Philadelphia Tales
June 2008
Summer Sun
It's mid-June and it feels like August. The past 3 days have been blazingly hot and humid. In fact, the weather was odd enough in the early spring that some plants bloomed earlier than normal, and others came through later than normal. Luckily, that resulted in a kind of natural "Flower Show" with peonies, daffodils, tulips and even a few roses blooming at the same time.

I'm not complaining. Not even about the heat. At the moment I can see the lily riot beginning... reds, white, cream and oranges bursting forth in various corners. Renee and her mom gave me a hanging basket of purples petunias that I broke out of their bondage and transplanted into a large pot with a young clematis.

Now, with a deeper water supply they have filled out into a mass of deep purple, violet and magenta. A clematis crispa twines up through the middle showing a nice first year display of pale blue bell-shaped flowers.

I lost my heart to clematis this year, ordering three. Helios came back and is twining up through Zepherine Droubhin. I put a deep purple (I think) in with my pale yellow rose. Crispa shares space with the petunias this year. And Superba (violet purple) is in the galvanized tub at the top of the alley working its way up a wire tuteur, with hosta, cleome and verbena at her feet.

This evening I am on a flight to London, then Italy for a couple weeks... my garden will burst forth without me. Sad, but true. Gabe is watering and promises that I won't come back to a desert.

Has Spring Unfurled The Flag?
My hellebore took me by surprise... tall and bright white, against bright green foliage and last year's old leaves. Gorgeous... After the storms, the one snow, the up and down cold/warm seesaw, we are still being treated to a spring display.

My snowdrops and crocus are peeking out. Daffodil buds are heavy and ready to blow. Redbuds are showing pink and Pat Brunker's winter jasmine is pretending to be full blown forsythia. A lovely start to spring.

A Marshmallow World
We had a bit of snow last week. Enough to make the land look soft and pillowy for a few hours. The last of it melted off yesterday, taking the black, grimy leftovers with it.

I do miss snow... and though it makes driving more dangerous and life a little more complicated, I would happily shovel my way through a few days of snow a year. To be knee deep in snow, wandering your neighborhood seeing the familiar draped and changed by layers of white. Everything changes -- the light, the forms... The everyday things are new again.

Ah, for a late season storm... but not too late. The bulbs are popping up all over the yard. Snow needs to drop in the next week or so, then gracefully retreat until next year.

The Dead of Winter
It's dreary and cold so my thoughts turn to spring. I spend the evenings reviewing garden catalogues and posting garden pictures of spring and summer past on flickr. There is nary a pocket of unplanted earth in my garden, yet I still have a short list of what needs to be planted -- violas under the bleeding heart, coleus and caladium in the shaded pots, and something to twine over the shed.

I took out the bittersweet. Too much guilt about an invasive... but what to plat instead? Part shade, some sun... must be hardy and somewhat self supporting... should have at least 2 season interest. Suggestions have included climbing hydrangea, akebia, and even a north facing rose. What will it be?

My big winter task is pruning back the 2 holly bushes at the end of the deck. The birds love them... its the best place to hide from the hawk... but they are becoming overgrown and need a good trim back -- maybe a foot on each side. Sigh. I hate hedge clippers. All that vibration.

My name is K****, and I am a plant junkie
Today, I slipped out of work at lunch time and scurried back across the bridge to go to my favorite local nursery at lunchtime. April and May are the big planting season... annuals, vegetables, those luscious perennials we ogle and long for. No matter how many times I make my "final" list.... no matter how many times I decide that my tiny yard is indeed full... I still manage to find room for a few more things.

Today it was vegetables (completely understandable), some annuals for a few more pots, baskets and stumps (reasonable), then a flat of nicotania. I had no idea where that was going... but the red and pale green combination was so inviting I knew I would find space. And I did... between the Elegant Lady tulips that are still standing but will soon fade to nothing.

Yesterday I received a box of heirloom plants from Select Seeds. I vaguely remembered ordering from them. As I opened the box and sorted through my selections, bits of planting logic came back to me... 5 coleus sedona for the front bed, 3 pink clove dianthus to fill in at the end of the front bed, 2 hardy fuschia... oops, already bought that locally, will have to share with someone else. My mom will like that. The big surprise were the 3 big blue salvia plants. Hmmmm, where was that going? Must be my neighbor Lisa's front bed.

It's quite true. I've run out of room in my own yard so have started working on my neighbors' yards... both sides. Richard has a mostly shade plot and I transplanted hosta, tiarella, astilbe and wood hyacinth already.

Lisa's yard has been a bigger deal... most of the plants are transplants or rescues, a couple free gifts, and one or two items I have always wanted to try but don't have room for.
I am loving this project. I have Lisa's blessing, but I always suspect that she is allowing me to plant up her yard to make me happy, no because she really wants me to do it.

I am bribing her with hosta, hellebore, daisies, siberian iris, a white azalea, and 2 peonies... and am so looking forward to fitting in those salvia.

My nursery says that they will happily take back all the pots and plastic flats I have in my shed. I'm thrilled to have a reason to go there again... for my final final buy of the season.

Trampled Tulips
The painter's trampled my tulips... six inches high and in bud. Trampled to the ground. I'm not sure they will be able do any photosynthesizing to recharge for next year. They also (with lawn on either side of them, put 5 gallon buckets right on top of a swath of cream beauty crocus -- in full bloom -- and proceeded to clean their buckets and brushes. Flooded the flowers out and crushed about a third of them. Between that and the ice storm, I'm having a bad start to the year.

Again with the spring
The weather is just wacky. There were a couple of nippy days... and a few more that were arctic... but generally, its been mild, spring-like weather. So much so that I saw forsythia blooming not to long ago. If this keeps up, my bulbs will come up. The up side is that we've had more time to plant. I still have a couple lily bulbs to get in the ground. This is nature's way of giving me an extension. Just a few more days...

Naked Truth
It has been unseasonably warm the past month or so... It's lulled me into a gardening torpor. I should have all the bulbs in the ground and all the tender perennials mulched and wrapped. My yard should be winterized! Instead, my fig sits partially draped in burlap and sheets, like some half clad Roman wife. I must get out soon, before the frost and get her trussed for winter.

Autumnal Bounty
October and November are bulb planting season. My yard is so small -- you wouldn’t think there would be room for any more plants after this year's frenzied lead in to the Garden Tour... but I have a nice selection of bulbs to find room for. Pert little narcissus, carmine lily-flowered tulips, and subtle cream and orange crocus…

My long term goal is to create a little surprise in each part of the yard. Something for each season... Plants are living things, and gardening is a sequence of variables. Things are not as predictable as a good planner hopes. Some plants work, other do not... I'll keep planting until the canvas is complete. Last year’s allium bulgarica were so lovely with their gently nodding bell-like umbrels. My Persicaria Red Dragon surprised me with its trailing stems and tiny white flowers. And the hale and hearty volunteer, the pokeweed (aka inkberry), came through yet again with a sumptuous autumn display of wine-colored stems, chartreuse late leaves and pendulous purple-black berries. Every year I think, this will be the last year I keep it. And every October/November when the garden is turning blowsy, the jubilant inkberry leaves me smiling.

There is not enough room here for me to create allees of fruit trees or a cutting garden of amaranth and cosmos. I dream big – love-lies-bleeding twining with dahlias for days…a living fence of apple saplings winding together with berry-laden pyracantha (to make intruders think twice)… but I am satisfied, mostly, by picking fresh figs and cutting my own herbs… watching golden mums sprawl about, released from the tightly controlled round corsets they start out with... The delights of a small garden are the tiny surprises you can tuck in between… gentian blue nigella, butter yellow dog tooth violet, and orchid-like blackberry lilies…

Last spring I planted two Chinese Bittersweet plants (male and female, in close proximity) to twine together over my shed. I envisioned a bounty of those jewel-like red and orange two-toned berries. No such luck... not yet at least. Is this a maturity issue? With another 12 months of patience will I be rewarded?

Philadelphia Tales
Il Giardinetto Segreto
intro . 2009 . 2008 . 2007 . 2006 . 2005 . 2004 . garden . kayak . travel . to see . to eat . Forking Delicious . My Umbrian Adventure
Floradale tulips and euonymous
Lime hosta, violet pansies, purple potato vine in an old trash can
Favorite Plant Purveyors

  Wayside Gardens
  Klehm's Song Sparrow
  Big Dipper Farms
  Select Seeds
  Swan Island Dahlias
  White Flower Farms
  Dutch Gardens
Flame tulips
Allium bulgarica
Wild phlox, fleabane and salvia
Allium gladiator and bearded iris
Zepherine Droubhin
Allium "Gladiator"
Baby figs