Tuesday View: The Front Border 5.16.17

The spring bulbs are over.  It was up to 92F (33C) today and suddenly the feel of summer is in the air and there’s a new rush on planting and trimming and all the projects which were on the to-do list.  I wasn’t going to post this week, but with iris season fast approaching it’s probably better to at least look a little level-headed for another week or so before going completely off the deep end again with the next big flower flood.  Right now I think of this as the green phase, and with the lawn freshly cut and the beds not yet overrun with weedlings I think it looks springtime calm.

street border

Not much color.  Tulips have faded and been deadheaded but other than that it’s been a no-work week. 

I continue to border on sainthood as more and more days go by without any major plant purchases, but make no promises about the next week or two.  I do have to confess one moment of weakness though which happened a few weeks ago.  It was during pansy season so I don’t think it counts but I am concerned that I would have tried to hide it had I not been busted by a visiting blogger last week.  This plant really is an example of giving in to temptation.

lupine red rum

Lupine ‘Red Rum’.  Perfectly grown, budded, and the tag promised a color which easily breaks through my steeliest resolve.  I resisted also buying a purple, but this one was too tempting and even if it does die in another year or less I’m still sure having it here now makes me a better person.

Otherwise nothing else is putting on a show, even though a patch of ‘Gladiator’ alliums looks decent enough.

allium gladiator

Allium ‘Gladiator’ and a solitary bee.  People are worried about bee populations dropping but I feel like all bugs (other than gnats and mosquitos) are becoming scarcer. 

I shouldn’t go on too much in a post about nothing.  In an attempt to leave you with a bit of substance, here’s a flashback of last year’s Tuesday view, the tropical border.  The bed seems to have picked up a number of perennials and hopefully that’s not a problem now that it’s warm enough for the tropicals to go in again.

the tropical garden

With a fresh border of mulch the tropical garden is beginning to get its summer residents.  Oranges and yellow zinnias are the first to go in and I guess that means it will be another bright planting 😉 

The tropical bed didn’t take nearly as many zinnias as I thought so it looks like we’ll also have a nice orange theme when the extras go into the front street border.  I’m not sure how that will work out but as usual I’m not too concerned.

Thanks again to Kathy at Words and Herbs for hosting this weekly view, and please consider giving her blog a visit to see what others are talking about this week.  I hear she’s also dealing with the first warm spells of the year and it’s exciting to think summer is just around the corner…

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 🙂

Tuesday View: The Street Border 04.11.17

Two weeks have passed since the last Tuesday view, so it’s about time we see what the melted snow and furious warm-up have left behind.  If I remember correctly this photo was taken in the late afternoon, shortly after our Tuesday high of 86F (30C) had begun to cool off and allow some relief to plants more accustomed to snow flurries and frost.

spring mixed border

The early daffodils and hyacinths have sprouted and come into bloom in a matter of days.  As recently as three days ago I believe the grass was still brown!

These catapults into warm weather always leave me a little irritated.  I’ve got a ton of cleanup to do but the lawn is still a melting-snow-mess of soggy ground and matted leaves.  Fortunately the front yard dried out enough for me to get around without making too muddy a mess, and I was able to rob the neighborhood leaf dump for some free leaf mulch to top off the border.  The mulch went a long way in covering up all the debris I was too lazy to pick up, and I just managed to get it on in what seemed like the last hours before too many of the spring bulbs had sprouted.

spring mixed border

Yellow ‘Tweety Bird’ daffodils with a bunch of hyacinths which need dividing.  There’s never enough time to get all these things done. 

Besides the daffodils and hyacinths there is also a noticeable increase in the corydalis population.  Last summer I managed to find and dig a few dormant bulbs and immediately replanted them along the street.  They’re all the pink ‘Beth Evans’ but if I get to it this summer I’ll mix in a few of other spare colors from around the yard… assuming I remember to dig them before they disappear completely in May, they go fast.

spring mixed border

I’m aiming for a mix of corydalis, eranthis and snowdrops in this part of the bed.  It’s an area which will become a thicket of butterfly bush (buddleia) by August so the bulbs will be able to rest comfortably in the shadows until next spring.

Nothing is ever perfect though, and last spring’s early warmth, late freeze damage, and then relentless cold rain are coming back to haunt the tulips this year.  ‘Tulip Fire’ (Botrytis tulipae) is a fungal disease related to the gray molds which thrive in damp, cold weather.  It shows as spotted and distorted (or scorched) leaves which will ruin your tulip show.  Wise gardeners will dig up and dispose of the infected plants and avoid replanting tulips for about three years and possibly resort to fungicidal sprays, but the less wise gardener might respond differently.  He might ignore the problem and hope better tulip weather will bring some relief in future seasons.  It’s more of a prayer approach and sometimes this method works out better than you can imagine.  Sometimes it doesn’t, and we’ll keep you posted.

tulip fire fungus

The spotting and distorted sprouts of tulip fire infected tulips.

For now though there are plenty of other distractions to keep one from dwelling on the loss of a few tulip blooms.  Here’s another view of daffodil ‘Tweety Bird’ and the spreading corydalis.  I think it looks very promising.

spring mixed border

Early spring color in the front border.

It looks colorful at least, and it’s a welcome relief after all the snow of just a few weeks ago.  Let’s hope it lasts for a few days at least.

The Tuesday view is a weekly visit to the same spot each week of the growing season.  Cathy of Words and Herbs hosts, and I highly recommend a visit to see what her view looks like and to see what others around the world are enjoying this week.  Have a happy Easter!

Tuesday View: The Street Border 3.28.17

It’s been two weeks since our big (and I hope final) snow dump and I’m happy to announce most of it has melted away.

front border spring

The front street border on the verge of spring.

Fortunately other than a few snowdrops and winter aconites, most of the plants were still safely underground when the snow fell.  Now if I can just get a nice mulch of chopped leaves down this bed shouldn’t need much attention until May… I hope.  One thing which worries me are the large deer tracks and munched tulip sprouts I found Sunday morning.  Deer are a new thing here and don’t suspect they’ll move on.  Needless to say I’m not excited.

porch bed spring

Always a week or two ahead, the bed along the front porch got some attention Sunday afternoon as I removed the last of the snow so I could trim the hellebores of winter damaged leaves and freeze damaged flowers. 

It’s that anxious time of year when the gardener is trapped between not being able to do anything and worrying about doing too much too early.  I usually opt for doing too much… although it never seems enough 🙂

And so the season begins.  This year I’ll try to keep up with this front street view each (or nearly each) Tuesday and join up with Cathy of Words and Herbs as she tracks her own Tuesday views throughout the year.  Think about joining in, it’s still a few weeks until the view gets interesting but it’ll be on us before we know it!

Tuesday View: The Street Border

It appears this garden and most of the East Coast are still going over one more speedbump on the road to spring.  Today we welcomed a little over two feet of snow into the garden, and I suspect it will be a bit before (a) the kids return to school, and (b) I need to fertilize the lawn.

march snowstorm

I might be early on this decision but I’m considering this as the 2017 Tuesday view.  Under all the snow is the mixed plantings of the street border, a name I came up with all by myself based on the fact it’s a border and it runs along the street 😉 

Some might say 2017 has been off to a rough start, and they might be right, but I’m going to try and think about other things such as Cathy’s Tuesday View and consider the border along the street as my entry for this year.  Posting every week might be a stretch, but maybe showing this view once every other week will be do-able.  We’ll see.

march snowstorm

Two feet of March snow is excellent fort building material and the front yard is a battleground of trenches and tunnels… plus buried snowdrops and crocus. 

Right now the view doesn’t really matter though.  People are still digging out and cars and trucks are being pulled out (as our evening walk down to the main street demonstrated) and we just have to deal with that first.  The forecast ahead is cold, but the sun when it comes out will be strong, and hopefully there’s something left to look forward to when all this snow melts… since the snowdrops have already given up on spring.

He Giveth and Taketh Away

I guess it was fun while it lasted and I guess you can already see where this is going, but after a balmy stretch of record breaking warmth our week of unusual February weather has come to an end with a bang.  It’s bizarre weather for a Pennsylvania winter and almost has me believing those crybaby liberal scientists who keep trying to push the idea of global warming on us.  Luckily I ran into CarlB380 on some online political forum and he set me straight by explaining it’s just some normal variations in our global weather cycles.  I heard the Chinese are behind it as well, so everyone just needs to relax.

galanthus diggory

Galanthus ‘Diggory’ sure looks better when you’re not freezing your butt off.

I have to confess that the Chinese may not be entirely to blame.  This year I insisted on buying new snowpants for the kids since they were predicting a wetter than usual La Nina winter.  Foolishly enough I thought that bonanza would come in the form of snow.  Lots of snow means we would finally take advantage of the ski resort just 15 minutes away and all hit the slopes together to shake off rust and learn new skills.  That didn’t happen.  The only rust shook off was from the rake I used to clean out the front street border… not that the rake had much time to rust-up in our three week winter.

early front border

It will take a few more years before those specks of yellow in the center become a sheet of brigh yellow winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis), but it will happen soon enough.  You may also notice the bed has crept to the right another few feet…

I admit I’m practically drowning in galanthomania (snowdrop love) these last few days, but in the interest of retaining my last few readers I’ll try and limit myself to just a few.  Feel my struggle though.  Although last year’s hail, heat, and arctic plunge devastated the season, it appears they loved the damp and drawn out spring which followed all that mess.  This year they are coming up bigger than ever, with double stalks where I’ve never seen double stalks, and bulbs which have quadrupled in number… all that and a 70F (21C) sun soaked afternoon to sit on the lawn and admire them.  Wow.

galanthus magnet

Last year’s plunge into  frigid cold and winds withered the blooms and foliage on this bunch of ‘Magnet’.  This spring it’s bigger than ever!

New favorites have settled in as well, and it’s nice to see what a few years can do to the lonely and sometimes lost single flowers of new snowdrop plantings.  Here are two newer favorites, Galanthus ‘Kildare’ and ‘Erway’.

galanthus kildare erway

‘Kildare’ is a nice green tipped snowdrop out of Ireland while ‘Erway’ to the right has an interesting olive colored, oddly helmet-shaped ovary on top.

Now for the bad news though.  A strong cold front had been working its way across the continent and by mid Saturday afternoon reached this end of Pennsylvania.  During the first wave, golfball sized hail rained down out of the sky and a tornado spawned just two miles up the road.

giant hailstones

In what might not have been one of my smarter moves I ran out to the street to bring the car up into the garage… too late to save it from a few dents in the hood, but fortunately my head avoided the same fate.

We were safe from the tornado, and although huge, the hailstones were short lived and only a few came down per square foot.  Impressive enough on its own, but then the second wave hit.  Strong winds, pea and marble sized hail, drenching downpour, and the frightening sound of hail smashing the roof and windows.  Oh yeah, thunder and lightning as well, and in a few minutes the garden went from an early blossom of spring to a freakish mid summer smack-down.

before and after hail

Galanthus ‘viridapice’ with a few winter aconite and hardy Cyclamen coum…  before and after.

All the early snowdrops are history and I’m crossing my fingers for the few late ones which were still trying to catch up with the weather.  Easy come easy go I guess.

before and after hail

Goodbye ‘Bill Bishop’ and ‘Primrose Warburg’.  See you in another 12 months.

Btw I’m a little impressed with myself over the merged photos.  I’m sure this is old news for anyone even marginally computer literate, but just in case you’re interested it was done here>  IMGonline

To wrap up my new-found computer savviness I’m throwing in a few videos as well.  Here’s the second part of the storm as it really hit its stride.

…and a little later as the storm winds up.  My tech skills only go so far, so unfortunately it’s been filmed in the narrow ‘portrait’ orientation, but hopefully this doesn’t kill my chances of breaking the record 23 views which my last video racked up.

We will see where this winter takes us next.  I’m hoping it’s to spring but wherever it goes the ride is always an exciting one and always one which reminds me how grateful I am that I don’t rely on the weather for my livelihood.  -and please don’t feel bad for the lost flowers,  I’m sure they’ll be back stronger than ever next spring and after soaking them up completely for the last few days I think I’ll be fine until the next page of spring unfolds!

Agriculture in Suburbia

This post was mostly finished last weekend but for some reason I never got around to publishing.  I wish I had a good excuse, but it might have just been one of those Sunday evening get ready for the workweek make lunches and clean the kids off from the weekend kind of things.  In any case here it is and to be honest I have little idea what I was talking about back then with all the design comments and self reflection.  Sometimes I really wonder where this stuff comes from, but regardless the pictures have me thinking of last June when the garden looked ready to die so let me just start off with a photo from then 🙂

dormant lawn

The beauty of the  garden in June.  Roadside daisies and dead grass.  Fortunately the rains came back in August, but not until all July passed and I reached the “wordless Wednesday: I hate gardening” stage.

It’s always nice to hear compliments about your garden, and I am one who by reflex nearly always shrugs them off or dismisses them.  I’m sure there’s some childhood trauma involved which has long been forgotten, but it’s my way and it’s a rare day when I can just accept with a thank you.  Now I’m not saying I get a lot of compliments, but I do get a comment every now and then about a nice design touch or a combination which actually worked out.  Those are the compliments I always downplay since I rarely (unless I’m doing it subconsciously) put a whole lot of thought into what goes where.  With few exceptions my design process revolves around having a new favorite plant in hand and then desperately needing a spot in which to cram it.  Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t.

front street border

The front border in mid September.  If I had to put a name to this year’s design theory it might be something like ‘neglected agricultural’.

The front border along the street may not look brilliant, but it does look colorful, and with five months of winter breathing down my neck colorful is perfect.  Colorful and agricultural I suppose, since this years feature plant seems to be ‘Hot Biscuits’ amaranthus and in my opinion it either looks sort of farmyard weedy or like a particularly bright sorghum crop.  Ornamental or not I just can’t look away.  It’s big and bright and grainy and between it and the wheat-like feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’) and the sugarcane-like giant reed (Arundo Donax) I feel like it’s almost harvest time out there.

front street border

The view from the street side.  The purple perovskia has seeded around a bit and put out a few runners, the purple coneflowers as well, but I’ve done essentially nothing here since March and I kind of like that.

I owe this year’s crop of ‘Hot Biscuits’ to my friend Paula who surprised me one afternoon with a packet of seeds in the mailbox.  I had grown it before and ended up losing it, but fortunately she had a few seeds to spare and sent them my way.  That was last year, and I efficiently killed all the seedlings which sprouted, but this year was a different story and I ended up with a few clumps of healthy seedlings.

hot biscuits amaranthus

Just the first of many amaranthus close-ups which will pepper this post.  No one could plan this combo since I’m sure it violates numerous design principles, but I just love it.

The amaranthus shows up here and there all along the border, which is probably a good thing since even the simplest design theorist will tell you it repeats and unifies a theme.  Repetition is important since this bed frequently suffers from “I always start from the driveway end and use up all the best plants there” syndrome.  The far end of the bed gets less weeding, less watering, less tending… it basically gets less of everything, so carrying the amaranthus theme all the way through helps hide the sparseness of the neglected end.

wine zinnia

Here in the preferred end of the bed are well tended seedlings of Benary’s Giant wine zinnias and the pink gomphrena ‘fireworks’.  These were the seedlings I was most excited about this year, so in they went first 🙂

I did have a few too many zinnias this spring so was pretty generous about placing them in the border, but when the Brenary’s Giant scarlet began to open next to the pink gomphrena I immediately cringed.  For about a week I thought it looked awful but now I quite like it.  It reminded me of the first time I saw pictures of some of the late Christopher Lloyd’s magenta and pink plantings at Great Dixter.  They also bothered me at first and I think my first thought was “grow up Chris and plant some lavender and white and pink instead of that mess”… but look at me now.

scarlet zinnia fireworks gomphrena

Scarlet zinnia with ‘fireworks’ gomphrena.  Am I suffering from retinal fatigue or does it actually look nice together?

Maybe the green lawn and the parchment color of the feather reed grass tames it a bit but between this and the orange of the amaranthus I’m just plain pleased.

scarlet zinnia karl forester grass

A very technicolor look with the yellow of the ‘Tiger Eyes’ sumac across the lawn.

Here’s another amaranthus photo-bomb.

hot biscuits amaranthus

Looking down towards the ‘less interesting’ end of the border.

Ok. One last amaranthus photo.

hot biscuits amaranthus

From the neglected, far end of the border, more amaranthus 🙂

You may have noticed a bright golden patch of marigolds in the border.  The fall smack dab in the middle of my newfound love for the most offensively bright colors and I’m not sure I can resist planting a whole border of them next year.  I had to smuggle these seeds out of my stingy older brother’s garden last year and was lucky that a few sprouted and survived July’s dry spell.  He’s been letting them reseed for a couple years now and they still come up in a good range of colors on relatively short and large flowered plants.

marigolds tagetes

A few marigolds putting on a nice end of summer show.  More might be nicer, and by more I mean a whole border.

What to plant them with?  I think they’ll go at the far end of the border, alongside the bright gold of a juniper, but other than that I have no plans.  Should I back them up with some darker foliage plants?

img_3082

Korean feather grass (Calamagrostis brachytricha) in front and pennisetum ‘Karley Rose’ towards the back. With the ‘Limelight’ hydrangea it all looks very calm and refined, but I think a nice border of marigolds will give it a good jolt of color!

We will see what happens.  There’s a good chance it will all come down to whatever seeds sprout the best next spring, but in the meantime it’s nice to dream about having a more plan-comes-together kind of garden.  That is until the snowdrops bloom.  Once that happens my brain goes to mush and I’m lucky if I get anything planted 😉