Monday, May 31

An Ugly Loss, and A Pretty Bouquet

There was an ugly loss today in the garden.  This photo documents the carnage:

The worst thing is, this is a problem of my own making.  All of those little tiny green never-to-be-peaches that you see in the photo above are the result of me putting off the task of thinning the flowers on the peach tree this spring.  "I'll get to it," and, "Oh, but they're so pretty and nothing else is blooming right now," seem like weak excuses in the face of having to thin SO MUCH fruit.  Hopefully, I will remember this pain when I see branches full of peach blossoms again next spring!

But enough of that. Let's focus on something more pleasant.  Like the way the coloring of 'Matrona' sedum picks up the burgundy stain of the grape arbor:

And how pretty the ruby orach, atriplex hortensis, looks next to the blooming fescue and the 'Clear Gold' thyme that cascades down the side of one of the dry locks:

And how even some of the messy areas are pretty, like the other side of the same lock shown above.  Some of my asparagus gets knocked over by dog feet, and flops into the "lock," gracefully arching over the blue-foliaged silene and sedum:

The smallest of the sedum cauticola 'Lidakense' that I planted in the wall pockets a few years back now peeks sweetly through a screen of Japanese bloodgrass.  The woolly thyme still cascades across the wall above and behind them, and 'Chubby Fingers' sedum album grows at its feet:

Okay, that helped a little.  So does making up random bouquets, which I regularly do when I'm cleaning up things or putting around the garden throughout the growing season.  You cut a few encroaching hosta leaves to free a heuchera, figure that you can put the flowers that you just cleaned off the plant to better use in an arrangement, grab your grandma's old milk glass vase, and go hunting for a few other things to use as a filler.  I decided to include lady's mantle flowers and a few branches of honeysuckle flowers:

I think I like this one better from the top, though.  So I'm going to have to place it in a low spot where I can look down on it, and see this pretty view:

I hope that everyone has a beautiful Memorial Day!

Friday, May 28

FREE Garden Art and Random Friday Photos

Check it out!  I am the proud scavenger recipient of some free garden art.  Behold, my brand new new-to-me gazing ball:

I trashpicked the base on my way home from work one night in early April.  The people who had put it out on the curb had a lovely light blue gazing ball on it for, oh, probably the last 10 years.  I'm not sure whether the glass finally cracked, or whether they just got tired of the base, but I couldn't find the ball on their treelawn in the dark.

No problem, because I found a replacement in someone else's trash on my evening walk with Coco on Wednesday:

Steve was with me, since we rode together to volleyball, and he very helpfully picked it up for me and carried it the rest of the way home.  (Sorry, babe--I know you were disappointed that I didn't let you roll it down the driveway!)  I have an awesome mosaic kit that I haven't yet dug into, so I plan to make it pretty on some random rainy day--and I'll also cement on a piece of rebar or something into the thumb hole, to slide into the base and keep it from falling off and breaking a (dog or human) bone.  I'm very excited!

Speaking of excitement, a few pretty things have joined the excitement in this corner of the garden:

The chartreuse of the 'All Gold' hakonechloa leaves and lady's mantle flowers is a nice jolt here.  But of course, they still aren't as beautiful (to me) as the honeysuckle flowers themselves:

Next door, the goatsbeard is just starting to shoot its white fireworks:

The dog, in one of her usual cool napping spots, opens a curious eye to see what I'm up to:

Since she's awake now, I'll give her a good "scritch."  These are essential, and oft-repeated, when the sled dog sheds her undercoat.  (Yes, ALL of it!)  'Tis the season:

I keep thinking that I need to move the hosta or the heuchera here... but I like them together so much that I've come to a compromise.  I'm just going to clip any low hosta leaves that try to bully out the coral bells:

They do seed all over, but I adore the way the fescue flowers look:

And the way their blue foliage cools down the hot dianthus flowers:

These are passalong dianthus from my Mom, and they seem to like where they are planted in the backyard.  So do the 'Chubby Fingers' sedum--together, they are bent on covering up some of my blue shelves that form the basis of my backyard path.  You have to look REALLY hard to even see the cobalt blue shelving here:

They all need to be torn away so the path can be revealed.  Ah, but that job will have to wait until after the dianthus are done blooming!  The gardener's assistant needs a walk, and the gardener needs a bath.  Hope that you all had a wonderful time playing in the garden to kick off this Memorial Day weekend!

Tuesday, May 25

Gratuitous Photos: Two Favorite Spots

I'm sure that there are some downsides to having a west-facing house.  The wind whips against my front door something fierce in the wintertime, and the late afternoon sun beats down on the porch every summer.  But having some amazing garden backlighting is definitely one for the "pros" list. 

I've tried to take advantage of this location by planting some warm-toned foliage to add fire and sizzle to the garden as viewed from the porch.  Here are a few views of the first of my current favorite garden spots... the little tapestry of texture and color around the Japanese maple:

Even the glowingest of the photos above doesn't really do this area justice.  The peach-y and jewel-red heucheras, along with the Japanese maple leaves, just seem to beam their own bright lights as the sun goes down.  A few other plants throughout the garden do the same, like this purple ninebark that looks like glowing embers with some backlighting, but is more of a flat purple from above:

The front yard heucheras all have a fiery glow, it seems, but the bronze carex buchanii both lights up and grounds the eye all at once:

I've shown photos before where the sea kale, stipa tenuissima, and 'Purple Knockout' salvia lyrata all gleam, too... but when they disappear in the shade, the flat colors and contrasting textures still provide a lot of interest:

Heading to the backyard, evening light means flat color, as you see with this 'Looking Glass' brunnera and 'Dawn' hosta:

Although some plants have somewhat twisty foliage that picks up a little bit of backlighting, and casts interesting light patterns, all at once:

And of course you can always turn around, back toward the house, to get some good backlit shots in these gardens:

But the flat evening light really deadens a few areas of the garden, like the "Blackberry jungle" we're approaching here:

Viewing this photo is kind of like seeing a garden photo in black and white.  My first thought was, "Wow, there is almost zero interest here with all of this fine texture!"  (Okay, no... that was probably my second thought.  I'm pretty sure that my first thought was actually, "YAY! I'm going to have so many blackberries this year!"  :)  I think that I need a few more large-leaf plants, like the 'Sagae' hosta you see in the corner here, behind the 'Caradonna' salvia:

Or at least some plants that have finer texture but a relatively strong form, like the chives that are getting ready to bloom in front of the arching blackberry:

Even these would not be so impressive, though, if not for the fact that they were planted en masse, in a straight line that echoes their own lines.  But you lose that linear echo when you just look at them from above:

Ah, well, there's not much to be done with that area right now.  So let's move on to more successful combinations, like the one in my other current favorite garden spot.  Behold the back end of the grape arbor:

Yeah, I know, it doesn't look like much more than a whole lot of fence on first sight, does it?  But I really like the light-and-dark play of the evening sun in this area.  And I recently trashpicked a chandelier that will be painted in a crazy bright color and hung in the empty visual space here.  The grapes will eventually grow over to that side of the arbor, too.  For now, though, you need to look down for the visual interest:

And I adore the huge leaves of the 'Sum and Substance' hosta, especially as a counterpoint against the delicate-looking painted ferns and the leptinella that meanders between the recycled sidewalk stone pieces that make up the arbor floor.  In reality, all of these plants back here are tough as nails... so it amuses me that it looks so lush, cool, and restorative. 

The ruby tones of the orach pick up the veining of the painted ferns, as well as the burgundy color of the arbor stain.  There are also some 'Copper King Strain' trumpet lilies nearby that have pinkish buds and a pinkish orange streak on the back sides of their petals--the orach matches it very well.  As you can see, this "mountain spinach" is a rampant reseeder... but it's hard to mind that when you can "weed out" the poorly placed seedlings for dinner.  (They really do taste like spinach.)

Edible or ornamental, tough or delicate, sunny or shady.... what are some of your favorite garden spots in the late spring?  Some links to posts that show your favorites would be appreciated for later reading, once the sun goes down!  (But for now... time to get back outside and PLANT!  'Tis the season!)

Garden Update: 2 Surprises, 2 Jobs and 1 Experiment

Two Surprises:

This week's garden cleanup/planting spree has so far yielded two very happy surprises, both in the form of returning plants!  Check them out:

 My emerging 'Sparkling Burgundy' Eucomis, from Plant Delights.  

Most eucomis are said to be hardy to around zone 8, but PDN is very good about posting little notes like "at least," "possibly colder," "maybe colder, with good drainage," etc., on their plant listings.  These notes are based on the feedback of customers who have tried to bend the usual zone rules on a given plant, and encouraged me to buy a 'Sparkling Burgundy' to try in 2008.  I'm always pleasantly surprised when it returns... so maybe this will be the year it finally blooms for me, too?!

Pineapple Sage, salvia eleagans, sprouting up between tulip bulbs.

This one may be a returner, or it may be a seedling--I have no idea.  Either way, I'm delighted to have pineapple sage in my garden again, without having to replant it.  I'm equally glad that I found it before the little herb pot of pineapple sage that I had set aside at the garden center came home with me!

Two Jobs:

But it's been an unusual year.  It's not quite Memorial Day yet, and I already have a few garden chores finished.  The entire driveway bed has been cleaned up for months, I managed to plant lettuce on time for the first time EVER, and there's even a single happily planted--cage and all!--tomato ('Sungold') growing in a pot on the driveway.  All that progress gives me hope that the next two tasks that I am posting about may actually be completed this year.  You can see both of them in this picture:

Task #1:

I really need to repoint the brick on my front porch.  Not all of it, but there are two places where the facade brick has chipped off... look on the right side of the column at the base of my front porch steps, third row down from the capstone, for an example.  (Luckily, I have both of those brick pieces.)  There are also a few places where there are deep gouges in the mortar that should be filled.

I've been reading up on repointing old brick, and back when this porch was initially made they would have used a soft mortar instead of the concrete we use now... and this softer mortar flexes better with the softer old bricks that were made before the 1930s.  Interestingly, you can use hydrated lime (yes, the same stuff that some gardeners use to sweeten the soil!) to recreate a similar mortar.  And since both of the bricks that popped out were in spots that had been previously repointed with cement, I think that I'm going to go the lime mortar route instead.

Task #2:  

Also in the photo above, you can see how worn my poor lions look!  The once-smooth black paint has numerous spots of wear from their years out in the elements, guarding my house.  It took me a long time to come to terms with having to share my abode with these beasties, but now I love them and want them to look nice--and so, the lions require a fresh paint job.  The only question is, what color?  Hmm...

One Experiment

One thing that I love about working part-time at the garden center is that I get to talk with other gardening geeks.  I think I've mentioned the guy who grows pumpkin vines on his lawn, artfully rearranging them after every mow.  But the everyday people--the ones from whom I get things like lemon thyme vinaigrette recipes, and the idea to make pesto with sage and walnuts instead of basil and pine nuts (fabulous with thinly sliced apple and onion on a chicken sandwich)--are the ones who really make me happy.

So when a lady with whom I had been having an on-and-off conversation about various herbs, and who I had decided must be some sort of herbal goddess, mentioned that bay laurel does so much better in the ground here, I jumped on that.  "What do you mean?  It's not hardy here," I asked.  She said that no, it wasn't, but that she gets so many more leaves on her ground-planted bays than she does on her container-planted one.  No matter what sort of container she uses.

I'm not sure what I think about this idea, but... well, I've decided to do a little experiment to see whether this is true.  So check out my two potted bay laurels, which appear on the steps in the lion photo that I posted above:

Both of these bay laurels were purchased at the same time, grown in the same conditions, and have been in identical clay pots since 2008.  They are both approximately the same height, although the one on the lower step (planted with some dichondra way back in its infancy, as you can see) is maybe a little scrawnier.  That scrawnier plant is the one that I am going to grow in the ground, and the slightly fuller one will be my "control" plant.  I can't wait to see how this one pans out--hopefully, some of my foodie friends might be delighted with generous giftings of bay laurel at Christmastime this year!

Well, I was going to post a few gratuitous photos of the rest of the gardens... but that will have to wait for tomorrow instead.  Have a good night, everyone!

Tuesday, May 18

May 2010 Foliage Follow-Up

Yet again, I'm late... but here's my Foliage Follow-Up for May 2010.  I'll keep it short and sweet, though, with many picture but few words.

Sea kale is always a star in the front garden.  I love the way it echoes the crinkles of the purple lyreleaf sage that sprouted below it here:

And how it combines with the blue tinges on the variegated iris, and lavender:

More blue foliage, first a blue-green on the emerging sedum:

And then a different lavender, contrasting with the dark purple elderberry foliage:

Similar colors, but very different leaf shapes mean a more subtle contrast.  Here, 'Sagae' hosta and blackberry foliage:

A gold-and-green hosta, name unknown, with the golden foliage of 'Sweet Kate' spiderwort:

More subtle contrast, this time with the same plant form but one standout color:

Form makes for subtle contrast, too.  Here, the vertical, fine-textured green chive foliage adds interest at the feet of the blackberry:

The last of the subtle contrast photos.  Golden lemon balm next to the foliage of my red currant:

And golden oregano picking up the golden veins of the 'Ivory Prince' hellebore it underplants:

Golden oregano provides a little more drama in other areas of the garden.  Here with 'Northern Halo' hosta and Japanese maple:

And here with a stepping stone (in the spot where the dog tends to pounce, when she sees another dog walking on the street) and the bronze-leaf carex buchanii:

Golden thyme is another pretty contrast herb.  Here, with sprouts of red orach, silene flowers, last year's beech leaves, and a few tips of fallen asparagus:

More of the red orach--it's a prolific reseeder, but when you can eat the seedlings you pull, that doesn't seem to be so bad.  Especially when the seedlings look so lovely with Japanese painted fern:

And 'Sum and Substance' hosta, too.  That's sedum album (top) and leptinella (lower) between the stones under the grape arbor:

The large-leaf hostas are often really pretty with purple foliage.  Here's another unnamed hosta with 'Frosted Violet' heuchera planted next door:

Actually, they look pretty with heucheras in general, I think.  Here's another unnamed hosta (might be 'Lakeside Shore Master'?) with various peach-leaf heucheras temporarily planted nearby:

I said temporarily because those will likely get potted up into planters later in the spring.  This beauty, however, stays put all year round:

And that concludes my Foliage Follow-Up for May 2010.  I hope that you forgive me its lateness--and its length!  It's just so hard to pick only a couple of things to showcase in May, when the foliage is so fresh and beautiful in the garden.  :)

For more foliage delights, check out Pam's Foliage Follow-Up Post... and don't miss other garden bloggers' posts, too, linked in the comments there at Digging!