Wednesday Vignette – serendipity

About a month ago, I asked for your favorite plants that last well in a vase, and you kindly gave me some great input. Last week – two days after the election – I finished sprucing up the 100′ bed in front of the Monastery. For ease of maintenance, this bed will be mostly shrubs, but I thought long and hard, and asked the advice of several great flower arrangers, to ensure they will be of varieties that are valuable for bouquets.

The path you see to the left under that orange maple leads up to the main entrance. The giant Sequoia towering over everything was planted in 1893, by one of the very first nuns. To orient you, the Meditation Garden I designed last year is immediately to the left of that massive tree. The bed I was working on last week, starts behind the fiery maple, next to the pathway, and stretches along the front of the entire building. As you can see, it was a rather gloomy day, election worries aside.
You can probably sense that this photo was taken from underneath that orange maple in the previous photo. From that vantage point you can see the entire bed that we reworked. Aden and I removed most of the old rhododendrons, and a slew of other unhappy, misplanted shrubs and out of control perennials. We divided a bunch of those Bergenias and spread them throughout the bed. Can’t wait for them to start filling in elsewhere – they are such a great texture plant, and tough as nails.

My story for today is in regards to the spot underneath the blue arrow. Obviously, the bed is dominated by those two big trees. One is a Liriodendron, and the other a dark leaved Maple of some sort. As I was initially looking at that bed, I felt that spot needed something rather large, but not so big as to spill over into the pathway, or grow up into the nearby maple. But it definitely needed a statement of some sort, to cap off that long bed and frame the view of the entrance. Of course there are endless options that would fit that description, but for whatever reason, the plant that popped into my head was a Vitex. “That’s it, Aden… we need a Vitex there. It will look amazing!” To show my dear helper what I was thinking, I looked it up on my phone… and then I realized it. I swear – I had TOTALLY forgotten that the common name for Vitex agnus-castus is Chaste Tree!

OMG – it was indeed PERFECT! Not only is it a beautiful shrub, but back in the Middle Ages, monks used a concoction made from this tree, to curb their libido – it helped them stay chaste. As medieval monastery gardens were the cultural centers for medical and herbal research of their time, Vitex was always part of what was grown. So all jokes aside, this plant really SHOULD be part of the cast of shrubs and trees of any monastery – but yeah, I laughed.

‘Agnus’ by the way, means ‘lamb’ in Latin. Per Wikipedia, the 14th century Cornish writer John Trevisa reported the tree would turn men into lambs; “the herbe agnus-castus is always grene, and the flowre therof is namly callyd Agnus Castus, for wyth smel and vse it maketh men chaste as a lombe”

So, what else did I plant in that long bed? Here is a fairly complete list:

Thermopsis dolobrata ‘Nana’

Thuja ‘Sherwood Frost’

Chamacyparis filifera ‘Aurea’

Viburnum davidii

Cotinus ‘Velvet Cloak’

Cotinus ‘Royal Purple’ (I sneakily planted one of each Cotinus, because I wanted to see what the difference is. I have yet not been able to figure that out.)

Itea virginica ‘Henry’s garnet’ (the most awesome, long-lasting red fall color)

Cistus platycepalus (not great for cutting as far as I know, but the south end of this bed is hot, hot, hot. I also moved a Grevillea victoriae ‘Murray Queen’ there, from the Meditation Circle.

Symphoricarpos (a pink variety)

Hebe ‘Hinerua’

Lonicera ‘Baggesen’s Gold’

Eleagnus ‘Gilt Edge’

Choysia ‘Sundance’

Calluna ‘Firefly’

Weigela ‘Briant rubidor’ (amazing fall color!)

Weigela ‘Variegata’

Deutzia ‘Pink Pompom’

Deutzia ‘Nikko’

Deutzia corymbifolia

Polystichum munitum (sword fern)

There were a few others that I ended up putting in the Meditation Garden. I moved some things around to make room for them:

Deutzia ‘Variegata’

Philadelphus madrensis (the most amazing fragrance!!)

Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoìle’

Rhamnus alaternus ‘Variegata’

The Meditation Circle already contains a lot of shrubs that work well for cutting: roses, abelias, mahonias, osmanthus, spiraea, viburnum, myrtle, fuchsia, callicarpa, camellia, red and orange dogwoods. These newcomers will make it even better. I also couldn’t resist putting a black pussy willow in their actual cutting garden, which is where they will plant all the dahlias they bought, in spring. Most of the plants are still rather small, but it is my hope that they will soon be able to make full, fabulous use of it. And I’m sure they will love the Vitex – it’s gorgeous!

About annamadeit

I was born and raised in Sweden, By now, I have lived almost as long in the United States. The path I’ve taken has been long and varied, and has given me a philosophical approach to life. I may joke that I’m a sybarite, but the truth is, I find joy and luxury in life’s simple things as well. My outlook on life has roots in a culture rich in history and tradition, and I care a great deal about environmental stewardship. Aesthetically, while drawn to the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia, I also have a deep appreciation for the raw, the weathered, and the worn - materials that tell a story. To me, contrast, counterpoint, and diversity are what makes life interesting and engaging. Color has always informed everything I do. I’m a functional tetrachromat, and a hopeless plantoholic. I was originally trained as an architect working mostly on interiors, but soon ventured outside - into garden design. It’s that contrast thing again… An interior adrift from its exterior, is like a yin without a yang. My firm conviction that everything is connected gets me in trouble time and time again. The world is a big place, and full of marvelous distractions, and offers plentiful opportunities for inquiry and exploration. I started writing to quell my constant queries, explore my discoveries, and nurture my curiosity. The Creative Flux was started in 2010, and became a catch-all for all kinds of intersecting interests. The start of Flutter & Hum at the end of 2013 marks my descent into plant nerd revelry. I occasionally contribute to other blogs, but those two are my main ones. For sure, topics are all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blogs!
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12 Responses to Wednesday Vignette – serendipity

  1. Serendipity indeed 🙂

  2. Nice work! And I’ve always wondered about that common name, but never took the time to actually research it.

    My WV:

  3. Kris P says:

    It’s a beautiful garden and your changes will only make it more so, Anna. The chaste tree is perfect! I planted one here a couple of years ago but, so far, all it’s done is hang on, although I note that a cousin, Vitex trifolia, also took its own sweet time to establish and bloom so I still have hope. I’m sure the nuns will enjoy the dahlias. Here’s my WV:

    • annamadeit says:

      Thanks, Kris! I’m glad it’s hanging on. I read somewhere that they are slow, which puzzled me, as I once had one, and it took off pretty quickly. I ended up giving it to a friend, it got so big! I bet it’s a climate thing – they go crazy up here, and take their time in more heat and drought. I meant to ask for the names of the Dahlias since you wondered, but forgot. Sorry! Maybe I can give you a better idea next year…

  4. Robin Bentley says:

    One of the many reasons I love gardening so much is for these serendipitous moments like you describe so well. Also, I really appreciate your shrub list. It will come in handy as I make decisions in the future for easily cared-or shrubs with beautiful flowers. Thank you!

    • annamadeit says:

      You are so very welcome, Robin! Some of them were planted entirely for foliage. My friend Rickii who makes stellar bouquets, swears by the Choysia. She also uses the three conifers I planted a lot. The Rhamnus is also a fantastic foliage plant. I also had the good fortune to run into Linda Beutler, who wrote a book called ‘Garden to Vase’. I rattled off what I had already planted to her. She nodded approvingly, and added yet a few more worthy varieties, so I have good hope that this will turn out great! Good luck with your garden choices!

  5. tonytomeo says:

    Dark leaved maple? Could it be a ‘Schwedleri’ Norway maple. It looks to be almost young enough to possibly be the more modern cultivar ‘Crimson King’. I would not know. ‘Crimson King’ is a weaker tree, so does not do as well here as ‘Schwedleri’, which is marginal, but reasonably happy. Also, because it was introduced only in the 1990s or so, there are no mature specimens here that I am aware of. The foliar texture looks about right, although the rich color is better than what I am accustomed to here.
    Nor am I accustomed to Sequoias like that. Ours are younger but much taller and lankier. They are native here, but were harvested about a century ago. Almost all of what is here now is secondary growth that is hundreds of feet tall. (They grow faster from stumps than from seedlings or cuttings.) Yours is likely a Sequoiadendron giganteum, which does not mind cooler winters as much.

    • annamadeit says:

      I bet you’re right on both of those, but I don’t know how to verify either. I’ll take your word for it, Tony!

      • tonytomeo says:

        Both are easy to identify; not that it matters if proper names are not necessary. There are no other maples that look like ‘Schwedleri’ or ‘Crimson King’. Both are Norway maples with bronzed foliage. ‘Crimson King’ is the less likely option, with very dark foliage. ‘Schwedleri’ is more bronzed than dark purplish, and fades somewhat. It is the more likely option. Also, there are not many other trees that look like giant redwood. The cones of giant redwood are much bigger than those of coastal redwood, and are about as big as a hen’s egg. Coastal redwood has cones that are about as big as olives. Coastal redwood probably does not do well there, so is likely rare.

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