Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Evening Stars

or Out of the Spotlight

I have learned a deep respect over the last few years for my Winter Gem boxwood bushes—for any evergreens, really.  I planted the Winter Gems right outside the glass kitchen door because I knew I would want something cheerful and green to look at during the winter, and because they were able to take the extreme conditions in that little strip of land.  I had always thought of evergreens as the equivalent of background noise in a movie—glasses clinking in a dinner scene, papers rustling in an office—the kinds of things you would miss if they weren't there but don't really pay attention to when they are.  Even so, when a handful of bushes grows half a dozen feet from the kitchen table where you sit morning and evening day after day, you do eventually begin to notice them, and once you do, you realize what amazing troupers they are.

In the boxwood bed a sprinkling of ipheion—spring starflowers—that I planted half-heartedly a couple of years ago has begun to take hold.  At the time, I didn't know whether they would do well or whether I would even like them.  Then the first one bloomed; I loved it so much that ipheion became Microcosm's header.  Even though all the froth and exuberance and vividness of spring, the blooming redbuds and tulips and narcissus, are incredibly exciting, I still appreciate the cool quiet of ipheion.  It's like a pool in a forest, like mint leaves in ice water, like the evening star in a twilit sky.  If I could dive into that blue, that green, I would emerge again refreshed.

Just as the evergreens give their best during the—well, even poetic license won't let me call them the "dark days of winter" here in New Mexico, but I hope you catch my meaning—the ipheion show their best in shade.  Somewhere I read a description of their color as skim-milk blue—white washed with a weak tint—and in sunlight and as the flowers age, that's true.  In shadow, though, their gentle colors and ever-so-delicate shadings come forward; the petals gleam in twilight.

I'm beginning to re-envision the boxwood bed as the Light in Darkness (even if it's only metaphorical darkness, or possibly just shadow, or at any rate, not direct sun right at this moment) bed, as a home for plants that shine brightest out of the spotlight—or, put another way, that are still willing to shine even once the spotlight fades, that will give of their best without one.  Some evening primroses, perhaps, and a soft-textured groundcover; a bowl of water in the shadows.  Nothing in it will be a show-stopper.

But even without a spotlight, the show will go on.


  1. Stacy, I've often wondered about the identity of the flower in your header; now I know. This is a new flower for me. The color of the flower reminds me of the twilight sky -- that soft blue tinged with pink. It is beautiful and a great reminder to us all to take time to notice the quieter beauties in our lives. -Jean

  2. I 'emerge refreshed' by your writing.

    Many years ago when they opened the Baxter Theatre, in Rondebosch near the University of Cape Town - the interesting architecture was combined with a garden for viewing by night. A moonlight garden. Then, the simple planting with a small palette was unusual. There were existing huge trees, oak perhaps? But the new planting was mostly white plumbago. Effective in every way - caught your attention, looked different, and was ultimately satisfying.

  3. I loved this post! Your ipheion is a quiet beauty that draws the soul in, as many woodland and shade loving plants do. I must research these flowers to see if they will grow in my area. They are wonderful! I also very much appreciate boxwoods.

  4. Very beautiful. The ipheion is new to me also. I will also see if it will grow here. Its gorgeous.

    Thanks so much for sharing.


  5. I have a special love for ipheion too and now have it seeding all over my garden. It is a great bulb for shade and its subtle blue color, which you have described so beautifully, goes with anything.

  6. Dear Stacy, I always know that when I "dive into" one of your posts I will be inspired by your words. Your stunning photos too delight and how lovely to learn the connection you have to your header ipheion. I love how you compare background noise or . . . glasses clinking to boxwood. I have never thought in that way about evergreens. You are right though they are troupers. I realize I need more evergreens in my gardens. Another lovely post!

  7. I love evergreens and especially boxwoods, but was intrigued by the ipheion. What lovely photos. Another plant to put on my 'gotta get' list.

  8. Those are so gorgeous, I think I need some!

  9. That is an incredibly beautiful plant.

  10. Hey you did a really good job with these photos. They look really nice. Keep up the good work!

  11. Jean--I hadn't come across them until a couple of years ago, which seems odd, as they're incredibly easy to grow. If you're interested, I found them through High Country Gardens--I love them with Siberian squill.

    Diana--thank you. :) A moonlight garden would almost be "made" by huge old trees, I'd think--set off by the basic palette. It's amazing how effective simplicity can be, especially when it's applied with a generous hand and given the right setting.

    Deb and Elaine, thank you! I think the bulbs are hardy to zone 5--they leaf out in the fall and look beautifully grassy all winter here.

    Carolyn--Ah, I wasn't sure whether it reseeded. Good to know! Thanks for visiting and for your comment!

  12. Carol, thank you so much! This was actually a tricky post to write, because I do love the ipheion--it was hard to step back and think about it, and do more than ooh and aah.

    Holley, the list just gets longer and longer, doesn't it? :)

    Christine, Folk Farm Daily, and Mimi--cheers! Thanks for your comments.