A Week of Flowers-Day 3

My mother’s family is all centered in Northern Germany in the city of Osnabrück, and my mom would tell stories of their summertime beach trips cross the border to the barrier islands off the coast of the Netherlands.  It’s really not all that great a distance and to be honest if someday some genetic testing finds a bit of that Dutch-tulip-loving DNA in me I would not be surprised.  To me tulips are nice.  Obsessively nice, and if someone were to say to me ‘but they’re so much work’, I’d have to point out that my kids aren’t exactly a picnic, and if you’re looking at dollars I would guess one Christmas’ worth of either child’s presents is probably more than I’ve ever spent on tulips… Hmmm.  Guess who just had that “what is Santa’s budget this year” discussion?

garden perennial tulips

Tulips in the potager.  They’re dug and dried for the summer and replanted in the fall after the tomatoes and peppers freeze off.

Let me just quickly add that in my garden we rarely have tulip-eating vermin such as deer, the rabbits are quite lazy (or full of other plants), and the tulips seem to just like the soil here, enough so that they usually perennialize even when not dug.  I know that’s not the case for everyone so please let me enjoy this one success!

garden perennial tulips

Darwin and Triumph tulips mixed into the front perennial border.

garden perennial tulips

A garden filled with tulips and daffodils is one of the best announcements of spring’s arrival.

garden perennial tulips

These are a few of the antique broken tulips of the earliest days of the Dutch tulip industry.  I’m still trying to find a spot they like here, for me they’re not nearly as vigorous as the newer types.

garden perennial tulips

Fortunately tulip season is followed by irises and peonies and clematis and a billion other amazing spring flowers.  If that wasn’t the case I’d probably need medication and a few days in a dim room by myself in order to recover from the high.

Tomorrow will be a quick post.  It’s hard to move on from tulips.  Thanks Cathy for giving me the excuse to revisit one of my favorite times of the year, and if you’d also like to revisit more floralific seasons give Words and Herbs a visit for more of Cathy’s Week of Flowers

A Week of Flowers-Day 2

Okay, so it’s only day two of Cathy’s Week of Flowers and I’m already cheating a bit.  These are the flowers of my winter garden, a fancy name I like to use when referring to the fluorescent shop lights in the back of the (slightly) heated garage.  From now until the weather warms again it will be my garden home base where I sow seeds, strike cuttings, repot and pot up all the plants which don’t mind living on the cool side, but prefer not to freeze.

growlight garden

Geraniums (Pelargonium cvs) don’t mind cold nights and cool days and will flower all winter.

growlight garden

Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) are almost a required flower for any indoor grower.  This treasure was given to me by a friend who collected and grew on seed from one of his own bulbs.  I love it!

growlight garden

In a good winter I’ll have a few primula seedlings potted up and ready to crack out of the ice mid-winter, to bring indoors to force along.  Sadly this year the primula seedlings were a neglected bust…

growlight garden

On and off through the winter an occasional succulent will throw up a flower stalk.  This Echeveria (E. diffractens I believe) is usually quick to develop flowers once it comes indoors, showing off this bright orange explosion of color from December into February.

Hopefully no one has been offended by all these mentions of cold and winter and ice, but I’m sure Kathy has fired up the troops and there are more summerly visions of flowers if you need some warming up!  Give Cathy’s Week of Flowers a visit for all the links and I’m sure she’ll have a good dose of color from her own garden as well.  Enjoy!

A Week of Flowers-Day 1

I don’t necessarily mind this time of year, it’s a bit gloomy at times and the garden doesn’t have the day to day surprises and continuous parade of blooms, but it’s a breather, and a chance to refocus before you start dreaming of summer again!  With that said I’m still ready for a distraction, and of course that makes me more than happy to jump into the photo files and join in with Cathy’s Week of Flowers, which she is hosting again this year on Words and Herbs.  The instructions couldn’t be any simpler, “post a flower a day for a week”, and I think even I can stick with those rules.  Obviously I’ll start with snowdrops… far from the most colorful flower, yet they’re the flowers which I obsesses most over.

snowdrops

Last December’s display of ‘Potter’s Prelude’, a fall blooming snowdrop which sneaks in a few blooms before winter gets too serious.

snowdrops

Last March in my most established snowdrop bed.  I usually enjoy these all by my lonesome each spring, everyone else struggles to find an excuse to run indoors when I wander off into the cold to admire them.

snowdrops

By the end of March a few other hardy bloomers such as the yellow winter aconite join in the show.  This one’s name is ‘Greenish’ for somewhat obvious reasons.

snowdrops

White, green, and occasionally yellow might not qualify as wildly colorful, but during the shortest and coldest days of the year I welcome them.  This is a borderline yellow named ‘Bloomer’.

So day one complete.  Probably one of the shortest snowdrop related posts you’ll ever see on this blog but I hope you enjoyed it, and I’m sure you’ll find more to enjoy as others check in for Cathy’s week of flowers!

Opening Up the Winter Garden

A good thing and a bad thing.  Someone had enough energy (or was bored enough) that they cleaned out the winter garden last summer, and by that I mean all the empty pots and dead leaves were not still sitting under the fluorescent grow lights in the back of the garage… That’s the good thing.  The bad thing is someone also had a little energy on the day when potted plants and cuttings needed to come indoors for the winter.  That’s the bad thing.  There have never been so many things stuffed under lights this early in the season and I for one am quite pleased.  If this gardener were the type, the feeling is similar to a slow motion bungee jump where you’re on the edge of the bridge about to jump.  All the equipment has been checked and you’re at the point where it’s going to be either a complete disaster or a bunch of fun… Well maybe that’s a terrible analogy since I’ve only dropped and shattered one clay pot and spilled soil and cactus parts everywhere… okay, so maybe it’s a fitting analogy, with the exception that the cactus pieces were put into a new pot and survived whereas your pot contents might not do the same.

Sorry.  I guess whatever point I had has been reduced to ‘don’t bungee jump’.

mammillaria plumosa

In a moment of distraction I spent an hour finding the earliest photo of my little mammillaria plumosa.  It usually flowers a month or so after coming indoors, and this winter might mark its tenth birthday from the day a friend first gave me a cutting.

I’ve spent most of the Holiday weekend cleaning up leaves and planting bulbs and for the first time in about a year the garden looks somewhat under control.  I’d post photos but most days have been all day labor in the garden until dusk and pictures don’t happen, but honestly who really needs to see the dirt where the tulips went in anyway.  Instead I shall leave you with a super-interesting photo of two cuttings stolen from an outdoor planter which was nearly done for the year due to frost.

stolen plant cuttings

Gardeners are nothing if not hopeful.  Two tiny cuttings which spent a weekend in my coat pocket and now grace the windowsill with their beauty.  They’re like an Advent candle with all the hope and promise for a rebirth… unless they die, in which case I’m sure there will be plenty of replacements!

Apologies for the randomness of this post.  I’d thrill you with a few snowdrop photos, but the kids stepped on them while hanging the Christmas lights so I’ll have to see what’s left.  In the meantime there will hopefully be some more interesting posts to come as I and others join Cathy of Words and Herbs for her ‘Week of Flowers’ event.  As the weather gets cold and the nights grow long what can be better than a flood of flowers as we prepare for the holiday season?  It should be fun.  Happy first of Advent 🙂

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 😉

Planned Surprises

Saturday I suddenly found myself on the road to Ithaca NY.  It’s about a two hour drive from here and of course I have better things to do locally but wanted to see a few friends, and you know… there was a plant sale.  Just a small thing done among members of the Adirondack chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society, but they have some pretty cool plants and for just two or three dollars a piece all the plants (donated out of member gardens) find a new home that morning.  Of course I was more than happy to help out, and a couple alliums, ferns and a violet are now here in Pa with me and even better, all the extra daffodils I dug this summer are GONE… or at least most of them.  Stupid me thinks I should replant some of the smallest ones to give them a chance to grow out so they won’t be too small to give away?  Don’t ask.  My accounting brilliance is matched only by my business sense.

cornell botanic garden

Cornell Botanic Gardens.  It was nice to stop into a garden which I’m guessing has a couple feet of topsoil, annual mulches of compost, and just the right amount of watering to grow sickeningly well.  Here’s Hydrangea cumulonimbus mocking the approaching storm clouds. 

The plant sale was followed by a luncheon and I just want to say that in between garden talk there was an invite to a garden which I really wanted to see, but I actually opted out of going.  Weird, right?  I think it was a combo of poor sleep, impending bad weather, and an overall end-of-summer-I’m-sick-of-drought-my-garden-is-a-disaster malaise.  In hindsight I wish I’d gone, but at that moment I just wasn’t up to being social any longer so passed.  That was an actual unplanned surprise, since on the way up I had a conscious thought of the possibility of being invited somewhere, and how excellent that would be.  I hope I’m not actually getting old(er)!

carex muskingumensis little midge

I found this sedge to be far cooler than you would imagine a sedge could be.  Carex muskingumensis ‘Little Midge’ I believe, even though the label said ‘Little Midget’ which would also be fitting. Quite the geometry on this little guy.

Apparently I was still young enough to add one side trip to the trip by pulling into the parking lot of the Cornell Botanical Gardens.  I did want to see how their tropical plantings were coming along, but then surprised myself by liking the shade plantings even more.

Mukdenia rossii Crimson Fans

Mukdenia rossii ‘Crimson Fans’.  Seeing this was a first for me, and I always thought the red color was an autumnal, perfect storm, enhanced for catalogs, color effect, but here it is in late August doing its bright crimson thing as if it’s no big deal.  Very nice!

And then it was back home.  I pulled in at a suitably responsible and mature arrival time of 6pm, just in time to enjoy the evening light on the Lycoris.  If you want to talk about surprises the fact any of these are blooming would be the premier surprise since they did not look all that happy this spring, and baked-clay dry summers are not supposed to encourage good bloom with these temperamental divas.

lycoris x squamigera

The most common surprise lily, or Nekkid lady (Lycoris x squamigera), is blooming more than it’s ever bloomed before.  I heard they like derelict, neglected properties so perhaps the random construction debris and bits of trash I’ve thrown here are the secret to a good show.  

There’s actually a second magic lily surprising me this year.  I thought I was successfully killing off most of my plantings, but suddenly there’s an almost clump of Lycoris x incarnata flower stalks poking up between the squash leaves.  If only I knew what went right with this spot I’d repeat it with the other bulbs growing just inches away but worlds apart in flowering-power… as in they’re not flowering at all…  Perhaps they’ll also surprise me but I doubt it.  Someone might have already poked around and found several have lost their roots to some kind of rot, and even though they’re sometimes called magic lilies, I think a miracle is closer to what we need.

lycoris x incarnata

Lycoris x incarnata, aka the peppermint spider lily, is a hybrid of two other Lycoris species.  There are other forms, but this striped version is one of the more common garden forms.  I think it’s quite awesome this year.

These two Lycoris and a few others are the cold-hardy members of a bigger family of bulbs which do well in the warmer Southern states and aren’t all that uncommon down there.  Sadly they’re not hardy enough for this garden, but of course since I’m doing so well with the other ones, I also thought I’d try a few of the more tender types such as L. radiata, the red hurricane lily.  With a bar already set so low by their cousins, it’s not hard to imagine that just the fact they’re still alive counts as a fabulous success.

terrace garden

Other not-cold-hardy things filling space on the sand terrace.  With a timed drip irrigation system this at least is one part of the garden not miserable for rain.

I’ll take whatever fabulous successes I can get.  Today it rained, and although the 0.06″ is not the 0.50″ forecast, it should green up the crabgrass a bit and at least give me a day off from watering… assuming I still even water.  This weekend I almost moved from ‘trying to get a few things through’ to ‘maybe save a few perennials and shrubs so they come back next year’.  That’s basically giving up for the year, and with school ramping up again, and construction crawling along, and with money evaporating faster than the rain, it’s never sounded better… until you consider the alternatives.  Being stuck in front of the tv from now until snowdrop season or taking up a trowel and helping tile, or sitting through an entire football game?  I think even a bad day of looking at weeds and wilted plants has its bright spots and I think I can do it for a few more days.  Lycoris season is always full of surprises, and even if the surprise is in how disappointing they can be, the colchicums will be here soon and I can always count on them.

Have a great week, and may your garden get all the rain it needs 😉