Summer Arrives

It finally feels like summer here with warm sunny days, an end to school bus traffic, and summer parties running full force.  These are those lazy, endless days which you remember from when you were a kid but think you grew out of.  Work is a pain, there are all those responsibilities, but I say forget it and take the summer back.  Spend a day in the hammock doing nothing and then read half a book somewhere the breeze is blowing.  Maybe a good thunderstorm will be enough to wash the car, and hopefully someone gets the hint and orders some pizza.  A sick day is not out of the question, and the lawn mowing can wait another couple days 🙂

sumac tiger eyes

The fresh new growth of summer always looks great, even if there’s about twice as much growing in this foundation bed than there needs to be.  I’m starting to wonder just how big a dwarf blue spruce can get.    

I talk a good talk but there is still A LOT I’d like to get done before we click on the automatic watering systems and head to a beach or the mountains.  Tulips were dug last weekend, new tomatoes planted, lawns mowed and edged… many other things planted, weeded, mulched, tidied up… it needs it after I was away for a week for work and then completely unmotivated for another week as I nearly overdosed on painkillers while a toothache worked its way out.  I’ve recovered from both but surprisingly while the gardener was down for the count, the two teens here didn’t jump in and trim and edge and weed and water like I’d been hoping they would.

penstemon digitalis red

I was always luke-warm to the ‘Husker Red’ version of penstemon digitalis, but I really like the pink flowered forms.  I believe this is ‘Dark Towers’.

Honestly I’d rather not share my garden.  I’m tickled when they show an interest, but other than plant a few beans or pick a few onions I’d rather not give over a whole bed to their experiments.  I’m sure I would if asked, but the bad parent in me wants it all to myself.

penstemon digitalis red

I think this was Penstemon digitalis ‘Pocahontas’ but I’ve let it seed throughout the bed and may not care 100% about keeping the patch pure anymore!  

The kids find enough to keep occupied even without having a vegetable garden to weed.  Someday I suspect this general disinterest will change and someone might have a plant question, so to prepare for that day I’ll keep expanding things here so that when the time comes I might have an extra snowdrop or clematis to share 😉

clematis hf young

The pergola is one step closer to a cloak of vines.  The climbing roses were upset by the cold winter, but the clematis seems just fine.  I suspect this is ‘HF Young’ although I didn’t buy it as such.

I have been dabbling in a few things.  the kids may not want to experiment but I’m fine with it.  One of the best things is that my little Lilium pumilum is alive and flowering.  When I looked up the spelling on this thing it was a little insulting to see it referred to as ‘one of the easiest lilies to grow’.  Easy I guess if you don’t keep pulling it as a weed or mulching over it or building a raised bed over it and forgetting where it was.  That would probably help, but since it keeps coming back and flowered in just two or three years after seeds were sown, I guess you could call it easy.

lilium pumilum coral lily

The coral lily (Lilium pumilum) with its glossy scarlet turks-cap flowers.  Seeds would be a nice thing so maybe if I can avoid yanking the plant out after bloom I could raise a whole patch. 

Lilies and clematis and penstemon are nice but it’s the little pots of rhodohypoxis which are thrilling me right now.  Unlike the monkey poxis of central Africa, the Rhodohypoxis of southern Africa are a small corm which sends up pink or white flowers which look as if they were made of paper by a ten year old.  They’ll flower into summer and maybe again here and there late summer, depending on the mood.

rhodohypoxis

I think the hairy leaves are almost as interesting as the exceptionally modest flower.  No curvy pistils and turgid stamens on display here.

They’re not hardy enough for the open garden so mine are all potted, but my less than expert ‘throw them all in the cool but not freezing garage and then put them out again in late March’ method of care seemed to work out all right.  A few rotted though, and I’m not sure if they were too cool and wet in March or if they dried out too much over the winter.  I suspect maybe I put them out too early, but in my defense I thought they were sick of the dry winter and would like the cool rain bringing them out of dormancy… maybe…

rhodohypoxis

Rhodohypoxis baurii ‘Pintado’.  I believe this is my favorite.

As you may suspect there are a few other things which came out of the garage these last few weeks.  The winter garden plants are slowly finding homes, the pots of caladiums and pineapple lilies and whatever else overwintered in a pot are hopefully resprouting, and the bags of cannas and dahlias have been thrown open and watered as they await planting.  My driveway is the definition of a ‘pot ghetto’ and I cringe every time I see Monty pull out a perfectly stored dahlia clump and pot it up in his greenhouse and then contrast that with my trashbags on the concrete.  Hmmm.

the pot ghetto

The driveway probably shouldn’t look like this but give me one more week and maybe there will be noticeable progress.  

I could really use some more unsuspecting garden pals who would believe me when I say they need a crate full of dahlias and cannas.  I thought better safe than sorry when I dug them, but now I’m wondering how safe I thought I needed to be.  Surely there’s plenty of room for them, right?

magnolia society seedlings

I don’t need more plants but of course I was exceptionally excited to see a few sprouts in the magnolia seed pots.  They’re so small I’m sure I’ll have plenty of time to find room for these, and even better that only four seedlings are up.  Two would be more than I need.  

Only a fool would complain about a lack of planting space and then join a plant society devoted to trees, even if those trees are magnolias and magnolias are super awesome and wait, there’s a seed exchange and I can order bunches of seed?  Sadly even I can’t justify more than a year or two of magnolia seed starting…

magnolia macrophylla

It was just a little seed…. but five years later Magnolia macrophylla is doing great in a completely inappropriate spot.  Largest simple leaf and flower of any native North American plant.  Who could resist?

Seriously though, if we could justify building a ridiculous addition onto our already reasonable home, why can’t I also have a few more magnolias than I need?  Maybe shade gardening isn’t all that bad.

the tropical garden

The tropical garden is looking more Crayola than Caribbean but at least it’s not the disaster it was last week.  Besides weeding I finally trimmed out all the dead winter-kill from the ‘Black Forest’ rose and the ‘Golden Sunshine’ willow in back.  Both are awesome.

We will see of course.  This garden has a 50/50 chance of going completely off the rails at any moment, and I still can’t believe there’s no garden police pulling me over for too many new bulbs or unplanted seedlings.  Hmm.  I hadn’t even thought of those.  Oh well.  At least it’s not a garage full of assault rifles, I guess I could have have exercised my American freedoms in that direction just as easily, so too many plants crammed in too few spots is still not the worst thing.

Have a great week!  I’m off tomorrow to volunteer at the American Rock Garden Society’s annual general meeting in Ithaca NY.  Someone thought it would be a good idea to have me help out at the plant sale and I’m sure they’re right, but personally I think it’s a terrible idea.  They might as well of put me in charge of ice cream scooping or m&m counting, or had me test to see if the Nutella is fresh.  Whatever.  I’ll do my best and make sure my wallet is stuffed full and the back of the car is empty.  Any receipts will hopefully blow out the window on the way home and if someone asks they were all leftovers.  Wish me luck 😉

The Give and Take

So spring is here.  Maybe not spring for non-gardeners, because I have yet to see the flipflops and tank tops come out, but for a couple hours Wednesday they could have and that’s promising.  Of course we’re not out of the woods yet, but each day the light is longer, and each afternoon the sun shines stronger, and every day there’s something new sprouting up in the garden.

corydalis solida

My favorite patch of Corydalis solida.  They started as named forms, but with seedlings popping up all over I’m less and less confident and less concerned each spring as to who is who.

The last two afternoons have been warm enough to almost feel hot (up to 78F Wednesday) and that can be a shock three days after snowflurries were flying, but so far the plants are taking it in stride.  A few more days of this and things will all begin to fade and droop, but so far we’re not there, and so far the forecast looks promising for a return to digging and planting weather as opposed to porch sitting and iced beverages.

seedling hyacinths

Being a little on the odd side, I always look forward to this very uninteresting patch of hyacinths flowering.  They’re mostly seedlings of the bulbs I moved out a few years back, but I love the slight variations which have shown up from the original pink planting.

The rainy, colder weather in early April (without any more brutal arctic blasts) has made for an excellent hellebore season.  I’m again telling myself I need more of them and have been out there counseling last year’s batch of seedlings to grow faster.

hellebore flowers

Some nice yellow seedling which hold their flowers outwards a little more.  There’s a picotee seedling in there as well, which is nice, but it hangs its flowers much more.

There are some amazing newer forms of hellebores out there these days, and they’re so much easier to find than just a few years back.  That doesn’t mean I’ve gotten my hands on them yet, but at least there’s a chance.

hellebore flowers

A plant of ‘Onyx Odyssey’ not being very showy but being very cool with its glowering attitude.

My biggest problem with new additions is convincing myself that a few older ones need to go.  Sometimes it’s too easy to get attached to plants just because…

hellebore flowers

A nice springtime blend of colors on these seedlings.  I don’t think there’s much hope they’ll ever be divided even though they should have been divided…

Ok, for the most part I don’t get too attached to plants, even the annoying ones which you fuss over for years and then they still don’t amount to much.  Maybe if I keep telling myself that I can finally pull those washed out, muddy colored hellebores on the side of the garage.

hellebore flowers

Nothing muddy or washed out here.  These are doubles from the Winter Gem series.

I won’t even bore you with the less exciting hellebores.  They’re actually pretty nice, but when you need space you need space!

hellebore flowers

More seedlings.  These qualify as ‘nice’.

Somewhere else in the garden is short on space and that’s the winter garden.  A couple weeks ago I tossed all the succulents out from under the growlights and into the cold, as well as a few other things which don’t mind flirting with 32 degrees and a little frost.  The amaryllis can handle a mild frost, and it’s about time they stopped overcrowding my indoor space.

hardening off plants

It’s still about a month until our last frost date so I’ll be quite busy if another freeze rolls in, but a few flurries?  a bitter wind?  These plants will just have to get over it.

If worse comes to worst I’ll throw a sheet over them for a night or two, and if worst comes to tragedy it will free up a few pots and I just won’t tell anyone that I killed yet another batch of plants 😉

coldframe overwintering

The cold frame, ahem ‘Sand Plunge’, did an excellent job last winter, and even my Sabal minor palm seedlings overwintered with just a few burnt leaf tips.  

I wish I could say the garden, yard, and house have all emerged from construction projects as well as they’ve survived the winter.  Progress is slow and our ‘guy’ is just a two person crew with other jobs always coming up.

garden construction

The massive piles of soil are off about half the lawn, and I was able to dig up and rake off all the stones and fill which would have smothered the grass.  You can see it’s a little yellow and lumpy, but at least I can roll a mower across and not throw up a rock every couple inches.

Sometimes the other jobs come up as little surprises here.  Last fall just a small slice of the front garden had to be moved for the work to get started, and now last week just a little more ended up in the cross hairs.  “We have to figure out what’s gong on with that sewer line” is how it all started.

garden construction

A lot of dirt can come out of just two small, but really deep, holes.

“Wow that’s weird, the line has to be here somewhere”

garden construction

Maybe you can make out the top of a ten foot ladder to the far left of this photo.

My only request was to be careful around the little weeping spruce, and since the excavator liked the small magnolia he tried to save that as well… but apparently bunches of tulips and daffodils, roses, iris, hellebores and clematis, do not make the ‘save’ list.  Oh well.  As I was watching the excavator rip up the quite hefty root ball of the rose ‘William Baffin’, and saw the teeth of the scoop slice through the iron roots of the giant reed grass I thought better him than I.

garden construction

The next afternoon.  More soil scraping, rock raking, wheelbarrowing, and lawn uncovering and it doesn’t look nearly as bad.  

Hmmm.  What can I replant there?  I suspect enough things will come up that I really don’t have to even consider adding anything, but it might be good to get new plants just in case.

Actually my new budgeting theory calls for a plant tax on all major construction expenses.  Kind of like a cost of doing business, and here’s how it works.  $2,000 for a new bathroom vanity?  A 5% plant tax means $100 bucks goes over to the gardening budget, and I think that’s a very reasonable rate.  Between the new vanity and the sewer repairs I was able to visit three nurseries over the past week and added a bunch of plants I have neither the time nor space for.  It was fun and I don’t even care if they don’t all get planted.  It’s kind of like not finishing your dinner when you go out to eat I guess.  Sure you paid for the side of fries, but why get all guilt ridden when they go cold and you just send them to the trash?  At least unnecessary plants can be enjoyed on the driveway for a few months until they finally dry out one too many times 😉

It wouldn’t be the first time.  Just enjoy spring, we’ve earned it!

An End Before the Start

Yesterday I made a point of getting outside for a few pictures before whatever happens happened.  Those of you who’ve visited this blog ever probably know that this gardener has more than a passing fancy for snowdrops, and sadly this year the season has passed in a blur with other things and weather taking priority over the hope for idle days in the sunshine crawling from snowdrop clump to snowdrop clump.  Instead I was out at night with a flashlight, out in the rain, or wind, or cold, and none of those scenarios make for good picture taking.  It happens, it could be worse, and with several clumps disappearing or dwindling this year I guess it was as good a season as any to have fly by.  Next year will be perfect I’m sure!

galanthus flore peno

A grainy, just before dark photo of the ‘White Trash’ bed from about a week ago.  Galanthus ‘flore peno’ and other “common”, “messy”, and “no special merit” snowdrops fill this bed, and it’s one of my favorite plantings.  

We won’t dwell on the weather of course.  If a gardener ever hopes to enjoy their snowdrops in this area they need to be prepared for a season which goes from an early spring thaw one week, to frigid temps and snow and ice the next, to overly warm shorts and T-shirt weather for five days, back to snow and a hard freeze.  I can always stay inside, but the snowdrops can’t and sometimes end up a little beaten down.

galanthus nivalis

A nice galanthus nivalis with just the tiniest green mark inside.  Someday I hope to find an albino, but for now this one keeps me happy.

So here’s where the survivors are at.  For you’re sake I’ll try to write less and photo more 😉

galanthus cordelia

Galanthus ‘Cordelia’ a little sloppy yet hanging on and Cardamine quinquefolia just starting with its pink flowers.  A few people have lodged complaints about the cardamine’s spreading ways but it looks like I’ll have to learn the hard way.

galanthus imbolc

I can never speak poorly of big flowers on a non-floppy plant.  ‘Imbolc’ is representing and hopefully hangs on for a while during our cold spell.

galanthus erway

Galanthus ‘Erway’ has a nice paleness this spring which is fairly normal but not always this pronounced. 

galanthus moortown

I think I show galanthus ‘Moortown’ each spring.  He’s such a hefty brute.

green poc sharlockii galanthus

My thoughts are always mixed on anything from sharlockii blood, but this one has turned out nice.  A Belgium drop with lots of green and inner petals almost as long as the outers.  

Please don’t even fall for my woe is me comments on this year’s season.  Even a bad one is still better than the suffering my non-snowdropping neighbors are enduring.  I see them washing cars and trying to liven up a dead yard with a few plastic Easter eggs and realize that my yard has been bursting with bulbs for the last month and more, and the garden year is already off to a good start.  Missing the snowdrops is as much my own fault for not being independently wealthy as it is the cruel ups and down of the weather, and maybe a few less garden visits and ski trips would have also helped.  I’ll try to work on that… maybe…

eranthis gothenburg

A doubled winter aconite (Eranthis ‘Gothenburg’) flowering for the first time after two other years of ‘no thanks’.  Please don’t die now is my reply.  In this garden new and hard to find winter aconites like to die the year after finally looking nice.

So now I have nothing to look forward to except hundreds of spring bulbs and sprouting perennials and wave after wave of new color every day!  Sure there will be a few hiccups along the way, but still I can’t even imagine things being bad enough to make washing the car a decent alternative.

minor spring bulbs

More bulbs popping up.  The unspellable Scilla mischtschenkoana doesn’t ask for much but does fade quickly in anything warmer than sweater weather. 

I don’t know how people manage self restraint around all the small ‘minor’ bulbs which could fill their gardens.  I mean I do, but there are so many tempting crocus and bulb forming iris and corydalis that I really can’t judge anyone who ends up with a bed devoted to species tulips or spring blooming colchicums.

minor spring bulbs

I vaguely remember these not blooming and me digging and dividing the clump.  For a couple days they’ll be amazing and then the next great thing will roll along and I won’t even bother to dig out a label for an ID.

Even for someone who is the definition of restraint, things can build up.  If I had any backbone whatsoever I’d mow down seedlings, dig bulblets, divide crowded clumps, and just toss the excess but I’m like one of those people who grew up poor and then for a lifetime can’t throw out a decent pair of shoes or nice cardboard box, or even throw out the last six Easter eggs even though you did manage to eat at least two dozen of the ones the kids dyed.  Waste is a sin, and who wastes corydalis seedlings?

Hyacinths, corydalis, crocus, and winter aconite were never planted here.  I wouldn’t even know where to start if I tried to return this to the original species peonies, single snowdrop, and Muscari azureum (both white and blue forms!)

Before I leave the subject of restraint, here’s a link to an International Rock Gardener article on >the many species and forms of winter aconite (Eranthis)<.  I’m not tempted, but perhaps others will enjoy looking at all the different variations you can plant in addition to the not-common-at-all yellow.

minor spring bulbs

I have no plans to show restraint towards witch hazels.  They will be crowded and poorly grown but Hamamelis ‘Aphrodite’ needs more company.

I do need more spring snowflakes (Lecojum vernum).  I consider them the messy big brother of snowdrops but they come in yellows and doubles and I’m forced to live with just the species form and that’s been making me sad.  Not sad enough to go wash the car, but sad enough to wistfully search for other forms which exist but are separated from me by an ocean and at least seven time zones.  I don’t think adding two or three new ones would count as a lack of restraint, it’s definitely more of a widening your horizons kind of thing.

leucojum vernum

The straight form of the spring snowflake (Leucojum vernum, not the summer snowflake L. aestivum, that’s different!).  

Unlike most bulbs, Leucojum actually enjoy a poorly drained soil which doesn’t dry out and will suffer in a drier spot.  Think riverbanks and wet meadows, and if you find a spot they like you might as well plant a few snake’s head fritallaries (F. meleagris) since they also like that same mucky kind of spot.

leucojum vernum

A nice pure white form I found a few years back.  It’s a nice thing and nicely complements the “yellow tipped” ones behind them… if only they would stay yellow…

And again I’m going on too long.  Let’s just photo along and get through hellebores and the current weather.

yellow hellebore

The first hellebores are starting.  A couple nice yellow seedlings.

anemone hellebore

A surprise anemone form hellebore seedling.  I was hoping for a double, but this might even be better.

garden construction

Construction continues. Maybe today I’ll bundle up and try and dig out the snowflakes and hostas which probably won’t come up through the two feet of excavated fill, but then I’ll look at the rocks and dirt in the pond and feel guilty about not addressing that. 

Yesterday it wasn’t raining and snowing too much (just like last Sunday which was the only other time I’ve been out during the day lately) so I spent a few hours scraping fill off the lawn and hoping that at least half the yard can be sort-of back to normal for the year.  For what it’s worth “scraping fill off the lawn” means shoveling wheel barrow after wheel barrow of hard-packed rock and dirt and then trying to find the old turf underneath and then exposing enough with a rake so that it comes back to life.  I suspect in another week or two it will be mostly smothered and dead so that’s why I’m trying now.  In spite of the biting wind… and on again off again rain showers…. and frequent snow squalls….

spring bulbs in snow

The snow stopped melting and the light was fading, so the lawn is as good as it’s going to be.  

spring bulbs in snow

I might not like it, but most of the garden doesn’t mind a little snow and sleet this time of year.  We will see what happens tonight though.  It’s supposed to be frigid again.  

hardy cyclamen

Back in the day I never even imagined I’d have bunches of hardy spring cyclamen here in the mountains of Pennsylvania but then they happened 🙂

I might look at the pond this afternoon.  We will see.  The winter garden might be a nicer option with its somewhat warm temperature and lack of an icy wind and gloomy skies.  It’s a jungle and I need to trim it back which of course means cuttings since I can’t waste a single shoot.  Obviously these will be cuttings I do not need.

growing under lights

A patriotic blend of geraniums, oxalis, and streptocarpella.  The blue streptocarpella is much too large.

growing under lights

Cuttings galore and I think I should chop everything first and then see how much I can use afterwards.  Right now I’m not sure if the water I throw on this thicket even hits the pots underneath.  

growing under lights

The amaryllis have been nice.  This is a seedling a friend gave me and I might need a big pot of it, even though it multiplies like a pair of miss-sexed hamsters.

growing under lights

I’m going to have way too many geranium cuttings.  What to do, what to do…

barnhaven primrose seedlings

…and the primrose seedlings have come along nicely.  I can sit at my little table contemplating seed orders all the while enjoying the promise of spring and an occasional wiff of primula fragrance.  

So that’s where things are at and I’m hoping for a few less-busy weeks to come.  In the meantime thanks for sticking it out and if you’re relieved over the missing snowdrops don’t get your hopes up too much.  Cooler weather means the season may stretch out the further north you go and I still haven’t ruled out northern snowdrop visits 😉

Have a great, restrained, week!

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!

Happy 2022

Last year’s resolution was quantity over quality and I may have failed in both departments when it came to this blog so why not just recycle the idea for 2022?  That was easy!  I don’t even have to move on to other topics like losing weight, exercise, eating healthy… I can just reach for the Nutella and grab a spoon and be done with it.  Wow, January second and I’m already checking things off the to-do list 🙂

Galanthus Mrs Macnamara

With each December milder than the last, ‘Mrs Macnamara’ has finally found my garden to her liking.  Usually the cold cuts her down and beats her up, but now she’s pristine, multiplying, and maybe ready for dividing and spreading around. 

Now that we’re through resolutions let me open up on what the rest of the winter will look like.  Snowdrops and construction.  Maybe more of the former and less of the later but I won’t even try and tone down the snowdrop obsession this year, apologies in advance.

fall snowdrop

Just a few years ago these bulk buy Galanthus elwesii would come up early but always on the spring end of winter.  The last two years they’ve been surprising me in January.

Here’s all I really want to say about construction.  Mud.  That and the hunt for perfect rocks continues.  Given long enough I think I’d have stone walls surrounding the garden, but as fill is moved back into position I’m not as tempted to actually dig rocks back up.

stones for the garden

The stoneyard, or snake condo as my friend Kimberly would likely call it.

Temperatures are dropping today and things will freeze up, and maybe the mud won’t be as depressing if you can actually walk over it rather than through it, so to prepare for ‘maybe winter’ here’s a photo from my ‘maybe greenhouse’ aka ‘winter garden’ in the back of the garage.

forcing primula

I knew I killed almost all my cyclamen, so last spring I started a few primula for winter blooms.  January first they came inside and under lights and I hope will soon amaze me with fantastic color.

So you’re aware, snowdrops and construction will be dropped as soon as it gets really cold outside.  These primrose coming into the garage are only the tip of the winter garden iceberg, and I may be guilty of a few too many cuttings and containers this winter and it’s only barely January.  Oh well.  It’s not like I’ve started any seeds… yet…

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2022.  We could all use it 🙂

Nonwinter Continues

A few days this month have been average, but nearly every other day has been warmer.  From what the forecast shows, early January looks about the same and I guess that’s great if you’re digging foundations and pouring concrete this winter, but I guess it’s also great for fall snowdrops.  Surely one of those should make this gardener happy.

galanthus potters prelude

Galanthus ‘Potter’s Prelude’ looking as if it’s growing in North Carolina or Virginia or anywhere else where winters are more sweatshirts and sneakers rather than parkas and boots.

I guess foundations and snowdrops both make people happy, but I would like to take a moment and note that none of the construction crews have commented on the wonder of December blooming flowers.  Maybe they’re too distracted by the other wonders of the “winter” garden.

garden construction

The gardener continues to forage the construction site for more and more wonderful stones.  Some of the fill has also been moved, but the gardener waits until everyone is gone before using the embarrassingly tiny wheelbarrow and labor-intensive shovel to move ridiculously small amounts of fill.

Other than a group of snowdrops which looks remarkably similar to other groups of snowdrops, the rest of the garden is significantly less inspiring.

garden construction

The foundation rises.  Mortar runoff can only improve the quality of my lawn.

I suspect the bulk of the foundation work will be finished today.  Then it sits for a week curing before even more building goes on top.  I suspect it will take a while before I’m comfortable with this new massiveness rising in the garden but maybe more closet space is really what’s been missing from my life.  All this time I thought it was more snowdrops, so silly me.

fall pasque flower

A surprise pasque flower rising amongst the trash must mean something.  

Who am I kidding?  We are entering Temple Nursery snowdrop catalog season and I can absolutely guarantee that I will again try to fill that void in my life with new snowdrops.  I already called the bank to make sure our line of credit will be available in time.

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.

Back in Business

It’s been almost two weeks since we came back from vacation and you’re about to hear something you don’t often hear on this blog.  I was busy.  Seriously.  For about five days straight I put in a good four or five hours of work in, either here or in my Mother in Law’s yard.  Back in the good old days work could have gone on from dawn to dusk, but today it’s a different story and that’s about as long as I want to work.  Still it makes a huge difference.

front border

The front border has loved all the rain.  It would have been the ideal year to pull all the fennel and plant a mass of zinnias and cannas (as the plan was) but… there’s always something else.

Before you’re too impressed by this flurry of motivation I think it’s important to come clean on one of my fairly well-guarded secrets.  Not really a secret I guess,  but there’s a reason I can spend a bunch of hours in the garden, day after day, and still manage to get up and get going the next morning.  I’m a high school science teacher, and with a summer vacation from the middle of June until late August I can still be fairly lazy even with a couple hours of breaking a sweat in the garden 😉

front border

From the other end of the front border… at just the right angle… things look amazing.  The main flush of summer color is beginning!

So now I hope the confession of my profession has not darkened your opinion of this blog or this gardener.  It’s always a mix of reactions ranging from ‘you’ve got the life’ to ‘God bless you’ so I never know where people’s opinions lie until the truth is out.  All I’m really sure of is that most of my powering away in the garden is probably a response to the hours I spend each morning working on a horrible class which I need to finish this summer.  It’s really not that bad but in addition to being naturally lazy, I am also a terrible student with a passionate hatred towards online learning, and after nearly a year and a half of online learning I think my cup runneth over.

cardoon cynara cardunculus

Gratuitous photo of a cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) flower.  I love them, they’re stiff and spiny and of course stupid me needs to touch them nearly every day to get a painful reminder.

Enough whining, here’s an update on a slightly more in control potager, although slightly more in control is completely false.  It’s weeded.  There are a few vegetables, but most of the left side is a thicket of eight to nine foot tall persicaria and sunflowers.  I have to duck and crawl to get through the paths but secretly I think it’s kind of awesome.  The only down side is that the majority of the sunflowers are pollen free and as a result there has not been a good seed set.  As I sit hidden in my potager thicket I can hear the goldfinches chattering their complaints as they pick and pick looking for some seed that has actually plumped up and been pollinated.  Fortunately in the past few days I’ve noticed a few plants with pollen have opened their first blooms and that should be enough for the bees to spread around and get things going.

potager

As usual the potager has become overrun with flowers, and the vegetables have become scarce.  If anyone asks I just tell them the endless rain rotted things and if I’m lucky they accept that and pick up a few beans from the farmstand 🙂  

A big part of the potager purge was removing old bloomed-out larkspur and poppy stalks, and all the other volunteers which were nice enough until they weren’t.  Fortunately there’s always something else, and although the new phlox bed has become a complete failure, the old phlox bed is filled with the usual stars.

phlox paniculata

Phlox paniculata, Hydrangea ‘Limelight’ and some silly chrysanthemums who think August is an ok month to flower.  Here the plan was remove phlox, plant hydrangeas… but as you can see I never got around to moving the phlox.  Oh well.

I’m never sure just how much of my babbling is memorable, but just in case you missed me repeating myself the first twenty times, tall garden phlox (Phlox paniculata) are a favorite of mine.

phlox paniculata

A nice bright phlox seedling which I’ve already set aside because I like the color.  Honestly, I don’t think I could rule out the possibility that some time in the future a whole section of the yard gets dug up just to plant phlox.

Although I do love phlox they don’t always feel the same way towards me.  Last week I mentioned that the entire bed which I cleared out and devoted to a few favorites is today just a swirling vat of mildew and spider mites and whatever else likes to kill phlox.  Some of the plants are literally about to die and it’s kind of embarrassing that a native Northeastern American wildflower can’t be bothered to grow here.  Figures, since just yesterday I saw a beautiful clump of pale pink phlox growing inches away from a busy road and in the yard of a house which could have passed as abandoned but probably wasn’t.  Maybe my phlox patch needs some road salt and the occasional roadkill thrown on… that’s an idea I guess.

phlox paniculata

Another phlox seedling similar to ‘Laura’ but another foot or two taller, and that’s ‘Blushing Shortwood’ behind and to the left. Blushing Shortwood is an excellent phlox btw 🙂

This week’s cooler temperatures has really brought out the color on the phlox, if you only consider the ones which haven’t decided to die yet.  There’s a nice pink flush on some of the whites, the white center stars are bright and not faded away, and the stronger colors aren’t washed out by the heat.  There’s also a good spicy fragrance to many of them.

phlox paniculata

One of my favorite phlox seedlings.  I need a big patch of this one.

Now I’m really thinking about turning more lawn under to make room for a big phlox patch.  I think I’d like that.  A lot.  Hmmmm.  Unless they all decide they should die on me, but in that case I’d just plant daffodils between them.  Rumor has it I already ordered more daffodils than I should have, so I’ll need the room anyway since my daffodil purchases were based on an assumption I would dig up and give away some of the too-many I already have.  My bad.

growing caladiums

Caladium update.  I finished potting them up.  I’m still obsessed.

I need to check myself.  There are two new raspberry plants sitting out on the driveway, fresh off the clearance rack and waiting to start a raspberry patch goodness know where, but apparently in my garden even though I have no idea.  All I know is I love raspberries just like I love phlox and caladiums and daffodils and hydrangeas and all the other stuff which always comes before there’s a plan.  Maybe plans are overrated, and that’s just what I’m telling myself… mostly as an excuse since I also have a vague suspicion there are new snowdrops waiting to be planted.  It’s been months since snowdrops have been mentioned here but sadly that obsession is still burning bright and you only have another two or three months before someone starts bringing that up again on a weekly basis.

All in good time.  Hope your week is going well 🙂

 

Enter Summer

Well well well.  The lull is over and with official summer starting in four more days I’m completely ready for days to last forever and I’m completely ok to never put on a real pair of pants again.  Sorry,  please forget that visual.  I’m thinking shorts and bathing suits and whatever else kind of clothing you would wear to the park, not the gray polyester blend  pants you’d  wear to meet your lawyer.  Lawyers should only be dealt with in the winter in my opinion.

mixed flower border

The front border is full of early summer color and a remarkably well-tended assortment of plants.

Following a bump in the road it looks like garden work is back on track around here.  Planting weather continues and I almost feel guilty about putting it to good use when so much of the country sits under stifling heat and relentless drought.  But trust me, if not doing work would mean relief for the hot and dry, you know I would do my part.

mixed flower border

I kind of missed the flowery peak of the roses, but there’s still plenty of color.  Also nice is how much those little spruce and juniper twigs have grown.  It seems just yesterday I had a four inch pot in hand looking at the spot where today a six foot white spruce (Picea glauca ‘Pendula’) stands.

Roses are still obsession du jour, and the greatest tragedy this summer will surely be that I was not able to get up to Ithaca’s ‘Der Rosenmeister‘ to see hundreds of roses in full bloom, filling beds and covering arbors and wafting their various fragrances across the garden as I secretly inventory all the ones I’d like to cram into my own little yard.    I guess there’s next year, but in a strange turn of events I’ve turned into a very not-patient person, and I want it all now.  I can still be understanding and wait for things like small children, tree seedlings, and dogs, but the cup of you-go-firstedness has run dry and my filter is breaking down as I age.  I guess you can start calling me Karen.

westerland rose

Here’s ‘Westerland’ again.  Today it’s my favorite rose.

I’m Karen with a spade, and many of the less inspiring plants in my life are paying the ultimate price.  “oh it’s a good doer’ might save it in your garden but here it’s good night and good bye unless I love it or unless it saves me from even more work.  I’m thinking groundcovers with that last one, ajuga may not be inspiring but it does fill in between the giant reed grass’s stalks and saves me from crawling through there looking for prickly poppy seedlings.

arundo donax

The giant reed grass (Arundo donax variegata) is on the love list, but the clump looks deceptively small in this photo.  I may trade in the spade for an axe on this one, the inch thick roots are not something I’m looking forward to, but the clump needs reducing.

Weeds and plantings I’ve tired of might sound bad, but overall I love the garden right now.  A thick wall of weeds won’t win a magazine cover, but honestly I’ve been looking at them (every day of course) and all it takes is one plant doing well in there for me to think ‘wow, that’s #@&^ing awesome’.

common milkweed

A weed I love, common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), looking and smelling great this week.  Three tips: be prepared for it to spread, chop it down to two feet after bloom, and just yank up all the suckers without worrying about the roots below (you don’t even want to know).

So as usual I’m babbling about nonsense when I should be finishing this up and ferrying kids to a dental appointment.  More pictures, less blah.

strawberry mertonensis foxglove

More strawberry foxglove (Digitalis x mertonensis) appearing out of the mess.  These don’t mind the droughts and spider mite attacks which do in the common foxgloves. 

penstemon dark towers

More of the foundation plantings.  As you can see the blue fescue border has not been divided and replanted, and still has way too much thatch built up, but… 

rock garden

The former rock garden, now the colchicum bed.  I’ve resorted to roundup once or twice a year to keep the stone border clean and it’s actually working out very well.

Did I mention I needed more roses?  I do, and it might be time for more clematis as well.  Finally I have a few spots for them to climb up and show off rather than making them crawl around in the dirt… which is not the kind of treatment they deserve.

clematis ruutel

Clematis ‘Ruutel’ doesn’t get much taller than this, which normally wouldn’t thrill me, but the dark red color is still a win.

A friend of mine grows more clematis than she should and that’s probably why she’s such a good friend, so I’m sure if I mentioned cuttings… hmmmm.  That would sure help cool off the credit card from plant purchases.

clematis ville de lyon

Clematis ‘Ville de Lyon’ does get taller, and I always like flowers at eye level or above.

So the rest is just a mix of unconnected things which are interesting this week.  We could call it a four on Wednesday but of course that’s got zero ring to it 🙂

calycanthus aphrodite

Even in an overexposed photo Calycanthus ‘Aphrodite’ looks pretty good.  I never expected it to become so showy.

aralia sun king

Aralia ‘Sun King’ is still doing well in a cramped, too dry, unfertile, location.  Nine out of ten garden designers despise how I left the rose campion nearby.

martagon lily sunny morning

Further into the shade the martagon lilies are blooming.  ‘Sunny Morning’ had a string of bad years with late frosts and swampy soil but then for some reason decided to send up three flower stalks and look amazing.  I don’t get it.  She’s been dormant by July for at least the last two years so I suspect this is a swan’s song kind of show.

meadow garden

The meadow is developing behind the neighbor’s house.  Oddly it’s one of my favorite spots and has gone from pure turf to a mass of bird’s foot trefoil, other clovers, and a few daisies.  

So I have to stay focused.  I want to go on and on about the butterfly weed and rose campion that needs to be seeded into the meadow, and the merits of adding native penstemons but in a purple foliaged form… but the spring stuff still needs to get planted,  beans need to go into the ground, and daffodils dug and a million other things and there will be time to babble on about uncut  meadows in August.

Hope you’re enjoying all the too-much as much as I am.  Have a great week!

A May Lull

A cool and rainy week with a busy schedule have kept me out of the garden for a few days.  By that I mean there were enough weather and work excuses to avoid any real work, since even a rainy day does not cancel the daily garden tour.  In other gardens the lilacs overhang azaleas, with dogwoods and redbuds shading the lawn, and banks of rhododendrons exploding in color… but I’ve only a few dogwoods and little of the others, so here the spring crescendo of tulips is followed by a slight lull of green.

foundation perennials

The blue camassia are a flash in the pan here and only seem to flower for a week or so.  It’s a nice show, but the blue columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris) is just as nice and lasts longer so I may (again) try and dig all the camassia to get rid of them.  This time I’ll try and get all the bulbs…

Right now there may be a lull in the flowering, but after several months of white and brown, green is still an excellent color, and with its various shades and shapes, and the surprise of variegation and chartreuse or purple tints, even a green lull makes for a nice show and it should really be enough.

aquilegia vulgaris

Blue columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris) was originally found in the woods behind the house, and rescued when the bulldozers came.  It’s not native and fancier colors and forms exist, but I like it well enough.

Most people can stick with well enough, but I admit to a short attention span and fickleness so of course I want other things to follow up as the tulips fade and the bearded iris are yet to come.  The columbine is good, and usually moneyplant (Lunaria annua) fills in with a nice purple, but I think I need more alliums.

perennial bed

Tulips and daffs have all been deadheaded and are disappearing under the next wave of growth but just the columbine and a few moneyplants  (it’s a down year for this biennial) are in bloom.  The blue is nice, but note the bold little ‘Candy Corn’ spirea in front.   I can’t believe I planted it, usually spirea disgust me, but this one is so offensively bright there was no resisting.

Back in the day the budget was much tighter, and a few flowering onions always seemed to be just too much when a big bag of tulips could be had for the same price.  Today it’s a different story.  A couple new alliums are just pennies once you’ve paid off the monthly gymnastics bill and bought a couple pricey snowdrops.

allium gladiator

Allium ‘Gladiator’ was my first big allium.  I was hoping for bigger, but tall is good too!  Over the last 15 years one bulb has become many.

So I will see what happens.  The problem is settling on just two or three rather than a dozen, and I of course will be looking for suggestions from my friends.  I already have a few leads 😉

allium gladiator

‘Gladiator’ is also doing well in the potager.  Phlox and other perennials are coming up just in time to (mostly)cover the allium’s yellowing leaves.

Yeah, the yellowing leaves.  Just as the flowers open and draw a little attention, the foliage starts dying back to compete with the show.  Trimming them back or hiding them in a border are two options for better gardeners.

allium gladiator

The green centers are cool.

The yellowing allium foliage can be a deal breaker for some, but here it barely registers.  I run a messy garden and fortunately some delusion of diamond in the rough or some bizarrely inflated ego syndrome allows me to still share photos online.  I should be embarrassed most of the time, but luckily it’s a rare day that I see some perfect garden photo and suddenly question my entire gardening hobby (as well as the public settings on this blog).

raised bed vegetable

The mountain of snowball bush (Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’) is probably the only perfect thing about the potager right now.  It should be weeded.  And planted.  And tended.  One of these days…

Ah, whatever.  Let’s finish with a disclaimer on the potager.  The raised beds are excellent, the sand paths are perfect, the whole idea of the potager is much better than the usual mess, but it’s still just a mess.  “It’s not you, it’s me” I tell the garden and I suspect the garden understands.  My weaknesses is a love of interesting, and it’s just too interesting to see if the resprouting cabbage stumps from last year will form heads or if the missed potatoes from last year will amount to anything.  Good thing no one expects this garden to feed a family.

raised bed vegetable

A few parsley seedlings went into this bed, but I’m still working myself up to weeding out all the rest.  Besides obvious weeds there’s a nice clump of lettuce, many tomato seedlings… random hellebores…

So what did I do today?  Clear a bed and plant beans?  No, of course not.  I was working in the front border dividing tulip clumps.  Just for the record, it’s too early to divide tulips.  The foliage should be yellowing and it’s not but whatever.  Dig up a clump, shake and pick out the smaller bulbs, and replant.  No careful soil improvement, no watering in and I guess we will see what comes of it.  Smarter gardeners would have pulled them all and tossed them after flowering, it’s just a few dollars to replace them, but I don’t think it will surprise anyone if I admit my gardening is more of an ADD drifting through ideas rather than a focused plan with a to-do list.  Reinventing the wheel has always been a passion of mine.

Have a great week, and I hope it includes plenty of plant-time 🙂