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.

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Garden Edit

Three years ago I had the good fortune to be invited by a Dutch friend to visit her childhood home in Holland and tour some Dutch gardens.

At the top of my list were the gardens of one the twentieth century’s greatest landscape architects, Mein Ruys. Ruys died in 1999, but this being Holland her gardens have been beautifully preserved. Over seventy years on 6.18 acres she created thirty garden rooms. And while I had seen photos of the place nothing prepared me for the beauty of being there. Ruys’s use of strong architectural foundations: hedges and walls and paths – provide contrast to the looser softer plantings; a perfect balance of the controlled and the willful. Nearly twenty years after her death her gardens live on expressing an acute sense of design, her playfulness and daring. The Gardens Of Mien Ruys

Piet Oudolf designed the planting of the Highline in New York and the Laurie Gardens in Chicago. Loving both of these, I was excited to see what he had done at Hummelo, his own garden in the Netherlands. A Wild Idea -The Gardens of Piet Oudolf

Using many native North American meadow perennials and grasses over large prairie like spaces with backdrops of tall hedges, Oudolf has artfully tamed what would otherwise be wild and let what would usually considered tame to take on a haphazard wildness. His gardens are like mysterious memories; summer prairie where the designer/gardener has worked to make his touch lightly visible.

As with any really enriching garden experience this profusion of beauty caused me to reflect on my own garden; specifically what’s not working!
In hindsight three years after that trip, I can see the influence those two gardens have on my own garden.

After returning from the Netherlands I began to viciously edit my fourteen year old garden ripping out overgrown shrubs and exposing huge gaping holes. After this clever burst of gut like certainty the overriding feeling was one of panic! But over the following years I was given or bought perennials to fill those gaps, moved things to different spots and waited. This year, perhaps for the first time, I really like my garden.

As any gardener knows a garden is never static and I will continue to make changes as plants mature, but I am closer now, much closer, to the vision in my head. Watch this space! (More beautiful Dutch Gardens) Dutch gardens


Lily Landini and drumstick alliums mingle in the borders


Nepeta sibirica ( blue) Stachy Hummelo (pink)


Agastache blue forntune


Moon garden Aralia sun king, white cosmos


Moon garden


Echinacea, veronicastrum virginicum, monarda grand parade, crocosmia lucifer


Grass Calamagrostis brachytricha


Garden July 2018


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Posted in Design Ideas, Perennials, Photos of Don's Garden, Piet Oudolf's Gardens, The Flowering Border, The Gardens Of Mien Ruys, Variegated Plants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Spring Projects 2018.

Spring is the season of the big clean-up after winter. Weeks are spent cutting back perennials, dividing, transplanting plants, moving plants, shaping shrubs, edging paths, and weeding, Once the initial cleanup is done, I usually begin a few new garden projects which always puts me behind with the weeding. This year was no different. Below are a few of the new additions to the garden.

I have been admiring a bench on Pinterest and decided to copy it. The two benches are for a transition area that is just down from the pond and leads to a new shade garden behind the house. A landscaping friend put me in touch with a local sawmill and I was able to get these rough milled hemlock timbers which are 6’ x 8”x8” costing me $50.00 a bench. My wife helped me with the fine chiseling of the notches that fit the seat timbers into the legs. I like the simple design for its practicalness and it’s sculptural look. They will just get better with time and will eventually turn grey.

The other project we tacticled was the path that leads from the parking area to the front door. It was made of irregular fieldstones which over the years had heaved from frost and had become very treacherous to walk on. I have a pile of large bluestone treads from a fallen down staircase and decided to use some of them to make the new path.  We added some small stones between the large slabs as a decorative element. There are other hardscape projects I have planned but I am not sure they will get done this year.


Hemlock benches in new transition area.


hemlock benches at the bottom of long perennial border.


New bluestone path with Climbing hydrangea.

One of the spring projects was re laying a new bluestone path.

Planting near door.


Posted in Design Ideas, Garden furniture, Stonework | Tagged | 7 Comments

Adding Color to the Mid-Summer Border

Early flowering perennials begin in May and early June and flower intensely until the beginning of July when the late flowering perennials begin and continue into late fall. I find there is often a lull in the border as the early perennials wind down and set seed and the late flowering perennials begin to do there thing. So last year, I planted three plants that add a punch of color to the borders between the two stages.

Allium spaerocephalon– drumstick alliums have a crimson purple bottlebrush flower that spike above the surrounding plants adding a rocket of color and lots of texture. Drumstick alliums are small bulbs that are planted in the fall. The other plant that flowers for a long time is the annual poppy Papaver somniferum ‘Lauren’s grape.’ The purple- opium poppy reaches a height of 24″-40″ and rises above its pale lettuce- like green foliage. I throw the seeds into the border when the last snow melts- early April in my part of upstate New York. I now want to experiment with a few more colors of poppies and plan to add next year Papaver somniferum -Black Peony and a pale lilac colored poppy. Depending on your color schemes there’s a large variety of poppy colors to chose from. The third plant I added is the Asiatic lily – Landini which is the closest to a black lily available. I planted twenty five bulbs randomly through the border and the rich dark color punctuates the border adding contrast to all the other plantings. The randomness of the three plantings adds a wilder more painterly look to the garden. I am very pleased with the result.


August border

Asiatic lily Landini and Drumstick alliums in July Border

Papaver somniferum ‘Lauren’s grape’

Mid summer border

Asiatic lily Landini with Salvia amethyst

Lauren’s grape poppy with Betty Corning Clematis

Posted in Design Ideas, Perennials, The Flowering Border | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Late Spring: the Benefits of Large Foliage Plants

The plants that are grabbing my attention at the moment are the large leaf plants. Large shapes of green color in contrast with smaller more delicate perennials create a pause and slow you down as you view a large planting.

These are the plants that are staring: Hosta sieboldinia unfurling leaves are stunning and the plant seems to double in size each week. My other favorite hosta is Empress Wu which is on her way to being about six feet wide- said to be the World’s largest hosta.

Hosta Sieboldiana

Rodgersia pinnata has a slight ochre color to the new leaves as they stretch and rise above the surrounding perennials like a giant hand. This perennial feels ancient like a plant that might have been around when dinosaurs roamed. Another giant is Rheum palmatium tanguticum which reaches a height of 6’ft. or more with enormous serrated leaves emerge at the base and the stunning red flowers rocket above the foliage and last from late May into mid June. I planted Synelesis aconitifolia next to a bird bath because the leaves remind me of a splash of water. Another beauty Darmera Peltata – Indian rhubarb is a tall rounded rhubarb reaching a height of 4′ and adds a lot of texture to the border. I planted it in a boggy border where I lost many plants and I am happy to report it is filling in the spot nicely (it will take full sun if the soil is consistently wet.)

Rodgersia Pinnata

Rheum Palmatum

Syneilesis aconitifolia on left
Rodgersia pinnata on right.

Darmera Peltata

I bought Asilbioides tabularis by mail order and have divided it every year for the past ten years. It is a wonderful large rounded leaf plant with some of its leaves can easily reach a width of 30″ inches. Perfect for shade areas where the flat pale green adds light to a dark area of the garden. I first heard of Peltoboykinia wantanabei in a garden talk. The plant is new to my garden, and still getting established but I love it’s serrated leaves and look forward to it filling the space I have given it. BEWARE- Petasites Japonicus known as butterbur, or sweet coltsfoot is a rhizomatous perennial and extremely invasive. I planted this at the base of a tall retaining wall where I could control it by mowing over the escapees. Asarum European – wild ginger is a low growing ground cover with glossy deep green heart shaped leaves. I love contrasting it with variegated foliage. Aralia cordata- Sun King has beautiful chartreuse foliage that really adds brightness into a shade border. By adding a few of these large leaf foliage plants to your flowering perennial borders you will not only add interest, and give breath to take in the more complex shapes and colors of the surrounding perennials.

Astilbiodies Tabularis, Aralia cordata behind, and Anemone sylvestris

Peltoboykinia Wantanabei

Petasites Japonicus

Asarum European

Araila cordata-Sun King

Peltoboykinia Wantanabei
Rodgersia Pinnata, Rodgersia podophylla,
Hosts Empress Wu, Hosta Sieboldiana
Darmera Peltata
Astilbiodies Tabularis
Syneilesis Aconitifolia
Asarum European – wild Ginger
Rheum Palmatium Tanguticum
Aralia Cordata- Sun King

Posted in Big Leaf Plants, Foliage | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fieldstone Path Planted with Woolly Thyme

Around the 1870’s bluestone quarries were booming in the Catskills providing large cut slabs of slate for the sidewalks in New York, Washington DC, Boston, Toronto and many towns and cities in the northeast. My wife and I were waiting for friends outside a wonderful local pub The Bull and Garland in Hobart, NY the other evening, and we noticed we were standing on a massive piece of bluestone at the entrance to the pub. A large piece of stone is a quiet thing, it doesn’t shout out for attention, and yet it must have taken Bluestone Men, as stone cutters were called, days of labour to cut a piece this size 9ft by 7ft from the quarry using simple tools, and then hauling it out with horses and transporting it by cart and eventually positioning to where we now stood.
These days its more usual to work with smaller pieces of stone for paths and terraces, and while they look good they are not as magnificent. When deciding what I wanted round my 1840’s farmhouse I chose a mason who quarried his own stone and for the path around the house I chose 4’ft wide by 3, 4, and 5′ ft long pieces with ‘natural cleft’, meaning that the fossils and ripple affects of water that made an impression on the stone as it was being formed, are still visible. My paths are perpendicular to the house allowing for flowering borders on either side. Later I made a more rustic path with fieldstone found from a fallen wall. I planted Woolley thyme between the cracks and put down scree or chicken grit which thyme loves.


Before: bluestone path with fieldstone path. Otto.


Before: Bluestone path

This spring we decided to expand the natural fieldstone path making a larger area that joins up to some stone steps that lead up to the chicken coop. By enlarging the shape of my fieldstone path the lines of the paths steps and borders now make more sense. (See before and after shots.) Much of the design of my garden has happened liked this in fits and starts. I tend to make an inroad into a new area, and then walk away and come back later with fresh ideas. This slower approach allows me to relate to what’s there and over time problem solve any aesthetic/design issues. Of course the fieldstone thyme path is not finished. I am already thinking about trying some lavender. With all the stone and scree I now have the perfect conditions. Onwards!


After: extended fieldstone path planted with woolly thyme


After: extended fieldstone path planted with woolly thyme

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Living without Yew

When I first started laying out the garden I created an allee of a six Taxus cuspidata. I bought the plants already quite large, six foot tall by five feet wide, perfect pyramidal shapes that added a formality to an otherwise immature garden. I loved them. Each fall, I would protect them from the deer by wrapping them in wire cages. Yew are poisonous generally, but not to deer it seems who if given half a chance like to munch on them when everything else is dormant and covered in snow. Each autumn, it was quite a performance getting them wrapped but it was worth it.

This last winter, I looked out my window to see several of the yews were stripped of their needles from the ground up leaving four feet at least of chewed bare branches. I am not sure exactly how it happened, but I suspect it was something to do with the fourteen deer I kept counting in the garden. I lost my dog Otto the spring before. For years his deep bark had kept the deer away. Without his vigilante protection the deer felt confident to help themselves.

So my love affair with Yews is over and I have come to thank the deer that destroyed them. When the garden was new they provided height and structure but fifteen years on there are many mature plants to give form and the garden has a lightness and many layers of different texture that I couldn’t see while the yews were there. Now there is less to do at the end of the season and an unforeseen cohesion has revealed itself. Nothing stays the same and sometimes it gets better.


Taxus cuspidata- shortly after planting them.

Two yews left. Four removed.

Posted in Evergreens, Meadows | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Open Garden Days 2016

This gallery contains 3 photos.

The Garden Conservancy Open Garden Days, July2, 2016  from 10:00- 4:00 My garden will be featured on Saturday, July 2nd  along with many other wonderful gardens in our area. I have been editing the garden for the past two years … Continue reading

Gallery | 7 Comments