Thursday’s Feature: Delphinium

This Thursday it’s all about flowers.  For as much as I love throwing in questionable photos of borderline weedy plants or offensively tacky color clashes, even I have to brag a little now and then when something goes right.  The tall hybrid delphiniums don’t like my garden or me but this one seems to have resigned itself to its fate and has come to an agreement with my garden.  It’s beautiful and although I can take little credit for that at least the pictures are pretty.

purple delphinium

Purple delphinium

Four years ago it was love at first sight when I came across a little pot with a fat plant and a solid stem just starting to sprout up into a bloom stalk.  I thought to myself “even I can’t screw this up, and it’s going to be amazing”, so onto the cart it went and the rest is history.

purple delphinium

Another view 🙂

These tall delphinium hybrids love a perfectly rich soil in a sheltered spot with steady moisture and shelter from the worst of the weather.  They do better in cooler, fairer climates and don’t like drought, heat, humidity, storms, drying winds, children playing, large pets, neglect, stray hoses, clumsy gardeners… essentially everything that my garden represents… but this one carries on.  2016 has been a lean year for it since I’m trying something new (less fertilizer and no staking) but the show is still nice enough.

purple delphinium

A wider view of the clump shows smaller bloom heads and yellowing lower leaves which resulted from a leaner diet, but I also haven’t staked the flowers and they are holding up reasonably well to the wind.

But you don’t care about lean, anemic delphinium plants.  A Thursday feature is fun so here are photos from last year when the fertilizer was flowing and the party really took off!

purple delphinium

Sorry about the bicycle in the background….

This one clump which survives (trust me I’ve killed my fair share of these) is on a slope in morning sun near the hose… which means it gets a sprinkle whenever the water goes on.

purple delphinium

…and oops about the sign.

-but prepare yourself for heartbreak if you give these a try.  Three out of four years a storm cell will pummel your garden just as the delphinium reaches its peak, and little in the way of staking will help the heavy blooms.  On the plus side they make an excellent cut flower (if you have room for two to three foot flower stalks in your arrangement), but on the down side it’s depressing to say the least.

purple delphinium

Delphiniums after the storm.

Few things are fun without a little effort and risk, so give them a try and see where you end up.  While I go on to ponder the possibilities of growing these in a classy walled garden with the perfect soil, you may want to check out a few other feature plants to fill your Thursday.  Kimberley of Cosmos and Cleome hosts each week so give her blog a visit to see what she and others have featured this week.

Enjoy!

 

Cold? I barely noticed.

The new amaryllis are coming into bloom and between them and mommy’s valentine’s day roses  things are looking very festive around here.  I don’t mind one bit but it’s surprising to me that the dirty flower pots at the end of the table are being tolerated as well as they are.  Usually non-edible growing things are frowned upon in the dining area.

double amaryllis red peacock

The girl picked out some nice roses this year and although red is always a valentine’s day favorite, I and hopefully others love this blend of colors even more.  The timing on the double red amaryllis also couldn’t be better, I believe it’s ‘red peacock’.

During a weak moment this winter I came across a clearance sale for amaryllis (hippeastrum) and decided to treat myself.  Treating yourself is always a good idea in December and soon enough a few new amaryllis were sitting at my door.  Since I was already buying cheap bulbs of a flower which I really don’t need, I decided to try something new and picked a few doubles and miniatures.  So far so good!

Belladonna mini amaryllis

A miniature amaryllis ‘Belladonna’.  Even more mini due to the lack of roots and long storage before planting, but still putting on a nice show.  I impressed myself by pulling some moss out of the lawn and tucking it in around the bulbs for that little bit finished look 🙂

All the amaryllis were planted in nice new terracotta pots which I’m ashamed to say required more time and effort to find than any of the actual bulbs.  Apparently clay pots are not filling the shelves during the holiday shopping season…. or at least not filling the shelves at the first three places I tried… but persistence paid off.  Hopefully the bulbs will appreciate my struggle.

As the bulbs settle in and sprout there are more things coming into bloom in the garage.  I’m especially pleased to announce the opening of my little auricula primrose.  The color is a mustardy yellow which although very ‘refined’, wouldn’t be my first choice for a show stopping color.  I love it though and am looking forward to seeing a few more blooms opening over the next few days… and hopefully having the flower stem straighten out to get rid of some of the ‘nod’ it has!

auricula under grow lights

My lovely little auricula growing under lights.  I can’t seem to do a decent job photographing yellow, but hopefully you can still make out the mealy white center which makes these flowers so distinctive.

Outside is a different story, and it’s a mix of hope and optimism as well as worry.  We had enough warmth earlier in the winter to bring on a bunch of stuff way ahead of schedule, and some of those things paid a price for their eagerness when the bottom fell out of the thermometer.  The hellebores in particular are looking sad.

freeze damage hellebore

I don’t know if this hellebore will recover to bloom this year.  It won’t die, but the freeze damage doesn’t look good.

Also sad are a few of the daffodils.  Early risers such as anything with tazetta or jonquil blood (two of the many daffodil species crossed for the hybrids we have today) were mushed back to the ground.  Some will die, but most will carry on and just have browned tips to their leaves when the blooms come up.

freeze damaged daffodils

Freeze damage on early daffodil foliage.  In spite of the way they look I think they’ll be ok.  The buds and more leaf will continue to sprout once things warm again.

The bad news is that after a few spring-like days we and the rest of the East coast are having some of the coldest nights of the winter.  I would feel much better if a nice blanket of snow covered up last weekend’s early bloomers but just a dusting of snow accompanied the cold snap.  For now ignorance is bliss and I’ll again enjoy last week’s signs of spring as we slowly warm up from a blustery low of -8F (-22C) last weekend.

wendys gold Gerald parker galanthus

‘Wendy’s Gold’ and ‘Gerard Parker’ in bloom last week.  I loved the early glimpse of spring, but this week had to scrape traces of snow off the lawn in order to pile it over them for a little extra cold protection.

I should know later this week if there is any damage to my snowdrop treasures.  I remain optimistic, but sadly enough in years past I have had it that drops have died from a late season arctic blast, and these bloom are far along, and this cold snap is severe.  But what can you do?  Wendy and Gerard got a box over them but I’m not ready to go all over the yard covering things for each cold snap.  These bulbs will have to show their true colors.

galanthus magnet snowdrop

Galanthus ‘magnet’.  This one’s on his own so I’ve got my fingers crossed for these next few days.  If worse comes to worse I’ll be able to try ‘magnet’ again from a different source, since I’m not positive this one’s correctly labeled.

Wish my bulbs luck.  If they do survive I will never underestimate the hardiness of some of these earliest bloomers.

winter aconite

Last week’s show of the aptly named winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis).  I love this pale version of the usual bright yellow.

As a backup plan I’ll start a few more seeds this week.  Empty ground is always a good reason for new plants, and if worse comes to worse there are always annuals 🙂

The softer side

It’s not all prickles and barbs here, there are a few fluffy gobs of pink which have found their way into the garden and onto the kitchen table.

sarah bernhardt peony

Peony season is here and in my opinion the best place for them is a vase.

Nearly all the huge blooms end up being cut and brought into the house, they’re so heavy that even with strong stems the flowers end up down in the dirt.  Staking would be an option but cutting is far less work, and often they last longer in the house protected from the weather.

pink double peony

There’s no simple grace in a double peony, it’s all fat opulence and fluff. 

This anonymous peony was purchased as a single pink and it’s not even close, but I love it anyway.  A wild guess would say it’s ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ but the blooms barely have a fragrance and from what I read Sarah should have scent to spare.  No complaints though, fragrant blooms are not welcome in a house full of allergy cursed and fragrance sensitive noses.

peonies in a vase

Possibly ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ peony?

Even though the flowers do nothing for the nose, I love running my hands over the flowers and teasing the flowers open.  It’s a habit my grandmother would always complain about, saying it would ruin the flowers.  She was right of course, but peony season is so short might as well enjoy them, plus burying your nose in a peony is far safer than snuggling up to a thistle 🙂

In a vase on Monday. Winter

I’m beginning to get a little insecure about my lack of winter flowers and garden structure.  All I see is white and more white, and although I suppose a nice steady winter of cold and snow cover is far better than ice and repeated freeze-thaw, the strengthening sun is starting to make me antsy for growing things.

icicle arrangement

Icicles harvested from the garden.

A good crop of icicles is all I could find in the garden for Cathy’s vase on Monday meme.  They’re from the garden, they’re in a vase, but I don’t think they’ll be gracing the dining room table.

Give Cathy’s blog a visit for some real garden inspiration.  Each Monday she encourages us to get out there and see what the garden has to offer for a nice vase, and each Monday people rise to the occasion.  Hopefully in another few weeks there will be something worthy from this end 🙂

In a Vase on Monday-Mumday

Congratulations are in order for Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for reaching the one year milestone of her weekly “In a Vase on Monday” meme.  Each week for the last 52 she’s been encouraging people to fill a vase with whatever strikes their fancy in the garden or in the local meadows and woods.  I’m always amazed by the creativity and depth of the creations, and although my own contributions never manage to get outside the ‘pluck and plunk’ category they’re always well received and the whole process is fun.  This week I’m joining in again and just in time too.  The last of the autumn flowers are limping into winter, and the weather forecast doesn’t look good for them this weekend.

late fall cut flowers from the garden

The last of the chrysanthemums.

Three of the latest chrysanthemums are still hanging on; an unknown white which has been blushed pink by the cold nights, the spooned frosty violet flowers of “Carousel”, and the neat pink pom-poms of a self seeded volunteer.  It’s nice to still having some flowers out there even after the trees have lost their leaves and most other perennials have died back.

chrysanthemum carousel

Chrysanthemum “Carousel”

There’s nothing fancy about the vase, again it’s just my favorite flowers in a simple clear glass.

self seeded chrysanthemum

Score another victory for laziness. A couple years ago I missed weeding out some self seeded chrysanthemums. This small pink was my reward.

This might be the last flower filled vase of my gardening year, but it’s the first for Cathy’s 2014/15 season.  Congratulations!

In a vase on Monday: End of the road

This is actually an ‘In the Vase on Sunday’.  With a freeze forecast for Sunday night I wanted to get out there and save the last bits of summer for just a few more days (a vase full of frost blackened flowers wouldn’t be as welcome on the dinner table).  Zinnias, dahlias, and chrysanthemums fill (some would say overfill) this week’s vase.

dahlias and zinnias cut flowers fall

The late afternoon light and cool nighttime temperatures of fall really bring a glow to the zinnias and dahlias.

The dahlias are still the backbone of this arrangement.  It’s been flowering for months, and even with a healthy wash of mildew over its leaves the flowers just keep on coming.  Red zinnias and dark pink daisy chrysanthemums fill in between, and a few seed heads of panicum and tufts of papyrus reed lighten up the mix.  I thought I’d add some “bright lights” swiss chard for the lusty leaves, but it’s the colored stalks which really stand out.  Maybe I’ll just include them for the stems alone next time!

dahlias and zinnias cut flowers fall

This arrangement is fresh and bright enough to carry an August picnic table, if it weren’t for the chrysanthemums you wouldn’t even know it was fall.

I spent the rest of the afternoon lugging pots into the garage and taking coleus cuttings.  Although a few of the hardier pots stayed out overnight (geraniums, oleander, dracaena), the rest have begun their six month imprisonment in the dungeon.  I won’t water them, they’ll look terrible, but hopefully they’ll go somewhat dormant rather than keep trying to grow and as a result die.

dahlias and zinnias cut flowers fall

Inside the house the colors go well with the Halloween and harvest decorations. A few little pumpkins would look great alongside the vase but the kids insist they stay on the porch  🙂

Our freeze didn’t amount to any more than a frozen windshield and a few singed coleus, but it’s good to have much of the sheltering of plants done.  Now all I have to do is reorganize them enough to fit a car in there too!

Looking at the long range forecast there’s a strong possibility next Monday will also host a vase full of flowers (chrysanthemums I hope!), so it will be nice to join in on the Monday vase meme a few more times before snow flies.  If you’d like to join in or take a peek at what others are up to, drop by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden and take a look.  Each Monday I’m surprised at what people put together!

It sounded like rain…..

There were a few raindrops on the roof last night, I’m sure of it.  In fact there was light rain lingering in the morning, enough so that I put off going next door to help dig holes for a fence moving project (I really didn’t need much of an excuse to put that off….).  By the time late-afternoon rolled around and bowling and hole digging was done for the day, the garden looked as dry as ever.  The only plants still looking somewhat fresh are the chrysanthemums.

mum 'pink cadillac' chrysanthemum

On an 85F degree day a few weeks ago I dug up and threw this plant into a pot by the front door. It barely wilted, the buds are opening, and I’m quite pleased with the show.  This is chrysanthemum ‘pink cadillac’.

I might have to spread the good cheer of chrysanthemums around the garden a little more next spring.  It’s hard to think fall flowers in May but they really do stand up to a lot of abuse, and by abuse I mean bone dry soil and little attention from me for pretty much the entire growing season.

mum 'vicki' chrysanthemum

I’ve had this one for a few years and oddly enough last week found its original nursery tag mixed in with a batch of compost. Of all the mums I’ve killed it must have been destiny to recover the ID of chrysanthemum ‘vicki’.

Potted mums are always a nice autumn treat, but my success in overwintering them has been hit or miss.  This spring I dabbled in the world of hardier chrysanthemums by ordering a few rooted cuttings from Faribault Growers in Minnesota.  They offer “Mums from Minnesota” which are mums developed and grown locally for the harsher winters of the upper Midwest.  I’m afraid I might have to order a few more this spring, I really like how they worked out… even though I don’t think I have room for any more!

mum 'carousel' chrysanthemum

A late, taller mum, “Carousel” should make a nice cut flower. To bad the leaves are starting to yellow from lack of water….

This spring I opted for mostly ‘novelty’ types with quilled and spooned petals.  I like them well enough but I think what I really want are a few fat, football types.  I’m not saying I’ll fertilize, stake and disbud to get the largest of show blooms, but I did try out a single football type this summer and loved it most of all (please don’t tell the others).  I think I need more 😉

mum 'dolliette' chrysanthemum

An interesting bloom, ‘dolliette’ is a little clumpy for me, I like looser sprays of flowers and these seem a little crowded.

Hopefully no one has been offended by my use of the name ‘chrysanthemum’ for these flowers.  The new genus name is ‘dendranthema’ of course and I’m not thrilled with learning a new trick.  Will they also no longer be mums?  I guess we can call them mas, but that doesn’t seem as catchy even though it does still gives mom her due.

lettuce transplants

Lettuce transplants in the garden. My half-hearted attempt at a fall garden.

The only other thing I’ve been enjoying in the garden lately is the one lonely patch of garden which has been receiving regular water.  I planted it up with lettuce transplants found at my favorite local nursery and according to my calculations I’ll need to pick approximately 8 salads from this patch in order to make it a worthwhile investment.

But like they say: price of transplants- $5, having a tiny fall garden patch- priceless….. unless you still add in the time, compost, watering 🙂