Into Autumn

Last week I broke down and started to wear a coat to work.  This weekend I’m reconsidering long pants and wondering why I’m sweating as I dig.  After a cooling off last month (and some really spectacular weather) it’s warm again, and I’m not sure how much I like that.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a mild autumn, but after going through all the trouble of dragging things inside, the big procrastinating part of me wonders if I couldn’t have put it off for another week or two 😉

autumn garden

The rock wall sits empty, the aspen are starting to color up.

Sadly the sweaty digging had little to do with the garden, rather it was me digging out the new access to the basement.  I’m a little tired of all the hard labor, but the stones for a wall, and fill for some low spots, and some more soil for yard leveling will hopefully all lead to more planting spots so in the long run… the really long run… the run that never seems to have an end in sight….

galanthus bursanus

Galanthus bursanus doing well in a protected spot of the open garden.  I’m quite pleased.

What the warmth has been good for are the autumn flowering snowdrops.  No harsh freezes flattening them, no fierce winds and driving rain to beat them up, just day after day of mild temperatures and soil warming sunshine.  The snowdrops seem happy, and the gardener has been enjoying this.

autumn snowdrops

A Galanthus reginae-olgae also doing ok in the open garden.  Maybe someday the clumps will be thick enough to stand up to the falling leaves, but not quite yet.

Enough about snowdrops though.  I don’t want to overdo it before the late fall bloomers and the winter bloomers and then the spring hurrah!  It will be a long four months in that case, because even me holding back might be a little more than many people will want to endure.

cyclamen cilicium

Another fall bloomer, Cyclamen cilicium.  This one is perfectly hardy for me yet still in a pot.  Maybe one of my newly built-up areas will be the perfect location for a starter colony of this cool little species.

Oh wait.  Autumn foliage is also a thing for some people (maybe the snowdropless amongst us), so yeah the maples were amazing, the oaks are turning to russet, and the warm breezes have leaves dropping and running across the neighborhood every which way.  I wish I had more for mulching but I’ll collect as many as I can and hope it’s enough.

Citrus trifoliata 'Flying Dragon'

The hardy orange, Citrus trifoliata ‘Flying Dragon’ always surprises me with its weird pink-yellow-orange-green fall color combos.  Today I think the green spines are fascinating but I’m sure someday I will curse them.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll also get some tulips planted.  I thought about it today, but as usual way too much time is being wasted on moving furniture and house projects rather than doing more important things.  Please ignore that the “more important” things were actually silly things like picking leaves off the witch hazel and cleaning off moss patches and power-washing birch trees, but to be honest there’s a reason I never post a things to do in the garden list.  How would I ever explain planting tulips in a December snow squall after preaching that the first week in November was when it should have been done?  All in good time, right?

Hope you have an excellent week 🙂

In With the Old

I’ve been ignoring the colder temperatures long enough.  A sudden freeze would have made the great autumn migration much, much easier but I’d surely miss a few things next year.  The weather Saturday was beautiful and it’s the first weekend in a month where I didn’t spend most of my time emptying closets or running to the Salvation Army or painting or moving furniture…  So spending an afternoon moving a few plants was (almost) a treat 😉

overwintering plants

Putting everything on the driveway as a staging area seemed like a good idea… until even the driveway was filled.

Earlier in the month I’d already taken cuttings of coleus and other favorite annuals, hauled in the caladium pots and lugged the amaryllis in, and really thought I was on a good path… but then the plants started to accumulate.  Hmmmm.  Shame on those plants for growing so much.

overwintering plants

By the end of the day things looked downright tame.  A few things to shove into some dark corner of the garage when it really gets cold, and my precious tree fern which will stay out as long as possible.

So right now there’s no room in the winter garden for a January coffee, but I have a few months to straighten that out.  I’m sure it will all work out just like I’m sure over the next few days I absolutely won’t find a thing or two more to bring in or a handful of ‘just in case’ cuttings.

autumn garden

Decent temperatures and beautiful autumn light made spending all day outside a treat.  It’s amazing how things have recovered since the rains returned.

I wasn’t lugging all day.  It was just nice to be outside and I’m quite talented at just wandering around ‘thinking’ or sitting around and ‘contemplating’.  I guess we all have our superpowers even if we don’t all get to wear the fancy tights.

autumn garden

The late asters are nice enough but of course I’m still far too impressed with the purple stems of the ‘Sunnyside Up’ pokeweed.

One low point to this autumn is that nearly every last chrysanthemum in the potager’s chrysanthemum bed died out this past winter.  In the spring I was almost happy about all the open space, but now I miss them, especially the big football forms with their huge, shaggy blooms.  Who knows.  The winter wasn’t all that bad and many of them had been with me for years, but these things happen.  Fortunately I have backup plants, sadly not the same forms, but seeds are easy and if I want I can just collect a few seedheads this fall and within months I’ll have more than I lost… (as if I hadn’t already filled all that open space)

garden chrysanthemum

A mix of seedling chrysanthemums in the neglected former rock garden.  Even after a summer of no-care and searing heat and drought they’ve come through with a nice show!

Who knows why chrysanthemums just die.  Many of those big bushelbaskets of color sold in the fall aren’t actually hardy, and many more dry out too much to establish after the show is over, and some are just planted too late, but other times?  I know all the autumn rains last year had mine extra soggy going into winter but I was still surprised every last one died.  Wait, that’s not true.  One plant which was decimated by some foliage disease and went into bloom nearly leafless last fall had two tiny sprigs survive.  So the weakest plant survived… go figure.

garden chrysanthemum

The lone survivor in the the potager.  The color on this chrysanthemum reminds me of the dahlia ‘Cafe au Lait’ and I’m beginning to like it, plus strong stems make it great for cutting.    

Drifting aimlessly around the yard reminded me that for as productive as I was hauling other things in for the winter, the succulents that accumulated on the new stone wall this summer are still all out there.  They’re all in heavy clay pots on top of that.  Ugh.

succulent display

Time to pay the piper.  Free pots and extra cuttings sounded so harmless when I put together another 20 containers.  Now they all need winter homes.  

Wisdom has not followed age.  I bought three more (big) terracotta pots last month when I just happened to ‘stumble upon’ a 30% off clearance sale, and I have every intention of filling them next spring.  Sunday all of these came into the winter garden, even the ones I was going to leave out because I really don’t need them.  Someone gave me another succulent which he knew I was eyeing.  I know my mom has one which I’d like a bit of and my nephew as well.  I give it two more years before this whole fiasco collapses.  It’s going to be a great two years 🙂

autumn garden

The first snowdrops.  A new season begins before the old has passed.

And then there are snowdrops.  I was lukewarm for a week or two in August but now I’m just obsessing again.  Snowdrops and cyclamen because they’re sprouting as well, and for a winter garden they’re also essential.  And witch hazels.  I see buds on those, wow it’s going to be an exciting winter.  I hope it doesn’t fly by too quickly 😉

Hope you have a great week!

October

September flew by and now it’s October.  Autumn, and for maybe the first time in forever I’m glad to be done with summer.  Maybe.

colchicum with groundcover

Colchicum ‘Lilac Beauty’ coming into full bloom against the blue of leadwort(Ceratostigma plumbaginoides).  I think I show this scene every year, I like it.

It’s been chilly and gray and rainy and within 5 days I had my fill of autumn and started thinking about snowdrops and even colder weather.  Cold I don’t really mind, it’s these depressing dark days which wear me down and I can’t imagine “living” somewhere with endlessly gloomy weather.

colchicum speciosum

A colchicum speciosum which came as ‘bornmuellerii’ but might not be.  The yellow next to it is a Sternbergia lutea, a fall blooming crocus look-alike which I need more of.

The gloom and rain also makes the lawn explode into growth and I’ve mowed it more times in the last month than all summer, and between that and the endless construction, and cleaning out the house next door, and making room for another person’s everything, and work, and lawyer talk, and explaining geometry and biology every night to a 14 year old, well I guess I know why September flew by.  Good thing for colchicums and all those other autumn goodies, they sure make up for a less than complete daylily farm!

Colchicums by the driveway and a few 40% off goodies which I of course don’t need, but at least won’t need cramming into an already overfilled basement.

So it’s busy here and a new normal is setting in and a change of seasons might not be the worst thing to keep everyone moving along.  The colchicums kicked off autumn and now hardy cyclamen and autumn flowering crocus and chrysanthemums are making it into a party.

Most of this would be fine in the open garden, but I do like having the most special of things all in one single protected space. Maybe next year I’ll evict the camellia seedlings and give them a try in the open garden.

Besides the miracle of copious rain, and its explosive effect on the lawn, the rain also performed a little miracle in the potager.  It’s nothing to impress a Southerner, but having any kind of red spider lily in bloom this far north is something I did not expect to ever actually have happen but it did.  Maybe there’s hope for it establishing.  I wouldn’t complain if it settled in here, but knowing that the second bulb was also doing well up until it rotted last summer is giving me a few serious doubts.

Lycoris radiata, the red spider lily. Winter foliage will grow in another few weeks and then look miserable all winter as it wishes it were still south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Elsewhere in the garden the colors are all autumn and the vibe is all seedy.

Along the street the ‘Sunnyside Up’ pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) is as lovely and promiscuous as ever. Unlike everything else here it didn’t even seem to mind the heat and drought this summer.

Even after a summer of neglect and weeks of triage watering there were still plenty of things which bounced back.  The front border looks full and the potager is an overgrown mess.  It might not be as tusnami-of-chlorophyl as previous years but I can deal with it.

I didn’t expect Geranium ‘Rozanne’ to endure the drought like it has, but it looks great and seems to have been reborn this October.

potager

Maybe the thousands of dollars spent watering were worth it here in the potager… things limped through the heat and then made for one last hurrah now that it’s cool and wet.

tropicanna canna

For the last two or three weeks you can’t even tell the cannas and dahlias spent all June and July in misery. Stunted plants aren’t the worst thing for a gardener who never got around to staking.

Progress on the daylily farm hasn’t been as swift as I had hoped for.  My sole employee gets a list each weekend, but then when Sunday afternoon rolls around it’s like he didn’t even have a list, since it’s been mostly ignored for two days and nothing was done.  Last weekend he made a good point about taking a few cuttings and carrying in a few pots instead but he really could have done a little more in the digging department on top of that.  Perhaps this weekend I’ll take him out back and give him a serious talking to.  Hopefully he’ll see the light, and hopefully back there no one will see me mumbling to myself again.  

new daylily bed

Ok, I distinctly remember my mother in law saying ‘I don’t care, as long as it looks nice you can plant whatever you want’ a couple months ago when I asked about planting some coleus in her planter.  Maybe I took that out of context, but so far there have been zero comments about a daylily farm going in on the side of her house.

So maybe the daylily farm will be ready by next spring, and maybe it will not.  Whatever happens I’m sure it will mostly complement the tropical bed which has also somewhat revived from the rain… and is also just across the property line, in my mother in law’s yard…

tropical bed

Not a whole lot of tropicals in the tropical bed this year, but even the tropics have their run-down, abandoned-farm kind of areas.  Thankfully there’s more yellow pokeweed here weeding around and complementing the red roses and purple verbena.   

While the stunted cannas here bring me down a bit, it’s my Queen of the Prairie statue which brings on the only commentary about this bed.  The statue has been called creepy, and it’s been questioned as to why it faces her kitchen window but that’s just coincidence and I think she looks pensively thoughtful and pleasant.

prairie queen statue

Although no one insisted the Queen remain in our living room I don’t think anyone expected her to be evicted to the back lawn once we bought the house.  Personally I think she’s enjoying her trip back to the earth.

Something else who’s days are numbered are the tropical pots.  Time to start thinking about who is freezing, who is becoming a pot of cuttings, and who is getting hauled back in for the winter garden.  It shouldn’t surprise anyone that things have multiplied and been added to.

red cane begonia

Obviously this begonia needs to come inside.  What soul-less heathen would let frost touch it while it’s flowering its head off?

The new angel’s trumpet in a (heavy)20 inch pot looked much less alarming as a little free cutting last fall, and a couple elephant ear divisions were never expected to fill one entire half of the garage but then it happened.  Better safe than sorry is what I always like to think, so of course they’re all going to get safe winter homes.

pink brugmansia

In May I almost let spider mites kill this.  “pinch off all the leaves, soap it down, and fertilize and water the sh!t out of it and it will be fine” was the excellent advice I received.  It would look even better if i didn’t forget to fertilize the last few weeks and missed a few waterings…

Other things are also finding their way in for the winter.  If it’s an early freeze things might be easier, but if it’s a late freeze I’ll have way too much time to soften up and say what’s the harm in one more?

red suntory mandevilla

I hope this red mandevilla can survive the winter with me.  Previous attempts have failed but how can I not try?

There’s always room for one more and it’s good to have all these things going on to carry us through the next month.  Each month has it’s own surprises, and even if I didn’t need the surprise water heater replacement yesterday, having hot water again is almost as nice as a house packed full of somewhat appreciative houseplants and a garage full of sleeping bulbs and tubers.

Hmmm.  I didn’t even think about digging things yet.  That might be a November, as the snow flies, kind of project and I’ll wait until then to worry about it.  One month at a time, right?

A Rained Out Weekend

The long holiday weekend was just what I needed to get a good start on the daylily farm.  A decent amount of divisions got into the ground in between neighbors stopping by and dogs escaping from porches and getting the pool ready for the end of the season.  I was about to call it quits for the day when my Brother in Law’s fiancee stopped by looking for him.  Usually he’s the first one to get started on the pool and I’m the one who wants to hold on to summer forever.  I guess the reason for that is I hate admitting it’s going to be cold and dark for months and maybe I don’t entirely believe that the spring and return to life is guaranteed.  It was about five minutes after that when I heard the screaming.  Across the yard I ran, first cursing and then yelling to call 911 since I must have already known what to expect.  Everything from the farm lies where I threw it and it’s been raining since.

new daylily bed

Daylily divisions in the farm.

It’s been warm and we got a lot of rain, maybe somewhere around five inches, and the speed at which a few things have already recovered is a surprise.  I’ll be off tomorrow for a funeral so maybe I’ll take a look at where the daylilies left off and hope that takes the edge off what’s mostly become anger, but we will see.  One day at a time right now.

Thanks ahead of time.  I think I’ve disabled commenting for this post but I appreciate what I know would be nothing but support and good thoughts.  Have a good week.

One Last Summer Trip

It’s embarrassing to realize this trip and these photos are all already a week old, but no matter.  Visiting a garden like Chanticleer, just outside of Philadelphia never gets old, and after a summer of ‘wait, I have to be around for this… and that… and I wish it would rain…’ it was great to get away for what might be one of my last summer trips, and always fun to be out and about with garden stuff from dawn to dusk!  Here are a few impressions from the day.  Check out their website and other links for better photos and video, it’s such an awesome garden to visit and I tried to rush through in under two hours so…

chanticleer

The entry area is always a tropical planter paradise.  Note the leaf stalk of the Titan arum (corpse flower, Amorphophallus titanum) on the far right.  Am I the only person who couldn’t care less about the smelly bloom, yet loves the massive single leaf which they produce?

Hmmm.  Since it was such a rapid race of a visit maybe this should be a quick post, so here goes.  The ‘teacup garden’ is always my first and favorite section to visit.  It’s like a tropical conservatory out for the summer for a Pennsylvania country vacation.

chanticleer

Look at all these foliage goodies, and the hanging blooms of the Brugmansia are just summertime awesome!

Wander down to the tennis court next.  It’s been entirely re-done and although it’s lost the ‘tennis court’ vibe I like the new Netherlands-France rolling hedge vibe.

chanticleer

There’s a soft spot in my heart for neatly trimmed hedges.  Another year to grow in and this one will be perfect, plus a patch of my favorite giant reed grass (Arundo donax) doesn’t hurt either.

The cutting garden also underwent a re-do.  More vegetables, more paths meandering through, a little more controlled.  Personally I like a garden of chaos in September, but maybe deep down inside realize that this is a better look… hahaha just kidding.  I like it but miss the tsunami of towering blooms and grasping vines of years past.

chanticleer

Orange marigolds seemed to be a theme through several of the gardens this year.

I skipped the woods but not before realizing the large magnolia wasn’t really a magnolia.  It was an American pawpaw tree (Asimina triloba) with plenty of fruit on its way to ripening.  I’ve never had one, but word is they’re delicious with their custardy-goodness.

chanticleer

American pawpaw tree (Asimina triloba) with a cluster of almost-ripe fruit.

I rushed through the meadow filled with full-bloom prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis), a beautiful spot but I just don’t like the “popcorn” scent of this grass, and then cut through the ruin garden to get to the gravel garden.  I love the gravel garden.  It was a full-sun, 90F (32C) morning and I was still standing around with that dumb look on my face, smiling at the succulent planters and running my hands through the grass like a real weirdo.  I’m so glad that finally, after 50 years, I finally grew out of that caring what other people think stage.

chanticleer

Not the best picture, but the gravel garden is an open spot filled with full-sun, drainage-loving Mediterranean-type plants which don’t seem to mind a couple months of hot.

Down around the ponds to visit the koi and admire the lush, water-loving stuff, and then quickly through the Asian woods and serpentine plantings, and finally to the main house.  The house is always surrounded by too many pots which are too big and overfilled with too many goodies.  Many of the plants are too cool.  The only way I didn’t spend another hour in just this section was because I was alone and because of that didn’t need to start pointing out and naming and babbling on about every single thing.  I will only share a few photos 😉

chanticleer

The mangave cult is alive and well here.  It’s a big plus they’re not as spiny and poky as they look.

chanticleer

Sometimes I had to put both hands in my pockets to fight the urge to take cuttings. Everything seems grown to perfection which is not easy to pull off in such mixed plantings.

chanticleer

The pool area. There are bananas and other tropicals all along the walls. Such an awesome sight although it makes me feel a bit guilty for killing mine… again…

chanticleer

Yeah. Just awesome. Red mandevilla and some yellow leaved jasmine.

chanticleer

Hmmmm. Passionflowers are pretty cool and maybe I should have more than just one…

A visit to Chanticleer is a good choice at any time of year, but I might have to admit to an ulterior motive for my visit.  Surprise lilies (Lycoris) have been interesting lately and I knew there were a few plantings here and there in the gardens, so why not make up an excuse to drive two hours to go see them?

chanticleer lycoris

I think these were yellow Lycoris chinensis with a few white Lycoris longituba mixed in, but since there was a fence and a few yards between me and them I couldn’t really get as close as I wanted.  

I might have been “interested” in some of the hardier Lycoris for a few years now (many of the nicest are tender and only thrive in Southern gardens), but based on their embarrassing performance in my own garden, I really didn’t want to admit it.  I guess it’s out now though.  My name is Frank and I grow Lycoris poorly.

chanticleer lycoris

Lycoris squamigera floating above the grass of the bulb meadow.  These will be joined by the early colchicums in just a few more days.

I don’t think I’m the only one who struggles with these bulbs.  They’re often referred to as surprise lilies or magic lilies, and although some people claim it’s because of the way they burst out of the soil and into bloom in just a few days, I believe it’s because each year it’s either a surprise or plain magic that they actually lived or even bothered to bloom for you.  It doesn’t help when you see them growing best alongside a burnt out building or abandoned farm or hear some old gardener complaining about how they take over their beds and there are just too many in their garden.  Based on this apparent finickiness I’m going to say there’s a better than good chance mine are dying out of spite.

chanticleer lycoris

Maybe a paler form of Lycoris chinensis up near the ruin gardens?  Just like all the others these appear to be settling in happily… unlike my little jerks…  

If I wanted to give myself a true dose of reality I’d look up how many years ago it was that I first planted my earliest bulbs.  ‘They’ say it takes a few years for them to settle in, but the difference between settling in and dying out is a distinction I’m having trouble with… so in the meantime I will continue admiring them in other peoples gardens.  A garden where they are doing much better in is my friend Paula’s.  Her garden is not an abandoned farmstead, and she is not an old gardener, but they are still doing well for her even if a few were just a little past prime for my visit.

lycoris hiaro blue

A trio of excellent hardier varieties of Lycoris.  From left to right, ‘L x haywardii’, ‘Hiaro Blue’ (a selection of L. sprengeri and I think the same as ‘Blue Pearl’), and ‘L x incarnata’.    

As is typical with many of my garden days, by the time it was wrapping up the sun was pretty much set, so sorry about not having photos of the rest of the lycoris in back, but the best thing I learned on this visit was ‘just move them’ if they’re not thriving.  For as obvious as that seems it was kind of a break through for me.

lycoris haywardii

A closeup of Lycoris x haywardii.  I would like to grow this one well enough to see this show in my own garden… and that’s an understatement based on the twitching I feel when I look at it!

So with a rushed visit to Chanticleer and a twilight garden tour with Paula, you might be thinking I stopped for a sit down lunch and dinner, or maybe wasted my time with some other nonsense, but the truth is I was digging daylilies.

transplanting daylilies

“I have a few I could share, stop by if you’re in the area” said a friend…

The back of my car was quite full of plants for the ride home.  There was even a gifted sprig of tuberose which perfumed the ride through the mountains.  I was quite pleased.

So I was kind of joking about the daylily farm, but with a whole side-of-the-house lawn destroyed by construction I figured what the hey, it’s better than replanting grass.  I’ve been pickaxing stones and trying to amend a driveway of fill ever since.  Have an excellent weekend and maybe this foolishness will help put your own into perspective 😉

Still Going…

That last rain really tricked me.  It tricked the lawn as well, a green shimmer appeared and of course I thought it would be extremely generous to run the mower over to pick up some of the dead leaves and trash and then spray some liquid feed.  Silly me.  The rains stopped and things are back to wilting, and I’m back to watering, but at least it’s been cool the last few days as a respite to our usual baking.

ipomoea nils fuji no murasaki

Slowly the Japanese morning glories are coming into bloom.  Ipomoea nils ‘Fuji no Murasaki’ is amazing and hasn’t been as invasive a seeder as other morning glories tend to be… unless you’re someone I gave seeds to and recently cursed me for giving you such a weed… so your results may vary.

Despite the return to dry, it’s still not as bad as it was, and still not as brutal as it could be.  I think I just like complaining, plus on top of that it’s just boring.  Super boring since just about everything is just sitting there waiting for water.  There are three things though, which could count as somewhat interesting.  First are the container plantings, which thanks to the drip irrigation are doing fairly well… in spite of a haphazard fertilization schedule, and the second is the patch of cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) which looks great, but causes nonstop hummingbird conflict as one sneaks in for a sip just as another one or two come down in a screeching dive bomb to fight them off.  People love hummingbirds but all I see are little featherpuffs of rage, and when one comes up and gives me the hovering stare-down of death for sitting too close to their lunch, I stare right back… but don’t dare say a word lest it triggers a torrent of anger from the little monster.

lobelia cardinalis flower

The Lobelia cardinalis does really well here in the shade of the house, far enough away from the life-sucking red maple roots.  I did water a bit but not as much as you’d think.  

So that’s two things, and for the third I’ll nominate the paniculata hydrangeas.  They get a drink of water once things get bad enough to wilt, but other than that they just look awesome and make me seem like a gardening genius.  Never mind the zinnias which are struggling and the surprise lilies which only surprise me by not dying, these hydrangeas are full of fat, fresh, flower-packed trusses of bloom.

hydrangea paniculata seedling

The worst of the dried up rudbeckia triloba has been cropped out, leaving only the joy of budding hydrangea blooms.  ‘Limelight’ is in the background, this is just a seedling which somehow managed to evade my super vigilant weeding long enough to look like something.

I’m considering adding a variety which fades to pink.  ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ was in here but had to be moved for the construction, and for some reason I didn’t like the way it looked around ‘Limelight’ anyway.  The pure white of V. Strawberry seemed just too white for all the yellows and chartreuse and then it was in a bad spot anyway, where the heat and dry would brown the blooms, rather than let them go pink.  It’s been replanted next door and to be honest I want it back even if it doesn’t fit in.  Maybe I’ll take some cuttings today, my mother in law loves it so there’s no way I’m getting the original plant back.

hydrangea limelight

Limelight in the back yard around the potager.  Obviously the phlox which was supposed to be moved years ago is still there and still doesn’t look nice alongside the hydrangea, but at least the boxwood is on its way to recovery after last winter’s run in with the bulldozer.

So three things are ignoring the dry and marching right through August in beautiful shape.  There are more bits and pieces looking good but as I said they’re mostly waiting for rain and I also just like to complain.  Now for example I shall complain that the dentist’s office still hasn’t called back to schedule my root canal and the gray skies have not produced anything more than a sneeze of useless mist.  Oh well.

Have a great week regardless.  These will be the sweet memories that come up in February when the only thing growing are the icicles off the gutter.

Well that Sure Escalated…

Sometimes I’m stubborn and set in my ways, determined to make something work and prove I’m right.  Other times I can turn on dot, easily distracted and influenced, and just one idea can derail an entire plan.  About three weeks ago I went to a daylily farm, and even talked to a daylily breeder.  I bought one.  I went to another farm.  suddenly I found myself going back to the first farm and getting a few more and now suddenly I like daylilies.  Hmmmm… did not see that coming…

brookside daylilies

Some Brookside daylilies which have been added to the garden.  It’s nice to have something green in the yard.

My mother might point out that at one point, maybe thirty years ago, someone planted dozens of daylilies alongside the garage and some of those clumps still remain today, but that was a long time ago.  I thought we were past that.

garden drought

The front border still looking a bit fried.  Recent rains have greened up some of the lawn weeds, but only the rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) looks completely unbothered by the dry weather.

I guess not.  Plenty of good people like daylilies, so what’s the harm in adding a few?  With the garden still a depressing shade of sun-faded khaki anything which can shrug off the dry heat can only be a good thing.

purple gomphrena

Purple gomphrena and angelonia don’t mind the heat, but do need regular watering to keep this fresh and bright.  I think it’s worth it.

No one even noticed a few new daylilies, but they did notice the water bill jumping up last month.  I admitted that maybe it was the garden causing this, but also pointed out the garden-fresh vegetables were surely worth it.  Fifty dollars for a couple zucchini and some lettuce, thankfully there was no cost to benefits analysis done to double check my logic.

blue yonder agapanthus

Regular watering helped stave off the worst of the baking in this end of the front border, but even without watering I suspect ‘Blue Yonder’ agapanthus would still look unbothered.  I’m so glad the bulldozer missed this one, although my seedlings and several other things in this bed were lost. 

Triage by watering hose was saving a few things but fortunately I went and scheduled a camping trip for last week, and this brought in a nice storm which actually soaked in a little.

orange peel cestrum seedlings

Cestrum is remarkably easy from seed and only grew faster in the heat.  At first I was underwhelmed by the small lemony flowers of the first seedling (in my hand), but a couple weeks later, other seedlings began to open up larger orange flowers, similar to their ‘Orange Peel’ mother, and it was all good.

A nice soak, cooler temperatures, and then another surprise shower this past weekend have made all the difference in the garden.  No more wilted plants making me feel guilty at every turn and the lawn even has a green haze to it, although it will still be a while before I need to fire up the lawnmower again.  I think this just-in-time rain will also help the little tree frog tadpoles immensely.  They’re just starting to sprout legs and leave the pond, and I don’t think venturing out into a desert would have been the best thing for my little babies.

young gray tree frogs

There’s a big range to the tadpoles with some already out and about, others well into leg-growing, and a couple still just fat little polliwogs.

I’ve been coming across baby tree frogs in a few spots around the garden.  Unlike the gray adults, the babies are a bright green with a dark mask around their eyes.

young gray tree frogs

Baby gray tree frogs (Hyla versicolor) have a leafy green color while the adults take on more of a bark/lichen gray color.

My fingers are crossed that a good number of them make it.

young gray tree frogs

Even the frogs like the new daylilies.  

New daylilies, baby frogs, and a decent rain.  It’s not perfect but it’s a good position to be in for the first week of August, and as long as no one asks how the construction is going I think it’s still better than a cold day in January.

Have a great week!

Summer Arrives

It finally feels like summer here with warm sunny days, an end to school bus traffic, and summer parties running full force.  These are those lazy, endless days which you remember from when you were a kid but think you grew out of.  Work is a pain, there are all those responsibilities, but I say forget it and take the summer back.  Spend a day in the hammock doing nothing and then read half a book somewhere the breeze is blowing.  Maybe a good thunderstorm will be enough to wash the car, and hopefully someone gets the hint and orders some pizza.  A sick day is not out of the question, and the lawn mowing can wait another couple days 🙂

sumac tiger eyes

The fresh new growth of summer always looks great, even if there’s about twice as much growing in this foundation bed than there needs to be.  I’m starting to wonder just how big a dwarf blue spruce can get.    

I talk a good talk but there is still A LOT I’d like to get done before we click on the automatic watering systems and head to a beach or the mountains.  Tulips were dug last weekend, new tomatoes planted, lawns mowed and edged… many other things planted, weeded, mulched, tidied up… it needs it after I was away for a week for work and then completely unmotivated for another week as I nearly overdosed on painkillers while a toothache worked its way out.  I’ve recovered from both but surprisingly while the gardener was down for the count, the two teens here didn’t jump in and trim and edge and weed and water like I’d been hoping they would.

penstemon digitalis red

I was always luke-warm to the ‘Husker Red’ version of penstemon digitalis, but I really like the pink flowered forms.  I believe this is ‘Dark Towers’.

Honestly I’d rather not share my garden.  I’m tickled when they show an interest, but other than plant a few beans or pick a few onions I’d rather not give over a whole bed to their experiments.  I’m sure I would if asked, but the bad parent in me wants it all to myself.

penstemon digitalis red

I think this was Penstemon digitalis ‘Pocahontas’ but I’ve let it seed throughout the bed and may not care 100% about keeping the patch pure anymore!  

The kids find enough to keep occupied even without having a vegetable garden to weed.  Someday I suspect this general disinterest will change and someone might have a plant question, so to prepare for that day I’ll keep expanding things here so that when the time comes I might have an extra snowdrop or clematis to share 😉

clematis hf young

The pergola is one step closer to a cloak of vines.  The climbing roses were upset by the cold winter, but the clematis seems just fine.  I suspect this is ‘HF Young’ although I didn’t buy it as such.

I have been dabbling in a few things.  the kids may not want to experiment but I’m fine with it.  One of the best things is that my little Lilium pumilum is alive and flowering.  When I looked up the spelling on this thing it was a little insulting to see it referred to as ‘one of the easiest lilies to grow’.  Easy I guess if you don’t keep pulling it as a weed or mulching over it or building a raised bed over it and forgetting where it was.  That would probably help, but since it keeps coming back and flowered in just two or three years after seeds were sown, I guess you could call it easy.

lilium pumilum coral lily

The coral lily (Lilium pumilum) with its glossy scarlet turks-cap flowers.  Seeds would be a nice thing so maybe if I can avoid yanking the plant out after bloom I could raise a whole patch. 

Lilies and clematis and penstemon are nice but it’s the little pots of rhodohypoxis which are thrilling me right now.  Unlike the monkey poxis of central Africa, the Rhodohypoxis of southern Africa are a small corm which sends up pink or white flowers which look as if they were made of paper by a ten year old.  They’ll flower into summer and maybe again here and there late summer, depending on the mood.

rhodohypoxis

I think the hairy leaves are almost as interesting as the exceptionally modest flower.  No curvy pistils and turgid stamens on display here.

They’re not hardy enough for the open garden so mine are all potted, but my less than expert ‘throw them all in the cool but not freezing garage and then put them out again in late March’ method of care seemed to work out all right.  A few rotted though, and I’m not sure if they were too cool and wet in March or if they dried out too much over the winter.  I suspect maybe I put them out too early, but in my defense I thought they were sick of the dry winter and would like the cool rain bringing them out of dormancy… maybe…

rhodohypoxis

Rhodohypoxis baurii ‘Pintado’.  I believe this is my favorite.

As you may suspect there are a few other things which came out of the garage these last few weeks.  The winter garden plants are slowly finding homes, the pots of caladiums and pineapple lilies and whatever else overwintered in a pot are hopefully resprouting, and the bags of cannas and dahlias have been thrown open and watered as they await planting.  My driveway is the definition of a ‘pot ghetto’ and I cringe every time I see Monty pull out a perfectly stored dahlia clump and pot it up in his greenhouse and then contrast that with my trashbags on the concrete.  Hmmm.

the pot ghetto

The driveway probably shouldn’t look like this but give me one more week and maybe there will be noticeable progress.  

I could really use some more unsuspecting garden pals who would believe me when I say they need a crate full of dahlias and cannas.  I thought better safe than sorry when I dug them, but now I’m wondering how safe I thought I needed to be.  Surely there’s plenty of room for them, right?

magnolia society seedlings

I don’t need more plants but of course I was exceptionally excited to see a few sprouts in the magnolia seed pots.  They’re so small I’m sure I’ll have plenty of time to find room for these, and even better that only four seedlings are up.  Two would be more than I need.  

Only a fool would complain about a lack of planting space and then join a plant society devoted to trees, even if those trees are magnolias and magnolias are super awesome and wait, there’s a seed exchange and I can order bunches of seed?  Sadly even I can’t justify more than a year or two of magnolia seed starting…

magnolia macrophylla

It was just a little seed…. but five years later Magnolia macrophylla is doing great in a completely inappropriate spot.  Largest simple leaf and flower of any native North American plant.  Who could resist?

Seriously though, if we could justify building a ridiculous addition onto our already reasonable home, why can’t I also have a few more magnolias than I need?  Maybe shade gardening isn’t all that bad.

the tropical garden

The tropical garden is looking more Crayola than Caribbean but at least it’s not the disaster it was last week.  Besides weeding I finally trimmed out all the dead winter-kill from the ‘Black Forest’ rose and the ‘Golden Sunshine’ willow in back.  Both are awesome.

We will see of course.  This garden has a 50/50 chance of going completely off the rails at any moment, and I still can’t believe there’s no garden police pulling me over for too many new bulbs or unplanted seedlings.  Hmm.  I hadn’t even thought of those.  Oh well.  At least it’s not a garage full of assault rifles, I guess I could have have exercised my American freedoms in that direction just as easily, so too many plants crammed in too few spots is still not the worst thing.

Have a great week!  I’m off tomorrow to volunteer at the American Rock Garden Society’s annual general meeting in Ithaca NY.  Someone thought it would be a good idea to have me help out at the plant sale and I’m sure they’re right, but personally I think it’s a terrible idea.  They might as well of put me in charge of ice cream scooping or m&m counting, or had me test to see if the Nutella is fresh.  Whatever.  I’ll do my best and make sure my wallet is stuffed full and the back of the car is empty.  Any receipts will hopefully blow out the window on the way home and if someone asks they were all leftovers.  Wish me luck 😉

May I say Amazing?

As we approach the end of May I’m pretty sure things couldn’t be better.  There was a moment (actually quite a few) when I was sitting in the backyard, looked about and thought to myself, ‘wow, this is friggin awesome’.  It wasn’t just one thing or another, it was the warm breeze, the scent of iris blooms, birds chirping, the wind rustling fresh foliage, flowers here and there, it was all that and it just feels great after months of seemingly endless cold.

may perennial border

Three warm days and a few rain showers ended tulip season and moved the garden into it’s blue phase with iris and aquilegia.

To be completely honest there were a few days in there when the heat was almost bad enough to say something mildly bad about too much heat, but then a quick sit in the shade fixed things.  With enough rain and sun you can almost hear things growing, and I like that.

may perennial border

When they were bulldozing the coal wastelands to build the industrial park behind our house I came across and saved two columbine plants (Aquilegia vulgaris) by digging and bringing them into the garden.  Ten years later they’ve self-sown everywhere, creating a nice blue haze.

There used to be a lull in flowers between the last tulips and first iris and roses, but by carefully buying too many plants each year for the last few years I’ve ended up filling that gap.  I shall try to keep up that effort and see what else wonderful results from overplanting.  Maybe it’s the secret to thicker hair or longer life, you never know, better to err on the side of caution since I think I saw something once about a lack of new plants being linked to excessive weight gain and cognitive decline.  Be careful is all I’m saying.

asphodeline lutea kings spear

The yellow of King’s Spear (Asphodeline lutea) is back after a couple years of too much rabbit nibbling and columbine crowding.  I like the spikes of bloom and will try and give it a little more space again.

This talk of new plants has me a little worried because work and a pile of mulch to spread has kept me too busy for my usual nursery runs.  I did manage to finish off the front yard mulching, but after bailing out eight or nine bucket of water out of the basement Saturday I told my contractor he owed me another load of mulch.  He agreed.  A new roof is nice, but when all the water is now directed to a spot just above the basement door, and the gutter is missing, and you can see water flowing into the house it can be discouraging.  Good thing mulch makes me happy.

may perennial border

All the early corydalis and scillas are yellowed and gone and with new mulch spread it looks almost suburbian neat in this garden.

Plenty of other things make me happy as well, and since many of the plenty are things which bloom in May, even the latest round of water in the house can’t dampen my spirits.

amsonia hubrichtii

Amsonia hubrichtii is care-free in full sun and only needs a wack back to half it’s height in June to keep it from sprawling everywhere.

Even though the rain doesn’t need to fall in downpours of one or two inches it’s still worth it to have a green lawn in May rather than the beginning of drought.  Everything seems happier after a good soak, provided there’s some sun and warmth afterwards… rather than endless damp and grey.

may perennial border

With all the other blue a new blue lupine was probably unnecessary, but I wanted something to go with the red one… and of course now the red one’s not flowering…

You may be wondering how the construction is going if all this rain and water is still getting into the house, and I wish I could say we’re almost there, but we’re not.  Things are crawling along but with a contractor who is often a one or two man show, crawling is as good as it gets.  Good thing we like him and it’s always (eventually) a job well done 🙂

picea glauca pendula

With much of this end of the border bulldozed down, the weeping white spruce (Picea glauca pendula) has a chance to get the space he deserves.  Maybe the fresh mulch will keep the bulldozer from coming back!

So bit by bit I try to bring back the parts of the garden ‘touched’ by construction.  Areas are looking better but the pond was one spot I’d given up on.  There are large rocks and nearly a foot of dirt which have fallen in, but just last week everything changed.  I heard frogs singing, and then I heard more.  In the muddy, murky waters I see many frog eggs and suspect this corner of PA will soon see a tree frog population explosion.  I’m already trying to figure out what I can feed them with since I can’t imagine there’s enough whatever in this pond to feed so many future tadpoles.

garden pond tadpoles

There are hundreds of frog eggs in here, and those are just the surface ones which I can easily see!

So if all goes well this summer shall again see an abundance of baby gray tree frogs entering the garden.  Perhaps that will make up for the missing garter snakes.

garden dry stack stone wall

The stone wall is about as good as it gets.  In a moment of brilliance all the potted succulents ended up on top of the wall rather than on the deck steps.  I think I like it but it’s hard to level a pot on such ramshackle construction.

For all the rocks which came up out of the construction hole, I’m a little disappointed by how short a rock wall I was able to build.  People who garden on rocky sites are likely rolling their eyes and saying we have plenty, come get a few, but nearly all my rocks are covered by shale and fill and would require a little quarrying to get to them.  Hmmm.  I’ve heard of people who have done as much and according to my book, if someone else has tried it maybe it’s not so crazy.  Maybe I could start a ‘small backhoe campaign’ and start talking about backhoes enough that eventually someone will say ‘just get the stupid thing if that will shut you up’.  That could be fun 🙂

garden dry stack stone wall

The new wall makes a nice divider between the lawn and the meadow… otherwise known as where I mow regularly and where I don’t… 

Having a backhoe BEFORE I moved several tons of rock by hand would have been a smarter move, but if the early settlers were able to clear a field by hand and build miles of wall I think I should be able to handle a few feet.

outdoor summer succulents

The succulents will spend all summer out here, unwatered for the most part and maybe here and there a splash of liquid fertilizer will land in their pots.  Also maybe I’ll pot up another dozen or so other succulents I happen to have laying around.  If 20 pots look nice wouldn’t 30 look nicer?

So what other silliness has been going on around here… the entire winter garden is out of the house but bags of canna roots and pots of caladium corms are still waiting their turn.  Many of the deck planters have been planted and overall it’s nearly all overwintered things and not much new.  That’s good for the budget but at the moment the repotted mandevilla vine looks like a whole lot of dead, and not quite the highlight of any summer display, so maybe it will still be a few weeks before I share photos of that.

garden potager

The potager is remarkably under control for May.  Garlic and onions are growing, tomatoes have been planted, and I suspect there’s another bunny nest in the tulips.  Baby bunnies are too cute to resent.  I will tell them to keep away from the lettuce.

In some parts of the garden I think I’m overcompensating for the construction destruction.  The guilt of bulldozed and buried plants has me trying to make other areas extra-neat as I try to balance those out with areas I’ve abandoned.

chives album schoenoprasum ‘Forescate

btw chives (Allium schoenoprasum) might be my latest, latest, latest obsession.  Here’s pink ‘Forescate’ with white ‘Album’ behind.  I might have a lead on a darker variety and when I pair those with the regular lavender sort I think it will be quite nice.  Oddly I can’t rememebr the last time I ate a chive, but whatever.

Speaking of abandoned areas, the snowdrop beds are all on that list.  Maybe I’ll weed and divide things this summer, or maybe not.  These days I can call it a wild garden and don’t think anyone will judge me too harshly, plus it’s always going to be much more interesting than mulchbeds and lawn, even though 90% of my neighbors would much prefer mulchbeds and lawn rather than the excessive plantings which find their home here (the other 10% are undecided).

weedy garden

Weeds amongst the snowdrops.  A few nice things but I really need to remove the mugwort and powerwash that birch trunk!

Honestly sometimes I’m undecided if all these questionable plants and sweaty labor are changing things here for the better, but when the tadpoles come I will know they are.  Actually every new thing which comes up has me convinced it’s all for the better… except maybe poison ivy seedlings.  I can do without those.

Enjoy these last days of May, they pass far too quickly!

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!