Belles of the Midsummer Ball

Happy late summer. I’ve been busy caring for and watering lots which is a feeble excuse for not updating the garden’s progress. So, here goes…

These are plants that I actually look forward to each and every summer. First, the crocosmia…

Crocosmia "Lucifer"

Crocosmia “Lucifer”

My son picked this plant for me one mother’s day. Perfectly named for him during his early teen years (Lucifer), wasn’t quite sure what to expect as it was early in the season and the plant had not yet bloomed. But when it did, I fell in love.

This plant is so exotic and tropical looking, but it is perennial in this zone (zone 7ish). Hummingbirds LOVE this plant and so I’ve moved it several times to allow for them to visit and suckle from a vantage point we can watch without interference.  The plants are quite stately and do not require staking. Even after the blooms fade, the seed pods are architecturally interesting and stay strong from weeks afterward. Before the end of August, I will cut them back at the soil level, just to give other bloomers more space.

Since its introduction to the quadrant, I’ve added more (more is more, in this case!) by purchasing the bulb packets in early spring from HD. Must be careful though, because these cheaper packets aren’t always labeled with the specific color. Some of these packets have less red, orange-ish colors. KP’s Canon has difficulty with these intense colors, unlike my as-yet-to-materialize-Nikon-7100. But I took one of those shots and posterized it, and this view enables you to see crocosmia’s beautiful structure:

crocosmia "posterized"

crocosmia “posterized”

Absolutely, 100% in love with the Casa Blanca lilies…

Lilium "Casa Blanca"

Lilium “Casa Blanca” nearly ready to burst open

…and I didn’t know until this post that this species is part of the oriental lilies, like “Stargazer”. I always assumed it was part of the Hemerocallis family – a style of lily I always thought I preferred.

Lilium "Casa Blanca" in full bloom

Lilium “Casa Blanca” in full bloom

These show girls bloom every year in the last couple weeks of July, serenading quadrant parties with their fragrant wafts of perfume. Some find the fragrance cloying, but then again they’re not in the quadrant!

As you may have noted, these blooms become top-heavy very quickly and have to be staked. Here’s another shot in combination with plain ole fancy-red dahlia’s and the caladium:


Mid-summer is also a time when holes start appearing in the garden, hence the red dahlia. Behind it, I’ve since planted a deep purple “dinner plate” dahlia, which I’ll show you when it starts taking off.

Among other combo’s I’m enjoying this summer are the black-eyed Susans, with the sedum as pictured here:

Rudbeckia fulgida "Goldsturm" with sedum

Rudbeckia fulgida “Goldsturm” with sedum

This was moved to the quadrant, in accordance with LTEG 1 as noted here. Yes, I do take my garden planning very seriously 🙂 The rudbeckia is doing really well in the quadrant and the haphazardly placement among the slowly maturing sedum is making me happy.  BTW, this also satisfies LTEG 2, too, in that these two plants are coming into maturity just as the Alaskan poppy is dying out. It did leave space next to the roses, and so I’ve filled that in with a *NEW* (yes, NEW plant!) species – an annual vinca. Here’s a close-up of this hot coral color:

Catharanthus roseus "cora red"

Catharanthus roseus “cora red”

Absolutely love the little white eye in the center. Too bad these are annuals; must remember to adopt early next summer. To completely fill up the space, I also added some cosmos “Sonata Carmine.” They’re looking a bit ragged from the mid-summer on-sale bin, but hopefully they’ll perk up and add some color towards the end of the season.

What I’ve learned? Loving the hot colors: can’t have enough reds, oranges and magentas. Also, time to credit two sources: 1-a great online plant finder for the Latin names, and 2-KP for taking the photos.


Spring shoots leaving and moving

The end of spring is drawing near. It’s a wonderful time. A good garden dose has been distributed and yet there’s MORE. So much more to enjoy.

The end of spring is a deadline of sorts. By the start of the first day of summer, the general assumption is things had better be pretty set. No more moving of shrubs, planting of trees. There’s lots of time for heaving in of annuals, but if you’re a good gardener you’ll be wanting to have major tasks out of the way by summer soltice.

So I started thinking about my own progress with spring preparation goals. Most interesting when I reflected on this was that I did indeed have goals. Similarly surprising, I hadn’t yet articulated my goals for the spring. (blogworthy benefit)

Here are/were my goals for spring 2014:

Goal 1:   create a stronger visual barrier between the quad and the fence on the south side of the quadrant

Goal 2:   create areas with sequential and continual interest throughout the summer

Goal 3:   do less maintenance along the perimeter and front of house; move detail work to quad so that more of my time and attention is focused on plant maintenance in the quad.

Here’s what I did:

“Goal 1:   create a stronger visual barrier between the quad and the fence on the south side of the quadrant”

To do this, I moved the hypericum from the quad, north side, to new beds created adjacent to the fence. [note to self: add future post on creating new beds!] And I also started moving the Joe Pye weed from the south stretch to the most western south stretch. I added the hypericum from  the north side the quadrant to do two things – alleviate the constant trimming (hypericum can be a vigorous grower) and coax something with a smaller profile in that area for greater color exposure from the new room in the house.

(pic of new back beds not available)

“Goal 2:   create areas with sequential and continual interest throughout the summer”

To accomplish this, I purchased some bulbs from HD:

I planted Caladium underneath the Baptista. It will be shaded by then, I think, between the Crocosmia and Casablanca lilies (wait until you see these lilies)

I planted some anemone on either side of the walkway for section 4 and 3:

"section 3"

“section 3”

"section 4"

“section 4”

Can you see the red circle? Planted there and then in section 4 “The Bride” Anemone. Towards the extreme right in section 4 is Scarlet Flax. Here are snaps of the packaging:



Scarlet Flax

Scarlet Flax

Of course, I’ve already forgotten where I planted “Mr. Fokker”… I think in section 3 somewhere. I may have also missed the timing on the scarlet flax. Will watch and see what shakes out with that.

In case you’re wondering, the big leafed plant adjacent to the anemones in section 3 is hollyhock, a biennial. Started it from seed last year so we should see some gorgeous blooms this year.

Can’t do a garden without some lovely salvia to brighten up the late summer and fall. I planted indigo spires on both sides of the front of the quadrant, just behind the boxwood:

Salvia "indigo spires"

Goal 3:   do less maintenance along the perimeter and front of house; move detail work to quad so that more of my time and attention is focused on plant maintenance in the quad.

Long-term extended goal 1 is to move the plants requiring maintenance out of the perimeter gardens and into the quadrant, because that’s where I want to spend my time. So, the Joe Pye weed is migrating up to the north side of the yard to aid with establishing a perimeter. More pics to follow.

Review of World Events

Still working on updating the brickwork, walkway by walkway. Almost done! Here’s a little preview:


The process of lining the walkways with layers of newspaper appears to be working. This post describes the beginning. What I hadn’t expected was the tedious process of laying the sections out so they form a uniform base. BTW, re-doing the south walk, I realized why this works: the newspaper becomes a layer of paper mache!

What I also hadn’t anticipated is the review of world events that go into the mindless layering. For example, on the south walk underneath the brick are layers of stories on the Boston bombers, Alec Baldwin’s media blitz for “Orphans,” the 17-day survivor of the Bangladesh building collapse, and most recently, the little boy fleeing the carnage of another bombing in Kabul. I have no desire to join the world-is-moving-so-fast / TMI whining crowd, but I am aware of the impact of reviewing these stories, in the garden, and slowly.

My heart goes out to the scared children and those who suffer. While China is on a debt binge and Google and Apple continue their megalithic climbs for industry dominance, I quietly layer the news to buffer weeds and level my walkways. But not without sending out heartfelt wishes to those who cry and ache for an easier life. Thanks, J-J, for helping me gather the news.

Moving the brick … again.


Every spring I’m torn between nicely manicured beds, filling the beds with plants and keeping the walkways weed-free. While looking online for ideas for tomato supports, I ran across instructions for building raised beds that suggested using newspapers to line the bottoms as a decomposable way to keep weeds away. Aha! I thought.

So the first go turned out sort of okay. Not 100% happy with the outcome because it’s a bit bumpy, and I wanted the newspaper to elevate the bricks an inch or so to address another problem I have with drifting mulch. Check it out:


See how the mulch and dirt, over time, drift from the beds to the bricks? It adds to the weed problem. What I’ve done for a few springs is go through each section, brick by brick, with a butter knife to de-weed everything. A full rotation twice a summer is required, and this takes hours and hours of labor. Not good.

So raising the bricks an inch or two should help. Hence the newspapers…

Determined to keep at it, I thought instead of re-doing the south walk section, I would start with the circle and then build out from there.

First I removed the brick and pulled all the deeply-rooted weeds and heinous vines (bittersweet, locust roots, etc., etc.). Then I worked at improving the level of the dirt. My tools? A string connecting two bricks and a small rake! Here’s what it looked like:

Down to the dirt

Next, I started laying out the paper. Note to self: don’t do this on a windy day! There was only a slight breeze, but strong enough to have all those pages flying, so I dragged the water out and wet the paper as I layered it from the center and extending out. Then, using the string/two-brick tool, I found the center point and positioned the bricks to start the circle.

centering This was kind of scary. Why? Because being in the middle of a mess like this, one realizes that you can’t go backwards and forward is the only way to proceed. Plus, I wasn’t sure this was really going to work!

 I added a new tool – not sure what it is called. I think of it as a prospector’s tool: kind of like a pointy hammer on one side of the head and a prying kind of thing on the other side. I quickly ran out of half bricks and used the prospector to break whole bricks in half. I found that with a quick bang on the smooth side of the brick, it would separate with one good whack!

So after filling in the center, I started lining it with concentric circles. When I got within 3 or 4 layers of the beds, I noted the level dropping off. I had two bags of Hampton’s Estate mulch left over from last year, and gave these outer edges some nice beds of mulch, saving about a third of one back to fill the center. This helped raised the level.

And here’s how it turned out! Pretty, right! Loving it. Loving the center too.

Done I am such a spazz with the cell phone camera. This photo is blurry because I had taken a video rather than a picture. Must. Get. Camera. Anyway, parting shot: CU of the lovely center:


More anon …

Update… a rainy Sunday, but here’s the west walk with about a month’s worth of NY Times and Wall Street Journals underneath them:

Before…                                                                                         and after:

westwalk_before westwalk_after