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Friday, May 29, 2009

Dividing newly purchased plants

Many times people ask me if they can divide newly purchased plants. The answer is "yes" in some cases and "no" in other cases. Sempervivums (hens and chicks) like you see here in this photo are easy to divide. To read more about this specific case, click on Old Country Gardens and you'll see what I did with these new babies.

Some plants aren't as easy to divide. This newly purchased Symphytum was just exploding out of the pot but it didn't look like it had an easy place to cut it apart so I planted it whole.

With this pot of Astilbe I tried an experiment and took a sharp knife and cut it right down the middle. Both divisions grew just fine. One tip I can give you is that this plant was not yet blooming or in bud while the Symphytum in the previous photo was in bloom. I'd be less likely to cut apart a plant in bloom unless I was willing to also cut off all the blooms.

Hosta are one of the plants that you can divide most times during their growing season. Just take care to water your new divisions well, especially if you've planted them in a spot where they are going to get a few hours of direct sun.

Daylilies can be divided just about any time too. I've been to many a daylily nursery where they've dug out a fully blooming plant like this 'Monterrey Jack' and just handed it to me. The right thing to do is to cut back the foliage and bloom scapes but I've even planted them with the blooms and they've done just fine. Again, you need to give it a little extra care until it's settled in but in the long run it was worth the extra work.

This works especially well if you are buying pots chock full of little 'Stella D'Oro' and want to divide it before planting.

This summer I'll have the garden open during daylily season which is the month of July here on Long Island. While I won't dig every single plant in the garden, I will be willing to dig many of the clumps that are here if they are in a spot that is accessable.

We'll be open this weekend as usual on Saturday, May 30th. We usually put our sign out around 10:00 am and stay open until 4:00 pm. We have lots of new Hosta for you to buy along with the ferns, and sun perennials. If the weather allows, I'll be digging up that 'Monterrey Jack' daylily and potting that up too.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Heucheras are here!

The Heucheras are here! Today I went out and picked up two kinds of Heucheras, 'Miracle' and 'Pinos Gris'. Although 'Caramel' was available, I didn't think the pots looked that great (they were quite dried out).

The Hosta 'June' was available too but the version I saw today had almost no blue in it at all so I passed on those.

Here's a closer look at those Heucheras, aren't they darling?

I also bought lots of different herbs and of course I couldn't resist picking up more hypertufa containers. Herbs do well in containers so I think this will be a natural.

On Saturday afternoon I did another run over at Fox Hollow Farms and totally stocked up on the darling little Hosta. The dark one in this photo is 'Allan P. McConnell' and I think it's the cutest thing ever.

Here's hoping we get a nice, soft, soaking rain tonight and tomorrow morning. Then back to the garden we go :-)

Tomorrow I can always plant up hypertufa pots while standing in my garage.

Off to cook dinner,

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Garden Talk

One of the things I like the best on sales day is getting to talk to other gardeners. Whether they are beginners or have been gardening for years, there's always something new to learn.

Yesterday Bonnie and I were talking about websites that are helpful. It's taken me years to learn that some plants require specific conditions and that I need to do a little research before choosing their spot in my garden.

Google is always a great place to start. For instance, you can simply type the name of this plant 'Cotula squalida Platt's Black' in Google search and you'll find different website that will tell you more information about this plant.

When it comes to Hosta, I have a favorite website too. I go to the Hosta Library if I want to check out photos of hosta. It's almost impossible to identify your hosta if you have no clue of the name but if you have a name you can do wonders here.

I was lucky to have made a list one recent winter with all my Hosta names. My crazy doodle-dog Calie went through her puppy year and ripped out most of the name tags on my hosta out back. Since I had the list of names, I was able to identify many more varieties.

For instanace, my list tells me I have Hosta 'Sweet Home Chicago' but I didn't have a hosta with that name on a label. I knew it was in the back bed, so by going to the Hosta Library, I looked at their photos of Sweet Home Chicago and was able to identify that the large Hosta in the upper left corner of this photo is it! Hooray!!!

Sedums are another passion around here and I have a great website for them too. You can visit Sedum Photos and find more pictures of Sedum than you could imagine. When it comes to Sedum, I was actually able to identify a cultivar in my garden without knowing it's name at all.

Sometimes I just want to go to a site to drool over plant material. Squaw Mountain Gardens is one of those sites. It's not a place to go to for pretty pictures but for me with my passion for sempervivum, I like to go there and window shop :-) I've never ordered from them but some day I finally will.

The sun keeps peeking in and out today, very good conditions to take photographs. I think I'll go photograph my hardy geraniums that have started to bloom.

Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Teaching Gardens

Chandrika asked a question on my last post. It reminded me that so many people are new to gardening. One of the things I worry about is people who try gardening, end up making a mistake and then decide they aren't "gardeners".

I've made hundreds of mistakes over the years I've been gardening and I still make mistakes today. After time though the mistakes are fewer and the successes are greater.

One of the best ways to learn about gardening is to visit other gardens and talk to other gardeners. I've belonged to a number of gardening clubs but in today's hectic world, their schedules don't always work with mine.

Don't worry though, there's plenty of places to go to learn about gardening. The first photo here was taken last week in my back shade bed. I have many different growing conditions here, dry shade, moist shade, rock garden, sun perennial border and so on. My ultimate desire is to make my garden a teaching garden, a place where people can come and learn about plants that do well here on Long Island.

By visiting other gardens, I've been inspired to think outside the box and try new things. Chanticleer Gardens are in Wayne Pennsylvania. Their growing conditions are very similar to ours here on Long Island. It is an easy day trip from here, I would love to get there again. This photo I took of succulents growing on a rock wall inspired me to make my own little rock garden.

Stonecrop Gardens in Cold Spring New York is another great teaching garden. While they are known for their rocky outcroppings and amazing alpine plant collection, I was totally enchanted by their potager. A potager is a formal (or semi-formal) vegetable garden. It was so incredibly beautiful that I'm still drooling over the thought of having a little vegetable garden of my own (working on it this weekend!).

You don't have to leave Long Island though if you want to see some great gardens. Planting Fields Arboretum has an amazing array of trees and shrubs. They have perennials too although I wouldn't list them as the top teaching garden if you are looking for flowers that are easy to grow.

On the other hand, Old Westbury Gardens has a fantastic collection of perennials, I haven't been there in a few years and hope to get back there soon.

With this Holiday weekend ahead of us, we have temperatures that are cool for the beach, too cool for the pool but perfect to tour a garden. Maybe this Sunday I'll hit one of the local places. Who knows, I've never been to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens and only went once to the New York Botanical Gardens. Will I run into you there?

If you know of a good place to go see plant material, leave a comment here for us all to share.

Of course, we'll be here tomorrow, Saturday, if you want to stop by and say Hi!


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Soils for the garden and for potting

No glamorous photos today. In the last two days I've had enough conversations about garden soil to convince me that many people are confused over what to use and where to use it.

I'll begin by letting all of you know that I do not have a degree in horticulture and have never taken a formal class in soil science. What I do have is 23 years of experience as a home gardener.

The soil you need for pots and containers is greatly different than the soil you need for bedding plants in the ground. In containers plants need soil that won't dry out too fast, is heavy enough to keep the pot from falling over on a windy day, is light enough for the roots to grow and will also feed the plants. That's a pretty tall order!

For my pots, I mix 2 parts of potting soil with one part of compost. I also throw in a good sized helping of shredded leaves and most importantly, try to mulch the plants to keep the soil from drying out too quickly. The added weight of compost (top soil works too) keeps the pots from being too light. You can also add fertilizer to this mix, a slow release fertilizer works well, I add milorganite to my pots here as a bonus.

Buying large bags of potting soil and adding them to your garden is a waste (in my opinion). You are much better off buying bags of compost or having a yard or two of compost delivered to your home. Last year I ordered a mix of compost and aged horse manure. I made the mistake of ordering too much at one time (in order to save on the delivery charge). This year I'll order less and take my chances.

If you can find aged horse manure, go for it! Here on Long Island horse manure is readily available from local horse farms. Cow manure is not readily available in my neighborhood but if you have it where you live it's just as good as horse manure.

Last but not least is mulch. Mulch is an organic (hopefully!) product that you put on top of the soil to help slow the germination of weed seeds, help water retention in the ground (keeps it from drying out), add nutrition to the soil and just to help the garden look neat and clean.

I'm not a fan of the huge deliveries of mulch, in many cases it's died and I can smell the chemicals while I'm walking past a house that has freshly mulched beds. At our house we save our leaves in bags over the winter and then shred them to use as mulch. From past experience I can tell you that the worms will love you for mulching with leaves. Worms are great for the garden, they help aerate the soil and add more nutrients (worm poop is a great soil booster).

One last tip on mulch, for spring mulching I wait until the soil has warmed up (not yet in our area) and for winter mulching I wait until the soil has frozen. The reason is that in summer you want to use the mulch as a blanket to keep the soil temperature consistent and in the winter you want to keep the plants from heaving during frost/thaw periods. If you mulch a winter soil while it's still warm, you will invite lots of burrowing creatures (voles, chipmunks, moles and so on) to your nice warm beds.

Today looks to be glorious outside so I need to get dressed and get out there to start digging and potting. Also have to plant some veggies :-)

Happy gardening!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Good, The Ok and the Downright Ugly

Today was a perfect day for some garden photography. There was a light, misty rain, enough that I used an umbrella to protect my camera. Overcast days give you the perfect light to take photos in the garden. Bright sunlight washes out the colors and will give you terrible shadows.

While taking photos I always think I'm taking way to many but now as I sit at the computer I wish I had taken more. This first photo shows the spot I was working on yesterday. The Hosta 'Liberty' is just to-die-for. There was a sickly looking daisy in front of it, the spot only gets morning sun and the daisy wasn't happy. To the right was a daylily that was there for 12 years and it never really thrived.

I decided to stop trying to fight the shady afternoons and go with shade plants. Isn't this a great combination now?

The shade beds in the back are really starting to put on a show. I just love all the different textures and foliage colors. Photos like this remind me to keep looking for great foliage, perennials just don't flower long enough to rely upon their blooms.

Ah ha, here's a spot that needs a bit of oomph. I've cleared out a large Astilbe and decided to add another spectacular Hosta 'Liberty' in this location. The other Hosta here look amazing but are getting too crowded. Just last week I was thinking that there was too much space between them.

Uh oh, a hole! This spot out front is where I stuck my pitchfork through the sprinkler line last year. Time to think of something to fill that area but it's going to take some real thought. I need to chose a low growing plant that has a shallow, easy to remove root system since I never want to stick my pitchfork there again.

One more uh oh spot. The cinder block in the bottom right corner is to hold my shade trough up and out of the plant material. If you want to see more about the troughs, click here on Old Country Garden and you'll see the post about them.

Two more problems are visible here, there's a ton of weeds just popping up and the Hydrangea in the top left corner had quite a bit of winter kill and needs to be cut back while I can still get in there.

That's it for today's post. See how helpful those garden photos were!


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Can this plant be saved?

Earlier today I noticed the bloom stalk on a Aquilegia vulgaris (black columbine) was broken.

Later on I noticed that a few leaves of the Hosta 'Spritzer' next to the columbine were pushed over.

This evening as I was doing clean-up I walked by and noticed that the Dicentra spectabilis Alba (white bleeding heart) just behind these two plants looked "funny". I stepped into the bed to inspect and it looks like somebody (more likely someTHING) had a good romp through my garden. The center stalks of my prime bleeding heart were broken off.

The first thought that came to mind was "can this plant be saved"?

Upon closer inspection I noticed that the stalks broke right at the crown and that there were little fine roots at the base.

Being ever the optimist (gardeners are always optimists!) I cut off the tops of the broken stalks.

Right now they are potted up in my premium potting soil and taking a nice long soak. I've got my fingers crossed in hopes that they put out new roots and grow.

Before typing this post I went into my blogger account here and changed some settings. Hopefully now it will be possible for many of you to post comments. There was a safety catch that only allowed members to comment but I've switched it to allow annonymous comments (but will still moniter them to filter any spam).

Try to drop me a line so I can see if it works.

Wishing for a bit more heat and sun but I know the garden is loving these cool damp days.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Friday and Saturday, May 15th & 16th

There's lots of beautiful plants blooming in our gardens right now and a few new beauties in pots. Our Galium odoratum (Sweet woodruff) and our Convalaria majalis (Lily of the valley) are both in bloom this weekend. Both are the sweetest things (take a sniff if you don't believe me).

Also in it's full glory is our Mazus reptans path. Mazus is a little, creeping ground cover that is just perfect to fill in the bare spots between stepping stones. Don't have any stepping stones? Well we know of other great spots for Mazus too.

How incredible are these hypertufa troughs! My friend Kim and I found a great source for these wonderful containers and I've purchased a few for me and a few for you. Stop by and watch me pot them up. I'll be working on several different sizes on Saturday.

Some of the containers will hold sun plants and some will hold shade plants. Hypertufa is a mixture of cement, peat moss and sand. Containers made from hypertufa look and feel like concrete but are not as heavy. Filled with soil they certainly aren't light either but at least I can lift them and move them to different locations.

There's a nice selection of Hen's and Chicks here to fill your own containers with, they are really starting to plump up now. Also, we now carry shade perennials from Fox Hollow Farm so if you are looking for some of the best mini hosta and ferns on Long Island you will want to stop by while we have lots of stock.

We'll be open Friday afternoon (after 2:00 pm please) and all day Saturday (10:00 - 4:00 pm). Hope to see you soon.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Perennial images

What a joy! Our old desk top computer had died and although I thought I had diligently kept copies of all the photos on our external hard drive, I had missed several files.

Thanks to some expert advice, it's up and running again and I quickly copied over all the folders I thought I had lost for good. It's like going to a high school reunion, so many faces to look at again.

The first photo is Helianthus 'Lemon Queen', a true beauty and I'm so glad I don't have to wait until fall to take a photo.

Sedum 'Matrona' is one of my all time favorites and I came across some excellent photos. This first one shows the lovely blooms.

This next photo shows Sedum 'Matrona' earlier in the season with her lovely foliage accented by that cool purplish stem.

Last but not least, here's a daylily 'Isold'. I just noticed there was a good sized clump of this cultivar and I wondered if I should dig it up and pot up a few divisions. What do you think? I think it looks pretty good!


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day Mom!

Ok, today I cheated a bit and posted the same photo on both blogs. It is Mother's Day though and I wanted to show off my wonderful mom.

Not too many mom's would show up every mother's day and dig in the garden all day long. Me, I'm so crazed right now that I never remember to get her a pretty card or a lovely wrapped gift. Aren't I lucky to have such an amazing mom!

We just have until Tuesday before she heads back to Florida, I plan on enjoying her company all day tomorrow.

Happy Mother's Day mom, thanks for being so good to me.

The Mini's are here!

We've got mini's in pots. Miniature solomon's seal (Polygonatum humile)

And most excitingly, we've got mini hosta! Thanks to Larry at Fox Hollow Farm, we'll be carrying some of his select stock here. This morning I chose some beautiful pots of minature Hosta and jumbo pots chock full of spectacular ferns.

We'll be around until 2:00 pm today, and we'll try to open up one afternoon/evening this weekend. Of course we'll also be here next Saturday.

Can't make it? Send me an e-mail at and we'll work out a time.

Happy Mother's Day! I'm going to spend the rest of my day planting ferns!!!


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Evening Primroses

Some perennials have been around forever. They're those plants that when you first begin gardening, somebody will gladly share a plant or two.

After gardening for years many of us tend to turn our noses up at those beginner plants. That too is a phase, it's taken me many more years to realize just how valuable those old fashioned perennials are.

A nickname I love is pass-along-plant. A plant that is easily passed from one gardener to another, or if you are lucky, one generation to another.

Since my parents and I are immigrants, I don't have plants that have been handed down in my family but I do have many pass-along plants that have been given to me. One of the first plants shared with me was evening primroses, more formally known as Oenothera tetragona.

Some parts of the country use the nickname "Sundrops" for this plant family, that's the danger with using nicknames instead of learning the botanical name.

The photos you see here (number 2 and 3) are actually a hybrid form of Oenothera, one that goes by the name 'Cold Crick'. If you've grown the old fashioned Oenothera (evening primrose), this variety is quite different. It doesn't travel by underground runners, instead it stays nicely in a small, compact clump. It also is shorter that the old fashioned variety but when it blooms, well put on your sunglasses because it's just as bright as it's family member.

There's also a pink variety of Oenothera, it's full name is Oenothera speciosa. This plant does have the underground runners and in my garden it has run a bit. The funny thing though is it all ran in one direction (south) and ended up butted up against the Belgium block border of my driveway.

It really is a lovely little perennial, I keep forgetting to slip out a few pieces and add them to different parts of the garden so I can have some to share. Actually, there might be a few extra pieces, it's not an early emerger so I have to go take a careful look tomorrow morning.

We'll begin our big Mother's Day plant sale tomorrow afternoon, around 1:00 pm. That gives me time to dig out a few more perennials in the morning. The weather has been so uncooperative here this week.

We'll also be here all day on Saturday and for a few hours on Sunday morning (unless we're sold-out by then).

Stop by and say "hi"!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Perennials in Pots

People usually put annuals in their pots or containers. Impatiens, Petunias or some of the newer fancy annuals. When it comes to pretty foliage, the choice tends to be Coleus or those little Dracena spikes.

Yesterday I had so much fun making up some small perennial pots for our PTA. Instead of using those annuals, I chose small perennials. Isn't it nice to know that you can leave your plants in these pots and they will come up again next year. I've left Hosta and Astilbe in Pots for 3 years and then divided them out and let them continue again in pots.

This pot is for a shady location with a Hosta and Galium odoratum (Sweet woodruff). I just stuck in an impatiens to fill in the spot until the two perennials fill out.

Half the pots I made up are for sunny locations. They have different succulents, Sempervivums (Hens & Chicks) and Sedums in them. If we ever get some more sun they will fill out quickly.

Instead of wasting my money on a spiky plant that will die in the fall, I chose to use a lovely little blooming grass called Sisyrinchium or blue-eyed oat grass.

These pots were so fun to make, I can't wait to get out there and make some more.