Tuesday View: The Front Border 8.28.17

Monday was the first day back to school for the kids and that officially means late summer.  A few haters will point out that it actually means autumn, but no.  Summer won’t give up so easily and I won’t give up on summer… even if there was a slight nip in the air this morning 😦

The front border doesn’t look autumnal at all, and this week as we join the vacationing Cathy at Words and Herbs for the Tuesday view it’s all about sunflowers!

front border

The front border this Tuesday.

The sunflowers seem to know there’s still plenty of time to flower and set seed before the axe falls.  They’re really nice right now and between the bright flowers they already hold enough partly-ripe seedheads to bring in a steady stream of goldfinches.

sunflower

This is my current computer screen background.  Sunflowers and ‘Australia’ canna, all looking even better with the beige stalks of ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass as a screen.

As usual I’m not looking forward to fall.  I’ll stay in denial for weeks and then sometime in early October bite the bullet and make the transition from late summer to fall.  Even my blog categories show this bias and I had to laugh a few weeks ago when I noticed all the other seasons are broken down into ‘early spring’, ‘spring’, and ‘late spring’, but fall is just ‘fall’.  I guess that helps get through it just a little bit faster.

Molina skyracer

Halfway down the border, Molina ‘skyracer’ is one sign of late summer.  It’s a great plant for the edge of the border where its height doesn’t block anything yet breaks up the monotony of shorter plantings.  A ‘see through’ is what people call it.

Besides grasses going to seed there are some other sure signs that summer is ripening.  The neat little lumpy sedums are blooming.

sedum brilliant

I think this is sedum ‘brilliant’, given to me by a friend years ago and carelessly unlabeled because I was sure I’d remember the variety.  From the minute the buds swell in the spring to the minute I cut down the dried stalks so the swelling buds can grow it’s an attractive thing.

But the annuals won’t give up for at least another month.  Even the zinnias which have been going since May are still looking good.

painted lady butterfly

A painted lady butterfly getting her fill off the ground cover zinnias.  This might be ‘Zahara something’ but as usual…

I’ll leave you with yet another photo of the end of the border.  These ‘Cannova Rose’ cannas with the purple Verbena bonariensis have me convinced I’m the most amazing garden designer who ever planted a canna or paired a color.  Be prepared to see this photo one more time when the yellowing kochia plant does its burning bush routine.

cannova rose canna

Coleus, ‘Cannova Rose’ canna, Verbena, kochia, and a few orange ‘Zahara’ zinnias.  Not bad for a bunch of leftover cuttings, tubers, and self sown seedlings… and a six-pack of zinnias 😉

Do give Cathy a visit to see how other views are developing this Tuesday, and it’s not too late to join with your own!  You probably have a good four weeks before autumn really insists on arriving, and only until that happens will it officially be too late.  Obviously when autumn does get here no-one is going to want to see pictures of fall foliage and asters, so what’s the point of starting then, might as well wait until you can post snowy photos 🙂

Have a great late summer week!

2017 Summer Bucket List: The Fountains of Longwood Gardens

The buzz had been building for 2 years as the fountains of Longwood Gardens underwent a massive, 90 million renovation behind the curtain of construction walls and ‘do not enter’ signs.  You kind of got used to it.  For years the fountain area had been my least liked section of Longwood and as far as I was concerned it was only an area to walk around and avoid while you explored other more exciting sections.  Sometimes a fountain went off.  Ok nice.  I almost felt a little sorry for Pierre du Pont if this was all his obsessive passion for fountains could put together.  Plus I hated all the rows of pathetic Norway Maples which lined the area.  Like I said, it wasn’t a favorite.

Holy crap has that changed.  The restored fountains were reopened this past May and if you happen to have the chance to see them I think you’ll agree they’re friggin’ awesome!  The grounds have been rebuilt into something which could compete with an European palatial spread, but the fountains are something all to themselves and have to be experienced in person.

longwood gardens

Looking in to the heart of the five acre main fountain gardens.  The sounds of water surround you.

Before I get too in to it I just want to mention my kids came along, and a 9 and 11 year old who are more interested in gymnastics and tag were not the best visiting companions, but I decided to take one for the team and hope a little of the experience sinks in.  They love the Christmas show… but strolling and looking at plants… not so much.

longwood gardens

The Orangery in its summer finery.  Throughout the greenhouses things are always perfect regardless of the season, and I question the soul of anyone who isn’t a little amazed the first time they enter.    

We stopped for ice-cream first.  It’s a two hour drive for us so that’s the least I could do for my surprisingly well behaved travel companions, and as they finished that off and played in the children’s section (which I’m glad to see they haven’t yet outgrown) and then toured the indoor gardens, it was at least an hour before I got the first “I’m bored”.

longwood gardens

An awesome canna inside the Orangery.  I loved it and I wanted it, but unfortunately couldn’t find the name.  Perhaps it’s one of the many cannas which have been raised and hybridized in one of Longwood’s many research and breeding programs. 

We tried to move quick.  Maybe getting there at 3 O’clock was indeed a little early considering all the kids wanted was a light show… but the plants, the plants 😉

longwood gardens

There’s water all over.  This was just one of the many fountains of the children’s garden.

The water garden was an interesting diversion.  This is always my favorite spot and I was glad the kids seemed somewhat interested in the water lilies and massive Victoria Lilies which fill the pools.

longwood gardens

The giant pads were approaching five and six feet in diameter, and have a reputation of being able to support babies and small children with their buoyant structure.

I of course always have to touch the nasty spines even though I’m well aware of how sharp they are.  The undersides of the pads and outer coverings of the flower buds are all well defended with this barrier.

longwood gardens

It’s thought the raised lips of the pads prevents them from growing on top of one another, and the two notches on the rim allow rainwater to escape.

While I was trying to explain just how awesome these plants were, the kids were absolutely distracted by the small mosquito fish which filled each pond section.  For the next 20 minutes all they wanted to do was catch one…. or two… or a bigger one… or one more… or just one more…

longwood gardens

Got one.

Fortunately the Longwood employees were very pleasant about the kids harassing their mosquito fish.  They explained how the fish control the mosquito larva and added a few things about nearby plants as well, but overall just let the kids enjoy a little wet fun.  I’m sure this will be the memory they keep from this area even though I tried my darnedest to explain the Longwood history of hybridizing these Victoria lilies and their fragrant, night blooming, beetle pollinated, flowers and… well this is where they caught fish.

longwood gardens

The giant victorias are nice enough, but these day and night blooming tropical waterlilies aren’t too shabby either, and their bright colors and fancy foliage could keep you here hours just exploring the variety.

I made another attempt to visit every single highlight of the gardens but was quickly derailed by another “I’m bored”.  The gardening bug definitely either skips a generation or is a recessive gene since my two are nearly completely empty of any chlorophyll.  We sat for a while playing with cameras and looking at pictures and then headed over for dinner instead.

longwood gardens

Round about 6pm the gardens started to fill up.  It was a ‘pop up’ Luminaries weekend, and thousands of candles were laid out across the lawns and lined up along pathways, and one by one the individual candles were being lit. 

As dusk began to fall the luminaries were being lit throughout the gardens.  Our visit just happened to coincide with a surprise luminary weekend where thousands of luminaries ‘pop up’ throughout the gardens.  While the boy focused on trying to blow out a candle without being caught, we did manage to see at least a few of the best garden areas.  A favorite is the long border which shades from white to yellow to gold…

longwood gardens

One of my favorite rudbeckias, ‘prairie sun’.

…to red to pinks…

longwood gardens

Pink zinnias, canna, and crape myrtle.

…to purples to blues…

longwood gardens

Cleome, ageratum, dahlias, and I think vitex.  The dark purple bushes in the back are a very cool non-hardy euphorbia which I always look for but never find on sale. 

and the crowds continued to drift in…

longwood gardens

Blankets and chairs setting up for the show, even though it was still at least an hour to go.

Once the sun set and the lights came on things really started to get amazing.

longwood gardens

Food stands, wine and beer stands, fancy dining… Longwood at night has become quite the date night location.  

We headed out one more time to see the lanterns at full effect.

longwood gardens

One of the main lawns covered with a spiral of luminaries.  Getting lost amongst the lanterns is the perfect excuse to hold hands 😉

I hope my random point and shoot photography gives you some idea of how cool Longwood is at night.  People whisper.  It’s really captivating.

longwood gardens

Candlelight from the luminaries, soft lighting for the plants, and in many spots the sweet fragrance of night scented flowers such as these angel trumpets (Brugmansia).

There really were a lot of candles.  I think the gardens would be nice enough on any night, but I’m glad we had the chance to see the luminaries as well.  Rumor has it quite a few other people also got the chance to see the show.  I noticed on their website that most nights ended up being sold out…. so even on a regular weekend make sure you have your tickets purchased before you head down.

longwood gardens

I think of Luminaries as a Southern Christmastime tradition, but here in the North I’ve got to say summer nights work out much better.

Once we got through the luminaries it was finally time for the 9:15 fountain show.  The show was epic with music, lights, sounds, and fountains spouting everywhere.  From what I hear the highest can shoot up to 175 feet (53m) into the air and when you’re watching or wandering through the show, it absolutely surrounds you.

My daughter’s favorite…. pink. She insisted on many photos to catch the pinkness.

We settled into the upper area where the largest fountains are located and it was amazing to be surrounded by all the noise and water.  Even with the highlights right there in front of you, you still had to keep looking around to catch the parts of the show up closer to the main viewing area.  There were spouting columns of flames after all!

longwood gardens

Lights, fountains, and FLAMES!  

The fountains were impressive enough during the day, but the show at night was truly epic.  Who would have thought that water shot into the air could be so entertaining… well, who other than Pierre du Pont I guess 🙂

longwood gardens

It was really cool.

Seven hours later we were finally on the road back home.  I barely got to see half the things I wanted to but it was still a great visit and the kids are already talking about a Christmas return.  I can do that, and hopefully we can make it there the day after Thanksgiving again since it worked out great crowd-wise and traffic-wise last year.  The fountain shows go on until September 30th and then I think it’s all about chrysanthemums then for the fall season.  The chrysanthemum show is supposed to be exceptional as well, full of horticultural wonders and floral amazement, and it’s also still on my bucket list to visit that as well… but I think I’ll do that one on my own 😉

Visiting Jean

My friend Jean has an amazing garden which she’s been working on for years and she’s made it into a treasure trove of color and textures which flourish in spite of the thin mountainside soil she first started with.  I love a garden which you can walk through and experience and this garden fits that bill perfectly.

jeans pond

Yoga frog leads the class of froglets who follow along from the safety of the pond.

It’s a sheltered garden filled with the sounds of running water.  You enter the backyard though a shaded arbor at the end of a long drive which leads you through the large wooded lot.  What first grabs your attention when you step through the gate is the large pond carved into the mountainside.  It looks as if it’s always been there, a relaxing little nook left over from when the glaciers last scrubbed this part of Pennsylvania.

jeans pond

Looking out across from the house and main patio to the pond.  A natural stone path leads to a cozy seating area and fire pit, a clematis covered arch marks the path out into the garden beyond.

You have two choices here, explore the pond and gardens to your left or ignore the deck and patios (and inviting patio seating) surrounding the house and let the color of the slope to the right draw you in.  We usually choose the flowery slope 🙂

jeans garden

Jean’s garden is always magazine ready.  It’s got color, paths, destinations, focal points, vignettes… Here container plantings line the stone steps which take you to the upper garden.

I guess the upside to gardening on a thinly covered, rocky mountainside is that stone paths and walls are just an arm’s length away… assuming you’ve got a prybar and shovel at the end of that arm!  Over the years Jean has built up terraces and pickaxed out level planting areas to make room for her plant addiction and they really keep the garden interesting with their changes in elevation and solid structure.

jeans garden

Color galore with annual plantings and summer perennials.  Of course if there’s a nice bright phlox I have to include the picture 😉

The top of the slope has been kept open for sun and leveled to make room for all the summer color that fills this end of the garden.  On my last visit the dahlias were just starting to take off and I hope I wasn’t too pushy with my hints of how much I liked the colors and how well they’d look in my own garden!

Zinnias, calibrachoa, and of course dahlias.  This picture just doesn’t do the scale justice, the pot of purple fountain grass is probably about six feet up on a tower of container plantings.

Jean is just a little obsessed.  It’s hard for me to believe a gardener could be that way but she’s got plants all over, she’s got plant inventories, she’s involved in plant groups, she travels for plants, and she’s got about a million plans which are on the drawing board.  It’s always fun talking to her as her compulsively organized type A personality deconstructs gardening.

jeans dahlias

Even the plant supports are well thought out and complement the yellows, oranges, reds and purples of this section.

Beyond the sunny and bright center of the garden, pathways take you out into the more shaded woodland edges.  Hydrangeas abound and although I didn’t get any decent pictures of them individually, if you start looking you’ll see they show up nearly everywhere… and not just planted ones… believe it or not there are hundreds of hydrangea seedlings in any open spot of soil or gravel which gets a little sun.  What a thought to have to weed out handfuls of hydrangea!

jeans garden

Stone lined paths run throughout the garden and special shrubs and trees fill every available space.  Here the left side of the path is dominated by an eight foot tall planting of purple angelica (Angelica gigas ‘purpurea’).

If there’s one thing which Jean struggles with it’s the local vole population.  Deer are around as well but at least you can fence them out.  Voles are a curse.

jeans garden

The shadier planting still look great but at one time they were also filled with hostas.  Lots of them.

Soil additives, traps, caged plantings, containers, all are in use to wage war against the rodent hordes but as Jean likes to say, her stone walls and rock ledges are practically vole condos so it’s a continuous battle.

jeans garden

Round about the back a pathway has been planted up as a scented walkway.  On a previous visit the fragrance of oriental lilies filled the air, on my my last visit it’s been replaced by the scent of passionflowers and fragrant hostas.

Fortunately she’s holding her own and shows no signs of throwing in the trowel.  Score one more for Jean.

jeans garden

Shaded steps leading around to the fire pit.  I love how things fill in here, and you could plant a whole other garden with the dwarf goats beard, ferns, and other goodies which sprout up in the cracks.

I’ll leave you with one last pond photo as we return to the house.

jeans pond

Just the right amount of water lilies for interest and open water for light reflection.  I’m sure the Japanese maple is awesome in the fall but my favorite right now is the airy variegated moor grass Molinia caerulea ‘Variegata’).

As you exit the garden off the main patio you can’t help but notice how well Jean grows climbing nasturtium.  Although I love the leaves and flower colors, this is one plant I always struggle with.

jeans nasturtium

Nasturtium climbing the arch.  It looks so healthy!

And that takes us back to where we started.  I hope you enjoyed the tour as much as I did and it’s inspired me to make more paths and get more shrubs in the ground.  Structure.  That’s what I need… just like snowdrops are what Jean needs 😉

Thanks Jean!

My Favorite Plant

Ok, so snowdrops are my favorite plant, but sometimes I get distracted… like every few minutes, but right now my favorite plant is the cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis).  We were away for a week and when I made my first return tour of the garden and saw this, I just maybe let out a little ‘wow’.

lobelia cardinalis

Now that’s red.  I hope my picture does the plant justice.

Cardinal flower is a native of Eastern North America, and this same plant can be found in the woods, in ditches, along ponds… anywhere the ground stays damp, and I’ve seen it there, and honestly it’s often looked better than my planting, but this one’s here in the garden, and anytime I can sneak over to take a look I do.  It’s harder than you think considering the resident hummingbird usually gives me a dive-bomb when I linger too long.

lobelia cardinalis

The color is awesome, but the odd grey tips to the flowers are also cool.

The cardinal flower is nice but my favorite plant is actually this coleus.  As far as coleus go it’s probably kind of dull, but when I look at how these cuttings have filled in and see how the colors go so well with the rest of the bed, I’m thrilled.

coleus bedding

This coleus makes this end of the bed look so healthy and lush.  I like it so much I was eyeing the mother plant on the deck and considering taking another round of cuttings to fill the rest of the bed.  It is only August after all, plenty of time to plant more summer annuals 😉

Who am I kidding, my favorite plant is actually this tiny Stachys albotomentosa ‘Hidalgo’.  It grew from seeds and when these little peachy red flowers finally opened it easily moved into the favorite position.  Do I need to mention it’s a relative of the gentle lambs ears and also known as the seven up plant?  With a little imagination the foliage has a soft drink scent when rubbed, which is a nice touch, but honestly I’d rather it were more hardy and stood a chance of surviving winter here…

stachys albotomentos hildago

What’s not to like about fuzzy grey stems, nicely textured leaves and small peachy apricot flower spikes?  This stachys is absolutely my favorite plant.

But then I went to the nursery and was a little surprised to discover I’ve become my grandmother and geraniums (Pelargoniums) have become my favorite plant.  Seven tired and sad looking specimens came home with me and I can’t wait to see what a repotting and some liquid fertilizer can do for them.  I’ve been under the delusion that geraniums are my favorite plant before, and it usually involves collecting them, overwintering too many, and then wondering what to do with them.  We’ll see.

geraniums pelargoniums

I made a quick getaway after these were rung up.  They did look a little sad but for what I paid I’m sure they’ll soon realize some kind of cashier error took place and come looking to get them back.

Oh and did you notice the grey little succulent in there with the geraniums?  It’s a pot full of Chinese dunce caps (Orostachys Iwarenge) a cool little plant which is supposed to be fully hardy to zone 5.  You wouldn’t guess from the way it looks now but in early summer the rosettes will grow upwards to become little peaks, or dunce caps.  I think the name is very appropriate for most of what I do here, and when it blooms next year I’m sure it will be a favorite 🙂

Tuesday View: The Front Border 8.15.17

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

front border

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

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

front border

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

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

standing cypress ipomoea

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

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

front border

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

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

monarch

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

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

cannova rose

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

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

purple salvia splendens

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

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

front border

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

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

front border

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

And one last look at a nearby bed 🙂

caladium

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

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

Because I Can

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

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

propagating perennials

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

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

coleus cuttings

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

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

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

cyclamen seeds

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

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

galanthus bulbs

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

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

limelight hydrangea cutting

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

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

shrub cuttings

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

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

softwood cuttings

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

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

monarch eggs

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

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

caterpillar enclosure

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

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

monarch caterpillar

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

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

caladium

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

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

caladium

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

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

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

Christmas in August

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

galanthus primrose warburg

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

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

 

galanthus homersfield

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

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

galanthus Mrs Macnamara

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

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

galanthus plicatus trymlet

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

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

galanthus magnet

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

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

galanthus e a bowles

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

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