A Wildflower that I'm Afraid to Mention

Superstitious? Maybe. There's a lovely wildflower growing in my meadow garden. I've been afraid to write about it. I planted just one (on July 4) as an experiment. The small nursery pot quickly grew to four feet high. The blooms have started and I'm totally smitten. White, frilly blooms and lovely green foliage. The perfect wildflower for middle of the border.

Eupatorium altissimum (Tall Boneset).
August 2011 photo in my meadow garden.
Eupatorium altissimum (Tall Boneset) is native to many states from the Midwest to the East; from as far south as Texas and Florida and as far north as Canada. That's a pretty good track record that covers multiple growing zones from 4 to 9. I'm growing mine in full sun and the plant is tolerant of a variety of soil conditions and moisture.

This native is sometimes called 'white joe pye weed' or 'prairie jewel' and flowers from August until frost. Seeds can be sown in the fall in most areas, so I'll be sure to let this one self-sow. Colder zones may try winter sowing or stem cuttings to propagate.

So why I'm I so afraid to mention this wonderful, white wildflower? The deer. I could find little information on whether or not this plant is deer resistant. So far, they've left this one alone. I rush out every morning to check to see if there has been any damage. I've planted the boneset with asclepias incarnata (native swamp milkweed for the Monarch butterflies), solidago, stipa and a tall garden mum (don't ask why a mum). I hope to show you more photos of eupatorium altissimum as the fall season approaches!

If you are interested in reading more about wildflowers, be sure to check out the blog, Clay and Limestone and join her Wildflower Wednesdays series.

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.

Creativity with Cottage Garden Annuals

Zinnia 'Candy Mix' with Rudbeckia hirta and
Salvia farinacea 'Victoria Blue'. August 2011
I love the freedom of growing annuals. While I can certainly sing accolades about specific perennials, annuals give me the chance to change the look of the garden—in spring, summer and fall as well as from year-to-year—by simply planting seeds or buying a few small pots.

Planting annuals is somewhat like playing with a box of crayons and cans of molding clay. I color the garden according to my latest taste in color schemes and shapes. I love the creativity and flexibility of changing the garden with annuals.

While I use annuals in my meadow gardens, it is the cottage garden where I have the most fun. Sitting on the front porch, I overlook the cottage garden and ponder many different ideas to try in the future. I get inspired and excited about what to grow next year!

A purple Persian Shield provides a dark background
for the delicate and pale yellow California Poppies. May 2011

Same Persian Shield. Poppies replaced by a container (out of rabbit reach) of
Gomphrena (and Million Bells in same purple, not seen). August 2011

Sweet Alyssum (white and fragrant) is the perfect
annual edger and ground cover. August 2011

Tall lilac, pink, dark purple spires of larkspur back up
the perennial daylilies and heliotrope.
In the mix, there are also pods of annual blue nigella and
blooms of bachelor's buttons. June 2011

Unfortunately, there was a casualty of recent rain storms. The huge castor bean "tree" planted against the stone chimney was beaten and broken. I ended up pulling the poor annual that had stood gloriously through the drought and high temps. Just as the red seed pods were ripening and beautiful, the plant, and all of the seeds are now gone. So easy to grow from seeds and such a great architectural annual, I'll reserve the chimney spot in 2012 for another castor bean. Next time, I'll put supports around the plant before the summer storms do their worst!

This 2011 castor bean was grown from the seeds
of the 2010 plant...that was grown from seeds
shared by Helen Yoest in 2009. July 2011
Every year, I experiment with different varieties of zinnias, marigolds and poppies. I try new colors of nigella, cornflowers and larkspur. I rearrange annuals every fall and spring, trying out various vignettes to suit my mood. There are many annuals that can be grown, but here are my personal favorites (links are to my blog stories about these favorites).

Grown from seeds sown in the fall:

Seeds sown in spring for summer blooms:

Annuals that I purchase as small plants:

  • Persian Shield

  • Gomphrena (used only in a container due to rabbits)

  • Million Bells (used only in container)

  • Cleome

  • Cosmos (rabbits eat young seedlings unless using the orange variety)

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.

"Super Seeded" Blue Flax

Blue flowers for spring, pretty foliage through summer, repeat bloom in fall—easy to achieve by sowing the seeds of perennial blue flax. This self-sowing perennial is wonderful for dry, sunny gardens. A deer, rabbit and drought tolerant perennial that can be mixed with other perennials as well as annuals.

It is time to order seeds for fall sowing!

Flax is a perfect partner for the blooms of annual poppies, larkspur and cornflowers from April until June in my zone 7b garden. I sow seeds anytime between September through November for spring bloom. I have allowed some of the plants to self-sow and gathered seeds to plant in specific spots in the garden. In 2010, I planted some seeds in summer instead of waiting to the sow the seeds in fall. The foliage sprouted and was evergreen through winter, then bloomed the first time this spring.

If you try to collect seeds, it is a tedious task. Wait until the pods are brown and dry, then you must carefully pull the flat seeds out of the pod. I took the time for the task last year, but now I'm doing the "chop and drop" with the foliage and letting the seeds sow without my help.

Perennial blue flax blooms
with annual California poppy in April 2011.
Seeds for both were planted in autumn in zone 7b.
To keep the foliage looking good through the summer, I cut the flax back by one third. Today, many of my flax plants that bloomed beautifully in spring are beginning to bloom again.

Throughout our days of 100° F and with no supplemental watering, all of my flax plants have survived and thrived. They never look wilted. This is truly a "hell strip" plant for xeric gardens.

Perennials on parade in May 2011:
Salvia 'May Night' (back)
Linum perenne flax (middle)
Agastache 'Cotton Candy' (front)

I grow two varieties of blue flax and have mixed the two so much that I no longer pay attention to the minor differences. Linum narbonense 'Heavenly Blue' (zones 5-9) and linum perenne are both great performers, with the latter growing a bit taller and suitable for zones 4-9.

Flowers open in the morning and drop by noon during the bloom season. You'll have to take a morning garden walk with your camera to capture the beauties in bloom. I recommend sowing the seeds thickly and close together for a mass planting that is sure to please!

Blue flax with another salvia variety.

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.

Photo Fun: Come Indoors Where It Is Cool

Come on back to the family room.
It's so hot outside in the garden; let's go indoors where it is cool so that I can show you a decorating project that's fun and easy for anyone with a digital camera and a computer.

Every few years, I like to change the "art" on my walls. I use the word "art" in the sense of being creative with what's unique and original in my life, rather than owning any masterpieces. The photos that I've chosen make me smile.

Previously, I've used framed photos from our travels in Italy. Recently, I decided to swap out Italy photos with those from Paris, France.

Architecture is a favorite photographic subject of mine. I'm not a professional photographer, but there are favorite photos that please me enough to view on my walls. Color photos don't really work with our family room color scheme and furniture. Therefore, I use a little photo editing magic (iPhoto® on my MacBook®) to convert my photos to sepia tone for framing. I then upload my photos to Shutterfly® and purchase 8 x 10 prints for under $3.00 per print.

My frames were purchased in 2006, therefore, I didn't have to purchase new frames. All of my frames came from Pottery Barn® and were purchased on sale. The mats were included with the purchase of the frames.

Inexpensive. Unique. Original. Memories.

To decide which of your photos will work, the resolution must be sufficient for the size of the print you want. One of the reasons that I like Shutterfly® is because their software will tell you whether your photo has the quality (in pixels) to be printed anywhere from as large as a poster down to a postcard.

If you go this route, pay attention to the edges of the photos. Shutterfly will ask you if the cropping is okay. They automatically set the cropping, but you may shift your image within the allowed space to ensure that no parts are cut off. Always preview the cropped image online before you put the order in the shopping cart.

The Louvre original in color, before cropped.

The Louvre photo as sepia and cropped.

Just a few of my candidates for framing.
I created a side-by-side collage to use to decide
which photos to print. Not all were chosen.
When grouping photos I like for them to "relate" to each other. For example, a set of four photos are building facades. I also use parts of bridges as a set; steeples as a set; or, sculptures as a set. Here is an example of the four building facades used in a photo grouping.

Matted and framed:
Top (L to R): The Louvre; Notre Dame
Bottom: Saint-Michel; Sacre Coeur
Paris, France. 

The four photos shown on the wall
to the right of the family heirloom mirror.

On another wall, the photos are related
to three different bridges in Paris.
These frames are the standard "gallery" style
sold by Pottery Barn®.
Don't hesitate to use your photos to decorate your house. Whether you choose color, black and white, sepia or other special effects—your favorite photos reflect your experiences and memories. Go for what makes you happy!

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.

A Funny Thing Happened in the Gravel Garden

Newly completed gravel garden.
Only the row of small rosemary plants
(left side opposite the bench) were added.
Photo: April 28, 2011

What do I know about gravel gardens? Not mulch!

I don't live in desert areas where gravel gardens are used due to low rainfall. Desert areas in the United States grow the grasses and succulents—cacti, yucca and agave— that come to mind when I think of plants surrounded by gravel.

I don't live in the northern latitudes where gravel keeps plants from rotting in rain while warming up the area from the winter sun. Gardens in Europe use gravel around trees and shrubs and that was primarily where I drew my design inspiration, realizing that it is hot here in the summer with little rain.

My garden is in North Carolina, zone 7b and the idea of a gravel garden was a gamble that I was ready to take in April 2011. The project started as a problem solver as shown in the Before and After: From Driveway to Gravel Garden story. We were really looking more for a beautification solution to reduce maintenance, but have been surprised by the other advantages.

Here is a list of the plants that were left in place BEFORE we switched to gravel, removing all of the organic hardwood mulch:

Burford Nana (dwarf) Holly
Oakleaf Holly
Buddleia (multiple varieties)
Crepe myrtle 'Tuscarora'
Osmanthus 'Goshiki'
Iris ensata (multiple varieties)
Monarda 'Blue Stocking'
Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Cream Ball'
Perennial heliotrope

We added a row of new rosemary and decided to take a "wait and see" attitude toward the existing plants. I watered the rosemary a few times to establish a root system.

The crepe myrtles bloomed and bloomed.
The container plantings of lavender,
juniper and succulents are thriving.
Photo: July 12, 2011.
So far, we've experienced a June and July of triple digit heat with very little rainfall. The gravel garden is on the southwest side of the house. The crepe myrtle trees provide a bit of shade until 11:00 am, then it is baking heat.  I have not given the plants in the gravel garden ANY supplemental watering. Seriously.

Meanwhile, in the cottage garden and the rest of the outer, deer resistant gardens, I've been dragging water hoses and watering cans in an attempt to keep—even my drought-tolerant plants such as agastache, salvia and coneflowers—alive.

Back in the gravel garden, the foliage of the Japanese iris looks splendid and green. The monarda 'Blue Stocking' bloomed gorgeously. Those moisture-lovers didn't get any supplemental water from me. Tucked against buddleia, neither did those plants receive the full onslaught of the sun, but enough sun that made those same plants wither and wilt in the hardwood mulched areas of my garden.

Interesting. I was curious. No watering and virtually no weeds in the gravel garden for three months. No adding of more hardwood mulch to keep the soil moist.

Perennial heliotrope was literally covered
in the gravel and emerged to make a happy
ground cover around the Oak Leaf Holly.
Photo: July 29, 2011.
The rosemary has grown a foot higher. The Burford hollies have increased in size. The buddleia are in bloom and the crepe myrtles put on a splendid show of blooms.The chamaecyparis has never looked so good. The yucca is happy. The osmanthus 'Goshiki' has a bit of scorch on the top leaves (not unusual), but is growing just fine. The perennial heliotrope emerged from BENEATH the gravel to make a soft skirt around the oak leaf holly.

After a recent rainfall of one inch of rain, I dug a hole in the gravel garden; a hole in the deer resistant garden; and, a hole in the cottage garden.

Eleven inches down, the gravel garden soil was moist all the way—even though I had never watered it!

The other gardens had barely an inch of moist soil and ten inches of bone dry powder and I had been struggling to keep those areas watered. If anything, the cottage garden and other outer gardens have better soil than that beneath the gravel plantings.

Can it be that gravel, a permeable surface that allows rain to penetrate also prevents evaporation of moisture, even in day-after-day of 100°F temperatures?

My test is not scientific, but it is definitely making me think carefully about other areas that can handle gravel. Many of my drought-tolerant plants will be happy surrounded by gravel.

Gravel is not temporary! Once in place, especially two inches deep, it is difficult to remove. Therefore, I shall proceed with caution as I convert more areas to gravel to reduce the need for supplemental watering.

It's far too hot to take on a project like this during the summer. I want to also see the performance of the gravel garden plants over the winter as well as whether the weeds will pop up in the gravel. More waiting, but in the meantime, I can honestly say that the gravel garden is making us very happy.

The rosemary is flourishing.
The foliage of the Japanese iris is green (without watering)
and the butterfly bushes are happy and healthy.
Photo: early morning, July 29, 2011.
Guests do park here and the weeds
have been so few.
Photo: early morning, July 29, 2011.
Merge of driveway with garden.
Perennial heliotrope skirts the large holly.
Photo: early morning, July 29, 2011.

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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