A Few for the Shade

Posted in gardening with tags , , on April 16, 2012 by planthoarder

There’s magic in the garden: fairy wings,  fairy bells, and bleeding hearts. I’d always called epimediums bishop’s hats, and their leaves do have a lop-sided miter look to them. The name fairy wings sounds lovely, though, and very fitting for the garden. Their small flowers seem to float in the garden on their wiry stems and their buds are reminiscent of bleeding hearts. This photo seems to have captured an alien invasion, but trust me, they’re very pretty and come in peace.



Sometimes I get confused between merry bells, Uvularia, and fairy bells, Disporum. These yellow fairy bells are just starting to bloom, they’ll soon hang like the bells they’re named after, but I had to snap a quick photo while it had a little friend scurrying about. For some reason I get a real delight from bugs in the garden, so long as they aren’t chomping on “my” plants. Sometimes I don’t like to share…


…unless it’s a wonderful gift like this bleeding heart. Many bleeding hearts available are from a sterile clone, but this one was a seedling that was shared with me. Now it scatters seedlings around my garden. Whether that’s a blessing or a curse is unclear at the moment, but there is no doubt I adore its chains of hearts. I have the extremely elegant white one too, but my favorite is the Valentine’s pink. Each flower, in its own way, adds a little magic to the shade garden.


Shards of Frost

Posted in gardening with tags , , , , on April 13, 2012 by planthoarder

This spring is so nerve-wracking with frost threatening the past couple of nights, especially with all the warm weather tempting flowers to put out tender buds. Thankfully, the magnolias  finished blooming before the frost set in. The veggies in the unheated greenhouse escaped unscathed, but just barely. The next few nights are predicted to be much warmer, so the tomato plants are headed out into the greenhouse this morning. They are very soft from being grown under fluorescent lights so they need some stress, but not too much of a chill, to toughen them up before they go out into the garden in a few weeks. If the nights get too cold again, they’ll be whisked back into the warmth of the house.

It’s been a crazy weather roller coaster, and frankly I get motion sick. At least that’s the feeling I have knowing that the frost came just as the first year of Asian pear blossoms were finishing. Will there be any fruit? I know the rhubarb won’t let me down. The stalks are about 8″ (20 cm) now, I was hoping they’d be at least 10″ (25cm) before I began harvesting. I didn’t grow up with rhubarb. How do you know when to start picking them? Does size matter? I’m more than ready for some rhubarb kuchen so break it to me gently if I have to wait.

With a whole summer full of flowers ahead, I really shouldn’t whine about the few I may have lost to frost or the need to wait for my rhubarb. The peonies enjoy the cooler weather and there are early spring wildflowers even now ready to bloom. As the last shards of frost melt away with the warmth of the sun, we can only appreciate the beauty and the bounty that surrounds us and anticipate so much more to come.

Corpse Flower from a Safe Distance

Posted in gardening with tags , , on April 8, 2012 by planthoarder

Today My Love complained to me about the smell in the basement. Finally, my Amorphopallus rivieri is blooming! Though it has a flower more appropriate to Halloween than Easter, it’s been in my basement without soil all winter. My Love complained as I brought the corpse flower up the stairs and through the house to put it outside. Not everyone appreciates the smell of rotting meat, not even me, but it doesn’t keep me from growing this fascinating flower with its oxblood spathe and spadix and mottled stem.

My concern right now is the frost we are expecting for the next couple of nights. I think I will have to sneak my plant back in this evening and out again in the morning when My Love isn’t looking. He puts up with a lot, seed flats on top of the refrigerator, Ziploc bags of dirt inside it, but this? It will all be worth it this summer. Its leaf looks like something from the time of the dinosaurs and dwarfs the related jack-in-the-pulpits in the shade of the spruce trees. For now I thought I’d share a couple pictures of its flower so you can appreciate its weird beauty from a safe distance.

Posy Paparazzi

Posted in gardening with tags , , , on April 3, 2012 by planthoarder

One of the best things about blogging is the opportunity to share the beauty of my flowers and yours. If only you could smell the fragrance of my mom’s mini iris, hiding behind the moss phlox, or see the swaying branches of our weeping cherry. If only I could taste those gorgeous heirloom tomatoes everyone keeps posting! All I can share with you is a few photos, a few sentences. and a love of plants. Someday I should read a book about floral photography since right now I just take a picture of anything that catches my eye. Given that it’s spring, nearly everything does!

Whenever I photograph a flower, I find myself laying in the dirt. The only “bird’s eye view” that interests me is that of a robin looking for worms. Is it my fault all the good stuff is springing out of the ground? Walking around the garden like a miser searching for a lost coin, I’m happier than said miser when I find a pretty flower. Suddenly, I’m on my hands and knees looking for the best angle for my little plant portrait, admiring a blossom dressed in dew and sunlight and wishing I had a macro lens.

My family is frustrated that I can’t wear “nice” clothes, because I’m forever getting them full of dirt and twigs after rushing back into the shed or house for a shovel or my camera. My Love is doubly frustrated that I want to run out to the store with mud on my pants and coat. I don’t mean to embarrass him, really, but I’ll just get my clean clothes dirty when I get back, because, don’t you see, I just have to take another picture.

The Enduring Optimism of a Gardener

Posted in gardening with tags , , , , , , on March 28, 2012 by planthoarder

We can’t help it, can we?  Every spring someone should tie us to the mast so we don’t succumb to nature’s siren song, buying one more plant, one more seed packet offering something delicious for the eyes, nose, or taste buds. It doesn’t matter how hard it will be to find the time to prepare the bed, or a spot to squeeze our precious new flower. It doesn’t matter that last year the deer ate our strawberries, leaves and all, just as they were starting to ripen, or that the slugs turned pretty leaves to Swiss cheese. This year…ah, this year…

This year spring has come early, or maybe it’s summer. Should we try to plant lettuce, or will it bolt too soon? Should we simply wait until fall’s cooler temperatures for the plants we would normally plant in spring? Those warm days are being followed by frost warnings. The magnolia blooms are just daring Jack Frost to turn their pretty pink to brown. So far we’ve been lucky indeed.

The greenhouse has been open wide nearly every day since the brassica seedlings were put in, and some days they had to sit out in the shade, because the greenhouse was just too hot for the early vegetables. My father is wisely restraining himself from starting his tomato seedlings, but I finally succumbed. I even bought seed for a slightly longer season watermelon. I know, I know, an early start doesn’t mean winter won’t sneak up on us early as well, but to be a gardener is to be optimistic. How else could we believe that despite the hungry crowd waiting in the wings to take our place at the table, we’ll be the ones to reap what we’ve sown?

This year I’m finally trying to grow a dry bean I had given up on. It takes a longer season to mature than we have here, so hope has been hard to find. The seed is eight years old, quite geriatric for bean seed, but it won’t get better for waiting so this is the year. My expectations are low, but a germ of hope remains. What can I say? I’m a gardener.


Hellebore: looking up

Posted in gardening, horticulture on March 23, 2012 by planthoarder

Hellebore are subtle beauties. You might not notice them next to a daylily or a rose, but their eagerness to bloom when we’re so desperate for a bit of color is endearing. I’ve heard ‘Ivory Prince’ tends to bloom a bit more upright than the common Lenten rose, but mine are just seedlings offered by a friend. It’s been such an odd spring, feeling more like summer here, that I almost expect to see a rose in bloom, but here’s my little Lenten rose doing a little trick for me by blooming upright. It’s nothing to get excited about, not some breakthrough genetics that will lead to a new generation of upward blooming hellebore. You can see the flower next to it blooming in the normal way, but this up-facing flower sure brings a smile to my heart. This odd spring will come and go. Thanks to the magic of photography, I can keep this cute little devil forever.

Stowaway: Scilla

Posted in gardening with tags , , , on March 22, 2012 by planthoarder

Not every hitchhiker is as fearsome as Scotch thistle. Here’s another that looks delicate and absolutely innocent, but it sneaked into my garden with a thought to lawn domination.  For a lawn lover, it could be detestable because once there it’s nearly impossible to root all of it out. Broadleaved herbicides won’t do it in. If I had lawn loving neighbors, I might think twice before letting it spread. For me, it’s early, it’s blue, and so, it’s irresistible. My lawn lover knows that my lawn will never be a lush green carpet devoid of flowers so long as I’m tending it, so the scilla will join the violets, clover, and yes, I’ll admit it, the dandelions. The scilla  reminds me to start thinking about an order for early bulbs; the earlier the better. Should I plant them into the lawn? Hmm, better not press my luck.