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!

Garbage Day

So it’s been hot and hasn’t rained more than half an inch here in the last three weeks.  My “garden” has always been a little more interesting than it is beautiful, and now with things wilting and dying left and right, on top of the construction debris and damage, my yard has officially entered the trash stage.  Visiting several beautiful gardens last weekend, filled with lush goodies, all artfully combined and arranged was a nice exercise, but did not help my opinion at all so earlier last week I decided to rip half of it out, mulch most of it, and try to save a few bits through the daily triage of going plant to plant with a water hose.

low water perennials

Lawn is not drought tolerant but rudbeckia and a few other things are.  At least not everything is brown.

Maybe we’ll get lucky tonight and the storms rolling through will drop some moisture, but it’s going to take a couple days straight to get anything into the hard-baked soil and that’s not going to happen.  Also the next week’s forecast is full of 90’s (32+C) so any rain tonight is more a teaser than relief.

low water perennials

With half the plants now ripped out, and a couple days of standing around with a water hose under my belt, the front border no longer shouts ‘save me!’  and instead just looks hot.

So plenty of people have it worse, and some people always have it worse, so please don’t feel the need to be nice and sympathetic when this kind of summer really isn’t that out of the ordinary for us.  There’s still plenty of recyclables in this trash pile, and always a few treasures to pick out, such as the orien-pet lily ‘Conca d’Or which dominates the front border this week.  I love everything about it this year, it’s huge, fragrant, creamy lemony, and as solid as a tree.

low water perennials

‘Conca d’Or’, perovskia, and some ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass doing just fine under the triage of ‘just in time’ watering.  

Now faced with a garden of mostly trash, more garden visits sounds like a good idea, right?  I think so, but little did I know how dangerous they can be.  Some friends and I traveled up into the far reaches of Northeastern Pennsylvania this weekend to visit a daylily farm and it was a bad thing…

lambertsons daylilies

A perfect, Idyllic, country view of the daylily sales-field at Lambertson’s Daylilies.  Mark it with a flag, pay, they’ll dig it and it’s yours… what a deadly temptation!

I’m not above taking one for the team, so when a visit to Lambertson’s Daylilys came up in conversation, I of course politely agreed.  “You hate daylilies” was mentioned, and that’s kind of extreme, but I can be nice and keep my thoughts to myself when opinions vary… and try not to relentlessly steamroll people with my beliefs and opinions just like all adults should… but I’m digressing… we met for breakfast and all of us headed out for a day at the farm.

lambertsons daylilies

Some of the display beds coming into bloom around the house.  No trash here! 

I bought one.  It’s planted and gets checked way too much each morning.  Today I cross-pollinated a few flowers and I’m already thinking about going back to see about picking another one… or possibly two… dammit…

growing daylilies

The mother in law’s garden bed and it also looks very non-trash.  I guess I’ll have to swipe a bit of this one and add it to my new daylily adventure.

When I returned home (filled with delicious ice cream because of course we had enough sense to stop at a dairy while in farm country) I put a critical eye towards the depressingly stunted tropical garden.  A daylily would look good in there.

low water perennials

Even with watering there’s little hope for this year’s tropical garden.  I’m far too lazy and cheap to water properly and the cannas are knee-high rather than chest height.

Seriously.  It’s the perfect spot for a daylily patch… bed… border… growing field  😉  The peak bloom will match pool season, and that’s when this sidewalk gets nearly all its traffic.

lambertsons daylilies

My selection out of the farm’s seedling patch.  At Lambertson’s the seedlings grow for a number of years, the under performers are culled out and most of the good ones are just sold as un-named seedlings.      

Tree lilies, daylilies… I’m sensing a theme for easing the pain of a better-for-the-pool-than-the-garden summer.  Waterlilies fit right into that.

pink water lily

The pond is thick with debris and whatever else washes in off the construction site, but the pink water lily has never grown as lush before.  The tadpoles are also doing well, and I guess a dirty pond is still better than no pond.

So it’s not all bad, unless you judge me for finally falling into the daylily trap.  I was doing so good…  in 20 years I think I never went over a total of five daylily plants, and no one needs to know about the other 30 years of my life and the rows of daylilies that still grow at my parent’s house.  I had put that behind me.

deck container plants

Not daylilies, just a couple hundred bricks which I chipped the mortar off and neatly stacked so that they can sit here for decades until I finally get around to doing something with them.  In the meantime I’ve camouflaged them with potted plants which I couldn’t be bothered to bring up onto the deck.  

It’s just one daylily.  Maybe it’s just the dry weather and heat that are getting to me.  Luckily plants other than lilies are still chugging along and even enjoying the weather.  All those geranium (pelargonium) cuttings from the winter garden are loving the dry, sunny days, and were a nice, cheap way to fill a bunch of planters.

deck container plants

Maybe a few too many geraniums on the deck.  

Another potted plant which has surprised me are the rhodohypoxis bulbs.  They’ve been blooming for over a month and I didn’t expect that at all.  In fact they’ve grown so well I might need to divide them soon, and don’t know if now or next spring would be the better time.

rodohypoxis

Some of the rhodohypoxis pots still doing well.  The large-flowered, pale pink ‘Pintado’ is by far my favorite.

Maybe I mentioned one other bulb which wasn’t doing as well as the rhodohypoxis (actually both are classified as corms, and not really bulbs).  Last winter I lost about half of the caladiums I was so excited about last year summer, but that doesn’t mean the ones which made it are pitiful.  A couple are awesome again, and since many are of the same sort I’ll be referring to them as some of the idiot-proof cultivars and think twice about trying new ones this year. -which is something I decided last night after closing an online order which was soooo tempting until I thought about the daylilies again-

growing caladiums

A few caladiums coming back to life now that temperatures have warmed.  I think a cold, wet spell last fall did a few of the others in, as well as not hot enough weather in June.

So that’s what’s been going on here for the last couple weeks.  It’s not bad at all but the garden really is trash, and only close editing and avoiding the majority of the yard has saved this post from becoming a complete downer.  There’s a new daylily though, and the pool is always refreshing, but don’t bother asking how the construction is going, and just for reference it’s midnight and the possibility for a good rain is dwindling with each hour.

All the best for those in really hot and dry weather patterns, and I hope you still all have a great week.  There’s always ice cream.

Independence Day

It’s the Fourth of July here in the US, Independence Day, and long story short we have taxation WITH representation now rather than without.  That appears to matter to 50-60% of eligible voters in a presidential election year but drops to only about 40% in midterm elections, so maybe it was more of a cool slogan than a real sentiment, but whatever… Happy Fourth!

streptocarpella

The front porch is suitably patriotic for the season with a bit of streptocarpella in the hanging baskets this year.

Barbecue and fireworks are the real tradition these days, and here in PA the grilling we do would probably mortally wound any barbecuing Southerner, but we try.  There will be plenty of over-eating regardless and the fireworks will be covered as well, although with the dry weather our home will be sticking to floral fireworks instead.

kniphofia red hot poker

The first of the red hot pokers(Kniphofia) are firing up and they’re a favorite of mine.  The newer selected forms have a longer bloom season and rebloom as well so that’s a win-win over the flash in a pan older versions.  

Were it not for the entire spring being spent picking rocks and hauling stone, there’s a good chance the gardener would have divided and spread more pokers around the garden… but… there’s always next year  😉

summer flower border

A slightly less-weedy garden border.  To be honest much of the plantings are self sown so maybe it would be no loss to pull much of it out and spread more pokers around!  I’m sure everything else would return anyway, and in less time than I’d like to admit. 

So fireworks and food.  This year for the first time ever I’m neck and neck with the robins in the race to get blueberries.  I think because it’s been dry the robins have moved to wetter gardens, and the lazy young robins which enjoy sitting in a blueberry bush all day, napping, eating, napping, have moved out with them.

blueberries

There’s about a pint of blueberries sitting on the counter waiting to transform into a nice pancake or muffin, and it looks like we have enough for a couple more pickings.  

Fireworks, food, and fragrance.  The last few weeks the back garden has been filled with the fragrance of the little leaf linden (Tilia) and the buzz of the thousands of bees and beetles and bugs which swarm to the tree, but this week it’s all the regal lilies (Lilium regale).  A warm, muggy evening spent watering the potager vegetables and enjoying the scent of the lilies is not a bad way to spend a holiday weekend.

regal lily

Regal lilies are easy from seed.  They’re easy in general, just keep an eye on them for the bright red lily beetles which have finally made their way here and become a problem in my garden. 

…and don’t forget the ‘Don’t tread on me’ part of Independence day.  This spring I noticed that as the garden fills and matures I’m less likely to allow the same weeds which I used to ignore.  I realized this while pulling a couple bull thistle(Cirsium vulgare) seedlings which aren’t really a problem here but aren’t really that nice to bump into while “weeding” other things.  Maybe my garden is becoming more civilized, and these armed plants which used to be just fine in the wild-West of my garden’s early days just aren’t safe to have as plantings pack in and mature.  Today I permit a few fancy thistles armed with open spines in the main beds, and regulate some stinging nettles with their concealed weapons in the back end of the yard, and altogether it’s a much safer world.  What a concept.

woolly thistle cirsium eriophorum

The woolly thistle (Cirsium eriophorum) even has purple tips on the spines and a fuzzy fluff!  You really need a little training and have to know what you’re doing before you play around with this plant, but it’s still worth keeping around. 

So there you have it.  Food, fireworks, fragrance, and some independence.  I hope you have an excellent summer week and if you’re off for the Monday, please enjoy 🙂

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 🙂