Monday, September 27, 2010

Jumping in with both feet

This weekend, we dug out the little stream that drains into the raingarden, laid some stones and planted a few ferns, grasses, and flowers in the muck. Yeah, it's kind of a hot mess. I have absolutely no idea how this excavation will affect our soggy hillside. The plan here is just to shut your eyes and jump in with both feet (or maybe, more accurately, follow the Leeroy Jenkins strategy).

Several hundred pounds of wet gray clay were replaced with a mix of peat moss and composted cow manure.  From one of my favorite small providers, Lazy S's Farm Nursery in Virginia, I ordered some marsh ferns (Thelypteris palustris), variegated sweet flags (Acorus gramineus "Golden Ogon") and dwarf goldenrods (Solidago x "Little Lemon").  They are now settling into their new home.  Hopefully, this little spray of goldenrod buds means they plan to stay. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Every (rainless) cloud has a silver lining

Our New England summer has been sunny, scorching hot, and (when not dealing out the rare torrential downpour)  bone dry.  Seems that even when it rains, the sun is beaming down.

As a result, it's become painfully obvious which parts of the backyard are naturally better-watered and which are not.  Around the hillside stream, the grass is green.  But in the side yard, thanks to the combined excellent performance of our French drain and the deep thirst of a neighbor's weeping beech, we are experiencing dustbowl conditions.

The silver lining to these rainless clouds is garden expansion.  Yes, come spring, a swath of turf along the daylily bed will be replaced with some drought-tolerant perennials and annuals. 

I will have the entire winter to draw up plans, make lists, and browse plant catalogues. And I promise to learn how to correctly spell "xeriscape."

A number of current garden plants will be better sited in this dry patch: a neglected coreopsis "Moonbeam," a division of "Autumn Joy" sedem, and a straggly "Green Jewel" coneflower for starters.


Then, I'm thinking about sundrops, more daylilies, and some serious coneflowers. Grasses? Sages? And someone to help dig?

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Dahlias: dem, dos, dese

Dahlias, clockwise from upper left: Karras 150, Rose Toscano, Normandy Painted Pearl, Pink Princess, Rae Ann's Peach, Roxy

Every fall, I second-guess that year's dahlia selection: "Why didn't I opt for something dark?" "Maybe I should have planted another one of those?" "Am I bored with collarettes yet?"

The mosaic above shows the current selection of backyard blooms. My second guesses run something like: "Yes, why indeed didn't I opt for something dark?"  "Why is Normandy Painted Pearl so shaggy this year?" "Thank goodness I missed digging up that Rae Ann's Peach tuber last fall, so it came up early this summer!" "What was that tuber marked 'WP' that never grew? White Perfection?"

Next year, I'm thinking less Normandy Painted Pearl and more American Dawn. Shadow Cat or Crossfield Ebony? Is it time to order yet?

Monday, September 06, 2010

Sungold harvest

This year, I planted two pots of "Sungold" cherry tomatoes, along with the usual container of "Sugary" grape tomatoes.  The good news is that we now have lots of cherry tomatoes, even after the low-hanging fruit has been harvested by the local bunnies.  This plate is holding about half of what ripened up over the Labor Day weekend.

The not-so-good news is that in comparison with the sweet grape tomatoes, these cherry tomatoes taste bitter. Maybe it wouldn't be noticeable if there was only one crop but with the sugary competition, these cherry tomatoes are also-rans.  And, while the tomato fruits are perfect saffron-colored spheres, the plants' growth habit is slovenly, sprawling, and downright shabby.

A few are being eaten straight off the vine (by humans), but most have been regulated to cooking tomatoes.  They are serving in pasta dishes and ratatouille and as salad garnish.  Did I mention that we now have lots of them?  Oh, yeah. Maybe next year, we'll have none.