Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Aahhh! The Joys of Computerized Living......

So when the cell phone dropped and got run over in a dramatic crush of it's shiny blue self, I was really annoyed; since it was my own fault, I was mature and sent an email to most people I know to let them know I didn't know their telephone numbers (who keeps an address book anymore?)

When the computer "crashed" less than 24 hours later, let's just say the level of annoyance peaked! At this moment all I can access is the internet, but I'm thinking I might need to go do some weeding to preserve what's left of my sanity!

Have a beautiful evening!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Some Photos from This Morning

It was one of those beautiful mornings following a major thunderstorm that shook the roof last night. There is a certain light that only comes on these sorts of mornings.
From the top: Bridal Wreath Spirea; tiny little peaches beginning to form on the "Bonfire" Patio Peach in a Container; Clematis "Fireworks"; the crossvine just starting to come into its own; Rhododendron "Virginia Richards" (Click on the photos to enlarge them)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sometimes Even I am Left Speechless

My friends say that my personality is "animated," and as you might have discovered from reading this blog, I tend to go on about certain topics, and often venture off into thirty or forty different directions. Sometimes even I can be rendered speechless.

Yesterday afternoon I was doing some volunteer gardening for the Cobb Master Gardeners, at a place called The Center for Children and Young Adults. In a nutshell, it's a residential facility for kids (ages birth through 17), most of whom are from abusive or neglected backgrounds; as with most government facilities, they get "less than nothing" from the state budget, so they are hugely dependent upon donations of goods and services. Since 2001, Maureen Locke and Toni Moore (two amazing women and fellow MG's) have been working away there to develop gardens and gardening programs for the kids.

I had agreed to do the containers for the summer, including a number of pots that have been donated over the years, and a big fountain in the courtyard that no longer works or really holds water. I came with a somewhat disjointed collection of what annuals could be scrounged and what was in clearance at the garden center, intend upon making something presentable from the lot.

When I arrived, I met a young man who lives there, who wanted to help. Like lots of teenagers, he was fairly reserved, and it took some coaxing to engage him in conversation. We worked side by side for a while, me asking questions and him giving one word answers. I was careful not to pry, since I am clear that this young man has probably lived a life that I can only imagine.

Then I asked what he wanted to do with his life, and he said he wanted to be a landscaper. When I asked, "Why?" his face just lit up, and the tough guy persona disappeared in a flash.
He responded with, "Because the world is plain and not always pretty. I don't know why anyone wants to live with plain. I want to help people make their lives happy and beautiful."

In this young man's hands, the motley assembly of plants truly became beautiful; he placed each and every plant with such care, getting up a few times to stand back and view the large fountain from the angle visitors and residents of the Center would see it. For the rest of the time we worked, we were in sync, as he quietly questioned his choices of plants and looked for reassurance.

I have the pleasure of working in some pretty fabulous gardens on a daily basis, and am always aware of how lucky I am to do what I do for a living. I must say, though, that the defunct fountain filled with "step child plants" is one of the most beautiful containers I've worked on this season. I can't wait to see how it fills in over the next few months. (He is going to handle watering and maintaining it).

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Surprise Gifts!

Frank and I had the pleasure of driving down the coast of Maine last September, just cruising around, meandering through antique shops, garden centers and such on the way to my parents' house on the coast of NH.....those of you who are Yankees know that one always goes "down Maine," even though it's north of NH. Since the concept of swimming in the ocean in Maine is pretty ridiculous even in August, one might just as well visit when the foliage is at its peak and the kids are back in school.

While we were at my parents' house, my dad (the consummate Yankee gardener) asked if I wanted some "fancy irises" he had gotten from the guy up the street. You have to know that my father has never purchased a plant in his life (he has a large garden, but if it didn't come from a seed or bulb, it was a passalong), and anyone within a 25-mile radius of their house is "up the street." As a result, I have no idea where said irises came from.

While we were walking around to different beds in his garden, he related that the mystery man is an iris hybridizer, and that they are really beautiful flowers, but that he didn't mark any of them, so he doesn't know their names.......go figure! That will explain why I now have four different groups of iris in my own garden, marked, "Dad's Brown(?), Dad's White (?), Dad's Probably Blue (?), and Dad's Maybe Yellow (?)" .....Patti has a group in her own garden marked "Tim's Dad's Mystery Iris."

The only one getting ready to bloom is "Probably Blue," and it does appear to be a blue of some sort. In the "Dad's White" set, though, there was the most delightful surprise! In my father's usual way of planting things on top of one another, he managed to dig up both the iris rhizome and a big bunch of lilies of the valley, which were dormant in September in NH.

For those of you in the north, this is not a big deal, but for those of you in the south, you know it's about as big as having a real lilac blooming in your garden (not one of those "Miss Kim" pseudo-lilacs).

I know they won't live through the heat of an Atlanta summer, and I know they'll be up and gone within a week or so here, but for now, it's a pretty awesome thing to walk in my garden and find lilies of the valley growing in and amongst the mystery iris!
(This is a treasured photo of my father, participating in his favorite sporting event, with teammates Ben & Jerry)

The Last Cold Morning?

It's 44 degreees right now (7 AM), and according to the television meteorologists, this is going to be our "last cold morning of the season." I'm not sure how they know that, but The Weather Channel's website is saying the same thing, so who am I to argue?

All I know is that the weather has been absolutely glorious the past couple of days, and the forecast is for mid-to-high 70's and lots of sun for the next ten days (I'm ignoring the 30% chance of showers tomorrow afternoon......)

The top half of the neighbor's tree is still lying in my back yard from last week's storm, but other than that, it looks like smooth sailing for the spring and summer season! Give yourself an Earth Day treat and go visit your favorite garden center this week! When you see that one "I couldn't possibly spend that on a plant......" plant, buy it for yourself!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Photos for Monica and "Missus"

These were on the morning of April 9, which was ridiculously cold, but really beautiful with the condensation still on all of the blossoms and leaves.
From top to bottom: The Vegetable Garden Ready for Planting (Blueberries, Asaragus and Some Lettuces Already Showing); An Azalea that's "way too bright" so early in the morning; Kwanzan Cherry blossoms up close; a Foxtail Lily that doesn't know how early it is; and the Bridal Wreath Spirea I can never get enough of.

Container Mania!

We are currently in the midst of "container mania" at the big house, which means there are a gazillion things in flats all about the pool. I've slowly been chipping away at the major containers, and the first of the spring bedding plants are going into the ground! I am so excited with the "Honey Bee Lantana," with muted pinks, peaches, soft yellows, and whites all on the same plants! That's being planted in the beds under the crape myrtles, where nothing else has the stamina to fight the roots of the trees. Photos to come once it fully opens up.

People keep asking me about container combinations I'm using this year, so I'll get them up on here in the next few days. I'm a big believer that even with the same plants, every arrangement is different, since there is inevitably a different container, and a different "designer's eye" involved. I've borrowed some of my favorite combinations from friends, and find it flattering when people ask me to do the same.

One of my favorites so far for this year: Lion's Head Japanese Maples (Acer palmatum "Shishigashira"), underplanted with "Bonfire" Begonias (Begonia boliviensis "Bonfire"), finished with Creeping Jenny(Lysimachia nummularia "Aurea"). Very simple, very clean, very elegant, and really shows off the tree, which is the whole point.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Couple of New Photos

These photos are from about a month ago, when Chuck and I were working at Historic Oakland Cemetery. This will give you an idea of just how miserable the weather was that day! Oh, the glamorous life we gardeners lead!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

April Showers Bring Big Messes

It's Tuesday afternoon, and everyone in metro Atlanta seems to finally have power restored, after one of the infamous April Showers. One would never known that we're in an official "extreme drought" from the skies lately.

Most of the big old trees are terribly weakened from the past two years of drought, and this spring season's crazy rains and winds are certainly leaving their mark. Between Friday's electric storms (with some hale thrown in for good measure) and Monday morning's wind and rain, I'm amazed there hasn't been more damage. Trees are still down all over the city, and lots of cleanup to do.

One of my neighbor's old dead pines came crashing down into our yard very early yesterday morning, with the wind whipping the other trees around and the rain pelleting the side of the house. We were truly blessed that the only residual damage was the broken pieces of tree lying around and one snipped tendril from the akebia vine that climbs up my pergola.....no more damage than a squirrel might cause.

After making sure nothing was damaged, I did what every good gardener would do.....drove out in the torrential rain to see what plants I could find at Hastings and Habersham for my new SUN bed.....almost killed myself on the roads, but I found some pretty awesome new plants!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Some Photos from Friday Morning

I've still not figured out how to put text directly with each photo, but here are some updates as of Friday morning. It was chilly and overcast, with all of the plants still covered with morning dew.
From top to bottom: A Rubra Dogwood blossom; the "Heuchera Village" made from all of the heucheras moved out of winter containers and planted in the scilla bed; a closeup of the Doublefile Viburnum (AKA Favorite Tree), and the Abraham Darby that was planted a couple of weeks ago. (It was under heat all winter, so is very early this year, and the fragrance is just unbelievable!)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

What is up with the Weather???

Today started very cold, but by midafternoon was in the high 60's and absolutely glorious! I'm finally convinced that spring is here to stay, after the brief snow showers yesterday afternoon.
Truly, if someone had been out of town for the past two days, they would never have believed that it was that cold.

Fortunately it didn't get "crazy cold" until around 5 AM where I live and work, so we were spared a lot of freeze damage. We were also lucky to have very high winds for the past couple of days, which doesn't allow the frost to settle. I was really afraid for the budded peonies and hydrangeas, but all looked really good this morning.

At the Big House garden, we were able to shut the heat off in the greenhouse and actually leave the door slightly ajar. Some of the most tender things like coleus, tomatoes, and the like are still tucked into the warmest corners, but it's time for some of the sturdier plants to start getting used to being outdoors. In the middle of the afternoon, the exhaust fans came on, indicating it was hitting 90 degrees in the greenhouse for the first time in months!

I was concerned about some of the new roses that got planted last week, but my "rose lady" thought they would be just fine, and she was right on the mark! The Abraham Darby's that went in last week (they had been in heated greenhouses at the grower until that point) are just covered with huge super fragrant blossoms. It's been such an interesting year with weather, I'm still amazed at the combination of late daffodils, late camellias and early roses all blooming at the same time. The combination of fragrances is really overwhelming, with the HEAVY fragrance of the hollies mixed with the roses. Add in the sight of Eastern Bluebird, Goldfinches and Cardinals all at the same cluster of feeders, and it's the icing on the cake!

Lastly, since I know you're all dying to know, Favorite Tree (doublefile viburnum) came through the freeze without a blemish....you can all relax and get on with your day!

"Cold enough for ya?"

I remember growing up in NH, thinking the question above was the most ridiculous greeting. I always wanted to say, "No, I want to see a freakin' iceberg floating down the street!"

Anyway, one of my favorite little books is "The Curious Gardener's Almanac," and it's usually kicking around my house somewhere. It's not a book intended to be read in one sitting or for long periods of time, but rather a collection of little quotes, sayings, and tidbits that are of interest to gardeners.

Since it is 34 degrees at this moment, and I'm on my way to the garden, I thought I'd share a little nugget I rediscovered last night:

"In days gone by, it was not uncommon in springtime to see a farmer drop his trousers and pants and sit down on the soil. If the soil was not too cold, the farmer knew it was time to sow his crop. If you want to avoid midunderstandings with your neighbors, you are better off trying this old trick with your bare elbow."

Consider this my advice to you brave-hearted gardeners for this morning! (The illustration above was not a mistake. There are some pictures better left for afternoon......)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Study in Contrasts

I was out doing errands this morning, and encountered the sporadic snow showers we've been having around Atlanta. To say that it's odd to have snow in April is an understatement!

When people think of "classic" Atlanta gardens, it is probably the image of Atlanta in April that they think of most. At this moment, there is not a window in my house that doesn't frame a redbud, dogwood, or ornamental fruit tree that is in full bloom. These form the middle tier of color, above the seemingly endless hues of azaleas, tulips, late daffodils, and other bulbs. The pines are covered with candles, the Japanese maples have leafed out, and lots of other deciduous trees and shrubs have that vivid color of newly opening leaves.

How odd it is, then, to see snow flurries coming from the sky! My doublefile viburnum (perhaps my favorite shrub, soon to be tree) has the look of a pagoda, with those blossom that are snowflake-ish in their form. How exquisite to see actual snow coming down around it. Fortunately, the snow is so light that it's melting the moment it meets the leaves, but for a few brief seconds, the combination is pretty magical.

The Big Chill

This morning brought that inevitable April blast of cold air that happens every year; like always, it's just a 36-hour thing, but enough to disrupt all of the best laid plans!

The greenhouse has quickly become the storage unit, jammed with as many plants as I could get inside, most notably the two "Lion's Head" Japanese Maples that will adorn the front porch at the Big House next week. I decided yesterday it was a time for "better safe than sorry," so anything that was still in a pot is either in the greenhouse or the garage. The garden is dotted with lots of plants wearing their little "frost hats"----everybody's praying to the Hydrangea goddess that it's not as bad as 2007, when we had virtually no blooms on the macrophyllas because of just this kind of a late freeze. The "Saratoga" gingko (which cost about the same as my car payment for a 5 gallon pot) is also hiding out in the garage.

It's hard to believe that it's 34 degrees at this moment in the Atlanta 'burbs, is going to freeze overnight tonight, but will be safely back in the 60's by tomorrow afternoon. Only 8 more days until tax day! I have no interest in giving the IRS anything, but it's always a good day since it's the historic time to plant in this part of the world.

I think I'm going to put on my parka and go hug the Gingko!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

When Gardeners are Crazier than Golfers

In another life I managed the clubhouse at a very "chi chi" country club in South Carolina. It was there that I discovered how crazy some golfers can be. In the midst of howling winds, black clouds, crackling lightning, and alarms telling them to get off the course, I would inevitably look out my window and see a golfer raising his (iron) club up in the air for that one final shot (Final being the key word here).

Fast forward to the present, when I'm gardening for a living. I garden in three places: "The Big House," a garden I'm truly passionate about, and from which many of these photos are taken; "The Red Headed Step Child," which is what I call my own little suburban garden; and "The Penthouse," which sits atop one of Atlanta's better known towers.

If you've been paying attention to Atlanta weather, you know that we've had pretty major electrical storms last night and today (Until you live in the South, you only think you have seen lightning!) Anyway......guess which day Chuck and I chose to replace all the plants in the Zen garden, way up there in the sky?

After loading the truck and driving into the city, we did the usual "through the gates, down the ramp to the loading dock, unload the truck and go find parking for it, load all the plants onto carts, roll them down the hall to the security desk, up the elevator for a mile and a half, and gingerly walk five trees, four shrubs, eighteen groundcovers, bags of (wet)Erthfood and potting soil, and all our supplies through most of the apartment, through the bathroom to the terrace."

We got to the terrace, and there was ridiculous wind, but that's sort of the norm for that garden. Then it was time to play "Beat the Clock" to remove the old and tired bamboo that's been in the Balinese antique containers for ten years, and replace it with the new plants. (Have you seen the rootball on bamboo that's been potted for that long?)

I'll get to the point and say that this afternoon's best questions from Chuck were, "Do you feel rain?" and "Holy Crap! Have you ever had lightning come so close you could hear it buzz???"

Let's just say the new bamboo is going to look beautiful in those pots for a really long time......

Adios, Sakurafubuki

The good news is that Atlanta has had tons of rain recently, which we desperately need, since we're in our second year of the "official" drought.

The bad news is that my beloved Sakurafubuki just isn't going to happen this year as a result (refer to the post of March 10 for more info). I have kept out hope that we would dry up and get some good sun for at least a couple of days while there have still been blooms on the cherries, but it's not looking good.

Walking under the trees yesterday it looked like lots of wet pink tissues had been thrown all over the ground. Sort of like the day after the tacky bridal shower, after the crepe paper has been left out one night too many.

Oh, well, there is always next year, and we really do need the rain!