Monday, February 28, 2011

Spring 2011 - v. 2.0

I had meant to get this posted last evening, but 2 sleeping cats in my lap made it very difficult to type, so I just decided to enjoy the purring cats. In any event, writing about the approaching spring is much more difficult today than it was with the sun and warmth of yesterday afternoon. I woke up this morning to heavy rain, hail, lightning and thunder and high winds. Kind of made me want to crawl back under the covers, except that I had an order to finish up and get to the post office.
A photo essay on spring, anyway. When we came home from church yesterday, these cheery yellow and brown crocuses were blooming. They weren't there when we left - such a nice surprise. You can also see the honey bee. They were all over anything that was blooming, especially the witchhazels.
These little blue crocuses were blooming in another sunny spot. These early ones aren't especially bothered by the cold weather and will be blooming for a couple of weeks.
This is Hamamelis (witchhazel) 'Rochester'. Always makes me think of the old Jack Benny Show when I hear that name. Not sure if it was named after that or the city. Lovely and delightfully scented nonetheless.

Cardinals aren't exactly a harbinger of spring, having been here all winter, but this guy was just sitting in the sun singing and I couldn't resist snapping his picture.

The Tibetan Hellebores are now blooming. This last picture I posted had buds, but not open flowers yet. This one isn't evergreen; it goes dormant by mid-summer, but it is the first one to be up and blooming in the spring. It's also quite a bit smaller than the others we grow. I don't think it gets much over 8 inches tall.

Snowdrops (galanthus) are predictably the first things blooming here. True to their name, they will often start blooming while the snow it still on the ground. If not then, they can be in bloom withing days of the snow melt, even before the ground seems thawed enough for them to poke their noses through. This is the double version, and you could see it better if I'd been willing to crawl in the mud a bit. That will have to wait until the ground dried up a bit.

This variegated pachysandra isn't quite in blooms, but clumps of it all over the yard are now in bud. Can't be long until blossoms.

And a sure sign of spring would be that the duck weed has reappeared on the ponds, even the ones that still have some ice on them.
And even though it's a bit colder today, I still heard the frogs on the ponds, singing their little hearts out this morning. I didn't have the heart to tell them that they'd better head back to the bottom and sleep for a bit longer. They seemed to be having such a good time.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Bamboo - Sasa

I love bamboo; the sort of exotic look, the variety of leaves and forms, the height (wow, the height on some of these), the way it spreads... No wait a minute. Lets just say I love everything about bamboo except its bad manners. Most of the bamboos are a bit ill-mannered, spreading all over the place and very difficult to get rid of once they get out of control. If you stop by the garden, I'll be happy to show you the fairly large, maybe 50 feet by 80 or 100 feet section I've been trying to get rid of for 3 years now - cover with black plastic, 2 feet of mulch, roundup, digging, digging, digging... You still risk putting old, hard, sharp remnants of bamboo through your foot when you walk there if you're not careful.
Now that I've gotten your attention about being careful about where (if) you plant bamboo, let me tell you about some of the nicer ones out there. I'll start with the Sasas. These will spread, but much more slowly. Plant them in their own place, ideally where you can mow around the bed, and I think you'll just love these.
This first one is the plain one of the ones that we grow here. It is Sasa tsuboiana. This, like the rest of the group, was very slow getting established, and now that it has settled in, is very slow with the spreading thing. Some books even call this one semi-clumping. I'd agree with that description. It is glossy green and the leaves can get quite large. I've seen them get to 15-18 inches long, and maybe 6 inches wide. Height is maybe 3-4 feet tall. It is good to zone 5 and likes light shade. Unless the winter is terribly severe, it it evergreen here.

Below is the second one we added, and it was even slower to establish, but now we have a couple of small colonies. It is Sasa veitchii. This is supposed to get a little taller than the plain green one, but they are the same here. The spread is also quite slow. It is good to zone 5 and is supposed to grow in sun or shade, but we have it growing under some very tall white pines and it seems quite content. New leaves that are put out in the spring are all green and stay that way through the summer. In the fall when the nights start to get crisp, the white border starts to develop and gets whiter and wider until it looks like the photo. It keeps this coloration throughout the winter. Really horrible weather may cause some 'burn' on the white edges, but it is still quite striking in the winter garden.
The third is our most recent addition. This is Sasa kurilensis 'Shimofuri'. Although my book says that this can reach 10 feet tall, mine is 3 feet and has been that way and doesn't seem interested in getting any bigger. It will grow in sun or shade and we do give this one quite a bit more sun than the other two. This one is quite pretty when it comes up in the spring. The culms are pale yellow and emerge from lime green sheaths that are edged in deep purple. After a month, the color fades to a pale, soft green, but by then, the leaves have come out with their wonderful pin-striping of green and creamy white. Good to zone 4, but may not be evergreen in colder climates. I should have a couple of pots of this one the sell for the first time this year.
So, not all bamboos are horrible and invasive. There are a number that are pretty good at clumping and staying put, mostly the smaller ones. I'll talk about a few others next time.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Spring !

Just when I have been complaining about not having spring, we've had 2 days of the most wonderful sunny and warm weather. Couldn't ask for better. Alas, it is going away, probably not to be back for awhile, but it was such a nice break. Even though the pond was still frozen when I took pictures on Wednesday...

And there was still some snow (along with spring weeds I didn't want to see ... )

But the snowdrop suddenly broke through the ground and put up buds, which by Friday had opened nicely, at least in the sunny parts of the garden.

Any green is welcome at this time of year, and these cyclamen are such hardy souls, in that they have looked this good all winter, even through the worst of weather.

Hellebores have started to send up buds and they will, of course, have to wait a bit, but will be blooming before you know it.

Along with the witchhazels. Actually, by Friday (today) we didn't just have these little buds, but several of the bushes that are in the most sun were in full bloom (and scent)
And some of them are going to be just covered in bloom any day now. Witchhazels aren't bothered by the cold unless it is severe, and will scent up the yard on any sunny afternoon.

Petasites buds are suddenly above ground with their cabbage-like buds. Hopefully they'll wait just a big before the open so they don't get frozen.

Only a few of the daffodils have put foliage up so far. They don't need to be in any hurry since I don't expect to see blooms on them for another month, at least.

It's also time for pussy willow and as I walk around the yard I see the shiny silver catkins shedding their covers as they get ready for spring.

Unfortunately, I think it is back to hibernation for a few weeks yet, though early blooms will be starting and I'll be out with my camera to capture them.
Next time: A bit on Hank's expanding collection of philodendrons and their equally shade loving friends.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Acer palmatum - Some of my Favorites

Once again laziness (or hibernation) prevails. I think I need spring, or at least some sunshine and at least a little warmth to get me moving again.
This evening I'll finally post the pictures of the Japanese Maples that I promised. This will be far from a complete list of even those we have in the garden here, but rather the ones I like most or the ones whose pictures I like best.
Japanese Maples are a little iffy north of zone 6 because most are grafted, and after an especially bad winter, if they die back, you may lose the plant you wanted and end up with whatever the rootstock was. We have occasionally had that happen. One of the rootstocks has turned out to be a quite lovely small tree. The others were replaced. The species maples, also small and quite decorative and about which I have written before, may be a better choice for northerners as most are on their own roots and so if they die back you won't lose the varietal. Most of these maples will be happier in light shade or morning sun. You sometimes get some bronzing on leaves in too much sun, or even some burn on lighter colored leaves. Woodsy soil and ample moisture (but no soggy soil) will suit most of these.

So here goes ...

Acer palmatum 'Ao shime no uchi'

I just love these long skinny 'fingers'. The branches tend to droop a bit, giving the plant the look of a rounded bush sometimes. Fall color is yellow to a deep gold.

Acer palmatum 'Butterfly'

Butterfly has tiny leaves which are variable in shape; rarely are two alike. Mostly the leaves have a white edge, though you will occasionally find an all white leaf. In the spring you will see lots of pink on the leaves. In the fall, all of the white parts become a shocking pink. This is a short, twiggy tree, rarely over 12 feet tall.

Acer palmatum 'Inabe shidare'

Inabe Shidare means leaves of rice. I see this one sometimes listed as a dissectum, but I seem to have it listed without that addition. The leaves are a very deep red and hold that color all season. The leaf tips on this one will burn in direct sun. Although not as common in the U.S., it has been grown in Japan since at least the mid 1800s.

Acer palmatum 'Orange Dream'

Orange Dream is a newer cultivar and pretty new in our garden; I think it's been here about 5 years. It is a relatively slow growing cultivar, now about 4 feet tall. New growth is more orange, but the color, although lighter and greener, remains through the season.

Acer palmatum 'Roseo-marginata'

Roseo-marginata is not common and may be hard to find. It is a small, almost tiny tree, and seems to be slow growing. It seems to like a good bit of shade. Ask me more after we've grown it a bit longer.

Acer palmatum 'Sagara nishiki'

Sagara nishiki is really not easy to find. It is a creamy yellow with pink highlights, sometimes even looking lavender in more shade. Each tree seems to have its own particular variegation. A lovely thing that prefers shade.

Acer palmatum 'Trompenburg'

Trompenburg is probably one of the best reds for holding its color all season. Not a really large tree. An older cultivar and very dependable.

Acer palmatum 'Ukigumo'

Ukigumo means floating clouds. The variegation is white (or cream), green and pink. Rather than being edged, this one is splashed. The coloration looks 'soft'. Some of the lobes on the leaves will pucker or twist. It is slow growing, rather short and twiggy, and semi-dense, reaching 10 feet after many years.

Acer palmatum 'Yellow Bird'

Yellow Bird is a larger tree, maybe reaching 20 feet. The leaves are a yellowy chartreuse throughout the season, turning a bright yellow with red petioles in the fall. Our is probably in too much shade and therefore not as yellow as it should be. Too big now to move, but the fall color isn't affected by the shade, so It's not so much of a problem.

Not sure where we're going next. Maybe to the greenhouse or maybe to Hanks experiment with making a jungle in the bay window next to the tub in the bathroom. He is suddenly obsessed (just a bit) with philodendrums and other shady indoors things. Taking a bath has become a jungle adventure of sorts.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Winter Sky Photos

I know I said my next post would be on the Japanese Maples, but early this morning, after our electricity went out, I looked out of the back window and just had to run and get my camera. We sometimes get weird light before a storm in the summer, but this is February. The sun was just coming over the hill to the east, surprising in itself since we've seen so little of it lately, and just lit up the first pasture, accented by the quite dark sky to the west. Very briefly, before I got the photos taken, there was a red/pink line across the dark sky. Sorry I didn't get that too.

To keep this botanical, this first one is of the barn and the Salix irrorata. From what I've read, this is often just a multistemmed shrub, but that on occasion it can be single stemmed and make a rather nice tree. That's what we have. The leaves are silvery and before a thunderstorm, especially if there is wind, it just shimmers. This was almost as good.
Another view where you can see a bit of the pasture. For those who know the gardens, this is the pasture that is on the other side of the creek in the very back.

This is looking up the hill to the left as you look towards the back barn. These are very, very, green pines, but in the weird light, they were quite yellow.

Another view of the pines.

More of the field.

A general view with the peony beds, the barn, the Salix, pasture and sky. The whole thing only lasted at most 10 minutes, but was a nice distraction from our lack of electricity. Turned out that a tree had fallen on a line just down the road and it was back on in less than 2 hours; a bit of a record since we usually are out for at least 3 hours. Breakfast cooked on the woodstove tasted good, though, for a change.
Barring some other strange weather event, I'll be back soon with my post on Japanese Maples.