What a Difference a Month Makes

Yesterday was Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day. The 15th of the month is when garden bloggers from around the world post photos of what is blooming in their garden. (Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting this meme.) I haven’t been doing this, and I’m not sure I will in the future. But I can’t resist showing off one particular bloom at Glen Villa, my garden in rural Quebec.

The flower I’m showcasing is Nepeta recemosa ‘Walker’s Low.’ It’s a cliché to say that a plant is blooming its heart out, but it’s true for this one. I planted the Nepeta, also known as catmint, at the Aqueduct just over a year ago. In that short time it has gone from tiny…


These are the plants I planted last June. They weren't tiny but they weren't big either.
These are the plants I planted last June. They weren’t tiny but they weren’t big either.


… to tremendous.


This photo is from July 15, 2017.
This photo is from July 15, 2017. You can barely see the Heuchera ‘Melting Fire’ I added at the front.


What astounds me as well is the length of time the catmint has been blooming. On June 4 I returned to North Hatley after three weeks in England. Everything then was looking rather forlorn, particularly in comparison with the lush gardens I’d been seeing. Regardless, I took a photo of the Aqueduct that night.

As you can see, the ground around the Nepeta was bare and the plants themselves were still quite small.


This is the view that I encountered on my return from England.
This view from June 4 shows the grass path that cuts through the Big Meadow, along with a patch of red near the linden tree. The red is dock; I’m encouraging it to spread.


A week later, things were starting to change. The flowers weren’t yet in bloom but the plants themselves had grown substantially and buds were about to break.


This photo dates from June 10, 2017.
This photo dates from June 10, 2017.


Ten days later, on June 20, the flowers were in full bloom, and had been for almost a week.


The nepeta spreads
The nepeta is sprawling. At the front is Porteranthus, which used to be called Gillenia trifoliata.


A month later, the flowers are still in full bloom.


Looking beyond the nepeta you can see how the Big Meadow is coming along.
Looking beyond the nepeta you can see how the Big Meadow has grown since early June.


While I’m delighted with the Nepeta, I’m still fiddling with the other plants in the area. The boxwood and the ornamental grass (Sporobolus heterolepis or prairie dropseed) have been there for several years but the carpet of juniper I used originally fell victim to voracious deer. (Despite what the books say, the deer loved it.)  So last year, along with the Nepeta, I planted a waterfall of Lamium maculatum ‘White Nancy.’ I thought the colour of the foliage and the way it spilled down the hill would echo how the water in the Aqueduct fell from pool to pool. I planted some Barberry ‘Ruby Carousel’ near the stone wall to pick up on the colour of the rusted steel, and added a froth of Porteranthus (formerly called Gillenia trifoliata) next to the reflecting pool.


The Lamium 'White Nancy' looks much better in a different location.
This photo from June 2016 shows the Lamium and Porteranthus I added last summer. The sedum on top of the gabion wall was part of the original planting and continues to act like a multi-coloured carpet.


At the end of the summer it was clear I had to make a choice. The Nepeta was growing well, the Lamium was ok and both were overpowered visually by the prairie dropseed beside them.


This photo from the end of August last year shows how the plants have grown.
This photo from the end of August last year shows how much the plants grew over the summer.


I knew I wanted to keep the dropseed — its autumn colour is spectacular. But its bulk made the lamium beside it look small and insignificant, and that threw the whole design out of balance.

We transplanted the lamium last fall and it is much happier in its new home in a shady spot, where the speckled foliage adds a touch of light. (And because it is happier, so am I.) I left the Porteranthus in place, not sure where to move it. And after seeing it bloom this year, I’m glad I did — it’s going to stay right where it is.


The Porteranthus looks like it is bending over to take a sip of water. I may add another clump of it at the far right.
The Porteranthus looks like it is bending over to take a sip of water. I may add another clump of it at the far right.


What I’m still searching for is an exclamation mark plant. I want a tall straight flower to pop up at irregular intervals, providing a strong vertical in contrast with the domed forms of the boxwood and catmint. Its colour has to work well with the blue tones of the Nepeta and the rusty orange-red of the steel. As a trial I added two varieties of giant hyssop this year, Agastache ‘Bolero’ and ‘Heatwave’, but neither offers enough contrast, in colour or form.

So now I’m looking for a replacement.  I’ve ordered bulbs of Eremurus ‘Cleopatra’ but I’m worried that they will bloom too early and for too short a time. And I’m not convinced that Eremurus will be reliably hardy in our area.  Foxglove might be a good choice, or one of the newer cultivars of Baptisia. I’m really not sure.

What do you think? Am I overlooking an obvious choice? Advice, please!


Open Garden Day

The Open Garden Day at Glen Villa is your chance to support the Massawippi Conservation Trust and the public trails it is building through beautiful natural woodland.

Saturday, July 29


1020 chemin de North Hatley

Sainte Catherine de Hatley, QC

Your $25 admission fee, payable at Glen Villa, goes directly to the Trust. Reservations through the Massawippi Foundation’s website are advisable but not essential.