Monday, February 20, 2017
My memory is not as good as I thought. I was convinced that we had a later blooming time last winter, due to much colder days in January and February. My camera tells me I am wrong.
This photograph of Camellia japonica 'C. M. Wilson', was taken on February 2, 2016, in Margaret Moseley's garden, which now belongs to her daughter Carol Harris. Also, in full bloom that day was Margaret's Daphne odora, several hybrid hellebores, Helleborus niger and Edgeworthia chrysantha, among others.
I was forewarned by Carol in January that things were early. She called to say that the Michellia maudiae was covered in fragrant blooms (also that it is now a good 25 feet tall). To illustrate how this warm winter has changed bloom times, I have pictures of this banana shrub/magnolia relative in full bloom on March 20, 2010, along with Daphne odora and dozens of camellias. There was a Spiraea 'Ogon' in flower then, as well. I've noticed they are blooming right now, exactly a month ahead of 2010.
We're about to face a week of about 70+ degrees F. Already these warm days have brought things out prematurely. The camellias are all blooming like crazy, which is fine, but I worry about the leafing out of Hydrangea macrophylla. I shudder to remember the Easter freeze of 2007. Everything was killed back by a hard freeze, and we scarcely had any macrophylla hydrangea flowers at all that year.
Gardeners everywhere have lived through uncertain times. California has been in what seemed a hopeless drought. Now, damaging storms are hitting the state, along with vicious winds and flooding rains. It's hard to have a garden under such circumstances.
Let's hope we don't have a repeat of last summer's above 90 degrees and no rain for months on end. And, if it's going to be so mild now (not good to set peach crops), I'm keeping my fingers crossed so that the really hard freezes in the low 20's and teens will not happen.
Today, on my way to a wonderful lecture given by photographer Lori Prosser at the Gwinnett Master Gardeners' meeting (her subject was English and French gardens; I came home wanting to clip hedges and plant all the flowers we cannot grow), I saw two white azaleas beginning to bloom.
I want the seasons back like they were when I was in my 30's, when you pretty much knew what would bloom when. This present weather is not right, and I hope to goodness this is not a trend for the future.
Note: My Helleborus niger, which threw up a lonely bloom this year, has already started to turn green. Here's one I took in Margaret/Carol's garden on February 2, 2016.
Friday, February 17, 2017
I'm writing this three days after I had intended to. It was Valentine's Day evening, and I looked with dismay at my desk - disorganization, chaos, half-worked crossword puzzles, metal filing rack stuffed with papers. I hadn't a clue what they (the papers) were all about - they had been there for months.
But, as I was feeling a twinge of sadness - for Valentine Days long past, the exchange of presents (my late husband usually gave me something, however small, made of sterling silver, and I would give him something to do with fishing); yellow roses from a boyfriend who wrote a funny message on the card; my daddy handing me a heart-shaped box of candy wrapped in red cellophane. You can see I was in pitiable, nostalgic mood.
It only took studying the bouquet of daffodils I had picked that afternoon to break the melancholy. What was I thinking? Here were the cheerful faces that poets had written about for centuries, that school children had presented to their teachers over the years, with the syrupy liquid seeping through the wax paper around the green stems held in their hands. How lucky was I that all I had to do was walk around the yard and gather some instant happiness.
The daffodils (of the genus narcissus; when I was young, we called them jonquils, regardless of the size or what division they were) in my bouquet were mixed, a few having been here long before I came on the property. But, most were ones I've added through the years. Curiously, the early "jonquils" and many of the later, larger ones all bloomed at once this year. This weather has been crazy, with warm spells in January and February more typical of May.
In my thrown-together bouquet are some 'Ice Follies.' These are from ones I forced one year, then threw the bulbs on the ground afterwards, with all intentions of planting them. They ended up planting themselves and have spread to make a pretty large clump. Their large faces start off with creamy petals and a pale yellow cup. Then, everything fades to white. My daffodil guru, Berma Abercrombie, who was a founder of the Georgia Daffodil Society, always recommended 'Ice Follies' as a very showy flower for a mass planting.
I took her at her word and ordered 50 bulbs to start off with. For some strange reason, I decided to plant them on a bank in the woods way behind the house where no one but the deer and squirrels can see them. They did not take off and spread like the ones I had thrown so insouciantly by the back door. In fact, their numbers have dwindled. I wasn't thinking right; the 'Ice Follies' I planted so far away should be on the hill across the driveway where I could see them from the window by my desk. As it is, I have to trudge past the brush pile and down a steep hill to pick them. Another of the labor-intensive garden mistakes I have made.
Now, as to the rest of my desk. I had two of those tall mint julep-type vases. I took some camellias to my mother in the nursing home once, and apparently someone liked the container as much as I did. But this is one of my favorite vases for many flowers. The next occupants will be the dark purple hyacinths that come up every year near said brush pile. These are more bulbs I had forced, then tossed into the ground without much thought.
My other Valentine is represented here by the mirror. You can see the frame - it is distressed black with gold leaf. It belonged to my friend Benjie Jones, whom I lost last June 16th. The mirror, which is huge, has made this room a much better place to be.
With the sweet-scented flowers and memories of Valentine's Days past, I soon bounced back and let the daffodils direct my mood. Flowers always help, and these were just the right ones to make my evening, not one of sadness at not having a Valentine at present, but one filled with cheerful remembrances of people I was lucky to have in my life.
Below: A neighbor down the street has masses of 'Ice Follies' planted on a hill next to her house. I wasn't able to capture the whole area because the leaves on several beech trees blocked the view. I need a stronger lens on my camera, but I was able to zero in one of the patches that passersby (and deer and squirrels) can see from the street.
Saturday, February 11, 2017
My mother told me that I should never begin a thank-you note with an apology. Her reasoning was to force me to write immediately so I would have no need for an apology for being late.
Well, here I go. I feel so bad that I have not even tried to write something here for so long. Sorry, Mama, but I just had to say it. The more days I skipped, the harder it was to take it back up.
As usual, I let Thanksgiving and Christmas overwhelm me. My daughter and her family (husband and girls - 2 1/2 and five months) were here for 10 days. Before they arrived, I was like a whirling dervish trying to dispose of all the clutter I'd accumulated all over the house. At the end, I was doing things like throwing stacks of mail into the spare room and not caring where they landed.
And, every year, I try to do too much, decorating-wise. I want everything to look magical, and it never does. I did have a really pretty tree, and I got the wreathes and bows made for the windows, but two pine garlands I bought never got put up. I hung on to them for two weeks after Christmas, thinking I could at least suspend them in my arch garden. I never quite got around to that either, so I finally tossed them onto the brush pile. A waste of my money and someone's labor.
So that's it. I have no excuse for January, so I'm making a fresh start now (speaking of waste - so many wasted paragraphs above making all these excuses).
The photograph above I took last April in the Sarah P. Duke Gardens in Durham, N.C. I hit at a good time, when so many of the perennials and bulbs were at their freshest. These lovely blue anemones were in the semi-circular, terraced part of the garden, which consists of 55 acres with many trails and tons of ornamental trees and shrubs.
In this particular, thickly planted "Historic Terrace Garden" (listed that way on the map), the shrubs and flowers were arranged by color. I never could get an overall view because there were too many people, so I had to settle for close-ups.
I love blue in the garden. Yesterday, as Wendie Britt and I were putting out flags for some plantings at the Flower Guild garden at the church, she said the same thing. Afterwards, I went to a big box store to pick up a prescription (they are the only ones who carry this particular one), and I bought a few additional items.
As I checked out, there was a stand loaded down with spring and summer bulbs. I spied what looked like a French blue bearded iris. It's call 'Full Tide.' I had already succumbed to this stand a few days earlier, buying two deep purple bearded iris, two packages of Oriental lilies and some purple coneflowers.
This is not a good time to plant iris - it should have been done last August. And, the rhizomes aren't very big, except the 'Full Tide' one is pretty decent. I'm planting all this at the church garden since the deer not only eat the fans at my house but pull the whole plant - roots and all - out of the ground.
We have only two and a half months before the bearded iris should be in bloom. I think the best I can hope for this year will be a few fans. I will update you on the progress.
Meanwhile, my mind is whirling, trying to think of all the blues we Southerners can count on in the garden (how many times through the years did I plant delphiniums? Only once did a few come back. And mecanopsis - one can only dream).
I have a friend I e-mail with, and we are always having contests. The most recent one was song titles with the word "moon". So, here's a challenge: Blue flowers you've actually seen in area gardens (not counting bedding plants or tropicals). I'll start off - this is off the top of my head, as I must get this finished: Hydrangeas, of course; blue bachelor's buttons, blue platycodons, some caryopteris are bluish; 'Heavenly Blue' morning glories; Phlox divaricata (usually the blue is a bit pale); Veronica 'Georgia Blue'; blue grape hyacinths; Forget-me-nots; Ceratostigma plumbaginoides; Delft Blue hyacinths; Cantaurea montana; Clematis integrifolia (isn't there a blue one, Lindy?), Clematis 'Will Goodwin', 'Ramona' (more blue than purple, I think), 'Arabella' and I'm sure many many more blue clematis (Lindy Broder will know them).
So, you take it from here. There are some blue Louisiana and Japanese iris. In fact, I had 'Arcadian Blue' at one point (Louisiana). Okay. Finish the list, please. Oops. There's a blue wild aster I see in the fall - other fall asters, but I don't know the names. Elizabeth Dean will. Did I say dutch iris?
Meanwhile, every day I've been watching something else blue in my arch garden....
Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Today is the last day of November, and even though autumn is not officially over until December 21st, the fall will be a distant thought as of tomorrow.
But, I wish I could stretch out November. I love all the foliage arrangements you can make. Above is the one I had for Thanksgiving this year. In my usual fashion, I was running around trying to clean the clutter from my main rooms, throwing things into closets and furiously sweeping up obvious debris from the floor.
On the morning of Thanksgiving eve, I called a wholesale florist to see if they had any red rose hips. In the past, I've combined those with American beech leaves I've picked Thanksgiving morning (they don't last overnight, but shrivel and turn a tan color, so I have to gather at the last minute). The wholesale guy I talked to said, yes, he would pull me some.
I drove like a maniac over there, only to discover there were no rose hips at all. He had three packages of aronia berries waiting for me. But they were a dark red, and I really didn't want to spend $45 on something I didn't want, so I rushed back here and ran up the hill to the vacant house. You can see my haul here.
Despite my panic at running out of time, I greatly enjoyed gathering material for this arrangement, which was thrown together in record time Thanksgiving morning. I did have a large oasis that was already soaked, so that made it easy.
Here's what I found: Brown-backed magnolia (I'm thinking it's not 'Bracken's Brown Beauty', but can't be sure; the habit is more open on this tree), Japanese maple that shriveled a bit overnight (I had all this in buckets outside), Camellia sasanqua 'Yuletide'; nandina berries that hovered between orange and red. The yellow-green American beech leaves you see on the left came from my tree outside the back door. Usually, it's already tan, but I was lucky it hadn't all turned yet, so I had good yellow, green and bronze color. Those were gathered Thanksgiving morning.
My time of foraging on the vacant lot next door may soon come to an end. If the new U.S. President lifts sanctions on Russian plutocrats, I imagine this property will either be occupied or sold. The rumor has been that it was bought by a Russian billionaire whose assets in this country were frozen.
On Sunday, I went to the farm to gather winged sweet gum sticks, American red cedar and pine for Christmas arrangements at church. I almost had a meltdown when I realized that my favorite cedar tree - the one with tiny brownish-orange berries - was dying on the bottom. I was able to reach a few branches, but I first assumed that the drought had taken its toll.
But, as my friend Richard with the jeep and I soon realized, most everything was dead or dying around the edges of the fields. We concluded they had been sprayed - unthinkable! I can't really write much more about this, as I want to keep my blood pressure down. The hay man had taken it upon himself to kill everything in sight, including all the pines, cedars and a beautiful stand of berry-laden native yaupon holly next to one of the fields. Even the young sweet gums, which are a nuisance until I need the winged sticks, were dying and brittle.
When I called Mr. Hay Man the next day, he thought I should be grateful because he killed some privet, too. He scolded me and said I needed to let him know next time what I didn't want sprayed - as if I had been forewarned of this travesty. I was sick over it and can hardly think about it now, but all that lovely foliage the jeep guy and I gather every year - one of my favorite traditions of Christmas - is now brown and unsightly.
But, I was able to salvage some evergreens - just not as many. I think I made it clear to Mr. Hay Man that he needn't warn me, because there won't be a next time. Who would ever have guessed anyone would do such a thing on someone else's property without their permission?
But, back to November and this last day of the month. I hate to think that I might not be able to duplicate this arrangement next year. It's bad enough that I am trespassing now (I had called the realtor two years ago to ask for permission, but she never got back in touch with me; I justify my actions because I've kept ivy off the magnificent old trees up there). In my own yard, I do have a 'Little Gem' magnolia and nandinas, but I need to replant a 'Yuletide' and find someone willing to spare Japanese maple foliage. Or maybe I can find something at the farm that the Hay Man hasn't killed. I've used lots of autumn branches from there in the past. I guess we'll see next year what happens.
Below, American beech leaves on the dining room table. That goose decoy will be changed out for the darker, more elegant ones I use on the tables at Christmas.