August 28, 2013

Pink Hydrangea 'Big Easy'

This spring I planted six of the reblooming 'Big Easy' hydrangeas from Proven Winner's Let's Dance series.  Despite getting a little crunchy around the edges during one heat wave when I forgot to water, they've all started flowering profusely.  Once they get their roots established they'll be less prone to wilting, though hydrangeas do love plenty of water.      

The flowers start out as creamy buds that become more vibrant as they open.  In acidic soil, they'll bloom blue.  I guess my soil isn't as alkaline as I thought it was, because the flowers on my shrubs are a cooler pink than the Proven Winners website shows.  This shrub is hardy in zones 5-9. 

PW says Big Easy grows 3' tall and 3-4' wide, though Monrovia puts it at 2-3' tall and wide.  Since they bloom on old and new wood, they should bloom every year even here in zone 5.  My Endless Summer (renamed Startless Summer by this gardener) hydrangeas also promised that and haven't followed through.  So I'll be interested to see how well these do next year.  I have them planted where they get part sun and part filtered shade.  In cold climates with short growing seasons like mine, hydrangeas don't bloom well in heavy shade because all the old buds freeze during winter, then they take too long to start growing in the spring and don't have time to form flower buds before the first fall frosts.

I've been told that I really need to fertilize each spring with a low-nitrogen fertilizer to encourage more blooms on my hydrangeas.  That's added to my spring To Do List.  Here you see that the half-opened mophead is pretty . . .

. . . and so is the fully opened, very large cluster.  Eventually the clusters fade and supposedly they can turn back to green.  Mine haven't gotten to that point yet.  I have these hydrangeas planted near some 'Sutherland Gold' elderberry shrubs.  The elderberries are still small so it was hard to get a good photo of the two, but you can kind of see above how the chartreuse elderberry leaves make a nice foil for the bubblegum pink hydrangea flowers.

I'll have to wait to see how they bloom next year before giving them two thumbs up, but so far this season I'm very impressed.  Lots of color on a low maintenance shrub = happy gardener. 

August 21, 2013

Late Summer Backyard Garden Views

Four months after our big landscaping project, there are some pretty views but still a lot of bare soil in our backyard.  The view above is facing south from just inside the backyard.  You can see the older section of path where creeping thyme has filled in between the stones and the newer section of path where tiny clumps of creeping corsican mint are just starting to expand.

Here is the view from the entrance gate looking north.  A columnar 'Green Tower' boxwood stands on the left of the path.  Maroon-leaved 'Royal Raindrops' crabapple trees beckon from the far corner.  You see how the neighbor's aspen trees are making a nice screen?  After building that big root barrier to keep their aggressive roots from invading our yard, I'm enjoying the fluttering aspen leaves and the additional privacy they give us.  I still have to pull up baby aspens that have sprouted from the few root sections that were left in our yard.  I'm so glad we spent the money to prevent additional roots from growing into my garden.

Moving down the path, a look to the right shows the mostly barren main sunny bed.  Eventually this should fill in with billowing roses, delphiums, butterfly bushes, and Russian sage, but right now everything is spindly and there aren't many flowers. 

After rounding the NW corner curve, a look back down the path shows spiky siberian iris (thanks Kathy!) and 'Fine Line' buckthorn.  Since I'm allergic to grasses - they cause sneezing and a rash - I have used a lot of siberian iris, Japanese iris and rushes to add grassy texture to the gardens.

The dwarf arctic willow on the left has grown a lot this year.  I plan to prune it almost down to the ground every spring or two.  This will keep it from getting too large and will cause plenty of new stems to grow.  The young maroon stems are pretty in the winter. 

Here is the view looking back down the path.  Little lavender shrubs bask in the reflected heat on the south side of the boulder.  In the distance, 'Victoria' rhubarb leaves make a dramatic impact.  I planted the rhubarb for its big leaves, though we can eat the stems if we want.  I haven't dedicated a spot for food gardening, but we have herbs like parsley and oregano tucked into the beds.  I have mint in pots on the patio and plan to add some 'Peach Sorbet' blueberries to the beds when they're available at the nursery next spring. 

Here is a the same view from farther east.  Baby 'Green Velvet' boxwoods flank the path where it runs into the grass.  The chartreuse leaves of a 'Sutherland Gold' elderberry are out of focus on the right.  These wide landscape shots are trickier than close ups.  I suppose it would have been better to get everything in focus, eh?

Here is the current view of the NE corner.  I love our benches.  We have three of this style, and I noticed the same bench in photographs of the David Austin Rose Gardens in England.  I'm pretty sure his bench cost more and didn't come from Lowe's.  Perfectly pink 'Big Easy' hydrangeas remind me of cupcakes on the right. 

Here is the same corner from the south.  The 'Shasta' doublefile viburnum in the corner has grown quite a bit this year, but it still has a ways to go before it fills the whole corner at a mature size of 6' tall and 10' wide.  'Green Mountain' boxwoods and 'Little Lime' hydrangeas are staggered along the fence line on the right of the photo.

The shade garden right next to the house is full since I didn't have to transplant much in that area during the landscaping this spring.  The 'Stellar Pink' dogwood at center is finally growing after just sitting there for a few years.  Unfortunately for the tree we just met with an architect about pushing out our dining room wall, which will require moving the patio into the area pictured.  That means we'll have to transplant the poor tree.  Poor planning on my part. 

Here is a view of the white garden, which currently looks sickly pale because the plants didn't have time to establish many roots after being transplanted there in April.  It got hot soon afterward and the plants have just been surviving ever since.  Hopefully they'll get those roots out next spring and look healthier next summer. 

And here is a final shot of the section of path that runs down the east side of the house to the side garage door.  The far corner is filled with pots of plants awaiting homes, though eventually I hope to get it cleaned out and start a compost pile there. 
Although I feel impatient for the garden to fill in and cover all that bare soil with pretty leaves, I have to admit it doesn't look too bad when considering that nearly everything was planted or transplanted just four months ago.  But I'm still looking forward to next year and eventually a mature - sigh - garden. 

August 12, 2013

Buzz Purple, Miss Molly and Blue Chip Dwarf Butterfly Bushes

We planted just over a hundred shrubs in the backyard this year, and ten of those were dwarf butterfly bushes (Buddelia).  Two 'Buzz Purple' (above), two 'Miss Molly', and six 'Lo and Behold Blue Chip'.  In addition to being smaller than most butterfly bushes, these types are supposed to have little to no reseeding.  They are hardy in zone 5-9.

'Buzz Purple' is the most fragrant of the bunch - you can catch a whiff of its very sweet fragrance several feet away.  It's expected to grow 3 to 5 feet, though around here it will probably stay on the smaller side.  There are five other colors in the Buzz series from Thompson and Morgan. 

I also planted two 'Miss Molly' bushes, which are a Proven Winners variety and are expected to grow 4-5 feet.  The flowers are touted as being the closest to true red that you can find on a butterfly bush, especially in hot climates.  The buds that form when our temperatures are reaching the 90's open with fuschia colored flowers, while the buds that form in cooler weather form magenta blooms. 

I was hoping these flowers would form a color echo of my 'William Shakespeare 2000' English rose, and in hot weather the color of both types of flowers are very close.  Not so much in cooler weather. 

'Lo and Behold Blue Chip' is the last type of dwarf butterfly bush in my garden.  It is supposed to stay less than 3 feet in cooler climates like ours and is sterile.  None of these bushes need deadheading to keep blooming, though they'll look tidier with the dead flower clusters removed.  I read somewhere that they tend to stop blooming once night temperatures get below 45 degrees, so around here they'll be a strictly midsummer bloomer.  That's great because I have fewer plants flowering at that time than at cooler parts of the year.

Up close you can see how the petals on the double flowers curl around each other.  It's not something you notice from far away, but I think it's especially pretty.  You might ask which of these bushes the butterflies seem to prefer.  Honestly I haven't seen many butterflies on any of my tiny shrubs this year - though the bees love them - so I'm looking forward to next year to see what happens then.