Tuesday View: The Front Border 8.15.17

It’s time once again to join up with Cathy at Words and Herbs for her weekly take on the Tuesday view.  I’ve missed a week with traveling but the rains have not, and 2017 continues to be a marvelously well watered and well behaved summer.

front border

The front border continues to fill in and color up as summer progresses.  The sunflowers are now in charge.

It’s hard to believe that just a few months ago I wasn’t sure what exactly would be filling in the new sections of this bed.  People said it would all come together but I had my doubts.  Fortunately it did, and I’m very pleased with the results.

front border

Although they haven’t been in bloom very long there are already enough sunflower seeds to start bringing in the goldfinches.  I love that they find so much to feed on in my garden and their bright yellow feathers and constant chatter are always welcome.

Most of the filling in of the border relies on seeds, cuttings and divisions.  I bring that up now because someone mentioned surprise at how my wife is so good about me spending so much money on the garden.  At the time I just laughed it off, but as I thought a little further on it, it occurred to me that they might think I actually do spend a lot of money.  The short response is that I don’t. Excluding any snowdrops which may or may not have found their way into the border, I probably spent $60 on plants (for this bed) this year.  This includes $20 for my amazingly cool new variegated comfrey, $15 for an impulse-buy-lupine, $6 for a salvia, maybe $5 each for a new mail order butterfly bush and agastache, and I guess $9 for a few six packs of zinnia seedlings… although I bet it was closer to $6…

standing cypress ipomoea

A few unmulched spots of the older bed have sprouted a nice crop of the bright scarlet wands of standing cypress (Ipomopsis rubra).  I would call self-seeding plants such as these ‘free’ volunteers, and the price tag of $0 needs no spousal pre-approval.

The bulk of this border either comes from established perennials which were already in place, or the divisions, cuttings, or seedlings of things I already had on hand.

front border

The depths of the bed interior are now a hopeless mess of colorful annuals mixed with reliable, veteran perennials.  I haven’t even tried to get back there, the only attention it’s received has been a handful of fertilizer I threw in the general direction of the canna.  

Although my border does not do much in supporting the local nursery industry, it does seem to draw in the bugs.

monarch

A healthy, well fed monarch butterfly.  I wonder if I’ll see any fresh new ones this week as my former caterpillars should be about ready to emerge. ($0 for these butterfly bushes -cuttings off mom’s bush, $0 for the rudbeckia -grown from ‘stolen’ seeds) 

I sometimes just can’t believe how many bees, butterflies, and other insects can be found winging their way through this garden.  It makes me sad for my neighbors and their dull seas of lawn.

cannova rose

From the left, $0 for the sea holly which was grown from seed exchange seeds, $0 for the overwintered ‘cannova rose’ canna.  Free verbena bonariensis seedlings which were transplanted in, and free coleus grown from cuttings.

I’m at a loss as to how I can explain the importance of bugs to my less interested neighbors.  I’m thinking about the life happening all around me and they’re debating a bug bomb which could kill off all the pesky mosquitos and gnats from their entire yard.  A dead yard.  What a fun place to be…

purple salvia splendens

For $0 I found a few salvia splendens seedlings sprouting in the tropical bed, potted them up, got them going, and then planted them back out.  I was hoping for purple but the salmon color which was also there last year would have been fine… even though I really wanted the purple 🙂

So it looks like the bugs will keep this area as a ‘safe zone’ for a few more years yet.  I guess I could do better with more and more bug-friendly plantings, but for now this works for me.

front border

My $0 monster cardoon.  Grown from some seed exchange seeds it’s done better than I had hoped.  I can’t even remember the other two seedlings which were planted just behind it.

I’m out of buggy commentary and financially responsible planting advice.  Lets just take a look at the bed’s far end.

front border

My second favorite view.  $0 for Self seeded verbena bonariensis, $0 for coleus cutting, $0 for cannas. 

And one last look at a nearby bed 🙂

caladium

This spring I ripped everything out from around this dogwood.  The hostas went to a good home but nothing else other than mulch came back in to replace them… until now.  My caladiums finally have a summer home!

Enjoy the week and as usual thanks go out to Cathy for hosting each Tuesday!

Because I Can

I admire blogs which are helpful, inspiring or just plain a joy to look at, but I think mine has a different ‘mission statement’ or raison d’être.  It’s all about me, and trust me sometimes I feel like I’m all over the place so it’s not always a pretty picture.  With the gardening season well on its way to the halfway point  I sometimes step back and ask myself what the heck got into my head when I started this or that “project”.  Thankfully the thought usually flickers away almost as quickly as it came, but someone (Chloris actually, though I doubt she remembers) said the reason I do it is because I can.  It all came together with that and although I still can’t make sense out of half of it, at least I now have a legitimate answer… and of course I’m going to run with it.

All these deep thoughts came out a little more during the recent garden tour which took place here.  Don’t get me wrong, it all went well and everyone was wonderful about it and I loved that someone other than myself was excited to see the garden, but I did find myself explaining (or even making excuses) a lot.   What I probably could have done was just answer with “because I can”.  The reason I’m a compulsive plant multiplier and divider is…. well… because I can 😉

propagating perennials

A bit of root came off my newest treasure, the variegated comfrey ‘Axminster Gold’, and within a few weeks I have a new plant.  Come to think of it I must have stuck a twig of my ‘Golden Sunshine’ willow into the ground here as well since I also see a bit of it now growing to the right of the comfrey.

I’m always pinching cuttings, scattering seed, or spading out little divisions of the plants which you can never have too many of.  Just last week I realized the coleus pots on the deck were getting a little too big for early August and gave them all a trim.  Suddenly there’s a bucket full of cuttings…

coleus cuttings

I’ve got dozens of coleus planted throughout the garden this year but almost all came from just four bushy plants I picked up this spring.  I looked for well branched plants, took as many cuttings as I could, and voila!  A couple flats of free coleus to plant around the garden.

I didn’t even bother to root the latest batch of coleus cuttings, they were just stuck right into the soil wherever things looked a little sparse.  No special prep, just maybe remove a leaf or two at the base and stick them in.  Watering would be helpful, but you’d be surprised how long these can survive rootless, even in the hot sun for days.

Multiplying your annuals is easy enough but how about something like a hardy cyclamen?  I often get self sown seedlings but this year there seemed to be even more of the curiously coiled seed pods than usual.  I’ll have to collect them of course and plant them out, even though I already have a good number.  And the reason for this?  #becauseIcan

cyclamen seeds

Cyclamen hederifolium seed pods bursting as they ripen.  Looks like I’ll need to prep a new seed bed for a couple thousand more cyclamen seedlings.  Oh well, it’s #becauseIcan

Maybe I can convince myself to give a few of the seeds away but lets talk about snowdrops (once again) for just one minute.

galanthus bulbs

The bulbs I ordered online through Cornovium arrived, plus (quite a few) traded bulbs.  How many different snowdrops does one person need, surely not dozens, so why do it? #becauseIcan

I have seedling magnolias and seedling camellias.  Neither of them are likely to be hardy over the years, so why grow them? #becauseIcan

limelight hydrangea cutting

I have a beautiful ‘Limelight’ hydrangea growing out front, but now three cuttings have appeared in the vegetable garden.  They’ve done very well this year with huge panicles of flowers over a foot across, but I don’t need them and have no clue as to where they’ll go.  Why start them in the first place? #becauseIcan 

To further prove that I just don’t learn I took a few more hydrangea cuttings this weekend.  Looks like I just want to be prepared in case everything else gets ripped up and I decide to plant masses of hydrangeas all over.  For the record it’s very easy to do, now’s an excellent time to do it, and it’s the perfect accompaniment to a few cold beverages on a Sunday afternoon.  As a brief effort to keep this blog somewhat useful and mildly educational here’s how I do it.

shrub cuttings

About a six inch ‘Goldilocks’ shoot (i.e. not too young not too mature), scrape a little bark off the bottom inch, dip in rooting powder, make a hole in a pot of sand, place cutting into hole, water.  

I don’t think anyone came here today to make softwood shrub and tree cuttings, but if you do try it,  make sure the sand is what you’d call a ‘sharp’ sand.  It feels coarse, is freely draining, and usually easy to find as bagged playground sand (NOT masonry sand which is too fine).

softwood cuttings

Butterfly bushes, hydrangeas, arborvitae… all of them are easy to root shrubs and all of them unnecessary.  I don’t bother covering them, but you could.  I don’t water them everyday but you could (mine will be lucky to get rained on).  They do need to be in a fully shaded spot though, no avoiding that.

So while I ponder the locations for another fifty or eighty new shrubs (#becauseIcan), have a look at some other equally cute little babies.

monarch eggs

Ok, Monarch butterfly eggs are not cute, but they will be!  I saw the mother lingering around the milkweed and lo and behold I was able to lift a few eggs and bring them in onto the windowsill.

I’d love to bring my little babies into the house, but the boss said I can’t, and when I asked why not she said becauseIcan’t, and we will wisely drop the argument, take the eggs, and return to the garage.

caterpillar enclosure

A few old screens, some wood cut up for ends, random leftover screws to hold it together and just like that, a butterfly (well actually caterpillar) enclosure.  Someone made a comment to the effect of ‘did you seriously stain and varnish the wood for your bugs?’ and I responded with ‘yes, yes I did.’ (while I whispered #becauseIcan)

In the meantime the eggs have hatched, the caterpillars grown, and I’ve now placed them outside to find their own spot to hang their chrysalis.  With any luck there will be fresh new monarchs floating around the garden in another few days.

monarch caterpillar

Gardeners are always complaining about one thing or another eating their plants, and here I am encouraging it.  You of course guessed it… #becauseIcan

I’m afraid it may already be too late for me to quit while I’m ahead but here’s one last adventure.  Somehow I’ve accumulated quite a few caladiums, and somehow I’ve been able to overwinter them, and somehow I’ve grown attached to them.  I didn’t see this coming at all, but that doesn’t seem to matter.  This spring (well actually early summer since apparently I was too busy doing other equally pointless things), I potted up all the roots individually because I didn’t want them mixed up anymore.

caladium

A couple years worth of clearance rack purchases and random odds and ends picked up here and there.  I think they’re awesome even if they might not be the most tasteful plants.  

This weekend I sorted them out and potted them all up again into bigger containers with each container holding just one leaf type.  The OCD amongst us will also see that rather than searching out all orange pots like last time, this time I went with all the leftover black nursery pots which litter the back of my garage… mostly because that’s all I have left.  It seems so much more controlled and I was so pleased with myself that I went immediately to my favorite local nursery to look for more.  Perennial Point came through and I decided I was worth not one but two new leaf types.  It even got better when at checkout I was told that annuals were on sale, buy one get one, and suddenly I was paying $7.50 for the pair instead of the $15 full price… or not.  I of course was already set on buying two, so did the most reasonable thing and went back to select the other two I wanted as my ‘get ones’.

caladium

Why buy even more caladiums after saying I ”have too many’ in April? #becauseIcan!

And that brings me to where we’re at.  I should really take up some less compulsive hobby like marathon running or fantasy football, but I’m stuck with this.  Fortunately the kids are still young and don’t think anything’s wrong and my wife has a remarkably high tolerance for me.  She was even out in the yard this weekend and asked what something was.  I think it’s so cute when she pretends to be interested 😉

So have a great week and if anyone out there understands hashtags let me know.  A friend uses them all the time and I just thought it might be time to step up my game. #youknowit #becauseIcan

Christmas in August

Normal people don’t think about snowdrops in August.  They think about tomatoes and zinnias, maybe a daylily or two, and that’s fine.  They probably also meet friends in the evening and then hit the pool or barbecue.    I’m thinking about snowdrops and I’m a little short on the normal.  There probably wasn’t much of a grey area when considering how wide the gap is between my obsessions and normal, but the fact that there are others much further out there doesn’t make my snowdrop obsession seem any less unhealthy.  The English refer to the love of snowdrops (Galanthus species) as galanthomania, and that has a cute ring to it, but when I think about the snowdrops which rise up in the spring I’m afraid galanthaholic might be a better term.

galanthus primrose warburg

One of the yellow snowdrops, galanthus ‘Primrose Warburg’ doing well here in Pennsylvania.

You may be wondering why I’m bothering you with all this right now, and the reason for that lies in a brand new snowdrop source.  Dr. John Lonsdale of Edgewood Gardens has finally cracked open the greenhouse door and put a few of his goodies up for online sales.  Not to sound smug, but I already bought a couple of John’s drops this spring at the galanthus gala hosted by David Culp, and had the chance to visit John’s greenhouse this spring and admire his horde, but to have another unexpected opportunity to add another drop or two this year was more than I could resist.  I ordered of course.

 

galanthus homersfield

Galanthus ‘Homersfield’ in the greenhouse of Dr. Lonsdale this spring.  It’s one he offered at the galanthus gala and it’s one which came home with me 🙂

Be prepared.  If you don’t know what the big deal about little white winter flowers is I don’t think there’s enough room or attention span here to get into it.  People like them, and some people are crazy about them.  Crazy enough to think that $20 or $40 dollars for a single bulb isn’t unreasonable.  It is of course, but in a moment of madness I may admit I’ve spent that and possibly bought more than one.  The English, who before their Brexit vote had seemed awfully reasonable, have been known to go off the deep end with snowdrop prices and I believe the eBay record for one (single) bulb currently stands at ~$2,100 US.

galanthus Mrs Macnamara

I just ordered Galanthus ‘Mrs Macnamara’, based on this February photo at Edgewood Gardens.  It may be too early a bloomer for this far north but nothing ventured…

Still with me?  The reason I’m posting now is I just received word my order is set and on its way, and I’m no longer worried other addicts will edge me out and I’ll be left with a ‘sold out’ sign.  It may sound extreme, but typically that’s the case.  With only three or four sources in the United States and strict import restrictions it’s a seller’s market and some varieties have been known to sell out within minutes of a list going live.

galanthus plicatus trymlet

Galanthus ‘Trymlet’ at Hitch Lyman’s Temple Gardens.  It’s a new look in snowdrops out of the ‘Trym’ and ‘Trumps’ family.

So if you’re curious or serious send Dr. Lonsdale an email at info@edgewoodgardens.net for a copy of his updated list.  It might be a little overwhelming for a newcomer but it’s a fun read and who knows what will come out of it.  Maybe you’ll be tempted… another person joining the competition might cut me out of a drop here and there but I could really use some company at the next local galanthaholics anonymous meeting.  Right now it’s just me.

galanthus magnet

Galanthus ‘Magnet’ in my own garden.  This clump was just one bulb a few years ago.

Not that you asked, but if I were looking at the list and just starting a collection of February joy in the garden (aka snowdrops), I’d consider a couple of these more reasonably priced and distinctive choices.  For a big white single, you need either ‘Bertram Anderson’ or ‘Bill Bishop’, ‘Magnet’ is a reliable standard, ‘Modern Art’ has a unique look which many appreciate, you need a yellow and choosing between ‘Primrose Warburg’, ‘Spindlestone Surprise’, ‘Madeline’ or ‘Wendy’s Gold’ will be your own business, ‘Wasp’ is cool, ‘Lady Elphinstone’ is a decent double which may bloom yellow if the mood strikes, you need ‘Viridapice’ for it’s green tipped petals,  and ‘Trumps’ or any of his cousins will make a nice contrast.  That’s eight drops.  Entirely sane and if you order four this year that’s a great start.  Just remember to stick with ones which look distinct, leave the “subtle markings” to the crazy people.

galanthus e a bowles

Galanthus ‘EA Bowles’.  Listed at $125, I’d say that’s probably the best price you’ll find for this drop in the states.  Once before I saw it for $200 but it was sold out then and it’s likely sold out now so don’t get your hopes up.  

Just keep in mind Dr. Lonsdale still has a day job, and although working at Longwood Gardens may seem like a dream to many it’s got its own responsibilities and could keep him from getting right back to you.  My advice would be as long as you’re emailing John for a list you might as well cover your other snowdrop bases and email Carolyn at Carolyn’s Shade Garden to get on her always tempting list of (usually) December offerings, and of course now is also a perfect time to request The iconic (not to be found online) Temple Gardens snowdrop catalogue from Hitch Lyman.  Send $4 to: Temple Nursery (H Lyman) Box 591 Trumansburg, NY 14886 and you’ll be in for a treat this winter when the catalogue shows up.  Until then enjoy!

Come Visit

You may have heard that I mulched the garden.  It was brutal mid-summer work and would have been much better suited for more civilized spring or fall temperatures, but it’s done.  The schedule said now or never so I reluctantly chose now, and with the job done I’m way more pleased with myself than I should be.  With that in mind I’m taking a cue from bloggers such as Kathy at Cold Climate Gardening and Christina at Creating My Own Garden of the Hesperides and doing a walk-through post to finally give an accurate view of the garden.  I hope it doesn’t take away any of the mystery which sticking to closeups has provided, since in my opinion the “big picture” can tend to sum things up more than it should, so lets hope your reaction isn’t “oh, I thought it was bigger”…

front of house

Welcome.  Look at that mulch… ok, enough of that… the other first thing you’re likely to notice is the thicket of a garden out front.  It’s colorful but I don’t know if it does much for the house’s curb appeal.

Before getting too into the tour, I feel like there’s always something distracting going on at our house.  Tools, buckets, hoses, construction debris, and unfinished projects may appear at any point so consider this your fair warning.

garage cleanup

The garage cleanup is wrapping up this weekend.  Much of it just moved around but the new paint and big boy steps towards neatness are gradually making this into a space which doesn’t scare visitors or embarrass homeowners.

Surprisingly enough there were no run-ins with the law these past few days.  With the garage cleanup underway I was nearly positive there would be a visit from the EPA concerning the destruction on such a massive scale of vast areas of spider habitat.  There were also no emergency room visits.  I thought for sure when I broke that 6 foot bathroom mirror there would be some bad luck involved but so far just the usual.  Let’s get going though.  Here’s the foundation border as you proceed around the house.

foundation bed

During last year’s dry spell I officially gave up on this bed, but recovery has been swift.  Although it’s still a little “wooly” for a foundation planting I do think it’s coming along, even if sunflowers and 9 foot tall mullein don’t exactly go with the spiral-cut arborvitae.

The front street border shows up enough on Tuesdays so here’s just the very end looking over at the neighbors.  I snuck a few white ‘Annabelle’ hydrangea into her mulch beds but the blue ones are all her.  Amazing what ample rain can do for a hydrangea.

front border

At the end of the front yard looking toward the neighbor.  The golden juniper is about where my property ends.

I don’t know when I last showed the south side of the house.  It used to be covered by overgrown yew but two years ago I cut them back to the base and since then they’ve come back fine, but in the meantime I’ve filled up the dry, rooty space in front of them with all the odds and ends of my seed starting experiments.  In case it’s not obvious I call this my rock garden despite the fact there are no rocks and it’s mulched with shredded bark.

side yard

The rock garden along the south side of the house.  I should probably add rocks, that would seem appropriate… then of course I’d need to make it bigger as well 🙂

As we enter the back yard we pass last year’s Tuesday View, the tropical garden.

tropical garden

Warm weather is finally bringing on the tropics.  Unfortunately I’ve again allowed random things to take over, but sunflowers and squash seedling are always fun and they make a nice distraction from the poor drainage and rotted dahlias which should have filled the space…

Rounding the corner the backyard comes into view.  Look at that green grass!

backyard view

Potager (aka vegetable garden) around to the left, meadow behind the swings, deck and house to the right.

A quick glance to the right at the new lawn which replaced my most hated failure of a flower bed.  I’m so much happier with this area now, even though the world really doesn’t need more lawn to mow.

new lawn

The plan called for finishing off the deck in May, but the planner got distracted by the garden and ended up ripping everything out of here and planting grass instead.  This area has no name but please don’t let all the rocks confuse you into referring to this bed as the rock garden.

Here’s a closer look at the ‘potager’.

boxwood hedge

Whoops.  Wrong year.  I was wondering why several phlox ended up not returning this spring until I remembered how the garden looked last summer.

Here’s the view almost exactly a year later.

potager

Don’t judge my love for little hedges, it’s the only thing keeping this area neat, and I actually sort of enjoy trimming them.

The potager is officially the part of the garden which requires the most work and unfortunately I don’t provide it.  Chaos develops… well I guess chaos never “develops” it just degenerates… but something happens, and the flowers generally do their own thing and if we’re lucky a vegetable finds its way out every now and then.

potager

I have no problem supporting my local farmer after seeing how much work it takes to bring a broccoli from seed to soup.  Two things of note though are the marigolds (I needed lots of marigolds this year) and yellowing potato tops near the front mean something edible finally cometh.

I promise to limit my comments on the precious phlox.  They’re a favorite even though several clumps went to phlox heaven last summer.

phlox paniculata seedlings

Who says phlox seedlings are bad?  I got lucky and there are several nice ones here to replace the casualties.  ‘Cabot Pink’ is front and center and a sprig of ‘Salmon Beauty’ is off to the right, but the rest are volunteers which (should) be moved to new locations this fall.

A few more phlox as we move on over to the meadow garden.

phlox paniculata seedlings

Some more phlox and seedlings.  Athough the colors are more average I can tell the pink in the center is a ‘Blushing Shortwood’ seedling since it shares the same rounded flowers and slightly reflexed petals.

The meadow garden is beginning to look a little unkempt as the grasses continue to grow rather than politely drying up in the summer heat.  For now I’m hoping the golden rudbeckia flowers are enough of a distraction for minds which crave neatness all over.

meadow garden

I’m in the process of editing out the aspen suckers which are coming up throughout the meadow.  An aspen grove is the last thing my garden needs, but once I get distracted with these new ideas…

Moving past the swings and looking back, the neat hedge really does a lot to tame the messiness.  In complete disregard for plant health and proper timing I finished off the new swingset bed with a section of hedge transplanted from the back of the potager.  Just to be clear, sweltering 90F days in July are not recommended for transplanting boxwood, but I guess we’ll score one more for stupid ignorance.

potager

This is so neat and trim it’s almost sickening.

Although it’s nice to have a spare boxwood hedge growing around, this one only covered about half the section.  As luck would have it though, there was also a tray of rooted cuttings to fall back on.  To be clear on this as well, it’s generally not a good idea to root cuttings you don’t need and then throw them under the deck for at least five years while you wait for something to happen… and that ‘something’ also happens on a 90F sweltering July day… but as usual we just carry on and ignore what should have been.

boxwood cuttings

Fortunately boxwood is pretty hardy stuff and survived all this abuse with only minimal damage, and you can at least say the cuttings are very well rooted… which wasn’t much of a plus as I ripped apart the nursery tray trying to get them out.

Lets wrap things up though.  I feel this year there’s been a near heroic effort to keep weeds at bay at this end of the yard, especially since I just can’t figure out what to plant here. The soil gets too soggy in the rain to grow iris well, delicate flowers are destroyed during kickball games, and overly lush plants are often bushwhacked when looking for lost tennis balls.

hydrangea Annabelle

From a distance, with a neat edge on the bed, at just the right angle… many of this bed’s flaws become easier to ignore.

Lets also ignore the beds around the back porch.  They still need some ‘vision’ but for now as long as the most rampant weeds are kept at bay and the Virginia creeper is regularly beat back off the porch it’s a generally non-offensive area.

virginia creeper porch

Still a work in progress going around to the north side of the house.

We end our tour by coming around the garage and passing the ‘pot ghetto’ where all the least fortunate plants-in-waiting bide their time until the gardener makes up his mind on a location.  The gardener is not sure what the holdup is since all the other perfectly placed plantings really haven’t stood the test of time, but he likes to think someday inspiration will strike.  Studies show that inspiration usually strikes the day before a two week road trip, but until that happens the plants wait.

pot ghetto

Shameful.  

So that brings us back around to the front of the garage again.  It doesn’t take a genius to realize that nothing has changed in terms of garage cleanup since we started, but it being a day of rest I think that can be overlooked into tomorrow.  For now I want to thank you for coming along and feel free to stop by if you’re in the area.  Just be ready.  If you think this post went on for way too long imagine what the real on-site experience is like!

Have a great week.

Tuesday View: The Front Border 7.18.17

A Tuesday greeting from humid and damp Pennsylvania.  I love it.  The garden has never been so lush and vibrant, and until the mold and fungus kick in I’ll enjoy every minute of it, even the downpours.  Here’s the view this Tuesday.

front border

The pink coneflowers and lavender perovskia are really kicking in now.  

In all honesty this is actually a Monday afternoon view since the lawn was freshly cut that afternoon and strong storms were on the way, but close enough, right?

front border

The view from the street.  I started out trying to keep it shorter and neater here but the perovskia and coneflowers seeded in and I’m pretty sure nothing I could think up would look better.    

This is the time of year when this border really hits its stride.  For the next few weeks it should be just full of color… maybe too much color, but if you think back to our bleak months of winter I think you’ll be able to ignore much in the way of poor design and less than perfect color combinations!

front border

A closeup of the middle.  I see plenty, but the yellow of my absolutely favorite new plant ‘Axeminster Gold’ Comfrey is all I want to talk about.

The variegated comfrey has been something I NEEDED for a few years and finally got a hold of this spring.  It’s everything I like in a plant, big, bright, and variegated, and although it will likely scorch in this normally dry, full sun spot any other year, this season it’s doing just great.  If you need any other reason to grow this plant check out Nancy Ondra’s Hayefield blog for one of her posts on this plant.  I make no secret out of the fact it was her photos which ignited my plant lust for this goodie, and honestly it’s been at least a year since I last plugged her awesome blog or books or just plain good person-ness so I think it’s about time I mention her again.

agastache golden jubilee

What?  More yellow?  You bet!  The tidy little grass is miscanthus ‘Gold Bar’.. which (after three years) is much shorter than its predicted 4-5 foot height, and some Agastache ‘Golden Jubilee’ which comes nice and true from seed, as these have. 

I’ll finish up with the far end of the border which is looking much nicer this year than normal.  Part of that has been the rain, but the other factor is I’ve been making a point out of starting at this end and working my way over to the mailbox rather than the other way around.  With my attention span it really makes a difference which end you start from 🙂

front border

I don’t think anyone will be copying this mess, the only colors missing are a true red and blue,  but it sure is “interesting”.  Please take note first of the amazingly neat mulch and second of the hydrangea peeking out from the center.  It’s a clearance ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ from last autumn, and although it starts white I’m hoping it develops a nice strawberry blush soon after.  We will see.

So that’s where we’re at for this Tuesday View.  If you’d like, give Cathy at Words and Herbs a visit to see how everyone else is doing this week, it’s a great way to keep tabs as the season changes, and even better if you join in with your own view… plus you can’t go wrong on any visit to Cathy’s!

Have a great week, and wish me luck.  I started tidying up a few shelves in the garage on Friday and the weekend turned into a full blown garage cleaning, rearranging, repairing, and repaint-a-thon.  I’m not even halfway done.  It was needed.

 

 

Deck Season

I’m about done with this gardening thing, it’s just so much work!

deck container planters

The deck awaits.  Cool drinks, evening sunsets, it all sounds so much better than slaving away in the garden.

We have yet to hit our traditional summertime combo of brutally high temperatures and endless rainless weeks, and for once it seems our climate has decided to make it easy on the garden and gardener.  The garden has been enjoying excellent growing weather and perfect transplanting conditions, and I think I’ve done more this year than ever to shape up the yard.  The deck has been no exception.  Overwintered tropicals came out of their garage storage earlier than ever and containers were put together way before the usual Memorial Day rush.  I like the way it came out this year (which was not the case last summer).

deck container planters

My biggest splurge this year, a blue sky vine (Thunbergia grandiflora) which I snapped up the minute I saw it.  I was hoping it would take over this whole corner of the deck but for now it’s more intent on sending out more and more of its beautiful flowers.  At least the self-sown petunias on the left make a nice color compliment.

In my opinion the whole point of annuals is you can try something completely different each year, enjoy an entire season of noncommittal color, and then count on winter to completely clean the slate for next season.  For the most part I started with a clean slate, but this year I tried to bring in a few new things rather than just sit in the rut I felt like I’d been settling in to.

deck container planters

Calibrachoas will always earn a spot in the deck containers because of their unending bloom.  As long as the tobacco budworms hold off on their late season attack and I get a little fertilizer on them, they’ll keep going like this for weeks!

My ‘ outside the box’ move didn’t last much longer than putting down the traditional purple fountain grasses and substituting with a couple new coleus.  Lots more foliage this year rather than flowers, but for the most part, since I overwinter so many plants, I’m bound to always be stuck in at least some part of the box.

deck container planters

If there was a color theme this year it was orange and purple… sort of… I’m never much good at sticking to a theme, plus I’m always far too easy on the self-sown annuals which show up, such as the pink petunias and red snapdragons in the back.

Cannas and coleus are back this year and doing great.  The coleus were all new purchases made to replace those I was too lazy to bring in last fall.  Lesson learned with that but now I’ll have to make all new decisions on which ones to take in when frost threatens.  Experience shows it will be all of them 🙂

deck container planters

The far corner of the deck.  The cannas are just starting, coleus are already too big, the Virginia creeper is creeping over from the other wall, and who would have thought I’d like white salvia?

Since May the plan has been to re-do some of the unfinished ends of the deck.  You know how the goes.  As of July 11th there’s been no action, which isn’t world ending, but it does mean I haven’t yet hooked up the drip lines which should go to each planted container.  The regular rains have been my savior but as things grow that won’t last.  I need to get things going!

deck container planters

A little bit of a mess here but the succulents and cacti are enjoying the regular rain.  Usually they get nothing but disrespect from me and are lucky to get a haphazard splash from the hose once a month… I wonder if I need a new cactus… I’ve been good all spring 🙂

By all estimates I have about another week left in me before I throw in the towel on whatever projects didn’t get done this year.  All work and no play is making me an extremely dull gardener and summer is too short for dullness.

Gotta go, weeds await!

Garden Touring with the Back Mountain Bloomers

I love a good garden tour, and I’m nosy as well, so for the life of me I can’t figure out why it’s taken me so long to finally take advantage of the Back Mountain Bloomers bi-annual garden tour.  The Back Mountain Bloomers are a local gardening group and since 2003 they’ve been raising money for a “Rails to Trails” program with the proceeds from their tour.  There are displays, demonstrations, and most importantly open gardens!

back mountain bloomers garden tour

I can’t imagine how much work goes into getting a garden ready for a tour.  This one was immaculate and perfect, and it sounded like months of work went into getting the hardscape and plantings ready for the day.  I believe nearly all the work was done by the homeowners, which was even more impressive when you consider all the stonework in the backyard.

The gardens ranged from small lots to large, intimate gardens to professionally landscaped, and even a small farm.  I think it’s great such a range of gardeners opened their yards for a good cause.

back mountain bloomers garden tour

A yard for entertaining.  There’s sun and shade seating, lawn for activities, a pool to the left and a hot tub to the right.  I can easily picture a late night bonfire with kids and grandkids all over the place.

The tour was run like clockwork, with volunteers welcoming you at each home, giving a little background to each garden, pointing out the highlights, suggesting a route through the yard, and answering questions at the demonstration or information stands.  We didn’t expect to take up the whole day but between it all (and I admit we were kind of dawdlers) we just barely finished up the seventh garden at the 4:00 cutoff.

back mountain bloomers garden tour

A spacious yard with a house that opens up onto a patio, which blends right into the landscape.  The natural exposed bedrock was left as is and I think it makes a fantastic statement.

There were crowds at spots and at a few of the gardens the parking took a little patience, but that’s to be expected when 400 or so of your neighbors stop by for a look around the yard.

back mountain bloomers garden tour

I do like a nice stone ledge.

Of course there’s inspiration as well.  Gardens which consider space and repetition and enclosure make for wonderful touring and offer up ideas you can take with you,  but I’ll leave that to the more disciplined gardeners.  I myself would never be able to show such restraint in color or planting… mine is a collector mentality 🙂

back mountain bloomers garden tour

A colorful way to make a small slope interesting and relatively low maintenance.  I’m also a fan of the gravel, even though most people seem to want to go formal with concrete or stone.

Finished perfection is great but I prefer a garden with a few messes, with all kinds of things here and there and with projects started and gardens filling in.  The Dyers farm (a name we completely made up) felt like that kind of place.  The owner (or at least the one who gardened) was demonstrating her dyeing technique on the grounds of a small farm, complete with farmhouse, shaded porch, barns, outbuildings, gardens, and even a few paddocks filled with various animals.

back mountain bloomers garden tour

Natural wools in the various stages of processing, spinning, and dyeing.  The technique was being demonstrated and there was even a dye garden filled with the plants used to get this range of colors.

I can barely keep my lawn mowed, yet here was a whole manicured farmstead with animals to tend and gardens to nurture (and I’m sure protect, this is varmint country!)

back mountain bloomers garden tour

I love a silo.  Not everyone has a silo, plus look at that sky!  The weather was perfect for the tour.

I’ll spare you the many photos I took either of the silo, or the garden with silo as backdrop or silo photo bomb.  Kevin was with me on this trip and he’s always up for a good laugh, so of course the silo became the running joke of our day.

back mountain bloomers garden tour

A perfectly tended ‘mirror garden’ with both ends reflecting the same design and plantings.  Not too shabby, and this was only a part of the grounds and gardens.

The day wound down much faster than we expected, and to round it out we hit the lake.

back mountain bloomers garden tour

For this garden the plants take a back seat to the water view and the relatively new lake cottage.

This was a garden where the designer was in charge.  A swathe of blue hydrangeas backed up the house, and summer color filled the front, but the highlight was the upper deck which offered a panoramic view of the lake.

back mountain bloomers garden tour

Did I mention that in addition to demonstrations, each tour locale had a garden-party-ready table setting on display?  They did, and I’m sure most of them were put to good use at the end of this busy day.

We finished the tour a little off-lake at a quite, shaded wildlife garden filled with vegetables, shrubs, and flowers, and plenty of plants for the birds and bees.

back mountain bloomers garden tour

A no-lawn front yard with tapestry of plants coming together to cover the ground.  Probably not low maintenance, but surely more interesting than the mind-numbing routine of lawn mowing.

Although we were anxious to continue on to a well deserved sit down meal (with appropriate summer beverage of course) I still managed to go on (for likely too long) with the Audubon representative about my own wildlife and invasive plant joys and woes.  It was a nice way to wrap up the day and just like everyone else we spoke with, they seemed more than happy to listen to and answer any questions.

back mountain bloomers garden tour

Straw-bale gardening, where plants are grown directly in the decaying bale… but the real reason for this photo is to shame me into reconsidering how I grow my garlic.  It’s not nearly as healthy looking as these!

The outing was fun, the open gardens were great, but I learned two important things which I wasn’t entirely expecting.  The first is I enjoy balancing rocks.  If you have no idea what that means, give it a quick search or click >here< and it’s self explanatory.  It’s something I picked up at one of the demonstrations.  The second is a bit more serious.  As I visited garden after garden and saw what talented gardeners were putting together and enjoying plants, it made me realize that I might have a problem.  I could possibly have too many plants and have successfully been in denial by surrounding myself with other equally obsessed people.  I like those people… a lot… but are they just enabling me?  Could be, but I can’t think straight now.  I’ve got more to plant, and need to figure out where to fit a silo in!

Have a great weekend 🙂