Another Round With the Bloomers

Last Saturday was a big day, it marked the 9th Tour of the Back Mountain Gardens, held every other year here in this neck of Pennsylvania.  It’s one of the biggest gardening events for the area and over the years has raised in excess of $100,000 for the Anthracite Scenic Trails Association as well as entertaining and inspiring gardeners galore as they nose around some of the best local gardens on the ‘backside’ of our valley’s western mountains.

As usual we had a great time, the weather was perfect for touring, the event was flawlessly organized, vendors and presentations were both interesting and entertaining, and of course all the gardens were great!

backmountain garden tour

Our first stop, a decidedly formal garden with a grand entry.

Because of non-gardening things and a possible Emergency room visit, we were a little pressed for time, so right out of the gate made an executive decision to visit the newly opened Back Mountain Bloomers Trailhead and Judith and David Rimple Loop Trail at some other time.  Our first official gardentour stop became the ‘Fit For a Wedding’ estate.  Besides wowing visitors with an elegant entry and classic landscaping throughout, this venue also provided the setting for the club’s horticultural exhibits which filled the back patios with wedding themed arrangements and displays.

backmountain garden tour

I loved the porches.  There was a different one for each beverage of the day, all complete with comfy seating and a beautiful view.  The white-themed planters and baskets were perfect as well, and the climbing hydrangea coming up from below couldn’t have looked nicer.  

A spacious lawn with woodland views all around made for a nice setting of pool and gazebo.  If asked, I would suggest having my lunch out here.

backmountain garden tour

The climbing clematis were perfect but the hydrangea were being a little lazy, just like most of the blue hydrangeas grown around here.  A sea of white ‘Annabelle’ or one of the blue lacecap hydrangeas would have been awesome!

There was a lot more to this garden, peony plantings, roses, specimen trees, but our tour was a little off and we were a little rushed so much was missed, but we did get to stroll around front and admire the color and fountains of the front garden.

backmountain garden tour

A soothing spot with the sound of water.  

The second stop on our tour brought us to the old Pinebrook Grove picnic pavillion, now transformed into a spacious home and entertaining area complete with a kitchen large enough to fit ten along the breakfast bar and a living space which looked party-ready.  Outside, the massive patio was ready for summer parties and poolside lounging.

backmountain garden tour

Just a small bit of the patio.  Of course since I was distracted by the garden I only vaguely remember a swimming pool and more umbrellas and seating than one could imagine, but they were there as well.

I was told that most of this landscape was designed and built by the homeowner’s family.  Not bad at all!

backmountain garden tour

Of course I loved the pond.  It was a perfect centerpiece to the yard and I wouldn’t mind dipping my feet into the crystal clear water.  I bet it’s very popular with the smaller garden visitors as well.

Our next stop took us to a shady garden ’embellished’ by nature and structured with over 40 year’s worth of stonewall building and earth moving.  The home sat perfectly on the shaded lot, and woodland plants came right up to the house in a way that makes you think of songbirds and bunnies and everything summery.

backmountain garden tour

A stone raven greets visitors at the front entrance.

The homeowners of this property are the energy behind ‘Embellish’, a Dallas, PA home-gift-antiques store which is one of our must visit stops during the holiday season.  In addition to an open garden the doors to the home were open as well, and I’d like to think it doesn’t always look so put together and cozy but it probably does.

backmountain garden tour

A corner of the living room set up for the tour, but the rest of the house looked just as everyday amazing.

Leaving the house, the garden had a real cool and calming feel as well.  Open enough for a breeze, yet planted up enough so that you know you’re part of the garden.  Plus plenty of stone walls and a firepit are win-wins in my book.

backmountain garden tour

Spiderwort and ‘Invincibelle’ hydrangea,  both looking perfectly fresh in the dappled shade.

backmountain garden tour

Just your average garden shed.  Perfectly painted to match the house, plus a nice mossy path out front.

Leaving the ‘Embellished’ garden we headed out to the ‘Labor of Love’ garden… with a strong emphasis on the labor part, as evidenced by the stonework which greets visitors at the front.

backmountain garden tour

Stone steps and tiers of retaining walls tame the slope along the street.  I can only imagine the hours of labor which went into fitting these walls together, since they’re nothing like the thrown-together walls you often see.

The hardscape and paths and “rooms” of this garden were one thing, but the plantings were also at another level.  This looked like a garden where the owner was suffering from a little bit of a plant obsession, and every inch of the yard had something special going on, in spite of the homeowner’s claim that the garden was more of a ‘Hard Rock Deer Cafe’.

backmountain garden tour

The sunny front terraces were overflowing with a mix of small rockgarden plants, all kinds of sedums, and spots of annual color here and there.  ‘Tapestry of plants’ would be a good description for all the low-growing treasures in this bed.

The back garden was equally as obsessive.  Perfect grass paths brought you from area to area and the whole garden stretched out below the overlooking decks and patio.

backmountain garden tour

Full sun vegetables and flowers sat up by the deck, with beds of all kinds of shrubs and trees filling the lower areas.  There was quite a slope to the backyard as well, but the layout of grass paths made it very relaxed.

I felt quite at home in the back.  There were a bunch of things with yellow and chartreuse foliage and I do have a bias towards anything with a lighter leaf, so in my opinion it was brilliant 😉

backmountain garden tour

Shady beds in back, again filled with all sort of goodies.  Everything seemed quite happy and in perfect condition.  

This garden gave me hope.  There were photos of an empty lawn with just a few bushes in the early days and now to see plants everywhere and a garden surrounding the house means that the same could happen here.  My new excuse will be it’s coming along and if you can just imagine it in thirty more years….

But then I noticed the stone work which was going up onto the foundation, and had already been finished across the front and up the chimney of the house and I realized this was a much more ambitious soul.

backmountain garden tour

Looking up towards the shaded side garden and patio.

Off to the next stop, this one being a ‘garden getaway’ of ponds and waterfalls, pools and patios, and an outdoor kitchen  large enough to accommodate all the people who are sure to show up.

backmountain garden tour

Right off the house is a shaded patio surrounded by running water and restful scenery.  This would definitely be my favorite spot to relax.

Again in this garden I heard that the homeowner was responsible for much of the work.  Again I felt just a little inadequate looking around at the landscaping and focal points.  It really made for a nice garden retreat and I was more than a little tempted to outstay my welcome and ask what’s for dinner.

backmountain garden tour

There were quite a few nice containers planted up for summer.  There was one really nice planter filled with shades of blue which I regret missing out on photographing.

Here’s one last photo of the patio.  I almost left this out since I know someone here will mention that our own outdoor area lacks a grilling/smoking/kitchen facility and will ask why that’s the case.

backmountain garden tour

Not too shabby.  I was also a little envious of the big green egg sitting at the far end of the kitchen… just waiting to cook up something delicious.

So that rounded out this year’s tour.  There was still one more garden which we regrettably had to cut out of our circuit since we were on an unfortunately tight schedule, and we had to rush past too many of the displays, but overall it was a great day with tons of friendly people and helpful hosts and wonderful locations.  Even the rain held off long enough to make the day even more successful.

Thanks to all the Garden Bloomers who put countless hours into preparing for this day.  I know they don’t want to even think about it but I’m already looking forward to the next tour which will mark the 20 year milestone for this event.  It will be exceptional I’m sure.

Have a great week!

Happy Fourth!

Summer is here and so is that wonderful humidity and heat.  Oddly enough we’ve also been getting rain-free days, and when I think back to last week there were actually a number of absolutely beautiful days, which I swear did not exist last year.  Suddenly I  love gardening again and even though I actually had to water a few things (for the first time in months) things are generally pretty good.  I’m thinking today’s Independence day celebrations should be quite excellent, even if we don’t have tanks rumbling along in the local parade or fighter jets buzzing the church picnics.

bougainvillea hanging basket

Welcome to the festivities, and welcome to the bougainvillea hanging basket which was irresistibly priced at a local greenhouse this spring. 

Yesterday evening the yard cleanup was as far as it was going to get, and the light was low, so I was able to get a few decent pictures taken before retiring to the porch with a cold drink and ceiling fan.

digitalis ferruginea

I think these spikes are the curious spires of the rusty foxglove (Digitalis ferruginea) which have been biding their time for three years before actually blooming.  I also think they will pass on after blooming so we’ll see about any reseeding for next year.

There’s a lot of altitude this summer with tall plants reaching for the sky.  The rusty foxgloves are topping out at just under six feet which is not bad at all since I do like wandering around with my plants rather than looking down at them.

digitalis ferruginea

Digitalis ferruginea?  I planted a couple different kinds of foxgloves a few years ago, and to my un-botanical eye many look quite similar.

Usually the fuzzy leaved verbascums (mullein) are my high altitude stars but this year I have a Canada lily (Lilium canadense) which has taken it upon itself to reach for the sky.  Before slouching back down to my height, it was measuring in at just over the seven foot mark, and it wouldn’t have been the worst idea to tie in a stake to keep it up there.

canada lily lilium canadense

Lilium canadense, a native to the Eastern woodlands of N . America, and probably something that would be more common if there were less deer.

Last year this fellow was barely half the height with just two or three blooms, but this is a lily which loves steady moisture, and trust me it had moisture galore last year.

canada lily lilium canadense

Love the speckled insides, and the flowers are bringing some nice floral fireworks up to deck height.

A sibling of this plant just a few feet away has decided to focus on multiplying, and although the stalks are only about half the height there are quite a few little sprouts coming up here and there around the main plants.

canada lily lilium canadense

This one has slouched into the arms of a cutleaf sumac.  I think these are some pretty elegant flowers, but honestly, can you think of any unattractive lily?

Other robust plants around the garden include some soft yellow hollyhocks which I’m hoping can avoid the rust attacks which did in last year’s planting.  I think this is Alcea rugosa, the Russian hollyhock, and although the color is limited to yellow it’s hopefully a start in finding a hollyhock which can grow and bloom in this garden without losing every last leaf to a rusty mess of diseased foliage.  Word is there are other rust-resistant forms out there, and I think it’s not the worst idea to give a few more a try 🙂

alcea rugosa russian hollyhock

The Russian hollyhock (Alcea rugosa… I think).  A little yellowing on the leaf tips, so it’s not entirely happy, but at least it still has leaves which wasn’t the case last year.

Things are still pretty short in the tropical garden but at least I finally have it planted, edged, and mulched (and mostly weeded).  The mulch is all lawn clippings raided from the piles dumped in the woods so today it’s kind of smelly, but hopefully that fades away as it dries out a bit.  The cannas and elephant ears love this mulch.  Between the heat and the nutrients which wash out of the grass they should really take off now… assuming my neighbors haven’t overdone it with the weed killer which could be hitchiking in with the clippings (although I don’t think they’ve been spreading anything around lately).

early summer garden

Mostly edged and mulched, and this part of my lawn is obviously not heavy on the weedkiller.  There’s more than enough clover, and if you could eat the clover little bunny please do so and give my scrubby birch a break from the nibbling (the birch is the clump of well-pruned leaves to the right of the rose, now covered with chicken wire). 

I may try and tackle a little more mulching and weeding this morning before it gets too hot and sweaty and the pool lures me away.  We’ll see.  In the meantime I know for sure I’ll be admiring the Regal lilies which are flowering fantastically this week, and are filling the whole backyard with that slightly overpowering scent of summer.

lilium regale

A good year for lilies.  Lilium regale and the first of the garden phlox in the potager.

I like the lilies.  They’re remarkably easy and fast from seeds and these are just the ones which survived a late frost earlier in the year.  If all would have gone according to plan there would have been about twice as many, but hopefully next year the ones which froze to mush will return.  Plans may be overrated anyway.  None of the plans included the dark purple ‘Lauren’s Grape’ opium poppy which reseeded from last year’s far more pathetic plantings, and if the plan to dig up tulips worked out I’m sure these would have been lost.

lilium regale

The potager in early July.  A little neglected, but holding up regardless with lilies, phlox and poppies.

So if you have plans to enjoy the holiday I hope they work out well, and if they don’t I hope things come together even better, and if today is just Thursday rather than a holiday, well then the weekend is approaching for you as well.  In any case here’s to a beautiful day!

Once Again, Summer

I’m going to start off with a little bragging.  These old things?  They just grow like weeds each spring and there’s no big secret behind them.

delphinium

Another stellar delphinium season.  Ample rains, just enough fertilizer, in-the-nick-of-time staking with no major weather events, and the stars have again aligned for a decent show.

I’m going to take another year of wonderful delphiniums because history shows that this won’t always be the case.  Actually they’re just one strong wind away from being decimated so let me show off while I can.  They look great from a seated position on the front porch.

Actually I haven’t been as lazy as usual and the garden is showing some signs of attempted control.  The delphiniums were staked at a decent time and are now shamelessly showboating, but there are plenty of other early summer workhorses and tiny treasures who are enjoying their rescue from the weed tsunami.

allium cernuum nodding onion

The nodding onion (Allium cernuum) is a sturdy enough native allium which doesn’t mind a crowded spot… unlike some of its more delicate cousins.

Oddly enough the potager benefited from a good amount of attention this past weekend as well, which is odd because usually this is one of the last spots to feel the love.  The weeds were still plenty big when pulled, but a couple of the beds also received a nice top dressing of compost which should do wonders for the thin soil.  As you can see there’s even less room for vegetables this season.

june potager

Regal lilies (Lilium regale) are just beginning alongside the first phlox, and if you look super carefully you may notice the foliage of a few onions.  Actually there’s celery as well, so I guess this flowery area still has enough vegetables to qualify as a potager 🙂

Rainy neglect did manage to take its toll on several areas, and a little work did go into providing triage for these plants.  Phlox paniculata always has some complaint here and surprisingly I think it’s annoyed with all the rain we had.  Here in one of the soggier beds we’re establishing some intensive care for all the powdery mildew and general stuntedness.  That sounds promising but in reality all it amounts to is ripping out everything but the phlox and then shoveling some compost around and hoping for the best.  I may be weeding and shoveling and finally getting a few things done, but I’m still far too lazy to spray anything.

phlox mildew

Phlox in poor condition is just asking for powdery mildew problems.  Hopefully some delicious compost and a nice mulch of lawn clippings can give this guy a good leg up, I’ll let you know if it works well enough to turn the mildew tide.

I’m also far too lazy to deal with another budding problem.  When the wall was built the fence between us and the industrial park was removed, and although I’m quite pleased we don’t have to look at the old chainlink, apparently it did provide a nice line of defense between us and the hordes of groundhogs on the other side.  That’s gone now and the woodchucks just stroll right in whenever the mood strikes.

woodchuck in the garden

So far the woodchucks have been ok with just nibbling clover and the lushest of the lawn weeds.  I’ve already bought a trap for the day this changes…

So as the manicured lawns of the industrial park pump out groundhogs and Canadian geese and my own garden struggles with weeds… and the gardener struggles with a relatively small pile of mulch in the driveway, I’ll continue to enjoy these first few blissful days of summer.  A little mildew on the phlox is nothing compared to where things usually go so you can bet I’ll take this while it lasts.  In the meantime here’s something from the latest obsession file, the first season of flowers on my “eyeshadow” iris 🙂

pseudata iris okagami

Pseudata iris ‘Okagami’.  Pseudata are a relatively new iris form resulting from crossing two species, the yellow flag (I. pseudacorus) with Japanese iris (I. ensata).  Many of the hybrids display a strongly outlined “eye” on the falls, hence the term “eyeshadow” iris.

Hope Friday finds you well and here’s to a great weekend.

-and don’t forget… if you’re near the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre PA area, tomorrow is the big day for the Back Mountain Garden Tour!  A day of touring local gardens starts promptly at 9am and all proceeds go towards supporting the Anthracite Scenic Trails Association.  Hope to see you there 🙂

Ready For My Closeup

I’m finally back in the garden after missing three of the last four weeks due to work commitments, and it feels good.  All the guilt and regret is washed away (both trips were sort-of voluntary) and I’m pleased to see the plants have mostly fared fine without me.  That’s a good thing of course, even if it does cut my ego down a bit to see how well things did without me there giving them a daily once-over but sometimes if you love something you have to set it free… Good enough in theory, but here the weeds really took advantage of the freedom and over the next few days (ok, weeks) I hope to address that.  In the meantime closeups work, and they’re so much nicer than the other set of photos which were going to show all the challenges and struggles ahead in this weedy garden.

iris roys repeater

Iris ‘Roy’s Repeater’, one of the interspecies cross iris which I’ve been mildly obsessing over for a couple years now.  Maybe I still have room for another three or four…. I do like the pale yellow ones 🙂

I got in Friday night so it wasn’t until Saturday morning that the tour happened.  Then it was coffee on the porch and a lot of thinking.  Needless to say I was in no rush to get working and even less of a rush to do the important things first.  That is unless you think staking the delphiniums is the most important thing which needs doing, because that’s were I started.  It was light work, just right for getting into the swing of things and getting the nails dirty again.  Funny how the most noticeable thing about being away for two weeks is that your nails get normal-person clean.

delphinium

The first of the delphiniums, staked just in the nick of time.

After staking I weeded along the front porch.  That’s kind of cheating as well since the bed is so full few weeds stand a chance, but it was a start, and now at least I can sit out there without a heavy conscience.

rosa rubrifolia

The spring foliage of Rosa rubrifolia is nice enough that the flowers don’t even matter… which is a good thing since they’re so tiny.

With a little weeding under my belt I gave a little more thought to what needed to be done next.  I decided the best thing for me to do was go to the nursery.  It’s been a while and I didn’t want them to worry.  Plus if I do get around to weeding it’s a terrible idea to leave all those empty spots, they’ll only grow more unwanted weeds.  Better to fill the gaps with new plants.

hydrangea strawberry sundae

Hydrangea ‘Strawberry Sundae’ is coming on very well this year and I like how the red stems look against the ‘William Baffin’ rose… which is a blooming beast this year!

I spent way too long at the nursery and if you’re counting I may have spent way too much money as well.  It wasn’t easy but I’m trying to stick with my new self-improvement plan which includes me being a force of social change.  I wasn’t buying all those plants for myself, I was buying them to support my local nursery.  I was buying them to build up the little guy, to keep dreams alive, to encourage someone to have a nursery yard full of obscure interesting plants ready for me to buy whenever I need a plant fix!  I could have been weeding my own garden but instead I chose to go out and help make the world a better place.  You’re welcome.

nursery run

I may have said I don’t need any more plants with yellow foliage.  That was foolish.  I still needed a yellow fountain grass, ‘Lumen Gold’ to be precise. 

The plants were crammed in right after lunch.  Well actually there was a pool visit first and a lot of child throwing as well, but fortunately there was still enough energy left to scrape a shallow hole and bury a few root balls.  I’ve decided that plants need to realize quickly that it won’t be an easy ride around here, so tough-love planting is the new rule.  I do take care to break up the root balls as much as possible though.  The sooner those roots get out of their potting soil, and into their new soil the better.

blueberries

The blueberries look promising.

So that was Saturday.  Sunday was father’s day and weeding was again pushed on to the back burner, but because someone also has a new ‘all purchased plants must be planted within three days’ policy it wasn’t a complete day of rest.  I spent a good two hours setting up the deck containers.  That sounds busy, but if you’ve ever watched it’s more moving plants and considering than it is planting.  I’m never really happy when it’s done, but once things grow in it always ends up looking good enough.

lonicera sempervirens

The honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) has been entertaining the hummingbirds for a few weeks now.  Aphids can be a problem but I just ignore them and the distorted growth (lower right) they produce.

I spent the rest of Sunday puttering.  I was happy to see plenty of bugs but little plant damage, and I like to pretend there’s some kind of good and bad balance thing going on but experience shows it’s not likely to stay that way all summer.

stinging nettle

Stinging nettle has been tolerated and even encouraged in the back reaches of the yard.  The stinging thing is relatively harmless and cool, but even better is when the leaves start folding up around the red admiral caterpillars which this plant supports.  

One animal which always surprises me are the garter snakes which have moved into the arborvitae next to the porch.  There are two, and surprisingly enough they enjoy draping themselves across the branches and catching the morning sun when things are cool.  Not everyone agrees they’re good company but I like them.

baby praying mantis

I was hoping to get a photo of one of the snakes but found this praying mantis instead.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a tiny one before.

The rabbits and an on again off again woodchuck are other wildlife which are making themselves known, but there’s one native wildflower which is really announcing itself this year.  Jewelweed (Impatients capensis) loves the regular rain and its juicy little stems are showing up everywhere.

clematis ruutel

Clematis ‘Ruutel’ rising up from a sea of jewelweed.  Easy enough to remove, but there are other plants anxious to get out from under their shadow.  

I think that’s enough from me.  The on again, off again drizzle suggested I call it quits for garden work and I was fine with that.  Taking pictures is much easier than weeding anyway.

quaking aspen leaf

Quaking aspen out in the meadow.

golden hops

Golden hops looking for some support to scramble on up… someone should probably address that.

hypericum albury purple

Hypericum ‘Albury Purple’ living up to the name.  

dracocephalum

I know the lavender colored flower is a Dracocephalum but the cactus has grown over the label and I’m just not curious enough about the exact species to brave the spines.  

thalictrum rochebrunianum

I love Thalictrum rochebrunianum.  The foliage is cool enough, but with the dark stems and their waxy coating it’s just a work of art.

sunflower seedlings

So much for weeding out these sunflower seedlings…

verbascum atrovilaceum

Verbascum atroviolaceum is a small floppy verbascum which only flowers in the morning and isn’t all that showy, but of course I think it’s cool.

front street border

The border along the street is just doing its own thing this year.  We may run a purge but if it ain’t broke don’t fix it…. says the gardener who will end up trying to fix it.

oxeye daisy

One of my favorite weeds is the Oxeye daisy, this one complete with a colorful inchworm.

pokeweed sunnyside up

Growing native plants is a noble cause, but once you start planting cultivars things get iffy.  I pull out plenty of the regular pokeweed, but apparently ‘Sunnyside Up’ has now entered the local gene pool… and is too pretty to pull 🙂

penstemon digitalis dark towers

The foundation planting has exploded into June color, and I’m wondering if these might not be the perfect meadow flowers to plant across the berm.  Penstemon digitalis ‘Dark Towers’ with Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ and Oxeye daisy again.

allium narcissiflorum

Allium narcissiflorum with a red carpet rose in the background.  I like this little onion!

anthemis tinctoria

Anthemis tinctoria with rose campion and more daisies.

common milkweed asclepias syriaca

Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) trying to take over the world (or at least the front foundation bed).

So that’s it from here.  Maybe it’s messy, maybe I’m not getting much done, maybe the weather is a little cool, but as long as you remind yourself it’s not January it’s all good 🙂

Have a great week!

Let it Grow, Let it Grow, Let it Grow

I really can’t complain about too much for the 2019 gardening season.  Actually I really don’t have much to say at all about the 2019 season other than I still seem to be in my gardening funk.  Last year all the gloom and rain did me in, but so far this year I haven’t been able to shake it (in spite of marginally less downpours and fewer rained out weekends).  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still out in the garden any chance I get to check on what’s new and what’s grown, but overall it just seems like a lot of work to me.  Maybe I’ll just end up taking a sabbatical this summer and see what fall brings.

What doesn’t help at all is that my work schedule has been really interfering with my garden time.  May is a busy time to get planting and staking and I was stuck in Michigan for a week.  June is a time to weed and watch things fill in and I’m stuck in Missouri for two weeks.  Fortunately things should clear up by next week and garden projects can get going… or things can not get going.  We’ll see.

At least I got back from Michigan in time to see the last of the iris in bloom and pull out some of the biggest weeds.  Bigger weeds are much easier to find and pull when they get to the two foot stage, so I guess that’s a plus.

street front border

The front street border is well on its way to becoming the usual thicket with shrubs starting to crowd out the perennials.  One of my favorites is the yellow ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Aurea’) in the back.

In the weekend before I left again I tried to triage my way through the garden, chopping what I could, pulling what I should, and planting anything that wouldn’t survive two weeks of neglect (the family is completely unreliable when it comes to watering and such).  To be honest I was more than a little sore as I stepped out of the car at the airport Sunday night.  I lived though, and hopefully when I return this weekend it doesn’t look too much worse than when these last pictures were taken.

Let’s continue the farewell garden tour along the front foundation bed.  Here the plantings are mostly lower maintenance and that’s a great thing this year.

ranch foundation planting

The blue fescue border has come back enough to look acceptable (but a better gardener would probably still dig and divide the clumps to freshen them up).  As the plantings settle in here, I’ve finally reached the point were I don’t not like the colors in this bed.

I am a little excited about one of the things in the front.  The sweet william seedlings I’ve been nursing along for three years have finally bloomed, and although they’re much too dark to be showy I think they’re absolutely cool.

dianthus sooty

Dianthus barbatus ‘Sooty’, a dark red selection of the old fashioned biennial sweet william.

We’ll skip the just-planted-the-day-before-I-left-again tropical garden and go right over to the back of the yard.  Here the weeds and grass seedlings have covered up the mud and muck of all the construction and we can finally just stare at our row of wind tossed Norway spruce.  There will be plenty of time later to complain about how dull and lifeless the new barrier is, but for now I’ll just stick to complaining about how much more grass there is to mow back there.  At least the chainlink fence is gone and the area looks neat…  maybe too neat… how boring…

berm planting

You’re looking at all the fill I was planning on using to level my own backyard.  It’s all been covered nicely and seeded to lawn and I don’t think my mother in law would appreciate me bulldozering a few yards of it over into my low spots now, so guess who is out of luck…

With the completion of the berm we have far less dust and noise and lights streaming into our yard.  Those are all pluses which I need to remind myself of as I contemplate a fast-growing barrier of evergreens sapping the light and view from our back yard.  But it does look neat and tidy I guess…

ninebark physocarpus opulifolius diablo

More ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’) in bloom.  I love the foliage and shape of these shrubs, and if the garden was bigger I’d add a few more.  Hmmmm, maybe the berm could use a couple 🙂

Iris are about the only other thing worth noting in the back.  Last year’s swampy soil killed off nearly all the modern hybrids, but the older cultivars just kept doing what they do, and have me considering devoting more real estate to iris again.

historic iris

The historic iris (these are mostly from the 40’s and 50’s) held on while their modern neighbors turned to mush.  Obviously a better spot with improved drainage would be another option, but I like the less is more approach 😉

I guess it’s only been a few years since the last time I decided to devote more property to iris.  Things go like that around here, but unfortunately in between planting passions other amazing ideas come up and things get crammed in all over.

historic iris darius

This was a decent iris spot a few years ago but plant a shrub or two, some colchicums, some climbers, build a support for the climbers, and before you know it the iris are struggling along in the shade.

Replanting a few iris this summer should be do-able even if it means time away from the pool and a little kick in the butt motivation.  Deep down inside I know it will be worth it next June when they crowd the borders with brilliant color.

Now if I can only first manage to get the deck planters planted.

ornithogalum dubium

The last bits from under the growlights.  There was an abyssmal lack of seeds sown this winter, but for some reason I needed the orange Ornithogalum dubium bulbs, a dozen canna seedlings, and one cool little pink and white alstroemeria seedling that looks dissapointingly similar to her parent.

Who am I kidding.  Instead of planting the deck containers I took another round through the garden to make sure nothing new happened without me.  The sweetshrub is giving me its first year of decent bloom and I think the flowers are particularly cool.

calycanthus aphrodite

A hybrid sweetshrub (Calycanthus ‘Aphrodite’).  A scent would be nice, but for now the flowers are just fine.

If worse comes to worse I’ll just spend this summer wandering the garden, smelling flowers, and contemplating the life cycle of weeds.  New plants are still going to be added, that’s a given, but maybe there’s just going to be a lot more mulch this year.  I like mulch so.  Mulching can be very zen 🙂

Primula Sieboldii

I guess it always starts innocently enough.  A friend tells you about a plant, you see a couple pictures of the plant, and before you know it a few seeds get ordered or a plant gets boxed up and something is in the mail headed for you.  You didn’t get carried away yet but sometimes things just happen.  This spring Primula sieboldii just happened, and of course you can’t place the blame on this gardener.

primula sieboldii

Primula sieboldii and a few other things in the spring garden.

I’m going to blame the American Primula Society and the endless rain.  Primula in themselves are a nice enough group of plants and as a rule they do like ground which is typically damper than this garden normally provides.  When a few survived our normally droughty summers I thought whatever, let me try and kill a few more.  That’s when the Primula Society seed exchange stepped in.  Some of the best seed in the world is practically given away and who am I to say no to that?

primula sieboldii

The basic form for Primula sieboldii in shades of pink.

Each winter a few more batches of Primula seedlings would get started.  It was almost too easy.  A pot of soil topped off with a thin layer of chicken grit with Primula sieboldii seed sprinkled on top.  Put outside.  Winter snow and ice and sleet and more ice and sleet and… well you get the idea, seedlings appear in spring.  Once large enough to handle, better gardeners would prick out seedlings and grow them on during the summer, but some people have been known to leave them in their seedling pots all season and then desperately cram them into a hole before leaving on a vacation and still have reasonable success.  They will bloom the following spring.

primula sieboldii

Interesting seed will produce interesting flower forms.  A darker reverse with fringed and cut petals can be one nice result.

As you may suspect, Primula sieboldii is not the most difficult thing to grow.  They are a plant of open woodlands and damp meadows through Eastern Siberia, Korea, and Japan and if you match those conditions that’s good enough.  Cooler summers will allow more sun as long as the soil stays moist, but if your soil goes dry in the summer they’ll probably just go dormant (as mine often do) and reappear in the spring.  I think fall or early spring are the recommended times for division, and a fertile, heavier soil is preferred.

primula sieboldii

Primula seedlings were not the only things hastily crammed into this bed, it also doubles as a snowdrop bed and triples as a species lily bed, so maybe it’s about time these babies got a little more room.  I love the seedling variations. 

Mine are due for division and a little more room.  I have a few favorites that I’d like to see flourishing, and they can’t really do that where they are now.  Surely that’s not my fault as all this unexpected rain really has caused them to explode into growth, but I expect some planning and foresight could have avoided this predicament.

primula sieboldii

I do like the fringed ones.  Right now I’m on the lookout for a pure white, but even with a touch of pink they’re pretty cool.

A more disciplined and ruthless gardener would rouge out the plainer forms, but more than likely I’ll just replant them all, see what turns up, and then maybe steel my soul enough to make those tough decisions later.

primula sieboldii

A nice lilac shade of Primula sieboldii

I do have a favorite.  Frilly and pink is not my usual calling, but it’s found a place in Primula sieboldii, and ‘Frilly Pink forms’ is officially my nicest seedling.

primula sieboldii

I think the subtle color streaks and finely cut petals are just perfect in this one.

I’d go outside and see if a few new ones are open but of course it’s raining again and there are Mothers Day breakfasts to be made.  Hopefully the weeds don’t mind yet another stay of execution.

Have a great week!

The Vortex of Gloom

Vortex of gloom might be slightly dramatic, but the endlessly overcast days really seem to be extending far beyond the usual April showers.  Last I checked it’s May and this nonsense should have been all worked out a week ago.

perennial tulips

‘Pink Impression’ tulips doing well along the street, even though the shrubby dogwoods are beginning to take over.

No matter.  The ground has still not degenerated into the slimy muck of last year’s endless monsoon so there’s still hope… but considering the growing season is only just off to a start, there better still be hope!

perennial tulips

Tulips are one of my favorite flowers.  The form can be so elegant, and the colors and patterns so intricate.

I didn’t know what to expect this year as far as the tulips go.  For the past two springs I’ve been dealing with the fungal infection called tulip fire, and when I say ‘dealing with’ I hope you understand I mean more of an emotional coping rather than any kind of actual physical activity.  This lazy gardener did go around and pick off many of the most infected leaves (spotting and distortion) and dug a couple hundred bulbs to thin and replant in the fall, but as far as sprays and other more sure-fire solutions… meh.

The carpet of corydalis is disappearing under the next wave of plants.  They next wave would probably look better dry and not-windswept, but you get the idea.

All in all it’s not a bad show.  The earlier part of April was dry which helped, thinned out clumps probably helped, and since it’s a soil-borne pathogen I think mulching helped as well.  Add to that my insanely strong resolve last fall and the fact that I didn’t add a single new tulip (in spite of clearance sales, flash sales, and glossy catalogs galore) and there might have been a good enough combination of culture and luck that things worked out.  Now if we can only avoid a fungal fueling month of dreary, wet weather there might be some hope for next year as well.

perennial tulips

I’m not sure how I like smoky rich tones of ‘Muvota’, but they might look really cool in a more elegant garden as opposed to my 8-pack Crayola colors garden.

To be honest the ten day forecast does not look good.  For now we’ll just have to enjoy the raindrops and lack of watering chores and look forward to the jungle which shall rise over the next few weeks.  Hopefully it won’t all be weeds.

perennial tulips

My tulip plantings are a mess and I’m fine with that.  Smarter gardeners would pull them each summer and enjoy a cleaner palette of new color-coordinated bulbs planted each fall…. 

perennial tulips

This almost looks planned.  I could dig them after the foliage dies back, thin out the smaller bulbs, replant in the fall as a mix, and it would probably look even better next year… but that does sound like a lot of work considering new bulbs can be bought for under $10. 

As far as useful information in a blog post goes, again I apologize for not providing any, so here’s one bit of selection advice.  Most of the early doubles and parrot tulips don’t appreciate day after day of heavy rains and overly rude winds, so if you garden anywhere that weather happens you should expect these to get floppy.

perennial tulips

More advice:  Don’t plant your new snowdrop bed over where you ‘thought’ you dug up all the tulips, and while we’re at it don’t throw spare bulbs in the compost and then use the compost before it’s done.  

You may have guessed by my tone that it’s still too damp this Saturday morning to get out in the garden, but to be honest it’s still all pretty awesome.  I love spring, rain and rot and everything!

blueberry flowers

Wherever the blueberries have outgrown the reach of the local bunny population, the branches are full of flowers.  Advice alert:  you should do better than me, put a little fencing around in the fall and all of your bushes might flower as nicely. 

Primrose are on the way.  Many are still a little too insulted to grow well in my miserable soil, but a few hardier souls are thrilling me to bits.

primula veris

Primula veris, the cowslip, doesn’t mind a little summer drought and rooty shade.  Gardeners in better soils might even accuse it of weediness.

The last two rainy years have almost tricked me into thinking I can grow a bunch of shade loving things such as native woodland wildflowers, but I won’t fall for that.  The ones I have can enjoy the moisture while it lasts, but let me say it now… I WILL NOT BUY ANY TRILLIUMS.

magnolia macrophylla

My amazing bigleaf Magnolia (M. macrophylla) seedling.  Individual leaves can range from 1-3 feet in length and hold the title for largest simple leaf of any native N. American plant.  Sadly a few hours after this photo was taken a surprise freeze shriveled this foliage, but new ones are on the way!

Come to think of it I shouldn’t buy any new plants, but who seriously expects that?  If there are any promise I can keep this year it’s to actually buy more.  Someone chilled me to the core by mentioning my favorite nursery was actually considering closing after a terrible season last year.  It was a landslide of personal tragedies that can effect any small, locally owned business where the employees are more a family than a work-force, but combined with the bad weather and its influence on outdoor sales, things start to add up and seem overwhelming.  I don’t pretend to know all the circumstances, but I do know I can buy more plants!  Fair warning that rain of shine I’ll be scheduling plenty of visits to Perennial Point this season.  Once a week sounds like a decent start, and after spending a billion dollars to take a couple kids to a movie and buy a few drinks and popcorn, I think a minimum budget of $20 $30 a week is very reasonable 😉

arisaema sikokianum

Arisaema sikokianum looking a bit rain-battered, but still impossibly white inside.

I’ll cram the new plants in wherever they fit.  I’m never happy with where I put stuff anyway, so why should I always stress over it, and unless I suddenly become gifted with the powers of good-design sense, it should all work out anyway.  Case in point and also Advice Alert:  Move/remove small tree seedlings that sprout too close to the house and you won’t be faced with having to deal with big tree seedlings that have sprouted too close to the house.  If the tree wasn’t there you also wouldn’t have to feel guilty about cutting it down, but on the other hand (and sort of trying to get to the point), it doesn’t seem to matter anyway.  The gardener mentioned that he has to remove it.  The boss stated that she likes it.  The boy claims he likes seeing it out his window.  The tree remarked with some enthusiastic blooms.  The boss restated that she likes it.  Case closed.

dogwood seedling

I didn’t get authorization to trim the evergreen down a few years ago and there words exchanged, so when the dogwood appeared and also grew too big, I figured I’d mention the deed before doing the deed.  It’s staying… but I wonder what will happen when the little Japanese maple seedling at the bottom right of the photo becomes large enough to get noticed 🙂

That’s it from here.  It’s still gloomy, but I’m pretty sure the front porch step is dry enough for sitting with a second cup of coffee, and the birds seem happy enough and the tulips still glow.  I’m sure within a few minutes I’ll be wandering about and the neighbors will again wonder how I can spend so much time looking at dirt, but I’d like to suggest I’m now looking at weeds as well.

allium karataviense red and pink giant

New this year, Allium karataviense ‘Red and Pink Giant’.  I love it already!

I guess I do have to deal with the weeds.  Looking only does so much.

muscari and blue fescue

I think I said all the blue fescue grass needs dividing and replanting…. but not now, it looks so nice with the grape hyacinths (Muscari).

Have a great weekend!