Saturday, May 31, 2008


Another beautiful but brief spring display is put on by the herbaceous peony.

The full bushy plants look good all summer but bloom time is quite impressive. It’s a plant that doesn’t get a lot of attention until it produces that spectacular bloom.

According to Clemson University extension
“Peonies have few pests or diseases. The most frequently occurring problems are the fungal diseases Botrytis blight and leaf blotch. To help control diseases, cut off all peony plants level with the ground in the fall. Do not add the old tops to your compost pile. Avoid overhead irrigation.”

A heavy rain adversely affects the seasonal peony bloom. Magnolia and Iris are also bashed by heavy spring rains some years. This year we’ve been lucky. Most of the spring blooms have not been spoiled.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Iris is a brief but stunning flower of spring.

Although there are re-blooming irises, the conditions for re-bloom seem to be dependant on weather, location, soil conditions and fertilizer. I don’t know anyone who has re-blooming iris. If you do, please let me know your experience and zone by commenting to this post.

All that I have read affirms that iris is one of the easiest perennials to grow.
In my experience, it’s true. I cut off the spent bloom stalks when they finish blooming in spring. I cut the fans back to about 6 inches in late summer. Then I clean up all the yellowed or dried leaves. Some years I’ve put a light layer of mulch over them for the winter.

My iris grows in full sun, in a sheltered spot next to the garage on a very slight slope. I think I got lucky with the placement.

Our neighbors’ irises all are planted in full sun. Each spring it’s an amazing show of color.

Easy to follow directions for dividing iris are found in Better Homes and Gardens “How to Grow, Maintain, and Divide Bearded Iris.”

Personally, I’m just too lazy to divide mine. When they get crowded some of the rhizomes may rot. Usually they are full again in a year or two. I’m not sure that all varieties would put up with this kind of neglect.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

More about container planting

Doug Green’s e-book “Container Gardening” is full of successful container-gardening tips. I wish I had read it before I planted my containers.

Over the years I’ve had some container success. The sun coleus ('Pink Chaos') pictured above looked good all summer. The tall zinnias looked good in July but were a sad sight in August.

If you are interested in planting good looking containers that last all summer, Doug is doing a free online seminar series.

Doug says, “We're going to cover how most folks design containers and how we designed them at the nursery to make those big garden magazine-looking ones.”

I believe the seminar details will be in the free newsletter. To receive the newsletter and click on “Newsletter” then enter your email address. The following link to Doug's blog will get you to the sign-up page for the seminars (May 22 post) The seminar will start in about a week.

If you really want to learn how to do containers from an expert, tune in to the seminars. It should be fun.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Container Plants


The containers are finally planted! ¾ of the cuttings are in the ground. A week of rain has made trying to plant anything somewhat of an adventure.

Speaking of rain, the big yellow iris is completely schmooshed. The picture was taken a few days ago when the rain-schmooshing was just beginning. It’s sad that we won’t get to enjoy them this year.

I planted some vegetables in containers again – pole beans (Kentucky Wonder) and bush cucumbers (Bush Champion). Last year we had loads of beans. The bush cucumbers got mildewed and didn’t produce much after the first crop. (see 9/8/07 post) It will be interesting to see what happens this year. I'll try less plants to reduce crowding - 2 instead of 4.
I bought two Drip-It Pro watering devices from Gardener’s Supply. Hopefully, they will help keep the plants watered during the summer. I’ll let you know how they work out.

Zinnia (Burpee Candy Cane and Giant Flowering mix) and sweet pea (Burpee Streamers) seeds were planted in the large patio pot. Several other pots got various coleus, impatiens, cana, diamond frost and dusty miller.

The porch pot is a red, white and blue combination – Impatiens ‘Dazzler® Red Star’, Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost®’ and a pretty blue plant that was a gift from a friend. I don’t know the name of the blue plant. It reminds me of lobelia. There won’t be much color for Memorial Day but I’m hoping to have a pretty pot by the 4th of July.

I mix the soil in a wheelbarrow and either wheel the soil to the pot or carry it in a bucket. Even though I put a few empty soda cans in the bottom, the pots are too heavy to move when full. Wooden plant dollies are under the pots on the deck.

I use whatever garden/potting soil I can find on sale. I add some soil from my dirt pile, a little sand and a bag of perlite. The mixture is usually light and fluffy.

I’ll be fertilizing with fish emulsion if it ever stops raining. I wish I could save some of this rain for August.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Felicita Garden Resort & Spa

Garden Resort AND Spa! Does it get any better than that?

When we visited with the Bethlehem Garden Club last week, azaleas and viburnum were in full bloom. The Rhododendrons were just coming into bloom. The property covers 800 acres including a golf course, California spa, lodges, dining and banquet facilities and the gardens.

Located 10 miles from Harrisburg, Felicita Garden is owned by PA Attorney and Mrs. Richard Angino. Mr. A, as he is known by the staff, marks plants to be moved or areas for a water feature and the staff takes care of making it happen. Mrs. Angino plans most of the gardens near the house. The gardens are not regularly open to the public, but tours can be arranged.

The Japanese garden near the house is a secluded and tranquil spot with a great views and spectacular plantings.

The Monet Pond’s design had the help of a professional designer as did several other areas on the property. But mostly, the unplanned look is the result of Mr. A’s eye for what looks good, quite a remarkable feat considering the expense of moving huge trees and shrubs and building large water features. Last year Felicita Gardens spent about $100,000 on new shrubs and trees.

Check out the gardens in the attached link. Picture 11 is a view of the formal Grecian Gardens. It is huge (7 acres) and quite amazing. This garden is used for parties, weddings and other formal affairs.

“From 2002 to 2005, the Anginos added five new gardens, including Butterfly, The Park, Perennial, The Secret Garden, and The Great Lawn. In 2006, two more gardens were added plus the new Nature Trail Gardens and par course opened, featuring 30 acres of mature hardwoods and pines underplanted with dogwood, red bud, hawthorn, birch, magnolia, rhododendron, azalea, mountain laurel, viburnum collections, ferns and mosses.”

A buffet lunch was served on the patio of the colonial style golf club. Perfect weather and good company completed an enjoyable tour.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Busy Garden Days

This week is crazy. There are seeds to plant, pots to fill, annuals to put out, weeds to pull, community gardens Blumenplatz and Burnside to plant. And, we’re going to our first Iron Pigs AAA baseball game tonight.

I got to run away from it all yesterday and visited Felicita Gardens in Harrisburg. I’ll post some impressions on Saturday.

The spring garden is exciting. The lilacs and azaleas are at their peak. The re-seeding garden is full of forget-me-nots, cleome, snapdragons, sweet alyssum, red poppies and portulaca. It’s exciting to see what has seeded from last year’s plants.

It’s not so exciting to plan removing and moving the seedlings. Gravity makes the seedlings end up in the path or too near the edge of the garden. I’ll need to move some and remove others. The removing is easy. I can remove a lot of plants in the wrong place with my hoe. The moving takes a little time. The seedlings are too small to move now but, in a week or so, I’ll start my annual – dig them out here and put them over there. Then I can mulch the area and wait for blooms.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Annuals – What was I thinking?

Over the years I’ve added a lot of perennials to the garden. My plan was, as I added more perennials, I would need fewer annuals. That would save a lot of planting time and work in the spring.

Well, it hasn’t worked out that way. I have about 120 annuals to plant this year. I bought 57 plants at Hickory Grove Garden Center in Catasauqua including: Dusty Miller, Impatiens, Marigolds, Petunias, and Cosmos. The rest are cuttings from last years’ Coleus, Begonia, Fuchsia and Blood Leaf and probably a few others that I’ve forgotten.

And this isn’t the first year I’ve done this. Every winter I raise cuttings all over the house. Somehow the collection grows and grows. Every spring I labor planting all the annuals in the garden and in pots. They look great but (as I said last year) next year I’m not going to raise or buy so many annuals.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Sweet Shrub


This native shrub (Calycanthus floridus) can grow 6 to 9 feet tall. It grows in almost any soil in sun to part shade in zones 4 to 9. The flowers are reddish brown. It is a deciduous shrub and the leaves turn yellow in fall.

Mine grows in part shade. I will cut it back when it’s done blooming to keep in within bounds. It sends out runners which need to be pulled out or dug out from time to time. I’ve given a few to friends (with this warning).

There are some comments about sweet shrub on Dave’s Garden. . Escambiaguy from Atmore, AL submitted: “My great grandmother . . . would wrap the blooms in a handkerchief and take them to church with her. She would smell them while sitting in church.” And “The only negative comment about the plant is that it spreads like crazy. I have to constantly prune the suckers. If left alone, you will have a yard full of sweet shrub.”

But, the best thing about this bush is the aroma it gives off in spring. It is blooming right now in my garden and fills the yard with its sweet smell. The blooms will last for weeks.


Saturday, May 03, 2008

Woodland Plants


Several years ago, with plants from a friend, I started a small woodland garden under edge of our 70 foot hemlocks.

I love the little plants. They are small and unobtrusive but shine in a shady place.

Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullari), a white flowering native wildflower, grows to about 4 to 8 inches. It got the common name because the flower supposedly resembles and upside down pair of breeches. They bloom for about two or three weeks starting in April in my garden. It grows in moist woods naturally but is not tolerant of wet winter soil. They do tolerate drought.

I’m told the seeds are distributed by ants. I’ve never witnessed tiny ants carrying tiny seeds so I can’t testify to this. The foliage is toxic to mammals and I know for a fact that deer won’t eat it.

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis L.) grows to be a towering 10” tall. One of the first wildflowers to bloom in spring, it always takes me by surprise. For such a small plant the flowers are somewhat spectacular in a woodland setting.

The root was used by the American Indians for treatment of rheumatism and fever and today is being studied as a treatment for skin cancer. Its use in mouthwash and toothpaste to fight gingivitis and plaque has been approved by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration. According to the FDA, self-medication should be avoided because it could be toxic. It was also a source of red, pink and orange dyes by the American Indians.

Bloodroot prefers rich, moist soil and grows best in shade. I’ve read they are attractive to slugs, deer and other nibbling animals but I haven’t had any trouble so far.

Bloody Sorrel (Rumex sanguineus) is considered a perennial herb or ornamental vegetable. The attractive foliage is a deep green with red veins. This one tops out at about 15 inches. It likes damp shade but will usually survive a drought. Mine have never flowered but I’ve read that they have attractive redish/purple seed heads that stand about a foot above the plant.

I’ve also read that new leaves can be eaten like spinach. I hate spinach and I don’t intend to eat this pretty plant.

I’ve also added some Christmas fern, Japanese painted fern, lady fern, August lily, lungwort and a few other woodland plants. The petite plants boast a subtle beauty and add a surprising interest to a woodland setting.