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 ‘Parterre’… 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 parterre 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 parterre 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 🙂

Time For a Few Daffs

There was a time when I had a lot of daffodils.  I’m working on that.  It’s not because a lot of daffodils is a bad thing, it’s because they do need a little care here and there and this gardener has been slacking in that regard.  So in an attempt to mend my ways I’ve been culling the herd lately, trying really hard to convince myself that I don’t need hundreds of varieties and that maybe just one hundred might be enough.  I have to do it fast and without much thought.  No composting either.  I tried that with the tulips and it just ended up with tulips everywhere the compost was spread.

daffodil williamsburg red devon

‘Williamsburg’ and ‘Red Devon’, two keepers.

My garden just isn’t big enough to do daffodils the way I’d like to do them.  I want big clumps full of flowers but how many of those can you fit in without crowding the masses of snowdrops also planned?  Something has got to give.  When a friend first led me (willingly of course) into the world of yellow fever I thought I’d just try a few to see what I really liked and what did well here, and then just back off… and I suppose that time has come.

daffodil curlew

‘Curlew’ doing well along the street and ushering in the late season daffodils.

Two endlessly rainy summers and some garden drainage issues helped immeasurably.  At least half the clumps out back have disappeared completely, which to me says they were more prone to basal rot anyway… maybe… so no need to replace those.  Today I plan to go out, ID a few clumps which have lost their tags, and then shovel prune a few more.  Even after starting this process last year I just want to reassure you that I still have and will have plenty.

daffodil cassata

‘Cassata’ looking exceptionally orange this spring, thanks again to the cool weather.

I find that once they’re gone there are only a few I ever miss.  Not a big problem.  The other reason gardeners are usually so generous with their plants is for just that reason, a friend can always pass a piece back when you need it.

daffodil dress circle

‘Dress Circle’ is a favorite.  It’s always done well here, crowded or not.

So here are a few keepers.  They also need digging of course, but I’ll save that for June when they’re dormant and I can divide and replant.

daffodil kedron

‘Kedron’ has an overall orange tint that I really like.  It’s one of the few affordable versions of this color combo.

daffodil mrs ro Backhouse

One of the first “pinks”, ‘Mrs RO Backhouse’ needs some photoshopping these days to keep up with the newer pink varieties, but she’s a keeper anyway and always reminds me of the friend who gifted her to me.

daffodil modern art

‘Modern Art’ is frillier than I prefer, but my friend Tim just loves all these overdone daffodils so I’ll keep it to show, just in case he ever visits 😉

daffodil american heritage

I think this daffodil is ‘American Heritage’ although it came to me misslabeled.  It will look cooler as the cup fades to more of a pink… and also a better spot with better soil and more space won’t hurt either…

daffodil coral light

An unknown but still loved double daffodil next to ‘Coral Light’.  Of course both of these are right in the middle of one of the new yet-to-be raised beds.

daffodil altruist

‘Montego’ looking nice as the shrubby dogwood ‘Midwinter Fire’ spreads through it.  I’d consider digging this one, but the dogwood is all in there and… I would dig it to toss, it’s just too “leafy” for my taste.

… and of course there are two other things I just can’t not share.  Primroses are loving the cool wet.

primula auricula

I’m still disproportionately proud of the primula auricula which has yet to be killed.  I did grow them from seed after all.

And a first bloom on a purchase from Edgewood gardens.  Two years after buying a tiny pot of gravel, the little root inside has developed into an amazing Paeonia daurica.  I love it.

paeonia daurica

Ok, so I already loved the foliage on this when it was smaller, but now that it’s big enough to bloom… even better.  I may rip out a hosta or two to make more room for it 🙂

So even with freezing mornings and snow squalls rolling through there’s still plenty to be enjoyed in the garden.  Work?  Sure.  But if this is what I can get by being lazy, imagine how amazing things will look after a little care and attention.

Who am I kidding.  Two years of drought or some other new pestilence on the horizon will surely turn everything back on to its other ear and we’ll be back to square one again.  It’s a fun distraction though, and I hope this week you’re enjoying your own garden distractions as well.  The cold will end.