Tag Archives: design

Shy and Peruvian, black and beautiful.

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salvia discolor

This unusual Peruvian or Andean Sage that I found at a nursery nearby has grown up and started blooming. I almost didn’t see the flowers, they are so shy and mostly hidden. I saw a website that said they were large and showy… if they become that I will be sure to take another picture.

Even without the blue-black flowers, the plant is very pretty, the way it drapes its graceful stems in the air. The stems and the backs of the leaves are silvery white, and the newer parts of the stems are very sticky.

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It makes me happy, the way it has quietly thrived and come into itself. I hope it will survive the winter and come again in the spring. It’s not listed in the Sunset Western Garden Book, but since it was propagated locally there’s a good chance it’s suited to our area.

I thought of it when I read this email from Salvo Magazine this morning. Beauty like this naturally makes us humans remember the Creator and Giver of beauty:

Is Planet Earth Trying to Tell Us Something?

You may know the standard line of evolutionary biologist-atheists like Richard Dawkins, which goes something like this:

Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose. (Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, 1996, p. 1)

Got that? “Have the appearance.” Don’t be fooled, warns Dawkins, for:

Natural selection is the blind watchmaker … does not see ahead, does not plan consequences, has no purpose in view. Yet the living results of natural selection overwhelmingly impress us with the illusion of design and planning. (Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, 1996, p. 21)

It’s all an illusion of design. So ignore what your eyes and brain [and heart? -GJ] are telling you. They’re mistaken.

But apparently this habit of the mind that sees purposeful design in biology has spread beyond biology to the entire planet!

From the Daily Mail:

Sir David Attenborough and Brian Cox’s TV nature shows are ‘putting viewers off science’ because the beautiful scenes reaffirm belief in God.

* New study suggests nature programmes are putting viewers off science.
* Religious people often ‘have faith reaffirmed by the beauty on the screen.’

In the first bullet point, put “science” in quotes. They don’t mean science per se; they mean materialism or scientism.

There is no escaping it: The Planet Earth is stunningly beautiful. A wiser man wrote:

If the beatification of the world is not a work of nature but a work of art, then it involves an artist. -G. K. Chesterton

Draw your own conclusions, but don’t let someone tell you don’t see what you do see.

Elegant Surprises

Over the years I’ve had happy surprises in the garden, and disappointing surprises. Today I have a composite. My initial puzzlement began when I saw this view from my kitchen window; back in the corner by the fence I could see two whitish flower stalks:

gl P1040703 foxglove view

I was confused, because they were of a kind I had not planted, so I went out to get a closer look, and it didn’t take many steps in that direction before I saw that yes, thegl P1040708 foxglove behind ribes 6-16y were lovely foxgloves!

I haven’t grown foxgloves for a good while, I did not save any foxgloves plants from my old garden, and in the past when I did grow them it was far from this area of the garden. However, close to this spot I had planted one of the Indigo Woodland Sage plants that I had carefully saved for months in an old watertrough. It was there a couple of months ago, and now it is  nowhere. Did a bit of foxglove come with the mulch, as I assume was the case with my surprise horsetail grass on the other side of the garden?

You may also be confused, seeing a decidedly not-foxglove leaf form here.  That’s because the foxglove is emerging from behind a currant bush and hiding all its own leaves back there.

I’m sadly surprised that the salvia didn’t make it. It was a vigorous grower under what I considered less favorable conditions in the past; perhaps it didn’t like the shade from the snowball bush, nor the pushy calla lilies. But I know where to get another one if I want to try it somewhere else in the garden.

gl P1040717 3 sagesIn the meantime, across the way I have three salvias growing in a sort of triangle: Indigo Spires is huge, the Clary Sage is growing very close to the ground so far, and a little culinary sage plant lives modestly.

Today is windy and cool. I was wearing my flannel nightgown last night and I was still cold. The morning was overcast, though, and not so windy, and that’s perfect for picture-taking. I got a good photo of my acanthus.

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acanthus mollis

 

 

 

“My acanthus” sounds odd, because I haven’t wanted to take ownership of that element of my new landscape that was suggested by the designer. When I had met acanthus in the past I always thought it scraggly and too like a thistle; one I particularly remember by someone’s front door was huge and full of spiderwebs and litter besides. But a year ago I greatly lacked confidence and creativity, so I didn’t know what to suggest otherwise. I let several plants go in and thought without energy about what I might replace them with next fall.

My attitude began to change when a friend told me that acanthus leaves as a decorative form were common in ancient Roman architecture. Before that I was trying think of the plant as a representative of a Scottish thistle, which is also not beautiful to me, but it is meaningful historically, in several ways. Soldier and Joy featured purple thistle flowers as boutineers at their wedding. But honestly, that wasn’t doing it for me.

When the acanthus began to send up its elegant flower stalks, I softened. This morning after I took the picture, I looked on Wikipedia and found that the leaf form is ubiquitous in ancient architecture and popular in more modern art such as William Morris’s wallpaper designs.

And not only the Romans, but Byzantines and Greeks liked to use it.  Here is an example from the Hagia Sophia:

by Gryffindor, on Wikipedia Commons

gl Iceland poppy June 14 2016

 

So, I am surprised that I have changed my mind about acanthus. I’m glad I wasn’t in too big of a hurry to switch it out. I’m very pleased with my whole garden, actually, and I no longer feel that it belongs to someone else.

It doesn’t seem that most of it is taking three years to “leap,” and it really is full of delights every day. Those Iceland Poppies are certainly a wonder, how they keep blooming here in the middle of June! It’s strange to have the poppies right alongside echinacea; those two normally aren’t normally seen together.

gl P1040713 erigeron fleabane
erigeron

gl P1040712 bindweed on ribes

 

To my consternation, the bindweed is more prolific than ever. I seem to be constantly pulling it out, but it sneaked past me and climbed to the top of a currant branch before I noticed. Very inelegant behavior, that.

 

 

 

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The hydrangea I was gifted has nothing in common with this succulent except that they are both in pots on the patio.

gl P1040714 yarrow fields

There are yarrow fields, a variety of achillea called “terracotta.” Beyond it you can see that I have finally got the olives into their pots, and if one is not level it’s actually the one in the foreground — I guess that means the photo is not level. Anyway, the garden is in pretty good order now, and when you come for a tour you may be surprised to find, no thanks to me, patches of elegance.