In With the Old

I’ve been ignoring the colder temperatures long enough.  A sudden freeze would have made the great autumn migration much, much easier but I’d surely miss a few things next year.  The weather Saturday was beautiful and it’s the first weekend in a month where I didn’t spend most of my time emptying closets or running to the Salvation Army or painting or moving furniture…  So spending an afternoon moving a few plants was (almost) a treat 😉

overwintering plants

Putting everything on the driveway as a staging area seemed like a good idea… until even the driveway was filled.

Earlier in the month I’d already taken cuttings of coleus and other favorite annuals, hauled in the caladium pots and lugged the amaryllis in, and really thought I was on a good path… but then the plants started to accumulate.  Hmmmm.  Shame on those plants for growing so much.

overwintering plants

By the end of the day things looked downright tame.  A few things to shove into some dark corner of the garage when it really gets cold, and my precious tree fern which will stay out as long as possible.

So right now there’s no room in the winter garden for a January coffee, but I have a few months to straighten that out.  I’m sure it will all work out just like I’m sure over the next few days I absolutely won’t find a thing or two more to bring in or a handful of ‘just in case’ cuttings.

autumn garden

Decent temperatures and beautiful autumn light made spending all day outside a treat.  It’s amazing how things have recovered since the rains returned.

I wasn’t lugging all day.  It was just nice to be outside and I’m quite talented at just wandering around ‘thinking’ or sitting around and ‘contemplating’.  I guess we all have our superpowers even if we don’t all get to wear the fancy tights.

autumn garden

The late asters are nice enough but of course I’m still far too impressed with the purple stems of the ‘Sunnyside Up’ pokeweed.

One low point to this autumn is that nearly every last chrysanthemum in the potager’s chrysanthemum bed died out this past winter.  In the spring I was almost happy about all the open space, but now I miss them, especially the big football forms with their huge, shaggy blooms.  Who knows.  The winter wasn’t all that bad and many of them had been with me for years, but these things happen.  Fortunately I have backup plants, sadly not the same forms, but seeds are easy and if I want I can just collect a few seedheads this fall and within months I’ll have more than I lost… (as if I hadn’t already filled all that open space)

garden chrysanthemum

A mix of seedling chrysanthemums in the neglected former rock garden.  Even after a summer of no-care and searing heat and drought they’ve come through with a nice show!

Who knows why chrysanthemums just die.  Many of those big bushelbaskets of color sold in the fall aren’t actually hardy, and many more dry out too much to establish after the show is over, and some are just planted too late, but other times?  I know all the autumn rains last year had mine extra soggy going into winter but I was still surprised every last one died.  Wait, that’s not true.  One plant which was decimated by some foliage disease and went into bloom nearly leafless last fall had two tiny sprigs survive.  So the weakest plant survived… go figure.

garden chrysanthemum

The lone survivor in the the potager.  The color on this chrysanthemum reminds me of the dahlia ‘Cafe au Lait’ and I’m beginning to like it, plus strong stems make it great for cutting.    

Drifting aimlessly around the yard reminded me that for as productive as I was hauling other things in for the winter, the succulents that accumulated on the new stone wall this summer are still all out there.  They’re all in heavy clay pots on top of that.  Ugh.

succulent display

Time to pay the piper.  Free pots and extra cuttings sounded so harmless when I put together another 20 containers.  Now they all need winter homes.  

Wisdom has not followed age.  I bought three more (big) terracotta pots last month when I just happened to ‘stumble upon’ a 30% off clearance sale, and I have every intention of filling them next spring.  Sunday all of these came into the winter garden, even the ones I was going to leave out because I really don’t need them.  Someone gave me another succulent which he knew I was eyeing.  I know my mom has one which I’d like a bit of and my nephew as well.  I give it two more years before this whole fiasco collapses.  It’s going to be a great two years 🙂

autumn garden

The first snowdrops.  A new season begins before the old has passed.

And then there are snowdrops.  I was lukewarm for a week or two in August but now I’m just obsessing again.  Snowdrops and cyclamen because they’re sprouting as well, and for a winter garden they’re also essential.  And witch hazels.  I see buds on those, wow it’s going to be an exciting winter.  I hope it doesn’t fly by too quickly 😉

Hope you have a great week!

October

September flew by and now it’s October.  Autumn, and for maybe the first time in forever I’m glad to be done with summer.  Maybe.

colchicum with groundcover

Colchicum ‘Lilac Beauty’ coming into full bloom against the blue of leadwort(Ceratostigma plumbaginoides).  I think I show this scene every year, I like it.

It’s been chilly and gray and rainy and within 5 days I had my fill of autumn and started thinking about snowdrops and even colder weather.  Cold I don’t really mind, it’s these depressing dark days which wear me down and I can’t imagine “living” somewhere with endlessly gloomy weather.

colchicum speciosum

A colchicum speciosum which came as ‘bornmuellerii’ but might not be.  The yellow next to it is a Sternbergia lutea, a fall blooming crocus look-alike which I need more of.

The gloom and rain also makes the lawn explode into growth and I’ve mowed it more times in the last month than all summer, and between that and the endless construction, and cleaning out the house next door, and making room for another person’s everything, and work, and lawyer talk, and explaining geometry and biology every night to a 14 year old, well I guess I know why September flew by.  Good thing for colchicums and all those other autumn goodies, they sure make up for a less than complete daylily farm!

Colchicums by the driveway and a few 40% off goodies which I of course don’t need, but at least won’t need cramming into an already overfilled basement.

So it’s busy here and a new normal is setting in and a change of seasons might not be the worst thing to keep everyone moving along.  The colchicums kicked off autumn and now hardy cyclamen and autumn flowering crocus and chrysanthemums are making it into a party.

Most of this would be fine in the open garden, but I do like having the most special of things all in one single protected space. Maybe next year I’ll evict the camellia seedlings and give them a try in the open garden.

Besides the miracle of copious rain, and its explosive effect on the lawn, the rain also performed a little miracle in the potager.  It’s nothing to impress a Southerner, but having any kind of red spider lily in bloom this far north is something I did not expect to ever actually have happen but it did.  Maybe there’s hope for it establishing.  I wouldn’t complain if it settled in here, but knowing that the second bulb was also doing well up until it rotted last summer is giving me a few serious doubts.

Lycoris radiata, the red spider lily. Winter foliage will grow in another few weeks and then look miserable all winter as it wishes it were still south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Elsewhere in the garden the colors are all autumn and the vibe is all seedy.

Along the street the ‘Sunnyside Up’ pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) is as lovely and promiscuous as ever. Unlike everything else here it didn’t even seem to mind the heat and drought this summer.

Even after a summer of neglect and weeks of triage watering there were still plenty of things which bounced back.  The front border looks full and the potager is an overgrown mess.  It might not be as tusnami-of-chlorophyl as previous years but I can deal with it.

I didn’t expect Geranium ‘Rozanne’ to endure the drought like it has, but it looks great and seems to have been reborn this October.

potager

Maybe the thousands of dollars spent watering were worth it here in the potager… things limped through the heat and then made for one last hurrah now that it’s cool and wet.

tropicanna canna

For the last two or three weeks you can’t even tell the cannas and dahlias spent all June and July in misery. Stunted plants aren’t the worst thing for a gardener who never got around to staking.

Progress on the daylily farm hasn’t been as swift as I had hoped for.  My sole employee gets a list each weekend, but then when Sunday afternoon rolls around it’s like he didn’t even have a list, since it’s been mostly ignored for two days and nothing was done.  Last weekend he made a good point about taking a few cuttings and carrying in a few pots instead but he really could have done a little more in the digging department on top of that.  Perhaps this weekend I’ll take him out back and give him a serious talking to.  Hopefully he’ll see the light, and hopefully back there no one will see me mumbling to myself again.  

new daylily bed

Ok, I distinctly remember my mother in law saying ‘I don’t care, as long as it looks nice you can plant whatever you want’ a couple months ago when I asked about planting some coleus in her planter.  Maybe I took that out of context, but so far there have been zero comments about a daylily farm going in on the side of her house.

So maybe the daylily farm will be ready by next spring, and maybe it will not.  Whatever happens I’m sure it will mostly complement the tropical bed which has also somewhat revived from the rain… and is also just across the property line, in my mother in law’s yard…

tropical bed

Not a whole lot of tropicals in the tropical bed this year, but even the tropics have their run-down, abandoned-farm kind of areas.  Thankfully there’s more yellow pokeweed here weeding around and complementing the red roses and purple verbena.   

While the stunted cannas here bring me down a bit, it’s my Queen of the Prairie statue which brings on the only commentary about this bed.  The statue has been called creepy, and it’s been questioned as to why it faces her kitchen window but that’s just coincidence and I think she looks pensively thoughtful and pleasant.

prairie queen statue

Although no one insisted the Queen remain in our living room I don’t think anyone expected her to be evicted to the back lawn once we bought the house.  Personally I think she’s enjoying her trip back to the earth.

Something else who’s days are numbered are the tropical pots.  Time to start thinking about who is freezing, who is becoming a pot of cuttings, and who is getting hauled back in for the winter garden.  It shouldn’t surprise anyone that things have multiplied and been added to.

red cane begonia

Obviously this begonia needs to come inside.  What soul-less heathen would let frost touch it while it’s flowering its head off?

The new angel’s trumpet in a (heavy)20 inch pot looked much less alarming as a little free cutting last fall, and a couple elephant ear divisions were never expected to fill one entire half of the garage but then it happened.  Better safe than sorry is what I always like to think, so of course they’re all going to get safe winter homes.

pink brugmansia

In May I almost let spider mites kill this.  “pinch off all the leaves, soap it down, and fertilize and water the sh!t out of it and it will be fine” was the excellent advice I received.  It would look even better if i didn’t forget to fertilize the last few weeks and missed a few waterings…

Other things are also finding their way in for the winter.  If it’s an early freeze things might be easier, but if it’s a late freeze I’ll have way too much time to soften up and say what’s the harm in one more?

red suntory mandevilla

I hope this red mandevilla can survive the winter with me.  Previous attempts have failed but how can I not try?

There’s always room for one more and it’s good to have all these things going on to carry us through the next month.  Each month has it’s own surprises, and even if I didn’t need the surprise water heater replacement yesterday, having hot water again is almost as nice as a house packed full of somewhat appreciative houseplants and a garage full of sleeping bulbs and tubers.

Hmmm.  I didn’t even think about digging things yet.  That might be a November, as the snow flies, kind of project and I’ll wait until then to worry about it.  One month at a time, right?

Planned Surprises

Saturday I suddenly found myself on the road to Ithaca NY.  It’s about a two hour drive from here and of course I have better things to do locally but wanted to see a few friends, and you know… there was a plant sale.  Just a small thing done among members of the Adirondack chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society, but they have some pretty cool plants and for just two or three dollars a piece all the plants (donated out of member gardens) find a new home that morning.  Of course I was more than happy to help out, and a couple alliums, ferns and a violet are now here in Pa with me and even better, all the extra daffodils I dug this summer are GONE… or at least most of them.  Stupid me thinks I should replant some of the smallest ones to give them a chance to grow out so they won’t be too small to give away?  Don’t ask.  My accounting brilliance is matched only by my business sense.

cornell botanic garden

Cornell Botanic Gardens.  It was nice to stop into a garden which I’m guessing has a couple feet of topsoil, annual mulches of compost, and just the right amount of watering to grow sickeningly well.  Here’s Hydrangea cumulonimbus mocking the approaching storm clouds. 

The plant sale was followed by a luncheon and I just want to say that in between garden talk there was an invite to a garden which I really wanted to see, but I actually opted out of going.  Weird, right?  I think it was a combo of poor sleep, impending bad weather, and an overall end-of-summer-I’m-sick-of-drought-my-garden-is-a-disaster malaise.  In hindsight I wish I’d gone, but at that moment I just wasn’t up to being social any longer so passed.  That was an actual unplanned surprise, since on the way up I had a conscious thought of the possibility of being invited somewhere, and how excellent that would be.  I hope I’m not actually getting old(er)!

carex muskingumensis little midge

I found this sedge to be far cooler than you would imagine a sedge could be.  Carex muskingumensis ‘Little Midge’ I believe, even though the label said ‘Little Midget’ which would also be fitting. Quite the geometry on this little guy.

Apparently I was still young enough to add one side trip to the trip by pulling into the parking lot of the Cornell Botanical Gardens.  I did want to see how their tropical plantings were coming along, but then surprised myself by liking the shade plantings even more.

Mukdenia rossii Crimson Fans

Mukdenia rossii ‘Crimson Fans’.  Seeing this was a first for me, and I always thought the red color was an autumnal, perfect storm, enhanced for catalogs, color effect, but here it is in late August doing its bright crimson thing as if it’s no big deal.  Very nice!

And then it was back home.  I pulled in at a suitably responsible and mature arrival time of 6pm, just in time to enjoy the evening light on the Lycoris.  If you want to talk about surprises the fact any of these are blooming would be the premier surprise since they did not look all that happy this spring, and baked-clay dry summers are not supposed to encourage good bloom with these temperamental divas.

lycoris x squamigera

The most common surprise lily, or Nekkid lady (Lycoris x squamigera), is blooming more than it’s ever bloomed before.  I heard they like derelict, neglected properties so perhaps the random construction debris and bits of trash I’ve thrown here are the secret to a good show.  

There’s actually a second magic lily surprising me this year.  I thought I was successfully killing off most of my plantings, but suddenly there’s an almost clump of Lycoris x incarnata flower stalks poking up between the squash leaves.  If only I knew what went right with this spot I’d repeat it with the other bulbs growing just inches away but worlds apart in flowering-power… as in they’re not flowering at all…  Perhaps they’ll also surprise me but I doubt it.  Someone might have already poked around and found several have lost their roots to some kind of rot, and even though they’re sometimes called magic lilies, I think a miracle is closer to what we need.

lycoris x incarnata

Lycoris x incarnata, aka the peppermint spider lily, is a hybrid of two other Lycoris species.  There are other forms, but this striped version is one of the more common garden forms.  I think it’s quite awesome this year.

These two Lycoris and a few others are the cold-hardy members of a bigger family of bulbs which do well in the warmer Southern states and aren’t all that uncommon down there.  Sadly they’re not hardy enough for this garden, but of course since I’m doing so well with the other ones, I also thought I’d try a few of the more tender types such as L. radiata, the red hurricane lily.  With a bar already set so low by their cousins, it’s not hard to imagine that just the fact they’re still alive counts as a fabulous success.

terrace garden

Other not-cold-hardy things filling space on the sand terrace.  With a timed drip irrigation system this at least is one part of the garden not miserable for rain.

I’ll take whatever fabulous successes I can get.  Today it rained, and although the 0.06″ is not the 0.50″ forecast, it should green up the crabgrass a bit and at least give me a day off from watering… assuming I still even water.  This weekend I almost moved from ‘trying to get a few things through’ to ‘maybe save a few perennials and shrubs so they come back next year’.  That’s basically giving up for the year, and with school ramping up again, and construction crawling along, and with money evaporating faster than the rain, it’s never sounded better… until you consider the alternatives.  Being stuck in front of the tv from now until snowdrop season or taking up a trowel and helping tile, or sitting through an entire football game?  I think even a bad day of looking at weeds and wilted plants has its bright spots and I think I can do it for a few more days.  Lycoris season is always full of surprises, and even if the surprise is in how disappointing they can be, the colchicums will be here soon and I can always count on them.

Have a great week, and may your garden get all the rain it needs 😉

A Few Things

I’m watching the weather radar with my fingers crossed for some rain tonight.  Its the typical summertime story for gardeners, where everyone else is hoping for another day of blue skies, while we’re sitting here hoping for a completely washed out day (or if it’s not too greedy, night, followed by a day perfect for weeding and planting but…).  Things are’t too bad, but there’s some heat on the way and without a little rain the garden will start complaining.  As it is the lushness has been sapped out of the lawn and the shade plantings are wilted, but to be honest I blame greedy maple roots for most of that.

summer garden flowers

It’s an oxeye daisy year in the front border.  Winter killed off much of the fennel, and the daisies appreciate the open real estate.  It’s not a fancy look, but still better than more yawn to mow.  

A few plants don’t mind, in fact prefer, the drier soils.  Here are a few of the more interesting things popping into bloom and looking quite good while they do it.  Thing one is this red Echium.

echium amoenum

Last year at the NARGS Ithaca plant sale I picked up an Echium russicum seedling and was a little unimpressed as it tried to flower amidst the lush chaos.  This year I’m loving its look in the sparseness of a drier flower bed.

The milkweeds always put on a decent show, and I wouldn’t complain if more show up, although one clump of the common milkweed is plenty… which of course doesn’t explain clumps two and three and four throughout the garden.

asclepias syriaca milkweed

Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is a weed not suitable for the cultivated garden.  I like the fragrance though, and don’t mind pulling up every sucker which pops up in a 20 foot radius… every week… After bloom finishes I’ll cut them back to about 1.5 feet and the new growth will attract the Monarch butterflies.

The purple milkweed (Asclepias purpurescens) is quite showy and quite a responsible flower border inhabitant.  This one hasn’t run around for me like it’s common cousin, and I actually may have to dig and divide it in order to spread it around.  That will be a new one for me and it makes me a little nervous since to get this one going took a few failed seed attempts and then quite some nursing along before the clump flowered for the first time.  Sadly I have yet to get a seedpod on this one.

asclepias purpurascens milkweed

Asclepias purpurascens, the purple milkweed.  Nice form and foliage and doesn’t mind a little bit of a dry spell, unlike it’s similarly colored swamp milkweed relative.

Another cool new thing in the purple color family is this knapweed.  I don’t like the most aggressive roadside-weedy ones, but this well-behaved perennial with the purple topped knobby buds is worth growing.  I was so excited to find it through Nan Ondra’s Hayefield Seeds.  If you haven’t already visited her site you should, the summer seeds are ripening and going on her list, and now is a great time to scatter them about for when the summer rains come  (they will either sprout now or wait until cooler weather returns).

centaurea atropurpurea

Centaurea atropurpurea, the purple knapweed.  Purple flowers poke up from scaly flower buds, and they’re quite popular with the bumble bees.

The knapweed seed was sown last summer and is blooming now, but the next plant has been inching along for at least 6 years.  Three small bulblets came in a ziplock bag with a note that they should be hardy for me, but I’ve heard that song before.  They were planted in a couple spots, one died the first winter but the rest slowly grew and grew until suddenly this week I had a flower stalk appear.  Honestly I was only just last week cursing the bulbs, because seriously I know it’s not the nicest garden but how long are we going to drag this out, and then all of a sudden a stalk and flower were there.  It’s my first blooming of the Orange River lily (Crinum Bulbispermum) and I’m not at all annoyed that it was the smaller bulb which bloomed and the larger bulb is still just sitting there pretending to be exotic.

crinum bulbispermum

Crinum bulbispermum, a plant which may need to be beaten with a water hose to induce blooming since that’s what our contractor did to it… and the un-beaten plant is still just foliage.  

Someone might remember I planted a few other, less-hardy Crinum lilies last summer, and shockingly they all survived with only some pitiful attempts at additional winter protection (I threw a bucket over them in January one cold night when I was feeling guilty about spending a bunch of money and not protecting them better).  Those bulbs are far less-likely to flower this summer since they all appear to have lost much of their bulbs to the cold, but maybe next winter will be different?  Maybe I’ll mulch and cover them and give them what they deserve?  Maybe…

crinum bulbispermum

The lighter blooms darkened up by the end of the day to the typical Crinum bulbispermum color.  I like them, even though I suspect they’ll be finished flowering by the end of the week.  These bulbs by the way receive no winter protection and have been perfectly hardy to just under zero Farenheit.

So is three as far as interesting things go here?  On to more mundane things.  I think I will give up and rip out the tomatoes poisoned by the herbicide-laced grass clippings mulch from next door.  They are all still sending up stunted, curled and twisted foliage and one plant is beginning to brown and die so I don’t think there’s much of a chance for any miraculous recovery.  New plants are in the next bed over and although I nervously mulched them with grass clippings from my own yard, they’re still doing fine, so I guess eventually there will be tomatoes for sauce this summer.

tomatoes herbicide damage

The sad, stunted tomatoes.  I haven’t noticed any damage in other plants, although some of the larkspur in this bed might be stunted, and thankfully the cabbage/cauliflower bed also looks fine in spite of getting the same mulch. 

I’m wondering if it would be weird to fertilize the lawn and water it just so I can mow it and bag the clippings to put down as mulch in the vegetable garden?  I guess it wouldn’t be much different than a hayfield that gets cut, and it’s still better than bagging the clippings to dump them in the trash, but maybe I should just work a little to keep the weeds down.  Nahhh.  Mulch is better, plus it conserves moisture and the earthworms eat it up and produce worm-manure all while aerating the beds with their worm-tunnels.  It would just mean more lawn mowing, which in theory I am against 😉

meadow garden

The meadow garden where mowing is still a no-no.  It’s drying out so tans are starting to show up.  There’s some rudbeckia opening, but the white is nearly all Erigeron anuus, the annual fleabane.  It’s an awesome weed for me and I let it grow wherever it wants, and I don’t think it’s greedy to hope for a blue or pink seedling to show up.

Tomorrow I’m repairing brickwork so that new siding for the addition can come right up to the old construction, where the bricks were pulled down.  I’m not a mason, so hopefully it turns out good enough that nobody notices my mistakes, but the reason I’m doing it is so I can move on to powerwashing the deck and moving deck pots into position.  Then I can re-do the drip lines and then hopefully no more hand watering the pots this summer.  It will be nice finally getting the deck clean and ready for summer since it’s been somewhat neglected with all the debris out there and the mess.  I sat out there on one of the chairs this afternoon and finally moved because a stupid wasp kept buzzing in my ear.  That’s when I noticed the other wasps and turned the pillow over to find the nest I was sitting on.  Hmmm.

It’s still not raining.  There are downpours to the East and downpours to the West but nothing here so I hope tonight’s not a bust.  In any case it’s still better than a February polar vortex 🙂

Rocking Ithaca with NARGS

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

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

Me:  “They gave me a hat”

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

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

cornell botanic garden

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

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

cornell botanic garden

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

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

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

dead red sedge

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

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

dead red sedge

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

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

witch hazel graft

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

And a surprise flower amongst the amaryllis pots…

double amaryllis

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

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

All the best for a good Sunday and excellent week!

The Poisoned Earth

I’m not an organic gardener.  I sprinkle fertilizer around, spray for pernicious weeds, douse a bug here and there… I figure “progress” has to be good for something more than shorter winters and a warmer globe, plus I like cool things like antibiotics, vaccines, and diabetes and heart medicines.  Unfortunately, there are a few things which scare me and I’ve been thinking more and more on them lately.  The most recent is the death of this year’s tomato plants.

For all the neglected vegetables of the potager, sauce tomatoes are always in demand and always harvested.  The kids might throw cherry tomatoes around and play baseball with a zucchini but the paste tomatoes always find their way to the saucepan or freezer, and if it were up to me they’d all go towards pizza, not sauce, but now I’m getting distracted.  This year the plants went in early, the stakes before they were needed, all were watered, mulched, and looked great… for a little while.

I mulched with lawn clippings like I always do and within a few days the plants were dying.

2-4-D tomato damage herbicide

All the new growth on the tomatoes is coming out curled and stunted.  According to what I’ve seen online it’s classic 2-4-D herbicide damage and chances for recovery are zero.  

I take care of the lawn next door, and my mother in law always reminds me every year to put down grub killer and something for the weeds.  I usually “fib” and say sure and things are just fine, but this year the clover and dandelions were getting a little too obvious, so rather than explain how the stuff ‘doesn’t always work 100%’ got a bag of Scott’s weed and feed to spread around.  It worked for the most part, we’re back to a monotonous yawn and she seems happy.

cabbage and cauliflower

The cabbage and cauliflower bed doesn’t seem as sensitive and are growing well.  They likely absorbed the same poisons and now I have to consider the fact it’s part of the cabbage leaves and future cauliflower heads.

So that was the end of March.  Two months of growing and mowing and rains and I was desperate for some mulch in my earliest-ever and most-promising tomato bed.  My lawn is still sparse from bulldozer traffic so what the heck, it’s been months since the last illegal clover shriveled and died over there, so let me just use a mower bag full, what’s the harm…. and then the tomatoes went belly-up.  It scares me to think of that whole yard as still being toxic.

no mow may meadow garden

No-mow May is a month long break from all the chopping and edging and spraying and fertilizing of the lawn growing cult.  I love the way it looks.

Leaf miners are what started all this nervousness about chemicals settling into garden.  Years back I would lose most of my daffodils, snowdrops, snowflakes, amaryllis, and lycoris to narcissus bulb flies… that is used to until I started sprinkling grub killer around the bulbs.  The bulb flies disappeared and that was awesome but then one summer I realized how perfect all the leaves on my columbine (Aquilegia) were.  Perfect leaves on columbine is something I’ve never seen in this garden, they always end up with a bunch of leaf miner tunnels and it’s not perfect but not that big a deal either.  If I feel like it the foliage is trimmed back, and new growth returns quickly, but it was weird to not see them.

Columbine often seeds into areas where I planted daffodils and snowdrops.  The columbine takes up the grub killer and becomes poisonous enough to kill the leaf miners.  Whatever else sprouts there also becomes poisonous.  The leaves decay and the compost becomes poisonous.  Many people say the pollen and nectar of the flowers contains the poison and the bees suffer… and of course people love bees… but think of the crickets and katydids living in the shrubs which also share that soil, suddenly they’re as likely to die as the leaf miners are.

One bag of grub killer would last me for years since I used it so sparingly, but today it’s only columbine in the far reaches of the yard which ever show an occasional leaf miner.  They’re basically extinct in my yard.  Just imagine how a normal person would use a whole bag in a day, across their entire lawn, and from then on every grass blade, perennial plant, shrub, and tree in the yard becomes toxic to insects.  Think of how many neighbors use Lawn Doctors and Tru Greens, and I don’t think they use anything less-toxic than the unlicensed, off the shelf products we gardeners use.  No wonder insect populations are crashing.

no mow may meadow garden

A no-mow May meadow.  Hopefully this is a toxin-free buffet for both myself and the bugs.  I’ll resume regular mowing in August and then keep it up until fall.

I’m probably preaching to the choir here.  I already have some much-smaller, far-less amazing tomato plants to plant in another unmulched bed, and so what if there aren’t any leaf miners.  I just hate to think of everything else we’re losing.

Hope you’re having a great week.  Happy June!

May I say Amazing?

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

may perennial border

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

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

may perennial border

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

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

asphodeline lutea kings spear

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

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

may perennial border

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

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

amsonia hubrichtii

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

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

may perennial border

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

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

picea glauca pendula

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

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

garden pond tadpoles

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

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

garden dry stack stone wall

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

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

garden dry stack stone wall

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

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

outdoor summer succulents

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

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

garden potager

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

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

chives album schoenoprasum ‘Forescate

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

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

weedy garden

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

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

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

Bragging Again

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

growing tulips

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

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

tulip marit

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

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

growing tulips

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

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

growing tulips

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

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

narcissus firebird

An airy little ‘Firebird’.  

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

narcissus tahiti

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

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

narcissus coral light

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

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

narcissus Mrs R O Backhouse

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

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

growing tulips

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

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

tulip not shirley

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

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

growing tulips

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

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

growing tulips

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

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

growing tulips

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

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

growing tulips

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

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

growing tulips

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

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

narcissus bernardino hyperbole

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

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

narcissus red passion rocoza

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

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

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

Spring?

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

garden hellebores

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

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

anemone x lipsiensis

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

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

boxwood hedge

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

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

boxwood hedge

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

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

garden pond

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

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

build stone wall

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

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

double daffodil mertensis bluebell

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

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

daffodil jetfire

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

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

daffodil tweety bird

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

daffodil high society

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

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

Have a great week!

Winter Interesting

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

galanthus godfrey owens ice

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

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

sedum winter ice

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

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

ice cardoon stalk winter

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

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

ice storm midwinter fire

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

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

ice storm southern magnolia

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

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

ice hardy camellia

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

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

ice ARBORVITAE WINTER

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

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

ice blueberry winter

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

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

flowering dogwood winter buds ice

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

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

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