The crabapple tree right outside our kitchen window was planted when our house was built in 1954. What that really means is that it is an old variety that is not resistant to apple scab. In a rainy summer it loses so many leaves that it looks like it's dying. People always ask us why we don't cut it down and put something else in its place. The answer is because it looks its best in the winter when those bare branches show how beautifully Mark has pruned and shaped it over the years we've lived here. Add a thick coating of snow and there's nothing more pleasant than working at the kitchen sink and looking out the window at that picture of perfection.
Those dark silhouettes in the above image are cuttings in vases on the windowsill. The dark green branches in the foreground is the yew hedge that runs along the front of the house. The picture above was taken Sunday afternoon during the storm and the one below on Monday when the sun made it look like a lovely day. Truth is, the temperature as I am typing this is 4 degrees F. Trying not to think about the meeting I have on campus this morning with no sun and the wind blowing off Lake Mendota.
In case you are wondering, we always leave the screens in the windows year round. That way you can get a breath of fresh air any time there's a thaw with warmer temps. And, of course, I can quick pop open a window if I burn something in the oven and set off the smoke alarm!
We could not have enjoyed a more lovely fall day today. We've passed the midway mark in October without a killing frost in the city and a high temperature of 68 degrees F this afternoon. So many locust leaves have fallen that they've obscured the paths, the grass and the pond. It's all one golden landscape. I swept the leaves off the deck and set up a work station at the table. Cleaned all my garden tools and now just have to sharpen and oil them.
Went through the garden gate at the top of the steps and gabbed with our neighbors who were out working on their side of the fence. Then Mark grilled a steak to take advantage of the weather. These garden shots were taken through the windows after I'd come in around 5 p.m.
When I went around closing some of the windows, I couldn't resist the shadows the trees outside our our bedroom windows were casting on the curtains that were billowing in the breeze.
Hope you were lucky enough to enjoy a beautiful day as well.
I had been growing Syneilesis palmate 'Kikko' in a less than perfect spot. It didn't die but it didn't take off either. So last fall I dug it out, divided it and put it in two different locations to see where it really wanted to live. The spot with the perfect soil conditions turned out to be too sunny, making it flop midday. So I took that piece and added it to its other half in a shadier location. Then I put some pieces of Christmas fern in the bare spot where it had originally been growing last summer.
Imagine my surprise when I checked on the ferns to discover that Kikko left a lot of progeny behind and they all decided to make an appearance — now! They're weeks behind the original plants. And the fact these babies showed up in force in the very first spot I put the parent plant suggests my efforts at finding the perfect home were a waste of time. Since I can do a side by side comparison of new and older leaves, I also now know for sure that the striking variegation is only on the new growth and fades as the plant matures during the season.
Everywhere I look bloggers are talking about their summer pots. We have a dozen pots that spend their summer scattered throughout our garden as well as three huge platters that are displayed on the walls of the house. All of them are the work of Wisconsin artist, Mark Skudlarek of Cambridge Woodfired Pottery.
We like pots that are elegant as well as earthy and subdued. Among my favorites are this pair that have been living on the deck for a number of years; currently planted with Hostas and boxwoods before that. They are the only Skudlarek pots that have plants in them.
Often these deck containers have a companion pot nearby.
This one is just off the deck enmeshed in Geranium cantabrigiense 'Biokovo' in a triangular garden where three paths cross each other. This has been a great year for that particular Geranium.
Though we have traditional Japanese elements in our garden, we've given them a western interpretation like this Tsukubai below. Rather than a stone basin and bamboo water spigot, we've used one of Mark Skudlarek's pots and a piece of recycled copper tubing from an old hardware store in Madison.
You'll notice that many of his pots are patterned; some with stripes like the ones above and below.
Some are more subtle with an all-over textured surface. This pot held a waterlily but we usurped its spot when we redid the driveway last year and have not quite decided its new location and use.
The glazing contributes the "decoration" on some of the pots. Though this has four handles we never use them to carry the pot. This was the first really large pot we bought from Mark and it gave us a desire to add more big containers.
We used our 20th wedding anniversary as the excuse to treat our selves to the pot below. It is so large that we can barely lift it. But what a sense of drama and scale it gives to the garden and the Tea House.
If you look closely below (or enlarge the picture) you can see the other big pot on the opposite side of the Tea House.
This one is at the top of the sloping Tea House garden that I've been working on for the last few years.
If you live in the area it is well worth making the short trip out to Mark Skudlarek's pottery. His showroom is always open with payment on the honor system. Although most times he is out working in his adjacent studio so you can meet him and ask any questions. And you can see his amazing kiln!
In 1998 we planted a grove of River Birch trees (Betula nigra 'Cully'). We spent a great deal of time figuring out just how to place them to get the perfect view from the windows of the house. All these years later I realize it was a wasted effort. The bark of River Birches is so visually compelling that I no longer see my forest for the trees. Given our continuing cool weather I'm happy to have my grove of beautiful Birches to enjoy since most of the flowers are still in hiding.
When Mark and I stopped at Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison last week to visit the Spring show — "Furnished with Flowers" — we also strolled around the outdoor gardens. It was a beautiful day to do so. Perfect weather and that last moment before Spring fully arrives letting us see aspects of the garden that we often miss when it's green and floriferous everywhere you look.
Not exactly a true Foliage Follow-up but I think this fits Pam's philosophy for this meme that there's more to plants than flowers. Photos taken on March 9, 2016.
Climbing Hydrangea on the wall outside the Atrium doors.
The allee of Cornus mas trees leading to the meadow.
Exfoliating bark on a Heptacodium miconioides (Seven Sons) tree. Without the yews they would be much less noticeable and dramatic.
One of Olbrich's low maintenance, sustainable gardens with plants that "die beautifully" which is what Piet Oudolf looks for in a good garden plant.
At this season the triangularity of the grass clumps nicely echo the shapes of the sculpture. In summer the effect is quite different.
The temperatures were up into the 50s on both days this weekend. Despite clouds and wind, the sudden whiff of Spring was a huge boost to my spirits and sent me outdoors with a camera (uh, phone). This sudden change in the weather also makes it easy to observe the pattern of snow melt in the garden. What I discovered as I wandered around snapping photos is that I've planted a number of early bulbs in locations that are going to be among the last spots to be covered with snow.
Looking southwest across the width of the back garden
I put the bulbs where I wanted to see them in the spring without thinking about what early spring looks like in my garden. March tends to be a month where we typically get one — if not more — serious snowfalls. So I should have at least one more chance to study these patterns and to record where the snow disappears first and last in my garden.
Looking south across the depth of the back garden
Even though they are composed of gravel, the paths across the back of the garden and through the area most heavily planted with perennials were still snow-covered Sunday afternoon. The same was true for much of the front garden as the photos below show. That black plastic milk bin is my attempt to keep critters away from a little shrub I transplanted last fall.
I'm not going to cut back Epimendiums, Hellebores or the dried remains of Hakonechloa grass for a few more weeks, unless there are long term signs that winter is over. My birthday is in early April and too often it is a cold and snowy day, so I am trying not to think about Spring any more than necessary.
The last weeks of winter are always the hardest because we're so close if you only look at the calendar. But those of us who live where we have real winters, know not to rush the season no matter how much we'd like to. The bed in the photo below is at the top of our new rock wall. It's where I planted early daffodils without thinking that this is the north side of the house and that bed will be in a cold shadow for quite a while longer.
Despite my rather gloomy comments, there was enough green to be seen to get me excited. Arum italicum looks great even though it's been buried under the snow until just a few hours before I took its photo.
I love the bright green of the foliage of the Digitalis plants that wintered over and will bloom this year. But until it flowers I am not sure which variety it is.
My double-flowered Snowdrops are starting to push up.
Last year they did not make an appearance until March 10.
Galanthus 'Magnet' is much further along — or at least up much higher — than the Snowdrops shown above. That really surprises me as the double-flowered ones are against the house whose reflected heat seems like it would have pushed them ahead. But that's gardening, always something you didn't expect to see staring you in the face!