What's Up 96: Focal points, ground cover quilt, tree lilac

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In this issue:

 

A focal trio makes a snappy design

Overseed to begin or end a lawn year

Why rolling lawn may gather moss

Ah-wooga, beware the Ajuga

Groundcover guru at your service

Ah June, when spruce tips gall

How many azaleas will sawfly saw

Beating back a burning bush

Free crutches prop young dahlias

Cheering on dragonflies

A lightning enlightenment

Tree lilac at 45mph

Thumbs and noses

 

Focal points: If one is good, why aren't two better?

Goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus, here with Siberian iris) is such a solid performer before, during and after its cream-lace bloom in June, it headlines today!

Goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus, here with Siberian iris) is such a solid performer before, during and after its cream-lace bloom in June, it headlines today!

Above: All it takes to be a focal point is first placement in an area and then being flanked, backed, underlined and/or surrounded by complementary frames. Each frame is filled with a plant or feature which has more in common with other frames than with the focal point. So a combination of short plants (dwarf goatsbeard, perennial geranium) frame this tall goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus). The goatsbeard is literally the high point, standing out all season. It can hold the spotlight even in its green-only phase, despite the attention grabbing ploy of pretty flowers on a framing mass of perennial Geranium.

Above: We wanted attention to be drawn to the right side of the bed, rather than the tree's trunk. We filled that focal point with one tall goatsbeard at a distance from the tree, then surrounded it with several groups of shorter, mounded plants.

We intended to give visitors to this garden a triangle of focal points (below, left, pink dots). These would lead our intended viewer's eye around the bed. When seen in one "take", from farther off, this trio would also frame the picturesque trunk of the mulberry tree. As the viewer steps closer, we hope we succeeded in making the right-side group more important. If we did, we'll lead the viewer to walk in that direction. Nudged along the path (below, right), the person will come to a place where additional focal points in distant beds become visible. Meanwhile, the person sitting at the picnic table in the back has a more limited view because he is closer to the bed. "Behind" the left side focal point group, invisible to the visitor on entering, is a space to be seen from that table which is small but can present several focal points and frames on a smaller scale. 

 

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Groundcover quilt

Above: At Janet's sister's home, where it was silly to have lawn in a tiny, shady 8 x 15' space in front of the porch, we designed and she planted a "quilt" of Lamium, Ajuga (dark leaf in foreground is 'Caitlin's Giant'), sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) and variegated Liriope. The area is bounded by concrete walks on three sides and the house on the fourth, so we didn't even have to set up no-man's-land boundaries to keep this rabble contained.
Already, after just a few years, we've seen the quilt do what we expect of a hope-they're-evenly-matched mix. First, the Lamium took over space the Ajuga gave up during a rough start. Then, once the Ajuga took hold, the Liriope began to move toward the sweet woodruff. We stay out of the melee as much as we can, playing the game of "see-who-wins!"

 

The 45mph garden

Above: Young tree lilacs (Syringa reticulata). At left, with maple tree. The tree liac wll eventually be 1/3 the size of this young maple.

 

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