Friday, July 30

Pineapple Lily Update

Recent storms have cooled down the temperatures here in Northeast Ohio, and the garden seems to have weathered the heat and drought this summer with a few notable exceptions.  (One will be shown below.)  Things are still very far ahead of schedule, as evidenced by the Japanese anemone buds starting to color up, but the pineapple lily is eclipsing all the rest of the garden bloomers right now.  Check out the individual flowers starting to open up at the bottom of the stalk:

One flower was open the other evening when I first noticed them, but a few move have since joined the show:

The individual flowers are very pretty and delicate when you look at them close up:

I like seeing the lily in situ as well.  The strappy, dark foliage and upright form adds a little something to the rolling tapestry of color and texture in the front yard:

In the foreground of that last photo, the powdery blue leaves of the sea kale really steal the show, don't they?  They hold up well against all of the fine-textured foliage that I let run rampant in that corner of the garden, which includes stipa/nasella tenuissima, hens and chicks, lemon thyme, and agastache:

Not holding up so well is this peach heuchera:

The other heucheras have weathered my "no watering of non-edible plants after their first year in a particular location" rule very well, but this one simply fried out.  I'm going to have to figure out what to add there next year to give the spot a little bit of color, and (preferably) some rounded leaves.

Since I hate to end a post on a bummer note, here's the pretty container by my front door with monstera, asparagus fern, lotus vine, philodendron, striped bromeliad, and a dragonwing begonia that I overwintered in the attic:

That's 'Autumn' philodendron at its feet in a separate pot.  This probably looks like a bad photo, but the whole container "feels" kind of whirly and swirly, so it's a fitting picture for this hard-to-photograph spot.  I couldn't get all of the monstera in the picture, but I mostly just wanted to show off the dragonwing anyway--it finally recovered from its overwintering abuse and has rebounded nicely!

Hope that my fellow garden bloggers are all enjoying beautiful weather like I am today.  Have a wonderful weekend!

Friday, July 23

My Soon-to-Be New Garden Table

Don't tell my mother--Mom tends to be a little embarrassed by these kinds of things--but I had a great trashpicking night this week!.  As a result, I am the proud owner of this cool new garden table:

My new table formerly served as a spool for some sort of wire--my neighbor 5 doors down must work with wire regularly, because he often puts spools of varying sizes out on his tree lawn during trash day. This is by far the largest one I've seen, and it's the first one I managed to snatch before someone else grabbed it up.

I really like the industrial feel, the hefty screws, and the handle cut out of the top.  (Side  note: I did NOT use the handle to get it home--there is only one, and trying to figure out where to put my other hand seemed unnecessary when I could simply roll it down the sidewalk instead.)  But I don't like the visual "chunk of new wood" effect that the table gives now, and I want to protect it a bit from the elements.  So I thought about staining it the same burgundy as the post you see in the right side of this photo:

Or maybe I should paint just the base a bright cobalt, to match the watermelon pot above?  That would give me three large, round, cobalt blue things, and I like having things in odd numbered clusters.  Of course, deep brown would make a good backdrop for anything, as illustrated by the fence color in the background here:

But maybe I should try a deep, mysterious purple, like the 'Vista Purple' salvia in that cobalt pot.  After all, I love how Gail's fence turned out.  And, like Gail with her fence, I have the feeling that a deep, deep brown--while much loved on my own fence--is not what I want here.

So how about introducing a new color across that large surface?  Maybe the violet-red of the coleus in that pot, or a deep orange similar to the color of these butterfly weed (asclepias tuberosa) blooms:

A fresh chartreuse, like the underside of that eggplant leaf in the photo above, might also be nice.  Especially if I use that on the base, and just seal the top to keep the fresh wood color.  And then, of course, there's the possibility of using some kind of brick or tile to cover the base--should I even think about those options?  There almost too many choices... so I guess that I'll just be living with this table for a while until the solution comes to me!

One thing I DO know:  If I stain or paint the top of this new table, I'm going to use some sort of semi-opaque or translucent stain.  Because in addition to the fasteners, knots, and other natural markings, this spool has been branded with a serial number, and someone had handwritten a note and some more letters on the top in thick marker, too.  That's the kind of wabi sabi detail that I really appreciate, so I want to keep it somewhat visible.  After all, I think it's fun to have an old wire spool as a garden table... even if I do want to hide just how I acquired it from my Mom!

Late July Invasions

'Grosso' lavender, in need  of a good cutback, tries to flee 'Black Beauty' elderberry

Extreme heat seems to encourage extreme unruliness, and the heat is back up to "extreme" here in NE Ohio. Temperatures rise solidly into the 90s during the daytime, and only drop down to the 70s at night.  Politeness disappears in these kinds of temperatures, and invasions of personal space become even more annoying than usual.

The lower branches of red orach (atriplex hortensis) smother part of an 'All Gold' hakonechloa

Walking around the garden, I've noticed that I could flag a lot of my plants for encroachment. Some are viney plants that try to nonchalantly snake their way into another plant's territory:

Sneaky shoot from a tropical passionflower vine, weaving through the lower branches of an artemisia

Sweet potato (the edible kind) exploring a nearby potato cage

Others are more casual about invading seemingly neutral airspace as they cozy up to their neighbors:
'Yubi Scarlet' portulaca, dropping by to visit 'Opal Purple' basil from the clay tile planter above

'Black Lace' elderberry (what IS it with these sambucus?!) reaching out to touch 'Lemon Boy' tomato

And on a ballsy few, the fine art of subtlety is completely lost:
Unknown squash-family volunteer, taking up residence among the 'Caradonna' salvia

Speaking of unruly things, both my Garden Assistant and my boyfriend looked like they were about to melt last night. I hate air conditioning in general, and am salty about having to turn it on twice before August even arrives... but I caved into the puppy dog eyes.  (And I'm sure that Miss Coco appreciates having it on, too!  ;)  Also, I'm baking a birthday cake for Steve over the weekend--not fun in 95-degree heat--so I admit that having air conditioning will definitely be appreciated by me during that task.

I hope that you all are keeping cool this weekend, wherever you are.  And that the denizens of and visitors to your home and garden are less ornery than mine!

Monday, July 19

2010: The Summer of Fruit

This evening, I noticed a story running on several news sites about the temperatures in June.  They were the highest in recorded history across the globe, and our temperatures here in Northeast Ohio were no exception.  I rarely run the air conditioning, but when they're consistently in the mid-90s for a few days with little cooling at night... well, my Gardening Assistant looks like she's about to melt under all of that heavy Malamute fur, and that's when I cave in.

Thanks to the wet spring and the hot temperatures, almost all of my fruit crops have been promising banner yields.  I had to thin the peaches, and the raspberries gave me so much fruit that it was borderline ridiculous.  Tonight, at dusk, I picked my first peach:

And I already found the first fruit on my container-planted 'Yellow Doll' watermelons:

Guess it's time to start figuring out just how I'm going to support those fruits, huh?  They're a little smaller than a tennis ball right now, but will end up being 3-7lbs at maturity.  (Imagine that there was such a thing as a "single serving watermelon"... that's how the mature 'Yellow Dolls' will end up looking, size-wise.)

On the flip side, the heat and dryness of July has really decimated my blackberry crop.  On a single berry, about half of the little segments have dried up while the others mature.  I still eat them, carefully, but they're not really good for making jam and such.  And the birds and squirrels have been eating my grapes--partly for the juice in them, I would imagine.  The 'Concord' grapes are mostly okay, as there's a protective layer of chicken wire around the arbor that I've been too lazy to remove, but 'Himrod White' is almost completely picked clean!

Hopefully the 'Brown Turkey' figs, pictured above, will keep enjoying the heat and will escape the critters' attention.  There are a good dozen and a half right now, and I would be happy to get at least several to harvest.  As always in a garden... time will tell!

Friday, July 16

July 2010 Foliage Follow-Up

I seem to be spending a lot of time coming and going this month, so it seemed appropriate to show off a few of the plants from my front porch for the July Foliage Follow-Up. 

At the top of the brickwork on the stairs, I have two large stone capstones that are perfect for hosting a mishmash of houseplants for the summer.  Here's a shot of the left-hand side:

I really love the jewel orchid that's tucked between the orchid cactus and the twisty sansevieria.  Here's a closeup as seen from the side of the stairs:

The prickly foliage on the right, behind the orchid cactus, is from a cutting of rat tail cactus that I rooted in the same pot.  The tiny green foliage in the upper left is from some random little succulent that I rooted with the jewel orchid to help disguise the bareness of its base.

Behind all of this is one of two huge cycads (aka sago palms) that I was given by a co-worker at the garden center.  The foliage is cool, but I really really really love their trunks, which look a little bit like exotic pinecones:

These are the things that I most notice when I'm leaving the house.  When I'm coming home, the first thing I notice is how cozy the citronella plant (overwintered in the attic) has become with the monstrous blue agave:
I had actually put the geranium there specifically so that I (and Coco, and any visitors) would have a little buffer between ourselves and the thick, stiff agave spines.  Luckily, the two of them seem to be happy together!

At the top of the steps, I look to the left of the doorway to check the recovery of my variegated ginger and dark-leaf ficus:

I had them in too much sun for a while, and the ficus started showing signs of sunburn.  The ginger became thin and spindly--it can handle more sun, but it needs more water in those conditions.  I'm stingy with the hose, so it's much easier to keep this plant happy under cover of the porch roof.  Plus, the leaves look so dramatic and tropical together as you look down on them from above:

As I fumble with my keys, I look over at the crazy (crazy because I have to bring this whole mess inside in a few months!) monstera container, and admire its lushness. I also like the 'Autumn' philodendron tucked in beside it.  The leaf and pot colors pick up the oranges and pinky-peaches of the heuchera and begonias in the Monstera planting, and the black river rock plays off of the 'Illustrus' elephant ears that dangle above:

That's all I've got for today's Foliage Follow-Up.  If Pam has recovered enough from her Buffa10 excursion, she should be posting her own foliage review and hosting a roundup of other contributors... especially this month, as Austin has been enjoying some unseasonably nice weather!  Head on over to Digging to check it all out... and have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 15

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - July 2010

It's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, and inappropriately enough, my first photo is NOT going to feature a flower... 
... yet!  This is my pineapple lily, 'Sparkling Burgundy' eucomis comosa, which has yet to flower but shows a lot of promise now that the bloom stalk has elevated the bud out past the base of the plant.  Oh wait, there IS a glimpse of an oakleaf hydrangea bloom over its left shoulder--so this photo actually DOES count for GBBD after all!  YAY!

Thursday, July 8

Purple Heart in Flower: Photos for Leslie & Elaine

During their visit the other day, both Leslie and her aunt Elaine commented on the Purple Heart spilling out of my cobalt-blue pot in the driveway garden.  Elaine had asked about its flowers... and wouldn't you know, it was covered in buds that day, but none of them were open!

Today, the first few finally made their appearance:

The Purple Heart (setcreasea pallida, syn. setcreasea purpurea, syn. tradescantia pallida) blooms off and on throughout the year for me, both indoors and out.  It's pretty drought tolerant--although you can see that I had just finished watering it, by the droplets that remain on the leaves--but we get along best when it's placed in a mostly shady spot with just under 3 hours of afternoon sun in my garden.  (In full sun here, it wants more water--and I'm stingy.) 

Brought indoors for the winter, it usually lives on the shady end of my large plant table in front of the east-facing window.  I'm going to try to get a few of these cascading stems to root in the ground, however, and see if they make a comeback next spring.  A few different posters have reported on its Davesgarden listing that it comes back in zone 6a.  So maybe I'll get lucky here in 6b, too?  We'll see!

Side note to Elaine:  Multiple sites report that this plant is usually very deer-resistant.  Let me know if you want to try a division of mine next year!

No-Buffalo Consolation: A Lovely Visit & Garden Surprises

Count me among the garden bloggers who are NOT going to Buffalo, and wish they were... :(  My younger brother and sister-in-law (the middle child and his wife, known in previous posts as "The Apartment Dwellers") are making a big move:  In August, they are relocating to New Mexico!  In trying to arrange a "Sibs' Weekend" for all of us to enjoy before they leave, it turned out that this weekend was the best option for everyone... well, for everyone but me, who wanted to go to Buffalo instead.

So instead of a trip east, I'll be heading west to spend a weekend at "The River" with the fam--and I'm not really complaining, because I know that we'll have a great time, and I'll have numerous Buffalo posts to enjoy on other blogs when I return.  And as consolation, my garden has offered up a few special surprises for me to enjoy this week:

Yes, that's a future bloom hidden way down in the depths of my pineapple lily!  As I mentioned, I would grow this for the foliage alone... but I'm super-excited about seeing it in flower, too.  I'm not sure whether it will emerge at all before I head west on my trip, but it should be in bloom shortly after I return.

Second, the "Mexican thyme" (coleus amboinicus, syn. plectranthus amboinicus) that I purchased on clearance at the garden center as much for its felty, fleshy green leaves as for the fact that you can use it in cooking, has settled in and rebounded nicely.  It looked like crap, frankly, when I put it into the ground, but after some cutting back and some judicious watering, new growth is emerging:

Lastly, but most importantly, I got to have a wonderful (if brief) visit with Leslie, of Growing a Garden in Davis!  Leslie was visiting family in Cleveland before heading over to Buffalo, and we arranged for her to stop by and see my garden while she was here.

I admit that I was very a little nervous about the visit.  Working 70+ hours between two jobs from mid-April through the Fourth of July weekend does NOT reflect well in one's garden!  And I knew that another gardener couldn't help but notice all of the neglect, weeds, unfinished projects, etc.  But meeting Leslie was like meeting an old friend, and I felt like she understood what I was planning to accomplish with the space--and that her "Gardeners' Glasses" were keeping her from noticing and commenting on all of the weeds and mess that abounded, too!  :)

All in all, I had a lovely time showing Leslie and her Aunt Elaine around the garden.  (And although I was a little distracted at times while trying to keep an eye on my Gardening Assistant, who has been ornery all week due to the heat wave we're enduring, I need not have worried about Coco.  She was putty--yes, putty!--in Aunt Elaine's hands, and even looked a little disappointed when I returned to the house by myself later.)  Maybe some day I'll make it to California and get a great garden tour in return.  Now there's a lovely thought.

I hope that Leslie and all of the other garden bloggers who are making the trek to Buffalo enjoy themselves immensely, and have safe travels.  I wish I could join you... but since I can't, I look forward to reading all of your recaps next week--please post early and often!

Saturday, July 3

Forecast: Hazy Sunshine

On summer days when I work later into the evening, it's doubly nice to arrive at home.  Not only do I look forward to dropping the cares of the day at my doorstep while I'm greeted by a joyfully wagging tail, but I get to see the front yard bathed in beautiful backlighting.  Here's what I see from the driver's seat as I open the door:

I sometimes stop and look a while, sometimes marveling at all of the colors and shadows, and sometimes reflecting that I really need to cut back the overzealous bronze fennel that extends into my walkway...

... and embraces the urn where the equally enthusiastic brugmansia is planted:

Looking slightly left, I reflect on the need for some larger-leaf plants, or something else with chunky texture, to finish off this newly replanted corner:

The sea kale, with its large leaves, can certainly hold its own...

... against the 'Red Rocks' penstemon and the trio of 'Acapulco' agastache...

... but maybe I need to nestle a few more large rocks amidst the sea of pebbles and cute little hens & chicks at their feet:

As I turn and l down the sidewalk, I'm almost to the front steps...

But I'm stopped in my tracks by the gorgeous sight of 'Sparkling Burgundy' eucomis:

Pineapple lilies aren't really supposed to be hardy here.  But one of Plant Delights' 2008 catalogs said that they had reports from customers that it was hardy to zone 6, so I decided to gamble.  I'm so glad that I did--I seriously can't get enough of the way this foliage complements the warm tones of the heuchera, and of the bronzey foxglove spires, too, when those are in flower:

Not to mention the way it picks up the bristly forms of the grass behind the heuchera, and the clumps of foxglove foliage on the right side of this photo:

I don't mean to gush, it's just that this is one gorgeous plant!  But enough of my self-distraction--there's no time for that.  One of my longtime favorite garden bloggers, Leslie from Growing a Garden in Davis, is going to stop by my tiny garden for a tour on Tuesday, before she heads up to Buffalo for the garden bloggers' meet-up.  And because of my many works in progress, my garden is NOT ready for its close-up, that's for sure.  (Eek--time to go weed!)

Have a safe and happy Fourth of July, everyone!