Ready For My Closeup

I’m finally back in the garden after missing three of the last four weeks due to work commitments, and it feels good.  All the guilt and regret is washed away (both trips were sort-of voluntary) and I’m pleased to see the plants have mostly fared fine without me.  That’s a good thing of course, even if it does cut my ego down a bit to see how well things did without me there giving them a daily once-over but sometimes if you love something you have to set it free… Good enough in theory, but here the weeds really took advantage of the freedom and over the next few days (ok, weeks) I hope to address that.  In the meantime closeups work, and they’re so much nicer than the other set of photos which were going to show all the challenges and struggles ahead in this weedy garden.

iris roys repeater

Iris ‘Roy’s Repeater’, one of the interspecies cross iris which I’ve been mildly obsessing over for a couple years now.  Maybe I still have room for another three or four…. I do like the pale yellow ones 🙂

I got in Friday night so it wasn’t until Saturday morning that the tour happened.  Then it was coffee on the porch and a lot of thinking.  Needless to say I was in no rush to get working and even less of a rush to do the important things first.  That is unless you think staking the delphiniums is the most important thing which needs doing, because that’s were I started.  It was light work, just right for getting into the swing of things and getting the nails dirty again.  Funny how the most noticeable thing about being away for two weeks is that your nails get normal-person clean.

delphinium

The first of the delphiniums, staked just in the nick of time.

After staking I weeded along the front porch.  That’s kind of cheating as well since the bed is so full few weeds stand a chance, but it was a start, and now at least I can sit out there without a heavy conscience.

rosa rubrifolia

The spring foliage of Rosa rubrifolia is nice enough that the flowers don’t even matter… which is a good thing since they’re so tiny.

With a little weeding under my belt I gave a little more thought to what needed to be done next.  I decided the best thing for me to do was go to the nursery.  It’s been a while and I didn’t want them to worry.  Plus if I do get around to weeding it’s a terrible idea to leave all those empty spots, they’ll only grow more unwanted weeds.  Better to fill the gaps with new plants.

hydrangea strawberry sundae

Hydrangea ‘Strawberry Sundae’ is coming on very well this year and I like how the red stems look against the ‘William Baffin’ rose… which is a blooming beast this year!

I spent way too long at the nursery and if you’re counting I may have spent way too much money as well.  It wasn’t easy but I’m trying to stick with my new self-improvement plan which includes me being a force of social change.  I wasn’t buying all those plants for myself, I was buying them to support my local nursery.  I was buying them to build up the little guy, to keep dreams alive, to encourage someone to have a nursery yard full of obscure interesting plants ready for me to buy whenever I need a plant fix!  I could have been weeding my own garden but instead I chose to go out and help make the world a better place.  You’re welcome.

nursery run

I may have said I don’t need any more plants with yellow foliage.  That was foolish.  I still needed a yellow fountain grass, ‘Lumen Gold’ to be precise. 

The plants were crammed in right after lunch.  Well actually there was a pool visit first and a lot of child throwing as well, but fortunately there was still enough energy left to scrape a shallow hole and bury a few root balls.  I’ve decided that plants need to realize quickly that it won’t be an easy ride around here, so tough-love planting is the new rule.  I do take care to break up the root balls as much as possible though.  The sooner those roots get out of their potting soil, and into their new soil the better.

blueberries

The blueberries look promising.

So that was Saturday.  Sunday was father’s day and weeding was again pushed on to the back burner, but because someone also has a new ‘all purchased plants must be planted within three days’ policy it wasn’t a complete day of rest.  I spent a good two hours setting up the deck containers.  That sounds busy, but if you’ve ever watched it’s more moving plants and considering than it is planting.  I’m never really happy when it’s done, but once things grow in it always ends up looking good enough.

lonicera sempervirens

The honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) has been entertaining the hummingbirds for a few weeks now.  Aphids can be a problem but I just ignore them and the distorted growth (lower right) they produce.

I spent the rest of Sunday puttering.  I was happy to see plenty of bugs but little plant damage, and I like to pretend there’s some kind of good and bad balance thing going on but experience shows it’s not likely to stay that way all summer.

stinging nettle

Stinging nettle has been tolerated and even encouraged in the back reaches of the yard.  The stinging thing is relatively harmless and cool, but even better is when the leaves start folding up around the red admiral caterpillars which this plant supports.  

One animal which always surprises me are the garter snakes which have moved into the arborvitae next to the porch.  There are two, and surprisingly enough they enjoy draping themselves across the branches and catching the morning sun when things are cool.  Not everyone agrees they’re good company but I like them.

baby praying mantis

I was hoping to get a photo of one of the snakes but found this praying mantis instead.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a tiny one before.

The rabbits and an on again off again woodchuck are other wildlife which are making themselves known, but there’s one native wildflower which is really announcing itself this year.  Jewelweed (Impatients capensis) loves the regular rain and its juicy little stems are showing up everywhere.

clematis ruutel

Clematis ‘Ruutel’ rising up from a sea of jewelweed.  Easy enough to remove, but there are other plants anxious to get out from under their shadow.  

I think that’s enough from me.  The on again, off again drizzle suggested I call it quits for garden work and I was fine with that.  Taking pictures is much easier than weeding anyway.

quaking aspen leaf

Quaking aspen out in the meadow.

golden hops

Golden hops looking for some support to scramble on up… someone should probably address that.

hypericum albury purple

Hypericum ‘Albury Purple’ living up to the name.  

dracocephalum

I know the lavender colored flower is a Dracocephalum but the cactus has grown over the label and I’m just not curious enough about the exact species to brave the spines.  

thalictrum rochebrunianum

I love Thalictrum rochebrunianum.  The foliage is cool enough, but with the dark stems and their waxy coating it’s just a work of art.

sunflower seedlings

So much for weeding out these sunflower seedlings…

verbascum atrovilaceum

Verbascum atroviolaceum is a small floppy verbascum which only flowers in the morning and isn’t all that showy, but of course I think it’s cool.

front street border

The border along the street is just doing its own thing this year.  We may run a purge but if it ain’t broke don’t fix it…. says the gardener who will end up trying to fix it.

oxeye daisy

One of my favorite weeds is the Oxeye daisy, this one complete with a colorful inchworm.

pokeweed sunnyside up

Growing native plants is a noble cause, but once you start planting cultivars things get iffy.  I pull out plenty of the regular pokeweed, but apparently ‘Sunnyside Up’ has now entered the local gene pool… and is too pretty to pull 🙂

penstemon digitalis dark towers

The foundation planting has exploded into June color, and I’m wondering if these might not be the perfect meadow flowers to plant across the berm.  Penstemon digitalis ‘Dark Towers’ with Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ and Oxeye daisy again.

allium narcissiflorum

Allium narcissiflorum with a red carpet rose in the background.  I like this little onion!

anthemis tinctoria

Anthemis tinctoria with rose campion and more daisies.

common milkweed asclepias syriaca

Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) trying to take over the world (or at least the front foundation bed).

So that’s it from here.  Maybe it’s messy, maybe I’m not getting much done, maybe the weather is a little cool, but as long as you remind yourself it’s not January it’s all good 🙂

Have a great week!

Let it Grow, Let it Grow, Let it Grow

I really can’t complain about too much for the 2019 gardening season.  Actually I really don’t have much to say at all about the 2019 season other than I still seem to be in my gardening funk.  Last year all the gloom and rain did me in, but so far this year I haven’t been able to shake it (in spite of marginally less downpours and fewer rained out weekends).  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still out in the garden any chance I get to check on what’s new and what’s grown, but overall it just seems like a lot of work to me.  Maybe I’ll just end up taking a sabbatical this summer and see what fall brings.

What doesn’t help at all is that my work schedule has been really interfering with my garden time.  May is a busy time to get planting and staking and I was stuck in Michigan for a week.  June is a time to weed and watch things fill in and I’m stuck in Missouri for two weeks.  Fortunately things should clear up by next week and garden projects can get going… or things can not get going.  We’ll see.

At least I got back from Michigan in time to see the last of the iris in bloom and pull out some of the biggest weeds.  Bigger weeds are much easier to find and pull when they get to the two foot stage, so I guess that’s a plus.

street front border

The front street border is well on its way to becoming the usual thicket with shrubs starting to crowd out the perennials.  One of my favorites is the yellow ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Aurea’) in the back.

In the weekend before I left again I tried to triage my way through the garden, chopping what I could, pulling what I should, and planting anything that wouldn’t survive two weeks of neglect (the family is completely unreliable when it comes to watering and such).  To be honest I was more than a little sore as I stepped out of the car at the airport Sunday night.  I lived though, and hopefully when I return this weekend it doesn’t look too much worse than when these last pictures were taken.

Let’s continue the farewell garden tour along the front foundation bed.  Here the plantings are mostly lower maintenance and that’s a great thing this year.

ranch foundation planting

The blue fescue border has come back enough to look acceptable (but a better gardener would probably still dig and divide the clumps to freshen them up).  As the plantings settle in here, I’ve finally reached the point were I don’t not like the colors in this bed.

I am a little excited about one of the things in the front.  The sweet william seedlings I’ve been nursing along for three years have finally bloomed, and although they’re much too dark to be showy I think they’re absolutely cool.

dianthus sooty

Dianthus barbatus ‘Sooty’, a dark red selection of the old fashioned biennial sweet william.

We’ll skip the just-planted-the-day-before-I-left-again tropical garden and go right over to the back of the yard.  Here the weeds and grass seedlings have covered up the mud and muck of all the construction and we can finally just stare at our row of wind tossed Norway spruce.  There will be plenty of time later to complain about how dull and lifeless the new barrier is, but for now I’ll just stick to complaining about how much more grass there is to mow back there.  At least the chainlink fence is gone and the area looks neat…  maybe too neat… how boring…

berm planting

You’re looking at all the fill I was planning on using to level my own backyard.  It’s all been covered nicely and seeded to lawn and I don’t think my mother in law would appreciate me bulldozering a few yards of it over into my low spots now, so guess who is out of luck…

With the completion of the berm we have far less dust and noise and lights streaming into our yard.  Those are all pluses which I need to remind myself of as I contemplate a fast-growing barrier of evergreens sapping the light and view from our back yard.  But it does look neat and tidy I guess…

ninebark physocarpus opulifolius diablo

More ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’) in bloom.  I love the foliage and shape of these shrubs, and if the garden was bigger I’d add a few more.  Hmmmm, maybe the berm could use a couple 🙂

Iris are about the only other thing worth noting in the back.  Last year’s swampy soil killed off nearly all the modern hybrids, but the older cultivars just kept doing what they do, and have me considering devoting more real estate to iris again.

historic iris

The historic iris (these are mostly from the 40’s and 50’s) held on while their modern neighbors turned to mush.  Obviously a better spot with improved drainage would be another option, but I like the less is more approach 😉

I guess it’s only been a few years since the last time I decided to devote more property to iris.  Things go like that around here, but unfortunately in between planting passions other amazing ideas come up and things get crammed in all over.

historic iris darius

This was a decent iris spot a few years ago but plant a shrub or two, some colchicums, some climbers, build a support for the climbers, and before you know it the iris are struggling along in the shade.

Replanting a few iris this summer should be do-able even if it means time away from the pool and a little kick in the butt motivation.  Deep down inside I know it will be worth it next June when they crowd the borders with brilliant color.

Now if I can only first manage to get the deck planters planted.

ornithogalum dubium

The last bits from under the growlights.  There was an abyssmal lack of seeds sown this winter, but for some reason I needed the orange Ornithogalum dubium bulbs, a dozen canna seedlings, and one cool little pink and white alstroemeria seedling that looks dissapointingly similar to her parent.

Who am I kidding.  Instead of planting the deck containers I took another round through the garden to make sure nothing new happened without me.  The sweetshrub is giving me its first year of decent bloom and I think the flowers are particularly cool.

calycanthus aphrodite

A hybrid sweetshrub (Calycanthus ‘Aphrodite’).  A scent would be nice, but for now the flowers are just fine.

If worse comes to worse I’ll just spend this summer wandering the garden, smelling flowers, and contemplating the life cycle of weeds.  New plants are still going to be added, that’s a given, but maybe there’s just going to be a lot more mulch this year.  I like mulch so.  Mulching can be very zen 🙂

The Vortex of Gloom

Vortex of gloom might be slightly dramatic, but the endlessly overcast days really seem to be extending far beyond the usual April showers.  Last I checked it’s May and this nonsense should have been all worked out a week ago.

perennial tulips

‘Pink Impression’ tulips doing well along the street, even though the shrubby dogwoods are beginning to take over.

No matter.  The ground has still not degenerated into the slimy muck of last year’s endless monsoon so there’s still hope… but considering the growing season is only just off to a start, there better still be hope!

perennial tulips

Tulips are one of my favorite flowers.  The form can be so elegant, and the colors and patterns so intricate.

I didn’t know what to expect this year as far as the tulips go.  For the past two springs I’ve been dealing with the fungal infection called tulip fire, and when I say ‘dealing with’ I hope you understand I mean more of an emotional coping rather than any kind of actual physical activity.  This lazy gardener did go around and pick off many of the most infected leaves (spotting and distortion) and dug a couple hundred bulbs to thin and replant in the fall, but as far as sprays and other more sure-fire solutions… meh.

The carpet of corydalis is disappearing under the next wave of plants.  They next wave would probably look better dry and not-windswept, but you get the idea.

All in all it’s not a bad show.  The earlier part of April was dry which helped, thinned out clumps probably helped, and since it’s a soil-borne pathogen I think mulching helped as well.  Add to that my insanely strong resolve last fall and the fact that I didn’t add a single new tulip (in spite of clearance sales, flash sales, and glossy catalogs galore) and there might have been a good enough combination of culture and luck that things worked out.  Now if we can only avoid a fungal fueling month of dreary, wet weather there might be some hope for next year as well.

perennial tulips

I’m not sure how I like smoky rich tones of ‘Muvota’, but they might look really cool in a more elegant garden as opposed to my 8-pack Crayola colors garden.

To be honest the ten day forecast does not look good.  For now we’ll just have to enjoy the raindrops and lack of watering chores and look forward to the jungle which shall rise over the next few weeks.  Hopefully it won’t all be weeds.

perennial tulips

My tulip plantings are a mess and I’m fine with that.  Smarter gardeners would pull them each summer and enjoy a cleaner palette of new color-coordinated bulbs planted each fall…. 

perennial tulips

This almost looks planned.  I could dig them after the foliage dies back, thin out the smaller bulbs, replant in the fall as a mix, and it would probably look even better next year… but that does sound like a lot of work considering new bulbs can be bought for under $10. 

As far as useful information in a blog post goes, again I apologize for not providing any, so here’s one bit of selection advice.  Most of the early doubles and parrot tulips don’t appreciate day after day of heavy rains and overly rude winds, so if you garden anywhere that weather happens you should expect these to get floppy.

perennial tulips

More advice:  Don’t plant your new snowdrop bed over where you ‘thought’ you dug up all the tulips, and while we’re at it don’t throw spare bulbs in the compost and then use the compost before it’s done.  

You may have guessed by my tone that it’s still too damp this Saturday morning to get out in the garden, but to be honest it’s still all pretty awesome.  I love spring, rain and rot and everything!

blueberry flowers

Wherever the blueberries have outgrown the reach of the local bunny population, the branches are full of flowers.  Advice alert:  you should do better than me, put a little fencing around in the fall and all of your bushes might flower as nicely. 

Primrose are on the way.  Many are still a little too insulted to grow well in my miserable soil, but a few hardier souls are thrilling me to bits.

primula veris

Primula veris, the cowslip, doesn’t mind a little summer drought and rooty shade.  Gardeners in better soils might even accuse it of weediness.

The last two rainy years have almost tricked me into thinking I can grow a bunch of shade loving things such as native woodland wildflowers, but I won’t fall for that.  The ones I have can enjoy the moisture while it lasts, but let me say it now… I WILL NOT BUY ANY TRILLIUMS.

magnolia macrophylla

My amazing bigleaf Magnolia (M. macrophylla) seedling.  Individual leaves can range from 1-3 feet in length and hold the title for largest simple leaf of any native N. American plant.  Sadly a few hours after this photo was taken a surprise freeze shriveled this foliage, but new ones are on the way!

Come to think of it I shouldn’t buy any new plants, but who seriously expects that?  If there are any promise I can keep this year it’s to actually buy more.  Someone chilled me to the core by mentioning my favorite nursery was actually considering closing after a terrible season last year.  It was a landslide of personal tragedies that can effect any small, locally owned business where the employees are more a family than a work-force, but combined with the bad weather and its influence on outdoor sales, things start to add up and seem overwhelming.  I don’t pretend to know all the circumstances, but I do know I can buy more plants!  Fair warning that rain of shine I’ll be scheduling plenty of visits to Perennial Point this season.  Once a week sounds like a decent start, and after spending a billion dollars to take a couple kids to a movie and buy a few drinks and popcorn, I think a minimum budget of $20 $30 a week is very reasonable 😉

arisaema sikokianum

Arisaema sikokianum looking a bit rain-battered, but still impossibly white inside.

I’ll cram the new plants in wherever they fit.  I’m never happy with where I put stuff anyway, so why should I always stress over it, and unless I suddenly become gifted with the powers of good-design sense, it should all work out anyway.  Case in point and also Advice Alert:  Move/remove small tree seedlings that sprout too close to the house and you won’t be faced with having to deal with big tree seedlings that have sprouted too close to the house.  If the tree wasn’t there you also wouldn’t have to feel guilty about cutting it down, but on the other hand (and sort of trying to get to the point), it doesn’t seem to matter anyway.  The gardener mentioned that he has to remove it.  The boss stated that she likes it.  The boy claims he likes seeing it out his window.  The tree remarked with some enthusiastic blooms.  The boss restated that she likes it.  Case closed.

dogwood seedling

I didn’t get authorization to trim the evergreen down a few years ago and there words exchanged, so when the dogwood appeared and also grew too big, I figured I’d mention the deed before doing the deed.  It’s staying… but I wonder what will happen when the little Japanese maple seedling at the bottom right of the photo becomes large enough to get noticed 🙂

That’s it from here.  It’s still gloomy, but I’m pretty sure the front porch step is dry enough for sitting with a second cup of coffee, and the birds seem happy enough and the tulips still glow.  I’m sure within a few minutes I’ll be wandering about and the neighbors will again wonder how I can spend so much time looking at dirt, but I’d like to suggest I’m now looking at weeds as well.

allium karataviense red and pink giant

New this year, Allium karataviense ‘Red and Pink Giant’.  I love it already!

I guess I do have to deal with the weeds.  Looking only does so much.

muscari and blue fescue

I think I said all the blue fescue grass needs dividing and replanting…. but not now, it looks so nice with the grape hyacinths (Muscari).

Have a great weekend!

Corydalis and then Some

Warmer weather has finally reached NE Pennsylvania and within days buds are swelling, sprouts are showing, and the earliest spring bloomers are putting large swathes of color into beds which have spent the last few months exploring black and white themes.  Finally I can take those nice leisurely garden tours and not have to harass the same old snowdrop shoots every few hours, looking to see if they’ve changed at all.  New things are coming on faster than I can keep up with and all I can say is it’s great 🙂

corydalis solida

Sitting on the front porch step is my favorite way to take in the front garden.  Right next to the step is where I plant many of my smaller treasures, but in the past couple years the pinks and mauves of Corydalis solida seedlings have started to crowd out just about everything else.

Depending on what the thermometer does we’re just a few days away from bunches of hyacinths and the earliest masses of daffodils, but for the moment Corydalis solida dominates the front garden.

Corydalis solida ‘Beth Evans’ spreading out along the street border.  It’s a lot more pink than I prefer but after months of brown and snow who cares.

I’d have to look, but it’s only been a few years since I planted about 15 tubers each of pink ‘Beth Evans’ and redder ‘George Baker’, and from there on they’ve exploded across the garden.  They seem to enjoy the better-drained garden beds, in particular spots where other perennials will come up and cover them after they go dormant in a few weeks.  Restraint is not something I think of when these come up, and if you’re of the type who prefer a more ordered garden I would highly recommend avoiding them.  Corydalis solida does its own thing and if they’re happy in your soil you’ll have them showing up everywhere.

corydalis solida

A weak attempt at adding named varieties has left me with just one survivor… and possibly a bunch of just-as-good seedlings.  Keeping named plantings “pure” requires much more diligence than I chose to pursue so of course I just let them go.

In a few days all this color will fade away and the plants will quickly ripen seed and shrivel away to disappear underground for another 11 months.  If I’m on top of things (which has NOT been the case so far this year) I’ll dig a few of the more crowded clumps and tuck them in to all kinds of new territory… or just do it accidentally in August when I dig up a shovel full of the little round yellowish tubers.  In the meantime here are two other surprises from the earliest of spring garden.

primula denticulata drumstick

Drumstick primrose (Primula denticulata) were a steal off the late fall clearance rack.  I have no idea if they’ll last more than a year, but right now I’m thrilled by how early they are and lucky I was to find such well-grown plants. -Thanks Perennial Point!

Near the shelter of the house the hyacinth have started.  This wimpy, washed out pink is my most exciting hyacinth ever since it’s the first to flower of a bunch of seedlings off the clump to the left.  Six or seven years is all it took which sounds terrible but since I never did a thing for them other than leave them alone it hasn’t been bad at all.

hyacinth seedling

Pink.  My favorite color.  Still it’s my firstborn hyacinth and I love it, and look forward to seeing how it develops over the next few years.

So that’s it.  Spring is exploding so that’s really not even close to what’s going on, but like you I’d also rather be in the garden versus on the computer so off I go!  Hopefully after missing most of yesterday for all kinds of events, and today for more events (and plenty of rain in the afternoon), something valid gets done in the garden before the work week returns, but you never know.  I’m fine with just sitting around taking it all in.  Plus, as I discovered yesterday, parts of the compost pile are still frozen so I guess we’re still just starting.

I love the start.  Have a great week!

Planting Fields in March

I took a quick trip out to Long Island NY last weekend and since it was just me in the car it was a very brief back and forth before the decision was made to sneak in a garden visit.  Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay, NY was the choice.

florist cineraria pericallis bedding

I didn’t know florist cineraria (apparently called pericallis these days) would be hardy enough to go outside already, but they were and they looked great in front of the annex building to the main greenhouses.  Dark centered daisies are a favorite of mine btw.  

I used to work ten minutes from this NY historical state park and obviously because of the greenhouses, plant collections, hundreds of acres of open land, plus a manor house, you know it was a favorite pitstop along the way to and from work, but I had already been visiting for a few years before that.  Over the years the visits have settled in to follow a traditional path, and that path nearly always begins in the main greenhouse.

planting fields main greenhouse

The Main Greenhouse at Planting Fields.  

What shows up in the main greenhouse depends on the season or the year.  Sometimes the beds are filled with delphinium or foxgloves, poinsettias, chrysanthemum, orchids… wherever the mood of the planting staff has gone.  This March it was overwhelmingly tropical.

planting fields main greenhouse

When you follow the outer path your way is completely enclosed by tropical shrubs, palms, trees… oranges overhang and starfruit grow alongside bunches of bananas.  I believe in this photo we are looking up into a Bismarck palm. 

Radiating off the Main Greenhouse are several grow houses which back in the day served to supply the estate’s cut flower supply.

planting fields orchids phalaenopsis

Several greenhouses are devoted to orchids.  On this bench part of the phalaenopsis collection was still putting on their late winter show.

Back a few years ago, more of the greenhouses were accessible but today there are still at least six of the side greenhouses open for visitors, and you can always find plenty to see.

planting fields cactus

Agave are always cool.  Not so much fun to touch, but to see them growing in someone else’s warm, dry greenhouse just as we’re breaking out of winter… 🙂  

planting fields cactus

There’s always something special in the cactus house.

I seem to remember one of the greenhouses being a fern house.  Imagine my surprise when these bright, tropical rhododendron greeted me through the next doorway instead.

planting fields rhododendron vireya

A few vireya rhododendrons in peak bloom.

Vireya rhododendron represent a section of rhododendron which hail from the tropics of Southeast Asia.  As you can see, out of the couple hundred species there have been quite a few exceptionally showy selections and hybrids.

planting fields rhododendron vireya

Just a touch of golden yellow.  It’s so bright it almost overwhelms the smaller species to the right.  Also, in case you’re wondering, my nose detected no scent although some say they’re remarkably fragrant.

planting fields rhododendron vireya

The spring sunshine made everything even better, but notice the mossy root ball behind those extravagantly ruffled ivory flowers.  Many vireya are epiphytes, and grow up amongst the branches of the tropical canopy.   

Sorry but I thought the vireyas were exceptional 😉   Next on the agenda was a short stroll over to the camellia house.

planting fields camellia house

Side view of the Planting Fields Camellia House.  This used to be shaded and blocked by massive beech and pines, but disease and storms can take a toll.

The camellia house (1917) shelters the largest collection under glass in the Northeast.  I believe I once read that Mr. Coe got a really good deal on a bunch of imported camellias and only later discovered that they likely wouldn’t be hardy in his new garden.  Build a new glasshouse was the solution!  In any case, this year I managed to catch the tail end of the show.

planting fields camellia house

Camellia ‘Captain Rawes’.  A small arching tree which used to be matched by another equally large tree on the other side of the walk.  I wonder how long its partner has been missing, they were always my favorites. 

Here’s a little 1996 NY Times article on the camellia house.

planting fields clivia

Although many of the camellia were over, the clivia were coming on strong.

The camellia house is another place which comes and goes.  Some years it’s a thicket of bloom and bush, other years it’s recovering from the occasional massive pruning these big plants need.  I guess this year was somewhere in between, still excellent of course.

planting fields camellia house

Southerners would probably pass right by this one, but here in the cold north these huge flowers made me smile.  Plus the brickwork and greenhouse doors aren’t all that shabby either.

A brief run through the grounds was the next requirement.

planting fields pool

The mixed perennial borders surrounding the pool were still 100% sure spring had not yet arrived.

William Coe built Coe Hall as a residence, but his botanical collections and interest in horticulture had this former gold coast estate donated as a school of horticulture, and then preserved as an arboretum.  As such it’s filled with interesting things, and whether you’re just strolling or looking for specific plant goodies you can’t go wrong on a beautifully sunny March morning.

planting fields coe estate

Coe Hall beyond the branches of one of the remaining mature beech trees.  

I tried to get a quick visit in with all my favorites.  The giant sequoia trees were looking sad, as it appears fungus has finally caught up with them, but I was happy to see the odd monkey puzzle trees were still up to their usual monkey business.

planting fields monkey puzzle tree

Monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana) in the sheltered high shade of the North rhododendron garden.  

The monkey puzzle is an exceptionally curious thing, and ranks as one of those living fossil trees which still keep chugging along as if the dinosaurs were still around to graze them.  Nowadays they’re confined to the Southern tip of South America but eons ago ranged across continents.

planting fields monkey puzzle tree

Spiny, sharp, and a puzzle for any monkey to climb, Araucaria araucana is not for everyone.  The foliage is cool though, and individual leaves can stay on the plant for decades.  Trees over 1,000 years old are not unknown.  

How can people not get excited about plants?  Beats me…

planting fields snowdrops

Of course I still found plenty of late season snowdrops.

So that was last weekend.  Maybe you can guess that in the week since I’ve been busy and/or lazy again, and if that’s a bad thing well at least on the good side it spares you from much of the rest of our snowdrop season.  It was an ok year in case you’re curious.  Too much wind, a lot of temperature ups and downs, and last year’s monsoons seemed to have been too much for many of the plantings, but hopefully the snowdrops which did come up  will be enough to last until next year.

We’ll see.  Have a great week regardless 🙂

Snowdropping 2019

Better late than never… and although Paula and I did meet up for a February greenhouse tour of snowdrops, that visit was a far cry from our traditional all-day snowdrop adventure.  Fortunately we were able to get one in.  This trip was a check off the bucket list, and it involved a four hour drive in a completely different direction,  with us getting out of the car just short of the Eastern tip of Long Island, NY.  Understandably my wife told us several times we were crazy (although she did use slightly different terms).

galanthus david baker

Treasures tucked in under the shade of a southern magnolia.  Galanthus ‘David Baker’ sits next to what I think is a golden variegated sweet flag (Acoris gramineus ‘Ogon’).

We had been hoping to visit this garden for a few years now, and the more sane version started with me heading East for a visit with my parents, Paula driving out the night before, a one hour ride to the garden in the morning, and then wherever the weekend leads after that.  Of course other obligations interfered and once again the plan didn’t work out, but our host was exceptionally accommodating and so was the weather, so tally-ho!

snowdrop garden

Snowdrops were peppered everywhere in this mostly sunny garden.  Our host kind of confessed he’s pushing several hundred cultivars, so ‘everywhere’ does end up being a necessity!

This was the garden of a true galanthomaniac but still remarkably balanced.  Roses, perennials, evergreen plantings, interest for all seasons but still space for tons of galanthus!

galanthus green tip richard ayres

Not the best photo, but I do like galanthus ‘Green Tip Richard Ayres’.  I like it a lot.

This is a garden where the majority of snowdrops were planted in pond pots, a plastic mesh pot used for aquatic plants, but also embraced by serious snowdrop growers as a way to cram tons of cultivars into a small plot yet still be able to lift and divide and find bulbs easily.  Even when the dormant bulbs show nothing above ground.  It makes a lot of sense and the results do speak for themselves.

galanthus godfrey owen lady beatrix stanley little ben

The shade of conifers is usually not good at all for spring bulbs, but on the edge of a sunny lawn with just a few sheltering boughs above, galanthus ‘Godfrey Owen’, ‘Lady Beatrix Stanley’, ‘Little Ben’ and others, are all quite happy.

Although I won’t use the word obsessive, this is absolutely a collector’s garden with a careful inventory and organized labeling and placing.  You kind of need that when the numbers start adding up.  The plantings may appear to spread casually throughout the garden but you will notice (even faster when your host points it out) that there’s another brilliant quirk of order.  From one area to the next, all the plantings are organized alphabetically.  ‘Dodo Norton’ follows ‘Danube Star’ while ‘Dracott Greentip’ sits just to the right.  It would make an OCD heart sing 🙂

galanthus natalie garton chris sanders

Galanthus ‘Natalie Garton’ (aka ‘Chris Sanders’) soaking up the March sun at the edge of the rose garden.  Note the brown label off to the right, that’s our host’s sign that this clump is marked for digging, dividing, and sale(!) this summer.

I’m going to guess that years ago this gardener realized that when collecting, you can only really hold on to so many of any given cultivar.  You can also only trade and give away so many, so for several years our host has taken to offering a few (actually quite a few) each year for sale.  I’m going to foolishly direct you to >my snowdrop page< for contact information (scroll down about halfway to ‘snowdrop sources’ and you’ll see him listed by name)… although the selfish side of me is hoping you don’t beat me out to my favorites, and leave me with the leftovers since it sells out fast.  While you’re requesting a list you may also wish to ask him about getting email updates from his annual UK trip each spring.  It’s a fun narrative of an A list of snowdrop events and personalities from overseas, and will help you steel through the last few weeks until our own season takes off.

snowdrop garden

Round the house another garden filled with snowdrops 😉

I’m sparing you from most of the endless stream of individual photos, but there was one more snowdrop which really stood out for me.  Under the pergola a monster clump of elwesii caught my eye even from across the garden.  Well over a foot high, with wonderfully large flowers that still held a classic grace, this was one more snowdrop for my growing list of favorites.  I don’t know what the plans are for this one, but I made sure to drop plenty of hints that I’d like to be on the waiting list!

Galanthus elwesii under the pergola. Sorry about the lighting, but as you know I’m more enthusiastic than skilled.

I hope I pre-warned our host sufficiently that we would surely overstay our welcome, but even after two hours plus of garden wandering he still graciously extended us an invitation for tea.

snowdrop garden

Our host wisely excused himself midway to get some inventorying done while we photographed, but we found him anyway and the warm shelter of the juniper hedge made for a perfect spot to enjoy snowdrops and sun while talking galanthus.

I love a late winter garden visit where the sun is strong and the lawn is dry, and it’s ok to just sit there and take it all in.  Of course the close up quarters to so many snowdrops added a few more favorites to the list, but what I really enjoy is hearing the stories and getting the advice and coming up with new plans.  We were really spoiled on this trip 🙂

galanthus bernard rohlich

Ok.  One more, Galanthus ‘Bernard Rohlich’.  Note the brown label, hopefully my budget can handle this one!

So finally it was inside for tea, which we probably overstayed as well, and then out the door.  Our host was still kind enough to offer us more garden-wandering time but a long drive home was hanging over our heads.  We headed out to the car but not before one last pause to admire all the galanthus ‘viridapice’ clumping throughout the garden.  If I remember correctly these were the drops which started most of the obsession in this garden.  A pack of bulbs simply marked ‘snowdrops’, and thirty years later (and a lot of luck to get such a nice form of viradapice in that pack!) and the garden has drops all over.

galanthus viridapice

Just one of many, many healthy clumps of galanthus ‘viridapice’ growing throughout the hedges and woodland plantings of the garden.

After we said our goodbyes we began the journey back west.  Of course there was a side-trip.  With 40 minutes to go till closing we popped into the Bayard Cutting Arboretum for a quick run through the snowdrop highlights of this former estate, present day NY State park.  It’s an old manor house property which dates back to the late 1880’s and recalls Long Island’s history as an escape for the rich and famous of NYC.

bayard cutting arboretum

“Westbrook” overlooking the Connetquot river and estuary as it leads out to the Great South Bay on Long Island’s South Shore.

This arboretum was one of my favorite off season destinations while growing up.  The coastal air and sun would usually keep the walkways clear of snow and ice, and the pinetum plantings and many paths and trails were always a nice outing.  Since I’ve already mentioned I was a little weird as a child, I don’t think it will surprise anyone that I knew where many a snowdrop patch was located.

naturalized snowdrops galanthus

Naturalized snowdrops (galanthus nivalis) filling in amongst the vinca minor.

We were quite satisfied with this stop.  Not to date myself but over the decades many a change has come through here.  Hurricane Gloria in ’85 was probably the worst when it wiped out an awesome hundred year old conifer collection and closed the park for months, but saltwater flooding from Sandy in 2012 seems to have done in my favorite patch of giant snowdrops (g.elwesii).  Still it’s a wonderful spot which I’m happy to see protected and accessible.

bayard cutting arboretum

A maintenance moneypit I’m sure, but the Tudor style with awesome shingling and crazy chimneys puts the approaching worm supermoon to shame.

But even our epic adventures have to heed reality, so back on the road to drop Paula off at her car and then part our ways.  I still got a couple hours in with my parents (and of course a garden tour!) before hitting the road but it was still a satisfyingly long day even with the late night drive home.  I will recommend it to all crazy galanthoholics 😉

Thanks again to our host for a very enjoyable visit, thanks Paula, and here’s to hoping our latest drop of snow (the real thing, not flowery kind) melts quickly and I can get out again and enjoy the snowdrops here.  Have a great weekend!

Snowdrops, Quickly.

Of course my life gets stupidly busy just when the local snowdrop season starts, but how can I complain when each day brings new blooms?  Thursday and Friday were warm and that’s just what these snowdrops were waiting for.

galanthus blonde inge

Galanthus ‘Blonde Inge’ on her first day out in the sun.  She’s still a little pale but her yellow inners just glow in the afternoon light.

For those who yawn at the sight of more mostly white, always tiny flowers I apologize.  I’m in a rush, but I’ll still take the time to be that guy at the party who goes on way too much about something he’s already told you a million times before.  I can’t help myself and even the half hearted ‘uh-huhs’ and sideways glances won’t be enough.  Such is the curse of the galanthaholic.

galanthus rosemary burnham

Galanthus ‘Rosemary Burnham’ starts out tiny, but gets a little bigger as each warmish day passes.  For some reason I don’t think she’s as green as usual this spring but still a beauty.

For the next few days the weather looks perfect for bringing on the main season of snowdrops.  Here in my part of America, snowdrop season is often a real up and down thing, with none of the gentle transitions which mark more moderate climes.  Some types take it all in stride, such as this Galanthus gracilis which a friend brought back for me after a spring visit to Nancy Goodwin’s Montrose Gardens.  It comes up early and for the most part shrugs off even the worst ice and cold.

galanthus gracilis

Galanthus gracilis with its trademark twisted foliage.  It’s growing like a weed here in this dry, sunny spot alongside the front walk, but the exposed spot does seem to yellow the flowers a bit.

Not everyone takes the weather in stride.  Just a week ago temperatures dropped down into the single digits,  snow and ice were all over again, and some of the more exposed drops took a hit.  I’ll spare you those pictures but here’s one that’s not too bad, of ‘Gerard Parker’ growing in the front border.

galanthus gerard parker

‘Gerard Parker’ with a few singed blooms and burnt tips.  Still nice enough, but notice ‘Primrose Warburg’ coming up in back with perfect flowers.  Primrose is just a little later and missed the worst of the weather, and Gerald might have to go back to a more sheltered position.

As I work out which drops get to fill in the front street border the yellow winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) are working hard to fill in on their own.  It may take more time than I have, but someday I hope to have sheets of yellow and white filling this part of the yard.

snowdrops and winter aconite

Year by year the snowdrops (G. nivalis) and winter aconite fill in.  Hopefully I didn’t put too much mulch down for this year’s crop of seedlings to come up through.

‘Nothing Special’ might be a good choice for the front border.  It’s a strong growing beauty which seeds out a bit as well and I’m sure as a taller snowdrop it might compete better with the winter aconite than the little Galanthus nivalis which are there now.

galanthus nothing special

Galanthus ‘Nothing Special’

So much for quickly, eh?  Speaking of snowdrops and how some are not good competitors here’s ‘Norfolk Blonde’, a tiny pale thing which might be my favorite thing this minute.  I’m just so pleased that it came back a second year and didn’t fade away into the growing heap of snowdrops I regret losing.

galanthus norfolk blonde

The petite ‘Norfolk Blonde’.  I had to prune a few leaves off the cyclamen to keep it from overwhelming my little darling.  You’d judge me if I said how much I paid for this one, especially considering she’s easily doubled in size from last year!

I’ll leave off on an amazingly vigorous drop which a friend gave me two years ago.  It’s considered a cross between two species (elwesii x nivalis) and in its second year it’s already forming little clumps.  I love the foliage and it’s a heavy bloomer as well.

galanthus elwesii x nivalis

Another contender for drift status, this Galanthus elwesii x nivalis hybrid will hopefully continue to multiply and flower strongly over the next few years.

As you know I could go on and on, but it’s bed time and I’ve got a snowdrop adventure planned for tomorrow morning.  Fair warning that there will be more pictures and way more snowdrop talk, so feel free to tune me out until April if need be.