Wednesday, September 28, 2005

My latest obsession

Yeah, yeah, the posting has fallen off just a bit. But when posting is not as frequently prompted by active gardening, that will happen. Not that I don’t have plenty of garden-related matter to take up—I just have to figure out how to shift into distanced discussion mode. I have some ideas.

In the meantime, here is something really trivial and barely deserving of anybody’s attention that I am involved in at the moment. Any day now, boxes of hyacinth and other bulbs will be arriving at my house: bags and bags of earthy-smelling, papery-skinned, oniony-looking things. It will quickly be my task to get them into pots of dirt pronto.(More on that later.) I also have a bunch of glass hyacinth vases or glasses, as they were originally called. The bulbs balance on the top of the vase, which is filled with water. The roots grow into the water, and, after a cooling period, the bulb sprouts and blooms. Or not.

I don’t have the real choice antique hyacinth vases, and for a couple years now I have been trying to buy them via ebay. I’m usually too cheap to pay enough. Maybe this year will be the year. They come in two types: a squat, wide-bottomed, rustic type, or a taller, more elegant type with a flattened top. Neither of these are the best but they show the basic shapes. Cobalt blue is always the most desired color.

Monday, September 19, 2005

2005 garden retro, part one

All in all, I would call this year’s garden a good garden, certainly not a great one, but with major improvements. My gardening partner has divided up the tasks into “hardware”—edging, flagstones, fences, fountains, trellises, and other built amendments—and “software”—plants and planting. As should be obvious from former posts, I’ve got the software job, but I have to admit that the hardware improvements were the big news this year. We finally got rid of the rotting wood along the side walkway (people have been falling over it for the last 4 Garden Walks), replacing it with new timbers. Elsewhere, we replaced more rotten wood and some unstable bricks with stone. The crappy narrow planting area by the front of the house has been paved over (burying a whole bunch of snowdrops—I wonder if they’ll force their way through?). Finally, a truly unattractive strip of bare ground by the garage has been paved in a decorative pattern. The moral of the story: if you’ve tried to plant in it for 5 years with no results, it’s time to pave.

There are other structural improvements I’d like to see. I’d really like some kind of small pond and waterfall. There is a brick, wood, and rebar (soon to be former) rose bed that I’d like to lower by at least two bricks. And I think both sets of wooden outdoor stairs are ugly and should be replaced by brick and wrought iron, as we have in the front.

But over all, the hardware guy has outdone himself this year. Except for the partial autumn clematis massacre disguised as wisteria trimming. Most survived.

(part two, plantings: to come)

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The magnificence —and the humiliation

Gardeners generally don’t look forward to the mid-September border. You’ve got your grasses, your rudbeckia, a few other perennials, and, of course, annuals, always annuals.

Average gardeners, that is. But if you happen to be the gardeners at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, you’re all ready for September. You have planted lush, colorful borders full of canna, cleome, elephant ear, amaranth, butterfly bush, tall verbena, and many other annuals and perennials that keep their color well into fall. Including rudbeckia and grasses (gloriously tall and lush). I’m not sure what everything is that they’ve got going down there in South Buffalo, but they have definitely got it going. I was particularly impressed by the tapestry of, I think alyssum, and a foliage plant at the beginning of the front border. (Gardeners, don’t try this at home.)

Everything was gorgeous, including this from the side garden.

And this example of Verbena Bonariensis, which I loved in my own garden this year.

Check it out—as an added attraction, their orchid show and sale is this weekend, September 17-18, during normal hours.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

My Dutch tulip vendors let me down

Little did I know when I was opening my mail after work today that inside an innocent-looking envelope from John Scheepers (shipping confirmation I’m figuring) would be the horrifying news that due to a CROP FAILURE they will not be able to send me my 10 Tulipa acuminata.

“We are quite sorry to disappoint you. Normally, we try to suggest alternate recommendations, but Tulipa acuminata is a unique, special variety and there is really nothing quite like it.”

Yeah. I know. That’s why I ordered it. And of course, as I knew they would be, Brent & Becky’s is out of it already. So, I went to the Old Houses Gardens site, knowing that, due to their incredibly high prices, they would probably still have plenty of bulbs to sell. I only bought 5 and I’m way too mortified to reveal (I mean, people are starving and homeless) what I paid for those 5 tulips. Rare though they may be.

So, if you go by the images on the sites, instead of this:

I’m getting this:

I will be donating the exact amount I spent on this ridiculous purchase to Salvation Army Crisis Website.

Friday, September 02, 2005

A watering Nazi? Moi?

While people suffer horribly from an excess of water on the Gulf Coast, we in WNY have spent most of the summer either hand-watering or using specially-installed automated systems to keep our lawns green (I suppose—not a lawn person AT ALL) and our gardens growing.

It was confirmed in the Buffalo News today, which had an end-of-season roundup. Most said that IF they kept up the water, all went well. I do admit to paranoia in this area. I don’t trust surface moistness; I always wonder if the water has flowed all the way to the roots. And I figure that if I SEE a drooping leaf, that means I’m three days too late.

So today I was accused of being a watering Nazi—after what was perceived by my gardening partner as a superfluous request for watering. With pots, I figure you can’t water too much. With soil, yeah. I suppose it can be overdone, though we are still in a drought.

What I always keep in mind is that we have these plants in extremely artificial situations. They are not in their native habitats and we can’t expect them to adjust to circumstances we have imposed.

So the obsessive watering will continue—through September anyway.

Here’s a well-watered plant.

And a link, to help those trying to survive the deluge. I have chosen The Salvation Army, because I believe they have very little overhead. Salvation Army Crisis Website