Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The Black Hole

I may have mentioned a bed in the back garden, next to the Lost Bottle Bed, that I renovated over the past winter and spring, starting in mid-winter, on New Year's Day actually. I got the shovel out and began digging out all the enormous weeds and old overgrown perennials on New Year's, and then just kept chipping away at it for weeks and weeks, over the course of the winter and a good portion of spring. It was a large bed that had filled up with shotweed, blackberry brambles, and cleavers/bedstraw. As well as the weeds, it was full of daylilies that were so strangled by weeds that they were no longer flowering, huge clumps of hardy Geranium phaeum 'Samobor' that had self-sown everywhere, and lady's mantle that had done the same. I had to dig out two enormous overgrown Fuchsia magellanica, and move a Catalpa bignonioides 'Aurea' that was taller than me.

My vision for the bed was to empty it and then refill it with flowers and foliage in red, purple and black. I started out calling it "The Ruby Garden" in a sort of homage to Monty Don's Jewel Garden. I was inspired last summer (Summer 2017) while watching Gardener's World, and was reminded that when I first moved here back in 2008 I wanted to put in a red bed inspired by one I had seen on the discussion forum website GardenWeb. A user named Gottagarden had posted pictures of her Red Bed. You can see photos of Gottagarden's Red Bed here.

I collected plants over the fall and winter and most of the spring, and sowed seeds for as many dark-foliaged and red flowering plants as I could find. I dug and dug, in between rain and snow and plant sales and our trip Back East to visit Iain, and then the beginning of garden tour season in May. The name of the bed kept changing, from Ruby Garden, to Goth Garden, to Death Bed. When I started taking photos and realized how all that dark foliage just sucked in all the light, making it hard to photograph well, I started calling it "The Black Hole."

The bed in April, still being torn apart

Daylilies and Geraniums lined up in plastic bins, destined for a life somewhere else in the garden eventually

When I finally made it to the end of the bed, it was too late to dig and move the fig tree, which had started to leaf out. It spent the summer here, and actually produced a crop, despite me having dug up half its root ball. So, technically the bed isn't completely finished, but this is going to be its unveiling anyway.

Fig tree just starting to leaf out

Like every project around here that involves digging -- rocks are a byproduct

Starting to lay out and plant

Saxifrage 'Maroon Beauty'

Rhododendron 'Ever-Red'

Ruby Red Orach started from seed

I realized just a few days ago that the best way to photograph the bed is with the backdrop of the house or the green lawn behind it, rather than against the cocophonous color of the cutting garden.

Right now the 'New Zealand Purple' castor beans are dominating

That froth to the right of the red castor bean is the ruby red orach, now much taller and going to seed

The 'New Zealand Purple' castor beans were of course also started from seed

I tried to top them hoping it would make them leaf out below, but it didn't work

Seed-grown Daucus carota 'Dara'

Castor bean leaves getting huge

Does anyone remember the 6 black Hellebores I bought at Molbak's back in January? Three of them went in this end of the bed, the other three are destined for the other end once I move the fig tree in the fall, along with more black mondo grass and more Obsidian Heucheras.

Black mondo grass, Heuchera 'Obsidian,' and Helleborus 'Midnight Ruffles'

'Maroon Beauty' has spread nicely into a carpet that I hope will suppress weeds -- I'll probably dig some up and spread them around

Little 'Black Lace' elderberry is dwarfed by the castor beans, but hopefully not for long

The same with this dark-leaved ninebark

'Ever-Red' Rhododendron with seed-grown Dianthus -- not sure what's going on with that orange growth

Ruby red Orach seedheads

I didn't realize how tall and floppy this plant gets, but I love it, I'll be saving seed to grow again next year

Seed-grown burgundy Scabiosa

Dahlia 'Black Beauty' grown from seed

Salpiglossis 'Black Trumpet' -- yep, you guessed it, started from seed

Summer-blooming Allium wallichii ex China from Far Reaches Farm

Tall bearded Iris 'Dynamite' from Schreiner's Iris Gardens

Lysimachia atropurpurea

Lupinus 'My Castle' -- too pink, not red enough, so it's going to have to come out and either move elsewhere or be given away

I'd like to move the fig tree into the front garden, and replace it with the purple smoke tree and Clematis combo I currently have growing in the front. Both will work well in the Death by Black Hole Ruby Bed.

Once it drops its leaves, and fall truly sets in, perhaps even when both are completely dormant in the winter, I'll dig this and move it, as long as the soil is still workable

I bought this Dahlia to put in the bed once the orach seeds mature and I can pull those plants out

One of the daylilies that was being choked turned out to be 'Chicago Apache,' so it's eventually going back in.

I sowed Dianthus barbatus 'Sooty' and planted them into the bed, so far they've produced lots of healthy foliage, which means by next year I'll have flowers that look a lot like this

Here's a list of most of what's planted here, but I'm sure I've missed something, and I'll be adding to it.

Rhodiola integrifolia
Microbiota decussata
Allium wallichii ex China
Saxifraga paniculata 'Rosea'
Sempervivum 'Ruby Hearts'
Saxifrage 'Maroon Beauty'
Heuchera 'Obsidian'
Black Mondo Grass
Lysimachia atropurpurea
Monardella macrantha 'Marion Sampson'
Helleborus Winter Thriller 'Midnight Ruffles'
Sedum spurium 'Voodoo'
Fritillaria meleagris
Callirhoe involucrata
Sedum 'Candy Chocolate Drops'
Dianthus barbatus 'Sooty'
Lupine 'My Castle'
Dahlia 'Black Beauty'
Ricinus communis 'New Zealand Purple'
Scabiosa 'Black Knight'
Pieris japonica 'Shy'
Drimys lanceolata
Camellia japonica 'Black Magic'
Sambucus nigra 'Black Lace'
Physocarpus opulifolius
Rhododendron 'Ever-Red'
Salpiglossis 'Black Trumpet'
Erysimum 'Blood Red'
Lunaria annua 'Rosemary Verey'
Knautia macedonica
Lily 'Landini'
Iris 'Dynamite'

Do you have any suggestions for what to put in my Ruby Garden?  Which of the many names for this new bed do you prefer? My favorite changes daily depending on my mood.