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

June 1st, 2011 § 7 comments

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.

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§ 7 Responses to Late Afternoon Sunlight in the Meadow And a Prelude to Long, Languid Summer"

  • Laurrie says:

    I have camassias and clethra and love them both. But I have to say not so much together. My camassias are beautiful but pale. Very pale blue, not the deep jewel colors of yours. They are pretty but need a strong solid background to show up. They go by just as the clethra leafs out.

    My Ruby Spice and Hummingbird clethra are intoxicating and lovely plants in summer, but they are not just late to emerge in spring, they are truly heaps of rubble until they do!

    By the way, one of my several Ruby Spice clethra blooms white. Do they easily revert, I wonder, or was it mislabled? Shape, size and form are all the same, but it’s definitely not Ruby Spice.

  • Michaela says:

    Hi Laurrie, C. alternifolia ‘Ruby Spice’ shouldn’t revert. I suspect you have a mis-labeled specimen. And yes, they do leaf out rather late and look scraggly until then. That often turns people off to the shrub. I try to mask that a bit by planting them with other quick-to-leaf- out shrubs.
    And yes, my Camassia bulbs came from Brent & Becky’s bulbs. At one point the Company had several different cultivars —ranging from deep violet to light blue— and I have often wondered if I have a cultivar, not the species. This group looks darker blue to me too. The bunch here at the edge of my meadow blossoms after the sweet pepperbush leafs out. They are peaking right now.
    They also look beautiful in front of the Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’ which is nearby.
    ;) M

  • David Grist says:

    Any thoughts on controlling goldenrod? I manage a couple “meadow gardens” and the goldenrod is always taking over.

  • Michaela says:

    Hi David, Because some of the goldenrods spread by aggressive rhizomes beneath the soil surface —like mint— they can be tough plants to control. I think of the non-clump forming types as more-or-less uncontainable. In a more formal garden, I would avoid them entirely. In a natural meadow situation, the rhizome-spreaders can be gorgeous, but other than sectioning them off naturally (rock outcrop, or stream, or ditch) I really don’t know how you would successfully —over the long-haul— keep them in one location. You know, I try to avoid planting the weedier species. Solidago canadensis is notoriously aggressive and there is another one I’ve encountered further south in New England (not sure of the species). I love Solidago odora, and find it easier to contain (and the leaves are wonderfully fragrant). And as ornamentals in New England, our local Stiff Goldenrod (Solidago rigida) and Showy Goldenrod (Solidago speciosa) are both wonderful and well behaved gardens. I love to combine them with Hydrangea quercifolia for late season effect. If you have the Canadian goldenrod in a created meadow garden, I would root it out entirely and replace it with a less weedy species. I wish I had a less labor intense solution for you. I am working in a meadow with damp edges right now, where native Monarda has become overly “successful”. Let me know if you discover a “trick” for containing the rhizomatous, aggressive solidago. Good to hear from you! Michaela

  • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    Sorry we’re so unmanageable ; ), but this plant is irresistible to many, MANY pollinating insects and THE major source of nectar and pollen in the fall.

    Goldenrod is incredibly outgoing, totally gregarious and completely indispensable: so, if you can possibly manage to find a way to live with it, the honey bees will thank you for it!

    Also used for centuries as a medicinal herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine “…(used) to flush water from the body, (has) anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties; (is an) astringent and diuretic/efficacious for stones in the bladder… It is recorded that in 1788 a boy of ten, after taking the infusion (tea) for some months, passed quantities of gravel, fifteen large stones weighing up to 1 1/4 OZ., and fifty over the size of a pea.” This article continues at length…

  • Michaela says:

    @ Deb – I promise —cross my heart— that I absolutely love your Canadian goldenrod—in spite of its rhizomatous roots— and I do let it (and all other wildflowers) run wild in natural areas (you may recall my bouquets last year… with goldenrod). And, right you are about this wildflower’s importance. Yes, I am familiar with goldenrod’s many medicinal, as well as craft uses, and its importance to pollinators and other beneficial insects. Some goldenrods are quite gregarious, but some are quite territorial. The clump forming species (mentioned) I do allow in created meadows, and even in my perennial border. But, I think David is talking about a more cultivated type “meadow garden”, not a true, natural meadow. In a created meadow garden, clumping goldenrods are a better choice than the rhizomatous type goldenrods, as the root spreaders do choke out other meadow plants (like penestemon, asclepias and rudbeckia). xo M

  • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    Hi Michaela, Sorry, I know that you’d never cause intentional harm… I had intended the intro to be strictly facetious; however, for anyone who is in the position to let things just duke it out for themselves, Asters make a strong counter-balance for Soledago canadensis and there’s plenty of free seed to be had on a Fall Foliage Road-trip. ; ) xo D

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