Six months and a few minutes

Already I am wondering if the Iris ‘Blue Magic’ are planted in too-shady a spot. Bloom time is May-June and while the blue and yellow garden gets afternoon sun, I am wondering if the oaks will provide too much morning shade and not enough afternoon. If they don’t bloom, I shall have a summer project. And I hope I’ll have pictures to show where not to dig.



I have joined the local gardening listserv and already it has proved to be a wise investment of time. Earlier this week I went to my new friend Blair’s house and dug six buckets full of some unidentified aster, three buckets of mint (spearmint and chocolate, for containers, of course), some purple bearded iris and about ten gallons’ worth of some unidentified blue-flowering bulb. I love surprises.

I planted about half the asters and half of the blue bulbs, plus all of the mint and iris today, as well as three-ish Dahlia ‘Mystery Day.’ I love dahlias but have not bothered with them until now because I didn’t care to lift the tubers and store them for the winter. We’ll see what happens this fall; it depends on how well I like the blooms. I spent the winter eating cases of clementines and now have loads of the little wooden crates they come in, which are perfect for overwintering things. Stay tuned.

Also, I was delighted to learn this week that in fact I did NOT kill my Trillium luteum after all! They emerged on Sunday, looking exhausted already, and they’re perhaps four inches across. That’s the whole plant, not just one leaf. I have seen photographs of Trillium luteum standing more than a foot tall and wide, looking absolutely glorious. I have been told by numerous sources this is the easiest trillium to grow. I also learned this week that they will get larger over time. I shall be dancing at my children’s weddings before my trillium get to be that size, I feel certain.

In the not-freebie department, last week I also planted some variegated Polemonium (the tag’s still outside), a Bellis perennis, and something else I couldn’t resist. Photos to come.

Spring again

Of course my previous posts were panic. As often happens around here, after a warm spell there’s a late frost. After weather in the high 80s, we had a frost warning two nights ago. Today it is 45 and rainy. The ground is absolutely saturated and I am concerned the grass I planted a few days ago will drown. At present, there’s about an inch of standing water on top of it.
I was  astonished to see, however, that at least one of my trilliums has survived. It is  no more than 3 inches wide at present and absolutely pitiful looking. I am unsure whether to celebrate its survival or mourn its pathetic appearance. I  gave it a boost of fertilizer–just a touch–and we’ll see what happens.
In the front yard, my Allium ‘Globemaster’ are growing beautifully and small flowers are starting to form. I adore the big, succulent looking leaves. My crinums are coming up as well. I mistook them originally for the beautiful dahlia I planted last year–whose tag escapes me–I have never grown dahlias but was told that with a large pile of mulch it wouldn’t be necessary to lift and store them here. Nothing is emerging, but perhaps it is waiting, like the trillium, for optimal conditions. I expect to take a little field trip in June to a daylily and crinum farm and stock up.
My boxwood hedge is looking shaggy and droopy. The warm weather completely negated the effects of my late winter pruning and it has put on about 8″ of growth in two weeks. Whenever it stops raining, perhaps this weekend, I’ll trim it back again. I do love my sheep shears, which are perfect for the task.
I bought a small Salvia officianalis and a cilantro plant at the grocery store the other day and plucked my first sage leaves for the chicken I am going to roast tonight. My Salvia guarnitica in the side yard has expanded exponentially and is popping up everywhere. Good thing I love it.
And finally for now, I am starting to see buds on my Iris japonica ‘Eco Easter.’ I was given this plant last year by a gardening friend who promised it would grow rampantly and produce adorable blue flowers. I duly planted it in my blue garden, which seems to struggle along every year. But I am hopeful that this plant will mark a turning point in the success of my blue garden (not to be confused with the blue slope in the front).

Stuff I’ve killed, part 1

  1. Anemone x hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’ (at least twice)
  2. Anemone tomentosa ‘Robustissima’ (ha)
  3. Bronze leaf fennel (but only once; it’s now plenty healthy)
  4. Dryopteris filix-mas (male fern)
  5. Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’
  6. Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Penny Mac’
  7. Ilex crenata ‘Soft Touch’
  8. Iris sibirica ‘Ruffled Velvet’
  9. Kerria japonica
  10. Jalapeno peppers
  11. Phlox stolonifera ‘Sherwood Purple’
  12. Phlox subulata
  13. Sagina subulata ‘Aurea’
  14. Trillium luteum (apparently)




A week or so ago, I went to a rose pruning workshop and learned a vast deal. I would like to care for my roses as organically as possible, but I am also desirous of having more than three roses to cut for the season. Again, the blasted fertilization and water.
I was told at the workshop to spray with lime sulfur at this time of year to control black spot spores overwintering on the canes or in the soil. Typically, one would want to spray in January around here, but January has come and gone. My roses never go fully dormant here, but I learned that they need to be forced into a complete rest in order to perform really well. So I intended to spray as advised with a half-dose on the last day of February.
But rain was in the forecast. So I held off. Hoping to get to it today if I feel up to it (I’m hosting something nasty in my tonsils). I did prune the roses thoroughly, thinning out everything in the middle, the little twiglets that won’t produce anything, removing crossing and dead branches, and cutting back to an outward-facing bud. I was advised to get this done before I spray with the lime sulfur, as (not surprisingly) it stinks and I won’t want to work around it.
Also began to thin out the boxwood hedge on the south side of the property. I have seven bushes whose tags have long been lost. I purchased them about six years ago as 1-quart plants and now they’re three feet high and wide. I’ve pruned them back about twice each year to keep new growth in check and to keep them looking healthy and fat. It’s crucial to prune them in a vague inverted-cone shape, with branches at the bottom of the plant longer than the ones at the top. Pruning in a reverse pattern means the lower branches get shaded out by the upper, and you end up with the ragged bottoms that look so pathetic.  I’m very pleased with the boxwoods’ performance, but they’re starting to look a bit stringy on the ends. So I plunged in and thinned out the twiglets in the center, as well as some select larger branches to allow more light to penetrate to the inside of the shrub. I am about halfway through the border now; I hope to finish it by next weekend. The most recent recipient of my barbering looks as if it is entering basic training, having received quite a buzz cut. But I hope it will spring back, bigger and better, ready to serve as the backbone of the border.
I am also in the process of cutting back all of my bearded iris foliage in an effort to control iris borer. I am coming rather late to the party on this one. Ideally, the foliage should be cut back in the fall rather than being left to overwinter. I have always been rather lazy about garden sanitation, excusing it as composting-in-situ, but as I am seeing the rotten fruits of my nonexistent labor, I am pledging this year to get in the habit of cleaning up. A week ago I uprooted the whitish-purple iris at the edge of the scree garden, cut off and properly disposed of all the withered tubers, dunked the salvageable bits into a weakened bleach solution, and replanted them. Slowly progressing through the garden doing the same. I have a lot of iris, so this will take a while. The iris grow like weeds around the property, but they only grow about five inches high. I am fascinated by how this iris surplus might have come to be. I can’t imagine that squirrels dug and divided them, and neither can I imagine that the previous owner of the house, an elderly lady who liked the “natural look,” would have planted several thousand baby iris plants. Perhaps one day I’ll investigate further.
I watered the coral bells (Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’) and bergenias that I bought in my frenzy the other week when I went looking for Sambucus ‘Black Lace’ and dropped $100 on everything but. The Deutzia that I also bought in that frenzy is beginning to leaf out. I am already enamored of this sweet little thing and am looking forward to it blossoming and utterly captivating me. Why didn’t I try it before now?