aspenhill's blog

A Few More Ground Covers
Posted on May 21, 2021 6:36 AM

I forgot to include these two ground covers in my blog post last night - Meehan's Mint and Tiarella 'Brandywine'. They are both natives. Two or three years ago I purchased eight Meehan's Mint during my spring amish nursery run and am using it to try to cover some ground in the Fern Bank. Last year I purchased a few more Meehan's Mint, and along with the few surviving plugs of Tiarella 'Brandywine' purchased several years ago, I planted them underneath the white dogwood in the Gazebo Garden. In the past I was completely unsuccessful trying to get Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) to grow there. The Meehan's Mint is spreading slowly but the Tiarella 'Brandywine' looks like it has at least doubled in size in just the one year. I guess it was so happy to finally get in the ground after years of struggling in the confined plug tray Green Grin!

Meehan's Mint
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Tiarella 'Brandywine'
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Ground Covers
Posted on May 20, 2021 7:05 PM

One of the design elements that I've been incorporating is the use of ground covers. It does absolute wonders for weed control when they fill in. Big swaths of a ground cover look really nice too if not overdone. Some of my ground covers have filled in nicely over the years while others are still in the early stages and pretty spotty.

The pachysandra between the stone veneered front foundation and the flagstone walkway is the most mature. I started with a flat of plugs, and then another flat of plugs the following year. It seemed to take forever but it is a solid mass now running the length of the house from the garage to the front porch steps. At one point when it was still spotty I thought lily of the valley might do better so I ordered "extra large" pips from White Flower Farm. Expensive, but that was really early on and I didn't know many sources for plants. Well, the lily of the valley looked like it had completely died out soon after planting and the pachysandra started taking off. I was really surprised when the lily of the valley started to appear many years later. It IS a much larger variety than the common lily of the valley that gets passed along at our Mid Atlantic swaps. I love the look of the pachysandra and the lily of the valley together, but wonder if one will eventually take over the other. Time will tell.
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I've been using Lamium 'Purple Dragon' to edge the low stacked stone retaining wall in the Turret Foundation Bed. I started with a flat of plugs for this too. It soon became a long continuous line and was exactly what I was hoping for. Unfortunately it looked like it completely died off after the weeds smothered it last summer when I was laid up with my back injury. Never give up hope though because this spring a small section has come back strong. It will soon self seed and I can use those seedlings to fill that long continuous line back in.
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There is a three sided stone veneered retaining wall that defines the parking area. The perimeter beds around it are primarily planted with iris. I kind of consider it a holding bed though because most of the iris were purchased or received as pass alongs when the fans weren't in bloom. I know what most of them are supposed to look like from online photos, but photos aren't the same as seeing them in person. I always thought that I'd incorporate them in an overall landscape design once I saw them blooming, but I've been accumulating them since 2016 and just now seeing blooms. Horrible invasive thistles are intermingled throughout. A few years ago I purchased a dozen Goutweed (Aegopodiom podagraria - what a mouthful!) and planted them on a small section of the left side. They are filling in and I like the look in and around the iris, but I LOVE the weed smothering aspect. I'm going to work on getting this to fill in all three sides.
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Camellia Corner has always been overrun with weeds. My idea is to feature camellias there but right now they are few and far between so the weeds run rampant. Solution - another ground cover! I've started vinca and a native pachysandra. The vinca should spread quickly but the native pachysandra is very slow going. So far all I have established is this small patch, probably about 5' x 5'. Many years and lots more weeding to contend with, but that is always the way gardens evolve.
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One of the most prolific plants that I've been using extensively is a bigroot geranium. I started with two pass alongs that I call Geranium [macrorrhizum] noid 'Ric and Holly tall deep pink'. Those two initial plants have spread into huge masses and self seed easily. They are now massed along the Stepping Stone Path at the north side of the house. Last year I relocated some along the sloped sides of the Dry Creek Bed and also the steeper sloped side of Cherry Tree Nook. They are easy to dig up and transplant. The roots have a distinct scent, smells like licorice to me.
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Another prolific plant that I've been using extensively is Solomon's Seal. Every patch started with slips of pass alongs from the Mid Atlantic folks. I've been gifted them off and on since 2012. Last year the deer started eating them and I was pretty disgusted because this is a main filler for me. They hadn't been bothering it before and they haven't so far this year, so maybe last year's browsing was a fluke. Hoping so. This is a patch along the Pond Path.
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I love lily of the valley and it is another pass along plant that I've been gifted from the Mid Atlantic folks off and on since 2014. It spreads like a thug for them but not for me. I wish it would. It is surviving but it is so slow to spread. I've got patches started in at least eight places. I'm hoping that one of these years they will finally settle in and go like gang busters. This patch along the Pond Path was the first pass along I received in 2014. Sad. And look at the weeds that aren't being smothered!
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On an optimistic note, I love this Epimedium 'Lilafee' that I planted at the base of the magnolia tree in the Front Island Bed. I initially planted 8 or so plugs in 2015, and after six years they have filled in. Perfect!
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Little Jobs
Posted on May 10, 2021 10:21 AM

My mind is always taking in what needs to be done. Often I think that it won't take but a minute for some of the things, but everything always takes longer than I think. Those little jobs break up what I consider the bigger all day or even longer kind of jobs though. Gives an immediate sense of accomplishment too.

Yesterday I wanted to garden but didn't want to get into anything too time consuming because I needed to go grocery shopping for my family's mother day celebration get-together and then the get-together itself at dinner time. So, I spent the hours on a bunch of those little jobs and before I knew it, the day was gone and it was time to clean up for dinner. It got me thinking about how even little jobs add up to a lot of time.

I started out dead-heading the early blooming iris patch in the border strip that lines the walkway to the side door.

Then I snipped off all the ready to flower stalks of the lambs ears in that same strip. I love the fuzzy silvery green leaves of lambs ears, but I detest the look of those flower stalks and always snip them off. It looks so much better and the leaves without the flower stalks make a beautiful ground cover.

Then I called Mike over to move two stones over to the edge where the Gazebo Garden area to the right of the stepping stones abuts the asphalt driveway. It is on a slope and the mulch always overspills onto the driveway. Those two stones aren't that big, but too heavy for me to maneuver. While I had his grumbling help (give me a break, it took him all of 5 minutes for those stones), I got him to use his skid steer to take the one big white azalea that didn't make it to the burn pile. I've probably written about these azaleas before. He brought them home from a job site a few years ago. He was repairing a sewer line for an elderly lady who had planted them along her house foundation at least 30 years ago. They had become extremely overgrown for the space and were real leggy because they were so crowded together. While Mike was there with a backhoe, she asked him to dig them out for her. She was sad about them going to the landfill, but Mike told her he would bring them home to me and we'd see if they would make it. He brought them home on a flat bed trailer. Well they have survived, all except for the one, and I actually love the legginess - gives it a real architectural look that I find pleasing.

Then I potted up the three new sweet violets into the small purple pots that I keep on the stone column of the Cottage Garden wall along with my little concrete fox statue. They are perennial, but they don't seem to survive the winter for me and I like the look of them in the containers so I usually get new ones each spring.

Then I planted the three new heucherella 'Pink Revolution' that I picked up on Friday at a local nursery. I had planted three in 2019 in the Front Island Bed and they are doing well. They are blooming right now and I wanted more. I'm now in the design frame of mind that it is very pleasing when there is more of a mass of the same plant - six to ten is much better than three, and in some areas a full swath of dozens is called for. I was hoping to get five more of those heucherellas, but three was all they had. It looks like something they stock every year so maybe I'll pick up a few more next year.

Then I got to work on some of the remaining plants from the amish nursery runs in April. I planted three aquilegias and three ferns at the stone columned entrance to the back patio. Also two geranium 'Johnson's Blue' in the border strip where the lambs ears are.

Then I carried the twenty new hostas from the staging nursery benches to Hosta Haven now that I have the deer netting secured. Those still need to be planted.

Then I came in and ordered linking stakes from Gardener's Supply to try out on the peonies. I now have about 30 peonies that I have collected over the years. Keeping the flowers from flopping over is always a conundrum. I've tried peony hoops before but they are too short and too narrow. Some years I stake each individual flower with single loop plant stakes but that is a lot of work. I am curious to see if these linking stakes will work. They are 30 inches tall and are curved. They link together to make as big a circle as you need. If they work well, I'll order enough for all the peonies for next year. Don't want to spend the money until I know for sure.

Oh, and last but not least, Mike was talked into bringing rescue ducks home. We have absolutely no experience with those kind of animals and hope it works out. We'll do our best. More on that another time.

And that used up all the hours I had to spend yesterday.

Photo of concrete fox and sweet violet containers
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Photo of Heucherella 'Pink Revolution'
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Photo of those white azaleas in bloom yesterday. There are actually five of them, but the other three seem to be hidden behind the front two.
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Photo of the rescue ducks. They are still very young and apparently need to stay warm so are in the garage for now.
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Afternoon Stroll
Posted on May 5, 2021 1:25 PM

It was drizzling this morning, turned into a downpour an hour or two later, but now it seems to have moved off. I was tired of sitting for hours inside doing never ending paperwork, so I grabbed my phone and went on my daily stroll. Having a camera on these smart phones makes photo taking so simple and convenient.

Clematis 'Niobe'
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Clematis 'Josephine'
I planted this in 2016 and thought it was a goner, but I saw a teeny tiny bit of growth last summer and now this spring it is blooming. I am always amazed by the plants that have disappeared for several years and then make a comeback!
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Centaurea montana
Same thing with this - I planted it as a pass along from a Mid Atlantic friend in 2014, it showed up for a year or two and then nada. Now look! This must be from a seed dropped in the soil from the original plant. I see several more in bud nearby too!
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Tradescantia 'Blueberry Sundae'
Tradescantias are filler plants in my gardens and I divide and transplant them frequently. Most of them are from noid purple and lavender pass alongs, but I have bought a few named cultivars over the years. This one is 'Blueberry Sundae' although it was not planted in the location where this one is blooming. Must have hitched a ride with a divide and transplant of the noids Green Grin!
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Aquilegia 'Winky Purple and White'
Well, at least I think it is. The columbines in this area are self seeding about, not prolifically, but enough to make me happy. I know I've bought 'Winky Purple and White' at some point and it looks like it. I love the dark purple color.
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Peek-A-Boo Blossoms
Posted on May 4, 2021 7:48 AM

I love azaleas and rhododendrons. Well, technically azaleas ARE rhododendrons but I still make the distinction when I talk about them. I've planted a lot of them over the years. In theory, they should do well in my woodland conditions, but few do. Many simply die, others survive but don't grow much and rarely, if ever, bloom. There are a few exceptions - 'P.J.M.' and 'Olga Mezzit' come to mind. I've heard Annie (Lysmachiamoon) say she has had the same disappointments with hers. Years ago I worked with a woman who, with the help of her husband, made their two acre lot into an azalea and rhododendron oasis. They were big into their local ARS and their garden was showcased on spring tours. I had the pleasure of seeing it in spectacular bloom twice. That was in the beginning days of my gardening and I hadn't yet experienced growing them myself. Even though she lives in Maryland and I live in Virginia, the zone and the climate are the same. Now I really wonder what the secret to her success is, but I lost touch with her when she retired and I still had many busy years of working ahead of me.

This week during my daily walkabouts I saw peek-a-boo blossoms on a few of the azaleas that survive but don't thrive. Only one or two blossom clusters, but I'm thrilled that there are blossoms at all!!! How strange though. Are they finally waking up or is it just a little yawn and then back to sleep for years again?

These two are in the Driveway Circle Area. One year I purchased about 30 small shrubs with the lofty idea that they would mature into a spectacular understory. It was a mix of cultivars and like has happened so many times over the years, the plant marker tags are long gone. I do have purchase records, so maybe I can finally re-id them by the blossoms.
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This one is along the Boulder Path. I do have the id, but it is in my bin of handwritten records that have yet to be organized in the softcopy records I keep now. The softcopy organization makes everything so much easier to find at your fingertips. Heavy sigh, another big paperwork project that I want to get done... Anyway, the Boulder Path was one of my first attempts at landscape design. Mike used the tractor to move white boulders that are scattered around the property to edge a path, starting near the house turret and meandering down through the woods. Some of the boulders were so heavy that I pulled from the front with the jeep and a chain while he pushed with the tractor bucket from behind. Then between the boulders, we started creating concrete steps with stone veneer. We only got the steps completed halfway down the path before our week staycation was over. We had all intents of finishing it, but it is 25 years later and it still needs to be done. I guess instead of calling it the Boulder Path, it should be called the Boulder Folly...
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This one is 'Koromo Shikibu' and is along the woodline of the Stepping Stone Garden on the north side of the house. I got it at the Mason Dixon ARS sale and absolutely love the blooms.
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This one is 'Tomboy' and is in the Millstone Fountain Garden on the west side of the house. It is another one from the Mason Dixon ARS sale.
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