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Saturday, May 17, 2008

New Plants for Me

On Thursday my friend Kim and I went out to eastern Long Island and visited two great nurseries. The first one was new for us, I had heard they had a nice selection of new perennials and sure enough, there were plenty of beauties for us to choose from.

The second place was the Peconic River Herb Farm which is worth a trip at any time just for the beautiful site and scenery along the Peconic River. Kim and I have been there before a number of times and decided that they aren't quite ready for the season yet, many plants we hoped to see were not yet on the tables and other plants looked a bit frost burned. Still, we managed to fill our wagon as usual.

Friday morning I skipped out of here while it was drizzling and managed to get a quick wagon full of plants at Atlantic nursery before the skies really opened up. Since the rain never slowed down, I spent the afternoon pulling the new arrivals into my breezeway for a photo shoot.

Maybe it's a phase but I'm really tired of all the labels and tags in my garden. The daylilies really do need those name markers but I want to do away with all the rest of the tags. The only way to remember what is what is to have some good records and a digital camera seems to be the perfect solution here.

Only one Sedum caught my eye in all these places and what a charmer it is!

Foliage was the key and almost every plant I bought had great foliage. Unfortunately blogger is giving me a hard time this morning uploading images so I'm just using a few here to get the message across. This is Ligularia 'Osiris Fantaisie' and I can't wait to add this purple foliage to my back shade border.

While I was taking the photos I had to keep shooing Calie-the-wonder-doodle away. She kept trying to step between the camera and the plants. At one point I went inside for paper and a pen and when I came out I found she had snuck her way into the photo shoot area.

I'd better run and get dressed. Do you remember when I posted about that lovely woman who came to shop but I mistook her for somebody else and gave her work to do? Well, Chris is coming over in a few minutes and we are going to play outside with some of the new plants. Hooray!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Foliage is the Key

It took me many years to learn just how important foliage is in the garden. People who have to listen to me now hear me say over and over again how important it is to select plants with good foliage.

Walking around with my camera yesterday morning I came across a number of areas where the foliage has made all the difference, changing what would have been a drab spot to a true highlight in the garden.

Above you can see the fiery red of the emerging leaves on the Pieris japonica combined with the dainty leaves from the Galanthus odoratus (sweet woodruff) and the broad leaves from the Convallaria (Lily of the Valley).

A number of years ago I was struck by the lovely combination of Achemilla mollis (Ladies Mantle) and Nepeta mussinii (Cat mint) at Old Westbury garden. Since I had both plants here in abundance, I put them together in this spot. The addition of the all gold Hakonechloa was perfect and I've been hunting for more gold Hakone grass.

Here's another clump of Hakonechloa 'All Gold'. As you can see, it's a nice sized clump but I'm just not ready to cut into it for divisions. Unfortunately the two places we visited yesterday sold this plant at a price I was not willing to pay. One place had one gallon pots for $18.99. The second place had one gallon pots for $14.99 but they were less healthy looking than the more expensive pots.

I did end up spending $14.99 for a pot of Hakone Grass but it was another variety that I didn't yet have in the garden and I hope to get a photo of it today.
One of my recently purchased hardy Geraniums has started to bloom. I believe this is Geranium renardii 'Philippe Vapelle'. I think it will look lovely as it fills in this spot.

Pulmonaria 'Opal' is blooming away behind this lovely Hosta. Unfortunately most of my hosta tags were either blown away by a vigorous leaf blowing a few years ago or chewed up by Calie-the-wonder-dog.

The same goes for this dark leafed Geranium. I have at least three different Geraniums with purple leaves in this part of the garden but no name tags to tell you what the cultivar name is. I don't find them super vigorous but they add a soft beauty to the garden.

I can't wait to get the compost to these beds, weed those pesky little weeds popping up all over and spread some mulch.

That Alchemilla mollis (Ladies mantle) is just invaluable in plant combinations. Here you can see it paired with Hosta 'Whiskey Sour' and a lovely red Primula that has been spreading nicely in this spot. Today we're getting a very soft rain so I hope to take this shot again with all the water beaded on the ladies mantle.

Yes, it's Geranium season and here's another new comer. Geranium 'Orion' is going to be a nice asset here and I hope it will slowly weave together with the Sedum 'Frosty Morn' on the other side of the Allium foliage. I might have to move those Alliums after they bloom.

One last shot here of my Hamamelis 'Arnold's Promise' with some lovely gold Spirea foliage at the base. I'm not sold yet on the Spireas, they look great now but I have to see what they look like later in the season.

Off to make mud pies in the rain. I'm going to be spreading more compost and planting some of yesterday's purchases. Will try to get photos of everything too!


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Expect the Unexpected

Don't you love it when a bloom opens up and totally surprises you? Last fall my friend Kim and I went on a plant shopping spree out on eastern Long Island. Prices were marked down and we each bought a few new things.

I've loved my standard blue Centaurea montana so when I saw a tag for a white one I had to give it a try. This flower opened up earlier this week and I'm just blown away by the beauty of the bloom. I never expected the lavender/blue center.

Many years ago I purchased a Verbascum. I promptly planted it in the wrong spot, right in the middle of one of my daylily borders. Verbascum are very short lived, in our area they often don't come back at all.

This one plant though surprises me every year suddenly popping up through the daylily foliage and blooming it's heart out.

Tradescantia 'Hawaiian Punch' is always another surprise. This is one of those Tradescantia's that run underground but since I have it in a really tough location, I welcome any running. No matter how much I think I'm prepared for this color it always catches me by surprise. What a perfect name.

Another surprise plant that pops up here and there is this woodland Geranium. It would probably be much more prolific if I had planted in my rich soil, water enhanced shade bed in the back but it's out front in the dry, root bound shade bed instead. I never know where it will pop up and I love it's simple and gentle presence.

Finally, look what came yesterday! Six yards of the most wonderful, black, crumbly, triple sifted compost blended with manure. Whooeee, mom and I moved as much as we could without totally straining our bodies. I know what I'll be doing for the next week now.

Today Kim and I are off again. Eastern Long Island is still quite rural, filled with charming hamlets, farms and fantastic perennial nurseries. I used to make trips often, not concerned with the hour long drive but with the high price of gas now, this is the first trip of the season. We hope to hit Talmage Farms at Agway and The Peconic River Herb Farm. Both are known for having wide selections of perennials and I've got my hopes set on more white Centaurea and a few pots of all gold Hakone grass.

See ya!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Strawberry Pot

This season I will be planting very few containers with flowers. I'll be going to Germany in July, a time that is traditionally hot and dry here on Long Island. It's enough for my husband and daughters to try to water all my usual plantings, adding in tons of containers just isn't fair.

My strawberry pot though is one I don't have to worry about. It's quickly becoming one of my favorite containers in the garden. This is what it looked like yesterday morning. All of these plants were put in the pot last spring and they came through the winter just fine. The pot itself got a tiny bit of damage, you can see where it chipped a bit at the base.

The back side of the pot looked empty. There is one skimpy Sedum poking up out of the top and the bottom pocket was empty so I yanked a handful of Sedum 'Angelina' and stuck it in the opening. I'm not sure yet what I'll add to the top pocket.

I think the reason one side looks so lush and one side is sparse is because all last summer, fall and winter I didn't turn the pot every week or so. It's important to do this so that every side has the chance to have the most sunlight.

I just love all the textures and colors here. These pockets are just fine and will fill in quickly in the next few weeks. As for the full pockets, they might actually need thinning out.

Look, here comes a new addition. For three years I've planted a small fiber optic grass in the top opening but it's expensive and doesn't survive our winters. This year I'm going with something new. This Sedum is one I forgot to bring to the plant sale. It needed to be cleaned up and have the solid reverted pieces removed.

And here we are, all potted up and ready for summer glory. Best of all, other than that occasional turning, this pot required no care at all.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Attack of the Spiderworts

This morning I put on my sweatshirt and went out to take a photo or two. Forty five minutes later I remembered that I was supposed to come back in and blog. It was so nice to be outside and just putter that I didn't want to come back inside at all.

My original reason for going out was to photograph Tradescantia 'Sweet Kate'. In other posts I've mentioned that she is not really so sweet, Kate seems to scatter her babies everywhere and they don't even have the decency to keep that lovely chartreuse color.

Poor Hosta Loyalist has had a rough time. First the oil delivery truck drove over this area compacting the soil to the consistency of a concrete block and squashing all plant material. Now on the rebound 'Loyalist' has a rude spiderwort seedling trying to move in and take over. Tsk, tsk.
Hosta 'Tea and Crumpets' is also under the attack by these ill behaved children. Ok, it's time to get down and dirty here. I'm heading back out there with my trusty dandelion digger and I'm going to show those spiderworts who's the boss around here. Oh yes, I am!

As for 'Sweet Kate' herself, I'm not sure I need this hussy in my garden. What do you think?

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Shakespeare Garden

Yesterday my daughter Emily and I took the train into New York City where we met my Mom. Most of my life has been spent in the suburb of this amazing city or in the city itself. I've been to Central Park dozens of times but had never seen this area. There are still many parts of this beautiful park that I have not yet explored.

Here's a shot of Mom and Emily overlooking one of the many charming bridges that one always sees in movies filmed in Central Park.

The first thing that struck me was the peaceful calm that comes over you as you enter this magical place. At one moment you are standing on the streets of New York City, a protest group marching past you, police lights flashing, road barriers and then flash, with a few steps you are in a whole new world.

There were no sounds in the park other than the laughter of children and lots and lots of sneezing. We kept laughing, as we ourselves were sneezing, it's definitely pollen season here.

Look at these beautiful rustic fences and the espaliered trees. Do you see throngs of humanity? We didn't. In fact, we were amazed at how uncrowded we felt. We've been to Old Westbury Gardens and Planting Fields Arboretum on Mother's Day and one could hardly take a photo of a flower without getting somebody's leg or pocketbook in the picture.

The whole visit was so soothing. There were signs posted around that this is a "quiet zone" which means no audible music and no loud cell phones. Look at all this luscious greenery.

I wish I had taken a better photo of this area, it just had me in total awe. There was a sea of Camassia bulbs, Ferns and Hosta. Kim, I know you are reading this and when I was standing there I wished you were with me. This was in a spot that had quite a bit of sunlight and I'd be surprised if there were many underground sprinklers if any at all.

Kim and I both are crazy about these plants but I never would have thought of combining them. As soon as my Camassia blubs are finished I'm going to pair them with ferns and hosta too.

There were drifts of Galium odoratum (sweet woodruff) all over and interspersed in it was this charming white bulb. Any idea of what is is? I must have some!

Here you can see the Hosta just unfurling their huge Elephant like ears and the wave upon wave of Polygonatum (soloman's seal).

The red tulips were about finished, our heavy rains on Friday probably helped them along but in another week or two the many types of hardy Geraniums will take over with a whole new bloom season.

As we left the park on the East side we had to stop and admire the blooms on this tree. I'm pretty sure it's a red bud but then again, maybe not?

Hope you liked the tour, I know I can't wait to get there again some day.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day!

This morning the garden is shining after the heavy rains we received this past week. Our forecast is for more rain to begin tomorrow but today is glorious. My Camassia's are in full bloom, aren't they delicious? They really are supposedly delicious, the American Indians ate them.
This little woodland phlox has been in my garden for years. I don't remember it blooming well in quite awhile but this year it appears quite happy.

The colors in the front shade border are really popping. Unfortunately there's a big problem here. Right in the bottom is Tradescantia 'Sweet Kate'. I've posted before about how she likes to scatter seedlings that revert to the invasive blue tradescantia. See them all around her? I think some tough love might have to go on in this area today.

I'm so happy with this little planting group. There's a sweet primula, lots of Polygonatum humile (dwarf solomon's seal) and a darling Hosta 'Tea and Crumpets'. This morning I'm going to go out and play a bit in this spot and thin them out a tiny bit so everybody can shine.

The bigger solomon's seal is just perfect right now. They were very popular at yesterday's sale. I was told that a local nursery was selling pots the same size as ours but they were priced at $19.99. Our pots were priced at $7.

Many people came in and exclaimed over how cheap everything was priced. It felt good to be able to share with everybody at a time when everybody's wallet is suffering from high gas and food prices.

A tiny little Epimedium in the front shade bed is shining away. I had a better close up of it but I wanted to to see how small it is by looking at the size of the pebbles at the base.

Hosta 'Sagae' would be my number one choice if I was doing a large landscape with one Hosta. It is so very elegant to me with it's upright vase shape.

Here's the house with the border primed and ready to burst into bloom. I took this photo in the evening yesterday, just before sunset. If you look at the largest window, my living room window, you'll see a tiny white dot.

Zoooooom in with the zoom lens and here we can see Calie the wonder-dog (labradoodle) watching my every move out the window. She has a much better view now that my husband trimmed a foot off the top of the hedge.

Now I'm off. My daughter Emily and I are taking the train to New York City (about an hour ride) where we'll meet my Mom. We're having lunch at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and then walking through Central Park. I'll be sure to have my camera with me and hopefully have some nice photos to share here tomorrow.