Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Shade Garden – Sun Garden

We arrived home after the Memorial Day weekend to be greeted by our thirty foot pussy willow on laying its side. A storm Sunday night knocked down the old friend. After three hours with a chain saw and lopping shears, we finished cleaning up the last branch by 8 pm. Now our shade garden is a full sun garden.

Saturday, May 26, 2007


Many years ago I started digging up the yard for gardens. Each year I bought spring blooming bulbs to plant in fall – tulips, hyacinths, daffodils. Since I couldn’t afford a ton of perennials, I bought annuals to mask the bulbs fading foliage. I continue to use annuals even though I have added many perennials.
If I had to pick my three favorite annuals -

The top of the list of would be coleus. Bright, cheerful and a Joseph’s coat of colors, they brighten shady spots. Some can take sun. They are all almost care free. They are also easy to propagate so I save a lot of money raising cuttings.

Second on the list is impatiens. The colors pop in the shade garden. The New Guinea impatiens is great for the sunnier areas.

There are some annuals that have a special meaning for me. Cosmos is planted for a special young lady whose birthday is in October. Cleome reminds me of my Grandmother’s garden. The tall, spectacular, ever-blooming habit looks great in large groups at the back of the garden.

Whoops, that’s four. I wouldn’t want to be without any of them as well as dusty miller, sweet alyssum, marigold, zinnia, petunia, wax begonia, snapdragon, sweet pea . . .

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Dicentra - Bleeding Heart

There is a huge difference between ever-blooming ('luxuriant') and the May blooming (spectabilis) dicentra in my garden - in size, shape and bloom.

Dicentra 'luxuriant' blooms reliably all summer with the greatest blush in May. Planted in 1995 the plant is now 1 ½ feet tall by 2 ½ feet wide. This small plant with cut-leafed blue-green foliage blooms in the shade reliably all summer. The flowers are smaller and not quite as well defined as spectabilis.

The one I call the “old fashion bleeding heart”, Dicentra spectabilis 'pink', was planted in 2002 and has a lovely form and flower. The plant is about 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide and blooms in May. It grows in the shade of a dogwood and dies back in August. I cut it back as each stem or leaves begin to yellow, but it has come back reliably each year.

Both plants are easy to grow. The Dicentra ‘luxuriant’ needs no care at all and, if space is at a premium, will stay within bounds. The “old fashioned” bleeding heart is a large plant, but the attractive spring show of arching stems and definite, heart-shaped flowers is spectacular.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Perennials Divided and Seedlings

This spring I managed to divide, pot and give away some perennials - 2 Liriope, 3 mums (Chrysanthemum koreamun 'single Apricot' Garden Mum), 2 Coreopsis moonbeam, 4 brunnera, 3 creeping jenny, 2 pots of snow drops, and 11 pots of sweet woodruff. There is a sense of satisfaction in putting extra plants to good use. I have more that need division as time allows – or - there’s always next year.

Seedlings are popping up everywhere in the re-seeding garden. It’s like the great spring treasure hunt. There are varieties of cleome, sweet alyssum, nicotiana, lady slipper, rose campion, snow-on-the-mountain and snapdragon.

This little garden has good and bad points. On the bad side: not all the plants come up where I want them so some plants have to be moved, sometimes there is an overabundance of plants which necessitates culling of seedlings, some plants need to be given away or added to the compost pile. On the good side: it’s exciting to see what pops up where, the garden fills in like a spring meadow and - the price is right.

It may seem like bad outweighs good but I think the summer show is worth it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Columbine, Lilacs and Cardinals

As the last of the tulips fade, the columbine, lilac, dogwood, azalea, lily of the valley, rhododendron, sweet shrub, dead nettle, iris, bridal wreath, sweet woodruff and silver dollar plant all come into boom filling the air with sweet aroma and bright colors. There are buds on the roses and dianthus.

Re-seeding cleome, snow-on-the-mountain, forget-me-not, cosmos, sweet alyssum, and snapdragon are beginning to pop out of the soil.

Weeding and planting continue. The top of the soil is dry which makes weeding difficult. I need more mulch. I would be happy for a soaking rain right now. The cucumber and pole beans have germinated in their pots. I’ve started to plant cuttings – only 70 more to go. I need to get the canna and tuberose in the ground. I need to shop for a few annuals. I finished fertilizing the bulbs with bone meal, tidied and fed the roses. All the soaker hoses are in place.

Blumenplatz planting has begun. (see April 21 post) The “Garden of Serenity” is in good shape with Saturday morning mulching completed by a happy and energetic group of volunteers. The Miller House Garden cleanup is almost complete. Planting is set for May 24.

There is an endless parade of stimulation and work in the May garden.

But, the most exciting occurrence this spring - three cardinal baby birds live in a holly bush outside our living room window. It’s a magnificent opportunity to watch them hatch, feed and grow.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Crape Myrtle

In last week's post on the Penn State Master Gardener blog Karen Bernhard writes, "Crapemyrtle is a really special shrub. That spectacular bloom after many other flowering plants are all through for the season is great! Unfortunately, crapemyrtles are not reliably hardy in Pennsylvania." Take a look at the blog (link above) for more detailed information.

I am very fortunate to have a hardy plant. Unfortunately, I don't know the variety since it was a gift from a neighbor's bush. (There are a few around the neighborhood from the same old bush.) The picture here, from August of last year, shows the great display of blooms.

This crepemyrtle is very slow to wake up in spring. It is just now beginning to leaf out. Hopefully, this year will be another year of spectacular, non-stop bloom from summer to fall.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Cow Pots

The cuttings were fine overnight and look bright and happy this morning.

Some of them are planted in “cow pots”. (See February 1, 2007 post). They are the square pots pictured in the last post.

I purchased them from Gardener’s Supply because I couldn’t find a local seller. The set of 15 three-and-one-half-inch pots was quite pricey. The results will have to be spectacular for me to buy them again – and only if I can find them locally. The shipping is a killer. I’ll try to post observations from time to time.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Coleus Cuttings

Out for good! After carrying cuttings in and out for several days to harden off – out in the morning, in at night - I’ve decided to put them out for good. There are 50 plants pictured above that will stay out. I’ll put them under a table in a sheltered place on the deck. Evening temperatures are supposed to stay in the 50’s so I think I’m safe.

I completely forgot the other 11 on the windowsill. They will go out today and into the garage overnight (maybe).

I also have 18 fuchsia and wax begonia cuttings that may have to go in and out for a few days. Enough of walking plants around! But it was a good crop this winter. I can’t wait to see the vibrant colors in the garden and in pots.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Dogwood and Red Bud

The Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) and Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis) are in bloom right now. I find the flowers on these spring blooming trees one of the beautiful treats from mother nature - especially on a clear, sunny, spring day.

Cornus florida may have some longevity problems but it's graceful shape makes it well worth it's sometimes shorter life. I've found that if planted in a suitable place it will last for many years. The kousa dogwood is less suseptible to insects and diseases but lacks the gracefulness of the native form.

The Eastern Redbud is another graceful tree. This tree may have problems with brittle branches breaking in a windy location but the short spring bloom time is awesome with tiny pink flowers crowded along the branches. It's worth the effort to find a suitable location for this one.