Search This Blog

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Potting time is almost here

Hooray! The fashion show I've been working on at our high school was a big hit last night. Best of all, I now have one major focus, the plant sale on May 10th. Of course, in order to get ready for the plant sale I need to garden.

My gardens really need a good overhaul and that means lots of plant dividing. Since I can't maintain more beds, I need to do something with those extra plants. So the season here begins with potting. Lots and lots of potting.

Before dividing and potting plants I need to set up my work area. That is something I plan on doing this weekend (weather permitting). The first few years here I had a nice work area along the side of my shed. The only problem is that it's in the back corner of my property, far away from my perennial borders and also not near any hose or sprinkler outlets.

Early last year I set up an area on an old table that was about to fall apart. I moved it closer to the center of my property, closer to water too. It's important to set your work area up in the shade. While it can be chilly in the shade on cool spring days, your plants will appreciate not baking in their pots right after being chopped to pieces.

Since my goal was 500 pots for our plant sale and another 100 pots or so for me and friends, I found that leaning over that lower picnic table was not the best thing for my back. At that same time the supports on two of our old picnic benches gave away.

A great idea occurred to me. I set up two saw horses and then placed the long benches on top. This gives me a higher work area so I don't have to bend. There's enough clearance underneath that I can wheel the wheelbarrow all the way under or I can put large trash bins for compost scraps there.

An unused ring for firewood make a great temporary pot holder.

I can't say this is the most beautiful corner of my yard but it's in the right location. Easily accessible to most of my gardens, only a few yards from where I'd pull my car (in case I need to transport plants) and shady most of the day.

My biggest downfall here is that grass doesn't grow in this spot so the ground is either dirt or mud. I've put off putting wood chips down here because my wonder-doodle Calie loves to keep me company while I pot up plants. I've heard that those coarse chips can be bad for her feet.

What does your work area look like and what conditions are important to you?

Friday, April 04, 2008

A Rainy Day

It's a rainy day here on Long Island. This photo was taken one autumn in a Sunken Meadow park, a lovely little beach and bird sanctuary along the north shore of our island.

This is what the same spot looks like on a sunny day. The cormorants can make quite bit of noise as they stand there soaking up the sun rays.

I'll be back tomorrow with more perennial photos. Till then, stay dry :-)

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Perennials - April through May

(Alchemilla mollis - Ladies mantle, Corydalis 'Blackberry Wine', Athyrium 'Pictum' - Japanese painted fern, Photo taken May 25, 2007 a very late spring)

It's Thursday, which means I teach my adult education gardening class tonight. I am so very excited because today's topic is "Perennials" which is my absolute favorite part of gardening.

Since I don't own a digital projector, my class can only see images from when I was shooting slide film. So just for fun, I thought I'd put some digital images of my favorite perennials up here for all to share. This batch of photos were all taken in the months of April and May.

It's interesting to see how different the blooms times are each spring.

(Unknown Epimedium, Photo taken May 25, 2007)

(Hakonechloa macra 'All Gold', Photo taken May 25, 2007)

(Geranium cantabrigiense 'Cambridge' - Photo taken May 28, 2007)

Calie the wonder-doodle almost decimated this clump last fall while digging out a chipmunk tunnel. I'll be starting over again this year with a tiny piece instead of this nice big clump. Bad dog.

(Iris germanica, unknown variety - Photo taken May 28, 2007)

(Nepeta mussinii - Photo taken May 28, 2007)

(Geranium sanguinium and Geranium cantabrigiense 'Biokova' - Photo taken May 28, 2007)

(Pulmonaria angustifolia 'Azurea' - has no markings! Photo taken May 28, 2007)

(Sanguinaria canadensis - Double bloodroot - Photo taken April 18, 2006 - a much earlier spring!)

(Primula - unknown variety from a neighbor - Photo taken May 2, 2006)

(Brunnera 'Jack Frost' - Photo taken May 17, 2006)

(A corner of the shade border - Photo taken May 5, 2006)

While I've been predicting that our spring isn't going to be as late as last years spring, I don't think it will be as early as the one we had in 2006. This morning we took a big hit with temperatures in the low 20's, that's -4 celsius. I just went out to check the various plant foliage since I plan on digging something to bring to the class tonight. Right now I'm not touching anything. This afternoon I can hopefully dig some Euphorbia and Hemerocallis - daylilies.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

'Primal Scream'

Sometimes you find a plant with a name that you just must have. The first time this happened to me it was a daylily named 'Scatterbrain'. I figured it was named for me. The day I saw Hosta 'Tea and Crumpets', it too just had to be added to my garden.

Other times there were plants that I found appealing but I refused to purchase because the name was distasteful. Names such as 'Booger' or 'Devil's Footprint' are just not ones I care to have people read as they tour my garden.

Last month I read a blog with lots of comments on the new Hydrangea name 'Pinky Winky'. Well, that might not be a name I'd choose for a plant but I did choose to get a 'Pinky Winky' and it's waiting in a pot for me to decide where to plant it.

Today I have more things to do than there are hours to do them in. While I'd like to spend the morning blogging, visit other great sites and answer comments, I just can't afford the time. As for the afternoon, there won't be any strolling around the garden until this Saturday when life hopefully slows down a bit.

So, my one single photo for the day is that of a daylily that I highly recommend you seek out and grow. Not only does the name convey my feelings this morning, but the color is just amazing in the garden. In case you didn't guess from the title of this post, this is Hemerocallis 'Primal Scream'

Please forgive me if I don't stop by and visit you in the next day or two. I'll post something quick each day but for now, AAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

Phew, now I feel better :-)

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A (not so) Charming Volunteer

Yesterday I posted about a charming volunteer plant that mysteriously appeared in my garden one day. Thanks to Nan Ondra at Hayefield, I now know that it is Semiaquilegia ecalcarata.

Another volunteer in my garden is a plant that I call purple Perilla. I'm pretty sure of the botanical name on this one, it's Perilla frutescens. The arrival of this plant in my garden is not a mystery, I asked my friend Chris for a few pieces.

Perilla reminds me of Coleus. It has a lovely leaf and being part of the mint family, it also smells delicious. Since it is not winter hardy here, you'd think that it wouldn't be invasive in your garden.

As you can see from the opening photo, the deep rich purple of Perilla makes it the most amazing companion plant in deep shade, semi shade and even some sunny spots. But wait! It also has nice tall spires of small lavender blue blooms. How charming...uh oh. If you leave those spires on the plant they will scatter a gazillion seeds through out your garden.

Look how sweet they look here coming up by the Hosta. This is the time I need to remind myself that each of these plants can grow to almost a meter (3') tall. Do you think you'll be able to see any of those Hosta then?

Unfortunately I made the mistake of letting these beauties grow and many of the low growing shade plants in my garden suffered that year. Last year I tried hard to be ruthless in pulling out as many as I could find. Just leave a few in the bed, I kept telling myself, further in the back so I could enjoy that marvelous color. Another good idea would be to cut the blooms off but by then it's late summer and early fall and I'm usually off doing some kind of Marching Band thing then.

I no longer need a reminder though about how prolific Perilla can be. All I have to do is look down at my feet to see that they will grow anywhere their tiny seeds hit the ground.

Monday, March 31, 2008

A charming volunteer

Sometimes plants pop up in your garden and you wonder where they came from. Most often it's a weed, sometimes it's a charming wild flower and every now and then it's a total mystery plant.

When we built a garden around the slope on the back of our pool, we had to bring in several truck loads of soil. Instead of getting top soil from a place that sifts and screens the soil, we were able to get it from a perennial farm right up the street.

The soil was mostly compost, there were still pieces of wood chips in it, lots of sand and a quite a few stones. I had to remove the stones by hand but it was still well worth the effort as the soil was free of cost to us.

One day I noticed a little volunteer plant growing in the bed. It had foliage like a Columbine but much smaller than any I had in my gardens.

The plant grew quickly into a nice little clump and then began to bloom. It's been there 3 years now and has self seeded all along that rock wall. My only complaint is that the seedlings do not like to be disturbed or transplanted. I've only had success with one or two that were moved when they were teeny tiny.

Taking a good photo of the blooms has challenged me as my point and shoot digital camera has too wide a focus and so far I haven't gotten it to focus on one individual bloom. Still, I hope you can see how charming this little volunteer is.

Has anybody seen a Columbine similar to this?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Are you my mother?

One summer my mother, my daughter Emily and I were visiting family in Nova Scotia. My Uncle and Aunt live in a little town outside of Yarmouth. Local men build birdhouses with scraps of wood from the shipbuilding yards.

My mom had brought me home a few of these houses in past years but of course, I wanted more. As we drove around the spectacularly beautiful countryside we kept our eyes peeled for birdhouse vendors. The collection in the back of my SUV grew to the point that we could not open the back hatch for the customs inspector at the border. I could only open the windows for the man to stick his head in the car as I was afraid the houses would all tumble out and we'd never fit them back in.

It never occurred to me that when I came home I'd have to find spots for all these houses. One house was plopped right on top of a stump in our parking area. It wasn't the smartest place to put the house as birds moved in almost immediately and when we parked there they'd go flitting about.

The same with the bird house on my bicycle. It looked so pretty there but I couldn't weed that part of the garden without disturbing the residents. I had never thought of that in advance.

One day I saw some movement around the house on the stump and realized that the babies were leaving the nest. At first they scampered up to the roof and I had time to run and grab my camera.

Suddenly one got bold and jumped and flapped it's little wings. Hooray! It flew to the next stump, about 5 feet away.

When I saw this scene I immediately thought of the Dr. Seuss book "Are you my mother?" where the little bird goes on an adventure looking for it's mother.

And no, I didn't buy this plastic gnome. While I have some really nice garden gnomes, this one is pretty cheesy and somebody actually dumped it on my front lawn!

So choose your birdhouse locations with care and don't forget, have your camera ready to capture those Kodak moments.