August 28, 2009

Refined Design for Vivid, Warm West Bed

After posting on my west garden bed two weeks ago, I've found myself thinking of ways to refine it. This morning I pulled out my garden sketchbook and drew out my ideas. You can see the results above (click to enlarge).

I'm going to have four repetitions of the block of plants. The varying width of the bed and the window well at the north end make the repetitions a bit difficult, but I think it will work out OK.

Each plant block includes salvia, coreopsis, campanula, dwarf dahlia, catmint, dwarf iris and 4 types of daylilies. Spring bulbs will also be planted in a repeating pattern. The photos in this post represent the various colors that will be included.

Adding some needed height will be three climbing english roses. They will bloom in flushes throughout the season. 'Crown Princess Margareta' is shown above with the no-name dwarf dahlia.

The color scheme includes light and deep versions of rosy-pink, rosy-orange, yellow, and blue-violet. Around the window well, the color scheme will continue with groupings of bearded iris in golden yellow and blue-violet.

The blooms start with periwinkle muscari and deep blue-violet hyacinths, then periwinkle catmint and deep blue-violet salvia bloom from late May until frost. Other plants pass in and out of the color scheme. Golden yellow daffodils bloom, then golden iris, then 'Stella d'Oro' daylily, then the coreopsis continues the yellow element through fall. The rosy-pink and rosy-orange blooms from daylilies and dahlias will be welcome when they show up.

When it cools down next month, I'll start the large task of digging everything up, tossing the old lavender shrubs out, then dividing and replanting according to the new design. Someday I'm going to get really sick of transplanting the entire garden each year, but apparently I haven't reached that point yet. I look forward to posting pictures of the results next summer.

August 24, 2009

My Shady Garden . . . OK, It's Really Just a Holding Area

"So is this just a random collection of plants?" asked my non-gardening friend.
". . . ummmm, well, I guess it is," I answered after a pause to conceal my astonishment at her frank comment. Despite numerous transplanting frenzies to try to organize my shady garden bed into a picturesque vignette, it was obviously still just a holding area for shade-loving plants. A fellow gardener would have found some euphemistic way to compliment my museum-like display, but then I'd still be fooling myself to think that there was some DESIGN involved in this area, when obviously there was not. Thank heaven for non-gardening friends who say it like it is.

Despite the lack of coherence and unity, this area is serving a useful purpose. While I'm waiting for my trees to grow and create numerous shady beds around the edges of my backyard, I have time to try out different shade plants and get to know them before organizing them into a design. For example, when I brought home 'Prince of Silver' and 'Plum Pudding' heucheras this spring, I thought that PofS was my favorite. Though its new foliage was lovely this spring, Plum Pudding (shown above with 'Jack Frost' brunnera and maidenhair fern), has become my new favorite because its leaves are still a gorgeous burgundy while PofS (not pictured) has turned into a boring grey.

When I posted about heucheras this spring, I stated that the leaves of 'Green Spice' would lose almost all their burgundy veining by summer. I swear they did last year, but this year the burgundy is still going strong in August.

Here 'Green Spice' is pictured with green lady's mantle, 'Plum Pudding' and 'Palace Purple' heucheras. Do you Gertrude Jekyll fans notice the color scheme? Gertrude loved to combine white with a hue and its pastel (ie white, red and pink). The pastel connected the two other colors together. I think the green-and-burgundy 'Green Spice' does the same for the burgundy heucheras and green lady's mantle. Nice. I'll have to use them together in the real design.

Some surprises have shown up in the holding area, like this mixed color astilbe. Dare I run the risk of killing the plants by trying to separate the different colors? Probably, it sounds like fun (and do you see the boring grey 'Prince of Silver' heuchera to the right of the astilbes? I think it needs just the right companion plants to make it shine, but I haven't found them yet).

I'm gaining confidence with growing things like this maidenhair fern. My dad's ferns always struggled, so I have this weird idea that I can't grow ferns, either. But this one is putting on new growth! Its lacy leaves are a nice contrast to the bold leaves of heuchera, brunnera and hosta. And the black stems are cool.

Speaking of hostas, I've completely fallen in love with the steely blue leaves of this dwarf 'Blue Ice' hosta and the similarly colored though larger 'Halycon'. I love this blue with the burgundy heucheras, the silvery brunnera and all the shades of green.

This 'High Society' hosta is now out of its pot and growing next to 'Halycon' hosta. It sparkles in the shade, and I'm excited to see how the leaves change as the plant matures over the next few years.

Spurred on my friend's comment, I have been dividing and transplanting this week to try to create some coherence in this bed. It no longer looks like the pictures in this post. I'm moving some plants into a new bed that hubby has promised to dig out for me tonight, and I'm dividing other things and replanting to add repetition to the design. I'll post on the finished project after it gets settled in . . . and hopefully before future shopping trips turn it back into a plant museum with just one of this and one of that.

August 21, 2009

Delphiniums and Cosmos Run Wild!

In the spring I posted about the beautiful delphiniums available from Dowdeswell Delphiniums in New Zealand. I used their pictures with permission, and after reading the post they sent me a free packet of their 'Pagan Purples' delphiniums. Woo-Hoo: that's the only free anything I've ever received from blogging!

I diligently started the seeds and had MUCH MORE success than the year before, when my faulty seed starting methods yielded a little over a dozen plants per seed packet. I ended up with 47 baby delphiniums . . . oh, dear, what would I do with them all? I gave a bunch away, and crammed the rest into any spare soil in my sunny backyard holding area.

In my climate, delphiniums bloom first in June, then you cut them back to the ground and they'll bloom again in September. None of mine are growing in full sun, so they tend to get more floppy and most need staking to stay upright. The plant in the photo above will probably need staking next year when it grows taller and wider.

You can see in the photo above that the delphs put on a great show this year ('Green Twist' is the white delph in the background). What you can't see in the photo is all the dead leaves at the base of the plants that were caused by overcrowding. And this was before the cosmos really took off . . .

This year my garden has also been a victim of my success starting cosmos seeds, in this case, Rose Bonbon Double Click cosmos. They're fancier than other cosmos, with extra rows of petals that make them look like roses.

I only had about 15 cosmos seeds germinate, but by that time my garden was already crammed full of delphiniums. The seed packet said they'd grow to 4 feet tall by 2 feet wide, but I didn't really believe it. I'm used to crowding slow-starting perennials into beds, then transplanting in a few years when they fill in, so I forgot that annuals like cosmos reach full size in a season. Or maybe I didn't forget, I just ignored reason and shoved them into every last gap in the soil.

So you can see that the cosmos have reached their full stature - maybe even a little more, despite overcrowding. This picture doesn't show the young english rose bushes languishing below the cosmos shade, and it doesn't show the oriental lilies that have been consumed by cosmos foliage (they're in there somewhere, I can smell them). Last night I finally went nuts and dug up a bunch of delphs and cosmos. The cosmos got tossed, and the delphs were plunked into pots while I try to figure out which local friends have a good spot for delphs and might like my castaways.

So what is the moral of this story? When starting seeds, hope for mediocrity but plan for resounding success, just in case? Sharing makes the world a better place, and your garden less crowded? Pots are good in desparate times?

Anyway, the fun side to all this excessive growing success has been all the arrangements made from the delphs and cosmos, which look especially perky with some golden coreopsis mixed in. The photo above shows a simple vaseful of flowers put together by my daughter, who is on track to become a great gardener and florist someday. And she'll have fun making her own mistakes and learning from them.

August 19, 2009

Huckleberry Heaven

I interrupt my regularly scheduled gardening post to write instead about huckleberries, a delicacy that grows only in the mountains of the northwestern United States (and probably parts of Canada). My grandma tried many times to transplant a bush into her Spokane garden, without success. I'd plant my backyard full of huckleberry shrubs if I could get them to grow down here.

Huckleberries and the picking of them occupy places of honor in my family's traditions. Over sixty years ago, my grandparents began making annual trips to the nearby mountains to pick huckleberries. Gradually children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren started coming along. Though my grandparents didn't make the trip this year, we had a large group gather from across the country to carry on the tradition.

Huckleberries are related to blueberries and resemble their cousins, though they are usually smaller and more purple than blue. Their flavor is much more intense. They add some tart zing to muffins, pancakes or my favorite: huckleberry pie.

We drive far along bumpy mountain roads to find our favorite spot - which I can't reveal lest I be disowned - high in the Idaho mountains. Recycled milk jugs are attached to belt loops, and we pick madly for a few hours before heading home. This year hubby and I brought home enough for eight pies.

The berries are washed, dried, spread on cookie sheets and frozen before being double-bagged and kept in the freezer for treats - mostly pies - throughout the year. If you ever happen to get your hands on a quart of huckleberries (local fruit stands often sell them in August for about $40 per gallon), here's our pie recipe. It tastes best with homemade vanilla ice cream, but store bought will do in a pinch.

Huckleberry Pie - 9 or 10 inch size
3 1/2 to 4 cups huckleberries
1 cup sugar*
3 Tablespoons Tapioca
pinch of salt
pie pastry for a double crust

Mix berries, sugar, Tapioca and salt in a microwavable bowl and microwave until hot (usually several minutes - time varies depending on your microwave and whether berries are frozen or fresh). Place bottom crust in 9 or 10 inch pie pan. Pour berry mixture into bottom pie crust, add top and cut slits into top crust. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn heat down and bake at 350 for 25-35 minutes. The pie is definitely finished if the filling bubbles out around the edges!

*I like my huckleberry pie on the tart side (it works best with the sweet ice cream this way), but if you prefer a milder flavor, then you can add up to 3 Tablespoons more of sugar.

August 11, 2009

Golden, Rosy, Peach & Periwinkle West Garden

A few other bloggers have mentioned that they'd like to see my garden. I'm afraid they wouldn't be very impressed with my 2 year old landscape. The front yard is going in the right direction, though the plants are still small. The backyard is just a holding area as I try out plants to see where they'd work best in the final backyard design. But I've been pleased with how the west garden bed is coming along. The photo above shows the bed in late June, with the 'Early Sunrise' coreopsis in full golden bloom, contrasting with deep blue-violet 'May Night' salvia and the unlabelled inherited lavender shrubs.

The view in late May and early June included 'Royal Amethyst' iris, shown here with MN salvia. Golden iris and puffballs of periwinkle-blue muscari made a nice contrast, though they aren't included in this picture.

This photo shows another angle of the June garden. You can see the daylily 'Stella d'Oro' blooming near the edge of the bed.

The daylilies have been the stars during July. Here 'Elizabeth Salter' is shown at the bottom, with Sue Rothbauer blooming in the photo's center.

I like the way this peachy 'Siloam Double Classic' daylily blends into the mix. More coreopsis (tickseed) is also shown here with the periwinkle blooms of 'Blue Clips' campanula from my grandmother's garden.

Three pots of no-name rosy-apricot dahlias were purchased from Lowe's on a whim and planted in the border. They look like pictures of 'American Dawn' dahlias in the White Flower Farm catalog, so that's what I'm calling them.

The photo above shows the repeating pattern of the bed. The lavender shrubs look sad after being sheared back following their bloom season. I might replace them with divisions of 'Walker's Low' catmint from the front yard, since WL keeps blooming all season.

Two 'Crown Princess Margareta' english roses were added after seeing a 2-pack for $20 at Costco this spring. At the north end of the bed, a similarly colored 'Teasing Georgia' english rose will be trained up a trellis against the white fence.

Here's another shot of the flower. This rose is supposed to be very hardy, so the two plants should make good climbers on the black trellises I brought home from Lowe's this week.

I'll finish with this shot of the garden as it appeared about 10 minutes ago. The trellises add some nice height to the narrow bed and should look even better next year when the english roses are clambering up them. Well, everything should look better next year: the salvia and dahlias will be taller, the daylilies filled out and more floriferous. But this season's photos show promise, don't you think?

August 3, 2009

Mugshots: 4 Pink Daylilies, Part II

Last week I posted about my four rosy-pink daylilies, and this post includes my four peachy-pink daylilies.

1. Dublin Elaine – 32 in tall scapes, 5.5 in flowers, midseason, deciduous, from Oakes Daylilies

This plant won the 2009 All-American Exhibition award from the All-American Daylily Selection Council. It’s taller than I would prefer, but I ordered it anyway based on reports of its vigor: up to 40 blooms on a scape (flower stalk) plus rapid growth of the clump and good rebloom (rare for a pink or a double). The one-year-old plant is growing well and putting out numerous scapes. It began blooming in late July, and the color is really, really lovely: glowing mid coral-pink, with diamond dusting that sparkles in the sun.

All of the pictures above are Dublin Elaine; I obviously got carried away snapping photos of her. As you can see in the photo below, not all of the blooms have been double, but I like the single flowers as well.

2. Millie Schlumpf – 20 in tall scapes, 6 in flowers, early, evergreen, from Oakes

Obviously this is a daylily worth having just for its name! This plant was the first of my daylilies – other than Stella d’Oro – to begin blooming, with its first flowers opening at the end of June. The flowers are a clear, glowing peachy-pink.

Though Oakes lists the flowers as 6 inches wide, they seem smaller than that to me. They have fewer ruffles and less substance than some of the others, but the blooms open completely and still look fresh in the evening. I find myself really enjoying this perky daylily (pictured below as well).

3. Barbara Mitchell – 20 in tall scapes, 6 in flowers, midseason, semi-evergreen, from Oakes

Barbara is an old favorite for many gardeners, and I can see why. The blooms are peachy-pink with hints of dusky rose, and they have plenty of substance and ruffles.

Blooming began at the beginning of July, and rebloom is expected.

Mine have a problem staying fresh throughout the day, though. By late afternoon, the edges start to look ragged. The flower color isn’t as special as some of my other pinks, but this is still a nice plant.

4. Seminole Wind – 23 in tall scapes, 6.5 in flowers, early-midseason, semi-evergreen, from Oakes

The color of this daylily is complex and beautiful – coppery-coral-rose with a golden throat. When it began blooming at the beginning of July, I found myself repeatedly drawn to it from across the front yard. After an unusually cool week with highs in the 70’s, the color deepened to an especially intriguing shade, but none of my pictures turned out of those blooms. The color-drenched flowers stand out clearly despite the glare of the summer sun (though they might be lighter in hotter climates). They also boast plenty of substance and nice ruffles. This plant is a winner in my book!

I hope these observations are helpful to you. In a few years, I’ll be able to write more on the growth habits and vigor of these daylilies. Meanwhile, I’ll be doing posts on my peach daylilies after they all bloom. Apricot Sparkles, Jean Swann, Spanish Glow, Siloam Double Classic, Autumn Wood, Smoky Mountain Autumn, and Elizabeth Salter will be included.