The Late Tulips

I don’t think I have to tell anyone this is busy time of year, but I will and with that apologize for a lack of blog browsing (and blog posting which is also slacking but far less noticed) and all the other things I’ve been cutting out of my life as I spend way too much time looking at plants and wondering about plants and thinking about plants and just enjoying nice weather… all while also being required to go to work every day.  Golly.

tulip green river

Tulip ‘Green River’ is late and cool and amazing, but also unattractive and not-showy… depending on your eye.  

Work plus construction plus a guilty contractor who offered to deliver a load of mulch as a peace offering for delays.  Mulch to calm the waters?  You bet!  It worked, and now I’m entirely distracted by weeding and mulching and staying cool in the sudden warmth and… there’s always so much going on at this time of year it’s like Mother Nature’s manic stage and I’m just as wired trying to keep up.

pink florida dogwood

Not mulched but maybe next week?  

I took these pictures yesterday evening and have just a few minutes to post them before heading out for the weekend.  Thankfully that may prevent me from going on as much as usual but I just wanted to take one last look at the tulips before the heat and wind send them back to bulbs for another year.

perennial tulips

Fresh mulch and tulips.  That’s a first, usually mulch isn’t spread until the heat of July and I must admit it looks great  -just ignore the barren borderlands where bulldozers and backhoes dwell.

Sad isn’t it?  That they pass so quickly?  Maybe, but for the slightly off-kilter amongst us there’s still the exciting time when bulbs are dug and the gardener can see just how many more tulips will grace the garden next spring!  What’s more fun than sifting through tray after tray of fat tulip bulbs and thinking about next season already? -said no one… or maybe just one person who is currently deep into a tulip obsession…

perennial tulips

The curling blooms will drop in the wind tomorrow, and given the forecast the rest might only last another week or so.  Still, today they look great.

Obviously if I’m staring at tulips in between spreading mulch there’s not much else getting done.  The rains and the heat are bringing on the first tidal wave of weeds.

perennial tulips

I did dig and straighten out the boxwood hedge.  It looks fine, and even better if a weedy tulip or two somehow find their way in.

Plenty of leaf mulch has kept down a good number of weeds, but this week I noticed potato sprouts and amaranthus and again I’m trying to tell myself to put on the big boy pants and take control of the garden with a little more direction and focus.

tulip absalon insulinde

The broken tulips of last year are back, but were in a bad spot for tulips and are much smaller and barely multiplied.  They’re also still awesome though, and I couldn’t resist including a photo.  I believe that’s ‘Absalon’ in the center between ‘Insulinde’ and ‘Black and White’. 

Most of the potager beds are ok, but only if you ignore the latest bunny nest amongst the tulips and the one bed where the mulch ran out.

tulip muvota

The smoky colored tulip ‘Muvota’ has to sit away from the brighter colors in order to show well.  That doesn’t mean it has to suffer the company of weeds, but…

As you may know, some weeds are much appreciated in this “garden”.

variegated lunaria money plant

The white flowered, variegated money plant (Lunaria annua) is one of my favorite plants.  I might need to leave more weedy spots for it to spread into.

Of course not all weeds are appreciated to the same extent.  Each year I ask myself if all the bumblebees and hummingbirds are worth the swamp of jewelweed seedlings which I need to pull each spring.  So far they are, but my patience does have its limits.

primula sieboldii

Jewelweed seedlings are nearly overrunning the primrose bed and a few need to come out so that I feel less guilty when I look at the Primula sieboldii patch.  They really deserve more respect.

I’m still not sure Primula sieboldii is getting what it wants from me.  For some it seems to grow like a weed, but here it seems to want frequent dividing and a little room to spread… both of which will be lacking during this year of construction and garden reclaiming.

primula sieboldii

I love the variety of flower forms from these American Primrose Society seeds.  If things here get bad it’s such a relief to be able to get another packet or two from the society’s seed exchange to replace these little treasures.

Primrose and daffodils.  Besides the tulips these two are carrying me through to iris season and then summer.  My Qdaff and PHS daffodils purchases might be some of the best squandering of Covid relief money that I’ve seen in the past two years.

daffodil magic step

‘Magic Step’ in the low afternoon light of a beautiful day.

New daffodils and a stretch of cool weather have really brought out the colors this spring and it’s let me fulfill one little check off the bucket list.  Many of my new daffodils are recent hybrids from the breeding work of Dr Reed of Michigan, and are some of his best work in bringing oranges and reds into larger cups and trumpet forms.  The other yay is ordering a few bulbs from the work of the late Grant E. Mitsch and his daughter and her husband, the Havens, out of their farm in Oregon.  Back in the day I used to put together wish lists from their coffee table quality catalog and then never order.  Their catalog was about all I could afford, but of course that was then and this is now 🙂

daffodil cherrygardens

In my opinion ‘Cherrygardens’ is kinda awesome.  

Not all my daffodil experiments were an amazing success though.

daffodil little dorr

‘Little Dorr’ is a huge, heavy, outstanding bloom, but…. has a little bit of a taste for dirt…

The rest are all cool though, and hopefully next year will be just as good.

daffodil american classic

‘American Classic’ has all the shading and straight cup that I like.  

daffodil bobbysoxer ‘Bobbysoxer’ is also the nicest little thing, here attractively paired with my beloved New Zealand dead sedge which I suspect is still alive but you never know.

So that’s it from here.  A weekend away and I’m sure the garden will not wait, so I expect summer upon my return.  Maybe the mulch will spread itself and the weeds will leave to come looking for me.  Or not, either way it doesn’t matter, spring is still awesome.

Have a great weekend!

Bragging Again

The weather has finally warmed up enough here to get things growing, and as usual it’s the tulips and daffodils which are my absolute favorites.  They’re not at all subtle and I think that’s needed in order to distract from the raw construction of other parts of the garden.

growing tulips

The border along the street is looking good with a nice show of returning tulips.  Some have been in place for over five years and are way overdue for dividing.

Tulips and daffodils are a weakness of mine and it may surprise some that I’ve been on a strict diet for the last two or three years and haven’t allowed myself to buy any new bulbs until I take better care of what’s here.  Crowded clumps need dividing in order to show off best and in the case of tulips a string of late freezes and excessively damp springs have brought on some serious plagues of tulip fire botrytis.  Fortunately it only takes a few nice flowers in order for me to completely ignore a thousand other issues!

tulip marit

‘Marit’ might be in the top five of favorite tulips.  The colors, shape, and size are just amazing to my eye. 

This year drier weather has also been helpful in keeping the botrytis down.  Between that and some Neem oil spraying last spring things are looking much improved this spring.  I’m also ruthlessly ripping out infected shoots and thinning the foliage on still overcrowded clumps.  We will see what ‘thinning the foliage’ does to next year’s flowers since obviously the bulbs need the foliage to grow new bulbs, but a few less bulbs might not be the worst thing either.

growing tulips

I’m not sure you can tell that these tulips have been thinned.  The one clump of orange was missed, but the others were all dug in late May(?) far earlier than they should have been, and immediately replanted after pulling off and tossing all the smaller bulbs.  I’m hoping the show next spring is again solid with color.

I’m pretty sure only the gardener will notice if there are a ‘few less’ bulbs next year.  Exponential growth means a hundred tulips can become three hundred in just a year, so better to revel in the luxury of me doing the thinning rather than disease or *gulp* deer or other vermin doing it for me.  Thank goodness the deer still avoid my garden.

growing tulips

An overcrowded daffodil patch.  Sadly this is a newer replant where I thought I was leaving room, but really wasn’t as I tried to pack too many bulbs into too small a bed…

At least deer don’t eat daffodils.  Someday the backup plan might be daffodils and a fenced in potager if worse comes to worst.

narcissus firebird

An airy little ‘Firebird’.  

I don’t know if anyone remembers but ‘The Purge’ took place two springs ago, and daffodils were downsized to just under 150 varieties and that still sounds generous, but I miss them.

narcissus tahiti

‘Tahiti’ will never be downsized.  Even as a double in a garden where doubles are under-appreciated, it’s a favorite.

A new bed of daffodils would likely help.  I think it’s worth a shot at least 😉

narcissus coral light

‘Coral Light’ also made the cut and looks excellent with some room to show off.  If only I could do more of this planting-with-reasonable-spacing thing I think I’d be alright and things would look much better.

Where would this bed go?  Who knows but it would probably involve less lawn and that’s also a good thing… unless someone wants a badminton net strung up and doesn’t want to avoid jumping over daffodil clumps…

narcissus Mrs R O Backhouse

The bulbs of ‘Mrs R O Backhouse’ did not look great after the purge, and I was worried, but many of these older varieties bounce back quickly.

‘The Purge’ reached a highpoint two years ago during the potager rebuild, and a couple daffodil plantings had to make way for the construction of raised beds.  Sadly since then I’ve found that I don’t like the way the daffodils look in the raised beds, so that’s a new space problem, and even worse I love growing tulips in the raised beds.  The digging and replanting seems to really help with controlling the tulip fire botrytis and I can spend hours each week just going back and forth looking to see how much they’ve grown each day, and what new surprise has opened up.  Sometimes I really have to wonder where they come from when it’s a flower I don’t remember ever planting or it’s one I haven’t seen in years!

growing tulips

I tried to keep two beds open for tomatoes, beans, and zucchini plantings this month.  Next year all bets are off and the whole thing might be tulips.   

Actually here’s a confession.  Last fall I did add 10 new bulbs of ‘Shirley’ and ‘Pink Impression’, so this bulb diet I’m on isn’t all abstinence and cutting back.  Maybe it should have been though, since both varieties were mislabeled.

tulip not shirley

This is not the tulip ‘Shirley’ but still nice, and for a clearance bulb I can’t complain.  The real ‘Shirley’ has more of an inky purple stain that spreads down from the edges as the flower ages, and of course I still need to get that one again…  and keep this one now…

A friend with excellent taste in tulips pulls hers each year after bloom and usually I say no thanks, but this year I already put in a save request.  I’m also looking through bulb catalogs.  I’m also excited about how fat and vigorous this year’s crop of bulbs should be.  I fear ‘The Purge’ shall be followed by ‘The Splurge’ and tomatoes will end up in pots on the deck next year… and I’m 100% fine with that! -until someone else here overrules me 😉

growing tulips

The view from my in-potager seating area.  When the sun shines and the flowers open wide there’s not much getting done around here.

Usually the saved bulbs end up as mixes since it’s (1) easier and (2) it’s easier.  Plus the gardener always misses a bunch of bulbs when digging, stray bulbs get dropped and returned to the wrong box, and the gardener is a little disorganized in general.  He tries though.  A solid patch of his favorite is always worth marking and digging separately.

growing tulips

I think this streaked orange is ‘Beauty of Apeldoorn’ and I wouldn’t mind a solid bunch of it, as well as the yellow behind which might be ‘Big Smile’ which is plain and yellow, and I have plenty of yellow, but it’s also excellent and I love it.

Don’t worry, there’s a good chance none of that will ever happen.  Just getting the bulbs dug will be work enough and trust me the gardener isn’t one to go out looking for extra work.

growing tulips

Most of the tulips here come from generic Darwin Hybrid mixes, and often they turn out to be something else, but I believe the large reddish orange with yellow edges is the Darwin hybrid ‘Apledoorn Elite’ and it makes up a big part of the mix.  

I bet a few complementary perennials would also look nice, but all we’ve got is purple deadnettle and a few self-sown clumps of bleeding hearts.  There’s much to be said for careful weeding.

growing tulips

One year bleeding heart seed somehow ended up in the compost and they came up all over.  Works for me I said!

Enough with the tulips, just one last photo on how much they multiply.  I came across this picture from two years ago of all the ones which were dug and saved during the potager upheaval.

growing tulips

The potager tulips all descend from these few saved bunches.  A few of the reds were added later as leftovers from the planters out front, but the nerd in me sees the baby pictures of ‘Red Emperor’ and ‘Apledoorn Elite’ just waiting to go back into the ground and explode!

Ok, one last confession.  I may have mentioned I did buy a few new daffodils last fall since I had been so good during ‘The Purge’ and made so many adult decisions about how many was enough and how many was too much.  They were all one or two bulb purchases from either QDaffs or PHS daffs and were more meant to support small growers and importers, and entirely not because I really needed them… but that sham is now falling apart.  I was either sent more bulbs than I ordered or the quality was so obscenely excellent that one bulb really amounted to three normal bulbs, and now there are enough and they’re so awesome that more would be even better.  Oh the cruelty of it all.

narcissus bernardino hyperbole

An older variety, ‘Bernardino’ with a newer variety, ‘Hyperbole’ behind it.  Both are outstanding.

Fortunately I haven’t clicked on any new orders.  Actually I think it’s downright irresponsible to even allow us to order more daffs while it’s still peak season here, and I kind of feel like I’m being targeted for my weaknesses… but on second thought I may be just fine with that.

narcissus red passion rocoza

‘Red Passion’ in front with ‘Rocoza’ behind.  To a daffodilista that’s what red looks like, just like peach is often called pink, but whatever, I always enjoy the enthusiasm of the plant-obsessed.  

So we will see if anything new is ordered.  I’m leaning towards responsibility and frugality, and more adult decisions which consider available space and appropriate choices, but when you come home from work on a Friday excited for the weekend only to find it’s raining inside the bathroom nearly as much as outside, your resolve weakens.  Plus there’s always that gardening budget just bursting with revenue from the new plant tax.  Construction is still as expensive as ever but when this genius decided to put a plant tax on all building costs it’s been a huge windfall for my plant budget.  This must be how the big oil companies feel when gas prices surge and then stay there… except that’s also my money vanishing… and it’s surely not being spent on plants…

In any case have a great weekend.  It’s still raining here (although the extra shower in the bathroom has stopped) but at least the rain has kept me from staring at flowers all morning.  Enjoy!

Snowdropping ’22

It snowed Wednesday.  It’s snowing today.  Time to revisit last weekend when winter thought it would be funny to go North for a day and see what happens.  Now don’t go thinking that spring exploded around this end of Pennsylvania in just one day.  For that to happen it’s going to take a string of warmer days and we’re no there yet (maybe next week?), for this glimpse of spring we needed to crack open the kid’s college fund, fill the tank with gas, and head down South to the outskirts of Philly.  Spring is revving up down there and it was the perfect time for Paula and I to celebrate our annual Snowdropping Day!

Scott arboretum snowdrops

Snowdrops and winter aconite (Galanthus and Eranthis hyemalis) around the Scott Arboretum

It was a warm forecast with just a trace of rain in the morning, so of course it was pouring when we arrived at our first stop.  Rumor had it that Swarthmore College’s Scott Arboretum is rich with early spring bloomers and plenty of Witch Hazel (Hamamelis), and that of course turned out to be true.  It also turned out that I was able to cross off a bucket list plant sighting by seeing Leucojum vernum ‘Gertrude Wister’ growing lustily in what is rumored to be its garden of origin, the Wister Garden of the Scott Arb.  This double Leucojum (actually a fused flower, not double) still needs to grow in my garden, but for now it is doing very well for itself closer to home.

leucojum gertrude wister

A fantastic clump of Leucojum ‘Gertrude Wister’ at the Scott Arboretum.

Gertrude Wister by the way is a name it wouldn’t hurt knowing more about.  She was an accomplished horticulturalist and author in both the Philly area and nationally and instrumental in promoting plants and horticulture in the mid 1900’s.  You can read more >here<.

Scott arboretum snowdrops

Winter garden standards surrounding the arboretum headquarters.

So with Leucojum ‘Gertrude Wister’ checked off the list we continued to explore the grounds while enjoying the soft and then hearty drizzle.  It seems only right that our snowdrop day would bring on precipitation.

Scott arboretum snowdrops

Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) filling in amongst the trunks of a Metasequoia allee.  Very nice if you ask me.

Actually the rain wasn’t too bad.  I had a hat after all, so that at least kept my hair as stylish as usual.

Scott arboretum snowdrops

Snowdrops, hellebores, and Rohdea japonica make for a nice groundcover under the dawn redwoods.

The rest of the visit was a ‘but wait, there’s more’ tour as we wandered from one witch hazel to the next.  They were perfect and the rain only made their color shine more warmly, even when it stopped for a minute here and there.

hamamelis angelly strawberries and cream westerstede

From left to right, Hamamelis ‘Angelly’, ‘Westerstede’, and ‘Strawberries and Cream’

hamamelis strawberries and cream

From pictures and descriptions I did not think ‘Strawberries and Cream’ would be a color I’d enjoy, but with a dark background and complimented by the yellows, it drew me in.

Growers of the spring blooming, Asian, witch hazels are probably aware that one of the more common problems is their tendency to hold onto last year’s dried and browned foliage.  Some people claim to not mind but I prefer the leafless look, and have been neurotic about searching out hints as to which ones tend to hold leaves and what cultural conditions encourage leaf drop.  I don’t know if I have any answers but we did see a few cultivars which held firm to last year’s leaves.

hammemelis doerak

Actually I didn’t mind the bright orange of Hamamelis ‘Doerak’ against the rich brown of the wet leaves, but dry it out and I’m not sure I’d feel the same.  Also there was another reddish cultivar who’s flowers were lost amongst the leaves, so I’m always going to place my vote for leaves-which-drop cultivars, and pass on this one.

Witch hazels are oddly rare in my neck of the woods, I suspect because they bloom prior to ‘go out to the nursery and buy all the plants for my yard’ day and people just don’t know about them, but slowly I’m finding plants and making a witch hazel show happen here.  I’ve got reddish, orange, yellow, and need more of all but in the past I’ve been thumbing my nose at the ‘purple’ forms.  Stupid me to think they wouldn’t show up in the brown and gritty winter landscape, I saw some awesome examples and of course now I have to do even more searching (Broken Arrow, Forest Farm, and Rare Finds Nursery will lead off the search).

hamamelis tsukubana-kurenai

Hamamelis ‘Tsukubana-kurenai’.  I’m going out on a limb and suggesting this is a Japanese cultivar, and I believe I need this one.

A purple and another orange are just what I need.  The oranges are my favorites, and ‘Chris’ has just enough of an orange tint to thrill me.  I suspect it is named after the UK authority, collector and grower of witch hazels, Chris Lane, but I’m only guessing.  Like many things today I feel like I can just guess at things and once they’re in writing on the internet that’s valid enough, but I’m digressing now…  To sum it up here’s a >more qualified writeup on hamamelis< which you may want to look at.  One mislabeled photo does not disqualify all the other excellent information the article contains.

hamamelis chris

Hamamelis ‘Chris’.  Heavy flowering, large flowers, bold color.  I loved it.

Hmmm.  It seems like this might be a long post since I’m only about an hour or two into our day, but whatever.  We’re up to about four inches of new snow here today so it’s off to our second Swarthmore PA stop, Hedgleigh Spring, the gardens of author/horticulturalist Charles Cresson.

charles cresson garden

I noticed that this is a neighborhood of above average gardeners, but Charles’ front garden states it loudly with a sweep of naturalizing crocus tommasinianus and patches of self-sown snowdrops.

On our last visit to see the fall camellias, Charles made the casual comment that we should see all the spring bulbs filling the meadow along the stream.  Absolutely.  We set the date but I’m not sure if Charles really expected us to go through with it based on the look he gave us when we showed up.  I can’t believe it was the steady rain or our mostly soaked appearance because at least Paula had enough sense to bring an umbrella, I think it was explained later when Charles mentioned two phones suddenly began ringing the minute we pressed the doorbell.  All was well though and off we went!

hedgleigh spring hellebore

Some of the hellebores scattered throughout the grounds.  My favorites are always the yellows.

Charles donates a plethora of special seeds to (among others)the Mid Atlantic Hardy Plant Society seed exchange, and I always have to smile as I see plants here which I have seedlings of in my own garden.

hedgleigh spring hellebore

This ‘seafoam’ colored hellebore is one I have a few seedlings of.  It has a greenish color with the slightest blue cast and I hope some of mine pick up a similar shade.

Several camellia seedlings also have roots here.  Flowering was just starting but it still amazes me to see how vigorous these shrubs grow in this northern edge of their range.

hedgleigh spring camellia

The recent cold had only done a slight bit of damage, but the main show of camellias looked extremely promising.

There were quite a few other ‘wows’.  The winter blooming Iris unguicularis was one of them.  Perfectly formed flowers of rich colors were quite a surprise out in the open garden.

iris unguicularis

These Iris unguicularis had been enjoying the shelter of a clear plastic tote over the winter and I shall have to revive my own bucketing efforts because the results are absolutely worth it.

There were many Adonis cultivars as well.  Some were just sprouting, some were being troublesome, and some were just excellent.  In case you’re not in the know, Adonis amurensis is one of the earliest woodland-edge perennials to push up flowers in shades of yellow to red.  Trouble free in a spot it likes, it’s not always easy to find a spot it likes, and at prices which rival snowdrops, the heartbreak of a lost plant is only matched by the sting your wallet feels.

cresson adonis

Adonis in full bloom and quite happy.  Single yellow is affordable, anything which runs to double or deeper shades of orange will require mortgage refinancing.

But enough on silly expensive perennials.  We came to see little bulbs, and they were everywhere.  Patches of named forms, drifts of the most common types, and seedlings galore with all kinds of excellent markings to thrill a galanthophile’s heart.

hedgleigh spring snowdrops

Small early bulbs were throughout the gardens.  This is how I love them most, scattered and naturalized into comfortable patches.

Some of the patches were decades old and showed up all over, with the newest and rarest limited to just a few beds.  Nearly each bunch had a story to go with it and to hear Charles talk of the forms and where they came from was a who’s who of the local gardening community.

galanthus white dream

Galanthus ‘White Dream’ was the most special non-special drop I saw.  Amazing.  Plain and white and perfect.

But what we really came to see was the meadow which lies behind the garden fence.  When Paula got her first glimpse she grabbed my shoulder with that crazy look in her eyes which I of course never show and I was afraid she was about to jump the creek to get there.

hedgleigh spring snowdrops

The creek and meadow outside the garden proper.  Mostly native perennials and bulbs.  Lots of bulbs, from the earliest days of spring to the last days of fall.

Charles told us about the hours spent on knees digging and dividing and replanting clump after clump to spread snowdrops far and wide.  Bulbs from elsewhere were added and over the last forty years seedlings have matured and clumped up and added their own genetics.

hedgleigh spring snowdrops

Most of the galanthus are G. nivalis, G. elwesii, and hybrids between the two.  As usual crocus were everywhere.

We spent quite some time back there, first admiring the overall effect and then finally crouching down to examine anything and everything which looked specialer.

charles cresson garden

Charles and Paula inspecting the masses of daffodil sprouts and snowdrop blooms.

We found a bunch of cool things.  I suggested that we take the three best forms and name them Charles, Paula, and Frank and start spreading them around in honor of the day, but of course they thought I was joking.  Hah hah.  Of course I was…

prunus mume

Prunus mume, the Japanese Apricot blooming away back in the main garden

We finished the tour and then continued to overstay our welcome.  It had stopped raining and after I said how much I loved the Prunus mume and Charles said it self seeds all the time, we were all rooting around through the mulch looking for seedlings.  Our visit had really degenerated into what it always does, the schedule goes out the window and we end up dirty.

Eventually it was off to the next garden.  Matthew and Jamie Bricker were completely polite about us showing up at 5pm on a Sunday to drag them through the garden.  They’re about three years into a new garden and it’s astounding how much they’ve already accomplished in a garden which had to be wrestled back from overgrown neglect…. Plus three kids and plenty of home improvement projects… I was suddenly very insecure about my own questionable progress 🙂

bricker garden

Just a small slice of the Bricker garden. Snowdrops were already spreading into decent clumps all over the garden, all nicely mulched with a plethora of sweet gum balls from the mature sweet gum trees (Liquidambar)

This is where the pictures end.  We ran out of light before we ran through our hosts’ patience but it was great seeing how far this garden had already grown and the shape it was taking.  We will hopefully be back.  The Brickers are putting together an outstanding snowdrop collection and for local gardeners and Gala attendees they’re already a great source for potted extras.  Once he gets more settled into the new spot I suspect he won’t mind being listed as a source, but for now… well it never hurts to ask 😉 I’m sure you’ll be able to find him on Facebook.

Scott arboretum snowdrops

Snowdrops (‘Brenda Troyle’ actually) in the dark.  It was still far too warm (and dry now) to call it a night.

I don’t know if Paula thought I was joking when I said we were still going to get through her garden by flashlight, but we did.  It was warm, the drops were open and glowing, and the wind had settled down completely.  For the first few minutes the rustling in the garden was a bit eerie but then we realized it was all the nightcrawlers brought up by the rain and active in the warmth and it was slightly less creepy.  Even in the dark by flashlight with giant earthworms stalking us it was a perfect end to the day.  Her garden looks great as all our gardens did that day, and as usual our snowdropping day was an excellent start to the season.  Now if it would just stop snowing…

Thanks to our hosts, enjoy the season, and all the best!

A January Thaw

Saturday I put on a sweatshirt and the Christmas lights came down.  Of course the job is ten times easier when a couple extra hands join in, but surprisingly both children had much more important things to do so only the dog was there for me.  He’s not quite as helpful as you might think.  The lights all came down and then the porch got a good hosing off, and once that was done I rewarded myself with a little puttering around.  The front foundation bed (the warmest spot in the garden) got a little cleaning up and the sprouting snowdrops are all ready to show off to best effect.  Too bad we woke to actual snow the next morning.

frozen snowdrops

Snowdrops up to their ankles in the white stuff again.  Most are still just fine, although here and there is some singed foliage and freeze dried scapes.

You could barely call our last warmup a January thaw.  First of all it’s February and second of all we barely melted the snow from the last storms and there’s still a good amount of ice in every shady bed and covering most of the lawn.  I’m an optimistic early cleaner, but even I left plenty since I know the cold still has another week or so in it.  Back inside to the winter garden.  I’ve been taking cuttings and repotting amaryllis.  Primrose are showing buds.  It’s everything the outside garden isn’t.

variegated pelargonium

Look at the cool foliage of this variegated pelargonium.  No idea on the name, but I’ll be interested to see how much of the pink remains once the temperatures warm up.

The winter garden can use the attention since once things warm up outside I can barely be bothered with watering anything indoors.  The amaryllis will be cool and a few are already showing buds, but overall the indoor gardening space is beginning to get tight with all the new pots I’ve been adding.  I was joking with a friend that what I need is a spring garage sale to clear out everything from under the garage lights, but then what would I do if I needed a few dozen pots of succulent cuttings in June?  Bet they didn’t think of that.

salvia cestrum nocturnum

This red salvia is the perfect color for February.  Cestrum nocturnum (night-blooming jasmine) is the taller plant and I really hope I get some blooms on it this summer.

Two pots of Cestrum nocturnum is probably one more than I need, but night-blooming jasmine is one of my latest favorite plants.  It was one of those things which followed me home from a late autumn garden visit.  “Take this, you’ll want this” was what I was told as branches were lopped off and pushed into my hands.  Of course I dutifully added them to the haul and didn’t think much else of it until the sun began to set as I motored home again through the mountains.  Slowly as the scenery turned to night I began to take notice of a sweet scent filling the car.  Night-blooming jasmine is a real thing and I enjoyed a thoroughly perfumed car ride for the tail end of my trip.  I’m already imagining a hot summer night where the deck is filled with a jasmine fragrance, but of course I shouldn’t count my chickens before they’ve hatched since any number of things can go wrong between now and then.

I don’t care though.  It’s still February and 2022 will be the most perfect and perfumed gardening year this plot of earth has ever imagined or experienced.  Weeds will be non-existent and rainfall will arrive perfectly timed and only at night.  Mosquitos and gnats will lose their taste for (my) blood and I’ll practically live in the garden.  And it won’t be a dirty, sweaty, often bloody life it will be all cold drinks and white shorts.  Absolutely.

And if you believe that you’ll probably also believe I’m not going to mention snowdrops one more time.  The forecast looks to be warming and plans are afoot for a Philly snowdropping trip late next week and I’m all ears for new gardens to visit.  It will be fun I’m sure so until then enjoy your week 🙂

Winter Interesting

A warm day, a storm, and now it’s cold again.  That should bring this blog mostly up to date, and I don’t think anyone will be poorer for the summary.  There are blogs with much more inspiring garden and snowdrop photos and Paddy’s ‘An Irish Gardener’ comes to mind immediately, and you may wish to pay him a visit before I get started since today’s tale of gloom and doom will not involve even the hardiest winter flowers flowering.

galanthus godfrey owens ice

Golly Godfrey, you’ve been through snow and frigid below 0F temperatures, and now it’s an ice storm?   Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I surprised both myself and the dog when the camera was grabbed and the door was opened and we all headed out for a tour of the sleety garden.  It was still all gloom and precipitation but I do like the look of an ice storm so off we went to see how things were holding up.

sedum winter ice

I’m not much for dead stalks as ‘winter interest’ but a nice bunch of sedum can hold its own all winter.

Overall it looked nice.  Not good, because no ice storm is ever a good thing, but as long as we’re not losing power and can stay off the roads and not have to endure the cracking and snapping of falling trees, I can see the beauty in it.  Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and promises to bring out the sparkle of the ice, but with wind and temperatures maybe barely out of the single digits you won’t see me out there.

ice cardoon stalk winter

Possibly the most photographed Cardoon stalk of all time, this thing still fascinates me.  I also love the russet hues of the ‘Dallas Blues’ Panicum as a backdrop.

I really can’t complain about the cold.  All the sprouting things are locked up in frozen soil, just like they should be, and will now wait at least until late February.  It’s almost a normal winter and of course that has me suspiciously waiting for the next shoe to drop.

ice storm midwinter fire

‘Midwinter Fire’ is an excellent dogwood for winter color.  I wouldn’t mind a few other colors but this one by itself puts on quite the show.

One down side to a ‘normal’ winter is that I’ve been banking on global warming and planted a bunch of stuff which doesn’t appreciate ‘normal’ lows.  I guess we’ll see what happens this spring.  Maybe the cold hasn’t penetrated too deeply yet.  It was a very warm December after all.

ice storm southern magnolia

A Magnolia grandiflora seedling of a hardier (I hope) sort.  The leaves don’t look too bad, but March has a way of bringing out the damage and it’s likely all the leaves will drop by April.

Besides Crinum lilies, Agapanthus, and palmetto palms, there are the “hardy” camellias.  I can almost feel them glaring at me as I walk around, and I know they must be thinking winter in Charleston would have been a lot cozier.

ice hardy camellia

This ‘Survivor’ seedling still looks pretty good, in spite of the icing.  Let’s hope it looks just a good thawed out again.

As long as it’s cold, I wouldn’t mind a good snowstorm to top off the ski runs and keep me out of the garden a little more.  The slopes are all ice right now and that’s not fun.  Also not fun is going into the winter garden and chasing boredom with pruners and potting soil.  I confess I’m taking cuttings of succulents again, and if February doesn’t warm up soon I’ll be up to my ears in baby plants, none of which this garden needs.

ice ARBORVITAE WINTER

Evergreens on the berm are slowly growing in to cover up the view of our industrial park neighbor.  

Speaking of things the garden and gardener didn’t need: (1)the yard is still ripped up with bulldozer ruts and construction debris, (2) The under-construction sewer lines froze up, and sewer lines don’t drain when they’re frozen, and (3) Covid has come to visit our corner of suburbia.  Everyone is in recovery and cases were mostly mild, but still it’s something we didn’t want added on the to-do list.

ice blueberry winter

The promise of better days.  Blueberry buds which will hopefully bring blueberries and fill a few pancakes this summer.

So now it’s down to reminding myself each evening that I don’t need new plants ordered when half the garden is in need of leveling and cleaning up.  I’ve ruthlessly crushed dreams of more caladiums, dahlia gardens, bean fields, onion plantations, tender bulb experiments, begonia collections, mini conifer forests, sunflower fields… and that’s just last week.  I’d still drop everything to drive an hour to pull terra cotta pots out of someone’s trash, but as of 11pm Friday, February 4th I have not ordered any new plants or seeds.

flowering dogwood winter buds ice

Hard to imagine now, but in just three months the dogwoods will be covered in bloom again.

Btw seed exchange seeds don’t count.  They’re practically an obligation if you belong to a society and I would be selfish to not support the Rock garden or Hardy Plant or American Primrose or the Magnolia Society’s work.  It would be like walking past a church bake sale just because you’re on a diet.

Hope everyone is going into the weekend safe and healthy.  The cold won’t last forever and even here the snowdrops will bloom again.

The Winter Garden 2022

Monday morning was one of the coldest days of the year and this weekend is also set to drop as low as 1F (-17C), and although we are only 14 days into the year that’s about as cold as Sorta Suburbia has been in a while.  The temperatures only last about a night or two and the ground is still barely frozen, but only time will tell how these surprisingly normal lows will work with my new, optimistically mild, global warming planting plan full of autumn blooming snowdrops and zone 7 Crinum lilies.

cyclamen under lights

Happier plantings are sheltered in the garage under fluorescent shoplights.  They’re experiencing a few ‘chilly’ nights, but nothing even close to the freezing cold outside.

A better gardener would put this cold-induced break to good use, planning seed orders and organizing planting plans, safe in the knowledge that borderline plantings are well protected, but all this gardener wants to do is eat.  Not just hearty stews and roasted potatoes, but more so late night bags of chips and “one more” handful of m&ms followed by a big glass of milk.  Then some ice cream. Then maybe another look in the fridge, just in case.  Outside just a few witch hazels are fenced, and not a single snowdrop is bucketed, but inside there’s been a lot of attention to sitting around and… eating….

overwintering tropicals

Also safe inside are the plants too precious and too tender to abandon outside.  They don’t do much all winter, but they’re something nice to look at while nibbling pretzels.

I can think of no better place to sit (while snacking) than the winter garden.  When it’s dark out I can almost convince myself that this array of shoplights in the just-above-freezing back of the garage is actually a greenhouse or uber fancy conservatory.  When the weather is cold it’s a room filled with green to hang out in, watering, puttering, pruning, plucking… doing all the stuff that the cold makes uncomfortable outdoors.

indoor garden room

My official coffee drinking, seed cleaning, label writing, phone browsing, beer sampling, winter patio seat in the winter garden.  I heard a crack last weekend and that’s got me slightly concerned about all the m&m’s, but that’s something to worry about in May.

There have been a few watershed moments in this year’s slightly excessive winter garden adventure.  Ooops.  I admitted that the winter garden is a little “extravagant”, but I blame it on last winter when I killed off a shameful amount of potted cyclamen.  Cyclamen have been the stars of my winter garden for a few years, but then suddenly a winter of lazy, careless watering did in a bunch of them.  This fall I needed backup plants.  A visit to an open garden and a cutting swap started me off.  The Amish country and various nurseries added a few more.  Friends helped.  Cuttings for overwintering added to it all.  It’s all reaching a quite pleasant crescendo in my opinion.

streptocarpella

Blue streptocarpella and flower buds on a red salvia.  The salvia is being overwintered, and the buds should probably be clipped off… but I do like flowers 😉

Recently on Facebook a friend shared an article about the “dark side” of plant collecting.  The home time and isolation of the pandemic had set unprepared gardeners off on a vicious binge of buying and collecting, and people were amassing hoards that amounted to hundreds of plants.  “amateurs” my friend commented, and we laughed.  I read the article myself and to be honest it made me smile to read about these plant collections and see the smiling faces of such happy gardeners.  I think I might have missed the dark in it all.

aloe white fox

A cool aloe which I couldn’t resist.  ‘Snow Fox’ will join my other potted succulents next summer but for now just sits dry and mostly dormant on the dimmer end of the bench.

Just out of curiosity I counted pots in the winter garden.  Normally anything under 6 inches doesn’t count, but this time I just went ahead and easily reached 150 pots back there.  Hmmm.  Then I took a few more cuttings and made it 152, just to slip a little further into the dark side.

flowering succulent

This succulent comes in off the deck and spends the next three months flowering.  I love it.  Every little bit of leaf off the flower stems will try to root, so of course I made another pot of cuttings with those.

At least taking cuttings keeps my hands busy and out of the chip bag.  I joke about not having the garden prepared, but at least my hoarding skills have me ‘winter gardening’ prepared.  You can never have too many saved pots, and emergency bags of potting soil on hand.  It’s awkward sneaking out into the frigid outdoor lot of the box store to try and wrestle a frozen bag of potting soil into your cart, so have it on hand in August so that you don’t have to make up some lame lie about ‘I don’t know, my wife told me she needed potting soil tonight’ when the cashier asks you what in the heck you’re doing.  At least I can plan ahead in one area.

cane begonias

I’m quite pleased with how the cane begonia cuttings are doing.  They’ll need bigger pots soon enough, but of course I’m prepared for that when the time comes.  

Sometimes a rare ray of good fortune may shine upon you.  A friend shocked me last year when she informed me they were officially downsizing and leaving their mature garden behind. “I think there will be a few things you’ll want” she said, and of course I agreed, but it was really all the accumulated trash like leftover pots and soil, bits of twine, scraps of fencing, pottery shards, opened bags of soil conditioners that I really wanted.  Of course she knew that already.  Only another gardener would want this stuff, and when I picked up a carload a few weeks ago I had to agree that I did want it.

Oxalis triangularis fanny

More begonias and a cool Oxalis triangularis (maybe ‘Fanny’) which I was given a couple rhizomes of.  I’m halfway tempted to pull out and plant a few of the purple leaved ones stored dormant under the shelf as companions to this one. 

She gave me a box of terracotta pots which she may have never used.  They’re small and there are a bunch of them and they’re much more trouble to move than lightweight plastic but I’m far more scared of them than I am of hundreds of hoarded houseplants because I really love them.  What the *heck* is wrong with me that I’m staring at a box of clay pots thinking they’re so nice.  I could understand if they were antique cloches for protecting delicate snowdrops during an ice storm, intricate wire topiary forms, but they’re stupid clay pots.  I’m worried about what might happen if I start cruising garage and estate sales.  I think I might buy every one I come across.

variegated pelargonium

Clay pots and grandma’s geraniums.  Cool people don’t seem to like pelargoniums but such a nice edging of variegation on the leaf, and the flowers are so delicate. 

At least clay pots don’t have any calories… that I know of…. and so that must make a few too many of them a harmless distraction.  As of today I only use them for succulents and a few potted bulbs, so even these are too many, but I really need more.  A birthday is coming up.  I wonder if putting ‘old, dirty terracotta pots’ on the birthday list could replace the usual underwear and socks?

aloe blue elf

Another aloe (‘Blue Elf’) with a few flower buds forming.  I hope a lack of water and cool temps can keep them from developing too fast.  Although I love winter blooms, I’d rather see them come up strong outside rather than spindly and weak in here.

So as usual I don’t really know how this post ended up where it has with underwear and socks.  Let me try and re-focus with African violets.  My mother used to grow them and so did my aunt.  My grandmother grew them.  They used to be Saintpaulia, but now I see they’re Streptocarpus sect. Saintpaulia and I’m not sure how that changed anything but I also know that about a year or so ago I needed to grow them again.  I know these urges, I resisted.  I almost made it but then cracked last fall and bought one and then I asked a friend for cuttings.  I found online sources but only looked.  I found one marked down.  I guilted a spouse into buying me one at the grocery store after a few ‘admit it, you’re never going to wear that, I can’t buy you anything’ Christmas returns.  I now have three violets plus two cuttings and I think I’m ok but then realized this afternoon I volunteered to stop at the store just because I thought they might have more.  Hmmmm.

african violet

An African violet.  This weekend will be cold and maybe I’ll take a cutting.  I don’t need more but whatever.

African violets don’t have calories either.  As far as I know adding another would be a  victimless crime even if I’m lying to myself about picking up milk for the kids when I stumble across it.  So what if I end up in a grocery store that’s 35 minutes away, it’s always good to shop around.

Have an excellent weekend, stay warm, and fuel that furnace responsibly… even if some of the fuel is chocolate, beer, and cheese 😉

Nonwinter Continues

A few days this month have been average, but nearly every other day has been warmer.  From what the forecast shows, early January looks about the same and I guess that’s great if you’re digging foundations and pouring concrete this winter, but I guess it’s also great for fall snowdrops.  Surely one of those should make this gardener happy.

galanthus potters prelude

Galanthus ‘Potter’s Prelude’ looking as if it’s growing in North Carolina or Virginia or anywhere else where winters are more sweatshirts and sneakers rather than parkas and boots.

I guess foundations and snowdrops both make people happy, but I would like to take a moment and note that none of the construction crews have commented on the wonder of December blooming flowers.  Maybe they’re too distracted by the other wonders of the “winter” garden.

garden construction

The gardener continues to forage the construction site for more and more wonderful stones.  Some of the fill has also been moved, but the gardener waits until everyone is gone before using the embarrassingly tiny wheelbarrow and labor-intensive shovel to move ridiculously small amounts of fill.

Other than a group of snowdrops which looks remarkably similar to other groups of snowdrops, the rest of the garden is significantly less inspiring.

garden construction

The foundation rises.  Mortar runoff can only improve the quality of my lawn.

I suspect the bulk of the foundation work will be finished today.  Then it sits for a week curing before even more building goes on top.  I suspect it will take a while before I’m comfortable with this new massiveness rising in the garden but maybe more closet space is really what’s been missing from my life.  All this time I thought it was more snowdrops, so silly me.

fall pasque flower

A surprise pasque flower rising amongst the trash must mean something.  

Who am I kidding?  We are entering Temple Nursery snowdrop catalog season and I can absolutely guarantee that I will again try to fill that void in my life with new snowdrops.  I already called the bank to make sure our line of credit will be available in time.

Have a great week!

Out Galavanting

Yes, there’s bunches of stuff to do around here.

No, next to none of it’s been done.

So two weeks ago I started complaining about all the things on the autumn to-do list which needed be done or at least considered before winter, and what shows up on the to-done list?  A garden visit.  Michael Bowell of Create-a-scene fame hosts an open garden through the HPS each autumn, and since 2014 was the last time this gardener made it, I figured it was prime time for a re-visit.  If you’re interested >here’s a link< to the first visit, which offers up just a tiny bit more info on the garden and the event.

michael bowell garden

Michael Bowell’s house with its two story attached greenhouse.  A winter paradise I’m sure!  

 

This event is promoted as a fall cutting swap, and it’s a sad commentary that I had dark intentions of leaving with a few new plants, but for once swiping cuttings was encouraged!  Following a tour through the gardens and greenhouse(s) attendees were directed to take a few cuttings and try a few new plants at home.  I still had my reservations, so just to make sure I asked if it would be ok to clip a shoot off a real tempting variegated euphorbia… and before I could even argue a bag was pushed into my hands and clippings started coming off the sides and top.  ‘Did you see this one, do you want this one as well?’  Wow.  For as much as I try to stay inside my shell in a crowd (there was quite a group attending) the garden chat and entertaining stories lured me in.  If I lived closer I would have absolutely overstayed my welcome, but sadly I also had nursery stops and another garden to visit.  Poor me 😉

autumn porch display

The Amish country was overflowing with fall produce and roadside pumpkin stands.  I was restrained and came home with just these two.  I don’t know why large squashes make me happy but they do, so gift givers take note.  

 

Long story short I was very good at the nurseries and only brought home a few essentials.  No need to ask what they were and to question how they qualify as essentials, but they were and between that and another gardener who forced even more goodies upon me it’s possible I’m headed in the wrong direction as far as lower maintenance and getting things ready for winter.  Whatever.

autumn perennial border

I might be heading toward winter with the front border.  Almost all the fennel was whacked to the ground prior to seeding all over (again) and in general it looks fairly neat.

 

So I mowed the lawn and chopped down fennel stalks.  Then I looked at the 10-day forecast and with nearly no chance of frost I decided to just walk around aimlessly and ignore nearly all the real to-do list.

iris eleanor roosevelt

The historic iris (1930) ‘Eleanor Roosevelt’ is reblooming very well this autumn and although in theory I’m against plants who rebloom out of season, I have to admit to really liking it this year.  Usually the buds are later and freeze.

 

The last colchicums are still doing well even though the weather this past week has been cloudy, rain, cloudy, partly cloudy, rain, clouds…

colchicum giganteum

Colchicum giganteum group.  These are stout flowers which last in spite of the weather… unlike some of their cousins… 

 

One colchicum celebration is the number of double white C. autumnale alboplenum which I have in flower this year.  After a trip to Amish country I shouldn’t like this overly double extravagance but I do.  Very much.  Hopefully they continue to multiply as well here as they have in the source garden of my friend Kathy.

colchicum autumnale alboplenum

Colchicum autumnale alboplenum in a bed of depressingly industrial wood chips.  Creating a blanket of low sedum should also go on the to-do list rather than just allowing the groundcover of sheep sorrel to re-invade this bed.

 

The rest of the garden continues to crumble into that colorful and seedy look of early autumn.

autumn perennial border

The hot pink of aster ‘Alma Potsche’ is about over for the season, but there’s still some lingering annuals and cannas to keep the color going.  Just yesterday I was eyeing the birch for a power-washing.  hmmmm

 

For all of ten minutes I thought of addressing the bulbs which need digging, but with highs still into the 70’s I think deadheading might be more useful.

autumn dahlias

The seed grown dahlias are nice enough but I think they’re still going to go to the compost pile rather than winter storage.

 

There are cannas to think of as well.

autumn dahlias

Maybe the tropical garden doesn’t have as many cannas and dahlias in need of digging as I think.  For some reason the cannas are all stunted this year in spite of a wet summer.  I honestly think a shortage of sunny days is the problem.

 

Bah.  I won’t even think of digging bulbs and tubers until after the first frost.  I’ll just enjoy the start of chrysanthemum season and let those distract me for the next couple weeks 🙂

mums and hydrangea

I shouldn’t even allow chrysanthemums to bloom until September.  The later flowers are so much nicer!

 

Well I guess I did do something else this week.  I potted up another dozen or two of new cuttings which followed me home.  Luckily they all went into 6 inch and smaller pots so they don’t even count as new plants.

taking cuttings to overwinter

Begonias, coleus, salvias… I was only being polite when I accepted all these little treasures.

 

So stop shaking that head.  Yesterday I did chop a few other things down for the season and now I’m considering a little more wood mulch to hopefully hold back the weeds this winter.  I moved a few containers closer to the garage.  There is a little hope.  Don’t you worry, I still have at least ten days.

Have a great week 🙂

2021: Year of the Caladium

Maybe you missed it but I’m a little obsessed with some new caladiums this year.  They’re nothing particularly exotic, and I’m sure they would rather grow another zone or two south, but since the day they arrived in late April I’ve been gloating over all the tubers, looming over the planted pots, endlessly inspecting the first sprouts, anticipating every new leaf, and then agonizing over what to pot up together, what to pot up separately, how much sun is too much, how bad a chilly spell will be for them, how much they’ll grow during every stretch of hot weather… I’ve grown them before, but for some reason they are consuming me this year.  Who knows what happened.  I’m usually so rational with my plant decisions that this has really caught me off guard.  **90 second pause as I wait for lightning to strike me down**

growing caladiums

A few caladiums as well as other pots which are now off the driveway and moved into a new holding area.  This looks far more intentional than having all kinds of stray pots filling up the driveway waiting for homes.

So that went well.  It appears I will not be struck down for telling a little fib about frequent plant addictions, so let me just go ahead and tell a little story.  Back in late January I stumbled upon a caladium grower who sells mixed tubers by the pound.  Don’t ask why I was looking up caladium growers in January, but I was intrigued by the idea of ordering five pounds of caladiums with shipping for under $50 so I clicked yes.  They arrived in late April and I was thrilled.

caladium red flash

I believe this is ‘Red Flash’ a larger, good growing caladium which seems fine in full sun.

I waited until late May to pot them up.  Since they were mixed and I just couldn’t handle pots full of random colors all together, I potted each tuber up separately.  Five pounds came out to 78 pots in case you’re wondering, and once potted they were all lined out on the driveway to soak up the spring warmth with just a tiny bit of water to get them started.  And then the wait began.  A sprout here, one there, slowly they began to grow (really slowly it seemed) and every new leaf was an exciting surprise to see if it was something even more special than the last.  The rows of pots were starting to look like something.

growing caladiums

Ouch.  Halfway through setting the retaining wall blocks to hold the new bed I realized my level blocks did not match the sloping sidewalk and I’m absolutely annoyed with the way it looks.  Maybe some day I’ll redo it… maybe…

As different forms showed themselves they were grouped and potted up into whatever black plastic I could scrounge up.   For years I have been saving and storing every leftover pot from my own yard and the neighbors and now my moment to shine had finally arrived.  Ten of one size, fifteen of another, no problem!  I was feeling pretty rich even though absolutely no one appreciated my inspired foresight.  Someone (a pretty narrow-minded someone if I’m being honest) even said ‘Dad, you still have like a thousand more pots, do you really need them all?’ but of course genius is often misunderstood in its time, so I politely ignored the comment.

growing caladiums

Caladium ‘Pink Cloud?’ on the left with probably ‘Aaron’ as the white behind.

All the pots looked excellent on the driveway, but others suggested we use the driveway for cars so the caladium pots needed to move into their positions.  After putting four pots in place I came to the conclusion that there was nowhere else for the other 30 or 40 pots.  In January it was easy to say all the hostas and hellebores in the bed alongside the garage would be transplanted elsewhere, but in June when only one hellebore was gone it’s a different story.  Fortunately there was still grass on the other side of the walk.  It was a no-brainer to rip out the grass, throw in a few retaining wall blocks that the neighbor didn’t want, and then use sand from a recent sand delivery to level off a new bed.  Even though the new bed looks suspiciously like a big holding area for plants I didn’t really need in the first place, I like to think of it as the new sand terrace.  Of course I emphasize the second syllable of terrace to make it sound even fancier and French, and that of course is only natural in a garden which already boasts a potager.

caladium miss muffet

Caladium ‘Miss Muffet’ is amazing.  I wish it liked me more, but I suspect it would prefer a garden with more consistently warm weather and possibly a little more shade.

Having so many pots sounds silly, but genius foresight also ordered 100 drip emitters and some extra water tubing in May and now each pot is getting watered twice a day without the gardener lifting a finger (as if he even needed another excuse to be lazy) and the only real flaw in his plan is the nearly full sun exposure of the new bed and the part shade requirement for many of the caladiums…

growing caladiums

Maybe ‘Carolyn Whorton?’  An excellent grower here but also one who’s centers burn out in direct sun.

So for the last two weeks I’ve been shuffling sunburned caladiums into darker corners and moving up anything else which seems to tolerate more light.  It’s slightly concerning to see how many other plants have appeared out of nowhere to join the caladiums, but for some reason this year the gardener has been enjoying potting up things like clematis seedlings and ornamental peppers, and when this happens the few seed pots sown in March can rapidly become way more plants than anyone needs.

growing caladiums

One of the agonies of planting mixed caladiums is the possibility of a mixed pot.  Some might say that’s the whole point behind mixed tubers, but I thought I could get around it and this pot would be two of the same… but now as they grow on, the plant on the right has pink centers which burn, but the plant on the left seems more tolerant.  Are they different cultivars?  Will I ever know?

We will just ignore the ‘too many plants’ possibility and not think about all the extra pots this little project has generated.  Obviously I need to try and overwinter them all.  What a fiasco that will be, just imagine how much the gardener is going to complain about lugging all these in!

growing caladiums

I’ve just about given up on most IDs.  I wish they were like snowdrops or some other easy to identify plant, rather than something where earlier leaves are different than later leaves, sun and heat change the look, mature plants show more color…

Since I was running new drip lines I just went ahead and added in all the amaryllis (Hippeastrum) pots, as well as a bunch of other stuff.  It’s officially become a shady tropical garden and I quite like it as it wraps completely around the side and back of the garage.

potted shade garden

More goodies.  Actually only three pots of caladiums are new, the rest are all plants overwintered from last year… so I don’t want anyone thinking I’m still out there spending stimulus checks on new plants!

Not to keep going with bad ideas, but the amaryllis are finally getting some of the attention they’ve been missing for the last few years.  My fingers are crossed for many blooms this winter, but as of this minute I have no plans to add more, so at least that’s a plus 🙂

growing caladiums

Yeah I have no idea which caladiums these are.  To be honest the amaryllis were all misslabeled as well, so this really doesn’t do much for my need to organize.

So now for the other side of the story.  I didn’t just ‘happen to have’ a couple tons of sand and a pile of retaining wall blocks laying around, they were actually supposed to go towards a different idea.  I wanted to dig up the muddy lawn and replace it with a level sand path which is far less muddy and much more fun for kneeling on while admiring snowdrops.  Once the caladiums were situated the walk finally started… and of course didn’t get far since half the sand had already gone to a new bed and for topping off other areas which were short on sand (doesn’t everyone have endless sand needs?)

cardinal flower

I never realized how slanted the lawn was here until I actually took a level to it.  Good riddance!

Hopefully the path will work out.  It’s got a slight incline to it and hopefully that won’t be enough to wash out the sand with each rain, but if worse comes to worse I have ideas on that as well.  For now I have to tackle the curve of the path, and the fact that there are plants here as well which didn’t get moved in the spring.

shade garden path

More path building and slope filling.

Since we ended up in this side of the yard, we might as well take a look around.  Not much since this is such an ugly corner of the yard, but who can resist the latest Lycoris joke?  Not even twelve hours after posting that it didn’t look good for any more Lycoris flowers this summer, Lycoris chinensis (yellow surprise lily) surprised me with a flower stalk.  From nothing to full bloom in just a few days I think it’s pretty cool.  I’m so pleased I won’t even be petty and complain that there were two flower talks last year.  Nope, not at all.  Just enjoy it for what it is.

lycoris chinensis

Lycoris chinensis.  All is forgiven, I love these things!

You can look across the yard from here and see the potager.  If I remember correctly (it’s been a while), on a day when the sun actually comes out you can sit here in the shade of the maples and take a break before heading out into the heat and humidity of the full sun areas.  That’s a nice thing plus it’s kind of hidden back here.  The dog can usually find me soon enough, but you have to be foolish enough to answer before the kids figure out where you are.

garden view

The view across the garden.  That’s one of the industrial park buildings up on top of the slope.  The trees still have a ways to go.

And that’s where we are at.  More sand is scheduled to arrive tomorrow (assuming this past week of torrential rains hasn’t washed it all away) and the path should progress a little further.  It doesn’t look like much but shoveling and wheel-barrowing and tamping and leveling and measuring are all the little tedious tasks which take me forever.  I’m sure someone more motivated would finish in two or three days, but well…

sand path

For a while I doubted myself on the path idea, but now it’s growing on me.  The fam is still on the fence, but once it’s done I think they’ll give it their seal of approval as well.

So I’ve got caladiums and sand.  Life is good.  Other people measure their success by different measures but right now I’m feeling pretty rich.  I even found another clearance caladium tonight while cinderblock shopping and a $2 caladium always makes the hard labor better.

Hope you have a great week!

Catching Up On July

Guess who fell off the wagon last month?

This guy.

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

garden after vacation

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

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

silk road lily

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

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

cardoon flower

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

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

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

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

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

mildewed phlox

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

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

overgrown flower bed

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

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

castor bean plant

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

And my first agapanthus seedling has flowered 🙂

hardy agapanthus

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

And I have a flower on my new Crinum!

crinum milk and wine

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

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

starting caladiums

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

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