January 26, 2010

Our Front Yard is Torn Apart!

January in Spokane is not usually a good time to start landscaping or home renovation projects. But unseasonably warm weather (highs in the 40's, lows in the 30's) has given us a jump start on the front yard projects we've planned for this year.

Hubby rented a sod cutter last weekend and cut out lawn where we'll be putting in new beds. Wow, we're not going to have a lot of grass left after this (Susan, are you proud?). We left the sod in place to keep kids out of the mud until we import the new garden soil.

Stone masons removed the stone facing and some of the siding from our home in preparation for new stone facing that won't clash with our siding. Hubby also pulled off the porch railing and decorative columns. It's a big mess out there.

So I didn't post pictures of the current state of the yard, though you can be sure that I'll post plenty of the finished product! These photos are of chrysanthemums that were on my table at Thanksgiving.

Some garden blogs are already posting spring-like pictures of fresh green growth. There's nothing like that happening in my garden. I'm about as close to spring as they were at Thanksgiving. I'm usually still wearing my coat in May, so we've got a wait ahead.

But getting started on these projects makes this winter seem not so bad. Well, that and the fact that we had nearly 7 feet of snow by this time last winter, but this season we're only up to 1 foot. We've had a lot of rain instead. You don't have to shovel rain off your driveway. So we're happy here in Spokane, even if spring is a long time away.

January 18, 2010

Amaryllis 'Faro' is Perky

Besides Amaryllis 'Rozetta' (which I posted about here), I also have three pots of 'Faro' blooming. These single, salmon-colored blooms have a different character than Rozetta's double pink flowers. If these flowers were dresses, Rozetta would be a taffeta ball gown and Faro would be a chic a-line.

Though all the bulbs were planted at the same time, Faro took about two weeks longer to start blooming. Now the last flowers on the second and third stalks of Rozetta are fading while Faro's second round is just starting.

Because Faro is a single flower, its anthers have not been converted to extra petals, and it produces pollen. I doubt its sticky, heavy pollen would get into your nose to cause allergies, but the pollen does make a little mess beneath the pot if you bump the flowers. With three little kids and a clutzy gardener in residence, flower bumping happens regularly around here. I accidentally snapped off two or three of the buds on various amaryllis. Oops.

The strips on Faro's flowers are coral, and enjoying them has inspired me to look for more coral-colored flowers for outside. I'm currently thinking that I really need some coral peonies. Since I'm a nut for researching plants, I looked at a number of websites and catalogs to find the best coral peony.

I finally emailed the owners of Swenson Gardens, a Minnesota nursery specializing in peonies, and asked which coral peony would have the most vivid color with the least fading. I was pleased to get a reply stating that although all the corals fade somewhat, Coral Charm would have the most color. I'll probably order a couple this fall, but meanwhile I'll enjoy the last of my perky amaryllis blooms.

January 14, 2010

'Rozetta' Amaryllis is Luscious

Spring won't arrive in Spokane for several months, but I'm getting my fill of gorgeous flowers thanks to six potted amaryllis. I ordered 3 'Rozetta' amaryllis (and three 'Faro', which I will post on later) from Van Engelen in the fall, and potted them all up at the end of October.

I was pleased to find Van Engelen, as they offer three bulbs for the price you'd pay for just one at some other nurseries. I also ordered snowdrops, crocus and dwarf daffodils from them.

Rozetta is classified as a Christmas flowering double amaryllis. Van Engelen's webpage says that this type of amaryllis has been hybridized to make a larger flower from a smaller bulb that blooms four to six weeks after planting. These bulbs were somewhat smaller than the Faro bulbs I received from them, but the flowers have been even larger than Faro's.

Rozetta began blooming during the first week of December, and the three bulbs staggered their blooms for several weeks. Then they all took a break for a couple of weeks and are now blooming again on second or third stalks.

I keep looking at these luscious flowers and shaking my head that something like this could bloom in the middle of winter here in Spokane. Thank heaven for indoor amaryllis during long northern winters!

I should be able to keep these alive through the summer so I can enjoy them again next year. When the danger of frost has passed, I can put them outside in a mostly shady spot, then take them inside at the end of summer. I'll dry them into dormancy for six weeks, then let the miracle begin anew. I'm also thinking about spots to put 'Black Pearl' and 'Exotica' amaryllis . . . I think I'm hooked.

January 6, 2010

Temptation at the Door

You have probably noticed that the invasion has already begun. Creeping into your mailbox and ending up in the overfull magazine basket, the plant catalogs for spring 2010 are coming.

Full of eye-candy that seems especially delicious to the color-starved eyes of northern gardeners (maybe not so much to the southern folks), the parade of plants tempts the gardener to pull out the pocketbook.

Do you really have space in your garden for that fabulous new plant? Maybe not, but let's order it anyway and figure out a spot later. Or maybe even order a whole packet of seeds since they're so inexpensive . . . of course I speak from experience here. I didn't really have space for all the baby delphiniums I grew from seed last year, let alone the Double Click Rose Bonbon Cosmos. But I threw them all in anyway.

I should remind us all not to trust the catalog photos and descriptions to be completely accurate. The printing process can't do justice to all the different shades a flower displays at morning, noon and sunset. Each garden's conditions determine the actual size and show of flowers. A careful shot can blur the mildewed leaves in the background so you can't see the white powder covering them. Ahem.

At high noon, almost any sweet subtle shade looks drab and washed out. Most pictures show the vivid color that you'd only see at the perfect moment during the perfect sunset when the light is just so. And of course you'll never find photos of the plant after a torrential rainstorm has left it drooping or when a hungry pest has had its way.

And sometimes, the photo may actually be ALTERED from its original form - gasp!
To all of that I respond, so what? The cost of failures is part of my tuition at the school of gardening. A friend will benefit when a plant doesn't quite work in my garden and needs a new home. My plant bill is a lot less expensive than medication and counseling for seasonal depression.
So to the plant catalog companies: please add me to your mailing list.