Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hoop Those Peonies!

While I was holed up in the house lamenting three days of cold and rain, the peonies grew - and I mean a lot! This afternoon I had to go digging in the garden shed for the hoops to get them supported before it was too late. Don't think I broke any; I was very careful and I even pinched out a few double buds. I've never actually done that before, altho I know you should if you want larger blooms. I've noticed that the side blooms are never as nice anyway and frequently they don't even bloom, so I thought I might as well spend a couple minutes pinching in hopes of a nicer display this spring.

I have a small stand of peonies in the back next to the path. The first one came from my aunt's garden after her death, so it is special. Unfortunately, it's not particularly pretty - a pale, pale pink - nearly white and I would like it better with more color. It means a lot, tho, since it was "family". I bought a variety of small, end-of-the-season sale plants two falls ago and they make up the rest of the bed. Most have not bloomed yet, so it will be interesting to see what I get this year - both in terms of color and time of bloom. I had them scattered all over the garden, but transplanted them all to one bed to maximize their bloom. You can see them in this photo, just beyond the glider.

The only reason that I noticed the peonies today was that I was working on Project #5 - the sitting area. After all the rain, it was sunny and much warmer today, but the ground is so wet that I didn't want to even try to work out there. Instead I made my first real trip to the garden center to look at pavers for the sitting area. "Look at" being synonymous with "buy", I came home with 10 pavers - and a few posies. My plan is to use the large pavers in the path as the starting point of the sitting area. I have some more of those stones, so will try to add one to the path to make a solid stretch of walk and then use the new brick pavers, plus the old brick and slate pavers I already have. Don't really have a plan; will just start laying them and see what happens.

You did want to know what flowers I brought home today, didn't you? First, I picked up a couple of bright pink dianthus to add to some boxes on the deck. The old dianthus are looking pretty ragged and can use the help. Also, two sweet basils for the herb barrel. Then the treasures: a lovely blue columbine - Aquileiga vulgaris 'Clemintine Blue' - that I will use as an accent in the purple river; an interesting Jacob's Ladder - Polemonium yezoense 'Purple Rain Strain' - that has small blossoms and dark (purple) leaves and stems in the colder months that will apparently turn more green as the weather heats up; and a beautiful bright yellow Iceland Poppy 'Champagne Bubbles'. It is much to bright for me - usually - but it will be gorgeous nestled down on the edge of the river with all the blues and purples. I have wanted a poppy for a while, and hope I can make this one live!!

So, I will try to finish the sitting area tomorrow or over the weekend. In the meantime, enjoy your garden, too.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Starting Point

It's a rainy day and not good for working outside, so instead let me share more information about where we stand right now in the garden. [I'm not happy with the quality of this photo, but you can get the idea. I'll show you closer photos later.] This was taken from the deck so it looks down a bit and gives you a better view of the "plan" of this space.

From left to right there's the shed/workshop with the fish pond and then a path that leads back to the compost pile and the boundary fence. On to the right is a small crabapple tree. Also notice a path that leads to the right and ends up at the semi-circular path - which is actually at the right corner where the "L" attaches. There is also a small path that leads off the back side of the semi-circle to the corner of the lot.

There are several planting areas created by the paths. Beyond the pond and left of the first path is a small area with iris for early color and a Clethera in the corner - it blooms mid to late summer.

Across the back behind the crabapple: a group of peonies - various shades of pink, then a trellis for a lavendar clematis vine, then a clump of Virginia Summersweet, a big clump of four hybiscus (two red, a lavendar, and a white), a Rosa Orientalis mutabilis [which is coming out this weekend], a Harry Lauter's Walking Stick and then a mini-rose in a tall planter.

The right hand corner is slightly raised - see the low wall I built? - and has shrubs around the outside [flowering almonds and a weigelia] and some perennials in front. In front of the low wall are chrysanthemums, iris, echinacea and Happy Returns day lilies.

Inside the semi-circle walk are mini-jonquils and some summer bulbs [It will be interesting to see what comes up this year.] and more Happy Returns. Beyond the semi-circle walk are some smaller shrubs [a Pink Pizzazz and a Shiboni] and alstroemeria - then a natural area of old fashioned chrysanthemums, obedient plant, English bells, and Jacob's Ladder. The latter are too far to the right to show in the photo.

Across the front in front of the main path are many Shastia Daisies and dark pink Monarda, as well as Japanese iris, a repeating hydrangea, a variety of daylilies, salvia and more of the old fashioned chrysanthemums. Also some geraniums, sedum and carnations. This is the area where I try new things and where the purple river will run from uphill on the right [behind the black obolisk and down to the right ending at the low planter near the left had path - pretty much right thru the middle of this photo].

Around the pond are some ground covers - ajuga, verbena, and yarrow with a buddelia next to the shed. In front of the shed are two Otto Lukens and another reblooming hydrangea.

Goals for this space:
1) the purple river; 2) improve the planting around the pond; 3) replace the shrub rose with an evergreen - something pyramidal and 8 - 10 feet tall at maturity; 4) improve the planting in the raised area at the right corner, and 5) create a sitting area between the pond and the crabapple tree.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Welcome to My Garden!

Gardening in Central Virginia can be a lot of fun. We have nice springs and falls, with fairly moderate winters. The summers can be blazing hot - periodically - but the bigger problem is the humidity which is hard on lots of plants. We are in the southern part of zone 7, but only 100 miles from the Atlantic coast where it's zone 8. If you're lucky and your micro-climate is just right you can grow things that are either "too hot" or "too cool" for our zone. We have clay soil that runs to the acid side, so you have to mulch and amend your soil, but overall it's a pretty good place to garden. So meet my garden.

Nine summers ago I started from scratch. This lot had been vacant, so I began with a blank slate with a newly built house in the middle. I had experience working in my mother's beds, my aunt's garden, and in a very formal rose garden created originally by my father-in-law, but had never been "in charge" of starting from scratch. I knew I didn't like orange flowers and am not all that fond of red or yellow, and had no clue about garden design. I dived in anyway. The first summer we put in a 12 x 12 vegetable garden, but I spent the winter thinking - and thinking big.

In nine years I have expanded the back garden to 70 x 25 with another 25 x 10 L-shaped addition, and have added beds along all four sides of the house - mostly curved because I love curves! And we have three islands in the front yard. We also added a small (1oo gallon) pond two years ago. In the future, I'll show you the rest of the yard, but for now let's concentrate on the big garden in the back - where I actually spend most of my time. The photo above left is a mid-summer picture of the main garden looking from the L to the left toward our garden shed/workshop. You can see a small crabapple tree nearly in the center. The photo below is the opposite view, with my neighbor's crepe myrtle at the right side and a garden shed in the distance. You can see that it is full of plants and lush with growth, but not a strong plan.

Most of my plants are perennials, altho I do add annuals for color, and most are shades of pink, purple and white. [Specifically many Shasta Daisies and dark pink Monarda, with Happy Returns daylilies.] I have learned to love the right shades of yellow especially mixed with the purples, so my colors are becoming more interesting. My goal for this garden is to plant in a river of purple to run from a high point just left of the garden shed in the photo to the right and winding down to the extreme left edge of that photo. Last year I planted some salvias and lavendar (which did not survive) in addition to the Japanese iris and older salvias that were already there, so I have a start. It will end in a puddle of Homestead Purple verbena. This spring I plan to shop for a variety of plants and shades of purple to fill in about thirty linear feet of space and [hopefully] to bloom most of the summer. That's project number 1.

Project number 2 is more ambitious. I'll share it with you next time. Happy gardening!