Sunday, July 26, 2009

My Favorite Daylily

'Tis daylily season again. In the depths of summer, from the end of June until the end of August, each day brings a cascade of color among the 60 or so hemerocallis I grow. Between prodigious amounts of deer repellent and broadcastings of Milorganite, the deer don't visit, though I see them crashing through the woods on their way to the pond below.

And so it is that I stand on my deck in the early morning, watching the color rise from the backyard garden. And of course, I'm out most evenings, bucket in hand, deadheading the daylilies.

I grow big daylilies, tiny daylilies, yellow, white, pink, orange and most every other color of daylily. Shown above is my all-time favorite. It's big, strong, very purple, and performs well in semi-shade. I've had it for years and it's been in several different parts of my yard. Now it graces the edge of the patio garden, where it's easily seen and admired from the screen porch, the deck and the patio. I lovingly count the buds each spring, and tenderly put the plant to bed each autumn. What's the name, you might ask, of such a wonderful perennial?

I haven't a clue.

I wish I did. Once upon a time I knew what this beauty was called. But because I didn't label it, or write down the cultivar, I can't purchase more of it, nor recommend it to friends and clients.

And herein lies the lesson for today. As my garden mentor, Paul Young, keeps telling me, labeling is essential. He labels each and every one of his thousand hostas. Though time-consuming at first, I know it's not a great big deal to choose a labeling method, but just like deer repelling, one must do it regularly. Whether one writes on wooden popsicle sticks, or orders fancy enameled mini-signposts, label as soon as you acquire a new plant and replace that label as needed.

Then, and only then, can you be sure of what you're growing. We gardeners always think we'll remember what we've planted.

Fat Chance!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Queen of the Prairie

The filipendula's gotta go. I've given it several years, at least 5 or 6. Oh, it blooms beautifully, right along with the astilbe, hydrangeas and veronica, and before the Joe Pye. It looks terrific from above as one gazes down on the backyard garden from the screen porch. And close up, those fluffy pink heads are downright yummy. It's easy to grow, nothing declares it dinner, and filipendula reproduces like a rabbit.

Problem is, it's too tall and in need of too much sun for my ever-shadier backyard garden. At 6', she's truly a queen, but she dominates the hosta, rose, rudbeckia, and whatever else I have down there. She drapes over them, hogging precious light and air. Time to move on, madame. And this time I mean it. I'd removed clumps before, but clearly a clean slate is needed. Of course, next I'l be faced with the delightful problem of what to plant in the space. How about that new huge hosta, 'Sum of All'? Or maybe some tall, late astilbe. I could fit in another hydrangea....

Whatever. Next spring, my gardening friends, be on the lookout for many pots of my well-grown but unlamented filipendula at the Bethel Garden Club plant sale.

You'll get a beautiful bargain.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

July presents a jumble of glorious flowers and shrubs. Hydrangea, hostas, daylillies, annuals, lilies, astilbe, monarda, roses, gypsophilia and many more. It's a visual feast. I like to have my first cup of coffee on the deck at daybreak, looking out over the backyard garden. Even the birds aren't really astir, but that's when I edit with my eyes. The filipendula is too big, needs to come out next year. The coneflower isn't getting enough sun, what can I put there instead? The astilbe has outdone itself this summer, especially the 'Visions' series. So on and so forth. Then I retreat to my green wicker chair on the screen porch, pen in hand, and write it all down in my garden diary.

Perhaps the changes will get done, perhaps not. It's fun to ponder and plan. And to read what I've written. One of my favorite pasttimes is perusing old entries in my garden diaries. What was I doing in the yard this week last year? How did I combat the groundhogs the year they attacked the morning glories? When did the mulch finally run out in '07?

In another post I'll discuss my ever-growing appreciation for hostas, a gift from my great gardening buddy, Paul Young. Suffice it to say that no gardener with shade should be without hosta. The cultivar pictured above is 'Pandora's Box', in flower. A petite beauty, she adorns the edge of my 'Believe' patch, named after a stepping-stone given to me by Muriel.

There's a wealth of subject matter for a garden blogger during the month of July. But one must be selective with topics. Just as the gardener cannot grow everything she lusts after, I can't write about every plant that takes my breath away this month.

We'll have to make do with Pandora.

Monday, July 6, 2009

New in the Garden This Year

I encourage fellow gardeners to try new things each year. That's one way to grow as a gardener, keeping things interesting, challenging and vibrant. This year, for instance, I'm trying a pretty plant I saw in my friend Kathy's garden. It blooms with a cluster of magenta flowers on a 12" stalk, likes sun, and is a ready self-sower. Now, magenta is my favorite color, and self-sowers are a favored type of plant. I had to have some! Kathy didn't know the name, but gifted me several basal rosettes, which I transplanted into my mailbox garden. Then the search was on for what the heck the plant was. I enlisted the aid of my gardening friend Alice, to whom the plant looked familiar, but neither she nor I could come up with the name.

Thank goodness for the Internet! Since the plant resembled rose campion in some ways, I typed that in, examined the pictures, re-examined a bloom stalk I'd picked, and shortly came up with an answer---my new acquisition was indeed a relative of rose campion; German catchfly. It's pretty, and prolific. I'll have to watch its manners, so that it doesn't overrun its designated place, but I'm happy to have it.

Other newbies to me this year are dragon wing begonia, hakonechloa 'Evergold' and astilbe 'Maggie Daley'.

Gotta keep things fresh!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Rain Woes

I never thought I'd say this in all my born days, but Enough Already With the Rain. 'Course, I'm pretty sure I caused this debacle with my News-Times column back in what, April, when I bemoaned how far the Northeast was under for rainfall, year-to-date. Last time I ever do that!

We're all struggling. From the waterlogged pots to the bumper crop of slugs to the rot on the roses, it's a monsoon season. I've been gardening seriously for 30-some years and according to my garden diaries, we've never seen the like. If it would just pour down once a week or so, that'd be fine. But No, we have at least a daily dribble.

What's a gardener to do? First, be philosophic. One of my gardening beliefs is that I'm gonna lose 15% of all I grow, each and ever year. This year it's due to rain. Other years it might be voles, or (god forbid!) deer. Relax, it's going to happen.

Second, appreciate the situation. Our plants ARE getting watered, and not by us. Our ponds ARE full, thanks to the heavens. Our reservoirs ARE running over, so no worries there. Transplant season HAS lasted waaay longer than usual due to the damp earth.

When you're a gardener you go with the flow. That's never been truer than this year.