Monday, April 26, 2010

Foxg-Love and Bloggy-Love

I got the best compliment a few hours ago from a neighbor and friend who was sharing a glass of wine out back in my garden. (Btw city gardens do have one single advantage over country and suburban gardens who have all the space, lack of noise, tons of sun, blah blah blah, everything everything.....we have neighbors all up and down the street who stop by because they are dying to see what is going on behind the white picket fence!  It kicks butt, I have a bottle of wine on the chill for just such occasions which happen about once a week.  They bring stuff too.  I just got a jar of homemade preserves out of this, last week I got a vase full of roses from a neighbor who has to be away the entire month of May and picked all the roses on the bush for me!)

Ok, back to the compliment.  (I have been drinking wine, as mentioned,  so plan on this being incredibly verbose with lots of parentheticals and no editing - as you suggested I do IG, eat your heart out).    She said, "Wow.  This garden looks like an English country garden!"  Cha-ching.  She can come back forever anytime she wants and camp in the backyard too!    I was so self-proud I was almost rendered speechless but due to the two point five glasses of wine before the comment I was, in actuality, rendered nothing of the sort.   I haven't shut up for a moment since.

After I got finished blabbing how it was nothing, and anyone could do it, and no I really haven't spent 40 hours a week working on this garden (lies, all of em), I honed in on what exactly she meant.   We actually have a style of garden here, outrageously known as "Charleston Style" which 90% of gardens around here adhere to.  First, it looks 'right' (semi formal) and second the things in them tend to be no brainers here and make for beautiful easy gardens.    People love Charleston gardens around here, myself included.  My front garden, if I should ever actually get the wild onions out, will eventually look like that too.   I've got tourists to impress, after all.    I cringe at what they must think now, but hey, my house is Carribean pink, that has to count for something.   Ps. for those of you who are curious what a double porch style house or the front garden looks like (flowergardengirl), its coming, its coming, I just have to actually plant something out front so I am not embarrassed on the internet here by the 800 wild onions, unlevel dirt, and ugly hedges.  Its one thing to talk about them, its another to display.

Okay, so I'm off topic again.  What she (my friend with the wine and jam) was talking about, really, that made my garden so English?  The Foxglove.    It is starting to bloom and it is majestic.    In my garden most of them get about 3 hours of sun, and would be happy to be in a lot less I'd say, judging by what they look like at 1pm.   But once the sun is off of them they look divine.  One of them, a Camelot Cream (the white one), isn't really totally bloomed yet and is already around 3.5 feet tall.  He is going to be a giant when fully bloomed.

So anyhow also now that I am typing typsy, and I have your attention and I continue to go off topic, cheers to you, all my loyal readers, my new readers, and of course, Jean, who adopted me when I was two days old.  I would bring you some jam and come and visit your garden too if I could.  Meredith, when I go camping this summer out that way,  I might just be lurking in your yard.... (not in a creepy way though, I'd ask first.)

Love, Jess (with an english country garden hehe, probably until July when it all goes into heat shock)

(next post will include no parentheticals I promise)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Gift Plant

O, I got me some free plants!   Doin' the little jig of free plant joy.  Unlike plants that I have bought or seeded, of course, I don't have much basic knowledge on these, which I can imagine can lead to danger.  I am sure none are invasive weeds, but I have a little research work to do on some of them.

Free plant #1.  Its a good thing this one is so unusual looking because even after asking twice, I couldn't remember the common name given me, and I kept wanting to call in Jacob's Ladder, even though I knew that wasn't right.  Don't you hate that, when something gets into your head that you know isn't right yet it seems to short circuit your brain from any other neural pathway?

This is Alternathera "Party Time" or Joseph's Coat.

Next up a variety of coleus, I'm not exactly sure which.
Then I have received a double red knockout rose, which is going to join my single red one.   I have quickly gone from zero roses to 3 roses.  And I'm thinking about getting one more.   Well, truthfully I just bought another one from the Antique Rose Emporium.  A Madame Alfred Carriere to climb up the side of my house out back.  Sigh.  That didn't last very long.  0-4 rose bushes in 1 month.   My house smells so ridiculously lovely though.  

Let's see, what else is in my haul: a couple of sprigs of Bridal Veil (Gibasis Geniculata).  Three achimenes bulbs started in little blue pots.  A couple of Wandering Jews, as replacements for the ones I accidentally froze to death this January.    Not so bad for trading away 6 Hostas, huh.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Time Travel Without the Hot Tub

Clearly, I can't seem to get it together to do a post for GBBD on actual bloom day.   Next month, I keep telling myself.  But then I'm buried in work, family, laziness or some other excuse each 15th it seems.

So, lets just pretend it is the 15th.  I'm making that funny sound and your vision is blurring just like in old "I Dream of Jeannie" reruns.   There, its the 15th, just like that.  No WABAC machine or small ultra heated pool needed, and everyone looks slightly younger and has a 'dated' hairstyle from 5 days ago.

Here's what is blooming in my garden.  These flowers might never ever bloom together again, but this April, I have representatives from early spring, late spring, summer and late summer, through combination of crazy weather and nursery plants.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Truly A Garden To Die For

In my quest to read 100+ books this year, as inspired by ChickenFreak, I have read a few Agatha Christie novels since January.  They are short, entertaining, and bring back really good memories, filled with lush country mansions and the idle rich of a bygone era.   

Have you noticed that Agatha loved to kill off everybody with poison?  AND, no matter who did it, they either got the poison out of the gardening shed or grabbed some leaves from that rambling estate garden on the Devon coast, and threw it in the port.  Or the afternoon tea.

Some met their death through peach cultivars (prunus) from whose pits come the famous cyanide.  Others choked on their last words with a good gulp of something from the Nightshade family.  Digitalis, arsenic and morphine all found their way from garden to dead person in her novels.

I did a quick inventory of my murderous potential growing outside today, just for fun of course, and really...  Nobody better mess with me.  Just saying.

First there is the common foxgloves I have poking out of various places.  In medical circles this is known as Digitalis, and its either a heart medication, or a heart stopper, depending on how much you take.

Next stop, the Easter Lilies I picked up at the grocery store after Easter.  Its not terribly harmful to me, but deadly poisonous to my cat, Siggy, who has already used up 7 of her 9 lives in less than a year as it is.  They aren't in the house anymore.  And pretty much all lilies are bad for cats, though squirrels don't seem to mind them.

Back behind my little parking area: the oleander.  Now this is a seriously poisonous plant, can easily kill children and pets, and it is everywhere in this fair city.   I bet there are more than 30 planted on my block alone; they line the streets.  I think I have always known it was poisonous, but folks it is knock your socks of deadly in small amounts. All parts too.

Right smack in the middle of the patio is my one tropical love, the Brugmansia, which if you listen to everything that is said on the internet, is poisonous to even smell.  I'm pretty sure thats an exaggeration,  however, it, along with Datura is the prime candidate for poisoning by the Deadly Nightshade family.    I have no issues handling it, but it is one of those that cannot under any circumstances be ingested.   The potato is a relative and this is why for years people were scared to eat them.   I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been jumping at the chance either.  I mean if you really look at a potato objectively, not like a future french fry, doesn't it look kind of poisonous?

I've got a few delphiniums growing from seed in the sunny border.  Yep, poisonous too.  They contain delphinine, which causes gastrointestinal issues and has felled many a cow.  Delphiniums and larkspurs near fields and meadows = bad plan.

And finally my lantana, which is about as native naturalized as you can get here, disrupts the mucus lining of stomach membranes, and to some people is even irritating to touch.

So that's just in my tiny yard.  There are so many more out there.  Autumn Crocus ingestion can cause massive multi-system failures, Lily of the Valley, theoretically you shouldn't even touch without handwashing, as it can cause cardiac arrest.    Yews, azaleas, poppies, dieffenbachia, daffodils, hyacinths, iris, wisteria, jasmine, bleeding heart, daphne, wolfsbane, and sago palms.  All poisonous.  Some very deadly poisonous.  (i.e. don't go eating your azaleas).

All of this and we haven't even gotten into whatever the heck is in Miracle Gro.  No wonder the British gentry of the 30's could pull this off so easily, right?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Green Thumb vs Black Thumb

A friend of mine bought a house, just like me,  this past winter and has been equally possessed with the gardening bug.  There is nothing like a new house with a neglected yard/garden/patio to bring out the mad nursery maven in us all.   Her yard is huge (she doesn't live downtown),  and it is about 50% sun, 50% shade, just like mine.  Now, after several strong months of gardening time there is one major difference.   My garden is growing and her's isn't.  At all.  I don't know what she's doing over there, but I'm scared to bring her the huge pot of nasturtiums I grew for her that is now blooming.   
Nasturtiums on Death Row
Now, I am very very happy my garden is blooming but, same as her garden,  I don't know what I'm doing so right that every single thing has pretty much made it.  Even the seeds.  Okay, not the lily bulbs but truly, I had no control over that.  That was the 3:1 squirrel to plant ratio.

Maybe its that I grew up basically in a massive garden and know a lot about various plants from osmosis, and she grew up in the middle of Okinawa?

Maybe its that I don't travel for a job and have been here each and every day to make sure everybody out there is safe 'n sound?

Is it that I'm addicted to gardening magazines?  Reading gardening blogs?   Am I just lucking out? (please don't let it be this because massive die off when the luck runs out would be the end of me). Does she have some invincible invisible pest problem?   Its those Japanese seed packets right... they fail to grow on foreign soil?  But from what I can tell Japanese tomato seeds sure do look a lot like the ones here, they just have prettier calligraphied names.

Or are you really born with either black or green thumbs? And what does that mean exactly?  How does one help another one overcome blackthumbotosis? How do you keep from catching it?!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Ever Blooming Garden - All At Once

ABC News the other night was remarking on the astronomically high pollen counts this year in the southeast.   This is to the tune of 5000+ (parts per whatever), instead of a normal very high of 120.    Sitting at my brother's house on Easter we could actually see puffs of pollen coming off of a tree in the breeze, like he had pulled out a cigar for a post meal boys club card game.

The bottom line is, this is true, as my meals now consist primarily of Claritin.

The cause of all this pollen, says the News, is that everything is blooming at once, thanks to an usually cool late winter in the south east followed up by the 3 week spell of summer we've just had with minimal rain.     And unfortunately this is true too.

In my garden right now, I have old-fashioned Bleeding Heart (Dicentra Alba) blooming with woodland phlox (Phlox Divaricata), which all makes sense, but what also is blooming are the coneflowers (Echinacea Purpurea), Cleome, and Agapanthas.  What the heck are they doing here in early April!!?    What is this going to mean for my mid and late summer garden?  I am having trouble believing that the coneflowers are going to bloom for 6 months, as great a plant as they are.

Some of this issue is of course, that some of these flowers were raised until weeks ago at a nursery, and combined with the summer weather they were just ready.  But that doesn't explain the agapanthas - I planted that last October from a clump dug up in Va, and because of the cooler weather in February it was actually late to come up!     Same for the cleome.  Those were seeds.

Its interesting which plants are getting mixed up by all of this.   The sedum, for instance, looks exactly like it should and is a long way from blooming.   The star jasmine, which should be blooming next month, hasn't even put buds out yet, so I'm guessing he is on schedule too.   The Lavender looks to be on schedule, the Catmint.   The Rose of Sharon and the Callicarpa bush are acting like its still winter, and haven't even noticed anything awry.  Both are still mainly sticks, which as I understand it, is normal for them.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I Think I Can, I Think I Can

The Lady Banks roses are blooming all over town.  White ones, yellow ones, why even the Food Lion has one (that's a grocery store).   Until I decided to get one I just never realized how many of them there are.  Everywhere.

My Lady Banks, who was planted a few weeks ago, and came home looking like a tiny bundle of straggly sticks, still is looking rather pathetic and small, but she knows what she is supposed to be doing.  She knows that she should be covered in blooms all over the place and be plotting world domination like the rest of her brethren.   So last night, with all of her might she willed herself to bloom. 

This is what we got.

Pretty cute right, in that Charlie Brown Christmas Tree sort of way!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Little Transformations

During this year my garden will never fill out and become this lush wonderland I have in my head.  I am just going to accept that now.  So garden, the pressure is off, but by next May, you better be looking like the secret garden, ya hear me?

Despite the fact that its going to take me forever to get around to showing you what my efforts will eventually yield, I am making small strides.   Below, a progress report.  This view is an eastern exposure, with one half being part shade and the other half being part sun.   This is the part shade section.  To give you an idea of height, the fence is just over 6 feet tall. I know, its the mother of all picket fences.  And at the 'path' the depth of the garden is about 10 feet, expanding out on either side.  I find it very difficult to capture depth in this garden, I'm not sure why.

Sometime in November 09 when I was raking up Magnolia leaves:

March 21st: A retaining wall and a few stepping stone put in to be able to get back to that section:

And April 2nd: only 11 days later.  Look at that Autumn Fern on the left there in front of the little wall (the pics will expand if hard to see).  He sure has a way of showing he's verrry happy in his new home.   Others pictured are 5 woodland phlox, 3 Creeping Cupflower which I am hoping will fill in between the stones nicely, and the Trailing Lantana I planted a month ago which I accidentally fell on.  Despite that, he is at least double his size.  In the background my outrageous sized Japanese Holly Ferns, and way over to the left my Persian Shield looking very tiny in his new home.   There is also a tiny foxglove in there, can you spot him?  He's an infant, but very healthy and seems to be doing a lot better than those getting more sun.  He's an experiment.

Progress progress progress.   One of these days that trellis will be covered in (something), and the statue will sit at the end of the little path.  Behind the holly ferns on either side are baby hydrangea bushes filling up the back space (eventually).  They just need to get a move on being taller than 8 inches so they can show up in the pictures.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Tree By Any Other Name.... I Still Call A Tree

I grew up primarily in rural southern Virginia, in a place where even today they don't lock their doors.   The biggest crime around there, though heinous, consists of throwing Budweiser beer cans on the gravel country roads.

My brothers and I would often decide at night that we were camping out under the stars. It was okay by our parents seeing as we weren't all that close to the road so the likelihood of being bonked by a beer can was pretty low, mad-cows didn't exist yet, and the deer, while incredibly vicious to the hosta population, were found to leave children more or less intact.  We'd grab our flashlights and our sleeping bags,  put fireflies in jars (sorry buddies I didn't know any better then), and tell ghost stories under the large oak trees which grow like weeds in that State.    Invariably someone would end up being the 'outsider' for the night and there was a 50/50 chance the shunning would result in his return to his own bed inside in the wee hours of the night.  Which at that age meant 11:30pm.  And who am I kidding, it was always Russ that we picked on (the littlest, we had no shame).

Sometimes those remaining would go to the old cabin, which had become the pool house, throw on our damp bathing suits and jump in the pool in the dark.  It was nightswimming at its illicit best, because 'nobody' knew we were out there.  (Of course except our parents who I'm sure were watching the entire time now that I realize how not sneaky we really were).    We would all be as still as possible for a while and sooner or later the bats would come down and skim the water,  drinking and looking for others trying to do the same, I'd guess.  That entire pool area was surrounded by 3 large old apple trees and more likely than not we'd all bring some not quite ripe apples, found floating in the pool, back to our sleeping bags.  If Russ was still with us we'd tell him that eating not ripe apples could kill you.

Other times instead of the pool, we'd go out to the front yard and push each other on the tire swing tied up high in one of the huge black walnut trees.   The tree sat on the top of the embankment that led down to the road and if you got a push hard enough you could swing over the road tarzan-style.  Sigh.

The point of this little journey down memory lane is that the trees of my childhood I can recognize in an instant, I spent so much time with them.  In the dark, by the bark, by the leaves.  I know them like the freckles on my arms.  I think I could identify a white pine by feel alone.   But move 6 hours south and to the coast?  If its not a palm, magnolia or live oak, I HAVE NO IDEA.   I literally wouldn't know a sweetgum tree if it fell on me.     I have 3 trees on my property, one of which must be 70+ feet high, all of which I have no earthly clue as to what they are called.   They have acquired nicknames: the evergreen one, the flowery one, and the big one.     The one thing I can tell you, if you add the other three trees I have (a sabel palm, a crape myrtle and a live oak), NONE of the six of them grew where I grew up, which isn't all that far away.  Granted, Europeans can be 2 countries away in 6 hours, but for many of us... we haven't even left the general vicinity.  And heck, in NYC, you could still be on the George Washington Bridge stuck in traffic in a measly 6 hours.    It is quite a wonder how nature, left to itself, tailors itself exactly to the spot. 

Anyhow, as a self proclaimed nature person, I really gotta get on this tree identification thing.   How insane is it that I know the names of 50 plants in my backyard, 30 types of weeds, but don't know the names of the biggest plants around?