Thursday, September 24, 2009

Lily porn

Fall is sneaking in the back door during this summery September -- it's time to review notes, evaluate performances and think about planting spring and summer blooming-bulbs. Lilies are at the top of the list.

1. These are Casa Blanca lilies, a garden classic. Beautiful clear white that only gets more lovely as the sun goes down. Graceful form. Nice fragrance. Tall, sturdy stems. Unfortunately, the deer also favor them. Last year, we didn't get any blooms because of the deer. This year, we doubled up on protection, caging them for much of the growing season and using the motion-detecting sprinkler to scare off would-be diners. The cage isn't the most attractive option, but you do tend to look past it because there are so many other things to see. These are the last of our lilies to bloom, making a grand statement in late August.

Big, bodacious blooms and buds.

Casas caged for their own good.

2. An asiatic lily called 'Grand Cru' makes its statement in mid- to late July. No fragrance to speak of, but its color more than makes up for that. It's a nice companion for baptisia (the straight blue species.)

The flowers aren't huge, but there are plenty of 'em.

3. Sometimes you just roll with the punches. We ordered some 'Rodela' lilies (an LA hybrid, a cross between L. longiflorium and asiatic lilies) several years back. When they flowered, they looked like this instead. So not the wine red of 'Rodela.' Pretty, but not where they were planted. Relocated to the front of the house, they mix well with my favorite 'Lauren's Grape' poppies and pink allium. We're still not sure what variety they are, but they have found a home here anyway.

The poppies are an annual; the allium is a perennial. Both complement the mystery pink lily. That's campanula 'Pantaloons' on the right -- shortly before flowering.

4. This is the 'Rodela' we were looking for. I love how the flowers are held upright like candelabra. It blooms in late July. Reputable plant purveyors want to make things right with their customers. When we alerted the folks at John Scheeper's about the lily mixup, they sent us the right ones.

Give 'Rodela' some space so you can better appreciate its form.

5. Many bulb merchants offer mixes where you can get more bulbs for less. It's a good way to go if you're looking to paint a scene with a broad brush rather than a specific color. These dark pink beauties are from such a mix that also included pale pink and white lilies.

These lilies are growing in a bed with catmint and monkshood.

6. Here's yet another example of why it's important to tag things and keep records. These pale yellow lilies were a surprise in early August. No one here remembers planting them, but I sure do like them. If I only knew what they were, I could order more.

These mystery lilies are especially winsome next to the variegated burnet. Deer nibbled the burnet in early summer, but it came back strong.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Brugmansia bloom watch update

I've been waiting a long time to see this brugmansia bloom again.
All those seasons of carting it inside and outside with the occasional anemic blossom. Finally, a sturdy, robust, beautiful blossom with a fragrance
that is fresh and pure.

Let the celebrating begin. First blossom opened Saturday morning and more are on the way. I hereby proclaim this week sillydoggarden Brugmansia Bloom Week.

Interested in giving these plants a try? Here's a primer from Brugmansia Growers International.

The plant holds its blossoms so they face down. This is looking up into the flower's innards. Gotta love that green striping.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Brugmansia bloom watch

The waxy bud of the brugmansia is nearly ready to open. The foliage continues to fight off the spider mites, even after spending the summer outside. We've been fortunate to have a warm September; it's given the plant time to bloom before I have to bring it back inside.

Brugmansia is a hands-down showstopper. The blooms are huge -- 6 inches or more -- and the fragrance is intoxicating. A few blossoms will easily perfume a room.

My success in growing brugmansia (also known as angel's trumpet) has been mixed. But I keep trying. I manage to keep the tropical plants alive in this cold climate by faithfully trotting the pots outside in summer and back inside in fall. The plants are a magnet for spider mites and it seems that every year they turn ratty-looking and refuse to bloom no matter how much soap solution I douse them with or how much liquid fertilizer I give them.

But this year, this year is different. The big brug in the herb garden is loaded with buds and several are just opening. I should have blossoms this weekend (knock on wood!) The even bigger brugmansia on the deck also has buds, although fewer than the other.
So I am now officially on Brug Bloom Watch. There will be major celebrating when the first blossom opens.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Road trip, anyone?

Information about the Fall Equinox Festival at The Garden House in Solon Springs, Wis., arrived in the mail this week. Followers of sillydoggarden know this is one of my must-visit nurseries in the spring. I've never visited in the fall, but this sounds like fun. The festival is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday (Sept. 19) and trees, perennials and shrubs are 50 percent off. There also will be locally grown produce, other farmstead products and handmade items such as beads, soap and baskets. And artwork. And caramel apples. And music.

The Garden House is at 11517S Cemetery Road in Solon Springs.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A world on a deck

The deck is full of the greens of tomatoes, mint and eggplant. Lemon gem marigolds, blue and white lobelia and a banana plant's red leaves add small splashes of color. This photo of one side of the deck was taken several weeks ago.

As September here feels more like July, we're continuing to enjoy the backyard deck. Every summer I fill it with container plants. I normally proceed without much of a plan; often, it's leftovers from other parts of the garden that wind up here. There are always a few tender things -- scented geraniums, for example -- that winter indoors and summer outdoors, as well as some of the potted mints that are buried or otherwise protected for the winter. I try to incorporate lots of plants with fragrant foliage or flowers because they're easy to touch and fondle and enjoy while kicking back. Just rub a chocolate-peppermint scented geranium between your fingers or inhale the sweet vanilla-like fragrance of blooming night phlox and tell me the world isn't a better place because of them.

I was mostly happy with how the deck turned out this year. Some people (you know who you are) have said they'd like more color, but I found the emphasis (totally unintended) on foliage color and texture pleasing. It spelled serenity to me and that's just what I needed this year. I was disappointed that the hops didn't do better -- I had envisioned it snaking its way through the railing -- but I suspect it was too root-bound to do much more.

The deck is about 19 x 16 and I've managed to stuff 47 containers of varying sizes between the chairs and the grill. They include tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, four varieties of mint, parsley, lemon balm, malabar spinach, patchouli, brugmansia, heliotrope, a fig, a banana and lemon gem marigolds. I always include one water plant, this year an umbrella palm, because the silly dog likes to use the container as a personal drinking fountain.

A blue squash vine travels down the stair railing.

More and more I think of vegetables as ornamentals. This is 'Velvet Red' tomato; the foliage is a beautiful fuzzy silver, which is one big reason it gets deck status. Fortunately, we are getting fruit so we can try to save seeds for starting next year. It's not the easiest seed to find.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Borlaug obituary

The Washington Post reports that Norman E. Borlaug, father of the "Green Revolution," died Saturday in Texas. In Borlaug's lecture accepting the Nobel Prize in 1970, he described an adequate supply of food as "the first component of social justice . . . for all mankind. If you desire peace, cultivate justice, but at the same time cultivate the fields to produce more bread. Otherwise there will be no peace."

So much of late has been written about the virtues of home gardening and growing your own vegetables to save money and eat better, we sometimes forget about the bigger picture of hunger and just how many people this Earth can sustain.

Friday, September 11, 2009

An urge to splurge

Edelweiss Nursery in Duluth, 5175 Washburn Road. Debbie's Birthday Sale. Today and Saturday -- 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Fifty percent off!

It's one of the best plant sales around.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A little something to keep me occupied

It must be fall; the asters are starting to bloom. This is Honeysong Pink.

Some of you may have noticed the slide show that popped up on this blog a few weeks back. The Seventh Day Project is my attempt to chronicle and document how the garden changes from month to month. (Yes, those winter months will be a challenge!) Each month, on the seventh day, I'll shoot photos around the garden -- some from basically the same angle, others will be random shots of whatever I find interesting. Then, probably within a day or two, I'll post some of the images in the slide show. To see a bigger version of the image, just click on it and you should go to the album where I'll also include captions.

Why the seventh day? Chalk it up to my Midwestern Lutheran upbringing -- Sundays were supposed to be a day of rest and reflection. And I just like the way it sounds. This seventh-day isn't always a Sunday, but it will be a chance to stop and think about what's working, what's not and what still needs to be done.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Geraniums? Or geraniums?

I love the chocolate pattern on 'Samobor's' foliage. The glossy leaves at right are the ivy geranium; the blossom also is the ivy geranium. 'Samobor' also is called Mourning Widow and performs well in semi-shady locations.

Some of the best performing plants in our garden are the hardy geraniums, also called cranesbill geraniums. And some of the best performing plants in containers are the tender plants commonly called geraniums that in reality are pelargoniums, a completely different genus. What would happen if I put the two together?

This spring, needing to keep a tighter rein on the plant budget, I decided to try it out. The hardy geranium Geranium phaeum 'Samobor' on the north side of the house needed to be thinned and divided. The big whiskey barrels by the garage needed to be filled -- cheaply. I dug up some clumps of the 'Samobor' with its fat leaves blotched with chocolate and paired it with 'Black Magic' ivy geranium found at The Garden House in Solon Springs, Wis. The ivy geranium has just a hint of chocolate in the center of its glossy leaves. I really like the subtle repetition of form and color. The leaves are different enough to be interesting and provide contrasts in texture and similar enough to form a relationship that isn't jarring. Oh, and the flowers are nice, too.

I'm debating on whether to pot up the 'Black Magic' to attempt to overwinter it inside. It may be more trouble than it's worth considering all the other tender plants that need to make their way back into the house in the next few weeks. Although it's a perennial that easily toughs out the winters here, I doubt 'Samobor' will survive above the ground in the whiskey barrel. I'll sacrifice them -- there will be plenty more where they came from next spring.

This whiskey barrel brims with hardy geraniums, tender ivy geraniums, 'Rosamond' lobelia and a fern in the back. Next time, I'll ditch the fern and trade out 'Rosamond' for 'Sapphire' lobelia. I think the blue lobelia would be a better companion than the purple. The hardy geraniums bloomed earlier this summer; they have small, purple flowers that are held above the foliage. But the combination is about the foliage and not so much about the flowers.