Monday, May 19, 2014

Boundary issues

I have boundary issues. Not as in a lack of any boundaries--quite the opposite. I like boundaries. I like clearly marked property. I like name tags, monogrammed stationary, and signet rings. I like knowing what belongs to me and what doesn't. Don't even think about asking me to share my dessert.  It's not going to happen.

Garden boundaries not only mark off your bit of turf from your neighbor's, but they also organize all that green stuff into visually comprehensible blocks of lawn, bed, and hedge.

A line of privet separates one portion of the front yard from our neighbor's lot.  This hedge is homely, dead boring, and purely utilitarian, as all privet is.  Every few years the privet needs to be cut back hard in the spring in order to keep it from becoming tall and leggy.  Last weekend, it was snipped down to about a foot high.  Fertilizing, top-dressing, and edging are needed before it looks presentable.  Some new shoots and leaves would be helpful, too.

Pruned back privet

Yes, about edging. Using a half-moon edger, I try to border beds twice a year.  Nothing makes a garden look better tended (particularly if it is not) or eases the challenge of mowing along the border of a bed more successfully than a clean cut edge. And, visually, a bit of tidy edging brings into focus the break between a lawn's green even roll and the patterning of a flower bed.

Curving border along front walk
Received wisdom suggests that plants should sit anywhere from a few inches to a foot back from the edge of the bed.  I have found adherence to this rule to be a secret weapon in my mission to continually expand the size of the flower beds.  The plants grow larger so, hey, what can I do but cut a wider bed?  And, so, ugly patches of lawn are gobbled up.  In other words, not only will I refuse to share my dessert, but I'm likely to sneak a bite of yours!

Edging creep: the secret to silently expanding your flower beds
Sometimes a plain cut edge isn't enough, and the boundary needs to be marked more forcefully.  My parents used to call upon metal hoops and aluminum sheeting for this task--and I well remember the snarl of rusted junk to which those accoutrements inevitably decayed.  I've nevertheless considered resorting to sheet metal edging in order to stem the march of lilies of the valley from the back bed, but I'm not quite that desperate yet.  In the meantime, I limit myself to natural materials. Granite cobblestones, picked up at a local stone yard, add a line of contrasting color and texture to this bed of Siberian irises.

Granite cobblestone border
Good fences may make good neighbors, but they also make a person feel good herself. Dessert helps, too.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

More May daffodils

The yellow-citron-cream-white-gold-chiffon-canary color carnival continues into mid-May!

Clockwise from upper left:  "Hawera," "Thalia," "Pheasant's eye"  (Narcissus poeticus), "Ceylon"

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Reunited . . .

Reunited--that's me and the back quarter acre getting together again--and it feels, well, not quite "so good" . . . yet.  But hey, hey, I'm trying to get my groove back.

This past winter took a toll on the growing green stuff--and rectifying the situation has pummeled the green stuff in my wallet.  Two of the Japanese andromeda (Pieris japonica) shrubs by our front steps required replacements. These had taken a punch to the midsection last year, but they didn't go belly up then, so I thought that they would struggle back to their feet. Wrong!  In their weakened condition, both were knocked out by the harsh winter. Their sad remains were replaced last weekend by a large Pieris x "Brouwer's Beauty" and a smaller Pieris x "Valley Valentine." The "Brouwer's Beauty" is a garden variety work horse, touted as being very hardy, dependable, and sensible-shoes-sort of attractive.  "Valley Valentine" is the messy, flashy, attention-grabbing friend whose antics you indulge because she just makes life more fun: draping panicles of red-tinted blooms, colorful new growth, and a sprawling habit.  Good times!

Ah, spring. The daffodils are kicking into high gear with over a half dozen varieties currently in bloom. More, more, more!

Clockwise from upper left:  "Jenny," "Yellow Cheerfulness," "Mount Hood," Tete-a-Tete," "Ice King"

Elsewhere in the garden, a quick inventory reveals some mystery plants. How and when did they arrive? Here's where recording-keeping saves the day (and one's sense of sanity).  Last year's Garden Goalroll indicates that these leaves belong to a compact beebalm (Monarda "Pink Lace") and their square stems place it in the mint family. Yep, getting reacquainted feels good.

Monarda "Pink Lace"
Me and the garden, we're both so excited 'cause we're reunited, hey, hey!

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!