Saturday, January 21, 2012

One In A Dozen for Diana

I am joining Diana of Elephant's Eye in choosing twelve months of my favorite garden plants. In this month of January I miss the sun and what could be more fun than Sunflowers? My first selection is Sunflowers!

Ever since I planted that first tiny Sunflower seed and witnessed the gigantic bloom that sprung from the ground in what seemed like overnight, I have been growing Sunflowers. Bees, flies, butterflies, hummingbirds, song birds, woodpeckers, chipmunks and squirrels - all enjoy our native Sunflower.

There are many annual varieties to choose from but I always make sure I choose the varieties that do produce pollen. I also grow perennial Sunflowers, Helianthus Microcephalus.

I let my Sunflowers stand over the winter. Birds relish the seeds. Woodpeckers will search for insects inside their stalks.

I cannot imagine a summer without growing at least one plot of annual Sunflowers.

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

What's Blooming: Paperwhites

It's January and now, finally, the garden is covered in snow. But indoors, I have blooms – big, beautiful Paperwhite blooms. The entire house is scented with their heavy perfume. I have two pots. One adorns the edge of my kitchen/dining table.

I have tied a ribbon around them to keep them upright. If you force these bulbs in water, I've read that you can avoid flopping by adding a little vodka or rubbing alcohol to the water. I have not tried to water mine, which I planted in dirt, with a little alcohol.

I am guessing, but maybe Paperwhites received their name because of the paper-like wrapping the buds leave behind.

The Paperwhites in my new cool, face pot are not flopping. They are planted deep within the pot and the edge seems to be keeping them upright. This is the first hair style this pot has tried on. I will have fun experimenting with new "hairstyles."

Bloom day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens the 15th of each month. I always look forward to these monthly blooms.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Neither Rain, Nor Snow, Nor Sleet

... nor hail shall keep the postmen from their appointed rounds. I'm not so sure that motto will hold true today. I certainly don't envy our postwoman. The original saying was actually "Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these courageous couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds" and was said about 2500 years ago by the Greek historian, Herodotus.

People around here are quite wary of ice storms since the Ice Storm of '98. During that January over 100,000 people were without electricity. Electricity was not fully restored for more than three weeks. To this day our trees are strictly sheared so as not to cripple power lines.

Ice, not snow, nor frost, glazes the garden white today.

Most people are out shoveling and scraping, but not me. I'm skating around the garden taking photos. We all lead different lives.

Grasses look beautiful sheathed in ice. No worry about damage unlike my White Pine that sadly, alarmingly bows to the ground. I read somewhere it is best to not shake off the branches. I hope the bows bounce back.

I'm happy that I can walk, slip and slide, to work today. Safe travels to those on the roads.

Sources: The Phrase Finder, North Country Public Radio

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Favorite Combinations

Mine is a young garden, just coming into its fourth year. I have been busy, busy, busy planning, digging, building and planting new beds.

"You have extra Yarrow? Sure! I'll take some." ... "Black-eyed Susans? Sure!" ... "Oh, yes I'd love to try some Tarragon." ... "Isn't anyone going to take that last Purple Cone Flower?" ... "What did you say this was? I'm sure I can find a place for it." ... "It spreads? That's okay, I have a whole new bed I just dug up."

It seems I tossed plants here and there and everywhere however careful my plans. I just can't resist a give away plant. I can't resist stopping at the nursery. I can't resist purchasing mail order plants, either. Such as it is with a gardening addict. "Hmmm, I thought that Persicaria would look great there but that red is well, really bright. I know! Some Cardinal Flower over there for balance and some pinks and purples blending in between ..."

I continuously focus on what I need to do, or would like to do, in the garden. There's the whole new fence line. There's still the front yard, or what remains of it. There's that narrow south side with the undying Bishop's Weed and the see through kitchen window that needs a major overhaul and a view. There's ... STOP!

I decided to pause, to look through some of photos of the garden, acknowledge what I have done and pull out some combinations that I rather like. Yes, Forget-Me-Nots spread and may be common, but I love their complimentary sea of blue as a backdrop for spring bulbs and flowers, and they are native. Blue creeping phlox has the same effect. I think I would like to encourage more of this combination throughout the garden.

Daffodils and Forget-Me-Nots in the Bird & Butterfly Garden

Lady Jane Species Tulip, Blue Phlox and a surprise Forget-Me-Not in the "front yard"

Poppies float above Forget-Me-Nots along the Nice Driveway

I love what I have done in the "front yard." The many low spreading plants in different shades of green – blues, yellows, chartreuse – intertwining with one another and accented with purple and burgundy is so interesting to me. Even the textures of the leaves – soft and fuzzy, bristly, spiky, fleshy – add to the senses. I would like to encourage more of this combination in my backyard garden (which I tend to spend more time in), so that I can appreciate all of its little intricacies. Setting up a chair in the sidewalk and staring at my front garden is just asking to be the star of neighborhood gossip.

Chives, Thymes, Sedums and Lamb Ears in the "front yard"

A woven tapestry of plants with Black Lace as a back drop in the "front yard"

Sea Holly pokes through the leaves of Black Lace in the "front yard"

I don't have room for too many large trees but I do like the way the Blue Spruce commands attention right outside my new back door. I love how Lamium 'Orchid Frost' skirts its blue needles. In the fall and winter, the stems of Cardinal Dogwood somehow don't just turn red but cast a deeper shade of blue on the spruce.

I do like the way the grasses and flowers combine in my Bird & Butterfly garden. The Bee Balm and Purple Cones are hot in the summer and then the Susans, White Cones and Aster start to mellow. I am hoping this flow between blooms and grasses continues in the newly planted Woodland Edge as it starts to fill out.

I particularly like this combination of yarrow and sage. I would like to add more striking combinations like this throughout my garden.

Yarrow 'Coronation Gold' and Meadow Sage 'May Night' along the Nice Driveway

What about you? Are you focused on what needs to be done or changed in your garden? Maybe you can afford a moment to sit back and focus on what you do like about your garden. Is there a combination that you love?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Project: Painted Pots

I completed this project late summer but really, it's a perfect winter project. These planting pots I painted for our local library as their houseplants were in dire need of repotting, but I imagine painting more pots for summer containers either to brighten up a shady spot or to add personality to a porch or deck. I have a good stash of what I call craft paints - the kind you can purchase at Michael's or a similar store. They are basically an acrylic paint. There are many different economic brands and believe me they last for years. They also wash up with dish soap and water. I used paper plates as a palette (not the most earth friendly), but I didn't want to mingle these paints with any of my watercolors. I also used old, inexpensive brushes (not my watercolor brushes!). You could also use different sized foam brushes depending on your design.

I came up with designs that would invoke images of the area in which we live: the river, the pebbly and rocky shores, the white pines, the beautiful sunsets. I then proceeded to transfer those ideas to four inexpensive terra cotta pots.

I like free form. No need for perfect stripes or lines. You could do the same. Just brush away. Maybe the brush strokes will remind you of a flower. Maybe you just want to capture the colors in your garden. Maybe you want to mimic your favorite glaze. Maybe you just want a bright blue pot, or a series of blue pots for a grouping of plants you have in mind. This is a relatively inexpensive way to achieve what you want. Ceramic pottery can be pricey. Once painted I like to add a coat of water-based polycrylic to protect the design.

I mixed up the library's plants and attempted to match their personalities to the pot designs. To me, having a variety of different plants in one pot seemed more interesting. I also added some new plant cuttings I had started for them.

Imagine the possibilities in designing your own pot, and "potlings," for your porch this season. Or maybe you have a favorite houseplant that needs a new pot – you could cater your creation to make a perfect fit. This project has the potential to brighten up a dull winter day and I hope you try it.


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