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The Week in Review

CrocusThe snow has left the gardens but there are still a couple of mounds in the drive from the winter snowplowing. No matter since now the garden work can begin. The crocus are up and taking turns debuting their outfits. Last snowdropsThe snowdrops have almost finished blooming which means that in spite of all the raking to be done, they need to be moved around right after the flowers fade. I have found that this is an easy transition time for them and they spread quite readily when given a helping hand. I just lift the larger clumps and carefully pull apart the bulbs. It is then an easy matter to pop them into the empty garden spots. Someday there will be rivers and pools of snowdrops. It is coming. Winter aconite2The winter aconites are doing a bit of yoga with this salute to the sun. Theirs is the first bright yellow to appear, usually well before the daffodils which are just beginning to show color here  I do see a bit of the tete a tete flowers pushing through one of the fallen,  yet to be cut back, grasses. One expects bulbs in the spring but the first of the herbaceous perennials to bloom are the hellebores. This hellebore is a lovely rose veined variety, Helleborus orientalis 'Apricot Blush'Hellebore2I do have some of the dark flowered hellebores but I find that they are lost among the richness of the soil so it will be these lighter ones which I will plant from now on. In the middle of the week I discovered that I am not the only one who loves the Iris 'Katherine Hodgkin'. Katherine H.
Her cool, blue beauty attracted another admirer. In the dark of night either the deer or the rabbits decided to eat the blooms. The deer spray is sitting right there on the step. Live and learn. At least I got a couple of days of joy from them. Another task which has been checked off the spring list is that of starting the tomato seeds.
 I know it seems late since so many of you are in the warmth already but here it will take six weeks to get them to just the right size so they suffer no root stifling. I have planted them early in the past and have found that to do so results in the extra step of potting them on to a larger sized container. April 15th is the target date for planting the seeds here. I was one day off. The seedlings will be planted in the garden at the end of May. Tomatoes love warm soil so there is no use planting them any earlier. One other task which lightens the load for this gardener is the annual burning of the grasses. Grass burning 1I can only really burn these by the fishpond as they are well away from other plantings. Usually this is done around St. Patrick's Day but this year I could not even get near them and they were lying under the snow. You can see how flat they are. These are Miscanthus s. 'Gracillimus' and Miscanthus sinenesis var. purpurascens. They are in excess of six feet tall by the time the fall plumes appear.Grass Burning 2I did get out the hose and the rake just in case there were any escaping embers but from start to finish, the grasses burn hot in under a minute. The ash sweetens the soil and the area is transformed. Grass burning 3The fish didn't seem to mind at all. It was a pretty good week. I hope yours was filled with spring blooms and enjoyable garden tasks.


The Forgotten Spring

Snow-EranthusOn Monday, March 30, 2015, it is snowing yet again and this March morning has all the steel gray warmth of an early January day. I did miss most of the snow of this remarkable winter but upon returning to New England in mid-March I have been privileged to witness the effects of the many snow storms of 2015. Deep snowThere is still a foot of snow on the ground in many places and the driveway has five foot piles of snow from the plow. The temperatures are quite chilly with the current temp of around 32F. There will be no raking in March. There will most probably be no garden cleanup until well into April. The days are getting much longer though and the sun is quite warm despite the cool air temperatures. The evidence that spring has arrived is here but it is slim evidence. Much of the garden is still covered but those southerly exposures are clear. Snow-recedingThe snow is receding ever so slowly leaving in its wake, sticks, mud, packed leaves and even a flower or two. Why didn't I plant five hundred crocus in this area in the back? Nature gives us the best cues if we care to look for them. I do have some Eranthis hyemalis aka winter aconite, blooming in the back and it really only takes a glimpse of this bright yellow to lighten one's spirit. I am marking the calendar right now to order some bulbs for fall planting. Next spring when the snow recedes, a bright carpet of gold will take its place. Snow-single aconiteGold and maybe some orange. I feel better already.    


Fall - 2014

Spider webI am not sure how it happened. Summer is gone and today is the first full day of fall. I thought it the perfect summer. Many would disagree. It was clear and not overly hot. The tomatoes loved it. Lots of bright sunshine brought a huge harvest. Plume poppy seedhead The flowers loved it. This gardener loved it. Still, the weeds crept into the borders in late July. It happens every year despite my resolve to keep at it. No matter. There is much to keep one busy in summer. Poison ivyYou can see the coloration beginning. The poison ivy which receives the morning light is one of the first plants to color up. The colchicums bloom, the spiders are busy spinning away and the lower light causes deep shadows and nice back-lighting. Fall crocusThis morning the temperatures dipped for the first time into the 30's. High 30's, no frost yet. I cannot say that I am ready for a frost but there is the smell of damp decay in the air and the days are shorter. Spider web and euonNight is coming a bit more swiftly. It is time to set the mouse traps. They will be trying to share the warmth inside. I will attempt to thwart their efforts. The border has a few flowers left. BorderThe deer have started cutting back the hostas. It is so kind of them. I never see them but they leave their mark. They are foraging for the long, cold months and I cannot say I blame them but there is a field out back just for them. If only they would stay there. Fall in New England is usually lovely. I will have to wait and see what it has to offer this year. I hope it is long and warm.  Hoping is the gardener's trademark after all.


Summer Shots

Caryopteris 'Bluebeard'Summer is busy. The gardens have gone from lush to munched. The deer have taken liberties and the gardener has been lax with the spray program. Still, there is beauty to be found in the shortening summer days. Shadows are lengthening and the late flowering shrubs and perennials are starting to bloom. Above, the Caryopteris is attracting bees. I think this one is Caryopteris x cladonensis 'Bluebeard'. HoneysuckleThe honeysuckle has both berries and blooms right now. This one sits by the fishpond along with a Heuchera 'Caramel' which is languishing in the hot sun. ButterflyThe butterflies don't seem to mind the scorched leaves. I have moved this Heuchera to a better site just this week. The real star of the garden at this time of year is the Hydrangea 'Limelight'. LimelightThis 'Limelight' sits in a back corner of the garden behind the house. I really must  add a few more to more visible areas. It lights up the garden at dawn and dusk and this hydrangea will never let you down. It blooms easily and heavily in my Zone 5b garden. Yes, I need to get a few more. 


Bloom Day - April 15, 2014

Iris Katherine HodgkinApril Bloom Day has arrived with April showers which is just as it should be. It is time to reap the rewards of past fall bulb plantings along with celebrating the earliest bloomers. The snowdrops have lost their pretty white flowers but there is much of interest to take their place in the gardens which are still being uncovered. Most of you know of Iris 'Katherine Hodgkin'. She is tiny and her color is pale but satisfying. These clumps are a testimony to her happiness and mine. PansyWhat is spring without some smiling pansies? I have planted the containers by the back door with this little seasonal annual and while the plants need to fill out a bit, the cheery faces of the pansies and the bright spots of color lift the spirits. DaffodilsOther blooming bulbs include daffodils, White and purple crocuspurple and white crocus which are naturalizing in the front entry bed and Scilla siberica which also fills in and reseeds in the garden. Scilla sibericaSome call it invasive but this little ground cover provides early nectar and intense bright blue flashes of color. I prefer to call it a 'naturalizer' since it would be easy to eradicate and doesn't take the place of any low growing native. It is worth noting that this little flower has a sweet and unique fragrance which is best experienced lying prone on the ground with one's nose in the flowers. Beware, you may come out of this looking a bit smurf like since the pollen is blue and may show up on the tip of your nose. Kids love this little demonstration.  Glory of the snowAnother great naturalizer is the Glory of the Snow, Chionodoxa forbesii. It faithfully blooms every year on Patriot's Day and it contrasts well with the yellow of daffodils or as a skirt around the witch hazels.  Hearts a Fire tulipOne other little bulb, this Tulipa Hearts a Fire, is not yet in bloom but with foliage this dramatic, who needs blooms? Cardinal helleboreIn the borders the hellebores are blooming. Hellebores are available in a wide range of flower colors and species and they are deer resistant. Golden helleboreI did witness a bit of chomping on the Helleborus foetidus flowers. They were nibbled off and left for litter on the ground right next to the plant. No matter, H. foetidus is really valuable for the fine fingered foliage while these others have lovely flowers and foliage which is less dramatic but still a wonderful texture. Witch hazelThe earliest blooming shrub in my garden is witch hazel, Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold's Promise'.   This is still a small shrub having been planted just two years ago. Since this is its third year in the ground I am expecting leaps of growth this year. There is a frenzy of activity in the garden this time of year. Much of it is taking place underground as roots stretch, grow and absorb life giving nutrients but this gardener is keeping busy as well with cleanup, fertilizing, spreading compost, planting and, soon, dividing. Does anyone need any bee balm? It seems to be taking over the central garden bed. It is not difficult to keep busy this time of year. I look forward to seeing what is blooming in your garden and thank Carol of May Dreams, once again, for hosting another Bloom Day.


False Spring

 

DSC_0098The recent snow has receded and on Sunday the winds blew strong after Saturday's heavy rain. It felt more like March than mid-January. In the garden there are a few standing grasses, the ever present evergreen shrubs and trees and there are a multitude of seed heads. The variety of seed heads in the garden is quite amazing.Echinacea seedhead
From the stiff and prickly coneflowers all the way to this Sinocalycanthus seedheadgnarly seed head from the Sinocalycanthus chinensis or Chinese Wax Shrub. There is a world of shapes and sizes well in between these two dried garden offerings.  The Chinese wax shrub is relatively new to North America. I bought my plant from a local wholesale grower in CT and according to their information it has only been in cultivation since 1980. The nursery first received a plant from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and they have been propagating and selling it since. Chinese wax shrub is a lovely shrub with shiny green leaves and delicately pink flowers. There really are not tons of flowers on this shrub but it is showy with its elegant leaves. The flowers are just a bonus. Dsc_0031 (3)They are fairly large. Two to three inches in diameter and they do look quite waxy giving credibility to the common name. I will enjoy the memory of them until they next appear. Small gardening chores can be done here when the weather permits. I have gotten rid of that pile of leaves on the left side of the top picture. There are more to rake if time and weather allows although everything was quite muddy on Sunday. It sounded like winter but felt like the winds of March. Winter is not even a month old but winter gets old very quickly. It is over two months until actual spring arrives. There are lots of catalogs to read and orders for seeds must be placed. The chores of summer and fall are a distant memory along with the muscle aches those chores generate and the feeling that there is never enough time in the day to get them all done. Now, I am itching to get back into the garden. I will have to settle for a visit to a greenhouse full of lush plants and heavy, moist air.  Any suggestions?     


The Bewitching 'Katharine Hodgkins'

Katherine Hodgkin irisIt is that time of year again. Katharine has come to visit. She wears a wedgewood blue frock adorned with darker blue gemstones and panels of clear yellow. Her frock darkens ever so slightly in color as the days pass. This cool spring has allowed her a very long visit. And, she has brought relatives.KH bestThe original clump seems fuller this year which may  mean that she is happy with this site in humus rich shade. This iris is a bit stockier than others of her clan having sturdy parentage. A gentleman and part time plant breeder, EB Anderson, crossed Iris histrioides with Iris danfordiae but insects must have intervened as DNA testing shows the other parent is Iris winogradowii. Iris histrioides is native to Turkey and is blue. KH with crocusIris winogradowii is native to Central Asia where it grows in alpine meadows. It is yellow and tends to be stoloniferous which may be the reason this clump above has increased in size. But who, you might ask, is Katharine Hodgkins? She must have been quite a beauty. She was the wife of Mr. Anderson's friend, Mr. Hodgkins but I can find little information on her. DSC_0105This plant was hybridized in the 60's. It has none of the 60's psychedelic coloration. It is refined and luminous although I do find that it 'disappears' in the garden and is best planted next to a well traveled path. This is its second spring here in my garden and I find her quite bewitching.  I recommend her to every gardener as she is lovely and a somewhat unusal addition to the garden of little bulbs.

Bloom Day - March 15, 2013

Clump of snowdropsThe blooms have finally begun. The snowdrops have been tightly wrapped until temperatures hit the 50's on Wednesday. I always get muddy knees trying to get a good photograph of the little bulbs and their flowers. TommiesThe tommies have popped up. These were planted the fall before last so it is their second showing. The newer plantings have not shown their tops yet but they are in a bit less sunny position than these. They are showing color but are not yet open. DSC_0008The winter aconites have started with bright yellow blooms as well. I see daffodil foliage popping up but it will be a while before they bloom. DSC_0015Spring is a few days away and the temperature today was in the low 30's which keeps everything in suspended animation but that will change. It has to as spring is in motion. I can't wait to see what is blooming in your garden. Thanks to Carol of May Dreams for hosting yet another Bloom Day.

Pineapple Lily - Eucomis

DSC_0007The pineapple lily is a South African native which adds a thrill to any container planting. There are several different species of pineapple lily and over fifteen different cultivars. All have strap like leaves and a flower stalk which emerges from the center of the foliage. This is topped with a pineapple shaped flower composed of many small waxy florets. They are easy to grow and will grow in full sun or light shade although flowering is better in full sun. If I lived further south I would consider bedding them out for interesting texture in the borders. They are a bit pricey though and I hope to overwinter this one in the dormant state in a cool basement. We shall see what happens. DSC_0008I planted 'Sparkling Burgundy' in my containers near the house this spring. This cultivar has dark foliage and the flowers are creamy with bits of pink and yellow stamens. I have not detected any repulsive odor although, since it is pollinated by flies, it is said to have a bit of a stench. DSC_0005I am enjoying the tropical, exotic look it brings to these containers. Eucomis 1In addition to the burgundy pineapple lilies in my container, a friend gave me a bulb which she had potted up from last year and overwintered in her basement. EucomisThis lily has green foliage, a smaller flower head and interesting markings on the stem. It looks quite nice on its own in the small clay pot on the patio and is also a reminder of friendship. Thank you Lois. If you are looking for Eucomis bulbs, there are several on line sources.  Mine was purchased as a potted bulb already showing promise.  Now, a promise fulfilled. Have you grown this plant and, if so, what are your thoughts on Eucomis?

The First Flowers of Spring

DSC_0006 Spring is over a week away according to the calendar but the garden rarely waits for the specific date as Mother Nature has a schedule all her own.  These are the only flowers in the garden.  They are revered for that fact alone.  DSC_0004 The bees do not know that they are here yet.  I am going to pay attention and watch for that first pollinator.  It is still cold.  There is still snow.  Spring will come and go for the next few weeks alternating with late winter but spring will take over.   It is inevitable.