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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Party time

Well here's a strange blog from me. No photos!

Yesterday my youngest daughter had a pool party with about a dozen teenagers here. The morning was spent running around getting things ready, no time for blogging :-(

This morning I awoke to find several girls sleeping in my den, all around my computer that I normally blog from.

So, this is just a little note telling all of you that things will be back to normal once I can get access to my camera and my photo files.

Last night we had the biggest thunder storm of all. The thunder never stopped, it would still be rumbling from one strike when another one would start crashing through. I'm off to check out the garden.

In the words of Arnold, "I'll be back".

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Tips for Cutting Flowers

Yesterday I put together a stunning arrangement (if I do say so myself). Of course when I finished up I realized I was incredibly late and ran around like a chicken without a head. I totally forgot to take a photo of the finished product!

Still, as I was cutting blooms and arranging them, I thought of the many tips I had learned over the years of workshops thanks to my Nathan Hale Garden club.

The number one rule is to condition your material. That means to hydrate them. I used to walk around the garden with a beautiful basket to gather my cut flowers. As pretty as it looks, it's not the best for the blooms. Now I go out with a large bucket or two half filled with water. A bucket full of water would be better but is too heavy to lift.

It's surprising how few blooms you need to make a stunning arrangement. You can use all kinds of foliage to fill the vase. In many cases I use foliage from perennials that have finished blooming.

Once you've cut your plant material, bring it to a shaded work area. Then fill the bucket to the rim so the plants are up to their necks with water (tepid water is better than ice cold water).

Many arrangers leave their material to soak in a bucket over night but I never seem to plan ahead enough for that. The next step is to strip the plants of their lower leaves. Any leaf that is going to be under the water line is a bacteria factory so strip it off the stems. You can see the black pot on the left for the stripped leaves. They go to the compost heap when I'm done.

The best time of day to cut flowers is early morning when they are freshest. The second best time is late afternoon to evening. The worst time is during the heat of the day (unless you are cutting from a shade garden).

Look for plants that are overcrowding their neighbors and use them as filler material. The various Lysimachias are great for this along with the taller Nepetas.

Try to reach down and make a cut so the stem is as long as possible. When I putting together the actual arrangement I usually make a second cut so they fit the vase.

Today I'll look around and put together a list of plants that last long in the vase.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Another kind of T D day

Just a few days ago T D stood for "To-Do". For many people T D stands for TouchDown. This morning, T D stood for Technical Difficulties.

We have been experiencing a number of brownouts and short electrical outages as the pre-summer thunder storms roll through here. The computer that I store my photos on was down this morning and I'm not the right person to mess around with it.

Of course now we have lift off, and I have no time. I'm in the middle of cutting huge bouquets of blooms to make a special arrangement that I will be delivering later today. I am taking photos of the process too.

One lesson I learned today, the Lysimachia in this photo makes an excellent cutting flower. I need to let it take over a bit more so I have plenty to combine with the Nepeta 'Six Hills Giant' which always give me lots of filler material.

Be back soon,

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


This morning the garden is soaked. While the rain came later than was forecast, it did come. The cool air and the multitude of bird songs made my garden walk-about a true delight.

Did you ever notice how different flowers make you feel? As you walk around and look at the magnificent blooms, what goes through your mind?

This clump of Kniphofia just stopped me in my tracks. A delicious sense of anticipation stole over me as I tried to imagine how this spot will look in another two or three days. Underlying that was a sense of satisfaction as I've waited many years for a little 4 inch pot of Kniphofia to grow to this size.
Apparently plants can be whimsical too. I laughed out loud when I saw the jolly hat on this Allium bud. Around here the nickname for Digitalis is fox-glove. In Germany they call them fingerhut which translates as finger-hat. I guess Allium-hat is also appropriate.

Centaurea dealbata is one of the first perennials I ever ordered which means I've had it 20 years or so. At my first house it was only a small clump and I brought a slip here with us 12 years ago. For 11 years it struggled but it survived. I had planted it in the wrong conditions, a pretty shady spot with poor drainage.

On a whim I split the sad plant into three tiny pieces last year and moved them to new locations. They have rewarded me with the most amazing growth and bloom. To me they look like they are romantically involved with the Nepeta 'Six Hills Giant' at their side.

The orange glow of this Lychnis conveys the feeling of shock. I grew this plant years ago but didn't know enough about companion planting to give it the right spot. This week I must have taken a dozen photos of it combined with the Salvia verticilata. They make a perfect combination and not one photo does it justice.

Patience is the feeling that comes over me when I look at this spot. This Sedum took years to mature so I've decided not to pinch a piece this year as it finally looks lovely here.

Surprise is the feeling I have when I look at this Iris bud bursting into bloom. This is the same Iris seedling I posted about yesterday, I can't wait to see it all opened up! By the way, it definitely did not come with the daylily that it is growing up against. That daylily was sent to me as a bare root and has been there for 3 years now.

The fluffy blooms of Filipendula 'Kakome' make me think of tough and determined. How's that? As soft and delicate as they look, I divided this perennial this spring and it was in a sun baked location that dries out quite quickly. As you can see, it laughed at adversity which makes it one tough cookie in my book.

The Baptisia alba (White Baptisia) is just awe-inspiring. It takes my breath away every time I stand near it and gaze at it's elegant beauty.

Simple Coreopsis (tick-seed) is such a happy looking plant. Something about the color yellow makes me want to smile. Add the color and the cheerful daisy form together and you have pure joy.

What feelings do you feel when you look at the different blooms in your garden?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Iris mystery

This morning I found a mystery waiting for me in my garden. This Iris ensata (Japanese Iris) was in bloom. The mystery? I know for sure I didn't plant it in this spot. It was right against the Belgium block of my driveway.

As I looked around, I remembered that in the past few years I've been lax in removing spent pods on some of my Iris. Could they have seeded?

Suddenly my eyes spied this small group of Iris ensata about to come into bloom. Ok, now I was sure that these weren't planted by me. Why would I plant an Iris in the middle of a daylily clump? Not only are these two plants conjoined at the base but I know I've never had a Japanese Iris growing in this spot before.

This is quite a surprise to me. Neither of these photos do justice to the colors in the garden. Even tweaking isn't getting me the color I'd like to see.

As the light conditions change through the day I'll try again to capture what is here. Apparently, there are some new Iris in my garden but I'm not complaining.

Has this ever happened to you?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Fathers Day Gnomes

Today's post shows two of my favorite garden accessories. They are garden gnomes, in German you would say Gartenzwerg (at least that's what I remember).

These gnomes are pretty old, they came here when a builder tore down an old shack just two doors away from us. Much as I'd like to see them with fresh paint, I'm afraid it would take away part of their charm and value.

The first gnome isn't seen often, I moved him this week because he was already hidden behind hosta foliage. His name is Hans.

This gnome is Claus. Although you can't tell from the photo, he's pretty big and quite heavy too. One of the reason I love these gnomes so much is because they remind me of my father. My Dad loved the outdoors, he would be outside any chance he could get. I remember hiking with him at Bear Mountain, berry picking at Alley Pond Park, shell gathering at Jones beach and many more excursions.

Dad was born in a small town that is in Poland today. When he was born the area was part of Germany. He was 12 when he fled with his mother and sister as the Russians were coming. They walked for many weeks before settling in Stuttgart.

Both gnomes have pipes which also reminds me of my dad. Unfortunately, we lost my both my dad and my husband's dad way too early because of lung cancer.

My girls don't have an Opa or Grandpa to call today but they do have a great dad. While I care for the flowers and the gardens, he cares for the house, the trees, the shrubs and of course, the lawn.

Right now he's making chocolate chip pancakes for his daughters. What a dad!

Happy Father's Day!