Hedgleigh Spring

Garden visits have been sparse this year, but being outdoors in the warm sunshine with a fresh breeze is probably one of the safer pursuits these days, and as we approach the more confining months of winter it might be best to stretch the legs one more time before the season of long nights settles in.  I had heard that hardy, autumn blooming camellias were a thing down in the suburbs of Philly, so when a stretch of beautiful autumn weather presented itself I knew I needed to check it out.  An offer had been made last spring and my fingers were crossed that offer still stood.  It did, and the offer was just as gracious as before and a few days later I was heading South to one of the most highly regarded private gardens of the Philadelphia area.

hedleigh spring

Cressons have been tending the land of Hedgleigh Spring since before Charles’ grandfather built the house over 100 years ago.  I’m going to guess the mountain of ‘dwarf’ cutleaf maple alongside the house probably dates just as far back.

November is not typically a month reserved for garden visits, but this beautifully orchestrated collector’s garden has something for every month of the year.  While other gardens are down to a pot of mums alongside the front door, Hedgleigh Spring offers decades worth of collecting, growing and hybridizing fall(and spring) blooming camellias, and melding them into a landscape already full of exceptional autumn interest.  Beautiful weather helped as well.  Blue skies, balmy temperatures and dozens of fall blooming camellias at their peak made for an excellent garden tour.

needle palm

It’s a good sign when mature needle palms and witch hazels grace the streetside plantings.

We started out front of course, and for as hard as I tried (and I really thought I was doing great) I missed the names of most of what I was really interested in.  My apologies, but if you really need more info I’m sure I can find it out for you.  One of the highlights of the tour was the extensive background information for each plant, each cross, the typical growth habit, care, pruning hints… and names… everything had a name, but you can blame this visitor for losing it.

ackerman hybrid camellia

‘Winter’s Rose’.  A beautiful flower on a dwarf plant,  but I do remember Charles warning me that it’s usually too late a bloomer to put on a good show, and all those unopened buds will probably freeze off during the winter.

I did make a special effort to keep my ears open for anything which might possibly have the magical combination of early fall bloom and enough hardiness to possibly offer a show in my much colder garden.  It’s a foolish idea since decades later I can still remember how all the “hardy” camellias I saw planted around a much warmer Long Island faded away, but…. whatever.  Charles put it in a much more promising tone.  He said it would be interesting to see someone “trialing” these crosses in a much colder climate.  I’ll keep that in mind for when a brutal winter comes along and crushes my delusions with a zone 6a reality.

hedleigh spring

An un-named tall, fast growing C. oleifera x C. sasanqua ‘Cleopatra’ cross with plenty of buds and a long bloom season that starts early enough to beat the cold.

Although I saw many which I’d like to try I was reminded that most fall bloomers are not bud hardy and once winter sets in, any unopened buds will be lost.  For my zone, a well thought out selection would be something not only hardy, but a plant which starts blooming early, has plenty of buds, and doesn’t show damage too strongly even if it does get hit with a few early freezes.

hardy camellia

A beautiful large-flowered semi double which was just too nice to leave out.  It’s one of Charles’ un-named hybrids, a ‘Snowflurry’ x ‘Moon Festival’ cross, which has been hardy, but perhaps not unique enough to name?  It looked perfect for our visit, but Charles warned that it would be a less-promising choice since the blooms are usually later.

Some siting ideas which were shared involved avoiding the sunny warm spot which you would think is a good idea for borderline hardy plants.  I’m told full winter sun on cold, frozen leaves will dehydrate and kill.  Better to site in a winter shaded or afternoon sunny spot.

hedleigh spring

The warm nook of a Southern exposure can keep other borderline hardy plants quite happy.  Flowering gingers in need of division, loropetalum, Fatsia, and plenty of southern bulbs.  Plus orange mums, ‘Dixter Orange’ if you’re curious.

Or just hope for the best.  Creeping fig is something I’ve only seen on inside walls, and never imagined it would survive for decades on the outside, but there it was.

hedleigh spring

Creeping fig (Ficus pumila ‘minima’) alongside ‘Buttercup’ english ivy.  The fig gets frozen back each winter which is probably a good thing, but each summer it’s back.

Obviously not everything can be hardy so it was no surprise there were plenty of potted treasures which come in each winter.  One of them, a zone 8 ‘Moon Festival’ camellia, was just opening its 6 inch crepe textured blooms right on time for our visit.  The cool thing about this one is that years back it had been crossed with a hardier plant and only now two of the seedlings of the cross were showing their first flowers.  One in particular held on to the large form and wrinkled texture, so of course it will be something interesting to watch as it grows and develops.

camellia moon festival

Camellia ‘Moon Festival’ in a pot on the back patio.

And there were more.  A particular standout was ‘Autumn Spirit’ with a deep pink color and a fairly formal double form.  Out in the open in full bloom with the blue skies and changing foliage colors around it, it was quite the show.  This might be one I risk up here in the tundra, it would be worth it.

camellia autumn spirit

Camellia ‘Autumn Spirit’

Hardiness isn’t the only hurdle.  Bad gardening also has to be dealt with, and when I saw this beautiful bank of ‘Snow Flurry’ I had to confess I’d killed mine this spring when we flipped into drought and I flipped into late spring apathy and didn’t water in time.  I may need to try again.

camellia snow flurry

More like a whiteout, camellia ‘Snow Flurry’ was at its peak, covered in flowers from top to bottom and ringed in a puddle of spent petals.

camellia snow flurry

Camellia ‘Snow Flurry’ against the autumn sky.

Before I go on too long, I want to point out again that there was so much more to see than just dozens and dozens of camellias.  There were beautifully mature oak and bald cypress trees, banks of azaleas and hollies, southern and deciduous magnolias, perennial borders, fern gardens, woodland plantings, a vegetable and berry garden, rock garden, pond, and lots of bulbs.  Over the years Charles has made a name for himself in the bulb world and often gives talks and leads classes at Longwood and other locales in the area.

hedleigh spring

Of course fall blooming (Galanthus regiae-olgae) would catch my eye, but also notice the self sown camellia seedling and the pink flowering form of tea (Camellia sinensis) just off to the right.

My fingers are crossed that someday I can make it back for the spring bulbs, but on this visit it was all about a garden that looks good in its fall colors.

hedleigh spring

Mature trees surround the property, and of course I loved the hardy palms (Sabal minor ‘McCurtain).

Besides all the plants, the nerd in me was particularly excited to finally see the signature curved picket fence (91 ft long in case you’re wondering) which backs  a similarly curved perennial border, which blends in to mirrored rose beds on each side, and which finishes up with raised borders banked with stone (shown above with the palms).  For as much a collection of plants this garden is, it’s still focused on landscape design and plant combinations, with each one growing in a spot that shows it off well.

hedleigh spring

With foliage slightly singed by frost, Canna x ehemanii adds hot pink and tropical foliage to a border heavy on the warm colors of salvia and other bold summer plantings.

Actually things showed off well throughout the garden.

chrysanthemum gethsemane moonlight

Chrysanthemum ‘Gethsemane Moonlight’

Sorry but I do have to mention one more camellia.  Charles donates dozens and dozens of seed varieties each year to (among other places) the Hardy Plant Society, Mid Atlantic group seed exchange.  Over the years I’ve tried quite a few, and as we wandered the gardens it was fun to see the parents of many of my plants.  Camellia ‘Survivor’ was named after surviving a cold snap which many others did not, and it’s one of the parents of seedlings here in my own garden.  Hopefully the now 18 inch seedling growing here will someday also show off those hardy genes, and give this gardener a fall flower or two.

hardy camellia survivor

Camellia ‘Survivor’.  Charles actually encouraged me to reach up into the small tree and take a few ripe seed pods.  I tried to act like it was no big deal and even shared a few with the others.

And then the tour started to wrap up.  We heard car doors slamming as another group arrived, but fortunately there were still a few minutes for one last dash out back to the creek which runs through the back end of the property.  Yes, there’s even a creek… and a small wet meadow area…

hedleigh spring

Cypress knees holding one bank while recycled concrete from a sidewalk redo hems in the other side.  I was surprised to hear that this innocently clear and calm creek can burst up over its banks by several feet in a good storm.

So that was it.  We had already stayed way too long but even on the way back to our cars there were things we had somehow missed the first time through.

crocus speciosus

There were hundreds of Crocus speciosus in the front yard, but a surprise bunch in back caught the light perfectly.  I have to try this one again, mine were never this nice.

It was a great morning and besides seeing a lot, I also learned quite a bit.  Thanks again to Charles for all the time he spent with us, if we were pests in any way he never let on, and hopefully when he mentioned how the meadow along the creek was just filled with early bloomers he meant that we should see it some day!

Keep it Classy

You may think that a couple raised beds and an obsession for snowdrops would practically guarantee refined taste and a Martha Stewart garden visit, but as of this evening both have yet to happen.  Sometimes I think neither will happen and then I start wondering if maybe it’s just a problem with the gardener, and his complete lack of class and good taste.  So be it.  I like orange, I like cannas and dahlias,  I like marigolds, and above all I love too much when a little less would have been much more respectable.

french marigold

French marigolds reseeded from last year.  I hear they’re less ‘out’ than they used to be but ‘classy’?  Maybe not yet.

I don’t have the patience or writing skills to really go into why one flower is classy while another is crass, but over the years I’ve picked up on the judgements of my betters and at this highpoint of summer realize that my garden definitely veers towards the trailer park style rather than waterfront estate.

chrysanthemum

Chrysanthemums can be fancy I suppose, just look at the formal displays in the far East style, but as flowers go I think of them as a modern carnation, the flower bouquet you buy when roses and lilies are too expensive.  btw I hate this color, but a friend loves it, so I trust her taste and keep it!

I suppose if you decorate your estate with gobs of full flower chrysanthemums in themed color displays they’re fancy, or if you stick with the truly perennial types which put out sprays of color in late fall you’re good, but my chrysanthemums are mostly the feral offspring of whomever managed to survive the winter.   To me they’re an interesting bunch though, even if the colors aren’t anything extraordinary.  The earliest ones are starting to bloom now, which is far too early and reeks of autumn, but I hope they’re just enthusiastic and can keep this going at least through September.

chrysanthemum

A larger flowered chrysanthemum which showed up under a rosebush one summer.  I’m looking forward to seeing what its seedlings look like in bloom in another two or three weeks.

Evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) is a weed of waste places and abandoned gardens.  Obviously it does well here and obviously it’s not high class, so I always leave a few to grow and flower.  Birds are supposed to like the seeds (although I’ve never seen a bird on it) and I like the way the flowers pop open each day, so this native biennial is ok in my book.  Now if only I could motivate myself to seed out the fancier versions I found last winter.  Oenothera versicolor ‘Sunset Boulevard’ offers dark stems with tangerine flowers overlaid in rose, while the large yellow blooms of Oenothera glazioviana pop open in under a minute as the sun goes down… it’s worth a party, or so I’ve been told.

evening primrose

Oenothera biennis, the common primrose, with a few other classy weeds such as Persicaria orientalis and the golden, too-loud, Rudbeckia fulgens.

Phlox come with an excellent pedigree and are grown in some of the best gardens.  And then they get here.  A few years back I decided to treat my self to a few selections from the ‘Sweet Summer’ series, and a few years forward they’re all dead except for two.  Actually make that one.  ‘Sweet Summer Festival’ would never fully open her blooms and was yanked a few weeks ago and sent to the compost pile.  She came with excellent references, and I thought she would grow out of it but maybe it was some weird tissue culture issue… or she just hated it here and couldn’t be bothered with hiding her disgust.

phlox sweet summer fantasy

Phlox ‘Sweet Summer Fantasy’ looking slightly less fabulous than the pictures had lead me to believe.  “Large flowers, strong upright habit with clean foliage and good branching”…

I was looking at the trash I call a phlox bed today and really gave some consideration to offering up my garden as an extreme test location for new phlox varieties.  I think a new plant would really have to jump through some hoops to do well here, and if anyone out there wants to send me a bunch of free plants for evaluation I’m completely on board… and just to throw it out there even if the plant doesn’t do completely well it doesn’t mean I can’t write a glowing review… I mean integrity is kind of a vague concept these days, and free plants really do hold a lot of sway in this garden.

Aristolochia fimbriata

Aristolochia fimbriata (the white veined Dutchman’s pipe) is actually a very classy little treasure, and look at the little pipe it’s putting out!  downside though, perhaps I should have looked at its mature height and spread before planting it at the base of a six foot trellis.

I always thought of Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) as a trashy plant.  We had it round the garden growing up and my mother would always complain over its leafless stems in May when everything else had already sprung to life, and then I would always complain about the carpet of seedlings which would fill the weed bucket under every bush.  Should I even mention the slimy faded flowers which would litter the ground for two months in late summer?  They were always guaranteed to squish up between your toes, and even better if a slug had come out to take a bite before your foot landed on it all.

rose of sharon white chiffon

‘White Chiffon’ rose of sharon hasn’t reseeded too badly, and when all else fails white flowers always add distinction.

I have to say I like the new rose of sharons.  ‘White Chiffon’ is a smaller version of ‘Diana’ with a little extra fluff in the center of each flower (I still prefer the single ‘Diana’), and if for once I can refrain from accidentally cutting down the bush during spring cleanup I think she’ll be an excellent addition to the garden… unlike the amazingly colored but prolifically seeding ‘Bluebird’ who was shovel pruned.

rose of sharon ruffled satin

Rose of sharon ‘Ruffled Satin’.  I have not seen a single seedling under this one, and to my eye you might even get away with saying this plant looks refined?

I guess the mallow family is often pointed at for weediness and gaudiness, and I’m not sure where the latest court ruling stands at for classiness, but if you move away from shrubby hibiscus to the perennial version it’s really got to be a gray area.  Some of the newest forms are just amazing, but they have all the oversized flowers and inappropriately bright colors of something less refined.  I would grow all of them, but just can’t deal with the ravages of the hibiscus sawfly which eat their foliage to shreds each summer so there’s only one left, and some years he does ok, and other years I just turn away.

hibiscus turn of the century

An ok year for hibiscus ‘Turn of the Century’.  I love it, but it’s a far cry from the five foot shrub covered with blooms which this plant is capable of.

Ok, enough with all this concern over tackiness.  If you look at the last hibiscus photo you might notice a classier plant in the backgound, the chartreuse leaved, 2020 Perennial Plant Association’s plant of the year, Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’.  This cool thing doesn’t seem to mind a crushing late freeze, mid summer drought, and rooty shade, and although its two foot height in my garden does not compare well to the 4-6 feet it is typically quoted as, it’s still a wonderful presence.  The plant is a great introduction by plantsman/hunter/explorer Barry Yinger who spotted it atop a Japanese department store in the garden center.  So much easier than bushwacking up a Chinese river valley and climbing cliffsides looking for new plants, but I’m sure that was on the list as well.

Hosta yingerii

Of course when I saw the name I knew I had to try the seeds for Hosta yingerii, and here they are several years later.  

Plant nuts will remember Barry Yinger’s Asiatica Nursery which was an outlet for introducing hundreds of exotic and obscure plants into the American horticultural world, and even if you don’t know it, your garden is probably richer for it.  Even my little plot has a few (hopefully) hardy camellias which are just a few degrees of separation from Mr Yinger collecting seeds under armed escort within sight of the North Korean mainland.  A cool connection me thinks.

Not to swing this around and make it all about me, but I did meet Barry Yinger once.  Not to brag but it was at one of the first Galanthus Galas, and he was off in a side room breaking for lunch when I decided to take my chance.  “Is this where the restrooms are?” was my icebreaker, “No, they’re the next doorway” was his response, and I was on my way.  I don’t think he remembers.

Obviously my classiness is only eclipsed by my social skills, so let me abruptly end this post and wish you all a great week!

Around and About

August always goes too fast and this exceptional year is no exception.  I blame the puppy.  Hours are spent entertaining and attending to little Biscuit’s whims, and even though I’m sure everyone in the household can hear his 4:30am whimpering, it is only the gardener who fumbles for his glasses and stumbles to the door to let him out.  We enjoy the sunrise together but the conversation is entirely one sided and repetitive.  “Go potty, go potty…. go potty”.  Eventually the gardener gives up and heads inside for his coffee, and it’s usually then that the message clicks, and the paper towels and wet vac come out.

biscuit the yorkie

Stubborn little Biscuit the Yorkie

Hydrangeas are much more reliable.  Even in a sleep-starved state the gardener recognizes how foolproof Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ is, and as long as it gets some water, a springtime trim, and full sun, the show is always on for August.

limelight hydrangea

Limelight hydrangea along the street.  The rain from hurricane Isaias has everything looking much fresher.

Weeds are a problem when the mulch is thin but you never know what else will pop up on the bare earth.  I have no idea what a hydrangea seed looks like, but apparently they happen, and if you ignore weeding long enough they can grow up and turn into something nice.  They’re entirely in the wrong spot which is not as nice, but I’m sure the gardener will be right on that and have it moved within the next decade or two.

limelight hydrangea seedling

With so much green this seedling has to be a child of Limelight.  Three years is all it took, and trust me, even with the neat mulch and greening crabgrass this part of the border is not typically well cared for and these still succeeded!

Hydrangea paniculata and Hydrangea arborescens bloom every year here on the new wood which grows each summer.  The colors are limited to whites and pinks but considering it’s been so long since I’ve seen a flower on the big mophead hydrangeas (H. macrophylla) I don’t even remember blues and purples and miss them about as much as I miss unicorns and rational government.   Maybe reliable and the tried and true are boring, but there’s only so long you can listen to how great blue hydrangeas are before you realize it’s all just hot air.

annabelle hydrangea green

I planted ‘Annabelle’ next door and love it all summer, even now in its all-green phase.  My MIL prefers the mophead hydrangeas so that’s what is growing to the right.  She claims its flowers are blue although I’ve never seen the proof.

Speaking of next door, for some reason the redone potager construction has gained me the kind of street credit which the rest of the garden never did.  Out of nowhere there have been landscaping questions and design ideas for next door, all of which will hopefully include pulling out one of the green mounds of hydrangea and not that much extra work for me…. hahahahahaha,  that was fun to write but I know it won’t be the case.  The conversations also include filling in the pool and “putting one in your own yard because it’s just too much upkeep for me”.  We will see.

potager pergola

The potager is still relatively restrained for August.  Vegetables are still visible and a few unwatered pots of succulents hopefully class it up a little… even if all I did was take two pots off the deck and drop them right into the blue planters.

I hope it’s understood that a pool will never go where the potager beds stand.  The vegetables and flowers may not be as refreshing as the deep end of a pool but they’re still inspiring in other ways and probably less work.  If we actually ate more vegetables that would probably help, but even if all the tomatoes become pizza and all the zucchini gets deep fried that’s a start I guess.

vegetable garden paths

So far so good for the sand paths.  I probably rake them more than I need to, and I’m sure next year they’ll make awesome seed beds for weeds, but today they look great, and I’ll just take today.

Since the potager is under decent control I figured it was still hot enough to clear up the mess I refer to as the compost pile.  Moving mulch in the heat is fun, but moving compost adds all kinds of spiders, worms, and centipedes into the mix so in some ways it’s even better.  My new policy on all things gardening is to do less, so for the compost pile this means putting less on via hiding pulled weeds and trimmings under plants, throwing anything you can onto the lawn and (eventually) mowing it up, and also using one of the raised beds in the potager as a dump for all the local trimmings and waste.  Eventually the plan for the raised bed is to coat the debris with some soil from another bed and just plant on top of that.  If you want to be fancy I think it’s called sheet composting or hugelkultur, but I’ll just call it a saved trip from across the yard and to the official compost.

compost area

A much tidier compost area.  I won’t dare show the before photo but just consider that I found a bench, several pots, and a few sections of fence under the mess so it was definitely past time for a cleanup. 

I don’t know if you noticed, but outside the compost area is a new planting of nekkid ladies, aka surprise lilies, aka Lycoris squamigeria.  They were previously in the potager and after 10 years I would guess I’ve seen all of three flowers come up, so I think they like the new spot.  All this in spite of the March transplanting after their foliage had already started to come up.  Usually they hate transplanting and out of principle don’t even come up the next year, but six stalks in the one group and two more in another and I’m thrilled.  I think they also like the deeper soil and summer shade here as well.

lycoris squamigera

Lycoris squamigera looking perfectly fresh in the middle of August.

I’m hoping the other Lycoris I planted last year do nearly as good as these.  They were from an excellent source, perfectly packed, and looked freshly dug but still wouldn’t humor me with a single bloom last summer.  At least they sprouted this spring to prove they’re not dead, but I wouldn’t mind a few flowers on top of that… especially since other gardeners are already showing off their plantings in full amazing bloom.

lycoris sanginea

The orange surprise lily, Lycoris sanginea. 

So besides finding surprise lilies in the compost area I also found some surprise pots, all nicely filled with potting soil and ready to be planted.  The next step was obvious… well maybe not so obvious.  In spite of the magic going on I’d had enough of the bugs and heat and humidity, so it was into the relatively cooler winter garden and its dozens of neglected cyclamen and snowdrop pots.  I repotted.

repotted cyclamen

The cyclamen have multiplied and are ready for fall while a few cuttings were stuck into a few pots.  Look closely and you’ll see my dead New Zealand sedge.  Honestly I still can’t be sure if it’s dead or not so I’m not sure how that qualifies as ornamental… but you know… 

Adding pots to a garden which already has plenty of pots sounds a lot like just adding work, but it’s really not.  In a bit of foresight two years ago I bought enough fittings for a second drip irrigation setup.  Last year I found an irrigation timer on clearance.  Last week I put it all together and opened up the whole side of the house for shade containers.  Hmmmmmm 🙂

brugmansia miners claim

The dripline came just in time for Brugmansia ‘Miner’s Claim’.  The dead stick from last year has finally put on enough growth to need regular watering in order to continue looking uber awesome.  I don’t even care if I ever see another lame pink flower on this thing… although I won’t complain.  

Shade containers will be a new thing and I’m sure I’ll be complaining about them by the fall.  I’m going to start nosing around for free brugmansia cuttings immediately either by gift or stealth, so let this be your fair warning when I invite myself over for a garden tour.  Under the cover of social distancing I’ll try to behave myself but I make no guarantees, only after the fact confessions.

camellia ashtons supreme

Oh look.  There’s already a potted camellia ‘Ashton’s Supreme’ ready to move into the new container garden.  I think these are flower buds forming for the autumn so of course I’m super excited it’s forming flowers under my care rather than dying. 

Besides being a poor garden guest I’m also starting to go on too long so let me wrap things up.  Elephant ear from edge of Florida parking lot.  A weed down there but here it barely survives each winter, even when I try to pamper the tiniest bits of life indoors under lights.  Sometimes I’ve resorted to dumping out the remains and hoping the water and heat of summer bring some life back to the tiniest bit of living root, and so far it’s worked, but I dread the winter when I finally lose this treasure.

elephant ear

Someone is loving the heat and a steady IV drip of miracle grow and water this summer.  I just potted up another offset for the new shade garden.

This potted elephant ear (I’m not sure of the exact species so lmk if you have an idea) looks deceptively tame in the photo, so let me assure you it’s pretty big.

elephant ear

I love the wrinkles and swirls of green in each leaf.  At four feet long I still expect them to get a little bigger still before frost.

Oddly enough I didn’t even plant the tubers of the regular elephant ears because… well because I’m fickle.  These are bigger and less floppy, so I guess that’s the reason.

deck planters

The sun containers.  Watered via timer every 12 hours and all I have to do is sit with a coffee in the morning, and an adult bev in the evening.  I hate watering so this is the only thing which keeps them going.

Don’t let an empty compost bin and a few repotted plants give you the impression I’m just a flurry of activity and hard labor.  I’m not.  It’s been two weeks since my last post and there’s only so long you can cruise on the high of a mulch job completed, so this is probably the least I could do.  Oh, I also mowed the lawn.  Go me.  At least there’s been no pressure to do nonsense like painting or new closet shelves.  The dog has been a handy distraction for things like that since I wouldn’t want to wake the little beast with hammering and stuff.

Hope you have a great week.

A Bit of Botanizing

After twenty years in the state of Pennsylvania I suppose it’s time to recognize that I might be settling in for a longer haul.  A job originally brought me here but my wife grew up in the area and now as my kids become older they’re about at that point where they will forever wear that label of being ‘from here’.  So I guess it’s time to start learning the lay of the land.  The lay of the local land that is, not the hours long journeys, just the trips up the street and into the woods.  This morning was beautiful, I had a few hours free, I knew a place where lady slipper orchids grow.

tadpole puddle

A dirt road puddle with some tadpoles.

It was too late for the lady slipper orchids so I headed up into the mountains looking for mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia).  Too early for them.  No problem.  I took the long way home and stopped to explore a clearcut area.  I had planned on going a little further and making this a plant tour, but a few tadpoles stranded in a mudpuddle on the road distracted me.  The pond I filled last fall is still disgustingly empty of amphibians, so in a bid to rescue the from their rapidly evaporating home (and bring tadpoles to suburbia) I picked up some roadside trash and began filling it with tadpoles.

tadpole rescue

Tadpole rescue.  About two dozen came home in my cup holder.

On the way out I also managed to find a few plants worth photographing.  They’re not lady slippers, but Pixterbloom Azalea (Rhododenron periclymenoides… I think) are nice enough as well.  My research to identify them came up with the word “common” but that shouldn’t matter.  They’re amazing, and the color and form are perfect, and for all the work I do in the garden these plants just spring up on their own and it’s a little humbling.

R. periclymenoides

Pinxterboom Azalea? (R. periclymenoides) doing well in a damp area.  They had a nice sweet fragrance, and the scent carried quite a distance.

The azaleas seemed to be enjoying the full sun of the recently cleared area.  I know people love trees and trees do a lot to bail us out of our global warming future, but some sunlight on the ground is good too and these plants seem to appreciate it.

R. periclymenoides

For a minute I thought of coming back for seed and starting a few at home but then laughed at my delusional ambition.  Enjoying them in the mountains will be just fine.

There’s another park I haven’t been to in a while that has been doing some burns in order to increase the plant diversity.  Maybe I should add that visit to the to-do list.

R. periclymenoides

The beautiful day was almost as nice as the azaleas.  It’s good to know these things still go on year after year in spite of us.

So it was an entirely unsuccessful botanizing trip.  Maybe I’ll catch the lady slippers next year and the mountain laurel in a few weeks, but in the meantime I have tadpoles to watch.  That’s not bad either, and it’s a good distraction from the endless daffodil digging and trudging around the garden with a water hose… rain would be nice just about now.

Have a great week.  Mine has started out just fine, but I can’t help but laugh at the fact that no one questioned me about being gone for hours and returning with a dirty cup full of tadpoles.

Panic Buying

We stocked up on a few things during our last trip to the store, things like chocolate chips, cheese, and icecream, all the essentials you’d need to live on cookies and pizza for the next few weeks, but we were happy enough to skip the toilet paper aisle.  My wife has been hoarding toilet paper since before it was cool, so even with the current demand for paper products we still have at least a month before we need to crack open the paper towel vault.  We all have our panic point though, and mine was warming weather and a lack of any decently sized camellias in the garden, so Friday order, Wednesday ship, and Thursday a sigh of relief.

“Hardy” camellias from Camellia Forest Nursery.  Huge plants, awesome quality… much better than I could ever have imagined!

Panic buying is not based in rational thought, and camellias are not hardy in my zone, but… I’ve been dabbling with a few seedlings.  They’ve survived.  I spoke with Charles Cresson who grows many camellias in his Swarthmore Pa garden.  He suggested I look into the Korean forms of Camellia japonica.  Things were researched, plants were purchased 🙂

When I say camellias are not hardy in my area I mean to say most camellias are not hardy here.  Charles knows a thing or two about camellias, and has been growing them for decades a zone or two south of here, and he pointed me towards the Camellia japonica genetics collected by Barry Yinger in the late 70’s to early 90’s from islands off the Korean Peninsula.  To hear the story of seed collecting under armed escort within sight of North Korea sounds like quite the adventure, but the more restrained Morris Arboretum version is available here.  I’ve heard the hardiest of the seedlings have survived -29F.

So we will see.  Obviously I don’t know where they will be planted.  The two magnolias don’t have a home either, but it’s good to be prepared.

December Arrives

A stroll in the garden last Thursday reveled only one thing.  It’s boring.  Boring is probably not the worst thing since there have been tours which brought on anger, apathy, or disgust, but the tour did not bring on wonder or excitement, and for me that daily change or new surprise is what makes the yard so interesting.

cyclamen hederifolium foliage

The hardy cyclamen (this one is Cyclamen hederifolium) is pretty exciting now that the foliage is up, but I’ve seen it all before, and should really give a few of the cool new seedlings some room to develop.

I suppose I could find something to do and give the garden a scorched earth cleanup, rounding up every stray leaf and eliminating every dead and dried stalk, but that’s even more boring.  The birds will need something to pick through, and in January a few old seedheads holding the snow will give a little more interest to otherwise dull drifts.  So instead I cut and placed a few chicken wire cages to protect the most treasured shrubs from their annual bunny shearing.

rabbit shrub protection

Previously the rabbits around here were as lazy as I am, and if they had to even push aside a tuft of grass to get to a carrot they wouldn’t bother.  But now they’ve become empowered, and I have to protect things like this ‘Diane’ witch hazel with these attractive wire cages.

My friend Kathy was right.  Deer may not like witch hazels, but bunnies do, and if you’re thinking good for me to put this protection in place before any real damage occurs, you’re being excessively optimistic in regards to my laziness.  The new witch hazels should have been caged up weeks ago as more tender things in the garden dried up, but no, it wasn’t until the first one was nipped off at four inches that I figured it was time.  Fast forward another week when the second hazel was nipped to the ground that I finally got moving.

Echeveria runyonii 'Topsy Turvy'

One last succulent has earned its right to a winter spent inside.  After Echeveria runyonii ‘Topsy Turvy’ survived a few heavy frosts and downright freezes I could no longer turn my back on the pot and into the garage it came.  I wonder just how hardy this thing really is?

I actually did find one bit of excitement while planting some not-really-wanted colchicums (they were supposed to be white… not pink).  The excitement wasn’t the tulip bulbs I sliced through when digging a hole, the excitement was a stray snowdrop in full bloom in a spot where I’ve only ever planted spring varieties.

fall snowdrop

A November snowdrop.  Two years after planting bulk Galanthus elwesii here, this one decides to beat the neighbors and open a few months and a whole season early.  I’ll be curious to see what it thinks next year.

Not to end on a down note, but this little November snowdrop is now encased (hopefully not entombed) in ice just waiting for the first larger snowfall of the season to happen.  I’d show pictures but would prefer to keep this a family friendly blog and will instead show a photo from the Thanksgiving trip which the impending storm cut short.

deer on Long Island

Deer along the beach of the Long Island Sound.  The wide open blue skies of the beach always recharge my outdoor batteries in a way the woodsy mountains and valleys of Pennsylvania don’t.

Things can’t be all that bad when you’re cozy inside and the weather happens on the other side of the window, so I can’t complain, but what ever storms come your way I hope they’re easy on your neck of the woods, and even if they’re snowy, I hope you have a great week!

Winter Ennui

From Merriam-Webster online; Ennui –  a feeling of weariness and dissatisfaction : boredom

On this day after Christmas I’m missing winter.  Winter is a time of year which really needs some good press and I for one enjoy the clean crispness and simplicity of the season.  On the other hand this weather we’ve been having seems like an endless autumn, and those who read this blog may already know my lack of enthusiasm for that season.  If I was forced to rate seasons, autumn wouldn’t even make the top three.

home grown winter decorations

The front door did get some holiday attention this year with a homegrown selection of evergreens and bits from the woods.

Regardless of my feelings of ennui towards the garden, and my wish that the seasons would just move on with it, I have managed to get a few things done.  The Christmas lights and holiday decorations have never gone up as comfortably, and even though they’re a mismatched collection of leftovers and scavenged pieces they suit us just fine.

staghorn sumac winter decoration

Staghorn sumac (rhus typhina) seed heads catching the solstice light.

I often admit to ‘economizing’ my actions in the garden, and some equate this to laziness, but sometimes this leads to a few nice surprises.  Without freezing temperatures it was much easier to push evergreen boughs and branches into the soil of this summer’s planters rather than working out something new.  Imagine my surprise when on the  way out the door for Christmas dinner I was treated to the most perfect gerbera daisy rising up out of the dried debris.

winter gerbera

A single gerbera daisy welcoming Christmas.

I’ll admit a single daisy is not quite as thrilling as a hedge full of blooming camellias or sheets of early snowdrops but it does make the lingering autumn a little more tolerable.  Also making the autumn more tolerable are new bits of winter interest such as my growing evergreens and this nicely colored red-twig dogwood (Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’) which a friend surprised me with.

dogwood cornus midwinter fire

‘Midwinter Fire’ dogwood belongs to the tribe of redtwig dogwoods.  I love how the branches in the inner portion of mature plants get a yellow orange color while the ends turn darker red. 

The long autumn hasn’t been a complete bust.  Between leisurely bulb planting and leaf cleanup I’ve still managed to drag myself out for a few other small projects.  I finally removed the invasive burning bush (Euonymus alatus) which anchored the end of the front border.

invasive burning bush

Bright autumn color wasn’t enough to save this wolf in sheep’s clothing.  There are other burning bushes (Euonymus alatus)  planted throughout the neighborhood but I’m not going to let this one contribute to all the invasive seedlings which have begun to show up.   

I can see why the bush did so well in this poor spot.  The roots became a thick fibrous mass in the six years it’s been here and I’m going to be on the lookout for root sprouts in this area over the next year or two.   

removing invasive burning bush

A prime clear spot in the front border. I promptly filled it with daffodils and tulip bulbs, yet will need to watch for burning bush seedlings and other invasives.  One of these is the Korean feather reed grass (Calamagrostis brachytricha) which still turns up three years after the mother plant was evicted.

What I should really get done is more bed prep.  Fall mulch and compost are the best things for this but my spirit is slightly broken in this regard.  This fall I did my usual whoring around in neighbor’s gardens, selling myself for far too cheap for the chance to take home some beautifully chopped autumn leaves.  It was all going well until I discovered my haul was missing.  Who had been watching and waiting to steal my treasure?  The six bags of mulch were tucked out of sight behind a large panicum clump next to the driveway just waiting to bless my compost pile with leaf mould goodness.  They were heavy.  I know that because I lugged them out of the neighbor’s backyard and jammed them into the back seat of my car to get them home. 

Long story (and several phone calls around town) ends up with the township yard waste collectors trying to “get ahead” in their collections.  They came up the driveway, found the bags, and hauled them away to the dump.  My only consolation after calling all over to “get my leaf bags back” is that I found out where free mulch is available, and if I can drive, lift, and lug for a few trips I might be able to ease the pain.  

preparing new flower beds in winter

Another bed expansion with a nice edging trench, leftover lawnclipping ready to spread to smother the turf, and a topping with township mulch.  Chopped leaves would have been nicer.  Just saying.

Other beds have been cleaned, other plants have been moved, bulbs are in, weeds are out.  There’s always plenty to do but my heart’s just not in it.  I’m moving into winter garden mode and hopefully between now and New Year’s I can get that set up properly.  Snowdrops are coming after all.

Galanthus elwesii var. monostictus Hiemalis Group ex Montrose

My first snowdrop for this year. I have it on authority it’s a Galanthus elwesii var. monostictus Hiemalis Group ex Montrose… unfortunately the label needs supersizing before I can update.

So that sums December up.  I hope it’s been a merry Christmas and I hope the holidays are going well for all, and here’s for a wonderful start to the new year!  Best wishes 🙂

GB Foliage day -winter greens

I’m a day late minimum with just about everything lately and this post is no exception, but I wanted to squeak in one more Garden Bloggers Foliage Day post with Christina for the 2014 season, since who knows if we’ll have anything other than snow next month… so here goes!

juniper 'old gold'

Even after a few days of shockingly cold days and nights the grass is still green and juniper ‘old gold’ still fresh.

With the autumn leaves gone, foliage is down to the evergreen plantings.  Evergreens are more expensive than perennials and don’t grow well from seed… hence do not match up well with my frugal gardening 🙂  I’ve been doing my best though, and some such as juniper “Old Gold” are finally showing off  -finally- after five years in the ground from a $4 rooted cutting!

A more recent addition are three new rhododendrons which look absolutely overgrown and lush considering the $12 I spent on the bunch.  This purchase went absolutely unnoticed when I mixed it in with a cartload of mortar and tile from the Depot.  You could almost say they were free with purchase, right?

planting rhododendron

Look at the buds on this $4 rhododendron! The plant and price make me understand how hard a nurseryman’s business must be, I’m sure he made no money off this purchase…..

Small patches of winter color are beginning to show up in the backyard too.  This is the first year my boxwood cuttings are big enough to look even remotely like a hedge, and when the grass goes completely brown these bits of green foliage will at least look slightly hopeful.

boxwood cuttings hedge around vegetable garden

My design makes little sense, but hopefully in a few years the vegetable garden will at least look “interesting” even if it never makes it to beautiful.

The only winter color here when we purchased the house were a few foundation plantings along the front, and a line of meatball yews along the south facing side.  After three years of sweaty summertime hedgetrimmering I said ‘screw this’ and let them do their own thing and break away from their tight ballism.  Now I have to chose between the abandoned house look and the bare look of a brutal trim-back.  Any suggestions?  I probably wouldn’t mind trimming them back for a straight hedge along the side,  I could remove them completely, or I could leave just one between the windows and let it get even bigger….. I need a plan though, eyebrows are already being raised here in my end of suburbia and the MIL will soon question my motives since it faces her house 😉

overgrown yew hedge

overgrown yew hedge

Man cannot live on green alone (even with a little yellow) so I foolishly placed an order for some last minute winter foliage via Conifer Kingdom.  God must love either procrastinators or he loves winter garden interest because although Pennsylvania froze the week after I ordered, the box full of evergreens showed up the minute the thermometer went back over freezing.  Today will hopefully top off at 50F (10C), the gale force winds have died off, and it should be perfect for getting these guys in the ground.

Not to overstep my boundaries, but I smell a 50% off sale on fall bulbs at Brent and Becky’s for the day after Thanksgiving.  I will not be able to resist, so I guess we’re going to see how God feels about late bulb orders.

conifer kingdom purchase

My Conifer Kingdom purchase made me happier than a cat in catnip. In a few years I hope to really ‘up’ the level of my garden’s winter interest.  Just look at the needles on that pine! ( Pinus densiflora ‘Burke’s Red Variegated’)

Premium conifers might be as cheap as marigolds in your neck of the woods, but not so much here, so mailorder is my weapon of choice.  For those interested, here’s the breakdown on my order…. $127 total including $25 shipping and $20 discount via a Facebook coupon code (fyi code expired 😦 Nov 21st).

purchase Picea omorika 'Peve Tijn' graft

A free gift included in the order, you can easily see where this dwarf Picea omorika ‘Peve Tijn’ (Serbian spruce) was grafted onto the rootstock.

There’s a reason you can pay through the nose for many of these treasures.  Two of my purchases are 1 year old grafts and really don’t look like much yet,  but that’s because they start life as run of the mill conifer seedlings grown on for a few seasons and then a small bit of the desired cultivar is grafted onto the stem.  Once the graft puts on some size (a slow process at an inch or so of growth each year), the original seedling is cut off and the new plant takes over.

purchase Picea pungens 'Walnut Glen' graft

Dare I say I spent nearly $30 on this little spit of conifer? It’s picea pungens ‘Walnut Glen’, a blue spruce which develops a yellow tinge in the winter. I expect great things form this little guy!

So how’s that for a foliage post?  A November report which speaks of excitement, hope, and anticipation for the future!  Not bad considering the weather, I just have my fingers crossed that I don’t have to re-title this to “That Was Stupid” in another year 🙂

If you’d like to see what foliage is contributing to other gardens across the globe pay a visit to Christina’s blog “Creating My Own Garden of the Hesperides“.  I believe you’ll find some bloggers who are enjoying good foliage now, and not just in their dreams for the future!

Garden Bloggers Foliage Day -Aug.2014

For nearly three years Christina of Creating my own garden of the Hesperides has been hosting the meme which focuses on foliage in the garden.  I believe her intention was to explore the important role which foliage plays in the garden, and remind everyone that although flowers often steal the stage, foliage remains to carry the show.  Going out this week with the intention of focusing on foliage surprised me in two ways.  First of all I always assumed I was one of those “immature” gardeners who always falls for the flash of flowers and doesn’t have much foliage interest.  That was wrong….  apparently nearly all flowers come with some kind of foliage (who knew!) and even the most flower blinded gardener will have foliage.  Secondly I learned another important revelation…. my garden looks much, much better in close-ups!

Powis castle Artemisia, snow on the mountain, nicotina, and Echinacea

I’ve grown Artemisia “Powis Castle” before, but never here in Pennsylvania. It was planted this spring and I love the gray foliage mixed with all the other stuff that seeded in with the compost. (fennel, nicotina, Echinacea, snow on the mountain)

 

 

Starting with A and Artemisia is as good place as any, and while we’re here I guess we’ll just keep going along the front street border.  Soil improvement this spring and moving things around brought in plenty of seed-laced compost, and “Hopi Red Dye” amaranthus is easy to spot with its dark red leaves.

amaranthus hopi red dye

Amaranthus “Hopi Red Dye”, as easy to grow as its more weedy relatives.

I like purple leaves, but I don’t think I can resist a plant with yellow foliage, and this “Golden Sunshine” willow was an impulse buy last year.  Rabbits mowed it down last winter but willows don’t sulk and this one bounced right back.  Actually I think cutting this one back to the ground each spring would probably be the best way to keep the bright new foliage coming.

golden sunshine willow

Salix “Golden Sunshine”… or at least I think that’s what this willow goes by.  I really need to have a better recording system for my plant IDs.

If pushed I might even admit to having too much yellow foliage around the yard.

arundo donax variegata in perennial border

Arundo donax “variegata” in the front perennial border. An explosion of color with “Black Knight” buddleia, pink agastache, and yellow fennel blossoms. Btw, the arundo is probably 8 feet tall and the butterfly bush 6. Also it’s unusual for the grass to have this much color so late in the summer. Usually the heat makes it go all green.

Here’s a little blue in the blue spruce I moved last spring…. and more yellow.

sumac tiger eyes with blue spruce

Have I ever mentioned my love for the foliage of “Tiger Eyes” sumac? It suckers around a bit, but in my mess of a garden that’s no big deal. I haven’t yet decided if this is a formal enough planting for the front of the house though.

A foliage post without mentioning a cyclamen is just crazy, so here’s my little c. purpurascens plant (probably two or three plants since I see at least two leaf forms).

cyclamen purpurascens foliage

Good things come in little packages, this cyclamen purpurascens is a baby at only maybe 5 inches across but it might be my favorite cyclamen right now…. I’m sure that will change as others appear 🙂

I took a lot of pictures so this may be all over the place, but I’ll try to finish up the front yard first.  Sometimes people think of hosta when they hear the word foliage, and I’ve seen them in a few gardens here and there (just a few!).  Here’s “August Moon” a favorite old variety which lightens to nearly white when in full sun.

hosta august moon

Hosta “August Moon” in one of my few shady areas.

Moving into the back near the (another yellow) sunflowers is the new heuchera patch.  Someday you’ll suffer through an all out heuchera post, but until they grow in a bit I’ll let you off with just one.

heuchera circus clown

One of several new heuchera plants, heuchera “Circus Clown” is off to a good start with a nice mulch and some much needed rain. It’s amazing how the colors on these plants change throughout the year.

The reason the heuchera can survive here is from the shade of a Seven Sons shrub/tree (heptacodium miconioides).  My plant gets cankers and loses trunks every now and then but I hope it someday gets past that.  Right now I’m enjoying the rich green of the curled stiff leaves.  Kind of a coarse look, but for a guy with so many cannas and dahlias refinement isn’t one of my strong points.

heptacodium miconioides leaves

Heptacodium miconioides leaves against a perfectly clear blue sky.

Enough with the babbling.  Look but don’t touch.

Ptilostemon diacantha

Ptilostemon diacantha with verbena bonariensis blossoms. Of course this is where all the missed baseballs end up rolling.

Almost good enough to eat, plants in the vegetable garden (or potager when I’m feeling fancy) also can put on a good show.

red cabbage and fig leaves

Red cabbage and fig leaves, the fig would be happier in Christina’s Mediterranean garden but it hangs on here and the perfectly cut leaves make up for not getting any actual figs 🙂

Not all the foliage news is good.  Miscanthus giganteus was off to a good start but our dry spell threw it for a loop and killed off all the lower leaves.

miscanthus giganteus

Miscanthus giganteus wants the steady moisture which I’m too frugal to supply. It might be easier to get something else for this spot.

Back by the house is a panicum “Cloud Nine” which is much more comfortable with drought.  I hate this bed and constantly neglect it, but nature did its own thing and filled the gaps with rudbeckia, phlox, and patrina scabiosifolia seedlings.  Sure beats the boring mulch I had there before.

panicum cloud nine with patrina

The stepchild bed with Patrina, panicum, rudbeckia, and phlox.

So much for anything that even approaches subtlety.  My tropicals come next, and first off are the geraniums (pelargoniums) which in my delusion and denial I have added to the overwinter and collect list.

zonal geranium

I have to dig up the name for this one, it’s in its second or third year with me and keeps looking better.

A scented leaved geranium (pelargonium actually) with cut leaves, variegation and scent.  Too much or something for everyone?

scented leaf geranium

This scented geranium is another plant who’s ID is lost in the pot-full-o-tags database. I should probably work on that.

Another one to overwinter in the garage, my first aeonium is looking well.  Hopefully it can handle the high-water location I planted it in -a pot with a variegated hebe and cape fuschia (phygelia).

aeonium with variegated hebe

This one’s label must still be near the top of the tag bucket since it’s a new purchase. A good gardener would go out there, find it and label it…. but all I’ve got for you is it’s not “Schwarzkopf”.

Now to wrap things up (so I can finally get to work on the stupid basement tiling job I started) here are my foliage stars.

canna tropicana

Canna “Tropicana” might be the most obscene show of gaudy color in my garden. I love it with the dahlias and rudbeckia.   Good thing there’s some green nearby to calm things down.

Morning light on the sunflower patch.

canna in the garden

My ‘Polish cannas’ were a gift which traces it’s history back to a friend’s old Polish neighbor. It’s probably really canna indica “purpurea” or “Russian red”.

And same cannas at noon.  A sculptural plant I think.

canna with perennials

The small blooms aren’t much for a flower lover, but they have a graceful look and the hummingbirds appreciate them.

So that’s my foliage, thanks for sticking it out.  I did manage to keep all the coleus out (but of course there’s still all of September for that) and I hope that gave a little relief, but I was really surprised by how much color and interest I get from foliage.  Maybe I am growing up and my tastes are maturing…. but I hope not.  I like my messes of color too much!

Thanks Christina for hosting and thanks for opening my eyes to all that foliage does in the garden.

Midsummer night’s dream

There’s a “pink spires” summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) growing just below the covered porch, and since we’re using the porch much more this year it’s blooming has not gone unnoticed.  In the warm summer afternoons and evenings the heavy, sweet scent drifts up and around the garden and brings in dozens of bumblebees and honeybees to the pink bottlebrush flowers.

Clethra alnifolia "pink spires"

Clethra alnifolia “pink spires” is a pink version of the normally white summersweet.

Summersweet is a good name for this fragrant native shrub, but having it planted so close to the porch might be a little too strong and sweet a scent for my taste.  Coming across a patch in bloom while hiking the woodst is a pleasant surprise, but drowsy afternoons spent out on the porch border on naps, and who knows what kind of dreams will be experienced with this perfume wafting through the air?  Or in the words of a less fragrance-friendly member of this household, “one of your flowers really smells out there, it’s giving me a headache”.

Clethra alnifolia

Very popular with the bees, Clethra alnifolia likes a nice moist spot. The only reason it’s surviving in my dried up garden is that it’s planted right at the downspout from the roof.

I may have to move it, but where to?  Right now it’s exactly where water from the roof comes down and it would likely die out in the drier parts of the garden, so my options are limited.  We’ll see what happens.  I’d like to redo this area within the next two years so I have time to think about it.

Am I the only person who thinks some fragrances are just too much?