Monday, December 21, 2009

Snow !

Just a few pictures taken after the snow stopped. We only got a few inches, but it was quite wet, sticky snow and just hung on every branch to make it truly a winter wonderland all over the gardens. Although these are color pictures, most of them after the first one look more like black and white. How odd to have so little color in a garden.
I'm going to start a series on medicinal plants in January. Stay tuned.

Friday, December 11, 2009

I'm still here!

I've been feeling guilty about not writing every day (or every month for that matter) lately. I got a note from Sylvia in England yesterday checking in to be sure I was all right and so here I am this morning with a short note.
We had a very long fall with an extremely late frost, and with so much to do outside, we were starting very early and working late. I am thankful for the extra time to get things done, but the long hours were really exhausting, expecially because some of it involved cutting down trees and cutting and splitting some for firewood (and stacking a few cords of wood for the winter) and then many days of hauling brush out of the gardens. Most everything on the 10 acres got weeded, even some places that have been sort of neclected for several years. I'm really pleased with what we got done, but it cut into my computer time a lot. I still don't have our new catalog up for next year, so I've promised myself to get that done this weekend, now that cold weather is starting to keep me inside.
In addition to all of the outside work, I had another project keeping me busy. A shop in town is taking my hand made teddy bears and dolls on consignment, so in addition to everything else, I was squeezing in a couple of hours of sewing every day. I finally quit that just before Thanksgiving since I think I had enought made, and I really needed to get the things made for my grandbabies for Christmas.
So, you see, I've not been lazing about watching soap operas and eating petit fours.... My plan right now is to spend the next few weeks sorting and labeling several thousand photos that I took this past year and to start organizing things to write here. Expect me back for the season no later than January 1st. Not exactly a New Year's resolution, but it seems like a good way to start off a new year and a new gardening season.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pleioblastus variegatus

I think I'll stick with Pleioblastus and show you this one. It is variously more green or more white, depending on what I don't know. Simply called variegatus or sometimes listed as Dwarf White Striped Bamboo. It is a bit taller than the last one, up to 3 feet, and a bit more of a spreader. It is still quite well behaved compared to the large bamboos. It prefers shade and seems to like a damp spot. I don't think I mentioned it with the last one, but they are both deciduous. Some of the larger ones are evergreen here, especially on a mild winter.
Pleioblastus variegatus is widely cultivated in Japan, but unknown in the wild, so the supposition is that it is a selection of an all green form. I have been told it is hardy only to zone 7, but it grows just fine here in zone 6.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Pleioblastus viridistriatus

Pleioblastus viridistriatus is probably my favorite bamboo. The leaves are pretty nicely striped in the spring, but by this time of year they are more of a gold/chartreuse color.
This is a small bamboo, about 2 feet tall, which prefers shade. The leaves will actually curl up in hot afternoon sun. It also likes ample moisture. There are very few bamboos which I would recommend for the garden and this is one of them. That's not to say that it won't try and take over eventually, but it is small and the underground runners are just below the surface, so it is easy to control. It is also slow getting around to spreading beyond its original clump. One of the easy tricks to controling any of the bamboos is to have them in a place where you can mow around them. Mowing keeps them from spreading beyond the area where they are supposed to be growing. Forget underground barriers unless they are thick steel and go down a foot or so into the ground. Bamboo runners have an extremely sharp pointed end that can go through most materials. Of course you can always grow one that is tasty and use the bamboo shoots for Chinese cooking, which will also effectively stop the growth of that stem, at least temporarily.
You might also see this one listed as Pheioblastus auricomus.
Gentle rain right now and much less heat than yesterday. Yeah!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Bamboo flowers

This is the flower at the end of a bamboo stem. You rarely see it bloom, and that's a good thing because the clump will usually die after blooming. The whole planting will usually flower (and die) at the same time. On this clump we had a few blooms last year and now some this year, so I'm not sure that is always true. This one is barely hardy here and has always struggled. If it does die, I'll probably find something else to take it's place rather than replanting this Fargesii.

I have a bit of a love hate relationship with our bamboos. I love how they look and they serve many useful purposes in the landscape, but most are just so unruly that they are difficult to love sometimes. Over the next few days, I think I'll write about some of the easier ones to grow in a garden and keep under control.

Off now to pick some green beans and take some photos before it gets too hot.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Cyrilla racemiflora

Cyrilla racemiflora, otherwise known as Titi (rhymes with bye-bye) Shrub. This is a small tree or large shrub. It is native to damp places on the east coast of the US from Maryland south. The usual height is 10-15 feet though in optimal conditions they can be twice that tall. In nature, they prefer to form a thicket, but a single specimen is quite a handsome tree/bush. It is deciduous in the north, evergreen in the south. Leaves, which are a shiny green, turn orange/red in the fall. It prefers acidic soil and a damp place, but once established it can tolerate a more dry location, so if that is all you have, just keep it well watered for the first season or two. It can be propagated from seed or root cuttings. The flowers are quite fragrant and contain a large quantity of nectar which the bees just love. The trunk eventually becomes quite gnarly and interesting and so pruning the lower branches back after a few years will expose the trunk and add yet more interest to the garden. These are not seen all that often in garden centers or even catalogs and are probably best found from someone who sells native plants.

Friday, August 14, 2009


A photo of the bog where a lot of the perennial hibiscus grow. These are the ones with the huge flowers; the ones that you cut back after frost. They are gorgeous right now in shades of pink, white, red and purple. These are tall plants, most taller than me and some up to 10 feet tall. The bog is pretty much always damp except in the dryest summers and wet in winter. It's where lots of frogs lay eggs in the spring. There are also iris and ferns growing there along with a few other things along the edges. It's so nice to have all of this color just when the daylilies have about finished up. They are easy to grow and the only pest I've seen on them would be the occasional Japanese Beetle, though we have very few of those little bugs here since spreading Milky Spore many years ago.
Just a quick break from weeding - back to work

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Lobelia cardinalis

First, I'll admit that this photo isn't up to my usual standards, but the blooms were getting a bit past (quite a bit past, actually) their prime when I decided to use them for the blog. I kind of have a love/hate affair with these. For years I tried planting them in various places, both the red flowered one and the white, but they never proved 'perennial' for me and never seemed to come back the next year. Finally, a few years ago, one appeared in a place where I didn't plant it. Seemes these can self seed. This year I have them in at least 3 places, none of which is where I would have thought of planting them. One is seeded within a clump of Sensitive Fern, one is in the middle of an iris bog/pond and the other is in a rather dry place. I'm thrilled to have them finally being happy here since they add a nice splash of color this time of year.
Despite my problems with getting this to be happy here, according to descriptions of what it likes, there shouldn't have been any problems. It grows from zone 3-9, in full sun or part shade and in medium to wet places. It is native to many places in North America. It is 2-4 feet tall, mine being on the taller side. They have taken over providing red color now that the Crocosmias are done.
I would encourage people to try this one if you haven't since it is pretty pest free - bugs, diseases and mammals. They do attract hummingbirds and butterflies, which also makes me like them. Our hummingbirds have increased in population with lots of babies now drinking at the feeder.
And speaking of birds, we had a major population explosion of woodpeckers this year. Lots of baby Red Bellies and Downies. So cute sitting there on the suet feeder, still waiting for mama to peck some out and feed them. Most have now figured it out, so I expect they'll be moving on to their own territories soon and our population will be back to normal.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Crinum amabile

Crinum amabile, known around here as 'the monster', is really a huge thing. We got this one about 4 or 5 years ago, maybe longer, and have been watching it get bigger and bigger. The bulb was about the size of a softball when we got it, but they said to put it in a large pot because it grows so quickly, so it was potted in one that was about 5 gallon size. It didn't take long before it had filled the pot. The bulb now pretty much goes to the sides of the pot. I don't think I'll repot it, though, because it seems happy. Including the pot, it is about 5 feet tall and almost that wide.
This Crinum is not hardy here, only in zone 8 and warmer, and so it needs to be brought into the house every winter before frost. My sunny warm window where there is room for it is upstairs in the front of the house. This things now weights at least 50 pounds and is a real pain to take up the steps (one step at a time, resting every few steps). This spring I told the plant that if it didn't bloom, finally, this year, it was going to have to live somewhere else. The guys at Glasshouse Works promised to give it a good home if we didn't want it any more. That sounded good to me. Wouldn't you know that as soon as I threatened the plant, it would decide to bloom.
Here is the beginning ot the bud. The ferny foliage around the plant is Rhus typhina 'Tiger's Eye', a sumac.

Here's a closeup of the bud as it was just emerging. Not all that pretty at that stage.

Here it is again as it started to grow. Shortly after this we had to stake it up so it didn't break off. The pot won't fall over since it is sitting in a larger pot filled with water. Crinums seem to like a lot of moisture, at least in the summer. I've always kept it drier in the winter.

Here is a closeup of the bud as it started to open with all of the separate buds inside.

And here as the separate buds grew bigger.

And the final bloom which I waited so long to see. It has really been wonderful since it wasn't just one bloom, but a series of blooms which have continued to open for 2 weeks now and seems like it will continue a bit longer still. The scent is heavenly and spreads for quite a distance around the plant, especially in the morning and evening, though when you walk past it during the day you also get a hint of scent.
As much as I've enjoyed it, the last time I lift this one up again will be to put it in the car and take it over the Glasshouse Works once it is done blooming. They have a lot more greenhouse space for it than I do so it will have a nice home. Until then, I'll continue to enjoy it. I'm glad I finally got to see it bloom.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Impatiens omeiana

This pretty thing is the hardy impatiens, Impatiens omeiana, that I promised for today. The leaf is more like the New Guinnea Impatiens you see in the garden centers, but this one is hardy to zone 6 and probably even zone 5 with a good mulch. It comes up sort of late, so remember where you planted it so you don't try and fill in that 'empty' space with something else. It spreads into a nice clump over the years, but is rather slow about finally doing it. It requires shade and nice, woodsy soil.
The blooms are probably the best part of the whole thing. They appear in late August or September and continue until frost. Color is orange and yellow, about like the Jewelweed I pictures yesterday, and look like goldfist hanging under the leaves. Quite unusual and quite pretty. I don't seem to have a picture of the blooms, so I'll have to add one later on this month when they get around to blooming here. I don't see them offered very often and people who tour the gardens usually don't know what they are, so it you do find some, you will have something rather unusual in your garden. They are pretty care free and don't seem to be bothered by insects or animals with the exception of an occasional slug, but a mulch of pine needles or chicken grit (get this at the feed store) will solve that problem.
Tomorrow - our giant crinum.

Monday, August 10, 2009


It seems almost a shame to label this one a weed - nothing this pretty should have weed as a part of its name. Jewelweed is fond of damp places and shady places, though you will find it growing in a bit of sun. Flowers can range from the usual dark orange to reds and yellows and any shade in between. There are yellow leaf forms and variegated leaf forms. This was one of my childhood delights for the seed pods that come after the flowers. When they're ripe, any touch causes them to pop open, turn inside out, and spray seeds all over the place. A great survival strategy since any animal passing will 'plant' the seeds for it.
Here's a close-up of the flower. These are related to impatiens, though the flowers are more orchid-like.
Tomorrow, our hardy impatiens which should be flowering soon.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Taxodium ascendens

We grow several different, and quite a few of each, Taxodiums. Taxodium ascendens is more commonly known as Pondcypress or Pond Baldcypress and if you've traveled to Florida, these are where Cypress Knees come from. This one is called ascendens because the needles really do grow straight up, giving it a very different look from Taxodium distichum, sometimes called Common Baldcypress.
They can grow on dry (not dry really, just not in a pond) or in a damp, boggy place. They live happily in zones 5 to 9, maybe even in zone 4. They are tall trees, eventually, probably 75 feet, but are rather slow growers. The one I took the photo of is about 10 years old and is maybe 15 feet tall. More moisture equals faster growth, though, even up to 2 feet a year in optimal conditions.
The leaves/needles are bright green, turning to a coppery color in the fall before they fall. They have a 'soft' look about them, not the usual stiff look of trees with needles. The deciduous conifers are interesting, but I will still like those that hold their needles better since they provide a color other than brown during the winter months. These are native from Virginia to Florida and Alabama, on more upland areas - around ponds rather than in them. Our largest one grows at the edge of our bog, so it gets plenty of water without sitting in it and seems quite happy with the arrangement.
There are 2 named cultivars, in addition to the species, that I know of, 'Nutans' and 'Prairie Sentinel'. I see neither the species or cultivars in nursery centers so they probably are best acquired by mail order. They are probably better known in the south than up here in Yankee Land, so they might be more readily available there. Highly recommended.
Nice day coming up with lots of weeding and pruning on the schedule after I pick beans.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Woodsy paths

This is a path near the back part of the gardens, near the back barn. It used to have move hostas growing on the hill, but it is a little dry and a little too shady, so most have been moved and instead there is a vinca with white flowers and a variegated green and gold leaf. It's a good choice for a bank and for shade. It only blooms in the spring, but is very pretty then. The variegation also fades as the summer arrives, but I love shady with lots of shades of green, so it really doesn't matter. Packed into the picture above, besides the vinca and hostas you can see a barberry, forsythia, maple, holly, orixa and lilacs. Lots more just out of view.
When I was growing up I spent a lot of time in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania. This sort of reminds me of the woods there, even though this path/garden was totally created by us and is in no way natural. We do have lots of places on this 108 acres that do look like this - some even better - and when I have time, it is nice to just walk through the woods. We have creeks and waterfalls, springs and bogs, ferny glades and open woods and thorny thickets that are loved by wildlife.
I hope by tomorrow to have all of the photos back in the computer. In any case, I'll be writing about Taxodiums since our Taxodium ascendens is just perfect in form this year and I finally got a good photo of it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Clothesline in my Garden

It's a bit of a long story - about 14 years long to be exact. When I moved to this farm in 1995, I left my clothesline behind in West Virginia and started using an electric dryer. Time saving, maybe, but not fun and not nearly as satisfying as a clothesline full of clean clothes flapping in the breeze on a nice sunny day. This spring I finally decided that I was done with the dryer and was going to have my clothesline back. All it took was threatening to go to Lowe's for a bag of cement and 2 posts to get Hank to finally get around to it. the line runs from the huge Salix irrorata near the back barn, through the barberries (this part I can't use) and to a post on which a clematis is growing. It than attaches to a Pseudoacacia frisia and finally a Salix 'Rubykins'. See, this makes it a legal gardening post. The bed through which it runs is filled with daylilies, only a few of which are still blooming in the picture. Actually what precipitated the abrupt decision was when the water pump on my washing maching broke a few months ago. Too busy to go and get a new part right then, I brought my old washer that I used in West Virginia back down from the back barn. A little dusting and it was good as new. Clothes put through a ringer aren't so good dried in an electric dryer because they just aren't as dry as those spun dry in an electric washer, so the clothesline became more or less necessary.
Now this is about as basic as you can get. No electricity, no plumbing connections, just the hose and my own energy. (Inside the house I just fill buckets to fill it and the drain empties into a bucket to empty it) It actually takes the same amount of time or less than my electric machine and I get so much good exercise moving the agitator back and forth for 5 minutes. Better than lifting weights, especially if you manage to do a few loads a week. Then more exercise wringing out the clothes and hanging them. I'm in no hurry to go back to the electric washer and dryer (though I may feel a little differently in January), and plan on keeping up with this one for now, at least. The washer is now 26 or 27 years old and since there's not much to go wrong and it's made of stainless steel, it is pretty much as good as the day I got it.
Rain this morning and more on the way. 6 quarts of green beans in the freezer so it must have been a good day even if I didn't get any weeding done.

Monday, August 3, 2009


Achillea - the Yarrows - are one of the stars of the late summer garden. This one is 'Coronation Gold' if my memory serves me correctly (still haven't gotten all of the pictures straightened out in my latest re-do of my computer). This one is quite tall and has stiff, rather than soft blooms which are excellent for drying. The color fades over time, and by spring they will be brown, but still useful in fall arrangements. This is a tall plant. There is a rosette of ferny, soft green leaves at the base, but the bloom scapes put the flowers right at eye level. The flowers are unscented, but the foliage is quite fragrant. I found, when weeding a bed where this one grows yesterday, that if you lay a stem of this down and if stays there a good long time (maybe not all that long actually) it will root. I dug a nice clump out and potted it up until I find a nice place for it. I know I use that method for propagating trees and shrubs, I just never knew I could do it with a perennial. I suppose since this one has such woody stems, it works the same way.
Full sun for this one and it doesn't seem to mind a bit of dry weather. Also not bothered by bunnies, insects or deer. My guess is the highly aromatic foliage is its deterrent.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Caryopteris divaricata 'Snow Fairy'

Thanks for Sharon who was here yesterday for inspiring me to write about this Caryopteris. I had grown a number of them for years, but they were all short lived and seemed unhappy any place I tried to grow them, but I love the blue flowers, so I kept on trying. This one is a different species and seems to be quite content anywhere I grow it. It is a small bush, maybe up to 4 feet tall and about as wide. It dies to the ground each winter and is a bit slow getting started in the spring, but comes up fast once it decides that the time has come. The green and white leaves are small and so you get a sort of all over confetti look from a distance. The blue flowers are a late summer/early fall thing. Although they hold up well in a vase, the foliage on this plant has a realy unpleasant scent, and so I usually don't use them in the house. I suppose that's why nothing seems to bother it either animals or insects. Full sun is best, though it will grow in part shade.
We've had 3 inches of rain in the last 2 days and there were actually puddles in the driveway and the creek was running. Quite unusual for this time of year, but the gardens look better than I expect for the beginning of August and the weeds (which have grown unbelievably) are coming out like they aren't even attached to the soil. Yeah!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Weigelia 'Rubidor'

If I've got the name of this one wrong, someone please let me know. It's what I remember, but it's early and I'm still sorting out my 10,000 or so pictures as I move them back into the computer and this is a recent one still just identified by a number. Anyway ... this is a plant that you just can't miss in the garden. It is a 6 foot tall and wide shrub like yesterday's entry, but the foliage is a screaming yellow/chartreuse. If that weren't enough, the flowers are hot pink. Although it seems like an unlikely combination to create a pretty vision, it actually works quite well. Full sun, prune after bloom. Right now the hummingbirds seem to be enjoying the rebloom flowers. Like the variegated one, this one reblooms regularly throughout the season after its first major bloom, which is always a plus for any shrub.
Daylily season is winding down. Yesterday was the first day where there were whole sections without bloom. The garden beds where we have a lot of late bloomers planted look just as good as ever, actually better than a few weeks ago, but we are definitely on the downside of the peak bloom. Because we have planted varieties with such varied bloom seasons, we have had daylilies blooming in the garden since mid-May and will likely have some until frost. It's not the overwhelming display of July, and mostly yellow and gold, but daylilies that bloom over such as long season are a welcome addition to the garden.
I was awakened by a thunderstorm (and a cat sitting on my chest bathing) at 3 this morning, so I expect it will be a little wet to work outside this morning and rain is predicted throughout the day. The gardens will be happy - and my kitchen will get cleaned.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Weigelia 'Variegata'

A lovely shrub, this Weigelia. It is an older variety, but still lovely. The leaves are a medium green with a creamy variegation, though it often fades to almost white in the sun, and sun is the best place to grow this. It is not for a small garden since it is about 6 feet tall and just about as wide. I do prune it mercilessly on the side next to the path so that walking around it is still possible, and so ours is a bit un-symmetrical. The flowers are white flushed with pink and it blooms heavily in the spring and then sporadically for the rest of the season.
There are newer version of the variegated one that are smaller, probably only 3 feet tall. One that we've gotten that I don't have a picture of handy (still working on re-populating my computer) is called 'My Monet'. The variegation is more bold than this one and it is just as hardy. We picked that one up at Lowe's last year, so I expect that it is readily available.
Tomorrow, my other favorite Weigelia.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Variegated Horseradish

Well, the computer is back, but for some reason, to replace my modem, they felt the need to wipe my hard drive clean, just to be sure it wasn't the problem. Not a good thing. I have gotten most everything put back on, but the pictures are taking a long time to download again from storage. At least everything was backed up and I won't lose anything, but it is still a real pain in the butt to have to spend the time getting everything back the way I want it when the modem has been a problem since I bought the computer and had nothing to do with anything on my hard drive.
As for today's pictures, this is a variegated horseradish we have grown for years. It is just like the plain, old, green variety as far as using it for eating, but it is just so much prettier. We grow it in light shade and it seems happy. I mostly use it for an ornamental since I hate processing the horseradish. It is a job for when you really need your sinuses cleared out. You dig next to the plant and cut off a piece of root. Wash it and peel it and cut it into small pieces. You then put it in the blender with some vinegar and turn it on until it looks like what you buy in the market. Very easy, but there is no way to keep the fumes contained. It is delicious done fresh like this and keeps well in the refrigerator. I think, at least for now, I'll just keep growing it as a pretty garden plant, though.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Papaver spmniferum

Poppies this morning. They are blooming all over the yard. Last summer, after poppy bloom, Hank collected seed and spread it everywhere - and I mean everywhere. This year we definitely have more poppies, though some are in places where I really didn't want or need poppies. I think we'll just let the ones in appropriate placed seed themselves and give away the rest of the seed. We have plenty of requests already. The first picture is of a 'normal' poppy, what most of ours look like, though the colors vary from this dark one to much lighter pink ones.
The second picture is a type that appeared from last years seeding for the first time. I love the fringed petals. We're definitely going to save seed from this one to plant for next year. I've never seen this variation before. I happen to love pink flowers, so that is even more reason to spread this one around a little bit.
It promises to be a cool and sunny day, just perfect for getting things done and getting laundry to dry on the line. As usual I have much more to do than there are sunny hours in the day and definitely much more to do than I expect I'll have the energy to accomplish.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Computer Trouble - again!

A perfect little double daylily. I wish my computer was this perfect. Unfortunately, the modem stopped working (again) and it's off to Toshiba. I'll try to keep up with posting, but no promises until my main computer is back home again. No time anyway since with these cooler temperatures come much longer gardening days. Lots of weeding and pruning getting done and some long neglected sections of the gardens are becoming lovely(er) again.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Ajuga - the rest of them

Since I had mentioned Ajuga in my post on ground covers, I thought I'd post a few more pictures to show the variety that is available.
This first on is my favorite (well maybe one of my favorites), at least in the spring when it is in bloom. I just love the baby pink flowers on Ajuga 'Pink Torch'. There is, or was, a version with smaller pink flowers, but I don't see it on the market any more and it has died out here, so I imagine that it wasn't very robust. The color is actually a bit darker pink than this photo would indicate.

This one is Ajuga 'Chocolate Chip. I moved some of it last year because it was in too much shade and the colors weren't showing up like they should. In eough sun, this one has shades of brown and deep burgundy along with several shades of green. The leaves are less ajuga-like and and skinny. Much more slowly spreading than most of the others.

Ajuga 'Mini Crispula' is one with very wrinkly krinkly leaves and always seems to stay as a small clump, though it does spread slowly. It is one that definitely needs sun. I lost my original clump when that garden filled in and had too much shade. I replaced it this year, putting it along the walk up to our door so I can enjoy it more often.
Ajuga 'Planet Zork' was available for several years and you either loved it or hated it. It had puckered upright leaves and looked like a real mutant. It had the bad habit of reverting to a plain green ajuga. Ours eventually died out and I won't replace this one.

This is Ajuga 'Rainbow'. We had a rather large area with this but it got too shady and then it was eaten by the deer and never recovered. I haven't seen it offered recently but would replace this one if I could. It definitely added a different color to the garden that most people weren't expecting in a foliage plant. And yes, this is the true color, not retouched in any way.

'Silver Beauty' likes some sun, but is also happy in shade. Another one that deer seem to find tasty, but I have enough of it in different places so I don't think they'll be able to totally do it in. The color is a mistly sort of grey/blue/green with some white edging. It is a bit more vigorous than some of the tempermental ones, but not to the point of being invasive.

Ajuga 'Tricoloris' should probably be more like multicoloris for all of the shades of red/burgundy, green and gold. It needs some sun to bring out the colors.

This last one probably has a name, but don't know what it is. It was a gift from a friend and came with out a name. I'm not sure I've seen a white flowered version offered in catalogs, but it is thorought hardy and spreads sort of quickly. It will always have a home here.

Ajugas are mostly easy to grow except for a few tempermental ones and most are well behaved. Bloom is in the spring when the low growing mat of leaves suddenly is covered with 6 inch tall or so spikes of flowers which are pretty long lasting and good as cut flowers in small bouquets. I don't remember any scent to the flowers. These increase mostly by runners like strawberries. This time of year you will see a large parent plant with a ring of babies all around. You can move the babies elsewhere as soon as they have roots, leave then where they are, or just compost or give them away if you've reached your quota on ajuga. At any rate, they are a quite versatile and useful plant in the garden and not worthy of theor sometime reputation of being a garden problem.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ground Covers

I'm off to town really early this morning, so I'll not have time right now to finish this post. Enjoy the pictures and I'll tell you all about them while I eat lunch.
Never got back to the computer during lunch, just ate on the run. Anyway, now I have time to comment on these photos. This first one is Saxifrage stolonifera. It is a lovely ground cover for shady places, and as the name indicates, it increases by stolons - just imagine a strawberryplant where a runner starts out and forms a new leaf/plantlet on the end that takes root and then that one makes another plant and another and another. This on runs along bricks edging a bed near my outhouse and covers quite an area near a pond by my root cellar. It is not invasive and never seems to bother other plants. It seems to intertwine with a running Tiarella I have very nicely.

This one is Hydrocotyle 'Crystal Confetti'. Not all of the Hydrocotyles are well behaved. Some of the larger leafed kinds can be quite invasive, but this one is tiny, only an inch or so tall with leaves smaller than a dime. It needs dappled light and doesn't do well in either full shade or full sun. Average garden soil that is neither too wet nor too dry will keep it happy.
Lysimachia numularia 'Aurea' (hope I got that right and spelled correctly) is known around here as Golden Pennywort, thought I think there is another plant also known by that name. It will grow in sun or shade and even in pretty damp places. If in sun, be sure it is not too dry. The more sun, the brighter the gold color. It is bright. This one will kind of creep all over the place, but is easily kept under control and doesn't seem to bother things even when it grows right up close to them. On mild winters it is evergreen here in our garden. Even when it dies back, it regrows so fast in the spring that it doesn't matter.

This cute ground cover is a real miniature with leaves and orchid-like flowers only about an eighth of an inch across. It would probably be good in a garden of miniature plants, but pretty just about anywhere with it's sky blue flowers in the spring and early summer. It crawls over rock walls or just on the ground. We have it in a place with morning sun and dappled afternoon shade and it is quite happy.

This last one is Ajuga 'Caitlin's Giant'. Ajugas are a bit invasive, but make great groundcovers and have spikes of blue, pink or white flowers in the spring. Most are blue. The leaves come in a variety of colors and shapes also. It likes shade or sun, but too much shade is detrimental to some varieties. Caitlin's Giant seems to be the most hardy of the bunch and the largest. Ajugas also increase by runners, though I think they sometimes seed also since I sometimes find patches in new spots.

There are tons more ground covers out there, but these are some of the better behaved ones and pretty easy to grow. Avoid Ivy and Vinca right up around plants because they are not good neighbors except for larger trees. They make excellent ground covers, though, for shady spots where you want to cover a bank or have something spilling over a wall. Vinca now is available in several varieties with variegated leaves and with either the familiar blue flowers or white.
Off to weeding and pruning and potting and digging and planting and ...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Galeobdolon argetatum

Another lovely groundcover, this one probably about 8 inches tall and wonderfully green and silver. It gets intense yellow flowers in the late spring. It forms a dense mat through which no weeds will grow and loves shade, even under trees where the ground is pretty dry. This makes it a perfect thing for problem spots. Unfortunately, it can create it's own problems. Once established, it is difficult to remove since it makes crowns and can't just be pulled out unless the soil is very loose. You end up having to dig it out - just ask me all about getting rid of some. I guess I should have suspected this, since no weeds grow through it, but it seems to kill off anything it is growing around, so it really has to be in it's own spot. It crawled around a Blue Angel Hosta, one that was at least 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide - a really big hosta. This year it is barely a foot tall and wide. I have removed the Galeobdolon from around it and it seems to be recovering.
I think this used to be lumped in the the Lamiums at one time and it is reminiscent of them, just with quite a bit larger leaves and a more upright habit - actually more like a Lamiastrum.
Despite its drawbacks, it is a wonderful plant for a problem spot and for that reason, a good bit of it gets to live at the fringes of the gardens.
Tomorrow - some friendlier ground covers.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Aegopodium podagraria 'Variegatum'

A lovely plant with a now as lovely Latin name, though it is known around here as Snow on the Mountain. There is also at least one other plant that also goes by that common name, so I don't know it everyone everywhere calls it that.
Its color is a blue/green/grey and it has chalk white edges. Height is about 8 inches. It sometimes blooms with a rather undistinguished flower, but not always, and it spreads primarily by underground runners, not seeds. It is quite a standout. Its one drawback is that is spreads. Its one strong point is that it spreads. Not really a contradiction. It you are looking for a ground cover that will spread rapidly and cover a shady hillside to help stop erosion, this could be just the perfect plant. If you are just looking for a nice garden perennial that will be well behaved, you should probably look at something else.
Hank planted some years ago, long before we met, and I am still keeping it under control. Short of ripping out the entire garden and starting over, that's the best I can hope for. Since I can't get rid of all of it and because I really do like the looks of the plant, I opt for just keeping it in a small patch and ripping out the rest. Not a perfect solution, but it's working for now.
Tomorrow - more groundcovers to beware of.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Daylilies - Peak Bloom

This is the time of year when the garden goes from green with a few splashes of color, to color everywhere. Dayliliy season is at its peak. This photo is taken the top of the hill to the west of the gardens. Where I was standing is about 200 feet above the barn (rusting roof in the picture), though it is hard to tell in the picture. The daylily beds continue off the the left for quite awhile, but it is impossible to get them all in the same shot, and no photograph will do justice to the riot of color present. It's one of those things where you just have to be there. And no matter how much I like this view, my day always includes a walk through all of the daylilies sometime during the day to take pictures and just enjoy them. I don't rush and it usually takes me about an hour. On sunny days I walk early in the morning before the heat and sun fade the flowers. On cool or cloudy days I often wait until late afternoon when I don't feel the press of other things to do and can truly take my time and just enjoy the garden.
In addition to taking pictures, I usually carry a large, flat bottomed basket into which I put daylily blossoms. One of the nice things about daylilies is that their bloom last one day whether they are on the plant or off, so I pick just the blooms and leave the scapes with the buds remain on the plants. The blooms then get put on my kitchen windowsill where I can enjoy them when I am cooking and washing dishes - or if I get carried away and pick too many, they might find their way to almost any place I can enjoy them for the day. A note if you do this - be sure to add them to the compost pile in the evening before you head off to bed, because no matter how good they still look and how hard it is to trash what look like perfectly good flowers, by morning they will be no more than limp puddles of used-to-be flowers and will be just a mess to clean up. Better to remember them in all of their beauty and to wake up to dead, mushy blooms.