Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Happiness and Joy!

Beth at Plant Postings recently gifted me the Versatility Award, which I have to say, made me really happy. It was also an incredible excuse to stop grading and go blogging instead, which made me even happier. According to the rules, to pay this forward I gift the award to 15 other blogs I love and post seven random facts about myself. Easy!

Seven random facts about me:

1.  When I was about five I helped my brother set the couch on fire while our mom was at work and our Navy dad was remote to another continent. He was babysitting me and we were bored. Our mom didn't find the results quite as spectacular as we did.

2.   She also didn't appreciate our shaving cream fights. Sad but true...

3.   I love ethnic food, especially Thai and Indian cuisine. Just don't give me meat loaf. Ever.

4.  I recently finished the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and am currently reading Out of Oz: The Final Volume in the Wicked Years. I love them both. :o)

5.   I don't watch much television but love the show The Big Bang Theory. I can't watch reality shows such as Say Yes to the Dress or House Hunters without yelling at the TV.

6. I'm 42 and my kids are just-turned 20 and almost 17, which is completely different than just being a regular 16.

7.  I really wish I had chickens.

 These are not my chickens but I wish they were.

Here are 16 blogs that I really love. Random fact #8: I can be rotten at following rules.

The Sorry Gardener  Kelly is smart, funny, and honest.  Plus, she's a great writer. What's not to love?

My Weeds Are Very Sorry  If Laurrie were a cookie, I have a feeling she might be a gingersnap. Sweet but zesty with a very real blog full of her journey from executive to gardener.


Bumble Lush  BL grows an incredible micro farm on her deck and is the inspiration behind my seed order of ground cherries.

Organic Garden Dreams Christine grows beautiful organic roses in San Diego. She grows many varieties I've never heard of.

In the Garden Tina has a wonderful garden in the mountains of Georgia. Just wait til you see the huge pond she dug herself!

Las Aventuras Visiting this blog is a bit like taking a vacation. I never know if he'll post pictures of a wonderful trip or the wildlife in the deserts around his home.

Sweetbay I love how abundant and natural Sweetbay's garden is. Her roses are enormous!

Three Dogs in the Garden Jennifer's photography and garden design are superb. She makes me want to move to Canada (but only in the summer).

Women and the Garden Patty's blog is having a multi-volume garden history delivered to my inbox. She focuses on writing about "the history of the garden and the various roles women have played in that history". It's always a fabulous and enlightening read.


The Garden Roof Co-op  A wonderful blog focused on native plants, birds, and chickens. I learn something every time I visit!


The following bloggers all survived a hellacious drought during the summer of 2011 with class, humor, and grit. They are a truly inspirational group!


Go Away, I'm Gardening!

Signature Gardens

Southern Meadows

Gardening With Greggo

Deb's Garden

East Side Patch

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Lucky 260

Do you believe in luck? I don't but perhaps what I do believe in - fate, karma, Divine intervention - is simply luck under a different name. Earlier this week a farm and garden catalog from a company on the west coast arrived advertising Fall Bulbs   Plant these bulbs NOW ! Plant bulbs in January?? In Virginia? No way!  I dialed our local garden center to determine the insanity of the claim as I mentally stuffed my front garden with daffodils. I knew their bulbs were 50% off but had assumed it was simply a ruse to get rid of inventory.

I ws quickly informed that while it was too late to plant tulips, daffodils and several other bulbs that don't require extended winter chill periods were guaranteed to grow even if planted this close to February. It was all the encouragement I needed. I raced home from a dentist appt, accidentally ran a stop sign (behind a grocery store in an empty parking lot so I don't think it counts), and according to my daughter, although I dispute this claim, nearly ran over a five year old in the grocery store. By the time I was on the road she was yelling, "Quit thinking about daffodils! Mom, you're crazy!" That part is undisputable.

200 daffodils and 72 purple Dutch iris were waiting in a bag in the garage. 125+ science projects, 30 tests, and files bursting with student work lay slumped across the kitchen table. In the house, up the stairs, and out of my work clothes I raced. Clad in a hoodie and holey jeans held up with an old belt, I charged into the garage, grabbed the bulbs, and was off. Dinner and grading could wait. It's January and I had bulbs to plant!! Thank you, Unwinter!!


I exended this narrow bed by three feet and filled it with daffodils and Dutch iris. The area around the black light pole is filled with pink and white naked lady lilies. I bought 272 bulbs but by the time I took out a few duds, I had 260 left. I need to finish extending the rest of this bed, but that will have to wait.


These iris will grow to about 22 inches tall and are planted in drifts in the middle of the bed.


The front garden already has about a 100 daffodils and possibly a few tulips mixed in with the daylilies and near the dormant lespedeza. I love the surprise factor of buying bags of mixed varieties. I can hardly wait to see what grows!  I bought one bag of the variety below because that's all they had and six bags of the rock garden mix.


Disclaimer: No five year olds were harmed during these exploits. They simply don't jog as fast as I do requiring me to maneuver around them and their sparkly yellow purses.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Places, Dahling! Places!!

As I sit to type, our weekend forecast rolls about my brain like marbles in a washer. High of 55, low of 40 - possible rain. The columbine that bloomed til October and several clumps of pincushion flowers and daylilies have refused to go dormant, their foliage green in protest. Every winter I watch with relief as the garden turns a dull brown and recedes into the earth. I turn towards other interests and dream of spring. But not this year. My mind spins and churns, denying a season that only pretends authority, an unconvincing tease.

Restless, I mentally redesign my container gardens and shop for discount pots. I torture myself with virtual planting combinations, frustrated at the prospect of buying plants that might be underwhelming. I want container garden certainty if I can't have snow and have decided I'd like to stage a dress rehersal for summer.

Instead of shopping from my favorite online nurseries or running to the local garden center after work, I want them all to come to me. I'll line up my pots, explain the "look" I'd like, and have them bring me their wares. Like choosing actors for a part, I'll match the plants to the pots and have them recite a few lines. Does the 'Karley Rose' pennisetum look as grand in my "Oops, there's a scratch" discount urn as I thought or would Karley be better suited as a member of the corps, instead of given a starring role? And what about the lemon verbena? Will it be tall enough to grow behind the 'Maraschino' salvia without being blocked? I just don't know so you, you, and you over there while we give it a try. Cueing summer! Lights, please!

I'll stand back, stroke my chin thoughtfully, and watch as the dress rehersal unfolds. Several will be given roles, but most will not. I'll pay for the chosen few and watch as they're packed up and labeled Casa Mariposa, ready to perform when the curtain finally goes up.


I found this urn at our local big box home improvement store in late December. This scratch shaved $40 off the price. Since the back of the urn will be facing a corner, no one will see it.


I'm auditioning 'Karley Rose' pennisetum for the role of Lady in the Urn for the Summer 2012 production of In the Garden. 


Friday, January 13, 2012

The OED of Me

Have you ever had a conversation only to realize mid-discussion that even though the topic may be the same, you and the other person have such divergent perspectives you might as well be talking in Swahili while they reply in Swedish? Every spring I end up in bizarre conversations about gardening with total strangers at our local nurseries. I've finally realized that my concept of gardening is often quite different than that of the person next me.

In order to make these gardening translation sessions easier, I've decided to create my own gardening version of the Oxford English Dictionary, or the OED to word nerds the world over. An abbreviated definition might read something like this:

Gardening (verb)

1. A highly cerebral activity involving complex creative and critical thinking combined with manual labor. I may smell like a goat after working in the garden all day but my brain is alternately soothed and stimulated and I've burned off my morning bagel.


This phlox seedling is the possible love child between 'David' and 'Laura'.

2. An excellent form of exercise that makes a gym membership moot. I once described my method of exercise as Extreme Dogwalking and Olympic Gardening. The person next to me laughed. Apparently they've never hauled 50+ bags of compost into the garden or dug holes in clay.


This is one of the sunniest areas in my garden. The top half of this bed was significantly redesigned in my garden makeover, while the bottom only needed minor tweaking. A few stems of a giant trumpet vine can be seen at the top right. The daylilies were moved to a moister spot.

3. An art form in which the gardener attempts to recreate the masterpieces already in nature and gratefully accepts accolades given by butterflies.


Eastern Tiger swallowtail butterfly at the 'Laura' phlox

4. A synonym for relaxing, infuriating, stimulating, satisfying


'Pilgrim' oregano thrived in a pot along side a rose known as The Imposter since it wasn't the variety I had ordered.  

5. A form of therapy more beneficial than standing in the kitchen in your underwear screaming words that rhyme with truck. Although, that has been known to be helpful.....


Marguerites and carrots


I think these short monarda are 'Coral Reef'. They bloom eagerly in my late spring garden. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Welcome to the Party!

Last fall I began a huge makeover for my garden. I spent over eight weekends digging new beds, transplanting dozens of plants, lifting and ammending the soil, etc. Plants that no longer fit into the design or were smothering their neighbors went to new homes. A few, like the hideously meatball shaped barberries that I had thoughtless planted in the shade of a planet sized viburnum, were enthusiastically chopped into pieces and given shallow graves.

One of the best parts of the makeover was choosing new plants. I linked the pictures to the nurseries I bought them from. If I purchased them locally, photo credit is given. All the plants from Prairie Moon were purchased as bare roots. My selections from Lazy S's arrived as healthy, vigorous plants. Here's what I added:

Ornamental Grasses

Chasmanthium latifolium (Northern Sea Oats)


I purchased these from Lazy S's Nursery when I redesigned the Bed of Death and Misery, the driest shade in my garden.

Variegated 'River Mist' Northern Sea Oats


When I saw these growing at our local nursery, I stopped in my tracks. The combination of variegated foliage and greenish white seed heads is truly striking. 

Perennials

Campanula 'Summertime Blues'


I bought this off the clearance table to tuck into a spot next to a dwarf sweetspire. It's not as aggressive as other campanulas. I love the blue bell shaped flowers.

 

Liatris ligulistylis (Meadow Blazing Star)


Meadow Blazing Star from Prairie Moon is excellent for attracting monarchs.

Dracocephalum 'Fuji Blue' (False Dragonshead)


Dracocephalum is one of the toughest plants in my garden. I also have a beautiful white form that blooms in the spring. They'll take dry, partial shade. My pot of 'Fuji Blue'  dried out severely before I could get it in the ground but once planted and watered, it bounced right back.


Xanthorhiza simplicissima (Yellowroot)


Laurrie of My Weeds Are Very Sorry introduced me to yellowroot when I asked her to help me redesign part of my front garden. I'm adding more in the spring. It's actually a native sub-shrub with beautiful fall color and lavender spring flowers.

Chrysoganum 'Allen Bush' and 'Pierre' (Goldenstar)


Green and Gold is an excellent edging plant for dry shade. I actually killed a patch of it once when I moved it to a moister spot. It's easily overrun by other plants and needs its own space. 

Smilacina racemosa (Solomon's Plume)


False Solomon's Plume has creamy white flowers in the spring and red berries in the winter. I planted these near the spigelia.

Porteranthus stipulatus (Western Indian Physic)


Unlike the most recently introduced cultivar of porteranthus, porteranthus stipulatus thrives in dry partial shade. It is very similar to Bowman's Root, which grows effortlessly in my garden.


Polygonatum odoratum (Variegated Solomon's Seal)
photo credit

I added several variegated Solomon's Seal in my quest to find plants that would thrive in dry shade. It's also fragrant. Bonus!

'Sunday Gloves' daylily

photo credit

'Sunday Gloves' was my lucky break at our local garden center. Most of the daylilies were picked over or weren't the color I was looking for. 'Sunday Gloves' is a fragrant rebloomer with huge flowers. 


Hostas 'Twilight' and 'Grand Marquee'

Twilight

photo credit

Grand Marquee

photo credit

I bought these to add to the hosta grouping under my river birch tree.


Rubus pentalobus (Creeping Bramble)


Creeping bramble is a fruiting vine in the raspberry family that bears edible golden raspberries. It thrives in dry, infertile soil and will spread indefinitely. I bought several pots and am using it in front of my potted birdhouses on my front porch. 

Lespedeza bicolor 'Yakushima'


'Yakushima' is a dwarf bush clover that thrives in dry, infertile soil. The flowers look like little sweet peas. 



Aquatic Plants (for the muck bucket frog pond)

Oenanthe javanica 'Flamingo' ( Variegated Water Celery)


I bought this to add to my frog pond. I was able to buy it and the other water plants for only $3 each at the end of the season. Happy!


Equisetum scirpoides (Dwarf Horsetail Rush)


This tiny rush is perfect for my tiny pond.


Lobelia cardinalis 'Fried Green Tomatoes' (Cardinal Flower)



All of my water plants are doing well in my little pond. I've never grown aquatic plants before but they seem really happy. 'Fried Green Tomatoes' is very winter hardy.


Roses

Peggy Martin


This tough climbing rose was accidentally sent to me due to a computer error. That's my kind of mistake!  It's also known as 'The Rose That Survived Hurricane Katrina'.


Jude the Obscure


I've been wanting to grow this rose for years and was finally able to make room when I redesigned my sunniest perennial bed. I ordered it from Chamblee's Nursery and it arrived in excellent condition.


Shrubs that don't seem like shrubs

Lespedeza thunbergii 'Spring Grove'


I was warned against buying a lespedeza thunbergi because they get big and sprawly, but big and sprawly was exactly what I needed for a particular spot by my driveway. I like that it can be cut down to 12" in the winter so I don't have to worry about killing it when I cover it with freshly shoveled-off-the-driveway snow.

Bulbs

Belladonna lilies - pink and 'Fred Meyer Whites'



'Fred Meyer Whites' are the toughest, most xeric belladonna lilies available. Advertised as highly fragrant, I combined them with several pink ones and planted them in the driest spot in my front garden. After seeing so many pictures of them on various blogs this summer, I just had to try them. When the bulbs arrived, they were enormous. I'm excited to see them bloom this summer.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Invertebrate Approach to Gardening

One of the great advantages of winter is its ability to strip your garden bare, leaving it shivering in its underwear while you dream of summer color and leafy coverage. I do not have a winter garden or much winter interest, aside from a trumpet vine and deutzia that resemble Medusa, but I'm okay with that. My bare bottomed garden gives me a chance to see it as it really is and to make summer plans that work with the bones of my yard.

But that's when things get weird. What kind of bones does my garden have? Does my fence qualify my garden's bones as chicken bones, or am I a woolly mammoth, considering the small swath of native trees left by the builder? Holy Toledo! What if I don't have any bones at all? If my garden were an animal, would it be a squid?  Hmm... In the spirit of ridiculousness and to hopefully start your new year with a smile, I've decided to end the confusion once and for all by creating a quiz to help you determine the boniness of your garden.

How Bony is Your Garden?


If your garden has:

  • a permanent structure with decorative/architectural appeal     +10 points
    • but it's in your neighbors yard     -5 points
  • large trees     +10 points
  • shrubs/trees taller than you are     + 10 points
  • little trees/shrubs with lots of potential     +5 points
  • meandering paths     +10 points
    • a path trampled through the grass by the dog     -5 points
  • stonework     +10 points
    • a pile of stone you might do something with eventually     -5 points
  • dogs, cats, chickens, etc all of which are full of bones     +5 points
  • attractive gate/fence     +10 points
    • but it's held together by a bungee cord     -5 points
  • bird houses and bird baths     +10 points
  • a pond or water feature     +10 points
  • a container pond     +5 points
  • a patio or deck     +10 points
  • evergreens     +10 points
    • a can of green spray paint and red plastic berries     -5 points
Scoring:

0 - 5 points       Squid

Don't fret about being a squid. You are delicious fried and served with marinara. It also means you have a clean canvas with which to dream and design. Anything is possible!

10 - 25 points     Hamster

You're on the right track and with your nocturnal work habits you never have to worry about sunburn. Close your eyes and imagine your garden as you wish it to be. Wait! Take out the winning lottery ticket and try again. Get ready to get dirty and you just might make your wishes come true.

30 - 45 points     Duck-billed Platypus

Not only are you one of the coolest mammals on Earth, but if you're male you have a venomous spur on your back leg that can be handy for securing discounts at your local nursery. Your garden has some excellent beginning boniness. Don't stop now!

50 - 65 points     St. Bernard

Not only do you get to slobber and drool while gardening, but you bring your own drinks and never have to tromp inside in the midst of a project due to dehydration. Clever! Your garden has some fabulous features that go a long way to accentuate your plantings. But we already knew that, considering you were clever enough to bring drinks.

70 - 85 points     Pygmy Elephant

Your excellent swimming ability and incredible strength allows you to garden in all kinds of wet weather. You've given serious thought to your garden design and understand how it is related to your garden as a whole. Either that or you got lucky and bought a house with an awesome garden. Just don't tell anyone. I'd stick with Option A.

90 - 100 points     Bigfoot

You might be elusive but your garden design isn't. If you've noticed your neighbors leaning over the fence/stone wall/hedge it's because they're taking photos and emailing them out to family and friends, pretending your garden is theirs. They're jealous and so am I.

110 - 115 points     T-Rex

You are the Jedi Master of gardening. Your garden has it all, possibly including a ticket booth and long lines. However, if I hide behind the historically accurate, architecturally reproduced garden shed, I might be able to take some cuttings and pictures to help me when I get home. It's cheaper than the gift shop.

I'm a pygmy elephant! I was shocked by this. Here's how I qualified according to the ultrascientific test:


Large trees + 10 points 
Three crepe myrtles, a huge river birch, a 'Yoshino' cherry, several ash trees, and an oak, cedar, and hornbeam left by the builder form the spine of my back garden.


Attractive fence  +10 points

 
Shrubs taller than I am + 10 points
This is a deutzia 'Pink a Boo' underplanted with lamium.


Gate held together with a bungee cord - 5 pts


Patio + 10 points


 Birdhouses and birdbaths + 10 points
I pulled a tiny nest out of this house this fall. I think it was a chickadee. 'Baltyk' clematis grows in the front garden.


I have several birdhouses and birdbaths in the garden. I came up with this idea to help use the extra creeping bramble that had originally been part of the front garden redesign until I changed my mind. The birdhouse is designed for small birds and is made from recycled mango wood.


Stonework + 10 points  
A stone ring circles the zelkova tree in the front and protects it from lawn mower damage. The remaining rock roses are coming out next spring since the area has become too shady and are being replaced with variegated ajuga.


Evergreens + 10 points 
Prague viburnums grow along the side of the house, offering winter protection and summer shade.



Container pond + 5 points
Even though my muck bucket frog pond is inground, I categorized it as a container pond. 'Lime Rickey' heuchera and shasta daisies grow near the rocks.


Here are the 'bones' of my Rose of Sharon. They grew to the second story this summer! The heated bird bath is very popular in winter.


Cute dog, full of bones! + 5 points


Most excellent shed! Unfortunately, it's in my neighbors yard. This photo shows a few of the trees left by the builder as well as the dog run.