Less is More… more or less.

A few weeks ago I wrote about The Big Rock and my plan to simplify the plantings around it, using a  lesson I learned from touring gardens in Italy. We haven’t tackled that project yet. But we have tackled another area, applying the same principles of simplicity and balance to great effect.

Beside the drive coming into the house is a large stand of spruce, planted there some 50 years ago. They are tall regal trees that mark a transition from open farm field to forested hillside. Until last week, they were full of dead wood. Lots of dead wood.

Before we started to clean out the spruce grove, dead branches and spindly trees
obscured the beauty of the site.

No longer. Simplification here meant removal: of dead branches, of almost dead trees, and of the undergrowth that distracted from the straight trunks.

This pile of wood gives some idea of how much wood we removed.
The brush was chipped and will be spread on paths that lead through the woods.

Less became more … more sunlight, more clarity, more openness.

Limbing up the trees emphasized the slender trunks
and allowed shadows to become visible.

We didn’t plan to do more, but the effect in the spruce grove was so pleasing that we continued down the drive, thinning trees and removing more dead wood. Opening up views onto the hillside exposed rock outcrops as well as many varieties of ferns.

Many ferns grow in the rich soil on the hillside:
maidenhair, Christmas ferns, ostrich ferns, New York ferns, lady ferns.
Plus others, I’m sure.

Sunlight now streams through the grove, emphasizing the contrast of light and shadow.  I’m delighted with the results and get a genuine feeling of satisfaction every time I come in the drive.

Light and shade, and shades of green, become more evident when excess is removed.

Here, less is more. Yet sometimes what you want is more. Lots more. More more.

And that’s what there is in a damp field not far from the spruce grove. Joe Pye Weed carpets the ground, stretching into the distance as if it goes on forever.

Joe Pye Weed: a weed or a beautiful wildflower?

Walking along the path that leads through the Joe Pye field, the air is lightly scented and the sound of bees is all around. Goldenrod adds touches of yellow, and wild clematis climbs the occasional tree.

Clematis virginiana, or virgin’s bower, grows beside Eutrochium, or Joe Pye Weed.

I’ve often read that Joe Pye Weed was named after a native American healer. Certainly it has many traditional medicinal uses, as a diuretic and for gall bladder and kidney disorders. But I find the information on Hiker’s Notebook more believable. (And reading it I learned a new word: ‘calque.’)

“The etiology of the name Joe Pye for several Eupatorium species is subject to some conjecture. The most common assertion is that Joe Pye was an Indian herb doctor who used the plant to cure an outbreak of disease in the Massachusetts Bay colony; the disease is usually identified as typhoid but typhus is also a possibility. Given the usually tenuous relationship between the Indians and the colonists, it seems unlikely that an Indian would have been altogether trusted as a dispenser of medicine.  A subordinate version identifies him as an itinerant Caucasian “Indian theme promoter” from Maine.  A more plausible explanation is that the name entered the lexicon as a calque of the Indian word “jopi,” which meant typhoid; the jopiweed was in widespread use by Native Americans as a medicinal to treat a variety of ailments.  When the colonists learned of its use from the Indians as jopiweed, it became Joe-Pye Weed.”

Whatever the origin of the name, the flower itself is quite lovely, particularly en masse.

Joe Pye Weed used to be classified as Eupatorium.
Now it is Eutrochium.  Don’t ask me why.

Who could want less of it? Not me.

You can lead me down this garden path any day.