Search This Blog

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Down the Drive - Part 1

A few days ago there was a comment on one of my posts from Jessica Damiano . She writes a blog, GardenDetective for our local newspaper. Jessica asked what flowers I grow along my driveway, particularly in the photo I have as the opening shot of my blog.

It's a really good question, in total there are hundreds of different plants growing out there any given year. That list changes from year to year as some perennials are just shorter lived and I forget to go out and replace them. Looking at these photos I find that I want them all back!

The top photo is the only photo of my garden I've ever printed out and framed. It was taken at the apex of my gardening life (so far) in July of 2006 when 10 tour buses and a total of 600 visitors came here over a 4 day time period. The minute the first tour bus arrived I actually cried tears of joy.

Our house is set in an unusual fashion compared to other homes in our part of Long Island. We are set back about 250 feet deep into our 1.3 acre lot. The driveway sweeps and curves so it runs almost 275 feet long.

There were only two owners here before us, we don't know who installed this rock wall at the entrance. The story we heard is that these boulders were dug up right here when the foundation for the house was built. In my opinion the entrance is too narrow, sometimes people won't drive down our driveway and other's have misjudged the turn and left a few paint chips on those rocks. The beds out here are in full shade and battle tree roots and lack of water but come summer they are chock full of Hosta and other shade plants.

The lowest end of the driveway has a large parking area, this place just eats gravel up. Winter snows are havoc on the gravel as snow plows or snow blowers always end up removing a layer of stone. In the past few years prices of gravel has skyrocketed here, phooey.

This is the view from our breezeway out to the street. It's a few years old now, that bed right in the front of the photo has been replaced with some much needed hardscape. The photo gives you a good idea of the gardens out front.

Right in the middle is my sunniest garden. It runs 120' long, about 8 feet wide in most spots. It's probably the bed that I work the most in, I just love to sit out there and putter.

On the left of this photo is the first garden we had made here. It gets full sun in the morning but some parts are shaded by 1:00 pm and other spots can have light as late as 3:00pm. I still treat most of it as a sun bed although in the last few years the surrounding trees have really made me have to rethink this whole plan. This bed is 75 or 80 feet long (not for long, serious plans are in place to add to this planting) and about 15 feet deep.

In late May we always had the most glorious Wisteria blooming on our telephone pole. If you have to have a telephone pole in your garden, disguising it becomes a huge issue! Unfortunately the Wisteria squeezed just a bit too much and the pole was a bit too rotten because two years ago the base of the pole just exploded out and we needed an emergency pole-ectomy. Sadly, the Wisteria was cut down instantly and although it still makes feeble attempts at putting up suckers, I haven't decided yet to let it head back up the new pole.

It's obvious to us that it was one of the previous owners who installed the belgium block border along the driveway as it was not professionally done. Still, the cost to rip it up and do it over is mind-boggling and unless we win the lottery, the driveway will stay just as it is.

When choosing plant material to plant along the front border of these beds, I look for plants with awesome foliage, contrasting foliage, good blooms, and cascading habits. Early spring is dominated by billowy mounds of a low growing Nepeta mussini, a number of hardy Geranium varieties and fluffy yellow pillows of Euphorbia polychroma. There are also clumps of various Sedums, silver fuzzy Stachys byzantine and tall spires of Digitalis (foxgloves) everywhere.

One of my favorite garden volunteers is a plant named Silene armeria. At first I thought it was an annual but now I'd classify it as a biennial. The foliage for this years blooms are there right now, today, March 1st and it looks almost untouched by the winter. In early spring those little green leaves shoot up thin stems with sticky bands on them (they're nicknamed "catch-fly"). Just one plant wouldn't put on much of a show but I have hundreds of them in waves all down the border. They aren't aggressive at all, they never shade out or push away another perennial. They just seem to fit in to any tiny open spot. This year I'm going to pot some up for our plant sale because I've never seen them in any other garden, ever.

This photo is a good example of how I try to choose plant based on their foliage. There are huge clumps of Coreopsis verticillata 'Zagreb', seas of Sedums (many have lost their names at this point) and spikes of Liriope.

The middle of the beds are filled with more daylilies than most people could imagine, over 100 in each bed. But daylilies aren't all, there are other taller perennials that reign in the center of the beds. This is Helianthus 'Summer Nights' which has dark red stems and a very long bloom season.

Last year I was thrilled to find that this lovely perennial self sows and the babies all have those delicious dark stems so they'll be potted up too for the plant sale. I already tried with a few last year and they handled the process quite well. A bit floppy but I think I just dug them too late in the spring and too close to our summer heat.

Tomorrow I'll put together a bunch of photos of the individual plants in the driveway borders. I'll never remember them all but I'll try to catch the stars.

Garden Basics - V - Z

"V" is for Vegetables
How can I have thousands of garden related photos and not find an image of a vegetable? This shot of the entrance to a vegetable garden will have to do. If you look close maybe you'll see the runner beans.

"V" of course is for Victory Garden!
Lots of lovely colored lettuce here.

"V" is also for Vines
Mandavilla has become extremely popular in our area (and very expensive too)

"W" is for Water
Water comes in so many forms, natural, man made accents and of course, ways to water your garden. The above photo is my daughter Emily (about 5 years ago) on a garden tour. Who could resist this lovely bridge and natural water feature?

"W" is also for Wildlife
It figures that just as these darn chipmunks create chaos in my garden they have to make a cute movie about them. I don't even dare mention my frustration about them let alone ways to rid my garden of these adorable but destructive creatures.

"X" is for Xeriscape
As the world becomes aware of the need to preserve drinking water, we will find this topic becoming more and more necessary. This is a small example of Xeriscaping.

"X" is for Xeriscape with a medium sized example

"X" is for Xeriscape - the ultimate example
Can you tell how important I think this topic is? This is my dream shed, check that roof out, it's planted entirely in drought resistant plantings. If I could have one dream item in my garden, I think it might have to be this one.

"Y" is for Yard
(The slide I had for my class was so blah that I took a look at it and said "yuck" and forgot what "Y" was for!)

"Y" is for yard (yes again, I still have to wipe that yucky image out of my mind)

"Z" is for Zone
Know what your growing zone really is. Our zone is listed as 6b or 7 depending on what you use as a reference. Yet, look at this photo. We get long deep freezes with no snow cover and then multiple freeze thaw cycles. Be award of what your growing conditions are (by the way that's my husband Don playing hockey on our frozen solid swimming pool).

Hope you had as much fun as I did...

...the end

Friday, February 29, 2008

Garden Basics - P - U

"P" is for Perennials
Plants that will live through our crazy freeze thaw cycle like this lovely Hellebore

"P" is also for Photo
Sometimes we are sucked in by an awesome photo and then realize the camera was an inch away from the bloom. This is Thalictrum aquilifolium. A similar photo had me order this plant immediately but it took a few years of patience (and a good macro lens) before I saw this.

"Q" is for Questions. Questions are important, like how the heck did they get that bicycle on the tree? (Quickly followed by the most popular phrase of "I want that!")

"R" is for Roots - The good, the bad and the downright ugly!

"R" is also for rocks. Here on Long Island we need to import our rocks. With today's fuel costs, they are going to cost quite a bit more bringing us back to "M" for money.

"S" is for Sun - Be honest with yourself about the amount of sunlight a garden gets.

"S" is also for Shade and Semi-shade. Don't fight the shade, there are a host of amazing plants that will grow in your shade beds. (Anybody need some purple Perilla?)

"S" is for Shrubs
Whew, there are many S words! A lovely Hydrangea here, I picked it up at the end of a flower show, it was going in the garbage. It was one of those Hydrangeas that had been forced into bloom for Easter, it was day glow pink when I brought it home. Two years after growing in my acidic soil it is the most glowing white imaginable.

"T" is for Trees (now that was an easy one!) This is the breathtaking blooms and foliage on my Cornus Kousa 'Gold Star'.

"U" is for Under story plants. What an amazing array of plants there are that will gladly grow under taller specimens.

That's it for this part of the alphabet, stay tuned once again as I finish things up tomorrow.

Hopefully everybody enjoyed last night's first gardening class and maybe we'll have some new visitors here :-)

Till later,

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Garden Basics - G - O

"G" is for Ground cover - (Beware, check under "I" for more information)

"H" is for Herb - Not all are Edible (Ruta graveolens - Rue)

"I" is for Invasive (sometimes called ground covers)

"J" is for Journal - something a gardener should always have.
(These are for my students tonight, I have 15 in total, hope it's enough!)

"J" is also for Junk in the garden
(this planted toaster was spotted in New York Botanical Gardens)

"K" is for Knowledge - Did you know that I wrote chapter 6 in "The Daylily - A Guide for Gardeners" and took the photos in that chapter plus the front cover photo?)

"L" is for Lawn (no more words needed)

"M" is for Money or Moolah (or what ever you call it when you make a budget that you never seem to stick to.)

"N" is for Native or Natural (Rhododendrons are native to our area but covering them with sparkles like these folks did at a flower show is NOT natural)

"N" is also for Nursery - A place where you spend your "M"

"O" is for Organic - Great things like compost tea made from this beautiful pink Symphytum (Comfrey) are organic.

That's it for today folks, I've got to run, and be in 3 places at one time. Will be back tomorrow with more of the alphabet.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Gardening Basics A-F

"A" is for Annual (Cleome)

Tomorrow night I begin teaching an Adult Education program at our local High School. Naturally, the topic is gardening. So far 15 people have signed up for the program, with the possibility for another one or two to walk in tomorrow. That's an excellent turn out for a single program in our district.
"B" is for Birdhouse

Since my new students will have various levels of garden expertise, our first program will be "Gardening Basics". The program I've prepared uses images to explain gardening terms in an ABC format. Yes it's very simple but I hope that by making sure the basics are covered, we can move quickly into some hard core gardening.

"B" is for Biennial (Digitalis)

Tag along and let me know if you thing of a term or word I've missed. I'll continue the alphabet tomorrow and hope to be finished by the weekend. Some letters have more than one applicable word. One note, I did not use the names of plants for any of the letters but I'd love to have more gardening "concepts" to add.

"B" is also for Bulbs

"C" is for Compost

"C" is also for Container

"D" is for Dirt (but in class we'll call it "soil")

"E" is for Edging (this example is "high maintenance)

"E" is for Edging (this example is low maintenance)

"F" is for Foliage

And that's all for today, stay tuned tomorrow for more...