Must. Make. Post.

The endless gloom of this year’s weather cycle has finally started to get to me.  Even in a good year I’m not the most enthusiastic garden worker, but when the overcast and rainy days come one after another, and the ground is in a constant state of squish, I really don’t feel like much of anything.  Good thing it’s finally the natural time of fading decay that others fondly refer to as autumn.  I guess I can let it all slide without a guilty conscience and then hope that the winter winds do my cleanup for me 🙂

street border in autumn

To be honest I did go along the street border and do a little cleaning up of dead things and overly lush grass growth.  I feel like the dogwood seedlings have colored up exceptionally this autumn!

A lack of life giving sunshine and constant moisture must favor a colorful death process because whatever the endless rain hasn’t moulded up is showing a wonderful range of pinks and purples.  Usually the hydrangeas go straight to brown, but this year even ‘Limelight’ has taken on a bright pink hue.

limelight hydrangea autumn

The colors of autumn with a promise of spring in the tight buds of next year’s dogwood blooms.

Frost has taken down the bright annuals out front, but asters, grasses and plenty of yellow foliage remain.

front border autumn

‘Golden Sunshine’ willow makes a nice yellow accent alongside the pinks and purples.  It’s really enjoyed the rainy summer and one in the back yard has probably put on a good ten feet of growth this summer.  All of the willows will be cut back to the ground this winter.

All the tropicals which earned a spot indoors have come into the garage, but my one potted candlestick bush (Senna alata) still gets dragged outside for warmer spells.  It’s managed to put out a few weak flowers and of course I’m thrilled to get it this far.  Maybe I can cut it back and overwinter the plant indoors, but I’ve killed enough plants over the years that I don’t have all that much hope of pulling that off.

candlestick bush senna

Candlestick bush soaking up the last of the above freezing weather.  

While we’re over by the garage I can’t help but think that the ‘Green Giant’ thuja is going to need some attention one of these winters.  It’s a big tree and I’ve got it planted ten feet from the garage and maybe four feet from the walk.  When I planted it ten years ago the plan was for a quick screen from the house next door, and it’s done a great job, but trimming is not something I want to deal with every year.  Even with a ladder I can only safely reach about halfway up so I’m considering either leaving them go for the next five or ten years, or topping them and giving them one harsh trim and see what happens.  A review of previous experience leans heavily towards doing nothing for the next ten years and then suddenly cutting them to the ground one morning when I need a spot to plant my latest, newest, most amazing plant.  We’ll see.

green giant hedge

I have to confess a love for arborvitaes.  They’re common and maybe even overplanted, but I love them.  Here are my ‘Green Giants’ growing just like they should, planted in a spot where perhaps they shouldn’t.  

Following the confession of poor planting decisions here are a few autumn colors to distract.

fall color Syneilesis aconitifolia

The shredded umbrella plant (Syneilesis aconitifolia) coloring up for the fall.

Following this weekend’s rain I’m sure leaf cleanup will need to begin.  I know I claimed to be considering waiting for the winter winds to take care of them all, but I’m far to greedy to give up the leaf mulch.  A few rounds with the lawnmower should get me enough to mulch some of my most special plantings.

autumn color

The compost pile is there to the right, the full wheelbarrow just ten feet to the left…. am I really that lazy that I couldn’t just make it all the way?

More fall color to distract.

fall color stewartia

Stewartia is always a star for fall color, especially when not coming off months of drought.  

Not to change the subject too much, but just as my wonderful teepee of spanish flag vine (Mina aka Ipomoea lobata) was finally coming into bloom, the temperatures dropped just enough to frost the bulk of it, so here’s a single sad photo of all that’s left, rather than a ten foot high pyramid of celabratory oranges and reds.  Fortunately some snapdragon vine (Asarina scandens) held up to the cold with their cool little purple flowers, and some chrysanthemum followed along behind, also pretending to be climbers.  I may just skip the flag next year and go all snapdragon.

fall flowers asarina

The last lingering flowers in the ‘vegetable’ patch. 

Here’s one last treat.

galanthus peshmenii

Galanthus peshmenii, new this year and my first attempt at growing a fall blooming snowdrop outdoors.

So that’s it from this end of Pennsylvania.  I saw a dash of sunshine just a few minutes ago but just the fact it’s stopped raining is a big step forward in my opinion.  Let’s hope at least one day this weekend offers the garden and the gardener a chance to dry out and get something productive done.  All the best!

Saying Goodbye to August

September is here and to be honest there aren’t a whole lot of nice things I can say about the month.  September means fall is close, and I dread watching the garden shut down for the winter.  You wouldn’t guess it from the thermometer, since last week was up into the 90’s again, but the sun is setting noticeably earlier and the mornings are much more dewy than any self respecting July morning would be.

self sown sunflowers

The sunflowers along the street keep a steady stream of birds flying across the yard.  Between ripe coneflower seeds and juicy sunflowers there’s plenty for them to munch on.

I managed to make a tour of the garden Wednesday evening after the worst of the heat had passed and since it was far too hot to actually do anything else I at least managed to take a few pictures in between waving off gnats and swatting at mosquitos.  That was no small feat considering the mosquitos these last few weeks are the worst of the season, with a thirst for blood unparalleled outside of a salt-marsh, swampland or the great North.  They like coming in straight for the face, and as a wearer of glasses I’ve never had to slap at myself so many times while struggling to keep dirty fingers from knocking the glasses right off my face.

amaranthus hot biscuits

The front border in the evening light.  I’m pleased to have amaranthus ‘Hot Biscuits’ return from last year’s seed, I always like it when it catches the last of the day’s light.  Poor hydrangea ‘Limelight’, he’s had a bit of a flop with all the rain…  

With all the rain we’ve had this year, the front border and most of the garden in general looks very similar to last year’s extravaganza.  I would apologize ahead of time for showing the same old plants again and again, but I’m pretty sure that’s just overestimating how closely anyone other than myself follows this blog.  So in addition to the sunflowers and amaranthus, here’s another perennial annual which keeps coming back, snow-on-the-mountain (Euphorbia marginata).

euphorbia marginata snow on the mountain

Snow-on-the-mountain is putting out its bright white bracts to coincide with the opening of its tiny white flowers at the center.  These always seem to find a perfect spot to place themselves.  

Other annuals took a little more work to get started.  The coleus and ‘profusion’ zinnias were planted out in the spring and fussed over for a few weeks before they came into their own.  I tried to step outside of my little box by trying some ‘profusion apricot’ zinnias, but really just spent the whole summer missing my usual orange or hot pink zinnias 🙂

zinnia apricot profusion

Zinnia ‘profusion apricot’ looking ok once it’s out of the bright sun…. In full, hot, blazing sun it looks a little washed out though.

I have no cardoon this summer.  I miss it.  After nursing a potted cardoon along all winter in the garage, and carefully keeping it in the Goldilocks zone of not-too-hot, not-too-cold temperatures while the weather outside came and went, I promptly sent it to its death once it went back in the ground.  Too much rain and probably too much freeze one night did it in, but at least my candlestick plant (Senna alata, aka Cassia alata) has come along to fill the void.

senna alata candlestick plant

At five feet and counting there are still no signs of flowers on the candlestick plant.  It will be stupid of me to try and overwinter this thing, but studies show….

For as much as I love the foliage on the candlestick plant, I really shouldn’t thumb my nose at the other leaves in this garden.  On the way back towards the tropical garden my Charlie Brown Christmas tree is finally looking a little better now that this year’s new growth has replaced the scorched brown needles from last winter.

Pinus densiflora 'Burke's Red Variegated'

Pinus densiflora ‘Burke’s Red Variegated’.  It’s a big name for a little tree, but I like the ‘character’ this tortured little thing is developing.  Unless it dies… then less character and more growth would have been a better thing.

Can I show off the tropical garden one more time?  The cannas are fantastic this summer.  A few in the back have been stunted by some I’m-sure-they-won’t-get-too-big sunflowers, but the rest have really enjoyed the steady rain and generous heat and humidity.  Yellow striped ‘Bengal Tiger’ is my absolute favorite.

canna bengal tiger

Canna ‘Bengal Tiger’

Coming in a close second are the deliciously dark and glossy leaves of canna ‘Australia’.  I’ve grown this one for years and it’s never looked this nice before, and it kind of makes me regret all the years I’ve been doing this plant wrong… and then I look back at it again and I’m just happy 🙂

canna australia

Canna ‘Australia’ with a mess of just about everything else.

As usual the tropical garden has become an eruption of growth but unfortunately this year it’s about as far as I get when it comes to maintenance in this part of the garden.  Out of curiosity I let the neatly upright switchgrass (Panicum ‘Northwind’) seed out along the border just to see what turned up.  Turns out a mess is what showed up.  The seedlings are beautiful and graceful, but just too big and broad compared to mom.  I’m thinking they’ll disappear this weekend, but my to-do list always has a way of evaporating when I actually get out there.

panicum seedling

A froth of switchgrass where a neat little heuchera planting used to be.  It would really be a shame to toss them all…

I’m not saying I have a tendency to let things get out of hand, but what used to be neatly mown weeds and grass under the deck has turned into a mass of jewelweed (Impatiens capensis).  I like jewelweed.  Something about it makes it seem so harmless even when it’s pushing five feet and has covered up every other weed in the bed.  Maybe the fact it’s a native wildflower that wins me over, or the cool exploding seed pods or itch-relieving sap the plant produces, whatever it is I don’t miss wrestling the mower around to get under the deck.

jewelweed

Jewelweed filling in under the deck.  It does fill the space nicely, and its small orange flowers are popular with the local hummingbirds. 

Harmless giants seem to be a dime a dozen out back.  Throughout the potager (looming over the last few vegetables) are more yellow sunflowers plus the dark garnet of ‘Hopi Dye’ amaranthus.  pink kiss me over the garden gate (Persicaria orientalis) dangles down from 8 foot plants, and annual vines creep all over.

august sunflower

One sunflower managed to place its main stalk perfectly inside the wire of the trellis.  I wish more of my plants self-staked.  

The potager really only has a few peppers, zucchini, and eggplant remaining.  The tomatoes are just a thicket of foliar diseases and a halfway decent patch of celery has rotted away from too much rain.  Fortunately there’s always verbena bonariensis.  It’s filled in many of the vacant spots, and I hope come September and October the Monarch butterflies find it to their liking.  Last year was an excellent butterfly year for us, and I think this year’s migration may be even better!

august potager

The garden rarely makes it into September this lush.  Green all over, and much of it isn’t even weeds!

One last thing to mention, if only because I think it’s a cool thing.  The salvia splendens seeds  started in spring were supposed to be a dark purple just like the purples who’s seed I’ve been saving and who’s seed I’ve been sowing.  Every now and then one comes up a less interesting, paler color which I get rid of, but this year one showed up with a little more red, maybe a garnet color if you want to call it that.  I’ll have to save seeds of course.

salvia splendens

Salvia splendens plants in purple and a slightly shorter plant with garnet flowers.  They’re late bloomers and I look forward to having them come along at this time of year.

Seed saving and bulbs, I guess they’re the next big cycle in the year of the garden even though I’ll try and put them off as long as possible.  It may be September and there might be pumpkin spice showing up all over the place but I’m not giving up on summer until at least the leaves start dropping and I’ve got a windshield to scrape.  Yes it’s denial.  I’ll think about facing fall in October and to be honest that’s still plenty of fall for me.

Have a great weekend!

Where is Summer Going!?

It’s entirely possible that everyone shares this same gripe, but I feel summer has been flying by this year.  Even more so than usual.  The days go faster, the schedule seems busier, and all I want to do is slow the calendar down.  I don’t even want to talk about autumn, but those back to school sales are in full swing, and I saw plenty of plasticky orange and yellow fall decorations lining the shelves of the local mart, just waiting for the summer haters to open their wallets.

In the meantime here’s a quick, picture heavy run-through of the garden in high summer.  It’s my favorite time of the year out there.

standing cypress

Annual standing cypress has seeded in nicely anywhere the mulch used to be and brings some bright red to the border.

These photos were taken over the weekend, and it was just the beginning of our latest round of gully ripping downpours that hail from the tropics.  Monday I think we topped another three inches and unfortunately that does not bode well for the lower lying areas.

monarch on rudbeckia

Monarch on Rudbeckia triloba.

The plants seem fine though.  Everything is lush and vibrant and other than a little floppiness and extra height it sure beats dealing with another year of soil-cracking drought.

pale sunflower

A pale sunflower out along the street.  I always love them against the feather reed grass.

Even with the dampness and humidity it’s much more pleasant to dig in freshly-watered soil than it is to pickax your way through a dry and dusty crust.  With some time on my hands and a little too much ‘exuberance’ in the front border I did some editing.  You barely notice the vacancies.

garden overhaul

Nothing like a big dig project on a 90F degree day.

Of course the weeds have been a nonstop battle.  I finally broke down and bought a few bags of mulch in hopes of clearing out a spot in back… which is definitely out of control.  Needless to say it is still out of control, but I used the mulch to neaten up a couple edges in front and that made me even happier.  Maybe I’ll crack open the wallet again for a few more bags.  It’s slightly addicting.

senna alata annual

My “other” popcorn plant, actually a candlestick plant (Senna alata aka cassia) showing off some of its cool leaves.

In the meantime I just love all the color and the busyness of bees, and bugs, and hummingbirds and goldfinches zipping around from sunup to sundown.

cannova rose

‘Cannova Rose’ highlighting the front border.

Mulching is rewarding, but for the most part for me this part of the year is more a matter of counting your losses, writing them off, and enjoying the successes.  I was hoping last year would be my last caladium year, but apparently the obsession continues.  They are one plant which has been thoroughly enjoying the rain and humidity and who am I to turn my back on such happy plants?

potted caladiums

The caladiums are just happy doing their own thing in a patch of shade.

Something I don’t want to talk about too much are the two new daylilies which have shown up.  Apparently people like these things, so who am I to not give them another chance?

blue fescue border

Finally, a neat foundation planting and a new daylily.  Brighter is better in my opinion 🙂

As I was working through the foundation beds (finally), it occurred to me that many of my weed problems might have something to do with me.  Every week or two I rip out a couple more milkweed shoots as they try and take over the entire front yard.  Maybe the ‘weed’ part of their name could have been a tip-off but hey, they showed up on their own and the butterflies like them so I figured what’s the harm in leaving a few.  I frequently see eggs being laid but as of yet no caterpillars, and I wonder if that’s the down side to having all those bees and other pollinators flying around.  I think they might be adding a little protein to their nectar diets.

milkweed in the garden

Milkweed in popping up around the garden.  The record so far is 15 feet out into the middle of the lawn!

Around back there is definitely a need for some mulching attention.  Your best bet is to ignore that, and just look at how nicely the jungle is spreading.

canna bengal tiger

Looking over the tropics into the backyard.  The cannas are starting to really take off is spite of the crowded planting conditions.

As usual there are too many sunflowers, but eventually the cannas and other stuff force their way through and it’s all good.

canna australia

Canna ‘Australia’ has never looked better.  I love the shiny darkness of the leaves and it’s lush growth this summer.

I can only imagine what shenanigans are going on in the interior of the bed.

canna red russian

The cannas in back have barely made it to six feet.  I blame the sunflowers of course!

Once you reach the backyard it’s practically a wild kingdom.  The potager is now on its own and the selfsowing annuals will take over as I make a weak attempt to save a few vegetables.  Eight foot sunflowers and persicaria (kiss me over the garden gate) leave little room for a bean plant.

potager garden

The potager is on its own now.  I just try and get the mower through and call it a success if I do.

There are a few things though.  Peppers and eggplants are coming along, but the tomatoes look as if the rain has done them in.

growing bell peppers

It’s been a good year for peppers!

I forgot the zucchini.  There’s some of that in the way back.

lilium formosanum

The lilies (Lilium formosanum) are starting out back.  They’re always a sign that summer is edging past its peak.

Beyond that is just weeds.  The meadow needs mowing, and the shade beds are just sitting there (and I’m all for just sitting there) but eventually I hope to whack it back before it all goes to seed.  Cool weather can be an inspiration, so we will see if that can snap me out of enjoyment mode and knock me back into taming it for next year mode 🙂

succulent cuttings

Garden visitors are all offered as many succulents as they want.  Apparently I haven’t been getting enough visitors!

In the meantime enjoy August.  I suspect it will go even faster than July!

Back to Work

The rain last week did wonders for the garden and it’s become as lush as last year.  Lush is sometimes code for overgrown, so I spent some productive time trimming and weeding this weekend and I’m happy to say it appears to have paid off.  With pictures taken at precisely the right moment, from just the right angle, within hours after the lawn was mowed and edged, the yard finally looks nice.  I guess it’s about time considering we’re about four months into the growing season.

street border

The lawn cut and edged.  It looks almost parklike, just ignore the yellow spots… the kids were playing with a metal detector and searching for treasure in the turf…

I’ll try not to dwell on all the flaws I see.  The front border has much less color from annuals this year because of beetle attacks and a dry spell, but there’s enough which has come along regardless.  From the street side it’s really filled in, the usual perennials and random sunflower make a nice barrier between us and the road.

street border

The border does its own thing along the street with just an occasional whacking back when things get out of hand.

From the lawn side there’s also a good amount of perennial color, but not as much as I’d like.  I do prefer my plantings on the brighter side  🙂

street border

This picture is 100% showing off the lawn.  It’s a rare day when a well watered, green, freshly cut, neatly edged, lawn shows up on this blog.

Speaking of too much color, it’s not an official policy but in general I don’t have many daylilies in the garden.  I don’t like the way the leaves on so many of them look all beat up by the end of the year and for that reason got rid of most of them.  That may be a-changin’ though.  I spotted this one next door and there’s a good chance I may rationalize an emergency dividing, so I can sneak a few pieces over onto my side of the property line.

orange and pink daylily

Orange and pink.  This might be just what my border needs… or it might be one more piece of evidence in the case against any good taste in my garden.

I’ll have to be sure I don’t give in to the temptation of bringing a few bright daylilies into the tropical border.  It’s supposed to be all big leaves and bright colors thanks to explosive, non-hardy southern plants, not steady reliable things like daylilies.

tropical garden

A late start means the dahlias are only just now starting to flower, plus an unusually lazy May meant three or four were all that ever got planted.  Maybe less will be more this year…

The top part of the tropical border is again nearly overwhelmed by 8 foot tall sunflowers among other things.  This year I thought for sure I’d have the upper hand after pulling nearly all of them up but of course with more space the remaining plants grew even bigger.  I guess I could have worse problems.

tropical garden

At least the elephant ears look tropical.

The lawn isn’t the only thing enjoying some maintenance love.  I pulled out the hedge clippers and started doing a little trimming and was able to re-meatball all the lumps of yew along the house.  I don’t completely mind trimming hedges, but rounding off the same yews every year just to have the same yews rounded off every year seems incredibly pointless, so by the time I got to the big one at the end I was more than a little bored.  We’ll have to see where this ends up.

yew topiary

Maybe I can call my yew balls ‘topiary’ now.  Of course I have yet to clean up the trimmings or get a ladder to reach the top…

Out back the potager is particularly lush.  I’ve been relentlessly pulling sunflower, verbena, persicaria, and amaranth seedlings but plenty remain.  Through July I still pretend to be the one in charge, but by August I lose the urge.  From here on things will be getting messier and messier, with all kinds of halfway attractive flowers sprouting up and taking over as the phlox fade or the vegetables are picked.

potager vegetables

It’s phlox season, and each day far too much time is spent checking them out.

I do like my phlox, but experience has shown they don’t like me.  The list of named varieties which have perished in this garden is pretty embarrassing, so of course we won’t talk much about that, and hopefully more observant readers won’t notice that I again spent a decent amount of money on new ones earlier this spring.  They’re not dead yet which is a good sign I think.

phlox paniculata

A mix of seedling and named varieties of tall garden phlox (Phlox paniculata).  To my eye gold and pink do not mix well… in fact I hate the mix… but I need marigolds and I need phlox, so there you go.

From further away the phlox look colorful at least.  Close up the foliage looks abused and there are plenty of other issues, but the flowers keep coming, and it makes me wonder if they think this is their last hurrah before they kick the bucket.  I hope not, but I’m not going to fool myself into thinking they like it here.

potager vegetables

I feel like it’s a requirement to grow marigolds in your vegetable garden, even if it’s so fancy that you call it a potager.  Sorry about the white buckets littering the view, but this photo is to prove that there really are vegetables in here.

One last phlox photo.  I wonder if they’d like me more if I dug up a whole new bed and devoted it to even more phlox and more new phlox?  A few more reds would be nice and how much room do a few tomatoes need anyway?

I definitely need more phlox, and I also won’t rule out bigger clumps of the good ones like this white seedling. They’re native plants by the way, so maybe this is helping make America great again.

I’m sure by September I’ll be wishing for fewer phlox and more colchicums.  Maybe.  Hopefully it’s not chrysanthemums though since I’m this close to yanking most of them out in spite of the fact I needed bunches of them just a few years ago.  I hope not everyone is as fickle as I am.

Happy August and have a great week!

During and After

Summer vacations and gardens gone wild are two things that seem to come up regularly each year, and I’ve noticed many of the better bloggers will do posts on preparing your garden for a longer absence.  Here’s my two cents.  Do everything you know you should have done already but have been putting off, and then go enjoy yourself.

pandora animal kingdom

Florida in July is not enjoyment.  The kids seem to like it but my only moment of ‘not bad’ was seeing the new Pandora section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  Cycads, fantail palms, tree ferns, massive rock outcroppings on what used to be flat sand…

It was as hot up in Pennsylvania as it was in sweltering Orlando but fortunately a well timed rainstorm kept everything relatively happy.  My plants are used to hit and miss attention so one more week wasn’t all that big a deal.

deck containers

The deck containers would have fried without watering, but an automatic drip system makes them almost carefree, even with a full sun baking each afternoon.   

I guess I can just pick up where I left off.

weedy garden

These are my new phlox.  Only the most adept word-find champion would be able to find any phlox in this mess, but trust me I managed to dig them out yesterday afternoon 🙂

For some reason this year seems like so much more work than any other.   I suspect it’s the result of my cheap nature and the way it’s keeping me from buying a nice, luxuriantly rich, delivery of shredded bark mulch (and its lovely weed smothering qualities), but it could be anything.  My deepest fear is that I may in fact be getting old, and I may in fact have a more ‘intense’ garden than I should.  My daughter informed me last week that all I do is look at plants or go on the computer and look at plants and maybe she’s not all that far off.  I kind of pointed out that I also brought her to her friend’s, picked up her brother from somewhere else, went to the store, met mom for lunch, picked her back up, went for ice cream with her….

potager

The potager in need of a grooming and a hedge trim.  Growing vegetables might be the most time consuming component of the garden… even if you’ve only got my word to go on when it comes to there being any actual vegetables in there.

So now I’m working through the garden one more time to get it presentable.  Throwing lawn clippings down as a mulch is helping, here and there the weeds might be slowing down, and overall the flowers are trying to make a go at it.  At least the bugs (both good and bad and indifferent) don’t seem to mind a little ‘woolliness’.

swallowtail on phlox

I’d like to think this beautiful yellow swallowtail is the child of one that was hanging around the garden a few weeks ago.  I like that there is so much life sharing my garden. 

Some of the woolliness comes from my weakness for self-seeders.  With phlox season ramping up there’s the excitement of new seedlings which snuck in while I wasn’t looking, and the surprises that come with new faces.

phlox paniculata

It takes plenty of diligence (maybe more than I have) to keep your phlox colors pure.  This may look like the same clump but it’s actually ‘Cabot Pink’ in the back right half and a stray seedling to the front left.  Slightly different petals and a tiny bit shorter, but the real giveaway comes on cool mornings when the seedling takes on a blue tint.

The phlox might look nice but they’ve been giving me trouble this year, even with decent rains and halfway decent care.  Spider mites are swarming and the usual sprays of water and fertilizing haven’t done the trick.  For as much as I like tall garden phlox, they really only tolerate me.  Maybe someday I’ll make them happy.

weedy garden

My failed poppy patch.  You may be able to spot a few purple blooms in there but for the most part it’s weeds which seemed to have sprung up overnight.  Hopefully I can get at this today before the rain hits.

Relatively speaking the front border is doing much better than the back.  It’s not nearly as colorful as last year, but it’s far less work than the potager, and only needs a strong beating back every now and then to keep looking decent.  Last year I expanded it out as much as two or three feet and worried about what to do with the space.  This year the perennials have rolled in and I barely have a few spots for annuals.  Hmmmm.  Ten minutes after saying I want less work I’m considering ripping out perennials to make more room for annuals.

front border

I feel like the border is dull this year.  The coleus I usually count on for foliage color have been brutalized by beetles and other less interesting things are trying to take over their space.

Don’t worry.  This should be the last post where I whine about how much work gardening is, and go on way too long with the woe is me theme.  It’s really not that bad and since I took these pictures I’m nearly all the way around the yard with the straightening up.  Plus there’s plenty of stuff to admire while I’m trudging on 🙂

lilium silk road

‘Silk Road’ might be my favorite lily.  It fills this whole end of the border with fragrance, doesn’t need staking, and gets better each year even in a terrible spot.  My dream for the future is that it becomes a clump of several bulbs and adds another two or three feet in height!

Enjoy your weekend, the weather here has been excellent for time in the garden and in spite of my daughter’s harsh assessment I’m still planning to do a lot out there today.

I Think I Can, I Think I Can

The ten day forecast says spring will arrive on Tuesday, so if you’ve been dilly dallying because of the snow I suggest you get ready to hit the ground running!  It is April after all, and although our weekly and sometimes daily snowstorms might hint otherwise, I do see a 70F day approaching and then no below freezing temperatures for the next week…. as long as we wait until Tuesday of course.

hellebore in the snow

Monday morning and the kids began the first week of April with a snow day.

Most everyone has been complaining about the weather but I always like to remind these buttercups that we live in the mountains of Pennsylvania, and the whole ‘April showers’ thing was probably dreamed up by some idle poet wasting away another gloomy English morning on a sofa by the window, waiting for the sun to make an appearance.  Come to think of it this cold and gloomy, precipitate-rich spring weather is what I imagine spring in the UK and Pacific Northwest to be like.  It’s excellent weather for growing things like moss and liverworts but less entertaining for the gardener.  Even if it does keep the winter flowers like snowdrops in bloom for what seems like forever.

galanthus nivalis

Some late, almost completely white snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) still looking good in spite of the on again off again snow cover.

Now would probably be a good time to pat myself on the back for not going as far overboard on the snowdrops as I usually do.  You’re welcome.  Even though it’s been one of the longest seasons ever, with not too-much heavy snow and zero single digit arctic blasts, it’s been cold and dreary and I just don’t enjoy taking pictures when it’s so miserable out.  That and I’ve been posting a lot on Facebook through the ‘Snowdrops in American Gardens’ FB group.  That probably helped as well, and probably saved many a reader from straining an eye muscle from too frequent eye-rolls.  I don’t know about elsewhere but optic strain seems to be a problem in this house when I mention snowdrops.

leucojum vernum

A snowdrop cousin, the spring snowflake (Leucojum vernum) coming up in a damp corner of the yard.

I will round out the season with one last mention of snowdrops.  Two years ago I found an amazing clearance deal on bulk snowdrops and planted about 300 Woronow’s snowdrops (Galanthus woronowii) late in the season.  As fate would have it, great joy is often tempered with tragedy so of course they were nearly all destroyed by a brutal freeze just as they were coming up that first year.  This year it’s been better though, and a few of the survivors are actually strong enough to put up a flower.  Green tipped snowdrops are always a pleasant find and there are only a few green-tipped woronowii, so finding this one was a real treat.

green tip worowonii

Woronow’s snowdrop, aka the green snowdrop, aka Galanthus woronowii, with strong green tips and some extra green on the inner petals.  Woronowii are often a little boring, so of course I love it 🙂

In between snowstorms I’ve been ‘that guy’ trimming back perennials, cleaning out beds and hauling mulch on the day before six more inches are predicted.  To be honest I started in February when we had our first warm spell, but it was only last week that the far end of the front border finally lost enough of its snow cover that I could finish up.  For those who don’t already know, my mode of attack for spring cleanup is trim it all back to the ground with the hedge trimmer, rake most of it onto the lawn, run it all over with the lawnmower and bag it up for mulch.  As a finishing touch I cut the lawn real short and bag that as well so that everything looks obsessively neat and green and ready for spring.

chopped leaves mulch

The least professional part of my cleanup is when I lug the chopped leaves over from the neighborhood dump at the end of the street, and spread them out across the bed.  Another man’s trash…. plus it covers all the twigs and debris that I didn’t care enough to rake off.

Not to rub my garden cleanup obsession in too much but I actually finished the last of the spring cleanup yesterday.  It doesn’t all look pretty, but at least there will be no dead stalks and dried weeds to bother me in May.

narcissus rijnvelds early sensation

A mulch of the chopped debris from out front will keep the weeds down in back.  It’s just fine for the first daffodil, ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’, flowering for the first time that I can remember.  Usually it’s usually too early and the buds get frozen off in February.

All the cleanup has distracted me from seed starting, of which I’ve gone overboard with this year.  The cold left me inside way too long and I’ve been up to just about everything else except the starting of tomato seedlings which should have sown two weeks ago.  I’m sure I can find one at the nursery if things get desperate.  Much better now to focus on the unnecessary native southeastern NA fern spore dust which has miraculously done something over the last few weeks.  I spend way too much time admiring the green fuzz inside a baby food container, but to be honest I still can’t believe the dust I sprinkled on top had done anything.

growing ferns from spores

I think I have ferns!  Not to gloss over millions of years of primitive reproduction but the spores grow a green fuzz and the green fuzz does the sex stuff which results in new fern plants.  I suggest searching for more on the topic in case I’ve become too technical 😉   

I’ll leave you with even more evidence of snow day idleness.  Coleus plants ready for new cuttings to be taken, and way too many succulents.  I started even more a few weeks ago and still have absolutely no plans for what to do with them, so we’ll see where this ends up.  Maybe they can go outside Tuesday even though that does nothing to answer the question of what to do with them.

succulent cuttings

Succulent cutting in the winter garden.  They’re another thing I spend way too much time looking at.

In the meantime enjoy whatever weather comes your way and I hope spring has either found you or is well on its way.  Hopefully the weather doesn’t turn too nice though, I still need to start a few tomatoes…. and plant some pansies, since I may have bought some pansies 🙂

A Little Cabin Fever

For a couple days it was warm and I quickly started a little cleanup and poked around feverishly to find every single sprouting snowdrop, but that was short-lived, and now it’s back to winter again and I’m just chomping at the bit.  The indoor winter garden has helped somewhat, and it’s probably a good idea to start off there with a few more hopeful signs of life such as my precious little primrose (Primula obconica), who is still going strong after nearly three months in flower.  Rather than this primrose becoming a one hit wonder, it’s produced two more flower stalks and the first one is still opening up new blooms.  It’s a beauty, but I may have forgotten to mention one of its common names…. poison primrose.  The name stems from the rash which sensitive skins may develop after contact with its foliage.  I find the scent of the foliage a bit yucky, but as far as rashes go it seems I’ve escaped any sensitivity issues.  That wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination though, since a quick poll around here would probably place me on the ‘insensitive’ end of the scale anyway.

primula obconica

Primula obconica from American Primrose Society seed, indoors under the workshop growlights.

I won’t bore you with every flower in bloom under the shoplights, but the geraniums must be sensing the slightly warmer temperatures and as a result are putting on more growth and sending up more flowers.  I’ll bore you with one photo, the lovely Pelargonium ‘Crystal Palace Salmon’, a healthy variegated geranium which doesn’t exactly look too salmony in the photo.

pelargonium crystal palace salmon

Pelargonium ‘Crystal Palace Salmon’, a flower which would make any geranium loving grandmother proud.

Obviously I’m getting into trouble with all this forced indoor time.  I’ve started several flats of seeds, started more and more succulent cuttings, and maybe feel that start-even-more-seeds compulsion creeping into the back of my head.  For budgeting purposes I’ll admit I ordered 40 packets of unnecessary seeds from the NARGS surplus seed round.  That set me back $14 so I’m quite all right confessing to that charge.

NARGS seed exchange

More seeds from the NARGS seed exchange.  Observant readers will add this to the 25 I had already ordered.

I’m trying all kinds of seeds again from generic annuals to obscure cacti to full sized forest trees.  There’s no question I don’t have a place in mind for nearly all of them but when has that ever been a concern?  I’m planting lotus seeds and am quite aware I have no pond to grow them in, but we’ll see what happens.  They have a long way to go before I need to worry about any space issues.

lotus seed

I wasn’t sure if I had sanded through the seed coat of these lotus seeds, so decided to crack one open for a look.  Who would have thought there would be a whole tiny lotus plant folded up inside! -and who would have thought the friggin seed coat (dark outer layer) would be so thick…

Nearly all the seed pots get a thin layer of chicken grit over the top and then go outside on the sidewalk to experience a little winter chill.  When things get warm enough they’ll sprout right up… and then need to deal with finding homes for everything.

poppy seedlings

The latest spell of warm weather has encouraged a few of the hardiest seeds to sprout.  Here are a few six packs of Opium poppies coming along.  they should be just fine as long as things don’t freeze up too solid.  The sheet of Reemay fabric protects them from the worst of the weather.

Back in February I thought we’d have plenty of time to post cheerful photos of spring beauty as it gently sprung into action and each flower followed the next, but then it snowed… and snowed… again…. and again….

snowdrops and winter aconite

Flashback to February with snowdrops and winter aconite opening up for the first of the warmer weather.

It’s still snowing.  Next week looks promising, but things have all got to thaw out again, and the earliest risers have to work out all their crushed stems and snow flattened flowers.  Hopefully by the time that happens there’s still enough energy left in them to put on a show.

snowdrops and winter aconite

More snowdrops, the green tipped ‘Viridapice’ and short ‘Sophie North’.

In the meantime I’ll stay inside and try to avoid driving everyone nuts with the amount of time I spend staring out windows and brushing aside snow looking for survivors.

sprouting lotus

I just assumed I had killed the cracked open lotus seed, but four days later it’s actually starting to grow!

At least the bird feeder is entertaining.  I was ready to call it a year and send the birds on their way, but then snow returned, covered everything up, and I got that guilty feeling.  Once I topped the feeders off the regular crew was quite happy, but they had to make a little room for the returning grackles, starlings, and red-winged blackbirds.  They’re a noisy bunch but fortunately filming through the glass spares you from most of their metallic squawks.

Hopefully the farmers out there aren’t too upset with me encouraging these blackbird pests, but I’ve always considered them just as much a sign of spring as robins and the first crocus.  Well actually the return of turkey vultures is also something I consider ‘springy’, but most people are far less entertained by the return of huge carrion-feeding birds which follow the thawing roadkill north…

May your week be enjoyable and carrion-free, and hopefully warmer and less-snowy than here 🙂

$14 for 40 packets of surplus NARGS seed exchange seed

$332 total so far for the 2018 gardening year.