15 July 2010

new garden: a little before and after

Just for comparison's sake, the new garden planned, dug, and planted.

26 September 2009


11 November 2009


6 April 2010


23 May 2010


10 July 2010


Wish I could figure out what's going on with the color on the camera. Excuse it, please.

14 July 2010

ready for some sun in nova scotia

My friend Nancy at Leaping Greenly has just written a very funny poem about her plants this summer. Here it is so that you might also chuckle along with me (and her) about the crappy weather in Nova Scotia currently. Nancy, things will get better soon!

Enjoy Nancy's Ode to the (Crappy) Weather

13 July 2010

that old mountain dew

. . . well, maybe at some point it was full of moonshine. Now this whiskey barrel is filled with annuals and a young vine. B and I spent more than we should have, no doubt, on it this spring, to make a home for a new Clematis montana 'Mayleen' and the aforementioned annuals (lobelia, heliotrope, euphorbia 'Diamond Frost,' and petunia-y and daisy-like flowers whose names I cannot remember right now).

The plan is to build a ladder trellis against the thin chimney at the back of the house. The clematis will eventually climb that and cover the chimney with a gazillion light purple blossoms in the spring. This will liven things up certainly. I'd like to add another clematis or two to the mix at some point, but first the trellis needs to be built.

12 July 2010

we've been crossbreedin'!


Hosta macrophylla 'Endless Tinkering.' Brand new variety, folks. Not exactly deer-resistant, but possibly deer-addling. If you like hostas and you like hydrangeas, well, why aren't you adding this to your shopping cart? Note: Planting this variety in full sun will result in purplish-blue leaves and deeply ribbed flowers.

Trademark pending: Definitely not your mama's hosta (or, for that matter, your pap's peegee)

09 July 2010

worry for naught

Tried to make up a lyric to the tune of "I'm a little teapot," beginning with "I'm a little worry-wart." About as cute as a rat with a fuzzy tail, right? (Wait! That's a squirrel, right? Hey now, that is cute!)

Anyway, there I am sitting at my desk in the city all week, wringing my hands, envisioning every last plant in the garden burnt to a crisp with all of the heat we've been having. I mean, I'm reading people's blogs and everyone is out all day long watering and watering and running their wells dry to keep their plants from drooping, and there I am in NYC just worrying my head off.

And when we left the city this afternoon, we're driving up the Palisades Parkway, and B says, "Wow, look how dry the grass is. When did that happen?" and all I'm seeing in my mind is Pleasant Hill become the Valley of the Shadow of Death, with acres and acres of brown foliage and trees that have stripped down to their branches because it's SO DARN HOT.

We arrive. I park the car at the top of the driveway, fling open the door, and run to my dahlias and the new columbines and the little oak-leaf hydrangea that has surely succumbed because its root system is no larger than my pinky.

All are fine. Absolutely fine. So are all of the tomatoes, squash, and string beans, and even the lettuce looks great, for crying out loud.

We've since watered the potted plants on the patio (don't worry, they were fine, too), and the soil in the whiskey barrel was still a little moist, truth to tell (we watered it anyway). And with some thunderstorms coming through overnight and into the morning, it seems the rest of the garden will get watered soon, too.

I think I will stop worrying now.

first garlic!

Anyone pulling their first garlic?

Yip yip!

08 July 2010

weediness by the road

I've been considering the large roughly oval flower bed that surrounds an old maple down near the road. In the spring it's filled with daffodils, and in years past we've been more or less successful planting zinnias, marigolds, and cushion mums (expensive!) in it to provide some summer and fall color. The problem is that because the bed is much larger than it looks, it can easily hold 60 zinnia plants (a challenge to start that many), and we'd have to buy about 30 cushion mums every fall to make any sort of statement at all (and we're not Rockefellers). And having to plan this bed every year, effectively starting from scratch, is sort of beyond me at this particular juncture.

A few years back I thought about and then bought and planted in that bed some fall-blooming perennial asters. I figured, hey, there are tons of varieties available, they would be pretty from early September on, and, once they got established, no more plant buying needed (for that bed). I bought and planted a few, and, well, they're pretty in September and October, but kind of boring in May, June, July, and August (aster foliage isn't that glamorous). I haven't been dividing them (or weeding), so the nine little plants have remained nine little plants and, to be truthful, are kind of spindly, because about a third of the bed gets only a little sun (old maple tree, remember?), and the sunny part gets covered over with weeds. Which choke the asters. Poor asters.

The ones I planted (and that I intended to move into the autumn garden up by the house earlier this spring, but never did) are 'Hella Lacey,' 'Alert,' and 'October Skies.' The first is tall and light purple, the second is short and purple-red, and the third is short and light blue. Pretty, eh? And come to think of it, some enormous clumps of these guys would look gorgeous in the fall. And I could add 'Bluebird' and 'Lady in Black' to the mix. That would stop traffic.

But emphasis on "enormous clumps," which means I have to divide and divide and divide again what I already have.

But what about the rest of the bed? Asters, asters, and more asters: hmmm, kind of boring (see above).

And then over the past few days it hit me: daylilies. Not the fancy Frankenstein ones that look like a science project gone awry, but more traditional-looking ones. Maybe not ditch lilies since we see them all over the place this time of year, but possibly lemon lilies to start the show in spring and then some other yellow and gold ones through the summer, with an occasional red one thrown in to stir the pot. The virtue of daylilies is that I already have some I can use, their foliage is thick and would help hide the ripening daffodil foliage, they will bloom in half-sun (maybe not as profusely as they do in full sun, but I can forgive that), and if I choose some additional varieties carefully, it's likely I could have bloom from May through September to take attention away from the aforementioned weedy aster leaves.

So another project begins. And I think this might be a good plan.

07 July 2010

sunny days

Heat wave began in earnest on Monday, 5 July. We watered things pretty deeply before we left for the city on Monday evening, but we aren't back at the house until Friday evening, for crying out loud. Those plants will have to make do without us for another two days. It's been hot in the country, but not as hot as here in the city, thankfully, so all shall be well, I hope.

And maybe we've had a thunderstorm or two . . .

tired foliage

Scott, who takes care of our lawn, told me that he will mow the yellowing daffodil foliage down near the road this week. From May on, he leaves that part of the lawn unmowed at my request, because I want those daffodil leaves to soak up as much sunlight as they can. The only problem is that I usually let them ripen until way into August, at which point the lawn is almost beyond reclaiming.

Finally, it all becomes too much, and to save Scott the trouble of having to mow and remow the area, I find myself crawling around on my hands and knees muttering to myself on a humid August afternoon, tidying things up with a rusty pair of grass shears.

This year I am happy to say that I was a little more on the ball. In May, after the last daffodil had bloomed, I looked ahead six weeks and circled 5 July on my calendar, at which point I called Scott and told him I wanted him to mow the old daffodils away in early July. Good for me for thinking ahead, and good for Scott for remembering. Seriously.

In the meantime, the daffodil foliage near the house, in the peony bed, on the long and steep slope, and against the stone wall is also near ripened, which means I will be busy this weekend cutting it back. Every year I feel like I should wait until the leaves are completely dead instead of half yellow and half green (which is why the flower beds look bedraggled until August), but this year I think I might risk everlasting damnation by cutting them back before they're completely crisp. How much can a half-dead leaf photosynthesize anyway? But how much will it compromise the health of the bulb next spring? Maybe the answer is not much.

On to the Oriental poppy dilemma. Well, it's the same dilemma. We have amazingly healthy Oriental poppies. So healthy, in fact, that I can dig them up, break the taproots, transplant them, and have two poppies for the price of one: the transplant and the plant that sprouts from the taproot left behind, bless its heart. What I don't love, again, is the way the amazingly robust foliage smothers everything within three feet of it in May, dies back in June, and leaves a gigantic hole in the garden in July. What to do? What to do?

It's easy to find plants I like. Well, I like pretty much every plant, so that's sort of a dumb statement. It's the working out of these details that frustrates me. The solution here is to leave enough space between the poppies and neighboring plants and put them in a spot where we won't notice the hole they leave when they die back in June, preferably in a spot we won't see very much of. This is easier said than done. But I might have just the spot: We have a beautiful stand of red and pink lupines behind a row of peonies in a part of the garden that faces the road. The lupines are pretty much on top of the peonies right now, which might argue for widening that bed a bit, moving the lupines out and farther apart, and then interspersing the poppies. I imagine a group of poppies and lupines would look smashing from far away (the road) in May, and from the other side, the peonies could do a lot worse than bloom pink against the red and pink of the poppies and lupine. Nice. Dilemma solved?

But what to do about all that daffodil foliage? Sigh.

06 July 2010

gladiolus 'Atom'

Last year, Old House Gardens included three corms of a cute little glad called 'Atom' with my order. I was instructed to share these with a friend in order to encourage said friend to order some tubers or bulbs from Old House Gardens for him or herself. But did I? Not on your life. I planted those babies, I did, and got some gorgeous flowers for my selfishness.

'Atom' blossoms are red-red with a thin white edge. The plants are smaller than the gladiolus with which I am familiar (and, to be honest, not very fond of). I dug the corms last fall, discovered that the three had miraculously turned into six, chortled with delight at this occurrence, bagged them and hung them in the laundry room, and then forgot about them until this past weekend, when I cracked the corms apart and could have shared half of them with a friend . . .

dahlia update

Okay, so all of the tubers I plopped into the ground in mid-June are leafing out and growing like mad in this heat. I swear one of the plants shot up about five inches this past weekend alone. Not quite time yet to tie them to their stakes, but they are really leaping. Makes my crazy little heart glad.

The five dahlia plants I ordered from Corralitos Gardens, on the other hand, are budding and ready to pop. I honestly think that 'Florinoor' will be in bloom this coming weekend. Can't. Wait. Pictures to come, promise.

my favorite view (so far) of the expanded garden


I'm amazed at how quickly plants are filling in and how settled the new garden is looking just a few months after we dug it. Here's a shady little nook near the house where B planted a few coleus. Some comfrey to the left and an old hosta in the distance. The frilly stuff is bronze fennel. The coleus will fill in as the summer progresses (if they don't succumb to the heat this week), but their size now is just right to my eyes, and I like the way the other plants are arranged them like protectors.

flowers for the fourth


Some nice 'Montgomery' astilbe, a variety of shasta daisy that Alan gave me this spring and that I divided and planted in the new garden, a little platycodon, a sprig of smelly heliotrope tucked in at the bottom, and a few hosta leaves to round it out. A little red, white, and blue for the day, eh?