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Friday, May 28, 2010

Play Day

This afternoon I have a play date. Some garden friends are coming by with their children and we are going to split and replant the Sempervivum (Hens & Chicks).

We'll be selecting all the pots that are chock full, pulling the plants apart and giving them homes in new pots with room for those little chicks to spread out.

If you came by my house right now you'd see that I've been doing this splitting all month long. My front walkway has a number of these flats filled with all kinds of beautiful succulents.

Yesterday I picked up a few more trough containers. The place I get them from has very few left so I will only be able to get 3 or 4 more this season. These hypertufa containers are quite a bit more expensive than clay pots but so much more durable.

I have such fun looking for things to plant in the troughs. You'll always find a Sempervivum in the mix, this one on the left here is one of my favorites, it's name is 'Oddity'.

It's important to also step outside of the box and mix in some other material. The golden chartreuse of the Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea' (creeping Jenny) is going to be fun to work with.

One non-succulent that I've had wonderful success with is Allium senescens glaucum which is the blue flat leaf foliage in the top corner of this trough. It was planted last year and came through the winter with flying colors, doubling nicely in size.

There are a few containers here for sale. They make excellent gifts, they are low maintenance and will live much longer than any cut flower arrangement.

For less money, there are some that are planted in clay pots. I planted a few of these last year and surprisingly the pots all survived the winter without any chips or cracks but I can't guarantee that will always be the case.

Here's a shot of my front stoop. These three troughs were planted last year and are not for sale. I have them slightly raised and they look like this all year long except for when they were covered with snow.

We are going to have such fun this afternoon!


Monday, May 24, 2010

Hardy Geraniums

Each year at this time I find myself photographing and writing about my hardy Geraniums.

For those of you who are new to my writings or new to the world of perennials, there are true Geraniums that are hardy perennials here on Long Island (USA zone 6b). These Geraniums look nothing like the tender Geraniums people buy for their planters, those are actually named Pelargoniums.

Hardy Geraniums are incredibly valuable to the perennial garden. Probably the most common variety (certainly the first I ever grew) is Geranium sanguinium pictured here in the opening shot. The color of the blooms is almost impossible for the camera to capture.

One lesson that needs to be learned when growing hardy Geraniums is that they rarely stand on their own. They tend to be soft stemmed and much prefer to cascade, sprawl, lean and meander on and around neighbor plants. If used correctly, this tendency can be quite charming.

Unfortunately this trait tends to make hardy Geraniums look messy or leggy in pots and messy plants are hard to sell.

Once planted in the ground though it's a whole different matter. In many cases their growth is thick and lush, allowing no chance for weeds to come up. You can see how nice and tight this clump of Geranium sanguinium is.

An important thing to note when you go out looking for hardy geraniums is that there are varieties that require sun (the sanguiniums up top do best with a good amount of sunlight although they will tolerate lower light conditions) other varieties prefer some shade and a few require even more shade. The bloom you see here is from Geranium phaeum also known as the "mourning widow geranium". This is one that does well in the shade.

Interestingly, I just read on one web site that this Geranium also grows in sunlight but that website was a Brittish site. Keep that in mind when you research your plants, what takes full sun in England is very different than what might take full sun here.

Geranium pratense 'Midnight Reiter' is another shade Geranium. In my experience this one does not clump up as vigorously as other varieties but you can see it is certainly a most welcome addition to the shade garden.

One more shade Geranium that I've grown to love is Geranium nodosum. This beauty does not bloom as heavily as the other Geraniums but as you can see, it has beautiful lush foliage. Those of you who know me well know that I'm always on the hunt for plants with great foliage.

Foliage is definitely a plus on most of the hardy Geraniums. In a semi shade (morning sun) location, the foliage of Geranium 'Nimbus' is just wonderful.

Today I saw the first bloom on 'Nimbus', more are sure to come.

I guess I can't say I favor any one Geranium over another but can tell you that this Geranium 'Bevan's Variety' wins an award for growing into a lush clump in a location that is hostile to so many plants. Dry shade under a life-sucking Norway maple, this baby just keeps on going.

The cantabrigiense Geraniums (this one is 'Cambridge') deserve a posting of their own and I've done exactly that in the past. At the top of this blog and my other blog at Melanie's Old Country Gardens you can type "Geranium" into the search bar and find past articles on these wonderful perennials. This is my 104th posting on this blog but the other has 380 so if you are looking for lots of information, check that site out too.

Off to play in the dirt,

Monday, May 17, 2010

Hakonechloa 'All Gold'

While I'd never be able to pick a single favorite plant from my garden, I would have to include this Hakonechloa 'All Gold' right at the top of the list. It's not the first Hakone grass (also known as Japanese forest grass) that I've grown but it most certainly is the showiest.

I have 4 clumps now, two of them quite large and yet I find myself loathe to cut into them to divide them out. Still, I'm trying to get myself to do this before the sale days this coming Thursday, Friday & Saturday.

It has incredible value as an accent plant and as a combination plant. Here you see it mixed with the foliage of an Astrantia (Masterwort) seedling.

Backed by lavender blue blooms on one of the Veronica's, the 'All gold' continues to look stunning.

I find it most amazing that no matter what leaf shape you pair it with, you end up with a fantastic interweaving. Hosta 'Sagae' behind it with it's golden edge was a true inspiration that I'm so happy I had last season.

The foliage and blooms of the hardy Geranium maculatum also look amazing next to another 'All gold' clump.

So my advice to you is if you see this beauty for sale, grab it! Yet more advice, any pot I've seen for sale is the saddest creature ever. For some reason this baby just doesn't look good in a pot. Add to that the fact that the pieces are extra small and extra high priced, still it's more than worth it.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hosta as Accent Plants

A garden without Hosta is...well...just missing something! There are many parts of the world in which Hosta don't grow but if you live where they flourish, then you really should be planting these beauties in your garden.

In my garden I've learned to use Hosta as accent plants. While they are certainly spectacular on their own, planted in a mass, I can't help but use them singularly to add foliage accents to a planting combination.

Hosta will tolerate a wide variety of growing conditions but if you want them to shine, give them lots of compost and water. The darker colors, especially the blue ones require shade. The lighter leaves prefer more sunshine.

Even with nothing in bloom yet I have lots of color to look at thanks to the various Hosta and the purple leaves on the Ligularia 'Britt Marie Crawford'.

Probably the number one eye-catcher in this bed is Hosta 'Liberty'. It's a slow grower so I haven't had a piece to share out yet.

New varieties of Hosta are often sports of existing hosta (a sport is sort of a mutation). In the center of this photo is Hosta 'Sagae', one of the best landscaping Hosta in my opinion. 'Liberty' in the previous photo is a sport of 'Sagae'. They have the same upright growth, and similar leaf shapes but 'Liberty' has a wider gold edge. Pretty cool, huh?

Off to play in the garden, it's too bright out there to take any photos right now.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

What better way to celebrate Mother's Day weekend than by making lots and lots of babies? Yesterday afternoon was the perfect time to pot up some succulents.

The various creeping Sedums are really filling out so it was easy to pinch some stems from them.

I've learned that if I plant the Sempervivum (Hens & Chicks) in between the Sedums, they are quickly overrun. They are much happier being in pots and set in the Sedum this way.

Right now the pots still look a bit bare but give them a week or two of warmth and these babies will plump up quickly.

Surprise! Rounding the back of the pool garden I found one of last year's babies, merrily blooming along.

Happy Mother's Day!


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Random Thoughts & Photos

This morning is perfect for taking photos in the garden. It's damp and overcast outside so no shadows thrown by early morning sun.

Here's some photos I took today with the thoughts that ran through my head as I took them:

I'll begin with my favorite gnome, Claus who seems quite happy to be resting under a clump of Symphytum.

The Cotoneaster in my front bed is doing so well. I love how it softens the edge of the walkway although I have to remember every now and then to cut back the longer branches. I really have to get after those perennial seedlings that pop up from underneath.

Heuchera 'Caramel' once again doing it's magic. Need to get those Digitalis (fox gloves) out of there before they hide everything.

I just love the blooms and seed pods on Lunaria (honesty plant or money plant). I just wish it didn't always seed itself in the front of the border and hide everything behind it...kind of like the Digitalis in the photo up above.

Zizia aurea, given to me by a friend who said it seeds around in her garden. I've had it here for three years and although the plant itself looks happy, I have yet to find a seedling...boohoo...

Couldn't get the colors right on this one so you'll have to add a bit of imagination to it. Wonderful golden hosta with the most amazing blue Ajuga bloom coming right up in the middle of it. Can't get much better than that!

Pulmonaria 'Little Star' has my favorite foliage of any of the Pulmonarias. The white spots are just enough.

Corydalis and Iris cristata really are the perfect companions. I only wish the Alium foliage didn't turn to crap before the blooms even emerge. Maybe I'll go out and cut the foliage back.

This morning I'm going to try to do a little digging. Mom might be doing the work while I play supervisor. Can't do much yet due to some complications from my surgery but I'm trying! We'll be open for business this Friday 11-4 and Saturday 10-4. Hope to see some of you then.


Saturday, May 1, 2010

May Day

Happy May Day!

May 1st has always been such an exciting day for me. I think of gardens, May poles, warm days to come and my Dad's birthday.

This photo is one of the tulip beds at the entrance to Millennium Park in Chicago.

The weather here is perfect so I'll be out in the garden all day...what a great way to celebrate May day.