30 June 2008

dale in the garden

B worked in his vegetable garden on Sunday afternoon, and Dale kept him company. Of course, he also kept me company as I worked in the flower garden all the way on the other side of the house.

This presented a problem for Dale: How could he keep both of us company at the same time? The solution, of course, was to check on B, then run like crazy across the lawn to make certain that I hadn’t impaled myself on a bamboo stake . . . but wait! “What about B? Better check to make certain he hasn’t drowned himself in the watering can. Hmmm, maybe J has a treat for me. Better check. Is that B waving his arms at me? Golly, got to get back to him. Bye, J! (pant pant pant . . .)”

flower portraits: june 2008

After reading up on lemon lilies, ordering some through eBay, planting them, and nipping off all but one bud, imagine my surprise to discover I’d had them all along! Here are some merrily blooming next to a stone wall in full view of the house. Just goes to show that what I don’t know, I don’t see. This one was blooming earlier in the month, 7 June.

Around two years ago, our friends Cheryl and Lynne gave us a division of one of their comfrey plants (Symphytum officinale asperum*). Theirs was huge, and the division they gave us had enormous, rough leaves that wilted almost before we got it to our car. We planted it, and I thought, “Well, that won’t make it through the summer,” but it did and is now a large, shaggy plant with beautiful blue flowers that remind me of Virginia bluebells. The bumblebees have been crazy for them. After a particularly hard rainstorm in the middle of this month, the plant was knocked over. Rather than try to stake it up, we cut it to the ground. Sure enough, a fresh batch of leaves is emerging. This photo is also from 7 June. For information on the fertilizing properties of comfrey tea (B will be happy to see it’s great for tomatoes, according to tonythehoe), here’s a link to a post from the aforementioned Tony over at http://tonythehoe.blogs.allotments-uk.com/2008/06/30/comfrey. Very interesting!

I think the iris and lupine were pretty fine this spring, in spite of some early skirmishes we had with aphids on the lupine. (On two successive weekends I sprayed the developing flower stalks with a mixture of baby shampoo and water, and that seemed to help.) Again, I took this on 7 June!

Gosh, I love perennial flax (Linum perenne).

From this past weekend, here’s a bloom on one of the two rose bushes B and I bought each other on the occasion of our 12th anniversary in the middle of the month (Happy anniversary, B!). This is a David Austin variety called “Fair Bianca.” Very spicy fragrance (I think the blossoms smell like licorice, and B thinks they’re more cinnamon-y). It’s a beautiful flower. (Fair Bianca’s companion is “The Squire.”)

And here’s one of the first blooms on a clematis I bought last summer. “Jackmanii”? I’m not absolutely certain, because the blooms are a little downcast and four-petaled (instead of five-petaled).

* My friend Pam asked for more information about this plant, so I did a little research on it. I think we have what is called rough comfrey (Symphytum asperum). It gets taller than S. officinale; ours gets to be about 4.5 feet tall. I didn’t realize that comfrey is in the borage family (think, of course, borage, but also heliotrope, Brunnera, forget-me-not, and, my new favorite, Virginia bluebells), but on second thought, the leaves are quite similar, roughness speaking, to those of Brunnera, and the flowers, already noted, are similar in look to Virginia bluebells. From what I’ve read, comfrey has a tendency to be invasive, but judging from comments on Dave’s Garden (http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/317/), the positives outweigh the negatives on this point. Some gardeners say that it is enthusiastic, but my overall impression is that it isn’t invasive in the scary, I’ve-come-to-take-over-your-world sense of the word. Just be certain to plant it where you want it, because it’s hard to get rid of. One gardener suggested mowing it down until it’s gone. My experience so far is that if you leave a little of the root behind when you move the plant (and how can you help but do that, because the roots apparently drive deep) it will sprout. Of course, the same thing happened when I moved my Oriental poppies this spring, and I’m delighted to have more of them. In addition to being used for fertilizer, comfrey leaves are used as a poultice, apparently. More information on that is in the comments from Dave’s Garden (see link above).

21 June 2008

help! plant ID needed!

My friend Pam just sent me a photograph of what looks like a shorter plant in her garden that is just about to bloom (we’re Zone 5). The leaves are lance-shaped, seems like, and the flower bud is surrounded by a ruff of smaller leaves or bracts. I wonder whether it could be Stokesia of some stripe. What do you think?

04 June 2008

peonies gearing up

One would imagine, in looking at some of our flowerbeds, that I am enamored of straight lines. Plunk: seven peonies in a row. Plunk: here are some daylilies, too. Actually, the row thing was begun by the previous owner of the house, who really DID have a thing for rows, I think. (I’m still scratching my head at the rows of hyacinths he planted; I love hyacinths, but they look more cheery to me when they’re planted in somewhat relaxed conversational groups.)

Myself, I’m not so big on planting militarily, but I’m leery of messing with something that’s obviously working (those peonies are doing well), so rows there will be for a few things.

I love peony blossoms in June, but I also love peony foliage the rest of the summer. It’s so green and so sturdy, a perfect backdrop for other flowers. I widened and edged this bed last summer and decided to plant one side with all kinds of Achillea (yarrow) and the other with lupine and—in a few weeks when all the volunteers have sprouted and I can transplant them from the perennial bed—Verbena bonariensis. There are some clumps of iris and dollops of Festuca cinerea “Elijah’s Blue” throughout, too.

But for now, isn’t all that green foliage sweet? And the peony buds are so optimistic.

03 June 2008

virginia bluebells

These are from the roots I ordered last fall from Viola Valley Wildflowers. What an amazing color they are. Very happy!

dale tuckered out

I played Frisbee with Dale while B was watering his garden. I’d throw the Frisbee, Dale would catch it, and then he’d run like crazy for a few minutes with me howling after him (and laughing my head off as I watched him throw the Frisbee in the air and catch it).

He is an exuberant dog and an expert Frisbee player. He really tired himself out, though. Time for a little water, Dale?

b's vegetable garden

B has planted most of what he will plant for the moment: beets, bush beans, carrots, chard, corn(!), crookneck squash, cucumbers, lettuces, lima beans, melon (I’ll have to ask him which kind), peas, peppers, radishes, and tomatoes. I took a few pictures of him and the garden as he was watering on Sunday afternoon.

If we have rain, and if the sun shines, too, we will have a bunch of amazing vegetables later on this summer! (We had a wonderful salad on Sunday after church of lovage and the first lettuce of the year; gosh, it was delicious.)

01 June 2008

peonies at dusk (garden bloggers’ muse day)

White peonies blooming along the porch
send out light
while the rest of the yard grows dim.

Outrageous flowers as big as human
heads! They’re staggered
by their own luxuriance: I had
to prop them up with stakes and twine.

The moist air intensifies their scent,
and the moon moves around the barn
to find out what it’s coming from.

In the darkening June evening
I draw a blossom near, and bending close
search it as a woman searches
a loved one’s face.

—Jane Kenyon

For a little more information on this cool idea, see Garden Bloggers’ Muse Day over at Sweet Home and Garden Chicago.