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Friday, May 23, 2008

A Blast from the Past

This morning my husband asked if he could take the camera to work. There's a Blue Angels air show today at the airport right by Don's office and he wants to take photos.

My mom suggested I go through some old photos and post those and as I was going through my files I came upon one titled 'Garden 2001'. These photos were the earliest digital photos I took. They were shot with an Olympus camedia that had a whopping 1.3 megapixels :-).

As I went through the photos it struck me how different my gardens look today and yet how similar too. The opening shot shows one of my favorite daylilies back then, 'Jeanne Fitton'. It still is a favorite which is amazing in the fast moving daylily world. Not planted in the same spot but still much adored. I have so much of that bluish leaved Sedum telephaeum 'Ruprectii', I need to move it near 'Jeanne Fitton' as they really play nicely together.

This Dicentra spectabilis 'Alba' is still in this spot although it's been divided at least once. The purple alliums are there too although I don't know their name.

Myosotis (Forget me nots) are not in this spot any longer and neither is the Cerastium tomentosum but they have both been reintroduced to my garden last year and now I need to plant them together again!

Another bleeding heart, this one is Dicentra eximia 'Aurora' and it has not survived in this dry root-bound area. Looking at this photo I'm filled with plant lust and must find this cultivar to put in my better shade garden.

A dwarf Platycodon (Balloon flower), not in that spot either now but I do believe it's in another spot along my pool patio.

This statue was photographed in Saratoga Springs New York and I wanted it more than anything I had ever seen before. Although I saw it for sale once thereafter, I did not purchase it as I realized that I'd also need to purchase a bridge. Both troll and bridge are still on my wish list....sigh...

A little vignette in front of my breezeway. This old patio is now covered with lovely stone pavers but all the elements in this photo are still here scattered around the garden. Even many of those stones are now in my sedum/succulent area.

Another incredibly beautiful daylily, 'Tune the Harp' has been divided often but still grows in my garden. As for the Campanula punctata in the back drop, I couldn't get rid of it if I wanted too. Good think I like it :-)

My daughters Lauren and Emily were quite serious about grooming daylilies to enter in the Long Island Daylily Society flower show. I still have them here (the girls) but they're not quite as into the garden as they were back then.

As a closing shot, this was my cottage garden and it made my heart leap with joy when I stood there and gazed upon it. This bed had to be removed when we did the masonry work in front of our house but I still can close my eyes and see the beauty that was there.

Until today I didn't realize that I rarely look at these older digital images.

How far back do your digital images go? Do you look at them often?

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Do you grow vegetables in your garden? Today I plan on planting tomatoes, eggplants and peppers. The weather has not cooperated much for warm weather plants but has been perfect if you are growing a cool weather crop.

These photos were taken two weeks ago so I know things are much further along today. This is Paul's vegetable garden. Paul is my friend Kim's husband and he has really been bitten by the gardening bug in the last few years.

Last year they moved to a new home and garden. The property layout is stunning but there really was no place to put a vegetable garden. Then Paul had a fantastic idea. He found these amazing tables, potted up all his veggies and placed them along the nicely sheltered south side of the garage.

I'm most interested in watching Paul's potatoes grow. Kim told me yesterday that they've added 4 more inches of soil since these photos were taken and the plants are spilling out of the barrels.

How ingenious is this! I just love the idea of growing potatoes in large plastic garbage bins. They are high enough that you can pick off any munching creatures without bending over. The potatoes should be a breeze to harvest too.

By now the warm weather vegetables should be planted too so I need to drive over next week and take some more photos. I'll try to stop up the road at my friend Gianna's house too as her husband Richie has been planting his veggies in pots for years now.

Guess where I'm going to plant my tomatoes today. Yup, pots here for me too! I was hoping to get some photos this morning but it's been spritzing out there so that will have to wait a bit.

Off to get muddy...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

And the winner is...

There are two Viburnum plicatum shrubs in my yard. One is planted in rich soil where it gets watered often. The other is in a tough spot, more shade, more tree competition (including Black Walnuts, Juglans nigra) and no water during dry spells.

This is how the Viburnum in the tough spot looks, it's just as amazingly beautiful as the one in the great spot. We put it over the spot our two kitties Olive and Muffin are buried.

When it comes to shrubs I'm no expert. I've only been really paying attention to them for 4 or 5 years now and haven't added too many to our gardens here. Unfortunately there weren't wonderful shrubs waiting here for us, just the usual array of poorly grown yews (Taxus baccata) and one bank of Rhododendrons in front of the house.

This is Viburnum burkwoodii 'Mohawk' which I find lovely. My only complaint might be that the catalog listed it as "more compact than burwoodii" and it is currently towering over 7 feet tall.

Here's a close up of those lovely blooms. This photo was taken last year on June 1st so I have a bit of a wait before I get to see this sight again.

Viburnum dilatum 'Erie' is the winner when it comes to shrub shape. It truly is compact, short and wide, perfect in the semi shade border.

When looking for these shrubs I considered light requirements, soil requirements (we have naturally acidic soil), blooms and highly important was berries to feed the wildlife. While I can't say I've seen enough berries to invite whole flocks of birds, I can say that I'm very happy with the choices I've made.

For those of you who were thinking that my title alluded to the local elections here, I'll just add this, apparently, like my Viburnums, I'm a winner.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Placing Plants for Maximum Impact

Foliage, foliage, foliage, it's all the rage. Ok, so you bought some plants with cool foliage. Now what are you going to do with them?

When I first tried combining foliage I made a big mistake. I chose spots for the plants strictly based on where I thought the foliage would look best. What I forgot to take into account is what conditions does that plant like. As a result, it took many tries before I successfully grew Ligularia because I kept putting it in full, dry shade.

In the opening photo you can see where I chose to plant my new Astilbe. The plants around it might not have different colored foliage but they do have different shapes or textures. There's a Pulmonaria, several Hosta, a pair of daylily seedlings I couldn't bare to part with and Liriope 'Silver Dragon' just emerging in this spot. I'm not at all sold on that Liriope, it doesn't look good until late in the season and it appears to me that there are two runner shoots appearing between my bowling shoes.

Here you can see the Astilbe in the pot. I did quite a bit of walking around before deciding on where to place it. One lesson I've learned with Astilbe is that they like more sun than shade and a nice regular watering so I need to choose a spot where our sprinkler system reaches.

A few feet further down in the semi shade border is a spot that I think was successfully planted. The foliage all combines nicely in my opinion. The only thing I'd change is the Aquilegia vulgaris that seeded right in the front against the stone. I just googled this plant as I'm not sure of it's name and came up with a hit on Frances at Faire garden. Hi Frances!

This is the spot I chose for one of those purple Ligularias. It's so dark it's hard to see it there in the middle but as it grows it should really pop against all those lighter foliaged plants.

The second Ligularia 'Osiris Fantaisie' plant went in this location. I have major dreams of that Lamium growing up to the base of the purple Ligularia. The Lamium is a slow growing one, the name long lost but I wish I could find more of it for sale.

Here's a bit closer look at the Lamium, it has a very white leaf and a lovely pink flower. Another plant that I'm just crazy about is in this photo. It's in the top center and kind of looks like an Astilbe but it's Aruncus aethusifolius.

A very dwarf Aruncus, it holds it's form looking like a perfectly clipped little ball. I get a nice amount of seedlings from the parent plant, maybe 3 or 4 a year and have learned to put them in places where they can grow on. Now I've got at least a dozen of these perfect balls in various parts of the garden and soon I'll have enough to be able to share on a regular basis.

Last year I bought this specialty Polygonatum 'Striatum' (Solomon's seal) with twisted leaves. I'll hold my opinion on this until it clumps up a bit but at least I know it's quite hardy as both plants I purchased have come back this year.

Here's a great combination area. The Hakonechloa 'All Gold', a Geranium sanguinium and that Aruncus aethusifolius. The little gold in the foreground is a piece of a Hosta I rescued from a totally dessicated root bound area.

Out front in the sun border I continue to add pieces of yellow and green variegated Liriope. This is such a great plant in my garden. The only thing I have to remember is it doesn't look like much this early in the season but as soon as that foliage starts growing it's a winner.
Several pots of Amsonia 'Blue Ice' were planted next to the various Dicentras (Bleeding Hearts). The Dicentras have already been blooming for quite some time but I hope that the Amsonias will join the show as the Dicentras are winding down and then the Amsonia foliage will fill in some of the gaps. Only time will tell if this is a winning combination.

Well, I'm off to the races. Actually, I'm off to the elections. Today is the day for our school district's budget vote and vote for new candidates for the Board of Education. I'm running for one of the openings and will spend most of the day at the voting area shaking hands and introducing myself to people. Unfortunately we are expecting a seasonly cold and rainy day so I just might look like a bay man in my yellow slicker and galoshes. At least I won't be giving up another spectacular day in the garden.

Till tomorrow,

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Time to cut the Sedum

Many things were worked upon in the garden today. After an early supper, I decided to spend my last few hours of daylight cutting some of the Sedum.

Now you might have grown Sedum for many years and never cut them back. There was a time I did not cut my Sedum either and some years I still just never get to them. I began to cut them when I only grew 'Autumn Joy' (or 'Herbstfreude' or 'Indian Chief'?) .

You see, that variety of Sedum was a flopper, it often opened in the middle of the clump and just looked awful as it sprawled there in the garden. I was told that if I pinched it back it would bloom lower and not flop open.

The next time I cut a Sedum back was with the variety Sedum aizoon 'Lemon Snowflakes'. That's an earlier blooming Sedum and I was trying to get it to bloom later in the season. It worked and it did bloom later.

What ever the reason, here's what I do with many of my Sedum. First I cut them back with a regular pair of household scissors. I find these kind of scissors easier than my trusty Felco clippers for this job.

At the last minute I decided not to bother wearing the gloves as there was little chance to cut myself with these old scissors.

Since my gardens are quite large, I just can't stand the thought of throwing away all this luscious plant material. In fact, the way I originally got this Sedum was by taking home old shriveled cuttings from a nearby perennial farm (yes, I had permission).

Here you can see that I strip off the lower leaves. You can cut them or use your thumb nail, I use my hands.

Gathering up 5 or 7 stems (odd numbers suit me), I take my cuttings to the pots I've filled with a nice loose seed starting mix.

You can also use plain sterile play box sand instead of the potting mix. Or, you can put your stems in a glass jar filled with water and wait until you see the roots. In my case, this method has worked fine in the past and so it's what I stick with.

The Sedum stems are rigid enough that I can poke them right into the soil (which was not tamped down firmly).

In the top right corner you can see a yellow variegated Sedum that I picked up years ago at a farm stand. It's ready for cutting too so snip, snip, off we go.

There's a curly gray Sedum in this photo, another that I don't have a name at hand but it too takes well from cuttings. I don't always cut it back though, it already is a sprawler which is part of it's charm.

How do you like my new Sedum in the round bowl planter? I found that pot on this property when we moved in and it's lasted outside through our winters for twelve years now. Wish I could find more of these beauties.

This entire row of Sedum telephaeum 'Ruprectii' was made by cuttings. A friend gave me a piece of this plant 11 years ago. I didn't even bother to pot up the cuttings, I just stuck them along the edge and soon had an amazing border.

They're not ready yet to be cut this year. When the time comes I need to devote a whole day to the task, it takes a good few hours to cut this row back and then I have to decide what to do with all those cuttings.

This is the hard part of cutting your Sedum. What was just a lush, beautiful clump looks like toast for a couple of weeks. This is not something you want to do the day before the garden club comes to tour your garden.

Another tip is not to take your cuttings in the morning when you are expecting a hot sunny day or a series of hot dry days. We had a nice rain fall this afternoon and our temperatures dropped quickly. Our forecast for the next number of days is for cooler than average weather with clouds and possible scattered showers. Perfect weather to keep these newly cut plants from going into shock.

Well, the light is getting low but before I came in to wrap things up for the evening I had to tuck in my new little babies. They will spend the next 3 days in a kiddie pool with lots of nice water to encourage them to push roots.

Once I think they are growing nicely, I can plant them out into the garden. I'm dreaming of a really great knot garden design to do with these beauties.

This post will have to cover me for all of Monday as I'm due up at the school at 6:30 a.m. to chaperone a trip. Tuesday is our school board elections so I'm not guaranteeing any earth shattering posts in the next few days.


Before the rain...

There are no Peonies here in my garden. This photo was taken at Kim's house, a new tree Peony in her border just burst into bloom.

While it's stunning outside now, we are expecting thunder storms and rain in the afternoon. I've been out since early morning spreading compost and trying to get all my new acquisitions in the ground before the rain comes.

It just occurred to me that I forgot to put up a post this morning. If the weather holds long enough I'll have more photos. Otherwise, till tomorrow...