Rocking Ithaca with NARGS

Last Tuesday I made the trip up to Ithaca, New York to put in my time as a volunteer for the plant sale being held for the annual general meeting of the North American Rock Garden Society (NARGS).  It’s an easy two hour drive for me and although you wouldn’t be the first person to question a two hour drive just to work a plant sale, I did it anyway and thought it was an excellent way to splurge on gas money!

Mom:  “It sounds nice, and don’t volunteers get all kinds of free things?”

Me:  “They gave me a hat”

Mom:  “Oh… >pause<… how’s the construction going?”

I arrived an hour early in order to make a quick run-through of the Cornell Botanic Gardens and the Robison Herb Garden.  The weather was perfect, the gardens well-tended, and I even learned a few things.

cornell botanic garden

‘These flowers were thought to grow in Paradise’ which after my own shoddy online research seems to refer to the sweet william version, but I’d rather think they meant Dianthus plumarias and that’s whats growing in my garden and thats clearly evidence I’m creating Paradise next to my garage.  Boom.

So I learned my garden is a tin version of Paradise and I also learned that I need to grow Good-King-Henry.  If one plant can create Paradise, maybe another can post an invite to a household elf named Heinz.  Hopefully Heinz can help out with the dishes or something, and not be a mischievous troublemaker since we already have a dog for that.

cornell botanic garden

I believe I would be a good caretaker of Heinz’s plant.

Maybe I didn’t learn quite as much as I should have from the herb garden, but sometimes people only hear what they want and of course I’m no exception.  I did make it to the plant sale though, and I think I was somewhat helpful although for much of the afternoon I just kept running through a list of plants I wanted and then keeping my eye on people who seemed a little too interested in those same plants.  I tried to be sociable but mostly bothered the vendors and other volunteers.  Some new plant heroes are Ted Hildebrant of Coldwater Pond Nursery (Coldwater might have been the “Oh yeah, I’m there” clincher for luring me to the sale) from where I added three new witch hazels but not a variegated hydrangea paniculata or a variegated horse chestnut or red chestnut or hardy fuschia or… there were many temptations… There was also Karen Perkins of Garden Visions Epimediums who chose two epimediums which will be perfect for me, but hopefully not too perfect that I need more and more varieties…. and then there was Karma Glos of Kingbird Farm who I probably bothered the most.  She had porcupine tomato seedlings and that’s all it took.  In addition to the porcupine a few other seedlings joined my box and it was fun finding all those weird things which most people aren’t willing to take a risk on growing and selling.  Those and a passionflower vine.  Apparently I needed to pick one of those up at a rock garden plant sale so I did 😉

Yeah the sale was fun, but I could see myself getting into one of these get-togethers if the chance comes up again.  The garden visits and excursions sounded and looked awesome, and the evening presentations sounded great.  Attendees looked like ‘my people’ and I regret not talking to more of them.  Maybe next time.

dead red sedge

Don’t try digging in your dead sedge for the winter if it’s in a clay pot.  The pot will still break.

Once home again it’s been a week of get the garden in order and do all the planting most people finished by Memorial Day, starting with my lovely little dead sedge.  If the last five years have taught me anything it’s that doubling down works and deny deny deny.  My sedge is not dead it only looks that way, and now I’m dividing and repotting it so I can make a nice mass display of what I believe is a still-living plant of ‘Red Rooster’ leather leaf sedge.  It’s beautiful.  It’s a sedge more beautiful than any other and everyone is going to want one and now I have five of them.

dead red sedge

Division was a brutal process, I hope they don’t die… any more than they already have.

Speaking of dead things, one plant which I forgot about on the day my front yard was bulldozed has chosen life rather than the great unknown.

witch hazel graft

Hammamelis ‘Angelly’, a clear yellow witch hazel which might be back to beautiful in another 13 years if I’m lucky.  I’ll wait 🙂 

And a surprise flower amongst the amaryllis pots…

double amaryllis

Better late than never, I do like how this *forgot the name*(edit: on good authority we will label it ‘Dancing Queen’) double amaryllis looks blooming in June.  All the rest look a little Christmassy and out of place, but this one fits right in!

There has been a lot of progress this week.  The gardener was mostly focused and had nearly all week to get things cleaned up and ready for summer.  The driveway can hold a car again and hopefully the cannas and other things appreciate their return to soil and will soon explode into growth.  I have high hopes.

All the best for a good Sunday and excellent week!

23 comments on “Rocking Ithaca with NARGS

  1. Paddy Tobin says:

    It’s great to have a community of fellow enthusiasts and well worth continuing your connection with the group. It is something we miss very much as our local garden club has developed into a social group rather than a gardening-focused club – tea and cake rather than plants.

    • bittster says:

      Sorry to hear that, although tea and cake shouldn’t be frowned upon -but more as a break rather than the main event!

      • Paddy Tobin says:

        My head couldn’t take it any more when one outing had a first stop for a late elevenses/early lunch, an afternoon tea and cake stop and dinner on the return journey home …. and there was one garden visited! Three feeding stops and one garden visit! And the distance from home to garden is about 80 miles!

      • bittster says:

        That is a different story. Sounds like the trip is the main event and the garden is just an excuse… Might as well go on a theater or shopping excursion.

  2. Pauline says:

    I love plant sales and it seems so long since I have been to one, I envy you! So glad your witch hazel is fighting back, hope you don’t have too long to wait before it flowers for you.

    • bittster says:

      It was nice being around people and talking about plants. It all felt very normal, and I hope the summer stays that way.
      My fingers are also crossed for the witch hazel. I’m trying to pamper it a bit and that’s something I should do more of for all of my witch hazels!

  3. TimC says:

    sounds like great fun! Which witch hazels did Sorta select?

    • bittster says:

      Heh heh. Good question! I think I have to run out into the dark and check the labels. I know one is ‘Spanish Spider’ and the other is ‘Mercedes’.
      Hmm. I just remembered there are still no steps down from the deck so maybe tomorrow I’ll look. I believe the third has ‘Orange’ as part of the name and is likely ‘Orange Encore’. I’m not 100% but 89% might be good enough right?
      Just out of curiosity, how many hamamelis constitute a “collection”? I’m starting to worry, but at least they’re smaller than magnolias.

      • TimC says:

        In my view, two plants do not constitute a collection, they are merely a comparative analysis subset. Collecting starts at three, because you have then clearly passed the point of idle curiosity and the need to investigate further obviously cannot stop with three when there are so many more, each with their own unique charms. By the time you find yourself buying them three at a clip and adding to an existing inventory, you are certainly in the throes of collecting, and possibly well on the way to establishing a hamamelisetum. That’s almost a real word, and certainly will be once your collection expands to its destined size and receives the renown and acclaim it should. I hear this happens with snowdrops, too.

      • bittster says:

        …and now I’m wondering what the ‘destined size’ of an almost-suburban hamamellis collection would be. Just short of a dozen sounds too small and I think they’ll be excellent for underplanting with snowdrops so I will still keep my eyes open for another variety or two. I have yet to add a purple and that’s just not right.
        As always, thank you for putting things into perspective!

  4. Cathy says:

    Haha, I knew you would make a few purchases! That Dianthus got me looking up dainthus on my favourite nursery website. I grow Guter Heinrich, but haven’t tried eating any yet. Hadn’t heard of the legendary elf either, but hope he is in to weeding. 😉 Or he could make me a new bed for some witch hazels and dianthus. 😉 Which witches did you buy? I hope they work some magic on the damaged one. So, how IS the construction coming along? Have a great Sunday!

    • bittster says:

      I was really curious about Guter Heinrich after learning about Heinz and you’ll have to let me know when you try some. It sounds like you won’t want to until next spring though, it seems to get bitter, but a perennial spinach substitute sounds tempting!
      I think the witch hazels are ‘Mercedes’, ‘Orange Encore’, and ‘Spanish Spider’. My thinking was buy anything I don’t have because I will likely not find them for sale anywhere else any time soon!
      Construction… very slow but at least there’s a solid roof and the walls are almost finished. We may cut into the new edition next week, but that means we lose our bedroom!

      • Cathy says:

        Guter Heinrich smells nice. I must try some as it hasn’t quite flowered yet. Will let you know what it tastes like!

  5. Lisa Bowman says:

    It sounds like you had a great day among ‘your people’ and you met an elf. I hope Heintz likes your garden it is hard telling what he and the witches will get up to once they settle into their new digs.
    These gas prices are so rude. They make me cringe. This cooler temperatures have inspired me to get out some the last couple of days. Have a good week.

    • bittster says:

      I wonder if Heinz will think the witch hazels are a plus or just more trouble for him to keep an eye on? For some reason I feel Heinz will be a helpful elf around here. Maybe he can discipline the new chipmunk since all he wants to do is dig in seed pots for magnolia seeds.
      I loved the cool weather this weekend, I hope it was as nice for you both days!

  6. I’ll vouch that Paradise is indeed next to your garage! A few years back when Tristan was applying to colleges, we visited Cornell and its botanical gardens. It was late September and there were colchicum, so of course I thought of you! If you have any luck with that household elf, let me know! I could use one too! I agree with whoever said that amaryllis looks like Dancing Queen. None of my amaryllises have ever bloomed outdoors in the summer. #goals!

    • bittster says:

      I did notice a few yellowing colchicum bunches!
      The amaryllis look great over here, I don’t know what did it or why, but they do. The foliage is healthy and my fingers are crossed the bulbs put on plenty of weight this summer.
      I’m not sure a June blooming amaryllis is a credit to good care or just one that was so miserable inside it refused to bloom 😉

  7. Eliza Waters says:

    Happy Father’s Day, Frank… hopefully, they are letting you spend it in the garden. 😉
    Working, rather than just attending, the plant sale probably saved you a lot of money by keeping you occupied. 🙂
    I have a New Zealand sedge, which I love. I have to bring it inside in winter as it is too cold here. Do you know that there are a bunch of cultivars now? Like ‘Frosted Curls’ and ‘Cappuccino’… uh-oh, maybe I shouldn’t have told you. 😀

    • bittster says:

      Ugh. I had a paper to finish for a class I’m taking but luckily after finishing that there was still plenty of Sunday to enjoy! Hope the weather was as nice for you, because here it was perfect 🙂
      Being a volunteer probably did save me some money. I was there for a while so promised myself I’d wait an hour before opening the wallet and diving in. A few things were gone by then and I really had enough time to think things over. I’m still quite happy with what came home with me!
      I might be good on the New Zealand sedges for now, but you never know lol. They’re interesting but… Oh and I thought mine wouldn’t be hardy and then it pulled right through no problem!

    • bittster says:

      Wow, thanks! I just watched the first video and Ted is even more awesome than I already thought. What a nursery and his knowledge of all the cultivars he grows is pretty cool. I’ll have to get back for the second video and hopefully not end up dabbling in grafting!
      There’s also a little bit of regret for not having bought a variegated horse chestnut… he even told me that it was scorch resistant and I still had my doubts, I just should have grabbed it.
      I don’t now how they do it all, the nursery is amazing.

  8. Pedro dos Santos says:

    This is very cool! I like the pink looking one . so sad the plants are dying 😦

    good luck with the garden 🙂

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