Monday, July 14, 2014

Larry's Garden: A Visit in Person

Garden blogs are great: those who love visiting gardens like I do can see gardens all over the world and hear their owners tell the personal stories of their creation, without the need for costly, exhausting travel. What a wonderful forum this is!

But nothing quite compares to actually standing in and physically walking through a garden, particularly one that looks fantastic and has a wide array of beautiful plants, impeccably maintained. This was brought home to me by my visit to Larry and Sarah's gardens at their home at Oak Lawn Cheese Factory, not far from Oshkosh, Wisconsin. 

Larry is generously hosting Open Garden Days, every Sunday in July from 2:00-5:00 pm, which is a great opportunity to see some of the most beautiful gardens you'll probably ever visit in person. If you live in the Midwest, I urge you to make the trip.

The beautiful conifers surrounding the cool, breezy gazebo, where Larry and Sarah spent time chatting with us after showing us around their gardens.

My husband and I made the trip of about four and a half hours on Independence Day weekend. We stayed in Madison on Friday night and visited the gardens Saturday morning. I had never met either Larry or Sarah before, although I have been following his blog since last autumn, but they both made the two of us feel very welcome, and I finally got to see in person the gardens that I'd only seen in Larry's beautiful photographs.

My snapshots are not the artistic photos that Larry takes of his gardens, but I hope they will suffice to communicate something of the beauty and peacefulness of his magical creation:

The front garden, with rock gardens, conifers and many annual flowers. You know you've found the right place just by what's in the front yard -- but wait 'till you see what's around the corner....

Some of Larry's many magnificent New Millennium delphiniums. Some of them are over six feet tall and he spends so much more effort staking them than I do (mine invariably get blown sideways by our hilltop winds, but his stand tall and look amazing).
Just a few of the numerous Asiatic lilies that were coming into bloom when we visited. 'Pink Flavour' (left) and 'Purple Heart' (right). Breathtakingly lovely!

The Orienpet lilies on the left weren't blooming quite yet, but they stood more than six feet in height, even though Larry had planted them only a year and a half before! He told me that the peony on the right was some kind of incredibly rare sort that almost no one else can obtain. (I was afraid to walk too near it, for fear I'd somehow trip and break it off at the crown and destroy it!)
On the subject of being afraid to be too near a plant, this is apparently a deadly poisonous tropical plant, 'Inca Sun' brugsmansia -- although the fragrance is lovely at night, Larry told me.
Larry built the stone wall on the left with his bare hands, and it looks really good.
The path leads up to the 'Autumn Purple' ash tree, which I also have in the following photo...
I took another photo here, because there is something about this spot that spoke to me. I believe that great gardens have "special spots" that evoke feelings of tranquility, "all is right with the world," and this is one of the places in Larry's gardens that I believe has this feeling. The perfect tree ring and shady manicured grass under the tree canopy, surrounded by conifers and perennials, all these things resulted in this spot calling to me.
Another spot not far from the last one was also very impressive. I know my camera did not capture the brilliant blue-green of these 'Moorheim' blue spruce that almost glowed in the sunshine, but this was an spectacular sight, believe me.
Some concrete pieces molded in the shape of hosta leaves, stacked on a rustic fence that Larry constructed on the stumps of a row of arborvitae trees.
Larry's newer clematis structure, which is starting to become covered with these lush blooms. I can imagine how incredible this will look when it is completely covered in another season or two.
Another clematis, 'Betty Corning,' with small bell-shaped flowers that were sweetly fragrant. Magical.
Another "special spot" was the result of an unglamorous septic tank mound. The grassy knoll reminded me of ancient Native American burial mounds, and was an arresting place from which to survey the surrounding trees. The first photograph at top was taken from this vantage point. 

Larry's gardens are probably the most beautiful gardens I've ever visited in person. His hard work, single-minded pursuit of beauty, high standards of maintenance, forty-two years of learning about and encouraging plants and trees to grow and mature, (and no small amount of cash too, I've no doubt) have all resulted in what every gardener aspires to: to replicate man's version of the Garden of Eden, a personal heaven on earth.

I believe that most institutional gardens, as impressive and well-maintained as some of them are, lack this magical quality that only a personal garden can achieve after many years of striving by its maker to improve its beauty. There aren't many gardens in the Midwest that have achieved this quality, and of those that have, the chances to visit them are few and far between.

I can't recommend highly enough that you take advantage of this chance to visit such a garden. The weather when we visited was so perfect and the gardens so breathtaking, that I found myself not wanting to leave this Eden. I hope you get the chance to visit too.

Thanks for reading! -Beth

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Lilies and the Rainbow Border

This is one of the peak times in my Rainbow Border. The Asiatic lilies are now in full bloom (and they are certainly beautiful in themselves) and even more excitingly, the rainbow effect can be seen down the length of the border: the flower colors progress through the colors of the rainbow: white, pink, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and back to white at the far end -- mostly May/June blooming perennials and bulbs, and some annual flowers for later in the season. I started working on this color border in 2012, so it is now in Year Three, and is starting to look more filled in than in prior years (although there are still many improvements and adjustments that need to be made).

Note: I purchased these Asiatic lilies from The Lily Garden, and I could not be more happy with them. I've purchased cheaper bulbs from garden centers in the past, and they just don't perform as well as these have. I'm now looking at their catalog again with plans for next year....

Here's a look at what's in each section (I apologize for the lengthy post -- there are nine sections).

The White Section

The White Section features "Bright Diamond' Asiatic lilies, as well as 'Galahad' delphiniums, 'Icicle White' speedwell, 'White Clips' campanula, 'Immortality' iris, 'Winchester Cathedral' rose (David Austen -- which often reverts back to the pink Mary Rose parent, so I need to cut those branches off periodically), ox-eye daisies, pearly everlasting, 'Tahoe' candytuft, a white baptisia false indigo, as well as white petunias and cosmos. The 'White Triumphator' tulips I planted two years ago never came up, so I'll try to replace them this fall.

The Pink Section

The Asiatic lilies in the Pink Section are 'Iowa Pink' (appropriate, I thought!) and are surrounded by lavatera, 'Bath's Pink' dianthus, an unnamed pink peony and pink iris, 'Visca Fire' lychnis, 'Rosenwein' salvia, 'Gallery Pink' lupine, 'The Fairy' rose, 'Vivid' obedient plant, 'Callisto Pink' mum, 'Cerise Queen yarrow, and pink petunias, cosmos and zinnias, as well as a few 'China Pink' tulips. I've tried to move from lighter to dark pink from left to right.

The Red Section


The Red Section contains 'Blackout' Asiatic lilies, along with 'Red at Night' iris, 'Red Charm' peony, 'Red Birds in a Tree' scrophularia, 'Red Fox' speedwell (which is actually very pink, NOT red, so I'm probably going to move it into the Pink Section next year), a number of red oriental poppies and annual petunias, salvias and zinnias, as well as a few 'Red Shine' tulips, which will need to be replaced. I will need to find more red-flowering plants of all sorts next year to improve this section, which is a hard section to plant, because to avoid clashing, the reds need to change from purplish reds to orangey reds from left to right.

The Orange Section

'Liberty Hyde Bailey' Asiatic lilies are standing tall in the Orange Section (although I think I might move the left ones behind the irises this fall, because they're too much in the Red Section now). Orange is one of the harder colors to find taller May/June blooming perennials in, so I'm still working on this section. Other plants currently include 'Avalon Sunset' iris, knifophia, a daylily, 'Cooky' geums, 'Tiny Double You' Asiatic lilies, both tall and short marigolds, numerous California poppies that have reseeded and 'Ballerina' tulips, which are still going strong after two years.

The Yellow Section

The Yellow Section is one of the more successful sections, as there is no shortage of early summer flowering perennials: 'Yellow Whoppers' Asiatic lilies are surrounded by 'Moonshine' achillea, "Stella de Oro' daylilies, Missouri evening primroses, 'Moonbeam' threadleaf coreopsis, 'Laura Dessert' Peony, 'Julia Child' rose (just blooming now on the right side of the photo), a mullein that I found seeded in the Pink Section and moved to the back of this section, yellow petunias, marigolds and zinnias, as well as 'Cistula' tulips and 'Moly Jeanne' alliums, both of which seem to have petered out after two years.

The Green Section

The Green Section and the rest of the sections do not have any Asiatic lilies -- there don't seem to be any June-blooming Asiatic lilies in green (although 'Ice Caves' and other July-blooming trumpet lilies are very beautiful and I might add one even if it doesn't flower with the others). And lilies do not come in blue or the kind of blueish purple that I am looking for, only reddish-mauve purples.

But in the Green Section are a green rose Rosa viridiflora (it's very small this year because it died back to the roots over the winter), lady's mantle, a huge mess of Russian tarragon (which flopped forward after our big rains so that I had to hack it back, leaving an even bigger hole than the one in this photo, which was taken earlier in June and looks much better than the last photos with the hacked-back tarragon), some 'Oriental limelight' artemisia (which I'm trying to eradicate as it tried to take over the entire Green and Yellow Sections) a 'Fine Line' buckthorn at back left and some annuals including green petunias, nicotiana, zinnias and Bells of Ireland, as well as 'Spring Green' tulips and 'Hair' alliums. I will try to find a greenish iris this fall and perhaps the aforementioned green trumpet lilies.

The Blue Section

This is also a photo from earlier in June, before the delphiniums were blown sideways by the wind and rain of last week. Included in this section are 'Blue Bird' delphiniums and 'Dark Knight' delphiniums (at far right in the Indigo transition between blue and purple), 'Johnson's Blue' hardy geraniums, 'Electric Blue' penstemons, baptisia false indigo, 'Royal Candles' speedwell, and flax, bachelor buttons and 'Victoria Blue' salvias, as well as a few remaining allium azureum. It's hard to find truly blue flowers, and many of the campanulas, pincushion flowers and low-growing delphiniums that I planted in 2012 have perished.

The Purple Section

The Purple Section contains 'Lavender Lady' lavender, dame's rocket, 'Superba' glomerata campanula, 'Shauna Ann' verbena, purple irises, 'Heirloom' rose, purple petunias, ageratum and violet giant dahlia-flowered zinnias, in addition to 'Purple Sensation' alliums.

The Ending White Section

The Rainbow Border ends in another White Section, which contains 'Immortality' irises, a white peony, white lavender, a white baptisia false indigo, 'Lyrical White' salvia, white dame's rocket, pearly white everlasting, ox-eye daisies, cleome, alyssum and petunias. I have to be careful what I plant on the very end (in the right in the photo) because deer nipped off some petunias I put there last month, although they don't seem to venture further up the border (yet).

One more look back from the end of the border:

I'll continue to work on this challenging color border in coming years, and I think it has the educational effect of making me try new plants outside the ones I'm familiar with. I hope it will continue to improve as I work on it. 

Thanks for reading! -Beth

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Much Rain! (And Beauty After the Storm)

We got some unexpected rain yesterday: FIVE INCHES of Rain! I didn't even have time to put most of my garden tools away before the deluge started:

Great Googly Moogly! I don't think our rain gauge has ever held this much rain before
(unless I forgot to empty it between rain storms). It only goes up to five inches.
(Note the waterlogged fields.)

Following the storm, the sunlight came out brilliantly as the sun set in the west.

Trees lit up like gold against dark clouds.

Rain drops highlighted by the setting sun.

What a sky! (And more waterlogged fields.)

One side of a rainbow (looks a bit like a scary mushroom cloud, to tell the truth...)

And the other side of the rainbow ends at the gazebo. 

There were warnings of dangerous flash floods in parts of Iowa. I hope everyone is all right (and that your gardens aren't too beaten down by the rains).

Thanks for reading! -Beth