Saturday, June 29, 2013

And Now We Are Back . . .

We are back from Pennsylvania, and while we were gone three inches of rain fell. Everything looked so refreshed and sparkly as we pulled into town around 6 p.m. Then when we arrived at the house, I saw the rain gauge and it was filled to 3 inches.

And while we were gone the blueberries started coming in. Northcountry has just a few on the one small bush.  All four Northblue plants are bearing nicely. And the earliest of the blueberries out in the field, Northland, is also bearing. I mixed them all in this little bowl and won't be able to taste which is which!

While we were gone the stand of Shasta daisies behind the grill opened, and Alba Luxurians clematis burst forth.

And the irises by the creekbed opened, tall and gaudy.

Everything in the yard and meadow looks so well-watered!

How to write about our trip? Chanticleer was fantastic, but I don't know how to do a post on such a well documented garden. We got a ton of pictures. The day was very hot and sticky, so there is haze in the photos and we were pretty beat by the time we had walked the garden.

How to write up James Golden's garden? He was the most gracious host, welcomed me and walked the whole tour with me. He was genuinely pleased that I had come. His garden is phenomenal, all controlled wildness with beautiful structure and paths and areas, but plants grow and seed themselves in a way that he edits to look natural and graceful. It's a strolling garden with paths that wander in and out of shade, into and out of lushness, with surprises tucked in along the way.

And our day at Valley Forge was a fun tour too. The park is hugely expanded. We drove the car tour with iPhone narration, and it worked out really well.

We just got home, it was a long drive and we spent our days in heat and humidity, so we're tired. But all three tours --- Chanticleer Garden, Valley Forge park, and James Golden's home, were a complete success.

Monday, June 24, 2013

I Think It's Over

Hot and humid, in the 80s, starting to be very unpleasant.

For a while now I have thought the katsura tree was kaput. The trunk damage was just too extensive. A callus had formed, but there is barely a quarter of the circumference covered by bark. Mike from Bartlett thought it might recover and eventually the growing trunk would subsume the open part.  This spring it leafed out and looked okay, sort of. Not full and lush like the fast grower it is, though.

Today all I can see are bare branches and dead leaves on the ground.

I think it is finally over.

I have been trying to grow a katsura in this spot since 2009. Five years now. The first one didn't take, and was replaced in the first year. The second one did great, but in the last two years has had a run of trouble, with deer damage, snow damage, torn branches, rubbed bark and a huge open wound at the base.

I think it is time to have Bartlett put in a large specimen shade tree there. After five years I don't know if I want to start over with a small whip.

Should it be another katsura?

Friday, June 21, 2013

A Great Idea

Today was the longest day, the summer solstice, and it was a great one. Summery, with a delightful slight humid smell to the air, but not overly hot. It was in the 80s, but nice in the shade. Just a really pleasant summer day.

Jim had a great idea. I have been complaining about the rosa glauca being in an odd spot in the Drive By garden.
It has no hardscape or complexity around it and looks strange there by itself, not playing well with the penstemons or the dark ninebark nearby. I did a post on it for my main blog.

He suggested moving it to the dry creek bed, to the empty spot where I had some red salvia last year.

There is hardscape -- rocks, a bridge. There is a small spot for it to be tucked into and for it to lean out over the creekbed. There is a dense dark Alberta spruce for contrast. There is complexity behind it with the meadow and the tall trees in the distance.

Everything I think this rose needs. A great design idea! I am definitely moving the rose to this spot.

All four of the clematis vines are blooming now.

Henryi on the garage wall.

Jackmanii spilling over the top of the iron tuteur in the back.

There has been one lone flower on Niobe, as it begins, barely, to climb the Austrian pine. Still just the one blossom today.

Finally, Alba Luxurians is just opening, the last of the clematis vines to flower. Just a few hanky blooms are out, but the vine is full and lush and packed with buds.

And the stewartias are both blooming (and surprisingly there is no rain in the forecast to knock the big fried egg blooms off!)

Here is Stewartia pseudocamellia, which has big flowers that are so heavy they usually last only a few days before falling. It is still a wild shape.

Stewartia monadelpha has much smaller flowers, smaller leaves, and is nowhere near as showy, but it is maturing now into a delicate little tree. It is so far a tidier, more upright shape than the pseudocamellia.

These two stewartias are really quite different looking.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


A third of an inch of rain fell in yesterday's thunderstorm as it passed through. It had been humid and in the 80s. I tried to clip some of the river birch lower branches but it was hot and sticky and I got ticks in my hair. Today it is cool and comfortable, in the 70s.

Here's my new idea. It's about the penstemons.

Both stands of beardtongues are not working. Here is Elfin Pink and I can't wrap my head around the color. It's a hard color to use anywhere, although Jim likes its brightness and at times I like how it picks up the pink tones of the rosa glauca in lower light.

But it is really awful with the dark ninebark, the moody color of the rose, and the purple Norway maple at the end of the garden. In full sun it's all tones of rust and maroon.

So out it comes. I can't think of another area where this color pink will work. Like the too-bright cherry red knockout roses, I just don't like the color, so they will be removed.

The Husker's Red is a penstemon that I really like, but it is getting crowded at the edge of the Birch Garden, and the pinky white small flowers don't work with the small white flowers of the itea or the baptisia alba either.

It's too much small stuff in too similar a blooming color. The area under the Japanese maple and beneath the baptisia calls for something with more contrast, a little lower profile, and a different shape than upright and spiky.  The dark toned mounding foliage is great for that, but the flowering is a problem.

So my idea is to remove all the Elfin Pink and replace them by moving the Husker's Red to their spot. I think I will like the cooler colors near the rosa glauca, it's a prettier plant in all aspects and can show off where it is not so crowded.

The dark foliage and maroon stems will pick up the ninebark and rose and Norway maple tones, but it is more subtle. Complementary I think. The pinky white flowers offer nice contrast.

I also want to move one of the fothergillas from the gravel garden to an empty spot in the middle of the Drive By garden, and that will offer some nice foliage contrast behind the penstemons.

Now. . . .  what to put in under the Orange Dream Japanese maple in the Birch Garden? Lower, more foliage or bloom contrast, darker perhaps. Hmmm. Peonies? A couple nice tidy ones with pretty blooms in spring?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Some More Things I Need To Do

It was hot and humid yesterday until a brief storm rolled through at dinner time, knocked over the umbrella in the gravel garden, and cooled things off. Today is overcast and in the low 70s.

I fluffed the mulch a little and it was quick and easy enough to do, but the action requires leaning awkwardly and it hurts the back. I still have more to do.

Meanwhile, here are the additional things that need doing:
  1. Trim the river birches. They all need lower branches cut off.
  2. Move the strawberries. Maybe not now, but I do want to replant them away from the line of boxwoods. The fothergillas should go too.
I love the transecting line of boxwoods, but the strawberries are crowding the look.

I want this area to be just the structured boxwoods, the stones and the gravel.
Maybe take out the fothergillas there too (and move to Drive By Garden)

In the "never looked better" category, here are some plants that look great this year:
Cornus canadensis. I gave up on them, buried all under a thick layer of mulch,
and now, years later they are popping up under the Bloodgood maple

Inkberry hollies. They looked awful in early spring, very brown leaves,
and they had that black tip fungus. Bartlett sprayed, it rained, and they look good.

Goatsbeard, Aruncus dioicus. It never looked this good in all the other locations
I had it planted in. Now, behind the Birch Garden, it is growing.

Salix yesoalpina. It has really spread beautifully. So thick and green.
I hope it stays this way all summer.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Things I Need To Do

The deluge has passed and yesterday was a top ten sunny day in the 70s. Just beautiful. How green (and wet) everything is! It's cloudy today, with more rain coming this afternoon.

Some things I need to do:

  1. Fluff up the mulch with the three tined fork. This pine mulch from Envirocycle gets matted and forms a surface that keeps moisture out. Not a problem with all the rain lately, but it does need fluffing.
  2. Cut back the May Night salvias, which are gone by now.
  3. Get after the rabbits. I put down hot pepper flakes and smelly spray after I saw the annuals were chomped. But I didn't protect the new butterfly weed seedlings and they got eaten to nubs.
I had to stake the Cornus mas by the driveway. In all the rain and wind it got uprooted -- not just slightly tilted, but severely uprooted and canted over. I pulled it back hard and staked it. Can you believe this was the little twig in 2010 that got decapitated in the snow and was no more than a few inches high?

This year I got at the baptisia early and staked the shoots as they emerged. It really helped, as it is not flopping over at all. In fact it looks a little stiff and roundy shaped now!

As always, the flower color is oddly metallic gray, but not so reddish rusty this year. There is more of a purple cast this year. But still, eh.

Sundrops in the Birch Garden are out. And the Red Drift rose and the arching white baptisia pendula.

And the pretty Huskers Red penstemon.

Friday, June 14, 2013


It rained all day yesterday and all night.

It is in the 50s this morning.

It has rained 9.5 inches in less than two weeks.

It sucks.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Really? More?

Periods of rain. Rain becoming heavy at times this afternoon. Thunder possible. High 61F. Winds E at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 90%. 1 to 2 inches of rain expected. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

This Must Stop

Over six and a half inches of rain in the last nine days. This has to stop. Sunday was beautiful and sunny, just gorgeous, but of course yesterday, with the garden group coming over to see things, it poured. We got another inch and a half overnight and then late in the day today a thunderstorm rolled through with another third of an inch -- that's almost two inches just today.

The clematis are not blooming yet, but are full of buds. Any day now, as we approach mid June.

But the carpet roses are out.

And look who decided he was not done for after all. The Opuntia has revived and there are little buds growing.

The goatsbeard that I moved to the back of the Birch Garden has never looked better. Finally, after three moves.

Can you believe the tiarella are still going strong? The starry spikes are a little thinner now, but they still brighten the shade behind all the plants filling out now.

I really like the groundcover sedum Weihenstephaner Gold. It's blooming all along Meadow's Edge, and I moved some to the blueberry garden too.

Both baptisias are blooming. The Twilite Prairieblues is always hard to photograph. Alba pendula is sending out big arches, and from a distance it looks great leaning out from the side of the Birch Garden.

The patches  of Himalayan fleeceflower have recovered nicely this year, although under the viburnum where the damage was the worst, there are still empty holes and it is not blooming. But elsewhere there are little pipe cleaners rising from nice greenery.

The willows are spectacular this year.

And, finally, I like my little row of marigolds in pots.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

3.3 Inches of Rain

We got three and a third inches of rain in this big soaker of a storm. This morning the sun is out, the temperatures are barely into the 60s and everything is very, very wet.

It rained hard at times, and it rained for a long time.

Enough already!

Before the storm Peggy cut her peony blooms to save them from being shattered to the ground in all the rain. She brought a huge bouquet over for me. These are Mrs. FDR, and she is taking all four of her mature plants out as she renovates her garden.

If they can be saved in the digging up, I will take one to transplant, although I have no idea where to put it. I have stayed away from the big peonies since they are so hard to stake and manage and they bloom so briefly. But they are real show stoppers, and this one is a beautiful delicate pinky white.

I am still getting a big bowl of gorgeous, juicy, red strawberries every day. Every day! Even after the hard rain all yesterday and last night, I find a ton of perfect fruit this morning for breakfast and then some.