A First Day of Autumn Tour

Who says you can’t change your ways?  I know a guy who’s been passionately anti-autumn for decades, and has actually been know to get hostile and crabby, short-tempered and moody as the day length shortens and a cool crispness taints the summertime air.  That person is changing.  He might even have said “Fall isn’t all that bad”, and smiled at a dewy morning lawn and a river valley full of mist as he sat on the back deck and had already sipped through at least half his morning coffee.  Prior to the coffee he was still kind of luke-warm about the change in season, but at least he was out there enjoying it rather than mumbling about the frigid ten day forecast.

fall fruit on dogwood

Ripe berries and a touch of autumn colors on the dogwood

“Maybe it will kill some of the mosquitoes” was the delusional hope

autumn perennial border

The front border is looking exceptionally neat and well-groomed

No, the mosquitoes aren’t going anywhere, but fortunately they weren’t completely rabid the weekend before last when the local garden club, the Backmountain Bloomers, paid a visit to the Sorta Suburbia gardens.

autumn perennial border

‘Bengal Tiger’ cannas with the yellow daisies of Heterotheca villosa ‘Ruth Baumgardner’.  I like this plant more and more every year.

I was absolutely thrilled that the club came by, and even more thrilled that a few more showed up than I had expected.  A muggy, buggy, September afternoon isn’t exactly prime garden visiting season so even a group of four felt-bad-for-you-so-we-came visitors would have been something special.  There were more visitors than that, so I hope I didn’t come across as too desperately excited 🙂 (I don’t often get visitors you know)

hyacinth bean pods

Purple hyacinth bean (Dolichos lablab) seedpods in the front border.  I threw a few seedlings in amongst the fennel forest, and I think they looked nice enough.

So that was the big excitement.  It was a nice balance to the insane cursing and swatting I experience every other day as I try to beat back the bugs and not catch West Nile while everyone else is getting Covid.  That would be just about right, I’m never any good at following the trends.

disraeli cilicium colchicum

Colchicum cilicicum and some Colchicum ‘Disraeli’ coming up nicely through a few floppy chrysanthemums

With all that said, the garden does look nice.  There’s been enough (actually way more than enough) rain and I really gave the garden a once over of weeding and trimming.  Plus now there are more fall-bloomers than ever, and it’s really given me something to look forward to as everything else crumbles and dies prior to winter’s kiss of death… -ok i said I didn’t hate fall as much as I used to, I never went as far as to say I actually liked it-

colchicum autumn herald

Colchicum ‘Autumn Herald’ coming up through the creeping thyme.

Colchicums are a big part of what’s become good about fall.  The earliest ones help distract me from the earlier and earlier sunsets, and then I have the mid and late season ones to look forward to.  Right now the Mid season ones are just hitting their stride.

colchicum glory of heemstede

Colchicum ‘Glory of Heemstede’ according to my label… love the darker color and checkering!

Let me just share a couple pictures and talk less 😉

colchicum Jochem hof

Colchicum ‘Jochem Hof’ is the name I have for this one.  For some reason colchicum names and IDs are notoriously muddled, and even a good source may give you a misnamed bulb.

colchicum faberge silver

‘Faberge Silver’ is a newer variety with a nice blend of white and pink

colchicum nancy lindsay

‘Nancy Lindsay’ is a favorite and also a great grower here.  I have a few bigger patches of it and still feel like I could use more 🙂

colchicum world's champion cup

‘World’s Champion Cup’ has large goblets of bloom, often with a white highlight.

Colchicums aside (for just a minute), the backyard was also looking decent in its late summer colors.

autumn perennial border

The edge of the tropical bed always looks good with a few cannas, but for the most part it’s been neglected this year.  What a shame considering how lush it could have been with all the rain (as demonstrated by the lush green of the lawn)

The potager was also looking nice, even if it was mostly out of control.  Ten foot tall Kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate (Persicaria orientalis) has a way of demanding attention, and although no one asked for seeds, I guess in MY garden they liked it.

autumn potager garden

The pergola has almost disappeared under the vines and overgrowth of September

I of course liked showing off the castor beans and complaining about my dumpy seed-grown dahlias.  The black eyed susan vine was also something to be admired, but maybe my visitors know there are cooler colors out there, so plain old orange wasn’t so impressive.

autumn potager garden

My hiding spot in the now mosquito-infested potager.  Hopefully with long sleeve weather approaching I can safely hang out here again without losing a pint of blood.

Thankfully no one asked the awkward question of why there weren’t more vegetables.

japanese morning glory

The Japanese morning glory Ipomea nil ‘Fuji no Murasaki’ has reseeded mildly enough that it doesn’t scare me like regular morning glories.  Let’s hope it stays that way.

One last part of the garden which I was proud to show off was the nearly completed sand path which now runs around the back side of the house.  I think my visitors might have appreciated it more if it weren’t so overgrown, but if they only knew what a muddy mess this path was just three weeks ago I think they would have been more appreciative of this solid and dry passage.

sand garden path

The finished path.  There’s still plans afoot for this end so we will see…

My friend Lisa asked about the sand, and in the nicest way I think she was trying to figure out what if any thought process there was behind this decision.  Sand is nice at the beach, but anyone who has slogged a couple hundred feet through it knows there might be better path options out there, so let me point out this is the crushed sand usually used as a paver base, and it actually packs down fairly well as a path.  When I went to check out the ‘crusher run’ which is a rougher mix often used for paths, I saw this and thought it might be worth a try.  So far so good I think.  It has a nice clean look and is mostly crushed Pennsylvania bluestone so I like the mellow color as well.

sand garden path

Recycled retaining wall blocks on the right, recycled composite decking as an edging on the left.

Even with a bit of a slope there were no washouts after our six inches in two days rain event.

sand garden path

You can see some of the slope here.  The grass looks crappier than usual because I had to raise the lawn about four inches to meet the edge.  I’ve been filling in this part of the yard for years to bring it up.

Actually there was more erosion in the caladium sand bed than there was in the sloped walkway.  I suspect there was just an extreme amount of runoff from the concrete, so hopefully that’s a one time deal.

caladium in containers

It’s still ‘Year of the Caladium’ along this side of the house 

Here’s yet another gratuitous caladium picture.  They haven’t liked the cold spell we had, and then all the rain didn’t help, but they’re still awesome 🙂

caladium in containers

Mixed caladiums in need of a winter home.

Cooler weather had me thinking about what to do with the caladiums and also where to go with all the other pots which have accumulated around the garden.  I started to hear an echo in my head of ‘Oh, that just goes into the garage over winter’ because I think I said it dozens of times as an answer to wintering over questions.  It started to make me wonder…

deck planter mandevilla

‘Alice DuPont’ still looks great.  In general most of the deck still looks decent, and I really don’t need fall to come by.

So will it really all fit into the garage?  A quick count of pots quickly went over 100, and that wasn’t even counting anything under six inches or anything on the deck.  That’s a lot of overwintering, and that’s almost even stressful, and when I deal with stress I take cuttings.  So on Sunday I added another two flats full of little potted cuttings to bring in.  Maybe they won’t all make it.  Maybe I’ll find some kind of other space… doubtful… but with a suspicious box on the porch this afternoon and vague memories of bulb orders, I think a few pots of caladium tubers are the least of my worries.

Have a great week 😉

2021: Year of the Caladium

Maybe you missed it but I’m a little obsessed with some new caladiums this year.  They’re nothing particularly exotic, and I’m sure they would rather grow another zone or two south, but since the day they arrived in late April I’ve been gloating over all the tubers, looming over the planted pots, endlessly inspecting the first sprouts, anticipating every new leaf, and then agonizing over what to pot up together, what to pot up separately, how much sun is too much, how bad a chilly spell will be for them, how much they’ll grow during every stretch of hot weather… I’ve grown them before, but for some reason they are consuming me this year.  Who knows what happened.  I’m usually so rational with my plant decisions that this has really caught me off guard.  **90 second pause as I wait for lightning to strike me down**

growing caladiums

A few caladiums as well as other pots which are now off the driveway and moved into a new holding area.  This looks far more intentional than having all kinds of stray pots filling up the driveway waiting for homes.

So that went well.  It appears I will not be struck down for telling a little fib about frequent plant addictions, so let me just go ahead and tell a little story.  Back in late January I stumbled upon a caladium grower who sells mixed tubers by the pound.  Don’t ask why I was looking up caladium growers in January, but I was intrigued by the idea of ordering five pounds of caladiums with shipping for under $50 so I clicked yes.  They arrived in late April and I was thrilled.

caladium red flash

I believe this is ‘Red Flash’ a larger, good growing caladium which seems fine in full sun.

I waited until late May to pot them up.  Since they were mixed and I just couldn’t handle pots full of random colors all together, I potted each tuber up separately.  Five pounds came out to 78 pots in case you’re wondering, and once potted they were all lined out on the driveway to soak up the spring warmth with just a tiny bit of water to get them started.  And then the wait began.  A sprout here, one there, slowly they began to grow (really slowly it seemed) and every new leaf was an exciting surprise to see if it was something even more special than the last.  The rows of pots were starting to look like something.

growing caladiums

Ouch.  Halfway through setting the retaining wall blocks to hold the new bed I realized my level blocks did not match the sloping sidewalk and I’m absolutely annoyed with the way it looks.  Maybe some day I’ll redo it… maybe…

As different forms showed themselves they were grouped and potted up into whatever black plastic I could scrounge up.   For years I have been saving and storing every leftover pot from my own yard and the neighbors and now my moment to shine had finally arrived.  Ten of one size, fifteen of another, no problem!  I was feeling pretty rich even though absolutely no one appreciated my inspired foresight.  Someone (a pretty narrow-minded someone if I’m being honest) even said ‘Dad, you still have like a thousand more pots, do you really need them all?’ but of course genius is often misunderstood in its time, so I politely ignored the comment.

growing caladiums

Caladium ‘Pink Cloud?’ on the left with probably ‘Aaron’ as the white behind.

All the pots looked excellent on the driveway, but others suggested we use the driveway for cars so the caladium pots needed to move into their positions.  After putting four pots in place I came to the conclusion that there was nowhere else for the other 30 or 40 pots.  In January it was easy to say all the hostas and hellebores in the bed alongside the garage would be transplanted elsewhere, but in June when only one hellebore was gone it’s a different story.  Fortunately there was still grass on the other side of the walk.  It was a no-brainer to rip out the grass, throw in a few retaining wall blocks that the neighbor didn’t want, and then use sand from a recent sand delivery to level off a new bed.  Even though the new bed looks suspiciously like a big holding area for plants I didn’t really need in the first place, I like to think of it as the new sand terrace.  Of course I emphasize the second syllable of terrace to make it sound even fancier and French, and that of course is only natural in a garden which already boasts a potager.

caladium miss muffet

Caladium ‘Miss Muffet’ is amazing.  I wish it liked me more, but I suspect it would prefer a garden with more consistently warm weather and possibly a little more shade.

Having so many pots sounds silly, but genius foresight also ordered 100 drip emitters and some extra water tubing in May and now each pot is getting watered twice a day without the gardener lifting a finger (as if he even needed another excuse to be lazy) and the only real flaw in his plan is the nearly full sun exposure of the new bed and the part shade requirement for many of the caladiums…

growing caladiums

Maybe ‘Carolyn Whorton?’  An excellent grower here but also one who’s centers burn out in direct sun.

So for the last two weeks I’ve been shuffling sunburned caladiums into darker corners and moving up anything else which seems to tolerate more light.  It’s slightly concerning to see how many other plants have appeared out of nowhere to join the caladiums, but for some reason this year the gardener has been enjoying potting up things like clematis seedlings and ornamental peppers, and when this happens the few seed pots sown in March can rapidly become way more plants than anyone needs.

growing caladiums

One of the agonies of planting mixed caladiums is the possibility of a mixed pot.  Some might say that’s the whole point behind mixed tubers, but I thought I could get around it and this pot would be two of the same… but now as they grow on, the plant on the right has pink centers which burn, but the plant on the left seems more tolerant.  Are they different cultivars?  Will I ever know?

We will just ignore the ‘too many plants’ possibility and not think about all the extra pots this little project has generated.  Obviously I need to try and overwinter them all.  What a fiasco that will be, just imagine how much the gardener is going to complain about lugging all these in!

growing caladiums

I’ve just about given up on most IDs.  I wish they were like snowdrops or some other easy to identify plant, rather than something where earlier leaves are different than later leaves, sun and heat change the look, mature plants show more color…

Since I was running new drip lines I just went ahead and added in all the amaryllis (Hippeastrum) pots, as well as a bunch of other stuff.  It’s officially become a shady tropical garden and I quite like it as it wraps completely around the side and back of the garage.

potted shade garden

More goodies.  Actually only three pots of caladiums are new, the rest are all plants overwintered from last year… so I don’t want anyone thinking I’m still out there spending stimulus checks on new plants!

Not to keep going with bad ideas, but the amaryllis are finally getting some of the attention they’ve been missing for the last few years.  My fingers are crossed for many blooms this winter, but as of this minute I have no plans to add more, so at least that’s a plus 🙂

growing caladiums

Yeah I have no idea which caladiums these are.  To be honest the amaryllis were all misslabeled as well, so this really doesn’t do much for my need to organize.

So now for the other side of the story.  I didn’t just ‘happen to have’ a couple tons of sand and a pile of retaining wall blocks laying around, they were actually supposed to go towards a different idea.  I wanted to dig up the muddy lawn and replace it with a level sand path which is far less muddy and much more fun for kneeling on while admiring snowdrops.  Once the caladiums were situated the walk finally started… and of course didn’t get far since half the sand had already gone to a new bed and for topping off other areas which were short on sand (doesn’t everyone have endless sand needs?)

cardinal flower

I never realized how slanted the lawn was here until I actually took a level to it.  Good riddance!

Hopefully the path will work out.  It’s got a slight incline to it and hopefully that won’t be enough to wash out the sand with each rain, but if worse comes to worse I have ideas on that as well.  For now I have to tackle the curve of the path, and the fact that there are plants here as well which didn’t get moved in the spring.

shade garden path

More path building and slope filling.

Since we ended up in this side of the yard, we might as well take a look around.  Not much since this is such an ugly corner of the yard, but who can resist the latest Lycoris joke?  Not even twelve hours after posting that it didn’t look good for any more Lycoris flowers this summer, Lycoris chinensis (yellow surprise lily) surprised me with a flower stalk.  From nothing to full bloom in just a few days I think it’s pretty cool.  I’m so pleased I won’t even be petty and complain that there were two flower talks last year.  Nope, not at all.  Just enjoy it for what it is.

lycoris chinensis

Lycoris chinensis.  All is forgiven, I love these things!

You can look across the yard from here and see the potager.  If I remember correctly (it’s been a while), on a day when the sun actually comes out you can sit here in the shade of the maples and take a break before heading out into the heat and humidity of the full sun areas.  That’s a nice thing plus it’s kind of hidden back here.  The dog can usually find me soon enough, but you have to be foolish enough to answer before the kids figure out where you are.

garden view

The view across the garden.  That’s one of the industrial park buildings up on top of the slope.  The trees still have a ways to go.

And that’s where we are at.  More sand is scheduled to arrive tomorrow (assuming this past week of torrential rains hasn’t washed it all away) and the path should progress a little further.  It doesn’t look like much but shoveling and wheel-barrowing and tamping and leveling and measuring are all the little tedious tasks which take me forever.  I’m sure someone more motivated would finish in two or three days, but well…

sand path

For a while I doubted myself on the path idea, but now it’s growing on me.  The fam is still on the fence, but once it’s done I think they’ll give it their seal of approval as well.

So I’ve got caladiums and sand.  Life is good.  Other people measure their success by different measures but right now I’m feeling pretty rich.  I even found another clearance caladium tonight while cinderblock shopping and a $2 caladium always makes the hard labor better.

Hope you have a great week!

A Morning Stroll

We had a decent morning last weekend and I was sore enough from digging a new bed and moving sand (don’t ask, I know I have plenty of beds) that I didn’t feel like doing anything more strenuous than taking a few pictures.  Actually I did attempt to figure out a few camera settings, but it was a complete disaster so back to ‘automatic’ it went, and gosh what a relief to again embrace the idiot settings.

front perennial border

Agastache ‘Tutti Frutti’ is probably what this lilac-purple agastache is, but I never expect them to live long enough to really be concerned about the name.  I love that it has a nice height to it.

So other than an ego-crushing moment with the camera and a secret garden project that I’m still a little embarrassed to talk about, there’s really not much for me to ramble on about.  Better to just ramble through the garden on a beautiful morning and share only the nicer parts 😉

front perennial border

Because of someone’s yellow foliage addiction, there’s way too much limey-yellow in the front border.  Rather than stress over the addiction I’m just going to wait until rock-bottom hits and then see where the shovel is.  

front perennial border

Of course a year without showing agapanthus ‘Blue Yonder’ is a lot to ask, so here it is.  Next year I will have to learn about transplanting agapanthus since the encroaching spruce is much less mobile.  Maybe I’ll even learn about dividing an agapanthus…

self seeded sunflowers

For some reason I had little interest in planting up the tropical garden this spring, so grass, yellow pokeweed, and self-sown sunflowers have been allowed to erupt into an eight foot mountain of lushness.  I’m fine with that.  I think the whole bed will be going to perennials over the next few years, but you never know.

Helianthus decapetalus 'Capenoch Star'

A perennial sunflower?  Yes, I think it’s Helianthus decapetalus ‘Capenoch Star’ which has been moping along here for the past ten years.  Why it decided to look great this year is unknown, but it’s really taken its time!

Biscuit the yorkie

Biscuit the yorkie accompanies me on all morning walks.  The rabbits don’t seem 100% panicked, but they do run off at a somewhat concerned pace when this little beast comes barreling across the yard.   

pond frog

Biscuit has absolutely no interest in our pond frog but the frog seems even less concerned than the rabbits.

deck plantings

From the lawn you can see the deck plantings have filled in.  I notice quite some yellow foliage again, but the pink mandevilla vine is what really stands out.

potager garden

Towards the back of the yard the potager is looking neat, and from a distance the chaos inside isn’t as obvious.  

dahlia from seed

One major disappointment in the potager this year are the ‘Bishop’s Children’ dahlias which were started from seed this March.  I would demand a paternity test, because unless there’s a dumpy housemaid involved, these dahlias should be taller, single, darker foliaged and hotter colors than they are.  I’ve been wanting to grow these for years… I finally ordered the seed…  

potager garden

Some of the potager is respectably planted with vegetables.  There are beans weakly climbing their poles, borer infested squash, bolting parsley, and undernourished tomatoes, all providing a good cover for a gardener trying to appear serious about tending the earth for the nourishment of his family.

cabbage cut back

One success has been the cabbage harvest.  The harvested stumps of last year’s plants re-sprouted this spring and out of curiosity I let them grow.  The sprouts were thinned to a single plant and to my surprise all of them are making perfect cabbages.  Here the center cabbage has already been harvested and the new plan is to thin the latest sprouts and hope for a third harvest.  

castor bean carmencita

Castor beans are quite toxic and not good potager plants, but here’s ‘Carmencita’ flowering and looking awesome anyway.

meadow garden

Behind the potager is quite possibly my favorite spot in the yard, the meadow garden.  This year Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota) is defying my no QAL policy and making a nice forest of white lace above the golden rudbeckia and birds foot trefoil.  I think I will pull them soon.  That’s a lot of seed.   

meadow garden

I don’t know why I’m bothering you with a view of the berm other than it’s weed whacked… except for some weedy asters which I like… and now sports an odd ledge which I felt the need to carve into the berm.  fyi it’s just the right width for a boy and his dog as they walk the perimeter of the estate.  

lycoris squamigera

The first magic lilies (Lycoris squamigera) are opening.  They are a funny group of plants and I’m really getting a good chuckle over how I thought they would grow well here and now they’re not.  Hahaha, good one.  I could fill another whole blog post with all the pictures of the other ones which aren’t flowering this year, including the new ones which I had faint hopes for flowers, but nah…     

lobelia cardinal flower

Maybe the Lycoris were talking to the cardinal flowers (Lobelia cardinalis) and realized they’d have quite some trouble competing with this show.  They’re awesome this year 🙂  **hint** just put in a new path and they’ll sprout throughout the joints, rather than bother growing in the amended soil where they’re planted…  

And that brings us around to the far side of the house, leading to the front again.  For those remotely interested, this side of the house is where the new bed is located, and the new bed has something to do with not having enough room for caladiums, even though that side of the house is really too sunny for caladiums.  Don’t bother trying to make sense out of it, it just doesn’t, but I’m quite happy and don’t even care if I’ve gone too far again.

Hope you’re having a great week and staying safe from whatever plagues your neighborhood this week.  Covid variants… smoke… wildfire… heat… upcoming hurricane seasons… it’s all so 2020 and I for one have just about had enough of it!

Catching Up On July

Guess who fell off the wagon last month?

This guy.

This was the year I had planned to inundate the worldwide web with post after post of questionable garden content peppered with somewhat bland comments and marginal quality photos, a complete year of quantity over quality.  It was a mass-media dream that had the potential to gain me at least five new subscribers and boost my stats by as much as a couple hundred views over 2020… and… anyway I’m not on track, and surprisingly it hasn’t made much of a difference in my life.  Surprising.  But I do want a record of this year’s gardening adventures (for better or worse), so let me get back on the ball and start with a flashback to last Wednesday’s (nearly a week and a half ago) return from seven days away at the beach.

garden after vacation

It was steamy hot and wet while we were away, and the garden jumped ahead to a new level of lushness… even if it is a little wooly and lacks color.

A garden abandoned for a week isn’t a big deal, but there were also two smaller trips before that, and quite a bit of other crap earlier in the month (it was honestly not a good time), so things weren’t set up very well to begin with, but it happens, and now looking back I have to say I’ve been shockingly busy for a change and I’m looking forward to showing nicer photos in the next post… but we’re not there yet 😉

silk road lily

‘Silk Road’ was frozen back and missed 2020, but lo and behold she is filling this end of the garden with beauty and fragrance as if last year never happened.  I think we would all like to do the same.

Since I suspect someone might be looking for ‘leaving the garden for a week or so in the summer’ advice, and wants a few tips for their own vacation away, now might be a good time to make this post useful with a list of what one should do before leaving.

cardoon flower

The cardoon is flowering alongside some more fragrant lilies(‘Leslie Woodriff’ in this case).  Just so you know, this picture does not do credit to the way the cardoon flowers glow.  I hope I can get a better photo this week.

Here’s my guidance for prepping the garden before you go away:

  1.  Do everything you were supposed to do in April, May, and June but you just never got to.
  2. Pick every last flower bud off the zucchini a few hours before you leave.
pond scum algae

I noticed a bit of algae before leaving, but it exploded while we were gone and is now even pushing the duckweed out and away.  It sure did clear up the water though!  Regardless I’m raking it out even if it is kind of interesting.  It’s some kind of filamentous algae although less fancy people will call it pond scum.

I’ll admit I only did #2 on that list, but still there were a few other highlights besides returning to pond scum.

mildewed phlox

The phlox which were moved to one of the shadier raised beds are not happy.  Mildew, floppiness, and I had really hoped for better in the “improved” site.  Fortunately the ones left in the old beds look healthier.

The mildew, weeds, and neglected plants didn’t happen in just a week (although it’s nice to have a vacation to blame), fortunately these are the before pictures and I’ve been busy since.  Much has been attended to… although all I did was ignore the mildew and hope for some miraculous rebirth of healthy foliage.  Sometimes it’s a good idea to just look forward to next year.

overgrown flower bed

The phlox are actually doing nicely in here, I just need to uncover them.  Seriously.  It’s really not as bad as it looks.

Phlox and a few other things did not like the heat and endless thunderstorms,  but a few things loved it.  The tropical plants are soaking it up and exploding into leafy lushness!

castor bean plant

This ‘Carmencita’ castor bean plant was just a little thing before we left, now it looms over just about everything.

And my first agapanthus seedling has flowered 🙂

hardy agapanthus

I was shocked to see this three year old agapanthus seedling put up a flower but here it is!  Now hopefully it clumps up and blooms freely every summer.  It spent last winter in the front bed unprotected, and fingers crossed it will continue to be completely hardy.

And I have a flower on my new Crinum!

crinum milk and wine

Crinum x herbertii, the ‘Milk and Wine’ lily could be this year’s most expensive annual (almost as much as a new snowdrop!)… or possibly an exciting new perennial that only needs a little winter protection?  We will find out.

Since this post has been all over anyway, I’d just like to finish with the latest caladium photo so everyone knows they’re still all alive and well.

starting caladiums

One by one I’m getting to see all the surprises my 5 pounds of mixed caladium tubers contains.  This isn’t my first year growing caladiums, but for some reason I’m obsessed with them this year.  

And that’s the after and before post all in one.  I’ll say it again, I’ve been busy and how often do you ever hear that from me, so hopefully I can get a few decent pictures this weekend and share the results.  Have a great weekend!

Some Like it Hot

I have to confess, I find white to be a little boring.  Much of that has to do with all the white vinyl fences and railing and trim which abounds in my part of town, and the competition it provides to any white flower which tries to do its own thing in my yard, but it’s also probably too tasteful for me.  Anyway, my garden is also mostly full sun, and unless it’s the moon shining down, white can become a glare, and any other colors cooled by white into pastels are also lost to the sun.  Hot colors on the other hand, can put up a fight.  Bright reds and golds, yellows and hot pinks, intense purples… these are the colors I love to see when I look out upon a yard baking in the afternoon sun, preferably from the other side of a window… comfortably cooled by air conditioning.

lucifer crocosmia

‘Lucifer’ crocosmia is red.  Very red. A you-can’t-ignore red.  I think I need a few other crocosmias…  

Today it was mostly hot, but it was absolutely humid and sometimes that’s worse.  I cut the grass, was drenched in sweat, but not much else happened and I was fine with leaving it at that.

foundation perennial bed

I finally like the front foundation beds.  The ‘Tiger Eyes’ sumac is probably too chartreuse and too weedy for a respectable foundation planting but blue spruce and blue fescue are definitely suburbia approved.  

Even with the heat and humidity I did try and get the last of the weeding done.  That sounds good but of course I’ve already got to re-visit the weeds in the beds where I first started, and the rains aren’t slowing anything down other than the gardener.

yellow spider daylily

One of the few daylilies I have, a yellow spider daylily who’s name I can’t think of right now.  I think spiders and the more simple singles are my favorites, the ruffly explosions of color with ridges and teeth are more a curiosity to me than anything I need to grow. 

A slow gardener shouldn’t surprise anyone, and this one’s about ready to stop completely, call it a year and just sit back to watch things rather than try and exert any more control.  We’ll see.

rudbeckia verbena bonariensis

I’m always happy to see a few Gloriosa daisies (Rudbeckia hirta) pop up.  The surprise ones always do much better than any I try to plant on purpose, and they always put themselves amongst good companions, Verbena bonariensis and Lychnis coronaria in this case.

Actually with vacation season approaching the sitting back part will be even easier, and that’s usually when all control is lost.

rudbeckia maxima

Pulled weeds on the lawn, not as effective as I’d like sheets on the blueberries, and Rudbeckia maxima three days away from flopping.  For all my talk about weeding and control, this is the reality.  

The local wildlife seems to enjoy the messiness and I’m happy to see that, even if it means more and more baby bunnies eating the coreopsis while I watch.  Actually I was also enjoying watching all the bird activity until I realized it was the blueberries and gooseberries which were entertaining them.  I guess my netting problems are still not even close to being foolproof but no matter, who wants to pick all those delicious berries anyway?

On the down side the birds seem to really enjoy retiring to the bath apres dinner, so the pond is always a mess of splashing and berry vomit and whatever else comes out the other end so it’s not nearly as nice as some of the other amazing garden ponds I’ve seen.  Maybe someday a (clean) mountain creek plus koi pond will grace this garden but right now I’m absolutely thrilled with the dirty little sump which I call the pond, because in spite of the duckweed and murk I have something far better than koi.  I have tadpoles.  Finally.  Since building it I’ve been hoping “The Pond” would bring in a couple frogs or toads and this year in spite of a healthy population of mosquito devouring aquatic water beetles, eggs have survived and now tadpoles are sprouting legs.  I love it and in moments like this I realize what a nerd I am.

garden pond

The pond.  Probably the first part of the garden I check each day.

So I’m way off the ‘hot’ theme but whatever.  Let’s just wander out front again to see some of the amazing cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) which are just days from flowering.  These are much cooler than they are hot and each day I have to touch them just to verify again how solid and spiny they are.  I like them and I bet when they go to seed the goldfinches will also like them… even if these artichoke relatives are a little bigger than their usual thistle meals.

cardoon flower

Cardoons just about to flower, with a conveniently placed ‘Royal Purple’ smokebush (Cotinus) backdrop. 

If the goldfinches like thistle seed then the cyclamen must be making the ants happy.  Cyclamen purpurascens are showing up all around the base of our ant-infested cherry tree and I suspect the ants take the seeds in, nibble off the sugary coating, and then discard the seeds down the sides of the tree.  Works for me, I would have never considered planting them in such a dark, rooty location.

cyclamen purpurascens

Cyclamen purpurascens ringing the base of the weeping cherry.  They’re just starting their summer bloom season and soon a few new leaves should be up as well.

Back to the hot theme.  I’m not sure if I mentioned, but 2021 is the year of the caladium, and a five pound box of tubers from Caladiumbulbs4less (quite the subtle company name) have been potted up and are just loving the semi-tropical weather.  I love them almost as much as the tadpoles, and when the tadpoles sprout their legs and hop off to new frontiers at least I’ll have my caladiums.

starting caladiums

The driveway nursery is full of excitement as the mixed bulbs come up and show their colors.  I spend way too much time examining every new leaf, but someone’s got to.  

In case you’re wondering, five pounds of mixed caladiums is much more than this garden needs, but just about right for what this garden wants.  87 corms would be a pretty good guess of how many caladiums were planted, but I’m sure to actually repeatedly count them would be a little obsessive.  Obsessive would also be ordering mixed bulbs but then potting them all up individually so that later on you can plant all the similar forms together… and then running individual drip lines to all of them.  Amazing how obsessive can easily co-exist with lazy as long as you buy enough drip emitters, but it has to be done since cool weather and drying-out are the biggest dangers to an excellent 2021 caladiumfest.

Alocasia Dark Star

Another heat and humidity lover, Alocasia ‘Dark Star’ is starting to put weight on again after a really lean winter. 

I’m sure you’ll hear way too much about the year of the caladium so I’ll end it here, but I do enjoy seeing them revel in the warmer weather and nearly daily thunderstorms so I could really go on and on if I had to.  In any case it sure beats a drought.

Have a great week, hot or not.

White is a Cooling Color

A friend of mine seems able to pick a color of the day any day and then post a collage of blooms right out of the garden to celebrate.  Me on the other hand, I’m far from there but on a day like today when the garden bakes under a hot sun, anything which might lower the temperature is fair game.  They say adding white flowers to a garden can cool a hot palette but as I trudged around the garden in 97F(36C) afternoon sun I’m not sure it mattered.  We’ll give it a try though since the only truly cool white would have been snow, and it will take months of heat before I wish that on anyone 😉

stewartia flower

**full disclosure I took this photo a week ago and the blooms on the Stewartia are no longer this fresh looking, but to look at it now?  Ahhhhhhh 🙂

Heat and cicadas, that would have been a nicely mid-Atlantic June day, but as of yet I haven’t seen more than a few wings and munched torsos.  Maybe a road trip is due?  The younger child (now nearly a full month into her teens) says yes, and the first flowers of the Regal lily “smell like Longwood”.

lilium regale

These Regal lilies (Lilium regale) were mush from a late frost last year, and sat dormant from April on… but guess who returned from the dead this year!

I’d be happy with just a break from lawn mowing, and this heat should do the trick.  My neighbors are looking at mostly brown already since they’re more gung-ho about their grass knowing its place and it’s height, but here I give it a little more freedom as the temperatures rise and the sun beats down.  Longer grass withstands both the heat and drought better and recovers faster when the weather breaks, and I’m sure when that break comes and temperature drop with a rain shower or two there will be plenty of time for me to catch up on my love of lawn maintenance.

white clover lawn

A flurry of white across the lawn, thanks to the liberal growth of white clover.  A good bee plant most will say, but honestly there’s plenty of other stuff around which they also seem quite thrilled over.

I think cooling white counts even if it’s on the gray side.

mammillaria plumosa

I believe this is Mammillaria plumosa.  Each year it stretches a little further and now another pot will be required.  Any bigger and it won’t fit on the porch steps anymore.  

I was lukewarm to the dusty miller(Jacobaea maritima) which went in as an annual last summer but I quite like the bushier perennial version which returned this spring.  If the summer stays dry and the border doesn’t get too lush and crowded I think it will do well all season.

dusty miller flower

Unimpressive flowers on the dusty miller.  

Gray foliage but on a much less soft and felty side would be the Scotch thistle.  This will probably be the last photo of this weed which I subject you to, but fair warning: the Cardoon has yet to bloom, and that’s another weedy thistle which I think is just wonderful and I can’t hide my excitement over 🙂

scotch thistle

Scotch thistle against a cloudless sky.  I had to point up since this plant is well over my head by now.

Gray foliage doesn’t have much in the way of scent, but the Phlox paniculata is starting and that has an excellent summer fragrance.  I will avoid complaining about how ungrateful they seem this year, as they’re growing poorly enough that you wouldn’t suspect I transplanted and fertilized, but sometimes you have to give a favorite plant some leeway… unless of course it gets demoted to a former-favorite plant… that would be something which such an ungrateful plant might deserve but then who knows what July will bring.

midsummer white phlox

‘Midsummer White’ garden phlox (Phlox paniculata) is the garden’s first tall phlox to flower.

Weeds and wildflowers are never ungrateful.  Overly enthusiastic maybe but you never have to beg them to grow.

erigeron annuus daisy fleabane

A favorite weed, daisy fleabane (Erigeron annuus) can usually be counted on to sprout up when needed. 

Sometimes you don’t even have to water them.  Actually watering weeds is a crazy idea… unless it’s fleabane or larkspur.  Both might be worth a little spray to get them over a hump.

white larkspur

It looks white, but here the larkspurs all tend to be an icy white with a drop of blue or gray in it.  Kind of a skim milk shade of white rather than titanium white.

Here I go talking about weeds again.  One more though.  Common yarrow has shown up in a few spots in the meadow and I wonder how these seeds find their way.

achillea millefolium common yarrow

Common yarrow (Achillea millefolium) laughs at heat and drought.  I think everything around it will shrivel up and die before you see anything more than a few leaves wilt.

White flowers in a dry meadow won’t cool anyone, but maybe the patch of variegated giant reed grass out front can help.  For months I’ve been saying someone ought to chop out some of the clump, since it really is too big, but it appears the message fell on deaf ears and it’s just as big (actually bigger) than last year.  Probably too big.  Alas.

verbena arundo donax

I’m not saying I judge my neighbors for not asking if I can spare a division, but the giant reed grass (Arundo donax ‘variegata’) is pretty awesome and only gets better as it climbs to 10 feet and more by the end of the season.

It’s way too hot to be out there in the blazing sun hacking inch thick, strong as steel grass rhizomes so that’s one more year for the grass to root in deeper and spread further.  Maybe next year, right?  Shade is a much better option.  White hydrangeas in a dappled shade both looks and sounds cool.

annabelle hydrangea

‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea arborescens is the hydrangea to grow if you want a foolproof every-year-its-a-show kind of hydrangea.  Newer hybrids?  Other species?  Help yourself, I’m just fine with this.

Hostas also make the shade even cooler and many people know this.  Some go to extremes.  I only dabble.

hosta montana aureomarginata

Hosta montana aureomarginata, an oldie but goodie in my opinion.  

There’s another kind of foliage plant which I plan on going overboard with this year.  Caladiums.  I forget how much I’ve already revealed about ‘2021 the year of the caladium’ but it’s going to be big.  Not the empty kind of ‘big’ or ‘huge’ or ‘better than you can imagine’ that politicians have promised in the past, but a big five pound box of mixed tubers which was potted up weeks ago and is now soaking up the heat and starting to grow.  As you know, it’s not often I get excited about a new plant, but waiting for each leaf to unfurl is like waiting for a new plant to unfurl a new leaf and I just can’t think of anything more exciting than that.

sprouting caladium

White… with a hint of pink… not that I’m counting but there are 79 caladiums potted up separately and sitting on the driveway waiting to take off into growth.  Summer garage access is overrated if you ask me and I’m sure it will be entirely worth it. 

So there you have it, the cooling effect of white.  I’m all excited about caladiums now but maybe the white helped calm someone else and take the edge off the heat for a minute and that’s a good thing.  That and air conditioning.  Or ice cream.  Or a tub of cool water… whatever it takes to get through this because as you may remember, something called July and August are still on the way and I don’t think you’re going to hear much of ‘boy it’s looking cool next month’ or ‘golly did that temperature drop’ as much as you’re going to hear ‘relentless’ and ‘not a break in sight’.

Or I’m just being pessimistic.  Order some caladium bulbs.  There’s still plenty of time and at least they love the heat even if you don’t.  And even if you’re anti-caladium I hope you have a great week 🙂

Taming the Potager

Reading broadens the mind, and I’ve read too many gardening books to remain satisfied with a plain old vegetable garden.  I of course have a potager, which (from what I’ve heard) is a vegetable garden but fancier, with vegetables but designed and mixed with flowers and supposedly a nicer place to sit around in than the dirt paths and rows of beans of your common vegetable garden.  Plus it’s a French word, and here in America anything with a french name is fancier.  Case in point: baguette vs ‘long loaf of bread’… fancier… and now I rest my case with just one argument, since neither my argument nor the fanciness of my potager will likely stand up to any in depth scrutiny 🙂

hollyhock rust

A stray hollyhock seedling in front of ‘Royal Purple’ smokebush (Cotinus).  Normally the bush is cut back but this year was left unpruned in order to smoke (bloom).

Just a few thoughts on Hollyhocks(Alcea) before we go to the potager.  I was hoping a few rust-resistant plants might show up as I try to mix in a few “rust-resistant” species, but so far no luck.  Rust is not a good look and of course I’m far too lazy to spray.

hollyhock rust

I thought this might be a yellow Alcea rugosa, and possibly less rusty, but the pink tint in the flowers and all the spotting and rusty lesions says otherwise.  I should rip it out now, but…

So I’m 99% sure that starting off with me sharing my disease problems is not the path to fancy, but I’m going to try and save this.  The best thing in the potager this week are the larkspur and oxeye daisies.

larkspur and daisies

Larkspur and daisies.  Not really fancy, but maybe ‘shabby chic’, and chic is right out of Paris.

Some people might point out that Larkspur and daisies are more abandoned farm field than they are high style, but right now I love them, and I’m not even going to mention they’re actually the result of not weeding rather than any planned style initiative.

larkspur and daisies

I meant to dig the alliums and tulips, but never quite got around to it.  Fortunately the largest prickly lettuce and mugwort were weeded out a few weeks ago 🙂

The actual efforts at design are much less impressive.  Roses and clematis to climb the ‘structure’ are still two or three years from breathtaking.

rose chevy chase

I suppose this will be a patriotic design, with the bright red ‘Chevy Chase'(a 1939 rambler rose) joining the misslabeled blue clematis and white daisies.  I’m expecting ten feet or more from Chevy, he should be a strong grower but sadly lacks any fragrance.

Any real potager needs a few vegetables, and so far lettuce and cole crops are the only things looking productive since the tomatoes and squash have only just gone in.

summer cabbage

I love cabbages and all their kin.  Earlier in the year the cabbage worms attacked, but after a little picking off, the worms have stayed away or found other hosts.  Un-nibbled leaves really look much better than the usual worm-riddled foliage.

So as usual I have an excuse for being late.  Rabbits made their nest in the middle of the tulip patch.  Somehow six cottontails had to grow up before I could dig the tulips.  I couldn’t transplant the chrysanthemums until the tulips were out, and then dahlias had to go into the bed where the chrysanthemums were.  I think following chrysanthemums with a dahlia planting is called crop rotation, and all the fanciest gardeners practice crop rotation.

dahlia seedlings

Nine ‘Bishop’s Children’ dahlia seedlings are all I got out of a packet of thirty seeds.  That’s a good thing, what would I do with thirty dahlia seedlings?

Some of the other tulip plantings were followed by tomatoes, and I’ll show them as well but they need a few weeks before they and the rest of the new potager plantings begin to look nice.  In the meantime I need pear advice.  Last year a late freeze killed off nearly every flower save three, this year every flower made it.  I have dozens and dozens of little pears and I need to know if I should drag out the ladder and thin them, or if they will naturally thin themselves.  To me the answer is already pretty obvious, but of course I’d love for someone with more experience to tell me I don’t have to thin them.

thinning pears

Little pears.  I already thinned the lower branches to just a few fruits.

It doesn’t look like a few French words will fool anyone, and those are pretty much all the highlights of the potager in mid June.  With the bubble burst, I might as well take you around the rest of the even less fancy parts of the back garden.

wildflower meadow

Weeds along the berm.  Year 1 was smartweed, year 2 was some mustard, year 3 is birds foot trefoil, daisies, and grass.  I think it looks best this year and I think some rose campion seed needs to be sprinkled in as well 🙂

Weeds along the back of the property and now an overgrown snowdrop bed.  Finally after years of tinkering this bed is becoming more stable and I think (a little)less weedy.

rain garden

Snowdrop bed, aka rain garden.  The roof runoff washes down the sand path and keeps this bed a little wetter than it used to be.  The plants seem to love it.

There’s so little design and zero fancy to this side of the yard.  As the years pass it’s becoming more of a snowdrop garden and the other plantings have to take second billing, even if they do occupy the ground for about 11 months compared to the 1 month of white.  Of course I cannot explain myself on this addiction.

blueberry

This year the blueberries will be protected.  I have netting, but all the fledgling birds who flock to the bushes are just too clumsy to avoid getting trapped, and I can’t untangle another body.  I’ll try some floating row cover material and hope that out of sight will save enough for pancakes at least.

Hopefully this end of the garden gets some attention this weekend.  It’s always the last job, and for as ‘finishing’ as that sounds it really only means I go right back to the start and begin it all again, this time with more weeding and less planting…

japanese iris

Even in a thicket of weeds this Japanese iris looks fancy.

Maybe on the next go around things will change.  All the weeds will go out, some thoughtful design will go in, some rough edges cleaned up?  I think not.  It’s firefly season and they love all the rough edges and I love having them light up the evening garden, and for as much as I’m tempted to weed-whack the berm or mow the meadow it’s not happening this month.  I’m sure I’ll get over it and it also wouldn’t hurt if I found something better to do 😉

Bonjour, and I hope you have a fancy week!

 

A Good Soak

A strange thing happened about two weeks ago.  Without any warning or cause, the gardener here snapped out of his lazy spell.  I think it started out of necessity, with plants that were purchase for next door… and weren’t all that cheap and had to be planted before the heat and forgotten waterings took their toll… but then it took on a life of its own.  Weeds were pulled, lawns edged, trees pruned, plants planted.  You’re probably  thinking to yourself ‘well of course, I’ve been doing that since March’, but here that hasn’t been the case.  Here neglect was creeping in.  Here they’re hoping this new gardener stays on and the place is brought back to halfway decent shape.

potager beds

The potager doesn’t look too impressive with its beds of yellowing tulip foliage, but the most rank weeds have finally been pulled and a few legitimate plantings have taken place.  There’s even a nice supply of lettuce coming in as a first harvest.

I’ve noticed that the gardener’s ambition rises and falls with the weather.  Last weekend was cold, and for as much as everyone else was full of complaints and misery, the gardener here was reinvigorated.  “How long have you been out there?  Your cheeks are freezing”  was the question, and “all day” was the response.  Even when the rain was pouring down the gardener was dragging out (way too many) stored bulbs, potting up (way too many) purchased caladiums, and starting (way too many) unnecessary seeds.  I think the gardener knows that there are few if any empty spots to plant, but he doesn’t seem to care.

potager beds

The nicer end of the potager where the gardener would often sit rather than work.  ‘Purple Splash’ is finally settling in and will hopefully scale the arbor, but as of this week the gardener still doesn’t like it.  He claims it’s very nice, but it’s not “beautiful”, and all roses should be beautiful or at least movingly fragrant.

Even if the gardener is getting some work done, he’s still just as easily distracted as ever.

calycanthus aphrodite

Calycanthus x ‘Aphrodite’ is more beautiful in a sculptural way than many roses, but like ‘Purple Splash’ also lacks a decent scent.  It looks like it should be wafting a fragrant cloud across the pepper and tomato plantings, but sadly the gardener smells nothing.

Roses have been a distraction, and even the lazy version of our gardener was spending a good amount of time planting the new ones and fussing over the older bushes.  He misses the scents of iris season, but now when the fruity fragrance of rose drifts by it’s not as bad.

rose westerland

‘Westerland’ is beautiful.  I love the color and am thrilled it see it settling in.

The gardener is hoping that 2021 will be his first exciting rose year since the small cuttings and bareroot plantings of the past two years are finally beginning to amount to something.  I’ve told the gardener that some regular fertilizing and water would do the roses wonders and probably have them topping arbors within a year, but the gardener is stubborn on top of lazy, and the roses are raised “tough”… which you probably know isn’t a thing, it’s just an excuse for them not growing as well as they could.

digitalis mertonensis

The first strawberry foxglove (Digitalis mertonensis) is the one that planted itself right on top of a snowdrop clump.  Foxgloves were one of my first plant fascinations btw.

Not to get distracted yet again but the foxgloves are coming, and although they don’t do well for me, even a poorly grown plant looks exceptional.

digitalis purpurea

The first common foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) to survive to blooming in years has me excited, so of course I was crushed to see the wall of foxgloves a friend was enjoying this year… but if seeing nicer gardens is really discouraging I would have quit this years ago!

Of course one lone foxglove in bloom had me imagining all the amazing things the gardener could do with foxgloves so that brings me to the reason I’m enjoying rain while the rest of the country bakes under a bubble of heat.  I was distracted.  I was fantasizing about the latest offerings from the little Rhode Island Nursery known as Issima.  They had a common D. purpurea but with cool grayish foliage and a light fuzz to it, and I hemmed and hawed over D. purpurea ssp. heywoodii long enough that it sold out (which happens rather quickly to this ’boutique’ nursery) so of course I bought other stuff instead.

So I blame indecision for the reason this post has been in progress for four days now.  That and a party at our house for a dozen teen and pre-teen girls and of course other stuff.  There’s always other stuff and it’s usually good, but not always.

Hope your other stuff is good this week 🙂

The Perfect Lawn

The rain outside is knocking the last petals off the tulips and surely bringing new life to weed seedlings all over, but I won’t let that bother me… yet… Instead I’d like to show you around a cemetery which I like to swing by on the way home from work.  Don’t be concerned, it’s not a fascination with death which brings me here, it’s the naturalized blanket of creeping phlox (Phlox subulata) which weaves through the grass and flowers at this time of year.

naturalized phlox subulata

Phlox subulata (I’m assuming) seeding and creeping through the cemetery grounds.

I have no idea if the phlox here were planted originally or came in on their own, but the church financed lawn care hasn’t been intense enough to wipe out the spread of wildflowers between the gravestones.  I also believe a kind soul is in charge of the mowing since I saw signs of a recent cut, but only a few patches of the thicker grass were mown and the best flower patches were spared the blade.

naturalized phlox subulata

I’m just guessing, but suspect the churchyard has been in place here for around 150 years.

Over the decades ‘mildly maintained’ graveyards have a way of picking up flowers and when I have the chance I often give them a looking over for spring flowers, iris plantings, and the occasional rose bush.  Someday I hope to find that snowdrop filled meadow, but so far…

naturalized phlox subulata

The phlox were probably planted originally, but since then have seeded about to form an interesting mix of colors and flower forms.

Phlox subulata is a plant native to the Northeastern part of this country, and occasionally I also see it growing in rocky outcroppings or gravely roadsides, but never as thickly as it does in graveyards.  It’s not a shade plant, so probably as the East coast has grown up in trees or been improved with bluegrass turf, cut and sprayed to golf course quality, this sun loving phlox has been squeezed out and into much smaller locales.

naturalized phlox subulata

A paler section of the colony.

Of course creeping phlox is still growing all over, in foundations plantings and mulch beds everywhere, and in my own childhood garden I’m pretty sure a big chunk of every summer was spent weeding grass blades out of my mother’s phlox planting.  As you know though, a grass-free planting of creeping phlox is pretty much impossible.

naturalized phlox subulata

Phlox mixing it up with pussytoes (Antennaria sp), another short wildflower which used to keep lawns everywhere from becoming yawns.

Why fight it then?  Just plant your phlox right in the grass 🙂

Easier said than done though.  Most lawns are too fertile and the grass and other more common weeds like creeping charlie, dandelions, and white clover will dominate.  *My own lawn is an excellent example of this…

naturalized phlox subulata

Phlox with a few bluet (Houstonia) alongside.  There were a couple more patches of bluets and various violets as well, but the phlox seemed much happier here.

I think more lawns used to be like this.  If you travel the older parts of town the lawns are often flecked with all kinds of flowers, both native and introduced, and I think it’s a much more interesting look than the hyped-up green swards which dominate suburbia.

naturalized phlox subulata

Naturalized Phlox subulata

So I hope this little trip to the churchyard was enjoyable.  Benign neglect can be a great thing and I may keep this in mind as I consider the ‘wildflowers’ which the rain has brought up throughout my own garden.

Have a great week, and a happy mother’s day to all the moms!

The Night Before Spring

This afternoon the cold front which has been sweeping across the country reached this end of Pennsylvania, and temperatures have been dropping since.  Once again I’m wearing a long sleeve shirt and right now I’m considering wearing it to bed.  The chilly thing got old real quick when the snow flurries started flying again.

magnolia ann

Magnolia ‘Ann’ is a common and relatively cheap variety, and this afternoon it’s amazingly special and perfect and I’d still grow it even if every yard had one.  I’m hoping tonight’s freeze doesn’t end this.

I’m 95% sure all the wisteria buds were fried by our last freeze, so this current one isn’t even cold enough to make me nervous.  I was eyeing the tomato seedlings which sprouted on their own, and was thinking about using them for a big tomato sauce planting this summer but I guess tonight will decide how that ends up.  A different gardener would have their seedings already growing indoors and nearly ready to plant out but this gardener is a little more go with the flow.  He’s even too lazy to dig up a couple trowel-fulls to shelter in the garage, and in fact he thought a better use of time would be to browse daffodil offerings online and place orders.  Hmmmm.

narcissus beersheba

A few of the daffodils thinned and re-planted last summer, narcissus ‘Beersheba’ on the right and ‘not-Indian Maid’ on the left.  How annoying that after years of growing, one online check and I find ‘Indian Maid’ is a supposed to be a multi-flowering jonquilla, and not a single bloom large cup….

I was sort of aggressive last year with bed building and daffodil thinning.  I don’t regret it, but I do miss them all slouching around the back of the vegetable plot and moving on from the earlies to the lates, even if they did make me feel guilty for their neglected growing conditions.  One plus to less tomatoes is that it opens a whole raised bed to fill with new daffodil varieties.  So far I know there will be at least eight and of course planting season is still six months away so anything could happen.

narcissus stella

Narcissus ‘Stella’ is a newer one for me, and I’m shocked by how much I love the old fashioned pre-1869 look of wavy petals and nodding blooms.   

Even with a three year moratorium on new daff and tulip purchases, they trickle in anyway.  Gifts, surprises, impulse buys, they slip across the border and I complain about where to put them, not having room, and whining about not giving the ones here already the care they deserve, but within a few years they settle in and make the garden a richer place.  Sure there’s a point in caring for what I have, but honestly it’s been years, and if I was really serious about taking care of what I have…

narcissus high society

Narcissus ‘High Society’ in the front beds.  A well respected variety which just never thrilled me, and as ‘the cull’ continues I’ll need to re-home a bunch of these.  

Part of my problem is (1)I like smaller clumps, and (2) I’m sloppy and always dropping a bulb or two in some spot where it takes off and forms yet another clump.

narcissus jetfire

Don’t know how ‘Jetfire’ and ‘maybe Bravoure’ ended up here, but both are doing well in a spot I thought was too shady for nice daffodils.  Actually the colors are stronger and fade less out of the sun, so maybe more of the orange and red cups here is a good plan?

Years ago I made the “mistake” of dumping a couple hundred moldy and rotten tulips on the compost pile, only to find them coming up all over the yard in every spot where a little compost was meant to help.  Last year I was determined to not let a single daffodil repeat that fiasco.  Extras and the unwanted were dug right after and during bloom, and after sitting out in the sun and rain in five gallon buckets I eventually dumped the stinky mess into black plastic bags which sat out in the 90F sun for another few weeks.  Finally I dragged the bags behind the compost pile where various wild animals proceeded to rip through the plastic and root through the mess looking for all the tasty worms and maggots which were feeding on all the decay.  Half rotted bulbs were scattered all over, and obviously these tortured and neglected bulbs thrown around and never planted grew just fine and even flowered this spring.  Also somewhat obviously, many of the cared-for bulbs which were dried and stored and sorted somewhat properly, ended up molding or rotting.  Sometimes I wonder why I bother.

daffodil transplanting

Growing right where the skunk or raccoon left them, like an idiot I’m looking at these and thinking they’re so nice I should really plant them out and re-think tossing them.  Every day I have to fight the urge to sabotage my grand ‘thinning the herd’ daffodil project…

Must. Stay. Strong.

daffodil accent

‘Accent’ was divided a few years ago and is looking good.  

I am liking how the divided bulbs are looking, and really need to keep going.  Rather than review splayed and floppy clumps of crowded bulbs flattened by a windy day I’m enjoying sturdier plantings where the individual blooms can be appreciated more.

daffodil firebird

Daffodil ‘Firebird’

I’m serious though, I have to keep strong.  Even bulbs divided just yesterday were actually last divided five or six years ago and it’s time to give them a little attention again.  I feel bad being ruthless with such giving plants, but…

daffodil garden

More clumps in need of thinning.  

So that’s a pretty elaborate story to cover my latest daffodil purchase, and to be honest I’m pretty sure no one but myself would notice that there are any fewer flowers in the yard compared to last year.  What they will notice though, and I’m sure share a few comments on is when they see me wandering around the yard in October with a concerned and confused look on my face and a couple bags of “even more” bulbs in my hands.  I could get defensive, but I’ll just say you don’t even know my struggle.  Tulips are still on a no-buy list and you can’t have too many tulips, even if they sprout up out of your compost.

flaming purissima tulip

‘Flaming Purissima’, a genetically streaked tulip, as opposed to the virus-streaked tulips of the past.

I’m possibly more excited about tulip season than I am about daffodils.  A few antique ‘broken’ tulips slipped in while no one was looking and I’m anxious to see them bloom.

tulip breaking virus

The virus which causes the streaked flowers of ‘broken’ tulips is also showing in the leaves.  I didn’t think growing a virused tulip would bother me but it’s all I see when I do the rounds.

Tulip season will be awesome.  I know this weather is just a blip in the spring arsenal but I do feel for the people suffering through serious snow and magnolia frying temperatures, and I hope they sail through it somewhat unscathed.  Regardless tomorrow we start climbing back up into civilized temperatures and I’m sure we’ll be complaining about heat soon enough.

All the best!