Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – June 2015

It’s time for another Bloom Day post, a meme hosted by May Dreams Garden, and the rain has made this one quite soggy. Spring  is passing and summer is bringing with it humidity, especially this past weekend. Warm, gentler rainfall is adored by the plants on the Lot and they are quickly growing larger in size as a result.

Blooms that are finishing include the sweet william, peonies, sweet woodruff, and false indigo. Blooms now appearing on the Lot include:

Blanket Flower (Gaillardia)
Blanket Flower

Roses – Here is our monster climber (the Other Half’s nemesis) at the southwest bed.
And here is the red climber we found squished between the now removed arborvitae and the yew in the south bed. This one usually blooms a week or so ahead of the above climber.

In an east bed is a second-season resident, first-time bloomer, masterwort (Astrantia major?).061515_masterwort

The native beardtongue purchased last year is also blooming. It’s quite happy in its dry, morning light / afternoon shade bed.

Here is a pretty beardtongue (Penstemon) I adore for it’s burgundy stems and dark green foliage. The lighter blooms provide quite the contrast. This plant popped up in the backyard bed in front of the blooming jupiter’s beard (Centranthus ruber). The mother plant lives in the fence bed.

Speaking of Jupiter’s beard, when looking up its latin name, I discovered another of its common names is “red valerian.” It shares the same family, Caprifoliaceae (the honeysuckle family), as valerian (Valeriana officinalis)… which happens to be blooming now in the alley bed. This lacey bloom has quite a pretty scent.061515_valerian

Also in the full sun alley bed, this allium I received from Mrs. N is in bloom. I leave the seed head up all season as a living sculpture.061515_allium

Across the back drive from the alley bed is an area of yard being used as a pseudo holding pen. Eventually, I hope to edge out a bed for the plants living there. One such plant is this sunny lily just beginning to bloom.

The variegated deadnettle (Lamium) from Mom G. is now blooming and will continue throughout the season. In this photo it is snuggling with a maidenhair fern (Adiantum). This plant grows as a ground cover and spreads quickly when it is in the right place. I often have to trim it back several times during the summer so it doesn’t overwhelm its neighbors.

Nearby the foamy bells (Heucherella) is blooming. 061515_foamy-bell

The cheery tickseed (Coreopsis) is in bloom in the fence bed.061515_coreopsis

And finally, here is a bloom from one of the annual containers. 061515_container

Sneak Peak – Japanese Garden is Here

The Other Half and I visited the Frederick Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park last night for a members’ sneak peak of the completed Japanese Garden being unveiled this weekend. Throughout the past year or so we had been catching glimpses of the garden being constructed. Wooden walkways and buildings were constructed, hills and waterfalls were created, and large boulders and rocks were placed. Selected trees were left were they stood while more trees were added. Slowly the garden was taking shape.


The 8 acre garden was designed by Hoichi Kurisu. Central to the layout is a large pond encircled by a pathway. I really enjoyed the layering of textures with rocks, water, and vegetation throughout the garden.










The plant palette was really interesting because it was diverse within a species of plant but still reserved in the number of species. Some staples of the garden included hosta, iris, spirea, lilac, japanese maple (Acer palmatum), shrubby cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa), and numerous conifers.




The trees throughout the garden were absolutely stunning. Included were niwaki, “garden trees pruned to look like the essence of mature trees.” Many of the trees brought into the garden and planted near the water’s edge were placed at an angle to simulate what would occur in nature. Still other trees provided berries to attract a host of song birds. The Other Half spotted a Cedar Waxwing. He then proclaimed the day a success due to his hobby of “uber-casual birding.”




The Other Half enjoyed the small paths that lure a viewer off the main trail to explore little pocket gardens and navigate across creeks via stepping stones. I look forward to returning to the garden to sit in one of those little areas, surrounded by the vegetation and the sounds of the water and birds. According to the literature we received during our visit, “The Japanese Garden aesthetic emerged from centuries of Shinto and Buddhist beliefs that emphasized a reverence for nature and a contemplative lifestyle.”



And of course it wouldn’t be a garden in our city without sculpture! We do love our sculpture here. Contemporary and more traditional sculpture embellished the already beautiful hardscape.


Traditional elements of a Japanese garden included bamboo and wood accents, a zen rock garden, gazebos, and a tea house.





Did I mention the textures?! Seriously, I just wanted to cuddle some of those conifers. Here are just a few examples.












I look forward to seeing the garden as it changes from season to season, especially in the winter. Next spring we will be able to visit pathways lined with blooming cherry trees. I’m also interested in experiencing the garden layout as it ages. Right now it appears so young! (Yes, I do realize it was just completed.) After several years, hopefully the moss will establish, the trees will settle in, and the foliage will begin to knit together. What a truly beautiful addition to our little city’s gardenscape.

A City Turning Wild

Tonight I attended a Native Plants 101 presentation by the River City Wild Ones, a local chapter (1 of 12 in the state) of the national Wild Ones organization. In the words of the Wild Ones website, the “Wild ones is a national not-for-profit organization with local chapters that teaches about the many benefits of growing native wildflowers in people’s yards.” Not only did I enjoy a presentation about native plants, but it was held at Brewery Vivant. As I told my Other Half, I could only have been happier if he was there with me and I was petting a kitten.

River City Wild Ones Preso

Amy Heilman, Education Coordinator for River City Wild Ones, did a great job in summarizing for the attendees why integrating native plants into the urban and suburban landscapes is important. These native plants create the foundation for a local ecosystem. Local pollinators whose numbers have been in decline depend on native plants for food. These pollinators, most being insects, are a food source for many bird species, and so on and so forth. As I learned at Bee Palooza last year, the act of supporting pollinators alone is really in our best interest.

Why Native Plants are Amazing

  • Native plants are as tough as nails. There is a bit of maintenance like any plant, but they often do not need to be pampered and can adapt to many site conditions.
  • Native plants provide a food source for many pollinators, you know, the little guys pollinating many of our agricultural crops so we have food.
  • Native plants often do not fall victim to diseases cultivated plants catch, eliminating the expensive (and harmful) need for pesticides.
  • Native plants prefer not to be fertilized and often do not need heavy watering while becoming established in the garden.

We Should Plant Weeds?!

The biggest challenge for native plants, I believe, is us. In the United States during the 1940s there was an increase in big lawns, shrubs and foreign plants. We have been raised to believe an orderly garden and huge expanse of well-manicured lawn is the ideal. This will secure in our mind and our neighbors’ we are indeed successful and responsible homeowners. Even roadsides are sprayed with herbicides and highway rest stops are landscaped with exotic plants. Business properties are limited to a few choice selections of shrubbery.

Many native plants are labeled weeds because they are not for sale at a garden center. Bees are dangerous! (nope) Bugs are terrible for our plants! (not really) Often we do not realize what sterile environments our “natural” gardens have become. So many natural and monetary resources are needed to maintain a style of landscaping that gives back nothing in return.

Know the Plants

Landscaping with Native Plants of MichiganSome native plants can become a bit unruly toward the end of a growing season. The sight of such could drive some gardeners to drink. However, learning more about native plants and their growing habits will reveal a large palette of options for even the most OCD gardener. A great book the River City Wild Ones recommends for our state is Landscaping with Native Plants of Michigan by Lynn M. Steiner.

One of the Wild One’s members shared some knowledge he gleaned while gardening with natives. When planting a bed, take extra effort to make the edging look nice. This alone can visually tidy up the unkempt look of some native plantings. Also, some natives get quite tall. Be sure to keep those plants back away from driveways where they would impede someone’s view of oncoming traffic.

You Can Start Small

Even after attending this presentation, I am not inclined to return home and rip out all non-native plants from the Lot. Instead, we will continue to integrate natives throughout our landscaping. As I told Amy, I am fascinated with the idea of reintroducing the natural world into an urban garden, blending native plants with commercial cultivars. I’m really excited to see how the native plants introduced to the Lot last season will look this season.

Gardeners can start small by planting a little, sunny strip as a butterfly garden. If you’re already raising veggies, dress up the edges of the bed with native plants that attract predators and parasitoids to cut down on the need to spray. Love birds? Try a colorful stand of native coneflower to provide the birds with delicious seed heads before their migration.

The First Steps to Reintroducing Native Plants

Planting at Brewery VivantAfter the presentation, attendees were able to participate in planting a large bed outside of brewery. Though it was a chilly 58 degrees outside, we filled the bed with a large variety of native plants and grasses. I will be checking back on these little ones throughout the season to see how they fair in the urban landscape. How wonderful that Ward at Brewery Vivant organized the event and the brewery as a business in the neighborhood supports this! Even while we were planting, many pedestrians passing by stopped to ask what we were up to, allowing us to spread the knowledge.

Buying Native Plants

When purchasing native plants, be sure to ask the nursery how the plants were grown. Plants from seed are best as they are more genetically diverse. Also, be sure plants were not grown in a different region and then shipped to your growing zone.

For my fellow Michigan gardeners, here are some names to look up when seeking native plants:

  • Calvin College Ecosystem Preserve, Grand Rapids
  • Designs by Nature
  • Hidden Savannah Nursery
  • Kent Conservation District
  • Michigan Wildflower Farm
  • Native Landscapes
  • Sandhill Farm
  • She is Growing Wild
  • WILDTYPE Design

The Larger Picture

The truth is, there is a larger picture than what our neighbors think of our landscaping. By integrating native plants into the garden, we are creating the first building blocks of a diverse ecosystem. Native plants spread throughout a city can create a type of “Green Corridor” or “Pollinator Pathway” to reintroduce nature to our urban landscape.