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.

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.

Spring keeps rolling along

As it is with most things here, the gardener is not exactly on schedule with his gardening.  He’s not exactly on schedule with many things, but the late freeze and the discouraging damage it did to so many spring greens has left him slightly unmotivated.  Then the relentless rain and cold damp brought on rot, and now dry weather is bringing spider mites to the phlox.  So the gardener will restart his spring in mid May and deal with the mites.  He’ll also accept that many projects will again not happen, and will just clear his conscience and move on.  Iris are beginning to bloom after all, and once the iris start to fill the flowerbeds with color and perfume it’s hard to hold onto a black mood.

narcissus keats

One of my last daffodils to open, narcissus ‘Keats’ was voted ‘ugliest thing to bloom’ by a more serious daffodil friend.  I’m always one to love the underdog. 

One minor project (which seems to be the only project type I’m capable of tackling this spring) which was finally taken care of was the long suffering heuchera plantings.  A few summers ago I dipped my toes into the hybrid heuchera world and since then they’ve been suffering along in my garden.  My planting beds get too dry, my shade isn’t as high and dappled as they’d like, and my soil is too heavy for their roots but I try nonetheless.  They still have plenty of filling in to do but if you saw the before picture I’m sure you’d agree this is an improvement.  Unfortunately the tan lawn clipping mulch doesn’t do much to set the foliage off, but it’s better than weeds I suppose.

transplant and divide heuchera

The woody stems of the heuchera clumps were dug up, ripped apart and carelessly stuffed back in to the re-dug bed and the plants actually look much happier after their tough love treatment.    

As summer heat settles down on the garden this holiday weekend, I just wanted to celebrate the meadow and a few of the newer plantings which did well this spring.  Number one on the list were the tulip clusiana bulbs which planted into the turf.  They looked perfect out there and I hope they return just as nicely next spring.

tulipa clusiana

Tulip clusiana (I think they were a named variety but I’ll need to dig out the tag) were scattered around in the meadow garden.  I will be extremely happy if they settle in here!

A few Anemone blanda look nice in the shadier parts of the lawn.  I tried throwing them around in several of the outer edges of the garden and then promptly forgot until little sparkles of blue started showing up here and there.  My goal for this one is to recreate the neglected show which used to pop up each spring around my first apartment in upstate NY.  If this plant can naturalize around a ramshackle college boarding house I think it stands half a chance here.

blue anemone blanda

Blue Anemone blanda in the “lawn”. 

Muscari is practically a weed everywhere so I added a few of those as well.  The flowers on these grape hyacinths were nice enough but now I keep looking at the seed heads with their kind-of aqua tint.  I wonder if it was the cooler temperatures or if they’ll always have this attractive look…. or is it just me that thinks they look cool?

muscari seed pods

Seed heads on the grape hyacinths (Muscari).  In other parts of the garden I clip them off to limit their seeding around, but here I’ll risk it 🙂

Most of the bulbs were brought in as bulbs, but if you know me you know there are a few seeds coming along as well.  My little gravel covered pots are bursting with new plants this spring and even though the last freeze did a few things in the majority seemed to enjoy our mild winter.  I’m always a bit surprised anything will grow up through gravel, but in some pots even the tiniest of seedlings make a crowded moss of new green sprouts…. which will soon desperately need thinning!

hypericum albury purple

Hundreds of Hypericum ‘Albury Purple’ seedlings sprouting in the center pot. Realistically I need about two.

With new seedlings coming along each spring there are always new surprises as youngsters open their first blooms.  A couple years ago I thought I’d dabble in a few species anemones and see how they do in the meadow, and although I’m not sure they’re all correctly labeled, for now I’m just enjoying them for whatever they are.

aneomone caroliniana

Not Anemone caroliniana?  Pretty regardless, and it looks like it might be able to hold its own if I move it out into the thinner areas of grass.  

One seedling which has a positive ID is this cool little Japanese Jack-in-the-pulpit or snow rice-cake plant (Arisaema sikokianum).  I was surprised to see any of these three year old seedlings flower, and although the actual flower is definitely on the small side for this species they say size doesn’t matter in these things and I’ll just keep admiring the fancy little bloom.

arisaema sikokianum

Arisaema sikokianum.  Although my picture doesn’t do it justice, I hope you can appreciate the mottled foliage and bright contrasts of this flower. 

So that’s the basic update.  I promise this will be the last time I moan about freezes and such, but I can’t promise some other weather event won’t come along shortly to take its place.  Whatever happens it’s a great iris weekend and I’m sure I’ll be going on about that next 🙂

Baby’s first spines

I am a completely proud parent.  On a garden visit last summer I came across a plant I’ve been wanting for a few years now, and with the permission of the owner I was able to swipe a few seeds.  This spring they were planted and I can’t be happier with my little babies.

Solanum pyracantha porcupine tomato

Solanum pyracantha, aka the porcupine tomato, showing the first signs of it’s prickly personality.

If all goes well this bizarrely beautiful and offensively spiny young plant will grow up to be covered with grayish leaves studded all over with orange spines.  It’s not a plant for everyone but it sure fits right into my misguided obsession with sharp and thorny weeds.

What is it about Madagascar that makes this relative of our own docile tomato so dangerously spiny?  This small island seems to have more than it’s share of viciously thorned plants and based on what I’ve seen it isn’t exactly the place for flip flopping, shorts wearing tourists.  But I have to say I’m looking forward to seeing this guy grow up, I think the kids will love it!

Check one corner off

There were a few cool days last week and I was able to drag myself out into the garden and give the vegetable beds a once over (in spite of the dry soil and high pollen counts).  I think it looks as good as it gets, and with all the unintentional flowers it may be fancy enough to call a “potager”, as Annette from Annette’s Garden once called it.  I like the name and it’s stuck.  It has just enough Continental refinement to make me laugh a little when I look at the plastic fencing, weedy sumacs, chainlink and neighboring industrial park!

the potager vegetable garden

The potager with neatly edged beds and way too much disorganization.  By now the warm weather vegetables should already be in but with last week’s frost I’m kind of grateful for my procrastination.

The work always goes faster with a good helper or two, but studies have shown that nine year old boys don’t typically fall into that category.  Still the company is welcome.

kids in the garden

A few edible things are starting to fill the beds but I’m always proudest of the fancy pink marble edging which line the plots.  In a former life the stone accented the front of the house, but now it helps edge the beds.  The look has been called “deep south cemetery” and I’m sure that’s a compliment. 

Ok, so even freshly weeded it’s still kind of messy, but I’m far too proud of the crisp edge along the lawn and the freshly mulched boxwood to let that keep me from posting a photo.  Our little Queen of the Prairie” must agree.  She overlooks the potager but has seen better days as the weather continues to eat away at her plaster self.  Might be time to start hitting the estate sales to find a successor.

boxwood edging vegetable beds

A very rarefied boxwood edging lines the outer perimeter and I think it really elevates the standing of my hodgepodge of plants.  Hopefully I can enjoy it for a few years now that it’s finally growing in, especially since  so many European and New England gardeners are facing multiple boxwood problems … blight, caterpillars, ugh.

The iris are at their peak.  I should really evict them but never do.

iris in the vegetable beds

Seems like for every iris clump I remove a few new ones pop up.  The compost usually brings in a few but the gardener also tends to feel bad for spare plants and ends up putting the innocent little fans in here and there.

I don’t know what to say about this clump.  Two years ago I dumped them here when I needed their real estate for a tomato planting.  I never replanted them but apparently they don’t care.  Two years in an iris bed with no bloom, two years of being tossed to the side and they look great.  Go figure.

historic bearded iris

Their identities are probably lost, but I think the apricot-pink to the right is ‘Jean Guymer’.

It’s not all flowers, there are a few cool weather vegetables braving the up and down temperatures.  Broccoli, lettuce, potatoes, and garlic all look promising, but here the tomato seedlings still all need to be weeded out.  If I knew what they were I’d keep them, but I already have more than enough.  They’ll stay for a few days longer to keep the ground covered since I don’t want mud splattering up into the yummy little lettuce rosettes when I water.

lettuce mervielle quatre seasons matina sweet

Two favorite lettuces, the never bitter ‘Matina Sweet’ and the darker ‘Mervielle de Quatre Saisons’… which should get a delicious tender green heart in a few more days.

The heat was too much for the arugula.  The flowers are nice enough though, and I won’t mind weeding this one out for salads if it goes to seed.

arugula bolting to seed

Chives in bloom and arugula bolting as the weather gets warm.  Time to plant the summer crops!

Even with the weeding and watering there’s still a ton to do.  Some tulips and daffodils will hopefully start coming out this weekend and that should open up room for beans and squash.  It may still be May but I’m going to say summer is here, and the next big project will be summer annuals.  Even though the plantlets are anxious to get out from under the growlights, I hope to tackle one last big weed patch adjacent to the potager before all my energy is lost.  It’s the on again off again red border/ pond bed, and hopefully in the next few weeks there will be some progress there as well.

eliminating weeds from perennial bed

All kinds of weeds filling the red border.  I resorted to roundup along the fence and that’s the only reason it’s not a sea of campanula glomerata.

Wish me luck.  We had a good rainstorm come through this afternoon and everything seems to be letting out a big sigh of relieve (including my water meter).  Facing next week’s high temperatures with a still-dry garden was not something I was looking forward to, so I’m thrilled!

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 🙂

April, May and June, all in one week

I’ve been hiding.  Our temperatures spiked up to 92F (33C) last week and watching the wilted daffodils and tulips being thrashed by the dry wind was just too depressing.  In a few hot days three weeks of bloom flew by and it’s now mostly over.  The temperatures finally dropped today but I still wish we would get some rain before the grass completely yellows.  I don’t like a dry spring.

Fortunately May is still May, and regardless of the weather there’s still plenty to be happy about!

growing perennials from seed

At least my winter seed sowing is paying off. This year I have my first frittilarias and tulips from seed, and it’s endlessly entertaining to search the pots for the latest sprouts.

Between NARGS, HPS, and American Primrose Society seed exchanges I have plenty of pots of little goodies to experiment with, and as long as nobody mentions the fact I have no room for most of these, I think we’ll all just enjoy the enthusiasm of the newest little sprouts in my garden 🙂

lilium martagon seedlings

Martagon lily seedlings going on to their third year.  At this rate there’s not much rush to find more room.

In addition to bringing on the seedlings the heat brought the wisteria from buds to blooms in barely four days.  Last spring was a total loss due to a harsh winter and late freeze, but this year about half the buds survived.  I don’t even miss the lost buds, it’s still full of flowers.

standard wisteria tree

Japanese wisteria planted out in the meadow.  Without anything nearby to grab onto and climb I think it’s invasive tendencies can be kept under wraps.

Maybe you noticed my sad little fritillaria imperialis blooming behind the wisteria.  The hot wind wilted the flowers quickly but I managed to get a photo of the interesting inside of the hanging blooms.

fritillaria imperalis nectaries

The nectar drops at the inner base of the fritillaria imperalis blooms.  A cool thing to look at, but it’s just a bit too “glandular” in appearance for my tastes!

The fritillaria will be something to keep my fingers crossed for in order for it to survive, but the japanese wisteria cannot be mentioned without a warning about it’s invasiveness.  Killing it would be far more work than the neglect which keeps it alive, and to turn your back on this plant runs the risk of having it take over.  I keep it in the middle of a lawn area were it cannot grab onto anything, to grow it as a vine and keep it on anything less than a massive arbor would be more work than I want to consider.

wisteria that doesn't refuse to bloom

Some seed grown wisteria may take decades before they finally decide to bloom, mine is a cutting off my parent’s plant which has always put on a heavy show of flowers.  Even this sucker which came up last year after I moved the mother plant already has a few blooms on it.  A smart person only needs one wisteria, I’m not sure why I’m going to keep this second one 🙂

Speaking of plants which wouldn’t mind taking over the world, I think I’ve finally decided against keeping this darker purple vinca minor.  I like it well enough but without a border or wall to hold it back it’s spreading out just a little to enthusiastically.  This plant (and my wayward campanula glomerata) are officially on the elimination list.  I might put some of it next door in one of the boring mulch beds around my mother in law’s house.  It’s not that hard to rip out, improves the look of an empty mulch bed immensely, and between the house and lawn it shouldn’t get into too much trouble.

vinca minor atropurpurea

Vinca minor ‘atropurpurea’.  A good groundcover in the right place, but a little to aggressive for my beds, and I wouldn’t want to let it escape into the wild. 

Before the heat struck I did manage to finish up a little hard labor.  The front house bed has had a once over, been expanded and topped with new mulch.  I forgot who gave me the idea, but I divided up the blue fescue clumps and spread them far and wide across the front of the border.  I like it, which isn’t something I could say the last time I redid this foundation planting.

mixed border foundation planting

The front foundation planting looking all springy.  Any opinions on the pink rhododendron in front of the brick?  I have mine, and it involves a shovel 🙂

The bed along the front of the house has been one of my favorites this spring.  The shelter of the house gives a little protection from the drying wind and my mulching has kept down many of the most annoying weeds.  Some would say my thistles are weeds but I think they’re fantastic.  You’re not going to want to touch them though….

Ptilostemon diacantha

Ptilostemon diacantha.  I can’t wait to see this one bloom (even though the blooms may be slightly anti-climactic) and will surely collect seeds if I get that far… using gloves of course 🙂

Something a little more suburbia-friendly are the tulips and camassia.  It looks nice enough here but I may remove a bunch of the camassia.  In the heat I don’t think they’ll last more than six days, a little too short of a bloom period for my tastes although I can’t complain about how carefree they are.  Maybe I’ll try them somewhere less prominent.

tulips and camassia

Tulips and camassia highlighting the front foundation planting.  The blue fescue has been divided up and spread all along the front now and I think it looks better than the gappy line which was there before.  Funny to think these are all the descendants of a single moth-eaten clump which I rescued from a neighbor’s yard. 

Close up the camassia are an airy, beautiful flower, and I think to see it growing en-mass in its native Western North American haunts would be great.  Maybe someday.

camassia leichtlinii caerulea or 'blue danube'

Camassia leichtlinii caerulea or ‘blue danube’, I’m not sure which since I planted both but they all look identical to me.

Iris season is next.  The stalks are shooting up all over and it makes the rapid passing of the daffodils feel a little less painful.  I’m sure it will be a fantastic year for iris…. unless that’s the exact point when the rain decides to come.

iris pallida 'variegata' in a mixed border

I always forget to divide the awesome iris pallida ‘variegata’.  It’s one of my favorites but seems to like more frequent division and better soil than some of the others.

So that’s it from here.  I have to apologize for not responding to comments or leaving any on the blogs I visit,  I’ve been keeping up with the reading but for the most part have been just too grumpy and unmotivated to add any productive comments.  But there’s hope.  The first irises are opening today and I’m already feeling better.  This sounds good, but unfortunately the weekend is already filled to capacity with field trips, birthday parties, dance recitals, sports banquets and baseball games and I’ll be lucky to even step foot in the garden for a few days.

But it’s almost Friday, and I hope a great weekend is had by all!