Glorious, Late Summer Garden Design: Combinations Featuring Light-Catching Texture and Bold, Contrasting Color…

September 8th, 2010 § Comments Off on Glorious, Late Summer Garden Design: Combinations Featuring Light-Catching Texture and Bold, Contrasting Color… § permalink

Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’ and ‘Matrona’, stunning in combination here at Ferncliff with bluish hues, such as the Juniperus chinensis, sargentii glauca (shown above) and later, with the tawny tufts of Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ (also pictured above, prior to inflorescence)

It’s early September, and the garden has only just begun to glow with a warm, bronzy radiance. Late summer’s golden, honey-tones and rich, violet hues sing in combination with dusty blue conifers and turquoise-tinted foliage. Some of my late-season favorites, particularly the delightful toad lily, ‘Dark-beauty’ Tricyrtis formosana, (read about my obsessive-love here), and velvety-violet monkshood (Aconitum charmichaelii ‘Arendsii‘), are never more beautiful than when combined with orange and yellow wisps and needles. And the richly colored hues of early autumn sedum —especially exquisite plum and magenta saturated cultivars like ‘Matrona’ and ‘Purple Emperor’— are stunning when settled into a garden filled with shocking blue fescue or a back-drop of icy-colored conifers. Oh, such delicious, painterly possibilities! The summer-to-autumn transition is a colorists delight…

Tricyrtis formosana ‘Dark Beauty’ photographed here at Ferncliff, with Ucinia egmontiana ‘Orange Hook Sedge’

Monkshood (Aconitum napellus or charmichaelii ‘Arendsii’)  is stunning backed by gold. Consider planting it in front of spicebush (Lindera benzoin). Monkshood is available widely through nurseries and online from retailers including Stork Road Farm (image above) – Gorgeous in combination with shrubs and perennials that turn red, orange, rust, yellow and goldin autumn, including: Spicebush (Lindera benzoin), Amsonia hubrichitii (Bluestar – see below), and Switchgrass ‘Heavy Metal’

Amsonia hubrichitii – Thread-leaf Arkansas Bluestar – turns brilliant gold in late -summer and holds its delightful color throughout autumn

Looking for some inspirational ideas? There will be plenty to look forward to here in the coming weeks. In meantime, try looking back at some of last year’s posts, beginning with this one on ornamental grasses (click here). I am passionate about late-season garden design, and my own beds and borders were specifically planned to peak in this season. Creating an end-of-summer to late-fall garden crescendo isn’t difficult, but it does require some research. Knowing what to expect from woody plants and perennials —and how to play changing hues to their best advantage— is something a gardener learns with thoughtful observation, experience and exposure to well-designed late-summer and autumn gardens.

At Ferncliff, Amsonia hubrichitii is planted in combination with Geranium ‘Brookside’ (above). The cobalt-violet blossoms and flame colored foliage are a stunning combination in the entry garden throughout fall.

Pay close attention to how the light filters through your garden. Position luminous plants, such thread-leaf Arkansas bluestar (Amsonia hubrichiti) flame grass (Miscanthus sinensis purpurascens) and blue switchgrass (Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’) to play with the sun’s rays, and the shadows of nearby trees and dark buildings. Make note of how your perennial foliage changes color in late summer and fall. Plan planting combinations with autumn-blooming perennials —especially in contrasting colors— to make the most of the late season transition. Will the green or blue foliage of a large plant shift gold? Position it behind a violet or blue-colored fall flower, such as an elegant monkshood or wild-looking aster. Does the cool weather bring out the arctic-blue of a favorite conifer? Next year, remember to plant orange-colored dahlias nearby or, for a softer-look, think about adding rosy-hued windflowers, such as Japanese anemone (Anemone x hybrida ‘Serenade’ – also beautiful with gold leaved hostas) to your borders….

Anemone x hybrida ‘Serenade’ (Japanese windflower / anemone)

Panicum virgatum, ‘Heavy Metal’ switch Grass – available in the UK (and above catalogue image via) the RHS online shop. This ornamental grass is widely available in nurseries and garden centers throughout the US.

The same plant as pictured above, Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’ swichgrass, here at Ferncliff in November

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Article and photos (vendor link exceptions as noted) are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

The Gardener’s Eden is not an affiliate of the RHS, nor of Stork Road Farm. Product image links to these fine garden suppliers are provided for reader online shopping convenience only.

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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Star of Secret Gardens & Shady Dells, Kirengeshoma Palmata: Late Summer’s Graceful, Golden-Yellow Waxbells…

August 17th, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

Kirengeshoma palmata (Yellow waxbells) in the Walled Gardens at Ferncliff

As the last wisps of fog melted in morning’s brilliant sunlight, I slipped outside through the Secret Garden, eager to gather my tools and begin the day. But there, rising from the damp shadowy walls, stood graceful Kirengeshoma palmata in a sunny spotlight; swollen-yellow buds sparkling with diamond-dew. Oh – deliriously-beautiful distraction! I simply had to stop and enjoy the moment of pure poetry…

Kirengeshoma palmata – Yellow waxbells drenched in morning sunlight…

Like most fashionably-late starlets, this beauty has perfect timing. Exotic, delicate, ethereal; held on slender, arching stems, her blossoms nod above magnificently cut, peridot-green foliage. This is true horticultural haute couture at its best. Who could have come up with such an exquisite gown; such a perfect ensemble? Valentino? Yves Saint Laurent? And where did this beauty come from? Oh, but of course —her name gives her away—  she must be… Japanese!  Kirengeshoma palmata: elegant and subtle, but show-stoppingly gorgeous, yellow waxbells; dancing in the Secret Garden like a kimono-clad geisha…

Kirengeshoma palmata – Yellow waxbell blossoms, opening in the morning dew at Ferncliff

Yellow waxbells, as Kirengeshoma palmata is commonly known, are hardy in USDA zones 4/5 to 8. This unusual, August-blooming perennial prefers partial to mostly-shady locations and rich, slightly acidic, moist (but never boggy) woodland soil. Once established, Kirengeshoma palmata will form mounding 2 1/2′ tall clumps, perhaps reaching 3-4′ wide at maturity. Here in Vermont, Kirengeshoma’s waxy, yellow bells appear in mid August and her blossoms extend through early fall, when most other perennials are wilting and withering away. She combines well with other late-season beauties; including Hydrangea quercifolia, H. paniculata, Hakonechloa macra, Tricyrtis formosana, Ucinia egmontiana, Cimicifuga racemosa ‘Brunette’, Rodgersia aesculifolia, as well as ferns and many other perennials, shrubs and trees…

Kirengeshoma palmata (Yellow wax bells) from Heronswood Nursery

Although this lesser-known plant can be hard to find, I located it online at Heronswood Nurseries. Click on the photo-link above —image from Heronswood— for more information or to order this plant (The Gardener’s Eden is not an affiliate of Heronswood Nursery, however, I am a indeed a happy, long-standing customer). Inspired by the gem-like beauty of Kirengeshoma palmata? Whenever I look at her, I can’t help but think of Keira Knightly in Atonement; floating across the lawn in her impossibly lovely, emerald-green gown. Like Keira draped in verdant silk, this ethereal garden beauty whispers and enchants, lingering at the edge of summer like the dreamy, sparkling starlight of August memories…

Keira Knightly wears a bias-cut gown by Jacqueline Durran in the film,  Atonement

Like a flower in the night garden – just look at the moonlight on Keira’s beautiful gown…

All movie-stills are from the film Atonement, produced by Working Title Films and distributed by Universal Pictures

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Article and all photographs (with noted exceptions) © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Tricyrtis formosana ‘Dark Beauty’ ….. The Late Blooming Perennial Toad Lily

September 18th, 2009 § 3 comments § permalink

Tricyrtis formosana ‘Dark Beauty’ in the Secret Garden at Ferncliff

The first time I encountered Tricyrtis formosana she had been stripped of all foliage and was displayed dramatically with coppery toned twigs in a Japanese vase. It was lust at first sight. I was standing at the front desk in an elegant hotel lobby, and although I had plenty of things on my mind, I was driven to distraction by this flower. I suspected this was no orchid, but I could not identify her. Completely possessed, I had to know everything about the plant immediately. I peppered the hotel manager and staff with questions, and of course, no one could help me. In fact, I am certain the concierge thought me quite mad. He was busy and completely indifferent to my horticultural distress.

So I lurked about the first floor of the hotel, lingering in the bar with a late afternoon libation until the uncooperative employees departed. When the hotel staff changed shifts, a sympathetic face appeared behind the long slab of marble and I seized the opportunity at hand. This time I carefully tempered my enthusiasm so as not to appear too odd, and I simply inquired about the hotel’s florist. Much to my delight, after disappearing around the corner, the rather dashing fellow returned with a business card. “They are open tomorrow until noon”, he said. It was then that he must have noticed my aching gaze toward the vase, for he said… “Wait here just a moment”, and he disappeared once more. “Here…”, he smiled conspiratorially and presented me with three gorgeous stems, “These were on my boss’ desk”, he said, “and she has gone for the weekend”. I offered him a tip but he waved his hand. “My mother is obsessed with flowers, I understand”.

When the florist’s shop opened the next day, I learned that the object of my infatuation was a cultivar of Tricyrtis formosana. And although she may look like a member of the orchid family, she is not. Her swollen buds and speckled, waxy petals do bear a striking resemblance to Cymbidium, or perhaps Phalaenopsis, but her alternate lance-shaped leaves and hairy stems are a dead give away. This dappled beauty is actually a lily. A toad lily, in fact. And although I do find warty amphibians quite charming, I think this name is completely unsuitable. Other than Tricyrtis’ preference for a moist location, there is nothing toad-like about this elegant plant.

Tricyrtis formosana ‘Dark Beauty’ and Uncinia egmontiana, (orange hook sedge)

This initial introduction to Tricyrtis formosana was some years ago, before I finished college. When I finally had a garden of my own I was back in New England and Tricyrtis formosana was nowhere to be found. Although I heard there were hardier cultivars, (most range-out at zone 6), I could not find one to match the beauty I met in the hotel that day. Time went by, and I moved on to other botanical loves, but I never forgot my “orchid-lily”.

I shop around quite a bit for plants every year, and I try to keep an open mind when it comes to sources. You never know. Sometimes the most unusual things will turn up at a garden swap, or even a yard sale. I am no shop-girl snob, and I am certainly not above looking for botanical treasures in the most common of places. But I have to admit I was taken aback when I ran into my old love at the Home Depot. Of all the box stores in all the towns in all the world…

There she was, Tricyrtis formosana, the ‘Dark Beauty’.  Needless to say she came home with me. Native to Japan, this lovely lily brings a touch of exotic, Asian elegance to my shady northern nook. Much to my delight, this cultivar is hardy in zones 4 – 8.  She likes partial shade and constant moisture, and when happy her rhizomatous roots will spread out to form 2 to 3 foot colonies. Best of all, the ‘Dark Beauty’ blooms in early to mid fall, when few other flowers remain in my garden. I believe she likes taking the stage all to herself in the late show. And I am more than happy to supply her with a vibrant supporting cast.

The bold orange tones of Japanese forest grass, Hakonechloa macra ‘Nicolas’, strike a beautiful, contrasting chord when positioned beside the violet hues of Tricyrtis formosana ‘Dark Beauty’. A similar effect may be achieved when she is combined with orange hook sedge, (Ucinia egmontiana). Although you might not expect a dramatic late season finale when the pair are viewed throughout the quiet days of summer, ‘Dark Beauty’ will stand out in bold contrast to the orangy-gold autumn color of  our native cinnamon fern, (Osmonda cinnamonea), in fall. Tricyrtis formosana reaches a height somewhere between 18 and 28″, and she combines beautifully with other perennials. I might choose coral bells (Heuchera), for the foreground and perhaps position her beside a dark violet monkshood, (Aconitum, various cultivars), to create a dramatic autumn vignette. Her glossy green leaves play nicely against the feathery foliage of Astilbe, or the statuesque Goat’s Beard, (Aruncus dioicus), who backs up ‘Dark Beauty’ particularly well.

So here we are together again. Me and my old flame Tricyrtis formosana. So why not play it Sam? This looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship …

Tricyrtis formonsana ‘Dark Beauty’ with Orange Hook Sedge

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Article and Photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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