Monday, November 18, 2013

Jane Kenyon, the poeticus' mood, and several hundred daffodils

In her essay, "The Phantom Pruner," poet and fellow New England gardener, Jane Kenyon, uses the  metaphor of a sun-filled garden to express her desire for emotional luminosity and openness:  

It's not just more flowers I want, it's more light, more air for flowers, more sun for cheerfulness.  A person gets her fill of shade-loving plants. She wants . . . a hundred white daffodils that glow after dusk against the unpainted boards of an old barn.

No weathered barns around here but, quite by chance, this fall's bulb order offers a small tip to Kenyon's bright vision. By the end of October, a couple of hundred daffodils had been planted: all dosed with a bit of bone meal and clumped together in groups of three or five. Over fifty white "poet's narcissus" bulbs replenished a bed next to the side of the house and another fifty narcissus "Yellow Cheerfulness" promise to bring spring sunlight along the back. The myrtle beds lining the front walk were loaded with a hundred bulbs of the perky miniature narcissus "Tete-a-Tete." After a challenging summer and fall, I am focusing simply on flowers that make me happy.    

I am planning to seek my bliss indoors, too, with a slew of paperwhites, hyacinths, and amaryllises.  

Order details follow.

50 Narcissus "Yellow Cheerfulness" (Brent and Becky's Bulbs)
100 Narcissus "Tete-a-Tete"  (Brent and Becky's Bulbs)
50 Narcissus poeticus v. recurvus  (Brent and Becky's Bulbs)
5  Narcissus poeticus (Old House Gardens)

3 Hyacinth "Gipsy Queen" (Old House Gardens)
5 Hyacinth "Lady Derby" (Old House Gardens)
24 Narcissus "Ziva" (White Flower Farm)
1 Amaryllis "Royal Velvet"  (White Flower Farm)
1 Amaryllis "Picotee"  (White Flower Farm)
1 Amaryllis "Tres Chic"  (White Flower Farm)

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Going to seed

A combination of a relentlessly crazy workload, travels up and down the East Coast/across the country/around the world, and various family matters have kept me out of the garden this summer.  Weekends were spent either at the office or out of town.  For months, a random hour early in the morning or at sunset is all that I've been able to manage in the garden. Thankfully, my dear husband alleviated one burden by stepping up to assume most of the lawn-mowing responsibilities.

In the meantime, peonies and phlox have mildewed, basil has bolted, and many spent blossoms yearn for deadheading.  While it really doesn't matter whether you tend your garden during the growing season--as long as you can tolerate the disheveled and raggedy results--when it comes harvest time, paying no attention produces big problems.

Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium maculatum) "Gateway" flower heads

Some of those beautiful blossoms can brag on quite frightening reproductive capabilities.  Fearlessly fertile flowers around here include Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium maculatum) "Gateway," black-eyed Susan  (Rudbeckia fulgida) "Goldsturm," and Northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium). 

 Eyes of black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia fulgida) "Goldsturm"

All, it seems, is for a few seeds to be dispersed in the fall and, come next spring, a tenacious thicket of stalks and stems have popped up. And when many seeds have self-sown, a weedy mess is the reward to be reaped.

Northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)

My free hours are currently spent frantically cutting down seed heads and weeding out sprouting volunteers.  It's a simple race against Mother Nature's biological clock.

Marsh mallow

In the absence of vigilant gardening efforts, even the ordinarily spring flowering marsh marigolds seem to spot a weed-pulling weakness and have shot out a few blossoms. Stop the madness!

Friday, June 07, 2013

Pieris parity

Around here, growing Japanese andromeda (Pieris japonica) presents a balancing act between the benefits of eye-popping red foliage decked with elegantly draped racemes of delicate flowers . . . 

 . . . and a susceptibility towards root rot, scale insect infestation, and splitting branches.  For this particular "Mountain Fire" specimen, structural vulnerability hasn't been helped by a location that receives the crushing winter burden of snow displaced from the roof, driveway, and front walk.

When spring rolled around, it appeared half dead (to the right) and half alive (to the left).  Some heavy pruning was in order.

A garden helpmate took to binding the broken branches with masking tape.  A rough and ready treatment, perhaps, but the patient seems to be stable. Thank you, Dr.!

Non-surgical care is quite minimal: feeding in the spring and fall with a few handfuls of HollyTone, an application of composted manure around the roots, deadheading and, when I'm on top of garden chores, spraying for scale in the spring.

 And, as these happily leafing out "Carnival" and "Mountain Fire" specimens show, when they are good, they are very good.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Green is the theme

I am so looking forward to digging around in the garden this long holiday weekend.  It's been weeks and weeks since I scrabbled dirt under my nails, shoveled compost, and kicked into the rhythm of edging flower beds. Throughout this past month, I've been on the road for reasons of business or pleasure (not that I'm complaining for a moment about the latter) and, along the way, have been subjected to all shades of late spring. Everywhere, green is the theme.

Wind, cold, and rain in Chicago

Prickly pears heating up in Phoenix, Arizona

Spring attempting a jailbreak in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Happy with the homefolks in Hunt Valley, Maryland

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Woodland wake-up

This early in April, the little patch of open space across the street seems still asleep. But the morning knocking of woodpeckers in the tree canopy, the rumbling of passing trains, and the leaf-crunching footsteps of an occasional rambler suggest that spring has started to wake up.

On close inspection, early ephemerals can be spotted popping up on the forest floor.  Clutches of wild Northern white violets are scattered over the damper areas. Why are they so much lovelier than their invasive purple cousins?  Is it location (lawn vs parkland)? Or size (scrubby vs. robust)? Or just familiarity (ugh, another weed vs. native novelty)? 

Northern white violets (Viola pallens)

A bit distant and, thankfully, easier to spot, are several spreads of naturalized spring squills. Not native, perhaps, but most welcome during these chilly days.  Judging from the amount of territory that they have colonized, the first bulbs must have been planted decades ago.
Spring squills (Scilla siberica)
Of more recent vintage are the clumps of daffodils that my husband tends along the road verge opposite our house.  Late season purchases of discounted bulbs from the local big box store, augmented by a spring application of 3-5-3, help to spur these along. Every year that they return and bloom is an achievement given the onslaught of street salt, highway mowing, and flower pluckers.
Daffodil "King Alfred"

Perhaps rows and rows of yellow flowers will someday form an audience, like these springtime spectators watching crew races along the river. Ah, yes, it is time to wake up!

April rowers on the Charles