Friday, June 16, 2017

Taking a (Late) Stab at June Bloom Day

As usual, things have been crazy. I've been feverishly working on expansion of the front gardens I started last year so I have room to combine heeled in plants I moved from my old garden with new purchases and annuals. Soon the yet to be developed patio and back gardens will be calling and I'll have to switch gears.

Speaking of the patio, last night we had a productive meeting with the landscape designer. We nailed down some final details and made an appointment for tomorrow morning to look at stone. Work is scheduled to start at the end of next week (yay!). I'm excited about the design and can't wait to see the finished product. More on that to come.

Since most of the plants around here are new or have been recently moved, not a whole lot is blooming. Containers provide some color but are still partially sulking over the chilly, wet spring. I struggle to find a shot around the house right now where the background isn't a mess. Brush piles, tarp covered garden amendments, idle cars and just plain crap-I've got it all.

So let's stop the whining why don't we and get to the flowers...

Inherited unknown Rose in my new garden

Roses are red, roses are pink. I love roses but they think I stink.

Right smack where the patio will be installed are four poorly sited, struggling roses.  All are climbers and I have no experience with climbers. I had planned to shovel prune them and then this one started blooming. Now I'm thinking maybe with some good soil, plenty of sun, water and compost this rose could be a nice addition to the garden.

Ha! Roses suck you in. It's what they do. Then before you know what hits you along comes the sawfly larvae, the blackspot, and the crushing disappointment of one day of flowers followed by heavy rain. Sign me up!

Papaver orientale 'Queen Alexandra'

Here's another bloom day offering you would never have seen in my old garden. But I have more room and more sun now so I decided a few of these 'Queen Alexandra' poppies tucked between a group of Pennisetum to hide their declining foliage would be the perfect pairing. How strategic of me. I think.

Corydalis lutea

Corydalis lutea took the move from my old garden like a champ. May it continue to be happy and cheerful and provide me with many offspring.

What happens when Allium christophii marries Astrantia 'Vanilla Gorilla'? In my experience, a grove of Allium which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

In my infinite wisdom, I decided to remove some lawn and expand this edging of miniature Hosta into more of a mixed planting area. It wasn't long after I started planting that I discovered the rock formation is larger than can be seen and extends under the lawn.  Any recommendations for shallow rooted plants would be appreciated.

Mixed containers have always been a huge component of my garden.  I'm struggling a bit with them creatively this year but I'm happy with the simplicity of this one.

Heat and humidity melts them so pansies only do well here in the spring.  I usually spring for a couple of six packs in April when they are pretty much the only thing for sale at the garden center. When the time comes to yank them out, I sometimes pinch a few back and tuck them into the sides of my mixed containers.

Symphytum x uplandicum 'Axminster Gold' is one of my top ten favorite plants. I always say I'm going to cut off the flower stalks because they can get ratty. Then it blooms.

Symphytum x uplandicum 'Axminster Gold'

So far no sign of ratty and growing to well over four feet tall in a fair amount of hot afternoon sun. Rain is becoming more scarce and days are getting warmer so  I figure the other shoe is about ready to drop and I'll be cutting this one back soon.

Achillea 'Moonshine'

I brought Achillea 'Moonshine' from my old garden where it barely limped along and never bloomed. Voles decimated some of it over the winter here but I replanted. Now I'm eyeing cultivars in other colors.

I decided it was time to find out if all the Digiplexis hoopla is warranted. So far, so good but ask me again in September. The last time I tried this plant, I bought non blooming basal foliage. Don't do it. I'm not sure if this plant is perennial anywhere but it's an annual here and I learned it needs vernalization to bloom. If you don't see flower stalks at the nursery, don't take a chance.

Veronica longifolia 'Charlotte'

Veronica is a mixed experience plant for me. I blame lack of sun in my old garden but I never rule out gardener error. When I saw this subtly variegated variety at a local garden center this spring I decided it was time to try again.

Orange Calibrachoa in the blue fish pot

The fading flowers of Physocarpus 'Little Devil'

Raise your hand if you love Physocarpus as much as I do? The foliage provides so much structure in a mixed border and the cool cultivars keep coming. You could argue the same for Sambucus but I haven't had great luck with them. They tend to come up strong in the spring then just wilt and die one branch at a time. I read it was due to borers that overwinter in old stems but I always cut mine back hard and still had the wilt issues.

Antirrhinum majus nanum 'Black Prince'

Through gardeners that I follow on Instagram, I discovered The Bunker Farm in Dummerston, Vermont. One of the farm's products is unusual annuals and perennials grown from seed. A few weeks ago we were in the area and stopped by. I picked up some hard to find plants and a bunch of plants I had never seen before including this old fashioned Snapdragon.

A few miscellaneous bloomers:

Phlox glaberrima 'Triple Play'

Sunpatiens Variegated Spreading White

Aruncus 'Misty Lace' (I think)

Allium christophii

Photo credits to Dave for the rest of these shots. He was home chipping brush yesterday while I was at work and knew I needed material for this post. Maybe I'll let him take all the pictures for July <wink,wink>.

Geranium 'New Hampshire Purple' was a gift from my friend Deanne many years ago and moved from my old garden,

Clematis 'Arabella' mingling with maidenhair fern Adiantum pedatum

This inherited peony is planted in a sea of variegated goutweed (Aegopodium) and chameleon plant (Houttuynia) in the old vegetable garden. I'd like to save it but will have move it completely bare root to avoid exposing other garden areas to those invasive bastards.

Dave got a way better shot of the poppies than I did.

So there you have it. Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Garden for hosting is monthly event. Next week I will be attending the Garden Bloggers Fling where I look forward to meeting many of the folks behind the blogs. I'm the token poser, the one nobody will know. With any luck no one will call security before checking with the organizers.


Monday, June 5, 2017

A Garden Conservancy Open Days Gem

On Saturday I took a break from working in my own garden to visit three local gardens participating in the Garden Conservancy Open Days program. Out of the three, Small Pleasures, the garden of A. Walter Kendra, an absolutely charming small garden, was my clear favorite.

Located in the historic district of Collinsville, CT, a village in the town of Canton, the garden sits on a shady corner lot the size of a postage stamp. But don't be fooled. What the garden lacks in size it makes up for in beautiful use of hardscape, well chosen plantings, artistic details and efficient use of space. I was so happy to have discovered this garden right in my town!

The rear patio and garden of A. Walter Kendra

The home and surrounding garden was meticulously manicured and maintained.

This lovely potting area was located in a narrow space along the side of the house.

I was absolutely in love with this screen house/summer kitchen located in the garden

Inside the summer kitchen in the garden of A. Walter Kendra

Just one of the intimate seating areas in the garden

Attention to detail was evident throughout without being overdone.

A small water feature was located on a patio just outside the summer kitchen

More little details

I was surprised to see this happy Calycanthus in such a small space. 

The entrance to Walter's studio, also located on the property. The Calycanthus pictured above is located to the right of the door.

So much interest packed into a small space

It may come as no surprise that Walter in an artist. You can see it in the details of his lovely garden.

Notice the stonework in this garden-the bluestone patios, walkways, stairs and walls. Walter's garden is one that likely looks great every month of the year. And now that I know it's here, be rest assured I will be taking an occasional stroll around town to get a peek.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

April Bloom Day

In my old, mostly mature garden, I designed for late season interest so April was never a banner bloom day month for me but I usually had enough to toss together a reasonably respectable post. Not this year.

Spring arrived late to Connecticut this year.  On March 14th a blizzard dumped a foot and a half of snow on my garden.  Usually March snow doesn't hang around long but the storm was followed by a few of weeks of lower than normal temperatures. I was just about ready to rent a giant blowtorch, when normal weather returned.

With no established garden areas yet, I don't have much but here goes:

Cornus mas 'Variegata' is thriving in it's new home

In the fall of 2015 when I made the decision to move, I immediately started thinking about plants I wanted to take with me. I had many small, choice trees in my old garden, but only one was small enough to survive a move.  Cornus mas is unique here for it's early season bloom (often beginning in March although not this year).  When I saw this variegated cultivar offered for sale in the Fairweather Gardens a few springs ago, I just had to have it.

Even the Hellebores are late this year

I inherited this lovely double white Hellebore with the garden.  

A single Chionodoxa managed to hitch a ride to my new garden

Chionodoxa was naturalized in some of the beds and the front lawn of my old garden.  A single bulb must have been in one of the perennials I moved.  I smiled when I saw it blooming and made a mental note to add some to my fall bulb order this year.

Inherited Daffodils

I brought a few later blooming daffodils from my old garden but also inherited many.  I'm currently battling a plethora of invasive plants in the center section of a tiered rock garden in front of the house. Last weekend I raked it out and started digging out everything except these daffodils that are thriving despite the neglect.

Pansies are tough to resist after a long winter,

OK so I planted pansies in a couple of pots.  In a month or two I'll be yanking them out or pinching them way back to tuck into mixed containers but for now I'll enjoy their cheerful little faces.

Why in the world would someone plant this much Forsythia?

A hedge of Forsythia in the front yard of my new house.

Yes, I have Forsythia.  Lots and lots of Forsythia.  I apologize in advance to any die hard Forsythia fans out there but I will eventually be removing all of it.  Since it's an absolute bitch to dig out, I'll likely start with the "specimen" plants situated around the property and work my way up to this "hedge".

If you follow me on Instagram you know that we (i.e. Dave) are currently knee deep in a back yard DIY tree removal palooza in preparation for the patio installation next month.  I'm hard at work improving and enlarging garden beds.  At times all the work seems overwhelming and I have to remind myself that Rome wasn't built in a day.  I do enjoy the process though and look forward to seeing things come together.

Before I forget (because it's been a while), let me thank Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting this widely popular monthly meme.  With any luck I'll have more to offer in May.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Tetrapanax in Connecticut

I started writing this blog post about four years ago after I returned from a week of garden touring in Oregon and Washington. For years it's been suspended in the dreaded "draft" status. Given that I have little or nothing to offer on the gardening front right now I figured it might be a good time to resurrect and post this relic.

After drooling over plants on that trip, most of which I would have a snowball's chance in hell of growing in my own garden, I decided I wanted to walk on the wild side and try growing Tetrapanax papyrifer in my central Connecticut garden.

If you follow this blog, you know that I moved last year.  Even though the USDA zone map for Connecticut illustrates that my zone did not change, I suspect that may not be the case.  I commute about 25 miles each way to work now which is relatively close to my old garden stomping grounds and it's always consistently warmer by four to six degrees.

Below are just a few of the plants that caught my eye on that trip.  We always want what we can't have, right? When it comes to plants I'm always on the hunt for something different.

Melianthus major 'Purple Haze' was one of those plants.  Melianthus major can be purchased in some of the better greenhouses as an annual in New England in the spring but I've never seen the cultivar 'Purple Haze'. Two winters in a row I had M. major return in a pot that was stored in my detached, unheated garage.  Maybe there's hope in a cool basement because there is no hope at all outside.

Melianthus major 'Purple Haze' with Imperata cylindrical 'Red Baron' at Far Reaches Farm in Port Washington

A second plant I absolutely lusted after was Lobelia tupa.  Just about every garden we visited featured large, well grown specimens of Lobelia tupa.  My pictures below taken at Linda Cochran's garden and at  Far Reaches Farm in Port Townsend, WA don't do the plant justice.

Linda Cochran places Lobelia tupa on her list of top ten favorite plants.  Far Reaches lists it as zone 8a.  Both Kelly and Sue, at Far Reaches honestly didn't think I had a prayer of overwintering Lobelia tupa in central CT even with protection so I guess I'll just have to admire this one from afar.

Lobelia tupa in Linda Cochran's former garden on Bainbridge Island

Lobelia tupa in the display garden at Far Reaches Farm

A third plant that stopped me in my tracks because I'm a sucker for bold foliage was Tetrapanax papyrifer.  Hmmm, somewhere in my travels I vaguely remember reading that with winter protection, Tetrapanax could be grown successfully in CT.  Louis the Plant Geek grows it in Rhode Island. Rhode Island is not that far away. If Louis could grow it maybe I could too.

Tetrapanax papyrifer in the former garden of Linda Cochran

So in April 2013 I ordered a Tetrapanax from Plant Delights Nursery. Siting it was somewhat of a challenge.  I didn't have any room in my sunny south facing patio garden.  The south facing wall of the shed was the next best thing, but with no foundation and part sun exposure I wasn't hopeful.

All went well the first year except I did not get around to shoring up winter protection until well into winter.

Tetrapanax emerging in May 2014

Despite my botched protection attempt, in late May of 2014 a small unfurling Tetrapanax emerged!  It had died back to the ground over the winter but was returning from the roots. Maybe Louis the Plant Geek was right.

I wasn't encouraged though.  My Tetrapanax was alive but it was acting more like a ground cover than a bold specimen plant. I suspected my garden nemesis, lack of sun was the likely culprit but in my overplanted quarter acre garden I had no better spot.

Tetrapanax in my Connecticut garden in September 2015

Much to my surprise, in July of 2015 it came back again but never grew much more than a about a foot.  In the fall of 2015 I didn't even bother to protect it.  At that point I knew I was moving and I knew a zone pushing plant like Tetrapanax wouldn't take a late season move-especially to a colder location.

Did my poor tetrapanax come back in 2016?  I couldn't tell you.  I moved out of my house in May, closed in July and was so overwhelmed with moving that I didn't even think to look.  I'm going to assume it did though because the 2015-2016 winter was relatively mild..

So what did I learn?

With winter protection and proper siting I believe it's possible to grow a sizable Tetrapanax papyrifer in Connecticut zone 6. The way the schedule is unfolding, I won't have a good spot for one in my current garden until fall.  Fall planting won't work for a borderline plant like Tetrapanax though so realistically I'm looking for a spring 2018 planting.

Fortunately gardeners are patient people and I'm no exception.