Wednesday, November 28, 2007



This is what I love about gardening. Even after some half-hearted mangling and butchering by roofers who clearly were not giving it their all, I’m confident that the cycle will continue, from bare to burgeoning to lush to fading and back again.

And this is why I have no interest in living in anything less than a four-season climate. Every place has its cycles, but ours is pretty dramatic. Hard to believe, looking outside on a gray February day, that I’ll have my urban jungle back in a matter of months. It’s kind of fun, for a while, to forget about outside gardening and turn my attention to the bulbs, MAYBE some seeds, and refreshing visits to the Botanical Gardens.

But those are minor distractions compared to the hidden action outside.

Now, if someone would just come along and make all these matted maple leaves disappear before snow buries them.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

You know you're an Allentown gardener if ...

A bunch of Western New York bloggers are playing the neighborhood stereotype game, prompted by this article. Here's mine:

You Know You’re an Allentown Gardener if:

1. The only grass you have is on the patch between sidewalk and road and you’re in the process of replacing that with perennials or some kind of hardscaping.

2. You disdain overly flamboyant holiday decorations and tend to favor tasteful white candles and lighting that highlights the architecture of your house. Or you go the other way—all the way—and create a spectacle that becomes a tourist destination (no inflatables though).

3. Flamboyance is always encouraged in summer however, when cars screech to a halt so the occupants can stare at your bright orange and red cannas, daylilies, oriental lilies, and tropicals in your front yard.

4. Any use of gazing balls, pink flamingos, and smoking cowboy silhouettes is purely ironic and only brought out for parties, which, admittedly, are frequent.

5. Architectural remnants and strange stone objects from former Buffalo mansions are common throughout the neighborhood.

6. You have at least one outside bar, one upper, and one lower dining space, and a complex outside lighting and sound system. Fortunately, the local precinct has been ignoring noise complaints from Allentown for some years. Gunshots will alert them, so be advised.

7. Though your back yard is the size of a Civic, you have one and usually two ponds, both containing koi the size of small dogs.

8. Participation in Garden Walk is handed down from homeowner to homeowner. Hapless newcomers who think they can get away without entering Garden Walk are pressured until they give in, hiring a landscaping service if necessary to make sure their garden is up to snuff.

9. Though ponds are considered the main event, throwaway water features like fountains, birdbaths, and Zen-like bubbly thingies are common, though they do not qualify as water features on the Garden Walk application.

10. Every morning, neighbors greet each other and enjoy coffee while gingerly removing crack bags, syringes, and junk food wrappers from the front of their properties.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Inside, outside, and in cyberspace

Do you want the good news or the bad news? Let’s start with the (not so) bad. I’ve been finishing up bulb planting—some triumphs in the front, some lilies, more species tulips, and small bulbs here and there—so I’ve had an opportunity to view the roofing damage, thus far. They had to remove the trellis/arch that supports the mock orange, so it looks as though they cut away what had been supported. Or maybe it just broke away. So now it’s tall and upright rather than gracefully arching. This might be fine; I suspect that plant has needed a good hacking for a while. Several beds seem to have been stripped of all plant life. I think what happened is that when they cleaned up the debris, they dragged the above-ground plant life away with it. Unless uprooted, I expect most of this to return. I think I may have lost some hardy geranium (big deal).

When I mentioned the roof work on Garden Rant, there were suggestions involving wheel barrows on the roof dumping into truck beds, etc. None of that would be possible here. They did slide the stuff down plywood, but directed disposal is not so easy with a very steep roof and no space between buildings. Anyway, I’m looking at all this as an opportunity, depending on what I see in the spring. Around here, we're used to the frequent roof work that cold weather and old housing stock involves and we're also used to dealing with the damage.

Inside, we’ve painted the ever-progressing plant room (as you see above), and I’ve purchased some plant stands from Gardeners Supply (not seen). I just need the lights and some humidity trays.

Finally, I just got an email from a Garden Walk buddy, who’s started a cool garden travel blog, in which he shares his photos of all the gardens he’s visited during his frequent globe-trotting. This is pure garden porn you won’t want to miss.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Bloom Day—are you kidding?

Seriously, the place is a hellhole. Roof grit and dust everywhere, plywood everywhere, 2 x4s everywhere, ladders everywhere, tarp everywhere. I could go on but won’t depress you. Nonetheless, I went out there with my camera—one thing, it’s quite warm, mid-50s—and got a few snappies. Most are over at Garden Rant (or will be as of 11/15), but at top you see what I suppose should be the last rose of summer (David Austin, Charlotte), though never say never. I also am getting some nice action from my houseplants. Cyclamens seem to be foolproof rebloomers; I’ve had one pink one for nine years. This is a newer red one. Lots of growth on the paperwhites—maybe I'll have some for next GBBD.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

So all my bulbs aren’t in yet. So what?

Not only that, but I am still in the process of sending some giveaway bulbs to others, thus ensuring that all their bulbs aren’t in yet either. Not only that, but it’s been snowing a bit and it’s about 35 out right now. Not only that, but the roofers should be here any day now and that might present me with difficulties when I do get my act together and plant the rest of the bulbs.

I did get the lilies in (except the ones I just ordered) and got all the hyacinths and paperwhites (the special tazettas that need a cold spell) into the root cellar. I like fooling around with paperwhites: no digging, no dirt, no freezing outside. I’m also experimenting with some larger containers. One, the tallest, is a bit iffy, but these are tall varieties and I’m betting they’ll clear the top of it. Or not, and then we’ll see how that looks (strange, probably). These will stay on the dark, cool back room for a while and then they’ll go into the new plant room, which is progressing.

As for the outdoor bulbs, it’s really nothing to get excited about. The weather will warm up in a few days, and I’ll get them in. I happen to know you can wait until January to get tulips in and as long as you can get into the ground, they’ll bloom as usual in the spring.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Last bulb purchases—maybe

I was feeling a bit insecure about the lily situation, so I did end up ordering more from The Lily Garden. Just three: Elise (above) Madame Butterfly (below), and Miss Lucy (below that). Elise and Madame Butterfly are relatives of henryi, a reliable species type that I’ve been growing for some time. Miss Lucy looks the same as Double Prize, which I’ve grown before and really does last a long time. I had it in a container and it did not return—I suspect it may have frozen. That does happen once in a while. I know I take a chance by storing these pots of bulbs in the garage, but the fatalities are rare. Tulips and lilies do very well, but I’ve stopped keeping hyacinths out there. They just don’t make it.

Then I picked up a bag of species tulips (bakeri Lilac Wonder) at Home Depot. I had given the ones I had to mentee Ron, not realizing that they bloom at the same time as the batalini Bronze Charm, so I'll need them for the contrast. The other violet ones I have, humulis Persian Pearl, bloom earlier. These species can be tricky with their bloom times. You'd think they'd all be early blooomers, but they're not.

Indoor plant room, step one

When we ripped up the incredibly ugly brown/gray carpet in my former study, we found that there was really no floor. Most of the house has its original (restored) parquet flooring, with some wide-plank pine upstairs, but this (shown above) looked too crappy to bother finishing. So we chose some teak remnants at a hardwood place and they installed it. I could have gone with tile (or, yes, something more sustainable like bamboo) but I like wood, and I associate teak with outside use. So we’re really happy with it. Next: shoe molding goes in and the walls and ceiling will be painted.