Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day iris

The Nebraska immigrant iris began blooming this Memorial Day weekend. Its timing couldn't be better as the rhizomes came from my great-grandparents' graves in a tiny, remote cemetery in southwest Nebraska. I wonder if the iris is blooming there now, too.

I've become quite attached to this iris. It's beautiful and it's tough. Even rhizomes discarded in the used soil pile with no protection or care show signs of life after winter. Is it bullheadedness or a profound desire to live?

The softly fragrant, pale yellow blossoms are a reminder of family ties and loved ones who have died, as well as the importance of resilience. A capacity for resilience was required of those who wanted to create a life for themselves on the plains -- I hope I inherited at least a little bit of that resolve.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Trendy Picasso

The underside of 'Pretty Much Picasso' is almost more attractive than the top.
Holly first called my attention to a new petunia called 'Pretty Much Picasso.' She had discovered it at a greenhouse in Wisconsin and was excited about using it in her combination pots this year. We looked for it during a sweep of Minnesota greenhouses a few weeks later, but came up empty-handed. When we asked, salespeople told us they sold out of their stock almost immediately and didn't know of any other greenhouses that still had some. But Holly, one of the best shoppers around, found a few pots on the reduced rack at Shopko and snapped them up, including a pot for me.

Now that I've had a few days to examine and research the plant, I find myself a bit ambivalent about this petunia. I like petunias -- always have. But what I value most in petunias are the fragrance and the flirty, ruffly blooms and 'Picasso' appears to have neither. What it does have is an appealing purply flower with lime-green margins. Proven Winners, which markets the plant, says it doesn't need deadheading -- I like that, too. But the flowers are small and the green margin seems to get lost against the foliage. And, truth be told, I'm a little sour on Proven Winners. They have some great plants, but they're starting to feel a little too much like fast food -- a Whopper and fries taste great once in a while, but a steady diet is so unsatisfying. 

Still, I'll happily grow the plant and see how it performs. Who knows, by the end of the summer it could be on my favorites list. How about you -- are you growing 'Pretty Much Picasso' too?

The petunia is bushy, sturdy and healthy, and the flowers are intriguing. Let's see how it fares come August.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

After the thunderstorm

The bur oak is the last tree in the yard to leaf out in the spring and the first to lose its leaves in the fall. It's just now starting to show some green.
We had our first serious thunderstorm of the season the other night. Lots of rain and lots of lightning. The world the next morning was moist and hazy and warm -- a good time for taking a look-see and bringing you up-to-date on some of what is happening as the growing season accelerates.

Wild wood anemone, transplanted from the fringes of the woods to a home under the tree lilac, is an aggressive thug. Fistfuls must be pulled out to prevent it from taking over, but I love how it skirts the lilac's trunk.

The crab apple ('Molten Lava') is nearing its peak.

Ajuga (a k a bugleweed) mixes it up with lily of the valley.

Lamium is another plant to be reckoned with. Pink- and purple-flowered selections (the names have long since been forgotten) have commingled along with the silvery markings on the foliage.

Epimedium is a much better behaved ground cover. It looks like a flutter of paper hearts. 

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The 48-hour day

Shadows play across the front lawn. A white-flowered serviceberry punctuates the morning scene from earlier this week.
This is the time of year when we enjoy more hours of daylight but there still aren't enough hours in the day to get it all done. For example:
  • The flats of lobelia, alyssum, osteospermum, parsley, salvia and other annuals in the cold frame need daily watering. And fertilizing every couple of days. All in preparation for what will be an orgy of planting in the ground in a few weeks.
  • The seedlings under the lights downstairs need to be transplanted. And watered. And fertilized.
  • Some seeds still need to be sown -- I'm way late on the datura. But I finally got to the castor bean and malabar spinach.
  • Weeds are growing as fast as the perennials (or faster!). Choice perennials need to be divided and moved. And mulched. 
  • The pond needs a cleaning. The garden furniture needs to be oiled. The deck needs a coat of sealer.
Whew! If only I could trade some of those winter hours for more hours in the spring. If not 48 hours in a day, maybe 32?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Fishing? Better yet, flowers and foliage

The benches and aisles were jampacked at Byrn's Greenhouse two weekends ago.

Forget about today's fishing opener -- who cares about walleye when there are way-cool plants to be had? The forecast sounds like it will be perfect weather for buying plants and getting out in the garden this weekend. But don't go crazy and set out all your tender stuff -- we're not done with the possibility of frosts/freezes yet.

I've been out and about a little bit the past couple of weeks. Here are scouting reports from a few of the places I visited.

Byrn's Greenhouse in Zim: Fantastic selection of bedding plants and probably the best prices of any place I've visited so far this year. I picked up small pots of white heliotrope for $1.55 each. Really nice selection of herbs. The flowers and veggies were all healthy and robust and really, really hard to resist. Go. Get directions here.

Swanson's Greenhouse in Eveleth: Another winner for bedding plants, although prices seemed a tad higher than Bryn's. Swanson's also has a good selection of trellises, pots and garden do-dads.

Burchfiel's Greenhouse north of Duluth: Swooned over nice pots of antique shades of petunias (pastel pink with yellow in center, find a photo from Burpee here). I was going to buy some, but they don't take credit cards so I came home empty-handed.

The Garden House, Solon Springs, Wis.:  Always a fun, inspirational place to visit. Lots of purple perilla. I snapped up a six-pack of bells of Ireland -- you don't often find these flowers for sale. Learn more about the greenhouse here.

Holly keeps notes on plant combinations she likes in a journal that she carries with her when she shops. That way she can check varieties quickly without having to depend on her memory.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Seventh Day ... May?

Yes, May. Although for most of May 7 it felt more like December than the merry month. The wind blew off the lake. The snow fell. The temperature dropped. I cursed. And then I sowed some more seeds. What else can you do when confronted with something you can't control? (Fortunately, May's departure was short-lived. The snow is gone and, hey, we needed the moisture.) 

The Seventh Day Project for May is up for viewing. Check it out in the sidebar, top right.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A little sunshine on a cold, cloudy day

Tulipa dasystemon on the east side of the house.

There's a gusty wind off the lake this morning, and the forecast suggests we may see snow (!#!##) later today. Maybe a short tour of warm, soothing, joyful yellow in the garden will take the edge off. The color of the sun isn't limited to flowers -- stems, foliage and feathers play a role, too. (Photos were taken on various days during the past week.)

Yellow-twig dogwood underplanted with tiny daffodils and chionodoxa.

Primula elatior (oxlip) in the herb garden.

Varigated lemon thyme in the herb garden. 

Species tulip Professor de Monsseri by the door.

Evening grosbeak in the tree lilac outside the kitchen window. It's one of my favorite birds.