Saturday, 30 April 2011

Our Meadow Garden at Lovegrass Farm in P.E.I.

Spreading lime in early spring 2010
We started a Meadow Garden at Lovegrass Farm last Spring on a South facing slope.  Last winter I decided we needed to plant a meadow and that slope was the perfect spot.  Of course we should have tilled the ground the fall before and allowed the sods to break down over winter, but I didn't know I wanted it then!  So, we did it the hard way, to show you what NOT to do!  We spread lime and had our neighbor Mitchell tear it up with his big tractor tiller.  We grew the grass seed in plugs to have a fighting chance against the weeds.  The area below the meadow is covered in mussel and oyster shells that we had tilled in and will be filled with lavender plants this year as we extend our lavender rows.

Plugs planted in freshly tilled sod

This next photo shows the plugs we planted in this rough freshly tilled ground.  This field had not been farmed in 35 years.  We're used to doing things the hard way.  We've spent several early Springs cutting down white spruce trees that just want to turn the field into a Forest again.  We have Brothers that are Farmers, but alas, they do not live close enough to make use of their machinery.  These sods grew back and were too much competition for the plugs.  We spread eel grass around them but that didn't help much, we may have to do this area over this year.

Sods removed for planting

Then we decided to remove the sods so that it would be easier to transplant our grass plugs, so wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow load we hauled them off.  On the edge of the photo you can see the sods starting to grow back.  In our gardens we usually spread lime, shells and compost and till the ground.  We then sow buckwheat to smother the weeds and turn that under for green manure, however, many meadow grasses and wildflowers often do best in infertile soils.

Dividing the Meadow

The meadow was then divided into separate areas for each variety of grass so that I could experiment with mixing different wildflowers with each grass to find the most appealing combinations and for the chance to take photos.  I made pathways through the meadow with eel grass which will hopefully smother the weeds.

Grass Plugs we grew from seed

Plug trays

The plugs went in easily and quickly with a hand trowel once the sod was gone.  The shorter grasses were put in about a foot apart because I didn't want to leave empty spaces for weeds to grow in.  This year I'll remove grasses here and there where I want to add wildflowers.  I did plant two patches of butterfly weed plugs last year; they take two years to bloom and moved a few perennial flowers in as well.  Can't wait to see how it looks this summer as the plants mature!  We were planting these in early July, which is late, but the weather was on our side with some rain to water them in so we wouldn't have to and they thrived!

Meadow in September 2010

We used Indian Grass & Big Bluestem in the back left to block off the rest of the surrounding field.  The top middle we didn't finish yet but will continue to fill in with Little bluestem.  We sowed buckwheat in the top right because we knew we wouldn't have time to plant there until this year.  We'll probably put Switchgrass at the top and Deschampsia below around the rose bushes.  I gained great Inspiration from a couple of books; Plant-Driven Design by Scott Ogden & Lauren Springer Ogden & The American Meadow Garden by John Greenlee.

A View from the Top of the Meadow Fall 2010

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem) Ornamental Grass at Lovegrass Farm

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem) in the Fall
 Schizachyrium (skits-ah-KEER-ee-um) scoparium (skoh-PAIR-ee-um) or Little bluestem (much easier to say isn't it!)  is one of my Very Favorite Grasses.  A Truly Low Maintenance Plant, it does best in low nutrient soil and dry conditions!  Give it too much nutrients or water and it will flop over! 

Little bluestem in July
 The foliage of Little bluestem can vary in color from green to gray-blue in its warm season growth period.  The gray-blue plants develop red-purple colors on the stems.  Its fine foliage and flowers pass through an array of color changes after frost in the Fall, from copper-orange to purple-red depending on the initial foliage color.  Little bluestem requires Full Sun for upright growth of  2 - 4 ft. or 60 - 120 cm. and a mature width of 2 ft. or 60 cm.  It looks great in perennial borders, or naturalized grass 'drifts' and is perfect as a meadow plant!

Little bluestem in September
 Little bluestem creates a really striking effect as the late fall sun shines through the fluffy white seed heads.  It's worth placing this grass so that the setting sun is behind it.  This is something to think about with placement of a lot of Ornamental grasses! 

Little Bluestem in the Fall and Winter
 A native to prairies and dry fields of North America  Birds will appreciate the winter food they find in the seed heads. 

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Andropogon gerardii (Big Bluestem) Ornamental Grass at Lovegrass Farm in P.E.I.

Andropogon gerardii (Big bluestem) Aug.31

Big bluestem in late September

Andropogon gerardii (Big Bluestem) is a native tallgrass prairie plant that can reach 5 - 8 ft. or 1.5 - 2.4 m. tall making it ideal for screening.  It is upright and strictly clump forming and requires Full Sun.  The colours are lovely as fall is approaching and we start to get frost.  Three-branched terminal inflorescences that vaguely resemble turkey's feet appear in late August or early Sept. opening with noticeably bright red pollen sacs.  Big bluestem takes on rich orange and copper-red colors in Autumn and the turkey foot clusters of seeds fluff out silver in color. (Hence its nickname Turkeyfoot)  Wish I had taken a better photo of the plant in the later fall or a close up of the Turkey feet.  This year it will be on my list!

Big bluestem October 31
Once the dominant component of the tallgrass prairie Big bluestem is perfect for naturalizing and for meadow gardens.  Birds and mammals use it for nesting and cover in summer and winter.  Big bluestem requires Full Sun and can be planted singly, mixed with perennials or in a mass planting.  We started our plants from seed two years ago.

Big bluestem Plugs planted in 09
The same plants in mid July 2010

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Miscanthus Giganteus Ornamental Grass at Lovegrass Farm on P.E.I.

Miscanthus Giganteus
Miscanthus Giganteus is a Magnificent Screening Plant, similar to Bamboo in appearance, but spreads slowly to form a large clump.  It makes an excellent wind break that, due to the flexibility of its growth actually filters or breaks up the wind unlike rigid physical barriers.  Giganteus makes a great natural alternative to a fence, rustling in the wind and providing shelter for wildlife.

Miscanthus Giganteus in August

Growing 9 to 10 ft. or 3 m. tall with deep green leaves 1 in. or 25 mm wide it can lend a tropical look to a garden.  Use it as a specimen, to create privacy or to block an undesirable view on city or town lots.  Make a Secret Garden by planting seven plants in the shape of a C with a 15 ft. diameter.  Giganteus does best in Full Sun, tolerates salty and coastal conditions making it ideal for Seaside Gardens.  It rarely flowers in our northern climate and trials have confirmed that its' seeds are sterile and the plant can only be established by division of its' roots.

Giganteus in September
Miscanthus Giganteus is being used commercially in the UK and Europe for energy production as a biofuel.  It is an environmentally friendly crop; it is a C4 plant which has a high photosynthesis efficiency.   Once planted Giganteus requires 2 - 3 years to reach full size.  It will continue to enlarge slowly but keep in mind that it will grow a large root system and be difficult to remove if you change your mind in a few years. 

Giganteus in October

Miscanthus Giganteus in March
The lower leaves turn a tan color later in the season.  You can pull off the culms by grabbing hold of the leaves and pull straight down; the revealed stems are very attractive.  If you find that it doesn't provide  a complete visual barrier you could plant another grass in front.  Cool season grasses like Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster' would also give you a shorter screen in early summer until the Giant Grass takes off with the heat in July.  Miscanthus Giganteus remains upright all winter, even with heavy snow.  Easy to care for and drought tolerant once established, you only need to cut it back in the Spring.  We save the dry stalks and are attempting to make fences with them; we'll show photos later.  They could be used around your garden much as you would use small bamboo stakes.  The larger stems could be cut in pieces and used to make Mason Bee Houses.  The possibilities are Endless!

Monday, 25 April 2011

Miscanthus Purpurascens Ornamental Grass at Lovegrass Farm on P.E.I.

Miscanthus purpurascens in October at Lovegrass Farm PEI

Time to shift to some Warm Season Grasses since it's a Lovely Warm Day!  Miscanthus Purpurascens is one of the most beautiful and useful of all Miscanthus.  It is upright (to 5 ft. or 150 cm. tall), early flowering, very cold hardy (Z4) and has red-orange autumn color.  It rarely if ever produces fertile seed, making it a safe choice for those who want to grow Miscanthus but are concerned about seeding beyond the garden.  The narrow inflorescences open with a slight pink tint & turn silvery. 

Miscanthus Purpurascens in Early June

The leaves are 1/2 inch wide and slightly gray-green.
Purpurascens is the first Miscanthus out of the ground in late Spring.  It prefers full sun and average to moist soil.  It is not as drought tolerant as Miscanthus sinensis varieties but is still a tough plant.  Once they're established, we don't water any of our grasses; Purpurascens included.  They all do well in our sandy soil in Full Sun.  Purpurascens is often cut and used in arrangements for Thanksgiving and Halloween.

Miscanthus Purpurascens makes an Excellent Hedge

Color is starting in September

Inflorescences are fully out later in September

Miscanthus Purpurascens at a Rest Stop in Quebec mid-October

Wind Blown Purpurascens in late Fall

Miscanthus Purpurascens in December

Talk About Ornamental Grasses at Lovegrass Farm

Display Gardens in Wolfville, N.S.
 Met some Lovely Folks in Summerside, P.E.I. last Thursday evening.  I spoke to the Summerside Gardening Club about our Ornamental Grasses and put on our First Power Point Slide Show.  It went Great; lots of Positive Feedback!  It's starting to Warm Up, 14 yest. and expect the same today; Love It!  Thought I'd show you some photos of Display Beds in the town of Wolfville, Nova Scotia, taken a couple of years ago.  They're a nice mix of Grasses, Shrubs, and perennials in a Public Display!

Display Gardens in Wolfville, N.S.

Find Waldo!

Friday, 22 April 2011

Photos of Perennial Flowers at Lovegrass Farm in P.E.I.

Salvia 'Mainacht' & 'Ostfriesland'

Catmint 'Dropmore Blue'

Golden Oregano

Euphorbia 'Chameleon'

German Iris

Bronze Fennel

Monarda (Beebalm) 'Raspberry Wine'

Ratibida pinnata (Yellow Coneflower)

Rudbeckia subtomentosa (Sweet Black-eyed Susan)

Ligularia 'Desdemona'

Photos of Perennial Flowers at Lovegrass Farm in P.E.I.

Salvia 'Purple Rain'

Knautia macedonica

Phlox 'David'

Campanula 'Burghaltii'

Tradescantia (Spiderwort) White

Echinacea (Coneflower)

Catmint 'Six Hills Giant'

Yarrow 'Moonshine'

Rudbeckia fulgida (Orange coneflower)