Friday, January 22, 2016

Pretty Views of Ellen Carr's Garden

When photographing a garden I usually take a very documentary approach in an effort to give a true sense of what a garden is really like. Generally, I like to mix wide views with closeups that show-off a plant or flower's best features. 

In this case however, I was off-duty having fun at the Garden Blogger's Fling. I wandered around Ellen Carr's garden like a tourist taking random shots as the mood struck me. So I apologize, it is going to be hard for you to get a full sense of Ellen's garden, but I think that some of my snapshots showing plant combinations are worth sharing.

Here is a general description of the garden:

This property is a large suburban lot. At the front of the house, there are a number of big flowerbeds and the largest thyme lawn I have ever seen. The back of the house overlooks a ravine. All of my photographs of the backyard focus on the patio and terrace right at the back of the house.

Let's take a look around, shall we?

This is a planting from one of the front gardens. Isn't this a stunning combination? I would never have thought to put these colors together, but it really works. 

The Siberian Iris is an unknown cultivar. I am going to make an educated guess that the Alliums in the background are Allium 'Purple Sensation'.

It's this Ligularia in the middle-background that adds the drama to this plant grouping.

Ligularia 'Britt Marie Crawford' is a plant you grow for the foliage and not the flowers. This Ligularia forms a large clump of mahogany leaves with golden-orange flowers in mid-summer. Slugs can be an issue. Part shade to full shade in warm regions. Moist soil is essential. Height: 90-120 cm (35-47 inches), Spread: 80-90 cm ( 31-35 inches). USDA Zones:3-9.

You can see the thyme lawn just behind this gorgeous peach iris.

Bearded Iris 'Beverly Sills' is one of the most popular peachy-pink tall bearded irises. It has a reputation for being a vigorous grower that blooms heavily mid-season. Full sun. Height: 60-90 cm (24-36 inches), Spread: 90-120 cm (36-48 inches).

Here we have moved to the backyard and the terrace overlooking the ravine.

Sara Katz, a landscape designer who works alongside Ellen in the garden, helped me correctly identify the yellow-green shrub:

Elderberry, Sambucus racemosa 'Lemony Lace' is a deciduous shrub with cutleaf yellow-green foliage. It has white flowers that are followed by red fruit in the fall. It blooms on old wood, so keep that in mind when doing any pruning. Prune it after the shrub flowers. Full sun in northern climates, and light shade, if you live in the southern States. Sambucus racemosa 'Lemony Lace' shrub has the bonus of being deer resistant. Height: 36-60 inches, Spread: 36-72 inches. USDA Zones 3a-7b

Sara also gave me a little background on the role in the garden:

"I am a landscape designer who is more than happy to get her hands dirty working in clients gardens.  I have been working with Ellen in her garden- and she does work alongside me and my crew- for four years."

"In that time we have made many changes to the garden. The last two winters were brutal here and we lost several trees, shrubs and perennials. We lost an Ash to the dreaded Emerald Ash Borer as well."

Sara went on to tell me that the garden presents the challenge of dealing with deer and rabbits:

"I have to wrap young trees in chicken wire for the winter to keep the deer from breaking the trunks while rubbing their antlers on the trees. So our plant choices are restricted to those that deer don't like. Zephyr, the resident Sheltie helps to keep the rabbit population manageable. We also use Plantskyd liberally and find that it is effective (but horribly stinky!)."

This is a closeup look at the Salvia you can see in the previous picture.

Salvia x sylvestris 'May Night' has spiky indigo blue flowers in early summer. Like all Salvias, it is attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds. This cultivar will tolerate a range of moisture conditions and soil types. Full sun. Drought tolerant once established. Remove faded flowers to encourage a second flush of flowers. Height: 45-60 cm (18-23 inches) Spread: 45-60 cm (18-23 inches) . USDA Zones: 3-9.

Red Campion or Red Catchfly, Silene dioica (unknown variety) has rosy-red flowers and soft, hairy leaves and stems. The flowers are attractive to bees and butterflies. Full sun. It can be grown in a range of soils, but prefers somewhat moist conditions. Height: 20-60 cm (8-25 inches). Spread: 20-60 cm (8-25 inches). USDA Zones: 4-9.

Meadow Rue, Thalictrum aquilegiifolium is another plant I'd like to point out.  

I have Meadow Rue in my own garden and always look forward to its display of pink fireworks in June. (Note: There is also a white cultivar, which I don't have yet.) 

It's a tall plant, but the flower stems are pretty sturdy. I have never had to stake Meadow Rue in my own garden. One particularly nice feature is this plant will flower in part-shade as well as full sun.

Meadow Rue, Thalictrum aquilegiifolium has lacy blue-green foliage and clouds of mauve-pink or white flower mid-spring. Full sun to part shade. This plant is happy in average or clay soil. It likes growing conditions to be on the moist side. Height: 60-90 cm (23-35 inches), Spread: 45-60 cm (18-23 inches). USDA Zones: 3-9.

A flagstone pathway leads you through the plantings in the terraced area of the garden. 

On one side of the path is Blue Catmint, Nepeta racemosa 'Walker's Low', and on the other side with pink flowers is Lamium a versatile sun, part-shade or full shade groundcover .

Blue Catmint, Nepeta racemosa 'Walker's Low' is a long blooming perennial (if regularly deadheaded) that has a mounded, bushy habit. It has grey-green foliage and blue flowers. Full sun. Height: 60-90 cm (23-35 inches), Spread: 75-90 cm ( 29-35 inches). USDA Zones: 3-9.

One final combination:Yellow False Indigo, Baptisia 'Carolina Moonlight' with Salvia x sylvestris 'May Night' in the background. 

Yellow False Indigo, Baptisia 'Carolina Moonlight' is a recent introduction. It forms a vase-shaped mound of blue-green foliage with canary-yellow flowers mid-spring. Normal, sandy and clay soils all work for this plant. It will also tolerate everything from dry to moist growing conditions. Divide in early spring. Full sun. Height: 120-135 cm (47-53 inches), Spread: 80-90 cm (31-35 inches). USDA Zones: 4-9.

Many thanks to Sara for confirming the plant details.

Have a great weekend!

More Information and Links: 

Sara Katz of Wild at Heart Design is a landscape designer, garden coach and garden writer. She is also available for garden club or horticultural society workshops and presentations. 

If you are interested, this year's Garden Blogger's Fling will take place in Minneapolis. The dates are July 14-17th. Find out more.


  1. This is great, Jennifer. Thanks to you and Sara for the plant ID. I'll refer my readers back to you when I get around to writing about Ellen's garden. It was the last garden in a long day, but it still gave us plenty to get excited about.

  2. That was a wonderful tour. The plant combinations were delightful...wish I had the moisture for Ligularia!

  3. That was a great garden to tour. I'll have to look back at my photos but I feel like I missed the elderberry 'lemony lace'. I love it. I have lots of elderberry growing in the woods but this cultivar is very attractive with the plant complements in this garden. I enjoyed touring through your eyes/lens.

  4. I didn't remember that garden until you mentioned the Thyme lawn. That was the largest I have seen too. Many pretty plant combos though. The fling was fun this past year. I do love visiting the Toronto area.

  5. This is a beautiful garden, Jennifer.
    I have never seen irises with a beautiful color like that (Beverly Sills).
    Just gorgeous.
    Have a wonderful weekend!

  6. The silene is Rolly's Favorite. I have it in my garden. I loved the thyme lawn in this garden, too. But I was surprised it wasn't growing in full sun. It was a beautiful garden. :o)

  7. What a wonderful site in January!!! I love the nepeta along the path!

  8. Gorgeous! It definitely makes me wish for spring. A friend game me a 'Lemon Lace' Sambucus, and I hope it survives. I am on the edge of zones 7b/8a. It thrives until our intense summer heat hits. I thought I had lost it, but it has some new growth; so it still lives. I have moved it to a shadier spot. I hope it will adapt!

  9. Lovely post, even in the middle of summer here in Australia, it is lovely to remember all the plants that can be planted for spring..

  10. Loving that peach Iris up there! And that Meadow Rue! I planted some but need to move it to an area with more sun this year! Such a beautiful garden Jennifer! Thanks for inspiring and a happy week to you!! Nicole xo

  11. That salvia looks like a perfect one for me, not as big as many other and that intense blue colour. I have been thinking of making a thyme lawn too, although on a very small scale – just a patch on the edge of my shade garden, hopefully it will get enough sun there. Thanks for the tour Jennifer, as always lots of inspirational ideas!

  12. Your tourist approach works beautifully! There are some lovely combinations, I lovethe thyme lawn, how scented that must be when walking upon it. A peach iris....gosh, I've never seen one that colour

  13. You're making me crazy for spring! Black Lace Sambucus overwintered in it's nursery pot and is waiting to be planted. Lemony Lace will go nearby. It really lights up the garden. The Meadow Rue is beautiful with that bright chartreuse as a backdrop. Meadow Rue has been a struggle for me with deer - but, hallelujah! I have deer fencing this year, so will plant more. I put the fence off for years, but have been pleasantly surprised at how the slender black poles and black mesh blend in with the tall pines and is hardly noticeable. I realize it probably wouldn't work in a suburban setting.
    Thank you, Jennifer. I always find inspiration here!

  14. It's such pleasant to watch flowers in your post, Jennifer. I love Siberian Iris, it grow here everywhere along rivers and lakes. I also love Meadow Rue, and as you always wait when it blooms. The combination of flowers, colors are wonderful!

  15. Such beautiful colours ...
    Such beautiful plants ...

    All the best Jan


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