I know I’m suffering from a pretty awful case of cabin fever. So last Friday, January 22 my Hogging buddy, Elisabeth and I spent a wonderful day at the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx, NY.
Snowdrops are put on this planet to bring a smile to your face in winter
Galanthus elwesii in bloom in the Jane Watson Irwin Perennial Garden, NYBG
Walking through the Jane Watson Irwin Perennial Gardens on the way to the Conservatory, what do we see but the heralding of spring. The Galanthus elwesii and Helleborus niger were in bloom. Right out there, smack in the cold misery of January.
If you need a boost to get you through the next few weeks, seeing these in bloom is just the ticket.
Hellebore niger were in bloom as were the less showy Hellebore foetidus
In my own garden I have many cultivars of Hellebore but no Christmas roses
Check your own gardens for what buds are beginning to swell and whether your daffodils are starting to push through the mulch. When I came home from the NYBG I did just that and found a whole host of growth going on right outside my windows.
In June of 2009 my garden was featured on the annual Northport Historical Society garden tour event. Weeks of preparation for a full day of garden connoisseurs visiting your garden takes an act of courage and lots and lots of hard physical work. The day was a rousing success and I’m glad I did it.
Sharon Ruedeman captured the event and created this energetic video of that time.
Brugmansia suoveolens “Pink Beauty” in full bloom.
Here is my Brugmansia suoveolens “Pink Beauty” in full bloom. So how did that white one slip in? In the morning the flowers are white but as the day moves on they turn pink. Very Cool!
Well…one of the many things I like about my Brugmansia is that when the bloom first opens it is white and during the day the color gradually floods into this sensuous pink. Over time, as the blooms ripen they darken before they dissolve and drop. So what you have is the wonderful serenade of color chords which change over the hours and days.
This plant commands attention when in bloom.
These flowers start to give off their musky fragrance in the late afternoon.
I’ve overwintered this tree for many years now in my zone 6 home. Just before frost, I cut the tall stalks back to just one or two central leaders of about 4 foot in height removing all the side branches and all the foliage. I put the pots in an unassuming corner of the house and place them behind tall tropical ferns to hide them in their dormancy.
Beginning in February I begin to offer them small sips of water and by April I begin to put them out on the deck on warmer days to acclimate them to the weather. I find that they will endure more chill in the air than any of my other tropicals so this is a plus in a rather crowded home without a greenhouse for overwintering.
I tried my unheated garage one year and lost all my specimens so I won’t be trying that again soon! I don’t let them develop any leaves indoors since I find them prone to whiteflies and scale so I keep them as a summer treat.
What a treat! In the late afternoon, the musky odor of these amazing blooms wafts through the air and sneaks in the screens filling our home with summer. Although I do know that some people liken the smell to that of some floozy with overbearing cheap perfume flouncing her way dominantly into their senses.
“Kansas Peonies” Art inspired from my Mother’s Day present.
Four O’Clocks were my first introduction to growing plants from seed. Uncle Teddy took me by the hand at his home in Schenectady and introduced me, the kid from Brooklyn, to gardening. I can still smell the soil as we dropped the seeds of Four O’Clocks into the ground he taught me to prepare. Four O’Clocks weren’t the only things growing in his garden, so was I.
The Kansas Peonies I grow in my garden was a Mother’s Day present from my son Chris. I have so many gifts he’s given to me over our many years together but I still cherish the bright pink of these robust plants each year as they bloom for me right in season. They return each Mother’s Day, expanding and adding to their beauty, as does he.
Japanese Maple a birthday gift.
One year for my September birthday, my son, Michael came swooping in proudly bestowing upon me a stripling of a Japanese Maple. Still dangling was the $9.99 tag placed on it from Home Depot. Now, this mature specimen holds court as a central focal point in my front garden.
A bouquet of Zinnias comes into my hands each year when my husband Dave buys them from the gardener with a stand up the street from us. The grin on his boyish face as he hands them to me with love is matched only by the riotous colors of the single and double flowers grouped tightly in his hands.
On Mother’s Day this year my grandson C.J. bounced up to greet me with a pot full of poppies. He shares my garden with me and helps to bring my attention to all the wonderful colors and shapes he finds there for fear I might miss them. These poppies are pink he told me and reminded me that we need to photograph everything so we’ll remember how they looked.
Rhododendrons have such a great place in plant hunter’s history. Tales are still being told and re-enacted as new and old seekers traverse the back roads and non-roads of the Himalayas in search of the newest and rarest of Rhodies. Courage, stamina, and leeches always play a big role in these adventures.
Having quite a different perspective of plant hunting, I traverse the hills and dales of Long Island in search of the ever elusive cultivar not yet in my plant collection. Rather than being the intrepid adventurer of far off lands gathering seed, I drive to nurseries and make some of my decisions on whether I can lift the plant into my car. Rhodies can be backbreaking.
Which brings me to the problem of this Rhododendron catawbiense which is an original inhabitant when I bought the property in 1989. The foundation plantings were all huge view-concealing Rhodies. Over time I’ve managed to dig up and move all of them except this last remaining specimen. Some of the huge plants I moved by myself and in some cases, I hired a person with a bobcat. Some survived the transplanting and some didn’t. In retrospect, I think the fatalities had to do with watering and drought issues since the rootballs of Rhodies are pretty shallow and self-contained.
View from the dining room window of the Rhodi in bloom
The way to view Rhododendrons is not to the exclusion of a view of the rest of your garden when sitting at your dining room table. This view is only beautiful for 2 weeks a year when the rhodi is in bloom. The only other benefit to having this view is that in the winter you can use the leaf curl as a thermometer to determine if the temperature is below freezing. Not worth it I say. So, as I’ve said every year for the last decade or so, I’m going to move that Rhodie to the woods this year.
I’ve been working on my garden for a long time. When I had the driveway widened, I had bluestone gravel put down since I like the crunching sound of homecoming when I drive off the paved street into the driveway.
I took the stones, which come up every time I sink a shovel into the garden, and used them to create the edging with the slight curves that welcome you onto the property and foreshadow the style which will be followed throughout the garden. Though I had professionals widen the driveway and initially place the stones I supplied, I moved them and moved them for quite awhile until I got the actual curves visually right.
I moved the stone edging 6 times before I was satisfied with the curves. I did this instead of joining a gym.
Garden Entry May 2008
I planted spring bulbs and flowers, in order to give an early season, welcome to the folks driving by and the ones who walk by on their daily exercise circuit. I am pleased how the area filled in since my initial planting in 2001. In fact, it has filled in so fully that I’m able to divide and share the wealth with some other eager gardeners.
I like the way the stones seem to have settled into their niches and look as though they’ve always lived where they are. The soil has slid through the gaps and the ground covers have leaped over the tops, naturalizing their display.
A sturdy old oak stump nestled in my woodland garden
This grand old oak tree was hollow and very much alive when I bought my property in 1989. It was a constant fascination to me that such a large tree could survive when so much of it’s trunk was hollow. This was years before I formally studied horticulture and learned about the xylem, cambium and phloem and their role in feeding the tree and keeping it alive.
I just loved the strength and endurance of this massive tree for what I could see with my own eyes. It had the ability to live year after year with half of it’s core gone, pushing out leaves in spite of itself. To me it was a tribute to raw determination.
A few years ago though, I noticed a decline in the top growth and I became concerned. This huge tree had always leaned quite heavily sideways and if it fell, though it wouldn’t land on any house or structure, it could fall onto the roadway and possibly injure folks driving off to do errands in their car. To avoid that possibility I called for a conference with my arborist, Eran Strauss of Tree Believers. We decided that the tree had indeed reached a tipping point and was now a danger.
Eran and I had his crew cut the tree to a height of about 25 feet so that if it fell, it would remain on my property and fall into my woodland walks. Though I missed this living example of determination, I felt relieved that danger was averted.
So one morning, weeks later, as I’m taking my first sip of coffee and looking out my kitchen window, something had dramatically changed in the garden. As I wandered out to examine the change I came upon the toppled top 15 feet or so of incredibly decayed pieces of oak tree trunk smashed to bits and strewn around the garden. The only damage was to my wire compost bins and not to any people. Our plan had worked.
I now enjoy watching this remaining stump play host to birds and wildlife. The ivy and mushrooms love to snuggle into crevices. This old friend makes me smile each time I see it, remembering the strength and determination it had to live life on it’s own terms. And now it is resting and still giving back to the universe.
Last year I took this picture in my front entry garden on April 14th. This is just at the edge of where the driveway meets the garden and as you can see, I hadn’t even finished clearing out the leaves from the miniature rhododendrons. The bulbs are all starting to come up and the azaleas behind the tree stumps are getting green. The Cercis canadensis ‘Covey’ or Eastern weeping redbud tree is not yet in bloom and I haven’t turned the water on at the little globe water feature. I haven’t even gotten around to planting the hayracks on the deck banisters.
This second photo was taken a month later on May 17th and what a difference! The azaleas, which were here when I bought the property in 1989, are in bloom in the entry garden and in the distance in the front garden. The Uvularia grandiflora or Bellwort is spreading itself in front of my globe. A hosta named ‘Diana Remembered’ that I bought from Terre Nova Nursery is sprouting to the right of it on the curve. The miniature yellow green hosta to the bottom left of the image is called, ‘Green Eyes’. I love growing all different kinds and sizes of hostas but I like even better when the slugs don’t spoil the view. These mini’s I find are particularly vulnerable to becoming salad for the slugs but I like the challenge of changing their minds.