Green and White Gardens


The Smooth Hydrangeas seen around the area seem to be larger and more robust that usual–I assume from all the rain we’ve been having–Hydrangea and hydrate come from the Greek word hudor, meaning water.

I went outside yesterday afternoon to take some photographs of my ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangeas to use to illustrate my piece on Annabelle’s that is in my book and publish it in a blog.

But I never take just one photograph–with the new cameras, one can take hundreds of pictures and it doesn’t cost anything!  Well, i didn’t take 100’s; I took 40.   To my astonishment, for the most part, I have a green and white garden, at least for now. ( As  I told you last fall, my garden had been over-run with the aggressive False Sunflower and Rosin Weed and I have been pulling them out this spring and summer.  I am going to replace them with less aggressive plants, but that hans’t occurred yet.)

A cluster of ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea (Hydrangea aborescens ‘Annabelle’) are in bloom next to the back corner of the garage and another one near the front of the building.

annabellee hydrangea shrub

Smooth Hydrangea has been grown in American gardens since colonial days.  The cool white “snowball” flowers are refreshing on a summer’s day, sparkling even in deep shade.  It grows 3-4’ tall on unbranched canes and expands up to 5’ wide.  (Cut back the stems of older plants to 12-15” in early spring to keep them compact.)  The species is difficult to find in commerce now, having been succeeded by the popular cultivar ‘Annabelle’ and the newer ‘Incrediball’ that has even larger flowers on stronger stems that don’t flop over.

starry campion flowers

Starry Campion  (Silene stellata) grows in the island across from the Hydrangeas.  Its fringed stars begin to bloom in July, lasting through August and into September. The flowers appear on opposite panicles above the smooth leaves that are arranged in whorls of 4 on a 12-30”  central stalk.  One large clump has now become three, much to my delight.  In nature it is found in open woodlands.   .It will grow in prairie situations, as well;  its flowers, however, close up in the sunshine, opening at dusk.   It can be found in the prairie with Cacalia plantaginea, just mentioned last week.

starry campion and bb grass

The Starry Campion is interspersed with the architecturally interesting Bottle Brush Grass (Elymus hystrix) to great effect.  Its terminal spike, which turns to white, does, indeed, resemble a bottlebrush.  A cool season grass, it grows 3’-5’ tall.   While it’s a common grass of savannas and open woodlands, it is a high quality grass that adds charm and interest and ecological benefits to any savanna or woodland setting.

tall culver's root by window

The elegant candelabras of Culver’s Root combine with the Starry Campion in both the savanna garden and the prairie garden.  The densely flowered spires of tiny white tubular blossoms form at the top of the 2’-6’ tall Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum virginicum) in July. It will appear here and there  throughout the garden, but not aggressively.

culver's root with bee

Culver’s Root  attracts more bees than any other flower I’ve seen in my gardens.  Protruding gold-tipped stamens give the flowers a fringed appearance close up. Tiers of five-parted whorled leaves encircle the stems, another attractive feature.

joe pye half open

The just-about to open blossoms of the Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum) on the edge of the savanna garden have a ghostly look.  Whorls of large leaves surround the tall straight stem topped with a cluster of  tiny,vanilla-scented, dusty pink flowers.  This stately plant grows anywhere from 4-7’ tall and makes a superb privacy hedge. It also attracts a host of butterflies, in particular various Swallowtails and Monarchs.  It grows in part shade or full sun.  Caution–it increases aggressively by stolons and by seed.

Cacalia slanted

Prairie Indian Plantain (Cacalia plantaginea) in the sunnier side yard, still holds its white flowers.  It needs more neighbors to help it stand upright.  In nature it has been found with, among others, Mountain Mint (Pycnanthium virginicum), Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium) and Blazing Star(Liatris spicata). Sounds like a plan to me.

wild quinine next to street

Wild Quinine (Parthenium integrifolium) is in bloom in the front garden.  The white flowers grow in a flat-topped cluster at the top of 1 1/2-4’ tall stems.  It puts on a longer show than any other prairie flower looking as fresh in August as it does in June.  The number and size of my plants has diminished greatly in the last couple of years–too cool and too rainy?  Or just because they have been there 15 years?

prairie baby's breath full screen

And then there’s Prairie Baby’s Breath (Euphorbia corollata).  It does, indeed, resemble the more familiar Baby’s Breath (Gypsophila paniculata) of florist’s bouquets and old-fashion gardens.  it’s erect 1-5’ tall stems branch out near the top, then again and again, forming a flat-topped corymb of dainty, five-petaled white flowers that lend an airy note to any garden in July and August.  Although it appears to be quite delicate, it is a common, hardy plant found not only in sandy, dry, and mesic prairies, but along railroad tracks and in pastures.  They will dot themselves around, but always in the perfect place.

pale purple coneflower group

Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida) has been in bloom since early June.  I know, I know–these aren’t white.  I just liked the photograph, taken on the same day, so I decided to include it.

I have removed most of the Ohio Spiderwort, False Sunflower, and Rosin Weed from my gardens. The ground is so soft from all the rain that I was able to actually pull them out–all of them are fibrous rooted.  I have some plugs I bought at our Wild Ones Plant Sale last May that i will be planting in the long western sidewalk border in the next couple of days.   I do NOT recommend keeping pots of little plants around for 3 1/2 months–if we hadn’t had so much rain, they would no longer be viable.

Stay tuned.





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