Rocking Ithaca with NARGS

Last Tuesday I made the trip up to Ithaca, New York to put in my time as a volunteer for the plant sale being held for the annual general meeting of the North American Rock Garden Society (NARGS).  It’s an easy two hour drive for me and although you wouldn’t be the first person to question a two hour drive just to work a plant sale, I did it anyway and thought it was an excellent way to splurge on gas money!

Mom:  “It sounds nice, and don’t volunteers get all kinds of free things?”

Me:  “They gave me a hat”

Mom:  “Oh… >pause<… how’s the construction going?”

I arrived an hour early in order to make a quick run-through of the Cornell Botanic Gardens and the Robison Herb Garden.  The weather was perfect, the gardens well-tended, and I even learned a few things.

cornell botanic garden

‘These flowers were thought to grow in Paradise’ which after my own shoddy online research seems to refer to the sweet william version, but I’d rather think they meant Dianthus plumarias and that’s whats growing in my garden and thats clearly evidence I’m creating Paradise next to my garage.  Boom.

So I learned my garden is a tin version of Paradise and I also learned that I need to grow Good-King-Henry.  If one plant can create Paradise, maybe another can post an invite to a household elf named Heinz.  Hopefully Heinz can help out with the dishes or something, and not be a mischievous troublemaker since we already have a dog for that.

cornell botanic garden

I believe I would be a good caretaker of Heinz’s plant.

Maybe I didn’t learn quite as much as I should have from the herb garden, but sometimes people only hear what they want and of course I’m no exception.  I did make it to the plant sale though, and I think I was somewhat helpful although for much of the afternoon I just kept running through a list of plants I wanted and then keeping my eye on people who seemed a little too interested in those same plants.  I tried to be sociable but mostly bothered the vendors and other volunteers.  Some new plant heroes are Ted Hildebrant of Coldwater Pond Nursery (Coldwater might have been the “Oh yeah, I’m there” clincher for luring me to the sale) from where I added three new witch hazels but not a variegated hydrangea paniculata or a variegated horse chestnut or red chestnut or hardy fuschia or… there were many temptations… There was also Karen Perkins of Garden Visions Epimediums who chose two epimediums which will be perfect for me, but hopefully not too perfect that I need more and more varieties…. and then there was Karma Glos of Kingbird Farm who I probably bothered the most.  She had porcupine tomato seedlings and that’s all it took.  In addition to the porcupine a few other seedlings joined my box and it was fun finding all those weird things which most people aren’t willing to take a risk on growing and selling.  Those and a passionflower vine.  Apparently I needed to pick one of those up at a rock garden plant sale so I did 😉

Yeah the sale was fun, but I could see myself getting into one of these get-togethers if the chance comes up again.  The garden visits and excursions sounded and looked awesome, and the evening presentations sounded great.  Attendees looked like ‘my people’ and I regret not talking to more of them.  Maybe next time.

dead red sedge

Don’t try digging in your dead sedge for the winter if it’s in a clay pot.  The pot will still break.

Once home again it’s been a week of get the garden in order and do all the planting most people finished by Memorial Day, starting with my lovely little dead sedge.  If the last five years have taught me anything it’s that doubling down works and deny deny deny.  My sedge is not dead it only looks that way, and now I’m dividing and repotting it so I can make a nice mass display of what I believe is a still-living plant of ‘Red Rooster’ leather leaf sedge.  It’s beautiful.  It’s a sedge more beautiful than any other and everyone is going to want one and now I have five of them.

dead red sedge

Division was a brutal process, I hope they don’t die… any more than they already have.

Speaking of dead things, one plant which I forgot about on the day my front yard was bulldozed has chosen life rather than the great unknown.

witch hazel graft

Hammamelis ‘Angelly’, a clear yellow witch hazel which might be back to beautiful in another 13 years if I’m lucky.  I’ll wait 🙂 

And a surprise flower amongst the amaryllis pots…

double amaryllis

Better late than never, I do like how this *forgot the name*(edit: on good authority we will label it ‘Dancing Queen’) double amaryllis looks blooming in June.  All the rest look a little Christmassy and out of place, but this one fits right in!

There has been a lot of progress this week.  The gardener was mostly focused and had nearly all week to get things cleaned up and ready for summer.  The driveway can hold a car again and hopefully the cannas and other things appreciate their return to soil and will soon explode into growth.  I have high hopes.

All the best for a good Sunday and excellent week!

May I say Amazing?

As we approach the end of May I’m pretty sure things couldn’t be better.  There was a moment (actually quite a few) when I was sitting in the backyard, looked about and thought to myself, ‘wow, this is friggin awesome’.  It wasn’t just one thing or another, it was the warm breeze, the scent of iris blooms, birds chirping, the wind rustling fresh foliage, flowers here and there, it was all that and it just feels great after months of seemingly endless cold.

may perennial border

Three warm days and a few rain showers ended tulip season and moved the garden into it’s blue phase with iris and aquilegia.

To be completely honest there were a few days in there when the heat was almost bad enough to say something mildly bad about too much heat, but then a quick sit in the shade fixed things.  With enough rain and sun you can almost hear things growing, and I like that.

may perennial border

When they were bulldozing the coal wastelands to build the industrial park behind our house I came across and saved two columbine plants (Aquilegia vulgaris) by digging and bringing them into the garden.  Ten years later they’ve self-sown everywhere, creating a nice blue haze.

There used to be a lull in flowers between the last tulips and first iris and roses, but by carefully buying too many plants each year for the last few years I’ve ended up filling that gap.  I shall try to keep up that effort and see what else wonderful results from overplanting.  Maybe it’s the secret to thicker hair or longer life, you never know, better to err on the side of caution since I think I saw something once about a lack of new plants being linked to excessive weight gain and cognitive decline.  Be careful is all I’m saying.

asphodeline lutea kings spear

The yellow of King’s Spear (Asphodeline lutea) is back after a couple years of too much rabbit nibbling and columbine crowding.  I like the spikes of bloom and will try and give it a little more space again.

This talk of new plants has me a little worried because work and a pile of mulch to spread has kept me too busy for my usual nursery runs.  I did manage to finish off the front yard mulching, but after bailing out eight or nine bucket of water out of the basement Saturday I told my contractor he owed me another load of mulch.  He agreed.  A new roof is nice, but when all the water is now directed to a spot just above the basement door, and the gutter is missing, and you can see water flowing into the house it can be discouraging.  Good thing mulch makes me happy.

may perennial border

All the early corydalis and scillas are yellowed and gone and with new mulch spread it looks almost suburbian neat in this garden.

Plenty of other things make me happy as well, and since many of the plenty are things which bloom in May, even the latest round of water in the house can’t dampen my spirits.

amsonia hubrichtii

Amsonia hubrichtii is care-free in full sun and only needs a wack back to half it’s height in June to keep it from sprawling everywhere.

Even though the rain doesn’t need to fall in downpours of one or two inches it’s still worth it to have a green lawn in May rather than the beginning of drought.  Everything seems happier after a good soak, provided there’s some sun and warmth afterwards… rather than endless damp and grey.

may perennial border

With all the other blue a new blue lupine was probably unnecessary, but I wanted something to go with the red one… and of course now the red one’s not flowering…

You may be wondering how the construction is going if all this rain and water is still getting into the house, and I wish I could say we’re almost there, but we’re not.  Things are crawling along but with a contractor who is often a one or two man show, crawling is as good as it gets.  Good thing we like him and it’s always (eventually) a job well done 🙂

picea glauca pendula

With much of this end of the border bulldozed down, the weeping white spruce (Picea glauca pendula) has a chance to get the space he deserves.  Maybe the fresh mulch will keep the bulldozer from coming back!

So bit by bit I try to bring back the parts of the garden ‘touched’ by construction.  Areas are looking better but the pond was one spot I’d given up on.  There are large rocks and nearly a foot of dirt which have fallen in, but just last week everything changed.  I heard frogs singing, and then I heard more.  In the muddy, murky waters I see many frog eggs and suspect this corner of PA will soon see a tree frog population explosion.  I’m already trying to figure out what I can feed them with since I can’t imagine there’s enough whatever in this pond to feed so many future tadpoles.

garden pond tadpoles

There are hundreds of frog eggs in here, and those are just the surface ones which I can easily see!

So if all goes well this summer shall again see an abundance of baby gray tree frogs entering the garden.  Perhaps that will make up for the missing garter snakes.

garden dry stack stone wall

The stone wall is about as good as it gets.  In a moment of brilliance all the potted succulents ended up on top of the wall rather than on the deck steps.  I think I like it but it’s hard to level a pot on such ramshackle construction.

For all the rocks which came up out of the construction hole, I’m a little disappointed by how short a rock wall I was able to build.  People who garden on rocky sites are likely rolling their eyes and saying we have plenty, come get a few, but nearly all my rocks are covered by shale and fill and would require a little quarrying to get to them.  Hmmm.  I’ve heard of people who have done as much and according to my book, if someone else has tried it maybe it’s not so crazy.  Maybe I could start a ‘small backhoe campaign’ and start talking about backhoes enough that eventually someone will say ‘just get the stupid thing if that will shut you up’.  That could be fun 🙂

garden dry stack stone wall

The new wall makes a nice divider between the lawn and the meadow… otherwise known as where I mow regularly and where I don’t… 

Having a backhoe BEFORE I moved several tons of rock by hand would have been a smarter move, but if the early settlers were able to clear a field by hand and build miles of wall I think I should be able to handle a few feet.

outdoor summer succulents

The succulents will spend all summer out here, unwatered for the most part and maybe here and there a splash of liquid fertilizer will land in their pots.  Also maybe I’ll pot up another dozen or so other succulents I happen to have laying around.  If 20 pots look nice wouldn’t 30 look nicer?

So what other silliness has been going on around here… the entire winter garden is out of the house but bags of canna roots and pots of caladium corms are still waiting their turn.  Many of the deck planters have been planted and overall it’s nearly all overwintered things and not much new.  That’s good for the budget but at the moment the repotted mandevilla vine looks like a whole lot of dead, and not quite the highlight of any summer display, so maybe it will still be a few weeks before I share photos of that.

garden potager

The potager is remarkably under control for May.  Garlic and onions are growing, tomatoes have been planted, and I suspect there’s another bunny nest in the tulips.  Baby bunnies are too cute to resent.  I will tell them to keep away from the lettuce.

In some parts of the garden I think I’m overcompensating for the construction destruction.  The guilt of bulldozed and buried plants has me trying to make other areas extra-neat as I try to balance those out with areas I’ve abandoned.

chives album schoenoprasum ‘Forescate

btw chives (Allium schoenoprasum) might be my latest, latest, latest obsession.  Here’s pink ‘Forescate’ with white ‘Album’ behind.  I might have a lead on a darker variety and when I pair those with the regular lavender sort I think it will be quite nice.  Oddly I can’t rememebr the last time I ate a chive, but whatever.

Speaking of abandoned areas, the snowdrop beds are all on that list.  Maybe I’ll weed and divide things this summer, or maybe not.  These days I can call it a wild garden and don’t think anyone will judge me too harshly, plus it’s always going to be much more interesting than mulchbeds and lawn, even though 90% of my neighbors would much prefer mulchbeds and lawn rather than the excessive plantings which find their home here (the other 10% are undecided).

weedy garden

Weeds amongst the snowdrops.  A few nice things but I really need to remove the mugwort and powerwash that birch trunk!

Honestly sometimes I’m undecided if all these questionable plants and sweaty labor are changing things here for the better, but when the tadpoles come I will know they are.  Actually every new thing which comes up has me convinced it’s all for the better… except maybe poison ivy seedlings.  I can do without those.

Enjoy these last days of May, they pass far too quickly!

Bragging Again

The weather has finally warmed up enough here to get things growing, and as usual it’s the tulips and daffodils which are my absolute favorites.  They’re not at all subtle and I think that’s needed in order to distract from the raw construction of other parts of the garden.

growing tulips

The border along the street is looking good with a nice show of returning tulips.  Some have been in place for over five years and are way overdue for dividing.

Tulips and daffodils are a weakness of mine and it may surprise some that I’ve been on a strict diet for the last two or three years and haven’t allowed myself to buy any new bulbs until I take better care of what’s here.  Crowded clumps need dividing in order to show off best and in the case of tulips a string of late freezes and excessively damp springs have brought on some serious plagues of tulip fire botrytis.  Fortunately it only takes a few nice flowers in order for me to completely ignore a thousand other issues!

tulip marit

‘Marit’ might be in the top five of favorite tulips.  The colors, shape, and size are just amazing to my eye. 

This year drier weather has also been helpful in keeping the botrytis down.  Between that and some Neem oil spraying last spring things are looking much improved this spring.  I’m also ruthlessly ripping out infected shoots and thinning the foliage on still overcrowded clumps.  We will see what ‘thinning the foliage’ does to next year’s flowers since obviously the bulbs need the foliage to grow new bulbs, but a few less bulbs might not be the worst thing either.

growing tulips

I’m not sure you can tell that these tulips have been thinned.  The one clump of orange was missed, but the others were all dug in late May(?) far earlier than they should have been, and immediately replanted after pulling off and tossing all the smaller bulbs.  I’m hoping the show next spring is again solid with color.

I’m pretty sure only the gardener will notice if there are a ‘few less’ bulbs next year.  Exponential growth means a hundred tulips can become three hundred in just a year, so better to revel in the luxury of me doing the thinning rather than disease or *gulp* deer or other vermin doing it for me.  Thank goodness the deer still avoid my garden.

growing tulips

An overcrowded daffodil patch.  Sadly this is a newer replant where I thought I was leaving room, but really wasn’t as I tried to pack too many bulbs into too small a bed…

At least deer don’t eat daffodils.  Someday the backup plan might be daffodils and a fenced in potager if worse comes to worst.

narcissus firebird

An airy little ‘Firebird’.  

I don’t know if anyone remembers but ‘The Purge’ took place two springs ago, and daffodils were downsized to just under 150 varieties and that still sounds generous, but I miss them.

narcissus tahiti

‘Tahiti’ will never be downsized.  Even as a double in a garden where doubles are under-appreciated, it’s a favorite.

A new bed of daffodils would likely help.  I think it’s worth a shot at least 😉

narcissus coral light

‘Coral Light’ also made the cut and looks excellent with some room to show off.  If only I could do more of this planting-with-reasonable-spacing thing I think I’d be alright and things would look much better.

Where would this bed go?  Who knows but it would probably involve less lawn and that’s also a good thing… unless someone wants a badminton net strung up and doesn’t want to avoid jumping over daffodil clumps…

narcissus Mrs R O Backhouse

The bulbs of ‘Mrs R O Backhouse’ did not look great after the purge, and I was worried, but many of these older varieties bounce back quickly.

‘The Purge’ reached a highpoint two years ago during the potager rebuild, and a couple daffodil plantings had to make way for the construction of raised beds.  Sadly since then I’ve found that I don’t like the way the daffodils look in the raised beds, so that’s a new space problem, and even worse I love growing tulips in the raised beds.  The digging and replanting seems to really help with controlling the tulip fire botrytis and I can spend hours each week just going back and forth looking to see how much they’ve grown each day, and what new surprise has opened up.  Sometimes I really have to wonder where they come from when it’s a flower I don’t remember ever planting or it’s one I haven’t seen in years!

growing tulips

I tried to keep two beds open for tomatoes, beans, and zucchini plantings this month.  Next year all bets are off and the whole thing might be tulips.   

Actually here’s a confession.  Last fall I did add 10 new bulbs of ‘Shirley’ and ‘Pink Impression’, so this bulb diet I’m on isn’t all abstinence and cutting back.  Maybe it should have been though, since both varieties were mislabeled.

tulip not shirley

This is not the tulip ‘Shirley’ but still nice, and for a clearance bulb I can’t complain.  The real ‘Shirley’ has more of an inky purple stain that spreads down from the edges as the flower ages, and of course I still need to get that one again…  and keep this one now…

A friend with excellent taste in tulips pulls hers each year after bloom and usually I say no thanks, but this year I already put in a save request.  I’m also looking through bulb catalogs.  I’m also excited about how fat and vigorous this year’s crop of bulbs should be.  I fear ‘The Purge’ shall be followed by ‘The Splurge’ and tomatoes will end up in pots on the deck next year… and I’m 100% fine with that! -until someone else here overrules me 😉

growing tulips

The view from my in-potager seating area.  When the sun shines and the flowers open wide there’s not much getting done around here.

Usually the saved bulbs end up as mixes since it’s (1) easier and (2) it’s easier.  Plus the gardener always misses a bunch of bulbs when digging, stray bulbs get dropped and returned to the wrong box, and the gardener is a little disorganized in general.  He tries though.  A solid patch of his favorite is always worth marking and digging separately.

growing tulips

I think this streaked orange is ‘Beauty of Apeldoorn’ and I wouldn’t mind a solid bunch of it, as well as the yellow behind which might be ‘Big Smile’ which is plain and yellow, and I have plenty of yellow, but it’s also excellent and I love it.

Don’t worry, there’s a good chance none of that will ever happen.  Just getting the bulbs dug will be work enough and trust me the gardener isn’t one to go out looking for extra work.

growing tulips

Most of the tulips here come from generic Darwin Hybrid mixes, and often they turn out to be something else, but I believe the large reddish orange with yellow edges is the Darwin hybrid ‘Apledoorn Elite’ and it makes up a big part of the mix.  

I bet a few complementary perennials would also look nice, but all we’ve got is purple deadnettle and a few self-sown clumps of bleeding hearts.  There’s much to be said for careful weeding.

growing tulips

One year bleeding heart seed somehow ended up in the compost and they came up all over.  Works for me I said!

Enough with the tulips, just one last photo on how much they multiply.  I came across this picture from two years ago of all the ones which were dug and saved during the potager upheaval.

growing tulips

The potager tulips all descend from these few saved bunches.  A few of the reds were added later as leftovers from the planters out front, but the nerd in me sees the baby pictures of ‘Red Emperor’ and ‘Apledoorn Elite’ just waiting to go back into the ground and explode!

Ok, one last confession.  I may have mentioned I did buy a few new daffodils last fall since I had been so good during ‘The Purge’ and made so many adult decisions about how many was enough and how many was too much.  They were all one or two bulb purchases from either QDaffs or PHS daffs and were more meant to support small growers and importers, and entirely not because I really needed them… but that sham is now falling apart.  I was either sent more bulbs than I ordered or the quality was so obscenely excellent that one bulb really amounted to three normal bulbs, and now there are enough and they’re so awesome that more would be even better.  Oh the cruelty of it all.

narcissus bernardino hyperbole

An older variety, ‘Bernardino’ with a newer variety, ‘Hyperbole’ behind it.  Both are outstanding.

Fortunately I haven’t clicked on any new orders.  Actually I think it’s downright irresponsible to even allow us to order more daffs while it’s still peak season here, and I kind of feel like I’m being targeted for my weaknesses… but on second thought I may be just fine with that.

narcissus red passion rocoza

‘Red Passion’ in front with ‘Rocoza’ behind.  To a daffodilista that’s what red looks like, just like peach is often called pink, but whatever, I always enjoy the enthusiasm of the plant-obsessed.  

So we will see if anything new is ordered.  I’m leaning towards responsibility and frugality, and more adult decisions which consider available space and appropriate choices, but when you come home from work on a Friday excited for the weekend only to find it’s raining inside the bathroom nearly as much as outside, your resolve weakens.  Plus there’s always that gardening budget just bursting with revenue from the new plant tax.  Construction is still as expensive as ever but when this genius decided to put a plant tax on all building costs it’s been a huge windfall for my plant budget.  This must be how the big oil companies feel when gas prices surge and then stay there… except that’s also my money vanishing… and it’s surely not being spent on plants…

In any case have a great weekend.  It’s still raining here (although the extra shower in the bathroom has stopped) but at least the rain has kept me from staring at flowers all morning.  Enjoy!

Spring?

Last Sunday was fantastic.  There was sunshine and warmth, and coffee on the porch, and then here was a nice stroll to look at plants.  Then there was more looking and some sitting and then a little more looking.  I believe things were actually growing as I watched and that’s a nice change from the chilly standstill that the last few days have had us at… and the snow… but nearly all of that melted when the warmer weather rolled in.  Eventually I even did a little work!

garden hellebores

This spring has been good for the hellebores… except I probably have too many and I probably have even more seedlings coming along so I probably should open up a few new spots and not plant other things there since I’m opening them up for future hellebore seedlings…  

I’ve been a little down on the garden due to gloomy weather and construction debris, but just a couple hours of short sleeve gardening with spring flowers opening had me flying high again.  My weedy, disheveled potager with a few tulips close to opening had me imagining the grandeur of Keukenhof right here in my own backyard, but now the reality of another gloomy day has brought me back down to earth.  I think it will be nice enough, but things could still use a bit of work here.

anemone x lipsiensis

Anemone x lipsiensis is a cute little spring bloomer.  I bought a little root the same year a friend gave me a piece and I assumed they’d be the same thing but they’re not.  Now I need to decide if the smaller, paler clone on the left is different enough from the one on the right to bother separating.  

I think a breakthrough was finally making a move on the poor little boxwood hedge which was upended when construction fill had to be shuttled from the foundation hole to the low spot in the back of the yard.  My jelly ‘topsoil’ was squeezed to the side by the weight of the backhoe, and when it squished over it took the hedge with it.  Part of me wanted to rip it out and rethink things but then the other part decided it would be worth digging out and straightening up.  So… the hedge along the potager will be dug and returned to its upright position.

boxwood hedge

My sad and abused boxwood hedge.  All winter it’s been nearly pushed over and I’ve been back and forth on what to do.

The hedge across from it is a different story.  It’s also riding a wave of squishy topsoil and I think that wave is about to crash.

boxwood hedge

The even sadder and more abused neighboring boxwood hedge.  Maybe it’s time to say goodbye.

Come to think of it I’m not all that happy with the swingset in the middle of the yard anymore either.  The kids don’t use it all that much and when they do they’re not toddlers I need to keep an eye on, rather they’re teens who wouldn’t mind hiding with their friends somewhere off to the side.  Hmmmm.  And don’t even get me started on the trampoline.

garden pond

Construction has not been kind to the pond.  It’s a muddy mess which fills with runoff, but the waterlily is returning and I see duckweed bits floating about so all is not dead.

Maybe changes are afoot.  It’s not surprising that poorly planned projects of five and ten years ago need updating, and the sad truth will be that their replacements will likely be just as hasty and poorly planned.  Obviously I’m one of those people who needs to learn everything the hard way.

build stone wall

A pile of rocks might as well become a wall so as to not look so much like a pile of save-them-somewhere rocks.

Don’t think that my whole beautiful weekend was filled with the joys of stone moving and hedge lifting, there was also the fun moment when a small jackhammer showed up so that “if I wanted to start taking out the concrete patio section and digging out new basement stairs” I could.  Lucky me!

double daffodil mertensis bluebell

Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) can be floppy and messy and rapidly die down when the weather gets warm, but I’m determined to get a few settled into the garden.    

So even when my day of rest was topped off with three hours of jack hammering and digging I still thought it was a fantastic weekend.  The weather was beautiful and I even snuck in a quick hike and garden center run with the daughter.  She got it into her head to trim Grandma’s spiral evergreens, pull weeds, and also wanted to plant a few flowers, so needless to say I was thrilled to hear her speaking my language and found the time to look at plants with her 😉

daffodil jetfire

‘Jetfire’ is a nice little daffodil that looks all yellow most years… until a cold spring comes our way.  Then the trumpet burns orange just like it likely does every year in more reliably dismal climates.

All this is still a lot of raw construction talk and torn up earth, so hopefully the next batch of photos will be more pleasing and flowerful.  I think it will be.  The daffodils are beginning and with tulips right behind them I’ll be thrilled, even if the sun is lost and gloomy weather returns.  You can’t hold spring back forever.

daffodil tweety bird

This year the yellow trumpet daffodil ‘Tweety Bird’ holds the record for longest bloom.  A full month after first opening, it still looks exceptional, and it doesn’t hurt that this small trumpet flower form might be my very favorite daffodil form.

daffodil high society

‘High Society’ just barely missed the bulldozer blade.  It’s such a highly regarded, good grower, and I can’t think of a single reason to justify my luke-warm opinion of this plant. 

Hope the garden did well for you this weekend.  I feel recharged and can’t wait to get back out there, especially if it’s heavier on the sit and look side than it is jack hammering and stone hauling 😉

Have a great week!

Snowdropping ’22

It snowed Wednesday.  It’s snowing today.  Time to revisit last weekend when winter thought it would be funny to go North for a day and see what happens.  Now don’t go thinking that spring exploded around this end of Pennsylvania in just one day.  For that to happen it’s going to take a string of warmer days and we’re no there yet (maybe next week?), for this glimpse of spring we needed to crack open the kid’s college fund, fill the tank with gas, and head down South to the outskirts of Philly.  Spring is revving up down there and it was the perfect time for Paula and I to celebrate our annual Snowdropping Day!

Scott arboretum snowdrops

Snowdrops and winter aconite (Galanthus and Eranthis hyemalis) around the Scott Arboretum

It was a warm forecast with just a trace of rain in the morning, so of course it was pouring when we arrived at our first stop.  Rumor had it that Swarthmore College’s Scott Arboretum is rich with early spring bloomers and plenty of Witch Hazel (Hamamelis), and that of course turned out to be true.  It also turned out that I was able to cross off a bucket list plant sighting by seeing Leucojum vernum ‘Gertrude Wister’ growing lustily in what is rumored to be its garden of origin, the Wister Garden of the Scott Arb.  This double Leucojum (actually a fused flower, not double) still needs to grow in my garden, but for now it is doing very well for itself closer to home.

leucojum gertrude wister

A fantastic clump of Leucojum ‘Gertrude Wister’ at the Scott Arboretum.

Gertrude Wister by the way is a name it wouldn’t hurt knowing more about.  She was an accomplished horticulturalist and author in both the Philly area and nationally and instrumental in promoting plants and horticulture in the mid 1900’s.  You can read more >here<.

Scott arboretum snowdrops

Winter garden standards surrounding the arboretum headquarters.

So with Leucojum ‘Gertrude Wister’ checked off the list we continued to explore the grounds while enjoying the soft and then hearty drizzle.  It seems only right that our snowdrop day would bring on precipitation.

Scott arboretum snowdrops

Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) filling in amongst the trunks of a Metasequoia allee.  Very nice if you ask me.

Actually the rain wasn’t too bad.  I had a hat after all, so that at least kept my hair as stylish as usual.

Scott arboretum snowdrops

Snowdrops, hellebores, and Rohdea japonica make for a nice groundcover under the dawn redwoods.

The rest of the visit was a ‘but wait, there’s more’ tour as we wandered from one witch hazel to the next.  They were perfect and the rain only made their color shine more warmly, even when it stopped for a minute here and there.

hamamelis angelly strawberries and cream westerstede

From left to right, Hamamelis ‘Angelly’, ‘Westerstede’, and ‘Strawberries and Cream’

hamamelis strawberries and cream

From pictures and descriptions I did not think ‘Strawberries and Cream’ would be a color I’d enjoy, but with a dark background and complimented by the yellows, it drew me in.

Growers of the spring blooming, Asian, witch hazels are probably aware that one of the more common problems is their tendency to hold onto last year’s dried and browned foliage.  Some people claim to not mind but I prefer the leafless look, and have been neurotic about searching out hints as to which ones tend to hold leaves and what cultural conditions encourage leaf drop.  I don’t know if I have any answers but we did see a few cultivars which held firm to last year’s leaves.

hammemelis doerak

Actually I didn’t mind the bright orange of Hamamelis ‘Doerak’ against the rich brown of the wet leaves, but dry it out and I’m not sure I’d feel the same.  Also there was another reddish cultivar who’s flowers were lost amongst the leaves, so I’m always going to place my vote for leaves-which-drop cultivars, and pass on this one.

Witch hazels are oddly rare in my neck of the woods, I suspect because they bloom prior to ‘go out to the nursery and buy all the plants for my yard’ day and people just don’t know about them, but slowly I’m finding plants and making a witch hazel show happen here.  I’ve got reddish, orange, yellow, and need more of all but in the past I’ve been thumbing my nose at the ‘purple’ forms.  Stupid me to think they wouldn’t show up in the brown and gritty winter landscape, I saw some awesome examples and of course now I have to do even more searching (Broken Arrow, Forest Farm, and Rare Finds Nursery will lead off the search).

hamamelis tsukubana-kurenai

Hamamelis ‘Tsukubana-kurenai’.  I’m going out on a limb and suggesting this is a Japanese cultivar, and I believe I need this one.

A purple and another orange are just what I need.  The oranges are my favorites, and ‘Chris’ has just enough of an orange tint to thrill me.  I suspect it is named after the UK authority, collector and grower of witch hazels, Chris Lane, but I’m only guessing.  Like many things today I feel like I can just guess at things and once they’re in writing on the internet that’s valid enough, but I’m digressing now…  To sum it up here’s a >more qualified writeup on hamamelis< which you may want to look at.  One mislabeled photo does not disqualify all the other excellent information the article contains.

hamamelis chris

Hamamelis ‘Chris’.  Heavy flowering, large flowers, bold color.  I loved it.

Hmmm.  It seems like this might be a long post since I’m only about an hour or two into our day, but whatever.  We’re up to about four inches of new snow here today so it’s off to our second Swarthmore PA stop, Hedgleigh Spring, the gardens of author/horticulturalist Charles Cresson.

charles cresson garden

I noticed that this is a neighborhood of above average gardeners, but Charles’ front garden states it loudly with a sweep of naturalizing crocus tommasinianus and patches of self-sown snowdrops.

On our last visit to see the fall camellias, Charles made the casual comment that we should see all the spring bulbs filling the meadow along the stream.  Absolutely.  We set the date but I’m not sure if Charles really expected us to go through with it based on the look he gave us when we showed up.  I can’t believe it was the steady rain or our mostly soaked appearance because at least Paula had enough sense to bring an umbrella, I think it was explained later when Charles mentioned two phones suddenly began ringing the minute we pressed the doorbell.  All was well though and off we went!

hedgleigh spring hellebore

Some of the hellebores scattered throughout the grounds.  My favorites are always the yellows.

Charles donates a plethora of special seeds to (among others)the Mid Atlantic Hardy Plant Society seed exchange, and I always have to smile as I see plants here which I have seedlings of in my own garden.

hedgleigh spring hellebore

This ‘seafoam’ colored hellebore is one I have a few seedlings of.  It has a greenish color with the slightest blue cast and I hope some of mine pick up a similar shade.

Several camellia seedlings also have roots here.  Flowering was just starting but it still amazes me to see how vigorous these shrubs grow in this northern edge of their range.

hedgleigh spring camellia

The recent cold had only done a slight bit of damage, but the main show of camellias looked extremely promising.

There were quite a few other ‘wows’.  The winter blooming Iris unguicularis was one of them.  Perfectly formed flowers of rich colors were quite a surprise out in the open garden.

iris unguicularis

These Iris unguicularis had been enjoying the shelter of a clear plastic tote over the winter and I shall have to revive my own bucketing efforts because the results are absolutely worth it.

There were many Adonis cultivars as well.  Some were just sprouting, some were being troublesome, and some were just excellent.  In case you’re not in the know, Adonis amurensis is one of the earliest woodland-edge perennials to push up flowers in shades of yellow to red.  Trouble free in a spot it likes, it’s not always easy to find a spot it likes, and at prices which rival snowdrops, the heartbreak of a lost plant is only matched by the sting your wallet feels.

cresson adonis

Adonis in full bloom and quite happy.  Single yellow is affordable, anything which runs to double or deeper shades of orange will require mortgage refinancing.

But enough on silly expensive perennials.  We came to see little bulbs, and they were everywhere.  Patches of named forms, drifts of the most common types, and seedlings galore with all kinds of excellent markings to thrill a galanthophile’s heart.

hedgleigh spring snowdrops

Small early bulbs were throughout the gardens.  This is how I love them most, scattered and naturalized into comfortable patches.

Some of the patches were decades old and showed up all over, with the newest and rarest limited to just a few beds.  Nearly each bunch had a story to go with it and to hear Charles talk of the forms and where they came from was a who’s who of the local gardening community.

galanthus white dream

Galanthus ‘White Dream’ was the most special non-special drop I saw.  Amazing.  Plain and white and perfect.

But what we really came to see was the meadow which lies behind the garden fence.  When Paula got her first glimpse she grabbed my shoulder with that crazy look in her eyes which I of course never show and I was afraid she was about to jump the creek to get there.

hedgleigh spring snowdrops

The creek and meadow outside the garden proper.  Mostly native perennials and bulbs.  Lots of bulbs, from the earliest days of spring to the last days of fall.

Charles told us about the hours spent on knees digging and dividing and replanting clump after clump to spread snowdrops far and wide.  Bulbs from elsewhere were added and over the last forty years seedlings have matured and clumped up and added their own genetics.

hedgleigh spring snowdrops

Most of the galanthus are G. nivalis, G. elwesii, and hybrids between the two.  As usual crocus were everywhere.

We spent quite some time back there, first admiring the overall effect and then finally crouching down to examine anything and everything which looked specialer.

charles cresson garden

Charles and Paula inspecting the masses of daffodil sprouts and snowdrop blooms.

We found a bunch of cool things.  I suggested that we take the three best forms and name them Charles, Paula, and Frank and start spreading them around in honor of the day, but of course they thought I was joking.  Hah hah.  Of course I was…

prunus mume

Prunus mume, the Japanese Apricot blooming away back in the main garden

We finished the tour and then continued to overstay our welcome.  It had stopped raining and after I said how much I loved the Prunus mume and Charles said it self seeds all the time, we were all rooting around through the mulch looking for seedlings.  Our visit had really degenerated into what it always does, the schedule goes out the window and we end up dirty.

Eventually it was off to the next garden.  Matthew and Jamie Bricker were completely polite about us showing up at 5pm on a Sunday to drag them through the garden.  They’re about three years into a new garden and it’s astounding how much they’ve already accomplished in a garden which had to be wrestled back from overgrown neglect…. Plus three kids and plenty of home improvement projects… I was suddenly very insecure about my own questionable progress 🙂

bricker garden

Just a small slice of the Bricker garden. Snowdrops were already spreading into decent clumps all over the garden, all nicely mulched with a plethora of sweet gum balls from the mature sweet gum trees (Liquidambar)

This is where the pictures end.  We ran out of light before we ran through our hosts’ patience but it was great seeing how far this garden had already grown and the shape it was taking.  We will hopefully be back.  The Brickers are putting together an outstanding snowdrop collection and for local gardeners and Gala attendees they’re already a great source for potted extras.  Once he gets more settled into the new spot I suspect he won’t mind being listed as a source, but for now… well it never hurts to ask 😉 I’m sure you’ll be able to find him on Facebook.

Scott arboretum snowdrops

Snowdrops (‘Brenda Troyle’ actually) in the dark.  It was still far too warm (and dry now) to call it a night.

I don’t know if Paula thought I was joking when I said we were still going to get through her garden by flashlight, but we did.  It was warm, the drops were open and glowing, and the wind had settled down completely.  For the first few minutes the rustling in the garden was a bit eerie but then we realized it was all the nightcrawlers brought up by the rain and active in the warmth and it was slightly less creepy.  Even in the dark by flashlight with giant earthworms stalking us it was a perfect end to the day.  Her garden looks great as all our gardens did that day, and as usual our snowdropping day was an excellent start to the season.  Now if it would just stop snowing…

Thanks to our hosts, enjoy the season, and all the best!

Four Days in February

It’s still winter here but the days are lengthening and the sun feels stronger.  I’m pretty sure the cold won’t last forever but to hear some people talk it’s absolutely brutal, and the whole winter has been an endless cycle of cold and wind and grey, and they can’t wait for things to warm up again.  Sometimes when I’m feeling brave I’ll ask if that means you’ll be able to finally complain about the heat, but those days are rare and lately I just say yeah, it’s a tough life we lead.

skiing in NEPA

Day 1: Sunday outside in the miserable cold.  Child on right, friend on left.

Sunday was cold, but on Monday it warmed up enough for at least one person in the neighborhood happy, and that guy didn’t even hide in the muddy, bulldozed backyard, he proudly trimmed and mowed and pruned in the front yard in spite of the odd looks and obvious hints that it was still 100% winter.  Actually 100% winter meant the ground was completely frozen and dead stalks broke nicely at their frozen base, bulbs were still asleep and safe from clumsy footsteps, and most importantly there was no mud.  Did I mention there’s plenty of that out back?

winter garden cleanup

Day 2:  Monday early afternoon.  Mow it all down with the hedge trimmers.

It might be too early to do all this cleanup but guess who doesn’t care.  I’m sick of the mess and there are snowdrops on the horizon, and I want those coming up without all the debris of last year making them look sad.  Chopped leaves- ok, last year’s dead stalks and freeze dried hellebore foliage- no.  Everything was hacked down with the hedge clippers and then raked onto the lawn for a mulching with the mower.  Into a mulch bag it goes and I think it looks far better.  A final tidy once March gets moving should set everything up until June 🙂

winter garden cleanup

Day2:  Late afternoon and I think it looks all ready for the earliest spring bulbs.  I just have to keep an eye on the construction trucks so they keep the ruts to a minimum… hahahaha

Day 3 was all rain.  Warm and rain.  For as much as the sun melted the snow, it barely softened the frozen soil, but the rain did and it brought on the first snowdrops up by the house.

american snowdrops

Day 4:  I snuck out of work early and caught the last light for a few photos.  Amazing what a sheltered location and just a few warm days can bring. 

So the warmth won’t last but the urge to grow will, and when cold slips back tomorrow these flowers will lay down for a week or so and then come back strong once spring gets a little more determined.  Out back a few things are also making an effort and that’s nice to see but if I were of the complaining sort I might be tempted to mention how our ski days are numbered.  Oh well.  We shall assume there is always a next year.

galanthus rosemary burnham

Day 4:  ‘Rosemary Burnham’ is all rich greens as she first comes up.  There will be fading over the next few days, but right now she’s perfect.

Hopefully your week is going without complaint, and as a warning to forestall any further complaint risks, let this be your first warning that way too many snowdrops will soon flood this blog.  You might have another week, so enjoy!

Winter Interesting

A warm day, a storm, and now it’s cold again.  That should bring this blog mostly up to date, and I don’t think anyone will be poorer for the summary.  There are blogs with much more inspiring garden and snowdrop photos and Paddy’s ‘An Irish Gardener’ comes to mind immediately, and you may wish to pay him a visit before I get started since today’s tale of gloom and doom will not involve even the hardiest winter flowers flowering.

galanthus godfrey owens ice

Golly Godfrey, you’ve been through snow and frigid below 0F temperatures, and now it’s an ice storm?   Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I surprised both myself and the dog when the camera was grabbed and the door was opened and we all headed out for a tour of the sleety garden.  It was still all gloom and precipitation but I do like the look of an ice storm so off we went to see how things were holding up.

sedum winter ice

I’m not much for dead stalks as ‘winter interest’ but a nice bunch of sedum can hold its own all winter.

Overall it looked nice.  Not good, because no ice storm is ever a good thing, but as long as we’re not losing power and can stay off the roads and not have to endure the cracking and snapping of falling trees, I can see the beauty in it.  Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and promises to bring out the sparkle of the ice, but with wind and temperatures maybe barely out of the single digits you won’t see me out there.

ice cardoon stalk winter

Possibly the most photographed Cardoon stalk of all time, this thing still fascinates me.  I also love the russet hues of the ‘Dallas Blues’ Panicum as a backdrop.

I really can’t complain about the cold.  All the sprouting things are locked up in frozen soil, just like they should be, and will now wait at least until late February.  It’s almost a normal winter and of course that has me suspiciously waiting for the next shoe to drop.

ice storm midwinter fire

‘Midwinter Fire’ is an excellent dogwood for winter color.  I wouldn’t mind a few other colors but this one by itself puts on quite the show.

One down side to a ‘normal’ winter is that I’ve been banking on global warming and planted a bunch of stuff which doesn’t appreciate ‘normal’ lows.  I guess we’ll see what happens this spring.  Maybe the cold hasn’t penetrated too deeply yet.  It was a very warm December after all.

ice storm southern magnolia

A Magnolia grandiflora seedling of a hardier (I hope) sort.  The leaves don’t look too bad, but March has a way of bringing out the damage and it’s likely all the leaves will drop by April.

Besides Crinum lilies, Agapanthus, and palmetto palms, there are the “hardy” camellias.  I can almost feel them glaring at me as I walk around, and I know they must be thinking winter in Charleston would have been a lot cozier.

ice hardy camellia

This ‘Survivor’ seedling still looks pretty good, in spite of the icing.  Let’s hope it looks just a good thawed out again.

As long as it’s cold, I wouldn’t mind a good snowstorm to top off the ski runs and keep me out of the garden a little more.  The slopes are all ice right now and that’s not fun.  Also not fun is going into the winter garden and chasing boredom with pruners and potting soil.  I confess I’m taking cuttings of succulents again, and if February doesn’t warm up soon I’ll be up to my ears in baby plants, none of which this garden needs.

ice ARBORVITAE WINTER

Evergreens on the berm are slowly growing in to cover up the view of our industrial park neighbor.  

Speaking of things the garden and gardener didn’t need: (1)the yard is still ripped up with bulldozer ruts and construction debris, (2) The under-construction sewer lines froze up, and sewer lines don’t drain when they’re frozen, and (3) Covid has come to visit our corner of suburbia.  Everyone is in recovery and cases were mostly mild, but still it’s something we didn’t want added on the to-do list.

ice blueberry winter

The promise of better days.  Blueberry buds which will hopefully bring blueberries and fill a few pancakes this summer.

So now it’s down to reminding myself each evening that I don’t need new plants ordered when half the garden is in need of leveling and cleaning up.  I’ve ruthlessly crushed dreams of more caladiums, dahlia gardens, bean fields, onion plantations, tender bulb experiments, begonia collections, mini conifer forests, sunflower fields… and that’s just last week.  I’d still drop everything to drive an hour to pull terra cotta pots out of someone’s trash, but as of 11pm Friday, February 4th I have not ordered any new plants or seeds.

flowering dogwood winter buds ice

Hard to imagine now, but in just three months the dogwoods will be covered in bloom again.

Btw seed exchange seeds don’t count.  They’re practically an obligation if you belong to a society and I would be selfish to not support the Rock garden or Hardy Plant or American Primrose or the Magnolia Society’s work.  It would be like walking past a church bake sale just because you’re on a diet.

Hope everyone is going into the weekend safe and healthy.  The cold won’t last forever and even here the snowdrops will bloom again.

The Fall of Autumn

Supposedly autumn began weeks ago and summer is a distant memory, and in theory I understand that, but with shorts weather popping in here and there and with a sweaty lawn mowing afternoon it was easy to pretend we’re closer to July than we are to Christmas.  That is until the last week and a half.  Frosts have arrived and even a good freeze on a few nights, and it’s become hard to keep thinking autumn will be here forever and winter’s not creeping up on the horizon.  Usually that in itself will spin me into despair over the loss of summer and the slow decay of annual life and the death of almost everything green… but I’m still kind of ok this year.  The chrysanthemums were rained out but the snowdrops are starting, the fall foliage was kind of drab but the tulips are going in, and between houseplants under lights and amaryllis bulbs filled with promise it’s only the occasional dreary day which gives me the blahs.

glass gem corn

I picked the last of the glass gem corn as the potager beds begin to clear out.  The surprise of unhusking is something I never tire of and for next year I wonder if planting only pink or green or lavender seed would be a thing to try. 

Trust me we’ve had a good share of dreary days, but sun as well, and if the sun can just keep trying for a few more weeks I think I’ll be able to get the bulbs in and the garden put to bed before the snow starts flying…. Assuming that happens…  Lately winters have become North Carolina mild and I’m already planning things like pruning in December and mulching in January rather than shoveling snow.

conifer pruning

A freshly pruned Scotch Pine (Pinus sylvestris, probably ‘nana on a high graft) looking neater, if not better, than it did before.

As the post-Covid schedule revs back up weekends are becoming more gymnastics and basketball and less sit in the garden all day thinking about what kind-of really-should ought-to-be done, rather than what comes first.  Of course I know what I should do, and of course I don’t always do it.  Case in point is the overly shaded, kind of overgrown, dwarf Scotch Pine along the porch.  It’s been that way for years and could be pruned pretty much anytime other than last Sunday, but after finishing a coffee and looking at it for one minute too long I started with that.  45 minuted spent crawling around underneath pruning out dead-wood and sawing down stubs and making the tree look arguably neater was probably not even on a to-do list but now it’s done.  Tulips are not planted, but this tree that I don’t even like all that much looks neater which is also probably good.

fall perennial border

Other things did happen last weekend.  A bunch of frozen mess was pruned down and thrown onto the lawn.  The it was all mowed up.  I think it looks very well kept and there’s also a nice pile of mulch which will be used elsewhere.

I often get into the mood where nothing’s good enough and everything’s an overgrown mess.  Sunday that happened again and now there’s one less clump of variegated maiden grass (Miscanthus ‘Dixieland’) in the garden.  I loved it but two wet years had it spending October and November as a floppy mess and instead of pruning the top I just pruned the roots instead.  Maybe it will be missed… but to be honest I’ve already got a few other things planted around it which could use more room so there’s a good chance whatever hole is left is already filled.  Such is the curse of the shoehorn/wedge-it-in planter.

fall perennial border

A five foot tall, five foot wide, white and green grass is missing.  I don’t even think anyone noticed.

In case you’re wondering, all the pots are accounted for and all the last tender tropicals are safely under cover for the winter, and for one of the first times ever this gardener didn’t have to jump up out of bed when he realized a freezing forecast was coming and there were still pots to drag in.  He can now think about all the cannas in need of digging and daffodils in need of a new home.  I guess that at least keeps him out of the bars.

autumn snowdrop galanthus

A fall snowdrop.  Galanthus reginae-olgae always blooms in the autumn as we head for winter and the new snowdrop season begins.  You could maybe say I’m excited about that…

So there it is.  The first snowdrop photo of the 2021/22 season and before anyone complains I want to add they’ve been blooming for weeks and I haven’t even mentioned them more than once or twice.  That will change of course, so fair warning 😉

planting tulips

I finally ripped out those disgusting dahlias.  Good riddance.  Tulips (probably way too many for a vegetable garden) are going in and a good mulch from the front lawn with chopped annuals and frosted perennials included is going on top.  

I think snowdrops in bloom are a big part of my rehabilitated views on autumn.  The fall season still doesn’t break into the top three of the favorite seasons list, but with colchicums and then chrysanthemums, and asters and cyclamen, and now snowdrops, things are much less gloomy and gray than they used to be.

Hope your autumn is more snowdrops and less gloomy as well, have a great week!

Down to 48

The ten day forecast looks miserable.  All I see is rain and clouds and more rain, and at the moment rain predictions are between three and four inches for the week.  But… this weekend was supposed to be a washout, and it kinda was but there was enough dry in between to get a few fall jobs done… if not entirely the ones I should have done 😉

berm plantings

I stumbled across some 50% off ‘Green Giants’ and now the backbone of my berm plantings is mostly complete.  Over the last three years I’ve planted about 30 and I don’t think I’ve spent more than $300 which I think compares well to the $550 each Norway spruces the Industrial park planted.  We will see what happens as things grow… 

One thing which I did need to get done was the planting of the ‘Green Giant’ arbovitaes which followed me home.  They were an excellent deal at about $15 a piece and I think they’ll just take off along the berm.  Maybe in a few years they’ll completely cover the bare lower branches of the crappy spruce which are there now, and hopefully I won’t even know there’s an industrial park back there anymore… assuming I also lose my sense of hearing and miss the endless vroom… crash… beep… beep… beep… which goes on all day.

overwintering tropicals

Most of the caladiums were thrown into the garage to finish dying back and drying off.  New containers from elsewhere in the yard have taken their places.  A rough count left me at 48 more pots which still need attention…

For some reason I love ‘Green Giants’.  I love arborvitaes in general, but the common and I’m sure soon to be overplanted ‘Green Giant’ is just perfect in my opinion.  They’re fast growing and the ‘giant’ part of their name should raise alarms, but just about everything I plant is part of some poorly thought out, regret it later, “plan”, so at least I have friends with chainsaws is all I’ll add.

overwintering tropicals

A second bank of lights is up and running in the winter garden, and a third will be tomorrow.  I of course went ahead and made more cuttings, hence the third light, and my wish that you realize this is already the ‘before’ photo.

I probably could have pulled a bunch more containers into winter storage, and cleared myself of any threat of dragging the last stuff in the night before a big freeze, but… suddenly I was convinced I needed to make my coldframe into a sand plunge.  The “cold frame” is really just an old shower door set onto a wood frame, and making it into a sand plunge was really just filling it with sand and taking mostly hardy things and sinking their pots into the sand, but they’re cool things.  Things which would probably be just fine in the open garden but just wouldn’t be as easy to fuss over.  I’m thrilled with the change.  They’re so much nicer to fuss over now and I can sit on the edge and just pick leaves out and turn the pots around slightly, just so they look even more special.  Obviously it was super important that I got this done today.

hardy cyclamen

Hardy cyclamen, hardy camellias, hardy agaves, and my most recent treasure, a pot full of hopefully-hardy dwarf palmetto palm seedlings (Sabal minor ‘McCurtain’).

So my sand plunge is filled with things which would probably do just as well planted out and just covered or mulched a little.  The cyclamen for sure do just fine planted out, but I really like my sand plunge.  Maybe next year I can repot everything into the same sized pot and have it all neat and super organized like some garden that pays gardeners to be all neat and super organized.  As usual I’m sure that would be the most necessary thing this garden needs.  That and a lawn mowing.  Who has time to cut grass when there are sand plunges to build?

hardy cyclamen

Hardy cyclamen doing just fine without sand or any kind of cold frame protection.  I love seeing the new foliage sprouting up as the temps drop 🙂

So anyway… this long, stretched out autumn is obviously getting me into trouble.  Too many cuttings, too much time to drag things in, too many shenanigans in general and on top of all that I bought tulips in a clear violation of my ‘no-new-tulips-this-year’ rule.  Just forty.  That’s nothing considering a couple hundred are sitting in the garage awaiting replanting, but it was a clearance sale.  I’m sure I saved at least five dollars and knowing I won’t be starved for tulips in May is practically priceless.

Have a great week.

A Taste of Autumn

Yesterday was forecast to be a gloomy day of rain, with strong winds and a good chance of thundershowers, but the morning surprised me with scattered sun and a breeze almost strong enough to blow away the swarms of blackflies and keep the mosquitos grounded.  It was nice.  It was warm.  I took some pictures and actually did a few things rather than sit inside, and then when the rain and wind did finally come through it happily matched afternoon break time, so win-win!

autumn perennial border

Thinking the weekend would be lost to rain and cold, the lawn was mowed and even edged Friday afternoon.  What a guilt-free way to greet Saturday morning.

Now I’m not going to promise I did anything important or essential, but I did do a few things which have been haunting me like moving Lycoris bulbs and repotting some plants for winter.  Now if that gets you thinking this is a good time for moving Lycoris bulbs, think twice.  It’s probably not, and summer dormancy is probably better, but they’re moved now and that’s something which didn’t happen in August.

autumn porch display

I still love the pumpkins and finally found a use for the peppers which have been sitting on the side of the house all summer.  The coleus also look perfect, but that will change quickly as nighttime temperatures begin to drop.

Beyond that I just spent the morning enjoying the autumn garden.

autumn perennial border

Some lingering annuals and autumn colors on the hydrangea.

The breeze from the approaching cold front must have been carrying a few Monarch stragglers, since every now and then I would disturb a bunch hidden amongst the flowers.  They were all hungry and focused on feeding, not like the lazy floating through the air which the earlier crew was doing a few weeks ago.

monarch garden

I’m glad I deadheaded the buddleia a few weeks ago since it’s brought on one last flush of flowers for these late Monarchs.

I think there were enough flowers for a little rest-stop but with the clock ticking all the Monarchs were gone by early afternoon, riding the winds in front of the approaching rain.  Safe travels!

autumn perennial border

It’s chrysanthemum time, and I love all of them except maybe this buff “peach?” colored one.  Is it the brown grass behind or the hot pink in front, I don’t know, but something is off with these colors. 

On another note, a few years ago a box or two of Minnesota-hardy mums came to this garden and did exceptionally well in spite of neglect and poor planting locations.  During dry summers their seedlings would spread freely and this gardener was quite pleased with some of the results.  Only about four of the original plants survive but only about two of the lost ones are missed, so in spite of the money spent this gardener feels like he made out better than he usually does.

hardy chrysanthemums

Maybe not the nicest color, but I do like the more unusual flower forms of many of the seedlings.

I guess this is where I say mums make nice porch pots and I’ve bought my share of tight pots of perfectly budded plants, and then enjoyed them completely until they dried out one time too many.  If they’re hardy enough they will also do well in the garden, making a nice lump of color for a few weeks anywhere between August and October depending on the cultivar.

hardy chrysanthemums

This orange and gold seedling is nice enough to keep for another year… maybe the pink as well, but I already have a few others which are similar.

My confession is I find them kind of boring.  They’re very neat and uniform, but I like flowers that sway in the wind.  I like to see the bees working through them and plants which keep putting up more buds with larger flowers and unusual petal types.  Once again the dream of a perfect garden with ribbons and pools of fall color falls to the wayside in favor of ‘interesting’.  Oh well 🙂

hardy chrysanthemums

‘Cheerleader’ is the last of the hardy football mums.  I might have to try one more time to get some more which will tolerate my on again off again plant care program because this one is friggin awesome!

Let me just add that ‘interesting’ isn’t always as beautiful as the perfect pots from the nursery.

hardy chrysanthemums

One of my favorite colors are the white with a pale yellow centered ones.  Awesome color, but don’t look too closely at the foliage.

I transplanted all of these in June and chopped them back to sticks and worried a little that they would recover.  They did, but then the endless rains of August brought on overly lush growth which ended up nurturing disease and killing off much of the foliage and blooms.  A note for the better gardener is that chrysanthemums appreciate good air circulation and full sun, and dislike a crowded bed with overhanging sunflowers and milkweed.

hardy chrysanthemums

By now some of the plants are completely leafless.  Some are fine.  A real ‘breeder’ would probably yank all the defective ones…

Of course there’s little chance I’ll address the disease problems.  I’m more of a thoughts and prayers kind of gardener, not one who acts on these things, so maybe next year will be better.  On the other hand I will rip out a few of the ones which don’t thrill me, since new seedlings are much more fun than seeing all the same ones returning next year 😉

hardy chrysanthemums

In another bed this ‘cafe au lait’ color is something I like.  Hopefully this one proves hardy.

Here’s just one more which I like.

hardy chrysanthemums

Pink with interesting petals, but possibly weak stems?  I’ll see today how it fared through yesterday’s rain and wind.

Hopefully no one is overly impressed with my seed-growing adventures.  To put it in perspective there are often seedlings which just show up on their own, and are often much nicer than anything I nurture.

hardy chrysanthemums

Just like that a seedling appears.  Of course I’ll keep it, but maybe move it to a spot which isn’t soaking wet all winter… 

…and don’t think I’m too good for buying and saving a few potted mums and seeing if they survive to bloom another year…

hardy chrysanthemums

Hmmm.  Has the leftover sand been sitting in the driveway since August?  Someone better move it before that same someone accidentally tries to run a snowblower through it in December.

Speaking of surviving for another year, the pots are starting to migrate closer to the garage and their winter housing.  The new bed on the side of the garage has been perfect for keeping things off the driveway… sort of… as I realize there are half a dozen fairly large pots sitting alongside the sand pile…

overwintering tropicals

I suspect this cold front will push all the caladiums into dormancy.  They’ll probably go into the garage first so they can stay out of the rain as they die down.

So that’s the mid October update.  Chrysanthemums and the wait for the first frost pretty much sum it up and given the ten day forecast both will be around until at least the end of the month.  I’m fine with that and I won’t even mention those other things which are starting to preoccupy my every other plant thought.  The first ones are starting to sprout and of course new bulbs have been planted.

Have a great week 🙂