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.
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.
But we did manage to find a few others in full bloom (see below).
I’ve been trying to get better about growing more from seed and taking cuttings to expand my garden, rather than buying every plant that looks and sounds exciting to me. My gardening habit has become quite expensive!
Nevertheless, I’ve added or expanded a border every year since I started this garden in 2012 and that requires lots of new plants, however acquired. This year is no different. I have plans to redesign the front yard and have several borders in the backyard that need expanding as well. I’m trying to incorporate permaculture principles to the extent I can as I expand and, toward that end, I continue to add shrubs and trees to the areas immediately surrounding the house and underplant these with a mix of perennials, annuals, certain vegetables and herbs.
Since this blog is, in part, my garden journal, I thought a review of what will be arriving this year in the mail — usually by the 2nd week of May — was a worthwhile exercise. So, in this year’s line up, we have:
Lychnis coronaria – commonly known as rose campion; it’s an herbaceous perennial that grows 2-3′ tall and blooms from May to July; it has brilliantly colored magenta blossoms with silver foliage; I find the color contrast mesmerizing. It’s a short-lived perennial, but self-seeds happily. I’ve none in the garden and couldn’t resist adding.
Clematis terniflora – also known as “Sweet Autumn” clematis; this is replacing one that died last winter. This clematis blooms in August and September and can reach a height of 30′ or more in a season. It becomes a spectacular mass of white flowers. I love it, I miss it, so I’m replacing it.
Lonicera sempervirens ‘Major Wheeler’ – this is a red-blossom honeysuckle. Honeysuckles do very well in my garden; they’re hearty climbers and the hummingbirds feast on them!
Clematis ‘Diamond Ball’ – this is a new variety for me; it has 4-5″ light lavender blossoms. It looks beautiful in the photos – we’ll see how it fares.
Iris ‘Immortality’ – I love Bearded Irises and have been trying to add new varieties throughout the borders every year. ‘Immortality’ is a white, reblooming variety and my intent is to add it to the revamped front borders. Below is not ‘Immortality’, but I needed some color in this post! The Iris below is ‘Autumn Circus’.
Stachys Byzantina – commonly known as “lambs’ ears” – it can be found growly freely in this area, although not as frequently now as I recall as a child. A wonderful, silver-foliaged plant that works great on the edges.
Canna ‘Tropicanna’ – another new addition to the container plantings; this has multi-hued, fiery looking foliage. My plan is to put it in a large container and place it toward the back of the hot border.
Baptisia ‘Solar Flare’ – blooms late spring to early summer; ‘Solar Flare’ has bi-colored blossoms opening as a bright, lemon yellow and then fading to a warm orange at the base, leaving you with a two-toned blossom-lined stalk. Another new addition to the hot border.
Penstemon digitalis ‘Mystica’ – clusters of small white flowers with lavender shading, with deep purple stalks and foliage; blooms late spring to early summer and is a great butterfly and hummingbird attractor.
Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’ – blooms in late summer through fall, Sedums grow easily in my garden. I have many ‘Autumn Joy’ already, but like the burgundy foliage in this variety. Butterflies are fond of Sedums, and it provides seeds to birds during the winter months.
Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ – also known as “Fountain grass”, this is a perennial, ornamental grass. I just started to added perennial grasses to the borders a couple of years ago. Some, despite claims that they were hardy to Zone 4, didn’t make it through the first winter. I’m hoping this one will. This variety has bottle brush plumes and should reach 30″ or so.
Philadelphus coronaries ‘Icelandic’ – common name “Mock Orange” — a 6′ shrub with creamy-white flowers in spring, I’m adding this to the front yard.
Daphne x burkwoodii ‘Carol Mackie’ – This variety has a rounded 3′ shape with subtle grayish green leaves that look almost variegated (from the photo in the catalog – I’ve not seen one “live”), and reportedly has fragrant clusters of pale pink flowers that bloom in May. I purchased two and they’re going in the front yard. Well maybe one will go in the back yard; I haven’t yet decided.
Cornus alternifolia ‘Golden Shadows’ – commonly called “Pagoda Dogwood”; I love the look of this tree. I bought two. I know I want to add one to the front, who knows where the second will end up. I love the lime-green, variegated leaves. It grows to about 8′ tall so it’s perfect for my smallish front yard.
Cercis Canadensis ‘Appalachian Red’ – common name, “Eastern Redbud” – blooms in early spring with fushia pink to red, pea-like blossoms; can grow 15-25 feet tall.
I also have several flowers and vines that are direct seeded after the last frost (usually not until after May 15-18 in a good year): Monarda mixture (a/k/a Bee Balm) – seeds from John Scheepers; Tropaeolum ‘Old-Fashioned Tawny’; Sunflowers – usually 3 or 4 varieties every year; Zinnia (Oklahoma mix); Ipomoea purpurea ‘Grandpa Ott’s”; Thunbergia ‘Sunrise Surprise’ and ‘White-Eyed Susie’; Hyacinth Bean – a new vine I’m trying out this year.
Despite wishing it were not so, winter persists. Overnights have been in the single digits (negatives with wind chill) and the days in the teens. We’ve had a week of snow, sleet and freezing rain with 6-10 inches of snow expected to arrive tomorrow into Monday. The usual February weather. So, to keep my spirits up, I continue my garden-related reading and video watching.
Since March is my month for pruning the fruit trees and any non-spring blooming shrubs, I decided to brush up on my pruning techniques. It’s not a task at which I’ve ever felt completely adept, despite have several excellent organic orchard books. I’ve been on the look out for a book that simplified – or dumbed down, if you will – the process for me; a process which, unfortunately, varies depending on what it is you are pruning.
Last weekend I was re-reading one of my favorite Tasha Tudor books for the umpteenth time, when I picked up on a pruning book she highly recommended by Lewis Hill. Searching on Amazon, I found The Pruning Answer Book (2011) by Lewis Hill and Penelope O’Sullivan.
No exaggeration, this book is a god-send! It is clearly and concisely written, answers the most basic of questions, and is illustrated in an extremely helpful manner. The book contains chapters on right and wrong pruning practices; and pruning everything from deciduous shade trees, ornamental trees, flowering shrubs, hedges, evergreens, woody vines, fruit trees, bush fruit/brambles, nut trees and even topiary, if you’re into it (I’m not). It’s even printed in a compact size to make carrying it around with you outside feasible. I’m so excited to head out into the orchard and garden this March, book in hand, to tackle this season’s pruning with a greater degree of confidence!