shadowy vignette

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My computer just upgraded itself, resulting in a “new and improved” way to handle photos. Grrr! One good thing that came out of the struggle was discovering this shot. I can’t remember the circumstances, but as I look at it closely that seems to be a lilac. It has been maintained much more carefully than mine, reinforcing the idea of common plants with uncommon beauty. Here I join Anna (Flutter and Hum) for her Wednesday vignette. I have certainly benefitted from looking around for a little corner where everything comes together in an interesting way. It doesn’t even have to be garden-related (even hortheads occasionally look elsewhere for inspiration).

floral fireworks in a vase

floral fireworks in a vase

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Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ always reminds me of fireworks. Helpfully, it always blooms right around the Fourth of July.

Crocosmia 'Lucifer'

From its earliest bud stage, right on through the formation of handsome seed heads, it proves vase-worthy.

Verbena boneriensis & Gladiolus

The first of the Gladiolus to bloom turned out purple instead of the orange I was expecting. Oh, well…a few stems of Verbena bonariensis echo its color and I happen to love purple with reds and oranges. The glad is quite fragrant, which surprises me.

Erumurus 'Cleopatra'

My Erumurus put on a disappointing show this year. They always remind me of roman candles, so one stem found its way into this vase, a simple tall cylinder. To add a little visual weight to the base of the explosive arrangement, I cut two leaves of Calla Lilies…and there you have it: my entry into Cathy’s (Rambling in the Garden) ‘In a Vase on Monday’ meme that has many of us scouting our gardens and environs for material to put in a vase any week of the year.

GBQ&A: what do you think?

Rainbow leucanthoe

As you may know, we stop by Means often. Occasionally, there is an irresistible bargain on offer. Richard came home with several rainbow leucanthoe with the idea that they would make good hedging material. After all, they were only about $3 each, and had nicely variegated foliage that is evergreen. Then I saw the above specimen in an open garden visit and my perspective changed.

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As a specimen plant, its arching branches give it an elegant, vase-like shape, frosted with flowers that resemble those of Pieris. This raised a question in my mind. I hope you can help. Does the “specialness” of a plant depend on its use? Can a plant that is common as dirt rise in status when it is well placed and spotlighted? I’m beginning to think I should dig up one of the hedge plants and move it to a place of honor, where it can flourish like the one shown at the top of this post. Do you have any ordinary plants that you have cast in starring roles? I would love to hear your thoughts and examples. I’m trying to do a Q&A post at the beginning of each month. Won’t you join me? Just write a post posing a question you would like your blogging friends (and mine) to ponder (if you link to this post, you will tap in to my blog buds, who are rife with info and opinions), then leave a comment here with a link to that post. C’mon…it’ll be fun!

in a vase: wicked witchcraft

Acanthus spinosis

The spiky leaves of Acanthus spinosis have a wicked look about them, and the flower spikes sport hidden thorns that can get you if you don’t watch out.

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So, while I don’t usually go in for props that much, I popped in the CD with Frank Sinatra and Anita Baker singing ‘Witchcraft’ and dug out a ceremonial rattle. Then I remembered that ‘Ruby’, by Cynthia Bond, had some serious witchcraft going on, and I was set.

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This is one of my all-time favorite flower forms.

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It grows in sun or shade, but is happiest here, in full sun. Its vigorous growth means that I have had plenty to give away to friends (could be a plus or minus, depending on your situation).

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I happen to have the space to let it have its way,and since the flower spikes hold their shape even as petals drop, they are likely to find their way into some big, dramatic vases in the future. This is about as close as I come to dabbling in the dark arts. Vases of all kinds and scale can be found at Rambling in the Garden, where Cathy hosts every Monday…but watch out…she might cast a spell on you.

in a vase on monday

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Last year I had one Calla Lily (Zantendenschia) bloom. This year there are six. I always remember the scene from the movie ‘Frances’ where Jessica Lange comes home with an armload of these (one of the ONLY uplifting scenes in a decidedly downbeat film). It may be a long wait for my garden to produce Callas in such abundance, but the pristine elegance of the blooms seems to me to ask for the simplicity of a single bloom in a vase, shown here flanked by two of Richard’s pillar candlesticks and sitting on  a new Ikat table runner.

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Here is my expanding clump at the woodland’s edge. I first transplanted a shovelful from my mom’s place to my first garden, then brought some with me when we moved here.

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You can easily see how this flower has inspired artists, from Georgia O’Keefe to Robert Maplethorpe. No chance of my amateurish photos nipping into that league. To see, or even participate in, the ‘In A Vase’ meme, click through to Rambling in the Garden to see what Cathy and friends have on offer this week.

ANLD tour coming up

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A meandering stream made of bricks cuts through concrete steps and walkways,

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and meanders and eddies around rocks,

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pooling into a virtual lake defining a conversation area.

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Around back, raised beds overflow with not only fab produce, but bright red poppies.

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When the well-kept part of the garden gives way to a fabulous meadow, a few of the red poppies dot the grasses here and there.

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A path mown through the meadow was irresistible, and the many photos I took may have even convinced R that we need to go back to having a meadow at our place. I’m holding back, speaking of my many photos, but believe me: no amount of photos would spoil the delightful surprises you will find on this tour.

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The alleyways between houses can turn into dead space, but in the hands of these designers they are transformed. I overheard several comments singling them out as their favorite features.

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Plant choices can be brilliant, always in service of the overall design.

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In this garden, an upper deck looks out over a greenspace, where Mother Nature is the gardener.

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Another garden had us salivating over the stonework…so well placed that it seemed to have come with the site.

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Another of those brilliant alleyways is lit up by the goatsbeard fluff.

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In back, there is a deck overlooking a refreshing woodland garden with paths for strolling, making discoveries along the way. Each of these gardens, regardless of size, easily absorbed our rather large group.

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It’s not often that we see smooth river rocks used as edging, and now I’m wondering why.

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This alleyway feels like a streambed in deep woods.

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Groupings of potted plants crowd the corners of the back patio.

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Each vignette has its own personality.

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Salad bowl, anyone?

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Coming up on the smallest of the gardens on tour, we know it will be a doozy by the bold placement of these cor-ten planters right out front.

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In back, different levels and a mix of modern materials keep the eye roving,

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And everywhere, plants, glorious plants…like this Fatsia japonica ‘Camouflage’.

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By using stunning small trees, the designer teases our eyes upward, to take advantage of the borrowed landscape of towering trees nearby.

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A recurring theme was the relationship between designers and owners. In this garden, the owner did the rock work, while the designer created the soothing woodland garden that is raised above a circle of lawn.

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Sunny and colorful, this garden even had the playful touch of a big pot of plastic balls for the grandkids to play with in the stream and pond.

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More balls: could this be a theme?

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The use of orange was definitely a theme, often paired with hot pink.

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Much talk centered around this gate, and I am only showing you a tiny part of it.

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Looking back through the giant leaves of a Tetrapanax

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The last garden was designed to allow the owner to age in place. Thinking ahead, she wants to be able to garden here indefinitely.

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No stooping or crawling required to maintain much of what we saw here. The nearly black lily in the pot was dramatic, and the first I’ve seen blooming this year.

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Raised beds are classier than most, made of juniper and designed to fit together like a puzzle.

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A huge Dawn Redwood shades one corner of the back yard, where we gathered to sip tarragon-infused lemonade and say farewell. It was painful to cut down to this number of photos, but I just wanted to give you a taste of the treasures to be found on this tour. Remember, you can pick up tickets tomorrow at Garden Fever if you fail to score a pair in my drawing at the Garden Bloggers’ Bazaar. What?! You can’t make it? Oh well, tickets will be available through the ANLD website, or at Al’s in Sherwood, Cornell Farm, Gardener’s Choice or Portland Nursery (both locations). There are eight gardens on the tour, which takes place on the west side on Saturday, June 20th.

wednesday vignette from ANLD tour

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The shadows, the textures, the spiral…wowsa! I’ll write a full post on Friday to give you a sneak peek at this garden and others on the ANLD garden tour coming up June 20. If you are already hooked by this image (and believe me, this is barely the tip of the treasure to be unearthed on this tour) you can purchase tickets at Al’s in Sherwood, Cornell Farm, Gardener’s Choice, Garden Fever, Portland Nursery or through the ANLD website. You can also enter a drawing at my table at the Garden Bloggers’ Bazaar this Saturday. Now check out Anna’s (ad-free) vignette and the links to others.

in a vase on a sunny monday

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Because of our current heat wave, I nearly missed my chance to use Phlomus russeliana in a vase. By prowling around, I was able to find a few stems that enjoyed enough shade to hold their amusing form (cascading poufs of yellow on a square stem, with a pair of leaflet “ears” crowning the top pouf).

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The same sun that forced things along more rapidly than usual makes photographing another challenge. I do like the strong shadows it produces. Here, you can see the rusty color of the Euphorbia ‘Fire Charm’ that is half-way to producing seed.

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‘Fire Charm’ keeps producing new flowers even as the older ones go to seed. A couple of these add a splash of orange to liven things up. Their stems also bring some red into the underwater part of the vase.

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In a supporting role, I cast Alchemilla mollis, both to fill in and to prop up the taller stems.

Every Monday, every week of the year, you can find something vase-worthy in your own garden. “plonk it in a vase” or arrange it artfully (all efforts are equally appreciated) and join Cathy (Rambling in the Garden).

wednesday vignette

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Shadows cast by plants can be as interesting as the plants themselves.

Euphorbia 'Sticks of Fire'

My ‘Sticks of Fire’ have failed to ignite, even though they spent the winter in a south facing window. The parts right up against the window did take on a pinkish cast. I do love the form, and especially enjoy the shadows, as shown in the first photo. Anna, (Flutter and Hum) hosts Wednesday Vignette every week. It’s well worth checking out.