Welcome to Rooting for Ideas

My Name is Don Statham and this is my garden blog. (Seasonal Photos of Don’s Garden)

I am mad about plants, some might say obsessive! One of the points of this blog is to connect with other passionate gardeners who also like to talk about plants, garden design, garden writing and all things horticultural.

Posted in Meadows | Tagged , | 11 Comments

Thugs in the Garden

I was ignorant when I began to plant my garden and I chose plants on the basis of passion. After a while I discovered that quite a few of the plants I had selected possessed thug-like qualities. You know the ones. They take over, pushing, shoving and choking out the plants that are more graciously behaved. If left unchecked, these aggressive plants can take over an entire border. They remind me of people that talk incessantly, only happy when hearing their own voices. As I age, I want to be with plants (and people) that don’t need to dominate.
Apparently, we all have to go through the phase of falling in love with a plant and then realizing, usually too late, that it’s not the plant we thought it was. My gardening friends all seem to have their own list of thuggish plants. Here are a few of my troublemakers that, if I planted a new garden today, would definitely not be included. Geranium phaeum (dusky crane’s-bill, mourning widow or black widow): I have literally ripped this plant out by the thousands and it still comes up in my garden every year. I even have a hedge of it where I never planted it. Gooseneck loosestrife (Lysimachia clethroides): A gardening friend with a 40-year-old garden chuckled and told me I was “brave” to plant this as we strolled round my garden. Her joke was lost on me. As far as I knew then the plant was well behaved. Her laugh haunts me now. The plant has crashed through my garden like a feral dog on amphetamines. It has a strange pink and white root system that is easy enough to pull out, but if you leave any, and I mean any, part of this root behind it starts spreading again.

Ctenucha Virginica on Lysimachia clethorides- loosestrife

Ctenucha Virginica on Lysimachia clethorides- loosestrife

After 13 years in this garden, I have a substantial list of thugs. Plants that spread by root are not the only ones that can take over; overnight the “self seeders” will reap havoc on a garden. Each spring I set myself the task of eradicating at least one or two thugs from my garden. Alchemilla mollis (‘Lady’s Mantle’) is certainly no lady. She has taken over hundreds of feet of my borders, inserting her clannish offspring into every nook and cranny. I didn’t mind at first, the sprays of chartreuse flowers are lovely, but I had no idea that this plant’s determination to reproduce included growing in hardpan soil and gravel.
A friend recently defined a bore as someone who cannot go off topic. Plume poppy (Macleaya cordata) is a bore because where it resides nothing else can. Because of this plant’s imposing six- to eight-foot stature, I put it at the back of the border, but in no time it had moved itself to the front. Eventually, I yanked it out of several borders and put it into a hedge of Rhamnus ‘Fineline’ where the wonderful broad leaves look great juxtaposed to the texture of this hedge. Never again will I risk planting it with other plants as it doesn’t know how to behave. Phlox paniculata ‘David’ was great for eight years, no mildew, with sweet-scented clouds of white flowers in August. But the clumps became so large that I had white everywhere and not enough color. Last spring, I dug out massive clumps and dotted them around the edge of the pond to fight it out with wildflowers such as common boneset, asters and flag iris. It will be interesting to see who wins.

alchemilla mollis- lady's mantle

alchemilla mollis- lady’s mantle

6.plum poppy

Macleaya cordata- Plume poppy incarcerated in Rhamnus Fineline hedge

Astrantia major (great masterwort) is a European meadow plant and I should have known better, but as it has been appearing in many garden articles and magazines, I guess I was seduced. The white flowering one is the most robust and blooms all summer, but it also chokes out all the plants coming up in ditches and inserts itself into even densely planted areas.
Artemesia ludoviciana (‘Silver King’) certainly “kings” it up in any border. In early spring there is no problem, but turn your back and by midsummer it’s either crawling up the rose bush at a great height or rambling into the garden path, overtaking the lawn. The silvery cut leaf foliage is a nice break from the flowering plants, but left unchecked this plant will turn a border silver in no time. Creeping bellflower ( Campanula rapunculoides) was here when we came to this house. You see it growing in ditches and alongside old farmhouses. I have tried to eradicate this plant so many times from certain spots in my garden, but no matter what I plant in its place it not only reasserts itself, but kills the replacement plant.
The last plant is one of my favorites, Petasites japonicus (butterbur or bog rhubarb). It must have constantly wet soil as it grows. I planted some along my drive and then decided several years later to eradicate it, which only seemed to make things worse. It came back with a vengeance and now covers a very large area along the drive. The first spot I planted it in was along the bottom of a tall retaining wall where the plant was essentially incarcerated. If it grows into the lawn I just mow over it. This is the only way to
really grow this plant as otherwise it continues to spread at a rapid rate, overtaking everything in its path.
The Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf in his book Designing with Plants has made it his mission to choose good clump-forming perennials that do not move about by aggressive rooting or seeding. In order for his designs to work, such as the High Line in New York City, plants must stay in their place. Oudolf. with his wife Anja, started a nursery in Holland which allowed him to experiment with perennials. One of his requirements when choosing perennials is that they don’t need to be divided. His hard-earned experience can teach us all how to build a foundation of plants that mix well in plant communities rather than lording it over weaker plants. And you may wish to consider ripping out some of the thugs in your garden in order to make room for some more socially cooperative perennials.

Phlox David

Phlox David

Petasites Japonica and variegated form

Petasites Japonica and variegated form

Astrantia major foreground and Artemesia ludoviana right side

Astrantia major foreground and Artemesia ludoviana right side

Posted in Perennials | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

June Garden photos

Fields behind th ehouse full of buttercups and bed straw- a backdrop to the garden

Fields behind the house full of buttercups and bed straw- a backdrop to the garden

View from top of staircase in driveway

View from top of staircase in driveway

Astilbiodies tabularis, Darmera peltata  at base of new dry stone retaining wall in driveway

Astilbiodies tabularis, Darmera peltata at base of new dry stone retaining wall in driveway

Entry garden with new willow structure and golden hops

Entry garden with new willow structure and golden hops

Looking down from entry room into Big leaf room. Petasites, sumac tiger eyes, and Mandarin honeysuckle

Looking down from entry room into Big leaf room. Petasites, sumac tiger eyes, and Mandarin honeysuckle

Living willow structure clipped into Castle Chicken shape

Living willow structure clipped into Castle shape for chickens

Small plum orchard, bank is bedstraw and bishop weed, tall grass is red clover and daisy

Small plum orchard, bedstraw and bishop weed on bank,unmown area is red clover and daisy. I like encouraging lots of wildflowers in the areas further from the house.

Creeping thyme in Ice house path, green velvet boxwood

Creeping thyme in Ice house path, green velvet boxwood

Persicaria polymorpha white fleece flower

Persicaria polymorpha white fleece flower

Scotch thistle

Scotch thistle

Goats beard rising above rhamnus fineline hedge

Goats beard rising above Rhamnus fineline hedge

Ice house border

Ice house border

Kanutia macedonica- trying to use more color in the garden

Amsonia hubrichtii left and Kanutia macedonica- trying to use more color in the garden

Sanguisorba officinalis- I think? with salvia May night and amethyst

Sanguisorba officinalis- I think? with Salvia May night and S. amethyst

Blue stone Terrace planting

Blue stone Terrace planting with new Teak Smith Granada chairs. Love the X back design.

Moss on old barn wall

Moss on old barn wall

I forgot the name of this plant.. any ideas. I ripped it out of a border and its flourishing here under the heritage birch trees

Lysimachia punctata- yellow loosestrife.  I ripped it out of a border and its flourishing here under the heritage birch trees

Digitalis grandiflora- given to me by a dear friend. Love this plant.

Digitalis grandiflora- given to me by a dear friend. Love this plant.

 

Posted in Design Ideas, Perennials, Photos of Don's Garden | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

Creating Vertical Elements in the Garden

Four years ago, I started a small willow nursery for personal use. I got willow cuttings from my friend Michael Dodge who owns Vermont Willows. I also bought 12’ foot willow rods to make a living willow tunnels for my chickens; an escape for my girls in case a bird of prey gets the wrong idea. The chickens love these dense structures that have the added benefit of providing some cool shade. Now my willow nursery stock has matured I have harvested 16’ foot rods, and started to build the willow structures I have always wanted to make.

Willow structure completed and hops tied to it.

Willow structure completed and hops tied to it.

This summer, I made the first of the large willow structures or garden obelisks. My garden is still young and lacks verticality and these structures provide an instant vertical element.

For the first structure I detained a golden hop that had been traipsing along the top of a retaining dry stone wall and devouring a bench every summer for a few years. No surprise, the hops loves the upright structure, and within two weeks has pretty much covered it. My second structure replaced a sickly Taxus cuspidate- pyramidal yew, part of an alley of yews that leads down to the pond. This 10’ foot willow structure keeps the architecture of the alley, but adds an element of surprise. A Lonicera sempervirens ‘John Clayton’- trumpet honeysuckle will cover the structure in a few years.

Two weeks later the hops has covered structure

Two weeks later the hops has covered structure

I decided to make one more large structure 12ft this time, in a lower border and repeated the golden hops. At the end of an open valley, we have strong westerly winds so I buried re-bar rods and tied the top for added stability.

My next project is to make willow fences or ‘wattles’ around a few evergreen trees to protect the lower part of the trees from munching deer.
I will post my future projects as I achieve them.
Once my willow stock has been replenished I will make these structures available to local gardeners.

Completed 2nd structure 10' foot tall

Completed 2nd structure 10′ foot tall

Detail with honeysuckle

Detail with honeysuckle

12' foot structure

12′ foot structure

View of structures in the garden

View of structures in the garden

Posted in Design Ideas, willow structures | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments

Plowed Snow Damages Plants

This gallery contains 8 photos.

Winter is hard enough on plants with all the freezing and thawing, and subzero weather, but we also have to make sure, when we design a garden, that our plants will be out of the way of the snow plow. … Continue reading

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Winter – A Time to See Garden’s Architecture

This gallery contains 4 photos.

Those of you who live in the northern hemisphere, experience a winter season pared to its bare essentials. And it is by no means all bad news. In this reduced landscape you have the advantage of seeing your garden with … Continue reading

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Late November

This gallery contains 9 photos.

A fellow blogger suggested that if you become burned out from writing, the best thing is to take a break. Hence my long absence from this blog. I have not been idle though. I have put a garden to bed … Continue reading

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Conversation among the Plants

When plant combinations work it is because they enhance one another. I like to think of these sometimes planned, sometimes serendipitous events as conversations between the plants involved. Repeating the same plant like Malus ‘Donald Wyman’ in my Moon garden with a second tree 70 feet away on the bank of the pond, means that after a long winter the two trees speak across the cold air one beautiful white and pink blossomed canopy to another. Then in fall when the crabapples turn bright red they bond again and your eye is naturally pulled back and forth by the dramatic fruit display.

Other combinations of plants that are dialoguing right now are the shrub Potentilla ‘Primrose beauty’ its soft yellow blooms whisper tenderly to the perennial Kirgengeshoma ‘palmate’ who’s beautiful pale yellow flowers nods in appreciation. A fluke planting, I love seeing these plants making the most of each other. The third shrub Sumac ‘Tiger eyes’ joins in on the conversation with its bright glowing chartreuse leaves.
When combinations of plants work well I make a note of it for future design projects so my clients and I can enjoy similarly harmonious discussions.

Potentilla 'Primrose beauty' with Kirgengeshoma palmate

Potentilla ‘Primrose beauty’ with Kirgengeshoma palmate

Kirgengeshoma palmate in the big leaf garden with Potentilla 'Primrose Beauty'

Kirgengeshoma palmate in the big leaf garden with
Potentilla ‘Primrose Beauty’

Sumac 'Tiger Eyes" joins in on the conversation.

Sumac ‘Tiger Eyes” joins in on the conversation.

Posted in Design Ideas | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments