June 28, 2011

I've Had It

I have had it with daylilies.

They are all coming out next year.  They really annoy me.

I planted a great curving swath deep in my back border to give me color and that happy feeling you get when you see orange tiger lilies rampant by the side of the road in late June.  I wanted that in my garden.

I also planted them at the top of the driveway, and along the edge of the front lawn.  I put in all kinds of daylily cultivars, with special attention to early, mid, and late bloom periods.

Daylilies announce the start of summer, and with their exuberant foliage, they spill and fill great spaces of empty garden.  That's what I needed.  I had so much empty space when I started, and I had so little color in summer.  I planted lots and lots and they have spread and spread over the years.

But this is it, folks --- this is the height of the color and interest and happy feeling I get in my garden ---  some wimpy pale buds.  Meh.

The buds never open.  The deer eat them all summer long, and as a result all I ever have is foliage.  The buds that manage to escape the deer simply never open, probably out of cold fright as they see the fates of their companions.

I added some terra cotta pots for a little orange oomph nearby, and will need to pot up some annuals just to have something to look at besides daylily foliage.  

With no blooms, this much green foliage is simply not interesting all summer.  And it gets worse.

I have used all the deer repellants I can find, so in addition to uninteresting foliage, they smell bad.  Then in late summer the foliage gets ratty and brown.  I'm trying to think of a redeeming feature of daylilies in my garden, even without any blooms, but they simply smell bad and look unkempt. 

And I have so much of this plant.  Daylilies became the backbone of my garden, filling areas with no effort.  Because I have so much, it will take some effort to get them out, but in the fall they are being pitched.  I no longer want the struggle, and I don't want the look of them.  I've had it.

Do you have time for two more things that annoy me?  You do?

Salvia guaranitica --- black and blue sage.  The blooms are a beautiful deep royal blue if you ever get any.  My neighbor's plant in a container is gorgeous.  Mine isn't blooming and has no buds.

And crocosmia 'Lucifer'.  My neighbor has a big clump of these interesting red gladiola-like plants.  I planted dozens and dozens of corms over three years and got a plant.  One.  It doesn't bloom.

My neighbor's stand of crocosmia and black & blue sage

My lone crocosmia not blooming
My black & blue sage not blooming


I've had it trying to winter over the tender sage, only to get an uninteresting foliage plant the next summer.  And I've had it trying to get a stand of crocosmia going.  And I've really had it with the daylilies.

The garden is not always a happy place and it is not always a place of refuge and peace and delight.  Sometimes it can be annoying and make you really want to stomp on things.  I'm going inside before I do.

June 27, 2011

Shade on a Hot Day

Cool, quenching shade.

Deep shade. (these look like elephants' feet to me).

Primitive, gnarly shade.

Shade that beckons.

Spooky, eerie shade.
A quiet rest on a shady porch.

(All pictures taken in the shade on a hot and humid day at Blithewold Mansions, Garden and Arboretum in Bristol, Rhode Island.)

Stay cool.

June 24, 2011

Blossom Bombs

Stewartia pseudocamellia is an elegant tree with white summer blooms that open to look like camellias.  My tree is young, but it does flower beautifully.

But this year it has gone all weird. 

It is covered, absolutely covered, in tight round buds.  Visitors tell me they have never seen a stewartia covered in so many buds.  And I have never seen this one so laden with them.  Last year it was flowery and pretty but it did not have hundreds and hundreds of buds waiting to open like it does this season.

But few are opening.  They start to unfold, then most drop to the ground, littering the bottom of the tree with round bomb-like balls.
What is going on?  The tree is healthy, growing like crazy in this wet June.  Why do plants behave so differently year to year?

My completely unscientific theory, made up entirely out of my own imaginings, is that last summer's very high temperatures and long drought stressed this new tree.  It is not dying, it did not lose branches, but it did get its forces together this spring and put everything it had into reproducing.  Everything.  Just in case another drought or heat wave hits, it wanted to be ready to keep the family tree going, so to speak.

Do you think stress caused this year's out of proportion bud production?  Do trees plan ahead for dire eventualities?  The unopened blossom bombs on the ground don't look like much of a survival strategy to me.  And I am missing the prettiest feature of this tree --- when it blooms normally in late June and early July  it can be such a sweet sight.

June 22, 2011

I Waited All Winter for This

The light this June has been frustrating.  When it rained it was dark.  When it stopped raining it was gray and gloomy.  When the sun came out it was filtered in a high white haze.  On the rare day the sky had any blue in it, the gardens were drooping from too much rain, or the blooms had passed.  My camera is confused and annoyed with the settings I am trying to make it use. 

But I waited all winter for this.

So --- light be damned, who cares about the white sky or the droop or the flat light.  There are treasures to be captured out there, awash in a weird glare:

Veronicas ('Royal Candles') are marching in front of the sundrops.

'Husker's Red' penstemon has the prettiest white blooms on wine colored stems.  They mix with yellow coreopsis.

Sunny yellow sundrops (Oenothera tetragona) are spreading from just a few plants last year.  They peek over the deep purple 'May Night' salvia, which is still blooming as spring moves into summer.

Baptisia alba is tall and willowy and the white blooms arch.  Not like a bushy blue baptisia at all, this white false indigo is open and carries curvy spires on tall stalks.

St. Johnswort (Hypericum 'Albury Purple') wears silver raindrops like jewels on its foliage, and then adds golden yellow blooming sunbursts just for effect.

Sweetbay magnolia, Magnolia virginiana 'Jim Wilson' blooms outside my bedroom window, but is still holding back its promised lemony scent.  It smells like nothing, but delights even so.

Blueberries have bloomed and are setting fruit, but these are not blueberries.  They are the flowers of Zenobia pulverulenta, a related plant with translucent glaucus foliage and the cutest little white bells.

I waited all winter.  The early morning shadows call to me to come outside, so I must go now and fiddle with the camera settings, trying to compensate for the light, the flatness and the white sky and haze.  It all still gives me pleasure.

June 20, 2011

Just The Silly Things

Seen on the recent garden tour of five beautiful gardens in our town ---

The gardens were so impressive, and I have tons of photos of plants and designs and gorgeous settings.

But today I just wanted to post a few of the fun things I saw.  What good is a garden unless you can put silly things in it?

June 17, 2011

Pink Foliage

Pink is a delightful color in the spring garden.  For flowers, that is.  I love all that a pink or rosy bloom can offer.

But I am not sure we need pink foliage.

This lovely tree, spotted on our tour of Missouri Botanical Garden in mid May, is a Tricolor beech, Fagus sylvatica 'Roseo-marginata'.  It looks for all the world like a pink flowering dogwood, but it is way bigger.  It's a lovely shape, it glows from afar and it really does look like an elegant flowering tree, although a huge one.
from afar, ethereal and serene

But it isn't flowering.  The entire pink effect is from the oddly unnatural mutated leaf color.  Up close this tree looks diseased to me, although I know many people find this unique foliage arresting.   I'm not convinced --- I think it's the breeders who should be arrested for crimes against photosynthesis.
up close, odd.  Weird.

I have a tidy little dwarf weigela in my garden that has pink variegated foliage. It is Weigela 'My Monet'.  Like the pink beech, it has a nice shape with strongly colored pink margins on its leaves.

Interesting and arresting --- or an odd mutation?

I thought I would like it better when I planted it, and I put it where I could see it close up, near the walk at the front of the border.  Seeing the injured looking leaves makes me cringe every time I pass it.  It looks like it might be bleeding.

And this poor weigela gave up on actual flowers.  They are deep pink when they show up, but as if embarrassed by how gaudy magenta flowers look with pink and green leaves, it only blooms sparsely and randomly.  Again, I thought I'd like it better, but I don't.

(I do have a variegated kiwi vine that will eventually develop pink tipped leaves, but those are minor and random accents, not full on pink leaves, and I like it.  Besides, what are gardeners if not inconsistent.)

I did stop in my tracks when I saw that Tricolor beech at MoBot, but I wish I had not gone up close to investigate.  I liked it so much better from afar.

June 14, 2011

Progress Report

This is an update on the injured, deformed and struggling trees in my yard. 

Nyssa sylvatica
Black gum staked, holding pressure on a side branch keeping it upright

Black gum last summer
The young black gum, or tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica) that had lost its leader and was growing saddle shaped last year has been trussed up to create a new leader from a side branch.  Black gums have very stiff horizontal branching, but I tied plastic roping around a lower branch, used pressure to pull it upright and have staked it to hold it in this upright position.

Over time this upright position will encourage the tree to send growth hormones to this branch to give it dominance and re-create the leader this pyramidal tree needs.
a little better shape now
From an angle that hides the stake, and with the leaves concealing the trussed arrangement in the small canopy, it looks more natural shaped already.

Stewartia monadelpha
Stewartia last fall
winter damage to the stewartia monadelpha
A beautiful stewartia monadelpha that I planted last year had such an elegant shape, but winter was cruel to this little tree.

The top did not leaf out this spring.  It was just dead above the middle of the canopy.  I had to cut out the dead top, and similar to the black gum, tie a side shoot upright to encourage vertical growth of that branch.

The stewartia's branches were much more flexible than the black gum, and all I had to do was use a velcro strip to hold the side branch to the remaining stub of the cut leader.  No need for pressure and staking.

I hated losing fully half of a new tree, but it does survive, and it will hopefully regrow a nicely shaped top.

side shoot tied to the stub of the cut leader
new shape of the stewartia, tied up


Cornus mas
cornus mas in rehab last winter
I also lost half of a very tiny corneliancherry dogwood, a cornus mas, last winter.  The top was holding on by the skin of the thin bark, and I clipped it together with a bag clip to see if it would grow back together.

It wasn't strong enough to hold on, the clip weighed more than the twig it held, and I lost the top half of this tiny sapling.

Now, beheaded, this little tree is barely a foot tall.  But it leafed out fully, it even mustered a yellow bloom on a lower branch in April.  It wants to live, and it will grow.  I'll let it fill in more, then cut back some of the longer side branches to shape it better.  And then I just need to wait several years while it puts on the height it lost and puts on some bulk.

Growing trees is all about patience.
Cornus mas --- chopped in half but growing

Acer palmatum
last winter
And my weeping Japanese maple 'Crimson Queen' which was split in two from the weight of the snow load, is looking good.  You can't see the clamp or the plastic chain holding it together, but they are still there hidden in the drape of leafy foliage. 

I need to remove the clamp, and insert a stainless screw to hold the two trunk halves together permanently, but the leaves came out and I got behind and it didn't get done.

I do need to limb this tree up again this summer, and I'll get Jim to help me install the screw then.  When I first saw the damage to this tree I thought it was lost, but of all my injured trees currently in rehab, this one may recover the best.
 Acer palmatum fully clothed, held together with clamps and chain

Trusses, ropes, chains, clamps and screws.  Who knew gardening required so many trips to the hardware store?