2018, June 2018, Plant-of-the-month

Daylilies

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I have to admit that for a long time I was not a fan of Daylilies. I think that was because, until I started to get really serious about plants, “Daylily” to me meant those orange tiger lilies that you see growing everywhere from peoples gardens to roadsides. Not that a huge drift of tiger lilies isn’t a spectacular thing; but they just didn’t do it for me.

Fast forward a couple of decades, (or maybe three) and they are now one of my favorite flowers in the garden. First of all, there are just so many to choose from! They come in just about every color but blue. Some are scented. Some are long blooming, some are short, and some are tall. Some are single, some double, and some even like a little shade. All have great, green, strappy foliage that contrasts well with just about everything you put them with.

Check them out at your local garden center. Some of my favorites are the “Returns” series, because they bloom almost all season long. There is ‘Happy Returns’, a mid sized yellow one, “Rosy Returns’, a pink version, and ‘Fragrant Returns’, a buttery yellow one than, you guessed it, is perfumed!

Try them out! Red, Pink, Yellow, Green, Peach, Purple, and White is the new orange!

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2018, May 2018, What to do in the garden

Planting Perennials

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Memorial Day Weekend is a great time to plant perennials since, for most of us in the Northeast, the threat of a frost is over. It’s time to go to the garden center and spend a little money. Or a lot of money! Regardless of the amount spent, we all want to protect that investment, and one of the ways to do that is to make sure the plants are planted correctly. The small amount of extra time that it takes to plant a perennial correctly pays off generously in the long-term health of the plant. And it’s very simple, once you know how.

 

Basically, what you are doing is creating an ideal environment for a new plant to grow in. This means making it easy for it to put out root growth, and giving it enough water deep down so that the roots to grow down, not up. Because if you have a good root system, the plant is much more likely to thrive. Here’s how:

 

1)     Dig a hole about twice as wide as the plant, and maybe 1.5 times its depth. The reason for this is that the soil that you put back in will be looser and it will be easier for the plant to grow roots into. Save the soil that you took out. Once upon a time, it was thought that putting back fresh, enriched soil was the thing to do, but studies have found that it makes such a pleasant place for the plants’ roots to be that they don’t venture into the adjacent soil, causing the it to be less stable. So the soil that you took out should go back in again, except for exceptional circumstances.

 

2)     Take the plant out of its pot and inspect the root system. If the roots look like they are densely packed, or are circling the bottom or sides of the pot, then they need to be loosened up. Scratch all the way around the root area, allowing the roots to spring free from the shape of the pot. If they are really stubborn, use your garden clippers or even a knife to slice them.

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3)     Backfill some of the removed soil into the hole, and check to make sure that the soil level around the plant is the right height. Place the plant in the hole, and backfill around it until it is about halfway up the sides of the root ball. Water deeply. This ensures that there is plenty of water available at the bottom of the plant, and gets rid of any air pockets that may be lurking in the soil.

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4)     Backfill the rest of the way. If you can, make a shallow ring around the plant with a little bit of soil so that water gets trapped there and can sink in. Water deeply again.

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And there you have it! Your plants’ roots will have an ideal place in which to grow and be well watered. Mulching will help retain water loss, so that’s a good idea as well. Just keep the mulch away from the place where the plant meets the soil, or moisture could settle in and the plants could rot.

 

So now, you know. Happy planting!

Design ideas, May 2018

Making the most of a small space

A small space doesn’t have to hold you back from getting what you want out of your garden. A small space just means that decisions count more than they might in a larger area where you have room to put everything that you want.

I think that the best way to illustrate what works in a small garden is to show a few pictures and discuss what works (or doesn’t.) First of all, I will say that all the pictures that you are about to see are interesting and successful because they don’t consist of an expanse of lawn in the middle with flowerbeds bordering it on all sides. Although you might think that being able to see the whole garden at once allows you to get the most out of the space available and make it seem bigger, the reverse is actually true, except for under certain circumstances, like if the garden is seen primarily from above.

So let’s go…

Example #1:

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This garden is successful for a number of reasons.

  1. Good fencing choices. While it is enclosed, the choice of a lattice fence allows it to “breathe”, and the little glimpses that you get of the gardens beyond make it feel more open. Imagine if the fence were solid instead of “see-through”. You would lose that light feeling and just feel like you were in a box.
  2. Change of heights. By having the gate at the top of the steps, it adds interest to the space and makes you wonder what is on the other side, and how it relates to the sunken garden.
  3. Open space vs. plant space. The designer of this garden was wise to keep them separate. If there had been plants on the left hand side as well as the right, it would have made the garden feel more closed in. The little patch of lawn keeps the garden from being busy, and nicely compliments the exuberance of the plant bed on the right.
  4. There is a place to enjoy it! Even a small garden should have room for a seat of some sort. In this case, the patio has room for enough furniture for two people to have a meal, or just to sit and enjoy the space around them.

 

Example #2:

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This garden is much more plant-centric than the first one, but it shows how a relaxing area can be made out of the smallest space, or even a corner of a larger space. Noteworthy characteristics include:

  1. Coziness. While feeling much more enclosed than the first garden, this nook looks like it was made so on purpose. Colorful, shade loving plants surround but do not encroach on the lounge chair’s space. And the blanket on the chair adds to the cozy effect.
  2. Water. What could be more relaxing than the sound of water? The small fountain in the corner (at least, I think that’s what it is – if not, let’s pretend it is) fits the space well, and delivers a soothing sound.
  3. Well chosen colors. The relaxing palette plus the occasional pop of red keeps this space calm, but interesting. The cushions on the chair echo the color of the foliage, and the natural wood keeps the whole scene looking natural. Picture it with bright red cushions. Not necessarily bad, but a very different feel.

Example #3:

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This small garden has a more modern feel, but is still a good example of how simplicity can be very successful in a small garden.  In my opinion, things that make this garden work are:

  1. A limited number of textures. One common mistake in small gardens is to try to have too many textures – patio, walkway, plants, etc. This garden has four basic “visual” textures; the metal chairs, the decking, the pea stone, and the grass. Other things in the garden echo these choices – the larger round rocks by the fountain echo the pea stone, the metal fountain echoes the chairs, the edging echoes the deck, and the plants echo the grass. This creates a visual continuity, instead of being cluttered.
  2. A repetition of shapes. The designer of this garden didn’t try to integrate curves and straight lines as that could be visually over-stimulating. Instead, there are squares and rectangles of various sizes that move the eye through the space.
  3. A limited color palette. Warm browns and greens make up this garden, and tie the separate elements together. Imagine if the pea stone had been grey and the plants a riot of color. It might have worked, although more likely, I think, the garden would have looked much too busy. In any case, it would have had a totally different look.

There are so many ways to design a small space. If you have one of you own, take time to look online at pictures of other small gardens and think of what looks good to you. If you do that, you will be halfway there. Awareness is everything.

2018, May 2018, What to do in the garden

Peony Hoops

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This is more of a reminder than a blog entry. For those of us who grow Peonies, it is time to start paying attention to them and thinking about putting up the Peony hoops. When in full flower, the flowers can be so heavy that the stems flop over, squashing the plants around them and making it impossible to enjoy the flowers. A Peony hoop, a support consisting of two rings held up by three legs, keeps the plants upright and allows you to really enjoy them. They don’t cost very much, and are well worth the investment. Here’s a link to them on Amazon, although they are probably also available from your local garden center.

 

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Young Peonies

 

The downside is remembering to put them up. In the spring, Peony shoots are very straight and  don’t look like they will ever need staking. They tend to be one of the first things up, so you notice them. Then other plants start to grow, and you tend to forget about the peonies, until they are so big that wrestling them into the hoops requires two people and a stiff shot of Whiskey.

 

So although it may seem like too much and too early, put the hoops on when the plants are young. They will soon be hidden by foliage, and it’s SO much easier! Save the Whiskey for congratulating yourself on a job well done.

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Uncategorized

Perennial Geraniums

 

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Geranium ‘Azure Rush’

 

People often get confused about Geraniums. For many, Geraniums are red or pink annuals with a rather weird scent that you put in pots every summer. While that is true in one sense, those “geraniums” actually have the botanical name of Pelargonium. It’s an example of why it’s helpful to know the botanical name in order to make sure people are talking about the same thing, as the habit and care of those two plants could not be more different.

 

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Geranium , a.k.a. Cranesbill (This one is ‘Rozanne’, I think.)

 

 

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Pelargonium

 

The true Geranium (Often called ‘Cranesbill’, just to confuse things) is a perennial, whereas Pelargoniums are annuals in the Northeast. They look a lot different, too, with Geraniums forming mounds of sedate foliage covered in five petaled flowers in pink, white, magenta, or purplish blue, Pelargoniums having thick, leathery foliage and clusters of red, pink, salmon, or white flowers borne on stalks. Geraniums nestle right into a garden border, whereas Pelargoniums seem more at home in pots.

Geraniums are wonderful, versatile plants that will bring you weeks, if not months, of blooms in the garden. There is even a native Geranium, Geranium maculatum. Some are as short as 6-8″ like Geranium sanguineum var. striatum,  delightful little pale pink one with dark pink veining on the petals. Others are taller, like ‘Blushing Turtle’, which has medium pink flowers and grows to be 18-24″. There are Geraniums with dark bronze foliage and pink flowers (“Espresso’), ones with nodding burgundy flowers with black centers (‘Mourning Widow’) and some with neon pink flowers and white edges (‘Elke’), for example. One of my favorites is one called ‘Azure Rush’. Compact and growing in civilized 18-20” mounds, it has purplish-blue flowers with pale centers that bloom from May through October in my garden.

Try them in the front of the border, spilling onto paths, atop a stone wall… You won’t be sorry.

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