11 June 2016

Rocky Mountain Blue

The penstemon is finally coming around this spring, although not as much as I would like. Penstemon Rocky Mountain (Penstemon strictus), emphatically came out with an intense blue flower stalk on one of the plants in early May.

My penstemon, native to poor western soils, was started from seed obtained at last year's seed exchange. A few seeds produced five healthy seedlings. They were planted last spring in the front near the house where sun is plentiful, and near the driveway pavement where soil is warm in summer and consequently dries out fast. Perfect for them, I thought.

One solitary stalk from one plant shot out of the central plant, producing this cluster of blue blooms. Several protrusions on the other four plants looked like they would join the party, but they were just teasing me. Nothing materialized from them. But, oh! that one with its color.

Reading up a bit more, I learned that fertilizing is unnecessary and just produces leaves. Their location has good soil; maybe too good. I don't recall fertilizing them, but did not give them a poor gravel soil, either. One more summer, and I anticipate some excitement next year. I wonder if Rocky Mountain penstemon would make a good addition to my hell strip?

For The Record:
  • Mulched soil with no amendments or fertilizer
  • Full sun
  • No serious pests/disease

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: poppies, rudbeckia, stokesia, nicotiana, phlox, hostas, daylilies, coreopsis, lavender
  • Harvested: peas, cilantro,

30 May 2016

White-Tailed Radish

My inability to grow the simplest 30-day vegetable that school children can is legendary. Every year I look forward to radishes with a sweet crunch and a little kick, and ever year I am blessed with lots of leaves and no radishes.

This year, I dumped a whole bunch of seeds of three types into the front cottage garden. Even with the wet, cool May, there are still lots of plants, but very few radishes. The white daikons produced nothing but long thin roots. The Cherry Belles were not ringing. But I got something out or this batch of seeds.

These were French Breakfast -- an heirloom. Radishes for breakfast? Really? These will go into a pasta salad.

For The Record:
  • Light well-drained soil with a few organic amendments
  • Full sun
  • No fertilizer
  • A few bugs nibbling at the leaves - probably flea beetles

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: phlox, coreopsis, geranium, merigold, tradescantia

24 May 2016

How Green My Garden

Very green, with a record 16 days straight of measurable rainfall in May. Cool temperatures, too. You'd think I woke up in the Pacific northwest! I often write about how dead the garden is at this time of year, and the paucity of blooms for May Bloom Day proves it. Even some readers posted comments suggesting I could do better in May -- especially gardening in Virginia.

But spring bulbs and blooms are gone, and the perennials lie in wait. The front cottage garden has never looked so ... green. Everyone is having a grand old time except the peppers.

It is interesting that with a month of more-than-ample rainfall and cool temperatures, annual poppies have taken over. Never before have they invaded my cottage garden, the sidewalk garden, the front bed, the side garden. They are even sprouting up in the cracks of the driveway and sidewalk.

The front cottage garden gets ready. Buds on the liatris, echinacea, and daylily. Look carefully to also see the dying hyacinth leaves, garlic, walking onions, radishes, volunteer dill, pepperoncini, rudbeckia, physostegia, nicotiana, aster, beginning cleome, poppies, and daffodil leaves. One exceptional spot of color is provided by the 'Tiger Eyes' marigold started from seed. What little grass I have needs mowing.

The sloping side garden provided the color on Bloom Day: a few iris, geranium, and coreopsis remain. Phlox is getting ready to burst, and waiting are solidago, daylily, stokesia, russian sage, penstemon, lychnis, more poppies, lily, more rudbeckia, kniphophia, peony, monadra, onions, eschscholzia, opuntia, and echinops.

The backyard has seen the magnolia, dogwood, virbirnum, ajuga, polygonatum, camassia, rhododendron, and azalea all come and go. Waiting are seven hostas, astilbe, hypericum, hydrangea, buddleia, daylily, and native lysimachia. The Autumn fern has begun new shoots to replace the ones flattened this winter. Oh wait! Is that tradescantia starting to flower? Did I mention the grass needs mowing?

Just wait until June's Bloom Day.

15 May 2016

May 2016 Bloom Day

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
What's blooming in the garden on the 15th of the month

Not much happening this May, so there are only a few photos this month. Instead of photographing the garden, I will be spending time looking through the other blogs. Most of these plants have been featured here before, but there is one new iris.
I helped organize and run a plant swap this spring for our county master gardener group. This bearded iris was picked up there. No name to it, but that doesn't matter. The color is really spectacular -- almost black and darker than the colors my camera picked up.

This is iris germanica 'Clarence' who is actually fragrant, and reblooming.

This is kalmia latifolia 'Sarah.' It is one of the darkest colored mountain laurels with red buds and deep pink blooms.

Geranium sanguineum is an unknown, obtained from a local neighborhood plant swap years ago, and a darn good ground cover. It resembles a magenta version of the popular 'Rozanne.'

Coreopsis auriculata ‘Nana’ -- another pickup from a neighborhood plant swap.

Check out other garden bloggers bloom day photos on our host's at blog May Dreams Gardens.

29 April 2016

Leap Year

The woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata) was purchased at the annual spring garden sale at the local botanical garden, Green Spring. I do like to grow natives and feel a bit of guilt because I do not exclusively limit my garden to them. This one was sold in the native plant vendor section. It did not have much of a label, except for "Woodland Phlox".

My newfound native came with a small cluster of flowers on a thin but upright stalk. It was planted in a lightly shaded bed with shade compatriots tradescantia, hosta, and astilbe and hydrangea, in the forefront front of them all. The internet says to expect a height of 12-inches (30 cm). The plant stopped blooming in summer and did not do anything for the rest of the year. Early morning sun bathed the area, but for most of the day it received dappled shade under an ever increasing neighbor's maple tree to the south.

Last year, it started to spread. There was an upright section that produced clusters of spring blooms, and a horizontal section that spread out flat to the ground. But it did have several flower stalks clustered together, indicating that it was growing.

It survived that nasty winter. Natives can survive beasts and weather in the wild, but sometimes do not survive me.

All those horizontal sections running along the surface of the ground last year produced dozens of flower stalks this year. The result is a mound of light blue, slightly fragrant flower clusters. If memory serves me, I was able to enjoy these flowers for over a month.

This wildflower phlox is native to woodlands of the eastern United States, north from Quebec, south to Texas. Yes, I know Quebec is Canada. Woodland phlox likes moist, fertile, loose soil. I have one out of three with my Virginia clay -- moist clay.

Common cultivars are 'Blue Moon' most resembling my plant, and 'Clouds of Perfume.' The flowers have nectar in the base of the long tubes, so insects need long tongues to get to it. Butterflies and hummingbirds are supposed like them best. I like them second best. They bloom at a place in the yard where hydrangea, hosta, and astilbe are still getting ready for their show to come later.

For The Record:
  • Heavy clay soil with mulch and organic amendments
  • Mostly shade
  • Very little fertilizer
  • No serious pests/disease

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: azalea, viburnum, dutch iris, coreopsis

15 April 2016

April 2016 Bloom Day

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
What's blooming in the garden on the 15th of the month

Leave the office early on a sunny Friday afternoon. Rush home to beat the rush hour traffic. Test out the new nuclear powered camera for the first time on the blog. See what's in the zone 7a garden.

I still have the simple rustic Canon Elph that I used for nine years -- for all blog photos up to now -- except for a few iPad and iPhone photos. But the new Canon T5i, well, there are as many settings as the space shuttle. Let's try figuring this contraption out to get closer than the old camera did. One photo was taken with a lens attachment that did not produce a clear image. Put that attachment in the closet or sell it.

My, I have a lot of white photos. I just realized that after looking at what I shot this afternoon. But the white is not all in one place except on my blog. The sun is setting, on another Bloom Day.

Maybe a new camera will help me take photos like A Tidewater Gardener, you think? Nah, no way.

Cornus florida

Azalea 'Snow'

Spirea prunifolia (Bridal Wreath)

Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum 'Shasta'
Looking better now -- years after I severely pruned it and almost lost it

Pieris japonica cultivar

Phlox divaricata -- this is its third year and its leaping!

Tulip 'Princess Irene' not looking good in its second year

Narcissus poeticus -- the late fragrant daffodil even the ant appreciates

For other garden bloggers bloom day photos, check out our host at blog May Dreams Gardens.

19 March 2016

Winter Walk-Off

This year, I stayed in Old Town Alexandria again where my office is located. There are more interesting things to photo. I took most of my walk on the south side of our main street -- King Street. The streets through the town center are named after royalty: King, Queen, Princess, Duke, and Prince Streets. Oddly, there is no Duchess Street.

Mostly historic architecture is included this year (taking a cue from our walk-off host), on what was the more affluent side of town, where homes are brick (instead of wood), and are three stories (instead of two). All photos were taken with my cellphone -- a first (and a test) for this blog.

To be well read, visit this local dress shop before your next dinner party.

Stabler Leadbeater Apothecary Shop is now a museum, but provided compounds and cures for years -- like to George Washington. Love the unique curved glass in the windows. On a tour, I remember seeing containers labeled "Dragon's Blood" and "Hound's Tooth." (I could not find eye of newt or wing of bat.) A curator mentioned that some compounds were unknown or labeled with strange names, and that no one today knows what they are, where they came from, or what they were used for. This 'drug' company operated until the 1900s when the newly formed FDA began requiring disclosure and regulation of ingredients in pharmaceuticals (and proof that they were effective.)

Someone lost his head outside an antique store (in the hell strip).

Fire fighting was very important in an urban early America. Fire fighting companies were private and in competition. The one-bay station house to the left of the main fire station was home to the "Relief Fire Company." This was one of several fire companies in town.

This plaque tells the story ... of a building across from the firehouse. The building is in the left-center of the photo below.

Two blocks away, another firehouse, the Friendship Firehouse is now a museum.

This was building was entrance to (what else) the Elks Club, and is now full of condos.

Fawcett-Reeder House, privately owned, with the rural-like setting, might have been built before the more urban townhomes in town. (Can't get the blasted street signs or cars out of the photos.)

And here is another spite house. The most famous one in town was profiled in a previous year's walk-off. Look for the door to the basement ice chamber.

Examples of the wealthy homes built in the 1800s. Most are in an Italianate style -- fitting the more conservative residents.

This is one of my favorites -- but the owners were probably outcasts and snubbed for building such a highly decorative, flamboyant house - a MacMansion of the time.

Gentry Row is a block of townhomes built by wealthy merchants. Brick paving in the street is cool.

Captain's Row is a block with many homes built by wealthy sea captains. This street, a bit older, is paved with cobblestones.

This museum is a stunner. It was originally a bank, right in the middle of a residential neighborhood at the end of Gentry Row -- before zoning regulations.

Stinky, dirty, smelly warehouses were found down near the river near the docks and wharfs.

They are now full of restaurants and shops.

A newer building near the river marks the water elevation. The river is at sea level, and does flood. When severe, water comes up into the lower streets and buildings. In recent years, this happens more frequently.
2015 Walk-Off
2014 Walk-Off
2013 Walk-Off

Hope you enjoyed your history lesson and tourist promo. Visit other winter walk-offs with Les at A Tidewater Gardener.

04 March 2016

Spring Survivor or Rescue Plant?

As mentioned in a few past posts, I discovered a few landscape plants that peppered the yard when I bought this house back in 1986. Most were of a poor quality: roses that had little form or fragrance, smallish bearded iris with no discerning form and washed-out color, flowering crabapple with few flowers. Maybe these things were big on the market back when the house was built in the mid 1950s. One of these leftovers is the species crocus in the photo.

These crocuses were growing along the east-facing foundation in the back of the house back in the day. They had a concrete air conditioner pad covering some. The air conditioner was eventually moved. They were growing in a crowded clump from years of neglect. They were eventually divided. Then, I built a deck above them eight years ago, and they never saw direct sunlight again.

Two years ago after not blooming (gee, I wonder why), they were dug up, and the largest corms were thrown into a sunnier spot on my hillside garden. They were forgotten with no more thought.

With a little warm weather to end February this year, they sprang to life. They surprised me -- was that lavender color along the walk a piece of trash that blew in?

I now remember moving them and hoping they would come back. I like the species more than the hybrids because of their earlier arrival, their willingness to multiply, and their apparent tenacity. I am looking forward to a growing population and will certainly give them more care. They've earned it.