Sunday, September 30, 2007

BECBG in early fall

It looks as though it will take a hard frost to end this display. We visited the Botanical Gardens to meet the orchid society people (which I’ve posted about on Garden Rant), but as impressive as their handiwork was, I found myself admiring the persistently vibrant annual beds even more. The Mexican sunflowers I mistook for dahlias last time continue to open, while the verbena bonariensis has been joined by massed boltonia.

I’ve noticed this in my own garden; starting with younger seedlings such as those I get from Select Seed and my friend’s basement greenhouse provides a delayed, and hence longer-lasting display. I imagine the growers at the Gardens do everything from seed; I wish I could. It would simply take too long with all the shade.

The orchid show was interesting, though all the prize ribbons detracted from the flowers. I guess the winners don’t mind that too much. Above is … some kind of cattleya, I think. I’m just beginning to learn about these plants.

Easier to identify are these colchicums, which have naturalized all along the front perimeter of the perennial beds. These could be waterlily or pleniflorum, judging from images I’ve seen in catalogs. Lovely. I should give these another try in the front yard; looks like they might take some shade. Most bulbs will.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Operation tulip 2008

Bulbs are creating all the excitement for me right now, even though most have not arrived and won’t until mid-October. (I did receive 20 galanthus to be planted “immediately”—yikes, how long have I had them?!)

I get a huge kick out of changing hybrid tulips every year. Hell, even some of my species tulips are erratic repeaters, so I’ve also chosen about 35 of those to plant this fall.

For the hybrid tulips, I’ll be combining Menton and Queen of the Night in two front raised beds, which later will be planted with some kind of tall tropical, surrounded by other annuals. (That’s just the way it’s got to be; these cramped easeway beds are no place for perennials.) Queen of the Night is a tall, stately Single Late that has been a favorite of many gardeners for years. Previously, I’ve combined it with White Triumphator, a lily-flowered variety. One year I had it with West Point, a yellow lily-flowered type. I haven’t used it in at least three years.

Queen of the Night makes almost any color you put with it stand out. Menton, another Single Late, might not be as venerable—oh, let me get my book. Ah yes, Menton is 1971; Queen of the Night is unknown, but could be turn-of-the-century. I know that’s not old for tulips, but for these type of hybrids, where new ones are always being introduced, it’s respectably vintage. Anyway, Tulipa (great book) does not say much about Menton, but about Queen of the Night, it comments “one of the first nearly black tulips to come on the market … continues to hold a valuable place.”

In containers and in the front “yard” I will be planting tight groups of two Triumph varieties, Wildhof and Negrita (c. 1970s). I wanted Wendy Love but Scheepers didn’t get a good crop or whatever and I had to substitute, so I went for the light/dark contrast. These are great for forcing so I’ll probably try that as well. That would mean I’ll have a few indoor tulips in February, which will be fun.

Now, these are supposed to bloom at different times, with the Triumphs earlier, but we’ll just see about that. Last spring they all came out at once, in May. So there you go.

I have great respect and admiration for these flowers, and I think that may be because I’ve been exploring them in all their variations, without depending on them as perennials. Familiarity would surely lead to contempt in such a case. The parrots and viridifloras are also beautiful and great fun. I’ve not done much with fringed, but would like to. Tulipa, can, I am sure, be ordered from Amazon; the photography is incomparable and there is plenty of information, not enough for the hardcore geek, to be sure, but a respectable overview for the non-scholar.

Tulip talk continues in the next post. It was inspired by Susan's tulip post over at Are you planting tulips this fall? Which are you planting?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tazettas must be chilled? Who knew?

As I’ve never bothered to read the “planting and care” section of the Old House Gardens website, they kindly quoted it to me when I emailed them about forcing their tazettas (recommended for zone 8 and higher gardens). I figured I could force them in a vase of pebbles as I do paperwhites, with no chilling period. Four to six weeks, and I’d have flowers.

Oops, guess not. I have purchased Early Pearl and Grand Primo, and it looks like they will need chilling and maybe also need to be planted in soil, not pebbles. And I’ll have to wait for the bulbs to read the full instructions. A new forcing adventure! I wanted to try these because I’m always looking for variety in paperwhites, having become bored with the common Ziva early on, What is the difference between tazattas and paperwhites? I thought there was none. Huh. I’ll have to make room for these among the 40 or so hyacinths I’ll be forcing this year.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Hey, I like this game, so I'm going to keep playing. Now, let me again stress that I really LIKE this garden, even though it's not my taste—or I guess I should say it's just not the way I make a garden. But it is very typical of a quirky neighborhood front yard that really stands out in the middle of its more restrained neighbors. And very Buffalo. We found it on the way to look at a friend's garden. This is about expressing yourself and really having fun. It's nothing that would ever make it to a magazine, but I like it. I even like the madonna--it reminds me of the yards of both sets of grandparents (now long deceased).

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I'm still ranting about it

I am so pissed off about this I can't think of anything else to write about. If you do not also read my stuff on Garden Rant, please click over to this:
Jean's garden

Especially if you are local.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens

From the exoticism of the glasshouse collections to the annual and perennial beds outside, I never get tired of this place.

Somerset gardens, 2004

Although these images were taken in August, the gardens were still gorgeous. Included—among other places—are Hestercombe (a Jekyl/Lutyens design), a shrine in Glastonbury; the gorgeous coastline, and, of course, a gnome garden.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


I love this rectangular water feature, but will never have one like it in my curvilinear space. The photo is from Helen Dillon's garden.

I am using a very strict interpretation. As I understand it, Kim asks us to list plants or features that we would not have in our own gardens though we might admire them in the gardens of others. Therefore, I want to make it clear that I have no problem with any of the things I am listing here; some of them I really like a lot. I just wouldn’t, or couldn't, for various reasons, have them in my back yard.

1. Vegetables. I don’t grow them as I haven’t the space to spare for them. However, I do try to support local farmers by buying their produce (rather than imported supermarket stuff) whenever I can.

2. Grasses. I love these, but I don’t have the open, sunny area I feel is their best placement. They’d be great for my front yard if it wasn’t completely shady in the summer.

3. Birdbath. Don’t need it as they are happy to use the waterfall and the fountain.

4. Grass. I’m not kidding; a lush, green lawn can be beautiful, especially on large properties (think Jane Austen). It’s not the plant’s fault; it’s what we do to maintain it. In any case, I don’t have a blade of it; there’s no space and the terroir is all wrong.

5. Large stand of monarda—same reason as the grass. I suppose there is a long list of plants that need lots of sun and open space, but I’ve actually started to use many of them in my former rose bed, so this NIMG is flexible. I would love delphinium, for example, but have failed with it too often.

6. Neat, orderly beds, or geometric hardscaping such as that seen in Helen Dillon’s garden (above) and other formal gardens. I actually admire neatness, but I seem incapable of it. I also love a clean, minimal look, which I’ll never have.

I actually can’t think of too much else. If I like something I usually find a way to cram it in.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Tiny expectations, continued

Here are the things I’m thankful for as the summer winds to an end:

•if I can sit outside and listen to the birds and cicadas for half an hour before the light fades and it gets chilly.

•if the few remaining perennials and (more numerous) annuals stick it out through September and maybe part of October. Especially the climbing petunia, which now provides the bulk of the fragrance.

•if I get 3-4 more flowers out of the gardenia before I have to move it inside.

•if I can get a couple more perennials planted, maybe a shrub.

•if one or two more beautiful little surprises like this African foxglove (ceratotheca triloba, above) come up when I’d almost forgotten about them. It struggled up through a welter of geraniums, lantana, and diascia.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Weeds and seeds

This is the time of year when I begin to have somewhat lower expectations for the garden. There are only a few flowers left to anticipate—dahlias mainly, some others—and the late summer stalwarts are beginning to fade. The afternoons are warm though and the cicadas are just as loud. A cardinal family in the mock orange is creating a racket morning, noon, and night.

This is the time of year when I begin to look seriously at weeds, seedpods, and the vagaries of foliage. Although I’ve dismissed the notion that a hippeastrum leaf pushing through the split in a banana leaf is worthy of an entire post, these far-from-spectacular but still notable garden events are providing me with plenty of fascination.

I love the lantana seedpods: perfectly round, incredibly shiny clusters that age to dark purple. The canna seedheads are almost as interesting as the flowers, and of course you can’t beat a big fat rosehip. The rudbeckia triloba centers are growing bigger and blacker as the petals fade.

In the back there’s a jungle of weeds in a bed I deliberately ignored this year. I cut back the pokeweed, not realizing it was pokeweed and not some other, less interesting weed. It is resilient though and is putting out new growth, with some small berries beginning to form. Weeds are great. I have to grow more of them; they’re not nearly as fussy as all the fancy cultivars I struggle with all summer.

Monday, September 03, 2007

More late summer sights at the BG

Seriously, I wish I could hire these guys to replant a couple of my beds. Though I am never impressed when I visit earlier in the season, they have late-blooming perennials DOWN. These plants always bloom longer and better than their counterparts in local domestic gardens.

For example, here’s where I fell in love with verbena bonariensis and where I regretted having failed with my knautia. Neither are particularly unusual plants but they both look terrific en masse, as they have them here.

We also like to walk around the park, where the trees are beginning to color and the lily pond is still full of lotus.

They also have more success with their dahlias than I will ever, ever, ever have.


Of a sort., but not very exciting, I’m afraid. Pathetic, really. The giant century plant bloomed from bottom to top, not all at once like the fluffy yellow ones I saw via googling. Plus, it’s impossible to shoot because it’s silhouetted against the sky and you’d need a 20’ ladder to get close enough to overcome the glare issues. Or a better camera. On a walk today, we saw that it was blooming at the top; in the earlier image above (which came out better), the flowers are more toward the middle.

And here’s what happened with the tree I was hoping would be saved.

Apparently, although the tree suffered very little damage from the storm, the arborist, whose report I have seen, found that its largest branch was much weakened by an infestation and would have to be removed before it fell on the house. This, in addition to other removals, would greatly weaken the tree and all the expense of the trimming would fall on the owners. The city cut it down for free, using the FEMA money. (Always the way. Like we have a demolition fund but not a restoration fund for endangered buildings.)

On the bright side, I have noticed that people are using stumps for planters. (FEMA won’t pay for their removal, though supposedly somebody—maybe Hillary Clinton—is working on that.)

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Another rose bites the dust

Who can tell me why you would need a sledgehammer to get a rose bush out of the ground? (And maybe someone can tell me why we even have a sledgehammer!)

OK, I can’t see any hands so I’ll tell you. You need it to pound the shovel deeper into the ground around the bush so you can pry the roots loose. Boy, those rose roots are stubborn! I managed, however, and the first task in my fall gardening program is completed. One Carefree Beauty is out, sitting in a bucket of sludge waiting to be moved, and two rudbeckia hirta Herbstonnes are in her place. Later I’ll add some tall salvias, and maybe some Russian sage. I like these new rudbeckias. So much better than the brassy Goldsturms. Speaking of overused plants, I’ve decided to ban coneflower forever. In a moment of weakness, I gave this supposed double-headed one room in the “rose” bed (which no longer even begins to qualify for that name). I don’t care much that it didn’t get the double flower, but I do care that it is so dreary looking. I know that it’s unusual to post ugly pictures on garden blogs, but here it is: