Thursday, May 24

Second Year Onion Update

I'm giggling as I type this... I can't help but think that all of you who read my blog must be sitting there thinking, "I can't wait until this girl goes back to working 70 hours a week so she doesn't have so much time to post!" *grin*

This is a short one, I promise. Remember those leftover onions I found in the garden in April? Well, amidst the sturdy, strappy leaves of both are appearing tiny flower buds! Cool.

I'm going to have to keep an eye on these guys--some in the allium family have gorgeous blooms but others... eh, not so much. Time will tell (soon) how plain old red onions fare in the aesthetically pleasing department!

(Yes, I know... my hands look atrocious. I was so intent on pulling up the garlic mustard on the side of the garage that I forgot to put on my gardening gloves before it was too late. Ah, who am I kidding? I hate gardening gloves so I probably would have gone without anyway.)

A Morning of Puttering

I am officially on vacation today and tomorrow! With Monday being a holiday, it will be nice to spend 5 days away from job #1. (I still have to go to job #2, but since that involves working with plants it's a lot easier to go to most days.) Plans for today included getting up early to putter about in the garden, going to the Cleveland Botanical Garden Flower Show, and meeting another garden blogger, Kylee from Our Little Acre, while I was at the CBG.

Unfortunately, my assistant gardener started acting a little odd last night... you don't need to speak the same language to know when your dog isn't feeling so hot. So instead I'm waiting for the vet to call me back and let me know whether he will be able to see her today. I have gotten to putter, at least, so I'll share a few pictures from the garden while I sit here and watch the phone:

Two pictures of my 'Diabolo' (aka 'Diablo,' aka 'Mondo') ninebark, physocarpus opulifolius. I love where this shrub is placed in my garden. Every morning, I open the curtains in the dining room so that my houseplants can enjoy the morning light. When the sun is shining, my ninebark greet me with a jewel-like glow.

First bloom EVER on my sea kale! I would grow crambe maritima just for its foliage alone, but these little flowers are cute, too. There are more buds on this one, but its two neighbors show no signs of flower stalks yet. The two non-flowering ones are a bit more shaded, and that's probably why.

YIKES! I usually feel sorry for these treelawn-planted trees anyway. Their roots are all hemmed in, they're oversized for the area where they are planted, and so forth. But half of this one didn't even leaf out this year... wonder if I should start planting more sun-lovers in my front garden?

Many days, I am amazed at what people throw out with the garbage. I've snagged metal trellises, a grandfather clock, an old sewing table with great carved wood and a cast iron base, and on and on. The above picture shows my latest acquisition, a large black milk can. Normally I'm not a black-milk-can-in-the-garden kind of girl, but it looks appropriate in the backyard of my 1919-built home.

A larger view of the Japanese rock garden area. The peony bush that currently hides most of the area behind the right hand side needs to be moved--I can't believe it's already waist-high! The monster on the left at the end of the rock garden is reason #1,254 that I need to get that fence in. The blackberry should really be trained against a sturdy fence rather than that puny trellis.

That's all for now... more pictures to come this weekend as I get more things weeded and presentable!

Sunday, May 20

Put On Your "Party Dress"

During my first few weeks of college at the University of Dayton, I befriended a smart, feisty girl from Youngstown. Jessica and I had a lot in common: A love of good music, blue-collar roots and a strong sense of ethics, an appreciation for literature and cooking, enthusiasm for sports, and so on. 13 years and many lifetime landmarks later, I am proud that I can count Jess among my best friends. She probably knows me better than anyone else on this earth, and trust me when I say that it reflects very well on me that she still grants me the honor of her friendship.

This weekend, Jessica made the drive north from Cincinnati to spend time with her mom in Youngstown and run the Cleveland Marathon. On Saturday, while she and her mom perused a plant sale at Mill Creek Park, Jess mentioned that she and I were getting together later that night. Sandra, a fellow avid gardener, immediately suggested that they pick out a plant for me.

When Jessica asked how they would know what to get, Sandra replied that she's visited this blog and could figure out from that what I would like. She was absolutely right. Check out the picture to see my newest garden addition: 'Party Dress,' a gorgeous, double-flowered Japanese anemone. WOW! I didn't even know this plant existed before I received this wrapped pot on Saturday but now that we've been introduced I'm smitten. It's definitely going in a place of honor, in front of the bed where I have a couple of its single-flowering cousins.

I agonize over gift-buying, so I'm always amazed when anyone picks out a perfect gift so effortlessly. I should have known that selecting great gifts was a talent of Sandra's, though. Jess obviously inherited strength, intelligence, beauty and a great sense of style from Sandra... so it makes sense that Jess's skill at buying just the right gift came from the same source. (Sadly, it didn't work that way in my family... if one of us kids inherited my Mom's ability to pick out the perfect, witty birthday card or the most memorable gift, it definitely wasn't me.)

I have been told that it is bad luck to thank someone for a gift plant--many of my relatives swear that the plant won't grow if you say thanks. So I'll have to figure out another way to let Sandra know how much I appreciate my new 'Party Dress'!

Sandra, if you're reading this... I hope you don't mind the my informality in using your first name. I just try to keep last names off of my blog when posting about friends.

Thursday, May 17

My Favorite Spot - May 17 2007

While walking around taking pictures for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, I was struck by how nicely the area around the Japanese rock garden is filling out. Taking a cue from Kasmira, I decided to write a quick post about this area, my current favorite spot in the garden.

The red sedums--I have both 'Fuldaglut' and 'Voodoo' but can never remember which one lives in each area of the garden--are filling in nicely all the way around. Their rosy color mitigates the unnatural peachy brick tones of the recycled landscape block that borders both the rock garden and the sidewalk beside it. They also contrast nicely with the cool grey-green of the culinary sage, the bright green of the chives, and even the dark green of the nearby blackberry.

Two years ago, my boyfriend decided to surprise me while I was stuck working overtime. I came home one day to find a small Japanese-inspired rock garden plopped down in the middle of my backyard!

Japanese garden purists would scoff at our feeble attempt--and since he rarely reads my blog I will admit here that he did not really live up to my construction standards. But I love that he took the initiative to add something to the garden that he knew I would enjoy, reused stones and landscape block that were part of my spring 2005 retaining wall demolition, etc. More than anything, I am just happy that he's taking an interest in the garden and prefers plantings to grass!

Speaking of, the grass disappeared from that area shortly thereafter and the ugly beige fence was painted a muted dark grey. The doomed 'Bing' cherry tree, an old peony that I inherited with the house, a blueberry, a couple of espaliered apples, a grapevine with a trellis, and various other things have come to live in this area. I love how the 'Caradonna' salvias look against the bed of red sedums... the dusky purple leaves of 'Ichiban' eggplant do similarly good things for me on the far side of the rock garden.

I will definitely be keeping an eye on this area as spring progresses. I plan to build a trellis for the grapevine soon, and the wood is already stained a dark red color. The previously mentioned peony has blowsy double flowers that are the brightest shade of magenta you can imagine--and it's already waist high this year so it will need lots of space when it blooms. And a little further back, the 'Sum and Substance' style hosta that I got a start of at work is starting to unfold its leaves.

It may turn out spectacularly well... it may turn out spectacularly awful... but either way, it sure will be interesting to watch!

Wednesday, May 16

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - May

For various reasons, ranging from rain--finally!--to work schedules to the discovery that my old rechargeable batteries* needed to be replaced, I'm late in posting my Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day lists for May. Tonight I had batteries, time, and a short lull in the rain.

The cool light of a rainy day isn't my favorite for photography, as the warm light at the beginning or end of a day seems more friendly to an amateur like me. I struggled to get good pictures of some of the more muted elements in the garden... at least 4 attempts at capturing the luscious darkness of the nodding geranium flowers failed. Even the good pictures, like the one of the Japanese maple and fading purple tulips, don't really convey the zing that the golden oregano adds to the whole scene.

My disappointment at the poor photos was definitely tempered by the discovery that many things were in bloom or in bud in the garden, though.

In Bloom:

1 - 'Black Hero' double black tulips (at left, swaying over achillea and bergenia foliage in the front corner bed)
2 - 'Caradonna' salvia nemerosa
3 - bergenia cordifolia
4 - 'Jack Frost' brunnera macrophylla
5 - 'Vodka' wax begonia
6 - festuca glauca (blue fescue)
7 - carex buchanii (bronze leatherleaf sedge)
8 - 'Chocolate Chip' ajuga reptens
9 - unnamed dark purple tulips
10 - 'Strawberry Margarita' portulaca grandiflora (annual moss rose)
11 - 'Avignon' orange tulips
12 - 'Mainacht' salvia
13 - dicentra spectabilis (bleeding heart)
14 - galium odoratum (sweet woodruff)
15 - 'Ozark Beauty' strawberries
16 - 'Anniversary' lamium (a.k.a. 'Anne Greenaway')
17 - 'Neon Lights' tiarella
18 - 'Crow Feather' tiarella
19 - 'Purple Knockout' salvia lyrata
20 - viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum 'Mariesii' (doublefile viburnum)
21 - geranium phaeum 'Samobor'
22 - 2 calendula officinalis that amazingly overwintered (yes, really!) in the front bed
23, 24, 25 - various vaccinium corymbosum (highbush blueberries)

In bud:

1 - physocarpus opulifolius 'Diablo' (at left, underplanted with 'Pine Knot Strain' hellebores and ajuga on its shady side, and an unnamed hosta and perovskia atriplicifolia on its sunny side)
2 - unnamed deep pink peony
3 - kalmia latifolia 'Olympic Fire' (mountain laurel)
4 - unnamed deep pink rhododendron
5 - 'Newe Ya'ar' salvia officinalis
6 - salvia officinalis sp.
7 - unnamed passalong bearded iris
8 - allium schoenoprasum (common chives)
9 - baptisia australis
10 - achillea millefolium 'Paprika' (yarrow)
11 - heuchera 'Marmalade'
12 - heuchera 'Regina'
13 - unnamed deep purple, ruffled heuchera
14 - vitis x labruscana 'Concord' (grape)
15 - unnamed thornless blackberry
16 - echinacea purpurea 'White Swan' (these plants are still so tiny that I'm going to remove this flower stalk, however)
17 - crambe maritima (sea kale)

Most of these things don't usually bloom at the same time, if my memory serves me. I swear that the bleeding heart and the ajuga were long spent before I saw any signs of flowers on my salvias last year. The cold in early April must have set a few things back and effectively crammed all of our early-, mid- and late-spring bloomers into a few short weeks. Whatever the reason, I'll take it... and enjoy.

*Note: the new rechargeable AA lithiums can apparently take up to 2 days for the first charge, so plan accordingly if you buy some. Hopefully that's a sign of how long the use time is, too!

Monday, May 7

Spring Green = Go

"April prepares her green traffic light and the world thinks Go."
--Christopher Morley

I am finding the above quote to be very true this year. And since I mostly neglected my garden in April when all of the traffic lights turned green, May finds me cleaning up a few garden fender-benders.

In the first picture, you see an overeager dianthus rear-ending the twisty blue foliage of allium senescens var. glaucum. It's not that I didn't know the dianthus would spread... it's that I had planned to move these beautiful little alliums before now. I want to show off their fabulous foliage, but haven't yet figured out a good stage for them and so they remain.

The 'Sum and Substance' type hosta that I dug up at work is obviously ready to get the summer started. I didn't take a big division, but some of those leaves are already bigger than my hand.

Notice the little purplish seedlings causing a bit of a traffic jam at the base of the hosta? Those are atriplex hortensis var. rubra. And to think that I was worried it wouldn't reseed this year... good thing I didn't find another packet to buy! I think that these babies will look lovely in the bed with drumstick alliums, baptisia australis, 'Lacinato' kale and asclepias tuberosa, so I'll be moving a few of them soon.

The last mess is really the worst kind--one of my own making. I bought a little quart of lysimachia ciliata, aka fringed loosestrife, at a local Master Gardener plant sale last year. The gardener who brought it assured me that it isn't a problem in her garden at all. Frankly, I detected some attitude in her voice while she answered my questions... at one point, she kind of looked down her nose at me and said in a patronizing tone, "You surely know that this is NOT the purple loosestrife that is a problem in local wetlands, right?"

Yes, I did. I also know that I am not immune to the pull of my own foolish pride every once in a while... and so my purchase was only partly due to my weakness for purple foliage. After all, I couldn't let this woman think that I was scared of a little loosestrife, right? Right?

The loosestrife behaved very well last year and bloomed prettily in late summer. As you can see in the picture, though, the little purple rosettes are all coming up at the edge of the pot that I used to contain it. This may be my imagination, but I'm afraid that they're taking spring's green light as an okay to jump ship and escape the pot. I don't love the plant enough to live with this worry, and I can think of a number of wonderful substitutes, so it's being evicted.

Within the week, I should have these and a few other messes cleared up in the garden. Only when all is moving along smoothly again will I give myself a green light to resume planting and other, more amusing spring projects. If that's not incentive to get to work on my spring cleaning, I don't know what is!

Wednesday, May 2

What Does Your Shopping Cart Say About You?

I have been rather emboldened by other gardeners' recent reactions to my Lazy Bed Construction confession. So much so that I will confess to at least one other odd behavior: When I'm out shopping at garden centers, I enjoy looking at other people's shopping carts and trying to figure out what kind of gardeners they are.

I try to look at the cart first, so I can guess by the plants whether the person pushing it is a first-time homebuyer, formal herb gardener, die-hard veggie grower, someone who has to have the latest variety of everything, or a shade gardener with a huge hosta addiction.

I rarely do find out whether I'm wrong or right in my assumptions, but the fun is in playing the game anyway. It's not about making judgements--there is no condemnation in my thoughts--but rather about idle curiousity and a love of imagining other people's gardens. (That cute young couple with the lovely Japanese maple... will it be planted under the window of what they hope will become their first child's bedroom?)

Of course, I play the game with my own cart, too. What does my shopping cart say about me?

I think that this one definitely gives away a few things: 1) I'm a fairly eclectic gardener, meaning that I don't have just one set garden style. 2) I'm not a typical plant snob, as evidenced by the purchase of groundcover sedums and "lowly" herbs like thyme, rosemary, and lemon verbena. 3) I am a huge foliage freak. See the 'Royal Glissade' and 'Palisandra' coleus, carex flagellifera, 'Gage's Shadow' perilla, 'Silver Falls' dichondra, pennisetum rubrum, sedum cauticola, etc.

I may be the only person who plays my little game, but I bet that almost all of us have looked down at our carts as we're waiting in line at the garden center and wondered: "What does this little collection of plants say about me?"