The Violet Fern

A Colorful Tale of a Garden in the Making


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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!


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Tulip Tree in August

(Okay, so I missed July but it was much the same.) For those of you who do not regularly follow my blog, I am following a tree with Loose and Leafy. My tree is a young Tulip Tree who this year, after three winters, began to wilt. I asked the advice of my cooperative extension and we came to the conclusion that the tree may have been planted too deeply, not suffering from verticillium wilt. (It came to me as a very young sapling – twig, really – swaddled in Myrtle so it is possible it was planted too deeply.) So, I dug around the base of the Tulip Tree and removed some of the Myrtle. What I found was a twisted trunk – as if the tree tried to grow out from underneath the Myrtle, and a lot of suckering at its base. I followed some of this “twisting” to make sure I wasn’t dealing with a girdling root and I think not. So, I removed the suckers, let the bare soil breathe for a few days around the tree, and then mulched. The tree proceeded to lose its upper leaves and now looks like this …

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The original leader seems to have died along with the two main side branches, but all still seems flexible so I’m hesitant to cut it back. It could be this tree suffered cold damage like many of my other shrubs and died back? Only the leader and side branches did leaf out in the spring, unlike my other shrubs whose branches remained bare.

The Tulip Tree is growing from the base again and this time I am letting it go as the original stems are not in leaf. I suppose it is possible it will grow a new leader? I think it is young enough to grow this way and still remain structurally sound so I am leaving it alone to do its thing. If the original leader becomes brittle I will cut it back as far as I can. The new growth looks healthy.

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Those big leaves, gorgeous.

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What do you tree followers think? Cut my losses, plant something new? Tulip Trees grow extremely tall so structure is important.

Hang in there with the Tulip Tree? Wait another year? I’m listening and value your opinions.

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