Tuesday, June 30

And A New Camera Tour of the Front Yard

Lately, my only real chance to enjoy the front yard garden happens as I walk up to the front door after parking my car in the driveway post-work. So it seems fitting that I take you along on that short journey, one that can last as few as 15 steps--or as "many" as 30, if I get distracted by plants along the way!

Before I even get out of the car, I check out this year's version of the Urn Planter:

I tend to gravitate toward hot colors, and this year the urn features a brugmansia (thanks to a cutting from Joe at the CBG glasshouse) that is just now starting to take off. The underplanting includes 'Vancouver Centennial' geranium, a bronze sweet potato vine, purple iresine, golden creeping jenny (not seen--it's spilling out the back) and a 'Tequila Sunrise' callibrachoa that was recently pinched back (hence not in bloom.)

When I first get out of the car, my view of the front yard garden is hidden by the corner of the porch, and the end of a 6ft long stand of bronze fennel:

The contented buzz of parasitic wasps and various bees often greets me here, as they busily flit around the fennel. Lately my eye is drawn toward the newly-planted purple ninebark, which replaced the front-yard focus of my love-hate affections, the doublefile viburnum.

Rounding the corner, I usually look first to see whether the 'Summerwine' achillea is blooming yet. I love the way the feathery yarrow foliage combines with the bergenia, the rock, and the sedums in front of it:

The wispy brown blades in the foreground are carex flagellifera, which I grew last year in my chimney tile planters and then planted out in the fall to see if they might overwinter. One did, but it's not very vigorous... carex buchanii seems to be the sturdier bronze sedge here in my yard.

Taking a long view from this vantage point, you can see that I have a lot of plants crammed into this little garden--which I think of as the "Porch Corner Garden"--along with a trashpicked black milk can that sits in the dry corner:

From top to bottom in the photo above: Northern Sea Oats with a mini-leaf culinary sage and 'Angelina' sedum at its feet, 'Obsidian' (which despises me for putting it in afternoon sun and pays me back by requiring constant deadleafing) and a peach-leaf heuchera whose name escapes me, white-flowering 'Chubby Fingers' sedum album, the yarrow and the bergenia mentioned above, and the silver leaves of Elephant's Ear kalanchoe, a native of Madagascar that reminds me of the glasshouse biome in which I volunteer at the Cleveland Botanical Garden.

Turning to my left, I admire the ever-changing "Sharp Corner garden," where tough plants like lavender, sage, sea kale, variegated iris and yucca, and oakleaf hydrangea thrive:

I particularly love the way the wavy sea kale leaves seem to imply movement--they practically dance their way through the other plants:

Real movement does happen here, as well, thanks to the carex buchanii. I think that having the tough, squatty, and seemingly immovable hens and chicks at its feet really highlights the airy nature of the sedge when the wind tosses its blades around carelessly:

There are many colors of sempervivum here, including a pretty one that appears to be covered with spiderwebs of cotton. Some of them have started to bloom, and I can't wait until they become one tight mass of rosettes in this corner.

Picking my eyes up from the hens and chicks, which I always seem to bend down to inspect, I catch sight of the rest of the front sidewalk garden:

My eye travels along the pathway and stops at the Japanese maple, admiring its dark beauty. I sometimes think about how nicely the Spanish foxglove (digitalis parviflora) and bronze sedge pick up the orangey tones in the 'Amber Waves' heuchera at the foot of the maple, or wonder just how many different leaf colors I have crammed into this small space...

I alternately fail to see the empty pots and catmint debris in the scene above, or look at them and think, "Ah, yeah, I need to get that cleaned up," with a quick pang of "What must the neighbors think?!" guilt. But soon my attention is distracted by the nouveau-prairie feel of the 'Hameln' pennisetum, foxglove spires, 'Black & Blue' salvia, and golden oregano:

I have to walk past this section and look past the ninebark to see the recently cutback catmint (a passalong, but probably 'Walker's Low') still blooming away next to the unnamed miscanthus from my aunt's garden:
In front (to my view, anyway) of the miscanthus, a lemon thyme is blooming next to a heuchera that came with the yard. (Three of these heuchera, the Japanese maple, and the rhododendron in the back yard are all that remain of the original landscaping here.)

From here, I sneak a peak over the purple ninebark branches, back at the sea kale corner... and see that from this angle, you don't really notice the spacing between the plants:
No wonder my next-door neighbor said, "Time to tame the jungle?" When she caught me pulling a stray weed in my front yard the other day!!!

She probably isn't amused by the state of my front porch, either, now that I think about it. I do have random bags of potting soil and garden implements strewn about. And a couple of recent trashpicking finds... like this metal chair, which just needs a good wire brushing and a few coats of paint in a funky color to return it to fabulousness:

Oh, and of course, there are the houseplants that are brought out to summer on the porch! The houseplant jungle includes this blooming echeveria, flanked by variegated philodendron, a dark begonia, twisty spider plant, and...

... this pot of a little trailing succulent, which I adore:

On the matching brick column at the top of the stairs is another collection of succulents, including a fun twisted- and yellow-edged snake plant, a trailing lipstick plant, and a variegated agave that's also from Joe at the CBG:

Elsewhere on the porch I have two large planted containers (one with three bromeliads, coleus and Nonstop begonias; the other with black elephant ears, coleus and upright fuchsia), two hanging pots of various mints, a peace lily, a dark-leaf philodendron, aloe, a hanging pot of fuchsia, three orchids, another begonia, Thanksgiving cactus, and a few other random houseplants.

Definitely a jungle... and one in which I want to spend some more time, once this last "busy weekend" of the summer at work is finished!

Saturday, June 27

A New Camera View of my Backyard

So the trip to Dayton last weekend was a success... I got to cuddle my new little nephew, see my family, introduce Steve to both grandmas, drop off some plants and gifts, and listen to the best radio station in Ohio for a few hours. And I came home with not one digital camera, but TWO!

My parents also had an extra digital camera that they offered to me, and I'm borrowing it to try it out. It's similar to the ones that I had been looking at online, so it's handy to have one to test before I buy. I still need practice with it (and I really need to remember to take the date off of the photos) but I thought I'd post some photos so you could see what's been going on in my backyard garden while I've been busy with work:

Blackberries are going crazy this year with blooms.

The little sedum hispanicum (I think) that I put in the "shallowest" part of the "Lock Garden" has filled in nicely already. I left in the beech leaf and my toes for scale so you could see how tiny this sedum is.

Eryngium, starting to get its blue tinge in front of a clump of 'Grosso' lavender. Both were supposed to be moved to the front yard garden this spring... Oops.

I love this little clay tile planter, with 'Yubi Red' portulaca spilling out the front, and 'Sedona' coleus mingling with a dark blue angelonia behind. (My other tile planter pairs the portulaca with a different coleus, and a lantana.)
Supporting cast includes 'Black Lace' elderberry, zebra grass, flowers from 'Plum Pudding' heuchera, and some spiky blades of little bluestem in the foreground.

Ruby orach self-seeds itself in interesting places--here it's a pretty companion to little bluestem. Ruby orach is also known as "mountain spinach," and I like it cooked with garlic and olive oil. It's even tasty when eaten fresh from the garden, if the leaves are small. That you can eat it makes it easier to weed somehow!

For the third year in a row, my 'Bing' cherry tree brought me nothing but a crop of aphids (and lady bugs, which are very cool looking in their spiney larval stage) and just plain looked horrible... so I started hacking at it a few weeks ago. About the time I got the small branches and all of the leaves removed, I was looking for a home for my clematis Jackmanii as well, and... voila: an interestingly shaped trellis that has pretty bark, too!

I can't wait for this lily, located near the far back fence, to bloom--I can sometimes smell it all the way in my bedroom, and it's a luscious orange color, too. (I want to say it's 'Copper King,' but I may be wrong on that one.) Notice also the reuse of those spiral tomato stakes that are utterly useless for supporting tomatoes.

Yum... Concord grapes. :) My 'Himrod White' has a bumper crop of baby grapes on it, too!

So as you can see, the backyard garden is mostly plodding right along, even without my attention. Tomorrow I should be posting some photos of the front yard garden... maybe even in time for inclusion on the Gardening Gone Wild June roundup? We shall see!

Friday, June 19

Peaches, Blueberries & A Weekend Trip

While chatting with my baby brother Jeff (one half of The Overachievers) on the phone tonight, the subject of blueberries came up. His didn't get flowers or berries this year, and he wanted me to explain why... I think only so he could mention AGAIN that he thought it was completely unfair of me to tell him to de-flower his blueberry last year and forego the berries!

I told him that I have read this in several different places, that you should let the plant put its energy into making roots instead of berries for at least the first year, and that it has always seemed to work well for me. What I didn't tell him is that a few sources even suggest doing this to your highbush blueberries until they're at least 36 inches tall. (Waiting just ONE year was already asking a lot of him, I know!)

To prove to him that I practice what I preach, here are the few flowers on my dwarf peach that escaped my notice this spring until they were past the bud stage and in full bloom:

These were pinched off shortly after this photo was taken, and if he stops and thinks about it, he will know that I am telling the truth about this. After all, if I actually had baby peaches in my garden, I would definitely be rubbing it in and sending photos around to all of the family in anticipation of my first peach harvest! But... that fun will have to wait until next year. :)

By the way, while looking for the peach tree photo, I came across this interesting picture:

It's the spent flowerhead/growing seedpot from my tree peony! I love how the fuzzy pods flare out and curl over at the end. They look kind of like a jester's hat.

Speaking of funny guys, I'll get to see 3 of them this weekend. Tomorrow I'm heading down to The Apartment Dwellers' place to spend the night with Craig and Jen and meet their new puppy, Maggie. And then on Sunday morning the four of us are heading to Dayton for a baptism. (The Overachievers had a baby this spring! I'm now Aunt Blackswampgirl! ;)

This will be the first time I've seen "Baby Evan" since the weekend after his birth, so I'm very excited. He doesn't count as one of the funny guys (yet!) though--the other 2 funny guys are his father, Jeff, and our father, Rick. Both of my grandmothers will be there, too, and they'll both be meeting my boyfriend Steve for the first time. Add in getting to see what my brothers and sisters in law have been up to in their gardens... and it should be a fun and interesting weekend! We shall see. :)

Tuesday, June 16

The Last Camera Photos (RIP)

My boss at work was nice enough to bring in a 6-in-1 device that she had at home... and luckily my storage chip fit into the longest, thinnest slot! So here are the last of the photos from the old digital camera, may she RIP:

Japanese maple underplanted with 'Purple Dragon' lamium in the front yard.
Supporting cast includes Northern Sea Oats, a 'Peach Melba' heuchera that I got for free in the fall and meant to move this spring, 'Amber Waves' heuchera, 'Frosted Curls' and 'Beatlemania' carexes, red-flowering pansies and tulip foliage.

Succession planning, of sorts: As the miscanthus starts to get bigger in the spring, the purple-flowering catmint needs to be cut back anyway for rebloom.
Supporting cast: An inherited heuchera that is sturdy enough to shrug off a sunny, dry Western exposure, a low-growing cultivar of lemon thyme, and digitalis parviflora foliage rosettes.

More succession planning: I hate the messy look of goatsbeard foliage (on either side of the rhododendron) after it blooms out, so I cut the whole plant back and top dress it with compost to make up for the shock. It responds by putting out a lower mound of new foliage, which gives the switchgrass in the front (and 'Hillside Black Beauty' bugbane, out of sight in the back of the photo) room to grow.
Supporting cast, from the fence forward: lonicera sempervirens, 'Othello' ligularia and zebra grass, 'Black Lace' (sambucus) elderberry, tulip foliage.

One of the other "wall pockets," where the woolly thyme was cut back to better show off the sedum cauticola 'Lidakense.'
Supporting cast: Japanese bloodgrass, sedum album 'Chubby Fingers'

This one makes me wish I had a camera... so I could show you a current photo of this area, too! The 'Midnight Reiter' geranium in the middle is absolutely covered in blooms now, and the golden lemon balm has been cut back for a harvest (and to prevent reseeding) which really shows off the dark-leaf geranium.
Supporting cast: The 'Sioux Blue' sorghastrum nutans (sorghum grass, or Indian grass) is already a lot taller, and I've planted a bunch of 'Cocktail Vodka' red-leaf, red-flowered geraniums at its feet. Nearby are some 'Lime Rickey' heuchera, two currant bushes, lovage, and a dark-leaf canna. The whole effect is a bright, tropical look that is deceptively made up of tough (okay, except for the geranium!) plants.

I have to admit that I was overwhelmed by the sweetness of everyone's comments on my last post--I feel very lucky that such wonderful people visit my little gardening blog! I believe that I am going to take my brother up on his offer to "permanently borrow" his old digital camera (he and his wife got a really nice, high quality digital when they got married two years ago, so he doesn't really need it) and I will see them this weekend. So I could be "back in business" here as early as next week... I hope to be posting again regularly then!

Thursday, June 4

My Mother Made Me Do It...

Last night, I was on the phone with Mom when I heard her mutter, "Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day..." under her breath. She took advantage of the next break in conversation to ask, "So, when are you going to put up a new post, anyway?"

I sighed. "My digital camera is dead, remember? What fun is it to post on my blog if I can't put up garden photos, too?" (Let's be honest: I NEED lots of photos to break up all of the wordy mind-wanderings that end up getting posted on this blog!)

"Oh, that's right," Mom said. "I forgot about your camera. Well, you should at least put up a post to let people know what's going on. Some people read your blog, you know... they probably miss you and wonder what's going on!" (I guess Moms never stop being your cheerleader... even when you're 33 and haven't lived at home for over a decade. :)

Since I always do what my Mom says (*ahem*) here's a post to let everyone know why this blog has been relatively quiet lately. And here are the last few photos that I was able to retrieve from my camera before its demise:

The texture of the front yard garden as seen from the porch steps, during the usual lull between tulip time and the start of the spring perennial show.

More texture: The dry corner between the driveway and the walkway leading to the porch. Plants featured here include lavender, sea kale, carex buchanii, and sempervivums. (And now, coral-flowering portulaca as well.)

Can you tell I'm a texture fan yet? Clockwise from bottom left: salvia lyrata, sea kale, sedum album and nassella (aka stipa) tenuissima, with some ripening tulip foliage and driftwood scattered throughout.

Two years ago, I made some planting spaces in a retaining wall in my backyard so that I could plant a few sedums there for interest. Now the pocket-planted sedum cauticola pokes through a veil of woolly thyme, and some of the cute little sedum album planted at its base tries to climb the wall beside it. I love this little tapestry of color and texture!

Anyway, posts from me will be few and far between for a while--until I break down and buy a new digital camera at some point. I will try to borrow my digital camera from work on occasion, so that I can chronicle my garden and keep things up to date here on the blog... and hope that this is a short (and not permanent) hiatus. :(

Of course, I'll continue to post comments on many other garden blogs as well. To focus on the silver lining of this cloud: It will definitely be nice to have a little extra time to see what's going on in everyone else's yards this summer!