Thursday, December 27, 2007

GWI does 2007: a very good year indeed

Some of the local blogs do retrospectives at this time of year. For the ones who cover Western New York happenings, this can be depressing at worst and funny (in a gruesome way) at best. Fortunately, since I strictly maintain a gardening focus, I don’t have to talk about local political follies, horrible things going on in the world, family issues, or my many personal problems. I spare you all of these things to bring you only my gardening experiences. Believe me, the other stuff? You don’t want to know.

I join Garden Rant! Woohoo! There is sort of a regimen—I post twice a week whether I have something to say or not—but that’s actually what’s good. It forces me to look outside my own garden and think about the bigger issues affecting all gardeners. And find out about cool garden-related stuff that’s happening around the world.

As usual, I order a lot of stuff from Bluestone Perennials and Select Seeds. Glancing over the orders, I can say that the most successful plants (plants only were ordered) were the verbena bonariensis, geranium Rozanne (which pretty much bloomed all summer), and the chrysogonum. I expect good things in future seasons from the other plants. Nothing died, anyway. As for the Select Seeds order, all 40 plants were fantastic, except for the brugsmansia. The rudbeckia triloba variant was probably the most amazing. All annuals or biennials of course. My forced hyacinths came up, as always, and I posted one for Bloom Day, which I join (right word?) for the first time.

We vacation in Naples, Florida, where a year-round growing climate seems to be pretty much wasted on routine corporate landscaping. A century plant breaks through the cactus house at the Botanical Gardens, and I visit a few garden shows.

I am sure all you Northeasterners and Midwesterners remember early April and that wonderful freeze we had, which almost ruined my hellebores and did ruin my erythronium. I become one of the very first member/owners of Urban Roots, Buffalo’s first gardening co-op. Since then, I’ve bought some great plants, mulch, soil, and other supplies there. Three possible contractors come to give us pond quotes and designs. We choose the one who says he does all his sketches as he works, but his ideas seem closest to our idea of a natural-looking water feature.

May is when it all starts happening at once, especially this year when we had hardly any rain and 80 degree temps quite early in the month. The pond is finished. I love it right away. All the plants arrive, plus I have to replant the ones displaced by the pond. The wisteria blooms unseen, trapped between old vines and new foliage. Still haven’t solved that problem.

After several lackluster seasons, I have the biggest year for roses I’ve ever had—the dryness, the heat. Garden Walk planning is in full force and controversies over selling plants rear their tiresome heads. The Select Seeds annuals do their stuff, especially the Red Bedder nicotiana.

Lily time is here, and all decide to bloom pretty much at once, thanks again, I guess, to the wacky dry weather. At the end of the month, the Garden Ranters arrive for Garden Walk, plus a few other bloggers and lots of media folks. A glorious time is had by all. Ranter Susan is kind of shaking her head over the wild Buffalo gardeners. Or maybe just me.

Ron officially becomes my garden mentee (that's garden guru Sally Cunningham with him), and we visit nurseries and online vendors, buying up perennials for about 70 new beds he has planned for his suburban property. Prairie Glow rudbeckia bursts into orange, red, and yellow splendor and is absolutely amazing. I start to order bulbs.

I raise hell on and offline about my friend Jean Dickson’s garden, visit the Botanical Gardens to enjoy the best late summer flowers I’ve ever seen there, and order more bulbs.


I advocate here for species tulips, participate in Blog Action Day, and start to plan an upstairs plant room/semi-greenhouse (still in progress).

The upstairs plant room receives fancy, unsustainable flooring; I wait the longest I’ve ever waited to get my bulbs in, but eventually do; and my many exotic varieties of paperwhites get their most elaborate pottings ever.

Snow starts early this year, but no freak storms. The hyacinth bulbs seem a bit behindhand, bud-wise, so remain in the root cellar. I install twitter but don’t have much to say on it and we have a great Christmas, with enough Veuve Cliquot to last the entire hors d’oeuvre, dinner, and dessert courses. Not to mention rum punch, burgundy, and spatlese reisling. Certainly enough to toast all my fellow garden bloggers and wish them a successful 2008 in their gardens and everywhere else.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Dressing up for the holidays

Sorry, no spectacular lighting displays have been documented so far—I just haven’t had the inclination to drive around at night getting them. But while doing some errands on foot this afternoon, it did strike me what a great effect a thin dusting of new snow can have. Like above, where this fancy evergreen hybrid (I am not sure what it is) is outlined against the house. Or this frosted ironwork.

Then of course, if you insist on a little color, there’s always this (below). All for now—I’ll be getting back to my festive activities.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Floral drinking

No, Perrier-Jouet did not drop off some samples. But I was pleasantly surprised to find this lovely gift set decently priced at around $30 (normally, the P-J runs upwards of $40 for the juice alone, never mind the pretty glasses). What a great gift! For me! And maybe others.

Also today, I was reading a local wine column in which the writer points out that champagne is far preferable for the kind of casual occasion where you might be having a beer. Beer can be very filling, whereas champagne is light in comparison. You can drink tons and never feel it. Perhaps a bit the next day.

So now we move into the “intoxicated” part of our program. No gardening going on at the moment, just parties, sitting in front of the fire, putting up lights, all that cool holiday stuff I actually love.

I'll try to have some decent holiday lighting images up soon. Cheers!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Giving Shrub Coat a try

Though I usually don’t discuss particular garden products here, I’m making an exception of Shrub Coat for 2 reasons:
1. It’s the brainchild of a Western New York horticulturalist.
2. If it works, other zone 5 (and under) gardeners should know about it, because it might spare us some seasonal anxiety over our hydrangea macrophyllas, rhododendrons, and other marginally hardy shrubs.

Up until now, I’ve been protecting the 2 macrophyllas (both are pink and bloom on old wood) by heaping bags of leaves around them in late fall, in order to block some of the more bitter winds. It’s worked almost every season, as far as I can tell. But it’s also a bit of a pain, as the piles fall over and the leaves get soggy. Sometime over the summer (I think) the Shrub Coat people dropped off some samples and I installed 2 of them yesterday. I probably ought to have done it sooner.

If you could count on a deep snow cover for the whole winter, that would do the job, but you can’t count on that. Nonetheless, I resisted the urge to cover the rhododendrons in the front, because I’m less inclined to spoil them. If they can’t tough it out and thrive, then I’d love to replace them with something native.

So, there you have it—Shrub Coat. They come in teepee types, with poles, and simple covers, without poles; you pound them in with plastic stakes, also provided. The sizes range up to 9-feet-high. The fabric is some kind of tough mesh that does seem like it would work better than burlap. We’ll see.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Plant room on hold

Sort of. Things are at a bit of an impasse with the project (top), as lights still need to be purchased and installed in some attractive manner, and I’d like to have some hanging basket hooks put into the ceiling. Soon, however, a whole mess of hyacinth glasses and pots will be coming up here. Fortunately they won’t need special lights.

One thing I do think about is what will happen when summer comes and many of these plants are outside. I’ll have to load up on cactus and orchids, which I won’t have room for in the garden. There must be some sort of indoor summer gardening project I could take up.

In any case, I can live with this until I figure the rest out. Better than it was (above), anyway!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Bulb check

Posting will be a bit light as we get into the winter months; I tend to use this blog to chronicle my own garden, and, as joyful as the four seasons are and all that, the fact is, the garden is not terribly … active. At the moment, that is.

Nonetheless, there’s plenty happening inside, both with the flowering houseplants and the bulbs chilling in the root cellar. I went down today to do a quick 5-week check. As usual with the hyacinths, the root development happens very quickly, though little can be seen, bud-wise. The hyacinths in dirt tend to be a bit more forward. I was worried because it got real cold, real fast here—in the 20s most days, which is not normal for December. But what’s normal weatherwise these days?

At the office, in addition to my obnoxious Christmas decorations (I like things that light up or make noise unexpectedly), I have some of my more advanced paperwhites: this is Inbal. I like to use colored glass as well as natural-looking rocks. A friend of mine uses aquarium gravel, but I haven't tried that yet.