Sunday, November 27, 2016

Not all plans work out

Three years ago we cleared out a section of garden that was over run by English ivy.  The plan was to put in some new native species as well as watching to see what would sprout up from the soil that had been covered with ivy for a number of years.  To the newly cleared space I put in some goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus), and a strawberry bush (Euonymus americanus).  As a ground cover I got a bunch of Virginia jumpseed (Persicaria virginiana), which looked like the 'Lance Corporal' cultivar, with reddish chevrons on each leaf. These were followed up the following spring with American alumroot (Heuchera americana), Indian pink (Spigelia marilandica) and Solomon's seal (Polygonatum biflorum).

A jumbled mass.  Blue lobelia is recognizable on the left with spent flower stems of the alumroot.  The glossy leaves of Solomon's seal are evident on the right.  In the center you can make out the red flowers of the jumpseed, but the leaves are barely discernible.
Over the next 3 seasons I let the plantings develop without much interference, except for pulling out Japanese honeysuckle and garlic mustard.  Additional species that cropped up included natives like white avens (Geum canadense) and great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) as well as introduced species like mock strawberry (Duchesnea indica) and a cultivated species of columbine that had been reseeding itself for a number of years through the ivy.

In September as the flowers of the jumpseed are opening up,
something goes after the leaves, eventually skeletonizing them.
While it was interesting to see 'new' plants coming in, the overall planting was too chaotic to look good as a whole.  One problem with the new scheme was that the goatsbeard gets tattered by mid-summer if it gets too dry.  This can be fixed with a little more care and watering through the season. Also the long flower stems of the alumroot add to the confusion. The biggest disappointment was the jumpseed.  It looks nice early in the season with its striped leaves, but by late summer the leaves are decimated by some insects.  What remains is a jumble of wiry stems going every which-way that detracts from the spikes of red flowers.

After letting this area go for several years and not seeing any improvement I decided it was time to make it a little more formal by adding more defined layers to the garden.  While a random planting works in the distance, close up the human eye is looking for more defined structure and order.  In general, lower plants will go in the foreground, near the stepping stones.  Medium sized perennials go to the middle and the bushy goatsbeard stays in the back.  This new planting will be easier to maintain because it will be easier to identify the 'weedy' plants over a background of low sedges than it was before.

First I removed as much of the jumpseed as I could see.  Then I pulled out any encroaching English ivy and honeysuckle.  I also pulled out some native trees that seeded in, like butternut and box elder.  The lower-growing alumroot was already near the path.  For additional low-growing plants, I transplanted several species of sedges from elsewhere on the property.  Their lower stature, defined form, and contrasting texture will help show off the taller perennials.

Here's the garden after removing the jumpseed.  The back right is dominated by two goatsbeard, and the fencing is getting covered with virgin's bower (Clematis virginiana) that was planted in 2013.

In the foreground is one of the sedges I moved into the garden.
It could be Carex laxiculmis but I won't be sure until it blooms.
Also shown here are Alumroot and white avens,
at top with its deep red autumn color.
Since the Indian pinks don't like to be moved I left them in place and instead transplanted all the columbine to the middle ground.

The Solomon's seal was doing well, but they were getting hidden by the jumpseed.  I put some sedges around the Solomon's seal to give them some vertical space.

One of the sedges I chose has 1/4-1/2" wide blades and  grows in clumps about a foot wide.  These went in along the path and are scattered with the perennials to provide some height variation. Also it's evergreen so it will be around all year.  The white avens that is indigenous to this site has deeply lobed leaves that blend well with the alumroot.  The avens can get lanky and will benefit from some cutting back late in the season.

The other sedge is also clumping but has very thin, light green blades.  I'm pretty sure this is rosey sedge (Carex rosea).  It grows very well on partly sunny to shady sites.
The strawberry bush is known for these brightly colored seed pods in early fall.
Where the branches are touching the ground I am seeing new roots forming.
I'll separate these from the parent plant next season.  This is an easy way to propagate this shrub.

This unknown columbine was planted by a previous owner and
has been reseeding itself for a number of years.  Definitely not a native, but it looks good here.

So here's the garden after clean-up and planting.  It looks a little sad now since leaves are falling off and the plants are settling in for winter.

Weeded and replanted, we'll see what happens next year.

If all the transplants come back and the weeds don't return in force the new garden may look something like this overlay drawing.

As drawn here the goatsbeard, Indian pinks, and columbine are shown in bloom.
The sedges and alumroot line the stepping stones, from lower right to upper left.