Happy Memorial Day 2017

Here in the US Monday marks Memorial Day, a day when we honor those who’ve lost their lives serving in the armed forces.  It’s also the unofficial start to summer, and although I haven’t gotten around to filling the front porch containers these amaryllis were just too nice to leave hidden away next to the garage.  Hopefully their blooms will distract visitors from the as-yet-leafless overwintered begonia pots.

summer amaryllis

A day earlier and this would have been a suitably patriotic red, white, and blue combo, but last night the blustery winds pulled most of the last petals off the columbine clumps.     

The year before last I was all gung-ho about growing amaryllis (hippeastrum) again.  There was a beautiful show indoors as one after another opened but lo and behold as quickly as it came on it’s passed again.  This winter there were a few which came up and flowered indoors (and were appreciated), but the rest were tossed out of the garage as soon as temperatures allowed and have had to fend for themselves with whatever warmth and rain the weather has brought.

shade foliage

A few more amaryllis at the other end of the porch.  I really should cut the double and put it in a vase… 

A better gardener would repot and fertilize their amaryllis at this time of year.  Heavy feeding and plenty of moisture are the perfect recipe for building blooming size bulbs for next year and getting a jump on the next season’s flowers, but I’m far too distracted with swingsets, deck planters, iris flowers and barbeques.  Three days off from work will pass far too quickly.

mixed border bearded iris

I’m still completely distracted with iris season.  The chances that more clumps will go in and be spread around this June is nearly 100%.  Who needs marigolds.

I hope your weekend has gone well and you’ve had luck with both the weather and the to-do list.  Please wish me luck in still getting the lawn cut and vegetable garden planted on our final day off… neither has happened as of yet and that sounds like an awful lot of work for a holiday.  Maybe if I spent less time staring at the iris that would b a start, but this time of year goes so fast and I’d hate to miss a minute of it.

Tuesday View: The Front Border 5.23.17

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

street border

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

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

iris ambassadeur

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

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

iris folkwang

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

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

iris folkwang

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

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

iris rhages

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

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

iris rhages

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

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

bearded iris

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

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

iris picador

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

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

 

iris vingolf

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

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

verbascum governor aiken

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

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

An old familiar itch

It’s time to face the reality of unsown seeds and unplanted vegetable beds.  There… done.  For the past few years I’ve been making a real effort tot get all kinds of annual seed growing, all kinds of cuttings started, and all kinds of summer bulbs planted, but this year something is off.  Maybe I’ve been too busy with other things, but in all honesty I live a fairly lazy life and for me to say I don’t have the time or energy to start a few salvia seed or pot up a few coleus cuttings is just a bunch of excuses.  My reality this year is I just don’t care to.  I’m not a farmer after all, and the family won’t go hungry or broke if the potatoes fail, so I just keep enjoying what I’m doing and don’t stress it if this year I only start 10 or 20 coleus cuttings rather than 75.  The iris are in bloom after all, and this year they are nearly perfect.

historic bearded iris

The view from the street is far nicer this spring with green grass and healthy spring growth.  I forgot what it’s like to start the year with cool temperatures and ample rainfall rather than dry winds and drought.

I have a weakness for iris, and go back and forth between indifference and obsession depending on the season.  This year it’s obsession.

historic bearded iris

Clumps of iris are scattered throughout the front border.  They are mostly old cultivars (~100 years) and although they lack the ruffles and fluff of the modern iris, they’re very well suited to the rough and tumble of often neglected and often overgrown perennial beds.

The number of blooms, the colors, the fragrance, are conspire against me this season and I’ve been on and off iris websites far more than I should admit…. even though the majority of my iris are either pass-alongs or just plain found alongside the road and had nothing to do with a catalog order.

historic bearded iris

From left to right, Flavescens (pre 1813), Ambassadeur (1920), and Indian Chief (1929).

The jury is still out on any big iris orders since I should really take better care of what I have, but people say it doesn’t hurt to look and so far that’s all I’ve been doing.

blue foundation planting

The striped leaves of Iris pallida ‘aureo-variegata’ accenting the front foundation plantings.  You can count on this iris to scent the whole corner of a bed with that delicious grape scent which many of the older varieties put out.

It hasn’t been all sloth and idleness in the garden this spring.  A few small projects are getting done in spite of my laziness, although I’m not promising they’ve all been done to the best of my ability or that they are the best value for my little effort.  One interesting discovery I came across is that bearded iris are fairly resistant to Roundup type (glyphosphate) herbicides.  That of course leads me to carelessness when spraying around the clumps next door, since the chances of iris damage are far outweighed by my ‘want to do as little free labor as possible especially when it includes pulling weeds out of monotonously boring mulch beds in someone else’s yard’.

roundup on iris

Iris foliage is fairly resistant to Roundup yet the flowers will discolor and stunt depending on how much of the poison they absorb.  These flowers should be larger and a dark velvety red rather than small and anemic looking.   

Before anyone gets too excited, I just want to say I really don’t use too many chemicals in the garden and although I like to appear as if I’m lazily spraying about I really am somewhat cautious, if only because I have too many more sensitive plants which I’d hate to lose.  For what it’s worth my research shows that iris, vinca, and nut grass are pretty much the only plants which will not be outright killed by careless Roundup spraying…. although for the vinca and nut grass the spraying was very intentional.

roundup on iris

Normal iris bloom to the left, increasing Roundup effects on the same plant to the right.  A heavy dose will give a colorless cauliflower-like stalk which is entirely uninteresting.

Besides chemical warfare on weeds, another questionable project started with my purchase of a Charlie Brown delphinium which needed a perfect spot in order to wow everyone with its amazing comeback.  My single successful clump grows alongside the front porch so this was the most obvious spot to try another, except for the six foot Alberta spruce which already grows there.

delphinium foundation planting

The healthy delphinium clump is front and center with the spruce behind.  The Charlie Brown delphinium sits soaking in the white bucket to the right.

Alberta spruce is a 365 days a year respectable plant, with an attractive form and many years of service in and many years of service to come.  It would make no sense to pull it out in favor of a temperamental diva which needs fussing and fertilizing and timely staking to protect it from the high winds which strike each year (always two or three days into peak bloom season).

delphinium foundation planting

Spruce gone, delphinium in (one of the ‘New Millenium’ hybrids).  Not the most logical decision I’ve ever made but in the garden I prefer to live guilt free and impulse happy.  Also, if you could, please ignore all the trash and clutter on the porch beyond.  I only got around to cleaning it up after this photo was taken.

I’m distracted again, let me finish up iris season.  The Siberian iris and Japanese iris might be some of the most beautiful flowers of the plant world, but I don’t grow many.  They seem to flower for a total of one week and although the grassy foliage looks respectable all summer and they handle nearly any abuse which comes their way I try to limit any collecting urges.

purple siberian iris

An unknown purple siberian iris with a still unplanted tropical border behind it.

One Siberian iris which I couldn’t walk away from was ‘Super Ego’.  It’s not because it was in bloom when I saw it or that the color was unique or any other particular quality, it was because of a childhood dream which was set on fire by a random White Flower Farm catalog which showed up in my mailbox one winter.  I think I’ve confessed to being a little odd as a child so the fact that I’d sit around spending hours reading through this catalog probably shouldn’t surprise anyone, but this 1980’s era catalog (which I probably still have somewhere in the basement) had ‘Super Ego’s glamor shot in it alongside a poetic description which convinced me that owning this plant would make me richer, smarter, and more popular.  Unfortunately the WWF catalog was way beyond my 10th grade budget so the actual plant never left Connecticut and I was forced to go on without.

Siberian iris super ego

Siberian iris ‘Super Ego’ just starting to open on a Thursday. 

The actual experience of growing ‘Super Ego’, while pleasant enough, didn’t quite live up to my expectations.  For what it’s worth, I guess I’m as smart, rich, and popular as I’m ever going to be.

Siberian iris super ego

‘Super Ego’ five days later after a few 90F days bleached most of the darker blue color out.  The chives in the back seem unfazed by the weather or passing time, although they are entirely less exotic in my opinion.

So as I wait for a new plant to come along and change my life I’ll continue weeding through the backyard iris beds.  They are infinitely less photogenic with their hefty companion plantings of weeds, but the old iris continue to carry on and deserve more respect than their neglected planting spot gives.  I even planted a few zinnia and marigold seeds last weekend.  That may not speak of high class and taste nor earn me a spot in the White Flower Farms catalog but it does mean that things are starting to move on the seed front, and if it all works out July and August should still be full of flowery color.

GBFD The Promise of May

On the 22nd of each month Christina at Creating my own garden of the Hesperides encourages us to look past all the flowers and blooms of the garden and take a second look at what foliage does to support it all.  I’m happy to once again take part in the fun, and what better month to do it in than May, the month where my garden really starts to overflow with the promise of the new season.  Lets start with the front beds where hosta and self sown columbine have now sprouted up and covered the snowdrop and corydalis beds of early spring.

blue columbine with hosta

These blue columbine were originally found in the woods behind the house prior to its clearing for industrial park.  They’re just escaped or dumped aquilegia vulgaris, nothing rare or unusual, but I like to keep them around as a reminder.  Plus they’re carefree.

This will be our seventh year here and after a slow, cash strapped and baby filled start I think things are finally beginning to look like something.  The colors and shapes of the front foundation plantings are still a work in progress but for now the look is finally something I’m no longer bored or annoyed by. – Cathy here are the variegated iris in bloom, they have a fantastic fragrance 🙂

mixed perennial bed as foundation planting

The just recently mulched, expanded and divided plantings of the front foundation planting.

I love the different colors and textures out here at the moment, but my absolute favorite is the “white frosted” Japanese thistle (Cirsium japonicum).  I know I’m in a lonely position here, but the prickly thistles always fascinate me, and in my opinion variegation is almost always a plus!

Cirsium japonicum 'White Frosted' Japanese thistle

Cirsium japonicum ‘White Frosted’ with blue fescue and some just divided sedum ‘Bon Bon’.

Even with the iris coming into peak bloom along the street border (it’s a good year for iris here), my favorite plant in this mix is the Ptilostemon diacantha.  Some see a spiny weed in need of pulling, I see some of the coolest foliage in the garden.

mixed border with historic bearded iris

Historic iris like the poor soil and hot, dry and sunny front border, and even though the pale yellow iris “flavescens” does not like the wind, the reddish ‘Indian Chief’ and lavender ‘Ambassedeur’ stand strong.

I know I’ve already shown this weed a couple times, but I’ve never seen it looking better…. not a difficult feat since this is its first time growing here!  I suspect the actual blooms will be a letdown, but the fine texture and pattern of the leaves…. 🙂

Ptilostemon diacantha

Foliage closeup of Ptilostemon diacantha.  A biennial thistle from the Balklands/Turkey region in need of a common name.  ‘Ivory thistle’ is the only one I came across and that one kind of bores me…. and with blooms of mauve I don’t see the connection.

There are some friendlier foliages as well.  The juicy fat clumps of this unnamed sedum spectabile (apparently Hylotelephium spectabile is its new name) always make me smile, no matter how common they might be.

spring clumps of sedum spectabile

Spring clumps of sedum spectabile.  The common types are unkillable, and one plant survived for two years after I put the clump down on a stone step after being distracted while transplanting.

Another foliage favorite which I’m happy to have again is this plant of Silene dioica ‘Ray’s Golden’ Campion, which comes via seed from the talented Nan Ondra of Hayefield.  It’s short lived in my garden but easy to grow once you get the seeds planted.  Just rouge out the plain green seedlings.

Silene dioica 'Ray's Golden' campion

Silene dioica ‘Ray’s Golden’ campion with Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ coming up behind.  This section of bed is still in need of weeding, fortunately the shredded leaf mulch has kept most of the little guys from sprouting.

When you circle the house to get out back, you pass what comes closest to a shade bed in this mostly sun-baked garden.  A leaky faucet (left intentionally so for the plants… and laziness) keeps these ostrich ferns and hosta happy here under the dry overhang of the house eaves.

hosta frances Williams seedlings

Hosta ‘Frances Williams’ (just barely noticeable to the right) is the mother to all of these hosta seedlings.  I was curious to see if any would pick up mom’s variegation, but no luck.  All have a similar bluish tint free of any color streaks, a plain look but still beautiful.

The rest of this month’s foliage celebration are also a celebration of wintertime seed sowing.  Lets begin with the seed trays.

rumex sanguineus seedlings with 'sunny side up' pokeweed

My obsession with weeds continues.  Here the baby pictures of Rumex sanguineus seedlings with ‘sunny side up’ Phytolacca Americana next door make for a pretty combination.  Their common names of bloody dock and pokeweed sound much less special 🙂

Any yellow leaved seedling is right up my alley.  Out of my American Primrose Society seeds comes this one little oddball.  My fingers are crossed I can nurse it along to adulthood.

primula polyanthus seedlings

Primula polyanthus seedlings with one yellow leaved sister.  I hope it stays this way and manages to limp through my on again off again care/abuse.  -don’t know why the fly had to photobomb the center of this photo.

Another seedling which has somehow escaped neglect and abuse is this third year Rosa glauca.  I’m looking forward to seeing this one take off, it just needs to go somewhere other than the tomato bed.  Or not.  Maybe it would look nice next to a couple golden cherry tomatoes 🙂

rosa glauca seedling

Rosa glauca freshly mulched with a shovel full of compost.

Sometimes neglect pays off.  The lovely leaves of this lettuce crop are the result of not removing last year’s leftovers until they had bolted and gone to seed.  They’ve even come up in a row as this was a ridge of soil where the mulch was blown off during some winter storm.  Dare I say this planting is nearly as nice as the seedlings I fussed over for weeks indoors and then carefully transplanted and nursed along?

self sown lettuce seedlings

The quality of my weeds is really coming along.  In this photo there’s lettuce, a nice bunch of arugula, phlox, daisies, a daffodil and sunflower.  I must stay strong and remove them all… this really is the only spot left where there’s any chance of fitting in a pepper.

Another weed problem are the many chrysanthemum seedlings sprouting around last year’s plantings.  I must rip them out as well, I have no room for more mums… says he who has a dozen more new little pots in need of planting.

chrysanthemum seedlings

Not sure why I’m posting weed pictures, but you can make out the tiny leaves of chrysanthemum seedlings here amongst the dandelions and clover.

Weeds aren’t the only issue this spring.  The phlox hate the extended dry winds and droughty soil, it brings on the spider mites and I have no interest in spraying for anything.  I’ll make an effort though and spray the foliage off with the water hose while watering (just watering in the first place is probably  good start), then give them a dose of liquid fertilizer.  That and a few more sprays with the water hose might be enough of a shot of goodness to help them outgrow these annoying pests and save this year’s bloom season.  I can’t even imagine a phlox-free summer…

garden phlox with spider mites

What a difference.  Phlox ‘Blue Paradise’ on the left has nearly given up under the spider mite attack, while his neighbor to the right only shows a few yellow leaves and yellowed stippling from the spider mites.  I may just trim him back completely and hope for the best with any new growth which manages to come up. 

One more bad foliage visit.  Sweet autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora) is a pest in my meadow garden and each spring I battle the legacy of the single vine planted along the fence next door.  I suppose I could spray the clumps and eventually do them in, but I have to admit liking their patterned foliage and late season blooms…. even though I promptly rip the vines off before seed is set.

Japanese clematis Clematis terniflora foliage

Japanese sweet autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora) foliage.  I wish this wasn’t such an invasive thug. 

To wrap things up I’ll leave you with something a little cheerier.  With the exception of a few rabbit decimated plants, the bulk of last years clearance heuchera have overwintered nicely and are showing off their fresh spring foliage (as well as their bland and boring flower stalks).  Honestly I don’t like them all together in one big mess, but as plants grow (or die off) I’ll divide the survivors and see if I can work a few clumps into the rest of the garden and make some nicer foliage vignettes.

mixed heuchera planting

Mixed heuchera from last year’s Santa Rosa Gardens purchase.  Yes this bed also needs weeding and more mulch…

So those are the foliage highlights from this end of Pennsylvania.  If you’d like to see what others are up to please visit Christina’s blog to see what people across the world are seeing in their gardens.  It’s always inspiring!

Have a great weekend, here we have three days to observe Memorial Day and in addition to the usual holiday activities I hope to catch up on all things blogging.  Enjoy 🙂

Just a few more iris

Iris season is in full force here and although I’d rather report back that projects are getting done and plants are getting planted, they’re not.  I spend a considerable amount of time relaxing in a shady spot just enjoying spring.  I like to think we deserve it after last winter, but things would probably be the same had it been warm and rainy all February.

siberian iris

Siberian iris. Hard to believe patches of these grow wild somewhere, to me it might be one of the most beautiful flowers. I’d grow more but they are over so quickly and the letdown might be too much 🙂

While I continue my hard labour in the vegetable patch, digging and prepping planting beds, I worry that bearded iris might make a play towards taking over more broccoli acreage.  They grow so well there and the open spots would look so much nicer blooming blue instead of pushing out another potato.

iris snowbrook

Bearded iris “snowbrook” putting on a beautiful show… but lacking something….. maybe it’s just a little too short and congested to have all the grace I expect from my iris plantings.

One iris which will stay on the edges of the vegetable beds for a few more years yet is the bearded iris “ominous stranger”.  It’s not the heaviest bloomer, it doesn’t show up well amongst the brighter colors, but it does have a graceful subtlety which calls for closer inspection.

iris ominous stranger

I need to stay away from the ruffly, overblown, modern bearded iris. I could loose the entire vegetable patch if I start dabbling in these. This is iris “ominous stranger”.

I did try to start a dedicated iris bed when deck building displaced some of the old patch, but it’s at an end of the garden where a mulching mistake resulted in too many seedlings of little bluestem prairie grass.  Grass seedlings and an iris bed don’t mix well, and then throw in a little giving-up and you’ve just added another project on to the to-do list.  Still it’s impressive to see which iris continue to thrive amongst the neglect.

iris honorabile

Iris “honorabile” carrying on in spite of the uninvited grass and blue columbines which have moved in next door. A clump of the late blooming daffodil “baby boomer” also needs an escape plan from this bed.

My favorite this week in the weed bed is this sport of iris “honorabile” called “darius”.  Just one little genetic oops happens and the tint of the falls changes from maroon to more of a violet purple? (please forgive my lack of any color accuracy beyond red and blue).

historic iris darius

Historic iris “darius”, a sport of honorabile with a nice blend of yellow-lemon-purple(?) on small graceful plants.

Here’s another impossible-for-me-to-describe color.  An unknown modern iris is doing quite well in the weed bed, throwing up a healthy stalk of some ruffled murky unknown blend of pink.

unknwn iris

Any guesses on the ID of this one? It was a surprise slipped into a trade box from a great gardener in upstate NY. (note healthy weeds in background)

Idleness and plant neglect seems to be a theme this week, so I might as well stick with it.  This unknown historic was traded to me and to date hadn’t bloomed.  Last summer while debating a spot to replant it in I set it down between some tomatoes and succeeded in ignoring it for the entire growing season.  Maybe it got scared, maybe it enjoyed the company of tomatoes, either way it finally sent up a stalk of these nicely patterned blooms.

unknown historic iris

Guilt is sometimes a good enough reason to keep a plant. This unknown iris will stay just because of the abuse it’s endured…. that and I like the veined falls… it just can’t stand next to one of the fancy modern iris or it will be completely ignored.

There’s plenty to enjoy in the garden as it turns the page into summer and June.  The first rose opened today and the sun is shining bright, but I spend way to much time overseeing things from a seated position.  The queen of the prairie and I sit in the shade of weedy sumacs and contemplate things.

garden seating

Every garden needs a good vantage point from which to keep an eye on things, and although this might be more trailer park than Downtown Abbey, it suits me just fine 🙂

I would claim big plans for today, but it’s Sunday, and the day of rest must be observed.  Spring goes by way too fast to begin with so in my book there’s nothing wrong with trying to enjoy every minute of every beautiful day.

Happy Memorial Day!

Here in the US it’s Memorial Day, a day of parades and ceremonies to remember the sacrifices of the fallen.  Today we’ll be hitting the main events but we’ll also be grilling and getting ready for summer since the weather is finally agreeing with the calendar.  Yesterday I finally got to spend a lot of time in my own garden and most of it was spent getting the front yard straightened out.  It was a pleasure since the whole yard is perfumed right now with the lemony and grape scents of flowering bearded iris.

historic iris

This old iris is one of my favorites.  Although nameless, it has a strong fragrance and carefree habit. Butterfly bush will shade the entire patch come July, but these iris keep going regardless.

The front border along the street is dry full sun, and the iris enjoy the summertime baking.  I think the dry, lean life helps ward off all the floppiness and fungal diseases that sometimes becomes a problem with bearded iris.

iris indian chief

Iris “Indian Chief” is also an older nearly indestructible iris. I sometimes think of these as cemetery iris since they seem to go on indefinitely, lovingly planted by a gravestone and then neglected for the next 50 years.

The iris are a little sparse this year compared to years gone by.  I pulled out wheelbarrows full last summer to try and thin things out, so it will be another year before some of the new clumps really fill in.  Sometimes the garden needs some tough-love 🙂 They were the perfect plant for this location though, and really helped make a new border look full and settled in within the second year.

iris rhages

Iris “rhages”, another historic iris from the 1920’s. Approaching its 100 year mark and still a pleasure!

I did some moving and dividing but this bed will need some serious weeding once I can sort out what all the seedlings are.  Drought last year kept all the biennials and perennials from sprouting last fall, so the real estate was open for tons of nicotina, verbena, and rudbeckia seedlings.  Something about the winter was perfect for seed sprouting since I have things coming up that normally don’t- such as sedum seedlings- and few of the usual characters such as oxeye daisies and forget me nots.

iris kochii

Iris kochii, a bearded iris collected from the wilds of northern Italy around 1887, and my allium splurge coming on next to it. I finally broke down and shelled out the $7 for this bulb and now I’m looking forward to the softball sized blooms.

I think I’m going to collect up all the rudbeckia seedling and just spread them around throughout the border this year.  between those and a few cannas this might be a low maintenance year for the front bed. (this said while considering all the cool seeds still sitting unsown in my seed box)

streetside perennial border

I think I need a few more iris here in the middle….  With all the spring bulbs gone things are too green, but imagine it with big swaths of orange and yellow rudbeckias! (plus a few red zinnias maybe?)

A firm hand (and a shovel) were used against all the little guys drifting down towards the street.  The border may get a bit unruly but I used some leftover mulch to give it a clean edge.  Although I’m not a fan of the brown dyed mulch (it was free from next door) it gives a nice neat edge and might be the easiest thing you can do to make an “overly exuberant” planting look controlled.

mulched perennial bed

A foot or two of fresh mulch along the edge even makes the weeds look better. -yes, that’s a big chunk of coal… this part of Pennsylvania is coal country and we actually sit right above one of the mines.

The border along the house also got a little attention, but overall there’s not much to do here.  Hostas have covered up and filled in around the early bulb foliage and the columbine seed I threw around last year has grown up and added some nice blue color.  In another few weeks I’ll come along and get some annuals in, probably some of the coleus cuttings off the windowsill.

self sown columbine

Blue aquilegia filling in until the annuals get planted. With warmer weather coming the pansy’s days are numbered.

I was a little firmer with the sunflower seedlings this year.  Dozens came up (apparently all the seeds weren’t eaten by the goldfinches) but I moved all but a few to the tropical garden… which has now become a sunflower field.  A few are left though, and the neighbors will just have to deal with rank eight foot annuals mixed in with the foundation plantings.  Here’s another questionable front yard planting.  Miss Willmott’s Ghost (eryngium giganteum) is a slightly weedy looking, thistle-like biennial that is just starting to put up its bloom stalks.  This is my first year with it (the seedlings didn’t do much last summer) but I already love it.  Just look at those flawless leaves with that nice veining!

eryngium giganteum foliage

The striped leaves of iris pallida “variegata” with blue fescue and Miss Wilmott’s Ghost. I’m all into the ghost right now, but the iris deserves some more respect too. I should really give it a spot of its own, and not just these stray bits that were missed when digging the bed over.

I hope to give the vegetable garden a little attention today.  It’s overrun with weeds at a time of year when it should be brimming with harvestable lettuce.  Oh well, we have to pick our battles at this time of year, so I’ll just focus on the front with its neatly edged lawn and freshly cut grass.

iris in perennial border

How do those stupid chairs keep showing up in every picture?!

Wish me luck with the back.  Today is supposed to be warmer again and I hate breaking a sweat on a holiday.  Plus the deck needs powerwashing and there’s grilling to do… and who knows what valid reason I’ll find to sit around with a cold beverage 🙂

Such are the problems of almost-summer!

Early July update

I would have thought that by now my latest project would be complete.  I’m in the process of widening the flower bed that runs along the street, and even though it’s been humid, hot and rainy I still won’t admit it might have been a better idea to wait until fall.  So I’ll try to distract everyone from that thought with some pictures.

The phlox are here!  This picture is a week old, but it’s one of my newest colors so of course I’m excited about it.  The full name is phlox paniculata “Nicky” and it’s dark dark dark.  I had to prop it up a bit, but since this is year one I’m willing to give it another growing season before calling it a flopper.phlox paniculata nicky

You’ll see more phlox soon since they’re a favorite, but first here’s an underrated summer bloomer, hosta “blue cadet”.  I only have a few hostas, but I’d rate this one highly.  It’s old but always respectable and easy in sun or shade.  I like it here under the porch plantings and it does a good job of shading all the spring bulbs and hiding their dying foliage.  Note the edge on that lawn!  You don’t see that too often in my yard.hosta blue cadet In the backyard the addition of bird netting has saved some blueberries for the slower berry lovers.  This morning’s pickings were enough for a whole blueberry pancake!  Who knows, maybe in another year or two we’ll be able to put together a couple muffins.blueberries under bird netting

I guess I can put in a couple front border pictures.  Here’s the newly dug section.  The cannas are sprouting in the heat and the sedum doesn’t seem to care about being moved and divided on a 92F afternoon.new flower bedI made it almost to the halfway point.  The grass is getting turned under and I’m putting in whatever annuals are still homeless.  A few perennials are moving around too but it’s mostly iris clumps getting ripped out and divided and sedums finding a new spot.digging a new flower bedAt the rate I’m moving I should get to this end around Sept. 25th.  Then I’ll probably want to spread mulch over it all…. and weed first since by then I’m sure they will be all over.  Oh well, maybe someday I’ll get my act together.digging a new bed

Projects are always fun but the zucchini are blooming and that can mean only one thing.  All work will stop as we try and get rid of the extras.  I always plant four hills and I always end up with about four times what I need.  Who would ever trust that the little seeds I put in the ground would ever amount to anything?  But they do and now I’ll pay the price.   For this one hill I can count at least four and they’ll be ready in another day or two…. so get the recipes ready.yellow zuccini