Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
(Edited January 30, 2008. The plant is the long tan stalks which are all the remains of blooming stalks and berries. While this plant can grow to six feet tall under optimal, moist conditions, my dry, well-drained soil keeps it confined to about three feet. Sorry about the lack of an explantion.)
Saturday, January 26, 2008
While we all have our "bumblebee" moments in the garden, I find that I am neither an "ant" nor a "bumblebee." Most of the time I am a hornet. I tend to focus on a particular task at hand with a single mindedness that ignores time, aches and pains, heat and cold. Like the hornet repeatedly stinging its prey to death, I relentlessly attack the task until I've "killed" it off.
I'm not recommending this sort of behaviour, as it has gotten me into trouble. First, I engage in the activity to nearly the point of exhaustion, leaving no energy for the cleanup. An example is pruning a large hedge. I attack the hedge without stopping until the trimming is finished, at which point I'm left with sore hands, an aching back, and a large pile of trimmings that need to be tidied up. What ends up happening is the cleanup gets left for another hornet session of its own.
Second, I lose all track of time, to the detriment of my personal relationships. My mom has told me that my children complain that I'm "outside all the time" in clement weather. My husband has described himself as a "gardening widower." I have nearly been late in picking up the kids because of my hornet tendencies.
I can't remember where I read the advice that gardeners should spend no more than 15 minutes on an activity before switching to something completely different to avoid strain on hands and muscles. While I can't quite follow that advice, I have found a way to help myself avoid falling into hornet mode. While gardening, I've taken to wearing a watch that chimes every hour. The chime reminds me of the passage of time, the need to take a break, the need to get the kids lunch, and the need to do some cleanup as the project goes along. Here's hoping I can heed this warning bell in the garden this year.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Mid-Winter is a time for impractical garden dreams, when I think about getting plants that I don't need at a price I can't afford. Case in point - that fabulous, rich double pink Rue Anemone/Anemonella (Thalictrum thalictroides), 'Shoaf's Double Pink' a/k/a 'Oscar Shoaf.' I don't need another Anemonella, I already have a pink one and a blush double. But I still dream of this plant.
Two more dream-producing plants are also hybrids of a familiar native and are featured by that tempting nursery Plant Delights. From last year's drool-fest is Arisaema triphyllum 'Black Jack.' Added to that is the new entry Arisaema triphyllum 'Starburst,' a variegated Jack-in-the-Pulpit.(Both images are from the Plant Delights catalogue.) As is the case with the Anemonella, I already have the straight species of these plants. I don't need either one, but I can't help dreaming about how great either would look in the Woodland Garden.
I dream of Ladyslipper Orchids, the Cypripedium species and their hybrids. (Photo from Flickr)
Not only are they extraordinarily expensive, they are also difficult to grow. I doubt my soil will ever be able to support such plants, but in my Winter Pipe Dream garden, they bloom extravagantly.
The whole category of Intersectional Peonies is a pipe dream for me. Intersectional Peonies are hybrids of crossing herbaceous peonies with tree peonies, resulting in plants of herbaceous habit with tree peony flowers. The most common hybrid is 'Bartzella,' which routinely sells for over a hundred dollars a plant. The one that I want, 'Cora Louise,' is even more expensive. (Photo from A&D Peonies)
The thing about plant pipe dreams is that eventually, they can become reality. If you wait long enough, the price of many of these plants will come down to an affordable level. I just placed my order for double Bloodroot (Sanguinaria candadensis 'Multiplex'), which had been a Pipe Dream plant for many years.
So, what are your Pipe Dream plants?
Thursday, January 17, 2008
I have been wanting a riddle for a long time. I even thought about making one with screen door mesh. This one is galvanized steel, made in England. It appears to be very sturdy so that it will (hopefully) last a long time. It'll be a couple of months before I get to try it, after the compost pile thaws again.
Can anyone who has used a riddle tell me if it was worth buying? Or is this just an expensive wall ornament?
Monday, January 14, 2008
I don't expect Helleborus niger to bloom anytime soon, but it is also in bud.Bloom Day, sponsored by Carol at May Dreams Gardens, has come at a very opportune time, between record breaking warmth and a forecasted return to single digit temperatures. Snow has fallen since I shot these photos; now the garden is once again blanketed in the white stuff.
Friday, January 11, 2008
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Apropos of my cynical nature, the first thing my camera and eye lighted on was this unwelcome sight
Garlic Mustard! (I had already noticed it the other day, but I was busy with a project and didn't have time to eradicate it.) I hadn't seen it during the summer and autumn because it was hidden by Forsythia branches and leaves. I can happily report that this is one weed that no longer inhabits my garden.
Nearby is the semi-evergreen foliage of Hepatica americana (pictured at the top of the post), which I understand has been renamed as part of Hepatica nobilis. This is a smaller plant than H. acutiloba, which is in another part of the garden. H. americana's leaves have better winter color, more green and red than the dark burgundy of H. acutiloba.
Scattered throughout the garden are variegated and yellow-foliaged Aquilegia vulgaris seen here with Astible 'Visions' and some creepy Hosta foliage.
The Hellebores are putting out new leaves and even some buds. But these Helleborus x orientalis won't bloom until March, regardless of the weather.
The winter foliage of Tiarella 'Iron Butterfly' has so many colors.It ranges from green, through yellow, orange and into red. That's the ubiquitous Lamium maculatum on the right. I think it might need to be reined in this Spring.
Also providing a range of colors is Heucherella 'Sunspot.' It just amazes me how great Heucherellas, Tiarellas and Heucheras look all Winter and change colors so dramatically.
Stylophorum Diphyllum, the Celadine Poppy, has already sent up new leaves.If it snows before the weather becomes bitterly cold, these leaves will be fine. If not, they will turn an amazing shade of black. No problem anyway, as the plant will just send up more leaves later.
Monday, January 7, 2008
This is what our snowman looked like on Saturday after it started melting. Here's what was left this morning after record-breaking high temperatures in the 60sF, with more of the same today.
Last night, the low temperature was above freezing. Don't be fooled into thinking that we in Chicago are in for a mild winter. According to my invaluable garden journal, after a high in the 60sF one January day, I have this entry for February 3, 1996: "High -5, Low -22 record breaking cold. I refuse to leave the house."
All that melting revealed a couple of problems. The first was a mass of matted, wet leaves on the front garden. I was so focused on getting them off the evergreen Phlox pilosa that I forgot to photograph the area first. Yes, I've learned that evergreen and semi-evergreen perennials tend to survive winter better if they are not smothered by sodden leaf mess.
The second problem is one not so easily remedied. Ordinarily, grasses provide interest all winter long. This Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), however, has been flattened by heavy wet snows. The question becomes, should I forgo the winter interest of grasses out front, or should I remove the Little Bluestem and replace it with a more robust, taller grass? I like the way it looks with the Asters there. Would I be as happy with another grass during the growing season?
Thursday, January 3, 2008
January in Chicago can be a really downer. Twice the other day I found myself giving reasons for why my family and I live in the Chicago area, aside from simple inertia. (I must point out that my great-grandparents emigrated to Chicago because some of their family and friends had already come west to Chicago after first emigrating to the New York area.) So, without further ado, 10 reasons why the Chicago area is a good place to live.
- No hurricanes
- No major earthquake fault lines nearby
- No tsunamis
- No wildfires
- No active volcanos
- There is no number 6
- No summers with temperatures regularly over 110F
- No hurricanes
- No excessively long winters or extremely short days
- No mudslides or avalanches
There, now I feel better. I managed to get the tree peony covered with shredded leaves before it got so cold.I took this photo through a window because I'm not going out in this weather if I don't have to. Oh, and the forecast calls for temperatures in the 50s by Saturday.