A Mayday Celebration

The last few weeks have me drowning in the color of spring bulbs.  They’re not the fanciest varieties and they’re not laid out into the most exquisite vignettes, but they are bright and to me they’re just about the nicest explosion of spring that I could imagine.

perennial tulips

Perennial Darwin tulips in the vegetable garden.  I keep threatening to evict them in order to make room for tomatoes, but tomatoes can wait and for now this is something you just can’t buy at the grocery. *photo credits to my wife for this one.  The spring color lured her out as well… in spite of allergies!

Every summer I make an attempt to reclaim the vegetable garden and every spring it seems like the bulbs are multiplying faster than I can dig.  The daffodils are carefree, but even the tulips make a go at it, and I think the summer baking in thin, heavy soil is really what they seem to enjoy.  If only the vegetables did as well.

potager garden

The area more commonly known as the “Potager”.  To put minds at rest I’d like to proudly announce that the center bed actually now contains vegetables as well as a few blooms.  The seed potatoes finally went in this week.

Not to paint myself as some greedy, plant hording ogre but here are the tulips which were supposed to end up next door in my brother in law’s yard.  At the time it sounded like an extremely noble gesture, this selfless donation of extremely fat tulips to someone else’s garden… but then I had second thoughts and into my own garden they went.  Looks like my petition for sainthood will still face a few bumps in the road.

darwin mix tulips from home depot

The orange tulips were already here, but the purples, reds and whites were newly planted from a bag of ‘mixed Darwin tulips’.  They’re nice enough, but as it is with these mixed bags from a big box store they’re not Darwin tulips, and they’re nothing like the photo on the bag.  They are colorful though.

Another issue with my sainthood (other than still being on the living side of the divide) was that I actually pulled out a few tulips from this mix which were deemed too ugly to stay in this garden.  This was horribly judgemental on my part, but the tulips were a grossly congested, small white multiflowering thing and even though I would have never thought I’d ever see an ugly tulip, there they were…

narcissus bright angel

The beautifully pristine narcissus ‘Bright Angel’.  The early and midseason daffodils may be over but these are still just perfect!

While the tulips are taking the spotlight there are still plenty of daffodils.  This is the tail end of the season, and the late varieties are really welcome as the others begin to fade.

narcissus irish linen

Narcissus ‘Irish Linen’.  A clean, pure beauty which has stood up well to the wind and changing weather.

For this little slice of Pennsylvania 2017 has been an excellent daffodil season.  Occasional rain, reasonable temperatures and no brutal freezes have reminded me that these bulbs can be overwhelmingly awesome, and I’m almost ashamed to admit I considered entering a few flowers into a daffodil show.  What kind of fanatics do things like this!?  The closest would have been a two hour drive each way and me being a complete novice I just couldn’t rationalize my way into it.  For now maybe I’ll just rejoin the American Daffodil Society and consider a try in 2018… that sounds entirely reasonable.

narcissus winston churchill requiem

The fragrant double ‘Sir Winston Churchill’ on the left with ‘Requiem’  to the right.  Both deserve more recognition than that of a passing rabbit or lone, wandering gardener.

Looks like we will have to wait and see what happens.  Spring is such a busy time and I hate to lose a full Saturday during primetime, but for some reason it’s tempting.  Must be that attraction of spending time with equally crazy plant people, I think that’s what always gets me 🙂

narcissus requiem

‘Requiem’ again.  The Petals have a lemony flush to them which I love, and the small cup looks so perfect.

Daffodil shows or not, one thing I definitely need to still consider is the call for adoptive parents for the many extras which fill the bulb beds.  The beds are packed and I need to get rid of hundreds of bulbs from old favorites to heirlooms to newer varieties.  Please leave a comment if you’re interested in any,  all it takes is the price of postage.  Please.

narcissus mission bells

Narcissus ‘Mission Bells’.  This one deserves a little more room but…

Now I really can’t justify the next flower.  Double tulips are gross wads of colorful tissue paper stuck onto the ends of pipe cleaners and pen ends.  Completely lacking in class and of course just what I need more of.

magic carpet double tulips

A few years ago I planted a ‘Magic Carpet Mix’ of double tulips and I’ve been digging them each summer and moving them around trying to find just the right spot for them.  I’ll let you know if I ever succeed.

I admit I do like tulip monstrosities.  The singles are so plain and elegant it’s nearly unstable of me to want anything else, but I do, and I know next year will see a few more doubles and probably a few of the twisted and distorted parrots as well.  I think the only oddities I don’t like are the fringed tulips.  It’s probably good to draw the line somewhere.

magic carpet double tulips

More ‘Magic Carpet mix” double tulips.  The taller pink and blush flowers make excellent cut flowers btw.

It’s not all bulbs here, there are a few other treasures here as well putting on a nice show.  As this is my 9th spring here I’m starting to wonder where all the billions of seedlings I start each spring go.  I kill thousands, and another million are annuals, but here and there I’m starting to see a few nice perennials joining my garden.  Not as many as you might hope for or expect, but it’s still a fun trip.

valentine bleeding heart from seed

Here’s a bleeding heart from seed.  The seeds were labeled as being from ‘Valentine’ and the plants do have darker stems (which have faded in some warmer weather) and the red flowers of its parent, but as for growing it from seed I can’t give any reason other than you can and I did 🙂

One group of seed-grown plants which is almost a problem now (since I keep starting more and more each spring) are the primroses.  A few of the tougher types such as the polyanthus and veris (cowslips?) types are building up decent clumps, but I’m still pretty sure they just tolerate my garden and aren’t really that thrilled to be here.  I’ll take what I get though and for now they’re worth the extra trouble of watering.

primula seed exchange

Seed grown primula from the American Primrose Society seed exchange.

Although most of the other types (mostly the p. aucalis and wanda types which usually show up at groceries in the spring) die off during the summer, but eventually I hope to find a few others which aren’t too much trouble.  Granted “too much trouble” is a very relative term if it’s something you really, really, really need to grow!

primula seed exchange

More primula from seed, these are probably ‘Sunset shades’, a cowslip (p. veris) strain.

Okay, I’m already distracted by the bulbs again.  As we move around to the front yard the Camassia are blooming in the front foundation bed.  I love them but they flower so quickly, especially if we get a few hot days.  By the way these need to be divided as well, so if anyone wants a couple dozen…

camassia

The foundation bed with blue camassia and (in my opinion) a very nice blend of foliage colors and textures.

More tulips.  The “Incendiary Collection” from Scheepers is flowering in the newest section of the front street border and I’m more than pleased with it.  The mix is a blend of three colors but even for the gardener who planted them it looks like a mix of two unless one looks really hard.  No problem though,  all I notice is the bunches of perfect color and the…. well really, the tulips are the only thing I notice.

incendiary sizzlers tulip mix

A $40 splurge on 80 bulbs.  They weren’t even on sale and if I were the introspective type I’d wonder why I bought them and how I rationalized it after saying earlier “no new tulips this fall”.

Actually I did notice one other thing.  Still tulips, but they’re a much shorter and more subtle version of the group.  It’s tulip “Green River” and they’ve come back nicely for a second year.

tulip green river

Tulip ‘Green River’.  I’d call this an orange sherbert color and although it’s not as showy as the others I still think they’re cool.  Don’t overlook the variegated foliage, it’s another subtle touch on a pretty little tulip.

Spring is moving fast so it’s really best to soak these things in while you can, and believe me I’m trying.  The house has a ton of projects which should be getting done but whatever.  I’ll leave you with a parting glimpse of the front yard tulipomania.

incendiary sizzlers tulip mix

Bright flowers, green grass, and springtime sunshine.

Hope spring is going great for you as well.  Have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday View: The Street Border 04.11.17

Two weeks have passed since the last Tuesday view, so it’s about time we see what the melted snow and furious warm-up have left behind.  If I remember correctly this photo was taken in the late afternoon, shortly after our Tuesday high of 86F (30C) had begun to cool off and allow some relief to plants more accustomed to snow flurries and frost.

spring mixed border

The early daffodils and hyacinths have sprouted and come into bloom in a matter of days.  As recently as three days ago I believe the grass was still brown!

These catapults into warm weather always leave me a little irritated.  I’ve got a ton of cleanup to do but the lawn is still a melting-snow-mess of soggy ground and matted leaves.  Fortunately the front yard dried out enough for me to get around without making too muddy a mess, and I was able to rob the neighborhood leaf dump for some free leaf mulch to top off the border.  The mulch went a long way in covering up all the debris I was too lazy to pick up, and I just managed to get it on in what seemed like the last hours before too many of the spring bulbs had sprouted.

spring mixed border

Yellow ‘Tweety Bird’ daffodils with a bunch of hyacinths which need dividing.  There’s never enough time to get all these things done. 

Besides the daffodils and hyacinths there is also a noticeable increase in the corydalis population.  Last summer I managed to find and dig a few dormant bulbs and immediately replanted them along the street.  They’re all the pink ‘Beth Evans’ but if I get to it this summer I’ll mix in a few of other spare colors from around the yard… assuming I remember to dig them before they disappear completely in May, they go fast.

spring mixed border

I’m aiming for a mix of corydalis, eranthis and snowdrops in this part of the bed.  It’s an area which will become a thicket of butterfly bush (buddleia) by August so the bulbs will be able to rest comfortably in the shadows until next spring.

Nothing is ever perfect though, and last spring’s early warmth, late freeze damage, and then relentless cold rain are coming back to haunt the tulips this year.  ‘Tulip Fire’ (Botrytis tulipae) is a fungal disease related to the gray molds which thrive in damp, cold weather.  It shows as spotted and distorted (or scorched) leaves which will ruin your tulip show.  Wise gardeners will dig up and dispose of the infected plants and avoid replanting tulips for about three years and possibly resort to fungicidal sprays, but the less wise gardener might respond differently.  He might ignore the problem and hope better tulip weather will bring some relief in future seasons.  It’s more of a prayer approach and sometimes this method works out better than you can imagine.  Sometimes it doesn’t, and we’ll keep you posted.

tulip fire fungus

The spotting and distorted sprouts of tulip fire infected tulips.

For now though there are plenty of other distractions to keep one from dwelling on the loss of a few tulip blooms.  Here’s another view of daffodil ‘Tweety Bird’ and the spreading corydalis.  I think it looks very promising.

spring mixed border

Early spring color in the front border.

It looks colorful at least, and it’s a welcome relief after all the snow of just a few weeks ago.  Let’s hope it lasts for a few days at least.

The Tuesday view is a weekly visit to the same spot each week of the growing season.  Cathy of Words and Herbs hosts, and I highly recommend a visit to see what her view looks like and to see what others around the world are enjoying this week.  Have a happy Easter!

Too much money

Some complaints will never get you any sympathy, and to complain that tulips are coming up and blooming in all sorts of odd places probably ranks right up there.  Truth be told it’s not a problem, but when every batch of compost seems to hold a new crop of bulbs, the spring planting in the parterre becomes a little more complicated.

tulips in the vegetable garden

Once again the vegetable garden is a complicated mess of far too many flowers and far too few edibles.

For all my failures in the garden, tulips seem to be one plant which enjoys the poorly draining, heavy soil of the flower beds.  It’s a surprise to see this considering many references suggest a loamy, free draining soil for your best chances at success, and even then it’s a safer bet to treat tulips as one or two year treat.  Fortunately no one has whispered this little secret into the ears of my bulbs and they keep coming back and multiplying.

tulips in the vegetable garden

Having a few tulips in the way is just the excuse I need to skip digging too deeply when it comes to planting the spring vegetables. 

I think I do know the secret though.  The soil may be heavy but it’s also thin and dries out relatively quickly once the heat of summer settles in, and if I do manage to drag my lazy self away from the pool to water it’s never a solid deep watering, it’s always a guilty stand around with a hose until things look less dead kind of triage.  I can’t imagine much of the water ever penetrates deeper than two or three inches and for this the heavy soil works to an advantage.  My tulips like a hot, dry summer similar to their ancestral haunts of Eastern Europe and Central Asia and most years (unfortunately) this is what my garden resembles.

tulips in the vegetable garden

Tulips in the onions, tulips in the lettuce.  I try to replant stray bulbs closer to the edges, but there are always more little bulblets in the compost or stray bulbs dug around in the soil.

When I was more ambitious I used to fill several of the beds each fall and then dig them again in June after the foliage died down.  It was a glorious spring explosion but one bad experience soured me to the whole deal and I ended up tossing hundreds of fat promising bulbs.  They really do need a good drying out over the summer and when mine all molded up and rotted one damp August I put a stop to the project.  But…. I can’t promise it won’t happen again some day 🙂

lettuce self sown seedlings

If all goes well this batch of tulip leaves should put out two or three blooms next year.  Not bad for a weed, and if you notice there are more weeds in the lawn, in this case lettuce seedlings from last years neglected plantings.

So to sum it up my tulips don’t mind a nice heavy fertile soil while they’re growing, the just need to follow it up with a warm dry summer rest.  Planting them in a spot which dries out and doesn’t get summertime irrigation is one option, actually digging them up and storing them in a hot, dry, ventilated area until fall planting is another.  Just be prepared to have more tulips than you know what to do with since most tulips will at least double in number every growing season.

double early tulip

Leftover Easter flowers from two or three years ago.  Let them bloom and grow as long as possible in their pot and then stick them into some out of the way spot, preferably one where they will not be overrun with bearded iris 🙂

Although most people recommend species tulips and Darwin types for the best chance at perennializing,  I don’t notice that much of a difference between the types.  Give them all a try is my advice, but for best results regardless of type you will have to dig and divide the bulbs every three or four years  when they begin to get crowded.

perennial Darwin hybrid tulips

A few stray tulips snuck in with the compost for this new snowdrop bed.  With snowdrop season long gone I’m quite happy to see the tulips flowering in a carpet of my favorite annual weed, purple dead nettle (Lamium purpureum). 

Alas, even plants relatively happy with their homes do not always lead perfect lives.  The tulip season may be a little sparse next year for two reasons, both of which revolve around the weather.  The first is our harsh April freeze which damaged many of the buds and much of the blooms for this year’s show.  That in itself could be tolerable, but in the weeks since the weather has remained damp and cool, and many of the damaged plants are now falling victim to gray mold (Botrytis).  Botrytis is bad news and seems to stick around for a few years even after better weather returns.  I’m wondering how many of the affected plants will be going on to tulip heaven…

tulip virus candy apple

Not to go on and on about this late freeze, but here’s yet another example of damaged foliage and stunted blooms.  To top it off I also suspect virus in the streaked blossoms of what should really be a solid colored flower. 

All is not lost though.   I still love tulips and would grow a few even if they only made it a year or so before falling victim to whatever tragedies visit my garden next.

tulip marit

Tulip ‘Marit’ is a favorite this year.  I don’t remember such round flowers last year but the shape and color this year really won me over. 

In the meantime I will keep my fingers crossed.  I far prefer being spoiled for choice as far as tulips go, and if it means working around a few bulbs here and there that’s fine with me.

tulip pink impression

Tulip ‘pink impression’ in the front border.  They’re huge and pink and although battered by the weather they’re still the crowning glory of the border.

Have a great Sunday and happy mother’s day to the moms!

Plant those bulbs deep

It might be optimism, it might be delusion, it might be weakness, but whatever it is around here there always seems to be an unreasonable amount of bulbs in need of planting….  or there might not be enough.  No one is ever really sure but one thing is definite.  I have never regretted planting too many bulbs, so until I do it’s always better to err on the side of caution and overdo it if possible.

planting spring bulbs

Last weekend I tried to put everything out in order to see exactly what still needs planting.  Tiny bulbs add up, and this innocent collection is well over 1,100 bulbs.

There’s no denying that I’m a bulboholic and I think if you keep up with this blog you already know that fact.  They’re my favorite plant type and for good reason.  Each spring they just explode into growth, bloom like there’s no tomorrow, and then politely fade away, all within a few weeks.  They’re like a spring fling which burns hot and then ends on good terms.

Somehow the bulbs just find me during the summer.  I dig a clump of daffodils to thin them, find a clump of tulips when moving something else, more daffodils come out when I move a bed… before you know it there are bulbs in saucers, bags, and boxes all over the garage, plus a few I pick up at the nursery.  This year an early clearance sale at Van Engelen’s added a few hundred more crocus and muscari.  You can’t overdo crocus and muscari, so obviously those needed to be purchased as well.  Since I don’t enjoy planting bulbs, 850 new crocus corms can border on autumn torture so I try to deal with them as efficiently and quickly as possible.  Here’s a trick I read online which I now love that really moves things along when planting larger numbers of small bulbs.

naturalizing crocus bulbs

Tools of the trade for naturalizing larger numbers of small bulbs in turf.  Gloves, masonry hammer and small bucket stolen from the children.

A masonry hammer seemed necessary at some point for chipping stones and breaking cinderblocks, but it’s now become invaluable for planting small bulbs in the turf of the meadow garden.  Using a shovel is much more work than I’m willing to do and when you’re trying to naturalize bulbs, or make them look like they just seeded out into your lawn on their own, then digging large sections of turf up is just out of the question.  I find the hammer much easier to use.  One swing and it’s into the ground, a pivot back and you have just the hole you need for a tiny bulb or two.

naturalizing crocus and small bulbs

One down, 849 to go.

I start off carefully, trying to get the sprouting end up and the bulb gently eased down into the hole, but after the first 100 they’re getting dropped in and jammed down whichever way works.  A quick swipe with the hammer also closes the hole.  After about an hour and a half (including two 20 minute breaks to unlock my knees and back) all the bulbs were in.  People talk about the joys of gardening but for me I far prefer sitting back after the job’s done and visualizing the results.  I have plenty of other things which need doing in and out of the house, so the less time spent prepping cute little holes and overdoing a job the better.  If one had to sum up my entire bulb planting philosophy I think ‘shallow graves’ might not be the worst term to apply.  For larger tulips and daffodils I’m not above digging out a shovelful or two of dirt, throwing in a handful of bulbs and carelessly kicking the dirt back over them without bothering to prep the soil or put the bulbs right side up again.  In the vegetable garden some bulbs go into trenches so shallow that by the time the compost rots away from above them the tops of the bulbs are actually at the soil surface…. although this has just as much to do with thin soil and poor drainage as it does with a lack of enthusiasm for digging.

shallow tulip bulbs

These tulips might be on the shallow side. The original bulbs have split in two and both appear to be healthy blooming size bulbs, but if left uncovered mice and rabbits will likely find them and have a nibble.

I often read that in order to have bulbs such as tulips last longer and re-bloom reliably they should be planted as deep as possible, sometimes up to a foot deep.  This sounds like a lot of unnecessary work and I’m completely against it.  Perhaps a shallow bulb is more likely to split due to stress such as drought, but for the most part mine come back best when the spring is long and cool, tulips are deadheaded (daffs and hyacinths don’t seem to care), and tulips are either dug up for the summer or not watered in a spot which is nice and dry.  Planting depth, as long as it’s at least a couple inches down, doesn’t seem to factor in much at all and unless someone shows me actual research to prove otherwise I’m going to say deep planting is one of those often repeated bits of advice which don’t really do much here or there.

pink impression tulips

I planted these ‘Pink Impression’ tulips a few years ago and finally got around to getting more this fall. The new bulbs are from a good nursery and huge, so I know they’ll add to an even more awesome show next spring!

So we’ll see this spring if my lazy planting methods pay off again.  Good soil prep and proper planting depth are always a great thing, but I prefer to not overthink gardening.  If a squirrel can successfully plant sunflowers and oak trees throughout my flower beds, and the best iris can survive a year under the compost pile, I think I can pop a few bulbs into the ground without a PhD and still get good results.  I’m already looking forward to seeing the ‘bulked up’  meadow plantings next spring.

crocus lawn of dreams

The crocus plantings in the meadow garden began with approximately 500 bulbs,  this fall I’ve more than doubled that number 🙂

Two issues may still stand in my way.  Rabbits have huge appetites once they discover fresh crocus flowers, so I may have to do something about that come springtime.  The second worry is that the mixed crocus were irresistibly cheap when compared to the single color varieties I had been planting in the past.  Hopefully the Technicolor patches look as nice as the solid color patches I have now.  I did try to keep the single colors closer together and the mixed ones more spread out but who knows how this naturalizing theory will work out in the real garden.  If worse comes to worse the bunnies will make quick work of any mistakes.

Have a great weekend and I’d love to hear which bulbs have made the cut for you this year.  One request though,  please don’t rub it in too much that you’ve already completed your planting 🙂

Time’s Up.

I’m always behind in the garden, and for as much as I think I’ve prepped and planned, there’s always someone throwing a monkey wrench into the machine.  Monday was what I hope will be the last frost…. it wasn’t really a damaging frost, just some ice on the car roof as I was leaving, but it reminded me that the early seedling for the vegetable garden are still sitting unplanted on the driveway slowly becoming stunted and rootbound.  I should almost forget about them and go straight to the tomatoes which are also rootbound, but still inside, but there’s always something.  While I labor away digging beds and spreading mulch and again mowing lawns the daffodils have passed and only the late tulips remain.  Here’s tulip “El Nino”, a big flower putting on a bright show!

tulip el nino

Tulip “El Nino”, a tall, late tulip with a huge flower and bright color.

A tulip star for this year was “Beauty of Spring” (an incredibly uninspired name for such a nice flower).  These were an impulse buy last fall, and at first I couldn’t figure out why I bought another yellow/orange tulip, but as the flowers opened and the mellow yellow and orange lasted and lasted I found this to be one of my favorites.

tulip "beauty of Spring"

“Beauty of Spring” tulip. A Darwin hybrid so I’m hoping to get a couple years of blooms out of this one before I have to dig up the bulbs and divide.

My tulip season was bittersweet this year.  Most came up all right, but many were damaged and stunted by a late arctic blast which dropped temperatures down to the low 20’s.  Also I found that I really missed the vegetable garden full of tulips that I had last spring.  Even the non gardener who I share the house with remarked on the lack of tulips this spring.  She asked if they were just late, I confessed to having killed them.  Apparently they really do need good air circulation while curing, or else the entire bin turns into a rancid heap of moldering decay.  Dumping hundreds of tulips on to the compost pile does not “build character”

tulips damaged by late freeze

I never thought cold could damage tulips but I have several batches like this. Stunted, floppy, and damaged blooms make for a much less cheery springtime sight.

But the season wasn’t a complete bust.  I had a few new ones to enjoy and there’s always something interesting to spice things up.  Here’s “Candy Apple Delight” (ugh!  who names these!?)  with a oddball broken colored bloom.

tulip "candy Apple Delight"

‘Broken’ color on a “Candy Apple Delight” tulip. I’ll have to wait and see if it comes up this way next year…. hopefully it’s not the result of a virus such as the tulip virus which caused so many mania inducing colors back in 17th century Holland.

Lately my photos have stunk, so there’s not much worth posting, but once I get past the hard labor of spring and into the enjoying flowers stage, I’ll again have the enthusiasm to bring the camera outdoors!  In the between time a few favorite shrubs are carrying the show while the tulips fade and the iris warm up.

fothergilla blooms

Frothy fothergilla blooms. The rabbits have been dining elsewhere and the fothergilla bush appreciates the break.

Here’s a closer shot of the brushhead blooms of the fothergilla.  It’s such a cool plant but a little hard to find a spot for since it looks best with a darker backdrop.

fothergilla flower

Although it doesn’t bloom for much longer than a week I think it’s still worth it to give a little space to this early bloomer.

The only other decent picture I got was of this old fashioned snowball bush (Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’) just starting to come into flower.  Far from fancy and new, this heirloom shrub has been around since the 16th century and has always been a favorite of mine.  My plants are cuttings grown off the bush at my parent’s house and I expect them to survive any abuse me, the weather, or the kids throw its way.  The blooms are a fresh lime green right now, but as they develop they’ll go pure white and I’ll have to hurry to get a picture before the  kids pluck them all for throwing 🙂

snowball bush green

Hope you’re enjoying your spring (or summer already for the warmer folk!).  I think the season is moving so fast it’s got me down, but I promise to be in a cheerier mood next time…. once a few weeds get pulled and a few summer plants and vegetables get planted!

Adios Spring

It always gives me a sense of sadness when spring rolls into summer.  All the anticipation, the return of growing things, and the new life makes spring my favorite season, but it goes too fast.  One after another things rush into bloom, have their day in the sun (or freezing drizzle) and then are gone for another 11 months.  It’s definitely a “gather ye rosebuds while ye may” season and it comes and goes in a rush as we hurry to get everything done before the heat and humidity settle in…..

When the first rose opens I call it summer and I face the fact that not all the projects are going to happen like they were supposed to.  So time to regroup, sit back, and get into porch and pool mode.  A couple 90 degree days push it along and before you know it spring is a memory and you’re into the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.

Clematis “multiblue” is carrying over from spring.  I bought it as something else and got this overfluffed flower.  Not something I would pick for myself but its become a favorite.  A “didn’t happen” project from spring was moving it out of the veggie garden and getting a real structure for it to grow on instead of bush trimmings…..clematis multiblue

Clematis “Ruutel”  is also struggling along in a less than deserving position.  I have trouble finding spots for clematis,  I think I prefer them growing up small shrubs but never manage to get a good pairing.clematis ruutel

A new favorite for this time of year is “Ray’s Golden Campion”.  It flowers during my spring lull and does a good job covering dying spring bulb foliage.  I have some seed left and will be starting a few more this summer, they were a gift from Nan Ondra at Hayefield and I couldn’t be happier with the color of bloom and yellow leaves…. it’s another plant that could use better companions though.ray's golden campion

I think this is peony “Do Tell”.  It’s blooming happily in the middle of the vegetable garden.  The reason I’m not sure of its identity is because out of a bag of three this is the only one matching the description.  Now I’ve never seen an ugly peony (yet) so it’s not the worst thing to have happen, but I guess it falls under the ‘get what you pay for’ heading…. they were clearance Van Engelen and the other one (the third hasn’t bloomed yet) is a big fat fragrant double pink so it’s win-win so far.peony do tell

Just about all my plantings are on the redo list.  Sometimes it’s not entirely my fault, but I guess it depends on how you assign blame.  By definition I never really “planted” any of these iris, they’re the result of using not-quite-ready compost as a top dressing before putting down shredded wood mulch.  It speaks of the hardiness of bearded iris that the rhizomes could survive a couple of months in the rotting compost pile and then still come back to life but I guess it also speaks of my laziness.  I never actually prepped the soil in this bed, just planted the stewartia and hostas right into the turf, covered the in between grass areas with a couple of layers of newspaper to smother it, covered the paper with compost and then topped off with mulch.  No one seems to mind and maybe when I plant better things here I’ll do soil prep.yellow bearded iris

I did do soil prep for the tulips but in the vegetable beds it’s easy.  They’re starting to die down now which means bulb digging and then bean and squash planting.  Even though I did go through the effort of soil prep, I may have done some shallow planting last fall.  I don’t think they’re supposed to be this close to the surface and showing signs of sunburn.  It will be interesting to see if shallow planting effects bulb size since usually deep planting is recommended in order to keep tulips from splitting.  A real problem is that bunnies like to eat the exposed bulbs.  It’s possible this isn’t the first shallow planting of tulips and bunnies may have attacked last year.  But they need their vitamins too.shallow tulip bulbs

 

 

 

Just another day at the salt mines

I can sorta relate to the people looking for low maintenance plants and landscaping.  I for one love being outside, watching things grow, tending plants, dividing, staking, deadheading…. even weeding.  About the only thing I really don’t care for is watering, so when it’s spring and I have a list of projects to work on and halfway through start to think it’s more trouble than it’s worth….. well it might be time to hit the lawnchair with a drink.  In a sick way I sometimes look around at my fellow suburbanites and think their yards look just as good as mine, but then I remember it’s unlikely they have a couple dozen different iris coming along into bloom, and they probably don’t even have any more than one or two snowdrops.  That helps my mood and I go through and finish the day with a smug grin, quite pleased with myself all over again.

The late tulips are still holding out, these (probably “Dordogne”) mixed in with all the others keep the patch colorful even after the rest are over.  Unless Sunday’s high winds beat them silly, they should last another week.late tulips

I think what beats me down is the lawn maintenance.  If you want to talk high maintenance a lawn is right there on top.  Part of that is my fault, I’m stubborn and insist on using a corded electric mower instead of something bigger, stronger, and faster.  It’s not the most manly mower, but from someone who’s always wandering the yard looking at his flowers….. well, the mower doesn’t help.

fothergillaSomething that’s mostly no-maintenance is fothergilla.  It doesn’t need pruning, blooms with these nice white bottlebrush flowers, is presentable all summer, and come fall puts on a nice show of glowing reds, yellows and oranges.  The blooms don’t last long for me, somewhere around two weeks, but that’s plenty.  You miss it when it’s gone, which in my opinion is better than a plant that wears out its welcome.

Round around July the lawn starts wearing out its welcome.  Mowing in the heat stinks and I look forward to the summer sun and drought sucking the green out of its blades.  As long as I mow on the long side it just goes dormant, and the summer vacation from mowing is much welcomed, since mowing clearly cuts into pool time.  But right now I need the flush of green clippings since they’re my number one mulch for the vegetable garden.   I use them and some leftover chopped maple leaves to smother the grass and weeds that are buried in this new bed.new vegetable bedMost of the weeds and grass will die, and hopefully by the time tomato planting weather rolls around (2 more weeks?) I can carefully dig down to soil level, plant the seedlings, top the bed with new clippings, and admire my avoidance of actually digging up this patch of hardpacked gravely “soil”.

Since I don’t have enough better things to do I actually transplanted some of the grass from the new bed into the former bed-turned-new-pathway (lower right of the picture).  I’m a big sod mover.  I hate waiting for grass seed to sprout.  People will disagree, but I like grass paths through the garden.  If you noticed, mine are edged with fancy pink marble sections.  Some people have compared the look to “deep south cemetery”, but it’s the best use I could think of for the stone we pulled off the house front.  Maybe it’s the second best…. we also have a pink marble compost bin.

apple blossomIn the orchard our new “Freedom” apple has even put out a few blossom clusters.  I should of course nip them off so the tree has more energy to establish, but I don’t care.  For all I know the tree could die tomorrow, so I’ll enjoy the blooms today.

vegetable seedlingsSpeaking of dying tomorrow, we have a frost predicted for tonight.  I brought in a few succulents and four or five early summer plant purchases.  The rest of the stuff is on its own.  Planning for low maintenance gardening means not sweating the small stuff like late frosts.  The cold weather veggie seedlings will tough it out (strong sun would damage them more than cool weather).

So we will see where the weather takes us.  I figure if the tulips and iris don’t mind this afternoon’s snow, they shouldn’t mind a slight frost.snow on tulips