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Monday, May 30, 2011

White relief

In a garden with much saturated color, it is a good thing to place white flowering plants intermittently.
The white not only gives a much needed rest to the eye, but brings a freshness to a scene that might otherwise seem a little overwhelming.
Being an unabashed lover of large flowers (especially bombs), white is needed all the more.
So, here are a few of the whites in bloom in my garden presently.
several cultivars of peony including 'Festiva Maxima'
Japanese Iris  'Great Heron'
Spirea 'Snowmound'

Friday, May 27, 2011

Bin there, done that

I thought it was time to share my soil "secret" which I believe is why I get so many blooms on one plant.

Behind my lovely potting shed is a three bin compost system that always looks crazy but produces wonderful dark rich soil. It is a study in contrast of embarrassment and pride.
Embarrassment because it is the shabbiest looking compost system around.
Pride for the rich compost it produces.
Now I realize that composting is a messy business anyway, but with all of the plastic tumblers on the market, the "pile it on method" is less than pretty.
Right after the shed was built, I scavenged for pallets that local businesses were throwing out. For all who know me, it will come as no surprise that I love to hunt for other peoples cast-offs. I looked for the strongest pallets and nailed them to posts dug into the ground with my post hole digger. Next, I attached chicken wire to all the sides to hold in the "stuff". Truthfully, the bin on the left is kinda open-side and it fits all of the big grasses and branches since I don't own a chipper. Yet. It's on my wish list.

I have to admit, for the first few years, I was saving all kitchen scraps (no meat or grease) and all paper
(non-colored, non-glossy). I alternated layers of carbon (paper, brown leaves etc) and nitrogen ( fresh green weeds, grass clippings,veggie peels) at a ratio of 2 to1.
I faithfully moistened and turned the piles. I took its temperature to make sure it was "cooking".
I covered it with black weed barrier.
I am so type A!
It took two to three months for finished product. Well, that system grew old pretty quick.
It was too much work, partly because the compost bins are located in back of the potting shed which is an acre away from the house. 

So the method I now use is cold composting. I throw anything on the piles that comes from the garden/yard not diseased and no weeds badly gone to seed. I turn it once in a while to "mix it up" and dig from the bottom. If I'm eating a banana and I happen to be in the garden, I throw the peel on the pile for good measure.
It takes a little longer for the compost to be finished, but I still get beautiful, rich compost.
And its a system I can live with. Maybe someday I will put a tumbler up by the house for kitchen waste, although I am not a big fan of anything plastic. And all of that "cranking" doesn't sound fun.

Although the benefits of composting are so widely written/spoken about, with the emphasis usually on the importance of "building" the soil, I really didn't think about the impact that good compost would have on my plants. I know, crazy.
Yes, I did think the plants would benefit and be healthier, but somehow I never thought of the amazing effect compost would have on the plant being more productive!

Here on the North Fork of Long Island we have many farms and famous vineyards. This alone is a testament to the rich soil we have naturally. But when you continually take nutrients from the soil, you must put them back into the soil. 
So, when I plant a new plant, aged chicken manure, compost and existing soil from the hole get mixed together to back fill.
Each spring compost gets spread on the garden under the mulch.
And what better way to nourish the soil than with that which comes from the soil?

Peony 'Coleen Marie' with lots of buds!
lots of blooms on unsure of name Iris

I would love to hear of what others do to compost!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Nine ladies dancing

I don't know whether its the movement or form of some flowers that remind me of dancers.
Maybe its the costumes they wear, those flamingo dancers, with loud frilly skirts.

Does anyone hear castanets?

Maybe it's the way the dancers line up in a neat little row
to  parade across the stage with such grace, balancing on their toes.

Maybe its the sweet demeanor of little ones in their first recital wearing their mom's makeup.

  Or too many ballerinas on the stage at one time  lol

And then there is always the Prima Donna

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Abundant Iris Lusciousness

Irises have started their show, at least the purples have. Then the Bi-colors and next will be the pinks and the whites. The Siberians are over 4 feet tall and very little work. Even with the moles eating so many of the Siberian's roots this winter, they didn't miss a beat in blooming. In fact, I think they bloomed better?
Now there's a plant that's a keeper. When the blooms are spent, the plants "grassy' show will go on waving in the breeze.
so many buds and over 4 ft. tall!
'Glad Heart'  bearded Iris
 We are blessed with good soil!
Two pinks are ahead of the rest with Peonies not far behind.
Get my P.Js, Im sleepin in the shed!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Visions of Nature, Glimpses of Glory

Its that time of year when my excitement runs high and thoughts are racing as to all of the wonderful things that will be happening in the garden.

Design ideas are filling my head both day and night. I love the whole process of putting plant combinations together or creating little vignettes and when I get it right, at least to my taste, I feel the "IT IS GOOD".

Plant texture, form, variegated patterns, color, shape and also mature size all comes into play. The combination possibilities are endless! Can you tell I'm EXCITED !!!

So I wonder if that's how God felt when He was creating. His work is amazing.
Globe Allium almost there
Seashells to be used as mulch
unsure of cultivar Hosta
Siberian Iris - Ceasars' Brother
Even His spiders are cool

But I'd like to think that we share the same feeling when creating something beautiful.
The "IT IS GOOD" feeling.

And that is how I'm starting to feel about this garden.

The rain has made everything lush!

Whats going on in your garden that has you excited ?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Old Man is Snoring...

Remember the song we used to sing as children? It's raining, it's pouring...
Ugghh..We all know the earth needs water but after that dreadful winter, couldn't it rain for a week straight after we've had our fill of planting and sunshine? Yup, that's the forecast.
Doesn't the old man know he should wake up and put some overalls on and get outside and dig??
Some of us have a new garden to build.

Well, anyway, at least the Peonies aren't in full bloom to get all droopy and soggy.
And the Hostas are loving it.

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Few Of My Favorite Things - May

Potting Shed table made from old door and porch columns found curbside
Iron posts rescued from garbage
chairs rescued from garbage
Okay...so I'm a garbage picker! I call it being "green" !

New tools from my daughters for Mothers Day !

Love, Love, Love Seashells

Baby wellies!

When plants fill out and cover my ugly mulch
and last but not least, when the wisteria leaf color...

matches the color of the urn!


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Hydrangea Dilema

This is the view from the front door of my Potting shed. As you can see I have a problem with knowing when to cut the bare stems off my Hydrangea Macrophylla.

They flower on last years branches, so I only trim them pretty much after flowering later in the summer.
But then the following spring, they have all these bare canes (some with a little foliage), and most of the growth at the base.

Do I try to figure out which canes are from previous years and cut them out, leaving last years growth?
Will I even be able to identify whats what?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

My color theory

 Over the years of gardening, when pairing plants, I noticed that I was choosing different color combinations that always seemed pleasing to my eye. UUhh..does that header say "Humble" ? lol

Having read too many garden books to admit, I don't think I have ever read about this concept so I'll try to explain it here.

In garden design, as in life, whether it be texture, size, form, shape or color, contrast makes a plant combination really seem exciting.

When choosing color combinations, lets say greens and reds, to over simplify, I prefer a dark color with a light color. Lets say I have chosen a rich dark plant with evergreen coloring. The companion I like best is a pale pink. Or say I have a deep magenta Morning Glory, like Scarlett O'Hara.
I would pair it with a plant with light green foliage like licorice plant.

So, here are some loose guidelines,( using reds and greens as an ex.) I seem to always come back to when choosing color combinations.

1. Light green with dark red or light red with dark green.
Ex. Sweet Potato vine with deep burgundy coleus or pale pink roses with dark color evergreens.

2. Cool colors together, warm colors together.
Ex. If a plant is blue-green (cool) pair it with a cool red, one with blue in the red.
If the plant is a warm green (yellow in it) pair it with a warm red (orange in it).
Still keeping to the dark/light theory.

3. If I have chosen a flower or foliage with medium coloring,
it seems it needs another medium color plant to be its partner.
Still keeping to the warm/cool theory.

Now most pots or containers will need more than 2 types of plants,
but this is how I start to choose combinations.

There are countless color combinations in the plant world, not only reds and greens!
Yellows and blues, purples and oranges...
What fun!

I know that many gardeners use a color wheel for considering color combinations. Maybe I am not that artistic, but the wheel seems overwhelming to me. To walk around a garden nursery with a color wheel in hand is more than I can...well...handle.

The tool I do love to use is paint chips. The ones that are free at the paint store. If I see a chip color I like, I pin it to my inspiration board and then when I go to a nursery or peruse garden catalogues, I have an idea of what I'm hunting for. Next time you visit a garden center, give it a try.

So, that is my color theory, and I'm sticking to it.

Happy Mothers Day!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

You say Cedar-Apple Rust, I say Medusa

Before I go any further,
does anyone else see a face on this thing ??? Yikes!!!!

Truly, small glimpses of the Lords' glory can be seen in nature. In the stars on a dark wintery night, in the huge ocean waves as they crash to the shore, in the many diverse creatures that live on this planet.

But somewhere along the way, you stop and wonder "What in the world is this thing?"

Yup, its the ole Cedar-Apple Rust gall ...what? you all don't have these in your yards?

These hard, brown swellings appear on the branch tips of Cedar trees. They don't seriously damage the trees but swell into gelatinous horns that release rust-colored spores that infect Apple trees growing within an approximate radius of 4 miles.

Of which happens to be a problem because we live down the street from an Apple farm with a famous cider mill.
With another farm one block over.
These spores travel back and forth from Cedars to Apples, Apples to Cedars, having a little rusty-spore party.
The only way to interrupt this cycle is to move one of the offending parties at least 4 miles away.
Is there a designated driver in the house?

So,what do you think my chances are of asking the farm owners to please relocate their Apple tree farms?
Or maybe I could dig up the 120 or so Cedar trees from my yard?

But, no, these galls are not all that bad. I just wonder what God was thinking.
Not a clue.

What I do know is that I am living in a land of glorious examples of workmanship.
Some beautiful, some...kinda creepy.

For a person with a Master Gardeners certificate, who has always enjoyed the outdoors, I have a confession. I am hugely afraid of a lot of things found outside.

Dogs ( even my own, Im convinced he's a wolf), squirrels, mice, and other mice type creatures that begin with an R, Gophers( one hissed at me), Ducks ( got bit by my neighbors'), bugs ( found a beetle in my pants), lightening ( I run very quickly at the first sound of thunder), creature attacks or bites ( whom I'm convinced have it out especially for me), birds pooping on me ( makes me almost come to tears,crying "get it off, get it off" to whomever is standing closest to me), Poison Ivy ( which causes me to look like a burn victim), slugs (one time, one wrapped itself on the thong part of my flip flop, in the dark, when I was camping, so when I went to slip my feet in...well...you get the picture.

Aaaahhh...I feel better...

 I think I've forgotten what this post is supposed to be about.
But did I happen to show you the photo of the worm that almost attacked me the other day...

Monday, May 2, 2011

Guy Wolff Pots

About 15 years ago Victoria magazine ran a feature article about a potter in Litchfield, Conn, named Guy Wolff. The article spoke about his gift in hand throwing clay pots and how beautiful they were.
Several years later, on the way home from our family vacation in Vermont, I realized that we would almost pass through the town where Guys' studio was!
After calling information to get his phone number, I nervously called him.
It was a little late in the day, but he said to come on by!
We quickly packed our 3 kids and luggage into the car but arrived about 2 hours later. I had not realized it would take us so long to get there.
There Guy was working at his wheel throwing pots for an order he was working on for the Royal Horticulture Society! If I remember correctly, the pots were part of an order for the White House!!!!
He not only took the time to teach my kids about throwing pots, but allowed me to purchase several pots, one of them being a pot that was already finished from the order he was working on.
He said he didn't mind throwing one to replace the one I had chosen.

He was not only gracious, but down to earth and funny. He made us feel so welcome and it is a day I will never forget.

A few years ago, Mr. C and I were in New York city for the day and ran across a "Green Fair" that was being hosted in Union Square. There were all sorts of vendors promoting the importance of being "green".
From across the square, I saw a small brown clay pot that looked so very familiar. With a gasp (I kid you not) I quickly dragged my husband over to the vendors' stall. There on the pot was the name "Ben Wolff".
"His son, it must be his son" I declared too loudly. And sure enough, it was.

When I asked how much the pot cost, the vendor said it wasn't for sale, it was just part of their display.
So, being the begger that I am, I went on to tell my tale of finding Guy Wolff in Conn. all those years ago and how much I love his pots and how much I would truly love to have this pot made by his son.

10 seconds later, it was mine, and for a very reasonable price.

N.Y.C. found pot on right, left pot recent find in Greenport, N.Y

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