Tuesday, June 25, 2013

It's easy to remember (and so hard to forget)

I was reading somewhere on the Internet about the above hydrangea, Hydrangea macrophylla 'Ayesha'.  Someone was waxing romantically about this flower, saying it was "so hard to forget."

I immediately thought of a favorite song by Rodgers and Hart - It's Easy to Remember (And So Hard to Forget).  I'm quite sure that when Lorenz Hart penned the lyrics in 1935, he was thinking of a lost love, not a hydrangea.

But once you see 'Ayesha', it is indeed very hard to forget because it is so different.  The sepals are cupped, like little spoons.  And the color is offbeat, as well.  In this photograph, the flowers are essentially a light blue, because it is growing in the acid soil of Georgia.  In other locales, it is pink, but still mixed with a creamy white - not something you see every day.

The texture is unusual, as well.  The flower looks sturdy and waxy, and the foliage is very glossy and heavily textured.  I've neglected to mention that the blooms are huge and showy, another reason 'Ayesha' is "hard to forget."

I am still smarting over the fact that I missed the peak hydrangea season in Atlanta the middle two weeks of June.  People are saying it is one of the best years ever, due to all the rain we've had.  I took this photograph last year, so if Ayesha was this big and pretty then, what must it have looked like this year?

Actually, I think this is one of those hydrangeas that consistently performs well, making it, most of the time, easy to remember (and so hard to forget).

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Back to hydrangea land

After two weeks away from home, I'm glad to be back to some sort of routine.  If I had been technically savvy, I could have figured out how to do posts from afar.  I went first to the eastern shore of Maryland, where hydrangeas were just beginning to pop.  That weekend, I missed our American Hydrangea Society's annual tour here, which I heard was fantastic.

Still, the ones here at my house are beautiful, due to all the rain we've had and no killing freezes.  I now know the identity of my mother's hydrangea, which was purple last year, but a medium pink this year (still in the same container, having been moved from the farm where it was in too much sun).  The shrub, which is quite large, but a compact grower, is going to be planted in the ground soon so it can start absorbing the acid soil that is around here.  Elizabeth Dean, who has the mail order Web site Hydrangea.com and is owner of a wonderful specialty nursery, Wilkerson Mill Gardens, advised me to get some Holly-Tone fertilizer to aid in making the soil more acidic.  She is the one who said she thought the hydrangea is 'Merritt's Supreme'.  From the description on her Web site, I think she's exactly right.  It is royal purple in the ground.  Mother's was a very dark, rich purple, almost jewel-like.

The above photograph was taken in Harriet Kirkpatrick's amazing hydrangea garden in Atlanta.  On the left is the white Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle' (mine have been shredded by the deer).  The colorful ones are the mophead forms of H. macrophylla.   Harriet has wisely mixed evergreens like boxwoods into her landscape.  This time of year, cars going up and down her street slow down when they see her corner lot filled with hydrangeas.  It's just spectacular.

Last Thursday, I went to western North Dakota to Dickinson, the home town of one of my dearest friends.  The entire place is torn up from construction that is a result of the oil boom.  My friend couldn't even recognize some of the roads leading in, as now there are motels and apartments and all kinds of new businesses.

In Dickinson, which is about 30 minutes from North Dakota's Badlands (which were beautiful and fascinating), the bearded irises and spireas were in bloom.  I envied all their lilac hedges (a few special types were still in bloom; the old-fashioned ones had already flowered), but when I got back home and saw all our mophead hydrangeas in such rich colors, I remembered to be thankful for what I can have instead of what I can't.

Monday, June 10, 2013

A living sculpture

I've missed writing this blog, but I had to go out of town.  I had hoped for a good connection at my friend's house in a remote area, but there wasn't one.

Anyway, I did have a chance to look at photographs and had skipped over this one somehow.  This is a small front yard garden that is a real showcase in spring.  I didn't get over there this year, but I won't let that happen again.  My friend Bob Clinard has beautiful David Austin roses which he maintains impeccably.  They'll bloom well again in the fall, so I'll try to catch them then.

I am always amazed that people can take a small space and do so much with it.  Bob has been gardening all his life, and he has had gardens in odd places.  One that I admired was on a busy street next to an antiques shop.  I wonder how many wrecks occurred while people were looking at his fabulous display of flowers.

But back to this scene.  Larkspur comes up each year in Bob's yard in the strip along the street.  I think he originally obtained the seed from a neighbor who has since passed away.  That same neighbor gave him a start to Shirley poppies and red corn poppies, which are always such a colorful addition to his garden.  I know that people ride up his dead end street and turn around and slow down to see all the flowers.

In this view, I loved the way Bob limbed up the loquat tree so that it almost appears to be a sculpture.  To tell the truth, if you say the word "sculpture garden", my eyes glaze over.  I love seeing pieces of sculpture or ornaments in a garden, and I like to see sculptures displayed in a landscape.  I went to what was billed as a sculpture garden once, and it left me cold.  I think it was more that the sculptures weren't interesting, and the "garden" wasn't really a garden.

It is sometimes hard to get up the nerve to limb up a tree so you can plant under it.  I've seen it done with great success.  I'm not sure if this is why Bob chose to prune the tree as he did, but he certainly created a work of art, whether he meant to or not.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A color calculation gone wrong

I thought I was doing the right thing.  Here's the story:  My friends who have the vegetable gardens at the farm surprised me winter before last.  I came home one day to find a giant, and I mean giant, plastic container filled with heavy dirt, out of which emanated a bunch of bare sticks.

For a couple of days, I couldn't figure out who had brought this heavy object or even what it was.  Then, my friend came over, and the minute he drove up, it dawned on me.  This was my mother's prized hydrangea.  It had been in a corner on the west side of the house, and it got way too much sun.  Still, it bloomed faithfully each year.  It was the deepest, most exquisite purple.  The color looked like some sort of jewel.

So, as spring came on here at my house, and the buds started forming, I was ecstatic.  My friend offered to plant it, but I said no, I wanted it to remain in Mother's soil so it would be the right color.  And it was.  Everyone who drove up while it was in bloom oohed and ahed over the rich purple with a few mauve touches as it aged.  It was not a re-bloomer, but that was okay.  The flowers stayed pretty for at least a month.

What I decided to do was to have a box built around the container.  Fortunately, I never got around to it.  The buds formed this year, but as they began to open, I was taken aback.  The flowers didn't look like they would be dark.  I thought, well, they'll deepen as they open up.  Wrong.  The color is decidedly Pepto-Bismol pink.  It is hideous.

The friend stopped by the other day and shook his head.  "It has to be in the ground," he said.  He's right.  I know I could add aluminum sulfate (is that right?) to the container, but I wouldn't know how much or even if it would work.  I don't see how it's going to be possible to dig such a huge hole in front of my chimney, but my friend said he could do it.  So, it's going in the ground next week.  It won't help the color this year, but surely the acidity of the soil will bring back the dark purple.  I hope if we do it now, the elements will get to the roots, and Mother's hydrangea will be back to its old self by this time next year.

Now, about the photograph above.  That is 'Nikko Blue'.  I chose this particular hydrangea because the color is so stunning, and I wanted to get your attention.

The American Hydrangea Society's annual tour is this Saturday, June 8, from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., rain or shine.  There are six fabulous gardens, and if you don't have a ticket, you can purchase one at the first garden (I've seen it - worth the price of the ticket if you only get to this one).  The address is 4220 Harris Trail, N.W., Atlanta 30327.

Here's the information tour chairman Gloria Ward sent:

The American Hydrangea Society
19th Annual Garden Tour
Saturday, June 8th, 2013
9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.
Rain or Shine!
Six beautiful gardens in Buckhead, Toco Hills and the North Lake areas
showcasing Hydrangeas
Unfortunately, this tour is not wheelchair accessible
Uneven terrain and many stepping stones throughout
Rubber soled shoes recommended
Tickets are $25.00 each or a family rate of 2/$40.00
Tour ticket entitles you to the current tour and a year's membership in the AHS Society
with 3 informative color newsletters mailed to your home,
Our newsletter is a great source of information about hydrangeas & their care & maintenance
& 3 free meetings* a year with wonderful** speakers on Hydrangeas
with fun plant raffles too!
We hope you will join us!  It will be a great day!

*This is a good deal, as you will get to come to my lecture on October 22!
** Well, I don't know about wonderful, but I have some good photographs of hydrangeas.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Stopping by Diana's garden

The other day, I was visiting a friend who lives one street over from Diana Mendes' fabulous garden.  Since I had my camera with me, I thought I'd stop and see if she was at home.

She wasn't, but I went crazy.  I'd been there a couple of weeks before and thought I was seeing the peak of her May garden.  But I don't know.  On this day, the larkspur and roses were putting on a show.  She also had a number of other flowers in bloom, including yellow coreopsis and yarrow, and some two tone pink dahlias that echoed the colors of a rose right behind it.  Rising above everything was Salvia uliginosa,  The color is exquisite and reminds you of a summer sky.

At any rate, 78 photographs later, I left.  I had a terrible time choosing one for today.  I love larkspur because it was naturalized all through the vegetable gardens where I grew up.  I loved picking it when I was a little girl.  I've tried to grow it here, but it was always so weak because I lacked sun.  Now that some trees are (expensively) gone, I might be able to get it to grow.  I'll have to remember to get some seed from Diana.  Looks like the blues are dominant, but I saw white, and there appears to be a light pink one over to the right of the photograph.

In the days ahead, I'll post some other views of Diana's garden.  It's so jam-packed with flowers.  I am always baffled by the fact that she can have such a showy garden in spring, and then in the fall, it's full of flowers again.  I still marvel at how she does it.  Amazing.