Wednesday, June 29

The Secret Perks of Garden Center Workers

For quite a few different reasons, I have been pondering the end of my part-time job at a local garden center. I would miss the additional project money... and yes, I would miss the employee discount... but it may be time to move on to a normal, 1-job life in the not-so-distant future. That got me to thinking about how there are other perks to working at a garden center, and I'm not sure whether other gardeners are aware of them. (Warning: You all might want to go out and get a second, seasonal job after reading this!)

First and foremost, we often get to "rescue" plants... which is code for "taking plants home for free." Sometimes, we do this to see just what a plant will and won't "snap out of" so we know whether it's worth trying to rehab in our "plant hospital" and sell.

Other times we do this as more of a personal challenge. See the dahlias in the photo above? They were throwaways, done blooming and pretty battered from weeks of languishing inside the greenhouse, unpurchased. Weeks (of fresh air, watering, and TLC) later, they have glossy, healthy foliage and new blooms, and are threatening to take over the lemongrass.

When this pot of blue plumbago came in with a shipment of tropicals, it had just one small green leaf at the base of 4 or 5 long, fried brown stems. It looked worse than Charlie Brown's Christmas tree, and even I questioned my sanity at bringing home such a large pot of dead plant... but I couldn't resist the thought of a free plumbago. Fast forward two weeks, and there's so much new green growth that I almost feel like I should bring it back so the store can sell it!

And then there's the plant access.  We find out about all of the sales first (well, depending on which day of the week you happen to be on the schedule) and see what's put into clearance first.  And, yes, we often set aside new or choice plants when they come in. Like the pretty, new-to-me 'Silver Cascade' dusty miller that I picked up this past weekend. Or the only 2 smaller (and thus, cheaper) pots of the variegated 'Bengal Orange' bougainvillea (above) that came in, but went straight to our personal stashes instead of out to the floor.

Last, but not least, most decent garden centers will allow you to return or exchange plants in good condition within a short time of your original purchase... but those rules are a little bit more lenient for us. I have exchanged so many half-flats and 4" fancy annual pots over the years that I've lost count. Sometimes because I find that I have too many of one thing and not enough of another... but often, it's just because I see something come in that I like better. For example, I had originally bought two pots of the 'Rose' portulaca that you see above, but I exchanged one a couple of weeks later when I saw the prettier 'Scarlet' (below) make an appearance.  (And no, they didn't make me show my receipt, either!)

That's probably more than enough dishing for today, so I'll end my little tell-all with this:  Of all of the perks that working part time at a garden center includes... the one I would miss the most is the interaction with other gardeners.  It's FUN for me to meet people like the guy who digs up 8ft palm trees every fall and stores them on sawhorses in his basement, carefully turning them a quarter of a turn every day. (Of course I think he's crazy, but I'm also very glad to know that he exists!)  And I learn useful things, too--I discovered the deliciousness that is sage pesto from a customer, for example.

So there are some secret perks that come with this job--and, yes, there are some pitfalls, too.  But I think that I'll save that list for the next post!  Stay tuned...

Friday, June 17

And A Numbers-Challenged Foliage Follow-Up

This will be my fifth post in the last 5 days. I'm pretty sure that this is a record for me, and I know that I haven't been as prolific lately as I was, say, 5 years ago when I first started this blog. But we all know that I'm a foliage-first kind of girl, so I definitely can't skip Foliage Follow Up!

My front porch is like the Twilight Zone of foliage right now. On one side of the door, you can see the bizarre coexistence of black elephant ear and variegated monstera. They have grown together such that it appears the elephant ear is wearing a clown's ruffled collar! (So much for making a serious foliage statement there!)

Below that little vignette, a more serious-looking rex begonia stands watch as the monstera slowly unfurls a new leaf. I love how the new leaves look like corkscrew twists!

And, just because I have been so enamored of it lately, I'm going to finish with a few more shots of the front yard:

The photos above all show the same area, which is along the walk leading up to my front steps. Any time I get out of my car, I face this area, so I make it a point to keep things interesting here. (And I aim for interesting backlighting, too.)

I also like it that the taller plants (oakleaf hydrangea, caryopteris, purple ninebark, switchgrass, etc.) keep part of this hidden from the street and public sidewalk. It feels like a little slice of hidden garden, which is very welcome on my busy street!

Numbers Challenged: June Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

Lotus vine: lotus maculatus 'Amazon Sunset'

I could swear that the 15th of June was coming up this weekend... but when I opened up my feed reader today, I found a whole pile of Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day posts from yesterday. OOPS!  Here, without further ado, are some more hot-color highlights from my garden this month:

Celosia spiking up through the lotus vine and alternanthera foliage

 Flowering peach heuchera--and a pretty self-sown red snapdragon

'Purple Dragon' lamium, digitalis parviflora, and a few clumps of variegated thyme

 A stray heuchera spike, caught up in the dark foliage of chocolate eupatorium

And a few on the cooler side of the color wheel:

Unnamed purple clematis, scrambling through my 'Bing' cherry tree

 As-yet-unplanted wax begonias at the end of a flat
Oakleaf hydrangea, the nondescript flowers of lyreleaf sage, 'Chubby Fingers' sedum

Also in bloom, but not pictured:
'Red Rocks' penstemon, 'Blue Star' amsonia, echinops ritro, 'Albury Purple' hypericum, nicotiana, 'Black & Blue' salvia, 'Caradonna' salvia, 'Salsa Burgundy' salvia, little-leaf culinary sage, 'Newe Ya'ar' culinary sage, blackberry, 'Sweet Kate' spiderwort, 'Black Lace' and 'Black Beauty' elderberries, 'Gartenmeister' fuchsia, 'Bandana Cherry' lantana, various snapdragons and heucheras, 'Zweiweltenkind' goatsbeard

To check out what else is blooming around the world--or, at least, what was blooming yesterday!--check out the June Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day post by Carol of May Dreams Gardens.

Wednesday, June 15

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, June 14

Plant Crush: Silver Sage (Salvia Argentea)

Last night, I started to make good on my promise to clean out overly aggressive groundcovers (yes, that would be YOU, golden marjoram!) and found a flagstone that I had forgotten... and enough space to plant two of my newly acquired silver sages:

I have long had a plant crush on silver sage. What's not to like?  It has amazing color, large leaves covered with white fuzzy texture... it's just an amazing accent plant.

I've found it only once before, in small, sickly pots in the herb section of a random garden center.  I took a chance on it anyway, but the plants never did recover.  These 4" pots that we got in at "my" garden center last week are much healthier from the get-go, so I'm hopeful that they will take this time.

More photos to follow, as these guys settle in--and as I distribute the better behaved 'Chubby Fingers' sedum around them. (And figure out where #3 will live!)

Monday, June 13


Don't tell 'Red Rocks' penstemon that it isn't reliably hardy here. 

It doesn't seem to know that I have heard from many, many people who have trouble getting it to overwinter.

For some strange reason, it's not even scared of the intimidating sea kale that you see peering over its shoulders in the photo above.

I know it's listening... so you just keep this little secret between us, okay?

Thanks to Steve for taking these charming photos of 'Red Rocks' while I got ready to leave for Game of Thrones last night!

Saturday, June 11

My Neglected (but Beautiful) Front Yard

I knew that I've been a bad blogger lately--yes, even before a friend called me out on Facebook--and I'm a little embarrassed about the neglect my poor blog has endured.

And I know that getting back to blogging requires me to make it through the long process of writing that first post. Just like getting back to gardening requires me to take a few tours through the front yard to clean up things like overgrown groundcovers.

And maybe even move a few poor plants that are being overtaken by their thriving neighbors.

Starting this weekend, my garden center hours have been cut, so I'll have almost an entire day on Sunday to devote to the garden! And I'll have a very willing assistant--who probably deserves all of the credit for the fact that I already have my tomatoes planted, since he helped me out last weekend--so I ought to get a lot of these little garden jobs FINISHED!

And maybe... just maybe... I'll even manage to blog about it.  :)