have done my best to represent Eryngium agavifolium. This impressive stalk stands a bit taller than me, about five and a half feet. I added E. agavifolium to the garden in August of last year and it survived the long, cold winter in good shape. It is native to Argentina, where it can be found growing on stony hills and river banks.
The eryngiums are a diverse genus with a wide distribution around the world. They are often referred to as Sea Holly, after E. maritimum, a salt tolerant species native to the coast of western Europe, the Mediterranean and Black Sea, where it grows on sand dunes. All the eryngiums are generally happy in full sun, with some preferring poor, well-drained soil.
Here’s a closer look at the thick basal leaves of E. agavifolium. The leaves are lined with impressive spiny teeth. Having reached in to remove a weed, I can attest to the fact that the spines are fearsomely sharp.
And here are the thistle-like flower heads. The flowers were attracting small insects, including this colourful leaf beetle, a Western Corn Rootworm (Diabrotica virgifera).
This spring, I added a North American native eryngium, E. yuccifolium. It makes claim to one of the best common names in the garden, Rattlesnake Master, which is apparently derived from a belief that the plant could cure rattlesnake bites. It was once a plant of the tallgrass prairie (back when there was plenty of tallgrass prairie.)
Yuccifolium is similar to agavifolium, but is smaller in all its parts, with shorter, narrower basal leaves and a slightly shorter stalk. At the moment, my yuccifolium is just a baby and only a foot tall, but growing well.
The eryngium genus offers both giants and dwarves. Here is E. planum ‘Blue Hobbit’, a compact plant under a foot tall in full flower. It has a headful of small silver-blue flowers that make more of a splash in the garden than the smooth, green basal leaves. E. planum is native to Eastern Europe, where it grows in dry places, along roadsides and rocky slopes. So far as I could ascertain, ‘Blue Hobbit’ was developed by Oregon breeder Log House Plants.
Here are the some of the daylilies blooming over the last couple of days. We had rain on Sunday, so a few are spotted with raindrops.
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When I think of stachys, the furry leaves of lamb’s ears immediately come to mind. I always have a patch of these fuzzy plants growing somewhere in the garden. Lamb’s ears are mostly used for edging as they spread to form a low, dense mat of silvery foliage. Their flowers aren’t particularly pleasing and distract from the attractive foliage. The stalks tend to look scraggly and some gardeners cut them back to maintain a tidy appearance. I think that seems a bit unkind, and I leave mine to flower. The variety pictured here is Stachys byzantina ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy’.
Lamb’s ears are members of the mint family and as such have square stems. The fuzzy appearance is produced by a coating of short, wooly hairs on the leaves. The term tomentum is used to describe a woolly coating formed by the ‘tomentose’ hairs. As the species name byzantina suggests, these plants are native to Turkey, Iran and southwestern Asia.
Allan Armitage observes (Herbaceous Perennial Plants 2nd ed. 1997) that lamb’s ears are ubiquitous in American gardens and we have been ‘lamb-eared to death’. That might be overstating the case, but it is true that until recently, other stachys hybrids have not been readily available at nurseries. That’s beginning to change, however. Last year, I added Stachys officinalis ‘Pink Cotton Candy’ to my garden. You would never guess that it is related to lamb’s ears.
It forms a nice clump of green leaves with scalloped margins and produces attractive spikes of pink flowers. Officinalis is better known in Europe, where it is called Wood Betony and is native to Europe and Asia minor. The small flowers are tubular, and form 2 lips, the lower having 3 lobes. ‘Pink Cotton Candy’ was bred by Richard Hawke and introduced to the market by the Chicago Botanic Garden.
This year, I acquired the purple-flowered stachys ‘Hummelo’. There seems to be some question as to whether Hummelo is properly Stachys monieri or Stachys officinalis. You can find it listed both ways. However, the two are similar, the former being native to the Alps and Pyrenees of southern Europe. ‘Hummelo’ was introduced by Dutch plantsman Piet Oudolf and named for his hometown in the Netherlands.