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June 2007

The Dynamic Duo!

High 86 F
Low 69.5F
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The activity of gardening is a bit different for each of us.  We all have different approaches and different methods which work for us and which make our gardens unique.   A garden is a reflection of the qualities of the gardener or gardeners working in it. Some are blousy and blooming with wild abandon and others are orderly and precise.  I don't look at gardening as a competitive sport.  I think that is why it is so easy to appreciate and admire the work of other gardeners and the beauty they create.  I am fortunate to live across the road from two wonderful gardeners and good friends.  It is an added bonus that I have known Brenda since I was a small child when we played together even before we attended school.  Her husband, Rocky, is the brother of my best friend from high school and I spent many an evening at his dinner table enjoying the cameraderie of his family and the wonderful food his Mom prepared.  There is such comfort in continuity.  They have a beautiful garden as these pictures so clearly show much more precisely than any words. Their garden is on the down side of the slope and mine is on the top of the hill.  They have the ledge spilled everywhere as boulders while mine is attached to the earth like the spine of a whale.  Their garden is a cool, shaded retreat while mine sits up in the sun catching the westerly breeze from the back field.  They sit across from each other separated by a gravel road and totally different exposures to wind and sunlight.  What we share, besides the love of gardening , is the desire and goal to make the best of the  properties we are fortunate enough to care take while we are here on earth. They have certainly made the most of theirs.  Dsc_0008    Here is a unique 'historic' building which was moved from its' original location and has changed functions.  What was once the privy is now the tool shed. There is a functioning (I say that with a bit of envy) two level fish pond Dsc_0009   with waterfalls and frogs and fish.Dsc_0010   There is a challenging slope which has been planted with a wide assortment of perennials and meticulously cared for as you can see here.Dsc_0017 In addition, the vegetable gardens produce an abundant amount of peppers and tomatoes and a new herb garden has been installed. ThereDsc_0013_2 is even a secret white garden complete with quartz boulders from the site.Dsc_0024   Tucker got into a bit of a problem with the resident cat...sorry this is a bit blurry but speed was of the essence with this shot, a little genus tension. Dsc_0023 Rocky and Brenda both love annuals and have them bedded out in masses for bright spots of color.  I love this new garden with its'  sweet sentiment spelled out in flowers. Dsc_0015 I can't wait to see it once it has filled in even further. There is much more to see but I will leave you with this one last shot of the gazing globe garden.  I love the sedum ring around the bottom of the globe stand and the precision of this little portion of the garden.  Dsc_0018 I hope you have enjoyed the tour of this beautiful garden. 


Garden surprises!

High 96 F
Low 66.8 F

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Many years ago when I first started the perennial border I decided to try some valerian.  I was looking for red valerian, Centranthus ruber, which is a rather nice cottage garden plant with red flowers and gray green foliage.  It grows about 24"-30" in height.  I don't have a picture because I did not purchase that plant.  I did purchase three plants with that tag but it was from a small grower who apparently knew about as much as I about this particular perennial.  Latin is no help when a plant is tagged incorrectly.   It helps if you know what the plant looks like but if you are a beginner and just planning the garden big surprises can result!  I mean really big!  Like seven feet tall.  Tucker, once again, has graciously agreed to provide scale for this plant. Click on the picture to enlarge.Dsc_0006   As you can see, I have many more than three plants now!  Valeriana officianalis,in addition to being called valerian, is also called garden heliotrope.  Sometimes the fragrance is very sweet and then, at other times, it smells like dirty socks.  It was initially  disappointing to see the growth on this plant.  I was expecting red and moderate in height and this plant just kept growing and growing and then the flowers were white.  White is a great color for the garden.  It accentuates the strong reds and pinks and it shows up well at night.  It is an interesting addition to the garden and it is very prolific, reseeding here, there and everywhere. Dsc_0004 It is unusual for a perennial to reach this size and bloom so early in the summer. It is a back of the border plant and I think it adds a romantic charm to the garden.  As hard as I try to deadhead it before it reseeds, some escape.  It is easy to pull out of the garden when you are weeding and  it is easy to identify in the  spring. I do doubt that I could ever totally eradicate it.Dsc_0005   I have come to accept its' gracious presence in the border and it is a plant which  always elicits a comment.  Have any of you ever bought a plant that was incorrectly tagged?  How about valeriana officianalis?  What do you think of it?


Searing Sojourns!

High 96 F
Low  61.9 F

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Today was a day to be traveling in an air conditioned car or working in an air conditioned building.  Not so for the garden center workers.  They must endure the heat and spend most of the day watering.  Plants respond to heat stress by drooping and people pretty  much do the same.  In my travels today, I stopped at Woodbridge Greenhouses.  The name is derived from the dense glacial til which is called woodbridge soil.  This soil was deposited on smooth top slopes or upper side slopes when the glaciers receded.  Woodbridge Greenhouse is indeed on a hill not far from the highest point in Rhode Island which boasts just over 900 feet.  Not too impressive is it?  But keep in mind that this is the Ocean State and height is always relative.   The owner and grower is a friend, customer and great grower!  There is always something interesting to see at this small and delightful garden center.   Dsc_0011   It has a small office located in an old house which is painted butter yellow with lime green steps.  The window boxes are adorned in my favorite shades of burgundy and lime green.Dsc_0014 The nursery yard is well appointed with shrubs and filled pots.Dsc_0012   Why is there no picture of the nursery yard?  It was hot and I guess I missed that shot.  At the corner of one of the greenhouses is this inviting waterDsc_0013_2 feature with this great nepeta in the background.  There is a display garden enclosed with a picket fence.  Dsc_0015 It has some very intriguing stepping stones which were made by a local artist.  There are three different ones.  One with horses, Dsc_0016 one with fish Dsc_0020 and one with dragonflies. Dsc_0019 Very interesting!   Did I leave without purchasing?  Not this time.  Here is the booty!Dsc_0022   The  weekend clean out of the borders resulted in some obvious bare spots and we can't have that can we?  I bought this grass, Chasmanthum, Northern Sea Oats,  Heuchera 'Lime Rickey' , and this Weigela, 'My Monet'.   Have any of you grown any of these?  What do you think of them?


Garden potpourri!

High 83.7 F
Low  45.5 F

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Who doesn't love astilbe?  These are Astilbe x arendsii cultivars and they are the first of the Astilbe genus to bloom. They should be moved around just a bit with the red ones grouped together but they were unnamed when I put them in so they went in as a group arrangement.  They are actually pretty fragrant! I have many astilbes growing of different species and while they have beautiful flowers, they have equally beautiful foliage.  I have never seen an astilbe with lousy foliage and since most perennials only bloom two weeks or so the foliage has to stand alone.  Astilbe do prefer a moist soil and partial shade to shade. These are growing in a fairly dry spot and have been here for two years and are tolerating this location.  I will give them a bit of water if it gets very dry.  The different species will bloom at different times so you can actually have astilbe in flower from June through September.  This garden needs a bit of maintenance so please don't look at the weeds!

One of the other gardens which I am currently enjoying is the front garden which is just a narrow strip in front of the greenhouse which serves as an office.  Here it is pictured on May 31st Dsc_0014 and here it is today! Dsc_0052 I love the silver and gold/red/orange effect.  Click on picture to enlarge! 

The first of the lilies are opening. This one is the Asiatic lily 'Lollipop'.Dsc_0057   I have had the dreaded lily leaf beetle on them but have held them at bay with Neem which is an organically registered pesticide and fungicide.  The lily leaf beetle is hard to miss as it is bright red.  I hope none of you have seen it!  I have several clematis blooming.  Here is Etoile violette Dsc_0056and this one is Julia Correvon. Dsc_0054 They are planted with the 'New Dawn' Roses and the different colors are interesting with the pale pink of the roses. 

The garden critters are alive and well.  Here is the pond dwellerDsc_0034 and yesterday's post had my new 'bird' in it.   This little nest was lying on the ground after some Dsc_0041 substantial winds.  I'm going to believe that it was vacated prior to this lawn landing. It looks a bit forlorn even though it's architect dressed it in this ribbon which was trailing from the nest like a kite streamer.  Perhaps that helped with the soft landing.  And finally, since Tucker loves to chase squirrels  this little oneDsc_0053 is here to keep Tucker happy.  He has donned his Larix  cape for the season and keeps a quiet watch over the garden.   


Back border

High 78 F
Low 45.5 F


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Zero humidity is a great way to start a weekend!  Clear and cool is the perfect combination for cleaning gardens and  adding extra annuals.
The first weekend project and, I should say the last due to the size of the job, was to clean the borders.
This back  border needed a bit of attention.  Okay, more than a bit!Dsc_0035    The back border edges up against the woods and its undulating edges  give it a smooth, rhythmic flow. Dsc_0043 Dsc_0042 There are rhododendrons planted at the back of this border but since the deer have had their fill, they are barely visible.  I added some bamboo last year and It is starting to have presence. Dsc_0048 The hydrangeas are the 'Endless Summer' variety as those are the only reliable bud hardy cultivar of the blue mop heads available for my zone.  The 'Amber Waves' heuchera seen in the front of the rocks are just a temporary plant until the horizontal junipers fill this area.  Again, the deer munched on those also.  My spray program is helping and I have planted with deer resistant plants such as foxgloves, boxwood and hellebores.  I mentioned that I added annuals to this border which is something that I don't normally do.  I love white impatiens as they stand out at night and these were on sale for $5.00 per flat.  What self respecting plant lover can turn down that deal?  Another factor is that I am having a big party here next weekend so I wanted the borders to look a little fancier.  Probably no one will even sit in the backyard but who can take that chance!Dsc_0046 I did move the purple pots in favor of this little birdbath.  I like to change things around now and then and the birdbath goes well with the granite rocks don't you think?     Today was a long day in the garden and on the way by the little painted birdhouse I did spy an occupant.  What kind of bird is this?  Dsc_0050He looks a bit evil doesn't he?  After a day in the garden who doesn't appreciate a nice shower.  I didn't say hot although that would have been nice.  I have to perfect the outdoor shower area both in appearance and the heating system.  One hundred and fifty feet of coiled hose doesn't provide any hot water at all, especially if the hose is in the shade!  It is a trade off though. Dsc_0059 Showering outside in the balmy breeze under a stream of cool water or inside.  No comparison!  I am going to get the Equipment Manager working on  the water temp problem!  Do any of you have an outside shower?


Farm Fresh!

High 69 F
Low 48.8 F

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On Friday of this past week I visited another very  nice garden center.  Clark Farms is located in Wakefield, RI  which, if you  are unfamiliar with RI is near the beaches.   It was a beautiful but windy day!  The nursery always looks very well cared for and the displays of both plants and  garden accessories are always inviting.  One of the first plants I came across was this lovely rose called 'May Dreams'.  Dsc_0004 I hope Carol over at May Dreams has a couple of these or, will put them on her list.  As soon as I saw them I thought of her!   Here is a picture of the perennial benches.  As I mentioned, it was a very windy day and you can see one plant down on the ground from the steady breeze.  Watering can be a challenge on a windy day.  Someone is constantly watering.   Dsc_0005 The benches put the plants right up where you can easily see and grab them.  It makes it very hard to resist taking a few home.  Outside the door there was this display of LiliesDsc_0008 which are a oriental and trumpet cross called 'Gluhaven' paired with an ornamental grass Calamagrostis  auc. 'Oberdan'.  The lilies were about five feet tall and the grass four and a half.  It looks lovely don't you think?  There seems to be new perennials hitting the market each year.  This is  one I haven't seen before.  It is a rather nice coreopsis.  I think the cultivar was 'Autumn Charm'.  Has anyone grown this yet? Dsc_0011 Here is a fish pond tucked away behind an arbor which invites you in to take a look.  Dsc_0006 All plants are attractively displayed and this is an interesting way to display some birdbaths.Dsc_0007The shrubs have an area of their own with nice paths weaving around the blocks of nursery stock. Dsc_0013 They also have  great displays in their greenhousesDsc_0014 and in the potting shed where annuals await purchase already potted up in choice colors.Dsc_0019 The inside of the shop is small but with many interesting garden accessories. Dsc_0027 I really love these steel upside down finials.  I don't know where I would put them but I know I could come up with some special place for them.  What would you do with them?


'Smoke' screen!

High 81 F
Low 53.6 F

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Dutchman's Pipe on left fence corner of the fence

Who doesn't value their privacy?  Fences are erected and hedges are planted just to claim a portion of this earth as our own and to be able to move unfettered by curious stares of neighbors and passersby.  There are lovely fences and hedges to be had so the gardener is not without a varied palette from which to choose.  I live in the country on a dirt road with a long driveway but, even still, there was one small corner of the pool area which remained visible from the road , although one would have to look hard and drive slowly to see much of anything. When you are enjoying a moment of privacy in the cool depths of the water only to emerge and spot a car in the drive there is that natural tendency to feel...well, exposed, caught in the act, sheepish and chagrined!  Hence, an appropriate plant had to be chosen for this corner of the pool area. Something that would give the bather a chance to grab a towel.   I considered grape vine but, no, too much fruit in this area wouldn't be good.  Clematis does not provide enough mass for coverage.  I have some 'New Dawn' roses on the fence but they provide a rather loose screen.  I finally decided on Dutchman's Pipe, Aristolochia durior, which is hardy from zones 4-8. There is also the Aristolochia macrophylla available but the species durior was more readily available.Dsc_0003   Vigorous it is!  I do have to keep it somewhat in bounds as it sends runners out every which way but it has beautiful overlapping green foliage Dsc_0006 and an interesting, if small, flower.  Dsc_0005 I have a hard time believing that this vine would be particular about soil conditions but well drained loam is recommended.  I think poor soil would just slow it down a bit. Dsc_0011 The name, Dutchman's pipe, comes from the flower's resemblance to a Meerschaum pipe which you can check out here  I also discovered that the flowers are important to the Pipevine swallowtail butterfly larvae.  I am going to keep my eyes open for the swallowtails although I think that the Pipevine swallowtail is found in more southern areas where the Aristolochia gigantea grows, Zones 8-10.  I do love this vine but would caution anyone thinking of planting it that it does send out runners in all directions and often shows up vining through an unsuspecting perennial.   Now I have an effective screen in the corner of the pool which provides that extra level of comfort when swimming and 'air' bathing.


Scents and sensibility!

High 73 F
Low 61.9

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Scent is a powerful sense.  I have heard that it is one of the most powerful memory triggers.  There are  few perfect odors in the world but each of us has that list of scents which are perfect to us.  My list includes the following:  the scent of a baby, Shalimar perfume (my Mom), freshly baked bread, apple pie with cinnamon, the Christmas tree, sweet peas,  and the scent of freshly cut hay.  It is an unusual year when the first cutting of hay occurs close to the first day of summer but this year a confluence of circumstances, cool temperatures and rain forecasts have kept the equipment still and the grass growing long and tasseled.  It is best to cut the grasses before the inflorescence has matured but  it is more important to have dry weather while it is being cut, fluffed, air dried and then baled. Haying is hard work, at least the picking up from the field and the stacking of the hay on the trailer is hard work.  The cutting, fluffing and baling is done by the tractorDsc_0011_2 and in some areas even the bales are picked up by machines but here, where the fields are small, the bales are picked up by the crew.   The crew is often  rounded up on short notice when the weather reports looks good.
Are there people in the world who have never smelled freshly cut hay?  I suppose there must be and I feel sad for those who have not experienced this scent.  If you have never experienced something then you really can't miss it so, it is sadness wasted.  I guess that I will just have hope that the pure, primal, pleasure of the scent of freshly mown hay can someday be experienced by all. Dsc_0010_2 If you have not ever smelled this scent you can re-create it if you have some sweet woodruff, Galium odoratum, growing in your garden.  Just pick some of the leaves and let them dry in a bowl.  When dry, inhale deeply.  This is very close to the scent of freshly mown hay.   What are some of your favorite scents?      


Went to a garden party...

High 78 F
Low  54 F

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Tonight I attended the annual pot luck supper of the garden club held at one of the member's home.  She has a lovely garden and what is nicer than a garden party al fresco.  Timely since yesterdays' post involved dining outdoors.  The mosquitos weren't too bad, the company was delightful,  the food fantastic and to make the evening complete, there was a silent plant auction. Dsc_0013 Dsc_0021 Garden clubs have evolved over the years.  Members of my club are avid gardeners, plant collectors, conservationists and some are lovers of flower arranging and most are, in addition, working women.  Nurses, teachers, artists, authors and I am sure many other varied and interesting occupations but the love of some aspect of gardening, the love of nature, and community service brings this group together.  Everyone brings a special talent to the table.  Not to mention some great food.  I love that pepper holding the dill sauce for the salmon.  Must remember that trick!Dsc_0033 This garden has  wonderful  sitting areasDsc_0022 and some really spectacular  Aruncus dioicus or goatsbeard here in the background in full bloom. Dsc_0018 This property is a hillside and there are many  rocks and trees and sometimes they seem to grow together.    A melding of the mineral and the organic both painted with lichens. Dsc_0024 Curious isn't it?   Now, the name of this perennial escapes me. Dsc_0019 Can anyone help?  I have not grown it but I have known it!  One last picture.  I find that sometimes I like to take feet and shoe pictures.  I think that you can tell quite a bit about a person if you look at their shoes so here goes, click to enlarge.  I will say that one of these is mine but, which one?  What kind of story do these shoes and feet tell?  Dsc_0029 Thanks for joining the party!   


Dining Al Fresco!

High 85 F
Low 61.6 F

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There has been quite a bit of conversation  in the print media lately on outdoor living spaces, outdoor kitchens and outdoor dining.  When I was a kid there was outdoor dining...it was called a picnic table.  We kids loved to eat outdoors but my Dad hated it.  He served in World War II and had had his fill of outdoor dining.  He liked to eat in the house.  I can count on one hand the times he ate outside with us.  The pitcher of lemonade, the burgers and dogs and potato salad were hallmarks of our outdoor meals.  Now, outdoor dining can mean outdoor fully equipped kitchens and lounge areas with couches, and lighting and even rugs. Grilled pizza, and sun roasted tomatoes on bruschetta are now the flavors of the day.  The food may have changed a bit but who can resist a juicy burger now and then. The picnic table may have given way to a table with actual chairs for comforts' sake but, an extra kitchen?    Who in their right mind would want an extra kitchen and one outdoors at that?  One kitchen is enough in my opinion.    I like to eat so cooking is a necessity but I'll stick with the one kitchen located inside the house!  As for the outdoor living space, my patio is almost too small but that makes for cozy groupings. Dsc_0025 The grill is close to the table and the hardscape is simple brick.  I do have the added bonus of a porch swing.  I wish it were long enough to lie down on and take a nap but sometimes I do curl up, way up, and snooze 'til the arm and leg cramps become unbearable.  Dining al fresco in the evening sometimes has its challenges mostly involving the mosquitos which can be a bit thick.  If this happens we have to light some torches but by then it is time to  break up the party as there are often kids involved and they need to go to bed anyway.  There is a pretty good view of the garden from the patio and the rose bush provides a beautiful scent in the evening air. Dsc_0011 Dsc_0013 Today I picked a bouquet from the garden. Dsc_0015 Here it is from both sides.  It adds a bit to the outdoor dining area. I still haven't had a chance to formalize the arrangement but outdoors, formal is not the order of the day.  If there were anything I would change about the outdoor dining area it would be, as I mentioned, the size.  I would just make it a bit bigger.  Perhaps I should just have fewer dinner guests at one time but that would leave some out and that old phrase, "The more, the merrier" is so true!  Dsc_0029   Do you have an outdoor dining area and if so, how often do you use it?