Saturday, May 29, 2010

Bethlehem Rose Garden

This week was a perfect time to visit the Bethlehem Rose Garden. Roses are in full bloom. Rows of color fill the park.

The varieties aren’t marked. This spectacular color caught my eye.

A pretty combination.

Exquisite white.

As I walked through, I stopped at the war memorials around the garden.

With Memorial Day a few days away, I thought of the poem we learned in elementary school.

In Flanders Fields
Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918) Canadian Army

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below…
Have a wonderful Memorial day and THANK YOU to the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mountain Laurel

Pennsylvania State Flower

Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) has been the Pennsylvania state flower since 1933.

This old beauty, another shrub that came with the house, is blooming now in my garden. It’s a shrub worth considering for ease of care if you have the right spot.

The evergreen Mountain Laurel prefers moist, well-drained acidy soil. It will grow in partial shade or full sun in a sheltered area out of winter winds in zones 4 to 9.

I can’t say I do much to make it grow so happily on the west side of the house. I trim it every few years to try to keep it a reasonable size. Some years I feed it a little Holly Tone. This may be a classic case of the right plant in the right spot.

This old beauty is blooming now in my garden in a bed of azaleas. The pink puff balls will last a few weeks.
(Mountain Laurel information from Pennsylvania Department of Conservation here.)

Friday, May 21, 2010


Each spring I'm excited to watch the re-seeding garden come to life. It’s fun to see the garden rearrange itself.

BUT, this year seedlings are everywhere. I’ve been pulling, hoeing, potting and moving seedlings all week. I certainly have a bumper crop.

The snapdragons are the most prolific. (Top photo with Johnny-jump-up.)

The cleome has been productive too. The cosmos and annual poppy join them in their reproductive party. I’ve left most of the poppies because they don’t transplant well. They bloom early so I’ll get them out of the way once they’ve finished blooming. I may be hopping over poppies for a month.
No one needs this many cleomes!

I love the white/green summer look of snow-on-the-mountain (with more snaps, cleome and a few sweet alyssum) – again too many. One nasturtium returned (lower left of center of picture below).

Some of the snapdragons from last year survived the winter and are ready to set buds (upper left of picture below). Under all the snapdragon seedlings are portulaca. I’ll try to pull the snaps and save the portulaca. That may take a bit of finesse.

I should have a riot of color this summer. And it’s all free! (Note: Labor doesn't count.)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Every year I use cannas to help fill the vertical space along the garage wall. (It will take time for the pencil holly (Ilex crenata 'Sky Pencil') that I planted last October to grow tall enough to help fill the space. )

I try to get the rhizomes planted at the beginning of May. They take a few weeks to come up. I’m late but I finally got them planted this week.

After being stored in peat moss since last October and kept in a cool garage to keep them from freezing, the rhizomes were in good condition. I cut some of the larger ones in half making sure there were at least 2 eyes on each piece. I cut off a few dried parts. I dug holes between the existing plants and plopped them in – eyes up - and that was it.

It’s a lot easier putting them in than taking them out. They are tropical plant and have to be dug out if I want to have rhizomes to plant next year. (See November 10, 2007 post. )

I hope they look as good this year as they did in September 2006.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day - May 2010

My garden is in the tweens – between the end of the rhododendrons and the beginning of the roses. But there are some colorful flowers this month.

The allium (Giant Persian Blue) blooms have quadrupled in number from the five bulbs I planted seven years ago.

Lupine (Russell Hybrid) enjoys a warm spot along a blank wall.

The deep pink rhody and white iris are one of the last of their type to bloom.

A single rose on the arbor holds the promise of more to come.

Bloom day is hosted every month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Click on the links to garden blooms around the world. You can also enjoy Carol’s work with a garden designer and watch her vegetable garden evolve on her award-winning blog. Thank you Carol.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Spring Pruning

There are consequences to planting a large shrub in a small space. It means that every year it will have to be pruned or cut back. As the lilacs finished blooming, it was time for their yearly haircut.

The white lilacs were planted more than 50 years ago (before we lived here). About 15 years ago they were cut back to about 3 feet. They have continued to grow and bloom. They are trimmed each year. (I've posted before and after pictures.)

Inch by inch they have become too large for the space and too tall for me to reach the top branches. So this year I gave them a major pruning. I reduced the size by 1/3. I pulled/cut/dug the runners that popped up – some as far as 3 feet away from the main shrub.

I also did a major pruning on the huge, old, purple French lilac in the front yard – got rid of some old branches, cut out the tallest branches and the dead wood. That opened it up a lot and may lessen the powdery mildew this summer (maybe). This lilac doesn’t send out runners.

We pruned and trimmed some other spring blooming shrubs and accumulated a large pile for the city’s compost center.

It will be interesting to see if there are more or less of the fragrant lilac blooms next year but at least now they are a more manageable size.
Who ever plans for the size a shrub will be in 15 (or 50) years?

(Information on lilacs from Cornell University Extension.)

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Graver Arboretum

I visited Graver Arboretum for Arbor Day tree dedication. It is a gorgeous natural resource on 63 acres north of Bath, PA.

Dr. Lee and Virginia Graver donated the arboretum to Muhlenberg College in 1994. Today it is used as a field station for biology and environmental studies classes and research. It is open to the public seven days a week during daylight hours. Tours can be arranged.

Collections of conifers, wetland plants, wild flowers and rhododendrons thrive along the paths. Here are a few of the plants and sights at Graver.

Skunk cabbage in a damp, wooded area.

Jack in the pulpit.

Trillium sessile, a toadshade.

One of many ponds and vernal pools.

Foot bridge on the road less traveled by.

According to Graver’s Facebook page, the rhododendrons are coming into bloom. Graver Arboretum is a meticulously maintained local natural resource. I plan to walk its paths again.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Taming an Ivy Bank - Part Two

Thursday’s weather forecast was - breezy with temp in the low 60’s. That sounded like a heat wave after the freezing wind. The gusts seemed as strong as the other days but at least it was a little warmer.

I trimmed the ivy that had overgrown the heather (Erica x darleyensis 'Silberschmelze').
I carefully unwound the ivy so I didn’t break the heather’s tender branches. It was slow going.

The ground under the greedy maple tree was dry from 2 days of wind. I continued pulling and clipping. I didn’t get as many roots as I did the on the two previous days. I sat on my little garden cart and wiggled my way along the bank.

As I was wiggling along I heard a loud CRACK. It was so loud that it made me jumped and run. I crept back under the tree and looked up. I could see a large cracked branch high in the tree. I grabbed my tools and scooted out of there. A short while later the branch came crashing down into the ivy where I was working.

My husband dragged it to the street and cut it into fireplace size. That was the end of day 3. Add another hour for a total of 4 on this cleanup so far. I’ll finish on Day 4 – without wind, I hope.

Ivy is a great plant – hardy, holds the bank well, smothers most weeds, keeps a deep green color through most of the year but it is a lot of work. I’ll be back to trim this summer and again in fall – with one eye on the big old maple.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Taming an Ivy Bank

(This has turned into a long post so I’ll break it up into 2 parts. It’s the usual cleanup story with a twist. You’ll understand after you read part 2 on Wednesday.)

If you’re thinking of using ivy as a ground cover, I’d like to share the story of my ivy covered bank with you. It was called American Ivy by the neighbor who gave it to me many years ago. I usually work on the bank 3 times in the growing season. I didn’t keep it trimmed and weeded last year so it was quite a mess this spring. The ivy had grown over the rocks, into the heather and it was full of weeds.

After 3” of rain at the beginning of the week, I jumped at the chance to get the bank trimmed and weeded while the ground was still moist. It's Impossible to pull weeds up by the roots when the ground is dry.

In order to get the roots, I needed to reach down so grass didn’t break off. I was mostly successful. I also got the ever-present maple tree seedlings out. They are easier to get out if you pull them when they are very young.

I spent about 3 hours in a cold, biting, 20 to 30 mile-an-hour gusty wind on Tuesday and Wednesday. According to AccuWeather “real feel” dropped to the low 40’s. There was a freeze warning – not a frost warning - Tuesday and Wednesday night.

After the 3 hours, I had over half of the bed finished. Feeling frozen, I promised myself to come back the next day when the weather was predicted to be warmer. I was paying for last year's laziness.