Archive for plants

Pastel Paradise

Posted in gardening with tags , , on May 10, 2012 by planthoarder

Pastels and primary colors aren’t meant for each other. I like to think My Love and I are, but then he questioned why my flowers are so darn pink. I’m not a pink person (not that there’s anything wrong with that). My kitchen is a shade of green, my dining room a shade of orange.  The clothes I wear are either earth or jewel tones. How did my garden get so pink? I blame my zone.  Take windflowers, I have Anemone sylvestris, a lovely little white for the spring, and hardy as can be. My Love bought A. coronaria in red red and blue blue. Sadly, even with mulch I’d have to be in zone 7 to hope to overwinter it.

My camassia is barely blue, as is my wild sweet william, Phlox divaricata. Would I like to grow Meconopsis? Absolutely, but my continental climate is too extreme for it. There are few true blue flowers to be had in any climate. My old-fashioned iris is a pale blue with transparent petals and a grape soda scent. Soon there will be Siberian iris in a bluer shade, maybe not with the intensity of the aforementioned anemone, but definitely blue.  Should we get a Heavenly Blue morning glory or Crystal Fountain clematis? Too pale for My Love. In time we’ll have Japanese balloon flowers. Now those are a blue he can approve of.

Peonies are hardy here, and I even have a couple true reds and yellows, but the shades of pink to white outnumber them by far. White can stand with the pastels and the primaries, making us very fortunate so many flowers come in white. “Hold on a second,” I hear you interject, “what about all the red tulips and yellow daffodils?” You caught me. Yes, I love those, too, but they just can’t share the same bed. My Love may feel overwhelmed by spring’s pastel haze, but by summer there will be beds of red and yellow daylilies, and come fall golden yellow rudbeckia and leaves ablaze everywhere you turn.

In this instant, just in this tender spring when everything is fresh and new, leave me a moment to savor my pastel paradise.

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Frost

Posted in gardening with tags , , , on April 24, 2012 by planthoarder

It’s no surprise there’s frost again. Our average last frost is in mid-May. People sometimes ask me whether a particular plant will survive the frost. My unsatisfying answer? It all depends. A plant can be perfectly hardy over the winter, but can be hit back hard after it starts growing. Sometimes it’s as fussy as the degree to which it’s grown. Remember my yellow fairy bells? The long shoots that had drooping bells were devastated by frost. The short upright shoots just springing from the ground are fine.

Sometimes you lose the fruit, sometimes the flowers, and sometimes the leaves. Some plant’s appearance can absolutely shock you. My peony shoots look like the McDonald’s arches most mornings lately, but later in the day they continue their reach for the sky. Whatever you do, don’t dig up and dispose of a perennial plant, especially a shrub or tree, just because it’s lost all its leaves to frost.  Where there are roots, there can still be life.

Today I’ve posted imperfect photos hoping you can see the beauty despite the imperfection. Faithful readers have been kind enough to compliment my snapshots, so I posted a page (Snapshot Dilletante) on my homepage offering my thoughts on flower photography. I hope you feel inspired to take some pictures in your garden. If we can capture a tiny glimpse of the beauty of nature, we’ll have done well.

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.