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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

December Dreams

Sitting here at my computer, I get a wonderful satisfaction looking at old photos taken on garden tours. At times I shake my head to wake up from dreams of tours yet to come. Many of these places are close enough that a tour would only take half a day. Other places require a bit more planning, some require serious travel.

Planting Fields Arboretum is an easy half day tour for me, only 1/2 hour from my house. It is by far the place I've visited most. (Photo credit goes to my daughter Emily who took this shot when she was 12.)

Even closer than Planting Fields Arboretum are the trial gardens at SUNY Farmingdale, our local State University. Only a 15 minute ride, I could shoot a hundred photos there in an hour or two. Best of all, there's always something new to capture my attention.

Old Westbury Gardens was the first formal Gardens that I remember visiting as a child and we visited it often. Funny thing though, I couldn't find any digital images of this wonderful place and I realize it's been a number of years since I've visited there. This is something that needs to be addressed in 2010!

Now if you want a real treat, something totally unexpected, you need to tour the Shakespeare Garden in Central Park. Central Park is the most amazing place, smack dab in the middle of New York City. When you're walking through this delightful garden you'll never realize you are surrounded by skyscrapers.

Just a little bit north of Central Park (still in New York City) is the Bronx Zoo where you will find not only a vast collection of animals but some truly beautiful plantings. I was in heaven when I came upon stands of Podophyllum (May Apples).

Just across the highway from the Zoo is the famous New York Botanical Gardens and just a bit further is Wave Hill, another to-die-for garden visit. The Bronx is just chock full of garden places to tour.

Day trips taken a bit further afield include Stonecrop Gardens up state in Cold Spring, New York. The potager there had me on my knees, it was a dream come true.

Still within a day's travel is Chanticleer Gardens, just outside Philadelphia. Another place that you could totally lose yourself in as you wander around and drool over some of the latest plant material.

This photo is blurry and yet I still love it. My daughter Emily took it while riding a tour bus through Washington DC during the Cherry Blossom bloom season. I'd love to plan a trip there and see the US National Arboretum. What do you think, would you come with me?

Finally, furthest from home are the heart wrenching swamplands in Florida. Every year I make a trek down there to visit my mom. Every year she takes me to one or two of the wildlife sanctuarys where I feel like I've been transported back in time.

Mom called me yesterday and offered me plane tickets as my Christmas present. You can bet I said yes, so it looks like this January I'll be photographing the swamps and wildlife in Florida again. Maybe, just maybe I'll have a new camera by then. It's a great goal to shoot for...

Time to stop dreaming and get ready for work,

Monday, November 30, 2009

Easy Come...Easy Go....

Easy come, easy go...when the title of this post popped into my head it was strictly plant related. Then, while typing it in I realized that it could be applied to so many things in my life right now.

Some plants are easy to find, easy to care for but also, easy to go. These photos were taken in 2006 and some of these plants are no longer in my garden. In the opening shot you see the purple foliage Physocarpus 'Diablo', it is now a monster, much larger than I planned for but such a wonderful shrub that it's still in this spot. To the right is Baptisia 'Screaming Yellow' another favorite that's still here. But what's that in the foreground? Alliums that declined year after year and I know for sure that not one bloomed this year. How'd that happen?

Stachys monnieri is one the top 10 perennials in my garden. I have a wonderful pink variety I bought many years ago in a little pot at Franks Nursery. It's been divided and replanted all over my property so when I saw the purple variety, 'Hummelo' I thought it was a must have.

Unfortunately 'Hummelo' petered out almost instantly. Now I don't know if it's something that was wrong with the single plant I bought. If I remember correctly, my friend Kim bought it at the same time and hers is still growing fantastically. What ever it was though, 'Hummelo' is no longer in my garden but I would definitely try it again.

This photo isn't the best, I don't even know what the plant in the center is... I'm guessing it's Gaura. I've tried Gaura at least 4 times, never had it return. Perhaps it likes alkaline soil, my soil here is quite acidic. Have any of you had luck with this plant coming back? Any tips?

Of course there's the annuals and tender plants that I love one year and yet never seem to get again in future years. In 2006 my garden was on tour and over 600 people came through here in one week. I added 5 or 6 pots of Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandorf' which might not excite Dahlia collectors but excited me just fine with it's dark purple foliage. Hmmm, now I'm not even sure about the name...maybe it was Earl of something?

Still, as exciting as this Dahlia was, I did not dig the roots and never bought another one. Wonder of wonders...

Last but not least, it's not just plants that fit the easy come, easy go catagory. Gazing balls were a passion of mine but no matter how carefully I place them, something, wind, downed branches, Calie-the-wonderdoodle, something came and broke them.

Looking out my bedroom window right now I see what looks like a gazing ball in this same spot. Get closer though and you'll find it's a bowling ball. Bowling Balls are much hardier in my zone 6 garden, and that's a fact!

Today was my first day off in a week and my "to do" list is as long as my arm. Right at the top of it was "blog". It's wonderful to find the time to be here!


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Master Gardeners

This morning I drove out to Holtsville to give a lecture to Long Island's Master Gardeners. They are a large, active group of avid gardeners, it was a true pleasure to spend my morning with them.

The program they had hired me for was my "Perennials for Long Island Gardens". This program features plants that do well in our area (and in similar zones). I love doing this program but for the first time I can say that I was a bit disappointed in myself.

You see, I don't own a digital projector and the Master Gardeners don't have one either so I had to go back to doing an old fashioned slide program. Suddenly I felt like I was driving a horse and buggy!

These images are the actual slides that I scanned a few years ago, that's why they have the black border around them. The first shot is a tropical Hibiscus, they are not hardy here. The second photo though shows a totally hardy, perennial Hibiscus 'Kopper King'.

Since I haven't taken slides in a number of years, the program is missing the latest and greatest, basically some true stars in my garden. Maybe they aren't new plants but if I only started growing them here in the last five years, I only have them captured in digital images.

This Iris cristata luckily is in both slide format and digital format. This image is actually a scanned slide that I cropped and clarified a bit.

What I really love about going digital is being able to add the plant names to the image. Even though these are scanned slides shot many years ago, I was able to use my picasa program and write across the image.

If you've sat through a garden lecture you know how many times people ask to have a botanical name repeated or spelled. With digital lectures these types of questions are avoided and leave more time for questions on division or plant habits.

One plant though I love to see in the slides is this Edelweiss that I grew for a few years here. I know I've said it before but some day soon I'm going to grow this beauty again. You can bet I'll be shooting lots and lots of digital images of it too!

So priority number one for the new year will be buying a digital projector. Priority number two? A better camera of course!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Oh Deer!

Well, my weekend adventure to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania was a success! The 6.5 hour drive there was through some of the most beautiful countryside I've ever seen. There was still plenty of autumn foliage covering the rolling hillsides. Rural scenes filled with wonderful barns, cattle, pastures and wheat colored corn fields.

The members of the garden clubs there have to be the most generous, wonderful people anywhere. It's a good thing I drove or I wouldn't have been able to get all my goodies back home. Of all the gifts I was showered with, I had to show you the most adorable trough ever, given to me by Len Lehman. It's made from a 3 gallon soda bottle!

Bonnie posted a great question this weekend. You asked what to do with your succulents in your troughs. Leave them! Over the past years I have always left my troughs planted up and have had no problems at all with them. If you are really worried, you can put them against your house foundation, in a sheltered spot (watch the overhang though so they aren't directly under the drip line).

A great cheap insulation is to fill a few leaf bags and just pack those around your containers.

This morning I went out to photograph my troughs. They look wonderful which is more than I can say for all the plants that were taken out by the frost that must have come down on Friday night. Guess I deserved that since I was bragging so much to the PA folks about not having gotten a frost yet :D

The Salvia lyrata 'Purple Knockout' is still going strong in this trough. It's a bit more aggressive than it's neighbors so I ran inside to grab a pair of scissors.

Here it is all nice and cleaned up. My photos all came out a bit blurry this morning. I think the camera kept fogging up because of the temperature change from the inside to the chilly outside. This afternoon when I get home from work I'll try to remember to take a few photos when it's warmer. Depends on how much light is left that late in the day.

Oh, I almost forgot, the title "Oh Deer"... my biggest worry was about driving home from Pittsburgh in the dark and hitting a deer. Well, I guess I don't have to worry about that anymore.

First I hit a skunk...PHEW the stink lasted for an hour. I didn't hit the deer until I was only 20 miles from New York City. Don't know who hit it first but it bounced out from right under the car in front of me and before I could react...BABUMPbumpbump. Luckily most of it went under the car, can't say that though for the antlers and head which came right up my hood and slid right up my windshield EWWWWWWW. Needless to say I spent $$ yesterday at the auto parts store and bought the industrial car wash and window cleaner and spent a good hour yesterday cleaning yuck off my car. Since I can't find any damage I consider myself a very lucky lady (at least I'm luckier than that deer).

I took a few more images, I'll post those on Melanie's Perennials. Maybe I'll see you there!


Friday, November 06, 2009

Those #$#@! Plant collectors!

As I just posted on my other blog, Melanie's Perennials, I'm off this morning to Pittsburgh PA.

Tomorrow I will be speaking to a group of gardening clubs, all made up of plant collectors. There will be Hosta collectors there, I love Hosta!

There will also be Iris collectors there, I love Iris!

Of course there will be Daylily collectors there, thank goodness I love daylilies!

And, last but not least, there will be Daffodil collectors there, I love Daffodils! Are you noticing a common theme here? Yes, I must admit I'm a plant-a-holic and most definitely have collectoritis. Truth be told, I don't collect Daffodils or Iris although I do have a healthy amount of them scattered throughout my gardens. Never say never though...

Besides these plant types, I collect hardy Geraniums, Sedums, Succulents, Astilbe, and so much more. I've learned not to tell people that I'll never collect a specific plant type, years ago I used to tell people that I didn't care much for Astilbe, now I'm adding them like crazy to my garden.

I'm so looking forward to spending two days with plant-a-holics. It turns out that I just LOVE my new job at J. Crew, but I can't say I spend even one minute there thinking about my garden.

See ya in PA!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Inside Out

Here I sit, inside on my last "free day". Tomorrow I begin working (a "real" job) and had hoped to be able to spend some time today outdoors. Unfortunately Mother Nature knows best, I really have quite a few things to work on here with my lap-top. Still, I couldn't resist taking a few shots at the amazing leaf display going on outside my windows.

Looking out my front door you can see the sugar Maple is dropping leaves like crazy. Now I'm wishing we didn't spend all day Sunday raking under this tree.

Out back (looking from my second story bedroom) you can see another spectacular sugar Maple. This one is in my neighbors yard but much of it hangs over this property and of course plenty of leaves land in my hosta bed back there.

Note to self, time to put away the yard furniture! Unfortunately in another week or two that much hated white vinyl fence will be back in full view...yuck!

Looking out my living room picture window you can see the front lawn again. The leaves are falling so fast as I type this that I expect the tree to be bare by the end of the day tomorrow. That's a good thing as they are coming to mow the lawn one last time on Thursday and after that all the yard clean up will be on my shoulders.

Hey silly dog, get out of the rain! Calie the wonder-doodle doesn't mind rain too much. Surely though it must be hard to see with all that hair in her eyes? Uh oh, might be time for a haircut...

So what will I do on this last day off? I'm going to put some time aside to finish up one of the books I'm reading. 'Bloom Again Orchids' by Judy White, published by Timber Press has been gracing my nightstand for the past two weeks. The photos alone are enough to give me sweet dreams as I slip off to sleep at night.

Orchids are the only houseplant that I'm willing to deal with. They are so incredibly easy to grow and the flowers are stunning. Later this week I'll post a book review here and then it's on to the next gardening book. If I can't be outside during the day I can still read about it and post here!

No rainy day blues for me,

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Autumn foliage

What's this? Two posts in one week! Bear with me folks, I'm trying hard to get back in the saddle again.

Today I spent the most glorious day outside, at least 8 hours raking leaves, cutting back dead foliage and picking up branches that were downed during yesterdays storm.

The Hakonechloa grass out at the beginning of my driveway still looks fabulous although most of the Hosta and other perennials out there are just about done for.

This time of year the foliage on the hardy Geranium's really starts to color-up. I love the burgundy tinges on this Geranium cantabrigiense 'Biokova'.

The Hostas are putting on their very last show, within days I expect them to give up the ghost and flop to the ground. Until then though I expect to enjoy every second of their beauty.

One of my favorite plants for fall foliage is my beloved Polygonatum (Solomon's seal). The creamy yellow color is just delicious.

Here's a quick peek at the house. The lawn looks pretty clean after all that raking although I know by Tuesday it will be covered again.

Last week I applied for a job on Tuesday, had an interview on Wednesday and was hired on Thursday. Wowza was that fast! Anyway, this week (Wednesday) I begin working a "real job" again. Luckily I'll be at J.Crew at our local mall, my favorite clothing store! Guess that's why I applied there ;-) I have to admit I'm a bit addicted to wearing the latest fashions.

Off to curl up under the down blankets with Dan Brown's newest book, 'The Lost Symbol'. Won't be much extra time once Wednesday comes around.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

The first day...

Well, autumn has truly arrived here at Old Country Gardens. It's brought a whole new life to me, today is the first day!

Emily and I have been living here on our own for three weeks now, still quite a bit of learning to do. Yesterday I went on a job interview with J.Crew in our local mall, looking for something to do for the holidays and get my feet back into the "working world". Guess what? I start today!

The sugar maple in front of my house is just a riot of color, what a great sight to see out my bedroom window.

The pass-along Chrysanthemums from my friend Gianna are blooming madly right now. I need to plant them in a spot that really shows off their autumn beauty.

Great foliage still going strong on some plants. Stachys byzantine 'Helen Von Stein' with it's big gray felty leaves looks fantastic next to the heavenly golden foliage on the Platycodon (balloon flowers).

Took a few more shots today, hope to post them to my Melanie's Perennials blog later tonight after I get home from WORK! Wooohoooo, hope my feet hold up :-)

Wish me luck!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Living Life on the Edge

Not too much gardening going on right now, been insanely busy with Board of Education duties. The other day though I took a few more butterfly images. Was totally mesmerized by this butterfly dancing oh so close to the spiderweb.

I kept watching carefully because I couldn't tell if it's feet were actually stuck there.

Now I'm thinking I should have poked it a bit with my finger to make sure that it was truly free but I'm pretty sure I remember seeing it fly about.

Also living life on the edge is Calie-the-wonderdoodle-dog who obviously has no problem sleeping in what ever position is most comfortable!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Elizabeth's Garden

Yesterday I visited my friend Elizabeth. She has been the shoulder I turn to the most at this time of my life, both of us going through a divorce, both of us leaning on the other.

We had decided to go for a serious work-out-walk but first I wanted to take a few photos of her garden.

Elizabeth is an incredible visionary when it comes to design. I am so jealous of her!

The pool area she has created is so amazingly beautiful, it's hard to believe that just a few short years ago this area was just lawn and overgrown trees.

The concept of growing something between the stepping stones is one that Elizabeth uses often. In fact, the way she's done this (and other things) has almost instantly given the garden the feeling of timelessness, as if it's been there forever.

The plant material here is Mazus reptans and it must be stunning when in bloom.

Cimicifuga was cascading out over the stone wall in one corner.

Begonia grandis 'Alba' (white hardy begonias) have charmingly seeded themselves into the crevices of the stone walls. You can bet I'll be moving a few of my hardy begonias to my walled gardens this week in hopes that they too seed like this.

My absolute favorite spot in Elizabeth's garden was a massive intermingling of a dusty pink shrub rose and huge, lush Hydrangeas. I'm going to guess the Hydrangeas are tardivas but I'm not a Hydrangea expert.

Although I shot a number of photos in this area, not one of them did justice to this wonderfully romantic combination.

Elizabeth has done an awesome job of incorporating shrubs and perennials. If I'm in the mood, I'll post again soon with more shots of her shrubs.

Off to see what's going on outside today,