The Violet Fern

A Colorful Tale of a Garden in the Making


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What’s Blooming: Sage is the Rage

My husband turned to me last evening and said “frost warning.” WHAT?! I am definitely not ready for THAT – not ready at all. I shrugged it off – it was a warning on his cell phone. We live close to the river. Though, I must admit the first thing I did this morning was check the temperature on my cell phone: 46° F, whew! So, let’s celebrate another Garden Bloggers Bloom Day while we can, eh? I credit Carol at May Dreams Gardens on the 15th of each month for making me stop to smell the flowers so to speak.

Last year around this time I remember thinking my Helianthus Microcephalus was declining – not so. This year it is bigger and badder than ever and full of bumbles. A little floppy with recent rain.

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Last year around this time I remember thinking to myself I will divide those Black Eyed Susans – not so, never happened. Believe it or not my husband dragged a ladder through here to finally patch the hole near the roof of our garage/workshop the Starlings were kind enough to point out to us one Spring, and to clean out the gutters. He patched not one, but two holes. I’m thinking we should maybe patch a few things with impenetrable Black Eyed Susans.

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Another patch that needs my DIvided attention, is Obedient Plant along the nice driveway. Last year it flopped over and this year is a repeat performance. The bees don’t mind as much as I do.

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Indian Grass, in contrast, stands tall. I love the spikelets (a new word I just taught myself which refers to the flower clusters on grass florets) on this grass!

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And surprise! The False Sunflower given to me by a friend last fall is now blooming. I didn’t think it made it as it is on the edge of the Nice Driveway which receives the brutal brunt of the weather. It’s not attracting bumbles right now but a different kind of insect.

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Another bumble friendly plant this time of year that I don’t give enough credit to, is Garlic Chives now blooming in the Potager.

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Also in the Potager, Lemon Gem Tagetes. I was supposed to eat more of these (and those garlic chives now that I think of it)! I think they also help keep Mosquitos away.

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Leaving the Potager and strolling down the yet unfinished Hosta Row, Heuchera ‘Pinot Blanco’ is blooming again! Have to love Pinot!

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Hydrangea Quickfire’s beginning to burn – the creamy blooms now turning a burnished pink.

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Which will bring us to the Nice Driveway again and my container of Pineapple Sage and lime – Nicotiana and Zinnia. I used to grow Pineapple Sage in Maine and marveled at how large it became for an annual – shrub size. Then just before frost its tips catch fire with fiery red blooms that no hummingbird can resist! I snatched it up immediately when I saw it at our local nursery. I enjoy watching the hummingbirds hover around this container just as I imagined when I dragged it up from the bottom of our driveway to dress up our sea of pavement.

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We’ll continue on to the Riverfront which is showing signs of my neglect. Still, Russian Sage impresses with a backdrop of Black Lace. Black Lace made an amazing comeback this year after our last harsh Winter. And no, I have not cut back the dieback yet. Someday, someday …

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I hate to be reminded of our last Winter but hear that this Winter will also be quite severe. There are signs also that what I hear is true – fruit. Lots of food.

The Purple Prince Crabapples out front are loaded.

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I thought this was a crabapple tree also planted out front, but now I’m beginning to wonder. These are some pretty large crabapples and there are lots of them.

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The grapes on our front porch are dripping and just beginning to form. I love when the leaves yellow and the dark berries burst.

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The Cranberry Viburnum is also loaded up. Really spectacular this year.

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Next month there will be less blooming but it will be ALL about foliage! The Kopper King Hibiscus is just starting to show off and with that I’ll leave those of you who pine for Fall in the Northeast, anticipating …

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Foliage Follow-up

I rarely join Pam at Digging for foliage follow up mostly due to time constraints, and I am already a day late, but each time I do I am so happy to participate. To me, foliage and textures are more pleasing than a fleeting bloom in general. There are, of course, those blooms that woo. But it is the interlaying of foliage, texture and form that I try to focus upon when actually “designing” my garden which isn’t as often as you might think. I have mostly “reacted” when planting this garden. Bare prison yard, yikes, sure I will take any plants you have to give. Fallen tree? Yes may I please have the chipped bark and wow, I have a lot of space to fill … well, maybe not so much the violets and wild strawberries have gone wild! Cup Plant, Cutleaf Coneflower, Black Eyed Susan, Joe Pye … all crazy wild. These days it is very rare that I have a bare space I can actually contemplate and design. Something is always creeping and pushing its way in and I am always it seems, reacting and not designing. Anyway, containers are a bare platform and I have gravitated towards filling them with foliage rather than blooms. I cannot not think of a better form of foliage than coleus and succulents! (Oh, and begonias.)

This container is just below one of my hummingbird feeders. I think the red coleus attracts them even more so. In the foreground is a Japanese Maple seedling I weeded from one of my gardening jobs. I just couldn’t bare to throw it in the compost, so it is living in a pot – great foliage.

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In my garden, I planted Black Lace, an elderberry hybrid, in place of a Japanese Maple because I fear I would lose a Japanese Maple in our climate. I almost lost Black Lace after last Winter but it has come back and is close to the full size it was. Just look at her black, lacy foliage with hints of green and burgundy – aptly named.

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This is a grouping of containers – a created focal point – on the side of my front porch (so I don’t focus upon the bare stretch of boards and especially, peeling paint). It incorporates some of my favorite begonias I have kept for several years now.

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A succulent container that suffered frost damage last year – I didn’t bring it inside in time – but it’s making a comeback.

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Horsetail in my water container with last year’s rush that didn’t quite come back full force after wintering in my cellar. Still, I love the scale-like foliage of the horsetail and the blue of the rush and I also have some corkscrew rush. They play well together.

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I’ve managed to incorporate some great perennial foliage into the garden over the last couple years. If one cannot grow Gunnera try Ligularia! I finally moved mine last year – I think it was getting too much sun. The move paid off. It is happy this year and the leaves are lusciously large!

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Golden Shadows is also living up to its name. I love this little tree which will grow to 12′. It is a Pagoda Dogwood with special, special foliage. Once it matures … wow.

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I will continue to add foliage and texture to my garden as it evolves. I love the way sunlight and shadows play with foliage. A big thanks to Pam for bringing foliage to light!


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What’s Blooming: Vanilla Spice and Everything Nice

Bloom day already! We have Carol of May Dreams Gardens to thank for hosting this virtual bloom day the 15th of each month. And this is THE month for those of us in the Northeast – the grand finale. With a taste of Fall in the air, I am reminded, sadly, that Summer will end. The skies have been dark and stormy with rain and cooler temps. And yet again, I am reminded of the beauty of Autumn and late Summer. The deep dark sky shows off the golden hues.

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Joe and Susan are really getting it on this year!

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There’s gold in ‘dem ‘dere hills! Well, my garden’s not much of a hill, but there are plenty of golden blooms: Cutleaf Coneflower and Cup Plant are loaded.

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Bees love Cutleaf Coneflower, Rudbeckia Laciniata.

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I’m not sure, but I think there’s more than a bee in this capture.

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The Potager is more flowers than vegetables this year due to my lack of attention. Trumpet Vine has gone wild but I don’t mind. Wasps seem to be attracted to it, but I also observed a Bumble Bee and another smaller bee all within a few seconds. It keeps things busy, anyway. I am seeing more hummingbirds this year than I ever have – due to the plantings? But I am sorely lacking in Butterflies even though I have been planting native for six years now.

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Borage among the tomatoes. I purposely planted seeds in 2009? I have not planted it since then yet I always have a bumper crop of Borage. The bees love it.

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Grandpa Ott’s Morning Glory – another reseeder – among the Sun Gold cherry tomatoes. You know, this is a rather striking combo!

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And so is this – Lemon Gem Marigolds with a back drop of Purple Perilla (now classified as a weed in my Potager but oh so pretty).

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The Woodland Edge has been taken over by violets but I’ve been adding a few taller things to compete with them. Turk Cap Lily seems to have made itself at home. I received these from our local garden club.

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An irresistible purchase, Kopper King hardy hibiscus, stands tall among the violets, too. It is no longer in flower but I noticed these eggs on one of the beautiful bronzed leaves. Anyone?

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When it was in flower, yowza!

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Another recent purchase that’s been on my wishlist, Summersweet, Clethra ainifolia ‘Caleb’, Vanilla Spice! Oh, she’s nice and I wish we had smell-o-rama so you could smell her! She should get along with those violets, too.

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Everything will be so nice! Culver’s Root is always a display come this time of year. It’s buzzy, too.

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The Culver’s Root is flanked by Ornamental Onions.

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Great Blue Lobelia, Persicaria Firetail and white Phlox remind me of July (now gone by)!

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I couldn’t pull all the Jewelweed as the hummingbirds love these … but as a consequence, I will be pulling more again next year!

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Hosta Row is becoming a favorite spot of mine even though I have yet to plant some of it and the weeds have moved in. I just love the colors of this calendula with heucheras and Quickfire Hydrangea – they are somehow soft, pink and girly (so unlike me)!

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For the first time in Hosta Row, hops are in bloom! I just love them.

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But the star of Hosta Row is definitely our native Clematis Virginiana. It went wild this year (as most of my garden does)! It has completely covered its new trellis and is roaming among the Hostas looking for more. Just look at all these blooms!

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And that’s it, pant, pant … I have to stop! There’s more, more, more like Russian Sage, Rooguchi, “Sublime” Nicotiana, Perennial Sunflowers, berries but … there’s also next month, next year, and foliage followup!