Sunday, December 28

December Gardening Itch

What beautiful, warm days we've had this weekend! They've left me wishing that I could get out into the garden and do a little cleanup, get some dirt up under my fingernails for the last time in 2008, and generally sneak in a little garden therapy.

Today, I got home from work with a little bit of precious daylight left, so I put on my gloves (winter, not gardening!) and headed outside to finish up a few chores. First, I had some clearance bulbs to plant:

As I've mentioned, I like to take photos of the packages in situ as I'm planting my bulbs... so come spring I can look up last year's photos and know what to expect from the green tufts that emerge. I thought that I had finished up my planting very late last year... but looking back, I see that I beat this year's date by two weeks! YIKES am I late this year... :)

This blurry photo shows the Japanese gardening knife, or hori-hori, that I received at Christmas:

It has one smooth, sharp edge and one serrated edge, both tempered. It's great to use for inserting small bulbs of species tulips (above) and Dutch iris (below) into patches of small scale groundcovers.

(As you can see, anything brought into the garden must pass the strict sniff test of my Gardening Assistant. Once it is deemed to be not immediately edible--i.e., not a tomato, green bean, or strawberry--I am allowed to carry on with my business!)

I had a few other pressing jobs to do in the garden as well. While digging up a huge clump of deep-red-flowering gladiolus bulbs, I spied the little rosettes of new growth at the base of my 'Hab Gray' sedum:

I had neglected to keep my chocolate eupatorium deadheaded as well as I probably should have this fall... so I cut it back after documenting its beauty here:

I had plenty of free plants (thanks to my part-time job at a local garden center) to heel in also, including (3) 'Carolina Moonlight' baptisia, a few fancy heuchera and tiarella, some acanthus, 3 or 4 'Espresso' geraniums, many red sedums, and a couple of shrubs and climbers.

While walking back and forth to where they had been stashed for the past few weeks, I couldn't help but admire again the brigh orange pyracantha berries mixed in with Little Bluestem. I know that I've showed this before, that orange and pink (which I don't even like!) shouldn't mix, etc., but I just can't get enough of this little combination:

One other notable gardening thing: I am trying my best this year to make friends with daylilies. I still don't particularly want them in my garden, but I read something in one of the gardening magazines about unusual plants to force indoors, and daylilies were among them.

Frankly, anything is welcome in bloom indoors in the very early spring... even daylilies! So I picked up 'Bela Lugosi' (I would have bought him for his name only, but I also figured that he would have a lovely, dark coloring) as a freebie and have just now brought him inside to get him restarted. I'll let you know how my admittedly unscientific experiment with Bela goes as 2009 unfolds... Happy New Year, everyone!

Thursday, December 25

Merry Christmas Hike

It's Christmas Day, and as usual my job has kept me from being able to go "home" for the holidays. Coco and I have instituted our own little Christmas traditions, including a hike in the Metroparks... so off to the Rocky River Reservation we went.

Just a day or so ago, the ground was dusted with snow... but today the dried, sun-bleached flower and seedheads were some of the lightest colors around. The Rocky River itself was swollen with snow melt, so much so that the water stretched uncharacteristically from bank to bank:

On warmer walks, the dog often gets to splash in the river to cool herself down, and amuses me by snapping at the top of the water to take drinks. (Yes, I've gone into the water with her a few times--and at least one time was NOT of my own volition! lol.) For example, Coco usually ambles down this old ford (I think that's what it is, anyway) where fisherman can often be found, to take a drink and get her feet wet...

... but not today! It was a brisk 25 degrees, and as you can see by the roiling on the downstream side of the ford, the flooded river was very fast:

Since water fun was not to be on this hike, we took the time to sniff every log, stump, and leaf... and catalog a few of the more interesting ones in photo form. We saw delicate little fungus sprinkled across the north side of this rotting sapling:

We admired pretty twists of tree roots, with the sandy ground around them washed away to reveal their form:

We cringed at obvious clues that some people who visit the metroparks have no respect for nature:

We were tempted to take our gloves off and touch a few of the bigger, more substantial shelf fungus, which look like they would feel soft and velvety:

And we wondered what would result from a few of the interesting seedpods that were scattered atop the quilt of maple, oak, and other leaves on the forest floor:

Deeper in the woods, where the rain and sun do not penetrate well--and where foot traffic had mashed down the snow--a pathway of ice marked the usual route. Between the slippery surface, the increasing amounts of brush, and a huge fallen tree that blocked the path ahead, we decided to take our cue and turn around:

We were only walking for about an hour altogether--my gloves were a little inadequate, and without the river to quench her thirst, I didn't want to keep the dog out too long. But it was nice to continue a Christmas tradition. (And it made me feel better about how much food I ate later, when I joined a good friend for her family get-together, too!)

Hope that you all had a wonderful, very Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 21

Winter Sun-Standing (Solstice) 2008

There are two times each year that the earth "stands still" on its axis... but I have to confess that I barely notice the summer equinox. Late June days are spent in the garden--or playing volleyball in the sand, or listening to the crack of a turned length of maple or ash connecting with a leather-covered orb--and they seem to flow warmly into the heat of July without much notice.

The winter solstice, however, always catches my attention. It seems to be a time for introspection... for noticing the little details, whether they are of spiny desert plants tucked into a ledge, or the amount of care put into holiday treats, hospitality and decoration.

While we bundle up, Mother Nature lays bare her earth and takes down her leafy growing-season decor. In winter, we can often see patterns that we might otherwise miss, for the distraction of vibrantly blooming summer plants.

We think about the coming year, and mentally lay some new paths for ourselves, and vow again to keep things neat and orderly.

We sit for a while at the window and look out, and then turn our gaze inward again... and appreciate the rich textures, and colors, that the things and people with which we surround ourselves add to our experiences.

And we appreciate, too, even the smallest signs of fuzzy warmth... and the promise of new growth, and new opportunities to keep up our powers of observation in the rest of the new year. We vow not to let this next calendar flip so fast that it blurs the details of our life...

Happy winter solstice! And happy holidays--of all kinds and creeds--to all!

All photos in this post taken at the Cleveland Botanical Garden, December 2008.

Monday, December 15

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day: December 2008

I only have one bloom that's worthy of showing off on this last Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day of 2008. Without further ado, check out my amaryllis 'Sweet Lillian':

Now, regular readers of this blog might be saying, "Hmm. I thought that Kim didn't much care for pink?" And if you're thinking that, you are indeed correct! However, I bought this amaryllis bulb in November and potted it up for my grandmother... who likes "pretties" and who never lets me pay her for things like sewing alterations and door-draft stoppers. (You might remember my clandestine bulb-planting thank you to her from last fall.)

Unfortunately, I ran out the door in a hurry on Thanksgiving morning with a long drive ahead of me, having spent at least an hour or so longer in bed than I'd wanted. And of course, I forgot miss Lillian in my haste. So she's blooming away in my picture window.

A few other things are blooming today as well: the very pretty 'Ice Punch' poinsettia, abutilon megapotanicum, my Thanksgiving cactus (seen here) and an unknown variety of rosemary. Not a huge list... but not a bad list for December in Ohio!

To see what else is blooming around the world, visit Carol's roundup post at May Dreams Gardens. :)

Saturday, December 13

"And Now for Something Completely Different"

So gardening isn't really happening here right now. Not because I have nothing to do in the garden--au contraire, I have Dutch iris that still need to be planted, species tulips to get into the ground, and 4 or 5 flats of free perennials to get heeled in!--but because I have no time. My "real job" gets busy from December through March, and I've been going a thousand miles a minute.

A week ago, I did my last volunteer day for a while at the Cleveland Botanical Garden. They are all set up for Christmas there, and I couldn't resist taking some photos of the amazing gingerbread creations. These featured houses were all done by the same person, in fact... and seeing them made me happy that I hadn't bothered to try to submit a gingerbread house for the competition. First, a rather accurately slouchy Victorian:

And a gravity-defying, 5+ story rendition of St. Ignatius College:

A typical Kent (as in, near Kent State University) brick house:

Check out the detail on the Kent house, btw. There are mini candles in the windows, and the roof shingles are pieces of Wrigley's gum with notches cut out of the sides. And there are corbels under the window ledge:

Another of his houses, this one with Big Red gum shingles (I think) and a peppermint lawn:

Take a closer look at the ivy growing up the walls. They are those green sprinkles you can put on cupcakes--wonder how long this took him to do? And check out the cute little bucket of poinsettias by the door:

My favorite part of this house wasn't even the ivy or the poinsettias, though. It was the very imaginative use of Cap'n Crunch as the house siding! Check it out:

Of course, the rest of the botanical garden was decked out for Christmas, too. There were Christmas trees and a cityscape to match their chosen "City Windows" theme for the year. Even the long hallway was dressed up:

Not much in the traditional decor items could match the coolness of the gingerbread houses for me... but I did really like this particular botanically-inspired ornament:

I will definitely go back to volunteering once I can work a day off into the equation sometime in the next several weeks... I really need the decompression of working in the glasshouse, doing something with my hands, chatting with the fun people who work there, and borrowing books from their library! But for now, I need to get to bed. There's another 11-hour day on the horizon for me tomorrow, and the night isn't getting any longer. Goodnight. :)

Saturday, November 22

Suspended Color

I am SO not ready for this yet.

Forget the fact that I still have some cleanup to do outside. I am simply just not ready for the interruption of the beautiful fall color that I've been enjoying! Some things, like the Northern Sea Oats in the right side of this photo, will stay upright and add interest throughout the winter... but the Japanese maple in the background had just started to show off before the cold removed at least half of its shriveling leaves in the past week:

The oakleaf hydrangea leaves haven't even fully colored up yet, but they are already dry-edged and curling:

In front of the oakleaf, my blue sea kale leaves have stuck around so far--but eventually they will disappear beneath the mantle of winter. This one 'Blue Ice' amsonia colored up beautifully for me, but the other two--planted nearby and at the same time--are still mostly green tinged with a hint of yellow:

This entire front yard garden is easily the "busiest" of my gardens in terms of texture and color... especially fall color. I kind of feel like the garden should go out with a bang in any Northern garden, to help carry us through the coming winter. And I feel like my "public face" front yard garden should be especially vibrant.

I also feel that the gardener/photographer needs to learn not to lean her head to the side when she's taking these long-view pictures:

Heading back to the porch, I notice that one spray of Nothern Sea Oats has draped itself over the littleleaf sage. Purple, golden, and different varieties of regular culinary sages like this one figure heavily into this mostly drought tolerant and easy-care front garden. I use them for cooking, and they look good in the snow:

Inside, the tender plants are huddled in sunny areas, packed in tightly. In the light of this South-facing leaded glass window on my stair landing, from left to right, you see black bamboo, a passalong Thanksgiving cactus, and a phormium underplanted with 'Lemon Coral' sedum:

That sedum, which looks like a softer version of 'Angelina,' is supposedly only hardy to zone 7. But I'm wondering if they just haven't tested it in zone 6 and colder yet, so I'm going to plant a division of it outside next year in the spring and take my chances.

Over near the antique mirror that I have to get hung up, and the old White sewing machine and cabinet that needs to be dusted, are a quieter mix of plants. (Both the mirror and the cabinet are trashpicking finds, by the way.) This area hosts a larger purple-leaf begonia and 'Lime Rickey' heuchera combo, and purple heart in addition to the black-leaf begonia and silver-streaked snake plant seen here:

But there's enough quiet and lack of color on the way in the next few months, so I'm going to end with a close-up of the passalong Thanksgiving cactus. It came from one of my former coworkers who is now retired, and is planted in an old iron birdbath that I was given as a housewarming present by one of my fellow setters on a co-ed volleyball team. The "mulch" is a collection of seashells and a rose rock:

The blooms are so bright and cheery that they seem oblivious to the cold and snow outside, don't they? Time to make the rest of the house feel the same... it looks like it's shaping up to be a long winter.

Monday, November 17

November Questions

Who says plants don't know what day it is on the calendar?

On Saturday, I double-checked this passalong Thanksgiving cactus, Schlumbergera truncata, to see if any of its long, cherry red buds showed signs of opening on November Garden Blogger's Bloom Day. They were closed tightly, and didn't seem nearly long enough, so I didn't even mention it on my post as a soon-to-be-in-bloom plant.

Last night, as I was going to bed, I caught what I thought was a flash of bloom out of the corner of my eye. "Keep going up the stairs," I thought to myself. "It's the 16th... if it is in bloom, you really don't want to know." But today, I couldn't help but admire the full-blown flowers peeking out from between the blades of the nearby phormium. *sigh* (And yes, that's a potted bamboo in the background.)

These other two pictures have no questions accompanying to them, really. They're just gratuitous fall color photos that I took along with my original Bloom Day pictures on the 14th... and since the snow is swirling outside my window, I can't resist posting them:

Above shows the interesting clash of an unnamed heuchera, golden oregano in its acid fall color phase, and the deep red leaves of the lowest doublefile viburnum branch. When the winds swept through on Saturday evening, the doublefile lost almost all of its remaining leaves... a bummer, since I really enjoyed this little vignette.

Below shows the clash of my burgudy grape arbor, the fiery fall foliage of 'Diablo' ninebark, the green of oregano and lemon verbena near the arbor posts, and a carpet of fallen yellow leaves from the mulberry tree behind the garage. The ninebark held onto its leaves better than the doublefile out front, but the cherry trees held onto theirs best of all--some of them are still pretty green, even!

But the title of this post does say questions, plural, and so I might as well get to my second one. I have a little problem at my house... you know that saying about how your eyes are bigger than your stomach? Well, my eyes are bigger than my... windows!

Yes, I have a bunch of sun-loving, not-hardy plants strewn throughout my house, looking for a good home. I can put a couple in my west-facing studio room window, but there will still be a couple of large pots left. I DO have a south-facing window in my attic, however... so...

Can I put a couple of marginally hardy plants, like my red cordyline (zone 7) and bay laurels (zone 8) up in the south-facing attic window for the winter?

I keep my house pretty cool throughout the winter--60 during the daytime when I'm not home, and at night when I'm sleeping, and 65 during the evening hours when I'm around. The attic is always at least 10-15 degrees colder than the rest of the house, and I have a heavy blanket blocking the open doorway to the attic for just that reason.

I'm kind of thinking that the plants would go semi-dormant up there in the attic, but still get a reasonable amount of sunshine... so the only trick would be remembering to water them. Does that sound reasonable? Or am I setting myself up for unforeseen issues here?

I'd appreciate hearing any input/experiences you all have here. Because unless I make friends fast with someone who is willing to lend me some window space, I might be forced to take drastic (experimental) measures! :)

Friday, November 14

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - November 2008

Red, gold, orange and brown are traditional fall colors... but in terms of this month's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, graciously hosted each month by Carol of May Dreams Gardens, my garden seems to be awash in purples, blues and silvers. Like this millionth (it seems) rebloom of the 'Caradonna' salvia, shown off against a 'Newe Ya'ar' culinary sage:

Or the cute little lilac-colored blooms of 'Purple Dragon' dead nettle, against its own pretty foliage:

Or the out-of-focus blooms on my 'Grosso' lavender, with its own foliage, regular culinary sage, 'Black Beauty' sambucus, and my unfortunately-still-not-stained fence:

No longer backed by silver plectranthus, which fell victim to a frost not long ago, but still blooming in purple is this "dogbane" coleus:

And then there are the electric-blue blooms of 'Black & Blue' salvia, against the purplish-red foliage of an oakleaf hydrangea:

And one last... see it there, in the middle of the picture? You may have to squint... one last blue bloom remnant on the hardy plumbago, ceratostigma plumbaginoides, whose seedheads are also interesting:

On the warmer side of the spectrum, there are some red blooms left in the garden, too. And there is also a new flush of coral-and-yellow blooms on the native honeysuckle, lonicera sempervirens, which I love more and more the longer I grow it. Thanks again to Annie in Austin for turning me on to this beautiful vine:

And while the spring-planted snapdragons have gone the way of the other annuals, the self-sown reds continue to bloom. Here you see them next to the oakleaf hydrangea:

And here against the red-tinged foliage of 'Efanthia' euphorbia:

('Efanthia,' by the way, continues to show some bloom herself, although she's more in the cool-acid-yellow than warm range of the color wheel:)

And last, but not least, hacking back the abutilon megapotanicum before bringing it indoors for the winter doesn't seem to have hurt it much at all. In fact, it's rebounded with some more of its dainty blooms:

It's probably fitting to close with this houseplant, as my next several Garden Bloggers Bloom Days will probably exclusively showcase indoor blooms. I'm lucky to have this many outdoor blooms, but all credit there is due to Lake Erie. She delays my springtime for several weeks at the beginning of the year, but tacks on a few extra weeks at the end of the growing season to make up for it. I'll happily take that exchange!

By the way, I'm "cheating" and posting a day early because it's forecast to be cold tomorrow... brr... and I have a lot of work to catch up on after being out a few days this week with a bad stomach virus. So I'm not sure that I'd be able to sneak in a post! But these photos were all taken late this afternoon, so I am fairly certain that all blooms will be here tomorrow. Except maybe that little remnant of a plumbago bloom... *grin*


Also blooming today, but not shown in pictures: The miscanthus I got from Aunt Becky, my 'Ozark' alpine strawberries, 'Lightning Strike' tricyrtis, the red pansies I showed in my last post, 'Walker's Low' catmint, bronze fennel, 'Jumping Jack' orchid.

What bloomed in November 2007, but (interestingly) is not in bloom this November*: digitalis parviflora, the unnamed purple toad lily, 'Hameln' pennisetum, 'Zebrinus' miscanthus, 'Rotstrahlbusch' switchgrass, sedum cauticola, sedum sieboldii, both hakone grasses, both Japanese anemones, 'Hopi Red Dye' amaranth (which was taken out by cold a couple of weeks ago,) 'Merlot' echinacea, any of my rosemary plants.

*does not count plants that I didn't grow this year, like nasturtium, 'Paprika' yarrow (which I replaced with 'Summerwine,') etc.