Tag Archives: Brunnera

A Goodbye to a Much Loved Garden

Cherry tree - 1

When you have to move and have to relinquish a garden that you have nurtured for twenty eight years, every moment you have left becomes precious.  As spring approaches, I spend as much time as possible walking the grounds and basking in the memories of each small vignette:  The twenty eight foot Weeping Spruce growing in the secret garden that my son brought home one day from school after an Earth day program his kindergarten year. He proudly presented it to me in a small paper cup. The Beautiful Cherry that dear friends gave us in a gallon pot when our daughter was born. The Hostas I dug up and transplanted from my first house.  The stand of Brunnera a girlfriend shared from her own garden and the different varieties of Pulmonaria I collected through the years now in glorious bloom, just as I am getting ready to leave. As gardeners, we all know that a gift of a plant will always have meaningful memories attached to it and long lasting  life. As such, I walk away with an ache in my heart but with the realization that the plants will endure and hopefully will give joy for many years to come.

Pulmonaria goodbye - 1

My wish is that the new lucky owners of this piece of land, home to nesting birds that return from migration to this patch year after year, home also to the bunnies who eat non stop and the deer who make their morning and evening rounds,  home to frogs and garter snakes that keep pests in check and the woodchucks who eat the dandelion flowers as they are fresh each morning . The squirrels nesting in its trees and the chipmunks who dig tunnels in the most inconspicuous places. They all belong here more than us.  My message to these lucky new owners (as of this point, unknown) is that they can draw peace and inspiration from its beauty, bask in the shade of its mature trees and receive joy from the song of its many resident birds as we did for so many decades.

I face a new beginning in my gardening journey, moving South to zone 9 in Central Florida, fauna and flora quite different from Pennsylvania which affords me the opportunity of learning new plant families and create gardens that require less water and more sun. I will explore the rich world of Cacti and Succulents and experiment with some tropical plants and fruit trees. I am eager to explore and share my journey with you and hope you continue to join me in the adventures to come!

“A garden should make you feel you’ve entered privileged space — a place not just set apart but reverberant — and it seems to me that, to achieve this, the gardener must put some kind of twist on the existing landscape, turn its prose into something nearer poetry.”
Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education

Great Plant Pairings Series

Brunnera 'Dawson's White and Louisiana Iris 'Red Velvet'

Brunnera ‘Dawson’s White and Louisiana Iris ‘Red Velvet’

This combination stopped me on my tracks a couple of days ago.  They are planted next to a Darmera peltatum, with its gigantic leaves that make quite a statement.

 Darmera peltatum, and Equisetum

Darmera peltatum, and Equisetum

Here is Darnera, or Umbrella Plant, today. An exotic plant on its own, but paired with Equisetum or Horsetail, well, I love the effect.  The photo does not do it justice. I love how Darnera awakens in the spring setting out an elegant sphere that opens into a single compounded flower:

 Darmera peltatum, blooms

Darmera peltatum, blooms

The leaves in the background are not part of this plant.  It is Alchemilla mollis or Lady’s Mantle. Darnera does not put out any foliage until the flower turns into a beautiful bunch of red berries.  This photo was taken May 2.

Both plants are in a fairly wet area of the garden and they have made it through some pretty harsh winters. Deer resistant too, has not been bothered at all since planted  three years ago.

“There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.”
–  Francis Bacon 

April Garden Chores

I know many of you are out in the garden eager to see plants growing and blooming.   I went out last week and started cleaning out the huge amount of oak leaves from my neighbors trees that end up in my beds.  Even though they look unsightly, it is a very environmentally sound practice to let the fall leaves stay on the perennial beds thru winter.  Many species of insect and amphibians find shelter and hibernate there for the winter.  So now that the weather has finally changed, off they go to my huge compost bin designated just for leaves.  In the fall leaves that lay on grass get mulched with our mulching mower as I explain here.  Some more spring chores:

  • Pruning.  This is the best time to prune some shrubs  and clean up any fallen branches from the yard.  The general rule is to prune in spring only shrubs that bloom on new wood.  Shrubs that bloom in early spring generally bloom on old wood or stems that formed last summer,  it is best to wait until after they bloom to cut back.  Some examples of early bloomers are Forsythia, Mahonia, Salix, Daphne, Deutzia, Azalea, Rhododendron and Weigela to name just a few. Read more about pruning in this post.
  • Divide Perennials.  Early spring is the ideal time to dig up and divide large clumps of perennials like Hostas, Iris, Pulmonaria, Brunnera and Lilly.  Although you can divide some perennials anytime during the summer, it is much easier to do it now when the crown be easily seen.  More here.
  • Hummingbird Feeders should be out by April 15 when  the first migrating hummers start showing up on their way north, sometimes so exhausted that a sip of nectar can replenish their energy and make a life or death difference.  Some may even choose to make a home in your garden!
  • Feeding and top dressing beds probably the best time to apply a bit of nutrients to the soil as needed.  I use good organic products for  my evergreens, Azaleas and Rhododendrons,  a light layer of composted soil mixed with mushroom manure on the perennial beds and fix any bare patches of lawn.

We all know that the work seems a bit daunting at this time of the year, but it is thrilling to see plants spring into life and discover that once more the cycle of life continues.  Enjoy the outdoors!

  “Arranging a bowl of flowers in the morning can give a sense of quiet in a crowded day-like writing a poem or saying a prayer”  -Anne Morrow Lindberg

April Bloomers

April is a month of renewal in the garden, I love to walk around, find those early bloomers and marvel at the beauty of it all.  The weather has been completely unreliable here in Western Pennsylvania,  we go from 60 and 70 degrees to days were we barely have gotten out of the 30’s.  But plants continue to grow and are almost determined to fulfill their mission.  Here is what is blooming in my garden:

Brunnera macrophylla

Pulmonaria angustifolia

Mahonia aquifolium

Doronicum pandalianches

This last plant was a throw away that a friend did not like:  Leopard’s bane,  I rescued a small cutting and three years later, it has formed an emerald green ground cover in deep shade.  Oval, highly serrated leaves, form a thick mat were nothing else grew in the past.  In April, an additional bonus, clusters of daisy like flowers floating on long stems, that last for weeks!

More Deer Proof Favorites

We have had an impressive amount of snow in Western Pennsylvania.  I heard in the news that we had snow everyday since December 28th until just a couple of days ago.  Everything is covered with a thick blanket, which allows us to see deer tracks coming to the bird feeders from all points of the yard.  I have been thinking of how important is to make careful selections in what plants to add to the garden this coming spring.  Based on plants that remained untouched in the past season,  my search continues.  My quest now is to add some of the same species but in different varieties.

Ligularia sp. or ‘Bigleaf Goldenray’.  There are about 10 species of Ligularia that are commonly cultivated.  In our area of Western Pennsylvania, I have come across only four different varieties.  This is a striking plant, with huge kidney, triangular or elliptical leaves that form an attractive clump sometimes two or three feet in diameter.  Give this plant plenty of space and fertile moist conditions in part shade.  Most bloom in late summer with showy yellow daisylike  flowers held high in sprays or spikes.  Propagation by division in spring.

Brunnera sp. or ‘Siberian Bugloss’. This is an elegant spring-flowering shade loving perennial with beautiful foliage.  Leaves are broad and heart shaped, available in many variegated combinations of white and gold as well as the rich silver with green veins of  ‘Jack Frost’. Generally pest free, it thrives in sun as long as it is not dry.  Its typical forget-me-not sprays of blue flowers open in mid to late spring.

Pulmonaria sp. or ‘Lungwort’.   Another favorite in my shade garden.  I am still searching for more varieties.  Popular ground cover plant.  Very striking foliage, usually covered with spots, and lance like leaves that form a thick covering.  Blooms in early spring in a profusion of of upright stems with shades of violet, pink and purple.

All of these shade loving perennials have proven to be pest resistant in my garden.  My strategy now is to collect as many varieties as I can fit into my shady beds.  Since all of these plants sport bold large leaves and clumping habit, I find them companions such as Ferns, Astilbes, and Irises to offset their shape and create an interesting overall design.

“A garden is never so good as it will be next year” Thomas Cooper