Counting my summer successes

Every winter, it’s the same story. I go bonkers with the seed catalogues and order far more packets than I could possibly manage. I try most everything; many experiments fail. But I’ve had a few successes about which I’m very pleased. When I’m in the gardening doldrums this month I will count those successes and plot a reformed seed-shopping future that we know will never actually come to pass.

Nicotiana langsdorfii

I love Nicotianas, the scented, ornamental tobaccos. My collection of Nicotiana packets is second only to my array of hollyhocks. In the past, I’ve successfully germinated perhaps thousands of these plants, but have transplanted them out too early, or forgotten to water them at a critical point in May when the temperature spiked to 90 degrees, or committed some other sloppy mistake. This year, I pledged to thin my seedlings. And, teeth gritted, I did.  I now have one plant that has flowered and is setting seed, and three or four others that are preparing to flower.

nicotiana langsdorfii 1

The plant grows from a lush basal rosette of foliage. Its gangly stems would look much better pushing through, say, a summer-flowering aster or maybe even a low-growing rose. But I’m thrilled that it’s filling in a small spot in a large expanse of plants that are not on their A-game this summer.nicotiana langsdorfiiI adore this chartreuse green color, and the tubular flowers’ charming shape is like nothing else in my garden. Pods of mite-sized seeds have just started to crack open on this plant, which is still flowering like mad. I’ve laid a thick bed of compost around it to catch those seeds as they drop. If I’m lucky, next year I’ll be swimming in these neon green blossoms.



Garden plans: Sketching

I have been thinking more about what I’m calling my cloister garden, for want of a better name. I don’t possess the time or discipline to maintain a cloister garden properly, but I still think that this space could provide the calming effect I desire without being terribly manicured.


Here is a little design I came up with, using the SketchBook Express app. (There went an hour when I wasn’t looking.) It started out as an aerial view, but then as I explored the app’s features I forgot to apply an aerial perspective. Please pretend with me. If you need further references, see my mockup.

The two brown blobs on the left represent overhead views of large trunks of post oaks. The long green vertical strip on the right is the aerial edge of the new house extension (not yet finished, but well on its way).

Rehmannia, Chinese foxglove

Rehmannia, Chinese foxglove.

In addition to the plants listed, I think I need to include some Rehmannia, a little plant I fell in love with last year at the Duke Gardens plant sale, and some nicotiana. However, this is prime territory, sunlight wise, for a tomato or two, and tomatoes and nicotiana don’t mix. They are from the same family, Solanaceae, and the nicotiana can promote tobacco mosaic virus in the tomatoes. A little quandary to resolve this winter, I guess.

Species: 'Nicotiana × sanderae' Family: Solana...

Species: ‘Nicotiana × sanderae’ Family: Solanaceae Image No. 1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The lawn will be Carex, and in the winter, cyclamen will bloom in it. And maybe snowdrops. In the spring, those will give way to crocuses, then grape hyacinths. In fall, more cyclamen and colchicums. I plan to mow once a year. The rest of the time, I will let it grow long and lazy, offering a haven for beneficial insects. That’s the dream, anyway.

Garden log, 5.17.13


Woke up in the middle of the night remembering I had planted out seedlings of Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’ a few days ago and forgot to water them. This is not a good sign of my mental health. This morning made an emergency nursery bed for seedlings of Belamcanda chinensis, Celosia ‘Crimson Pink,’ what’s left of Echinacea ‘Magnus,’ some Linum perenne (flax), purple bee balm, ‘Mammoth’ dill, Thymus vulgaris, and something else that has lost its label. Assuming, hopefully, that they survive, the bed will be a design disaster. Put white Nicotiana in white garden, fingers crossed. Moved remaining suffering seedlings to the shade and gave them a good water and a low-strength fertilizer. Hope I can get to the rest tomorrow before projected thundershowers.

I knew it would come to this when I planted all those seeds during my winter sowing mania. I love to sow; love having cheap new plants; hate to thin, prick out, and pot up. Must think of better way to do this, because I like the winter sowing technique. Could nursery beds be the answer?