The First day of Spring

I’m sticking to my guns and declaring today the first day of spring.  Non gardeners will spend the next three months whining and complaining about cold weather and chilly winds but some people are only happy when they’re complaining, so good for them.  The sun was out and the temperatures shot up to sweatshirt weather and I did next to nothing all day, just sat around and then sat around some more.  My second coffee probably took an hour to finish and hopefully I didn’t get a sunburn in the process since I was outside for that plus another few hours sitting, wandering, sitting, poking, sitting, uncovering…

galanthus wendys gold

The yellow snowdrops are my favorites.  Here’s ‘Wendy’s Gold’ fully up for the season and pristine after spending a few days under a bucket.

In case you’re wondering how things made it through the frigid cold, they’re fine.  So many things were starting to grow and I had my doubts about all those tender sprouts but only a few things took a hit and the majority look ready to take on the season at full speed.  I’m glad the cold was so short lived, I think that made a huge difference.

galanthus rodmarton

‘Rodmarton’ wasn’t even covered and still looks good.  As far as double snowdrops go I like this one a lot, with green tipped, fat blooms that stand high on sturdy stalks.

So now that spring is here I shall also announce the start of the over-sharing season where this blog fills with a monotony of white and green and sometimes yellow flowers which vary about as much as an island full of golden retrievers.  Hmm.  How’s that for an image?  Shipwrecked sailors would run the risk of being licked to death but would likely lose consciousness first from laughing too much.  But yeah, lots of snowdrops on the way so fair warning.

galanthus sutton courtney

‘Sutton Courtney’ is also up and open.  I love this one as well and she seems to be on the mend again after the gardener stupidly dumped several inches of soil on this bed to raise it some more without replanting the bulbs higher.  Don’t do that.

Maybe winter will return.  Maybe you’ll get a break.  I don’t think so though, so if you’re going to try and stick around just get those standard ‘looks nice’, ‘oh I love them’ comments ready and you won’t even have to read a post since they’re all going to be nearly the same.

At least I’m excited.  Hope you have a great week!

That Was Rough

We are on the fourth day of winter here and there’s even a dusting of snow on the ground to make it look serious.  People were finally zipping up their winter coats and by Friday most of the mountain lakes had ice extending from shore to shore.  Seeing winter weather here was half a relief until I looked at the ten day forecast and saw at least three days next week where the daytime high was over 50F(10C), so calm down.  Don’t pull out the ice fishing equipment just yet.

cold snowdrop

The snowdrops (Galanthus ‘Colossus’) are mostly wilted and flat in the cold.  That’s a good thing actually.

Based on the daily news reports I’m sure everyone was aware that cold weather was headed across much of the US this week.  I’m actually surprised there were no evacuation postings based on the way they were describing it, with dramatic windchill predictions, ‘record-breaking’, ‘life-threatening’ lows and all the dangers associated.  Maybe someone even named the cold front.  Cold front “Karl” is bearing down on the Northeast, buy your milk and bread (minus the egg$) now!!! before the brutal assault begins.

freeze protection spring bulbs

I did manage to bucket a few clumps and then threw fleece over this bed for good measure after ‘Mrs Macnamara’ and ‘Barnes’ flexed their previously damaged foliage and made me feel guilty about neglecting them last time. 

Today when I woke up we were down to -2F (-19C).  That’s about right in line with a normal winter low, even if this winter has been nothing close to normal.  I strolled around a little in the afternoon when the thermometer had risen to around 20F and things might not be too bad.  In spite of how advanced many of the sprouts were, two days of cold prior to the plunge allowed plants to get ready for the blast.  The witch hazel curled up and the snowdrops went limp.  Limp, sugar concentrated snowdrops don’t freeze as well and the wilted foliage doesn’t burst as easily from expanding ice crystals.  Tomorrow when spring arrives we will see what bounces back.  Hopefully most everything will since the coldest weather was just one night and things were somewhat ready for it.  Nature can be smart, probably smarter than an idiot teen who needs to be told to go back into the house and put on a coat before this car is going anywhere for goodness sakes it’s not even 8 degrees out…

freeze protection spring bulbs

It was so nice and sunny (yet cold) Thursday after work that I did go a little overboard with the freeze protection.  Cut evergreen boughs, buckets and fleece were doled out for the most precious and precocious of the snowdrops.

I really can’t blame the teen entirely.  His father is the one who planted all these European and Asian snowdrops and witch hazels, and thought a winter garden would be a good idea in a climate which welcomes brutal winters.  He’s not exactly the brightest either but let’s not dwell on that right now.

freeze protection spring bulbs

Even the regular golden winter aconites(Eranthis hiemalis) are thumbing their noses at this winter.  In another week they’ll be sprouting up everywhere with an enthusiasm better suited to March.

So in another moment of brightness I’m declaring the winter of ’22-’23 to be over.  February and March can be cold here but I’m giving up on winter, and next week everything is being uncovered and I’m starting the official spring cleanups regardless of historical averages.  I should be disturbed and cautious but that’s our world these days and I’m saying it’s time to plan for snowdrop season and make a few calls for this spring’s snowdropping adventures.  Giddyap I say and plan on making the best of the warmth!

Spring in January

Saturday was awesome.  Nearly 50F (10C) and sunny, with just a touch of wind kicking up in the afternoon, it was the kind of weather which might be a touch warm for an Irishman but for me it was a perfect spring day… in winter of course.  We are still in a weather pattern which has been luring more and more plants out of the ground and into harm’s way, and things could come crashing down any minute.  Actually that minute might be this Friday night when a front is threatening to knock lows down to about zero (-17C) so we will see.

pale yellow eranthis

The warmth and sun have coaxed the pale yellow winter aconite (Eranthis hiemalis) into full bloom.  These flowers will melt in the cold, but the plants should survive to try again in spring 2024…

Oh my gosh I have so much random babbling to get out of my system that I barely know where to start.  Perhaps complaining about a lack of blog views is a perfect place to begin since I’m already on to the woe is me, the weather is getting cold for two days, pity party.  2022 ended and my stats are the lowest numbers since 2014.  Rough calculations on my part show that in that same period of time the global population has grown by 253 million, so as you can see it’s even worse than you would think since even a quarter billion supposedly tech-savy babies can’t be bothered to visit my blog.  Shall I change my business model or content?  Maybe branch out into alternate platforms and super-connect with social media?  Heh heh, you know me better than that, obviously continued laziness will be my answer, and you can expect few to none on those new tricks on the horizon.

galanthus bess richard ayres

Galanthus ‘Bess’, with ‘Richard Ayres’ behind will suffer melted blooms in near zero cold, ‘Bess’ will probably be the worst just as she was two years ago from another freeze but maybe the lazy head gardener can cover a few things to help them along.

I happened to notice my visitor stats when I received notification that 2023 will be my ten year anniversary at Sorta Like Suburbia.  You can take my word that a ten year anniversary on a blog which I don’t think I started that long ago did not help me feel any younger for a recent birthday celebration.  Also not helping were reminders that in another year I will be eligible for senior discounts at most of the local restaurants.

galanthus castle plum

Galanthus ‘Castle Plum’ is so perfect today, and one of my favorites for an early snowdrop.  Still only one bulb after several years but who am I to pressure him to start having babies?  

Obviously this gardener is not the type who gets bubbly and excited for his birthday, just in case you didn’t notice.  My thrill was that the weather was beautiful and my celebration was being able to finish cleaning out enough of the front street border so that the earliest flowers can come up through something other than dead twigs and windblown trash.  It might be early.  It might be too early, but things are coming up anyway and if I wait longer my clumsy footsteps will do more damage to the plants than this and other likely-to-still-come hard freezes.

hellebore buds

This hellebore (unlike others in the garden) doesn’t usually suffer from extreme cold snaps.  I’ll let you know how it makes it through this one.

By the way, I also noticed that my earliest posts from the golden days of this blog were much shorter and far wittier.  Maybe I should at least make an effort to keep this short.

pale yellow eranthis

More pale eranthis (only pale ones since the normal dark yellows are still waiting for warmer days).  Some of these snowdrops might make it, but they’ve also lost flowers in freezes in years past.

…and more helpful.  Posts about how things should be grown and what you shouldn’t do (I’m very good at that!) might be something to reconsider rather than endless whining about how we are finally going to have two cold nights this winter.

galanthus mrs Macnamara

‘Mrs Macnamara’ rarely makes it through a winter here without a beating from the cold.  Last winter was so rough on her she’s actually blooming a bit sparsely this year, and if she wasn’t such a good grower I’d have sent her to a more Southern garden years ago.

So here’s my tip for sudden freezes while your plants are already in growth.  Buy a greenhouse.  Fill it with hardy things like snowdrops and cyclamen so that a broken heater isn’t the end of the world and it might be a fantastic diversion for when the arctic visits.  It will be a great place for ‘Mrs Macnamara’ and she deserves it, doesn’t she?

galanthus daphnes scissors

‘Daphne’s Scissors’ will probably not appreciate the cold but might also be just fine.  When I was reviewing this photo I noticed the vertebrae of some poor little creature’s spine at the base of the clump.  I guess the garden is always an up and down, life or death kind of place.  

So I don’t know how we ended up on the topic of greenhouses.  Hmmm.  More economical advice will be to invert an empty pot or bucket over these tender shoots and maybe that will help with icy winds or possibly to catch a few degrees of protection.  It will be worth it and I’m already preparing a scolding for myself for not bothering.

The Turning of the Tides

I had a nice surprise Tuesday morning on the way to work.  The normally dark and gloomy ride was brightened up by something I haven’t seen in a while, a sunrise.  To call it a sunrise is giving the event a bunch more credit than it deserves, but it was a pinkish glow spread across the edges of a smattering of clouds and was much nicer than the black abyss I’ve gotten used to over the last few weeks.  It’s a hopeful moment.  There will still be plenty a day before I can walk into work with an actual sun over the horizon, but until then a promising glow in the morning counts for a lot.

hammamelis pallida

With or without morning sun, the first of the witch hazels (Hammamelis x ‘Pallida’) has opened up for a full-bloom show of color in the otherwise bleak landscape.

The promise of seeing daylight again on the ride to work is a nice affirmation that days really are getting longer and spring will someday be more than an idea.  Nice isn’t always good though, since this week typically brings the very coldest days of the season, and getting all sentimental and hopeful weeks too early can be torture when a string of snowstorms rolls through from February to March.  Actually it can get expensive as well.  People get delusional about expanding vegetable gardens and starting viburnum collections and planting new cannas everywhere.  People can also get judgmental toward delusional gardeners, and let me state clearly here that that’s not ok.  You should never be judgmental about people just trying to make the world a better place, and that’s exactly what a February gardener is trying to do with their not-as-well-planned-as-they-could-be new plant decisions.

hammamelis spanish spider

First blooms on a new little witch hazel.  ‘Spanish Spider’ was a totally unplanned and perhaps unnecessary purchase which is proving itself invaluable and essential this week.

For now on I will consider midwinter purchases as brilliant, perhaps genius, foresight.  Leave the bean-counting to accountants and go ahead and buy as many bean seeds as you think your ‘Year of the Bean’ needs.  Tell the naysayers they’re the type who would drive unrecognized genius to cut off an ear, and unless they want to be part of the problem they should instead help choose a nice yellow Romano pole bean to go with the heirloom purple.

pale yellow eranthis

More pale yellow Eranthis hiemalis are hearing the call of spring…. or maybe winter… they are also called winter aconites after all.

So enough with the aimless babbling and back to the garden.  We’re still running a good bit above average temperatures.  Skiing is happening but the ice fishermen are still on the sidelines, and plants are still trying to start growing just a little too early.

peony shoots

Peony shoots always seem to come up too early.  These Peonia daurica buds look awfully exposed but they’re really quite hardy.  At least that’s one thing I won’t have to worry about.

Fingers crossed that the early sprouts mean an early spring, and not a disaster of melted and blackened tender foliage in a month or two’s time.  A few things are still reeling from December’s blast.

freeze damage snowdrop

The fall blooming snowdrops (G. elwesii ‘Barnes’ in this case) did not appreciate going from North Carolina to Newfoundland in 12 hours.  I see new growth though, so I suspect all is not lost.

freeze damaged sternbergia lutea

A Sternbergia lutea (autumn daffodil?) which might be worse than it looks.  All the browned damage is right close to the bulb and the rest of the leaf might follow as the damage works its way down.

freeze damaged sternbergia lutea

Another Sternbergia lutea just a few inches away, further out into the garden which should have been more exposed and therefore damaged, but no, it looks untouched.  The narrower foliage could mean something, and it’s also from a different source.  Maybe it’s just variations in the species, but who knows?  

freeze damaged cyclamen coum

Some of the hardy cyclamen (C. hederifolium and C. coum) were blasted by the cold, but I know they’ll recover, and by the looks of these early buds there’s still a good chance for an excellent spring flowering.

Obviously I can’t leave off on a gardening report with a down note on snowdrops.  They’re inching forward, and hopefully still pace themselves in spite of the continuous above average temperatures.

early snowdrops galanthus ophelia

The double ‘Ophelia’ is moving right along and should make a great show in a few more weeks.  Unlike some, I don’t think she’s ever been bothered by a later freeze.

A few snowdrops are always eager to get started.  Some years it’s cold enough to hold them back to bloom alongside the later varieties, other years they pop up early, hopefully miss the worst weather, and the season is extended that many more weeks:)

galanthus wendys gold

‘Wendy’s Gold’ will bloom during the next nice day, I suspect Sunday or Monday… right before the possibility of two actual winter days… maybe… 

So snowdrops are still good just in case you were worried, and by the way the winter garden is also still good even if winter hasn’t been as healthy as he should be.

Another year of seed cleaning and sorting is finished and now my little coffee table is all tidied up and set for the main round of seed sowing.

It’s all the usual suspects under the lights, plus a few pots of daylily seedlings for the farm. If all goes well this will become a deliciously overgrown mess again by May.

There’s always a few new things. Someone gave me a bromeliad (Neoregelia) last summer and after a billion hours of online bromeliad searching I can proudly say I still only have one and I also haven’t moved to the tropics to grow them better. Go me!

I wish I could say the same for succulents. Who knew 20 bucks on Etsy could get you a tiny box of 10 mixed Echeveria agavoides cuttings!!?? 20 more bucks can get a handful of lithop seedlings to show up at your doorstep!!

So not to brag, I think I’m handling the depths of winter quite well.  Witch hazels on the way, snowdrops in bloom, and exciting things under the grow lights.  I could get used to these non-winters… assuming the two days of cold next week don’t become a habit… but even if they do there’s still always those longer days, the stronger sun, and there’s only so much winter can do against that.

Have a great weekend!

 

Into the New Year

It’s been a bit chilly this weekend, and this morning’s low of 21F (-6C) is about as close to normal as we’ve come this month.  A January thaw isn’t all that unusual for the region, but having the entire month with each and every day at above average temperatures is.  Next weekend the longer range forecast has Friday night going one degree below average, but that might be our only chance for the month.  I was raking last Sunday rather than skiing, and that level of productivity on a day of rest is far less my style than bumming around on a ski lift.

hamamelis pallida

The first of the Asian witch hazels are opening, with Hamamelis x ‘Pallida’ in the lead.  

On the plus side I was able to spread a compost mulch over the last neglected snowdrop bed and start trimming hellebores.  Things are starting to sprout and I’ll take the warm weather as one last chance to finish last autumn’s cleanup and freshen things up for the approaching snowdrop season.  According to my far-less-than-scientific records, this winter has echoes of 2021, which barely tried to get cold until the end of January, and then sat us in snow and cold until March… which sounds complainy but was actually perfect for holding everything back until it could sprout more sensibly.  2021 might have been my best snowdrop season so I apologize if it sounds like I’m wishing for cold to come just so things here develop well 😉

hellebore buds

This double red hellebore is always eager to sprout, and maybe I can trim off the old foliage this afternoon.  The autumn leaves are staying though, I’ve reached the point where nearly every leaf which falls in the garden remains in situ.  

Even if arctic cold never develops (beyond that little try at an ice age in December) I’m 98% sure this winter and spring will be amazing.  I have buds showing on new snowdrops and color developing on new witch hazels and dreams of an astounding 2023.  The only roadblock I see is catalog browsing, which has been a tad addictive the last few weeks.  I blame the long nights and too cold to do anything/ not cold enough to do other things weather, plus some delusion that I need to order obscure bulbs and shrubs which will haunt me all summer waiting to be planted.  The last few years have been fairly restrained as far as buying new plants so maybe I deserve something?  But no!  That kind of thinking is so dangerous during the post-Holiday season when I’m dealing with cookie withdrawal.

galanthus faringdon double

Unlike many of the other early snowdrops, Galanthus ‘Faringdon Double’ lucked out with the December cold, and appears to have settled in well for her second year here.  

I’ll have to retire to the winter garden and do some repotting and watering to get my mind off hardy crinums and early blooming viburnums.  There’s plenty to do in there with budding amaryllis and flowering cyclamen and cuttings which need more room.  I have to see where I’m going with things this year since a casual count of pots is already close to 200 and I haven’t even seriously begun in there.  Oops.

pale yellow eranthis hiemalis moonlight

The first winter aconite.  A pale yellow sort of Eranthis hiemalis which always blooms a few weeks earlier than her brothers.  If the weather stays mild they’re fantastic, if the weather turns harsh they freezer burn.

Actually I should go work on the closet organizers.  That’s honest work which makes me look productive even if I’m about as excited about carpentry as I am for doing my taxes, but at least it’s more rewarding and it keeps me out of the garden (mostly).  Perhaps I need more stain and a run to the box store is in order, and as a reward someone gets to look over their succulent selections for a little carpenter’s treat to take home along with the stain purchase.  Hmmm.  That would be the fourth ‘carpenter’s treat’ this month, and obviously not helping the pot count.

Have a great week and obviously a 4$ succulent on a stain run doesn’t count as a plant purchase and is still a better choice than a 6$ coffee or ice cream… not that I’m really ruling out the icecream…

Solstice ’22

The longest night of the year approaches and in theory it’s an easy ride from here to longer days and warmer temps… in theory at least.  From here on the days get longer, the sun gets stronger, but at this latitude it will still take a while for the thermometer to gain traction and the slide into the depths of winter to slow down and reverse.  That’s fine I guess.  Snow has arrived and it’s kind of soothing to have all the undone garden tasks tucked away and forgotten… for a few weeks at least 😉

fall elwesii snowdop

The fall snowdrop parade continues with these G.elwesii ssp monostictus from Montrose Gardens.  It’s been just warm enough to bring them on to perfection, even after the insult of a couple inches of snow on top.

Honestly I should think about protecting a few more tender things, such as the autumn snowdrops, from the cold which approaches.  Friday is forecast to start with pouring rain, thunderstorms and a high of 51F(11C), and then tumble down into snow squalls and a low of 8F(-13C) by the evening.  Exposed snowdrop flowers shall be freezer burnt.  Should be fun.  I’m sure gardeners, skiers, and white Christmasers alike are all wishing it were purely snow instead, and only municipal pencil pushers (and maybe a couple million holiday travelers) are happy for the warm start to the storm, but you get what you get.

longwood christmas 22

Christmas displays in the Longwood Gardens conservatory.  Friday presented itself as a snow-day so we braved a few miles of icy roads here in the mountains to escape South to balmy Philadelphia for the day.   

In either case Wednesday will be the longest night of the year, and I hope it finds you snug and cozy and ready for the holiday season.  It’s nice to have this break.  It leaves you with plenty of time to enjoy your winter garden, order NARGs seed exchange seeds which you don’t need, and inventory new snowdrops and map all their bed locations.  It’s going to be a busy winter 😉

Opening Up the Winter Garden

A good thing and a bad thing.  Someone had enough energy (or was bored enough) that they cleaned out the winter garden last summer, and by that I mean all the empty pots and dead leaves were not still sitting under the fluorescent grow lights in the back of the garage… That’s the good thing.  The bad thing is someone also had a little energy on the day when potted plants and cuttings needed to come indoors for the winter.  That’s the bad thing.  There have never been so many things stuffed under lights this early in the season and I for one am quite pleased.  If this gardener were the type, the feeling is similar to a slow motion bungee jump where you’re on the edge of the bridge about to jump.  All the equipment has been checked and you’re at the point where it’s going to be either a complete disaster or a bunch of fun… Well maybe that’s a terrible analogy since I’ve only dropped and shattered one clay pot and spilled soil and cactus parts everywhere… okay, so maybe it’s a fitting analogy, with the exception that the cactus pieces were put into a new pot and survived whereas your pot contents might not do the same.

Sorry.  I guess whatever point I had has been reduced to ‘don’t bungee jump’.

mammillaria plumosa

In a moment of distraction I spent an hour finding the earliest photo of my little mammillaria plumosa.  It usually flowers a month or so after coming indoors, and this winter might mark its tenth birthday from the day a friend first gave me a cutting.

I’ve spent most of the Holiday weekend cleaning up leaves and planting bulbs and for the first time in about a year the garden looks somewhat under control.  I’d post photos but most days have been all day labor in the garden until dusk and pictures don’t happen, but honestly who really needs to see the dirt where the tulips went in anyway.  Instead I shall leave you with a super-interesting photo of two cuttings stolen from an outdoor planter which was nearly done for the year due to frost.

stolen plant cuttings

Gardeners are nothing if not hopeful.  Two tiny cuttings which spent a weekend in my coat pocket and now grace the windowsill with their beauty.  They’re like an Advent candle with all the hope and promise for a rebirth… unless they die, in which case I’m sure there will be plenty of replacements!

Apologies for the randomness of this post.  I’d thrill you with a few snowdrop photos, but the kids stepped on them while hanging the Christmas lights so I’ll have to see what’s left.  In the meantime there will hopefully be some more interesting posts to come as I and others join Cathy of Words and Herbs for her ‘Week of Flowers’ event.  As the weather gets cold and the nights grow long what can be better than a flood of flowers as we prepare for the holiday season?  It should be fun.  Happy first of Advent 🙂

One Last Summer Trip

It’s embarrassing to realize this trip and these photos are all already a week old, but no matter.  Visiting a garden like Chanticleer, just outside of Philadelphia never gets old, and after a summer of ‘wait, I have to be around for this… and that… and I wish it would rain…’ it was great to get away for what might be one of my last summer trips, and always fun to be out and about with garden stuff from dawn to dusk!  Here are a few impressions from the day.  Check out their website and other links for better photos and video, it’s such an awesome garden to visit and I tried to rush through in under two hours so…

chanticleer

The entry area is always a tropical planter paradise.  Note the leaf stalk of the Titan arum (corpse flower, Amorphophallus titanum) on the far right.  Am I the only person who couldn’t care less about the smelly bloom, yet loves the massive single leaf which they produce?

Hmmm.  Since it was such a rapid race of a visit maybe this should be a quick post, so here goes.  The ‘teacup garden’ is always my first and favorite section to visit.  It’s like a tropical conservatory out for the summer for a Pennsylvania country vacation.

chanticleer

Look at all these foliage goodies, and the hanging blooms of the Brugmansia are just summertime awesome!

Wander down to the tennis court next.  It’s been entirely re-done and although it’s lost the ‘tennis court’ vibe I like the new Netherlands-France rolling hedge vibe.

chanticleer

There’s a soft spot in my heart for neatly trimmed hedges.  Another year to grow in and this one will be perfect, plus a patch of my favorite giant reed grass (Arundo donax) doesn’t hurt either.

The cutting garden also underwent a re-do.  More vegetables, more paths meandering through, a little more controlled.  Personally I like a garden of chaos in September, but maybe deep down inside realize that this is a better look… hahaha just kidding.  I like it but miss the tsunami of towering blooms and grasping vines of years past.

chanticleer

Orange marigolds seemed to be a theme through several of the gardens this year.

I skipped the woods but not before realizing the large magnolia wasn’t really a magnolia.  It was an American pawpaw tree (Asimina triloba) with plenty of fruit on its way to ripening.  I’ve never had one, but word is they’re delicious with their custardy-goodness.

chanticleer

American pawpaw tree (Asimina triloba) with a cluster of almost-ripe fruit.

I rushed through the meadow filled with full-bloom prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis), a beautiful spot but I just don’t like the “popcorn” scent of this grass, and then cut through the ruin garden to get to the gravel garden.  I love the gravel garden.  It was a full-sun, 90F (32C) morning and I was still standing around with that dumb look on my face, smiling at the succulent planters and running my hands through the grass like a real weirdo.  I’m so glad that finally, after 50 years, I finally grew out of that caring what other people think stage.

chanticleer

Not the best picture, but the gravel garden is an open spot filled with full-sun, drainage-loving Mediterranean-type plants which don’t seem to mind a couple months of hot.

Down around the ponds to visit the koi and admire the lush, water-loving stuff, and then quickly through the Asian woods and serpentine plantings, and finally to the main house.  The house is always surrounded by too many pots which are too big and overfilled with too many goodies.  Many of the plants are too cool.  The only way I didn’t spend another hour in just this section was because I was alone and because of that didn’t need to start pointing out and naming and babbling on about every single thing.  I will only share a few photos 😉

chanticleer

The mangave cult is alive and well here.  It’s a big plus they’re not as spiny and poky as they look.

chanticleer

Sometimes I had to put both hands in my pockets to fight the urge to take cuttings. Everything seems grown to perfection which is not easy to pull off in such mixed plantings.

chanticleer

The pool area. There are bananas and other tropicals all along the walls. Such an awesome sight although it makes me feel a bit guilty for killing mine… again…

chanticleer

Yeah. Just awesome. Red mandevilla and some yellow leaved jasmine.

chanticleer

Hmmmm. Passionflowers are pretty cool and maybe I should have more than just one…

A visit to Chanticleer is a good choice at any time of year, but I might have to admit to an ulterior motive for my visit.  Surprise lilies (Lycoris) have been interesting lately and I knew there were a few plantings here and there in the gardens, so why not make up an excuse to drive two hours to go see them?

chanticleer lycoris

I think these were yellow Lycoris chinensis with a few white Lycoris longituba mixed in, but since there was a fence and a few yards between me and them I couldn’t really get as close as I wanted.  

I might have been “interested” in some of the hardier Lycoris for a few years now (many of the nicest are tender and only thrive in Southern gardens), but based on their embarrassing performance in my own garden, I really didn’t want to admit it.  I guess it’s out now though.  My name is Frank and I grow Lycoris poorly.

chanticleer lycoris

Lycoris squamigera floating above the grass of the bulb meadow.  These will be joined by the early colchicums in just a few more days.

I don’t think I’m the only one who struggles with these bulbs.  They’re often referred to as surprise lilies or magic lilies, and although some people claim it’s because of the way they burst out of the soil and into bloom in just a few days, I believe it’s because each year it’s either a surprise or plain magic that they actually lived or even bothered to bloom for you.  It doesn’t help when you see them growing best alongside a burnt out building or abandoned farm or hear some old gardener complaining about how they take over their beds and there are just too many in their garden.  Based on this apparent finickiness I’m going to say there’s a better than good chance mine are dying out of spite.

chanticleer lycoris

Maybe a paler form of Lycoris chinensis up near the ruin gardens?  Just like all the others these appear to be settling in happily… unlike my little jerks…  

If I wanted to give myself a true dose of reality I’d look up how many years ago it was that I first planted my earliest bulbs.  ‘They’ say it takes a few years for them to settle in, but the difference between settling in and dying out is a distinction I’m having trouble with… so in the meantime I will continue admiring them in other peoples gardens.  A garden where they are doing much better in is my friend Paula’s.  Her garden is not an abandoned farmstead, and she is not an old gardener, but they are still doing well for her even if a few were just a little past prime for my visit.

lycoris hiaro blue

A trio of excellent hardier varieties of Lycoris.  From left to right, ‘L x haywardii’, ‘Hiaro Blue’ (a selection of L. sprengeri and I think the same as ‘Blue Pearl’), and ‘L x incarnata’.    

As is typical with many of my garden days, by the time it was wrapping up the sun was pretty much set, so sorry about not having photos of the rest of the lycoris in back, but the best thing I learned on this visit was ‘just move them’ if they’re not thriving.  For as obvious as that seems it was kind of a break through for me.

lycoris haywardii

A closeup of Lycoris x haywardii.  I would like to grow this one well enough to see this show in my own garden… and that’s an understatement based on the twitching I feel when I look at it!

So with a rushed visit to Chanticleer and a twilight garden tour with Paula, you might be thinking I stopped for a sit down lunch and dinner, or maybe wasted my time with some other nonsense, but the truth is I was digging daylilies.

transplanting daylilies

“I have a few I could share, stop by if you’re in the area” said a friend…

The back of my car was quite full of plants for the ride home.  There was even a gifted sprig of tuberose which perfumed the ride through the mountains.  I was quite pleased.

So I was kind of joking about the daylily farm, but with a whole side-of-the-house lawn destroyed by construction I figured what the hey, it’s better than replanting grass.  I’ve been pickaxing stones and trying to amend a driveway of fill ever since.  Have an excellent weekend and maybe this foolishness will help put your own into perspective 😉

Still Going…

That last rain really tricked me.  It tricked the lawn as well, a green shimmer appeared and of course I thought it would be extremely generous to run the mower over to pick up some of the dead leaves and trash and then spray some liquid feed.  Silly me.  The rains stopped and things are back to wilting, and I’m back to watering, but at least it’s been cool the last few days as a respite to our usual baking.

ipomoea nils fuji no murasaki

Slowly the Japanese morning glories are coming into bloom.  Ipomoea nils ‘Fuji no Murasaki’ is amazing and hasn’t been as invasive a seeder as other morning glories tend to be… unless you’re someone I gave seeds to and recently cursed me for giving you such a weed… so your results may vary.

Despite the return to dry, it’s still not as bad as it was, and still not as brutal as it could be.  I think I just like complaining, plus on top of that it’s just boring.  Super boring since just about everything is just sitting there waiting for water.  There are three things though, which could count as somewhat interesting.  First are the container plantings, which thanks to the drip irrigation are doing fairly well… in spite of a haphazard fertilization schedule, and the second is the patch of cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) which looks great, but causes nonstop hummingbird conflict as one sneaks in for a sip just as another one or two come down in a screeching dive bomb to fight them off.  People love hummingbirds but all I see are little featherpuffs of rage, and when one comes up and gives me the hovering stare-down of death for sitting too close to their lunch, I stare right back… but don’t dare say a word lest it triggers a torrent of anger from the little monster.

lobelia cardinalis flower

The Lobelia cardinalis does really well here in the shade of the house, far enough away from the life-sucking red maple roots.  I did water a bit but not as much as you’d think.  

So that’s two things, and for the third I’ll nominate the paniculata hydrangeas.  They get a drink of water once things get bad enough to wilt, but other than that they just look awesome and make me seem like a gardening genius.  Never mind the zinnias which are struggling and the surprise lilies which only surprise me by not dying, these hydrangeas are full of fat, fresh, flower-packed trusses of bloom.

hydrangea paniculata seedling

The worst of the dried up rudbeckia triloba has been cropped out, leaving only the joy of budding hydrangea blooms.  ‘Limelight’ is in the background, this is just a seedling which somehow managed to evade my super vigilant weeding long enough to look like something.

I’m considering adding a variety which fades to pink.  ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ was in here but had to be moved for the construction, and for some reason I didn’t like the way it looked around ‘Limelight’ anyway.  The pure white of V. Strawberry seemed just too white for all the yellows and chartreuse and then it was in a bad spot anyway, where the heat and dry would brown the blooms, rather than let them go pink.  It’s been replanted next door and to be honest I want it back even if it doesn’t fit in.  Maybe I’ll take some cuttings today, my mother in law loves it so there’s no way I’m getting the original plant back.

hydrangea limelight

Limelight in the back yard around the potager.  Obviously the phlox which was supposed to be moved years ago is still there and still doesn’t look nice alongside the hydrangea, but at least the boxwood is on its way to recovery after last winter’s run in with the bulldozer.

So three things are ignoring the dry and marching right through August in beautiful shape.  There are more bits and pieces looking good but as I said they’re mostly waiting for rain and I also just like to complain.  Now for example I shall complain that the dentist’s office still hasn’t called back to schedule my root canal and the gray skies have not produced anything more than a sneeze of useless mist.  Oh well.

Have a great week regardless.  These will be the sweet memories that come up in February when the only thing growing are the icicles off the gutter.

Well that Sure Escalated…

Sometimes I’m stubborn and set in my ways, determined to make something work and prove I’m right.  Other times I can turn on dot, easily distracted and influenced, and just one idea can derail an entire plan.  About three weeks ago I went to a daylily farm, and even talked to a daylily breeder.  I bought one.  I went to another farm.  suddenly I found myself going back to the first farm and getting a few more and now suddenly I like daylilies.  Hmmmm… did not see that coming…

brookside daylilies

Some Brookside daylilies which have been added to the garden.  It’s nice to have something green in the yard.

My mother might point out that at one point, maybe thirty years ago, someone planted dozens of daylilies alongside the garage and some of those clumps still remain today, but that was a long time ago.  I thought we were past that.

garden drought

The front border still looking a bit fried.  Recent rains have greened up some of the lawn weeds, but only the rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) looks completely unbothered by the dry weather.

I guess not.  Plenty of good people like daylilies, so what’s the harm in adding a few?  With the garden still a depressing shade of sun-faded khaki anything which can shrug off the dry heat can only be a good thing.

purple gomphrena

Purple gomphrena and angelonia don’t mind the heat, but do need regular watering to keep this fresh and bright.  I think it’s worth it.

No one even noticed a few new daylilies, but they did notice the water bill jumping up last month.  I admitted that maybe it was the garden causing this, but also pointed out the garden-fresh vegetables were surely worth it.  Fifty dollars for a couple zucchini and some lettuce, thankfully there was no cost to benefits analysis done to double check my logic.

blue yonder agapanthus

Regular watering helped stave off the worst of the baking in this end of the front border, but even without watering I suspect ‘Blue Yonder’ agapanthus would still look unbothered.  I’m so glad the bulldozer missed this one, although my seedlings and several other things in this bed were lost. 

Triage by watering hose was saving a few things but fortunately I went and scheduled a camping trip for last week, and this brought in a nice storm which actually soaked in a little.

orange peel cestrum seedlings

Cestrum is remarkably easy from seed and only grew faster in the heat.  At first I was underwhelmed by the small lemony flowers of the first seedling (in my hand), but a couple weeks later, other seedlings began to open up larger orange flowers, similar to their ‘Orange Peel’ mother, and it was all good.

A nice soak, cooler temperatures, and then another surprise shower this past weekend have made all the difference in the garden.  No more wilted plants making me feel guilty at every turn and the lawn even has a green haze to it, although it will still be a while before I need to fire up the lawnmower again.  I think this just-in-time rain will also help the little tree frog tadpoles immensely.  They’re just starting to sprout legs and leave the pond, and I don’t think venturing out into a desert would have been the best thing for my little babies.

young gray tree frogs

There’s a big range to the tadpoles with some already out and about, others well into leg-growing, and a couple still just fat little polliwogs.

I’ve been coming across baby tree frogs in a few spots around the garden.  Unlike the gray adults, the babies are a bright green with a dark mask around their eyes.

young gray tree frogs

Baby gray tree frogs (Hyla versicolor) have a leafy green color while the adults take on more of a bark/lichen gray color.

My fingers are crossed that a good number of them make it.

young gray tree frogs

Even the frogs like the new daylilies.  

New daylilies, baby frogs, and a decent rain.  It’s not perfect but it’s a good position to be in for the first week of August, and as long as no one asks how the construction is going I think it’s still better than a cold day in January.

Have a great week!