May I say Amazing?

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

may perennial border

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

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

may perennial border

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

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

asphodeline lutea kings spear

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

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

may perennial border

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

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

amsonia hubrichtii

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

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

may perennial border

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

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

picea glauca pendula

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

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

garden pond tadpoles

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

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

garden dry stack stone wall

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

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

garden dry stack stone wall

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

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

outdoor summer succulents

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

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

garden potager

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

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

chives album schoenoprasum ‘Forescate

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

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

weedy garden

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

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

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

Bragging Again

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

growing tulips

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

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

tulip marit

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

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

growing tulips

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

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

growing tulips

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

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

narcissus firebird

An airy little ‘Firebird’.  

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

narcissus tahiti

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

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

narcissus coral light

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

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

narcissus Mrs R O Backhouse

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

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

growing tulips

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

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

tulip not shirley

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

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

growing tulips

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

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

growing tulips

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

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

growing tulips

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

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

growing tulips

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

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

growing tulips

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

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

narcissus bernardino hyperbole

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

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

narcissus red passion rocoza

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

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

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

Spring?

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

garden hellebores

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

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

anemone x lipsiensis

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

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

boxwood hedge

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

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

boxwood hedge

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

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

garden pond

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

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

build stone wall

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

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

double daffodil mertensis bluebell

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

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

daffodil jetfire

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

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

daffodil tweety bird

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

daffodil high society

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

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

Have a great week!

An End Before the Start

Yesterday I made a point of getting outside for a few pictures before whatever happens happened.  Those of you who’ve visited this blog ever probably know that this gardener has more than a passing fancy for snowdrops, and sadly this year the season has passed in a blur with other things and weather taking priority over the hope for idle days in the sunshine crawling from snowdrop clump to snowdrop clump.  Instead I was out at night with a flashlight, out in the rain, or wind, or cold, and none of those scenarios make for good picture taking.  It happens, it could be worse, and with several clumps disappearing or dwindling this year I guess it was as good a season as any to have fly by.  Next year will be perfect I’m sure!

galanthus flore peno

A grainy, just before dark photo of the ‘White Trash’ bed from about a week ago.  Galanthus ‘flore peno’ and other “common”, “messy”, and “no special merit” snowdrops fill this bed, and it’s one of my favorite plantings.  

We won’t dwell on the weather of course.  If a gardener ever hopes to enjoy their snowdrops in this area they need to be prepared for a season which goes from an early spring thaw one week, to frigid temps and snow and ice the next, to overly warm shorts and T-shirt weather for five days, back to snow and a hard freeze.  I can always stay inside, but the snowdrops can’t and sometimes end up a little beaten down.

galanthus nivalis

A nice galanthus nivalis with just the tiniest green mark inside.  Someday I hope to find an albino, but for now this one keeps me happy.

So here’s where the survivors are at.  For you’re sake I’ll try to write less and photo more 😉

galanthus cordelia

Galanthus ‘Cordelia’ a little sloppy yet hanging on and Cardamine quinquefolia just starting with its pink flowers.  A few people have lodged complaints about the cardamine’s spreading ways but it looks like I’ll have to learn the hard way.

galanthus imbolc

I can never speak poorly of big flowers on a non-floppy plant.  ‘Imbolc’ is representing and hopefully hangs on for a while during our cold spell.

galanthus erway

Galanthus ‘Erway’ has a nice paleness this spring which is fairly normal but not always this pronounced. 

galanthus moortown

I think I show galanthus ‘Moortown’ each spring.  He’s such a hefty brute.

green poc sharlockii galanthus

My thoughts are always mixed on anything from sharlockii blood, but this one has turned out nice.  A Belgium drop with lots of green and inner petals almost as long as the outers.  

Please don’t even fall for my woe is me comments on this year’s season.  Even a bad one is still better than the suffering my non-snowdropping neighbors are enduring.  I see them washing cars and trying to liven up a dead yard with a few plastic Easter eggs and realize that my yard has been bursting with bulbs for the last month and more, and the garden year is already off to a good start.  Missing the snowdrops is as much my own fault for not being independently wealthy as it is the cruel ups and down of the weather, and maybe a few less garden visits and ski trips would have also helped.  I’ll try to work on that… maybe…

eranthis gothenburg

A doubled winter aconite (Eranthis ‘Gothenburg’) flowering for the first time after two other years of ‘no thanks’.  Please don’t die now is my reply.  In this garden new and hard to find winter aconites like to die the year after finally looking nice.

So now I have nothing to look forward to except hundreds of spring bulbs and sprouting perennials and wave after wave of new color every day!  Sure there will be a few hiccups along the way, but still I can’t even imagine things being bad enough to make washing the car a decent alternative.

minor spring bulbs

More bulbs popping up.  The unspellable Scilla mischtschenkoana doesn’t ask for much but does fade quickly in anything warmer than sweater weather. 

I don’t know how people manage self restraint around all the small ‘minor’ bulbs which could fill their gardens.  I mean I do, but there are so many tempting crocus and bulb forming iris and corydalis that I really can’t judge anyone who ends up with a bed devoted to species tulips or spring blooming colchicums.

minor spring bulbs

I vaguely remember these not blooming and me digging and dividing the clump.  For a couple days they’ll be amazing and then the next great thing will roll along and I won’t even bother to dig out a label for an ID.

Even for someone who is the definition of restraint, things can build up.  If I had any backbone whatsoever I’d mow down seedlings, dig bulblets, divide crowded clumps, and just toss the excess but I’m like one of those people who grew up poor and then for a lifetime can’t throw out a decent pair of shoes or nice cardboard box, or even throw out the last six Easter eggs even though you did manage to eat at least two dozen of the ones the kids dyed.  Waste is a sin, and who wastes corydalis seedlings?

Hyacinths, corydalis, crocus, and winter aconite were never planted here.  I wouldn’t even know where to start if I tried to return this to the original species peonies, single snowdrop, and Muscari azureum (both white and blue forms!)

Before I leave the subject of restraint, here’s a link to an International Rock Gardener article on >the many species and forms of winter aconite (Eranthis)<.  I’m not tempted, but perhaps others will enjoy looking at all the different variations you can plant in addition to the not-common-at-all yellow.

minor spring bulbs

I have no plans to show restraint towards witch hazels.  They will be crowded and poorly grown but Hamamelis ‘Aphrodite’ needs more company.

I do need more spring snowflakes (Lecojum vernum).  I consider them the messy big brother of snowdrops but they come in yellows and doubles and I’m forced to live with just the species form and that’s been making me sad.  Not sad enough to go wash the car, but sad enough to wistfully search for other forms which exist but are separated from me by an ocean and at least seven time zones.  I don’t think adding two or three new ones would count as a lack of restraint, it’s definitely more of a widening your horizons kind of thing.

leucojum vernum

The straight form of the spring snowflake (Leucojum vernum, not the summer snowflake L. aestivum, that’s different!).  

Unlike most bulbs, Leucojum actually enjoy a poorly drained soil which doesn’t dry out and will suffer in a drier spot.  Think riverbanks and wet meadows, and if you find a spot they like you might as well plant a few snake’s head fritallaries (F. meleagris) since they also like that same mucky kind of spot.

leucojum vernum

A nice pure white form I found a few years back.  It’s a nice thing and nicely complements the “yellow tipped” ones behind them… if only they would stay yellow…

And again I’m going on too long.  Let’s just photo along and get through hellebores and the current weather.

yellow hellebore

The first hellebores are starting.  A couple nice yellow seedlings.

anemone hellebore

A surprise anemone form hellebore seedling.  I was hoping for a double, but this might even be better.

garden construction

Construction continues. Maybe today I’ll bundle up and try and dig out the snowflakes and hostas which probably won’t come up through the two feet of excavated fill, but then I’ll look at the rocks and dirt in the pond and feel guilty about not addressing that. 

Yesterday it wasn’t raining and snowing too much (just like last Sunday which was the only other time I’ve been out during the day lately) so I spent a few hours scraping fill off the lawn and hoping that at least half the yard can be sort-of back to normal for the year.  For what it’s worth “scraping fill off the lawn” means shoveling wheel barrow after wheel barrow of hard-packed rock and dirt and then trying to find the old turf underneath and then exposing enough with a rake so that it comes back to life.  I suspect in another week or two it will be mostly smothered and dead so that’s why I’m trying now.  In spite of the biting wind… and on again off again rain showers…. and frequent snow squalls….

spring bulbs in snow

The snow stopped melting and the light was fading, so the lawn is as good as it’s going to be.  

spring bulbs in snow

I might not like it, but most of the garden doesn’t mind a little snow and sleet this time of year.  We will see what happens tonight though.  It’s supposed to be frigid again.  

hardy cyclamen

Back in the day I never even imagined I’d have bunches of hardy spring cyclamen here in the mountains of Pennsylvania but then they happened 🙂

I might look at the pond this afternoon.  We will see.  The winter garden might be a nicer option with its somewhat warm temperature and lack of an icy wind and gloomy skies.  It’s a jungle and I need to trim it back which of course means cuttings since I can’t waste a single shoot.  Obviously these will be cuttings I do not need.

growing under lights

A patriotic blend of geraniums, oxalis, and streptocarpella.  The blue streptocarpella is much too large.

growing under lights

Cuttings galore and I think I should chop everything first and then see how much I can use afterwards.  Right now I’m not sure if the water I throw on this thicket even hits the pots underneath.  

growing under lights

The amaryllis have been nice.  This is a seedling a friend gave me and I might need a big pot of it, even though it multiplies like a pair of miss-sexed hamsters.

growing under lights

I’m going to have way too many geranium cuttings.  What to do, what to do…

barnhaven primrose seedlings

…and the primrose seedlings have come along nicely.  I can sit at my little table contemplating seed orders all the while enjoying the promise of spring and an occasional wiff of primula fragrance.  

So that’s where things are at and I’m hoping for a few less-busy weeks to come.  In the meantime thanks for sticking it out and if you’re relieved over the missing snowdrops don’t get your hopes up too much.  Cooler weather means the season may stretch out the further north you go and I still haven’t ruled out northern snowdrop visits 😉

Have a great, restrained, week!

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!

Spring!!!

This is the time of year when I like to complain about how terrible my allergies are.  The burning eyes and runny nose and sneezing… they’re really not all that bad but it’s the only season when I have something to blame my general laziness on.  It’s not aimless sloth, it’s dust and pollen.  I’m a victim I shout but then someone suggests I come in out of the polleny wind and clean the basement.  As if.

spring shade garden

A few primrose have not only survived, but have even prospered in the dry shade which has suddenly appeared in parts of the garden.  I swear I just planted those trees a year or two ago.

Saturday was actually a pretty busy day around here and things were weeded, mowed, pruned, and a few things were actually transplanted.  That’s good but in the sprit of easing into ‘hard labor season’ the gardener took Sunday off and photographed a few things.  The photo shoot was followed by much sitting around, and then the week since has been much of the same.

lathyrus vernus

More shade treasures, Lathyrus vernus was mowed by rabbits in March, but fenced in April.  This spring vetchling could have been nicer but at least a few flower buds survived.

My excuse the past two days has been heat.  79F yesterday and 84F today.  The warmth was such a shock today I almost started an inside cleaning frenzy before coming to my senses.  Fortunately things didn’t have to go that far since the house is again super neat with both kids home all day in a return to online learning.  I’m sure every parent recognizes the sarcasm dripping off every word in that last sentence.

lathyrus vernus

The pink form of Lathyrus vernus, ‘alboroseus’, was fenced before the rabbits got to it.  Anyone else would recognize that fencing should be done each spring but I like to surprise myself anew each year.

So now I’m trying to burst on past this wall of laziness and at least get a blog post up.  My garden has a springtime peak as the tulips and dogwoods come into bloom, and I’m absolutely ready to devote hours to just wandering around admiring bloom after bloom.  It’s similar to snowdrop season except there’s more than one color and I don’t have to crawl around on my hands and knees.

double daffodil

Some of last years divided and replanted daffodils, this one a nameless double which looks similar to ‘Tahiti’ but just a bit more yellow and slightly smaller.

The daffodils are really in full swing and the Darwin tulips and other early season tulips are opening to join them.  I know I brag about it all the time but this mostly exposed and summer-dry garden seems to be just what these tulips enjoy.

spring bulb garden

This is what the snowdrop bed degenerates into as other things come up.  The daffodils are intentional but only the reddish ‘Spryng Break’ tulips were planted, the rest came in via compost or squirrels.

The vegetable garden had been a major tulip stronghold, since every batch of compost and every turning of the beds seemed to spread them a little further, but last year’s raised bed project cleaned that up a little.  Many bulbs were collected, flowering plants potted up, and some were just lifted to new spots, but I did try to reduce the numbers…

growing tulips

The front bed is filled with bulbs collected during construction.  For some reason I hate the color mix and every day I am just minutes away from pulling the short purple and white tulips and tossing them…  it may still happen.   The back bed just needs emptying out… way too much yellow 🙂

Once the flowers are over and the foliage yellows, the bed above will be lifted, dried, stored, and replanted in the fall.  The flowers are sparse and small this year, but next year they’ll be fine again having spent the whole spring growing rather than suffering a mid April move.  I just need to get a few more pinks into the mix and get rid of the dumpy little purples.

growing tulips

I probably planted these tulips as well.  I probably even thought it was a good spot and I wouldn’t need the room for more brocolli and lettuce tranplants.

Although the raised beds… I mean ‘Potager’… is having a down tulip year I still think tulips are a far better idea than just planting more cabbage.  More leftover and stray bulbs were planted in the concrete bed and (1) they did fine in a kinda exposed bed and (2) prove I need more red as well!  I can honestly see a day when the entire potager is filled with tulips 🙂

growing tulips

I gave away some ‘Spryng Break’ bulbs but these were deemed “too small” to pawn off on unsuspecting gardeners so they were replanted.  Now of course I’ll have even more and still not know what to do with them all… but I do know they’ll have to be planted next to something other than the short and moody burgundy ‘Muvato’ now behind it.  

Yes.  I do like tulips.  Tulips and only the occasional deer make for a wonderful spring and I don’t know what I’ll do if the deer start making a habit of visiting.

growing tulips

The fine red outline of this Darwin hybrid will slowly bleed into the flower until it becomes completely orange.  I love it but have just too many of this one.

A lack of deer does not mean complete bliss.  Some parts of the garden are plagued by tulip fire, which infects the foliage and blooms and makes overcrowded and damp bunches turn to mush.  Th potager re-dig helped immeasurably as did mulch and thinning, and this year I’ve been spraying with Neem oil and between that and a drier spring it all seems to be helping.  A better gardener would destroy the infected plants and not replant for five or so years but…

growing tulips

Some tulips seem more susceptible to tulip fire.  This orange late tulip has practically melted away while ‘Pretty Princess’ seems untouched.  

I could really go on and on about tulips but I’m just about blogged out for the night and I’m sure you’ll be fine without my babbling.  I’ll just leave you with some tulipomania from the front yard.

spring bulb garden

Tulip ‘Pink Impression’ on the left, and a few not-pink impression on the right.  All are excellent.

tulip burning heart

Tulip ‘Burning Heart’.  A big beauty who keeps coming back just as huge as they were in year one.

spring bulb garden

The star magnolia is finished but I think this end of the front border still looks decent.  It could use a few more tulips of course, and more daffodils won’t hurt either!

spring bulb garden

Tulip ‘Beauty of Spring’ anchors the other end of the front bed.  The red on this one will also spread as the flower ages.  With all the yellow daffodils I don’t know why I needed more yellow tulips, but there they are.

Fun fact.  As I was double checking the name on ‘Spring Beauty’ I came across an online site using an older picture of my clump to sell their wares.  I wonder if this entitles me to some kind of site discount…

Anyway it’s bedtime, so I hope these past few days also have you out enjoying the garden and reveling in the explosion of color called spring.  Perhaps it’s not spring in your neck of the woods, and in that case I hope there’s plenty of other joys to discover this week, in any case the key word is ‘enjoy’ 🙂

Untitled

Spring has taken an odd turn here.  The weather has been fantastic and there’s been time to spend in the garden but I have absolutely no interest in doing anything.  Maybe it’s the lull effect.  Snowdrop season come on so fast and was over so quickly, it was hard to keep that high going.  Then the warm days were followed by two nights of hard freeze which singed the corydalis and melted half the hyacinths, but oddly spared the magnolia buds.  This has become the norm lately, but for some reason the freeze-damaged flowers have me a little bored, and the return to warm days has me hesitant about starting too much transplanting.  Fortunately the front garden looks ok with some spring daffodils, and my little twig of a magnolia cutting has grown into something which finally shows off.

magnolia stellata

Magnolia stellata, probably ‘Royal Star’ anchoring the far end of the front border.  You can see the mother plant from which this plant came from to the right of the neighbor’s house.  

I’m 87% sure last week’s freeze again killed all the barely pea-sized wisteria buds, but the almost open magnolias are fine.  Go figure.

magnolia stellata

This year the flowers have a flush of pink to them, but that will fade to white in a couple days.

Right now, with a nice cover of shredded leaves, the front border seems optimistically weed-free, so even if there is transplanting and thinning to do I can still pretend it’s all under control for a few weeks longer.  A gardener with more foresight and enthusiasm would probably scuffle through the mulch with a hoe now, before the onslaught of seedlings put down roots, but…

daffodil tweety bird

The daffodil ‘Tweety Bird’ flopped a little for the 21F night but has bounced back without a second thought.  I’d say it’s one of my absolute favorites.

As I said, the hyacinths are probably the one bulb which took the biggest freeze-hit.  Some are fine, but many either melted or suffered freeze damage to the flowers.  Of course with all this pessimism running through my veins all I see are frosted flowers, even though I know I’m the only one to see it.

freeze damage hyacinth

It saddens me to see the damage on ‘Woodstock’, but maybe a lost year of flowering will just mean a bigger show next year!

The hyacinths usually lead the garden into full daffodil season, which is also normally a big thing, but last year’s purge of the narcissus beds has left a noticeably smaller show in the back yard.  Again, I’m the only one who notices these things, but I do miss them.

hellebore hgc silvermoon

Maybe “MORE!!!” is the solution I’m looking for.  I could divide up the hellebore ‘HGC Silvermoon’ and spread hyacinths all over… and then wonder how I ended up with so much pink 🙂

Actually the daffodils will be back next year, they just need a year to settle in and bulk up, but what I still want to celebrate is my first self-sown daffodil!

daffodil seedling

‘Holland Sensation'(supposedly) on the left, and a nearly identical seedling to the right.

I had been watching the daffodil seedlings for a few years and of course had all these amazing possibilities in my head, so it was a little bit of a surprise to see a nearly identical child show up.  It’s going to be interesting to see what the others turn out to be since there are quite a few ringing the mother clump… all about a daffodil stem’s length away from the seed source.

tulip bed

Tulips will be next.

Honestly there are still plenty of daffodils to come.  They’re later than normal from the digging and drying and storing process, but there will still be enough.  Tulips on the other hand, there are never enough tulips!  I replanted some of the ones I dug last year, but they were stunted from the ‘in the green’ transplanting process so only about half will bloom this year.  But that’s not a bad thing since the transplanted tulips are showing perfect foliage, and that’s not been the case recently.  The foliage is usually scarred with the pocks and streaks of the tulip fire fungus, and the tulips I didn’t get around to moving are again showing this kind of damage.  I considered fungal sprays, but they all sounded so toxic I was going to just try digging these as well until I saw Neem oil spray.  An organic option which doesn’t sound too eco-toxic so I’m going to give that a try on top of moving them.  I’m not 100% sure when is best to spray, and I’ve never used it before, so please let me know if you have any suggestions.

garden pond

Cleaning up the pond.  Of course the pump broke halfway through.  

Since we ended up on the repulsive subject of tulip fire, let me just stay with the theme and say that pond cleanup is also repulsive and probably the most disgusting part of spring cleanup.  There was a slimy layer of rotten leaves coating everything, with a robust algae population and who-knows-what-else ecosystem of muck.  Even with gloves it would be super-gross, but of course I was too lazy to go find them, so into the unknown my fingers went.  The best part though was when the dog found something delicious in all that muck to chew on.  What a disgusting little beast.  Yuck.

So sorry about that segway into grossness.  It’s probably just a symptom of my dark mood which will evaporate just as quickly as the first tulips open.  In the meantime I wish you all a wonderful and safe week!

 

An Executive Summary for May

  • Lockdown continues
  • Working from home keeps us surprisingly busy considering we’re home all day
  • Laziness could still be a factor in things not getting done
allium gladiator

The Potager Pandemic Project is progressing at a pitifully poor pace.  I will not share pictures until it looks a little better (Allium ‘Gladiator’)

  • Multiple harsh, late, freezes did in another year of wisteria blooms and damaged many early risers
  • Spring continues regardless
primula sieboldii

Surprisingly, Primula sieboldii continue to do well in a damp, part shade location.  I divided and moved a few in early spring and they haven’t complained a bit. 

  • I still love you spring
primula sieboldii

A range of seedling Primula sieboldii.  I’m pleased with how well they’ve done, obviously they’re not that hard to grow!

  • iris have been delayed and disfigured by the cold
  • lilacs have not
father fiala lilac

A selection of lilac flowers, mostly Father Fiala hybrids and older varieties.  

  • Older lilacs with names such as ‘Atheline Wilbur’, ‘Paul Thirion’, and ‘Marie Frances’ roll off the tongue in a way that ‘Bloomerang Dark Purple’ and ‘Pinky Winky’ never will
  • Have a wonderful week

The Purge

The late daffodils are still rounding out the season, but I can’t wait any longer.  While their blooms are still fresh in my mind I’ve gone around and done a daffodil inventory, and then let loose with the first round of narciss-icide.  I’m down to a baker’s dozen times ten, which I don’t think is excessive at all.  The second assault will start in June, when I dig the crowded clumps and only save as many as I *need* for replanting.

Three more buckets filled.  The survivors look nervous, but I told them they were safe for now.

It looks ruthless and sort of is, but when a bulb or two slowly turns into a foot wide, congested clump, something needs to be done.  Actually something should have been done a few years ago, but better late than never, right?  Let me know if you’re interested in any,  I still feel the slightest twinge of guilt tossing perfectly fine daffodils just because.

daffodil geranium

A happier view of daffodils.  ‘Geranium’ in the front border alongside some moneyplant (Lunaria annua’).  It was beautiful on Sunday and the flowers glowed.

Now I’ll wait until the foliage begins to yellow, about six weeks after bloom, dig the clumps, dry off the bulbs, hang in mesh bags, and then replant this autumn.  Hopefully by then I will still have enough empty spaces to put them all back in to!

Have a great week 🙂

Sorta Spring

If you like a long drawn out spring, this one is for you.  So far this season I only complained once about weather that was too warm, and even that was only ‘outdoor gardening without breaking a sweat warm’, which is much cooler than ‘sitting on the porch doing nothing but sipping a cold drink’ warm.  There have been no windy blasts of 80-90F weather which wilt the daffodils in hours and skip the garden straight to summer… followed by a freeze which has the gardener throwing his hands in the air… and for that I’m grateful.  There was snow though.  I started edging and weeding the front border and had to cut it short because of all the snow showers.  Not so much for me or the plants, but the neighbors already talk, and as I went in to get a hat I thought I better just call it quits instead.

spring bulb garden

Making my way down the border.  No leaf mulch was drug out of the woods this spring, and holy crap are there a lot of seedlings coming up.  It might be easiest to just go with a fennel/verbena bonariensis theme this year. 

I didn’t really mind the precipitation, but working out there in the chilly wet and mud makes me think I might as well garden in the UK or Pacific Northwest, and that’s weather for plants and not what a gardener needs.  The upcoming forecast shows better weather on the way, so I’m sure the weeds can wait another day or two.

Here’s a question.  Dead or alive?  The pots for the front walk were dragged back into position and one still contains a bit of one of those trendy brown sedges from New Zealand.  ‘Red Rooster’ I think.  I didn’t think it would be hardy so assume it died over the winter, but maybe not?  It only looks marginally more dead than it did last year, so I’ve left it in place and added some of the extra tulips which I shouldn’t have bought last fall, said I wouldn’t buy, didn’t need, but got anyway.

tulips in planters

Dead sedge?  Who knows.  

After weeks at home, my daughter must be pretty bored since she offered to help with the planting.  I was glad for the company.  The tulips we planted were supposed to be gifts, but since travel to NY is off for the foreseeable future, these were planted, two were dropped off on local porches, and the rest were dug in by the driveway.  It will work out.

muscari seedlings

The most amazing grape hyacinths (muscari) I’ve ever grown.  They look just like any other dime a dozen muscari, but since they were grown from seed (intentionally), they’re super amazing.

For my daughter digging and planting were entertaining, but trying to explain why the seed grown muscari were so much better than the nearly identical muscari which I deadhead and weed out, was pushing the garden thing too far.  Even she must know that muscari are cheap and easy to buy and come in nicer forms than these, but c’mon!  How cool is it that one of them even has a little white top!?

muscari seedlings

Maybe I’ll divide out this clump, they seem to have a little more variety, and I’d like to see how the one with the white does on its own.  

Of course grape hyacinth from seed is easy, in fact many people complain they’re weedy, but as I go through the garden and divide and transplant I do find a few more special things.  My seedlings of the Asian spicebush (Lindera glauca v. salicifolia) are doing well.  I’d like to use them as a hedge, but need a few more, and in the meantime have potted these up while they wait for their planting site to happen.  They’re still holding onto the dried foliage from last year, a plant habit which I used to hate, but on this plant it just all seems more excellent.

lindera glauca salicifolia

Lindera glauca v. salicifolia seedlings potted up and hopefully ready to spend at least a year under my questionable care.

Transplanting has happened, pruning has happened, bed building has happened, but not much weeding yet.  Still in spite of the weedy mess, I just have to show some of my favorite spring iris foliage.

gerald darby iris

I’ve shown the purple spring foliage of iris x robusta ‘Gerald Darby’ before, but some of the pseudata iris can also put on a show, in this case a bright springtime yellow flush of new leaves.  I think the cool weather helps.   

I’ve moved on to weeding not because the potager is finished, but because my better half has banned me from running to the store to get the lumber I think I need to finish.  The first veggies can still be planted, but I’ll wait until it looks slightly better before sharing another photo.  In the meantime if you remember I mentioned one slightly warmer day.  That one day encouraged me to sit around in the shade, and while sitting around, the guilt of laziness encouraged me to weed and clean the little moss bed I’m trying to grow.  Yes it doesn’t look like much, in fact this is what other people end up when they do nothing, but I of course am pleased.

moss garden

A bit of moss in a shady corner.  Ruined terra cotta and a few tree trimmings to camouflage the drainpipe and I think it looks ok.  I wonder if tiny hepaticas could survive here.  hmmmmm. 

So that’s it from here.  I think the cloudy gloom will lift in another few hours and although it’s still a little wet to do anything serious, I’m sure I can find something interesting to “think about” outside.  I hope your spring is also going well.