26 June 2011

clear winner: thalictrum

Last spring, I bought six delicate little wisps of plants from Clear Brook Farm in Vermont: Thalictrum rochebrunianum. These were very pretty little plants last year, with columbine-ish foliage and stems that have a purplish bloom on them. I loved the look of the plants when they were a foot tall.

This year the story is a little different. The plants have grown quite a bit; they're somewhat taller than I imagined they would get. That's an understatement. They're actually quite a bit taller. I mean, oh my gosh, these guys are tall!

I can't get a clear idea of what conditions thalictrums want or need, although it seems to me that this crew is pretty happy where it is, which is in full sun in a well drained spot. The blooms are supposed to come soon, and they will be clouds of purple and yellow (yellow anthers, purple petals). Other thalictrums are shade and moisture lovers, bloom in spring, and are considerably shorter.

I can imagine getting sort of absorbed in a genus of plants that has such variation.

Thalictrum: My new friends.

19 June 2011

good advice

Listen to the gardeners talk:

"Two things you should do: Plant the dahlias in full sun and don't slack off on staking them. Let me tell you, if you put them in a semi-shady area and sort of forget about them, you'll come out in midsummer and find a floppy pile of leaves and flowers, and you'll be so disappointed. I mean, really, really disappointed."

"Here are some bachelor's buttons and the prettiest low, purplish monarda. This monarda isn't a thug at all. It'll stay where you put it. You'll plant the bachelor's buttons, they'll dry up and disappear, and you'll think, 'Oh, no! I killed them!' But don't worry, they'll show up."

"Just keep on pinching them back until July Fourth. You won't want to, because they'll be looking nice and full, but pinch them about every three weeks until July Fourth. If you pinch them again a little after the Fourth, well, that's all right, but try not to do it too late. They'll be bushy and full of flowers come September."

11 June 2011

june leaves

A friend asked B to bring flowers for her daughter's graduation party tomorrow afternoon. "Hmmmm," B said, "there's not an awful lot in bloom right now." We're sort of at the tail end of the iris/catmint/poppy era and haven't yet reached the mock orange/shasta daisy/astilbe period. So we went out this afternoon, dodged the raindrops, and took an inventory.

It turns out we have some gorgeous foliage going on: smokebush, ferns, hosta, lady's mantle, euphorbia . . . B cut and arranged various leaves in 12 Mason jars that will be filled out tomorrow morning with peonies, aruncus, and lamb's ear.

He's stored the jars in the garage (that's BeBe, our 1985 Plymouth Reliant in the background) for the night.

dahlias sprouting. most, anyway


I save my dahlia tubers from year to year. They live through the winter in bins of peat moss or, this past winter, shredded leaves, and then I pot them up (62 pots this year!) in the spring.

The dahlia tubers from Old House Gardens (my usual source; and I feel guilty I didn't place an order this year, but I didn't have $30 worth of tubers I wanted to buy) were all quick to emerge, but the ones I bought last year from Corralitos Gardens have been much slower or have not sprouted at all.


10 June 2011

pleasant hill? rose hill, more like!

This evening, B and I spent a few hours on the fabled long and steep slope. He planted red, yellow, and white annuals, and I wrestled with rocks and slate to plant two more Knock Out roses he bought at a local nursery. These last two are in addition to the five bareroot bushes (B calls them "sticks," and he hardly sees the point) I bought online from Miller Nurseries in Canandaigua, New York, and another plant B bought a few weeks ago. That's eight roses, eight easy-to-care-for roses that are billed as blooming from spring to frost. The pots the rose plants came in look suspiciously like the pots our pathetic 'Endless Summer' hydrangeas came in (that is, the pots are pretty, un-potlike colors with lots of superlatives printed on them). Regardless ('Endless Summer' definitely did not live up to the hype), I have higher hopes for these roses, which I have seen blooming in the medians on the West Side Highway in Manhattan, and which get rave reviews from my gardening friend Pam. We shall see. (In his book Gardening at Ginger: My Seven-Year Obsession with Designing and Planting a Personal Landscape, James Raimes says, "I think the phrase I use most often when I garden is 'We'll see.'")

A few weeks back, I moved three roses from the hell to which I had consigned them (an overgrown weed patch far from the house) to the slope. These are a musk rose called 'Darlow's Enigma,' Rosa glauca with reddish leaves, and 'Harison's Yellow' (one "r," please), an old thicket-forming rose that grows up around abandoned homesteads and that I think I've seen in the dooryards of old farmhouses in Washington County.

Already in place on the slope are a bunch of Rosa rugosa that B and I bought from the county soil and water conservation district a few years back and three Potentilla fruticosa 'Katherine Dykes' (also in the rose family, bien sรปr).

Planted, watered, and fingers crossed. Gosh, I have high hopes of seeing a somewhat continuous show of red, pink, yellow, and white blooms this summer on the slope. 

Here's a clumsy little collage of other people's photographs of the various roses (except the Rosa rugosa, which is pretty familiar). Click to make it larger!

(top to bottom, left to right; photo credits in parentheses) Knock Out Rose 'Radsunny' (from Miller Nurseries website); 'Darlow's Enigma' (from Mark of Excellence Roses website); Knock Out Rose 'Radcon' (from Miller Nurseries website); 'Harison's Yellow' (from Wikipedia); Potentilla fruticosa 'Katherine Dykes' (from Golden Hill Plants website); Knock Out Rose 'Radrazz' (from Miller Nurseries website); Rosa glauca (from ask.com)

09 June 2011

early june

This is that time of year when you're likely to find me in a reverie of one sort or another in spite of all that needs to be done in the garden. I am transported by the warmth, the smell of the air, the light. I think to myself, Oh, I need the spade, I really have to divide the asters, and on my way to the garage, I get a little sidetracked by the way the hayfield across the road looks so soft in the evening light, and I stop to take it in.

Five minutes later, I'm standing in the same position, my eyes fixed on the same point in space. The spade is still in the garage, and I don't remember that I wanted to use it for anything.

A friend who was visiting last week watched me wander back and forth across the lawn with a morning glory plant in my hand for a full half hour. I didn't actually get it planted then, but I was plenty busy.

The three 'Blue Angel' hostas I bought several years ago and moved from a sunny spot where they were getting burned out to full shade are more and more glorious each year. Every spring I worry that maybe they haven't made it through the winter, because they leaf out later than other hostas we have, and each year they come back bigger and bigger.

The Chionanthus virginicus that B and I bought two or three years ago after we saw one in bloom over at North Hill also seems to be settling in to its spot. The fringey blossoms have a sweet, very subtle fragrance. I catch whiffs of it as I'm weeding the slope.

All spring the name of the delicate-looking plants I bought in a six-pack last year has been on the edge of my brain. It begins with a "T":  Tradescantia? Tricytris? No . . . Thalictrum! All are about as tall as I am, with straight, sturdy stems that have a dusky bloom on them and more and more leaves unfurling. I have a feeling that when they bloom it will be an Event.