Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Closing out February

The month is almost over. It is ending with gray, drippy, cold wet rain. A day to stay indoors.

As March arrives, I feel like I have run out of time!  Although I did get all the Inventory posts updated over the winter, and I did some clean up in Aperture.

I did get seeds ordered, and my basement station for seed starting is ready to go.

I did order all the plants and annuals I want to put in containers and in the gardens this year.

I did organize the trees I want to plant.  I have dithered and dithered about putting in a Bracken's Brown magnolia. The fact that I am waffling on it means I probably should not plant one. Too southern, not the right fit for the more woodsy look I am going for here, even though I really love the tree and would like to have one.  Just not sure where to put it.

What I do know is that I want sweet birches, a hophormbeam, blue beeches, all out in the meadow, and they are either on order from Forestfarm or I will get them from Broken Arrow. And I will get a parrotia Vanessa and a styrax to add to the yard, also from Broken Arrow.

I've contacted Bartlett to put in another black gum to pair with the other in the front yard. A big, specimen tree.

Now it's going to get busy in March.

On the 2nd I have a Hort Society all day symposium. Then from March 5 - 7 Jane and I will be at the Philadelphia Flower Show. That should be a real treat, I'm looking forward to the trip and the experience.

Then I need to start some of the seeds.

I will need to contact Broken Arrow to order the plants I want to get -- I can pick them up by appointment or wait until April 1 when they open.

At some point in March we'll start to get warmer weather. The cedar storage shed needs to be assembled, the arch and gate for the kiwi vine does too. The garage needs cleaning and organizing.

Too soon I'll be running out of time!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Bobcats in the Yard

Click the link to see my post about a visit from two bobcats a couple days ago. Jim got great photos.

Bobcats in the yard February 22, 2013

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Bright Bursts of Light

Very cold, in the teens, and we have had blustery winds for a couple days now.

A few days ago there was a meteor that crashed into a lake in Siberia and the sonic boom broke windows and injured hundreds in a city near the impact. It streaked across the sky in a burst of light, trailing a white plume. Incredible.

This morning the first thing I saw as my eyes opened, was a streaking plume of light in the dawn sky.

Of course it was the contrail of an airplane, and I knew it, but I awoke with a shock, a little panicked after seeing the repeated news videos of that meteor blazing across the early morning Russian sky.

Usually when I wake up, I lie in bed watching the contrails meet the morning sun. I get quite a view of the sky from our large bedroom windows, and early morning is a busy time for air traffic here. If the sun is just rising and it is a clear day, there are six or seven pink tinted plumes crossing each other all over the sky, headed every which way. Local air traffic lumbers by, small aircraft zipping past the window, with the backlit plumy vapor trails behind them.

What a way to greet the day.

Then, I open the bedroom door to the living room and see the glorious burst of yellow light from the still blooming forsythia branches that I brought in to force back on January 31.  It's been 20 days now, and all the other branches I cut have opened, bloomed, entertained me and scented the room for a while and are now gone.

The forsythia blooms on. Not a single little blossom has shriveled, no yellow petal has been lost. It goes on and on.

It's pretty exciting around here at dawn on a winter morning.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Annuals for 2013

Here are the annuals I ordered:

Dichondra Silver Falls
For the urn container in the front walk. Ordered from Avant Gardens. I like the cool dusty blue with the red brick and the deep red container.

Nicotiana alata
I had these before and they were beautiful. Tried the green and pink ones and they succumbed to some kind of wilt. The white alata had no problems. Around the Patio or in the gravel garden.
Whiteflower Farm Nicotiana alata

Salvia guaranitica
I always like Black & Blue sage. Possibly in a container, or somewhere in the gravel garden. Ordered from Avant Gardens.

Alternanthera ficoides Red Threads
I like this in the big bowl on the deck with herbs or lettuce. I got it last year at Warner's.
This year I ordered one from Avant Gardens.

Plectranthus Mona Lavender
In a container somewhere in shade, either on the deck or in Meadow's Edge? Last year I looked all over for it, this year I ordered one from Avant Gardens.
Avant Gardens Plectranthus Mona Lavender

Cosmos Chocomocha
In any one of the sunny gardens? I got this from Avant Gardens.
Avant Gardens Cosmos Chocomocha
(Here's what they say about it:
A flower the color of rich cocoa and a scent to match.
Will flower, but not in great abundance at first. Save the enlarged tubers for future seasons, for an increasing display in years to come.)

Angelonia Archangel Purple
I love angelonias, and got some purple ones from Whiteflower Farm. They will go in the front of the Birch Garden and match nicely with the bright purple Nicky phlox. I'll add others in different colors if I find them at the nurseries this spring. They bloom on and on for me all summer.
From Whiteflower Farm

Along with the annual seeds I'll be starting, there should be plenty of bloom and color for containers or for odd spots in the garden this year.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Seeds for 2013

Here are the seeds I am planting this year:

From Select Seeds
California poppies Golden West
(Eschscholzia Californica) along the gravel garden border. I saw the orange ones in a raised stone wall at North Hill in Vermont, and they glowed!

Sow directly (they won't transplant well). 14 - 28 days germinate / 10 weeks seed to bloom.

Shear after they set seed, and they will rebloom.

Nasturtium Variegated Queen
(Tropaeoleum majus) to climb the twig towers. These trail to 6 feet.

I really wanted the pale yellow ones 'Moonlight' that I grew last year, but they were not as trailing as I wanted, really mounders, and most of the seed catalogs did not describe them as trailing nasturtiums.

These might be a tad bright, especially with the cream and white foliage. But you can't go wrong with any nasturtiums.  Sow directly.

Salvia Hummingbird
(Salvia coccinea) to put beneath the hummingbird feeder. I had loved the big stand of Lady in Red that grew there in 2011.

I really have little room there any more, with the comptonia now below the feeder and the clematis grown in.

But these only get 1.5 feet tall, which seems smaller than the Lady in Reds were.  Start indoors.

I laso got a packet of Butterfly Weed - Asclepias tuberosa to add to the spot where I had tried to transplant the one from Meadow's Edge at the end of the gravel garden border.

From Summerhill
Dahlia Black Beauty
These are going in several containers to be placed all over.

I saw these in the annual garden beds at Elizabeth Park, all massed together. They were a rosier deep red, not so chocolate colored, but very rich.

Start indoors.

Zinnia Cherry and Ivory Swizzle
They grow only a foot tall, so they'll be easy to tuck into spots in each garden that need some color.

Start indoors.

Morning Glory Blue Picotee
This vine should trail about 5 feet, and it is supposed to be good for hanging baskets.

I'll put it in the container on the iron stand that sits on the deck, and let it drape over.

Start indoors.

From Botanical Interests:
Marigold Signet Lemon / Tangerine Gems
(Tagetes tenuifolia)

These orange and yellow dwarf marigolds will go in the smaller pots I have, and I'll put them on the wall around the patio.

They are little and delicate (and edible!)  Sow them outside in the pots they'll grow in.

Lobelia Trailing Regatta Rose
(Lobelia erinus)
I thought I'd put these in containers around the gravel garden and let them drape over the sides.

The vivid sapphire color of the upright lobelia I had last year was great.  I'm not sure how this pink will look, or if it's even pink or magenta.

Sow indoors.

Poppies Lauren's Grape
(Papaver somniferum)

Not sure where to put these, maybe out in the front walk for spring bloom.

Sow outside, they won't transplant well.

I also got Zinnia Cut & Come Again, my old favorites, that I will plant in spots around the garden. I'll start these outdoors where they will grow.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Thinking . . part three: New Trees

Here are the new trees I am thinking of planting in spring 2013:

> A second black gum, Nyssa sylvatica, in the front yard behind the mailbox. A match to the one on the right in the front yard.

Symmetry, structure, fall color, clean look. Have Bartlett select and plant it.

> A parrotia, Parrotia persica 'Vanessa', at the back of the Drive By Garden for some screening of the neighbors house (well, a vertical accent, distracting the eye).

Narrow, beautiful, fall color, woodsy look. Small enough for that location. Broken Arrow has a 5 gallon.

> A hophornbeam, Ostrya virginiana, behind the spruce berm, at the left corner of the compost hedgerow. It's interesting, so I want to see it up close, but not in the yard.

Shade tree to hide the roofline of the house on Wadhams. Hop-like bracts are nice. Coarse tree, not great for the yard, may hold leaves in winter, gets large.  Forestfarm has this.

> A grove of three blue beeches, Carpinus caroliniana, out at the road cut where the other trees shade quite a bit.

Screening, a grove effect, fills that corner. Known as musclewood -- sinewy trunks, can be multi-stemmed.  Will grow in the shade there. Broken Arrow has 3 gallon plants.

> Three sweet birches, Betula lenta, scattered at the base of the back hill to fill gaps.

Adds nice yellow fall color in with the maples out there.  I lost all three that I planted in years past, but want to try again. Forestfarm has these.


I'm not so sure about the Bracken's Brown Beauty magnolia grandiflora. I love it, such a gorgeous tree, and narrow enough for a spot in one of the gardens.

But I am having a hard time picturing where to put it --

 --- thinking.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Negative Temps

It was minus 2 degrees this morning. That's the first time we have had sub zero temperatures for a long time, several years I think.

Any tender plants that are 3 feet tall or less are completely encased in snow, nice and cozy in these negative temps!

The sun came out and with all the snow covering everything, and no break in the whiteness from shrubs or features in the yard, it's just a sea of eye-blinding white.

The poor Japanese maple in front is buried!

It will be a while before this all goes away. Here's a view from last night, after the storm, looking across the cul de sac to Olmsted's mailbox:

Roads are getting cleared, but our street is still pretty impassable, although the plow did come through. Dynamic could not plow our driveway and had to have Peter from Bluestone come over with the pay loader and scoop the stuff out.  What a mess.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Yah, we got snow

27 inches, and drifts much higher. It blew and swirled and raged for a day and a night.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Thinking . . part two: The Front

Still cold, in the high teens and low twenties in the daytime. A blizzard is coming tomorrow. Yikes, a bad one, they say.

I went over to Kit's today and took some pictures. Even in winter with all the leaves down, her space gives a sense of enclosure, and it is tied to the house so the patio and creekbed and woods are all one.

Then when I look at our place it seems so wide open.

I got a good shot of our house from her back yard.

Jim and I have long discussed putting another tree in the front yard. The open slope is south facing and gets so hot. It needs shade. A nice shade tree just behind the mailbox?

Here is what it looks like in summer. The dogwood is a beautiful shape and nice anchor for the corner, but the open slope of lawn is too much. The black gum is just off to the right of this picture.

I'm loving the idea of a parrotia for the Drive By Garden (see last post) -- a narrow one called Vanessa. I could put a regular species one behind the mailbox, which would be wider, but still very structured to go with the stiff look of the black gum on the right.  Or simply put another black gum in, to have two in the front yard?

Fall color of the parrotia is golden orange, as this shot from Dave's Garden shows. It holds leaves in the winter, though, and that might not be a good look smack in the front yard.

Could I extend the patch of Frohnleiten epimedium from under the dogwood all the way down the driveway and around under a parrotia (or black gum) planted midway down the slope?

I can get a parrotia from Broken Arrow. But . . .  I am leaning toward having Bartlett put in another black gum. I like the symmetry in front. I like the tree. Trouble free, clean look.

Here's the one already on the right side, last October.

Thinking . . .

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Thinking . . part one: Driveway

It's been cold again, in the twenties F each day. No snow cover since it all melted when the one-day warm front came through at the very end of January. I've been staying inside thinking.

I'm ready to plan the garden for spring. I'm ready to order plants and seeds and maybe some containers. Ready to move things around that I already have.

But I've been thinking . . .

I don't just want to add plants. I really want to solve some problems and make designs work.

So here's part one: the driveway and edge of the gravel area.

1. The gravel garden needs shade. The umbrella shades a single chair, but I'd like a tree in the spot to the left of the inkberries, shading the whole area. The star magnolia to the far left (off camera) will get big and spreading, and the sourwood to the right anchors that spot next to the right-side inkberries.

But the gap next to the left-side inkberries, looking out to the stand of pines in the neighbor's yard needs something. And I need to bring out the outer edge of that narrow border for a rounder shape anyway.  Put a tree there.

I had all kinds of ideas in mind, new trees I could plant.

But how about I use a tree I have? How about I move the new sweetgum to that empty spot?

I wanted a shade tree at the north end of the Drive By Garden to shade the driveway apron a little, and make a terminus at that end of the garden. But now I actually think the Cornus mas is going to do that.  I didn't think it would ever be big enough, but it will be the anchor and shade I need.  I don't need the big sweetgum there.

The little Cornus mas looks like this now but it is growing fast, and I am pruning up the lower limbs.

But it will soon look like this and deserves its own spot at the end of this garden, not crowded under another large tree.
from Name That Plant blog

I had thought it would do well as an understory tree below the sweetgum, but that seems like too much.

The sweet gum is small enough to move.  It struggled with leaf scorch in last summer's heat, but I hope that was transplant difficulty, and that it comes back ok this spring. I think the bright white edged leaves will look good against the far backdrop of somber green pines in the neighbor's yard.

And it is a narrower tree, at least while young. A drama point without being another flowery tree (I had considered fringe tree, or Okame cherry for that spot but with six flowering cherries and pears in sight in the neighbor's yard I don't want more.)

So, no new trees to solve the problem of shade in the gravel garden, use the sweetgum I have.

2. The Drive By garden needs height and screening at the back edge. I want something to distract from the unattractive side of the neighbor's house. I can't screen out the whole thing, but some height is needed here.

The Tardiva hydrangeas will get taller but I need something narrow and tall right behind them. There's a Mariesii doublefile viburnum to the left and behind the hydrangeas, but that will add horizontal mass, not much vertical.

In this instance, I am thinking of a new tree, an upright Parrotia persica 'Vanessa'.

Very narrow although not really fastigate. Trouble free, beautiful tree, I can get a 5 gallon at Broken Arrow. It fits the kinda woodsy look of this strip, and is related to witch hazels. It is reputed to hold its leaves into winter, which drives me crazy, but would be okay along the back of this garden (not out in front in the front yard, though.)
from Learn2Grow - Plant profile
And in fall (from Dave's Garden forum):

Originally I was thinking of an evergreen southern magnolia -- a "Bracken's Brown Beauty'.  They are hardy here, Lee May and others are growing this beautiful tree successfully, although it is at the far end of its hardiness tolerance. In the first years it will defoliate in winter until roots establish.

It is narrow and evergreen and dramatic, but I suspect it will be more open, like the sweetbay magnolia.

I can get one from Broken Arrow, or Kevin at Silver Spring will order one.  With the hydrangeas in front, the doublefile viburnum to the side, and the big Norway maple at the far end, there will be multiple layers as everything matures.

But which tall, narrow tree for that spot? The Persian ironwood or the southern magnolia? I think the Parrotia would be more trouble free, more in keeping with the look of the plantings there, letting the Elizabeth magnolia be the one "exotic" point.  The magnolia would offer winter screening, though.

Thinking . . .

Saturday, February 2, 2013


✔ Check. Done.

I finally finished updating the Inventory blog.

I had wanted to get it all done in January, and did not want to start any catalog shopping or planning for spring until it was finished.

Now, today, all the plant profiles are updated for 2012. Some had to be updated for 2011 too, since the task of keeping the whole thing current gets ahead of me if I don't focus time on it.

At last I can get to making lists and doing research and thinking about what I want to plant for next year.

I've been itching to get at that!  I'm ready.

Let's start shopping.

Friday, February 1, 2013

And Now Back to Cold

After the warm windy front moved past, we are back down to cold frigid temperatures to start February. Only 30 degrees here today.

The rosemary had looked so rich and green all winter, even through the single digit cold, but after a week of that, it has suddenly turned brownish. By March of every year it looks drab and discolored, then brightens back up in spring, so it might just be winter fading and not a die off.

I'm hoping that's all it is . . .

When I opened the bedroom door today the sunrise was drenching the newly cut branches on the half wall in dazzling sunshine. The glass vases sparkled and the woody twigs were lit up!

The witch hazel vase was glowing.  I am not detecting any fragrance, despite the fact that flowers are open and they've been indoors now for a day.

I went out in the cold and cut some more branches for forcing today, and brought in corneliancherry (Cornus mas) and aronia.  As with the other shrubs, there just aren't many branches to sacrifice.  And I think with most of what I cut I brought in leafed stems without any flower buds!