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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Today's The Day

This morning I drove my daughter to a friends house. It was early, and although we had anticipated bad weather, it is delightful outside. I drove the back roads even though it takes a bit longer. You see, today's the day. The day that all the Norway Maples popped into chartreuse glory, the Bloodgood Maples are masses of maroon, the Forsythia are still blooming and every other blooming tree is trying to out do the other ones.

In my own garden I was digging out my white Siberian Iris when I realized I had totally forgotten to blog this morning. Here's some photos I shot quickly.

Over night the Lunaria opened, they are perfect next to the Helleborus foetidus blooms.

The first blooms on the Viburnum 'Mohawk' have begun to open and already their amazing perfume is filling the air.

The un-named, $5 Azaleas I rescued from a flower show a few years ago are doing their magic.

My absolute favorite tree, the Acer shirasawanum 'Aureum' (Moon maple) is beginning to unfurl.

The new growth on the rescued Pieris japonicas is like fire with the sunlight filtering through the Pin Oak branches.

Oh yes, today's the day when spring has truly busted out all over.

Happy Spring!

P.S. My box store adventure was a bust. I can only tell you that Walmart is not the place to go for plants. I don't think I was there for more than 2 minutes. They did have nice Columbines but the potting soil was bone dry and I was afraid they had been too stressed out. I'll try out Lowes later this week.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Big Box Dilemma

Today I'm facing a huge dilemma. I'm headed off to Easton Pennsylvania to pick up my daughter at college. On the return trip we drive through Phillipsburg New Jersey, along a busy route 22 with lots of stores. I have one chance to stop at a store to look at plant material.

Try as I might, I couldn't find a listing for a top-notch nursery along this route so my choice is to stop at one of the big box stores. In alphabetical order I can choose between Home Depot, Lowes or Walmart.

With two teens in the car it will only be a stop long enough so they can grab some lunch as I run through the garden center.

Which one shall it be?

By the way, the Epimediums here are in full bloom. I wish I knew how to use this simple camera to capture their beauty. I'll try again over the weekend as I have more varieties. I'll also let you know what store I ended up at.

Road trip!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Exciting new plant discovery!

Ok, I'm trying really hard not to get too excited here. Today I was dividing my clumps of Sedum 'Frosty Morn'. I had noticed one or two little pieces that had reverted to a solid pale green and one or two teeny pieces that were all white. They were so small though, like the cotton on a q-tip.

Then I suddenly came across full sized stems with roots attached. Check this out!

Now I know that albino plants don't usually work out. I'm not a scientist but it has something to do with the ability to take up sunlight. Still, I'm going to cross my fingers and toes on this one.

Not only is the foliage creamy but the stems are pink.

I'm going to sit here now waiting for one of you amazing Dutch tissue culture people to call me. Just remember, if it grows it's got to be named Sedum 'Miss Melanie'.

Tomorrow morning's post might be delayed, I potted up 75 one gallon pots today plus a few dozen little pots of Sempervivum. Tomorrow I need to do more so I can drive to Pennsylvania on Friday to pick up my daughter and bring home a load of "dorm stuff".

Do you think this Sedum will live?

Splish Splash I'm a takin' a Bath

This is what my potting area looked like yesterday morning. Not nearly enough pots for our plant sale but I was scrounging around for pots and potting soil costs a fortune (along with multiple trips to the garden center to buy 3 or 4 bags at a time).

I've made two trips so far to Home Depot, both times I bought 3 50 lb. bags of potting soil plus some other amendments. That's about all I can handle in one trip.

Thanks to Rich Fulfarr and Zaino's Nursery in Westbury, NY I am now set up for some serious potting. These huge bales of potting soil weighed between 100 and 150 lbs. Most of them had small holes torn in the plastic so water had gotten in and soaked the potting soil. The soil is fantastic, it was just almost impossible to lift these bales.

It's a good thing nobody filmed a youtube video of the contortions I went through trying to get these suckers out of the truck. One bale was so heavy that I seriously considered leaving it in the truck and getting a bucket and shovel and lifting it out by the bucket load.

There were lots of pots for me too and of course I was totally energized when I saw the bounty of working materials.

The weather here has been delightful, perfect spring temperatures flirting around 70 degrees (21 Celsius) but the ground is oh so dry. After potting things up, they go in the kiddie pool for a nice hydrating bath. Once I know they've soaked up lots of moisture I put them in a mostly shady location for at least a week so they can get past their shock of being chopped up.

I'm off to pot up Rudbeckias (Black eyed Susans) now. They look like scraggly nothings at this time of year and we have a hard time selling them but I consider them a "must have" in the garden. Maybe I'll find some Echinacea to pot up too.

Yesterday I took inventory and had 265 pots ready. That's way behind what I think I should have. In past years I've had my mom's help to pot these babies up. She's coming in this Saturday but will be staying in the city for the two weeks she's up here. I only get her for one day and hate to have to tell her that we have to pot plants all day. Hopefully I'll feel caught up by then and we can spend the day doing something else. Today's goal is 60 pots. Wonder if I can make it?

Here's a list of plants that are potted so far (in no particular order):
Polygonatum (solomon's seal - need more!)
Hosta - medium green
Oenothera (Evening Primrose)
Sedum 'Matrona'
Centaurea dealbata (Bachelor's buttons)
Geranium cantabrigiense 'Karmina'
Heuchera (lost name, green marbled variety)
Phlox paniculata (several varieties)
Lychnis 'Jenny'
Nepeta mussinii
Stokesia (big fat blue seedlings)
Euphorbia polychroma
Corydalis lutea (yellow)
Violas (black and lavender)
Campanula punctata
Ferns (don't know the variety)
Salvia lyrata purple knockout seedlings
Digitalis (fox gloves)
Heliopsis - summer nights seedlings
Iris Germanica (sky blue)
Iris Siberica (deep blue)
Daylilies (81 pots so far, lots more to do)

On my "to dig" list are at least as many plants as are listed above. Hope I can get to all of them. Next week they are forecasting showers, I can work in the rain and the garden needs rain so I do hope we get some moisture.

Happy digging!


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Try, Try, Try Again

Gardeners are eternal optimists. No matter what the weather throws at us, oil delivery trucks that drive through our flower beds or telephone pole installation crews stomping through our gardens, we persevere.

If a plant doesn't grow for me I take it as a personal challenge. Many times it's because I didn't research the plant well and put it in the wrong kind of conditions.

At my last house I tried Bergenia, I don't remember it doing anything special there. About 10 years ago I bought Bergenia again and planted it out front in one of my shade beds. It languished, still throwing up one or two leaves a year but never blooming. I've read about this plant thriving in other gardens but still walked past it every time I saw it for sale.

So what changed my mind this year? I've started to read the tags on the pots, not just scan them but really read them. By looking at all the information I saw that this plant was grown right here on Long Island out on the north fork. If it can grow there it should certainly be able to grow in my garden. So try, try again, this time with more sun, less tree roots and lots of nice rotted compost. By the way, the nick name of this plant is "Pig Squeek" and if you rub the leaves together they really do sound like a pig.

Podophyllum hexandrum are easier to remember as "May Apples". About 5 years ago I planted a pot of these in the wooded lot along the side of my house. It was a lousy spot, no water during dry spells, maple tree root competition and no sun what so ever when those Maples leafed out.

I decided to take out the small struggling pieces and move them to the back to my larger shade bed. Grow baby, grow!

Last year I did the same with a small piece of my Sanguinaria canadensis (double bloodroot). In one year it has increased more than the entire "clump" grew out front. I can't wait to see what's there next year now!

I'm off to rent a truck so I can go pick up pots and potting soil being donated for our plant sale. Since I've never driven a truck before I'd appreciate it if everybody decided not to drive on Long Island today. Thank you.

Monday, April 21, 2008

An odd way to Propagate

It's my belief that some plants are not readily available at garden centers for one major reason...they look awful in pots. If a plant does not pot up "pretty", it's very hard to sell it.

Many years ago I was touring a local garden when I asked about a beautiful perennial that I was unfamiliar with. It was a hardy Geranium, to be exact it was Geranium cantabrigiense 'Biokova'. Luckily the gardener was really into botanical names and she made sure I had the name on a tag plus a nice healthy chunk she insisted I plant in my own garden.

I remember thinking it looked awfully scraggly when I got it home but I put it in the garden without much thought. The next year I was so enamored with this hardy Geranium that I began to search out more varieties. Local nurseries didn't carry more than one or two varieties at a time except for Roslyn Nurseries which used to be in the next town. I bought a pot of Geranium cantabrigiense 'Karmina' (shown in the opening photo) because it was supposed to be the same as 'Biokova' except for the color which was a deeper pink.

This type of hardy Geranium is evergreen, it does not die back in the winter and the foliage turns a nice reddish color. I loved how it cascaded out onto my gravel driveway so it was a natural to add to my raised perennial beds.

This photo was taken on March 24th, four weeks ago. You can see how a large piece of it just hangs down over the rock wall. Since I wanted to pot up some of this for our plant sale I had to address this cascading portion.

None of these photos will win a beauty contest but hopefully they convey my message. Here you can see that I just cut the Geranium along the lip of the rock. Now I could see the part that was rooted into the ground.

Here you can see my hand holding the "cascade portion" up before cutting it.

I dug out a huge chunk of the rooted portion to pot up and at the same time brought the cascade portion to the potting table with me. I hated the thought of throwing it away.

When I looked closely it seemed to me like there were little roots on this portion too but I know they weren't rooted to the rock wall as this piece was very loose, not stuck to the rocks.

The rooted part was a gigantic tangle of stems. It was impossible to tell what was supposed to go in the pot and what was supposed to stick out of the pot. I kept telling myself "green side up" as I tried to make some sense with the stems.

This is what they looked like potted up. I don't have a photo of them today because my husband is in Washington DC and has my camera with him. You'll have to take my word that they don't look much nicer than this, a bit more foliage but more stems than anything.

The odd thing? I put some mud into a plastic wagon and stuck the "cascade portion" on top of it. Every few days I go out and water it. Four weeks later and it still looks like this! Obviously it's not dead but now what do I do?

I'm thinking of filling some pots with soil all the way up, close to the rim. Then taking scissors and cutting this foliage into squares and sticking them on top of the pots. Kind of like sticking a toupee on top of a bald head.

What do you think? I think it's worth a try!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

From the curb

The other day I posted about plants growing out by my curb. This Verbascum bombyciferum isn't at the curb now but at one time it was. You see, I wanted to grow this plant so badly but the only place I ever saw it was growing as a weed along other people's curbs.

Finally, one afternoon when nobody was around I snuck across the street and rescued a plant from my neighbor's curb.

It only took one plant, once I got it here in my garden it happily seeded itself about, always surprising me in the locations it would choose to grow. It obviously likes cracks and crevices because it seeks out those locations and grow with merry abandonment in the most lean of soils.

Verbascum bombyciferum is a biennial so you have to let it sow about or you won't have any next year. One thing to remember is that if you want to move it into your gardens, do so early in the spring. The first one I grew here reminded me of the story of "Jack & the beanstalk" as it seemed to grow over night. I can't imagine moving this plant once it hits it's growing stride.

As a closing shot I just wanted to share one of the great photos my husband took yesterday. We spent the most glorious day in Allentown Pennsylvania along the Lehigh River. While Lafayette did not gain control of the river from Lehigh, we were still incredibly proud of our amazing crew team. That's our daughter Lauren in the front seat (on the right) in the black unitard.

Go Pards!