Friday, June 29, 2007

This is why I mail order annuals

Yes, I know I can be tedious about this, but it is remarkable that whenever I am particularly impressd by a certain plants—you know, that moment when you say Oh my god, look at that thing!—they are usually annuals that I have mail ordered.

Case in point, these red nicotiana and accompanying strobilanthes (Persian Shield). I think this is a very handsome combo and both came from Select Seeds. Both are also available in local nurseries, but the mail order stuff always seems to do better; the plants are smaller but they thrive. These "red bedder" nicotiana didn't really excite me much at first, but I have actually cut them back twive already this summer and they keep on going crazy. They're a bit big for containers, but their presense in this otherwise quietly green side space adds some much-needed pizazz. The purple in the Shield is more iridescent than you can see here.

With a few exceptions, the mail order stuff is doing well: the climbing petunia, the other species nics, and, especially, the torenia. This is another plant that you'll see ordinary examples of locally, but the version I sent away for has large, ruffled flowers: quite spectacular for a normally not-so-special shade plant. I'll get some images of it up soon.

Posting will resume after a week or so.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

What's new at the BG

Every few months, I like to check in at the Botanical Gardens to see what's going on inside and out. Invariably there are major changes—a lot of busy gardeners and a huge, decades-in-the-completion master plan make that a sure thing. Today, I was glad to see that the century plant still had not bloomed, but didn't get frozen by bitter temps of early spring either. (I've posted about it at Garden Rant.)

There was plenty to see otherwise. The pond is fully stocked with a veritable field of water lilies—though when I walked to the edge to get some pictures, some golfers on the other side were yelling fore; we were right in front of the fairway. This is unfortunate. I say, let the golf courses be in one place and the public parks in another. Strolling, picnicking, and enjoying nature really don't mix well with golf. (I was glad to see that none of their shots made it over the pond. Plop—in they all went. Ha.)

Anyway, the perennial gardens looked OK—they won't peak until mid-July, though. There were some impressive Rozanne geraniums, kanutia, tons of hosta, and some flowering shrubs finishing up. Inside was actually better, with some gigantic musa and the citrus in full bloom. Their papyrus also looked fabulous. They do a great job with the tropical stuff, but they must need more crew outside. They had Gardenopoly in the gift shop: first I've heard of this game.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The fearless rose gardener

OK, as we've seen, I do have a few roses. They're stuck in one bed, along with a whole bunch of perennials and bulbs. I'm ready to pull them out at any time if they misbehave badly enough.

However, there are those who have taken the plunge. They have chosen to create what is essentially a rose garden. Such are my neighbors Susan and Michael. They have a rather small back garden space (about 30' x 30'), and most of it is devoted to roses and their supporting structures, such as the arch, above. On the way to that focal point (which features William Baffin) are two matching trellises of Mme. Isaac Periere, one of the most fragrant Bourbons around. (Another is a rose we both happen to have, Louise Odier.)

Susan has interplanted clematis among most of these climbers. In large part, the roses are David Austen English roses, which love to climb whether they're supposed to or not, and actual climbers like New Dawn, Dublin Bay and Mme. Alfred Carriere. There are actually quite a few perennials and annuals scattered about, including many old-fashioned cottage garden favorites Susan grows from seed, but the roses are the first thing you see—and smell. Though difficult to show in pictures—maybe a ladder would help—this is the closest thing to a traditional walled rose garden I've seen around here, complete with a patterned brick walkway and inset pools (such as Jeckyl might have created). I hope she still has a good show when Garden Walk rolls around. It is a difficult time for roses, but the David Austens have pretty good rebloom.

I think this is Redoute, Heritage, and New Dawn, from the front in.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Why I like close-ups

As you may have noticed, I've finally caught up with the technology all the other garden bloggers out there are clearly already conversant with—after two years of blogging, I have a camera that will take super-close-ups. Not that I mean to overuse this function, but you do need it for certain things. Roses need it because otherwise they're colored blobs on a messy bush. Lilies (I guess) have the same issue, though I like to take a whole truss of them rather than one bloom. And of course you must have it to get small items of interest, like this rose seedhead, above. This rose was sold to me as a Gloire de Dijon. Give me a break. However, I do enjoy the small apricot semi-double flowers and this seedhead is unusual for a rose. More like what you'd see on a clematis, maybe.

And then you need it to capture butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, and the like. Today I took a picture of the rattiest-looking butterfly I've ever seen. Really pathetic. However, it's sitting on my white heliotrope, which I often boast of and which does have a gorgeous musky vanilla smell, much stronger than the purple. If I were a butterfly, I'd go to it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Show me the roses

Though it's a far cry from the neat white and red display of yore, this is the first time in five years I felt I could take a halfway-decent looking picture of the roses. It has taken a few years for the bushes I planted to replace the white ones to mature. So, though they're a bit of a mess, I sort of like them—and look forward to the time when I can cut the spent canes down do that the lilies and perennials can shine. Sure, this is messy, but I think it's important to show whole beds—not just close-ups.

This too was Christopher Lloyd's advice: mix roses with other perennials when possible. I'm not really doing that in the sense he means (very little is really blooming at the same time with them), but I do have perennials (verbena boniarensis, rudbeckia maxima, buddleia) and summer bulbs (lilies, dahlia, canna) to replace the roses when they're done. So if they get a second flush, fine; if the shoots are eaten by the midge, that's fine too.

In other news, Urban Roots board member Claire Schneider was nice enough to mention me in a viral video on Buffalo Rising Online about the heirloom flowers the garden center is offering—as an extension of the dedication they have to searching out old-fashioned varieties. (They are known here for their heirloom tomatoes.) I had advised them to get some species and other older tall nicotiana and they did. So I had to go down and buy some, though I already have plenty of n. bella, mutabilis, and sylvestris. Where I'll put it I haven't a clue.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Roses not by design

" … I believe that in his choice and arrangements of roses in the garden alone, one can read a man's character …"

What a frightening thought. The quote is Christopher Lloyd's and he's playing off Ruskin's statement that a person's true, undisguised character is revealed through his art. I won't quibble about the choice of pronouns, but I am horrified to think that my choice of roses might say anything about my character. If so, it wouldn't be anything terribly good.

Lloyd struggled with roses throughout his gardening career and in the end got rid of his formal rose bed in favor of a colorful splash of cannas, dahlias, and other flamboyant plants, including tropicals. When he still had and wrote about roses, he felt strongly about awkward color mixes and the ungainly bushes themselves. He also favored rugosas and older roses, as I do (though he grew a lot of hybrid teas as well). I had all white and red roses at one time, but for various reasons I now have an uneasy mix of colors. I choose roses for performance and resistance to all the ills of roses more than for color; plus, I like to have different colors for cutting, even if they don't look all that great together in the bed. So that's why I have pink, white, red, yellow, apricot, and pink. At the moment, the pinks are out, with the apricots hot on their heels.

This blowsy one is the very floriferous and resistant Carefree Beauty.

Louise Odier has a better form but not much rebloom.

Abraham Darby is a David Austen with a delicious fragrance, but bugs love it.

This Golden Showers is behind the house and puts up with a lot of neglect.

The sunny May has brought everything forward, so I actually have more roses for this time of year than usual; Let's see how they look in late July.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Love the event; hate the politics

Even though this isn't my official platform for such expression, I'm gonna go right ahead and rant about the occasionally less than pleasant aspects of my involvement with the Garden Walk. Everyone works very hard on this committee, but sometimes I think the success of the event has adversely affected what used to be a fairly laid-back and friendly group.

Here's what I do for the event: I help a small sub-committee choose the artwork for the poster and map. I have a background as an art critic and curator, so that's something I enjoy doing. Then, I help organize and edit the entries for the map, in which each of the over 250 gardeners describe (briefly) their garden. Throughout the year I assist with writing or editing the PR for the event (and now the book), and I purchase and serve the beverages for our yearly "rally," about a month before the Walk.

There are plenty of people who do more than I do; I particularly do not envy those who have to organize and man the 3 headquarters for the Walk, dealing with the hordes who come rampaging through searching for maps, directions, water, and god knows what else.

Anything that involves envelope stuffing I avoid like the plague.

Garden Walk has really grown in 13 years. We now also give grants to community gardens; the committee that governs this seems to think a whole bunch of small-dollar-amount grants is the way to go. I don't, but I steer clear. It's great to be able to give the awards, though, and I'm sure they will grow as we have.

Finally, there's a rather awkward situation where some of the committee seem unable to accept that one of our gardeners—who has a truly spectacular garden—sells some of his extra seedlings during the event. It's a Garden Walk no-no, but, c'mon, who gives a flying —? Yeah, whatever.

So, in spite of everything, my impulse is still to say "It's all good." And it is.

Rant out.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Summer slipping away already—before it begins

Thank god all the pond trauma is over. It's in, it kind of does its own thing and I don't have to worry about wanting a pond and not having one anymore. Now that the problematic planting bed it now occupies is considerably reduced, I can enjoy the rest of the garden.

Two small hiccup: one of the fish died and I think the pond builders managed to squash the sweet autumn clematis to death. The other fish seems OK, but we'll wait a while before adding any more. We must have lost the knack of keeping fish; it's been a while since either of us had an aquarium.

Aside from the pond, it's amazing what a sunny May will do. All the annuals are much further along than usual, including this nicotiana, Crimson Bedder.

Even the small seedlings from my neighbor's basement are in bloom already, and I have more rosebuds than I've ever had before. As for perennials, not being a foxglove or iris person, I don't have too much, but the geraniums (phaem above) are going great guns, even the ones I pulled out of the bed. I'd love to know what variety geranium this (below) is; it's the sole survivor from a can of seeds for shade I threw down once in a fit of silliness.

Oops, guess I am an iris person now; here's my first pond plant getting ready to bloom.

I don't usually do these survey-of-the-garden posts, but I just have a feeling about this summer. It seems as if I don't document it I'll miss it. Too much going on in other areas.