Monday, May 6, 2013

Made in the Shade

For a long time - years - I didn't want any green in my flower gardens.  Oh, sure, I'd put up with the little fringe of leaves that was an obligatory partner to each bloom, but I was focused on the color.  Sometimes I'd remark on a leaf - the fantastic lily pads of the nasturtium, the smooth clovers of the columbine, the ferny stalks of achillea - but they were secondary to the flower. 

Then I moved to a house that was in almost complete shade.  For the first time, I had to consider the leaves.  Could a garden of mere leaves be beautiful?  Well, I can now say with increasing confidence - yes.

We have morning sun that hits the front of the house, and I'm really pleased with the variety of plantings there.  While some azaleas are hanging on, the interest here is mostly on the leaves:  the peony-like leaves of the helleborus, the tropical japonica, and the ferns.

On the other side of the porch, we have more of the same, and I love the wild riot of different shapes and varieties. 

However, just beyond this pleasant jumble, we have tidy orderly lines of ornamental grasses.

One after the other, like little soldiers.  I'm eating supper, look outside, and see...little marching rows.  Tidy.  Boring.

This is a huge bed, and it's almost completely in shade.  I wasn't sure what to do, but I've been really inspired by the South Carolina Botanical Gardens, where my Master Gardener class meets. 

Beautiful ferns.

Native woodland plants.

Paths lined with hostas and other shade plants.

Areas under trees, in full shade, with a variety of shapes...


...and shades of green.

Sun-dappled beds, just like mine, but full of columbines...

Solomon's Seal...

And other beauties.

I've already spent quite a bit of money on plants this spring, so I may have to piece together this look over time.  But I'm really inspired and can't wait to rip up those tidy rows!

I also have a little work to do in our fenced-in side garden...also in shade.  It was bare dirt all winter, and I didn't know if anything was planted there.  But one spring day, I saw this:

Soon, hostas were slowly coming up all over:

I think they're all up now...

But I want some variety in there...and I want some winter interest.   This will keep me busy for a while!

We've had a week of cold, rainy temperatures, and I finally finished a knitting project I started months ago.  It's a pair of stranded gloves, but I made several modifications to the original plans.  When I started them in January 2012, I quickly put them aside, because I hated using thick worsted wool on tiny size 1 needles.  I wasn't sure about the cuff, either.

Here is the original pattern:

Here is my finished version:

First, I decided to leave off the cuff design.  Instead of knitting the designs and doing a thick braid between them, I knitted a length of cuff, added the picot edge in a contrasting color, knitted an identical length of cuff, folded it over, and did a 3-needle bind off.  This makes a double-layered and I think a tidier cuff.  I knitted another contrasting line, and then started the pattern.

The palm is alternative straight lines. 

As usual, when I finished knitting, the colors bunched up and looked puckered.

I knitted them very tightly, because I have small hands and many of the stranded gloves of this size, even when knitted on size 1 needles, are much too big.  This puckering is easily "blocked out" by wetting them, squeezing out the excess water, and then tugging them into shape. 

I am very pleased by them!

One final note:  I was deadheading some potted flowers on the front porch when I thought I saw a bird fly out.  The purple annuals in the medium-sized brown pot:

I poked around in the pot but didn't see anything that looked like a nest - just a a jumble of debris that may or may not have been in the pot after sitting on our porch for a few weeks.  I checked it again a few hours later, and this time I definitely saw a bird fly out.  I looked closer and saw a nest, way back in the debris, with 5 little eggs inside.

After doing some research, I learned that it was a Carolina Wren nest.  I was in a bit of a panic...not only did I clumsily poke around the nest area, leaving my scent everywhere, but before I'd seen the bird I'd moved the flowers onto the middle step, and then we had drenching rain for a week.  Would the mother still stay with her eggs?  I hated to bother her, but I had to check.  Today I peeked into the plant and hooray!  She was sitting on her eggs.  I can't wait to hear the little hatchlings!

Have a great week!

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