Are you looking for a few new plants? In several gardens you’ll see the black elderberry (Sambucus nigra), a stunning backdrop for any perennial border that looks like an exotic Japanese maple. Its finely cut dark purple leaves are a perfect canvas for its 10-inch pink blossoms in June.
The black lace elderberry (Sambucus nigra “Eva”) grows to about 8 feet tall and is durable. It can withstand fairly severe pruning. The Sambucus nigra “Gerda” (Black Beauty) is larger and grows to about 15 feet high and 12 feet high. The Humane Society does note that leaves, bark and roots of the black elderberry can be toxic to pets.
A second intriguing plant is the Berberis thunbergii “Rose Glow” (variegated Japanese barberry). It is a compact deciduous shrub and in early spring its dark purple leaves look as though a painter has added candy pink and cream markings, with a tinge of green here and there. In late summer, it has bright red fruits. Its spines are sharp! Plant it where it can be a backdrop or it can be left with some distance between it and other plants. It grows to about 6 feet high and about that width.
A third plant is a favorite of mine — the pieris. In one of the gardens, I noted a dwarf Pieris japonica “Little Heath,” a variegated shade-loving evergreen. It’s related to the rhododendrons and requires the same shady, moist acidic conditions. The pieris is about 2 feet high and wide and its variegations are stunning.
If you are looking for ways other gardeners tackle problems, there are a number of solutions you’ll be able to note on the tour. If you are tired of lawns, you’ll see several gardens where lawns have disappeared … or have been lessened. The owners smile when they mention this! In one garden that was once pasture land, the owners slowly have edged out big sections of grass and have created berms with attractive and useful edging around their perimeters. A double-tier of concrete blocks provides the base which holds the soil in place. Next to the double-tier blocks is an eight-inch gravel path. Finally, next to the gravel is another row of inset concrete pavers level to the ground that helps keep any creeping grass at bay.
In one backyard garden, the owners lamented an extremely shaded corner where nothing grew.
Undaunted, they created a spectacular pond with a small patio cantilevered over it. The owners can control the flow of two cascading water paths; the flow speed also affects the sound of the water so they can determine how quiet an ambiance they wish.
I was impressed with a lady who worked on a design for using low-voltage lighting for up-lighting vignettes in her garden. After researching landscape lighting, she created a grid to highlight her trees.
She also designed a pergola in a sunny spot in her backyard where she can sit and relax.
One of the homeowners even hopes that someone on the tour might solve her problem in identifying a groundcover near her front door. She bought it about seven years ago and has searched for an answer. It resembles a cross between Maidenhead fern and creeping thyme but is a light burgundy-lavender color. Know what it is?
Different personalities in the gardens
One of the most enjoyable parts of the Petals and Pathways Garden Tour is to see how homeowners approach their yards. Some work exclusively on their own through trial and error, moving trees here and there, repositioning borders and simply staying the course in researching elements they wish to incorporate. They understand the creative process is sometimes slow, sometimes defeating, but has moments of joy that grow over time. Others have worked alongside local contractors and designers to help with the heft and the design of their gardens; some of those designers are mentioned in the descriptions of the gardens on the tickets.
When strolling through the gardens, personalities of the owners surface. Hobbies are incorporated into gardens. Some of the homeowners care deeply for their animals or for visiting wildlife and have conscientiously set up a symbiosis between the garden and the animals. In one garden, plants are part of a memorial for others.
This is the 18th year for the Master Gardener Foundation of Clallam County to invite the valley to view selected gardens in our area. The owners have worked tirelessly to get their gardens “company ready.”
And guess what! You’re invited!
The Tractor Man
Tue, Feb 14, 2012
A shift in our thinking
Tue, Oct 18, 2011
Ornamental grasses dance to their wind song
Thu, Sep 22, 2011
Divide … and have!
Thu, Aug 18, 2011
The low life and high life of a garden
Wed, Jul 20, 2011
Plants, problem solving and personality
Tue, Jun 14, 2011
From the sky: a look at our gardens
Wed, Apr 20, 2011
Time to plant a vegetable garden … with children
Wed, Mar 16, 2011
One New Year’s resolution
Tue, Jan 18, 2011
Blessed by the bounty
Wed, Nov 17, 2010
Diversity creates richness
Tue, Oct 19, 2010
The ruffled ladies
Wed, Sep 15, 2010
Wed, Aug 18, 2010
Keeping birds safe in our gardens
Wed, Aug 11, 2010
Living respectfully on the land
Wed, Jun 30, 2010
Prune, don't ruin, those shrubs and trees
Wed, May 26, 2010
Undoing deer's damage with new shrubbery
Wed, Apr 28, 2010
Treat water as our most precious gift
Wed, Mar 10, 2010
Northwest native mock orange makes good scents
Wed, Feb 3, 2010
Planting perennial blessings
Wed, Jan 6, 2010