Back to Work

The rain last week did wonders for the garden and it’s become as lush as last year.  Lush is sometimes code for overgrown, so I spent some productive time trimming and weeding this weekend and I’m happy to say it appears to have paid off.  With pictures taken at precisely the right moment, from just the right angle, within hours after the lawn was mowed and edged, the yard finally looks nice.  I guess it’s about time considering we’re about four months into the growing season.

street border

The lawn cut and edged.  It looks almost parklike, just ignore the yellow spots… the kids were playing with a metal detector and searching for treasure in the turf…

I’ll try not to dwell on all the flaws I see.  The front border has much less color from annuals this year because of beetle attacks and a dry spell, but there’s enough which has come along regardless.  From the street side it’s really filled in, the usual perennials and random sunflower make a nice barrier between us and the road.

street border

The border does its own thing along the street with just an occasional whacking back when things get out of hand.

From the lawn side there’s also a good amount of perennial color, but not as much as I’d like.  I do prefer my plantings on the brighter side  🙂

street border

This picture is 100% showing off the lawn.  It’s a rare day when a well watered, green, freshly cut, neatly edged, lawn shows up on this blog.

Speaking of too much color, it’s not an official policy but in general I don’t have many daylilies in the garden.  I don’t like the way the leaves on so many of them look all beat up by the end of the year and for that reason got rid of most of them.  That may be a-changin’ though.  I spotted this one next door and there’s a good chance I may rationalize an emergency dividing, so I can sneak a few pieces over onto my side of the property line.

orange and pink daylily

Orange and pink.  This might be just what my border needs… or it might be one more piece of evidence in the case against any good taste in my garden.

I’ll have to be sure I don’t give in to the temptation of bringing a few bright daylilies into the tropical border.  It’s supposed to be all big leaves and bright colors thanks to explosive, non-hardy southern plants, not steady reliable things like daylilies.

tropical garden

A late start means the dahlias are only just now starting to flower, plus an unusually lazy May meant three or four were all that ever got planted.  Maybe less will be more this year…

The top part of the tropical border is again nearly overwhelmed by 8 foot tall sunflowers among other things.  This year I thought for sure I’d have the upper hand after pulling nearly all of them up but of course with more space the remaining plants grew even bigger.  I guess I could have worse problems.

tropical garden

At least the elephant ears look tropical.

The lawn isn’t the only thing enjoying some maintenance love.  I pulled out the hedge clippers and started doing a little trimming and was able to re-meatball all the lumps of yew along the house.  I don’t completely mind trimming hedges, but rounding off the same yews every year just to have the same yews rounded off every year seems incredibly pointless, so by the time I got to the big one at the end I was more than a little bored.  We’ll have to see where this ends up.

yew topiary

Maybe I can call my yew balls ‘topiary’ now.  Of course I have yet to clean up the trimmings or get a ladder to reach the top…

Out back the potager is particularly lush.  I’ve been relentlessly pulling sunflower, verbena, persicaria, and amaranth seedlings but plenty remain.  Through July I still pretend to be the one in charge, but by August I lose the urge.  From here on things will be getting messier and messier, with all kinds of halfway attractive flowers sprouting up and taking over as the phlox fade or the vegetables are picked.

potager vegetables

It’s phlox season, and each day far too much time is spent checking them out.

I do like my phlox, but experience has shown they don’t like me.  The list of named varieties which have perished in this garden is pretty embarrassing, so of course we won’t talk much about that, and hopefully more observant readers won’t notice that I again spent a decent amount of money on new ones earlier this spring.  They’re not dead yet which is a good sign I think.

phlox paniculata

A mix of seedling and named varieties of tall garden phlox (Phlox paniculata).  To my eye gold and pink do not mix well… in fact I hate the mix… but I need marigolds and I need phlox, so there you go.

From further away the phlox look colorful at least.  Close up the foliage looks abused and there are plenty of other issues, but the flowers keep coming, and it makes me wonder if they think this is their last hurrah before they kick the bucket.  I hope not, but I’m not going to fool myself into thinking they like it here.

potager vegetables

I feel like it’s a requirement to grow marigolds in your vegetable garden, even if it’s so fancy that you call it a potager.  Sorry about the white buckets littering the view, but this photo is to prove that there really are vegetables in here.

One last phlox photo.  I wonder if they’d like me more if I dug up a whole new bed and devoted it to even more phlox and more new phlox?  A few more reds would be nice and how much room do a few tomatoes need anyway?

I definitely need more phlox, and I also won’t rule out bigger clumps of the good ones like this white seedling. They’re native plants by the way, so maybe this is helping make America great again.

I’m sure by September I’ll be wishing for fewer phlox and more colchicums.  Maybe.  Hopefully it’s not chrysanthemums though since I’m this close to yanking most of them out in spite of the fact I needed bunches of them just a few years ago.  I hope not everyone is as fickle as I am.

Happy August and have a great week!

During and After

Summer vacations and gardens gone wild are two things that seem to come up regularly each year, and I’ve noticed many of the better bloggers will do posts on preparing your garden for a longer absence.  Here’s my two cents.  Do everything you know you should have done already but have been putting off, and then go enjoy yourself.

pandora animal kingdom

Florida in July is not enjoyment.  The kids seem to like it but my only moment of ‘not bad’ was seeing the new Pandora section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  Cycads, fantail palms, tree ferns, massive rock outcroppings on what used to be flat sand…

It was as hot up in Pennsylvania as it was in sweltering Orlando but fortunately a well timed rainstorm kept everything relatively happy.  My plants are used to hit and miss attention so one more week wasn’t all that big a deal.

deck containers

The deck containers would have fried without watering, but an automatic drip system makes them almost carefree, even with a full sun baking each afternoon.   

I guess I can just pick up where I left off.

weedy garden

These are my new phlox.  Only the most adept word-find champion would be able to find any phlox in this mess, but trust me I managed to dig them out yesterday afternoon 🙂

For some reason this year seems like so much more work than any other.   I suspect it’s the result of my cheap nature and the way it’s keeping me from buying a nice, luxuriantly rich, delivery of shredded bark mulch (and its lovely weed smothering qualities), but it could be anything.  My deepest fear is that I may in fact be getting old, and I may in fact have a more ‘intense’ garden than I should.  My daughter informed me last week that all I do is look at plants or go on the computer and look at plants and maybe she’s not all that far off.  I kind of pointed out that I also brought her to her friend’s, picked up her brother from somewhere else, went to the store, met mom for lunch, picked her back up, went for ice cream with her….

potager

The potager in need of a grooming and a hedge trim.  Growing vegetables might be the most time consuming component of the garden… even if you’ve only got my word to go on when it comes to there being any actual vegetables in there.

So now I’m working through the garden one more time to get it presentable.  Throwing lawn clippings down as a mulch is helping, here and there the weeds might be slowing down, and overall the flowers are trying to make a go at it.  At least the bugs (both good and bad and indifferent) don’t seem to mind a little ‘woolliness’.

swallowtail on phlox

I’d like to think this beautiful yellow swallowtail is the child of one that was hanging around the garden a few weeks ago.  I like that there is so much life sharing my garden. 

Some of the woolliness comes from my weakness for self-seeders.  With phlox season ramping up there’s the excitement of new seedlings which snuck in while I wasn’t looking, and the surprises that come with new faces.

phlox paniculata

It takes plenty of diligence (maybe more than I have) to keep your phlox colors pure.  This may look like the same clump but it’s actually ‘Cabot Pink’ in the back right half and a stray seedling to the front left.  Slightly different petals and a tiny bit shorter, but the real giveaway comes on cool mornings when the seedling takes on a blue tint.

The phlox might look nice but they’ve been giving me trouble this year, even with decent rains and halfway decent care.  Spider mites are swarming and the usual sprays of water and fertilizing haven’t done the trick.  For as much as I like tall garden phlox, they really only tolerate me.  Maybe someday I’ll make them happy.

weedy garden

My failed poppy patch.  You may be able to spot a few purple blooms in there but for the most part it’s weeds which seemed to have sprung up overnight.  Hopefully I can get at this today before the rain hits.

Relatively speaking the front border is doing much better than the back.  It’s not nearly as colorful as last year, but it’s far less work than the potager, and only needs a strong beating back every now and then to keep looking decent.  Last year I expanded it out as much as two or three feet and worried about what to do with the space.  This year the perennials have rolled in and I barely have a few spots for annuals.  Hmmmm.  Ten minutes after saying I want less work I’m considering ripping out perennials to make more room for annuals.

front border

I feel like the border is dull this year.  The coleus I usually count on for foliage color have been brutalized by beetles and other less interesting things are trying to take over their space.

Don’t worry.  This should be the last post where I whine about how much work gardening is, and go on way too long with the woe is me theme.  It’s really not that bad and since I took these pictures I’m nearly all the way around the yard with the straightening up.  Plus there’s plenty of stuff to admire while I’m trudging on 🙂

lilium silk road

‘Silk Road’ might be my favorite lily.  It fills this whole end of the border with fragrance, doesn’t need staking, and gets better each year even in a terrible spot.  My dream for the future is that it becomes a clump of several bulbs and adds another two or three feet in height!

Enjoy your weekend, the weather here has been excellent for time in the garden and in spite of my daughter’s harsh assessment I’m still planning to do a lot out there today.

And Then It Was Summer

Well now it’s official, the first roses are in bloom.

rose john cabot

Rose, possibly ‘John Cabot’, opening up at the far end of the front border.

I don’t think anyone out there dislikes roses.  They might not like growing them, but to dislike them or harbor worse opinions seems out of the question and even borderline suspicious to me.  There are a few roses around here but I’ve tried to hold back.  Rose Rosette Disease is in the wild roses all around us, and I’d hate to see it jump into the garden and decimate any big plantings I might end up putting in.  Unless they’re irresistibly fragrant of course.  The workhorses I have right now are barely fragrant, and at the start fo each summer I always give a little thought to adding something with a fierce perfume.  This year I’m thinking rugosas, and we’ll see if I can hold strong or not.

lupine red rum

A surprising return from last year, ‘Red Rum’ lupine.  I still think it’s amazing and of course want more.

The front border along the street is still riding high with the last of the iris and alliums and a returning lupine star from last year.  I was sure the lupine would would be a one and done wonder but here it is in year two looking even better.  Between the lupine and some new allium schubertii I’m really pleased how it looks.  Usually the iris are followed by a lull, but not this year!

allium schubertii

A closer look at Allium schubertii.  Not super showy, but definitely super cool.

You may have heard it mentioned that someone here is going through an iris phase.  It’s true, and I guess it’s been building for longer than I’d care to admit.  Two years ago ‘Bayberry Candle’ was added, and this year I’m seeing how a flower which is not bright nor flashy, can still be rich and amazing.

iris bayberry candle

Iris ‘Bayberry Candle’ (1966)

It’s possible there have been other iris as well.  ‘Gerald Darby’ was showing off his purple foliage earlier in the year and now has sent up several purple tinged flower stalks topped with several elegant (purple of course) flowers.

iris gerald darby

Iris ‘Gerald Darby’ in bloom.

These later iris are part of what I call the ‘water iris’ group.  That term would likely make a more knowledgable iris grower cringe, but for me it’s one of the beardless iris which do well enough in occasionally soggy, and my always clayish soil, even to the point of sitting in water.  I put the invasive yellow flag (Iris pseudacorus) in this group, and although it’s a little too sloppy for me I do have the brown veined ‘Berlin Tiger’ version which will hopefully not seed around and spread as much as the standard variety.  This one has the distinction of being one of my most expensive iris, since even though the original plant was free from a friend (thanks Kathy!) I may have been tempted to search out similar varieties, order them from far away, and then add other things just to round out a decent order…. and I’m still thinking I should add a few more this summer…

iris berlin tiger

The finely veined flowers of iris ‘Berlin Tiger’ are pretty darn interesting.

Moving out of the iris world it’s also peony season.  On the plus side my garden is too small and this gardener is too fickle to invest in bunches and bunches of these.  I’m counting that as a good thing since if it weren’t set up that way I’m sure I could devote quite a few beds to these opulent flowers and surely I’d go overboard.

peony Do Tell

Peony ‘Do Tell’ wallowing in a weedy side bed.  I hope you believe that it’s been cleaned up since this photo was taken 😉

At this time of year the gardener is spending most of his time weeding and mowing, but what he really needs to do is finish planting.  Last weekend overwintered bulbs went into the tropical garden, and in an attempt to buy some time from the weeds the lawn clippings were collected and spread around as a mulch.

the tropical garden

Not the most attractive soil cover, but it sure beats an ocean of verbena and prickly lettuce seedlings.  In a few weeks you hopefully won’t even notice it under all the new growth.

I do prefer thick perennial plantings as a way of crowding out weeds rather than the trouble of mulching and cultivating, but a full bed in June doesn’t leave much room for all those annuals I’d like to still add.  Hopefully this doesn’t become a regret in August.

allium nigrum amsonia hubrichtii

Amsonia hubrichtii in front with its oddly icy colored pale blue flowers, and Allium nigrum rising up in the center.  I’ve been warned that the allium will be impossible to get rid of, so I pretend to be happy with its multiplying and just let it be.  

Maybe I will whack a few things back today and sneak a few castor beans and cannas in.  I also have a few orange marigolds which should really class things up, so maybe this weekend…  In the meantime here’s one more picture of my little darling ‘Red Rum’ lupine, I honestly look at this plant a million times a day.

lupine red rum

One last view of ‘Red Rum’.  The color is exciting, just try to avoid spelling the name backwards.

All the best for this weekend.  Hopefully you are either well into it or have already had an excellent time of it, I know I plan to 🙂

I just have to avoid the temptation of nursery hopping this weekend… in the hopes of finding some fragrant rugosa roses.  We’ll see.

…and Tulips

The daffodil season was here and gone so quickly, I barely noticed.  Hot winds wilted the mid season bloomers and singed any flowers just opening.  It was all a little rude, but you’ll have that when you garden on a hilltop and the weather decides to finally heat up.

tulip garden

A few daffodils escaped the wind.  Having too many helps in this regard.

Fortunately I have way too many bulbs coming along, so even if a few are less than perfect there’s still plenty more where that came from.

narcissus conestoga

Narcissus ‘Conestoga’.  You may notice the birch branches cut as holiday decorations last winter have found a new home as part of the parterre archway.

The daffodils were missed, but to be honest I wasn’t all that in to them this spring.  They’re overcrowded and in need of digging and replanting and as I thought about it this week I decided many will find their way to the compost pile this summer.  As long as we’re being honest here I may have even filled a wheelbarrow with a few hundred ‘less favorite’ bulbs yesterday in an effort to speed up the process.

tulip garden

As the daffodils fade the tulips take over.

I was pretty sure last year that the tulips around here were on their way out.  Tulip Fire has hit the garden, and it’s not uncommon to find the spotted leaves and twisted stalks of bulbs affected by this fungus blight.  Late freezes, hail damage, and a wet spring for two years running have helped spread the disease around the whole garden but this year’s turn to drier weather seems to have slowed the fire.  I had my doubts last spring, but now I’m happy to say there are many more tulips surviving than I thought there would be 🙂

tulip garden

Although the heat brought the tulips on too fast and also fried many of the blooms, the color is still great.  Don’t look too closely though, there are plenty of signs of Tulip Fire here as well.

I’m sure there’s a lesson to be learned here.  Maybe I shouldn’t just plant any bulb I can find… maybe I should be more faithful to the ones I have… maybe I’m not a good person to look to for tulip advice, since all you’ll learn here is that playing around with too many tulip bulbs might just leave you with a disease.

tulip garden

I promised abstinence last summer, but by the time autumn rolled around there were again more tulips.  Exotic parrots proved irresistible although these came up with a few fringed tulips mixed in.

Fortunately I have enough space to let these things run their course.  Tulip Fire (Botrytis tulipae)  is specific to tulips and shouldn’t bother anything else, and between thinning crowded clumps and removing overly infected leaves, maybe I can control it somewhat without resorting to chemicals.

tulip garden

Other parts of the garden still have plenty of the stray tulips which always seem to hitchhike in with the compost.  The colors might be a mess but it makes me smile!

Enough about my problems.  Out along the front border I didn’t expect much of a tulip show (given all of last summers rain) but to give in to a little bragging, I think they’re glorious.  Not public garden glorious, but for me and my crappy soil, with all my weeds and mediocre budget, and lack of chemical support, I’m going to claim glorious 🙂

tulip garden

Even an ugly duckling which sprouted up out of a patch of shorter tulips can steal the show.  It was supposed to be a ‘Pricess Irene’ mix…

I bought smaller packs of bulbs last fall from a new supplier and results have been mixed, but the year before that it was the ‘Incendiary mix’ from Van Engelen that earned a click on the proceed to checkout button.  They were amazing last spring, but I think they’re even better this spring… who cares if the flowers are a little smaller…

tulip garden

Tulips in the front border.  It’s perfect right now, the spring bulbs are up yet the weeds are still too small to notice.

Ok one more issue.  I noticed a few of the solid orange tulips have ‘broken’.  Broken color means the tulip has been infected with a tulip breaking virus which causes the color to streak.  It’s the virus which brought on several of the most beautiful historical tulips ever, but it’s still a disease.  I shouldn’t let them stay.  For as pretty as it looks I don’t like the way it’s spread this year, and even if I don’t have a tulip growing livelihood to protect I think it’s time to do the right thing.

tulip garden

Orange tulips streaked with flames of yellow.  It wasn’t there last year and is likely a tulip breaking virus.

All these problems are forgotten the minute I look at the next best thing.  There are still late tulips on their way and I think they’ll be just as amazing… even if much fewer in number.

tulip garden

The twisted fat buds of the last of the tulips, the parrots.

We just had a “lively” thunderstorm barrel through and I wonder how the flowers made out with all the wind and rain.  I’m hoping for the best but even if that’s not the case I noticed a few bearded iris nearly open.  There’s always a next best thing at this time of year, but it still goes too fast.

Have a great weekend!

The Springpocolypse

The weather has suddenly caught up to the calendar and we’ve been suddenly and brutally been thrown into our first hot (90F, 32C) days of the year.  I was battling cold and the chance of flurries Sunday and by Tuesday we’re turning the air conditioning on.  Go figure.  Better get some pictures and a post up before the tomatoes start ripening.

corydalis solida

The last of the corydalis.  These are in a shaded spot and later than the rest, and of course I’m already looking for new ones since I love the darker tips on short little ‘Domino’ 🙂

I was enjoying the long, cool, spring, but with two days of hot winds and beating sun everything has jumped ahead again.  I always fall behind on posting at this time of year, but this post has really got to go up quick since by tomorrow morning I suspect most of these flowers will have been done in by the weather….

corydalis solida

Plain old Corydalis solida.  I was a little ‘meh’ for the first few years, but now that they’ve settled in I must say I like them.

The hellebores will hopefully still have another week or so in them.  Without any late freezes it’s been a great year, and I’m suddenly itching to grow a few more!

hellebore seedling

Seedlings out in the street border.  The heavily speckled ones are some of my favorites, but then so are the dark ones, and double ones, and yellow, and….

I grow a few from seed every year, and would have started many more but lately it seems I’ve been running out of room.  The words ‘thinning the herd’ have come up, and now I’m looking at a few plants with a critical eye and an eager shovel.  I need room for more seedlings, my favorites deserve a chance to spread their seed ;).

hellebore golden lotus

These are purchased doubles from the O’Byrnes out in Oregon.  It’s ‘Golden Lotus’ in front and possibly ‘Peppermint Ice’ behind.  These would qualify as ‘favorites’.

I’m probably being delusional.  It would be a struggle for me to get rid of any of the hellebores, even the ones which might deserve the ‘less pretty’ title, and in case it’s not already obvious,  I really lack the focus and conviction to ever draw a line with plants.  Who knows though, one afternoon anger management might fail me and out they will come.

hellebore seedling

The queen bumble bees are out, and hopefully they’re getting plenty of the nectar and pollen they need to start this season’s family… and doing a little pollination on the side of course.

This spring even the messiest, most unevenly colored hellebore ends up being a favorite.  Green flowers in particular win me over immediately.

hellebore seedling

The first year flowers on a new hellebore seedling are always the most exciting.

Green flowers and other ‘curious’ blooms are always welcome here and this year I’m seeing a little success in that always curious plant group, the fritillarias.  Fritillaria uva vulpis, aka fox’s grapes, is back for a second year and even though it took the convincing of a friend to sway me towards keeping them, I’m glad now that I did.  They at least look a little ‘interesting’ rather than the straight ‘blah’ I saw last year, and perhaps they’ll continue to improve next year as well.

fritillaria uva vulpis

Fritillaria uva vulpis.  It might not hold up to a bank of golden daffodils but surely it still makes the garden a better place.

The snake’s head fritillaries (Fritillaria meleagris) are showing off as well.  I love them, and and it makes me happy to see seedlings and clumps forming as they settle in to the soggiest parts of the garden.

fritillaria meleagris

This clump really lives up to the name snake’s head fritillaria.  I can even see eyes!

The white ones add a little contrast, but the checkered patterns and colors of the darker ones really wow me as they unfurl each spring.  Fyi I’ll need to spread the seeds of these around as well!

fritillaria meleagris

Fritillarias have some of the coolest flower patterns.

By the end of last week the front border was at a peak with all the leftover hyacinths, corydalis, and the start of the midseason daffodils.  From the right angle the bed looks packed with color and I was thrilled, and a few days later it still looks nice but half of what was in flower has been melted by the heat.  Now the first tulips are coming on, and hopefully in a few day you’ll tolerate a few photos of that as well!

daffodil garden

The front street border.  Spring is here 🙂

Here are a few highlights along the curb.

daffodil garden

Maybe ‘Red Rascal’ and and definitely ‘Pistachio’.  The pale yellow ‘Pistachio’ has been a favorite for years.

lunaria annua rosemary verey

The first flowers on one of the moneyplants (Lunaria annua ‘Rosemary Verey’).  This is the first year I’m seeing the purple stained foliage and stems for which this strain is know.

magnolia stellata

A magnolia cutting swiped from a layered branch on the neighbor’s tree.  It’s nothing special I’m sure, but having grown it from a cutting makes it absolutely special.  Of course I need more.

Behind the house the back garden is showing off as well.  In three days all the green has turned to flowers!

daffodil garden

Vegetable beds are much more successful when not filled with daffodils.  My bad.

Flowers aren’t the only color out there.  This spring I’m finally seeing the awesome foliage which inspired me to hunt down my very own plant of Iris x robusta ‘Gerald Darby’.  Thanks to Nan Ondra and her blog at Hayefield, I’ve been coveting this plant for years.  Now I’m seeing that the wait was worth it.

‘Gerald Darby’ also has pale blue flowers which follow the purple foliage.  As the shoots expand, the color will fade to green.

I’ll spare you most of the other foliage photos, and the overabundance of daffodil photos to just leave you with a few more scenes from around the garden.  The primroses enjoyed last summer’s rain and look promising for once in their (short) lives… such a refreshing change from their usual near-death appearance.

Some of the first plants to come in to bloom. This peachy sunset flower doesn’t show up well in the garden, but close up it’s delicious 😉

Under the weeping cherry the three day cherry bloom is over, and the spent petals are now decorating the ground.  It’s a perfect complement to the last of the hardy cyclamen, which (not to rub it in) have been blooming since March, through storm and ice and heat, -unlike the short lived cherry.

The last flowers on the Cyclamen coum.

While the earliest bloomers are still up and growing and building energy for next year, it’s a great time to do a little moving around and dividing.  I created what I hope will soon become my very own trailer park snowdrop bed.  It’s filled with the most messy and common double flowers, the ones all the classier growers look down on such as ‘Flore pleno’ and her variously marked variations such as ‘Pussey Greentips’ and ‘Lady Elphinstone’.  I’m sure someday they will grow to wow even the most rarefied galanthophile.

Snowdrops are classy but only if you avoid decorating the surroundings with plastic children’s toys, plastic buckets, and stray leaf bags. I’d also be more impressed with this new planting if the big rock at the front was already moved out of the new pathway.  Obviously it would be easier to put the path elsewhere.

Two days ago the tulips were mostly closed and the bleeding hearts still a deep, rich carmine. Today they all opened and the hearts are faded. Still nice though!

While I’m moving snowdrops and boulders hopefully I’ll still have the time to enjoy a few daffodils and tulips.  They’re opening as we speak and hopefully the winds and downpour which are barreling through this afternoon will spare a few.  I managed to take one last photo out the back door before the storm hit and as you can see it was full on spring today.

the spring garden

The potager on the verge of tulip season.  For the record there are onions and lettuce in there as well.   

My fingers are crossed for the weekend.  If things work out as planned there will be plenty of time and energy for all the things which need doing… if history repeats itself there will be plenty of sitting around and little work.  We’ll see who wins.

For the record I’ve spent $15 on pansies and then $14 on lettuce and more pansies.  The rabbits have already eaten about $8 worth of the lettuce.  It happens.  Have a great weekend!

$15 for an exceptionally restrained first visit to my favorite garden center
$14 lettuce, onions, and more pansies, also essential

$576 total so far for the 2018 gardening year.

I Knew I Could, I Knew I Could

Like the little train who could, spring has done it.  She made an arrival last week and opened a ton of flowers but then got nervous, and ducked backstage again.  It’s a start though and I’ll take it!

‘Purple Bird’ corydalis, pink ‘Beth Evans’, and the slightly darker ‘George Baker, plus a few other things. The snowdrops are over for another year…

Last Tuesday wasn’t exactly the day it all happened, but it was a start, and once we got over the freezing mornings of midweek, winter cracked and the thermometer rose to nearly 80F (26C) for Friday and Saturday.  This is what everything was waiting for, and all of a sudden spring raced ahead another week or two.

narcissus tweety bird

Just a week ago there was nothing to see, but two days of warmth brought up the bright yellow ‘Tweety Bird’ daffodils and the pink of more corydalis towards the middle of the front street border.

The ‘Tweety Bird’ narcissus are one of the first daffodils to open here, right alongside the smaller ‘Tete a Tete’.  They’re almost too bright, but of course it’s the color you want after all that grey.  I think it goes along great with the pinks and purples of the Corydalis solida.  They open at the same time (at the earliest end of the daffodil season) and as I spread the little tubers of Corydalis ‘Beth Evans’ around the garden, a temporary pink carpet is starting to take shape.

corydalis beth evans

Corydalis ‘Beth Evans’ in need of dividing.  This one actually might multiply a little too fast since the clumps don’t flower as well due to the crowding.  (notice the single red seedling at the lower right, always a nice thing to see!)

For a couple of years the corydalis have been selfseeding, and in an effort to diversify I’ve added a few fancier colors to the gene pool.  I probably shouldn’t have bothered though, since the seedlings seem to diversify well enough on their own and all kinds of new shades are showing up.  Plus to my eye even the most exceptional named forms don’t seem stand-out better than what I’ve already got.  Still, a dark red or garnet, and a white were what was missing from the garden so I’m glad to see that deficit has been repaired.

named corydalis

A few named corydalis.  Front center is ‘Gunite’, maybe ‘Firebird’ just to the right, and white ‘Snowstorm’ just behind them.  The blue is Scilla siberica which is happily spreading throughout the garden… for better or worse. 

Corydalis cover a pretty good part of the earliest spring spectrum but a few other things are also making the garden look alive again.  Hyacinths are doing their part, and although the big floppy hybrids are nice enough, my absolute favorite is one of the multiflowering types, ‘Anastasia’.

multiflowering hyacinth anastasia

Hyacinth ‘Anastasia’.  Multiple flower stems and a clumping up habit are nice but the dark stems and violet flowers are what hyacinth-love looks like.

The pink and white versions of this hyacinth (‘Pink Festival’, ‘White Festival’) just don’t do as much for me, as well as the plain green stemmed blue version (‘Blue Festival’), but then I have to admit I’m not as in to baby shower colors in the garden, so if that’s your taste…. so be it.  In the meantime I’m holding my breath for hellebore season.

picotee hellebores

The first hellebores opening up along the street.  These were grown from ‘yellow picotee’ seed years ago, and I should probably add a few more.

I can’t remember the last time the hellebores came up so nicely, it’s become habit to expect a frigid arctic blast to come along and melt the flower stems and blacken the new foliage.  I forgot how nice they can be, and how occasionally they even rival the catalog photos.

dark hellebore

The dark hellebores are also very cool.  These are much darker in person and almost disappear into the mulch from a few feet.

The majority of my plants are from seed and this spring reminds me that I should absolutely start a few new batches and maybe make another attempt to clear out the ones which don’t thrill me as much as they could.  To be honest I find it more exciting to experience the surprise of the first flowers opening on a new batch of seedlings than to have a reliable, amazing, purchased plant that comes back faithfully each year.  I don’t know if that speaks well of me, but I do like seeing the new!

hellebore goldfinch

Variation in plants, all of these are seedlings from the yellow hellebore ‘Goldfinch’ but maybe only one in ten resembles the parent.

Hopefully in the next week or two I’ll be able to experience the best of both worlds with both new seedlings and also reliable returns…  that is assuming the weather continues to warm.  As I write it’s snowing again and spring is apparently having a little bit of stage fright.  I’ll try to keep things optimistic though, so I’ll leave you with one last favorite.

pulsatilla vulgaris

A pasque flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris).  Each year I try to get a few more seedlings out of the seed exchange offerings but my success so far has been pretty bleak.  This pot did well enough though, and if pushed I may admit to liking the fuzzy stems even more than the actual flowers.  

Have a great week.  Hopefully the sun shines and even if it doesn’t at least there’s finally some hope for the 2018 season.

I Think I Can, I Think I Can

The ten day forecast says spring will arrive on Tuesday, so if you’ve been dilly dallying because of the snow I suggest you get ready to hit the ground running!  It is April after all, and although our weekly and sometimes daily snowstorms might hint otherwise, I do see a 70F day approaching and then no below freezing temperatures for the next week…. as long as we wait until Tuesday of course.

hellebore in the snow

Monday morning and the kids began the first week of April with a snow day.

Most everyone has been complaining about the weather but I always like to remind these buttercups that we live in the mountains of Pennsylvania, and the whole ‘April showers’ thing was probably dreamed up by some idle poet wasting away another gloomy English morning on a sofa by the window, waiting for the sun to make an appearance.  Come to think of it this cold and gloomy, precipitate-rich spring weather is what I imagine spring in the UK and Pacific Northwest to be like.  It’s excellent weather for growing things like moss and liverworts but less entertaining for the gardener.  Even if it does keep the winter flowers like snowdrops in bloom for what seems like forever.

galanthus nivalis

Some late, almost completely white snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) still looking good in spite of the on again off again snow cover.

Now would probably be a good time to pat myself on the back for not going as far overboard on the snowdrops as I usually do.  You’re welcome.  Even though it’s been one of the longest seasons ever, with not too-much heavy snow and zero single digit arctic blasts, it’s been cold and dreary and I just don’t enjoy taking pictures when it’s so miserable out.  That and I’ve been posting a lot on Facebook through the ‘Snowdrops in American Gardens’ FB group.  That probably helped as well, and probably saved many a reader from straining an eye muscle from too frequent eye-rolls.  I don’t know about elsewhere but optic strain seems to be a problem in this house when I mention snowdrops.

leucojum vernum

A snowdrop cousin, the spring snowflake (Leucojum vernum) coming up in a damp corner of the yard.

I will round out the season with one last mention of snowdrops.  Two years ago I found an amazing clearance deal on bulk snowdrops and planted about 300 Woronow’s snowdrops (Galanthus woronowii) late in the season.  As fate would have it, great joy is often tempered with tragedy so of course they were nearly all destroyed by a brutal freeze just as they were coming up that first year.  This year it’s been better though, and a few of the survivors are actually strong enough to put up a flower.  Green tipped snowdrops are always a pleasant find and there are only a few green-tipped woronowii, so finding this one was a real treat.

green tip worowonii

Woronow’s snowdrop, aka the green snowdrop, aka Galanthus woronowii, with strong green tips and some extra green on the inner petals.  Woronowii are often a little boring, so of course I love it 🙂

In between snowstorms I’ve been ‘that guy’ trimming back perennials, cleaning out beds and hauling mulch on the day before six more inches are predicted.  To be honest I started in February when we had our first warm spell, but it was only last week that the far end of the front border finally lost enough of its snow cover that I could finish up.  For those who don’t already know, my mode of attack for spring cleanup is trim it all back to the ground with the hedge trimmer, rake most of it onto the lawn, run it all over with the lawnmower and bag it up for mulch.  As a finishing touch I cut the lawn real short and bag that as well so that everything looks obsessively neat and green and ready for spring.

chopped leaves mulch

The least professional part of my cleanup is when I lug the chopped leaves over from the neighborhood dump at the end of the street, and spread them out across the bed.  Another man’s trash…. plus it covers all the twigs and debris that I didn’t care enough to rake off.

Not to rub my garden cleanup obsession in too much but I actually finished the last of the spring cleanup yesterday.  It doesn’t all look pretty, but at least there will be no dead stalks and dried weeds to bother me in May.

narcissus rijnvelds early sensation

A mulch of the chopped debris from out front will keep the weeds down in back.  It’s just fine for the first daffodil, ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’, flowering for the first time that I can remember.  Usually it’s usually too early and the buds get frozen off in February.

All the cleanup has distracted me from seed starting, of which I’ve gone overboard with this year.  The cold left me inside way too long and I’ve been up to just about everything else except the starting of tomato seedlings which should have sown two weeks ago.  I’m sure I can find one at the nursery if things get desperate.  Much better now to focus on the unnecessary native southeastern NA fern spore dust which has miraculously done something over the last few weeks.  I spend way too much time admiring the green fuzz inside a baby food container, but to be honest I still can’t believe the dust I sprinkled on top had done anything.

growing ferns from spores

I think I have ferns!  Not to gloss over millions of years of primitive reproduction but the spores grow a green fuzz and the green fuzz does the sex stuff which results in new fern plants.  I suggest searching for more on the topic in case I’ve become too technical 😉   

I’ll leave you with even more evidence of snow day idleness.  Coleus plants ready for new cuttings to be taken, and way too many succulents.  I started even more a few weeks ago and still have absolutely no plans for what to do with them, so we’ll see where this ends up.  Maybe they can go outside Tuesday even though that does nothing to answer the question of what to do with them.

succulent cuttings

Succulent cutting in the winter garden.  They’re another thing I spend way too much time looking at.

In the meantime enjoy whatever weather comes your way and I hope spring has either found you or is well on its way.  Hopefully the weather doesn’t turn too nice though, I still need to start a few tomatoes…. and plant some pansies, since I may have bought some pansies 🙂