Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Funk's Plants

Funkia grandiflora -- also Hosta plantaginea
I did not know that hostas are also called funkias, named for Heinrich Funck, a German apothecary and botanist.

In 1812 the plants we call hostas were first named to honor an Austrian botanist, Nicholaus Host, who, in addition to being a plantsman and author of a botany manuscript, was also the personal physician of the Emperor of Austria.

It would seem he was well connected.

Later, in 1817, a German botanist proposed naming this family of plants after the Bavarian botanist Heinrich Funck instead.

As with many of the thousands of plants being classified into the new Linnaean system in those years, confusion ensued, and the name Funkia was finally rejected in favor of Hosta.

But not until after the German name was already in wide use in Europe. In the 1800s gardeners everywhere commonly called these plants funkias, and that name is still used in many European gardens today.

It's somewhat like changing aster to symphyotrichum, which, although official, is never going to happen in my garden. Asters will always be asters, even the ones that are something else now.
Funkia grandiflora blooms

I want to plant Funkia grandiflora, certainly for the name, also for the very fragrant white flowers, and surely for its light green, bright foliage. Gertrude Jekyll loved them, William Robinson grew them, and I think I should have a Funkia grandiflora in my garden too.

But . . .  it's a hosta. Ugh.

Hostas are so overused, so prone to slug and deer damage, and I don't have much shade. I find them plastic looking -- both because they can be endlessly bred to be any color or form you want, and because they so easily mimic fake plants (or fake ones easily mimic the real thing).

I have a couple that the builder put in, so I don't know what cultivars they are, but they both have muddy purple flowers on tall ungainly stalks. The one tucked under a baptisia by the basement window is shaded but goes unnoticed in its out of the way location.

The one along the front walk under the dogwood is more visible, and looks good now, but will be slug tattered and crispy by August.

I love the idea of a Funk plant in my garden, but hate the hostas I have.  How to reconcile that?

(If anyone reads this journal other than my own family, it may help to know that my maiden name was Funk. Just to explain. . . )

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Glass of Wine

Come out on the patio. It's 5 p.m.

Oh, I see you're already here, glass of wine in hand. Good.

But did you see the blue plumbago in front? A nice alternative to the white clematis that is no more.

And did you walk around the yard to see the Birch Garden? A lot of white tobacco and pink zinnias today.

Go around to the back of the driveway garden. The silvery mountain mint is very nice next to the dark purple ninebark, but I need more to fill that empty spot in front.

Did you see the tiny orange blackberry lilies on their big stalks -- what a stand they have formed next to the exotic woodland tobacco, Nicotiana sylvestris. Take a whiff, the tobacco is heavily perfumed.

How European . . .  that 'Gold Cone' juniper is very upright and very narrow, very fastigate.

C'mon . . . the bottlebrush buckeyes are still not blooming. So late. In every other year, even as young plants, they shot up white rockets in mid July. It's almost August!

Did you see the little mounding dahlias along the walk? Bright red, they are little things, not at all like the tall dahlias you see with the dinner plate sized blooms. These are sweet.

Okay, back to the patio to finish our wine.

Any cheese and crackers?


Who's cooking dinner on this summer night? I'm busy walking around the gardens.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Fall Bulb Orders

Half an inch of needed rain fell on Wednesday night. Days are summery but not uncomfortable now.

The bulbs I want to plant this fall have been ordered:

More daffodils for naturalizing on the back hill. Last spring the 150 I planted looked cheerful, but were oddly clumped in a ring around the small Norway spruce. I need more to drift off to the left and right sides. I ordered The Works from Whiteflower Farm, another 100 bulbs.
I wanted drifts of daffodils! Not circles. Need more.

More globe alliums in a line weaving through the fragrant sumac. I got more of the same purples and whites that I originally planted: Stratos, Gladiator, and Mt. Everest, all from Whiteflower Farm as a collection. My strategy worked well last spring -- the bulbs were tall and dramatic, and then the decaying foliage disappeared under the late emerging sumacs.
These tall stalks of flowers look best when there are lots of them massed.

Stars of Bethlehem. I ordered 50 Ornithogalum magnum bulbs to spread around all of the gardens for early summer white frilliness. I liked the look very much when I saw the white spikes repeated all over Katherine & Chip's garden early this summer. I ordered them from John Scheepers. Katherine says they spread and move about on their own.
These white spikes were scattered all around
Katherine's garden, and very pretty.

More little irises. I got a few more (25) tiny iris reticulata bulbs, this time a clear medium blue called 'Gordon' to add to the small field of early April blooming tiny irises by the front door. Also from John Scheepers.
'Gordon' has some interesting tiger striping on its little blooms.

Re-establish drumstick alliums. I posted about the complete loss of all the drumstick alliums this summer. All gone. I don't know if the tiny bulbs survived for another season, but I do know many were disrupted as I dug around in the gardens, since I could not see any foliage and didn't know where they were. I got 100 more from John Scheepers -- just a start at replacing what I had.
Last year the drumsticks were so sweet. This year not a one appeared.

This summer I put Allium Millennium in terra cotta planters on the deck. They have been great. They bloom forever and the foliage has stayed nice, not all ratty like most onions get. I will put these in the ground, at the front of Meadow's Edge. They're small, happy, purple blooming little plants.
Allium Millenium, blooming all July. The foliage stays looking ok.

I didn't order any more for this fall; they can be planted in spring as they are summer blooming plants. I may want to order more next year,

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Slow Decline

We're back to hot humid summer. The cool weather has gone, but not my rib wracking cough. And now an angry looking cold sore the shape of Illinois has formed above my lip. I suffer.

I fear I am watching a slow rolling catastrophe. . . . not my health, but rather the 'Bloodgood' Japanese maple by the deck may be in decline. It may take years to succumb, but every time I look at this pretty tree, I see a problem gradually unfolding in front of me.

It's no mystery. The tree has phytophthera canker, a fungal root rot. I noticed wet black weeping areas below the graft last year, and Bartlett has been treating it with a systemic soil drench several times a year now.

One side of the slender trunk is hollow sounding when tapped, a sign that there is a dead area under the bark. The affected part of the root flare has turned powdery, and there are now tiny orange fungal spores on the trunk, which is a sign of decayed material underneath.

The tree, helped by the soil drench, will either fight off the canker and heal itself around the dead areas, or it will not. But it will be a slow process before it's clear which will happen.

Although the canopy looks full and the color is rich red, I can see tip dieback on the upper twigs. That's a sign that enough of the roots have died off that the remaining roots are having trouble supporting new growth.

It looks wrong to me. Normally by mid summer the leaves darken to a mahogany color before returning to bright scarlet again in fall. This year they have stayed bright red well into the end of July. It's a beautiful color, but somehow it looks stressed to me, especially in full sunlight. Too bright, too red, too unseasonable.

Overall, it has a funny limp look that is not evident to a casual observer -- really, it looks fine, doesn't it? -- but to me it just doesn't look right.

I planted Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood' in fall 2008, and here it is in 2009 on the left, compared to what it looks like now, five years later in 2014.

What a gorgeous tree. I have every hope that it will fight off the canker and form protective scars around the dead parts. I have every expectation it will heal and carry on and become an even nicer tree. I do not want to watch it slowly decline.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

High Summer

I can't sleep. The tail end of my horrid cold keeps me up all night coughing. And what strange nights we are having in the height of summer -- cold, brisk nights that feel like the end of fall. The temperatures have been in the 50s overnight, and the daytime air is cool and damp.

These cool (really chilly) conditions would be perfect for me to be out in the garden doing the edging that I've wanted to get at for a while. Perfect weather for the work, which is not hard, but does require  a lot of up and down activity. But I'm too sick. So the camera does the gardening instead.

Monarch butterflies love onions, who knew? This one spent half an hour drunkenly flitting in and out of the Allium 'Millennium' blooms. At one point it chased Jim around, flitting right at his head until he moved away.

Crocosmia 'Lucifer' is brilliant scarlet red, positively satanic.

In contrast, plumbago auriculata is such a cool delicate blue, highlighted in front of the brick wall.

Tobacco has spread in the garden. This is Nicotiana alata, so delicate and pretty. It is fragrant on a warm humid night, but with our cold nights there has been little scent.

This is tobacco too. It's Nicotiana sylvestris, and is supposed to get 12 feet tall. So far, fully blooming in the middle of high summer, it's only about 4 feet tall, but a striking looking plant.

Summer's evening light spotlights what it wants me to notice.

 Nothing says high summer like big white daisies and a new garden bench under a tree.

Another sight that announces high summer is bottlebrush buckeyes in full riotous bloom. With the cold nights and cool days now, the Aesculus parviflora are not yet blooming. There are tall brown wands rising out of the foliage, but no white bottlebrush rockets exploding. My pictures from past years show all the spikes completely open by July 15. This year the show is still pending.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Gray Metal Bench

I like it.

I have a new bench, tucked into the leafy yellowroot along the berm.

It's in a shady spot in the morning, a great place to sit for a little bit under the birch tree. It went together easily, and sits level without any wobble. It is surprisingly sturdy for a lightweight metal bench.

I need to move the birdbath away from it a little more, though. The birds will decorate the bench and I don't want that.

It's gray metal. I simply cannot bring myself to buy painted accents for the garden, or put bright pillows on the chairs, or place colorful glazed containers around with plants in them.

Almost all my pots are neutral -- terra cotta or hypertufa or cement colored. All my outdoor furniture is naturally silvered teak or black powder coated metal. Accents in my garden include a gray cottonwood stump, a bleached natural wood birdhouse, oxidized brown cast iron tuteurs, a cement colored birdbath.

That iron birdbath in the picture above next to my new bench was a gift, and it was originally painted yellow, but the paint disappeared after the first year and I like it unpainted now.

The potting table and tool shed and the deck itself are weathered cedar. The patio is gray paver stones. A small sundial has a verdigris patina.

I see so many wonderful bright colors used as accents in the gardens I tour -- turquoise blue pots, red lacquered chairs, whimsical painted birdhouses, even a fence woven of shimmering purple ribbons that was fantastic.

I can't do it.

Garden style is personal, and while I love how gardeners use pops of color in the gardens I visit, I am most happy in my own garden with its repeated soothing neutrals that hide in the background.

I like my new gray bench.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Summer Blues

After so much dry weather, we are getting a little light rain -- a quarter inch Sunday night and another quarter inch Monday night and a gloomy wet day today (naturally, as we are going to the beach to visit friends today. Of course it's a yucky day).

The blues are upon us.

Feeling blue -- I have a summer head cold, not tolerating it well.

Enjoying blue -- a lovely hydrangea.

Blue all over -- tiers of lace caps.

Seeing blue -- actually blue eyes seeing me.

Swearing a blue streak -- at the birds who have discovered the blueberries this year.

They leave me only a couple ripe ones hidden below the leaves; all the rest they get. Last year the blueberries went undiscovered and I had the crop all to myself, despite not netting the bushes. This year they found them.

Planting blue -- at least planting a tree called "blue beech".

There is nothing blue about Carpinus caroliniana at all, but I guess the smooth gray rippled bark must read kind of bluish from afar. I got two small ones at Broken Arrow last week, to enhance the grouping in the meadow from three to five now. A grove of blue beeches.

We went to Broken Arrow because I was looking for a male Ilex opaca, to assure that we get berries on the female American holly we had installed on the east side. But they did not have a small one that I could plant myself. And, actually, the holly in our yard is covered with berries this summer, so it is being pollinated from somewhere. I guess I don't need a male after all (well, I do, but his name is Jim and he's not a holly.)

I also picked up another New Jersey Tea shrub to plant at the edge of the gravel garden.

And some more bright orange butterflyweed and another mukdenia rossii.

Despite my cold we went on two fantastic Garden Conservancy open tours this past weekend, right here in town. One was the Mann's garden, full of quirky art and imaginative designs. It was an acre of separate rooms, each with a distinctive personality and great use of plants. This garden entertained me!

The other was Cheryl's garden, with its open sweep down to the old farm pond, and the antique outbuildings surrounded by exuberant daylilies and mixed perennials. The shade walk under a massive canopy of trees was wonderful to wander in during the heat of the day. Her garden calmed and soothed me. Ommmm.

These two garden visits easily banished any feelings of the blues I may have had.  Still have the cold, though.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Green Peppers

Still warm and summery and no rain.

I really like this bushy perennial with its white and green leaves that smell like green peppers when you touch the foliage.

This is caryopteris divaricata 'Snow Fairy', not to be confused with the woody subshrub caryopteris clandonensis, which is called blue mist shrub. This herbaceous caryopteris is a totally different thing, somehow related, but I'd never guess it.

The flowers are insignificant -- I think it had little blue flowers earlier in the year, but I don't remember. It's grown for the foliage, and what a bright, clear, tidy look it provides along the west walk.

It has what people describe as stinky foliage, but I think it smells fresh, like a green pepper just sliced. Sharp but interesting.

Speaking of green peppers, my two container plants on the deck are popping out green peppers galore. I bought two bell pepper starts at Lowe's in spring, one green, one yellow. They are both green.
Look at that smiling face in profile on the middle pepper! Why do vegetables always look like funny people?

And I have carrots, but they are still little. I pull one every few days as I see the shoulders emerging from the soil in the pot, but there is just one pot with only a dozen carrots in it, and the more I pull that aren't ready yet, the fewer mature carrots I'll have.

The two pots of spicy basil have been overproducing and I now have so much pesto in the freezer I can host an Italian feast and have pesto for every dish and dessert too.

The lettuce is gone, I pulled that out. And I let the dill bolt, I like the yellow flower umbels more than the culinary use. The orange mint is going strong, the oregano and marjoram too. My container garden on the deck is a success.

But it's the green bell peppers that dominate right now. I smell the distinctive sharp aroma every time I walk by the pretty caryopteris and touch its leaves.

And I pick peppers for dinner every night.

How you want your burgers -- with sliced green peppers?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Whiff

It's still hot and sunny and dry, but this morning the air was a little fresher and nice for a walk around the yard. I do wish it would rain.

Twice this summer I have caught a scent from the sweetbay magnolia blossoms outside the bedroom window.

Once was on a humid night a week ago. The window was open and as I passed by there was a distinct perfume in the air. Not lemony, as the sweetbay's scent is advertised to be, but heavy and seductive and magnolia-like.

A couple nights ago I smelled it again as I walked around the curve of the pathway and under the magnolia. Again it was a humid night. It was just a hint in passing, but it smelled like expensive perfume.

I have ranted on and on about how my Magnolia virginiana has no fragrance. I planted it seven years ago and it bloomed early, but never smelled like anything. I wrote posts about it on my main blog, and have complained to anyone who would listen that plant breeders have taken all the fragrance out of new cultivars.

But there it was. Distinct, not at all light or lemony, and hard to detect again after the first whiff or two.

After all this time, what a tease.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Feels Like Winter

It's the time of year when I'm indoors all day, just like in winter. But it's the heat that keeps me inside now.

Over the weekend we got refreshing weather after the hurricane passed, but now it is hot and windy and uncomfortable. It feels stormy but nothing happens.

The rain we just got on the fourth of July is a distant memory as the dry turbulent air makes everything in the garden look heat stressed, wind blown and thirsty.

There is so much that needs tending in the garden, but I don't go outside. The Shasta daisies look fresh in the morning light, though.

Our neighbors have a home at the shore, on Long Island Sound. What a delight, to be able to get away to the ocean in summer, I say.

Naw, they say. There is no air conditioning at the beach house, so we don't go when it is hot. We stay here so we can be indoors in the a/c.

Even they had to laugh at the logic of having a house at the shore and staying home in summer because it's more comfortable.

It sure feels like it does all winter. I'm hunkered down inside, with zero interest in even peeking outside, and it's apparently even too hot to go to the beach.