Saturday, April 30, 2011

Plant Sales

I was supposed to work today, but I rearranged my schedule to have the day off. Partly because the weather forecast was for perfect gardening weather, and partly because today was the spring native plant sale at Parkfairfax.

I love this sale, and I go even if there's nothing I need. I always find something I can't live without. Even when I have a box full of plants at home that still need to be planted, I find more to buy.

Speaking of plants needing to be planted, I've been on a bit of a buying spree this spring (ok, it happens every spring). I've been to three garden centers in the past 10 days, and have planted less than half of what I've bought. Sometimes I buy plants just because I like them, not having any idea where they will fit in the garden. Other times I have specific plans for the plants, but they space they are to occupy isn't prepared yet. And sometimes I'm just lazy. I've killed more plants just because I don't get around to planting them than for any other reason. I'm determined to change that this year. (By the way, I'm wearing one of my favorite T-shirts today: "Procrastinators Unite! Tomorrow.") But I bought more plants anyway.

Here's what I got at the plant sale today:

On the left, two plants that came not from the plant sale, but from a community yard sale I passed on the way home: Geranium maculatum and a variegated Carex. They will go in the north side garden, once I clear a space.

From the plant sale, in the back is palm sedge (Carex muskingumenses). I've never had carex before, and now I have two. This one likes moist-wet conditions, and I have one spot in my yard that stays pretty wet. Problem is, it's not a garden bed (yet). So I have to figure out something to do with this until I make a new bed.

Back right is an Amethyst Falls Wisteria frutescens. Yes, I do have a plan for this. A long-range plan, but that's ok; this is a pretty small vine right now. I'll repot it and let it grow while my other plans come together.

In the front are two pots of blue-flag iris (Iris versicolor). No plan for this yet. I just felt like I needed some non-bearded iris.

Next to this iris is a lupine. I've wanted one of these for a long time. It will go into the side garden, between the rows of non-flowering daffodils (I think).

Front right is Allegheny sedum (Sedum telephioides). It is similar to the ubiquitous 'Autumm Joy', but much more interesting. The leaves are greyer, and very thick. And guess what? I've already planted it! It has a new home in the lower front garden, along with some 'Walker's Low' catmint I bought last week. The greys complement each other. (Oops, forgot to take a picture)

At the community yard sale I stopped at on the way home, I also made a non-plant purchase for the yard: new chairs!

They need to be sanded and stained, but they are exactly what I've been wanting for the deck. I've been holding out buying them new, because I figured I'd come across used ones eventually. Today was my lucky day!

In other news, I moved 6 more cartloads of mulch today. That's a running total of 14, and my car almost fits in the driveway. Yippee!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Iris and Mulching

More iris are blooming in the side garden:

On the left, some solid lavender.

On the right, another white iris. This one is Snowbrook, and has bright orange beards.

It was a passalong plant I got two years ago, but it didn't bloom last year. I think I'm obsessed with white iris this year. I like this even better than the white/yellow iris from last week.

Finally, the most unique iris in my collection (I think). Lavender petals, golden beards, and zebra-striped falls that transition to a majestic purple.

When I'm not out admiring iris, I've been mulching. I've done eight cart-loads so far (2 Wed, 2 Thurs, 4 today), but it is slow going. Every year it seems to become a more difficult chore. Part of the "problem" is that my gardens are finally filling in. In the past I could run the cart right into the garden, dump out the mulch, then spread it around. Now, there's no open space to do that. So I'm doing bucketfulls or handfulls at a time.

Above is an example. What used to be an open space in the daylily bed has been well-colonized by mistflower (Eupatorium coelestinum). I'm very happy about that, but how do I mulch it?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Mulch is Here

My city provides a nice service: in Fall, they suck up all the leaves people rake to the street. They compost it over Winter and provide leaf mulch free to residents in Spring (pick up yourself or pay a nominal fee for delivery). They started delivery later than usual this year, so I didn't get mine until today. But here it is:

I'd hoped the truck driver could put the pile off to the side, so I could still access the garage (off to the right in these pictures). As you can see, the truck barely fit in the driveway at all, so there was little option about where to put it. He really tried to put the pile up close to the garage, so I could at least pull the car into the bottom of the driveway, but the utility lines overhead caused interference with the lift. So I'm stuck with this pile and an inaccessible driveway until I get the pile moved.

Last year it was 2.5 months before that was done. Any bets on how long it will take this year?

I started moving mulch this afternoon, but it was really slow going. I loaded up the cart and wheeled it to where I wanted the mulch. Looked at the garden bed and saw: weeds. Everywhere. I'd weeded (almost) all the beds in March/early April to remove the leaf debris and winter weeds. But now several weeks later, without mulch, the spring weeds have arrived. So I had to do some weeding before I could spread the mulch. Looks like this will be the process for every cartload. I only got two loads moved before the storms came today.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter

Happy Easter!

(Don't those look like Easter lilies? No? That's because they naturally bloom in June. Silly name.)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A (really bad) Garden Limerick

There once was a shrub named Nandina.
In my garden, she was the queen-a.
But truth be told,
She was rather old,
& I'd much rather have a hydreengea.

Nandina was a pest, that's for sure.
Rabbits have nothing on her.
Those bright red berries
That seem so merry
They sure make the species endure.

I'm tired of weeding I say,
I want her out of my garden today
So I called my friend Rob,
Said I've got a job,
She's yours if you haul her away.

Rob dug and he pulled and he frowned,
But that queen would not heave from the ground,
She was determined to stay
It was just her way
of saying "Don't you push me around!"

Poor, tired Rob said "I know just the thing!"
"Why don't I just take the offspring?"
(some were seven feet tall)
(and he didn't get them all)
Someday one may even be King!

What to do with Nandina instead?
I didn't want to do this, I'm feeling the dread.
But the time is nigh
To say with a sigh
If you won't leave alive, you'll leave dead!

Right Before My Eyes

I'm always amazed how fast some plants grow once they wake up in Spring. I feel like if I ever sat still I could actually watch them grow.

Yesterday morning I went looking for iris buds in the side garden, and saw a few. By mid-afternoon, there were two more, looking like they'd always been there. I know I hadn't missed them in the morning.

And my garage garden has filled in so fast! Columbine leafed out seemingly overnight, covering most of the bare patches. And the moss phlox are spreading more each day.

See this Sempervivum in the face pot?

All Winter, and into Spring, it was laying next to that lavender moss phlox. Next to. With bare space in between. (You'll just have to trust me. Turns out I don't have any pictures of that.) It didn't move, but now it is nearly invisible.

I guess it needs a new home now.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

More Iris

Two more iris opened this week.

First, another miniature bearded iris. I don't remember the name of this one. It is not my favorite - I think the colors are washed out and a bit dingy.

Here's a new iris I got as a passalong plant last year. It is supposed to be a rebloomer. We'll see. Even if it's not, I really like it. I haven't had a white iris before.

I'm making an effort to show more long views of the garden. Closeups are great to see the details of a particular plant, but they don't show how that plant fits in the overall landscape. Problem is, I never feel the gardens are cleaned up enough to be picture-worthy. I need to get over that.

Here's the garage garden. The miniature iris is in one of the pots in the foreground. (I really need to get prettier pots.) This bed is mostly purples in the spring. The muscari and anemone I showed previously have been overshadowed (quite literally, you can't even see them anymore) by the columbine just now starting to bloom. You can see one of the columbine flowers by the clematis trellis.

Here's the side yard, with the white iris on the left about a third of the way down.

I finally moved the sticks that had been blocking the path for the last month, just so I could take this picture. Still needs some cleaning up, though. I think those are Echinacea seedlings growing in the path.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

April Foliage

The day started out gray and dreary. Then the rains came. Then the wind and storms. I've been inside being lazy all day. It has been so dark I've had to have a light on the whole time.

It is Spring; I want to be outside! I want to look at the trees putting forth their new leaves. I want to watch plants emerging from last year's debris. And I want to show them off for today's Foliage Follow-Up.

I'll just have to content myself with looking at pictures from earlier in the week, like these:

Soft leaves are beginning to show themselves on the weeping Japanese maple.

I didn't have my camera with me when I first spotted these. They looked just like asparagus to me. By the time I remembered to take a picture, they had started to leaf out some. You don't get the whole asparagus effect, here, but maybe you can imagine:

They are really not asparagus, but balloon flowers.

Yesterday I showed off the Pasque Flower. Nearby is this similar plant, the native Anemone patens. I've had it for several years now. I do love the foliage, but it has yet to flower.

I also showed my white bleeding heart yesterday. In the background was this:

Mertensia virginica, Virginia bluebells. If these were going to flower they would be doing so now. But this plant has had a very hard life, and I'm just really happy to see it return at all. We can wait another year for flowers.

And here's something I was not at all happy to see. Several years ago I had a horrible tree-of-heaven taken down. Why is it so horrible? It grows super-fast and procreates like crazy. The entire root of the young plants must be removed, or the trees just grow back. Like this one:
Because it is buried in my out-of-control rosemary, the original seedling got a really good toehold in that spot before I pulled it out. I go most of it, but apparently not all, because it is back again this year. And once again it's had a chance to spread its roots before I noticed it in there. I'm hoping today's rains make the ground nice and soft so I can pull it out tomorrow.

Go see Pam at Digging for links to some more great foliage!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Blooms Away! (The April Bloom Day Post)

I love this time of year, when every day brings something new in the garden. Just two days ago I shared a bunch of flowering plants, but don't you worry! There's lots more to show off today.

First, in honor of Bloom Day (hosted by Carol over at May Dreams Gardens), my first bearded iris of the year opened this morning:
It is a miniature bearded iris called 'Cherry Pop' (I think - labels tend to move). This one seems very early - only a few others are even starting to show flower stalks.

Also in the back, the phlox are in full bloom now. I have lots of moss phlox in various colors, but I especially enjoy the airiness of my one creeping phlox plant

In the upper garden, 'Little Lanterns' Aquilegia are shining:

In the side garden, I can see a new bloom race starting. Last year I planted two bleeding hearts (Dicentra spectabilis), one pink and one white. They are both up this year, with the white one winning the first annual competition:

Around front, the Pasque flower is doing its thing amidst the daffodils:

Skipping to the back alley for just a moment, here's something I don't have in my yard. I don't mind, because I can see it just fine across the alley: Lilac!

Several folks thought this lilac was the subject of my header picture this week, but it is not. Moving back to the front yard, we find one of my favorite spring blooming trees:

Redbud! (Cercis canadensis) Yes, it is still bent from last year's storm damage. But looking cheerfully springy anyway.

Also blooming: white daffs, pink and red tulips, muscari, geranium (one flower), violets (everywhere), candytuft, pansy, anemone (almost done), rosemary, blueberries

My friend Merf, a new and fascinating lifeblogger, created a new link party today: Friday Favorites. Friday Favorites! What are my favorites this week? In spring, that is easy to answer: whatever is blooming!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Dont Tread on Me!

I was starting to clean out the last garden bed on the terrace a few weeks ago. I found an uprooted plant tag from the new peony I planted late last year. Now, where did I plant that peony? Did it survive my neglect after I planted it?

I didn't see any sign of it where I thought I'd put it, so I kept on weeding. When I stood up, I realized I'd bee nkneeling right on top of it! Unfortunately, it had already started growing, and I'd broken off its two emerging shoots:

Oops! What are the chances it will regrow?


Pretty good, it turns out. Here's what it looked like this evening:


I doubt it will flower this year, but at least it is alive. Hopefully it will gain some strength this year and give me flowers next year.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Declining Daffodils

My daffodils are declining.

Not just because it is mid-April and their peak bloom time has passed. I mean I have fewer of them. Lots and lots of foliage, but not a lot of flowers.

See all that beautiful foliage? Those few flowers in front are all I got.

Have the bulbs increased too much and crowded each other out, not allowing bulbs to form large enough to flower? Have the increases gone ever-deeper into the soil and prevented blooms? Is there some other problem?

I think I need to dig them up and divide them, I just don't know when to do it. I don't think I should do this now, that would stress them too much when they need to be storing up for next year. Can I divide them in early summer after the foliage has faded? That would be the best time for me, as I'd know exactly where they are, and they will still be on my mind. But new bulbs are planted in mid-late fall, so is that the best time to divide as well? Probably.

So I'll try to remember to do that in the fall. The bulbs will already be formed at whatever size they are going to be, so I doubt I'll get many flowers next year, either. But I have to start somewhere.

I started cutting the faded flowers in the side garden today, for my great daffodil count (which won't be so great this year). Today's cuttings: 80. I've gotten most of the yellows and the early whites. The later whites along the front walk are still going strong.

Why are these spread out and full of blooms? Because every time I plant something in this bed I accidentally dig up a bunch of bulbs and have to replant them. So they've been accidentally divided many times over the last few years. I even moved some to below the wall. They are in too much shade there, but many are blooming.

So I think I have an answer to one question: divide those daffodils!

4/29/2011 update
Final 2011 daff count: 175
2010: 282
2009: 347

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Thriving on Neglect

So I didn't get out to the yard much this weekend. The poor weather Friday and Saturday (combined with working) meant I got into some indoor projects. While it was warmer today, the forecasted sun never materialized to beckon me outside. I managed to drag myself out there this afternoon to take a look around. Guess what? Spring is springing even without my help.

Here's my garage garden, in various shades of purple

There's moss phlox, anemone, muscari, creeping phlox, violets, and a very early geranium bloom.
Here's a closer look at that far end:

A few struggling tulips in the side garden

A few tulips and moss phlox, with some leftover crocus, on the patio terrace.


This one could be problematic - the other blueberries haven't opened their buds yet, so I don't know if this plant will get pollinated.

I haven't even started the spring cleanup in the right terrace bed (I always seem to leave one part of a chore undone), but the Iberis (candytuft), Euphorbia myrsinites, and moss phlox are putting on their spring show anyway.

Yes, my garden thrives on neglect!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Snow Foolery

My parents live in New England, where they've had a great deal of snow this winter. Even more than normal. To give some perspective, here's a photo from their house in January, the day before another 10" of snow fell:

By late March, the snow was finally melting. There were even swaths of bare ground in the sunniest spots. Then Mother Nature played an evil April Fool's trick. Here was the scene when my parents awoke this morning:

Back in northern Virginia, it was a cool but (fortunately) dry start to April. But just last Sunday we had our own dusting of snow. I'd thought it was safe to put away the winter gear. I was wrong.

The snow was already melting by the time I went out to take pictures, and was all gone my mid-morning.