Saturday, April 29, 2006

Day in the life

For the second time this year, I opened my front door to find a strange garden-related object there. In July it was the smoking cowboy silhouette, thoughtfully chained to my front railing by some “friends.”

This time, the offering was more aesthetically appealing, though kind of equally shocking. At first I was totally mystified, then I figured out that my neighbor Martin, an event designer, had left off a centerpiece (at least I’m pretty sure that’s what it is) from a ball he had done the evening before. It’s pretty cool actually.

(They're freaky-looking from the flash, but they're just carnations—not radioactive.)

Then I checked out the bulb action in the front yard. Not bad. Some Erythronium “pagoda” (trout lily) and some species tulips. Too many shades of pale going on but Ok.

These trout lilies are great perennializers—I love the waxy little blooms and wide, mottled foliage. I’ve had more luck with the pagoda hybrid than with the species.

I’m getting ready to be pissed off at Van Engelens if I don’t see some Princess Irene coming up with the Passionales. Hmmm, the PIs are single early and the Ps are Triumph. I need to think these things out more.

Then we discussed the pond. The horror. A coherent summary of it will have to wait for another post.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The truth about double daffodils

My sizable group of “Obdam” double daffs bloomed better than ever this spring, with minimal bud blast. And then, like every spring, they promptly dipped their little heads right into the mud. As is the case with many doubles, the stems are not nearly strong enough to hold the full, fluffy flower heads. Which is fine. Given the weather we’re having, I’m not eager to stand outside and admire them anyway.

However, they look fabulous in a long, thin-necked vase; you need at least 5 to get the look. I now have these all over the house, even at work. Like many gardeners, I’m not wild about cutting any flowers, but this is a case where it’s cut them or pull them all up. Of course they look best on a table, flanked by glasses of white wine.

Spring flowers can be pretty sad. The red tulips people have up and down the street look like torn rags after the last week of wind and drizzle. Even with my late-bloomers, I sometimes have to tie the circular groups. That’s spring for you.

Friday, April 21, 2006

As long as the chairs are out there

Any serious gardener around these parts knows about the Mischler’s 35¢ perennial sale; it’s kind of an unofficial kickoff to the season. The plants are small, but of good quality. Mischler’s develops their own soil mix. They’re also famous for about the biggest geranium selection I’ve ever seen, if you’re into that sort of thing. Of course, it’s not time for those yet.

Anyway, I met a friend there, and, with admirable restraint, managed to get out of the place with only a few jacob’s ladder, some verbena boniarensis, some fancy coneflower (shown on this post), and some tall campanula. This was the first time I’ve seen such unusual cultivars there. Oh yeah, and some small violas. As these images show, they offer quite a tempting array of pansies, but I’ve been taken in by those before. Not this time, though I did need the violas for the tulip pots in front.

Upon our return to the GWI property, we celebrated our purchases with a bottle of 2003 Loberger gewurtztraminer, a very spicy but fairly dry example we both really like. The guy at Premier calls it a spice bomb and he’s not far off.

A nice prelude, but I won't be able to sit out there and ignore all the chores for too much longer, especially now I have plants to get in.

Let the drinking begin

I’m pleased to report that the back garden has been officially christened for the 2006 season. Three friends and I had a “meeting” of sorts after work yesterday; it was a lovely day, so I had to hastily drag the garden furniture up from the basement. The “meeting” turned into a wine-drinking session, and we had 3 interesting bottles. Not much to admire in the back garden, I'm afraid. In fact, I was a bit embarrassed. I should probably clean up that fern debris and the garbage bags full of sodden leaves are not as decorative as you might suppose.

This is what we had:

Aquinas Napa Chardonnay (not sure on the date—recent)
I actually found this to be a pretty typical California chard. They all taste the same to me, with a few exceptions. There is a heavy mouthfeel to chardonnay that I’m beginning not to like so much.

CDM Folio collioure 2003
Now you’re talking. I think my love of gardening has influenced my taste in wine; I find myself admiring wines more for their fragrance than for their taste—well it’s a large part of tasting wine anyway. This has a gorgeous bouquet, very spicy and with some honey though it’s totally dry. I’m sorry the bottle is gone. I should buy a case of this for the summer. Lacks the heaviness of chard—I always feel so drunk after drinking just a couple of glasses of chard!—but isn’t just a crisp, dry nothing, as so many white wines recommended for summer are.

Duboeuf Beaujolais Fleurie 2003
There are many other Beaujolais producers in France but pretty much all we get here in WNY is GD. But I do admire their “cru” offerings. They are much more complex and powerful (for a beauj) than the swill everyone buys at Thanksgiving. This one was very appreciated by all, including the one member of our committee who only drinks red.

This is the first of a series where I will addresss the concerns of those who feel I have greatly neglected the third word of my blog. I agree.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

I give up: spring makes me happy

And I have been trying so hard to avoid one of those “birds are chirping, flowers are peeping out” posts about how wonderful everything is now winter is over.

However, this is becoming impossible, because—global warming, I presume?—we are having an halfway decent early spring. I’m seeing tulips already, not to mention the ubiquitous daffodils; I could actually pick a small bouquet from my crappy garden for Easter. Sorry, Polly, meant to bring it over, but I decided to keep it.

Blooming on the GWI property: hyacinths, hellebores (see earlier post), tulip turkestanica, tulip humulis, violets, daffodils, snowdrops, and scilla. And it looks like the rhododendron will finally perform.

Here’s the public daffodil planting I most admire (around a rare urban windmill):

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The other early spring plant

It was very pleasant to see masses of public daffodils on my way to work today. This seems to be the way they work best, as large groups. There are some very handsome plantings along the 33, at Allen and Main, and along, I think Youngs Road. Or was it Cayuga? Or was it Werhle? Of course, given the general hideousness of these thoroughfares, just about any planting of anything is going to look great.

However, yes, you do get sick of daffodils after a while. No one plants anything but the very common varieties, though there is a whole world of far more interesting cultivars out there. I have a few coming up in my front garden, left over from the last owner, and I find them extremely boring. I tried to plant some smaller species types, but they fell victim to the all-encompassing devouring tree roots. It does look like some of the stranger tulips I planted are coming up.

But I must say that the very first plant I saw blooming on our property this spring was not a bulb. Once again the two clumps of hellebores I have in that back are putting on a very nice show, now that I have cleared away the old leaves and the dead growth from last year. Also called the lenten rose and Christmas rose (I believe in the more temperate climes of England they do come up near Christmas), this plant starts blooming in late March/early April and continues through, I kid you not, early June. At this point, the flowers start to decline and the foliage, which is also very distinctive, takes over.

A great plant.

Here it is, in the midst of desolation:

and, up close:

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Time to garden

I realize I’ve merely toyed with this blog all winter long. That stops now. Even though the weather is trying to scare us when it’s way to late for anyone to take it seriously, gardening season has officially begun. And Garden Walk planning season is well underway.

Things still look pretty crappy chez the GWI garden. I’m not sure what’s the most pathetic sight on the property. Would it be the leftover hosta and fern debris from last summer? Or maybe the hydrangea sticks (and not a lot of good-looking buds either). And then we have the partially-trashed brick wall, a section of which now in pieces in front of the maple tree. All very bad.

Last weekend, during the one good day we had, we finally got last fall’s leaves raked. I don’t know why I actually felt good about that, but I did. In terms of what’s blooming, we have a fine showing from the hellebores, a white bunch and a green/rose bunch. They’re supposed to be the same plant so I imagine sun exposure causes the variation. The double snowdrops are a big disappointment so far—according to this blog, I bought FIFTY? Could I have given a bunch away? I suppose. Nothing from the scillas, but it may too early.

I was kicking myself for not bringing a camera to the Botanical Gardens today. Their spring flower show is up and looks great—though there could be a few more unusual cultivars, and I would really love to see better labeling. Still, it looked and smelled amazing: hyacinths, daffodils, tulips, some lilac, primrose, and more. The daffodils in particular were great: almost all fragrant doubles, and more cream/white, which I prefer to the yellow.