Sunday, June 14, 2009

Weigela Envy

My Mom has a variegated Weigela that has to be 5 years old if its a day, and despite its Sun/part shade position and never having been pruned, it is gorgeous - just loaded with bright pink sweet smelling tubular flowers. A showstopper. My husband, who generally is appreciative, but silent on my gardening efforts, handed me a bloom during a recent visit, and said, "We gotta get one of these! Or a few!" That's about the incentive I needed to stop at the garden center.

I didn't tell him that we already have a Weigela Midnight Wine cultivar in our landscape. Midnight Wine is a dwarf of Wine and Roses, and I have used mine for its interesting foliage. Though it does bloom hot pink, it hasn't been a great bloomer for me. The lack of blooms could be because I've moved it twice in 3 years and still haven't found the ideal spot for it. It still gets too much shade.
But as I mentioned, I was given permission - no, instructed - to purchase one of these things. So off I went. Though I didn't find the 'Variegata' that my mum has, I did find two plants that looked really healthy; Weigela Dark Horse (below from Planthaven's website) and Shining Sensation (above photo from Novalis' flickr site). Dark Horse has almost maroon foliage, with striking lighter green veins while Shining Sensation's foliage starts green, and matures to a dark red. Its leaves have a polished leathery sheen hence the 'shining' in the name.
I plunked the Shining Sensation in a key spot at the top of the deck - I'm hoping at maturity that it will offer some screening. Its from Novalis' "Plants that Work" line and it claims to 'work' in the shade. The deck is the shade, so we'll see. The Dark Horse, a relative dwarf compared to the Sensation, is offering a nice color contrast to the Quick Fire Hydrangea in the new back garden.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mystery Plant

Ok, so I was snookered, I'll admit it, by the garden club member who told me, 'it's pink blooms will sway in the breeze after all the other perennials are done.' All she had to tell me was that it will extend my growing season an itsy bit more into September, and my fingers were on their way to my wallet, but then she said into October... and I said "SOLD!" My caish plunked down based mainly on the lure of a longer growing season. Now that the hot moment has passed, I am the proud owner of not 1, not 2, but 3 (!) plants whose name I don't know or can't remember (possibly early stage Alzheimers -- I'm 36 -- or lack of sleep is at play, I'm not sure which). What I do know is that it blooms in part shade in September and grows to about 2 feet tall, has pink blooms, and reproduces via runners. I was told it isn't invasive, and liked the acidic soil that she had it planted in - it came with pine needle compost. She might have called it Oriental ivy, but I can't find anything like that on the web. Here's a photo of my plant. It seems to like its new home in my new back garden. Anyone know what the mystery plant is? I'd like to know what I bought...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Surprises and New Adventures

First off, I have to say things seem to be moving slowly this year. We've had a fairly mild spring with a few exceptions, and so without a burst of heat, outside of the iris and azalea, things have been slow to bloom. However, there are some things that are now starting to pop.

Surprise! My blanket flower (gaillardia) is back. Initially, I thought it might be random Coreopsis - had to wait for a bloom to see what it was - when it popped red, knew it was the blanketflower. I think it is the 'burgundy' strain, but am not sure. I planted it two years ago, but it didn't return last year. At all. I didn't even list it in the plant file because I thought it had been frosted to death since it's out in the front unprotected from wind -- and it wouldn't be the first thing that didn't come back from a New England Winter. This plant pretty much took over my garden the first year I planted it, with hundreds of red blooms from planting through frost. So much so that my sister made me cut it back -- too crazy she said. Anyhow, here it is just blooming - Welcome back.

New adventures - I have a few to share. First, foxglove. Swampgardener gave me a seedling last year. I didn't think much of it - but this year it has been a strong grower. It is now in full bloom - see right. At 4 feet tall, I think it has a bit of Venus Fly Trap sense to it - and I'm constantly chasing my 16 month old away from it. So pretty, and yet so menacing. Did I mention it's poisonous?

I am trying out a couple of fuzzy foliage plants. Rose Campion, the pink variety, was one of my Garden Club purchases. A $3 bargain, it seems to have taken hold, though this is what is will look like (left - from Univ of Ill. Website) and this is what mine looks like now (below right) cross fingers. Around for hundreds of years, the rose campion is hardy to zone 3 and likes moist soil. Though it apparently is a reseeder, folks online are recommending staking (yuck) and oh yeah, it needs to be cut back for reblooming. I gots me a bargain! It's in the new back garden - where, after failing with the veggies last year, I decided I wasn't quite ready to relinquish the spot to the pachysandra. I've tried to find some things that work well in part shade; in addition to the RC, I added some variegated Hosta, Siberian Iris, a mystery plant (whole separate post) and a new 'Quick Fire' Hydrangea. See image below. I couldn't resist it in a troll through a new found local garden center. It was a "proven winner" variety, which I find consistent, and it already has bunches of blooms. Here is what it will look like in a few weeks (hey, I can dream!) courtesy of WFF.

I also put some lambs ear - looks very similar to the rose campion - out front after a mis-planting in deep shade - thanks Sis! It is perking up a bit, and from what I read, it can be an invasive speader, so I'll keep an eye on it.

I also planted the border around the deck - with a goal to hide the side of the rectangle that is our deck -- with some hosta, impatiens, and coleus for some mid-Summer color. Here's the view from the ground.

So my last add to this post is a question - more a call for advice - this hosta (strain unknown) was doing wonderfully in the sunny front yard until this year when something (!) started eating it from the bottom up. I'm not talkin' bugs, I'm talkin' beastie. Here's what it looks like now, and what it can look like - this healthy one is half a yard away in an area close to the house. I'm tempted to use moth balls to deter the bugger, but I'm not sure the plant will ever be the same. Any suggestions are welcome - short of a shotgun.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Hmmm not so much...

Yes, I am your typical garden blogger, one post every 6 months. But the long dryspell is over people! It's spring in Pepperell and that's means garden blogging time.

So the seeds... yeah, not so much.

In March I finally hopped to it and planted my seeds in the basement greenhouse garden, and surprise! They grew. I hardened most of the babies off on my front porch over the last few weekends, mostly pleased at my meager success. Though I decided to leave the impatiens in the basement greenhouse to absorb a few more tender florescent hours.
Next week, when bringing them to the light of day of my kitchen, I tried to carry two trays up my awkward basement stairs. Mistake! Wrangling the trays through the door, I spilled the whole flat of seedlings all over my kitchen floor -- one of the few times I was thankful that the floor is faux brown marble. 2 months of tender shoots glared at me from the floor, accusing me (rightly) for my rushing, quick-push-the-door-open-with-my-foot, haste. I can tell you I owe quite a few dollars to the swear jar for that. So in addition learning that next year I need; more light, more plant food, more water to be successful, I also need more patience.

So after that, I marched right out to the nursery and purchased two more flats of impatiens to replace the ones I flattened. Here's a photo of the impatiens after planting.
I shopped the Pepperell Garden Club's annual sale this past Saturday. There was quite a bit of packaged stuff, and not as much stuff clearly dug from someone's garden as I would have thought. I would have liked more tags on the plants for sale, but then I probably would have bought more, so it worked out. As it is, I picked up about 5 plants for $20 bucks - not bad - among them a Rose Campion - I liked the fuzzy light green foliage, some plant that sends off runners and blooms in September in part shade (see my tagging issue?) and a variegated 'assorted' hosta to add to my collection.
The lilac tree and yellow Iris are popping (see above), and our first lavender iris bloomed this weekend. Things seem a little behind this year, I remember the Iris in full bloom Mothers day 2008, and this year things are just heating up the weekend after. So much for global warming.

Until next time, I leave you with my lone lavender bearded.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Let it Snow...?

My husband and I trade off on the weekends to be the one to get up with the kids, and let the other stay in dreamland just a little (glorious) bit longer. Today was my turn to "sleep-in". When I was kid-free it wasn't uncommon to wake up in the afternoon on a weekend. Now, if I snooze til 8, it's sleeping late. And if I'm feeling really decadent, maybe I'll let hubbs handle the kiddies till 9. However, my sleep was fouled by the base rumble of the plow-guy seemingly trying to take up a little bit of asphalt with the snow he was plowing just outside my window. I think I was more annoyed by the realization that it had snowed enough for a plowing, and not that I missed out on sleeping until 8:30. Since the ice storm December 13th, it seems like every fifth day we're getting another wallop of the white stuff.
In hilly Pepperell, we have 2-feet in a few places. To give you a sense of the depth, I took a photo of snowfall outside our living room, where it's about 15". I put the pillow in the frame to give a depth perspective.

A few weeks ago, I read in the Boston Globe's 'Ask the handyman' column a suggestion about using your leaf blower to clear light dusty snowfall instead of pulling out the snowblower or, horrors, the shovel. At the time I thought, gee that sounds like a great idea, and I shared it with my resident snow handler. I am pleased to report that it works very nicely with the fluffy stuff, (heavy wet stuff, not so much) and lately it's been so cold that that the good skiing snow is th only kind we've gotten. Knock wood. Hubby with the bad back now prefers this snow removal method above all others. Here he is clearing the walk today. Hardworking and a snappy dresser too. I'm a lucky girl.

I am pleased to report that I took the first steps toward the basement grow room today. I cleaned it. Taa Daa. Here is what I hope will be my "before" photo. I have to share that the local hardware store people laughed (after we left of course) when we asked if they stocked seed-growing-kits. And I quote, "Uh, it's January. We don't typically stock that stuff 'tul Spring", in the unmistakable tone of; 'you Idiot.'

I can't help it, I can't wait.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

My 'To Do' List for 2009

I do have all kinds of plans - it might be premature to call them a 'to-do' list. A plan seems so much more innocuous. So here are my plans for my (and my hubbs) spare time this year.

1. Clear the scraggly brush in the front yard, open it up to more sunlight.
1.a. Consider the area for a veggie garden.

2. Pick up the leaves, spread the remainder of the mulch from last year. Order more.

3. Take the cut tree detritus in the wooded lot to the dump.

4. Put up a screen in the side yard *combination vegetation and fencing.

5. Widen the front walk beds.

6. Start annuals from seed in the basement.

7. Direct sow annuals from seed *based on cultivar tolerance.

8. Finish the floating deck.8.a. Lay out a patio at the base.

9. Move the playset.

10. Research the best time to move dogwood trees. Move the trees.

11. Create a rainwater collection system.

12. Clean up the compost area and use it more often.

13. Fix the parking area, layout with crushed stone.

14. Create walk from driveway to front porch.

15. Move the evergreen shrub from the front bed.

16. Grow the shade beds.

Of course there are the non-gardening plans that surround getting in shape and losing that baby weight, but I won't bore you with all that crud. Gardening and home improvements seem so much easier and controllable. As for the controllable stuff, I'm sure this is just the tip of the iceberg, and I'm sure there will be more to come.

Next...adventures in seed. I'm determined; plan item #6 is soon to be checked off.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

I Will Buy Local

It's January 3rd, the ground is snowcovered, and below that, frozen solid to a depth of at least 12 inches, with a bitter windchill (think zero) in the air. Yet here I am thinking about my gardens. My thoughts are fueled by two of my favorite idea generators; the White Flower Farm Spring Catalog and the March 2009 issue of Horticulture Magazine. The latter comes with a cover article entitled, "Ready for Spring". To which I reply, "Hell, Yes" followed by an even louder, "Hell, NO!"

Hell, Yes. I am ready to see green, not white, although technically we only began winter just over 10 days ago. And Hell, NO. I am not ready, because I have planned little and prepared even less.

Last year I went a little nuts between January and March, ordering, ordering, ordering from several catalogs. When the plants started flowing in the spring it was fun, but I have to admit when the seventh box of plants arrived in as many days, I was a little daunted when my husband turned to me and said, "um, where are you going to put all this stuff?" My answer, "I dunno. I'll find homes for everything" didn't really thrill him. My attitude is there are never too many gardens and there is always too much lawn. But what he heard in my response was a weekend of watching the kids while I garden. And he was wrong; it was more like two weekends.
This year, I have vowed to stay away from mail order despite the temptation and buy local instead. Come April and May, (seems a long time from now) I'm hoping to check out The Nashoba Valley Garden Center in Pepperell, Littleton's Cataldo Nursery, various Hollis, NH farm stands, and the Pepperell Garden Club's annual sale. I also am hoping to stay more on task and make a list of the plants that I need to fill in, instead of the "that looks cool" bug that I fall prey to every time I walk through the door of one of these fabulous places.

I have also realized (duh, as mentioned in other posts, the realtor's description was 'wooded lot') that I have a shade-heavy property, and yet, I am drawn to buy every more full sun plants. Which leads to ever more lawn shrinkage - again, a bad thing? naa - but I tend to ignore our vast tracts of shade and leave them just that; green and shady. Not this year I say! If ever there was a resolution I could follow, it is this; I will buy 2 shade plants for every one full sun plant that I fork $ over for. That way I can actually enjoy some color in my back yard, instead of having to traverse to the front of the house for a sighting of pink, yellow, or crimson.

Next...a to-do list.

Local Nurseries I've used