The Violet Fern

Creating Art & Gardens


July Observations: I Heard it Through the Grape Vine

The vines are conspiring to swallow up my garden: Grape, bind, Clematis, Creeper, Hops, Dutchman’s. Out of all of them the bindweed is the worst (notice I didn’t even give it the honor of a capital B).


This formerly thought of as fern, smooth sumac, Mountain Ash! – another story in itself and probably planted by birds – is engulfed in Grape, Creeper and I wouldn’t doubt, bindweed.

The best behaved is, believe it or not, Virginia Creeper, sticking to the chain link  fence and not sashaying over to any trees or shrubs. The perennial star is of course, Coral Honeysuckle. Untitled

The youngest, hardy Kiwi.

The slowest growing, but surely worth the wait if I can keep a clear area, Hydrangea Firefly. Untitled

Then there is annual Grandpa Ott’s Morning Glory that grows with abandon, reseeding itself everywhere.


Grandpa Ott’s growing with and among squash.

And poor, poor Cardinal patiently waiting in “step land” along with a few others, to be planted. (I recently toured a garden that had a low wall of plants still waiting to be planted and I felt much better about my little step land).


Step Land

Newly added this year Passion Flower, Gloriosa Lily and Corkscrew who is sporting buds (trying to contain myself!).


I didn’t expect Passion Flower to grow this large, outgrowing the bamboo tripod and right up to the roofline of our back porch. The other day I counted 6 open blooms – beautiful!


Corkscrew vine, along with another Grandpa Ott’s Morning Glory, has outgrown the 10 ft copper piping. Gloriosa Lily is tucked in here, too.

Gloriosa Lily

Gloriosa Lily bloom

But I have to step back a minute as the realization dawns, when did I become such a vine addict? I remotely remember in some dark corner file of my mind, “vines bridge the gap between the mid layer of the forest and the canopy completing a layered habitat” or some thought similar. I associate vines with birds and I love the birds. (I also love this song “I Like Birds” by the Eels.)

I remember finding a small bird’s nest in clematis Comtesse de bouchaud when cutting it down one spring for regrowth. It is still running wild. And handsome Dutchman’s Pipe seems to be suffering this year. I would love to transplant him to the front porch.


Clematis Rooguchie is also running rampant among Bee Balm and Ninebark. Seems he prefers to ramble among the plants and not on the fence.

Clematis Claire de Lune has taken off this year and has also outrun her support.


Clematis Claire de Lune

Bindweed has plans to make me blue. The devil has wound its way up my Blue Spruce. The Grapevine is not far behind I see. Untitled

I will PAVE a path into this jungle so that I can keep the vines trimmed if that’s what it takes. My new strategy is to make a path with these 2 inch thick stepping stones. That old path of the nice river rocks? Not a trace of it left. Untitled

I know a man ain’t supposed to cry, but I fear I may. I’ve made so many mistakes. That bindweed? Oh, in my naive days I thought it was “wild morning glory.” It came bound with my Blue Spruce – irresponsible nursery I say. I have never been back to purchase from there. I actually “saved” it to grow on the then chain link fence. I remember writing on this blog how I would rather have bindweed than an ugly, bare chain link fence! Well, we all have our regrets. Another mistake; behold the Wall of Grapes on its second surge after being brutally cut back. Wouldn’t Dutchman’s Pipe be beautiful here instead? How I wish I could “plant it back.”



The other side of the Wall of Grapes.

Admittingly, however, I love the grapes in winter (not that I’ll be here – ha!) with their cinnamon colored bark and deep, dark berries (if uneaten) drying on the vine. Plus when they flower the whole porch smells like fresh grape juice, kind of a nice feature. Forgiven.

Did I know that Trumpet Vine suckers before I planted it to grow along the rustic arbor? I am not sure but I am not one afraid to make mistakes, obviously. I am sure I would have planted it anyway because I find it so tropical and lush for such a cold, harsh climate. It seems almost a miracle. It is suckering of course, up through the garlic, the raised beds, and on. I still have the dream of it becoming an aged, living arbor kind of magic form in the garden. UntitledUntitledI may even lose my garage to Clematis Virginiana and Hops, if I believe half of what I see. The Clematis actually toppled earlier in the season but she is still loaded with blooms. I have to think metal support soon. Untitled

I still have grand plans for my favorite contractor to build a pergola across the garage above the door to support the Hops. Right now it is growing on parachute line strung up to the roof of the garage. The Hops is also loaded with blooms. Untitled



All these vines and this vertical stairway to heaven transport me. I often have visitors to my garden exclaim that it feels like we’re not even in the village – a very welcome compliment! It’s this surround sound of vine and bird that lose you in my garden. I can’t imagine not growing these lush ladders full of life.

Losin’ you would end my life you see, ’cause you mean that much to me … I heard it through the Grapevine.



What’s Blooming: Summer Nights

A little late to the game but it’s July and peak bloom season for most everyone in the Northeast, but I would say my garden peaks in Autumn with Joe (Pye) and Susan (Black-eyed) getting it on. They are showing signs of love, but here’s what’s blooming right now in the Violet Fern Garden during Garden Blogger’s Bloom Days hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

A rare look from above on the Bird & Butterfly and Woodland Gardens. As you can see, I have a jungle on my hands.

Stepping a little over to the right and you can see the swell of grass path where I plan to put in a small pond. You can also catch a glimpse of the Potager just beyond the garage/workshop.

Every now and then I try to stand back from the flower close-ups so you get a better feel for the jungle, ah hem, I mean garden. Summer Nights have seeded themselves prolifically in the Bird & Butterfly and Nice Driveway gardens. I under appreciate this plant. It is beautiful with dark burgundy stems and that yellow that sometimes flushes orange from the center “cones” that go through various stages of forms from tightly woven dark burgundy to puffy orange polka dots. The bees seem to love it in every stage. That is the yellow you see in the above shots (taken from the roof of my back porch). The White is Shasta Daisy, the red Bee Balm.

 A Rudbeckia Maxima, Giant Cone snuck in here!

Summer Nights along the Nice Driveway along with Arborvitae, Ninebark, and Cranberry Viburnum and just a glimpse of Bee Balm.

Bee Balm is also in its glory. I have a red in the Bird & Butterfly Garden and also along the Nice Driveway. Untitled Untitled

I have a pink variety of Bee Balm out front mixed with Purple Cones and Verbascum right now.  Much is happening out front but I don’t go there often, preferring the privacy in our back garden. I love Sea Holly now blooming and think I will try to incorporate a larger variety in the Bird & Butterfly garden.

Butterfly Weed is about to burst into bloom.

Russian Sage blooms shrub size. As you can see behind that Black Lace has recovered, once again, from our harsh winter with a vengeance. It even bloomed this year.


Black Lace flower

The Honeysuckle is in full swing along the left side of our front porch which we are finally beginning to scrape and paint. I am excited to have the front porch shaped up a bit. It is a beautiful porch and it’s a shame we don’t sit on it more often. We are going to use deck repair paint in Hedgerow green. I can’t wait to get rid of the cold, battleship grey – not that there’s much of it left. The Grapevines that climb along the right side of our porch believe it or not, were pruned early on. With the shrubs and trees now filling in and offering a bit more privacy along with the vines and a new paint job, I believe I will sit out here more often.

Looking out the front door to the crabapples out front. Grapevines cover the trellis work to the right.

Front porch with tongue and groove scraped and ready to be repainted. I think the new green color will be a nice lead way to the garden beyond. Crabapple, and honeysuckle to the left.

I had an Autumn Clematis mixed in here with the honeysuckle and I thought it had died last year but whoops, there it is making a comeback.

 Also exciting, my hardy kiwi vine is finally reaching the trellis on the left back side of the front porch which will be replaced with welded wire very soon. (You can see that we need to paint very badly and the trellis panel is shot.)  Last year I also thought New Jersey Tea had died but I think it has finally settled in next to the honeysuckle. It has the most blooms it’s ever had this year. UntitledOn the back porch Passion Flower Betty Miles Young is growing nicely. She blooms continuously. This year we should also have our back porch sided with real siding! We are choosing a plastic cedar shake shingle style – maintenance free so there’s more time to garden – in a warm color that harmonizes with the stucco.


Yes, I see and enjoy the Passion flower blooms from a seat inside the window.

  On the copper tripod (fancy bird perch) set in a whiskey/wine barrel, Grandpa Ott’s Morning Glory and, so excited, Gloriosa Lilies bloom. The Corkscrew Vine is growing nicely here as well, but no blooms yet. Lime Nicotiana and Love in a Mist reseeded themselves here, too.

Morning Glory, Grandpa Ott’s

Gloriosa Lily bloom

Lime Nicotiana

Love in a Mist, Persian Violet Nigella

In the fiberglass pot made to look like faux bark where the water catches from my rain chain, a water lily blooms. Untitled

The Woodland Edge is alive with blooms, too, some of my favorites like Queen of the Prairie. It is also being devoured by bindweed which I will attack tomorrow on my one day (not enough) in my garden.

Ligularia ‘The Rocket’

Culver’s Root with bamboo stakes to keep from flopping (ha!) and Meadow Rue, Thalictrum, in the background.


Queen of the Prairie, Filipendula rubra

More Queen of the Prairie with Persicaria Firetail

Trumpet Vine blooms on the arbor to the Potager. Calendula and Borage continue to take over the Potager. Moonlight Nasturtium and Chamomile also bloom. I think I have more flowers than vegetables in the Potager now. Untitled



Finally we come round to Hosta Row where Heuchera and Hydrangea Quickfire are in bloom. An unknown flower blooms here, too – perhaps a wild phlox? Anyone? And lastly, Snowball Hydrangea heavy with blooms. That’s hops growing up to the left. I can barely pass through here anymore.

Did I say I think my garden peaks in Autumn?