It’s garden visit time at Glen Villa. Last week a group from Quebec City visited the garden; this week it’s a group from Ontario and the following week it’s another group from Quebec. Then, on August 4, comes the big Open Garden Day when we could realistically have 500 people or more.
I think all gardeners would agree — it’s satisfying when your garden looks good, or at least when it looks good enough to bring you that frisson of pleasure that tells you your work has paid off. But when visitors are coming, it is doubly important — and doubly satisfying — to know that the work was well done.
Right now, I’m satisfied, at least as much as I can ever be. The Lower Garden looks good. It isn’t perfect, and already I can see where improvements are possible, but I’m happy. I’m satisfied, even (dare I say it?) ready to pat myself on the back.
On the rocky hillside the lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis) is in fine fettle, brightening the darkness under and around Ligularia ‘Britt-Marie Crawford’ (Ligularia dentata). The catmint (Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’) was just beginning to add its silver-blue tones to the mix when I took this photo a few days ago. Now it is in full bloom and offers a nice counter-balance to the lady mantle’s citrus froth and the almost-black underside of the ligularia’s leaves.
Nearby, Astilbe ‘Fanal’ (Astilbe arendsii ‘Fanal’) is blooming heartily. Last year I planted more of this wonderfully-toned astilbe in a shadier section of the Lower Garden. With less sun, it has yet to bloom. That’s a good thing. It means the colour it adds will continue for several more weeks.
Another photo of this section of the Lower Garden shows the Astilbe and Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’ in relation to one of several sculptures in the garden made by our friends, the Quebec artists Louise Doucet and Satoshi Saito. They are internationally renown sculptors and happen to live quite close to us, in the little village of Way’s Mills, Quebec.
Not everything in the Lower Garden contrasts as sharply as the citrus and red/maroon colours do in the photo above. Depending on your point of view, the garden can appear to be a white garden, à la Vita Sackville-West.
The white theme is leavened by yellow at The Dragon Gate, the architectural feature we added several years ago to mark the division between the tended garden and the wild garden that follows.
Still, at this time of year, citrus tones characteristic of lady’s mantle predominate. It’s a wonderfully generous plant in climates like mine… so generous that every year I pull out huge clumps. It doesn’t object, in fact, it seems to thrive on the treatment.
I’ve kept lady’s mantle out of the trial beds at the far end of the Lower Garden, but it seems that the citrus tones persist nonetheless. I use this small bed to try out different plants, to see how they grow and whether I like them. The fuzzy shrub is Spirea thunbergii ‘Ogon.’ I like it so much I bought a few, and they are growing bigger annually. Next year I’ll transplant one or more, allowing them to bring their own light to a darker section of the garden.
My aim in the Lower Garden is for plants to grow so thickly that weeding and mulch are unnecessary. This isn’t possible in the trial garden. I grow a plant there for a year or two, to determine how it grows and whether I like it enough to move it to a better spot. But in most other sections, the ground is well and truly covered. I’m quite fond of this ground cover combination in the shade of a magnolia tree: Lysimachia nummularia ‘aurea,’ Ajuga reptans ‘Caitlin’s Giant,’ Athryium nipponicum, or Japanese painted fern, and wild Canadian ginger (Asarum canadensis).
Higher off the ground, things aren’t growing as well. A bud forms one day and is gone the next. Why? Because of cuties like this guy.
I like sharing my garden with friends and family. I only wish the deer knew they weren’t part of that group.
Don’t forget the Open Garden Day at Glen Villa. I hope you can come!