Thursday, February 27, 2014

I Know Why This Is Hard

Designing a garden bed, I mean.  Because trees and shrubs are costly, hard to move, grow at unexpected rates, bloom at different times and in potentially urpy combinations, need to flourish under the given conditions, and require years to look their best.  So that's why I'm still tinkering in a dissatisfied manner with my plans for the hot, sunny west exposure of the house.

This is using the free Better Homes and Gardens plan-a-garden app, which is imperfect but gives you some idea of shapes and how things look together.

From the left-- Rosareum Uetersen on the fence, Ceanothus Marie Simon, April Blush camellia, Blue Chiffon hibiscus, three abelias-- Rose Creek or Edward Goucher probably.  Dragonlady holly and then a Winter Gem boxwood which I already have.  I threw some juniper in there-- it gets big, might use some wall germander or something low and shrubby repeated in several places.  Hoping to fit in some caryopteris, but that remains to be seen.  On the right, another boxwood (already there), a Sweetbay Magnolia probably too close to the house (6'), and the monster butterfly bush which I'm not moving at present.  The two shrubs are currently Little Lime hydrangeas I quite like, but I don't know if I will want to move those and repeat some material from the left side.

On the potential sick list:

One of my Encore azaleas is not looking good at all.
Little boxwoods are looking daunted and my dumb dog has completely exploded one of them.
Spruce and magnolia seem to be holding their own.
The magnolia planted in front of the nursing home generator (not mine, theirs) went completely kaputen.  Very sad, especially since I'm not at all confident they'll replace it.  They did their planting pretty late, I wonder if it just didn't get a chance to develop a root system.
The limber pines all have comical flat heads from the snow and ice, but they're limber, right?  I figure they'll recover.

I have a bunch of perennials started from seed.  Worried I cooked them too near my south window.  Time will prove.

Found out from Pickering Nurseries that my roses are coming in early April.  Perfect.  Now I just have to find out where I'm putting them :)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


Last year I was late.

This year I am early.

According to my calculations I need 20 yards of mulch.


I am going to discount that to 16 because I just don't believe it.

How many days will it take to spread 16 yards of mulch?  Grow, little plants, grow!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Brief and Poorly Photographed Longwood Visit

But it was lovely.  My friends bowed out because of the snow (piles of it in Philadelphia, made driving/parking pretty entertaining).  I circled the gift shop, admiring all the things I won't be able to buy until I finish educating my children, ogled the witch hazels on the hill by the cafe, had a spot of quick lunch admiring some orange-flowered witch hazel whose signpost was under a couple of feet of snow, and then went on to the conservatory.  I took the plant propagation tour, so I got to see one of the enormous greenhouses.  The arrangements are very complicated and clever-- snow melters, automated shadecloth, watering systems with plain water or fertilizer mixed by computer, coolers (to keep plants from blooming till just the right moment), seed-starting, cuttings, etc.  In the conservatory there were grapefruit blossom, lilies, and sweet alyssum smelling divine.  A gardener deadheading camellias gave advice (they are one of the few evergreens that will thrive under trees; winter sun is the killer, desiccates leaves and the roots can't pull up water from the frozen ground).

This is a tall variety of stock (Google search suggested this cultivar might be especially for greenhouses.)  Isn't it luverly?  

Butterfly bush trained as a standard.

This tree is planted quite close to the wall.  It has been discretely pruned to fit.

I also sang at a karaoke bar in Chinatown and visited with a number of friends, so overall it was delightful. However, I have to catch up on hugging my husband.  I'm blogging snuggled up next to him on the couch.  

Thursday, February 13, 2014

First Buys of 2014

I have spent hours upon hours deliberating over my rose wish list.  DH murmured something about a Valentine present and was very pleased with the idea of getting me a live bush.  Enter Pickering Nurseries in Canada (also pored over Roses Unlimited, Heirloom Roses, Chamblees, Regan, and about five others).  I was still agonizing with my credit card number actually in place, when I picked up my laptop and inadvertently completed the order.  So, right or wrong, in March I should be getting bareroot Mayflower (a supposedly tough David Austen), Golden Celebration (slightly less tough, yellow climber ditto), and a vigorously pink climber known as Rosarium Uetersen.  What is unclear is whether these will go with anything else, particularly the violent pinks/reds of the knockouts I planted in Kit Island.  But the beauty of it is, I shall simply move the dang Knock Outs if I so choose, ha ha.

My problem is that I am currently Between Color Schemes.  I was always a pink/blue/purple girl, unapologetically English cottage, not so sure now.  I am craving more foliage but still a sucker for blooms.  Choosing roses is an exercise in decision paralysis.  The main problem is resisting the apricot pinks that make me melt, because they assort vilely with the Knock-Outs.

Also coming are a bunch of perennial seeds-- Campanula Blue Clips, caryopteris, gigantic Greek catmint (where is that going again?) and others.  If the postman can get through.  Piles upon piles of snow out there, no one stirring.  It's quite nice :)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


I don't recall ever seeing that on the thermometer before, the winters having warmed since I moved away from the heat island of Philadelphia and of course before that it was sunny (sob) Arizona.  I've seen it a few times this winter.  Brrrr.  Socked in by snow with more coming.

Which makes me all the more garden-obsessed.  My sweet MIL gave me a beautiful orange tree whose blooms are very therapeutic at this frozen time of year.  One nice thing about us plant people is that we never have everything: it simply isn't possible.  Very easy to buy for, that's us.

It's funny I'm still so focused on this garden because the nursing home really is pretty wretched.  Their 24 hour employee entrance and delivery area starts about 20 feet from our fenceline, which is only about 60 feet from our house.  So less than 100' away it's diesel trucks and 24 hour lights shining over the dumpsters and air conditioners.  I'd post a picture but it would be a bummer.  Research shows that people are suprisingly resilient about life's set backs and that seems to be the case here-- it is what it is, right?

At the moment my thinking for the very blank west foundation is handsome stuff that can tolerate hot, sunny conditions, to wit:

  • Blue Chiffon Hibiscus (decided I Must Have This, even though I don't usually groove on hibiscus)
  • Dragon Lady holly or the like-- it's evergreen, it's narrow, it gets berries.  
  • Caryopteris to carry out the lots of blue theme
  • New Jersey Tea, probably Marie Simon, for the bee/native factor
  • A mass of something summer blooming-- thinking spirea is cheap and cheerful until the rest of the bed shapes up
  • I have a couple small boxwood and a teensy April Blush camellia, which I actually sited after reading a fair amount on the subject--the guy liked a NW orientation so I'm trying it.  Right now it is sheltered by a dead or dying Japanese Maple that was never going to make it in that spot anyway.  
  • Plug in liatris, peonies, maybe bearded iris
  • Wall germander for the low evergreen factor
  • et voila
Still have to measure REALLY well and plot it out on paper so I don't plant stuff too close.  So:  can I get all this planned by April?  Gotta hope!