Light as a Feather Grass

Light textures. Movement. Soft brushes of delicate threads form a fountain of fluff among the heaviness of shrubs.

A favorite ornamental grass is stipa tenuissima (Mexican feather grass). Shown with two different spirea varieties, the grass texture breaks up the monotony of the shrubs. Stipa gently sways with the breeze, glistens with morning dew and lightens up the density of the surrounding plants.

Ornamental grass, stipa tenuissima, separates
two varieties of spirea flowering shrubs in May.
Deep pink blooms of Spirea 'Neon Flash' are backed
by a fountain of stipa grass.
When growing ornamental grasses, I proceed with caution. My husband will ban any grass that sows seeds prolifically in the gravel driveway or garden paths. So far, he has banned eragrostis (love grass). He says there's nothing to love about that grass!

In 2010, I planted six stipa.  Given that this grass is considered invasive in some of the western states, I am closely monitoring it for seeds.

Three stipa are planted with the spirea and three are in place for another garden spot that is undergoing renovation. So far, I've found no seedlings in the garden. However, I've decided to be cautious when the garden wanes this year and proactively deadhead the tips. As gardeners, we must always be aware of the risk associated with the plants we grow.

This grass is rated for zones 7a-10b, but if it doesn't overwinter again, I will grow it as an annual grass. Stipa is deer, rabbit and drought resistant, making it a very suitable plant to grow—provided it doesn't misbehave.

What's your experience with stipa? Love it or hate it? Well-behaved or a thug?

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. Deer and rabbit resistance varies based upon the animal population and availability of food. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks, copyrights, or patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

Temporary Help Needed. Must Withstand Hot Summers.

Cleome is a tall summer annual for filling big spaces.

Temporary help is needed to fill in garden space during the heat of summer. The perfect candidate must be tall, colorful and play well with perennials. Additional skills required include deterring deer and rabbits while attracting hummingbirds, bees and butterflies.

A big gap in my deer resistant garden needed a summer filler to add color and height among the foliage of the fall-blooming perennials. The annual, Cleome hassleriana, fit the job description—planted among Joe Pye Weed (native eupatorium purpureum), solidago 'Fireworks', helianthus angustifolius 'First Light', stipa (grass), asclepias incarnata and a tall pink mum.

Without cleome, there would be nothing but foliage in the midsection of my front garden during the summer. In spring, rose campion and larkspur provide blooms for this space. When the temperatures rise and the rain is scarce, I can count on cleome to deliver!

This is one annual that I don't grow from seeds because I am still developing the space. I buy the tall annual in bloom at a local greenhouse so that I can transplant directly into the summer garden where needed. I don't have a greenhouse to do this myself and I find the price affordable and worthwhile given how barren the garden would look without cleome. These are hybrids (I don't even bother to remember/save the name), so I've not had any self-sowing seedlings pop up.

This is three cleome, purchased and planted
when already 4 feet tall and blooming.
There are five cleome filling in
the section of autumn perennials.

In the above photo (click to enlarge), you cannot see the three Joe Pye growing between the cleome. The cleome not only provides height and color while waiting for the Joe Pye, it shades the roots of the companion plants, helping to retain moisture in this south-facing garden. I like a mass planting of at least five cleome.

Without cleome, there would be a nothing but a low hole of foliage in my summer garden. Cleome bridges this gap from June until August, when the late summer flowers take over until frost.

As for maintenance, I provide water only when the cleome leaves droop. There are no supporting stakes around the cleome, and while they are packed in among perennials, I've not noticed any need for support of these strong plants.

Colorful, carefree and cheap. Deer, drought and rabbit resistant. I'll use cleome for temporary garden help every summer!

Cleome shines in the middle of bee balm in late June.
View is looking uphill from the garden path.

View looking downhill.
Foliage of amsonia hubrichtii (spring bloom) below.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. Deer and rabbit resistance varies based upon the animal population and availability of food. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks, copyrights, or patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

Garden Inspiration: Pow Wow Prairie Sun Evolution

Back to Front:
Echinacea purpurea 'Pow Wow Wild Berry'
Salvia farinacea 'Evolution'
Rudbeckia hirta 'Prairie Sun' (not quite)
Yellow, purple and raspberry—a combination of color and form so stunning that I wish I had thought of it! Actually, I did plant something very similar and there are a few interesting twists in replicating these blooms in your home garden. I photographed this labeled combination while out and about on one of my day trips around North Carolina and hope that my similar combination will look as lovely when mature.

The echinacea, salvia and rudbeckia are all seed-grown plants. As such, the seeds may not always produce the plants to match the photo on the packets nor images you find in searching online. I am growing rudbeckia hirta 'Prairie Sun' with echinacea 'Pow Wow Wild Berry' and salvia farinacea 'Victoria (instead of 'Evolution' as shown in the photo).

Rudbeckia hirta 'Prairie Sun' (maybe)
perennial zones 5-10
full sun

In my case, my 'Prairie Sun' blooms look just like those in the inspiration photo above—brown-eyed susans. My seed packet showed a green eye, instead of a brown eye. If you've grown 'Prairie Sun' from seeds, did you get the green eye or the brown eye? I'd love to know.

At any rate, I still love these sunny plants, no matter what color the eyes! I cut these susans to bring indoors and the blooms last and last and last. These susans behave like annuals, such as zinnias. The more I cut, the more branching and blooms I get in the garden.

The deer have nibbled a few blooms out in the garden. However, the plants have continued to produce lots of blooms and the deer are now ignoring the new flowers, so I'm not unhappy with the deer tolerance test. I've not noticed the rabbits eating these susans (and they love to eat the rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldsturm').

This rudbeckia variety is definitely drought-tolerant. I've not seen any wilting in the heat and I'm rating these as preferable over the fulgida type. The susans in the most direct sun have reached three feet before I cut them back. The ones in part shade have remained under two feet.  The Goldfinch love to eat the seeds and I do expect considerable self-sowing. That's okay with me!

Echinacea purpurea 'Pow Wow Wild Berry'

Echinacea purpurea 'Pow Wow Wild Berry'
perennial zones 3-8
full sun

I'm still waiting for my echinacea 'Pow Wow Wild Berry' to bloom as they were grown from seeds in a local greenhouse. Unless sown early, coneflowers tend to bloom in the second season when starting from seeds. The leaves on this echinacea are huge and rough compared to other varieties that I've tried—'Prairie Splendor', 'Ruby Star', 'White Swan', 'Sundown' and others. The deer and rabbits haven't eaten the leaves so far. Not a tall coneflower, it should stay around two feet in height.

The 'Pow Wow Wild Berry' that I've seen in bloom are indeed impressive, so I have high hopes for similar blooms in 2012. My 'Prairie Splendor' in my cottage garden were under vole attack over the winter and I've been unable to find more plants, though I do have seedling replacements coming up for next year. I am hoping that 'Pow Wow Wild Berry' will be as wonderful as 'Prairie Splendor'.

Salvia farinacea 'Evolution'
perennial zones 9-11

The salvia in the inspiration is 'Evolution', a perennial in warm zones of 9-11. I am growing salvia farinacea 'Victoria' that overwintered for me here in zone 7b from 2010. I have 'Victoria' growing in multiply locations in my garden—out in the open garden on the east, south and southwest as well as protected in a warmer microclimate in my cottage garden. The blooms on 'Victoria' are heavy in early summer, then after deadheading, I'm waiting for the second flush. In 2010, the 'Victoria' looked great in late summer and fall.

The 'Victoria' have been reliably deer, rabbit and drought resistant in my garden. If the plant needs water, you'll know by the drooping leaves. The plant perks up quickly after watering.

Whether or not you select the same varieties, I do believe this inspiration can easily be replicated in color and form with similar plants.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. Deer and rabbit resistance varies based upon the animal population and availability of food. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks, copyrights, or patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

How to Collect Rose Campion (Lychnis coronaria) Seeds

Rose Campion (Lychnis coronaria) is a short-lived perennial for zones 3-9 but may behave like a biennial or an annual—depending upon your gardening zone. One way to make sure that you never run out of Rose Campion is to collect seeds or allow her to self-sow.

If you heavily mulch and compost your garden in autumn, then you are likely to cover over seeds that disperse naturally from the pods. I find Rose Campion seedlings growing next to the base of other plants, in gravel and in my dry stream, so it doesn't take much soil for the seeds to germinate. In other words, this is an easy plant to grow from seeds. My garden is filled with Rose Campion because I gently scrape up the shallow-rooted seedlings and transplant them to better locations in my garden.

I rely upon self-sowing and have never started the seeds indoors nor had to sow later in the fall, so here are planting instructions from three other sources (I have no affiliation):

Diane's Seeds
Johnny's Selected Seeds
Botanical Interests

Rose Campion has long, silver stems.
This variety has magenta blooms, but there are also white and
pink/white colors available from suppliers.

Seed pods are dry, shriveled and ready to harvest.
To collect the seeds to save, cut off the pods
and place them in a paper envelope.
Cut the stems and discard.

Cut the stems at the base, just above the rosette foliage.
These cut stems, with pods, are discarded in the garden
so that no seeds are released into the wild.
Next spring, there will probably be seedlings around this bundle.
Some seeds have already fallen out of the pods inside the envelope.
These seeds have been drying for a week or two.
I use a small Phillips screwdriver to easily open the pods.
I hold the pod over the envelope to catch the seeds.
You may want to wear thin plastic gloves when handling seeds as
some varieties can irritate sensitive skin.
Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling.
With seeds emptied into the envelope, and pods discarded,
pour the seeds into a small packet.
(I had to hold the camera with one hand. I use two hands to do this!)
I don't worry about a little of the chaff mixed in with the seeds.
Commercial growers will remove the chaff.

Rose Campion is a wonderful and easy plant to grow. If you have too many, the extras are easy to remove from the garden. No pests, no deer, no rabbits, no voles have ever disturbed the Rose Campion in my garden. About the only thing that seems to damage the plant is too much water on the leaves. This is a drought-tolerant plant for full sun to part shade that requires little care other than cutting off the spent stems after the bloom.

It may take two years for your young seedlings to bloom, but the results are worth the wait!

Rose Campion provides silver foliage and magenta blooms in
the pink to purple color scheme of my deer resistant meadow garden.
Companions include agastache, monarda, cleome, echinacea and liatris.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. Deer and rabbit resistance varies based upon the animal population and availability of food. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks, copyrights, or patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

Garden Inspiration: Tulip Varieties in Paris

When gardening gets too hot, it's time to stay indoors and browse flower bulb catalogs. The catalogs begin appearing in my mailbox between July 4 and 14—coincidentally, America's Independence Day through France's Bastille Day.

Tulips are very popular in the spring gardens of Paris. The Jardin des Plantes, the Jardin des Tuileries and the Jardin du Luxembourg boast proud displays of tulips, often planted with forget-me-not, dusty miller, erigeron, wallflower or primula.

Luxembourg Gardens, Paris France, April 2011:
Tulip, primula, dusty miller, erigeron and forget-me-not.
Tulips just beginning to bloom in April at the Tuileries,
located between the Louvre and Place de la Concorde.
The group planting at Luxembourg is so inspirational, but there were no labels for me to identify the tulip varieties. The Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Gardens) and the Jardin des Tuileries are large parks, typically used for outings, strolling and enjoying the outdoors. The Jardin du Luxembourg, located in the sixth arrondissement, is the second largest park in Paris. The Jardin des Tuileries is easy to find as it is located between the Louvre Museum and Place de la Concorde.

At the Jardin des Plantes, a botanical garden in the fifth arrondissement of Paris, the plants are usually identified. The display is more for collectors who are interested in plant identification and genus. (Click any photo to enlarge.) If the color or shape inspires you, but you can't find the bulb, perhaps you can locate a similar substitute. Unless entering special exhibits or greenhouses, the botanical garden is free to the public. It is easily reached by taking a Batobus (or similar boat taxi) on the Seine and hopping off at the clearly marked Jardin des Plantes stop.

Most tulips may be grown in zones 3-8, but rely upon the information provided with the varieties you purchase. In warm zones, the tulips may not return due to the heat and many gardeners treat them as annuals. Grow tulips out of reach of marauding critters such as deer, squirrels, voles and rabbits. For me, that means containers only!

If you are interested in more photos of Jardin des Plantes, the Luxembourg Gardens or Monet's Gardens—many include vignettes of tulips—check out my page on Monet Gardens and Paris.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks, copyrights, or patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

Oudolf's Stellar Perennials (The Battery Gardens-Part 3)

In a garden packed with perennials selected by Dutch designer Piet Oudolf, it isn't easy to narrow down my photos to a few to share with you. If you're catching up on this series about The Battery Gardens in New York City, please read parts 1 and 2 to understand the context around the perennials in this photo-heavy story.

Oudolf's Stachys Spires (The Battery Gardens-Part 2)

I immediately recognized the yarrow, Achillea millifollium 'Terra Cotta' as the same stellar performer growing in my southern garden. This yarrow has proven to stand up to humidity better than any other yarrow that I've tried. The foliage is soft and fern-like that practically sways in the breeze. The bloom color ranges from peach, rust and pale yellow. This is a deer and rabbit resistant perennial to grow in areas of drought, too. Suitable for zones 3-9, the blooms last for about four weeks.

Achillea millefolium 'Terra Cotta' in front of monarda
at The Battery Gardens in New York City.
I love the yarrow with Russian Sage! I'll have to
move the yarrow in my garden to recreate this perfect pairing.
A mass planting of Astilbe (with Acanthus on the left).
Astilbe paired with Heuchera 'Frosted Violet'.
There are three varieties of Astilbe—'Visions in Pink', 'Visions in Red' and 'Purpurlanze'—listed in The Battery Plant Database. All three may be grown in rich, moist soil in zones 4-8, and part-shade to shade is best. Companions in the gardens include Acanthus, Hosta and Heuchera.

My favorite combination was a mass planting of Heuchera 'Frosted Violet' with a mass of the Astilbe. Even without the airy blooms on the Heuchera, the purple leaves are perfect with the pink blooms of Astilbe. Heuchera is also suitable for zones 4-8.

There are a few unique plants that I especially like. I've attempted eryngium (Sea Holly) in my garden, but had humidity problems with it and am now trying eryngium yuccifolium (Rattlesnake Master). Eryngium 'Big Blue' is truly a shining star in The Battery Gardens. This Sea Holly is 30 inches high by 18 inches wide, suitable for zones 5-9, full sun, well-drained soil and low water. The large blooms are so stunning!

Eryngium 'Big Blue' for low moisture areas in the garden.
Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Firetail' with interesting foliage
and long-blooming spikes in The Battery Gardens. 
In 2010, I added Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Firetail' to my garden. This perennial can spread quickly in moist soils, but mine has remained in a nice clump with moderate water. I love this plant, having seen it listed in many of Piet Oudolf's designs. The deer left it alone until late August 2010, a time when, after a long drought with little to eat, they decided to munch a few blooms and leaves. Since this plant is best for zones 4-7, my garden is a bit on the hot side, but I planted it among plants such as amsoniaeupatorium, monarda and asclepias incarnata to keep the roots shaded and moist. If you have the right conditions, give it a try!

Finally, and perhaps the most startling to my design taste—the injection of red-orange Helenium blooms into groupings with pink! While I love the look of the Helenium, I suppose I would grow it with blue, yellow and similar shades of orange to red-orange. Helenium is available in different heights and most varieties may be grown in zones 3-8. While I have no experience with this perennial, I find it quite attractive and would love to find space in my garden.

There is much more to see in The Gardens of Remembrance and The Battery Bosque sections of The Battery Gardens. If you plan a trip, be sure to check out the wealth of information on the website, including an overview of what's blooming in each month of the year.

Red-orange blooms of Helenium are separated
from Achillia 'Terra Cotta' by purple spires of Stachys 'Hummelo'.
Helenium with pink Asclepias incarnata and
white plumes of Persicaria polymorpha.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. Deer and rabbit resistance varies based upon the animal population and availability of food. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks, copyrights, or patents owned by those respective companies or persons.
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