A-to-Z Challenge, flowers

Nostalgia to grow on

There are some flowers that really take me back.

Al’s wife, Pat, the neighbor on the other side, planted some 4 o’clocks a couple of years back.  Their daughter, Pamela, had found the plant at a small garden shop somewhere between her house and theirs.  Pat swore it was one plant that had miraculously bloomed in about 5 different colors.  I kept quiet, knowing full well the chances of that were slim at best.

multi four oclock

Orange, yellow, pink, pink striped yellow, and deep pink.

Pat insisted I take a bag of the black seeds she was saving for me.  A bag full that was enough seed to last for, well, a good number of years if not the rest of my life.  I have had that bag of seeds for about 3 years now.  Finally, last year, I planted a few seeds.  I was hoping for yellow.  But when it did bloom, it was the deep pink.

 

Deep pink.  The very color my dad used to have.

pink 4 oclock

Loved gathering the black seeds from his 4 o’clocks.  Never mind the daddy-long-legs that seemed to love the plants as much as we kids did.

 

Along with that bag of seeds, Pat also shared an equally large bag of marigold seed.  Not sure where she thought I was going to plant all of these seeds.  But last year, I also had marigolds growing along the sidewalk, between the liriope.

 

Orange and yellow they were.

marigold

I used to take marigolds over to grandma’s house to plant on her birthday.  May is such a super month for a birthday.  I only did this for about 4 years, before we had to sell the house and move her away.  She always said how much she loved the marigolds.

I really hope she did.

 

N

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flowers, garden

We’re Cool

We  don’t truly appreciate things in life until they’re gone.  How many times I’ve seen posts on Facebook, usually around Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, lamenting the times and people who are lost.

Certainly not on that level, but our air conditioning decided to take a break a few days ago.  How can you blame it, working basically non-stop through this searing heat of early summer.  My family has never known life with it.  I was not going to hear the end of the wailing until something was done to bring that A/C back to life.

The HVAC company I’ve always used (always being 20 years in this house now) told me it was time.  Time to put the A/C down, remove it from its years of service, replace it with a better unit.  Very well, I agreed.  It really wasn’t turning out the cool air like it used to.

Second opinions are always a good idea.  I know this is good advice.  Not that I always abide by it, but the cost of that new unit made me take note.  I’d be calling for quotes the next day.

We couldn’t bear to sweat through another dinner at home, so we went out to our favorite the local restaurant that night.  We ran into a friend, who we never see out.  She listened to my hot tale, and recommended a guy who had replaced their unit not long ago.  Get a quote.

I called her guy the next day.  Some service guys really mean service.  This one called me back after he had completed his service calls for the day.  It was already 6:30 in the evening.  He would grab a bite to eat and come take a look at the old unit.  He wasn’t going to replace anything he hadn’t tried to fix.

And fix it he did!  He was at the house for 3 hours that night, flashlights aglow, umbrellas overhead during the torrential downpour, he ignored the lightning in the distance.  He wasn’t going to let us go through another night in that heat.  Listen to the master – his quote, not mine!  And mark my word, when that A/C unit breaths its final breath, the master will get my business for the replacement.

The following morning, I went out to check the area he had been working in.  The outside unit sits right in the middle of one of my borders.  A neglected border.  (How do you control thistles?  I need to find out.)  But one of the plants he had trampled (not judging, as he did fix the unit) was blooming – a tall phlox I have not seen for a couple of years.

20160723_084923.jpg

I’ve missed this plant so.  It hadn’t bloomed in years, I thought it was gone.  These tall flowers are great for the rear of this border, as the bright pink flowers show up so nice next to the dark brown brick of the house.

However, it’s always a good idea to place plants in locations where they will thrive, for optimal growth.  A quick check in my trusted flower book tells me this tall phlox is not in its optimal location.  It’s not a shade loving variety.  Most likely the reason I hadn’t seen it bloom for so long.  It needs a sunny location, protected from the wind.

There’s a challenge for me.  Most of my sunny beds are smack dab in the middle of the yard – no protection from wind.  There’s a new bed along the fence, and yes, it gets sun, so I’ll most likely put it there.

Occasionally, we get a second chance.  A/C units can be fixed, plants can be relocated.  Not always with people, though, so make an effort today to appreciate those who you know you will miss.

flowers, garden

May is Busting Out!

A recent walk through the gardens reveals that yes, indeed, spring has sprung!  If I’m not careful, I’m gonna miss it!  It’s amazing to me how fleeting this season is.  I look forward, as I’m sure you do as well, to the blooming of the flowers.  They don’t last long, though!

The crabapple bloomed just in time for prom season.

DSC_1700

Roses for prom

Brittany looked simply divine, and I was so pleased that the crabapple waited until the weekend of May 3 to burst into bloom.

Amazingly, the blooms lasted all of a week, until a strong wind storm blew all the blossoms all over the neighborhood.

The azaleas have passed their prime, little over a week did they stay.

And now I’m thoroughly enjoying the irises.

A few years back, I found a lonely bag of irises under a bench at the softball field.  I’m sure one of the other softball moms brought them to share, but they were left behind.  I kept my eye on that bag until after the game, and when no one claimed them, I rescued them myself.

It has taken a few years, and a few relocations, but I think I’ve finally hit the jackpot with the current location.

I will never forget the excitement that first year waiting for the irises to bloom.  I had no idea what variety I had found.  I was secretly hoping for a blue one, but these purple ones were not a disappointment!  And I could not beat that price!

I did not have much hope that any of them were going to bloom this year.  Every day, I would go out and take a peep between the greens.  I hope they do forgive me, for I did feel a bit aggressive checking under the hood, so to speak.  But quite magically, one day I went out to an array of spikes that must have shot up overnight, I kid you not!

And seriously, these guys bloom at night.  I was watching the buds getting ready to burst one evening late last week, and the next morning I woke up to a purple garden that took my breath away!

And Beverly Sills has made her appearance as well.  She was the lone bloomer last year, and I do believe she really appreciates some company at the party this year.

I’m sorry to say that a heavy rain storm yesterday afternoon may have ruined these beautiful blooms, but there are more to come.  Hopefully, the rain will hold off long enough for me to catch my breath, as well as a few more pictures to share.

The Bachelor’s button is so much fun to photograph.  I got a little daring with the macro lens this past weekend, and got some truly amazing shots.

No wonder we look forward to spring, all year long!  But as I said, take a moment to enjoy it.  It won’t be around for long.

flowers, garden

April Flowers – Finally!

I’ve been waiting so patiently for the flowers to arrive.  I’ve watched many other garden blogs sharing their blooms for months now, and I have been so envious.

Here in Pittsburgh, we’ve endured yet another harsh winter, and I keep telling myself that it all really helps us appreciate Spring – when it finally gets here!

April Flowers

Fun story about the violas this year.  I planted the Chair display with violas last year, and just let them bloom almost all summer.  I hadn’t realized that as they went to seed, the wind distributed and planted an entire garden of violas beside the Chair!

I’ve been busy transplanting these volunteers, and have 3 planters full already!  They were the first little plants to bloom, right through the snow!

I’ve discovered a new meme hosted by Judith over at Lavender Cottage – Mosaic Monday!   It’s a fun way to chronicle the garden here at G4T. There’s a few other gardens on display, among other interesting collages.  Be sure to check them out!

flowers, garden, winter gardening

The Hellebores Survived!

About a year ago, I wrote about my discovery of hellebores.  I ordered a couple from Spring Hill Nurseries, and plopped them in Elaine’s View garden, not sure what to expect.

As I knew would happen, with spring the hostas quickly took over the site, and I thought I had lost the hellebores.  This fall, as I was cleaning up the shade garden and preparing for winter, I stumbled upon a couple of plants that looked not quite like weeds.  There was something a bit more sturdy to the stems, a bit more green than the blanching mishmash of weeds and spent hostas.

Something told me not to cut, but to wait, be patient, maybe I can identify these guys.

When I ordered the hellebores, I was concentrating solely on the blooms.  I found two that promised red blooms, one that promised a ruffled edge, one a deep red.

I really wanted to add some spicy color to the endless sea of green hostas – the only plant that seems to survive on that side of the house.

Blue Hosta

The sunlight is very minimal on that stark, northern exposed garden bed.  Our tall, two-story house shades that side liberally all day, with only a sparse amount of afternoon sun hitting the ground in mid summer.

I’ve stubbornly tried so many plants there, losing plants too numerous to mention.  Hard lesson learned – know your plants expectations and follow THEIR rules.  But the hostas do extremely well there.  I’ve added a sampling of fern last year, and when I discovered the hellebores, I was giddy with anticipation!

But I forgot to take note of the foliage.

I think these might be them!

Of course, I Googled “Hellebore leaves”, and thankfully discovered that, yes, yes indeed, these two mystery survivors are the hellebores!

We haven’t had any trace of snow yet this year, but I’m sure it’s a coming!  And from what I’ve read, they will survive!  I will make a note to look at them in early February, and see if I can trim back the leaves from last year.  I will be looking with great anticipation for the unfurling of the new leaves, and the (hopefully) plentiful buds.  Until then.

What’s your favorite shade plant?  I could really use some suggestions on what to add to my shade collection!

flowers, garden, pruning

Pruning a clematis

My clematis, a jackmanii variety, has been growing wild for about 10 years.

Clematis

I trim it back to the ground in the fall, and it successfully regenerates itself each spring.  I train it on a trellis to reach the height of the mailbox in the mailbox garden.  I’m pretty sure the mailman would appreciate some pruning efforts on this one!

I found an excellent guide for pruning most types of clematis.  Raymond Evison describes three ways to prune, depending on the variety as well as the results you are looking to achieve.  This is the suggested procedure for pruning my jackmanii –

PruningClematis

Here’s a specimen that climbs the trellis to add the height in the lamp post garden.  I train it up a small trellis then attach some twine to the post for the tendrils that climb even higher.

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This year, I’ve noticed many clematis in the neighborhood that appear to be more tame than mine, and I rather like that look.  They may be younger specimens, but I’m hoping that a little pruning care will tame my wild boys just a bit.

 

flowers

Isn’t She Lovely!

For the past 3 weeks or so, I’ve been walking around the gardens taking special notes and photos of the flowers as they bloom.

And for about a week now, I’ve been waiting for the bursting of the bud.

My newest iris did the bursting today!  I don’t know if the rain we received early this morning did it, but when I walked outside to get into my car to go to work, I glanced over at the Butterfly Garden and there she was!

Pink Iris
Beverly Sills Iris

Isn’t she lovely!

 

 

flowers, garden, gardening

A Slow Start – But It’s a Start!

The Helleborus have arrived!

Peppermint Ruffles

And they are much smaller than I anticipated, but they do look like healthy plants.

The Peppermint Ruffles actually arrived in bloom – so exciting!  It’s so hard to judge the size of a plant by the pictures they show in the catalog.  I’m thinking that once they start establishing, I’ll be dividing and transplanting in a year or two.

Helleborus

I was hoping to plant by week’s end, and I was able to get them in the ground just yesterday.  I’d been scouting the yard trying to determine the best location, and determined Elaine’s View the best spot – it’s shady most of the day and gets minimal evening sun.  The digging was easier than I anticipated – the ground is still very wet from all the snow melt.  And I was thrilled to open the composter to discover some great compost to help strengthen the soil.  I worked some into the ground as I turned the small plot.

Digging like this before other perennials have started is a dangerous practice for me.  As much as I think I remember the gardens from year to year, I’m always nervous that I’ll disturb a plant that I’ve forgotten about.  I really must update the garden plans so I have a good map to follow!

I’m hoping that the snowdrops arrive soon so they can join the Lenten Rose in this shade garden.  I’ll try them there, and can always move them if it turns out bad.

On my tour of the yard, I realized that something has been snacking on my Japanese Maple.

I’m so disappointed – I never even got a real good picture of it.  I’m terrible at capturing those before shots!  I’m not sure it will recover but I’m hoping.  Elaine tells me that deer frequent the yard.  I’ve never seen them, but she’s home more than I am so I will have to take her word for it.  I’m hoping deer do not like hellebore – I must read up on that.

Just a couple of crocus are up and the daffodils are poking their heads out of the ground.

My mom tells me that April is predicted to be cooler than normal.  I certainly hope this isn’t our climate changing – I can’t take much more of this cold.  I need warmth, and not just a sneak peek!  I’m seeing mid 30s in the 5 day forecast, and mid 50s the week after next.  By then it will be April, and I really don’t want to see showers of the snow variety!

challenges, flowers, In a Vase on Monday, musings

Mailorder Flowers

I’m going to sound like a real ingrate here, so be forewarned!

I have to tell you that my initial response to the very idea that my husband actually ordered my Valentine’s Day flowers online was one of disappointment.  I’m not sure they are even considered mailorder, but I guess the same amount of effort went into ordering these lovelies from proflowers.com than would have taken to pick up the phone and call the local florist.

Valentine's Day '14

But part of me really hates the idea.  We remark all the time how the local florists don’t really seem to exist anymore.  Same way the local bakery went.  And I guess we are contributing to the demise.

I had to stifle a laugh on my weekend trip to WalMart last Sunday.  The entire produce department was piled sky-high with bouquets of roses.  A dozen roses at WalMart went for $15.99.  Can’t beat the prices at WalMart.

And there’s the conundrum.  With the current state of affairs in the US, most people are working far more for far less.  And when you have less to spend, you really start looking for the best deals in town.  Unfortunately, those deals come from the closest WalMart.  I hate shopping there, I really do.  But the prices truly help put food on the table for this crew of 5 that I feed.

So back to my flowers.  They arrived a day late, due to a snowstorm that actually sent our township into a State of Emergency.  So the extra day led to my flowers arriving on Valentine’s Day, but not in the best of shape.  The kids were home when the box arrived, so they did their best to prep the flowers.  They cut the stems and placed them in water, just as the directions stated.  They looked pretty sad when I got home from work that day.

But they soon recovered.  On day 2, the alstroemeria perked up – I had thought they were dead – and the roses started to recover.  I do not know how but they look better today (day 4) than the day they arrived.

So I will take it easy on my husband – he works very long hours and seriously does not have the time to stop in at any local florist – even if there were any around.  And he knows I love flowers, no matter where they may have gotten their start in life!

And aren’t they gorgeous!

At least he didn’t buy them at WalMart!

flowers, garden

Puttin’ on my shades

I really haven’t thought much about the shade garden for the past few years. It was my ‘original’ original, the first garden I planted from scratch, so to speak. So much work to prepare the ground and find the right plants to survive in the shade of my beloved crabapple tree.

Crabapple

As in most gardens in areas that freeze, some of the perennials make it through the winter, some do not. That’s the main reason I have tried to map out my gardens, so that from year to year, I will recognize what pops its head out in the spring.  Most of what has survived from year to year in my shade garden, without much attention from me, are the numerous hostas.  Once I realized how unbelievably easy they are to start, I gathered many varieties.  My favorite is a blue leaved giant variety I found at Spring Hill Nurseries.

Blue Hosta

I’m not a fan of the flowers that this specimen produces, as they are a bit obscene.  I snip them before they even bloom.

I have a few astilbes that I love, a deep red one and a beautiful white one.  The color fades on these, but even the dead stems add texture and variety to the garden.  Most of the color of this garden, however, comes from the impatiens that I plant regularly.  The search is on for some colorful items that recover as nicely as all the hostas.

I found a lovely blog this morning called Carolyn’s Shade Garden that introduced me to an interesting shade flower called Snowdrops.  Turns out its a winter flower, and I was so excited to realize that Carolyn gardens in Bryn Mawr, PA which happens to be a zone 7a area.  Not much different that my zone 5b.

Snowdrops

I cannot wait to enhance my Shade Garden with some of the flowers I plan to purchase from Carolyn.  She offers Snowdrops and hostas on her website.  She speaks on cyclamen, and I’d love to obtain the secret of a successful cyclamen. Mine have a very interesting leaf, but lately all that I see from my crop are single pink flowers, no leaves.  Also plentiful on Carolyn’s site were Hellebores.

I was first introduced to Hellebores at the Philadelphia Flower show.  Last year, the theme was a British theme.  With England being the home of native Hellebores, most of the displays featured Hellebores of the soft green and white variety.  Subtle yet impressive; but if there are colorful Hellebores to be had, I’m gonna find them also!

Another website that I visited, A Way to Garden offers some good information on caring for Hellebores, in addition to information on adding a water feature to the garden.

Great plans are in the making for The Crabapple Shade Garden this year!