Flocks of Phlox, Dapper Dogwoods, and Weeds’R’Us

Despite the Sybil-like weather lately (or perhaps because of it) there’s been a flurry of floral activity in the Temporary Garden. Of course there is the seemingly-obligatory double flowering cherry whose show only stayed in town for a week.

ubiquitous double flowering cherry


On the other hand, Phlox stolonifera has blanketed several areas:
phlox bed A

phlox bed B

phlox bed C

phlox in raised bedsIronically, I’ve never had success with this plant in “my” gardens but that may be because the soil in all of them was more alkaline than hereabouts. The geology and topography of our roughly 25 mile x 80 mile region is bisected lengthwise by a glacial moraine. North of this central ‘ridge’ the topography is somewhat hilly and the soil is richer, more acid, and contains more clay. The land south of the ridge was formed by the ‘washout’ over centuries from the moraine and thus is flat, and has less-acidic and sandier soil. The further south one goes (toward the bay and ocean) the sandier the soil becomes until it is literally all sand at the beaches. This is the first time I’ve lived in what locals call the “north shore” – meaning north of the moraine – and perhaps the creeping phlox prefers these conditions. (The tall phlox always did well for me though.) The whole north/south thing also explains why I never knew until now that I’m allergic to oak pollen: They aren’t common on the “south shore”, but this northern area is choked with them. 😦 (and unfortunately, so am I)

ajuga and creeping phloxA small area of ajuga and pink phlox have nestled up together — probably in mortal fear of the surrounding weeds — for a nice color combination.

first dogwood flowersThere are two Cornus kousa on the property: One at the house end of the driveway and the other in the back yard. Both are the same size and were probably planted at the same time, and both get the same full-sun-all-day conditions, yet the driveway dogwood is a good two weeks ahead of the other in terms of leafing out, budding out, and flowering. The only real difference I can figure out is that the driveway one is less than two feet from the cement driveway while the backyard one has nothing heat-retaining or sun-reflective even remotely close to it. These are a few of the first flowers on the driveway dogwood.

neighbors dogwood The next-door neighbor’s dogwood, on the other hand, has reached about 20 feet tall. Nice view as long as you can mentally remove the utility line running from street pole to house, which honestly I never noticed until I began to take this photo.

neighbors spiraea

The same neighbor has a spiraea, which a friend of mine used to call a “cottontail bush” because she thought the flower clusters resembled the cottontail rabbit’s rear appendage. I’m not fond of spiraea because in my experience it seeds itself everywhere, but haven’t noticed any seedlings even though this one is right next to our shared property line/chainlink fence.

pieris japonica

Here’s a pieris in a side corner which I keep forgetting to weed; the neighbor’s spiraea is doing a “Hi, mom!” act on the other side of the fence. (Disclaimer: like everything else in the Temporary Garden/Money Pit, I am not responsible for the white vinylrama fencing. Miserable stuff, and I am constantly having to readjust the blankety-blank gates so that they will latch properly.)


viburnum detail

Speaking of clusters of white flowers, this anonymous viburnum is also at the driveway/house juncture. It was ridiculously overgrown and I ruthlessly hacked it back about a month ago because I got sick of looking at the depressing collection of leaves that it had hung onto over the winter (I am so not a fan of semi-evergreen shrubs). Still a fair number of flowerheads though, and until I photographed them I never really appreciated their close-up interest.

Lamium galeobdolonOne of several invasive perennials installed by the former owners is Lamium galeobdolon (I knew it was a lamium but didn’t know which one until I saw the yellow flowers). In this case I don’t mind, because at least it smothers weeds which is something I can’t say about another invasive groundcover that they planted here…

And speaking of weeds, I hereby declare that the Temporary Garden easily qualifies for the subtitle of Weeds’R’Us (for readers in the UK, this is a play on the name of a store chain here called Toys’R’Us which is composed of aisle upon aisle of same. A grammatical nightmare, I know.) Between my notes from last autumn and what I’m seeing here now, plus due consultation with my handy copy of Weeds of the Northeast, the following weeds have been allowed to run rampant in the borders, beds, and lawn areas:

Annual bluegrass, carpetweed, chickweed, creeping spurge, dallis grass, dandelion, dock, foxtail, galinsoa, goosegrass, ground ivy, henbit, knotweed, lambsquarters, nutsedge, pineapple weed (Matricaria), plantain, purslane, quackgrass, ragweed, solanum, smartweed, speedwell, wild garlic (my nemesis in every garden), wild mustard, yellow wood sorrel… and there will, of course, be crabgrass later! (and I’m sure I missed a few weeds which haven’t reared their heads as yet)

Add to these the infestation of lawn grass that seeded itself not only in the ground-level beds but the raised beds as well (which is quite some trick, unless the prior owners decided to mow only every 2-3 weeks during those four months between signing of contract and handing over the key… which I suspect is exactly what happened). Believe me when I say that you have not known utter frustration until you have gazed upon a bed of creeping sedum punctuated with lawn grass over a good 50% of its area. The CIA should take note of this; forget waterboarding, just create an acre of that combination and tell political prisoners that they’ll have to remove all the grass while leaving the sedum undamaged. Trust me… after about ten minutes doing that, they’ll talk!

  11 comments for “Flocks of Phlox, Dapper Dogwoods, and Weeds’R’Us

  1. May 17, 2015 at 2:05 am

    When the day comes I do move, I want to borrow your flowers or at least, plant some that look as gorgeous. I truly love the landscaping. It’s breath-taking! 🙂

    • May 17, 2015 at 11:09 am

      I can’t take credit for anything here at the Temporary Garden but I do agree that the phox make quite a show in the spring. 🙂

      • May 17, 2015 at 7:59 pm

        I love that name, “Temporary garden”. Yes, that they do. 🙂

  2. May 17, 2015 at 7:39 pm

    Your phlox is incredible – carpets of color! I love the dogwood, too. As for grass mixing in with the flowers, tell me about it. I once was so maddened I was driven to use GrassBGone. Claims to not hurt many non-grass plants, but not so in my experience. I also have turf grass insinuating itself into some of my ornamental grasses.

    • May 18, 2015 at 8:16 am

      Thanks for the tip, I will look for the GrassBeGone just in case… because I’m just about at the point of ripping out the entire thing (sedum, grass, and all). Maybe because the sedum is about as different from grass as you can get, it will work. And as for things seeding into big ornamental grasses, how about one of those vining euonymus smackdab in the middle of a giant miscanthus..?!!

  3. May 18, 2015 at 4:57 am

    That phlox is just breathtaking! I definitely will have to add some of that to my wish-list 🙂

  4. May 18, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    Fabulous. Except for invasive weeds, of course. A beautiful garden.

  5. May 18, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    That phlox is amazing, lush and what color! I love your comment about the dogwood and the utility pole. It’s remarkable what our minds can disavow seeing. Before I started participating in the Tree Following meme hosted by Loose and Leafy, I never realized how invasive the electric wires are to the “top” parts of my garden. I chose a tree which has those wires sailing through it–ugh. And, ugly.

    Your garden is beautiful though, even if there are a few weeds. Or, a lot of weeds.

    • May 18, 2015 at 3:22 pm

      And not only our minds, but our ears too! My previous garden was in what I thought was a very quiet neighborhood… until a few years ago when I decided to make a “one year in the garden” video to send to some friends abroad. I was astounded at the noise level I’d unconsciously tuned out: not only passing cars but lawn-services noise pollution, plus the occasional passing aircraft (and I was 20 miles from the nearest small airport). The Temporary Garden/Money Pit is unfortunately subjected to constant traffic noise, which I hate (never EVER look at a potential house during a snowstorm… it muffles everything!).

  6. May 20, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    I am also cursed with a perimeter of white vinyl, and I feel a new kinship in our stand against poor fencing decisions!
    That is some of the most well grown creeping phlox I have ever seen. Fantastic. Just be happy the grass hasn’t invaded that one (yet?). Weeding grass out of a small mat of creeping phlox is one of those things which scarred my childhood… That and stepping barefoot on barberry trimmings. Given the choice to talk I would have turned in a minute!

    • May 20, 2015 at 6:24 pm

      Oh there is grass in the phlox (and everywhere else) – although more of it in the two largest, densest beds (first two photos) than in the others which are raised up a bit higher. I’ve gotten no free pass from the monocot division anywhere in this garden, LOL

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