Rainy Sunday


Thunderstorms are rumbling through right now, along with some torrential rain, so my gardening was cut a little short today.  I love thunderstorms though, so I’m content to sit in my darkening kitchen typing this post, rather than being outside weeding and deadheading peonies.

Have I mentioned that it’s been an abnormally cool and wet spring and early summer? We’ve had rain 6 out of the past 7 days, and that’s been the norm since April.

The vegetable garden is less than pleased, but the perennials and newly planted trees and shrubs are loving it.  So are the weeds, which have taken over every border I’ve yet to get to for “spring” clean-up (i.e., weeding, edging and mulching)…at this rate I might make it through the final border by fall!

Below are some photos of the plants in bloom this weekend.  Enjoy!

Astilbe beginning to flower in the shade garden


The last hoorah for the peonies for this season
Finally some of the clematis is making its way up the arbor
A shrub rose that I grew from a cutting from a local gardener – no idea what type it is, but it blooms like crazy all summer long — with catmint underplanted
Astilbe in the front with Sweet William, Spirea and yet to open Shasta Daisies behind
Alnwick Rose – a shrub rose bred by David Austin; repeat flowering and wonderfully fragrant, I selected it for the new rose hedge last year.  I planted 11 of them in an arc to close off the new rose garden.  They will hopefully reach their full height of 3-4 feet next season.
A new addition in the rose garden this season, Heuchara ‘Red Sea.’  I’m in love with this foliage!
Allium seedhead with water droplets in the rose garden
Clematis ‘Venosa violacea’ – the 1st blossom of the season with loads more to come
View of portions of shade garden (forefront), circle garden and peony border from upstairs hall window
I don’t recall planting this, but I think it’s Campanula barbata (Bearded Bellflower). If anyone knows otherwise, please let me know!
Hippolyte Rose – an old rose that is cold-hardy.  I added this one last year in the rose garden.  I love the deep purple color; the photo doesn’t accurately capture the color.
Dianthus hybrid
Sweet William – I grow these from seed so the colors are always a surprise

This Weekend in the Garden

IMG_7857.JPG“Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful,’ and sitting in the shade.”  — Rudyard Kipling

Peony ‘Sarah Bernhardt’

Peonies are opening all over the garden.  I’ve added many over the past couple of years — so many I forgot where I planted some of them until they began to pop up in early spring.  Although they bloom for only a brief time, I feel about peonies the way many gardeners feel about roses; I can’t imagine my garden without them.

Peony ‘Duchess De Nemours’ with Alchemilla mollis
Peony ‘Shirley Temple’
Part of the Peony “Old Time Collection”

“The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies.”  — Gertrude Jekyll

Anchusa azurea ‘Dropmore’ with campanula


“Gardening simply does not allow one to be mentally old, because too many hopes and dreams are yet to be realized.”  — Allan Armitage

Penstemon ‘Pocahontas’ with bumble bee


Clematis are as omnipresent as peonies in the garden.

I’m not sure what this is. It was supposed to be ‘Josephine’ as well, and clearly is not.


Clematis ‘Josephine’
Clematis ‘Belle of Woking’


“I like gardening — it’s a place where I find myself when I need to lose myself.” — Alice Sebold

Peony, catmint and foxglove


Siberian Iris
Sweet William
Bleeding Heart
Penstemon, catmint and Rosa ‘Grootendorst’




I’m slowly making my way around the garden borders for the first of the season clean-up — edging, weeding, dividing and relocating as needed.  Sadly, it’s already June 11th and I’m only half way there!


I have no idea how I ended up with more than 13 mixed borders, a vegetable garden, an orchard (fruit trees, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and currants), and a separate, rather large, pumpkin patch (thankfully planted over with a green manure crop this season to rebuild the soil).


I think my garden has expanded past the size that I can comfortably handle…


And yet, I’ve already enlarged the gazebo border this season (as in I’ve covered it with cardboard and straw to kill the grass; not that I’ve actually found the time to plant it out yet).



I can’t seem to stop myself!  Reminds me of the following quote by Phyllis McGinley…

“The trouble with gardening is that is does not remain an avocation.
It becomes an obsession.”


When, I ask myself constantly, is enough, enough?  I’ve made 3 trips to the local nursery this week AND ordered plants online from Bluestone Perennials because they wisely sent me a 50% off email – they knew I couldn’t resist the compulsion to buy more plants!  I feel like I need an intervention.

Late Spring


“Odd as I am sure it will appear to some, I can think of no better form of personal involvement in the cure of the environment than that of gardening” – Wendell Berry


“In June, as many as a dozen species may burst their buds on a single day.  No man can heed all of these anniversaries; no man can ignore all of them.” – Aldo Leopold


May is the month of great anticipation, but the garden truly comes alive in June.  Everyday brings new blooms, a subtle change in the pervasive shades of green throughout the garden, and returning bird, bee and butterfly guests.


The energy is palpable as the garden prepares for its peak performance; everything sits vibrating with anticipation, on the cusp…



Planting Weekend


Traditionally, the last week in May, culminating with the 3-day Memorial weekend, is my prime planting time.  I usually take the entire week off from work and there is a huge push to get all new perennials, seedlings sown indoors, dahlia tubers, and all directly seeded veggies and annuals, such as zinnia, nasturtiums, and cosmos in the ground, as well as all annuals into containers.  Until recently, our last frost date hovered between May 22-24, so the last week in May was generally safe (over the last couple of years, it’s been closer to May 17-18).

The edging, weeding, and mulching of the numerous flower beds waits until after the mass planting event.  It drives me batty to walk around and see weeds and grass poking up through all the perennials, but it can’t be helped.  With limited gardening time, triage is a necessity.

I couldn’t take the full week off this year due to our trip in April, but I had a rather successful planting weekend nonetheless (thank you Nora).  Thankfully the rain held off until today.

We managed to get the 80′ hot border edged, weeded, planted and mulched.  I planted 5 crates — yes, crates — of dahlia tubers (various red varieties) that had over-wintered in the basement, 7 ‘David Howard’ dahlias (last year’s tubers potted inside about 10 weeks ago), cut back the dead tulips, and planted a line of marigolds along the front edge.


The border put on quite a display last fall with all of the dahlias and rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’.


To extend the blooming season, I’ve added some early to mid-summer bloomers last season, including Papaver ‘Goliath’, Baptisia ‘Solar Flare’, Bearded Iris ‘Raptor Red’, Hemerocallis ‘Ruby Spider’, several varieties of red and dazzling yellow lilies (that I have since forgotten the name of), and peony ‘Paul Wild’.

I also finished weeding and mulching the shade garden.  This border is tucked into the northeastern corner of the house and is planted largely with astilbe, columbine, ferns, and hosta.  I have some bearded iris and day lilies for splash of color tossed in as well.


Yesterday was spent in the vegetable garden.  The onions, shallots, beets, carrots, sweet peas, dill, borage, chamomile, cauliflower, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, marigolds, scarlet runner beans, and snap peas were already in the ground.  Yesterday we cleaned out another 7 beds (each 3′ x 20′) and direct seeded sunflowers (‘American Giant’ and ‘Santa Fe’), cucumbers, zucchini, summer squash, edamame, green beans (bush variety), pole beans, zinnia, morning glories, swiss chard, kale, and two types of lettuce.  I still need to plant the acorn squash, and I want to get some bee balm, basil, and nasturtium seeds planted as well, but that will have to wait until next weekend.

I’ve decided (I think – I could change my mind by next weekend) to let the pumpkin patch rest this season and plant a green manure crop of field peas, oats and hairy vetch (an organic mix from Johnny’s Selected Seeds) in the patch to be tilled-in in late fall.  I still have 3 unplanted rows in the vegetable garden since I wasn’t in the mood to plant potatoes this year, and I may use a couple of those for a few pumpkins.  Much smaller scale than my roughly 30′ x 50′ pumpkin patch, but I was trying to “scale back” in the veg area this year to allow more time for the mixed borders.  As you can probably surmise from the list above, I wasn’t terribly successful.  I just can’t seem to help myself.

To wrap up yesterday, before I collapsed from exhaustion, I also replaced a dead lilac with a new one, planted two yucca grasses in the rock garden, and a 2nd Daphne near the gazebo.


Rock garden with a variety of dwarf evergreens, including Gold Thread Cypress, yucca, various other ornamental grasses (that are barely noticeable at this time of year), creeping phlox, and white potentilla.  This area was a mass of nettles and wild parsnip three years ago.  I buried it under a mass of landscape fabric, cardboard and mulch for a couple of seasons and really started planting last year.  More to do, but a vast improvement over what it looked like before!


As I was digging holes for the yuccas, our friend, Tim, arrived to hang the barn quilt — a wonderful Christmas gift from Lorna and Tim (designed and painted by Lorna, and constructed by Tim).  I had my brother build and hang a couple of window boxes a week ago to set off the quilt.  I think it looks fabulous!



More Flowers

The crescendo is beginning to build.  The peonies are loaded with buds, the camassia just started to unfurl yesterday, many of the clematis are already 3-4′ tall…in another couple of weeks, the June flowering will begin.  It’s my favorite time in the garden.


Lots of work to get done between now and then, if we can catch a break between rain showers.  I’ve done very little direct seeding in the vegetable garden and I’ve only managed to edge, weed and plant some seedlings into a couple of the borders with another 12+ borders remaining.  I still have salvia and dianthus seedlings, dahlia plants and 4 crates of dahlia tubers to get into the ground.


Crab apple blossoms


Memorial weekend is usually my first big gardening weekend, but as of now, we’re looking at a dry Saturday, but rain on Friday, Sunday and Monday.


But the rain has spurred quick growth in the garden.  Some photos of blooms above and below.


Ok, not a bloom, this is Oreo



Walking around the garden

The rain had stopped by the time I arrived home after work.  I was happy to have the rain after a weekend of planting dahlias, containers, and seedlings in the vegetable garden (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and sweet peas).  It was a gentle, constant rain much of the day and the garden always benefits.


Which of these things is not like the others?


But… there’s always the “but” with gardeners…but the rain also benefits the weeds, dandelions, and grass that are running rampant through my borders right now.  I know I’m not really “behind” since we’ve barely passed the last frost date, but I feel very behind.

So, as I was bemoaning how much work there was to do in the garden and how I couldn’t get to it with all the rain in the forecast for this week, Nora swooped in to the rescue – as she so often does – and grabbed the camera, and me, and forced a garden walk-about.


The tulips have gone over for the most part and are quickly passing into the spent, ugly phase.  I will have to get to them this weekend to cut back the stems.  But I allow the foliage to remain until yellowed to put some energy back into the bulbs for next year’s performance.


However, the perennials have really shot up.  The alliums are half open and the camassia lilies are on the cusp.


Pearl Bush with allium ‘Purple Sensation’


But we did manage to find a few others in full bloom (see below).


Weeping Siberian Pea Shrub
Pink Forget-Me-Nots?  Self-seeded from last year



Japanese Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’ – incredibly invasive – mine are in a bottomless pot in the border to keep them somewhat contained – but I love them