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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Baptisia Seeds - Advice Needed

Yesterday while I was cleaning up my garden I came across a huge amount of seed pods. I knew right away they were from the white Baptisia I have in that area. This is what the pods looked like.

When I opened them up I found tan colored seeds inside. They weren't squishy nor were they dried out. I know other people have been able to grow Baptisia from seeds but in my garden, I've never found a Baptisia seedling and yet I always let the pods fall as they may.

Thanks directly to the other garden bloggers I've been reading, I decided to try to bring some seeds inside and see if I could get them to grow. In these photos you can see part of a file, I filed a few but most of them I left alone.

Some seeds were planted in peat pellets, some were filed and then planted, some are in a cup soaking in water. If anybody has any experience with these seeds, could you leave a comment?

This is the white Baptisia in bloom. I only saw it for sale once and I'm so glad I bought it. I had fallen in love with it when I saw it in a garden in Mississippi. We might be at the northernmost grow area for it, it's extremely late to emerge from the ground and I have to be careful not to disturb the soil in this spot.

Not the greatest photo but here you can see the foliage from the other side of the plant. I have it paired with a very tall Veronicastrum, they seem to hold each other up nicely. But if I had luck with these seeds I'd like to plant a few on their own as accent plants.

This plant was very slow to increase in size, one of those sleep, creep, leap plants. I don't have any other Baptisias in front of my house so I don't know if they needed another to cross polinate. On the other hand, I'd like to think that it would keep the seedlings white as the Baptisias in my back garden are purple and yellow varieties.

As you can see, even Calie the wonder-doodle was fascinated with these seedlings. Actually, she was hoping there was a bone in that bag of potting soil.

I'd appreciate any advice or growing tips.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - March 08

Today turned out to be the most perfect gardening day of the year so far. Temperatures made it up to the mid 50's and I spent hours cleaning up the garden. At first I couldn't make myself start but thankfully I had just read Carol's post yesterday at May Dreams Gardens.

I did just as she said and took it one small area at a time. There's still so much more to do but I feel so good for what's already been done.

The 15th of the month is Garden Bloggers Bloom Day also courtesy of Carol at May Dreams Gardens. The first photo shows one of two large clumps of Crocus that were in bloom today.

The Galianthus (snowdrops) are popping up all over the place. I can finally see that there are seedlings in many areas Hooray!

Not quite in bloom but in bud are my Helleborus foetidus (stinking hellebore).

These are the last two of the yellow crocus that were the first blooms here of 2008.

Also in bud and ready for a few more warm days are the dark smokey purple Hellebores.

Finally, the lighting was poor in this corner but the Hamamelis (Witch Hazel) 'Arnold's Promise' was in all it's glory and smelled heavenly!

Did you See what I Saw?

Yesterday I was running around the house getting ready for an appointment filled day when I heard a strange banging noise. Looking out the window I saw that my dog Calie was quite busy.

She was standing quite steadily on her hind feet like a human and looking down the tube of our see-saw (teeter-totter or what ever else you call these things). I ran and grabbed my camera but it shoots too slowly to get the best action shots. It doesn't help that I was perched on the couch in a state of undress in front of a huge window while trying to take these photos.

After one end of the see-saw was pulled down to the ground, Calie would run around to the other end, stand on her hind feet and stick her nose into the metal tube. Down would come the see-saw...Thump.

After a moment of frantic digging Calie would realize she couldn't sniff/see down the tube and around she'd go again to the other side.

Never mind that you can see the true state of winter shambles of the garden behind her. I want to know what creature was running back and forth inside that see-saw! Maybe after Frances at Faire Gardens locked her mysterious visitor out it decided to move here?

Calie is one of those new mixed breeds (expensive mutts). Her mom was half yellow labrador/half standard poodle, her dad was full standard poodle. Calie has hair like a poodle, a bit less curly and doesn't shed. She also has the ridiculous clown nature of a labrador. Hence she is known as Calie the wonder-doodle.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Do you label your plants?

Do you label the plants in your garden?

When I first began growing perennials, it never occurred to me that I'd want to save the cultivar names. My mom had always taken me to Old Westbury Gardens so I knew that they did label plants in public gardens but I never considered it as something done in a private garden.

One of the first things I learned after joining the Long Island Daylily Society was that if you were going to collect plants, you needed some kind of labeling system. Our club bought sturdy markers in bulk and resold them (at no profit) to members. I estimate I bought about 700 of these markers over the past 12 years which was quite an expensive investment in the garden.

This time of year though (that photo was taken last April) my yard is full of these shiny metal markers. It looks like a mouse cemetery!

There aren't any beautiful photos in this post, that's because I don't find labels very beautiful. To tell the truth, I'm getting awfully tired of seeing them in my garden. So what's a person to do if they want to tell one cultivar from another?

Last year I began photographing the plant and the label as I came home from the nursery. I hope that this way I can keep a record on my computer. At least a record of what plants I purchased. You see, I'm not one of those list-type people and I'm also not a garden map guru.

These plastic tags that come with the plants are always sunk into the ground when I first plant my new arrival. The problem with these things is they become brittle and break, creatures move them around the garden and wind and weather create havoc on them (forget about what the leaf blower does!).

Sometimes I write up a second label on a recycled piece of mini-blind (see top photo) and sink that label as far in the hole as possible. The writing stays intact underground, especially if you write it in pencil.

Hosta are the one plant that I don't mind labeling too much, I write the name on a tag and sink it deep into the ground. The Hosta foliage quickly covers this label so I don't have a glaring reminder whenever I look at my garden.

Anna over at flowergardengirl wrote a blog about plant names this morning. She had a good idea of a way to learn your plant names. Now I need a good idea on how to keep track of those names in the garden.

Do you label your plants?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

It's A Party and You're Invited!

Break out the balloon(flower)s and let's get going, there's a party going on!

Don't worry if you haven't got a thing to wear. It's a "come as you are" party.

(Hemerocallis 'Lola Branham' and Platycodon)

What's the party for?
My friend Anna is debuting her brand new garden blog RavenCroft and smart girl that she is, she quickly subscribed to Blotanical.

(Hemerocallis 'Radiation Biohazard' a hot daylily for a hot lady!)

Who's this Anna chick?
Well Anna and I are cyber-buddies. We met quite some time ago on a daylily internet listserve (not "The" daylily robin, another one).

Sometimes when you meet somebody over the internet you aren't sure you really are going to like them. The day Anna and I got in trouble for posting too much about our Sedums and not Daylilies, well, I knew we were going to be friends :-)

(Hemerocallis 'Starman's Quest')

Like Anna, I've been part of the gardening internet world for a long time, over 12 years now. But, also like Anna, I love to share photos and just can't stick to one topic for long, so blogging has become the thing for me.

(Hemerocallis 'Grapeade')

So lift your glasses in a toast to a brand new blogger and don't forget to stop by and drop a comment to my friend Anna at RavenCroft.

Use your Senses

When doing a program on Design, whether it's Garden Design or Landscape Design I always finish off the same way. I tell people to use their senses in the garden.

The sense of Sight would come first as looking at our gardens gives us such pleasure. Your garden is your art form, enjoy looking at it.

The sense of Sound is one that is often ignored. Here on Long Island it's pretty hard to find a place that's truly quiet. When I go hiking on the Walt Whitman Trails I can still hear the parkway. Even in secluded, million dollar areas I seem to always hear somebodies lawn service or leaf blowers being used.

Our home is near Old Country Road (ah ha, part of where the name comes from). While this road looks quite rural, we still hear the traffic during busy hours. By adding things in the garden to mask the man-made sounds, I find it a more relaxing place. Wind chimes and running water are my first choice. Bird sounds are excellent too.

The sense of Taste. From what I've been reading, vegetable gardens are back in fashion. While I haven't had a vegetable garden in years, I've always grown herbs for our use. These Garlic chives were a pass-along plant and I think they are so cool looking!

The sense of smell is one we tend to think of more often but do we really use it? I just love seeing somebody walking around the garden with a big spot of pollen on their face or nose. You know exactly what they did, they stopped to smell the flowers. (Well maybe not this Peony but many flowers will leave pollen on your face.)

The sense of touch is one one that has so many different ways to be enjoyed. First to mind is the soft touch of some plants like the Stachys byzantina (Lambs ears) shown here. What kid isn't glad to be handed one of these leaves to hold in their pocket?

The sense of touch can be expanded to wonderful plants that when touched, release a second sense, the sense of smell. When I show the garden to friends I can't resist picking a leaf or a bloom from here or there and having them do the scratch and sniff test. Mondarda is in the mint family and the foliage smells heavenly.

The sense of touch is so important that I also had to include a third photo. To me, there's nothing like the feel of potting up new plants, burying your hands into that warm potting soil, and lovingly patting down your new babies in their nice pots. I think this is what I look forward to the most right now as spring is almost in reach.

Finally, don't forget your sense of humor! Now I don't have a toilet bowl planted in my garden, if I did the lid would be down (come on, this has to be a man's planting). But I do have lots of funny things here and there. We all have a different sense of humor but why not consider having something in your garden that makes you smile every time you see it?

What's your favorite sense in the garden?

What do you plant to scratch that itch?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Garden Design - Part 3

In the past week I've posted part one and part two of my Garden Design class. Today I'd like to look at the things I consider when actually looking at the plant material used in the garden.

The last thing I had written on this topic was that I feel diversity is the key to a healthy garden. To me, diversity is what makes a garden call out to me, I'm just not a mono-culture kind of person. Maybe that's a result of growing up in New York City.

Diversity means many different things. In the plant world it means that I look for all different kinds of plants. I want annuals, perennials, bulbs, biennials, big blooms, little blooms, excellent foliage, and more. There's an amazing array of plants out there to add to the garden and I'm always glad to try something new. In the photo above you can see Camassia quamash which is a bulb that I rarely see in gardens. Next to the Camassia is Euphorbia polychroma. My two clumps of Camascia were given to me by my gardening friend Mary Kay and this year I will have enough to divide and spread about a bit. Thanks Mary Kay!

Another bulb that I see for sale often but don't see in enough gardens is Crocosmia. I admit I'm a lazy gardener when it comes to this plant and often just buy it already potted up. While Long Island is considered in the safe growing zone for this beautiful bulb, it hasn't always made it through the winter for me. You can bet if that happens I'm going to go out and buy some more.

Diversity also pertains to the size of the plant material. If you want to read an excellent article about why size is important in the garden you should take some time and visit the Garden Renegade, click on his link Design and then scroll down and click on "Top 10 Gardening and Landscape Blunders - and How to Avoid Them!". Warning, before you head over there, take a potty break, get yourself a cup of something to drink and a snack, you will be there for a long time! Don't forget to come back here and visit me again :-)

This hardy perennial is Veronicastrum and it grows over 6' tall (2 meters) in my garden. When it's in bloom I'm guaranteed that people will stop and ask for it's name.

This photo is a bit blurry but it shows you how the Veronicastrum stands out in the garden. What it does is take a border that might be a bit boring (all mid thigh high and lower) and add some much needed punctuation points.

Foliage is another key when choosing plant material. If you want to read more on foliage, you can read through the last few weeks of my blog where I've touched upon it more. It's obvious that you can choose plants with hot foliage colors and never even have a flower blooming in your garden. These plants though are annuals for us but don't worry, there are perennials too with great foliage.

Hosta 'Spritzer' and Pulmonaria 'Raspberry Splash' have similar shaped foliage, even similar shaped growth but the foliage contrasts wonderfully. Other foliage combinations might have the same color foliage but totally different leaf shapes.

Of course we can't forget about color. Everybody sees color differently, and everybody has different color favorites. If you want to check out some excellent articles on color, head over to Hayefield and see what Nancy J. Ondra has to say. Take the time to scroll back through her blog, her sense of color has me in total awe.

This is an older daylily variety named 'Fairy Firecracker' yet it gathered quite a bit of attention when the American Hemerocallis Society (daylily folk) toured here.

Taking color a step further, you have to consider timing.

Are your plants going to bloom at the same time? Believe me, I've made that mistake often, either I plan a wonderful combination and they don't bloom together or I plan to have two distinct colors bloom at different times and they end up blooming together.

Many people don't realize that the plants they buy at the nursery often come from a different climate. Those plants aren't necessarily blooming at the same time that they will bloom in future years when they settle into your garden. Sometimes it takes a year or two of experimentation before you find the right time combinations.

The above photo shows the hard to find daylily 'Jeanne Fitton' and another unsung perennial hero Stachys monieri. I absolutely adore both plants and they don't look bad together, they just could look better next to something else. If I brought forward the blue cloud of Nepeta 'Six Hills Giant' that's barely visible in the back drop, I'd have a better combination.

If you aren't sure of combining colors, you can still have diversity with your plant material and keep things in the same color range. This daylily (name not available) and the Echinacea purpurea are very similar in color and even in bloom shape yet earlier in the season the foliage of each plant contrasts nicely.

For the more adventurous, you can take your colors and use them for contrast like I have done here with the daylily 'Eggplant Escapade' and Rudbeckia 'Herbstsonne'. Luckily for me this is a very tall, late blooming daylily. When the Rudbeckia flopped a bit because I forgot to pinch it back, I didn't cry, instead I grabbed my camera and enjoyed the view.

Well, that's it for today. It must almost be spring, my garden club is having our first meeting of the year and we have an awesome speaker lined up. I'll tell you all about it some time.

Auf wiedersehn, Cheerio, Tah Tah and all that jazz.

Monday, March 10, 2008

A more efficient blog...

In the past two days I've been highly interested in the the comments posted on Crafty Gardeners blog. The original title was "What do you read on a blog" and the many comments left were very informative.

One change I made as soon as I read the replies and todays follow up blog is to remove the word verification for people who want to leave comments. Mom, that means you should be able to leave a comment now, hint, hint.

Another thing that was confirmed for me was that people like the pictures on blogs. So, even though the attached photo has nothing to do with this topic, I've added it here as a bit of embellishment. Just because it makes me happy :-)

Two things are still confusing to me. Some blogs spread all the way across the page and others run down the middle leaving two bare inches on each size. I have yet to find a background that uses all the space on the page. I wonder why there aren't more blogs that cover the whole screen.

The second issue is some people mentioned they don't like the advertisements. Can somebody who has those advertisements comment about this? Do you actually earn proceeds for those advertisements? My blog has the capability to "Earn revenue by displaying relevant ads on your blog." What kind of revenue? Is it worth it to add this element. How do all of you feel about this?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Unsung Hero of the Perennial Garden

If you had to choose just one perennial as the unsung hero of the perennial garden, which one would you choose?

There are so many different perennials in my garden, most of them are ones that I just could never do without but there's one that's special to me. Alchemilla mollis, also known as Ladies Mantle is a perennial that I just must have in my garden. And have it I do, I have it in every flower bed on this property. It might be the only perennial that could lay claim to that fact.

Yet as much Alchemilla as I have, it's just not enough. Last night I was browsing through the many wonderful blogs on Blotanical. I love to sneak a peek at the European blogs too, my knowledge of German is less than perfect but I can make my way through most German posts.

Garten Impressionen is one German blog that caught my eye when I first started blogging at Blotanical. Since there is also an English translation right there, more of you should drop by and take a look. Anyway, last night I saw some photos at Garten Impressionen that reminded me why I love Alchemilla so much.

It seems like the only place I've seen Alchemilla growing in large waves is at botanical gardens. It looks so stunning planted that way that I don't understand why I haven't done the same thing here at my old country gardens. Could it be that I'm too stingy a gardener? Not willing to give up that much space to one single plant species?

What ever the reason is, I do so love my Alchemilla mollis plants. They just make every plant combination look amazing. I'm always telling people that adding Alchemilla to the garden is like installing expensive crown molding in your dining room. Sheer class and beauty.

One of the most interesting things to me is that I can hardly sell this plant at our spring plant sale. It just doesn't look so exciting in a pot. When people ask what what color the flowers are and I answer "chartreuse" they just look at me and pass it by.

So, what would you choose as the unsung hero of perennial gardens?