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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Columbus Day

Whew! Columbus day weekend and our marching band home show are finally behind us. Now there's just a bit of breathing space and a wee bit of time for the garden.

Here's a lovely shot of one of the old churches on Main Street in our charming village of Huntington New York.

Looking up Main Street, we were waiting for the big Columbus Day Parade to begin!

And here they come, the most amazing, incredible, Walt Whitman High School Wildcat Marching Band. Hooray!!!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Ever wonder why?

Why? Have you ever seen a plant growing in a garden that you used to grow years ago? Do you ever wonder "why aren't I growing it now"?

In my very first, very beginner-like garden I grew a large patch of Chelone. I'm pretty sure I didn't know how to pronounce it back then since I'm still not sure of how to say it today. The nick name around here is false turtle head.

Back to the story, I had this big clump of Chelone. I thought I was the best gardener in the world because it was just thriving! Then I tried to dig a piece out of the ground. It had roots like I'd never seen before, they just twisted and turned and went all over the place. I was freaked out by those roots and have never grown it again.

How silly is that?

Last week when we visited Stonecrop I saw this nice clump of Chelone. Oooohhh, I wish I had a nice clump of Chelone in my garden. Look how lovely it looks even now in early fall.

I do have the white variety in my garden, it doesn't seem to be as fast growing as the pink variety. In fact, I don't remember seeing it bloom this summer but I was away much of July. It will be interesting to see if come spring I've matured enough to get past those weird roots and buy a pot of the pink Chelone 'Hot Lips'.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Stone Troughs - Part Two - Germany

This past summer I was lucky enough to spend two glorious weeks touring Germany with my mom. We have quite a large family in Germany so rather than see the big tourist sites, we also got to see small places that only the locals know about.

My cousin Ingrid took us to the most amazing place. I don't know what town it is in, I do know it's an easy drive from Frankfurt. The place was a mill stone museum and they had a charming restaurant and hotel by the name of Hotel Wambacher Muhle. If you are visiting Germany, I think this would be a great place to spend a day or two. Bring some hiking shoes as I understand there's some spectacular trails that start at this hotel.

At first I wasn't sure I wanted to visit a mill stone museum, then I saw that they also collected troughs. These troughs were real ones, carved out of stone, not the new light weight ones.

Here you can see how they were interspersed through out the mill stone display.

Germany was going through a cool, wet season while we were there so everything was amazingly lush and green. I really loved the way these troughs looked. Here you can see a spot where the stream was diverted through a channel alongside the hotel.

Resting over the channel in various spots were these beautiful troughs. You can see how different they feel as opposed to the dry barren troughs in my previous posts (taken in New York). I think both styles are fantastic.

This trough was filled with a Sedum that was at peak bloom. I don't have the name of the Sedum but it could have easily been Sedum 'Acre'.

Now we'll see some troughs with stones in them too. How about a dward hardy Geranium in the planting scheme? I love it!

Don't have any troughs near you? No worries, how about a big old wash basin? I know they sell them here at the hardware stores and they aren't terribly expensive.

I had to throw in a landscape shot showing the hotel in the backdrop. Oh if only I had a good pair of walking shoes with me.

This wash basin was filled with perennials, and yes, there are daylilies in it too.

Another trough, so lush and full. I think the different stone arrangements inside the troughs add great charachter.

As a last shot, I give you a tantalizing view of one of the walkways. This one was easy to navigate so I went down to the water. I can only imagine how lovely the walkways that went up into the mountains and woods must be.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Stone Troughs - Part One

The main focus at Stonecrop is their alpine collection. While I think spring is their peak season, we certainly had many wonderful things to see now in September.

This collection of stone troughs was set perfectly. I really liked how every now and then a specimen from the trough was also planted at the foot of the trough as if it escaped.

Here you can see how the different textures play against one another. Another thing I noticed is that they had no fear about leaving empty spaces. In my own garden I tend to cram in as much as possible but these troughs were very restful feeling.

This was my favorite of the rectangular troughs. I would really like to do something similar in my own garden.

This one was a very close runner up and I know I have these types of rocks around here. I think that this would be a fun project to do with children.

Be still my heart, when I came upon this type of planter I thought I had died and went to heaven. Kim and I both desperately want to make one of these now.

Here's a close up shot. Not much more than a jumble of rocks, just enough thought put into the placement to keep it from falling apart and yet loose enough to feel totally natural.

For those of you who have a shady corner that you can't get anything to grow in, you have to try one of these. Another pile of rocks but this time planted with shade plants. Ferns, miniature Epimediums, moss, mini Hosta, I can imagine all kinds of goodies to plant in these nooks and crannies.

Finally, another type of man made rock garden, these were on a larger scale. I bet you could even use broken up concrete from construction sites to make these cool beds.

These types of garden are not for the "flower" lover although most of these plants will flower at one time. Yet, I find they tug on my heart in a totally different way. Kind of a call to my wanderlust soul.

I titled this post as "part one" because I also have a wonderful set of photos of trough gardens that I shot in Germany this summer. They'll be popping up here some time this week.

Off to look at the stones in my garden,


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Stonecrop - An Overview

This past Tuesday I went on a trip with my garden club to Stonecrop gardens in Cold Spring, New York. My friend Kim and I have been waiting for this trip for years now so we were really excited to finally be on our way.

Today I just have time to share some landscape shots and give a quick overview.

My favorite part of the garden was the flower and vegetable garden area and this opening photo is my new screen saver on my computer.

Dahlia's were used in many places to accent the various color schemes. They weren't planted in groups, instead they used individual cultivars as focal points and they were stunning.

Grasses and Boltonia swayed with the most gentle breeze. What a delightful spot to stand and listen to our charming tour guide Michael.

I didn't get a chance to look up the name of the purple flower here. We were given highly detailed maps and plant lists but I tucked them in my backpack right away so I'd be free to shoot photos.

How's this for a glorious early fall grouping?

Interspersed through out the perennials were a wealth of tender plants too. Look in the top left corner and you'll see the leaves of a Banana peaking out. One plant I noticed quite a bit and have put on my wish list is Angelica. I've grown Angelica before in my herb bed but here it was a wonderful accent in the flower gardens.

Another thing I noticed quickly was that the purple perilla was allowed to naturalize in many locations where its dark foliage was just what was needed.

A photographer who likes to take landscape shots would have a field day at this lovely garden. Every time you turned around there was a spectacular view just begging to be photographed.

This bridge was aptly named the Flintstone bridge. I was disappointed that our group wasn't led across it.

A final shot from the inside of the Wisteria Pavilion.

As soon as I have the time I'll be posting about the most well known feature of Stonecrop, the trough and stone gardens that were just amazing.

Monday, September 15, 2008

No time for gardening :-(

Just a quick update here. No time for gardening during the past week or this coming week either. It's marching band season and around here that means that just about every other project comes to a full halt.

My oldest daughter went through marching band for four years and now my younger one (Emily) is in her second year of the color guard. In order to save our school district $$$ we make our own flags. Purchased flags run $29.95 to $40 per piece, home sewn flags cost about $5 per piece. A mid sized marching band (we have 87 students) needs 80 - 100 flags.

This photo shows some of the flags I made last year, in total I sewed over 50 flags on my dining room table. So far this season we've finished 30 flags, with 45 to go. We're going the team route with me teaching lots of other mom's how to make flags. So you can see why there's no gardening around here right now!

Tomorrow I'm taking a day off to visit Stonecrop, a botanical garden known for it's Sedum collection so I'm sure I"ll have lots of photos to share when we are all stuck inside this winter.

Be back soon,


Monday, September 08, 2008

Slug Busters

Late summer is a tough time of year for the garden. The rich autumn colors still haven't started to emerge and yet the majority of our favorite perennials are long past their prime season.

This past weekend I was away for 4 days attending a seminar. While I was away, Long Island was socked with the remnants of a hurricane (down graded to a tropical storm). Walking around the garden today I noticed that not only were there many limbs and smaller branches littering my gardens, I saw that many of my hosta looked more like swiss cheese than pretty foliage.

Surprisingly though there were still many hosta with unblemished foliage. The above photo shows how Hosta 'Grand Marquee' looks today. Not only is it a late bloomer but as you can see, it is very slug resistant!

What about your hosta? Do you have varieties that are free of slug holes? If so, leave a comment here so everybody can see what works for you. I'm going to go around my garden again and try to make a longer list of Hosta that still look great.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Rudbeckia fulgida - Black Eyed Susan

One of the most well known perennials is the Black Eyed Susan. The only problem is, which black eyed susan do you have? You see, this is the problem with using nicknames instead of the botanical name of a plant.

Most often, the nickname Black Eyed Susan is referring to Rudbeckia fulgida. There are many different types of Rudbeckia, fulgida is a true perennial, ranging anywhere from 2 feet to almost 3 feet tall (under a meter).

If you look beyond the cheerful blooms you will see just how ratty the foliage looks at this time of year.

Still, ratty foliage or not, Rudbeckia fulgida is a highly valuable plant in the garden. First of all, it has a wonderfully long blooms season for a perennial. It begins blooming mid July or so around here and is still blooming strongly the first week of September.

Another thing I really like about Rudbeckia fulgida is that at this time of year it invites flocks of Goldfinch to the garden. They love to eat the seed heads so I don't remove those dead blooms.

You must keep in mind that if the birds are eating the seed heads, they are also scattering many of them about in the garden. Rudbeckia fulgida self sows itself all over the place. Not enough to be considered invasive but I'm sure I've given away or sold at least 500 plants in the last 7 years.
Another type of Rudbeckia that is fairly popular right now is the German hybrid Rudbeckia nitida 'Herbstsonne' (that means autumn sun). This type of Rudbeckia can grow as tall as 6 feet (two meters) and will flop about a bit if it's in an open, windy location.

It took me awhile to find the right place for 'Herbstsonne' but now I'm thrilled with it growing by the Miscanthus sinensis 'Strictus' (porcupine grass) and Eupatorium maculatum 'Gateway' (joe pye weed).

This summer I had a few Rudbeckia volunteers pop up in my herb garden. They aren't either of the above two types so I'm not sure of the variety.

There are also types of Rudbeckia that are annuals and I've grown them in containers in this garden so these might be seedlings from them. Then again, maybe the goldfinch dropped off the seed for me as a thank you for all the food I've provided them over the year.

What ever this variety is, I find it chamring with it's shorter, more blunt petals.

How many types of Rudbeckia do you grow in your garden?

Monday, September 01, 2008

Helenium 'Mardi Gras'

A few years ago (most likely 4 years ago) I purchased a plant that I knew nothing about. It was in a large pot, at least 1.5 gallons. The tag read Helenium 'Mardi Gras' and since I knew my garden didn't have enough late summer/early autumn blooms, I thought I'd give this one a try.

'Mardi Gras' has done more than I ever expected. It grew quickly although not at all aggressivly. It never flopped, it had wonderful colors in the blooms (as promised on the tag) and most importantly, it passed the division test.

This past spring my clump of Helenium 'Mardi Gras' had grown large enough that I felt I could take a chance and divide it. I simply dug it out of the ground the last week of April and cut it into pieces with my root knife. Those pieces were planted out in different parts of the garden where they took off growing as if nothing had happened to them.

You can see here in this less than artistic photo that Helenium 'Mardi Gras' stands upright. Not one of the newly planted pieces has flopped and every one of them is chock full of blooms right now.

Looking through some gardening catalogues I see there are other varieties of Helenium too. I think it's high time I add some more of these great perennials to my garden.

As a final note, I chose to post about this plant today specifically because Hurricane 'Gustav' is hammering the Gulf coast. My thoughts and prayers are with all the folks in the path of this storm.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

In the garden today...

A short stroll around the garden today revealed these sights to me...

The Buddliea I had dead headed just two weeks ago is full of blooms again!

The garden is alive with luna moths (or cabbage moths) and they are in love with the Verbena bonariensis that has self sown all over.

The Miscanthus sinensis strictus (porcupine grass) is in it's glory even though it's not blooming yet.

Not everything is pretty as can be. The Sempervivum need weeding badly and it's not as easy as you would think to get those grass roots out without disturbing those hens and chicks. Also, I was amazed to see that they've lost their glorious spring colors.

The full shade bed out front is doing ok even without sunlight. The impatiens could be a bit more lush but the Hosta and newly tranplanted ferns are perfectly happy there.

Oohh! Check out the patterns emerging on my bird house gourd!

The Liriope which is oh so boring in the spring (and almost impossible to sell then) is the neatest edging and sending up lots and lots of bloom stalks.

One last peek on the way back to my computer. What do you do when you have too much of some flowers like Purple Perilla and coneflowers? Why you cut them and stick them in nice clear bottles!

Happy Labor day weekend all,