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Golden foliage helps Junes garden come alive with color

Garden Muse
by: Courtesy of Barbara Blossom Ashmun Bowles Golden sedge brings a burst of sunshine to the garden, even on the grayest days.

This June, with all the roses and clematis opening so late, a froth of white flowers has imbued the garden with a tranquil mood.

Delicate white spikes of London pride (Saxifraga umbrosa) edge the front garden like lace on the hem of a skirt. Nearby the larger blossoms of Mexican orange (Choisya ternata) cover the tops of the shiny green leaves, turning the evergreen shrub into a fragrant bouquet.

On both sides of path to the backyard, two 'Aztec Pearl' Mexican orange shrubs mirror each other with white flowers and subtle perfume. At their feet, a groundcover of 'Bevan's' cranesbills blush pale pink. White calla lilies open their graceful chalices further along in the garden, with color echoes from white-edged 'Lady Godiva' hosta and 'Frosty Morn' sedums.

If you'd like more ideas about white clematis in the garden, check out my blog entry on White at Night http://blessingsfromthegarden.blogspot.com.

Gold Foliage

Lately, I can't seem to get enough golden leaves. Maybe it's the scarcity of sun this spring that's driving me toward yellow, or the influence of my friend Diane, who wears yellow about as often as I wear purple. Whatever it is, yellow foliage is so compelling I can't resist!

Golden hostas like 'Fire Island,' 'Zounds' and 'Little Aurora' simply jump into my nursery cart. Golden-variegated hostas are just as appealing - from elegant 'June' to huge 'Brother Stefan' and voluptuous 'Stained Glass.'

This spring I'm mingling them with yellow flowers for color echoes, especially European globeflower (Trollius), with dainty rose-like flowers, as well as 'Lemon Zest' and 'Amber Queen' epimedium.

Compact abelias with gold in their leaves, like 'Saxon Gold' and 'Kaleidoscope,' light up the edges of my garden's island beds. 'Gold Spirit' smoke tree has become the perfect trellis for dark purple 'Romantica' clematis, while 'Tiger Eye' cutleaf sumac and 'Mahogany' heuchera set each other off in a big container.

New in my garden is the golden-leaved 'Brocklebankii' flowering currant, with maple-shaped foliage. Right now it just hints at what it will become - a bright light between green-leaved shrubs.

Well-established 'Rubidor' weigela is another favorite. The bold leaves are almost enough all by themselves, but when the red flowers open it's breathtaking.

Golden foliage is getting to be an addiction. Heucheras like 'Lime Rickey' and 'Lime Marmalade,' evergreen 'Angelina' sedum, a blanket of gold, as well as 'Bowles' golden sedge, brighten nearly every bed in my garden. For someone like me, whose least favorite color has been yellow, this new craving just goes to show that in the garden, never say never.

Horsetail as a metaphor for life

Pulling horsetail rush is a very satisfying practice. It has a nice thick stem, so grabbing and gripping it is easy. Tugging gently but firmly assures me of getting at least some of the root.

Getting the whole root is just about impossible. Believe me I've dug it out during the years, but horsetail has a root system that is amazingly strong and deep.

Did you know it was the first plant to return after Mount St. Helens blew up in 1980? That didn't surprise me at all.

When I first came to this wetland garden I asked an extension agent how to get rid of horsetail. He gave me a steady look, then burst out laughing.

'You can only weaken it,' he said. 'Dig it, pull it, plant over to shade it out. But you'll never get rid of it.'

I think of horsetail as a metaphor for the bad habits I carry with me that I can never seem to get rid of. I won't go into them here (I know you're dying to know, but this isn't a true confession column), but just imagine any of your own lifelong habits that seem nearly impossible to eradicate.

Like horsetail, we can become increasingly aware of them, weaken them, plant over them with better practices, but there they still sit, dormant for a while, maybe deep underground, but likely to pop up in a time of stress.

Uh-oh, I think, horsetail, again. Intricately woven into my personality, maybe even my genes. All I can do is work with it, just like weeding.

I do love to weed, as it gives me a chance to relax into an activity that doesn't ask for much brainpower. The results are so satisfying - as soon as the weeds are cleared, the flowers seem to breath a sigh of relief, as if to say, Ah, now I can shine.


Coming Events

• Association of Northwest Landscape Designers present Behind-the-Scenes Garden Tour, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., June 18. Complete information and tickets for sale ($20) at www.anld.com .