Thursday, May 3, 2012

Movable Quiet

or Quelling the Riots

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.

24 comments:

  1. "Electrically amplified bagpipes with a good dose of feedback?" Eeek. I don't ever want to hear that. I have a similar achillea (A. x lewisii 'King Edward') which also lives in a pot. It flowers for yonks (for which I thank it) though I haven't studied it so very closely. It obviously pays off to do so. And your small, understated explosions sound (and must look) perfect. Brash is very overrated. Dave

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    1. Dave, I don't blame you on the bagpipes. They're fine and noble in the great outdoors, played acoustically like God obviously intended, but they don't really need amplification. 'King Edward' looks absolutely lovely--I love that shade of yellow. Perhaps some more pots could be added to the collection... Thank you for your encouragement re: the understated explosions. When I started gardening here all I wanted was a traditional flower garden, and that seems to be the one thing I won't end up with. Not necessarily a problem, just a perplexity.

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  2. Although almost everything blooms in my Italian garden this month I agree with you that areas of calm are a very positive force within a garden. I read that you choose perennials formtheir foliage as much as for their flowers, my philosophy too! On the 22nd of each month I host a meme about foliage, I hope you might have the time to write a post and join in this month. Christina

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    1. Welcome, Christina! Thanks for your comment and for your invitation to join the foliage meme. I've actually been thinking about a foliage post and will be glad to take part. Your own garden looks incredibly beautiful!

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  3. They would make sweet music as a companion plant for big daisies like leucanthemum - to my ears anyway.

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    1. b-a-g, that combination does sound like a tuneful one. I actually do have some marguerites that open a creamy yellow and age to creamy white, and I like having one of the yarrow containers placed to harmonize with them.

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  4. jangling nerves are subsiding to gentle ripples.

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    1. Aahhh. Ripples are much better, Diana.

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  5. My garden tends to ebb and flow, too. I've wondered about the Keller's yarrow. I like how you have it in pots. I have some gold plate yarrow that starts to take over if given the opportunity.

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    1. GirlSprout, I have some paprika yarrow that I ended up confining to a pot for the same reason. The Keller's yarrow doesn't seem to spread in the same way--it's really quite beautifully behaved. Someone or other suggested planting it with catmint, and I could see a "cooler" combination like that working well.

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  6. I haven't seen this yarrow before and love its quietness. Its very simplicity makes it look perfectly at home in a humble terracotta pot - great choice.

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    1. Karen, I wish I could take smug credit for the combination, but it's just what I had on hand! Actually, terra cotta really works out here. There's a lot of red earth and sage green flora in the landscape, so the combination seems true to NM somehow.

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  7. I too have riots and then the calm of green....even with succession planting, if Mother Nature does not cooperate it can be out of sync...I was listening to the loudness of nature in the evening and morning...amphibians of all sorts and birds...they are enough noise for me...I love this yarrow and wish I had better conditions for it...your description is spot on and I did get lost in it.

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    1. Donna, isn't it funny how the loudness of nature seldom seems jarring. My neighbor is currently listening to something with a very strong beat while he hooks up his swamp cooler for the season, and it's much more pleasant to imagine the spring peepers or your pond frogs holding forth! You're so right about Mother Nature--she has her own plans, and it's best if we just smile and nod...

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  8. Such a beautiful plant. I so enjoy lounging in your garden with you:) It brings me peace. Thank you for that.

    I'm on noise overload here again... but it will get better!

    Thank you for some quiet time!

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    1. Elaine, I'm sorry to hear about the noise overload and hope that phase comes to an end soon! Glad you found a little quiet in my garden today.

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  9. I love your idea of movable quiet. And the riots breaking out in the garden, that seems to happen on and off all season. It is nice to have those quiet moments and a pot of yarrow fits the bill.

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    1. Donna, I keep trying to get away from potted plants because they take so much water, but they are so useful that they actually earn it, I think. It really is nice to be able to move a little quiet (or noise, depending) around to where it's needed.

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  10. Hmmm... I remember this time of year. It's when you out-yarrow me, both visually and ... um.... word-ly. Nicely done!

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    1. Kathy, all my life my secret ambition has been to out-yarrow someone, in any way I could. Thank you for allowing me to meet that goal!

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  11. Hi Stacy, i have not been here for a while, sorry about that! But your photos are always marvelous, and that last plant is so beautiful. I cannot read all those words and paragraphs because i easily get tired too when it comes to words like that. Thanks you so much for photos for me are already filling.

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    1. Andrea, it's lovely to have you here whenever you stop by. Sometimes it isn't easy to wade through a ton of words--I always try to write shorter posts, and it never actually works. I'm glad you enjoyed the photos. Keller's yarrow has some of the prettiest leaves I've ever seen.

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  12. I needed to go and lie down in a darkened room after trying to visualise purple and chartreuse stripes with mustard-yellow polka dots. That's just too much. On the other hand the achillea is such a subdued green with such soft shaped leaves is very restful...

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    1. Janet, that combo really is too much. I won't inflict such a thing on you ever again, I promise! It's funny how a plant that strikes you as bland in one setting is just lovely in another. I've adored the achillea ever since it went into pots where I could really see it.

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