Thursday, September 30, 2010

Gardens of Annuals Sown Directly

A pre-packaged mix of annuals, with a few additions. It's colorful but doesn't have much character.

I inadvertently overplanted the grass (How was I to know how much seed was too much?)but the Chinese Forget-me-not managed to nicely peak through.

I love this California Bluebell for its intense blue color, persistent bloom and tolerance of some very dry conditions.

I am interested in working more and more with plant systems in which natural forces and I work together to determine the nature of the garden. This desire of mine is exemplified by the perennials in what I call my meadow garden (see my 9/24/09 posting). Now I am intrigued by the idea of directly sowing annuals to achieve a naturalistic looking plant display that is also economical, has a minimal energy requirement, and represents this balance between natural forces and my will that I mentioned above. Perhaps I am revisiting the well known "meadow-in-a-can" phenomenon that made a splash about twenty years ago and is still available today, but I like to think I am looking at it a bit differently. The "meadow-in-a-can" provides something much like the top picture. It's a festival of color. There is no sense of composition or even a sense of the beauty of drifts and undulating masses we see in nature as plants distribute themselves. It's like the plants have been homogenized. Perhaps over time, if they continued to come back year after year, they would eventually make a more interesting distribution.

While waiting to see what that planting will evolve into (with some guidance by me) I am also experimenting with other plants and their combinations. The second picture down is of a grass, Ruby Silk,(Agrostis tef) and a non grass or, in prairie planting parlance, a forb, Chinese Forget-me-not (Cynoglossum amabile). Remembering how forbs so attractively peak through a backdrop of grasses, I tried a couple of other direct sow gardens with a mix of grasses and showy flowering plants. I vastly overestimated how much Agrostis tef I needed and vastly underestimated in the other garden how much Quaking Grass was needed. With the one garden the grass totally dominated the planting. The other one was sparse indeed although it did expose me to a very attractive and potentially useful annual pictured above, California Bluebell (Phacelia campanularia).

Obviously I have a lot to learn, but true to the lifestyle garden theme, its the process that's the most gratifying.

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