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 Tropics 08.30.16

It’s Tuesday again and time to join up with Cathy at Words and Herbs to take a look at the Tuesday view.  I’m going to guess that the purple leaved cannas are at full height and full bloom now and things are about as close to a peak as I can imagine 🙂

tropicalismo

The Tuesday view this evening.  I managed to get the pictures just before dusk, and finally for once the photos didn’t come out all blurry and overexposed.  I can see why photographers enjoy this time of day and may have to reconsider my strong commitment to doing nothing at these closing hours of the day.

I’m not thrilled about the sun being lower and lower in the sky each week, but the low evening light hitting the canna tops really highlights their bright little blooms.

tropicalismo

The garden has become very popular with the hummingbirds as they go from verbena to canna to salvia to everywhere in between. I wonder if they are local youngsters or just birds starting to work their way south.

In case you’re wondering most of the dahlias have been staked.  It was a struggle but since the spool of twine has been sitting on the walkway for days now I figured it was time.  Hopefully the dahlias can bloom in peace and sway gently in the wind with their reassuring support system… although now it’s the overhanging canna leaves which threaten their happiness…

sunflower

I can’t help but put in another photo of the sunflower which came up near the fence. It’s got some doubling in there but I think the dark anthers poking through around the center are what really make it stand out for me. 

As long as I’m just putting in gratuitous plant pictures I might as well show my absolutely favorite canna ‘Bengal Tiger’ again.  It’s practically stunted in comparison to the others but gardeners all know that the show is always going to be better next year.  I’ll just have to get something taller to go with it since right now it matches perfectly with the verbena bonariensis… but that won’t be the case net year if it sprouts up to six feet (which it should have no problem doing).

canna Bengal tiger

Canna ‘Bengal Tiger’ with the purple of Verbena bonariensis.

Speaking of plants which are sprouting up, the banana ‘Bordelon’, which spent last summer potted on the deck, has finally recovered from a neglectful winter in the garage and a tough spring with a rough crowd in the back of the bed.  I hope this winter I can do better with its care and avoid this setback since I used to be able to just throw the stem with a few roots into a basement and they would survive just fine.  Something’s changed though since lately they’ve been just plain struggling.

tropicalismo

Banana ‘Bordeleon’ rising up above the verbena and knock out rose.  It’s still got a few more weeks before being dug up, so I hope it keeps going strong.

Actually I don’t even want to think about overwintering anything yet, so before I go I just want to point out one of the most enjoyable late summer events which occurs around the tropical bed this time of year.   Just across the grass path you’ll find a nice patch of hosta in bloom.  I received it years ago as an incorrectly labeled plant but I believe it’s hosta ‘Royal Standard’ and it completely fills the evening and nighttime air with a sweet tropical fragrance which reminds me of gardenias minus the mustiness I sometimes get from them.  I love the scent and the plants are indestructible and even if they’re as old as dirt compared to all the new, fancy hybrids I would never consider getting rid of them.

hosta royal standard

Hosta ‘Royal Standard'(maybe).  Full sun and drought fried the tansy to the right of it, but the hosta just trudged along with a small bit of leaf scorch and yellowing. 

That’s about it for the view.  I was beginning to think there wasn’t much new going on anymore but once you start poking around there are always a few surprises.  Hopefully I can keep it up a few more weeks.  As usual thanks to Cathy for hosting!

Bury your head in the sand

Ignorance is bliss.  As the garden shivers and crackles under a freezing blanket of cold the wise gardener will hunker down indoors and enjoy the luxury of a warmer, climate controlled gardening experience.  Outdoors he can’t do anything but wait for the damage to show but indoors he can at least tweak the thermostat a little higher and take another sip of coffee… spiked or unspiked depending on the latest weather report.

rebloom amaryllis

Leftover Easter flowers and a few too many amaryllis blooms.

I’ve been a little too excited about the new amaryllis I bought this winter and in my excitement ended up bringing the older bulbs out and giving them a little water too.  In a normal year I just throw the dormant bulbs outside in April and let them bloom right alongside the tulips, but this year I thought ‘the more the merrier’ and as a result I’m ending the winter with an amaryllis (Hippeastrum) extravaganza.  I’ve had these bulbs at least seven years now and if I remember to give them a little attention after flowering they reward me each spring with a fantastic color show.

red amaryllis

The bright red and pure white are perfect for Christmas… or I guess Easter 🙂

It sounds slightly ungrateful but of all the colors, Christmas red and snowy white are not what I’m normally looking for come springtime.  This of course was not what I was considering years ago when I picked the bulbs up for $1 a piece at some box-store clearance shelf… but please humor me as I shamelessly brag about how well they are doing now.  Each pot is already showing at least four bloom stalks a piece, and the plants themselves are on the verge of nearly overwhelming the dining room table, even with less than half the flower stalks open.  On the edge of the group you barely notice the last of the newbies, a delicate pink-flushed mini white named ‘Trentino’.

amaryllis trentino

Bigger may not necessarily be better as in the case of this ‘mini’ amaryllis ‘Trentino’.

Once it warms up outside (assuming it ever does) new and old amaryllis will all go out into a semi-shaded spot, get hooked up to the same drip irrigation system that waters the summer annuals, and will be ignored until November.  If I feel generous I’ll send some liquid fertilizer their way but for the most part they’re on their own.  If there’s a trick to it all I guess it’s that they sit in a gritty, peat-free soil mix which drains well, and they have a nice solid terracotta pot which breathes well and holds down their heavy tops.  Well drained, plenty of moisture, and a good feeding… mine enjoy that.

fancy leaf geranium

Geraniums blooming more than they should under the lights of the winter garden.  A better gardener would probably remove the flowers for the sake of stronger growth and a healthier spring transplant.

You may notice the attractive plastic sheeting which forms a subtle backdrop to the amaryllis photos.  The sheeting keeps the dust and debris of a kitchen remodel from drifting into the rest of the house, and also keeps us from enjoying the charms of a useable sink or stove.  If I try hiding indoors too long from the brutality of our latest arctic blast, eventually I need a new place to hide from the mayhem a kitchen run out of the living room…. so I escape to the garage and the winter garden.

scented geranium flower

The scented leaved geraniums (Pelargonium) are also blooming under the lights.  The flowers are a treat, but I love the lemony scents which come off the foliage each time I move a plant or water a neighbor.

For a while the winter garden was being ignored.  Spring was early and I was back outside enjoying snowdrops, then crocus, and then daffodils… but now winter is back and I’m pretending it didn’t all happen and I’m just doing the regular sowing and repotting of late winter.  Because I foolishly brought sprouting bulb seedlings in during a December freeze I’m now at the point where I can dig seedlings out and see what grew.  Here’s a mixed potful of one and two year old Allium Christophii bulblets which just recently went dormant.  I’m fascinated even though a less than polite reader might point out I could get a bagful of blooming sized bulbs for under $10 this fall.

allium christophii seedlings

A few Allium christophii seedlings all grown up into pea sized bulblets.  I’ll plant them outside next year and hopefully see flowers in another two or three years.  I’m sure at that point I’ll wonder where they came from, since I’ll definitely forget where I planted them!

I find it interesting that even though I sowed the seeds shallowly, most have migrated to the very bottom of their four inch pots.  Readers of Ian Young’s Bulb Log at the Scottish Rock Garden Club will already know this since Mr. Young has observed this repeatedly, but for me to see it myself is of course more fun.

tulip from seed

Second year for a tulip seedling.  In the middle of the photo you can see the dried rice-sized husk of last year’s bulb, if you follow this year’s root to the right (which would have grown deeper into the pot) you will find the newly formed pea sized bulb from this season.  Maybe by next year we’ll be up to kidney bean size 🙂 

I was also happy to find one of my fall snowdrops has made a nice sized offset.  I would have thought the double shoot from the top would have split the bulb into two, but instead it has just sprouted a new bulb off to the side.  So I guess that means there will be three growing tips next fall!

galanthus monosticus

One of my special snowdrops, a fall blooming Galanthus elwessi monosticus which a friend picked up for me at Nancy Goodwin’s Montrose Gardens in Hillsborough North Carolina.

Not all my escape gardening happens in seclusion.  Occasionally I have a helper and this year that helper has been assisting in writing out some of the many plant labels which go along with all the odds and ends which get seeded out.  She may actually do a neater job than I do, and her talent for labeling in Latin is impressive.

dyi plant label

The cut up vinyl blinds which I use for plant labels.  Plain old lead pencil seems to last for decades and I’ve found a few still readable in the garden, one going back to ’91 for a dogwood seedling which I apparently smuggled out of Longwood Gardens in a pocket…

Also impressive is one of my newest treasures.  It’s a Cyclamen Rhodium seedling from my visit to John Lonsdale’s Edgewood Gardens, and it’s blooming in spite of having been dumped out of its pot not even three minutes after John handed it off to me.  He was very forgiving of my clumsiness, but I never did mention that I dumped it over again a second time as I got into my car.  Fortunately it survived, and although John suggested that I give this one a try outdoors in a sheltered spot (planted six or more inches deep once it goes dormant), I’m not sure if I’m brave enough to risk its health a third time.

cyclamen rhodium

A really cool Cyclamen rhodium from the Southern Peloponnese and island of Rhodes in Greece.  Nice flower but look at that speckled foliage! 

So that’s how things are going here in my own sheltered locations.  I have some promising tomato seedlings sprouting as well as eggplant and peppers, but it will be a few days before the damage outside becomes definite.  Already things such as roses, lilacs and daffodils look rough, but for as long as I can stay in denial I will.  Maybe the hyacinth will bloom so much stronger next year now that their blooms have all been frozen off.  A gardener can hope 🙂

June. Rained out.

Don’t get me wrong,  I’m not complaining about the rain, but this kind of weather would have been much more welcome in April or May when things were going brown and shriveling up.  Still I love it.  It’s perfect for the procrastinating planter and the person who hates to lug the hose from plant to plant (that would be me), and by now even the grass has put on a green color once again!

gerbera daisies planter

Green grass makes any color look acceptable.   I’m finding that gerber daisies are one of my wife’s favorite plants, so on the rare occasion she comes to the nursery who am I to say no?

The rain is also not a problem bloom-destroying-wise since my garden seems to wade through a lull at this time of year.  There are plenty of blooms which could be gracing my beds right now but I just don’t have many of them in the ground.  My garden peaks closer to the midpoint of summer and beyond, and I’m fine with the extra wait since this time of year is when I always seem to be ironing out the last plantings and thinking through all the projects which may still happen… such as widening the front border (again).

mixed perennial border

Up near the house the blue of the ornamental fescue fills in an earlier expansion of the foundation bed, here closer to the street you can’t even make out the extra foot or so I added to this bed, so it barely counts as a project.

Sometimes with your nose to the wheel day in and day out you forget that there’s plenty of good coming together while you slave away at the not-so-good.  Here if the viewing angle is just right, the front street border looks fairly well put together.  A thick mulch of shredded leaves, a nice edge of shredded bark, and removal of nearly half of everything in the bed gives it an ‘under control’ look for at least one month this year.  A clean bed edging always helps,  but expanding another foot into the lawn really gave some breathing room… I should remember to enforce this rule next year as everything seeds and spreads out into the newly open space!

June perennial border

The front street border this morning.  The dark magenta lychnis coronaria and white oxeye daisies are essentially weeds, but if there are just a few I guess it’s socially acceptable.

A plant which spreads out wherever and whenever it wants is my trusty giant reed grass (Arundo Donax ‘variegata’).  I smile and make excuses for it when people comment about its possibly too-large size, but deep down I’m proud of it.  I won’t even bat an eye when it consumes the iris and other plantings around it 🙂

arundo donax variegata

Arundo donax ‘variegata’ overcoming the far end of the street border. 

Another spreader is the ‘Tiger eyes’ sumac which sits in a couple spots around the yard.  For me yellow leaved and chartreuse plants are an addiction and I am constantly in need of reminding of the fine line between a few accents and the way-too-much stage, but the tiger takes care of this on his own.  He (actually a she since this clone of cutleaf sumacs produces the colorful red female seed heads when mature) will pepper your beds with small yellow shoots here and there and I suppose someday take over the world, but for now I just pull the innocent little shoots.

drought tolerant perennials

Pennisetum ‘Karley Rose’ is putting up the first of many fluffy pink seedheads.  They’re always dancing about in the wind and keeping things lively.  Maybe a few clumps closer to the light pole would look nice next to the bright mess of ‘Tiger Eyes’ which surrounds it right now.

For some reason this spring the kids have been coming along on nursery runs.  I suspect they have some hidden agenda which includes a stop at the Dollar Store but regardless I’m going to enjoy their company while it lasts.  Both insist on helping pick their own plants and sometimes even want to plant.

lychnis coronaria

Bright magenta Lychnis coronaria faced down with a few sunpatients.  The girl insisted on putting labels front and center, I couldn’t quite get out the reason for it.  Also I couldn’t talk her out of the magenta-orange combo.  This might have to be replanted once she moves on to other things.

The front borders are looking pretty good right now but there are also a few nice surprises out back amongst the weeds.  One of my favorites is the first blooms on this strawberry foxglove (Digitalis x mertonensis).  It’s been a struggle getting this one to bloom since the harsh winters seem to do a number on the crowns, but this year a few made it, and I finally get to see the strawberry-ish blooms on the relatively short stalks.

digitalis mertonensis strawberry foxglove

A cross-species hybrid of two foxgloves, the strawberry foxglove should be slightly more perennial than the regular type, and hopefully come true from seed as well. 

Another spike out in the garden (I like my spiky bloomers) is this verbascum which hitch-hiked in with a gift plant.  You know a plant (in this case a shrub dogwood) is coming from a good garden when two special plants tag along on the root ball.  This verbascum (maybe V. chaixii?) is blooming nicely now, and follows up some nice scilla blooms which flowered in spring.  It was only the dogwood I wanted, but surprises are always fun as well!

verbascum chaixii

Verbascum blooming amongst the sunflower seedlings which I didn’t have the resolve to rip up….. and yes that’s a huge thistle in front of the fence.  I like them, please don’t judge me.

Some would call the uninvited sunflower seedlings weeds, many would call the verbascum the same, and many more would immediately rip out the thistle, but I have a more laissez faire approach to the less invasive of the volunteers.  I let plenty of things go, but oddly enough this year the beautiful purple campanula glomerata is what I’m ripping out.  I’m trying to reclaim the red border, and it’s the campanula which has made a takeover play.  Enough is enough so a few weeks ago roundup was sprayed and it’s only a few pretty stalks which remain.  I’ll hand pull these and hopefully with a little summertime vigilance will be able to clear this plant out.

campanula glomerata with clematis

Once the campanula was beaten back I realized there are a few really nice plants in this bed.  Clematis ‘Ville de Lyon’ is one of my favorites and it deserves much more than the hardscrabble life of a vine left to struggle along the ground…. but it does look even better with the campanula blooms :/ 

Another borderline weedy area is the meadow.  Last summer’s dry spell weakened the lawn turf so much that it barely had the strength to send up bloom stalks this spring.  That’s a shame since I love the look of the tall grass waving in the wind and enjoy watching the bunnies work their way through each morning filling up on seedheads.  But the lazy gardener needs to take these things in stride (I could have made the effort to water last year) and realize the daisies and butterfly weed show up much better in the more open meadow.

meadow planting asclepias tuberosa

The meadow garden with some particularly drought tolerant butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa).  Depending on my mood and the weather this area will be mown down in late summer to neaten things up keep the taller plants from dominating.

The butterflies are enjoying the meadow, but everything else is focused on the linden blooms (Tilia europaea I think).  The tree buzzes with honey and bumble bees, flies, beetles, wasps, and a load of other things which I can’t even identify, and the scent is fantastic and fills the yard with a soft flowery honey aroma.  It’s a decent size tree and I can’t even imagine the number of insects which fill its branches.  If only I could follow the bees home and get a cut of the honey they’re making from all this.

linden blooms tilia basswood

June is when the linden tree is in its glory. 

Another plant which does its own thing without me raising a finger is my trusty hydrangea ‘Annabelle’.  New hydrangeas will come and go, but I can’t think of a reason good enough to cut this one loose.  It can flop, but in the spring it’s cut back completely and between lean living and full sun it holds up well enough.  If I had the room I’d do a mass of these, maybe under a grove of white birches, but here all I have room for is a few scattered along the edge of the yard.  Obviously I love the chartreuse of the opening blooms best of all since the next best thing to chartreuse foliage is a chartreuse bloom!

hydrangea annabelle

Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’.  You can count on this one to bloom every year.

I’ve seen some photos of the newest ‘Annabelle’ siblings and they’re an amazing range or pinks to near reds in addition to the never out of style whites, so I would surely have to add one or two, but I think I’ll always have room for good old ‘Annabelle’.  Speaking of room, it’s still a never ending seed starting and cutting taking rollercoaster here and for some reason I still start more.  Hopefully I’ll be patting myself on the back when these late marigolds and amaranthus come into bloom and everything else is looking a bit tired!

seedlings sown in summer

Still sowing seeds and taking cuttings well into June.  They grow so fast at this time of year, I should have fresh flowers in no time at all!

I better get this posted, it’s been a work in progress since the weekend, not because there’s any amazing content in this post, but because I’m stealing minutes from birthday parties, baseball games, and pool time and would rather sneak in a trip to the nursery than sit at the computer 🙂  But lazy summer days are coming and things should ease up shortly, until then may you enjoy summer as much as I do!

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 🙂

Midsummer night’s dream

There’s a “pink spires” summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) growing just below the covered porch, and since we’re using the porch much more this year it’s blooming has not gone unnoticed.  In the warm summer afternoons and evenings the heavy, sweet scent drifts up and around the garden and brings in dozens of bumblebees and honeybees to the pink bottlebrush flowers.

Clethra alnifolia "pink spires"

Clethra alnifolia “pink spires” is a pink version of the normally white summersweet.

Summersweet is a good name for this fragrant native shrub, but having it planted so close to the porch might be a little too strong and sweet a scent for my taste.  Coming across a patch in bloom while hiking the woodst is a pleasant surprise, but drowsy afternoons spent out on the porch border on naps, and who knows what kind of dreams will be experienced with this perfume wafting through the air?  Or in the words of a less fragrance-friendly member of this household, “one of your flowers really smells out there, it’s giving me a headache”.

Clethra alnifolia

Very popular with the bees, Clethra alnifolia likes a nice moist spot. The only reason it’s surviving in my dried up garden is that it’s planted right at the downspout from the roof.

I may have to move it, but where to?  Right now it’s exactly where water from the roof comes down and it would likely die out in the drier parts of the garden, so my options are limited.  We’ll see what happens.  I’d like to redo this area within the next two years so I have time to think about it.

Am I the only person who thinks some fragrances are just too much?