Sunday, December 21, 2014

A year of work and small pleasures

A low-maintenance pathway in high summer
I spent so much of this year working on other things that my garden was on its own for most of that time. The winds of summer were hard, hot, and dry, and only now are we getting close to having as much rain as we need for the trees and shrubs and perennials to be happy again. Difficult weather and the stress of drought during fall can lead to higher winter losses, and I've had this feeling that I won't know till after the spring warming, whether I'll lose any of my friends. I'm happy that so many of my garden inhabitants have been here long enough to grow the roots to keep them watered through these dry seasons, but in the dry years, worriers will worry, and hopers must hope.

I went back through my photos this morning to see what I had that I haven't posted, and found some things among the pictures of paintings, mice, and eagles that I can share as a look back on the year. As little time as I spent in it, I did really enjoy it, and rejoiced in how big the older things have grown.

I've finally been able to have happy fuchsias in pots (it was all about big enough pots and finding a bright, shady, sheltered space.)

Having a clematis finally reach the top of its tuteur:

The exuberant impulsion of a happy daylily:

The lushness of hydrangeas before the wind started:

A strawberry saying "thumbs up" about life:

So, was it a good year? The strawberry says it all.

Best wishes to you and your gardens!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Beauty spots

Cricket House
I'm beginning to find really nice little spots in my garden now, as it keeps maturing. They're all transients to some extent, because shapes and sizes will change as the shrubs and trees keep growing, so next year they may look very different. But the color juxtapositions will hopefully stay. This is the first spring that my front garden—my daily view out my front window—has really looked like a garden. I'm very happy with the mix of foliage colors—the bronzes and greens, plus the pale, almost-white of the pieris. I've already enjoyed the choisya flowering, and the astilbes are getting ready, showing their buds. It's taken me eight long years to find a combination of plants that can grow in the horrible clay and successfully compete with the firs for water, not to mention surviving the hot summer and cold winter winds that funnel through there. That spot has been my biggest cultural challenge.

Another area that took a very long time to shape up is a small patch in back I call the triangle. Everything I planted there except the Bloodgood maple has been very slow growing. It doesn't get much sun and the firs dry that soil out quickly, but it too is finally becoming very nice to look at and easy to maintain. This is the view from the east side.
Rhododendron Scintillation, Hosta seiboldiana

This is my morning view of the triangle. I love the light coming through the translucent acrylic shed window. Makes me think that having walls in a garden isn't a bad thing, if there is light coming through windows in them.

R. Scintillation
This grouping is about four years old, and the Blue Angel hosta is really staking its claim to space this year—it's about two feet across. The Sum and Substance behind it is almost as big. They weren't much more than half that size last year, so I guess they've grown up. The purple Siberians and the pale blue of the spruce-on-a-stick go great with the hostas

Hostas Blue Angel, Sum and Substance

This is a grouping that will be a little different soon, because the lovely multi-color foliage of the Peaches'n'Cream Japanese maple is really smothering the two azaleas beneath it, and you can only see the Halcyon hosta because I recently pruned away its cover. I'm enjoying the look right now, but pretty soon I'll have to get down there with the pruners again.

Acer palmatum Peaches'n'Cream, Hosta Halcyon

The blue of the Halcyon, the lime green of the new rhodie and hydrangea leaves, and the matching pinks of the rhodie and the azalea below are one of my favorite color combos, especially against the dark brown of the mulch. One of the first years I started gardening, Halcyon was widely available in small pots, and I bought many of them. For a small hosta, it's a great workhorse, always happy, almost never gets slug bites, and just keeps growing. I wish they'd come back into style so I wouldn't have to divide mine, but I'd take a dozen more in a heartbeat.

Hosta Halcyon

This Dr. Ruppel clematis in its third year is another great example of delayed rewards. Its first year, it grew all of ten inches tall. The second year, I put up this trellis for it and it spent the whole season sending one stem up the far left side. Now look what it's doing! I'm hoping that next year it'll cover the trellis with those flowers.

Clematis Dr. Ruppel

Here's another third-year wunderkind. For two years it's been incubating in this spot between two of my Hamamellis. I was at an HPSO study weekend and asked a plant vendor for a good shade-blooming rhodie, and this is what he recommended. I like the dark purple, especially above the Lemon Chiffon heucheras. They seem to have flea beetles this year, or something similar. Oh well.

It's a great year so far out there. And it's really nice for me, finally having the garden I've been planting for so long. Ahhhhhh.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

OMG—Oooooo, My Garden!

Rhododendron Cherry Float

I finished my early morning cleanup session today by taking a few more photos, and I feel like there really aren't any words for all this color. Or maybe I'm just tired. Anyway, here are my newly blooming treasures, young and old. I bought this rhodie seven years ago and this is the first year it's bloomed. It's a floppy one, thin branches and large flower clusters, but who cares when they're this rich?

Rhododendron Cherry Float

Here's another floppy one. This used to be my favorite, for the deep cerise color. Now I'm not sure any more. Not this year, anyway. But seeing all the upward facing shoots, I'm wondering, since it's all over the ground now, will it start growing up? Or is it convinced it's a ground cover?

Rhododendron (unk. var.)

This one's slighty less floppy and is this gorgeous peach color, which I've never seen anywhere else. This is one of my rhodies that gets direct afternoon sun, and the only one I've noticed Lace Bug damage on. Not too much, fortunately.

Peachy Rhododendron (unk. var.)

The baby flowers on my oldest Satomi, which I love from now till I eat the fruit. :-)

Cornus kousa Satomi

I finally got BIG snowballs this year! Softball sized! I love the hanging cluster. Wish I could tuck a little LED bulb inside each one. That would be cool.

Viburnum plicatum sp.

My geums made it through the winter in my worst, wettest clay so well that I bought six more, in two more colors, orange, and red.

Geum Alabama Slammer & forget-me-nots

Last but not least, I bought this clematis last summer at a hardware store for $5, when it had just a few of the inner petals left on one beat-up flower, just enough to convince me it was the lavender-blue the tag showed. I had my head down yesterday, pulling weeds and extra forget-me-nots, and I almost poked myself in the eye with these blooms. I had no idea it was blooming already and it surprised the heck out of me.

Clematis Multi-Blue

Friday, April 18, 2014

Garden full of rhodies

Two April Glows with a Flaming Silver Pieris in full new leaf inbetween
I pulled this photo out of my camera today and was really surprised to see how big my older rhodies look. Six inches a year does add up—after 8 years a 1-foot plant becomes a 5-foot plant. And when it's covered in big fat blooms, it looks even bigger. It makes my garden look like an amazing woodland fantasy. So I grabbed another photo of some almost-as-old rhodies from further down the hill and here it is—a half-grown rhodie garden that's so beautiful I can't believe it. Here's to a lovely spring, and having it come soon to everyone.

April Glow in front, and Cheer in back

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The red leaves of Spring

Acer palmatum Red Dragon
This is a small tribute to that week every spring when the leaves on the Japanese maples start opening up, and the the red pigments show up so strongly. I look out my window in the morning and if the eastern sky is bright behind them, the backlighting shows them so beautifully against the pale greens of the other new leaves and the darker greens of the mature foliage. The one above is my dwarf weeper Red Dragon. This is its best year ever.

Acer palmatum Bloodgood
This one is of the pair of Bloodgoods I planted seven years ago. The one on the left had a very bad year before I realized it wasn't getting enough water in the summer, but it didn't die, and since I remedied the watering situation, I've been encouraging it to catch up to its mate.

Acer palmatum Bloodgood
And this is the little one in its close-up, its fifteen seconds of fame. This is its best year ever, too.

Rhododendron Yellow Hammer
Can't have a post without a rhodie photo in it this time of year, so this is my Yellow Hammer, an older variety that I rescued from a going-out-of-business nursery, when it had a cup of soil and roots left in its gallon pot. It's been growing slowly but seems to like where I put it, and this is actually a huge clump of flowers for it.

If everything you planted in a garden automatically did just get more and more beautiful every year, maybe the thrill would wear off after a while. But they don't, so you just can't help being happier and happier about the ones that do make it. The ones that thrive become like special friends, honored companions. And because they get more beautiful every year, so every spring becomes your best year ever.

And I'm happy to say this is mine.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The flowers are out, and so am I

One of the benches I never have time to sit on
It hit 68ยบ this afternoon—far and away the warmest day we've had so far this year. And it was beautiful, calm, and quiet, and I spent a lot of it outside, working in the garden. Mostly I was weeding and doing cleanup, but I did a little bit of dancing—carefully, because I'm out of practice and I already bruised my heel the other day at a garden fair, stepping in a hole. I hope to really catch up this week, it's going to be dry all week, and after tomorrow, not windy. I have been getting out once in a while to take pictures as my spring flowers open, and I wanted to put them up here. My big red bicolor camellia (above and below) is always the first one in the back to flower, so I've been enjoying it for the last two weeks, and half a dozen other camellias are blooming now, along with a couple early big-leaf rhodies. I really love the tie-dye look of this bicolor.

Unnamed bicolor camellia

For the first year, I could actually see blossoms on my forsythia from my house! This is the third year for the Lynnwood Gold, and the fourth for the Meadowlark, and I could see them both. But the Lynwood Gold just happened to send an arching branch over the lavender flowers of my deciduous Rhododendron mucronulatum.

Lynwood Gold forsythia and R. mucronulatum

I've been pretty good about putting sluggo out this spring, so my primroses have been mostly happy and hole-free. I got a pair of this one a couple years ago, and it is one of my favorites. It's so bright. I hope I'll be able to divide this clump at some point—I'd love to have a whole row of them.

A two-tone primula

The last photo is of my biggest PJM rhodie, which is as tall as I am now. It's really beautiful this year, with more flowers than ever. Another Master Gardener friend was over the other day relieving me of about 200 one-gallon plastic pots for her garden club to use, and she said the azalea lacebugs got one of her PJM's so badly she had to take it out. The lacebugs poke thousands of holes in the leaves of azaleas and small-leaved rhodies and suck the fluids out, reducing the leaves to—yep—lace. They hit a number of my azaleas pretty hard last year but didn't kill any of them, so I'm hoping the plants will start developing some defenses to them this year. I don't use insecticides on my plants, just on my house, so trying to keep my plants from being stressed in any other ways is my only strategy. That means, no more sun than they like, and keeping them well watered this summer. Rumor has it that it will be a hot summer, so I'll have to work at that a bit.

PJM Rhodie behind Siberian Iris  and Midwinter Fire dogwood

So it was a great start to my gardening year today, on probably the warmest day till next week. Lovely, lovely, lovely.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Hooray for primroses!

A couple weeks ago, when it warmed up after the last freeze, and before this round of rain storms started, the primroses arrived at the garden centers. I decided to fill up my empty hanging pots that hold begonias in the summer. I planted some of this same variety of primrose in my garden last year, and they bloomed for months, way past the large-flowered variety. They're way better looking than empty pots! When I got them all up, after not even going out in my garden for a couple months, I felt like, yes! I am still a gardener!

Spring is coming!!