A Week of Flowers-Day 7

Congratulations to Cathy on another successful Week of Flowers, and all the flowery joy which her and other bloggers have brought to computer screens across the world!  I’ve enjoyed the adventure and as expected will wrap things up with one last flowery bulb.

Colchicums!

growing colchicum

During the late days of summer and throughout fall, colchicums(autumn crocus if you’d like, but they’re 100% not crocus relatives) bring color to the fading garden.  Depending on your frame of mind they’re either the perfect end to the bulb season, or the first heralds of the new growth of fall and winter.

I’ve posted plenty on colchicums in the past, so won’t bore you with too many details, but these bulbs will sprout their hosta-like foliage in the spring, die back for the summer, and then erupt with fresh flowers in the fall just when everything else was starting to look tired.

growing colchicum

Colchicums popping up through a groundcover of leadwort.

growing colchicum

Even out of bone-dry, late-summer tired soil, colchicums still manage to wake up and look fresh as if everything for the new season will be perfect.

growing colchicum

Colors range is white or pinks with single or double flowers.  The whites can be really nice although here in my gray planting it might still need some developing.

And that wraps up Cathy’s Week of Flowers. I hope your early December days were brightened by the color, and your long nights refreshed with dreams of flowers past… a good type of refreshing, not a Dickenesque haunting by the ghosts of seasons past… and if you still need some more refreshing, consider it’s just two weeks until the winter solstice and lengthening days strengthening rays and then it starts all over again!

Enjoy your break while it lasts 😉

A Week of Flowers-Day 6

The week of flowers continues and I think I’ve stumbled across one of those revelations which probably everyone else already knew, but when it’s about yourself you’re always the last to know.  My revelation is that I’m a little bulb obsessed.  Any bulb or corm or tuber seems just a bit more special than your average bunch of roots or twigs…. or quite possibly it’s just whatever I’m thinking about that week… and this week it’s bulbs.  Whatever.  Better to not think too long on things like this since the last time it happened I decided I needed to bring more ‘other’ bulbs into my life, as in adding more Lycoris to the garden.  It’s been a painfully slow process waiting for them to get settled in, watching them sulk, wondering if I can blame anyone other than myself for torturing these poor little things, and then one flower comes up and I’m on the computer for hours looking for more info to distract myself with.

lycoris x squamigera

Lycoris x squamigera, the hardy magic lilies which thrive in most gardens but not so much here until recently…

Most of the magic lilies aka spider lilies aka hurricane lilies aka nakid ladies are not quite hardy enough for this garden, but several are, and they’re usually the type of flower which sets its roots down, blooms with abandon, and then outlives the gardener and homestead… unless they’re here of course.  Here they’ve limped along for years until just recently when they decided to humor me with a few exquisite blooms.

lycoris x houdyshelii

Opening pale yellow, and then fading to a strawberry blush, Lycoris x houdyshelii is a borderline hardy cross which finally sent a single bloom up this summer.  I hope I don’t have to wait another three years for the next bloom.

Maybe someday I can report back on the secrets to success with these, but today I think it’s better to just enjoy the flowers and reflect back on the cozy hot and humid summer days of their season.

lycoris x incarnata

The peppermint surprise lily (Lycoris x incarnata) is supposed one of the easiest and best growers, and last summer mine acted as such… it just took four years for it to figure that out!

lycoris radiata

In the South, I’ve been told red spider lilies(Lycoris radiata) grow like weeds.  Here in the North their winter foliage can cause problems, but last winter’s mild stretches seemed to make at least one bulb happy.  Sadly my other two bulbs decided to rot from all the melting snow runoff, so a 33% success rate is terrible yet it’s also good enough a success rate to fire up my delusions for another few years.

lycoris x caldwellii

I have high hopes for Lycoris x caldwellii which has been growing in the garden somewhat vigorously for years but only flowered for the first time this summer. I think my plantings need more sun.

So that’s a lot of complaining for day 6, and I apologize, but hopefully the pictures have brought on a few thoughts of your own late-summer flowers, pool-time, and cricket-filled evenings and that’s always a good thing.  Another good thing is a visit to Cathy’s Week of Flowers on Words and Herbs and all the additional flowers you’ll see there.

Have a great week!

A Week of Flowers-Day 5

I’m taking it easy on day five of Cathy’s Week of Flowers celebration.  I guess I don’t party like I used to.  Today with a single photo I’m celebrating the heat of late July and the entire month of August, and the hot red flowers of Lobelia cardinalis.  This moisture loving North American native plant finally settled in just off the back porch in a somewhat shaded and often damp corner of the house.  While the cardinal flowers are in bloom, hummingbirds run a near constant turf war with guards and hit and runs and and the constant chatter of chases and aerial combat.  A gardener who sits nearby to enjoy the shelter and shade is guaranteed a face-to-face barrage of insults from some tiny hovering pint-sized fighter pilot.  Hummingbirds seem so tiny and cute, but in reality they’re little flying honey badgers.

lobelia cardinalis

Cardinal flower filling the end of the shade garden.

Hope you are enjoying your weekend, it’s a beautifully sunny morning here and although it’s also on the cold side, the rest of the week looks tolerable… and by tolerable I mean good shipping weather for a little box of succulents…

Merry Christmas to me!

A Week of Flowers-Day 4

My pink waterlily probably has a name, but having never expected much from her I didn’t pay much mind to the label.  She was plunked down in a somewhat shady hole with a plastic liner and no filter, and I thought that as long as there were lily pads for the frogs it was a win.  That describes the first year or two, but then construction hit the garden and the ‘pond’ became a catch basin of debris and runoff and overflow trash which is apparently more important to a waterlily than space or sun or fertilizer.  Last summer was a nonstop succession of flowers with as many as four open at a time, and although it is likely the first and last year for this to happen I thoroughly enjoyed it.

pink waterlily

The pink waterlily.  A plump little piglet in her murky swamp of a pond.

Four straight days of posts.  I’m proud of myself and hopefully it’s been somewhat entertaining for you as well.  I’d also like to apologize for my slacking on the comments.  There’s no excuse other than laziness and a love for an early bedtime but I do appreciate it and hopefully someday soon I’ll catch up!

Thanks again to my inspirational host, Cathy of Words and Herbs, and I hope you can check out her’s and other’s posts celebrating Cathy’s Week of Flowers.

A Week of Flowers-Day 3

My mother’s family is all centered in Northern Germany in the city of Osnabrück, and my mom would tell stories of their summertime beach trips cross the border to the barrier islands off the coast of the Netherlands.  It’s really not all that great a distance and to be honest if someday some genetic testing finds a bit of that Dutch-tulip-loving DNA in me I would not be surprised.  To me tulips are nice.  Obsessively nice, and if someone were to say to me ‘but they’re so much work’, I’d have to point out that my kids aren’t exactly a picnic, and if you’re looking at dollars I would guess one Christmas’ worth of either child’s presents is probably more than I’ve ever spent on tulips… Hmmm.  Guess who just had that “what is Santa’s budget this year” discussion?

garden perennial tulips

Tulips in the potager.  They’re dug and dried for the summer and replanted in the fall after the tomatoes and peppers freeze off.

Let me just quickly add that in my garden we rarely have tulip-eating vermin such as deer, the rabbits are quite lazy (or full of other plants), and the tulips seem to just like the soil here, enough so that they usually perennialize even when not dug.  I know that’s not the case for everyone so please let me enjoy this one success!

garden perennial tulips

Darwin and Triumph tulips mixed into the front perennial border.

garden perennial tulips

A garden filled with tulips and daffodils is one of the best announcements of spring’s arrival.

garden perennial tulips

These are a few of the antique broken tulips of the earliest days of the Dutch tulip industry.  I’m still trying to find a spot they like here, for me they’re not nearly as vigorous as the newer types.

garden perennial tulips

Fortunately tulip season is followed by irises and peonies and clematis and a billion other amazing spring flowers.  If that wasn’t the case I’d probably need medication and a few days in a dim room by myself in order to recover from the high.

Tomorrow will be a quick post.  It’s hard to move on from tulips.  Thanks Cathy for giving me the excuse to revisit one of my favorite times of the year, and if you’d also like to revisit more floralific seasons give Words and Herbs a visit for more of Cathy’s Week of Flowers

A Week of Flowers-Day 2

Okay, so it’s only day two of Cathy’s Week of Flowers and I’m already cheating a bit.  These are the flowers of my winter garden, a fancy name I like to use when referring to the fluorescent shop lights in the back of the (slightly) heated garage.  From now until the weather warms again it will be my garden home base where I sow seeds, strike cuttings, repot and pot up all the plants which don’t mind living on the cool side, but prefer not to freeze.

growlight garden

Geraniums (Pelargonium cvs) don’t mind cold nights and cool days and will flower all winter.

growlight garden

Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) are almost a required flower for any indoor grower.  This treasure was given to me by a friend who collected and grew on seed from one of his own bulbs.  I love it!

growlight garden

In a good winter I’ll have a few primula seedlings potted up and ready to crack out of the ice mid-winter, to bring indoors to force along.  Sadly this year the primula seedlings were a neglected bust…

growlight garden

On and off through the winter an occasional succulent will throw up a flower stalk.  This Echeveria (E. diffractens I believe) is usually quick to develop flowers once it comes indoors, showing off this bright orange explosion of color from December into February.

Hopefully no one has been offended by all these mentions of cold and winter and ice, but I’m sure Kathy has fired up the troops and there are more summerly visions of flowers if you need some warming up!  Give Cathy’s Week of Flowers a visit for all the links and I’m sure she’ll have a good dose of color from her own garden as well.  Enjoy!

A Week of Flowers-Day 1

I don’t necessarily mind this time of year, it’s a bit gloomy at times and the garden doesn’t have the day to day surprises and continuous parade of blooms, but it’s a breather, and a chance to refocus before you start dreaming of summer again!  With that said I’m still ready for a distraction, and of course that makes me more than happy to jump into the photo files and join in with Cathy’s Week of Flowers, which she is hosting again this year on Words and Herbs.  The instructions couldn’t be any simpler, “post a flower a day for a week”, and I think even I can stick with those rules.  Obviously I’ll start with snowdrops… far from the most colorful flower, yet they’re the flowers which I obsesses most over.

snowdrops

Last December’s display of ‘Potter’s Prelude’, a fall blooming snowdrop which sneaks in a few blooms before winter gets too serious.

snowdrops

Last March in my most established snowdrop bed.  I usually enjoy these all by my lonesome each spring, everyone else struggles to find an excuse to run indoors when I wander off into the cold to admire them.

snowdrops

By the end of March a few other hardy bloomers such as the yellow winter aconite join in the show.  This one’s name is ‘Greenish’ for somewhat obvious reasons.

snowdrops

White, green, and occasionally yellow might not qualify as wildly colorful, but during the shortest and coldest days of the year I welcome them.  This is a borderline yellow named ‘Bloomer’.

So day one complete.  Probably one of the shortest snowdrop related posts you’ll ever see on this blog but I hope you enjoyed it, and I’m sure you’ll find more to enjoy as others check in for Cathy’s week of flowers!

Opening Up the Winter Garden

A good thing and a bad thing.  Someone had enough energy (or was bored enough) that they cleaned out the winter garden last summer, and by that I mean all the empty pots and dead leaves were not still sitting under the fluorescent grow lights in the back of the garage… That’s the good thing.  The bad thing is someone also had a little energy on the day when potted plants and cuttings needed to come indoors for the winter.  That’s the bad thing.  There have never been so many things stuffed under lights this early in the season and I for one am quite pleased.  If this gardener were the type, the feeling is similar to a slow motion bungee jump where you’re on the edge of the bridge about to jump.  All the equipment has been checked and you’re at the point where it’s going to be either a complete disaster or a bunch of fun… Well maybe that’s a terrible analogy since I’ve only dropped and shattered one clay pot and spilled soil and cactus parts everywhere… okay, so maybe it’s a fitting analogy, with the exception that the cactus pieces were put into a new pot and survived whereas your pot contents might not do the same.

Sorry.  I guess whatever point I had has been reduced to ‘don’t bungee jump’.

mammillaria plumosa

In a moment of distraction I spent an hour finding the earliest photo of my little mammillaria plumosa.  It usually flowers a month or so after coming indoors, and this winter might mark its tenth birthday from the day a friend first gave me a cutting.

I’ve spent most of the Holiday weekend cleaning up leaves and planting bulbs and for the first time in about a year the garden looks somewhat under control.  I’d post photos but most days have been all day labor in the garden until dusk and pictures don’t happen, but honestly who really needs to see the dirt where the tulips went in anyway.  Instead I shall leave you with a super-interesting photo of two cuttings stolen from an outdoor planter which was nearly done for the year due to frost.

stolen plant cuttings

Gardeners are nothing if not hopeful.  Two tiny cuttings which spent a weekend in my coat pocket and now grace the windowsill with their beauty.  They’re like an Advent candle with all the hope and promise for a rebirth… unless they die, in which case I’m sure there will be plenty of replacements!

Apologies for the randomness of this post.  I’d thrill you with a few snowdrop photos, but the kids stepped on them while hanging the Christmas lights so I’ll have to see what’s left.  In the meantime there will hopefully be some more interesting posts to come as I and others join Cathy of Words and Herbs for her ‘Week of Flowers’ event.  As the weather gets cold and the nights grow long what can be better than a flood of flowers as we prepare for the holiday season?  It should be fun.  Happy first of Advent 🙂

Into Autumn

Last week I broke down and started to wear a coat to work.  This weekend I’m reconsidering long pants and wondering why I’m sweating as I dig.  After a cooling off last month (and some really spectacular weather) it’s warm again, and I’m not sure how much I like that.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a mild autumn, but after going through all the trouble of dragging things inside, the big procrastinating part of me wonders if I couldn’t have put it off for another week or two 😉

autumn garden

The rock wall sits empty, the aspen are starting to color up.

Sadly the sweaty digging had little to do with the garden, rather it was me digging out the new access to the basement.  I’m a little tired of all the hard labor, but the stones for a wall, and fill for some low spots, and some more soil for yard leveling will hopefully all lead to more planting spots so in the long run… the really long run… the run that never seems to have an end in sight….

galanthus bursanus

Galanthus bursanus doing well in a protected spot of the open garden.  I’m quite pleased.

What the warmth has been good for are the autumn flowering snowdrops.  No harsh freezes flattening them, no fierce winds and driving rain to beat them up, just day after day of mild temperatures and soil warming sunshine.  The snowdrops seem happy, and the gardener has been enjoying this.

autumn snowdrops

A Galanthus reginae-olgae also doing ok in the open garden.  Maybe someday the clumps will be thick enough to stand up to the falling leaves, but not quite yet.

Enough about snowdrops though.  I don’t want to overdo it before the late fall bloomers and the winter bloomers and then the spring hurrah!  It will be a long four months in that case, because even me holding back might be a little more than many people will want to endure.

cyclamen cilicium

Another fall bloomer, Cyclamen cilicium.  This one is perfectly hardy for me yet still in a pot.  Maybe one of my newly built-up areas will be the perfect location for a starter colony of this cool little species.

Oh wait.  Autumn foliage is also a thing for some people (maybe the snowdropless amongst us), so yeah the maples were amazing, the oaks are turning to russet, and the warm breezes have leaves dropping and running across the neighborhood every which way.  I wish I had more for mulching but I’ll collect as many as I can and hope it’s enough.

Citrus trifoliata 'Flying Dragon'

The hardy orange, Citrus trifoliata ‘Flying Dragon’ always surprises me with its weird pink-yellow-orange-green fall color combos.  Today I think the green spines are fascinating but I’m sure someday I will curse them.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll also get some tulips planted.  I thought about it today, but as usual way too much time is being wasted on moving furniture and house projects rather than doing more important things.  Please ignore that the “more important” things were actually silly things like picking leaves off the witch hazel and cleaning off moss patches and power-washing birch trees, but to be honest there’s a reason I never post a things to do in the garden list.  How would I ever explain planting tulips in a December snow squall after preaching that the first week in November was when it should have been done?  All in good time, right?

Hope you have an excellent week 🙂

In With the Old

I’ve been ignoring the colder temperatures long enough.  A sudden freeze would have made the great autumn migration much, much easier but I’d surely miss a few things next year.  The weather Saturday was beautiful and it’s the first weekend in a month where I didn’t spend most of my time emptying closets or running to the Salvation Army or painting or moving furniture…  So spending an afternoon moving a few plants was (almost) a treat 😉

overwintering plants

Putting everything on the driveway as a staging area seemed like a good idea… until even the driveway was filled.

Earlier in the month I’d already taken cuttings of coleus and other favorite annuals, hauled in the caladium pots and lugged the amaryllis in, and really thought I was on a good path… but then the plants started to accumulate.  Hmmmm.  Shame on those plants for growing so much.

overwintering plants

By the end of the day things looked downright tame.  A few things to shove into some dark corner of the garage when it really gets cold, and my precious tree fern which will stay out as long as possible.

So right now there’s no room in the winter garden for a January coffee, but I have a few months to straighten that out.  I’m sure it will all work out just like I’m sure over the next few days I absolutely won’t find a thing or two more to bring in or a handful of ‘just in case’ cuttings.

autumn garden

Decent temperatures and beautiful autumn light made spending all day outside a treat.  It’s amazing how things have recovered since the rains returned.

I wasn’t lugging all day.  It was just nice to be outside and I’m quite talented at just wandering around ‘thinking’ or sitting around and ‘contemplating’.  I guess we all have our superpowers even if we don’t all get to wear the fancy tights.

autumn garden

The late asters are nice enough but of course I’m still far too impressed with the purple stems of the ‘Sunnyside Up’ pokeweed.

One low point to this autumn is that nearly every last chrysanthemum in the potager’s chrysanthemum bed died out this past winter.  In the spring I was almost happy about all the open space, but now I miss them, especially the big football forms with their huge, shaggy blooms.  Who knows.  The winter wasn’t all that bad and many of them had been with me for years, but these things happen.  Fortunately I have backup plants, sadly not the same forms, but seeds are easy and if I want I can just collect a few seedheads this fall and within months I’ll have more than I lost… (as if I hadn’t already filled all that open space)

garden chrysanthemum

A mix of seedling chrysanthemums in the neglected former rock garden.  Even after a summer of no-care and searing heat and drought they’ve come through with a nice show!

Who knows why chrysanthemums just die.  Many of those big bushelbaskets of color sold in the fall aren’t actually hardy, and many more dry out too much to establish after the show is over, and some are just planted too late, but other times?  I know all the autumn rains last year had mine extra soggy going into winter but I was still surprised every last one died.  Wait, that’s not true.  One plant which was decimated by some foliage disease and went into bloom nearly leafless last fall had two tiny sprigs survive.  So the weakest plant survived… go figure.

garden chrysanthemum

The lone survivor in the the potager.  The color on this chrysanthemum reminds me of the dahlia ‘Cafe au Lait’ and I’m beginning to like it, plus strong stems make it great for cutting.    

Drifting aimlessly around the yard reminded me that for as productive as I was hauling other things in for the winter, the succulents that accumulated on the new stone wall this summer are still all out there.  They’re all in heavy clay pots on top of that.  Ugh.

succulent display

Time to pay the piper.  Free pots and extra cuttings sounded so harmless when I put together another 20 containers.  Now they all need winter homes.  

Wisdom has not followed age.  I bought three more (big) terracotta pots last month when I just happened to ‘stumble upon’ a 30% off clearance sale, and I have every intention of filling them next spring.  Sunday all of these came into the winter garden, even the ones I was going to leave out because I really don’t need them.  Someone gave me another succulent which he knew I was eyeing.  I know my mom has one which I’d like a bit of and my nephew as well.  I give it two more years before this whole fiasco collapses.  It’s going to be a great two years 🙂

autumn garden

The first snowdrops.  A new season begins before the old has passed.

And then there are snowdrops.  I was lukewarm for a week or two in August but now I’m just obsessing again.  Snowdrops and cyclamen because they’re sprouting as well, and for a winter garden they’re also essential.  And witch hazels.  I see buds on those, wow it’s going to be an exciting winter.  I hope it doesn’t fly by too quickly 😉

Hope you have a great week!