Summertime’s Sweet Carolina Lupine: Basking in Her Graceful, Golden Glow

June 25th, 2013 Comments Off

Carolina Lupine (Thermopsis caroliniana) michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Lovely North American Native, Carolina Lupine (Thermopsis caroliniana, aka Thermompsis villosa) with Goat’s Beard (Aruncus dioicus)

Oh sweet, sweet Carolina… I love how your golden blossoms illuminate the evening garden like the glow of candlelight. And on these early summer days, Carolina Lupine (Thermopsis carolina, also known as Thermopsis villosa), is quite literally covered with butterflies and bumblebees. With beautiful, long-lasting flowers —elegant and sturdy in a vase—beginning in late spring/early summer, upright/durable habit, ornamental, grey-green foliage; what more could you ask for in a perennial plant? Oh, did I mention that this gorgeous, low-maintenance beauty is a native plant? Yes, Carolina Lupine (Thermopsis caroliniana/Thermopsis villosa), is a North American wildflower!

Bumblebee on Carolina Lupine (Thermopsis caroliniana) michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.comBumblebees and Swallowtail Butterflies are Regular Visitors to the Carolina Lupine Blossoms in My Garden

 A favorite flower of butterflies and bees, Thermopsis caroliniana is native to the open meadows and prairies of Tennessee, Virginia and the Carolinas. This 3-4′ tall, 3′ wide perennial dislikes humidity and performs best in gardens at the northern edge of its hardiness range (USDA zones 4-8); particularly those with good air circulation. High temperatures, humidity, still air and overcrowding can lead to fungal diseases and decline (try this organic, homemade remedy if fungus is a problem), so give this beauty room to move in the wind. I find the post-bloom, hairy seed pods interesting to look at, but if they aren’t to your liking, just snip them off. In addition to airflow, Carolina Lupine requires full sun and well drained soil.

Carolina Lupine (Thermopsis caroliniana) and Goat's Beard (Aruncus dioicus) michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Soft, Summer Hues: Thermopsis caroliniana & Aruncus dioicus in the Native Garden

Carolina Lupine’s bright, light yellow blossoms and pretty foliage work well with many garden design compositions. I like to combine this false lupine with ornamental grasses and other native wildflowers; including Goat’s Beard (Aruncus dioicus), Beard’s Tongue (Penstemon digitalis), Gayfeather (Liatris spicata), various Coneflower cultivars (Echincacea purpurea), Meadow Sage (Salvia nemerosa), Queen-of-the-Pairie (Filipendula rubra), and the list goes on. Dark-leafed Ninebark cultivars (Physocarpus opulifolius cvs.), such as ‘Summer Wine’, ‘Diablo’ and ‘Center Glow’ provide a dramatic, maroon contrast to bring out the yellow. If you like a bit more subtlety, try planting Carolina Lupine against a backdrop of deep, blue-green conifers or a weathered fence. Gorgeous!

Garden Design: Michaela Medina Harlow

Photography & Text ⓒ Michaela Medina Harlow/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

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“Autumn is a Second Spring When Every Leaf is a Flower” – Albert Camus Welcoming the Month of October …

October 1st, 2011 § 3

Welcome Scarlet Reds: Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’ in the Secret Garden 

Welcome October …  A Favorite Month, in a Favorite Season !

And Glowing Orange: Rhus typhina ‘Tiger Eyes’ in the Border at Meadow’s Edge …

Luminous as Stained Glass: Cornus kousa (Kousa Dogwood) and the Remnants of Daucus carota (Queen Anne’s Lace) in the Garden …

Vibrant Plum and Violet: Hydrangea quercifolia (Oakleaf Hydrangea) in the Entry Garden …

All the Colors of the Rainbow in Fields: Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ (Fountain Grass), Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Weed) and Amsonia hubrichtii (Arkansas Blue Star) …

And Forests: Viburnum lantanoides (Hobblebush) in the Forest

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photos, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions) are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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Notes on Nature’s Bold Artistry: Brilliant, Blooming Butterfly Weed & Her Colorfully Patterned, Wild Guests …

July 9th, 2011 § 4

Asclepias tuberosa – Our Beautiful, Native Butterfly Weed Catches the Golden Light of Summertime Along the Wildflower Walk

In search of inspiration for your next creative project; pattern, form or color play? Sometimes, you needn’t look further for fresh ideas than your own backyard! While out admiring the blooming butterfly weed in my Wildflower Walk yesterday, I happened to notice five examples of nature’s bold artistry on one garden plant. Asclepias tuberosa —as our North American, native butterfly weed is known in the botanical world— blooms in beautiful clusters of bright, citrus-punch orange. The tiny, nectar-loaded blossoms are popular with pollinators of all kinds; including bees, butterflies —like the fritillary pictured below— and hummingbirds. But other parts of this plant serve important purposes to wildlife as well. The leaves and stems of both butterfly weed and milkweed  —filled with sticky sap— provide sustenance to butterfly caterpillars; including the boldly striped larvae of the beautiful Monarch Butterfly. Asclepias sap is toxic to many of this caterpillar’s predators, providing the insect with natural defense. Small Milkweed Bugs —colored in bold red and black patterns— also look to Asclepias species for food; feeding upon the seed of this important native plant. Lady luck must have been walking with me yesterday as I strolled through the garden, because I happened upon not only eye-popping, orange blossoms, but wild black & yellow stripes and bold, modernist patterns all on one plant … talk about artistic inspiration!

A Bumble Bee and Fritillary Butterfly Share the Same Dining Table at Their Local Asclepias tuberosa

Last summer, I featured this beautiful, long-blooming summertime flower  —Asclepias tuberosa—  in a plant profile. You can view additonal photos of butterfly weed in flower, and find more about this wonderful garden-worthy member of the milkweed family, by clicking back to that profile post here.

A Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar (Danus plexippus) in my garden, munches on its favorite host-plant:  Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Weed). I am more than happy to plant plenty of flowers for both of us!

Yellow and Black on Orange: Another Beautiful & Colorful Guest, the North American Native Bumble Bee, Visits Asclepias tuberosa in Search of Sustenance 

And on the same plant, a Small Milkweed Bug (Lygaeus kalmii) scurries about beneath the leaves. This brightly colored bug feeds upon the seeds of milkweed and butterfly weed. Because milkweed is considered an agricultural weed, this insect is often regarded as a beneficial

Fritillary Butterflies Flock to the Nectar in Asclepias tuberosa – No Wonder It’s Commonly Called Butterfly Weed!

Asclepias tuberosa makes a great garden plant: pictured here along the Wildflower Walk with Amsonia hubrichitii, Asters, Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ and Clethra Alnifolia ‘Ruby Spice’. Try it in combination with blue and violet flowers for a bold contrast. Or cool things off with a bit of silver, and white!

To read more about Asclepias tuberosa and its cultural preferences click here.

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photographs, articles and content on this site, (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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Strolling Along the Wildflower Walk …

July 6th, 2011 Comments Off

A Stroll Through the Wildflower Walk in Late Afternoon

The Wildflower Walk may have started as an accidental feature in my garden, but —second only to the Secret Garden— it always generates the most oohs and ahhs. And when the sunny drifts of Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) hit their crescendo in July, it’s easy to see what all the commotion is all about. The softening effect of randomly strewn, bold sweeps of wildflowers is truly magical in a landscape, and although my dog Oli is responsible for coming up with this design, I have not only run with the theme in my own garden, but used the idea in other designs as well (minus the method of installation, see previous post for that story). I’m sure that if he only knew how popular one of his ‘bads’ has become, Oli would be begging for bones every day when he passes through his wondrous Wildflower Walk.

Of course —not to take away from my dog’s true genius— but one of the things that makes all of this unplanned wildness work from a design standpoint, is the underlying structure of the garden. The hardscape and bones of the landscape —which includes the stonewalls, loose stone paths, and structural trees and shrubs— give shape to the space; allowing ever-changing elements to take center stage at any given time, while the constant ‘theater’ holds everything together. And though they stand in the background throughout the summer —steady and central— the structural features always take over the show in late autumn and winter…

Rudbeckia and Nepeta tumble in a colorful jumble along the Wildflower Walk. Bees, butterflies and other pollinators love Nepeta and Rudbeckia. And later in the season, finches will stop by to feast upon Rudbeckia seed (I leave many of the stalks standing for my feathered friends). Meanwhile, in the background: the spilling green Juniperus horizontalis provides bright blue berries for wildlife, as well as a pretty green foil for the wildflowers. And though it’s barely visible in high summer, Dan Snow’s retaining wall holds everything together —both figuratively and literally– throughout the year.

The walkway surface is 1″ natural round stone —slightly larger and more grey-blue than pea stone— which allows wildflower seed to germinate just beneath the surface. The walk does require some weeding, but it isn’t as labor intensive as you might think. Rounded, natural stone makes a great surface for seating areas and walkways; in both formal and informal spaces. I particularly love this look in lawn-less, Mediterranean gardens.

The main walkway —to and from my home/studio— is wider than the Secret Garden path and the rest of the Wildflower Walk. And though the Rudbeckia reigns supreme here in early summer, this wave of bloom is preceded by Lupine and succeeded by Adenophora. Other wildflowers and shrubs play supporting and cameo roles along the way… 

In reality, getting wildflowers to succeed in a garden over the long-haul usually requires a bit more planning than Oli put into his work. Many self-sown bi-annual and meadowy perennial flowers —such as Lupine, Poppies, Asters, Black-eyed Susans and the like— prefer fast-draining, thin soil in full-sun. These flowers thrive on natural, seasonal weather conditions. When it comes to sunny-meadow flowers, sites with poor soil often work better than sites with rich soil (take note of those wildflower drifts along the highway: talk about thriving on neglect!), but there are wildflowers adapted to wet, rich soil as well. Recognizing wildflower seedlings (to avoid accidental weeding or over-mulching) throughout the season, and allowing seed heads to remain standing until they mature, is absolutely critical to the maintenance of wildflower drifts (this is particularly important in true meadows, which must be mown after the flower heads have browned and are ready to release seed). All of these things tend to go against the grain of super-tidy gardeners, so in the beginning at least, a leisurely attitude toward maintenance may work to your advantage when it comes to wildflowers. However in long term, lazy Susans would not be successful here. I am the sole gardener on my property, and as ‘wild’ as this walkway may look, I can assure you that it does demand some weeding time; particularly in the early spring, after rainy periods. Clover, grass and other thin-soil-lovers germinate well between the loose stone, and rise up in competition with the wildflowers along the path. I simply keep them in check (often in the early morning hours while talking on the phone with a client or contractor, or late, late in the afternoon with a glass of cold lemonade or chilled wine).

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mixed’ will reach its summertime crescendo this month in the Wildflower Walk

A different perspective: looking down the Secret Garden path from the main walkway. This shot was taken on an overcast morning, when the bright yellow and orange of the just-opening Rudbeckia really stood out.That’s Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ on the right, backed up by Viburnum trilobum ‘Bailey Compact’ (that dynamic duo really lights up in the autumn, see this post for photos).

Looking Through the Wildflower Walk and Into the Secret Garden Beyond (Foreground: Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mixed’ and Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’).

Tempted to give wildflower drifts a try in your own garden? Want to replace your front lawn with something less water/chemical dependent and more colorful? Would you like to support pollinator and bird populations with a natural food source? Well, you could ask a rambunctious dog like Oli to install a Wildflower Walk for you, or you could consult some inspirational books on the subject of Meadow Gardens. The one I am currently ogling, and constantly praising, is The American Meadow Garden, pictured and linked below. Beyond its obvious beauty, this book is also genuinely useful; offering meadow/wildflower planting suggestions by region, soil type and exposure. Self-sown wildflower drifts are lovely both in meadows and within designed gardens. Isn’t it amazing what your dog can teach you?

The American Meadow Garden (John Greenlee/Saxon Holt) from Timber Press

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photographs, articles and content on this site, (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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Late Afternoon Sunlight in the Meadow And a Prelude to Long, Languid Summer

June 1st, 2011 § 7

Camassia quamash and Clethra alnifolia – Two of My Favorite Native Plants in the Meadow Garden

One of my current landscape design projects is for a new home in the middle of a high meadow. I couldn’t be more excited. Meadow gardens are some of my favorite landscapes to design. Many things influence me when I create a new garden, but my greatest muse is always nature herself. Wild meadows —think fields of lupine, poppies, daisies, black eyed susan, sage and tall, tawny grasses— are painted in bold sweeps of color and texture. Meadows are sensual places; catching the caress of wind; glistening in warm, low sunlight.

My own meadow garden —a small, sunny opening in the middle of a forest— is a place filled with wildflowers and native shrubs, offering beauty throughout the seasons. At this moment —with sunlight dancing upon tips of swaying, blue camassia— it’s a little slice of heaven, and a prelude to the long, languid, golden days of summer stretched out before us…

Pay Attention to the Light in Your Garden and Position Plants to Make the Most of Their Beauty. Camassia Glows Like Stained Glass in the Late Afternoon Sunlight. Later on in the Season, Clethra alnifolia’s Golden Autumn Foliage (Sweet Pepperbush in the background) is Illuminated by the Setting Sun.

I Enjoy Camassia’s Translucent Lavender Petals. Bees, Butterflies and Other Pollinators Love This Native Flower as Well: Note the Bright-Red, Solitary Sweat Bee (Sphecodes) on the Camassia in the Photo Above.

For more information about Camassia quamash, please visit my previous post on this native wildflower by clicking here. And to learn more about our North American native Sweet Pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia) —a natural shrub for softening the boundary between field and forest— click back to this post here. Looking for more meadow garden inspiration? I’ll be writing more about the wildflowers and grasses of our native meadows over the coming weeks. But for now I’ll leave you with the name of a gorgeous title to check out on your next rainy day trip to the bookstore. Author and nurseryman John Greenlee and award winning garden photographer Saxon Holt recently teamed up to create The American Meadow Garden for publisher Timber Press. Not only is this book visually stunning, but it’s also filled with wonderfully inspirational design ideas, plant recommendations and reliable cultural information. I reviewed The American Meadow Garden for Barnes & Noble last year, and it’s been migrating from desk to dinner table to night stand all week. I can’t wait to share it with my new clients…

Beautiful Inspiration: The American Meadow Garden by John Greenlee and Photographer Saxon Holt

Garden Design & Installation: Michaela Medina. For design inquiries, see my professional services page at left.

Article and Photographs ⓒ Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All photographs, articles and content on this site, (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced or reposted without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

The Gardener’s Eden received no compensation for the editorial mention of any products or services mentioned in this post. Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links here (including Amazon.com book links). A small percentage of each sale will be paid to this site, helping to cover web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you so much for your support!

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