Planned Surprises

Saturday I suddenly found myself on the road to Ithaca NY.  It’s about a two hour drive from here and of course I have better things to do locally but wanted to see a few friends, and you know… there was a plant sale.  Just a small thing done among members of the Adirondack chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society, but they have some pretty cool plants and for just two or three dollars a piece all the plants (donated out of member gardens) find a new home that morning.  Of course I was more than happy to help out, and a couple alliums, ferns and a violet are now here in Pa with me and even better, all the extra daffodils I dug this summer are GONE… or at least most of them.  Stupid me thinks I should replant some of the smallest ones to give them a chance to grow out so they won’t be too small to give away?  Don’t ask.  My accounting brilliance is matched only by my business sense.

cornell botanic garden

Cornell Botanic Gardens.  It was nice to stop into a garden which I’m guessing has a couple feet of topsoil, annual mulches of compost, and just the right amount of watering to grow sickeningly well.  Here’s Hydrangea cumulonimbus mocking the approaching storm clouds. 

The plant sale was followed by a luncheon and I just want to say that in between garden talk there was an invite to a garden which I really wanted to see, but I actually opted out of going.  Weird, right?  I think it was a combo of poor sleep, impending bad weather, and an overall end-of-summer-I’m-sick-of-drought-my-garden-is-a-disaster malaise.  In hindsight I wish I’d gone, but at that moment I just wasn’t up to being social any longer so passed.  That was an actual unplanned surprise, since on the way up I had a conscious thought of the possibility of being invited somewhere, and how excellent that would be.  I hope I’m not actually getting old(er)!

carex muskingumensis little midge

I found this sedge to be far cooler than you would imagine a sedge could be.  Carex muskingumensis ‘Little Midge’ I believe, even though the label said ‘Little Midget’ which would also be fitting. Quite the geometry on this little guy.

Apparently I was still young enough to add one side trip to the trip by pulling into the parking lot of the Cornell Botanical Gardens.  I did want to see how their tropical plantings were coming along, but then surprised myself by liking the shade plantings even more.

Mukdenia rossii Crimson Fans

Mukdenia rossii ‘Crimson Fans’.  Seeing this was a first for me, and I always thought the red color was an autumnal, perfect storm, enhanced for catalogs, color effect, but here it is in late August doing its bright crimson thing as if it’s no big deal.  Very nice!

And then it was back home.  I pulled in at a suitably responsible and mature arrival time of 6pm, just in time to enjoy the evening light on the Lycoris.  If you want to talk about surprises the fact any of these are blooming would be the premier surprise since they did not look all that happy this spring, and baked-clay dry summers are not supposed to encourage good bloom with these temperamental divas.

lycoris x squamigera

The most common surprise lily, or Nekkid lady (Lycoris x squamigera), is blooming more than it’s ever bloomed before.  I heard they like derelict, neglected properties so perhaps the random construction debris and bits of trash I’ve thrown here are the secret to a good show.  

There’s actually a second magic lily surprising me this year.  I thought I was successfully killing off most of my plantings, but suddenly there’s an almost clump of Lycoris x incarnata flower stalks poking up between the squash leaves.  If only I knew what went right with this spot I’d repeat it with the other bulbs growing just inches away but worlds apart in flowering-power… as in they’re not flowering at all…  Perhaps they’ll also surprise me but I doubt it.  Someone might have already poked around and found several have lost their roots to some kind of rot, and even though they’re sometimes called magic lilies, I think a miracle is closer to what we need.

lycoris x incarnata

Lycoris x incarnata, aka the peppermint spider lily, is a hybrid of two other Lycoris species.  There are other forms, but this striped version is one of the more common garden forms.  I think it’s quite awesome this year.

These two Lycoris and a few others are the cold-hardy members of a bigger family of bulbs which do well in the warmer Southern states and aren’t all that uncommon down there.  Sadly they’re not hardy enough for this garden, but of course since I’m doing so well with the other ones, I also thought I’d try a few of the more tender types such as L. radiata, the red hurricane lily.  With a bar already set so low by their cousins, it’s not hard to imagine that just the fact they’re still alive counts as a fabulous success.

terrace garden

Other not-cold-hardy things filling space on the sand terrace.  With a timed drip irrigation system this at least is one part of the garden not miserable for rain.

I’ll take whatever fabulous successes I can get.  Today it rained, and although the 0.06″ is not the 0.50″ forecast, it should green up the crabgrass a bit and at least give me a day off from watering… assuming I still even water.  This weekend I almost moved from ‘trying to get a few things through’ to ‘maybe save a few perennials and shrubs so they come back next year’.  That’s basically giving up for the year, and with school ramping up again, and construction crawling along, and with money evaporating faster than the rain, it’s never sounded better… until you consider the alternatives.  Being stuck in front of the tv from now until snowdrop season or taking up a trowel and helping tile, or sitting through an entire football game?  I think even a bad day of looking at weeds and wilted plants has its bright spots and I think I can do it for a few more days.  Lycoris season is always full of surprises, and even if the surprise is in how disappointing they can be, the colchicums will be here soon and I can always count on them.

Have a great week, and may your garden get all the rain it needs 😉

Still Going…

That last rain really tricked me.  It tricked the lawn as well, a green shimmer appeared and of course I thought it would be extremely generous to run the mower over to pick up some of the dead leaves and trash and then spray some liquid feed.  Silly me.  The rains stopped and things are back to wilting, and I’m back to watering, but at least it’s been cool the last few days as a respite to our usual baking.

ipomoea nils fuji no murasaki

Slowly the Japanese morning glories are coming into bloom.  Ipomoea nils ‘Fuji no Murasaki’ is amazing and hasn’t been as invasive a seeder as other morning glories tend to be… unless you’re someone I gave seeds to and recently cursed me for giving you such a weed… so your results may vary.

Despite the return to dry, it’s still not as bad as it was, and still not as brutal as it could be.  I think I just like complaining, plus on top of that it’s just boring.  Super boring since just about everything is just sitting there waiting for water.  There are three things though, which could count as somewhat interesting.  First are the container plantings, which thanks to the drip irrigation are doing fairly well… in spite of a haphazard fertilization schedule, and the second is the patch of cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) which looks great, but causes nonstop hummingbird conflict as one sneaks in for a sip just as another one or two come down in a screeching dive bomb to fight them off.  People love hummingbirds but all I see are little featherpuffs of rage, and when one comes up and gives me the hovering stare-down of death for sitting too close to their lunch, I stare right back… but don’t dare say a word lest it triggers a torrent of anger from the little monster.

lobelia cardinalis flower

The Lobelia cardinalis does really well here in the shade of the house, far enough away from the life-sucking red maple roots.  I did water a bit but not as much as you’d think.  

So that’s two things, and for the third I’ll nominate the paniculata hydrangeas.  They get a drink of water once things get bad enough to wilt, but other than that they just look awesome and make me seem like a gardening genius.  Never mind the zinnias which are struggling and the surprise lilies which only surprise me by not dying, these hydrangeas are full of fat, fresh, flower-packed trusses of bloom.

hydrangea paniculata seedling

The worst of the dried up rudbeckia triloba has been cropped out, leaving only the joy of budding hydrangea blooms.  ‘Limelight’ is in the background, this is just a seedling which somehow managed to evade my super vigilant weeding long enough to look like something.

I’m considering adding a variety which fades to pink.  ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ was in here but had to be moved for the construction, and for some reason I didn’t like the way it looked around ‘Limelight’ anyway.  The pure white of V. Strawberry seemed just too white for all the yellows and chartreuse and then it was in a bad spot anyway, where the heat and dry would brown the blooms, rather than let them go pink.  It’s been replanted next door and to be honest I want it back even if it doesn’t fit in.  Maybe I’ll take some cuttings today, my mother in law loves it so there’s no way I’m getting the original plant back.

hydrangea limelight

Limelight in the back yard around the potager.  Obviously the phlox which was supposed to be moved years ago is still there and still doesn’t look nice alongside the hydrangea, but at least the boxwood is on its way to recovery after last winter’s run in with the bulldozer.

So three things are ignoring the dry and marching right through August in beautiful shape.  There are more bits and pieces looking good but as I said they’re mostly waiting for rain and I also just like to complain.  Now for example I shall complain that the dentist’s office still hasn’t called back to schedule my root canal and the gray skies have not produced anything more than a sneeze of useless mist.  Oh well.

Have a great week regardless.  These will be the sweet memories that come up in February when the only thing growing are the icicles off the gutter.

Well that Sure Escalated…

Sometimes I’m stubborn and set in my ways, determined to make something work and prove I’m right.  Other times I can turn on dot, easily distracted and influenced, and just one idea can derail an entire plan.  About three weeks ago I went to a daylily farm, and even talked to a daylily breeder.  I bought one.  I went to another farm.  suddenly I found myself going back to the first farm and getting a few more and now suddenly I like daylilies.  Hmmmm… did not see that coming…

brookside daylilies

Some Brookside daylilies which have been added to the garden.  It’s nice to have something green in the yard.

My mother might point out that at one point, maybe thirty years ago, someone planted dozens of daylilies alongside the garage and some of those clumps still remain today, but that was a long time ago.  I thought we were past that.

garden drought

The front border still looking a bit fried.  Recent rains have greened up some of the lawn weeds, but only the rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) looks completely unbothered by the dry weather.

I guess not.  Plenty of good people like daylilies, so what’s the harm in adding a few?  With the garden still a depressing shade of sun-faded khaki anything which can shrug off the dry heat can only be a good thing.

purple gomphrena

Purple gomphrena and angelonia don’t mind the heat, but do need regular watering to keep this fresh and bright.  I think it’s worth it.

No one even noticed a few new daylilies, but they did notice the water bill jumping up last month.  I admitted that maybe it was the garden causing this, but also pointed out the garden-fresh vegetables were surely worth it.  Fifty dollars for a couple zucchini and some lettuce, thankfully there was no cost to benefits analysis done to double check my logic.

blue yonder agapanthus

Regular watering helped stave off the worst of the baking in this end of the front border, but even without watering I suspect ‘Blue Yonder’ agapanthus would still look unbothered.  I’m so glad the bulldozer missed this one, although my seedlings and several other things in this bed were lost. 

Triage by watering hose was saving a few things but fortunately I went and scheduled a camping trip for last week, and this brought in a nice storm which actually soaked in a little.

orange peel cestrum seedlings

Cestrum is remarkably easy from seed and only grew faster in the heat.  At first I was underwhelmed by the small lemony flowers of the first seedling (in my hand), but a couple weeks later, other seedlings began to open up larger orange flowers, similar to their ‘Orange Peel’ mother, and it was all good.

A nice soak, cooler temperatures, and then another surprise shower this past weekend have made all the difference in the garden.  No more wilted plants making me feel guilty at every turn and the lawn even has a green haze to it, although it will still be a while before I need to fire up the lawnmower again.  I think this just-in-time rain will also help the little tree frog tadpoles immensely.  They’re just starting to sprout legs and leave the pond, and I don’t think venturing out into a desert would have been the best thing for my little babies.

young gray tree frogs

There’s a big range to the tadpoles with some already out and about, others well into leg-growing, and a couple still just fat little polliwogs.

I’ve been coming across baby tree frogs in a few spots around the garden.  Unlike the gray adults, the babies are a bright green with a dark mask around their eyes.

young gray tree frogs

Baby gray tree frogs (Hyla versicolor) have a leafy green color while the adults take on more of a bark/lichen gray color.

My fingers are crossed that a good number of them make it.

young gray tree frogs

Even the frogs like the new daylilies.  

New daylilies, baby frogs, and a decent rain.  It’s not perfect but it’s a good position to be in for the first week of August, and as long as no one asks how the construction is going I think it’s still better than a cold day in January.

Have a great week!

Garbage Day

So it’s been hot and hasn’t rained more than half an inch here in the last three weeks.  My “garden” has always been a little more interesting than it is beautiful, and now with things wilting and dying left and right, on top of the construction debris and damage, my yard has officially entered the trash stage.  Visiting several beautiful gardens last weekend, filled with lush goodies, all artfully combined and arranged was a nice exercise, but did not help my opinion at all so earlier last week I decided to rip half of it out, mulch most of it, and try to save a few bits through the daily triage of going plant to plant with a water hose.

low water perennials

Lawn is not drought tolerant but rudbeckia and a few other things are.  At least not everything is brown.

Maybe we’ll get lucky tonight and the storms rolling through will drop some moisture, but it’s going to take a couple days straight to get anything into the hard-baked soil and that’s not going to happen.  Also the next week’s forecast is full of 90’s (32+C) so any rain tonight is more a teaser than relief.

low water perennials

With half the plants now ripped out, and a couple days of standing around with a water hose under my belt, the front border no longer shouts ‘save me!’  and instead just looks hot.

So plenty of people have it worse, and some people always have it worse, so please don’t feel the need to be nice and sympathetic when this kind of summer really isn’t that out of the ordinary for us.  There’s still plenty of recyclables in this trash pile, and always a few treasures to pick out, such as the orien-pet lily ‘Conca d’Or which dominates the front border this week.  I love everything about it this year, it’s huge, fragrant, creamy lemony, and as solid as a tree.

low water perennials

‘Conca d’Or’, perovskia, and some ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass doing just fine under the triage of ‘just in time’ watering.  

Now faced with a garden of mostly trash, more garden visits sounds like a good idea, right?  I think so, but little did I know how dangerous they can be.  Some friends and I traveled up into the far reaches of Northeastern Pennsylvania this weekend to visit a daylily farm and it was a bad thing…

lambertsons daylilies

A perfect, Idyllic, country view of the daylily sales-field at Lambertson’s Daylilies.  Mark it with a flag, pay, they’ll dig it and it’s yours… what a deadly temptation!

I’m not above taking one for the team, so when a visit to Lambertson’s Daylilys came up in conversation, I of course politely agreed.  “You hate daylilies” was mentioned, and that’s kind of extreme, but I can be nice and keep my thoughts to myself when opinions vary… and try not to relentlessly steamroll people with my beliefs and opinions just like all adults should… but I’m digressing… we met for breakfast and all of us headed out for a day at the farm.

lambertsons daylilies

Some of the display beds coming into bloom around the house.  No trash here! 

I bought one.  It’s planted and gets checked way too much each morning.  Today I cross-pollinated a few flowers and I’m already thinking about going back to see about picking another one… or possibly two… dammit…

growing daylilies

The mother in law’s garden bed and it also looks very non-trash.  I guess I’ll have to swipe a bit of this one and add it to my new daylily adventure.

When I returned home (filled with delicious ice cream because of course we had enough sense to stop at a dairy while in farm country) I put a critical eye towards the depressingly stunted tropical garden.  A daylily would look good in there.

low water perennials

Even with watering there’s little hope for this year’s tropical garden.  I’m far too lazy and cheap to water properly and the cannas are knee-high rather than chest height.

Seriously.  It’s the perfect spot for a daylily patch… bed… border… growing field  😉  The peak bloom will match pool season, and that’s when this sidewalk gets nearly all its traffic.

lambertsons daylilies

My selection out of the farm’s seedling patch.  At Lambertson’s the seedlings grow for a number of years, the under performers are culled out and most of the good ones are just sold as un-named seedlings.      

Tree lilies, daylilies… I’m sensing a theme for easing the pain of a better-for-the-pool-than-the-garden summer.  Waterlilies fit right into that.

pink water lily

The pond is thick with debris and whatever else washes in off the construction site, but the pink water lily has never grown as lush before.  The tadpoles are also doing well, and I guess a dirty pond is still better than no pond.

So it’s not all bad, unless you judge me for finally falling into the daylily trap.  I was doing so good…  in 20 years I think I never went over a total of five daylily plants, and no one needs to know about the other 30 years of my life and the rows of daylilies that still grow at my parent’s house.  I had put that behind me.

deck container plants

Not daylilies, just a couple hundred bricks which I chipped the mortar off and neatly stacked so that they can sit here for decades until I finally get around to doing something with them.  In the meantime I’ve camouflaged them with potted plants which I couldn’t be bothered to bring up onto the deck.  

It’s just one daylily.  Maybe it’s just the dry weather and heat that are getting to me.  Luckily plants other than lilies are still chugging along and even enjoying the weather.  All those geranium (pelargonium) cuttings from the winter garden are loving the dry, sunny days, and were a nice, cheap way to fill a bunch of planters.

deck container plants

Maybe a few too many geraniums on the deck.  

Another potted plant which has surprised me are the rhodohypoxis bulbs.  They’ve been blooming for over a month and I didn’t expect that at all.  In fact they’ve grown so well I might need to divide them soon, and don’t know if now or next spring would be the better time.

rodohypoxis

Some of the rhodohypoxis pots still doing well.  The large-flowered, pale pink ‘Pintado’ is by far my favorite.

Maybe I mentioned one other bulb which wasn’t doing as well as the rhodohypoxis (actually both are classified as corms, and not really bulbs).  Last winter I lost about half of the caladiums I was so excited about last year summer, but that doesn’t mean the ones which made it are pitiful.  A couple are awesome again, and since many are of the same sort I’ll be referring to them as some of the idiot-proof cultivars and think twice about trying new ones this year. -which is something I decided last night after closing an online order which was soooo tempting until I thought about the daylilies again-

growing caladiums

A few caladiums coming back to life now that temperatures have warmed.  I think a cold, wet spell last fall did a few of the others in, as well as not hot enough weather in June.

So that’s what’s been going on here for the last couple weeks.  It’s not bad at all but the garden really is trash, and only close editing and avoiding the majority of the yard has saved this post from becoming a complete downer.  There’s a new daylily though, and the pool is always refreshing, but don’t bother asking how the construction is going, and just for reference it’s midnight and the possibility for a good rain is dwindling with each hour.

All the best for those in really hot and dry weather patterns, and I hope you still all have a great week.  There’s always ice cream.

Independence Day

It’s the Fourth of July here in the US, Independence Day, and long story short we have taxation WITH representation now rather than without.  That appears to matter to 50-60% of eligible voters in a presidential election year but drops to only about 40% in midterm elections, so maybe it was more of a cool slogan than a real sentiment, but whatever… Happy Fourth!

streptocarpella

The front porch is suitably patriotic for the season with a bit of streptocarpella in the hanging baskets this year.

Barbecue and fireworks are the real tradition these days, and here in PA the grilling we do would probably mortally wound any barbecuing Southerner, but we try.  There will be plenty of over-eating regardless and the fireworks will be covered as well, although with the dry weather our home will be sticking to floral fireworks instead.

kniphofia red hot poker

The first of the red hot pokers(Kniphofia) are firing up and they’re a favorite of mine.  The newer selected forms have a longer bloom season and rebloom as well so that’s a win-win over the flash in a pan older versions.  

Were it not for the entire spring being spent picking rocks and hauling stone, there’s a good chance the gardener would have divided and spread more pokers around the garden… but… there’s always next year  😉

summer flower border

A slightly less-weedy garden border.  To be honest much of the plantings are self sown so maybe it would be no loss to pull much of it out and spread more pokers around!  I’m sure everything else would return anyway, and in less time than I’d like to admit. 

So fireworks and food.  This year for the first time ever I’m neck and neck with the robins in the race to get blueberries.  I think because it’s been dry the robins have moved to wetter gardens, and the lazy young robins which enjoy sitting in a blueberry bush all day, napping, eating, napping, have moved out with them.

blueberries

There’s about a pint of blueberries sitting on the counter waiting to transform into a nice pancake or muffin, and it looks like we have enough for a couple more pickings.  

Fireworks, food, and fragrance.  The last few weeks the back garden has been filled with the fragrance of the little leaf linden (Tilia) and the buzz of the thousands of bees and beetles and bugs which swarm to the tree, but this week it’s all the regal lilies (Lilium regale).  A warm, muggy evening spent watering the potager vegetables and enjoying the scent of the lilies is not a bad way to spend a holiday weekend.

regal lily

Regal lilies are easy from seed.  They’re easy in general, just keep an eye on them for the bright red lily beetles which have finally made their way here and become a problem in my garden. 

…and don’t forget the ‘Don’t tread on me’ part of Independence day.  This spring I noticed that as the garden fills and matures I’m less likely to allow the same weeds which I used to ignore.  I realized this while pulling a couple bull thistle(Cirsium vulgare) seedlings which aren’t really a problem here but aren’t really that nice to bump into while “weeding” other things.  Maybe my garden is becoming more civilized, and these armed plants which used to be just fine in the wild-West of my garden’s early days just aren’t safe to have as plantings pack in and mature.  Today I permit a few fancy thistles armed with open spines in the main beds, and regulate some stinging nettles with their concealed weapons in the back end of the yard, and altogether it’s a much safer world.  What a concept.

woolly thistle cirsium eriophorum

The woolly thistle (Cirsium eriophorum) even has purple tips on the spines and a fuzzy fluff!  You really need a little training and have to know what you’re doing before you play around with this plant, but it’s still worth keeping around. 

So there you have it.  Food, fireworks, fragrance, and some independence.  I hope you have an excellent summer week and if you’re off for the Monday, please enjoy 🙂

A Morning Stroll

We had a decent morning last weekend and I was sore enough from digging a new bed and moving sand (don’t ask, I know I have plenty of beds) that I didn’t feel like doing anything more strenuous than taking a few pictures.  Actually I did attempt to figure out a few camera settings, but it was a complete disaster so back to ‘automatic’ it went, and gosh what a relief to again embrace the idiot settings.

front perennial border

Agastache ‘Tutti Frutti’ is probably what this lilac-purple agastache is, but I never expect them to live long enough to really be concerned about the name.  I love that it has a nice height to it.

So other than an ego-crushing moment with the camera and a secret garden project that I’m still a little embarrassed to talk about, there’s really not much for me to ramble on about.  Better to just ramble through the garden on a beautiful morning and share only the nicer parts 😉

front perennial border

Because of someone’s yellow foliage addiction, there’s way too much limey-yellow in the front border.  Rather than stress over the addiction I’m just going to wait until rock-bottom hits and then see where the shovel is.  

front perennial border

Of course a year without showing agapanthus ‘Blue Yonder’ is a lot to ask, so here it is.  Next year I will have to learn about transplanting agapanthus since the encroaching spruce is much less mobile.  Maybe I’ll even learn about dividing an agapanthus…

self seeded sunflowers

For some reason I had little interest in planting up the tropical garden this spring, so grass, yellow pokeweed, and self-sown sunflowers have been allowed to erupt into an eight foot mountain of lushness.  I’m fine with that.  I think the whole bed will be going to perennials over the next few years, but you never know.

Helianthus decapetalus 'Capenoch Star'

A perennial sunflower?  Yes, I think it’s Helianthus decapetalus ‘Capenoch Star’ which has been moping along here for the past ten years.  Why it decided to look great this year is unknown, but it’s really taken its time!

Biscuit the yorkie

Biscuit the yorkie accompanies me on all morning walks.  The rabbits don’t seem 100% panicked, but they do run off at a somewhat concerned pace when this little beast comes barreling across the yard.   

pond frog

Biscuit has absolutely no interest in our pond frog but the frog seems even less concerned than the rabbits.

deck plantings

From the lawn you can see the deck plantings have filled in.  I notice quite some yellow foliage again, but the pink mandevilla vine is what really stands out.

potager garden

Towards the back of the yard the potager is looking neat, and from a distance the chaos inside isn’t as obvious.  

dahlia from seed

One major disappointment in the potager this year are the ‘Bishop’s Children’ dahlias which were started from seed this March.  I would demand a paternity test, because unless there’s a dumpy housemaid involved, these dahlias should be taller, single, darker foliaged and hotter colors than they are.  I’ve been wanting to grow these for years… I finally ordered the seed…  

potager garden

Some of the potager is respectably planted with vegetables.  There are beans weakly climbing their poles, borer infested squash, bolting parsley, and undernourished tomatoes, all providing a good cover for a gardener trying to appear serious about tending the earth for the nourishment of his family.

cabbage cut back

One success has been the cabbage harvest.  The harvested stumps of last year’s plants re-sprouted this spring and out of curiosity I let them grow.  The sprouts were thinned to a single plant and to my surprise all of them are making perfect cabbages.  Here the center cabbage has already been harvested and the new plan is to thin the latest sprouts and hope for a third harvest.  

castor bean carmencita

Castor beans are quite toxic and not good potager plants, but here’s ‘Carmencita’ flowering and looking awesome anyway.

meadow garden

Behind the potager is quite possibly my favorite spot in the yard, the meadow garden.  This year Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota) is defying my no QAL policy and making a nice forest of white lace above the golden rudbeckia and birds foot trefoil.  I think I will pull them soon.  That’s a lot of seed.   

meadow garden

I don’t know why I’m bothering you with a view of the berm other than it’s weed whacked… except for some weedy asters which I like… and now sports an odd ledge which I felt the need to carve into the berm.  fyi it’s just the right width for a boy and his dog as they walk the perimeter of the estate.  

lycoris squamigera

The first magic lilies (Lycoris squamigera) are opening.  They are a funny group of plants and I’m really getting a good chuckle over how I thought they would grow well here and now they’re not.  Hahaha, good one.  I could fill another whole blog post with all the pictures of the other ones which aren’t flowering this year, including the new ones which I had faint hopes for flowers, but nah…     

lobelia cardinal flower

Maybe the Lycoris were talking to the cardinal flowers (Lobelia cardinalis) and realized they’d have quite some trouble competing with this show.  They’re awesome this year 🙂  **hint** just put in a new path and they’ll sprout throughout the joints, rather than bother growing in the amended soil where they’re planted…  

And that brings us around to the far side of the house, leading to the front again.  For those remotely interested, this side of the house is where the new bed is located, and the new bed has something to do with not having enough room for caladiums, even though that side of the house is really too sunny for caladiums.  Don’t bother trying to make sense out of it, it just doesn’t, but I’m quite happy and don’t even care if I’ve gone too far again.

Hope you’re having a great week and staying safe from whatever plagues your neighborhood this week.  Covid variants… smoke… wildfire… heat… upcoming hurricane seasons… it’s all so 2020 and I for one have just about had enough of it!

Back in Business

It’s been almost two weeks since we came back from vacation and you’re about to hear something you don’t often hear on this blog.  I was busy.  Seriously.  For about five days straight I put in a good four or five hours of work in, either here or in my Mother in Law’s yard.  Back in the good old days work could have gone on from dawn to dusk, but today it’s a different story and that’s about as long as I want to work.  Still it makes a huge difference.

front border

The front border has loved all the rain.  It would have been the ideal year to pull all the fennel and plant a mass of zinnias and cannas (as the plan was) but… there’s always something else.

Before you’re too impressed by this flurry of motivation I think it’s important to come clean on one of my fairly well-guarded secrets.  Not really a secret I guess,  but there’s a reason I can spend a bunch of hours in the garden, day after day, and still manage to get up and get going the next morning.  I’m a high school science teacher, and with a summer vacation from the middle of June until late August I can still be fairly lazy even with a couple hours of breaking a sweat in the garden 😉

front border

From the other end of the front border… at just the right angle… things look amazing.  The main flush of summer color is beginning!

So now I hope the confession of my profession has not darkened your opinion of this blog or this gardener.  It’s always a mix of reactions ranging from ‘you’ve got the life’ to ‘God bless you’ so I never know where people’s opinions lie until the truth is out.  All I’m really sure of is that most of my powering away in the garden is probably a response to the hours I spend each morning working on a horrible class which I need to finish this summer.  It’s really not that bad but in addition to being naturally lazy, I am also a terrible student with a passionate hatred towards online learning, and after nearly a year and a half of online learning I think my cup runneth over.

cardoon cynara cardunculus

Gratuitous photo of a cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) flower.  I love them, they’re stiff and spiny and of course stupid me needs to touch them nearly every day to get a painful reminder.

Enough whining, here’s an update on a slightly more in control potager, although slightly more in control is completely false.  It’s weeded.  There are a few vegetables, but most of the left side is a thicket of eight to nine foot tall persicaria and sunflowers.  I have to duck and crawl to get through the paths but secretly I think it’s kind of awesome.  The only down side is that the majority of the sunflowers are pollen free and as a result there has not been a good seed set.  As I sit hidden in my potager thicket I can hear the goldfinches chattering their complaints as they pick and pick looking for some seed that has actually plumped up and been pollinated.  Fortunately in the past few days I’ve noticed a few plants with pollen have opened their first blooms and that should be enough for the bees to spread around and get things going.

potager

As usual the potager has become overrun with flowers, and the vegetables have become scarce.  If anyone asks I just tell them the endless rain rotted things and if I’m lucky they accept that and pick up a few beans from the farmstand 🙂  

A big part of the potager purge was removing old bloomed-out larkspur and poppy stalks, and all the other volunteers which were nice enough until they weren’t.  Fortunately there’s always something else, and although the new phlox bed has become a complete failure, the old phlox bed is filled with the usual stars.

phlox paniculata

Phlox paniculata, Hydrangea ‘Limelight’ and some silly chrysanthemums who think August is an ok month to flower.  Here the plan was remove phlox, plant hydrangeas… but as you can see I never got around to moving the phlox.  Oh well.

I’m never sure just how much of my babbling is memorable, but just in case you missed me repeating myself the first twenty times, tall garden phlox (Phlox paniculata) are a favorite of mine.

phlox paniculata

A nice bright phlox seedling which I’ve already set aside because I like the color.  Honestly, I don’t think I could rule out the possibility that some time in the future a whole section of the yard gets dug up just to plant phlox.

Although I do love phlox they don’t always feel the same way towards me.  Last week I mentioned that the entire bed which I cleared out and devoted to a few favorites is today just a swirling vat of mildew and spider mites and whatever else likes to kill phlox.  Some of the plants are literally about to die and it’s kind of embarrassing that a native Northeastern American wildflower can’t be bothered to grow here.  Figures, since just yesterday I saw a beautiful clump of pale pink phlox growing inches away from a busy road and in the yard of a house which could have passed as abandoned but probably wasn’t.  Maybe my phlox patch needs some road salt and the occasional roadkill thrown on… that’s an idea I guess.

phlox paniculata

Another phlox seedling similar to ‘Laura’ but another foot or two taller, and that’s ‘Blushing Shortwood’ behind and to the left. Blushing Shortwood is an excellent phlox btw 🙂

This week’s cooler temperatures has really brought out the color on the phlox, if you only consider the ones which haven’t decided to die yet.  There’s a nice pink flush on some of the whites, the white center stars are bright and not faded away, and the stronger colors aren’t washed out by the heat.  There’s also a good spicy fragrance to many of them.

phlox paniculata

One of my favorite phlox seedlings.  I need a big patch of this one.

Now I’m really thinking about turning more lawn under to make room for a big phlox patch.  I think I’d like that.  A lot.  Hmmmm.  Unless they all decide they should die on me, but in that case I’d just plant daffodils between them.  Rumor has it I already ordered more daffodils than I should have, so I’ll need the room anyway since my daffodil purchases were based on an assumption I would dig up and give away some of the too-many I already have.  My bad.

growing caladiums

Caladium update.  I finished potting them up.  I’m still obsessed.

I need to check myself.  There are two new raspberry plants sitting out on the driveway, fresh off the clearance rack and waiting to start a raspberry patch goodness know where, but apparently in my garden even though I have no idea.  All I know is I love raspberries just like I love phlox and caladiums and daffodils and hydrangeas and all the other stuff which always comes before there’s a plan.  Maybe plans are overrated, and that’s just what I’m telling myself… mostly as an excuse since I also have a vague suspicion there are new snowdrops waiting to be planted.  It’s been months since snowdrops have been mentioned here but sadly that obsession is still burning bright and you only have another two or three months before someone starts bringing that up again on a weekly basis.

All in good time.  Hope your week is going well 🙂

 

Catching Up On July

Guess who fell off the wagon last month?

This guy.

This was the year I had planned to inundate the worldwide web with post after post of questionable garden content peppered with somewhat bland comments and marginal quality photos, a complete year of quantity over quality.  It was a mass-media dream that had the potential to gain me at least five new subscribers and boost my stats by as much as a couple hundred views over 2020… and… anyway I’m not on track, and surprisingly it hasn’t made much of a difference in my life.  Surprising.  But I do want a record of this year’s gardening adventures (for better or worse), so let me get back on the ball and start with a flashback to last Wednesday’s (nearly a week and a half ago) return from seven days away at the beach.

garden after vacation

It was steamy hot and wet while we were away, and the garden jumped ahead to a new level of lushness… even if it is a little wooly and lacks color.

A garden abandoned for a week isn’t a big deal, but there were also two smaller trips before that, and quite a bit of other crap earlier in the month (it was honestly not a good time), so things weren’t set up very well to begin with, but it happens, and now looking back I have to say I’ve been shockingly busy for a change and I’m looking forward to showing nicer photos in the next post… but we’re not there yet 😉

silk road lily

‘Silk Road’ was frozen back and missed 2020, but lo and behold she is filling this end of the garden with beauty and fragrance as if last year never happened.  I think we would all like to do the same.

Since I suspect someone might be looking for ‘leaving the garden for a week or so in the summer’ advice, and wants a few tips for their own vacation away, now might be a good time to make this post useful with a list of what one should do before leaving.

cardoon flower

The cardoon is flowering alongside some more fragrant lilies(‘Leslie Woodriff’ in this case).  Just so you know, this picture does not do credit to the way the cardoon flowers glow.  I hope I can get a better photo this week.

Here’s my guidance for prepping the garden before you go away:

  1.  Do everything you were supposed to do in April, May, and June but you just never got to.
  2. Pick every last flower bud off the zucchini a few hours before you leave.
pond scum algae

I noticed a bit of algae before leaving, but it exploded while we were gone and is now even pushing the duckweed out and away.  It sure did clear up the water though!  Regardless I’m raking it out even if it is kind of interesting.  It’s some kind of filamentous algae although less fancy people will call it pond scum.

I’ll admit I only did #2 on that list, but still there were a few other highlights besides returning to pond scum.

mildewed phlox

The phlox which were moved to one of the shadier raised beds are not happy.  Mildew, floppiness, and I had really hoped for better in the “improved” site.  Fortunately the ones left in the old beds look healthier.

The mildew, weeds, and neglected plants didn’t happen in just a week (although it’s nice to have a vacation to blame), fortunately these are the before pictures and I’ve been busy since.  Much has been attended to… although all I did was ignore the mildew and hope for some miraculous rebirth of healthy foliage.  Sometimes it’s a good idea to just look forward to next year.

overgrown flower bed

The phlox are actually doing nicely in here, I just need to uncover them.  Seriously.  It’s really not as bad as it looks.

Phlox and a few other things did not like the heat and endless thunderstorms,  but a few things loved it.  The tropical plants are soaking it up and exploding into leafy lushness!

castor bean plant

This ‘Carmencita’ castor bean plant was just a little thing before we left, now it looms over just about everything.

And my first agapanthus seedling has flowered 🙂

hardy agapanthus

I was shocked to see this three year old agapanthus seedling put up a flower but here it is!  Now hopefully it clumps up and blooms freely every summer.  It spent last winter in the front bed unprotected, and fingers crossed it will continue to be completely hardy.

And I have a flower on my new Crinum!

crinum milk and wine

Crinum x herbertii, the ‘Milk and Wine’ lily could be this year’s most expensive annual (almost as much as a new snowdrop!)… or possibly an exciting new perennial that only needs a little winter protection?  We will find out.

Since this post has been all over anyway, I’d just like to finish with the latest caladium photo so everyone knows they’re still all alive and well.

starting caladiums

One by one I’m getting to see all the surprises my 5 pounds of mixed caladium tubers contains.  This isn’t my first year growing caladiums, but for some reason I’m obsessed with them this year.  

And that’s the after and before post all in one.  I’ll say it again, I’ve been busy and how often do you ever hear that from me, so hopefully I can get a few decent pictures this weekend and share the results.  Have a great weekend!

Some Like it Hot

I have to confess, I find white to be a little boring.  Much of that has to do with all the white vinyl fences and railing and trim which abounds in my part of town, and the competition it provides to any white flower which tries to do its own thing in my yard, but it’s also probably too tasteful for me.  Anyway, my garden is also mostly full sun, and unless it’s the moon shining down, white can become a glare, and any other colors cooled by white into pastels are also lost to the sun.  Hot colors on the other hand, can put up a fight.  Bright reds and golds, yellows and hot pinks, intense purples… these are the colors I love to see when I look out upon a yard baking in the afternoon sun, preferably from the other side of a window… comfortably cooled by air conditioning.

lucifer crocosmia

‘Lucifer’ crocosmia is red.  Very red. A you-can’t-ignore red.  I think I need a few other crocosmias…  

Today it was mostly hot, but it was absolutely humid and sometimes that’s worse.  I cut the grass, was drenched in sweat, but not much else happened and I was fine with leaving it at that.

foundation perennial bed

I finally like the front foundation beds.  The ‘Tiger Eyes’ sumac is probably too chartreuse and too weedy for a respectable foundation planting but blue spruce and blue fescue are definitely suburbia approved.  

Even with the heat and humidity I did try and get the last of the weeding done.  That sounds good but of course I’ve already got to re-visit the weeds in the beds where I first started, and the rains aren’t slowing anything down other than the gardener.

yellow spider daylily

One of the few daylilies I have, a yellow spider daylily who’s name I can’t think of right now.  I think spiders and the more simple singles are my favorites, the ruffly explosions of color with ridges and teeth are more a curiosity to me than anything I need to grow. 

A slow gardener shouldn’t surprise anyone, and this one’s about ready to stop completely, call it a year and just sit back to watch things rather than try and exert any more control.  We’ll see.

rudbeckia verbena bonariensis

I’m always happy to see a few Gloriosa daisies (Rudbeckia hirta) pop up.  The surprise ones always do much better than any I try to plant on purpose, and they always put themselves amongst good companions, Verbena bonariensis and Lychnis coronaria in this case.

Actually with vacation season approaching the sitting back part will be even easier, and that’s usually when all control is lost.

rudbeckia maxima

Pulled weeds on the lawn, not as effective as I’d like sheets on the blueberries, and Rudbeckia maxima three days away from flopping.  For all my talk about weeding and control, this is the reality.  

The local wildlife seems to enjoy the messiness and I’m happy to see that, even if it means more and more baby bunnies eating the coreopsis while I watch.  Actually I was also enjoying watching all the bird activity until I realized it was the blueberries and gooseberries which were entertaining them.  I guess my netting problems are still not even close to being foolproof but no matter, who wants to pick all those delicious berries anyway?

On the down side the birds seem to really enjoy retiring to the bath apres dinner, so the pond is always a mess of splashing and berry vomit and whatever else comes out the other end so it’s not nearly as nice as some of the other amazing garden ponds I’ve seen.  Maybe someday a (clean) mountain creek plus koi pond will grace this garden but right now I’m absolutely thrilled with the dirty little sump which I call the pond, because in spite of the duckweed and murk I have something far better than koi.  I have tadpoles.  Finally.  Since building it I’ve been hoping “The Pond” would bring in a couple frogs or toads and this year in spite of a healthy population of mosquito devouring aquatic water beetles, eggs have survived and now tadpoles are sprouting legs.  I love it and in moments like this I realize what a nerd I am.

garden pond

The pond.  Probably the first part of the garden I check each day.

So I’m way off the ‘hot’ theme but whatever.  Let’s just wander out front again to see some of the amazing cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) which are just days from flowering.  These are much cooler than they are hot and each day I have to touch them just to verify again how solid and spiny they are.  I like them and I bet when they go to seed the goldfinches will also like them… even if these artichoke relatives are a little bigger than their usual thistle meals.

cardoon flower

Cardoons just about to flower, with a conveniently placed ‘Royal Purple’ smokebush (Cotinus) backdrop. 

If the goldfinches like thistle seed then the cyclamen must be making the ants happy.  Cyclamen purpurascens are showing up all around the base of our ant-infested cherry tree and I suspect the ants take the seeds in, nibble off the sugary coating, and then discard the seeds down the sides of the tree.  Works for me, I would have never considered planting them in such a dark, rooty location.

cyclamen purpurascens

Cyclamen purpurascens ringing the base of the weeping cherry.  They’re just starting their summer bloom season and soon a few new leaves should be up as well.

Back to the hot theme.  I’m not sure if I mentioned, but 2021 is the year of the caladium, and a five pound box of tubers from Caladiumbulbs4less (quite the subtle company name) have been potted up and are just loving the semi-tropical weather.  I love them almost as much as the tadpoles, and when the tadpoles sprout their legs and hop off to new frontiers at least I’ll have my caladiums.

starting caladiums

The driveway nursery is full of excitement as the mixed bulbs come up and show their colors.  I spend way too much time examining every new leaf, but someone’s got to.  

In case you’re wondering, five pounds of mixed caladiums is much more than this garden needs, but just about right for what this garden wants.  87 corms would be a pretty good guess of how many caladiums were planted, but I’m sure to actually repeatedly count them would be a little obsessive.  Obsessive would also be ordering mixed bulbs but then potting them all up individually so that later on you can plant all the similar forms together… and then running individual drip lines to all of them.  Amazing how obsessive can easily co-exist with lazy as long as you buy enough drip emitters, but it has to be done since cool weather and drying-out are the biggest dangers to an excellent 2021 caladiumfest.

Alocasia Dark Star

Another heat and humidity lover, Alocasia ‘Dark Star’ is starting to put weight on again after a really lean winter. 

I’m sure you’ll hear way too much about the year of the caladium so I’ll end it here, but I do enjoy seeing them revel in the warmer weather and nearly daily thunderstorms so I could really go on and on if I had to.  In any case it sure beats a drought.

Have a great week, hot or not.

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!