An Iris Visit

Although it was a struggle to break away from the garden during this (I should be) busy season, a friend convinced me to take a day and ride out to The Presby Memorial Iris Garden in Montclair NJ to finally follow through on a promise to visit.  Word was that the hot weather and rain had been tough on this year’s show, but that was all lost on me the minute we pulled up to the entrance and saw the beds full of color.  I was way too excited to be there, and just in case there was any doubt left, I’m absolutely a plant nerd.

presby memorial iris gardens

Looking across part of the Presby iris gardens towards the building which houses the Citizens Committee which oversees the gardens.

An all volunteer Committee runs and maintains the gardens, and their work is amazing.  There were several people out and about tending the beds, either deadheading or staking, and I’m sure that’s quite a job considering how many plants are being grown here and the maintenance needed to keep them at their peak.

presby memorial iris gardens

A bed of more modern iris (~1970’s) stretching upslope behind the house.

Personally I tend to prefer the older and simpler forms of historic iris (older than 30 years) but I’m only human and the fluffy, ruffly, overblown flowers of the modern tall bearded iris are very tempting.

iris 'wings at dawn' 2014

Iris ‘wings at dawn’ (2014).  A ‘space age’ iris due to the little tabs ‘launching’ off the falls of the flower.

This might have been my first time around so many iris.  They put on quite a show and I can see how the garden drew in hundreds of visitors the day before when the weather was nicer (but much hotter).  In spite of the fact I had actually brought an umbrella along, a light drizzle started shortly after we arrived and normally I’d complain about my luck, but actually the fine mist only added to the relaxing effect of the pearly light, glowing colors, and nearly empty gardens.

presby memorial iris gardens

A mixed planting near the house.  

My friend and I slowly took in the plantings.  We went back and forth between admiring each bloom to admiring the overall setting and figuring out which varieties we had and which we absolutely needed now that we’ve seen them in person.

presby memorial iris gardens

Long iris beds follow the contour of the land along a small creekbed which separates the gardens from the rest of Mountainside Park.

Although I was mostly interested in seeing all the older iris this garden is known for, here’s just one more that’s “too much”.

iris montmartre 2008

Wow.  Iris ‘Montmartre’ (2008)

Before making the visit I saw an online comment calling the gardens “small”.  I guess I can believe that.  Some people could probably walk the gardens and take a selfie in just over 20 minutes and then hit lunch, but just for reference we iris lovers strolled about in the rain for about two hours before feeling we’d gotten a fair dose of iris.

presby memorial iris gardens

Iris stretching off along the street towards the woods. 

I did enjoy spending too much time admiring some older iris I’d never seen before.  They have a grace and elegance which some of the newest varieties lack and to be honest I might have added a few more to my wanted list.  Now would probably be a good time to mention the annual grab bag sale the gardens host as they replant beds each summer,  and also next month’s annual Historical Iris Preservation Society (HIPs) rhizome sale.  Both are excellent means by which a historic iris addict can add some of the seldom offered older varieties.

iris 'titian lady' 'melanie' 1941

White iris ‘Titian Lady’  and the rosy ‘Melanie’, both 1941 introductions.

I’ll leave you with just a few favorites as we enjoyed the older iris plantings.

historic iris 'ariane' 1930

Historic iris ‘Ariane’ (1930)

historic iris reingauperle 1924

I loved the tall historic iris ‘Reingauperle’ (1924).

historic iris 'waverly' 1936

The light rain was perfect for bedazzling the flowers of ‘Waverly’ (1936)

…and there were peonies as well.  The entrance to the building next door had a nice smattering of peonies filling its beds.

presby memorial iris gardens

Peonies outside the gift shop.

presby memorial iris gardens

Iris and peonies holding up to the rain.

Thanks to Trish for meeting me there, and thanks to the volunteers who make this show happen each year.  It was great seeing such a nice garden and it has me wondering how difficult it would be to start something similar in my neck of the woods 🙂

Have a great week!

Snowdropping 2018

Four snowdrop gardens in one beautiful day was a little too much.  We started early, had a tight schedule, but even with the best intentions still didn’t have nearly enough time.  It was still a thrill though, and with brilliant sunshine combined with comfortable sweater weather we really enjoyed our annual Philly drop adventure.

galanthus nivalis

The common snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) plus winter aconite (Eranthis hemelis) in the rooty, mossy shade of a large cherry tree.

We started at Paula’s and I couldn’t resist checking up on nearly every drop she has.  Of course that takes time since you don’t just look and move on, you instead admire it, ask where it’s from, how it’s doing…  to keep a long story short you’ll be relieved to know this is the ‘executive post’ and you’ll be spared from at least 99% of our comments and 99.9% of my photos.  You can thank me later.

galanthus kermode bear

Galanthus ‘Kermode Bear’.  One of the ‘bears’ coming out of Canada, an attractive ‘poc’ elwesii with six nice long outers and none of the usual shorter inners.

I did have to show ‘Kermode Bear’.  He’s a newer snowdrop out of the breeding work of Calvor P. in Victoria Canada.  All the Bears are poculiform elwesii which means they’re these nice, large snowdrops with ‘poc’ flowers… meaning the three normally short inner petals are expanded to be nearly as large as the three outers.  I’m a fan, just as I was a fan of many of Paula’s other drops, but the clock was ticking and we were already an hour off schedule by the time we arrived at our second garden.

masses of snowdrops

Sloped beds covered with sheets of snowdrops and winter aconite.  Hard to imagine this gardener began with an empty field and a few gifted clumps.

There were masses of snowdrops at our next garden.  Dozens of years of dividing and transplanting the original clumps can lead to amazing things, and we hit it at the exactly the right moment.  The February sunshine and warm temperatures had everything up and open, including the first hellebores.

hellebore

An amazing newer hellebore with huge flowers, clear rose with a darker center, and flowers facing out and up.  It was even nicer in person!

Again, I’m leaving out so many hellebore and snowdrop closeups it’s practically negligence, but I don’t want to cause too much suffering for those who don’t have quite as much tolerance or enthusiasm as we do.  Here’s a quick image to give you an idea of just how elaborate the rest of the grounds are.  It was intimidating to think of what a force of nature this gardener must be, considering she does all the maintenance herself and has been doing so for several decades now.  Inspiring is probably a better description.

garden design

A parterre off the house overlooking the open fields.  The homeowner admitted she was still in the process of trimming back the grasses.  I’m embarrassed to say mine look worse.

I’m afraid we overstayed our welcome, but our host was still remarkably gracious, and although we tried to hurry on our way the schedule still suffered further.  The light was getting lower by the time we reached our third garden, the home of the King of Cyclamen (in the US at least), Dr. John Lonsdale.

hardy cyclamen

Cyclamen coum in the greenhouse.  They’re perfectly hardy outdoors but these are all potted up and ready to go on a roadtrip to the next specialty plant sale.

John tolerates us very well.  We’re always late, we always stay too long, and we always ask way too many questions, and I can’t imagine our plant purchases and gifts of beer make up for the time we waste, but he’s yet to kick us out and so far he hasn’t put us to work.  Probably for the best of course, since I’m not sure we could be trusted with a weeder or trowel around so many treasures.

eranthis hyemalis

Snowdrops and several varieties of winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis).

To put it in perspective, there were probably more treasures seeded into the walkways than I have special things in my entire garden.  Give his online photo database a browse if you don’t believe the extent of his collection, there’s everything from the rarest species to the newest galanthius variety…. oh look at that, I hadn’t mentioned snowdrops for at least five sentences.  Here’s just one which can’t be left out, galanthus ‘Elsje Mitchell’.  She’s a new and extremely rare  snowdrop out of Europe, and rumor has it John might be potting up one or two for this weekend’s Galathus Gala.  The price remains to be seen, but even in Europe the price runs into several hundred dollars…

galanthus elsje Mitchell

Galanthus nivalis ‘Elsje Mitchell’.  A delicate Dutch snowdrop with fine markings both inside and out.

The sun was much lower by the time we started to make our way out to the car.  It was beautiful to see the witch hazel flowers glow in the low sunshine but sad to consider we were running out of time.  One more garden though.

hardy cactus

There’s never enough time to really check out the hardy cactus, yucca, and agaves which fill the side yard.  The light through the spines was amazing.

We got to our last garden as the light was fading and temperatures were beginning to drop.  The snowdrops were closing up for the night and I believe our host had almost given up on us ever getting there, but was still incredibly enthusiastic and accommodating in spite of the unreliability of his visitors.

hellebore planting

A beautiful garden filled with layers of snowdrops and hellebores, witch hazels and dogwoods, and a tall canopy of deciduous trees.

The light was fading and even though this garden also has masses of early spring bulbs and carefully designed vignettes there were far too many distracting snowdrops and interesting garden stories to pay attention to.  I love going here and could have easily spent another hour or two poking around.  I will spare you most of the rest of my dimly lit photos and leave you with just two more particularly wonderful scenes.

galanthus seraph philippe Andre Meyer

Galanthus ‘Seraph’ and ‘Philippe Andre Meyer’ in the protected nursery beds.

Before the most special drops go out into the open garden this gardener bulks them up in one of several nursery beds.  There were a number of treasures such as galanthus ‘Seraph’, “Philippe Andre Meyer’, and ‘Matt Bishop’ plus many, many others.  Some people are really nuts about snowdrops.  With this in mind I’ll leave you with one last drop who’s name really seemed appropriate for our adventure.

galanthus grave concern

I believe Galanthus ‘Grave Concern’ was discovered in a cemetery, but considering how much my wanted list grew on this trip I think it’s a perfect name to end this post on.

If you’ve made it this far I thank you,  just as I thank the wonderful people who allowed us to tie up their schedules for as long as we did.  On top of that I’d also like to point out that this upcoming week is just filled with a bonanza of other Philadelphia PA snowdropping events which amazingly coincide with the peak of this year’s season.

Here’s a quick rundown starting out with my most anticipted event, the >second annual Galanthus Gala< this Saturday (March 3rd) in Downingtown PA.  This celebration of snowdrops and other late winter flowers and shrubs is hosted by the plantsman, author and designer David Culp, and promises to be a wealth of plants, talks, sales, and all things snowdrop on this side of the Atlantic.  Free admission is a plus, but I challenge you to walk out again without some little treasure in your hands.

You might also want to consider stopping by >Carolyn’s Shade Gardens< in Bryn Mawr PA.  It’s about 35 minutes away from the Gala location and word is Carolyn is hosting an open garden Saturday, March 3, from 1:30 to 5 pm, and Sunday, March 4, from 1 to 4 pm.  Snowdrops and hellebores in full bloom plus plants available for sale.  The address is 325 South Roberts Road, Bryn Mawr, PA 19010, 610-525-4664.

If that isn’t enough, the >Philadelphia flower show< also kicks off this weekend and runs through the week, and to cap it all off >Winterthur Museum and Gardens< will be holding their annual ‘Bank to Bend’ lecture and plant sale on Saturday, March 10th.  The grounds should be perfectly full of snowdrops snd other spring bloomers, and the lecture by Dr. Peter Zale promises to be exceptional.

The season looks like it’s off to a good start, and as long as we survive this last burst of winter I think we’ll be in good shape.  Have a great weekend!

A Longwood Christmas

A few years ago we almost gave up on holiday visits to Longwood Gardens.  We’re lingerers after all and the crowds and hustle bustle of hundreds of visitors can put a lot of pressure on ‘that guy’ who’s holding up the line because he wants to give all the gardenia flowers a sniff.  We kept at it though because for as nice as Christmas and good cheer are, a few whiffs of the tropics can also go a long way bringing some jolly to a cold winter night… and these are the long nights and stressful days which can really use some tropical relief.

longwood christmas

The orangery decked out for the holidays.  Warmth, humidity, and sunshine made the display even better.

Who would have thought the answer to our crowded visits could be as simple as going on a less crowded day?  For the second year in a row we visited on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and for Christmas diehards that might be inappropriately early, but for us it’s been working perfectly.  The weather was beautiful and we nearly had the place to ourselves (relatively speaking of course).

longwood christmas

This year the apples are back, this time keeping company with thousands of floating red cranberries.

The conservatories are always perfectly decorated with the colors and sounds of the season.  I think my favorite part this year was the bright sunshine streaming in through the glass when we first arrived.  Walking through the doors and into the sunny, humid warmth was an instant escape from weeks of static and dry skin.

longwood christmas

Walls of windows, tree ferns, and fountains… I could get used to this 🙂

Flowers, greenery, and holiday decorations.  You can imagine I took plenty of pictures but since they’re not snowdrop photos I’ll spare you from the bulk of it.  Click >here< for last Christmas or >here< for last summer if you need more, or better yet visit the Longwood website for the real stuff!

longwood christmas

My favorite view this year, a courtyard scene off the back of the music room.

Since the kids ditched us this year there was plenty of time to admire the boring flowers without anyone tugging a coat sleeve.  Longwood always has orchids and I suddenly had the time to admire them… although I’m still far from being an orchid person (mostly due to their habit of dying on me).

I won’t go on and on about every conservatory flower but I did find something which I thought was even more special than their regular.  In one of the back greenhouse passages was a display of a few of their ‘on trial’ poinsettia, and I thought is was an interesting glimpse into some of the variety which this humble plant from Central America has been bred into.  This is also where I met some of the ‘golden’ poinsettias which carry names such as ‘Autumn Leaves, and ‘Gold Rush’, and came in colors more traditionally associated with the end of summer.  What do you think?  At least there’s no blue dye or glitter in sight!

…and then night fell.  We grabbed a bite to eat, toured the grounds, enjoyed the fountains (not the main fountains, they’re off for the winter), took in some Christmas songs around the organ, warmed up around the fire, and then closed the place down with one last tour of the conservatory.  It was holiday-magical in the late evening, with most visitors having already headed to the exit.

longwood christmas

A Longwood Christmas with a French feel.  The symmetry and apple-cranberry patterns surrounded by box are chateau parterre inspired.

Then we were the ones headed to the exit.

longwood christmas

The stroll back out to the car.  A two hour drive home awaits 😉

As usual we enjoyed our visit, and it must have been somewhat inspiring since I spent a few hours this weekend out in the cold putting up our own lights.  So far the reviews have been less than flattering, and there’s no talk of admission tickets, but you’ve got to start somewhere.

If you decide to make your way to Longwood this year for the displays be sure to buy your tickets online before you go, just to make sure they’re available.  Also if you want to take in a quieter visit, try to avoid Saturdays and the week between Christmas and New Year’s.  Those might be the nights when you’re better off hitting the eggnog at home.

2017 Summer Bucket List: The Fountains of Longwood Gardens

The buzz had been building for 2 years as the fountains of Longwood Gardens underwent a massive, 90 million renovation behind the curtain of construction walls and ‘do not enter’ signs.  You kind of got used to it.  For years the fountain area had been my least liked section of Longwood and as far as I was concerned it was only an area to walk around and avoid while you explored other more exciting sections.  Sometimes a fountain went off.  Ok nice.  I almost felt a little sorry for Pierre du Pont if this was all his obsessive passion for fountains could put together.  Plus I hated all the rows of pathetic Norway Maples which lined the area.  Like I said, it wasn’t a favorite.

Holy crap has that changed.  The restored fountains were reopened this past May and if you happen to have the chance to see them I think you’ll agree they’re friggin’ awesome!  The grounds have been rebuilt into something which could compete with an European palatial spread, but the fountains are something all to themselves and have to be experienced in person.

longwood gardens

Looking in to the heart of the five acre main fountain gardens.  The sounds of water surround you.

Before I get too in to it I just want to mention my kids came along, and a 9 and 11 year old who are more interested in gymnastics and tag were not the best visiting companions, but I decided to take one for the team and hope a little of the experience sinks in.  They love the Christmas show… but strolling and looking at plants… not so much.

longwood gardens

The Orangery in its summer finery.  Throughout the greenhouses things are always perfect regardless of the season, and I question the soul of anyone who isn’t a little amazed the first time they enter.    

We stopped for ice-cream first.  It’s a two hour drive for us so that’s the least I could do for my surprisingly well behaved travel companions, and as they finished that off and played in the children’s section (which I’m glad to see they haven’t yet outgrown) and then toured the indoor gardens, it was at least an hour before I got the first “I’m bored”.

longwood gardens

An awesome canna inside the Orangery.  I loved it and I wanted it, but unfortunately couldn’t find the name.  Perhaps it’s one of the many cannas which have been raised and hybridized in one of Longwood’s many research and breeding programs. 

We tried to move quick.  Maybe getting there at 3 O’clock was indeed a little early considering all the kids wanted was a light show… but the plants, the plants 😉

longwood gardens

There’s water all over.  This was just one of the many fountains of the children’s garden.

The water garden was an interesting diversion.  This is always my favorite spot and I was glad the kids seemed somewhat interested in the water lilies and massive Victoria Lilies which fill the pools.

longwood gardens

The giant pads were approaching five and six feet in diameter, and have a reputation of being able to support babies and small children with their buoyant structure.

I of course always have to touch the nasty spines even though I’m well aware of how sharp they are.  The undersides of the pads and outer coverings of the flower buds are all well defended with this barrier.

longwood gardens

It’s thought the raised lips of the pads prevents them from growing on top of one another, and the two notches on the rim allow rainwater to escape.

While I was trying to explain just how awesome these plants were, the kids were absolutely distracted by the small mosquito fish which filled each pond section.  For the next 20 minutes all they wanted to do was catch one…. or two… or a bigger one… or one more… or just one more…

longwood gardens

Got one.

Fortunately the Longwood employees were very pleasant about the kids harassing their mosquito fish.  They explained how the fish control the mosquito larva and added a few things about nearby plants as well, but overall just let the kids enjoy a little wet fun.  I’m sure this will be the memory they keep from this area even though I tried my darnedest to explain the Longwood history of hybridizing these Victoria lilies and their fragrant, night blooming, beetle pollinated, flowers and… well this is where they caught fish.

longwood gardens

The giant victorias are nice enough, but these day and night blooming tropical waterlilies aren’t too shabby either, and their bright colors and fancy foliage could keep you here hours just exploring the variety.

I made another attempt to visit every single highlight of the gardens but was quickly derailed by another “I’m bored”.  The gardening bug definitely either skips a generation or is a recessive gene since my two are nearly completely empty of any chlorophyll.  We sat for a while playing with cameras and looking at pictures and then headed over for dinner instead.

longwood gardens

Round about 6pm the gardens started to fill up.  It was a ‘pop up’ Luminaries weekend, and thousands of candles were laid out across the lawns and lined up along pathways, and one by one the individual candles were being lit. 

As dusk began to fall the luminaries were being lit throughout the gardens.  Our visit just happened to coincide with a surprise luminary weekend where thousands of luminaries ‘pop up’ throughout the gardens.  While the boy focused on trying to blow out a candle without being caught, we did manage to see at least a few of the best garden areas.  A favorite is the long border which shades from white to yellow to gold…

longwood gardens

One of my favorite rudbeckias, ‘prairie sun’.

…to red to pinks…

longwood gardens

Pink zinnias, canna, and crape myrtle.

…to purples to blues…

longwood gardens

Cleome, ageratum, dahlias, and I think vitex.  The dark purple bushes in the back are a very cool non-hardy euphorbia which I always look for but never find on sale. 

and the crowds continued to drift in…

longwood gardens

Blankets and chairs setting up for the show, even though it was still at least an hour to go.

Once the sun set and the lights came on things really started to get amazing.

longwood gardens

Food stands, wine and beer stands, fancy dining… Longwood at night has become quite the date night location.  

We headed out one more time to see the lanterns at full effect.

longwood gardens

One of the main lawns covered with a spiral of luminaries.  Getting lost amongst the lanterns is the perfect excuse to hold hands 😉

I hope my random point and shoot photography gives you some idea of how cool Longwood is at night.  People whisper.  It’s really captivating.

longwood gardens

Candlelight from the luminaries, soft lighting for the plants, and in many spots the sweet fragrance of night scented flowers such as these angel trumpets (Brugmansia).

There really were a lot of candles.  I think the gardens would be nice enough on any night, but I’m glad we had the chance to see the luminaries as well.  Rumor has it quite a few other people also got the chance to see the show.  I noticed on their website that most nights ended up being sold out…. so even on a regular weekend make sure you have your tickets purchased before you head down.

longwood gardens

I think of Luminaries as a Southern Christmastime tradition, but here in the North I’ve got to say summer nights work out much better.

Once we got through the luminaries it was finally time for the 9:15 fountain show.  The show was epic with music, lights, sounds, and fountains spouting everywhere.  From what I hear the highest can shoot up to 175 feet (53m) into the air and when you’re watching or wandering through the show, it absolutely surrounds you.

My daughter’s favorite…. pink. She insisted on many photos to catch the pinkness.

We settled into the upper area where the largest fountains are located and it was amazing to be surrounded by all the noise and water.  Even with the highlights right there in front of you, you still had to keep looking around to catch the parts of the show up closer to the main viewing area.  There were spouting columns of flames after all!

longwood gardens

Lights, fountains, and FLAMES!  

The fountains were impressive enough during the day, but the show at night was truly epic.  Who would have thought that water shot into the air could be so entertaining… well, who other than Pierre du Pont I guess 🙂

longwood gardens

It was really cool.

Seven hours later we were finally on the road back home.  I barely got to see half the things I wanted to but it was still a great visit and the kids are already talking about a Christmas return.  I can do that, and hopefully we can make it there the day after Thanksgiving again since it worked out great crowd-wise and traffic-wise last year.  The fountain shows go on until September 30th and then I think it’s all about chrysanthemums then for the fall season.  The chrysanthemum show is supposed to be exceptional as well, full of horticultural wonders and floral amazement, and it’s also still on my bucket list to visit that as well… but I think I’ll do that one on my own 😉

Visiting Jean

My friend Jean has an amazing garden which she’s been working on for years and she’s made it into a treasure trove of color and textures which flourish in spite of the thin mountainside soil she first started with.  I love a garden which you can walk through and experience and this garden fits that bill perfectly.

jeans pond

Yoga frog leads the class of froglets who follow along from the safety of the pond.

It’s a sheltered garden filled with the sounds of running water.  You enter the backyard though a shaded arbor at the end of a long drive which leads you through the large wooded lot.  What first grabs your attention when you step through the gate is the large pond carved into the mountainside.  It looks as if it’s always been there, a relaxing little nook left over from when the glaciers last scrubbed this part of Pennsylvania.

jeans pond

Looking out across from the house and main patio to the pond.  A natural stone path leads to a cozy seating area and fire pit, a clematis covered arch marks the path out into the garden beyond.

You have two choices here, explore the pond and gardens to your left or ignore the deck and patios (and inviting patio seating) surrounding the house and let the color of the slope to the right draw you in.  We usually choose the flowery slope 🙂

jeans garden

Jean’s garden is always magazine ready.  It’s got color, paths, destinations, focal points, vignettes… Here container plantings line the stone steps which take you to the upper garden.

I guess the upside to gardening on a thinly covered, rocky mountainside is that stone paths and walls are just an arm’s length away… assuming you’ve got a prybar and shovel at the end of that arm!  Over the years Jean has built up terraces and pickaxed out level planting areas to make room for her plant addiction and they really keep the garden interesting with their changes in elevation and solid structure.

jeans garden

Color galore with annual plantings and summer perennials.  Of course if there’s a nice bright phlox I have to include the picture 😉

The top of the slope has been kept open for sun and leveled to make room for all the summer color that fills this end of the garden.  On my last visit the dahlias were just starting to take off and I hope I wasn’t too pushy with my hints of how much I liked the colors and how well they’d look in my own garden!

Zinnias, calibrachoa, and of course dahlias.  This picture just doesn’t do the scale justice, the pot of purple fountain grass is probably about six feet up on a tower of container plantings.

Jean is just a little obsessed.  It’s hard for me to believe a gardener could be that way but she’s got plants all over, she’s got plant inventories, she’s involved in plant groups, she travels for plants, and she’s got about a million plans which are on the drawing board.  It’s always fun talking to her as her compulsively organized type A personality deconstructs gardening.

jeans dahlias

Even the plant supports are well thought out and complement the yellows, oranges, reds and purples of this section.

Beyond the sunny and bright center of the garden, pathways take you out into the more shaded woodland edges.  Hydrangeas abound and although I didn’t get any decent pictures of them individually, if you start looking you’ll see they show up nearly everywhere… and not just planted ones… believe it or not there are hundreds of hydrangea seedlings in any open spot of soil or gravel which gets a little sun.  What a thought to have to weed out handfuls of hydrangea!

jeans garden

Stone lined paths run throughout the garden and special shrubs and trees fill every available space.  Here the left side of the path is dominated by an eight foot tall planting of purple angelica (Angelica gigas ‘purpurea’).

If there’s one thing which Jean struggles with it’s the local vole population.  Deer are around as well but at least you can fence them out.  Voles are a curse.

jeans garden

The shadier planting still look great but at one time they were also filled with hostas.  Lots of them.

Soil additives, traps, caged plantings, containers, all are in use to wage war against the rodent hordes but as Jean likes to say, her stone walls and rock ledges are practically vole condos so it’s a continuous battle.

jeans garden

Round about the back a pathway has been planted up as a scented walkway.  On a previous visit the fragrance of oriental lilies filled the air, on my my last visit it’s been replaced by the scent of passionflowers and fragrant hostas.

Fortunately she’s holding her own and shows no signs of throwing in the trowel.  Score one more for Jean.

jeans garden

Shaded steps leading around to the fire pit.  I love how things fill in here, and you could plant a whole other garden with the dwarf goats beard, ferns, and other goodies which sprout up in the cracks.

I’ll leave you with one last pond photo as we return to the house.

jeans pond

Just the right amount of water lilies for interest and open water for light reflection.  I’m sure the Japanese maple is awesome in the fall but my favorite right now is the airy variegated moor grass Molinia caerulea ‘Variegata’).

As you exit the garden off the main patio you can’t help but notice how well Jean grows climbing nasturtium.  Although I love the leaves and flower colors, this is one plant I always struggle with.

jeans nasturtium

Nasturtium climbing the arch.  It looks so healthy!

And that takes us back to where we started.  I hope you enjoyed the tour as much as I did and it’s inspired me to make more paths and get more shrubs in the ground.  Structure.  That’s what I need… just like snowdrops are what Jean needs 😉

Thanks Jean!

Tuesday View: The Front Border 8.1.17

It’s been a busy week so far with a return from traveling and now a busy afternoon prepping for something new… an open garden!  I’ve been toiling away all afternoon and just had to join up with Cathy at Words and Herbs for her Tuesday view even though the garden itself hasn’t changed much.  The neatness is what I had to show off, it doesn’t happen much that the garden is surrounded with such a green, trim lawn with crisp, freshly cut edges.

front border

Plants are deadheaded, the lawn is mown, edges are clean, and walks are swept!

As far as open gardens go I think I’m making it sound like much more than it really is.  It’s a mid-week visit by the local garden group, the Back Mountain Bloomers, and I don’t expect much more than a dozen or so people.  Numbers like that probably make other open day veterans chuckle but for me it’s some serious pressure.  It’s rare that my garden is visited by anyone with more than just a passing interest in plants, so hopefully they don’t judge my “in progress” areas with too critical an eye 🙂

front border

Holy neatness… and the ‘Limelight’ hydrangea isn’t looking too bad either.

There’s a good chance I brought this on myself.  After a less than subtle post titled “Come Visit”, and several other comments such as “stop by if you’re in the area” and “so when are you coming?”, I think people felt obligated.  I’m fine with that and hopefully can corner at least one or two people to talk way too long to about plants with.  Now I just have to hatch a plan to trick someone from Philly or upstate NY to drop by, since I’m sure I can bore them for hours since they won’t have as easy an escape as the locals do!

front border

Along the street I’m a little surprised by how all the fennel seedlings have exploded into bloom.  It’s one big airy thicket of licorice scented bee feeders and I should probably trim it back a bit before the mailwoman starts clutching an Epipen each time she needs to deliver a letter.

In the meantime let me introduce you to a few of the newest arrivals on the scene.  The first is an uber cool Rudbeckia triloba ‘Prairie Glow’ which is blooming from seeds started last year.  I love it.  Thank you to Chanticleer Gardens since it’s entirely possible a seed head from one of their plants found its way into a pocket on my last visit.

rudbeckia triloba prairie glow

Unlike the more common yellow/black centered Rudbeckia triloba, ‘Prairie Glow’ has varying degrees of a rusty orange with just the faintest hints of yellow at the tips of the petals.  These are a little over five feet tall so it’s more than capable of holding it’s own in the depths of the border.

The second is ‘Strawberry Vanilla’ hydrangea.  White panicles of bloom and a pink tint which will hopefully deepen as the flowers age are what make this one special.  I have it on good advice that this will only get more impressive over the years, so it’s another plant I’m pleased with this week.

midsummer border

Everything was glowing in the evening light.  The ‘Annabelle’ hydrangeas in the background have faded green, ‘Strawberry Vanilla’ is still a bright white with a touch of pink, and canna ‘Cannova rose’ and Verbena bonariensis really add a lot of color.

I think in the front yard there will be a few things worth seeing this week, so hopefully it’s enough to keep a gaggle of gardeners interested for at least a little while.  The tropical garden is looking decent as well but beyond that things get a little iffy.  Wish me luck that by the time people are walking past the pot ghetto they’ll be focused more on lunch plans than the unplanted chrysanthemum cuttings.

Come Visit

You may have heard that I mulched the garden.  It was brutal mid-summer work and would have been much better suited for more civilized spring or fall temperatures, but it’s done.  The schedule said now or never so I reluctantly chose now, and with the job done I’m way more pleased with myself than I should be.  With that in mind I’m taking a cue from bloggers such as Kathy at Cold Climate Gardening and Christina at Creating My Own Garden of the Hesperides and doing a walk-through post to finally give an accurate view of the garden.  I hope it doesn’t take away any of the mystery which sticking to closeups has provided, since in my opinion the “big picture” can tend to sum things up more than it should, so lets hope your reaction isn’t “oh, I thought it was bigger”…

front of house

Welcome.  Look at that mulch… ok, enough of that… the other first thing you’re likely to notice is the thicket of a garden out front.  It’s colorful but I don’t know if it does much for the house’s curb appeal.

Before getting too into the tour, I feel like there’s always something distracting going on at our house.  Tools, buckets, hoses, construction debris, and unfinished projects may appear at any point so consider this your fair warning.

garage cleanup

The garage cleanup is wrapping up this weekend.  Much of it just moved around but the new paint and big boy steps towards neatness are gradually making this into a space which doesn’t scare visitors or embarrass homeowners.

Surprisingly enough there were no run-ins with the law these past few days.  With the garage cleanup underway I was nearly positive there would be a visit from the EPA concerning the destruction on such a massive scale of vast areas of spider habitat.  There were also no emergency room visits.  I thought for sure when I broke that 6 foot bathroom mirror there would be some bad luck involved but so far just the usual.  Let’s get going though.  Here’s the foundation border as you proceed around the house.

foundation bed

During last year’s dry spell I officially gave up on this bed, but recovery has been swift.  Although it’s still a little “wooly” for a foundation planting I do think it’s coming along, even if sunflowers and 9 foot tall mullein don’t exactly go with the spiral-cut arborvitae.

The front street border shows up enough on Tuesdays so here’s just the very end looking over at the neighbors.  I snuck a few white ‘Annabelle’ hydrangea into her mulch beds but the blue ones are all her.  Amazing what ample rain can do for a hydrangea.

front border

At the end of the front yard looking toward the neighbor.  The golden juniper is about where my property ends.

I don’t know when I last showed the south side of the house.  It used to be covered by overgrown yew but two years ago I cut them back to the base and since then they’ve come back fine, but in the meantime I’ve filled up the dry, rooty space in front of them with all the odds and ends of my seed starting experiments.  In case it’s not obvious I call this my rock garden despite the fact there are no rocks and it’s mulched with shredded bark.

side yard

The rock garden along the south side of the house.  I should probably add rocks, that would seem appropriate… then of course I’d need to make it bigger as well 🙂

As we enter the back yard we pass last year’s Tuesday View, the tropical garden.

tropical garden

Warm weather is finally bringing on the tropics.  Unfortunately I’ve again allowed random things to take over, but sunflowers and squash seedling are always fun and they make a nice distraction from the poor drainage and rotted dahlias which should have filled the space…

Rounding the corner the backyard comes into view.  Look at that green grass!

backyard view

Potager (aka vegetable garden) around to the left, meadow behind the swings, deck and house to the right.

A quick glance to the right at the new lawn which replaced my most hated failure of a flower bed.  I’m so much happier with this area now, even though the world really doesn’t need more lawn to mow.

new lawn

The plan called for finishing off the deck in May, but the planner got distracted by the garden and ended up ripping everything out of here and planting grass instead.  This area has no name but please don’t let all the rocks confuse you into referring to this bed as the rock garden.

Here’s a closer look at the ‘potager’.

boxwood hedge

Whoops.  Wrong year.  I was wondering why several phlox ended up not returning this spring until I remembered how the garden looked last summer.

Here’s the view almost exactly a year later.

potager

Don’t judge my love for little hedges, it’s the only thing keeping this area neat, and I actually sort of enjoy trimming them.

The potager is officially the part of the garden which requires the most work and unfortunately I don’t provide it.  Chaos develops… well I guess chaos never “develops” it just degenerates… but something happens, and the flowers generally do their own thing and if we’re lucky a vegetable finds its way out every now and then.

potager

I have no problem supporting my local farmer after seeing how much work it takes to bring a broccoli from seed to soup.  Two things of note though are the marigolds (I needed lots of marigolds this year) and yellowing potato tops near the front mean something edible finally cometh.

I promise to limit my comments on the precious phlox.  They’re a favorite even though several clumps went to phlox heaven last summer.

phlox paniculata seedlings

Who says phlox seedlings are bad?  I got lucky and there are several nice ones here to replace the casualties.  ‘Cabot Pink’ is front and center and a sprig of ‘Salmon Beauty’ is off to the right, but the rest are volunteers which (should) be moved to new locations this fall.

A few more phlox as we move on over to the meadow garden.

phlox paniculata seedlings

Some more phlox and seedlings.  Athough the colors are more average I can tell the pink in the center is a ‘Blushing Shortwood’ seedling since it shares the same rounded flowers and slightly reflexed petals.

The meadow garden is beginning to look a little unkempt as the grasses continue to grow rather than politely drying up in the summer heat.  For now I’m hoping the golden rudbeckia flowers are enough of a distraction for minds which crave neatness all over.

meadow garden

I’m in the process of editing out the aspen suckers which are coming up throughout the meadow.  An aspen grove is the last thing my garden needs, but once I get distracted with these new ideas…

Moving past the swings and looking back, the neat hedge really does a lot to tame the messiness.  In complete disregard for plant health and proper timing I finished off the new swingset bed with a section of hedge transplanted from the back of the potager.  Just to be clear, sweltering 90F days in July are not recommended for transplanting boxwood, but I guess we’ll score one more for stupid ignorance.

potager

This is so neat and trim it’s almost sickening.

Although it’s nice to have a spare boxwood hedge growing around, this one only covered about half the section.  As luck would have it though, there was also a tray of rooted cuttings to fall back on.  To be clear on this as well, it’s generally not a good idea to root cuttings you don’t need and then throw them under the deck for at least five years while you wait for something to happen… and that ‘something’ also happens on a 90F sweltering July day… but as usual we just carry on and ignore what should have been.

boxwood cuttings

Fortunately boxwood is pretty hardy stuff and survived all this abuse with only minimal damage, and you can at least say the cuttings are very well rooted… which wasn’t much of a plus as I ripped apart the nursery tray trying to get them out.

Lets wrap things up though.  I feel this year there’s been a near heroic effort to keep weeds at bay at this end of the yard, especially since I just can’t figure out what to plant here. The soil gets too soggy in the rain to grow iris well, delicate flowers are destroyed during kickball games, and overly lush plants are often bushwhacked when looking for lost tennis balls.

hydrangea Annabelle

From a distance, with a neat edge on the bed, at just the right angle… many of this bed’s flaws become easier to ignore.

Lets also ignore the beds around the back porch.  They still need some ‘vision’ but for now as long as the most rampant weeds are kept at bay and the Virginia creeper is regularly beat back off the porch it’s a generally non-offensive area.

virginia creeper porch

Still a work in progress going around to the north side of the house.

We end our tour by coming around the garage and passing the ‘pot ghetto’ where all the least fortunate plants-in-waiting bide their time until the gardener makes up his mind on a location.  The gardener is not sure what the holdup is since all the other perfectly placed plantings really haven’t stood the test of time, but he likes to think someday inspiration will strike.  Studies show that inspiration usually strikes the day before a two week road trip, but until that happens the plants wait.

pot ghetto

Shameful.  

So that brings us back around to the front of the garage again.  It doesn’t take a genius to realize that nothing has changed in terms of garage cleanup since we started, but it being a day of rest I think that can be overlooked into tomorrow.  For now I want to thank you for coming along and feel free to stop by if you’re in the area.  Just be ready.  If you think this post went on for way too long imagine what the real on-site experience is like!

Have a great week.