Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Trying to stay excited

All seems in a strange state of limbo these days, though not literally. Every morning when I leave the house I see considerable progress among the lilies, hostas, other perennials, and, of course, the spring bulbs. Even the pond is on.

But—unlike many other gardeners whose blogs I read—I can’t spend too much time outside fussing with the plants. I have a job. I did manage to start fertilizing the roses last weekend, and attended to more clean-up. But mostly I’m saying hello/goodbye to the plants as I come in and out from work, and if it’s cold, as it has been, then I seldom linger.

However, I am trying to pay attention to the species tulips as they appear. Sadly, they don’t stay in bloom for long, but that’s ok, as neither does their foliage. I acceot them as short-blooming ephemerals. My favorite are the gray/purple/yellow humulis (above). The clusianas have been coming in.

The tardas came and went.

And I look forward to the freakish acuminatas.

Monday, April 21, 2008

New introductions

Many of the spring bulbs I bought last year are popping up. Above is the humulis “Persian Pearl.” This really would be nicer with ground cover surrunding it, but I tore out all the ground cover, so that’s not possible. Now we have perennials, most of which are not emerging yet.

This is the erythronium revolutum “White Beauty,” which is coming up nicely, and why not in this weather. I’ve seen that the buds emerge at the same time as the foliage on these, and they can freeze in bad weather, not that we’ve had that.

It’s not quite as white as billed, but I know it must be the correct type—“Pagoda” and “Kondo” would be much yellower, the tuolumnense looks completely different, and the others are pink. I always accept that a company may have sent me a different type, but that rules out everything B&B carries.

This hellebore may be from Plant Delights, or it may be from a local nursery. If, as I suspect, it's the latter, it’s a common purple hybridus type. Nice though. I like it that all the hellebores have blooms, even though they’re new. In a few years, I’m hoping they’ll be like this one in the back—or better.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Gardening in April? Who'da thunk it.

It has been an unusually active week in GWI-land. Thursday, the TV crew (above) came over, saw, as I had warned them, that were hardly any flowers in bloom, and interviewed me inside about Garden Rant for about 45 minutes. I am not totally positive why this happened—they didn't seem to have a lot of familiarity with Garden Rant, or this blog (and why would they). Still, they were nice; I think I can post a link to it when it runs, as the segment will be online. The camera guy was happy; he found a bee and some scillas he could shoot.

But since then, it's been a veritable explosion of growth—for me, that is. The erythronium are almost there, the hellebores are fully out, I seem to have more daffodils that I had ever imagined (none of which I planted), and the species tulips (turkistanica, above) are popping up madly. I guess this is the kind of spring other people have, but we so very rarely have in WNY. Awesome.

Alan helped me assemble the tumbling composter, which is really fun to spin around, and I have a perfect hiding place for it, in this jungle area between the garage and the neighbor's soon-to-be-insanely-thriving silver lace vine. It must be hidden; it's difficult to imagine how painting it would help, though I'll be interested to see what others have done. I think Carol is painting hers, or has. I'll have to check.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Warning: of relevance to local readers only!!

If I have any. I can't access the big fat Garden Walk email list (Jim/Art of gardening is the czar of that and he is out of town), so I am doing what I can here to alert local gardeners to these cool workshops. I think anything Sally Cunningham, who has organized these, finds worthwhile is probably worthwhile for you too (again, if you're local). They are at Lockwoods. Here goes (their descriptions, not mine):

April 19, Saturday:
Ken Brown, Exotic Conifers—landscape plants you can grow. This popular radio gardening expert (WBEN, 930am, on Saturday mornings at 11:00AM ) and Christmas tree grower can answer any gardening questions. The talk features lesser known evergreens, both dwarf and full-size, some for sale. ( 1:00PM )
Deanne Cunningham, wildlife photographer—Attracting and caring for birds in the backyard. This professional photographer and former teacher has accumulated amazing bird pictures and will share her passion for wonderful birds from turkeys to orioles. Bird-friendly berrying shrubs will also be shown. ( 10:15AM )
Ran Lydell—the Oriental Garden. This talk was presented for the Hosta Society last month and received rave reviews, so we booked it for you. Ran is an erudite, witty, and delightful speaker and has photographed various Asian style gardens, including Japanese maples, hostas, and many other plants. Ran Lydell is owner of Cooks Nursery, Eagle Bay Hostas, and is a national expert on hostas and unusual conifers. ( 2:15PM )
Call 649-4684 to reserve spaces, or check the website, above. Each talk is by separate admission, $10, with a Lockwood shopping coupon and informational handouts included for each.

April 26 (10:00am to 2:30pm)
Celebrate Earth Day—Organic Gardening Day::
This is a one-day symposium on organic gardening, including these topics that will help you in the flower or vegetable garden and the home landscape.
Topics include Improving your Soil, Composting, Organic Products (Pete Bottomley, Bradfield Organics), Great Garden Companions & Beneficial Insects (Sally Cunningham), and Beneficials in the Greenhouse (Tim Baer).
The full day is $25 including lunch! Half day is only $12, by reservation.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Talking the talk

We gardeners love to talk about our obsession, so, as I see it, there’s not too much difference between doing it in normal conversation and doing it in front of an audience. As long as you know your topic, you should be fine.

And yet. I gave a talk on summer bulbs Thursday night at Urban Roots, our local co-op garden center (kudos to Buffalo for having such a thing!), and though I was well prepared, I still felt a bit uneasy looking over the audience as I blabbed away and noticed their nods of knowledge and understanding. Well, if they already know, I’m thinking, why are they here? “Yes, but this pulled it all together,” said one attendee afterwards. OK then!

My subject was summer bulbs, though only one plant I discussed is a true bulb: my favorite, lilium. I then went down the list of the tubers: colocasia (and boy are these gaining on lilies as all these wild hybrids come out!), canna, and dahlia. There are so many more, but I felt it best to talk more on each then skim through a long list. I know that these plants provide a long season of color and flamboyant foliage for Buffalo gardeners. Of course, the thing is to encourage these gardeners to buy their bulbs from Urban Roots, but that’s worthy. It didn’t stop me from talking about all my favorite mail order places.

One big glitch: idiotically, I really wasn’t sure how to make my computer screen project (yeah, F7, duh) but we figured it out. The questions came pretty regularly, and I got to air my longheld conviction that sometimes it’s really just fine to treat some of these plants as annuals and compost them, buying anew rather than overwintering. You’re helping the nurseries and guaranteeing yourself a viable plant. For 3-5 bucks or whatever, why not? Though the colocasias I have from Brent and Becky’s and (soon) from Plant Delights are so very, very cool, I will strive to save them. A couple of the babies I just got are shown above (esculenta "Yellow Splash" and "Illustris").

Summer bulbs and tubers: so much reward over so many weeks. This year I will depend on them more than ever.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

I lurve hellebores

Crocus? Couldn’t give a damn. They flop over in the first cold wind. Daffodils? Fine, in a big swath in a field, but kind of loud in a small garden. Snowdrops? Beautiful, but I don’t have enough yet to make a real statement with them.

Ah, but hellebores. Yesterday, I had one of the best hellebore discoveries I’ve ever had. I was cutting back the crappy old foliage and brushing it aside, when I uncovered a gorgeous cluster of blooms that had been entirely obscured by an assortment of yard debris. (As I’ve mentioned on Rant, I didn’t touch a leaf in the fall, preferring to deal with them in their far uglier spring incarnation.) What isn’t great about hellebores? They are among the first spring flowers, but, unlike the others, they last for a good six weeks or better. Then their foliage continues, making a grand show through frost. And they love shade. Is it any wonder Plant Delights is maniacally creating more and more and more hybrids of these? Well, here’s one person who will be buying them.

I actually have some PD hybrids in another area (these are just the common type), but they are first year and a bit dinky as of yet.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Coming attractions

Butterfly sitting on a blooming flower? No, you won't be seeing that for some months in the GWI property. But if you're in Austin right now, as I just was, you can see all kinds of butterflies on blooming plants that are perennials in this part of Texas, but exotics to me (I THINK this is Pride of Barbados). [EDIT: it is a type of milkweed. Really, I ought to have recognized it. Another embarrassing moment!] I spotted it in the butterfly garden of the Natural Gardener in Austin.

Do I have zone or weather envy? Not really. I'm looking forward to the first days of gardening in Buffalo, which will commence as soon as I get home. My initial act will be to get all the disgusting matted leaves off the front and side beds and see what bulbs are struggling to come up. My species tulips are just emerging; in Austin their day is already past.

I enjoyed strolling through the butterfly garden seen above, but it was almost oppressive on April 5; I can only imagine what it might be in July or August. For me, this might be too hot, too soon. It takes all kinds, as they say, and,in spite of the expected and tiresome ribbing I got about Buffalo's much-vaunted winter horrors (and why is it that complete strangers feel they can launch right into this before they even know my name?) I'm fine with it. I do look forward with longing to MY flowers and MY butterflies, but I guess I can wait a month or so.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Spring paranoia

It may seem odd to admit to this, but every spring at around this time, I begin to wonder if my garden will completely fail to appear. Especially this year, when much of the beds are covered with a matted carpet of leaves and we really don’t know how much havoc was wreaked by the roofers when they cleaned up. I know they pulled a sweet autumn clematis out, chopped the mock orange to hell, and they scraped away a layer from almost every bed in order to make sure most of the nails and debris were gathered up.

At times like these, I begin to wonder what I could do if the garden really were gone beyond recovery. I guess there would need to be a major spending spree. I already have a lot of annuals and some perennials coming in from Select Seeds, Bluestone, and Plant Delights, as well as some bulbs from Brent and Becky’s. Then I could buy a lot of full-grown perennials from local nurseries, and tons of annuals as well. Vines would be more difficult. They do need a couple seasons to really mature, especially clematis. If the hydrangea doesn’t flower (in spite of Shrub Coat!), I could weave some trailing shade annuals through it. And then I could top it all off by buying a number of ready-planted containers, hanging and otherwise.

None of this would be very satisfying, though. And in my heart I know none of it will be needed—except maybe some kind of solution for the mock orange. The tulips can already be seen poking up and if the snowdrops managed to struggle up through the leaves, I imagine other bulbs and perennials will as well. Though I had better get those leaves off them. The cruelest month indeed.

(Shown above: the last of my forced bulbs and branches. The hippeastrum is in bud now, but I really think of that as a houseplant.)