Sunday, May 15, 2016

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - May 2016

The strange weather continues. We had almost a week and a half of rain to start off the month of May. This weekend was the first sunny and warm weekend we've had (though today is cold, gray, and windy), so I was out in the garden in full force doing the usual spring chores but also preparing for things to look presentable for Neighbor M's yearly "Great Divide" plant swap party. Said party starts in 45 minutes so without further ado, I bring you what is blooming in my city garden!

The Front Yard
The flowers here seem to about two weeks ahead of where they were at this time last year. I'm not sure why it's just the front yard that's doing this (everything else is pretty much on the same schedule).

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

The phlox is just about done. The salvia is just beginning.

The allée

Peony 'Bowl of Beauty'. It really is that bright!

Siberian iris 'Frommymotherii'

Zizia aurea. Just planted in the fall so it's still small.

Iris 'Harvest of Memories'

Another iris. I thought I divided it from 'Harvest of Memories' but it's clearly a different flower.

Lilac bush and Nepeta 'Walker's Low'

The back yard

Lonicera sempervirens 'Major Wheeler'

Kerria japonica

Centaurea montana 'Amethyst in Snow'

Baptisia australis just starting to bloom

Allium christophii just opened

Geranium sanguineum - new to the garden (planted last fall)

Thanks to May Dreams for hosting!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Strange spring

After a pretty mild winter, one in which we didn't have a lot of snow and it was most certainly NOT the third coldest winter on record (like last year), the week of March 7 brought us 70-degree temperatures here in Philly. I know it was that week because I was on Spring Break from work and I was puttering outside in the garden for much of the week.

And then the first day of spring came, and we have since had three freeze warnings during which I first covered my fledgling sugar snap pea seedlings, and then I gave up.

We also had snow last weekend. I happened to be in Lancaster County, PA (Pennsylvania Dutch Country), where they call a springtime snow an "onion snow". The snow was really wet, and then we had another freeze that night so some emerging plants like my bleeding heart (below) were damaged.

You can see some of the bleeding heart flowers directly "above" the tulip are damaged.

For the second year in a row, my Eastern Redbud has bloomed. Last year, I had precisely two flowers on the entire tree. This year, I'm pleased with an entire branch of flowers. The tree heard me threatening to chop it down two years ago and is finally performing.

Completely unfazed by the strange weather, my creeping phlox is in full bloom and has been for a week or two. It's an entire month early, by the way, as it's usually in full bloom in early- to mid-May.

My Kerria japonica is also about a month early. It's right outside of my back door so it's nice to see.

I was able to move my pot of strawberries to the covered porch during the freeze warnings, so it's doing just fine now. The chives behind it in the photo below looked pretty dead during the "onion snow" (no pun intended) but have since rebounded.

We're less than a third of the way through 2016 and it's already been a very strange year as far as the weather and garden are concerned. How about where you live? Is it business as usual or are you also experiencing a strange spring?

Saturday, February 27, 2016

A month early

I spotted these crocuses in my yard this week, on February 24th to be exact. They're about a month early. My cousin tells me the tulips at the White House are blooming already.

This makes me think I could plant tomato seedlings in March if I wanted to!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The baby

What do you get when El Nino and global warming come together? 

You get irises blooming in January. 

This was taken January 2 amid a backdrop of Christmas lights and it's probably the closest I'll ever come to having a January bloom day post.

Winter weather has finally arrived here in Philly so the flowers are now gone, but boy was this an amazing treat for the last seven weeks!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Tabula rasa

Alternate titles to this post:

"When life hands you lemons, make sure you have vodka."
"What the f*ck happened?!"
" 'It'll be okay', she says, as she sits sobbing in the fetal position."

I've been talking for years (seriously, years) about taking down the dogwood in the front of the house. I've also been talking for years (yes, years again) about removing the forsythia on the side of the house. I struggle with decisions about my garden.

The dogwood was planted a long time ago, before we ever moved in. It was brilliantly planted RightNextToTheRetainingWall so that its roots would eventually crack the wall and require us to replace it. Awesome! Expensive future project! But even more worrisome is that in the last couple of years, the tree started to lean to the point that I was afraid that a strong wind would topple it over and on to a pedestrian on the sidewalk or my neighbor's car. Also, during the past two winters, I noticed that there were little piles of wood dust here and there on the tree, as is if it had termites.

The forsythia was also planted prior to us moving in and was too big for its space. It was planted between my neighbor's driveway and my side walkway. To pass through either, I had to prune it in an odd shape - flat on my side and constant pruning on my neighbor's side so it didn't scratch her car.

Still, both provided privacy (which you know I love since my city neighbors and I are all on top of each other).

The forsythia at the end of the allee, shielding us from the front yard.

The dogwood and the lilac in the corner creating some privacy in the front yard.

And both had lovely spring and summer blooms.

I finally decided that the dogwood had to come down. It was leaning too much and it's affectionate moniker, "the half-dead dogwood", wasn't quite funny anymore. I could deal with it. I'd manage. I'd made a decision! J called his tree guy who came and gave an estimate, which included "reducing the forsythia" to get the stump grinder through the yard and to the dogwood stump.

"Oh, I can do that," I said. "How much does he need me to prune?

"Let me email him and ask," J said.


A few days later, I came home from work to this.

The tree guy showed up without telling us. Huh. But, I guess my suspicion about termites wasn't far off!

And then I saw that this also happened.

This is what "reducing" the forsythia means, apparently.

Needless to say, I walked inside and flipped the F out on J. Not that it was his fault, but he received the brunt of my rant about the lack of communication and professionalism from the tree guy, who assured us the forsythia would grow back in a year during a call I forced J to make to him right then and there. My Google search disagreed about the growth rate, and I ranted away.

We can see the whole street from here, kids!

And yet.... I hated to admit it, because I knew that I SHOULD be mad since this wasn't what I asked for, but I almost felt relieved. The choice was made for me. I couldn't pull the trigger myself to get rid of a bush that so obviously didn't belong in that small space, but now it was gone. Yes, if I left it, it might grow back in a year or two, but did I really want it to?

They came back to stump grind the dogwood a few days later and took the forsythia out with it, per my request. The lilac had to go, too, since they couldn't get the stump grinder to the rotted dogwood stump with it in its way. I think I am most sad about that, though it too was planted in a bad spot (that one's my fault). 

I now have this space where the dogwood and lilac were:

And this space where the forsythia once was (the mulched part in the foreground housed my tomato plants this year):

It is so, so bare. I feel naked and exposed. I need to buy something (appropriate-sized bushes? a small fence? an arbor?) to plant/install to define the end of the front yard and the start of the allee. Feel free to send any suggestions my way. 

At the same time, I now have 31 feet of sunny planting space (where I used to have 12 feet) to go full throttle with my front-yard veggie garden. I've already been dog-earing my new 2016 Baker Creek seed catalog with wild abandon. For the first time, I can envision multiple layouts of designs for the front yard whereas before I needed Neighbor M to draw me a plan because I just couldn't "see" it. Also, I'll get to feed us for six months from the front yard! I'll get to can veggies for the winter! I'll get to donate any excess to the local food pantry!

I still feel like I forgot to put my clothes on every time I walk out the front door, but I'm pretty excited about the possibilities in store.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Winter iris

This iris looks exactly the same today as it did when I took this picture back on November 7.

We've already had a frost or two and it's still blooming. I planted it in 2013 and it never bloomed - until now.

I thought it was just an anomaly until Neighbor M said there were fall-blooming irises. I can't find the tag to save my life (despite going out there daily to look around in the dirt) so I'm not sure if that's the case with this one or not. UPDATE: Thank goodness for paper journals! It's Iris 'Harvest of Memories', described as a spring bloomer with "dependable rebloom in summer and fall".

Either way, it's a gift. I might even be able to cut some of the flowers for a Christmas bouquet.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Coming soon!

I finally pulled the trigger and placed my plant order for the fall. My "paralysis by analysis", as Neighbor M has diagnosed me, was really bad and for months (seriously) I labored over decisions. Would it clash with other plants near by? Would it even do well here? What if it dies?

I know, I need therapy.

Anyway, some are new takes on existing plants I have that have done well. Others will be brand new but captivated me with their descriptions and pictures online. All of them are from Lazy S's farm. They do not use neonicotinoids and the plants I purchased from the last year are doing well. They should be arriving this week, so let's roll out the red carpet for:

Achillea x 'Schwellenberg'

I somehow have completely forgotten about yarrow until this year. I used to have many plants but when I had to move things around when I lost half my yard, I apparently lost most of them. I realized that the one I do still have is vigorous, a late summer/early autumn bloomer, and enjoys neglect. In other words, perfect!

Photo from

Anemone x hybrida 'Queen Charlotte'

I have one of these in the back yard and it's so, so lovely to stare at out the back window when I'm washing dishes. I'm hoping to double my pleasure with an additional plant.

Photo from

 Geranium sanguineum

I pass by these babies at the park by my office and they're incredible. I ordered four plants - they'll replace the increasingly invasive spiderwort in the back yard. And their flowers are nice and bright, which is always needed after a terrible winter.

Photo from

 Heuchera x 'Delta Dawn'

I'm excited to put these (I ordered 3) in the allee, where it will provide color from spring through fall. It starts out like the picture below and then changes colors with the seasons, ending up as bright reds, oranges, and yellows.

Photo from

Salvia microphylla 'Wild Watermelon'

Shocking, I know - another brightly colored flower! I'm hoping to put this salvia in the front to replace the Aster 'Alma Potschke' that I mentioned isn't doing so well in my last post. 
Photo from

 Lonicera sempervirens 'Major Wheeler'

I purchased one of these a couple of years ago to replace Rosa 'Pinkie' that got rose rosettes disease. It's making its happy home on the back fence, so this second one will be started further down. Hopefully in a few years, they'll both be big, lush, and spilling over the entire fence.

Photo from

Monarda didyma x fistulosa 'Gardenview Scarlet'

I am going to rip out the invasive daylilies on my side of Neighbor M's fence and put this plant and the yarrow there. It'll be interesting to see if there are any subtle differences between this and 'Jacob Cline'.

Zizia aurea

I had one of these years ago and loved it, but it didn't survive the new garden move. It's a subtle spring plant that I'll plant outside one of the kitchen windows to stare at longingly when it's still chilly outside. 

Photo from

Crysanthemum x 'Cambodian Queen'

I've always envied Neighbor M's perennial mums (though not the peachy color), so I'm finally buying one of my own. This will go in the front yard where fall color will be welcomed.

Photo from

Woo! I'm excited! Are you excited about any new plants you've purchased or will be purchasing?

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).