Friday, September 28, 2007

An altered (spring) state of mind

You have to think of this . . .

Daffodil "Mount Hood," 2007

When it's late September and part of your garden looks like this . . .

Yes, the foundation wall work continues. The yawning pit should be back-filled within a week. No time to return perennials to their rightful homes, but time enough to plant spring bulbs. Here's this year's order (and suppliers).

Along the back of the house, where foundation work is currently underway:
100 Grape hyacinths/purple ( to fill gaps in the border
100 Tulip dasystemon/yellow and white (John Scheepers), again for the border
100 Tulip "Apricot Impression"/orange (John Scheepers)
20 Tulip "Black Parrot"/deep purple (Holland Bulb Farms), just for fun

Corner of the new side bed:
30 Daffodil "Hawera"/yellow (, a miniature, multi-flowered variety

Corner of the old back bed:
20 Tulip "Princess Irene"/deep red, orange, and purple (
10 Allium "Firmament"/purple (John Scheepers)

Front yard, to replenish existing supplies:
100 Iris danfordiae/yellow (John Scheepers)
100 Allium osttrowskianum/fuschia (John Scheepers)

Two concerns I've been wrestling with:

1. How to discourage squirrels from uprooting the tulip bulbs? Alliums and grape hyacinths are said to act as deterrents, so I'll slip them in nearby. Oh, yes, and I'm planning to lay chicken wire over the tulips along the back of the house.

2. How to time transplanting displaced perennials and putting in new dahlias? Except for the species tulips, I treat the other tulip varieties as annuals. No apologies, that's how I was raised. So when the "Princess Irene" tulips are spent, dahlias will go in; and when the "Apricot Impression" and "Black Parrot" tulips are pulled out, the perennials will be transplanted from their over-wintered holding bed.

One concern that I've largely dodged, being fearful that my head will explode if I factor any more variables, is how these blooms will all look together. I'll accept any serendipitous pleasures.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

September equinox

Tethered between the seasons, today's September equinox is pretty quiet around here. Much of what's in flower is the second, weaker flush brought on by shearing back an early bloom.

Angelonica, which was cut back hard upon transplanting in August, looks quite youthful for an annual that's been around for months.

Despite only fertilizing once this summer, my climber offers a few rosebuds. Some folks recommend against clipping off spent flowers at this time of year, so that the bushes will turn their energy to producing rose hips rather than delicate new foliage. Each winter, this bush does sustain a bit of damage to young lateral branches, probably the result of my autumnal efforts to clean up. So this year, I am thinking that, as with fertilizing, I should stop pruning after August and instead devote my attention to securing the canes against the winter winds.

The sedums and the salvia farinacea "Victoria Blue" are abuzz with big bumble bees. After summer merrily, merrily . . .

Where the bee sucks, there suck I;
In a cowslip's bell I lie;
There I couch when owls do cry.
On the bat's back I do fly
After summer merrily.
Merrily, merrily shall I live now
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


This is my first year intentionally growing dahlias. I happened upon this wonderful group of plants serendipitously last summer, when my father-in-law asked me to baby-sit some of his. Thank you, VPS! I am a convert.

"Snickerdoodle" started blooming around September 10. Yes, it's just that delicious.

"Matthew Juul" has been blooming since the end of July and is still going strong. It grows upright to about 18" and needs no staking. Next year, I plan to use several to mask the longer stems of other dahlia varieties. The flowers are like little smiley faces on stems.

"Rose Toscano" is a solid performer: great shape, great color. My only complaint is that the stems sometimes bend due to weight of the flower heads. These last two dahlias complement each other so well; maybe I should look for a soft red to join the color club.

Lobaugh's Nursery, from whom I ordered "Rose Toscano" and "Matthew Juul," threw an extra tuber into my shipment. I stuck that unexpected addition into a corner of the garden that, although partially shady, had boasted a conversion-worthy load of dahlia blooms last year. More something was needed this year. As of today, this plant has set no flowers. But if it did, it would be "BB-ID-LB L/W" in dahlia-speak: small flower, informal decorative in shape, light blend in color. With dahlias, though, a picture is worth far more than a thousand words--or a few little letters.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Yesterday's world

Yesterday, this corner of the garden was easing into fall.

Today, it is a hole. All part of a project to seal the foundation wall.

In between this horticultural being and nothingness, plants were moved to their new holding beds. Here are Siberian and bearded iris divisions awaiting re-planting.

No attempt was made at artful arrangement in their new beds. I just tried to keep various types of plants together so I will be able to assess how they look when it comes time to return them to their former homes. Next to a border of yews, I laid out a strip of Siberian irises "King of Kings" and heirloom peonies (dark pink to left, pale pink to right). These are all closer neighhbors than they should be but, heck, it's only temporary. I will separate the clumps that need to be to be separated when they return to their homes.

Yellow bearded irises joined others of different varieties by the rosebush and, along with a sedum and some daisies, squeezed into the new side bed.

I put aside several buckets' worth of daisies, sedum, and phlox to offer to fellow gardeners. And I noticed that someone had been stashing discarded old divisions behind the compost pile. Those thrifty Yankees!

The only upside to this project is that I will be able to convert the holding beds into growing space when their temporary inhabitants have been returned to their beds. What will I plant? More dahlias, for sure, and I'll show the delicious reasons why in a future post. Oh, I guess that it's healthy to renovate one's garden occasionally, too.

Life goes on.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Mood equation: n + (-n) = 0

Happy things:

1. September sedums and succulents, like a big bowl of Sedum rupestre (reflexum), Hen and chicks Sempervivum sp., and Sedum spurium "Fuldaglut."

2. The contrast of the slender leaves of Siberian irises with the tiny flower heads and foliage colors of sedums "Autumn Joy" and "Vera Jamison."

Unhappy things:

1. Harvesting buckets of rocks from new holding beds.

2. The reason for new holding beds: a foundation excavation in order to address periodic basement flooding. Most of the perennials in this bed will have to be moved. Oh, yes, a French drain is also being trenched through the adjacent lawn.

I'm just glad that my mood balance is at zero. That's a plus.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Laboring days

Perfect gardening weather and a long list of chores meant that much laboring was done over the Labor Day weekend.

Fall-blooming annuals (Argyranthemum frtescans "Vanilla Butterfly") were planted . . .

Clumps of old plants were divided into loads of new plants (here, an unnamed miniature hosta) . . .

Sun-loving plants (Coreopsis "Moonbeam") were moved out of the shade . . .

. . . and shade-loving plants (Anemone blanda "Honorine Jobert" ) were moved out of the sun.

Yes, I have not yet attained happiness in my relationship with these anemones. No amount of water and mulch could prevent the leaves from sun scorch so we're having a trial separation. They've packed their bags and moved to the digitalis and hosta neighborhood in a sheltered back side bed.

Also, the final three dwarf little-leaf hollies (Ilex crenata "Hellerii") were planted in the totally renovated foundation bed along the front of the house. But that's another post.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Dog day bouquet

In early September, the straggly ends of the garden are gathered into a dog's breakfast bouquet: a muddle of what's in bloom. That would be dahlias "Rose Toscano" and "Matthew Juul," sedum "Vera Jamison," hostas, sweet peas, and a variety of coleus foliage.

Hope that my mother-in-law will think that it's more of a dog's dinner. I'm taking this bouquet over to her as she recuperates from minor surgery.