Tuesday View: The Front Border 8.15.17

It’s time once again to join up with Cathy at Words and Herbs for her weekly take on the Tuesday view.  I’ve missed a week with traveling but the rains have not, and 2017 continues to be a marvelously well watered and well behaved summer.

front border

The front border continues to fill in and color up as summer progresses.  The sunflowers are now in charge.

It’s hard to believe that just a few months ago I wasn’t sure what exactly would be filling in the new sections of this bed.  People said it would all come together but I had my doubts.  Fortunately it did, and I’m very pleased with the results.

front border

Although they haven’t been in bloom very long there are already enough sunflower seeds to start bringing in the goldfinches.  I love that they find so much to feed on in my garden and their bright yellow feathers and constant chatter are always welcome.

Most of the filling in of the border relies on seeds, cuttings and divisions.  I bring that up now because someone mentioned surprise at how my wife is so good about me spending so much money on the garden.  At the time I just laughed it off, but as I thought a little further on it, it occurred to me that they might think I actually do spend a lot of money.  The short response is that I don’t. Excluding any snowdrops which may or may not have found their way into the border, I probably spent $60 on plants (for this bed) this year.  This includes $20 for my amazingly cool new variegated comfrey, $15 for an impulse-buy-lupine, $6 for a salvia, maybe $5 each for a new mail order butterfly bush and agastache, and I guess $9 for a few six packs of zinnia seedlings… although I bet it was closer to $6…

standing cypress ipomoea

A few unmulched spots of the older bed have sprouted a nice crop of the bright scarlet wands of standing cypress (Ipomopsis rubra).  I would call self-seeding plants such as these ‘free’ volunteers, and the price tag of $0 needs no spousal pre-approval.

The bulk of this border either comes from established perennials which were already in place, or the divisions, cuttings, or seedlings of things I already had on hand.

front border

The depths of the bed interior are now a hopeless mess of colorful annuals mixed with reliable, veteran perennials.  I haven’t even tried to get back there, the only attention it’s received has been a handful of fertilizer I threw in the general direction of the canna.  

Although my border does not do much in supporting the local nursery industry, it does seem to draw in the bugs.

monarch

A healthy, well fed monarch butterfly.  I wonder if I’ll see any fresh new ones this week as my former caterpillars should be about ready to emerge. ($0 for these butterfly bushes -cuttings off mom’s bush, $0 for the rudbeckia -grown from ‘stolen’ seeds) 

I sometimes just can’t believe how many bees, butterflies, and other insects can be found winging their way through this garden.  It makes me sad for my neighbors and their dull seas of lawn.

cannova rose

From the left, $0 for the sea holly which was grown from seed exchange seeds, $0 for the overwintered ‘cannova rose’ canna.  Free verbena bonariensis seedlings which were transplanted in, and free coleus grown from cuttings.

I’m at a loss as to how I can explain the importance of bugs to my less interested neighbors.  I’m thinking about the life happening all around me and they’re debating a bug bomb which could kill off all the pesky mosquitos and gnats from their entire yard.  A dead yard.  What a fun place to be…

purple salvia splendens

For $0 I found a few salvia splendens seedlings sprouting in the tropical bed, potted them up, got them going, and then planted them back out.  I was hoping for purple but the salmon color which was also there last year would have been fine… even though I really wanted the purple 🙂

So it looks like the bugs will keep this area as a ‘safe zone’ for a few more years yet.  I guess I could do better with more and more bug-friendly plantings, but for now this works for me.

front border

My $0 monster cardoon.  Grown from some seed exchange seeds it’s done better than I had hoped.  I can’t even remember the other two seedlings which were planted just behind it.

I’m out of buggy commentary and financially responsible planting advice.  Lets just take a look at the bed’s far end.

front border

My second favorite view.  $0 for Self seeded verbena bonariensis, $0 for coleus cutting, $0 for cannas. 

And one last look at a nearby bed 🙂

caladium

This spring I ripped everything out from around this dogwood.  The hostas went to a good home but nothing else other than mulch came back in to replace them… until now.  My caladiums finally have a summer home!

Enjoy the week and as usual thanks go out to Cathy for hosting each Tuesday!

Because I Can

I admire blogs which are helpful, inspiring or just plain a joy to look at, but I think mine has a different ‘mission statement’ or raison d’être.  It’s all about me, and trust me sometimes I feel like I’m all over the place so it’s not always a pretty picture.  With the gardening season well on its way to the halfway point  I sometimes step back and ask myself what the heck got into my head when I started this or that “project”.  Thankfully the thought usually flickers away almost as quickly as it came, but someone (Chloris actually, though I doubt she remembers) said the reason I do it is because I can.  It all came together with that and although I still can’t make sense out of half of it, at least I now have a legitimate answer… and of course I’m going to run with it.

All these deep thoughts came out a little more during the recent garden tour which took place here.  Don’t get me wrong, it all went well and everyone was wonderful about it and I loved that someone other than myself was excited to see the garden, but I did find myself explaining (or even making excuses) a lot.   What I probably could have done was just answer with “because I can”.  The reason I’m a compulsive plant multiplier and divider is…. well… because I can 😉

propagating perennials

A bit of root came off my newest treasure, the variegated comfrey ‘Axminster Gold’, and within a few weeks I have a new plant.  Come to think of it I must have stuck a twig of my ‘Golden Sunshine’ willow into the ground here as well since I also see a bit of it now growing to the right of the comfrey.

I’m always pinching cuttings, scattering seed, or spading out little divisions of the plants which you can never have too many of.  Just last week I realized the coleus pots on the deck were getting a little too big for early August and gave them all a trim.  Suddenly there’s a bucket full of cuttings…

coleus cuttings

I’ve got dozens of coleus planted throughout the garden this year but almost all came from just four bushy plants I picked up this spring.  I looked for well branched plants, took as many cuttings as I could, and voila!  A couple flats of free coleus to plant around the garden.

I didn’t even bother to root the latest batch of coleus cuttings, they were just stuck right into the soil wherever things looked a little sparse.  No special prep, just maybe remove a leaf or two at the base and stick them in.  Watering would be helpful, but you’d be surprised how long these can survive rootless, even in the hot sun for days.

Multiplying your annuals is easy enough but how about something like a hardy cyclamen?  I often get self sown seedlings but this year there seemed to be even more of the curiously coiled seed pods than usual.  I’ll have to collect them of course and plant them out, even though I already have a good number.  And the reason for this?  #becauseIcan

cyclamen seeds

Cyclamen hederifolium seed pods bursting as they ripen.  Looks like I’ll need to prep a new seed bed for a couple thousand more cyclamen seedlings.  Oh well, it’s #becauseIcan

Maybe I can convince myself to give a few of the seeds away but lets talk about snowdrops (once again) for just one minute.

galanthus bulbs

The bulbs I ordered online through Cornovium arrived, plus (quite a few) traded bulbs.  How many different snowdrops does one person need, surely not dozens, so why do it? #becauseIcan

I have seedling magnolias and seedling camellias.  Neither of them are likely to be hardy over the years, so why grow them? #becauseIcan

limelight hydrangea cutting

I have a beautiful ‘Limelight’ hydrangea growing out front, but now three cuttings have appeared in the vegetable garden.  They’ve done very well this year with huge panicles of flowers over a foot across, but I don’t need them and have no clue as to where they’ll go.  Why start them in the first place? #becauseIcan 

To further prove that I just don’t learn I took a few more hydrangea cuttings this weekend.  Looks like I just want to be prepared in case everything else gets ripped up and I decide to plant masses of hydrangeas all over.  For the record it’s very easy to do, now’s an excellent time to do it, and it’s the perfect accompaniment to a few cold beverages on a Sunday afternoon.  As a brief effort to keep this blog somewhat useful and mildly educational here’s how I do it.

shrub cuttings

About a six inch ‘Goldilocks’ shoot (i.e. not too young not too mature), scrape a little bark off the bottom inch, dip in rooting powder, make a hole in a pot of sand, place cutting into hole, water.  

I don’t think anyone came here today to make softwood shrub and tree cuttings, but if you do try it,  make sure the sand is what you’d call a ‘sharp’ sand.  It feels coarse, is freely draining, and usually easy to find as bagged playground sand (NOT masonry sand which is too fine).

softwood cuttings

Butterfly bushes, hydrangeas, arborvitae… all of them are easy to root shrubs and all of them unnecessary.  I don’t bother covering them, but you could.  I don’t water them everyday but you could (mine will be lucky to get rained on).  They do need to be in a fully shaded spot though, no avoiding that.

So while I ponder the locations for another fifty or eighty new shrubs (#becauseIcan), have a look at some other equally cute little babies.

monarch eggs

Ok, Monarch butterfly eggs are not cute, but they will be!  I saw the mother lingering around the milkweed and lo and behold I was able to lift a few eggs and bring them in onto the windowsill.

I’d love to bring my little babies into the house, but the boss said I can’t, and when I asked why not she said becauseIcan’t, and we will wisely drop the argument, take the eggs, and return to the garage.

caterpillar enclosure

A few old screens, some wood cut up for ends, random leftover screws to hold it together and just like that, a butterfly (well actually caterpillar) enclosure.  Someone made a comment to the effect of ‘did you seriously stain and varnish the wood for your bugs?’ and I responded with ‘yes, yes I did.’ (while I whispered #becauseIcan)

In the meantime the eggs have hatched, the caterpillars grown, and I’ve now placed them outside to find their own spot to hang their chrysalis.  With any luck there will be fresh new monarchs floating around the garden in another few days.

monarch caterpillar

Gardeners are always complaining about one thing or another eating their plants, and here I am encouraging it.  You of course guessed it… #becauseIcan

I’m afraid it may already be too late for me to quit while I’m ahead but here’s one last adventure.  Somehow I’ve accumulated quite a few caladiums, and somehow I’ve been able to overwinter them, and somehow I’ve grown attached to them.  I didn’t see this coming at all, but that doesn’t seem to matter.  This spring (well actually early summer since apparently I was too busy doing other equally pointless things), I potted up all the roots individually because I didn’t want them mixed up anymore.

caladium

A couple years worth of clearance rack purchases and random odds and ends picked up here and there.  I think they’re awesome even if they might not be the most tasteful plants.  

This weekend I sorted them out and potted them all up again into bigger containers with each container holding just one leaf type.  The OCD amongst us will also see that rather than searching out all orange pots like last time, this time I went with all the leftover black nursery pots which litter the back of my garage… mostly because that’s all I have left.  It seems so much more controlled and I was so pleased with myself that I went immediately to my favorite local nursery to look for more.  Perennial Point came through and I decided I was worth not one but two new leaf types.  It even got better when at checkout I was told that annuals were on sale, buy one get one, and suddenly I was paying $7.50 for the pair instead of the $15 full price… or not.  I of course was already set on buying two, so did the most reasonable thing and went back to select the other two I wanted as my ‘get ones’.

caladium

Why buy even more caladiums after saying I ”have too many’ in April? #becauseIcan!

And that brings me to where we’re at.  I should really take up some less compulsive hobby like marathon running or fantasy football, but I’m stuck with this.  Fortunately the kids are still young and don’t think anything’s wrong and my wife has a remarkably high tolerance for me.  She was even out in the yard this weekend and asked what something was.  I think it’s so cute when she pretends to be interested 😉

So have a great week and if anyone out there understands hashtags let me know.  A friend uses them all the time and I just thought it might be time to step up my game. #youknowit #becauseIcan

Tuesday View: The Front Border 8.1.17

It’s been a busy week so far with a return from traveling and now a busy afternoon prepping for something new… an open garden!  I’ve been toiling away all afternoon and just had to join up with Cathy at Words and Herbs for her Tuesday view even though the garden itself hasn’t changed much.  The neatness is what I had to show off, it doesn’t happen much that the garden is surrounded with such a green, trim lawn with crisp, freshly cut edges.

front border

Plants are deadheaded, the lawn is mown, edges are clean, and walks are swept!

As far as open gardens go I think I’m making it sound like much more than it really is.  It’s a mid-week visit by the local garden group, the Back Mountain Bloomers, and I don’t expect much more than a dozen or so people.  Numbers like that probably make other open day veterans chuckle but for me it’s some serious pressure.  It’s rare that my garden is visited by anyone with more than just a passing interest in plants, so hopefully they don’t judge my “in progress” areas with too critical an eye 🙂

front border

Holy neatness… and the ‘Limelight’ hydrangea isn’t looking too bad either.

There’s a good chance I brought this on myself.  After a less than subtle post titled “Come Visit”, and several other comments such as “stop by if you’re in the area” and “so when are you coming?”, I think people felt obligated.  I’m fine with that and hopefully can corner at least one or two people to talk way too long to about plants with.  Now I just have to hatch a plan to trick someone from Philly or upstate NY to drop by, since I’m sure I can bore them for hours since they won’t have as easy an escape as the locals do!

front border

Along the street I’m a little surprised by how all the fennel seedlings have exploded into bloom.  It’s one big airy thicket of licorice scented bee feeders and I should probably trim it back a bit before the mailwoman starts clutching an Epipen each time she needs to deliver a letter.

In the meantime let me introduce you to a few of the newest arrivals on the scene.  The first is an uber cool Rudbeckia triloba ‘Prairie Glow’ which is blooming from seeds started last year.  I love it.  Thank you to Chanticleer Gardens since it’s entirely possible a seed head from one of their plants found its way into a pocket on my last visit.

rudbeckia triloba prairie glow

Unlike the more common yellow/black centered Rudbeckia triloba, ‘Prairie Glow’ has varying degrees of a rusty orange with just the faintest hints of yellow at the tips of the petals.  These are a little over five feet tall so it’s more than capable of holding it’s own in the depths of the border.

The second is ‘Strawberry Vanilla’ hydrangea.  White panicles of bloom and a pink tint which will hopefully deepen as the flowers age are what make this one special.  I have it on good advice that this will only get more impressive over the years, so it’s another plant I’m pleased with this week.

midsummer border

Everything was glowing in the evening light.  The ‘Annabelle’ hydrangeas in the background have faded green, ‘Strawberry Vanilla’ is still a bright white with a touch of pink, and canna ‘Cannova rose’ and Verbena bonariensis really add a lot of color.

I think in the front yard there will be a few things worth seeing this week, so hopefully it’s enough to keep a gaggle of gardeners interested for at least a little while.  The tropical garden is looking decent as well but beyond that things get a little iffy.  Wish me luck that by the time people are walking past the pot ghetto they’ll be focused more on lunch plans than the unplanted chrysanthemum cuttings.

Tuesday View: The Front Border 7.25.17

As we join Cathy at Words and Herbs for this week’s Tuesday View, we see it’s rained again… and continues to rain.  Non gardeners are complaining, but just look at that green lushness!

front border

Pink coneflowers (echinacea) and the mauve cloud of Russian sage (perovskia) bring the most flower color, but the first sunflowers are opening and that should bring big changes!

I kind of forgot how things get a little out of control in this border during the summer.  The annuals start to pick up steam and I do prefer plants which you don’t always have to bend over to examine, so things are stacked in favor of disorder.

front border

The far end of the border is taking on the colors of ‘Limelight’ hydrangea and variegated giant reed grass (Arundo donax).  Both are 6 feet and climbing 🙂

I like it well enough and hope it keeps getting better.  There are problems of course but for the most part the rain keeps washing them away (except for the slugs of course), and when the sun comes out I swear things have grown by another inch.

rainbow

There’s always hope after the rain.

I’m just sitting back and enjoying it.  Over the weekend I sat in a nice clean garage and watched the latest downpour coming down on the driveway.  That was pretty much it and it reminded me of all the reasons summer is awesome.

Have a great week!

 

Come Visit

You may have heard that I mulched the garden.  It was brutal mid-summer work and would have been much better suited for more civilized spring or fall temperatures, but it’s done.  The schedule said now or never so I reluctantly chose now, and with the job done I’m way more pleased with myself than I should be.  With that in mind I’m taking a cue from bloggers such as Kathy at Cold Climate Gardening and Christina at Creating My Own Garden of the Hesperides and doing a walk-through post to finally give an accurate view of the garden.  I hope it doesn’t take away any of the mystery which sticking to closeups has provided, since in my opinion the “big picture” can tend to sum things up more than it should, so lets hope your reaction isn’t “oh, I thought it was bigger”…

front of house

Welcome.  Look at that mulch… ok, enough of that… the other first thing you’re likely to notice is the thicket of a garden out front.  It’s colorful but I don’t know if it does much for the house’s curb appeal.

Before getting too into the tour, I feel like there’s always something distracting going on at our house.  Tools, buckets, hoses, construction debris, and unfinished projects may appear at any point so consider this your fair warning.

garage cleanup

The garage cleanup is wrapping up this weekend.  Much of it just moved around but the new paint and big boy steps towards neatness are gradually making this into a space which doesn’t scare visitors or embarrass homeowners.

Surprisingly enough there were no run-ins with the law these past few days.  With the garage cleanup underway I was nearly positive there would be a visit from the EPA concerning the destruction on such a massive scale of vast areas of spider habitat.  There were also no emergency room visits.  I thought for sure when I broke that 6 foot bathroom mirror there would be some bad luck involved but so far just the usual.  Let’s get going though.  Here’s the foundation border as you proceed around the house.

foundation bed

During last year’s dry spell I officially gave up on this bed, but recovery has been swift.  Although it’s still a little “wooly” for a foundation planting I do think it’s coming along, even if sunflowers and 9 foot tall mullein don’t exactly go with the spiral-cut arborvitae.

The front street border shows up enough on Tuesdays so here’s just the very end looking over at the neighbors.  I snuck a few white ‘Annabelle’ hydrangea into her mulch beds but the blue ones are all her.  Amazing what ample rain can do for a hydrangea.

front border

At the end of the front yard looking toward the neighbor.  The golden juniper is about where my property ends.

I don’t know when I last showed the south side of the house.  It used to be covered by overgrown yew but two years ago I cut them back to the base and since then they’ve come back fine, but in the meantime I’ve filled up the dry, rooty space in front of them with all the odds and ends of my seed starting experiments.  In case it’s not obvious I call this my rock garden despite the fact there are no rocks and it’s mulched with shredded bark.

side yard

The rock garden along the south side of the house.  I should probably add rocks, that would seem appropriate… then of course I’d need to make it bigger as well 🙂

As we enter the back yard we pass last year’s Tuesday View, the tropical garden.

tropical garden

Warm weather is finally bringing on the tropics.  Unfortunately I’ve again allowed random things to take over, but sunflowers and squash seedling are always fun and they make a nice distraction from the poor drainage and rotted dahlias which should have filled the space…

Rounding the corner the backyard comes into view.  Look at that green grass!

backyard view

Potager (aka vegetable garden) around to the left, meadow behind the swings, deck and house to the right.

A quick glance to the right at the new lawn which replaced my most hated failure of a flower bed.  I’m so much happier with this area now, even though the world really doesn’t need more lawn to mow.

new lawn

The plan called for finishing off the deck in May, but the planner got distracted by the garden and ended up ripping everything out of here and planting grass instead.  This area has no name but please don’t let all the rocks confuse you into referring to this bed as the rock garden.

Here’s a closer look at the ‘potager’.

boxwood hedge

Whoops.  Wrong year.  I was wondering why several phlox ended up not returning this spring until I remembered how the garden looked last summer.

Here’s the view almost exactly a year later.

potager

Don’t judge my love for little hedges, it’s the only thing keeping this area neat, and I actually sort of enjoy trimming them.

The potager is officially the part of the garden which requires the most work and unfortunately I don’t provide it.  Chaos develops… well I guess chaos never “develops” it just degenerates… but something happens, and the flowers generally do their own thing and if we’re lucky a vegetable finds its way out every now and then.

potager

I have no problem supporting my local farmer after seeing how much work it takes to bring a broccoli from seed to soup.  Two things of note though are the marigolds (I needed lots of marigolds this year) and yellowing potato tops near the front mean something edible finally cometh.

I promise to limit my comments on the precious phlox.  They’re a favorite even though several clumps went to phlox heaven last summer.

phlox paniculata seedlings

Who says phlox seedlings are bad?  I got lucky and there are several nice ones here to replace the casualties.  ‘Cabot Pink’ is front and center and a sprig of ‘Salmon Beauty’ is off to the right, but the rest are volunteers which (should) be moved to new locations this fall.

A few more phlox as we move on over to the meadow garden.

phlox paniculata seedlings

Some more phlox and seedlings.  Athough the colors are more average I can tell the pink in the center is a ‘Blushing Shortwood’ seedling since it shares the same rounded flowers and slightly reflexed petals.

The meadow garden is beginning to look a little unkempt as the grasses continue to grow rather than politely drying up in the summer heat.  For now I’m hoping the golden rudbeckia flowers are enough of a distraction for minds which crave neatness all over.

meadow garden

I’m in the process of editing out the aspen suckers which are coming up throughout the meadow.  An aspen grove is the last thing my garden needs, but once I get distracted with these new ideas…

Moving past the swings and looking back, the neat hedge really does a lot to tame the messiness.  In complete disregard for plant health and proper timing I finished off the new swingset bed with a section of hedge transplanted from the back of the potager.  Just to be clear, sweltering 90F days in July are not recommended for transplanting boxwood, but I guess we’ll score one more for stupid ignorance.

potager

This is so neat and trim it’s almost sickening.

Although it’s nice to have a spare boxwood hedge growing around, this one only covered about half the section.  As luck would have it though, there was also a tray of rooted cuttings to fall back on.  To be clear on this as well, it’s generally not a good idea to root cuttings you don’t need and then throw them under the deck for at least five years while you wait for something to happen… and that ‘something’ also happens on a 90F sweltering July day… but as usual we just carry on and ignore what should have been.

boxwood cuttings

Fortunately boxwood is pretty hardy stuff and survived all this abuse with only minimal damage, and you can at least say the cuttings are very well rooted… which wasn’t much of a plus as I ripped apart the nursery tray trying to get them out.

Lets wrap things up though.  I feel this year there’s been a near heroic effort to keep weeds at bay at this end of the yard, especially since I just can’t figure out what to plant here. The soil gets too soggy in the rain to grow iris well, delicate flowers are destroyed during kickball games, and overly lush plants are often bushwhacked when looking for lost tennis balls.

hydrangea Annabelle

From a distance, with a neat edge on the bed, at just the right angle… many of this bed’s flaws become easier to ignore.

Lets also ignore the beds around the back porch.  They still need some ‘vision’ but for now as long as the most rampant weeds are kept at bay and the Virginia creeper is regularly beat back off the porch it’s a generally non-offensive area.

virginia creeper porch

Still a work in progress going around to the north side of the house.

We end our tour by coming around the garage and passing the ‘pot ghetto’ where all the least fortunate plants-in-waiting bide their time until the gardener makes up his mind on a location.  The gardener is not sure what the holdup is since all the other perfectly placed plantings really haven’t stood the test of time, but he likes to think someday inspiration will strike.  Studies show that inspiration usually strikes the day before a two week road trip, but until that happens the plants wait.

pot ghetto

Shameful.  

So that brings us back around to the front of the garage again.  It doesn’t take a genius to realize that nothing has changed in terms of garage cleanup since we started, but it being a day of rest I think that can be overlooked into tomorrow.  For now I want to thank you for coming along and feel free to stop by if you’re in the area.  Just be ready.  If you think this post went on for way too long imagine what the real on-site experience is like!

Have a great week.

Agriculture in Suburbia

This post was mostly finished last weekend but for some reason I never got around to publishing.  I wish I had a good excuse, but it might have just been one of those Sunday evening get ready for the workweek make lunches and clean the kids off from the weekend kind of things.  In any case here it is and to be honest I have little idea what I was talking about back then with all the design comments and self reflection.  Sometimes I really wonder where this stuff comes from, but regardless the pictures have me thinking of last June when the garden looked ready to die so let me just start off with a photo from then 🙂

dormant lawn

The beauty of the  garden in June.  Roadside daisies and dead grass.  Fortunately the rains came back in August, but not until all July passed and I reached the “wordless Wednesday: I hate gardening” stage.

It’s always nice to hear compliments about your garden, and I am one who by reflex nearly always shrugs them off or dismisses them.  I’m sure there’s some childhood trauma involved which has long been forgotten, but it’s my way and it’s a rare day when I can just accept with a thank you.  Now I’m not saying I get a lot of compliments, but I do get a comment every now and then about a nice design touch or a combination which actually worked out.  Those are the compliments I always downplay since I rarely (unless I’m doing it subconsciously) put a whole lot of thought into what goes where.  With few exceptions my design process revolves around having a new favorite plant in hand and then desperately needing a spot in which to cram it.  Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t.

front street border

The front border in mid September.  If I had to put a name to this year’s design theory it might be something like ‘neglected agricultural’.

The front border along the street may not look brilliant, but it does look colorful, and with five months of winter breathing down my neck colorful is perfect.  Colorful and agricultural I suppose, since this years feature plant seems to be ‘Hot Biscuits’ amaranthus and in my opinion it either looks sort of farmyard weedy or like a particularly bright sorghum crop.  Ornamental or not I just can’t look away.  It’s big and bright and grainy and between it and the wheat-like feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’) and the sugarcane-like giant reed (Arundo Donax) I feel like it’s almost harvest time out there.

front street border

The view from the street side.  The purple perovskia has seeded around a bit and put out a few runners, the purple coneflowers as well, but I’ve done essentially nothing here since March and I kind of like that.

I owe this year’s crop of ‘Hot Biscuits’ to my friend Paula who surprised me one afternoon with a packet of seeds in the mailbox.  I had grown it before and ended up losing it, but fortunately she had a few seeds to spare and sent them my way.  That was last year, and I efficiently killed all the seedlings which sprouted, but this year was a different story and I ended up with a few clumps of healthy seedlings.

hot biscuits amaranthus

Just the first of many amaranthus close-ups which will pepper this post.  No one could plan this combo since I’m sure it violates numerous design principles, but I just love it.

The amaranthus shows up here and there all along the border, which is probably a good thing since even the simplest design theorist will tell you it repeats and unifies a theme.  Repetition is important since this bed frequently suffers from “I always start from the driveway end and use up all the best plants there” syndrome.  The far end of the bed gets less weeding, less watering, less tending… it basically gets less of everything, so carrying the amaranthus theme all the way through helps hide the sparseness of the neglected end.

wine zinnia

Here in the preferred end of the bed are well tended seedlings of Benary’s Giant wine zinnias and the pink gomphrena ‘fireworks’.  These were the seedlings I was most excited about this year, so in they went first 🙂

I did have a few too many zinnias this spring so was pretty generous about placing them in the border, but when the Brenary’s Giant scarlet began to open next to the pink gomphrena I immediately cringed.  For about a week I thought it looked awful but now I quite like it.  It reminded me of the first time I saw pictures of some of the late Christopher Lloyd’s magenta and pink plantings at Great Dixter.  They also bothered me at first and I think my first thought was “grow up Chris and plant some lavender and white and pink instead of that mess”… but look at me now.

scarlet zinnia fireworks gomphrena

Scarlet zinnia with ‘fireworks’ gomphrena.  Am I suffering from retinal fatigue or does it actually look nice together?

Maybe the green lawn and the parchment color of the feather reed grass tames it a bit but between this and the orange of the amaranthus I’m just plain pleased.

scarlet zinnia karl forester grass

A very technicolor look with the yellow of the ‘Tiger Eyes’ sumac across the lawn.

Here’s another amaranthus photo-bomb.

hot biscuits amaranthus

Looking down towards the ‘less interesting’ end of the border.

Ok. One last amaranthus photo.

hot biscuits amaranthus

From the neglected, far end of the border, more amaranthus 🙂

You may have noticed a bright golden patch of marigolds in the border.  The fall smack dab in the middle of my newfound love for the most offensively bright colors and I’m not sure I can resist planting a whole border of them next year.  I had to smuggle these seeds out of my stingy older brother’s garden last year and was lucky that a few sprouted and survived July’s dry spell.  He’s been letting them reseed for a couple years now and they still come up in a good range of colors on relatively short and large flowered plants.

marigolds tagetes

A few marigolds putting on a nice end of summer show.  More might be nicer, and by more I mean a whole border.

What to plant them with?  I think they’ll go at the far end of the border, alongside the bright gold of a juniper, but other than that I have no plans.  Should I back them up with some darker foliage plants?

img_3082

Korean feather grass (Calamagrostis brachytricha) in front and pennisetum ‘Karley Rose’ towards the back. With the ‘Limelight’ hydrangea it all looks very calm and refined, but I think a nice border of marigolds will give it a good jolt of color!

We will see what happens.  There’s a good chance it will all come down to whatever seeds sprout the best next spring, but in the meantime it’s nice to dream about having a more plan-comes-together kind of garden.  That is until the snowdrops bloom.  Once that happens my brain goes to mush and I’m lucky if I get anything planted 😉

Tuesday View: The Tropics 09.06.16

One of the benefits of regularly joining Cathy for the Tuesday view has been that little push each week to actually follow up on the observations made the week before.  The fear of confessing laziness and sloth publicly has been great for keeping on top of the weeding, deadheading, staking, and planting and it’s also a great regime for someone who goes through bouts of couldn’t-care-less and stretches of I’m-bored-with-this-garden-thing.   Now might be one of those bouts, and as the days grow shorter and our latest dry stretch begins to stress plants out again, I look at the water hose and then look at the recliner and typically chose the recliner.  So I apologize ahead of time if my mood comes through,  I’m sure colchicum season will come along soon enough and snap me back out of it.

Tuesday view

A quick picture taken this evening. I find the low sun angles to be absolutely disgusting and far prefer June.

The cannas keep going from strength to strength and I’m glad to see this bit of ‘Cannova Rose’ finally showing off.  It went through a rough spot which I suspect were the aftereffects of stray weed killer, but the latest bloom stalks look mostly normal… unless you’re really neurotic and notice that one stalk still has thinner petals and is quicker to fade…

canna cannova rose

Canna ‘Cannova Rose’, a newer seed strain which grows without complaint (even in cooler weather) but has been pointed out to have somewhat boring foliage. It looks nice with the first flowers of dahlia ‘Mathew Alen’… throw in a few orange zinnias and some purple petunia and you’ve got a nice patch of color.   

The dahlias are slowly starting up.  They seem late, but that would be because I planted them late, and there’s no sense in complaining about that now.  An earlier show would have been nicer is all I’m saying and of course next year none of this will be a problem since as of now next year is still perfect 😉

ball dahlias

Had they been staked properly this patch of ‘Sylvia’ and ‘Red Cap’ dahlias would have risen just perfectly amongst the cannas and verbena.  Who knows, maybe the red will still rise up a bit, but if it doesn’t serves me right for slacking.

I’m kind of at a loss as to why I’m down to just three or four dahlia varieties.  I’m sure in June I had a brilliant plan as to where they were placed and who their neighbors were, but now it seems to all be ‘Mathew Alen’.  Vaguely I remember thinking I was bored with a few and felt all empowered when I tossed them onto the compost pile, but naturally I just assumed things would come together later and there would still be a good bit of variety.  So much for that.  I guess it doesn’t help that several were swamped by other plants… but oh well, another serves me right moment.

colocasia esculenta tropical storm

Something for the future.  If this Colocasia esculenta ‘Tropical Storm’ can get through a serious spider mite infestation I’m sure it will be worth the $2 I spent.  My icecream cone was actually more expensive than this soon to be amazing plant 🙂

There’s only about another month and a half left in the tropical garden and it’s absolutely not the time of year to get into a ho-hum mood about things.  I really need to treasure every shortened day and to that end will keep reminding myself as I self medicate on fried foods, baked goods and chocolate.  Give me another week and I’m sure I’ll have come to terms with the waning season and maybe just maybe I can look forward to autumn.  Many people claim to enjoy that season and I guess it’s only fair I give it a try as well.

Have a great week!