June 16, 2013

Firsts in My Garden

There are several firsts this year in my garden.

The most exciting is that for the first time ever I cannot walk between the individual bottlebrush buckeye shrubs (Aesculus parviflora) lined up along the back of the property. They have finally grown into each other, making a big hedge that I can't pass through.
in 2013 the shrubs are finally growing together into a hedge

They were planted six years ago, and even in 2009 I thought they would never (ever) grow to a point where the branches touched. Ever. But they did.
in 2009, two years after planting, they were such separate blobs

Another first in my garden is the fact that I can now sit on my patio late in the day. There is finally a little bit of shade on the rockers.

This is a big deal. The patio faces northwest, and in the late afternoon, exactly the time when I am done with chores and want to sit and admire the scene, the sun beats down brutally on the sitting area.

I had a sourwood tree planted by the patio wall, but it was small and was growing so slowly that shade was just a dream for years to come. I moved the sourwood a year ago, put in a fast growing river birch last season (Betula nigra), and much to my delight there is enough shade for one person with one glass of wine to sit in one of the rockers without frying.

River birch is such a fast grower that I'll be able to have two people sit there next year, and a party after that.  River birch is messy (it drops a lot of twigs) and is probably too big for this space, but . . .  there is shade!

This year for the first time ever I am growing dahlias. They are in pots, sitting on the patio wall, just under the river birch. This is Black Beauty, a low mounder, the perfect size for a shallow pot, and it's a dazzling, dark, sultry bloomer.

It's a first -- I have not experimented with dahlias before, and these smaller pot-grown ones are winning me over. The bees are nuts about them too. They will be easy to winter over; I'll just bring the pot in.

This year for the first time I made pesto. I have grown basil before, always in a container on the deck, but I just used it for garnishing dishes, a leaf here, a fresh sprig there. Mmmm. This year Jim and I bought a Mediterranean cookbook, and he has been experimenting with wonderful light dishes, and I have been making pesto. You have no idea how good it is. I had no idea.

And, can this be? Is it possible that after three failed attempts I am finally growing an Indian Pink --Spigelia marilandica? It looks like it will bloom. It looks to be alive and thriving.

Tammy at Casa Mariposa and Phillip Oliver at Dirt Therapy have shown beautiful examples of the Spigelias that they grow, much to my envy. I've seen stands growing wild in the woods. After losing all the others I planted, I may actually have one this year, and that will be a first!

Every year there is something different, and something novel in even the most established garden. I am delighted by the fact that I can be surprised anew each season.

 

42 comments:

  1. Your hedge of Aesculus looks fantastic. Good things come to those who wait. Well, in the case of the patio shade tree, maybe good things come to those who work out a far better alternative. That's a lovely spot now with a little bit of shade. Love that gorgeous Dahlia too!

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    1. Bernie, thanks! I need to move the pot with the dahlia out of the shade of the river birch now --- but I am so happy to have a dahlia and to have shade to sit in and admire it, that I want both : )

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  2. Very cool, thanks for sharing all of your garden firsts. I'm on board with you regarding pesto. I've been making (and freezing) it for several years now. It helps combat the winter blues to thaw some pesto in the middle of January for a taste of the garden. It really helps you to get you through the cold months.

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    1. El Gaucho, I don't know why I never made pesto before. It seemed too hard, but now I know it's incredibly easy. Takes me a while to learn things.

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  3. These are great firsts and how exciting when the garden seems to be coming together...those vistas are stunning.

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    1. Donna, thank you -- isn't it fun when there are new things even in a garden that has been around for years!

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  4. All wonderful firsts! I'm amazed that you've never made pesto before. I used to grow lots of basil when I lived in Massachusetts, and make gobs and gobs of pesto every year in the fall. Now that I'm in the PNW, basil doesn't grow as well, and I really miss it. I also love Dahlias, I have lots and lots. Did you know there are some you can grow from seed? They're particularly well-suited to pot-living. I've grown Black Beauty, it's such a gorgeous rich dark red.

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    1. Alison, I actually grew the Black Dahlia plants from seeds, started in the basement this winter. It's been rewarding to see them come up (I actually have about 6 plants now). I'll winter the tubers in their pots, but I had such success with these dahlia seeds that I may try more next winter!

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  5. Congrats on the growth of your garden. It's wonderful seeing a landscape mature and come together as you wanted. Sounds like you've made some smart choices. Enjoy your wine on the patio :)

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    1. Aaron, you are so right -- seeing an immature planted space come into maturity is so rewarding, especially when it started out with such dinky shrubs. Gotta have patience, though.

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  6. What a joy your firsts are!

    Here's a tip I learned about pesto, since it's easier to make in bigger batches and then freeze: Put dollops of them in ice cube trays to freeze, then put the pesto cubes in a bag. That way, you can take out one or two without thawing/refreezing/thawing/etc the entire bag.

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    1. Kathryn, thanks! The frozen pesto cubes is a great idea. It freezes really well and can be a treat in winter -- sounds like the cubes would make it so easy to keep and use.

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  7. Fabulous Firsts Laurrie. Isn't is satisfying to see a dream come true? A hedge, shade and of course all the pretties and delicious things from our garden.

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    1. Lisa, a hedge, some shade, some pretties and some good things to eat -- you nailed it! That's exactly what pleases me about this season in the garden.

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  8. Hooray for you! I am so glad your spigelia is growing and I'm thrilled you kept trying. I might give those short dahlias a try. I still have a few empty spots that are bugging me. :o) If your river birch drops yellow leaves in the summer, it's a sign of water stress. They are super thirsty but will bounce right back after a long drink.

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    1. Tammy, I'm so glad I can finally show you a spigelia in my garden after admiring yours -- can't wait till the lipstick flowers open. Now, if only I could get a whole patch of them going . . .

      If you try the Black Beauty dahlia, you can grow it from seed. I did that, starting them last winter in the basement and they grew easily. I actually have a half dozen of these dahlias scattered in spots about the garden.

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  9. Many very positive firsts! I would love to see your buckeye in bloom - remember to post pictures. Shade on the patio certainly means a big improvement in quality of life. And I am scheming to give Spigelia a try myself.

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    1. Jason, I will definitely publish some photos in July when the buckeyes bloom. They have been flowering from a very young age and they literally explode with big white rockets going every which way when they open. This should be a good year for them.

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  10. Great firsts! It is always a study in patience to wait for a hedge to grow together. Yours looks fabulous. And I am glad you can sit in the shade. It will be nice next year when you can have someone sit with you! ;) I've never thought about growing dahlias in pots - what a great idea! That's the best thing (and sometimes the most frustrating thing, too) about gardens - they are always changing.

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    1. Holley, patience is the key, as every gardener knows, but this year I am seeing real results finally. With the hedge filled in along the back of the property it gives a whole new sense of enclosure and definition to the yard. And shade on the patio means a whole new way of using that space during the day. All good.

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  11. It's so gratifying when things all come together, isn't it? I am amazed you had the discipline to plant the buckeye so far apart when they were little, and the patience to wait them out until they all filled in. Your patio looks like a fabulous place to relax after a long day in the yard.

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    1. Sarah, indeed! It really is satisfying to have patience rewarded. The buckeyes are probably still too closely planted, although this is the first year they completely touch. But they can get to 8 or 12 foot spreads, and are barely 5 feet apart. They are still fairly young plants!

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  12. What wonderful firsts happening here!!! I can not believe how full your buckeye shrubs are...the before and after is so dramatic and beautiful!!! I too am experimenting with dahlias...I wish I would have grown them in a pot though,,,2 are looking so so but I have hopes still that one will pull through!!! And I love river birch! Your rockers on your patio are perfect...ha I was chuckling when you were talking about how many people would be shaded!! Lovely post friend!

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    1. Nicole, thanks. One of the advantages of blogging is that I have a stash of old photos that show the progress from early planting to maturity. The buckeyes are still not mature, but I can see such progress in the before and after pictures. If you want to try dahlias next year, I do recommend these Black Beauty low ones. I grew them from seed.

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  13. I love the patio. The rockers and the containers are a nice touch. Your photos are beautiful, thank you for the walk through your garden.

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    1. Charlie, thanks so much -- glad you enjoyed a little tour.

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  14. I must try the thing with the basil. I have room for a new pot in my tiny back yard. Thanks for sharing your garden. It looks fantastic.

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    1. Della, thank you! Basil is the easiest thing to grow, and having it in a pot right outside the back door on the deck means it's easy to get to when dinner calls. And I just love to walk by, touch the leaves and inhale the spicy fragrance.

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  15. Very nice.
    From whom, if you recall, did you get the bottlebrush buckeye? It is on my list of plants to replace some burning bush, but it never seems to be on the market!
    I love the Indian Pink, we have a tiny cluster here, and each year I hold my breath in the spring, it comes up very late.

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    1. Acair Fearann, Broken Arrow Nursery in Hamden CT has Aesculus parviflora. I got mine in 2007 from Nature Hills, mail order. I got 6 plants. Five of them are one variety, the species I think. One turned out to be a cultivar that blooms several weeks later and is a different shape. When first planted and for the first years they looked identical. It wasn't until a couple years ago that I figured out I had been sent one rogue plant. And of course it is in the middle of the hedge, disrupting the whole look of the line of plants : )

      I would trust Broken Arrow for accurately labeled plants, rather than going mail order via Nature Hills.

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  16. Ahhh, what fine examples of the power of patience. Who says no one ever stays in one place anymore. That stunning Indian pink seems a particularly satisfying triumph.

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    1. Lee, thanks! The Indian Pink is indeed my triumph, and so satisfying.

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  17. Laurrie, what a nice picture: the shadow on your patio! I'm glad you planted the birch that grows fast. I have the birch near my pond and the shadow the is good for water balance in the pond.
    Have a nice week!

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    1. Nadezda, river birches do like to be near water. I have one other that grows in an area that gets a little puddle when it rains and it has shot up so fast.

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  18. Those are pretty fantastic firsts. Here's to that river birch growing so you can have an even bigger glass of wine next summer! And I can vouch for the pesto cubes--they work great.

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    1. Heather, yes, fantastic is the word. Amazing how a little shade, some pesto cubes and a few new things in the garden make us happy!

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  19. After virtually watching your Aesculus for the last few years it's good to see them filled out. Nice choice!
    Did you know you can make pesto and freeze it for winter meals? Add some fresh lemon juice to the blend to hold better color. I prefer leaving out the parmesan when freezing ... it's much better adding that just before serving.

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    1. Joene, great suggestions for freezing pesto. Thanks! Long time readers have seen my bottlebrush buckeyes over and over -- it's nice to know you've followed their progress.

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  20. Many triumphs! Would love to see a shot of the Buckeye in bloom...

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    1. Larkspur, I will indeed show the blooming buckeyes when their white rockets explode in July!

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  21. Indeed, sitting in the patio in surely a great place to relax and feel the cool breeze of air. I’ve never seen bottlebrush buckeye shrubs before, but it is quite lovely. Looks very nice where it is on your property.

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    1. Samantha, thanks. The bottlebrush buckeyes are interesting plants and they will bloom in a few weeks. It's nice to have their big spiky flowers in mid summer.

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