Sunday, February 28, 2010

An Almost Perfect Phlox

Blue Paradise, it sounds perfect doesn't it?  We would all like a little bit of paradise right now!  Phlox was very popular around the turn of the century but from the 1940's to the 1980's it fell out of favor for being too old fashioned.  Many of the cultivars were lost and nurseries and breeders have been trying ever since to bring back even better phlox varieties.

In 1990 Piet Oudolf introduced Blue Paradise Phlox, a native plant from the New England area, thrives in zones 4-8, up to four feet tall and mildew resistant.  It is a striking blue color and has a wonderful fragrance.  I have several locations of Blue Paradise Phlox, mostly peeking out or through other plantings, such as my Knockout Roses and Becky Shasta Daisies.  Blue Paradise blooms non-stop from June through October.  The more you deadhead, the more it blooms, more prolifically than any other phlox in my garden. including David.

It is a preferred plant at Millennium Park in Downtown Chicago and it is certainly a preferred plant in my garden!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Echinacea "Art's Pride" (Orange Meadowbrite) and Mango Meadowbrite

I purchased Art's Pride about six years ago as a new introduction by the Chicago Botanic Garden.  They were named after Art Nolan who was the director of a large foundation which contributed funds to Dr. Jim Ault who bred Art's Pride.

I ordered them online because they were not readily available in the garden centers.  I ordered  three bareroot plants and put them by the side of my cedar shed the, site of my mini cottage garden, which borders my raised bed vegetable garden.

I was very disappointed when they bloomed and I saw two Art's Pride next to each other and then this yellow speciman which looked just like the orange flowers but yellow!. 

I guess I could have complained to the online nursery, but I decided to investigate what this plant might be.  As I read about Art's Pride I found out that sometimes this Echinacea produces a sport, and guess what, this sport is Mango Meadowbrite.  I kept all three, one Art's Pride succumed after a couple of years, so I am left with one Art's Pride and one Mango.  They are not as sturdy or as upright as other Echinaceas but I have come to love them for their whispy nature.  They are perfect in this casual farm-like area.

Subsequent to the development of these two unusually colored Echinaceas there have been many more orange and yellow varieties, i.e., Sunset, Sundown, Sunrise, Harvest Moon, etc.

Even after all of these years the Meadowbrites are difficult to find.  I have never seen them at Home Depot.  However, they are still available online.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


This is going to be boring to many of us because I am going to talk about grass.  As gardeners, we do not think about grass, we think mostly how can we get rid of most of it and have more room for our plants.

I do not have much grass. In fact, my husband says a gerbil could mow our lawn! However, the little grass that I do have I treasure for my dog to go out and run around, for my grandchildren to go under the sprinkler and most of all to add an inner frame for my garden.

We have had a great deal of snow this year, and a few years ago when we had unusual snow our grass came back as almost non existent. I was sure we would have to sod the whole back yard. Before we resorted to this we thought we would try a seeding process. Believe me, we were not optimistic about this project. We could see our neighbors passing though our alley and actually stopping their cars to look at our desert-like property. We do receive sun in our backyard, so we purchased a good Kentucky bluegrass seed, a seed starting fertilizer, some high quality topsoil and shredded peat moss.  I know peat moss has come under fire lately, but it seemed to work for this application.

The first task was to rake the grass that was left into a standing position, sprinkle the topsoil in all the bare areas, sprinkle the seed on top of this and then sprinkle the shredded peat moss on top. The next task is to water, water, water. We even put out a large garden pinwheel to keep aways the birds, but this may not even be necessary.

Lo and behold, the grass started to sprout, it became beautiful, neighbors stopped in the alley to look at the beautiful grass. I can't believe we did it, and we may have to do it again this year after all the snow we've had and the dog walking on the snow and us walking on the snow!

If I have a review that has to do with the outdoors or gardening I will post, any other genre I will give you the link.

The Book About Tony Chestnut  (Childrens Book)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Does Your Home Reside In More Than One Zone?

You can't imagine how excited I was when shoveling my pathway that leads from the back of my house all the way to the front.  There is a raised bed (about twenty-feet long) and on the other side a narrow strip about two feet wide by twenty feet long.  As I pushed the snow along and hoisted it a little at a time to deposit in the raised bed, my eye caught something green coming up in the opposite narrow strip.

I could not believe my eyes, the daffodils were up about four inches and muscari about two inches.  They were green and looked unexpected with the mounds of snow all around.  I threw a little snow on top of them because it almost looked like they had been born too soon!

Let me tell you about this strip, it has been an experiment for six years, and like a detective each year I try to solve the mystery.  It is certainly a zone 6 or above (it is flush with the house), and I think I could grow tropicals here - ha! ha!  My May Night Salvia does great in this area, but it blooms one month before the May Night in the front of my house.  The daylilies displayed burnt foliage, but the clematis and campanula were fine, Veronica not doing well either - burned leaves.  I even have a drip system under this area and also spend each day watering by hose.  Year after year I would plant some of the heat tolerant annuals like zinnias and marigolds, but I really wanted perennials in this area. 

Last fall I pulled out my daylilies, left the Veronica and began to leaf through the High Country Gardens Catalog.  I ordered and planted "Blue Lips" Penstemon, Dianthus "Firewitch" and "Arizona Sun" Gaillardia.  They took to that area like they were home at last, growing by leaps and bounds before the fall frost set in.  I don't know what the result is yet but I have positive vibes.  Could this be a Xeric area in zone 5?  Xeric plants thrive in hot, dry areas requiring only minimal amounts of water.  A great book to read is Lauren Springer's The Undaunted Garden.  It is a little heavy on text but contains lots of important information on water wise plantings.

We probably all know the answer to this, and I know I have learned that as much as I tried, the plants I chose would not fit the area.  Check out their catalog, the plants listed are adaptable to many areas in your garden.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Burpee Came Yesterday

I received my Burpee Catalog yesterday, and I don't know why it is so late.  I usually get a huge influx of catalogs in January, so this is very late to be getting a seed catalog.  Now, I really don't know what to do, too late to start many of the seeds, but they do offer small plants, but not the ones I want!  How frustrating this is just when I am ready to get started on my vegetable garden.

I think I will order the tomato plants called Brandy Boy (a cross between Brandywine and one of the Boy tomatoes) higher yields than the heirloom "Brandywine." and a pepper called Mariachi (an All America Winner) just a hint of heat!

I am just continuing to ignore the snow, maybe I will go shopping for fertilizer today.

**Ordered my plants from Burpee (got free Espoma Fertilizer), bought my onion sets from Home Depot and some garlic sets to keep the rabbits away

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Countdown Has Begun

We had a snowstorm last night, but my countdown has begun!  I have decided I am not going to be affected by the weather because I know that four weeks from now I will be planting my seeds in the raised bed vegetable garden, onion sets, radishes, lettuce, spinach and parsley.  There have been years when I planted these seeds with snow flurries in the air, and there have been years when the weather was quite mild.  But, spring break heralds the beginning of the spring planting season.

It is a very small raised bed and I do not have the ability to rotate crops.  So, as Martha Stewart said today on her radio broadcast, if you cannot rotate improve the soil.  I do this every year like clockwork, manure, compost, some additional soil, shredded peat and some slow release fertilizer.  My husband came in with the dog and said it was like "flakey rain" coming down.  I do not want to hear this!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Smallest Shade Garden Ever

Many years ago I had an all shade garden, really more of a woodland garden, with Jack-in-the Pulpit, Lilly of the Valley, Bloodroot, Jacobs Ladder, tons of violets, Dutchman's Breeches, hosta, Virginia Bluebells, Forget-Me-Nots, Solemon's Seal, wild Phlox, and many more that I cannot even remember the common names.

In my previous home to the one I am in now, I had a more traditional shade garden, with the Hostas, Astilbe, Hellebores, Thalictrum, Rue Anemone, Ginger, Aruncus Diocus, Ligualaria, Trillium, Aquilegia Canadensis, Lobelia Cardinalis, various Hostas (one called Sum and Substance that would fill my present yard) and on and on, many more that I would have to spend time recalling.

It has been a long time since I have had any shade in which to plant.  However, now I have this small strip along the north side of my house.  It has been a delimma because there is a path down the middle and small planting areas on each side.  I have a grass called Carex Ice Fountains on one side all the way from the back to the front.  It will thrive in part shade and has a varigation in the grass leaf.  It is not totally carefree, requiring some controlling in this small area.  However, it is very attractive as a smaller grass (18") in this tight area.

On the other side of this small, long area I have my "Pop" hostas, Halcyon and August Moon interspersed with Bleeding Heart (Dicentra Spectabilis), Ostrich ferns, and Nepeta Subsessilis.  The Ostrich ferns and nepeta add some intermittent height to this long strip.  I usually interplant Caladiums for the summer.  As we move further back there are variegated Solemon's Seal, Astilbe Chineses Pumila, and Hosta Patriot.  On the ground is Pachysandra Green Sheen which glows in this environment.

I do put some annuals in this area, impatiens on the ground and more sun tolerant plantings in the baskets that hang on the fence. My Unique Hydrangeas are also part of this long planting strip. I realize by going back over my planting history in the shade how much I miss some of the plants that I no longer have the room to accomodate. We will revisit this area again in the spring.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Outdoor Fun With Children

Make It Wild! 101 Things To Make And Do Outdoors

By Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield

ISBN: 978-0-7112-2885-6

The title alone would invite the adventuresome to open the cover! There is a child pictured looking at a sailboat that we assume is self-constructed and the promise of more adventure to come scrolled across the bottom of the book. One knows from the touch that this book is meant to be an outside reference as it is coated for durability.

The authors are all about stimulating the imagination and restoring a sense of wonder in children. They are beckoning them to get up from the computer and television and release that sense of adventure. They use the category Ephemeral Art to encompass Beach Art, Woodland Art and Ice and Snow. All of these activities could be done with younger children with supervision. Older children would naturally enjoy these activities and add their own age appropriate creativity. The snow lanterns are beautiful, but would require an adult to light the candles.

The Outdoor Toys section is magical, offering explicit directions on how to make each one. I know how fascinated many children are with Go Carts and there are step-by-step directions for a successful execution of a simple rope steered go cart. The children go on to explore the beach finding pieces of driftwood to fashion cricket bats, type of baseball bat, small rafts and boats. The paper gliders and painted paper kites are ingenious incorporating many important educational skills, i.e. design, balance, fine motor, social and teamwork.

Clay, wood furniture, making paints from natural ingredients, handmade jewelry, leaf crafts and natural mobiles and wind chimes are only some of the activities out of 101. The authors have jam-packed this exciting book with things that most adults would enjoy doing. Many of the activities are geared to children ten and up with younger children included with modifications. This would be a great reference not only for parents but teachers, camp and scout leaders.

Many of the fire-based activities would be just as creative and educational without the element of danger. The authors make many disclaimers throughout the book regarding the use of dangerous materials such as the fire and sharp instruments. It will be up to those who take on the supervisory role for these activities to determine the appropriateness .

Highly recommended book for its creativeness and timeliness in regard to children being more active physically and creatively!

Eileen Hanley (Gatsbys Gardens) Reviewer for

Related article in Early Childhood News

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Year Round Screening

One of my favorite year-round evergreen screens is Arborvitae Mission Techny.  In  my previous home, I used them to screen my vegetable garden from the front of the house.  Arborvitae is a member of the Cypress family and the leaves were once used to treat rheumatism.

Techny can grow to fifteen plus feet, (some sites say twenty-five feet but this is not typical) but can easily be kept much smaller by trimming in the fall.  They have very few problems with their only enemy being spider mites in areas where there is little rain.  Many arborvitaes spread apart as they become larger, Techny does not do this. There is a new one that has been recently introduced a gold variety of Techny.  You will probably pay a little more for this arborvitae variety but it is worth it for longevity and minimal care.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Why Is It Important To Belong?

Belong to what you say, a garden club of course!  I could not belong to a garden club for thirty-five years because I worked full time and the garden club met during the day.  I am not working full time now, so I was able to join two groups this year to find out where I really belong.  Both of them are enjoyable for different reasons. 

Monday I went to the more serious group and we were going to have a demonstration of Asian cooking by someone I had known years ago.  She has traveled the world and written four books.  I am not a fan of Asian cooking, and my husband told me I had better eat before going.  Oh, I forgot to tell you, this demo was being held at Bloomingdales near the suburb where I live.  Our meeting was going to be on the third floor before the demo, so I strolled up and this lovely person from Bloomingdales offered to take my coat.  Where am I?  I thought I was at a fancy downtown  restaurant, but I was up there among the rugs and mattresses. 

There were lovely little round gold clothed tables, and we peeked into the covered treats on the buffet.  This didn't look Asian, but it looked delicious.  I was so glad that I had not eaten.  After lunch and a short business type meeting, we were ushered downstairs for our cooking demo. 

We all agreed that this specific meeting had little to do with "gardening," but it certainly had a lot to do with a group of gardeners getting together to enjoy being with each other.  Next month, we will really get down to business!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Landscaping Time is Fast Approaching

Spring is the time most of us think about relandscaping or starting from scratch.  I will try to share with you some of my mistakes and some successes.  The more I garden, the more I believe it is important to have more than just one season of interest in our landscaping materials.

I am not a fan of Winged Euonymous even though it turns a beautiful red in the fall.  It seems to be a favorite of landscapers but is susceptible to scale which can kill most of the bush before it's noticed.  A better choice would be Cranberry Virburnum (trilobum'Bailey') which has interesting shaped leaves and is a brilliant red in the fall.  I have learned to stay away from Spiria because of the care they take in pruning and clearing out all of the dead wood they seem to have each year.  However, Goldflame Spiria (pink flowers in summer) is a more carefree one and is a beautiful color for three seasons. 

I still see many Purple Plums planted in our area, but it is not recommended by the Morton Arboretum, very disease prone.  A spectacular multi-stemmed tree is the Redbud (cercis canadensis).  It is really a four season specimen heart shaped leaved and magenta flowers, large green leaves all summer, stunning yellow in the fall and a pleasing vase shape all winter.  It is considered an understory tree or shrub (meaning it does well planted under large trees or closer to the underhang of the house).  There is a tree form of the Redbud also, but it is not as pleasing of a shape as the multi-stemmed variety.

The White Birch is also prone to disease, so take a look at the River Birch, will take a moist area, and looks beautiful in the fall.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day Plants

Love Lies Bleeding is such an inappropriate name for this beautiful plant.  The year I grew this there were lots of  O's and Ah's from my neighbors.  I started them from seed and they were quite WOW in my front garden along a walkway.  This variety can  be grown in a container with complimentary plantings.  They grow approximately four feet tall and two feet wide.  There are different varieties of Amaranthus Caudatus ( red, green and purple).  The green is especially lovely dried.  Amaranthus dates back to Aztec civilizations used as a food product even into the current day in certain cultures (toasting and grinding of seeds).

Amaranthus 'Love Lies Bleeding'

Amaranthus Green

A similar looking plant is Kiss-Me-Over-The-Garden-Gate (Persicaria Orientle).  It can grow to twelve feet tall and two feet wide and can be planted in containers (although you would require a huge container to hold this height) or in borders.  My photo was taken at the Chicago Botanic Garden last summer where it was planted in the ground with dahlias framing their entrance.

I have included my photo of inky fingers coleus crawling through my raised bed (this is just one plant).  I had to go back into my 35mm prints to find these.  It sure makes it a lot easier when everything is digital.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Peony That Stands Alone

One of my favorite childhood memories was helping my aunt cut the peonies that lined a narrow strip in our backyard.  I have a picture of my eighth grade graduation with a huge bouquet of peonies in my hands.  The aroma of peonies is overwhelming but to me never offensive. I had peonies at my last house that I had to put in cages or they were all over the ground.  So, I finally decided to try a single variety.

I purchased two Krinkled White Peonies and put them in the back of my yard.  Krinkled White is an early bloomer in May for about two weeks duration.  They are about twenty-five feet from my patio, but they pop out from among the green during the late May garden.  I am not a fan of peony soldiers (all lined up in a row),but I do like to see them peek out of a border here and there.  Because they are singles they do not require support. 

Do not cut down peony foliage (it looks very good throughout the summer season).  It can be trimmed down when the leaves fall.  Peonies do not like to be divided so they are carefree.  When planting peonies that red bud needs to be above the soil to promote flowering. If all of that flopping and caging bothers you, take a look at the single peonies.  I do miss that rose- like flowers on the old fashioned peonies, but I don't miss what they look like after a rain!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Day Off

I took a day off from my personal blog to go garden blog hunting.  I will never be finished, but I knew I had to start somewhere.  It was a good day to do this since we had about thirteen inches of snow and an early morning earthquake!  I thought the dog had jumped on the bed, couldn't see anything when the bed shook, so I went back to sleep.

There are many categories of bloggers in every subject area.  It is amazing how talented a group bloggers are - poets, writers, professional photographers, scientists, designers, crafters and most of all gardeners.  Gardeners are life itself, cyclical, renewable, almost like the doctors of the universe!  They participate each year in assisting in the birth of life on earth!  I know this sounds very lofty, but when you have looked at so many blogs depicting the earth just waiting to welcome new life, seed starting, sprouting, emergence, what could be more exciting?

I am not an expert photographer or a poet, but I am comfortable with depicting plants realistically showing how they appear with their surroundings.  But, I have learned that we also need the music, the gorgeous pictures, the poetry because all of these prompt the emotions that make life in a garden worth living!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


The word aromatherapy has always made me think of potpourri, scented candles and bath oils.  Yesterday, I attended a workshop by the above name from one of my garden groups (I belong to two).  This one is known as the "fun" group and the other "the very serious group."

It was a smaller group today about seventeen people instead of thirty or forty.  We had our coffee, tea, cookies, fruit and Welch's carbonated juice.  Our aromotherapist arrived in a yellow BMW convertible, which I did not realize until I was leaving (whole new slant on aromotherapy).

Really, kidding aside, I learned a great deal about specific plants, their oils, medicinal value, and how to incorporate them into daily life.  I now know that lavendar is the "angel of healing and purfication," basil helps to lift depression, bergamot opens your heart to love and life and clary sage is a powerful euphoric and relaxing aphrodisiac.  Lavendar can be used full strength but many essential oils require mixing with a medium such as olive oil.  Essential oils have been around for thousands of years being the first perfumes and medicines of bygone generations.  This was definitely some serious learning today, but also fun!

We all made soap (I made lavendar soap), some purchased essential plant oils from our workshop leader, and as I was leaving warned her that she wouldn't be driving her car tomorrow (we're expecting 14" of snow).  She said she had snow tires on that yellow summer car, but agreed  she would probably spend the day in the house rubbing in the citrus oils (my conjecture) which are great for the gloomies!!

Monday, February 08, 2010

Some Favorite Border Annuals

I am always looking for interesting annuals to fill in my borders.  Perilla Magilla (a relative of coleus) can be grown in full sun to part shade and has become a staple each year in the narrow area of my garden border.  It does not have showy flowers, but it has beautiful magenta colored leaves similar to coleus.  In my garden it grows close to three feet tall and about two feet wide.  It looks wonderful next to David Phlox and blends in with pinks and blues.

Another annual that blends in beautifully with perennials in the border is Coleus 'Inky Fingers.'  It is a weaver, trailing up to eight feet.  Inky Fingers is described as mounding, but mine always sends out shoots on each side about four feet in length.  It looks great with other brighter coleus plants, oranges, light greens, yellows.  I plant it in the raised bed where I have boxwood bordering my patio.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Very Impressive Perennials

Whether it's in a border, as a screening plant or the focus in a backdrop, Persicaria Polymorpha(fleeceflower) will not dissapoint.  This plant commands attention, and where I have it in a narrow border,  you cannot help saluting it. 

It is hardy down to zone three, grows five to seven feet tall and once established does not require much water.  It blooms all summer and has fall and winter interest.  Mine grows about seven feet tall, and I shared some divisions with my sister-in-law that she uses as a screen.  I am going to divide mine this spring (which I haven't done for six years) in order to keep it out of the walkway.

Phlomis Tuberosa (jerusalem sage),  grows to five feet, hardy to zone 5, is the lavendar-pink flower in front of the Persicaria.  It is a lovely tall plant, but you will need to consider placement (I since have moved it).  It flowers for a short period of time, so it is better placed with perennials that will take over for it when it's done

Helianthus Lemon Queen is a stunner in the late summer and fall garden.  It can grow to seven feet tall, but after the first couple of years and having to tie it because it is along a narrow strip, I pinch it back in May.  It then stays a more manageable height for my location.  All of these are available at
Although, I noticed that they do not have "polymorpha" listed at this time - many other varieties.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Martha's Got Her Groove Back

OMG!  My March Martha Stewart Living came yesterday!  I have always been a Martha Stewart fan, even when I refused to make the pansy cake that took four days,  I have most of her magazines right back to the beginning.  My children even call me "Martha," because I use so many of her recipes for our gatherings.

Over the past several years, her magazines have been a leaf through, maybe one idea or a recipe here and there.  But, I never gave up on you Martha!  Then yesterday, I could barely get off of each page, one after the other I was captivated - a multitude of houseplants on Martha's front porch, step-by-step directions for faux stone pots and tables, outdoor lighting, the five senses in the garden, daisies, fragrant gardens (I am definitely seeing a different Martha).

The food is really doing me in.  How can I possibly cook all of these recipes (I am beginning to feel like Julie from Julie and Julia).  In Good Things Martha talks about infusions of herbs, tarragon, lemon verbena, thyme and peppermint and then gives directions how to make a tower of herbs with clay pots.  Martha, you are really on a roll - haven't seen you like this in years!

The recipes have got me in a tizzy, braised carrots with feta and parsley, walnut stuffed chicken roulades, a salad with heirloom tomatoes, peaches and ricotta, tangerine and lemon marmalade crepes and she continues on and on ending with a flourless apple pecan torte. I haven't even touched on half of what is in this issue - it's unexplainable, but Martha certainly has gotten her groove back!

Friday, February 05, 2010

All Season Borders

Borders can be one of the most difficult areas of garden design.  They can be straight, curvy, narrow or wide or all of these together.  I admit my choice is to have all of these characteristics in a border.  For many years I had borders that hugged my home, straight up against the house going all the way around from back to front.  My borders were beautiful but only during the month of July.  I planted all summer flowering perennials because I did not know how to plan for all season interest,

What is wonderful about gardening is that you are always learning, changing, reinventing.  Evergreens and dried grasses add winter interest, structures such as pergolas, arbors, tuteurs and seating are all part of keeping your attention in the colder climates.

Daylilies bloom throughout three seasons, roses bloom three seasons, Rozanne perennial geranium, Max Frei perennial geranium and on and on.  Blubs of course are a staple for spring bloom and there are many fall blooming plants.  Don't hesitate to put annuals in your border to keep it in continual bloom.

Highs, middles and lows are important in plant selection.  Don't be afraid to put a very tall grouping next to a lower grouping, keep the wave going visually with plants, not just sculpting out the border.  Use some weavers, those long viney plants that crawl throughout the border.  Repeat plants, repeat colors, repeat viney, tall, short, etc.  Oh, I could go on forever, but there is always another day to talk about specific plants.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Think Ahead - Planting Early Spring Containers

I can't wait to see all of those spring bulbs poking their little heads out of the ground!  I also like to see some of those spring bulbs in my containers.  However, as you know, in zone 5 and below bulbs do not do well in containers over the winter.  You can start them indoors, keep them cold for a period of weeks and bring them into a  warmer environment to get ready to bloom.  I did this years ago, and it is lots of preparation, a long time span and necessitates a place to store the potted bulbs like a spare refrigerator or a warmer garage.

A few years ago, I found a new way to do this at Home Depot (I am sure there are many other stores and nurseries that supply pre-planted bulbs).  I spotted little packs of four tete-a-tete daffodils and  pink Jan Bos Hyacinths all ready to bloom.   There were tulips and muscari also.  I bought some large baskets of pansies and some little packets of the bulbs.  The pansies were almost full grown, so I cut them apart and got eight plants from each basket.  When the bulbs are spent, I take them out of the planter boxes and put them in the ground to come up next year. 

For many years I bought the little pansies in the baskets of twenty-four, and by the time they really looked good, it was time to pull them out because of the heat.  They certainly did not make a statement for the first four weeks.  In my area, it is difficult to keep pansies through the summer, so I do relocate them to the shady part of my property because they look so beautiful!

It is a great look for containers because they blend with what is coming up out of the ground, rather than putting in the plants that look like they grew in the tropics.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

I Love You Hosta, But I don't Know Who You Are!

The title really tells you my relationship with hosta.  I just buy it and plant it.  Oh, I do take note of the name on the plant tag, but keep it or remember it is a definite NO!.  Hosta inhabits several locations in my yard, lighting up the shady areas never asking for anything in return.

My husband's favorite is one that we brought from our former home, and I have it planted towards the back under my Pagoda Dogwood.  It is curley and variegated, knew the name at one time but no longer.

I have two favorites Halcyon and August Moon.  They are spectacular together but do require division every so often, especially August Moon.  Talk about color, these two have it hands down!  Another two that I very much admire are Paul's Glory and Patriot.  They are variegated and have so much "pop."  I am definitely not a hosta expert, but I wish I could at least remember all of their names.  I have a great one up towards the front of my house, and as I pass it I say, "I really like you whoever you are."

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Structure In The Garden

By structure I mean interest other than plants.  This is a great time of year to look at your garden stripped!  In fact all that is there are your structures and evergreens.  I know, we all have sticks showing from our shrubs and roses.  But structures are more commanding, they are in your face all year!

I am finally getting the idea of making a garden an extension of the home, in other words, an outside room or grouping of rooms.  Think in terms of walkways, a raised bed here and there as you walk along.  Think of going from room to room through an arbor or pergola.  Try to vary the stone work, such as a tumbled stone for patio and walkways and a natural lannon stone for raised beds.  Flag or irregular bluestone can be used for paths through arbors, etc.

In your outdoor rooms make sure there is a place to sit, or to at least look like you could sit there, a wooden bench, weathered metal or concrete. I love tuteurs (obelisks) placed in garden beds either left by themselves as decor or planted beneath with a clematis or other appropriate vine.  Take it easy on the "chachkees." as they can make the garden look cluttered and take away from the plantings.  If you can't pass up that concrete rabbbit or duck, have them peeking out from behind plantings.

A fence can be the frame for your garden.  It can be very decorative like wrought iron and be part of the decor, or it can be woodsy like cedar and blend into the background.

Iron fencing does not have to go anywhere to enhance the garden, and sometimes they are necessary to keep large plants within bounds.  Two sections together can spotlight corner plantings. 

Have fun planning your outdoor room, now is the time to do it!

Monday, February 01, 2010

Welcome To February In Zone 5

It's not a pretty sight is it? - not my yard, not my flamingo!  There has been a little glitch downloading my camera or you would be seeing my wooden goose.   I have been feeling very frustrated looking at not alone my photos but all of the beautiful photography of plants on the gardening blogs.  What can we do in the garden in February when it's still too cold to garden?

Seed starting (under lights)

Cleaning and oiling of tools (I am not great at doing this, but I know I should)

Planning of gardens and containers

Ordering perennials

Buying seeds to start outside (if you wait too long some varieties like parsley and lettuces dissapear)  

Cutting your Type 3 clematis at the base (you don't have to take all the vines down, but it prevents them from sprouting all over the vines if we get a warm spell).

Think about your pots!  I know I have several I haven't used productively in several years - why am I  keeping them when someone else might use them?

Call landscaping contractors soon, they get booked up very early in the season - even if  you just have a little job.  Also, their pricing is always better before they have booked several jobs.

Order garden furniture (if you want something special everything takes twelve weeks).

Forget all of the above and go on vacation!