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!

Import 241 Images? Of Course!

A few pictures were taken last weekend and I suspect this weekend will be worse.  Ample warnings have been given, so now it’s up to you to proceed at your own risk.  I shall try to be as brief as possible but even with that, photo per post limits will be broken.  If you’re the type who feels obligated to read and leave comments I suggest a scroll to the bottom and give a quick “Oh they look nice Frank.  Good for you!” and that’s it.

Snowdrop season is here after all and my filter is down.

galanthus bess

A completely averagely perfect snowdrop to start.  ‘Bess’ couldn’t flower more, but last year lost everything in a late freeze.  It all comes around and I love her this year 🙂

galanthus magnet

‘Magnet’ was one of the first here.  One bulb which has split up into a puddle of white, and I suspect this year he can split again to start that drift.

galanthus green brush

They’re not all plain white.  ‘Green Brush’ is hopefully settling in now after I lost him twice.  Sometimes a good friend comes to the rescue with a replacement!

galanthus trymlet

‘Trymlet’ is one of the pagoda shaped drops referred to as an ‘ipoc’.  The outer segments take on the appearance of the inner and all of a sudden it’s a new look, one which I like well enough, but…

galanthus elizabeth harrison

And then there’s yellow.  ‘Elizabeth Harrison’ is one of the most beautiful, and still hard to find.  I was thrilled when a friend offered one up as a trade, because it’s every bit as elegant as I hoped it would be.

american galanthus garden

One of my favorite late winter views is here under the cherry.  White snowdrops, magenta hardy cyclamen coum, yellow winter aconite (Eranthis).  One of my first bulb books had a grander view with the same plants and I never thought I’d get even this close.

eranthis tubergenii sachsengold

One of the winter aconite is Eranthis xtubergenii ‘Sachsengold’.  It’s a E. hyemalis, E cilicica cross with the more divided foliage of its one parent.  That of course doesn’t matter, but to me it does 🙂

galanthus blewbury tart

This bed also contains the unique ‘Blewbury Tart’, the first of many Alan Street snowdrop discoveries and possibly the one which ignited his future in horticulture.  Found almost fifty years ago, he must have been a toddler at the time.

galanthus walrus

I am the ‘Walrus’.  A little bit was given to me two years ago and he’s finally come of age.  I hope he sticks around, because I love him of course!  Who would have thought a snowdrop would morph into this.

galanthus friendship

This little nivalis has a smudge of green on the tips.  We call it ‘Friendship’ and although it’s barely anything special it gets passed around and it’s one of my favorite treasures.

crocus gargaricus ssp. herbertii

Speaking of tiny things that aren’t anything special yet are everything special, here’s crocus gargaricus ssp. herbertii.  The name is bigger than the plant, but I was ecstatic to see the golden flowers this spring even if I was the only one to notice them.  It’s been awol for two years and I thought for sure it had gone to that big compost heap in the sky.  Thankfully not.

galanthus bill bishop

In case you were wondering, winter became serious, the foxglove smothering ‘Bill Bishop’ suffered its usual demise, and Bill rose up through the withered remains.  I of course ended up doing nothing, just like I prefer.

galanthus art nouveau

After six years galanthus ‘Art Nouveau’ has become a clump.  For some reason that’s good enough and I don’t need drifts of this one.  It’s kinda too special for a drift and what I should really do is divide and fertilize.  A well fed bulb shows even longer inners and the extra space would let them really show off.

galanthus bloomer

‘Bloomer’ is another favorite.  The almost-yellow of the pale ovaries looks awesome here amongst the blue fescue.

galanthus mrs thompson

Just a few inches down the bed, ‘Mrs. Thompson’ is for once showing off her fickle three, four, double, or twin, flowers.  She just does whatever she wants.  For me it’s the first time she’s done that here.

crocus heuffelianus tatra shades

If you’re still holding up ok here’s a break from snowdrops.  Crocus heuffelianus ‘tatra shades’ was amazing for all of the 48 hours it took the rabbits to find it.  I guess the rabbits need their spring tonic just as much as I do.

galanthus gerard parker

*Schadenfreude* – the German word for pleasure one gets out of another’s misfortune.  ‘Gerard Parker’ was one of my most prolific drops.  He went from one to a clump of forty bulbs in just a few seasons so I moved him to a “better” spot for more showing off.  It was going to be amazing I thought… until it wasn’t.  Two years of late freezes nearly wiped him out and now he’s moved back to where he started.  Finally he looks healthy again.

galanthus diggory seedling

I love this view.  ‘Diggory’ is in front with ‘Wendy’s Gold behind’.  This is just plain showing off, but if you look at the bottom right there are two Diggory seedlings.  They look nearly identical but don’t have that curl that dad (well actually mom) does, and I absolutely need to move them out to another spot before they mix in hopelessly.

galanthus the wizard seedling

Elsewhere in the garden are more seedlings.  In front of ‘The Wizard’ are two siblings, one who shares dad’s green outer mark, and another without.  Of course these also need new homes, but fortunately they’re a little easier to single out as seedlings.

galanthus greenfinch

Not a seedling but a newer one with a different kind of green marking.  ‘Greenfinch’ has elegant lines on nice rounded outers, and guess what?  I love it!

galanthus angelina

This one is brand new this year from an ‘in the green’ planting last spring.  Some people complain vehemently about the risks of moving actively growing ‘in the green’ snowdrops, but I rarely have trouble when they arrive well cared for.  I really love this one, it’s named ‘Angelina’ and it’s a newer drop which I paid an embarassingly high amount for but I don’t care.

galanthus elwesii

This one was not a lot of money.  It’s a plain old Galanthus elwesii from a bulk bulb order.  It was probably 60 cents and although it looks amazing and yellow and therefore rare and valuable… it’s probably not.  Sometimes cold and a foot or two of snow on top will have your drops coming up yellow and although it’s fun it’s not that uncommon.  You can see the one behind is pulling a similar prank.

galanthus viridipice

Another cruel prank was that half this ‘Viridipice’ clump has vanished.  I’ll dig this weekend for clues, but it won’t be the first time a batch of newly planted dry bulbs does fine the first year and then disappears the next.  usually it’s the G. nivalis types that pull this trick for me.

galanthus garden

You’ve almost made it.  Here’s some relief from endless closeups.  Even if a few of the photos look nice, there’s still much to be desired here in terms of garden design, so it will still be a few years before the tour busses show up.

galanthus erway

One of the goodies in this back bed is ‘Erway’.  He’s kind of a weirdo with his conehead top, but you may have noticed that weird carries a lot of weight in the world of snowdrops.

galanthus moortown

Weird works, but so does big.  ‘Moortown’ has strong, heavy flowers with a nice inner mark which bleeds up with a smear of green.  Of course it’s another favorite, and unlike the photo implies it’s a pure white snowdrop.

galanthus baylham

Wow, even I’m getting tired now.  Just a few more.  ‘Baylham’ is one of the few doubles I like.  Small, well formed, nicely upright and normally a strong green color.

galanthus jade

Speaking of strong green color, ‘Jade’ is looking exceptionally green this spring.  Actually you could just leave that as looking exceptional, because he is.

galanthus percy picton

…and Sunday’s evening light leaves you off with a waterfall of ‘Percy Picton’.   Normally I complain about his sprawling ways but this year, without a couple inches of snow flattening out the blooming clump, he looks great.

You made it.  I forgive you for skimming.  There’s no doubt I’m deep into this and hopefully for your sake my camera breaks this weekend.

But then there’s always the phone camera.  Enjoy the weekend and I hope it’s sunny and safe wherever you’re at!

A Gala Approaches

There’s an American snowdrop event coming up, and I just assumed everyone knew about it simply because I knew about it.  Funny how narrowly a person’s brain can work, and I’m sure it means something related to a spectrum or some other analyze-able thing, but of course I’m getting distracted again.  What I want to say is David Culp’s snowdrop Gala is happening this weekend and I want you to know, and this year it’s not a matter of me throwing it in the faces of those too far away, it’s me letting you know that this year it will be available to anyone with access to Zoom (via internet or phone I suppose), and who has purchased their admission ticket (for information and $29 tickets click here).  It’s not ideal of course.  I’d rather be there in person, browsing and meeting, and hemming and hawing about just one more plant purchase, but at least it’s happening.  Also it’s happening in a way that people across the world can join up with and participate in, and I think that’s something excellent in itself.  Not everyone has the luxury of living in the midst of a plethora of snowdrop lovers.

The event runs Friday to Saturday with a string of speakers, mixed with Q&A segments, vendors, and a live auction.  It should fill everyone’s snowdrop tank for the season 🙂

Of course my snowdrop tank doesn’t need filling.  All the galanthus-love this weekend will surely just make it overflow with galanthus joy, and that’s fine with me!  Yesterday the warm weather had me slogging through mud puddles and poking through snow piles looking for spring, and although I didn’t find it I did find some hopeful signs.  Really hopeful, and between that and the strong sunshine and the turning of the calendar to March I’m inches away from quitting my job and becoming a full time poker around the garden.

early snowdrops galanthus

Every hour meant more snow melt and a few more inches of open ground.  Spring is just aching to grow!  *please disregard the yet to be tidied mess*

Full time garden poker does not come with benefits, so I did indeed go to work this morning, but even with the thermometer at an icy 16F(-9C) as I pulled out of the driveway, the thought still sat in the back of my mind.

early snowdrops galanthus

Here in the foundation beds along the front of the house, the snow had melted one day prior and the snowdrops had already been able to stretch out a bit.   

My latest check of the weather shows beautiful sunshine and no temperatures too disgusting to worry about.  I’m sure by the weekend I’ll be cleaning out beds and poking away to my heart’s content and I think it’s about time.  There will still be melting snow to ignore but once snowdrop season starts I can ignore a lot.

Except for tornadoes and hail.  That’s a snowdrop season I don’t ever have to repeat.  Enjoy!

Unbucketing Day

Wow.  What a difference two days can make.  We’ve gone from winter to spring in just a few hours, and even though I won’t officially call spring until the last snow has melted,  I’m practically spinning with spring fever over the thought I might see some more snowdrops unlocked from the ice this weekend.

galanthus three ships

If you’re not sick of seeing ‘Three Ships’ yet, well you might have some of the same issues I’m dealing with.  He looks pristine even after weeks and weeks under a 5 gallon bucket. 

In case you’re wondering, ‘Unbucketing Day’ is a relatively new holiday which I only just declared this afternoon.  I’m sure there’s a more formal process to establishing new holidays, but I did have some cake this afternoon, and I’m pretty sure eating cake is at least steps one through four of the holiday creation process.

galanthus potters prelude

‘Potter’s Prelude’ has gone by a bit under his bucket.  Even weeks of below freezing temperatures and a few feet of snow can’t stop the passage of time, since he has been in bloom for over three months now.

Fancier folk might call for an uncloching day to celebrate the day when temperatures seem civil enough to uncover these protected goodies, but I resort to buckets.  Ugly buckets.  I can understand the attraction of antique glass cloches sparkling throughout the garden but they don’t come cheap and I’m not sure anyone here would appreciate such an elevated level of refinement when autumn’s decaying gourds still sit on the front lawn and an old washing machine still highlights the far end of the front porch.

galanthus Mrs Macnamara

Even ‘Mrs Macnamara’ has tolerated her time under the bucket.  This is the best she’s ever looked, but even with protection a few blooms were lost to cold, so I don’t think she’s an ideal match for my garden…

So join me in the celebration.  A little warm weather and the snow can’t melt fast enough.  There are a few thin spots where ground is showing but most of the garden is still under nearly a foot of icy, packed snow.   It’s still enough to get into nearly every inappropriate pair of shoes I wear, since of course I slog through the snow right after work and don’t bother changing into better footwear first.  I really just need to be more patient.

winter witch hazel pallida

The witch hazel is late this year.  ‘Pallida’ is only just today warm enough to uncurl the first bits of yellow thread.  Hopefully by this weekend….

Who am I kidding?  This is no time to be patient.  I guarantee by tomorrow afternoon I’ll be shoveling snow off things, poking through mulch, and being far more nosy about my plant’s personal lives than I should be.  I’ll probably even plant a few seeds!

Have a wonderful weekend 🙂

Winter Enthusiasm

It’s snowing and it’s been snowing.  It’s cold as well.  Oddly enough the arrival of something close to a winter has me wondering how I ever managed to survive winter before.  Trust me next week’s lows that hover around 0F (-17C) aren’t helping, and although it’s one night and we are guaranteed at least a foot or two of protective snow cover, it’s still co-co-cold!

snowdrops in snow

These snowdrops survived lows in the teens, but down to zero will be a problem so I’m grateful for the snow.  By the way this isn’t the snow, this is just some nuisance frost which has accumulated over the past week.

I just looked outside and it appears we’re about a foot and a half into new snow.  It’s doubtful I’ll be sharing photos of all that but I figured I’d let you know.

camellia in cold winter

The snow won’t be deep enough to cover the camellias so I guess they’re in for a cold-hardiness test.  I can’t tell if this is a good look or not, but it’s green and not brown so that’s a plus.

Actually the most dangerous thing about snow and cold are the online temptations.  Seed exchanges, seed orders, plant orders, delusions about trees I need and new bulbs I have to have are a daily struggle.  I know you can share my pain if not appreciate my resolve, and so far my only real transgression has been five pounds of mixed caladium bulbs.  According to some estimates that’s about 100 caladiums, and thats obviously a few more than I need.

double orange amaryllis

Time to hide out in the winter garden.  This double amaryllis and a few geraniums are all that’s new right now but as will happen, cuttings and seedlings always start showing up out of nowhere 🙂 

So I hope the snow finds you well and for those in milder climates who are missing it, well I suspect you’re not really missing it at all and you’ll be just fine.  In any case we’re a month past the winter equinox and this is when our average temperatures begin to climb once again… regardless of the ten day forecast.