A Beautiful Habitat

In the past, we have asked one thing of our gardens: that they be pretty. Now they have to support life, sequester carbon, feed pollinators and manage water. ~Doug Tallamy

I went out in the garden during a break in the rain this weekend and the bumblebees had already emerged to feast again on Agastache ‘Black Adder’. New to the garden this year, this plant has been feeding pollinators for months as it spread its long arms and blue flowers through the blue and peach garden.

It has been a perfect summer for the garden, with plenty of rain and sun. In October, the growth is still lush in the cool temperatures and autumn rains.

After a strong pruning last year, the flower heads of panicle hydrangea ‘Limelight’ are enormous this season and a showpiece in the October garden. I’ve had my hands in the dirt (well, dirty gloves) all summer, leaving little time to write or share until now. In July, my garden was on a garden tour to benefit a local library and I taught a class in it for Phipps in September. It was the first time visitors have been here in three years. The “to do” lists for prepping the garden were long but with the help of my garden guys and my hubby, all was made ready for the hundreds of visitors. It was a joy to have people in the garden again, wandering through to the sound of Bill playing guitar on the deck. A special thanks to the volunteers from the Shaler Garden Club for their invaluable assistance and to my friend and fantastic photographer Mary Pegher for taking photos of the day (Photos below ©2022 Mary Pegher). (click any photo in the mosaic to see a full size image)

Last year was a year of rejuvenation – the garden beds were half empty by October after invasive and non-productive plants were removed. The remaining plants thrived this spring and hundreds of new plants, mostly natives for pollinators, were planted. The results made for a garden full of bees, butterflies, birds, and many other happy well-fed creatures.

The garden suggests there might be a place where we can meet nature halfway. ~Michael Pollan

The gardens outside the fence got an infusion of Monarda (bee balm), Agastache  foeniculum (anise hyssop), milkweed (Asclepias), Liatrus and Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea), much to the delight of the bumblebees and hummingbird moths. The anise hyssop continues to bloom with the goldenrod and zinnias.

I let the sun loving natives take over the south facing hillside and they attracted so many bees that my garden crew couldn’t work there on a sunny day.

The decks were stuffed with pots of salvias and Agastache rupestris which drew in the hummingbirds and bees and a poodle.

I made room in the blue and peach bed for a swath of great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) and tall phlox (Phlox paniculataamid a new set of glass globes in the blue garden.

The garden has buzzed for months with pollinators, more birds took up residence in the woods including some I’ve never seen or heard before and they fledged many babies over the season. And I learned to look more closely, listen more intently, and feel more connected to the garden than ever before.  Pixie and I spent many wonderful hours together in our little paradise.

I can think of no better form of personal involvement in the cure of the environment than that of gardening. A person who is growing a garden, if he is growing it organically, is improving a piece of the world. ~Wendell Berry

Here is a short video of the pollinators in my garden throughout this year; enjoy!  

All text, photos, and video ©2022 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved, except where noted.

30 thoughts on “A Beautiful Habitat

  1. It’s good to see that you’re all in with the pollinator plants. But hundreds of new plants? That’s not easy. I know that from my days doing garden maintenance, both freelance and on estates. Serious work. (I love the photos of the gloves!). But you were rewarded with the pleasure of enjoying it and sharing it with others – hundreds of them, too! That’s overwhelming but so good to do. I would have loved to have come for the tour with Bill playing up there and Pixie running around (or maybe not?).
    The bird’s eye view at the top is really beautiful and lush. I envy your rain. We’re naturally dry here over the summer but the September rains never arrived and no rain is forecast until late this month. We have to roll with the climate punches these days and I’m glad you had a good summer, for your sake and the pollinators!

    • Lynn, it would have been so much fun to have you here! Pixie stayed on leash for the visitors who made it to the deck; she is actually a little shy (pandemic pup) but did fine while attached to me. Fortunately, I’ve had great garden help last year and this – they dug out so much last year that they were worried that they damaged the garden! Then they planted everything this spring after I placed all the pots around. I did plant all the deck pots myself – not so far to lean over! Sorry to hear that it is still so dry for you – garden friends in the Seattle area have been sharing their tales of the high heat and lack of rain. Climate change is taking some unexpected twists and turns – we have been lucky so far here, especially this year with so many new plantings. The garden is still lush, no freeze yet, and I am on the deck now in pleasantly warm weather. I’m trying to enjoy every moment of it. I’m hoping with the established plantings that the garden will be resilient to whatever comes our way in the future.

      • I’m glad you had help, leaving the fun part – designing, dreaming, wandering through and deadheading – to you. Not that you don’t still exert a lot of effort, I’m sure you do. But it’s good to be able to protect your back. 😉 Yes, crazy weather out here – Seattle had worse heat but a tiny bit more rain than we did. Our temps are moderated by all the water around us but oh, it’s dry!
        I’m glad things have been OK in your part of the world. Even when the inevitable freeze does come your way, it will bring some beautiful changes along with the fading flowers. And I’m thinking that without classes to prepare for, you’re enjoying it all more than ever. 🙂

  2. Oh wow! Such a beautiful garden, Lynn. And how wonderful that you were able to share it with so many others (including the pollinators and birds).
    Bee balm is becoming the bane of my existence. I can’t seem to get it to grow here (even though I’ve been told it takes over and to be careful where I plant it). Maybe next year. 🙂

    • Thanks Robin – so good to hear from you! Some of my bee balm does well but others do not – my best multiplier and pollinator attractor is Monarda ‘Raspberry Wine’ which is what is in the video – the straight species don’t do as well here, in spite of what native plant enthusiasts say. Trial and error, right? My current pollinator favorite is calico aster, absolutely covered in winged creatures in the October sun. The bumblebees are especially active, storing up winter pollen supplies.

  3. What a lovely garden, and how wonderful to see so many pollinators, it is inspiring, and I’m sure it must be very rewarding after all your hard work to see the garden the way it is. We just don’t seem to have many butterflies this year, which is a worry. However, the bees are everywhere. Unfortunately our extremely contrary Sulphur Crested Cockatoos fly over the garden, and often lop the top off colourful flowers, for no apparent reason……but we all have our challenges in the garden!

    • Thank you, Gerrie, it has been a rewarding year here. I love the story of the cockatoos flying over the garden and lopping off the flowers – have you ever caught that on video? Pixie went through a stage where she would run by a garden bed and bite off a flower on the run. Fortunately, she’s grown out of that! Our butterfly count was down a bit this year too but the birds were so numerous, I assume that their babies ate a lot of the caterpillars. Some folks in the US have been bringing in caterpillars to protected spaces and raising them to butterflies, then releasing them to build up the numbers. I may try that in the future. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Wonderful new design and planting, Lynn. Quality plants and a great film. We’ve had almost total drought here in Southern England until the rain in late August, but most things have survived. I envy you your fantastic American wildlife and lovely woodland setting.

    • Thank you, Richard – it is quite a change in the plantings and is easier to care for as well. I’m so glad that you enjoyed the film, I’m working on another one for the next post. I’ve heard about the drought in your area from many English garden friends – we’ve had similar problems in different parts of the US this year; I am so fortunate to have had a healthy garden year with all of these new plantings. I do love my woods, they are the reason I moved here – I was one of those kids who spent every waking moment exploring the woods with my brothers and later by myself. Now I’m learning how essential trees, especially oaks, are to wildlife. Oaks support over 400 different insects which in turn feed the birds and build a foundation for a healthy ecosystem. Lucky me, we have over 75 oaks on our property and many more in the property surrounding us. It is an every day joy to walk outside and see the garden and the woods in such close proximity.

      • Yes! Yes! indeed. Happily, we are not the last child in the woods. They are wonderful places. Even better if they combine with a beautiful garden like yours. In our back garden, as well as our own, we share the neighbours’ trees as a borrowed landscape with the woodland edge on our side. It’s lovely to sit here by our newly made pond. All the best for your garden and film plans.

  5. The deck looks absolutely gorgeous. Everything does. It is so very good for my heart to hear how happy you are!

    I meant to ask if you guys have met Andrea Clearfield or ever attend her monthly Salon/Zalon? We’ve been Zooming these over the past year and really enjoy them. Of course, you could both be performers! Anyway, they’re eclectic and fun! https://www.andreaclearfield.com/music-salon/

    Take care; special hug to Pixie! XO

    • Kitty, thank you so much for the link to Andrea Clearfield’s Salon – what a great tradition! I bookmarked her site and the Zoom link. I have friends who recently moved from Philly but visit it regularly – they may want to attend these in person. As always, your presence here is a gift. 🙂

  6. Your new garden is a resounding success, Lynn! You are so fortunate to have had rain, for we are still in drought. I have never seen it this bad in the 32 years I’ve lived here.
    Loved the pollinator video, esp. seeing the hummingbirds, which I miss already. One of my favorite things to do in summer is to stand in my garden to listen to and observe its visitors. My happy place!

    • Thank you, Eliza. This was the biggest change I’ve ever made in this garden and has brought me a lot of joy. Drought is so scary; we were very fortunate to have regular rain fall this year, especially with so many weird weather patterns elsewhere. I hope your garden survived intact.

      I just saw a hummingbird today, which was unexpected this time of year. Aren’t they magical? I love having them here though I would be surprised if I see them again before next summer.

  7. A glorious garden, full of delights. Our pollinators were very slow to arrive this year afetr a cool dry spring, but we have a better attendance recently. It is good to see gardens being managed with wild life in mind.

    • Thank you, Tootlepedal. They were slow to arrive in many areas here in the states but we were lucky here and had a steady flow. The white tailed deer are in the garden now as the acorns from the oaks are dropping and they are feasting while the supply lasts.

  8. Thank you for opening your garden, and all the work involved. A garden is always changing…hopefully you have inspired others to plant for pollinators. They will be rewarded with a lovely, lively, life giving landscape! Enjoy autumn!

    • Shelley, it was so nice to see you in the garden this summer. I do hope I’ve inspired others to try planting for pollinators – one of the garden tour organizers pressed me to be on the tour because of that emphasis in my planting. Thanks for the gift of the new plant – we’re planting this week!

  9. Beautiful, as always, Lynn! Goodness, what a lot of work for the tour and how richly rewarding it looks to have been. I can just imagine your joy in that startlingly wonderful paradise with Pixie at your side. Hooray! XO

    • Thank you, Kitty. It was a lot of work – I’m still tired! – but so rewarding. Bill and I also stained the deck, painted trim and the foundation walls, power-washed the patio, etc. etc. It was a huge leap forward in the look and feel of the garden and the sweet reward at the end was the blossoming of so much life! Pixie loves exploring the woods so she was happy to stay outside with me for hours. It was a memorable summer. 🙂

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