Thursday, May 31, 2012

Not Everything's Early This Year

I've grown accustomed to celebrating Memorial Day accompanied by a side of garlic scape pesto.  But when I went out to the garlic bed last Saturday, there were no scapes!  In a season where everything else has been early, I was a bit concerned.  Was it possible that I'd only planted cloves from a scapeless type of garlic? (I did have some of that last year, but only a bulb or two.)  Had something else gone wrong?

Never fear, the scapes were just taking their sweet time.

It's rather amazing how fast they grow, once they decide to get growing.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Plum Unlucky

I was so excited about my plum tree's prospects this year.

Since I planted it four years ago, it has grown a lot taller than I expected for a "dwarf" tree.  So tall it shaded the street half of my veggie garden too much last year, and my tomatoes and peppers suffered.  I knew I needed to prune it, but had no idea how to go about it.  It was so pretty with flowers in March, I decided to let it go another year.  I just wouldn't plant in that part of the garden this year.  More fruit would be worth the price of fewer veggies.

And more fruit I got.  I think every one of those flowers turned into a plum.  The growing plums are so dense they look like bunches of grapes.

Even the little trunk sprouts (that I should have pinched off) are full of plums.

So many plums, I figured maybe this year there would finally be enough that the squirrels would share some with me.  Maybe.

So many plums the branches were bending quite a bit with the weight of it all.  I didn't mind, I'd just duck for a while.  In another month the squirrels and I would have had our fill, and the load would be lightened.

Enter Alberto.  Tropical rains plus heavy plums meant the scene I came home to the other day was this one:

It took me a little while to realize what I was looking at.  Why is the tree so short?  I got closer:

Where is the path between the veggies and the tree?  Where are the daylilies?

There they are.  The tree had bent completely over under the weight of the fruit and the rain.

 And on the other side, one of the main branches cracked and split:

I grabbed my loppers and indiscriminately freed the tree from it's weight.  I lopped off whatever I could reach, and watched the tree spring back upright.  Well, mostly upright.

It still leans.  A lot.  And it is still really tall, because I didn't lop off enough of that limb before it sprang out of reach.  And I'm sure I didn't prune it properly.  And I'm really worried about this big crack:

There are still some plums left, but not nearly enough for the squirrels and me.

On a brighter note, the dahlia I bought from the FONA sale (and still haven't planted) is blooming.

It brightened my day, if only a bit.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Back in April, I watched my overwintered kale grow to five six+ feet tall and produce bright yellow flowers.

Since then, I've been waiting patiently for the seeds.  OK, maybe not always so patiently:  I do have other things I want to plant in that space this spring.

A friend asked me how I'd know when the seeds are ready.  Instead of the usual answer describing how the seed pods dry up and split open, I replied, "The birds will let me know!"  And they did.

They had quite a feast today.  I hope they leave some for me.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

An Accidental Bouquet

I don't normally cut flowers to bring inside, because then they wouldn't be outside.  But when I accidentally ripped a whole Gaillardia plant off its roots the other day, I figured I might as well call it a bouquet.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

MAG Swap Results

Today was the annual Mid-Atlantic Gardeners' Spring Plant Swap.  A mix of pre-arranged trades and free-for-all take what you want, it is always a fun time in a beautiful setting (the private garden o f one of the members).  This is my fourth year attending.  Each year I have more plants to bring and make more trades in advance (I've found that to be really the only way to get some of the plants I want).

Here's what I contributed this year:

Tatarian aster
willow-leaf Helianthus
huckleberry seedlings
spanish bluebells
Centaurea (bachelor's button)
Lychnis coronaria (rose campion)
white rose
 Mexican feather grass
Solidago 'Fireworks' goldenrod
Sedum ternatum
Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed)
Echinacea pupurea (purple coneflower)
Penstemon digitalis
variegated tall sedum
Eupatorium coelestinum (mistflower)
Assorted tomatoes (Sweet 100, Black Cherry, Maremmano, Early Kus Ali, Black from Tula, Brandywine)

This was my first year bringing some of the plants.  It's always interesting to see what is in the highest demand.  This year it seemed to be Gaillardia, Mexican feather grass, and rue.  All reseed well for me, so I should be able to bring more next year.  Of course, eventually everyone will have them, and no one will want them anymore.  That has happened with the Helianthus and mistflower.  Good thing there are new people attending every year!

As a bonus, I got to spend the day with two of my cousins, Sue and Sandra.  I pretty much only ever see them at this event.

Here's what I brought home:

(I'm so happy it is a smaller pile than what I brought this morning - the car was really full on the way there!)

Asarum – wild ginger
Japanese anemone
Anemone sylvestris
Elephant ear bulb
Iris – purple/yellow and dark purple
Oriental lily- orange
Oriental or trumpet lily – tall unknown color
Unknown daylily
Creeping thyme
Sungold tomato
Gypsy sweet pepper
Dwarf fountain grass
Hardy geranium
Painter’s palette
Hardy begonia
Chelone 'Hot Lips'
Bleeding heart
Hay-scented fern
Celandine poppy
Jade plant*
African violet*
     *Houseplants?  What was I thinking?

(OK, it is a longer list than above, but it is mostly only *one* of each plant, rather than many)

Now, where (and when) am I going to plant all this?

Friday, May 18, 2012

FONA plants

One day at the end of April I took a few hours off work and headed over to the National Arboretum for the annual FONA plant sale.  I didn't go with a list, and just let myself impulse buy.  Dangerous, I know, but I didn't overdo it.

Here's what came home with me:

Abutilon - flowering maple
Dahlia 'Firepot'
White wood aster, Epimedium 'Orange Queen', Brunnera 'Jack Frost', and and Ajuga whose name I've forgotten

Showing restraint, I only took photos of the labels for some of the other plants I thought I wanted.  Maybe next time I'll get these:

Now here it is mid-May, and I don't have these plants in the ground yet.  I've put the abutilon in a pot on the front porch, but the others are still in their nursery pots.  I really wanted to get that done today, because I'll be coming home with more (free, this time) plants tomorrow.  But I was busy digging things up, not planting, as I prepared for tomorrow's plant swap.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

May 2012 Blooms

It rained on Bloom Day (two days ago).  It rained the day and night before that, too.  But everything's green now!

For this Bloom Day post, I'll focus on the side garden.  It has a lot going on right now.

At the driveway entrance to the garden, the geraniums are blooming.  Lambs ear provides a nice contrast.

A week or two ago, this garden was full of various irises, mostly along the house side of the path.  Most are finished, but there are a few that are later than the others.

Yellow bearded irises with white rose campion
purple bearded irises with rose campion
 Think I have a lot of rose campion? I sure do. Its shocking-pink blooms are about all you can see at the front end of the garden.

a sea of rose campion
Taking a closer look, it is hiding one of the first daylilies of the year.

Also along the house side, I have a few patches of mazus reptans.  It has been blooming for about two months, though it is finishing up now and the blooms are more sparse.  I bought two little pots of this groundcover last year, to see if it would spread well enough that I can redo the path with it between stepping stones.  I planted them along the edge of the existing path, and it has spread very nicely.  It should be easy to divide so I can put some along the whole path.  I love it when a plan comes together!

Mazus reptans
At the front end of this side of the garden (ok, actually in the front yard, but humor me...) is my rather prolifically flowering white rose.  I have no idea what it is, but the one-inch flowers are covering the shrub right now.

Along the fence-side of the garden, Centaurea have been blooming their funky flowers for a while.

Centaurea with lamb's ear
 The heuchera I planted for foliage accents actually have nice pink flower sprays.

Heuchera flowers
 The doublefile viburnum I planted last fall (to replace a nandina) is still very small, but growing and flowering happily.

 And at the front end of this side of the garden, peonies and salvia.  Why does it always happen that as soon as the peonies bloom, we get a big rainstorm?  I think I could predict rain better than a meteorologist, just by looking at the peony blooms. As a result, they don't last very long.

And that's the tour of the side garden.  Here's what it looks like from the front:

 Thanks to May Dreams Gardens for hosting another Bloom Day!

Sunday, May 13, 2012


One of my favorite scenes in the upper terrace garden is this blooming Baptisia australis.

The plants are a bit leggy, but some Stokesia and New York asters in front hide the stems.

I just wish the blooms lasted longer; they are already nearly done.  But next come the beautiful seed pods. 
terrace garden, last June

Friday, May 11, 2012

Ooh, I'm in trrrrrouble!

I arrived home from work yesterday to find a notice taped to my front door.  If it's never happened to you, let me tell you it's never good to find notices from the city taped to your door.  Last year it was a note from the fire marshall that some of my fascia was loose and hanging down.  What that has to do with fire coe, I have no idea.  This time it was from code enforcement.  The fun part looked like this:

The letter went on to say I have a week to prune my tree, or the city will do it for me.  I have a feeling it woule be very expensive to let the city do it for me.  So I grabbed a ladder and my loppers, and went out to remedy the problem.

What problem?  This one:

 Yeah, I guess people have to do some limb-dodging to walkk down the sidewalk.  I'd noticed that recently, and figured it was just a good way to get people to use the sidewalk on the other side of the street (where they need to end up anyway, since this side's walk only spans four houses).  But the city had other ideas.

Half an hour later, I'd made myself quite a brush pile in the back yard:

And created a passable walkway in the front.  I hope it is sufficient to keep me out of trouble.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Blue-eyed grass

Several years ago I planted two clumps of blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium) in the upper garden.  Blue eyed grass is not really a grass; it's actually more closely related to the iris.  Maybe that's why I like it so well.  Unfortunately, it was never happy in my garden, and didn't last very long.  These pics from 2009 document the last time I saw it:

When I was cleaning up the terraces this spring, I saw a clump of grass just ouside the daylily area:

I wasn't sure what it was, so I let it stay for a while.  Checking back, I saw that yes, my blue-eyed grass has returned! 

I'm confused, but happy. Now I need to find a better home for it.