Back to Work

The rain last week did wonders for the garden and it’s become as lush as last year.  Lush is sometimes code for overgrown, so I spent some productive time trimming and weeding this weekend and I’m happy to say it appears to have paid off.  With pictures taken at precisely the right moment, from just the right angle, within hours after the lawn was mowed and edged, the yard finally looks nice.  I guess it’s about time considering we’re about four months into the growing season.

street border

The lawn cut and edged.  It looks almost parklike, just ignore the yellow spots… the kids were playing with a metal detector and searching for treasure in the turf…

I’ll try not to dwell on all the flaws I see.  The front border has much less color from annuals this year because of beetle attacks and a dry spell, but there’s enough which has come along regardless.  From the street side it’s really filled in, the usual perennials and random sunflower make a nice barrier between us and the road.

street border

The border does its own thing along the street with just an occasional whacking back when things get out of hand.

From the lawn side there’s also a good amount of perennial color, but not as much as I’d like.  I do prefer my plantings on the brighter side  🙂

street border

This picture is 100% showing off the lawn.  It’s a rare day when a well watered, green, freshly cut, neatly edged, lawn shows up on this blog.

Speaking of too much color, it’s not an official policy but in general I don’t have many daylilies in the garden.  I don’t like the way the leaves on so many of them look all beat up by the end of the year and for that reason got rid of most of them.  That may be a-changin’ though.  I spotted this one next door and there’s a good chance I may rationalize an emergency dividing, so I can sneak a few pieces over onto my side of the property line.

orange and pink daylily

Orange and pink.  This might be just what my border needs… or it might be one more piece of evidence in the case against any good taste in my garden.

I’ll have to be sure I don’t give in to the temptation of bringing a few bright daylilies into the tropical border.  It’s supposed to be all big leaves and bright colors thanks to explosive, non-hardy southern plants, not steady reliable things like daylilies.

tropical garden

A late start means the dahlias are only just now starting to flower, plus an unusually lazy May meant three or four were all that ever got planted.  Maybe less will be more this year…

The top part of the tropical border is again nearly overwhelmed by 8 foot tall sunflowers among other things.  This year I thought for sure I’d have the upper hand after pulling nearly all of them up but of course with more space the remaining plants grew even bigger.  I guess I could have worse problems.

tropical garden

At least the elephant ears look tropical.

The lawn isn’t the only thing enjoying some maintenance love.  I pulled out the hedge clippers and started doing a little trimming and was able to re-meatball all the lumps of yew along the house.  I don’t completely mind trimming hedges, but rounding off the same yews every year just to have the same yews rounded off every year seems incredibly pointless, so by the time I got to the big one at the end I was more than a little bored.  We’ll have to see where this ends up.

yew topiary

Maybe I can call my yew balls ‘topiary’ now.  Of course I have yet to clean up the trimmings or get a ladder to reach the top…

Out back the potager is particularly lush.  I’ve been relentlessly pulling sunflower, verbena, persicaria, and amaranth seedlings but plenty remain.  Through July I still pretend to be the one in charge, but by August I lose the urge.  From here on things will be getting messier and messier, with all kinds of halfway attractive flowers sprouting up and taking over as the phlox fade or the vegetables are picked.

potager vegetables

It’s phlox season, and each day far too much time is spent checking them out.

I do like my phlox, but experience has shown they don’t like me.  The list of named varieties which have perished in this garden is pretty embarrassing, so of course we won’t talk much about that, and hopefully more observant readers won’t notice that I again spent a decent amount of money on new ones earlier this spring.  They’re not dead yet which is a good sign I think.

phlox paniculata

A mix of seedling and named varieties of tall garden phlox (Phlox paniculata).  To my eye gold and pink do not mix well… in fact I hate the mix… but I need marigolds and I need phlox, so there you go.

From further away the phlox look colorful at least.  Close up the foliage looks abused and there are plenty of other issues, but the flowers keep coming, and it makes me wonder if they think this is their last hurrah before they kick the bucket.  I hope not, but I’m not going to fool myself into thinking they like it here.

potager vegetables

I feel like it’s a requirement to grow marigolds in your vegetable garden, even if it’s so fancy that you call it a potager.  Sorry about the white buckets littering the view, but this photo is to prove that there really are vegetables in here.

One last phlox photo.  I wonder if they’d like me more if I dug up a whole new bed and devoted it to even more phlox and more new phlox?  A few more reds would be nice and how much room do a few tomatoes need anyway?

I definitely need more phlox, and I also won’t rule out bigger clumps of the good ones like this white seedling. They’re native plants by the way, so maybe this is helping make America great again.

I’m sure by September I’ll be wishing for fewer phlox and more colchicums.  Maybe.  Hopefully it’s not chrysanthemums though since I’m this close to yanking most of them out in spite of the fact I needed bunches of them just a few years ago.  I hope not everyone is as fickle as I am.

Happy August and have a great week!

Visiting Jean

My friend Jean has an amazing garden which she’s been working on for years and she’s made it into a treasure trove of color and textures which flourish in spite of the thin mountainside soil she first started with.  I love a garden which you can walk through and experience and this garden fits that bill perfectly.

jeans pond

Yoga frog leads the class of froglets who follow along from the safety of the pond.

It’s a sheltered garden filled with the sounds of running water.  You enter the backyard though a shaded arbor at the end of a long drive which leads you through the large wooded lot.  What first grabs your attention when you step through the gate is the large pond carved into the mountainside.  It looks as if it’s always been there, a relaxing little nook left over from when the glaciers last scrubbed this part of Pennsylvania.

jeans pond

Looking out across from the house and main patio to the pond.  A natural stone path leads to a cozy seating area and fire pit, a clematis covered arch marks the path out into the garden beyond.

You have two choices here, explore the pond and gardens to your left or ignore the deck and patios (and inviting patio seating) surrounding the house and let the color of the slope to the right draw you in.  We usually choose the flowery slope 🙂

jeans garden

Jean’s garden is always magazine ready.  It’s got color, paths, destinations, focal points, vignettes… Here container plantings line the stone steps which take you to the upper garden.

I guess the upside to gardening on a thinly covered, rocky mountainside is that stone paths and walls are just an arm’s length away… assuming you’ve got a prybar and shovel at the end of that arm!  Over the years Jean has built up terraces and pickaxed out level planting areas to make room for her plant addiction and they really keep the garden interesting with their changes in elevation and solid structure.

jeans garden

Color galore with annual plantings and summer perennials.  Of course if there’s a nice bright phlox I have to include the picture 😉

The top of the slope has been kept open for sun and leveled to make room for all the summer color that fills this end of the garden.  On my last visit the dahlias were just starting to take off and I hope I wasn’t too pushy with my hints of how much I liked the colors and how well they’d look in my own garden!

Zinnias, calibrachoa, and of course dahlias.  This picture just doesn’t do the scale justice, the pot of purple fountain grass is probably about six feet up on a tower of container plantings.

Jean is just a little obsessed.  It’s hard for me to believe a gardener could be that way but she’s got plants all over, she’s got plant inventories, she’s involved in plant groups, she travels for plants, and she’s got about a million plans which are on the drawing board.  It’s always fun talking to her as her compulsively organized type A personality deconstructs gardening.

jeans dahlias

Even the plant supports are well thought out and complement the yellows, oranges, reds and purples of this section.

Beyond the sunny and bright center of the garden, pathways take you out into the more shaded woodland edges.  Hydrangeas abound and although I didn’t get any decent pictures of them individually, if you start looking you’ll see they show up nearly everywhere… and not just planted ones… believe it or not there are hundreds of hydrangea seedlings in any open spot of soil or gravel which gets a little sun.  What a thought to have to weed out handfuls of hydrangea!

jeans garden

Stone lined paths run throughout the garden and special shrubs and trees fill every available space.  Here the left side of the path is dominated by an eight foot tall planting of purple angelica (Angelica gigas ‘purpurea’).

If there’s one thing which Jean struggles with it’s the local vole population.  Deer are around as well but at least you can fence them out.  Voles are a curse.

jeans garden

The shadier planting still look great but at one time they were also filled with hostas.  Lots of them.

Soil additives, traps, caged plantings, containers, all are in use to wage war against the rodent hordes but as Jean likes to say, her stone walls and rock ledges are practically vole condos so it’s a continuous battle.

jeans garden

Round about the back a pathway has been planted up as a scented walkway.  On a previous visit the fragrance of oriental lilies filled the air, on my my last visit it’s been replaced by the scent of passionflowers and fragrant hostas.

Fortunately she’s holding her own and shows no signs of throwing in the trowel.  Score one more for Jean.

jeans garden

Shaded steps leading around to the fire pit.  I love how things fill in here, and you could plant a whole other garden with the dwarf goats beard, ferns, and other goodies which sprout up in the cracks.

I’ll leave you with one last pond photo as we return to the house.

jeans pond

Just the right amount of water lilies for interest and open water for light reflection.  I’m sure the Japanese maple is awesome in the fall but my favorite right now is the airy variegated moor grass Molinia caerulea ‘Variegata’).

As you exit the garden off the main patio you can’t help but notice how well Jean grows climbing nasturtium.  Although I love the leaves and flower colors, this is one plant I always struggle with.

jeans nasturtium

Nasturtium climbing the arch.  It looks so healthy!

And that takes us back to where we started.  I hope you enjoyed the tour as much as I did and it’s inspired me to make more paths and get more shrubs in the ground.  Structure.  That’s what I need… just like snowdrops are what Jean needs 😉

Thanks Jean!

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.

Thursday’s Feature: Bessera elegans

I really need to apologize for yet again neglecting comments and neglecting blog visits and for neglecting most of the fun interactions which make blogging so rewarding.  I think on Tuesday I went on about how lazy I’ve been lately, but now I’m afraid it’s becoming borderline rude, so for that I apologize.  That said I’m not really worried about offending anyone, I think most who read this have their own busy lives which heat up and cool down, but I figured I’d throw it out there just in case.  I really do appreciate the interactions.

But it is already late on Thursday and since it’s a day when I like to join up with Kimberley of Cosmos and Cleome for her Thursday’s Feature it looks like another night of post first, blogworld later.  Who could blame me for just wanting to sit here for a few minutes before bed and write about Bessera elegans anyway?

Bessera elegans

The dainty yet boldly colored flowers of Bessera elegans.  a bulbous goodie from Southwestern Mexico.

Before I get you too excited, this plant has long, sloppy, narrow leaves which flop all over the ground.  The non-hardy, bulblike corms seem to rot easily during winter storage.  It doesn’t like cold weather.  I’ve seen it referred to as “fussy”.  All of these are good enough reasons to plant a marigold instead but then the flowers come and you’re hooked.  The color is saturated bright and they hang in clusters at the top of long wiry stems.  For as spineless as the foliage is the flower stems never seem to need support, and they hoist the flowers up to dance in any breeze which happens to come through on a hot and muggy summer day.  I’ve heard them described as like a red snowdrop, but I don’t see it.  To me maybe parachute, umbrella, maybe a little fairy…. I don’t know, it’s a cool form with the long stamens and pistils sticking out of the inner skirt, and before I start sounding too wacky I’ll leave it to you to find a better description 🙂

Bessera elegans

I didn’t notice the spider lying in wait, but I do notice the odd greenish pollen every time I do a closeup examination of these elegant little flowers.

My bulbs originally came through Brent and Becky’s and the fact I’ve been able to get blooms from it each of the last three years says a lot for its toughness.  I’ve always grown them in pots in a well draining potting soil and they seem to appreciate regular water and full sun and just take off during the growing season.  The flowers last for a relatively long time and there are several flowers on each stalk.  I would almost say they’re easy then, but when winter rolls around the trouble starts.  Without revealing how close I’ve come to killing them each winter (last year I was truly amazed those last remaining spots of corm even grew let alone bloomed), I’m just going to say my best success has been keeping them bone dry and on the warm side when in storage… but I’m open to advice on this.

I really have no business adding any more plants which need pampering over winter but such is curiosity.  The red version is cheap enough (10 for $6 last time I looked) that one can just plant and abandon them once winter arrives, but there are other colors and of course other colors mean collecting opportunity.  I’ve seen mention of crimson, pink, lavender, and a dark purple, each with varying flower sizes and markings, and of course I want to try all of them.  Telos Rare Bulbs has the “outstanding” purple form for sale but at $15 a piece I’m reminded of how poorly my current plants survive the winter and it’s taking all my strength of reason to resist.  It even says “few available” and that does absolutely nothing to calm me down.

I will wrap it up here.  I need to get some rest before someone clicks and orders something they shouldn’t, but in the meantime please consider a visit to Kimberley’s blog and see what others have featured this Thursday.  I was fortunate enough to have her pay a visit to my own garden last weekend, and had she not needed to rush off early I’m sure I would have gone on and on about this plant.  As it is I’m sorry she missed it 🙂

Not a bad morning.

It’s beautiful out this morning and I can’t even see problems in the garden.  The lawn is relatively under control, some staking and weeding was done yesterday, the soil is damp enough that watering is not an issue, and other than some chipmunk issues the wildlife of the garden is behaving in an entirely picturesque and harmless manner.  This feeling may fade quickly but while it lasts I’ll just sip my coffee quietly and hope the kids don’t find me.

datura metel

Datura metel.  I expected an annual but this one re-appeared out of nowhere once the rains came and the soil heated up.  It’s doing so much better than last year.

The light is often perfect in my garden but my photos rarely show this.  Even with a better half who loves expensive electronics and insisted on a fancy camera there’s still a skill component missing and I often look at what shows up on the computer screen and wonder what happened.  Fortunately this morning things just came together and it’s as good as it’s going to get.

IMG_2548

Light and shadows on a Datura flower. Even a few dew drops to make it glisten.

Last fall a friend gave me a few seedheads of what is probably Gomphrena ‘fireworks’.  It’s supposed to be in the same species as the regular globe gomphrena (G. globosa) but I don’t see it, and even though it loves the same heat and full sun, the flowers are more like yellow tipped pink brushes rather than tight globes.

gomphrena fireworks

Gomphrena ‘fireworks?’ in the morning light.  Easy from seed (needs warmth and bright light) and loves the heat.

Another annual which catches the light perfectly is amaranthus ‘Hot Biscuits’.  Practically a weed, it just shot up when the rain started falling and the humidity shot up.  This is another one which came via friend…. thanks Paula!

amaranthus hot biscuits

Amaranthus ‘hot biscuits’ in the front border.

I would have laughed if you told me I’d ever grow (and like) a brown flower but here it is.

amaranthus hot biscuits

A nice late summer show of amaranthus coming up among the butterfly bushes (Buddleia)

I do buy a few seeds here and there and zinnias are one which I like to keep in good supply.  Brenary’s Giants ‘Lime’ does NOT show well in the garden but it’s just too interesting to leave out.

Benary’s Giants lime zinnia

Benary’s Giants ‘lime’ zinnia from Fedco Seed.  I bet a good designer could do great things with this color… but me, not so much.  I think it’s cool regardless.

The birds and bees get the credit for this sunflower as well as whatever religious deity you believe protected it from my weed bucket.  I swore up and down I would not allow sunflowers in the tropical bed but there you have it.

double sunflower

A little doubling and a darkly rich center, I’m quite pleased to have this sunflower sharing space with the cannas and bananas.

The Formosa lilies (Lilium formosum) were stunted by weeks of drought back in the no-man’s land which I tend to ignore, but are still forgiving enough to fill the garden with their sweet summer perfume.

lilium formosum

Lilium formosum.  For some reason I thought planting them where they’d grow up into the branches of a pear tree would be a good idea… but then again why would I think my little seedlings would ever amount to anything?

The meadow got its mowing just in time.  The first colchicum blooms were beheaded, but now the others can come up nicely in the short (and for once green) grass.

cochicum in lawn

cochicum in lawn

Back in July we didn’t even remember what rain looked like.  Then something happened.  August was warm and humid with perfectly spaced rain showers and this blessing from above even resurrected (most) of the phlox bed.  If you look closely the damage is still there, but on a beautiful Sunday morning it’s easy to see past that.

garden phlox paniculata

Phlox paniculata in the late August light.

Please click on “I hate gardening” to see what this bed looked like a month ago.  You could call the change miraculous and I don’t think that’s an exaggeration.

garden phlox paniculata

Just in time for Monarch migration, the garden phlox and Verbena bonariensis are again filled with flowers and this bed is a very busy place.

I do love my phlox.

garden phlox paniculata

Back from the dead, random phlox paniculata seedlings.

Have a great Sunday and all the best for the upcoming week.  I’m going back outside now and suspect nothing will get done other than a second cup of coffee.

Tuesday View: The Tropics 8.23.16

It’s another Tuesday and although I missed last week due to a quick summer jaunt up to the mountains of New Hampshire, this week I’m back to joining in with Cathy at Words and Herbs in order to look at the weekly progress of the tropical border.  Heat, humidity, regular rain showers, and strong summer sunshine in between have brought on an explosion of late summer growth and the purple leaved cannas now dominate the bed.

tuesday view

Purple leaved canna indica, maybe ‘purpurea’ or ‘red stripe’ or ‘Russian red’… I don’t really know since they were given to me years ago as just plain old canna… have now topped off at around 8-9 feet.

You’ll probably notice the small red blooms the cannas have put out.  They’re nice enough as a little decoration up top but hardly enough reason to grow these plants.  It’s all about the foliage and it’s looking particularly good on this deliciously cool and clear, breezy summer day.

canna indica purpurea Russian red

Canna indica ‘purpurea?’ blooms against the bright blue of a clear summer sky.  A very popular flower with the hummingbirds.

Have I referenced “summer” enough yet?  I’m hoping that if I keep saying the word it will hang on forever, and we’ll never have to deal with the cold little deaths called autumn and winter.  Surely it’s a part of life here in Pennsylvania, but I don’t mind if it holds off for another two months at least.

coleus Alabama sunset

I need to add more coleus to the bed next year.  As things grow so does the shade, and this coleus (maybe ‘Alabama Sunset’)  fills in nicely rather than fading away like some of the zinnias.

There’s a whole back half to the bed which has been blocked off by the main clump of canna.  It’s a little messy but hopefully in the next few weeks a dahlia or two can break through and add a little color as other things begin to fade out.

tropicalismo

Is ‘Tropical Weed Patch’ a look?  If I can only think of a better name maybe it will catch on but in the meantime you may notice the salvia ‘Caradonna’ which constantly annoys me is still exactly where its always been.  Sometimes things don’t move too fast around here 🙂 

With such a mess of randomness there’s bound to be a surprise here and there, and sometimes that surprise even turns out to be a nice one.  This week it was the salvia which has just come into bloom.  My favorite version of the stout, too-red, gas-station salvias (Salvia splendens) are the ones which don’t look like they’d end up in a gas station planting at all.   They’re the tall and lanky ones which are sometimes referred to as Salvia splendens ‘Van Houttii’ and up until now I’ve only succeeded with a peach colored one.  But last year I did have a short purple bedding type nearby, and apparently things happened at night and lo and behold this year one of their children is a tall, lanky purple.

purple salvia bloom

At about three feet tall this purple salvia bloom has all the grace and style which its shorter cousins lack.  Even better was that I found this as a self-sown seedling and was lucky enough to nurse it on to blooming size.  This makes me wonder as to what the other seedlings will look like.  

I’ve shown it before but have to show one more photo of the castor bean.  The bright seed pods look perfect amongst the purple foliage.

castor bean carmencita

The spiky red (and remember poisonous as well) seed heads of castor bean ‘carmencita’

This afternoon the sun hit the back corner of the bed perfectly.  You don’t even notice the weeds when the light is like this.

tropicalismo

Verbena bonariensis is the workhorse of this bed and although it threatens to swamp everything else here it’s still worth any bit of trouble it causes. 

At this time of year it’s easy to ignore any maintainence and just enjoy the plants as they slide on into autumn, but dahlias are yet to come and dahlias need staking.  Two weeks ago would have been the best time to do this but things happen and when things happen the dahlias fall over.  It will require twice as much time to carefully put them back up and some might just stay where they lie.  It will be more of a groundcover look, but with the way they are stretching away from the canna’s shadow nearly all the plants have verticality issues which might not be worth fighting.

panicum northwind

There are dahlias in them thar purple verbena, but for now lets just focus on the panicum ‘Northwind’ which is turning into a tight fountain of frothy seed-heads.

Dahlias will hopefully be staked tomorrow… or Thursday.  Weekend at the latest.  It’s so nice right now with green grass, butterflies, and flowers who wants to stake stuff?  Plus I needed to tackle a hedge of crabgrass which sprouted overnight in one of the other beds, it’s an embarrassing mess, but at least it’s green and green is so much nicer than the dead brown which surrounded me last month.

Mess or not I hope you enjoyed the view and if you’d like give Cathy a visit and see what this week has brought to her garden and others.  It’s  a nice way to keep tabs on things over the season and it’s also a great way to get things staked and weeded.  Shame is a great motivator and even if it means I have to stake with one hand and take pictures with the other, the job will get done long before I even consider publically admitting that the twine has defeated me 🙂

Thursday’s Feature: Cyclamen purpurascens

It’s time to get back into the saddle.  I’ve enjoyed telling the woeful tales of drought and loss in my garden and appreciated the kind words, but it’s time to stop the shameless pandering for sympathy and suck it up.  I’m sure most gardeners will agree that there’s nothing better for a poor attitude than a new plant, so I ordered a couple iris, planned a trip to the nursery, and I think I’m good 🙂

So first things first I’m joining Kimberley at Cosmos and Cleome for her Thursday’s Feature and highlighting one of the little treasures which don’t seem to care much about a few sunny days and a bit of heat.  This week’s plant is that hardiest of hardy cyclamen, Cylamen purpurascens.

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Blooming this week in the dry shade beneath the weeping cherry is Cyclamen purpurascens. I like the slight streaking and chunky flowers of this one.

Besides being a hardy plant ((the cyclamen society’s website lists this plant as tolerant of temperatures down to -4F… and my own plants have easily endured -9F without significant snow cover) this plant also has the distinction of retaining foliage year round.  Even now during he worst of summer the beautifully marked and mottled foliage lights up the gloomiest of dry shade locations.

hardy cyclamen purpurascens foliage

Cyclamen purpurascens has the typically beautiful foliage shared by many of the cyclamen family, and the range of patterns is always amazing.

It also has the distinction of blooming now.  The flowers won’t blow you away until they come by the hundreds (which I’m hoping for someday), but for now the little splashes of color are a welcome relief for summer weary shade gardens.

cyclamen purpurascens

A more typical Cyclamen purpurascens flower with pink color and open, twisted petals. 

For more expert information and growing requirements I’d recommend the cyclamen society’s website, but from my own experience I find this cyclamen to be a little fussier and much slower growing than the others and also a plant which actually seems to welcome a good freeze in the winter.  Seedlings which I protected indoors really sulked until I threw them outside for the coldest months.

Mine were raised from seed, but honestly this is one cyclamen I’d have no problem buying as a plant.  Germination takes a year, it’s another year before they do any serious growing, another two or so years for a bloom if you’re not the most attentive grower, and then even the seeds take over a year to ripen before you can try for the next batch.  We’re not getting any younger, so save yourself a few years and buy a couple plants from John Lonsdale at Edgewood gardens.  For a plant which you probably won’t find anywhere else $12 a pop seems like a bargain to me and I’m a relatively cheap guy.

When you’re done with that give Kimberley a visit and see what else is on the radar this Thursday (or practically Friday as I look at the clock).  There’s always something interesting to be had and I know you won’t regret it!