Bragging Again

The weather has finally warmed up enough here to get things growing, and as usual it’s the tulips and daffodils which are my absolute favorites.  They’re not at all subtle and I think that’s needed in order to distract from the raw construction of other parts of the garden.

growing tulips

The border along the street is looking good with a nice show of returning tulips.  Some have been in place for over five years and are way overdue for dividing.

Tulips and daffodils are a weakness of mine and it may surprise some that I’ve been on a strict diet for the last two or three years and haven’t allowed myself to buy any new bulbs until I take better care of what’s here.  Crowded clumps need dividing in order to show off best and in the case of tulips a string of late freezes and excessively damp springs have brought on some serious plagues of tulip fire botrytis.  Fortunately it only takes a few nice flowers in order for me to completely ignore a thousand other issues!

tulip marit

‘Marit’ might be in the top five of favorite tulips.  The colors, shape, and size are just amazing to my eye. 

This year drier weather has also been helpful in keeping the botrytis down.  Between that and some Neem oil spraying last spring things are looking much improved this spring.  I’m also ruthlessly ripping out infected shoots and thinning the foliage on still overcrowded clumps.  We will see what ‘thinning the foliage’ does to next year’s flowers since obviously the bulbs need the foliage to grow new bulbs, but a few less bulbs might not be the worst thing either.

growing tulips

I’m not sure you can tell that these tulips have been thinned.  The one clump of orange was missed, but the others were all dug in late May(?) far earlier than they should have been, and immediately replanted after pulling off and tossing all the smaller bulbs.  I’m hoping the show next spring is again solid with color.

I’m pretty sure only the gardener will notice if there are a ‘few less’ bulbs next year.  Exponential growth means a hundred tulips can become three hundred in just a year, so better to revel in the luxury of me doing the thinning rather than disease or *gulp* deer or other vermin doing it for me.  Thank goodness the deer still avoid my garden.

growing tulips

An overcrowded daffodil patch.  Sadly this is a newer replant where I thought I was leaving room, but really wasn’t as I tried to pack too many bulbs into too small a bed…

At least deer don’t eat daffodils.  Someday the backup plan might be daffodils and a fenced in potager if worse comes to worst.

narcissus firebird

An airy little ‘Firebird’.  

I don’t know if anyone remembers but ‘The Purge’ took place two springs ago, and daffodils were downsized to just under 150 varieties and that still sounds generous, but I miss them.

narcissus tahiti

‘Tahiti’ will never be downsized.  Even as a double in a garden where doubles are under-appreciated, it’s a favorite.

A new bed of daffodils would likely help.  I think it’s worth a shot at least 😉

narcissus coral light

‘Coral Light’ also made the cut and looks excellent with some room to show off.  If only I could do more of this planting-with-reasonable-spacing thing I think I’d be alright and things would look much better.

Where would this bed go?  Who knows but it would probably involve less lawn and that’s also a good thing… unless someone wants a badminton net strung up and doesn’t want to avoid jumping over daffodil clumps…

narcissus Mrs R O Backhouse

The bulbs of ‘Mrs R O Backhouse’ did not look great after the purge, and I was worried, but many of these older varieties bounce back quickly.

‘The Purge’ reached a highpoint two years ago during the potager rebuild, and a couple daffodil plantings had to make way for the construction of raised beds.  Sadly since then I’ve found that I don’t like the way the daffodils look in the raised beds, so that’s a new space problem, and even worse I love growing tulips in the raised beds.  The digging and replanting seems to really help with controlling the tulip fire botrytis and I can spend hours each week just going back and forth looking to see how much they’ve grown each day, and what new surprise has opened up.  Sometimes I really have to wonder where they come from when it’s a flower I don’t remember ever planting or it’s one I haven’t seen in years!

growing tulips

I tried to keep two beds open for tomatoes, beans, and zucchini plantings this month.  Next year all bets are off and the whole thing might be tulips.   

Actually here’s a confession.  Last fall I did add 10 new bulbs of ‘Shirley’ and ‘Pink Impression’, so this bulb diet I’m on isn’t all abstinence and cutting back.  Maybe it should have been though, since both varieties were mislabeled.

tulip not shirley

This is not the tulip ‘Shirley’ but still nice, and for a clearance bulb I can’t complain.  The real ‘Shirley’ has more of an inky purple stain that spreads down from the edges as the flower ages, and of course I still need to get that one again…  and keep this one now…

A friend with excellent taste in tulips pulls hers each year after bloom and usually I say no thanks, but this year I already put in a save request.  I’m also looking through bulb catalogs.  I’m also excited about how fat and vigorous this year’s crop of bulbs should be.  I fear ‘The Purge’ shall be followed by ‘The Splurge’ and tomatoes will end up in pots on the deck next year… and I’m 100% fine with that! -until someone else here overrules me 😉

growing tulips

The view from my in-potager seating area.  When the sun shines and the flowers open wide there’s not much getting done around here.

Usually the saved bulbs end up as mixes since it’s (1) easier and (2) it’s easier.  Plus the gardener always misses a bunch of bulbs when digging, stray bulbs get dropped and returned to the wrong box, and the gardener is a little disorganized in general.  He tries though.  A solid patch of his favorite is always worth marking and digging separately.

growing tulips

I think this streaked orange is ‘Beauty of Apeldoorn’ and I wouldn’t mind a solid bunch of it, as well as the yellow behind which might be ‘Big Smile’ which is plain and yellow, and I have plenty of yellow, but it’s also excellent and I love it.

Don’t worry, there’s a good chance none of that will ever happen.  Just getting the bulbs dug will be work enough and trust me the gardener isn’t one to go out looking for extra work.

growing tulips

Most of the tulips here come from generic Darwin Hybrid mixes, and often they turn out to be something else, but I believe the large reddish orange with yellow edges is the Darwin hybrid ‘Apledoorn Elite’ and it makes up a big part of the mix.  

I bet a few complementary perennials would also look nice, but all we’ve got is purple deadnettle and a few self-sown clumps of bleeding hearts.  There’s much to be said for careful weeding.

growing tulips

One year bleeding heart seed somehow ended up in the compost and they came up all over.  Works for me I said!

Enough with the tulips, just one last photo on how much they multiply.  I came across this picture from two years ago of all the ones which were dug and saved during the potager upheaval.

growing tulips

The potager tulips all descend from these few saved bunches.  A few of the reds were added later as leftovers from the planters out front, but the nerd in me sees the baby pictures of ‘Red Emperor’ and ‘Apledoorn Elite’ just waiting to go back into the ground and explode!

Ok, one last confession.  I may have mentioned I did buy a few new daffodils last fall since I had been so good during ‘The Purge’ and made so many adult decisions about how many was enough and how many was too much.  They were all one or two bulb purchases from either QDaffs or PHS daffs and were more meant to support small growers and importers, and entirely not because I really needed them… but that sham is now falling apart.  I was either sent more bulbs than I ordered or the quality was so obscenely excellent that one bulb really amounted to three normal bulbs, and now there are enough and they’re so awesome that more would be even better.  Oh the cruelty of it all.

narcissus bernardino hyperbole

An older variety, ‘Bernardino’ with a newer variety, ‘Hyperbole’ behind it.  Both are outstanding.

Fortunately I haven’t clicked on any new orders.  Actually I think it’s downright irresponsible to even allow us to order more daffs while it’s still peak season here, and I kind of feel like I’m being targeted for my weaknesses… but on second thought I may be just fine with that.

narcissus red passion rocoza

‘Red Passion’ in front with ‘Rocoza’ behind.  To a daffodilista that’s what red looks like, just like peach is often called pink, but whatever, I always enjoy the enthusiasm of the plant-obsessed.  

So we will see if anything new is ordered.  I’m leaning towards responsibility and frugality, and more adult decisions which consider available space and appropriate choices, but when you come home from work on a Friday excited for the weekend only to find it’s raining inside the bathroom nearly as much as outside, your resolve weakens.  Plus there’s always that gardening budget just bursting with revenue from the new plant tax.  Construction is still as expensive as ever but when this genius decided to put a plant tax on all building costs it’s been a huge windfall for my plant budget.  This must be how the big oil companies feel when gas prices surge and then stay there… except that’s also my money vanishing… and it’s surely not being spent on plants…

In any case have a great weekend.  It’s still raining here (although the extra shower in the bathroom has stopped) but at least the rain has kept me from staring at flowers all morning.  Enjoy!

A Day of Rock Gardening

Last weekend my friend Kathy of Cold Climate Gardening talked me into a plant sale.  No offense to her salesmanship, but it wasn’t the toughest sell considering I’ve been itching to get back to town ever since my first ‘Ithaca Spring Garden Fair and Plant Sale’ two years ago.  Covid you know… so I’ve been saying pass, but then Kathy told me about the spring plant sale of the Adirondack Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society.  It’s a members only thing, just a few people donating, buying and selling, but it sounded perfect.  Big deal that I wasn’t a member(yet) and it’s an over two hour drive, plus it’s a whole Saturday away from a garden which I should be weeding… and I already had plenty of unplanted things… but you know as well as I do that once the gardening gauntlet is thrown down it must be accepted, so of course I said yes.

It was a beautiful morning and the drive was a perfect trip up the Susquehanna river valley and then across the rolling dairy hills East of Cayuga lake to the plant sale.  The sale was fun.  Members (which now included me) were given numbers and each person had a chance to visit the sale tables and pick up a favorite.  After a couple rounds of this the tables were opened to everyone, and one by one they emptied.  There was more of course.  While this was going on plant talk was every where, an auction was lined up, a free table was filled and cleaned out… members introduced their favorite plants which they thought ought to be selling better, and at one point someone just stood on a bench and invited everyone over to visit their garden afterwards 🙂 I like these people, and this also brings me to one of the big selling points for me doing the drive and joining the chapter.  Garden visits.  I had heard that a local rock gardener had offered to open their garden after the sale, for members to visit.  It’s a garden I had read about and seen pictures of, and I knew it was a must-see garden.  Wow, was that the truth!

ithaca rock garden

A hillside was being excavated to expose the bedrock

Some of the epic rock gardens of Europe are heaps of stone built up to create mini-Matterhorns out of flat cow pasture.  This garden is not that.  Here a pair of inspired gardeners found a plot of land where they knew they could carve the earth down to bedrock, and then build a rock garden up that follows the natural cut of the ravine.  It’s actually quite a crazy idea, but awesome to see.

ithaca rock garden

One of the newest additions, a bridge now spans the gap between rocky outcroppings.

Of course these pictures don’t do the scale of the garden justice.  Massive boulders were being moved and placed in a way which looked as if the glaciers did all the heavy lifting thousands of years back.  Unearthing the bedrock sounds easier with the help of heavy machinery, but then consider the care which has to be taken to not gouge the naturally weathered walls and boulders as they’re being uncovered.  All the fine uncovering had to be done with hand… and then moved by hand…

ithaca rock garden

The earthworks from even further back.  All of this was uncovered, and much of it moved into a more effective place or position, even the larger slabs of stone.  Behind where this photo was taken there’s even more excavation.

One of the chapter members mentioned that the owners were back and forth about opening the garden.  ‘It’s not a garden, it’s a construction site’ is more or less what I got as the reasoning, but only half of that is true.  It’s an awesome construction site, but it’s also an amazing garden, and I think it’s even more amazing when you can see what went in to all the plantings.

ithaca rock garden

Plantings tumble down the slope, this one built up with tufa stone, a porous rock light and airy enough to allow plant roots to penetrate.

This is the first real rock garden I’ve ever visited so I can’t say much about the plants other than they looked perfectly happy.

ithaca rock garden

Rocks overhanging a small pool.  Tufa stone allows for plants to be ‘set’ directly into drilled holes.  Eventually the plants spread out on their own as the roots find their own paths into the rock.

ithaca rock garden

Oh, and just a big crevice garden for all those things which love a deep root run between stones.  Yellow delosperma and a yellow leaved teucrium (which I just happened to pick up at the plant sale!)

ithaca rock garden

Some of the plantings were really amazing

ithaca rock garden

Even a hosta!  -but I really love the yellow leaved saxifrage (maybe saxifraga ‘Cloth of Gold’?)

As I worked my way down the paths through the rock gardens, and headed closer to the house, I reached the patio area.  Here the garden hosts had set up a dining area with snacks and beverages and plenty of wine.  From what I hear this generosity was all part of a master plan to “loosen lips” and get the honest impressions of their visitors with an eye towards improvements and new ideas.  Sadly, I believe the wine was just wasted on me 🙂

ithaca rock garden

Bonsai and trough gardens.

The trough gardens were particularly interesting, and not just because of the mini landscapes planted in them.  In the past these gardeners have hosted trough making workshops in the garden as well as publishing articles on the process, and I was excited to see that the troughs look excellent in person.  Excellent enough that I think I’ll give one a go this summer and see how it turns out!

ithaca rock garden

Some of the troughs were quite complex.

Wine and snacks have a way of gathering people, so at the patio I stopped and took in a few of the conversations.  Someone asked me how I liked the top part of the gardens and I said ‘Top?  There’s also a bottom?’ …and yes, there’s a whole other part to the garden.

ithaca rock garden

Below the rock garden a natural seep provides flowing water for the bottom part of the gardens.

As you come around a few more boulders you find yourself at the bottom of the ravine, where a mass of Primula japonica fill the low spots.  They were just starting their peak bloom, it was excellent.

ithaca rock garden

A path runs back and forth along the stream.

ithaca rock garden

Masses of Primula japonica

ithaca rock garden

The stream heads out to the lake.  You would never guess a downpour had this garden nearly flooded a few days prior to the opening.

There were more woodland plants, azaleas, rhododendrons, and tree peonies but of course I can’t show everything, so I’ll leave off with one last overview of the upper garden as viewed from the house.  As you can see ‘dwarf’ conifers are also an interest.

ithaca rock garden

A view from the other side.  You can see some of the deer fencing, obviously the hooved beasts have no respect for such a special place.

So this garden was amazing, but who would I be if I turned down another garden tour invite?  I headed a few miles further to the impromptu open garden which had been announced at the sale, and here I was able to enjoy huge beds filled with lush perennials all grown to perfection.  I’m afraid I derailed plenty of my host’s Saturday afternoon gardening plans since it was already kind of late, but she still gave me the full tour!

ithaca rock garden

Tree peonies were at their moment of perfection.

There were cool plants everywhere, and they were all so well grown that I tried to avoid all honesty about my own garden when asked.  My big regret though is that I didn’t take more pictures.  It’s almost criminal that there are no photos of the red horse chestnut (Aesculus x carnea ‘Ft. McNair’) which was in full flower over one of the back beds.

ithaca rock garden

Alliums, Aquilegia, and peony were at their peak but I could see that the show had started months ago with spring bulbs, and will continue for months more with all the other later perennials.

ithaca rock garden

Wow.

So I’m also not even mentioning the shade gardens, the small arboretum of special trees, the field of dahlia tubers I was preventing her from planting… It was another fascinating garden and I have to say that the best thing about this day was meeting person after person who were so crazy about plants that it made me feel entirely sane.  What a group!

I rushed out of this stop with a new friend (and even more plants in my hands) and headed for my last stop.  It was already about dinnertime when I rolled into my friend Leon’s driveway but he didn’t seem too annoyed with me.  He knew I’d be late and still led me around the grounds of Der Rosenmeister Nursery and tolerated question after question.  I didn’t have time for a single picture.  I bought three roses.  I’m going back in a few weeks to see the hundreds of roses in full bloom, and it is guaranteed to be another great trip and I’m sure you’ll hear all about it 🙂

Hope you enjoyed this adventure !

Not too Early, Not too Late… Just Right?

Not this year.  I keep aiming to catch the local pink lady’s slippers (Cypripedium acaule) in peak bloom but it has yet to happen.  Last year I was too late and saw nothing but seed pods, and this year I was just a little too early.  But it was a nice Sunday morning out regardless, and I did catch a few in perfect condition.

pink ladys slipper Cypripedium acaule

One pristine bloom in a spot which caught the morning light.

The Lady’s slipper patch is found in a state park about 25 minutes from my house, and if I’m being honest it’s not always my favorite spot to visit.  It’s got a kind of creepy vibe going, and I don’t think it would be first on the list of places to take the kids hiking.  I’m sure it’s all in my head though, but until I get a little way into the woods I’m just a bit on edge.

pink ladys slipper Cypripedium acaule

A few more early birds

Pink lady’s slippers do not like the bacteria rich, worm infested, fertile soils of the typical garden plot and are notoriously difficult to cultivate on purpose, and instead are usually found in the undisturbed duff of native soils, high in acidity, high in fungus, and the places where decay takes years rather than a few day’s run through an earthworm’s belly.

***education alert -this post is loosely based on fact, I make most of this up as I go.  I am absolutely not a botanist or any thing close to a soil scientist***

pink ladys slipper Cypripedium acaule

More lady’s slippers just coming into bloom.

Oddly enough the park areas where these orchids seem to grow best are not pristine slices of pre-colonial North America, but rather ridges of mine tailings left undisturbed and unreclaimed for the past hundred years.  You could almost call it mine-scarred if not for the regenerated trees and return of native wildflowers, and I’m sure timing has everything to do with this.  Try this again today and I’m sure the only thing to sprout back would be a forest of Japanese knotweed mixed with crownvetch and barberry in the drier spots.

pink ladys slipper Cypripedium acaule

This will be a nice show in another week or two.  

I often think about weird things.  Many people love to repeat how incredibly well adapted natives are to one area or another, and I usually just nod but deep down inside don’t really buy it.  I think it has more to do with first come, first served.  An area is disturbed, a seed gets lucky, and if the plant gets lucky it fills the area before anyone else shows up.  If nothing else big happens that’s that, regardless of how perfect or not it is for the spot.

pink ladys slipper Cypripedium acaule

A patch of pink lady’s slippers with some hay scented ferns (Dennstaedtia punctiloba) creeping in.  In another 100 years I wonder if they’ll still both be living in harmony since around here the ferns can make a pretty dense carpet.

In any case I enjoyed the visit, and didn’t mind being early rather than having perfect timing.  Perfect timing would mean I’d have made my visit this upcoming weekend, and with the hot weather that’s rolled in I have no desire to take on any physical adventures… not until I get used to the change in weather at least.

Hope your week’s gone well.  Between track meets, gymnastics, and baseball practices, this week has flown by and there have been days when I didn’t even get my garden strolls in (*gasp*), but the schedule is changing and hopefully I can soon enjoy some of the big changes in the garden.  The heat has wilted the last tulips and dogwoods, and now the bearded iris and clematis are bursting open.  I need more of both of course, but have to plant a few other things before I’m allowed to buy anything new… unless it’s a rose…  I’m giving myself two (or three)rose permission slips, and it’s all part of a new adventure planned for the upcoming weekend 🙂

Enjoy!

A May Lull

A cool and rainy week with a busy schedule have kept me out of the garden for a few days.  By that I mean there were enough weather and work excuses to avoid any real work, since even a rainy day does not cancel the daily garden tour.  In other gardens the lilacs overhang azaleas, with dogwoods and redbuds shading the lawn, and banks of rhododendrons exploding in color… but I’ve only a few dogwoods and little of the others, so here the spring crescendo of tulips is followed by a slight lull of green.

foundation perennials

The blue camassia are a flash in the pan here and only seem to flower for a week or so.  It’s a nice show, but the blue columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris) is just as nice and lasts longer so I may (again) try and dig all the camassia to get rid of them.  This time I’ll try and get all the bulbs…

Right now there may be a lull in the flowering, but after several months of white and brown, green is still an excellent color, and with its various shades and shapes, and the surprise of variegation and chartreuse or purple tints, even a green lull makes for a nice show and it should really be enough.

aquilegia vulgaris

Blue columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris) was originally found in the woods behind the house, and rescued when the bulldozers came.  It’s not native and fancier colors and forms exist, but I like it well enough.

Most people can stick with well enough, but I admit to a short attention span and fickleness so of course I want other things to follow up as the tulips fade and the bearded iris are yet to come.  The columbine is good, and usually moneyplant (Lunaria annua) fills in with a nice purple, but I think I need more alliums.

perennial bed

Tulips and daffs have all been deadheaded and are disappearing under the next wave of growth but just the columbine and a few moneyplants  (it’s a down year for this biennial) are in bloom.  The blue is nice, but note the bold little ‘Candy Corn’ spirea in front.   I can’t believe I planted it, usually spirea disgust me, but this one is so offensively bright there was no resisting.

Back in the day the budget was much tighter, and a few flowering onions always seemed to be just too much when a big bag of tulips could be had for the same price.  Today it’s a different story.  A couple new alliums are just pennies once you’ve paid off the monthly gymnastics bill and bought a couple pricey snowdrops.

allium gladiator

Allium ‘Gladiator’ was my first big allium.  I was hoping for bigger, but tall is good too!  Over the last 15 years one bulb has become many.

So I will see what happens.  The problem is settling on just two or three rather than a dozen, and I of course will be looking for suggestions from my friends.  I already have a few leads 😉

allium gladiator

‘Gladiator’ is also doing well in the potager.  Phlox and other perennials are coming up just in time to (mostly)cover the allium’s yellowing leaves.

Yeah, the yellowing leaves.  Just as the flowers open and draw a little attention, the foliage starts dying back to compete with the show.  Trimming them back or hiding them in a border are two options for better gardeners.

allium gladiator

The green centers are cool.

The yellowing allium foliage can be a deal breaker for some, but here it barely registers.  I run a messy garden and fortunately some delusion of diamond in the rough or some bizarrely inflated ego syndrome allows me to still share photos online.  I should be embarrassed most of the time, but luckily it’s a rare day that I see some perfect garden photo and suddenly question my entire gardening hobby (as well as the public settings on this blog).

raised bed vegetable

The mountain of snowball bush (Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’) is probably the only perfect thing about the potager right now.  It should be weeded.  And planted.  And tended.  One of these days…

Ah, whatever.  Let’s finish with a disclaimer on the potager.  The raised beds are excellent, the sand paths are perfect, the whole idea of the potager is much better than the usual mess, but it’s still just a mess.  “It’s not you, it’s me” I tell the garden and I suspect the garden understands.  My weaknesses is a love of interesting, and it’s just too interesting to see if the resprouting cabbage stumps from last year will form heads or if the missed potatoes from last year will amount to anything.  Good thing no one expects this garden to feed a family.

raised bed vegetable

A few parsley seedlings went into this bed, but I’m still working myself up to weeding out all the rest.  Besides obvious weeds there’s a nice clump of lettuce, many tomato seedlings… random hellebores…

So what did I do today?  Clear a bed and plant beans?  No, of course not.  I was working in the front border dividing tulip clumps.  Just for the record, it’s too early to divide tulips.  The foliage should be yellowing and it’s not but whatever.  Dig up a clump, shake and pick out the smaller bulbs, and replant.  No careful soil improvement, no watering in and I guess we will see what comes of it.  Smarter gardeners would have pulled them all and tossed them after flowering, it’s just a few dollars to replace them, but I don’t think it will surprise anyone if I admit my gardening is more of an ADD drifting through ideas rather than a focused plan with a to-do list.  Reinventing the wheel has always been a passion of mine.

Have a great week, and I hope it includes plenty of plant-time 🙂

The Perfect Lawn

The rain outside is knocking the last petals off the tulips and surely bringing new life to weed seedlings all over, but I won’t let that bother me… yet… Instead I’d like to show you around a cemetery which I like to swing by on the way home from work.  Don’t be concerned, it’s not a fascination with death which brings me here, it’s the naturalized blanket of creeping phlox (Phlox subulata) which weaves through the grass and flowers at this time of year.

naturalized phlox subulata

Phlox subulata (I’m assuming) seeding and creeping through the cemetery grounds.

I have no idea if the phlox here were planted originally or came in on their own, but the church financed lawn care hasn’t been intense enough to wipe out the spread of wildflowers between the gravestones.  I also believe a kind soul is in charge of the mowing since I saw signs of a recent cut, but only a few patches of the thicker grass were mown and the best flower patches were spared the blade.

naturalized phlox subulata

I’m just guessing, but suspect the churchyard has been in place here for around 150 years.

Over the decades ‘mildly maintained’ graveyards have a way of picking up flowers and when I have the chance I often give them a looking over for spring flowers, iris plantings, and the occasional rose bush.  Someday I hope to find that snowdrop filled meadow, but so far…

naturalized phlox subulata

The phlox were probably planted originally, but since then have seeded about to form an interesting mix of colors and flower forms.

Phlox subulata is a plant native to the Northeastern part of this country, and occasionally I also see it growing in rocky outcroppings or gravely roadsides, but never as thickly as it does in graveyards.  It’s not a shade plant, so probably as the East coast has grown up in trees or been improved with bluegrass turf, cut and sprayed to golf course quality, this sun loving phlox has been squeezed out and into much smaller locales.

naturalized phlox subulata

A paler section of the colony.

Of course creeping phlox is still growing all over, in foundations plantings and mulch beds everywhere, and in my own childhood garden I’m pretty sure a big chunk of every summer was spent weeding grass blades out of my mother’s phlox planting.  As you know though, a grass-free planting of creeping phlox is pretty much impossible.

naturalized phlox subulata

Phlox mixing it up with pussytoes (Antennaria sp), another short wildflower which used to keep lawns everywhere from becoming yawns.

Why fight it then?  Just plant your phlox right in the grass 🙂

Easier said than done though.  Most lawns are too fertile and the grass and other more common weeds like creeping charlie, dandelions, and white clover will dominate.  *My own lawn is an excellent example of this…

naturalized phlox subulata

Phlox with a few bluet (Houstonia) alongside.  There were a couple more patches of bluets and various violets as well, but the phlox seemed much happier here.

I think more lawns used to be like this.  If you travel the older parts of town the lawns are often flecked with all kinds of flowers, both native and introduced, and I think it’s a much more interesting look than the hyped-up green swards which dominate suburbia.

naturalized phlox subulata

Naturalized Phlox subulata

So I hope this little trip to the churchyard was enjoyable.  Benign neglect can be a great thing and I may keep this in mind as I consider the ‘wildflowers’ which the rain has brought up throughout my own garden.

Have a great week, and a happy mother’s day to all the moms!

Out of the Blue

Seriously.  If anyone has ever considered abducting me, all it would take is a white van and the promise of a plant inside.  What!?  You have a variegated clematis in there?  Move over, let me see…

Within days of starting a conversation about bulbs with a new online friend, I was convinced Crinum lilies were missing from my life and I needed a few.  A week later a (quite heavy) box from Jenks Farmer shows up on my porch and I’m tearing up the garden making room for a bulb or three.

Jenks Farmer crinum

The Crinum bulbs which showed up were huge.  I was so excited I made sure every vaguely disinterested family member had an opportunity to admire them and hear a little about them.  They seemed very grateful.

It’s not easy just squeezing a cantaloupe sized bulb which needs several square foot of space, into a fairly full perennial border, but I no longer even pretend to worry about it.

foundation perennials

Realistically, four square feet of space would be a good start for planting a small crinum.  Obviously this bed has quite a few four foot gaps which need filling 😉

I worry about stupid things instead.  There were a few grassy threads of something which looked like allium seedlings in the spot where the one crinum should have gone.  I’d really like them to be allium seedlings, but they’re too small to risk moving so of course I planted the $40 crinum in a second best spot crammed between a hellebore and penstemon in a spot which was unavailable until I moved the 90 pound “landscape” stone out of the way.  I thought this was the best option rather than risk anything happening to the six or seven tiny weeds which maybe have a 15% chance of become amazing alliums in another half decade or so…

foundation perennials

Crinum powellii album nestled into its new home.  It might be an expensive annual this far North, but the bulb is huge and if all goes well maybe a single flower stalk will grace the garden before winter smashes all my dreams of global warming granted hardiness.

Let me just mention the alliums quickly. They’re three bulbs of Allium karataviense ‘red and pink hybrids’, and even at 50% off during a late November clearance sale, they were still kind of costly.  Not snowdrop-costly but still kind of pricey when you consider they’re basically just onions with an ego.  Of course they’re too self-important to bother splitting and multiplying, but maybe those seedlings are a start.

allium karataviense red

I think their broad, water-repelling foliage is very cool in itself, but the flowers aren’t too shabby either.  I suspect these are hybrids based on Allium karataviense ssp henrikii, but that’s only if you really want to make your onions sound fancy.

I’m going to apologize now for going on and on about tulips again.  A short post mentioning some new crinum bulbs was the plan, but then I got tulips on my brain again, and well…

tulips and dogwood

The hot colored tulips mark the last stage of the front border’s spring flush.  It will face a short lull now as (I hope) the summer bloomers come along, but for now it’s awesome.  Also please note it’s been an excellent dogwood year 🙂

In case you haven’t noticed, my garden follows manias, and I’m sensing another tulip mania coming on.  Bulbs will be dug, moved, stored, replanted… and hopefully next year there will be even more tulip excitement!  Unless of course some epimedium thing or bearded iris obsession develops, you never know.  Sometimes I like to consider how nice this garden could look if the gardener would only focus and organize, but obviously that hasn’t happened and instead I always opt for “interesting”, even if it’s only interesting for me 🙂

black tulip

I think black tulips are interesting.  The gray leaves of Scotch thistle are also interesting, as well as the weedy yellow roadside mustard behind them.  I think I should let the mustard go to seed and check those out for spiciness, that might also be pretty interesting!

Awesome is also a good option.  Some of the tulips rate pretty high on the awesomeness index.

tulip happy generation

No idea on the name of these luscious cherry with orange flowers, but they rate awesome.  The white with red flames behind aren’t too bad either, they came in a mix and I believe they’re the tulip ‘Happy Generation’.

The one new tulip purchase for this year were the antique ‘broken’ tulips purchased through Old House Gardens.  If they return next year I’m sure you’ll see too much of them, but for this year the five single bulbs I planted are more of an obsession rather than an amazing landscape show.  An obsession because of the beautiful, virus-induced patterning and its connection to the raging tulipmania of the 17th century, and just plain interesting because of the great age of these cultivars.  The ones planted this year range in age from one to three hundred years old!

virus broken tulips

The solid color of these tulips has been ‘broken’ by a virus they carry.  I shall keep them away from other tulips (and true lilies) and hope for the best.

As I was considering how old the tulips were I kinda felt a little old myself.  There I was admiring the nice blue mat of what I think is Polemonium reptans and I realized I’ve been tending this plant in some way or another for over forty years.  It was growing in the garden of my parent’s house 51 years ago when they bought it and it’s one of the first things I realized I could move and divide and not end up killing.

polemonium reptans

I don’t know if this is plain old Polemonium reptans or some selection or some other species or hybrid, but it just keeps chugging along year after year.  Never sets a single seed, but slowly creeps along.

Things that I can’t kill are good to have.  They say Crinum lilies are next to impossible to kill so that’s promising, but any idiot knows that winters here are cold, and considering that I know winters here are cold, that may explain my decision to plant them…

primula sieboldii

It’s been pouring rain today.  I made a point of photographing the primula sieboldii yesterday as a memory of what they looked like before they drowned.

So as usual we will see where these questionable decisions lead.  Container crinums would likely be a smarter choice but then I would have to find a big enough container and that might be even more trouble than dealing with the loss of yet another borderline plant.  In any case if I hedge my bets with a bunch more tulip plantings this fall I’ll have plenty to keep me happy in case the other stuff fails, so obviously my apparent madness is actually a well devised plan of attack.

Hahahaha, sure it is. Have a great week, and remember to stay away from those white vans, even if they say they’re full of rare violets and hosta  😉

Spring!!!

This is the time of year when I like to complain about how terrible my allergies are.  The burning eyes and runny nose and sneezing… they’re really not all that bad but it’s the only season when I have something to blame my general laziness on.  It’s not aimless sloth, it’s dust and pollen.  I’m a victim I shout but then someone suggests I come in out of the polleny wind and clean the basement.  As if.

spring shade garden

A few primrose have not only survived, but have even prospered in the dry shade which has suddenly appeared in parts of the garden.  I swear I just planted those trees a year or two ago.

Saturday was actually a pretty busy day around here and things were weeded, mowed, pruned, and a few things were actually transplanted.  That’s good but in the sprit of easing into ‘hard labor season’ the gardener took Sunday off and photographed a few things.  The photo shoot was followed by much sitting around, and then the week since has been much of the same.

lathyrus vernus

More shade treasures, Lathyrus vernus was mowed by rabbits in March, but fenced in April.  This spring vetchling could have been nicer but at least a few flower buds survived.

My excuse the past two days has been heat.  79F yesterday and 84F today.  The warmth was such a shock today I almost started an inside cleaning frenzy before coming to my senses.  Fortunately things didn’t have to go that far since the house is again super neat with both kids home all day in a return to online learning.  I’m sure every parent recognizes the sarcasm dripping off every word in that last sentence.

lathyrus vernus

The pink form of Lathyrus vernus, ‘alboroseus’, was fenced before the rabbits got to it.  Anyone else would recognize that fencing should be done each spring but I like to surprise myself anew each year.

So now I’m trying to burst on past this wall of laziness and at least get a blog post up.  My garden has a springtime peak as the tulips and dogwoods come into bloom, and I’m absolutely ready to devote hours to just wandering around admiring bloom after bloom.  It’s similar to snowdrop season except there’s more than one color and I don’t have to crawl around on my hands and knees.

double daffodil

Some of last years divided and replanted daffodils, this one a nameless double which looks similar to ‘Tahiti’ but just a bit more yellow and slightly smaller.

The daffodils are really in full swing and the Darwin tulips and other early season tulips are opening to join them.  I know I brag about it all the time but this mostly exposed and summer-dry garden seems to be just what these tulips enjoy.

spring bulb garden

This is what the snowdrop bed degenerates into as other things come up.  The daffodils are intentional but only the reddish ‘Spryng Break’ tulips were planted, the rest came in via compost or squirrels.

The vegetable garden had been a major tulip stronghold, since every batch of compost and every turning of the beds seemed to spread them a little further, but last year’s raised bed project cleaned that up a little.  Many bulbs were collected, flowering plants potted up, and some were just lifted to new spots, but I did try to reduce the numbers…

growing tulips

The front bed is filled with bulbs collected during construction.  For some reason I hate the color mix and every day I am just minutes away from pulling the short purple and white tulips and tossing them…  it may still happen.   The back bed just needs emptying out… way too much yellow 🙂

Once the flowers are over and the foliage yellows, the bed above will be lifted, dried, stored, and replanted in the fall.  The flowers are sparse and small this year, but next year they’ll be fine again having spent the whole spring growing rather than suffering a mid April move.  I just need to get a few more pinks into the mix and get rid of the dumpy little purples.

growing tulips

I probably planted these tulips as well.  I probably even thought it was a good spot and I wouldn’t need the room for more brocolli and lettuce tranplants.

Although the raised beds… I mean ‘Potager’… is having a down tulip year I still think tulips are a far better idea than just planting more cabbage.  More leftover and stray bulbs were planted in the concrete bed and (1) they did fine in a kinda exposed bed and (2) prove I need more red as well!  I can honestly see a day when the entire potager is filled with tulips 🙂

growing tulips

I gave away some ‘Spryng Break’ bulbs but these were deemed “too small” to pawn off on unsuspecting gardeners so they were replanted.  Now of course I’ll have even more and still not know what to do with them all… but I do know they’ll have to be planted next to something other than the short and moody burgundy ‘Muvato’ now behind it.  

Yes.  I do like tulips.  Tulips and only the occasional deer make for a wonderful spring and I don’t know what I’ll do if the deer start making a habit of visiting.

growing tulips

The fine red outline of this Darwin hybrid will slowly bleed into the flower until it becomes completely orange.  I love it but have just too many of this one.

A lack of deer does not mean complete bliss.  Some parts of the garden are plagued by tulip fire, which infects the foliage and blooms and makes overcrowded and damp bunches turn to mush.  Th potager re-dig helped immeasurably as did mulch and thinning, and this year I’ve been spraying with Neem oil and between that and a drier spring it all seems to be helping.  A better gardener would destroy the infected plants and not replant for five or so years but…

growing tulips

Some tulips seem more susceptible to tulip fire.  This orange late tulip has practically melted away while ‘Pretty Princess’ seems untouched.  

I could really go on and on about tulips but I’m just about blogged out for the night and I’m sure you’ll be fine without my babbling.  I’ll just leave you with some tulipomania from the front yard.

spring bulb garden

Tulip ‘Pink Impression’ on the left, and a few not-pink impression on the right.  All are excellent.

tulip burning heart

Tulip ‘Burning Heart’.  A big beauty who keeps coming back just as huge as they were in year one.

spring bulb garden

The star magnolia is finished but I think this end of the front border still looks decent.  It could use a few more tulips of course, and more daffodils won’t hurt either!

spring bulb garden

Tulip ‘Beauty of Spring’ anchors the other end of the front bed.  The red on this one will also spread as the flower ages.  With all the yellow daffodils I don’t know why I needed more yellow tulips, but there they are.

Fun fact.  As I was double checking the name on ‘Spring Beauty’ I came across an online site using an older picture of my clump to sell their wares.  I wonder if this entitles me to some kind of site discount…

Anyway it’s bedtime, so I hope these past few days also have you out enjoying the garden and reveling in the explosion of color called spring.  Perhaps it’s not spring in your neck of the woods, and in that case I hope there’s plenty of other joys to discover this week, in any case the key word is ‘enjoy’ 🙂

An Executive Summary for May

  • Lockdown continues
  • Working from home keeps us surprisingly busy considering we’re home all day
  • Laziness could still be a factor in things not getting done
allium gladiator

The Potager Pandemic Project is progressing at a pitifully poor pace.  I will not share pictures until it looks a little better (Allium ‘Gladiator’)

  • Multiple harsh, late, freezes did in another year of wisteria blooms and damaged many early risers
  • Spring continues regardless
primula sieboldii

Surprisingly, Primula sieboldii continue to do well in a damp, part shade location.  I divided and moved a few in early spring and they haven’t complained a bit. 

  • I still love you spring
primula sieboldii

A range of seedling Primula sieboldii.  I’m pleased with how well they’ve done, obviously they’re not that hard to grow!

  • iris have been delayed and disfigured by the cold
  • lilacs have not
father fiala lilac

A selection of lilac flowers, mostly Father Fiala hybrids and older varieties.  

  • Older lilacs with names such as ‘Atheline Wilbur’, ‘Paul Thirion’, and ‘Marie Frances’ roll off the tongue in a way that ‘Bloomerang Dark Purple’ and ‘Pinky Winky’ never will
  • Have a wonderful week

I Like Tulips :)

There’s a freeze and awfully cold precipitation on the way, but the sun was out this morning and the tulips in the front border are at their peak.  Whatever route the weather takes this Friday I think we’ll be ok… as long as I don’t think too long about all the fresh lily stalks and iris blooms that won’t easily shrug off real cold temperatures.

tulip border

Out front the tulips are quite nice this year.

Whatever.  I have a long established belief that protecting outdoor plants from outdoor weather is a lot of work, and I have an even longer established belief that more work=bad, so if you do that math for that one you can easily see that the plants here won’t be protected.  Better to just enjoy the sun and admire tulips.

tulip marit

‘Marit’ is a favorite of mine.  There are a lot of favorites, but right now she’s on top.

So I don’t know why the tulips do so well here.  Obviously deer and other vermin aren’t a problem, but beyond that they last for years with little attention from me, and I hear it from many others that this is not typical for most gardeners.

tulip border

Four years ago I planted the ‘Incendiary Mix’ from Van Engelen and they’re still going strong.  

Most of the books would say this is probably not a good spot for tulips.  The ground is heavy and thin, doesn’t drain well, and all kinds of other things grow over the tulips from June on.  I think what they do like is the full sun and the compost and leaves which I (usually) mulch with in early spring.  Also it’s fairly open and breezy which keeps moisture from sitting on the plants.  The tulips do start to dwindle when they get overcrowded, but… well honestly they usually just end up dwindling…  A better gardener would dig and divide when the foliage yellows, but who has time for that!?  Plus a new bag of tulips in October really won’t break the bank.

front border

Honestly.  I deadheaded daffs and cut the grass, but only after I enjoyed the tulips and took pictures.  Here’s the view from the mailbox.

All is not bliss in this tulip world.  ‘Tulip fire’ is a fungal disease which is better or worse depending on how wet the spring is.  It spots the foliage and scars the flowers, but from ten feet it’s easy enough to ignore.  ‘Tulip breaking virus’ is also here, and it shows up as colorful streaks on a normally solid bloom.  Three years after first noticing it I’m still hemming and hawing about pulling and tossing the infected bulbs, and as the years pass they still fascinate me too much to destroy.

tulip virus

Tulip breaking virus on a solid orange tulip.  I can see why the red and yellow streaks could cause a mania.

Some tulips just carry the genetics for streaking.  I’m not sure how one tells the difference, but according to the seller, ‘Spryng Break’ is a genetic sport and not virused, and last fall it was just what I needed to top off a bulk snowdrop order.  Actually I didn’t need them at all.  At 50 bulbs for $15 I just couldn’t resist.

tulip spryng break

‘Spryng Break’ fully open, flanking the front porch, and highlighting my beautiful little deadsedge .

I keep coming back to the tulips along the street though.  In the backyard digging and moving have not done the tulips well, but out front they are excellent.

tulip perennial border

A driver actually slowed down the other day and when I looked up to see who it was they said they were just admiring the flowers.  Lucky them, if it weren’t for social distancing I would have made them get out and take a tour.

The tulips this year are giving me bad thoughts.  The raised bed construction in the potager is nearly complete, and I can’t imagine anyone wanting to use all those beds for just some vegetables that you could easily pick up at the farmer’s market…. without struggling for weeks to fight off bunnies and birds and bugs… so I’m thinking they would make nice tulips beds.  Maybe.  Just one.  Or two.  The tulips do need dividing after all.

The Purge

The late daffodils are still rounding out the season, but I can’t wait any longer.  While their blooms are still fresh in my mind I’ve gone around and done a daffodil inventory, and then let loose with the first round of narciss-icide.  I’m down to a baker’s dozen times ten, which I don’t think is excessive at all.  The second assault will start in June, when I dig the crowded clumps and only save as many as I *need* for replanting.

Three more buckets filled.  The survivors look nervous, but I told them they were safe for now.

It looks ruthless and sort of is, but when a bulb or two slowly turns into a foot wide, congested clump, something needs to be done.  Actually something should have been done a few years ago, but better late than never, right?  Let me know if you’re interested in any,  I still feel the slightest twinge of guilt tossing perfectly fine daffodils just because.

daffodil geranium

A happier view of daffodils.  ‘Geranium’ in the front border alongside some moneyplant (Lunaria annua’).  It was beautiful on Sunday and the flowers glowed.

Now I’ll wait until the foliage begins to yellow, about six weeks after bloom, dig the clumps, dry off the bulbs, hang in mesh bags, and then replant this autumn.  Hopefully by then I will still have enough empty spaces to put them all back in to!

Have a great week 🙂