Sunday, July 31, 2005

North Pearl Street rocks

I’ve avoided mentioning addresses and identifying factors, but I was so blown away when I left our yard for my yearly “props to the neighbors” walk that I am outing them in this post. Enough about me.

Besides, I see where Buffalo Rising Journal has noted the North Pearl action, particularly Martin’s place (what an explosion of color and design).

So, here’s George, the pond king:

Gloria’s quietly inviting spot:

Lori’s classy arbor:

Larry’s equally classy low maintenance retreat:

and, of course: Martin:

And there’s so much more.

3,000 peeps (by a conservative estimate)

They were literally lined up around the block on my street this weekend. According to two of my neighbors—one counts by giving out candy and the other with a clicker—there were about 1500 each day on our block. It’s interesting because your backyard becomes a public space. Friends would run into each other and just hang, exchanging gossip. My favorite part is discussing plant culture, but I've noticed many of the husbands are more interested in the architecture. One man explained why how one of our doors—the one I was sitting in front of—had actually been a window. I looked at it and I saw he was right. Six years in the house and I had never seen that. Nice people.

Most frequently heard:
“A lot of work.”
“Do you bring this in?”
“What’s this purple and green plant?” (see post below)
“There’s more!”

Name that plant

So I did:

Persian Shield
Persian Shield
Persian Shield
Persian Shield
Persian Shield
Persian Shield
Persian Shield
Persian Shield
Persian Shield
and so on...

This was undoubtedly the winner of the most-admired plant sweepstakes. EVERYONE coming through the yard asked about it; I was surprised, because I thought by this time it would be more widely available. It is beautiful. I order mine from Select Seeds, but I also think you should be able to buy it from Lockwoods, Mischler’s, Menne’s or any of the better nurseries early in the season.

Persian Shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus)
Not that the picture does it justice.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Martialing the forces

On the eve of Garden Walk, it is now clear who my stalwart warriors will be in this two-day battle against late summer decline and walker ennui. What you have to remember is that most of the people setting off on this walk—garden lovers though they may be—are also horrified by the sheer magnitude of 200+ gardens. Whatever they see, they’re always wondering: is there another property, somewhere else—better than this one—but we’re not going to have time to see it?

So you’ve got to offer something of substance, something distinctive, something that will satiate the hunger for novelty. And so, I call forth:

The sure-fire unique garden sculpture. No one else has one of these. (Most probably wouldn’t want to have one.)

The last remaining lilies with that great thick, sultry lily smell.

The big beautiful tree in the impossibly small space.

And the cool containers with the weird plants.


Thursday, July 28, 2005

Two days and counting...and too tired to freak out

Yesterday, I actually stood in front of the lily/rose bed and willed buds not to open yet. Sadly, my husband seemed to think what I was doing made sense. Of course, he’s been feverishly completing a brick pathway in what we refer to the “back side garden.” (For a small space, we have way too many garden areas utterly distinct from each other and each needing their own special treatment.) Today I threw bags of mulch on the easeway—most gardeners refer to this as the “hellstrip”—in an attempt to smother all the remaining weeds. Then I planted five hostas and sprayed some more Malathion. Yeah!

Oh, almost forgot, another $25 plant purchase, this time for a big fuschia that might make it through mid-September. Could be worse.

Here’s a scene from a more tranquil time. Look closely and you will see the butterfly Natureman is trying to coax onto his finger.

Garden Walk

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

No, people will not be trampling my garden

Rather, during this weekend’s Garden Walk, they will be walking carefully along the paths, asking politely if they can take pictures and talking to me about my plants and plants in their own gardens. That’s because nearly everybody who goes on Garden Walk is a gardener of some type; otherwise, I doubt they’d be too interested. I know that some of my friends and acquaintances would never consider the idea of opening their back gardens for the perusal of the Western New York public, and that’s fine.

But invasion of privacy seems pretty much beside the point when it comes to Garden Walk. These are not voyeurs; these are people looking to see and smell some great flowers and exchange some information and enthusiasm about gardening with fellow gardeners. And that’s about it. I don’t believe anything significantly negative has ever happened during this or probably any other local Walk. I would be interested to know if it had.

Some great or funny moments from past Walks:
•The invasion of the Red Hat ladies. This was the first time I had seen this group; I had never heard of them before. They were really nice and let me take their picture.
•The time an intern who had blown off work for weeks showed up, realized it was my place, and hightailed it out of there.
•The time the man who was interested in our house talked to us about its history and later emailed an old surveying map showing the structure in 1860.
•The many times people ask me if I “made” the huge cast bronze, steel, and cast aluminum sculpture in the back garden.
•But mainly, the palpable feelings of good will that seem to wash over the plants and the people the whole time. Yes. This was worth it.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

And, begins

Two pre-mixed containers of annuals, one full-grown Shasta daisy, a ratty-leafed canna about to bloom, and a huge pot of Tom Pouce lilies with about twenty-five buds. And that’s only the beginning of the week-of-Gardenwalk last-minute insane purchases. I can see myself going back—there was some delphinium action at the Home Cheapo near Menne’s. Menne’s, by the way, is just about exhausted, though we may be back there for another crate of hostas (that’s a whole different story).

At least the lilies and the daisies will be around next year. I’m not the only one—a friend of mine bought full-grown sunflower plants. Things are desperate when you have to pay four bucks each for those. We’re just a bit concerned that there won’t any color in our gardens when thousands of people come traipsing though them. But it’s so sad going to the nurseries at this time of year. All the beginning-of-season freshness is gone and a lot of the plants are quite droopy. Depressingly, the Elmwood Cheapo already had mums. Mums!

Here’s one of my shameless purchases.

Now, these (almost all open) are called “Scheherezade” by one mail order place and “Touching” by another. Five bucks each at one and five for nine bucks at another. Hmmm.

Friday, July 22, 2005

I love the smell of Malathion in the morning

Or early evening, which is when we were driven to spray said substance yesterday. I’ll probably lose my miniscule readership with this one, but, yes, even though mechanical means are always better than chemical means, I do occasionally have to spray evil substances in the garden.

You have probably had this happen. All seems hunky-dory until you look down at a bed, and—whathefu—it is swarming with crawly things, or suddenly every leaf has a big hole in it. What happened? It wasn’t like this a couple days ago. That’s how sneaky they are.

There are kinder, gentler solutions. With aphids and little beetles that just sit on the plants you can hose them off with the jet spray (yay—an excuse to use the jet spray!). If they’re too many or stick on too tenaciously, you can use an insecticidal soap, which is pretty harmless.

I have also heard that you can buy OTHER bugs and let them loose in your space and they will eat the bad bugs. I tend to be a bit dubious about this. You have to mail-order them (and I do not have time to do this when there is an infestation crisis), and who’s to say they won’t just fly off and eat the better bugs in someone else’s garden? My neighbor’s flowers and water features are mostly better than mine; their bugs are probably tastier too.

Anyway, yesterday, there was a horde of tiny caterpillars busily eating all the beautiful chartreuse leaves of my creeping jenny (Lysimachia nummularia Aurea ). I’m used to the lamium getting eaten and I threw out the ligularia, it was so disgustingly chewed-up, but no, not the creeping jenny. One must make a stand.

I looked this a.m. and there didn’t seem to be any wormies left.

Here is the spot in happier days (posted before):

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

These precious few

I’m trying to live in the now, at least as far as this garden goes. The pressure of Garden Walk and a big party coming up make it very difficult to just sit outside, drink a glass of wine, listen to the fountain, and watch the butterflies. Also, this is the part of the summer that flies by—any minute now, I’ll look up: oh shit, it’s Labor Day already. Of course, always looking ahead is an occupational hazard for me.

So, focus. The verbena are a big help in my quest to make time stand still. They’ve barely changed since we left for vacation. They’re taller, maybe five feet by now, but they still look basically the same: thin, square-stemmed branched stalks with small, fuzzy purple heads. You cannot photograph them, or at least I can’t. They’re “see-through" plants, so you end up taking a picture of what’s behind them. They’re also incredible bee and butterfly magnets, and I’m not talking about those boring white ones either. I have noticed at three other types so far. Not bad for the heart of the city. Anyway, the verbena are my most reliable plants just now—I rest my eyes on them and feel sure they’ll be standing there with their little purple heads for weeks to come.

Of course I had to order them, and I’m not at all sure they’ll be winter-hardy. They’re favorites (I should say “favourites”) of Christopher Lloyd’s, mentioned and pictured often in his fabulous book, Garden Flowers.

Here they are, from bluestone perennials, as I hesitate to post images from a copyrighted book and I figure an online merchant won’t mind. This does not show the height.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

The first of the last-minute freakouts

I know that Friday’s and today’s trips to local nurseries won’t be the last I make before Garden Walk weekend. Not that the ever-more-savvy Garden Walkers are likely to be impressed by pre-mixed containers of annuals, tucked in wherever there’s a gap. At least I avoided (so far) the ultra-expensive full-grown canna and dahlia purchases. Though I’ll sink to that before I’m done.

I am freaked out because:
•Thanks to the lateness of this year’s Walk and the hot weather, many or even most of my lilies will be well and thoroughly bloomed out.
•I have no compensating pond with freakishly large koi.
•The pink hydrangea did not put out this year, making all of last year’s boastful explanations of how I protect it through the winter embarrassing at best.
•The front looks barely acceptable but not nearly as cool as the front gardens of those who do not have all-day shade and tree roots.
•I don’t have a pond.
•I don't have a pond!

Oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god...Maybe Menne’s has some huge bright orange canna.

Here’s some more of the lilies people won’t see on the Walk.

That was the Henry i. This is the White Henry i, which was not done justice to in the last post.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Second shift

Back from the beach. Even though we were in a much more comfortable climate (just as hot but with an Atlantic breeze at all times) and had the ocean as our backyard, I still found it hard to be away from the garden. How sick is that?

It was simultaneously gratifying and disconcerting to come home to a garden where some plants had gone in and out of bloom during our absence, unnoticed and unsung, others were just flowering, and a few more had died (no blame to our excellent plantsitter). I have to wonder if jerks passing by are pulling the heads off the front garden lilies; makes you want to do plant searches using “large thorns” and “poisonous to the touch” as your key phrases.

Anyway, the lily season has begun in full earnest, with the trumpets (here, either Golden Scepter or Golden Splendour, two names for the same plant) and the downfacing White Henry I, an early hybrid that’s pretty much in a class by itself.

And then we have Silk Road, an orienpet (trumpet and oriental hybrid).

And, uh, folks, as cool as these are, they are not lilies.

However, I’ll be glad enough to have them during Garden Walk, as I’m afraid many of the real lilies will have bloomed themselves out in this heat.