Tuesday, June 28, 2005

First lilies

Lilies are my thing. The first time I went on Garden Walk, I noticed them in many of the gardens. They were usually Casa Blanca or Stargazers. Oriental lilies are so extravagant in both scent and appearance they seem too exotic to survive in a cold climate—and in fact I have been asked if mine live through the winter every year during the Walk.

Over the years, I’ve collected many of the species types—smaller, not so extravagant, but interesting. Here are the first of the summer, Lilium Regale:

And Lilium Martagon:

Cheryl’s garden

If you garden you usually have friends who garden. Which is important because everybody has different gardens and different gardening philosophies. My friend Cheryl and I started gardening at about the same time. Her space is quite different—a more traditional back yard that until this year held a swingset. The rectangular space has shrubs, perennials, and (some) trees lining its perimeter; it is a restful effect.

I particularly like the back shade garden:

And here’s a rose bush I bought her maybe 3 years ago. It’s much more photogenic than any of mine.

Sometimes it’s difficult to really talk about gardening with a fellow gardener. What happens is each one is too eager to talk about his or her own plantings to really listen. But it’s possible in the right context.

Garden Walk

This is where I begin my relentless shilling for a local garden event I am very invested in: Garden Walk Buffalo. It’s July 30-31 and involves a free, self-guided tour of over 215 private gardens on Buffalo’s West Side. I have a link to it over there.

We had a “rally” for it last Sunday. I’m using quotes inappropriately because it’s not really a rally as I think of rallies, with people exhorting other people to start something or stop something or support something. The Garden Walk rally is actually a very gentle event—well, it’s held at a church—where the gardeners who are opening their properties for the Walk gather, have some wine and snacks, pick up some posters and maps, and generally hang out for about three hours. I’m in charge of the refreshments and I usually do a great job on the wine and not so much on the food. There wasn’t enough again this year. My bad.

Sooo hot though—many people just wanted sparkling water, of which we had an ample supply. My friend Cheryl helped me (more on her in another post) and we had a delightful time schmoozing with our fellow garden peeps. This is the kind of group I enjoy. I know I should be out there doing more about the truly parlous state of Buffalo and Erie County, and I really admire my fellow activists and blogger-activists who are working on this. I did some of that over the past few years—particularly as regards historic preservation issues—but now find it difficult to be politically involved.

However, we have found that neighborhoods on the Garden Walk actually experience rises in housing values, productive occupancy of long-vacated buildings, and general improvement in quality-of-life factors after they have become involved on the Walk. For example, a former rooming house on my street, empty for at least ten years, was purchased by a couple who fell in love with our block after Garden Walk.

This is good.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The ultimate garden accessory

You really cannot do without one of these. Let’s say, like most gardeners, you’d much rather devote all your time to planting, tending to the plants, buying new plants you may or may not have room for—just kidding, of course there’s room!—and admiring the effect of all you’ve done. However, there’s unfortunately so much more to gardening than plants. Unless standing with a hose for hours is your idea of aerobic exercise, there needs to be an intelligent and easily-managed irrigation system in place. Then, there are all those flagstones, rocks, and timbers that are used to surround the plants (ever try lifting a nice big flagstone?). And don’t forget garden lighting, a very delicate and technically complicated matter.

What to do? Find yourself a live-in garden hardscaping and technical maintenance expert.

Weeds are plants too

A kind visitor to this site commented on the lack of weeds in my garden—as I’ve presented it here, anyway. Well, I’ve got plenty of them—mostly on the outskirts of the property (I plant things so tightly, there’s not much room in the main garden areas). Of course a weed is only a weed if you think it is. Some I tolerate, as in this ivy-, creeper-, and god-knows-what-choked space between some rambler roses and daylilies (not shown).

Others are not really considered weeds, but grow like weeds, as in this rampant self-seeder that turns up whenever you plant lamium hybrids (don't be deceived by the nice pink flowers).

Then, there’s this unabashed weed jungle, which has its own charm (actually this is behind the neighbor’s house).

Or how about this extremely unattractive corner behind my house (what is it with all this ivy!):

But for hardcore ugliness, you can’t beat this look.

Thank god for annuals

I have a friend who raises hundreds of annuals—coleus, special ageratum hybrids, petunias, salvia, much more—from seed in his basement. He uses them as what Christopher Lloyd would call “bedding plants,” arranged in tiers and other groupings to provide layers of color. It’s very different from the way perennials are used. I do not do this—mainly because you need a good amount of sun for most of the more colorful annuals (aside from impatiens—not to go there). But it can look fantastic, and really, I think most gardens must have a good-sized swath of annuals running through them for continuous color throughout the season. Yeah, yeah, I know many in the upscale gardening world like to brag about their all-perennial gardens. BOR-ING!

The problem is, which annuals? How to create a distinctive effect using the limited palette of selections available?

Well, you can grow them from seed, investing vast amounts in grow lights and other equipment (but you still better know what you’re doing). Or you can get them from friends—or you can order them from forward-thinking mail-order nurseries. I usually end up doing the latter. Many of my friends cannot believe I actually mail-order annuals.

They’re so much fun in combinations though—and you can’t squish perennials together like this. Lobelia—which is also quite common—is great in combinations with other delicate flowers like diascia (only now widely available), heliotrope (more varieties available by mail-order), and the ubiquitous bacopa. With a nice gutsy foliage plant like Persian Shield, things come together well.

I think coleus can be really cool—this is just starting, but it will create a bush in time, given limited reign to my herbicidal instincts.

But I really like lobelia.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

It will not be ignored

You have to watch your garden. At least twice a day it requires attention, scrutiny, admiration, diagnosis and—always—remedial action. When I return to the garden after a few days of absence or abstraction, I always find something that almost seems like revenge for my negligence. Spitefully, a budding rose shoot has covered itself with aphids, or mildew is spreading on its leaves. Stuff is toppling over and some new slug damage has appeared. Things have developed that seem like they could have been irradicated if only I'd been paying attention. Even on the positive side, I often seem to just miss the peak of a blooming cycle. In a garden, just a few hours can make a big difference.

I wanted to post some rose images here, but they looked spindly and blobby. Instead, here's some hardy geranium (aka cranesbill),

some ferns and hosta,

and some other late spring perens plus one.