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Saturday, August 1, 2020

THE CONSTANT EDITOR

I took advantage of a recent cloudy morning by going out in the garden with my Cobra head, my scissors, my pruners and the garbage can. Yes, pruning and removal day again. In a rock garden you should be able to appreciate the rocks and the only time you can do this in my sunken garden is in winter and early spring when most perennials are dormant. It is time for a rethink and renewal.


Early summer rains just made everything grow like weeds, and there are plenty of those. Even plants that would be great in another garden setting are no longer welcome. Plants like mealy blue sage, Salvia farinacia, and Ruellia sp. as well as fragrant mist flower, Eupatorium havanense. When this plant made its appearance a few years ago I was more than thrilled but it has pushed out the bee balm. It is now on the move again, almost covering the day lilies and somewhere behind is a yellow iris which only put out a few blooms this year. A big shout out for  something to be done. I am thinking I may just have to remove that mistflower.  I'm almost positive there are rocks under there too.
Mid-June the sunken garden was looking quite nice, although I had at this point already removed the spent annuals like Love-in-a -mist, Nigella damascena, poppies and  other spring annuals. The cone flowers, Echinacea purpurea, were in full swing but by mid July they were finished. Another task on my list unless I want them everywhere.


From one angle, on the other side of the wall in the English garden, the late July garden looks fine but I begin to see already that the Pride of Barbados, Caesalpinia pulcherrima, has already attained a size that may demand its removal before next year. Walking around the pool has become more difficult and having had that rather bad accident last year makes me very nervous about walking around there. Maybe a little chop back for now!


I have already removed all the plants in one area and have a plan to add a few more rocks before I soften the area with small plants. At the same time I will amend the soil which should help its moisture retaining ability.


And further along the wall there are Crocosmia sp. which have become  just a floppy mass. How to keep them upright I wonder. Less or more water. I remember my grandparents having these, they called them Monardia, in very sandy soil all the way along their driveway and they were very upstanding.

So I am on the hunt for hardy, small rock garden plants. Unlike English nurseries where the rock gardener would be sure of finding an area dedicated to rock garden plants, our nurseries have no such thing.Yes, they do have cactus and succulents in one area but there are plenty of other plants which could well be classified as being suitable for a rock garden. I guess there aren't enough of us with rock gardens.

The local nursery in the town where I grew up
When I visited the local nursery in the town in England where I grew up I was left drooling over all the different dianthus they had. I fear I might be a dianthus collector if I lived there. Dianthus do well here-or at least certain ones do and they are a favorite winter annual surviving sometimes for several years. But the selection is always disappointing.

So far I have been listing the plants that can take full sun and might be suitable for the 'new' rock garden.
Blackfoot daisy                                  Additions to the list from Deb Wilson
Square bud primrose                          Crag lily, Echeandia texensis
Germander                                         Hill Country penstemon
Dianthus                                             Evening primrose
Scabiosa
Achillea
Skullcaps
Alyssum
Sedums
Iceplant
Creeping phlox
Four nerve daisy
Leadwort plumbago
Thymes
Small iris species
Gulf coast penstemon

It will be a matter of balancing spring and winter bloomers. For those that are dormant at any time they must look presentable. I may be tempted to add species tulips and their seed heads are quite presentable even until the plant dies back.
Undoubtedly I will add to the list over time but I would like to try to keep the planting in this garden different from the other gardens which is not the easiest thing to do. I am open to suggestions for plants that do well in our Central Texas climate.

20 comments:

  1. Walking your sunken garden is a wonderful journey of discovery, Jenny, but I can appreciate that you can have too much of a good thing. I've thought about adding Casesalpinia to my garden many times but the exuberant growth you've encountered is what always has me putting it off, although with zero or near zero summer water maybe it wouldn't create the same issues for me. I won't presume to advise you on your proposed plant choices as I suspect our conditions are very different. Best wishes with your next steps.

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    1. Thanks for the good wishes. I often see plants that you are growing that I would love to have> Alas our weather would not be friendly to them.

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  2. Love your sunken garden and your English garden, Jenny. I appreciate the maintenance they take. I miss the fabulous garden centers in England with lots of plant selection and tea rooms. My mother called crocosmia Monbretia. I have one smallish plant and it hasn't tried to take over. It does flop a lot though. P.x

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    1. Plants and tea rooms. The English do that so well. I wonder why they don't try that here? I know I would stop for a scone and a cuppa.

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    2. At our garden centers here in the Seattle area, a few have a little cafe so you can do just that. Have a cup of tea and treat while in the midst of a beautiful plant setting.

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    3. That sounds wonderful. I think the Natural Garden should do that but of course in these days of social distancing it is not the right time to start.

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  3. I think your sunken garden is my favorite of all the areas around your home. Can't wait to see what you do with it. Do you have any lavender growing there? I'd want some rain lilies, too. But I'd want them in any garden!

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    1. No lavender but there are rain lilies-if they survived being covered up all year. I could certainly do with more. Thanks for the suggestion.

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  4. How do you feel about Zexmenia seed heads? Or the ex-Asters (Symphyotrichum spp.)? I managed to get a few blooms out of the cottage pinks I grew from the seed Botanical Interests gave us at the Denver Fling; they are spending the summer in small pots with nice compact clusters of green leaves, and no pests. If they continue to do well in pots, I will plant them in ground in fall. I have a variegated lemon thyme that is going gangbusters this summer; it smells divine and again, no pests. No more Caesalpinia for me (now Erythrostemon, I am reading). I have an overgrown "mexicana" that wants to be a 25-foot tree, and it reseeds furiously; it must come out, and I'm dreading that job. I and the bees will miss the blossoms.

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    1. I like Zexmenia but have more than enough growing and reseeding on the lower portion. I must have cut it back 3 times already-right down to the ground as well as removed hundreds of seedlings. Pinks are nice and very rock gardenish but they have a short life. You gave me a Mexican bird of paradise which I planted behind the sunken garden to replace a rose. I don't mind if it makes a small tree. And strangely it was in a pot in the front garden for more than a year and after I removed it a few weeks later a new plant started to grow from a piece of root that was left behind That once happened with a rose. We, or should I say David, is removing the Lady Banks from the front garden. Sad but necessary. I remember when you removed yours.

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    2. Yes, the Lady Banks rose was growing into the eaves of the house, and Jack was having none of that! They are so gorgeous in bloom but the bloom period is so short and the rose is so rambling. I have come to grips with the fact that my plot is small and giant spreading plants overwhelm it. Doesn't your C. pulcherrima die back to the ground most years? Your part of town always seems to be colder than most. The Mexican Bird of Paradise dies back in my garden most years, but not the last two. The only one I've seen in Austin in full tree form is in the McClurg garden (designed by Jackson Broussard).

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    3. David has been working on it all week. It is a monster job and will affect all the plants beneath it. And the Mockingbird will not be happy when he comes back to spend the winter in there. As well as all the other birds who hang out in there. But I think I will replace it and try to train it better. All vines here seem to go crazy.

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  5. The garden looks fantastic with the new edits. I think editing is about the best thing one can do for a garden. About that mistflower, it showed up here ten years ago or so, and I now remove every bit of it I can find. It still produces plenty of plants and flowers for the butterflies. I will never get rid of it all. So many bad actors in my garden. You are smart to get rid of as much of it as you see because, in my experience, it will never ever go away. ~~Dee

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    1. Thanks for that advice. I will definitely try to remove it in the fall. Big job!

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  6. It looka wonderful, and I'm a huge fan of editing, myself. I remember visiting your amazing garden during the Fling with such great memories, and glad that you're able to be editing again.

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    1. I have never been a good editor but I'm certainly going to be doing a lot of it.

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  7. It's lovely to read your blog and to see pictures of your garden. I live in the East of England which is very dry. I have found Beth Chatto's books to be really helpful,esecially the one she wrote about turning her car park into a dry garden which she never waters! By the way, I think the plant your grandparents grew was probably monbretia, it's what we used to call crocosmia. It grew wild along the hedgerow banks in Cornwall as I recall. C

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  8. Thank you so much. Yes, I have two of Beth Chattos books and have visited her garden. It is inspiring. However I was not able to prepare the ground as she did as we are really on solid rock. We have visited so many beautiful gardens in East Anglia including the wonderful East Ruston. And my husband was at Cambridge so we have been there many times. I still call the plant Monbretia even today.

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  9. I so enjoy seeing your garden. Editing is the hardest job for me. I have never been good at visualizing the garden, so I over think and end up not pulling out anything. I clearly need intervention.

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    1. I just let everything get out of hand with poor selection of plants. I was never meant to be a neat and tidy gardener.

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