Monday, December 31, 2007

Rain garden under the snow

My daughter, catching a glimpse of last spring's rain garden design,

and knowing that under its current snow blanket the area actually looks like this,

remarked in that sweet and spicy tone most sharply inflicted by a teenage girl, "How's that working out for you?" Yes, how indeed?

Well, as this plot had a French drain incised through its middle in early fall, the rain garden installation stalled. Back-hoes and bob-cats meant that the few plants previously put in needed to be moved or, if left in situ, they disappeared during construction. The big mystery after this hydrological project, of course, is how will the drainage be affected this spring? Will there still be standing water for the clumps of Iris versicolor? What about adding other moisture-loving plants, like Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium maculatum) "Gateway" and ornamental grasses, such as Northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)? They could bring some movement, verticality, and complementary colors to this sorry corner of the garden.

So, here's a preliminary revision of my previous poorly implemented design.

I say "preliminary revision" because, looking out the back window, the area seems much larger than a few colored circles on paper would indicate. Anticipate fine-tuning. After my brief exposure to Japanese irises this past summer, I plan to enjoy the buzz from this winter's flurry of glossy catalogs--a diversion that I am postponing next year, when horticultural delirium tremens will send me jonesing for a shot of foliage and flowers. Oh, next year begins tomorrow. How convenient.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Deep snow, deep mid-winter

We are celebrating a white winter solstice this year.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Viva, Mount Vernon, 1916

When recently sorting through some old photographs, I came upon this print of my grandmother in 1916. Anyone who has visited the gardens at Mount Vernon will immediately recognize the undulating picket fence and the sweeping grass path of the Upper Garden. "Straight is the line of duty, curved is the line of beauty," as the subject of this photograph would herself say.

Among the dense plantings, hollyhocks, iris, and peonies can be discerned. Another photograph shows oriental lilies in bloom.

This photograph so evokes the delights of this particular garden on a hot sunny summer day. And my grandmother, whose personal credo was "We'd have an easy life if it wasn't for our pleasures," seems to be taking her enjoyment seriously!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Winding down, winding up

The past week or so has been just bearably cold enough to allow a few end-of-season tasks:

Empty out containers: spent plants are retired to the compost pile; perennials like these succulents are dug into a corner of the garden. We'll see how well, if at all, they over-winter.

Rake maple leaves from the back beds. These will form a life-suppressing mat if left undisturbed. The frequent advice about leaving unraked leaves to serve as a winter mulch carries one large and generally omitted disclaimer: these mulches apply only to smaller, non-toxic leaves, like those from beech and dogwood trees.

Mow the lawn, short. Sadly, trimming newly sown grass is like giving a balding guy a haircut: he may have a new 'do, but he's still bald.

Prune back rose growth and tie canes to trellis.

Untap and store garden hoses.

Cut down perennials with wilted, diseased, or ugly foliage: peonies, phlox, irises, ladybells, hostas, astilbe.

Start drawing up my long list of spring chores.

Inside, a potted amaryllis is just starting to leaf out.

Time for a change of venue . . . and a cup of hot chocolate!