Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Needs Work

Overcast and cool today, in the 70s.  Muggy, though.

The Drive By Garden needs a redesign.  The row of Tardiva hydrangeas doesn't really fit here.  They are too close to the doublefile viburnum (Mariesii, that Cyndy from Glastonbury gave me).  The spreading viburnum and large upright hydrangea are going to fight for space.

The look isn't right, the space under the big purple Norway maple isn't enough, and the plants will crowd each other.  The further end of this garden is witch hazels, and fragrant Gro Low sumac groundcover is underplanted beneath it all.

The Rose of Sharon needs trussing up.  The limbs are spreading (splitting?) horizontally and at an odd angle.  I want this to be upright, and I would love it if it got tall enough to see from the dining room window.  Can I tie these branches together?

And the Dawn viburnum needs some serious pruning, both for shape and to keep it upright and away from the house a little more.  How to do this?

The space under the guest room window where the Okalhoma redbud had been is still a little vacant looking.  Jim likes the open view from the window, so my thought of moving one of the Tardiva hydrangeas there might not work.  It will block the window, at least the lower half.

There is a low growing little dwarf corylopsis there, and I need to see how that fills in.  And the pot of begonias is TOO SMALL.  A bigger container amid the lambs ears would be better.

It all needs work.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Rain At Last

I despaired at the weather maps, with the rain storms moving north and south of us, but delivering no rain here.

I watered today, a hot, sticky morning of toting the 3 gallon can to the back hill to get the crisping and drying saplings that I could reach.

I did not think we would see any rain out of this system.

I was very discouraged.  And sweating and wet, and hot.

And tired.

At least every trip past the blooming clethra brought whiffs of incredibly wonderful spicy sweet frangrance.

Then, after lunch it started, and we now have almost an inch of soaking wet rain.

It's still sprinkling, and there is a system behind this one that might deliver more rain.

At last.

Drink up.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Summer Sights

There was a monster rain and thunderstorm system coming our way yesterday.  Torrential rain, high winds, severe storm warnings, we even got a call from Northeast Utilities about expected outages and responses to what was coming.

But absolutely nothing happened,  Not a drop.  No rain whatsoever, and we have had so little since June 25, over a month now.  Just some drips, a tenth or two at a time last week.

Even so, there are summer sights in the garden that are really nice.

Boltonia continues to be a happy camper

Nasturtiums are still climbing into the hollies

Bottlebrush buckeyes still bloom even though the leaves are a little scorched

The purple intensity of Forest Pansy redbud is finally washing out a little, but looks good

I love the clear red of lobelia cardinalis

Chiffon Rose of Sharon is awash in blooms and peeks up into the dining room window

Blue lobelia has been a bright spot in containers

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What's Going On?

Today was a spectacular summer day. Cool, dry, breezy and sunny.  We spent it at the Berkshire Botanical Garden, always a favorite.  It was comfortable --- a little hot in the sun, but gorgeous and refreshing in the shade.

Queen Anne's Lace is blooming everywhere along the roads, in open spaces, all over CT and Mass.  And in the meadow out back.

What's going on here?  The little black gum by the dry creek bed in back has suddenly doubled in size. The whole upper canopy, above what used to be the saddle shaped lower branches, is new.

Remember how saddle shaped the deformed little tree was?  It was planted in 2006, and by 2009 the flat top was evident.

I trussed it and kept tension on the middle branches to hold them upright.  Just a year ago, in spring 2011 it looked like this, with that curved top branch trying to grow upright.

Suddenly this summer it is twice as big.  This is its seventh summer in my garden, and it looks like a real black gum, a real tupelo now!


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Surprises -- some good, one bad

The last two days have been delightful.  Dry, sunny, cooler.  The all day drizzle and half inch of rain made things look better, and the temps have been in the 80s, but it's been pleasant.

Even though we got a little rain two days ago, the soil is still powder dry just below the surface.  I moved the 'Nicky' phlox from the gravel garden, where it was crowded, to the empty spot in the middle of the Birch Garden, and when I dug up the tall, shallow rooted plants, the ground was dusty dry.

Don't the vivid magenta pink phlox look great out there?  They do fill the empty middle, and I have always fretted over the lack of color in this garden once summer hits.

They were too crowded, and were crowding other plants by the gravel garden.  This was too much.

They've turned out to be great plants --- a surprise.  I didn't expect much when I stuck them in last year.  They turned out to be tall, mildew free, sturdy, and real flower machines.  The color is strong, but I like it better out in the distance than I did up close.

The canna has also surprised me.  It's a gorgeous focal point at the back end of the gravel garden. And . . .

. . . . it's blooming.  It has a tall spike of vivd orange lily flowers, and it goes beautifully with the orange of the nasturtiums snaking along the edge of the gravel.  What a surprise.

The following surprise is not so welcome.  The poor benighted katsura tree is girdled.  The bark has come away from the trunk.  It survived deer rubbing, stripping of its branches in the October snowstorm, and now it just isn't going to survive.

Like the linden tree from a few years ago, the bark is actually separated all the way around, even where it still looks like there is a shield of bark.  But I can put my finger in all the way around, it is not attached.

The tree will die.  It still has leaves, although it is not looking robust.  I will need to replace it.  This is so discouraging.  It had been growing quite fast.  I need an anchor and some shade in that spot to the east of the house.  I'd like to replace it with another katsura.

Friday, July 20, 2012

All Day Drizzle

The forecast mentioned only possible showers, but I awoke today to a steady drizzle that went on all day.  It never got above the mid 60s.

It delivered about a half inch of rain.  It wasn't a soaker, but it fell softly for hours and hours, and that has helped freshen things up and wet the top layer of ground.  I'll take it.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Muggy and Damp

A storm rolled through and we got 2 tenths of an inch to wet the surface of things. Temperatures had been oppressive, in the high 90s for a few days, and now after the storm it is cooler. Very damp and muggy, but quite cool, in the 70s.  Whew.

Time to make a mid summer reassessment of the garden.

  • The Karl Foerster grasses have to be moved from Meadow's Edge.  I think I will put them in a line along the patio wall near the faucet.  Hmmm.

  • The red carpet roses are too tall along the edge of Northern Exposure.  And the geraniums are too blowzy at the entrance to the gravel garden.  So, take out that section of geraniums.  Put one of the roses there --- more structure will help at that end of the line along the walk.
(This was back in June, the geraniums at the corner have gotten much larger and floppy.  Pretty, but too much for that spot.  Move one of the red carpet roses there.)

  • Move the other rose back more under the sweet bay magnolia.  I do like the pop of red there, but the two bushes are too much and they are encroaching on the walk.

  • Fix the curve of the garden as you approach the patio, so it sweeps from the walk around the wall.  Make it more of a reverse half crescent.

  • Move the Nicky purple phlox to the middle of the Birch Garden.  It will fit there better and add some midsummer color to the middle of that garden.  It's too big for the narrow strip by the gravel garden right now, and it is crowding the fothergilla and other plants.

And I think I need to make the small curved garden in front of Meadow's Edge bigger.  Both wider (a little) and longer, with something else planted beyond the rosemary.  Simply repeating more Russian sage would be nice at that end of the strip, and give it some rhythm.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Blooming Early

It's another hot dry windy sunny day.

We got a tenth of an inch of rain last night.  Pfffft. Not enough.

A cute dwarf sunflower is blooming by the patio wall.

It's too early, but the dwarf Jim Crockett Boltonia is blooming, looking like a little aster.

It's too early for the fall anemones, but silvery buds have formed and there will be flowers well before fall I think.

It's early for the Rose of Sharon too. It's blooming now, in mid July. Many things seem to be way ahead of schedule.

Black eyed susans have opened up, and these are tidier than the former Goldsturm variety that was by the patio wall.  Those were replaced when they got black leaves from a soil bacteria.  I like these (Rudbeckia fulgida var. fulgida) better even though they have smaller flowers and a more open habit.

The bottlebrush buckeyes are exploding in white flowery rockets. These are right on schedule.

Strange summer.  Hot summer.  Dry summer.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Chance of a Little Rain

Another hot day, in the 90s, strong sunshine, and no rain.  It's been 19 straight days with no rain and high temperatures.

The forecast says a 60% chance of rain showers tomorrow, with a possibility of one tenth to one quarter of an inch!! After all this time a tenth of an inch is going to kill me.  It will run off the mulch.

It would have been the day of the garden class (which got canceled).  Can you imagine traipsing around in the rain in a parched looking garden after 20 straight days without rain?  Ha! The irony.

The buckeyes are starting to bloom.  The big fluffy candles are sticking up every which way.  I'll get pictures of the whole big line of them when it cools off, or after some rain, if we get it.  They are truly large, impressive shrubs this season.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


The garden class and tour is canceled for Sunday.


It was getting too stressful with no rain and such heat and I couldn't keep things up.  I am relieved.

Now I can relax.

I am disappointed, as I had looked forward to this all year, but in the last few weeks I got overwhelmed and just didn't want to do it.  Maybe another time.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sunny, Sunny, Clear

I am exhausted, just as I was last year, trying to water.

Hours and hours of hand watering just wets the mulch.

The sprinklers run, but the grass is browning out, with patches turning golden in big swaths.  I ran the soaker hose under the buckeyes for four hours, but it just wets a tiny little strip that winds under the plants.

The problem is that this Sunday the New England Wildflower Society is coming, and we have had no rain for weeks.  And no rain in the forecast, unless you count a slight chance on Sunday itself.  That would figure.  The forecast up to Sunday is sunny, clear, bright, dry, sunshiny and unclouded.  Sunny, sunny, clear.  Sunny, sunny, clear.

So I am trying to keep things from looking awful.  I want to add some mulch and stake some floppy things, remove the tired containers (sweet peas are gone by and the new canna needs repotting) and tidy up a bit, but all I do is water.  Then I'm too tired.

Here's the thing: they may not get enough signed up to hold the class, so it may be canceled.  I hope it is.  I can relax a little and let the grass go dormant, which it is doing anyway.  And let the containers go.  And forget about obsessive watering.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Hot Pink

Hot, no rain.  There are brown patches on the lawn although we are sprinkling every night.  Sprinklers don't reach the back of Meadow's Edge, and when I looked last night, the turtlehead was limp, the thimbleweed anemone was also limp, and the Miss Manners physostegia were flopped over, looking sparse.

The river birch has dropped a ton of leaves and is yellowing.

I watered.  It's not as bad as the terrible heat and dry weather last year, but it feels similar.  Waiting, waiting for rain, plants going limp or brown, leaves dropping.  And in one week the Wildflower Society will be here.  But they need a minimum number to hold the class and I don't think they'll get enough to sign up.  (Probably will cancel.  I will be relieved.)

Guess who likes the hot dry conditions?  Hot pink sedums and hot pink gauras along the front walk.

I was quite surprised that the gaura even came back this year.  It is dropping its delicate pink blooms all over the heath, and it makes it look like the heath has tiny pink flowers!

I bought a canna lily at Wade's called 'Australia'.  It needs a bigger, more dramatic pot.

Good grief.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


It's been hot and humid, and breezy at the same time.  In the 80s.  Not terribly uncomfortable, but we do need rain, and the sun is strong.

The nasturtiums are bulking up and blooming.  (And the little dwarf Boltonia, but I need to get some pictures of that.  It's crowded in among the nasturtiums further along this garden.)

I think I like the Alaska Mix better.  These are 'Gleam' and are all orange, which is nice, and I do like how they hug the curve of the gravel garden and mound up under the inkberries..

One has sent out a runner and is climbing through the inkberry holly.

It makes the green shrub look like it is blooming!  (By the way, the plumbago is blooming soft sky blue inside the towers, but the plants are still too small to see.  The pretty flowers are hidden in there.  Last year they were tall towers at the end of July, with blooms all over, arching across the opening.  So I am thinking that in two or three weeks these will take off.)

The ornamental oregano, Kent Beauty is looking soft and pink in the container by the patio.  I have two other pots of it, but they are way behind and only have a few paltry stems so far.

I do like the floppy shaggy look, which is actually quite refined up close.

And speaking of ornamental herbs, doesn't the rosemary look nice and full? And I love how the red carpet roses and sweet bay magnolias look. The trio of magnolia, roses and baptisia make nice forms and a nice composition all together.