Pitch black by 6:30 p.m. as Mark was getting ready to go to a photo lecture. Once the wind and rain kicked in it was clear he wasn't going anywhere. I kept expecting the tornado sirens to go off but they didn't. We pulled the curtains just in case something hit the windows. I always figure that will slow down shattered glass from flying into the room. Lost power shortly after 7 p.m. Sat and read with flashlights and a big lantern that lit the room surprisingly well.
But the storm kept drawing us to the windows to marvel at the intensity of the wind and the wildly blowing and twisting trees in the garden. The pond was overflowing into the dry stream mechanism to handle such events. But the water flowing through it was the highest it's been in many years. Once it all calmed down around 9:30 p.m. Mark took the lantern and walked around a bit to see if there was any major damage.
Here's what it looked like this morning. One of our many bunnies briefly joined me for a look at all the twigs and small debris that's scattered all over the garden.
We got 4.32 inches (10.97 centimeters) of rain in not much more than two hours. It was blowing against the house so that you could hardly see out some of the windows. It was enough rain that it started coming in the basement right in the area where we have artwork stored — which meant a lot of things were moved around by flashlight. With no power we couldn't use the shop vac to keep on top of the seepage.
Here's the Lilium henryi that looked so nice in my Wordless Wednesday post. Not sure if they will straighten up on their own. I am guessing the answer is no. My huge Agastache 'Blue Fortune' is all splayed out from the center and I am sure it will have to be tied up for the rest of the season. Luckily most plants and shrubs suffered little permanent damage despite some pretty big branches coming down on them.
Most of the branches that came down were from our Honey Locust trees. One in particular lost a good chunk of a limb. It also left a damaged limb that will likely need an arborist to remove. But I am thrilled that it missed our 'Golden Shadows' Dogwood. Here's the same branch looking down from the back side of the Tea House along the west side fence. This branch is too big to move without doing some cutting which Mark is about to do as soon as he finishes mopping up the basement. The garden certainly needed the rain even if the basement didn't, so I'm not complaining. It could have been much worse.
I only ordered two plants each from Rare Find Nursery and Old House Gardens, so I've combined my reviews into one post. Links to reviews of my earlier purchases from other mail ordered nurseries are at the end of this post.
I've ordered from OHG and written about them so many times that they are actually in my category list. I love their bulbs and all the history and stories behind them. But this is the first time I ordered anything for spring delivery. Again, I got an email with shipping and tracking info. This order came via the US Postal Service and arrived on schedule and in great shape.
As with each of my prior deliveries, the order form was on top so I could double check my order if I needed to. This was such a small order that I did not need to do that. But I looked at the paperwork anyway because Scott Kunst, the plantsman behind OHG, always writes me a note on my order form. This time was no exception.
But what is important to point out is that there were bright purple info sheets stapled to the order where you could not miss their messages: Replant your daylilies and true lilies ASAP and replant your iris TODAY! Since I bought three iris plants (Iris florentina) I did just that — and it started raining on me while I worked. So I felt very virtuous.
As for the item you can see in the box, I decided to dip my toe into the Dahlia water and ordered one Dahlia bulb, 'Cafe au Lait.' So, after planting the Iris I settled in to read the Dahlia instructions. The printed information was very complete and it also lists lots of links to more specific details on the OHG website.
One last bit of info: I receive a discount on my orders from OHG as a professional garden writer. That said, I continue to order from them each year because I love what they offer and have been very satisfied with all my purchases.
I'm not sure how I discovered this nursery — it may have been in a Google search for unusual plants — but I'm very glad I did. They have some fabulous trees and shrubs but I limited myself to two since they were an unknown quantity to me. But my first sight of the delivery box encouraged me. Then I got giddy when I opened it and saw what was inside.
These are a pair of bare root shrubs that have big root balls wrapped in plastic bags. Those weighty bases were taped and tied into place and did not appear to have moved during their trip from the East coast. The flexible new top growth was lightly bent to fit into the container. The paperwork included good information on planting and care for my new shrubs.
Look at these beauties. The larger plant is Hamamelis virginiana 'Green Thumb' which they sold in different sizes. I decided to order the largest one which came in a 3 gal. pot and was described as a 3-4' plant. This is a Witch Hazel with a variegated leaf and with the root ball measures 55" tall. It's shorter companion is Hamamelis vernalis 'Quasimodo'. I opted for the plant that came in a 2 gal. pot and was listed as being an 18-24" plant. With it's root ball it measures 28" tall.
Clearly these are exactly as described and worth the price ($55.00 each). They will each make an immediate statement in the garden. I am so happy with these two shrubs that I will have a hard time being so restrained when I visit the Rare Find website in the future.
The heat and the wind at the end of the week made short shrift of the Crabapple's tree's splendor. This is a very old tree and only blooms every other year so I try to enjoy it every minute it's in flower. Over the years I've also learned there's more than one way to experience its bounty.
Flowers: Unknown Crabapple variety, Dicentra 'Gold Heart' and Epimedium 'Red Queen' The vase is antique cranberry glass. To see what other gardeners have plucked from their gardens and put in a vase this Monday, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden who hosts this meme.
Since I ordered from a number of mail order nurseries all over the U.S. this year, I am going to report on each shipment as it arrives. I will post these reviews on Fridays as each shipment arrives.
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My second group of mail-order plants arrived in great condition on Friday, April 22 having been shipped from Washington state on Tuesday, April 19. I was impressed with the turn-around time, but a little disconcerted when I realized the box sat at Fed Ex in Madison for over 24 hours before they actually delivered them to me. I think that's because the delivery order said it must get to me by Friday. So Friday it was. I did appreciate the email note with tracking number that Far Reaches sent me when they shipped the plants so I could follow their progress and be ready for their arrival.
I actually made three separate orders to Far Reaches between January 5 and mid-February as they added new plants to their web site. They were shipped in late April as requested and came all together in a BIG box. The package weighed 11 pounds and was 28" x 16" x 13".
As you can see from these photos my invoice was right on top so I could check off the plants as I unpacked them Again, the invoice was hand-signed by one of the owners of the nursery which I find amazing given how incredibly busy they all must be at this time of year. You know how busy all of us gardeners are!
Newsprint cushioned the plants and kept everything from shifting around during shipping. In addition each plant had this wonderful stretchy brown paper around it. The paper has air slits so everything could breath but it really kept every stem and leaf in excellent condition. There were no broken stems or damage to the plants of any kind. I found it rather amazing given the size of the plants that were shipped to me and the state of their growth.
The plants came from Washington state where Spring is much more advanced than it is here in Wisconsin. You can see that the Peony I ordered (P. corsica syn. macula ssp. russoi, on the right below with the red stems) has already bloomed this year. Look at the size and number of those stems! They mean I will have a very nice display next year.
The same is true of this Trillium albidum (below) which was shipped in full bloom. I planted it the morning after it arrived at my house and it is still holding onto its flowers a week later. But again, I know for sure that I have a bloom-sized plant just as the Far Reaches online catalog stated.
The plants I ordered from Far Reaches Farm, in addition to the ones mentioned above, include Primula florindae (2), Betula michauxii, Gillenia trifoliata 'Pink Profusion,' Tsuga diversifolia (2), Paeonia ludlowii, Hemerocallis exaltata ex. 'Giraffe' seedling, Asplenium scolopendrium 'Christatum' (2) and Erythronium oregonum (2). The Erythroniums are the plants in the foreground with the yellowing leaves. These are spring ephemerals and are fading as they have already bloomed etc. before they were shipped. That's why the leaves are yellow rather than any problem with the plant.
All in all, a great experience and I would certainly order from them again despite the shipping charges to get the plants from there to here.
We bought our first Korean Maple tree (Acer pseudosieboldianum) in 1999 and the last ones — just little seedlings a foot tall — in 2014. This is a tree that has leaves reminiscent of a Japanese Maple as well as that tree's spectacular fall color. But it is much hardier here in the Midwest. Over the years we've planted dozens of different Japanese Maples and have lost most of them.
The tree pictured below was growing in the garden inbetween a newly planted Carolina Silverbell and a large Stripebark Maple. It was clear to me that three trees were one too many for the space, though the other gardener in the family wasn't convinced of the necessity of moving it. So this gardener took it upon herself to dig it out last summer and replant it across the garden next to the fence.
Our neighbors took out an old Black Walnut tree just on the other side of this fence between our houses. It resulted in the late afternoon sun being in our eyes when we walked up the steps to the Tea House. I thought the Korean Maple would fit nicely next to the fence and help to provide a bit of needed shade. It's growing quite horizontally and with lots of open space. Thus it seemed like it would work in that location.
So I dug it up and moved it and then waited for Mark to notice — which took longer than I thought it might. But he was pleased with the result as I guessed he would be. And he was impressed that I moved it all on my own since it's a good 6 feet tall. I'm impressed that it has leafed out beautifully this spring with no dieback at all.
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.
Along with my Peony parasol from Cricket Hill Garden, I ordered a package of 25 aluminum plant tags for $9.50. I have a couple of these tags on trees in my garden. The tags were on the trees when they were purchased and have remained legible for years. But this is the first time I've seen these tags for sale. They are 1" x 3-3/8" long which is enough space to write what's needed. You just press down with a pen or pencil. The finish does not oxidize, according to the Cricket Hill website. These came wrapped in the same packaging as my parasol. There was no shipping charge for either item.
Cricket Hill is selling these tags to use for peony identification and suggests tying them to a bamboo stake in the ground rather than tying the wire around a plant stem. I am going to use mine for trees and shrubs and do plan to tie them around branches. But I will use small branches that will take a long time to be big enough for the wire to cause damage. Or at least that's my plan. Garden visitors always want to know the age and variety of trees and now I won't have to count on my memory to answer their questions.
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I also replaced my AnyWear unisex garden clogs which are getting worn out after almost sixteen years of use. If I remember correctly I bought these ruby slippers in Seattle in 2000 when I was out there for a newspaper convention. I wear them indoors and for a walk around the garden but not for garden work. When I am in the garden for the day, I wear sturdy work boots. I have positional vertigo so I get dizzy easily and need to be well grounded when I am working in the garden. Otherwise I will end up on the ground.
Despite the way it looks in the photo below, the new ones fit nicely and are very comfortable. I have narrow feet and it is not easy to find this kind of a mass produced product that works for me. I think the price was reasonably similar to what I paid back then. At least I did not think it was outrageous at $38.25 and free shipping. I don't really feel too bad about buying these online since my other three types of garden footwear were all purchased locally at shoe stores. The only thing I feel bad about is that I could not find exactly what I wanted in red! The bright color means I can take them off anywhere and quickly find them. That will not be the case with these black ones.
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.
Whenever we talk about redoing an area of the garden, Mark always begins the conversation by saying "Show me." What he means is make a drawing, preferably to scale. That's how he works but it is not my approach. If I absolutely have to I will do it.
So that's how I began my redesign of the moss garden this time. Luckily he had done a sketch of the area and its main features (below) which I could then use with tracing paper overlays to draw out my ideas.
As I mentioned in the previous post, I suggested we add some kind of seating to this area since the deck is our only real seating other than a few "sitting stones" here and there. We've decided to add the type of shelter used for stopping and sitting on the way to a Tea House (the yellow rectangle stuck on the drawing above).
Mark had wanted to build one of these "waiting benches," as he calls them, in the front garden years ago and I talked him out of it. The moss garden is now the perfect spot to put it. The structure will take up planting space as will paths to and from it. Once I would have railed against losing garden space, now I am happy to see it go.
The structure thus became the starting point for a planting plan: We would add the shelter and keep the remaining apple tree, along with a Carolina Sweet Shrub (Calycanthus 'Hartlage Wine, above)' and a yew globe that have been in place for a few years. Those mean I already have some background height and structural plants to contrast with what I plan to add.
Roy Diblik's book, "The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden," had been sitting out for months so I picked it up while I was musing on how to redo this area. I had not thought of Roy as someone who might have a solution for me since I am more familiar with his sunny plantings like many of those at his Northwind Nursery.
But among the planting schemes in the back of his book were a number of ideas for shade. I liked one he calls "The Fernery," with three kinds of Carex plants and two varieties of ferns (above). Diblik also noted that other perennials like Geranium maculatum, Virginia bluebells or Blue Cohosh could easily be interplanted in this matrix.
The moss garden is across the path from a large swath of Carex, Iris and Umbrella grass. I decided that more grassy foliage was not what I wanted. So I am replacing his Carex with a number of different varieties of Geranium phaeum. The flower colors and shapes are all slightly different but the appearance of the foliage is similar enough that the group should read as one.
I'm going to intersperse the Geraniums with the ferns he suggested: Dryopteris marginalis (Leatherwood fern) and Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern). I grow both of these ferns so I know they will perform well and provide the necessary contrast.
At this stage I have only drawn out the area on the right side of the apple tree. The area to the left will be where the structure will go. That means little or no planting can happen there until the construction project is finished.
I made some rough pencil notes reminding myself that I want to add couple more yew balls on that side. We have used Box and Yew balls throughout the garden (below) and I don't think this area should be an exception, now that it is no longer going to be devoted to one thing — namely moss.
The total number of plants Diblik uses in his 10' x 14' design is 62, which was a bit of a shock when I added the numbers up and started calculating the cost. The area I want to fill is similar in size, but I'm not totally starting from scratch. There are the things I mentioned above already in place. The Geranium phaeums will each generally cover more territory than the Carexes.
I am excited to add more Geraniums and ferns as they are two of my favorite plants and have done well for me with few if any problems. The biggest issue with this project is that I can't really do anything until late April. So I just sit at the desk, read books, look at the garden and imagine what it will look like in its new form.
NOTE: Double click the photos to enlarge them if you want to see any details.