Friday, June 28, 2013

Removing the Showy Primrose Plantings

While I very much enjoy the showy primrose (Oenothera speciosa), I have removed most of them from the Gethsemane Prayer Garden. I wrote in my 2009 book A Garden of Love,

The showy primrose, with their mass effect of soft pink, are aptly named “showy.” In late spring, the flowers become a carpet of delicate pink with a subtle yellow touch in the center. Slowly, the flowers fade with the heat of the summer, only to reveal brilliant dots of blood-red leaves, as if an artist stroke each individual leaf. By the peak of autumn, the flowers that are left are soft accents to each leaf's variegated red and green effect.

Yet despite my enthusiasm for the rich colors and gorgeous effect of this plant, this spring I repeatedly sprayed Round Up on the three main beds where the showy primrose was located. Only a small portion near the entrance to the garden remains untouched. "Why?" you ask. Because of its invasive nature and its co-habitation with short weeds that are very difficult to remove.

Sitting under this exhilarating collection of buds and flowers was a mass of chickweed, ground ivy, and various other weeds that were very difficult to remove. Before the showy primrose opened or after the color reached its peak, the abundance of these weeds was readily apparent. I decided that they must go as I prepared the garden for a wedding last summer; I spent several hours hand-pulling the yellow-flowered black clover and still did not remove it all.

It took four applications of Round Up over a two-month period to remove the showy primrose. Now the three beds are planted with other flowers: sedum 'Autumn Joy' in one, daylilies in another, and a white-flowering viburnum with Japanese maple in a third.

Warning: do not attempt to simply dig the bed to remove these invasive flowers. You will find that it will be just a waste of time because the root system is so thick. You should be much more satisfied if you use chemicals instead.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Catmint Is Great for the Garden Border

We find that the catmint delivers a high impact color in the Gethsemane Prayer Garden for a low cost.

We purchased five of these lavender blue plants in 2004, placing them in a highly visible location near the center of the garden. These five developed four children over the next two years; the children were moved to fill in some holes between taller evergreens. In the spring of 2009, it was time to move them again.

The catmint is vibrant in color while blooming from late May through early July, but slowly the flowers fade away. Even when we cut them back in mid-summer to strive for a second bloom, the plants did not warrant their prominent center-of-the-garden location. So in 2009 we transplanted them to the border location where they now thrill our visitors – by dividing them with the sharp push of a shovel, our five initial plants had become twenty-two.

The purple tones of the common catmint are great for providing contrast to neighboring plants. Their colors can pop when combined with a bright pink such as found in petunias. We intersperse them between dark green Austrian pines which are planted near the driveway at the front of the garden. Eventually the Austrian pines will grow into a full screen protection so people cannot see into that portion of the garden. For now, the catmint provides the visual distraction so that people see the bright purples without focusing on the garden interior.

Our catmints are large, typically growing five to eight feet across; they appear to enjoy the heavily mulched hillside of the berm. The second blossoming in August through October is somewhat smaller, possibly four to six feet wide. Between the two flowering seasons, we aggressively cut them back to eighteen inches.

The result is nearly five months of prolific blossoms. I am sure that the bees, if they could talk, would be actively thanking us. Hopefully our church visitors feel invited as well – a fully flowered prayer garden is on the other side of that berm.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Design Garden Prayer Rooms With Inviting Paths

A prayer garden should create an atmosphere where peaceful serenity can be found while at the same time stimulating communication with our Heavenly Father. One way we attempt to accomplish that in the Gethsemane Prayer Garden is by creating prayer rooms with inviting garden paths.

Click on any photo to see them all in full-screen.

As with a room in a home, we place a curvaceous path in the middle of the prayer room that invites the eye and softens the heart. The benches, flowers, and shrubs become like the home's furniture and decoration. The end of the path should bend quickly, providing a sense of mystery and intrigue.

Each path's vista then defines a prayer room with a sense of privacy and seclusion from the next room. The design should include landscaped hallways that lead to the next room.

Tall shrubs can create boundaries between the rooms and act like doors that gently open into the next.

The prayer rooms may be large or small. Each room should have one or possibly several benches for lingering, and all benches should be positioned for privacy.

Large rocks can serve as impromptu sitting locations.

A shrub placed adjacent to the path can add curiosity by breaking up the larger prayer rooms.

The Joyous Celebration Prayer Room has a stone pad for a table and chairs. Smaller groups can use these larger prayer rooms.

This bird bath is inscribed with a poem, yet man-made statuary is minimized in this garden.

Mixtures of colors and textures should encourage one to linger in a prayer room. The dark-blue columbine flowers add continuity between rooms.

Small hills (berms) with tight plantings may be necessary. We use shrubs and trees to prevent people in the parking lot from seeing into any room. This view into a room is available from the back side of the garden.

The plantings, whether in a prayer room or along a path hallway, can also take on symbolic meanings which also invite people to the garden. The Wooden Cross Prayer Room, for example, portrays the story from Exodus 33,34 where Moses watched the Lord pass by him. We encourage those that have a smart phone to go to to read or hopefully someday soon listen to these Scriptural interpretations.

There are eight prayer rooms in the Gethsemane Prayer Garden.

Proverbs 3:13-17 (NASB):
13 How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding.
14 For her profit is better than the profit of silver and her gain better than fine gold.
15 She is more precious than jewels; and nothing you desire compares with her.
16 Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.
17 Her ways are pleasant ways and all her paths are peace.