Happy Memorial Day 2017

Here in the US Monday marks Memorial Day, a day when we honor those who’ve lost their lives serving in the armed forces.  It’s also the unofficial start to summer, and although I haven’t gotten around to filling the front porch containers these amaryllis were just too nice to leave hidden away next to the garage.  Hopefully their blooms will distract visitors from the as-yet-leafless overwintered begonia pots.

summer amaryllis

A day earlier and this would have been a suitably patriotic red, white, and blue combo, but last night the blustery winds pulled most of the last petals off the columbine clumps.     

The year before last I was all gung-ho about growing amaryllis (hippeastrum) again.  There was a beautiful show indoors as one after another opened but lo and behold as quickly as it came on it’s passed again.  This winter there were a few which came up and flowered indoors (and were appreciated), but the rest were tossed out of the garage as soon as temperatures allowed and have had to fend for themselves with whatever warmth and rain the weather has brought.

shade foliage

A few more amaryllis at the other end of the porch.  I really should cut the double and put it in a vase… 

A better gardener would repot and fertilize their amaryllis at this time of year.  Heavy feeding and plenty of moisture are the perfect recipe for building blooming size bulbs for next year and getting a jump on the next season’s flowers, but I’m far too distracted with swingsets, deck planters, iris flowers and barbeques.  Three days off from work will pass far too quickly.

mixed border bearded iris

I’m still completely distracted with iris season.  The chances that more clumps will go in and be spread around this June is nearly 100%.  Who needs marigolds.

I hope your weekend has gone well and you’ve had luck with both the weather and the to-do list.  Please wish me luck in still getting the lawn cut and vegetable garden planted on our final day off… neither has happened as of yet and that sounds like an awful lot of work for a holiday.  Maybe if I spent less time staring at the iris that would b a start, but this time of year goes so fast and I’d hate to miss a minute of it.

Just a few more iris

Iris season is in full force here and although I’d rather report back that projects are getting done and plants are getting planted, they’re not.  I spend a considerable amount of time relaxing in a shady spot just enjoying spring.  I like to think we deserve it after last winter, but things would probably be the same had it been warm and rainy all February.

siberian iris

Siberian iris. Hard to believe patches of these grow wild somewhere, to me it might be one of the most beautiful flowers. I’d grow more but they are over so quickly and the letdown might be too much 🙂

While I continue my hard labour in the vegetable patch, digging and prepping planting beds, I worry that bearded iris might make a play towards taking over more broccoli acreage.  They grow so well there and the open spots would look so much nicer blooming blue instead of pushing out another potato.

iris snowbrook

Bearded iris “snowbrook” putting on a beautiful show… but lacking something….. maybe it’s just a little too short and congested to have all the grace I expect from my iris plantings.

One iris which will stay on the edges of the vegetable beds for a few more years yet is the bearded iris “ominous stranger”.  It’s not the heaviest bloomer, it doesn’t show up well amongst the brighter colors, but it does have a graceful subtlety which calls for closer inspection.

iris ominous stranger

I need to stay away from the ruffly, overblown, modern bearded iris. I could loose the entire vegetable patch if I start dabbling in these. This is iris “ominous stranger”.

I did try to start a dedicated iris bed when deck building displaced some of the old patch, but it’s at an end of the garden where a mulching mistake resulted in too many seedlings of little bluestem prairie grass.  Grass seedlings and an iris bed don’t mix well, and then throw in a little giving-up and you’ve just added another project on to the to-do list.  Still it’s impressive to see which iris continue to thrive amongst the neglect.

iris honorabile

Iris “honorabile” carrying on in spite of the uninvited grass and blue columbines which have moved in next door. A clump of the late blooming daffodil “baby boomer” also needs an escape plan from this bed.

My favorite this week in the weed bed is this sport of iris “honorabile” called “darius”.  Just one little genetic oops happens and the tint of the falls changes from maroon to more of a violet purple? (please forgive my lack of any color accuracy beyond red and blue).

historic iris darius

Historic iris “darius”, a sport of honorabile with a nice blend of yellow-lemon-purple(?) on small graceful plants.

Here’s another impossible-for-me-to-describe color.  An unknown modern iris is doing quite well in the weed bed, throwing up a healthy stalk of some ruffled murky unknown blend of pink.

unknwn iris

Any guesses on the ID of this one? It was a surprise slipped into a trade box from a great gardener in upstate NY. (note healthy weeds in background)

Idleness and plant neglect seems to be a theme this week, so I might as well stick with it.  This unknown historic was traded to me and to date hadn’t bloomed.  Last summer while debating a spot to replant it in I set it down between some tomatoes and succeeded in ignoring it for the entire growing season.  Maybe it got scared, maybe it enjoyed the company of tomatoes, either way it finally sent up a stalk of these nicely patterned blooms.

unknown historic iris

Guilt is sometimes a good enough reason to keep a plant. This unknown iris will stay just because of the abuse it’s endured…. that and I like the veined falls… it just can’t stand next to one of the fancy modern iris or it will be completely ignored.

There’s plenty to enjoy in the garden as it turns the page into summer and June.  The first rose opened today and the sun is shining bright, but I spend way to much time overseeing things from a seated position.  The queen of the prairie and I sit in the shade of weedy sumacs and contemplate things.

garden seating

Every garden needs a good vantage point from which to keep an eye on things, and although this might be more trailer park than Downtown Abbey, it suits me just fine 🙂

I would claim big plans for today, but it’s Sunday, and the day of rest must be observed.  Spring goes by way too fast to begin with so in my book there’s nothing wrong with trying to enjoy every minute of every beautiful day.

Late Freeze

A little over a week ago snow and rain and then freezing nighttime temperatures hit this part of Pennsylvania.  Plants were frozen solid and frost covered the lawns in the wee hours of the night until the sun finally came out again to warm things up.  There was damage to many things, but even a week later things are still showing up.  Luckily these blue columbines didn’t miss a beat.  blue columbineStrawberries also looked good on the surface, but closer in you’ll see black centers to some of the blooms.  I think the freeze killed off the berry part of the bloom while the flower was developing.  Good thing there are more coming.strawberry bloomswisteria bloomThe wisteria was getting ready for a great show, a good recovery from last years freak freeze that killed all of 2012’s bloom.  Then this freeze came and did the same thing all over again.  Here’s how it looks today, most leaves are dead and damaged and the blooms have all fallen off.

freeze damage on wisteriaEven with the damage on most shrubs and trees, I have no doubt they’ll all make a full recovery (the aggressive wisteria for sure).  The dried and damaged leaves won’t look good for weeks and maybe all season, but if it’s not a freeze ruining perfection it would be chewing bugs or children with golf clubs or something worse.

Enough about the freeze.  How can you think badly of spring when it’s the start of iris season?  Down along the street the historic ‘Ambassadeur’ (1920) is just coming into full bloom.  It’s not a favorite, but grows like a champ and the grape scent perfumes the area.iris ambassadeur

I’ve got to move those boxwood, they were never supposed to stay there.  I have hedging issues and for some reason always have a couple dozen little boxwood cuttings coming along and in need of a spot to call home.  There are projects galore to deal with around here and finding homes for hedges is always one of them.  It seems like such a good idea in August to take a couple dozen cuttings, but when you have a tray of fifty looking for a home guilt kicks in.  Enough guilt.  Here’s more iris.  This is ‘Pink Bubbles’, a more modern iris…. I’m not crazy about it this year but the violas make a nice backdrop.iris pink bubbles