Artistry of Herbs

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So much of our garden was slack and wilting yesterday evening, before the rain began.  The ground has grown drier each day, available moisture retreating deeper, away from the multitude of thirsty roots.  This time of year devolves into a contest of will between me with my trusty garden hoses, and July’s relentless heat and extended dry spells.

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Bronze fennel glows in the late afternoon paired Verbena bonareinsis and Joe Pye weed.

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Plants react differently to the many challenges that befall them in the course of the year.  Watching how plants respond to stress can guide us in the choices we make in planting.

No one enjoys a garden filled with drooping, brown tipped leaves.  And most of us don’t have the unlimited time or resources to water enough to compensate when the weather turns hot and dry for days or weeks at a time.  That is why it is smart to plant a good percentage of deep rooted, sturdy, drought tolerant plants to stand tall through July and August.

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Loose foliage of Siberian Iris and Crinum lily function like ornamental grasses through summer, setting off other flowering plants nearby.

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Herbs top my list of sturdy, dependable choices for summer structure.  Fennel, lavender, Salvias, dill, thyme, Santolina, rosemary, Germander, Artemesia, and Pelargoniums stand up and look smart with a minimum of supplemental water.  Iris, considered an herb by many, are a part of this dependably sturdy cohort.

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Rose scented Pelargonium

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And, these plants are all beautiful.  Many are fragrant, and some bloom for weeks right through the summer. Their leaves are fleshy and thick, some waxy and prepared to stand up to the relentless Mediterranean sun.  Their subtle colors and designs fascinating.

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Spanish Lavender

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As an added bonus, most can be found for a very small investment each spring.  Many herbs are offered at local big box stores and grocery stores from March through June or early July for just a few dollars a pot.

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Newly planted Rosemary ‘Tuscan Blue’ grows with tough Sedum ‘Angelina.’  This Rosemary can eventually grow into a good sized shrub.

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Perennials generally survive challenging weather better than annuals, anyway, because they have grown deeper, larger roots. Perennial herbs prove some of the most dependable.

They may need more coddling through their first few months, but once established they will hang on until conditions improve.  Like trees and shrubs, their roots can seek out moisture out of reach of many other plants.

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Keep newly planted perennials well watered while their roots grow out into the surrounding soil. Once new growth begins, you know the plants are settling in. The Monarda and Verbena hastata were planted in mid-July, a terrible time for planting!  The Pineapple sage (top right) is now well established and can handle summer weather.

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We are all discovering ways to adapt to the challenges our changing weather patterns bring.  We see all sorts of records broken month after month, and know that more change is likely ahead.

Our gardens can adapt, beautifully, and with tremendous artistry.  We just need to keep an open mind as we plant.  A willingness to experiment with new plants, ones we may not have previously considered for the perennial garden, and different ways of cultivating it opens up all sorts of exciting possibilities.

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Woodland Gnome 2018

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“In a world of change,

the learners shall inherit the earth,

while the learned shall find themselves

perfectly suited

for a world that no longer exists.”
.

Eric Hoffer

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Doing Little Bits

VAriegated Lemon Thyme will hold part of the bank with its dense foliage and roots.

Variegated Lemon Thyme will hold part of the bank with its dense foliage and roots.

Today has been another day of weeding, spreading compost, planting, and delighting in bits of perennial poking up through the warming soil.

Each newly emerging Echinacea, Monarda, and Comfrey merits a quiet celebration that winter is behind us now, and spring unfolding.

Comfrey leaves emerge from an herb bed.  Their leaves are medicinal, and their flowers area great favorite with both bees and butterflies.  Several of these will be transplanted soon.  Comfrey spreads with underground stems.

Comfrey leaves emerge from an herb bed. Their leaves are medicinal, and their flowers area great favorite with both bees and butterflies. Several of these will be transplanted soon. Comfrey spreads with underground stems.

Finding a dead looking stick poking out of the Earth, with a small cluster of dark green leaves emerging at its base, brings quiet satisfaction that another hardy plant has survived to grow for another summer.

Once these little bits of green emerge, they grow so very quickly.  The change is apparent from day to day, as they grow, branch, and set buds for another season.

I worked today on some informal herb and perennial beds terraced on the slope behind our butterfly and hummingbird garden.  Several large Lilac shrubs, just opening their flowers, anchor these long narrow beds.

Our Josee lilacs rebloom several times during the summer.  This potted one will move out to the garden after it blooms.  Several others just like it anchor the beds on our hillside.

Our Josee lilacs rebloom several times during the summer.   This potted one will move out to the garden after it blooms. Several others just like it anchor the beds on our hillside.

I’ve been digging them into the hillside bit by bit over the last few years, planting sturdy shrubs, iris, and herbs whose roots will hold this hillside in place and whose blooms will attract every butterfly in the county.

Now I’m hoping to find some milkweed plants to work into this area as hosts for Monarch butterflies.  There is already bronze fennel growing.

Bronze fennel is an important host plant for swallowtail butterflies.  This newly emerged herb will grow to 4' or more tall by lae summer.

Bronze fennel is an important host plant for swallowtail butterflies. This newly emerged herb will grow to 4′ or more tall by late summer.

I’ve planted additional parsley this year, and I broadcast dill seeds last year.  Although many butterflies lay their eggs on hardwood trees, like the Tulip Poplar, parsley, dill,and fennel host the swallowtail butterflies which animate our garden for months each summer.

Parsley for the butterflies.

Parsley for the butterflies.

Host plants are a very important part of any butterfly garden and help insure that our butterfly populations are maintained or increased year to year.

Now, as we are adding plants for the new season, is an important time to consider how our  choice of plants can  contribute to the health of our environment.

This catmint can be divided into several clumps and replanted on the hillside.  A hardy perennial, like any mint, it will spread to cover large areas.  Bees love its blue flowers.

This catmint can be divided into several clumps and replanted on the hillside. A hardy perennial, like any mint, it will spread to cover large areas. Bees love its blue flowers.

My partner and I have been keenly interested in the data on climate change released by the UN over this past weekend.  The amount of carbon dioxide in the air we breathe is higher now than it has ever been in the last 800,000 years.

Carbon in the atmosphere contributes to our planet’s rising surface temperature.  An increase of only two degrees Celsius will re-shape our landmasses as coastal areas flood.

Another culinary sage, or Salvial officinalis.  This purple cultivar is especially hardy and easy to grow.

Another culinary sage, or Salvial officinalis. This purple cultivar is especially hardy and easy to grow.

Although the problem is vast, and will take planet wide cooperation to fully address, each of us can do a little bit to help.  If all of us will do a little bit, then all of us together can make a tremendous positive difference.

All plant life, from algae growing in a pond to the beautiful Cedars of Lebanon, continuously draw carbon out of the air.

I found this patch of Monarda emerging today.  Its flowers will be covered in bees and butterflies for several months this summer.

I found this patch of Monarda emerging today. Its flowers will be covered in bees and butterflies for several months this summer.

The basic process of creating food from sunlight requires carbon dioxide and water.  Plants convert these compounds into sugar, storing the sugar in each and every cell.  The  products of this process are pure oxygen and water vapor.

This means that everything we plant, whether a tree  or a marigold flower, will help scrub carbon dioxide out of the air;while producing pure oxygen for us to breathe.  Isn’t this an elegant plan?

Lanbs Ears, another hardy perennial, brightens the garden from late winter through autumn.  When it blooms, its purple flowers will be alive with hungry bees.

Lambs Ears, another hardy perennial, brightens the garden from late winter through autumn.  I love its silvery foliage throughout the season.  When it blooms, its purple flowers will be alive with hungry bees.

We lose so many large trees each year.  Some are lost to logging or to clearing land for new shopping centers, roads, neighborhoods, and agriculture.

A male cardinal surveys his garden.

A male cardinal surveys his garden.

Other trees are lost to storms or disease.  If each of us can counterbalance this by planting even one tree each year, it can make a tremendous difference or our environment.

Not only do trees scrub huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but they offer cool shade.  Their roots hold the soil against erosion.

April 9 2014 buds 015

Those of us fortunate enough to have land where we can plant trees can certainly add a tree to our yards.  Those without space to plant can contribute to organizations dedicated to rebuilding forests around the world.

Every little action from each of us adds up to a mighty effort towards healing our planet. 

The trees have finally begun to open their leaves in our garden.

The trees have finally begun to open their leaves in our garden.

There are many organizations involved in reforestation.  One particularly interesting one is the  Eden Reforestation Projects.

But today, I wasn’t doing anything so grand as planting a tree.  Rather, I was pulling weeds, building the soil with compost, and planting herbs.

Artemesia is another silvery perennial important in the garden.  Another drought tolerant herb, it shines at twilight.

Artemesia is another silvery perennial important in the garden. Another drought tolerant herb, it shines at twilight.

I planted parsley, sage  and thyme today, and some marigolds.  Every little bit we do makes a difference.

The garden is still looking rather unimpressive.

The little lemon thyme now grows at the base of a fig tree, partnered with a culinary sage,  Salvia officinalis"Berggarten."  The sage will grow to

The little lemon thyme now grows at the base of a fig tree, partnered with a culinary sage, Salvia officinalis”Berggarten.” The sage will grow to about 2′ by late summer.

There are still leaves lying about, and the little wild strawberries would gladly re-take our hillside given the chance.  Their dense mats hold the soil.

The little strawberries they produce feed our birds.  And yes, even the little weedy wild strawberries filter carbon out of the air, and do their little bit to make our planet a better place to live.

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

This hypertufa stepping stone made its debut in the garden today.

This hypertufa stepping stone made its debut in the garden today.

 

Eastern Black Swallowtail Caterpilliars- Revisited

The first chrysalis turned up a few days ago. Perhaps you saw my post on the caterpillars?  So far we found one chrysalis on the bronze fennel the caterpillars were munching, and another on a nearby tomato cage. The others must be close, but I haven’t found them yet.  Originally there were nine caterpillars on … Continue reading

Our Forest Garden- The Journey Continues

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