Monday, July 18, 2011

Garden Close-Up: The Legend of the Dragonfly

The Legend of the Dragonfly
I have always had a fascination with dragonflies in the garden.  I had never really seen them before but when we got our pool in 1996 there became an abundance of them hovering around the water and even landing right next to me with not a single fear.  An appreciation for their beauty and gracefulness became instilled in me while there was still a mystery to be unraveled. 
I started to do some research on the legend of the dragonfly and found that there is indeed a legend....a story to be told that is quite fascinating. Dragonflies have been around for millions of years and were one of the first insects. The family that the dragonfly belongs to, Odonata, is believed to have been related to the Damselflies and the myth states that the Dragonflies were once Dragons.  These creatures had measured  over two feet in length at the time and although they have shrunken down in size their appearance and function has remained the same. 

Dragonflies have been welcomed in the garden for years since they are carnivores and feast on garden pests such as mosquitoes, flies, gnats and aphids, thus making them beneficial insects. An interesting fact about dragonflies is that most need light in order to fly and will land briefly even if a cloud goes by. The dragonfly exhibits iridescence on its body and both wings.  Iridescence is the ability of colors to change based on the reflection and refraction of light which puts on a show of color magic as they fly through the air.  Dragonflies are water creatures in the first stage of their life then emerge to land as adults.  The adult lifespan is short, only long enough to reproduce then they die off when winter arrives. The following year the cycle begins again when the offspring emerge.  Dragonflies are often attracted to pools, ponds or other bodies of water. I often watch as they dance around the pool and delicately balance on the tips of taller flowers in the garden.
Now onto the legend of the dragonfly.  In most cultures dragonflies are followed with many superstitions. The dragonfly symbolizes growing, changing and sense of self. Old folklore states that if a dragonfly lands on you it is a sign that you will hear good news from someone dear and the sight of a dead dragonfly symbolizes sad news.  In Japanese paintings they are the symbol for new light and joy, happiness, courage and strength.  In European culture the dragonfly was given the name of "Devil's Darning Needle" because of a superstition that the dragonfly would sew shut the mouths of lying children while they slept. The Swedish name for dragonfly is trollslanda, which means "hobgoblin fly" or "goblin fly" in English. In Swedish culture it was believed that hoggoblins, elves and brownies would live in the woods and that dragonflies were considered to be the hobgoblin's twisting tools.  To the Chinese the dragonfly is a symbol of summer but also a symbol of instability and feebleness.

While in some cultures dragonflies are called the witches' or devils' animals they are honored in others. Some people believe that the dragonfly symbolizes emotional and passionate early years of life and balance and clarity with age.  There is an expression of mental and emotional stability as one matures. Dragonfly symbolism combines somewhat with that of a butterfly and change. The iridescence or reflective property of the wings and body symbolizes a clear vision to the realities of life and self-discovery and a loss of inhibitions. The dragonfly symbolizes growth over past self-created illusions that hold back our progression. It represents a sense of self that comes with age and maturity and clarity of the deeper meaning of life.

There are numerous superstitions, myths and beliefs about the dragonfly.  Next time you encounter one in your garden think of not only the benefits but also all the legend that follows this mysterious creature. Gaze upon the dragonfly, unravel its mystery and jump into a world of imagination!

As Always~ Happy Gardening!

Author: Lee @ A Guide To Northeastern Gardening Copyright 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day July 2011

Inspired by the quote, “We can have flowers nearly every month of the year.” by Elizabeth Lawrence, Carol at May Dreams Gardens hosts Garden Blogger's Bloom Day. On the 15th of every month gardeners from all over the world walk out into their gardens to note what is currently blooming. I have been a gardener since I was very young and thanks to Bloom day I have really developed a deep appreciation for noticing exactly what is blooming in my gardens throughout each month of the year. There is a beauty within each and every bloom and I have become accustomed to catching each moment in a photo. Let's take a tour of the July garden.

Lacecap Hydrangea 'Twist & Shout' (Endless Summer Collection)

'Casablanca' Lily

Hydrangea 'Big Daddy'

Hemerocallis 'Sammy Russell'

Salvia 'Maynight'
Hemerocallis 'Summer Wine'
Hydrangea 'Endless Summer'
Hemerocallis 'Prairie Blue Eyes'
Double Red Knock Out Rose
Astilbe 'Sprite'

Miniature Butterfly Bush 'Lo & Behold' (Front), Coral Bells (Right) and Salvia (Left)

A Little Bit of Whimsy!
Stargazer Lily
My First Miniature Butterfly Bush Bloom!
Sedum 'Fulgida Glow'
Hemerocallis 'Stella D Oro'
Hosta 'Gold Standard'

Ajuga 'Burgundy Glow'

Hosta 'Patriot'
Japanese Painted Fern and Hosta

Welcome-Herb Garden

Lythrum 'Robert'

Salvia, Lily and Hosta in Perennial Garden
Nikko Blue Hydrangea
Golden Japanese Forest Grass 'Hakonechloa macra'

Stargazer Lily II

I hope you have enjoyed the tour and will continue to visit.  My gardens have given me more pleasure in life than I could possibly describe and I hope this little snapshot in time will put a smile on your face.  Please visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens for more July photos from inspiring gardeners around the world and join all of us in celebrating our true passion and love of gardening.
Happy GGBD and Happy Gardening!

Author: Lee @ A Guide To Northeastern Gardening Copyright 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Deer Resistant Plants in the Landscape

Deer Resistant Plants
While no plant is completely deer resistant there are several species that you can choose from that are attractive in the garden and are less desired by our four legged friends. While some plants such as hosta, arborvitae and yew are referred to as "deer candy" other selections are often avoided due to their taste, texture or aroma. The selections that I will mention are plants that provide color and interest all season long in the garden and are hardy in USDA zone 7. Many of these plants are also drought tolerant.
Spirea 'Gold Flame'
The first two "deer resistant' plants I would like to mention are Spirea and Barberry. These deciduous shrubs are both very popular for their colorful foliage, and in the case of Spirea, for its summer blooms. Barberry and Spirea are frequently used in foundation plantings, raised island beds, rock gardens and border gardens.
Barberry 'Rosy Glow'
Each cultivar comes in a variety of sizes including Barberry 'Royal Burgundy' (smaller 2-3'), Barberry 'Rosy Glow' (larger 5-6'), Spirea 'Gold Flame' (2-3'), Spirea 'Limemound'(2-3'), and Spirea 'Little Princess' (1-2') among others. These plants are also drought tolerant once established.
Buddleia 'davidii'
Our next candidate for a "deer resistant" garden is Buddleia or Butterfly Bush. A deciduous shrub, Buddleia davidii is hardy to zone 5 and produces prolific purple blooms throughout mid to late summer. There is also now a new dwarf variety 'Lo and Behold'.
Coreopsis 'Zagreb'
On the "deer resistant" perennials list is coreopsis. Coreopsis or 'Tick seed' displays beautiful daisy-like flowers throughout the entire summer and is drought tolerant once established.  It is hardy in USDA zones 4-8.
Nepeta 'Little Titch'
Nepeta 'Walkers Low' is another favorite long blooming perennial that deer do not forage on. It comes in a variety of different heights ranging from 'Mussinii' which is taller to 'Little Titch' which is a dwarf form.
Astilbe 'Sprite'
If you have a shaded area with deer try Astilbe.  Astilbe is a popular perennial that comes in a variety of sizes and colors and thrives in low light. There are many varieties of Astilbe ranging from white to pink to red and salmon. The one shown here is Astilbe 'Sprite' which is hardy in USDA zones 4-8.
Salvia 'Maynight'
Next is perennial Salvia or sage. Salvia thrives best in USDA zones 4-8, is "deer resistant" and blooms throughout the summer with regular dead-heading. There are many varieties of sage to choose from.
Peony 'Karl Rosenfeld'
Peony are another favorite of many a gardener, displaying magnificent large blooms in early spring.  Put them onto your list. They are not desired by deer and our four legged friends usually pass this one by.  Peony are hardy in USDA zones 2-8. 
Dwarf Fountain Grass 'Little Bunny'
If you enjoy having ornamental grasses in your garden they are also "deer resistant". There are many varieties of grasses to choose from including the well-known Fountain Grasses Pennisetum Alopecuroides 'Hameln' or 'Little Bunny' as well as the Maiden Grasses Miscanthus Sinensis 'Gracillimus' or 'Morning Light' among others.
Crape Myrtle 'Sioux'
Crape Myrtle, a favorite tree in the landscape also happens to be on the deer do not eat list. Crape Myrtle once more popular in the Carolina's is now also popular in the northeast and is hardy in USDA zones 7-9. Crape Myrtle come in a variety of colors and sizes. Shown here is Crape Myrtle 'Sioux'.
Chamaecyparis 'Gold Mop'
There are various evergreens that are that can also be grown in the "deer resistant" garden. The one shown here is Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Gold Mop'. Gold Mop Cypress is a lovely golden evergreen that retains its color all year long, grows 2-3 feet in height and is hardy in zones 4-8.
Deodara Cedar 'Aurea'
Deodara Cedar is also unfavored by deer and is a beautiful focal point in the landscape. Deodara Cedar is a large pyramidal evergreen with graceful cascading branches and golden needles hardy to USDA zone 6.
Cryptomeria japonica
A beautiful evergreen for a privacy screening is Cryptomeria japonica. Shown here in the backdrop, Cryptomeria japonica 'Yoshino' is known for its soft delicate foliage (not liked by deer) and golden-green coloring. Cryptomeria is hardy to USDA zone 5 and is available in many varieties ranging from dark green to golden.
Ilex 'Nellie Stevens' (Nellie Stevens Holly)
Next on the list are Ilex or the hollies. For the most part deer do not prefer most hollies. I have seen cases where the deer are hungry enough that they will nibble on the new spring growth of  the plant but will not touch the more mature inner growth. The more jagged the leaf on the variety of holly you choose the better.
Vibernum 'Carlcephalum'
Another lovely plant, Vibernum, displays white flowers in early spring and is a nice addition to the woodland garden. Vibernum are hardy to USDA zones 4-8 and come in a variety of types and sizes.

As mentioned in the beginning of this article, no plant is completely "deer resistant". If the deer are hungry enough they will tend to nibble on plants in the landscape, but there are some plants that are much less attractive to deer for various reasons. The species of plants I have mentioned in this article are the plants I have found to be most successful in the garden over the years as a designer. I hope you find this list to be helpful and informative. 

*Update (2015):  Barberry has been labeled as invasive in some states. Alternatives for dwarf barberry are Dwarf Weigela 'Spilled Wine', 'Wine and Roses'', 'Midnight Wine' or 'Fine Wine'. Alternatives for regular sized Barberry are Eastern Ninebark 'Summer Wine' or Purple Smoke Bush. 

As Always...Happy Gardening!

Author: Lee@A Guide to Northeastern Gardening,© Copyright 2011, All rights reserved.