Please forgive my tardiness with this week’s Herbaria. I took the photo last week, but haven’t had the time since to sit down and write the text. These things are becoming a record of my working life as well as the garden. If I were to continue doing them over time I would find that the weeks around mid-June are always the same. The rush to get lingering transplants in the ground amidst the struggle to stay on top of the maintenance that comes with the heat, and around all of that the work deadlines. Growing a garden is a big part of my job, but its the writing and photography around those experiences that make my living. They all seem to collide at this time of year, each one as critically important as the other. To which do I focus my attention first? That’s the question I ask myself each day, and I find that I am often running back and forth between my desk, the kitchen, and the garden like a deranged lunatic. It’s not uncommon for me to stop at each of these destinations without a clue as to why I was headed there. But then some new task catches my eye and I turn my attention to it and 15 minutes or an hour passes before I recall why I was there in the first place. The neighbours must find me confusing. I exhaust myself.
I suppose I wouldn’t have it any other way, although I really could use an assistant…. (so she says every year, and every spring she finds another reason not to make that leap.)
On to the plants!
This week’s herbaria is a little late as we had a few rain showers that prevented me from putting it together earlier. I try to avoid creating colour themes when I choose these, but it was inevitable as many of these plants were chosen because their current state is fleeting and probably won’t be around next week.
Before I introduce this week’s plants, I just want to say how much I am enjoying this project. I have walked through the garden these last few Wed mornings with an eye to what I will add to the box and I can’t tell you how much joy I find in artfully assembling the collection. This task taps into a part of my child brain that needs stimulation. It’s fun to see the images compile in a folder on my computer and I look forward to months from now when there are weeks of boxes within boxes within boxes all together.
Again there is so much going on in the garden right now it was hard to narrow it down to 9 plants that represent the garden as it is. I tried to chose plants that are at their peak or blooms that may not be around for next week’s collection. Still, there are a few like the Chocolate Cosmos that I know will be around for some time yet, but I was simply too excited to leave them out.
This week’s Herbaria is a tribute to columbine (Aquilegia) and some of its friends. There’s a lot going on in the garden right now, but chances are good that this will be the last week that they are all blooming at the same time and I was eager to see them assembled together as a collection.
Aquilegia are charming, graceful, meadow flowers that dance and sway in the breeze on long, thin stems. They are generally very profuse self-seeders, although I planted a deep wine colored double last year that broke the rule and did not reproduce or come back, period. [Shakes fist] Despite the rare exception, they are very easy plants to grow and the toughest of the bunch will succeed in surprisingly shady locations.
Aquilegia are a diverse group with plants in a wide range of forms, colors, and flower shapes. I tend towards the simple native types and the elegant double flowers. I am generally not a fan of the two-toned or very open flowers, although you can see that there is an exception in my collection. Of the flowers and leaves I have assembled below, there is one missing that I was not able to add here, a dark double called ‘Black Barlow.’ I put it in as a bare root early this spring and it will be another year before the flowers make an appearance. Plus, Davin moved it and I don’t know exactly where it is so I couldn’t find a leaf to include.
In the future I hope to add the native Aquilegia canadensis to my garden, but I’m waiting to get one in trade. I just can’t bring myself to purchase a plant that reproduces so readily!
Every week, from now until I can no longer find anything living to fill up the boxes, I will be photographing and posting a collection of flowers, leaves, stems, and other plant parts that are in my garden. This is an experiment in celebrating diversity and I hope it will allow me to focus more closely on the beauty that is inherent in the different parts of each plant. It will also serve as a visual file of the seasons.
I hope you enjoy these as much as I know I will enjoy putting them together. I can’t wait to show you more! The garden is so full and alive right now, I could have put together several for this week alone.