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Garden journal - all of 2007

 

already proudly different as a seedling
February 10, 2007. I've been very quiet for the past couple of months - not adding much to the website. Well, that's not completely true - in the background, I've been busy with my winter seedstarting operations, and I've already added many new germination trial details to plant pages - some I'm trying for the first time (look here for an overview), others are old favorites. The seedling in the photo is Syneilesis palmata, a plant that delights me with its many shapes and textures as it moves through its life cycles and seasons. I consider it a bit of a triumph that I was able to grow a couple of seedlings from seed collected out of our own garden - since they set so few viable seeds.
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March 17, 2007. Winter didn't treat us to much snow at all until well into February. Since then, we've had two decent snowfall events; the one pictured here is hopefully the last - I'm ready for spring!
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our solitary snowdrop, once again soldiering early spring
March 24, 2007. As the space under my basement growlights is rapidly running out (and many more seeds have yet to sprout), I'm anxious for better weather so that the hardier seedlings can find their way outside. And finally, it looks like Ma Nature is cooperating, with temperatures in the 50s and 60s this week. It's been a strange winter - warm temperatures in January confused everyone and everything, and the dip into arctic conditions that followed soon thereafter surely didn't help the plants that had concluded spring was near. Then we got snow and rain from mid-February through mid-March, with extremely soggy conditions as a result - and a delayed emergence of the early-spring flowers. But finally, they're here: the rock irises, crocus, early anemones, and of course our dear snowdrop.
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March 27, 2007. Early spring. The weather is full of promise, but the garden still looks lifeless from a distance - the grass is greening up, but the flower beds are brown and gray. Until you look up close, that is. Buds and tiny leaves are pushing up on some plants, often in brighter colors than the summer foliage will be. The one pictured here is Alchemilla bulgarica, a dwarf lady's mantle. It's been in our garden for a couple of years without making much of a statement, but seeing the bright silvery-green leaves on my treasure hunt through the garden today made up for its low profile.
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April 06, 2007. Just when I was getting started potting up plants for my sale next month and looking forward to a weekend's harvest to flesh out the number of varieties listed - the weather turned frigid. It snowed today! The soil is so cold that my fingers don't last long on my brief ventures outside to gather up plants. I can't stand wearing gloves to handle plants, so progress is slow - but now that I've started, there's no stopping me!
 

Christmas rose, its white flowers already fading to pink
April 14, 2007. The garden at this time of spring dishes out both joy and disappointment: there's the old stand-bys that reappear better than ever (like the Helleborus niger pictured here); and the ones that finally gave up the ghost. The new plants, started as seedlings last year, showing all their promise in fresh new foliage; and the ones that proved not hardy or otherwise unsuitable for our garden conditions, their empty spots marked only by lonely markers. It's also a dangerous time to draw definitive conclusions about the persistence or demise of these plants, since many are still hiding underground. But there's no doubt that this past winter was rough on many perennials - with temperatures staying in the 70s for a week in early January, only to drop down to seasonally appropriate freezes, promptly followed by weeks of wetness. The garden is looking decidedly bare for this time of year. But with a spring order from McClure & Zimmerman around the corner, and a near-record crop of seedlings from this winter's operations, the empty look won't persist for long.
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any excuse to climb a tree!
April 28, 2007. Six days ago, before I left on a business trip to Siberia, the garden was just emerging from winter - I returned to find that spring has firmly taken ahold of the garden, following several unseasonably warm days and a few mild rainy ones. My camera was my best buddy today, taking photos of all the newly emerging plants. Everything is in full gear for next week's plant sale, and its preparation took most of today's gardening time. But there were some other garden chores to be dealt with - including the removal of two trees. The first, our fine little pear tree that had for years been the best producer in our tiny orchard, was an involuntary loss - it had struggled for a few years, and did not spring back to life this time. Its main structure will serve as a trellis of sorts, after I removed most of the smaller limbs. The removal of the second, and larger, tree was a conscious decision - made primarily by Amy, whose favorite crab apple was forever obscured and hindered by the large empress tree. Although I was fond of that tree, which I raised from seed some nine years ago, I had to agree that it didn't quite fit. Its stubborn refusal to bloom made the decision easier. I left the stump standing, to see if the tree has merit in a coppiced form. Stay tuned...
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May 03, 2007. Busy busy busy! It took about all day to get the garage cleaned out and set up, and then to haul the hundreds of potted-up plants from the back of the yard into their place for the sale on Saturday - but the most laborious part of the job is finished. Tomorrow I can pace myself a bit more, getting the premises somewhat presentable, do last-minute labeling and pricing... In the meantime, I'm not losing sight of the garden itself. Yesterday, the Epimedium x perralchicum bloomed for the first time. Its most striking feature, as far as I'm concerned, is still the leaf shape and coloration, but the flowers are certainly a bonus.
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May 05, 2007. Oh my - what a plant sale! If it hadn't been for the help of my wife and my mother (who had just arrived from the Netherlands for a visit yesterday, poor thing) I don't think I could have handled the early-morning burst of activity. In the course of an hour, the plant tables lost well over half their contents and many of the choicest selections. Many new faces - I wish I had time to chat with all the friendly people, but I found myself rushing around like a madman. So dear customers, do look me up sometime when I'm taking things easy, and have time to talk and show you around. As for now - it's been a long three days (final preparations and sale), and I'm beat. Till next time...
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May 15, 2007. At long last, our tree peony is blooming! For weeks the buds were growing, for over a week the petal coloration was showing tantalizingly through the green - but finally, the flower is open. Perhaps a bit of a disappointment - the flower is not that of 'Shima Nishiki', the red-and-white variety shown on the label when I purchased the plant. But I'm not complaining too much - it's still a glorious plant. We're looking forward to seeing it grow and prosper in our garden.
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May 25, 2007. Finally, the garden has forgotten it got off to such a late start this year, and is in its usual mid-spring flush of leaf and bloom. Even with weeds and plenty of prettifying work to be done, the garden looks just marvellous at this time of year. The spurless columbines remain one of my favorite plants of the season, and this year the display is better than ever. They don't stick around for more than two or three years, so I grow some new ones every year. The contrast with the golden feverfew is accidental, but quite nice.

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May 27, 2007. A few hot days in a row, and the water in our big pond is quite warm - enough so that three of the waterlilies planted in the main section decided to start blooming - so far, a white one, a yellow one, and this fuchsia variety named 'Attraction', my favorite so far. You can also see how well the natural bog filtration system is keeping the water clear. We're still half-way expecting an algae bloom (especially since the plantings in the bog are still small and not very effective at removing nutrients), but are quite happy with the overall appearance of the pond. After several leaks caused by shifting of rocks through winter got fixed, it's finally all working like it should. Now if only the kids would stay off the rocks and out of the waterfall run, we could maintain that state indefinitely!
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May 28, 2007. After yesterday's hot weather was interrupted by a refreshing thunderstorm, this morning was wonderful for leisurely strolling and weeding through the side garden. After some time, Amy rounded the corner, and exclaimed "Oh no, it's a jungle again!" Sure enough, the growth spurt of the past few weeks has once again caused this section of our garden to balloon into overwhelming lushness. It is an older part of our garden with plenty of mature legacy plants - those that we shouldn't have planted where we did, but now that they're there, they just kind of stay. Even though Amy and I will never quite agree on how lush is lush enough (I like lots of plants!), I've made some progress over the years correcting some of those early mistakes. In time, this may yet become the show garden Amy is hoping for.
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June 08, 2007. In the April 28 entry, I described how we lopped down our large empress tree. Empress trees are known for their tendency to resprout from the roots, so we kept an eye on its new growth. Sure enough, it wasn't long before a soft-hairy new shoot zoomed up, with huge leaves. Sitting and looking at it for a while, I was suddenly struck how the texture and color of the succulent stalk resembled Shrek's princess Fiona - ears and all! One of the sillier thoughts I've had in the garden, I admit.
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June 10, 2007. It's been a good few days for first-time flower observation - several perennials that I started last year are now in bloom, as well as a few of this year's new annual attempts. The one pictured here is Codonopsis clematidea, which I tried unsuccessfully a few times, then thought I lost again until it emerged late this spring. The photo is the inside of the flower, really only meant for insects' eyes, since the nodding flowers don't usually serve up a view of their interiors.
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June 13, 2007. It's June - the garden's bug diversity is improving! Best bug of the year so far: this immature wheel bug (Arilus cristatus), the largest of the assassin bug family. Found hiding in between a couple of leaves on our small parrot tree, waiting for a juicy bug to sink its ferocious mouthpiece into.
Also observed in recent days: young praying mantis, diving water beetles, and millions of snail babies developing in our big pond.
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July 04, 2007. Fourth of July - a little after-vacation holiday. We returned from our ten-day vacation on Monday, to find a garden that was decidedly dry, and ravaged by Japanese beetles. I had seen the first ones rather early this year (in mid-June), but they waited to come out en masse until we left on vacation - the cowards! This morning, Benny helped me capture and squash a bunch. Drop in a bucket, for sure, but it does satisfy the basic urge for revenge.
Some bright points in the garden too - I'll be uploading photos for some plants that are blooming for the first time. Such as the lion's ear pictured here - it shot up from less than 2 feet up to 4 feet and started blooming, all while we were away.
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July 09, 2007. A lovely surprise on my walk out around the pond early this morning. I had stepped out with my camera to make another attempt at getting a decent snapshot of the flowers of enchanter's nightshade, who's little white wildflowers are next to impossible to photograph with my point-and-shoot. But along the way, something much more charming popped into my view: the 'Dwarf Pink' variety of milky bellflower, which I had grown from seed last year, was in full bloom! We've grown a blue one, offspring of 'Pritchard's Variety' for several years now, but its holds its flowers taller and more sparsely.
A fresh start of a true dog day - temperatures would zoom well into the 90s, with high humidity.
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July 21, 2007. It is with great sadness that I must announce the loss of our dear friend Harry - or at least, the walking stick named after him. For a good number of years, our corkscrew hazel was good for a smile throughout the seasons, placed right along our front walkway. Bare-bones curliness in winter, catkins in summer - we liked our specimen, which had come to us by mail order from Oregon. It was always a favorite of the Japanese beetles, and last year they got it so bad they appear to have precipitated its decline and ultimate death. This spring, it leafed out only very tentatively, never got much green going - a few weeks ago, the small leaves that had developed curled up and went crispy. The life that remains sprouts from the uncontorted rootstock. Goodbye Harry.
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July 29, 2007. Ever since the big pond was installed, the subsequent addition of a pond-side patio was inevitable. And following the purchase of patio furniture a few weeks ago, the countdown clock really started ticking. So when this morning it rained for hours on end, it seemed like a good time to strip some supple sod to define the outline of our new outdoor living area. After Amy implored several times "bigger, honey!", we finally settled on the size and shape shown here (with furniture hauled in just to see how it would fit). Lots more work awaits, but at least there's a vision...
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September 02, 2007. A double-take in the garden - while strolling through the back yard this morning, I spotted a bright white flower on the Diabolo ninebark. Now, that shrub indeed sports white blooms - but they're long done (see the fruit clusters in the photo?) and don't look anything like this. Of course it was merely a serendipitous garden arrangement: a nearby gaura had sent one of its whispy flowering stalks to intermingle with the ninebark. And see there: the flower that would have been easy to miss in the tangle of the late-summer garden becomes brilliant when it's offset by the deep purple foliage of Diabolo!
By the way, it was photographically challenging to capture this one - given the choice between over-exposing the gaura and underexposing the ninebark, I chose the latter...
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Sarracenia 'Scarlet Belle'
September 04, 2007. We took advantage of the wonderful weather over the Labor Day weekend to conduct our annual family trek to Point Phillip Perennials. With our hectic spring schedule and mid-summer lethargy, it's usually around this time of year, when gardening becomes pleasant again, that we venture to the opposite corner of the Lehigh Valley to visit this friendly, marvellously diverse nursery. It doesn't hurt that all of the stock of perennials and shrubs is on sale at this time in the season, either! As usual, we returned with about as much as our minivan (already loaded up with three kids) could carry. Besides thoroughly sensible items such as stand-by perennials and stalwort native shrubs, there's always the few off-kilter indulgences. This year, they include a Japanese hardy banana, a couple of twiggy ephedras, and two varieties of pitcher plant. While I don't usually create photo portraits for new purchases, I figured I'd better do so in this case, since the hardiness of the banana and the pitcher plants is tentative.
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September 10, 2007. What's that? It almost looks too tasteful for our garden! "That" is a spherical hypertufa planter, complete with a luscious tender salvia, with which Amy fell in love during our shopping trip to Point Phillip. Makes quite a statement on our new patio - just what we need for this Sunday, when the Lehigh Valley special interest group of the Hardy Plant Society (Mid-Atlantic Group) is coming to visit our garden. Most of the regular plantings are looking so weary from a late summer with lots of heat and little rain that this splash of color and design is most welcome.
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see those buds? there'll be more!
September 12, 2007. Moonflower - many gardeners wax lyrical over this huge-flowered vine whose blooms open at night-time, but we had yet to successfully grow it. Our first attempt, last year, was a flop - the vine refused to grow once it was planted outdoors. This year wasn't much better till recently: the vine grew some, but showed no inclination to bloom. But a few days ago, I spotted a nice twisty bud, and knew that our efforts would finally be rewarded. The next few nights, I checked on the bud before retiring to bed - and finally, last night, it was there, in full glory. I ran out to take a picture. The pictures taken the next morning are better quality, but I just had to share the moment of excitement, even through a somewhat fuzzy photo.
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friendly chaos
September 14, 2007. I took the day off to putter in the garden, getting ready for the HPS/MAG tour on Sunday. This tour comes right on the heels of a multi-garden event last weekend, which started out at Nancy Ondra's magnificent garden. Even after weeks of unrelenting hot, dry weather, this sunny garden was in full bloom, each plant in its right place, nary an empty spot or a mid-season eyesore. Following such a class act felt more than a little intimidating - since our garden is full of not-so-perfect nooks and plants ramble in unruly, often self-seeded ways rather than undulating purposefully. But then, on Tuesday, we had a change of weather: a day of soaking rain, and pleasant, autumn-like weather since then. Today's overcast, decidedly cool weather was perfect for leisurely weeding while reflecting on my gardening means and methods. By day's end, I was very much at peace with our garden, warts and all - and looking forward to Sunday.
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September 15, 2007. Another day of tidying up in anticipation of tomorrow's tour. Amy has come into action the past few days as well, providing gentle directions (those dead-looking stalks don't look so good, dear) and helping with deadheading and general cleanup around the patio. Today she kicked it up a notch, preparing a few decorative features to dress up our garden tables. They included a delightful flower arrangement set inside a baby pumpkin we grew this year. But the real conversation piece, I expect, will be this mixed-media work. When I commented it looked like a shrine to a mouse (it reminds me of little religious displays I remember seeing in tucked-away temples in Hong Kong) Amy was none too pleased - but we both agreed it was one of a kind. As is our garden!
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September 16, 2007. We couldn't have asked for nicer weather for the garden tour! The temperature dropped below 50F overnight, but by mid-day the sun had warmed things up to the Goldilocks range. Great turnout (over 40 visitors) made for a crowded garden, so everybody spread around. Refreshments were provided by Max, Ben, and Lily (25c lemonade, what a deal!) and Amy, who had conjured up a tasty array of finger foods. Nobody commented (within earshot, anyway) about the less successful parts of the garden, and I was happy to answer the many "what's this?" questions (although at times my botanically inclined guests were more adept than I was at providing the correct response). The bonus, of course, is that the garden is now in a fairly-weeded, nicely presentable state. We should host a tour every year!
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September 30, 2007. A week into fall, and no real rain for a few weeks. The garden is starting to take on that home-stretch look, but fall cleanup is still a ways away - at least until after we get the first freeze. In the meantime, I decided to do some cleanup in the veggie garden, which is always a tangled mess by this time of year. I gathered up a sampling of the garden's offerings in the process - some (zucchini, pumpkin, beans, eggplants, popcorn, shallots) are the last of the fading crop; others (carrots, brussels sprouts) are just arriving; and the tomatoes and peppers are continuing their bountiful production as they have for some time now. In all, not exactly a family-feeding level, but it looks pretty anyway.
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October 06, 2007. What happens when you hand your camera over to a five-year-old for a spell? You get lots of blurry pictures, plenty of close-ups of the dog - and once in a while, a surprising shot! Our Ben managed to capture this early-autumn cornstalk backlit against an indian-summer sky - from a kid's perspective. I like it! We hope the popcorn harvested from the stalks will be tasty, too.
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October 29, 2007. Yesterday was a cool but sunny day, a time for the garden to enjoy the soaking rain it received this past week. Not a bad day for Max's birthday party, conducted in the back yard. In a few spare moments before the hubbub started, I took a stroll through the garden, observing all the plants whose flowers still lit up the scene. Warm weather has lasted well into fall this year, and there's no shortage of floral color, although the display isn't as abundant as earlier, and typically a bit shabbier too. I like this time of year - see if I can lift your mood too, with this page of October flower color impressions I crafted from my camera's output. The first frost arrived overnight - by next weekend, the garden will look quite different.
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sad banana
November 04, 2007. Sure enough, the tender plants are all black and limp by now. The tomato plants are a mess, with lots of (yet) unharvested fruit decorating the bedraggled plants held up only by their cages. The moonflower had been blooming steadily, but couldn't take the cold. As for the banana - it is retreating for the season. I hope the mound of mulch I've placed around it will suffice to keep its roots alive.
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November 10, 2007. Well into autumn now - right around the middle of leaf-drop season. We've had temperatures dropping into the mid-20s several days over the past week, but this morning it was milder, with a gentle drizzle. The raindroplets are perfectly captured by the leaves of Cotinus 'Grace', which have turned their darkest color of the season. In the background, still some colors from late-blooming Alyssum montanum and Eryngium leavenworthii. Prime task to complete this weekend: tear down the tomato cages, and deal with the hundreds of squishy-soft tomatoes decorating the ground below. We didn't get our final harvest in on time...
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November 18, 2007. Last winter, we had to wait till well into the new year before we saw any snow. So we were pleasantly surprised to wake up this morning to big fluffy flakes gently making their way downward. The temperature has hovered just above freezing all day, so the snow isn't exactly accumulating, but sticking around long enough to color the landscape white. We don't often get the combination of fall color and snow, but the Japanese maple shows up nicely in this scene, don't you think?
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November 23, 2007. Since that snowfall last weekend (which managed to accumulate enough for snowman production!), the weather has been all over the place - rainy and cold, rainy and mild, sunny and warm (short sleeves warm!), and finally, chilly and windy. In the process of all that, the large weeping cherry in the side garden managed to drop nearly all its leaves, making the most amazing yellow carpet underfoot. This photo doesn't really do it justice...
Meanwhile, the silliest things can give the gardener a sense of triumph. Earlier this year, I was disappointed when the Syneilesis palmata apparently hadn't set seed - I watched the fluffy seed heads on the first stalk to ripen with great anticipation - but finally, found only fluff. Bummer - this was the first year that I had several plants blooming all at once, I figured seed set was a shoe-in. Since then, several more flower stalks had started to strut their fluff, but I had already all but given up. So when I grabbed a handful of the spent flowerheads yesterday, I was almost giddy to notice a bounty of nice fat seeds hidden inside. Something to remember for next year - wait for the second flush of flowerstalks to go to fluff
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November 25, 2007. Wonderful weather today - temperatures in the 40s, sunny, not too windy. Last of the leaves tumbling out of the trees... I spent the morning putting cages around young woodies needing bunny protection, and snapped a few photos. Couldn't resist this image of a fuzzy star magnolia bud, just biding its time till April.
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December 17, 2007. Yesterday's ice storm deposited a glossy, slippery layer of white on just about all surfaces. Painful on the walkways and vehicles, damaging to trees and shrubs - but quite pretty on the waterfall. I shut off the waterfall flow a month ago, to conserve energy through the winter - and the dry pebbly run had looked forlorn and rather silly since then. But I quite like the glacial look!
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December 26, 2007. Several snow and ice storms, and overnight temperatures dropping into the low teens, haven't affected this heuchera's resolve to show off its leaf patterns. I doubt the foliage will persist this nicely into spring , but semi-evergreen perennials like this sure keep early winter interesting! The plant shown here is one of the many seedlings I grew from a traded seed lot labeled "Velvet Night". None look just the same as its named parent, but many are very attractive nonetheless.
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Last modified: February 10, 2007
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