Saturday, August 29, 2009

Bulbs: in which I tell all ... so far

Or almost all, because the real horror is that I still plan to order from Old House Gardens and —maybe—The Lily Garden. Every year, I go crazy with bulbs and it seems to grow worse with time. Nearly half of them are for forcing and others are treated as annuals; hence, the reason I need so many each year. So far, I have ordered 455 bulbs. Over the last two weeks.


There is still work to be done here, but I do have some species (top) triumphs, and doubles (above) on the way. One hopes the species will naturalize, while the triumphs will be forced for inside the house, or used in containers to be brought outside from the garage in April. My goal is to have every type of species tulip available growing in my front garden. Tulip season is the best time for this space, as during the summer, deep shade limits the possibilities for flowering plants. Can you say … hosta? So before I have to get all creative with shade perennials and impatiens, it’s nice to have the tulip show. Species tulips from top left: vvedenskyi, marjoletti, humulis violacea, dasystemon, orphanidea flava, pakowskiana, and humulis Persian Pearl. Above are hybrids Orange Princess, Black Hero, Yellow Mountain Rem's Favorite, and Strong Gold.


Though the large-flowered daffs don’t work well on the GWI property—their decaying foliage just can’t be hidden—I love forcing tazettas inside and I am adding some small species types for outdoor planting this year. It’s sad that so many assume Ziva is the beginning and end of paperwhites/tazettas for inside. The ones I’m ordering have much more interesting flowers and a lighter, pleasant scent. I will be ordering more of these from Old House Gardens. Above are cantabricus, Martinette, albus plenus, and Golden Rain.


There is nothing fresher and lovelier in winter than the scent of a forced hyacinth—at least, to me—and I fill my house and office with them every year, as well as giving some as gifts. I also use Victorian forcing vases to hold some of them. It's a lot of fun and the forcing process is strangely devoid of failure. Above are Prince of Love, Crystal Palace and Raphael.


These are perennials and generally last for a few years—some longer than that. I have had a few of my lilies for ten years, but some diminished and disappeared. A sharply draining sandy soil is best for them, and I don’t have close to that. They thrive as best they can, though, and are undoubtedly the highlights of my summer garden. This year I’m going to do more in containers, as I can only fit a few in the ground. Above are orienpet Satisfaction and orientals Amazing and Excelsior.

The rest

That’s what Scheepers calls them and it works for me. I always add scilla and galanthus; this year, I am planting camassia and winter aconite (eranthis hyemalis) for the first time, inspired by images of these I’ve seen on other blogs. I like the double flore pleno snowdrops the best, I think. They are above, with camassia Caerulea, eranthis hyemalis, and scilla siberica.

Why order so many bulbs? Is it necessary? Of course not. But here’s the thing: bulbs always work. Not forever; but at least for the first year, each is a little ball of completely fulfilled expectations. The images here are all catalog porn, but if you look at past posts, you can see many of these as they really grow in my garden, or forced in the house.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Last hurrah

This is really the beginning of the long, slow decline in the garden, which ends at the end of October. After that, though you can rake leaves and plant bulbs until Thanksgiving, there is not much reason to linger. And it’s kind of cold anyway.

But through September, the garden still looks pretty good, with lots of color and lush foliage—often in the form of annuals and tropicals. The last of the summer perennials—my favorite perennials—peak about now. Hence this post. The stars of the garden, the rudbeckias and heliopsis (top), are still more or less at their height, with the lilium speciosum holding its own. The last of the phlox is blooming or will shortly. My “David’s Lavender” (above) had no mildew whatsoever and doubled in height and spread from last year, its first planting.

Other annuals are at their best, doing what I expect them to do: completely, or almost completely disguise the pots they’re planted in (above). It’s about the plants, not the pots. The tropicals around the pond are huge, especially the alocasia, which I’ll be saving over the winter. Persian Shield (below) did really well this year.

And I think this new wall planter did well: here it is, just planted (a month and a half ago) and now. Now, which is the correct wall color, what the iphone likes or what the olympus likes? I'm going to say ... neither. Below, another rudbeckia, the “Golden Glow,” is planted among some verbena bonariensis. Pay no attention to those blackspotted rose leaves. In fact, I’ve learned how not to pay attention to a lot of minor garden problems. Life—and the season—is too short.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A homegrown taste-off

If Iron Chef was run by Alice Waters, I think it might go like this. Sunday I was a judge for Buffalo’s new chef competition, Nickel City Chef. It involves 4 Buffalo “top chefs” and 4 challengers. For each match-up there is a different secret ingredient and the two chefs make 3 dishes each, using it.

But here’s the twist. The secret ingredient and many of the other pantry items are locally grown or produced in Western New York. For the competition I judged, the secret ingredient was locally produced White Cow dairy products: yoghurt, cream, and quark (a fresh cheese, NOT the obsolete page design program). In addition there were freshly harvested heirloom tomatoes, corn and peaches as well as locally-made sausages and other products.

And the chefs? Two of our best: Paul Jenkins of Tempo and Bruce Wieszala of Verbena, So it had to be a thrilling experience, right? Well, yes and no. There was a lot of waiting around—I arrived far too early—and while the audience seemed to be having a hell of a time, the judges could not drink and socialize. We were sitting at a table, watching the chefs make the food and then we had seconds to taste it and pronounce on it, as the 2 sets of 3 dishes were quickly brought out and placed in front of us, with a microphone soon to follow. I was still chewing the first time, but then I wised up and got the food down in time to talk. Meanwhile, the audience could walk around, hang out by the chocolate fountain and swill wine and beer to their hearts' content. But on the other hand, they couldn't taste what we tasted.

The food was amazing. It kind of makes me wonder what would happen if all chefs tested themselves to this degree every day in their restaurant kitchens. You can see all the dishes we had here. My favorite was a trio (top): mussels in a saffron/sausage broth, fried eggplant stuffed with ground lamb, and cucumber gazpacho. All the dishes used the secret ingredients, but the nice thing was that cream and yoghurt are not likely to overpower or dominate a dish. They simply added richness and—in some cases—the tang of yoghurt. I also loved the 8-ball squash stuffed with corn risotto (above).

The lesson of Nickel City Chef is not about who wins (Jenkins did in this case), but how wonderful our local food is, no matter who prepares it. It kind of made me want to grow vegetables—almost. It will surely impel me to the farmer’s market more often.

Photos courtesy of Nickel City Chef.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Rain gardening

We hear a lot about rain gardens—which are all well and good—but not having a rain garden, I currently limit myself to rain gardening.

The performance of various gardening tasks under light and pleasant precipitation works very well for me. In fact, given the difficult dry shade conditions I have throughout much of the GWI property, it makes things a lot easier. Today I planted some shade perennials I’d previously overlooked—mainly because they have brief spring bloom periods—in one of my front beds. Because the ground was nice and wet, not just from today’s rain but also from a good soaking last night, my trowel went in like butter. All I had to do was the usual lopping of various hard roots running throughout the planting area. God knows which tree they’re coming from.

So good luck, brunnera, polygonatum, and bergenia (actually the second bergenia I’ve planted here). Long may it rain; you’ll need every drop to get established in these difficult conditions.

In the meantime, the sunnier parts of the garden are under the reign of the rudbeckia triumverate: lancianata, triloba, and hirta. “David’s Lavender” phlox (truly mildew free!) is looking fabulous, as are the speciosums.

One disappointment this week was that I truly could not find a “knee-level” shot for the current Gardening Gone Wild photo contest. Nothing seemed to work, so I am illustrating this post with a couple of the ideas I didn’t pursue.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hot stuff

Finally. The true summer weather is here, and none too soon for many of my hot weather annuals, such as colocasia, which just refused to perform in the rainy, cool weather of June and (for the most part) July.

I don’t complain about weather though, and I’ve actually been enjoying all this rain. No watering! The other benefit is that many plants have delayed their blooms a bit, so I have rudbeckia, lilium, and phlox just starting to come into bloom in mid-August. Nothing wrong with that.

I had just about pulled these phlox (top) out as weeds a number of times. They are “David’s Lavender,” a sport of the white David phlox we all know and love. Sure enough, as promised, no mildew on these babies. They also multiplied amazingly after planting last year—which is why I had thought they must be weeds.

Other terrific performers include the rudbeckia “Herbstsonne,” which I’ve mentioned before, r. triloba “Prairie Glow,” and r. laciniata “Golden Glow.” Great plants, and I always buy the last two from Select Seeds. They never fail. All three are present in the bunch above, plus some heliopsis.

And the lilies. There are still a bunch of buds that I think may be speciosum rubrum alba, but the regular speciosum (above) and the spectacular tigrinum flore pleno (below) are starting to bloom, and they are wonderful, long-lasting flowers.

August bloom day is starting to be my favorite.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

My big fat rudbeckia “Herbstsonne”

These never should have been placed where they are: at the front of the sunny “corral” bed, obscuring other shorter plants that have managed to survive and blocking sun from anything I plant that might otherwise grow as tall.

They’re interesting though, starting out as fat green buds, then upward-facing yellow daisy-like flowers, then petals drooping down as the seedheads begin to form. Bees find them interesting too.

They look great from above. There is something wonderful about height in the garden—and, design-wise, the wisdom seems to be that verticality is the way to go for me, given the narrow lots and narrow tall buildings. I should likely move them to the back of the border, but I have plenty of tall action there already.

My other favorite rudbeckia has also begun to open—a not-as-tall triloba variant that has sunset-colored flowers. It blooms abundantly through fall.

Rudbeckia are not my favorite plant. I find the Goldsturm brassy and overplanted. But they do very well in this area and as long as I can find some interesting cultivars, they’ll always have a place in the garden.