That Wasn’t Smart 8.0

In hindsight this is the time of year when winter interest should take center stage, and the addition of conifers to the winter garden is probably the best way to keep the yard attractive during the bleakest of winter months.  I’ve heard that and have seen it in print as well, and even the most reluctant gardener will throw a few evergreens around the house as the first step in crafting an attractive landscape.   The message is out, and the majority of houses around here have a sensible foundation planting filled with neatly trimmed yews and junipers and whatever else can snuggle up to the house for year round appeal.

foundation border

Our own slightly less neat foundation plantings, with respectable holly, juniper, and chamaecyparis plantings lined up along the foundation. 

Why this gardener would chose December to remove a large juniper from a prominent front-of-the-house location is foolish enough, but to replace it with a small ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Amber Jubilee) is over into the not so smart category.  Reliable evergreen replaced with small clump of deciduous twigs… maybe you can understand that ‘uh-oh’ feeling I had as I stood there holding the saw and staring at a pile of juniper branches.

foundation border

If you look closely you might be able to see the newest addition to this foundation planting.  It’s right there at the center of the gaping hole which was created when the juniper was removed. 

In all honesty I never liked the juniper.  It made me itch and bored me and even though there were a thousand better things which I could be doing I suddenly needed to plant that ninebark at that minute even though I was right in the middle of putting up the Christmas lights.  As long as we’re opening up here, the Christmas lights were turning into a whole other project in themselves.

Christmas porch decoration

A Longwood inspired twig archway with lights.  Lots of lights.  

The reason I had the saw out in the first place was because I needed to take a walk in the woods and cut down and drag back enough birch trees to make a decent arch leading onto the porch.  I’m pretty sure a twig archway was what our holiday decorations have been lacking.

Speaking of things lacking, this blog has been lacking a snowdrop photo for months and since so many of you have been asking how the snowdrops are doing I guess it’s time to jump back into that world.  Here’s a batch of fall bloomers which my friend Paula shared with me a couple years ago.  They’re out on the driveway for this photo but have since moved into the garage in anticipation for the approaching cold… lows for next week show numbers around 10F (-12C) and that’s just not appropriate for such an innocent little flower… or for the box of tulip bulbs which just showed up on the doorstep this afternoon.

fall snowdrops

Fall blooming giant snowdrops (Galanthus elwesii) with a nice green pattern to the inners.  

If pushed I’d have to admit that no one has actually asked about the snowdrops, but I’m sure they were wondering and I didn’t want to rudely ignore that.

Now I’m off to check out something I can’t even ignore for a minute.  Pamela at Pam’s English Garden has put up the post detailing her own recent visit to Longwood Gardens.  I knew she was there within a few days of my own visit and I’ve been looking forward to seeing her own impressions of the decorations.  I hope she doesn’t point out a bunch of cool things which I missed!

That wasn’t smart 6.0, 6.1, 6.2, and 6.3

Well I really racked them up this weekend.  My favorite nursery, Perennial Point, was having a customer appreciation weekend and all plants were on sale for 30% off.  A dead garden will make you weak in the face of temptation and I guess I blinked.

Not smart version 6.0:  The garden was bone dry and I couldn’t even take care of what I had.  Weeds are having a field day, the lawn is dead and other plants are dying left and right.  I just bought home several delicate, nursery-perfect plants which probably haven’t even broken a sweat their whole lives and I’m planning to throw them into this nightmare.

daylily bubblegum pie

Three big ticket items followed me home, ‘Plum Magic’ crape myrtle, hypericum ‘Red Fame’, and daylily ‘Bubblegum Pie’.

Not smart 6.1:  I don’t like daylilies, don’t ask me why I would buy one.  The leaves look horrible in late summer, the old blooms look like soggy tissue messes which need daily cleanup, and the name ‘Bubblegum Pie’ is insanely dumb.  The flower on this one is fat and fleshy and overdone with way too many ruffles.  There’s nothing graceful or elegant in the flower but I’ll plant it near the one daylily which came with the house (and resprouted after I thought I sent it to the compost pile) and the other species daylily which I grew from seed (Hemerocallis atissima, a tall and graceful night bloomer).  We will see how it does.

Hypericum inodorum 'Red Fame

Look at the fruits on Hypericum inodorum ‘Red Fame’!  I’ve seen these used in flower arrangements and never thought it might do well in the garden, so we’ll see if it does.  btw the crystalline glisten on the leaves is something called raindrops, yeah it took me a few minutes to recognize it as well, apparently we used to get a lot of it back in the day.

Not smart 6.2:  I bought a Hypericum ‘Red Fame’ which I think is cool with its juicy looking bright red fruits and according to what I’ve read may tolerate drought just fine, but I also bought a crape myrtle.  Crape myrtle are not hardy here and even at 30% off this one still wasn’t exactly cheap but somewhere deep down inside I seem to think someday a miracle will happen and one will survive.  Maybe fourth time’s the charm….

caladium

Three new caladiums and a new coleus.  Buy one get one free on annuals since no one bothers to buy annuals on the last weekend of July… no one except me apparently.

Not smart 6.3:  I bought more annuals.  Tomorrow is August 1st and the days for annuals are numbered and I should be focusing on limping through the summer and getting ready for fall gardening rather than wishing for another June and July.  Plus I seem to remember telling myself (you wouldn’t remember since Iwas talking solely to myself) that I had too many coleus last year and I should let some meet their maker when frost came.  Now I’m adding more?

caladium pink splash

Caladium ‘Pink Splash’ which I managed to overwinter from tubers purchased last year.  At least that was smart.  Also smart is the healthy, dark-leaved Eucomis (pineapple lily) grown from seed supplied by Nan Ondra.  I’m hoping it will be big enough to bloom next year!

Not smart 6.4:  I already have too many caladiums for a reasonable Pennsylvania garden, but if you hang on for another minute I’ll tell a quick caladium story.  It used to be I could overwinter them with ease and even had some survive for more than 5 years, but then my luck changed.  Dead tubers would greet me each spring and I wasn’t sure what was wrong.  Short story even shorter last winter I tried keeping them completely dry in their pots and in a warmer spot and lo and behold they made it through perfectly.  Logical next step is to take advantage of any good caladium deal which you come across and then be immensely disappointed when they go back to dying next winter…

caladium

White caladiums and a pot of mixed tubers which I found on clearance.  The spotted one is my absolute favorite.

Pristine white caladiums filling a terra cotta planter in the high shade of a southern garden is tasteful.  My mixed, gaudy plantings in reused plastic nursery pots are not.  But I digress, and will leave you with one last glimpse of my new daylily.

daylily bubblegum pie

The disgusting daylily ‘Bubblegum Pie’ with all its offensive frills and flounce.  It really is too much of everything and I’m positive this will be the one and only daylily I ever purchase for this garden.  Since I have it I might as well plant it, and I might as well even spare a few shovelfuls of my precious compost on it.  The pot has three fans already and I can only imagine three or four deliciously overdone stalks next year filled with more of these flowers!

Not that smart 6.5?  A few days ago I ordered some iris through the Historic Iris Preservation Society’s annual fund raiser.  That’s innocent enough, but now that the sale has wound down I noticed a posting on Facebook looking for volunteers to take in leftover rhizomes and grow them on for a year before sending them back for next year’s sale.  I’m wondering where I would put 10 or 20 more iris 🙂

It rained by the way.  An absolutely amazing soaking rain which stretched out for hours and got into many of the driest nooks and crannies of the garden.  I’m quite pleased and know it will be a good week and wish all the best for yours as well.

That wasn’t smart 5.0

I’ve been neglecting my ongoing series regarding the stupid moves which I perpetrate in the garden, and trust me it hasn’t been because of a lack of material.

The blue poppy (Meconopsis species) is a nearly legendary sky blue flower from the heights of the Himalayas, and their amazingly perfect blooms have lured many a gardener (and photographer) into an awkwardly greedy and covetous state.  The blue flowers are also well known for their difficult and fickle nature outside of any region where the thermometer rises above 80F (26.5C) and summers take on a more serious tone.  Here in my Pennsylvania garden the thermometer has been going well over 90F this month, and I don’t know why I didn’t see this coming back in December when I ordered the seeds… or back in February when they were sown… or now when my last seedling is wasting away to nothing.

meconopsis seedling

Go to the light little poppy.  You’ve put up a valiant struggle.

I briefly debated placing a window unit air conditioner into one of the workshop windows and seeing just how long I could drag this out but then finally came to my senses.  I’m sure I can kill other plants just as easily with far less trouble, so until I move North or become insanely rich I think I’ll pass on the next seed offer.  Fortunately this latest stupid move didn’t involve blood and from now on I suppose I’ll keep myself happy enjoying them via Pauline blogging about the ones in her Devon England garden (I believe they’re practically weeds for her) or just enjoying the ones Longwood Gardens forces into bloom each spring.

So a lesson learned is a lesson learned, and on today’s trip to the nursery I picked up something far more sensible.  Under “Growing Conditions” it’s as easy as part sun, plant 24″ apart, so I’m sure my new Australian Tree Fern will be no problem at all.  Later on I’ll just have to figure out what to do with the “reaches 20 feet tall, up to 10 foot long fronds”.

Australian tree fern

Even a 10 year old can see there are too many plants on this deck, he told me last week.

We will see where this goes, but in the meantime have a great week, and may all your decisions be sensible and well thought out 🙂

That wasn’t smart 4.0

Seed starting isn’t the worst thing to do in the winter, but having your May seedlings sprouting in February is definitely not a good idea.  It all started with last year’s massive seed starting failure.  As usual I filled a few dozen pots and set them out in the cold to wait for spring, but the results were far from good, and only a few things sprouted.  I thought it might be the weather, but now I’m leaning more towards a bad batch of soil.  So this year for a bunch of seeds I figured I’d skip the soil and go back to the Deno method (click here to see how that works) of sprouting seeds in plastic bags.  I set up a bunch of seeds which I thought would benefit from a nice bit of cold before sprouting, but also thought it might be a good idea to give them a week or so of warmth first.  You can guess what happened.

deno method seeds sprouting

Just five days later and I have a mess of sprouting seeds to deal with.  After having failed twice already with these Californian thistle seeds it looks like they didn’t need a cold treatment after all!

So now I’m faced with a bunch of seedlings which will somehow have to survive my care under lights for at least 2 more months.  Even with the cool temperatures out in the winter garden slowing down their growth it will still be a long haul. Another not so smart thing was finding a baggie of needle palm seeds which I must have given up on two years ago.  Apparently there was a (now brittle and cracked) outer shell which I didn’t know about and which probably should have been removed prior to sowing.  It will be a true testament to the lives of seeds if these go ahead and sprout now.

needle palm seeds

Seeds of the hardy needle palm. Stored moist for a year, bone dry for another, cracked out of their shells, rubbed along the file and replanted this month. Not likely to lead to success but you never know 🙂

I’m much more optimistic about seeds I received from this year’s HPS seed exchange.  I potted up this happily sprouting red buckeye (aesculus pavia) seed yesterday and will try and find a cool spot for it until things warm up outside.  Also arriving pre-sprouted are two packets filled with Southern Magnolia (m. grandiflora) seeds…. don’t ask about that, I don’t need one borderline hardy southern magnolia let alone two dozen, but I should have plenty of time to think that one over since I’m hoping they’ll be slow growing.

sprouting chestnut seed

Some seed need to be planted immediately, so it helps that the donor of this seed ‘moist packed’ the seeds in damp peat when collected and then sent them in to the exchange. Sure beats receiving a dried out seed that will never sprout (such as my palm seeds became)

The rest of my seed exploits should also be in better shape.  I did go traditional and put out two trays of little pots to suffer through the rest of winter under the deck, and they will hopefully not run into problems this year, but the rest of my perennial seeds went into baggies and are sitting in a box in the fridge.  It all feels pretty promising to me.  Even the ones that had already sprouted in their baggies are coming along nicely after a few days under the growlights.

seedlings under grow lights

Carefully planted into soil the little seedlings greened up and sprouted normally. I’m pretty sure I’m the only person in my end of Pennsylvania who has half-hardy Californian cobweb thistles (cirsium occidentale) growing along indoors under lights. That must mean something, I’m not sure what.

My little primrose continues to make me happy, and I’m sure you’ll also welcome seeing yet another picture! 😉

yellow primula polyanthus under lights

The first yellow primula polyanthus in full bloom. A little sparse, but still perfect….. and the cyclamen aren’t too shabby either!

Never fear, I also have a few onions sprouting so not everything is odd and nearly useless flowers…. but I also have to warn you there are two more primrose divisions on the cool windowsill which are only now starting to put up buds.  If the weather keeps going as cold as it is you might be stuck looking at them all through March!

That wasn’t smart 3.0

Yesterday afternoon my Brent and Becky bulbs arrived….. did I mention I bought quite a few during their end of the season clearance sale?  So knowing the weather report I was out in the dim light and freezing rain getting things into the ground before the snow and cold came.  Bulbs go in quick when you’re wet and freezing, and I did pretty good although there was at least one shout from the house about catching pneumonia or what not…. I beat the snow by at least two hours 🙂first snowfall on deck

That was a close call since the weatherman is predicting more snow tomorrow and lows around 7F (-14C) for next week, and things will surely freeze solid.  Sensible people are finished for the year, unfortunately I have a stubborn streak and a history of stupid ideas put into action.  Brent and Becky was sold out of the 50 snowdrop bulbs I ordered so they were missing from my shipment (such is the risk of a late season order).  Instead of accepting my situation, I somehow ended up at Van Engelen’s website this morning and clicked OK to 200 more snowdrops (plus a couple hyacinth).  Not the smartest move.  Better check the potting soil supply 😉

That wasn’t smart 2.0

They (whoever they may be) say you should have a theme to your blog.  I thought it was gardening, but maybe I overestimated myself.  Maybe a better theme would be stupid things I do while in the garden.
This week’s stupid move was breaking the brand new terra cotta pots when I put them down in the garage.  Crack and $15 dollars goes down the drain.  Total enjoyment at home time: 10 minutes.  Luckily only the bottom (most expensive) pot was broken,  I wonder if I could glue it.  I needed the pot for the last of my deck annuals, but it looks like I’ll have to wait till next year.  This was it for the annual pot budget…..broken terra cotta

That wasn’t smart

Do as I say, not as I do, in this care it applies to wearing garden gloves.  Usually I do a pretty good job of keeping them on, but I was next door moving some stuff for my MIL, there were tools out, some bushes that could use a little pruning, and before I knew it I was applying pressure for two hours in the waiting area of the emergency room.bandaged finger

Seven stitches later I was back home working my way through a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.  Calcium is an important part of any recovery program.

I guess I’ll take it easy for a couple days, but there are things that need planting and the weather is heating up!  Things need to get in the ground while it’s still cool.  Fortunately the kids are jumping right in to help.  My four year old came in and wanted an ice pop opened so I grabbed the scissors to make the cut.  She looked at me, reached for the scissors and said “Daddy wait.  I’ll do it.  I don’t want you cutting yourself again.”

So other than losing the confidence of a preschooler there is the bonus of extra sitting around time.  Yesterday I put together two early bulb orders that I’d been considering but dragging my feet on.  New corydalis and snowdrops should go a long way in easing my pain… and the ice cream didn’t hurt either…. but I’m running out of space on my hand for Dora stickers.