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August 21, 2005

The Gunnera is Always Greener

A few weeks ago I had lunch with my friend Sue who had visited Scotland with her husband in June. She brought photos so we two addicted Anglophiles could have good chat and a sigh over them.

Sue stayed at some lovely places – both in the categories of stunning country estate and charming bed and breakfast. While I was eager to see pictures of the homes’ exteriors and decorating schemes, I wanted photos of the gardens.

And such gardens. Long sweeping borders, babbling brooks edged by candelabra primrose (candelabra primrose!!), and exotic plants such as a blooming handkerchief tree. Ahh, me.

Every time I look at photos of British gardens, I ask myself, “Why am I living in Minnesota when I could be gardening year-round in a nation that is as obsessed with gardening as me?”

My current British gardening fixation is gunnera – a plant that produces leaves that can grow to five feet across. I know that gunnera would never survive our frigid winters nor would I have a wetlands place for it nor would the enormous size of it fit the scale of our garden.

None of that matters. I just want one.

Night Scents

I was out deadheading the other night when the most beautiful scent stopped me in my tracks. I sniffed my way around the garden until I located the culprit – the glorious phlox “David.”

This plant has pleased me in a number of different ways: the big white clusters of flowers extend garden viewing into the evening, and its honeyed fragrance is lovely.

Nicotiana also produces scent at night, and I have at least four different colors of it blooming across the garden, thanks to its prolific seed and tendency to self-sow.

World Music

I have Sirius satellite radio in my minivan, and I have become addicted to the Latin/World Music station. Nothing gets my energy going in the morning like the pulsing beats of salsa music or the tapping staccato of Irish dancers.

Listening to the music is almost like taking an aural geography class. From Dublin to Dakar and from New Orleans to New Zealand, Graham and I hear different tempos, instruments and singing techniques during our commutes. Half the fun is just trying to figure out what language the artists are singing in. One song titled “Gne Gne” sounds like a French man scolding a little child.

This explosion of new sounds and beats led me to the public library (of course) where I discovered a treasure trove of world music CDs. I quickly hit my reserve list limit of 50 items and now have stacks of Celtic, salsa, flamenco, African and zydeco tunes to listen to. The Rough Guide and Putamayo labels both provide a wide variety of music.

Individual groups or artists that I’m enjoying are Solas, Celia Cruz and Two Siberians. This is good stuff!

What’s Happening in the Garden Now

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The gardens are just flat-out gorgeous right now. The plantings are lush and full of color and the weather is perfect – mid-70s for the middle of August. I can’t wait for our vacation so I can sit outside and enjoy it all.

The hummingbirds must be making their way back south because we have had many, many of them at our feeders and in the flowers.

I need to get a better butterfly identification guide because there has been an orangey-brownish critter with dark dots on its wings at the zinnias of late, and I can’t find exactly those same markings in my guide. Maybe it’s a kind of copper or a harvester.

The Mystery Plant

A whole lot of you must have dead nettle or lamium in your gardens because it was an easy plant to identify. It’s a great groundcover which comes in a variety of colors for both foliage and flowers. Can you guess the plant this week?

Here’s What’s Blooming Now

Globe thistle
Ligularia “Othello”
Morning glories
Nicotiana – all shapes, colors and sizes
Verbena bonariensis
Cardinal Lobelia
Native monarda
A lobelia that is blue but was labeled “Cardinal Lobelia” when I bought it. Surprise!
Nasturtium “Peach Melba” and others
Rudbeckia “Goldsturm”
Phlox “David”
Russian sage
Hydrangea “Annabelle”
Coreopsis “Moonbeam”
Campanula “Blue Clips” and others
Joe Pye Weed
Purple coneflower
Butterfly weed
Alpine strawberry – and fruiting, too
Indian blanket
Nepeta “Walker’s Low”

Garden Chores for the Week

Cut back the iris leaves.

Keep up with the wisteria vines, slug traps and pot watering.

Relax and enjoy it all.

Vegetable Garden

I have been neglecting the vegetable garden of late so it’s time to give it a little attention.

The tomato crop will explode this week. We have lots of BLTs ahead of us. Yum!

Today’s Grahamisms

"What do you call a cross between a parrot and a caterpillar? A walkie-talkie!"

"Is the lake next to our house the ocean? Does it go to the ocean?" (Well, yes, Graham, the water flows into a stream which takes it to the Mississippi which flows into the ocean.) So our lake is the very first lake and it’s the Ruler of all the Waters!

Posted by maasx003 at August 21, 2005 12:10 PM | Gardens


Mystery plant looks like white Physostegia but I can't tell which variety. Glauca? "Miss Manners"? "Summer Snow"?

Posted by: Sabine at August 21, 2005 2:12 PM

I think it is obedient plant, but the flowers are clustered much more tightly than mine.

Posted by: Kasmira at August 22, 2005 8:26 AM

I agree with Sabine and Kasmira. About the music...ROCK ON GIRL!

Posted by: Sandy at August 24, 2005 11:41 AM

P.S. Gunnera's are great. I love mine. I've noticed alot of them aren't as tall as mine. Mine is huge!

Posted by: Sandy at August 24, 2005 11:43 AM

I found a gunnera substitute for our area, Astilboides tabularis. I have a picture on my blog. I just planted it this year. I will let you know how it goes.

Posted by: Sylvana at August 31, 2005 9:55 AM