Wednesday, September 3, 2008

ABC Wednesday: Adventures in Gardening

This week we have reached the letter G which is for . . .

. . . A Garden Path !

I wish I could tell you this leads to my garden, but of course it doesn't. This path is located on the University of Illinois campus in an area devoted to various horticultural exhibits. If you would like to know more about this place, read on . . .

If you are a regular reader or have at least read my profile, you know that I retired about a year ago after many years of teaching. Retirement is wonderful and has given me the chance to pursue some interests that I never had time to fully enjoy before. One of my greatest joys this year has to been to take part in many Gardening Adventures with my best friend since childhood, Beckie. Since spring, we have attended two all-day workshops at a local gardening center, taken a Garden Walk sponsored by the local Master Gardeners, gone on many plant shopping expeditions (much better than clothes shopping!), admired each other's gardens, traded some passalong plants, and visited several garden spots. One of our favorites is the local Master Gardeners' Idea Garden located near the path pictured above.

Last week Beckie and I made our third visit to the Idea Garden this year. I've written about this plot before, as has she, so I won't go into all the details again. The Garden has been an educational journey for us as we visited in late March when only a few green shoots were popping through the soil and again in May when the spring bulbs were dying, but the perennials were just beginning to bloom. This time we were curious to see what was still blooming in the dry heat of late August.
It was a beautiful day, and we wisely chose to visit during the late morning before the bright sun made us uncomfortable. This time we parked a little way from the Idea Garden and started by looking at the plantings in an area maintained by the U of I's Horticulture Department.
The sidewalk in the first photo was bordered by coleus, fountain grass, and varieties of cannas, including these variegated ones.

A wide swath of Profusion zinnias provided a border next to the grass. I didn't realize until I wrote an earlier post about zinnias that they were such a butterfuly magnet. A host of different butterflies were swarming all about us as we walked down this path.

After admiring this pathway, we turned to our intended destination, the Idea Garden.

As we walked toward the Idea Garden, it was immediately obvious that there were plenty of flowers still blooming here. It was also apparent that this was the height of insect season as the garden was teeming with bees and butterflies.

Bees were enjoying the zinnias...

. . . and this flower--a phlox? This huge bee has been visiting my garden, too, and I think someone has identified it on one of their posts, but I don't remember its name.

And a buckeye butterfly was kind enough to let me take its photo. I was so focused on him that I didn't even pay attention to what flower he was enjoying.

Like all good display gardens, the Idea Garden has labels staked near each plant clearly identifying each one by its common name, Latin name, and specific variety. However, the plants had grown so much since spring that many of the labels were obscured. Probably most of you more experienced gardeners would easily recognize this plant, but Beckie and I weren't sure what it was.
A good friend not only shares your enthusiasm for common interests, but lends a helping hand when needed. Thanks to Beckie, we discovered this red-bloomed flower was a globe amaranth.

We didn't need to climb through the foliage to find these two tags, though. The smaller plant is a type of sedum, and the pink-tinged grass is called "Purple Love Grass." Since our main interest on this day was to find flowers that bloom in late summer and on into August, I tried to take photos of the tags of plants that interested us. I really like the airy look of this grass, but wish I gotten a close-up of the sedum tag as well.

I made sure, though, to get a photo of this plant's tag-- Verbena Boneriensis "Little One." Several of you have mentioned this plant before and said it really attracted butterflies. I'm curious, though; is this what your verbena looks like? Throughout the garden were some taller plants that I thought might be this variety of verbena, but we could never find a tag. The plants grew on slender single stalks about 3-4" tall with clusters of blooms that looked much like a verbena. They appeared to have been planted in one area, then spread throughout other plantings. Of course, I neglected to take a picture! If anyone can identify this plant by description without a photo, I would be very happy, not to mention impressed!

I didn't need a tag to identify this plant--a cleome. I took this photo purely for myself, to remind me what a cleome is supposed to look like! I was so happy when I found some cleome this spring and bought two potted plants. Apparently they weren't so happy with their new home, because they are both looking near death right now. I wonder if I can sneak some seed from this one later this fall . . .

All I could think of while shading myself under this giant sunflower was the song from "Oklahoma" . . . "Oh, what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day...the sunflower's as high as an elephant's eye..."

We had a great morning at the Idea Garden and, as always, left with lots of good ideas and even longer plant "wish lists." While Beckie's and my gardens are looking a little droopy right now as summer comes to an end without a raindrop in sight, this garden was a riot of color with not a brown stem to be seen. I must admit to a bit of garden envy every time I visit, but I have to remind myself that this garden is maintained by a group of people, not a single gardener. And there is someone assigned to regularly water the garden as well. So, while my garden will never come close to looking like this one, I can at least take advantage of their successes and create my own little showcase.

ABC Wednesdays are sponsored by Mrs. Nesbitt. You can visit her blog for links to more ABC posts or visit an anthology of many of the posts at ABC Wednesday Anthology.


  1. Showcase, indeed! This is a marvelous collection of garden photos!

  2. Rose, I can see why you and Beckie are drawn to this garden again and again. You are so lucky to live close enough to it to be able to see it in all seasons.

    Isn't it amazing what a little water can do for plants? We are in a drought here too. It seems that is all I am doing now, watering flower beds. UGH... I can't even think that I can get any fall planting done this year.

  3. Lovely collection of plants and wildlife Rose......I love the colours and open blooms.....

    I am pretty sure that is a phlox....normally has a wonderful perfume.

    The verbena you speakof is verbena bonariensis I spreads if it is happy......the beautiful thing about it is that it never spoils the can literally plant it anywhere and still see what is going on in your border....It is also wonderful for bees, butterflies, moths and hoverflies......if you would like some seeds let me know and I will see what I can do.....and I forgot its lilac in colour, so for me that is great to....I will take a photograph of one of mine and you can tell me if it is the same plant....

  4. I always get a little disheartened when I vist other gardens but like you say, they have a lot of people to keep them going.
    That is a beautiuful place to visit. I always write down all the things I want to buy too.
    Surely, if you ask nicely, they will let you have just a few of those seeds. I think we need to cultivate the freindship of people who run these gardens. : )

  5. Yes, sometimes we have to remind ourselves our gardens will not look like the ones maintained in a professional setting. I love the path and thought at first Wow! That is her entrance to her home? What a hot garden. That 'Little One' verbena looks alot like 'Homestead'. I grow Homestead and the tall passalong or also known sometimes as 'jumping verbena' which is what I think you are talking about with the butterflies. It fits the same description and also is Verbena bonariensis. Maybe the species? Not sure. Sounds like you and Beckie had a great visit.

  6. Rose ! I love seeing your posts with so many pictures visiting gardens like this .. idea garden is a really great idea ! LOL
    I have been a fan of that purple love grass but I haven't found any here yet ..
    The Buckeye butterfly is a wow too .. it looks like it has so many eyes on its wings .. amazing markings !
    We are in a dry spell here too and you can see gardens drooping a bit .. Gustav is supposed to be the influence for some rain coming in soon .. I say hurry up before I have to do the "drag the hose around and grunt" mission again !LOL ... I can't wait for true Autumn weather .. cool and dry : )

  7. Hi Rose, what a wonderful place to visit with your dear longtime friend. How much fun to chatter about the plants and other things with chum like that. Tina is right, it is a phlox and the verbena must be a named cultivar of the species verbena bon. It does look like they may have crossed the species, which is always very tall and the flowers less full, with homestead purple, whose flowers look like your photo. Those gardens are gorgeous, but they are filled with mostly annuals which will get pulled up and composted at the end of the season. I wonder if they winter over the cannas though, they might be hardy where you are. If they change the design each year they would want to plant them someplace else too. With our drought the cannas look terrible, but I love them anyway, just wish we could get our normal rainfall back to the plants would look happier. Thanks for showing us this great spot though, must end on a high note!

  8. What a beautiful place to visit. I love the warm mix of colours. You have taken wonderful photos of it and the one of the butterfly is so clear. Did you get yourself a better camera? I remember you being disheartened with some of your shots earlier in the year.

    I didn't realise you had been friends for so long, it is wonderful to be able to stay in touch and share the same pleasures together. (who needs husbands?!!!) ;)

  9. Thank you for sharing the garden photos with us for ABC Wednesday-letter G.

    Bear((( )))

  10. LOVE those zinnias! I'd love to wander down that garden path. Lovely post! :D

  11. Rose, a wonderful post on the Idea Garden and surrounding areas. And thanks for all the mentions-we do have lots of fun in our gardening adventures, don't we! From the comments, I think our quandry about the mysterious plant has been solved. Now we just need to find some Homestead-jumping verbena. I wonder if it is a perennial or a self seeder? Either way, I know we would enjoy it in our gardens.

  12. Rose ~ How lucky you are to live close to such gorgeous gardens. That Idea Garden is aptly named. I've gotten some great ideas just from you post. If you would like some cleome seeds I could send you some. It's one of the few things that did well for me this year. You can email me at pterodactyl1029 AT gmail DOT com

  13. Thanks, Kim. The garden is so beautiful; photos can't capture it all.

    Lisa, What's strange is that neither Beckie or I had ever visited the Idea Garden before this year! We had a little rain today, with more forecast tomorrow. No matter how much I water, nothing helps like a good rainshower.

    Tommy, Thanks for stopping by.

    Cheryl, Your description of the verbena sounds exactly like what we saw. I've been trying to remember whose blog pictured it, and maybe it was yours. Yes, I'd love to see a photo, and I'd definitely like some seed! Thanks so much. As you say, the flower we saw wasn't intrusive and looked pretty wherever it grew.

    Eve, I'm not sure how they divide up the work, but I'm sure no one person is responsible for more than a small part of the garden, which certainly makes it much easier. You're probably right that they would let me have some seed if I ask nicely:)

  14. Tina, LOL, I only WISH this was a path to my house! I have some Homestead verbenas whose flowers look like this one, but the foliage is very different. A "jumping verbena"? That's a funny name but does seem to describe the way this plant jumped all over the garden.

    Joy, I love visiting other gardens; I admit to copying others' ideas in my own.
    We may be finally getting some rain, thank goodness; my plants don't like "hose water" nearly as much:)

    Frances, Beckie and I have so much fun on our gardening "adventures"; we can linger over a small garden for the longest time!
    I knew somebody could identify the verbena for me! That's what I love about blogging--expert advice at your fingertips:)
    The Idea Garden has a lot of perennials, but each year they add more, and of course, they do try different annuals each year. The pathway, though, is separate from this and is maintained by the horticulture students, I think. So they experiment with new ideas each year.

    Suburbia, You made my day with the comment about the butterfly photo! No, it's the same camera; it's just that butterflies are much easier to photograph than birds, I've discovered--they don't move as much:)
    Beckie and I have been friends since we were 10 (I'm not going to add up the years!), which means I've known her longer than my husband:)

    Bear, What else could I use for G but something to do with gardening, LOL.

    Leslie, I have the same variety of zinnias in my garden, but they don't look quite this good:)

  15. Beckie, We've had fun and learned so much this year, haven't we? I knew someone could identify the mysterious verbena for us--I can't believe I didn't take a picture of it after all the searching we did for a tag. Sounds like Cheryl may have some seed for us.

    Cindy, As I mentioned to Lisa, Beckie and I never visited this garden before this year--such a great resource we never took advantage of! How kind of you to offer some cleome seeds! I'll take you up on that offer. I don't remember if I ever explained this in an earlier post, but I had some cleome at our former house and tried to transplant it when we moved, with no luck. I've looked the past three years for the plant, but never found any till this year. And now I think I've killed them(: I'll be in touch--thanks!

  16. I remind my self of the same.
    Imagine what MY yard could look like if I had more hands to tend it!!

  17. Hi Rose, I've been meaning to add you to my blogroll since you visit my blog often & leave very nice comments. You are added now. :) I love this Idea Garden. The Verbena Bonariensis you showed must be something new. Very pretty too! Mine doesn't look like that, it's tall with large purple multi-flower stems. It's commonly called 'stick verbena'. It's nice that you & Beckie have common interests in gardening. :)

  18. Oh these gardens are beautiful...but I am particularly fond of the sunflower shot!! I wrote about them yesterday on my blog. Remembering that song is aging us!! I will have to check back here, Rose!! Good stuff.

  19. I feel like Eve, I get an inferiority complex at those public gardens. It is lovely though.

    If you need cleome seed, let me know. I should have a lot real soon.
    Is yours planted in a dry area? It seems to prefer dry to damp.

  20. Wonderful post and each time you visit this garden I am envious! The grasses and sedums look wonderful together...what a good idea! The sedum could be Vera Jamison, or Purple Emporer or even Matrona! There probably many more rich colored ones then I can name!

    Just for a moment I was imaging being the head gardener and having my own crew...oh my garden would be splendid! It's pretty nice as it is but....;)


  21. Nina, I also think to myself what my garden would look like if I had more energy to keep up with everything:)

    PGL, Thanks for adding me! I enjoy reading your blog.
    The verbena at the Idea Garden looked very different in foliage from what I have and also from what you describe. I think the one you have is the "mystery" plant we saw throughout the garden.

    Carol, Thanks for stopping by! Cute avatar:) The sunflowers were huge.

    Marnie, Thanks for the offer of cleome seeds! Mine was definitely planted in a dry area, and I didn't bother to water it very often, so it may have gotten too dry. When I had some a few years ago, it grew like crazy without any problem.

    Gail, I took a picture of the tag for the sedum, too, but I can't read the small print:) Oh well, I'll just have to check it out the next time I'm there. Wouldn't it be nice to have someone dig up those big rocks in your soil?:)

  22. Rose, I guess I will have to wait until next spring to see the U of I garden. My husband has not been able to get away from the office or oil field duties to do any more research at the university. Your photos have really whet my appetite, and I'm looking forward to my future visit. Your photo of the unidentifiable flower at first made me think it was a nicotiana, but I guess other gardeners are more adept at plant identification than I am.

  23. Such beautiful flowers. Our garden is looking rather sad after a summer of rain.

    By the way, I thought it was: the corn is a high as an elephant's eye!

  24. Rose, what a gorgeous garden! Thanks for taking us along on your excursion. I'd love to stand under that giant sunflower too.

  25. W2W, The Idea Garden is a great place for gardening ideas, but you have so many other beautiful places around you to enjoy! We don't have lakes, rocks formations, or caves here:)

    Liz, And my garden is sad after not enough rain! You're right about .."the corn is as high..." I was taking poetic license:)

    Sarah, Thanks. The scenes here aren't as breathtaking as Maine, but we can grow some tall plants:)

  26. What a delightful garden tour. I too have recently retired from teaching (my library position was left unfunded, and seeking another job at this time in my life did not inspire me with great enthusiasm.) I'm hoping I can spend some time getting my garden in order. It truly needs much more time than I have been able to give it in the last few years, and my hubby has no clue, though he will do the (relatively) heavy lifting.

  27. Rose--Great idea, an idea garden! It's inspiring to see the combinations that garden artists create--one of the reasons I love blogging. Thanks for sharing your inspiration.

  28. Beautiful pics. I wish I could visit that Idea Garden. It looks absolutely devine!
    Purple Love Grass - how amazing. It looks so.... like a painting!

  29. Katney, Thanks for stopping by. My garden has gotten a lot more attention now that I'm retired.

    Cosmo, It helps me to see how a plant will actually look and how big it gets; tag and catalog descriptions are often misleading, I've found out:)

    Wendy, That's what I liked about that purple grass--a soft background for other plants. This garden does give me lots of ideas!

  30. Oh I do like the idea of your 'idea garden'. I could do with some late season inspiration right now...

  31. Dear Rose,
    I also must always remember the garden in my backyard has one person to tend to it not thirty!
    My butterflies like messy too!
    Garden Path was a nice ABC...
    Thanks for sharing the ideas and the lovely garden.

  32. What a beautiful garden and what great photos! It's nice to have a gardening friend with a helping hand. Is that garden in Champagne? (I think that's where UI is???)
    ~ Monica

  33. G is for Gorgeous photos, Rose! Sounds like another wonderful escapade in the garden for Thelma & Louise. G is for Great post. Wishing you rain ~ Gustav graced us with much needed rain and today it poured. (I caught Beckie's birthday hint) :)

  34. Rose, wow - my August garden doesn't look like that one! I think summer has taken a toll on my annuals and even the perenials looks a little drab. But, Autumn is near and it's to be expected.

    You and Beckie do find the best displays :o)

  35. Thanks everyone for your comments; I've been rather busy lately and haven't kept up with posting or replying to comments as I should. I think I need another day out with Thelma, er..Beckie:)


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