November 19, 2018

Six Months Away From Peonies

In our garden, the first peonies start blooming in May and the last ones finish in June.  So we're about six months away from scenes like the one above with 'Kansas' blooming in back of 'Caradonna' salvia.

This one is either 'Felix Supreme' or 'Paul M. Wild,' with an 'Ambassador' allium blooming tall.

Whatever the last one was, this is the other.  It was a bit floppier and needed a support ring.

'Buckeye Belle' is one of the first peonies to bloom in my garden.

BB is a remarkably dark color that creates interesting color schemes in the garden or in a vase.

I think this one is 'Red Charm,' another early bloomer.

'Coral Supreme' is a large plant with huge flowers that bloom early.  It hasn't been a good cut flower for me, though, as the petals turn brown the day after cutting.

  This is another shot of 'Coral Supreme.'  I also have two 'Coral Charm' peonies, and they are less vigorous plants but better cut flowers.

'Green Lotus' is an unusual peony with thinner, crinkly petals in shades of white and green.

Although GL starts white, as it ages is develops reddish streaks on the petals.  I suppose that coloring is interesting in its own way, but I'm not a fan.  The flower above is just starting to show a hint of the reddish streaks.

'Casa Blanca' is a large white peony that smells like fresh linen.  This is my favorite fragrance of all my peonies.

'Rivida' has fewer petals than many peonies, so it stands up without staking and makes a nice contrast to the 'bomb' type peonies.

This unnamed pink looks nice in the garden or in the vase.

An arrangement like this is six or seven months away, sigh.  At least my hellebores will start blooming in just three or four months.  This fall I transplanted my 'Black Mulberry' peony to a sunnier spot and planted a new little start of pale yellow 'Lemon Chiffon.'  The other plants continue to mature each year, so I'm looking forward to the best peony season yet in just half a year.

October 29, 2018

Hardy Chrysanthemums

Most fall-planted chrysanthemums don't make it through the winter around here, but there are some hardy mums that are perennial in zones 5-9 if planted in the spring so their roots can get well established before winter.  Mulching well, planting in an area with good winter drainage and waiting to cut back dead foliage until spring also increase the chance of mums surviving cold winters.  Last spring I planted several types of hardy mums in my garden.  Above is 'Jessica Louise,' which is still blooming in my yard despite many frosts in the past month. *In my original post I mixed up some of the mum names.  I think I've got them correct now.

Earlier blooms on 'Jessica Louise' were this lighter shade of peachy-pink.  I've noticed that color tends to deepen on chrysanthemum flowers opening in color temperatures, though the color often fades as the flower ages.

Last week I was surprised to find enough flowers to create this arrangement.  My garden looks very bare overall, with many perennials cut to the ground.  But the mums, violet asters, 'Chantilly' light salmon snapdragons and a few 'Princess Alexandra of Kent' roses were still in bloom.

The little rusty-red mums are 'Fireglow,' and the coral ones are 'Whippoorwill.'  I'm excited to grow some large-flowered mums next year for arrangements.  Many of the showiest mums aren't hardy here, but there are a few selections available from online companies.

Here is 'Fireglow' in the garden.  It didn't get full sun so it leaned toward the light.  Next spring I'm planning to transplant it to a better spot.

Despite arriving this spring as a tiny plant in a 6" pot, 'Whippoorwill' grew to 3 feet tall and wide by fall.  It was planted in good soil with plenty of water and nearly full sun, which are ideal conditions for mums.  The mums I planted in mostly shade didn't grow well (especially since the slugs devoured them, but I've already bought bags of iron phosphate to spread next spring to reduce my slug problem).  Next spring I'm going to transplant poor slug-eaten 'Pink Crest' and purple 'Medicine Bow' to sunnier spots. 

The vase above includes coral-peach 'Coral Cavalier' and purple 'Medicine Bow.' which surprised me when it opened more buds after the tree leaves dropped and it received more sun.  Bluestone Perennials has a large selection of hardy mums, and I'm happily planning which ones to order next: creamy 'French Vanilla,' salmon-peach 'Homecoming,' golden-orange 'Ticonderoga,' amber 'Cheerleader,' fuchsia 'Debutante,' shell pink 'Helen Mae,' golden lavender 'Fall Charm,' 'Red Volunteer,' and white 'Nor'easter.'

'Mickey' was a lovely bloomer with typical orange-red fall color.  Here are the first flowers in September.

By the end of October, after numerous frosts, 'Mickey' looked a little worse for wear but still sported good color.  At the right is a non-hardy mum whose name escapes me. 
The past few years have found me beefing up my fall garden with more dahlias, sedums, asters, hardy mums and Japanese anemones.  Last week I planted one 'Honorine Jobert' anemone (the classic tall single white), three 'Lucky Charm' anemones (compact purple foliage in spring and dark pink single flowers in fall); and three 'Pocahontas' anemones (bubble gum pink double flowers, compact, and supposed to stay in a clump instead of running all over).  I already grow light pink single Anemone robustissima, whose spreading is a pain to contain but it's so pretty that I keep it.  It's delight to keep planting new perennials and imagine how much prettier the garden will be next year.

October 22, 2018

Autumn Changes

Autumn is moving quickly this year, with our first frost occurring October 2.  My family has been helping to clean up but there's more to do each day as perennials give out and leaves continue to fall.  The photo above was taken a few weeks ago as the 'Shademaster' honey locusts trees turned yellow, then golden, then orange, and then the leaves fell.

A month ago the white garden was full of white flowers, green leaves and a few 'Karma Choc' dahlia blooms.

Now that area of the garden is going bare quickly.  The 'Spring Snow' crabapple trees lost their leaves earlier than usual this year.  Leaving their fallen leaves to rot in place last year led to a bad fungal scab problem this year.  They were dropping spotted leaves throughout the season, though our dry summers meant they didn't completely defoliate in midsummer as can happen in rainy, humid climates.  This year we're raking and removing all the SS leaves and I'll spray the ground and trunks with copper in the spring to reduce the scab problem.  Live and learn. The honey locust and 'Royal Raindrops' crabapple leaves will be left, though.

Here is the Northwest corner a month ago, with the RR crabapples still sporting pretty maroon leaves.

Now the area features orange tones on the crabapple leaves and fewer flowers along the path.  Last week I sprayed beneficial nematodes around the lilacs, peonies and roses in my backyard in hopes of controlling my root weevil problem.  I thought the chewed-up leaves were from carpenter bees or grasshoppers, but a mention of root weevils by one of the employees at a nearby nursery led to the realization that I had a big problem throughout much of my garden.  The adults don't hurt the plants too much by nibbling on leaves, but the larvae eating the roots can cause great harm.  I think that's why one of my 'Blue Angel' hostas grew much smaller this year than last year.

The 'Caesar's Brother' Siberian iris leaves collapse in fall despite the help of wire supports.  They'll turn completely yellow and then golden-orange if we don't drop too far below freezing in the next weeks.

Last month the west garden was still cheerful and full.  Tiny starts of 'Dazzleberry' sedum were planted along the edges of the path and finally matured enough to make a nice show this season.  You can only see a couple of them from this angle, but the blue-violet leaves, deep pink blooms, and rusty seedheads have added a lot of color and interest.  I'm slowly joining the sedum fan club.  In addition to 'Dazzleberry,' my collection now includes 'Angelina,' 'Matrona,' 'Lemonjade,' 'Cherry Tart,' 'Blue Spruce,' and 'Blue Pearl.'

Now the few remaining plants in the west garden are looking a little lonely and a trellis is begging to be straightened.  I know some gardeners leave dead perennials clumps throughout the winter and enjoy the textures, but we usually get enough snow to smash them flat.  And spring is always busy enough without adding fall chores to the list, so we're getting as much cleanup done as possible this month.

These cute autumn crocus flowers are reminders that spring will come eventually.  I've started planting bulbs but still have more to finish after my last order arrives in the mail.  This fall I'm adding 15 lilies, 30 alliums, 166 tulips, and about 50 other bulbs.  I've also planted 3 'Chocolate Shogun' astilbes, 8 'Prairie Dusk' penstemons, 6 'Moody Blues' and 2 'Hocus Pocus' veronicas, 3 'Harlem' poppies, 2 'Berry Awesome' hardy hibiscuses, a 'Lemon Chiffon' herbaceous peony, 2 'Mini Mauvette' hydrangeas and a 'Little Quickfire' hydrangea.  I thought my garden was mostly full but apparently there's still plenty of room!

October 18, 2018

Homegrown Fall Floral with Karma Choc

Last month I created this moody fall vase with the flowers blooming in my September garden.  Like most gardeners, I focused first on creating a flower-filled June garden, but I've been expanding my palette to have good cutting flowers earlier and later in the year.

The main players in this vase are Karma Choc dahlias and a stem from my new Cape Lookout hydrangea, which opens white and ages to green and then pink.  It's really lovely, and I'm hoping this hardier version will bloom next year for me despite the early fall and late spring frosts in our valley.  After babying my Let's Dance Big Easy hydrangeas this year with plenty of water and fertlizer, I finally had one covered in buds . . . but it frosted before they could open.

Karma Choc dahlias are delicious to the eye, aren't they?  These read as black in some lights and were planted in my black and white garden section.  Their dark foliage was a plus.  A stem of Magical Desire hypericum berries at the left were peach last month then ripened to this interesting plum/black color.  I also included some stems from my 'Royal Raindrops' crabapple tree with their tiny red crabapples.

Foliage is an important part of this vase, including red/maroon coleus stems from a front porch pot, 'Royal Purple' smoke bush, 'Chocoholic' actaea, and draping variegated vina.

I carefully selected some unopened 'Chocoholic' actaea buds for their texture.  These have such a strong fragrance when open that they might overpower some noses inside, though they're lovely to sniff when outside.
I really enjoyed growing several types of dahlia this year, although they often grew taller than I expected and looked odd in the landscape.  After recent frosts turned the foliage to mush, I started digging my dahlia tubers to store for next year.  But I don't have an ideal place for them.  My basement is too warm, my fridge is too cold, and my garage fluctuates too much in temperature from warm car engines (it's pretty hot in there this week, but by January it might freeze at night).  I think I'm just going to let mine rot in the ground and buy more tubers next spring.  Swan Island has the largest selection of dahlias I've seen, Floret Farm has the prettiest pictures, and Brent and Becky's Bulbs has the best prices on their small selection.

September 25, 2018

Grand Garden Show Container Plantings

We saw many beautiful container plantings while at the Grand Garden Show on Mackinac Island in August.  The photo above shows a group of pots on the front porch of the Grand Hotel.  Tall papyrus, coleus, begonias, calibrachoa and trailing sweet potato vine formed dramatic compositions.

Here is a closer view of one pot.  I love chartreuse and maroon leaves together. 

This large pot near one hotel entrance relied on foliage with few flowers, and it's stunning.  Many of the containers we saw depended heavily on foliage for form and color, with flowers getting an equal or secondary place. 

This is another grouping of pots on the hotel porch, which featured dozens of pots and window boxes bursting with color set among a long row of rocking chairs.  Ornamental grass, coleus, petunias, and lantana were featured.

I would not have thought to put a group of pots in the middle of a stairway, but these stairs were so wide that it worked nicely.  This was one of the homes on the garden tour.

Another garden on tour featured these cheerful window boxes with begonias and creeping sedum above smooth hydrangea and elderberry shrubs.

These pots flanked the front stairway at yet another garden tour home.  Young panicle hydrangeas provided height along with coleus and begonias.

The row of shops in 'town' also boasted many lovely container plantings, including this restful grouping with browallia, begonia, sweet potato vine and ivy. 

The nearby window boxes featured a similar color scheme with browallia, lobelia, corkscrew rush and heuchera.  I'm such a fan of violet and lavender in the garden, so I especially loved these last two containers. 

September 12, 2018

The Grand Garden Show on Mackinac Island

Last month my husband graciously attended The Grand Garden Show on Mackinac Island with me.  It was a lovely experience all around.  The historic hotel was beautiful, the food was excellent, the garden classes were fun and the garden tours were inspiring.  As we approached the hotel, we experienced this long flower bed that was covered with hundreds of Monarch butterflies.  Unfortunately I waited to take a photo until the last day when it was raining and the butterflies were absent, but when the sun was out it was magical to see so many butterflies all together.

Here is a shot of a dozen butterflies on a single plant in one of the gardens on tour.  In this post I'll share photos of some of the gardens we toured in the afternoons.

Several homes on the west bluff featured bright annual gardens in front.  At the rear of the photo the Grand Hotel is visible.

This little flower garden was adorable.  I love the lavender salvia, mixed petunias and peachy-orange dahlias together.  The warm-colored petunias at bottom are Honey Supertunias, which I grew in pots this year.  They were good performers and you can see they add a new color to the assortment of petunias.

This garden featured many bright plantings of annuals among the green groundcovers, trees and shrubs.

As fun as the colorful annual gardens were, I found myself preferring gardens with shrubs, perennials, and plenty of green for a backdrop.  This hillside was lovely with several types of hardy hydrangeas.  Though we saw many smooth, panicle and oak hydrangeas, I didn't see a single bigleaf hydrangea.  I guess they have hardiness problems on the island as I do in my garden.

Here are some smooth or Annabelle hydrangeas with hostas at the entrance of one home.  Welcoming and relaxing at once.

This was one of the 'cottages' on the tour.  I kept expecting a butler to show up.  The architecture of the old homes was as enjoyable to see as their gardens.

Many homes had fewer flowers and more green space like this.  This garden was very peaceful.

Isn't this an interesting garden?   We were told there used to be a fountain in the center, but to simplify maintenance and keep the grandchildren safe, the homeowners filled it in and planted a garden instead.

A newly landscaped area featured impressive stone walls and stairs.  During the tourist season, no cars or trucks are allowed on the island, so landscaping is accomplished with horse-drawn quarry wagons and manpower.  During the brief windows when tourists are gone for the winter and the weather allows, larger construction equipment can be used for big projects. 

The perennial and shrub combinations at this garden were especially pretty.

I'll post next with photos of the many fabulous container gardens we saw at the hotel and in town.