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Quote of the Day: Perennial Gardens

 

Designers of perennial gardens often tell gardeners to “buy the foliage, not the flower.” It’s certainly good advice for some perennial gardens. Most perennials are in beautiful bloom for only about two weeks out of their 52-week yearly life. As they are coming and going from this peak, we can add two weeks on either side of that peak where the plant is pretty to look at in a garden. But in general, we are looking at a sea of foliage for most of the growing season. That unbroken expanse of green is the reason most perennial gardens have some annuals tucked into them as a way to give them some color when the perennial blooms are fading.

I am not a gardener–just a weekend hobbyist who passes her daydreaming time designing gardens. I’ve set up a few perennial gardens, both for me and my neighborhood’s garden. In doing so, I’ve experimented with lots of different plant collections. I’ve tried to choose plants for a single garden that will all be in bloom at the same time to create a flower bouquet effect. And other times I’ve tried to choose plants to create small groups within the larger garden as a whole such that the small groups of flowers will bloom in sequence so that one part of the garden will light up with flowers for a couple of weeks, then quiet down, while another part of the garden lights up with color.

Doing these things has focused my attention on garden design. The look of the garden and the bloom sequence are shaped by the designer’s purpose. If the gardener is running a school garden and the school has a graduation program and then shuts down for the summer, a spring-flowering garden would be best. If the designer is working on a bed-and-breakfast inn that is at its busiest over the summer, then he or she will skip the spring bulbs and go straight to a garden filled with summer-blooming colorful bee balm and day lily plants.

Of course, the list of challenges for garden designers is long: drainage, slope, soil, shade and sun, air circulation, plot size, slugs, rabbits, and deer, to name a few. In my yard, my greatest challenge is the rabbit population. And even though I start thinking about flowering plants by looking the list of plants rabbits usually avoid, hungry baby rabbits, as adorable as they are, will eat or sample just about everything. Sometimes I think they simply play with tall flower stalks, although I’m quite sure I would be told by the experts that rabbits lack the capacity to actually play.

Everyone probably knows this, but I get a kick out of it: if the cut in the plant (the leaf or stem) is clean, it’s a rabbit. If it’s jagged, it’s a deer. No surprise. Rabbits are calm. They really aren’t as skittish as the deer are. For obvious reasons. Deer are much bigger animals and much easier to prey upon. They keep moving! They tend to grab and go when it comes to the greenery they eat. Rabbits can hide in the grass or garden and take their time munching.

Given the assortment of challenges and goals gardeners have, I don’t think the “buy the foliage” advice is always the definitive last word on perennial garden design. However, I have a little garden that seems to prove the worth of the advice for a lot of situations.

I built this little garden just outside the back door of my garden shed. It was a spot in the yard that was getting a good hit three times a week of water from the sprinkler system. The weeds loved the water and were the healthiest in the state of Massachusetts. So about ten years ago, I dug out the weeds, and I dug down a foot or so and removed the worn-out dirt that was there. I threw in a couple of bags of garden soil. I found some plants around the yard and plopped them into this little garden. I put some mulch on top. No more unsightly weeds. And then I forgot about it.

The three hosta plants I put in and the maroon heuchera did pretty well the first year. I added a little white geranium, and the silly little garden shed garden that no one but me ever sees started to do very well and be very pretty. The Fire and Ice hosta is a favorite of the rabbits, but I can spray the garden with the rabbit repellent because the garden shed is next to it. Sometimes they get the leaves, and occasionally a flower stalk, but there are enough leaves and flowers left to make a pretty display. And I don’t mind sharing once in a while.

The next year I added more soil and some white astilbe. From my kitchen window, I can see the tall white astilbe blooms and pink heuchera blooms, which come out at the same time. It is pretty.

Over the years, I have added a little miniature stone wall in front of the garden–it has been a great place to collect the stones I dig out of the other gardens.

I started fertilizing the little garden and adding more bags of garden soil. I put a small blue hydrangea at the far end. I added more seasonal annuals such as impatiens in the summer and mums in the fall. This year I’ve put in some dark salmon geraniums.

Last fall from another garden where it wasn’t doing very well, I moved into this little spot a pretty and delicate variegated Jacob’s ladder plant (also sometimes called the “stairway to heaven plant”). This plant gets its name partly because of the way the leaves are arranged on its stems–two leaves arise oppositely from every single node along the stem, which produces a ladder effect. Jacob’s ladder is admired for the tiny blue flowers that appear in May and June. But mostly the variegated version of this plant contributes bright foliage throughout the growing season.

I like this plant because of its history. I read this story years ago, but the New England Wild Flower Society (NEWFS) no longer tells this story on their website. So you’ll have to trust me on this too. One year, one of the NEWFS interns (or perhaps it was one of their very young new employees) was carrying a tray of Jacob’s ladder plants across the yard. He looked down and noticed a variegated plant in the tray. So, on his own, he started to propagate it to see if he could. He was successful. Variegation–white and green leaves instead of all-green leaves–is usually caused by a random genetic mutation. The variegation comes and goes and is hard to stabilize. That’s why if you have a variegated plant, growers will say to cut off any all-green leaves and stems. Otherwise, you’ll lose the variegation. It’s also hard to propagate a variegated plant–the laws of genetics and nature are working against the effort.

The New England Wild Flower Society started to sell the new plants at their spring fundraisers. It was admired by the visitors to the center, including some of the major plant growers in the country. They wanted to propagate it and sell it too, and they made an offer that the society accepted: every time someone buys a variegated Jacob’s ladder, some small royalty goes to support the Garden in the Woods, a public garden built and maintained by the NEWFS for the purpose of preserving New England’s native woodland plants.

So here is a picture of my little garden this year. The Jacob’s ladder’s delicate blue blossoms are going by now, but its foliage will remain pretty most of the summer. This is a small garden in which the foliage takes center stage.

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There are 30 comments.

  1. Thatcher

    MarciN: And even though I start thinking about flowering plants by looking the list of plants rabbits usually avoid, hungry baby rabbits, as adorable as they are, will eat or sample just about everything.

    Get a dog or a big cat to chase away the rabbits. We don’t have a dog or cat, but when our neighbors have a dog, the rabbits stay away.


    This conversation is an entry in our Quote of the Day Series. We have many openings in the June 2018 Sign-Up Sheet and Schedule, along with tips for finding great quotes.

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    • #1
    • June 9, 2018 at 3:49 am
    • 2 likes
  2. Member
    AQ

    I love your beautiful little garden! So delicate and airy!

    I hired a professional landscape gardener to suggest plants for my very wet, shady yard about ten years ago. He looked around and then sighed and said, “Oh dear, so much green. You need color!”

    The garden is still all green, but now I am resigned to its serenity and sogginess.

    However, if I hit the lottery, I will have one of those English perennial borders that glow with color!

    • #2
    • June 9, 2018 at 4:35 am
    • 6 likes
  3. Moderator
    She

    What a lovely post, and an even lovelier garden. Also, thanks for some very good ideas.

    I have been researching (a very high-falutin’ word for some rather pedestrian activities) shade ground covers for the past couple of years. If you have a largish patch, and you’re not too worried about invasiveness, Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia) is very good (it spreads like mad, though, so be warned). Different color leaves, from bright golden to deep green (not varigated, they are on different varieties). It also grows well in shade.

    Have also become a fan of Deadnettle (Lamium), which also comes in several varieties. Some leaves are solid green, some are varigated. Some of the plants mound, and others spread. All of them have small, all-over flowers that last quite a while. They also do well in shade, as do Lady’s Mantle and Cranesbill.

    • #3
    • June 9, 2018 at 5:09 am
    • 6 likes
  4. Member
    MarciN Post author

    AQ (View Comment):

    I love your beautiful little garden! So delicate and airy!

    I hired a professional landscape gardener to suggest plants for my very wet, shady yard about ten years ago. He looked around and then sighed and said, “Oh dear, so much green. You need color!”

    The garden is still all green, but now I am resigned to its serenity and sogginess.

    However, if I hit the lottery, I will have one of those English perennial borders that glow with color!

    That’s definitely workable. On the scale of problems to have, dry shade is the worst. Wet can be fun to work with. 

    One of my favorite plants is the Joe Pyeweed. The dark maroon tall stalks are really gorgeous. But these plants originated on river banks. They love to have their feet wet. 

    • #4
    • June 9, 2018 at 5:25 am
    • 1 like
  5. Member
    MarciN Post author

    She (View Comment):

    What a lovely post, and an even lovelier garden. Also, thanks for some very good ideas.

    I have been researching (a very high-falutin’ word for some rather pedestrian activities) shade ground covers for the past couple of years. If you have a largish patch, and you’re not too worried about invasiveness, Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia) is very good (it spreads like mad, though, so be warned). Different color leaves, from bright golden to deep green (not varigated, they are on different varieties). It also grows well in shade.

    Have also become a fan of Deadnettle (Lamium), which also comes in several varieties. Some leaves are solid green, some are varigated. Some of the plants mound, and others spread. All of them have small, all-over flowers that last quite a while. They also do well in shade, as do Lady’s Mantle and Cranesbill.

    All beautiful. 

    One of my favorite plants is Jack Frost brunnera, but I’ve killed every single one I’ve ever planted. Someday I’ll get it right . . . 

    • #5
    • June 9, 2018 at 5:27 am
    • Like
  6. Thatcher

    She (View Comment):
    I have been researching (a very high-falutin’ word for some rather pedestrian activities) shade ground covers for the past couple of years.

    There was some Pachysandra when we bought our house in 1993. The Wiki article said the Japanese Sheen version is highly deer resistant. Ours spreads slowly (the Green Sheen version?) without any maintenance.

    • #6
    • June 9, 2018 at 6:28 am
    • 2 likes
  7. Thatcher

    MarciN (View Comment):
    That’s definitely workable. On the scale of problems to have, dry shade is the worst.

    The Wiki article on Pachysandra said that “All species in this genus prefer a well-drained soil with a high humus content.” Sounds like your soil, right?

    • #7
    • June 9, 2018 at 7:16 am
    • 3 likes
  8. Moderator
    She

    Vectorman (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):
    I have been researching (a very high-falutin’ word for some rather pedestrian activities) shade ground covers for the past couple of years.

    There was some Pachysandra when we bought our house in 1993. The Wiki article said the Japanese Sheen version is highly deer resistant. Ours spreads slowly (the Green Sheen version?) without any maintenance.

    Pachysandra doesn’t do well around here for some reason. I thought it would work for my shade garden, but it’s recalcitrant.

    Deer resistance is a “thing” for me as well. One of my favorites are hellebores, which the deer don’t like at all (as I understand it, leathery leaves are a turn-off for them). They bloom for months, which is nice.

    • #8
    • June 9, 2018 at 7:21 am
    • 4 likes
  9. Member

    Marci, you sound like a gardener to me!

    I wish I could be more of one myself, but for the last 10 years, chronic backpain has badly interfered.

    I need advice for my back garden, which gets some sun, especially mornings. It’s got plenty of variation in foliage. But I’m thinking those hostas in front have outgrown the spot. I’d like to pull them out and replace them with some kind of low-growing, long-flowering perennial. Coreopsis? Blanket flower?

    The hydrangeas against the fence will turn blue in another week or two. To the right of the hostas (not in the picture) are some sedum.

    • #9
    • June 9, 2018 at 8:27 am
    • 6 likes
  10. Member

    My front garden has a couple of weeks of major splendor late in May, when peonies, baptisia, viburnum, and roses all bloom together.

    • #10
    • June 9, 2018 at 8:28 am
    • 4 likes
  11. Member
    MarciN Post author

    You are very kind. There are real gardeners in both my husband’s and my families. Not to mention my town and street. Cape Codders take gardening very seriously. :-) It’s embarrassing to talk with them. My word, they know everything!

    I love those hostas. They are so upright! You know that you can trim the bottom leaves throughout the growing season (even put them in vases outside for some pretty and inexpensive decoration). Cutting them like leafy lettuce won’t hurt them. You can shape them anyway you like.

    Coreopsis is another name for “rabbit food.” :-) Except the threadleaf kind (moonbeam, I think it’s called). Those are beautiful in the front of a garden. They create kind of a veil. Very beautiful.

    Blanket flower is a perfect choice. Bee balm too. Cone flowers are nice too. There are beautiful colors in all of these plants. Maybe some old-fashioned zinneas.

    I’m on Cape Cod which is now home to the Cape Cod Hydrangea Society, which plants and maintains the beautiful North American Hydrangea Test Garden at the Heritage Plantation gardens in Sandwich. It took ten years to bring this about, but two years ago, the test garden made it beautiful debut.

    • #11
    • June 9, 2018 at 8:39 am
    • 6 likes
  12. Member
    MarciN Post author

    katievs (View Comment):

    My front garden has a couple of weeks of major splendor late in May, when peonies, baptisms, viburnum, and roses all bloom together.

    That is stunning. What joy!

    • #12
    • June 9, 2018 at 8:41 am
    • 2 likes
  13. Member
    MarciN Post author

    I saw a great picture a long time ago, and I cannot find it again, but I think of it all the time. It was over the entrance to one of the Proven Winners test gardens: If we can’t kill it, no one can. 

    They have not met my rabbits! :-)

    • #13
    • June 9, 2018 at 8:44 am
    • 1 like
  14. Member

    MarciN (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):

    AQ (View Comment):

    I love your beautiful little garden! So delicate and airy!

    I hired a professional landscape gardener to suggest plants for my very wet, shady yard about ten years ago. He looked around and then sighed and said, “Oh dear, so much green. You need color!”

    The garden is still all green, but now I am resigned to its serenity and sogginess.

    However, if I hit the lottery, I will have one of those English perennial borders that glow with color!

    That’s definitely workable. On the scale of problems to have, dry shade is the worst. Wet can be fun to work with.

    One of my favorite plants is the Joe Pyeweed. The dark maroon tall stalks are really gorgeous. But these plants originated on river banks. They love to have their feet wet.

    This dramatic plant grew wild at the creek’s edge on some land we bought in Michigan! And I echo @katievs. You’re a gardener.

    • #14
    • June 9, 2018 at 9:00 am
    • 4 likes
  15. Member

    Beautiful gardens!

    The concept of planting for foliage comes from Beth Catto and her book, Green Tapestry. Not so much about purchasing foliage but more about the arrangement of your plants. She says if you arrange plants by juxtaposing contrasting foliage, the garden will be attractive even when there are few flowers.

    Beth died a couple of weeks ago aged ~95. She and her husband popularized the “Right Plant -Right Place” concept too. Gardeners can save significant money and work by putting plants in conditions similar to their origins.

    • #15
    • June 9, 2018 at 2:36 pm
    • 7 likes
  16. Member
    MarciN Post author

    doulalady (View Comment):

    Beautiful gardens!

    The concept of planting for foliage comes from Beth Catto and her book, Green Tapestry. Not so much about purchasing foliage but more about the arrangement of your plants. She says if you arrange plants by juxtaposing contrasting foliage, the garden will be attractive even when there are few flowers.

    Beth died a couple of weeks ago aged ~95. She and her husband popularized the “Right Plant -Right Place” concept too. Gardeners can save significant money and work by putting plants in conditions similar to their origins.

    Ahh. That’s interesting. I shall get her book. Thank you. 

    I agree completely with the right plant, right place idea. I try to follow that when I can. I think it was Better Homes and Gardens in which I read, doing otherwise is a long uphill battle. :-)

     

    • #16
    • June 9, 2018 at 5:05 pm
    • 3 likes
  17. Member

    Marci, could you please come down to Texas and help with my yard? I enjoy gardening, but lack the skill and patience to do it well. 

    In the 20 years we’ve been in our house the trees have all grown, so what used to get full sun is now partial sun or full shade so the plants that used to work well don’t anymore. And it seems the local nurseries carry primarily plants that need a lot of sun, so the replacement selection feels a little thin.

    • #17
    • June 12, 2018 at 7:16 am
    • 2 likes
  18. Member
    MarciN Post author

    livingthenonScienceFictionlife (View Comment):

    Marci, could you please come down to Texas and help with my yard? I enjoy gardening, but lack the skill and patience to do it well.

    In the 20 years we’ve been in our house the trees have all grown, so what used to get full sun is now partial sun or full shade so the plants that used to work well don’t anymore. And it seems the local nurseries carry primarily plants that need a lot of sun, so the replacement selection feels a little thin.

    That would be fun for me. My favorite gardens are shade gardens.

    Start with a bench where you’d like to sit. Put up a bird feeder. The rest will happen by itself. :-)

    • #18
    • June 12, 2018 at 7:29 am
    • 5 likes
  19. Member
    MarciN Post author

    My gardening interest started with a fondness for chipmunks and small song birds. We had lost our family dog, and I was pretty devastated. I started enjoying the wildlife scene out my kitchen window when I was doing dishes. I put up a bird bath, which became very popular with a particular robin. My husband added a bird feeder. He puts food in it for cardinals. 

    There were a couple of chipmunks living under the garden shed that (a) I didn’t have to worry about the way I had worried about the family dogs and cats and that (b) reminded me of Chip and Dale. Disney really captured these playful animals. Then a cat started prowling around, bent on ruining my fun. So I planted some very tall blue hosta to give the chipmunks some cover when they were in the garden area.

    And I’ve been gardening ever since. 

    Every year I still see new generations of chipmunks that the good Lord takes care of, not me. I just watch them play. I enjoy watching them. They are so funny. 

    • #19
    • June 12, 2018 at 7:37 am
    • 3 likes
  20. Member

    It amuses me that you speak so lovingly about Jacob’s Ladder. I put some in when we first moved to our house, 15 years ago. But it has spread like a weed, and I’m constantly pulling it out of places where it’s seeded itself. Kind of wish I’d never planted it!

    One thing I’ve found fascinating about gardening — there are perennials that I thought were completely eradicated from our gardens — either by chance or design — and then a few years later they suddenly show up again. We’d put in some Sundrops (Oenothera fruticosa?) when we started our gardens, and they spread vigorously. My wife didn’t care too much for them, and one year she pulled them all out in a fit of pique. And that’s the way it was for several years. Then last year one or two popped up, and I let them be. This year we’ve got quite a large crop. Somehow they were still alive under the soil for the better part of a decade, until the conditions were just right for them to show up again.

    This has been true for several other perennials, too. I’d put some Alexander loosestrife in one location, but within a year I’d moved it to a different location where it thrived. Now, several years later I see some blooming in its original location where I thought I’d gotten all of it. (That original location is in the middle of what is now a raspberry patch, for what it’s worth.)

     

    • #20
    • June 12, 2018 at 7:55 am
    • 2 likes
  21. Member
    MarciN Post author

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):

    It amuses me that you speak so lovingly about Jacob’s Ladder. I put some in when we first moved to our house, 15 years ago. But it has spread like a weed, and I’m constantly pulling it out of places where it’s seeded itself. Kind of wish I’d never planted it!

    One thing I’ve found fascinating about gardening — there are perennials that I thought were completely eradicated from our gardens — either by chance or design — and then a few years later they suddenly show up again. We’d put in some Sundrops (Oenothera fruticosa?) when we started our gardens, and they spread vigorously. My wife didn’t care too much for them, and one year she pulled them all out in a fit of pique. And that’s the way it was for several years. Then last year one or two popped up, and I let them be. This year we’ve got quite a large crop. Somehow they were still alive under the soil for the better part of a decade, until the conditions were just right for them to show up again.

    This has been true for several other perennials, too. I’d put some Alexander loosestrife in one location, but within a year I’d moved it to a different location where it thrived. Now, several years later I see some blooming in its original location where I thought I’d gotten all of it. (That original location is in the middle of what is now a raspberry patch, for what it’s worth.)

     

    Homeowners need to be really careful buying and planting some of the ground covers. Any plant that is selling really well in garden centers will succeed under most conditions. The garden centers can assure gardeners that these plants will do well, but it also means some of them are hard to get rid of.

    Interesting Jacob’s ladder has spread that way. I thought it was a “short-lived perennial.” I have only three of them, and mine aren’t as happy as yours. I have to dig them up once every few year, trim the roots, and give them all new soil. They don’t spread here. That said, they are woodland wildflowers. :-)

    That said, the flowers are tiny and relatively nondescript. I would not bother with the all-green plant. I love the variegated one. The all-green parent plant would get lost in the garden. I can see why it would be annoying if it were all over your yard. Please accept my sympathy. :-)

     

    • #21
    • June 12, 2018 at 8:08 am
    • 1 like
  22. Member
    MarciN Post author

    There are two other bits of advice that I have heard many garden designers give to people, and both work well for me. (1) Start with the big plants–trees usually–and work down in scale from there. You’re constantly filling in the visual space vertically as well as horizontally. (2) Put light plants in dark spaces and dark plants in light spaces. Thus the attraction of yellow begonias under big white pines. :-)

    • #22
    • June 12, 2018 at 8:24 am
    • 2 likes
  23. Member

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):

    It amuses me that you speak so lovingly about Jacob’s Ladder. I put some in when we first moved to our house, 15 years ago. But it has spread like a weed, and I’m constantly pulling it out of places where it’s seeded itself. Kind of wish I’d never planted it!

    English Ivy has done that in our front yard. That stuff is near impossible to kill off. I swear it would take over our entire house if we let it and we’d have to cut holes in the Ivy for the doors and windows.

    • #23
    • June 12, 2018 at 11:00 am
    • 3 likes
  24. Coolidge

    MarciN (View Comment):
    Every year I still see new generations of chipmunks that the good Lord takes care of, not me. I just watch them play. I enjoy watching them. They are so funny. 

    I had some chipmunks that took up residence in a open knothole in a tree I could clearly see from the dining room. There they had easy access to the bird feeder. When the weather turned cold they moved to their winter home under the patio, tho still close to nourishment. In late spring I would wean the birds off the seed so they could forage for berries and truffles and do their work spreading seeds, etc. One late spring day I had put the last of the seeds in the feeder. The next morning as I walked through the dining room I noticed a chipmunk who had stuck his head out of the hole. He looked around, stretched, and rubbed his eyes. Thinking breakfast was just above him, he scurried up to eat. No food. I had gone into the bathroom to get ready for work and heard this loud racket. Finally, I went back to see what was going on. There he was, sitting on the base of an overturned cement flower planter looking toward the large picture window and screaming (and, I thought, stamping his little feet). I watched him for a few minutes, then felt sorry for him and went into the garage. I placed a small handful of seed on the planter’s base and did this for a few days, lessening the amount each time until. like the birds, he caught on. 

    • #24
    • June 12, 2018 at 12:15 pm
    • 3 likes
  25. Member

    After 30 years of on-again off-again gardening (and, yes, Marci, you are a gardener — anyone who likes to play in the dirt…), I just came to the conclusion this year that I select for foliage. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for flowers, but if the form and overall effect of the plant doesn’t hack it (I’m looking at you, yarrow), it’s a no go for my garden.

    And, yes, creating a design includes the structure — trees, shrubs and hardscape — not just the tapestry. I fell for purple smoke bush many years ago, but only planted them within the last year or two. It was worth the wait

    This year, my new fave is Lemony Lace Elderberry. I saved two from being “euthanized” by Home Depot due to hail damage — for $15/each. I love a happy accident on the cheap.

    Speaking of happy accidents, one of my favorite things about gardening is letting Nature do part of the design. I have volunteers throughout the garden — some I’m not even sure what they are yet! But, they do part of the job for me, and if I don’t like their placement or appearance, out they come!

    I’ve decided it requires a certain ruthlessness to be a gardener…

    • #25
    • June 12, 2018 at 12:59 pm
    • 3 likes
  26. Member
    MarciN Post author

    barbara lydick (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):
    Every year I still see new generations of chipmunks that the good Lord takes care of, not me. I just watch them play. I enjoy watching them. They are so funny.

    I had some chipmunks that took up residence in a open knothole in a tree I could clearly see from the dining room. There they had easy access to the bird feeder. When the weather turned cold they moved to their winter home under the patio, tho still close to nourishment. In late spring I would wean the birds off the seed so they could forage for berries and truffles and do their work spreading seeds, etc. One late spring day I had put the last of the seeds in the feeder. The next morning as I walked through the dining room I noticed a chipmunk who had stuck his head out of the hole. He looked around, stretched, and rubbed his eyes. Thinking breakfast was just above him, he scurried up to eat. No food. I had gone into the bathroom to get ready for work and heard this loud racket. Finally, I went back to see what was going on. There he was, sitting on the base of an overturned cement flower planter looking toward the large picture window and screaming (and, I thought, stamping his little feet). I watched him for a few minutes, then felt sorry for him and went into the garage. I placed a small handful of seed on the planter’s base and did this for a few days, lessening the amount each time until. like the birds, he caught on.

    Poor little thing. I’m glad you saved him. 

    That’s a great story. 

    I find it really fascinating that successive generations of wildlife adopt the habits of their grandparents and great-grandparents. I can’t explain it. I see squirrels and chipmunks in the same places year after year. The scene looks exactly the same to me. But I know they are not the same animals. 

    My husband had a deck-rail bird feeder on the home we had before this one. He filled it for several years, and it attracted purple finches. Then he stopped putting the feeder and food there. For years afterward, I’d see purple finches at that spot. I suppose it’s possible there’s a smell of some kind left behind by the earlier generations of purple finches, but my understanding is that birds don’t have a sense of smell–that’s why the cayenne pepper squirrel repellents keep the squirrels away from feeders but not the birds. I keep wondering if in the bundle of reflexes and instincts there are some familial memories passed down. (That probably sounds insane. It’s just something I wonder about.) 

    It’s really interesting. 

    • #26
    • June 12, 2018 at 1:01 pm
    • 2 likes
  27. Member
    MarciN Post author

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    After 30 years of on-again off-again gardening (and, yes, Marci, you are a gardener — anyone who likes to play in the dirt…), I just came to the conclusion this year that I select for foliage. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for flowers, but if the form and overall effect of the plant doesn’t hack it (I’m looking at you, yarrow), it’s a no go for my garden.

    And, yes, creating a design includes the structure — trees, shrubs and hardscape — not just the tapestry. I fell for purple smoke bush many years ago, but only planted them within the last year or two. It was worth the wait

    This year, my new fave is Lemony Lace Elderberry. I saved two from being “euthanized” by Home Depot due to hail damage — for $15/each. I love a happy accident on the cheap.

    Speaking of happy accidents, one of my favorite things about gardening is letting Nature do part of the design. I have volunteers throughout the garden — some I’m not even sure what they are yet! But, they do part of the job for me, and if I don’t like their placement or appearance, out they come!

    I’ve decided it requires a certain ruthlessness to be a gardener…

    All true. Although every time I yank out a poorly performing or sad-looking plant, I worry. “Is the good Lord looking at me this way?” :-)

    Love the photographs. Beautiful. 

    You also write with a great humor. 

    It’s what made Julia Child so welcome in our lives: Her humor. 

    We need a gardening sense of humor. Right? :-)

    • #27
    • June 12, 2018 at 1:06 pm
    • 2 likes
  28. Member

    livingthenonScienceFictionlife (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):

    It amuses me that you speak so lovingly about Jacob’s Ladder. I put some in when we first moved to our house, 15 years ago. But it has spread like a weed, and I’m constantly pulling it out of places where it’s seeded itself. Kind of wish I’d never planted it!

    English Ivy has done that in our front yard. That stuff is near impossible to kill off. I swear it would take over our entire house if we let it and we’d have to cut holes in the Ivy for the doors and windows.

    The house I grew up in was covered with ivy. My dad was constantly hacking it down. One day I was sitting in my room upstairs, and the cat walked right in the open 2nd-floor window after climbing up the ivy.

    • #28
    • June 12, 2018 at 1:16 pm
    • 6 likes
  29. Member

    MarciN (View Comment):

    There were a couple of chipmunks living under the garden shed that (a) I didn’t have to worry about the way I had worried about the family dogs and cats and that (b) reminded me of Chip and Dale. Disney really captured these playful animals. Then a cat started prowling around, bent on ruining my fun. So I planted some very tall blue hosta to give the chipmunks some cover when they were in the garden area.

    And I’ve been gardening ever since.

    Every year I still see new generations of chipmunks that the good Lord takes care of, not me. I just watch them play. I enjoy watching them. They are so funny.

    I have a different approach to chipmunks. 

    Several years ago the water pipes froze in the plumbing wall between our bathroom and utility room. What had happened was chipmunks had chewed a hole behind the siding and through the sheathing of the house, which let the cold air in to freeze the water pipes. 

    I got tired of trying to trap them, which wasn’t effective enough anyway. So we got a cat. Unfortunately, chipmunks are not her favorite prey, but she does kill enough of them to keep them at bay. I’m glad to make it easy for her to terrorize them. 

    We no longer burn wood to heat our house, but I still have piles and stacks of wood that accumulate. It occurred to me a few days ago that I should move those stacks out into the pasture, away from our house, and not give the chipmunks so many nearby hiding places. There is no longer a good reason to have them so close to the house. (But if you need firewood and want to bring your pickup or trailer over, I’ll give you several face cords of good quality maple, oak, cherry, walnut and mulberry to take home. Some is already cut and split, and some needs splitting.)

    • #29
    • June 12, 2018 at 2:28 pm
    • 1 like
  30. Member
    MarciN Post author

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):

    There were a couple of chipmunks living under the garden shed that (a) I didn’t have to worry about the way I had worried about the family dogs and cats and that (b) reminded me of Chip and Dale. Disney really captured these playful animals. Then a cat started prowling around, bent on ruining my fun. So I planted some very tall blue hosta to give the chipmunks some cover when they were in the garden area.

    And I’ve been gardening ever since.

    Every year I still see new generations of chipmunks that the good Lord takes care of, not me. I just watch them play. I enjoy watching them. They are so funny.

    I have a different approach to chipmunks.

    Several years ago the water pipes froze in the plumbing wall between our bathroom and utility room. What had happened was chipmunks had chewed a hole behind the siding and through the sheathing of the house, which let the cold air in to freeze the water pipes.

    I got tired of trying to trap them, which wasn’t effective enough anyway. So we got a cat. Unfortunately, chipmunks are not her favorite prey, but she does kill enough of them to keep them at bay. I’m glad to make it easy for her to terrorize them.

    We no longer burn wood to heat our house, but I still have piles and stacks of wood that accumulate. It occurred to me a few days ago that I should move those stacks out into the pasture, away from our house, and not give the chipmunks so many nearby hiding places. There is no longer a good reason to have them so close to the house. (But if you need firewood and want to bring your pickup or trailer over, I’ll give you several face cords of good quality maple, oak, cherry, walnut and mulberry to take home. Some is already cut and split, and some needs splitting.)

    If you look up chipmunks in a Google search, you will see humanity evenly divided into those who enjoy them and those who find new and better ways to get rid of them. :-) 

    Such is life. :-)

    • #30
    • June 12, 2018 at 2:41 pm
    • 2 likes