Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday flower power

Here's another good reason to check the after-Christmas sales. I found this Red Lion amaryllis at Target for 5 bucks. And it came with a nice crock to use for holding cooking utensils or whatever. There's nothing like a jolt of red to lift your spirits this time of year.

What's ahead at sillydoggarden? Lots of pot washing in anticipation of lots of sowing! Meanwhile, here's something that's completely off-topic, but relevant. Whether on paper or on the Web, support your local journalists!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

For my Valentine: Roses revisited

The rose garden at the New York Botanical Garden is a little more than acre in size.
We still talk about last summer's visit to the New York Botanical Garden. What can I say -- it made an impression.
The Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden was especially memorable. It's strange, I'm not really a huge fan of formal rose gardens -- I much prefer my roses mixed in with other flowers in a less-refined tumble of petals and shapes. But this one was so expansive and so well-kept, you couldn't help but be impressed. It was renovated in 2006-2007, and the roses growing there are being evaluated for performance as well as beauty. The New York Times has more about the $2.5 million refurbishing. What you can't do with a little money.

Visiting public gardens is a great way to get ideas for your own space. I especially liked how the NYBG surrounded pots of tree roses with salvia 'Victoria' and underplanted other tree roses with smaller, shrubby roses.
The blue of the salvia plays off the pink of the roses; and I love the repeating elements. 

Pink Double Knock-out is underplanted with Pink Drift.
We do grow roses at sillydoggarden, but don't fuss with tea roses or standards like those in the pots above. Hardy, shrub roses such as 'Hansa' are more to my liking. We tried a shrubby 'Golden Wings' some years ago. It didn't survive, but it was one of the prettiest roses I've seen. After seeing it in New York last summer, I'm hot to give it a try again.

This pale yellow 'Golden Wings' is especially appealing. 
Not only does the NYBG have money, it also has the staff to care for such a treasure. This gardener (below) was deadheading roses just outside the entrance to the formal garden. When we commented on the magnitude of his job, he just smiled and said "we're gaining on it." And so it goes, maintenance in a place like that is ongoing, never, ever really done. Kinda like it is here, too.
A little grooming goes a long way.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Seventh Day Project: February

Abutilon is an old-fashioned plant that I hadn't seen for years until I came across it last spring at The Garden House in Solon Springs, Wis. Also known as flowering maple or parlor maple, it came inside for the winter and is blooming despite some serious neglect on my part.
Now we're getting into the really hard part of winter around here. I've grown tired of the snow and the cold, but there's still a ways to go before the crocus bloom. February has been the most challenging month so far of my Seventh Day Project that started in August. Despite the noticeably longer days, it looks an awful lot like January. Snow, silhouettes, seedheads, conifers, structures. But sillydoggarden lives inside as well as outside, and we have blooms of abutilon and rosemary to share. Check out the project in the sidebar, top right.

It's a good time to give the houseplants and outdoor refugees a good grooming. Maybe this weekend I'll take an afternoon and clip and cut back and wash the dust off foliage. Some of the plants need a good leaching in the sink. And, with more daylight, it's time to start fertilizing again, too.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Sidetracked by the web of life

The visits are regular; these guys are just at the northern perimeter of the garden.
I had every intention this morning of curling up with my required reading, but I got sidetracked by this tale of following deer tracks and coyote tracks in the snowy woods of the Hudson Valley. The tale, interesting on its own (and complete with photos), evolved into a fascinating discussion of predator-prey relationships, the deer population, what to do in case of an attack by coyotes, the apparently rare coydog (the result of a coyote and a dog mating), the apparently more common coywolf (the result of a coyote and a wolf mating) and ecological changes with far-reaching effects. There's a little bit of politics, too.

Having spent enough time around here trying to decipher the stories behind deer tracks and other animal tracks, it was enlightening (and a bit unnerving) to read Bill Bakaitis' account of a deer kill told through tracks and other evidence left in the woods. Check it out; the comments are a good read, too.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

10 annuals for flowers and foliage

Each catalog gets a list and then we make final decisions based on price, variety and shipping costs.
 Required reading this time of year includes a stack of seed catalogs. We get lots of them at sillydoggarden and, over the years, have come to rely heavily on a few favorites. For annual flowers, it's hard to go wrong with Select Seeds. This place just seems to be in tune with my taste, stocking lovely old-fashioned blooms that are fragrant, too. Other favorite seed sources include Baker Creek, Johnny's, Territorial and Stokes. Stokes is an especially good source for alyssum and lobelia, two plants that we grow by the flat to edge paths and fill containers. 

Some annuals are no-brainers that I grow year in and year out, no matter what. Others shift in and out of each year's palette; if I don't have the time (or money!) to grow them one year, they'll more than likely get another turn down the road. And, of course, there's always room for an experiment or two. This year I'm trying Schizopetalon walkeri 'Star Band'. It's described in Select Seeds as having petite feathery flowers with an almond fragrance. Anybody out there have any experience with it?

Here, then, are 10 annuals that are on my list for growing this year. The list isn't all-inclusive (what about heliotrope?), but it's a start.
1. Night phlox (Zaluzianskya capensis 'Midnight Candy'): The delicate white flowers open in the evening, releasing a sweet fragrance that you can almost taste. During the day the flowers curl up into balls, revealing the violet backside of the petals. A great pot plant to grow near where you sit in the evening.