Monday, March 3, 2008


A few days ago I went to a local nursery with my mother: Bad idea!

When something manages to catch my eye, I decide either it’s too expensive, I need to know more about it, there must be a native that has a similar effect, or that I simply need to think about it. She, on the other hand, likes anything with color, especially what matches her "house colors." And unlike me, she hardly blinks at the thought of spending. Our missions were supposed to be separate: I'm planting the fountain, she's planting the window boxes.

After an hour and half of debating ceramic pots and primroses, I find a plant that takes me off guard. It’s bold and all silver and green. Astelia chathamica“Silver spear.” Mm hmm, the name conjures up endangered Hawaiian silverswords and dark forest myths.

I make sure it can live where it’s going to be planted: in a dry fountain with full sun. Here on the coast, it can do just that. Eventually it may out grow it’s space, but this is a plant I would be happy to divide into two, one for my garden some day…

My mom wasn’t going to let me leave without getting flowers to put in the fountain. I’d already planned on putting Epilobium canum (which I already have) in there for some fall color (and to keep it contained). I was willing to try a crimson lotus cultivar 'Amazon Sunset' because they were unusual to me and my mom liked them. I also broke down and bought some Triteleia “Queen Fabiola” bulbs, even though they’re cultivars (of native T. laxa). See, I can compromise.

So that's what's going in the fountain: Astelia in the middle; triteleia, lotus, epilobium on the edges--with variegated lemon thyme as a green filler. But they're not going to be evenly distributed along the rim. It's going to have a clunky jungle look. Eventually I'd like some big silver dudleys here and there.

Risky color combo for sure. I think red, silver, and purple look good together, but they have to be the right shades, you know? Will the Triteleia be dark enough? Will the lotus be too orange? And then there's the outside paint color and the plants in the bed behind it. I'm getting nauseous thinking of the possibilities.

Since the container will be draining into the bottom pool, I also need to make sure to keep the soil on the lean side, so we don't get lethal algal blooms below. Last year there were many many tadpoles.

In the pool we’re going to put (in pots) pygmy white (?) water lilies in the front (need to order), cattails in the back (already have), and hopefully, someday, some native Sagittaria or Alisma on the sides.

With enough green in the mix any colors can look good together, right?


chuck b. said...

Looks good to me! I love the silver in front of the red house. The fountain is a beautiful one.

Frances, said...

I love the dark forest idea! Your choices seem wonderful, and way to humor your mother, all mother's need to be pampered! Lotus is one of my favorite water plants, will it not get too large in the fountain?

Frances at Faire Garden

Gardener of La Mancha said...

Chuck, ya, I really like the fountain. It's moved around with us for oh, ten years, and has aged nicely. The pool is a good depth for holding pots too.

Frances, this lotus isn't the "sacred lotus" water plant (although those are awesome), but a relative of clovers and peas in the genus Lotus. It's a small greyish-green scrambling plant with little red pea-like flowers, that will spill over the edges of the dry fountain.

lisa said...

i understand what you mean about shopping with mom. our across the street neighbor has a beautiful front yard with all native's!! no lawn!! i love it, we have to convince your brother.

Gardener of La Mancha said...

Lisa, you need to send me pictures of their yard as soon as possible! That is so great to hear. It means it isn't so radical in your neighborhood and that convincing him will be that much easier...