24 June 2009

silver lindens in bloom

Alan just got back from visiting family on Prince Edward Island, so he and I went out for a veggie burger tonight to catch up. As we walked through the neighborhood we luxuriated in the fragrance of the millions of tiny flowers on the silver linden trees planted throughout Greenwich Village.

Wonderful trees: Alternate leaf arrangement; lots of floppy, lopsided, serrated leaves; and then these thin leafy appendages from which dangle tiny, rather insignificant flowers that nevertheless smell like heaven. Amazing.

23 June 2009

interesting effect

I think I’m going to try this. At North Hill, I was quite taken by a shady area that had hostas growing nearest to the path in the front at about a foot and a half high with Vinca minor at around eight inches tall planted behind and stretching off into the distance. The effect was of a sea of vinca off of a shore of hosta. My impulse is always always always "short in front and tall in back," but this was the exact opposite. Why did it work for me? Use of only those two species, the contrast between the lighter-colored hosta and the darker vinca, the heavy cover provided by both, and the slight difference in height between the two. Quite something. Really lovely.

22 June 2009

the week that was

Accomplished during last week (vacation!):

Saturday–Monday: Spent a long weekend with B at a friend’s house in Rhode Island to celebrate the 13th anniversary of our first date. Lolled about on the beach, ate fried clams, drove up the coast, visited Kinney Azalea Gardens in Kingston. A wonderful start to the vacation.

Tuesday: Trucked eight large carts of compost down to the flower bed by the road. In the spring this bed is filled with daffodils, whose ripening leaves are really beginning to bug me now as they look so messy. For the past three summers I’ve been planting out red zinnias in at least half the bed. This year, the entire bed will be filled with zinnias (mostly red, some green—Merry Christmas!—as well as a yet-to-be-revealed color from seeds I collected last fall). The seed packets say germination occurs in 7–10 days. I planted ours on Tuesday late afternoon and saw the first sprouts on Sunday morning. Psyche!

Wednesday: Extended the dahlia bed by the chicken coop and dug in two large carts of compost to accommodate eight dahlia plants as well as three hills of melons. I know, I know, an odd combination, but that bed gets a lot of sun and I think the melons will do well there. Planted the following on Wednesday afternoon: “Gallery Galia,” “Solid Gold Cantaloupe,” and “Earlidew Honeydew” seeds from Renee’s Garden Seeds. These are supposed to ripen in 85 days, which would be, gulp, 10 September. Oh well, good luck to us all! Planted out “Bloodstone” and “White Fawn” dahlias in the perennial bed and then “Andries Orange,” “Clair de Lune,” “Giraffe,” “Kaiser Wilhelm,” two “Little Beeswings,” “Winsome,” and “Yellow Gem” (that makes eight) in the extended dahlia bed. This year I didn’t crowd them in as much as I did last year, so we’ll see how that goes. Behind and above will be morning glories (“Black Knight” and “Heavenly Blue”) and moonflowers. Nobody said this would be an especially subtle or well-coordinated bed. At this point in my gardening life, I just want to grow lots and lots of dahlias and be shocked and amazed by all the color (I’m particularly looking forward to “Giraffe” and “Winsome”).

Note to self: Last year I planted the dahlias out on 1 June; this year, 18 June, more than two weeks later. I could have planted them the weekend of 6 June, but I was at the house for an overnight only and we’d just had a late frost the week before, so I was a little skeered. Fingers crossed that these guys grow like crazy now and that we’ll have blooms sometime in July.

Thursday: Spent a rainy day recovering from carting and digging in the ten loads of compost on Tuesday and Wednesday. By mid-day, I had recovered enough to take a drive out to Watkins Nursery in Glens Falls where I bought a castor bean plant. I know, I know: Poisonous! But I’ve always wanted to grow this. B has planted it behind the bench in his vegetable garden (irony), and we’ve promised we won’t accidentally poison ourselves with castor bean soup. (I realize that someone somewhere has probably already won a Darwin Award doing something like that; even so I guess it isn’t especially funny . . . Oh, come on.)

Friday: Went with B and Betty to West Dover, Vermont, to attend the Fourteenth Annual North Hill Symposium, where we heard presentations by Wayne Winterrowd, Joe Eck, Bill Thomas of Chanticleer Garden near Philadelphia, Ken Druse, sculptor and gardener Marcia Donahue from California, and Carol Reese from the University of Tennessee. The theme of the symposium was “Art, Wit, and Whimsy in the Garden,” and the day was exhausting but wonderful. Loved especially Wayne Winterrowd’s reminiscences of growing up and becoming a gardender in Louisiana, Bill Thomas’s photographs of the gardens at Chanticleer (lots of inspiration), and Carol Reese’s sense of humor and joy. I think of gardening as a mostly solitary pursuit, so it was amazing and all kinds of wonderful to see so many gardeners in one place at one time. At lunch we sat across from a Woodstock, Vermont, gardener who had brought her three gardening assistants with her. Hard. Core.

Saturday: Went with B and Betty to Readsboro, Vermont, to tour Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd’s garden at North Hill. Pictures to come. Amazing.

Sunday: Sang at church and then went home to plant a Chionanthus virginicus (also called Fringe Tree or Old Man’s Beard) that B and I bought on Saturday afternoon after reading about it months ago, seeing it for sale at the symposium on Friday (a nursery there was selling it), and coming across it in situ at North Hill. What an absolutely gorgeous small tree. We planted ours near the prayer shack. Betty generously offered to water it for us this week. Thank you, Betty!

10 June 2009

bluestone order arrived!

The plants arrived today:
  • 3 Hosta “Gold Standard”
  • 1 Panicum virgatum “Cloud Nine”
  • 1 Miscanthus sinensis “Zebrinus”
I’m planning on putting the three hostas in the lilac thicket for a little gold color in the midst of the shade. The “Cloud Nine” grass is fine in part shade, I hear, so it will go over on the north side of the house, near the Sambucus racemosa “Sutherland Gold” that I transplanted earlier this spring from a spot that was way too sunny, hot, and dry.

The “Zebrinus” will go in the perennial bed, bringing the number of grasses in that bed to three: Miscanthus sinensis “Morning Light,” Panicum virgatum “Shenandoah,” and now “Zebrinus.”

Very excited about all of this.

I keep toying with the idea of getting some Calamagrostis “Karl Foerster,” but so far haven’t. I wonder why?

08 June 2009

in bloom, 6 June 2009

  • All lilacs are finished save for “Krasavitsa Moskvy,” the blooms of which are turning brown, but are fragrant still.
In bloom
  • First peonies are out!
  • White Siberian iris blooming merrily away next to the garage; they were in full bud last weekend.
  • All three colors of bearded iris are out: maroon, yellow, and blue. Gorgeous. Looks like a crayon box.
  • Red and pink Oriental poppies blooming; white still to come.
  • Baptisia is in second week of bloom; pretty against the red Oriental poppies.
  • Red lupine in bloom since at least last weekend; nice against the bearded iris.
  • Lemon lilies in bloom along stone wall; would love to weed that bed and divide some to plant in full sun; lovely foliage.
  • Chives and comfrey blooming together in herb bed.
  • Allium in shade bed still blooming.
  • Bridal wreath spirea blooming in its small way (new this year from Miller Nurseries)
  • Nepeta blooming
  • Blue columbine blooming
In bud
  • Mock orange bush
  • Rosa rugosa on slope setting lots of buds and throwing out an occasional bloom
  • Roses in the crib budding out
Surprises of the season (so far)
  • Butterfly bush survived the winter; sending up lots of nice shoots.
  • “Boone” gladiolus from Old House Gardens also survived the winter; it’s sending up more leaves this year.
  • Brand-new quince bush planted by the prayer shack is budding way down toward the base. Can’t wait to see the color.

03 June 2009

life wisdom

A Kleenex does not a good replacement for a coffee filter make.

02 June 2009

lemon lilies in bloom

These are a stand of lemon lilies (Hemerocallis flava) that, incredibly, I didn’t know I had when I went online and bought 24 more last year. One can see them from one’s (ahem) back door if one has one’s eyes (ahem) open (ahem).

I love lemon lilies! I love the fact that they’re blooming now; I love their thin, grassy foliage; and I love their color (even if it is a little washed out by my malfunctioning camera here).

01 June 2009

euphorbia “diamond frost”

What a wonderful plant. For the record, I’m not a big front-of-the-border bedding plant kind of guy. The annuals I like in the garden I can count on one hand: Nicotiana alata, Verbena bonariensis (which, as a terrific self-sower, I had to buy only once four years ago), red zinnias, marigolds for around B’s tomatoes, and portulaca (called rose moss in B’s family and one of his dad’s favorite flowers). If had seven fingers on my one hand I’d add morning glories and moonflowers, too, but really that’s it. The old standards.

So I was a little surprised when I saw Euphorbia “Diamond Frost,” a Proven Winners® plant, at the garden center last spring and found myself smitten. It looked like a little pot of Dr. Seuss fluff, and I was completely taken with it, so B and I bought two pots, which I planted in the half shade of the lilac border. My mom became equally as enamored the first time she saw it, so I gave one to her. The one I held onto turned into a frothy mound of lacy white, probably 18 inches tall and wide; just gorgeous. Over the winter I thought that if I saw it again at the nursery, I’d get a bunch and plant them two or three feet apart on the edge of the lilac bed. Fast forward to two weekends ago, when B and I made our first trip of the season over to Clear Brook Farm in Shaftsbury. I bought five pots. Then we stopped off at another nursery in Salem called The Greenery, where on a little further consideration I bought two more. They’re all planted and are settling in; by midsummer they will be shimmering in the shade.

This is a beautiful, beautiful plant! And it can take heat and drought and is deer-resistant, too, apparently. What’s not to love? Seriously: a very nice plant. (The photograph above is one I borrowed from the Proven Winners Web site.)

a new weed

B and I were at a party on Saturday afternoon for the benefit of the Agricultural Stewardship Association, whose mission is to preserve farmland for farming in Washington County. It’s a great organization.

A fact I didn’t know: Washington County, New York, has the about the same size population now as it did 150 years ago: 60,000 today vs. 55,000 then. I learned that from the charming and kind Seth Jacobs, a local organic farmer and the president of ASA.

At the tail-end of the party, I also learned about a new weed: Aegopodium podagraria. Yikes! One of the hosts of the party was showing me his garden, and we lingered for a moment on the side of the house to look at his “Butterflies” magnolia, which, like mine, has suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous late frosts. He was apologizing, as we all do, about the weeding that needed to be done and then pointed out one weed in particular that is giving him a big headache: “This is bishop’s weed. It’s taking over, and it’s ridiculously difficult to get rid of.”

The weed toward which he gestured is a plant I noticed in my garden under the lilacs last spring. I had never seen it before, and I remember wondering whether it was a weed or a purchase I forgot I made. The leaves were pretty, almost like Anemone tomentosa “Robustissima,” (which I had planted in the area) but the plant was much more vigorous, and it was in a nice thick clump that seemed to be contained by the Brunnera macrophylla “Langtrees” surrounding it. I pulled a few stems up, tried to identify it online and couldn’t, so left it for another day.

And now some new knowledge! Plant becomes weed! When I noticed gooseneck loosestrife (Lysimachia clethroides) coming up everywhere in the perennial garden a few years back, I spent a few hours eradicating it from the bed, figuring it was one invasive headache I didn’t need to have. I spent yesterday morning digging up the part of the garden where bishop’s weed seems to have taken hold. I sifted the dirt for broken roots (they’re thin and brittle, much more difficult to extract whole than those of gooseneck loosestrife, which peel away from the ground like yarn from a ball), and did a survey of the rest of the garden to make certain I didn’t see any more. I didn’t, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be engaged in this battle for the rest of the summer or longer.

I can’t figure out where it came from, though! If geography is any clue, it came in with an astilbe or with a flat of foxglove I planted last spring. Or, most likely, with some Asarum canadense I bought from a wildflower nursery last year.

Glad to have it pointed out to me!

Here’s an informative post about the plant from a woman in the Battenkill Valley (right next door to where we live). She is not optimistic about ever getting rid of her bishop’s weed.