Happy Memorial Day 2017

Here in the US Monday marks Memorial Day, a day when we honor those who’ve lost their lives serving in the armed forces.  It’s also the unofficial start to summer, and although I haven’t gotten around to filling the front porch containers these amaryllis were just too nice to leave hidden away next to the garage.  Hopefully their blooms will distract visitors from the as-yet-leafless overwintered begonia pots.

summer amaryllis

A day earlier and this would have been a suitably patriotic red, white, and blue combo, but last night the blustery winds pulled most of the last petals off the columbine clumps.     

The year before last I was all gung-ho about growing amaryllis (hippeastrum) again.  There was a beautiful show indoors as one after another opened but lo and behold as quickly as it came on it’s passed again.  This winter there were a few which came up and flowered indoors (and were appreciated), but the rest were tossed out of the garage as soon as temperatures allowed and have had to fend for themselves with whatever warmth and rain the weather has brought.

shade foliage

A few more amaryllis at the other end of the porch.  I really should cut the double and put it in a vase… 

A better gardener would repot and fertilize their amaryllis at this time of year.  Heavy feeding and plenty of moisture are the perfect recipe for building blooming size bulbs for next year and getting a jump on the next season’s flowers, but I’m far too distracted with swingsets, deck planters, iris flowers and barbeques.  Three days off from work will pass far too quickly.

mixed border bearded iris

I’m still completely distracted with iris season.  The chances that more clumps will go in and be spread around this June is nearly 100%.  Who needs marigolds.

I hope your weekend has gone well and you’ve had luck with both the weather and the to-do list.  Please wish me luck in still getting the lawn cut and vegetable garden planted on our final day off… neither has happened as of yet and that sounds like an awful lot of work for a holiday.  Maybe if I spent less time staring at the iris that would b a start, but this time of year goes so fast and I’d hate to miss a minute of it.

Tuesday View: The Tropics 11.22.16

Following the first hard frost, the tropical view has continued to spiral downwards into the reality of its temperate latitude.  Our first significant snowfall came on Saturday night and although snow at this time of year is not unheard of, the long warm autumn and the fact Saturday topped out at 65F (18C) left me in a bit of a shock when I woke up to the white.

Tuesday view snow

I guess it might finally be time to dig the dahlias and cannas. 

The frosted annuals and browned cannas are still standing just where they were three weeks ago, and although the mess may look like complete apathy has set in the reality is I’ve been quite busy.  There’s been a good amount of earth moving and bed building on top of the required leaf cleanup and bulb planting and I feel pretty good about spring, I just want warmth to return for a few more weeks so I can finish digging and planting.

But if the weather doesn’t change I’ll get over it.  No one’s life has ever crumbled over a few unraked leaves or frozen dahlias and as long as there are plenty of snowdrops in April I’ll be fine.  There’s always next year 🙂

One word…. Dichelostemma

I inherited my mother’s habit of randomly picking up and trying out just about any odd, looks-like-it-might-be-nice bulb that shows up in the garden center’s bins.  Together we’ve failed at freesia, ranunculus, ixia… but every now and then something gives a surprise, and lately it’s been Dichelostemma.

dichelostemma pink diamond

Dichelostemma ‘Pink Diamond’ out in the meadow garden

The first one which made its way into the garden was a selected form of the naturally occurring hybrid ‘Pink Diamond’.  I love the totally tubular pink flowers and the waxy thickness of the blooms and was surprised it actually grew since the bulbs came via a November closeout sale, and late planting into a cold, wet clayish soil is typically not a recipe for success for drought tolerant bulbs from the western reaches of North America.  But they came up fine the next spring and when the wiry flower stalks matured to bright pink clusters of bloom in June I was hooked.

dichelostemma pink diamond

Daisies and Dichelostemma in front of a worse for wear Queen of the Prairie.  The Queen still presides over the back forty, but between acidic rainfall and wayward groundhog nibbling her reign may soon be coming to an end.

‘Pink Diamond’ may or may not become a permanent resident in the meadow.  The first planting returned to bloom the second year but has not put up flowers in the third.  I blame rabbits for nibbling too much of the spring foliage, but we will see what happens next year, as this spring with all the new crocus flowers to chose from the rabbits didn’t quite get to the Dichelostemma foliage before moving on to freshly planted lettuce and broccoli in the vegetable garden.

The ‘other’ Dichelostemma (D. congestum) has been going strong though, putting up its beautiful lilac-purple flower clusters for three years now… in spite of also being nibbled.

dichelostemma congestum

Dichelostemma congestum has the common name of fork toothed Ookow.  When you get tired of introducing guests to your dichelostemma I’m sure switching to the common name will clear things up. 

I love how these plants look among the weeds and grass of the meadow.  I can imagine this isn’t entirely unlike their native habitat in the Western edges of the continent and from a gardeners point of view the yellowing foliage is completely disguised by the surrounding greenery.  Not to get distracted, but I wonder how alliums would work out back here since many of those also share the trick of letting their foliage go to pot just as the blooms reach their peak.

Dichelostemma ida-maia is my last of the D’s and I suppose ‘firecracker plant’ is a decent common name for this one…. although it’s no Ookow.

dichelostemma ida-maia

Dichelostemma ida-maia.  The shape and color of this flower has ‘hummingbird plant’ written all over it.

Besides adding more ‘Pink Diamond’ last fall, I also put in a few D. ida-maia… in spite of my thoughts that I wouldn’t like them.  I was completely wrong in my lack of enthusiasm.  The sad anemic version I saw a few years ago is nothing like the group I now have swaying in the dappled light amongst the grass.  I’m far too greedy a collector to commit large spaces to a single plant but I would have no problem adding another hundred or two (versus the 10 I started with) to this end of the meadow, which is entirely do-able since these small bulb are relatively cheap even when not on clearance.

dichelostemma ida-maia

I trimmed up the lower limbs of the aspen and love the Rocky Mountain glade effect it has given.  Add a Western NA native Dichelostemma ida-maia and we may be on to something here 😉

I’m not sure what the hardiness on these plants (both species and their hybrid daughter) is.  To be honest I didn’t think they would make it through their first careless planting (really careless… cold November fingers so one shovel swipe into the turf, dump bag contents into hole and stomp sod clod down again on top), but they did survive, and it was a winter where our lows reached -6F (-21C) with a solidly frozen soil for months.  So they’re at least that hardy, and I think the extreme summer dryness of the meadow also helps them return in spite of any issues with poorly drained, wet winter soils.

Dichelostemma.  Think about it.  I think they’re pretty cool.

Hello dahlias :)

I’ve always dabbled a little in dahlias, but last year I treated myself to a few named ones from Swan Island Dahlias.  Last year they did great, this year even better!

dahlia moonstruck

Dahlia “moonstruck” would look great in a border, it’s got a nice height and really puts out the flowers.

I did lose a couple (my overwintering technique is sloppy at best) but I like to think of it as natural selection.  Eventually I’ll be left with only the dahlias that can tolerate my abuse!  Right now if I can only keep them watered and possibly fertilized once more they should put on a great show until frost cuts them down.

dahlia tanjoh

Dahlia “Tanjoh” barely bloomed last year, this year it’s in a much better spot and is really starting to put on a nice show.

I consider dahlias to be as easy to grow as a cabbage.  Maybe that’s why some people look down on them, they grow so lush and showy that there’s little room for subtlety and finesse…. which is just fine with me.  I grow them best amongst the vegetables where they can be fussed over and freely cut for the house, and they relish the easy life amongst the tomatoes and beans.

dahlia 'mathew alan'

This was supposed to be my favorite from last year “Plum Pretty”, but apparently it’s dahlia “Mathew Alan’. He’s a nice enough dahlia, but this means it was the plum that died over winter and went onto the compost pile….

I love all kinds of dahlias, but seem to be stuck on the quilled ‘cactus’ types.  A six inch wide cactus bloom and a height of about four feet seem just right for my taste, but a look through any dahlia offering will show plants from a half a foot to six with blooms from one inch to twelve…. and daisies, pom poms, dinnerplates, waterlilies, collarettes and more and more in the way of bloom types.

dahlia 'bride to be'

With a generic white flower name such as ‘Bride to Be’ I would guess this one would be perfect for a wedding arrangement. It’s a waterlily type, with broad, perfectly arranged, rounded petals.

Water, rich soil, and full sun are all these ask of me.  They should be staked, but I’m the sort who waits until a storm knocks them all down before I do anything….. I should really reconsider that plan, especially since I just picked up some suitable wood at the DIY store (no excuses!)

dahlia "goovy" with japanese beetles

Slugs, earwigs and Japanese beetles are the only troublemakers I get in the dahlia patch. They’re never much of a problem, I just dispense punishment, clip the bloom, and wait for a new one to come up in its place. This is dahlia “Groovy”, a darker leaved variety.

I’ve been through dahlia phases before and usually after a couple seasons of digging and replanting I either get bored or end up losing them all to bad winter storage.  We’ll see.  This latest phase is still burning hot and fierce, and I’m tempted to turn over the entire vegetable patch and fill it with dahlias!

peach dahlia

My oldest dahlia. This unidentified one from the box store has been surviving the in and outs of winter storage for at least 9 years…. practically a record in responsibility for me! (If it was taller it could be the 1963 dahlia “Alfred Grille”, but named or nameless still a nice one)

So we’ll see what happens.  Dahlia season is just starting and there are more to come, but opinions may change when the temperatures drop.  Digging soggy dahlia roots on a cold windy October weekend can really kill a plant lust and I’m far too frugal to just buy new tubers each spring.

Do you bother with dahlias?