Wordless Wednesday: July Approaches

delphinium

Along the front porch the delphinium patch has so far avoided the usual violent summer storms. 

delphinium flower

Close ups show a bicolor effect which I never notice from further away.

rose black forest

Never sprayed and a little ragged, Rose ‘Black Forest’ is still unstoppable in the tropical garden.

lilium regale

Regal Lilies (Lilium Regale) perfume the ‘potager’

alcea holyhock

Hollyhocks in the front border.  It’s been at least 30 years since I last grew these (even though I still hesitate to admit I’m no longer 30).

Berkheya purpurea

Berkheya purpurea in the rock garden… which still lacks rocks…

And Then It Was Summer

Well now it’s official, the first roses are in bloom.

rose john cabot

Rose, possibly ‘John Cabot’, opening up at the far end of the front border.

I don’t think anyone out there dislikes roses.  They might not like growing them, but to dislike them or harbor worse opinions seems out of the question and even borderline suspicious to me.  There are a few roses around here but I’ve tried to hold back.  Rose Rosette Disease is in the wild roses all around us, and I’d hate to see it jump into the garden and decimate any big plantings I might end up putting in.  Unless they’re irresistibly fragrant of course.  The workhorses I have right now are barely fragrant, and at the start fo each summer I always give a little thought to adding something with a fierce perfume.  This year I’m thinking rugosas, and we’ll see if I can hold strong or not.

lupine red rum

A surprising return from last year, ‘Red Rum’ lupine.  I still think it’s amazing and of course want more.

The front border along the street is still riding high with the last of the iris and alliums and a returning lupine star from last year.  I was sure the lupine would would be a one and done wonder but here it is in year two looking even better.  Between the lupine and some new allium schubertii I’m really pleased how it looks.  Usually the iris are followed by a lull, but not this year!

allium schubertii

A closer look at Allium schubertii.  Not super showy, but definitely super cool.

You may have heard it mentioned that someone here is going through an iris phase.  It’s true, and I guess it’s been building for longer than I’d care to admit.  Two years ago ‘Bayberry Candle’ was added, and this year I’m seeing how a flower which is not bright nor flashy, can still be rich and amazing.

iris bayberry candle

Iris ‘Bayberry Candle’ (1966)

It’s possible there have been other iris as well.  ‘Gerald Darby’ was showing off his purple foliage earlier in the year and now has sent up several purple tinged flower stalks topped with several elegant (purple of course) flowers.

iris gerald darby

Iris ‘Gerald Darby’ in bloom.

These later iris are part of what I call the ‘water iris’ group.  That term would likely make a more knowledgable iris grower cringe, but for me it’s one of the beardless iris which do well enough in occasionally soggy, and my always clayish soil, even to the point of sitting in water.  I put the invasive yellow flag (Iris pseudacorus) in this group, and although it’s a little too sloppy for me I do have the brown veined ‘Berlin Tiger’ version which will hopefully not seed around and spread as much as the standard variety.  This one has the distinction of being one of my most expensive iris, since even though the original plant was free from a friend (thanks Kathy!) I may have been tempted to search out similar varieties, order them from far away, and then add other things just to round out a decent order…. and I’m still thinking I should add a few more this summer…

iris berlin tiger

The finely veined flowers of iris ‘Berlin Tiger’ are pretty darn interesting.

Moving out of the iris world it’s also peony season.  On the plus side my garden is too small and this gardener is too fickle to invest in bunches and bunches of these.  I’m counting that as a good thing since if it weren’t set up that way I’m sure I could devote quite a few beds to these opulent flowers and surely I’d go overboard.

peony Do Tell

Peony ‘Do Tell’ wallowing in a weedy side bed.  I hope you believe that it’s been cleaned up since this photo was taken 😉

At this time of year the gardener is spending most of his time weeding and mowing, but what he really needs to do is finish planting.  Last weekend overwintered bulbs went into the tropical garden, and in an attempt to buy some time from the weeds the lawn clippings were collected and spread around as a mulch.

the tropical garden

Not the most attractive soil cover, but it sure beats an ocean of verbena and prickly lettuce seedlings.  In a few weeks you hopefully won’t even notice it under all the new growth.

I do prefer thick perennial plantings as a way of crowding out weeds rather than the trouble of mulching and cultivating, but a full bed in June doesn’t leave much room for all those annuals I’d like to still add.  Hopefully this doesn’t become a regret in August.

allium nigrum amsonia hubrichtii

Amsonia hubrichtii in front with its oddly icy colored pale blue flowers, and Allium nigrum rising up in the center.  I’ve been warned that the allium will be impossible to get rid of, so I pretend to be happy with its multiplying and just let it be.  

Maybe I will whack a few things back today and sneak a few castor beans and cannas in.  I also have a few orange marigolds which should really class things up, so maybe this weekend…  In the meantime here’s one more picture of my little darling ‘Red Rum’ lupine, I honestly look at this plant a million times a day.

lupine red rum

One last view of ‘Red Rum’.  The color is exciting, just try to avoid spelling the name backwards.

All the best for this weekend.  Hopefully you are either well into it or have already had an excellent time of it, I know I plan to 🙂

I just have to avoid the temptation of nursery hopping this weekend… in the hopes of finding some fragrant rugosa roses.  We’ll see.

The Springpocolypse

The weather has suddenly caught up to the calendar and we’ve been suddenly and brutally been thrown into our first hot (90F, 32C) days of the year.  I was battling cold and the chance of flurries Sunday and by Tuesday we’re turning the air conditioning on.  Go figure.  Better get some pictures and a post up before the tomatoes start ripening.

corydalis solida

The last of the corydalis.  These are in a shaded spot and later than the rest, and of course I’m already looking for new ones since I love the darker tips on short little ‘Domino’ 🙂

I was enjoying the long, cool, spring, but with two days of hot winds and beating sun everything has jumped ahead again.  I always fall behind on posting at this time of year, but this post has really got to go up quick since by tomorrow morning I suspect most of these flowers will have been done in by the weather….

corydalis solida

Plain old Corydalis solida.  I was a little ‘meh’ for the first few years, but now that they’ve settled in I must say I like them.

The hellebores will hopefully still have another week or so in them.  Without any late freezes it’s been a great year, and I’m suddenly itching to grow a few more!

hellebore seedling

Seedlings out in the street border.  The heavily speckled ones are some of my favorites, but then so are the dark ones, and double ones, and yellow, and….

I grow a few from seed every year, and would have started many more but lately it seems I’ve been running out of room.  The words ‘thinning the herd’ have come up, and now I’m looking at a few plants with a critical eye and an eager shovel.  I need room for more seedlings, my favorites deserve a chance to spread their seed ;).

hellebore golden lotus

These are purchased doubles from the O’Byrnes out in Oregon.  It’s ‘Golden Lotus’ in front and possibly ‘Peppermint Ice’ behind.  These would qualify as ‘favorites’.

I’m probably being delusional.  It would be a struggle for me to get rid of any of the hellebores, even the ones which might deserve the ‘less pretty’ title, and in case it’s not already obvious,  I really lack the focus and conviction to ever draw a line with plants.  Who knows though, one afternoon anger management might fail me and out they will come.

hellebore seedling

The queen bumble bees are out, and hopefully they’re getting plenty of the nectar and pollen they need to start this season’s family… and doing a little pollination on the side of course.

This spring even the messiest, most unevenly colored hellebore ends up being a favorite.  Green flowers in particular win me over immediately.

hellebore seedling

The first year flowers on a new hellebore seedling are always the most exciting.

Green flowers and other ‘curious’ blooms are always welcome here and this year I’m seeing a little success in that always curious plant group, the fritillarias.  Fritillaria uva vulpis, aka fox’s grapes, is back for a second year and even though it took the convincing of a friend to sway me towards keeping them, I’m glad now that I did.  They at least look a little ‘interesting’ rather than the straight ‘blah’ I saw last year, and perhaps they’ll continue to improve next year as well.

fritillaria uva vulpis

Fritillaria uva vulpis.  It might not hold up to a bank of golden daffodils but surely it still makes the garden a better place.

The snake’s head fritillaries (Fritillaria meleagris) are showing off as well.  I love them, and and it makes me happy to see seedlings and clumps forming as they settle in to the soggiest parts of the garden.

fritillaria meleagris

This clump really lives up to the name snake’s head fritillaria.  I can even see eyes!

The white ones add a little contrast, but the checkered patterns and colors of the darker ones really wow me as they unfurl each spring.  Fyi I’ll need to spread the seeds of these around as well!

fritillaria meleagris

Fritillarias have some of the coolest flower patterns.

By the end of last week the front border was at a peak with all the leftover hyacinths, corydalis, and the start of the midseason daffodils.  From the right angle the bed looks packed with color and I was thrilled, and a few days later it still looks nice but half of what was in flower has been melted by the heat.  Now the first tulips are coming on, and hopefully in a few day you’ll tolerate a few photos of that as well!

daffodil garden

The front street border.  Spring is here 🙂

Here are a few highlights along the curb.

daffodil garden

Maybe ‘Red Rascal’ and and definitely ‘Pistachio’.  The pale yellow ‘Pistachio’ has been a favorite for years.

lunaria annua rosemary verey

The first flowers on one of the moneyplants (Lunaria annua ‘Rosemary Verey’).  This is the first year I’m seeing the purple stained foliage and stems for which this strain is know.

magnolia stellata

A magnolia cutting swiped from a layered branch on the neighbor’s tree.  It’s nothing special I’m sure, but having grown it from a cutting makes it absolutely special.  Of course I need more.

Behind the house the back garden is showing off as well.  In three days all the green has turned to flowers!

daffodil garden

Vegetable beds are much more successful when not filled with daffodils.  My bad.

Flowers aren’t the only color out there.  This spring I’m finally seeing the awesome foliage which inspired me to hunt down my very own plant of Iris x robusta ‘Gerald Darby’.  Thanks to Nan Ondra and her blog at Hayefield, I’ve been coveting this plant for years.  Now I’m seeing that the wait was worth it.

‘Gerald Darby’ also has pale blue flowers which follow the purple foliage.  As the shoots expand, the color will fade to green.

I’ll spare you most of the other foliage photos, and the overabundance of daffodil photos to just leave you with a few more scenes from around the garden.  The primroses enjoyed last summer’s rain and look promising for once in their (short) lives… such a refreshing change from their usual near-death appearance.

Some of the first plants to come in to bloom. This peachy sunset flower doesn’t show up well in the garden, but close up it’s delicious 😉

Under the weeping cherry the three day cherry bloom is over, and the spent petals are now decorating the ground.  It’s a perfect complement to the last of the hardy cyclamen, which (not to rub it in) have been blooming since March, through storm and ice and heat, -unlike the short lived cherry.

The last flowers on the Cyclamen coum.

While the earliest bloomers are still up and growing and building energy for next year, it’s a great time to do a little moving around and dividing.  I created what I hope will soon become my very own trailer park snowdrop bed.  It’s filled with the most messy and common double flowers, the ones all the classier growers look down on such as ‘Flore pleno’ and her variously marked variations such as ‘Pussey Greentips’ and ‘Lady Elphinstone’.  I’m sure someday they will grow to wow even the most rarefied galanthophile.

Snowdrops are classy but only if you avoid decorating the surroundings with plastic children’s toys, plastic buckets, and stray leaf bags. I’d also be more impressed with this new planting if the big rock at the front was already moved out of the new pathway.  Obviously it would be easier to put the path elsewhere.

Two days ago the tulips were mostly closed and the bleeding hearts still a deep, rich carmine. Today they all opened and the hearts are faded. Still nice though!

While I’m moving snowdrops and boulders hopefully I’ll still have the time to enjoy a few daffodils and tulips.  They’re opening as we speak and hopefully the winds and downpour which are barreling through this afternoon will spare a few.  I managed to take one last photo out the back door before the storm hit and as you can see it was full on spring today.

the spring garden

The potager on the verge of tulip season.  For the record there are onions and lettuce in there as well.   

My fingers are crossed for the weekend.  If things work out as planned there will be plenty of time and energy for all the things which need doing… if history repeats itself there will be plenty of sitting around and little work.  We’ll see who wins.

For the record I’ve spent $15 on pansies and then $14 on lettuce and more pansies.  The rabbits have already eaten about $8 worth of the lettuce.  It happens.  Have a great weekend!

$15 for an exceptionally restrained first visit to my favorite garden center
$14 lettuce, onions, and more pansies, also essential

$576 total so far for the 2018 gardening year.

A Longwood Christmas

A few years ago we almost gave up on holiday visits to Longwood Gardens.  We’re lingerers after all and the crowds and hustle bustle of hundreds of visitors can put a lot of pressure on ‘that guy’ who’s holding up the line because he wants to give all the gardenia flowers a sniff.  We kept at it though because for as nice as Christmas and good cheer are, a few whiffs of the tropics can also go a long way bringing some jolly to a cold winter night… and these are the long nights and stressful days which can really use some tropical relief.

longwood christmas

The orangery decked out for the holidays.  Warmth, humidity, and sunshine made the display even better.

Who would have thought the answer to our crowded visits could be as simple as going on a less crowded day?  For the second year in a row we visited on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and for Christmas diehards that might be inappropriately early, but for us it’s been working perfectly.  The weather was beautiful and we nearly had the place to ourselves (relatively speaking of course).

longwood christmas

This year the apples are back, this time keeping company with thousands of floating red cranberries.

The conservatories are always perfectly decorated with the colors and sounds of the season.  I think my favorite part this year was the bright sunshine streaming in through the glass when we first arrived.  Walking through the doors and into the sunny, humid warmth was an instant escape from weeks of static and dry skin.

longwood christmas

Walls of windows, tree ferns, and fountains… I could get used to this 🙂

Flowers, greenery, and holiday decorations.  You can imagine I took plenty of pictures but since they’re not snowdrop photos I’ll spare you from the bulk of it.  Click >here< for last Christmas or >here< for last summer if you need more, or better yet visit the Longwood website for the real stuff!

longwood christmas

My favorite view this year, a courtyard scene off the back of the music room.

Since the kids ditched us this year there was plenty of time to admire the boring flowers without anyone tugging a coat sleeve.  Longwood always has orchids and I suddenly had the time to admire them… although I’m still far from being an orchid person (mostly due to their habit of dying on me).

I won’t go on and on about every conservatory flower but I did find something which I thought was even more special than their regular.  In one of the back greenhouse passages was a display of a few of their ‘on trial’ poinsettia, and I thought is was an interesting glimpse into some of the variety which this humble plant from Central America has been bred into.  This is also where I met some of the ‘golden’ poinsettias which carry names such as ‘Autumn Leaves, and ‘Gold Rush’, and came in colors more traditionally associated with the end of summer.  What do you think?  At least there’s no blue dye or glitter in sight!

…and then night fell.  We grabbed a bite to eat, toured the grounds, enjoyed the fountains (not the main fountains, they’re off for the winter), took in some Christmas songs around the organ, warmed up around the fire, and then closed the place down with one last tour of the conservatory.  It was holiday-magical in the late evening, with most visitors having already headed to the exit.

longwood christmas

A Longwood Christmas with a French feel.  The symmetry and apple-cranberry patterns surrounded by box are chateau parterre inspired.

Then we were the ones headed to the exit.

longwood christmas

The stroll back out to the car.  A two hour drive home awaits 😉

As usual we enjoyed our visit, and it must have been somewhat inspiring since I spent a few hours this weekend out in the cold putting up our own lights.  So far the reviews have been less than flattering, and there’s no talk of admission tickets, but you’ve got to start somewhere.

If you decide to make your way to Longwood this year for the displays be sure to buy your tickets online before you go, just to make sure they’re available.  Also if you want to take in a quieter visit, try to avoid Saturdays and the week between Christmas and New Year’s.  Those might be the nights when you’re better off hitting the eggnog at home.

Tuesday View: The Front Border 9.26.17

It’s time once again to check in with Cathy at Words and Herbs for the Tuesday view.  The word this week is hot, and plants are wilting under the dry sun as temperatures rise to 90F (32C) and above for the last few days.  This would have been welcome in August, and even tolerated earlier in September, but now it’s just tiresome.

front border

Dry heat at this time of year saps all my enthusiasm.  Plants are wilting, the lawn is browning, and even though there are likely another three or so weeks to go until frost, I’m ready to let it all go.

The plants seem ready to let it go as well.  The summer crowd is moving on and the flowers and grasses of autumn are doing their best to pull together for a finale.

Korean feather reed

Korean feather reed grass (Calamagrostis brachytricha) looks great with the fading hydrangea flowers but I find this grass too invasive to keep.  Even if I cut the seedheads there will still be some seedlings next spring… some of which I always end up leaving…

Even as the perennials fade, the half-hardy cannas and verbena bonariensis are still putting on a decent show.  I should really water a little, it would be the least I could do for them after all their hard work this year.

kochia burning bush

The canna ‘cannova rose’ would probably be flowering more if I deadheaded, but… they still look fine.  Here the burning bush (Kochia) is finally doing its thing for a few days before drying up in the heat.

There is one surprise though.  Last fall I bought a ‘hardy’ agapanthus which I didn’t dare leave outside.  It overwintered dormant on a cold windowsill and then went into the bed in May.  I can’t believe my small plant has flowered!

agapanthus blue yonder

Agapanthus ‘blue yonder’ is supposedly hardy from zone 5-10.  I know people have had success in 5, but I’m still not convinced it will make it for me.  I’ll have to let you know next April.

The other surprise has been the butterfly hordes which have come to the garden this past week.  Dozens of painted ladies showed up a few days ago and it seems like other butterflies are showing up as well.  Maybe it’s a migration or maybe it’s just the weather drying up the surrounding and forcing them to move on for their nectar.  Either way it’s exciting to see all the butterflies surround you as they lift up off the flowers as you pass by.

painted lady butterfly

Painted lady butterfly on the Verbena bonariensis.  They’re all over, but not all are as photogenic as this one.

I’m still waiting for more Monarchs though.  Today there were maybe a half dozen moving through but I’ve heard reports of many more North of here.  Not too long ago we had a fall like that, with dozens floating through the air, but I don’t want to get my hopes up too much and I’m just glad to see the ones we’re getting.

migrating monarch butterflies

Monarchs love the verbena as well, and their orange and black wings look great with the lavender-purple.

So maybe this dry heat is good for something after all.  Maybe it’s the perfect weather for butterflies on the move and will make their migration even more successful.  I’ll tell myself that as I stand in the heat with a water hose, cursing the stupid gnats and dreaming of snowdrops.  Is it too soon for that?

1 Free seed + 6 years = 7 Attaboys

Some people say that seed starting is complicated or that it requires way too much patience but I’m going to disagree.  Patience is waiting for a 5 year old to tie their own shoes when you’re already late.  If you can make it through that without any permanent blood pressure spikes, you can start a seed.  It’s as simple as kindergarten math… assuming you’re not dealing with Common Core of course…

Six years ago I received some Eucomis seed from author Nancy Ondra.  In case you’ve been living under a rock, Nancy is the author of several excellent gardening books and also the force behind an amazing Pennsylvania garden showcased on her Hayefield blog, and the seed was part of an annual giveaway of curious and exotic seeds she had collected throughout the growing season.  Her act of generosity resulted in one tiny Eucomis seedling sprouting and then surviving years of on and off neglect to finally reach a size large enough to bloom.  I think it’s pretty cool.

eucomis Oakhurst seedling

A Eucomis seedling grown from a seed off Eucomis ‘Oakhurst’.  I believe that gives it the fancy name of Eucomis comosa ex Oakhurst…. I think.

Sure I could have just bought one along the way and saved a bunch of time but it’s not like I spent every day wishing it would grow just a little bit faster, you just enjoy it for what it is.  It’s not patience at all, it’s you looking forward to every spring when it sprouts up even bigger than the year before and then you every fall digging the bulb to see just how much more plump it’s become.  It sure doesn’t hurt that the dark leaves make for a very nice foliage accent in my summer planters.

eucomis Oakhurst seedling

Eucomis are also referred to as pineapple lilies.  They’ve got the same leafy bottom  plus the pineapple shaped flower which sprouts up is topped by a tuft of leaves, just like a real pineapple.

So thanks for the seeds Nan and now I’m off to the next pineapple lily adventure.  I hear they’re one of those odd plants which grow easily from leaf cuttings.  Just cut off a leaf, stick it in some soil, and new plant!  I’ll have to wait until next summer for the best chances but it sounds like I’ve got something to keep me entertained until 2022 😉

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 🙂