Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Gardening in Sunglasses

Virginia creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia
It's been quite hot and sunny here the past two weeks and my gardening has been limited to brief sorties into the glaring, humid heat.  When I went out around noon it was 95 degrees in my Zone 7b part-shade backyard and 105 in my Zone 8a full sun front yard (my house is probably not literally the boundary between horticultural zones, but it often seems like it).  My sunglasses, usually not worn while gardening, gave everything a surreal look, and inspired these photos.  No, I didn't put sunglasses on my camera, but I went for subjects where the high contrast between the light and the dark really stood out to me.  The first subject that caught my eye was the Virginia creeper above.  The glowing red and green of the sunlit stems and leaves contrasting with the dark grain on the brown fence is what caught my eye.  I didn't quite capture how this looked through sunglasses but it's a fun photographic experiment.  
Shasta Daisy, Leucanthemum x superbum 'Becky'
Next up is Shasta Daisy.  In these lazy, hazy, daisy days of summer, I always enjoy seeing the crisp white of the daisies.  With sunglasses on, the white jumps out against the dark background of the evergreens behind it.
Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle'

Similarly, a beam of sunlight playing across the gigantic flower cluster of Hydrangea arborescens in my shady side yard brings out the cool buff white of the bloom.  I love hydrangeas and this buffy color seems to really add to the grandmothery charm of them.
Blue-eyed grass, Sisyrinchium (atlanticum? angustifolium?)
My final photo is blue-eyed grass, a wildflower I have encouraged in my garden.  With sunglasses on, it seemed to me that these tiny blue flowers really jumped out of the shade.  The contrast of the blue with the yellow center and pollen grains stands out boldly in shade, too.  I don't think the two plants are closely related, but this color combination had a similar effect on me when I noticed a spiderwort flower in deep shade in the very same part of my garden, in another post, in May.


  1. LOL at your yard being the literal border of horticultural zones :)

    Beautiful hydrangea. I'm learning so much about different hydrangeas through the Virginia garden blogs I've started following. Thanks for sharing a pic (and the name) of yours!

    1. With the new interactive zone map you can zoom in on, I guess someone might be able to really pinpoint a zone boundary running through their garden! Hydrangeas seem to do well here. I would like to add some more but I have some work to do before I'll have room for more large shrubs.

  2. The sun + heat combo lately has been brutal here, too. I love your photos. :o) My shastas are already done blooming. We must have different varieties. I love the yellow center of the blue eyed grass. It looks like tie dye.

    1. I was beginning to suspect that my daisies are a late variety. I remember in two previous years begging them to pleeeeze open a few blooms in time for 4th of July parties. I should swap divisions with someone who has an earlier variety and extend the season. I'm pretty sure mine were labeled "Becky".

  3. Nice blog, Sharon!

    Beautiful photos :)

    Two quick questions -

    1) How much do you water your hydrangeas? I'd like to add some to my garden but I have a long-term goal of creating a drought-tolerant landscape and I've heard hydrangeas can be awfully thirsty.

    2) Can you say a bit more about the blue-eyed grass? I just found out about it recently and it seems like a really interesting plant!


    1. Thanks a lot. I don't really water anything all that much. I have had to water the mophead hydrangea in previous years when we have extended extremely hot & dry periods but it got through the most recent spell (two weeks of 90-100 degree temps and no rain) without showing signs of wilting, so maybe it is better established now or it takes more than two weeks of stress to cause it to wilt. The native Hydrangea arborescens seems less prone to wilting than the mophead, but I don't know if that's true in general for everyone. My oakleaf hydrangeas are young enough (less than two years) that I give them more water whether they ask for it or not but I think I have heard they are fairly drought tolerant too. All of mine do well in part shade. I would expect to need a lot more water in full sun.

      My blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium) as far as I know is just the native wildflower with fairly small flowers, but there are cultivated varieties as well. Mine grow naturally in part shade to shade under pine trees in a region just upland of salt marsh that gets flooded fairly regularly. I also have clumps in garden beds that never get supplemental water. They bloom in early to mid-summer in the morning and then usually the flowers close up although I have seen blooms open in the evening so maybe it's more to do with light levels than time-of-day. They form nice neat clumps that look like 1-2 foot high grass (really it's an iris relative). I have a clump in a bed mulched with pine needles that has never spread and another clump in a bed I must have weeded right as they went to seed because I got lots of babies. So it seems like you can control reseeding by mulching but if you want to make more the seeds should sprout pretty easily. They don't spread in my woodland much because it's covered in duff all the time. good luck!