Monday, April 30, 2012

Four In A Dozen For Diana

I am joining Diana of Elephant's Eye in choosing twelve months of my favorite garden plants. Come April I am reminded of Poppies. Now in the garden the large leaves of Oriental Poppies spray from the ground – Surprise! they say, you forgot we were here. And I did. After blooming, their leaves tend to fade away by late summer. More have popped up from last year. I moved a few to a new spot in the garden where they can surprise me once again next year. Soon, their alien pod-like blooms will rise up on wavy wands to catch the dew.

Again, surprise! One magic day their large billowing blooms burst open. Their blooms are intense fiery suns, their color burning, bringing us Northern gardeners what we have been craving over the Winter months and during this chilly Spring.

Later in the year, California Poppies skirt the edge of my Nice Driveway, hot and dry. They are reseeding themselves nicely and will even grow in the cracks, a much nicer alternative to crab grass. This year I am adding more in a dusky rose color to soften the orange I already grow.

Also this year, Pepperbox Poppies will find their way into the Potager. I have some seeds of an heirloom variety from Renee's Garden and want to try these seeds in my own homemade bread. The pods will also be pretty dried. I couldn't resist Renee's Shirley Poppies Angels' Choir, either. These should be pretty and frilly in a mix of soft "watercolor shades" (perfect for painting!) in coral, apricot and peach. Some are bicolor, some picotees (with a different colored edge).

A native Yellow Wood Poppy, Stylophorum Diphyllum, is blooming in my garden right now. Not necessarily common in this area from what I read. Never-the-less a few have volunteered to grow here and I appreciate their bright drops of sunshine. This year I hope to save some of the seed and spread it around. I may have to compete with the chipmunks who savor these seeds, or maybe they will distribute them for me.

What garden "pops" without Poppies?

To read about my previous choices for a dozen for Diana, click below.
January: Sunflowers
February: Wild Roses

March: Lady's Mantle

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Project: Bottle Border

I kept thinking the Potager needs some kind of edging ... Boxwood? Yew? Germander? Would the Germander stay evergreen because the Rue really didn't. Do I really have space for an edge, a hedge? Do I really want to clip and maintain a formal hedge? Boxwood seems so formal and well, English. Not at all in keeping with my rustic structures and style. Then I came across a few images of bottle borders while researching a bottle / glass cutter and thought, now that would be really cool. My garden could use some "hardscape." So this year the Potager is being edged in bottles. I'm just about to the other end.

I've been collecting bottles since last fall – wine, booze, any bottle that looks worthy. Friends and family have also contributed to the collection. I have to warn you that neighbors might talk. The party will look like it is at your house once you start collecting. I found myself explaining to the postman, Fedex, anyone who stopped by, that I was creating a bottle border and that we really don't drink that much. I found a good ol' paint scraper to be the best method of label removal although you could just leave the labels on if you prefer. There are wine label removal kits for saving labels if you really liked the wine.

I doubled the bottles up a bit because I thought a single row would not be bold enough for my garden. I just dug them in neck down. I like the combination of the green and gold glass. (I'm saving the blue ones for a special project out front.) I think I will tuck in some sleek solar lights to light them up in the evenings. The reflections might be quite beautiful. They do reflect on the snow in the sun.

I'm also thinking these bottles will warm up the soil faster? When it rains, the depressions in the bottles will make nice little bee baths. I'm going to watch and see if any insects drink from these tiny reservoirs.

Consider adding a bottle border in your garden. It's a great way to recycle. Happy Earth Day!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

What's Blooming: Spring Bulbs

My Spring bulbs are emerging at a somewhat slower pace after chilling temperatures following unusually warm temperatures. This year I am noticing the yellow and blue contrast that I've somehow managed to sprinkle throughout the gardens. This year I realize that instead of adding more bulbs this Fall, as I do every Fall, I need to focus on adding native Spring Ephemerals instead. Although the Daffodils and Forsythia are the quintessential yellow Spring cheer, ironically, sadly they are useless to busy bees. The Crocus blooms that usually keep my bees busy, did not seem to last as long with the rollercoaster warm and cold spells. Fortunately(?) I do have an advancing army of Wild Violets and Strawberries, and the Forget-me-nots are just beginning to open.

Coltsfoot, not a true native, but a plant who set roots here with early settlers most likely for medicinal uses, also adds a very early splash of yellow. I will have to make time to observe whether or not my bees visit these flowers. It is a member of the Aster family so possibly. I live with it because I most likely will never be able to get rid of it.

The young Serviceberry should bloom any day now. Its tiny white blooms will compliment the Forsythia. Hopefully in a few more years, Spicebush and Pagoda Dogwood will also add to the Spring show – if they survive bunny's ravenous appetite! I need to invest in more chicken wire.

The brilliantly blue reticulated Iris 'Cantab' are finished - almost missed them and didn't even capture a photo this year. Iris 'J.S. Dyt' is still blooming but I just can't seem to capture a worthwhile photo to share of this tiny, deep violet reticulated iris. Muscari blooms are just beginning to mushroom.

I do not know if the Anemones, Chionodoxas, or Scillas offer anything for the bees, but they sure are beautifully blue and I hope they form nice drifts over time.

The Wild Tulip mix I planted last fall has survived bunny, chipmunk, skunk and squirrel! They are just beginning to pop up in front and the boldness of their blooms is surprising. More should bloom in the backyard gardens soon.

Bloom day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens the 15th of each month.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


New beginnings. That is how I've always thought of Spring and Easter – as a time for new beginnings. What will this year bring? What will the garden bring this year? I walk the garden daily – tiny, new beginnings are hatching all around. The peas have sprouted. More bulbs are peeking up through the soil. The Dogwoods have tiny budding flowers. The Crabapples are going to open any day and from afar are now a pink haze. The ginger leaves are up, folded like a butterfly's wings. They are fuzzy and seem huge. I see my first Cabbage White wings catching the sun. I will be visiting family for Easter which I don't want to miss, but I hope I don't miss too much in the garden, either. Happy Easter!

Early Spring in the Bird & Butterfly Garden

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Going Native: Jacob's Ladder

Jacob's Ladder, Polemonium reptans L., also known as American Greek Valerian or Abscess Root is one of our native wild flowers that blooms in April and May. It is a perennial herb belonging to the Phlox family.

Jacob's Ladder grows in shade in moist soil and will go dormant if it becomes too dry. I find mine will take a little sun (in moist soil) in my Northern garden. Mine spreads nicely without being a brute, and I always welcome any new volunteers. Mostly its blooms are a beautiful blue or pink. I also have a white variety. Clusters of these blooms rise above on thin stalks from the base of the plant.

Jacob's Ladder is recognized by pollination ecologists as attracting large numbers of native bees. It is especially valuable to bumble bees and has been identified by beekeepers and pollination biologists as an important pollen or nectar source (honey plant) so I am happy to have it my garden.

P. Reptans L. is used in herbal medicine for its diaphoretic, astringent and expectorant qualities. An infusion of its roots is considered useful in battling coughs, colds, bronchitis and laryngitis. It may also be used to treat the bites of venomous snakes and insects.

Its leaves are beautiful as well and this plant is called Jacob's Ladder because of its successive pairs of leaflets. Mine are just beginning to wake up. I find Jacob's Ladder pairs nicely with astilbes, ferns and hostas. I am letting mine grow as a ground cover all along the Woodland Edge. If you live in the Eastern half of North America from Canada down to Georgia consider adding this native to a shady spot in your garden if you haven't already.

Sources: Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center, Botanical


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