Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The slippery slope


Now is the time when the early summer garden starts to harden into the midsummer garden. Fewer if any new plants are emerging and the fresh lush look of the garden begins to dissipate just a bit. Sure, there is plenty to look forward to in the way of flowers, but for the most part all the plants are out. I no longer have to worry about squashing a baby coreopsis or vebena bonariensis as I thread my way though the sunny bed.

But this is not a time to relax vigilance. The garden looks good—well, as good as it can without a total redesign—so I tend to neglect certain tasks that are very important. Sure, I pull weeds, but many of the small ones are hidden behind other foliage. They all have to go. I also need to do the second fertilization of the roses and deadhead ALL the seedheads, not just “enough.”

The pansy containers in the front still look OK, but now they must be replaced. And the wisteria has to be cut back hard. And maybe the viburnum should be pruned. Maybe. The most distasteful task of all—cutting back my neighbor’s voracious silver lace vine, which has jumped the fence and climbed up out utility pole—is another must.


I don’t really feel like doing any of these things. I’d rather enjoy my martagon lilium (top) and another fine color clash (above): yellow heliopsis and magenta clematis.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Help us pick the date


Jim/Art of Gardening and I have been discussing the timing of our garden bloggers’ get-together in Buffalo in 2010. Should it be during the actual weekend of Garden Walk Buffalo, or not? On the one hand, it would be glorious for all you bloggers to see Garden Walk in action—and you would have access to all the 300plus gardens. It is a very exciting weekend in Buffalo. We would likely include all of Friday in the event, so we'd have a non-Walk day; during Sat-Sun, you'd tour the Walk by day and we'd gather in the evenings.

On the other hand, we’d have more time together as a group if we did the Buffalo event sometime before Garden Walk, where some of the Walk gardens would be available and we could do other excursions, as well, in a less hectic atmosphere (Garden Walk gets thousands of visitors).

Jim has put together a very simple poll for this. If you think you might come to the Buffalo event next year, please take the poll. It will be very helpful!!

And email us with your thoughts too, if you’d like: BuffaloFling(at)yahoo.com. Or comment here. Jim and I will look at everything and make a decision very soon.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Two firsts


One is a first I have every year, but with a twist. The other is a first I have never had since I started gardening.


Every June, I hail the first of the martagon lilium. There is a nice clump still in bud in the usual side bed, but last fall I also planted some Mrs. Blackhouse (lured by end-of-season sales at Old House Gardens!) in the front hosta beds. Sure enough, here is one coming up right through a hosta (top). I love the color. They still have that … unusual martagon fragrance. I have some more but I can see they won’t put up a flower stalk this year. Martagons don’t sometimes; they like to wait.


While volunteering at Urban Roots—helping customers with plant citing and behavior advice—I got bored during the slow times and picked out 3 little heirloom tomato plants. I allowed these to languish in their root-bound state (they were leftover to begin with) and finally planted them in my rose/lily/perennial bed, pretty much at random. But here is the first little tomato. Will it thrive or perish? Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

GWI stylin’ the roses


Hey, thanks Gardening Gone Wild, for giving me something to post about. There is a great early summer garden in progress here, but with no big developments over the past week or so. I thought I’d said pretty much all I had to say about roses this year, but along comes GGW with a rose photo contest. Of course I have no expectation of winning, but I do have ideas about photographing roses and I love photographing them. Who doesn’t?

Roses are both easy and difficult to photograph. From any distance the bush form is not that interesting and the flowers tend to look like colored blobs. They’re not like the field of poppies or the swaths of salvia we photographed in Chicago. Close-ups, on the other hand, tend to be quite beautiful; one catches the whorled intricacies of the petals, and sometimes, you can almost smell the strong, clear fragrance.

But I don’t always like taking close-ups of flowers. I like to photograph my garden as a garden, and show the flowers in context of the garden structures and other plants that surround them. One has to take close-ups to show flower details, but I try to always show context as well, if I can.

For these rose photographs, first I took the unknown red climber that was in place when we purchased the house. It could be either Don Juan (1958) or Dublin Bay (1976); it blooms in trusses and the double blooms take a classic hybrid tea shape, maturing from medium to deep scarlet, with some blackening. They last quite long, sometimes even drying right on the canes. There is sporadic rebloom, right into November.


First (at top) you see the rose in its bed, silhouetted against the house—its best angle. Then (above), you see a small cluster I brought into the kitchen, against some curtains that look well with orange or red flowers.

My third image is of the Blush Noisette (Rosier de Phillippe Noisette, 1817). This delightful light pink double is said by all sources to be the first noisette. For me it is a tall shrub—almost a climber form—that needs support and protection against the winter months. It blooms profusely throughout the season, ending in late October. I like to overwinter it in the root cellar, as I don’t want to take any chances of killing it—it’s zone 6-9.


A small rose, Blush Noisette demands the close-up, but I have tried to show some deeper pink buds and the way it matures into lighter shades. It’s the first rose I bought and my favorite.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Demolition by neglect doesn’t always work


There are quite a number of plants I’ve let die on purpose, but neglecting plants doesn’t quite have the same effect as neglecting buildings. Those you can count on to fall to bits if you don’t maintain them. Plants will thrive in spite of you.

I’ve lamented and dissected my love/hate affair with roses over and over here—but it is June, it is rose season, and after I’m done you won’t be hearing it for eleven months. It’s just that I am never sure what they’re going to do from year to year. Will they die back too far over the winter? Will they get mildew or blackspot? Will they be attacked by the dreaded midge or maybe Jap beetles?

Now here are two roses that I’ve rung the death knell over several times. The red climber at top died back to the ground a few years back. I never thought I’d see it again and didn’t much care. Here’s my chance to reinvent this bed—without roses—I thought. I ignored it, assuming it could be pulled out once it was completely dead. But now look at it.


And then there’s this yellow David Austin (Charlotte). It was so weak and spindly for years that I’ve nearly torn it out several times. After four years it sent out one bloom. Now it seems to have decided to thrive, but I’d still like to move it, as it blocks some plants behind it. But I’m afraid to.

I feed these roses once a year, and that’s it. But there they are. Who knows what next year will bring.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Opening acts


Though my garden is primed to peak in mid–late July, just in time for Garden Walk, I do have a few noteworthy happenings before then. Not that many, because aside from spring bulbs, ephemerals, and early-blooming perennials, gardens are just getting going in June when you live around here.


I think the viburnum blooms are the first sign that things are really beginning to happen. Then the hardy geraniums and dicentra. And then the climbing hydrangea blooms. This plant has really performed splendidly here; in nearly-full shade it now almost covers 3 trellis panels and is covered in blooms. There may be a cultivar that blooms longer—I think Christopher Lloyd mentions it, but I hadn’t heard of it when I bought this one. Sorry the image is a bit blurry.


And the roses. These are definitely the days of prosecco, Veuve Cliquot, and roses around here. The falsely named totally bogus Gloire de Dijons, the real, completely awesome Abraham Darbys, the wonderful old Louise Odiers, the unknown red climber, the yellow Charlotte I have almost pulled out twice—they are delighting all comers now.


Soon, the yellow and purple perennials I’ve tried to introduce and make dominant will bloom forth, as well as all the lilies, but I’m enjoying these bursts of color in what is still largely a green garden. This is by way of being a Bloom Day post, a tradition started by Carol/May Dreams Gardens.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Dirty little secrets cleaned up—for now


It’s one thing to have a few unplanted purchases sitting around; I think we all have them. I know I usually have some throughout the gardening season; indeed, there are 6-8 skillfully tucked away pots in my garden as I write this.

But today I took care of a much worse area of denial. Last year, I ignored, as I generally do, the horrible weed beds behind our house. I look at this every time I pull into the garage from the alley. Over the years, I’ve tried. I really have. I have a climbing rose (above, the much-maligned, badly-named, but well-performing Golden Showers), and a few bulbs planted, and have even tried other perennials, but it’s just too vulnerable a spot. You know how those spots are.

Today, I pulled as many weeds as fast as I could, dug huge holes, and threw in lily and gladiolus bulbs in 4 big holes, reprising my tulip strategy. Then I mulched. We’ll see. I have a feeling the weeds will attack again.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Meanwhile, back at the jungle


How can this be? It’s barely a week since I planted up most of my containers and everything was just beginning to shoot up. Now the lilies are leaning every which way, the weeds are waste-high, and the roses are starting to bloom. It must have all happened while I was in Chicago.


In fact, I’ve already carelessly snapped off a couple lily tops that were in the way. Oops! Now those are useless for the season. There are so many things in my garden that need to be propped, tied, and arranged in some way. This is partially thanks to the shade, which causes stems to be thinner and taller as they yearn for the sun, but it’s also because I use a lot of containers, and have a lot of vertical plants. This year I’m trying a couple new vines: hyacinth bean and moonflower. I already have a huge tangle of climbing hydrangea, wisteria, trumpet vine and clematis over the pond, with clematis, porcelain vine, and climbing roses in other locations. Let’s put it this way: I just don’t have too many short plants.


And then there are the plants that grow all year round, like this jasmine and gardenia that were just repotted for the 4th time. Now they’re in fiberglass, which will be easier to get up and down the stairs when it’s time to bring them in or out. Thank you, whoever invented these! I’ve used the polyurethane pots as well, and there are also resin pots, which I haven’t tried, because the ones I’ve seen don’t have drainage and it wouldn’t be easy to create.


Sadly, the jungle period does not last too long. Things begin to slow down; the lilies and perennials bloom, and the fresh green of June disappears. It’s still unkempt of course; my garden manages to maintain that look in all seasons. And I'm sure there will always be room for a few more plants—like these currently in residence on the patio table.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Next year in Buffalo


Hard to decide what was most impressive about last weekend’s garden blogger’s meet-up in Chicago. About 50 bloggers were in attendance, including many who might be reading this, so I won’t go heavily into details—others have reported on the events before me.


Suffice it to say that we visited several amazing public gardens, including the Botanic, Lurie Gardens, Lincoln Park, and the LP conservatory. Others also visited the Garfield Conservatory and a private garden outside the city. I’ve got a selection of pictures from the various stops here, as well as some from two charming private gardens: chef Rick Bayless’s and Chicago artist/blogger Carolyn Gail's. I think I loved Friday’s trip to the Botanic Gardens and Saturday’s walk around the Caldwell Lily Pool the best. Though the purple swaths at the Lurie were nearly everyone’s favorite, I think I preferred exploring gardens where surprises lurked around every corner.


It was delightful to spend more time with bloggers I barely got to speak with in Austin, and I met a few I had never seen face to face. While I don’t know where I’ll meet up with them in 2011, I do know where we’ll see each other in 2010. Buffalo! Yikes. While Buffalo cannot equal the spectacular public spaces we saw in Chicago, I am confident that we can pull together a great visit built around private gardens. Anyway, I know it will be fun.

No dates yet, but we’ll be cementing some details soon. In the meantime, thanks to everyone who made last weekend’s get-together as wonderful as it was. I hope to see many of the people shown in these images at the GWA conference in Raleigh this September.

And, say, Heather's comment gave me an idea. Got some ideas for the Buffalo event? Comments? Suggestions? Drop 'em here.