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July 3, 2005

The Perfect Fit

I’ve been thinking a lot about proportion and scale lately.

Proportion is the relationship of one object to another; scale is the relative size of an object. These are interconnected and discussions of either can start to get convoluted. Just keep in mind that it’s all about objects in relation to each other.

When I look at my gardens, and the plants in them, I make a comparison of them to my entire yard as a whole. Do these plants “fit”? Are they the right size and in proper proportion to the other plants around them?

These thoughts came to a head this weekend when I returned to my friend Rebecca’s house for a plant swamp. I brought her a “Blue Moon” wisteria that I had propagated through the layering technique, and she shared lots of goodies with me.

As we stood before a clump of wonderful and gigantic plants, Rebecca asked me, “Would you like some?”

Silly question! Of course I would. Then I stopped to think. In her yard, an enormous open lot, the height of these plants “fit.” In my smaller backyard gardens, the only place those plants would fit is at the back of the deepest border, and even then they still would be too big in relation to the other plants around them.

I passed.

So my moment of supreme self-control has caused me to take a second look at what I have currently in my gardens. I need to draw inspiration and wisdom from the plants that Rebecca uses in her gardens and also from those of my friend Susan.

Susan’s St. Paul backyard is small, although probably average for an older urban lot. She is very thoughtful with the plants she uses in this space, with a preference for alpines. Alpines have a tendency to be smaller than their other relatives, and the scale of these plants work in proportion to the plants around them and to the yard itself. They “fit.”

Too bad you can’t use the dressing room idea to try on plants before planting them. Then you’d know if they were a good fit or not for your gardens.

I’ve got some more thinking to do.

Water, Water Everywhere…

And not a single drop in this container.

Now I remember why I hate doing container planting: the daily need to water. Last week we had almost two inches of rain, and two days later this pot and the plants in it were bone dry.

Part of this is my fault. I don’t have a saucer under the pot to capture any excess moisture, which would help since it’s in a full-sun location. The other key element to consider is that the pots are only half-full with potting soil. To keep the pot from getting too heavy with soil, I stacked four-inch perennial pots to about half of the pot’s depth. This is a great idea – but it also reduces water retention.

To combat that effect, I added water-absorbing Soil Moist granules to the potting soil before planting. This acts as a long-lasting water reserve, which helps, but obviously not enough with this plant.

This pot looks great with a vivid combination of coleus, “Profusion Orange” zinnias and amaranth. I guess I’ll just have to suffer for its beauty.

Falling Through the Cracks

One of my favorite parts of our yard is our pergola and the adjacent patio areas. These areas are hardscaped with pavers, which allow us to walk across them right after a rain without harming any turf.

The joints between each paver are narrow and filled with sand, but they are an ideal growing condition for the seeds of many different types of prolific plants that toss their offspring to the wind.

I could have an entire herb garden from the chive, dill and cilantro seeds that germinate, and there are enough oxeye daisy sprouts to start an entire meadow. Even errant grass seed can find its home in between the cracks.

Some plants have reseeded each year, and I welcome them, such as these alyssum. Others are more problematic. Who knew that mums could reseed?

Some little seedlings are easier than other to pull out, and I just end up ripping off the top layers of leaves, knowing that in a week, I’ll have to give them another go. One garden hint I read suggested using a needle-nosed pliers since it gives a very good grip on a tiny object. I’ll have to try it.

Public Gardens

Graham - July 2005 010.jpg

Graham and I had an extra “stay-home” day on Friday, so we packed up a picnic lunch and met Brian at his work site in Eden Prairie. His office building is next to a public garden, and we enjoyed the treat of eating Cheetos while viewing grasses, lilies and other lovely plants in full bloom.

Graham - July 2005 012.jpg

I commend the City of Eden Prairie for funding such a beautiful and well-landscaped public place. Walking paths meander through colorful plants and there is a large, covered picnic area as well. When we were there, a puppet show was about to start, and many families were there to watch it.

The City of Plymouth also has a beautiful Milennium Garden. Graham and I usually get there a couple of times a year to see the flowers and the koi that live at the ponds at the bottom of the waterfalls. We’ll have to visit soon and take some photos.

These city gardens remind me of those we saw in Britain during our travels – beautiful public spaces for the entire city to enjoy. Way to go!

Arborvitae Project

Our final summer landscaping project is complete. This week Dundees delivered and planted four arborvitae behind the pergola, completing the row we started four years ago. These will provide a solid backdrop to the tree peonies Brian brought home this week as well. I had to put tomato cages around the peonies to prevent Pont from destroying them during one of his FRAPing (Frequent Rapid Activity Period) moments.

Graham - July 2005 046.jpg

In landscaping, just like with interior decorating, one new project has a tendency to start a domino effect. After adding the new arborvitae, we decided the pompom spruce in the adjacent bed didn’t work any longer, and it had to go. Brian had it cut down and dug out in less than half an hour.

The neighbors behind us also did some serious pruning of the silver maple that overhangs into our property and removed a dead sugar maple that was directly behind the pergola.

These three actions – adding the arborvitae, taking out the spruce, and removing the dead tree and overhanging branches – have changed the look of our garden spaces tremendously.

Today’s Grahamism

Why are ants called ants? Do you think it’s maybe because “ant” is another word for small?

What’s Happening in the Garden Now

The prairie garden is really coming into its own during its fourth season.

The slug traps are working. When I cleaned out and replenished the traps with fresh beer this weekend, each of the five traps had several slugs in them.

Along the south portion of our chain link fence, we have five shades of clematis blooming – from softest pink to bright raspberry to deepest violet.

The rabbit is still with us – but not for lack of us sending Glynis out after it.

The Mystery Plant

Okay, last week’s photo of pink flowers was kind of sneaky. It showed the blossoms of a radish that had bolted. Who knew they could be so pretty?

Can you guess what this week’s mystery plant is?

Here’s What’s Blooming Now

Joe Pye Weed
Purple coneflower
Butterfly weed
Campanula glomerata
Alpine strawberry – and fruiting, too
Missouri primrose
Hollyhock “Nigra”
Wisteria “Blue Moon”
Lavender “Hidcote”
Sweet William
Oxeye daisy
Penstemon “Husker Red”
Salvia “May Night”
Indian blanket
Nepeta “Walker’s Low”
Rose – “Carefree Wonder,” “William Baffin,” “Graham Thomas” and more

Garden Chores for the Week

It’s getting to be time to cut back some of the perennials that have had their first bloom, with hope for a second. These would include the “Walker’s Low” nepeta, geraniums, and “May Night” salvia.

It’s also time to do a second application of a general fertilizer on the perennials, annuals and vegetable gardens and to put down a refresher layer of mulch.

I still haven’t sowed a second planting of radishes.

Vegetable garden
Peas, peas, peas!

The tomatoes have set fruit and are looking good.

Posted by maasx003 at July 3, 2005 4:01 PM | Gardens


got my tickets for the garden tour-2 friends will join me since I have spoken so much about your garden--I tho't rabbits were in my perenniel garden which is still quite new, eating tops of my plants--BUT, no, it is Fat Albert the woodchuck, who I saw standing on his hind legs Fri night munching away--I called upon Rambo who proceeded to load the 22, take out the screen from the kitchen window-(of course, Fat Albert left then), did return though about an hr later--Rambo proceeded to take a shot (despite limited vision due to diabetes) Fat Albert fled, but Rambo thinks he might have hit him since we have not seen him since--can only hope!

Posted by: karenm at July 4, 2005 12:18 PM

Is he a rent-a-Rambo? The dogs have not been very successful in removing the rabbit. I may need Michael to stop by.

I'm glad you'll be going on the garden tour. It will be fun to have family in attendance.

Posted by: Jackie at July 5, 2005 8:57 AM

Where's the picture of your pergola? I love the pavers that you used.

The mystery plant is a mystery to me. The foliage kind of looks like bleeding heart though.

Posted by: Sylvana at July 5, 2005 10:29 PM

Thanks for the visit and picnic lunch. Work! Who needs work!

Posted by: Brian Maas at August 12, 2005 6:51 AM