25 May 2009

The Dead Zone

I call it the garden's dead zone: the time in the seasonal calendar between spring and summer when there is little in the garden blooming. Last year in an attempt to add some interest to the garden at this time, a new salvia was planted that I saw blooming around a nearby 7-Eleven store. A trip to a local nursery produced a purple salvia (salvia nemorosa) called May Night. This one was awarded the "1997 Perennial Plant Of The Year" by the Perennial Plant Association.

The blossom color is a very intense violet blue. I do not appreciate the smell when the leaves are brushed against. The first surprise was that the plant produced a seedling from last year's seeds, even after growing in dry conditions, and after a winter that killed my crocosmia and oregano. The offspring is now blooming, too. The second surprise is that it grew a healthy amount of blooms this spring, only its second year.

For The Record:
  • Medium soil, somewhat dry conditions
  • Full sun
  • No fertilizer

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: Mountain laurel, salvia, geranium, coreopsis, astilbe
  • Cleome, snapdragon, castor seedlings planted

15 May 2009

So That's What They Look Like

Last summer, my landscape architect friends gave me some bearded iris (Iris germanica) that I planted in the rear yard. They could not tell me what color or size they were. The leaves were somewhat narrow, so I believed they were a small size flower. The iris took to their new home well, and this spring came up with a large wide bearded iris leaves and several flower stalks.

After searching online iris descriptions, I found a match - these were Invitation. I shared my discovery with the friends, who informed my that they were happy to have given them away - bi color iris are not their favorites.

The Invitation iris are tall and have the largest blossom heads of any iris in the yard. Consequently, they fell over after the slightest rain, and needed to be placed on crutches. They also multiplied very easily after planting last summer, so dividing will probably be needed this year. I believe our fall plant swap already has some material.

For The Record:
  • Dry clay soil
  • Full sun
  • Bone meal fertilizer in the fall with gypsum for the clay soil

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: allium, purple salvia, dutch iris
  • Tomato seedlings planted, nasturtium seeds planted

08 May 2009

Plant Swap Brunch

Four years ago, in an effort to promote gardening in the community, I began a Garden Club forum on our community association web site discussion board. Its purpose was to exchange ideas and information, and to possibly have tours of members' gardens during the year. Membership was simple - sign up for that group on the discussion board.

Several neighbors signed up, but participation was far below expectations. So, I tried another way to get gardeners together. A one-day neighborhood plant swap was set up in the spring. To entice more participants, it was organized as a plant swap brunch, with neighbors bringing something to share in the food department, too. There was a good turnout, so we organized a Fall Plant Swap Brunch in November, too.

I received my "Lets Boogie" iris and two no-name hostas in previous years. A few other gifts didn't turn out - angel trumpet ballerina seeds, lily, nandina.

Saturday was our third annual Spring Plant Swap Brunch. For about an hour, neighbors meet inside the community center to snack, gossip, thumb through plant catalogs, and sometimes talk about gardening. This year I picked up St. Johns Wort ground cover, lettuce seedlings, nandina (again), scented geraniums, and coreopsis. I donated Red Karma pepper seedlings, obedient plant, New England asters, purple basil, canna, as well as seeds for red cosmos and castor bean plants.

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: Bridal wreath spirea, azaleas, allium, purple salvia, bearded iris, dutch iris
  • Planted onion, amaranthus, pepper seedlings
  • Planted lettuce seedlings from plant swap
  • Lifted emperor, apeldoorn tulip bulbs

02 May 2009

Look At Me Now

Yet another plant that was found growing in the yard when the house was purchased was the Bridal Wreath Spirea (Spiraea prunifolia). It was ignored and underappreciated, growing at the side of the house, but I did not have the heart to tear it out. It was trimmed (whacked down) every few years to keep the path to the front yard navigable, yet it dutifully kept blooming in spring.

Late last fall, a new deck was built at the back of the house. Step platforms in the side yard lead from the front, passing the spirea. Now that it has a new prominence along an enhanced path, it awoke this spring with long draping masses of flowers. I was previously considering a move to a less conspicuous place in the yard, but it is well-established in the present location, and can give some maturity to the side yard soon to be filled with rookie plants.

For The Record:
  • Dry heavy soil
  • Full sun in protected area
  • No fertilizer or soil amendments

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: Dogwood, bridal wreath spirea, azaleas, allium, purple salvia
  • Lifted emperor tulip bulbs