|Keller's yarrow (Achillea x kellereri)|
Riots break out in pockets in my garden—explosions of glee and excitement from the flowering kingdom, but only in places. Except in early spring, when the tulips and sand cherries and ipheion come to life, I don't really have a garden that flowers all at once; I don't have the knack of planning beds for succession of bloom. Or, more kindly, I've chosen in a small space to prioritize perennials with evergreen foliage instead, and to let the flowers happen as they will. The garden has bursts of color here and there: sun roses and California poppies, and over yonder some other sun roses, and then in another bed one of the flax plants but not the others. And some scutellaria in the corner. Oh, and some daisies and gaura off to the side, not to mention 'Wild Thing' autumn sage, which has kicked off its own party again beside the patio. Some parts of the garden are very colorful right now, in a random, hither and thither sort of way.
Sometimes my brain ends up in the middle of the same kind of hither-and-thither riotousness, when a feast for the senses gets out of hand—an excess of randomness or color or sound or light or input of whatever kind. Too much sensory stimulation affects me like a tapdance in an echo chamber, or like electrically amplified bagpipes with a good dose of feedback, or like purple and chartreuse stripes with mustard-yellow polka dots. All to say, sometimes a little less stimulation is OK. That's heresy, I know, in this multi-tasking era of more-bigger-faster-louder, but there you are. Not everything has to excite.
Even a garden can be noisy, with its patches of brightness, or clamorings for water or transplanting or pruning or weeding, or squabbling birds or barking dogs next door or distant traffic sounds. I've been thinking about noise and quiet while trying to decide what to do with three Keller's yarrow plants that didn't show to advantage beside 'Wild Thing'. I had hoped that the cool of the yarrow would be striking against the heat of the sage, but it wasn't. The yarrow just looked put-upon, with all that riot and rumpus going on next to them all summer. Now the three of them are sitting in containers, waiting for inspiration to strike. (To strike me, that is.)
I'm glad to see the yarrow up closer these days. This variety is a quiet one and easy to overlook in the garden. It is forgiving enough of most dry-climate conditions that once you plant it and it "takes" you can pretty much forget about it; it will need some water on occasion, but not babying. It's small, maybe eight inches high and a foot or so across, with narrow gray-green leaves and small clusters of flowers from mid-April to mid-June or later. I suppose the white blossoms are bright enough to be showy in their way, but they fall a long way short of spectacular. Like many plants that become my favorites, though, no matter how unassuming Keller's yarrow may appear, it rewards a closer look. Otherwise you might miss the creases and scallops of its clean, white petals, the gentle yellows at their center,
the way the leaves arch like quill pens, and their fine sculpting.
Once you start exploring, this is a plant you can get lost in. Tracing the lines of the leaves, you find yourself mesmerized, immersed in an active quietness, a kind of meditative pleasure. The color is a gray-green so soft that you could go to sleep in it. Jangled nerves slowly come to rest.
I may just leave the yarrow in containers this year—I'm enjoying being able to move a little bit of quietness around to where it's needed, like the anti-matter version of a boombox, or a musical rest that you can carry with you and "sound" at will. Not everything has to excite.
And not all excitement has to be loud.