Posts Tagged ‘plants’

a non-election moment

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

Brought to you by Mother Nature…

ginko leaves




















Don’t forget to breathe today.

the front hill, 9 wks later

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

It’s been a little more than two months since the front slope got planted. Here’s what it looked like at the end of June (click to biggify)…

front hill, immediately after planting












And here’s what it looks like at the beginning of September…

the front hill in september, 9 weeks after planting












Not bad, I suppose. I haven’t lost any plants yet, so that’s a plus. Off to a decent start — must constantly remind myself to be patient — but still needs a year or two to grow in completely and begin to resemble a meadow. Next year it will look fabulous. The third year, golden.

Want a closer inspection? Rollover the images for deets…

Nassella tenuissima blowing in the breeze

the grasses are finally filling in... Panicum virgantum ‘Ruby Ribbons’ with Euphorbia ‘Blue Haze’ and Salvia pachyphylla 'Blue Flame', Gaura lindheimeri ‘Whirling Butterflies’ blooms behind



















Agastache ‘Ava’ and Panicum virgatum ‘Ruby Ribbons’ with a bright Rhus typhina ‘Bailtiger’ behind



















Verbascum ‘Album’ blooming but still small after just a few months in the ground

Salvia pachyphylla 'Blue Flame' beginning to bloom behind Panicum virgatum ‘Ruby Ribbons’



















The alien-looking Eryngium yuccafoliums (Rattlesnake Master) really stand out; Comptonia peregrina (Sweetfern) behind



















Rhus typhina ‘Bailtiger’ in the foreground with pale green Origanum ‘Kent Beauty’ and dark Sedum telephium ‘Sunset Cloud’ behind; Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-Low’ adds some green with Cryptomeria japonica ‘Yoshino’ rising up behind it



















a closer look at origanum ‘Kent Beauty’ and Sedum telephium ‘Sunset Cloud’



















Helictotrichon sempervirens ‘Saphirsprudel’ and Origanum vulgare ‘Aureum’



















Buddleia alternifolia ‘Argentea’ is now 4' tall and a little wider than that






















Remember this shot from back in June?

Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’ and Caesalpinia gilliesii (Yellow Bird of Paradise) back in june


That Caesalpinia gilliesii (Yellow Bird of Paradise) has come a long way. She’s now taller than I am!

Caesalpinia gilliesii (Yellow Bird of Paradise ) in all its crazy glory, late August


The crazy looking blooms, whose scent on a warm evening remind me of Indian food, are generally swarming with bumbles. But I shot this right after a big rain and the bees were nowhere to be seen…

Caesalpinia gilliesii (Yellow Bird of Paradise) bloom, closeup... very Dr. Seuss


For those who care to obsess, you can find my entire front hill plant menu here.



the urban meadow at dawn

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

dawn: crocosmia ‘lucifer’



















dawn: echinops ‘blue globe’



















dawn: verbascum ‘album’



















dawn: aesculus parviflora (bottlebrush buckeye) blooms about to open



















dawn: filipendula ‘kakome’ (meadowsweet)



















dawn: miscanthus ‘morning light’... appropriately enough





















dawn: euphorbia myrsinites (donkeytail spurge), origanum ‘amethyst falls’ (ornamental oregano) about to bloom and festuca glauca ‘elijah blue’ (blue fescue)



















dawn: elymus arenarius ‘blue dune’ (blue lyme grass),  nassella tenuissima (Mexican feather grass) and verbena bonariensis



















dawn: eupatorium maculatum (Spotted Joe Pye Weed)



















dawn: aesclepias tuberosa ‘ice ballet’ (butterfly weed)



















dawn: cynaria cardunculus (cardoon) about to open

the front hill, revealed

Friday, June 15th, 2012

So. The front hill. Yes, it’s finally planted! Shall I whisk you back in time before I show you how it looks now?

When we moved in, the yard looked like this (biggify to see the full ugly)…

the hill when we moved in, complete with massive pile of crappy stone












Since then, the stone was hauled away — you can see the freshly built retaining wall now along the driveway…

stone taken away












The messy oak tree out front was removed and replaced with three Japanese cedars last fall…

oak tree remains in may 2011




















And the tenacious 3′ tall weeds…

weeds weeds weeds




















Yeah, I dug those up. Then last December, the front walkway was put in…

destruction in december












walkway done in december 11




















Once that was done, I added a truckload of soil…

added soil












…  and sculpted the hill to my liking, creating a series of flat strips to slow the runoff. Just me and a shovel.

And once that was done, I added Curlex erosion control blanket (like we did on the other hill) to hold the slope. You can probably spot the flattish areas if you biggify…

erosion control added in december 11












During the winter, I made plant choices plants for this dry, south-facing hillside. I went with mostly Mediterranean and hardy, xeric, native plants that wouldn’t mind the rocky, sandy soil, wind and summer heat —  grasses and perennials that will grow up into a bee/butterfly/hummingbird meadow. The closer to the house, the tighter, more regimented the layout. The farther away, the looser, more organic the layout.

In March, I started shoving the shrubs I’ve been saving into the ground. Then the boxes of plants for the front hill started arriving from various online sources…


live plants begin arriving!




















Shiva stopped by in April to help lay out the Nassella tenuissima (Mexican Feather Grass)…

shiva helps lay out the 85 nassella tenuissima in april












After that, I became the Mad Planter, popping plants in the ground at every opportunity. Then Shiva and Natasha came and helped with the final push…

shiva and natasha help out in may




















Thank goodness because if they hadn’t I probably wouldn’t have finished until July. I’m guesstimating but there are probably around 400 plants in. I should do a final count.

Although this is about as anti-climatic as a Mad Men end-of-season episode, here’s the not-so-big reveal (again, you might want to biggify):

front hill, view 1












front hill, view 2












Except for a few holdovers from pots, the plants are all tiny and won’t look like much the first year. If they grow in like my meadow out back, next summer you’ll see a huge difference.

In the meantime, have a closer look at a few bright spots…

festuca glauca ‘elijah blue’ and caesalpinia gilliesii (yellow bird of paradise) next to the front steps



















origanum ‘aureum’, helictotrichon sempervirens ‘sapphire’ (blue oat grass) and thymus pseudolanuginosus (wooly thyme)



















rhus typhina ‘bailtiger’ (tiger eyes sumac)



















Origanum rotundifolium ‘kent beauty’ (ornamental oregano) just beginning to bloom



















thymus x citriodorus (lemon thyme)



















the first callirhoe involucrata (purple poppy mallow) bloom




















For those who care, below is a list of what you’ll find on my front hillside. For  visuals, pop up my Pinterest plant menu page…


Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’ (Blue Grama)

Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’ (Blue Fescue)

Helictotrichon sempervirens ‘Sapphire’ (Blue Oat Grass)

Nassella tenuissima (Mexican Feather Grass)

Panicum virgatum ‘Ruby Ribbons’ (Switch Grass)

Schizachyrium scoparium ‘The Blues’ (Little Bluestem)

Sporobolis heterolepis (Prairie Dropseed)


Origanum vulgare ‘Aureum’ (Golden Oregano)

Origanum rotundifolium ‘Kent Beauty’ (Ornamental Oregano)

Rosmarinus officianalis ‘Prostratus’ (Creeping Rosemary)

Rubus pentalobus (Creeping Raspberry)

Thymus × citriodorus (Lemon Thyme)

Thymus lanuginosus (Wooly Thyme)


Agastache ‘Ava’ (Hummingbird Mint)

Amorpha canescens (Leadplant)

Amsonia hubrechtii (Threadleaf Bluestar)

Callirhoe involcrata (Purple Poppy Mallow)

Eryngium yuccafolium (Rattlesnake Master)

Gaura lindheimeri ‘Whirling Butterflies’

Geum trillium (Prairie Smoke)

Lavendula x intermedia ‘Grosso’

Petalostemon Purpureum (Purple Prairie Clover)

Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Alcalde’ (Cold Hardy Rosemary)

Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Arp’ (Cold Hardy Rosemary)

Salvia pachyphylla ‘Blue Flame’ (Giant Purple Sage)

Verbascum nigrum ‘Album’ (Mullein)

Verbena bonariensis (Tall Verbena)



Baptisea lacteal (False White Indigo)

Buddleia alternifolia ‘Argentea’ (Silver Fountain Butterfly Bush)

Caesalpinia gilliesii (Yellow Bird of Paradise)

Comptonia peregrina (Sweetfern) — to echo the sweetfern we used on the other hillside

Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-Low’ (Fragrant Sumac)

Rhus typina ‘Bailtiger’ (Tiger Eye Sumac)



Cornus florida (American Dogwood) — the one and only thing original to the hillside!

Cryptomeria japonica ‘Yoshino’ (Japanese Cedar)

Pinus thunbergii ‘Thunderhead’ (Japanese Black Pine)


Succulents, Yucca and such

Euphorbia niciana x nicaeensis ‘Blue Haze’ (Cushion Spurge)

Euphorbia myrsinites (Donkeytail Spurge)

Euphorbia characias ssp. wulfenii ‘Shorty’ (Cushion Spurge)

Hesperaloe parviflora (False Red Yucca)

Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’

Orostachys iwarenge  (Chinese Dunce Cap)


the desert garden at huntington

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

A rainy day in Providence seems like a good time to revisit sunny southern California. We stopped by the Huntington Botanical Gardens in Pasadena two Fridays ago…


There wasn’t time to explore all 120 acres, but being fond of thorny, spiky, alien-looking plants, I definitely didn’t want to miss the 100-year-old Desert Garden. My friend John will appreciate this post.

Before I share some of the “ow! my eye!” plants, take a look at this massive bamboo just inside the entrance…









































And now, without further delay, I bring you glorious blue skies, oppressive heat and where’s my water bottle?

(As always, click to biggify)…













In case you didn’t catch it in the shot above, please note: some aloes can grow to become trees? Really? I had no idea…





















There’s no sense of scale in this shot. Those plants are at lease 2′ to 4′ across…













What the… euphorbia also grows like trees here? 6′ tall. So unfair…









































I love this sea of happy aeoniums…

























And these octopi…

































And these starfish…



































I’ve seen radio towers shorter than this thing! That’s easily 50′ tall…





















And the agaves are crazy huge, as you might imagine. Do not hug them…













I have no idea what this bizarre specimen is but look closely — green lily-like blooms and it’s about to launch missiles…





















Crazy. Who designs these things anyway?

Do yourself a favor and take a quick 360 spin around the Desert Garden. It’s wondrous. Better yet, go there in person because my pictures do the collection no justice. Bring protective eyewear.


Mediterranean planting inspiration

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

You don’t think I’d go to southern California without snapping a few pictures of plant combinations I find inspiring, do you? Nah. Didn’t think so.

(rollover pics for occasional plant ID, click to biggify)

Los Feliz neighborhood, L.A.: Nassella tenuissima, agave, festuca glauca, salvia and, hmm, something else











Los Feliz neighborhood, L.A.: Nassella tenuissima again, festuca glauca and succulents











Los Feliz neighborhood, L.A.: succulents in a mailbox!


Lodge Torrey Pines, La Jolla: rosemary and 6-7' tall Echium can­di­cans “Pride of Madeira” covered in hummingbirds



















Los Feliz neighborhood, L.A.: agave, rosemary, phormium. i wonder what that silvery stuff is?











sunny hillside at Lodge Torrey Pines, La Jolla: rosemary and lavendar











Lodge Torrey Pines, La Jolla: better shot of the tufted grass securing the hill below the lavender



















Hillcrest neighbood, San Diego: yucca, agave and lots of succulents and cactus I can’t identify



























house we rented in Palm Springs: festuca glauca and lavender, purple lantana underneath the palo verde tree


















Legoland: ricinus (castor bean plant) grows into tall, hard-trunked trees here!











Legoland: blooming succulents, yucca, euphorbia, cyprus papyrus alternifolius (in the pond) and an awesome blue swath of festuca glauca



















Legoland: gorgeous waving sea of Nassella tenuissima












Also stopped at a few botanic gardens, so I’ll share more planties with you soon!

hillside planting underway

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Sorry things got quiet again at modremod. We escaped to the west coast to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. Just before we left, the plants I ordered back in January started arriving for the front hillside.

Then Shiva arrived yesterday with a carload of plants for the walkway section of the hill…

hillside planting: laying out the plants













Nassella tenuissima (Mexican Feather Grass). 85 of them in all…

hillside planting: only 50 more to go











So guess what I did yesterday?

hillside planting: mexican feather grass in













More planting happening soon — the arrivals are beginning to stack up. Thanks for helping get it started, Shiva! goteamfight.

spring prep

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

Temperatures are unusually warm for March in New England — 72 degrees yesterday! So of course I put on my shorts and started prepping the garden for spring. I actually cut my grasses back last week…

spring prep: cut back the grasses




















My Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ and Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Avalanche’ grasses were already sending up green shoots. Doh!

The Nassella Tenuissima (Mexican Feather Grass) actually looked like this the entire winter…

spring prep:  the nassella tenuissima is still green!




















Green in the center! That just goes to show you how oddly mild it was here.

Cut back all the Hakonochloas, as well. They likely won’t show growth until some time in April.

I won’t bore you with more grass cutting — I’m sure that was more than enough to do the trick. But did I mention that last August I bought a Mission Black Fig? Oops, sorry. I protected it the same way I did the Musa basjoo banana last December, and uncovered it yesterday.

White tarp (to reflect rather than retain heat) came off…

spring prep: wrapped fig tree




















That revealed the crazy cylinder that David’s going to sink out back in the ground to cover the pond pump…

spring prep: tarp removed from fig




















Then I pulled out the straw I stuffed in around the branches…

spring prep: fig wrapped in straw




















And lookie dat! There’s my tiny fig tree!

spring prep: fig is unveiled




















Doesn’t look like much, I know. And it’s not, yet. I’ll have to reposition this to give it more room, actually. Given its southern position against a warm wall, it should be able to make it through in a New England winter — theoretically, and if I protect it every year. We shall see.

I’d better get out there and uncover the banana.

plants + math, the big finale

Monday, February 6th, 2012

A few weeks back, I posted the first two Doodling in Math videos — a fascinating look at spirals and Fibonacci numbers in nature. This time we finally get an answer for why plants grow the way they do. (If you haven’t seen these yet, I recommend starting with Part 1)…



I should have doodled more in math class.


nothing much to report

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Not much going on the last two days. Remodeling paused but hopefully picking up again on Monday. Did I mention we’re just days away from the one year anniversary of getting our building permit?

In the meantime, I went outside and tested that macro lens I got David for his iPhone. Wow…

seeds on my miscanthus sinensis ‘morning light’




















Super closeup of the seeds on my Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ — in the wind, no less. Nifty. Looks like I’ll be stealing that lens from David frequently.