December 29, 2011

Top Ten Favorite Photos From 2011

It's hard to pick just ten favorites from the 372 garden photos that I posted last year, but here are a few of the best, anyway. Purple crocus are commonplace, but I love the sunlight and vivid color in the shot above. Both are in short supply right now during winter.

Again, I love the light here with these daffodils growing in my dad's Moses Lake garden.

My new 'Keiko' intersectional peony had lovely blooms.

The West Bed was full of color at times this year, including when this shot was taken in June.

Delphiniums like these 'Pagan Purples' are just gorgeous. Even if I forget to stake them and they fall over in windstorms.

Here's some more good evening light backlighting 'Eglantyne' english roses. I don't get up early enough to catch good morning light in June, when the sun rises at 4 am.

Love these true blue siberian irises. This cultivar is 'June to Remember'.

'Frances Joiner' was new to the garden this year and delighted me with her ruffly, warm apricot blooms.

The 'Cranberry Double Click' cosmos showed great, rich crimson color.

Another shot with crocus and beautiful light - this time in the fall. Would you believe that there are still some scraggly autumn crocus blooming in my yard today (December 29)? I'm not sure if they're just frozen in place or if new flowers keep popping up every time the ground thaws a bit.
And that's it for this last post of the year. With a 4-month old baby, I'm way too in love with sleep to stay up until midnight just to celebrate, so have a good time for me on New Year's Eve!

December 12, 2011

Big Bumblebees in the 'Spring Snow'

I wasn't thinking about bumblees and little birds when I planned my garden. I was thinking about flowers, mostly. But the bees and birds started coming to visit and added so much fun to the backyard.

The giant bumblebees are my favorite, especially when they're having their way with the crabapple blossoms in the spring. It's entertaining to watch them manhandling the petals to get at the pollen.

These guys were definitely 'busy as bees', so they were even worse than my kids (!) at holding still while I made the shots. I took so many blurry photos last May to get these few that were in focus. Thank heaven for the delete button on the digital camera.

I was really tempted to try to pet their fuzzy backsides, but contented myself with taking pictures instead.

The seven 'Spring Snow' crabapples that attract all these bumbles are growing nicely. This photo shows how big the crown was on one tree last year - at least double what it was when we planted it 3 1/2 years before.

Have I ever mentioned that I can see parts of 63 other houses from different areas of my backyard? Yeah, I can't wait for these trees to fill in the perimeter so we can enjoy the garden without feeling like we have an audience.

My kids sing a song about popcorn popping on the apricot tree. It could certainly be changed to popcorn on the crabapple tree, eh? Only five more months until the flowers show up again.

December 7, 2011

'Green Jewel' Coneflower (Echinacea)

Green flowers are so cool. Here are a few pictures of 'Green Jewel' coneflower from my summer garden. This plant would be larger if it was growing in full sun, but it's doing OK in partial shade. Despite the less than perfect conditions, it hasn't needed staking to keep it upright.

This coneflower grows about 2' by 2' with 4" green, fragrant flowers in summer. Hardy in zones 4-8, it's drought tolerant and prefers full sun and well-drained soil.

I've been neglecting this blog lately and will probably continue to do so until after the holidays are over. Then I'll get back to a post each week. One project that's keeping me busy is brainstorming ideas for the annual beds and pots at our church's nearby temple. In my own yard I've been too busy thinking about and buying trees, shrubs and perennials to spend much time or money on annuals, so it's fun to get to work with them for the temple.

November 17, 2011

Autumn Crocus

It snowed last week, not enough to stick, but we've had a bit more snow several times since then. Welcome to another long winter in Spokane! These photos show the last flowers left blooming in my garden - Crocus speciosus, also known as Autumn crocus.

Last year I planted a bunch of Crocus speciosus, and this year added C. speciosus 'Oxonian', which is a deeper lavender than the species. Both types fade over time.

The first two photos showed 'Oxonian', and the one above is plain C. speciosus. I love the light in these photos, taken late in the day.

The light in spring and fall is especially nice for photos in my garden.

Speaking of good spring light, I'll finish with a shot of Maidenhair fern, Adiantum pedatum, taken as it was unfurling in the spring.

November 10, 2011

Garden Accessories in Classic Black

Garden accessories are a nice addition to the landscape, but many times they start to look cluttered. Although some people can bring together various materials, colors and finishes and have them look good together, I'm not so confident in my ability to pull that off. So I'm sticking with basic black.

The fountain and birdbath are from the same collection and both sit in the backyard.

This combo on the back patio looked OK in the spring . . .

. . . and better in the summer with the addition of a chair and a backdrop of filled out plants.

The front porch sports a bench in the same style as the chairs in the backyard.

And the side yard includes black metal trellises that tie it in with the rest. Since each side of the yard has a different plant palette and color scheme, the similar styles of the accessories are helpful in unifying all the parts.

November 1, 2011

Fall Bulb Planting

Despite my decision to go easy on the bulb planting this fall, somehow I find myself in the middle of planting several hundred bulbs. Last spring the 'Gypsy Queen' hyacinths, above and below, were so pretty that I had to add a few more for next year.

You can see how their color gets pinker as the flowers age. The true blue 'Spring Beauty' Scilla siberica make a nice contrast. I should mention that the scilla produced VAST amounts of seed this year. I assume they take a few years to progress from seed to flower-producing sized bulbs, but they are terrific naturalizers.

In this photo the 'Salmon Impression' tulips are exactly the same shade as the 'Gypsy Queen' hyacinths. Tulips are hard to plant because they have to go so deep - 8 to 10 inches if you want them to have a chance of coming back more than one year. Thankfully, I only have 60 tulips to plant this fall.

Although they were pretty, I didn't order any more of the 'Salmon Impression' tulips. The Impression series tulips are good perennials for up to five years, so last year's crop should show up again next spring.

Instead, I added a bunch of 'Jap Groot' yellow tulips. This photo was taken at my church's nearby temple. The soft yellow color plus a 'strong perennial tendency' (quoting the catalog) convinced me that they'd be a nice addition to my spring garden.

These next photos show 'Pink Fondant' hyacinths that are several years old. The flower clusters weren't as large as they were the first year, but they still smelled wonderful last spring.

The other bulbs I've been planting include: 'Oxonion' fall crocus (Crocus speciosus), 'Blue Spectacle' tulips, 'Blue Shades' windflowers (Anemone blanda), 'Pink Giant' glory of the snow (Chionodoxa), Allium 'White Giant', and more 'Golden Bunch' crocus, 'Tete-a-Tete mini daffodils and Chionodoxa luciliae.

I love this photo from last spring so much that I had to repost it. Above are violet 'Grande Maitre' crocus, blue 'Spring Beauty' scilla, and yellow 'Tete-a-Tete' daffodils. I just have to wait for four months until the bulbs start their show again.

October 27, 2011

Blue Pumpkins for Halloween

This year we grew blue pumpkins for Halloween. They're not bright blue - more like a ghostly greyish-greenish-blue, but that's a perfect color for the holiday, is it not?

After seeing blue Jarrahdale pumpkins last year on our trip to the pumpkin farm in Greenbluff, I found seeds online and ordered a pack. We planted a few in the mound of good soil left over from our front yard landscaping.

Due to a cold spring, the seeds sprouted and then sat with just a couple of small leaves until the end of June. Once it warmed up, they grew like gangbusters. Every day we'd look outside and the vines would be bigger. Honestly, they almost seemed to grow a few inches every time you glanced away! Above you can see how they tried to climb up and take over the trees. We had to cut those parts off, as well as the parts that grew onto the lawn.

After the yellow flowers were pollinated, little pumpkins started forming. My kids thought it was great fun to go out and count how many pumpkins were growing.

First they grew into large, mottled green pumpkins with cool ribs running up and down.

Then, instead of turning orange, the pumpkins turned blue! Eventually we had sixteen full-sized pumpkins to harvest.

We sent a couple with the kids to school to show their classes. We gave most of the rest away, which was great fun. But we kept a few to admire. If you want to grow some yourself, you can find seeds to buy when you do an internet search for 'Jarrahdale pumpkin seeds'.

October 20, 2011

Fiery Peony Foliage and Cut Flower Storage

The trees and shrubs are flaunting fiery fall foliage around here, and so are my peonies. Since they bloom for just a few weeks in June, it's nice to have a second season of color from them.

All of these photos were taken of herbaceous peonies in my yard. The Intersectional peony leaves are still completely green, but you can see there's a big range of color from the herbaceous types. By the way, I've got my two new 'Capitol Red' tree peonies planted. They look like a couple of twigs right now but will be pretty in a few years.

Although it's a strange time of year to talk about peony cut flowers, I just found this link from the Martha Stewart Show and Peony's Envy farm. It talks about how to store cut peony flowers in the refrigerator for up to six months!

The video is 15 minutes long and covers peony flower shapes and how to plant them as well as cut flower storage. The cut flower portion is in the last few minutes of the video.

Here's the basic process - you cut 1 to 1.5 foot long peony stems when the flowers are showing color but still tightly closed. You put a bunch of them into a cellophane wrapper (you can get them from your grocery store or floral supply store), set them in a vase filled with a couple of inches of water, and put them in the fridge. Or you fold the dry stems with newspaper, secure with a rubber band, and lay them in the fridge.

I assume you'd have less luck storing the peonies if you have apples or other ethylene gas producing fruit nearby (ethylene gas makes flowers and fruits ripen and eventually rot).

I'm excited to try storing some peonies next year! This is great information if you're wanting to have peonies for a late-summer wedding.

This is yet another reason to love peonies. Meanwhile, I'll enjoy their fall foliage before winter sets in.