Tuesday View: The Front Border 7.18.17

A Tuesday greeting from humid and damp Pennsylvania.  I love it.  The garden has never been so lush and vibrant, and until the mold and fungus kick in I’ll enjoy every minute of it, even the downpours.  Here’s the view this Tuesday.

front border

The pink coneflowers and lavender perovskia are really kicking in now.  

In all honesty this is actually a Monday afternoon view since the lawn was freshly cut that afternoon and strong storms were on the way, but close enough, right?

front border

The view from the street.  I started out trying to keep it shorter and neater here but the perovskia and coneflowers seeded in and I’m pretty sure nothing I could think up would look better.    

This is the time of year when this border really hits its stride.  For the next few weeks it should be just full of color… maybe too much color, but if you think back to our bleak months of winter I think you’ll be able to ignore much in the way of poor design and less than perfect color combinations!

front border

A closeup of the middle.  I see plenty, but the yellow of my absolutely favorite new plant ‘Axeminster Gold’ Comfrey is all I want to talk about.

The variegated comfrey has been something I NEEDED for a few years and finally got a hold of this spring.  It’s everything I like in a plant, big, bright, and variegated, and although it will likely scorch in this normally dry, full sun spot any other year, this season it’s doing just great.  If you need any other reason to grow this plant check out Nancy Ondra’s Hayefield blog for one of her posts on this plant.  I make no secret out of the fact it was her photos which ignited my plant lust for this goodie, and honestly it’s been at least a year since I last plugged her awesome blog or books or just plain good person-ness so I think it’s about time I mention her again.

agastache golden jubilee

What?  More yellow?  You bet!  The tidy little grass is miscanthus ‘Gold Bar’.. which (after three years) is much shorter than its predicted 4-5 foot height, and some Agastache ‘Golden Jubilee’ which comes nice and true from seed, as these have. 

I’ll finish up with the far end of the border which is looking much nicer this year than normal.  Part of that has been the rain, but the other factor is I’ve been making a point out of starting at this end and working my way over to the mailbox rather than the other way around.  With my attention span it really makes a difference which end you start from 🙂

front border

I don’t think anyone will be copying this mess, the only colors missing are a true red and blue,  but it sure is “interesting”.  Please take note first of the amazingly neat mulch and second of the hydrangea peeking out from the center.  It’s a clearance ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ from last autumn, and although it starts white I’m hoping it develops a nice strawberry blush soon after.  We will see.

So that’s where we’re at for this Tuesday View.  If you’d like, give Cathy at Words and Herbs a visit to see how everyone else is doing this week, it’s a great way to keep tabs as the season changes, and even better if you join in with your own view… plus you can’t go wrong on any visit to Cathy’s!

Have a great week, and wish me luck.  I started tidying up a few shelves in the garage on Friday and the weekend turned into a full blown garage cleaning, rearranging, repairing, and repaint-a-thon.  I’m not even halfway done.  It was needed.

 

 

Tuesday View: The Front Border 5.23.17

So Tuesday is here again and although I just posted the view last week it would be a shame to ignore the irises which have come along since then.

street border

The Tuesday view showing the beginning of iris season.  Still lots of green but the iris are peaking!

Bearded iris are a favorite, and the older “historic” types just beg to be planted en masse in this full sun, often dry, and always exposed, location.  There’s little I have to do for them other than give them a little attention in June when I remove the spent flower stalks and pull up any borer infested plants I find.

iris ambassadeur

The view from the other end.  For now iris ‘ambassadeur’ is center stage, but will soon be swamped by the variegated arundo donax grass which is only just beginning to sprout.   

Besides the color these older iris also are also very generous with their lemony and grape fragrances.  My favorite is this bitoned iris which was growing in my parent’s garden when they bought their first (and current) house back in the 70’s.  After years of wondering, this spring I am officially naming it ‘Folkwang’, a German iris introduced in 1925 by the nursery of Goos & Koenemann.

iris folkwang

My newly named iris ‘Folkwang’ plus a lonely little lupine and a few alliums.

To search for a name for years may be a little obsessive, but it’s not like I was at it 24/7.  A little looking here, a little looking there until finally I found one which really looked close.  To seal the deal I searched high and low for a source, ordered myself a rhizome, planted it out last fall (and a few others of course), and finally this spring got to compare the named one to my own.

iris folkwang

I think it’s a match.  Iris ‘Folkwang’ on the right and a flower of my unknown to the left.

So maybe naming an unknown iris does border on the obsessive, but in the grand scheme of things it’s nothing when compared to how much time I spent this week planting dahlias and cannas and getting a garden ready for the whole half dozen people who might notice… yet again I digress.  It’s iris season, it must be enjoyed.

iris rhages

Iris ‘rhages’ looking a little pale this year.  Usually the flowers show much more spotting, but it’s still a beauty.

There are a decent amount of iris around the garden but to be honest I think I could use a few more.  In past years I spread iris ‘Rhages’ to the other side of the driveway, and they’re now the more impressive clumps compared to the little batch I have growing next to the mailbox.

iris rhages

Iris ‘rhages’ plus more iris next door in my BIL’s garden.  I wonder how he’d feel if I added a few other colors…

I am trying and trying so hard not to give in to the temptations of the newer, bigger, flouncier bearded iris.  They’re so much more of everything, but I just don’t find them as carefree and reliable as the older sorts, and in my garden once the pool and lawn chair start calling I need a certain amount of carefree.

bearded iris

An unknown modern iris which a friend forced onto me.  I couldn’t just let it die so in an out of the way corner of the garden it flowers and offends only me. 

I’m trying to decide which other iris I should add to the front street border.  Should I stick with the blue tones or just throw everything out there?

iris picador

I go back and forth between love and boredom on the mustardy reds of iris ‘Picador’.  I’m just not sure if this color will work out front so in the meantime it stays out back near the meadow.

I might have to make an exception for a cousin of my newly named ‘Folkwang’.  Iris ‘Vingolf’ is also a product of the breeding program of Goos & Koenemann and was introduced a year earlier in 1924.  I’m sure I could fit a clump of these out front.

 

iris vingolf

Iris ‘Vingolf’.  A shorter stouter iris, perfect for along the edge of the bed where the foliage will pick up once the flowers fade.

In this dry and sunny bed the foliage of these historic iris usually holds up well and looks decent throughout most of the summer.  It reminds me that with all this focus on grass trimming, canna planting, and Tuesday views, I’ve missed another monthly focus on foliage with Christina at Creating My Own Garden of the Hesperides so I’ll try and sneak that mention in as well.  Here’s a bed across the lawn from the street border, it’s highlight are a few lusty verbascum ‘Governor Aiken’ seedlings which appeared last year and were just too healthy to pull.

verbascum governor aiken

Verbascum and a whole bunch of other things looking Maytime fresh.  The ‘Tiger Eye’ sumac suckers look so innocent right now and of course there are more iris, variegated this time.

So there it is, the Tuesday view and a few other things all still posted on the appropriate day… assuming you are visiting from the Atlantic time zone… I suggest you take a look at Words and Herbs and see what others around the world are seeing this week.  Maybe it’s iris season there as well and I can’t help but say that’s a good thing.

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 🙂

Our Days Are Numbered

There’s an impending air of doom hanging over the garden, and the threat of next week taints everything.  The Cubs winning the World Series was likely the first sign of the apocalypse and now I can only imagine what next Wednesday could bring.  Our current stretch of warm weather has me even more nervous since as we know from high school science, freezing is an exothermic process and on the chance that Hell has indeed frozen over science would predict that things up here on the surface would warm up as a result.  I’ve never hoped for a cold snap more, even if it means losing the last of the autumn flowers.

late chrysanthemum

The latest of my seedling chrysanthemums.  This one’s not as hardy as the rest but does well enough up near the foundation.

The last of the autumn leaves are really hanging on in the warmth.  This red maples along the fence is always my favorite with its sunset blend of reds, oranges, and yellows.  As the days go on it will hopefully fade to pale yellow with red highlights before finally covering the lawn with a carpet of next year’s mulch and compost.

maple fall foliage

For most of the year I resent the greedy water stealing roots of this pesky red maple (Acer rubrum), but for a few days in autumn I forgive it and soak up every glowing minute of its final foliage show.

Closer to the ground the earliest (or latest, depending on your perspective) bulbs are beginning to show signs of growth.  My absolute favorite right this moment is the fall blooming snowdrop a friend of mine brought back for me from Nancy Goodwin’s Montrose Gardens in Hillsborough, North Carolina.  I love a plant with a story and this one has a good one.  Its full name is Galanthus elwesii var. monostictus Hiemalis group ex. Montrose and to be honest I love writing that one out.  It’s the nerdy Latin way of describing a fall blooming snowdrop with a single green mark that comes to me via Montrose Gardens.  This one and its thousands of sisters are all the descendants of a handful of bulbs Mrs. Goodwin purchased decades ago at a local hardware store.  They say the rest is history, but in this case it’s a history which required years of division and transplanting as the bulbs were slowly spread across her acres of woodland.  The bulbs now make an unparalleled show each autumn around Thanksgiving and I wouldn’t rule out some day making the eight hour trip to see it in person.  Such are the dreams of the obsessed, but if you’d like more information have a look at this NY Times article on a visit to the gardens, and also consider looking up Nancy Goodwin’s book “Montrose: Life in a Garden” for a monthly chronicle of the gardens.  She was also a big fan of the Cyclamen family and grows thousands of them as well.  That’s my kind of gardener.

fall galanthus elwesii monostctus

Galanthus elwesii var. monostictus Hiemalis group ex. Montrose.  Yeah.

Besides fall blooming snowdrops, there was also an October surprise here when my two auricula primrose insisted on sending up a few autumn flower stalks.  I’d rather they waited until spring since the flowers don’t look nearly as big or nice as the could, but my hope is they really liked their repotting and are only just ramping up to an even more amazing show in March under the growlights…. unless they’re planning on dying, which is always another possibility for plants in my care.

primula auricula

A pair of primula.  Primula auricula hybrids to be exact.  The yellow had bloomed before but this is the first flower for the brownish one, and I’m pleased with the color.

Some other final color in the garden is the Aster oblongifolius ‘Raydons Favorite’.  It waits until the very end of the season and carries it out with a clear lavender blue color and attractive dark eyes as the flowers fade.  I should really give it a little more room and respect next year, and not let it suffer all summer crowded and untended while the summer annuals steal the show.

Aster oblongifolius 'Raydons Favorite'

Amidst the mildew decay of fading peony foliage and frosted zinnias, Aster ‘Raydons Favorite’ offers up fresh color for this part of the border.  I think more would be a good idea.

I can’t do a late fall post without slipping in a cyclamen or two.  They’re sending out more and more of their beautiful foliage and while other parts of the garden are fading, these go from strength to strength.  I may have to talk to John Lonsdale about adding a few new ones since you can never have too many of these treasures and he always seems to have a few special ones for sale at Edgewood Gardens.

cyclamen hederifolium

The hardy Cyclamen hederifolium starts flowering without foliage in late summer.  I love it even more when the leaves begin to come up and there are still plenty of blooms to accent them.

The range of foliage types in Cyclamen hederifolium is really outstanding.  The dainty and distinct flowers are almost more of an afterthought.

A pale pink form of Cyclamen hederifolium with a leaf pattern which I love.

A pale pink form of Cyclamen hederifolium with a leaf pattern which I love.

For the moment I may have resisted adding any new Cyclamen but don’t be under the false impression I’ve resisted all the other goodies which can be found during fall planting season… or even better found during autumn clearance sales.  For some reason I found the Santa Rosa clearance sale (still going on btw, and don’t miss out on the additional 20% off coupon code) and discovered I needed more grasses and a trio of carnivorous pitcher plants.  Who knew?

Sarracenia from santa rosa gardens

Three new bog plants (Sarracenia) for the bog I don’t have.  Hopefully I can keep them happy elsewhere since they’re so absolutely cool with their sinister insect trapping pitchers.

As I go on and on about new plants I won’t even mention the tulips which need planting, the daffodils which need replanting, and the projects which need finishing before the bottom drops out of this pleasant autumn weather.  Let’s hope that’s the only thing which the bottom drops out of this week.

Have a good one!

GBFD September ’16

Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Day always sneaks up on me, it hits exactly at that point of the month where I start wondering where the month went and start panicking over the thoughts of yet another turn of the calendar page.  But I get over that pretty fast and although my posts are frequently late, Christina at Creating my own Garden of the Hesperides is always understanding, and so this month when she suggested that in spite of my tardiness I might still be able to sneak in even more tropical garden photos, I of course jumped at the idea.  The tropical plants really keep the garden fresh at this time of year, and their bold foliage looks big and unblemished and makes an excellent contrast to the seedheads and dying foliage of much of the rest of the garden.

canna indica pupurea

The purple cannas of the tropical garden (Canna indica pupurea?) look great as they catch the light.  I promise to not show them any more, but how bout this one last time 🙂

So this post was just going to be a pat on the back for foliage in the tropical garden, but then just like Christina suggests I started looking a little closer at how much foliage brings to the table as far as the overall garden picture…. but before that one more canna…

canna Bengal tiger

I might have talked to this Canna ‘Bengal tiger’ at some point, it’s like a close friend, and there’s nothing I don’t like about it.

So the canna foliage was a no-brainer, but there’s something else brewing in the tropics.  The Kochia continues to ignite as the season winds down.  Not exactly a contrast, this plant is starting to take center stage as an eye-jarring punch of color.  It was a lacy pale green all summer but now as it goes to seed the magenta capsules turn color and are soon followed by red tints in the foliage.

kochia scoparia

Kochia scoparia, the old-fashioned annual burning bush, creating a nice backdrop to pink gomphrena ‘fireworks’ and a just-opened autumn flush of flowers on the red rose ‘Black Forest’. 

A few tropical ‘fakers’ are also in the mix.  An unknown fig which defied all my neglect and poor caretaking just put out a nice new flush of large, lobed, leaves.  No figs of course, but the large leaves balance out all the seediness around them.

hardy fig

A hardy fig which was never supposed to make it (hence my losing the ID tag) now fills too much space in the vegetable garden.   

Besides the tropical ‘fakers’ there are also a few actual tropicals which end up outside of their main bed.  I have a habit of sticking cuttings in here and there and every now and then they take off to good effect.  Coleus are one of the easiest to just stick in here and there.

coleus redhead

Coleus ‘redhead’ is one of the best. Carefree, colorful, and I have yet to have it bloom and go to seed. It’s also a nice offset to the lacy cypress vine behind it and the bright marigolds in front.

I could probably put together a post made up entirely of bits and pieces which were stuck in around the garden, but as usual I’m going on to long.  Lets wrap it up with more coleus up on the deck.

coleus

If you need to know which one this is I’ll look it up, but for now I don’t have the patience to dig through my bucket o’ labels for the tag.  Needless to say it’s a good grower, bright, and also not overly anxious to send up flower stalks (and end the foliage show).

Other foliage on the deck includes my pet spikes.  They’re a great accent and just plain old cool looking as they keep getting bigger.  Some day they’ll wear out their welcome as far as being dragged indoors, but this winter they’re still A-list.

deck planters

Overgrown spikes in green and purple plus a potted oleander.  Not many flowers, but still a nice mix if you ask me.

Rosemary is also one of our must-haves for the deck.  It’s scented, always looks neat, and gets used quite a bit by our chef.

deck planters

Foliage on the deck includes the rosemary plus others such as the strappy leaves of vacationing amaryllis bulbs (hippeastrum) and other future spikes.  In the background you might notice the elephant ear sprouting up out of the geranium pot.  That’s what you get for reusing potting soil… elephant ears, caladiums, and reseeding million bells become your weeds 🙂

Finally as temperatures cool, the back porch becomes a perfect spot to soak up the last rays of the day.  The temperatures out back are comfortable this time of year and the low autumn light backlights the grasses and summer foliage.

deck planters

Upright elephant ears (Alocasia portora?) looking great in the afternoon light, and offsetting the airier grasses and geraniums nicely.

So I’m glad Christina convinced me to take a look around this month and keep an eye out for foliage.  It’s easy to forget how important it is to the garden’s overall presence, and paying attention is even more important when you’re so distracted by this and that flower coming into bloom and then fading away.  If I might suggest, why not give Christina a visit and see what else has come up this foliage day, with gardeners from across the globe checking in it’s always a nice time.

 

Thursday’s Feature: The Three Cousins

The story of the three sisters of native American agriculture (corn-squash-beans) is a story which goes hand in hand with almost any elementary school lesson on the Pilgrims or Thanksgiving.  Northeastern tribes of Native Americans commonly grew the three crops together in the same mound, and as the corn grew up and the stalks provided support for the twining beans, the squash filled in along the ground and together the three crops coexisted peacefully, each filling their own niche.

This spring I rebuilt the rebar arbor which marks the entrance to the vegetable garden and this summer three vines are working their way up and over the arch.  They don’t coexist quite as peacefully as the three sisters and they’re far less useful in the kitchen, but I like them well enough anyway and even if they never make an appearance on the back of a Sacagawea coin I guess we can say they’re close enough to be called cousins at least.  The three cousins are Cypress vine, Love in a Puff, and Red Noodle bean, and all I can think of is how great common names can be 🙂

rebar arbor

After struggling for four years with an arbor that fell over each spring, I finally put in the effort to set the base in concrete.  The jury is still out on whether it will survive this spring thaw or not any better, but since the jury is still also going back and forth between rustic and ugly, survival may not matter either way.  

There are many a more floriferous trio for a trellis, but for some reason I love the mixes of foliage, flowers, and fruit of these three cousins.  The bright scarlet flowers of the cypress vine (Ipomoea quamoclit) sparkle alongside its soft ferny foliage and contrast nicely with the puffy green globes of love in a puff (Cardiospermum halicacabum)  and the dark red pods of the red noodle beans (Vigna unguiculata… aka asparagus bean… aka yardlong beans).

red noodle bean flower

The pale lavender flowers of the red noodle bean only open in the morning but they look just right mixed in with the ferny cypress vine foliage.

I wish I could take credit for this combo, but in all honesty I saw it a few years ago on Nan Ondra’s blog.  As it is with these things a single picture got stuck in my head and then over the next several years the radar stayed tuned in to find seed for the three components.

cypress vine, red noodle bean

The red “noodles” of the asparagus bean stretch anywhere from a foot and a half to nearly two feet.  The arbor is starting to look pretty cool with all these red beans dangling down.

Right now I think it’s the noodle beans stealing the show and I wish I had a few better photos, but the ones from this afternoon just didn’t make the cut and then the daylight called it quits on me.

red noodle bean

I think the beans are cool, but the hummingbirds much prefer the cypress vine flowers.

As I think further on it each of the three cousins also provides something more than just looking pretty.  The beans are edible (and some say have an excellent taste if picked small), the hummingbirds love the cypress vine, and the kids love picking and popping the puffs.  It is a useful trio and it’s likely they’ll show up here for many a year to come… if only because (with the exception of the beans) I haven’t planted a thing on this trellis for three years and there are still more than enough seedlings each spring to fill the ranks.

So there they are, the three cousins as my feature for Kimberley’s Thursday Feature meme, and although they are technically three entries it’s nearly impossible to separate them so I think I’m good to go.  If you think you’re good to go might I suggest a visit to Kimberley’s blog?  She encourages us to look around each week and find something which grabs our attention in the garden and it’s always interesting whether you’re just visiting or joining right in.

GBFD August ’16

They say better late than never, but according to that theory just about everything I do should be better… and I know that’s not the case, so I’ll let you be the judge.

I’ve let a few too many of Christina’s Garden Blogger Foliage Days pass by without a decent post, and that’s a shame since I really enjoy her prodding us to take a monthly step back to look past all the flowers.  The flash of flowers often catches the eye and as a result foliage often fades into the periphery of subconscious thought, so on the 22nd of each month it’s not the worst idea to look around and consider what the leafiness of your garden is doing for the bigger picture.

lasagna garden bed

The bed-which-I-can’t-decide-what-to-do-with just before we left on our camping trip.

I showed the above picture just a few days ago and although I knew there were a few weeds sprouting I just didn’t get to them before we left.  Let me just insert here that this is not going to be the “decent post” which GBFD deserved this month because it’s a post on only one type of foliage, and that’s the quick growing green of crabgrass and other uninvited leafy pests.

weedy flower bed crabgrass

The same bed exactly one week later.  A bounty of rain, heat, and sunshine plus a fertile soil (the dumping spot for our rabbit’s used bedding) have greened up everything.  Even the clover and creeping Charlie have filled in any last remaining dead patches in the “lawn”.

I spent a recent afternoon clearing out all the lush growth.  The bed is empty again but this time I stuck a few stray cuttings here and there and with a little luck perhaps I’ll have some more varied foliage for September’s GBFD.  At the very least it might give the weeds a little competition since apparently there’s not much slowing them down now.

Thanks for humoring me with this ‘foliage’ post and if you haven’t already been over please consider giving Christina a visit to see what others have done this month with their posts.  You won’t be disappointed.