Tuesday, July 28, 2015

What I Did in My Garden Last Sunday
Sunday was a lovely day to work in the garden and BOY did my garden need a tuneup. I realized when I was done that for beginning gardeners, it could be very useful to understand what the late July garden needs and specifically how to deal with some of the challenges we all face at this point in the growing season.
Plants that have been languishing in my holding area for a while were begging to be planted!
I began my day with high hopes of getting some planting done. I had about a dozen perennials and annuals that I have been trying to get in the ground. I mixed up a "batch" of Quoddy lobster compost and Pro Gro. I filled a watering can with Organic Plant Magic solution. As I started getting ready to plant, I found myself weeding and deadheading instead. How did the garden get like this, seemingly overnight?
My 'Sentimental Blue' dwarf balloon flowers (Platycodon) had suddenly stopped flowering and formed hundreds of seed pods. Instead of getting around to individually deadheading the flowers, I simply cut them all off and cut the plants in half. I did this last year and they came back and bloomed again for me in the fall. At that point I let them go to seed; now I have lots and LOTS of dwarf blue balloon flowers sprinkled throughout the borders. I had to "de-gunk" my daylilies. Is that a real term? Well, no matter what you call it, I had to deadhead the stalks and then use my hand to comb out all of the yellow and brown leaves. Any daylilies that will repeat bloom (I have 'Fragrant Returns', 'Happy Returns', and a few others) got a couple of shovels full of my magic compost/fertilizer mixture spread around their base. I also noted that a couple of my older daylilies really needed dividing. I never got around to it last fall, I MUST do it this fall. 
My 'Highland White Dream' Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum) was done. I cut the flowers back about halfway down the stems; I will go back in a couple of weeks, once the leaves turn yellow, and cut the flower stalks down to the ground. A new clump of fresh green basal foliage will then emerge, but this variety will not bloom again.  My later blooming 'Becky' Shasta daisies still had plenty of nice flowers and buds coming along so I just did a bit of sporadic deadheading on them. 
Beautyberry flowers are turning into berries this month and need to be deeply watered at this stage of their development.
As I started digging into the garden where I was going to add new perennials and annuals, I realized that the soil was bone dry below the surface. So every hole was filled with water and allowed to drain before I planted anything. That made me realize that my beautyberry bush (Callicarpa) was in bloom along the edge of my Norway spruce border. This is a really dry spot due to root competition. It is SO important to water beautyberries now as the flowers are becoming berries. No water, the berries don't form or fall off. I moved my hose to the base of this shrub and left it there to deep soak the area while I finished digging the holes.

I had originally set out to replant one of the containers on my deck but that would have to wait. I realized that my Baptisia was engulfing the Sedum 'Autumn Joy' and all of it's neighbors. I gave it a hand pruning to shape it and cut windows for the plants below. Then I began the crabgrass wars. How could all these baby crabgrass plants possibly have just appeared overnight in the cracks between my stepping stones and every tiny bit of bare earth? Believe me, there isn't much bare earth left in my gardens.  I knew if I got it out now, at an early age, it wouldn't go to seed and spread.
I love this funky Euphorbia. Look at those cool leaves. The center bract turns bright orange in the fall.

Finally, I got to that pot on my deck. I removed the Nemesias and pansies and added four new annuals- Angelonia, Fuchsia 'Gartenmeister', Euphorbia heterophylla 'Variegata' (shown above), and a purple impatiens. A wacky combination of plants with very different needs. I danced around 6 self-sown evening scented fragrant Nicotianas that had appeared from the year before.
This is what I ended up with- a GIANT wheelbarrow filled with weeds, spent blossoms, and garden clippings. Pretty good for a day's work. After hauling it to the compost pile, I decided to give myself a reward. 

I picked the very first ripe fig of the season and ate it in one big bite. Sorry Tony, dear husband of mine, but that one was for me! I then wandered through the gardens, sticking my nose in my fragrant lilies.
I love this new combination I dreamed up- Molinia caerulea 'Skyracer' surrounded by fragrant, evening scented Nicotiana. That's my deck chair behind the railing with a moonflower vine slowly making it's way up the post.

I spent the spring and early summer keeping the lily leaf beetles at bay on these old fashioned tiger lilies that I got from my dear friend Lucie Carlin's yard over 20 years ago. They are stunning this week and I am proud of myself!
My Allium senescens that I added to the main border last fall looks so pretty with all of the self-seeded cone flowers behind it and a smattering of black-eyed Susans.
I slowed down, watching the giant wasps on the mountain mint, observing bumble bees covered in pollen, nibbling on 'Sungold' cherry tomatoes and fresh raspberries, and soaking up the beauty of my patch of paradise.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Walking the Highline

Veronicastrum virginicum (Culver's root) with city buildings in the background
Walking the High Line
Last Sunday, Natureworks sponsored a bus trip to the High Line in New York City. Myself, my husband, many Natureworks employees, and lots of very enthusiastic customers braved the hottest day of the year to venture into the city and check out this very unusual garden. We were given a tour and I learned so much about how this garden came into existence.
The High Line was originally a raised railroad track that brought trains into the meatpacking district. As tractor trailer trucks eventually replaced railroad transportation, it was abandoned and became a dangerous eyesore. It remained abandoned for 25 years. It was scheduled to be torn down and was saved at the very last minute in 1999 by The Friends of the High Line. It is now owned by the City of New York and is a public park. But this is not just any park. It is actually a linear park, stretching nearly two miles. Five million people walk The High Line every year.
A field of Echinacea with a smokebush in the background.
On the day that we visited, even though it was extremely hot, the park was crowded with visitors. I heard so many different languages spoken all around me; this is a popular tourist attraction. Locals could be seen sitting in the shade of the birch groves, reading or sleeping. There was live music, art everywhere, food vendors selling everything from popsicles to gelato to espresso. There was an interactive gigantic Leggo display and an area where water flowed over the pavement and everyone took off their shoes and walked barefoot. 
Our tour guide told us that park was designed around the following concept:
Thimbleweed (Anemone cylindrica) happily seeded into the cracks in the stones.
The park was designed by the landscape architecture firm James Corner Field Operations and architects Diller, Scofidio, and Renfro. The planting design was done by Piet Oudolf of the Netherlands. I have been studying his work for a long time and have visited Millenium Park in Chicago a few times, another one of his United States designs. Words cannot express how exciting it was for a plant geek like me to finally walk The High Line.
Eryngium yuccifolium (rattlesnake master) with Liatris
The impression that I walked away with was that the juxtaposition of wild looking, loose, prairie-type, native plants growing with abandon against the hard lines of the cityscape surrounding it made the whole thing simply magical. What a concept! A mass of Amsonia hubrechtii with Veronicastrum virginicum behind it framing the Empire State building in the distance. Billboards for expensive handbags with a sea of rattlesnake master Eryngium interwoven with Liatris at it's feet.
I was thrilled to realize that Natureworks already sells so many of the plants that we saw on Sunday. But, of course, there were many more that I didn't know and had to learn about. I took tons of pictures and when I returned home, studied the July blooming plant list given to us. I then went onto the High Line's VERY excellent website and downloaded the complete plant list they provided. Mysteries were solved and I was able to match photographs to plant names.
Aster umbellatus

Aruncus 'Horatio'

Salix eleagnos (rosemary leaf willow)

Ruellia humilis (wild petunia)

Magnolia macrophylla, the bigleaf magnolia, had us all talking. It was so tropical looking.
Silphium laciniatum

My FAVORITE! Silphium terebinthinaceum, also called prairie dock, with massive shiny leaves and tall spikes of yellow flowers.

Suzanne is shown here talking to Karen, both Natureworks employees who enjoyed the trip. Suzanne planned this entire trip and she did a great job.
Art was seen everywhere, but this was my favorite.

Don't miss the opportunity to visit The High Line. You will learn a lot and you will be impressed, as I was, at the creativity of man and the tenacity of plants in such an urban setting.