Living With Limitations: Rewards

Living With Limitations: Rewards

Rewards

I am told that all human beings have a continual internal dialogue going. I know I seem to always be talking to myself. When speaking to myself one of the things I enjoy doing is making promises to myself. To be more specific, promises of rewards for behavior. If I (we: me, myself and I) do this one thing, then I promise I will reward myself (us) with a treat/reward.

A prime example of my behavior occurred this past week. I had a morning appointment with my gastroenterologist to review recent tests results (which were rewarded). There is always a certain amount of uneasiness concerning test results, this time with and two weeks of anticipation. The drive to the doctor’s office would be about an hour’s drive through heavy morning traffic. While this trip to the doctor was no great challenge, as some have been in the past, all goes smoother with a reward at the end of “being a good boy”.

About a block down and across the street from the doctor’s office is a favorite garden center (divine providence?), Grantline Nursery and Garden Center. They always seem to have a good selection of temptation and I like the helpful, friendly, staff. Even if I do not make a purchase I enjoy spending time among their plants, talking gardening with whoever came over to assist me. My reward this time was to check out fall arrivals since my last trip to the garden center.

For a Friend

The first plants my eyes lingered upon was two prime examples of Aralia cordata Gotemba. I had purchased one earlier in the season at another garden center and a garden friend wanted one. I made a promise to keep my eye out for him, and here they were. I grabbed a cart and first plant in was the Aralia.

Ruby Ribbons Switchgrass
photo Monrovia

Grasses

I have been keeping an eye out for grasses to use as companions to new shrubs in the sunny section of my garden. From a distance I could see containers of a tall feathery grass in bloom with flashes of red. I immediately gave in to the temptation and found myself standing before a row of Panicum virgatum, or Ruby Ribbons Switch Grass. The label read new spring growth was blue-green, turning red in summer and smoky-purple flowers in fall. Height would reach 3 to 4 feet and width 2-3 feet. Their background would be foliage in yellow, bronze and purple-chocolate. No thinking was required for 2 containers to find their way into the cart strictly on an emotional must-have motion.

Little Bluestem Standing Ovation
Photos Monrovia

For over a year I have had a list of Little Bluestem grass (Schizachyrium scoparium) cultivars on my lust-list. I had not been able to locate any of size and did not want to mail order. My wishes were working out this trip. There before me in 2 gallon size was the cultivar Standing Ovation. The label says it is a no-flop in wind and rain, thick heavy stems. Foliage begins blue with hints of green, purple and pink. Come fall red and orangs steps in. Seed heads add to the color. The one I picked had an abundance of heavy stems in lavender. If I could locate another open location I would make a return trip for “just one more”.

Rodgersia

Earlier this summer when working on a new bed for moisture loving perennials I had Rodgersia on my list, but was unable to locate any of size locally. Now a row of 2 gallon size reached out to me. Since the bed was now complete and filled there was no space nor need for a Rodgersia. But, I did not let that deter me. I placed one on my cart and headed for checkout before my credit card rebelled.

Rodgersia pinnata ‘Fireworks’ is a big and bold perennial reaching 3-4 feet in height and 3-5 feet across. Large leaves are divided, of heavy substance, having sawtooth edges colored in bronze-red boarders. New foliage is bronze over brilliant green. When blooming it resembles an Astilbe on steroids. Plumes are large, glowing deep-pink and white. Have a feeling this one will end up in a large square container of mahogany.

I would say this trip to reward my good behavior was more than fulfilled. To the point where I have had to ask myself “am I setting up doctor’s appointments so I can reward myself purchasing plants at garden centers?” Naah.

Now is the best time to book Gene as speaker for your next garden event.

Living With Limitations: An Exotic Tropical Garden

Living With Limitations: An Exotic Tropical Garden

Zimgiber mioga bloom. Hardy Ginger

An Exotic Tropical Garden

One would think standing in a mid-west garden during the middle of a drought would not bring images of the tropics immediately to mind. However, I discovered plants that had me ordering a safari jacket and shorts in kaki, my very own pith helmet, while in the background drums of Jumanji changed the rhythm of my heart.

Standing crane Variegated Hardy Ginger foliage

My original discovery took place during a trip to the greenhouse jungles of Brian’s Botanicals  a few years back. During checkout he remembered one more plant I absolutely could not go home without and disappeared back into the greenhouses. I was gifted with a start of Zingiber mioga ‘Dancing Crane’, also known as Dancing Crane variegated Ginger. I can no longer remember the other plants I purchased that day, but the gifted ginger thrives in my garden.

At first I was reluctant to transplant it into my garden due to hardiness concerns, but those concerns would prove to be unfounded. A Zone rating of 6 has been established and I have seen a report of success in Zone 5 (Kansas City).

While Zingiber enjoy consistent moisture, it is not an absolute: in fact, I find they are somewhat tolerant of drought. I did find my original transplant reached a height of just under three feet, while offsets I moved to a spot with more moisture are close to five feet. I now have three trials growing: one of a species, two cultivars, in four locations and all are doing just fine.

My first hardy ginger from Brian has great green foliage with margins and feathered centers of white resembling streaks of lightning strikes. It does not have the heft nor the width of the other cultivars I am growing while it does have the height, so it appears more graceful. Rhizomes are short so it is a tight clump-forming colony.

Zingiber mioga Krug’s Zing

My next two Zingiber came from Far Reaches Farm: the species and a cultivar selected by Krug Farms, ‘Krug’s Zing’. The species are from Japan and the cultivar from Korea. Foliage is five feet tall in my garden, almost two feet across, and individual leaves are alternate up the main stem, pointing out and up, reaching fourteen inches in length. There is plenty of space between each leaf. Krug’s Zing has a more open growth habit, blooms of yellow and lilac-pink. Both Dancing Crane and the species have flowers with buds of lemon yellow opening to fleshy cream. All three bloom at ground level with orchid-like petals flowing between the tall stalks of tropical like foliage. The blooms appear during September well into October, individual flowers fleeting.

When selecting companions care will be needed to avoid a ground cover that would hide the ground level blooms. Throw in the largest ferns you can find, a decaying log, Toad-Lilies (Tricyrtis) and leave space for porters to set up tents for tea promptly at four.

 

Living With Limitations: Just a Bit More Part 2

Living With Limitations:

Just a Bit More: Part 2

Review

Picking up where I left off in Just a Bit More blog of September 4th, the concept was to make some course corrections in my gardening. I wanted to be more successful in growing perennials that, in the past, were dismal failures. Specifically those perennials that did best when given extra moisture and not allowed to dry out. I created a new bed by excavating an area and refilling with a mix of unmilled peat, peat, soil conditioner and native soil. The new bed was tear drop shaped and sat at the end of a second larger bed where two paths intersected.  My first transplant was just outside the new bed at the tip of the tear, beginning with the drama of Aralia cordata ‘Gotemba’ with its golden foliage, large serrated leaves, and striking size of 5 feet wide by 8 feet tall. The plant looks like more like a shrub, but is a herbaceous perennial.

Astilbe Showgun
Photo Bluestone Perennials

First transplants in the new bed begin with Lobelia fulgens ‘Queen Victoria’ up in the narrow tip of the new bed, directly in front of the Aralia which will eventually mature and touch the Lobelia. Consider the contrast of Aralia’s gold with the 4 foot branched spikes of Queen Victoria’s stems of deep red-bronze over deepest polished black-green in contrast. Satin red blooms in abundance over September and October heighten the drama.

No moist bed would be complete without Astilbe, so in front of Queen Victoria and centered follows Astilbe x arendsii ‘Chocolate Shogun’ with quilted foliage of deep bronze-chocolate forming a dome. Bloom height is 2 feet and with panicles of white and pink flowers, but the key words here are bronze-chocolate foliage.

To each side of the Chocolate Shogun I stepped down with smaller Astilbe ‘Color Flash’. Only 10 inches in height, but forming a mound 18 inches across, the spring foliage is polished electric green maturing to burgundy and purple, bronze-red over green.

Next up I shifted gears just a bit and transplanted a mature Hymenocallis occidentalis, or Spider Lily centered and in front of the previous plants. The long heavy substance strap-like leaves are bright green and the delicate blooms are pure white. A 2 foot stalk carries 3 to 9 blooms that open one at a time. The common name comes from the center of the petals being laced together in a delicate “web”, the remainder of the length stretching outward in graceful narrow petals.

Ligularia dentata Pandora Photo: Concept Plants

To each side of the Spider Lily are contrasting Ligularia, another plant I had no success with in the past. Ligularia dentata ‘Pandora’ is a dwarf plant reaching about 12 inches in height and a bit larger across, forming a clump of serrated heart-shaped leaves of shiny dark purple. Blooms are orange-yellow frilly daisies, not a favorite of mine, but butterflies enjoy them.

Reaching the front rounded end of the tear drop bed there is a hypertufa container sitting amid the stones defining the raised bed. The container has a dwarf Daphne and companion of a trailing Campanula.  The container now has a background of 3 Cimicifuga simplex ‘Burnette’, one at each corner and another located in the middle. Resembling the foliage of an Astilbe, Brunette has purple-black cut foliage reaching 3 to 4 feet in height.

Lilium canadense
Edelweiss Perennials Photo

In the space behind the Brunette, in front of the Spider Lily an arch of 6 Lilium canadense bulbs have been transplanted. The Canada lily reaches about 4 to 6 feet in height and has 9 or 10 nodding flowers of deep waxy red in July. The stalks have whorled foliage.

In the arch formed by the Canada Lilies is a single Veratrum nigrum, or Black False Hellebore. Large bright green heavily parallel-ribbed foliage that is pleated, often reaching 12 inches long, are arranged in spirals around the 6 foot stems. Flowers are carried in branched panicles of small star-shaped purple black flowers.

Next spring I expect a drama of textures, heights, foliage and colors to rival any Italian opera I have seen.

Don’t forget: Yew Dell Botanical Garden Plant Sale is this coming Thursday the 26th

Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events Just One More Adventure: Taking Comfort

Taking Comfort

 

 Taking Comfort

Nothing brings comfort like repetition of the known, the tried and true, of the past. Every late summer I begin the process of cleaning up debris as they form in my garden. Along with the cleanup process is a basket of promises I make to myself each year. “This is the year I complete cleaning up my garden so it will be ready when spring arrives. Well, if I at least keep the paths clean of debris, the garden will look so much better when I walk during winter. Then there is a final resignation of ‘if I can get half the garden cleaned, then I will only have a half left to clean come late winter.’ Those are the tip of my iceberg of promises I make to myself as a gardener. I must find comfort in my delusions, for I hold on to some many of them.

Fall foliage at the header of my water feature

This year is a touch different. I began with a well-organized list of tasks to kick off the celebration of the season. I selected only one section of the garden and placed all my focus, all my gardening efforts, on this now hallowed ground. First task up was to remove all existing weeds (the first foolish promise I made to myself. I have never removed all the weeds in any section of my garden in all its history). But, in my defense, I did one hey of a job completing what I was able to weed. I would say about less than half of my intended efforts were accomplished.

 

Pride

Actually I was quite proud of my focus, for as the weeds found a new home in the middle of a path, I had a vision. All this new space called out for new plants. Answering the call, I made several trips to local garden centers and purchased dwarf shrubs with colorful foliage along with a mix of textures. Remaining in the promised land, I redesigned sections creating new life and color to the area. While standing and taking short breaks I could look out over other sections of the garden and see where I could bring new matching design to those areas. As I age I find myself wanting to see more color, more drama in my garden. But, and this is a large but, I held fast and stayed in my area of focus. I was so proud of me.

 

Deviation

This time around I added a new feature to my basket. Once weeds were in the paths and shrubs were transplanted I took the time to spread newspapers several layers thick, then dampened them so they would stay in place. I purchased bags of pine bark mini chips and then spread them over the paper about three inches deep. This time around I was doing it right. One step at a time, complete a section before moving on. Be sure this one thing is completed before wandering off into another project and no one thing will ever get completed. Of course, by going through all the steps for a great garden, the cleanup took much more time than originally imagined and planned for. So, while ahead of the game in one area, I fell behind in others. Kind of like two steps forward, one step back.

 

Help

Another sign of fall, Cyclamen hederifolium with Christmas Tree pattern in the foliage

I have heard fellow gardeners and friends tell me for years that I need help, I just assumed it was mental they were referring to. I did come to my senses and asked for help in the garden. A young fellow gardener came once a month most of the summer and concentrated on weeding in the garden. Since I did not get the areas mulched where she weeded, some of the weeds returned, but overall it was of help. While I enjoyed the company in the garden, I also learned that there was no way I would be able to manage and enjoy this much garden and the responsibility that comes with it. As I keep telling myself, perhaps by next spring I will be in better physical health, able to do more, to keep up with time to spare for a time out on a bench. (One more promise from my basket).

 

Ritual

My ritual of fall continues for it once more turned too cold, too rainy, to work outside even in the afternoons. Shut out of the garden before I could keep my promises to myself again this fall. The last of the falling leaves remain to be chopped and spread in the garden for mulch. The debris from walnut trees with stems and black walnuts, limbs from wind storms, leaves and piles of weeds remain to remind me again this fall of good intentions gone awry. However, I remind myself that what I experience each fall comes well within the definition of gardener.

Time to book Gene for next year’s garden event. Some exciting new offers in the works, so act now.

Fall Garden Fun

Fall Garden Fun

Four Roses Anniversary Rose transplant

 

There are times when all comes together in my gardening like the flow of maple syrup. A sweet warm beginning to the chill in the air.

 

I garden next door to Kentucky which is big Bourbon country and continual events are celebrating with tours, tasting, food and anniversaries this fall. Currently Four Roses Bourbon is among the celebrants by featuring a rose named after their trademark.

 

Four Roses Anniversary Rose

While completing my celebrating, Mid-October arrived and so did my anticipated order of Four Roses Anniversary rose from Jackson and Perkins. I took the box to the greenhouse and opened to find a box constructed as though it contained Fabergé eggs. The inside had custom construction to hold a plant and container without spilling a grain of soil. Not a leaf nor a stem was at the bottom of the box. First up was to remove the contents and then read Jackson and Perkins instructions.  The rose was set on the bench for a two day rest from its travels which

give me time to prepare a bed.

 

My wife was in the process of cleaning up her raised beds for the winter and the bed to receive the rose was already cleared. The afternoon was perfect weather for fall work with those chilly mornings and warm sunny afternoons.

I added some compost to the bed, turned soil and compost over, then thoroughly mixed the two to spade depth. The aged cedar raised bed would contain only the rose until next spring when some trailing annuals with shallow roots would be added. I do not want the annuals competing with the roots of the rose, so the rose is offset in the bed to give the annuals room to play. This is not a necessity, but it is a part of my way of designing and future care.

 

A hole was opened in the soil and the rose was set in, then soil pulled back over its roots, making sure the soil line was the same as where it had been in the container. I like to transplant just a touch high for the soil will settle over time, and I will be adding a mulch to hold in moisture, keep out weeds, and help moderate the temperature of the soil. Next up was a sprinkling can of water gently applied to foliage and roots.

Once mulched that should be all the care needed until spring when the rose awakens. Only two more steps remained. One was to stand and admire my handiwork before putting the tools away. After that step I could go into a wait and anticipate mode.

 

The next two nights have a forecast of light frost, then a freeze, so both the  Four Roses Anniversary Rose and I will spend time doing a bit of growing. I with my expanding bellybutton over winter eating cookies with my tea, and the roots of the rose growing to put on larger feeders.

Time to book Gene for next year’s garden event. Some exciting new offers in the works, so act now.

Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events Just One More Adventure: Gardener’s Day Off

Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Just One More Adventure: Gardener’s Day Off

 

Day Off

There are occasions when not being in my garden can be one of the best garden days ever.

Liz, my garden friend, arrived to give me a hand working in the garden. Plans had been made almost a month previously for this work day, but weather said otherwise. It rained the night before, fall had finally arrived temperature-wise and the winds simply refused to die down. It was one of those fit for neither man nor beast mornings to be crawling around in the garden. Liz was willing but I begged off being out there; I am not into being miserable to have fun.

So, I suggested an alternative plan. I put forth we spend the day garden center hopping and have lunch while out. I did not get the feeling that her agreeing with me was in the least reluctant. We wasted no time in getting on the road. After all, that sharp cold wind would be far less uncomfortable in garden centers.

 

Roadside Stand

At a four way stop in a small rural community we could not miss the traditional fall colors that called to us. There was an open shed surrounded table upon table filled to overflowing with color. There were plants on the ground as well as tables, and wagon loads of bright fall harvest colors. There were gourds of all shapes and colors, pumpkins of all sizes on display in white to bright waxy red and orange, and of course mums. All sizes of mums, special sales on multiple purchases and each was trimmed to perfection. Varieties of the blooms colors was a show stopper and pulled me into the sales office with four mums to go into trunk of my car. Once inside there apples, jams and jellies, the entire wallet trap. I left with Damson Plum preserves, apples for a cobbler I was going to make to celebrate fall, and the mums.

First stop was certainly a celebration of local fall color and tradition. All would have made a great American folk painting such as depicted by Grandma Moses on 1970’s psychedelics.

 

Stop Two

Hemiboea henryi, the glossy groundcover

Just outside of the town of Ramsey, IN, about one to two miles from the produce stand was Adamson We-Gro Nursery & Garden Center, a nursery and garden center that I had not visited in years.  Over that time they had almost doubled in size to about two acres. Also the inventory was as good as any much larger garden center. Now I wish I had been there in spring when their display areas were filled to overflowing with evergreens, trees and shrubs with perennials thrown in alongside new containers and all other garden needs. It truly was two acres of temptation.

The garden center manager turned out to be someone I knew from the past when I was in the nursery business and it was like old home week. We talked plants, we talked nursery business, and we did a touch of gossip along with their recent history. All the while walking the aisles and pausing to stare at another plant that had residence on my lust-list. I made an agreement to return with my lust-list and share with her and she would keep them in mind when ordering inventory next spring.

I suppose the minor gods were looking after me and saw that I was driving a compact car as opposed to a pickup truck. Liz became fascinated by a Hydrangea Twist and Shout in full bloom and foliage so big she could not get her arms around it. I have to admit it was a beauty and a strong temptation, but I had dwarf shrubs on the mind. She also picked up one of the largest and healthiest Tassel ferns I have seen in a container. Both at very reasonable prices and a discount at the register.

I had not purchased a conifer of size in years and there stood a half dozen in perfection. You know the rest of the story from there. Yes, I did purchase a Cryptomeria Black Dragon that stood about six feet in height and very full with its fall cones on display. No way to get it into the car with Liz’s purchases so I have to go back to pick it up, and already I am remembering a couple more conifers I saw while there. I did place one of those amazingly large and full Polystichum polyblepharum fern……….. in the trunk.

Liz got to pick where we were to have lunch. We made a quick stop for at Lunch Chick-Fill-A, took a window seat in the sun and relived out morning conquer of garden centers and told each other of our justifications for making purchases.

 

Strategic Pause

Lunch and conversations was great, but sitting in the sun, warming up with a full tummies was not our smartest move. It was a bit like having lunch and then going to the grocery store. We went to another large garden center but our hearts were not really into it. We were full for the day and it was an hour’s drive back to my place and she had another hour’s drive to get home. There was one more nursery on the list, but it would have to wait for another time as the day was over.

 

Photo Proven Winners

Day Plus One

I “just happened” to be on an errand the next day and passed the small garden center Liz and I passed over the day before. Well, I could hardly drive by without stopping and, as it turns out, the stop was arranged by higher powers. As soon as I walked into the display area there was the dwarf butterfly bush I was seeking. Only one left, the named cultivar, Low and Behold Blue Chip to become a companion to the other two in the series already in my garden. It was in bloom, at a reasonable price, and then in my trunk.

 

And, there you have it. Not one, but two days in a row, of gardening without going near my garden.

Time to book Gene for next year’s garden event. Some exciting new offers in the works, so act now.