Monthly Archives: June 2010

George Washington was a smart man

Last week Bill and I took the girls to Washington D.C. I am a history buff, an art freak, and enjoy long walks so , really , as I was reminded over and over again, this was MY vacation. (thank you family). Wasn’t it hot you ask? Well, thank you for your concern, yes it was. The weather systems there come up the coast via hell and stifling can not even begin to describe the air quality, but we gamely proceeded through all the “musts” (Capitol tour, memorials, Smithsonians , zoo, etc)

On the day we had planned (and when I say “we” I mean “me dragging the others in protest”) to see the United States Botanical Garden ,it was about a million degrees and high heat plus high humidity led to high irritability , so even I agreed that we should bail and head for the nearest a/c , preferably in a bar, which is what we did (thank god for brew pubs!)

Now I was a little sulky and missing my plants, but brave soul that I am I got over it and moved on. The next day we  headed to Mt. Vernon on a river boat. We got there and started to walk around, and lo and behold George W was not only a farmer but an avid gardener and landscape designer!! Woo-hoo!!! When we walked past the house and saw the upper garden all the Monroes in unison shouted “PLANTS!” …..although me in ecstasy and the others in horror.

There was also a lower garden (JOY) and a formal herb /veggie garden with espaliered fruit trees and grapevines , an experimental garden for new  seeds and plants Georgie boy was interested in trying , a gardeners house, a greenhouse and a farm area for crops of corn, wheat and such. Heaven I tell you. So we toured around, saw the house too and met Martha (well not really, she’s long gone, but an incredible interpreter/impersonator).

I bought a lovely book about George and his farm and homestead and as I was reading it was fascinated by the fact that fragrance was one of the leading directives behind his garden and plantings. Turns out things were really smelly in the 18th century.(  B.O, and lack of  speed stick, outdoor privies, no fans, horses and other livestock and their waste products, garbage in piles since there is no curbside pick-up , the list goes on and on.) So our first president planted lilacs and other strong smelling shrubbery near the outhouses, grew many fragrant herbs to help not only outside, but to be dried and bought in to sweeten bedrooms, pillows, drawers,and clothing.  Brilliant.

When I walked outside this morning and was greeted by the strong fragrance of the roses that grow right near the walkway I was reminded how important it is to think of the garden in that way. I mostly think about color, height and foliage, and rarely think about fragrance , probably because Glade does it for me. But what is the first thing everyone does when they encounter flowers? Lean in for a sniff of course.

That is not to say I do not ever plant things for fragrance. Here are a few of my favorites

I adore the smell of lilacs, reminds me of childhood and grammy’s house, so I have planted 8 in their own special bed comprised of 4 different varieties  syringa vulgaris, ‘Donald Wyman’   ‘Miss Canada’ and one labeled french lilac whatever the heck that means. Their bloom time is staggered and they are all fragrant although the common lilac (vulgaris) is the strongest. I also grow the old fashioned but wonderful mock orange .

Then there is lavender. I have a bed of that too, as well as many scattered throughout the gardens including the white one belowlavandula x intermediacv. White Grosso .

lavendula x intermedia

I add in lots of  Asiatic and oriental lilies, and fight like a mad woman to control the red lily beetle so I can enjoy them (only outside I think they are too strong of a scent for indoors). I planted orinpets last year but they were rabbit lunch.

In the summer there are roses, clematis,monarda (bee balm) and phlox to enjoy.

my FAVORITE garden scent is spicy and clove like so in the spring there are virburnum x burkwoodiibushes and dianthus and in the summer summersweet  clethra anifolia  ‘ruby spice’ and the best smelling garden phlox , phlox paniculata ‘David’ that is simply intoxicating.

my favorite scent in general is lemon so I plant lemon balm in containers (it is a garden thug)  and place them around the garden so I can grab a leave or two and crush it in my hand and inhale deeply on the way by.

in my not thinking mentality I have also planted some real winners in the “smells like crap” category. Number one is the penstemon ‘Husker red’ that I have planted en masse and had to deadhead for like 6 hours on Sunday. It smells like dirty feet.

penstemon 'Husker Red'

one more note about D.C., on our way back from Mount Vernon we disembarked in the newly finished National Harbor area at the foot of the Gaylord Hotel. That is quite possibly the best commercial landscape job I have EVER seen (both inside and out) . Needless to say my family was done done done with plants and threatened to leave me there if I did not hurry up through the atrium to catch the car service taking us back to the city.  I didn’t even get to take any pictures, sob sob. They have a website but it doesn’t even show the pool area that was simply phenomenal.

Stay cool….Cheryl

p.s. what’s blooming ??? Roses of course!! Look under “What’s Blooming” to see!

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Romping Throught the Garden

LOVE LOVE LOVE a vine… easy to grow, high impact plants that they are I think every garden should have many. Although “up” in generally the direction that comes to mind when speaking of vines, over, under, through and in-between  are even nicer sometimes.Take  clematis for instance,  the most underused plant in the whole entire garden world. It is stunning growing on a trellis or arbor, but even better for the surprise factor and interest when you let it just romp through the garden.

I don’t have all day to go into the specifics or pruning groups etc , ( I will, just not today ;) ) so just pick any clematis vine that  is labeled as pruning group 3. The vines in this group are the ones you cut back to the ground every spring. If you pick a 2 or God forbid a 1 don’t come back here crabbing about the mess you made.

Now plant the clem like you would any shorter  perennial, so that means not UNDER a shrub, or BEHIND the tall back of the border plants, but nearer to the front or middle  of the bed .

I will pause to add one important clematis direction that is very valuable for many reasons  ( again with the time so trust me and wait for later postings specifically on growing clematis)  plant it deeply….again… plant it deeply. Crown at least two inches below soil line

Back to the romp. After it settles in to it’s new home it will happily grow  and twine around any perennial or shrub and it’s vines are pretty delicate so it will not hurt anyone or crowd them out. You will be blessed with an extra set of blooms popping up in and around plants that if they are blooming will have a new companion  (hopefully in a well thought out color combination), and if they are already past will take on new life.

Visitors will be in awe of your gardening skill and you will be seen as a  ”garden goddess” (or god).

Now. if you generally clean up your gardens in the fall, you will need to practice some restraint and patience here. Clematis should not be cut back until the late winter/early spring. If you cut it back in the fall there is a chance that it will throw out some new growth and if it does the winter temperatures will kill it. So after sitting on your hands all winter, go out in the early spring and cut it back to about 12 inches or so and pull all the vines out as well as any other plant material left from other perennials. Then let it romp all over again.

This is Josephine, one of the first clematis I ever planted . She is free and easy all over the side bed. She goes in and out artemesia,tickseed, and blanket flower, into a variegated dogwood, and up into a container plant (of petunias) that is on a plant stand next to the dogwood.

up and into the container

This is ‘Huldine’ he is mainly grown up a rose arbor, but I place side shoots into the garden next door and let him scramble

Huldine in the garden

 

and   ’Betty Corning ‘ who grows through a viburnum  giving it another season of interest

For a tiny bit of clarification, Josephine is a pruning group 2. I wanted her to go through the variegated dogwood, and love her there, so I deal with her wanton meanderings by gently cutting out the perennials she twines around without cutting her. Delicate time consuming work. As I said, use a group 3.

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Cheryl

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For the Birds

 

 

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This year our garden is just overstuffed with birds. They are nesting everywhere! Every birdhouse is filled to capacity, we have hummingbirds in the clumping birch by the street, robins in the crabapple, and some obnoxious creature in the apple tree out front that screeches in an almost human way every morning so loudly the entire household is up. In the photos you can see a nest in the living wreath that hangs on my garage doors. You can’t even go in or out of the garage without almost peeing your pants when the parents startle you bolting from the nest when you come near.

Also , see the two red chairs that sit on the front porch? There is a nest in the basket hanging there making the porch a danger zone to all humans.

 The dwarf Alberta Spruce also has  a nest, you can see one of the parents sticking their head out of the bush , and also the mess they made when they were dragging stuff in there to build a home. Even the birds expect me to clean up after them.

Speaking of clean up, when Bill came home last night the entire driveway was covered in, guess what??? A layer of bird poop. Must have been either a flock, or one who made a bad dinner decision! He actually had to hose it down it was so bad.

At the end of last summer I cut off the top four feet of an arborvitae (don’t ask) and watched in horror as a nest full of baby birds hit the asphalt. Yeee-ikes!!! I leaned the tree top against the house and carefully picked up all the babies and put them back in.  It took the parents a whole day to find where the nest went ….see photo of confused looking bird peering down at where nest used to be… but they did finally. For three days the tree kept toppling over in the wind and I would patiently put all the babies back. On day three I had to fish one of them out of Baby Dear’s mouth, that is when I got the bright idea to TIE the tree top to the porch railing, and there they lived until all the babies flew away. Guess it is an old wives tale that if you tough the nestlings the parents won’t come back.

Kind of wishing I had listened to bird call lady I laughed at at the garden club program meeting. I would love to know what that god-awful avian mess-up  is in the apple tree , he needs to be silenced or relocated . I can deal with the poop and the array of seedling erupting everywhere the poo lands, the feathers and dead bodies from the mating fights, the clean-up of the birdhouses filled with those weird little armies of  teeny  bugs that apparently co-habitate with the birds. It is all in exchange for the lovely songs, funny antics to watch, and bug eating they provide, but I AM NOT a morning person, so I draw the line at the screeching. I wish I knew how to make him move over to the neighbors.

Have a great weekend

Cheryl

clematis 'Nelly Moser'

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The Attention Span of a Gnat

Ninebark (physocarpus'diablo') in bloom

On my to-do list today I had two very small garden related tasks..a gardening friend had given me divisions of geranium macrorrhizum  from her garden I wanted to plant near the new blue spruce (picea pungens), and I had to re-pot a houseplant that needs to summer outside. So I planned to go out in the garden quickly before my age concealing hair coloring appointment and knock these two items off my to-do list. I get the geranium, shovel , and cow manure and head to the side garden. While planting I notice a few weeds around and start to pull them.

 Working my way down the bed I see that my Rose of Sharon( hibiscus syriacus’?’ -until it blooms there are 4 and I never remember which is which*) has fully leafed out  and there is some dead wood I should prune. , so I head to the garage again to get my pruners.

 On my way by I notice mr. hyrangea is blooming white and should be blue so I figure while I am in the garage anyway I will grab the aluminum sulfate (used to change the soil ph ) and work a little into the soil quickly while I am outside. Getting the aluminum sulfate off the shelf I notice that behind it is the bag of organic 10-10-10- that I was looking for to spread around some transplants the other day and grab that too. I augment the soil around the hydrangea , then head to prune the hibiscus ,but notice two roses (one called “canyon” and the other a white flower carpet) that could use a little deadheading to keep on blooming since I have a garden tour coming up ,so I stop since I have the pruners in hand and snip them.

 When I am finally pruning the hibiscus I scan and see that the summersweet (clethra alnifolia ‘ruby spice’) in the same bed could use a little tidying as well and over the tops of those bushes I spy that my new red knockout roses are blooming. I should really take a picture of that before I forget. I run into the house to get the camera and also grab a plastic bag to clean up the dog poo in the adjacent lawn on the way back.

 Coming out of the house I see a dead mouse floating in the pool, and all chores stop right then and there until I get that sucker out and thrown over the fence. Then I clean the dog mess, snap some photos and realize it is time to go in and get ready for my hair appointment. The houseplant is still sitting on the deck waiting to get re-potted, the geranium transplants have not yet been watered in, and the bag of 10-10-10- is sitting on the walkway.

How many of you garden like this? It is a wonder that anything ever gets done around here, or maybe that IS why things do get done around here.  I am not sure which is true.

Cheryl

*If you do not already grow Rose of Sharon(hibiscus syriacus) in your garden ADD ONE! They are tall and narrow so easy to squish in the border and flower profusely from August until first frost. The pollinators love them as there is so little else blooming and they are nectar filled so will keep the hummingbirds around longer.YOU will be happy too because August can be a real down time in the garden if you let it be.

Don’t whine that they self seed rampantly, because there is a series of cultivars introduced by the U S National Arboretum , all named after greek goddesses,that produce little or no seed and flower in profusion. Not to mention the dark green leaves and wide soil tolerance this shrub has. What is not to like?

The cultivars are ‘Minerva’-lavendar    ’ Aphrodite’-pink   ’ Helene’- white and an older one   ‘Diana’- another white.

You will not be sorry to have any of these around, maybe even all of them!

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How About A Bunny Update?

let’s talk damage: Last week I lost (as in eaten to the ground) ALL the cleome starts, 6 newly planted snapdragons, a climbing rose, 4 clematis including  a ‘Betty Corning’ near the deck . It is hovering in some sort of stasis refusing to leaf out again or grow at all (probably in self-defense ). It has been caged and all the other caged plants have started to recover, a definite WTF or WTH if you don’t like the F word.

This Monday in some sort of selective dinning extravaganza all the asters were chewed to within an inch of their lives, an amazing feat considering they are interspersed throughout all of the gardens over the entire acre+. Tuesday night they went on a clematis binge, 3 more vines chewed off at ground level thank you very much.

The gardens here have a very twighlight zone look to them, as anything that has managed to bloom is doing so at a greatly reduced height so no vines are even halfway up arbors and you have to sqwouch  done to see or smell anything else.

I have left one, yup one, lamium plant. Apparantly they were too full to finish them off. This year I will have no lovely sweet peas which I will mourn because no sweet pea flowers=no sweet pea seeds and I planted my whole stockpile. Out of all my cosmos seeds I have 3 struggling plants hardly even worth noticing. Every poppy bloom has been eaten before I ever even see a flower , so no heroin either (just kidding, humor me please I am grief stricken).

New attempts at thwarting them were:

REAL fox urine-liquid in a little bottle. I soaked strips of wool in small ziploc bags that I then punched lots of holes in and hung from strategically located plants. So far the areas of the garden they are in seem to be undisturbed……Is there hope?

Plantskyyd-that’s the blood product- I sprayed this on  every plant in the garden, so all future pictures will look like crime scene photos. Turns out I missed a bed out front and it was the only one devastated in the morning. So maybe again….hope?

Also….a few bunnies have met their maker. Although I am not at liberty to tell you how for fear of repercussion, did you read Watership Down??    Do you know about PETA??   Silence is all you will get from me.

On an unrelated note, did you know that in Australia where the rabbits are trying to take over the government   people use this concoction of oats infused with rat poison to kill the varmints? You can’t get it here, it’s illegal. And did you also know that bunnies can’t swim, well at least they can’t if you are holding them under water with a stick. They are also sensitive to fast moving small metal projectiles. This is all FYI, and has nothing to do with me, Bill or the Garden in the Burrow.

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June is the Time For Making Babies

It’s baby making time in the garden, the shame of it all is that there is no sex involved whatsoever. Big bummer for the plants, but if you’d like you can drink a glass of wine or maybe have a nice dinner and hum some Barry White while you help along in assexual baby making.

Here is the quickie “how to” for a few plants that are in the mood right now for crankin’ out the offspring.

Lots of shrubs and  vines are primed  in June to get “layered”. Here in my garden  I am doing the very handsome Flamingo Willow (salix integra) and  some hydrangeas as well as as many clematis as I can get to. (Some others are rhodies, forsythia,summersweet , boxwoods, honeysuckles,dogwoods, mock orange,) 

 To layer, take a branch, or in the case of the clems one single vine, that has a lot of new growth on it, and cut a small nick in it with an exacto knife or similar tool. Bend the branch or stem to the ground and place the nicked area touching the soil. (You can put a little soil over the layer as well but I don’t always) Hold it down touching the ground using a rock or a landscape pin if you have one. Water, and  that’s it, no spooning or deep conversation necessary. Just leave and come back in the fall and carefully check around in the soil to see if there are roots. If you see some you can cut the stem or branch from the mamma and transplant the baby. I generally leave mine until the following  spring to give them a longer time to develop a good root system though.( Iam also better at remembering to water transplants in the spring )

Clematis ALWAYS needs to be left in the ground after root formation and separation from the mother plant for a YEAR before transplanting, or if you are the attentive type you could dig it out and nurse it in a pot for a year. That is too needy for me, I don’t care for the clingy type.

Old fashioned climbing roses ( the ones that grow on their own roots and are not grafted) are the ultimate in one night stands. I don’t even know mine’s name, yet I propagate it like mad. Right now  they are in bud about to bloom, so I just take a 3-4 inch cutting from a stem that has a bud(s) on it and trim off everything except one bud. I push the stem into the ground where I want it to grow and cover it with an inverted mason jar or a similar glass you sort of screw in the soil so it won’t fall over , water and leave until fall. This method is great under a large shrub  because you will not disturb any roots transplanting a full grown plant and  by next year you will have a rose rambling through your bush. I did this last year under  my pussy willow bushes ( um just reporting the facts here, get your mind back over with me in plant world) and I would have them blooming except for the f***n  rabbits. (excuse the language but my frustration grows exponentially every day).

you can see what blooming here this week under “What’s Blooming” …June 7th

Happy Baby-Making!

Cheryl

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Gardening Without Plants

Or maybe ” The Azelea Picked the WRONG Day to Get Scale” or maybe even ” Cheryl has a Really Bad Temper” take your pick as a title

So…a few years back a friend of mine and I went to this garden club event where horticulture (and realted) speakers come to give a 5 minute synopsis of their presentations and lectures to those people who plan their garden clubs annual programs (that would have been us for ours that year) . You essentially bring a notepad and keep track of who might be interesting, who is entertaining (my only criteria really) and who to just plain avoid altogether. About halfway through this very stern looking woman all dressed in black who reminded me of the super hero costume designer in the cartoon movie The Incredibles (yes my world is wide..) came up and used her 5 minutes to tell of her program entitled “Gardening Without Plants”.  Who’s bookin this chick?  Seriously, this is your angle?  I thought we giggled too loud at the “bird call” lady but that was tame compared to our reaction to this travesty.

Fast forward to last week. Because I have a free day to work outside it is raining and 45 degrees. Because I have friggin rabbits I am spending my day outside trying to cage off certain plants and the cutting bed with hardware cloth (read :sharp wire you can’t use for clothing ) . Because said “cloth” comes in large rolls you must unroll, and as any of you know who have wallpapered or helped your kid with poster board, rolled things want to stay rolled  I must go find something heavy to put on it so I can cut it. Because it is thick wire the skimpy wire cutters I brought won’t cut it so I must head back in to search for others. Because we live in New England every place I want to mallet in a post has a boulder in the hole so I  must go get the shovel. On every one of these 500 trips back to the garage I am walking by an azelea bed that earlier in the week I had treated with Horticultural oil because it had scale (which it is prone to get every gd year). Each time I look a little closer and I realize that all 10 bushes now despite my efforts have scale on steroids.

Because I can be unbalanced at times, and have been known to throw the odd fit here and there, I immediately turn back into the garage and get the loppers and another shovel..

Here are the azeleas now

 and here is my new garden space (see below) . Because I can give credit where credit is due, thank you lady in black , gardening without plants is a joy.(today anyway, even though I did include just one climbing hydrangea you hardly notice)

             

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Happy Memmorial Day

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