6 Years and a Snow Day

At least it’s so cold there’s no mud.

Construction on the border wall has halted for the winter.  The whole thing has been shaped and smeared with a nice layer of topsoil, and all that’s left to add is a row of spruce along the top.  Dark, gloomy, rooty, overbearing spruce that shall eventually loom over my sunny garden.  As you can see I’m still trying to be optimistic about it all.

the wall

The Wall

We’re home today waiting for the snow to fall and that seems like the perfect time to get in a few pictures and celebrate an anniversary.  For me January is an agonizingly slow gardening month, and apparently that was also the case six years ago when in a moment of boredom I found out just how easy it was to start a free online blog through WordPress.  Six years and six thousand snowdrop pictures later I’m still here and although the heyday for blogs seems to have peaked and waned I’m more than happy to keep going on more than I need to about my somewhat suburban, somewhat middle of nowhere Pennsylvania garden.

magnolia grandiflora

The only bit of winter interest I could find in the bleak and cold garden.  The red twigged ‘Midwinter Fire’ dogwood will be fine in this week’s arctic blast, but all bets are off on the Southern magnolia seedlings.

Over the years this gardener has been slowly learning a thing or two but it’s always an uphill battle.  This winter’s “learning opportunity” was not having enough snowdrops and cyclamen to fill my winter garden.  It was a trifecta of bad decisions and luck which began with me planting out all the potted snowdrops, me not buying any bulk snowdrops for forcing, and me leaving the dormant cyclamen tubers in a spot which took on the brunt of last summer’s endless rainfall.  Then I brilliantly chose to reduce the number of geraniums under lights.  In hindsight it’s all my fault, but fortunately I have some experience coping with that as well 🙂

winter garden

There’s like three cyclamen in bloom when there should be a tray-full.  But at least it’s clean since the seed saving mess is all packed up and off my little man-cave table.

Since the winter garden is kind of a flop this year, my natural response is to go all out and make it even bigger!  The area which hosts my grow area was originally built as a workshop, and I’d been using it for tools and storage and some of the messier projects, but enough of that.

winter garden

The cyclamen pots sometimes freeze on a cold and windy day, but this set of lights is further from the drafty  windows and can hopefully stay above freezing even on the coldest day.  Four geraniums (Pelargoniums) are all I saved from last year…

After these pictures were taken I hauled everything home-improvement and woodshop related out and started moving lights and tables into hopefully “better” spots.  Most is still a complete mess but at the far end of the back room, near the furnace where it always stays warm, I’ve already set up two lights for the coleus and other goodies which need a reliably warm spot.

winter garden

Kind of prison cell-block looking, but the plants don’t seem to mind.  Hopefully in a few weeks things will grow and I can move a few under the second light table (not really visible in the back) and make this area a decent growing spot.

There are still a number of little things I have to deal with in the main (colder) area such as a leaky foundation, burst water pipes, and electrical issues but I’m sure that will just clear up practically on its own and I’ll be planting again in no time.  For now though it’s keeping me off the internet and slowing down my new-plant-buying compulsions that all gardeners face at this time of year.

ebay snowdrops

I did not buy this, and in my book that almost counts as saved money… and if you keep with that logic approx $1,500 US would make for an excellent plant budget!

Maybe in a few weeks there will be something slightly less depressing to look at in the winter garden.  Most years this is a pleasant hideaway to escape the cold and brown that lurks outside but so far the winter of 2019 is still a work in progress.  We’ll see though.  It’s remarkably easy to fill up these light tables and come to think of it there are still a few potted primula outside that I could probably chip out of the ice and drag inside before the snow and cold become too unreasonable.  Hmmmmm.

Stay warm!

Bits and Pieces

There’s a forecast for snow tomorrow, and in this little slice of near-suburbia things are absolutely not ready.  The gardener has been in more of a Netflix mood rather than a slaving out in the elements mood and as a result things are more behind than usual.  ‘No big deal’ he says as he dips his hand in yet another vat of overly buttered popcorn, and that pretty much sums up the last few days… except for the weekend.  It was sunny yet cold, and after weeks of gloom the sun was a nice change.

ranch house landscape

Just a few more days and out with the pumpkins and in with the boughs of holly.  Fyi I’m thinking of moving the arborvitae… any thoughts on that?

In between re-acquainting myself with a rain-free garden and doing all the fall cleanup in just two days I did a little poking around and tried to find a few things of interest in an otherwise dying garden.

Polystichum polyblepharum 'Japanese Tassel Fern'

Evergreen ferns look even nicer set off by the yellowed hosta foliage.  This is the Japanese Tassel fern, Polystichum polyblepharum, and one of my favorites.  Thick brown fur covers the newly emerging fronds, and the plant as a whole is much sturdier than you might think.

There are a few last flowers, but many didn’t hold up well to the relentless rain.  The chrysanthemums are mostly washed out with the exception of a single stray seedling which snuggles up against the porch.  I tolerate its sloppiness all year and then finally reap the rewards in November when its flowers open to signal the end of the season.

late blooming chrysanthemum

My last chrysanthemum.  

Out along the street the front border got a clearing out so that the earliest spring flowers can have an open stage for whenever the first warm spell hits.  Of course that’s code for ‘I planted more snowdrops here’, but snowdrop season comes on fast and I want to be sure I’m prepared for that at least!

leaf mulch perennial bed

The interior of the bed has been cleared out and a Rolls Royce layer of leaf mulch put down.  They’re the shredded Japanese maple leaves from next door, mixed up with a good amount of lawn clippings which should be delicious for the earthworms.  

Although I did do some clearing out, the bulk of my fall cleanup is just removing anything which looks overly messy, and then running the leaves over with the mower and tossing the shreddings into select beds.  Whatever is left I can just refer to as winter interest and eventually get it come springtime.

abelmoschus seed pod

Although it was one of the first plants to go when temperatures dropped, the dead stalks of the abelmoschus still look great with their fuzzy seedpods.

Honestly if I had the opportunity I would want about double the amount of leaves that I collect each fall off the lawns.  Some would go into the compost, but most just gets thrown back as a winter blanket for empty vegetable beds and sleeping perennial plantings.  As it is I still end up volunteering to clean out my Bil’s backyard and then robbing the woods for whatever’s been dumped back there.  It’s sad how I covet my neighbor’s fallen leaves.

Lindera glauca var. salicifolia

An Asian spicebush, Lindera glauca var. salicifolia was named as my friend’s favorite shrub and I’d have to agree.  The seedlings she shared with me are finally coming along and I love the late season glow of their foliage.

It’s not all about dead leaves though.  Snowdrop talk will come up more and more now that the weather is turning cold.  This season I am eagerly awaiting the opening of my new snowdrop walk, and based on all the buzz already surrounding it I’m sure it will be an excellent new springtime adventure.

snowdrop walk

Just in case it’s not obvious the new snowdrop walk enters between the chrysanthemums and carries you across the bed.  Most people will need to crawl if they wish to avoid a cherry branch to the forehead, but you’ll be down low looking at them anyway so why bother with a whole bunch of head-room?

In the meantime, a few hardy cyclamen line the snowdrop walk.  Cyclamen hederifolium is sending up its winter foliage now and the last flowers look even better against the beautifully patterned leaves.

cyclamen hederifolium

It appears I’ve lost a few older cyclamen plants this summer, most likely due to all the rain, but there are still plenty left surviving and multiplying.

With the snowdrop walk all prepped and waiting, it’s time to turn towards the next on again off again project.

quaking aspen bark

The land beyond the fence.  Years back, before the fence went up, I used to mow around a few little quaking aspen sprouts.  They’ve grown since, and are now sporting some attractively bright bark color.  

You may remember that my MiL lives next door, and that a few years back I was able to get a bunch of fill dumped behind her house.  In the years since, I’ve managed to level and plant the half closest to her fence, but the other half still needs grading and moving.  After losing all hope of someone coming and doing the job in a day or two with all the right machinery, I’ve finally decided it will be me who digs and grades and moves all the dirt that remains.  My guess is that the rest of my life will be spent digging back here, but I already have a shovel and the dirt is free, so what have I got to lose?

grading fill

Left side graded and planted to grass, right side still to be done.  While I’m at it someone’s mentioned they’d like a screen of evergreens planted, so why not add that to the list as well….

I’ll be using the dirt to fill in some of the low spots in my own yard.  It’s terrible soil and a ridiculous amount of work but I find I can only watch Netflix for so long before boredom sets in, and I do like earthmoving projects.  S we’ll see how it goes.  Maybe I can just rename this part of the yard ‘the gym’ and spend all the saved money on other more exciting things.  Now what would that be….  snowdrops perhaps?  😉

Annual is Not a Bad Word

Change for the changing seasons always brings an antsy-ness to this gardener, and autumn is one of the big ones.  An avalanche of pumpkin spice covers nearly everything and so many people are just done with the summer garden and all its weather-worn tiredness and spent seediness.  I’m with you.  I keep eyeing the mess and think I might just be better off wacking it all down and calling it a year.  It’s been months since the garden had that clean and controlled look when plants were bristling with anticipation, and I miss that, but still won’t give in just yet.  Obviously laziness plays a part, but others with more enthusiasm might want to hold off as well.  The waning garden has a purpose, and between the full seedheads providing food for birds, and the dried stalks protecting next year’s buds, there’s still something of interest out there.  Frost and snow sit more attractively on waving stalks than on dull mulch, and honestly as far as cleanup goes it’s easier to crunch dried stalks in March than it is to wrestle with sloppy, soggy, heavy messes in October.

But it looks dull.  and messy.  and like you gave up… Unless you planned for it of course, and planted something that carries on until the pumpkin spice gets shoved over by cranberries, and a more relaxed season begins.   For me annuals do the trick.

abelmoschus manihot

Abelmoschus manihot, an okra relative, soaked up the rain and humidity this summer and has never done better.  These first flowers in late August were just the start of the show.

Ok I said it.  I plant annuals.  Yes, they’re more work, but the right annuals can pretty much take care of themselves, and they don’t have to be the same dull mat of color all year that even the bees get bored with.  By their nature these plants just want to grow up and seize the day, filling as much space as possible with growth and flowers until whenever.  They don’t care about next year, just flowering and seeding.

abelmoschus manihot seedpod

The fuzzy okra-like seedpods on the abelmoschatus (aka sunset hibiscus) are cool as well.  Sure beats looking at spotty, diseased iris foliage (which is actually hidden behind the planting).

Late season annuals are my favorites.  Something like the sunset hibiscus (Abelmoschatus manihot) comes up strong in the heat and humidity and quickly becomes a 4-6 foot presence if it gets enough water and warmth.  Just as the perennial garden hits a late summer slump, the sunset hibiscus becomes a star, distracting you from the tired foliage of the June bloomers.  This plant was also one of the stars of the book Annuals for Connoisseurs, by Wayne Winterrrowd… which by the way is a fantastic bargain at under $5 used…

coleus in a border

Coleus, zinnias, salvia and Abelmoschatus in the front border

Ok, enough of me trying to sound intelligent and write coherently in what could be a useful post.  Here are some other annual plantings from around the garden which are distracting me from all the gloomy skies and ever shortening days of really late summer.  Coleus feature strongly.  Nearly all come from a handful of cuttings I stuck in a glass of water and kept on the windowsill all winter.  They look terribly pale and leggy by March but that’s when I pot them up and start growing them on under lights in the basement.  By May I have dozens to fill in around the garden.

annual flower bed

There were even enough leftovers this spring to branch out next door and fill in my neighbor’s mulch bed.  Coleus, cannas, and a nice little single marigold I call “stole a seed head while visiting Kimberley last summer”.

I guess technically a lot of what I’m calling annuals can actually be grown as perennials in warmer climates, so I don’t want to upset anyone who lives and dies by those definitions, but in my garden these plants identify as annuals so I’m going to respect that.

potted caladiums

The dogwood may be giving up and putting on some autumn color, but the potted caladiums are holding on a little longer until nighttime temperatures consistently drop below 60F.  That’s when their sadly limp selves get thrown pot and all into a warm, dry corner of the furnace room and sit there dry and dormant until next year.

A real annual which has come up well this year is Browallia americana.  In well watered spots of bare earth, close to where it grew last year, I keep an eye out for seedlings.  All that’s required is take care and not pull them out as weeds, and by late summer the reward is a 1-2 foot bush speckled with flowers a little bit towards the amethyst side of blue.

browillia americana

Browallia americana with just a few tasteful selected marigolds.

A sort-of annual for me which sometimes returns from the roots is the borderline weedy Datura metel (aka moonflower).  In good fertile soil it makes a large shrub which in the evening sports pure white, upward facing trumpet flowers.  Some people call them angel trumpets, but that’s incorrect.  Angels trumpet come from on high with downward facing blooms and are a different group of flowers (Brugmansia).  These flowers always come from below and Devil’s trumpet is more accurate.  You would think the more heavenly version would be more innocent, but both are extremely poisonous and there are deaths from this plant each year.  I remember my mother evicting them from the garden one summer when she found out.  I know she told us all how poisonous they were but still I was disappointed to lose them from the garden.  I’m surprised she hasn’t questioned my parenting skills since seeing it in bloom here, but I guess there are always plenty of other questionable goings on which take precedence.

datura metel

Devil’s trumpet (Datura metel) announcing an unwelcome arrival in the vegetable garden.

But there I go babbling again.  As long as we’re in the vegetable garden, let me celebrate the pumpkins which have come on strong now that the sunflower thicket has died off from some likely disease.  All this took were a handful of seeds ripped from the heart of last year’s halloween decorations.

pumpkin patch

Now that the sunflowers have died off it looks like the backup plan of pumpkins and glass gem corn might just work out.  I love pumpkins and gourds, maybe that’s all I’ll grow next year.

The deck plantings are almost all just annual plantings which aim for all season interest.  A drip irrigation system on a timer, a handful of slow release fertilizer, and this becomes one of my least-labor intensive parts of the garden… once it’s planted and set up of course…

prince tut papyrus

The ‘Prince Tut’ water garden is ok.  Goldfish have hopefully made a meal of any mosquitos, but a lack of fertilizer has left the papyrus healthy but a little yellowish in my opinion.

I tried for more foliage color this year but still ended up with a few curious flowers here and there.  The firecracker plant (cuphea) was a Proven Winners thing that I’ve heard good things about, and here it is three months later still looking good.

cuphea firecracker plant

Cuphea (firecracker plant) and some purple leaved oxalis.  Both have been nonstop color and trouble-free from the day they were planted.  

My popcorn plant (Senna… Cassia…  corymbosa)?  Still awesome 🙂  I was even able to get a few seeds to set, although it did seem to interfere with the flowering for a few weeks.

cassia popcorn plant

The yellow popcorn plant, coleus, purple fountain grass (pennesutum), oleander, and a bunch of other non-hardy stuff.

I’ve had that pink oleander for a few years now and was sure I killed it in the garage last winter.  It eventually managed to come back, but the sparse branches were just calling out for a vine to cover them up.  Black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia alata) to the rescue!

black eyed susan vine thunbergia

Black eyed Susan vine on the oleander.  I would agree with the label “cringe-worthy color combo”, so don’t go thinking I have some undiagnosed color blindness that you need to tiptoe around…

The containers at the back end of the deck have officially taken over.  The yellow coleus is my one new one for this year, the rest of the mess were just little overwintered sprigs and roots which I put out in May.

deck plantings coleus

The coleus really should have been pinched back a few more times.  They’re bushy enough, but even I can see they’re just a little too big.

Oh yeah.  The tropical garden.  Almost all just annual plantings, and almost all only just a little past peak now 🙂

elephant ears and canna

I didn’t think elephant ears could reach six feet tall but between nonstop rain and a good mulch of grass clippings they and the cannas do seem happy.  

So thankfully the garden is still filled with a few exciting things other than the new snowdrops I’ve been planting… oops, there I go mentioning snowdrops again…

Hope your weekend is filled with plenty of more interesting things to do rather than hauling off the tired remains of last summer.  If it is, next summer suck it up, plant some decent annuals, and enjoy the slow crumbling of summer into winter which others fondly refer to as autumn.  “Friends don’t let friends plant annuals” is only a guideline, I’m sure it refers to flats of wax begonias in one or two insipid colors and not to the range of much more exciting late season things that you have to remember next year.  I’ll try to remind you  😉

General Seediness

The humidity and heat are gone, only to be replaced by on again off again sunshine alongside a repeating dose of rain.  Yay.  I won’t even try and convince myself summer is holding on.  The calendar says fall and I guess the garden is saying it as well this year.

weedy vegetable garden

The potager is now an overgrown seedy mess of lingering flowers and floppy overgrowth.

We had company for a week and then I had the pleasure of entertaining a head cold for the following weekend, so if the general decay of the season wasn’t enough then the two weeks of neglect probably did the trick.  A few things did happen though, so I guess any attempt by the gardener to keep his head above water is a plus.

amaranthus hopi dye

The hedge was trimmed.  As usual I love it, and of course it’s inspired me to edge and mulch as well.

Before I get too rushed in putting this post out, I suppose some mention of this years budget ambitions should be noted.  Weeding was becoming torture so a few bags of mulch were purchased.  I find mulching to be slightly addicting so the first load was followed by another, and then another.  All said approximately $44 dollars of very cheap and questionably dyed hardwood mulch was purchased, and to be honest I feel really good about my broken resolve.

mulched snowdrop bed

A weeded, edged and mulched snowdrop bed.  Grass clippings cover the interior, purchased mulch rings the edge.  The left side is still a work in progress…

While mulching I came across a few colchicum corms and remembered offering extras to some friends last fall.  As it is with these things a quick online search for proper names and spellings led me to distraction and also to a few coveted colchicums which I’d been hoping to get elsewhere.  For just $63 and a mouse click I didn’t have to worry about elsewhere anymore.

colchicum nancy lindsay

A good example of general neglect.  Colchicum ‘Nancy Lindsay’ bravely flowering over a carpet of weedy sedum and other sprouting nasties.

While I’m baring my plant buying soul (with the exception of snowdrop purchases of course) I might as well admit that general colchicum excitement led me to a second purchase, this time  from Daffodils and More.  I have sworn off new daffodils this fall, but obviously the “More” part was a problem, and in this case it amounted to $65 more.

limelight hydrangea fall color

Nice pink highlights on ‘Limelight’ hydrangea this fall.  They may be floppy from all the rain, but at least they’re not heat blasted and brown.

I haven’t been entirely innocent in the plant department either.  Most of the summer passed far too quickly to spend time at the nursery, but my foggy memory does recall going over on a gift certificate (the amount of which does NOT count) by about $38 and then returning a few days later to spend another $18.  Those plants may or may not have all been planted, but I have to say it would be stupid to buy them and HAVE to have them and then let them sit next to the garage for weeks unplanted.

mammoth mum seedlings

Each fall I’m fascinated by the variety of mum seedlings which have arisen from the double red ‘Mammoth’ mum towards the back.  Each spring I forget about mums and never get around to separating these out.

If I do admit to neglecting full price purchases on the driveway for weeks, I probably shouldn’t suggest that I went back for a 40% off sale and spent another $49.  Just in case that happened though I’m going to add it to this year’s tally and not mention that more pots have joined the driveway crew.

tropical border in fall

The overflowing tropical border.  The Seven Sons Tree (Heptacodium) is in full bloom and has put on quite some height over the last few years.

Speaking of pots I bought a nice ceramic one on clearance for $15.  Like everything else I didn’t need it but maybe I will, so better to just bring it home.

migrating monarchs

The Monarchs have surprised me with an early appearance.  They’re enjoying the flowers of the Seven Sons Tree, you can almost make out the namesake flower buds which have a number one son bud surrounded by six more sons.

That might be it on budget confessions.  Over the last few weeks I’ve probably forgotten a few receipts here and there, but in my opinion a quickly fading memory is one of the greatest benefits of the aging process.  Perhaps in hindsight writing it all down wan’t the best thought out of plans.  Better to throw in a distraction such as one of my fantastically edited cinematic masterpieces which I call “All the Monarchs which swarmed the Heptacodium last week”.

I loved watching all the Monarchs.  My parents were in and marveled at all the bugs and butterflies which they just don’t see any more in their more suburban lot.  I hope it’s just a one season anomaly for them, but when you hear the stories of disappearing bees and bugs, and vanishing bird populations, and crashing amphibian numbers, you can really worry.  As the afternoon rolled into an amazing sunset, we watched the lingering insects wander off and several bats move in to swoop and ambush the careless, while all the nighttime crickets and katydids started to ratchet up their chorus.  It wasn’t bad at all.

sunset in PA

September sunset on the deck.

The Monarchs have been just like the weather.  They swarmed the yard and then disappeared.  A few came back.  More came back.  They disappeared.  Today there are dozens again and the temperatures and humidity make it feel like we’re in the South again.  Who knows?  At least it keeps me off the streets 😉

$63 for a questionable colchicum purchase
$65 for a quality colchicum purchase
$38 for additional unnecessary plants
$18 for two more unnecessary plants
$49 for clearance plants which also unnecessary, yet irresistible
$15 for a ceramic pot which made the trip to the box store worth it

$992 total so far for the 2018 gardening year.

It’s Never Too Late Until It’s Too Late

Last fall a friend mentioned wanting a few colchicums.  Normally I forget these things in the flurry of summer, but during a moment of sitting around laziness I asked if they still wanted to give them a try.  ‘Yes’ was the response, so with my word on the line I put down the drink and picked up the garden fork.

colchicum bulb

Colchicum corms.  These Colchicum byzantinum are some of the biggest I’ve seen, but word is they do that.  

Now is when you want to think about things like colchicums.  They’ll be flowering in another month and by the time you run them down and get them to your doorstep you’ll be cutting it close if you don’t get moving now.  More punctual gardeners have already done this last month, but I’m here to say you can still get it done.  I might have just gotten it done.  Maybe last week I ordered more even though I should have enough, I guess the next budget confession will tell…

colchicum bornmuelleri

Colchicum bornmuelleri flowering last September

I’ve posted on colchicums before and you’re more than welcome to look back on last September or do a search, but if you’re really serious give Cold Climate Gardening a visit.  Kathy Purdy is practically the Queen of Colchicums and her blog is an excellent resource for getting to know more about them.

In the meantime though, I suggest you think about snowdrops for a minute.  Last Wednesday Edgewood Gardens of Exton Pa sent out their bulb list, and since I of course already secured my order by Wednesday night, I thought now might be the time to generously offer others the chance as well.  To do so email Dr. John Lonsdale at info@edgewoodgardens.net for the list.  Even if you don’t buy, it’s still fun to see drops which have recently gone well over $1,500 a piece on Ebay offered for their first US sale… for a much lower price thank goodness.

garden snowdrops

I saw ‘Bill Bishop’ offered.  Here it is at center showing off its big fat flowers.

Just for the record, even though snowdrop purchases are exempt from budget reporting I did not try to order any of the $300 snowdrops.  I had a moment of fantasy while thinking about it, and they likely sold out during that moment, but until the kids stop requiring billions of dollars for back to school items I don’t think I’ll take that leap.

Have a great weekend regardless of where your budget takes you 🙂

Before

It appears a little catching up needs to be done.  A gardener’s life is always hectic in the spring but for a while I was doing just fine keeping up.  Not to brag but this spring was exceptionally well under-control, with weeding and seeding and cutting and moving all happening close to when they should… something that has never happened in years prior here at the sorta ‘burb.  I was even halfway close to getting all the new purchases into the ground within days of buying them, rather than nearly killing them two or three times before planting.  Let me tell you it’s amazing what a difference that makes!  But then the blahs hit.  Relentless mowing and trimming and spider mites and weeds and the whole ‘what’s the point’ thought process set in as June turned into July and the temperature and humidity tag teamed each other to new heights.  When you reach the end of your ‘around the garden weeding tour’ only to find yourself at the start of the next ‘around the yard weeding tour’ it can get a little discouraging, and to be honest that’s where I left off.  Most of the new plants and annuals were in the ground, the automatic drip lines to the container plantings were working, all the insects were well fed… so off to the pool, a weekend at Omi and Opa’s, some porch sitting, and then a week off to Disney to realize how good I had it all along.  Miles of trudging through 100F+ heat indices and then waiting on lines for every foreseeable human need can change a person, and I have returned renewed.  Here are a few late June/ early July highlights to begin my return to gardening. 😉

clematis ville de lyons

Clematis suffer here in poor locations with shoddy supports.  I finally moved ‘Ville de Lyons’ to a decent spot and she’s rewarded me with a wonderful show of flowers.  Now I just need to move a nice blue to the other side!

This post may seem entirely random because it is.  I don’t bother taking pictures when I’m disgusted with the garden so all the last few weeks can offer are a few furtive scurries outside when I felt like I had to get a few pictures onto the camera even though I knew there wasn’t much worth documenting.

common milkweed

Common milkweed right next to the front door.  Of course it’s the absolute wrong place for a weed so  I trimmed it down to two feet the day after it was flattened by a storm… only to see my first Monarch butterfly 24 hours later.

Speaking of documenting, I do have to tally up another $33 for two amazingly grown, full of buds, Japanese iris which I bought for myself as a Father’s Day gift.  I know I shouldn’t count them since they were a gift, but being that I was surprised with an actual gift certificate the next day I guess I shouldn’t push my luck so onto the 2018 tally they go.

iris lion king

Iris ensata ‘Lion King’ is a lot of everything.  Maybe this is my own personal point of ‘too much’ because I prefer the simpler purple one I bought the same day, but I guess we’ll see next year… assuming I can keep it alive 🙂

Add on a random tornado that touched down about seven miles down the interstate.  That’s the second one in about two years, kind of bizarre considering no one remembers ever having tornados here before.

tornado damage

Fortunately the tornado hit a purely commercial area, later in the evening after things had closed down.  Timing was everything.

Then the heat and humidity descended.  Heat for us means upper nineties so if the Southerners can excuse a little whining I just want to say it felt really hot.  Not hot enough to scorch the lawn yet (and spare me from all the mind numbing mowing) but it was hot enough to wake up every bug and blight and get them energized and inspired enough to take on the plant world.

june front border

Apparently thick haze wasn’t enough to mellow out the harsh light of mid-day, but here’s the front border just waking up from it’s June lull.  Some color, but still mostly green.

The big grasses are one of the plants which seem to thrive on heat and dry spells.

ornamental grasses

Along the street the variegated giant reed grass is looking awesome again and the pink fountain grass (Pennisetum ‘Karley Rose’) is flowering up a storm.  Last year all the rain had the fountain grass too lush and green and completely floppy.

One plant which did not appreciate the humidity were the hollyhocks (Alcea rugosa).  As the flowers began to open up from the bottom of the seven foot stalks, the orange spots of rust followed behind, creeping from leaf to leaf.  Just for the record I don’t remember rust on hollyhocks being such a plague years ago when my mother grew these.  It wouldn’t surprise me to find that this is some new strain which came into the country somewhere along the line, and has ended any hopes of fungicide-free hollyhock growing on the East Coast.

hollyhock rust

The orange spots of hollyhock rust working their way up from the base of the plant.  This will not end well.

A garden which actually enjoys some heat and humidity is the tropical bed.  The cannas have yet to take off but given a little water and fertilizer I know they will (and I’m even more confident about that since this photo dates back to the end of June).

june tropical garden

The red of ‘Black Forest’ rose continues to heat up the tropical border, but a few other things are filling in.  Verbena bonariensis and the first dahlias are just a few weeks away.

I would guess there are plenty of hot and dry spots in South Africa, so it doesn’t surprise me that the prickly daisy flowers of Berkheya purpurea look fresh and happy opening up in the heat.  I haven’t quite figured out yet why I like thistly plants, but this prickly, perennial mess is one of my favorites!

Berkheya purpurea

Berkheya purpurea looing as good as it gets in the rock garden.

Another mess which absolutely thrills me is the meadow garden.  In early July the grass is just beginning to dry off, and the golden rudbeckia and orange butterfly weed fill it up with color -even if golden rudbeckia are one of my least favorite colors.

meadow garden

The meadow garden with a smattering of aspen saplings which have been allowed to sprout up.  Of course they’ll end up casting too much shade, but right now I love the rocky mountain meadow look.

I leave you with one last bit of randomness.  I’ve been nursing a ‘Chuck Hayes’ gardenia along since picking it up at the nursery late last summer.  I tried the same thing the year before but of course killed it just as it was about to bloom, but second time must be the charm.  With the new plant I carefully did nothing other than take it into the garage to escape the worst of the winter, and then water just enough to keep it alive.  No silly fertilizing, or repotting, or anything else that would mess with the healthy plant that I had, all I did was wait patiently as it set buds and then finally decided to open up a few which had been forming all spring.  On the first day of the most brutal, heavy, enveloping humidity ‘Chuck Hayes’ opened a bloom and filled the air with his Southern perfume, and it was just like I hoped it would be.

gardenia chuck hayes

Gardenia ‘Chuck Hayes’ in bloom.  Another catch it while it’s still alive moment in the garden.

And then the blahs hit.  It’s really not as bad as it sounds since I’ve already seen the other side, but to make a long story short, the garden survives.

$33 worth of gifts to myself

$738 total so far for the 2018 gardening year.

Wordless Wednesday: July Approaches

delphinium

Along the front porch the delphinium patch has so far avoided the usual violent summer storms. 

delphinium flower

Close ups show a bicolor effect which I never notice from further away.

rose black forest

Never sprayed and a little ragged, Rose ‘Black Forest’ is still unstoppable in the tropical garden.

lilium regale

Regal Lilies (Lilium Regale) perfume the ‘potager’

alcea holyhock

Hollyhocks in the front border.  It’s been at least 30 years since I last grew these (even though I still hesitate to admit I’m no longer 30).

Berkheya purpurea

Berkheya purpurea in the rock garden… which still lacks rocks…