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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Succulents don't suck - Part 1 Succulents in containers

Sorry folks, I've been working on this piece in my head for days now and every time I tried to think of a title "Succulents don't suck" just popped into my head. Here on Long Island the succulents I grow are Sedum and Sempervivum (Hens and chicks).

For many years I grew succulents without really giving them much thought. When it came to Sedum, 'Autumn Joy' was probably my first. It was nice but I can't say it really wowed me. Then I noticed other types and varieties of Sedum. Not all of them stood up like 'Autumn Joy', no, there were varieties that spilled, creeped, cascaded and more. Foliage came in all different colors, grays, blues, greens, deep reds, purples and many variegations.

As for the Hens and Chicks, my first variety was a green with a brown tip, given to me by an elderly German gardener at least 20 years ago.

After my first few years of trying to grow a massive perennial border along my gravel driveway, I noticed that the Sedum were the best at taking the heat and dry conditions right along the edge. That's what started me on the hunt for more succulents.

Last year my garden club went on a tour of Chanticleer Gardens. There I saw succulents used in ways I had never imagined, I had an epiphany, came came home and totally changed the way I grew my succulents. Not only were they tucked into my rock walls, along my driveway and in containers but I designed one area for them alone so they could shine.

Over the next week I'd like to visit the various plantings and plants and show you the magic I see in my succulents. To begin with, I'm going to show you how I chose to plant up the iron container that I featured in an earlier piece.

The first step was to find a medium to hold the soil in the container. I can't say I love the look of this coir (coconut fiber) but from past experience, I like the way it holds up over time.

Next I simply filled the container with a mix of potting soil and compost. A container like this dries out almost instantly and while the succulents can handle dry conditions, I don't think they'd like the hard, baked dry lump of just potting soil. When I add some compost to the mix, it seems to keep just enough moisture in so that it doesn't turn into a brick.

Now comes the fun part. What should I choose to put in this planter? Since I've been on the hunt for new succulents, I had many new babies to choose from. Plus, I also had oldies and favorites that I had potted up last year.

My first choice was this wonderfully textured Sedum reflexum 'Blue Spruce' that I picked up yesterday at Paul's Nursery in East Northport.

I simply took it out of it's container, removed some of the extra potting soil and stuck it in my new iron planter.

The next choice of plant material was easy. This Sempervivum 'Red Rum' was also at Paul's. I passed it three times but finally had to give in and buy it. It's by far the largest Sempervivum in my garden. Another tip to any of you who live in this area, the label on this pot says "Glover Perennials". I've been lucky enough to visit Jim Glover's nursery out on eastern Long Island and I find his plants to be some of the best available around here.

Again, I removed a good few inches of the potting soil and in this case I also removed one of the "chicks" growing with this plant. The offset was quite large already and I potted it up in a separate little pot. It didn't have to be removed but I thought the balance would be better with just the one huge Sempervivum.

Now you can see how the 'Blue Spruce' and 'Red Rum' look together. I love it already!

The final choice was the hardest and I held several different pots up to see what I liked. I was looking for something that would add another texture and also compliment the color scheme. My final choice was this pot of Sedum cauticolum that I made with cuttings last year. (Stay tuned, one of the next posts will show you how to propagate your Sedums.)

Once I had all three plants in the pot I added more soil and tamped it down well so there wouldn't be sudden cavities after a good watering. I also moved a few stems from the two Sedum so they already began to intertwine.

Last but not least you can see my container here, on my succulent filled step, just waiting to be worked in to the ultimate arrangement of beauty.

See you soon with lots more of my favorite succulents,


Monday, May 28, 2007

Photo Parade - Blooming Today

Happy Memorial Day!

Today is a day for parades. My daughter Lauren is marching for the very last time with the Walt Whitman High School marching band. She graduates in a few weeks and marching band/color guard has been a major part of her life for the last 4 years. I am so proud of her!

In memory of all the service men and woman who have fought and those who gave their lives for our country I salute you.

This photo parade is dedicated to a man I never met, I don't know even know his first name. My father's father, my grandfather, either named Manfred or Helmut (stands to reason as my Dad was Manfred Helmut Dorausch and his brother was Helmut Manfred Dorausch). My Opa was killed while fighting on the Russian front during World War II as a German soldier. If he was like my Dad, he was a gentle soul and loved the outdoors so this parade is dedicated to him.

Blooming today, May 28, 2007 in South Huntington New York, zone 6b are the following treasures.

Salvia 'Eveline' brand new to the garden last week.

Oenothera 'Cold Crick' against Sedum 'Frosty Morn'

Geranium macrorrhizum 'Bevan's variety' which I totally missed when writing about hardy Geraniums! To be fair, I didn't photograph every geranium in bloom today but I couldn't resist a few of them. This magenta color seems to be impossible for my camera to capture.

Clouds of Nepeta mussini everywhere you turn.

Weigelia 'Wine & Roses' against a chartreuse Physocarpus (I'll get the name later)

Symphytum in pink, another beauty that didn't photo well

Geranium 'Katherine Adele'

A perennial Lychnis whose tag is missing :-( but is still lovely

Dicentra eximia with my blue bowling ball in the backdrop

Unknown cultivar of sky blue Iris germanica and Calie the wonderdog sniffing a flower

Rhododendron yakusimanum X 'Percy Wiseman'

The bank of Rhododendrons that were the only flowering thing here when we moved to this house almost 11 years ago. I also had to capture my hubby Don who is installing a new sprinkler head before our masons arrive to work all kinds of magic out front.

Blue Siberian Iris, not in bloom yet but I just love the buds!

Geranium 'Cambridge'

Geranium cantabrigiense 'Karmina' (which sure looks a lot like Cambridge to me)

Salvia something or other, the name is buried in the bloom

Geranium nudosum, brand new and already blooming! (Thanks Mary Kay)

Polygonatum - an unvariegated variety given as a treasured garden gift.

And that's all folks, stay tuned, I've working on a piece on Sedums based on their foliage, not their bloom. Also should be doing a piece on Hosta real soon.

Opa, you'd be so proud to see your great grand-daughter Lauren. She looks like an Italian but marches like a German!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Hardy Geraniums - There's More!

Hopefully you still want to read more about the delightful varieties of Hardy Geraniums that I grow.

Thursday's shopping spree did happen and besides three stunning Hosta, I ended up buying another hardy Geranium. This one was Geranium pratense 'Hocus Pocus' which I'm sure I bought some time in the past but don't have anywhere in the garden right now.

It seems that a bit experimentation is required for some of these varieties. At first I always put them in the full sun borders but some were very unhappy there. Geranium maculatum (thanks Xris & Doug!) is in several spots now and by far happiest in the most shady spot. Yesterday when we came close to 90 degrees I noticed it wilting in the sunnier locations.

As you can see in this photo the Geranium cantabrigiense 'Biokova' is starting to put on it's show.
When I first began planting the perennial border along our driveway I encounted a few problems. It was a year or two before I learned that the heat of the gravel and belgium block border, coupled with the fast drainage of any water delivered from the sprinkler system caused very different conditions along the front edge.

I've lost some hardy Geraniums in this location but the cantabrigiense varieties just thrive here along with many Sedum. I have an excellent slide of Stachys byzantine (lambs ears) spilling over the curb with Geranium sanguinium tumbling through the fuzzy gray foliage. An accident combination that I need to recreate. (I'd also like to figure out why those slides won't upload to this site.)

This purple bloom belongs to Geranium cantabrigiense 'Cambridge'. I had no idea it was a cantabrigiense until I looked it up on line here last week. A small piece had been included with a Daylily trade a few years ago and it's finally grown to a nice sized clump. I have it in a shadier spot so maybe it needs to have a piece moved to a sunnier location.

Finally, here's a shot of that Geranium 'Hocus Pocus' which was planted yesterday in my semi-shade border out back. One thing I've decided to try this year is to keep a record of purchased plants here on the computer. I'm taking a photo of the plant and the tag and also of it's location in the garden. I'm really tired of all the name tags showing in the garden so I'm going to write the name on a piece of mini blind and sink it behind the plant. We'll see how long I can keep this record keeping going.

Today looks like another day in the garden. Hopefully we get the rain that's forecasted, the gardens are bone dry right now.

I'm off to play in the compost heap, maybe I'll take a picture of it. Yesterday afternoon I was shifting the top layer when I discovered quite a treasure load of black gold underneath :-)

Happy digging!