Sunday, September 13, 2015

Saying goodbye

It's time to pull the trigger.

Some of my plants are not performing or are getting to be invasive. I've been in denial about some of them for years but it's time.

On the Pharm (front yard), I have two different problems:

The Aster 'Alma Potschke' has something wrong with it. I've been in denial about this plant for about five years or so. I used to think that the brown leaves and stems were indicating that it needed more water, but even in years when I watered it a lot, it still looked like this.

The entire bottom of the plant looks dead.

Leaves turning yellow

As a primary part of the front garden, and a plant you see as you walk up to my house, I just can't keep this ugliness around anymore. I don't know if it's a fungus or what, but it's got to go, which is too bad because when it's in bloom, it's a bright, eye-catching plant. So now I'm on the hunt for a medium-size, fall (or repeat) blooming perennial.

On the side of my front porch, I've had two very vigorous silver lace vines. They climbed up a trellis, kept the front door cool in the summer, and were only a pain when I had to cut them down at the end of the year because they were SO big.

In better times.

This is how the vines did this year:

The remaining vine on the left.

I accidentally pulled one out while weeding, which shows how dead it was. The other, as you can see, is still in the ground but doing absolutely nothing. Maybe this past winter, one of the coldest on record, was too much for them. In any case, now I'm on the hunt for a (vigorous but not overly so) vine for this area for next year.

In the back yard, I have a potential disease problem and an invasive problem.

I'm scared to even write this, lest it really be true: I think all of my echinacea have aster yellows. I first noticed it a few years ago in the front yard and pulled out the offending plants. But then this year, it seemed like every single one - front yard, side, back yard - had the tell-tale puff of green on the seed head.

Last year. In better times.

This is how they look right now:

They all fizzled out a couple of weeks earlier than last year. It's possible that that's due to the dry conditions this summer. I really like echinacea. They're a staple of my garden and I don't want to have to rip them all out. I'll continue to monitor them and hope for the best next year, though I suspect I'll be talking about being in denial next fall as I rip them out.

The spiderwort in the back yard are now getting invasive. I'm finding them in the hell strip by the road, for crying out loud. I have 5-6 of them evenly spaced in the back yard and, in late spring, they're often the only thing in bloom.

Two different colors, on the left and right, still in bloom in summer.

When they die, though, they leave big gaping spaces that I've been working on trying to hide (somewhat unsuccessfully). I don't think I'll be too sad to see these go, especially since it will probably take me a few years to completely rid my gardens of them.  In their place, I need to find any sort of late spring/early summer perennial that doesn't look like death after it's done blooming for the year.

They've provided me with more joy than inconvenience, but it's time to cut the cord (and it's a great excuse for fall plant shopping).

Monday, September 7, 2015

So much to say, so much to say...

I've been making blog posts in my head for months but never actually got them down on paper the screen. For example, I was going to talk about how most of my summer, I spent my days off volunteering and was so busy with that, then segue into the volunteer flowers that popped up in my garden. Get it? Or that I didn't have time to post a bloom-day post in July because on impulse, I rescued my little friend from the city's animal shelter the day she was to be euthanized for space, and fostered her for a few weeks until we found her a forever family. Three dogs is a lot. A lot a lot.

Foster puppy on the left, learning how to sit with my two goofballs.

Maybe it's best that those posts stayed in my head!


It's so hot and dry. Late spring and early summer started off with higher than average rainfall, but August brought less than an inch of rain during the entire month. I try to water my perennials as infrequently as I can most years but have had to turn the sprinkler on them several times in the past weeks to keep them from keeling over.


I planted milkweed last fall and when it came up this year - surprise! A monarch found it! YES!

Not milkweed, but the monarch liked the hibiscus as well.

And then the orange aphids found it too, and I couldn't get them off with natural controls so I cut the plant down. I hope it grows back next year.


My neighbor got a new fence. She went from a DIY metal one (first pic) that I was sure her tiny dog was going to get through to a wooden one. I like it a lot. I'm slightly worried that it means a little less sun in that area because of the fence shadow, but I'll make it work.

Old fence

New fence


The caryopteris x clandonensis 'White Surprise' that I ordered and planted last fall, partially for its variegated foliage, is growing in....not variegated. I feel like this like the time when we got a puppy when I was a kid. I asked my mom when she'd learn to pee lifting her leg like other dogs. I was missing some common sense then, and feel like I'm missing something obvious now.

Not a whole lotta variegation going on now.

I'm starting to compile my fall plant order. Spreadsheets abound! Are you ordering anything fun for next year?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - June 2015

What a strange year so far. Almost no spring weather - just hot and dry. And then it cooled down a bit, but still no rain. The last week or so it's been raining more, for which I'm grateful, and it's really hot again. Some of the flowers seem off - blooming too early. And it's that time of year where the late spring flowers are done and the early summer ones aren't at their peak yet so there's not a whole lot going on. But green is a color, too, right?

Back yard:

Lonicera sempervirens 'Major Wheeler' finding a home on my fence

The allée:

Coreopsis 'Mercury Rising'

The last of the blooms on Penstemon 'Dark Towers'

Nepeta 'Walker's Low' . Can't wait to divide these things!
Phlox 'Blue Paradise' is just starting. And it's really purple, not blue.

The pharm:
Echinacea in front of the hydrangea. I feel like it's early for echinacea.

Callirhoe involucrata spreading on the sidewalk. This is the only place it's doing well.

Gaillardia. I feel like it's early for it to be almost done!

More echinacea. When they flop, it's a sign that it's super super dry!

I wonder if the weirdness will continue this year. It really makes me regret all of the aerosol hair spray I used in the '80s!

Thanks to May Dreams for hosting this monthly event!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Holes in the allée

The allée is still a newer garden. It was started a tiny bit in 2012 but I dug out the rest in 2013. I've added plugs, divided plants, and last fall I bought about $200 worth of perennials and planted many of them there.

But still, when I walked through it this week I noticed that there are a lot of holes. No, not those kinds of holes. We're fortunate that in this part of the city (and probably in many parts of the city), we don't have to deal with moles or voles or other critters. The holes I have are embarrassing because there is nothing growing in them.  I'm sure when I plant new flowers in late summer/early fall that I have a plan in my head but I didn't realize that the plan included leaving great spaces of nothingness.

I seem to have three categories of holes: Places where there's nothing because the plants around it get bigger; bare spaces left when bulb foliage dies; and then just pure poor planning on my part.

To wit: I know that I didn't plant a lot here because the ninebark will eventually be 8 feet across, though since that probably won't happen for several more years, I need to plant and then move when the ninebark takes over. 

And this is a tough spot because when the hibiscus gets going in July, it crowds out everything around it. So instead of giving it space, apparently I planted right next to it and then left blank spaces closer to the pathway. Awesome.

These next two pictures show problems that arise when the bulb foliage finally dies. Then, there will be absolutely nothing in their places. I need to work on some choreography in these spots.

Then there are the spaces of nothingness or just really bad planting on my part. Like here - apparently I like to plant on diagonals. 

Here next to the back door - I know it wasn't this empty last year. There were some Geranium 'Rozanne' and more than one Coreopsis but I guess it didn't come back. I planted some annuals there but I have to do something about this. It's a tough area, though, since it gets stepped on all winter when the bench isn't there to block that route.

Under my Eastern redbud (which had TWO flowers this year, by the way, an improvement over zero so it gets to stay), I planted two Amsonia hubrichtii last fall. I know they'll get larger but right now they're just sprigs and it looks so bare.

Or this - let me just bunch plants together around a hole of nothingness, and then plant some annuals in there to try to mitigate the damage.

As you can see, I have a lot of work to do. This mainly involves online shopping for new plants but may also include moving some things around and dividing some plants. For now, I'll just sit here in the a/c and window shop online.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Early bouquet

I'm very book smart but have no common sense, so when Neighbor M and I were admiring my Baptisia bushes yesterday and she told me that she cut some of her own for bouquets, it was as if she had showed me a unicorn farting rainbows and giving out gold for free. My brain is stuck on the cutting peonies, zinnia, and rudbeckia for anchors for bouquets but baptisia? Never would have thought of it on my own and very happy she thought of it for me.

B. australis species, 'Twilite Prairieblues', 'Solar Flare Prairieblues', and Nepeta 'Walker's Low'

Which late spring/early summer plants do you use in bouquets?

Friday, May 15, 2015

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - May 2015

This week I looked around and had my annual, "And just like that, everything is green again!" moments. You're so desperate for any signs of life after one of the coldest winters on record and then boom - everything is suddenly SO alive. It's been one of those busy years already (though it's my own fault for over-volunteering). I can't believe it's already mid-May and I feel like I'm terribly behind in both the garden and the blog. I even had a mental April 2015 bloom day post written but never got the chance to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. So without further ado, les fleurs!

The Pharm (Front Yard)

 Creeping phlox on the front wall:

This is not Photoshopped. You really do need sunglasses to look at this azalea.

Azalea, allium, iris, and Nepeta "Walker's Low"

Euphorbia polychroma 'Bonfire'

Abeille Allée (Side yard)

Peony 'Bowl of Beauty'

Allium. I really need more of these for next year.

As I'm the one who plans the vacations for J and I, I made sure to time it so that I'd be home to see these iris. I missed them last year (my first year having them). It was well worth it to change up our week!

Sibirian Iris 'Frommymotherii'

My lilac bush. Last year I thought it was mostly dead. This year it really filled out!

The back yard

Lonicera sempervirens 'Major Wheeler'. This 2-year-old vine is blooming for the first time.
I bought it to replace my climbing roses that had RRD.

This hellebore was three-quarters dead in the winter but is blooming strong in the spring. Go

Baptisia australis 'Prairiebluesomethingus'

Lots of things growing, not a tremendous amount of color yet, but that's okay because there is life growing all around and it's not 10 degrees outside! Thanks to May Dreams for hosting, as always!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The state of early spring

This was the first day of spring this year in Philadelphia:

Neighbor M's yard, but you get the point

The ground was bare on the last day of winter but Mother Nature can be a bitch so she was like, "Spring? I'll show you spring, suckers!" Oy.

Just so I didn't think I was making it up that it was REALLY COLD this year, I checked and February 2015 was the coldest February in Philly since at least 1990 (as far back as I looked). March 2015 has been the coldest March since 1996. March came in like a lion and is going out like a lion in need of a parka.

So, even though I still need a hat and gloves to walk outside, the sun is bright and walk I do, looking for any little sign of life. There are a few.

Thank god for crocus

The little red wormy heads of peony

Phlox 'Blue Paradise' starting early

And I have some blooms inside. My Thanksgiving cactus, for example, felt bad for me and rebloomed. A late-planted amaryllis in the kitchen makes cooking more bearable.

Onward to better days ahead. How are things for you in early spring?