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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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

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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

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Non Aggressive Plants and the Trials of Editing a Garden

This gallery contains 6 photos.

In “Thugs in the Garden” (KL, Summer 2015) I wrote about plants that overtake a border by intensive root systems or by self seeding. Part of an education of a gardener includes figuring out which plants are aggressive and which … Continue reading

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Private Gardens- Holland

This gallery contains 23 photos.

While in Holland in late August, I visited some private gardens located in one of the many polders. A Polder is a tract of low land, especially in the Netherlands, reclaimed from the sea or other body of water and … Continue reading

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A Wild Idea -The Gardens of Piet Oudolf

This gallery contains 19 photos.

This past August, I traveled to the Netherlands.  I’ve been there before, but never explored beyond Amsterdam. It was a great treat to stay in the eastern part of the country at a Dutch friend’s family place and make day … Continue reading

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