Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hollyhock Advice, Please....

"Mrs." absolutely loves hollyhocks, and we have had mixed success with them in the garden at the Big House, at best. There are lots of possible reasons, but I'd love to get input from anyone who grows them successfully in the South. As a transplanted Yankee, I'm never totally sure I've got the best instinct when it comes to the proper planting times for cooler weather blooms.

Some specific questions:
  • Any thoughts about planting in the fall from seed, rather than in spring?
  • Any opinions about putting out established plants vs. seeds?
  • We have drip irrigation in the perennial bed. I've heard that moist well drained soil is best, but my dad grows them in an area that is pretty dry naturally (but that's in New England).
  • The walled garden is very beautiful, but holds an incredible amount of heat on summer nights, which causes problems with certain flowers. Is hollhock one of those that needs cool nights?

I'd love to wow "Mrs." with an amazing display of hollyhocks in the spring, so if fall planting is needed, the sooner you can offer me advice, the better!

Monday, September 28, 2009

I am Officially "Potless" (for the moment)

The weather yesterday was absolutely glorious, and it was one of those days that I got to spend several hours by myself working in my own garden.......Work a little, allow myself to wander a little, take a walk with Sadie the Dog, and get a lot accomplished by day's end.

At this moment, everything that was lying around the garden in pots is officially in the ground!

There are a few new irises (I'm having to focus on some spring bloomers for the tour next year), a catmint called "Blue Cloud" that is really white in my eye, lots ot things that were pass-along plants from friends, etc., etc.

On Saturday (in the pouring rain), we dug three gigantic hydrangeas out of Renee's creek that I moved to my garden. Two Endless Summers and one that I'm going to call "Renee's Lacecap" until I can find out what it really is. Endless Summer is not a personal favorite, but they were huge and free.

Here are photos of "Magical Encounter" Iris, and Fallopia that I planted in the shade garden. I'm not usually big on pink flowers, but this iris is pretty amazing! (The photo is from the grower; it's not blooming at the moment).

Thursday, September 24, 2009

We Found Mama Fish!

We are certainly in better shape than lots of metro-Atlanta after this flooding rain, but it was disheartening to discover when the water receded that we had lost the large (18+ inch) koi from the pond at the big house. The creek that runs adjacent to the pond had risen about 6 or 8 feet, and completely overtook the pond. The pumps for the waterfalls had gone out, so by Tuesday morning it was a big bowl of muddy water.

As peculiar as it sounds, each of the fish has a distinct personality, and we had become quite attached to them.

The good news is that "Mrs." found one of them floudering in an azalea in the rain on Monday, and was able to get him back into the water; he managed to come through the muddy experience just fine. Tuesday I found the blond "teenager" caught in a pool on the creek (he had tried swimming upstream), with lots of bruises. He's back in the pond, as well, and seems to be just fine.

Yesterday afternoon one of the neighbors came over to tell us "Mama Fish," the big fat white one, was happily swimming around in the creek where it crosses his property, about a quarter mile away. She's now back at home, as well!

We're still missing two, and are hoping that they have made it out to Lake Alatoona, and aren't caught somewhere in some debris! If anybody catches a beautiful big orange carp in the months to come at Alatoona, please don't tell me about it!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

No Photographs of the Flood....Fortunately!

First, thank you to everyone who has sent emails and added comments here about our rain situation in Atlanta. I can confidently say that I have never seen rain like that before, and hope not to again (including my time in Charleston with hurricanes).

I am happy to say that there are no photographs of the flood at "the big house" or my own garden to show. There was certainly some damage (a beautiful 30 foot Chinese Elm came down, and there was damage to one of the koi ponds at the big house), but not on the scale it could have been.

This experience has reminded me of how fortunate we all are......we have homes, we have gardens, and they can be repaired. There are many out there who have lost everything in this storm (most in this area don't have flood insurance, since it's never been a concern).

Sooner or later, Mother Nature reminds us who is really the boss.

My Garden is Making Me Blush......

The side effect of all of this crazy rain (13.75 inches since last Tuesday), is the abundance of mushrooms growing all over my wooded areas. One type in particular, Phallus impudicus, is stopping traffic, and not necessarily in a good way. There are dozens of them growing all over my garden, and they are pretty hard to miss.......not the sort of thing you want popping up everywhere when you're hosting the group of gardening helpers for the day.....

Hopefully they have a short growing season......

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Off to Build Myself an Ark

It stopped raining today.....for almost 20 minutes.

After two years of really bad drought, all of us in the gardening community pledged never to complain about rain. I'm not complaining, but can we temper it's arrival just a little? Just over 5 inches of rain since Wednesday, and no sign of letting up any time soon.

The first work day for the "Garden Angels" sprucing up the garden for next spring's tour was today. This photo isn't exactly my garden, but it will give you a good idea of what it was like this morning. Fortunately there were lots of things to pot up in the garage.......and donuts!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

She Ain't Pretty, But She Smells Good!

If you aren't from the south, you may know Eleagnus as "Russian Olive," which is sold in the back of the magazines as a fast growing screen plant; in the photos, it's always pictured as a beautiful, thick, tall the south, you probably know it as "Ugly Agnes." The color is actually quite nice, a neutral silvery olive green. The plant itself, however, looks like Medusa herself just popped up out of a grave on your lawn!

I prune this via guerilla warfare....I believe there is nothing that can hurt this plant. I have tried hacksaw, pruning shears, loppers, and a pruning saw. Everything worked well, except the pruning shears, which broke. Regardless of the tool of choice, she is back in a matter of weeks, waving those wild branches about, taunting the gardener. You can almost hear this plant grow.....BOING! BOING! NEW BRANCHES! I planted a 1 gallon shrub three years ago; it is now safely 15 feet tall and 10 feet wide, and I cut on it regularly.

Just a few weeks ago, I considered tearing it out (although it has roots that go to China), and didn't get around to it. I am DELIGHTED that I didn't.

Atlanta is getting slammed with rain this week (3.5 inches since yesterday), so everything is wet and squishy. Sadie the Dog could only dance around the house for so long, attempting to keep her legs crossed the entire time. Each time I've picked up the leash, she has run to the bedroom to hide (she's not really big on anything outside, and definitely not anything wet).

As we went outside, my umbrella seems to have caught the fragrance from the eleagnus, which is so heavy it even travels through the rain, and is intoxicating! Eleagnus puts tea olive to shame, and is no more subtle about throwing its scent around than it is about sprouting branches. Even in the torrential rain, one is greeted with an exuberant, "Smell me! I'm here! It's autumn!"

How could I even consider removing this plant? It's obvious I just need to buy stronger shears!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Southeastern Hort Society Party at Vince Dooley's

I was fortunate to spend this evening at Vince & Barbara Dooley's garden in Athens, at a party/fundraiser for the Southeastern Horticulture Society. What a cool event! For those who are outside the Atlanta area, he's the college football icon, and the namesake of the "Vince Dooley" hydrangea.

Truly, I was expecting something fairly "dry," and was dreading the long drive from Cobb County to Athens; now that I'm back at home after the party, I'm delighted I went!

For starters, the Dooleys are very gracious hosts, who clearly open up their entire garden for roaming, exploring, and general poking around. There are no "off limits" areas, including work areas, the baby plant nursery, etc. Linda, Patti and I made a point of seeing all that we could.

The added bonus to this evening was that the "tour guides" were Drs. Allan Armitage and Michael Dirr! I can honestly say I've never been to a garden event with more knowledgeable tour guides, or any who were more enthusiastic about sharing their (unbelievable) expertise in the world of horticulture.

There were very cool plants in the Dooley garden that are not yet available on the market, as well as some of the original first generation plants that have come out of the UGA test gardens over the years. It was pretty cool for a "plant geek" like me to have Michael Dirr show me how he would propogate a particular hydrangea, sharing lots of great tips, and then giving me the cuttings to take home. And how awesome to have Vince Dooley say, "If there's something here you want to take a cutting from, please feel free to do so....."

The evening reinforced my feeling that there are very few jerks in the plant world, and that gardeners are just gracious nurturing souls by nature.....

Friday, September 11, 2009

September Yellows

Some great blooms from this morning's walk at the Big House. The sunflowers are still holding on, though most have now been relegated to the seedheads that bob in the wind. The goldfinches are all over them for much of the day. Here are a couple that are still clinging to their petals.

At the other end of the garden, the Graham Thomas is just spectacular! Covered with blooms this seems to prefer the cooler autumn weather.

September Pinks

It felt very autumnal this morning (that's one of my favorite words), and Chuck was out with his camera in the garden at the Big House just after sunrise. There was a little rain last night, and it was still overcast, so a good morning for photos.
There were blooms in all stages of life, from just opening to barely holding on, so I thought I'd share a few.
The top is a very early camellia, which started blooming a couple of days ago. It typically doesn't show up until around Halloween, so I'm hoping this isn't a sign of a colder winter.
The Chelone (Turtleheads) are just starting to open, and the bees are loving them!
The Balsam is one of my new favorites, though a very old flower. It's the type of impatien that self-seeds itself readily here in Atlanta, and was a Victorian favorite. The plant is about 18 inches tall and just covered with those blossoms. When you touch the seed pods, they literally explode all over the place! It can be invasive, but what a beauty to have coming up here and there!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sarah's Garden

I visited my friend Sarah's garden this afternoon, and it's one of my favorite gardens. Part of what appeals to me is that Sarah does virtually all of the work herself, and it is completely a labor of love. She has an amazing eye for detail, which I'm hoping comes through in these photos.

At the top, there is a piece of "folk art" she created a few years ago out of old garden tools. I think it's pretty awesome, and am planning to recreate something similar for my own garden (she knows......)

Sarah loves vines, and has done a really amazing job encouraging a number of different vines to climb up the brick walls of her home. I especially like the creeping fig on the kitchen stairs.

Lastly there is a picture of the handles on the garden gate. What a perfect indication that you're entering a really beautiful space!