Gardening on the Wild Side

When I look at the wildflowers blooming in the fields and woods at Glen Villa, I wonder why I plant a garden at all. How can I hope to compete with this?

Buttercups turn the Upper Field to gold.
The partially visible metal structure is a sculpture called Bridge Ascending,
by Louise Doucet and Satoshi Saito. 

Simple buttercups now cover the field, splendidly cheerful en masse, and so yellow and shiny that they brighten the dullest day and lift the heaviest spirits.


There are many varieties of buttercups. I haven’t tried to determine
which this one is.



This past week as I explored the fields and woods at Glen Villa, I continually came across large natural masses of wildflowers and plants. The sweep of  Veratrum viride pictured below was most impressive.

(I use the botanical name because Veratrum has so many different common names: Indian Poke, Indian Hellebore, False Hellebore, Bear Corn, Corn Lily, Devils Bite, Itch-weed, Poor Annie and Tickleweed, to name a few. It is extremely toxic. Interestingly, the plant was used by some native American tribes to elect a new leader. All the candidates would eat the root and the one who started vomiting last, won. I make no comments about political uses today.) 
The pleated foliage is particularly attractive at this time of year.

Along the edge of the driveway, ragged robin mingles with buttercups and the occasional lupin.

Ragged robin (Lychnis flos-cucoli) is a British import that has naturalized widely in North America. At Glen Villa it appears in every damp spot, in fields and high grass, threatening to become overly invasive. It’s a problem I’m happy to have.
The colour and deeply notched lobes make this plant easy to identify.
In the Asian meadow, lupins dominate. Their deep purple is lightened by the sparkle of buttercups. 
Purple and gold: a cholesterol-rich colour combination.
Most of the lupins are purple or two-toned with blue or white, but pink or solid white ones appear occasionally.
Backlit in the late afternoon, the colours are particularly vibrant.
Bumblebees love the nectar.
Not all the wild flower displays are flashy. This combination of common daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare), buttercups and devil’s paintbrush (Hieracium aurantiacum) creates a more gentle picture.  
Despite the name, I feel quite lucky when I see the devil’s paint works. 
A close up of devil’s paintbrush, or orange hawkweed, shows the deeply notched petals and the very hairy stem. Some people mistakenly call this Indian paintbrush, but that is a different wildflower entirely, native to western states and provinces (Castilleja.) A yellow form of hawkweed (Hieracium caespitosum) blooms prolifically in the woods at Glen Villa in mid July. Both hawkweeds are considered invasive but only cause us problems when they appear in flower beds. There I remove them, ruthlessly.
Orange hawkweed or Devil’s paintbrush? 
In a damp corner at the edge of a field, this small colony of Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea) peeped out from a bed of ferns. 

Golden Alexanders are members of the carrot family.

In the Upper Field, blue flag irises were blooming in substantial clumps. A few years ago, I transplanted some to the edge of the stream that runs through the Asian Meadow. The growing conditions seemed to be the same, yet the transplants have not reappeared. Can anyone suggest why?

The blue flag iris that grows in the Upper Field is much darker than many.
I prefer the stronger colour.

Everywhere, wildflowers are waiting to be spotted. Purple avens (Geum rivale) nod their heads in a damp section of another field across the road….

not far from a drier area that is dotted with red clover (Trifolium pratense).

This clover looks more pink than red. But red clover is its name.

So I ask again: how can any gardener compete with the beauty and diversity of the arrangements made by nature? I offer as proof this photo of ragged robin, blooming by the Skating Pond. A simple addition, not overdone, and perfectly placed. Gardening at its best.

Ragged robin edges the Skating Pond.