Tuesday View: The Front Border 5.9.17

As usual the Tuesday view has become a Wednesday view and although I’m sure there are a bunch of excuses I could work in, I don’t think anyone is really bothered enough to complain.  So lets get right in to it!  The view has gone green now that the daffodils have faded but there are still the new tulips showing off towards the middle.

street border

Lush grass and growing perennials.  It’s been a decent spring now that the thunderstorms, snow, hail and tornadoes of April have eased off.  We didn’t even get a late frost…. yet.

This is the time of year when most of the garden takes a little spring breather, though it’s really more a winding up as the stems and shoots of summer’s flowers expand and grow and get ready to put out the next wave of color.  I already overdid the tulips last post so let’s look at a few foliage highlights  a’la Christina’s monthly focus on foliage… because you know I’m sure to miss it later in the month when GB Foliage Day comes up!

variegated iris pallida aureo-variegata

My second favorite iris, the yellow variegated Iris pallida ‘aureo-variegata’.  To do well here this one needs dividing and replanting every three or four years.  This one is far past four years and nearly swamped by fennel seedlings and a weedy sedum.

Yellows are my favorite foliage effect and sometimes it takes a lot for me to hold back.  In the back of my mind I realize a garden can only hold so many yellow “accents” before it looks like some ’80’s neon flashback but they’re sooooo tempting.  This spring I’ve only added two new yellows, a variegated comfrey and a yellow spiderwort, and the restraint this took has me almost at the breaking point.  The struggle is real.

sedum angelina

Bright yellow with orange tips on the healthier shoots.  I think it’s time to spread more of sedum ‘Angelina’ around the edges of the bed, and fortunately it’s as easy as pulling a handful, throwing it into a shallow hole and scraping a little dirt on top.

Here’s a more permanent bit of foliage as well.  After two years of growth my newest little conifers from Conifer Kingdom are finally beginning to look like something.  They’re destined to be trees but to look at them you’d never guess it.  There are still a few more springs before I have to worry about the poorly chosen spots I put them in, but it will come.  My kids were never supposed to grow up either and here they are staying after school, taking tests, having drama, and acting all smart when I just wish they’d still need to hold my hand crossing the parking lot.

Picea glauca 'Pendula'

Picea glauca ‘Pendula’.  Still needs a little staking before it commits to growing up and not flopping.

My little blue spruce is a thing which an overly protective parent will be able to hover over for years.  Optimistically I’d say it’s nearly tripled in size in the last two years… to be honest it still hasn’t broken the 6 inch barrier so it has a way yet to go.  I put it right at the edge for now since an overly lush pansy would probably swamp it at this point.

picea pungens walnut glen

Picea pungens ‘Walnut Glen’.  A blue spruce which stays on the dwarf side and develops (you guessed it) a yellow tint on top of the blue needles. 

So I have the twenty year plan down but nothing for this summer.  Typical lazy planning, but this spring the annuals from seed and overwintered coleus cutting compulsion just hasn’t kicked in and I’ve got nothing else in the works.  Figures this would also be the year there’s a whole new strip of bed to fill and this unfilled bed would be the focus of  Cathy’s weekly Tuesday view.  Things could get ugly but I have faith.  Like manna from heaven I spotted tiny patches of rudbeckia seedlings in one spot and a shimmer of Verbena bonariensis seedlings in another.  Purple and yellow are a start and of course I do like my yellows 🙂

Winter Interest? I guess….

Just like nearly all the rest of the Northern hemisphere we here in NE Pennsylvania are dipping into another cold spell.  As far as cold spells go it’s not anything too intimidating, since we’ve only dipped into the single digits one night, but it is cold enough to make you reconsider running out to the mailbox without a coat on and it encourages you to think of the garden from more of a spectator point of view.  Even from the comfortable side of a windowpane winter interest is still slim pickings around here, but now that a few years have passed things are starting to turn a corner.

paperbark maple winter

A low winter sun catches the russet peels of paperbark maple (Acer griseum).  I may have it in a spot far too close to the house, but at least it’s finally starting to grow well.

Winter interest here does not include early snowdrops or hellebores nor the occasionally exotic winter blooming shrub, winter interest here is a desperate flash of green holding out against the winter, or a fresh blush of colorful bark or bright conifer needles brightened by the weak winter sun.  I guess if pressed I’d include dried seed stems and stalks, but honestly unless they’re frosted in ice or topped with snow they really just remind me of all the cleanup yet to be done before spring.

winter panicum dallas blues

Ok I guess I do like the golden(?) winter tint on the dried stalks of Panicum ‘Dallas Blues’.  While other grasses take on a faded dead beige, these seem to hold on to a much richer color which shows up even better when surrounded by snow.

In the meantime, before the rush of spring hits, there’s still plenty of time to sit back and consider the winter garden.  Snow helps.  There’s really nothing to do out there when snow hits other than watch the comings and goings at the bird feeder, but until we get a couple inches down there’s always a restlessness every time the sun comes out and things look like they’re just waiting.

box hedge winter

The smallest bit of winter structure.  A boxwood hedge which has finally grown in enough to look intentional.  It may not say good design the way I just have it randomly in the yard, but I do love my little hedges and always try to get it just a little more level and a tiny bit straighter.

If cropped perfectly and shot from just the right angle… and if the light just happens to work out, you can halfway believe that my garden has something worth seeing once the flowers have died and the leaves fallen.

winter interest garden

A lawn still holding on to green (which has faded significantly from the last arctic dip), a few little bluestems and dried hydrangeas, a blue spruce… it all looks somewhat interesting right now.

Maybe in a few years I’ll be able to offer something more constructive in the way of winter gardening advice, but for now I’m just glad I can wander through without snowshoes.

magnolia grandiflora seedlings

Future winter interest may be just what these Magnolia grandiflora seedlings will offer… assuming they prove hardy.  Last winter was a protected outdoor test for several dozen, this winter will be an open garden test for the remaining three.

More snow will come of course, and when it does things will officially enter the indoor “puttering” stage of seed sowing and houseplants, but for a few more days I’ll brave the cold and look for even the tiniest sprouting buds of hope.  My anxious side wants to find them everywhere, my cautious side wants them to wait another two months.

galanthus merlin

Here’s a new snowdrop which didn’t get the NE Pa memo on winter storm watches.  Here’s some news for you ‘Merlin’, there will be more blasts of cold, and you shouldn’t be out so early.

So in the mean time we will deal with the ice storms, shovel out from the snow storms, and bundle up for the cold spells.

ice storm

A nice glazing of ice kept the kids home last week.  No good for sledding but they were fine with the day off 🙂

All this talk of braving the weather has been made a whole lot easier with a look at the ten day forecast.  The fluffy snow and single digits from yesterday will warm up and melt rapidly in temperatures that don’t even dip below freezing in the foreseeable future.  This wouldn’t be the first January thaw to ever hit us but considering the ground is barely frozen under the snow, I don’t hold out much hope for convincing bulbs to stay dormant.  February may be ugly if too many things decide to give growing a go, but we’ll cross that bridge when it comes.

Cleanliness is next to Godliness

A few weeks ago I posted about the trouble with idle hands and how they were inching me over to the dark side.  It sounded funny at the time but the string of bad luck and minor tragedy which followed reassured me that there will be no deals made on this end and I would in fact like to stay on the lighter side.  So to sum it up surgery has been scheduled for some, blood tests every three months for others, stitches have been removed, and the family has a new bunny.  Hopefully garden cleanup will now continue to bring us back into good graces.  It’s about time for both 🙂

yard cleanup perennial beds

The front yard is definitely looking a little wild and wooly now that the snow has melted.  Probably time to get rid of the sled.

Cleanup has been ongoing all week (in between April showers) and this morning the sunshine and leftover morning frost are making the front yard glisten with springtime promise.

front yard garden cleanup

front yard garden cleanup

The view from inside the front door was also in need of some sprucing up.

messy yard spring cleanup

I sometimes think my entire neighborhood is an advertisement for plastic and vinyl.

Cleanup this spring is nearly all power tools.  Everything gets cut down with the hedge trimmer into manageable bits and then the largest bits are raked onto the lawn for mowing up into the bag.  The bag is then emptied onto the beds out back.  The front yard then gets a nice topping off with shredded leaves from last fall’s cleanup.  Not only do the shredded leaves cover up all the twigs and debris I was too lazy to remove, they also frame the first crocus nicely.

spring garden cleanup mulch

Mulched leaves on the beds and the lawn mowed at its lowest setting.  Things look better already.

Work has an annoying way of getting in the way of spring cleanup, but whenever I have a chance it feels great to get out there again.  The birds follow behind looking for worms and the kids rediscover all the messes they can make with the most simple of tools.  Spring mud and mulchpiles are fun but I’m just happy enough to see plants finally growing again in the open air.

hardy cyclamen with leucojum vernum

The pink cyclamen coum look much better this spring even after our insulting amount of cold and snow.  Temperatures were actually lower than last winter but a good amount of leaves and flower buds made it through and at least I have something to set off the spring snowflake (leucojum vernum) flowers this year.

I’ve added an embarrassing amount of snowdrops since last year.  These showed up in the mail one day as a baggie full of washed clean, sprouting bulbs.  I planted them immediately and they are perfect this spring.  In contrast the dry bulbs of the same type which looked perfect upon planting barely sprouted last spring and have now died off completely.

double snowdrop galanthus flore pleno

The double snowdrop (galanthus ‘flore pleno’) hopefully settling in nicely under the apple tree.  FYI -the apple tree is that twig at the back of the photo 🙂

I will bore you with more snowdrops at a later date but for now other spring bulbs.

corydalis George baker

The first corydalis, this one’s “George Baker”, looking good and reminding me I should divide my other overcrowded clumps.

Ok one more snowdrop.

galanthus wonston double

Galanthus ‘Wonston Double’.  I have to keep reminding myself I don’t like doubles.

This little bulb who’s name I will never be able to spell without looking up (scilla mischtschenkoana) is one of those unassuming things which you never NEED but you should always have.  This one’s been with me for a while going all the way back to a single stray bulb which must have been overlooked or abandoned by squirrels after all its brothers and sisters had been planted.  Being the daring teen who I was and feeling a little dangerous, I pocketed the bulb and brought it home.  Somehow it survived being unplanted all winter and within a few weeks even put out the first of many pale, icy blue flowers.  It has never reseeded (likely because they’re all the clone descendants of one single bulb) but it’s multiplied and followed me from garden to garden over the decades.  hmmmm.  I should go back to that park some day and see how the original planting has made out.

Scilla mischtschenkoana

Scilla mischtschenkoana.

The hellebores are starting as well.  This one is right up against the porch foundation and lives the good life.

white ashwood hybrid hellebore

I bought this one as a white Ashwood seedling from Santa Rosa Gardens.  I bought this one as a started plant, but deep down inside I covet seeds from the Ashwood line.  They’re either crazy expensive or I just can’t find them here in the states.

A few of the other hellebores are also coming along.  Drought last summer has really taken a bite out of this year’s show but the real killer was my transplanting several and then not really bothering to give them any aftercare.  A sprinkler would have done wonders in August, but you can’t dwell on these things in April.

double pink hellebore from seed

A nice double pink hellebore from Elizabethtown seed.  I’m glad I had the chance to buy seed from them before they closed retail sales…. but I’m still missing all the cool seedlings coming along each spring.

Last spring’s late blasts of arctic weather didn’t please the hellebores at all but this year the more settled pattern has done them well.  I finally get to see a nice clean bloom on my yellow.

yellow hellebore from seed

This one, also from Elizabethtown seed, looks buttery enough for me to think ‘yummy!’  I’ve been wanting a yellow like this for years.  Wish me luck it clumps up and continues to do well 🙂

The warmer temperatures and singing birds have me completely optimistic and I’m starting to rake back the winter mulch from around my late fall conifer splurge from Conifer Kingdom.  They all look great and I’m hoping for healthy new growth in a few weeks.  Just think… if my blue spruce (p. pungens ‘Walnut Glen’) doubles in size this year it may break the four inch mark!

late planting conifer winter protection

A late planting of conifers still snuggled in under a thick winter mulch of shredded leaves.  Time to start peeling it back.

So spring is finally here.  The sun is shining this morning and I’m buying pansies today.  The only snow left are snowdrops and since I paid a visit to the Temple nursery on Saturday you’re still going to have to sit through that, but fortunately the pictures aren’t all that great so you’ll be spared much of the repeating white and green.  Enjoy!

GB Foliage day -winter greens

I’m a day late minimum with just about everything lately and this post is no exception, but I wanted to squeak in one more Garden Bloggers Foliage Day post with Christina for the 2014 season, since who knows if we’ll have anything other than snow next month… so here goes!

juniper 'old gold'

Even after a few days of shockingly cold days and nights the grass is still green and juniper ‘old gold’ still fresh.

With the autumn leaves gone, foliage is down to the evergreen plantings.  Evergreens are more expensive than perennials and don’t grow well from seed… hence do not match up well with my frugal gardening 🙂  I’ve been doing my best though, and some such as juniper “Old Gold” are finally showing off  -finally- after five years in the ground from a $4 rooted cutting!

A more recent addition are three new rhododendrons which look absolutely overgrown and lush considering the $12 I spent on the bunch.  This purchase went absolutely unnoticed when I mixed it in with a cartload of mortar and tile from the Depot.  You could almost say they were free with purchase, right?

planting rhododendron

Look at the buds on this $4 rhododendron! The plant and price make me understand how hard a nurseryman’s business must be, I’m sure he made no money off this purchase…..

Small patches of winter color are beginning to show up in the backyard too.  This is the first year my boxwood cuttings are big enough to look even remotely like a hedge, and when the grass goes completely brown these bits of green foliage will at least look slightly hopeful.

boxwood cuttings hedge around vegetable garden

My design makes little sense, but hopefully in a few years the vegetable garden will at least look “interesting” even if it never makes it to beautiful.

The only winter color here when we purchased the house were a few foundation plantings along the front, and a line of meatball yews along the south facing side.  After three years of sweaty summertime hedgetrimmering I said ‘screw this’ and let them do their own thing and break away from their tight ballism.  Now I have to chose between the abandoned house look and the bare look of a brutal trim-back.  Any suggestions?  I probably wouldn’t mind trimming them back for a straight hedge along the side,  I could remove them completely, or I could leave just one between the windows and let it get even bigger….. I need a plan though, eyebrows are already being raised here in my end of suburbia and the MIL will soon question my motives since it faces her house 😉

overgrown yew hedge

overgrown yew hedge

Man cannot live on green alone (even with a little yellow) so I foolishly placed an order for some last minute winter foliage via Conifer Kingdom.  God must love either procrastinators or he loves winter garden interest because although Pennsylvania froze the week after I ordered, the box full of evergreens showed up the minute the thermometer went back over freezing.  Today will hopefully top off at 50F (10C), the gale force winds have died off, and it should be perfect for getting these guys in the ground.

Not to overstep my boundaries, but I smell a 50% off sale on fall bulbs at Brent and Becky’s for the day after Thanksgiving.  I will not be able to resist, so I guess we’re going to see how God feels about late bulb orders.

conifer kingdom purchase

My Conifer Kingdom purchase made me happier than a cat in catnip. In a few years I hope to really ‘up’ the level of my garden’s winter interest.  Just look at the needles on that pine! ( Pinus densiflora ‘Burke’s Red Variegated’)

Premium conifers might be as cheap as marigolds in your neck of the woods, but not so much here, so mailorder is my weapon of choice.  For those interested, here’s the breakdown on my order…. $127 total including $25 shipping and $20 discount via a Facebook coupon code (fyi code expired 😦 Nov 21st).

purchase Picea omorika 'Peve Tijn' graft

A free gift included in the order, you can easily see where this dwarf Picea omorika ‘Peve Tijn’ (Serbian spruce) was grafted onto the rootstock.

There’s a reason you can pay through the nose for many of these treasures.  Two of my purchases are 1 year old grafts and really don’t look like much yet,  but that’s because they start life as run of the mill conifer seedlings grown on for a few seasons and then a small bit of the desired cultivar is grafted onto the stem.  Once the graft puts on some size (a slow process at an inch or so of growth each year), the original seedling is cut off and the new plant takes over.

purchase Picea pungens 'Walnut Glen' graft

Dare I say I spent nearly $30 on this little spit of conifer? It’s picea pungens ‘Walnut Glen’, a blue spruce which develops a yellow tinge in the winter. I expect great things form this little guy!

So how’s that for a foliage post?  A November report which speaks of excitement, hope, and anticipation for the future!  Not bad considering the weather, I just have my fingers crossed that I don’t have to re-title this to “That Was Stupid” in another year 🙂

If you’d like to see what foliage is contributing to other gardens across the globe pay a visit to Christina’s blog “Creating My Own Garden of the Hesperides“.  I believe you’ll find some bloggers who are enjoying good foliage now, and not just in their dreams for the future!