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Saturday, June 07, 2008

Morning thoughts

Walking around the garden in early morning, in a simple sundress, camera and cup of coffee must be what heaven is like. My brain marvels at nature in all her glory, blessings are all around me.

Slowly as my mind unfolds I see new combinations and think of new ideas for the garden. Too sleepy still to act upon these ideas I just wander from spot to spot to enjoy the beautiful bounty of blooms.

This morning I noticed the hardy Begonias were beginning to grow. Their unusual colored leaves look lovely next to the deep purple of Sedum 'Postman's Pride'.

My sole rose bush is beginning to bloom. 'Westerland' is a climber and I love it so much that at this time of year I wonder why I don't ever plant any other rose bushes. It looks amazing with the deep purple backdrop of the Physocarpus 'Diablo' (purple ninebark)

The Lamium in the shade bed has put forth a huge flush of blooms. I hope it grows to the left and fills in a space that was left behind when a large Pulmonaria suddenly disappeared.

The Geranium nudosum has begun to bloom too. While many of my hardy Geraniums are at peak, others don't even have flower buds yet. This one likes the shade and I look forward to it filling in around my Hosta.

An "Ah Ha!" moment struck me as I came to this part of the garden. I've been disappointed with this Amsonia that looks much more white than blue to me. Just a few minutes earlier I was walking down the front border and thinking that there was so much pink and blue there and not enough white. Now I know what to do with this Amsonia.

The good old standby Geranium sanguinium is just a gigantic mound of blooms today. In another week or two it will start to lean over and get messy looking but right now it's glorious.

More waves of Geraniums, these are cantabrigiense 'Karmina' cresting over the rock wall. Can you see my gnome Claus relaxing there?

The pollen was so golden and fluffy on the Tradescantia that I looked through the viewfinder to focus on it when suddenly a bee arrived. Guess the bee agreed with me and thought that pollen was perfect.

One thought that came to me several times was "must let the Stachys byzantine grow. I've had years where there was lots of lambs ears and years that it had been over-thinned. It's just such a perfect combination plant that I realize I have to let it go loose and form some good sized colonies.

As I came back to the house I see this mornings project. I need to clean out the breezeway and pick up all my tools and half finished pots along the back patio. Calie was having a reflective moment too as she sat here for quite some time with only her nose twitching like crazy as she smelled the delicious scent of nature in the air.

I hope you are all showered with garden blessings today.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Foxglove Fantasy

This morning is the calm before the storm. It's cool, damp, overcast and perfect garden weather. The storm on the horizon is not a rain or wind storm, tomorrows forecast is for temperatures to soar to the mid 90's (35 celsius) and stay there for several days. Many of my poor spring perennials will surely suffer.

Right now our biennial Digitalis purpurea (Foxgloves) are bursting into bloom all over the garden. Luckily, I remember to let these beauties scatter seeds everywhere so I always have a large population of them. To be honest, I actually weed out many of them just before they begin blooming as I have too many of them!

In this opening photo I wonder if you can see the mutant scape coming up on this one plant. It's super fat and yet super thin. As it starts to bloom I will need to take more photos.

Here's a stepped back view of this area, you can see all the bloom scapes just beginning to open up their glorious flowers.

Further along in this part of the garden all the blooms are of a similar color. I try to remember to cut back the darkest purple blooms and only let the white and pale lavender blooms go to seed. The dark color though must be dominant as the majority of blooms are always dark purple.

Behind the biennial variety of Digitalis is the perennial sibling Digitalis lutea. It has pale yellow blooms and with the heatwave that is coming, I expect them to open up any day now.

I wish the perennial variety was a bit more prolific, I'm only up to three plantings of them so far.

In the herb bed are these huge white specimen. I could stand there for hours staring at them.

As a closing sneak peek, here's a Tradescantia (spiderwort) that just began blooming. I have no idea if this is a named variety or a seedling that popped up but the flowers are larger than any other in my garden and their color is wonderful.

So many gardeners have told me that they cannot get their foxgloves to reseed or reappear in their gardens. I guess my advice is to not cultivate the area near them or cover it with too much mulch. By the way, past experience tells me that they grow like crazy in a garden heavily amended with composted manure.

Do foxgloves grow for you?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Open Garden?

Today is the first Thursday in June. I was supposed to have an open garden this evening but it just won't be possible.

When I first had a garden, I'd give anything for people to come see my flowers. I used to joke and tell people that I'd grab pedestrians off the street and make them come see what was blooming that day.

As my gardens began to grow and I joined several different garden clubs, I found that I'd be asked to open my garden for a tour. At first it was just for my own club, but like a snowball going downhill, soon there were other clubs and organizations asking for a tour here.

Depending on the size of the group and the nature of the tour, there's quite a few things you can do to make the experience a success.

The first thing you need to think about, whether you have 5 people coming or 500, is where to direct somebody who desperately needs to use a toilet. Luckily for me we have a bathroom in the garden. Sometimes we call it the cabana but that's a pretty fancy name for this basic building. (click on the sidebar label that says "The Necessary Room" to read an old post from last year if you want to learn more about this spot)

The largest tour group I've hosted was 500 people who came when the national convention of the American Hemerocallis Society was here on Long Island in July of 06. Other people stopped by that week too so in total I had 600 visitors see the garden within 4 or 5 days.

One reason I try hard to maintain labels in my garden (even though they annoy me so much at other times) is to help educate visitors. Once you have more than a dozen people in the garden it's hard to answer everybody's questions. To make matters worse, it seems like that botanical name you know so well always slips your mind just as somebody points to that plant.

No matter the size of the group visiting your garden, there are some basic necessities you should think about. While food might not be on your list, at least consider putting out some kind of cool beverage. Even a simple pitcher of water with a lemon slice in it is acceptable.

Another extremely important thing is to provide seating, preferably in a shaded location. Chairs, benches, hammocks, whatever you have on hand will do. If you don't have enough chairs, consider asking a neighbor if you could borrow a few.

One thing I didn't plan on during our tour was selling plants. I always seem to have a multitude of things potted up since I'm such a propagation nut. After some inquiries from visitors, I simply put out a basket with a few dollar bills in it for starter change. Then I made up a sign with prices and let people take care of themselves. It worked like a charm.

My biggest piece of advice is don't stress out. Yes there will be a weed you forgot to pull or a shovel you suddenly find sticking out of one of your favorite beds. Try to remember that you see more faults than your visitors. They will be too busy looking at the glory of your garden.

Finally, to the people who took my gardening class, I'm so sorry I can't hold that open garden this evening. I have no way to contact anybody so I hope some of you check this blog out today. Unfortunately I have a lecture for new Board of Ed trustees that I must attend. My daughter (who could have conducted the tour without me) must attend a wake and my husband will be busy running back and forth with my younger daughter and her crazy rehearsal schedule.

I'd still like to have an open garden in the next week or two and invite the local bloggers who read my posts too. So stay tuned.

For those of you in different areas, do you ever hold an open garden?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Capturing a raindrop

This morning is dark but not dreary. While some people moan when it rains, as long as it's not pouring I'll take advantage of the elements and get out there and take some photos.

My simple camera doesn't focus well in these low light conditions so I might try this again as the sun comes up higher (even behind all these rain filled clouds). Still, here's some raindrops that I've managed to capture, beginning with raindrops on the Euphorbia polychroma that has finished blooming.

This is what the view out of the breezeway looks like. I don't think the black plastic will be killing too many weeds today.

The Baptisias are beginning their spectacular show. In fact, I had planned on writing a post just about them until the raindrops caught my fancy. Maybe tomorrow I'll focus on the Baptisias that I adore. This one is 'Twilite Prarieblues' which is brand new to my garden and just beginning to bloom.

Under the Baptisia 'Purple Smoke' is a St. John's wort shrub. Unfortunately juggling my camera and the umbrella left me no free hands to look for a name tag.

The herb garden still needs so much work but the back corner, nearest my neighbors stinky black walnut trees is starting to shape up with pots filled with herbs and veggies.

Still thinking you like white vinyl fences? Hopefully we're not too many years away from my dream of this area being filled with a white Rhododendron and backed by an Acer 'Bloodgood' seedling. The Acer (red maple) was only a foot tall two years ago and now is at least four feet tall. Two more years and it should cover much of that hideous fence. Won't it be the perfect backdrop for the white Rhododendron?

This is the Geranium cantabrigiense 'Karmina' that I dug and divided for our plant sale. I got 18-20 pots all together and just stuck the left over pieces back in the ground. I think this clump is 5 feet across already. Now that I know what I'm doing I expect that next year I will have more pots of 'Karmina' and it's paler sister 'Biokova' than you can possibly imagine.

It's a good day for muck shoes :-)

Thalictrum against the red twig dogwood is my idea of a great combination. Still, I need more Thalictrum for this to really shine and there must be a dozen plants there now.

This is the same area only without using the zoom lens. It's almost impossible to pick out that Thalictrum now but you sure can see how lovely the purple leaved Ligularia 'Britt Marie Crawford' looks.

Just a sneak peak at another Baptisia. This one stops me in my tracks with it's ghostly white blooms and gray foliage all shimmering with raindrops.

Finally, what's this? A surprise gift for me! How lovely, a fellow blogger left me a pot of that white Scilla that I had seen in the Shakespeare garden and coveted so much. Thank you!

So what do you do on rainy days?

Monday, June 02, 2008

State of the Art - Organic Weed Killer

Earlier this week I showed photos of this silly daisy that keeps seeding into my gravel driveway. No matter how many times I try to move the seedlings back on the garden side, they keep coming back on the wrong side.

As you can see, I just don't have the heart to kill them but there are lots of other weeds there too that I just don't want.

Here on Long Island we drink our ground water and we are surrounded by the ocean and sound. Anything we put on our ground runs off to poison all of our water supply. I'm not the worlds most "green" person but I have an issue with poisoning my piece of heaven.

In the past years I resorted to using Round-up in my driveway. You can only pull weeds for so long and then you give up. I can at least admit that I only used it if there was a big tour scheduled for here.

This year I decided I would no longer use round-up on my driveway. I just had to come up with a better solution. Last year I tried spraying vinegar on the plants but that only killed some of them. Some people are talking about mixing vinegar and salt. What! I don't think I'll be salting the earth around here, nope, not me.

Luckily, I found the perfect solution. A weed killer that kills everything as long as you have some patience. Here it is:

Black plastic spread on the ground on a hot sunny day will cook those weeds to death. Our temperatures aren't that hot yet so I've been leaving the plastic in place for three days and then moving it down to cover the next section.

This evening I thought to myself it might take all summer to kill the weeds in my 275 foot long driveway at which time I'd have to start all over again. Then it came to me...wait for about buying some more plastic? It was a true "DUH" moment. I think I'll get myself a long roll of black plastic garbage bags. Roll them out and kill all the weeds in one fell swoop. Then I'll roll those bags up and use them for the trash.

I bet the weeds are trembling with fear right now.

On the Fly

On the fly this morning. Must go food shopping in order to eat breakfast! Then I'm off with Kim and her husband to find new and exciting perennials at our favorite nursery.

Will try to get back here this afternoon as I actually had a great idea I wanted to write about.

See ya!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Rhododenron Glory

When we bought this house 12 years ago, there was very little landscaping. Although the house was built in 1960 and made to look like a much older house, there never was a gardener here.

We found quite a few yews (Taxus), many were dead or near death and the previous owner told us that they were dormant. Uh huh, pull my other leg too.

The one thing that was worth leaving was a magnificent stand of Rhododendrons along the Northeast corner of the house. Our acidic soil and the nearby wooded lot assures these shrubs that they get their favorite conditions.

This past spring we took out a hemlock that had been planted less than 2 feet (.5 meters) from the house. You can see the big hole left behind in the Rhododendrons. I predict it won't be too many years before they leap forward to fill in this spot now.

Looking closer at the hole you can see that there's already lots of new growth popping out.

Here's a view from the front, I just love the color up near our house as it accents the pink in our stone facade. We still need to add some plantings to the right of our stoop where you can see the weeping Japanese Maple.

I'll sign off with one last shot here at these beautiful flowers. The only thing I wish is that they also had a delicious scent. It's amazing to have this much bloom and not be able to smell a thing.