Sunday, December 28, 2008


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The starkness of winter means the trellis is bare. Here it is in late afternoon light just before Christmas.

Signs of spring

I know, winter has just barely arrived, with its 60 degree days, but doing a spot of garden cleanup, I found these signs of spring.

Surprisingly robust leaves of oregano springing up from the ground below the dried stalks

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Pink buds of the unnamed peonies Susan Hepler passed on to me, though no signs of life from the 'Sarah Bernhardt' that was so floriferous this spring; I'm hopeful that next spring the Hepler peonies will finally bloom and I can discover what they are.

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But just to show that it's not spring yet, here is the harvest of stalks from the front garden: black-eyed Susans, oregano, lilies...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Learning from television

Every week my DVR faithfully records A Gardener's Diary and then, months later, I actually watch it. This afternoon I've learned that I could cut back the amsonia by half after blooming to keep it full but not sprawling. Good to know.

All of the gardens Erica introduces are magnificent in one way or another. I'm most amazed by the gardens that are less than an acre but so thickly and imaginatively planted that they seem four times the size. I'm also drawn to the gardens with a sense of humor. My favorite garden of that type was a hillside garden flowing down to a lake and dotted with strange little doors and benches that appealed to the gardener's grandchildren. The gardener, a Southern lawyer who obviously enjoyed the good things in life, showed a wry sense of humor that made his creation intriguing rather than too cute.

Erica herself, despite her obvious enthusiasm for gardening, is a little prissy, but she's grown on me over the years.

Winter blooms

Yesterday was the shortest day, and today it's bitterly cold but bright. I need to get out in the garden and do some clean-up, but it's way too cold, Instead, here's a glimpse of paper whites in bloom and a few begonias wintering over on the windowsill.
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Margaret Roach over at A Way to Garden is complaining about her paperwhites, but she should just get over the smell - aroma! - and cut her flopping blooms and put them in a vase, as Mom recommends.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Fall planting

So behind in my posts, but in pretty good shape for fall planting. Several weekends ago, I planted the hundred daffodils from Van Bourgondien, and replanted the day lilies. Planted the ipheion to extend the existing patch (forgot that I had meant to plant them in the front garden, but next year is another chance). Tommy crocuses under the maple tree and in the front garden. Dogtooth violets in the front garden. The four very expensive daffodils from Brodie Castle (smuggled in the luggage) next to the trellis by the terrace. Narcissus 'Dreamlight and English bluebells amongst the hostas in front of the trellis...

Ran over to Alison's with the bulbs that had been sitting in my back seat for weeks, somewhat the worse for wear, but managed to plant at least a few Jack Snipe, Sun Disc and Sweetness narcissus under her Chinese holly, plus the anemones I bought from Sydney as a fundraiser.

Tomorrow promises to be rainy all day with up at a quarter inch expected, so I have just left everything in the ground and trust to the weather gods.


This is a long overdue post celebrating the fall color this year. The yellows were the most intense of all, surpassing the reds that were so stellar last year. Here's a sampling: balloonflower, amsonia, chrysanthemum, hickory...


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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Signs of fall

Chrysanthemum and gourds from the farmer's market, black candles from Waterford.
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The last of the basil cut before frost.
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Incredible mushrooms from Cub Creek Farms: hen of the woods, aka Maitake.
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Hen of the woods in the pan
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Fall cleanup

It's been sunny, warm and dry - almost drought conditions - all month until finally, Thursday night, we had about .3" of rain and a cold front moved in. Frost warning for Stafford County tomrrow night (October 19), so I moved things and transplanted things and cut things back.

First, the big pot on the front steps got its annual haircut. By fall, it's usually spilling over, and this year with the purple fountain grass (Pennisetum 'rubrum'), it also waved in your face. I decided to move the grass, along with a smaller version that had been in a pot on the steps, to the other side of the walkway, where they can wave in the breeze without attacking anyone.

In the pot I put some hastily chosen bulbs from Roxbury Mills: 5 each of February Gold narcissus, Apricot Beauty, Beauty Queen (said to be pale salmon, we'll see), and Black Beauty tulips. I topped it off with these pansies,
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which echo the color of the dark red chrysanthemum in the front garden.

From the pots in the back, I took out the two caladiums, knocked off the dirt, and left them on the table to dry in the sun. Theoretically, you can then store them in vermiculite and start them next year, though one source said they're not as vigorous the second year. I have loved them in pots this year and noted that Dave's Garden people suggest a Florida company, Caladium Bulbs 4 Less, as a good source.

The gorgeous dragonwing begonia I cut way back, as Mom suggested, and brought inside. I also potted two of the pink Babywing begonias and brought them in. I'm not too hopeful that they'll make it through the winter, but it's worth trying.

Finally, I made cuttings of the two coleuses I liked this year, 'Dipt in Wine' and another whose name I've lost.  
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I'll try to root these and pot them up.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

It came from the trees

This time of year, it's dangerous to sit outside under the white oak tree. I've been bonked on the head more than once by acorns, and believe me, they rocket out of the tree at a great rate and really hurt! So I expect to see acorns all over the terrace, but what are these little things? They are tiny nubs that could be bits of acorns, but there are too many of them to attribute to squirrels gnawing at them. Any ideas?
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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Heeling in

The daylily 'Crescendo' mix from White Flower Farm arrived early, and after letting the box sit for a few days (never do that!), I took them out and heeled them in. I'll plant them for real when the daffodils arrive from Van Bourgondien.

Here's a rather dizzying look at the results.
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Note that the daylilies have a pale and etiolated look from being boxed up three days longer than necessary.

Incidentally, lots of people have apparently had bad experiences with Van B., if you read the Dave's Garden postings. We (Mom, Judy, Biffy, me) have bought bulbs from them for years with no problems, so let's hope this order comes through as well.

What I've learned about dahlias

1. They are beautiful on their own or as cut flowers, and definitely worth growing. Maybe try them in the cutting garden, too.

2. They need to be staked.

3. Although they make a great show together (see earlier posting from Scotland), I think I might prefer them mixed in the border.

4. You can't always trust the stated color to be what you get - either that, or the dahlias I got were mislabeled. Here's the pale pink 'Good Earth' in my garden this month - yowza!

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Friday, October 3, 2008

Colesville Nursery

For years I'd noticed it from 95, laid out on a slope right next to the highway. But not until today, at Becky's recommendation, did I make my way down to Ashland to buy plants.

I had a specific list of plants I was looking for, and they make it easy because their inventory is online. What a concept! I was in search of a second Virginia sweetspire for the back shrub border and two more Viburnum 'Shasta' by the back fence. Then, of course, I had a couple other things on the list - Hakonechloa to replace the one that died in the front; two geraniums 'Rozanne' ditto; and hostas to go in front of the trellis.

Armed with their list, my hosta book, and a firm determination to stick to the budget, I tooled down 95 and found this most wonderful place. They're primarily a wholesale outfit, but they are as nice and friendly as can be to lone shoppers like me. You tell them what you want and someone meets you in one of the "houses" where the plants are neatly laid out. (The houses at this time of year are empty hoops that span each row, but once winter comes they are covered and undoubtedly look more house-like.)

The guy who helped me with the viburnums was very friendly, and once I was done there he led me via a golf cart thing to the hosta area, where another friendly soul helped me pick out five hostas. I was leaning toward the blues, which I love, but something about this spot cries out for brighter chartreuse colors. I ended up with three Paul's Glory and two August Moons.
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Set on three-foot centers, they should nicely fill up the twelve-foot-long expanse. I'm very pleased.

By the time I was ready to check out, the geraniums, a hakonechloe and a flat of pansies had crept into my car, and I was somewhat over budget. The nice checkout person took 10% off, "just because you're a nice person"! How soon can I return?

Sunday, September 28, 2008


The dwarf aster 'Purple Dome' I planted last fall is filled with intense purple blooms. I didn't realize that it would bloom at the same time as the false dragonhead, which has pale purple spiky blooms. Actually, my notes show the latter bloomed in August last year, so maybe it's late this year? At any rate, I love the echo of these two shades of purple on either side of the garden. This not very good picture gives a hint of this serendipitous pairing. Don't look too closely at the untrimmed, untidy mid-section.
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Saturday, September 27, 2008

White Flower Farm in the news

Okay, I know they're more expensive than some other places, but you really do get good quality from them in my experience. Anne Raver has an article about WFF in the New York Times that makes me long to see their border in full bloom. 280 feet by 20 of beautifully grown perennials must be breathtaking. Her memories of the packages her parents ordered from them rang a bell with me, too.

Fall orders

Have just ordered the "Crescendo" collection of daylilies from White Flower Farm for the pathway garden, and ordered a less pricey (and probably less elegant) collection of daffodils from Van Bourgondien to go with them. The plan is to have flowers and foliage from spring through late summer. The collections are about twice what I need, so I have the delicious problem of deciding where to put the extras - in the cutting garden along the side of the house? Or along the back fence?

I also ordered paper whites, Tommy crocuses and more English bluebells and feel very smug that for once I am not, like Henry Mitchell, having to take a drill to the ground in January to plant the bulbs!

Gardens in Scotland

This was not a garden trip, nor a walking trip, but we tucked in some of both, anyway.

Crocosmia were everywhere, even along the roadsides. When I spoke to our kilted guide at the Edradour Distillery in Pitlochry about them, he called them montbretia and said he had them in his garden, too. Wikipedia tells us "They are commonly known in the United States as coppertips or falling stars, and in Britain as montbretia."

Here they are at the distillery garden

and here they are mixed with daisies.
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In Glencoe, they were growing along the roadside, with the lowering hills in the background.
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I also enjoyed the dahlias, these in a village garden at Glencoe
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and these in a bouquet at Glamis Castle.
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We kept running into strange pairings throughout the trip, undoubtedly due to their cooler weather, like sweet peas in early September, when the autumn sedums are in bloom. Will globe thistle bloom with tiger lilies for us? They made a charming pair at Armadale Castle on the Isle of Skye.

Tuberous begonias adore the cool, wet shady climate, and I should not be surprised that they cook and die in Virginia. These pots were at our B&B in Pitlochry.