Wednesday, August 24, 2005

I buy more bulbs

Unbelievably, some 100 more bulbs will be wending their way to Allentown from Gloucester, VA, the location of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs , one of the highest-rated bulb companies in the US (just an FYI). All the same, I did go a bit overboard.

And this isn’t the last bulb shipment.

There will be 60 hyacinths, “Crystal Palace,” and “Chestnut Flower.”

I figure I‘ll force most if not all of them, with some as gifts. This year, I’m going to try keep more pots for the house. This is so easy to do, though you do need the right temp for the cold storage period. And some I’ll transfer to hyacinth vases after chilling.

Then, there are 40 paperwhites, Israel and Jerusalem.

Why are these always given these biblical names? Did they originate in the Holy Land? I don’t have the vaguest. Anyway, these are supposed to be tall and have a more delicate fragrance than the Ziva, though I don’t remember if I got Nazareth last year and if I liked it. That’s partially what the blog is for. I hope I’ll have the courage to admit to all my usual dismal bulb-forcing failures. Enough of that, though—this is the hopeful time!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

A floriferous afternoon at Erie Basin Marina

It’s not often that I would be on my way to anything with the words “All-America” in it (I’m not terribly patriotic and I hate watching most sports). But I can’t believe this is the first year I’ve visited the All America Selections Display Gardens at the Erie Basin Marina.

This is a truly impressive public garden site and all the better that it’s almost exclusively annuals—late August is not the time for perennials or bulbs. There were unfamiliar varieties of most of the annuals I use and quite a few annuals I never use and had barely heard of before. Unfortunately, I had not brought writing materials and the labels did not come out well in photos. Not to worry. I’ll be amazed if more than a few of these are available locally next growing season. Seed geeks, rejoice. Still—it was cool to see them.

Now, here’s a plant I usually HATE. But this variety seemed to have a lot more oomph. My husband noticed it immediately. Is it a guy thing? It’s celosia, surrounded by “pearls of opar.” (Well that what the label seemed to say.)

Loved this rudbeckia (prairie sunset).

Nobody gets too excited over impatiens. But very few of us can live without it. These had delicate spurs, and came in many shades.

We must have foliage and there were some great examples, including perilla, ornamental pepper, and a really cool coleus. Didn’t get variety names on any of it, but I’ll know it when I see it in the stores. Which I probably won’t.

Also some red and pink vincas—great looking varieties of another plant I normally couldn’t care less about.

There were many, many pentas. I have never bought these—apparently they’re sometimes called star flowers. They were there in every possible color, including red.

My beloved lobelia, with argyrantheum (daisy-like) and some angelonia behind. This is one of the many urns filled with mixed annuals.

Here's those freaky pearls of opar again, by themselves.

And so much more.

Friday, August 19, 2005

I’ll miss the hot hot hotness

It makes the summer go slower. What I love more than anything these late afternoons is coming home—especially on a Friday!!—pouring a glass of white or opening a beer for myself, choosing a red for my husband and sitting together on the patio, listening to the incredibly loud cicadas and watching bees (and sometimes) butterflies buzz around the verbena boniarensis. (Unfortunately I can’t photograph the verbena—it always looks like a big mess.)

Garden work is not really done during these interludes, except for some languid deadheading. Garden Walk is over and things are kind of mellow. Not a lot of color or flowers, but still great foliage and a few late arrivals.

Like this, a hibiscus that is doing much better this year.

Or this, a caladium that I yanked out (or thought I did) but it survived and grew despite my brutish mangling.

The hot hot hotness makes the wine taste better.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Intelligent plants—but not radio

I was driving to a mid-day errand today and was pleased to hear someone talking about plants and botany on am 1270 (WHLD). Well, I was pleased for about 30 seconds. I THINK he was talking about some interesting research that has been done on the complex interactions of plants with their environments and about how they evolve to meet conditions. I THINK he may also have been trying to explain how the forms of plants have influenced art, architecture and other fields of humanist endeavor.


Because, and this is the price you pay for independent radio these days (I guess), the guy was totally incoherent. His discourse seemed to consist entirely of “like,” “you know,” “like, you know,” “sort of,” “kind of,” “um,” and “uh,”—all punctuated with long periods of dead air. His sources were “they,” and “I saw on the web.”

When I got back to a computer, I tried to find out the WHLD schedule, but they only list 4 programs that I could see, headed by the excellent Democracy Now. I couldn't find the official name for what I had been hearing.

It is disappointing. Very little TV or radio is devoted to really interesting shows on gardening, though it is an enormously popular form of activity. The cooking spectrum is much better. All we get on commercial radio is shows constantly shilling for some commercial landscaper or other, and the TV stuff is all makeovers and fuzzy advice. Nothing really edgy or provocative. And, yes, there are edgy and provocative topics in gardening—certainly in landscaping, which brings up more aesthetic questions.

I did stick with this show for its length—until they switched to Polish language radio—and it continued pathetic throughout, though he became more enthusiastic and thus somewhat more tolerable. A guy called in about the demonization of cannabis at one point, and I thought, “Ah, THAT must be what’s going on here.” It would be difficult to do a radio show stoned unless you were a real pro.

Image of the day: speaking of plants that have many purposes, here is the species Nicotiana prior to growing its flower stalk (which I am eagerly awaiting).

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The art of public planting

Now is the late summer of our discontent as far as public and community gardens go. It’s hard enough to keep a private garden going in a dry hot season, but in public spaces, where watering is even more labor-intensive and there are larger spaces to tend, keeping a lush look takes real dedication.

We took a walk to the Albright-Knox to see the Extreme Abstraction show Sunday, and I admired many public plantings that were holding up under difficult conditions. The landscaping at Soldiers Circle and Bidwell looked very good, though I only snapped Bidwell (needed batteries).

Most of the big planters on Elmwood looked great, like this:

But a couple were just a waste. What would it take to keep this one up?

Of course, on Elmwood, they have kept up their hanging baskets.

And I’m really PISSED OFF that those in power in Allentown chose not to hang baskets this year, though there are some great planters.

My favorite on the walk, though, was this mysterious little structure in a corner lot. Couldn’t tell who owned it.

I remain convinced that public plantings are worth every bit of trouble that goes into them and, yes, every bit of money. It is one of the best ways to make a neighborhood look inviting and well-cared-for. I’ve adopted a couple planters on Main and Allen, though they’re in a difficult spot. Many mornings I’ve had to politely ask hangers-about to stop sitting on them as I drive by. Who sits on plants?!!!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

I order bulbs

Those unfamiliar with my property will assume I have a three-acre estate to cover in spring flowers when they read this list of bulbs due to arrive at my house in September/October. Those familiar with my tiny property also know that I am insane.

I had the most fun choosing the “accent bulbs”—the weird exotic ones that will be sprinkled about. I decided to go with 10 of the black parrot, though I read in my fabulous new tulip book that it is a “difficult grower.” Damn.

Then, I got another 10 of t. acuminata, a species type which I’ve been tempted by the last couple seasons. Check it out. Wild—and supposed to be pretty sturdy, though we’ll see.

And then 10 of this pretty t. clusiana “Cynthia.” I already have a related one, “Lady Jane.”

For the two circular raised beds in front, I got two tall Single Lates, Perestroika and Maureen, 50 each.

Sprinkled throughout the new hosta beds and around the front will be 50 galanthus nivalis flore pleno, a double snowdrop, and the very bright blue 50 scilla siberica. I’m hoping these little ones might come up around the same time, but not sure.

Finally, for forcing and for containers, I’ve got 50 Princess Irene and 50 Passionale.

That should get me started. Now for the hyacinths and lilies.

Oh yeah, this order is from John Scheepers.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

What happened?

It’s not just that Garden Walk is over, though that is always a let-down. I don’t know what’s going on in other gardens throughout WNY, but I heard that I'm not the only one experiencing premature burn-out and bloom out of most perennials. Hostas are looking in August as they normally look in September, daylilies are through, and, as for grass, forget about it (though I have no sympathy here). Temps in the 80s and 90s for weeks don’t really make for lush, colorful borders.

And if there is somebody out there who does have lush, colorful borders, I don’t want to hear about it. Got that?

Here’s the penultimate nice lily photo.(These don’t really look like this any more though—not even close.)

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Garden pornography it is universally known on gardenweb. I think Michael Pollan uses the phrase when talking about garden catalogs as well. What else could you call the stack of full-color garden catalogs I’ve been carrying from room to room? It’s time to order tulips and other fall-planted bulbs and I still haven’t decided between all the lush, brilliant, fabulousness I’ve been poring over for the last week and a half. These flowers are just as oversaturated and impossible as, I guess, the women in the better skin mags.

Uh, anyway, ordering fall bulbs makes facing the end of summer much easier. As everything in the garden begins to decline—not yet though—you can look forward to bright spring things. (God, I sound like nature girl—I am NOT nature girl.) I do love imagining how they will look in my garden, even if I know things won’t quite turn out that way.

I know I’m getting the freakish T. acuminata and the sort of freakish Black Parrot for accents in the front. Probably a couple other species tulips as well for the same spot (tulips do not last well here, even species, and need to be replaced often) and then some orange and purple Triumphs for forcing and containers. Dark purple and light creamy pink hyacinths for forcing and containers.

But what about the mix for the front circular beds? What should I get?

I’m looking at these:

and these:

and these:

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Ask me a question

During Garden Walk, we invited some of the people who were asking about plants to use this blog to ask their garden questions. Over the years, I've gained a lot of "dirt-covered-hands-on" knowledge and a lot of other knowledge has come through voraciously reading garden books and other gardening websites (two of the best are listed in my links section).

Anyway, got a gardening question, particularly a Western New York zone 4,5,and sometimes 6 question?

Ask it here.

I will create a permanent place for this post in "Perennial Posts."

Monday, August 01, 2005

“What could be bad?’”

That’s what someone answered, when I said, “Have a great walk,” as they were leaving my garden yesterday. Indeed, the point is well taken. What could be bad about strolling from garden to garden, meeting friends, talking about plants, and enjoying the beauty of a perfect July weekend?

There is no dark side to Garden Walk. Maybe a very few gray areas, like:
•People in the Walk area having yard sales. Tacky, folks.
•People selling merchandise and food from nearby properties, without permits, for their own profit. That’s more than tacky.
•The problem of getting around the now-gigantic Garden Walk area. Someone suggested a shuttle, and that’s not a bad idea. It could have scheduled stops and would help people who want to get from, say, the Cottage District to Johnson Park quickly. This could work, especially for those who aren’t up to much walking.

All mere quibbling. However, it wouldn’t be GWI if I didn’t mention a few personal incidents that occurred, mainly as a result of my need to combine gardening with other recreational activities. I won’t use the phrase “garden party” because that brings to mind people in frilly dresses and big picture hats sitting in front of a huge Jane Austenesque lawn. That’s not what we’re talking about here.

So. I had a party Saturday right after the Walk was done. All seemed well; many of my neighbors were ensconced in and around the patio and friends from farther afield were beginning to arrive. I had just finished making the pomegranate margaritas. When, crash! (Actually, I did not hear this; I was very focused on the punch bowl, admiring my ice ring, in which I had embedded lime slices and clematis blooms—hope they are edible, I was thinking.) But everybody else on the street heard and was standing out there (their glasses filled to the brim with tequila, wine, or whatever—some had forty-ouncers of Smirnoff Ice). Apparently, a guest was trying to park in a fenced-in lot, hit the gas, not the brake, and went through the chain link, driving a parked car into the easeway across the street. There was no impairment, just a momentary lapse of whatever. No one was hurt, thank god.

So much for that. The party continued, until, well, pretty late. The next day, after we’d been open a couple hours, and I’m beginning to perk up from coffee, my husband comes around the corner and asks, “What’s that black thing chained to our front railing?” I hasten to look and, much to my horror, someone has padlocked a wooden silhouette of a smoking cowboy (I know you have seen these; the bent-over farm wife is also popular) to our front railing, next to the “No Casino” sign. In our haste to get bolt cutters and take the thing down, I didn’t get a picture of it in situ, but this is it:

Later that day, we found out who did it—two of our oh-so-witty-and-amusing friends. It was quite funny. Maybe I was just a tad embarrassed to think that quite a number of Walkers must have thought I was out of my mind. It’s not really the type of thing you see in an urban garden on a street of Italianate Victorian residences.

I don’t know what to do with it. Anybody need a black wooden silhouette of a smoking cowboy?