Greenwalks

Gardening where the sidewalk ends

New Friends April 11, 2009

I’ve been slowly adding some new plants to the garden in the past week or so. Many still to go, from my spring plant  hauls at various garden centers. I am always slow to get stuff into the ground but this year has been particularly bad for some reason. No weather excuses, it’s been nice lately!

Molly at Life on Tiger Mountain dug out a clump of softneck garlic to share with attendees at the last SAGBUTT meeting. Fall is the usual time for planting garlic from cloves, but she said to just toss these in and it will probably be fine. I have never devoted a garden spot to garlic before, since I have such limited space, but figured it would be fun to try and we’ll see what happens!

Molly's garlic - finally planted

I got this small deer fern (Blechnum spicant) at a plant sale recently. I had one in my previous garden along with a lot of other ferns – it was a shady space, unlike most of the current garden. There is a small strip of mostly-bare earth on the north side of our house that doesn’t get a lot of sun. I’ve been putting mom-donated impatiens and begonias there in the summer but decided to start filling it up with shade-loving perennials, at least in part.

Deer fern

The same spot also received two wintergreen plants (Gaultheria procumbens). As one of the few berries that grows in deep shade (another is evergreen huckleberry, of which I planted two in another spot last fall), I wanted to try this one again, after killing a few in my old garden. I used to be put off by plants I had failed with in the past, but I’m trying to get over that and just try, try again.

Newly planted wintergreen

Never tried sedums before, except for one very poorly sited one that I think finally gave up the ghost this winter. I picked up a few and planted them in their own little area of the parking strip, where I hope they will enjoy the blasting sun and lack of regular water.

Sedum ‘Angelina’ – I hope it keeps its gold color year-round.

Sedum 'Angelina'

Sedum ‘Blaze of Fulda’
Sedum 'Blaze of Fulda'

This one came from the Arboretum sale, tag is long gone.

Unknown sedum

Good old standby, ‘Autumn Joy’ – it’s the variety I killed in the bad site, so I’m doing another try-again.

Sedum 'Autumn Joy'

I also planted Sedum oreganum, a tiny round-leaved green variety that looks like a miniature jade plant. (My photo was too atrocious to post, even compared to these other bad ones I’ve put up here. Apologies! Still sorting out my need-a-new-camera issues, no progress yet but thanks for all the comments and recommendations from previous commenters!)

All of the spring posts about people’s hellebores coming up and flowering so beautifully must have gotten to me – I succumbed at the nursery and bought two of this one, Helleborus ‘WalHelIvory’ Ivory Prince. Not quite as dramatic as some of the Corsican hellebores or the purple beauties, but I liked its subtle coloration.

Helleborus "WalHelIvory' Ivory Prince

Spontaneous purchase, after having seen these in others’ garden shots – Cyclamen hederifolium, at the bottom of this next photo. Yes, that’s Gnomus gnomus in the background, I’ve already copped to having him so don’t give me grief.

Cyclamen hederifolium and hellebore

I also planted a longleaf lungwort, Pulmonaria ‘Roy Davidson,’ in the vicinity, so I guess this is becoming my little woodland garden. Then tossed in an Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) for native interest and wildlife support, despite grave warnings from my mom that the roots will go everywhere and I’ll never get rid of it. Photos are again too awful to include. I need to add more groundcover that can take the shallow cedar roots in that area. I could do salal but don’t want it to take over. Any suggestions?

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Found the Bulb List! December 10, 2008

Filed under: flora,my garden — greenwalks @ 11:08 pm
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A few weeks ago, I posted about the bulbs I got at the UW Arboretum’s annual Fall Bulb Sale. Typically for me, I wrote all the varieties down on a piece of paper as I was planting them and then promptly lost it. But while picking up the house for guests last weekend, guess what turned up?!

So, just in case anyone was truly interested, and for my own edification and permanent records, here it is,

General categories and numbers:

45 tulipa

30 narcissi

20 muscari

13 allium (lucky number?)

10 chionodoxa

10 bellevalia parodoxa

3 hemerocallis (aka daylily, sadly 2 never got planted)

1 peony

It’s a pretty random and somewhat goofy selection, I admit. The ones that made it into the parking strip on October 29, with a so-far-successful covering of plum or witch hazel leaves, a spritz of witches’ brew and a sprinkling of paprika on top (hope I’m not jinxing by saying it but, here on December 10, nary a bulb has been nabbed by the squirrels!) included these:

– tulipa Kaufmanii ‘Early Harvest’ (orange feathered scarlet)

– chionodoxa ferberii ‘Blue Giant’

– allium moly ‘Golden ??’ (scribbled/smudged paper, can’t read it, ack! Just looked it up – maybe Golden Garlic?)

I know there was another paper with more information about the tulip and daffodil varieties, but it probably went in the recycling and is long gone. Dang. Guess I will just have to wait until spring and be surprised.

Just a couple of days after I found the bulb list, I was walking through the backyard and spied a scrap of brown paper with a white label on the ground. Amazingly, it was the name label from the peony I planted weeks ago. I’d carefully excised the tag so that I could remember the variety and then somehow left it out there. Good thing we haven’t had a lot of rain, or it would have morphed into a pulp.  So, now it will not be a complete mystery until next spring –  it’s paeonia lactiflora ‘Detroit,’ a dark red-purple May-blooming beauty that I think my mom might have in her garden.  According to the A & D Nursery site it was devloped in 1948,  is a “very large double dark red bomb that blooms in the earliest part of the midseason; medium height plant” and they want $20 for it. I got mine for $9, but who knows if it will actually come up. The image below is also from the A & D site:

detroitpeony

Well, I think it’s clear that I am one of the more disorganized gardeners out here in the blogosphere. I hope you are all feeling very good about your own record-keeping right now, compared to mine!

 

Planting Peonies November 18, 2008

Filed under: flora,my garden — greenwalks @ 11:00 am
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I lied just a little bit when I said I’d finished planting all of the bulbs I got at the Arboretum sale. Well, I didn’t lie, really – I DID plant all the bulbs. It was just the corms that got the shaft. I had two daylies still languishing in their brown bags with no idea where to put them (I already have way too many daylilies, so why did I buy more??!), but it was the $9 peony that I really wanted to get into the ground before it was too late. Yeah, yeah, I know, they’re supposed to be planted in September or October to establish well before winter truly hits. But it’s been such a mild autumn here in Seattle that I am hoping to get away with it.

My great-aunts, fabulously industrious gardeners, had several varieties of gorgeous peonies that my mom inherited when the family farm was sold. They are still blooming strongly in her garden – those things must be 50 years old or more! I love their showy blooms and delicate fragrance, and the way the bumblebees just get their party on and roll around in the pollen.

I was super careful about ripping the tag with the peony’s name off the bag so I could post it here. Somehow, it didn’t make it indoors with me, so I apologize, it will remain a mystery. Haphazard gardening is my stock in trade, apparently. It’s kind of fun in a way to be so disorganized sometimes – I get to be surprised about what comes up in the spring! Honestly, there was no picture, so I don’t even know what color it will be. How’s that for lame?

I followed the planting instructions on the bag, making a 12″ X 12″ hole, filling it with mulch, mixing in fertilizer (probably the wrong kind, hope that didn’t matter too much), adding back some dirt, and propping up the corm. It was a little dried-out looking, hope it’s okay. It was showing a few little signs of life, so I guess I’ll just see what happens, if anything, in the spring.

Dry-lookin peony corm

Then I filled the hole with water, waited it for it to drain, and covered it all up with the rest of the dirt and a mulch layer on top.

While I was at it, I remembered that we have a previous-owner-installed peony plant that was poorly sited and had not bloomed once in the four summers we’ve been here. So, since I was in hole-digging mode, I decided to dig it up and find it another home. Boy, was I surprised by the size of the corm cluster – it was more like a tree stump!

Gigantic peony corm cluster

Man, that thing probably hadn’t been divided for a decade. No wonder it wasn’t blooming! Of course the smart thing to do would have been to put down the shovel, take off my gloves, go into the house, get out the gardening primers and read up on how best to divide peony corms. But did I? Nah. I just used the spade to hack it into pieces, tossed out the ones without eyes, and planted the rest around the backyard. More haphazard gardening! Don’t these look kinda scary? I think maybe I have a weird phobia about roots, at least a little bit. Ditto spiders.

Divided peonies

All that freshly dug dirt and smoothly layered mulch is probably going to be a magnet for you-know-who – even if he’s not after the peonies, I’ll have to replant them if he digs them up looking for tastier morsels, so I finished it all off with some squirts of witches’ brew and a dash of paprika.

Mulched and paprika'ed ground

The brew isn’t too stinky, but I’m playing it safe and keeping it outside, just in case it decides to ferment and explode…

I realize this post was heavy on the dirt/root pics, so to see lots of pretty photos of peonies in bloom, click here.

Anyone want to fess up to planting things a little on the late side this year? Or are you all patting yourselves on the back right now for being more timely and assiduous than I? If I helped you feel better either way, I’m glad. 🙂

Peony planting supplies

 

Bulb Post, Part III November 14, 2008

Yesterday’s post probably had some of you calling my sanity into question. I won’t argue with you there, I did feel sort of like a madwoman cooking up that hideous concoction to squirrel-proof my bulb plantings… but it was fun. And it didn’t even smell that bad! Just like salsa soup or something.

So, after I was done loading up (and half-melting) the spray bottle, it was time to head out to the parking strip and put those babies in the ground! Another thing preventing me from doing so had been the weather, but I took the first sunny moment I had time and went for it. Bulb planting always takes longer than I think it will, so I had to allow for a few hours’ work, counting the potion-brewing.

La la la, line ’em up on the back porch and see what I got, because I always forget between when I buy them and when the poor things actually get planted.

Bulbs to plant

I lost the full list, but this is some of what I scribbled onto a now-muddy piece of paper when I was out there, so I could remember locations:

– Narcissus ‘Scarlet Royal’ (yellow with large orange cups)
– Narcissus ‘Sir Winston Churchill’ (white/orange double-flowering)
– Tulip ‘Fashion’ (rose with purple veins – Kaufmaniana)
– Tulip ‘Mona Lisa’ (yellow feathered with raspberry)
– Tulip ‘Palestrina’ (salmon with green feathering)

Oh man, I know there was a lot else. Some things that ended up in the upper garden include

– Muscari ‘Blue mixture’
– Narcissus ‘Little Gem’
– Bellevalia paradoxa (never grown this before, related to muscari)
– several varieties of species tulips – maybe I’ll find my other smudgy paper before spring and will update this if so… sorry!

My hands were too muddy to take pictures of the bulbs going into their new homes, but I did try to put them at the right depths, at least as well as memory served. I had thought I had some bulb fertilizer in the garage but it wasn’t where I expected it to be so I probably used it up last year. So, they’ll have to get what they can from my semi-poor soil and I hope it’s enough! This is definitely not a guide for how to give your bulbs the best start…

After they were all planted, it was time to squirrel-proof up a storm! I sprayed my goofy concoction over the planting site (these next pics are from the upper garden, under the witch hazel), sprinkled a little paprika on for good measure (word on the street is that they don’t like the smell of that either),

Paprika sprinkle on bulb zone

and now my garden smells like Hungarian goulash!

Just to be triple-sure, I covered up each site with some witch hazel or plum leaves. I hope the various methods didn’t cancel each other out, that would be so typical of my haphazard approach to gardening. I made sure a little paprika was sticking out past the leaves.

All covered up and protected

Thanks to the Arboretum volunteers for packing the bulbs in compostable paper bags, no plastic anywhere to be found. They all went straight into the yard waste toter.

Bulb bags in the yard waste

Now the waiting begins. I’ve been out once so far to “refresh” the spray, but doubt I’ll get to it more than maybe once or twice again. I can’t see going out there all winter, that’s just not my kind of gardening (the lazy kind!). So far so good, with nary a paw mark upon any of the leaf piles. Hm, I probably just jinxed it all. Damn.

So, Dr. Destructo, the gauntlet is tossed. Yeah buddy, I’m talkin’ to YOU.

Nemesis squirrel, Dr. Destructo

 

Is It Too Late to Talk About Bulbs? November 12, 2008

Every year, I attend the University of Washington Arboretum’s annual bulb and plant sale madness. I usually try to go at the beginning of the first day, which is a total insane crush, elbows flying everywhere to get to that almost-black tulip or unusual fritillary variety.

This year, they added an extra day, Monday, after the weekend rush. I figured the selection would be a little less but that it would be made up for by the lack of patrons. I’m just not up for crowds this year. I was right on both counts – fewer choices, but almost no people! I could actually see the descriptions for a change and didn’t have to say “excuse me” even once!

Bulb sale

I usually go in armed with a list of my hoped-for finds, but this time I just scanned their PDF and figured I’d get what struck me at the sale. That’s always a recipe for over-buying, at least for me, but oh well. Since I hadn’t been to any of the big fall plant sales, I hoped to do some perennial and groundcover shopping too, since they usually have a great selection at this event. Alas, they had neglected to post on their web site that the plant vendors were Saturday/Sunday only. Here’s what I had to choose from:

Plant sale slim pickings

Uh, yeah. Not exactly the selection I was hoping for. But then I saw some happy-looking gals walking past with flats full of plants. I shamelessly pounced on them and asked where they had gotten their finds. They pointed me toward a part of the arboretum that I had forgotten about:

UW Arboretum donated plants sign

Oh, yeah! Probably not too much that’s really unusual here, but lots to choose from, raised with love and care, and donated to the organization by local gardeners. I thought about Megan over at nestmaker when I saw this baby Katsura tree, which she has been jonesing for. I think it was 11 bucks.

Mini katsura tree

I ended up with a couple of cute little drought-tolerant plants for the parking strip – sedums (oreganum, the small one at bottom right in the photo below, and multiceps at top right), sempervivum (‘Stansfieldii’), and a variegated semi-evergreen carex I’d admired in others’ gardens, Carex morowii ‘Ice Dance.’

Bulb sale bonus plants

Oh, but this post was supposed to be about bulbs, right? Here was my haul:

2008 bulb haul

Somewhere, there is a piece of paper with all of the varieties listed. Can I find it at the moment? Of course not! But suffice to say that I did spend over $100 and I didn’t get them in the ground right away. Same old story.

In the next week, I hope to put up another post about planting the bulbs, and about my attempt to protect them from Dr. Destructo, the nefarious squirrel who likes to mess with things I love in the garden.

Are your spring-flowering bulbs all tucked in safely for their winter naps? If not, it’s okay to admit it here – I will not judge!

 

Lavender Share October 30, 2008

In my previous garden, lavender was hard to grow – we just didn’t have enough sun. Now we have the sunniest garden imaginable and inherited countless lavender plants. They line every path and set of stairs, to the point that their delightfulness is beginning to wear off a bit. Especially at this time of year, when I spend way too many hours snipping off their spent blooms to encourage good re-growth next season.

One thing lavender does is reseed itself, not quite with abandon, but enough so that new plants are always popping up somewhere. In my parking strip garden, reseeding is generally encouraged but when the lavender clumps get too big or are getting in the way of something else I’d like to put in, out they go. This time, I asked a neighbor if she’d like some of the discards and she happily agreed. I’d already given away divided crocosmia to another neighbor earlier in the week, so maybe I’ll get a few garden karma points for finding new homes for these guys instead of piling them in the yard waste.

This big clump was blocking the end of my stone path experiment, currently in progress:

Lavender clump

I dug it up and hacked it into a few pieces, transplanting some to better spots and potting up the rest to give away.

I also removed some of these “babies” before they get too much bigger and start overshadowing the shorter groundcovers:

Baby lavender

Of course I have a million black plastic nursery pots lying around, since I can never bring myself to toss them in the landfill and haven’t got around to finding a nursery that recycles/reuses them (yet another thing on the winter to-do list). Happily, they came in handy for potting up the give-away lavender:

Lavender all potted up to share

As soon as I’m off the computer, I’m running these across the street. This neighbor has been so generous to us in many ways, plus she is a professional pastry chef so I have a fantasy that she will actually use the lavender in a recipe someday. I’m just happy that I can give something back to her after all she’s done for our family, even if it’s just a few little orphaned plants.

(If you are visiting Washington State in the summer and have a chance to visit the Purple Haze Lavender Farm in Sequim, it’s supposed to be quite a place. Sequim is located in the “rain shadow” of the Olympic Mountains, so its climate is dryer and warmer than most of the rest of our area, hence the happiness of the lavender plants.)

 

Parking Strip Garden in Progress October 18, 2008

Taking a stroll in the Wedgwood neighborhood of Seattle the other day, I found very few parking strip gardens. It’s a very tidy-yard part of town, with most gardens featuring heavily fertilized grass, tightly clipped shrubs, and very little wacky innovation.

So I was pleasantly surprised to come upon this corner lot, with twice the space for taking over the street with something a little different. It’s obviously a work in progress, and a narrower strip than those in my neighborhood, which to me made it even more interesting. The first step, taking out the grass, is done, but the plantings are still going in.

DSCN2165

I’m partial to the slow phase-in too, although maybe just from laziness. I think it takes a bit of courage to leave the blank spaces for a while until the right plant enters your life.

I noticed some Pacific Northwest natives like this small vine maple (acer circinatum), and in the distance you can see that they are also using small berms of soil and mulch and planting into those.

DSCN2169

This red-twig dogwood (Cornus stolonifera, another NW native) is getting its lovely fall colors. I also like the sawn tree branch as an accent.

DSCN2172

Sword ferns (Polystichum munitum) are ubiquitous in Seattle but somehow seeing one by itself instead of the usual massing makes it seem more unique and kind of sculptural. Not sure what the buried milk jug is for, slug traps or ?? Wouldn’t think that would be necessary near a fern but who knows.

DSCN2173

I couldn’t resist a peek over their low fence into the front garden. I felt like a spy so didn’t look too long, but a prominent feature of the front yard is a chicken coop, with three lovely ladies (Buff Orpingtons, I’m guessing, only two were out but you can see the shadow of the third) clucking and pecking the grass under a twirling rainbow wind ornament. They looked like really content birds.

DSCN2176

Proceeding around the corner, I saw this grouping of an aster (boy, only one aster? My garden needs to come over and learn something about aster restraint next year!) and senecio. My asters did that icky bottom-leaves rot thing too, so I just ripped them all out because looking at them was making me ill.

More nursery babies waiting to go into the ground, just like at my house… at least these ones are in place and all that’s left is to dig the holes. Looks like drip irrigation is getting put in, or at least a soaker hose – good idea for a parking strip garden.

DSCN2182

This is not a showpiece garden, or at least not yet, but I thought it was a great example of a work in progress that will grow and evolve as the gardeners have the time and interest to spare. I think that sometimes people are afraid of such a large and blank canvas, and of the special requirements of gardening on the street, but we can see here that an unfinished plot can provide enjoyment and interest too.