We have larkspur!

The poor man’s delphinium has taken over my yard, and I couldn’t be happier. Yesterday brought the first deep blue, intricately shaped blossoms of larkspur, atop stems so tall I could look them in the eye. Very convenient, that. I’m not sure what it is about Consolida ajacis that makes it such an eager volunteer in my soil, but God bless the plant! Sure, delphinium are fancier and harder to grow, but there’s plenty to be said in praise of my sports.

They flower for a long time, branch after branch unfurling blossoms for a good two months in succession. They’re almost all this lovely shade of purply blue, though there are just enough occasional pinks to keep things from becoming dull. Bees (see?!) love them. And they just grow like Topsy for me; already a new population is starting in the shadows of their predecessors. They’d probably grow even better if I were more ruthless at thinning out the seedlings. But I can’t bear the thought of losing even one stalk of beauty like this!

Photo by Pancrat licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.



Red, red roses

Years ago, back when I occasionally had money, I bought a topiary rosebush, at the urging of my son, who was then only five or six. It became “his” rosebush, and it’s still “his” rosebush, though I don’t think he’s even glanced at it in a long time. The topiary part soon disappeared, but the rootstock remained and has kept growing and flourishing. It doesn’t bloom for long, but it produces a cascade of semi-double flowers for the brief time it does. I took this photo of it yesterday, before the predicted storms hit. I was sure the tornado-watch winds would strip all the petals off all the roses. I guess we didn’t get hit as badly as predicted, because everything looks pretty much the same today. Hooray! Another weather bullet dodged.

Just what I need–something more to worry about. All the delicate flowers in my garden!

Yesterday I also told my son to go out back and look at his rose while it was still in bloom!

Poppy city!

My backyard is starting to look like the scene from The Wizard of Oz in which Dorothy and pals tramp through the flower fields toward the Emerald City. I’ve never in my life had enough poppies, but this year, I just might. I planted three packets of poppy seeds the weekend of St. Patrick’s Day, my traditional hardy-seed start date. Some of my poppies are from that sowing, but I suspect I had some volunteers left over from last year, because the plants are so big and bushy. All the flowers that have opened so far are red. I love red, but I’m hoping for some other colors as we go along. (There are a few poppy plants coming up in the bed where I planted exotic ‘Pepperbox’ poppies last year; I’m hoping those are volunteers, too, since i don’t remember planting any poppies there.)

Why the poppy love? Ah, they’re just so damned cheerful, with their frilly skirts and contrasting centers. I love the way they dance on the wind on their long, straight stems. I love the way the buds just get fatter and fatter and fatter and fatter and STILL don’t bust into bloom—until one morning, they do.

I don’t know why more people don’t plant poppies. They’re weeds, for heaven’s sake! They crop up in crop fields all over Europe. A few years back, a park in my neck of the woods planted a whole bank of wildflowers, mostly poppies, alongside its bike path. The result was breathtaking. More poppies, people! Put it on your list!

Photo by Palmiped licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Iris my case

It’s been raining cats and dogs for days now, but you know who must love it? Irises. I can’t ever remember seeing irises look better than they do this year. I’m talking the ones that grow from rhizomes, not the ones from bulbs, which never come up for me. I only have one small stand of irises in my garden–beautiful sky-blue ones that escaped to my yard through a fence from the neighbors’. I’ve had a few flings with Japanese iris, which are breathtaking in photos but which never come up for me. But now I’m reexamining the old-fashioned kind, also known as German or bearded iris.

I guess I’m actually falling back into love with them. They were one of my favorites when I started gardening, but some of the bizarre color combinations that breeders came up with were a real turn0ff for me; I don’t like ones with contrast between the “falls”—the petals that flop over—and the “standards,” the petals that stand upright. But maybe breeders are getting the message, because most of the irises I’m seeing these days are a single color, like the beauty shown above.

Or maybe people aren’t planting irises because they can be very expensive, so only the old-fashioned ones remain and are thriving in the rain.

Photo by Hedwig Storch licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

You’re the mandevilla!

My Mandevilla splendens ‘Alice du Pont’ came in the delivery from Select Seeds. You know mandevilla–it’s that seductive pink-flowered vine with the glossy green leaves that you see EVERYWHERE in containers nowadays in summer. The flowers have nice substance and resemble morning glories. As you can see in the photo, they have those wonderful twirled-up buds that I always think if I’m looking at just the right time I’ll be able to see unfurl.

There’s a guy down the street from me who plants mandevillas all around his front porch; they twine up the pillars and make a spectacular show. I haven’t had that much luck with mine–they never seemed to get more than a few feet high when I’ve grown them in the past–but the price ($5.99) seemed a bargain, since I know I’ve paid as much as $24 for a plant in the past. The plant that arrived is nice and bushy, very healthy-looking, but I suspect it’s got a long way to go before it flowers. That’s okay; luckily with this puppy, the foliage is attractive, too. I put it in a pot by itself next to my back-porch posts. I looked at Home Depot for a small trellis to put in the pot, but the only ones they had were way too big. So I’m going to have to either jerry-rig something myself or keep looking. If all else fails, I can string string up the posts and let it climb on that.

The only thing that would make mandevilla better would be if the flowers were fragrant. Oh, or if the plants were hardy here in zone 7!

Photo by Muffet licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Let’s do it again!

Sometimes a plant is just perfect for a particular spot. That’s what I realized last summer when Proven Winners sent me this baby to trial. It’s Calibrachoa Superbells ‘Dreamsicle,’ and all summer, it bloomed on my front porch in a small container on a table. I loved it there because my house is made of brick, and the colors of the flowers just really picked up the red of the brick in the late, slanting sun and made me happy whenever I saw them.

So this summer, I got myself another ‘Dreamsicle’ and put it in exactly the same place. Does this mean I’m getting old and stuck in my ways? Or does it just mean I want more cheap happiness? Both, most likely!

On a further exciting note, I’ve been steeling myself for weeks to have a discussion with my next-door neighbor about the mess of weeds that’s just on his side of our shared cyclone fence. I’ve pulled and dug as much of the mess as I can from my side; I was trying to get up the nerve to suggest that he let me dig from HIS side to get out the tough grasses and a couple of little trees that have started up there.

Today–hallelujah! He went at them with his weed-whacker. Not was good as actually digging the stuff out, but it shows he realizes the problem is his to address every now and again. He’s a great neighbor so I didn’t want to look all fussy, you know?

The neighbor on the OTHER side is probably going to trim my forsythia when she gets home from the shore tomorrow. Oh well.

Photo courtesy of Proven Winners®, http://www.provenwinners. com.

My ‘Milkshake’ brings all the gardeners to the yard

Well, I hope it will, anyway! My Select Seeds plant order arrived yesterday, packaged beautifully. I’ll introduce you to its contents over the next few days. First up is Echinacea purpurea ‘Milkshake,’ a lovely double coneflower. I haven’t had exactly wonderful luck with coneflowers in the past. Wait, let me rephrase that. I have one plant that’s doing beautifully, and one that volunteered right next to it. But I’ve also lost some plants, and had them split apart and become generally unattractive in the back of my main bed.

I have high hopes for ‘Milkshake,’ though. I’ll plant it beside the survivors and hope the microclimate suits it!

In further news, the roses are starting to bust out. First out was the little ‘Cottage Garden’ David Austin Old English rose on the side of the house; next out, just today, is the rootstock that a topiary rose I bought years ago promptly reverted to. It’s a big, rangy deep-red rose that’s drenched in blossoms. They don’t last long, but hey–I love this time of year!

Lovely lobelia

I did it. I broke down and bought a lobelia over the weekend. It was my Mother’s Day present to myself.

I love blue flowers, and the blue of Lobelia erinus, a native of southern Africa, is as blue as they come. What’s more, like its soulmate the cornflower (Centurea cyanus), it isn’t fussy, like those prima donna delphinium I’ve long since given up on. With lobelia, you buy a six-pack of plants, you stick them in the ground, and they show off all summer long.

The flowers are small–I like these interplanted with sweet alyssum, as the habits are very similar–but the shape is enchanting, and ooh, that blue hue! Lobelia also come in lavender-y sorts of shades, but I mean, why? What for? There are plenty of lavender flowers out there, but there are so few true blue.

I planted my big, healthy lobelia in a pot all its own, right on the patio, so I can be close to that color for the rest of the summer. And my first cornflower–they’re actually even easier than lobelia, since you can just scatter seeds in March—bloomed today!

Photo by André Karvath, a.k.a. Aka, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.

Tomato time

I put my tomatoes in yesterday, on Mother’s Day. I got them at Home Depot, after months of dithering over the gorgeous photos of exotic heirloom varieties available through mail order. I got a nice mix of olden-days types and newer hybrids: Big Beefsteak, German Johnson, Yellow Pear, Better Boy, Mr. Stripey, and Heirloom. (I know–Heirloom? They must be running out of names.) I’d dug the compost into the tomato bed a few weeks ago, and couldn’t believe how many worms were in it. Gorgeous compost, I must say.

Planting tomatoes always makes me think of my dad. That man loved him some tomatoes. He took growing and eating them very seriously. I guess I do, too. They’re the only veggies I grow–I’ve long since given up on eggplant and cucumbers and snap beans. (Though with food prices climbing the way they are, I may rethink that.) But I can’t imagine going through a summer without homegrown tomatoes.

After I cleared the bed a few weeks back, my next-door neighbor looked at the empty earth and said, “No tomatoes this year?” He sounded disappointed, and no wonder–I give what we can’t eat to his wife! He was outside again yesterday when I put in the plants, with his youngest son. I told the son I was planting tomatoes for us, and he jumped up and down with glee.

Passing the Tomato Torch on, Dad …

Katy Perry’s in my garden!

It’s the weirdest thing. I was taking a picture of the giant allium in my garden this morning, and when I looked at this photo later, it reminded me SO MUCH of Katy Perry! I just can’t figure out why …

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