Summer?

People who keep up on these things will notice it’s been a while since my last post.  Don’t be concerned.  Springtime is when a gardener should be out in the garden and not on the computer, and although not all that much is getting done a few things do.  “Lazy” might be the word of the day most days, but it still beats looking out a window at snow so I hope all is good.  This Monday we are into the Memorial Day weekend, and to many this holiday kickstarts the summer season.  Spring always goes so fast but I’ll give it a little longer before I announce summer.  To me summer starts with the first rose bloom, not the first stretch of heat, humidity, gnats and baseball, so please humor me and join in on a gloomy ‘late spring’ walkabout.

front border

Out front at the mailbox, columbine and iris are putting on a colorful show.  

After a few years off there appears to be a relapse in someone’s iris addiction.  I blame the internet of course, but I guess I’m also somewhat responsible since I did plant the little boxes and bags which arrived at my door.

front border

The rest of the front border.  You may notice the moth-eaten look of the ‘Gold Cone’ juniper.  I fear it’s juniper blight and there’s a strong possibility I’ll lose this little treasure.

Some readers may already know this, but I much prefer the older iris over the newest and latest.  They’re all beautiful but the older varieties (often referred to as historics) seem a little hardier, a little less disease prone, and a lot more fragrant than the modern color bombs that grace the covers of most iris catalogs.

iris pallida variegata

The variegated leaves of Iris pallida ‘variegata’ are awesome even when the plant is not in bloom.  There’s also a heavy grape fragrance to the flowers on this one.

Many of these iris come via the Historic Iris Preservation Society (HIPS), an organization dedicated to saving iris who’s introduction dates back further than 30 years.  It’s a noble cause, but watching varieties which I remember as being the latest and greatest slip into the ‘historic’ category does not help at all when it comes to clinging to my youth.

iris lighthouse 1936

Iris ‘Lighthouse’ (1936 introduction)

I’ll spare you from too many photos this year.  More may come, but for now it’s just the few which looked decent in this morning’s rain.

iris kashmir white 1912

Iris ‘Kashmir White’ (1912).  Not bad for a 106 year old iris.

Due to drainage reasons, the tall bearded iris grow best in the front yard, and out back it’s a little more hit or miss with rot and disease.  Surely better spacing, site and soil prep could help, but that sounds like a lot of work to me and an occasional miss is made up for by a few hits 😉

garden arbor

The potager, looking far more flowery than vegetably.  Holiday birch branches have made their way into the arbor and a few snowball bush cuttings (Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’?) have exploded into full sized shrubs.

The newer iris usually end up in the vegetable garden, since that’s the only ground which is typically not packed with plants during the midsummer iris planting season.  I think the gardening books call it ‘succession planting’ when a spring crop of potatoes is followed by a summer planting of new iris rhizomes.

iris port wine 1950

A new one for me.  Iris ‘Port Wine’ (1950) will surely find a spot out front next year.

Here are a few more from out back.

iris mme. Chobaut 1916

Iris mme. Chobaut (1916).  You can’t tell so much from this photo, but the modern iris behind has flowers about twice as big… but also a bunch of foliage and rot issues…

iris color carnival 1949

I’ve grown Iris ‘Color Carnival’ (1949) for at least 30 years so in my defense there are a few sentiment issues going on with my attachment to it.  Color-wise it has a lot going on, and the variegated grass sure doesn’t help.

There’s plenty more going on but with the rain and weeds and general messiness here, and I’m a little hesitant to expose it all, but how about a primula?  Primula sieboldii seedlings are doing well enough but I have to ask if anyone knows the secret to growing them well.  Mine are carefree in general, but seem a little shy when it comes to flowering and I’m wondering if it’s a sun thing, overcrowded thing, or fertilizer thing?

primula sieboldii

A few Primula sieboldii seedlings from American Primula Society seed.  I could easily fill a garden with these 🙂

Another issue I should touch upon is the budget thing.  You may remember I’m trying to keep a track of gardening expenses this year, and even if it’s only a half hearted attempt I think May is still too early in the year to give up completely.  Let me wrap this post up by getting a few things off my chest.  $7 for plants I picked up on a random nursery stop.  $8 for plants I picked up when shopping for someone else.

deck planters containers

The deck containers were planted up this weekend.  I’m struggling to stick with purples and yellow this year… although having a color theme is not something I’ve ever succeeded with before…  

I’m trying to cut down on plastic this summer, so new planting containers have been a problem.  Terra cotta is nice (but heavy), so to keep things a little new I’ve been keeping my eyes open for anything else which might fill in.  Metal might be an option.  At $18 a metal laundry tub has been put to use as a water garden with a dwarf papyrus to start.  We’ll see how it works out, and before anyone starts critiquing my budget-math I want to point out this is not a gardening expense since I may start doing laundry in there at any time.

deck planters containers

Perfectly hardy painted ferns have been put to work in the annual deck containers.  I couldn’t resist the colors and patterns, and with a connection to the drip irrigation lines they should do even better here than in the often too-dry open garden.  

I admit the ferns were an impulse buy.  They made up nearly half the $48 I spent on super special plants for the deck.  I guess add another $46 for other necessary annuals.  Oh and $7 for feed store annuals, but ignore the $7 I spent on poultry grit.  The grit will likely be used for topping seed pots and and amending bulb soil, but you never know.  A friend has chickens now and it’s not the worst idea to be prepared for any possible chicken-sitting or chicken-daycare which could possible happen.

summer porch

Add $6 for a clearance dieffenbachia which although slightly browned should recover nicely. 

Did you notice the (perhaps too many) new metal buckets gracing the back porch?  At $3.50 a piece I thought they were reasonably priced, and even better when they rang up at the register for $1.50.  When I commented on the price I got a “well that’s what they’re coming up as”, so of course I went back to the Mart the next day and got more.  Another eight was probably more than I needed, but they might make decent planters someday… but not today of course.  Today they are decorating accents and perhaps beverage containers, and in no way a garden budget item.

summer porch

In response to a ‘you should put some pots out front’ request I pulled a few things out of the garage and set them around the porch.  $14 for the one new plant in the red pot, an expense which should fall under ‘gift’ or ‘home accent’, but in a wave of generosity I’ll add it to the garden budget.

So that’s where we’re at.  There’s still tons of stuff to plant due to someone having seeds and being bored in February.  There are still dozens of homeless succulent cuttings, unplanted coleus cuttings, tubs of tubers and summer bulbs, and even more started seedlings in the garage under the grow lights… but that can wait.  Right now it’s still damp and dark outside.  Maybe dark and damp make it a good morning to grab a second coffee and put the porch furniture to use and just think about what needs to be done.  I use that excuse often and rarely run into regret.

Have a great week!

$129 in nursery indiscretions

$705 total so far for the 2018 gardening year.

25 comments on “Summer?

  1. johnvic8 says:

    Very nice review of your garden. I love the iris photos. Somehow I don’t think you will limit your purchases for the rest of the season.

  2. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I think you are doing a fine job of limiting and keeping track of expenses. I want pictures of you doing your laundry out there in that little container. I figure you will only be doing that if the spousal unit finds your accounting book.
    The irises are superb. I like the oldies too. I don’t have many irises because those iris borers found my garden. I keep throwing them out but they keep finding their way back. Weeds? What weeds? I didn’t notice any weeds unlike what flies in the face of my garden. Enjoy your long weekend.

    • bittster says:

      Haha! I’ll be taking advantage of the outdoor furniture for sleeping if word gets out about the latest plant purchases! -actually though she’s very supportive although in a very ‘don’t bother me with the details, I don’t care about plants’ kind of way. I guess it’s a matter of perspective since with one click the entire gardening budget to date was surpassed by the cost of a birthday trampoline for a little girl. If worse comes to worse I’ll remind someone of how expensive the cell phone plan is and offer to drop mine… that always freaks her out 😉
      There are absolutely iris borers here as well. Once the flowers fade I’ll go through and pull the old stalks and any fans which look infested. It thins the clumps nicely plus evicts most of the borers, which is good enough for me.

  3. Thanks for explaining succession gardening! The problem with new Iris for me is the heads are so big and heavy the plants fall over. Judging by your photo, i think your Primroses need more light. Mine are getting shaded now but were in more sun until the last week. Actually planted on the south side but fairly moist. Also, I think you should only count garden purchases once they go into double digits! Otherwise, everthing looks great.

    • bittster says:

      I like your thinking. Makes sense that if the plant purchase is less than a fast food meal it shouldn’t count as anything other than a snack!
      I guess I’ll have to find another spot to try the primrose in. I wish they would just understand this was the perfect location though, and do me this one favor and grow a little better. I have a lot of plants which pull this little stunt.

  4. I think I feel a historic iris addiction coming on . . .

  5. Eliza Waters says:

    I love all your iris, Frank. When I see the ones my mom grew, I always get nostalgic. Heirlooms are always in style, if you ask me. I hate to think of the number of nice cultivars disappearing.
    I grow my P. sieboldii in the shade in a damp area. It is increasing, but I wouldn’t say quickly.
    There is always plenty to do in a garden, but you have to take time to ‘sharpen the saw,’ which in this house means putting one’s feet up and reading/snoozing! 😉

    • bittster says:

      It’s a dark morning and excellent weather for an afternoon of ‘sharpening the saw’ 😉
      There are a surprising number of fanatics who are searching out and saving many of the older iris. Good thing too since they’re such pretty and useful flowers. I guess nearly every plant group eventually runs into the same problem. Of the thousands of daylilies I bet a few good ones are dissapearing, but in the long run maybe it’s all just part of finding the new tried-and-true varieties.
      I’ll try dividing the primula this summer and testing it out in different spots. Eventually it should find it’s happy space!

  6. Some of those Irises are really striking, and I am not a big Iris fan. Your beds look great, lush but tidy.

  7. Christina says:

    The colours of your ‘old’ Irises are gorgeous and quite different from modern hybrids, and they don’t get as much decease, wow, what’s not to love. BTW What is your overall budget? or perhaps you don’t have one.

    • bittster says:

      My overall budget is just short of too much. Hopefully I’ll know it when I see it and stop just in time 😉
      I was at an iris garden lat week, and the modern hybrids really made for a fantastic show. If they were as easy to grow in my garden as the historics I suspect I would be adding quite a few!

  8. rusty duck says:

    As ever I’m in awe of your sacrifice and preparedness Frank. Getting ready to help out a neighbour with his chickens is such a thoughtful gesture. Hopefully he will return the kindness with a few shovels of soil enhancer, which will put you in credit somewhere else of course.
    Iris mme. Chobaut is gorgeous!

    • bittster says:

      😉 It’s not easy to always be so considerate. Just this morning I was planning to casually sip my coffee and perhaps think about weeding, but then it occurred to me the neighbors might appreciate some more annuals out front ad maybe a new lupine. I might have to investigate further.

  9. Just beautiful irises! Thank you for the treat.

  10. Deborah Banks says:

    I love reading your gardening accounting efforts. I too want a picture of you doing laundry in that tub. And the irises are wonderful. There were a couple of old iris varieties growing along our front porch in only morning sun, kind of a damp spot but they were doing fine. Taking over, really. In my wisdom I moved them to the front of the barn, and put some fancy big new irises from Schreiners in their place. The new ones all promptly succumbed to borer and general ill health due to the damp dark spot. Gardening is a learning experience, always.

    • bittster says:

      I’ve done the same many a time. Plants don’t always appreciate just how brilliant our ideas are and would rather die out of spite just to prove us wrong. Shame on them.
      I’m afraid that if I tried a few of the fancy new iris it would put me into a bad place and risk turning too many sunny beds over to iris foliage. Most of the soil in the back yard does not drain well, and iris sulk in a wet year. It would be a really bad idea to make a new bed for them…
      Do you ever notice any of your plants in my pictures? I have a few favorites which once came out of the back of your car 🙂

  11. I just got hooked on historic daffodils, Frank, now you’ve got me interested in historic irises. I may have to stop following your blog — just kidding. Your late May garden looks wonderful! P. x

    • bittster says:

      I’m torn between warning you off historic daffodils and iris or offering you some divisions. Actually it’s not a tough decision at all, you know you’re more than welcome to a few (or a lot!) starts. I’ll need to look through the daffs and see if there are any which might interest you 😉

  12. Peter Herpst says:

    Thanks for the walkabout and the laughs. Your garden is looking gorgeous which only happens with a lot of work so lazy can’t be the word of the day very often. As usual your accounting skill is perfection. Great new home decor finds.

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