Thursday, July 23, 2009

Update on Two Disappointing Annuals

Two of the annuals I used for this summer have proven to be huge disappointments. Has anyone else had better luck with these two?

The first, Ptilotus "Joey" was touted in all of the plant magazines as the latest hottest thing. Fortunately it was promoted so well that Elaine, my annuals supplier, couldn't get a lot of it for me to use for a whole bed. I ended up picking up six plants at two different retailers, and used them in containers at home and at the big house. Beautiful show for a few weeks, then fizzled to nothing. I'm glad Elaine couldn't get a lot of it!

The other is Milky Way Calibrachoa, promoted as the greatest new thing for summer heat and humidity. Also said to be the perfect plant for Atlanta, where most of the "Million Bells" can't handle the summer heat and humidity.....maybe just not in my part of town! It did the same as "Joey," looked great for a while, then slowly fried in the summer heat. Of the 12 plants I started with, one is hanging on, but looking a little sad.

Oh, well, live and learn......

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Tour

“Of course you can look at my garden if you’d like to consider it for next year’s tour……”

“Why not?”
I thought, “this will motivate me to finish some of the things on that list.”

Reality check! There are at least one hundred items on that list to finish by May! Some of them are as “simple” as painting the house!

In all seriousness, I really am flattered that my garden is on the short list for next year’s Cobb Master Gardeners tour, and it really will give me the motivation to tie up lots of loose ends…..not sure the house will get painted, but certainly the doors will get a new coat of color. (At least that nasty sweetgum got cut down a couple of weeks ago, so I'm making progress.....)

Perhaps the most notable feature about my garden is the 120 foot “mixed” perennial bed, that wraps the corner of the property. I know that tradition dictates that a perennial border is supposed to be in the back of the garden, but I have sun along the street in the front of my house, so that’s where the perennial border went!

Over the past few years, it has filled in beautifully, and looks pretty awesome, if I do say so myself. There is a sheared evergreen hedge that runs down the middle of the bed, so it provides a great background for the colors. The problem, of course, is that many perennials really don’t come into their own in Atlanta until June, and the tour is in May.

At one end of the border there is a pretty substantial arbor, which is quickly becoming engulfed in a combination of New Dawn Rose, Golden Celebration Rose, and Roguchi Clematis, all of which should be blooming for the tour. (This photo was the day of installing said arbor, since the New Dawn kept pulling down the old Smith & Hawken arbor). Where the bed turns the corner, there is a Doublefile Viburnum Standard that is about 12 feet tall and should also be in full bloom in May. There really will be a lot of perennials showing off their stuff for the tour, but I still want a little more "oomph."

The challenge is finding some really cool perennials to add into the mix that will be peaking in mid May. Any ideas? I have tons of iris and hydrangeas that will be blooming, so I’m going to try to stick with highlighting blues and bronze colors. This other photo is “Eye of the Tiger” Dutch Iris, which will be blooming in five different spots of the border. So far I’ve only thought about adding in drifts of annual coleus in some of the bronze colors, but I’d love the input of some other clever garden folks!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Great Blueberry "Cake" Recipe from Mom

My mother is a great baker, but not big on elaborate directions. I've organized this as best as I can, and it came out quite well when I made it the other morning. Great use for the season's fresh berries. (You could probably do the same with blackberries or raspberries, if you are adventurous).

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Spray 9 inch square pan, and set aside.

For the bottom crust, cream 1 c. softened butter with 1 c. powdered sugar and 1 t. vanilla with a hand held mixer. Add 2 C. flour, and mix just until crumbly Press 3/4 of mixture into bottom of the pan, and bake 12 minutes. Remove from the oven, and reduce the temperature to 350 degrees.

Pour 2 c. blueberries onto crust.

Mix filling:1/2 c. granulated sugar, 3 T. flour, Juice & zest of 1 lemon (or more if you'd like), 1/2 t. salt, and 3 eggs. Pour the filling over blueberries. Spread the balance of the crust mixture on top. Bake 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown.

Cool and cut into squares. This is great for breakfast or snacks, and good as a "not too sweet" dessert, as well.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

What a Great Morning!

The stars have all aligned, and I'm planning to spend the day in my own little garden. It's only 63 degrees at the moment (6:30 AM), which is a rare occasion in Atlanta during July. Phyllis and Carolyn are coming with Starbucks at 10, so it should be a great day!

Here's one photo of a lily that greeted me when I got back from the New Hampshire trip. How does one not believe in the magic of plants when something like this comes out of a gnarly old root every summer?

Have a grand day in your own garden!

Monday, July 13, 2009

An Island Garden

If you’re reading this, you know that we visited Celia Thaxter’s garden last week, after wanting to do so for many years. In a nutshell, the garden is located on Appledore, an island about 6 miles off the coast of Maine/New Hampshire. It is on an island managed by Cornell and UNH, and is only open for tours eight days each year; we were finally able to make all of the components of our lives come together to visit the garden this year!

The short version of the story is that Celia’s father opened a grand Victorian resort hotel on the island in the mid 1800’s, and she developed this garden over the course of many years, primarily to furnish fresh cut flowers for the hotel. She wrote about it in her book, “An Island Garden,” which was published in 1894, a few months before she died. The garden was abandoned for many decades, and then restored about 25 years ago; it is now planted and maintained by a group of volunteers (and UNH), exactly as Celia had maintained it. There are many paintings of this garden by impressionist artist Childe Hassam in museums around the world, and the book itself is available for purchase (or you can read it online at

For anyone who is a passionate gardener, this is definitely a trip worth taking! Just to get an idea of Celia Thaxter’s passion, go to the online version (or the print version) and read her interpretation of the thunderstorm hitting her island and garden, on page 105. In other parts of the story, she relates going outside at 4 AM in her Victorian nightdress to squish slugs and encase them in salt! It’s really quite a fun read, and can be handled cover to cover in a few hours.
On a practical note, there were some extraordinary flowers in the small garden, and I’m sure my photos don’t do them justice, but here’s a few of the shots.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The New Hampshire Trip - Fuller Gardens

The trip to New Hampshire was awesome, and provided a good opportunity to see the area during good weather for the first time in many years. We both grew up in that area, but since we typically do the trip home at the holidays, it is always gray-brown and dreary. I had truly forgotten how glorious the summers are!

I'm working on the photos from Celia Thaxter's garden (the whole point of the trip), but here are a few from the Fuller Gardens in North Hampton, NH. I would really encourage anyone to visit if they are in the greater Boston area between May and September. It was the summer home of Alvan Fuller (governor of Massachusetts during the early 20th century), and is maintained much as it was during the Fullers residence there. Since it was designed as a (pretty grand) private residence), it is not as large as most public gardens, but the details are exquisite. The Fullers collected lots of art in the travels around the US and Europe, and those pieces are some of my favorite things in the garden.
Obviously most of these things are out of reach for the real world, but things like the tuteurs for the clematis are something I'm going to try to copy in the big house garden. (Don't forget that you can click on these photos to see them in more detail).